Do It, Mean It, Be It will help you clarify what is really important to you, help you identify the things you want to change, and give you all the practical tools to get there. You will learn how to:
Whether you want to jumpstart your career, grow a new business, or just figure out how to work less and spend more time with the people you love, you'll find the inspiration and tools to do it in Do It, Mean It, Be It.
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About the Author
Read an Excerpt
You Already Won the Lottery
In a nutshell: First of all, congratulate yourself. You're doing something right. You must be doing something right to even be reading this book. You have been successful in your career and are ambitious to do even better. Sure, things are not perfect; maybe you're even going through a particularly challenging phase in your professional or private life right now. But if you're reading this, you're probably better off than the four billion people on the planet living on less than $2 per day. Sometimes it helps to count our blessings.
Count Your Blessings
Counting your blessings helps to put things in perspective. What am I grateful for? What went well today? A number of years ago I had dinner for the first time at the home of a new friend. She was a senior official in the Obama administration and her husband was an expert in environmental issues for a large bank. They were a blended family with two teenage boys and a couple of dogs. Busy lives, busy careers. What struck me that first evening at family dinner was their habit of asking everyone at the table what they were thankful for. It wasn't a special occasion, just a regular weeknight. It was simply what they did whenever they had dinner together.
We went around the table and each said what we were thankful for. I felt slightly awkward, but no one else did. Each person took his or her turn. I said I was thankful to be there and to be part of their family for the evening. I've since made that a habit in my own home, both when we gather with friends, and each weekday night my son and I sit down to eat dinner together. It's a powerful but simple way to reflect on how fortunate we are.
Martin Seligman, at the University of Pennsylvania, is considered the father of positive psychology: the philosophy that we should build on our strengths, rather than fret about fixing our weaknesses. In his book Flourish, he recommends a somewhat similar exercise called "What went well, and why." Here is how it works: At your dinner table, ask people what went well in their day or week and follow up by asking why. This helps your friends or family members to fully recall the good things they experienced and what led to them. You can also do this as a journal exercise at night before going to sleep. I can't vouch for the neuroscience behind it, but I can tell you from experience that recalling positive events and describing them to others is a very effective way of improving your mood and well-being.
Another simple way to count your blessings is to look around you. You don't have to go to the poorest countries in the world to see that you are better off than most people on the planet. In your own city or community there are many people who lack the things you take for granted or who have been devastated by loss. Even when you face serious challenges with your health, finances, or relationships, chances are you're still better off than many. You likely have access to resources and the support of others to help you deal with difficult circumstances as you go through a challenging time.
Right now, jot down a list of all the things you have to be thankful for. Don't forget to start with the basics of food, shelter, and companionship. Keep adding. You'll find it's a long list. (You may want to get a journal to use with this book, as there will be lots of exercises like this with notes you'll want to return to.)
What Got You Here
We are often so focused on what's missing or could be better in our lives that we forget to take stock of what's working. We skip over what we do well and beat ourselves up about what we do poorly. It's time for a little inventory.
Instead of waiting for your annual performance appraisal, do one on yourself right now. What are your greatest strengths? What do you do really well? What do people most appreciate about you?
These are the things that got you where you are today. In the achievements column, did you include relationships, friendships, and children? Were you the first person in your family to go to college or start their own business? Maybe you were the first to get a PhD or be worth a million dollars. Do you earn more than your parents ever did?
When we focus on our strengths, we are reminded of what we can do and how far we have come. Sometimes it's very far.
Gary Cohn is the director of the United States Economic Council and the former chief operating officer of Goldman Sachs. He cut a familiar figure on Wall Street, a burly guy with a bald head and ready smile. He was a member of the board of directors of the Institute of International Finance when I was a member of the Institute's management team. He always brought a great energy to boardroom meetings and our events. Gary is very sharp and has been enormously successful. He's also been very open about being dyslexic. In his bestseller David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants, Malcolm Gladwell recounts Gary's experiences as a child. It took several painful years of teachers thinking he was stupid before he was diagnosed. Gary now credits his dyslexia with his success. He says he got better at taking risks and looking for the upside in opportunities as they arose.
Ironically, our deficits can sometimes be what make us most successful.
Whatever traits you listed as strengths have helped get you to where you are now. Those are the same traits that you will tap into to propel yourself forward and create a more satisfying life.
It's also important to take stock of what you really enjoy about your life currently. What's working well? What do you really love to do? What are the best moments in your week?
For many years, I believed I was trapped in Washington, D.C. My husband and I divorced when my son Sam was very young. Technically, I was free to leave the city, but I wouldn't be able to take Sam with me. His dad was remarried and happily settled in Maryland. He had made it clear he would oppose any move by me to take Sam out of the area. More importantly, they had a good relationship and saw each other frequently.
As Sam got older and his departure to college became more imminent, my options for moving became more of a reality. But then it dawned on me that I had actually built a great life in D.C. and was part of a wonderful community of friends and network of professional relationships. I was too busy looking at grass I thought was greener to realize that I was actually knee-deep in clover!
Played to Extreme
Your strengths are what got you here, but they can also be what hold you back. When our strengths are overused or misapplied, they can harm us. This is what I call "played to extreme." It's why no one should ever fumble the classic interview question, "What's your greatest weakness?" Don't cite working too hard. That's so obviously self-serving. Instead, take your greatest strength and flip it around.
For example, if one of your strengths is attention to detail, then a weakness is likely to be seeking perfection. In other words, paying too much attention to detail. If you continually revise a document before handing it in, or spend more time giving feedback on someone else's work than they spent writing it, you are being self-defeating. You're allowing your strength — attention to detail — to reduce your efficiency.
You've heard the phrase "generous to a fault" to describe someone who is overly generous to the point of harming his or her own self-interest. We see the same in people who have an overdeveloped tendency to help others and try to provide unsolicited help and advice to the frustration of the recipient. Parents are notably guilty of this one. Ask any teenager!
It's not hard to figure out our greatest weaknesses. Think of feedback you've received in performance appraisals, including all those things with which you didn't agree. Look at the arguments you've had in close relationships. What did the other person accuse you of always doing? Regardless of the merit of their complaint, there's likely some truth there. And, of course, you can go back to your list of strengths and simply exaggerate them to find your weaknesses.
Look for patterns in your behavior. There are always one-off circumstances that contribute to something not working out. But if the same thing keeps happening over and over, you become the constant in the equation and you need to look at your own behavior to see what can be changed.
I had an executive coaching client with a demanding job who complained that she worked endless hours cleaning up other people's work. Her team and other colleagues kept handing in sub-par work that she would initially send back to be revised, but eventually fix herself because that was faster. Guess what? They kept submitting sub-par work — until she realized that she needed to change her behavior or nothing was going to change.
A propensity to please can also land you in trouble. If you tend to overcommit and agree with the requests that others make of you, you'll find yourself constantly running and never feeling like you're doing the things that really matter to you.
Laura was a successful writer and journalist who had an alarmingly strong tendency to please. Nothing gave her greater pleasure than other people's gratitude and admiration for her ability to manage tough assignments. No matter the deadline or difficulty of the writing assignment, she could spin gold from straw and deliver a credible article in an amazingly short period of time.
She was regularly asked to turn turgid NGO jargon into compelling case studies that would inspire donors to fund worthwhile projects in developing countries. She managed all this from her dining room home office in Seattle.
However, Laura realized that the more she delivered and the more difficult the assignment, the less it was regarded as something extraordinary and the more she found herself working late or slammed against unreasonable deadlines that left her stressed and anxious. When she stepped back and realized her strength as a crack reporter and her desire to please her editors was now working against her, she was able to push back and start dictating the terms of how she would work.
How are your strengths working against you? What bad habits stand in your way of living the life you want?
Michelangelo was one of the most important artists of the High Renaissance. An artist, sculptor, architect, and poet, he's had a lasting impact on artists to this day. Hundreds of tourists flock to Italy every year to marvel at his painting in the Sistine Chapel, his Pietà depicting Madonna and Christ, and his statue of David. He is less recognized for his philosophy, but his thinking around the creative process contains useful lessons for all of us.
If people knew how hard I had to work to gain my mastery, it would not seem so wonderful at all. — Michelangelo
Michelangelo recognized the importance of hard work, discipline, and effort in honing his craft and creating his masterpieces. He was of the school of "practice makes perfect," not the school of "wait for the muse to strike."
This applies to us in the workplace and our lives as we try to create the life we want to be living, rather than the frazzled, unsatisfying one we've got.
The fastest way to do this is to build upon your strengths. You are not a remedial case. You've had success and done well. This is about building on success and paring away the rest.
Dean Robinson was the head of an accounting firm in Australia that specialized in privately held family businesses. He was excellent at what he did and his clients loved him, but he wasn't happy. He had a team of 15 people, including a partner in the firm with much less experience than him. Dean was the rainmaker, the dealmaker, and the person responsible for quality control. He was unhappy because he was working all hours, constantly fighting fires on the personnel front, and leading a rear guard action to maintain the quality he wanted for his clients.
Although the firm had revenues of $2 million annually, he was only taking home a small portion. He began to resent his employees who were much less committed to the firm than he was and seemed to have a sense of entitlement around pay and benefits that didn't align with their contribution or quality of work.
What Dean really loved about his job was advising clients on their businesses and long-term goals, not the minutiae of their tax returns. He was helping family-owned businesses professionalize, aggressively grow their businesses, and think about the future with succession planning. His clients loved his strategic perspective and the tremendous value it created for their businesses. But Dean was still caught up in the day-to-day dealings of tax returns and audits, not able to offer his strategic services to every client that wanted them. Finally, he decided he had enough.
It had become very clear that Dean's greatest strength was his ability to develop a strategic vision for his clients' businesses and show them how that supported and developed the owner's family life. Yes, he could offer excellent accounting and tax service, but so could others. However, very few people could help family-owned businesses reach their full potential. And that was also what he loved to do.
The greater danger for most of us lies not in setting our aim too high and falling short; but in setting our aim too low, and achieving our mark. — Michelangelo
So Dean dissolved the partnership, sold the existing practice to his partner, and set out on his own. It took courage, belief in himself, and a lot of discipline and effort to start over, almost from scratch. He was now focused only on what he was best at and discarded the rest.
Dean says the greatest challenges were operational and personal. It was hard on the people around him, including his wife, who also worked in the business.
"I was having the professional equivalent of a midlife crisis, except for me it wasn't a crisis at all. It was the morphing of a caterpillar into the butterfly," Dean told me. "Some days were awful. I was getting frustrated. I was becoming short-tempered. But I continued to question. I didn't stop and accept what was happening. I did what I had to do to get the task finished and figure out what I could learn and how to do it faster. I am on the right path and know this is what I want to be doing with my life."
I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free. — Michelangelo
There were moments of frustration and anxiety as Dean began to build his new business, but there were no moments of doubt. He knew his strengths and the direction in which he needed to go. You can do the same.
Every block of stone has a statue inside it, and it is the task of the sculptor to discover it. — Michelangelo
Down to the Essentials
In order to create a meaningful life, you need to stop doing some of the things you've been doing up until now, not just begin building new habits. You have to identify the habits, relationships, and beliefs that are holding you back. Then you need to ditch them. Like Michelangelo, you need to pare back what is extraneous to your goal, the life you want. Only then can you live your life in a satisfying, rewarding way.
Easier said than done, right? Take a look right now at where your time is spent.
I did this exercise shortly after setting up my consulting business. I thought I was working pretty hard and that I was focused on what I needed to do to win clients. I had been reaching out to people I knew to see if they needed help or could recommend me to others.
The exercise was very revealing. I was spending huge amounts of time (and money) having coffee and lunches with former colleagues and friends. Yes, some of them had the ability to hire me, but most did not. And many of them had the ability to recommend me, but not all, and I was spending up to three hours finding that out. For example, we would arrange to meet for lunch, which, including travel time from home, could take three hours out of my day. A simple 30-minute phone call from my home office was just as productive, especially with people who already knew me well.
It took a lot of discipline to turn down suggestions to meet in person from people whom I knew and liked, and instead suggest we have a quick call. However, the phone calls quickly clarified if I could help them or if they knew people who needed my help. Then I would set up meetings in person that were much more productive.
The exercise of tracking where your time goes might seem like a chore in itself, but much like keeping a food diary can reveal the fallacies of what you think you eat versus what you actually eat, this is a powerful tool to see where your day really goes.
Once you've done the exercise, you should see some obvious opportunities to make changes. The secret is then to schedule the things you really want to do, like going to the gym on your lunch break. Start by making it an appointment in your calendar that needs to be moved before it can be overridden. Now look at things that could be done by someone else.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Do It, Mean It, Be It"
Copyright © 2017 Corrie Shanahan.
Excerpted by permission of Red Wheel/Weiser, LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
1 You Already Won the Lottery 15
2 Destination, Not Daydream 31
3 Inspiration vs. Perspiration 53
4 Investing in Infrastructure 75
5 Whose Highlight Reel? 99
6 Relationships That Rapidly Propel 115
7 Building a Personal Brand 133
8 The Power of Pleasure 159
9 Long-Term Goals 177
10 Sharing Is Caring, and Smart 197
11 Imagine the Unimaginable 217
12 Reflect, Renew, Repeat 237