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.

Hero: Bob Herbert

The already-reeling newspaper medium is suffering another loss: Bob Herbert is leaving the New York Times. In his final column for the paper, Herbert has published a useful summary of our country’s worrisome strategic mistakes. In “Losing Our Way,” Herbert finishes an inspiring career at NYT of publishing the hard truths when other journalists are afraid to report.

The America in “Losing Our Way” reveals how greed rules as the most wealthy keep all the profits to themselves, leaving the bottom 95% to compete in a ever-more bleaker job market. Even bright young graduates are forced into careers that limit their ability to accomplish goals. Wages are too low to think about starting a family, and the future seems more uninviting every day. In times like this, peak performance in career planning is more important than ever.

How can you, or someone you know, hope to rise above these challenges and conquer the competitive job market?

  • Solidify your vision of your ideal job. Excelling is far easier when you have the passion for your work.
  • Launch an entrepreneurial endeavor. The Amplifier Blog has previously posted tips for doing this such as a guide to planning, a list of excellent resources, and some advice on keeping your plans flexible.
  • Always keep an eye on your personal brand and how potential employers might see you.
  • Be flexible with your business/career plan. Be willing to change directions when you know that is what is needed.

Bob Herbert’s final column at the New York Times is an accurate portrait of a country in crisis, but Full Life’s coaching services can inspire you to meet the heightened challenges and and compete for diminished resources.

What are your thoughts?


Could Coaching be a Useful Life Tool?

You may want to get unstuck. Feeling stuck is very common these days, whether regarding a job, unemployment, relationship, or other area of life. It’s easy to resign yourself to uncomfortable situations and convince yourself that they’re going OK. This isn’t ultimately healthy, though.

Full Life Executive Coaching reveals that you have the potential for greatness in all areas of your life. The Full Life approach assists you in: understanding your unique obstacles and challenges, crystallizing your vision, facilitating your rise to peak performance, and creating the incremental goals necessary to accomplish your ambition.

What results could coaching yield for you at work and in your life?

  1. You could discover the motivation to design a brand new career tailored to your talents and abilities.
  2. You could create new opportunities and learn to rethink what’s possible.
  3. You could reinvigorate your relationship with your spouse or significant other.
  4. You could optimize your current job or career and reconnect to what you do as if it were new.
  5. You could actively plan your transition into a next-phase of life and receive support in enacting your plan.

Full Life offers a variety of services, from one-on-one coaching to inspirational talks for organizations and groups.


A Malleable Personal Brand

This month’s Harvard Business Review contains an excellent article for anyone’s career development called “Reinventing Your Personal Brand.” The article discusses how you can alter others’ perceptions of your personal and professional story as it applies to your career. As you try to climb the corporate ladder guided by your ambitions and your own ideas of what you could do, you will find that people instead judge you based on your past work. Reinventing your personal brand allows you to change what others look at when assessing your prior accomplishments and perhaps see you in a more positive light.

The list of five tips that the article gives is:

  1. Define your destination – Make a plan of where you want your career to go and develop the skills necessary to get there.
  2. Leverage your points of difference – Pick out what makes you stand out and learn to use it to your advantage.
  3. Develop a narrative – Frame your previous experience in an interesting way that will make you the right choice for the job.
  4. Reintroduce yourself – In addition to making new contacts with your new brand, update your old ones on who you are becoming.

At Full Life, one of the most common services we provide is next-phase career coaching, and the above tips are a great introduction to our approach.

How will you bring your unique talents to a job? Develop your personal brand to quickly present yourself to others.

How could you re-do your personal brand?


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?


Both Fun and Discipline are Keys to an Effective Budget

A New York Times article titled “Why A Budget is Like a Diet—Ineffective” discusses some ways that modern budgets don’t work and how to fix that. A major reason that budgets are ineffective is that they turn saving money into a chore that isn’t any fun.

The comparison between a budget and a diet made in the title is interesting, because it relates to my coaching for weight control with some clients. I’ve long felt that living within your means, whether with respect to calories or finances, should be kept effective and fun with occasional opportunities to disregard the restrictions.

Here are some of my tips on how to make a budget last:

  1. Pick a purpose for which you’re saving. A vacation, a new house, a new car, or even and important goal, are good examples. This will make your savings more concrete and real, instead of just a number on your computer screen.
  2. Splurge every once in a while. I coach dieters to pick one night a week to eat out and go off the calorie budget a little, so that the process of restraint doesn’t seem so endless. The same goes for limiting your spending. Set aside a little bit of money to pick something you’ll really enjoy and that will make the most of your money.
  3. Spend money on experiences, not things. Experiences will be all the more rewarding because they’ll bring you closer to those you are with and they will make memories that will last longer than simple items might. Go to concerts with friends or loved ones, go on a remote hiking or canoeing trip, or pick an exciting vacation destination. Focus on building memories, not acquiring possessions.
  4. Split your money into separate accounts: for fixed expenses, saving, unforseen urgent expenses, and luxury expenses. As the article states, it’s more beneficial to set aside a little money for luxuries than to take small amounts from your fixed or urgent budget. This helps limit unnecessary spending and whatever you don’t spend can either be rolled into the rest of your budget or saved for the next month’s luxury budget.

Remember that achieving budget control depends on having fun and continuing to have some luxuries over time.

What are your thoughts?


More New Resources for Entrepreneurs

Last Tuesday, the New York Times ran an article about a kitchen for rent in New York City called “A Kitchen-for-Rent Is a Lifeline for the Laid-Off.” The article explores the benefits offered by the very interesting new business: underfunded chefs and aspiring restauranteurs without access to a kitchen of their own can pay reasonable prices to use top-of-the-line facilities by the hour to either practice their skills or cook up products to sell. The kitchen facilities include just about every basic appliance needed in a modern kitchen, and is kept very clean and in good repair.

This article has three areas of interest for me: for one, it’s a great way to save money and gain experience when starting out specifically in the restaurant industry. Secondly, it’s a great example of the expanded resources available to entrepreneurs afforded by the internet and new levels of creativity. Third, it’s an excellent example of a very unique idea for a business that creatively fulfills a market need while providing an excellent service.

As an entrepreneur myself, I can attest to the merits of services similar to this one. Last week I published a blog post about young entrepreneurs creating their own jobs just out of college, making do with low bank rolls by utilizing internet resources to save money. This is another example of a resource, and proof that it’s not only young entrepreneurs that are taking advantage of the new business world’s opportunities.

Here are a few options to consider while ruminating on entrepreneurial endeavors:

  1. Are there hourly resources for me to utilize like the kitchen-for-rent? Think about a potentially expensive necessity required by your business idea and find out if there’s a cheap way to outsource the investment by renting it or only using it hourly.
  2. Consider how long you’ll have to take advantage of these resources. Will it just be temporary while you build the capital to pay for your own? Or will it by the permanent business model? I, for example, rented an hourly distinguished mailing address and meeting space in Chicago when just starting out with Full Life before moving to our current office in Lincoln Park. You should consider how long this arrangement will last early on in the process.
  3. Calculate which arrangement will be more pragmatic. If you’re planning on keeping the enterprise up for such a long time that it would save you money to, for example, put together your own kitchen, then consider that option.
  4. Don’t be afraid to adapt your plans as events transpire. If business takes off more than expected, consider flexible rental agreements so you can be flexible in how you expand over time.

These types of creative resources have made starting a business easier than ever before, and those with business ideas should re-examine choices with these possibilities in mind.

What are your thoughts?


Simplify and De-clutter Your Life

An exchange variously attributed to an interviewer and either John D. Rockefeller or J. Paul Getty—both astronomically wealthy oil tycoons—goes like this: A reporter asks the interviewee how much money is enough, and the response comes: “Just one dollar more.” Indeed, mankind has grown more and more materialistic and possession-motivated in the last century. A new movement resisting this notion is gathering steam, however, claiming that people might be happier once they actively limit their possessions and focus on relationships with those close to them.

An article in the New York Times called “But Will It Make You Happy?” contains an overview of the movement. Most commonly, websites that support the minimalist philosophy gauge the metrics of how simplified your life is by counting your possessions. The blog Stuck in Stuff has a number of articles about limiting what you own to 100 items, and it’s this type of site that inspires the people discussed in the NYT article. 100 items is an extreme, but we all have something to incorporate regarding simplification.

The effect of cutting off superfluous attachments is to drastically simplify your life and eventually allow you to focus on being happy. It works like this: as you limit your possessions, you need less space and less transportation to go about your everyday life. This means you spend less money on smaller apartments and transportation, which means you can work to earn money to support yourself, not your possessions.

An unhappy worker is unproductive, no matter the industry. Cutting ties to possessions and trimming fat can be a very liberating action, and can contribute to happiness. If you feel like you’re working for those around you and to support your habits, not your choices, maybe simplifying your lifestyle is a good idea.

What are your thoughts?


Habits: Challenging How We Think About Study Habits

A terrific article describes groundbreaking effective study strategies in “Forget What You Know About Good Study Habits,” informing us about new cognitive research that challenges conventional ideas about the best ways to learn and study. I have never identified with boring and repetitive study habits, and instead have found that mixing up and varying one’s approach is the way to go when it comes to effective studying or work output. I was intrigued to find that this research confirms my own preferences and the methods I teach to Full Life clients.

There are two main ideas that the article takes issue with: first was the idea that students should have a set place where they always study. Actually, as I’ve found and as the article reports, it’s better to learn and work from a variety of different locations. The article explains that we make numerous subtle associations between the subject we’re studying and our surroundings while we study it; and by changing our location, we force the brain to make multiple associations to increase retention. I noticed this practice helped me greatly when I was writing my book, Fire Your Therapist, which I wrote in many different places: one day I would work from home, one day from the office, another day from Starbucks, then in Florida. This kind of alternating also helps you from getting fatigued: by varying your surroundings, changing the background “noise” and keeping the routine from getting boring.

The second convention that the article challenges is the idea that the best way to learn large amounts of new material is immersion in each separate subject. I’ve found that it helps more to turn studying into something of an exercise regiment—just as you vary speed, weight, and power training in a workout, you might consider sampling different kinds of subject matter in each study session to build mental connections between the different subjects, thereby replicating a multitasking testing experience while you study. Immersion may still have a place in a study regiment, but it’s good to see it supplemented with more innovative and effective study methods.

So new study approaches include:
1. Vary study locations
2. Vary background noise/music
3. Vary light, temperature, smells, tastes
4. Study by sampling and limit immersion

It’s always difficult to disregard conventional thinking, even in the face of empirical research. This has always been evident, and we can see it in the article: the research that led to claims that alternating a study space is helpful comes from 1978, yet students are still widely told to set aside a dedicated study space and stick to it. In fact, there are more conventional beliefs about learning that don’t hold up to scrutiny. Study habits are widely stuck in antiquated ruts, and need to be supplemented with modern innovations.

What are your thoughts?


Possibility: 40 Years of Talk or Getting Results

Daphne Merkin’s August 8, 2010 article My Life in Therapy demonstrates how a long-term patient can become disillusioned with therapy, in part due to the discipline’s top-down and judgmental approach. Unfortunately, therapy is often more concerned with the therapist’s interests, not with your desired outcomes. Whether or not we want to admit it, the history of therapy has involved judgment, where the therapist interprets your ambitions and issues as problems or mental disorders. Also, for this reason, many minorities avoided therapy since the word spread that people were often more hurt than helped. What is needed now is a time-efficient and respectful multi-cultural approach for all clients to both manage issues and achieve goals, while implementing their own ideas of the life you want.

Like a lot of other people, Merkin’s article speaks of growing disillusionment with therapy, in part due to how the discipline is often therapist-centric, as opposed to chiefly concerned with your well-being.

Coaching is actually an “architectural” and design-oriented process with problem solving and goal-setting technologies for clients to utilize. Therapists have historically been called shrinks, and the new generation of coaches (ideally with clinical training as their foundation) are better described as “expanders”. Coaching helps you construct your career and life in order to achieve greater satisfaction and even “optimal performance”. It’s an exciting time, as coaching can combine the effective aspects of therapy with pursuit of your vision and goals. People are growing frustrated with the frequently narrow and “pathologizing” therapy process. Clients yearn for useful tools to survive in this increasingly competitive world. As the paradigm of therapy wanes, coaching provides an exciting client-centric alternative.


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