Sunday, July 27, 2014

No Time to Think?

Get off the grid and don’t be afraid of your own thoughts

Many of you are familiar with Stephen Covey’s famous observation that we’re “so busy sawing we don’t have time to sharpen the saw.” We’ve all been there. Done that. We know it’s not a good way to be. But many of you have told us lately that you feel you’re spending way too much time at the saw mill lately. Guess the Dog Days of Summer got cancelled this year.

What to do? If you’re expecting us to recommend deep breathing, long walks on the beach and some yoga or meditation, you’ve come to the wrong place. Most of you are Type A, if not Type A-plus! You need something more concrete, more tactical!
That said, we’re not knocking deep breathing, long walks, yoga and meditation. All can be helpful. But what most of you need is tough self-love, not navel gazing. You need to unplug from the grid and carve out some time to think. Really think without distractions. Bring a pencil and a yellow legal pad if you like, but nothing more high tech than that.

Personally, I take a 24-hour break from all technology every weekend. Usually from mid-day Saturday to mid-day Sunday. Unless it’s a life threatening text or cell phone call, I’m just not going to address it during my 24-hour “quiet period.” Try it for yourself some weekend. The world won’t come to an end and see if you don’t come back Sunday evening a little more energized than you normally are.
Kate Murphy had a great piece in today’s New York Times that talked about why people who complain about being “super busy,” “crazy busy” or “insanely busy” never take advantage of a rare moment for “reflective thought” when they get it. Stuck in traffic or a long grocery line? What do we do? Out comes the mobile device. Sound familiar? As Murphy observed, the journal Science published a study that showed how far people will go to avoid introspection.

Turns out many of us don’t like introspection. Or we’re afraid of our own thoughts. Or we’re afraid that we’ll just dwell on what’s wrong in our lives. But, according to Silicon Valley psychologist, Stephanie Brown, “suppressing negative feelings just gives them more power.” And you can’t solve or let go of problems if you don’t allow yourself time to let go of them. Brown is the author of “Speed: Facing Our Addiction to Fast and Faster.


While we agree with the experts about the importance of self-reflection, it doesn’t mean you have to focus exclusively on fixing what’s wrong. You can also focus on potential good things. Try this: Substitute the words “opportunity” or “innovation” for the word “problem” during your next self-reflective time. See what happens. Just as many people are afraid to face their fears head on, you’d be surprised how many people are afraid to bring their BHAGs (Big Hairy Audacious Goals) to light. Don’t be afraid to see how good you and your team can be.

Stay focused this week, even if many around you seem like they’ve checked out for the summer. Doing so will pay big dividends come September.

Best, HB

Our blog has more, as does the FREE Resources page of our website.


TAGS: No time to think, time management, adrenal burnout, stress, Science journal, Stephanie Brown

Monday, July 14, 2014

You’re Never as Good as You Think You Are

Go for BHAGs, but don’t forget basic blocking and tackling

My dad had a great saying whenever he used to drive me home from a game or a meet growing up: “You’re never as good as you think you are, but you’re not as bad as you think, either.”

If Dad sensed I was getting overconfident, he’d remind that me that there’s always someone better around the corner, and that the competition would only get tougher with each new level I ascended. But, if I was down in the dumps after a tough loss, he’d focus on one or two things I did well and remind me how much better I’d gotten since the year before.

That was helpful in college and the early years of my career. I was captain of my high school track and cross-country team and got named to many All-area honors team. I thought I was pretty talented until I got to college. Guess what? The other 30 guys were also captains of their high school teams, and I quickly went from leading the pack to barely keeping up with the back of the pack. Mind you. I was running faster than I ever dreamed possible, but your perspective changes when you’re getting lapped instead of standing on the winner’s podium.

I later learned my Dad was a city champion swimmer in high school, but lasted only one season at an elite college program when he found out how "real swimmers" trained.

BHAGs and basics

I bring this up because now is the time of year that many of you are holding, or planning to hold, your offsite retreats. You’ll spend a few days away from the daily grind to clear the air, review your strategy and make BHAGs (Big Hairy Audacious Goals) for the next fiscal year.

Just don’t pull a Brazil.

Even if you’re No.1 or close to No.1 in your niche, don’t think you “own” that niche or are entitled to the top spot based on past performance. You’ve got to stay hungry and earn the business every day. The minute you let your guard down and forget how to fight for new clients (and retain existing clients) is the minute you get blindsided by a savvy upstart or a new wrinkle from a longstanding rival. 

BHAGs are great motivators. Just don’t forget the basic blocking and tackling that go your firm to where you are today. Also, don’t throw in the towel if you’ve recently lost a big client or key employee. No great team or company revolves around just one player.  Empower everyone else to step it up a notch.

Lessons learned from the World Cup

In case you missed the end of the FIFA World Cup of soccer this weekend, host nation Brazil, the country with the most World Cup championships in history--the country that invented the term jogo bonito (Portuguese, for “beautiful game” and internationally popularized by Nike commercials) thought it was their divine right to win the World Cup on their home soil this summer. No Way Jose. Or as the Brazilians would say, “imagina na copa” when things go horribly wrong.

Brazil showed up, but they didn’t show up to play. Big difference.

In the semi-finals against eventual champion Germany, Brazil was missing two key players (one for injury and one for poor sportsmanship) and basically threw in the towel before the game started. A brief defensive lapse let in a sloppy goal in the 11th minute of the game. But, instead of regrouping against the disciplined and well-coached Germans, Brazil conceded four more goals in the next 20 minutes of the game and had one of the most infamous meltdowns in global soccer history. As my former colleague Ron Rudolph posted the other day: “Brazil Is Getting Waxed

It will take years for much of the Brazilian population to get over their 7-1 humiliation to the Germans. But, they had a chance for redemption just a few days later in the 3rd place “consolation” game against highly regarded Netherlands. Again, this game was for bragging rights to be the third best team in the world at the planet’s most popular sport. The Dutch relished the opportunity. The Brazilians turned down their noses at it. Apparently the third place game was beneath Brazil’s dignity and they left the tournament with their tail between their legs, 0-3 losers again.

*** We also recommend David Brook’s recent op-ed piece
Baseball or Soccer. Sometimes the non-sports writers give you the best take on the big game.


Brazilian soccer will eventually return to the top echelon of the world stage. But it will take a rebuilding effort like Germany’s that was 12 years in the making.

Key Takeaway: Show up every day ready to play. You never know who or what you’re up against. Always look through the front windshield, not the rearview mirror, and great opportunities will find you like open space on the soccer pitch.
Best, HB

blog has more, as does the FREE Resources page of our website.


TAGS: Brazil soccer meltdown, Brazil getting waxed, Ron Rudolph, BHAGs, You’re never as good as you think, David Brooks Baseball or Soccer

Friday, July 04, 2014

Respect Everyone, Fear No One.

Lessons learned from U.S. soccer and our founding fathers  

My high school wrestling coach had a favorite saying: “Fear no one, but respect everyone.” What he meant by that is you don’t take any opponent for granted, no matter how poor their record or how timid they look strolling out to the mat. By the same token, he said you don’t back down from any foe, even if he’s an undefeated state champion who looks like he’s in a bad mood and hasn’t eaten in days. It seemed to work pretty well Coach Neil (Buckley). He never had a losing season in 50 years and was believed to be one of the winningest high school wrestling coaches ever when he passed 20 years ago. Not bad for a guy who never wrestled himself.

Fear no one, but respect everyone is a mantra that tennis great, Roger Federer, is fond of reciting, too.  He’s having one heck of a run at Wimbledon this week. Come to think of it, that’s pretty much the philosophy our founding fathers had two and a half centuries ago. Like a scrappy startup, what they lacked in resources and training, they made up for in agility and fearlessness. They certainly didn’t expect to take over the 13 original colonies without a fight, but they weren’t intimidated by the Brits and other 800 pound gorillas in their Colonial land grab “space.”
U.S.A soccer coach Jurgen Klinsmann, continues to take flak for comments he made at the outset of the World Cup Soccer tournament when said the U.S. was NOT going to win it all. He wasn’t being pessimistic, he was being realistic.

Big difference.

Many journalists and patriotic soccer buffs missed the point. Klinsmann said the U.S. wasn’t going to win it all, but certainly deserved to be on the same field as the planet’s best national soccer teams. That would be a first for U.S. soccer. Klinsmann also said we not only belonged on the same field as the world’s best, but we didn’t need to wait for the favorites to dictate the pace of the game. We were now good enough to set the tone ourselves. After defeating Ghana, the U.S. tied highly ranked Portugal and gave Euro titans Germany and Belgium all they could handle in close one-goal games.

Same goes for your firm. If you’re bidding on a game-changing contract against a much larger rival, don’t be intimidated. Take a good honest look at your rivals’ strengths and weaknesses, as well as your own. Make sure the client understands the special talents and services you can deliver….and how hungry you are for their business. You’re good enough to set the terms and dictate the pace of the negotiations. Don’t let the client or the Big Boys do it for you.


The U.S. may be out of the World Cup, but the patriotic fervor the team stirred up—and TV ratings that far surpassed the World Series and NBA finals—is something you should take note of if you have Millennials at your firm or are trying to recruit them. They have a global view of the world, and increasingly soccer is their No.1 favorite sport.

Have a safe and enjoyable Independence Day. Enjoy the fireworks. You earned it.
Best, HB

blog has more, as does the FREE Resources page of our website.


TAGS: wrestling, Neil Buckley, U.S.A soccer, Jurgen Klinsmann, tennis Roger Federer, Wimbledon