Who Do You Chase?

MM Oscars

You can learn a lot from watching awards ceremonies. For my money, Matthew McConaughey’s acceptance speech at the Oscar’s is for the ages. Why, here’s what we all can learn.

You should absolutely be proud of your achievements. However, unless you’re content with that being the capstone of your life, there’s a time to celebrate and a time to get busy again.

Here are three ways to get past “I Made It” mode when you succeed:

  1. Don’t say those three words. Instead, be grateful. Understand that you, more than likely, did not succeed on your own. I know I didn’t. There were many people that were divinely positioned in my life during my toughest moments to help me get back on my feet and make small steps to turn my life around. Celebrate with the people who helped you along the way and share your genuine appreciation for their time, support and sacrifices.
  2. Understand you have a target on your back now. Don’t get big-headed. Once the news is out about your great achievement, you are no longer “underground”. People know about you and what you’re doing, even though you don’t know them. Don’t let all the new (and extra) attention get to your head, for it may one day catch you offguard and cause you to lose what you worked so hard for. If you don’t believe me, ask the Miami Heat after winning the championship last year. Who won the NBA championship THIS year?
  3. Humble yourself to know you have MORE work to do. Begin again. Oftentimes, once we set a goal, we become focused on reaching it. After achieving that big promotion, set yourself another challenging goal to keep you grounded and driven to do even better than before. If you need a best practice, follow Matthew McConaughey’s example during his 2014 Oscars acceptance speech:

An excerpt:

And to my hero, that’s who I chase. Now, when I was 15 years old, I had a very important person in my life come to me and say, “Who’s your hero?” And I said, “I don’t know, I’ve got to think about that. Give me a couple of weeks.” I come back two weeks later; this person comes up and says, “Who’s your hero?” I said, “I thought about it. It’s me in 10 years.” So I turned 25. Ten years later, that same person comes to me and says, “So, are you a hero?” And I was like, “Not even close! No, no no!” She said, “Why?” I said, “Because my hero’s me at 35.”

So you see every day, every week, every month, and every year of my life, my hero’s always ten years away. I’m never going to be my hero. I’m not going to attain that. I know I’m not. And that’s just fine with me, because that keeps me with somebody to keep on chasing. — Matthew McConaughey

TODAY marks the 100th Anniversary of the beginning of World War I. My friend and colleague, Dr. Ed Whitman, and I share the opinion that World War I was the greatest misfortune that ever befell Western civilization. His insightful analysis follows:

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The lamps are going out all over Europe; we shall not see them lit again in our lifetime.

Sir Edward Grey (1867-1933)

(remark, 3 August 1914, on the eve of Britain’s declaration of war against Germany)

The War was decided in the first twenty days of fighting, and all that happened afterwards consisted of battles which, however formidable and devastating, were but desperate and vain appeals against the decision of Fate.

Sir Winston Churchill (1874-1965)

(Preface to Spears, Liaison 1914)

Napoleon had said it was rare to find generals willing to fight battles. The curse [of World War I] was that so few could do anything else.

T. E. Lawrence (“of Arabia,” 1888-1933)

(The Science of Guerilla Warfare)

When every autumn people said it could not last through the winter, and when every spring there was still no end in sight, only the hope that out of it all some good would accrue to mankind kept men and nations fighting. When at last it was over, the war had many diverse results and one dominant one transcending all others: disillusion.

Barbara Tuchman (1912-1989)

(The Guns of August, “Afterward”)

Although many consider the opening act of World War I to be the assassination of Austrian

Archduke Franz Ferdinand at Sarajevo – its centennial was just a month ago (28 June) – the first actual declaration of war took place a hundred years ago today, when Austria-Hungary initiated hostilities against Serbia, after the latter rejected a draconian Austrian ultimatum intended to give Austria a free hand in bringing Franz Ferdinand’s killers to account. As a result, Russia – self-appointed protector of the “South Slavs” – mobilized against Austria, which panicked the Germans (fearful of a two-front war against both France and her Russian ally) and so it went…

28 July Austria declares war on Serbia

1 August Germany declares war on Russia

3 August Germany declares war on France

4 August Germany invades Belgium (to attack France)

England declares war on Germany in support of Belgium

6 August Austria-Hungary declares war on Russia

Serbia declares war on Germany

11 August France declares war on Austria-Hungary

12 August England declares war on Austria-Hungary**

After Germany’s long-intended encirclement of Paris (under the Schlieffen plan) was thwarted by the French and British in the Battle of the Marne, the struggle on the Western Front devolved into a four-year stalemate in which the principal protagonists faced off across a line of trenches that ran from the North Sea to the Swiss border. Despite the unprecedented bloodbath that ensued, virtually no additional ground was gained by either side before the end of the conflict in November 1918.

Despite the “war-guilt” clauses of the Treaty of Versailles, which held Germany largely responsible for the hostilities and imposed extraordinary penalties and reparations, the causes of the war have been debated endlessly for most of the last century. Of the dozen or so books on the subject, two recent ones have been particularly insightful: The Sleepwalkers by Christopher Clark (Harper’s, 2013) and The War That Ended Peace – The Road to 1914 by Margaret MacMillan (Random House, 2013).

Although there was certainly enough blame to go around, it was primarily Austria-Hungary that caused the catastrophe because of her reckless determination to settle long-standing scores with Serbia.

Be that as it may… One could argue that World War I was the greatest misfortune that ever befell Western civilization. It destroyed the West’s belief in inevitable human progress. It brought down the Austro-Hungarian, German, Russian, and Ottoman empires, bankrupted France and England, and put the British Empire on the skids. It was the proximate cause of the triumph of Communism in Russia and the formation of the Soviet Union, drove the United States into two decades of international isolation, and instilled in Germany a thirst for revenge that led directly to the rise of the Nazis and World War II.\ Moreover, in the Middle East, Britain’s and France’s cack-handed and self-serving division of the remains of the Ottoman Empire was largely responsible for all the turmoil we suffer there today.

Upon learning the terms of the Versailles treaty, Germany’s deposed Kaiser Wilhelm II (1859-1941) is supposed to have remarked from his exile in Holland, “The war to end war has resulted in a peace to end peace.”

What Motivates Us?

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What motivates us? For many that is one of life’s mysteries – and those who crack the code seem to be vastly more happy and successful.

Two highly-credentialed researchers address this question in their recent New York Times article, “The Secret of Effective Motivation.” Here’s what they say:

There are two kinds of motive for engaging in any activity: internal and instrumental. If a scientist conducts research because she wants to discover important facts about the world, that’s an internal motive, since discovering facts is inherently related to the activity of research. If she conducts research because she wants to achieve scholarly renown, that’s an instrumental motive, since the relation between fame and research is not so inherent. Often, people have both internal and instrumental motives for doing what they do.

What mix of motives — internal or instrumental or both — is most conducive to success? You might suppose that a scientist motivated by a desire to discover facts and by a desire to achieve renown will do better work than a scientist motivated by just one of those desires. Surely two motives are better than one. But as we and our colleagues argue in a paper newly published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, instrumental motives are not always an asset and can actually be counterproductive to success.

What motives you?

Read more here…

America’s Identity Crisis

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America has an identity crisis – and we are all part of it. In her prescient op-ed “Who Do We Think We Are?” Maureen Dowd notes how the recent World Cup exemplified our confusion. She notes:

America’s infatuation with the World Cup came at the perfect moment, illuminating the principle that you can lose and still advance. Once our nation saw itself as the undefeatable cowboy John Wayne. Now we bask in the prowess of the unstoppable goalie Tim Howard, a biracial kid from New Jersey with Tourette’s syndrome.

“The 23-year-olds I work with are a little over the conversation about how we were the superpower brought low,” said Ben Smith, the editor in chief of Buzzfeed. “They think that’s an ‘older person conversation.’ They’re more interested in this moment of crazy opportunity, with the massive economic and cultural transformation driven by Silicon Valley. And kids feel capable of seizing it. Technology isn’t a section in the newspaper any more. It’s the culture.”

Walter Isaacson, head of the Aspen Institute and author of the best-selling “Steve Jobs,” agreed that “there’s a striking disconnect between the optimism and swagger of people in the innovative economy — from craft-beer makers to educational reformers to the Uber creators — and the impotence and shrunken stature of our governing institutions.”

“The more we can realize that we’re all making it up as we go along and somehow muddling through making ugly mistakes, the better. We’re not destined for greatness. We have to earn that greatness. What George Washington did right was to realize how much of what he thought was right was wrong.”

Read more here.

Chore or Fulfillment?

Books George Galdorisi

Do people today look at reading as a chore – or as a path to fulfillment? Finding the answer to that question is may be the secret to inspiring children to read. Here’s what Frank Bruni suggests in his op-ed, “Read, Kids, Read.”

As an uncle I’m inconsistent about too many things. But about books, I’m steady. Relentless. I’m incessantly asking my nephews and nieces what they’re reading and why they’re not reading more. I’m reliably hurling novels at them, and also at friends’ kids. I may well be responsible for 10 percent of all sales of “The Fault in Our Stars,” a teenage love story to be released as a movie next month. Never have I spent money with fewer regrets, because I believe in reading — not just in its power to transport but in its power to transform.

In terms of smarts and success, is reading causative or merely correlated? Which comes first, “The Hardy Boys” or the hardy mind? That’s difficult to unravel, but several studies have suggested that people who read fiction, reveling in its analysis of character and motivation, are more adept at reading people, too: at sizing up the social whirl around them. They’re more empathetic. God knows we need that.

Books are personal, passionate. They stir emotions and spark thoughts in a manner all their own, and I’m convinced that the shattered world has less hope for repair if reading becomes an ever smaller part of it.

Read more here

Your Closest Friend

Wall Steet Journal

Can talking to yourself really be O.K.? Be honest. Do you talk to yourself. New research shows this can be a tremendous help to all of us. Researchers say talking to yourself, out loud, is more common than many of us might care to admit. Psychologists call it “self talk” and say how we do it makes a big difference in both our mood and our behavior.

Here is how Elizabeth Bernstein explains it in the Wall Street Journal:

Self-talk is what happens when you make yourself the target of your own comments, advice or reminders. Experts consider it a subset of thinking. You’re having a conversation with yourself.

Most people engage in self-talk, experts say, though some do it louder and more often than others. When I asked, I heard from people who talk to themselves in the basement, in their cubicle at work and at the urinal in the men’s room. One woman turns the car radio down so she can hear herself better.

When people think of themselves as another person, “it allows them to give themselves objective, helpful feedback,” says Ethan Kross, associate professor of psychology and director of the Self-Control and Emotion Laboratory at the University of Michigan.

Both positive and negative words can influence us in positive and negative ways. Say to yourself, “This job interview is going to be a cakewalk,” and you might not get pumped up enough to ace it. Conversely, tell yourself, “You just lost that match, you need to focus harder,” and it could spur you to do better in the future.

Read more here

“Like” This

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Social media surrounds us: at home, at work, at play, in our cars, on public transportation – even in our dreams. But is it causing us more anxiety than we can bear? Here’s what Bruce Feiler suggests:

We are deep enough into the social-media era to begin to recognize certain patterns among its users. Foremost among them is a mass anxiety of approval seeking and popularity tracking that seems far more suited to a high school prom than a high-functioning society. Mark Zuckerberg said recently that he wants Facebook to be about “loving the people we serve,” but too often his site and its peers seem far more interested in helping the people they serve seek the love they crave. ABC has also embraced the madness by picking up a comedy for the coming season called “Selfie,” about a woman in her 20s who is more concerned with her followers than her friends.

Read more here.

Life’s Lessons from the Source

ADM_William_H._McRaven_2012

In “Life Lessons From Navy SEAL Training, Admiral William McRaven, U.S. Navy SEAL and now the commander of the United States Special Operations Command (where he has stewardship over all U.S. military special operations forces), and the man who, as the Commander of the U.S. Joint Special Operations Command was responsible for the planning and execution of the takedown of Osama bin Laden offers ten lessons gleaned from Navy SEAL training. In his words:

The training also seeks to find those students who can lead in an environment of constant stress, chaos, failure and hardships. To me basic SEAL training was a lifetime of challenges crammed into six months. So, here are lessons I learned from basic SEAL training that hopefully will be of value to you as you move forward in life.

Read more here

Look Up!

What harm could come from having your head down looking at that important e-mail or interesting text. This may give you pause – and inspiration.

Too Busy? Or Just Right

Wall Steet Journal

In a recent article in the Wall Street Journal, Sue Shellenbarger takes on the familiar topic of work-life balance – but with a new twist. She begins with what likely sounds familiar to most of us:

A friend you admire just asked you to head a fundraiser. You have a full-time job, and this sounds like a lot of work. But look at her: a working mom who is active in the school PTA, just ran her first marathon, does Suzuki violin with her daughter and even carries on an active social life. Why can’t you do as much as she can? And just how do you tell when you have taken on enough?
The sweet spot is different for everyone. Unfortunately, most people don’t know when they have reached their limits and need to stop saying yes to new activities. Many take their cues from others, such as a boss who never says no to new demands or a colleague who juggles career, family and board duties.

Read more of this Wall Street Journal article here.