The Professional’s Pain

The Professional’s Pain

Originally published on www.resiliencei.com and reproduced with permission.
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How to create a good and productive life

Professionals face the sharp edge of acceleration – productivity, technology and connection with meaningful work.  At the same time, they seek Eudaimonia (a good life). The pace has become overwhelming. How does one solve this paradox?

After 28 years working for Professional firms, here are some perspectives and solutions.

 

1. You are the elite operators of business

The 21st century professional is an elite business expert. Stacked with skills, driven by relentless targets and thrust into truly risky engagements, professional life has become tough. You can no longer rely on genes and intellect. You must master your biology (body, emotion and mind) and continually refine your skill to expert levels and beyond.

This takes training, coaching, courage and relentless discipline. You must professionalise your life, your family and your practice. There is no way back. Think. Act. Improve.

 

2. To accelerate you have to impose discipline and rhythm

As all elite performers discover, there is a required routine of life mastery. The key factors of high level fitness, daily contemplation, excellent sleep and smart nutrition must be built into your day. By the way, you have to stop the dumb stuff. For practical suggestions:

3. Learn from the elite operators of our time

Admiral Bill McRaven, Navy Seal and commander for 30 years has an inspirational speech at the University of Texas Commencement address. It’s worth a brief watch. Make your Bed is his book. Get curious about how people like Roger Federer keep going.

If you want to build this into your operating practice, your team and your leadership read Extreme Ownership by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin. The leadership lessons are very powerful and the applications to professional engagements transformative.

 

4. Reflect on singularity. The answer is innovation

As cities and organisations accelerate and grow in a super-linear (exponential) way, we are reaching finite time singularity. In a nutshell, that means things are going so fast, the only way to avoid collapse is innovation. The cycles of innovation are compressing. This is the pain you feel. It is a sense that the improvements you make are absorbed in a flash. To explore this idea and the consequences for sustainability read Scale by Geoffrey West.

On one hand, professional firms have become their own worst enemies. On the other, it is the place to be for meaningful work, excellence and a fulfilling career. You are the elite. The science and practice are well worked out. Show bounce, courage, connection and creativity.

The professional’s pain is the crucible of success.

Infographic: How to Master Your Day like a Resilient Professional

Infographic: How to Master Your Day like a Resilient Professional

Originally published on www.resiliencei.com and reproduced with permission.
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The freedom to be your best is built upon the discipline of mastering your biological rhythms.  Experts know what they need to lock down and practice on a daily basis to allow for their optimal function. Elite athletes reach their potentialby constructing a routine based around cycles of deliberate practice, feedback, nourishment and rest.

While our playing fields may be different, we can all take steps to secure our non-negotiables (sleep, exercise, nutrition, family time) and focus our energy when we are biologically primed for maximum impact.

Infographic showing schedules for a lark (early riser) on the left and an owl (late starter) on the right.

Unlock Potential

Resilience teaches us to thrive in challenging environments and to find multiple ways to overcome complex problems, bouncing in adversity rapidly (even enthusiastically). The resilient professional achieves this fluidity by establishing biological rhythms that provide freedom to be creative. When the essentials are under control, you can unleash your full potential.

A daily practice that secures your resilience foundations is the key to living with grace, clarity and effervescence.

The Integral Daily Practice

“If one thing protects and builds Resilience, it is Integral Daily Practice. Here we transform ideas into actions that create the freedom of Resilience. IDP is the fuel of growth. Discovering the right IDP and shaping it into one’s life is the making of Resilience.”

– Dr Sven Hansen, Living Resilience

Each of us runs to our own unique rhythms.  Make sure you explore your circadian and ultradian cycles and match your own schedule to your internal clocks. The first daily practice below is designed for ‘larks‘ – those who can wake up easily at dawn. If you are more of a night owl, add around 90 minutes to the lark timings to ensure you get enough rest. Your schedule is on the second tab below.

Changing Behaviours

Creating a routine like the one displayed above may seem challenging if you feel like you are already struggling to fit daily life into 24 hours. However, by reorganising your routine so your energy is applied effectively, you can dramatically increase productivity and performance, while simultaneously improving your wellbeing.

It takes commitment and willpower to wake up when that alarm clock rings. Just like any training, exercising your will increases mental strength. Find a strong emotional trigger that you can use as the fuel for your change and allow your body to motivate your mind. Soon it is just like brushing your teeth.

Once you begin a daily practice that includes elements like a daily stretch routine the fact that you might miss your stretch can be enough motivation to get started. Healthy diet and plenty of exercise will become motivators in their own right.

Resilience is not about superhuman displays of grit. It is about the little things: the behaviours, skills, practices and habits that form the foundation of a life you can be proud of.

How to Be a Successful Founder

How to Be a Successful Founder

In this article I provide a Founder’s Manifesto that outlines the 8 key intentions required for successful entrepreneurship. Correctly applied these will deliver awareness, wellbeing and sustainable performance.

Currently, 66% of adults intend to become founders. We long for the freedom to do something meaningful. To create; build; earn financial freedom; and find dignity. Most won’t make it. Out of every 10 inspired founders, 9 will fail. It can be messy.

In our age of jobless productivity growth, technology and artificial intelligence, many find themselves at home wondering how to create an income stream. So-called consultants are essentially founders of a business of one. A few will become true founders of businesses that grow, employ and prosper. Some put a dent in the universe.

As a founder of our business, a coach, and trainer of entrepreneurs for over 25 years, there are clear patterns in the path to success. There are also warning signs of failure and trauma. We have learned that a few specific disciplines can drive success, rejuvenate your business, and enrich your life.

Depression Amongst Entrepreneurs

The first lesson came from my executive health practice in the 1990’s. About 27% of clients fulfilled the criteria for diagnosis of depression. What shocked me, is that unlike most of the population, entrepreneurs are very reluctant to seek help. This is confirmed by the Harvard Business Review article “How founders can recognise and combat depression” where the conclusion was that 30% suffer depression.

In those days, evidence-based medicine encouraged me to treat them with anti-depressants. With the luxury of two hours per person, I worked hard to help them complement their recovery with physical wellbeing, relaxation, emotional mastery and thinking skills. By 2000, there was no doubt left that “alternative” approaches worked better for entrepreneurs.

The Resilience Institute was founded on that discovery.

Emotional Energy

The second lesson of the nineties was that founders experience high rates of hypomania and manic depression. Hypomania is technically the opposite of depression. Massive swings in mood are called manic depression. Minor swings are called cyclothymia.

Mental illness is far more common in creative people and founders are no different. Their emotional energy is the source of entrepreneurship. When dissatisfied they take action leaving jobs and starting a business. When manic, they drive with gob-smacking energy towards inspired visions. Think Elon Musk, Jim Clark, and Steve Jobs.

The founder’s journey is both blessed and cursed by this emotional energy. For some it brings stellar success and for others catastrophic failure. The pressure, uncertainty, and risk of entrepreneurship catalyses emotional storms. Those who learn to understand, shape and direct this “touch of madness”, can have wonderful lives and transform the world.

With thanks to thousands of founders who have shared their journey and struggle with me over the years here is what I call the “Founder’s Manifesto”.

Founder manifesto

The Founder’s Manifesto

8 intentions for every Entrepreneur.

1. Know yourself

If you run blind into your start-up, you risk a life of suffering for yourself, your loved ones and your business community. With many options in business, you can match what you do to who you are – but you have to know who you are. This is no simple feat. I am not a great fan of personality tests but two dimensions are key – risk tolerance and extroversion. Their opposites – fear and introversion – are rarely suited to start-ups.

Don’t lie on the couch or hire a coach, get out there and do different things. Work in different industries and roles, test some commercial ideas, travel, do short and practical skill-based courses. Meditate, journal and read widely. Take your time before you commit to THE ONE. Match your skills, passions and sense of meaning to the opportunity and challenges of the industry.

Don’t wait too long. The founder role triggers amazing opportunities for learning. Stay awake, notice how you change and match what you do in the business to who you are and where your skills evolve.

2. Close in on the flow-zone

Flow is the state in which you are super-productive and fully absorbed. The challenge fully matches your skills. The more flow you create, the more likely your success. Over the past decade flow has become mainstream. Study it and practice it. Remember that you will grow and change over time.

Keep reshaping your role to match your current skill and passion. Certain tasks – particularly people and accounting – are better done by others. We frequently meet founders who loved the passion of the core business and growth but who become stale and disillusioned with the growing management role. Finding the right support team to allow you to add value in your flow-zone, is good for everyone. You won’t get it right first time.

Flow is only sustainable with regular relaxation and skilful recovery practices.

3. Track your personal performance

A growing business presents endless measures that you must measure – sales, revenue, profit, market dynamics and people. Few founders give adequate attention to their personal measures of success. Remember, as founder you are the source of all things. The business needs you to be in good shape.

Learn how to track your health, fitness, sleep, emotions and mental state. Far too many founders forget this critical discipline and end up losing health, suffering mental illness or losing important relationships. Resilience Questionnaire.

4. Define and execute your non-negotiables

Founders must impose their basic disciplines of self-care and optimisation into every day. The rhythm of sleeping consistently, exercising, meditating, eating well, and practicing positivity provides both nourishment and stability in a life that can easily be the opposite.

5. Master emotion

Being attuned and skilful with emotions will help you negotiate the inevitable emotional swings that come with success and failure. Under pressure, we tend to be less emotionally aware. We slip into irritability, anger, fear and despondency when things don’t go our way. When they do, we can become irrationally exuberant.

Attuned to these emotional storms you know when to take a break, counter dangerous emotion, or get help. In my experience, this is the most neglected aspect of today’s founder. While it can be a bit awkward, every little bit of growth has huge payback. This is particularly true when the founder learns how to pay attention to and read the emotions of others

6. Train your mind

Being alert to the environment and clear in your decisions underpins a strong founder. Activity and information overload can leave the mind spinning through the day. Attention can jump between distractions, rather than being focused on what matters. Learn to calm, focus and direct your attention.

7. Build team flow and performance

Once through the start-up, this must be the founders long term commitment. Real breakthroughs follow good teams working well together. When a team ups flow, productivity doubles.

8. Be a force for good

The successful founder wields significant influence. Business is an engine for constructive change in society and nature. It can also be destructive. Never forget now deep our moral sense of right and wrong is. Be explicit about doing good through your business, in your behaviour, and with your financial success.

5 Tricks to Be Happier and More Productive

5 Tricks to Be Happier and More Productive

Dr Sven Hansen was recently interviewed by Sarah Stevenson for a feature called 5 Tricks to Be Happier and More Productive on Livestrong.com. The article explores five key resilience tactics.

  1. Focus Your Attention
  2. Set Clear and Tangible Goals
  3. Check in With Yourself
  4. Create Flow in Everyday Tasks
  5. Use Downtime for Creative Work

Make sure you check out the full article here.

The Art and Science of Expertise

The Art and Science of Expertise

Originally published on www.resiliencei.com and reproduced with permission.
Written by 

The methodology for how to be your best is becoming a systematic science and art. With a number of new and complimentary themes, this article explores what we know and how to apply it. What are the main themes? How do we make this personally meaningful?

Expert performance can involve four distinct sets of players. The first is the individual. The second is the team. The third is teams with computers. The fourth is entire organisations be they military, commercial, sports or humanity.

Here are some key themes and the key references for those want to go deeper:

The Science of Flow

Over the past decades humans have made massive gains in performance. We see this in sport, extreme adventure, science, music, chess, military, and business. The gains come from applying this science of expertise. Csikszentmihaly[1] popularised the Flow concept three decades ago and Steven Kotler[2] has taken this to a new level. Now Anders Ericsson[3] has taken another step with deliberate practice.

At first, Flow simply described the state of optimal performance. Today, we are systematically mapping the experience. We now know exactly what has to occur in our physiology, emotions and mind to enable flow. It is indeed a magical state of super-performance liberated from doubt and fuelled by extraordinary changes in the chemical brain and consciousness. In Flow we can do the seemingly impossible – and it feels fantastic!

McKinsey argues that an executive in flow does five days work in one. The All Blacks and Navy Seals have institutionalised flow as a way of being.

At the core, flow emerges when we tackle a serious but meaningful challenge with a set of finely honed skills (expertise). The experience is so intense, thinking, feeling and bodily processes temporarily cease. This allows maximum resources for rapid, accurate perception, evaluation and decision-making.

The Science of Expertise

The systematic development of the necessary skills to enter flow consistently is new territory. This is where high performance sports coaching, military strategy and Anders Ericsson have lots to teach us. Deliberate practice trumps genes and “natural talent’ every time. Experts agree that Mozart, Einstein, Picasso and others shone not because of some magical talent but because they practiced deliberately over long periods of time.

Expert performances are increasing because we understand the process of skill development. It takes time – in the order of 7,500 hours. It must start early in life. It requires expert coaching and data-driven feedback. Ericsson’s recipe includes deliberate, purposeful practice over long periods of time, specific training objectives, quick feedback with expert coaching, razor focus, practicing outside of one’s comfort zone, and alignment of motivators.

Ericsson and Duhigg[4] both agree that developing the right mental maps (or representations) is critical. This is worth a moment to process. In the demanding and fluid conditions of expert performance, the pictures of one’s options must present immediately. In other words whether it is chess, concert performance, battle, sport or business, experts have mapped these mental maps into their long-term memory.

There is no time to ponder the question: “what should I do now?” You have to know that exact situation from memory – through deliberate practice – and all of the possible options available. This is the meaning of what we call situation awareness. Because you have practiced the situation so many times, you can feel the right option intuitively. Working memory (thinking) is just too slow and too expensive. Top Gun, the Navy Fighter initiative, did this by drilling pilots in specific dogfight situations followed by detailed debriefs. Again and again they learned how specific situations unfold and how to respond intuitively. This transformed the Navy’s performance in Vietnam and has become the template for US military campaigns.

The applications of this idea are huge from parenting and education through to business and the professions. The more we practice for novel situations and enrich long term memory with different options, the better we will become. These mental maps must include physical, emotional and cognitive elements.

The Science of High Performing Teams

Geoff Colvin[5] and Charles Duhigg converge on a definite shift in research on what drives team performance. The message is crisp. Intelligence, expertise and style are not correlated with team performance. Empathy or social awareness is categorically the best predictor of who will contribute to team performance. Both MIT and Google have contributed to this work showing that it is the teams that interact face-to-face with high emotional sensitivity that deliver the goods.

Further they suggest that short burst communication, evenly distributed around the team characterise a high performing team. Imagine what happens when the deliberate practice of empathy is combined with the tools to work in this way. Then what when we apply team flow to deliberate practice and after-action reviews.

The final frontier is where excellent teams interface with excellent technology. Already teams of chess players collaborate with computers to be the best chess “players” in the world. It is time to ask yourself how you might work with emergent technology to expand and develop your career.

Resilience in Body, Heart and Mind

Expert performance must rest on a foundation of Resilience. The entire range of expert performance is no longer the domain of intellect. The possibility of flow depends upon our will to cultivate resilience in a systematic way. Be fit enough to keep the brain plastic, sleep long enough to activate empathy and social intelligence, and learn how to create meaning and passion on a daily basis.

We know that children who learn to develop their impulse control, empathy and physical wellbeing are far more likely to excel. As Anders Ericsson pleads, we are becoming Homo Exercens – the practicing human. Start early, support everyone and back yourself.

References:

[1] Mihalyi Csikszentmihaly, Good Business, 2003

[2] Steven Kotler, Rise of Superman, 2014

[3] Anders Ericsson, Peak, 2016

[4] Charles Duhigg, Smarter, Faster, Better, 2016

[5] Geoff Colvin, Humans are Underrated, 2015