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Thoughts on happiness

The New York Times Sunday Review feature article on happiness by Arthur Brooks concludes that we must learn to love people not money, power, status, or sexual pleasure. This seems pretty evident to some and yet it’s super-challenging for many in a culture addicted to Facebook, Twitter, Reality TV, and video games to name a few. The challenge with happiness is that we must cultivate good habits over long periods of time. Essentially, I teach non-avoidance, a way of living that means we live and express out truth! Wow, that’s not easy. I often tell clients that if they are ready I can teach them how to be happier and more fulfilled but it requires substantial work on their part. The majority of people I’ve coached in over two decades of working with people have quit well before they graduated. In other words, they didn’t want to work that hard.

Depending on how we were raised (conditioned) and our genetics, happiness is something we must learn and cultivate over time. In addition to avoiding nothing, I teach presence, honoring thyself, integrity, and intuition as a basis for success in life and business. Presence, for example, means a commitment to live in the here and now as much as possible. This means learning how to observe and pay attention to the mind without getting caught up in self. Again, not easy and yet like the other principles, it is a foundation for well-being!

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Effortless and magical life

Last week I experienced several days of wonderful flow, a state where life seems effortless and even magical. For instance, my girlfriend had set me up with her accountant, a man hailing from Middletown, CT, perhaps an hour’s drive from Westport. We arranged to meet for lunch on Tuesday at a half-way point in Milford. I called a buddy who set me up with three restaurants there. I chose the first one and made the arrangement for 1pm. That morning I was at a coffee shop in town working on my novel and suddenly decided to call a friend to see if she could join me. She told me that she had a busy day but could meet me at the restaurant after lunch and we could go up together. Following my CPA meeting I ordered food my friend Alison to go just as she walked in and the manager with whom I was chatting gave her a hug! As a nutritionist, she had made a huge difference in this man’s life and didn’t even know he worked there! The manager told her to leave her car in the restaurant parking lot and off we went. The baseball game was in Manchester, CT a small town northwest of Hartford that I had never even heard of. As a Sports Psychologist, my client’s baseball game was great to watch as it gave me plenty of info to help my client going forward.

On the drive back I asked Alison about her life prior to nutrition and I was surprised to find out that she had spent a year in Colorado at age 27 teaching ski school. I shared about a client that I had coached for years on the phone continuously encouraging him to continue learning and growing even if college and traditional education wasn’t for him. He lived in Aspen then working as a ski patrol guy becoming an EMT over time. With my guidance and strong backing, he eventually applied for paramedic school moving back to CT to work after completing the training.

That evening, I had a phone session arranged for 6:30 pm and then fishing at 7! I dropped Alison back off at the restaurant at 6:28pm just in time to do my phone session and then followed her to Bridgport where I had arranged fishing with another friend. In the rain, the three of us fished until someone suggested dinner. We chose a fun restaurant in Blackrock, a hip section of Bridgeport. Given the rain and low tide it was a no-brainer. Twenty minutes later the three of us walked in the restaurant and there was Sean, my client from Danbury whom I coached on the phone while he lived in Aspen. He gave me a giant hug and told me that he got the firehouse job, a five year ambition even since he graduated paramedic school! He also said that he was about to text me to set up a session too. I asked him where the fire job was and he said Manchester, CT!

That evening as I drifted off to sleep I contemplated the beauty of Flow, a state of being that is directly related to the energy of allowing. Learning to eliminate interference like drama and the need for control is a great way to set yourself up for Flow. It is the best way to live!

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Air travel

Lately, I’ve been on a TSA Pre-Check kick! For $85, a ten minute online application and a 40 minute drive to Westhaven, CT where I was briefly interviewed by a company hired by the U.S. government, I am now certified to travel without hassle domestically. As I told my twin brother recently and others, this is the biggest no brainer ever, especially for those who travel a lot!

As some of you know, I am traveling back and forth to Los Angeles every month where I am building a coaching and consulting business and a way out of winter on the east coast. The TSA Pre-Check has made the customary stress of the checkpoint screening process much easier. There is no more taking my laptop out of its case, my belt and shoes stay on, and most importantly I avoid that machine where the hands must go up. If you travel at all domestically please take my coaching on this one and get it done!

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Training the mind is as important as training the body

I’ve been coaching more and more athletes on the mental game over the past several years! A reoccurring theme is what to do with criticism. It’s part of a larger discussion on mindfulness. When we are able to slow down our thought process and become more aware of our mental and emotional states we then have the capacity to unhook from our reactions and change our thoughts. This applies to parents as much as business people or athletes. Suppose you are pitching a solid game and have one rough inning and your coach comes to the mound all pissed off. He says a few words, goes back to the bench and kicks the water cooler. Do you let that rattle you? Get under your skin? Or do you pay attention to your breathe, settle down and redirect your thoughts to throwing a strike on the outside corner? It’s similar in extreme examples like road rage? Do you let someone’s idiocy get you going or do you pay attention to your breathe and redirect your thoughts to the possibility that this other person is dealing with an emergency?

Training the mind is as important as training the body. The more you practice the better you get. So the next time you find yourself overreacting to one of your children breathe, pay attention to your thoughts, and redirect them to something positive or something you appreciate about them. This works!!

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Lessons on Good Management

Adam Bryant interviews S.D. Shibulal, the C.E.O of Infosys, the technology consulting firm in this week’s Corner Office. Mr. Shibulal learned early in his career to tell the truth and acknowledge when he doesn’t know something after being caught in a lie in front of a group of underlings. I too am a huge believer in authenticity and veracity as a way of creating trust and building solid long-term relationships. Telling lies, half-truths or hedging and fudging is a short cut leading to mediocrity at best and mistrust more commonly. Whenever possible tell the truth and acknowledge your mistakes. If Bill Clinton had done so our country would have been far better off. There are countless other examples of politicians and business leaders lying or fudging the truth and often we see right through it losing respect for them in the process.

Mr. Shibulal also addresses the issue of being open to honest feedback and the importance of doing one thing at a time. From a 360 review, he learned how disrespectful it was to take phone calls during meetings. Now, he leaves his cell phone with his secretary before a business meeting. This is also a good practice with children and romantic partners. Too often in life we are distracted by our phones and not fully present or present at all for that matter. He states, “I’m better off focusing for 30 minutes on what I’m doing, rather than trying to do multiple things.” Well said!

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Great leadership skills

Brad Smith is the chief executive of Intuit, the software company. He learned leadership skills by becoming a black belt by age 18 and teaching 150 students soon after. There, he learned that “success is creating the environment where people can be their best selves and continue to grow and develop.” I love it! In my business I do likewise for the people I coach from athletes to entrepreneurs to adolescents trying to figure out life!

Mr. Smith, interviewed by Adam Bryant of the Corner Office, says that he learned from his father to: “never mistake kindness for weakness.” Again, I love it. Too few of us are truly kind. It takes courage to be kind. Anyone can be critical and judgmental. “Always be kind and generous but always stand your ground,” he states a core lesson from his father. Well said!

Mr. Smith also believes in the value of making mistakes, acknowledging your wrongdoing, learning and improving. When interviewing prospective hires he asks them to tell him about their biggest mistake and what the lesson they took away. In helping college students make career decisions he guides them to go for what excites them, to pursue their passion or what makes their heart beat faster, another lesson from his father!

I like Mr. Smith’s style and perspective; it’s positive, no-nonsense and progressive. With this kind of leadership, more corporate environments would be both humane and fulfilling!

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The Courage or Craziness of Athletes

Reading about dangerous sports in the Los Angeles Times Sports section while traveling out here on business made me think about a golfer I am coaching who used to be a professional snowboarder. He’s shared several adrenaline addiction stories having had a series of near death experiences in his younger life as his passion for extreme sports and dangerous situations like surfing in near hurricane conditions nearly got him killed.

I too understand the desire to get a rush out of life but I also know that as we get older the best way for us to feel more alive is to learn how to create what I often refer to as the “magic” in life and business – the feeling that we are on the right path, enjoy who we are, what we do, and look forward to each and every day! This takes patience, discipline commitment, and trust – not necessarily easy traits to develop but well with it. So enjoy the extreme stuff while you are young and learn the magic of creating as you age!

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The Foundation of Success

It’s been an amazing year of tight finishes as the Sports section of the Sunday New York Times highlights! Tom Brady is on the cover for a reason. The Patriots have been especially good at winning in the last seconds or on the final drive! I love watching football on tv for a variety of reasons: players play hard, coaches work hard, careers are short, greatness is rewarded and great finishes make it all the better! I often use football analogies when coaching clients, even non-athletes. I talk a lot about the foundation of success: eating right, exercising, meditating, and being proactive! The more we focus on what we want and do the necessary work involved, the more likely we will achieve it. This is what Tom Brady does!

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Coaching Golfers

The more golfers I coach, the more I love it. Golf is a very complex sport because the ball doesn’t move! That may sound counter-intuitive but it’s not – what I mean is that because the ball doesn’t move without the golfer making a swing, the mental game is even more important. I just shot at 76 at Yale golf course over the weekend. It was a great round but especially good considering that I’ve only played four times all fall. I was relaxed and peaceful with nothing about life or business bothering me. When I coach athletes, I help them eliminate all the dramas and distractions in their lives. This is huge. Having a clear mind and playing at one’s best is almost synonymous. I also work on present moment time and teach others to do so. The more present we are the better we play! There’s so much more…

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Skill and Will

Sanchez may have the will but I’m not convinced he has the skill nor do many. I remember watching Sanchez’ first two seasons with the Jets when he got credit for taking them to the AFC championship game. Somewhere along the way Rex Ryan married him as well – big mistake. Sanchez was never that good, the Jets defense was superb then. Like any organization, top management matters a lot and the Jets have been abysmal in this regard. Getting too attached to anyone or anything is problematic in life and business. This is especially true in sports. Flexibility and fluidity are a far better substitute just look at the Patriots; true they’ve had Brady but when he got injured Matt Cassel, a no-name backup got the job done. Belichick as we all know is far beyond Ryan in intelligence and coaching skill but its his flexibility and willingness to let go of players who no longer fit that stands apart from mere mortals like Ryan!