Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Our Imbecilic Constitution - NYTimes.com

Our Imbecilic Constitution - NYTimes.com

May 28, 2012, 8:36 PM

Our Imbecilic Constitution

Advocating the adoption of the new Constitution drafted in Philadelphia, the authors of “The Federalist Papers” mocked the “imbecility” of the weak central government created by the Articles of Confederation.
Nearly 225 years later, critics across the spectrum call the American political system dysfunctional, even pathological. What they don’t mention, though, is the role of the Constitution itself in generating the pathology.
Ignore, for discussion’s sake, the clauses that helped to entrench chattel slavery until it was eliminated by a brutal Civil War. Begin with the Senate and its assignment of equal voting power to California and Wyoming; Vermont and Texas; New York and North Dakota. Consider that, although a majority of Americans since World War II have registered opposition to the Electoral College, we will participate this year in yet another election that “battleground states” will dominate while the three largest states will be largely ignored.
Our vaunted system of “separation of powers” and “checks and balances” — a legacy of the founders’ mistrust of “factions” — means that we rarely have anything that can truly be described as a “government.” Save for those rare instances when one party has hefty control over four branches — the House of Representatives, the Senate, the White House and the Supreme Court — gridlock threatens. Elections are increasingly meaningless, at least in terms of producing results commensurate with the challenges facing the country.
But if one must choose the worst single part of the Constitution, it is surely Article V, which has made our Constitution among the most difficult to amend of any in the world. The last truly significant constitutional change was the 22nd Amendment, added in 1951, to limit presidents to two terms. The near impossibility of amending the national Constitution not only prevents needed reforms; it also makes discussion seem futile and generates a complacent denial that there is anything to be concerned about.
Why is our government so dysfunctional? Look back to 1787.
It was not always so. In the election of 1912, two presidents — past and future — seriously questioned the adequacy of the Constitution. Theodore Roosevelt would have allowed Congress to override Supreme Court decisions invalidating federal laws, while Woodrow Wilson basically supported a parliamentary system and, as president, tried to act more as a prime minister than as an agent of Congress. The next few years saw the enactment of amendments establishing the legitimacy of the federal income tax, direct election of senators, Prohibition and women’s right to vote.
No such debate is likely to take place between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney. They, like most contemporary Americans, have seemingly lost their capacity for thinking seriously about the extent to which the Constitution serves us well. Instead, the Constitution is enveloped in near religious veneration. (Indeed, Mormon theology treats it as God-given.)
What might radical reform mean?
We might look to the 50 state constitutions, most of which are considerably easier to amend. There have been more than 230 state constitutional conventions; each state has had an average of almost three constitutions. (New York, for example, is on its fifth Constitution, adopted in 1938.) This year Ohioans will be voting on whether to call a new constitutional convention; its Constitution, like 13 others, including New York’s, gives voters the chance to do so at regular intervals, typically 20 years.
Another reform would aim to fix Congressional gridlock. We could permit each newly elected president to appoint 50 members of the House and 10 members of the Senate, all to serve four-year terms until the next presidential election. Presidents would be judged on actual programs, instead of hollow rhetoric.
If enhanced presidential power seems too scary, then the solution might lie in reducing, if not eliminating, the president’s power to veto legislation and to return to true bicameralism, instead of the tricameralism we effectively operate under. We might allow deadlocks between the two branches of Congress to be broken by, say, a supermajority of the House or of Congress voting as a whole.
One might also be inspired by the states to allow at least some aspects of direct democracy. California — the only state with a constitution more dysfunctional than that of the United States — allows constitutional amendment at the ballot box. Maine, more sensibly, allows its citizenry to override legislation they deem objectionable. Might we not be far better off to have a national referendum on “Obamacare” instead of letting nine politically unaccountable judges decide?
Even if we want to preserve judicial review of national legislation, something Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. believed could be dispensed with, perhaps we should emulate North Dakota or Nebraska, which require supermajorities of their court to invalidate state legislation. Why shouldn’t the votes of, say, seven of the nine Supreme Court justices be required to overturn national legislation?
Or consider the fact that almost all states have rejected the model of judges nominated by the president and then confirmed by the Senate. Most state judges are electorally accountable in some way, and almost all must retire at a given age. Many states have adopted commissions to limit the politicization of the appointment process.
What was truly admirable about the framers was their willingness to critique, indeed junk, the Articles of Confederation. One need not believe that the Constitution of 1787 should be discarded in quite the same way to accept that we are long overdue for a serious discussion about its own role in creating the depressed (and depressing) state of American politics.

Sanford Levinson, a professor of law and government at the University of Texas, Austin, is the author of “Framed: America’s 51 Constitutions and the Crisis of Governance.”

Sunday, May 27, 2012

10 Ways to Deal with Perfectionistic Roadblockers « Leadership Freak

10 Ways to Deal with Perfectionistic Roadblockers

A Leadership Freak reader asked, "How do you deal with others who expend energy stopping people from reaching their goals?" The context is perfectionism. Perfectionistic roadblockers may act intentionally or accidentally out of ignorance.

The paralysis of perfection is rampant.

Four types of perfectionistic roadblockers:

  1. Vision that's so big it paralyzes.
  2. Nitpicking next steps because they aren't big enough.
  3. Nothing but perfection will do. What about?
  4. Lack of commitment to organizational direction. They don't want to go there in the first place.

Strategies for dealing with perfectionistic roadblockers:

  1. Listen to them! They may be right.
  2. Persistently say, "Complex problems have more than one solution." This opens the door to choosing reasonable options and moving forward. There are no perfect solutions.
  3. Advocate for incomplete solutions that enable forward movement. An incomplete solution is better than no solution and no movement.
  4. Determine if is some movement is better than none; it usually is.
  5. Evaluate often. Ask, "Is the path we chose getting us there." When you adopt incomplete solutions commit to evaluate them quickly.
  6. Ask if they have better options. Many love to complain that we AREN'T there but don't make positive suggestions.
  7. Celebrate progress. Perfectionists love to point out that current progress isn't enough. Celebrate anyway. Honor people who make positive contributions.
  8. One reader adds, "Learn to walk away and disassociate from people who drag the energy out of your vision, to interact with them brings you down to their level.
  9. Another reader added, "I Look for the key values these people hold (and I share). When delivering a partial solution I aim to demonstrate how this meets our values and moves them toward their vision."
  10. ???

What types of perfectionistic roadblockers have you observed?

How do you deal with perfectionistic roadblocks?

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Thursday, May 24, 2012

The last damn thing you'll ever need to read about influence, persuasion and negotiation: - Barking up the wrong tree

The last damn thing you'll ever need to read about influence, persuasion and negotiation: - Barking up the wrong tree

The last damn thing you'll ever need to read about influence, persuasion and negotiation:

Follow   bakadesuyo on Twitter

Negotiating is an essential skill. Being underpaid can kill you. Understand theseven pillars of effective influence. A good portion of being a good negotiator is just being a good person. Believe that you can improve your negotiating skillsand you can.

Early on
First impressions are an even bigger deal than you thought. In fact, we can be a slave to them. A little spinning of the facts here can be a good thing.
There is a home field advantage in negotiation. Even if you're not on home turf, making yourself at feel at home can give you some of that advantage. Be socially optimistic. Expect that people will like you and they probably will. Predicting how good a negotiator the other guy is might be as easy as looking at his hands. Yes, small talk is important.

Happiness makes you a better negotiatorThink positive about the negotiationand give others a reason to do so as well. Expecting others to be selfish can be a self-fulfilling prophecy. Unless the other guy has few options and you'll never see him again, being nice is always the way to go.

The Big Guns
Similaritymimicry and being in sync are all very powerful. Always alwaysalways always always be thinking about things you have in common. The first thing you should say in a negotiation is something very similar to what the guy on the other side of the table just said. Mimicry is more powerful than you think.
There are solid persuasion lessons to be learned from top telemarketersgreatsalesmen and FBI hostage negotiators. Make them say "yes yes yes" and they will probably say yes.
Win-win is not always a winning strategy. The key to resisting a convincing sales pitch is to think about money.
Know how to deal with angry people. Know what is proven to work when buying a new car. Know the common pitfalls in negotiations.
Attractive people should negotiate differently than ugly people. Guilting people can work. Subtle reminders of morality are good for keeping people fair. Want to make sure they follow through? Have them write it down.
There is a time - and a proper way - to threaten someone.

There are many ways to speak more influentially. Understand the best ways tokiss ass. Ass-kissing is good for your health. Sometimes fast talkers are more persuasive, sometimes they aren't. Using the word "we" can promote an instant feeling of familiarity with someone. There are good techniques for dodging uncomfortable questions in a negotiation.
Learn how to be a better listener. It's vital. More on that here. If what you're saying sounds final people will be more likely to accept it. When you're a novice, speak confidently. When you're an expert on a subject, act unsure. Men areeasier to persuade via email. With women stick to face-to-face.
Learn about effective posture and body language. Also know what body language means the other guy is trying to cheat you. If you're speaking confidently, move confidently. Your body language needs to match what you're saying. If you want to increase the attractiveness of an offer, your body languageshould be upbeat and sales-y. If you want to reduce resistance, think calm and authoritative.
Trying to seem smart makes you seem stupid. We often prefer eloquence to honesty, sadly. Use rhetorical questions to be more persuasive. And you do want to be more persuasive, don't you? Sometimes you should command. Other times your should ask.

We can be weird about numbers. Sellers who listed their homes more precisely—say $494,500 as opposed to $500,000—consistently got closer to their asking price. So don't use round numbers. We are irrationally positive toward hearing "100%". Yes, we like $1.99 more than $2.00 even if we say we know it's a trick. Know how to anchor because it is ridiculously effective.  We like some numbers more than others.

Little things
Just remembering the other person's name makes you more persuasive. Asking someone how they feel, having them verbally respond, and then acknowledging that response, facilitates compliance. Listen to what they have to say and ask them to tell you more.
Touch people. Be funny. Always ask if this is a good time. Let them sleep on it. People will be more likely to agree with you if you make your choice sound like the status quoTelling stories is powerful in negotiating. "Obscenity at the beginning or end of the speech significantly increased the persuasiveness of the speech." Emotion is the key to being more credible when complaining.
Name dropping doesn't work. (Nobody famous told me that.) Obvious andinsincere flattery does. Bragging is all about context. Having a third party praise you can influence others - even if that third party is obviously biased.
Sit in the middle to be more influential during a meeting. And repeat yourself. No evidence can sometimes be more persuasive than weak evidence.
What are Jedi level tools of negotiation? Coffee and a cheeseburger.

Practice is key
Not sure if you're quite ready to put all this into action? Well, "fake it 'til you make it" does work.

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Monday, May 21, 2012

COMMENTARY 776.2: Eighteen Random Life Rules by JOSEPHSON INSTITUTE on MAY 21, 2012 in COMMENTARIES

COMMENTARY 776.2: Eighteen Random Life Rules by JOSEPHSON INSTITUTE on MAY 21, 2012 in COMMENTARIES Podcast: Play in new window | Download I love maxims, those concise capsules of worldly wisdom. I collect them and write them and, of course, love to share them. Here are 18 random rules of life worth posting on your mirror or, better yet, using as dinner-time discussion starters. Find the lesson in every failure and you’ll never fail. The likelihood that you’re right is not increased by the intensity of your conviction. Real friends help you feel worthy and make you want to be better. When you’re in a hole, stop digging. Don’t confuse fun with fulfillment, or pleasure with happiness. Refusing to let go of a grudge is refusing to use the key that will set you free. Hating hurts you more than the person you hate. Counting on luck is counting on random chance. Your odds are much better when you plan and work. Being kind is better than being clever. Don’t underestimate the power of persistence. The easy way is rarely the best way. It’s much easier to burst someone else’s bubble than to blow up your own. You can’t avoid pain, but you can avoid suffering. Self-pity is a losing strategy. It repels others and weakens you. Shortcuts usually produce short success. Control your attitude or it will control you. It’s more important to be significant than successful. The world is waiting for you to heal it. This is Michael Josephson reminding you that character counts.

Nine Things Successful People Do Differently - Heidi Grant Halvorson - Harvard Business Review

HBR Blog Network

Learn more about the science of success with Heidi Grant Halvorson's HBR Single, based on this blog post.

Why have you been so successful in reaching some of your goals, but not others? If you aren't sure, you are far from alone in your confusion. It turns out that even brilliant, highly accomplished people are pretty lousy when it comes to understanding why they succeed or fail. The intuitive answer — that you are born predisposed to certain talents and lacking in others — is really just one small piece of the puzzle. In fact, decades of research on achievement suggests that successful people reach their goals not simply because of who they are, but more often because of what they do.

1. Get specific. When you set yourself a goal, try to be as specific as possible. "Lose 5 pounds" is a better goal than "lose some weight," because it gives you a clear idea of what success looks like. Knowing exactly what you want to achieve keeps you motivated until you get there. Also, think about the specific actions that need to be taken to reach your goal. Just promising you'll "eat less" or "sleep more" is too vague — be clear and precise. "I'll be in bed by 10pm on weeknights" leaves no room for doubt about what you need to do, and whether or not you've actually done it.

2. Seize the moment to act on your goals.
Given how busy most of us are, and how many goals we are juggling at once, it's not surprising that we routinely miss opportunities to act on a goal because we simply fail to notice them. Did you really have no time to work out today? No chance at any point to return that phone call? Achieving your goal means grabbing hold of these opportunities before they slip through your fingers.

To seize the moment, decide when and where you will take each action you want to take, in advance. Again, be as specific as possible (e.g., "If it's Monday, Wednesday, or Friday, I'll work out for 30 minutes before work.") Studies show that this kind of planning will help your brain to detect and seize the opportunity when it arises, increasing your chances of success by roughly 300%.

3. Know exactly how far you have left to go. Achieving any goal also requires honest and regular monitoring of your progress — if not by others, then by you yourself. If you don't know how well you are doing, you can't adjust your behavior or your strategies accordingly. Check your progress frequently — weekly, or even daily, depending on the goal.

4. Be a realistic optimist.
When you are setting a goal, by all means engage in lots of positive thinking about how likely you are to achieve it. Believing in your ability to succeed is enormously helpful for creating and sustaining your motivation. But whatever you do, don't underestimate how difficult it will be to reach your goal. Most goals worth achieving require time, planning, effort, and persistence. Studies show that thinking things will come to you easily and effortlessly leaves you ill-prepared for the journey ahead, and significantly increases the odds of failure.

5. Focus on getting better, rather than being good.
Believing you have the ability to reach your goals is important, but so is believing you can get the ability. Many of us believe that our intelligence, our personality, and our physical aptitudes are fixed — that no matter what we do, we won't improve. As a result, we focus on goals that are all about proving ourselves, rather than developing and acquiring new skills.

Fortunately, decades of research suggest that the belief in fixed ability is completely wrong — abilities of all kinds are profoundly malleable. Embracing the fact that you can change will allow you to make better choices, and reach your fullest potential. People whose goals are about getting better, rather than being good, take difficulty in stride, and appreciate the journey as much as the destination.

6. Have grit.
Grit is a willingness to commit to long-term goals, and to persist in the face of difficulty. Studies show that gritty people obtain more education in their lifetime, and earn higher college GPAs. Grit predicts which cadets will stick out their first grueling year at West Point. In fact, grit even predicts which round contestants will make it to at the Scripps National Spelling Bee.

The good news is, if you aren't particularly gritty now, there is something you can do about it. People who lack grit more often than not believe that they just don't have the innate abilities successful people have. If that describes your own thinking .... well, there's no way to put this nicely: you are wrong. As I mentioned earlier, effort, planning, persistence, and good strategies are what it really takes to succeed. Embracing this knowledge will not only help you see yourself and your goals more accurately, but also do wonders for your grit.

7. Build your willpower muscle. Your self-control "muscle" is just like the other muscles in your body — when it doesn't get much exercise, it becomes weaker over time. But when you give it regular workouts by putting it to good use, it will grow stronger and stronger, and better able to help you successfully reach your goals.

To build willpower, take on a challenge that requires you to do something you'd honestly rather not do. Give up high-fat snacks, do 100 sit-ups a day, stand up straight when you catch yourself slouching, try to learn a new skill. When you find yourself wanting to give in, give up, or just not bother — don't. Start with just one activity, and make a plan for how you will deal with troubles when they occur ("If I have a craving for a snack, I will eat one piece of fresh or three pieces of dried fruit.") It will be hard in the beginning, but it will get easier, and that's the whole point. As your strength grows, you can take on more challenges and step-up your self-control workout.

8. Don't tempt fate. No matter how strong your willpower muscle becomes, it's important to always respect the fact that it is limited, and if you overtax it you will temporarily run out of steam. Don't try to take on two challenging tasks at once, if you can help it (like quitting smoking and dieting at the same time). And don't put yourself in harm's way — many people are overly-confident in their ability to resist temptation, and as a result they put themselves in situations where temptations abound. Successful people know not to make reaching a goal harder than it already is.

9. Focus on what you will do, not what you won't do. Do you want to successfully lose weight, quit smoking, or put a lid on your bad temper? Then plan how you will replace bad habits with good ones, rather than focusing only on the bad habits themselves. Research on thought suppression (e.g., "Don't think about white bears!") has shown that trying to avoid a thought makes it even more active in your mind. The same holds true when it comes to behavior — by trying not to engage in a bad habit, our habits get strengthened rather than broken.

If you want to change your ways, ask yourself, What will I do instead? For example, if you are trying to gain control of your temper and stop flying off the handle, you might make a plan like "If I am starting to feel angry, then I will take three deep breaths to calm down." By using deep breathing as a replacement for giving in to your anger, your bad habit will get worn away over time until it disappears completely.

It is my hope that, after reading about the nine things successful people do differently, you have gained some insight into all the things you have been doing right all along. Even more important, I hope are able to identify the mistakes that have derailed you, and use that knowledge to your advantage from now on. Remember, you don't need to become a different person to become a more successful one. It's never what you are, but what you do.

Heidi Grant Halvorson, Ph.D. is a motivational psychologist, and author of the new book Succeed: How We Can Reach Our Goals (Hudson Street Press, 2011). She is also an expert blogger on motivation and leadership for Fast Company and Psychology Today. Her personal blog, The Science of Success, can be found at www.heidigranthalvorson.com. Follow her on Twitter @hghalvorson

Friday, May 18, 2012

Gurus - Are They Worth the Price of Admission? | Building Personal Strength

Gurus - Are They Worth the Price of Admission?

A guru is a well-known expert whose advice you pay top dollar for, whether it's for their books, courses or motivational speeches. But are they worth it? Do they really know what they're talking about? Is there wisdom in what they say?

Not surprisingly, the answer is yes. People do value what they say. That's why they give up the big bucks for it.

Here's a sampling of wisdom from some of the gurus still available for hire. You can judge for yourself...

On FLEXIBILITY - "If you always do what you always did, you'll always get what you always got." - Karl Albrecht, American author (1941- )

On TRUST - "Trust is the lubrication that makes it possible for organizations to work." - Warren Bennis, American author (1925- )

On SELF-AWARENESS - "Feedback is the breakfast of champions." - Ken Blanchard, American author (1939- )

On OPEN-MINDEDNESS - "If you never change your mind, why have one?" - Edward de Bono, British author (1933- )

On CHARACTER - "Our character is basically a composite of our habits. Because they are consistent, often unconscious patterns, they constantly, daily, express our character."- Stephen Covey, American author (1932- )

On COMMITMENT - "There's no scarcity of opportunity to make a living at what you love. There is only a scarcity of resolve to make it happen." - Wayne Dyer, American author (1940- )

On GRATITUDE - "Anyone too busy to say thank you will get fewer and fewer chances to say it." - Harvey Mackay, American author (1933- )

On PROACTIVITY - "The most important thing you can do to achieve your goals is to make sure that as soon as you set them, you immediately begin to create momentum." - Anthony Robbins, American author (1960- )

On INITIATIVE - "All great things have small beginnings." - Peter Senge, American educator (1947- )

Post by Dennis E. Coates, Ph.D., Copyright 2010. Building Personal Strength .

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Leadership Insight: Peter Drucker’s Concept of Planned Abandonment

Leadership Insight: Peter Drucker’s Concept of Planned Abandonment

Leadership Insight: Peter Drucker’s Concept of Planned Abandonment

Management guru Peter Drucker advocated a practice he called planned abandonment. He stressed how important it is that managers develop the wisdom and courage to regularly review what their organization is doing and determine whether it’s worth doing. He urged executives to note and resist the systemic and emotional forces that make it difficult to abandon activities that drain resources, detract from central goals, or otherwise impede progress.
Professor Drucker’s insights about abandonment seem equally applicable to the management of our lives. Many of us continue to pursue unrealistic career goals or stay in unhealthy or nonconstructive relationships that ought to be abandoned because they keep us from moving upward and forward toward core life goals.
It makes no sense to settle for relationships that lessen rather than enlarge us, that diminish rather than develop our values and character. Thus, we should summon the courage and integrity to abandon dead-end personal or work relationships. We need to recognize how murky notions of loyalty can blind us to simple realities and how unrealistic hopes that things will change can prevent us from achieving our higher potential.
Toxic relationships not only make us unhappy, they corrupt our attitudes and dispositions in ways that undermine healthier relationships and blur our vision of what is possible. It’s never easy to change, but nothing gets better without change.
You can receive Michael Josephson’s daily commentaries by e-mail each week by subscribing at our newsletter signup page,  you also can receive them each day (along with videos and all other contents of Michael Josephson’s What Will Matter blog) by downloading our app for smart phones. Finally, you can subscribe to the podcasts from iTunes.

Monday, May 14, 2012

World living beyond its resources, summit off-track: WWF - chicagotribune.com

World living beyond its resources, summit off-track: WWF

GENEVA (Reuters) - Biodiversity has decreased by an average of 28 percent globally since 1970 and the world would have to be 50 percent bigger to have enough land and forests to provide for current levels of consumption and carbon emissions, conservation group WWF said on Tuesday.

Unless the world addresses the problem, by 2030 even two planet Earths would not be enough to sustain human activity, WWF said, launching its "Living Planet Report 2012", a biennial audit of the world's environment and biodiversity - the number of plant and animal species.

Yet governments are not on track to reach an agreement at next month's sustainable development summit in Rio de Janeiro, WWF International's director general Jim Leape said.

"I don't think anyone would dispute that we're nowhere near where we should be a month before the conference in terms of the progress of the negotiations and other preparations," Leape told reporters in Geneva.

"I think all of us are concerned that countries negotiating in the U.N. system for an outcome for Rio have not yet shown a willingness to really step up to meet these challenges. Those negotiations are clearly still tangled."

The Rio+20 meeting on June 20-22 is expected to attract more than 50,000 participants, with politicians under pressure from environmentalists to agree goals for sustainable development, in the spirit of the Rio Earth Summit that spawned the Kyoto Protocol 20 years ago.

Despite that pact aimed at cutting planet-warming carbon emissions, global average temperatures are on track for a "catastrophic increase" by the end of the century, WWF said.

Leape said there were many initiatives governments could take unilaterally without being "held hostage" to the wider negotiations for a binding global climate deal to replace Kyoto, which expires this year.

It said the world should move away from "perverse" subsidies on fossil fuels that amount to more than $500 billion annually and ensure global access to clean energy by 2030.

Asked why environmentalists were still struggling to win the argument that something needed to be done, Leape said: "Let's not underestimate the inertia in the system.

"We've built an economy over the last century that is built on fossil fuels and on a premise that the Earth's resources could not be exhausted. You see that conspicuously in the case of the oceans, where we've been taking fish as if there were no tomorrow, as if fish would just always be there.

"Secondly, we're doing it in the context of a marketplace that continues to send the wrong signals. So many of the costs that we're talking about are not built into the prices you see ... Markets can work well if prices are telling the truth but at the moment they don't, in hugely important ways."

Consumers were helping to turn the tide, he said, because of certification regimes that give products a seal of approval, forcing companies to abide by certain standards.

"You see a growing number of commodities in which this approach is rolling out. It's in timber, it's in fish, but it's also now in palm oil and in sugar and in cotton and so forth. I think that's part of creating market signals, to allow consumers to send signals, to show their preferences and to actually begin to build a market that's heading towards sustainability."

(Editing by Janet Lawrence)

The Most Dangerous Lie Entrepreneurs Tell Themselves - Forbes

The Most Dangerous Lie Entrepreneurs Tell Themselves - Forbes

Written by Joe Kraus of GoogleVentures. Kraus cofounded Excite.com and JotSpot, the latter of which was acquired by Google. This was originally posted on May 10, 2012 at his blog
One of the things I’m fascinated by are the small lies we tell ourselves. They usually take the form of aphorisms that seem to be true. Or more to the point, they have an important subtle message, but they’re perceived as whole truths. And, often they’re so ubiquitous we don’t even give them a second thought. But, these small lies end up having a pretty distorting effect on our behavior or our perceptions.
One example of this is the statement “life is short.” I hear it all the time. I understand why people say it. What they mean is “live life to the fullest.” But we don’t say that. We instead say “life is short.”
Of course, life is not actually short. For most Americans life is actually long (knock on wood). Average male lifespan in the US is 75 and average female lifespan is 80. But, when you internalize, literally, “life is short”, you can lure yourself into behavior that is harmful (especially financially) where you play for the short term when you need to play for the long term. Einstein is famously thought to have said that the most powerful force in the universe is compound interest. I believe that our dual misunderstanding of “life is short” and our inability to appreciate the value of compounding combine to lure people to make very bad investing decisions.
In the world of entrepreneurship I think the most dangerous lie we tell ourselves is “I’ve learned more from my failures than my successes.” It’s simply not true and I want to talk about why.
What I believe IS true is the statement “I’ve developed more CHARACTER from my failures than my successes.” But, I firmly believe we LEARN more from our successes by far.
Let’s look at the data first. In the paper “Performance persistence in entrepreneurship” (PDF), Josh Lerner and his collaborators at Harvard University demonstrate that the success rate of a first-time venture-backed entrepreneur is about 18%. If that entrepreneur fails and tries again with another company, their success rate only improves to 20%. Not much. BUT, if that entrepreneur succeeds in their first company, their success rate for their second venture goes up to 30% — over a 65% improvement in expected outcome.
Why might this be? In my opinion it has to do with how large the information space that gets explored by a company over its lifetime. Let’s imagine an entrepreneur makes 5 decisions per day (some big, many small, and involving all sorts of things from partnerships, product features, marketing, hiring/firing, and how to allocate everyone’s time). Over the course of 3 years, that’s a HUGE decision tree with a massive number of potential paths (roughly 5^750 unique paths assuming a 50 week year and a 5 day workweek). 5^750 is this number, fwiw.
If you fail, all you know is that the particular path you took through that decision space didn’t work. But, it really doesn’t tell you much about which of the other paths might work.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Bad is Stronger than Good « Leadership Freak

Bad is Stronger than Good

If the world naturally drifted upward like hot-air balloons, leaders and leadership would be irrelevant.

People wore rose colored glasses  in the 60's when they thought drugs and "free love" would create a New World. Apart from positive intervention chaos reigns. Call it pessimism if you like. Even hot-air balloons require burners to stay afloat.

The downward drift is leadership's opportunity
for positive impact.

Doom and gloomers, nay sayers, and hand-wringers may firmly grasp the present but they seldom create desired outcomes.  20% of leadership is seeing the downward drift. 80% of leadership is firing the burners.

Research indicates there are "positive energizers" and "negative energizers" (Cameron).

Negative energizers:

  1. Deplete.
  2. Devalue.
  3. Diminish.
  4. Degrade.
  5. De-motivate.

Negative energizers live in, focus on, talk about, and wallow on the dark side. Pulling down is easy. Negative energizers are critical, talk in dark tones, don't engage, and are more self-centered. I know because I'm a natural negative.

Problems, apart from intervention, control our thinking. Bad is stronger than good.

Positive energizers:

  1. Speak honestly.
  2. Embrace transparency.
  3. Support.
  4. Build up.
  5. Focus on others.
  6. Find solutions.
  7. Enable performance.
  8. Give.
  9. Listen.
  10. Share.

Positive leadership:

Cameron suggests that positive leaders create:

  1. Positive climates.
  2. Positive relationships.
  3. Positive communication.
  4. Positive meaning.


When I tell people I'm a natural negative they usually say, "I don't see that in you." If you see positivity in me, take hope for yourself. I'm a reformed hand-wringer.

  1. Address problems with imperfect solutions.
  2. Adopt positive behaviors that you can define, describe, and employ.
  3. Pursue best opportunities more than fixing problems.
  4. Say many more positives than negatives, many more.
  5. Build positive teams by focusing on what can be done.

What does positive leadership look like to you?

How are you creating positive environments?


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This entry was posted on May 12, 2012 at 9:40 am and is filed under Criticism, Encouragement, Goals, Health, Influence, Leading, Listening, Marks of leaders, Motivation, Personal Growth, Power, Strengths, Taking others higher, Teams. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.