Seven Dragons Hissing

Accountability Personal leadership Resilience

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Key Point: When fear takes over, people make bad decisions and often behave irrationally. Laurie Skreslet, the first Canadian citizen to reach the summit of Mount Everest, spoke to a select group of our leaders the other day. We asked him what he’s learned about fear. When you hear Laurie’s incredible stories (like walking on skimpy ladders over crevices thousands of feet deep) it underscores that  “professions” like extreme climbing can really teach us how to better understand what drives our fears and how to effectively manage them. Obviously, in Skreslet’s “work,” when fear leads to a bad decision it can literally be fatal. In this context, Laurie introduced us to what the Tibetans call “The Seven Dragons.”

Laurie has spent many years living among the Tibetan people and the Sherpa’s that guide climbers up Everest and other mountains. They have taught him much about human nature, including self-destruction connected to fear. The seven dragons ultimately emanate from fear — and fear distorts reality. Remember that one definition of FEAR Is: False Expectations (beliefs) Appearing Real. However, when you and I are aware of our fears we can address them, focus our energy and adjust our behavior accordingly.

There are both positive and negative aspects of the Seven Dragons and each side can pull us. Under “pressure” we are often more susceptible to the negative attraction and false belief of each dragon. This can lead us towards fatal behavioral flaws that consume our energy and detract us from being our best. They are usually based on lies and stories we tell ourselves to dispel fears we have about our life. 

The following are the Seven Dragons, and the false beliefs that sustain them:

  1. Arrogance — you are better than others. 
  
  2. Self-Deprecation — you are worse than others. 
  
  3. Impatience — there is not enough time. 
  
  4. Martyrdom — you are a victim. 
  
  5. Greed — you don’t have enough. 
  
  6. Self-Destruction — you will not succeed. 
  
  7. Stubbornness — you are weaker than others. 

Over the next few weeks I’m going to write about each of them, beginning with STUBBORNNESS. Why? According to Skreslet, the negative aspect of STUBBORNNESS can be a “gateway drug” to the negative aspects of all the other dragons as well. I’ve seen the destructiveness associated with this dragon many times in my career. 

Character Moves: 

  1. Let’s put some work into recognizing, understanding and managing our dragons. This means being self aware of their positive pull as well as the destructive potential of their negative pull. If we know our dragons, we can catch them as they affect us. According to Skreslet, we then will be able to “starve them of attention before being drawn too deep into their lairs.” Let’s learn more about each dragon together.

Managing Seven Dragons In The Triangle, 

Lorne 

One Millennial View: Good. I would like to better understand most of these “Dragons” too. In terms of fear, an old friend and former fraternity President of mine once addressed a young group of us after sharing a personal story of pretty harrowing hardship. He summed it up with: “Nothing is ever as bad as you think it’s going to be.” It sounds simple, but apply it to real things you’ve been afraid of or shied away from. I’ve never forgotten that, and I think it rings true.

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis

Relationship Resilience and You!

Abundance Empathy Resilience

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Key Point: The ability to develop and sustain great relationships is a key and expected outcome from leaders. Why do some leaders really connect while others struggle to? One reason is that effective leaders have the ability to deftly apply the “different strokes for different folks” philosophy. These leaders really care for and know the people on their teams. (Of course, they apply this approach in their personal relationships too). And the people on their teams genuinely see themselves as much more than a means to an end. An excellent article in Forbes notes the following: “What derails relationships is making them entirely instrumental: Means to ends. That is why employees feel a lack of engagement in workplaces; it’s also what unhinges many marriages. We look to others to satisfy our needs and systematically ignore what makes them purr.” (For feline lovers the article uses a story about cats to reinforce the principle).  

What these effective leaders may or may not be conscious of is their application of solution-focused approach to psychology. As the Forbes article goes on to state: When applying a “solution-focused perspective, we learn about successful relationships by reverse-engineering our most successful moments of relating… We can make surprisingly rapid and meaningful changes simply by doing more of what is already working in our lives… Strong, resilient relationships are not merely ones that avoid petty arguments and poor communication. It’s the presence of positive elements, not merely the absence of negative ones that defines a great business or life partnership.” This may sound like semantic wordplay and psychobabble, however the mindset and approach to a relationship by being solution focused requires a substantially different mindset and approach. 

Character Moves:

  1. It’s not just about you! A great relationship, including between a team member and his or her boss, is about mutually finding ways to make other people’s happiness and satisfaction our priority. If we only are in the relationship to get what we want, it is much more likely to not be sustainable. 
  2. Think about relationships you’d like to improve upon and focus on replicating more positive elements versus spending most of your angst on elimination of negative ones. Identify when the relationship is humming and reverse-engineer the behaviors that contributed.
  3. Be a giver! Do not worry about whether the other matches your commitment to making the relationship work. When others better understand and trust that you’re more about making positive things expand versus primarily trying to eliminate what doesn’t work, relationship resilience usually prevails.

Relationship Resilience in The Triangle,

Lorne   

One Millennial View: A few years ago I was about to embark on a night out with some college friends, when one of my buddies in sales goes “we’ll leave when my boss gets here.” Immediately, I initially think, “what? You invited your boss?!? Who would invite their boss to a social evening out?” Well, my friend did, and it was a smart move. They’re able to compartmentalize their office life and social life, which in turn strengthens their relationship and team skills. (Doesn’t hurt that the boss knew his way around town, too). The happiest peers I know have outside of work relationships with their co-workers. Happy hours, barbecues, and birthday parties can have guest spots for your colleagues too. Who doesn’t like a good story on Monday?

– Garrett Rubis

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis

Playing Hurt

Resilience Respect Well-being

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Key Point: “Playing hurt” is a phrase that I grew up with. I learned from playing every sport I could as a kid, that contributing while physically hurt was somehow a badge of honor. That’s the story I created in my head. The football coach had to hide my helmet after getting knocked silly, so I wouldn’t go out on the field the next series of plays. I finished a hockey game with an ankle so swollen I couldn’t get my skate off, and that just added to the legend of stupidity. Yet, in some ways this “suck it up” attitude has been helpful throughout much of my life. Having grit and perseverance are vital attributes. On the other hand, my thinking was often “meat headed” and contributed to overlooking key signals my body/mind was sending. Somehow, I convinced myself that sacrificing my well-being was a noble thing and along with some ego based ignorance, I rationalized that this behavior made me more valuable. I was wrong. Grit and perseverance does not include recklessly playing hurt.

Recently, I was a passenger in a serious car accident with the air bag exploding into my noggin. A few days after the accident, I was diagnosed as having a concussion. It wasn’t immediately evident, but I knew I didn’t feel right. Instead of going on an extended business trip to the other side of the country, I went to the doctor. My “normal” reaction would have been to muscle through the symptoms and continue under the misguided view that I would let somebody down if chose to look after myself first. And ironically, the person I would have really let down if I hadn’t been diagnosed is me.

The decision to rest instead of travel may be ridiculously obvious to you, but I know I’m not alone in the idea that “playing hurt” is always the right thing. I’m not suggesting that my enlightened behavior now has me whining and hitting the couch with any little “bruise.” However, advanced performance psychologists/coaches are stressing that athletes become much more focused on playing healthy and minimizing the idea of playing hurt. It is more about the long game than a shortsighted view. Of course, the application of this principle is situational. There are likely times (hopefully very few) when “playing hurt” may be best for all.

Character Moves:

  1. Focus more on what you’re doing to “play healthy.” This includes fully integrating every healthy part of your life into your work and vice versa. You will be more valuable to your team (and loved ones of course) if you stay healthy in every way (physical, emotional, spiritual, etc). Don’t be a martyr.
  1. As a leader, how are you setting an example? Do you still simply (perhaps foolishly) use time and attendance as a primary and meaningful marker of success? (For example, 16 hour work days, six days/week, minimum holidays)? How much do you commit to playing healthy versus playing hurt?

Winning healthy in The Triangle,

Lorne

One Millennial View: My football coaches had one question if we ever needed to see a trainer: “Are you injured or are you hurt?” See the difference? The understanding is that injury could justify taking plays off, but “everyone” was playing “hurt,” so you better play hurt too… Truthfully, I always admired and adhered to this (I’d be flat out telling a lie if I said I still don’t). If the guy next to me was “hurt” too, it’s my duty to play through pain also for the betterment of all… True story: 10+ years later, I tweaked my back while deadlifting on Tuesday night. On Wednesday, I told myself to “suck it up,” and “fix my form,” but I wound up doing the same thing, even worse… Tonight, I had to cut my routine short at the gym and bought some Tylenol on the way home because I’m not as invincible as I think I am. I’m by no means injured, but I bet I could have been more successful and effective today if I had been less stubborn yesterday… I plan on being back to normal by tomorrow, but I’ll edge on the side of caution, I don’t need to spend my weekend at a chiropractor.

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis

Grit in Your Teeth

Accountability Purpose Resilience

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Key Point: Research by leading academics like Angela Duckworth, finds that one particular characteristic (along with a few others) is a significant predictor of success: GRIT. Grit is the quality that allows an individual to work hard and maintain focus on achieving an outcome – not just for weeks or months, but also for years. Duckworth has developed a test called the “Grit Scale.” You rate yourself on a series of 8 to 12 items. It’s entirely self-reported, and yet what Duckworth has found is that a person’s grit score is highly predictive of achievement under challenging circumstances. Rate yourself honestly without fear. Only you know the score. What did you find out about yourself? 

Check out this video on Grit

My qualitative experience resonates with this research completely. I’ve seen the smartest and the most talented people quit, avoid and/or bail out before the finish line. Even the hardest workers will get distracted and stop. Lots of people procrastinate and ultimately avoid doing anything beyond wishing for something better. I expect little from them. Others are great starters and yet somewhere before a desired outcome, they will give up. And even the hardest workers often get stuck in relentless martyrdom and for some reason can’t get things over the goal line. The people I’m most attracted to are of course smart, skilled and hard workers. However beyond that, they are distinctively exceptional by combining focus and follow through. They do fail often in their journey but you can expect them to get up, dust themselves off, flourish in the learning and carry on. They finish! They have GRIT!!

It is interesting to note that at West Point, a cadet’s grit score was the best predictor of success in the rigorous summer training program known as “Beast Barracks.” Grit mattered more than intelligence, leadership ability or physical fitness. Even at the Scripps National Spelling Bee, the grittiest contestants were the most likely to advance to the finals. And the work of Carol Dweck stresses the importance of having a growth mindset as a gateway to GRIT. This respected academic’s point is we can learn grit and perseverance. Although we might respond to frustration and failure by thinking, “I should just give up; I can’t do this.” Dweck proves that those feelings and beliefs, as strong as they are, can change. We need coaches and role models who can teach us to find our grit. 

Character Moves: 

1. While we all must be flexible in this crazy, changing world, having the grit to focus and become really good at something will provide us with value, space and relevance. You and I can do it. It’s never too late. Focus and follow through on what you’re good at and like to do for the long run! What valuable skill/experience/knowledge can we develop that will make us a desired expert? 

2. Focus and following through with grit does not mean staying at one job or even vocation. It does not just mean having a “passion.” It operates from the perspective that each of us is good at something we also like to do. When we can find what’s really underneath that feeling and sense of accomplishment, we often find the elusive “purpose” in our lives. When we focus and follow through on that purpose, grit defines us. We naturally have grit in our teeth. We need to allow ourselves to find it, learn it, practice it and grow it.

GRIT in the Triangle,

Lorne  

One Millennial View: Losing or switching interests and “giving up” seems to be a Millennial issue, or at least a stereotype. Remember that blog you started? Or that spin class you don’t go to anymore? We pick up something new and drop something old on a regular basis. Starting, quitting and pursuing new fads is engrained in our culture to a degree, and always defended with the “well who cares if I stop this?” Yes, with most hobbies or interests, there’s no real significance if you lose interest. However, this lackadaisical attitude is dangerous when it seeps over to those things that do actually matter (your job, responsibilities, and commitments). So that rec softball league you joined isn’t cool anymore? Ok. But, make sure you’re still going to bat for your goals that keep you rounding life’s bases. Hopefully you know the difference.

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis

Grace to Play

Accountability Courage Resilience

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Key Point: We are all given the grace to PLAY. Why sit on the sidelines? Today, I had the privilege of interviewing Hayley Wickenheiser, one of Canada’s greatest athletes. For our American, European and Asian readers, Hayley is Canada’s female version of Michael Jordan, Lionel Messi, you get the idea. Awarded the Order of Canada, she is a five time Olympic medal winner, including four golds. The QMI Agency named Hayley among the top 10 “Greatest Female Athletes in the History of Sports.” She is Sports Illustrated number 20 of 25 Toughest Athletes in the World, a two-time finalist for the Women’s Sports Foundation Team Athlete of the Year, twice named among the Globe and Mail’s “Power 50” influencers. 

During the interview I asked Hayley to talk about her affection for Grace Bowen, a child she met and described in her blog as, “The greatest player I ever knew.” Hayley knew Grace as a fiery 9-year-old who enjoyed nothing more than playing Hockey. One unique thing about Grace was that she had no lower right leg. Doctors had amputated it in order to take a tumor out. The form of Cancer is called Osteosarcoma. As Hayley notes in her blog, “The thing with Grace is that she had a choice of how she wanted doctors to remove her leg. She chose a rotationplasty, a procedure that would allow doctors to take her foot and turn it backwards and use it as a knee joint. She did this so that she could PLAY HOCKEY again someday. It moved me like nothing else to see her with this new leg.” 

Sadly, the story about Grace ends far too early. The cancer consumed Grace and she left this world without the chance to play again. Eventually, Grace’s parents had to tell her that she was going to die. Her response was, “Please give me more chemo… Anything, daddy… I just want to play.”

Character Moves: 

  1. Are you in the game today? Are you playing hard? Are you bringing it? If there is a grain of any decency to come from the painful passing of Grace Bowen, it’s the reminder to JUST PLAY. And as Hayley reflected during our conversation, “These days I care most about the way I play… That I give it my all, and do my very best. That’s more important than the final score.” There is no score if we don’t play!
  1. Ideally each of us will experience the joyous battle between second place and us. However, we can’t even be in that zone unless we play first. Then it’s about digging in, and pushing past our comfort zone.
  1. All of us will be “Grace.” One day we won’t be able to PLAY even if we want to. Hopefully we will say, “I played. I brought it and left it ALL on the field.” All in! 

GRACE in the Triangle, 

Lorne 

One Millennial View: It’s amazing how we have to remind ourselves to “just play,” but there certainly don’t seem to be enough Hayley or Grace mentalities around anymore. It’s simply overlooked, but there’s a hard truth to the “you can’t win if you don’t play” phrase. Too often, we’re comfortable sitting on the sidelines (read: or our couches) as long as we’re just “on the roster.” People that don’t update their resume don’t get new jobs, people that don’t scratch lotto tickets never hit the jackpot, and people that Netflix every night never meet anyone new. Life is about getting in the game, and we all should keep that in mind more often.

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis

Blind Ambition

Accountability Contribution Resilience

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JohnPainting

Key Point: You can be blind and paint in vivid colors. I simply love John Bramblitt‘s paintings. This Texan artist captures color, shapes, light, texture and meaning like it comes from his soul. And I believe it actually does. According to a recent blog in mymodernmet.com, by the time Bramblitt was 30, seizures had rendered him completely blind, sending him into what he calls “the deepest, darkest hole” of depression. “All of the hopes and dreams that I had for my life; all of the plans for what I would do after I graduated school were gone. I was not only depressed, but in mourning. The life that I had, along with the future that I was planning, was dead and gone,” he says. “I felt like I had no potential; that basically I was a zero.”

For more than a decade now, the inspirational artist has received several honors and been the subject of much media attention for his gorgeous paintings created in spite of his so-called handicap. “In a way, I am glad that I became blind,” Bramblitt says. “This makes more sense when you stop thinking about adversity as an obstacle, and start viewing it as an experience—something that you can learn from and grow from.”

Recoding artists Pitbull and Ne-Yo have a song out called “Time of Our Lives,” and while I’m not sure I agree completely with all their recommended courses of action, as they pound out their lyrics, I love their third verse: 

[Verse 3 – Pitbull:]

This for anybody going through tough times

Believe me, been there, done that

But everyday above ground is a great day, remember.

And I’m reading Peter Bregman‘s Four Seconds. Bregman suggests we numerically code problems by severity, (for example, life threatened by war is a 10, a life threatening disease a 9)… You get he drift by the time we get to our “BIG” problems; they’re in a little more perspective.

This blog is dedicated to all the people I love and know and my readers who may feel tapped out, wrung out, in “Holland” way too long (see my previous blog), and just feeling s#!tty; no matter the reason. 

Character Moves: 

  1. Be inspired by Bramblitt… We can get out of deep depression and when we view our obstacles as an “experience,” we reframe where we are it. WE ARE NOT in competition to what we read on Facebook or see on Instagram. Those are snapshots in time, NOT representative of a whole life. Our living is exclusively ours and not for the judgment of our parents or friends. If we follow the Character Triangle; do it now, be kind, and give more… How can we really be “wrong” or “unsuccessful?”
  1. Just friggin’ PAINT! Remember what the great poet Pitbull says, “everybody above ground is a great day… Remember.”

Color blind in The Triangle, 

Lorne  

P.S. Please check out Jeff Hanson, an 18-year-old prolific Canadian painter who is also blind. It’s a WOW!

One Millennial View: Guys like Bramblitt truly do help you put things in perspective. An old college friend recently took a trip to Africa. When her family’s first of four connecting flights was delayed (with only a short layover between all of them), I got a text saying, “Well, we can’t go to Africa anymore.” Uh, what? That’s it? Because of an hour delay at the start of her journey, she was convinced the whole two-week dream vacation to Kenya would be scrapped? I remember that attitude making me sad and frustrated. Of COURSE the whole trip wouldn’t be cancelled, there would just be a few inconvenient, unexpected variables (an overnight layover in Houston, to be specific). I’m fortunate enough to have a pretty optimistic point of view with just about everything, but I know not everyone can see it that way… Especially if the hurdle is at the very start of a huge trip. In the end, I think if we roll with some punches and take a deep breath, we can likely figure out how to “make it to Africa” (like my friend eventually did). 

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis