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Graymatter Sunday Edition: 2023-11-05
Ideas, mindsets, and tools that bring out your best self and unlock high performance.
Welcome to the Sunday edition of my newsletter, a playbook of ideas, mindsets, and tools that strengthen self-leadership, performance, and knowledge of technology shaping our world. Reflection and awareness are essential to shaping daily routines and becoming our best selves. I hope you find one nugget in this post to practice this coming week.
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💡 Idea of the Week - Turning Pro
I love author Steven Pressfield’s idea of “turning pro,” symbolically transitioning from an amateur to a professional by adopting a mindset, habits, and work ethic. In The War of Art, Pressfield defines Resistance as the force that stops us from committing to the vital work of our lives. We live in fear with addictions to soothe our self-doubt, and we’re asleep as life passes. The “turning pro” strategy is a mindset to overcome this debilitating force. In his follow-up book, Turning Pro, Pressfield outlines a playbook to find your power and your will, voice, and self-respect to overcome what is holding you back.
My post, Decide to Turn Pro, summarizes the book’s themes and ideas.
Turning pro is free. How and when will you turn pro?
Personal branding and self-promotion emerged as a theme this week in my coaching and speaking event. Most people know they need to do it but often shy away from it or don’t know how. There are ways to be visible and brand-building while being authentic and credible. Evolving your identity and brand is essential to professional growth, a career pivot, or a promotion.
Here are a few references to shape your mindset and actionable ideas for building your brand.
7 Rules of Power by Jeffrey Pfeffer - read my book notes to gain a strategic perspective from Pfeffer, a Stanford professor, and leading expert on using power to get things down and advance your career.
What actions will you take this coming week to grow the visibility and credibility of your brand?
Mastering and maximizing productivity is critical to high performance in your craft. Cal Newport is known for his books Deep Work and So Good They Can’t Ignore You. In this podcast episode, Cal shares four essential tools for managing productivity and discusses experimentation and reflection with David Epstein, the author of Range: Why Generalists Triumph In A Specialized World.
How will you improve your productivity this coming week?
The Laws of Human by Robert Greene was a life-changing book I read in 2018. The stories and laws gave insight into challenging parts of my life that I could not explain. These laws are not taught in school, and understanding and practicing them can save you from the harsh realities of human nature. Robert Greene released a Laws of Human Nature video playlist where he explains a law and then shares an exercise for you to practice in the outside world. This is my most gifted book, given how deep and strategic these laws are to interacting with people and performing at peak potential.
How will you practice a law of human nature this coming week?
🧠 Body - Mind - Spirit
Mastering your craft requires focus and many hours of execution each day. It’s easy to get consumed in the work machine, leaving little thought about how your body and mind must be cared for to sustain top performance. Two rituals have improved my well-being over the last year to show up and perform throughout the day.
Scheduling time for physical exercise in my calendar ensures I protect time for cardiovascular, stretching, and strength training. I know this sounds obvious, but visually seeing this on my calendar each Sunday ensures I commit to a routine and plan my work around it. The book Outlive by Dr. Peter Attia reinforces how essential physical exercise and muscle are to longevity.
Scheduling a consistent time and routine each evening for winding down and preparing for sleep has improved my morning recovery and sleep. While it’s tempting to continue working in the late evening, I find it makes my mind race while sleeping, and I am not as productive the next day. My routine consists of turning on a red night light in my bedroom before entering the room for sleep. It’s soothing, and the red hue light is free of blue spectrum light to encourage the production of melatonin in the evening and reduce eye strain. I also read a book for 15-20 minutes, followed by a Headspace “Wind Down” for a relaxing meditation and sounds.
Starting and ending the day with self-care ensures you bring the best version of yourself to your job and those who love you.
What are the self-care routines that you will build into your weekly schedule?
🚀 Career Strategy
On Thursday night, I had the pleasure to present and lead a conversation with the University of Illinois, Gies College of Business graduate students about how to pivot a career. There are multiple articles on this playbook about the “inner quest” - a hero’s journey of self-discovery to reimagine your best self. This process was instrumental in my transformation from a tech executive to a broadened identity as a coach. However, spending time in the inner world was only part of the transformation process that also required exploration, experimentation, learning, and iteration in the outside world.
My experience is that a career pivot is not a straight line - here is the answer: and now execute. After losing my CIO job in December 2022, I was not clear about who I was or who I wanted to become. There were various emotions that I felt and needed to overcome to clear my head. Big Tech firms were going through massive layoffs, while many other sectors were laying off people to reduce costs. While traveling on the inner quest of self-discovery, I leveraged my product management mindset to test the market with various product offerings for my expertise. Each of the product offerings was a value proposition of a different identity. There was a data & AI leader targeting firms for full-time roles, a university instructor, a leadership and performance coach, an executive consultant on the bench at a consulting firm, and the list went on. Even the coach persona had multiple offerings as I experimented with potential opportunities with different buyer personas.
Pivoting requires an unmet need where you have a unique offering, and there is demand from buyers to compensate you for that service. I learned that a transformation requires continuous interaction between the inner world and the outside world. You create a vision and an identity from within and then go into the outside world to test and iterate. This spawns learning that shapes and deepens your vision and identity. You then take action in the outside world to make that identity real and find a place in the outside to practice your craft and thrive. The virtuous interaction between these two worlds will result in a new best version of yourself while uniquely creating value. Mastering this continuous career transformation framework will create stability as external forces impose disorder on your life and then adapt to thrive again.
How have you explored your inner world?
How are you exploring, experimenting, learning, and iterating to find your next career transition or pivot?
I speak to many people during the week, and many seek to leverage AI tools in their jobs. Following thought leaders experimenting with AI in a specific sector and innovative organizations is an excellent learning method.
Watch the OpenAI DevDay Keynote on Monday, November 6th at 10:00 AM PST.
Wharton professor Ethan Mollick publishes articles on insights applying AI in the education sector, although the concepts are broadly applicable. You can follow his work on LinkedIn and Substack newsletter OneUsefulThing.org.
How are you learning and experimenting with AI tools to increase your performance at work?
Use Sundays to reflect on the week and strategically allocate time that supports your ambitious vision. Self-leadership enables agency and discipline to travel down the path with curiosity and conviction. Do something for yourself, as work demands will always be there waiting.
What do you want to experience next week to shape your best self?
Please share this post with colleagues who could benefit from a weekly dose of ideas, mindsets, and tools to strengthen self-leadership or guide a transformational change.
I look forward to hearing how you put one of these newsletter nuggets into practice.
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