Category Archives: Motivational

Book Review: “Conscious Business” by Fred Kofman

In his book “Conscious Business: How to Build Value through Values,” Fred Kofman takes readers through an inward journey to find the way to a fulfilling personal and professional life. Kofman, a philosopher and VP at LinkedIn, borrows concepts from ancient traditions, Eastern cultures and world religions, all of which make reading the book an enlightening experience.

Kofman challenges the myth that success leads to happiness. Happiness is the means not the end, argues Kofman: “People find happiness by how they live their lives, not by some goal they pursue.” While success and wealth are our culture’s attributes of happiness, these will not make us happy.

Kofman holds workshops where he asks participants to think of people they admire. He then asks them what characteristics they admire in these people. The answers that people give include “courage,” “humility,” “persistence” and “commitment to excellence.” These are all process attributes, values related to how someone leads their life not what someone achieves.

Kofman says that no one has ever said they admire their characters because of their success, job title or net worth. For example, we admire Olympic gold medalists not necessarily because they won, but rather because of the determination, commitment and attitude they display through their actions.

One of my favourite concepts in the book is that of “unconditional responsibility.” This means that in any circumstance, we must ask how we have contributed to the situation and what we can do to make it better. Responsibility is actually “response-ability” – our ability to respond to a situation.

Kofman’s idea of “response-ability” echoes Victor Frankl’s concept of the last human freedom, which states that a person can always choose their attitude in any situation. We can always be proactive and adopt the mentality of the player. But many people adopt the mentality of the victim, which is a very counterproductive way to live and work.

Below are the seven values of conscious people that Kofman says will lead to a fullfilling life:

Unconditional Responsibility

Essential integrity

Ontological Humility

Authentic Communication

Constructive Negotiation

Impeccable Coordination

Emotional Mastery

The Blessings of Having Nothing to Do

When there is nothing to do is the perfect time to give thanks for what we have.

Whenever I have nothing to do, I always try to quickly find something with which to fill my time. For example,  when I am standing in line at store, I am unable to stay still and I grab my phone to check my email, read the news or go on social media. This is because I am not comfortable being alone with my thoughts.

Recently I have been fighting my addiction to my phone while trying to make better use of my time. I for example no longer take my phone with me when I go get coffee or when I go to a meeting. Easy access to my phone can lead to anti-social behaviours rather than use the time to talk to someone new, for example. I am also assigning specific times that I check my phone or go on social media, activities that Cal Newport calls “shallow activities” in his book Deep Work.

Our heads are filled with thoughts running through our brains. Thus, a few minutes with nothing to do is the perfect time to pause and think about everything we have. For instance give thanks for your good health, your family and your job. Instead of filling our minds with thoughts about our next job, an upcoming project or vacation, fill your mind with gratitude and be thankful for all your blessings.

We should take time every day to align ourselves vertically. To be grounded is to be connected with the Creator of the universe. Taking a few seconds each day to put our lives into perspective helps us be grounded and go about our days more effectively. This allows you to give importance to things that are truly important.

In order to make the most out of our waking hours, I suggest you stop competing with time. Instead “slow down and move deliberately”. A lot has been written recently about mindfulness and living life on a moment by moment basis. A children’s book on mindfulness says, “True happiness comes from bringing all your attention to whatever you are doing right now… Mind-full = when your mind is full of the present.”

Personal Evolution

“If one day I feel transformed and decide to change directions, I will change course without prejudice because evolution comes about through change.”

La Mari, lead singer of Spanish group Chambao.

La Mari, lead singer of Spanish group Chambao.

Taking a strong and unapologetic stand when change is needed is not only courageous; it is vital to personal and organizational success. Change is scary. But it’s even scarier to stay the same when the “same old same old” has proven to be futile.

Here are four insights from a great song (Chambao’s “Dibujo en el aire” — a drawing in the air):

1. Stand by what you believe in: If you feel enlightened by a belief or an idea, stand firmly behind it and don’t doubt. Trusting yourself is the only way to overcome fear of change. In this song, Chambao’s lead singer, La Mari, has decided to stop living in fear. She knows that in order to change, step one is making a decision.

2. Don’t be ashamed of change: Stubbornness is a shell used by people who don’t want to admit defeat. Many organizations also fail to see warning signs and change course (e.g. Blockbuster, Kodak, BlackBerry etc.). If there is something you need to change in your life or business, don’t punish yourself for not realizing it earlier. Be empathetic with yourself. After all, change is the only constant in life.

3. Have a subjective/objective view of yourself: How do you view yourself? How do others view you? Asking these two questions can help you have greater insight about yourself and your business. We ignore important aspects that need change in our lives mainly because of unawareness. Looking at our life/business through objective and subjective lenses can help us identify what needs to change.

4. Begin with the end in mind: In this song, La Mari feels transformed before she actually goes through the process of changing. It is important to visualize the change you want to see in your life, your business and even the world. Not only does this help you plan and strategize, but it can also motivate you to achieve your goals.

Define Failure

https://www.flickr.com/photos/amboo213/4020584983/In life we often fail, we mostly fail. Think about it and you’ll see that we have to deal with more failures than successes. Let me expand on this idea.

If we quantify our failures — whether personal or professional — we notice that these significantly outnumber our successes (I would say about 80 percent failures and 20 percent successes). However, the impact of these failures is minimal compared to the impact of our few successes.

For example, a few years ago I applied to three graduate programs, but I was only offered one. While I didn’t get into two of the programs, the time I spent in the graduate program that accepted me transformed my life in very positive ways. When I was job hunting a couple of years ago, I applied to over 40 jobs and was only offered one. However, the skills I developed and the relationships I built in that one job have been invaluable in my career.

I think it all comes down to trust. The Bible says, “In his heart a man plans his course, but God determines his steps” (Proverbs 16:9). If in our course we stumble and fail, we shouldn’t let this discourage us. Instead we must trust that in the end it will all work out. After all, it is our few victories that lead to positive and significant change in our lives.

Be Less Strategic

https://www.flickr.com/photos/waponigirl/I am a big picture kind of thinker. By nature, I look for ways to improve processes, to make things more efficient. I consider myself an outcomes person rather than a process person. I like  the word “strategy.”

As a professional with five years of work experience, I realize that to move my career forward I need to be less strategic in how I approach work.

Strategy, industry challenges, and organizational culture interest me greatly. But I moderate the time and energy I spend thinking about these issues and spend the bulk of my time on the specific projects that I have been assigned.

In his book “7 Habits of Highly Effective People,” Stephen Covey differentiates between one’s Circle of Concern and Circle of Influence. A Circle of Concern encompasses that over which a person has little or no control. In my case, that means strategy, industry issues, and internal culture. On the other hand, my Circle of Influence is made up of things I can control. By focusing my time on activities within my Circle of Influence, I am not only more productive, but I also feel more accomplished because I see the results of my efforts.

My goal is to one day be in charge of a company’s strategy. The best way to get there is to be fully immersed in the day-to-day projects that I am assigned at work. After all, these are the types of projects that make up a company’s strategy, and this only prepares me for more responsibility and influence in my career.