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How to Work on Purpose and Why You Must

Marketing podcast with Tom Asacker

A few months ago I started a series of posts I’m calling Recover You. The series is focused on practices and habits that I believe lead to a healthier mind, body and spirit, a healthier business and ultimately a healthier economy. This is the final post in the series. You can catch the entire Recover You series here.

photo credit: JeremyMP via photopin cc

photo credit: JeremyMP via photopin cc

I have spent a great deal of time over the last decade or two trying to understand and sort out the role of purpose as it relates to work.

And you know what? – it’s a lot easier to consider in retrospect than to try to grasp by looking towards some far off horizon.

In this quest I think you can indeed consider what brings you joy the most, where your passion lies and even what legacy you want to leave behind, but until you succumb to the fact that what you are doing right now must be your life’s purpose you’ll always feel cheated somehow.

Now, this isn’t one of those you must live in the moment posts. What I’m saying is that I discovered my purpose in work when I finally realized that it’s the experience of what I’m doing and living my work with passion that defines my purpose. Giving in to that idea is how purpose finds you.

The struggle to find that perfect thing you were meant to be is what causes untold amounts of pressure while the very thing you were meant to do is experience what you’re actually doing more fully.

When you realize that one distinction you can start to change the world around you by building new beliefs. Every thing we do in business and in life is dictated by our beliefs and changing this one belief is how you change your existing reality.

I recently sat down with Tom Asacker author of several critically acclaimed books including his latest, The Business of Belief: How the World’s Best Marketers, Designers, Salespeople, Coaches, Fundraisers, Educators, Entrepreneurs and Other Leaders Get Us to Believe to talk about the subject of purpose and beliefs for an episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast.

Asacker first approaches how our beliefs dictate, right or wrong, every action we take. To me this notion also rules how we think about purpose and passion. Many people don’t find purpose in their work because they don’t think they can or should or that purpose must represent something much grander than what they are about today.

Asacker’s book also shows how marketers and others can use the power of belief for good and evil, but ultimately this short read is all about getting you to take charge of your beliefs so you can change your view of purpose and passion.

To me the missing piece in the struggle to bring purpose to the workplace lies in the words of Buckminster Fuller. “You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.”

So, in order to work more fully on purpose you must make your existing model of work obsolete.

I think every business owner should carve that quote into something permanent and persistently visible!

How to Play More at Work and Why You Must

Marketing podcast with Jonathan Fields

A few weeks ago I started a series of posts I’m calling Recover You. The series is focused on practices and habits that I believe lead to a healthier mind, body and spirit, a healthier business and ultimately a healthier economy. You can catch the entire Recover You series here.

The concept of work just doesn’t seem that fun. And sadly millions upon millions of people go into work, even work of their own creation, and get the life sucked right out of them.

What if work was more like play? Remember when you were a kid and you and your friends and siblings could get lost for entire days in the invention and implementation of play?

Well, certainly it helps if you love what you choose to do for a living, but like so many things in life play is as much an attitude as a state.

play

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In this week’s episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast I had the chance to visit with Jonathan Fields, creator of The Good Life Project. Jonathan is on a mission to help people find and develop meaningful lives through their work and his weekly show is a shot of pure inspiration. While we didn’t talk specifically about play during our interview, I chose to include it in the context of this post because there is an element of joy Jonathan’s work and his Immersion Program.

I believe every business and every employee can benefit by purposefully adding elements of play to daily routines and organizational process.

Productivity at work isn’t about how much time you spend doing the work, as it is about how well you spend the time you invest. I know that I am always more productive when I feel good and am charged up – two things that play always delivers.

From a practical business standpoint there is much to like about play.

Play is a great way to connect

People are drawn to playfulness. It can be a defining personality trait of a brand or simply a way that you approach the things you need to do. Playful handbooks, emails and policies help people feel good about this thing we call work. Laughter is one of the greatest connectors in the human toolbox and study after study has proven the positive mental and physical health benefit offered by play. Who dictated that business and work was meant to be so darn serious anyway?

Play is super food for creativity

Creativity is the life-blood of any vibrant business and most of the work we end up doing leads to clogged creativity over time. Get the office together once a day and have a white board drawing contest or crank up Pandora and play name that artist and watch how the creativity begins to re-flow.

Play builds teamwork

The basic framework of most games depends upon teammates working together, within a set of rules, to achieve a common objective. Now that sounds like a healthy work environment to me. Take that up a notch and get people outdoors, into nature working together, playing a game and watch how quickly they resolve differences and work together.

Play reduces stress

Work can be downright stressful at times and play provides an outlet to reduce the physical and mental damages caused by stress. Play doesn’t have to mean a full-blown pick up basketball game in the warehouse either. We have two office dogs and I always feel recharged after taking them for a romp around the community garden that sits right outside my office. Dogs can teach us a thing or two about play.

Play doesn’t seem like work

When you are engaged in a game you enter what Psychiatrist and writer Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi describes as a flow state. The state many gamers suggest takes over and allows them play for days on end. Now, I’m not suggesting that you install an X box 360 in every cube, but I do think you can add game like elements to just about every function. Creating sales contests, allowing people to win prizes for scoring points, and designing ways to turn reporting on objectives into games are just a few of the ways that organizations keep work fun.

Play is an attitude that can run through every element of what makes a company what it stands for. Playfulness has its own brand of attraction and every organization could benefit by creating a position responsible for keeping play alive inside and out.

How to Be Quiet and Why You Must

A few weeks ago I started a series of posts I’m calling Recover You. The series is focused on practices and habits that I believe lead to a healthier mind, body and spirit, a healthier business and ultimately a healthier economy.

You can catch the entire Recover You series here.

quiet

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Business is noisy. A typical day might involve dozens of conversations, meetings, decisions, tasks and insights.

Every thought, conscious or otherwise, roars through our heads like the intersection of trains headed into the station.

We get pretty good at muffling the noise, become almost use to it, but it takes its toll no matter what we think.

In fact, in response to dealing with the noise we often lose our ability to actually think, to consider the vision for the business, to make conscious decisions about the impact of every act.

One of the best ways to return our focus to things like purpose and vision is to practice being quiet long enough to turn down the noise.

This isn’t as easy at it might sound. Try this right now. Close your eyes and just sit for five minutes and see how noisy your brain is. Most people can’t do this for more than 30 seconds without beginning to fidget.

We’ve trained our brain to be on and that leads to constantly talking, considering what to do next and reaching for our phones whenever we have a down minute to fill.

I believe we need to retrain ourselves to be still or run the risk of losing touch with why we do what we do.

Here are some of the ways I’ve found to turn down the noise in my head.

Go analog

Set up an area in your office with crayons and paper and other crafty kind of materials and every now and then unplug and go draw, cut and paste while taking your mind off your to do list.

Journal

Get a big notebook or use any text editor and get in the habit of free flow journaling. When I first started doing this is was so goofy what spilled out of me, but I didn’t edit a word or judge what I wrote in any way and eventually it became an outlet for releasing thoughts that were somewhere rolling round blocking my intentions.

Meditate

I’ve written about this before and certainly many now agree on the benefits of a meditation practice. It’s hard for people to do I think because they believe it is supposed to be this path to enlightenment. If you put that kind of pressure on anything it won’t be enjoyable. Think about it as five or ten minutes a day to simply witness your thoughts and experience first-hand how noisy it is up there. Then you can take little steps.

Get outside

I am amazed at the healing power of nature. Every single one of us should get outside and lay on our backs in the grass and watch the white puffy clouds go by for about ten or fifteen minutes a day minimum. If you really want to experience the power of nature take a daylong hike or pitch a tent in a forest near a stream. The bigness of it all is one of the most quieting tonics available.

Sit and listen

Try this one for a little different perspective. Close your eyes and sit and listen to all the sounds near by. Don’t think anything just notice. Then slowly move your perception out farther and farther picking up sounds just outside, traffic maybe, and then a train off in the distance. See how far you can tune in. I don’t know why but this little exercise seems to open up pathways in my thinking and quite the noise that’s right around me.

Retreat

Of course the biggest, scariest and most awesome things you can do is lock yourself away for a weekend retreat with no computer, phone, TV or need to make any conversation at all. I realize this is pretty impractical for most, but what if you tried it for even half a day? I would write and read inspiring passages but mostly I would slow down and think about the things that really matter, the things I know I’m meant to do, the things I’m grateful for, the intentions I have for my business and my life.

It’s a shame in some ways that being quiet is so hard. Part of this is just the world we live in and part is self-inflicted. The good news is we still have the ability to dial it up and down as a choice in the infinite number of choices we get to make.

How to Manage Energy and Why You Must

A few weeks ago I started a series of posts I’m calling Recover You. The series is focused on practices and habits that I believe lead to a healthier mind, body and spirit, a healthier business and ultimately a healthier economy.

You can catch the entire Recover You series here.

energy managementBusiness owners lack time more than anything else. And so, they concoct all manner of routine to try to help them manage this most precious resource.

But time can’t really be managed. We can’t make more, we can’t move it, we can’t even restructure it – all we can do is monitor how much we get done as we move through it.

Managing our energy is a more profitable pursuit than wrestling with time. We can manufacture energy, we can channel energy and we can use a variety of tools to remain conscious about the various types of energy we need to draw upon daily to get more done with the time we’re allotted.

Human energy is a fascinating concept.

As any business owner has likely learned it takes plenty of physical energy, or stamina perhaps, to run a business day in and day out. You likely work more hours than most, build up and hold a tremendous amount of stress and never fully come off the stage and out of the performance lights.

So while most acknowledge the drain of physical energy, few truly consider the emotional energy consumption that occurs as well. On top of the energy to get up do the work, running a business involves the need for energy that drives things like creativity, intention, purpose, love, intuition, and innovation.

When we neglect these forms of energy we lose touch with why we do what we do and business becomes a grind. I believe that owning a business is the greatest opportunity for peace, joy and happiness that exists in life, but it’s also the quickest way to have the life and energy sucked right out of you if you let it.

Over the years I’ve developed a few habits or rituals that I adhere to daily in my efforts to manage the energy I need to run my business. I certainly didn’t write this post to convince people to partake in any particular practice as much as to help people start to become more consciously aware of how important this idea of energy is in any pursuit.

Whenever it feels like I’m getting a little stuck in business it almost always because I’ve grown a little sloppy in the area of energy management.

These are my energy tools and hacks.

Meditation

I spend about 20 minutes in a very simple breathing form of meditation first thing. This really wakes me up, allows me to get centered for a bit and focus on my intentions for the day and beyond.

Yoga

I’ve fallen into a 15-minute series of poses that focuses on stretching and involving the organs and glands and just makes me ready to take on the day.

Exercise

I do some form of exercise, running, biking or strengthening, at least five times a week. I may spend as much as an hour or more in each session, but I always, always get this time back in terms of energy and productivity.

Planned interruption

Throughout my day I set a timer and never go over about 45 minutes without getting up and doing something. I keep a few kettle balls in the office and take quick movement refreshers throughout the day. We also have a couple puppies that hang out at the office and taking them out for a lap around the garden is always a great thing to do.

Windows

I’ve learned that I seem to be most productive in terms of creative type work in two very distinct windows of time each day. I suppose there are valid physiological reasons for this, but I plan my days accordingly and use those windows like a maniac.

Naps

I’m terrible at doing this habitually, but a 15-minute nap in the middle of the day is such an incredible thing to do. There’s an amazing amount of research that suggests the many benefits of this practice, but for me it’s such a great way to release the physical stress that builds up unconsciously during the day.

Evening

Honestly, I’ve never adopted a very good way to end the day. Perhaps you’ve got some ideas you could suggest as a way to wrap up, access or simply acknowledge and be grateful for another awesome block of time.

In fact, please share what works for you in this category in general, I’m always interesting learning about what works.

The Most Highly Achievable Business Resolution of All

Look, it’s the last day of 2012 and you are likely either thinking about what you’re gonna do to make next year better or you’re sick of hearing people talk about what you should do to make next year better.

Either way, the notion of resolutions has surely occurred at some level. But, here’s the deal, and we all know this by now, resolutions are a sucker’s game. The minute most of us make a resolution to change something, we’ve actually cemented any chance of actually doing it somewhere deep into a place nobody wants to go.

Resolutions

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Resolutions are made up of the stuff we kind of know we should do better, but have no real resolve to do – basically dooming ourselves to failure.

But there is a secret to success in the resolution business – aim lower. That’s right, lower your expectations to something highly achievable and you’ll never be disappointed again.

Here’s a list of highly achievable resolutions that I plan to adopt to get my new year started down the road to success. Feel free to steal any of these as you own.

  • I will spell check the red underlined words in my emails before I hit send
  • I will almost never Tweet while standing at a urinal
  • I will not try to sneak a souvenir snow globe on an International flight
  • I will never put a QR code on a highway billboard sign
  • I will ignore friend requests from high school classmates (unless they have become reality TV stars)
  • I will punch any form of communication with the word synergy in it in the face
  • I will not eat any food that is served in an airport (French fries of course don’t count as they are served in other places too)

Hopefully, my mild attempt at humor will still allow me to make my real point.

Don’t make resolutions, change your game entirely.

Raise your expectations. Expect more from everything. Expect more from yourself. Expect more from and for others. Expect greater results for your customers, personal growth for your staff and even expect more positive interaction with the people and things you currently find difficult.

That’s the real secret to success – simply expect more of it every day. This is perhaps the most highly achievable resolution of all.

Happy New Year!

How to Breathe and Why You Must

A few weeks ago I started a series of posts I’m calling Recover You. The series is focused on practices and habits that I believe lead to a healthier mind, body and spirit, a healthier business and ultimately a healthier economy.

You can catch the entire Recover You series here.

breathing

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I’ll admit that some readers may click over to this post because the title seems so odd. I mean, really, you’re going to tell us how to breathe?

Breathing is perhaps the most mindless of all human behaviors and what I’ve discovered is that an intentional practice of mindful breathing is perhaps one of the most powerful tools you can employ.

Depending up what we do throughout the day most of us average between 20,000 and 30,000 breaths each day. Breathing is the thing we do the most, is certainly vital to our existence and, yet, we do it without thought. Such is the miracle of the human body.

But, just because we can do it without thought, doesn’t mean we should. Consider this, your breath controls how you feel, think, absorb, react, move and speak – so what if you learned how to use it as a tool to better control these things?

Breathing is something you must do now. You can’t breathe in the past, you can’t breathe in the future. What if you used your breath as a way to stay grounded in the present – the only place you can make a difference.

Many Eastern teachings, including meditation and yoga, are founded on the idea of using your breath to fire your mind body connection, but you can access the power of this tool with a few simple actions.

Here’s a great example: The next time you’re feeling stress over a situation, phone call, deadline, or meeting. Close you eyes and consciously take three or four really deep breaths with equally deep exhalations and notice how much tension you release from places you didn’t even feel.

And another practical application: I suffer from high blood pressure. I’ve been able to control this with a breathing practice (and eating better and getting more exercise)

Several times throughout the day I use mindful breathing as a way to declutter the head from too much input and return to why I’m doing what I’m doing. I believe it’s one of my most important productivity tools.

The benefits of intentional breathing techniques are no longer held only in the new age or holistic worlds. Traditional Western medical practitioners have also embraced the benefits of breathing exercises.

Here’s what modern medicine is finally admitting. Most chronic illness is stress related and intentional breathing is the greatest stress buster never developed by a pharmaceutical company.

Work, owning a business, running a business all involve a high degree of stress at times and that’s why I believe adding this element to your tool box is essential.

I practice a form of breathing commonly called Pranayama – a term that applies to many forms and varieties.

Simply put it involves taking slow, deep, full breaths for a number of counts, holding them for a number of counts and releasing them fully for a number of counts repeatedly for about ten minutes.

This is something I do every morning and I can’t tell you how energized and relaxed I feel after completing it.

I found an app (I know, how ironic is that) from Saagara that I use because it guides the process without getting in the way. The site is a valuable resource for anyone wanting to learn more about this topic and other related topics.

And one last grammar related note – Breath is a noun. Breathe is a verb. Hopefully my usage added up.

How to Change Your Thoughts and Why You Must

A few weeks ago I started a series of posts I’m calling Recover You. The series is focused on practices and habits that I believe lead to a healthier mind, body and spirit, a healthier business and ultimately a healthier economy.

Thinking dictates outcomes

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You can read my overview Recover You post here.

Today I am going to talk about the role our relentless thoughts have on our outlook, habits, motivation, words, actions and outcomes.

Or, perhaps more importantly, how we have given over control of our thoughts to our past experiences and future desires.

Let me ask you something. As you were reading this, what else were you thinking about? What you have to do today, how foolish this notion sounds, why you never got around to asking for a higher price on your last sale?

Our thoughts are in constant motion, whether we choose to witness them or not.

Our mind is incredible. It is an absolute marvel of design, invention and cognition, but it doesn’t seem to care what we think. It merely plays with what we feed it and tells us how to act based on that alone.

There are entire fields of scientific research and practice dedicated to this idea so my point today is to simply suggest better ways to feed it in service of Recover You.

If you want to change your outcomes, you must change your thoughts.

But that’s easier said than done so the first step is to begin to recognize your thoughts, even as they happen unconsciously. By developing or regaining the art of mindfulness you can take the first step towards change.

There is a wonderful little book by Deepak Chopra called The 7 Spiritual Laws of Success that I recommend to everyone that asks.

In one of the first chapters Chopra talks about non-judgment and how our constant judging everything that happens around us as either good or bad influences how we react without thinking.

He proposes an exercise that has had a profound impact on me over the years and I suggest you give it a try.

Starting today, carve out a 15-minute period and consciously commit to foregoing any thought of judgment. Take a walk on a busy street while you monitor your thoughts and see how actively your mind want to make judgments about everything you see. For some people just keenly witnessing their thoughts for even fifteen minutes is incredibly mind-opening.

The goal is to increase this mindfulness to longer periods of time and forgo judgment during an entire hour of chunk of the day.

This is how you begin to regain making choices about how you interpret, filter and react to everything that occurs around you.

Every single action or reaction we make is a choice, but we’ve relinquished our ability to choose because we no longer think, we simply act.

Think about the last time someone cut you off in traffic. I don’t about you, but I can think of many times when this simple act made my blood pressure rise, turned me aggressive and made me angry for an extended period almost as though I had no choice but to react in that way. When you think about that, isn’t it amazing.

When we begin to regain our ability to stop judging and start thinking in ways that support who we really are we can move in the direction of fulfilling any dream we have.

If you’re following along with this Recover You thread I have three acts I would like to urge you to take to liberate your thoughts starting today.

  1. Make it a habit to spend at least 15 minutes a day witnessing your thoughts and calming any and all desire to judge things that occur.
  2. Start each day mentally combing over a list of the things you are most grateful for.
  3. Read Deepak Chopra’s 7 Spiritual Laws of Success several times

What If 2013 Was the Year of Recover You?

As the political debates continue in the U.S., world economic news seems as mixed as ever and jobless rates continue to inch back down in several sectors, talk continues to center on the hope for recovery.

Recover You

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It’s has been a slow and challenging climb out of what most would call the worst recession of my lifetime. And yet, I’ve never felt more hopeful.

I’ve witnessed a shift in the way people are thinking about their business. Some things will not recover, some industries are destined to sunset and some long practiced management habits and behaviors are still being shoved at the next generation of people coming into the workforce.

But mostly I’ve begun to witness a realization in small business owners and entrepreneurs that people matter most. That recovery is as much about recovering a sense of purpose and passion as it is about hiring numbers. And that the first task and most important recovery is internal.

In fact, the first and most important job ahead is recovering your own sense of hopefulness, grace and love.

I plan to spend some amount of time focused on this subject throughout the next year as I’ve grown tired of the negative talk, lifeless energy and downright beat up state of so many small business owners, entrepreneurs and friends I meet as I travel this planet.

And the thing is, this isn’t some soft-hearted notion. This is a highly practical aspect of integrated growth and yet it’s one we so often fail to connect.

For me 2013 is the year of Project Recover You.

I’m not a big fan of goals. I know lots of people use goal setting as a tool to drive them to the next milestone, but it’s always worked the other way for me. As soon as I set some highly specific goal, it seems the world begins to conspire against its achievement.

For me, the secret to growth and change is locked in habits and behaviors. As soon I can change a habit or behavior that is holding me back I can make effortless progress towards an end.

So, in my mind, project recover you starts with identifying and addressing habits and behaviors that are holding you back and replacing them with habits and behaviors that foster growth.

The list of positive behavior replacements that I plan to discuss reads like a list of what people already know they should do, but the problem with a “should list” is that it’s pretty much a “I have no intention of actually doing” list.

Until these items show up on your must do list they will act as reminders of fear, regret and self-doubt. Don’t you think it’s time to let that trio go?

I know this is starting to get a bit heavy and preachy, but that’s not the intent here at all. I believe so much in the power of owning and running a business as the most incredible way to make a rich and fulfilling life.

But I also believe that it takes consistent intention, attention and work to stay focused on building the best you in the process.

So, join me in this little recovery mission, help me learn about and develop even better habits and behaviors and let’s spread the word on this ultimate inside job.

Please follow this thread, share your thoughts and let me know if you think this positive message is a mission worth pursuing.

Project Recover You will dive into the following topics as they relate to the work of building a business inside of a life:

How to recover your:

  • Thoughts – the internal dialogue is probably the strongest adviser, for good or bad, and the strongest advocate of both change and growth and fear and resistance.
  • Breath – breathing is perhaps the most mindless of all human behaviors and an intentional practice of mindful breathing is perhaps one of the most powerful tools you can employ
  • Energy – Mind, body, and thought come together in what we eat and food for the entrepreneur is fuel. Plain and simple, there’s good fuel and not so good fuel.
  • Strength – Work is physically demanding and movement returns energy. Yes I’m talking about exercise and getting outside
  • Silence – Business is noisy, even if you’re in it alone. Planned solitude, silence and reflection are required to return to your true intentions
  • Play – The eighty-hour plugged in work week is robbing us of the ability to appreciate, relax and enjoy each other – let’s fix that
  • Purpose – Love is purpose. What if more of our actions were inspired by love? I think that would be pretty incredible place

So, that’s the really loose road map. Want to join Project Recover You? Just share your thoughts below and let’s start this together.