On being assertive

Aggressive: Doing what serves you with no respect for others – “We are going to THIS movie. Why do you even want to see that one?”

Passive-aggressive: Communicating in a cynical way –  “Great, let’s go to THAT movie”

Assertive: Stating your beliefs or preferences while respecting others’ – “I’d love to see a movie with you, but not that one.  Can we pick one we both like?”

You choose how you communicate.

Validation and value

Get 100 employees in a room and you’ll be hard-pressed to reach unanimous agreement on anything other than raising salaries.  We’d all prefer to be paid more.  There’s something else we have in common: a need to feel valued, respected, and that what we do matters.  Not just in our jobs.

Some difficult people are that way because they feel unacknowledged.  You strengthen any relationship by recognizing out loud that a person’s work, input, or very presence is appreciated, and that they do in fact matter.

Take a few seconds to acknowledge someone.


What they think of me

From an evolutionary perspective, we’re wired to care deeply about what others think of us. This was a valid concern thousands of years ago when reputations among our group impacted our livelihood, and often our very lives.

But we’ve outgrown parts of evolution.  We can worry about what ‘they’ think, or ask why we care in the first place.

If you realized how little they actually do think of you, you would worry less about it, and just get on with being you.

Doing work that matters

Our education system has us focus on what will be on the test.  When we later extend that to our work, we find ourselves in a lifelong cycle of catering to a boss, or the few people who most influence our work lives.

We can choose to ask better questions than “what will be on the test?” and “what’s the least I have to do to pass?”  How about:

  • What work can I do work that matters?
  • What unique mix of skills, interests and capabilities allow me to make the most impact?

Play vs. practice

For the few skills at which I excel, I noticed that I never viewed the intense hours I devoted as “practice”. I obsessed over the activities themselves and became interested in the challenge.  There’s a reason you don’t hear: “Gimme a minute mom, I’m working on video game skill acquisition!”

The quality of hours spent mastering a skill is influenced by what we believe we’re doing during those hours.  It’s all practice of course, but doesn’t “playing” and “doing” feel like something we’ll continue long-term?

You will persevere and excel if what you’re doing is an enjoyable challenge and not an obligation.




You are what you think you are

Your operating system reinforces your belief (bias) that the Universe conspires for you or against you.  That people are trustworthy or they’re not.  That you are lucky or unlucky.

Your standards and your quality of life improve with a bit of self-reflection, and an effort to upgrade your self-talk (e.g. “things always work out for me”).

The placebo effect is strong, and doesn’t only apply to medicine.




The magic of increments

A leaking bathtub isn’t a problem for a while, until it overflows.  Five daily minutes spent acquiring a worthwhile skill or habit doesn’t seem beneficial, until you realize that 5 minutes a day adds up to 30 dedicated hours per year, and the results are life-changing.

Our culture celebrates that captivating moment when you “made it”.  Drip-by-drip, incremental change is less glamorous, and rarely highlighted.  Yet it’s the cause of every (seemingly) overnight success story.