Well Doing Beats Well Being?

Accountability Purpose Well-being


Key Point: I genuinely believe that as humans we are more accurately described as verbs rather than nouns. So what if we thought of happiness more as a process of flourishing rather than a state of being?

I was reading an article by Jag Bhalla in a Nov. Big Think article. The essence of this piece was that we might be better off thinking about “happiness” as something we DO; i.e. Do Happy by focusing on flourishing versus searching for the elusive state of BEING happy. The following are a couple of points stated by Bhalla that reinforces this idea:

” – Many need a new ‘happiness.’ The pursuit of which is more attuned to a key logic built into our biology (and which matches some mostly forgotten, old wisdom about flourishing). 

– Many now simply equate happiness with maximizing pleasure. But even hedonists once took pains to distinguish pleasure from happiness

– Daniel Kahneman (the ‘most important psychologist alive’) believes it’s logical to describe life as a series of moments each with a positive or negative feeling ‘value,’ and that we should evaluate experiences by summing those momentary values. He complains human brains are illogical for not working that way.

– ‘Positive psychologists’ like Csíkszentmihályi are less confused. He studies how an active state of ‘flow’ provides ‘optimal experience’ (noting we don’t ‘understand… happiness… any better than Aristotle)… ‘Flow’ arises from a skilled activity that takes enough concentration that we lose awareness of self and time. These autotelic (done for their own sake) pleasurably effortful activities are common in sports, music and the arts, but rare when we’re passive.  Similarly, Seligman distinguishes easy pleasures from effortful ‘satisfactions’ the longer-lasting rewards of ‘flow’).

– Nouns like ‘happiness’ and ‘well-being’ are too static. Verbs reflecting the required repeated effort seem more apt.  ‘Well-doing’ beats ‘well-being’ or ‘being happy,’ flourishing is a thing we do, not that we passively be.”

When I examine my life, I have personally felt most happy when I’ve been in a state of flow and part of something bigger than me. Belonging to a purpose and contributing by literally throwing myself into the experience has most often resulted in a feeling of personal gratification and happiness; however fleeting or lasting. Small examples include the flow I feel when writing, white boarding and creating big ideas with others, teaching a concept and seeing a room light up, etc. In those moments, time zooms by and I feel energized and fully alive.

I rarely wake up saying I want to be happy today. Instead, on most days I wake up excited to contribute and flourish and that ultimately delivers a feeling of happiness. Perhaps to most of you readers, this is so very obvious. But for a few of you, just maybe refocusing on finding where you can fully flourish is a more accessible route to happiness than the pursuit of happiness as an “end state” by itself? 

Character Moves:

  1. We owe it to ourselves to experience happiness through DOING what we are good at and like to do, contributing with meaning and purpose, with people we like to be around. We define BEING from DOING!
  1. It’s that simple, but we also know it’s that hard (even elusive). The personal courage needed is to “move,” to take action… To take the risk to put ourselves in a position to achieve those conditions. If not, how could we ever be happy more than not?

Flourishing in the Triangle,


One Millennial View: Too true. I’ve been watching YouTube videos of a guy who often does a lot of housework in a barn on his property… Building furniture, killing wasps nests in his kids’ playhouse, always doing “something useful” and I think “man, that looks great.” Meanwhile, I’m sitting on my butt watching YouTube videos, accomplishing nothing, which isn’t bringing me any closer to doing my own handiwork. It’s an easy trap… We all need those days off on the couch, I guess, but I think we can all agree that accomplishing “to do” lists is much more satisfying.

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis

‘I Reset My Life’

Happiness Respect Well-being


Key Point: Most of my readers understand (or have at least heard) about the scientifically proven benefits of meditation. And in previous blogs, I’ve written about the value of mindfulness and various aspects relative to improving life at work. However, I found the following story a bit of a meditation “WOW” and worth sharing with you. 

I still have a hard time sitting still for 10 minutes let alone 10 days. Chris Reining is a personal finance expert whose advice has been featured in The New York Times, TODAY, CNN, CBS, and Lifehacker. He meditated for 10 days along with a former Hollywood actor and stuntman, a software developer for hedge funds, a CEO of a publicly traded company, and a few other interesting folks. According to Reining, the daily schedule included the following: “Under a vow of silence and no eye contact, you wake up at 4:00 a.m. and sit for two hours, eat breakfast, sit for three hours, eat lunch, sit for four hours, eat dinner, sit for one hour, watch some video instruction, and sit for one more hour before sleep.” At day five, the cohort had to sit without moving anything, including embracing any related pain. The Groundhog Day experience, as one might expect, took Reining and others through an emotional roller coaster ride. It was “like being a prisoner; only more difficult.” The conclusion for Reining after the journey: “It reset my life.” And the following is a summary of what Chris deeply learned: 

1. You don’t need much money to be happy. Everyone thinks more stuff will make you more happy. But after you get what you want and realize it didn’t make you as happy as you thought, you start over.

For 10 days I ate oatmeal for breakfast, maybe chili and a salad for lunch, an apple or banana for dinner. I slept on a cot in a dorm divided by sheets. And I loved it. It was a reminder I don’t need much.

Studies show a family of four needs $75,000 to be happy. So, after food, shelter, clothes, and healthcare, you can decide if you want to waste your life chasing something money can’t buy.

2. Change is the one constant in life. This year my cat died, I quit my job, and I went through a break up. To be honest, it’s been a struggle.

But if there’s one thing the instructor S.N. Goenka drilled in my head, it’s that everything is continuously changing. And I’ve been learning that this idea of impermanence is central to Buddhism.

When you start framing things that happen to you as change, instead of loss, you turn something negative into a positive.

3. Know who you are to get what you want. I thought I knew myself, because how would you not? I mean, it’s you.

But spend 12 hours a day for 10 days with yourself, because you will figure out who you are. And when you know who you are it makes you more successful in life. Why? Because you need to understand who you are, and how people see you, so you can change the things that need to change to become the person who can get what they want to get.”

Most of us will likely never make the choice to meditate and spend 240 hours in “solitary confinement” with ourselves. However, there is much for each of us to absorb from Chris’ experience.

Character Moves:

  1. Relax a little more about your career. After you get to where you want, trust me, it doesn’t make you as happy as you might think. Enjoy the journey and contribution rather than wringing your hands over whether you are where you or others think you should be.
  1. The idea of change and impermanence is truer than ever in today’s work place (and life). As Reining emphasizes, framing up change as a way of life rather than a loss, moves the experience much more towards the positive rather than negative. 
  1. We can never know ourselves too much. Self-awareness is vital to understand what we really want from the work we do. Maybe try meditating for 10 minutes. One never knows.  It may take us to 10 days? Only if we want a reset in life.

Reframing in the Triangle,


One Millennial View: I haven’t meditated for 240 hours, but I think I know myself well enough where I’d rather choose 10 days in Gitmo than be quiet and alone for that long. This Millennial thinks that the “silent retreat” is a little bit of snake oil, however, his findings are thought provoking and seemingly valid. I guess my point is, I appreciate Reining’s experiment, but on this Thanksgiving Day, I’m even more thankful that we can all get the CliffsNotes without having to actually test it. 

– Garrett

Positive Pride and Hunger to be Needed

Abundance Contribution


Key Point: The hunger to be needed and positive pride are very good emotions, and powerful motivators. On the other hand, insecurity can drive heuristic pride and that’s problematic because arrogance and egotism overshadows. The following is from a thought provoking op-ed by the Dalai Lama, published in the Nov. 4 New York Times:

“Many are confused and frightened to see anger and frustration sweeping like wildfire across societies that enjoy historic safety and prosperity. But their refusal to be content with physical and material security actually reveals something beautiful: a universal human hunger to be needed. Let us work together to build a society that feeds this hunger… A small hint comes from interesting research about how people thrive. In one shocking experiment, researchers found that senior citizens who didn’t feel useful to others were nearly three times as likely to die prematurely as those who did feel useful. This speaks to a broader human truth: We all need to be needed… Being ‘needed’ does not entail selfish pride or unhealthy attachment to the worldly esteem of others. Rather, it consists of a natural human hunger to serve our fellow men and women.”

Pride is an emotion that I believe is related to our hunger to be needed and is positive when it motivates us to work hard and achieve. It can also be negative if it’s is based on insecurity and unbridled egotism. Jessica Tracy, a psychology professor at the University of British Columbia, looks at both sides of pride in her book, titled — Take Pride: Why the Deadly Sin Holds the Secret to Human Success. She notes the following:  “What we found is that pride is a positive. It is what motivates us to work hard and achieve. I like to think of it as the carrot, this thing that we want to feel in our sense of self. We feel it when we’re doing or working or putting in the effort to become the person that we want to be… It’s a long story to say it’s the awareness that there’s a sense of pride I’m not getting in my life that I want to get, that’s what causes people to change their behavior and perform better.” 

I am in the process of leaving one executive role for another. Those of you who read my blog know how much I have loved being the Chief People Officer of our company. Being asked to do something else has put me in front of the mirror. That has been both unsettling and uncomfortable at times. Questions like, “why am I really resisting?” and “what am I really fearful of?” made me squirm a little and wrestle with the dark side of confronting insecurity and hubristic pride. Hmm. On the other hand, confronting those questions is when I came to learn more about myself. I have a healthy hunger to give, be needed and an authentic pride to do great work. If I keep that at the forefront, the world will unfold as it should. How fortunate I am to be fully alive and feel that way. If I start to respond to unfounded fear and insecurity and it becomes about “me,” I will lose my way. 

Character Moves:

  1. Allow yourself to accept that the hunger to be needed is a wonderful human attribute. The following Buddhist teaching is so simple and powerful: “If one lights a fire for others, it will also brighten one’s own way.”
  1. The pride of doing something well helps us create the best sense of self. It’s what we’ve heard from our wise elders forever: “If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing well.” No one needs to validate us when we do good work. We know it. That is authentic, positive pride. Apply that prideful work to the benefit of others, and looking in the mirror will invite a well-earned smile. 

Needed Pride in The Triangle, 


One Millennial View: If you’re not taking any pride in what you’re doing, then what’s the point? How sad would that be? Sounds like a pretty miserable existence. I think we can all see how “negative pride” could transform into arrogance, cockiness or other ugly traits, so… You know… Just, don’t cross that line. That’s where self-accountability comes in.

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis.

When Leaders EAT First

Accountability Management Organizational leadership


Key Point: The following statement by Ron Carucci published in a recent Harvard Business Review is so true: “For executives to succeed in leading organizational transformations, they must begin with their personal transformation. And that starts with identifying and ‘re-scripting’ those operative narratives that might provoke unproductive behavior.” 

I have seen this so many times. Leaders want their organizations to change behavior. As an example, they are looking for their culture to be highly collaborative, more innovative, transformative, better listeners, etc. Yet, they personally rarely change the way they act or lead. They often do not consciously think that what they desire in others needs to happen within them first. This is particularly true of top execs that somehow think their behavior is above reproach and actually unconsciously find themselves in a parallel universe where they espouse a desired state that is not connected to their own reality. (The contradiction is quite apparent to those around them, however). Carucci has some helpful insights and recommendations. 

  1. Know Who and What Triggers You:

“One behavior that keeps us locked in an unproductive cycle is ‘transference,’ which happens when we transfer our feelings onto someone else. In moments of transference, a leader’s behavior is shaped and motivated more by their past experience than what is happening in the present.” For example, a leader that genuinely wants better listening and then explodes when someone disagrees, or rarely asks questions during meetings, may honestly not fully appreciate the dissonance caused. Responding to triggers habitually gets in the way of the desired change. And as the HBR article notes: “Breaking the cycle of triggers that transfer past experiences onto current situations begins in deep self-reflection. Be ruthlessly honest about who and what those trigger points are.”

  1. Write Out the Narrative:

Carucci shares another helpful insight: “Simply identifying situations or people most likely to trigger you isn’t sufficient to realize change. Many leaders flippantly declare trigger points like, ‘Boy, he really pushes my buttons every time I’m with him’ or ‘I’m fine presenting to anyone in the company, but when it comes to her, I lose a week of sleep.’” But they stop short of uncovering the narrative beneath those triggers that leads to unwanted behavior… Lasting personal transformation demands facing the tapes playing in our heads that lead us to exasperating confessions that sound like, “Why on earth do I keep doing that?” Declaring that you do things you shouldn’t isn’t self-awareness; it’s simply acknowledging that you’ve been told a certain behavior is troubling to others and that you wish you didn’t do it. Genuine self-awareness demands that you dig deeper to uncover the real answer to why you keep doing it and then actually work to stop doing it.

We leaders are more effective when we start a transformational journey accepting that the organization will have to transform us as much as we will have to transform it. This means knowing how we will react during change, being aware of our triggers, and conscious of the power of the actions we take to accelerate rather than derail the very organizational change we desire.

Character Moves:

  1. You and I need to force the trigger narratives or tapes playing in our heads to the surface. Carucci suggests that we actually write out in black and white the story in response to the question: “Why do I keep doing that?” By acknowledging the narrative, we have a chance to rescript it. 
  1. If we want our team (or company) to behave differently, we have to lead differently. We need to reframe or rescript by soliciting feedback from others, tracking the impact our behavior has, and how closely actions match our intentions. When we want to transform, leaders need to “eat” the change first. In this case, it’s appropriate. 

Triggers in The Triangle,


One Millennial View: To “lead by example” isn’t a new concept, but it still sort of stands out as “heroic” because its rarity puts it on a pedestal. It really seems to be all about adapting and changing behaviors with your team. At this point, you’d think it would be a little embarrassing if all the gears are turning, but the biggest, most impactful one is the only part not moving.

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis

Transform Our World

Accountability Transformation


Key Point: This blog is a little different because I’m asking for our wonderful community of readers to help our company attract game changers. Hopefully reading it will also tweak your view of the organization you work in.

Are you able to be the one and/or attract the people who just make a heck of a difference? These folks have a powerful, sustainable impact and inspire those around them. When they enter a room, you can feel the heat in the best possible way. Kinda like Justin Timberlake, they’re into always bringing “Sexy Back,” but through the intersection of knowledge, passion and a jetpack that’s always fired up.

I admire Google’s definition of a “Moonshot:” To positively impact one billion human beings. Now that’s thinking BIG! At ATB Financial we want to transform our part of the world too. We want to reimagine banking and make it really work for people. We’ll start with our own mini-moonshot aimed at four plus million people, including every Albertan. We have been Alberta’s bank for nearly 80 years. Over 5,000 team members put on their ATB name badge everyday, and fully embrace the privilege of serving Albertans in everything they do that involves finance. 

However, the sobering fact is that people need banking, but they do not necessarily need banks (including ATB Financial). But, if we think BIG and “YES” first, we genuinely believe we can reimagine banking so that it becomes an indispensable and integrated part of each of our customers’ lives. We are right in the middle, sandwiched between Canada’s world-class charter banks and a swarm of financial technology startups nibbling at our margins. And we like it. The big guys challenge us by heft, scale and scope, while the upstarts buzz over us with their ingenuity. This provides huge energy and the motivation to be more agile, inventive and resilient. We have so many strengths to build on. We have a highly engaged culture, recognized by outside experts as one the top 10 places to work in Canada. We’re a deeply experienced, fired-up, leadership team playing to win. We’ve employed a world class banking system that gives us one version of the truth, and have the highest customer advocacy scores in the industry. ATB is a crown corporation and our AA+ bond rated single shareholder has a long term view. ATB has demonstrated sustained profitability, embraces an Albertan entrepreneurial spirit, has market share leads in both retail and commercial markets, a growth and disruptive mindset and much, much more. 

At the same time, we need to add some key ingredients into our mix. That may include you or someone you know. The spice we want to add into our transformation recipe is a person who lives fully immersed in the digital world, may be a data science thought leader and/or a genius purveyor of innovation. This includes someone who wants to make a legendary contribution to ATB’s Story and already lives what we call our 10 ATBs. When you read the descriptions of both declarations, you know that’s a mirror of who you are. And you are ready to bring it and to seek heat, and to become part of our very personal moonshot here at ‪ATB. Additionally, joining the team and journey includes the courage think BIG… Be BIG… With sleeves rolled up, a renowned ability to get S#!* done, while still having a lot of fun. One more thing: You are a collaboration magnet! People just love working with you.  

If you want to kick around the possibility of becoming part of our promise to reimagine banking and execute on making a memorable, positive difference in millions of people lives, click on this link and see where it takes you… Maybe to the “moon.”

Character Moves:

  1. Please help us find these people. Connect on LinkedIn with me and/or send me something at lrubis@atb.com. Many of our readers are outside North America. We want people focused on Albertans, yet we recognize they may come from elsewhere… After all, almost everyone in this province once did too. Thank you.

Lorne Rubis 

Juice it Up!

Accountability Resilience Teamwork


Key Point: I detest playing “not to lose” versus “playing to win.” The mindset difference between the two positions is as wide as the Pacific Ocean. It’s been a while since I’ve written about this, and the U.S. election just fired me up on the topic again. I do not want to over simplify a very complicated political situation, but from my perspective, Hillary Clinton (after having a double-digit lead just weeks before the election) went into a “prevent defense,” (playing not to lose), while Donald Trump left “nothing left on the table,” to win. 

Just several days earlier, the world observed Chicago Cubs manager Joe Maddon take enormous risks. He might have been run out of town if the Cubs lost, but he played to win. As an example, he used his relief and closing pitchers against conventional thinking, and risked losing the series on a questionable, suicide bunt call. You may not know baseball, but trust me; he let it all out. He played to win rather than avoid losing. As most of us now know, the Cubs ended a 108-year drought by winning the 7th game of the World Series in extra innings. Cubs fans are still celebrating.

According to a 15five.com article, the difference between playing to win versus playing “not to lose” is often a matter of knowing how to reframe threats as a challenge. This is more than silly semantics. Based on the article, the following is the difference:

“A threat situation alters the way the brain sensitizes to risk and reward. The amygdala, deep in the limbic system, is highly attuned to fearful stimuli. The risks of a situation become prominent in the mind. Meanwhile, the brain’s reward center–though activated by the opportunity – is still the lesser partner. All this changes in a challenge frame of mind…

‘In a challenge state, you’re NOT expected to be perfect, and NOT expected to win, but you have a fighting chance to rise to the occasion. You’re free to take risks and go for it, which activates the gain-orientation system. A cascade of hormones is released that suppresses l-TPJ activity, and the brain gets comfortable, as if everything is familiar. Decision making shifts back to automatic mode. The hormones dampen the amygdala, making you fearless, and they juice up the reward networks, making you highly attuned to the spoils of victory. Competitors breathe freely, feel energized and approach opportunities…’

Based on this knowledge, creating a threat situation greatly impacts your ability to perform. Think about how often we create our own ‘threat’ situations. We sometimes think or expect the worst, and mistakenly, feel it’s a way to avoid failure – hoping to be pleasantly surprised rather than disappointed by dreaming too big.” 

Character Moves:

  1. Think BIG and frame up desirable opportunities as a challenge. When we think challenge versus threat, we often find the capacity to win. Juice up the reward networks and become fearless.  
  1. The idea of bringing heat will never ignite when our orientation is just to “get through the day.” Competitive fire will flourish when long-term goals are high, and when it’s accepted that risks and mistakes go hand-in-hand, and we are free to let ambition reign. Let it #%%} go! 
  1. Believe in yourself. Give it! Bring it! Leave it all on the field, and you owe it to yourself and others to play to win. Focus on the challenge versus the threat. If you do lose, it’s an opportunity and challenge to win next time.

Juicing up in the Triangle,


One Millennial View: Well, with the election being literally the most important story in the whole world, how could we not touch on it? But ALL political opinions aside, please, I bet we can see the point here together: It’s not over till it’s over, and you have to run till the whistle blows. Whether it’s gunning to lead the free world, win the World Series, or closing that next big deal… Play to win it.

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis