Purpose is Sexy – The Case of John Legend

Purpose is Sexy – The Case of John Legend


Last night I had a massive peak experience – going on a date night with my husband to see the incomparable John Legend in concert at the Chastain Park Amphitheatre in Atlanta.

And, throughout the concert, as I looked at other fellow concert-goers, it was obvious that others were sharing the peak experience with me.  For example, the guy sitting beside me kept shaking his head in admiration at Legend’s proficiency on the piano, random people yelped screams of glee in response to his mellifluous vocal gymnastics, while others simply sat back with expressions of serene contentment as they were washed in the stripped down versions of his songs.

In sum, we were all in awe, utterly captivated by what we were witnessing.

Now, it would be fair to say that a number of factors could have been seducing the audience.  First of all, it was a perfect night – Chastain Park is a beautiful open-air venue in which audience members bring picnic baskets of food, with wine and candles to set a delightful ambiance.  Furthermore instead of being the stifling hot and humid Atlanta norm for July, the temperature was pleasantly in the sixties with a slight breeze.

Second, most of the audience was composed of couples.  It was a captive audience of people who came wanting to be taken on a journey of romance, courtesy of his blockbuster hit, All of Me.

Third, John Legend certainly has some seductive qualities.  After all, the dude is certainly easy on the eyes.  He was impeccably dressed in a clean-cut shirt and tie combo.  His intelligence and playfulness came through in his comfortable banter with the audience.

However, I would argue that was the most spell-binding for all of us was that we all knew that this guy was doing exactly what he was supposed to be doing.  Seeing him living out his purpose was sexy.

His strengths, talents, and passions were all aligned in his chosen career path.  It was clear that he had fully committed himself to his art and had spent years honing his craft (after taking a brief foray into management consulting, he toiled away as a relative unknown for years before getting his record deal).  As a result, he was the embodiment of excellence in his performance last night.

And, because John Legend has followed his calling in his work, he loves what he does.  It was obvious that he adores the creative process and pushing himself as an artist.  For example, the concert itself was different from his previous ones (I have been to about five or six) in that he chose to play mostly unplugged version of his songs, with a string quartet accompanying him throughout.  That was a huge risk, considering that a lot of his fans are relatively new and they might have been looking forward to the arrangements with which they were familiar.  At the end, however, I think this gamble garnered him respect, as people appreciated him for trying something new (and of course, it was incredible).

His love for his art also showed in his performance.  At moments he looked to be in a state of pure enjoyment at the sounds he was able to create with his voice.  He knew he was slaying the audience.  He was immersed in the moment, in a state of passion for what he was doing.  Witnessing him in a flow state was truly infectious – seeing him perform at a high level was not only awe-inspiring, but inspirational.

So, what is the moral of the story for those of us who may not have John’s exceptional voice, dexterous fingers, and ears that enable us to write complex and sophisticated chord progressions?

Find that sweet spot in which your talents and sense of purpose intersect.  Ask yourself what you feel called to do and pursue it with gusto, inspiration, intuition, hard work, and love.

Be your absolute best.  And, while you may not ever perform your craft in front of an amphitheater of people (and not all of us are called to do that), it will make all the difference in your own life, and the lives of those you touch.

As John himself said, “Soul is about authenticity. Soul is about finding the things in your life that are real and pure.”  Discover the things that are real and pure for you.  Living out your purpose is sexy.

(Okay people – I promise this is my last John Legend post for quite a while.  I was just so moved by the concert, however, that I had to write this!!!)

How to Increase Your Productivity by Working Less

How to Increase Your Productivity by Working Less

Do you need to increase your productivity?  I recently wrote a guest post for The CEO Magazine about how being a workaholic actually works against you in terms of making the best use of your time.  Read on for some tips!

 

When the buck stops with you, it can be difficult to separate yourself from work.  Being on the receiving end of pressure from shareholders, the sense of responsibility to do right by those who report to you, and the ultimate accountability that comes with being at the helm of an organization, can sometimes feel like a burden.  Add to that the ubiquitous smart phone making one accessible around the clock, and one can understand how difficult it can be for CEOs to “unplug” and take full advantage of down-time.

As a result, many of the chief executives I consult with tend to overwork.  And, many of these same people are conflicted about this choice.  Although they would like more time to spend on personal endeavors, given their workloads and all the demands being placed upon them, they simply don’t see how they can fulfill all their obligations and solve all the many problems with which they are faced, without working round the clock.

They couldn’t have it any more wrong.  Read the rest here!

Does Practice Really Make Perfect?  Maybe Not…

Does Practice Really Make Perfect? Maybe Not…

Those of us who have read Malcolm Gladwell’s “Outliers” are familiar with his 10,000 hour rule, which suggests that the key to achieving mastery in a given domain is to spend 10,000 hours of practice in that field.  While this is an inspiring rule of thumb that suggests that with hard work, anyone can enjoy a high level of performance in a chosen area, a recent article by Macnamara, Hambrick, and Oswald indicates that the old saying “practice makes perfect” simply doesn’t tell the whole story.

In the article, the authors conducted a meta-analysis of studies on performance to settle the question of whether high achievement in a domain is based on (1) innate ability or (2) deliberate practice.
The results suggest that both are important, though in some area, practice is less important than the popular literature may have led us to believe.

Here is a brief overview of the findings:

1.   The impact of practice on performance varies significantly depending on the field.  So, while practice accounts for 26% of the variance in performance in games (e.g. chess), 21% for music, and 18% for sports, in the areas of education (4%) and professions (<1%), the effects were much weaker.

2.   Practice has more of an influence on performance when you are engaging in predictable activities (e.g. running) than less predictable activities (e.g. aviation emergencies).

3.   Studies that had people reflect back on how much they had practiced, showed a stronger association between practice and performance than studies that had people log their practice in real-time.  (To me, this suggests that people who achieved a high level of performance may have over-estimated how much they practiced when looking back retrospectively).

The authors argued that others factors that play a role in overall performance could include intelligence, working memory capacity, specific abilities, and taking up the activity at an appropriate age (which would vary, depending on the field).

The bottom line?  The great Larry Bird’s advice is a good way to think of it:

“A winner is someone who recognizes his God-given talents, works his tail off to develop them into skills, and uses these skills to accomplish his goals.” 

While practice and determination are related to improvement in a given area, everyone may not have the capacity to become the next Serena Williams, Bobby Fischer, or John Legend.  Determining your unique strengths and finding ways to capitalize on those will enable you to realize your potential and achieve the greatest sense of satisfaction.

 

The Case for Recognizing Others’ Humanity at Work

The Case for Recognizing Others’ Humanity at Work


Today I had the pleasure of guest blogging on Elephant Journal, the site devoted to mindful living. In my article I discuss the importance of being intentional about considering others’ humanity in the workplace.  I encourage you to read the article, and if you enjoy it, please comment and share it with others!

 

Before I was a management consultant, I had an embarrassingly one-dimensional view of CEOs. Because my only dealings with them were via the media, I thought of them as money-hungry tyrants who derived pleasure from doling out misery to others (think  Montgomery Burns or Miranda Priestly from “The Devil Wears Prada”). It wasn’t until I became a corporate psychologist and regularly met with senior executives that I appreciated the immense pressure they were under, and the sense of responsibility most of them felt for their employees. I learned about their hopes, dreams, and insecurities. In other words, I started to see them as people.

I’m not the only one who has gotten sucked into seeing others as objects. I have spoken to medical professionals who have unwittingly become desensitized to patients, seeing them more as “cases” than frightened individuals in need.

I have seen employees afraid to talk to their bosses about personal issues because they had decided it was impossible for a senior person to relate to their situation. I have also felt like an object when going to the DMV, receiving a condescending reply in response to an innocent question.

As humans, we are prone to putting people into categories. It gives us a mental shorthand that makes navigating our complex environments easier.

Seeing others as individuals requires mindfulness and a continued awareness of our commonalities.

Considering their individuality takes more effort. However, this extra expenditure of energy is worth it, for a number of reasons.

To continue reading the article, click here.

 

Five Yoga Postures and Poses You Can Do At Work

Five Yoga Postures and Poses You Can Do At Work

 

As you may have picked up from my previous articles, I firmly believe yoga can benefit you in a number of ways.  Aside from the metaphorical life lessons that can be gleaned from learning about the yoga philosophy, the physical practice of yoga can have a healthy impact on your body, mind, and work performance.

Whether you work in an office setting or spend your days out in the field, it’s likely you may experience some ups and downs during the workday.  At times, you may feel energized and at the top of your game; at others you may find yourself feeling stressed, run down and having difficulty concentrating (3:00 p.m., anyone?). Rather than giving yourself a short-lived boost of energy with a sugary snack or shot of caffeine, why not spend your lunch hour or break treating your body to some of these effective yoga poses? Not only will they boost concentration and manage work-related stress, I promise they will have you feeling fresh, relaxed, and perhaps a little more flexible in no time at all!

1.  Arm stretches

If you spend the majority of your day in front of a computer or are someone who carries stress in your upper back, you are probably familiar with the feeling of tense shoulders and stiff elbows. To address this tension, I encourage you to try arm stretches. These simple poses can easily be done anywhere and will help reduce soreness, get your blood flowing, and leave you feeling renewed!

What to do:  Stand in an upright position and ensure you have plenty of room to stretch your arms straight up above your head. Bring your arms around to your back and if possible, clasp them together (you can also use a tie or a scarf if you find this too difficult). When you’ve secured your hands, lift your arms as high as you can. Hold for around 45 seconds and then repeat. After two sequences, place your arms in front of you and interlock your fingers. Stretch out in front of you with your palms facing forwards. Hold for 10 seconds, then slowly begin to raise them up over your head while keeping your elbows as straight as possible. Hold for 45 seconds and repeat.

2.  Chair twist 

This is another versatile exercise, as regardless of where you work, you can likely easily find access to a chair! The combination of deep breaths and side stretches in this twist will help to release tension in your spine.

What to do: Sit facing sideways with your left hip touching the back of the chair. Ensure both feet are firmly flat on the floor, keep your knees together and grip the back of the chair with your palms. Once in position, straighten your spine while taking a deep breath. While exhaling, slowly twist your body towards the back of the chair using your left hand to push and your right hand to pull. Repeat three times before switching sides.

3.  Neck rolls

If you suffer from headaches, neck tension and tight shoulder muscles, a daily dose of neck rolls could work wonders for your workplace health and wellbeing.

What to do: This move is all about relaxation so if you’re wearing high heels or a tight neck tie, take them off! Once you’re comfortable, close your eyes and let your chin drop down naturally towards your chest. Make a semi-circular motion with your head very slowly, trying to get your right ear as close to the right shoulder as possible without causing too much strain. Then reverse the motion, bringing your chin toward your chest, then rolling the left ear toward the left shoulder. Complete five rolls in each direction. Make sure your shoulders are relaxed and if you hit any tight areas, be sure to take it slow and try to work out the tension.

4.  Seated mountain pose

This move is wonderful as it helps to regulate your breathing, energize your upper body and stretch your chest area.

What to do: Sit upright on your chair with your feet flat on the floor. Interlace your fingers and raise your arms over your head while slowly inhaling. Hold for a few seconds before exhaling while bending your elbows down to form a ‘w’ shape. Release the pose and then repeat three to five times.

5.  Ankle over knee pose

If you feel like you need to take five minutes to relax and clear your head, this sequence is perfect. The stretching element will energize your body while the focus on breathing is extremely calming.

What to do: Find a quiet spot where you can sit down with plenty of space to stretch. With your legs stretched out in front of you, cross your right ankle over your left knee while keeping your spine as straight as possible. Hold this pose while taking five deep breaths and concentrating on feeling your lungs fill with air. Switch sides and continue to repeat until you feel wonderfully relaxed.

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