Personal Performance

Growth mindset vs. fixed mindset, a short overview by John Spencer

Growth mindset vs. fixed mindset, a short overview by John Spencer

Researcher and professor Carol Dweck uses the term “mindset” to describe the way people think about ability and talent.

Dweck delineates between two different mindsets that exist on a continuum. The first is a fixed mindset, which suggests that your abilities are innate and unchangeable.

The second is a growth mindset, which views it as something you can improve through practice. In a fixed mindset, you view failure as permanent but with a growth mindset, you see failure as a chance to learn and pivot.

A definition of focus from Steve Jobs

“People think focus means saying yes to the thing you’ve got to focus on. But that’s not what it means at all. It means saying no to the hundred other good ideas that there are. You have to pick carefully. I’m actually as proud of the things we haven’t done as the things I have done. Innovation is saying ‘no’ to 1,000 things.”

— Steve Jobs

This quote was featured in Shane Parrish’s excellent article on speed versus velocity.

Techniques: stop screwing yourself over (from Mel Robbins)

In this now famous talk, Mel Robbins introduces her “5 second rule.” Use it to the activation energy necessary to get things done. It’s a solid talk and a solid technique. If you are pressed for time, set your YouTube preferences to 2x speed.

After the talk, try to use the rule at least once a day for 10 days.

For the transcript and similar content, check it out at TED.com

Use this as your personal mission statement 1.0 so you can discover your 2.0

If you don’t have a strong sense of personal mission, it’s no problem. Brendon Burchard outlines why that’s a healthy part of personal development. Set up your mission to live the best quality of life that you can through growth, self mastery and contribution in all of the areas of your life.

You can use this to drive your discovery and growth process- mission 2.0 will emerge from the process. Whether that process takes years or months, it’s all healthy.

Key take aways: Don’t get hung up on a perfect mission, instead, become intentional about growth and your mission will emerge over time as you follow your interests.

And if you feel lost, ask “How can I help? How can I serve?”

To develop into the best version of myself
— Brendon's sample mission

Improvisation: The Power of "Yes... and..."

Improvisation: The Power of "Yes... and..."

We're often at a disadvantage when it comes to problem-solving because we think too fast, and our analytic brains shut off new ideas before they have even emerged. Improvisation, on the other hand, creates "a set of experiences that allow you to fine-tune and hone all of the necessary skills needed to think on your feet and simply react and adapt." So says Bob Kulhan who has been studying, performing and teaching improv comedy for nearly two decades.

Kulhan introduces the two key tools of improv, which are captured by the two-word phrase "Yes, and." Kulhan says "Yes" means accepting a certain idea or situation at face value. The "and" part involves taking that idea and building onto it, whether that involves taking the idea apart or approaching it from a different angle. Kulhan says this approach creates both openness ("Yes") and a bridge to your thoughts ("and") that will foster creativity and fearlessness, eventually leading to innovation.

Kulhan, who teaches improv techniques to foster creativity in business settings, says it is important to take our critical hats off and not be afraid to take a chance, or be afraid to fail. Once that kind of environment has been established, then it is time for our analytical minds to kick in and focus on convergent thinking.

Divergent thinking has delivered "a great collection of ideas." Convergent thinking, on the other hand, involves "separating the sand from the gold and the good ideas from the bad ideas, and you start editing those out." The key to improv is simply to not allow yourself to start editing too quickly.

Use the principles of design thinking to design your life

Executive director of Stanford’s design program at the d.School, Bill Burnett uses design thinking, a career’s worth of starting companies and coaching students, and a childhood spent drawing cars and airplanes under his Grandmother’s sewing machine to inform his work on how to design your life. In five eyebrow-raising findings, Burnett offers simple but life-changing advice on designing the life you want, whether you are contemplating college or retirement. After years of drawing cars and airplanes under his Grandmother’s sewing machine, Bill Burnett went to college where he discovered that there were people in the world who did this kind of thing every day (without the sewing machine), and they were called designers. Thirty years, five companies, and a couple thousand students later, Burnett is still drawing and building things, teaching others how to do the same, and quietly enjoying the fact that no one has discovered that he is having too much fun. As Executive Director of the Design Program at Stanford, he runs undergraduate and graduate programs in design, both interdepartmental programs between the mechanical engineering and art departments. Burnett worked on design of the award-winning Apple PowerBooks and the original Hasbro Star Wars action figures. He holds a number of mechanical and design patents. This talk was given at a TEDx event using the TED conference format but independently organized by a local community. Learn more at https://www.ted.com/tedx

Personal core value statement examples: James Clear

We’ve become fans of James Clear’s dedication to understanding performance improvement. He covers a rage of topics including goal setting, habit formation, and human performance. Each year creates up a variety of year end reports, including the Integrity report. He outlines his personal core values them as follows.

 “I. Growth

  • Am I learning new things, exploring new places, and experimenting with new ideas?

  • Am I questioning my limiting beliefs and trying to overcome them?

  • Am I building habits that lead to continual improvement?

II. Self-Respect

  • Am I fulfilling my potential?

  • Am I giving myself permission to be happy with where I am right now?

  • Am I living like the type of person I claim to be?

III. Grit

  • Am I mentally and physically strong?

  • Am I preparing for unexpected challenges?

  • Am I taking steps to overcome the challenges in my life?

IV. Contribution

  • Am I contributing to the world or just consuming it?

  • Am I someone others can count on?

  • Am I helping to make things better for others?


See the full 2014 Integrity Report (and others) from James Clear on jamesclear.com.

Change In Times Of Fear (How To Reclaim Your Creativity In The Storm Of Disruption)

How ‘bout we this article off with some onomatopoeias? Kaboom. Vroom. Crash. Pow. Blam. Squish!

Is there a better way to describe what the advancing army of Amazon must sound like to today’s retailers? How else to portray the clamor of marauding hordes of small, fleet, web-based companies as they move to obliterate stalwart professions like law, health care, insurance, and asset wealth management? Intellectual property owners, and content creators, what do you think? Is this not the simplest way to illustrate the emotional impact of disruption on your industry, disruption that was once on the distant horizon, but is now at your doorstep? Bear with me as I introduce a somewhat strange metaphor, one that addresses both the psychological effects of increasingly rapid change, and ways to reclaim your creativity in spite of it.

Human beings are hardwired for stress. We are genetically programmed to be on the lookout for threats and dangers of all kinds. In fact, neuroscientists have discovered that a state of mental emergency isn’t something that happens to us occasionally; it's our default. Too many of our waking moments are spent using our creative capacities, not to imagine a brighter future, or to create fresh opportunities, but to defend ourselves from things we mistakenly believe will kill us. While it’s true we are constantly standing guard, for most of us, actual threats to our lives are extremely rare. But even when we only feel attacked, our focus narrows, bringing our entire attention to the source of the threat. That makes sense. If a deadly black mamba snake were rearing it’s head and about to strike, it would behoove you to refrain from thinking about that new business plan or that tricky last verse to the song you’d been agonizing over. You would want to focus on ways to save your life and nothing else. Unfortunately, this myopic focus is a real impediment to creative thinking.

Here’s how we need to think about this: The black mamba is deadly; Amazon (name your latest disruptive threat) is not. Though your anxiety around disruption can seem life threatening, it is something else altogether. It is, in a word, just—anxiety. While anxiety feels very much like a mortal threat to the amygdala, the primitive part of our brains in charge of releasing adrenalin among other things, nonetheless, there is nothing deadly about it. The onus then, is on us to utilize a higher faculty of our brains, our intellect, to inform our highly excited amygdala that this fearful, anxious situation is just a false alarm. I liken all this hyper-defensiveness, to a querulous, imaginary voice by the name of Marv. His name stands for: Majorly Afraid of Revealing Vulnerability.

Marv, quite simply, is the ornery little dude in our heads who keeps telling us why we’re not smart enough, not pretty enough, and not worthy enough. We have all experienced Marv. No amount of money or fame can get him to leave us alone. He’s so incredibly annoying that you might think that what follows next is a list of the best ways to kill Marv, to silence him, or to stuff a rag in his mouth and banish him to a dreary basement. Sorry to disappoint. I will do no such thing. We don’t want to harm Marv; we want to honor him and show our gratitude for his good intentions. Remember, Marv is a metaphor for the amygdala, which as I mentioned earlier, is constantly on guard against those aforementioned mortal threats.

But while it’s easy to understand why Marv perceives real danger in encountering a black mamba, why does he think change, that most constant of all things, will actually kill us? In other words, why can’t he differentiate between fear and anxiety?

Here’s how it looks from Marv’s POV.

In attempting to think and act more creatively, there is always the possibility that I will fail. Marv is not the least bit shy about reminding me of this. He makes a lot of sense too, I could fail. And so, as he speaks, I listen attentively. His next course of action is to remind me of the first consequence of failure, which is shame. (Cue the ominous sounding cellos) “And do you know what happens to shameful people?” Marv asks. We all know the answer to that. Shameful people are shunned and abandoned. Among the many things the human species cannot abide is abandonment. Abandonment is anathema to the human spirit. It is, arguably, the thing we fear most.

Now, I am in Marv’s thrall. My creativity and imagination is essentially paralyzed by the fearful construct Marv has set up. But it doesn’t end there. Marv has one last scare tactic and it’s a doozey; “Peter,” he says to me. “Do you remember what it was like when you were an infant, when you needed your parents to provide everything for you?” Of course I remember. Even though I’m balding, my goatee is gray, and I carry around an AMEX card (three sure signs of adulthood), I am still, if only subconsciously, very much connected to my child-self. After all, the me that peers out from behind my eyes hasn’t changed one iota in all these years. So, indeed I remember, and Marv goes in for the coup de grâce. “If your parents had abandoned you”, he says, almost breathlessly now, “You would have died!” And guess what. Marv is 100% correct on that point. Left alone as a young child, I would most certainly have died. It’s our subconscious fear of being left alone in the world that keeps Marv in business.

Indeed, anxiety’s tentacles reach back to our childhoods. Our anxious feelings almost always connect in some way to a fear of death-by-abandonment. So when Marv scares me in that hypothetical scenario, he isn’t trying to impede my creativity, not at all. He is simply trying to save my life. He does so by preventing me from taking action on anything other than saving my life. Marv is convinced he is fulfilling his neurobiological role of protecting me. “Don’t come up with solutions, don’t relax, don’t get creative,” he says. “Now is definitely not the time!”

Instead of becoming transfixed, by Marv’s protestations, as we so often do, we must learn to use our faculties of reason. We need to learn the super-productive skill of being mindful of the differences between real fear and anxiety —no matter how anxious we feel. There’s only a split second in which to accomplish this and so, the diligent practice of awareness becomes paramount. When we are overcome with anxiety, we must be attentive to our bodies. We must feel its sensations; the tightening of our muscles, the knots in our stomachs, our sweaty palms; all of it. In that split second when anxiety first hits, we must realize that it is only anxiety and then calmly explain to Marv that everything is alright, that there is no reason to for him to get involved. We may even suggest he go and get himself a latte and a newspaper.

Most importantly, we must learn to act on that which we fear. The actions I’m suggesting we take are never large, they require neither heroism, nor great strength, but they all involve first-steps. For example, if you know you need to write a strategic plan for your business, but Marv has paralyzed you from taking any action towards that goal, set the timer on your smart phone for ten—even five minutes—sit down at your desk, and start writing. The short time span will make it easier for you. If you think in terms of days or weeks, you're sunk. If there’s a phone call you know you need to make, but you’ve been putting it off because of Marv, then do the same thing. Set a timer, sit at your desk, dial the 10 digits, open your jaws and start talking. The idea here is that by taking these small, concrete actions, you change the mind's focus and intent. By asserting control and moving toward your goal you will find yourself going from paralytic stupor, to dynamic response.

What happens when you move forward and take these small but decisive actions is that Marv says to himself, “Hmm, looks like Nancy’s got this situation under control, I’m gonna kick back and let her do her thing.” And the good news is that when Marv relaxes, you relax. When you are relaxed, your focus widens, your worldview expands, and you will begin to regain access to your innate creativity.

For those of you who like a take-away, here it is:

  • Rapid change is bound to make anyone anxious. You're no different from everyone else in this regard.

  • Recognize the difference between real fear and anxiety, and immediately take the small, doable steps toward that which you fear.

  • When you take those small steps, you allow Marv to relax his grip on your mind. You will then be able to release your innate creativity. And through that release, you will be giving yourself the best possible chance to succeed, no matter what kind of storm you find yourself in.

This article originally appeared in Forbes and is brought to your by our friends at Big Muse.

About the author:
Peter Himmelman is a Grammy and Emmy nominated singer-songwriter, visual artist, best-selling author, film composer, entrepreneur, and rock and roll performer. Time Magazine writes: “Himmelman writes songs with the same urgency that compelled the Lost Generation to write novels."

In addition to his own, continuing creative work, he is the founder of Big Muse, a company, which helps organizations to leverage the power of their people’s innate creativity. Clients include Boeing, 3M, McDonald’s, Adobe, and Gap Inc. His most recent book, Let Me Out (Unlock your creative mind and bring your ideas to life) was released October, 2016. Peter also holds an Advanced Management Certificate from The Kellogg School of Business, at Northwestern, and a Certificate Of Leadership Development from the National Security Seminar of The United States Army War College.

Hearing Like Prince: How A Rock Star Can Teach Leaders To Listen

“Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today to get through this thing called life.” —Prince

I'm pretty sure you never considered Prince a poster child for leadership, but his uncanny ability to hear would have made him a great one. By the time he hit his stride in the summer of 1984 with the release of his album, Purple Rain, Prince's music had acquired the power to point millions of fans to something larger than themselves —a power which derived from Prince's expertise in the rare art of deep listening. Perhaps most crucially, Prince's music has helped people from all walks of life magnify their own sense of what's possible. If the hallmark of great leadership is the capacity to empower others to feel that their own dreams are achievable, Prince clearly possessed the makings of a true leader.

Before we'd ever heard his name, Prince had absorbed a vast array of musical influences, expanded upon them, and repurposed them as the building blocks of his own songs. Prince learned the art of story-songs like "The Ballad of Dorothy Parker" from Joni Mitchell, one of his earliest idols. The ultra funky guitar stylings that he used in songs like "Kiss" and "Controversy" were gleaned from listening to Tony Maiden, Chaka Khan's amazing guitarist. The dark minimalism of Sly and The Family Stone's arrangements were the impetus for Prince's unorthodox decision to leave the bass guitar off "When Doves Cry", one of his biggest hits. No matter what stage he was at in his career, Prince was listening, gathering up ideas, and storing them away in his seemingly infinite paintbox of musical colors. 

Listening to the mastery and depth of Prince's recordings brings into focus just how much we can all gain from stepping outside our own biases and beliefs. Whether it's politics, the arts, or everyday discourse, there is a pervasive narrow-mindedness that's on the rise these days, and it's up to everyone in a position of influence (and who among us is not in some position of influence) to work against this trend by listening more often, and more intently to what's going on around them. 

As leaders we are too comfortable with pouring out oceans of words, and yet so often we don't hear anything but the sound of our own voices. Take a moment to listen to Prince's music today and you'll see by virtue of his genius that he showed us how much more there is to listen for.

While most of us are habituated to listening at the depth of say, an inch or so, others of us, the more skilled ones, are able to listen at the depth of a foot. Prince was able to listen at a depth of thousands of feet. With every song he left behind, he informs us that the very act of listening is a skill we can constantly improve upon. We can do better. We can listen more and say less. We can listen in ways that are more attentive and less perfunctory.

If we could hear like Prince, maybe we'd be able to hear one another, maybe we'd be able to hear past our own assumptions —and maybe then, we'd be able to hear with the sole intention of understanding.

This article originally appeared in Forbes and is brought to your by our friends at Big Muse.

About the author:
Peter Himmelman is a Grammy and Emmy nominated singer-songwriter, visual artist, best-selling author, film composer, entrepreneur, and rock and roll performer. Time Magazine writes: “Himmelman writes songs with the same urgency that compelled the Lost Generation to write novels."

In addition to his own, continuing creative work, he is the founder of Big Muse, a company, which helps organizations to leverage the power of their people’s innate creativity. Clients include Boeing, 3M, McDonald’s, Adobe, and Gap Inc. His most recent book, Let Me Out (Unlock your creative mind and bring your ideas to life) was released October, 2016. Peter also holds an Advanced Management Certificate from The Kellogg School of Business, at Northwestern, and a Certificate Of Leadership Development from the National Security Seminar of The United States Army War College.

The Idea-Revealers: Where Business And Art Intersect

The relationship between business and art may seem a bit hazy, but there are some stark similarities. Foremost is the shared challenge of taking a nascent idea and bringing it to life.

Ideas, whether artistic or entrepreneurial, are by nature, locked away in the human mind. It's only through experimentation, creativity, and collaboration that they are able to be made manifest, and to address some aspect of human need. Not surprisingly, these are the very ingredients necessary in all of business and art. You wouldn't be far off if you were to describe both the businessperson and the artist, as idea-revealers.

Making ideas of any sort, tangible, always begins with a process of reduction, leaving only that, which serves the final result. Successful idea-revealers often end up with what they believe is relevant and good, but since, at the start, their ideas contain the possibility of purveying anything and everything, they inevitably face a struggle over what to leave in and what to leave out. Their real work then, becomes one of cutting away excess, getting rid of the superfluous, until the desired emotion or, (in the case of business), utility, is revealed. No idea-revealer has ever been able to skip the step of wending his or her way through a chaotic, stew of possibilities. They must chip away at that chaos until the beauty of their seminal idea becomes apparent.

As idea-revealers winnow their ideas, they also pare down what is extraneous in their own lives, the noise in their lives —a noise, which, so often derives from people’s expectations. Society dictates what they should believe, how they should think, and how they should measure their own capabilities. Protecting themselves from the sway of this, often, negative influence, takes a resilience that must constantly be strengthened.

Idea-revealers are unique, in that they possess extremely strong points of view. The most successful among them make a concerted effort to examine their own values, and then, to purvey those values in their speech, in their actions, and through their work. Idea-revealers know what they will, or will not do for money for fame. The know exactly how far they will go when it comes to compromising on their vision. This clarity around their sense of purpose is how they guard against external pressures and move constantly forward in the implementation of their ideas. For an idea-revealer, skill-sets and acumen alone will never suffice as a bulwark against the barrage of naysaying they will invariably encounter. 

In the grand scheme, the idea-revealer's job is to point humanity past the immediate, past the already known and already believed, to wondrous things —things obtainable only through tireless diligence, deep conversation, true collaboration, and perhaps most of all, empathic insight into the human condition. At their best, both the artist and the businessperson are able to reveal that the 'impossible' is not waiting at a distance, but rather, it is within us even now.

This article originally appeared in Forbes and is brought to your by our friends at Big Muse.

About the author:
Peter Himmelman is a Grammy and Emmy nominated singer-songwriter, visual artist, best-selling author, film composer, entrepreneur, and rock and roll performer. Time Magazine writes: “Himmelman writes songs with the same urgency that compelled the Lost Generation to write novels."

In addition to his own, continuing creative work, he is the founder of Big Muse, a company, which helps organizations to leverage the power of their people’s innate creativity. Clients include Boeing, 3M, McDonald’s, Adobe, and Gap Inc. His most recent book, Let Me Out (Unlock your creative mind and bring your ideas to life) was released October, 2016. Peter also holds an Advanced Management Certificate from The Kellogg School of Business, at Northwestern, and a Certificate Of Leadership Development from the National Security Seminar of The United States Army War College.

Photo by Aziz Acharki on Unsplash