May 252012

I believe that choosing to embrace optimism leads to success and happiness. What many people do not realize is that, scientifically speaking, we are born optimists, with a clear and measurable bias toward optimism.

Optimism can cure your life, but, as with medicine, optimism has some potentially negative side-effects. There is no doubt that the benefits are huge. There is also no doubt that we must accurately consider the risk/reward of any endeavor if we are to succeed. A wise person must become aware for his or her “optimism bias” and factor this bias into their analysis to make wise bets and take prudent risks.

Please watch this video to gain better perspective on the neuroscience of optimism:

The key, in the end, is to take lots of calculated risks and decisive actions. Reward must be likely and risk must be minimized. One’s bias for optimism must be factored into the equation.

Often the difference between a successful man and a failure is not one’s better abilities or ideas, but the courage that one has to bet on his ideas, to take a calculated risk, and to act.
— Maxwell Maltz

In all thy getting, get understanding,

I.M. Optimism Man

PS. Want more from Tali? Here is her book: The Optimism Bias

May 222012

Leadership is a topic many people analyze and write about. There are many different styles of leaders but too many people get confused about what works over the long term and what does not.

It really is simpler than most authors make it out to be.

Creating a shared vision — a brilliant optimistic vision that everyone buys into — will create long term success. Leaders that lead by command and control do sometimes enjoy short-term progress, but over the longer term, few of the most talented troops stick around. You must sell the group on a scenario that is win-win for all. I win, you lose, does not work, and creates distrust.

Leading by example is an important component. Never ask anyone to do anything that you are unwilling to do yourself. Volunteer for the dirty work often enough. It will be noticed.

Celebrate your team members and always think from a “we” perspective. Never say or think “my” team — say and think “our” team — and you are headed in the right direction.

Lastly, it does not matter what your official role is, if you are willing to let others take the credit. Never make the mistake that you cannot be a leader just because you report to someone else. A leader is a person that can influence others to be optimistic, to take action, to be more than they thought they could be, and to succeed.

This is most easily seen in sports. Just because you are bigger, stronger, and faster than others does not make you the leader. The same holds true in every walk of life. In the workplace, the smartest scientists or the most extreme workaholics are rarely the CEO. At 6’1″ and 175 lbs, no one would argue that John Stockton was likely to win many physical battles, but he was unquestionably one of the best leaders the NBA has ever seen.

Here are five great leadership quotes to think about over your cup of coffee today:

Our chief want is someone who will inspire us to be what we know we could be.
— Ralph Waldo Emerson

If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.
— John Quincy Adams

The leaders who work most effectively, it seems to me, never say “I.” And that’s not because they have trained themselves not to say “I.” They don’t think “I.” They think “we”; they think “team.” They understand their job to be to make the team function. They accept responsibility and don’t sidestep it, but “we” gets the credit…. This is what creates trust, what enables you to get the task done.
— Peter Drucker

To lead people, walk beside them … As for the best leaders, the people do not notice their existence. The next best, the people honor and praise. The next, the people fear; and the next, the people hate … When the best leader’s work is done the people say, ‘We did it ourselves!
— Lao-Tsu

Example is not the main thing in influencing others, it is the only thing.
— Albert Schweitzer

Parents would be smart to teach leadership — what it really means to lead — to their kids. TV and the movies teach that leadership is for those “anointed” as the general or the president. If you teach them right — and early in life — this knowledge and practice will pay dividends for decades to come. You don’t become a leader when the coach hands you the captain’s armband. You become a leader when you inspire those around, lead by example, and improve everyone’s optimism.

I.M. Optimism Man

P. S.   I add this section not that it adds much to my main points — those are contained in entirety above — but rather to illustrate that you do not need direct reports and a given “title” to be an extraordinary leader.

If we measure by breadth of influence, Peter Drucker may have be one of the greatest “leaders” in modern capitalism and American society. America leads the world in proving that capitalism is a superior social system and America continues to evolve capitalism to new heights. His theories and vision will live on for many generations to come and is seen daily in the actions of business leaders and managers worldwide.

Here is Peter Drucker’s section on Wikipedia. I have excerpted his key ideas from the listing for your convenience but encourage you to read the entire story on Wikipedia to see how influence and leadership does not always require a person to be officially “in charge” or anything.

[start excerpt from Wikipedia]

Key ideas

Several ideas run through most of Drucker’s writings:

  • Decentralization and simplification.[32] Drucker discounted the command and control model and asserted that companies work best when they are decentralized. According to Drucker, corporations tend to produce too many products, hire employees they don’t need (when a better solution would be outsourcing), and expand into economic sectors that they should avoid.
  • The concept of “Knowledge Worker” in his 1959 book “The Landmarks of Tomorrow”.[33] Since then, knowledge-based work has become increasingly important in businesses worldwide.
  • The prediction of the death of the “Blue Collar” worker.[34] A blue collar worker is a typical high school dropout who was paid middle class wages with all benefits for assembling cars in Detroit. The changing face of the US Auto Industry is a testimony to this prediction.
  • The concept of what eventually came to be known as “outsourcing.”[35] He used the example of front room and a back room of each business: A company should be engaged in only the front room activities that are core to supporting its business. Back room activities should be handed over to other companies, for whom these are the front room activities.
  • The importance of the non-profit sector,[36] which he calls the third sector (private sector and the Government sector being the first two.) Non-Government Organizations (NGOs) play crucial roles in countries around the world.
  • A profound skepticism of macroeconomic theory.[37] Drucker contended that economists of all schools fail to explain significant aspects of modern economies.
  • Respect of the worker. Drucker believed that employees are assets and not liabilities. He taught that knowledgeable workers are the essential ingredients of the modern economy. Central to this philosophy is the view that people are an organization’s most valuable resource, and that a manager’s job is both to prepare people to perform and give them freedom to do so.[38]
  • A belief in what he called “the sickness of government.” Drucker made nonpartisan claims that government is often unable or unwilling to provide new services that people need or want, though he believed that this condition is not inherent to the form of government. The chapter “The Sickness of Government”[39] in his book The Age of Discontinuity formed the basis of New Public Management,[40] a theory of public administration that dominated the discipline in the 1980s and 1990s.
  • The need for “planned abandonment.” Businesses and governments have a natural human tendency to cling to “yesterday’s successes” rather than seeing when they are no longer useful.[41]
  • A belief that taking action without thinking is the cause of every failure.[42]
  • The need for community. Early in his career, Drucker predicted the “end of economic man” and advocated the creation of a “plant community”[43] where an individual’s social needs could be met. He later acknowledged that the plant community never materialized, and by the 1980s, suggested that volunteering in the nonprofit sector was the key to fostering a healthy society where people found a sense of belonging and civic pride.[44]
  • The need to manage business by balancing a variety of needs and goals, rather than subordinating an institution to a single value.[45][46] This concept of management by objectives forms the keynote of his 1954 landmark The Practice of Management.[47]
  • A company’s primary responsibility is to serve its customers. Profit is not the primary goal, but rather an essential condition for the company’s continued existence.[48]
  • A belief in the notion that great companies could stand among humankind’s noblest inventions.[49]

[end excerpt from Wikipedia]

None of this sounds like rocket science today, because it is now part of the core fabric of business. But it is amazing when you realize that Peter helped develop the foundation for all these key ideas that are now reality.

May 132012

Websters defines Toxic…

1tox·ic adj \ˈtäk-sik\

Definition of TOXIC

: containing or being poisonous material especially when capable of causing death or serious debilitation <toxic waste> <a toxic radioactive gas> <an insecticide highly toxic to birds>
: exhibiting symptoms of infection or toxicosis <the patient became toxic two days later>
: extremely harsh, malicious, or harmful <toxic sarcasm>

A lot of people worry about toxins in their life and start imagining toxin buildup in their bodies. The snake oil / vitamin shop salespeople have stepped up to the plate and push lots of remedies to detox oneself, making millions. While I have doubts about toxin buildup, I have genuine disbelief that a magic potion of seaweed and beetlejuice will remove it, if it were to exist.

There is one toxin that we can do something about, however. Answer this question for yourself, before reading the next paragraph: Who is the most toxic person in my life?

What was your first reaction? Who came to mind? Was it someone that tries to tear you down? Was it someone that fouls your mood? Was it someone that tells you that you can’t or that you will not succeed in your newest endeavor? Is it some frenemy (friend-enemy if you are too old to know this recently added to the urban dictionary word), jealous and loaded with backhanded compliments?

Why do you keep a toxic person in your life?

Make your life easier. Optimism flourishes when one associates with other optimists and optimism is essential to success, peace, and happiness. Detoxify your life, not with some snake oil potion that promises to remove toxins from your body. Detoxify your mind and your perspectives by getting rid of / or at least greatly limiting that toxic acquaintance that is tearing you down and ruining your positive outlook.

I.M. Optimism Man

May 072012

Make each day a masterpiece.

When is the last time you made your day a masterpiece day? Why so long ago, if at all? Tomorrow is a gift from God — don’t waste it. Plan how you will take advantage of tomorrow, tonight. Stick to the plan from dawn until dusk. Does it not feel great to have such a good day? For one person it might be a day of awesome strategic progress on key initiatives. For another, it might be taking the time to smell the roses and sit in the sun during lunch, the ringing phone and pinging email be damned. For a third, it might be taking the kids out of school and playing hooky while ice skating at the Galleria.

The key is that you decided, and therefore, it is so. Your masterpiece day is not up to the unpredictable winds of your boss, work associates, and customers. Your masterpiece day is not up to the unpredictable ocean currents of your family. You can set the sails, you can use the rudder, and you can steer how this day goes.

Make each day a masterpiece are words to live by. Once you live such a day, a day you forged from your own planning and will, you find you want to create another such perfect day, and then another. You learn you are free from other people’s urgency conspiracies and that those urgencies are usually man-made and mostly meaningless. Not every day will work out as planned, but most shall, if you have the will. Paul’s smile above comes from a life well lived. You need such a smile.

We live in the greatest time in the greatest country in the world. Don’t let other people’s urgencies shackle your horizon of what is possible. You are free to live as many extraordinary days as you desire. All it takes is pre-planning, courage, and the discipline to stick to your plans.

I.M. Optimism Man