How to Befriend Your Inner Arch Nemesis

Hug your inner arch nemesis

Your inner arch nemesis (inner critic) can be very good for you or very, very bad.

In a lot of cases, it can tell you that you are an idiot for rushing into something that blew up in your face. Quick note: it’s never ok to call yourself an idiot. It’s your inner arch nemesis getting the best of you. Sometimes your arch nemesis can keep you grounded and prevent your ego from getting too big, other times he’s a jerk and needs to be ignored.

I like to think of my inner arch nemesis as a friend trying to protect me, like any good mom or dad would do for their child.

Sometimes parents go too far though. They protect you from experiences that are supposed to make you fall flat on your face so that you can learn to get back up and try again.

Finding harmony with your inner arch nemesis is like finding the perfect balance alone on a teeter-totter.  Too much weight on either side, and the seat can hit the ground. Hard.

Opening Awareness

A few months ago it felt like my inner arch nemesis was trying to claw my eyes out from the inside, obsessively worrying about a coaching client that I wasn’t getting along with at the moment. I didn’t understand why I felt this way because she was smart, worked hard on improving her career, and had seemed to enjoy our sessions.

Instead of asking her what was wrong, I let this feeling drag on because my inner critic was speculating about all the things that could be wrong with me that were affecting our work together.

Then on our next session I ignored my inner arch nemesis for a minute and came right out and asked, “I’m feeling some resistance from you. Am I reading this right?”

She meekly said, “Yes.”

So I asked “Why do you think that is?”

“Well, I’m not sure. At first I was all excited, then we did the superpowers session.”

“Ahh. I see.”

“What?”

“You’re having a tough time with the word superpowers.”

“Yes. I think you are right. I didn’t realize it. I like the concept, but having to think of myself as having superpowers is hard.”

So we talked it through and instead of using the word “superpowers”, we used the word “talents”. This made much more sense to her, and she could now process the information better and start to take action. We still talked about passion, focus, and strengths, but in terms of talents, not superpower. By bringing the issue out into the open, we were able to uncover and work through the problem.

The reason I had been afraid to say something is because I thought she would tell me she was disappointed in our work together because of something I did or didn’t do. That was my arch nemesis taking over. He was just trying to help me realize something wasn’t quite right with my client. No relationship is perfect and if I would have ignored this voice then our relationship would have continued to flounder. Communication is important to help bring clarity to the situation, making the decision making process easier. All it took was suggesting a change in my choice of words to solve the problem.

I thanked my arch nemesis for speaking up. The doubt that was there helped  us make our relationship stronger.

Over the years of working with all different kinds of people, I’ve found that it’s better to bring issues out into the open and talk about them. Sometimes it happens that people are just not a good fit for my style, and that’s ok with me. Whatever the underlying issue is, I’ve found that it’s better to talk about it than to ignore an awkward or uncomfortable situation.

Understand Your Inner Arch Nemesis

We all have an inner dialog that is trying to feed  or tear down our happiness.

How you choose to build a relationship with your inner arch nemesis determines your attitude and success.

Here is a 3 step process to help you gain insight into your inner voice that might skew toward the negative side during difficult situations.

Step 1 – Listen to your inner arch nemesis.

It’s kind of crazy how this works, so over the next few days, I want you to watch your thoughts. i.e. what do you say to yourself in different situations?

For example,if you are in a meeting and your inner dialog is saying, “Auugghh, I can’t believe I have to be here. This is such a waste of time,” then note this inner dialog.

I don’t want you to judge this dialog, just document it and watch it. I actually named my inner arch nemesis to make it the game a little more playful.

Step 2 – Watch how your inner arch nemesis makes you feel.

Remember the first post asking about how you want to feel at work? Well, your thoughts play a huge role in how you feel at work. If your inner dialog is negative, it can becomes your arch nemesis. It stops you from taking action.

So, your notes might answer questions like the following:

Where were you when you noticed your inner arch nemesis’ voice?

ex. I was in the weekly review meeting.

What did my inner arch nemesis say?

ex. My stomach hurts. My boss is such a dork. I wish it was lunch time. Oh, my, God! I can’t take this for one more minute!

How did this inner dialog make you feel?

ex. I felt angry and frustrated, and the more I thought these thoughts, the angrier and more frustrated I felt.

Step 3 – Plant seeds to improve your relationship with your inner arch nemesis.

Here is where it can get fun. You can start to rewire how you think about and deal with difficult situations. Try imagining you have a good friend or parent with you who wants to keep you safe and support you, then ask yourself the following:

What could I do differently next time?

ex. Next time I’m in a meeting like that, I could take a big breath and relax, or I could offer up a solution to make the meeting run smoother, or maybe find a positive thought like Mary tries so hard to make this place better, next time she offers up a suggestion I’m going to support her.

Putting It All Together

Do you want to create a happier life and career?

Watching, learning, and adjusting how you view a situation will go a long way toward improving your career. You are planting the seeds for a more positive mindset. We all have difficult situations and people to deal with — the key is to be open to finding solutions that can help us and the company instead of letting our inner arch nemesis hold us back.

I know many of you will read this and will want to try the exercise of watching your inner critic and then thinking about what you could do differently. This is exciting.

I also understand that some of you just aren’t ready to take on your inner arch nemesis, maybe because it’s been a strong part of your life for so long and you can’t imagine having a good relationship with your inner arch nemesis, but I would encourage you to give it a shot.

Are you ready to take the next step and befriend your inner arch nemesis?,

If you gained any insights, please share below. I would love to hear what you will try to do differently this week and next.

Understanding Your Work Rhythms

Sandra Day O'Connor Quote

It’s funny how moving to a different climate will change your mental rhythms. I grew up and lived in Pennsylvania until my mid 20’s. Summer was a time of exploration, adventure, and hanging out.

I’ve now lived in Texas for over 10 years and slowly my mental rhythms have changed. It’s too hot to go outside for extended periods of time if you value your sanity. I get out in the morning for a bike ride or hike, I’ll go shopping in the middle of the day, and I’ll hang out with friends at dusk and into the night but for the most part summer is more an inside existence, especially from 10am to 6pm unless you are able to access a pool.

I can’t help, but become more contemplative living through Texas summers, which plays into my personality. I like going internal.

This used to happen to me in the Pennsylvania winters, it’s too cold to go outside for extended periods of time. But the winter weather in Texas, for the most part, is just too pretty for any extended contemplation, hiking is perfect and winter BBQing is amazing.

As we’re hitting the heat of the summer I realize that I’m learning to understand and care about the things that make me happy. I don’t want to go out on a Friday night anymore just because I can. I want to spend time writing this email on July 4th while most people aren’t working. I want to help more people reach their goals. I care about delivering more value in easier ways to consume.

What experiences do you choose differently than you did 10 years ago? (Ex. Do you choose to watch more movies at home instead of going out to the movies?)

Happiness is ever fluctuating. You can’t say yes, this one thing will always make me happy. Your body, thoughts, and happiness change through time.

So that leads me to learning more about you and your goals. I decided to create a survey that helped me dig into what makes you happy, what you were looking for from me and from your career because what we do with our superpowers matters.

I’ve been coming back to this quote from Justice Sandra Day O’Connor on one of my blog posts:

“The secret to a happy life is work worth doing.”

I love this quote because it emphasis doing work that is greater than our own lives. I’m on a mission to help you improve your career so you’re happier and doing great work that truly matters.

I put this survey together, so I can do a better job of helping you feel happier and do great work. Just click the link below and give me 5 minutes of your time. I would very much appreciate it.

Click here to fill out the survey.

What is your greatest career goal? Could it be more fun? Could it be bigger? Could it make you feel like you can’t give up until you reach it?

How to Develop a Career Plan that Excites You

Passionate Career

Thoughtful action to enhance your superpowers keeps your career moving upward. If you stop developing your superpowers, your career can flat line. Dead. Just roll over and give up. Unless…you can see the larger picture of how each action you take can grow your career.

Newton’s first law of motion is often stated as:

An object at rest stays at rest and an object in motion stays in motion with the same speed and in the same direction unless acted upon by an unbalanced force.

When you keep adding skills to your superpowers, positive thought habits to your mindset, and smart people to your network, you can create a career that excites and delights you.

The challenge is developing a focused plan that helps you have fun and also create more leverage in your career.

So, what does that mean?

Would you mind giving me five minutes of your time? I put together a quick survey to learn more about you and how I can help you grow your career. Click here to fill it out. Thank you in advance.

Every Action Matters

Every action I take within my career, I try to think of it as a resume builder. I either say yes because it just seems fun and I’ll figure out how to make it fit my resume or I say no because it seems boring.

This is the gauge that I use to make many of my decisions. If it seems challenging and piques my curiosity, I go for it.

I was recently asked to speak at a conference. It took me away from my normal routine and it would hold me back from completing a very important project, but I said yes because it felt like a lot of fun.

Next time you are asked to work on a project, just ask yourself,

“Will this be fun?’

If it’s a yes, then try to think about how it fits into your career, and especially notice whether it adds to your superpowers.

A Question of Passion

If the task or project you’re contemplating doesn’t seem the least bit fun, it’s going to be hard for you to get great results. Passion is important. You have to have motivation and hopefully a sense of playfulness when you do a project or task. It’s this playfulness that will make it feel easy to take action.

Ask yourself:

“How can I make this project interesting?”

If you can’t make the project interesting then it’s time to find help. If you can make it interesting then you are playing into your passions.

You know how important your passions are to your career. They can help guide your career in the direction that will make you happier. Ignoring these feelings typically does much more harm than good.

When a job stops being fun, then it’s usually time for a change. It could entail changing your objectives at work or changing your career altogether. Something has to change if you believe happiness is important to your career and life.

Create an Actionable Plan Around Your Passions

Look at what you are most curious about in your career. If you are a nurse, it might be improving patients’ happiness, or if you are teacher, it might be figuring out how to teach something like Newton’s laws of physics and actually make it interesting.

The example below was altered from a previous coaching client that implemented a similar strategy in a different field. I asked if I could use her as an example. She said yes, as long as I changed the example to a different line of work, so not to give one of her secret weapons to one of her competitors. I agreed, so here it is.

Ok, let’s begin. If you are a teacher in any sense of the word, look at where you want your students or colleagues to be after some time together. Create a goal around this idea.

Your Goal:

____________________________________

ex. I want my students to be more engaged with the material I teach.

What can I do to make my teaching material more fun and therefore this goal easier to attain?

____________________________________

ex. I can offer them two projects to choose from and put it to a vote. Whichever the majority of the class chooses “wins” and I’ll ask them to help the others with buy in and delivery as well.

What are the main tasks I need to accomplish to make this happen?

1.

2.

ex. I need to:

  1. Find two interesting ways for the students to learn the information.
  2. Create a voting system for the students.

Once we pick a project, what are the main tasks we need to accomplish to make this happen?

  1. Explain what is expected of them and ask them to try breaking the task into actionable chunks.
  2. Discuss with class and come up with milestones and timeframe.
  3. Measure success of project by asking for student feedback.

If you can run this this project and you can say 87% of the students enjoyed the project and 92% passed the exam, you are showing results that administrators can see the value in.

Once you know what your goal is and how you will reach it, it makes actually doing the project so much easier. It feels more fun and doable.

Do you want to grow your career? Check out my superpower coaching program to help you unlock your superpowers and create a plan that makes you happy and builds your resume.

Let’s Review

In the above example, she got the feedback from the students and she could see how much they liked the project. And she used these results to see how she could improve the project and increase engagement the next time she tried a similar project.

She built a great resume. She measured what percentage of her students enjoyed the project and also what percentage learned the fundamentals of Newton’s laws.

When you add actual results to your resume, you are showing people how passionate you are about your work. Instead of just telling them how much you enjoy your job, they can see (feel) it. Only people with passion for their work take the time to measure and improve their results.

A very important point I want to make is to keep your success tracking simple. If it gets too complicated you’ll stop putting it into practice.

The more fun and actionable your projects are, the better your resume will look to people who need your skills.

What can you add?

What has helped you bring more passion to your career projects and plans?

10 Choices That Will Make Your Career More Successful

happiness quote

If only I would have…

This phrase is one of the most depressing phrases anyone can use in their career.

Depending how long you’ve been in your current career, you’ll notice the small regrets and missed opportunities adding up.

I say this because I’m living proof that it’s true. It’s usually never just one thing that I’ve passed up, it’s been the little daily choices where I’ve dropped the ball.

Here are ten choices that can prevent regret and create a better career and life.

1. Embrace challenging work.

A career without challenges is just a boring career that isn’t worth talking about. It’s a job that helps you pay the bills. You have a daily choice to seek challenging work that will grow your career superpowers or hide from it.

When you are willing to say, “Yes!” to challenging work then you are stretching yourself outside your comfort zone to a place that will open up new doors internally and externally. Internally, you’ll find that a different type of work will help you unleash your superpowers. Externally, you’ll find people seeking out your help because you aren’t afraid to tackle a new project.

You don’t need to be amazing at every new challenge. You just need to show you aren’t scared. People will be impressed by your willingness to grow.

2. Find your own definition of happiness.

Your happiness is very important to growing and enjoying your career. When you allow someone else to set the ceiling for your happiness, you’ve lost leverage and respect. To gain both back, you must look at what type of work makes you happy and make this a regular part of your day.

Even if it’s just 20 minutes, carve out time to do work that you are passionate about, work that gets you excited. Then start dedicating extra minutes to this type of work each day. When you show people the great results you are getting, I know they will want you to increase the time you spend on these type of projects.

3. Appreciate the people who’ve helped you.

Every career is built on advice, support, and love from others. You would never be where you are without these amazing people, from the co-worker that encouraged you to take the lead on a project to a boss that believed you had the potential to do even better work.

Go for a walk and think about the people who have helped you improve your career. It’s these people you should thank and make sure they know you appreciate them. This helps you because it brings more gratitude to your relationships and also reminds you that for every person who has helped you, there are people who need your help.

4. Introduce people who can help each other.

When you have a chance to introduce two people to each other so they can help each other, you are helping their careers. It’s this help that always comes back to you in some form or another.

Don’t let scarcity thinking hold you back from making these introductions. When you help other people, it will ultimately help you in today’s world that depends so much on networking.

5. Ask your co-workers how you can better help them.

A career is always a work in progress and sometimes we stall out because we burn out and/or we’ve lost interest in our work. This is natural and the ebb and flow of any good career. The best way to break out of a rut is to get feedback that challenges you to take action.

Next time a co-worker or boss asks for help, say yes and also try asking them for feedback. Show them that you are trying to improve on your results. Many people aren’t very good at giving constructive feedback, so help them along. Ask them good questions that make it easier for them. For example, “What could I have done better on project X?” or  “I felt a little awkward when I did XYZ, what do you think I could do to improve next time?”

The better the questions you ask, the easier it will be to obtain feedback that can help you improve and grow your career.

6. Share your gratitude with others.

“Thank you so much! I couldn’t have done this without you,” is one of my favorite phrases. It makes me feel like I’ve had 10 cups of coffee.

Gratitude is very important to making people feel happier. When you make people feel good, they will want to keep delivering great results for you.

Do you take the time to tell people how important they are to your projects? If not try to do this whenever you get great results from a co-worker, boss, or contractor. The key is to be authentic, so they truly feel the quality of your appreciation.

And instead of just saying thank you, insert more detail. For example, you could say “Thank you so much for all your hard work. When I saw the quality of the graphs you made, I knew that you really thought about the best way to present the information to the client.

The more detail the better. They will feel seen and appreciated.

7. Plan your projects.

You are busy. I get it. The thing is a little planning can actually save you time. You are more focused on getting the results that will help you and your company.

Look at the last project you worked on, where did things get dropped? Could this have been avoided? Probably some or even a lot of them.

Next time, try thinking about your most important goal for the project first and then work backwards. Look at how you can chunk down this big goal into little goals so the project doesn’t feel so overwhelming. Then when you have a smaller goal, you can tackle this goal before you move on to the next phase. You’ll get better results and you’ll feel less stressed.

8. Refrain from complaining.

Ahh, a complaining session can just seem to pop up spontaneously. And I admit it can feel good to complain, but what good does it do in the long run? It can really hurt your morale and that of the people around you.

Next time you happen to get caught in a spontaneous complaining meeting, try listening and asking questions. Let’s say someone complains about a co-worker. Oh, I know this doesn’t happen at your company, but bear with me.

Next time someone complains about a co-worker try this:

“Yeah, that is frustrating. What do you think they could have done differently?”

Hopefully they will feel like joining in on your little game and they say something like, “Tom could have just emailed us an agenda before we sat in the meeting for two hours talking in circles.” Then you say something like, “That’s a great idea. “How do you think we could get him to do that next time?”

Now if they just throw their arms in the air and decide to give up, you probably aren’t going to be able to help them. At least they felt heard. If they come up with a good idea, you can help them implement it.

Great questions help dig to the root of the problem. Once you understand the problem, it’s time for a little change in behavior to see if you can get the problem solved.

9. Trust others to do their job well.

As a manager of people, I know how hard it is not to micro-manage people. You have a vision in your head and want it executed well. But if we don’t allow other people to unlock their own superpowers, then they won’t feel fulfilled by the work they do, and this will cause them to lose interest in their work. And we all know that’s a bad thing.

You need engaged people who want great results. The best way to do this is to trust that they want to do great work. If they continually fall short of your expectations, then you should either coach and train them to meet your expectations, look for a different position that actually fits their talents, or let  them go so they can find a better fit for their superpowers

Making your expectations clear is the most important part of this process. When people know what is expected of them, they can do their best to meet or even exceed those expectations.

10. Make time for projects you care about.

You can’t always do work you love, but you can find time each day to do work that you are passionate about. Even if it’s just 30 minutes, it’s important to help keep that fire burning inside of you.

Set time aside to do the type of projects that energize you. Look at what projects you are currently working on and whether they excite you at all. If not, what projects have you done in the past that got your juices going?

Can you create a similar project that excites you and find time every day to move this project forward? If you need approval from your boss, then put a compelling plan together that they can’t say no to. If they say no, then try a different angle. If they keep saying no, then it might be time to find another job that is willing to appreciate your desire to do great work on what you’re passionate about.

Your Turn

What career choices have you made that were difficult at the time, but helped you grow your career?

The Purpose Behind Your Actions

Girl with puppy quote

Ask anyone that loves what they do why they enjoy their work.

Their answer will probably help you understand your own why. You’ll probably learn that they do their work because of a deeper purpose.

They enjoy the impact that they make on the world.

“The secret to a happy life is work worth doing.” – Justice Sandra Day O’Connor

So, why do you choose to do the work that you do each day?

Do you care about the results that you create in your career?

Do you care about the people you help?

Do you care about the people you work with?

Notice what word keeps popping up?

Care.

Most people are motivated by something they care about.

In contrast, when you stop caring you’ve lost your motivation to make a difference. You’ve lost the “why” in your work.

I’ve talked to countless clients that lost their passion for their career. They are tired all the time and feel stuck.

One client used to love her job so much that she stuck around just because of the memories. She realized this when we went through her core values and ranked them in order of importance. She saw she wasn’t living any of her top 8 core values at her job. She used to live many of her career value in the beginning of her career at her company, but that dwindled away over the past few years. When she came to this realization, she drafted her resignation letter that night.  She waited to submit it for 48 hours, and by then she already had a nest egg and a plan. She prepared to walk away from her job of X years.

She couldn’t stay any longer because she couldn’t answer her “why”. She enjoyed the money, but she wanted to believe in her work again. So she decided to cut the cord with her present job so she could do work that helped her connect back to her purpose.

Most people don’t need to quit their job (and I actually don’t often recommend it). Many times you can bring the passion back by focusing on how you want to feel at work.  Once you do that, the next step is answering the question:

Why do you do what you do?

Getting back to why you do the work that you do will help you bring back the passion.

Your energy will ebb and flow with each project. It’s important to take breaks to recharge your battery. Once your recharged then it’s just a matter of connecting with your why and getting your focus back on track. We’ll talk a little more about how to do this in lesson #4.

This is actually a great exercise to do at the beginning of each year or beginning of every major project to help you bring energy to your actions.

It’s also a great exercise to help bring back energy into your career so you can begin adding skills. It’s these skills that will help you create more leverage in your present job or help you find a better career.

So, why do you do what you do?  Please feel free to share your answer in the Comment section below.

* You found this supplemental material from the Unlock Your Career Passions e-course. If you want access to the full course, go sign-up for updates and join our community and grow your career happiness.

The Hidden Cost of Depression

Tired at Work

Feeling depressed at work sucks. I’ve been there. I was unmotivated and lacked any inspiration at many of my jobs.

In fact, I got so low that I wrote a book called 92 Things to Do Besides Commit Suicide.

I never published it, but it was a great exercise in creativity.

You may suffer from depression or you might know a co-worker who is depressed. You can tell if they are depressed by noticing if they’ve had any major mood swings, lethargic attitude, or seem disengaged from their work.

Because you spend so much time with them each week, it’s your co-workers who are going to notice if you or another co-worker is depressed .

I read about a study that came out in 2010 called Despite Treatment Depressed Workers Have Decreased Productivity, and I found this quote in it:

“They estimate annual short-term disability costs at about $1,000 per worker with depression and $1,700 per worker with severe depression – much higher than for common diseases such as high blood pressure, diabetes, and rheumatoid arthritis.”

Given that the CDC estimates the incidence of depression as 1 in 10, and that the US Census estimates there are about 315 million Americans of whom 75% are over the age of 18, that means around 235 million adults could be or are depressed.  Granted, maybe 25% of them are actually retired (the statistics on this are harder to find).  That still means that 175 MILLION working people have annual short-term disability costs of $1,000 to $1,700 per year.

That’s a lot of moola.

You might be thinking, “Why should I care?”

I think you should care, not just for the financial cost to your company’s bottom line and the country’s GDP, but for the health of your co-worker, and especially for your own health.

How does a co-worker’s depression affect you personally?  It’s like this. When a fellow co-worker is happy, you are more likely to be happy.  According to Karen Kaplin of the LA Times:

“Knowing someone who is happy makes you 15.3% more likely to be happy yourself.”

- excerpt from Your whole world smiles with you

The reverse is also true – being around someone who is depressed can bring you down as well. You’ve seen it happen. You are having a good day, then an energy sucker drops by and just saps you of all your positive energy.

It’s tough working with someone who is depressed. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Talk with these people and see if you can help them or get them to seek professional help themselves. Talk to their managers about finding ways to help them (or yourself if it’s you that is depressed). By getting this problem out into the open, you will be helping them, helping the company, and helping yourself.

Have you ever dealt with a co-worker with depression?  How did it affect their productivity at work and your relationship with them, and how did you try to handle it?

Or have you ever had trouble with depression yourself?  How did it affect your work, and how did you deal with it?

If you are willing to enter a comment, please feel free to use a pseudonym and a discrete email address to protect your anonymity.

Thank you for sharing.

How to Complete Your Projects

Know Your Own Superpowers

One of my weaknesses is putting the finishing touches on a project. I can develop, design, write and create, but can’t put the “fancy” on a project that extra touch to make it shine.

I hired an editor to help me with the Unlock Your Superpowers Manifesto. It’s coming out very soon. I’m great with ideas and concepts, but not very good with finishing the product. I get bored and want to move on. So I make less money in the short run, but in the long run it’s paying off.

She helps me clean up, polish and put the bow on my projects.

Her superpowers complement mine and it’s worth every dollar.

The next step was to find a great designer. Once again I have superpowers in structure and layout, but not so much with colors and images.

I hired a local designer to help me create something beautiful. Something so special that people couldn’t help but want to share it with their friends.

This was only possible by understanding my superpowers, but also my project kryptonite.

You have superpowers that aren’t being used very well because you don’t have the right people around you. You need superheroes in your back pocket. Follow these steps to build your network so you can make growing your career easier and more fun.

I could use your help. Please fill out this 5 min survey. so I can help you become happier at work and unlock your career superpowers. If you fill out the survey, I’ll give you a sneak peak into the Unlock Your Superpowers manifesto.

 

1. Unlock Your Own Superpowers

A deep understanding of your own superpowers is a must before you begin reaching out to find other people to help you. When you understand what you do well, it makes it easier to exchange superpowers.

The key is to have a mix of passion, focus and strengths throughout your daily actions. You can read more about that here.

2. Learn Your Project Kryptonite

Every large project has certain tasks within it that weaken you. These are your project kryptonites.

You can usually spot a project kryptonite by how hard you try to avoid doing the task. For example I do not like editing. It’s hard enough to write something unique and interesting. I struggle with going back over posts and finding missing connection gaps and grammar errors.

This is where you need to leverage other people’s superpowers. You need to give these tasks to other people who enjoy the work and do a better job than you.

What tasks do you find yourself avoiding?

3. Ask people in your network for help

The key is not to directly ask them for help, unless you are really good friends. It can put both of you in an awkward position.

I suggest just asking them if they know anyone who can help you with your project, then they can volunteer themselves if they want to or offer up someone that might be able to help you.

You’ll probably be pleasantly surprised by the quality of referrals that you will get from friends and family. No one wants to be the person who recommended a dud to you.

You can ask people directly or post on one of your social media accounts. I see this happen a lot in Facebook, especially for car mechanics.

4. Know the Value You Will Give in Return

If people help you with a certain part of your project, then the next part is understanding how you’ll reward them in return.

  • Do you pay them?
  • Do you thank them? (Depending on your relationship with them)
  • Do you offer to help them with a project?

There should be some kind of reciprocity that takes place.

When someone holds the door open for you, you smile and/or thank them. People want to know you appreciate their hard work.

The more time and energy they give you, the more important it is to show them your gratitude.

5. Set Up a Trial Period with Your Potential Superhero

Not everyone you think is amazing is a good complement to your skills. It’s best to test out the idea of working with them. When you ask them for help, make sure they understand that you are just working on a trial period.

I tested out a few editors before I found one that I clicked with. The other editors were very good, just not a good fit for me.

You might want to try 30 – 90 days. Whatever the trial period is, make sure you have enough data to understand if they are a good fit for you or not.

Try giving them different types of projects that challenge their superpowers in different ways. You’ll see whether they are a good fit for you or not very quickly.

Superheroes Are Everywhere

Friends, family, and co-workers can all be very helpful if you give them a chance to help you. Don’t be afraid to be clear about your expectations for a project. As long as everyone understands the goals, it makes for a much easier time working together.

Just ask for help and remember to reward them so they understand how appreciative you are. If you plan on making money from the project I would suggest paying the person. If it’s a hobby project, a small gift or heartfelt thank you can go a long way.

Your Turn

How do you find people with complementary superpowers to help you complete projects?

I could use your help. Start your own 30 Day Connection Challenge today! The resources are Please fill out this 5 min survey. so I can help you become happier at work and unlock your career superpowers. If you fill out the survey, I’ll give you a sneak peak into the Unlock Your Superpowers ebook (pages 1 – 5).

7 Tips Your Managers Could Use to Increase Employee Happiness and Productivity

Listening to employees

If you could tell your manager just one thing he or she could improve on to make your workplace better for you and your colleagues, what would it be?

And how would you feel if this manager took your suggestion to heart and actually started improving this aspect of their leadership? You would probably feel very lucky to have this type of manager and this type of relationship with them.

Ok, so most managers could probably improve on more than one aspect of their managing style, but who doesn’t have multiple things about their working style that they could improve on. So starting with the most important thing first is usually the best place to start.

Managers play a big role in whether a company is successful, so if they don’t have the right tools, training and passion, the whole company will suffer. And a suffering company means lost happiness and along with that, lost profits

So, whether you are the CEO of your company trying to improve your employees’ happiness or you are young and new to a company, you all have one thing in common. You want your managers to keep improving.

Quick Story

I once worked for a tyrant of a boss. His bullying ways crushed the enthusiasm I had for my work.

A month into the job, he asked me to research buying minor league hockey jerseys from a nearby team. It wasn’t for work, just a task for him personally. I researched their website and called for some information and then gave him the report. He looked over the information and asked me what size the jerseys came in. I didn’t know. I hadn’t seen it on their website, and I hadn’t known to ask when I called.

He told me a monkey could do a better job than me. Slap! Right in the kisser. The sad part is I stayed there for another 1.5 years before I finally left.

Because of his crushing criticism, I gave up on trying to do anything well there. And it’s especially sad because I hurt myself as much as I hurt the company with my bad attitude. Instead of adding to my superpowers, I regressed.

Many people had tried to talk with him about his bullying, but he didn’t really listen. I guess listeningor changing wasn’t in his nature.

Which leads me to my 5 tips that a good manager uses with his or her employees.

1. Develop a Feedback Loop

Asking and listening to employees about what is going well and what isn’t going so well is so important to making them feel heard. If they don’t feel heard, they stop believing they matter.

Creating a simple feedback loop is the perfect place to start. I’ve recently worked with a company where we created an online Google doc where employees could voice their opinion and be anonymous if they wanted. They could just fill in the opinion section and leave the name prompt blank.

The CEO would then put the questions in a Word doc, answer the questions, and post his answers on their intranet and also email everyone a PDF.

We did create rules around submitting feedback. The questions, complaints, ideas, and appreciation had to be constructive, which meant no foul language, name-calling or pointing fingers. If an employee had a complaint, they also had to offer a solution.

The results have been positive and people have been respectful. One of the keys has been being consistent. Even when no one had filled out the form, the CEO sent out a message with an idea of his own, or just wrote that there were no questions that week.

Are you a manager that needs help developing a feedback loop that works? Contact me today to find out how I can help you unlock your employee’s superpowers.

2. Leverage Your Superpowers

You most likely have superpowers that aren’t being fully utilized at work. We all have passions, focus and strengths that aren’t utilized to our full potential. We get caught in treading water instead of striving for excellence.

How might you carve out time to leverage your superpowers for just 30 minutes every day?

Let’s say writing is one of your superpowers, but you are in the accounting department. What project is important to the company that you contribute to with your writing skills?

You need to test out if your potential superpower is a good fit for your company’s needs. When you can get a better understanding of what your company needs and how you can help meet that need using your superpowers, then you can create a win-win relationship.

The more win-win scenarios you can create in your career, the more successful you will be and the more leverage you will create, which means being able to pick and choose the projects you want to work on more often.

Do you need help working closer to your values and leveraging your superpowers? If so, check out the Unlock Your Superpowers Manifesto and 7 part course so you can develop your career into something that makes you happier and more successful.

3. Share Their Vision with You

Managers usually have a good idea of where they want their department to go, but they often don’t communicate it adequately to their staff. A good manager lays out the goals for the year, keeps track of how close the team gets to reaching them or exceeding them, and helps people understand what is expected of them on a frequent basis. We’ll talk about why this matters in #6.

Vision is important because your manager is a leader, not only a project leader, but an emotional leader as well. If they can’t help you and the whole team understand where they want the ship to head and why, no one will want to support their ideas.

If you want to help your team and your manager is open to it, the best place to start is to help your manager understand why they do what they do, help them map out a plan for the next 3, 6, and 12 months, and start to define what it will take to reach tho goals.

If you can assist your manager in clarifying their goals and timelines and how each member of the team can best contribute to the success of the team, when they share that vision with the team, it will help everyone get on board with where the team needs to go and how to best get from the current point A to the future point B.

4. Develop Emotional Connections Through Their Core Values

You might have seen me talk about core values on Domino Connection, my customer connection blog. People like buying from companies that have strong core values, and that can strongly influence their decisions.

Employees also like following managers that have strong core values because the employees understand why the managers make the decisions they do. The employees might not always agree, but at least they know why a decision was made.

I invite you to think about past or present managers with whom you got along well. I guarantee they were able to convey their core values effectively.

For example, who wouldn’t want to work hard for a manager whose core value is fairness. When people are evaluated based on the results they generate instead of nepotism or cronyism or prior friendship, it makes working hard much more rewarding.

If you want your manager to help your team explore core values that can help the team gel together, the best place to start is to ask a question about core values in a meeting. If you can come up with core values as a group, it can be quite a driving force for the team.

5. Explain the Expectations You Have for Them

One of the biggest complaints employees have for their managers is the lack of clear expectations. A manager that makes communication a priority and explains what they expect from his or her employees. helps an employee understand his or her role at work, and they know what is part of their work and what isn’t.

If you are unclear of what is expected of you at work, I suggest asking your manager for more specifics. This conversation can be difficult, but it’s better than the alternative of hoping that you are working on the right tasks and projects.

6. Include Employees on Goals

You’ve probably heard stories about managers that allow their employees to provide input on what their goals are for the year. This is a powerful tactic to develop more personal responsibility in team members. i.e. when employees help create their goals for success, they feel more responsible for reaching those goals.

The key is to make this a collaborative relationship. You and your manager should set out the criteria of where you want to be in 12 months, then discuss how you can get there.

If you have a clear goal, you can outline what this plan will look like on a weekly or monthly basis. Having a mutually agreed upon plan between you and your manager is much more empowering for you instead of just being told what is expected of you.

7. Gather the Team Together to Bond

A good manager makes time for the team to bond in order to reach its goals. If there are no emotional connections, then there is less teamwork and communication.

Teamwork is essential for a team to reach its goals, so what activities does your team have to gather and bond, and how can your manager foster even more team interaction?

The best advice is to schedule it.

A manager who wants to foster team cohesion and productivity could schedule a team brainstorming session from time to time (called a retrospective in the software world for people doing what is called “scrum”).

A good manager could also have a team meeting every month and encourage people to discuss what is working and what is not. You could buy lunch and have an informal discussion of the team status. A manager could even invite people out to happy hour then pay the first 2 rounds of drinks per person then take off because they want the team to bond with each other. They are the ones that need to work together to ensure the success of the team goals.

Next Steps

These are just some of the ideas I have and have learned for team building by management. If you want more team building ideas from an employee-initiated or manager perspective, please feel free to email me and we can set up a time to chat.

If you can encourage your manager or especially a CEO to pick even one of these ideas and give it a try, please let me know the results.

If you are an employee that wants to improve communication and happiness in your department, but don’t know howto get your manager to think about implementing the concept of core values in your workplace, talk to some other trusted employee who may be able to help you in this endeavor.

It’s all about baby steps. You don’t want to overwhelm your manager. So just start a very casual dialog around the concept of core values and whether they can explain what theirs are, and if they can, how it can help improve the productivity of everyone under them at work.

Your Turn

What would you add to the list? What have you seen work well for your managers?

* Do you need one-on-one help. I offer a career coaching package that helps you unlock your superpowers, so you can create a happier and more successful career.

How to Start a Gratitude Journal

Gratitude Journal

You want to be happier right?

Good.

Then let’s start with your mindset.

I started this site in 2008, when I was struggling with my work happiness. I was having a particularly bad day because I was being forced to move offices. I really didn’t like this change because I enjoyed the co-workers that I was surrounded by. They could always make me laugh.

As I stewed in my anger, my friend walked in and noticed that I was in a bad mood.

“Hey, Karl.” Tom said, then paused. “Man, you look like someone stuck their boot up your ass,” Tom said. “What’s going on?”

As soon as Tom acknowledged my anger, it released. I was lucky to have a friend like Tom.

I knew that when I switched offices I was going to need a few tools to be able to release my tension on my own.

I can’t remember where I actually learned about the career gratitude journal, but it has saved me on many days when I have felt like ripping out my hair.

This is how a career gratitude journal works:

At the end of every day you write down three things that you are grateful for.

Here’s an example:

Personal Gratitude Journal

This is actually taken directly from one of my journal entries. Please no jokes about my lousy handwriting and my 2nd grader drawings. :)

I don’t write in my gratitude journal every day any more, but when I’m feeling down I bust out my journal and let the gratitude flow.

At first it can seem tough, but I have never had trouble thinking of 3 things I’m grateful for when I get into the right mindset.

4 Gratitude Journal Rules

1. Be Specific

I actually don’t do this very well as you can see from the image, but the drawings help solidify specifics for me.

2. Be consistent.

Write at least 3 things you are grateful for every day for 30 days. It will change your life. I promise.

3. Write “I’m grateful for…”

At the top of every entry you write “I’m grateful for…” because you want to help solidify why you are writing your entry. This helps develop a positive mindset before you even begin writing.

4. Review Your Journal Every 30 to 60 Days

There are few things more uplifting when you are feeling down than taking out your gratitude journal and reading over a few entries. This also helps trigger a more positive attitude.

That’s it!

You don’t need a fancy app. Although I have used Evernote on my iPhone when I didn’t have my journal with me.

I actually like writing on paper because I like to draw little images with each entry. Little doodles and drawings can convey feelings that words might not be able to. Here is a cool article (PDF) about Doodling Expert Sunni Brown.

I suggest creating a journal to write in at the end of each work day. The journal doesn’t need to be fancy. Could be a spiral notebook.

All you need to do is just ask yourself:

“What did I enjoy about my workday?”

Then let it flow. If you want to write more than 3 things you are grateful for, be my guest. The more gratitude the better.

Then come back and let us know how powerful your gratitude journal experience was for you. How did it change your perspective and your relationships?

Your Turn

What are 3 things that you are grateful for today? Please share with the Work Happy Now community in the comments section or our Facebook group. This is a great place to kick start your 30 day gratitude journal challenge.

7 Pieces of Career Advice You Wished You Had Known Earlier

Whispering in ear

A career has many challenges hidden within it. The key is to focus on the parts that help you grow professionally and personally.

One morning I was feeling very scattered. I went into work but I was totally checked out. I avoided work. It became a game.

First I went to visit Tom. He always told a story about a failed date that he had gone on. His stories always made me laugh. Then I went to the bathroom. I didn’t even have to use the bathroom. Then I went into the breakroom to grab a cup of coffee, and I stopped by Rob’s desk to see if he wanted to go to lunch later. Then I went back to my desk and opened up Facebook on my phone.

This continued for 8 hours — I actually didn’t do any legitimate work that day. I justified my actions because I didn’t like my boss. I thought that by wasting my time, I got back at her by wasting her time.

I allowed myself to forget about what was important.

I was angry. At myself, my boss, my co-workers, everything. I was angry for no one noticing. I was angry that I was so jaded.

I was sad, and I wanted others to do for me what I couldn’t do for myself. Make me feel fulfilled.

Then I lost my job. I wasn’t surprised that I was let go in the second round of layoffs because I didn’t bring enough value to the job.

So then I started my own business and now I don’t have the luxury of avoiding work. I have to keep adding more skills and knowledge to make myself better. If I don’t, I’ll stop being good at what I do.

This mental shift has improved my focus. I also use a couple mantras to improve my focus, and one in particular has been working very well for me over these last few months:

Do the most important things first.”

That’s it. Focus on what will give me the greatest return on my time.

When I compared these two extremely different attitudes toward my work, I realized how much I had missed out on because I gave in to my fears in past careers.

I missed out on learning opportunities because I told myself that my job wasn’t a good fit. Why improve myself for a company that didn’t care for me?

I also missed out on challenging myself with new projects because I didn’t want my ideas to be shot down. Instead of finding new projects, I avoided them.

I literally turned it into a game that actually increased my anxiety. I wasn’t growing my skills and I added to my anxiousness because I would be caught avoiding work. The stress kept adding up until I went to the doctor because my right arm was numb. It hurt to be at work. They ran tests of all kinds, but couldn’t find anything. I realized it was stress when one particular meeting with the CEO didn’t go very well and my arm went numb again.

I created a toxic work environment that was eating away at my happiness.

Through trial and error, and the wisdom of others, I now know 7 things to do that I wished I had known when I started out on the path of each career.

1. Deepen Relationships

You have amazing people that you work with, every company does. The key is to focus on finding people you can deepen a relationship with, not the people that drive you crazy.

There are probably many talented and caring people who you can build a stronger relationship with. Reach out to them and see what happens.

Who in your department can you learn from? What can you do to deepen this relationship?

2. Learn New Skills

If you’ve ever avoided learning something new, you have to ask yourself why. Are you doing it because you are afraid, or are you doing it because it doesn’t interest you?

You should do work from your superpowers, but that doesn’t mean you can’t add to your powers.

Take advantage of any opportunities to learn new skills and add to your superpowers. If you don’t have as many opportunities as you would like, then you have to find new ways to learn new skills by seeking out help from your boss or co-workers or outside resources.

3. Find Joy In the Struggle

You, your co-workers, and your boss all struggle with something, the most common struggles being money and relationships.

Your struggles will not stop until you die — that’s your life journey. Learning how to find joy even in the tough times is the sign of a well-trained mind. Next time you are struggling at work, find just one thing that you are grateful for about the situation. Then you can begin to shift your mind to thinking about improving things you can change.

4. Make More Time for Undisturbed Work

Focus is one of the key components of your superpowers. You must find time to do undisturbed work because this is where you will see the best results. The people who have time to get in “the zone” are the ones doing great work.

If you work in a busy office, try using headphones as a signal to your co-workers that you don’t want to be disturbed. You’ll notice that when you signal your co-workers that you want to focus, they’ll catch on very quickly and leave you alone during this time.

5. Know Why What You Do Matters

When you know that your work matters, you will go the extra mile to make your work better. If the work doesn’t get done, you know who will be affected and how.

Ask yourself, “Why do I do what I do?”

When you can find a clear answer, it will be a lot easier to do great work.

6. Take More Breaks

Try taking short breaks more frequently when you’re feeling stuck or overwhelmed. The key is to make it an active relaxation. You need to bring yourself back to the present moment, understand what is going on inside your head so you can let it go and bring yourself back to a happier state.

Next time you feel your frustration rising, drop everything and feel what is causing this pain, follow your thoughts until you hit the core cause then just repeat this mantra:

I change what I can, accept what I can’t and enjoy the challenge of every situation.

7. Don’t Take Anything Too Seriously

Life is short, and the older you get the better you understand this concept. You can choose to spend your time worrying, or choosing acceptance or taking action. It’s your choice. Like the mantra above, it doesn’t help to worry about things you can’t change. If you don’t like your boss, you can’t stress about why you think he should be fired. All you can do is focus on yourself and do your best.

By strengthening your mind to focus on the positive, external people and circumstances cannot dictate your happiness. It’s this last one that some people never try to implement into their career. If you know that happiness is an inside job, then even a co-worker’s snide remark won’t ruin your day.

Your Turn

Which of these concepts have you struggled with? What could you do to incorporate at least one of these ideas into each day?

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