The Urgent Wisdom of Marcus Aurelius

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If someone can prove me wrong and show me my mistake in any thought or action, I shall gladly change.  I seek the truth, which never harmed anyone: the harm is to persist in one’s own ignorance.  – Marcus Aerelius, Meditations (Book 6)   

Over the holiday season, I had the good fortune of free time allowing me to read several books.  Among them was Marcus Aurelius’s famous collection of journal entries, “Meditations”.  For those requiring a refresher on Aurelius, he was a 2nd century Roman emperor steeped in Greek philosophy and one of the forefathers of what would become Stoicism.  Stoic philosophy has enjoyed a cultural renaissance as of late functioning as an antidote to our divisive political environment. It has emerged as a real frame to think about how we can individually rise above the frequent shallowness and contrived debates in our social media fueled lives.   And while I am not deeply educated in Stoic philosophy, I have found some of it’s leading figures including Aurelius, Seneca, and Epictetus to be deeply convincing.

Meditations struck me as urgently necessary at this particular point in our history.  It compels us to look within ourselves to make change before we project our insecurities outward.  It asks us to observe our own minds for obfuscations, limiting beliefs, and emotional hindrances.  It reminds us to establish and hold ourselves accountable to foundational values while exercising the discipline to abandon vanity, status, and gossip.  I could go on endlessly in admiration of the virtues that Aurelius extols.  But for the time being, I’ll enumerate one theme and several quotes that that I found especially important.

  1. The Reasoned Pursuit of Truth – At a time when political and cultural partisanship is historically acute, we must challenge ourselves to marshal the tools of philosophical reason to arrive at our conclusions.  Preconceived biases and emotion play too large of a role in the ways that we arrive at decisions.  We must apply what Zen Master Shunryu Suzuki called “Beginner’s Mind”, seeing each moment with fresh eyes devoid of established preconceptions and use intellectually honest means of logic to make better decisions  (see more on this Suzuki theory here: https://bit.ly/2TKxEdp).

“The directing mind is that which wakes itself, adapts itself, makes itself of whatever nature it wishes, and makes all that happens to it appear in the way it wants”.  Book 4

“Up, down, round and round are the motions of the elements, but the movement of active virtue follows none of these; it is something more divine and it journeys on to success along a path hard to understand” Book 6

“So keep yourself simple, good, pure, serious, unpretentious, a friend of justice, god fearing, kind, full of affection, strong for your proper work.  Strive hard to remain the same man that philosophy wished to make you.  Life is short.  The one harvest of existence on earth is a godly habit of mind and social action”.  Book 6

Enjoy the wisdom of Marcus Aurelius – truly timeless!

-John

 

 

 

 

 

An Examined Life – Aspiration, Expectation & Intent

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We can’t control events.  As hard as we may try, there are simply too many interdependent forces at play that are beyond our personal dominion.   This is why the concept of directional aspiration is so important and why expectation is less so.  Expectations cause us to unnecessarily cling to and often anxiously grasp at desired results.  We don’t have command over outcomes. We shouldn’t definitively expect anything to occur.  We don’t control the universe (sorry ego).   We need to let go.

Instead, aspirations set a purposeful intent in a direction that aligns with our values and goal-oriented objectives.  When thinking about aspiration, I like to conjure the image of a car headlight.  The headlight points us in the direction of our intended destination.

Aspiration is accompanied by purposeful intent.  Intent is the deliberate effort that we bring to an endeavor.  Its often based on diligent preparation and mindful repetition.   Its moderated by values such as compassion and resilience.  The honesty and integrity we bring to our intent is entirely up to us.

So drop your expectations.  Set your directional aspiration and accompany it with a devout and deliberately focused intent.  We can’t control life’s outcomes – but we can control what we aspire to do and how we go about doing it.

Constructing the Next Global Order

Global Order

Over the last 18 months, I’ve been thinking a lot about the problems that the United States and world face in the 21st century.
Economies are changing, technological progress is exploding, politics are polarizing, labor forces are shifting, immigration is increasing, inequality is worsening and international cooperation is lessening.   And these are a just a few of the major issues that are transforming societies, for better or worse (mostly for the worse)
With the input of friends, colleagues and experts in both international and domestic politics and economics, I’ve begun mapping out what the world may look like over a 20-50 year time horizon.
One could refer to it as “Society’s Strategic Plan”.  This plan is similar to the strategic plan that company’s build when setting the course for the future.   However, this strategic plan has a more ominous ending.   If current trends continue, the result could be disastrous for middle and working classes across the world.
I have also begun to sketch out what the world can look like if we  steer the boat in a better direction.  This new world order would most notably account for the technological shifts that will dramatically impact economies and labor markets over the next 5-20 years.  Importantly, it also maintains the broad-based architecture of the Post WWII Liberal Order that spawned the emergence of democracies, global alliances and competitive capital markets around the world.
Below you’ll find the initial sketch of the global transformation that I believe must take place in order for the world to remain stable and prosperous.
A few key features of the global order and America’s path forward are as follows:
  • Maintain the Liberal Architecture – human rights, freedom of speech, open markets, transfusion of ideas and people across borders, and an interconnected alliance of democracies
  • Global Cooperation – As famed author Yuval Noah Harari has pointed out time and again, the existential issues of technological disruption, climate change, and nuclear war can only be solved when nations work together; they cannot be solved by any one country.
  • Transitioning to an Automated, Technology Dependent Economy – Ensuring that all citizens can participate and prosper in an a technology dependent economy; current trends portend increased capital concentration in a technology and finance elite operating within a shrinking number of “rent-seeking” firms.
  • Focus on Comparative Economic Advantage – Take advantage of America’s strengths in middle to upper tier services and entrepreneurial innovation; reduce American footprint in manufacturing and low value services that can be automated
  • Disrupting and Improving Education – Conceive of new ways to educate children and teenagers to prepare them for a technology dependent economy; create opportunities for adults to shift from professions that can be automated to those which require human intelligence.
  • Rebuilding Trust in Institutions – We must have a set of government and international institutions that people trust and can count on to serve their interests; militaries, international bodies, NGOs and the media play a vital role in ensuring the safety and freedom of people around the world.

Our current political dialogue is not addressing these long-term, existential issues.  Indeed, America’s 2-4 year political cycles are ill-equipped to deal with issues that are profoundly consequential and don’t merely require a short-term, band-aid fix.

Over the next few months, I will be working with individuals in the Baltimore community, academia and business to explore these issues and bring ideas, solutions and civic energy to the public sphere.  I hope you’ll join me in the conversation.

To close, I’ll  share a quote that Brookings Institute Scholar, Robert Kagan mentioned when describing how world events slowly and then rapidly spin out of control.  He notes a famous line in a Hemingway novel that asks a man how he went bankrupt and the man responds by saying “Two ways – gradually then suddenly”.

Let us resolve to address these issues before they gradually and then suddenly become insurmountable.

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Watering the Seeds of Generosity

Dāna (Devanagari: दान) is a Sanskrit and Pali word that connotes the virtue of generosity.  In Buddhism, dāna is the practice of cultivating generosity. It can take the form of giving to an individual in distress or need.  More importantly, it can take the form of simple acts which empower and help many.

For thousands of years, Buddhist monastics have understood the life affirming importance of generosity.  In Mahayana Buddhism’s  “Six Perfections”, six unique  dimensions of human character provide the  ethical pathway to living an enlightened life.  First among them is the perfection of generosity.

In the Buddhist context, generosity is not simply the act of transferring wealth or material goods to those in need.  More fundamentally, it is about cultivating a deep generosity of spirit that guides one’s everyday actions.  Generosity in this sense means acting to benefit others without expectation of reward or recognition.  For the generous doer,  its about intent not outcome.

Now more than ever, America must strengthen its collective “generosity muscle”.  We must lead with generosity in our daily interactions.  We must learn how to listen generously before we respond.  We must offer generosity to those we spite.  We must rise above petty grievances and generously offer a hand of assistance when its most difficult.  When generosity scales, we are our most virtuous and courageous selves.

Businesses, government and our civic organizations would  benefit from more generosity.  Corporations that engender cultures of generosity establish collaborative and trusting employees that are highly motivated to succeed.  Political systems  reap enormous benefits when politicians adopt more generous dispositions towards their political opponents.  By listening with sincerity, being open to new ideas, and working to find common ground – “generosity first” approaches to governing significantly reduce polarity and legislative dysfunction.  And communities that are more generous find connections across race, ethnicity, class and religion to be dramatically richer.

Luckily, being generous feels good.  We can all recall experiences of personal generosity and the deep-seated joy that they brought us.  Whether we were able to provide something of material value to someone in need or magnanimously forgive an individual that wronged us – the generosity emotion has immense power!

Generosity also builds strong communities.  Families, groups, tribes, and nations that act with a generosity of spirit live more harmoniously.  When generosity becomes a characteristic of organizations,  morale is enhanced and productivity increases.  When societal generosity is highly valued,  the worthiness of all citizens is acknowledged.  When basic dignity is acknowledged, the deep links of interdependence forge a shared destiny for groups.

So I ask that we act more deliberately to cultivate a broad spirit of generosity.  Act more generously towards the cashier, the janitor, your boss and your spouse.  Establish an intent to be generous and expect nothing in return.   Give first, take second.  Your life and your community will be better for it.


As always, please submit your comments on this post and others on my Facebook and Twitter feeds.  My hope is that this blog continues to foster a dialogue which allows us engage with each other more wisely.  

Meditation + Gratitude = Full Tank

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I’ll admit it — I’m a card carrying member of the mindfulness meditation movement.  You’d be hard pressed to find a podcast or glossy magazine that hasn’t recommended meditation as of late.  It has grown rapidly in popular professional culture over the last 18 months. Americans need a way to make soothing order out of divergent chaos.

Over the last year, I’ve been practicing a form of deep mindfulness meditation and have found the results to be extraordinary.   Amid the daily rush, I have experienced greater focus, emotional balance, intellectual endurance and greater fulfillment in the wide range of endeavors that I’m engaged in.

As of late, I’ve augmented my meditation with deliberate gratitude journaling.  Each morning, I start my day with an itemized list of the things and people that I’m grateful for.  While it can often feel cheesy (roof over my head) and repetitive (how many days can I be grateful for my wonderful life partner), it focuses my subconscious on the abundance of things that I’m endowed with.  This is a powerful tool to rewire your brain.

Too often, we focus on the things that we are striving for or are unhappy that we don’t have.  This anxiety and resentment eats at us and negatively colors our outlook on life.

As a result of my meditation and gratitude implementation, my energy tank is as full as its ever been.  And that’s saying something given that I’m currently working as a strategy leader at a large corporation (50+ hour weeks), obtaining my Executive MBA and overseeing the development of a political non-profit.

I encourage those looking for ways to be healthier, happier, and more productive in 2018 to consider mindfulness meditation and a deliberate gratitude practice.  You’ll realize that your life is more plentiful than you appreciate.

Committing to Each Other

Committment (December 2017)

We must commit to each other.

This was a memorable message from author Anand Giridharadas in a recent podcast of “On Being with Krista Tippett”.   Speaking from the inaugural Obama Foundation Summit in Chicago,  Giridharadas used the metaphor of a commitment to a loved one to describe the way that citizens with different viewpoints should treat each other.  He argued that our American creed binds us and that our seeming divisions are merely temporary. Ultimately, committed relationships endure.

This is an eloquent metaphor worth considering.  In the same way that we make unwavering commitments to spouses or siblings,  American’s (urban/rural/west/east) must commit to each other’s collective happiness and well-being.   And while we may be going through a period of unrest in which we rarely seem to agree,  like a committed relationship, we must have the fortitude and faith to work through it.

Committed relationships have ebbs and flows, ups and downs, and prolonged periods in which the two parties feel out of synch.   But through it all, they remain faithfully committed.

They forcefully assert their opinions but have the discipline to search for compromise in the end.  They learn something new with each disagreement.  They do not let excessive pride get in the way of admitting fault if it strengthens the relationship. They hug it out because they are in it together.

As we enter 2018, let’s remember that we are all in this crazy American project together. Without a doubt, globalization and the pace of technological change has created instability and uncertainty for many.  Change is constant.  Traditions come and go.  New ideas quickly usurp old ones.

These external conditions are challenging the American relationship.  Yet we must remain committed.   We’ve endured worst flare ups throughout our history.

So I ask that you think of those that you disagree with, feel disconnected to, and struggle to understand and remember that they are family.   Families commit to each other through thick and thin.

We’ll muddle our way through this temporary period of unrest.  Loving families always do.

Are you committed?

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ON BEING with KRISTA TIPPETT | NOVEMBER 30TH, 2017

“THE CALL TO COMMUNITY IN A CHANGED WORLD”

https://onbeing.org/programs/anand-giridharadas-whitney-kimball-coe-the-call-to-community-in-a-changed-world-nov2017/

Radical Moderation

What would it take to create a movement for radical moderation in this country?

What would it take to create a groundswell of support for evidence based, political decision making?

What would it take to start a movement of citizens that finally grew tired of never  addressing the root cause of so many of our political problems?

The current tax policy debate on Capitol Hill misses the point of tax reform.  We should be designing a tax architecture that actually addresses our ills.  One that reduces the cost of capital,  broadens the tax base, encourages business investment, stimulates wage growth, and is deficit neutral.  Neither of our major political parties is incentivized to propose policy such as this.  Our system often feels sub-optimal.

Less rigid ideological confines seem nevermore necessary.  The silent majority of radical moderates await.

 

 

 

How Power Shifts and Societies Flourish

Something important is happening.

As the drip-drip of sexual harassment revelations continue to surface on Hollywood sets, political statehouses and corporate boardrooms around the country, women are slowly making a claim on the power that they were always endowed with.

The sexual harassment epidemic is not merely a blip in the news cycle.  At least it needn’t be.  Rather, it should be viewed as a moment when America came to grips with a sin that has endured for too long.   The inequality of power among genders in the workplace.  And the unconscious and persistent objectification of women in society.

In June 2017, Fortune Magazine ran a piece on female CEO’s in the Fortune 500.  They proclaimed that the number of female CEO’s had increased by a whopping 50%.  However, read a little farther and you realize that a 50% increase catapulted the total number from 21 to 32, with women representing a mere 6.4% of Fortune 500 CEO positions.  They also hold only 10.6% of corporate board seats in Fortune 500 companies.  If women comprise 50.8% of the total U.S population, how is it that on these two small measures of corporate power that they are so underrepresented?

Conscious or unconscious, we continue to promote men over women.  We continue to create caricatures of men as decisive, hard-edged leaders.  Men are the John Wayne’s of the boardroom.  Women play support roles.

While women are making strides, far too often their leadership ascendancy happens in corporate human resources departments or within professional sectors that are traditionally dominated by women such as education.  We do not see them on top in the financial services sector or in Silicon Valley.   Why?

The problem is that when women are consciously or unconsciously viewed as ill-suited for leadership, an unspoken power is exerted by men as we make claim to the ultimate decision making process.  We make a claim on authority and assume that women should follow.  It is this authority and sense of professional leverage that we exploit to sexually harass.

Of course, the majority of men in leadership positions have never sexually harassed a woman.  However, the overwhelming majority of sexual harassment in the workplace is perpetrated by men.  And the amount of sexual harassment that actually takes place is almost certainly higher than is officially reported.

It is men that need to be at the front of the picket line demanding change.  We must resist convenient temptations to brush off these developments as acts committed by a few “bad apples”. Those who wield power can do the most to ensure its appropriate diffusion.

At a time when its become clear that men have been using our power advantage in the workplace to fulfill our deviant pleasures, will we live up to this moment in history?

In the wake of these revelations, men need to be feel palpable discomfort.  It is this discomfort that allows us to step outside ourselves and see the world as it truly is.  And when men can look down on the landscape of gender power distribution with true objectivity, we can then proceed to the business of leading the necessary change.

We must also not let our men and boys off the hook with the excuse of power in and of itself.  Imagine for a moment a hypothetical world in which roles were reversed.  Women wielded more power in the workplace than men.  Do we really believe that women would be sexually harassing men in the same way?  Worse, that they would engage in some of the grotesque sexual acts in front of women against their will?  I would surmise that the answer is no.   Which therefore leads us to a discussion on how we are raising our boys.

What is it in the psyche of boys and men that creates a yearning for deviance, dominance, and the expression of unfettered power? What is it about our upbringings that results in us living out these immoral and illegal acts?  Most importantly, how do we recognize the prevalence of this behavior at an early age and teach our boys to grow up to be men of character and honor?

We must also recognize the subtle but insidious objectification of women in society.  Often its symbolic.  But symbols matter and they hold sway in our subconscious minds.

As an example, we persist in demanding female cheerleaders at NFL football games.  While seen by some as harmless and a long tradition in football, they serve as a sort of eye-candy for men as opposed to gender agnostic leaders of cheers.  As if we needed a group of 10 humans to lead cheers in a stadium of 60,000 fans!

The placement of beautiful women on the sidelines for fans to gawk at or as sexual objects in movies to be viewed, sends a signal that women are to be enjoyed for their good looks and sexuality.  This carries through to other parts of our culture including the workplace.  We hold onto unconscious views of women as comprising a certain role in our societies.  One in our cultural hierarchy that often places them as objects for men to be enjoyed.  Not as leaders of men (and women).  That must change.

So what can we do to take advantage of the tragic developments of the last year around sexual harassment?  We can start by recognizing that this is a watershed moment in U.S. history.  That while the women’s suffrage movement and the advancements that have followed constitute an important leap forward in women’s rights, there is considerable work to be done.  I’ve highlighted a few below.

  • Re-evaluate the way we raise our boys with a keen sensitivity to the conception of masculinity
  • Deliberately remove symbols of female objectification from popular culture
  • Create special opportunities for women to hold positions of power in the workplace.  Quotas are necessary.   The bias toward placing men in power does not allow a purely merit based system to deliver the proper distribution of men and women in leadership positions.
  • Publicize validated cases of men harassing women in the workplace as a deterrent.  These offenses cannot be viewed as minor, cost of doing business activities.  The men committing these acts need to be ostracized for these acts so that they are seen as morally reprehensible and result in serious negative consequences.

When power shifts, our society has the potential to realize greater flourishing.  When men and women participate in society as equals, society benefits from the equal distribution of viewpoints and the diversity of human attributes.  Let us use this small development in the arc of history to bend it toward greater societal flourishing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Change is All Around US Series – PT 1. Technological Change – Identifying, Adapting and Optimizing

Robot with wooden puzzle“On their own, AI, platforms, and crowds are all transformative forces. That they’re evolving in parallel means we’re beginning to experience a new era of networked disruption, where productive but disorienting change becomes the status quo. For citizens, entrepreneurs, companies, and governments that want to successfully navigate this new world, the first step lies in finding reliable and prescient guides. Andrew and Erik are two of the best.”
Reid Hoffman, partner at Greylock Partners, cofounder of LinkedIn, and coauthor of The Start-Up of You

Machine. Platform. Crowd.

This is the title of a provocative new book describing the three areas of emerging technology that are fundamentally changing the world that we work and live in.  Andrew McAfee and Eric Brynjolfson’s newest work “Machine, Platform, Crowd: Harnessing our Digital Future” (MPC) outlines a future in which artificial intelligence impedes on human intelligence, platforms usurp brick and mortar businesses and the wisdom of the crowd becomes our guiding light.

MPC is an enchanting new look into the future and details the three areas of technology that are on pace to shape our digital world.  The section on “Machines” focuses on the emergence of artificial intelligence, machine learning (derivative of A.I.), neural networks, and robotics.  MPC’s second section is devoted to the “Platform” and the ways in which platform technologies such as Amazon, Uber, and AirBnB’ have changed the nature of business.  Legacy, mega-businesses use to include a large infrastructure footprint and millions of workers.   Platform businesses now involve only a website and a gaggle of software engineers.  The third area of the book touches on the way in which crowd sourcing is quickly becoming a dominant analytical methodology.

MPC builds on a host of recent academic and popular journal articles cataloguing the pace at which breakthroughs in game-changing technologies are transforming everything from manufacturing floors to cancer diagnosis.  Indeed, McKinsey and Company recently released an excellent primer on the topic of A.I. in the workplace in the McKinsey Quarterly Journal.

The question for young and old leaders alike is —  how do we prepare for a future in which these new technologies completely uproot legacy business models?  How do we take advantage of the productivity and cost savings that automation yields without replacing our co-workers and employees?  How can these technologies be integrated into our current service offerings to provide newfound value to clients or do away with obsolete products?

Building on the questions that Andrew and Eric ask at the end of each chapter,  I have outlined two fundamental questions that leaders should constantly be asking themselves and their businesses in order to keep up with the breakneck speed at which entire markets are changing.

Tactical Question ( this question should be asked with high frequency; weekly or monthly basis)

  1. Could the integration of machine learning, big data analysis, cloud computing, “platformization”, or crowd sourcing improve the quality, increase the speed, or reduce the costs to my discrete business function or department?

While each of these technology areas above are broad and relatively complex, each has derivatives that may be incorporated into a current business process with a moderate amount of ease.

Strategic Question (this question should be asked on yearly basis: strategic planning process or quadrennial business plan review)

  1. How could Machine, Platform, or Crowd offerings from competitors significantly erode profits or replace my business all together?

Business author Jim Collins famously coined the term “Productive Paranoia”, a phrase that encourages healthy  paranoia about the ways in which competitors and changing markets could be harming your business.  In the same way, we must now deliberately add these three technologies (and their sub-technologies) to our purposeful paranoia.  For example, could a competitor deploy a machine learning algorithm to the way they sell insurance products  to reduce claim payouts and maximize premiums?  Could a rival grocery store move significant operations from it’s traditional stores to an on-demand e -commerce model?  As we conduct strategic planning exercises and go through the scenario planning process, it is imperative that we now add these new frontiers in technology to the way we plan in 1,5, and 10 year cycles.

It is clear that MPC technologies are having a dramatic impact on the world that we live in.  We have quickly moved from an analog world to a digital world with the speed of disruption increasing at a rapid pace that can be hard to realize until you find yourself (and your business) completely overcome by it.  We must acknowledge that these changes are powerful, can be profitable, and are here to stay.  If we are to prevent them from reducing our bottom lines and use them to our build our businesses, we must constantly be asking how they can be incorporated into our everyday processes and embedded into our long-term strategies.

 

Finding our 2nd Work Wind

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History’s great runners are famous for finding their “second wind”.   The second wind is commonly understood in running circles as a second burst of sustained energy after an initial sense of overwhelming fatigue   Masterful runner’s such as Steve Prefontaine are known for finding a sudden jolt of energy, often unexpectedly, just as they thought they were running out of gas.  Recently, I’ve identified circumstances in my every day work that have helped me to realize a similar phenomenon in my workday and get more done with less stress.

Our schedules are hectic. Meetings, reports, client engagements, more meetings – repeat.

With each passing week, we do our best to establish a deliberate schedule. However, a variety of normal requirements emanating from clients, co-workers and bosses often drive us off track.  By the time the clock strikes 5pm, we look at our to-do list and we’ve accomplished only a fraction of what we set out to do and feel mentally exhausted.

If you’ve experienced this situation with semi-regularity then welcome to the modern office workplace of 2017.

This is where the second work wind phenomenon can provide value in our lives. The second work wind is a mental muscle that we can build to produce higher quantities of higher quality work. Given the demands of today’s highly competitive workplace in which doing the maximum amount of cognitively difficult work is paramount, finding our second work wind is a necessary skill that helps us accomplish more.

There are a few things that we can do to slow down the day, assess our progress, re-orient ourselves and produce the high quality work that we are truly capable of – even after 4pm. In short, we can find our second work wind if we are mindful of three important things.

  1. Iterative Workday Assessments – I establish my to-do list each day (or the workday prior) using Evernote™. I assess my progress against my to do-list at lunch and late afternoon. Assessing my to-do list in short intervals allows me to adjust my list and work schedule if new assignments or meetings arise. Doing this deliberately by building the iterative workday assessment into your schedule is half the battle and should comprise roughly a 10 minute block. The act of purposefully assessing your progress and checking off items completed will create a sense of conscious and unconscious satisfaction. Most importantly, this is an opportunity at each interval to recreate your to-do list for the day and re-establish what can and should be accomplished. After my 4pm iterative workday assessment, I’ve usually checked 75% of my items off my list and have left myself a few to complete.   I leverage my personal competitiveness to challenge myself to finish the final 25% by way of my late-day, second work wind.
  2. Mental Reset – One trick that I use to find my second work wind is to take 5-15 minutes between 3-5pm to do something wholly unrelated to work. Call a sibling, order a wedding gift for a friend or simply have a snack. Again, being deliberate about stopping and removing ourselves from our work and our direct work environment if possible, allows us to “reset”. I take at least 10 minutes in the 3pm hour (time when I find myself naturally drifting) to reset, reorient and begin anew. This mental reset is critical to finding our second burst of intellectual energy and building the daily stamina required to achieve more.
  3. Cue, Routine, Reward Loop – The final tactic that I use to find my second wind involves building repeatable habits by being cognizant of the “Cue, Routine, Reward Loop” described in Charles Duhig’s NYT Bestseller, “The Power of Habit”. One of the core ideas in this outstanding book on habit formation is that our habits follow a simple three step process: cue, routine, reward. Cues are the events in our environment that alert us to a need, want or sensation. As it applies to our workday, it is typically the sense of feeling overwhelmed and fatigued late in the day. Our routine is the normal response that we have when this cue is initiated. For many of us, our routine at this juncture in the workday is to simply respond to unread emails as our inboxes pile up or go on autopilot and surf the internet or social media feed. The reward is what we seek by performing this routine when we are cued to do so. Rewards can be a simple sense of distraction (social media) or sense of accomplishment (when we accomplish hard things). So if we can break down our late day habits into these three component parts, we can identify the cue, replace bad routines with good routines, and realize the reward that we mentally desire. For me this meant recognizing my 3pm cue of mental exhaustion and recognizing that my routine was to revert to reading unread email instead of executing my to-do list.   Therefore, the solution was to replace my auto-pilot routine (read unread email) with my desired routine (re-orient, rejuvenate and continue to do-list) and realize the reward of accomplishment (new reward) instead of distraction (old reward). This is hard. It involves will power and forces us to override our normal routines and swap out rewards. But if done correctly and practiced over a period of consecutive workdays, I promise that you can recognize the old habits that you are used to falling into and replace them. The new routine  will allow you to be considerably more productive and provide you with the reward that you are seeking – workday accomplishment!

Finding our second work wind is difficult. It involves monitoring ourselves and our schedules with precision.  It means tinkering the normal course of events to create space for a second burst of intellectual energy.  However, when practiced and ingrained into our everyday routines, we find that we accomplish more and feel more satisfied.   And that makes the second work wind as much about everyday happiness as it does about anything related to work.