Stronger Than You Think

 

Intelligence, awareness and individualism are all excellent qualities to develop in executive coaching. Interestingly, these “differientators” may have caused problems during the high school years. A New York Times review of “The Geeks Shall Inherit the Earth,” a provocative new book by Alexandra Robbins, shows us that nerds often have successful adult lives.

Embracing who you are as an individual and making full use of your most positive, unique traits is what executive coaching is all about. Traits that arise in adolescence become integral to our character well beyond high school. The nerds in science, computers and theater might not have been star athletes or prom queens. But they have taken us to the moon, invented the iPod and written our favorite movies, books and plays.

Here are some survival tips from high school that remain relevant in our executive coaching work today:

  • Don’t be afraid of being original. Going against the grain is the first step to discovery and innovation. Look at Bill Gates who bucked the trend of complicated computers, created a user-friendly interface, and made a fortune.
  • Never be ashamed of doing what you love. Concentrating on your own happiness and fulfillment (as opposed to what you think others expect from you) will play an important role in everything from your job to your relationships.
  • Your uniqueness can be your strongest quality. Bullies and those privy to the whims of the group are often doomed to “peak” in high school. In adulthood, “yes-men” and “office sheep” won’t get much farther in life.
  • Embracing your personal AND unique qualities makes you stand out and commands the respect of your peers.

How does this apply to you? Leave questions and comments below.

 


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Hero: Elizabeth Taylor

The most recent celebrity death had the silver lining of reminding us of their numerous social and community-oriented accomplishments. The star from the Golden Age of Hollywood Elizabeth Taylor died on March 23 at 79 years old from heart disease. A woman of supreme beauty and grace, Taylor also exhibited enormous philanthropic generosity throughout her life, and is commended as a Full Life Hero for her contributions to both film and society.

Elizabeth Taylor is especially notable for her contributions to AIDS charities, including co-founding the American Foundation for AIDS Research (amfAR) and for raising more than $270 million for the cause. She was one of the first public figures to speak out against AIDS at a time when many people denied the existence of the disease, and hosting the first AIDS fundraiser in 1984. Taylor also devoted time and money to other philanthropic causes.

What can readers of the Full Life Amplifier Blog learn from Elizabeth Taylor’s life of philanthropy and selflessness?

  • Devote yourself to the causes that have not only personal meaning for you, but also a major impact on others. Taylor first became involved in the fight against AIDS after her friend and frequent costar Rock Hudson announced that he suffered from the disease, but her contributions from this relationship helped more people than she ever knew.
  • All causes deserve attention and effort. Elizabeth Taylor made substantial donations in 2009 to charities for religions other than her own in order to facilitate the education of less-fortunate children. She did not allow differences in religious beliefs to limit her contributions to great causes.
  • Investments and planning can continue your legacy even after your death. Some of Taylor’s jewelry—valued at approximately $150 million—is going to be auctioned off for AIDS charities, continuing her philanthropic streak even after she’s gone.
  • Pay no mind to what the critics may say. Taylor was no stranger to controversy, especially regarding her numerous marriages and extravagant lifestyle. Nevertheless, by all accounts Taylor was happy with her station in life even in her twilight years.

Elizabeth Taylor’s consistent concern with philanthropic endeavors demonstrates her selflessness. She made huge contributions to charities and nonprofits that undoubtedly raised the quality of countless lives. It is a pleasure to honor one of our greatest stars for both her acting and altruistic achievements.

What are your thoughts?

JS

How can we curb the spread of stigma against the overweight?

In a New York Times article called “Spreading Fat Stigma Around the Globe,” it’s being demonstrated that cultural views of obesity are becoming more and more negative. Even in cultures like Puerto Rico where the ideal of beauty has more curves, the tide of public perception about obesity is turning; an increasing number of people are perceiving overweight people as lazy as opposed to being perceived as suffering from a condition resulting from genetic and social circumstances.

It’s easy to be judgmental about an overweight person, especially if their condition is unpleasant or inconvenient for you. But it’s important to remember that genetic factors play an enormous role in a person’s weight, and that losing excess weight takes a great deal of discipline and self-control. Stigmatizing obesity will not help: shame is never a good motivator.

What can you do to avoid developing a judgmental attitude towards the overweight?

  1. Stay respectful towards others by constantly trying to empathize with them. Think about things you’re ashamed of and how mortified you’d be if someone were to draw attention to them. Don’t dwell on this, but at least keep it in mind.
  2. Be polite to overweight people, even if they inconvenience you in some way. For example, many people can recall an occasion where they’ve had to sit next to one on a crowded plane or bus. If your “space” is invaded, consider whether you can politely ask them to move slightly, or if you can discretely ask a flight attendant if you could switch seats. But do not allow yourself to grow rude or impatient as this would further propagate disrespect of the overweight.
  3. Don’t ever draw attention to an obese person’s appearance, which could make the problem worse by raising their levels of self-consciousness.

Resist the temptation to negatively judge others. Obesity is an epidemic, and shaming its victims is counterproductive and belittling. More importantly, it’s never productive to cultivate judgmental attitudes about others, even internally.

What are your thoughts?

JS

Empathizing with Seniors

A recent article in the New York Times called “A Graying Population Spells Business Opportunity” explores the business opportunities surrounding an aging population. As the baby boomers enter retirement age, they’re going to bring with them BUYING POWER. As the NYT article demonstrates, marketers are starting to wake up to the potential boon of marketing to seniors.

Even now there is some stigma to marketing to seniors: young people don’t want products designed for the elderly, and many seniors don’t like the implied admission of their age that buying these products could mean. But with the huge potential that the growing senior population may bring, marketers are finally starting to come around and design products that could appeal to seniors, and sometimes to younger ages as well. The best example cited by the article is cars with motion sensors in reverse: this is meant to aid those unable to turn their necks while backing up, but it appeals to younger people interested in cool toys.

This doesn’t just mean that businesses can make lots of money by targeting the elderly in their product designs and marketing schemes. It also is important to address the fact that in ten years, we are going to have an unprecedented amount of seniors. If we don’t start paying attention to them with products offered, they’re going to have an even harder time. Baby boomers are unlikely to be willing to go into conventional retirement homes as previous generations have, so creative forward-thinking will be vital.

Here are some reasons that it’s essential that we start paying attention to the needs of seniors:

  1. It’s moral and respectful to care for seniors.
  2. It will preserve order. They are already a huge part of society and will only grow more significant. Failing to appeal to their needs will only result in an unhappy group of elderly people.
  3. It’s time to start paying attention the needs of the elderly. It’s time to wake up and give them the attention they deserve.
  4. It could mean very big money. If the needs of senior citizens are studied more closely, then new products and services could be devised to make their lives easier. People are retiring with bigger and bigger nest eggs; they have more money to spend and are looking to spend it on useful things.
  5. We’re going to get old, too. Let’s set a good example for the younger generation on how to treat the elderly. They’ll probably do the same, and whatever brilliant products and services we come up with now will still be around when it’s our turn.

Increasing the effort of marketing to seniors can only result in positive effects for everyone, so it’s very good to see people finally paying attention to the boomers and their elders.

What are your thoughts?

JS

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Resisting the Falling Education Standards

An article in last Saturday’s New York Times called “College the Easy Way” refers to the falling standards in America’s colleges to discuss the lowering standards of higher education in general. Students are taking easier courses, putting less effort into their studies, partying more, and eventually leaving college without sufficiently developing higher skills like complex reasoning, advanced communication, and critical thinking. It is worrisome that, even in times of skyrocketing tuition and attendance costs, the quality of American college education is in a steady decline. This cheats college students out of the education they’re paying for and students need to take more responsibility to learn and master subjects. More significantly, this trend is extremely dangerous for the American economy.

It’s been a commonly-cited statistic that American school children are less-prepared than their equivalents in other countries, especially Korea and Japan. Now, with the development that standards are falling for college students as well, the future seems all the more bleak. If we can’t teach future generations adequately, they’ll be less and less prepared to compete in the future’s global marketplace. American influence may fall as a result of large numbers of poorly educated college students.

This trend is a two-way street: colleges are allowing classes to become easier, but students still have an influence over the quality of education since they are the customers. Here are some things you can do to get the most out of higher education:

  1. Take difficult and well-taught classes. Not only will they be more intellectually stimulating, they will teach you more and better prepare you for the world after college. Look at teacher ratings before signing up for classes
  2. Forge relationships with professors and teaching assistants. Not only will this make difficult classes more fulfilling, but they may encourage you to do better and go farther with your studies.
  3. Take advantage of extracurricular learning opportunities. Most colleges have guest lectures and seminars from prominent intellectual authorities on a variety of subjects. Attend as many of these seminars as you can to broaden your scope of learning. You can also audit great classes and lectures.
  4. For parents: push your children to be their best and follow the above suggestions. You’re the most significant guiding force in their lives and you can have an important positive influence during college.

College standards might be beginning to let students down, but there are things students and the parents of students can do to resist this trend and work towards educational mastery.

What are your thoughts?

JS

Reacting to Negative Media Portrayals

A recent New York Times article called “The Disposable Woman” explores how the recent Charlie Sheen debacle reflects our culture’s view of women. Whereas it’s popular to view our society as progressive, with female empowerment and equality being touted, there is a marked discrepancy in how the media portrays women. Reality television often shows women as conniving and back-stabbing, and missing white woman syndrome mainstream media portrays women as helpless children. How can women truly be empowered if their media portrayals are so denigrating and insulting?

This dilemma isn’t unique to women. Many minority groups—i.e., racial, religious, or orientation—face the same sorts of discrimination. Using the current discussion of women as an example, here are some things a group receiving negative messages can do to maintain esteem:

  1. Speak out against casual antagonism. Don’t sit quietly while someone makes misogynistic, racist, or homophobic comments or implications. Avoid direct confrontation and calmly ask for explanation and respond maturely to everything they say. You may not change their mind, but you could change the mind of someone else listening.
  2. Question mainstream media coverage of minority groups. These tend to be broadcast through the lens of society in general, so they’re more than likely going to amplify the possibly harmful and disrespectful popular view.

Remember that insecurity lies at the root of most judgments. What are you insecure about? Who can you stop judging?

What are your thoughts?

JS

Hero: Gene Sharp

With the recent uprisings in Libya and Egypt, much of the world’s attention is focused on the ongoing struggle for universal democracy. One understated influence on these movements is the scholar Gene Sharp, an unbelievably humble political science professor at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth whose numerous tracts on nonviolent change have greatly inspired freedom seekers around the globe. Sharp’s revolutionary ideas are all the more impressive when one considers his incredible humility and old age. He refrains from taking credit for his influence, giving the Egyptians credit for their actions. The man is a true hero for peacefully advancing the cause of democracy and doing it based entirely on the strength of his ideas.

Sharp’s ideas expand upon those espoused by Mohandas Gandhi and Martin Luther King. In essence, Sharp’s philosophy emphasizes people’s strength in numbers and resilience to oppression. Despite the professor’s lack of experience with the internet, he also touts the use of new media both for organization and informing the world about the joys of freedom and news updates regarding potential oppression and hidden abuses. Though Sharp has his fair share of detractors that criticize his “passivity”, the wide spread reach of his work and the actions they have inspired speak for themselves.

Gene Sharp’s democratic teachings are incredibly admirable, and what’s even more impressive is that they come from such a self-effacing man. This professor is a true hero for his amazing contribution to the evolution of democracy.

What do you think about Sharp’s approach to change?

JS

Grief Recovery and Resilience Research

Recent research suggests that the human sense of resilience is stronger than previously thought. In a New York Times article called “Grief, Unedited,” research headed by George Bonanno from Teachers College, Columbia shows that people who lose spouses late in life recover more quickly from grief than is popularly thought. In most cases cited in the study, elderly widows and widowers mostly showed recovery from grief within six months of the loss of their spouse. This information speaks volumes for the human capacity for resilience and does not imply that humans are colder than previously thought: widows and widowers that move past their grief do not stop missing their deceased partner, but simply return to normal. It’s an inspiring thought that people can move on and reclaim their lives.

There’s common ground between this research and some articles about the resilience of 9/11 victims in New York. Like the widows and widowers study, surveys of New York residents who were in the city on September 11, 2001 show that they also recovered from the trauma at a higher rate than one might intuitively expect. Even around two thirds of those who were near the World Trade Center showed a high recovery rate and return to normalcy after just six months. This shows that the human spirit is remarkably strong, and stories about victims of tragedies regaining their mental and emotional health is very inspiring.

Here is some interesting further reading on resilience:

  1. The Other Side of Sadness by George A. Bonanno – This is the research cited in the article. Detailed examinations of both statistical and anecdotal evidence suggesting the human spirit is more resilient than most people think.
  2. 9/11 Resilience Study – This study demonstrates that even in the case of such an extreme and jarring tragedy as 9/11, victims are capable of bouncing back from PTSD very quickly. The study was conducted shortly after the 2001 attacks so promising results are discussed with some skepticism, but the more recent research seems to confirm the optimistic tone.
  3. “Grief: The Journey From Suffering to Resilience” by William F. Doverspike, Ph.D. – This is a more cautious guide to avoiding the pitfalls of chronic grief and developing resilience.

Despite the public’s assumptions regarding our respective responses to trauma, even people who receive minimal counseling have demonstrated an admirable and inspiring level of resilience. Now we know that people possess an amazing ability to adapt and thrive.

What do you think?

JS

Keeping Your Business Plan Flexible

A recent article in the New York Times called “Jilted in the U.S., a Site Finds Love in India” gives an interesting perspective on entrepreneurial endeavors. When the dating site Ignighter.com started a few years ago, the idea was a dating site with a unique twist: to avoid the pressure of setting up a classic one-to-one date, the site allowed you to arrange a group date for multiple people. The idea was fresh and the site gained some popularity in the US, but plateaued and became a disappointment stateside. The founders got some good news, though, when the site’s popularity in Southern Asia, especially India, began to climb. The team has now re-focused their attention on India and is enjoying great success as a result of adjusting to the market’s unique elements.

Time and time again, entrepreneurs that are flexible with their ideas appear to be the most successful. Although the site’s focus on group dating may have been misunderstood in the United States—some consumers may have assumed on first visit that the site was aimed at swingers—its unique charm has been largely embraced by an unexpected culture. The article suggests this is largely due to aspects about dating culture in India, especially the taboo against single men and women appearing in public alone. Although their service was developed with American consumers in mind, it appealed to an entirely different nation on the other side of the globe. By embracing this, the site’s creators are enjoying success that may not have occurred had they not been flexible.

Some tips on finding your market as an entrepreneur:

  1. Look for the most enthusiastic customers you get early on. Find out what they love about your service and how they’d improve it.
  2. Pay special attention to where your best customers come from. Don’t assume they are in your own backyard. Instead they may come from another land.
  3. Weather the slow times and keep an eye open for your niche markets. Find them if they don’t find you.

Be open to surprises regarding who is your best customer. It is always a little different from what you would think.

How else can you find your ideal customer?

JS

Technology and Spheres of Life

A recent article in the New York Times called “Who’s the Boss, You or Your Gadget?” raises an interesting point about holding a balance between your personal life and your professional life. Because modern communication technologies like smartphones and WiFi enable us to be in touch with numerous people at all times, it’s difficult to separate your work life from the rest of your life. It’s easy to get distracted by text messages with friends while at the office, as well as email conversations with co-workers while at home. This blurring of the line between work and home is unprecedented in its ubiquity and can be disruptive to leading a healthy life.

iPhones, laptops, and email have a way of making work and life bleed into one another, which can be challenging. Despite instant communication’s temptation to blend the diverse areas of life, you should strive to create some useful boundaries.

Here are some ways to manage technology and honor some boundaries:

  1. Limit the amount of time you spend on the internet and make personal phone calls while you’re at work. Do the same after office hours, unless you work non-traditional hours.
  2. Check your emails at regular intervals during the day and evening. Check your emails less frequently outside of work, unless you are working on a project at home.
  3. After checking your email, reply with brief efficient messages.
  4. Have coworkers call you on your office phone when they need to contact you when you’re at work, and turn your personal phone off.
  5. Only take files home that you absolutely need. The more you leave at work the healthier. Obviously, if you work at home, you need to have everything in your home office.

Technology has the potential effect of increasing productivity and work quality, but sometimes these gains come at the price of increased stress on employees. Don’t let this happen to you: pay attention to what constitutes balance in your life.

What are your thoughts about creating balance in your life?

JS

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