Four years ago a friend gave me the book Younger Next Year for my birthday. The title grabbed me, because I am always trying to motivate myself and look a bit younger. The book stresses the importance of exercise, so I bought the audio version and started listening and walking.
The premise of the book is simple–you’re either growing/building your body or you’re rotting. Rotting is a powerful word with strong visual imagery! I didn’t want to rot. Very soon I became obsessed with this book … listening to some of the chapters over and over. The book is based on 7 principles, or “Harry’s Rules”
Exercise 6 days a week for the rest of your life.
Do serious aerobic exercise 4 days a week for the rest of your life.
Do serious strength training, with weights, 2 days a week for the rest of your life.
Spend less than you make.
Quit eating crap!
Take Care of yourself.
Connect and commit.
Now I am not saying that this is the greatest book on fitness ever written and you may not like it, but it changed the way I think and act about exercise, aging and my overall health.
Walking is and is a great way to exercise but I needed to get my heart rate up so I took action and joined the Y. I started off with a Zumba dance class thinking, “great cardio” and as a bonus I would have some fun. Now here’s where the truth about exercise, at least for me begins: The music was great, but my body was hurting and my heart was pounding. I was not is shape and half way through the class I was looking at the clock as the minutes slowly ticked by. I was struggling and the next day it was easier not to go… but I went.
“You have to work through the discomfort and the negativity when you start out. It does get better!”
It’s 4 years later and I am addicted to exercise – Zumba, body pump, cardio combo, body flow, yoga, and soon cycling. So what moved me from dread to joy?
Here are some of the tricks I have learned to keep me motivated, and exercising every day.
Think of working out as part of your career success. Look at it as part of your job and you have to show up every day. The pay is amazing but not half as good as the benefits.
Group classes worked! I am an extrovert and the group classes worked best. I need a team around me. Hint- Make friends with the regulars who stand near or during the workout. It helps.
Make friends with the instructors. That will keep you motivated and obligated to show up for them!!!
My first Zumba instructor,Shannon
Buy cool looking workout clothes and if you are lucky enough to work from a home office like me, put them on in the morning. And don’t be stingy. But several of everything so you don’t have the excuse that nothing is clean.
Write down how you feel after every workout. It is a great way to journal your journey and you’ll motivate yourself with your own feelings and words.
Do not look at the clock. Listen to the music, and stay in the moment. I have created a great playlist of songs I would never have heard if it weren’t for Eliot, my favorite instructor. He keeps me young and fun.
My personal motivator Eliot Perez – Heights Y
Before you decide not to go, ask yourself, “Will I regret skipping today?” Guilt is the Killer App.
Go for a walk, invite your dog and listen to audiobooks! You will find that you walk longer.
9. Make exercise your favorite thing to do.
10. Pat yourself on the back because you are getting stronger!
This blog is about letting go of what sometimes works but could be better!
Last week I did the opening day keynote for THLA(Texas Hotel & Lodging Association). I have been the opening keynoter for this particular event for the past 11 years. Lucky for me, each year the audience is totally different except for the association administrators. This year, after some great coaching, I tried several new pieces adding new stories, a game and a totally new closing. Honestly, I was very nervous hoping the new stuff would “land”. During the program one of the association’s administrators stood up and announced to the audience that she has head me for 11 years and each year the keynote different but this year it was remarkable. Phew…what a relief. Letting go of my tried and true material was hard, but creating fresh and new is exciting, even thrilling!
What are you holding onto that is holding you back?
For years stories have been a huge part of my business as a motivational business speaker. Today storytelling is a hot topic and has become so popular in business and marketing. In a world where we’re all striving to cut through the noise and make a lasting impression, stories have become a tool to get us noticed and remembered. Great stories are memorable, they get our attention and stories put ideas into the world. Stories make the facts and figures come to life! Stories are sticky and fun and best of all, everyone has one…but your story, your signature story, will never be heard if you don’t tell it.
There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you. ~ Maya Angelou
Your Signature Story…
The days of canned, memorized speeches are long gone. Today audiences are hungry to see authenticity and vulnerability and connect on a deeper level with the speaker.
Stories are bridges from one mind to another.Robert McKee
Your story has the ability to weave a connection between you as a speaker and your audience. We are living through dynamic times that are both inspiring and troubling, often at the same moment. In the face of such dramatic change, we know how easy it is to get discouraged, disappointed, and even overwhelmed. It is not hard to feel at times small and even insignificant. But as I travel and speak I have also seen that in the face of such unprecedented change, in addition to some big hurdles, there are also big opportunities.
Our stories help us realize that we are not facing any of this alone, and through our stories we can encourage, support and elevate our listeners.It all begins by identifying the obstacles of those who are listening. Once you know what keeps them up at night, you can tell your own personal story of how you stumbles and learned; struggled and conquered; questioned and found peace to move forward in your own life. Expect miracles from storytelling.
Stories have power!
Once you begin to tell your story over and over…the magic happens. After telling your signature story at every engagement, you become known for that story. Over time you become so good at performing your story that people ask for it again and again. Most speakers that I know personally have many great stories and the really successful ones have a signature story that stands out from all the rest.
How My Signature Stories Came to Be
In 1999 I closed my last clothing store in Houston, Texas and I was itchy to start another business with no inventory or rent to pay! A good friend of mine invited me to a National Speaker’s Association local Houston chapter meeting and that was the night the class of 1999 “speaker newbies” were presenting on stage. As soon as I saw a few of the presentations I was hooked, signed up and was accepted in the class of 2000 NSA Houston New Speaker School – where I learned the ins-and-outs of professional speaking.
In 2001 I began speaking professionally. That spring I went to the Jazzfest in New Orleans, and that is where I met Sting (really)…and my first signature story was born. It had all the right elements… a great setting, a challenge that I had to overcome, humor, and of course meeting Sting (at the NOLA airport on my way back to Houston)! Right off the bat, my Sting Story was a hit, and each time I performed I wove that story into my presentation. I kept improving the story and even had a $$$$$ coach work with me on making it even better.
( this takes me back to 2004 – 2007…I have improved!)
By 2004 I was being booked by clients asking for the Sting Story. Once I did not put I Sting into a presentation for an insurance client, because I didn’t think that it fit in the program and the planner was furious with me for leaving it out!
In 2007 I created a new story called You Rock and it took off…well .. like a rock-et! I started getting testimonials saying You Rocked It… and I put Sting away on the Shelf. After writing this piece I have decided to bring Sting back, dust him off, and introduce him to the Millennials.
I am passionate about helping people create and present their signature story…
When my web analytics team told me I had 12 thousand hits on my website using the keyword “rebranding” I was blown away. Sure, I knew many organizations and associations were in the midst of redefining their brand, but this level of interest did catch me off guard.
As a result of learning about the volume of inquiry regarding rebranding, I sat up, listened, and got excited! I decided to do a deep dive into the subject to learn more about rebranding and what people are saying about it. Here is what I found to be the major drivers for this massive rebranding trend.
The Customer Drives the Marketplace
We know that the customer has always been in charge of their decisions. What is different today is how the Internet has empowered customers to know more about making purchases and to react to buying decisions in a whole different way.
Today’s customer has the following traits:
• Always connected—many sleep with their phones!
• Hyper-informed: they know what they want before they buy.
• Have a choice overloaded: the competition is seconds away.
• Highly influenced by peer opinions.
This new customer behavior crosses all types of organizations. It’s true for large corporate industries and massive destination-city promotions. It’s true for nonprofit organizations and the mom-and-pop retail outlets. It’s true for anyone who depends on customers parting with their money in exchange for any goods or services.
Narrow Niche Target Audiences
Because the empowered customer has the attention span of a goldfish (thank you,Sally Hogshead), most organizations are forced to narrow their niche in order to be found by their target audience.
Take music, for example, you may not be noticed at all if your niche is simply music. But if you want to keep followers on their toes noticing your constant reinvention, target the audience who loves to see you break all the rules and wants you to find your own path. Lady Gaga has followed that road map to fame and fortune. Lady Gaga didn’t become the success she is today based solely on her ability to belt out a great song. She did so by as Jacki Hubba shares, creating a hugely loyal fan base through not only her music, but her message, and her community of fans (her tribe). She has a loyal group of fans that she lovingly calls her “monsters,” and she actually treats them as if they are Rock Stars! No one can beat her ability to brand herself effectively.
Success with the new customer means you must acutely listen to what your customers want.
Create systems to listen everywhere:
• Listen to the comments made to your personnel.
• Listen to the customer service call topics.
• Listen to the search terms used to find you.
• Listen to social media and get engaged in conversations there.
• Listen to internal customers (employees).
Change is the New Normal
Just this week I had the pleasure of speaking to a large group of successful business owners. After my presentation, several of the attendees shared with me that they hated change—social media and technology—and they weren’t going to budge. They were a tough crowd! They reminded me of some of the audiences I had back in the early days of my speaking career—those successful business leaders who told me that they weren’t going to learn how to send emails because that’s what they had secretaries for!
I wonder how they are doing today?
The question is not “Will you change?” the question is “How will you respond to change?”
Once we understand change is inevitable, rebranding becomes a natural reaction to those changes. Your rebranding today is not the final time you will need to change perceptions of your brand, so fully understand it is much more than hiring a graphic artist to develop a new logo and slogan for you.
Rebranding is a process of following the needs, desires, and patterns of your best customers and prospects. Notice the word “process.” Rebranding is not an event. It is a way of doing your business … and everyone in your organization is part of the brand.
Recently I spoke to a fantastic group of around 200 emerging leaders in the Hospitality Industry at the 70th Annual ShortCourse. In my keynote, I did a piece on telling your story, and I had them get into pairs and share their personal story of, “How they got into the hotel business.”
They say that facts tell but stories sell… So, move over Brothers Grimm, storytelling is not just for kids anymore. Your story is a powerful tool that can help you advance your career, step into your leadership potential, and build a meaningful professional brand.
We each have a story inside us waiting to be told. Powerful stories do more than entertain – they establish rapport, develop teams, make the sale, attract talent, relieve stress, build trust, manage expectations, and they make us smile.
If you want to get really good at telling your story here are a few tips to think about:
1. Tim Sanderswill tell you that first off you need to be likeable, so don’t brag or over compliment yourself. A little self-deprecating humor never hurts. Remember that friendliness, relevance, empathy , and authenticity matter.
2. People identify with characters- so if you are telling a story that involves someone else such as a teacher, parent, or good friend, embellish on that person and create a real and descriptive character that is memorable.
3. Great stories have emotions and are inspiring. When you are thinking about your story, take the listener on a short journey. In your life you may have been faced with a challenge or a roadblock. Share with us what you did to overcome that challenge, and ultimately when you emerged, you were happier, more successful or maybe even transformed.
4. Great stories are memorable so make your story “sticky” by referring to an iconic place, famous person or event. Sticky stories hold the audience’s attention and they are remembered and retold time and again.
Diversity training can be uncomfortable for many of us because we have a fear of either being judged or seen as judging others. Even popular and forward thinking television shows reveal our discomfort with the subject. Although it’s hysterically funny and a bit over the top, this episode of The Office, shows how totally off track perceptions of diversity and the experiences of others appear.
Both Saturday Night Live and Jerry Seinfield TV shows have been called out for their lack of diversity. SNL’s absence of a black female cast member on the show since Maya Rudolph left, and Jerry uses the defense “Funny is the world I live in…I have no interest in gender or race…Are you making us laugh or not?”
The diversity challenge goes way beyond your company’s legal obligations to comply with legislation for equal opportunity and non-discrimination. A diverse workforce has lower turnover, better employee morale, higher sales and increased profits.
When it comes to living out diversity, the truth is, we find it much easier to simply keep ourselves surrounded by people like us even though, the benefits of a diverse workforce are HUGE!
Truth One – Where there is Diversity there is profit!
Study after study proves diversity adds to the bottom line. In fact, way back in 2009, a study was published in the “American Sociological Review”. When the researchers compared the workplaces with the most diversity to those with lowest levels of racial diversity, the workforces with a mix of races had 15 times more sales. That’s impressive…and we are only talking about racial diversity in this study.
True diversity is not that simple. It is much more than a mixture of races and genders. It encompasses ethnic groups, age, personality type, cognitive style, ability, tenure, education, lifestyle, organizational function and a whole host of other things.
“Strength lies in differences, not in similarities”
~ Stephen Covey
Neil Lenane is Business Leader Talent Management with Progressive Insurance. He is quoted as saying, “If you do not intentionally include, you unintentionally exclude.” He says the company does not see diversity as a program. Instead it is a cultural movement with measurable results. The team is able to overcome inhibitions and apprehensions to become more innovative. With innovation comes the ability to better understand customer needs.
As a bonus, he believes this core principle allows the company to cast a wider net to reach the best talent too. This is a claim you will often hear from companies who have successfully implemented diversity into the company culture.
Diversity brings profits in the television industry too. Although many see the entertainment industry to be liberal and progressive, true diversity in this industry is in its infancy. Data from ratings shows the highest-rated dramas and comedies were shows with 41 to 50 percent Black/Latino/Asian casts and had a median household rating of 5.84. Shows casting the least diverse mix had a median household rating of 3.79. So, this season we can look for shows like Blackish, Christela, The Goldbergs, and the newest featuring an Asian-American family, Fresh Off the Boat to prosper.
Truth Two: Diversity can be Messy
With all this data supporting the fact diversity is a profitable undertaking, why do we still need to talk about it? The bottom line truth of bringing diversity into the workplace is uncomfortable and it’s challenging.
Newer companies begin the hiring process with an intentional focus on incorporating diversity into the company culture. It is one reason why many new start ups are making higher profits. When your company is large and well established, diversity is a bigger challenge. Here is why:
Communication Barriers: When the workforce is made up of people with different perceptions, cultures and native languages it can often spiral into ineffective communication. Team members may be confused, have trouble working as a team and eventually lead to low morale.
Resistance to Change: In every established company you will have employees who refuse to accept change. The mentality of “we’ve always done it this way” destroys any new ideas and stops progress in its tracks.
Leadership Weaknesses: Having a workshop about diversity does not prepare the leadership for managing a diverse workforce. Although they may be armed with assessment data of employees, creating an implementation plan for their particular team is no small task.
Sad to say, exclusion is a human instinct. People tend to cluster in tightly knit groups because they want to be with others who think like them. Gender diversity often falls prey to this bias. Men, who dominate the upper management positions, tend to spend time together casually. They may all go to lunch together for example. Asking the upwardly mobile female to join them may feel uncomfortable to everyone involved. Yet, relationships are deepened, business is discussed and decisions are made in these informal encounters.
Formal mentoring can be an effective way to address the subtle prejudices that sabotage diversity efforts. Mentors provide advice, feedback and career coaching , and almost no one is blatant about their discriminatory attitudes. It shows up in subtle habits that are harder to diagnose and very hard to cure.
The next step after mentoring is sponsorship. Sponsors are advocates in positions of authority who use their influence intentionally to help others advance. Both are important to advancement as employees navigate the workplace and earn opportunities for growth.
Truth Three: Your Brain is to Blame
Even when a change of habits is life or death, humans are resistant to making drastic changes. Studies show that about one out of nine patients who undergo coronary bypass surgery actually changed their habits. Although the number of studies to support lifestyle changes is abundant, these patients settle back into their familiar lifestyle and took their chances.
If people won’t change their behavior to save their own lives, how can we expect them to change their work habits just because it will make them happier, more innovative and provide massive profits to the company where they work?
Here is the scientific answer: the interplay between working memory and focused attention are at odds with each other. Working memory, the holding area where new information can be used, engages the prefrontal cortex. It is the brain’s area for rational thinking. It is energy-intensive and fatigues easily.
The brain is wired to recognize perceived differences between an expected outcome and actual outcomes. When it perceives differences, it fires off neurons connected to fear. With the fear circuitry engaged, it quickly morphs into anger and counterproductive behaviors.
Humans love to do what is easiest and the brain supports the easy way of perceiving. When you are doing known tasks, the basal ganglia, located deep in the brains core, is in performance. These behaviors take less energy than what is needed by the prefrontal cortex. No real conscious thought is required, so diverse ideas are quickly and easily rejected.
Without the ability to intentionally overcome our brain’s reaction to outside perceptions, it becomes really hard to collaborate with people who think differently. Understanding how the brain is wired will help empower your actions toward diversity goals.
Truth Four: The World is Getting Smaller
As the world of business becomes more globalized, the need for diversity increases. Technology has allowed business to be conducted across borders easily. Expanding into foreign markets is absolutely essential for success in world-class companies. Otherwise, smaller companies from across the world who were “born global” will drain away market share.
Decisions made during the process of globalization walk a thin line between efficiency, with consistent processes, and adapting to the markets of different cultures. Having a diverse workforce gives these companies a competitive advantage. When employees come from diverse backgrounds it gives the company a wider perspective. A diverse customer base pushes innovation to develop new products and services to meet the needs of a diverse marketplace.
Truth Five: Trust the Process
The inherent discomfort of diversity can be overcome when it is part of a company’s everyday process. Four primary processes can be remembered with 4C’s – Commitment, Collaboration, Communication and Competence. When these 4C’s are applied to the goal of diversity in the workplace, trust is developed.
“Diversity and independence are important because the best collective decisions are a product of disagreement and contest, not consensus or compromise.” ~ James Surowiecki
Trust is critical to the success of a diverse team because they will be constantly interacting to reach company goals. In a blog article, Emergenetics explains how they have developed a process called the WE approach to collaboration. Their methods show how high-level teams tap into the different brains of individuals to establish trust.
Credible resources are used to support facts and conclusions which open up the analytical pathways in the brain.
Procedures are established for everyone to follow with a process to create realistic timelines and expectations. The processes and procedures protect the brain from feelings of fear.
Social consideration is given to how certain behaviors may impact other people and validate their feelings and emotions.
Exploring new concepts opens the conceptual pathways in the brain to allow each member to communicate their vision of the future.
The article goes on to say, “The combining of thoughts and behaviors in a way that expresses respect and understanding to those around us enables us to build and maintain trust over time.”
In an article in Inc magazine, Geil Browning, brain researcher and founder of Emergenetics shares her lessons in diversity.
Communicate openly about cognitive diversity.
Deliberately hire all thinking and behavior types.
Put your diversity to work.
Make cognitive diversity a core part of your culture.
As more and more companies are uncovering the benefits of a diverse workforce and creating an inclusive environment in which each member of the team is valued, respected, and is able to fully contribute their talents, the conversations will become easier.
When we reach the point we can see diversity and inclusion as a normal ways to build successful companies, our world will be better for it.
In the words of Commander Spock in Star Trek: “Infinite diversity in infinite combinations…symbolizing the elements that create truth and beauty.”
Do you have any hidden biases? I discovered that I do and I realized that biases could be holding me back!
The more we study innovation the more we are learning that differences in ideas and thinking make for better, stronger, more innovative teams. We are also learning that innovation comes through inclusion. A good friend of mine, Martha Feeback with Catalyst, often says, “The difference between diversity and inclusion? Diversity is being asked to the party. While inclusion is being asked to dance. Inclusion is an environment where every person is equally respected, which consequentially encourages ALL people to learn, share, develop, and grow, and thus inclusion drives innovation.
How easy is inclusion? And what about hidden biases?
It’s a natural thing for human beings to be attracted to those like them, and it is also natural for anyone to steer clear of those that give off a different vibe. Research shows that our brains are wired for judgments. But, actually, it is a survival tool. Think back to the days of the caveman when he was out looking for food and came across a group of other cavemen around a water hole. Our caveman had to make a decision instantly whether they were friends or “white walkers,” killing all in their path. Our brains instantly signal us—beware of what is unknown and run!
Many times, when I am speaking for a group, I am asked to attend their pre-opening cocktail or social event. I have to admit that attending these activities is not my most favorite thing to do. Because I am always alone and only know one person in the room, the meeting planner. When I enter, I automatically look for cues from the crowd, instinctively scanning the room looking for friendly faces, for someone like me who I might want to sit next to.
That said, biases are getting in the way of our growth and our success as a community, organization, and a nation (witness Ferguson, Missouri, and Trayvon Martin).
So the obvious question is: “If we all have biases and even unconscious biases so, how can we overcome the judgments?”
The first step in this process of being able to be more thoughtful and open is to accept and understand that we all have these biases. That we don’t have to be ashamed of them, and we don’t have to feel guilty about them, but we need to take responsibility for them.
The next step is to understand that your brain wants to move fast and take a short cut to connecting, and it is in this fast /quick thinking mode that we stereotype, making assumptions and quick associations about others. So, all we have to do is apply the brakes to the bias thinking and slow our brains down.
When we slow ourselves down, we are admitting that we are starting to judge, and this process of awareness helps you change your reaction. Slowly, you will begin to notice more and gradually move the judgments aside.
Another way we can slow down the biases is to look at another person’s point of view. If you watch Fox News or MSNBC all the time, you are feeding your brain with that one point of view. It might be helpful if you tried listening to the opposite news stations once a week, to gain insight into how others think and process the information they are receiving.
Misty Williams and I am noticing that I am having a tough time falling asleep. My mind keeps going over all of the NEW projects and creative ideas that are being presented. Being an (ENFP) entrepreneur I like my day to be open and lose- that means I don’t always follow the processes in place – but now with so many new ideas on the table, I need to focus and determine where to put my energy and my time.
I need to get my ideas and projects out of my head and on to paper. I might even need to stat making a daily to-do list.
When times get tough, motivational speakers like to quote famous people, with the hope that we give our audiences the strength and the courage to move forward. So, when my sister Patty made the decision to move to Dallas after living in Cleveland, Ohio all of her life I remember sharing these brilliant words-
“We keep moving forward, opening up new doors and doing new things, because we’re curious…and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.” –Walt Disney.
and… it was good advice-until LeBron announced that he was returning to Cleveland to play for the Cavaliers. Watch and learn – Patty is amazing and I’m so happy she is in Texas!
Before I began professional motivational speaking, I have to admit, I had very thin skin. Rejections devastated me. But today, rejections are a (sad to say) big part of my life. Fortunately, I have learned over the years how to turn a rejection into a positive. Here’s my Lesson from the Road – Turning a Rejection into a Positive. Enjoy