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Graymatter Sunday Edition: 2023-11-12
Ideas, mindsets, and technology that unlock high performance leadership.
Welcome to the Sunday edition of my newsletter, a playbook of ideas, mindsets, and technology that strengthen leadership and performance in pursuing our true potential.
❤️ While “leadership” is often associated with people leaders, most of my content focuses on “self-leadership,” given that we all need to become strong leaders of ourselves before we can lead others.
🎧 Use the Substack app for those who want to listen to the audio version of this newsletter.
🌟 I hope you find one nugget in this post to practice this coming week.
💡 Idea of the Week - Focus On What You Can Control
Focusing on what you can control is an ancient idea made famous by the Stoics. It’s common sense, but I see many people who fail to practice it each week.
“Our most important choice in life, according to Epictetus, is whether to concern ourselves with things external to us or things internal.
While most people seek to gain contentment by changing the world around them, Epictetus advises us to gain contenment by changing ourselves - more precisely, by changing our desires.”
As a coach, I work with various people, from university students to professionals, at different stages of their careers. Many people desire to land a job to grow their expertise and compensation. This week, I often heard coachees expending energy and focus on things external to them that they cannot control as reasons why they are struggling or don’t see value in putting in the effort.
Is the job market challenging? Yes.
Is the market competitive with highly talented people chasing too few jobs? Yes.
Is the global economy a mess and driving companies to reduce costs and act conservatively? Yes.
These forces can influence people to lose enthusiasm or not even put in the effort to pursue their ambitions. They are waiting for the external world to change - that may never come. Waiting for the things you don’t control to change is a path to losing your autonomy. The alternative mindset is to focus on what you can control, and these can be essential to landing a new job or opportunity.
Focusing on what you can control is essential to pursuing our full potential, as it can shape our unique value proposition and stand out from the crowd. These essential ingredients of what we have complete control over and make our profile valuable.
✅ Goals: setting aspirational goals for various periods. You will not reach your true potential without ambitious goals that set a direction. A compelling vision of the future serves as the fuel to power our pursuit, especially through the ups and downs. Read more.
🆔 Created Identity: crafting who we want to become is within our creative spirit. Nobody can take that away from you. Read more.
🧭 Values: determining and living our values shapes our identity and happiness. Read more.
🤝 Network: building relationships with people in your target sector/job can significantly increase your surface area of luck. Research studies have proved that “weak ties” increase the chances of landing a new job. I often find people “play it safe”, connecting with people they know and feel that they have a chance with people connecting. Read more.
⏰ Time: Allocate time in your calendar to the activities that align with your goals. Build self-awareness to identify when your mind wanders on things you don’t control. Gently bring your mind back.
⚡️ Energy: Allocate your energy to things that matter and directly contribute to your goals and vision.
❤️ Character: Your character and reputation are the currency in the professional world. The 48 Laws of Power by Robert Greene states, “So Much Depends On Reputation - Guard It with Your Life.” In the Laws of Human Nature, Greene describes character as “something that is so deeply ingrained or stamped within us.” Your actions are daily deposits that shape your character and reputation. An organization may say “yes” or “no” solely based on these personal qualities. Allocate your focus to building a strong character.
🧠 Thought Leadership: Market your expertise to share your unique skills and worldview broadly. Organizations cannot “buy your product” if they don’t have any brand awareness of who you are and what you have to offer. People say they may not have anything interesting to say or they compare themselves to top practitioners in their field. Focus on your uniqueness - nobody will ever be quite like you.
What external force will you stop expending time and energy on?
How will you use the ingredients above to build a unique brand and stand out?
The ability to adapt to change is such a fundamental skill that, surprisingly, it is not taught in formal education. Failure and challenges are a fact of life and can keep us from attaining our dreams unless we have tools and mindsets to guide us. Here are a few mindsets from the book I am reading, Master of Change by Brad Stulberg:
“A path embraces change and is constantly rerouting itself accordingly.”
“Cultivating a strong and enduring sense of self means treating your life like a path.”
“…a good, deep, and meaningful life is possible, even probable, if we can learn to accept and work with the inevitability of unrelenting change.”
“Homeostasis describes a cycle of order, disorder, and order.”
“Allostasis describes a pattern of order, disorder, reorder.”
“Everything is changing always, including us. We are constantly somewhere in the cycle of order, disorder, reorder.”
“We achieve stability through change.”
How will you reorder and change to achieve stability again?
I was first introduced to the book The Psychology of Money by Morgan Housel on the Tim Ferris podcast #576. It’s a fantastic, best-selling book for anyone seeking financial freedom. This week, I listened to the follow-up podcast discussion with Tim Housel, where he talks about things that never change in a constantly changing world.
I value his view: “I’m not interested in anything that’s not sustainable.” This mindset can influence how we approach the pursuit of our true potential.
What are you doing that is not sustainable and impacting your career and relationships?
The mindset “action beats intention” can catalyze us to do uncomfortable things as we pursue personal and professional growth.
What action will you take this week to contribute toward an important goal?
🧠 Body - Mind - Spirit
Our body, mind, and spirit significantly influence the quality of our life - including how we perform our craft. To master our craft, we must master ourselves. Discipline is Destiny by Ryan Holiday encapsulates the virtues of self-control through the body, mind, and soul. My experience is that I often need a dose of this book every few months to remind myself of what I must do to stay focused and disciplined. It’s like a booster shot for me. The audio version makes it easy to absorb at the gym in the morning as I think about my day ahead.
Without self-discipline, becoming the best version of yourself and experiencing your true potential is impossible.
What will you change to strengthen your self-discipline and become a better version of yourself?
🚀 Career Strategy
The economy and world events are creating more uncertainty. Taking a strategic and offensive approach to build your brand and options can mitigate the impacts of an organization’s reduction in force. Evaluating the health of your organization and executing transition plans is essential.
A few of my coachees are taking action to strengthen their profiles and options as they evaluate the internal and external landscapes of their organizations and sectors. Another coachee conducted extensive research to narrow the focus and target organizations with a compelling value proposition. This approach landed the coachee two job offers instead of the “spray and pray” approach that rarely works. One coachee is using a career break to rejuvenate their identity and pursue jobs aligning with their purpose and the right culture. I reinforced the importance of growing a network to increase the surface area of luck and learning from others to all my coachees. Most people know what they need to do to grow and stand, but some need help from a coach to expand their perspective and go on the journey with them.
I recommend people adopt the mindset that their expertise is a product available for sale on the open market. The market is constantly changing and you need to understand trends, buyer needs, and pain points like a product manager. Your product must adapt and be seen for organizations or people to buy it in the market. Building and sustaining a great product requires time, iteration, and resources.
Delaying your action to invest in and reinvent your product increases the chance it will become irrelevant, which generally creates many other problems.
What action will you take that you have been avoiding to increase your leverage and options?
This week was dominated by the ChatGPT announcements at OpenAI DevDay on Monday. OpenAI announced new models and developer products that are more relevant to the technical audience, but the ability to easily create (no coding) custom versions of ChatGPT for a specific purpose - called “GPTs” - enables anyone to extend ChatGPT with your unique knowledge tailored to a specific audience (watch the video below at 19:44).
An example use case is how I, as a coach, can share my unique expertise as a GPT - a virtual leadership and performance coach available 24/7 to anyone worldwide. OpenAI will release its “app store” in the coming weeks and enable revenue sharing with GPT developers, similar to the Apple app store. ‘
Expanding my coaching experience as a virtual agent will serve more people and answer common questions. This will allow me to focus on unique scenarios best handled in one-on-one live human coaching experiences. Using a GPT will force me to codify my experience in written, audio, or visual form that can be uploaded to my GPT configuration. The AI agent will get more advanced over time.
The first version of my GPT is available at https://coachjamesgray.com/chat.
Creating a GPT requires a monthly ChatGPT pro license for about $20. I will create a post on how I configured GPT “Coach James Gray” that will guide less technical people. Embracing the reality that the world’s knowledge is quickly available through ChatGPT via voice, chat, or images will act as a force for people to build unique expertise that solves a problem for a specific audience where they have interest and experience.
What GPT will you create?
🤔 Sunday Reflection
A year ago, disorder hit when my CIO job was eliminated. It was hard at first, but then I reflected it did not have anything to do with my abilities; it was simply external forces of the market. My natural response was to pursue order > disorder > order, to find another CIO or technology leadership job.
But after a few months, that was not working, given the market dynamics. I adapted by experimenting with different offerings aligned with my purpose and who I wanted to become. Most did not work, but my evolution into a coach, university instructor, and technologist felt more like order > disorder > reorder. I had to adapt to something different to find stability and work aligned with my purpose and vision.
💥 If you are in a state of disorder or see signs of potential disorder, see my website for free and paid coaching products. I am here to help and partner with you to achieve the goals most important to you.
Please share this post with colleagues who could benefit from a weekly dose of ideas, mindsets, and technology to guide a transformational change.
I look forward to hearing how you put one of these newsletter nuggets into practice.
- Coach James
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