Theme I: Attitude
- Take Yourself Seriously. Not seriously like in an egotistical way but seriously like your choices have consequences. If you aren’t taking yourself seriously right now, I guarantee it has to do with the logic of depression, meaning that you tell yourself things like this: “I tried before, and I failed.” If this is you, understand that your mind isn’t functioning right. You’re going to have to retrain your brain, even if you have to stand there in front of the bathroom mirror in the morning and make accurate statements to yourself repetitively. Not phony affirmations. Sentences such as this: “I can’t control the past. I can control what I do right now.”
- Stop Being Irrationally Afraid. Sometimes we think, “If X happens, I’m screwed.” Sometimes we live our whole lives that way. We don’t speak up when we should. We don’t leave a bad job or a bad relationship. We don’t break ties with toxic friends, or family. Because we have this terrible cloud of fear hanging over us, an all-purpose sense of doom. Of course this isn’t to tell you in some magical way that everything will be all right no matter what. It isn’t to prescribe unrealistic choices. Sometimes you have to live with things you just don’t like. But at the very least, you should say to yourself, “What is the worst thing that can happen if I act?” And then consciously decide to go one way or another. If you find that you are just paralyzed or consumed by fear, or anxious thoughts bubble up constantly, try writing the following sentence down, staring at it, saying it out loud (as above), and even putting it up on your bulletin board: “I am a survivor. I have survived a lot already. I am much stronger than I think.”
- Surrender. This is for the control freaks who can’t prioritize, can’t delegate, and can’t take anything off their plate because they somehow think the weight of the world rests squarely on their shoulders. Don’t believe in God? Just call it the Universe; do your best and then hit the “Let It Go” button.
- Be Generous. There is no rational reason to be nice to other people. Most of the time, they won’t pay you back, and it’s time you could have spent advancing your own self-interest. But somehow, when you give, the Universe does give back to you. It changes your mood and your attitude; it gives you a sense of purpose. Doesn’t mean you should ignore your own needs, but it does mean that selflessness yields intangible dividends.
Theme II: Intention
- Adopt A Posture Of Success. Some people have a ton of goals, like their entire life is about crossing off every item on the “bucket list.” Others go to the other extreme and insist on “taking life as it comes.” If you can pick one thing to focus on, whether professional or personal, and then see that through it will balance you. Remember it doesn’t have to be an outcome-based goal (lose 30 pounds); it can be a process-based goal (walk half an hour a day). The point is not really to achieve the goal, but rather to develop a genuine sense of belief in yourself.
- Be Accountable. We all know an excuse when other people use one, but it’s all too easy to justify our own bad behavior. Another way of putting this is that we “gaslight” ourselves, meaning we avoid seeing things as they are and instead manipulate our own selves into believing that we are right, almost at any cost. How many arguments, how many accidents, how many crimes, how many lawsuits, and how many wars could be avoided if people simply said, “That was a screwup on our end. How can we fix it?”
- Pay Attention To Time: l know that in some cultures, including some work cultures, being on time means being late. But make it a habit to be on time. This is not so much about the hands on the clock as it is about demonstrating respect for the other people in the room. It also forces you to be present at the meeting instead of thinking about other things or playing games with your cellphone. Similarly, keep an eye on how much of other people’s time you are spending. Respect their need to get things done, and that time is very limited — it actually is the most valuable commodity on the planet.
Theme III: Presentation
- Improve Your Verbal Communication Skills. Last night I was watching a video that has gone “viral.” It was amazing to me that the person featured on the video — essentially a spontaneous street confrontation — was so incredibly articulate, without any preparation or prompting. Regardless of your profession, regardless of your career level, and regardless of your educational achievements, you can impress people by demonstrating powerful rhetorical skills. If that seems like an overwhelming task, you can join a group like Toastmasters, which is specifically aimed at helping people improve their ability to speak in public. If you don’t have the bandwidth or desire to take on yet another activity, a very simple way to start is by practicing with your cellphone. You can record yourself answering a question, and then view the video to see where you did well, and where you tend to mess up.
- Dress Better. I know this advice is trite and overused, but read what I’m saying carefully. I did not say to “dress well,” or “dress expensively,” or “dress in ways that are considered fashionable.” Rather, I’m only saying to up your game, or in the words of Chef Emeril Lagasse: “Kick it up a notch.” Your focus needs to be on things that are doable and authentic – you, only better. Believe me, people will notice.
- Fix Up Your LinkedIn Profile: Here are two simple things you can do. Number one, add 2-3 sentences under each job that explain what you did there. Don’t have 0 words and don’t have 3 paragraphs. Check for typos etc. Second, you need recommendations. Not just endorsements, but actual words on your profile from people who know you and can say something nice. My personal preference on this is to reciprocate first, meaning to go to a connection’s page and recommend them. To do this, click the down arrow next to “Send A Message,” then click “Recommend.” More directly, you can also ask directly — in person, by phone or by email. To do this, from your profile page, look underneath and to the right of your photo, where it says “View Profile As.” Click the down arrow, then click “Ask To Be Recommended.”
All opinions my own.
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