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Feeling each piece of grass on your toes

It’s a really busy and anxious world we live in right now and if you don’t get a hold of your angst, it will strangle you. 

“Try to walk so slowly that you feel each piece of grass on the bottom of your foot.”  That is what my friend Michael Apollo told me.  He was teaching me a walking meditation.

I was 29 and feeling overwhelmed with work and life and had come to know Michael through a local health and wellness clinic. He taught some group mindfulness classes which I enjoyed so I decided to see if I could learn more 1:1.  As someone who was always active, this was a new way to bring some calm into my life.

We were hanging out in a park near a busy street in Toronto. There was construction nearby, and I wasn’t sure how this was going to work.  In my mind, I felt anxious. “How can I concentrate with the construction noise? Is this going to work? Why can’t those people walking by be quiet? We should have chosen a quieter place.”

We carved out a 20-foot walking path in the grass where my bare feet could get acquainted again with the grass and nature. Michael asked me to walk slowly. I walked a quarter of my normal casual walking speed.  He told me to “walk 10 times slower. Slowly lift your foot off the ground, keeping contact with heel, midfoot, palm of the foot and toes, as long as possible. Focus three feet in front of you.”

By keeping me focused on one single task and moving methodically, and slowly, he was slowing me down. My breath naturally followed.

Soon my world and distraction moved from a noisy and disruptive 360-degree view whipsawing me around to a twenty-foot grass track in front of me.  Then from 20 feet down to a focused three feet.  The noise washed away like water off a ducks back.  I was focused on feeling nature and my own breath.

Twenty minutes later Michael pulled me out from my simpler world to my regular world with a new filter and skill set.

He was helping me build the scaffolding of mindfulness.

No action here today other than provoking a different way of thinking about Angst and anxiousness.

In this three-part series over the next two weeks, I will share with you some strategies on reducing Angst and building the scaffolding of Calm.

Before you head back to your next task…BREATHE.

Take 4 deep breaths in and 4 deep breaths out.

Defeating Average.

Colin

How to fall in love with your abilities

“We can fall in love with our own abilities and our own potential, then choose to maximize those abilities.”

– Bob Rotella, performance psychologist, New York Times Bestseller author

Thanksgiving is always a good time to evaluate your progress in a year, surrounded by friends and family.

We often focus on the endpoint, the results, instead of focusing on the journey and the abilities and skills that got us there.

Taking time to reflect on how you have grown and how your best performances look and feel like, can often tell you more about where to focus next.

In the spirit of incremental learning, take some time this week to answer these two questions:

1. What does it look and feel like when I perform at my best?

2.  What are two changes can I make in my daily routine to support performing at my best?

Have a great Thanksgiving week.

Defeating Average.

Colin

Getting the toxins out

There are many types of toxins in our life.

Expectations are a new one for me.

Drugs, alcohol, too much social media are popular ones.

I’ve definitely been working on reducing my social media and replacing it with reading a good ole fashion book. I’ve journaled the results and it’s clear – I sleep better when I cut social in half and read before sleep.

Expectations 

I have a list of work, family, personal project and health items I want to get done every day. I measure my “feeling of accomplishment” by how much I get done. When I measure against all 10-20 items daily against purely getting done, I would get an F.

When I prioritize out of that list what is important, is usually boils down to 3-5.

I’m not going to speak to prioritization in this post, but instead of reflecting.

We spend 8-12+ hours per day working, doing. How much time do we spend reflecting pre and post doing on if we have used our time well?

A few questions I have added into my end of day journaling (which I have started back up again while away on holidays last week):

  • Is this task necessary for today?

  • What should I not be doing today)

  • What does or did success look like today?

  • What toxins can I release?

If you are feeling overloaded or out of sync, test drive a few of these questions.

It’s within you.

Defeating Average.

Colin

Preparation – Be there before you arrive 

My running coach in high school 20+ years ago said if you invest time visualizing your race, you will have a much better chance of success than if you don’t. 

I didn’t get it. Now I do. 

I would show up to each race and experience a few obstacles for the first time, trying to handle them in high-stress moments in races lasting 60 to 120 seconds where 1-2 seconds were the difference between success and failure. 

I finished 4th a lot!

Would visualizing have made the difference between 4th (you’ll get them next year!) and a medal? 

100 Percent

How does that apply to presenting in a meeting?

1.  Drilling your content like going to practice every day is table stakes. 

2. Testing yourself against different competitors will give you different feedback. Test your talk track and concepts through multiple people. 

3. Visualize the process. From when you arrive at the event, to the warm-up to the race (or meeting) to how you want to feel during and after. 

4. Define what success looks like

  • Ask yourself what obstacles or challenges may I encounter?
  • How will I handle them?
  • What does that look and sound like?

5. Have fun

  • Once the prep is done, reward yourself with something that brings you joy. 
  • Dial-in your morning routine to be your best self morning of. 

Ask yourself, why not me…and go crush it. 

It’s within you. 

Defeating Average. 

Colin

Make Your Content Short and Sweet

In this three-part blog, I’m going to answer a recent mentees question on how you prepare for an executive presentation.

Part 2 – Preparing Content

If you have been like me, I get wrapped up in putting slides and content together and getting stuck! As I have learned over time, start by hitting the ball down the fairway, instead of playing in the trees.

Start by answering this question:

1. What challenges are you solving for? – Slide 1

  • This will guide the rest of your presentation (or golf round)

2. What are your big bets or solution to the challenges? – Slide 2

  • 3-5 ideas
  • Show them visually 
  • Have anecdotes or stories to back them up
  • No more than 25 words on a slide (much less is better)

3. Money Slide – Slide 3

  • If it’s a business plan – show an annual view of the program (s)
  • If it’s a sales proposal – show the ROI of each solution
  • You are likely to spend time on one slide when executives start asking questions, this is it.  Can this slide stand alone if its the only one you looked at?

4. Asks, Risks and Next Steps – Slide 4

  • What asks do you have of the customer or your internal team to deliver your plan?
  • What are the risks you want to identify and how can you prepare to handle those? Executives always want to know the risks.

5. Actions and Next Steps – Slide 5

  • What are the immediate next steps?
  • What actions does your executive need to consider?
 

All other slides go into the appendix.  You can put all supporting slides here. 

Take it from mistakes I have made in the past, by over contenting…I have never got past 5 slides with an executive.  You can have the 10 slides of detail in your plan, and they sit behind the “Appendix” divider and can be brought up if you need them.

To Defeating Average in Presentations.

Colin

I’ve traveled around the world to come home 

Sometimes you can go all the way around the world, just to come home to find what you are looking for.

I’ve spent 23 years selling and leading teams. I’ve traveled to every continent adventuring, including two of my favorites, the Atacama desert in Chile and Antarctica. Those terms have been my identity.

My greatest accomplishment I hope to be raising my daughter with confidence and courage.

I’ve certainly learned skills on the path less traveled that will help in this new adventure.

Whatever your journey has been and the obstacles you have overcome, if you are a parent, you don’t have to travel the globe to be a big influence in your child’s life.

The greatest gift can be raising a child to have confidence, meet them where they are at (in my case on the ground) and invest time.

Defeating Average.

Colin

I am busy and I am anxious

Part 4

 
“I don’t actually have serious work problems but I am anxious about that.”

I can recall through my career, my feelings Sunday when the weekend glow would start to end and the realization I had to go back to work the next week would start to set in.  Like the glow starting to dim after the stroke of midnight on New Year’s Eve.

Two things I am going to address here:  I am busy and I am anxious.

Even if we like our job, we are often really busy, treading water trying to keep up. I noticed about a year ago, that when I asked people “how it’s going?” they would say “busy”.

 
It didn’t give me any information about what they were working on or how they were feeling, except that they may be overwhelmed.
 

It had me question, when I used that term (which I was often) how people left interactions with me??

I decided to do two things:

1. Be ready for the question

I share 2-3 things I am working on with the positive energy of why I was committed to those things in the first place. It reinforces my priorities!

2. Reflect Weekly

I reflect weekly on time periods I felt busy or anxious in the week and ask myself why?

  • Was my calendar out of balance?
  • Are their types of meetings that provide more anxiety than others?
  • What could I do each week with 1-2% changes that would slowly dissipate these feelings?
 
Remove the angst and focus on incremental learning for long term improvement.

Defeating Average.

Colin

20/10/5/3

What do the numbers 20, 10, 5, 3 have in common?

In this three-part blog I’m going to answer a recent mentees question on how you prepare for an executive presentation.

Three ways:

1. Managing time
2. Content
3. Mental preparation

In this first, it’s managing time. The answer to the question above is – it’s the four lengths of presentations you should prepare for (in minutes) when conducting an executive presentation.

Busy executives will either start right on time and end 5 min early in a 30-minute meeting to get ready for their next meeting or may show up late coming from another high priority meeting.

I can’t tell you the number of times I have heard, sorry “x critical issue came up” and you have 20, 10, 5 or 3 minutes to share your idea…and you need to include feedback time and next steps.

Once I’m done drilling the content, I’ll run it three more times in shorter time frames.

In the next post we’ll talk about content.

Colin

I don’t like my job

Part 3

In her NY Times article and a part-time gig as work friend, Megan Greenwell writes about How Your Job Will Never Love You Back.”

Here are four buckets Megan puts most work anxiety into:

  1. My boss annoys me.

  2. My co-workers (usually millennials) annoy me.

  3. I am dissatisfied with the type of work I do and/or don’t know what to do next.

  4. I don’t actually have serious work problems but I am anxious about that.

I remember sitting down with one of my early mentors in sales, Rick after a sales call. He was a big burly guy with force and a kind heart. We talked about what I did well and where I could improve. One of the things he picked up for me, that even when I made some mistakes in the sales process, I was intently focused on listening and getting back on track.  It may have been a winding road, but I achieved the objective.

Fast forward eight years and in the first couple sessions with my coach I hired, she asked me to do a strengths test by Gallup organization.

What I was naturally geared towards and how did I think?

What came up for me:

  • Learner – I love to learn

  • Context – Once I get more detail, I can make fast decisions

  • Futuristic – I like to vision things out

  • Relator – Building relationships on the way to a goal is important

  • FOCUS – Give me a big project, and I will dig deeper into it and get it done.

Managers in the past had told me to shore up my weaknesses instead of leveraging my strengths. After 20+ years in sales, I can tell you, top performers leverage what they have.

So if you are dissatisfied with your work, I would offer you two exercises:

  1. Take the strengths test (think it cost $15-$20 now). Strengths bring you awareness and how and why you are good at some things more than others and offer you a connection to fulfillment in your career.  Let them sync in for a week and then go back and review them again. It’s not an overnight fix, but a journey to smooth out that winding road and get you to where you should be.

  2. Take time to write out what your top 3 values are, and why. Mine are Trust, Growth, and Adventure. Once you know what defines you, it’s much easier to say yes and no to life choices.

Rick saw early potential in me and helped me see clearly where I should focus.

Strengths Test

Defeating Average.

Colin

Life is Like a NYC Marathon

In the spirit of all those runners who braved the course to run the NYC Marathon yesterday, this one is for you.
 
A Marathon is 26 miles.
 
Here is what I learned from the one I ran:
 
  • Don’t ride too high or too low. The less you mentally travel, the more energy you actually have for your legs.
  • When you hit a wall, small or big…and you will…get curious.
    • Ask, what is possible right now?
    • What is the learning opportunity?
    • What can I focus on in the next 5 minutes?
Visualize the race ahead of time, and like a good narrative, beginning, middle, and end. I only remember four things from the NYC Marathon I ran in 2003:

  • Beginning: Running across the Verrazano Bridge with 30K+ other runners and how it felt like it was moving
  • Middle: Being ahead of target time half way through
  • End: Hitting the wall with a mile to go and really grinding it out
  • Celebration: Enjoying dinner with other runners toasting the moment

If you think about it, with a year being 52 weeks and a marathon 26 miles, its a good analogy for life.

Write your narrative and chunk out your mile marker every couple weeks…and keep moving.

Defeating Average.

Colin