Friday, May 26, 2017

What Makes You Happy?

Mo Gawket, author of Solve for Happy: Engineer Your Path to Joy and CBO at Google X, realized for all his success, he wasn't happy. In fact, increased wealth seemed to contribute to more unhappiness. After a lot of research, he came up with a mathematical formula for permanent happiness! Thirteen years later, he got to apply the formula with the unexpected death of his son.

Happiness is greater than or equal to your perceptions of events in your life minus your expectations of how life should be.

His algorithm seems accurate. I guess if you don't know how to be happy, or if you're not clear on what makes you happy, then Gawket's book might be worth a read. 

Without reading his book, here is what I know for sure about my happiness. First, a couple of self-discipline practices I have to contribute to my happiness:

The practice of being honest with myself. I continuously try to be aware and work on overcoming my self-deception. I ask for feedback from others beginning with, "How am I doing?"

The practice of avoiding comparing myself to others. I recognize I am one of a kind. I practice loving myself just as I am, but I don't stop practicing on improving! I celebrate my uniqueness and victories and overcoming my failures.

The practice of being mindful of the ordinary and finding the extraordinary in the ordinary. Running water out of the kitchen faucet is incredible! Duct tape, pocket knives and dryer sheets are life changing!

The practice of being mindful in the company of others. I try to be interested rather than interesting. I avoid judging others, especially if they have different beliefs, ideas or opinions.

I practice simplifying. Letting go of things and not owning means more living. I pay attention to how stuff impacts me. More stuff—more time I have to spend paying attention to it and its upkeep. More living space—more cleaning, bigger carbon footprint. More clothes—more closets. My one exception ... more books, more bookshelves!

The practice of Carrpe Diem! is gratitude. There is so much I have, so little I need. I practice being mindful of who and what is in my life. Being grateful for what I have brings me joy and happiness. 

The practice of Carrpe Diem! is also about forgiveness and asking for forgiveness. I am an imperfect, scarred, mistake-prone human being. I step on landmines of others and cause pain. To ask and receive forgiveness, is another start to happiness.
What makes me happy? 

- Waking up before sunrise, before the birds are singing and celebrating a new day of possibilities! 
- Watching my glass fill with water from the kitchen faucet and then drinking it! 
- Taking Jackson for a walk before the sun rises.
- Wrapping both hands around that first mug of delicious coffee, smelling its aroma, and taking that first sip. 
- Seeing people smile after I have smiled at them. 
- Hearing someone say or receiving a note telling me I made a difference in their life.                                                                       
Marion's Piazza
- Handwriting a note to someone (usually four per day!) and thinking about how our lives have intersected and the relationship we have. 
- Seeing a V formation in the sky. This reminds me of my father.                        - Watching a butterfly move from flower to flower. This reminds me of my mother.
- Coming home from work and being greeted by an always excited, unconditionally loving Jackson!
- Holding hands with Terri in a movie or watching television.  
- Long, delicious dinners with family and friends.
- Reaching over in bed at night to touch Terri and thinking how blessed I am to be with this woman.
- Living in Asheville, NC. The surrounding mountains take my breath away!
Carrpe Diem!
- Living in our home. It's a sanctuary of goodness. It offers sacred space.
- Penatonix, Vivaldi, James Taylor, Allison Krauss, The Piano Guys, Mozart, Diana Krall, Sting, Indigo Girls, Yo-Yo Ma, Andrew Lloyd Webber, Playing for Change
- Old hardware stores where the scent of linseed oil, turpentine and fertilizer mix with the bins of nails and and loose sheets of sand paper.
- Art by Monet, VanGogh, Degas, Rodin, Corbin, McNulty, Welker, Koch and Southerland.
- Rainy Saturday or Sunday afternoons, especially at the beach.
- Sitting in front of a campfire or our living room fireplace.
- The scent of the air after a thunderstorm. 
- The scent of Dial soap.
- Visiting the Carr family memorial in Charlotte, NC and the Privette memorial in Princess Anne, MD.
- Eating Cabot Vanilla Bean Greek Yogurt.
- Hosting Final Fridays.
- Eating pan fried okra.
The Nubian Princess and Dr. Steel
- Eating Marion's Piazza with family and friends!
- Drinking Sierra Nevada's Torpedo Extra IPA with family and friends.
Breaking bread with family
- Sipping Stranahan's Colorado whiskey with family and friends, especially in front of a fire.
- Early Friday morning phone calls with Dr. Steel and the Nubian Princess. 
- Sailing. 
- The feeling after swimming a good distance.
- Hearing Terri say her "pet" name for me and "I love you."
- Hearing my children end a phone call with, "I love you, Dad." 

What do I do when I feel unhappy? 

I begin by moving my body. I focus on my breath. I close my eyes and meditate. I am especially fond of meditating on 1 Thessalonians 5:18. I journal my thoughts and feelings as well as for what I am grateful. I look at photo albums and recall how blessed I am, how much good is in my life. I look at PostSecret cards I have saved in a file on my computer. I get away from technology and go outdoors for a long walk or a hike. I hug my wife. I ask Jackson to sit in my lap. I look for something that is broken and repair it including a relationship. Ask for forgiveness. I go to Haywood Street Congregation. I give a panhandler a gift. I call a mentor. I call a friend and ask if we can meet for coffee. I go exercise. 

Part of living into Carrpe Diem! is the daily challenge of, can I be content with my present situation and optimistic about the future? ... 98% of the time ... YES!

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Have You Got Great Questions?

My first adventure out of college was in sales, which lead to becoming a sales manager. One of the things I quickly picked up on was that great sales people were not great talkers, they were great listeners. Great listening sales people asked great, thoughtful questions and listened to the responses of their customers and followed up with more questions. Great questions lead to building trust which became the foundation of a good business relationship and increased sales!

Asking great questions has served me well.

When I left sales and became a facilitator of experience-based learning for adults, asking great, attentive, thoughtful questions became the foundation of my work. When people ask me what I do for a living, I tell them I put people in unfamiliar situations and ask questions!

Great financial planners begin by asking great questions. Great architects ask great questions. Great teachers are all about great questions. Asking great questions is the foundation of great lawyering! Great mentors know how to ask great questions of their proteges. Great leaders ask great questions. Their go-to question is "Why?"

Great questions are more important than the answers. In fact a great question is more important than a 1,000 great answers! Great questions lead to more great questions. Great questions challenge existing answers.

Great questions cause the recipient(s) of the question to pause, think, consider, ponder and wonder. Great questions can't be answered immediately. I've learned that when I ask an individual or a group a great question during a coaching session or a debrief, not to worry if there is not a quick or immediate response. I've learned to embrace pregnant pauses. I've learned to respect the silence and know marination is taking place. Thoughtful, unexpected, unpredicted answers will come!

The worst thing you can do after you've asked a great question and received a response is to tell your story, your truth, your opinion. The response to someone sharing their answer should be another question or "say more!" 

Great questions demonstrate humility. Asking great questions says, "I don't have all the answers! I need to connect with you." Great questions are at the heart of St. Francis' prayer, especially the line, "To be understood as to understand."

The opposite of great questions is certainty. Certainty thinks it knows THE answer and always gives the same answer, the right answer. Certainty is locked into black and white. Certainty fosters ruts, creates tunnel vision, stifles wonder and turns off curiosity. Certainty stunts growth and learning. Certainty is the sign of an uneducated mind.

Great questions lead to transformation. Great questions create new ways of thinking and foster possibility thinking. Great questions are at the root of science as well as spirituality. For me, the most important quality of the Bible is not answers, but the questions it generates! For me, the Bible does not end with a period, but with a comma or a question mark. Questions are the fuel for the journey called life.

While it may seem technology and artificial intelligence are taking over our lives, the one fail of technology and AI is the ability to ask to great questions. That is our work!

The root of being human is questions. If you are not asking great questions then you are a human doing!

Monday, May 1, 2017

To the Graduating Class of 2017 : Got Character?

Congratulations to the Class of 2017! Take a breath, but please, don't stop learning! If you do, you will become irrelevant! 

Besides your graduation, take a walk back down memory lane from this past year: 
- the United States changed presidents with what appears to be help from Russia, while Brazil and South Korea impeached their presidents; 
- Merriam-Webster added 1,000 new words to its dictionary including humblebrag and jiggery-pokery
- the Syrian civil war continues with over 500,000 killed and 11,000,000 people were forced from their homes; 
- North Korea, the proposed increase in US military spending and the hottest year on record has moved the Doomsday Clock closer to midnight; 
- the Panama Papers showed how the wealthy hide their money; 
- the Zika virus emerged as a global threat;
- terrorism abounds while we fuss over a wall to keep "bad" people out of our country.

Count your graduation as one of the bright moments of the year! 

Dorothy and Toto in the Wizard of Oz faced lions and tigers and bears ... oh my! You are faced with digital and wireless and downsize ... oh pfft! Neither I nor your parents worried about algorithms, artificial intelligence and robots impacting our work, but you need to understand how these forces are impacting your future. Futurists are forecasting the fourth industrial revolution. The core of this revolution is disruptive business models. Look at what Lyft is doing to the taxi industry. Look at what Airbnb is doing to the hotel/motel industry. Look at what crowdsourcing is doing to the lending industry. Look at what solar and wind energy industries are doing to the fossil fuel industries.

Consider taking stock of what is coming by reading Kevin Kelly's The Inevitable: Understanding the 12 Technological Forces That Will Shape Our Future.

Whatever you do, learn to create memorable, positive, desired experiences. Learn to be THE memorable, positive, desired, experience. This will help you avoid becoming a commodity. In today's world, best experience wins. When you go for those job interviews, how can you be experienced in such a way that you get a callback over the other applicants? What is your overt benefit, reason to believe, unique difference compared to your competition?

I'd recommend you study David Brooks', The Road to Character, which I believe will help you navigate the future. It addresses something that is lacking bigly in today's world. It can contribute to your overt benefit, unique difference and reason to believe. I doubt if you took a class on this subject.

Spoiler alert, this is THE book I will be giving as a graduation present this year. If you want to get some idea of what this book is about, watch Brook's 2013 Baccalaureate address at Sewanee

IMHO, we have a lot of political characters like former Illinois Congressman Aaron Schock, religious characters like Steve Drain, Westboro Baptist Church, tech characters like Ross William Ulbricht, pseudonym "Dread Pirate Roberts", sports characters like Johnny Manziel, and television host characters like Bill O'Reilly. What all of these "characters" have in common is that they lack character. 

There are many self-help books that offer a formula to successful moral living. Brooks shares with the reader the struggle to grow one’s character through the lives of Francis Perkins, Dwight D. Eisenhower, George Marshall, A. Philip Randolph, Bayard Rustin, Dorothy Day, George Eliot, Augustine, Samuel Johnson, and Montaigne. All of these people grew their emotional intelligence through suffering and giving their lives to a higher calling. Brooks explores the formation of their souls.

The formation of one's soul is rooted in humility. Humility is also one of the outstanding characteristics of a fifth-level leader according to Jim Collins, author of the best-selling Good to Great. “A person is a product of cultivation. The true self, in this view, is what you have built from your nature, not just what you started out with.” page 147. 

What does character look like? According to Brooks, people with character "...answer softly when challenged harshly. They are silent when unfairly abused. They are dignified when others try to humiliate them, restrained when others try to provoke them. But they get things done.” Tough situations do not mold or create character, tough situations reveal character. 

Former President Franklin Roosevelt, a self-centered, rich, womanizer, learned character by contracting polio. Polio humbled FDR and made him more compassionate. Polio contributed to FDR becoming a better President.

Brooks' writing may help you discover the will to do right, the will to do what needs to be done, the will to be accountable and take responsibility, the will to suspend your ego and put yourself in the "other's" shoes, and the will to create a nurturing, sustainable world for tomorrow's child.

As you venture out into the next chapter of your life, consider a key question posed by Brooks. Are you living your resume or your eulogy? Do you recognize the difference? Your resume is about what you accomplished, the titles you got, the awards you received, the honors for which you were recognized. Your resume is about you.

Your eulogy speaks to your legacy, the difference you made in people's lives, the hearts you touched, what you gave, the connections you made, the "bridges" you built, your compassion, your kindness. Your eulogy is about the difference you made in other people's lives.

Grab a piece of paper and a pen.

Name the MVP of the MLB World Series last year. Name someone who won a Nobel Peace Prize last year. Name the person who won the Oscar for best actress last year. Name the a recent Pulitzer Prize winner. How did you do with the answers?

Let me change the challenge.

Name someone who made a difference in your life. Name someone who was there for you when you were down. Name a teacher who made a difference in your life. Name the person who makes you laugh. Name the person you enjoy holding hands with on a walk. I'll bet you didn't miss a name! Would you be named in someone else's answers?

My advice, focus on your eulogy rather than your resume.

Those characters I mentioned earlier, they all had good intentions, but "the road to hell is paved with good intentions." Choose wisely, thoughtfully and carefully.