Stepping Out of the Routine

by Ron Culberson

Many of us live in an world of regular routines and yet we have multiple opportunities to live in a world of new experiences. The familiar can limiting but the unfamiliar can open up many possibilities.

My daily exercise routine often takes the form of brisk walking through our neighborhood and then through an adjacent cemetery. The cemetery keep my cynicism in check as I am reminded of the whole above- and below-ground situation.

So, I take the same path every day because I like my routines – I like the familiar. However, the other day, my wife suggested we walk on the trail behind our neighborhood instead. Wives are good like that. Always pushing the envelope.

I know about these trails…sort of. I know about them the same way I know many of my neighbors. I know they exist but I don’t know their names, their professions, or what their hobbies are. Essentially, I don’t really know them.

So walking on the trail was a new experience for me.

The trail system is way more extensive than I imagined. The trails wind throughout the woods and in between neighborhoods. They cross the Sugarland Run stream frequently, and at times, you would swear you’re deep in the forest. Yet you’re only minutes from a major highway and a mere 20 miles from Washington, DC.

I’ve lived in my neighborhood for 16 years but never considered walking on the trails. Go figure. In my mind, the trails seemed mysterious and unknown while my neighborhood sidewalks and the cemetery were familiar and part of my daily routine. Yet, once I walked the trails, I realized how wonderfully therapeutic this new option was – and it was there all along.

Routines give us comfort because they are reliable and familiar. But when we’re locked into them, we’re avoiding new growth experiences.

The musical director for KA, one of Cirque du Soleil shows, spoke at a conference I attended. He said that when they’re discussing a new show and someone comes up with an idea, no one in the room ever says, “we can’t do that.” Instead, they say, “how can we make that happen?” Their normal way of thinking is to get out of the routine way of thinking. That’s pretty cool.

I like my routines and I suspect that I will hold onto many of them. Yet I am constantly reminded of the benefits of new experiences. So, with the help of my envelope-pushing wife, I will try to break out of my routines whenever I can.

All it took to walk these new trails was taking the first step. That seems doable.

12 Certainties That Will Transform Every Career and Create New Ones

by Daniel Burrus

As technology continues to impact our lives, workers in today’s ever-changing labor market need to be prepared with skills to adapt and succeed in the workplace.

The problem is, we live in an uncertain world, and because of the high levels of uncertainty we all face, people of all ages and career levels are finding it difficult to know what new skills to learn, what courses to take, and what degrees to get that will provide them with the most opportunity going forward.  Uncertainty keeps us stuck in the present.

Certainty, on the other hand, gives us the confidence to make a decision, to move forward, and to invest time and money to learn new things. Over the past thirty years, I have developed and proven the power of the science of certainty.  The science of certainty involves a scientific method of separating Hard Trends – trends that willhappen – from Soft Trends – trends that might happen. This method is currently being used by many Fortune 500 companies including IBM, Deloitte, and Pratt & Whitney to name a few, to provide an accurate roadmap of the opportunities that are ahead.

That’s why I’m launching a list of 12 Certainties that will transform every career, and create new ones. By providing an accurate roadmap for anyone who wishes to increase their personal career relevancy in a world of transformative change, you can now make career and education decisions with confidence. The list highlights technologies that are now, and will continue to transform present and future careers.  As you read through the list, ask yourself how each one will play a key role in your industry and your personal career path.

  1. Mobile Hardware, Software and Services will continue to rapidly evolve creating many new careers, as all phones become smartphones and our primary computer and tablets continue to evolve as our laptop replacement.This new level of mobility will allow any size business to transform how they market, sell, communicate, collaborate, educate, train, and innovate.
  2. Remote Visual Communications will become a primary relationship-building tool for businesses of all sizes asemployees use smartphones, tablets, and laptops, in combination with current video conferencing systems, to communicate at new levels with customers, partners, and employees.
  3. Social Business Enterprise Management will grow rapidly as organizations shift from an Information Age “informing” model to a Communication Age “communicating and engaging” model. New careers will emerge as Social Software for business rapidly grows with applications to enhance relationships, collaboration, networking, social validation, and more. Social Search will increasingly shape careers as marketers, researchers and those on Wall Street create applications and services to tap into millions of daily tweets and Facebook conversations, providing real-time analysis of many key consumer metrics.
  4. Cyber Security and Forensics careers will grow rapidly as we become increasingly connected and dependent on computer systems and machines using intelligent sensors connected to just about everything. Careers in data and information forensics will grow rapidly as the need to solve cyber crimes increases.
  5. Additive Manufacturing (3D Printing) will create many new careers in manufacturing as this revolutionary technology allows any size company to manufacture quickly, locally and with far fewer costs. Additive manufacturing builds things by depositing material, typically plastic or metal, layer by layer until the final product is finished. Examples of final products today include jewelry, iPhone cases, shoes, car dashboards, parts for jet engines, prosthetic limbs and much more.
  6. Gamification of Education will create many new careers as corporations and educational institutions at all levels accelerate learning by using advanced simulations and skill-based learning systems that are self-diagnostic, interactive, game-like, and competitive, all focused on giving the user an immersive experience thanks to a photo-realistic 3D interface.
  7. Cloud Services and Virtualization will be increasingly embraced by businesses of all sizes, as this represents a major shift in how organizations obtain and maintain software, hardware, and computing capacity. IT is rapidly becoming an on-demand service that is rapidly transforming all business processes resulting in a rapid evolution of current careers as well as creating new careers in every functional area.
  8. Big Data and Real-Time Analytics describe the technologies and techniques used to capture and utilize the exponentially increasing streams of data with the goal of bringing enterprise-wide visibility and insights to make rapid critical decisions. This new level of data integration and analytics will require many new skills and cross-functional training in order to take advantage of new opportunities as well as breakdown the many data and organizational silos that still exist.
  9. Intelligent ePersonal Assistants using natural language voice commands was launched with Apple’s Siri, which was rapidly followed by Google, Microsoft, and others all offering what will become a mobile electronic concierge on your phone, tablet, and television. The technology will rapidly evolve and soon every profession from retailers to maintenance workers will have a Siri-like assistant. Adding an e-personal assistant to support an existing product and/or service will create many new careers.
  10. 3D Web will transform today’s Internet experience (which is like looking at a flat piece of paper with a few photos, embedded video, and a few hyperlinks) to a true 3D experience, similar to todays video games, where you can virtually walk into a showroom, look around and both listen to and see the new car you are interested in, or whatever the website is trying to show you. This will employ many new graphic artists, designers and programmers.
  11. Connected Intelligent Objects using chips, microsensors and both wired and wireless networks will create a rapidly growing “Internet of things” sharing real-time data, performing diagnostics, and making remote repairs. Many jobs will be created as we add intelligent connected sensors to bridges, roads, buildings, homes and much more. By 2020, there will be well over a billion machines talking to each other and people will install them.
  12.  Advanced Robotics and Automation will take a giant leap forward thanks to networked sensors, artificial intelligence, and Siri-like voice communications, taking the next level of repetitive jobs from humans. This will create many new career opportunities from design, programming, and installation to service and maintenance, to name just a few.

You don’t have to know the physics of a telephone in order to use it.  You do have to know it exists and how to creatively use it to accomplish your goal. Don’t wait until next year, or the year after, or until you’re laid off. Invest the time to identify what you need to learn right away so that you will thrive both now and in the future, either in your current career or a new one.

Four Reasons You Flub Up

by Colette Carlson

Despite all the trainings, workshops, classes – and best intentions – we all flub up on the job. It can be as mundane as forgetting to book the conference room for the client meeting or as serious as administering the wrong medication dosage.

Of course, no one wants to mess up, especially at work. Probably not at home either if you’re “fortunate” enough to share space with someone who just loves to point out your mistakes. And I bet when you recall those instances when you did blow it, you get that sinking feeling in your gut just at the mere memory.

What can you do in the future to help eliminate the chance of error? We can begin by understanding the four main causes of human error. Then when you find yourself in one – or more – of these states, be vigilant.

1. Rushing. Whether it’s trying to quickly apply mascara to get out of the house on time or working against a last-minute deadline, when we rush, we often make mistakes – mistakes that cost us more time! When you find yourself scurrying to complete a project or make a deadline, pause, take a deep breath and give yourself permission to slow down. After all, if it saves you from making a crucial error or having to get out the eye makeup removal pads, it will have been time well-spent.

2. Frustration. You’re juggling 11 work projects right now, feeling like you’re barely keeping it together. That’s when Alex from accounting pops by your cubicle and nonchalantly drops off a sheaf of papers. “We need those last quarter numbers from your department revised. Jessica’s at a conference this week, so looks like you’ll have to handle it.” Rather than keep quiet as your jaw tightens and frustration mounts, now is the time to speak your truth: “I understand you need these revisions, so I will get them for you. Moving forward, let’s have a meeting when Jessica returns so we can create a schedule for deliverables.”

3. Fatigue. If you’re finding yourself making a fresh pot of coffee at 4 p.m. or zoning in front of the TV in the evening, you need to wake up to this truth: A recent Harvard Medical School study found that sleep-deprived American workers cost their employers $63 billion in lost productivity. Recommendations: Turn off screen devices an hour before going to bed. The blue light emitted by screens interferes with the production of melatonin, a sleep hormone. Listen to calming music rather than a crime drama before drifting off to sleep. If possible, get moving during the workday. Even a 10-minute walk outside can make a difference. If you’re chronically tired, perhaps it’s time to see a doctor. And be willing to speak up and ask for help at home if you’re shouldering the majority of the burden there. No one to ask? Let it go and go to bed.

4. Complacency. You’ve done the same task hundreds, if not thousands, of times. Are you bored out of your mind at your job? I believe if you can do your job with your eyes closed, it’s time to open your eyes for new opportunities. Yet, I realize some boring job tasks are never going away. So while it may be tempting to let your mind wander as you assemble packages for the upcoming trade show, think of how you’ll feel if you or your supervisor doesn’t have what’s needed game day. We’re trying to eliminate that cringe-inducing feeling you get when you’ve blown it on the job. So especially when faced with a repetitious or dull task, remain present.

When you do make an error at work – as we all do – speak your truth. Own it, document how it happened and how you’ll prevent it from ever happening again, and move forward. Not bad advice for at home either.

Why Every Business Is a SERVICE Business

by Libby Gill

Last week, I had the privilege of delivering a presentation to 650 of the most important people on the planet: fire fighters, 911 dispatchers, paramedics, and law enforcement officials.  These dedicated folks are on the front lines keeping all of us safe and I am eternally grateful for their service.

But you don’t have to be a first responder to protect and serve others. In my book You Unstuck, I profile San Antonio-based Rackspace, a web-hosting company famous for what they call “fanatical support.”  Rackers – as employees refer to themselves – don’t just talk about fanatical support, they live it.  In the aftermath of Katrina as hurricane victims were streaming out of New Orleans, Rackspace Chairman Graham Weston offered the city an old department store he owned for temporary housing.  Tapped out, the Mayor accepted the offer, but cautioned Weston that he would have to manage the location entirely on his own.

And that’s exactly what happened. In a closely knit company like Rackspace, word travels fast.  Within hours, dozens of Rackers showed up to convert the store into a shelter that could house 2,500 people. The volunteers set up cots, outfitted a cafeteria, created a children’s play area (several, actually, to accommodate kids of different ages) and built men’s and women’s showers.  Rackers also put their technical know-how to work and established a communications center with cable television, phones and computers so the residents could watch the news and stay in touch with friends and family throughout the sad unfolding of this great American tragedy.

While still working their regular shifts, Rackers did double-duty to greet buses of newly arriving refugees, serve food, comfort kids and listen to the stories of frightened and homeless victims. Interestingly, what the Rackers remember most is not that they were able to serve others – which they most certainly did – but the gift the company did by giving them the opportunity to serve.

  • Ask yourself what you can do to go beyond the bounds of service that your company routinely offers others.
  • Think about what gives you the greatest sense of purpose at work. Now think about some ways you can step it up even more.
  • The next time you or your family calls upon the services of the police, fire, 911, or paramedics, be grateful that these folks are fighting the good fight for us! And be sure to say thanks!!

The 4 T’s of building ethical relationships

by Frank Bucaro

Dr. Domeena Renshaw, now retired from Loyola University taught that there are four “T’s” of building any relationship.
1.      Trust:
Trust is the basic building block of any relationship. You haven’t got a friendship without trust; you haven’t got a marriage without trust and you haven’t got a business without trust!
2.      Touch:
What’s your personal touch: what gifts, talents, etc, do you bring “to the table?” I think everyone should a personal mission statement that answers two questions.
A.      What’s your life all about?
B.      How do you intend to go about achieving it?
I once explained this to a group and a man came up to me after the program and said, ”I want to go on for my degree, but I’ll be 48 by the time I finish.” I said: “How old will you be in four years if you don’t go on for your degree?” He looked stunned and I said” hoe bad do you want it?”
3.      Time:
It takes time to develop relationships. Is there good will in your business? Good will brings in business. Time is what is crucial in the development of loyal customers, loyal employees, better friendships, etc.
4.      Talk:
How many people have ever taken a listening course in School? How many have taken a speech course? People love to talk but who listens? Good communication must include them both Is the lack of listening/communication an issue in your company? Doesn’t this “T” relate to transparency in business?
Aren’t these all non negotiables for ethics in business?

Stop Procrastination in its Tracks!

by Laura Stack

This week, I’d like to discuss a form of self sabotage that I see all too often: procrastination, the fine art of putting things off. And off, and off, and off…

We’ve all let things slide when we shouldn’t have. It’s not always about forgetfulness, or overwork, or even laziness. In fact, some of the worst procrastinators are busy professionals who are otherwise successful in the workplace.

Ultimately, all procrastination does is generate anxiety and negativity. So why do we hobble ourselves this way? The reasons are rarely clear-cut, but often they consist of some mix of the following:

• Lack of self confidence
• Uncertainty
• Excess perfectionism
• Distractions
• Fear (of the unknown or a negative outcome)
• A perception of the task as difficult and/or time consuming
• Time pressure (either too little or two much)
• Anger or hostility toward the task
• Low frustration tolerance

What it all boils down to is that the unpleasant (or potentially unpleasant) tasks are the ones we tend to put off—no matter how high their value.

But all that really matters is how you fight procrastination. What can you do, in the real workaday world, to stop procrastination in its tracks?

Visualize. There are two basic kinds of motivation, and you can use both in your visualization scheme. First of all, consider the positive: visualize having that lingering task completed and out the door. What kinds of wonderful things will result? At the very least, imagine how great it’ll feel to have it off your plate!

Personally, I prefer positive visualization; but negative visualization can work too. You know from personal experience that unpleasant things rarely go away if you ignore them. They just get worse. What will happen if you let the unfinished task fester on your to-do list? There might be financial and career impacts.

Some researchers suggest you think of an ignored task as a cancerous cell: if left untreated, it’ll end up gobbling your time and resources, to your detriment. I think that’s a little extreme (even scary), but if you think it’ll work for you, go for it.

Strategize. If you have trouble getting starting, try breaking the task into smaller chunks—which is one of the basics of getting your high-value, high-intensity work done anyway. Plan how you’re going to tackle each individual subtask; if you have to, sketch out on paper how you’re going to handle them.

Put those subtasks on your to do list; and if someone doesn’t do it for you, set deadlines for each, along with an overall timeline for when you have to have the whole task completed. Then set out to meet those deadlines.

Eliminate distractions. How are you going to get anything done if you’re always checking your email, answering your cell phone, or surfing the Internet? If you’re easily distracted, get rid of the distractions until you make some headway on the task. Unplug the landline, turn off your cell phone, disable the Internet, and forget you even have email!

Get Busy. Assuming you have all the information and resources you need to move forward, action always beats meditation. Once you’ve given the task enough thought, leap into action. Focus like a laser on your task. If you have to, grit your teeth and tell yourself, “I’m going to do this, like it or not!”

And in Conclusion…
With some tasks, you simply have to put your head down and bull on through. No, it’s not likely to be fun; but then again, if it was, we wouldn’t necessarily call it work, now would we? While it’s great to love what you do (and of course that’s the ideal circumstance), as realists we know that we can’t love every single aspect of our jobs.

There will be certain tasks that you need to do, jobs that only you can do sometimes, that need your attention at least as much as the fun stuff. So do them. Even if you do it a little at a time, eventually you’ll get that monster task of your plate, so your boss will stop growling about it and you can stop angsting about it.