How do you define success?

If you wake up in a pool of blood and it’s yours and you have not been shot, that is not what success looks like, is it?  It’s an interesting question, posed by Arianna Huffington, the founder of Huffington Post and an imagesinternational media icon.

Huffington once lived a fast-paced, intense, high-pressure life, but it was taking a toll.  After falling from exhaustion, and breaking her cheekbone on the side of a table, Huffington decided it was time to redefine success.

Success is traditionally defined by power and money.  Huffington has written a new book, called Thrive, which focuses on the third metric of success.  The intensely personal book, backed by research and practical tips, reveals that the third metric is made up of: Wellbeing, Wisdom, Wonder and Giving.

Not for a moment is Huffington suggesting we abandon money and power. But she says those two metrics alone might leave us feeling dissatisfied and unhappy.

You don’t have to concur or even adopt Huffington’s third metric, but it does pose an important question. Imagine if success was a blank page on Wikipedia and you could contribute your definition, but could not use the words money or power.  How would you then define success?  For me, success is spending time with my family and friends, doing work I love with people I like and being involved in stuff that makes a difference in our world.  And wellbeing (I always had this, but under health and fitness, so I have borrowed Arianna’s label).  I also like nice shoes.  I’m not sure if this list is complete and it will probably change and evolve over time.

One of the most shared pieces of viral content on the internet is a palliative nurse writing about people’s deathbed regrets.  Number one on her list? “I wish I had the courage to live the life true to myself; not what others expected of me.”

Quite often the traditional definition of success is what others expect for us.  When we redefine success on our own terms it allows us to live life on our terms. To find our individual version of the third metric of success.

What is your definition of success?

For dazzling presentations, smash the fourth wall

In the TV sitcom Modern Family, all the characters at different points speak directly to the camera. They talk to the audience in a break-the-fourth-wall style confessional.medium_movie_clapper

The fourth wall is the invisible barrier between the audience and characters in a movie.  You physically see the other three walls: one behind the stars, and one on each side.  In movies and TV shows breaking the fourth wall sometimes works and sometimes it simply annoys the audience as they lose the illusion of being immersed in the story.

There is the same metaphoric fourth wall between you and your audience when you present.  Your first goal as a presenter should be to break this wall, otherwise your audience will not connect with you and your message.

At an early-morning breakfast seminar Carolyn Creswell, the founder of Carmen’s Muesli, opened by saying: “When the alarm went off this morning, I thought, this better be good, and then I thought sh** – I better be good!” The audience laughed and immediately connected with her. She had successfully broken the fourth wall and she was one of us.

Standing behind a lectern or speaking to your slides rather than your audience strengthen the fourth wall and leave your audience feeling disconnected.  Instead, share the real you perhaps through a relevant story or a humorous opening that captures people.  Learning and using people’s names also work towards dissolving that fourth wall and immersing your audience in your presentation.

If you are directing a Hollywood blockbuster or a TV soap, by all means respect the fourth wall.  However, if you want your next presentation to be a blockbuster, spend the first couple of minutes smashing that wall to connect with and dazzle your audience.


The winter of my disconnect*

Last December we travelled to Malaysia on holidays with friends.  I decided to disconnect completely from technology, so no phone, iPad, laptop, iPod – nothing.  The only small luxury I allowed myself was my Kindle.  It’s hard to enjoy idle time by a pool without one!using-connected-devices-smartphone-tablet

Instead of finding this liberating, I found I had a severe case of technology Tourette’s, as I kept twitching and reaching for my phantom phone.  I survived by pestering my family and friends for information: asking them the time, getting them to check reviews on TripAdvisor, and having them fill me in on the latest weather updates, etc.

It was definitely a memorable summer vacation!  Coming back into life in Melbourne, I have been working on a modified version of this disconnect.  I was even more motivated when I read that 12% of the people use their smartphone in the shower and 10% during sex! Really?

So now the winter of my disconnect involves a very modified Sunday morning  version, where I disconnect totally from technology for a couple of hours or half a day.  I spend time reading or with my family, tending my garden, or relaxing over coffee with friends.  All of these activities have me mono-tasking for once, and giving the one thing I am doing my complete attention.  I still have technology Tourette’s but now it’s more of a twitch.  What about you?  Please comment – I love hearing from you.

 *Blog post title borrowed from the book: The Winter of Our Disconnect: How Three Totally Wired Teenagers (and a Mother Who Slept with Her iPhone) Pulled the Plug on Their Technology and Lived to Tell the Tale, by Susan Maushart.

The World Cup and thinking like a freak

Are you ready to change how you think and make decisions forever?images
Imagine you are a soccer player and it’s the World Cup final.  And it has all come down to one penalty kick, that YOU have to deliver.
GULP!  Talk about pressure: the whole world watching, the hopes of your nation pinned on you and you know this moment – this moment in history – is exactly when you could become an international hero, or your life could turn to zero.  The only thing that will really help you is, of all things, stats.  Statistics.  Surprising, isn’t it?
Levitt and Dubner, in their new book Think Like a Freak: How to Think Smarter About Almost Everything‎paint this exact scenario and tell us that according to the stats, goalkeepers jump to the left 57% of the time and to the right only 41% of the time. Keepers also can’t wait to see where the ball will go as it travels at high speed – they simply have guess when you begin your kick, choosing to throw themselves in one direction or the other.
So far, the stats don’t seem to be helping us much.  But wait a minute: look at them again.  Keepers jump to the left 57% of the time, and to the right 41% of the time. Which means keepers only stay in the centre two times out of 100. Two times out of 100. 
Levitt and Dubner recommend a kick aimed at the centre is significantly more likely to succeed, even though this sounds insane.  To quote them: “Who in their right mind would kick the ball straight at the keeper – it seems unnatural, an obvious violation of common sense.  But then so did the idea of preventing diseases by injecting people with the very microbes that cause it.”
This, is one element of thinking like a freak – thinking and being brave enough to be counterintuitive.  Even when it seems hard or impossible – particularly when it seems hard or impossible.  Where have you seen counterintuitive thinking work?  

I would love to hear your thoughts.

Happy World Cup finals viewing and I hope it doesn’t come down to a penalty shoot-out!

What motivates you?

Have you ever wondered why we spend so much time going through our email inboxes, when there are so many other pressing demands on our time?   This question intrigues Dr Jason Fox, a leading global motivation strategy and design expert on an epic quest to liberate the world from poorly-designed work (got to love a great quest!)
I never expected his answer to lie in a longitudinal study on motivation conducted by Harvard Business School.

In the study, HBR researchers asked leaders what motivated people and the response was the usual mix of things such as money and feedback. Then the researchers asked employees what motivated them.  Their answer was surprising.  The number one thing that motivated employees was  a sense of progress.  This is known as the progress principle, or the power of small wins.

Dr Fox recommends making progress visible, whatever that looks like for you: scoreboards, meetings or status updates.  This piece of research also answers that vexed question of why, when we have an important pressing deadline, we work through our emails first; because it gives us a sense of progress!  It’s so satisfying to knock your emails down from 110 to a more manageable 25 – at least temporarily.

So, how are you going to make progress visible for yourself and your team? Please comment – I would love to share your insights.


PS: I am also loving Dr Jason Fox’s best-seller, The Game Changer.  It’s full of fascinating science-based techniques to boost workplace motivation.