Friday, January 21, 2011

Whatever happened to Toughness?

Last night I watched a great movie with my wife. It was the Cohen Brothers adaptation of "True Grit". It got me thinking.

The story is about a resolute 14 year old girl who sets out with a grizzled U.S Marshal and a flashy Texas Ranger to bring her father's murderer to justice. The trio braves the elements, classic western-style marauders and the ill company of each other to see the job done.

It was dramatized to be sure, but the rough and tumble lifestyle of the film wasn't altogether different from the one lived by our pioneering forebears. No one seems to remember it now, but there was a time (not so long ago) when "grit" was an admirable trait.

Now it seems like a couple decades of Oprah and her descendants Doctors Phil and Oz have us valuing sensitivity and tolerance. Which is fine, because these are important traits... but they need to be tempered with discipline, firmness, resolute morality and courage.

We have forgotten, it seems, that there is a time to stand your ground. A time to hit back. A time to forget triple A and change our own darn tire. A time to narrow our eyes dangerously and say, "I think you're trying to screw me, buddy," or maybe "You can't talk to me like that." There are situations in life where a bit of grit goes a long way.

Also, let us not forget that it was grit and toughness coupled with a resolute idea of what is right and what is wrong that founded this country.

A very wise man once told me that life was all about finding the balance between being nice and being tough. "People are born with one and need to learn the other," he said. "Most of the time, be nice. Occasionally, you need to know when to get tough." He was right.

Our society does a great job of teaching us to be nice at all costs. We need to do our jobs and teach our children the yin to that yang. For what it's worth - I'm proud to be in an industry that offers people the rare opportunity to grow a little backbone.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

How to stop bullying... forever.

New Jersey is passing some pretty aggressive anti-bullying laws in an attempt to make schools more accountable for bullying.

My opinion? It's yet another attempt on the part of government to get schools to do a job that parents should be doing.

Job #1: We need to do everything we can to bully-proof our kids. Build their self esteem and their confidence. Teach them to communicate effectively with bullies, teachers and friends.

Job #2: We need to identify our own children as bullies. Teach them compassion, respect - and most importantly empathy.

But what will stop bullying forever?

Most kids don't fit in Job #1 or Job #2 - but this doesn't mean parents are off the hook. Job #3 seldom gets any attention at all - and yet it's probably the most important.

Job #3: Teach kids who are not bullied or bullies not to tolerate other kids being bullied. Teach them that they can (and should) stick up for the weaker kids. Teach them to identify bullying and how to report it to teachers and parents.

If everyone does their part we can make life much easier and more enjoyable for bullied kids... and for bullies.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

The Most Important Thing I've Learned About Reaching Goals

Have you ever watched a movie that just hyped you up beyond belief? The year was 1976, and all over the country people were leaving movie theaters ready to hit the gym. They were hyped! Ready to conquer their goals. What did they see? "Rocky."

Or how many people left the movie "Taxi Driver" that same year risking life, limb and speeding tickets as they raced along the city streets? Stories - whether in books, movies or the theater have the ability to affect our psyche in powerful and profound ways. The right media fed to our brain has the ability to put us in a state of mind where we're ready to take on the world.

Tony Robbins refers to this as being "in state". Which is probably short for "a state of certainty". He's referring to the times when you are 100% confident, that you are absolutely certain of your outcome. Everyone has areas of their life where they have that kind of certainty at least some of the time. Whether it's the surgeon about to operate, the baseball player stepping up to bat or the Taekwondo athlete bowing in - everyone experiences this "state" at one time or another.

In this state, all things are possible.

Now there are lots of ways to put yourself in this state, but I think one of the easiest is using media. I know there are certain songs, books, videos, movies, t.v shows and websites that make me want to do certain things. If I don't want to work out I'll throw in Cindarella Man, Rocky or Fight Club. If I don't want to do my accounting I'll throw in Wall Street or read Rich Dad Poor Dad. If I want to get in the mood for a date I might listen to Etta James sing her wonderful song At Last.

What I have learned is that managing my state is the most important thing I do. I'll always get more done and do better work if I'm in state. Plus, it's fun. I enjoy what I'm doing instead of using discipline to make myself get things done. Making yourself do things is always a last resort.

There are days I'll come into the Taekwondo school in the morning and stare at my desk with absolutely zero motivation. If I feel like my state is the dumps I will actually take the time to watch as much of a movie, or listen to as many songs as it takes to get me to want to do the things I need to do. There are some rare days where I watch both Cindarella Man and read 1/2 of Rich Dad Poor Dad before I get a thing done.

Most people would tell you that spending the first two hours of your work day watching a movie was lazy and a total waste of time. I guess they'd be right if you were just watching any old thing. But by silencing the voice inside my head that says it's a waste of time, and listening to my belief that managing my state is the most important thing I can do - I have become insanely productive. Much more so than I otherwise would have been.

What you'll notice too is that the more you work on your state the less you need to work on it. You build momentum. Being productive and successful in an area will always make you want to work harder in that area. You just have to get the ball rolling.

So - take the time to manage your state. Take the time to figure out what media motivates you. Build youtube playlists. Collect DVDs that inspire you. Who always seems to motivate you in a 5 minute phone call without even trying? Figure out what the tools you need are and use them. You'll feel great getting a lot done, and you'll have a whole lot more fun doing it!