The only thing that matters.

February 24th, 2012

I saw my most thrilling theater performance ever Tuesday night as Kevin Spacey reigned supreme in the Bridge Project’s production of “Richard III” at Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM). It was a gripping portrayal of Shakespeare’s murderous hunchback; one I will never forget.

Spacey’s intense energy and sheer theatrical power reminded me of a clip of him I’ve shared before from “Inside the Actor’s Studio.” Here he talks about what it takes to be successful and shares his thoughts on definiteness of purpose, focus on goals, planning and persistence. I remain a huge fan.



Conversations on consciousness.

February 17th, 2012

The art of developing a success consciousness that will create what you want requires managing your thoughts and directing your own energy. In other words, how you interpret yourself and your situation – what you think about and how you think about it – become critical to your success.

And because consciousness is a phenomenon and not a thing, I’m interested in any new studies, research or work that examines our self-awareness.

So I eagerly bought a ticket to Wednesday’s US premiere of “Just Trial and Error: Conversations on Consciousness” at The Rubin Museum after reading this promotional copy:

“What do art and science have to say about consciousness? Perhaps no aspect of the mind is more familiar or more puzzling than consciousness – it is something that has defied definition. Yet our conscious experience of self and the world is what shapes us and our history.”

In an attempt to understand consciousness, filmmaker Alex Gabbay invited sculptor Antony Gormley, eminent neuroscientists Prof. Brian Butterworth and Dr. Beau Lotto and internet entrepreneur Twain Luu—whose study of the “global brain” makes fascinating reading—to explore its meaning and how it affects their area of work. Structured in a non-linear way, the four protagonists present insights on the human brain, global consciousness, the role of the internet, perception, the space art occupies, etc.

If you get a chance to see this hour-long film, jump at it.  It will leave you with much to think about. Interestingly, some of the more provocative comments come from Gormley who suggests that we would benefit from a shift in how we view the world. That is, rather than being locked into a cause-and-effect perspective, we would be better served by “rising out of the place where anything can happen.”

The conversation continues.

How to succeed and be happy.

February 10th, 2012

I’m eager each year for the Harvard Business Review’s annual list of most popular blog posts. I like knowing what its readers are concerned with and view the list as an indicator of trends among business and thought leaders. The editors at HBR say it was no surprise to them that most of last year’s top ten contained advice on how to succeed and be happy at work. Take a look.

HBR’s 10 Most Popular Blog Posts of 2011


1. Nine Things Successful People Do Differently
by Heidi Grant Halvorson
Talent plays only a tiny role in your success; what really matters is what you do. This post stayed on the most popular list for months.

2. I Don’t Understand What Anyone Is Saying Anymore
by Dan Pallotta
We all hate business jargon, but we can’t stop using it. More people commented on this post than on any other in’s history.

3. The Best Cover Letter I Ever Received
by David Silverman
Silverman’s basic philosophy on cover letters? Don’t bother. This was originally posted in 2009, and it remains one of the most popular posts.

4. Four Destructive Myths Most Companies Still Live By
by Tony Schwartz
Do you perpetuate these productivity-destroying falsehoods at your company?

5. Seven Personality Traits of Top Salespeople
by Steve W. Martin
A survey of 1,000 salespeople returns some surprising results.

6. The Twelve Attributes of a Truly Great Place to Work
by Tony Schwartz
Great employers shift the focus from trying to get more out of people to investing more in them.

7. Four Ways Women Stunt Their Careers Unintentionally
by Jill Flynn, Kathryn Heath, and Mary Davis Holt
To get ahead, women must close the confidence gap with their male peers.

8. How to Accomplish More by Doing Less
by Tony Schwartz
Work is like weightlifting: Alternate stress with recovery to gradually build your capacity.

9. Why I Hire People Who Fail
by Jeff Stibel
If you’re not failing every now and then, you’re probably not advancing.

10. Five Things You Should Stop Doing in 2012
by Dorie Clark
Which of your activities are actually important to your career, and which merely provide the illusion of progress?

So, tell me, which of these did you want to read first?

In the zone.

February 3rd, 2012

On the first run of our annual ski trip in the spectacular Colorado Rockies, my friend Susan and I paused mid-mountain to remark on the beauty of our surroundings. With unstoppable grins, we basked in the blue-sky sun that had softened the snow to ideal conditions.  We had the mountain to ourselves and it was exhilarating.

We were in a groove with nature and time seemed nonexistent. Our day ended in perfection, too, on an outside terrace at the base of the mountain sipping a delicious concoction of hot chocolate and butterscotch schnapps.

It was the perfect segue to my Tip of the Day email from a few days later that linked to an article titled “Group flow: How teamwork can foster creativity,” 
by R. Keith Sawyer, a professor of psychology and education at Washington University in St. Louis and one of country’s leading scientific experts on creativity and author of “Group Genius.”

To understand group flow, Sawyer explains first how individuals find flow. He draws on research by famed psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi who coined the term “flow” to describe the state of heightened consciousness that some people, like me, refer to as being “in the zone.”

Here’s what he says: “Csikszentmihalyi discovered that extremely creative people are at their peak when they experience ‘a unified flowing from one moment to the next, in which we feel in control of our actions, and in which there is little distinction between self and environment; between stimulus and response; or between past, present, and future.’ When they enter the flow state, people from a wide range of professions describe feeling a sense of competence and control, a loss of self-consciousness, and they get so absorbed in the task that they lose track of time.”

Building on that research, Sawyer identified 10 factors for group flow:
1.   The group’s goal
2.   Close listening
3.   Keep it moving forward
4.   Complete concentration
5.   Being in control
6.   Blending egos
7.   Equal participation
8.   Familiarity
9.   Communication
10. The potential for failure

These are worth reading in detail for anyone who wants to foster a team’s focus on unbridled creativity and innovation. Are you ready to get in the zone?

Strength of character on the big screen.

January 27th, 2012

It can be tricky to write in a darkened movie theater. But lines from two movies this week prompted me to risk the quick glances of disapproval from people around me as I searched my bag for a pen and notepad. These were thoughts I wanted to remember, chew on, talk about and share. I wrote in large script, hopeful I’d be able to read what I’d scribbled when the lights went up.

My first note is from the movie “Pina,” a feature-length dance film in 3D that pays homage to the late German choreographer Pina Bausch (1940-2009). Between dance pieces, members of the ensemble talk about Pina and their experiences working with her. I wish I could attribute the female dancer who said this:

Pina was a radical explorer. She kept asking, ‘What are we longing for? Where does all this yearning come from?'”

Yes! I thought. Two of my first questions for clients are What do you want? and What is your desire? We create for ourselves and shape our experiences with a longing. The basis for creating our life’s work must start there, with a burning desire for something.

Next I was compelled to write down something Meryl Streep says as Margaret Thatcher in the biographical film “The Iron Lady.” She tells us it’s what her father always said:

Watch your thoughts, for they become words. Watch your words for they become actions. Watch your actions for they become habits. Watch your habits for they become your character. You become what you think.

Funny how she knew that. That her father knew that. Perhaps he was an early reader of Napoleon Hill’s work. Maybe he learned for himself that which is a founding principle of Qinomics: You get what you think about.