Friday, November 28, 2008

CEO of Thanksgiving

I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving! Just before the gluttony, I was reading the NY Times online and thoroughly enjoyed the article, "The C.E.O. of Thanksgiving Dinner." The strategic planner in me had a good laugh at how closely related life and business can be.

Written from the perspective of 2 business school professors, it offered some great leadership and management lessons in the context of preparing the Thanksgiving Day meal. They highlight possible approaches to planning and executing such a task. Creating a vision, delegating work, empowering "employees," outsourcing, communicating with key stakeholders, etc.

Vision and planning is essential to a winning Thanksgiving; only after you know the intended objectives should you move into execution.
It starts with asking yourself, as the Thanksgiving chief architect, what is your vision for this day and this meal.

...Don’t micromanage every dish and orchestrate every interaction among guests. Think bigger. Do you want to recreate exactly the meals your mother prepared? Or do you want to push through to a new culinary frontier? Do you want a day of reverent gratitude or lazy hedonistic pleasure? With a vision firmly carved out, the next task is what business leaders would call engaging key stakeholders and identifying their performance expectations. That means figuring out who are the most important people to you at the Thanksgiving table and asking what they really want from the day and from you, the host.
There are 2 different models for management: the old "command-and-control" versus the looser "organizing to innovate." The latter is much more flexible and creates greater buy-in, which is essential in a friendly setting. Delegating is also essential in pulling off such a big day.

If you decide to outsource particular tasks, like pie making, make sure the outside firm (i.e. your sister-in-law) has the right equipment and skill to create a pie that meets your expectations. If not, the job might have to go to another relative or you might have to allow her to pick up a pie from a subcontractor, which is also called a bakery.

Whatever the task, communicate it clearly and give some thought to who might benefit from doing it. Your brother always helped your late mother make the gravy. Shouldn’t he have the honors this year? A high school student allowed to lead grace will feel like an adult. Asking your shy neighbor to make sure everyone has a drink gives her a reason to interact.

...Just keep in mind what all successful executives know: Thank people publicly and often, and never, ever point a finger.

“A good leader,” Mr. Friedman said, “shares all the credit and takes all the blame.”

Remember, it's not just a meal with the family - it's a chance to hone your leadership skills. What type of leader or manager are you, in business and in life? Consider these gatherings to be practice. Even though you can't put it on your resume, every little bit helps!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Perfect is the Enemy of Good

  • Does it take you forever to post your vacation pictures?
  • Do you drag your feet on cleaning your desk, sorting your music, or emptying out your closet because you know it'll take up the entire day?
  • Are you reluctant to start an easy project (Christmas cards, consolidating your contacts online, finding an accountant, etc.) because you know you'll want to do a good job, no matter how insignificant the results are?

Let's face it, these things have been on your To-Do list forever and you're beginning to second guess just how good you are at taking care of business.

As an overachiever, there are probably 2 forces at work here - one friend and one foe.

The friendly force is your ability to prioritize. Critical projects take precedence and when these mundane tasks become urgent, they make it to the top of the list (the exception, of course, is when you're procrastinating and suddenly have time to rearrange your living room furniture).

The other force, your insistence on perfection, means well but works against you. You'll put off tasks until you can find a substantial block of time to do them thoroughly. You spend way too long organizing your desk, editing a simple email, and using 3 coats of paint when 2 would do just fine.

This mindset is part of what makes you an overachiever (you just can't do a crappy job), but your quest for perfection means that
  1. You avoid starting a task because it'll take an inordinate amount of time, and
  2. You're inefficient when you finally do these tasks.
I know, I know. You can't help it; you're compelled to do a thorough job. But your attention to detail is often unnecessary - your returns are not worth the investment of time and effort. Even when your hard work is noticed, it's seldom rewarded.

Since you already know you do it, when faced with a situation like this I encourage you to think of Voltaire's quote:

"Perfect is the enemy of good."

Don't spin your wheels doing a perfect job, when a good job will do. Your desire for perfection is the enemy (of good). There are diminishing returns for your diligence.
To attain a perfect thing, whatever that is, becomes infinitely more difficult as you near it. So, at some point, you have to cut your losses, and simply say -- "Good enough". This is not a justification for shoddy workmanship or laziness, for that certainly would not be, per se, "Good enough". The point is more to know when to realize that any additional effort toward improvement would result in a negligible improvement, especially in comparison to the effort required. link

Also recognize that not everything has to be a huge project and perfection isn't always necessary. Even just an "ordinary" effort can go a long way. Remember the 80/20 rule - the first 20% of the effort often gets you 80% of the way there (and usually 80% is good enough for mundane tasks).

Do what's important, maintain your high standards, but don't let them get in your way.

Monday, November 17, 2008

The Definition of Overachiever

Overachievers are ambitious, driven, and motivated to do (and be) the best. They have a unique mindset that keeps their brain on overdrive and a work ethic that keeps them one step ahead. High expectations and focused intensity are definite characteristics of overachievers. They are always pushing themselves, for more, - whether it’s professionally, academically, personally, or in a sport or hobby.

Being an overachiever is more of a mindset and the manifestation of that mindset in the form of results and accomplishments. They naturally do well in what they choose to do; they put in the necessary effort and hold themselves to a high standard of performance. Overachievers typically work hard, squeeze in as many activities as possible, and try to do be a rockstar in everything they do. Oddly, they don’t see it that way – it’s just the way they are and they push themselves to that level.

Overachievers have high aspirations and like to dream big. There’s always a lot on their plate - their To-Do Lists are full and they have an abundance of ideas for future books, businesses, projects, and improvements. They see every moment as a valuable opportunity to invest in a worthwhile endeavor.

Overachievers also have an overwhelming sense of urgency. While this is part of their recipe for success, it can also backfire when they are unfocused or try to do everything at once. Anxiety strikes when they see their time slipping away and not accomplishing as much as they had hoped.

Despite doing 2-3 things at the same time and using tools/systems to be more effective, overachievers often feel guilty for not doing enough. They feel like they should always be doing more and this creates an ever-present pressure that can, oddly enough, get in the way of their path to achievement. To counteract this overarching need to do more, it's helpful to create a plan of action around their priorities and set realistic and clear goals for the future.

As a fellow overachiever and professional career coach, I work with ambitious people to do this; I help them refine and clarify what they want and how to get there. If you're an overachiever looking to investigate your professional direction or personal ambitions, check out the Overachiever Coach website or contact me directly. I understand what it means to be an overachiever and have helped a number of clients be even more successful in business and in life.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Grad School Apps: Personal Statements

It's that time of year for some.

Many of you have considered going back to school and I'm excited for those who have ponied-up and decided to do it. As you're typing away in a coffeeshop, surfing the web at work looking at programs, or emailing requests for letters of recommendation, sooner or later you will face the dreaded "Personal Statement" or "Statement of Purpose."

You can BS your way through your accomplishments or a time in your life that has been most difficult, but when asked the simple question of "Who are you?" and "Where are you going?," you stare at your computer like a deer-in-headlights. You end up writing a few paragraphs or doing an outline but are not really content with it. Why is this so hard?

You can take comfort in the fact that everyone has trouble with this particular question. It's particularly tough because:
  1. The question is so broad that it's tough to know where to start and what they're looking for.
  2. You're not clear about why you're really going back to school (or don't have a good reason).
Yes, the question is broad and it's tough to know where to start. Does the reader want a short-term answer or a long-term answer? Would they want to hear a "big picture" response or a targeted and well-charted career path?

But the real reason this essay is tough to write is Reason #2. To write a clear and convincing essay, you need to be clear yourself as to why you're going back to school. Some of the real reasons people cite for wanting to go to grad school usually include:

"I'm going back to school so that I can..."
  • Gracefully leave my job or make a career switch
  • Hide away from troubled industries for a few years (Wall St, real estate, etc.)
  • "Network" (i.e. hang out, drink, and socialize) while getting an expensive piece of paper
  • Get another academic/professional notch in my belt
  • Make more money/ climb the corporate ladder
  • Appease my nagging _____ (parents, spouse, significant other, etc.)
  • Feel like I'm making progress, despite not knowing exactly where I'm going
If any of these resonate with you, it's understandable why the Personal Statement causes some anxiety. The reasons above obviously can't be the basis for your essay, so you begin to scramble to craft something compelling. But before you begin spinmeistering, why not sit down and really answer the question?
What do you want to do?
Who are you and what is your statement of purpose?
Why is this a good next step?
It would be helpful both for your essay and for your own personal clarity to take some time to think about it. I believe that guidance in walking through these questions can offer great returns. Even if it's just 1-2 conversations, the structure and accountability will allow you to genuinely answer the Personal Statement question.

Having worked with overachievers and grad school applicants, I can help with this process. Email me at if you're interested in learning more!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Why You Might Feel Like an Underachiever

I've had a lot of inquiries lately to coach "underachievers" and some recent comments from well-educated, young professional friends (who I know have their stuff together) point to the fact that, despite external perceptions, not all of you identify with the term overachiever and actually see yourself more as an underachiever.

This is very common. You might find yourself in one of 4 camps -
  1. You never have and never will identify as an overachiever
  2. You used to be an overachiever and feel like you're currently underachieving
  3. You don't like the term overachiever, but are ambitious and driven to succeed
  4. It comes in waves - overachiever, underachiever then back again
If you're feeling like an underachiever, here are my thoughts as to why.

Why You Might Feel Like an Underachiever:
1. You feel like an underachiever because you know you can, and should be, doing more given your potential.

2. You haven't found "your thing" yet. You're probably not in a place professionally or personally where you're being fully engaged. Once you find something meaningful and plays to your strengths, you'll be far more motivated. This could be for a career, hobby, or area of study.

3. You feel guilty wasting too much time on non-essential things. Have the discipline to say NO to things that aren't a priority and set up "systems" to help keep you on a path toward achievement, taking one step at a time (sign up for a class, automatic savings plan, personal trainer, career coach, etc.).

I believe that a large number of underachievers are just "closet achievers" waiting to be engaged. Once you find a system or a purposeful direction that works for you, you'll naturally start feeling like you want to work harder and make changes.

Small achievements lead to bigger achievements and "systems" are a great way to get started onto a path of success. Start small, stick with it, and if you need help feel free to email me!

Friday, August 22, 2008


If you're looking for a new job or to change careers, hopefully you've heard of LinkedIn (if you haven't I strongly suggest checking it out!). LinkedIn is a great way to expand your network and find contacts that might be able to give you a great informational interview or possibly get you a job.

From a NY Times article (on 8/13), "The Social Network as a Career Safety Net":

While it lacks the glamour of more popular sites like MySpace and Facebook, LinkedIn “is the place to be,” said the JupiterResearch media analyst Barry Parr, if you want to make professional contacts online. LinkedIn is a “Chamber of Commerce mixer,” he said.

LinkedIn has more than 25 million members, and it is adding new ones at the rate of 1.2 million a month — or about one new networker every two seconds.

According to the article, one of the ways to find valuable connections (or to become a valuable connection or candidate yourself) is to ask for recommendations to build your credibility and your profile.

“The only way to get recommendations is to go out and ask for it,” Mr. So said. “It’s kind of a weird system. I typically go to my bosses and peers and say, ‘Do you mind?’ ”

The flipside of that system is that it behooves you to be generous. Jeremiah K. Owyang, senior analyst at Forrester Research, has watched the growth of online social media since 2005 and advises social-networking users to follow an 80-20 rule. “Give information and answer questions 80 percent of the time, and 20 percent of the time ask for help,” he said.

When a contact asks for a recommendation, write it graciously and promptly. If you think that person isn’t worth a recommendation, think again about being connected to that person.

Great suggestion. Here's a deal - starting September 10 (when I get back from vacation), if you're interested in a recommendation, I'll be happy to write one (provided we've worked together or I've seen you in action). Make sure to find me on LinkedIn.


Here's another suggestion I came across regarding LinkedIn that I thought was helpful (by way of a Networked Recruiter newsletter):
Bypass Needing LinkedIn Connections and Use a X-ray Search:
  • Search inside a site with a simple but powerful formula via Google.
  • Try it on linkedin, here is an example. (developer and C#)

This could help both job seekers and employers. I haven't tried it yet, so if it works for you, please let me know in the comments!

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Connection of Life

If you haven't already seen Where The Hell Is Matt?, it is wonderful:

Article from the NY Times here and some analysis, lyrics, and background posted here (thanks to Obtusity blog).

The song (Praan, by Garry Schyman) is beautiful - it communicates hope, with a touch of vulnerability. The song, the video, and the concept is absolutely inspiring and uplifting.

Marketing Your Professional Story Via Your Resume

From Guest Blogger Annabelle Reitman Ed.D. (bio below):

As an overachiever, you have a variety of accomplishments, experiences, skills and other information that can be included in a resume. What to incorporate? What should be omitted and filed away for a future job search? With your outstanding and interesting background, rich in many examples to illustrate your qualifications, the dilemma is selecting the best and most relevant information.

Keep in mind that first and foremost, a resume is your most important marketing tool. The primary purpose of a resume is providing your credibility as the most qualified candidate to accomplish the job, thus enabling you to make the cut for the first round of interviews. Furthermore, your professional story needs to truly reflects your authenticity, individuality and style – that you feel ownership of the resume. The objective is to have the reader come to know you as a real, multidimensional, and highly competent person.

Creating Your Professional Niche
A professional niche is a customized bundling of selective skills, knowledge, experiences and accomplishments – in essence – the summary of your professional story. Its purpose is to engage the reader from the first sentence of your resume and sustain it so that the details are read.

How do you create a focused and targeted summary statement? How do you choose from the array of your qualifications? Putting it all together into a professional niche or package requires first thinking of the position or consulting assignment that you desire. Then match the strongest parts of your background to the requirements of the position or consulting assignment and the organization’s needs.

The steps to pinpointing and assessing strengths for a particular work opportunity are listing the following items:
1. Your work content competencies- skills and knowledge related to a specific profession, field, or industry. They incorporate a specialized vocabulary and subject matter required for working in a particular occupation.
2. Your transferable skills – set in a broad range of work functions. The most widely used are: administration/management, communications, design/planning, human relations, information management, operations, and research/analysis.
3. Your work and personal experiences and achievements from within the last five years – brief concise statements of successes gained through paid and volunteer work. This information establishes credibility and demonstrates competencies and expertise.
4. Review and select no more than five work content skills and five transferable skills listed in priority order.
5. Chose seven to ten achievements that support the information listed in #4. An achievement can illustrate more than one skill or competency. Describe in no more than five bulleted sentences.
6. Write your professional niche descriptive statement. Integrate information generated in steps #4 & #5, selecting items that most clearly markets you and says you are the best match.
7. Ask some people to read the paragraph. How does it sound? Does it convey the present professional story that you want to tell? Will it engage a prospective employer? Edit as necessary.

A professional niche statement is the summary of a resume – the intro to your professional story. All the information that follows, illustrates that you can do what you said you are capable of doing.

Annabelle Reitman Ed.D. Career Management Consultant & Writer - Specializes in a) resume development targeting clients’ individualized professional stories, and b) short-term coaching for clients in career/professional transitions and changes. In addition to online and print publications, books authored include Career Moves: Take Charge of Your Training Career Now! (ASTD Press 2006) and High Level Resumes (Career Press 2005). She can be reached @

Friday, June 27, 2008

The Fringe Benefits of Failure (JK Rowling's Harvard Commencement Speech 2008)

If you've got a few minutes, check out J.K. Rowling's Commencement Address, “The Fringe Benefits of Failure, and the Importance of Imagination.” She has had her fair share of failure (before Harry Potter, of course) and certainly knows a little something about imagination. It's always reassuring to hear life lessons from the people who have made it big, remembering that they weren't always successful.

I've always believed that challenges and failure can offer great value in learning more about who you are and how you want to grow. It forces you to analyze and reassess, which is often overlooked as we race from one thing to the next. Failure offers an immense opportunity for growth (albeit painful), and when digested with a healthy perspective it can lead to even greater successes in the future.

You can find the full text or watch the video here, courtesy of Harvard Magazine. Excerpt below (emphasis mine).

So why do I talk about the benefits of failure? Simply because failure meant a stripping away of the inessential. I stopped pretending to myself that I was anything other than what I was, and began to direct all my energy into finishing the only work that mattered to me. Had I really succeeded at anything else, I might never have found the determination to succeed in the one arena I believed I truly belonged. I was set free, because my greatest fear had already been realised, and I was still alive, and I still had a daughter whom I adored, and I had an old typewriter and a big idea. And so rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life.

You might never fail on the scale I did, but some failure in life is inevitable. It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all - in which case, you fail by default.

Failure gave me an inner security that I had never attained by passing examinations. Failure taught me things about myself that I could have learned no other way. I discovered that I had a strong will, and more discipline than I had suspected; I also found out that I had friends whose value was truly above rubies.

The knowledge that you have emerged wiser and stronger from setbacks means that you are, ever after, secure in your ability to survive. You will never truly know yourself, or the strength of your relationships, until both have been tested by adversity. Such knowledge is a true gift, for all that it is painfully won, and it has been worth more to me than any qualification I ever earned.

Given a time machine or a Time Turner, I would tell my 21-year-old self that personal happiness lies in knowing that life is not a check-list of acquisition or achievement. Your qualifications, your CV, are not your life, though you will meet many people of my age and older who confuse the two. Life is difficult, and complicated, and beyond anyone’s total control, and the humility to know that will enable you to survive its vicissitudes.

As overachievers, we may logically understand the benefits of failure but our aversion to it is so strong that it keeps us from taking that path. But as you're thinking about graduating, moving to a new city, starting a company, or changing jobs, remember that what you learn from failure will set you up for success. Hey, it worked for JK Rowling, didn't it?

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Small Business Coaching (and Free Sample Business Plans)

Not surprisingly, many of my career coaching clients often consider starting their own business. We overachievers like the idea of creating our own success and knowing that our hard work directly translates to our own bottom-line.

Recently I've been able to combine my coaching expertise, business background (in consulting and strategic planning), and my personal experience as a small business owner to offer small business coaching as part of my services. Starting a business can be daunting so I'm happy to provide some guidance and help clients answer the question "How do I get started?"

For those of you who are considering starting a business, check out these FREE sample business plans from to help get the ball rolling. A good template can save you a lot of work, especially for something formulaic like a business plan.

If you're interested in learning more about my small business coaching services, email me and let's figure out how I can help!

Monday, June 16, 2008

Srikumar Rao @ Google

Srikumar's book Are You Ready to Succeed? Unconventional Strategies to Achieving Personal Mastery in Business and Life has been one of my favorites for a few years now and I frequently recommend it to friends and clients. It is definitely worth picking up and was actually one of the books that inspired me to become a coach!

It's a bit long for those of us who have ADD and are chronic multi-taskers (myself included), but you can plug in your headphones and listen to it in the background as you're checking email. Enjoy!

Monday, June 2, 2008

HBS and Career Vision

Looks like Harvard Business School asks a lot of the same questions I do as a coach. From the HBS website:
  1. What are your three most substantial accomplishments and why do you view them as such? (600-word limit)
  2. What have you learned from a mistake? (400-word limit)
  3. Please respond to two of the following (400-word limit each):
    • What would you like the MBA Admissions Board to know about your undergraduate academic experience?
    • Discuss how you have engaged with a community or organization.
    • What area of the world are you most curious about and why?
    • What is your career vision and why is this choice meaningful to you?
I especially like the last question and have helped a number of clients create and refine their career vision.

Whether you're applying to grad school or looking for a new job, this vision is important - it helps the employer/admissions team better understand you, but more importantly, the introspection required to answer the question helps you think through what you're really looking for (and how this next step fits into your vision).

If you'd like help getting started with this career vision, I've already helped a number of clients do this through my career coaching services. It would take just a few conversations to distill your thoughts and finally put them down on paper (something that we always say we should do, but never do!).

It would be a great kick in the pants for your grad-school essays or your job search. Email me to get started and take the bull by the horns!

Friday, May 23, 2008

Quarterlife Crisis

I was recently on vacation and caught up on some reading. One book that was particularly relevant and echoed a lot of my own personal observations about the turbulent twenties was "Quarterlife Crisis" by Alexandra Robbins.

It's sub-title "The Unique Challenges of Life in Your Twenties," is a good description of the book overall. It's a quick read and I would recommend it to someone just getting out of college (if you've already hit your 30s, you probably already know most of this stuff).

Thoughts on the book:
  • I wish I could have read this book when I was going through my own quarterlife crisis. It would have helped me recognize that everyone goes through this period of questioning in their mid-late 20s. One of the goals of the book is to illustrate how common it is so future generations realize they're not alone in their doubts and inner turmoil. I certainly would have been happy to know that I wasn't the only one banging my head against the wall. But then again, if it had been too easy, I might not have been compelled to be "part of the solution" by becoming a coach.
  • This book complements my coaching so well that I wish I had written it. It does a great job of highlighting all the issues facing twenty-somethings, with a number of different quotes and perspectives. I had a tiny bout of author-envy, especially when I found out she had published a book called The Overachievers: The Secret Lives of Driven Kids. I have yet to read that book, but it made me think I should get in touch with her (Alexandra, if you're reading this, we should grab coffee and chat!).
  • I think the reader would have benefited from a bit more in the way of answers or suggestions. The book was a very thorough collection of perspectives from questioning quarterlifers, and at the end I was hoping for more direction and resolution. A quick search on Amazon shows a follow-up book called Conquering Your Quarterlife Crisis which is more advice-based. I haven't picked up yet, but I will and I'll let you know if it's worth the read!
At the end of the book, I wanted to offer my coaching services for wayward or lost twenty-somethings as a follow-up resource. If you know someone struggling with a quarterlife (or midlife or 3/4-life crisis), send them my way. Maybe they'll include my information in the anniversary edition!

Friday, May 16, 2008

What's Your Passion Score?

As I read other blogs and learn about different approaches to coaching, I'll often come across things that might interest my readers. This is taken directly from the "Live What You Love" website and I think it's a good litmus test for how "alive" we feel. Go ahead - test your level of passion in, and for, life:
What's Your Passion Score?
Evaluate how much passion is in your day-to-day life and pinpoint which areas need some adjustment. Rate your answers to the following statements using a scale of 1-5 (1=True; 5=Not True).
  1. I wake up happy in the morning.
  2. I am hardly ever bored.
  3. If I could live my life over, I would change very little.
  4. I’m often excited about a new project at work.
  5. My overall outlook on life is positive.
  6. I frequently call friends and family members to share news about my latest accomplishment.
  7. I rarely daydream about my next vacation.
  8. My energy level is pretty high.
  9. I usually feel satisfied when I get home from work.
  10. I rarely wish I was doing something else.

Add the numbers to all of your responses together to get an idea of how passionate you are about what you do on a regular basis.


10-20: Fantastic! Your passion score is way above average. You are clearly passionate about how you spend your time and have confirmed that you need to focus on other areas of your life that might need to change.

21-30: You’re relatively happy with what you do but would most likely benefit from adding some more meaningful activities to your schedule.

31-40: You’ve got some work to do. You need to make some rather serious changes in order to enjoy life more and feel more satisfied.

41-50: You don’t need us to tell you that a significant change is in order. You already know that, don’t you?

I scored a 17, with a whopping 4 on the last question because I'd like to be doing 3 things at the same time and am frequently thinking about what's not getting done. No matter how happy I am, I think that's a common overachiever characteristic that's hard to shake.

  • What's your score?
  • Does it match your current level of aliveness?

Sunday, May 11, 2008

What Do You Want From Your Career?

I've always admired those people who know what they want in life and in their career. It seems so easy - they'll say "I want to be a _______" and then through a lot of hard work they achieve their goals and reach success. There are a few varieties that probably sound familiar:

The "Always Known"
These are the artists, musicians, inventors, writers, etc. who have "always known." For as long as they can remember, they've really enjoyed doing their trade and wanted to use their talents and would be forever happy if they could be immersed in these industries. I think this group is especially lucky because they rarely second-guess themselves about their future goals and allows them to assume that they'll be outside of the mainstream anyway and should just make up their path as they go along.

The "Long-Hauler"
The people in this category typically pursue a well-defined path, with a strong commitment to a long-term timeline in the hopes of attaining a high-level position. They might not say it outright, but you know that they're looking to be a VP, partner, tenured professor, chief cardiologist, CEO, etc. For most "long-haulers," this decision was made during or after college - either to pursue a professional path or to immerse themselves in a given industry. In some cases this decision was made arbitrarily, but their dedication to the track (whether out of stubbornness or enjoyment) still shows that they know what they want and are pursuing it whole-heartedly.

The "Career Changer"
This is the category that has gone through the wringer - they've had to clarify what they know they want, what they don't want, and then have the courage to make the leap. It might be the computer programmer who goes into musical theater, the middle-aged manager who decides to start a non-profit, or a recent Harvard grad who becomes a car mechanic. Not all career changes are that dramatic and anyone who has made a leap from one job/career to another knows how important it is to clarify their intended future direction.

In all 3 categories, their drive and motivation to excel come from their underlying desire to achieve their goals. This sense of purpose allows them to stay focused and achieve greater success.

But what if you don't know what you want? Chances are, you're probably in the majority who doesn't. Maybe you're sticking it out in a given job because you don't see many compelling alternatives. Or maybe you just haven't found anything that would excite you professionally.

What happens if we don't know what we want? Logically, if we can't clarify what we're looking for then it will be very difficult to get there. From Alice In Wonderland:
Alice: Oh, no, no. I was just wondering if you could help me find my way.
Cheshire Cat: Well that depends on where you want to get to.
Alice: Oh, it really doesn't matter, as long as...
Cheshire Cat: Then it really doesn't matter which way you go.
As we begin to think about what we really want, we must ask ourselves some "serious" questions and be prepared to invest in reflection and introspection. To get the ball rolling, grab a pen and complete the following sentences (be specific!):
  • At this moment, I would like a job that _________
  • I'd like a career or job that gives me _________
  • In my professional life, I find meaning and fulfillment in ___________
  • In 5 years, I'd like to be __________
This is just scratching the surface, but figuring out what you want is the first (and most difficult) step towards a fulfilling career. If you'd like to explore these questions with a bit more guidance and structure, you might consider coaching.

Check out my career coaching services at or email at and discover what you REALLY want and then take action to get there!

Sunday, April 13, 2008

5 Most Important Things in Life

Here's a fun Sunday evening gchat with a good friend of mine (P in the dialog below). I left in the poor IM grammar for authenticity:

Sent at 9:47 PM on Sunday

P: the top of your head with no thinking...
what are the five most important thinngs to remember in life?

me: 1.discipline and attitude get you everywhere
2. your happiness is the most important thing in life

P: and what creates happiness? quick no thinking

me: living in line with what you want for yourself
um, maybe that wasnt' clear enough...
making things happen that bring you pleasure and meaning
living the life you would want to live

P: gotcha

me: 3. be with people who inspire you and keep you alive
alive = lively

4. you choose your life
5. continuous improvement
btw, i love these kinds of qs :)

me: what would your tip 5 be?
top 5, sorry!

P: ok trying to diversify from your answers, although i think you hit most on the head

P: five most important things in life: 1. This is how you get through everything and anything in life..."show up, stick with it, dont sweat it". 2. you get out what you put in. 3. only you know what is right for you. 4. your gut is always right 5. smiling and laughing makes everything better

It was a great little dialog that only took a few minutes but really capped off the evening positively (and led to a fun blog post!). Being a coach for overachievers, I usually asking these types of questions, so it's nice when my friends keep me on my toes. As I said in the chat with P, I really like these types of questions, so I guess it's good that I'm in this line of work!

What are your 5 most important things in life?

Since I can't gchat with each of you directly, please add your answer in the comments!

Friday, April 11, 2008

Happiness from Spending Money on Others

Science Magazine recently published a study that concludes that spending money on others is a reliable source of happiness for most people. The official abstract and link to the full study can be found here: Spending Money on Others Promotes Happiness and you may have seen a few news articles last month based on this study.
Money can buy happiness, but only if you spend it on someone else, researchers reported on Thursday.

Spending as little as $5 a day on someone else could significantly boost happiness, the team at the University of British Columbia and Harvard Business School found.

Their experiments on more than 630 Americans showed they were measurably happier when they spent money on others -- even if they thought spending the money on themselves would make them happier.

I remember being on a long road trip with a friend of mine. As she came to the first tollbooth, she gave the toll collector double the amount and said she wanted to pay for the person behind her. What? I had never heard of such a thing. Much less ever imagined that it would happen in NYC. As I tried to wrap my mind around this, I thought "How awesome to be the next car in line (especially for the exorbitant Holland or Lincoln Tunnel tolls)!"

This friend of mine said she did it almost every time she went through a toll. My immediate reaction was, "My goodness, that's a lot of money to spend on strangers!" According to her, the benefits of making someone's day was well worth the money:

"It just makes me happy thinking about that person's reaction, even though I'll never see it. It's something simple that makes me happy, makes them happy, and hopefully it'll have a ripple effect where the next people we interact with will benefit from our better mood and be a bit happier themselves."

Next time you're in the cash lane, give it a try and see if you feel happier. Who knows, maybe the person in front of you already paid for you!

Friday, April 4, 2008

Follow Your Dream

It's probably no surprise that as a career coach, I love hearing about people who have chosen to pursue their dreams. But I really enjoy reading about someone who has given up the traditional path to pursue an athletic dream.

From the article last month (3/6/08) in the NY Times, Great Set of Wheels for Olympic Hopeful:
He is 6 feet 4 inches and runs remarkably fast despite being 210 pounds, roughly 40 more than many of the competitors he hopes to join at the Beijing Olympics this summer.

His dream sprang out of nowhere, prompting Robinson to quit a $100,000-a-year sales job so he could train. He left behind a comfortable, normal life for a job in a tire store, driven only by a nagging sense that this is what he is supposed to do.

“I believe I’m going to end up in the Olympics,” Robinson, 25, said. “I don’t know how I’m going to get there. But I guess if the mountain were smooth, you wouldn’t be able to climb it.”

“How come when we’re kids we want to be astronauts and firefighters and Indian chiefs, and then when we turn 20 years old we give up on our dreams?” Young said. “Dallas is a good example of a guy who’s still trying to be an astronaut.”

As a former high-level rugby player, I know how difficult it can be when you're training your butt off, sacrificing a lot in other areas of life, and not really sure if all the work will really get you there.

The same can be said for anyone who makes the difficult decision to take the "road less traveled," athletic or not. Entrepreneurs sacrifice a lot for their budding businesses, students who want to get into a top school will spend weekends studying, aspiring artists will live frugally for years in hopes of making it big.

What I've noticed about people who make the gutsy choice to pursue their dreams usually report the same thing - that "nagging sense that this is something they're supposed to do."
At the outset, there's often an "alternating current" of doubt and drive in the background, but those who have the greatest success are those who let their dream carry them and never look back.

And even if you don't ultimately succeed, you will have tried and that alone is worth so much. Here is one of my favorite quotes along those lines, and it happens to be sports-related as well (you can also find it in my previous post "Leadership Develops Daily"):
“It is not the critic who counts, not the man who points out how the strong man stumbled, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena; whose face is marred by the dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; who knows the great enthusiasm, the great devotions, and spends himself in a worthy cause; who, at best, knows in the end the triumph of high achievement; and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.” - by Theodore Roosevelt

  • What's your dream?

Friday, March 28, 2008

What is Coaching?

I recently became a member of the International Coach Federation (ICF) and in reading through their code of ethics, I thought they did a good job of summarizing and defining coaching and it's purpose.  Here's an excerpt taken from the ICF Code of Ethics:

Part One: The ICF Philosophy of Coaching
The International Coach Federation adheres to a form of coaching that honors the client as the expert in his/her life and work and believes that every client is creative, resourceful, and whole. Standing on this foundation, the coach's responsibility is to:

* Discover, clarify, and align with what the client wants to achieve
* Encourage client self-discovery
* Elicit client-generated solutions and strategies
* Hold the client responsible and accountable

Part Two: The ICF Definition of Coaching

Professional Coaching is an ongoing professional relationship that helps people produce extraordinary results in their lives, careers, businesses or organizations. Through the process of coaching, clients deepen their learning, improve their performance, and enhance their quality of life.

Coaching is still quite new as an industry, with many coaching specialties and niches being defined each day.  My corner of the world is career coaching for overachievers.   

From reading the coaching description above and looking through my Overachiever Coach website, if you're interested in learning more or setting up a free 30 minute coaching session to give it a whirl, email me:

Sunday, March 23, 2008

The Chronic Sadness of Late Sunday Afternoon

From today's NY Times article The Tension Builds (It's Almost Monday):
The feeling is familiar: you are savoring the last of a leisurely Sunday lunch or a long walk in the park when you abruptly realize that your weekend will be over in a matter of hours. In an instant, you are deep in what John Updike called the “chronic sadness of late Sunday afternoon.” As you envision the to-do pile on your desk, the meetings on your calendar, and that trip to Topeka on Tuesday, your mood shifts again, your muscles tense, and your head begins to ache.

You have a case of workplace-related stress. You also have plenty of company.

Poll results released last October by the American Psychological Association found that one-third of Americans are living with extreme stress, and that the most commonly cited source of stress — mentioned by 74 percent of respondents — was work. That was up from 59 percent the previous year.

More of the article...
Like many overachievers, I lived for many years with those Sunday afternoon blues; whether it was the week of classes and problem sets or the week of meetings and presentations, Sundays always had a distinct feeling. I think that in addition to this "workplace stress," there are other factors that go into this "chronic sadness of late Sunday afternoon."

In some cases, it might be from having to end a fun weekend or experience. Maybe you had so much fun skiing or hanging out with friends that you want to savor the last few moments before thinking about the daily routine again. You could also be working on a project and it pains you to put it on the back-burner again... if only the weekend came with 3 days! In this sense, the Sunday blues come from having to cut short some enjoyment that doesn't come frequently enough.

These blues can also come from not having used your weekend time as you had hoped. Maybe you slept in really late, or didn't get to that back-burner project you've been meaning to work on. The feeling of "What did I really do with my time?" or "Why did I spend so much time doing ___?" On Sunday night, as we naturally reflect on the weekend, we have a feeling of squandered time and opportunity that puts us into a funk.

Yet another variation is the Sunday night anxiety that comes as you see the sand slipping through the hourglass in the last remaining hours. For me, it's usually around 7pm when I know I have 3 hours left and I want to make them count. Should I watch a movie, go out to eat, work on that project, or get in a few hours of work? When there's less time available, it makes it that much more valuable. Especially when you know it'll be at least 5 days before you have it again!

And of course, there IS the workplace stress of the over-full inbox, the morning meeting, the memo you have to draft, or the presentation that you'll have to cram for. The week might hold in store for you long hours or an overbooked schedules, keeping you running frantically from one activity to another. Workplace stress may also be the result of a less-than-desirable working environment, difficult colleagues, or an onerous boss. Stress can also come from feeling unfulfilled or unchallenged in your position, knowing that you could be putting your potential to better use. Maybe it's the nagging thought that there's a better match for you in terms of industry, career, or position and either not knowing how to get there or not knowing exactly what that is.

I work with clients who are facing these situations and help them reach a more fulfilling, yet less stressful, place in their careers and personal lives. If you're feeling the Sunday afternoon blues, a few weeks of coaching might be just the thing for you. Email me at and begin managing your workplace stress!

Friday, March 21, 2008

Being Happier: Friends and Where You Live

Sorry for the lag in posts, but I was in California (the Bay Area) enjoying life! I had a wonderful trip and it helped me remember 2 important things:
- Life is much better when you can share it with friends

- Where you live can have a big impact on your happiness
My closest college friends are in the Bay Area and it was great to spend time with them. There's something special about feeling comfortable and "at home" with old friends. They know you well, they understand who you are, and you can easily talk about anything. It could be a serious topic, embarrassing experience, or frivolous banter - all are welcome and expected.

While I have a healthy number of friends, as I get older I've been finding it more important to hang on to the good ones. It takes a long time to build up a "crew" that you can just hang out with. Especially when moving to a new location, it takes a while to build up that base of friends that you can call up for dinner randomly and feel comfortable sitting around with playing cards and looking up choice YouTube videos.

I used to think that I could be happy in any environment. While it's basically true, I know that I could be even happier in certain locations over others. I think it's important to find a location that is a good match for who you are and what you enjoy. There are certain universal factors to consider to help find a match:
  1. Weather (seasons, amount of sun, rain, cold, etc.)
  2. Type of people (friendliness, ethnic mix, acceptance)
  3. Culture (art, music, events, food)
  4. Lifestyle/Hobbies (what people do, popular activities)
  5. Values or Priorities (what is important to the people who live there)
  6. Existing friend base (who do you know where?)
  7. Rural vs Urban (population density, access to nature, commute, strip malls, etc.)
I've sampled a number of places and have lived/spent a lot of time in NY (Queens, Long Island, Manhattan, Brooklyn), Boston (Cambridge), CA (SF, Oakland, Palo Alto), and DC (VA). I've found that certain pockets of the Bay Area would be an ideal match for me in terms of a place to live.

It's frequently sunny, people are happy (for the most part), it's not too cold, there's culture if you want it, people are generally concerned about health and the environment, and there is plenty of open space and access to different types of nature in a 3-4 hour car ride (beach, mountains, foothills, desert). Just being there for a long weekend was enough to remember why I like it so much.

A walk around the Stanford Dish or Arastradero Preserve, with a short drive to Mount Tam or my favorite winery Chateau St. Jean are reason enough to move back. Then the thought of being able to enjoy them with my close friends and I'm sold!

  • How much of your happiness based on where you're living?
  • How much of your happiness based on being able to share it with good friends?
  • Which is more important to you?

Monday, March 10, 2008

RSS, Feeds, Newsletter - Oh My!

A few people have been having trouble with my RSS feed to Google Reader. If it hasn't been updating regularly, fear not... for I bring you good tidings of great joy! Behold, RSS (Really Simple Syndication) information:

Blog posts to your favorite RSS reader:
Please delete the old feed, go directly to my Overachiever Coach Blog ( and subscribe using the link on the right sidebar (big orange RSS button that says "Subscribe in a Reader"), and you can choose the RSS reader of your choice (btw, Google Reader rocks!).

Blog posts to your inbox:
If you'd like to get blog posts pushed to your email inbox, use the link on the right sidebar (Subscribe: Email feed to your inbox) and you enter your email address there and hit submit.

To get my Overachiever Coach business newsletter:
My blog is separate from the business newsletter I send out by email each month. To get the latest client testimonials, coaching exercises, and upcoming events, please subscribe to my Overachiever Coach Newsletter and you'll be totally in the know!

Services brought to you by...
For those of you who are interested, both the RSS feeds and the inbox post delivery are done through Feedburner (which is now owned by Google!) and I use iContact for sending out my monthly email newsletter. If you want more information on other services I use for my business, please let me know in the comments section and I'll be happy to share!

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Being Critical vs. Catch Them Doing Something Right

Question for discussion:
  • Are you more critical of the people closest to you?
I find that as overachievers, we have such high expectations of the people closest to us that we tend to dwell on what they could do better. We want them to be incredibly amazing all the time, so we get frustrated when we think they're not living up to their ability and greatness.

It could be that we are so used to dealing with driven and ambitious people all day at our jobs that we forget that our family and friends aren't employees or co-workers who get paid to do a good job. We expect them to dot their i's and be proactive in home life and in things that might not really matter much to them.

Strangely, we'll lay out our criticism in a much harsher way when dealing with the people closest to us. Maybe it's because we feel we can be "brutally honest" with them (that doesn't sound like fun), or we don't feel obligated to sugar-coat something in the way we otherwise would when dealing with a co-worker or acquaintance. Or maybe it's that we lose patience more easily or expect them to read our minds on how we want something done and get frustrated when they don't.

Of course, the criticism starts with us. We have a specific expectation that might not have been communicated well. Or maybe we have difficulty accepting something that's done differently from the way we would do it (similar to the Not-Invented-Here problem in business). This way of thinking undermines our relationships and creates an environment that isn't supportive or empowering. I know that I can personally be better about how I deliver my "suggestions for improvement" to the people around me to have a more positive effect.

Often times, we're so focused on criticizing what's wrong, that we forget to notice what's being done well. The short business book "The One Minute Manager," by Ken Blanchard, offers the idea of "catching an employee doing something RIGHT" and celebrating it as one suggestion for being a good manager. This public praise encourages them to continue doing things well and motivates others to follow suit. Everyone wants to be acknowledged for being good!

Catching a family member doing something RIGHT could be celebrating when your partner takes out the trash, or when your kids make their beds, or how much you appreciate it when your brother picks up food on his way over to your house. The more public of a statement, the better! The idea is to get everyone in on the praise so it means more. As you start doing this, I bet you'll find that a little positive reinforcement goes a long way.

When you find yourself getting overly critical, it's important to remember that we can control this perspective and these thoughts because they're generated in our own minds. We can affect the way we perceive the situation by recognizing:
  • Not everyone thinks like we do
  • There isn't just one "right" way of doing something
  • Each person has their strengths and challenges
As much as we may think our way is "best," we have to recognize that this isn't always the case. And even if it were the case, how miserable would it be to live with someone like that?! Why not focus on appreciation rather than criticism?
  • When can you catch your partner or family member doing something RIGHT and celebrate it?

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Establishing Rapport: Pacing and Leading (NLP 3/5)

More NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming) highlights after my reading of Develop Your NLP Skills by Andrew Bradbury.

This post (#3 out of 5 total NLP posts) is about effectively establishing a rapport with someone. I think most of us employ the NLP techniques of "pacing" and "leading" to some degree, but it's good to be more aware of how we can bring it into play to enhance our interpersonal relationships:

  • Pacing - Use mirroring techniques to match the person in terms of tone, word choice, volume, breathing tempo, and body language to form a rapid bond or to strengthen an existing relationship.
  • Leading - You can then test your rapport with someone by "leading" with an action and seeing if they follow your lead - i.e. if you straighten up in your seat, cross your legs, or put your hands on the table during a conversation that person will soon follow if they're comfortable with you.
I found one of the examples in the book (Develop Your NLP Skills) to be very interesting - If a customer comes in or calls and is upset, frustrated, or yelling you'll have greater success in communicating with them if you first mirror them by also raising your voice and adopting their body language ("pacing") to show that you're also angry about the situation.

An example: Someone comes into your dry cleaning store fuming, "You missed this spot on the back of my favorite dress and I wore it out without noticing, assuming you had cleaned it thoroughly. Why didn't you get the spot out and why didn't you tell me when I picked it up?" Mirroring her tone, loudly and seemingly frustrated, you respond, "It makes me angry that we would let that happen since we pride ourselves on our customer service. It's totally unacceptable that we didn't mention it when you picked it up, and we can't continue doing business with good clients like you in that way. Now, what can I do for you to make this right?"

Once you have a rapport with them, then you can transition into "leading" by softening your voice and gesturing less to bring the customer with you to a calmer place where you can discuss more effectively. It seems like this technique would be great for negotiations and resolving conflicts quickly.

I think it would be difficult to match someone at first if they're yelling and angry because that's not the way I would naturally think to diffuse the situation. My inclination is to play it soft from the beginning and approach it with tact and appeasement, but maybe next time I'll try pacing and mirror their frustration at first. However, in personal discussions I'm not sure it would be as effective because emotions have a way of escalating and "discussions" often become bigger than intended.
  • Have you ever tried pacing and leading either in a professional or personal situation?
  • Was it intentional or unintentional, and how did it work?

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Productivity and Efficiency

The topics of productivity and efficiency are near and dear to the hearts of many overachievers. We're constantly looking to do things "better, cheaper, faster" in both our professional and personal lives. In the last month, organization and personal productivity thoughts began hitting me from all sides.

It started when I picked up a copy of Timothy Ferriss' book, "The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich," as part of my monthly pleasure reading. His creative and envelope-pushing ideas on how to get more done, and the suggestions for how to live an idyllic 4-hour workweek, had me quickly join the ranks of his cult-ish following. I've recommended it now to a number of people who would love the idea of personal outsourcing, creating hands-off revenue streams, and traveling the world in search of more life.

Then a friend, and fellow Balanced Scorecard believer, came over to visit with a copy of David Allen's "Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity." While it's VERY different from Ferriss' book, it offers some great ideas on how to manage your mental and physical inboxes; it teaches tools to help triage the information and task overload that we all deal with.

At the same time, I was reading the "The E-Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don't Work and What to Do About It," by Michael Gerber, which offers an effectiveness methodology for small business owners. By analyzing the business in terms of workflows and trying to systematize the process, we can get more done without the stress that comes from having to switch hats frequently throughout the day.

Then at the gym on Friday, I was doing the elliptical machine and flipping through the DIY magazine Ready Made and came across an article on the "new crop of organizational gurus." It was a short article, but it did a great job of summing up the new (but old) trend of productivity preachers and pundits. The article helped me group these books together in my mind and that alone made me feel more organized.

From the Ready Made article:
The inquisition of inefficiency breeds new gurus and inventions in every era. During the 1980s, Steven R. Covey's The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People was the bible, and must-have trappings included overstuffed Filofaxes, Rolodexes, and Franklin Day Planners. In the 1990s the Container Store - which now brings in revenues of $491 million - expanded nationwide. In 1999, the BlackBerry debuted, combining a phone with 24/7 access to email. It quickly earned the nickname CrackBerry, as it became the addiction choice for knowledge workers and their unhappy assistants everywhere.

The 2001 publication of David Allen's Getting Things Done kicked off the Internet Age cult of productivity. As the speed of work and volume of messages increased a zillionfold, workers needed new ways to cope with information overload. Allen's book promised that and more, by itemizing a complex, hyper-controlled, geek-friendly system for managing attention, ideas, and tasks. There are now 600,000 copies in print, and Getting Things Done has been embraced by such companies as Google and Sony. It also spawned an entire movement known as "lifehacking," a system of tips and tweaks to engineer your life to work better. Today, Lifehacker ( ranks the #6 blog on the Web."

It's interesting that the productivity and efficiency question has been around for a while, and every decade gurus take a different swing at it to include the newest antidotes for the latest overload. (I wonder what the productivity pundits would say about the fact that I just hand-typed that entire excerpt because it wasn't available online.)

While there is a lot of advice out there, it seems like there isn't a hard-and-fast solution to this pervasive "overload" problem. Maybe it's because individuals are unique in how they feel most productive, and each person's approach is customized to their situation. Or maybe it's because we're just doing so much in our lives and find it justifiably overwhelming at times.

I think that the real reason we keep bumping into this issue is that we continually push ourselves to greater heights. The moment we become more efficient, we decide to take on more. Ah, the classic pattern of an overachiever!

  • Do you have any productivity or efficiency suggestions that work for you?
  • What tricks or tools do you use to remain productive and efficient?

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

NLP Tips: 2. Preferred Thinking Styles

More NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming) highlights after my reading of Develop Your NLP Skills (3rd edition)by Andrew Bradbury.

This post (#2 out of 5 total NLP posts) is about how "Preferred Thinking Styles" can be helpful in communication. Personally, I'm not sure I believe it 100% but I found it interesting conceptually, so I thought I'd share:

"Preferred Thinking Styles" (PTSs) are ways in which we mentally represent the external world in our heads. The 3 common PTSs are visual (thinking in pictures), auditory (thinking in sounds), or kinaesthetic (feelings, physical and emotional). According to NLP, if you listen to the types of words someone uses frequently, it's a clue into what type they are. For example:
  • Visual- "I don't see what all the fuss is about - it looks pretty straightforward to me."
  • Auditory - "It sounds like a lot of fuss about nothing if you ask me. I'd say it was pretty straightforward."
  • Kinaesthetic - "I don't know what people are getting so upset about. I found it pretty straightforward."
The NLP methodology says that each person is most comfortable being communicated with their Preferred Thinking Style. If someone is predominantly a Visual person, then others should try to paint mental pictures for them and use words that are "visual." If you find that your boss, your significant other, or business partner uses one kind of PTS (determined by the words they use in conversation), it's best to communicate with them using keywords from their PTS.

Naturally, it makes you wonder what type of PTS you are. I'd probably classify myself as a visual person, but that's from knowing how I think about problems (not from the language I use). I find that I do communicate best with other "visual" people when problem solving, but I'm not sure that applies to everything. It would be interesting to know if I end up using visual keywords when I communicate with others.

But at the same time, the words you use are often largely dependent on the context of the discussion - i.e. Did you see that giant elephant? Did you hear that woman at the store talking so loudly? How did you feel the presentation went? That's why I'm not sure if the words we use are indicative of our thinking style, but I haven't invested the time to test out the concept.

  • Do you think there's something behind these Preferred Thinking Styles or is it bunk? Your thoughts...?

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Indexed: Wisdom in Math Form

Thoughts and insight drawn mathematically on index cards...I love it! Jessica Hagy brings us wisdom, perspective, humor, and insight on a 3x5 canvas. Check out her Change This manifesto, "Indexing a Career: A Career Path in Pictures"

Also, be sure to check out her blog Indexed. Definitely check out the site...there are a lot of funny ones on different topics. Here are some good ones that relate to career, success, and development:

I haven't read her book "Indexed" yet, but I'd definitely endorse if from what I've seen from her so far. Funny, insightful, and mathematical - thanks, Jessica!
  • What wisdom would you put on a 3x5 index card?

Friday, February 15, 2008

NLP Tips: 1. Communication

I just finished reading Develop Your NLP Skills (3rd edition)by Andrew Bradbury and am going to capture some of the interesting NLP tips in a series of posts (this one being the first).

NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming) is a methodology and collection of tools to aid in communication and personal development. Because NLP claims to be based in science, I thought it would be up my alley, but I found it to still be a bit too fluffy. But I did learn some interesting things that can definitely help in my personal interactions and in my work as a coach.

The first thing I want to highlight is a very basic concept on communication, but useful to keep in mind.
Many people view communication as:

I Think > I Speak > You Hear What I Say > You Know What I Mean.

This isn't exactly right because communication involves some amount on translation and decoding. In reality communication is more like:

I Think > I Encode > I Speak > You Hear > You Decode > You Think You Know What I Mean.

Communication isn't easy because we have to translate our thoughts into words and then hope that they're "decoded" as we intended by the other party. Sometimes, communication is a bigger problem with the people closest to us.

Since we've had many years of interaction and communication with them, we expect our immediate family and friends to know how we "encode" and what we mean when we say X, Y, or Z. We believe that they've been "decoding" our communication for so long that they can read our minds.

But we have to remember - they don't have the perfect decryption key, and even if they did, it would be hard to do in real-time and under emotional conditions. A communication breakdown becomes even more frustrating because we think they should know what we're talking about (because they should have superior decoding abilities for dealing with us).

This NLP perspective on communication definitely made me think about how I encode my thoughts and why clear communication is difficult (especially with the people closest to us).
  • Does this perspective bring up any observations you've had on communication?

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Tom Peters: Get to Know Your Team

From Tom Peters' 100 Ways to Succeed (Part II), by way of Change This (a site I really like). If you haven't read anything from Tom Peters, he's a well-regarded business thinker and consultant. His "thing" is to challenge the norm (which you can definitely tell from his writing and presentation style) and he gets paid bank to give keynote speeches and chat with CEOs.

From his PDF, slide 16:
100 Ways to succeed #77: in the moment

Your workteam today is not your workteam yesterday. Take a quiet moment or two or three BEFORE you go to work (not in the middle of your commute) to go through your up-to-date mental file on each person, where they are personally, where they are professionally, etc.

Among other things, this might result in a 90-second stop at two or three workstations to talk about what’s up with a kid’s school problem, etc. Or ask about an online course that so-and-so is taking, or why (women do this sooooo much better—and if that’s sexist, so be it) “you seem to be a bit gloomy lately”—whatever. Maybe it means quick lunch plans. A 10-minute walk in the park mid-morning. Whatever. I’m hardly suggesting that you be a snoop—just that you are, after all, trying to work with your team to get something done and help each one develop and contribute in the process.

Think like Coach Mike Krzyzewski (Coach K): Each practice-game-day is different. Act accordingly.
What I like about this is that it reminds us that managers are incredibly important because they provide the human element in business. They are the ones that can make a difference for their employees - creating a supportive environment, forging a team-based culture, encouraging personal development, etc. Part of doing this well is really getting to know the people on your workteam and figure out what they're feeling and what they're up to in the other areas of life.

I know, personally, I'm usually busy running here and there, trying to take care of business and getting things done that I sometimes forget to connect with people I'm working with. Even just a sincere "How ya doin?" is good to get the conversation started. It makes a huge difference.

Tom Peters has also written a number of books, including The Pursuit of Wow! that has been popular among businesses (I know that Commerce Bank has adopted the Wow! approach, among others).

Changing Yourself First

I came across this common saying today that made me think about all those times I've tried to change situations or other people with very little success:

"The only person you can really change is yourself"

Somewhat related to this idea is Gandhi's popular quote:

"Be the change you wish to see in the world"

Together these quotes emphasize the importance of the individual and the change that happens on the personal level. As my mom always said, "Don't worry about what everyone around you is doing, just worry about yourself."

Do you find that you're asking others to change, but not seeing the changes you can make in your own life? How can you can rethink your attitude or actions so you can be happier with your situation and the people around you? In what ways can YOU grow, learn, and develop to make the most of who you are?

You've probably thought about these things already, but if you'd like to spend some dedicated time on personal development, send me an email at and we can set you up with some one-on-one coaching to help you be the best you can be!

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Career Workshop: This Saturday (2/16)

Overachiever Coach is hosting a Career Workshop in the DC area this Saturday!

It's only $15 (which is a steal for coaching services!) and you'll get a great session to help you figure out what you want from your career - - whether it's getting more from your current job, changing jobs in the same industry, or thinking about a completely new direction:

Whether you want to get more out of your current career, change careers, or figure out what would make you happier, join us as we explore your skills and interests to get back in touch with what brings meaning to your professional life. Create an action plan for moving boldly toward what you want in both the short- and long-term.
For more information or to sign up online, check out my Overachiever Coach Workshop Schedule.

If you have friends who have been struggling with figuring out their career, please point them to my website ( or have them email me directly (

You can help them be happier and make the most of their career!