What Strength Will You Focus on in 2015?

“It doesn’t take a lot of strength to hang on. It takes a lot of strength to let go.” (J. C. Watts)

In 2015, I will focus on developing some relatively newly-discovered strengths and deliberately designing around the well-trodden paths of my weaknesses.

  • Strengths: I will spend more time writing and speaking (a relatively newly-discovered strength). Both of these activities fill me with energy and purpose, and bring color into my life. I have already discussed this with my employer and designed my job description to focus on these areas.
  • Weaknesses: I will stop pretending that I have significant strengths in detail orientation and follow-through. I will rely on people who are strong in these areas, so that I can dream big and still deliver.

Please share: What strength will you focus on in 2015? Or what weakness are you chasing that you will let go or turn over to someone else?  Please share with our community by commenting below.

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The 1, 2, 3’s on Leading a Strength-Focused Life

The 1 / 2 / 3’s on Leading a Strength-Focused Life

  1. What are your greatest strengths? Do you know what they are? (If not, why not?)

“Each person’s greatest room for growth is in the areas of his/her greatest strength.” (Marcus Buckingham)

  1. Is there a strength or talent you have let lie dormant or that you need to focus on in 2015? 

“You will excel only by maximizing your strengths, never by fixing your weaknesses.” (Marcus Buckingham)

  1.  Have you been pursuing a weakness at work or in another area of your life you need to let go in 2015? 

 “It doesn’t take a lot of strength to hang on. It takes a lot of strength to let go.” (J. C. Watts)

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Want help finding your strengths?   http://strengthssummit2015. eventbrite.com

A Perspective on Time and Speed: Guest Post from Tom Stat

Tom is a great friend, colleague and former partner at IDEO in Chicago and an horologist in his own right. A few end-of-the-year thoughts from Tom:

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As the Earth completes its orbit around the Sun, marking what we call one full year, and we somewhat arbitrarily celebrate the beginning of a new year (there’s no start or finish line in our orbit around the sun), I thought I’d try to put all this in perspective.

First, we make up this thing we call “time.” Someone once said we did so this so that everything doesn’t happen all at once. There is no now, no past and no future. Time exists only as our sensory experience of mass and space. And mass and space depend on distance – where things are, so to speak, in relationship to other objects, how fast you may be moving relatively, etc.

In the vast expanses of the Universe, we are tiny little beings gravitationally stuck to the surface of a tiny little planet, orbiting an average star 93 million miles away. And our star is one of over 200 billion stars in a relatively average galaxy of stars (we call our galaxy the Milky Way because on a very clear night a swath of “milkiness” seems to span the sky – this is us looking at the billions of other stars that make up our galactic disk “edge on”). There are over 100 billion other galaxies in our known Universe. There may be other universes (I suspect they are made up mostly of lost socks, keys, wallets and mittens)

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Despite our isolation, we’re moving pretty fast.

The Earth’s rotation on its axis (one day) means that you’re moving at 1000 mph.
The Earth’s rotation around the sun (one year) is at a velocity of 66,000 mph. 
In our galaxy’s local neighborhood of stars, our solar system is moving at a out 43,000 mph.
 And our whole galaxy is spinning (one galactic year) and based on our location, we’re moving at about 483,000 mph.

Add all that up and at some point, with respect to some other Galaxy, we’re all moving at close to 600,000 miles per hour through space!

Sounds fast, but our galaxy (the Milky Way) is about 100,000 light years in diameter (that’s 587 quadrillion (after a trillion) miles across). So even at the speed of light (186,000 miles per second!) it would take 100,000 years to get to the other side. At a mere 600,000 mph, better pack a lunch.

So, if time seems to sometimes fly by and sometimes stand still, perhaps this is why.

One Resolution for 2015: “Race Your Strengths”

“Race Your Strengths” was a refrain repeated daily for decades by Mike Walden, the head coach for a small cycling club in Detroit Michigan. During those 25+ years, this small club produced over 120 national champions, 12 world champions, 10 Olympians and 4 Olympic medals. There was no mysterious talent pool in Detroit during this period, and all of the athletes were local. Nonetheless, by a relentless focus on helping people find their strengths as athletes, this one club produced more than 25% of all national cycling medalists for a 25 year period.

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For 2015 I propose we make only one resolution – the kind of resolution that “floats all boats.” For 2015 I propose that we follow Mike Walden’s advice and extend it beyond athletics. Let’s design our lives to align closer to our strengths and natural talents, and design around those activities that are true weaknesses. When we are operating in sync with our native capabilities, we are more resilient: we can handle greater amounts of stress because we are filling our bucket with energy and positive feedback. When we are pursuing activities that are in line with our strengths, we experience more moments of “flow” where time speeds by in the present, buts creates a treasure trove of significant memories. When we are “racing our strengths” we have more and greater chances to have life-defining moments of “really living,” experiences of such meaning and gravity, that time slows, stops, or even expands.

Life is short: time to race your strengths. 

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Do Your Strengths Have a Color? Talents and Synaesthesia…

Synaesthesia is one of my new favorite words and concepts.

As Wickipedia defines it, synaesthesia (or synesthesia) “is a neurological phenomenon in which stimulation of one sensory or cognitive pathway leads to automatic, involuntary experiences in a second sensory or cognitive pathway. People who report such experiences are known as synesthetes.”

Synesthetes often experience this phenomenon in the course of every day life – vowels, for example for many synesthetes have colors where as consonants don’t. But I’m particularly interested in the intersection of synaethesia and strengths and talents. What if your strengths and areas of talent have a color or a sound, or both?

For years I’ve been describing my feelings when in a state of “flow” or deeply immersed in an area of strength as having a color – often a vibrant blue or yellow or orange and conversely moments of weakness as colorless, black or red. What I never talked about and never knew how to articulate is that in these “photisms” or “chromesthesia” episodes I actually SAW these colors, tasted and heard these colors. In fact, my personal form of synaethesia involves color and sound – a hum, or thrumming permeates my brain and I see what I’m doing tinged with vibrant colors of orange, yellow and violet blue that has a fractal nature about it. Examples:

“The pixels of light and darkness captured in the mind’s eye are filled with the pallet of color of the results – hence the memories of winning somehow pull from the yellows, blues and golds, success and color implying a relatively easier effort, while the losses are inevitably painted with the charcoals of those chiaroscuro efforts – blackened, brutish, pain and disappointment closely linked.”

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“I choose to repaint this race differently. And in so doing what I did accomplish was a unique mastery of the instrument of my body. For over two hours, I played it like the first violinist – drawing out of it with every lash of the straight bow every possible note, every emotion, every tremble of resonance the space of ribs and air and bones was capable of producing.”

Conversely when I’m suffering or pursuing a weakness, color and sound disappears… an example:

“The halls of pain echo for an experienced athlete. The suffering is nothing and yet is everything. The pain is white. It is black. It lacks color or sibilant sound – just reverberations reflecting off the porcelain tiles of the stony discipline of the psyche. But blood, glittering red-black blood, pulses through hidden rivulets in the gutters of the mind.”

As a kid when I would ride my bike – whenever there was a sprint or an acceleration I would hum inside my head. In the early days it was sort of a motorcycle sound and I assumed it was an artifact not dissimilar to putting a playing card in the spokes to sound like a motor, but over time I just realized I did the same thing when skating or when painting or when working certain subjects in school. Now I get it when I’m writing, riding, racing or traveling.

So an oft repeated question is, “how do I know if something I’m doing is a strength?” “How do I know if something I’m doing is a weakness, or just a skills gap?”

Perhaps one way to know might to be to simply ask, “what color is it? what does it sound like?”

I close every speech on finding your strengths with the following advice: When seeking your strengths, “pay attention to your internal hum: you’ll know it when you see it, feel it, hear it.”

PS: this whole post was a medium blue, tinged with some yellow.

A Story of Really Living: Guest Post by Neil Sprackling

A Moment of Really Living

I grew up with an undying passion for soccer and in particular my team Crystal Palace FC, the club where I was born and raised in South London. This has everything to do with my father and my obsession seems to have become greater the older I have become.

Fast forward 40 years and I have a son of my own, Julen, born and raised in Australia and now living in the United States. No reason at all that he should either like soccer or be a blossoming Crystal Palace FC fan. Fortunately for me he is both (which might have a sneaky bit to do with me).

As his loyalty with the club increased, I realized I wanted to do something special for him that I never did at his age: be a match day mascot. Now of course when I was 11, being a mascot was not the experience it is today. So on the eve of the 2012/13 season I called the club to inquire about Julen becoming a mascot. I was told that as long as I wasn’t looking for a game in the coming months, it would be no problem. So I chose a game towards the end of the season, mindful that I would need to organise a weekend and flights to London for the occasion.

I waited for a special moment at one of our traditional family Sunday evening roast dinners to tell him. I wasn’t even sure whether he knew what a mascot was but on sharing the news of our impending weekend, his face said it all as he broke out into a huge beaming smile. I’ll never forget the moment.

Fast forward a couple of months to our weekend together in London. I was intent on making it a weekend we’d never forget so on arrival in London, we spent the afternoon at the Natural History museum and then caught a sci-fi movie. The next day we did an open top bus tour of London, visited the Tower of London and finished the day with my brother and best friend at the theatre seeing Beatlemania. We spent so much quality 1:1 time together, just chatting about anything that came to mind.

We saved the best for last of course. On Saturday April 13, we headed to Selhurst Park, South London, home of my beloved Eagles. We got there 3 hours before kick off to be greeted at the players’ entrance and taken to the VIP lounge for lunch. Julen changed in to his full Palace gear  and was shepherded away to meet the team in the dressing room (the only part I couldn’t join!). He returned beaming from ear to ear, with the white T shirt we had bought (that said “Love Palace, Love Football”) signed by all the players and manager.

I had also arranged for my Dad and my brother to join us on the day and they arrived as Julen disappeared back into the dressing room to prepare for the team’s pre-match warm up on the pitch. I was allowed to go pitch side to take photos and much to my delight, I was even given permission to stand by the players’ tunnel with my video camera as both teams entered the stadium. As Julen came out hand in hand with the club captain, I had tears in my eyes.

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It was a wonderful game that finished 2-2 and the icing on the cake was that Palace went on to the play off final that year, won the game and got promoted back to the Premier League. The stuff that dreams are made of.

On our last day in London we met up with my Dad and step Mum and they took us on a mini road trip around the area of South London where I was born including the town where my Dad was raised . This was made all the more special by stories from my Dad about growing up in London during World War 2

On our return to the US, I had his signed T shirt framed together with photos from the day and the ticket stub. It was a day that neither of us will ever forget and was truly a “moment of really living”.

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The “Really Living” Manifesto

There’s no such thing as chronological time
There’s no such thing as chronological time
There’s no such thing as chronological time…

  • How long did summers last as a kid?
  • Splashing into the lake, riding bikes across busy streets
  • Crushes, broken hearts, bruises and dirty knees
  • We all know summer lasted “forever” as a kid..
  • Everything was new – we really lived everything we did
  • And now? How long do they last, in this world of the mundane?
  • I don’t know about you but I ache to live endless summers again
  • Neuroscientists tell us that the experience of time is relative
  • And that the drivers behind its flexibility are cognitive
  • Kahneman calls it, “Thinking Fast and Slow”
  • Csikszentmihalyi, he calls it “Flow.”
  • Regardless, it is a paradox we all can see
  • That when time accelerates in the present, it expands in memory
  • This thing here: (clock) it’s a lie.
  • We’ve been lied to, side-tracked, distracted, manipulated
  • This ticking, this tocking – this terrible terminal tracking of the ticking of time teaching us trivial untruths:
  • It taught us that each second is exactly the same,
  • That each minute, each hour, each day,  progresses in a linear way
  • And that each is the same distance from the last
  • That these clicks are an equal measure of the past
  • But wait, time, time is like a river right?
  • Sure time is a river all right, but not this kind of river
  • No, time is river; that ebbs and flows, from trickles to rapids, waterfalls and pools, they bend, they bow, they curve, they dry up,
  • In the brain it is the same game, the river of time is to blame, the fact is that we don’t experience time always the same.
  • This thing here (the brain) is quite different than this thing here (watch)
  • As it turns out, this thing (brain) doesn’t have one of these (watch)
  • Or more accurately it has a whole bunch of these running at different speeds
  • Time in our brains doesn’t tick tock tick tock with equal density
  • Time in our brains is dependent on our experiences – and their relative intensity
  • Physics teaches us the theory of relativity:
  • In a massive gravitational pull there’s a change in activity
  • As we accelerate towards the speed of light
  • That there is an “event horizon” where we lose all sight.
  • Time inside stops relative to the outside world
  • Under the massive forces and compression even time itself is swirled
  • It’s a slinky on a staircase, a complex blue fractal
  • It’s a radical rollercoaster, string theory in a cats cradle…
  • It is bellows and helixes and event horizons at the ends
  • Time stops when it speeds up, it accelerates when it bends
  • What about your life – is time speeding or slowing down?
  • 98% of adults feel life is accelerating, I don’t know about you, but that brings me down
  • HOW.IS.THAT.OK?
  • Who ordered the code red? (who let Tom Cruise in this monologue? – he’s too short – just like your life)
  • You want the truth? You can’t handle the truth
  • Here’s your code red:  Here’s the truth: Experiential time, absent aggressive action to reverse it, will keep speeding up
  • So… Go ahead, avoid the highs and lows of life – and here’s what you are going to get :
  • Each September will come faster, leaves piled at your feet
  • and no one, NO ONE will warm you or sing you to sleep
  • Want to speed through life with nothing to remember? Here’s how to reap another pale September:
  • Watch lots of TV, sit on the couch,
  • Eat the exact same foods, develop a pouch
  • Meet no new friends, become a stay at home grouch
  • Do the same damn thing every single day, walk with a slouch
  • Your arm chair? The gauze of advil, and air conditioning, Your staid routines and complacent pace?
  • These things are the warp drive to temporal hyperspace.
  • You think you are half done with life or even less?
  • No, only 10% of your experiential time is left for you to save
  • You have one foot, a torso, two hands, and a watch in the grave
  • Be safe, stick with your routine, be comfortable, live “the dream”
  • and die in a few temporal seconds. Goodnight, you’re dead, end of scene.
  • It is time.
  • It is time to either get busy dying or get busy really living
  • It is time to get dirty, to get sick, to burnout and recover, to fall in love, to have a broken heart, to fall apart and then get back up again
  • Time to eat a moruga scorpion pepper without milk.
  • Time to get back out there, get back in there,
  • Time to get off the hedonic treadmill,
  • Time to unclimb the corporate ladder
  • I want to climb the ladder of my internal clock
  • I want to clock the ladder of my internal climb
  • I want to slow the hands of father time
  • and time the slow hands of my fatherhood
  • I want to kiss my young child’s forehead and wake to find her still a child
  • I want to love the loves of my life and live a life that I love
  • I want to sleep the dreams of heroes and be the hero of my dreams
  • I accept this kind of life may mean suffering for me
  • I will choose this suffering rather than let it choose me
  • It is time to create event horizons where meaning supercedes all
  • It is time…. to create moments of such gravity where time ceases to exist at all
  • For the people we truly love, this one sacred gift we can give
  • The gift back of time: It is time… to “really live”

“Every man dies, not every man really lives.”

It is Time: To Slow Time, to Expand Time, to Create Time

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I want to climb the ladder of my internal clock

I want to clock the ladder of my internal climb

I want to slow the hands of father time

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And time the slow hands of my fatherhood

I want to kiss my young child’s forehead and wake to find her still a child

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I want to love the loves of my life and live a life that I love

I want to sleep the dreams of heroes and be the hero of my dreams

I accept this kind of life may mean suffering for me

I will choose this suffering rather than let it choose me

It is time to create event horizons where meaning supersedes all

It is time…. to create moments of such gravity where time ceases to exist at all

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For the people we truly love, this one sacred gift we can give

The gift back of time:  It is time… to “really live”

 

“Every man dies, not every man really lives”

“Time” is the most common word in the English Language

It is time.

It is time to either get busy dying or get busy really living

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It is time to get dirty, to get sick, to burnout and recover, to fall in love, to have a broken heart, to fall apart and then get back up again

Time to eat a Moruga scorpion pepper without milk.

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Time to get back out there, get back in there,

Time to get off the hedonic treadmill,

Time to unclimb the corporate ladder

I want to climb the ladder of my internal clock

I want to clock the ladder of my internal climb

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I want to slow the hands of father time

And time the slow hands of my fatherhood

Your life is 90% over… when you think it is half done

You think you are half done with life or even less?

No, only 10% of your experiential time is left for you to save

You have one foot, a torso, two hands, and a watch in the grave

Be safe, stick with your routine, be comfortable, live “the dream”

and die in a few temporal seconds. Goodnight, you’re dead, end of scene.

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