On leaders, coaches and teachers.

It’s common to hear people brag about the expertise of their teachers/coaches, but the real way to evaluate the effectiveness of teachers and coaches is by assessing the skill of their students or mentees.

The best teachers show you where to look but don’t tell you what to see.

If you’re in a leadership role, make sure you create the conditions that allow people to flourish. The best way to do that is to produce an environment where the learning reveals itself.

Improving for future generations

Most people spend their lives being dutiful descendants instead of remarkable ancestors. Each generation has the choice to aim to please their predecessors or improve things for their offspring. Many people who were the most positive influences on humanity did not blindly follow in their parent’s footsteps.

In the words of Japanese poet, Matsuo Basho: “Do not seek to follow in the footsteps of the old. Seek what they sought.”

You can strive to make previous generations proud, or endeavor to make the world better for the next.

Make the news!

Most of the media we’re exposed to in a 24-hour news cycle is not positive. Everyone knows that fueling outrage will obtain far more clicks than the human interest story of a stranger who did something kind for one of her 7 billion neighbors.

Because negative news is more pervasive, it’s easy to think that destructive things and people are the norm.

You probably won’t make the news by doing kind things for strangers with no regard for what they may get in return, but you will help instill faith in humanity and cancel out some of the damaging behavior of others.

Think like a pro athlete

One useful way to prompt intrinsic motivation is to think like an athlete. Set aside time for focused, deep work, either creating something valuable or “sharpening the saw “so that we are better creators.

At the highest level of athletics, professionals train hard in “sprints”, then rest, then reassess based on their performance on the battlefield. In our business lives, we tend to just plug away as though 10 hours of “work” is equal to 10 hours of output or value.

For many of us who are used to trading our time for money, it’s easy to fall into the trap of feeling like our time is intrinsically valuable, but it’s only as valuable as what it enables you to create, become, or deliver on the battlefield.

Freedom to and freedom from

We tend to think of freedom in terms of the options we have. This is “freedom to…” While we may not have all the resources that give us freedom TO do all we desire, we can recognize the opposite side of the coin, which is “freedom from”: any of the pressures, stresses, or life-deranging things that don’t plague us at this moment.

As you contemplate all you have the freedom to do, give thanks and perhaps give yourself credit for the harmful and even traumatic things that you have freedom from.

Investing in tomorrow

Remember when you first learned about compound interest? It wasn’t intuitive that starting with a penny on day one and doubling it each day for 30 days would net so much money. Investing time and attention works in a similar way, compounding, even if it’s not exponential.

One powerful lesson from any investment that repeats and compounds is that real progress or growth isn’t immediately obvious. Knowing this allows you to adjust your expectations and stay in the game.

Citing the above penny-doubling experiment, after 10 days (1/3 of the way!) you only have $10.24. What do you have on day 30? $5.4 million. 

The most important measure of your product

“Product” can mean whatever you want it to. As a business, an influencer, an artist, or even (surprise!) as a human, your product is not for everyone. As Seth Godin brilliantly states, the least helpful mantra is “you can pick anyone, and we’re anyone!”

Of all the businesses and products…in all the ways they are expressed, packaged, and distributed…in any way we engage with the market, here is one simple question that can serve as a yardstick for how our product might be measured: Would they miss it if it were gone? 

Insanely practical way to reduce stress

What if I told you that just describing how you’re feeling can help you feel better? That’s exactly what neuroscience confirms. fMRI scans showed brain activity/response to various positive or negative feelings evoked by images. When the volunteers were asked to describe what they were feeling, the emotional part of their brains (the amygdala) immediately quieted.

In plain English, that means that simply saying “I feel annoyed” makes us feel measurably less annoyed. The Buddhists use the term “noting”, to describe this phenomenon. Of course, it won’t make a problem go away. But much more important than the problem itself is our reaction.

If a simple inner dialogue can reduce your stress, why not give it a try? (Note: this is why it’s important that we teach children how to properly articulate their feelings. This stress-reduction hack works with humans of all ages.)