When Looks are Deceiving

Provo-based Qualtrics was in the news a few weeks back when the company announced they were being acquired by SAP for a whopping $8 billion. It’s the second largest SaaS acquisition ever and a huge win for the state of Utah. Having gone to college in Provo, I closely followed the details of the acquisition.

I couldn’t take my focus off Bill McDermott, the CEO of SAP. Each picture and video clip showed him wearing sunglasses. I kept thinking, Why on earth does this guy wear sunglasses indoors? Who does this guy think he is?  

Well, eventually I took the incredibly difficult step of entering “SAP CEO Sunglasses” into the Google machine. It turns out there’s a very good reason for those sunglasses. In July 2015 McDermott was walking down the stairs at his brother’s house, holding a glass of water. He slipped and fell, shattering the glass, and a shard went through his left eye. He was in surgery for over nine hours the night of the accident and had more than 10 surgeries in total. Eventually he lost the eye.

McDermott actually said that losing his eye changed his life for the better. “You fall down stairs and get knocked unconscious and the glass hits all the wrong parts. You’ve got to find a way to get up. So I don’t get rattled by the chaos. I get inspired by beating it back and finding out how gorgeous it is on the other side.”

Immediately upon reading the article, my view of McDermott was flipped upside down. I went from thinking he was probably an egomaniac to being totally impressed by how he’s coped with a serious setback.

I saw him do something I thought was odd (wearing sunglasses inside) and judged him for it. My judgment was way off. The experience was a needed reminder that when we see others act in a way that is peculiar, or somehow different from what we expect, we need to give them the benefit of the doubt. First impressions are often wrong.

This Simple Tool Will Help You Immediately Neutralize Someone’s Anger

I recently had a meeting with an employee that I was dreading. I’ll spare the details, but he was frustrated about his compensation and felt like he had been wronged. He had spoken about this with his manager and HR partner on multiple occasions. Still not satisfied, he reached out to me over Slack. I walked him through the situation, the various factors at play, why we made the decision we did, and that we wouldn’t be revisiting that decision. Undeterred, he asked if we could meet in person.

Given that I had little to lose in this meeting (he was likely going to be angry at me regardless of what I said), I tried a tactic I learned while reading Chris Voss’ book, Never Split the Difference. Voss taught that you can neutralize angry people by identifying the worst things the other party could say about you and say them before the other person can. These accusations often sound exaggerated when said aloud, so speaking them will encourage the other person to claim that quite the opposite is true.

The employee was already in the conference room when I arrived. Before he could say anything I blurted out, “Listen, I know you’re pissed off about the situation and must think I’m a total jerk.” The employee responded by saying he wasn’t really that mad, he just wanted to understand why I’d made the decision. His anger was diffused, and after I walked through the rationale for our decision, the conversation came to an amicable close.

5 Habits That’ll Ensure You’ll End Every Day Feeling Successful

You know those days when you leave work feeling amazing, pumped that you were highly productive? On the flipside, I’m sure you have days that are just the opposite. Ones that leave you feeling frustrated, wondering whether you got anything done. What if there was a way to end every day knowing that it was successful?

Unfortunately, there’s no bulletproof formula to guarantee this, but there are certain practices you can follow that’ll help.

Here are five habits that, if practiced daily, can boost your success at work:

Click here to view the full article on The Muse.

3 Better Things to Do Instead of Obsessing Over Finding Your Passion

You’ve spent so much energy trying to “find your passion” that you’re exhausted. And while you’ve invested countless hours to discovering your dream career path—doing all the things you’re supposed to do, like setting up informational interviews, and growing your network—you feel like you’ve made little progress.

Is it possible you’re making it more challenging than it needs to be? What if it’s more about looking inward and less about going on one million coffee meetings?

I’ve seen this firsthand in my experience as a career coach. Most people I work with can’t identify their passion, and they stress over it. They devote too much time and energy into the process.

I understand: There are few things as frustrating as not knowing what you’re meant to do want to do or what’ll truly fulfill you. But the answer isn’t going to appear if you overthink it and analyze every little thing that happens in your career. And with that, here’s what I recommend:

Click here to view the full article on The Muse.

Just Lost Your Job? This Day-by-Day Timeline Will Get Help You Land a New One

You just lost your job. You may be crushed. You may be in denial. You may realize your work was toxic and be genuinely happy you never have to go back. Or, you may not fully understand how you’re feeling.

Regardless of your state of mind, it’s hard, and finding a new job can be even harder. Many people simply update their resume and apply for positions that look interesting. That’s one way to handle it, but it’s also likely to be insufficient. Plus, it’s important to give yourself time to process the loss.

I’ve been in the exact spot you’re in now. I was laid off from an investment bank at a time when finance roles were hard to come by. Through personal experience, and through my work as a career coach helping countless people find jobs, I’ve put together a comprehensive timeline of the steps to follow if you’re in this situation.

Day 1

The very first thing you should do after leaving the office…

Click here to view the full article on The Muse.

7 Lessons I Learned From This 30-Day Gratitude Experiment

It all started on a Friday. I came home in kind of a funk. I’m still not sure why. Things at work were great, and everyone in my family was doing well. There was nothing tangibly wrong, but something was nagging at me.

The next day, I continued reading The Happiness Equation, a book I’d started a few months earlier. The author, Neil Pasricha, discussed how expressing gratitude consistently leads to greater happiness. Later that day I listened to several talks centered on finding greater peace and happiness, and the practice of giving thanks was referenced in each. The message hit me loud and clear—I need to be more grateful for all I have.

A few days later I kicked off what I dubbed the 30-Day Gratitude Challenge. Every single day, for 30 days, I would write a blog post sharing something I was grateful for. I gave myself only two rules: I couldn’t repeat topics, and I had to come up with something new each day.

Here are seven lessons I learned while completing the challenge.

1. Consistently giving thanks leads to increased happiness

Yes, the experiment worked. The simple act of writing down something I was grateful for each day made me happier. But honestly, this wasn’t all that surprising. What did surprise me was that making a commitment to give thanks on a daily basis left me constantly reflecting on the good in my life, even when I’d already written my blog post for the day.

2. Writing about gratitude made me more likely to thank others

Halfway through the experiment, I did something I probably don’t do enough. I sent an email to a colleague, outlining why I thought she was great at her job and how I appreciated her work. My email couldn’t have been more than five sentences in total. She followed up with a much longer message, explaining some challenges she was facing and how my note was the highlight of her week. Writing down what I was grateful for helped me be happier, which made me more likely to express gratitude to others.

3. Relationships are most important

When I kicked off this gratitude experiment, I didn’t have a set list of topics I’d cover. Rather, at the end of each day, I’d take a moment to reflect before writing about one thing I was grateful for. Of my 30 posts, 15 were focused on people. Some were specific individuals, while others were groups of people. Personal relationships are the most important thing in our lives.

4. Little things make a big difference

I found myself writing about seemingly trivial things, including long walksStar Warsbookscampfires and S’mores, and April baseball. While they may seem small or silly, each made a sizable impact on my well-being during the 30-day stretch.

5. There’s a silver lining in almost everything

In my circle of friends, I probably have the longest commute. It comes up a lot in conversation as people want to know how I’m handling it. While reflecting one night, I thought about the positive aspects of my long commute. Commuting by train gives me time to read, reflect, and get a head start on the day’s work. By the time I walk into the office, I’m in a better mindset and prepared to face challenges head on.

6. Expressing gratitude can help, even when you feel you have nothing to be grateful for

A few weeks into the experiment I had a pretty bad day. I didn’t want to write about anything. It took a little time to find something I was genuinely grateful for, but I did it anyway. My day didn’t instantly turn around, but I did notice a difference.

7. Even writing a quick gratitude is worth the effort

I completed the gratitude challenge a few weeks back, successfully writing a blog post each day for 30 days (you can read them here). But the benefits of this daily practice were so valuable I’ve continued doing it in a spreadsheet. I’m currently on Day 54. It takes only a minute or so each day and I don’t plan to stop anytime soon.

If you’re not as happy as you’d like to be, consider taking the 30-day gratitude challenge yourself. You too may find that the simple act of giving thanks can change your outlook on life. Sometimes it’s the small things that have the biggest impact.

Napoleon: A Life by Paul Johnson (Book Review)

A few years back, my wife and I went on a Mediterranean cruise. One of the stops was Ajaccio, Corsica—the birthplace of Napoleon Bonaparte. We learned a lot about Bonaparte during our tour of the city, and I purchased a biography when we got back. Somehow it sat on my shelf untouched until last month.

Many Napoleon bios are long, some pushing more than 1,000 pages. I wanted to learn about Napoleon, but I didn’t want to go that deep on the French emperor. At under 200 pages, Napoleon: A Life is a relatively short read. Here are my learnings.

Napoleon’s dad died when he was just 15, and Napoleon took his place as head of the family. He did this even though he had an older brother (he was the second of eight children).

Bonaparte joined the French military and advanced quickly, partly because his country was constantly at war. His impact on the battlefield helped him skip multiple ranks as he rose to the top. He became emperor at age 34.

What set Napoleon apart? Mathematics. In the words of the author:

He paid constant attention to the role of calculation in war: distances to be covered, speed and route of march, quantities of supplies and animals, etc… Asked how long it would take to get a siege train from the French fortress of Verdun to the outskirts of Vienna, most officers of the day would shrug bewildered shoulders or make a wild guess. Bonaparte would consult a map and give the answer in exact days and hours.

He was incredibly skilled at reading large and small scale maps. He moved quickly and gave very detailed orders, two things that led to countless victories.

He was also known for his work ethic. Of his stamina, one of his contemporaries said: “He can work 18 hours at a stretch on one or on several subjects. I never saw him tired. I never found him lacking in inspiration, even when weary in body, nor when violently exercised, nor when angry.”

Despite Napoleon’s talents, his decisions were often shortsighted. The Louisiana Purchase proved to be a massive mistake. He sold the French-owned territory for $15 million to the United States, a relatively small amount for 828,000 square miles of invaluable land.

But he was never lacking in confidence. Napoleon said of himself:

Various subjects and affairs are stowed away in my brain as in a chest of drawers. When I want to take up any business, I shut one drawer and open another. None of them ever gets mixed, and never does this incommode me or fatigue me… I am always at work… I work all the time, at dinner and at the theater. I wake up at night in order to resume my work. I got up last night at 2am. I stretched myself on my couch before the fire to examine the army reports sent to me by the Minister of War. I found 20 mistakes in them… There is nothing relating to warfare that I cannot make myself. If nobody knows how to make gunpowder, I do. I can construct gun-carriages… If cannons must be cast, I will see that it is done properly. If tactical details must be taught, I will teach them.

Napoleon is a complicated man. You can’t label him a mercenary, but he’s not a patriot either. I’d call him an opportunist. He was a man who took full advantage of the time he lived in.

Napoleon was a war-time leader and struggled to rule on a long-term basis. He constantly looked for action. He once declared, “Europe is too small for me… I must go East.” He didn’t know when to stop himself and this eventually led to his downfall.

Bonaparte’s unending thirst for power led to the death of millions. Johnson writes, “No dictator of the tragic twentieth century—from Lenin, Stalin and Mao Zedong to pygmy tyrants like Kim Il Sung, Castro, Perón, Mengitsu, Saddam Hussein, Ceaușescu, and Gadhafi—was without distinctive echoes of the Napoleonic prototype.”

Napoleon may have been a great man, but he was certainly not a good man. Many of the biographies I’ve read leave me wanting to emulate the subject, but Napoleon: A Life pushed me in the other direction. The life of the French emperor serves as a warning of how our greatest strengths, if unchecked, can often become our greatest weaknesses.

 

3 Realistic Things You Can Do When Your Career Isn’t Living Up to Your Expectations

When I started my career, I felt like I could accomplish anything. I hustled to land my dream internship, managed to turn that into a full-time offer, and was pumped to get started making my mark. I was confident that if I just pushed myself and put the time and effort in, everything would work out. I had high expectations for my future and was certain I’d succeed.

Less than a year later, the company I’d joined went bankrupt. My team was absorbed by its competitor, which only served to delay the inevitable: I was laid off a few months later. After a long period of unemployment (that probably felt much longer than it really was), I found another job.

Although it was a decent role at a respectable clothing company, it wasn’t what I really wanted to be doing. No matter how much I told myself I was meant to be in in the retail industry, I always felt out of place. I just wasn’t passionate about it and trying to force it only made me feel more dissatisfied. I felt like my career had derailed.

Getting my it back on track took time, and I learned several critical lessons along the way. If you feel unhappy with the path you’re on, consider the following:

Click here to view the full article on The Muse.

Day 30: My Kids (30 Days of Gratitude)

It’s now been exactly 30 days since I started writing these daily posts. In a future post I’m going to write more about how this has impacted me. In short, writing daily gratitude posts has helped me appreciate all that I have, even the simple things I normally take for granted. I’ve learned that if you seek out the good in your life, you’ll find it. 

I’ve written about my kids several times over the last month, but with today being day 30, I’ve been thinking about what’s most important in my life.

This afternoon my wife took our two older kids to run some errands while I stayed home with our one-year-old. I loved having 1:1 time with her. She is the most precious thing in the world and always has a smile on her face. I don’t know if babies come any sweeter.

Later in the day I took the older kids out to dinner. We had a dance contest and a funny face contest while we waited for our food. They were so much fun to be with.

Raising children is not easy—And I’m not with them nearly as much as my wife is. Sometimes they frustrate me. Sometimes they drive me crazy. But they are great kids and I am lucky to be their dad.

I’m grateful for my kids.

#30daysofgratitude

 

Day 29: Books (30 Days of Gratitude)

“I cannot live without books.”   –Thomas Jefferson in a letter to John Adams

We regularly hear about the importance of reading actual books. Despite the many benefits, for years I read very little, always making the excuse that I didn’t have time.

But three years ago, I decided to make this a priority, and I’m proud to say that I’ve read at least one book a month since setting that goal. I’ve found it’s not only given me a competitive advantage in my career, but I’m also learning a lot more than ever before.

Here are the best books I’ve read during that period:

I am grateful for books.

#30daysofgratitude