Being Fulfilled One Task At A Time

For more than 10 years, I have been a crew member at Tony Robbins events around the US, as a volunteer in various positions and helping out with whatever was needed. But my favorite part is being a member of the fire team in charge of the logistics of the fire walk experience for participants.

Creating the physical part of a fire walk involves an enormous amount of hard labor that takes place over two days–outside in whatever weather is happening at the moment. I  put together wheelbarrows in the snow, carried water-soaked mats of grass in the rain, and swept parking lots for hours in the sun.

No matter where or when I’ve been a part of fire team over the last decade, I’ve never heard anyone complain or criticize about the amount of work. In fact, there are always more people wanting to do that work as a team member than there are spots available.

Why?

As a fire team member, why are we so fulfilled, so happy, and so energized by whatever is being asked of us? During one particularly great reflection session with the team after cleanup, we started to uncover why.

Yes, there is a sense of mission that happens being a part of such a great overall experience for thousands of participants, but it’s much simpler than that.

People feel immersed and elated in their work because they’re singularly focused, and not multi-tasking.

When you’re putting together a wheelbarrow, that’s all you’re thinking about in that moment.  When you’re unrolling mats of grass to form a part of a fire walk line, you’re immersed in that grass on that lane. When you’re in charge of ensuring there’s no debris that can stab someone’s foot in a parking lot, you’re sweeping and not worried about doing anything else.

Single-tasking is not only more efficient, more effective and more productive, it’s also more fun and fulfilling.

Allow yourself to become happily lost in the sensation of being focused. 

Developing Great Teams With Small Investments

Recently I was at a meeting where they brought in various teams from around our Company to showcase the work that they were performing.

Unexpectedly, I recognized someone who I hadn’t worked with or seen in 13 years running one of the booths. We immediately hugged hello and fell back into an old level of comfort with each other, laughing while talking about past stories, catching up on what we’re doing currently and what’s happened over the last few years.

After processing that encounter, I found myself wondering why I seemed to have a better and more authentic connection with a person I hadn’t seen in 13 years and only worked with for a shorter time compared to many others I have worked with either longer periods of time or more recently.

Many pieces play into group dynamics and connections, but looking at the traditional factors didn’t seem to uncover the answer. There had to be more. I really wanted to be able to find the answer so I could try and use that to continue to build great relationships with the teams I work on and people I work with.

That’s when I realized the difference between the strong bonds that had been formed more than 13 years ago versus some of the more tenuous bonds today.

When we were working together years ago, there were many more offsite and not-directly-work-related interactions. Our teams and colleagues spent more time doing things out of the office together and we had more support for little things like team lunches and offsite dinners.

Great relationships build great teams and great teams accomplish great things easier.

Since that’s the case, why do budget cuts first target the very things, like off sites and team meals, that can help build great teams?

So, the next time you hear about a startup or some smaller company hosting happy hours or buying everyone lunch realize that it’s not only a nice perk, it’s a strategic investment in accomplishing great things.

The next time someone asks you for budget for what may seem like fun vs. work related activities, realize it will pay off much more in terms of the work.

On Choosing A Path

Ten years ago I was coming back from a business trip and found my self waiting at the baggage claim for the bags to start coming out. I had just spent 2 weeks inside an office in the beautiful mountains near Grenoble, France.

It was an overnight flight, so I was a little groggy when all of a sudden two paths for my life became instantly clear. It was like a fork in the road, with brightly-lit signs for both paths, had appeared right there at baggage claim. Each of these paths were being represented by two distinct groups of people.

Path 1
To my left, two men and a woman were returning from the some major sporting event in Switzerland. They were waiting for their athletic equipment to come around the baggage carousel. They were in sneakers, athletic type wear, and appeared to be in the best shape of almost anyone I had seen before. They appeared to be older in age, but looked better than most people I knew who might of been 20 years younger. They were animated while they talked and laughed and were playing off of each other’s energy and had a camaraderie that was so strong it was apparent from even 20 feet away where I stood.

Path 2
On my right, three gentlemen were returning from some type of corporate business meeting. They were waiting for their bags, with their heads down staring into their blackberries (this was so long ago it was when blackberries were just starting to be ubiquitous). They didn’t seem to want to talk to each other, and they had slightly miserable scowls on their face. They seemed drained from the overnight flight. They had on these horrible 90’s type camel hair blazers on top of the standard corporate guy’s outfit of slacks and a blue button down shirt.

That’s when it hit me, without consciously choosing, I was more likely to end up down Path 2 than Path 1. 

I’m not even talking about the choice between being a top athlete vs. a corporate businessperson–I’m talking about the level of energy each group exhibited in their lives.

For years, I thought about having to choose between those two paths and used that story to talk about going towards one vs. the other. I know I didn’t want to end up the begrudged corporate miser staring at my blackberry (or iPhone) in a camel hair blazer, but I didn’t necessarily think it would be possible or even desire to train for the upper echelons of sport everyday, like I did for a period in college.

Not until very recently have I started to think “why not be both.”

What would it look like to have endless energy and engagement and focus of a Olympic-type athlete, but still engage in the work and opportunities of someone building a business?

What is the fork in the road that you’ve been thinking about for a while? Could you take the best parts of both and make something new?

Don’t have one or the other, have it all.

Work Spas

I love going to spas.  No, not the kind that are advertised in the back of local newspapers, but the real kind that are luxurious retreats from the outside world.  Periodically being in a place that is specifically geared towards helping me relax and recharge while being extremely comfortable is as close to perfection as possible: fluffy robes, soft towels, salt rooms, wet and dry saunas, different temperature hot tubs that get hotter and hotter, cold plunge pools, lounge chairs, hot towels for your face, rainfall shower heads…

When you’re immersed in the spa those features may seem like they’re geared for your body, but it’s your mind that is getting a radical change of pace as well.

Imagine if you could use that different mindset for your work. How about integrating some elements of the spa into where and how you get work done?

Introducing the Work Spa.

Much of today’s most important work (if not all) involves creativity. The Work Spa is about being in an environment, periodically, that enhances your creativity while also being conducive to getting work done–if you want.

Could you be more effective immediately after a series of hot and cold plunges in the different pools?  Would you stimulate a latent part of your brain and be able to better solve problems because you’ve never tried to find a solution while you’re sitting around in a robe and towel surrounded by eucalyptus steam?

There are plenty of movies where the two power brokers in some financial transaction go into a steam room, so let’s take that idea to the current times.

A simple start would be putting wi-fi and laptop lockers in existing spas and having a section where the keyboard clicking wouldn’t interfere with the silent portion.  What else would your ideal work spa have?

 

Failure Awards

Very similar to Beg Forgiveness Cards

How about creating an awards program in your group specifically to highlight failure.

Celebrating success is great, but celebrating failure could just lead to better success.

What else do you need to celebrate in your group to help entice more of that behavior?

 

Beg Forgiveness Cards

Getting your team to believe that failure is an option or that taking prudent risks are OK is sometimes hard.  Most people in a work environment are trained to believe that things need to work out correctly all the time.

If you’re trying to get your team to live into the phrase “beg forgiveness rather than ask permission” maybe you can help accelerate their adoption of this with “Beg Forgiveness Cards.”

Think of little business cards that simply say “I took a risk and it didn’t work out. I am begging for forgiveness.”

Give out 2 or 3 to your team per year as a way to signal that they have a free pass to try something they think is risky, even if it does fail.  Maybe even include a line on the back like “and the thing I learned was ______.”

This shows that even when someone messes something up they can learn from it as well. After some time, you can display the collected cards for everyone to see what was learned and increase the overall risk tolerance of your group.

What other types of cards could people use at your office?  What could this little piece of “permission” unlock in your organization?

 

Hackathons for People

I love Hackathons and think they should be used for everything from IRS forms to anti-bullying solutions.

So how can hackathons work for people themselves?

A hackathon for people is to find help amplify or find solutions for one person’s work, because it’s great and you want to help spread or deliver their idea.

The idea of a Hackathon for People took shape as a friend and I were talking about someone in our community that has done a ton of good for other people but always let his needs or desires take a back seat.

What if we could get all kinds of people together from different expertise areas where he might be able to benefit and work to create outcomes for his long-term benefit?

This isn’t fundraising or anything – this is helping him do what he might not know how to do (build a website, edit a video) help him build momentum.  It’s also about teaching throughout the process so it isn’t just fishing for someone, but teaching to fish also.

It’s almost like Extreme Home Makeover, YC, TechStars, Trading Spaces, the Apprentice and Shark Tank all combine in service of helping someone that deserves it.

Who would you help, who else might want to help them?  Get to it.

The Sunday to Thursday Workweek

If you have to work five days a week, work a better five days.

Work on Sunday and you’ll be less distracted and focus better because to most other people it will be a day off. Being able to focus means you’ll also get your work done faster and usually with better quality.

Take off Friday and you’ll enjoy all the things you’d want to do during a weekend without the weekend traffic and crowd.  Again, this will make the overall experience more enjoyable.

There are innumerable benefits to moving your schedule to be slightly opposite the majority.  Test it and see how it works for you.

What else could you do to your schedule to improve your effectiveness?

 

Planning for Post Event Hangovers

I had two of the biggests “launches” of my life in a two-week time period. The first was the ten year anniversary fundraiser for a non-profit and the second was a 2 day TEDx event called TEDxJNJ I helped put on for our Company.

Being that it was the tenth time I’ve thrown the non-profit fundraiser, that launch was much simpler, although we did go all out and make this year’s event special.  However, the scale, the intensity and the focus that we had put into throwing an amazing TEDxJNJ event left me speechless for 9 days, especially considering it was the first TEDxJNJ ever.

I’d like to go more into TEDxJNJ at another time, to the extent the TEDx and JNJ guidelines allow me, but the days after that event had me wondering:

How can you plan better for post event hangovers?

No, not the drinking type hangover.  I mean the “I’ve just totally poured my heart and soul into a project and now it’s launched and because of what happened my mind is all at once completely exhausted as well as more inspired and full of ideas and connections than ever before” type of hangover.

It’s important to continue the momentum gained from any launch and even better when you plan for the “after the launch” before the launch.  I think it’s also important to take some time to allow it all to sink in so you can reflect.  The thoughts and synapses firing after a few days away from what you’ve done help make the next stages even better.

When all else fails drink lots of water, it works for traditional hangovers.

Finding the Payoff in Your Work

When I was a little kid I was always on the search for odd jobs. A couple times my Uncle Mike brought me to a warehouse he managed where they distributed VHS training videos in all sorts of subjects. One of the jobs I did there was to take huge boxes of VHS video tapes and stick stickers on the front of them before putting into other huge boxes. It was one of the greatest jobs I ever had.

The reason why: there was an immediate payoff (and maybe it’s related to singular focus).

I could see hour by hour, minute by minute the exact output of my work and set up little games to challenge myself to get better. If I did 2 boxes of video tapes the first hour, I would challenge myself to get 2.5 boxes done the next hour.

How many times do you get to the end of your day and think “what the hell did I do today?” Sure, you know you went through hundreds of emails and sat in hours of meetings and did SOMETHING today – you just have no idea what it was and there was no payoff at the end that lets you realize your impact. It usually after months and months of a large project to realize any payoff when it launches.

What would happen if you or the people on your team were absolutely clear, every day, about what the payoff was that you were working towards? How can you tie your daily actions to overall longer term goals?

Whatever you do, just please don’t set up some little system where you make the number of emails you send in a day or the total number of minutes you spend in a meeting any criteria for success.