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"You're a Human Being Before You're a Human Doing"


"You're a Human Being Before You're a Human Doing"

Entrepreneurs are at risk for depression when they over-identify their self-worth with the success of their business.

Strategies to avoid this pitfall, and "create resiliency against the violence that often happens at work":

  • Practice the art of non-attachment: do your best, give it your all, and don't be hung up on the result.
  • Engage with a multi-generational community. Learn from one another, and realize you don't have to do it all alone. 
  • Adopt the notion of practice. "Practice being a CEO."
  • Allow yourself to *be* (yourself) at work. 

Jerry Colonna, executive coach and former venture capitalist, interviews Parker J Palmer, author, educator, and activist, about "Surviving the StartUp Life". They discuss "standing in the tragic gap" - the place between harsh realities of life and knowing what could be possible; aka the "eternal human yearning to be connected with something larger than my own ego". 

Life in a startup (anywhere, really) is hectic, and it's easy to forget self-care. Unfortunately, our bodies and minds are more likely to break down when under prolonged stress. Clinical depression becomes a real issue. 

Here's Palmer's description of how he experienced depression (transcribed-ish):

He is not surprised when he hears someone under depression commits suicide. Clinical depression is utterly exhausting, and eventually you just want a rest.

The faculties he (and most of us) usually depends on are:

  • Intellect
  • Emotions
  • Will
  • Ego

In depression, each of these are rendered utterly useless. 

Intellect: You can think yourself into a depression, but you can't think your way out of it. 

Emotions: A depression is not about feeling bad, it's the terrifying knowledge that you can feel nothing at all. 

Will: It barely exists. At the advice of a therapist, he kept track of any minor gains he made every day. He learned something about using a gentler metric because his will was non-existent.

Ego: While living in ego is lonely, a depression will shatter even that. 

What he came to see is that he has another faculty, the Soul. He learned to honor his being and how to hold the other faculties more modestly. They were no longer the main tools. Nowadays, his intention is to be in the world in a more soulful, authentic, truthful, way. He is honoring his potential and his limitations. At 74, he feels it more important to be in the world as he truly is. 

The video continues with a Q&A with the audience. Here's an excerpt.

What is the one thing that stops entrepreneurs from being successful?

(Jerry) The fear of failure.

First, be sure you know how you define success. There's so much pressure, but if you apply the notion of practice to the startup and you find a way to pay the bills, then the definition of success starts to change. Take the fangs away from the monster of fear and failure. 

(I would add the old coaching adage: "there's no failure, only feedback". Didn't get many signups for the call? Try a different marketing strategy. Didn't get a high opt-in conversion? Try a different call-to-action, or change the color of the button. And for the love of chocolate, don't define yourself by the number of Twitter followers. Building a business takes time.)

How can I hold myself together in the multiple roles I play? What if I succeed as an entrepreneur but fail as a father? 

(Parker) Community has healing power. When I struggled with depression there was one phrase I needed to hear: "Welcome to the human race; we're all in this together." This experience doesn't set you apart, it pulls you closer to us. The failure or the success don't define you; they're both equally toxic. We're often taught to play different roles and segmenting our lives, but we do have control over whether we're the same person everywhere we show up. As we do it, we incrementally add to our own sense of well-being and wholeness. 

(Jerry) I went to watch a movie with my son, and was moved to tears. A part of me said, "I can't do this in front of him" - I was afraid he would love me less. But what he expressly said was, "Dad, it makes it easier to love you, knowing that you struggle."

It's ok to share your struggles with your family and kids, because you'll be modeling the wholeness of who you are

(I would add Brené Brown's books as a resource, they are powerful tools to help put vulnerability and courage into perspective.)

Here's the video:

If you can't see it, the link is

"Violence is what happens when we don't know what else to do with our suffering." Parker Palmer

The violence that happens at work can be a harsh word (self-talk or said out loud), not taking a lunch break (denying yourself basic nourishment), withholding information, feeling resentful (envy and greed both have green eyes), sabotaging yourself or others. I invite you this week to be kind to yourself, and to recognize your (or, if you are) suffering.

Sad Clown image from flickr by Shawn Campbell, Creative Commons license


The Speed of Success

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The Speed of Success

We all have goals we want to achieve, and some taking much longer than others makes life seem totally unfair at times. Why is it so easy to gain 5 pounds, but then it takes a month to get 'em off again? Running your own business, how come you're networking your heart out, and still can't seem to land that first big account? In times of doubt and frustration, instead of changing goals, a change in approach can be just the ticket.

Here's what I read in Jack Canfield's newsletter recently, he talks about basically becoming aware of negative thought patterns, paying attention to the good stuff you already have in your life, and taking responsibility for your life by taking action and committing to continued action, even if it's in the smallest of increments:

When Success is Slow, What Can You Do? by Jack Canfield

Pop Quiz: Can success be sped up? Is there an antidote to slow outcomes despite arduous planning and actions taken? What's the secret for seeing huge results right now?!

I get versions of these questions frequently from people who feel frustrated at sluggish progress in their success journey - despite all the know-how and principles they rigorously employ.

Let's get one thing straight...

When we admire someone's success, or even our own, we often focus on the end result and not so much on the effort (and time) that it took to get there. This can cultivate unrealistic expectations, especially the idea that overnight success can happen through careful strategy and an execution of sound advice.

The truth be told, success typically follows a series of little events and achievements that can seem to take an eternity, that include a few disappointments along the way, and that challenge everything about you to the core - your stamina, courage, integrity, and even your willingness to keep going.

If you focus on what's not working, guess what: You're likely coming from a place of aggravation as your mind wraps around all that is wrong.

You may even have negative thoughts like "I'm not good enough," "It will never work," or "Something must be wrong with me."

What this mentally does is engender more of these counter-productive feelings. And given what we know about the Law of Attraction, you attract what you are feeling. So negative experiences, people, and results will beget more negative experience, people, and results. There's not much success in that.

The key, then, is to focus on what IS working. To do so, I recommend two simple practices: journaling and meditation.

Maintaining a journal (I call it an Evidence Log, Results Journal, or Gratitude Journal) is a great way to steer your attention to the positive and continually renew your vision for yourself.

Start each day with reflections on what you are grateful for in your life (list them out!) and end each day with notes on what went right (again, write them down), however small they may seem.

Spend time each day in quiet contemplation, prayer or meditation.

Meditation can be powerful tool for arriving at solutions to problems and shifting your attitude so you can attract success sooner rather than later. The magic of meditation is its ability to essentially shut down the outer layer of your judgmental, highly-critical brain and allow your unconscious mind to take over. This is where you enter a deeper state of inner peace and joy, tapping into a higher level of creativity that will help usher in the results you want. (Don't know how to meditate? Lots of books and materials are available to guide you this practice. It's easier than you think. )

Let's say you're doing ALL these things, but you still aren't happy with your results...

I'll ask you then, are you taking real ACTION?

You may be taking the actions you are used to taking. But if you keep doing what you've already done, then you'll keep getting what you've always gotten. It's a matter of practicing some new behaviors. Shake things up a bit and see if you can take new actions or modify existing ones.

Remember the Rule of 5.

Every day do five specific things that take you toward your goal. Change up the five actions regularly and be open to feedback so you know when you're off course.

Lastly, I want to remind you about patience.

It's natural to underestimate how long a certain goal can take, especially a profound one. When I set a goal to become a millionaire the year was 1983. How long did it take? Eleven years. It took time for Chicken Soup for the Soul to hit the bestseller lists. You could say our tenure on the New York Times list was more than a decade in the making. That's a lot of patience for someone who initially wanted overnight success.

So, yes, patience is a virtue. But keep at it, and in no time, you'll be only one week, or one day away from your ultimate success.

Remember... be grateful, reflect on what IS working and continue to take ACTION!

Jack Canfield, America's #1 Success Coach, is founder of the billion-dollar book brand Chicken Soup for the Soul© and a leading authority on Peak Performance and Life Success. If you're ready to jump-start your life, make more money, and have more fun and joy in all that you do, get your FREE success tips from Jack Canfield now at:

I'd like to leave you with these thoughts: people have to work hard to make something look easy, and there's no such thing as overnight success. In fact, Chris Guillebeau even wrote a great manifesto about the fact. If you believe in what you do, please don't be put off by roadblocks or circumstances that seem to constantly test your commitment, because that's their job. It's your job to stick with it and not deprive the world of your dream.

Image by Brenda Starr, Flickr, Creative Commons License.

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4 Conditions for Successful Coaching in Organizations

Pic Credit: Ambro

Pic Credit: Ambro

Is your company offering coaching? Have you gone through the process? How did you experience it, would you recommend coaching or was it a waste of your time?

Here are some markers that increase the odds of making an executive coaching experience the best it can be, as identified by the 2008 AMA's global survey into successful coaching practices.

First, coaching needs to be viewed as a reward.

Coaching can be a very effective tool if applied in the right way. For example, if you look at AMA research, coaching is far more effective when applied to high potential leaders who are striving to get better, not fixing failures. So I think if coaching is seen as a positive activity, an activity for high potential leaders, an activity for leaders who really are excellent to start with, that are trying to get better, you are going to get a great return. If coaching is seen as a punishment, something for losers, or something that is for people who have severe problems, then it’s probably not going to work very well. If you look at all the research on this, not just the AMA study, but all the other research that’s been done, I think the results are consistent. The big payoff in coaching is for high-potential people who are trying to get better and coaching then is seen as a reward or a positive activity, not a punishment, or negative activity.” Marshall Goldsmith

Second, it needs to be voluntary.

Coaching in many ways is a facilitated and accompanied change process, and the person changing - the coachee - needs to do that from their own free will, or the results are not going to stick. Just think of the person you're telling to lose weight or stop smoking: they have to want it for themselves in order to make it work. Sure you may convince potential clients of the benefits of the desired outcome and talk them into making a change, but personally, that goes against my understanding of personal freedom and responsibility, not to mention coaching ethics.

Thirdly, you need rapport and trust between coach and coachee to ensure a good match.

In an organizational setting, executives should have a variety of coaches to choose from for their individual process. That means the company needs to find and interview coaching talent with the best or most appropriate background knowledge to make sure these coaches are able to fulfill the defined coaching purpose. The second stage would be for the executive to be coached to interview the available coaches and make sure to choose the one coach that is the best match for their personality. Trust and rapport between coach and coachee are equally if not more essential to the coaching process than the coach's expertise.

Lastly, coaching is most successful when integrated into the company's strategic vision.

As Dr. Duffy Spencer explains, traditional closed organizations that promote internal competitiveness and knowledge hoarding need to turn into evolving, supporting and nurturing structures if they want to retain their high performers. In order to create buy-in to the effectiveness and strategic advantages coaching can offer, it has to be viewed as a legitimate individual development tool. This is not possible in an organizational culture where learning by doing is discouraged, and the success of one comes at the disadvantage of another.

Looking forward to reading your comments!

(From the archives, first published in January 2010) 



Characteristics of a successful expatriate

Another post dusted off and updated from the archives: Pucik and Saba (1998) define expatriate managers as "an executive who is able to assume a leadership position fulfilling international assignments across countries and cultures."

Yet most companies choose expats based on technical / managerial performance alone. Past behavior may be the best indicator for future behavior when it comes to psychology, but as soon as you cross borders, your usual behavior will yield very unusual results.

Expat leaders have to be culturally aware and open to adapting their style in order to be successful.

Rothwell (1992) defines six characteristics all successful leaders expatriates possess. He defines:

1. "international knowledge"

as "general knowledge about the world and global economy; national information about conditions in a specific country; and business understanding of strategy, process, and leadership style."

Black and Gregersen (1999) found in their research that companies differ in how they assess candidates, while looking for the following characteristics:

2. "a drive to communicate,"

which includes not being afraid to use rudimentary foreign language skills and being embarrassed.

3. A "broad-based sociability,"

which allows expatriates to move out of close expatriate circles and form ties with all kinds of locals.

4. "Cultural Flexibility" and

5. "Cosmopolitan Orientation,"

which both describe the open mind an expatriate needs to have when experimenting with different cultures, understanding and practicing them. The final characteristic is

6. the "collaborative negotiation style."

Expatriates need to be aware of the 'do's and don'ts' of international negotiation. For example, people coming from a low context culture like the Germans and Scandinavians appreciate explicit and clear forms of communication, whereas high context cultures, like Spain, divulge less information officially, but tend to be better informed than their counterparts anyway due to informal networks (Leeds et al, 1994).

These findings were publicized over 10 years ago.

How does your company choose international assignees?

Which training programs are in place to allow potential candidates to bridge the gap and obtain necessary qualifications?

Thank you for leaving your comments below!


Black, J. Stewart and Gregersen, Hal B. (1999) The right way to manage expats, Harvard Business Review

Leeds, Christopher, Kirkbride, Paul S. and Durcan, Jim (1994) Human Resource Management in Europe: Perspectives for the 1990s, London Routledge

Pucik, Vladimir and Saba, Tania (1998) Selecting and developing the global vs. the expatriate manager: a review of the state-of-the-art, Human Resource Planning

Rothwell, S (1992) The development of the international manager, Personnel Management

Til next week, when we'll talk a little bit more about candidate selection, have a good one!

Thanks to Vertes for the free pic!



Dream Symbol Lion

dream symbol lionLions generally represent strength, courage, ego, and passions. If you're fighting and neither of you die, or if you're riding on one, or if a young lion serves as your companion, it's a good omen for success. If you catch one, an enemy may become a friend. If a lion lies with a lamb, two opposites have been united.



Expat Marriage Characteristics

mars ship Dennis Tito, American multimillionnaire, holds the title of world's first space tourist. Where you and I might think twice about a $1,500 trip to Hawaii, he spent $20m to go up in a rocket ship. Call it eccentric, but the trip did produce an idea that's going to create lots of jobs and opportunities: he's now planning to send people on a privately-funded return-trip to Mars in 2018.

Not just any people, a married couple.

501 days in close quarters - with your spouse. Let's take a breath and imagine what that'd be like. Nowhere to go, no doors to slam, no idea how sex would work in zero gravity. Certainly not for everyone, right?

Of course, living in close quarters under strenuous situations with a limited group of people is nothing new. Submarine or oil-rig crews do it all the time, as well as soldiers on assignments. There were eight participants in a 2-year ecological experiment locked away in Arizona, and let's not forget monasteries or various the Big Brother houses.


Deborah Shapiro wrote an article on the subject. Her experience makes her an excellent source of reference: she and her husband spent 270 days alone in the Antarctic on a boat. Severe weather conditions, having to maintain and fix things all the time, lots of time for thoughts to swirl around your head, and only your husband to talk to. Well, and whoever's near enough for radio transmissions, I guess.

Here are her top tips for not killing your spouse, and who would make a good space couple (bolding is mine):

(...) because we relied on each other for survival, murder would be counter-productive.

We figure that a couple who ran a farm a few generations ago would be very likely to have a successful trip to Mars. Why? Because a couple on a farm lived in interdependence, with accepted roles. They lived frugally, entertaining themselves, producing what they needed and repairing their tools that broke. All those traits are necessary for a long space voyage.

Showing tangible signs of caring and of empathy ensures that cabin fever never takes hold.

(...) firstly, remaining sensitive to each other's moods and concerns, never belittling. (...) The second important rule, is that showing care benefits both.

I think all of those tips are valid for couples who go abroad on an expat assignment as well.

  • If it's not in actuality, it may feel like your survival is threatened, creating the same visceral responses in your nervous system.
  • If you're not clear about your changing roles, e.g. when one spouse loses a work permit, anger and resentment are sure to follow.
  • If you don't speak the language, trips to the cinema are out. Reading food labels going shopping are a challenge. Conversing with your kid's teacher or the plumber is frustrating.
  • If you're cooped up inside all day waiting for your spouse to return from work so you have someone to talk to while they just want to sit down and be quiet, it can spell disaster.

A marriage is hard work to maintain under any circumstances, and international assignments add various layers of new potential aggravation you wouldn't have experienced at home. If you don't have any couple-friends who've been abroad together, things like role expectations, daily routine, entertainment, and the sense of self-worth may not come up in the usual conversations.

In our normal daily lives, we have work, friends, family, and hobbies to attend to. When moving abroad, all of that gets disrupted and changed. We turn to the one person who's closest to us, and if we make them responsible for everything that's going wrong in our lives, it will break the relationship.

Here's where Shapiro sees a big difference between her own experience and that of the space couple:

In a space capsule, the couple will have to depend upon a vessel they have not built, and the people working at space control.

If you're not absolutely sure you want to go on the assignment, you'll feel out of control as well. Make sure you have all the information you need to make an informed decision. Because once you're abroad, coming back early is going to be a hassle. I'm not just talking about the cost and expenses, but also the feelings of failure to complete the project, to make your company look good, to disrupt project deadlines and customer relationships.

There are plenty of conversations and tools at your disposal. Know before you go.


The importance of understanding culture - 5 Tips


The importance of understanding culture - 5 Tips

You think the golden rule of "treat others the way you want to be treated" works when you're crossing cultures?Think again.

Your new hire from Mexico has just arrived at your Houston office. You've shown her her desk, talked about her objectives, she's had newbie orientation about your company's sexual harassment and privacy policies, and you plan on checking in again in a couple of weeks. She's back in your office after 10 days handing in her resignation. What happened?

Talking very broadly here, reminding you to take every generalization with a pinch of salt: people are different and there are always exceptions to the rule. However, cultural research has shown that Mexicans tend to prefer a different style of leadership than Americans. In America, freedom and equality are held in such high esteem that any close supervision or micromanagement is considered patronizing. "If I need help, I'll ask for it, and I can do this alone!" seems to be expected, accepted, and respected in most positions. Team work is encouraged on paper, but what often happens is the task gets split into various pieces that each team member works on individually; the team leader then patches the contributions together into a more or less coherent whole. In other words, give an American a goal to work towards, a deadline, and leave the way of achieving the task up to them.

The Mexican lady from our example, however, is likely to expect and appreciate some more detailed attention. I know of some cases where the person in question went hungry for a few days, because none of the coworkers showed her the way to the cafeteria. She counted on her colleagues to take her in and show her the ropes, explain the unwritten politics and make her feel welcome, because that's what she would have done. People take care of and pay attention to each other differently in Mexico, for example, within the first week of our stay in Aguascalientes, we were invited to have dinner with colleagues, met their families, parents, and in-laws. These were invitations from peers, mind you, because different levels in hierarchy form sometimes quite insurmountable boundaries. But that's another story.

Can you imagine, then, what being left alone for two weeks meant to her? In a new job, by the people she's supposed to be able to depend on? She didn't recognize the intended discretion and respect for her competence to figure out her own way, on the contrary, I'd venture she felt completely abandoned.

Understanding cultural differences could have helped both parties enjoy a much smoother transition. Next time you hire someone from another country, here are some tips to make sure you're both on the same page:

1. Get cultured

To avoid offending not just your international employees but also your international customers, make sure you and your team leaders are aware of cultural differences. Get trained in the basics and have systems in place to periodically refresh your knowledge. Have a coach or cultural trainer on hand for specific ad-hoc questions about how to handle situations that have come up.

2. Encourage diversity

Create an environment where all employees feel valued and respected. Invite your employees to share details about their cultural preferences amongst each other by bringing in food samples, labeling office items in their native language, or sharing stories. We only fear what we don't know, and learning about our colleagues' backgrounds will facilitate a friendlier work environment.

3. Offer training

Your understanding other people's culture is the first half of the cake. Help them understand your preferences by offering periodic cultural training workshops. Either individually for expatriates coming over with their families, or group sessions for international teams who have identified communication or team work issues. Awareness combats misunderstandings and provides a language to articulate differences. Let's face it, sometimes people don't get along and it's nothing personal, it's cultural.

4. Don't assume anything

Chances are, Mexicans will appreciate more detailed instructions on how you'd like them to achieve their goals, as well as more personalized contact to make them feel welcome. You won't know until you ask. Maybe they've studied in the States and quite like their individual freedom. Make more information available to new hires, set aside some time to go for lunch with them and the new team (they might feel uncomfortable having lunch with the boss alone), have a conversation, or assign a work-buddy for them to turn to when questions arise.

5. Use feedback

Your people on the floor and your customers will tell you how to keep them happy if you ask. Keep it confidential and anonymous, and if the same suggestion comes up repeatedly, do something about it. As a successful business leader you're probably doing this already, I'm just here to point out that once isn't enough, just like one training won't be sufficient. Follow-up to facilitate follow-through with action steps.

Please share some of your cultural awareness strategies below!

Til next week, have a good one!

Image by Ivan McClellan, flickr, Creative Commons license


How's that working for you?


How's that working for you?

One of my main take-aways from Jack Canfield's The Success Principles workshop is,

"Everything we want (to have, do, or be) is on the other side of awkward."

If it weren't, we'd already have, do, or be it.

The warm-up slides already had me sitting up a little straighter when they proclaimed:

"It's time to stop waiting for perfection - permission - someone else to change."

That spoke to me, because I love things to be perfect, tend to ask other people's opinions and wish for their approval, and yeah, if other people just changed, that'd be much easier for me, thankyouverymuch. So, what, now I paid good money to be told to stop doing all three? Huh!

I had read his big white book about the 64 success principles that can be applied for any goal, so I knew what he was talking about when he started with Principle #1: E+R=O. We can't change the event, we can only change our response, and in the end that's what makes the difference to the outcome. You can get mad at the traffic jam and have your day ruined, or you can see it as a chance to listen to a couple extra chapters on your audio-book and continue to have a nice day. Your choice.

Jack also refers to this as taking responsibility for your life, and many people - myself included - have one or more issues with that, for mainly this one reason:

Taking full responsibility means we either attract, promote, or allow everything that happens to us. Including cancer, robberies, and the holocaust. Everything. I don't know how to feel about that one, but it is true that some people were able to extract meaning even from the holocaust, see Victor E. Frankl's book, "Man's Search for Meaning" (I wrote about that one before, here).

In other words, taking complete responsibility for your response to any event is something nobody can take away from you. Even if they put a gun to your head and the choice seems awful, you always have a choice. This is where we did an exercise replacing the word "can't" by "won't." For example, "I can't be a millionaire while my kids are still in school" becomes "I won't be a millionaire while my kids are still in school."

Getting awkward yet?

The subtitle of Jack's big white book is, "How to get from where you are to where you want to be." If you like where you are, read no further. If you have a goal or something's not working for you, better get ready to

dealing with awkward.

Think about what it is that you want to have, do, or be.

  • What's keeping you from it?
  • Which steps do you have to take?
  • Can you break them down into tiny little non-scary baby steps?

Chances are you can, but there'll still be one little action that scares the bejeezus out of you. It might be the very first one, it might happen somewhere down the line.

First, think about past successes. Remind yourself how awesome you are and what you've achieved in your life already.

Then, visualize you doing the step you need to do. What's the worst that could happen? I want you to visualize that, too. The absolute worst. Go to the most extreme, and then the most absurd, "if I tell him I want a raise, he'll spontaneously combust into a gorilla and fart bananas!"

Did that ease the tension? You're still alive, you've taken the step, you've done it!

Now, deal with it. Find a mental picture to overlay the worst reaction and practice staying in the moment and calmly finishing what you need to do. If you can stay calm and cheerful in the face of a banana-farting gorilla, surely you can take on a raised eye-brow or questions from your boss / spouse / sister. Don't forget to celebrate this event, too, because wouldn't you know it - you've successfully managed and surpassed another stage of awkward.

Keeping the eye on the prize throughout has been helpful for keeping up motivation during longer projects. Remember why it is that you want to get away from where you are and towards where you want to be. Let the allure pull you. More tips on goal setting here, here, and here.

Thank you for sharing your awkward and how you overcame it below - your story will inspire others!

Image by Tambako The Jaguar, Flickr, Creative Commons License.