How Politics Is Killing Your Organization (And What to Do About It)

One of my favorite things about Neighbor is our No Politics rule. No, it’s not a rule against discussing politics at work, it’s a rule against BEING political. What do I mean by that?

In the words of James Courier: “The fundamental particle of politics is the simple act of saying different things to different people.” 

Companies can’t thrive in a political environment. Full stop.

Organizations where politics run rampant are draining. They’re exhausting. They suck the life and fun out of work. Employees are too busy playing political games or strategizing what to say to which person that they’re distracted from doing actual work that will move the business forward.

One way we avoid politics at Neighbor is by “exposing to daylight” any comment or idea that seems like it’s political.

For example, if a VP of Engineering is saying something to me that he won’t tell directly to our Recruiting Lead, then we have a moment of politics. The antidote is to have the VP say it directly to the Recruiter. These direct conversations can be tough, but they’re powerful and necessary.

Neighbor isn’t perfect, but consciously deciding to avoid politics has led to less friction and drama than is typical at a startup. New employees regularly tell me that the environment at Neighbor is refreshing and they love just focusing on doing good work.”

“No Politics” starts from the top (shout out to JosephPreston, and Colton for setting the example) but everyone plays a role here.

For more on how to build strong companies where politics don’t exist, check out this James Courier article

The False Belief Holding Us Back From Unleashing Our Potential

There’s a fascinating phenomenon I’ve discovered from coaching top performers.

This may make you uncomfortable. I feel a bit uncomfortable writing it. But give it a try.

The phenomenon I’ve found is that most of us place a cap on how much success we allow ourselves to enjoy. We believe that we’re entitled to a portion of success or happiness in our life but not much more. We put an upper bound on ourselves.

And once we hit that upper bound of success we do things that prevent us from achieving our full potential. We find ways to sabotage ourselves. We don’t go all out. We play safe.

We do this because there’s a nagging thought that lies deep within us: I am not enough. This thought is 100% subconscious and it’s 100% false.

What I’ve found working with top performers is that everyone has an inner genius. It may vary from person to person, but it’s there. We’ve all been given unique abilities and strengths. The divine is within us. We have the capacity for greatness.

Until we realize that we’re inherently enough we’ll never reach our true potential. Until we realize that we’re inherently enough we’ll never discover and maximize our inner genius.

I invite you to ponder this question: how much abundance am I willing to allow in my life?

You are enough. And the sooner you realize that, the sooner you can realize your full potential.

You are enough.

Don’t Focus on How to Play the Game, Focus on Which Game You’re Going to Play

A few years back I learned a lesson that hit me like a ton of bricks. And changed how I think about life.
I started my career in investment banking. It paid well and I enjoyed working on high profile stuff. It was fun being surrounded by talented people. But I really didn’t like the work. 
I was competent, but I wasn’t awesome. I wasn’t playing to my inherent strengths. I worked hard but wasn’t motivated to go above and beyond. I was in the wrong game. 

Years later I stumbled on this quote from Kwame Anthony Appiah that hit me hard: “In life, the challenge is not so much to figure out how best to play the game; the challenge is to figure out what game you’re playing.”
While in finance, most of my effort was spent on HOW I was playing the game (e.g. improving my financial modeling). But that wasn’t my problem. My real problem was that I was in the wrong game. And until I found the right game, my upside was limited. 
It took years, but ultimately I changed games. I made a career pivot that drastically altered the trajectory of my career. It was really hard at first and I had to take a few steps back.

But in this new game I was playing to my strengths and I was energized to go to work each day. That combo brought increased satisfaction and rapid growth. 

So how do you figure out the right game? First, you need to discover your inherent strengths. This can be hard to do early in career, but with with more experience you can look back over the types of work you’ve done and find the activities that come naturally to you and that energize you.
Don’t worry about how well you’re playing the game. That will come with time. Focus on playing the right game. Play YOUR game. Because that will make all the difference in the end.

The Calming Power of Three Deep Breaths

When was the last time you tossed aside your phone, closed your laptop, and just breathed? To be candid, breathing is something I’ve given little thought to for most of my life. It’s a natural, involuntary process, so how important can it be? That view has shifted over the last year.

I’ve long sought to master my emotions. Sometimes they get the best of me. There are times when I feel confident, intelligent, and at peace. I feel like I’m my best self. I feel like I can overcome whatever obstacles come my way. I call this expansion.

Other times I feel small. I feel anxious. I feel a lack of control. In these moments the obstacles in front of me look daunting. I’m overwhelmed. I call this contraction.

Physical exercise has been a powerful tool to help me move from contraction to expansion.  Intense bike rides, hard runs, and even long, slow walks have helped shift my energy. But I don’t always have 30-60 minutes to spare. I needed something faster. 

When I got serious about coaching, I hired my own coach. He introduced a simple exercise of taking three deep, intentional breaths. I start by sitting in silence with my eyes closed, then breathe in for five seconds, hold, then breathe out for five seconds. 

Deep breathing has a calming effect. It helps us relax our fight or flight response. Not surprisingly, it can slow the heartbeat and lower or stabilize blood pressure. And it’s an exercise that can take as little as 60 seconds. 

Shortly after learning the power of breathing, I introduced the exercise in my coaching practice. Every session now begins with three deep breaths, a practice my clients and I do together. We’re typically coming from other meetings and have a million things on our minds. Pausing for three deep breaths helps us get centered and present. On several occasions, I’ve been given feedback that the deep breathing exercise was the most impactful part of a coaching session.

Mastering our emotions and staying calm amidst the chaos can be the difference between success and failure. Spending more time in expansion helps us see new possibilities. It gives us the energy to sustain strong performance. There are many approaches that can shift us to a state of expansion. Taking three deep breaths is my new favorite and gives me the best bang for my buck.