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Graymatter Sunday Edition: 2023-11-19
Unlocking high performance self-leadership.
Welcome to the Sunday edition of my newsletter - a playbook of ideas, mindsets, and technology to strengthen leadership and performance in pursuit of your true potential.
🎧 Use the Substack app to listen to the audio version of this newsletter.
🌟 I hope you find one nugget in this post to practice this coming week.
✍️ Share your comments at the bottom of this post.
💡 Idea of the Week: Embracing Your New Identity
I spoke to several people this week embarking on a career change path. Not surprisingly, a common theme was the dance between who they are now and who they want to become. One must “let go” of a previous successful identity to transform into the next best version of the identity that aligns with one’s vision. Clinging to the safety of who we are constrains growth and prevents others from seeing us in a new light. Without embracing and living a new identity now, it’s unlikely that opportunities will come your way that align with your vision.
One coachee quickly deepened their self-awareness that a new identity must emerge to land a new job and experience more happiness in their personal life. This catalyzed showing up differently - with more energy, confidence, and authority - to chart a new course on their terms. Almost instantly, new job opportunities started coming their way, as well as improved well-being.
Another coachee aims to transition to another discipline, but their in-person and online digital identity is who they are today. While they exhibit the requisite skills for a transition, the fear of not being “good enough” - the imposter syndrome - prevents this new identity from emerging and shining. This may partly explain why the coachee has been unsuccessful in landing a new job offer in the target field. The good news is that changing your identity is within your control.
Earlier this year, I learned how valuable it was to fully embrace a new identity - even before I was ready - to transform who I was professionally. Was it uncomfortable at times? Hell yes! But I knew this time I needed to lean into the fear by taking action to neutralize it. It won’t be perfect, and it’s not a one-time thing. Here is how I approached embracing and practicing my created identity.
Identity is an inside worldview of how we see ourselves. The article below is a playbook for crafting an identity and future self. 👇
To make our identity real, we must demonstrate small acts of courage in the outside world through rituals, behaviors, and emotions. Given that we are “trying on” a new identity, we must be willing to experiment, learn, and iterate. Practicing a new identity makes us feel great confidence in our inner world. This leads to more experimentation and taking risks in the outside world. Before you know it, the imposter syndrome has vanished, and you are living your created identity.
If you seek a transformation, you must over-index to embrace and embody the created identity deep within your bones. You must have strong self-belief in your new identity and say thank you to your previous identity. Life is a continuous path of evolving identities.
How will you demonstrate your created identity next week?
I would argue that learning to change is your life's most important skill. Yet, it’s not taught formally in the education system, so I love researching and writing about it. This week, I read a passage from Master of Change by Brad Stulberg that presents a mindset of “expect it to be hard.”
What most people don’t know is that in the mid-1980s Frankl wrote a postscript to the book (Man’s Search for Meaning), a short essay he titled “The Case for Tragic Optimism”. In it Frankl observes that life involves three inevitable varieties of tradegy:
the first is pain and suffering, because we are made of flesh and bone;
the second is guilt, because we have some freedom to make choices and thus we feel responsible when things don’t work out as we had hoped;
and the third is our ability to look ahead, because we must face the fact that everything we cherish, including our own lives, will eventually change or end.
…researchers found that people’s experience of happiness and fufillment are correlated to the accuracy of their expectations.
Tragic optimism is the ability to maintain hope and find meaning in life despite its inescepable pain, loss and suffering.
It is about acknowleding, accepting, and expecting that life will contain hardship, that sometimes impermanence hurts, and then trudging forward with a positive attitude nonetheless.
With tragic optimism, if a situation doesn’t unfold as badly as you thought, you’ll be pleasantly surprised. If a situation does unfold as badly as you thought, you’’ll be prepared and levelheaded.
Research shows that individuals who face life with a mindset of tragic optimism - in particular, those who expect a fair share of change and hardship - have advantageous physical and psychological responses to stress.
How can a mindset of tragic optimism help you cope with reality while moving through it with a positive spirit?
Expect things will be hard to build up your mental strength.
Maximizing focus and productivity throughout the day will accelerate progress toward goals. This week, I got back into the habit of using the countdown stopwatch on my phone to keep my focus on executing a task. Over the last few months, I have also been building an awareness muscle by listening to meditations to notice when my mind drifts and bring it back to a home base. This week, I started listening and experimenting with “Silk: Music for Focus” on the Calm app, a research-backed music series designed to help you focus and be more mindfully productive at work.
What can you listen to to improve your productivity?
Becoming a master strategist is your most important skill for achieving high performance and winning. Author Robert Greene has written multiple books on strategies to compete in life. The 33 Strategies of War is a compilation of war strategies applied to life.
One of my favorite strategies from the 33 Strategies of War is “Create a Sense of Urgency and Desperation: The Death-Ground Strategy.”
How will you put yourself on death-ground this week?
❤️ Body - Mind - Spirit
Becoming a high-performance professional in your craft requires more than competency and skills; it also requires physical and emotional strength. Experiencing your full potential is fueled by a healthy body, a calm mind, and a positive spirit that embraces challenges. A complete focus and allocation of time on your work will limit your potential.
💪 Daily physical activity has been a part of my routine for almost twenty years. The key change was looking at a typical day and determining when to invest in my physical health. I had never worked out early in the morning, so I tried it one day. It was a mindset shift and hard at first, but after a few weeks, it became routine. I knew there was a full workday in front of me, and working out early in the morning ensured I did something for myself before serving others. Earlier this week, a few colleagues asked me about the device on my left wrist - a Whoop - and why I wear it. The intent is to understand the factors influencing my daily recovery score so I can be my best daily. I recently gave up alcohol, made adjustments to how I wind down before bed, and committed to a consistent sleep schedule. Insights to your personal data and analytics are a lever within your control to optimize the rituals that bring out your best self.
📅 Take accountability to schedule physical activity into your weekly schedule before the week starts. Your employer is not incentivized to ensure your well-being; it’s to maximize profit, sometimes at any cost.
🧠 The mind is a fascinating place - our thoughts and emotions control the quality of our lives. A mind constantly racing and experiencing negative emotions limits focus and performance. At different points in my life, I did not fully embrace the meaning and source of emotions or how they impacted my well-being and performance at work. Recently, I have incorporated a few rituals to clear and strengthen my headspace. One ritual is to check in on the emotions I felt during the week to acknowledge them and reflect on how I could experience more positive emotions and limit negative emotions. The article below shares a spreadsheet of 80+ emotions from Atlast of the Heart by Brené Brown. Emotion definitions helped me understand my feelings and the potential sources. 👇
❤️ As a coach, my purpose is to serve and give to others. I am often asked why I coach and what I enjoy most. Giving to people that I can help fills my spirit with positive emotions from warm connections and seeing them achieve their goals. While Thanksgiving is a time to say thanks and give, embrace a ritual of giving to someone in need without expecting anything in return. This good karma will radiate your spirit with goodness.
This week, how will you invest in your body, mind, and spirit?
🚀 Career Strategy
If you missed it on Friday, I posted an article on how to learn from others through seeing feedback as a gift. 🎁
Since most people will not actively seek feedback or make it easy for others to give it, leverage this strategy to strengthen your self-awareness and performance.
“Feedback is a gift; the key is making it easy for people to give it to you.”
How will you make it easy for colleagues to share feedback with you?
Copilots are rapidly becoming an essential tool to maximize productivity and do more. Your relevancy will depend on leveraging these AI tools to offer a differentiated, faster, better, and cheaper value proposition.
Microsoft is leading the charge with copilots embedded within tools we use daily, including Office apps, Windows, and Teams. Watch Satya Nadella’s keynote on Wednesday’s Microsoft Ignite to learn more about Copilots (start at 42:50).
Try Microsoft Copilot at https://copilot.microsoft.com (formerly Bing Chat).
🤔 Sunday Reflection
Next week is the Thanksgiving holiday for those living in the US. It’s a time to take a break from work, feel grateful, and spend time with friends and family. I encourage you to view every week as an opportunity to give and serve others without expecting something in return. You will be repaid multiple times over in ways you can’t imagine.
💥 If you want to transform your identity and increase performance, see my website for free and paid coaching products. I am here to partner with you to achieve your most important goals.
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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