Archive for March, 2011

24 mar

There Is Good News – If You Look for It

MikeRobbinsNewAs someone who is very interested in current events, sports, politics, the state of our economy and world, and more – I pay a lot of attention to the news (sometimes more than is probably healthy for me). I read newspapers, check out various news sites/blogs, watch TV, and listen to the radio. With all of this news and information, I’m often struck by how little of it is “good news,” especially these days.

While there is probably a certain amount of negative stuff that is important for us to know about (from a safety and information perspective), if we pay much attention to the media, it’s easy to get the impression that life is really scary, dangerous, and there are lots of terrible things happening all over the place.

In the recent weeks and months there have been some genuinely intense things happening around the world – the situation in Egypt, the tragedy in Japan, the violence in Libya, and more. The state of the job market, gas prices, and the economy here in America and around the world continues to be tenuous and scary for many people.

These things do have real impact on real people – and on many of us personally. However, what about all the good news? There are literally billions of positive things happening all over the planet at this moment – most of which we will never hear about or know about. Think of how much good stuff goes unnoticed, unacknowledged, and un-communicated even in our own personal lives (at home and at work) on a regular basis.

What has been happening in our country, our culture, and our world is a reflection of what is going on within each of us. We can get caught up in the “doom and gloom” of the moment, obsess about all of the issues and challenges facing us today, and allow the bad news coming at us from every angle get to us on a personal level – or we can choose something else.

While I am not advocating that we bury our head in the sand, pretend everything is “fine,” and just ignore what’s happening, I do believe that now more than ever, we must be conscious about what we watch, read, and listen to. Nobody forces us to read the paper or the Internet, turn on the TV or radio, or get caught up in the mass hysteria of how “awful” things are.

And while it is important to be aware of what’s going on in the world, to be mindful and empathetic of the pain and suffering of others, and to do what we can to support those in need – both in our own backyard and across the globe, sitting around worrying, obsessing, and complaining about how “bad” things are doesn’t do us or others any good. As Dr. Marin Luther King Jr. said, “Darkness cannot drive our darkness, only light can do that.”

Here are a few things you can do to focus more on good news:

1) Limit the amount of news you consume. If you’re honest about it, you don’t need to watch, read, or listen to as much as you do in order to stay informed. If this is an issue for you, create a specific time limit per day and have others in your life support you and hold you accountable.

2) Choose news sources that you respect and at some level make you feel good. In other words, notice how you feel personally and emotionally when you watch a particular news show, listen to someone on the radio, or read a newspaper, magazine, or website. If you notice that after watching, listening, or reading you don’t feel so good – maybe you can find another source for your news.

3) Seek out good news. Whether it’s in the media or in your life personally, now more than ever, we must look for and find things to be grateful for, happy about, and excited about. There’s lots of good news out there; it’s up to us to find the good stuff and also to talk about it to others. This is not about avoiding challenges or being in denial about the “reality” of life; it’s about choosing where to put our attention and energy, and focusing in that direction consciously.

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Posted by Mike Robbins on March 24th, 2011 in Uncategorized | 1 comment

18 mar

Live Like You’re Going to Die (Because You Are)

MikeRobbinsNewYou’re going to die. I’m going to die. Everyone around us is going to die.

The reality of death is, of course, both obvious and daunting for most of us. With the recent tragic events in Japan and some very serious health news I received from someone close to me, I’ve been thinking about life and death a lot this past week. I was on a run a few days ago and thought to myself, “I wonder what it’s like to know you’re going to die?” Then I thought, “Wait a minute, we’re all going to die – we just don’t act like it.”

As simple as this thought was, it was profound for me. I don’t live my life all that consciously aware of my own death. My own fears about death (mine and others) often force me to avoid thinking about it all together. I do catch myself worrying about dying; sometimes more often than I’d like to admit, especially with our girls being as young as they are – Samantha’s five and Rosie’s two and a half.

I also don’t talk about death that much because it seems like such a morbid topic, a real “downer.” I worry that it’s too intense to address or that if I focus on death I will somehow attract it to me or those around me superstitiously.

And, as a culture we don’t really like to talk about death or deal with it in a meaningful way since it can be quite scary and is the exact opposite of so much of what we obsess about (youth, productivity, vitality, results, beauty, improvement, the future, etc.).

But what if we embraced death, talked about it more, and shared our own vulnerable thoughts, feelings, and questions about it? While for some of us this may seem uncomfortable, undesirable, or even a little weird – think how liberating it would be and is when we’re willing to face the reality of death directly.

Steve Jobs gave a powerful commencement speech at Stanford in 2005 entitled “How to live before you die.” In that speech, he said, “Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.”

Contemplating death in a conscious way doesn’t have to freak us out. Knowing that our human experience is limited and that at some mysterious point in the future our physical body will die, is both sobering and liberating.

The reason I’ve always appreciated memorials services (even when I’ve been in deep pain and grief over the death of someone close to me) is because there is a powerful consciousness which often surrounds death. When someone passes away we often feel a certain amount of permission to get real in a vulnerable way and to focus on what’s most important (not the ego-based fear, comparison, and self criticism that often runs our life).

What if we tapped into this empowering awareness all the time – not just because someone close to dies or because we have our own near-death experience, but because we choose to affirm life and appreciate the blessing, gift, and opportunity that it is.

Here are some things we can think about, focus on, and do on a regular basis that will allow us to live like we’re going to die, in a positive way:

1) Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff – As my dear friend and mentor Richard Carlson reminded millions of us through his bestselling series of books with this great title, life is not an emergency and most of the stuff we worry about, get upset about, and obsess about is not that big of a deal. If we lived as if we were dying, we probably wouldn’t let so many small things bother us.

2) Let Go of Grudges - One of my favorite sayings is, “holding a grudge is like drinking poison, and expecting the other person to die.” Everyone loses when we hold a grudge, especially us. If you knew you were going to die soon, would you really want to spend your precious time and energy holding onto anger and resentment towards those around youor people from your past (regardless of what they may have done)? Forgiveness is powerful – it’s not about condoning anything, it’s about liberation and freedom for us.

3) Focus on What Truly Matters – What truly matters to you? Love? Family? Relationships? Service? Creativity? Spirituality? Our authentic contemplation of death can help us answer this important question in a poignant way. If you found out you only had a limited time left to live, what would you stop doing right now? What would you want to focus on instead? And while we all have certain responsibilities in life, asking ourselves what truly matters to us and challenging ourselves to focus on that, right now, is one of the most important things we can do.

4) Go For It – Fear of failure often stops us from going for what we truly want in life. From a certain perspective (the ego-based, physical, material world) death can be seen as the ultimate “failure” and is often related to that way in our culture, even though people don’t usually talk about it in these blunt terms. However, this perspective can actually liberate us. If we know we’re ultimately going to “fail” in life (in terms of living forever), what have we really got to lose by taking big risks? We all know how things are going to turn out in the end. As I heard in a workshop years ago, “Most of us are trying to survive life; we have to remember that no one ever has.”

5) Seize the Day – Carpe diem, the Latin phrase for “seize the day,” is all about being right here, right now. The more willing we are to surrender to the present moment, embrace it, and fully experience it – the more we can appreciate and enjoy life. As John Lennon famously said, “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.” Living like we’re going to die is about remembering to fully engage in the present moment, being grateful for the gift that it is, and doing our best not to dwell on the past or worry about the future. If today were your last day, how would you want to live?

Death can be difficult and scary scary for many of us to confront. There is a lot of fear, resistance, and “taboo” surrounding it in our culture and for us personally. However, when we remember that death is both natural and inevitable, we’re reminded that everyone’s life (whether it lasts for a few days or a hundred years) is short, precious, and miraculous. This awareness can fundamentally and positively alter the way we think, feel, and relate to ourselves, others, and life itself. Living as if we’re going to die (and remembering that it’s guaranteed) is one of the best things we can do for ourselves and those around us.

How can you start living your life for more conscious of your own death, in a positive and empowering way? What can you do right now to let go of what’s not important, focus on what truly matters, and seize the day? Share your thoughts, ideas, insights, actions, and more on my blog below.

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Posted by Mike Robbins on March 18th, 2011 in Uncategorized | No comments Read related posts in , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

13 mar

OperationsRx: The Gap Nobody Knows

MichelleKerriganThe gap between promises and results is widespread and clear. The gap nobody knows is the gap between what a company’s leaders want to achieve and the ability of their organization to achieve it.”—Larry Bossidy, former CEO, Honeywell International and General Electric

The gap nobody knows is bridged by day-to-day operations. Everything comes from it. It’s where your company lives and breathes–where ideas spring to life in the form of people, process and teamwork. It is the heart of execution–where strategy succeeds or fails. It’s a space I’ve worked in for over 25 years, and where I help leaders and teams succeed today.

Day-to-day operations comprise roughly 80% of most organizations, making it one of their largest investments. Yet this asset is often overlooked. Not leveraging its value widens the gap and means your company is leaving money on the table. In today’s economy, where resources are at a premium and you need to organize and expedite at the speed of change, can you afford to do that?

So why is it undervalued and underutilized?

I’ve asked a few leaders this same question, and they all focused on strategy as the one thing that mattered most. In fact, one leader, when asked about day-to-day operations and execution, waved his hand in dismissal and said “that’s management’s problem.”

As dieting is a favorite topic of mine, I asked this leader to compare business strategy and execution with a personal goal of losing weight. You want to lose 20 pounds. You plan on joining a gym, drinking 8 glasses of water a day, controlling food portions and counting calories. That’s your strategy—the direction you wish to take. You can repeat it a thousand times, make promises to your doctor or spouse, clip out photos of the ‘dream figure’ and attach it to your refrigerator door.

But unless you take the necessary steps to incorporate your plan into your everyday routine, nothing happens. No change. Not one pound shed. Your weight remains the same—you don’t move forward and you don’t reach your goal. Promises don’t yield results without day-to-day execution.

So, what does it really take to affect positive change?:

Have the right resources: Healthy food, personal trainer, scale, calorie calculator.

Develop realistic timelines and expectations: 2 pounds a week for 10-12 weeks. The greatest mistake most dieters (and leaders) make is being unrealistic about how long things take. Being realistic limits risk and disappointment.

Decide a deadline: Your svelte cousin’s wedding. The holidays. It’s amazing how activity levels rise as deadlines loom.

Get support: Choose the best people to help you stay on track: friends, family, personal trainer.

Take action every day: Go to the gym, exercise, eat lots of vegetables, count calories.

Stay motivated and energized: Keep your eyes on the prize—what success looks like (remember that picture on the refrigerator?)

Minimize distractions: Especially procrastination and perfectionism. Try to avoid wasting time on the wrong activities and getting discouraged if you veer off course now and then.

Allow for setbacks and unforeseen events: Parties that involve red velvet cake. Need I say more?

Monitor for results: Be accountable and follow through. Have someone record your weight and measurements on a regular basis. Monitoring is the key to successful change.

Link rewards to performance: Reinforce progress by celebrating milestones with small rewards and work towards that new wardrobe when you reach your goal.

The leader appreciated the analogy: Strategy only works when you take the necessary steps every day to move it forward. That’s how you turn promises into results.

Leadership is not just about pointing the way—it’s about being an integral part of the process from start to finish. It’s about dealing with the realistic issues of the day. It’s about tapping into your greatest asset–day-to-day operations–to get your company where it needs to go.

And who knows? Maybe you’ll lose a pound or two along the way.

Copyright 2011 Michelle Kerrigan

For over 25 years, Michelle Kerrigan has been helping organizations and individuals improve performance and productivity in the day-to-day workplace. A trusted expert who uniquely combines extensive leadership and operations experience with powerful coaching and organizing techniques, Michelle helps clients develop skills and confidence critical to the bottom line. More at

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Posted by Michelle Kerrigan on March 13th, 2011 in Uncategorized | No comments Read related posts in , , , , , ,

07 mar

Raising Resilient Kids

After having worked for several years with emotionally disturbed children and their families, I have learned that one of the most important keys to raising resilient children is worrying less about protecting kids from every difficulty and focusing more on helping them create positive meaning out the difficulties in their lives.

We all know that some people are able to live through intense traumatic events without becoming emotionally disturbed. On the other hand, many kids with severe emotional symptoms have experience nothing more than being misunderstood by their parents. This shows us that the intensity of an experience is not what causes traumatic stress.

The key factor in the creation of traumatic stress is the meaning that the person creates to make sense out of the experience. For example, if someone lives through a violent assault, they could decide that the experience has awakened in them a strong desire to make the world safer. They would move forward with a mission to work for good and see the experience as difficult but eventually positive. However, that person could decide the assault means the world is a fundamentally unsafe place, or worse, that they did something to cause it. In this latter example, the person would experience major traumatic symptoms.

Researchers like Robert Neimeyer, who specialize in grief and loss, have found that if someone is able to create a compelling positive meaning out of a painful experience, it can entirely mediate the traumatic effects.

The problem is that children are not able to create these kinds of meanings for themselves. They need adults to help them. I suggest that parents be proactive in helping their children create compelling positive meanings out of the difficulties in their lives in order to help them grow to be more resilient.

Tim Desmond is a therapist in private practice in Oakland, CA, and directs a mental health, day-treatment program for children. He offers phone counseling for adults and couples through his website,

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Posted by Tim Desmond on March 7th, 2011 in Health, House and Home, Relationships, Teens, Uncategorized | No comments

04 mar

The King and I

SaskiaShakinAt the Oscars show this year, it came as no surprise to me that The King’s Speech won four little gold bald guys. What did surprise me was the fact that a movie was made about my line of work. Aside from Professor Higgins in My Fair Lady, I don’t know of another character who comes close to portraying what I have done for a living over the past 30 years.

Let me be clear: I am not a speech therapist. But I do coach people to give speeches, talks, interviews, media appearances, and all manner of utterances where they are expected to shine and to express something unique about themselves.

I am known as The Keynote Coach. And as such, like the creators of The King’s Speech, I have found a lot of drama, intrigue, and joy helping people figure out what is of value to them and, therefore, of value to their audience.

In my surprising career, I have constantly been amazed that even the best of speakers often quake at the thought of addressing an audience. Why should this be?

I have finally come to the conclusion that we all quake at the thought of taking the podium because we think we will be judged and that the judgment will not be in our favor. That’s when performance anxiety takes hold and questions like the following come up:

“What right have I to claim the stage?”
“Why would anyone want to listen to me?”
“What do I know that isn’t obvious already?”
“What do I have to say that is newsworthy … interesting … meaningful?”

Our cranky critic sits upon our shoulder wagging a finger at our every word, nay saying every thought, making us feel stupid, incapable, unconfident, and mirthless.

I have also concluded that the solution to our worst fears is not a laundry list of tips & tricks that might boost our confidence. For those would only be band-aids on an open wound.

We fear the spotlight not because of the number of people facing us; we fear the spotlight because we have not faced ourselves…our own demons whispering sweet nothings in our ear. For they are sweet nothings – devoid of substance, devoid of threat once we take the time to look within instead of without.

Most people preparing to address a group are consumed with:

“What will they think of me?” Instead, we should be asking:

“What do I think is of value?”
“Why am I passionate about this?”
“Why should they care about my words?”
“How can my thoughts inspire (me, and then, my listeners)?”

Most of us go to the podium seeking perfection. That is wrong. What I suggest to my clients is to forget perfection and seek connection. When we are at our most authentic, that is when we will commune with our listeners. When we can afford to be vulnerable, that is when we will connect. Audiences may admire perfection but they relate to our humanity more than to our false persona.

No one is perfect, and on some subliminal level we all know this. So when speakers get real, when they speak their truth, they give us permission to do the same. Heart to heart is where the real connection happens. And The King’s Speech moves us precisely because it is so real, so vulnerable, so authentic.

When we embrace authenticity, we shine. We cannot help it – for only then does our cranky critic know he is licked.

So know that before you can connect to an audience you must connect to yourself – whether you are a king or a commoner. It is a lesson that King George VI had to learn, that Princess Diana had to learn, and that you have to learn as well. But don’t hesitate to do so; you’ll be in excellent company!

Know too, that when you find your voice, no audience will feel daunting. For you then approach the stage knowing that it is your authenticity that makes you unique. And no one, not king, not foe, not boss, not critic can take that away from you.

Saskia Shakin

Author, More Than Words Can Say: The Making of Inspired Speakers

Saskia is available for interviews, media appearances & as a keynote speaker.

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Posted by Saskia Shakin on March 4th, 2011 in General, Uncategorized | No comments Read related posts in ,

04 mar

A Bad Day for Ego is a Good Day for Soul

MikeRobbinsNewA few weeks ago I listened to a radio interview with Michael Beckwith, author of Spiritual Liberation, and he said, “A bad day for the ego is a good day for the soul.” When I heard this I laughed out loud. The wisdom of his statement resonated with me deeply. I thought about a number of experiences in my life which have been quite “bad” for my ego (i.e. embarrassing, disappointing, and even painful), but in hindsight have been great for my own growth and development.

Over this past week, I’ve had two specific situations, one in the middle of a seminar with one of my clients and another in a personal conversation, where I felt embarrassed – things didn’t turn out at all how I wanted them to and it seemed like I messed up. As I experienced these situations and have been reflecting on them, although I didn’t like how they unfolded, I recognize that the discomfort involved in both instances was about me protecting my ego (in other words – wanting to look good or at least not to look bad).

In retrospect, I’m grateful that both of these things happened exactly as they did. They were and continue to be good opportunities for me to learn, grow, and evolve – both in my work and my life.

Too often our desire to protect our ego – to avoid failure and embarrassment – causes us to sell out on ourselves, not go for what we truly want, or hold back in a variety of detrimental ways. When we remember that even if things don’t turn out the way we think we want them to, not only will we survive, we can grow in the process. As the saying goes, “if it doesn’t kill you, it makes you stronger.”

This is not to say that the only way to grow, evolve, and transform in life is through suffering, disappointment, or pain. However, when we do experience difficulties, failures, and challenges – all of which are normal and natural aspects of life and growth – we have the capacity to turn these “bad” things into incredible opportunities for healing and transformation. While it may not seem that way to us (or our ego) initially, the deeper part of who we are (our soul) knows that everything happens for a reason and there are always important lessons for us to learn in each situation and experience in life.

Think of some of the things that have happened in your life that seemed “awful” to you at the time, but in hindsight are things you’re incredibly grateful for now.

The most elegant, pleasurable, and self-loving way for us to grow and evolve is through joy, success, and gratitude. However, due to the fact that difficulties do occur in life and that we often give away our power to the “bad” stuff (through resistance, judgment, or worry), learning to relate to our challenges in a more positive and conscious way is a crucial part of our growth journey.

Remembering that what’s usually at risk in life when we get scared is just our ego, can remind us, with compassion, that we don’t have nearly as much to lose as we think we do. Embodying this insight (that a bad day for our ego is a good day for our soul) with empathy and perspective, allows us to live our lives with a deeper sense of forgiveness, faith, and authenticity.

Mike Robbins is a sought-after motivational keynote speaker, coach, and the bestselling author of Focus on the Good Stuff (Wiley) and Be Yourself, Everyone Else is Already Taken (Wiley). More info –

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Posted by Mike Robbins on March 4th, 2011 in Uncategorized | No comments Read related posts in , , , , , , , , ,

02 mar

Are You Operating at Your Maximum or Your Optimum?

RenitaKalhornNido Qubein, president of High Point University, asked this question and it highlighted one of the behavioral mysteries I’ve long observed in the business world: So many people operate in maximum mode, running as fast as they can, barely keeping their head above water.

They rush around in reactive mode, relying on external pressures and sheer willpower to create adrenaline-driven motivation. Pushing as hard as they can for as long as they can – and sacrificing their health and wellbeing in the meantime – inevitably, they crash and burn.

On the other side of the fence are those who are operating at their optimum, setting a pace that’s sustainable for the long term and most favorable to achieving the results they want. Yes, they sprint full out when necessary but they do it on a full tank of gas and then take the time to rest and recover.

Which way sounds better to you? If you’re interested in a saner, healthier way to thrive and succeed, here are three ways to move toward optimum performance:

1. Know your why. Let’s start with a little brain science. In his book, Start With Why, Simon Sinek points out that the oldest part of our brain, the limbic system, is where our emotions and behavior originate.

The best way to access our emotions – which are what drive our actions — is by understanding our fundamental “why.” Is it to grow, to inspire, to teach? Rather than focusing solely on the “what” — the different career path or major promotion, say — digging deep to excavate a true sense of purpose is what will ignite your motivation and give you clarity.

2. Fortify your mindset. The more information we have access to – on TV, in the newspapers and in conversations overheard — the more negativity we’re likely to encounter. Unless, that is, we proactively create a shield against it.

Before you dive into your day, take 15 minutes to feed your mind inspiring content that shifts your default setting toward the positive and expands your idea of what’s possible –biographies of people you admire, personal development books, inspiring quotes — clear your mind with meditation or journaling, and mentally rehearse how you want the key events of the day to go. Your day will start off smoother and, when you do encounter a setback, you’ll handle it with greater ease and aplomb.

3. Create positive rituals for energy recovery. Sports psychologist Jim Loehr says: “Time, by itself, is fundamentally valueless unless it intersects with our best energy. That’s because it’s our best energy that enables us to be extraordinary.”

People in maximum mode burn through their energy sources until there’s nothing left. Energy, however, is a renewable resource, if we take measures to recover. One way to replenish our mental, emotional and spiritual energy is to create positive rituals. More than a routine, these are precise, consciously acquired behaviors that become automatic, fueled by a deep sense of meaning and purpose: date night on Fridays with your significant other, reading a chapter of a novel at lunchtime, or going to yoga class on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

No question, with the hyped-up expectations of the modern world breathing down your neck, choosing a sustainable pace requires discipline and conviction. But which would you rather be: ahead at the 25th mile of the marathon, or the first to run across the finish line?

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Posted by Renita Kalhorn on March 2nd, 2011 in Career, First30Days Book | No comments