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Thursday, July 29, 2010

Well Being: Final Post

FINAL POST: This book could be one of the most important books of our times because it might just change how people approach life. I went ahead and took the Wellbeing Finder at and think it’s not only a smart model but also one we should replicate for kids in school. It forced me to answer critical questions about my 5 Wellbeing issues. Then it mapped out my Wellbeing scores, most of which were very high except for one that needs a little tuning up. So I wrote out a plan—in 15 minutes—and mailed it to people who really matter to me to help me stay on track. Please pick this book up and read it. Then send a copy to people you really care about.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Well Being: Post #6

Community Wellbeing: This section was one of my favorites. Community Wellbeing, according to the authors, “…can actually be the differentiator between a good life and a great one.” The general safety of our neighborhoods has a surprising effect on our wellbeing. And when asked about the perfect community place, people answer: aesthetics (how naturally beautiful the place is); a place where we spend time with friends; and a place (community) that is open to all people regardless of race, age or sexual preference. Getting involved in social communities and something bigger than themselves helps people feel much better. It literally is better to give than receive. By doing so, according to the authors, we live longer and healthier, are more productive and have a greater passion for purpose. Furthermore, “…well-doing inoculates us against stress and negative emotions.” Social groups also create positive social change. Look at what the anti-smoking movement did to the culture of smoking and what Mother Against Drunk Drivers accomplished that so many laws never could have. And if you look at the effect that friends and social groups like Weight Watchers and AA can have, you’ll want to seek out a couple of friends to join in you making some health commitments. The authors offer several good ideas for boosting Community Wellbeing. Here’s one: Tell people about your passions and interests so they can connect you with relevant groups and causes.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Well Being: Post #4

Physical Wellbeing: My mother used to say, “If you’ve got your health, you’ve got everything.” Turns out Margaret Gladis was right. Let’s face it, we’re a nation of tubbies. We’re fatter and getting even fatter. That’s causing all manner of problems in both personal and public health. A nation of overweight people is literally a nation at risk by silent enemies—diabetes, high blood pressure, heart problems—all of which threaten to break the bank. Over 62% of personal bankruptcies were caused by medical costs in 2007 according to a Harvard study. Some other facts: 20 minutes a day of exercise works well on your body and boosts your mood; people on healthier diets will reduce the medicine they take by 43%; food also changes your mood. For example, a diet that is high in carbs and sugar can cause asthma, diabetes, and arthritis. The authors offer several good ideas for boosting Physical Wellbeing. Here’s one: Sleep enough to feel well rested (generally 7-8 hours) but not too long (more than 9 hours).

Monday, July 26, 2010

Well Being: Post #4

Financial Wellbeing Comedian Woody Allen said it best: “Money is important if only for financial reasons!” The authors found out essentially the same thing, financially secure people were happier than those less financially secure. BUT, spending money on themselves did NOT boost wellbeing. Spending money on other people was as important as how much people made. Further, people in bad moods spend more money, display worse purchasing decision making, and DON’T feel better, in fact sometimes worse. So “retail therapy” does not work. On the other hand, people who spend money on others and those who “buy experiences” like family vacations and gatherings with friends can enjoy the events before, during and after them. So, building memories, not self accumulation of stuff, does the trick. The authors offer several good ideas for boosting Financial Wellbeing. Here’s one: Establish default systems (automated payments and savings) that lessen daily worry about money.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Well Being: Post #3

Social Wellbeing Think about the best times in your life, and you’ll find they usually involve other people. We’re pack animals…social creatures. Our emotional states are caught and transmitted. Shorthand: if we’re in a good mood or a bad mood, others catch it—and vice versa. Thus, according to a Harvard study of 12,000 people, if you have direct connection with a happy person, your odds of being happier increase by 15%. And the correlation of both healthy and unhealthy (especially overweight) friends will have you re-examining who you hang out with. If not, have a defibrillator handy! Having close relationships, best friends at work, even the proximity of great friends, and the amount of time spent socializing all effect your wellbeing. The authors offer several good ideas for boosting Social Wellbeing. Here’s one: Spend six hours a day socializing with friends family and colleagues (NOTE: this time includes work, home, phone, email, email and other communication).

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Well Being: Post #2

Career Wellbeing. We spend most of our time at work. Thus, the authors ask the question, “Do you like what you do every day?” Then, they note that in their surveys only 20% of workers answer “yes.” So, most of the country is engaged in much less than productive work! The outcomes in terms of engagement, productivity, and health are staggering. In fact, the authors argue that Career Wellbeing is a more influential factor to overall wellbeing than the other four. Their comparison of how much more impactful sustained unemployment is than even the death of a spouse knocked me over. And their charts of what an engaged worker’s happiness looks like, versus a low engaged and unhappy worker’s, was eye-opening. I predict that the connection with health and job happiness/satisfaction will send some people out looking for new jobs! And when you see the effect a bad, neglectful, or toxic boss can have on just about anything and anybody—faggedaboutit, as Tony Soprano might say. The authors offer several good ideas for boosting Career Wellbeing. Here’s one: Identify someone with a shared mission who encourages your growth. Spend time with this person.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Well Being: Post #1

Well Being: The Five Essential Elements by Tom Rath and Jim Harter (Gallup Press, 2010) Reviewed by Steve Gladis, Ph.D.

The Gallup folks have done it again. They’ve conducted rigorous research in 150 countries, including the US, on what makes us live a complete life—one of wellbeing. In their quest among oceans of data, they’ve discovered five elements that shape a life of wellbeing: Career Wellbeing, Social Wellbeing, Financial Wellbeing, Physical Wellbeing, and Community Wellbeing. They’ve not only written an immensely accessible, readable book, but also a well documented, well sourced one. Furthermore, Tom Rath and Jim Harter have created a Wellbeing Finder, an online instrument that provides follow-up reader engagement. Gallup has done this before with its now famous StrengthsFinder. I recommend Well Being to anyone interested in their own, their team’s, and their organization’s wellbeing.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Ted Leonsis' Secrets to Happiness: #6 FINAL Post

A Higher Calling: Again, Ted reflects closely the writings of Goldsmith, Conley, Pink and Goleman. For example, he unabashedly states that to be happy, “…all of us must find a higher calling of some sort.” Whether we look to cure a disease or teach a child, this higher calling takes living to a new level. As a parallel, Chip Conley in his book Peak argues essentially the same thing: You can have a job, a career, or a calling—but it is the calling that is transformational and makes people truly happy. Pink and Rick Warren call it purpose and Goldsmith calls it meaning—note that none of these guys invented any of the words they use. But they all come to the same conclusion: Happiness comes from a higher calling. And surely Ted Leonsis has found that higher calling as well. And if you want to see how his formula for driving happiness into business success works, let’s all just watch what happens now that he’s just purchased the Washington Wizards from the Pollins, another amazingly philanthropic family that understands where happiness truly comes from.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Ted Leonsis' Secrets to Happiness: #5

Giving Back: I like the opening line of this section: “I derive more happiness out of giving money away than making it or spending it.” I believe this is the huge, unspoken secret that all philanthropists seem to figure out before many others. Like the old saying goes, “It’s better to give than receive.” And Americans are the most generous folks in the world. In this section, he offers a very brief overview of a Harvard study as scientific proof that charitable giving makes people happy. And while I appreciate his occasional references to research, his personal stories are more personally persuasive, though less scientific and thus less applicable to the population as a whole. He uses examples of Cal Ripken, Steve Case, and Ashley Judd—all worth reading about. I particularly liked his story about how the Internet browser Firefox benefited from the generous contribution of AOL to the Mozilla Foundation to get this open-source browser started and sustained.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Ted Leonsis' Secrets to Happiness: #4

Gratitude: This is one of my favorites. My philosophy is eerily similar to his, so that’s my bias as I write this review. Though I’ve never met Ted, I do confess I’m connected to him on Facebook, with thousands of others. He posits that gratitude for what people have and empathy for others is critical for happiness. And because I actually teach this, I say, “Right on, Ted.” Here’s how he puts it so well and simply: “To me, empathy, gratitude, giving back to society, and having a higher calling are all part of a continuum.” And he calls empathy a “super ingredient.” If you look at the writing of well respected writers and speakers like Marshall Goldsmith, Chip Conley, Dan Pink, and Daniel Goleman, you’ll find this word, empathy, emerge regularly and vigorously as the key ingredient of truly happy people. As an example of a happy person, Ted uses Alex Ovechkin, whom he describes as “the ultimate team player….he makes players around him better….he walks into a room with happiness.” No wonder the guy makes $100 million! Or, is it because he makes the big salary that he’s so happy? I rather doubt the latter. Just look at the research on that salary, which ranks lower than most people think when it comes to the list of factors that makes people happy. But if you want to see what gratitude can bring, looking at Leonsis’ life might be even a better example.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Ted Leonsis' Secrets to Happiness: #3

Personal Expression: The author believes that everyone needs to have some form of personal voice or outlet. And again because our personalities are so similar, I give this two thumbs up. He argues that people should have a unique channel to express themselves. Again, like all of his “secrets,” they’re his secrets supported by his stories and experiences, which while compelling because he tells a good story and is so successful, one size does not fit all. He tries to redeem his bias by offering all manner of ways to self express, such as, blogging, journaling, writing letters to the editor, using photography, decorating, taking music lessons, and even cooking. Again, as one who blogs, writes, and journals, I could not agree more. But, I just want to point out that very little in this section is backed by much research—resonating as it is.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Ted Leonsis' Secrets to Happiness: #2

Multiple Communities of Interest: Leonsis’ premise here is that the more communities you are associated with, the happier you’re likely to be. He places a premium on networking and community involvement, and while I don’t disagree at all, I think this needs both modification and study. It’s pretty obvious, even by someone skimming this book, that Ted is an extravert (a la the Myers Briggs personality indicator). So happens that I am as well. Folks like us tend to network with relative ease. Not so for introverts, who place a premium on the depth rather than the breadth of their personal relationships. In this section, he raises the idea of “the double bottom line,” and while he certainly didn’t invent the term, I hope he helps to make the term stick in business. Doing well to do good is my personal mantra. His discussion about actor Robert Redford in this section helped me really appreciate what Redford has done off screen to make a significant difference. The key is to do something for someone other than yourself and keep your focus on spreading/sharing out beyond yourself.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Ted Leonsis' Secrets to Happiness: #1

Your Life List: Leonsis talks about a harrowing plane ride followed by his decision after that to make a list of 101 things that he wanted to accomplish in life, from falling in love to owning a Ferrari. By now he’s accomplished many of the items on this list and claims that just having the list makes a big difference. I would agree. There’s a lot of research around people tending to meet clearly articulated and publicly stated goals. As Leonsis puts it, “…your Life List is important for clarifying your conscious desires and needs.” He makes his points with some interesting illustrations of his list in action, like his new enterprise, Snagfilms, an online documentary film site as part of his “filmanthropy” that helps people who want to open their own virtual movie theater. He ties it back to his #88 goal: Win a Grammy/Oscar/Tony/Emmy Award. By the way, he won an Emmy for Nanking, his first documentary.

Monday, July 5, 2010

The Business of Happiness: An Introduction

The Business of Happiness (Regnery, 2010) by Ted Leonsis and John Buckley Reviewed by Steve Gladis, Ph.D.

Ted Leonsis is a happy guy, but not because he has a lot of money. Rather, he has a lot of money because he’s happy. If you read his autobiography, The Business of Happiness, you’ll get a chance to see how he found happiness through this journey from New York to Massachusetts, and eventually to DC and Virginia. His odyssey, from becoming an English major at Georgetown, to the high-tech business, to a start up, to AOL, to the Capitals, (now the Wizards) and possibly to outer space if he hits all the points on his “life list.” Scared by a near fatal plane crash, he compiled his list of 101 things he wanted to do before dying. This book takes the reader on an interesting journey through Leonsis’ professional life (including AOL and the AOL-Time Warner M&A mess) and then through what I would call his spiritual life—his journey to happiness. The biography itself was interesting, and the real payoff comes from the secrets he discovered along the way. His six secrets that led him (and presumably could move us) toward happiness and success: 1) Your Life List; 2) Multiple Communities of Interest; 3) Finding Outlets for Self-Expression; 4) Gratitude; 5) Giving Back; 6) A Higher Calling.

This week I’ll review each of these in more depth.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Getting Change Right: Element 7 - Final Post

WorkLifeSuccess in the Midst of Change. Change agents live and breathe their ideas as they try to move the organization forward. This causes stress—pushback on the change agent. Kahan writes about this work-life balance like one who has lived it. Again, wit h the lists, he offers a number of “viewpoints” to generate this balance or WorkLifeSuccess: I care for myself, I care for others, Nature is the foreground, I see my work as an extension of life, and others. One section in this chapter that I personally liked (because it’s the work I do), concerned the benefits of bringing in an outside advisor to get the following: Input for similar experiences, professional support for situations you face alone, confidence in the most difficult situations, and others. Finally, Seth Kahan has given us a book to help navigate the important and often troublesome wasters of change.

The book acts like a GPS to keep us on track when we get lost in the process.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Getting Change Right: Element #6

Breaking through logjams. Kahan gives a neat, concise history of logjams in the history of the country—something I never knew about. His analogy to companies: If you don’t break up logjams, they clog up the works and gum up the company’s progress. Conducting a breakthrough session is not cheap, so you don’t do them frivolously, but when you have a systemic problem, people have answers (but not sharing them), authority’s not clear, and no one owns the problem—the the power of a face-to-face breakthrough session is essential for the health of the company. The author lists (remember I told you Kahan loves lists) the six step protocol for the meeting and a number of steps to execute the meeting, such as, laying out the room, celebrating different views, making expertise explicit, using storytelling, focusing on the most important issues first, and others. Breakthrough sessions are important and not business as usual and should be underscored by the fact that you’re willing to spend a lot of money to solve the issues at hand.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Getting Change Right: Element #5

Generating dramatic surges in progress. Kahan talks about “touchstone” events for organizations that serve much like organizational rites of passage. Such events shift or move a community/organization from one place to the next level. Done well, he contends that such touchstone events are like jet engines: the draw in people like jets draw in air; anticipation builds as the event gets closer like a jets compressor; the event takes place like a jet igniting; and good ideas catch fire and spread through the event to the change program like a jet engine accelerates and pushes the aircraft forward. Again, Kahan has a list of steps for creating a touchstone (or kickoff) event. The man loves lists….there are many in this book. In this instance here area a but a few checkpoints to launch such an event: know the audience, have a compelling attention getter, tell your story, put your audience into the story, and close with impact (see p136 for the detailed list and explanation). Kahan stressed the need to cluster a lot of events and communication around the touchstone event so that changes seems to be everywhere. Also, catching people when they leave the event—with great follow up is critical to keep the momentum going, otherwise you dissipate all the energy you created. So follow-up surveys, webinars, etc. stoke the fires you create in the touchstone event.

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