This is the perfect time of year for looking back to “lessons learned” and looking forward to the New Year. While New Year’s resolutions are a very personal matter – and best left to some serious soul searching – we can offer you our collective “10 Tips for Initiating Self-Renewal in the New Year.” Think of them as food for thought. Perhaps one or two might find a spot on your 2006 resolution list.
Tip 1: Get a “Personal Compass” and plot your future.
Is it our age, or the time of year? Many folks are pondering where they are in life and where they want to head in the coming years. I recently discovered a planning tool that has been most helpful in organizing that thought process into productive insights. This tool, from the Grove Consultancy, combines visual techniques and personal questions to help you map your life and the future you desire. The workbook consists of seven graphic templates (with easy-to-follow guidelines) for you to write, draw or collage your thoughts and ideas. A blend of imagination and self-exploration, The Personal Compass helps you visualize your options in order to make informed decisions. I have used it with a number of colleagues this year to unanimous acclaim. You can order one ($45) here.
Tip 2: Become a “Skype-er.”
VOIP (Voice Over Internet Phones) is becoming more and more common. If you work for a corporation, chances are your phone system at work may become a VOIP system in the future. If you are at a smaller enterprise or thinking about this for home, it’s a natural way to decrease your telecommunications costs. Its benefits are enormous and it is deceptively easy to implement. The only equipment you will need is a headphone that plugs into your computer (so every call isn’t a speakerphone call). Find out more.
Tip 3: Try Argentinean wine.
Argentina is the world’s fifth largest wine producer. Although much of its wine production is consumed in Argentina, some fine wines and great values are available in the U.S. Plus, the exchange rate gives folks in the U.S. lots of buying power. I am not an oenophile, but we like to have tasty wines at home on the weekends, especially wines that provide a good taste for a good value. I asked my friend at Gemelli, a local wine shop, to suggest some reasonably priced wines ($9-$15) from Argentina and here’s his short list:
- Catena Chardonnay, 2004
- Postales Del Fin Del Mundo Sauvignon Blanc/ Semillon Blend, 2004 (from Patagonia)
- Terra Rosa Cabernet Sauvignon, 2002
- Alamos Pinot Noir, 2002
- Budini Malbec, 2003 (Malbec is the predominant varietal of wine in Argentina)
- Colonia Las Liebres Bonarda, 2004
- Trumpeter Malbec-Syrah, 2004
Tip 4: Fly in a bit more comfort.
Ever gotten on an airplane to find your seat won’t recline? Use www.seatguru.com to make sure you get the best possible seat the next time you fly. You can also find out what movies are playing on your flight and if you will have laptop power at your seat.
Tip 5: Pack your digital camera.
For your next business trip, pack your digital camera, especially if you are a parent. Your children will appreciate seeing some of what you experience when you are out of town. And remember to take your camera cord with you to download your photos from the road – that way you can send an email to your loved ones with a photo attached.
Tip 6: There’s more to travel than sightseeing.
Try VolunTourism, a new trend in travel that combines our best altruistic impulses with the opportunity to see and experience new places. From restoring a Buddhist temple to teaching Maasai women and young girls to protect themselves from the HIV/AIDS virus, to caring for special needs infants in Romania, to helping Tsunami victims, you can help others while vacationing in exotic locales. Learn more at websites such as: www.gonomad.com or www.globeaware.org and plan a trip that combines your passion for service with your passion for travel.
Tip 7: Read for knowledge; read for enjoyment.
You can expand your world without ever leaving your armchair. Consider escaping with these titles in 2006:
Love My Rifle More Than You: Young and Female in the U.S. Army, by Kayla Williams and Michael E. Staub. Sergeant Kayla Williams served as an Arabic interpreter in the U.S. Army during the 2003 Iraq invasion. Her personal account of that time is both raw and compelling. The overlay of her experiences as a woman in that environment adds another level of memorable impressions.
The Resilient Enterprise: Overcoming Vulerability for Competitive Advantage, by Yossi Sheffi. The author argues that crisis control can be a competitive advantage for companies that get it right. Sheffi challenges organizations to engage in systematic analysis of their vulnerability, to increase supply chain flexibility, and to focus on resilience as much as on security.
Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America, by Barbara Ehrenreich. An undercover reporter decides to join the millions of Americans who work full-time, year-round, for poverty-level wages. As a waitress, hotel maid, house cleaner, nursing aid, and Wal-Mart salesperson she discovers that even the “lowliest” occupations require exhausting mental and physical efforts – and don’t pay enough to get by.
The Relationship Cure: A 5 Step Guide to Strengthening Your Marriage, Family, and Friendships, by John Gottman. My clients frequently ask about specific ways to improve their emotional intelligence. In this book, Gottman tackles not only romantic partnerships, but platonic relationships as well, including those of work, family, and friendship. He explores the factors that either nurture or threaten relationships. He introduces the concept of the “bid,” which Gottman coined to describe the fundamental unit of emotional communication. He explains, “A bid can be a question, a gesture, a look – any single expression that says, ‘I want to feel connected to you’.” The more successful we become at bidding and responding to bids, the more success we will experience with our relationships.
Let My People Go Surfing: The Education of a Reluctant Businessman, by Yvon Chouinard. You’ll get a fascinating look inside the history and philosophy of both Patagonia and its irascible, opinionated founder. As CEO of the outdoor clothing company, Chouinard purposely blurs the lines between work, play, and family so employees can have flexibility to surf when the waves are good or take care of a sick child. No wonder the company attracts an average of 900 applicants for every job opening! This book gives you not only the story of how the company came to be but also of the Patagonia philosophies – a mixture of Zen wisdom and the Iroquois tradition of considering the effects of decisions seven generations into the future.
The Shadow of the Wind, by Carlos Ruiz Zafon. Simply put, this is a book about a mysterious book, and its even more mysterious author. Zafon is a talented writer, even translated to English. His rich, complex story of a young man’s journey to adulthood paralleling a mysterious author’s decline to obscurity will keep you turning the pages.
Seeing What’s Next: Using Theories of Innovation to Predict Industry Change, by Clayton M. Christensen, Eric A. Roth, and Scott D. Anthony. This book reveals how to use theory to see the future, providing a framework for predicting industry winners and losers. The central elements of the authors’ approach are: tracking the signals of change; sizing up competitors; and identifying which choices matter. A three-part model helps decision-makers spot the signals of industry change, determine the outcome of competitive battles, and assess whether a firm’s actions will ensure or threaten future success.
Keep the Family Baggage Out of the Family Business: Avoiding the Seven Deadly Sins That Destroy Family Businesses, by Quentin J Fleming. This book should be required reading for anyone involved in a family business. You’ll discover ways to gauge if your business is “healthy” or whether the family system is exerting too much control over how the business operates, leading to trouble with a capital “T”.
The World is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-first Century, by Thomas L. Friedman. The author contends that connectedness by computer is leveling the playing field, giving individuals the ability to collaborate and compete in real time on a global scale. While Friedman wants to tell you how exciting this new world is, he also wants you to know you’re going to be trampled if you don’t keep up with it.
The Beatles: The Biography, by Bob Spitz. Yes it’s hefty (just under 1,000 pages). But it makes for fascinating reading as Spitz offers a fresh, entertaining perspective on the world’s most famous rock group. The book, packed with details and anecdotes, follows the band from each member’s working-class family origins to the band’s agonizing final days.
Tip 8: Use poetry to add meaning to your communications.
Good poetry can provide remarkable insight, grant needed courage and stir quiescent imaginations. Borrowing from Shakespeare to Silverstein, poetry can gives us new ways of looking at the things we do in our corporate lives, and it can often revitalize the workforce. “To Be of Use,” by Marge Piercy, is a poem a colleague shared with me earlier this year. The point she makes about the value of meaningful work spoke eloquently and clearly to me. It includes this verse:
I want to be with people who submerge
In the task, who go into the fields to harvest
And work in a row and pass the bags along,
Who stand in the line and haul in their places,
Who are not parlor generals and field deserters
But move in a common rhythm
When the food must come in or the fire be put out.
Click here to read the entire poem.
Tip 9: Rededicate yourself to personal improvement.
This is not about New Year’s resolutions, which rarely make it into February. This is about being patient and persevering in addressing those aspects of yourself that you know interfere with your success. It is about not confusing the words “simple” with “easy.” Just as with diet and exercise, changing behavior involves hard work. It takes time. In a recent Fast Company article, Marshall Goldsmith talks about why people all too often fail to reach their goals. He claims there are four major challenges that we mistakenly assess:
1. Time. “This is taking a lot longer than I thought it would,” or “I don’t have time for this.”
2. Effort: “This is a lot harder than I thought it would be,” or “I’m tired. It’s just not worth it.”
3. Competing goals: “I had no idea I would be so busy this year. I’ll just have to worry about this later.”
4. Maintenance. “After I got in shape, I celebrated by indulging in some of the actions that forced me to set my goals in the first place. Now, for some unexplained reason, I’m back where I started.”
Goldsmith counsels: “If you want to be a better leader, a better professional, or just a better person, don’t kid yourself. To achieve meaningful goals, you’ll have to pay the price If your source of motivation doesn’t come from inside, you won’t stick with it.” To read the entire article, click here.
And while you are thinking about personal improvement
Tip 10: Consider a Wunderlin Company workshop.
In an effort to help our clients build capacity and competence within their organizations, we have developed several workshops that we offer in-house or by subscription. See if one is right for you:
The Wunderlin Company wishes you a new year filled with renewal and growth, both personally and professionally. Best wishes!
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