So What Do Strengths Have to Do With "The Art of Really Living?"

So What Do Strengths Have to Do With "The Art of Really Living?" (and, what is that anyway?)

WHAT: We all have had moments that were so intense, so memorable, and so full of life, that they created indentations in our memory. I describe these time-expanding experiences as moments of “really living.” The Art of Really Living (TAORL) is a movement and a philosophy to help people design and live strengths-focused resilient lives by designing powerful experiences that slow time and help you live (almost) forever.

"In the end, it's not the years in your life that count. It's the life in your years." (Abraham Lincoln)

WHY: Because TIME is the most valuable commodity we have as human beings. Life is short, and thanks to a cognitive bias in our brains that causes our perception of time to accelerate, life is actively getting shorter. People around the globe miss their chances to expand time and “really live,” while they helplessly watch their lives accelerate and race by. They are stuck below their level of capability, trapped by stifling routines and a relentless focus on weaknesses, mired in careers noted by small risks and small rewards, and leading lives of quiet desperation. They are not really living. I want to change that and through TAORL play the role of the chrysalis, breaking the clay of grey men, revealing the colors of the sleeping poet, painter, musician or hidden genius within.

Everyone dies. Not everyone really lives.

HOW:

By designing our lives to reverse this cognitive bias we can slow and expand the ticking of the clock which gives us back the most precious of all currencies: time.

  • S + R x T = TAORL
  • Strengths + Resilience x Time  = The Art of Really Living
  • The Art of Really Living helps people to create these moments by:
  1. Aiding people in designing strengths-focused lives full of willpower, confidence and motivation to pursue these moments that often feature a state of “flow” and create memories
  2. Developing resiliency to weather the intensity and stresses endemic to “really living” moments
  3. Understanding the non-linear nature of experiential time and learning how to design more "really living moments" that will lead to time expansion

Screen Shot 2015-02-10 at 1.09.58 PM

So why is a strengths-focused life essential to "really living" and expanding time? In the end it all comes back to myelin - that mysterious substance in the brain that wraps neurons and increases the speed of impulses and communications in the brain.

Living a strengths-centered life allows for two things to take place simultaneously:

  1. It increases resiliency and the ability to withstand stress and persevere in pursuit of those things that "really matter."
  2. A strengths centered life focuses your time and activity on the myelinated circuits in your brain: those that can communicate up to 1000 time faster than unwrapped circuits - meaning that the amount of data being shared and recorded is orders of magnitude greater than in areas of weakness. Translation: a strengths-centered life records more data, has more moments of "flow," records more memories. More memories = more time.

Living a strengths-centered life allows for us to design and weather the kinds of experiences where "really living” moments take place, and it ensures they are recorded in a high definition camera for a huge databank of time expanding memories.

—————–

Want to learn more about finding your strengths and designing a life for them? I would be so pleased if you would join us for our Strengths 2.0 Summit February 13th in Chicago – details below:

Join John K. Coyle and Dr. David Rendall Feburary 13th in Chicago for our Strengths 2.0 Summit, a half day workshop to use design thinking to find your strengths and design through your weaknesses. Click the link below to learn more and register.

Strengths 2.0 Summit

Stop Trying to Be Well Rounded...

“If you spend your life trying to be good at everything, you will never be great at anything" “Although individuals need not be well-rounded, teams should be.”

(Tom Rath, "Strengths Based Leadership")

———————-

Want to learn more about your strengths and how to leverage those of your team? Join John K. Coyle and Dr. David Rendall Feburary 13th in Chicago for our Strengths 2.0 Summit, a half day workshop to use design thinking to find your strengths and design through your weaknesses. Click the link below to learn more and register.

Strengths 2.0 Summit

Strengths-Based Leadership: Creating the Right "Enclosure" (Guest Post by Stosh Walsh)

Strengths-Based Leadership: Creating the Right "Enclosure" (Guest Post by Stosh Walsh) stosh1 stosh2

As I read John’s last post, my first thought was, “An important part of a leader’s job is to decide what kind of ‘enclosure’ to create.”

But before we get to that, we have to understand the 2 factors that inform the decision.  First, direction—where are we going?  And second, culture—what kind of environment must we have to ensure we arrive there?

Leaders can do this in one of two ways.  They either build their team according to the desired direction and culture, or shape the desired direction and culture according to their existing team.  In both cases, a consideration of strengths is paramount.

This reality gives birth to change management, evolution of teams, building and perpetuating a legacy—in short, these things happen over time, not instantly.  Leaders who elect to build a team according to the desired direction and culture have greater margin when selecting the team, but must face the stages of team development.  Conversely, leaders who pursue a new direction with an existing team might enjoy a greater understanding, but face changing the status quo and all that endeavor entails.

Though they face unique obstacles, both approaches can work if the leader employs a strengths-based perspective.  For the leader who chooses to build a team toward a new or existing direction, selecting the right strengths is paramount, after which those strengths can be shaped, over time, into culture.  For a leader with an incumbent team, the key is to understand the team’s strengths and then choose a direction that will see those strengths maximized.

For example, if a basketball coach wants to play an up and down the court transition style, he must select athletes who can perform the tasks associated with that style.  He will likely prefer players who possess the strengths of speed, agility and passing, as opposed to patience, decision-making or rebounding ability.  However, if that same coach has a team full of tall, strong, patient players, he is better served to understand the existing strengths and choose a more methodical style based on ball control and scoring close to the basket.  If, in the first scenario, the coach fails to select the right strengths, his direction will fail and his culture will deteriorate.  Similarly, if the coach tries to take the team in a direction that does not suit their existing strengths and culture well, he will lose games even if his players are more talented.

Why?  Enclosure = Culture + Direction.

Now, if at this point you are thinking, “That sounds too easy,” you are right.  But most of the difficulty leaders face in trying to determine the right enclosure is self-inflicted—they insist on a direction that does not suit their team’s strengths, or they choose teams full of people who are talented in the wrong areas, and therefore unable to further the direction.

So how can leaders avoid this?

They can GEAR UP for strengths:

Grant autonomy—people who are working in an area of strength will exceed your expectations.  Give them the why of their work, and let them figure out the how.

Encourage effort—tell people what you’ve seen them do well and ask them to try it again, or in a different setting because of your confidence in them.

Assess—discover the strengths of people around you by asking, “When was the last time you lost track of time?” or “What do people come and ask for your input or guidance on?”  The answers will provide clues to their strengths.  Put people through assessments that can help them put vocabulary to what they do well.

Reward and recognize—few things on earth feel better than doing something we enjoy and then having someone acknowledge it in a way that is meaningful to us.

Understand motivations—some people work for money, others for enjoyment, still others for mission—whatever their motivation, it will be informed by their strengths.

Position for success—help people do less work in areas they don’t perform well, and more in places where they excel.  We all have to do some things we aren’t very good at or don’t like, but we shouldn’t have to do more than is absolutely necessary, as that serves neither direction nor culture.

As a leader, what strategies have you employed to choose the right direction, shape the right culture—create the perfect enclosure?

———————-

Want to learn more about your strengths and how to leverage those of your team? Join John K. Coyle and Dr. David Rendall Feburary 13th in Chicago for our Strengths 2.0 Summit, a half day workshop to use design thinking to find your strengths and design through your weaknesses. Click the link below to learn more and register.

Strengths 2.0 Summit

Finding Resonance: Strengths x Environment(squared) = Performance

Finding Resonance: Strengths x Environment2 = Performance What’s Your Frequency? A good number of entries in this blog have been about how important it is to find your strengths, and for good reason – only by knowing your true talents can you design a life to maximize them. That said, strengths are actually a relatively small part of the equation for peak performance. Clearly identified, strengths are just a data point unless they are utilized in an environment where they are needed, wanted, and resonate. We have all known a talented co-worker – engineer, accountant, creative director – who just wasn’t “a fit” with the people, work or culture of a company and floundered, eventually leaving or being “exited.” Yet, we all know of situations where a few months later in a similar role in a similar company, this same person with the same skillset is suddenly flourishing. What gives? I would assert that the subtle and unique combination of skills, talents and capabilities of this employee (or leader, athlete, or musician) were out-of-tune with the resonant frequency of their environment. To explain, let me introduce a metaphor from the world of audio.

I have a fascination with subwoofers. For me, there is something compelling about the super-low, even subsonic, bass notes from the kick drum, tympani or pipe organ that cause standing waves in milk, and your insides, to curdle. Sadly, my neighbor, Dolores, does not feel the same way, and these days I have to switch the subwoofer off unless I’m sure she’s not home.

I used to have a 3000-watt subwoofer that was capable of 95 decibels at 20 hertz (the low end of human hearing) which would rattle the windows in the living room. Now, I have a 300-watt subwoofer that is capable of 105 decibels at 20 hertz. By way of comparison, the lower the frequency, the exponentially greater the power required to create the same volume level. 10 additional decibels requires exactly 10 times more power. Yet, this new subwoofer has 1/10th of the power. So how is it possible to achieve 10 times the volume with 1/10th of the power, a 100-fold performance improvement?

Resonance.

The old subwoofer was crammed into a tiny cabinet to save space. The new subwoofer has a large (5’) cylindrical enclosure that allows standing waves to build inside before escaping through a specially-tuned port. Now, I can rattle the windows of the neighbor’s house 100 feet away without even turning the volume up half way.

Screen Shot 2015-01-20 at 2.23.13 PM

The subwoofer came disassembled and it was a fascinating experiment to run a low bass tone through the speaker absent the enclosure, and to hear essentially nothing other than a rubbery whooshing as it emptied its power into the cavernous emptiness of the room. The contrast upon moving the speaker into proximity with the enclosure was startling, as the whole house would begin to shake with the bold power of resonating bass.

Screen Shot 2015-01-20 at 2.24.20 PM

To complete the metaphor: Your strengths are the power driving the speaker (yes more power is better), but your environment is the enclosure that can either amplify your strengths 100-fold, or stifle them to nothingness. Of the two, the enclosure/environment is exponentially more important in determining output and performance.

Are you in the right “enclosure” to amplify your strengths? Are you vibrating at a resonant frequency with your career, your home, your hobbies, your friends, or your relationships? Or are you out of tune with your environment, wasting all your power vacuously shaking in place with no impact on the world?

What about your teams, your children, your family and friends – what kind of environment are you creating for them? Are you helping them find their resonant frequency, and designing the kind of space, culture and environment that allows them to achieve peak performance and output? Or are you cramming them into the predetermined architecture of your world, traditional schools, traditional rules and expectations, stifling them in the process?

----------------------

Want to learn more about your strengths and how to leverage those of your team? Join me and Dr. David Rendall Feburary 13th in Chicago for our Strengths 2.0 Summit, a half day workshop to use design thinking to find your strengths and design through your weaknesses. Click the link below to learn more and register.

Strengths 2.0 Summit

What Strength Will You Focus on in 2015?

“It doesn’t take a lot of strength to hang on. It takes a lot of strength to let go.” (J. C. Watts) In 2015, I will focus on developing some relatively newly-discovered strengths and deliberately designing around the well-trodden paths of my weaknesses.

  • Strengths: I will spend more time writing and speaking (a relatively newly-discovered strength). Both of these activities fill me with energy and purpose, and bring color into my life. I have already discussed this with my employer and designed my job description to focus on these areas.
  • Weaknesses: I will stop pretending that I have significant strengths in detail orientation and follow-through. I will rely on people who are strong in these areas, so that I can dream big and still deliver.

Please share: What strength will you focus on in 2015? Or what weakness are you chasing that you will let go or turn over to someone else?  Please share with our community by commenting below.

Screen Shot 2013-03-24 at 4.27.47 PM

One Resolution for 2015: "Race Your Strengths"

"Race Your Strengths" was a refrain repeated daily for decades by Mike Walden, the head coach for a small cycling club in Detroit Michigan. During those 25+ years, this small club produced over 120 national champions, 12 world champions, 10 Olympians and 4 Olympic medals. There was no mysterious talent pool in Detroit during this period, and all of the athletes were local. Nonetheless, by a relentless focus on helping people find their strengths as athletes, this one club produced more than 25% of all national cycling medalists for a 25 year period. walden

For 2015 I propose we make only one resolution - the kind of resolution that "floats all boats." For 2015 I propose that we follow Mike Walden's advice and extend it beyond athletics. Let’s design our lives to align closer to our strengths and natural talents, and design around those activities that are true weaknesses. When we are operating in sync with our native capabilities, we are more resilient: we can handle greater amounts of stress because we are filling our bucket with energy and positive feedback. When we are pursuing activities that are in line with our strengths, we experience more moments of "flow" where time speeds by in the present, buts creates a treasure trove of significant memories. When we are "racing our strengths" we have more and greater chances to have life-defining moments of "really living," experiences of such meaning and gravity, that time slows, stops, or even expands.

Life is short: time to race your strengths. 

21812447_m