Do You Have Good Stress?

Abundance Well-being


The stress that comes from hard work has positive benefits. Peak performance experts like Jim Loehr believe there is ample data to support the premise that positive stress is key to personal growth. We may feel tired and anxious but we become more fit mentally.  Overall it’s a good thing.

Bad stress, which I believe comes from continual interpersonal conflict and/or being in an environment where our personal sense of power and control is significantly diminished, is literally toxic.  There is also undeniable data confirming bad stress as a root cause of physical and psychological damage.

When we find ourselves in a toxic environment we need to make it a priority to change it. If it’s interpersonal we have to constructively address this with the other(s) involved. When the other party is our boss, we have to put the matter on the table regardless of how politically difficult this may seem. If we are unable to resolve this conflict, I believe we need to find another work situation. Too often however, I find that people avoid interpersonal conflict rather than positively confronting it.

When we find ourselves where our personal control is so diminished that we “can’t win,” a new game plan is required where we can realistically expect different results. Too often people do the same things over and over wishing for different results. It is the “buy a lottery ticket and hope” strategy. 

Applying the Character Triangle is a framework for confronting toxic stress. Ideally it helps us put an interpersonal fight behind us and others, and puts us in better control for developing a plan to achieve winning results. If not and we’ve given it our best shot, it is likely time to find an environment where we can enjoy good stress and put bad stress in the rear view mirror.

Live healthy; live the triangle.


How’s Your Career? Believe or Leave

Abundance Books Contribution


I really believe in what John Miller, author of QBQ! the Question Behind the Question, calls the “believe or leave” philosophy. If we aren’t engaged and committed to what we’re doing it’s time for a change.  Perhaps it involves a change in an approach to a job or career. In more extreme cases it means doing something else altogether. However it is critical to be honest about how much the job and not something else is driving discontent; as the adage goes, “wherever you go you’re still there.”

So here is a framework to make a job believe or leave assessment.
Psychiatrist Edward Hallowell in a great Harvard Business Review article provides some thoughtful guidelines. His view is we should spend most of our career/job time intersecting in three spheres:

  • What we LIKE to do best.
  • What we do best.
  • What adds value to the organization.

There is much research that shows the relationship between job fit and personal contentment. To help us take a deeper dive on this Hallowell provides a self assessment set of questions.  Examples include:

  • What do others say most often are your strengths? (Read my blog on feedback in today’s workplace.)
  • What were you doing when you were the happiest in your work life? 
  • What sort of organization culture brings out the best in you?

Please give yourself some reflective time on this. But whatever you do please don’t sit in the middle of a misery puddle. Believe, by liking what you do and adding value with purpose, or Leave and contribute elsewhere.

Live the Triangle,


It’s About Who You KNOW, not WHO You Know

Gratitude Respect Well-being


Mother Theresa said that the most terrible poverty was loneliness and feeling unloved. I wonder how lonely and isolated people feel in western culture.

The other day my wife and I dropped in on a hip coffee house in the Eastlake area of Seattle. Eighteen people, most in their 20 and 30s, sat by themselves plugged into laptops (16 Apple, 1 iPad, 1 PC …hmm). There was another couple our age; he was on his Blackberry and she was on her cell phone. Ok it’s just an observation, but I wonder if our work environment is taking on added importance as a place for face to face personal interaction.

So my Thanksgiving (here in the US) message is around the importance of getting to really know about the people we work with. It is so important to care about each other. Yes its work, but work is a huge part of our life.

The other day I learned about the life of one of our tech supervisors. Holy cow – what a story …escaping the Cambodian Killing fields, 3 days and nights at sea crossing as one of the Vietnamese boat people, and more. There is no way I could fully appreciate this man without learning about his life.

Please take the time to unplug once in a while. Learn about the people who work around us. Be thankful for those that care and get to know us.

It is about respect for us and others.

Happy Thanksgiving,


The Foolish Seduction of “Free Fall” Complaining

Accountability Collaboration Contribution


This is a perspective from a CEO who has spent a career thinking about leadership, accountability, and problem solving. Some people in organizations think about problem solving as a pitch and catch process. It is similar to jumping off a 50-story building and feeling like we’re flying for the first 49 floors. Of course the landing changes that perspective. When we participate in an exercise aimed at developing a list of complaints and concerns it might feel really good while we’re doing it …almost like we’re flying. I have been part of these kinds of meetings where list making of problems and concerns has an incredible momentary high. But like the jumping metaphor, the landing is the same. Why?

Complaining and developing lists of concerns, as a unilateral exercise, usually just results in problems being shifted around. Well intended managers often think this is great leadership but unwittingly end up shouldering the list of problems on their own. Of course most often they cannot solve the problems unilaterally. In the same way, well intended employees do a “problem dump” (a.k.a. a bitch session) and feel good until the bloom falls off the cathartic rose. We can become bitterly disappointed when the problem list remains mostly unchanged over a period of time. We hear phrases like, “Why didn’t they….?”

Self accountability always involves bringing a personal contribution to solving problems. Hit and run, or pitch and catch, problem dumping is usually counterproductive. Resist problem identification as a singular activity. It usually promotes organizations to become better at making lists than taking action.  If we want to drive a meaningful problem solving process, each of us has to come to a problem or issue with a contribution in hand.  The fix is almost always a collective connection of those impacted and involved.

I look for people who are self accountable problem solvers, not problem dumpers or collectors.   How would you identify yourself? 

Be a solver. Live in the Triangle.


What is Your Personal Excellence Framework?

Accountability Personal leadership Purpose


On a previous blog I introduced the great work of Matthew Syed in his book Bounce. The premise of Bounce, based on convincing data, is that purposeful practice and other attributes drive excellence and success more than raw talent. Now Tony Schwartz in an Harvard Business Review article proclaims that leaders can fuel excellence at anything.

The following is a checklist for our own personal excellence, combining Syed’s work, Schwartz’s leadership environment (which we need to develop for ourselves) and a few of my thoughts. It provides a framework for excellence. I challenge you to write out an outline for yourself before you mentally click off the blog!

1. Set our minds for achieving Personal Excellence.

You and I have to believe we can become masterful at what we’re doing. This is more important than being overtaken by words like “gifted” or ” talented.” 

2. Define our driving purpose.

We need to tie our personal excellence objective to a larger goal or mission. What is our purpose in life?  (Read a recent blog of mine on life purpose.)

3. Outline a very specific plan with milestones along the way.

Be specific. Be realistic but recognize that processes lead to results and everything is a process.

4. Practice with purpose; purposefully practice.

Have concentrated times of purposeful practice interrupted with appropriate periods of refresh.

5. Celebrate milestones.

Don’t wait for others to celebrate success. If others recognize us, it’s a bonus. We need to celebrate ourselves!  I’m not talking about just feel-good mush. This is acknowledging meaningful, measurable, achievements along the way. 

6. Get purposeful, objective, regular feedback. Apply the learning.

Get objective data. Develop a learning process. Practice improvements. Improve practice. Use coaches; we need outside viewpoints from people that care about our personal success.

7. Get masterful and don’t stop.

Keep raising the bar. Do 1 through 6 again. Get into our self-identified hall of fame. Enjoy the ride.

Being accountable involves a plan of action. We are respectful to ourselves by believing that we personally can become excellent. Be abundant. Focus on what we already have to be great, not what we don’t!

A framework and blog is easy to publish. Executing to excellence is darn hard. That’s what makes it worth it!

Live the Triangle,


Tough Times End …Tough People Keep Going

Abundance Gratitude Growth mindset


After 40 years in the work world if I know anything I know this: you and I are going to lose sometimes, and more often than we would like. Some will be big losses but most will be skirmishes. If you’re a lawyer you’re going to lose a few big cases.  A doctor will miss a few vital diagnoses. A carpenter will have measured wrong more than once, and so on. How will you and I react? Well, we have a right to be disappointed, sad, mad, and a variety of other “feel bad” emotions.  We will be seduced into the world of blame and we will likely be the harshest on ourselves. And we may want to blame a number of other things or people. Certainly we have to deal with others who will want to blame and criticize us. So what can we do?

The following action list is a helpful general guide but the most important thing we have to realize is that what we do about the loss is what matters most! How we react will tell us and others more than the loss. Please believe me. You might get empathy but there will be little or no sympathy. Only you and I can take us off the hook. We are in control and everyone is watching. If we choose the road of feeling sorry for ourselves, the ironic thing is that people like to pile on, usually in a negative way. More people push us away than pull us toward them, unless we:

  1. Choose to examine the outcome as a serious student. Do not look for absolution. Without being defensive, get motivated to openly learn. Be objective. Collect data. Get honest feedback. Do not act victimized in any way. Other than our family and friends, most people don’t care if we won or lost. They will be attracted to helping if we’re a serious learner.
  2. After a brief period of feeling sorry for ourselves, consciously choose to end the pity. We must not let our minds control us. If we “mind wander” we will likely go to “should’ve, …could’ve…” All this may be somewhat cathartic but not of much real value going forward.
  3. Put the learning into specific principles and actions. Identify things to apply and practice so we don’t repeat the things that contributed to the loss.
  4. Say thank you and be grateful for the loss so we get the opportunity to win again. Celebrate being in the mix. Show tenacity and mental toughness. Most people love those who get off the ground and dust off.
  5. Smile and find the humor in the learning process. Forgive ourselves and others if mistakes were made. We’re alive. And as the old adage says, “You only trip if you’re moving.”

And by the way, don’t feel bad if this feels like it is easier said than done. It is.

Live the Triangle,