Tag Archives: Leadership

Stumbling on Happiness

26 Mar

Why would someone remember fondly the day they went fishing in 28 degree weather with a broken hand and diarrhea? Well, we caught a bunch of fish and had a lot of fun. I remember being very happy.

We took a little detour this past week during the Housley Principled Leadership Program session and spent three hours talking about happiness, contentment, fulfillment, and life satisfaction. Since all of the program participants are planning to become titans in whatever field they choose to pursue, we though it made sense to think about where all of this striving is really going to take us. No one wants to wake up in their fifties and wonder what the hell they have been doing for the past thirty years.

If we are going to follow the instructions of our forefathers and pursue happiness, then we should spend a little time defining it and exploring how to get it. Money seemed to be a big factor in most students’ assessment of what will make them happy, but the evidence says otherwise. Once our basic needs for shelter, sustenance, security and stability are met, more money doesn’t seem to increase our day-to-day contentment (but we did determine that it can buy toys, freedom, experiences and “life satisfaction”.)

The real problem with happiness is that human beings are horrible at judging the things that will make them happy in the future. Using research found in one of my favorite books, Stumbling on Happiness, by Harvard psychology professor, Daniel Gilbert, we looked at the reasons why we are often unable to predict what will make us happy.

First, humans use past experiences to forecast happiness, but our memories do not serve us well. Our brains remember the good stuff and tend to forget or gloss over the bad (like my fishing experience.) Second, the way we feel in the present affects the predictions we make about the future. Anyone who has ever been grocery shopping on an empty stomach can attest to that. Lastly, we have a tendency to significantly overestimate the impact future events will have on our happiness – both positive and negative. The phrase, “I would be eternally happy if only ______” is almost never true even if “it” happens. The same is true for our ability to deal with tragedy and manufacture happiness afterwards.

I highly recommend reading the book and asking yourself – with the benefit of understanding the inner workings of your brain – whether those things you are striving for are really going to make you happy. The answer may lead you down a completely different path where you may stumble upon some happiness of you own.

Reliability

14 Mar

The students in this spring’s Housley Principled Leadership Program are an amazing group. Spending four hours with them each Friday is invigorating and it renews my sense of purpose heading into the weekend. We are off for a couple of weeks for spring break (Remember those? Maybe not.)

We covered a lot of ground in our recent “Back to Basics” session of the program. (See pics from the session here.) My favorite topic is always the trust equation from Maister and Green’s The Trusted Advisor. The simple and not perfectly mathematical formula postulates that your ability to engender trust is equal to your credibility plus reliability plus intimacy divided by your self-orientation. Thus, we are more likely to trust someone that knows their stuff, does what they say they are going to do, is genuinely interested in knowing us as a person, and behaves in a selfless fashion. We are also much more likely to enjoy their company.

Stereotyping individuals that have a single weak variable is enlightening. The person with low credibility is a blowhard. The unreliable individual is a flake. Score low on the intimacy scale and you will come across as cold as a robot. Score high on all these things, but make it apparent that it is all about you and you may be a politician. We all know people that fall into one of these buckets and we probably don’t trust them much. This formula works in both commercial and personal contexts.

Of all the factors that affect trust the one that is the easiest to master is reliability. It doesn’t take years of education or a personality transplant to start following through on your commitments. In my experience, it is also the easiest way to differentiate yourself from the generally unreliable masses. All of us would benefit from periodically checking ourselves against the trust equation and identifying our weak variable. There is no excuse for letting poor reliability get in the way of building trust.

Mike Versus the Mountain

6 Mar

“Was I deceiv’d, or did a sable cloud turn forth her silver lining on the night?” – Milton

It is always sunny in Mike Friedman’s world – even on a cloudy day.

My relationship with him has come full circle. Mike’s extended interview with Kalypso was a three-day ski trip in Beaver Creek. And now, five years later, we set out to conquer the Canadian Rockies on an epic heli-ski trip. Mike is an intrepid skier, but it turns out that his hamstring is no match for waist-deep powder and tree-filled 75-degree slopes. He spent the final few days in the lodge curled up with his email inbox and good(?) Canadian wine. If you expect that after three years of planning this would cause him to show some disappointment, then you do not know Mike. If “silver lining” is a metaphor for optimism and positivism, the lining of Mike’s clouds must be made of gold.

I am proud to call Mike my partner. He is the keeper of the Kalypso flame and sets the bar for what it means to be a partner. We have the great privilege of working with our closest friends every day and building lifelong relationships with our colleagues. Mike’s ski injury just means that we have to go back and do it again next year. I intend to introduce him to Vitamin I.

Read his Character with Character profile by clicking here.

You, Inc.

9 Feb

The title of this week’s Housley Principled Leadership Program session is “You, Inc.”

We are identifying and sharing the qualities or attributes that we respect in others. These characteristics are most likely the building blocks of the person that we each aspire to be. Using the metaphor of a brand, we will explore the need to ensure consistency between our behaviors and the promise our personal brand represents.

In an effort to gain a better awareness of myself, I have been contemplating the list of characteristics I respect in others. This has been tremendously helpful in understanding my own reactions toward the people in my life. My short list of most admired qualities includes a tremendous work ethic, reliability, competency, fearlessness, and social engagement. I also like people that are funny, humble, adventurous, positive, curious, and respect themselves.

Each of these attributes has its own story and I can’t yet claim that they represent my personal brand promise, but I am proactively attempting to live up to these descriptions. My hope is that one day my colleagues will describe me using all of these words…even humble (but then, hey, almost nobody’s perfect.)

Know Thyself

27 Jan

Today we launched the second edition of the Stelos Alliance’s principled leadership program delivered in memory of our good friend Kevin Housley. The program is designed to give talented young people the opportunity to learn more about themselves and what it takes to influence others to action through principled leadership practices. The curriculum launches twenty-four super star students on a journey toward a life of consequence. Their goal is not just to lead, but to matter.

Session One is all about self-awareness. How many of us find ourselves well into adulthood without a true understanding of what motivates us, our attitude toward life, or how we are perceived by others? Human beings are terrible judges of what will make us happy and mild to moderate delusions help most of us get through our days of chasing elusive goals that are not really that important. The gift of honest introspection must be cultivated by the principled leader. If you have been to the Temple of Apollo at Delphi, then you know that this is ancient wisdom (you also know that it is one hell of a hike up). One of the inscriptions on the temple wall says simply, “Know Thyself.” Wise old Greeks.

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