Please enable JavaScript
Email Marketing Services by Benchmark

 Subscribe in a reader

To be Successful, Learn to Burn Your Boats

To be Successful, Learn to Burn Your Boats

At its essence, burning boats represents a point of no return, a psychological commitment where the party involved recognizes that they have crossed a line never to cross back. There is no hedging, no looking over one’s shoulder. Everything now – all thoughts and efforts – must be focused on succeeding in this new reality.

Hebrew tradition teaches a similar value. In ancient times Israelite armies would besiege enemy cities from three sides only, leaving open the possibility of flight. They understood that so long as the enemy saw that they had an escape route available, they would not fight with utmost earnestness and energy. In most cases, this played right into the besiegers’ hands.

Whether we face a true crossroads or simply want to achieve great things in our careers, personal lives, or both, it is imperative that we approach our decisions with a level of commitment that will drive us definitively forward. And if you lead others, you need to find a way to gain their commitment as well, to ensure that you work together towards your common goal of success. 

Subscribe to Impactful Coaching & Consulting Blog

6 tips to manage personal stress

No matter how bad things are, you can always make things worse.
— Randy Pausch, "The Last Lecture"

One of the greatest challenges for professionals is to leave behind their personal challenges when they enter the workplace. We all have a job to do, but when there are struggles at home or with family, such as illness, financial pressures or familial discord, it can be really difficult to hunker down and focus enough to get work done.

For leaders, situations such as these can be even more of a challenge. Not only are they responsible for their own work, but they must see to it that their workforce remains productive as well. Furthermore, leaders oftentimes feel compelled to put on a show of control if not invincibility as part of their leadership persona. Allowing for weakness to show, they feel, can greatly diminish the leadership stature that they so deeply value.

(The irony of such thinking is that while, as David Dotlich points out, great leaders are praised for their successes, “paradoxically, what makes good leaders great are the trials and tribulations of failure … Leaders who have endured adversity are most likely to be the ones with the resilience and resolve to succeed.”)

What can leaders do at times of difficulty in their personal lives to stay focused on what needs to be done at work and be present, in body and mind, for their people? Here are a few suggestions:

  1. Label your emotion. The simple act of labeling our emotions reduces activity in the emotional brain and increases activity in the areas of the brain associated with focus and awareness. By labeling your emotions, you can better separate yourself from the experience and draft a clearer plan on how to handle it.
  2. Share what’s happening. Share your situation with a few close confidants who support you and can fill in for you as needed. Just knowing that others care about you can be extremely uplifting and can keep you going during difficult moments. Having people who can step in during your absence will help alleviate the burden and make sure that things move forward as needed.
  3. Increase your determination. Commit to working through your challenges and to not let them gain the upper hand. This determination will push you through the most challenging moments when you may otherwise be inclined to pull back. Keep a collection of inspirational quotes handy, such as:
    1. “The obstacle is the path.” (Zen proverb)
    2. “Permanence, perseverance and persistence in spite of all obstacles, discouragements and impossibilities: It is this that in all things distinguishes the strong soul from the weak.” (Thomas Carlyle)
  4. Find the silver lining. In almost every difficult situation, there are silver linings, including considering how many others may have it worse. For example, if you’re struggling with a defiant child who is making poor decisions, consider how much worse off others may be in terms of their condition and disconnect.
  5. Reflect on how others did it. Life is filled with stories of “failures” who endured challenges yet went on to achieve great successes. People such as Thomas Edison (failed repeatedly to invent the light bulb), President Franklin Roosevelt (crippled by polio), Charles Schwab and Richard Branson (struggled in school due to dyslexia) and Oprah Winfrey (domestic abuse) all overcome personal challenges to achieve greatness.
  6. Consider your impact. As much as you are struggling, you are still needed by others. Your leadership, guidance, direction and support are critical elements in your organization and folks need you to be, well, you. Use such thinking to push yourself forward.

This post first appeared in SmartBrief on Leadership.

Subscribe to Impactful Coaching & Consulting Blog

The Millennial in Me

The Millennial in Me

In a piece for Forbes, contributor Liz Ryan extolled the Millennial Way, or at least some of the logic behind it. In her column, Ryan sought to assuage concerns of baby boomer parents and frustrated executives, telling them that Gen-Y’s approach to life and their attitude about employment is healthier and more balanced than we think and something that all of us should have done years ago. “Anyone who argues for a more human-centric approach to work,” she wrote, “is a hero in our book, and that quality is what millennials are most well-known for. They aren’t willing to fall in line and take a lousy job just to get an apartment that’s the envy of their friends. What good would the apartment do them, if they hate their job and therefore hate their life?”

In her well-articulated defense, Ryan highlighted two millennial propensities: an aversion to drinking the corporate Kool-Aid and a capacity to reinvent themselves as circumstances and interests warrant.

Our youngest workers, she writes, were just getting started (or thinking about doing so) when corporate scandal and widespread layoffs punctured their parents’ golden balloons. The promise of peace and prosperity in exchange for decades of hard work and sacrifice to the corporate cause went up in recessionary smoke. Now, their children, fresh off of an economic near-collapse that almost shattered their own dreams and still put many of them on hold, remain uncommitted to the corporate credo, an irreverent quality that sends tremors of fear down the spines of upper management. 

Subscribe to Impactful Coaching & Consulting Blog