My Inner Introvert Is In Beast Mode

I was having dinner with my wife and asked the waitress for a glass of water with lemon.  The waitress looked at me quizzically and returned a few minutes later with a huge glass of sliced lemons.  My wife turned to me and said, “See, you’re too quiet.”

I recently read Susan Cain’s bestselling book, “Quiet, which intertwines her life as an introvert with the history, psychology, and cultural implications of being an introvert.  I was thinking about “Quiet” the past few weeks.  In several recent conversations (actually, most of my life) people have said to me, “You’re so quiet.” and “I didn’t even know you were here.”  I recently volunteered for a big work initiative and was reminded (again) of how little I speak.

No doubt, I am a full-on introvert and have always exhibited introvert qualities: conservative, self-aware, observant, quiet.  But like Susan Cain, my introvert self gets a little frustrated and irritated when these qualities are looked upon as negative.  In other words, you should speak more, be louder, and overall be more visible.  When I hear these things, my inner introvert wants to go into beast mode.


Western culture celebrates being outgoing, loud, and assertive.  So when it comes to the quieter individual, questions like “What’s wrong?” or “Is something bothering you?” usually comes up.  Cain also points out that being neither loud nor outgoing sometimes gets confused for lack of leadership and productivity (inferring that quieter individuals don’t add as much or can’t be leaders).  This makes sense.  If you’re an introvert and have ever sat in a meeting where team leaders or decision-makers are chosen, the more boisterous individuals take over and are usually selected.

So for introverts reading this, I completely understand your frustration. And for you extroverts, keep these things in mind before you jump to your extrovert conclusions:

I like to eat lunch alone.  I’m not antisocial and I’m not some kind of social outcast.  In fact, I enjoy eating with co-workers – sometimes.  This alone time allows me to sit in silence and recharge from all of the social interaction I had earlier.  For introverts, think of this as interval training.  We operate best when some down time follows our social interactions.  For extroverts, this would be the complete opposite, where they would require some kind of social interaction after a long period of silence or being alone.

I don’t need to be speak all the time.  I talk when I need to say something.  Big misconception – being an introvert does not mean someone is shy (timid, hesitant, or afraid).  It simply means they pick and choose their spots to speak – after some introspection.  In other words, you won’t find introverts spouting off or “shooting from the hip.”  In fact, when introverts speak, people usually stop and take notice because they do speak less often.

I prefer to kick it with a few people…not work a whole room.  Social butterflies we are definitely not.  Icebreaker activities are like kryptonite for introverts.  Introverts excel in small group interactions.  In large parties or big gatherings, forget it.  In these situations, you’ll find me with a few friends and a beer.  Of course we’re happy to meet new people but you will never see us working the room.

You’re stressing me out with your 100-miles-an-hour stream-of-consciousness speaking.  Introverts are patient and need time to reflect on and assess ideas.  When working in a group setting, this can be seen as anti-social or not being engaged, when in fact we’re completely engaged.  It’s just that I’m still trying to process the first idea the group came up with…and now we’re on idea number ten.


My inner introvert feels better now.  He’s had a chance to sit down in a nice quiet place, think about what he wants to say, and put it down via a favorite introvert activity – writing.

So before you jump to conclusions at work, in the gym, or while serving sliced lemons in a huge glass, remember the innate tendencies of your introvert friends.  More than likely, there’s nothing wrong with us (and if there was, it might be a while before we speak up to tell you).  In fact, we’re probably enjoying your company while taking everything in.  That’s just how we’re made.

What challenges have you faced as an introvert and how do you deal with them?

Post your comments below…

Assumption Is Making An A$$ Of Me

Steven Seagal is one of my favorite action-movie heroes of all time.  In Under Siege 2, the head terrorist asks one of his henchmen if they actually saw Casey Ryback’s body (Seagal) after being shot by a sniper.  The henchman replies “no” and that he “assumed”…then SLAP!  The head terrorist slaps him across the face and says “Assumption is the mother of all F@%#-ups!”

I’ve been assuming a lot lately.  Maybe because I’m getting older, more impatient, trying to fill in the blanks faster…whatever it is, I’ve been way off on my assumptions lately.

Assumption: Something taken for granted or accepted as true without proof; a supposition.

In the past two weeks, I told my wife two minor but funny things that were way off-base.

For some reason we were talking about Hall and Oates.  One of our goals is to eventually catch a Hall and Oates concert.  I told her (in my informed and know-it-all voice) that a concert would probably not happen anytime soon because Hall and Oates were involved in an altercation.  Well, we come to find out it was Hall and Oates all right…but not the singing duo!  Seriously though, what are the chances that two guys off the street involved in a fight share the same names as a legendary singing duo?


Then during Sunday breakfast, I was reading an article about Cote de Pablo, who plays special agent Ziva David on CBS’s NCIS.  Again, in my informed and know-it-all voice, I told my wife that Cote de Pablo was a former Mossad officer.  WRONG AGAIN.  Pablo plays a former Mossad officer on the show.  What, de Pablo doesn’t sound Jewish?

These are funny little examples, but they still bothered me.  In these two instances, my wife actually called me on it.  No big deal – we both got good laughs.  But what if it had been something really important, like a critical project at work or something having to do with me or my family’s health?  Would I ignore instructions, presume I had enough information, or proceed without obtaining the full story?  In other words, would I make an ass of myself?

I’m not talking about analysis paralysis where it takes you two weeks to decide on the perfect vacation spot (although I’ve done that, too).  I’m talking about jumping to conclusions and acting out without having all of the pertinent information and/or critical facts.  When I see tragedies like someone falling off a cliff because they ignored the “Do Not Enter” sign or freezing to death because they got lost in the mountains by driving through a fenced-off area, I think, is it because they assumed everything would be OK?

More often than not, though, we’re not talking about life-or-death consequences.  But assumptions can still lead us down the path of embarassment.  So how do we avoid making assumptions?

Double-check your facts: Sounds simple enough.  But in today’s world where speed is everything and we need stuff right now, double-checking only slows down the process – or so we think.  Be disciplined enough to stop and review the facts again if you’re not sure.  Chances are the extra time you take won’t affect anything.  Re-read or review the information.

Listen to your voice: You know, the one that says, “This doesn’t sound or feel right.”  Chances are your intuition is 100% right.  I should have listened to my intuition before signing the contract for a brand new truck – at 19% APR.  Again, another example of assuming everything is OK. (I mean, the dealer wouldn’t try to rip off a college kid, right?)


Ask and Clarify: Pride usually prevents us from these two things.  The classic example is men not asking for directions when clearly lost.  If you don’t fully understand what is being presented to you, no one is going to think you’re stupid for asking.  I remember working on a project all day at work only to find I did it all wrong.  I wasted eight hours of time and effort on something that could have been resolved in five minutes – if only I would have asked.

What’s the risk?  No one’s going to get hurt because I was wrong on Hall and Oates and Cote de Pablo.  However, there are potentially serious consequences involved when it comes to certain things like medication or even personal safety.  So before assuming “I’ve taken this type of medication before, I can take double the dosage” or “This doesn’t look like the safest neighborhood to take a shortcut in but I’m in a hurry” determine the risk-reward.

When was the last time you made a bad assumption?

Post your comments below.

27 Annoying Minutes At Target

Usually shopping at Target is a pleasant experience.  I like Target.  It’s convenient.  I mean, where else can I pick up t-shirts, almond milk, dog treats, and hummus, all in one spot?  They usually have a clean store with workers scurrying about making sure the shelves are organized.  But this past Saturday was different.  Maybe the nasty tasting pho I had for lunch already set me off in the wrong direction (seriously, it takes some work to mess up a bowl of pho), or maybe it was a perfect storm of people I ran into in the store.

For the twenty-something girl at the customer return counterit’s a place where there are a lot of customers (hence the name customer return counter).  The line of people standing there probably don’t want to hear about how you haven’t had a raise in two years or how stupid so-and-so was late from coming back from his lunch break.  There’s probably a few hundred thousand people in America right now who would gladly trade places with you and not complain that so-and-so was taking a longer-than-expected lunch break.

For F-bomb dudedropping the f-bomb in front of your girlfriend (“Hell yeah I killed that F’ing vodka!”) does not make you look cool or tough.  It makes you look like a tool.  Like my high school math teacher, Mrs. Herndon, used to say, cursing makes you sound like you’re uneducated and don’t have the intelligence (or vocabulary) to express yourself (or complete your sentences).

young ill man with scarf coughing isolated over white background

To phlegmy-hacker man…You know this guy, the one who sounds like he’s going to hock a lougey only to end up swallowing it because there’s no place to spit – unlike the pool at 24-Hour Fitness (but that’s a different story, for another time).  A few things…

1) That sound makes people sick.  You’re better off blowing your nose one time…really hard.

2) They teach pre-schoolers and kindergartners to cough into their bent arm.  Now, no one can buy the “Flight” DVD that you were looking at because you just hacked and sprayed all over it.

3) Stay at home next time.

And finally, the kicker…seriously.  Three teens (two girls and one boy):

president Lincoln face on the five dollar bill
Girl 1: “Lincoln, Lincoln, Lincoln….I’m so sick of F&*^)ng Lincoln!”
Girl 2: “I know!  It’s so F%#@*ng annoying!”

Girl 1:  “Really!  What’s the big deal?  What did he do, anyways?”

This was pretty sad.  I mean, you don’t need to be Ken Burns or be an AP History student, but at least have some kind of appreciation for American history.  I actually debated whether or not to say something.  Then I realized…what was I going to say?  Visualizing this exchange, it kept playing out like some kind of SNL skit.  One of those skits where Will Ferrell comes out and says something completely inappropriate.  I decided against it…chalking it up to being “young and dumb.”  Maybe one day they’ll get it…hopefully.

When was the last time you were annoyed in a store?  
Post your comments below…

Colin Kaepernick And The Beauty Of Opportunity

“Many an opportunity is lost because a man is out looking for four-leaf clovers.”

– Anonymous


I’m writing this post on Superbowl Sunday, what many people consider to be an unofficial American holiday.  Right now there are millions of people barbecuing, pouring ice into coolers, and straightening chairs in front of their 70-inch flatscreen HDTV’s in preparation for the big game.  This is especially true here in Northern California, home of the San Francisco 49ers.

If this were a rock concert or big movie premiere, the star attraction would be Colin Kaepernick, quarterback for the 49ers.  For those who don’t follow football, Kaepernick’s story reads like a Hollywood movie script.  A second-round draft pick local boy (Turlock, CA) takes over for the starting quarterback after said quarterback suffers a concussion.  Local boy explodes onto the national scene and ultimately leads his team to the pinnacle of pro sports – the Superbowl.  What a great story and lesson in making the most of one’s opportunity.

Opportunity: A favorable juncture of circumstances.  A good chance for advancement or opportunity.

I’ve read that there is no such thing as luck, and that the real equation for “luck” is:

Opportunity + Preparation = Luck


Traditionally, when you think of luck, you think of good things happening out of the blue.  You find a $100-bill on the ground.  You win $500 on the Wheel of Fortune slot machine.  Your family wins a trip to Disneyland at your kids’ school raffle.  Sure, these are signs of luck.  But I like the Colin Kaepernick type of luck which is preparing and then maximizing your opportunity for a great outcome.

With luck, there’s an implication that we have nothing to do with the good that happens.  However, when we take the time to prepare and take advantage of opportunities, I think luck comes more frequently and our chances for success increases greatly.  Think if Kaepernick was not prepared.  What if instead of spending endless hours watching tape, working out, and studying the playbook, he resigned himself to being a scrub back-up quarterback with no shot of starting for an NFL team.  Instead, he sacrificed, put in the work, prepared, and made the most of his situation to propel himself (and his team) to sport’s biggest stage.

I’m sure you’ve seen this in your own life as well.

I have a friend who was passed over (actually, blown off) for a managerial position.  He handled it like a true professional.  No whining.  No bitching.  No backstabbing.  Instead, he went straight back to work doing the best he could.  He prepared.  Several months later, a new VP came in.  When my friend’s manager left (the prior VP who gave him the runaround), the new VP was so impressed with my friend’s attitude and work ethic, he promoted him immediately.

wall and opened to sky door on a white background

So how can we capitalize on our own opportunities and make our own Kaepernick-like luck?

Know Your Destination: What does your idea of success look like, both personally and professionally?  When we know our destination, whatever  it may be (be debt-free, make X amount of money per year, coach my child’s little league team, etc.), we are able to make decisions consistent with that vision.  Our mind goes to work (both consciously and unconsciously) looking for ways to fill these desires.

Keep Your Eyes and Ears Open: DUH!  I know, but this is a lot harder than it sounds.  We’re creatures of habit.  Our brain looks for the path of least resistance.  Without purposeful thoughts and direction, we unknowingly turn our autopilot switch “on.”  Wake up.  Eat breakfast.  Get kids ready for school.  Go to work.  Pick up kids.  Eat dinner.  Watch TV.  REPEAT.  In knowing your destination and actively looking out for opportunities, we help our brain filter the millions of distractions that come our way each day.  A few years ago, when I was thinking of buying an iPad, I didn’t really notice the number of people carrying these things around.  Once I started planning my purchase, it seemed like everyone I saw owned one.  In the same way, your mind will subconsciously help you with what you’re looking for.

Prepare: Whatever it is you want, you need to prepare for it.  If it’s losing weight, starting your own business, being a better spouse, do what you need to prepare.  Read books.  Watch You Tube videos on the subject.  Download podcasts.  Read blogs.  By preparing, we can step up in confidence and,

Say Yes: You can study and prepare all you want, but in the end it’s all about the action we take.  When there’s a good opportunity to fill your desired vision, take it!  Remember, there’s no such thing as failure…only learning experiences.  Have an opportunity to get away on a couple’s vacation? Take it!  One of the coaches asks you if you can help out at practice?  Take it!  The boss asks if you can volunteer for a project?  Take it!  If it’s consistent with your vision, put your preparation into action.

99% of us will never know what it’s like to play in the Superbowl (that’s OK with me because I shudder when I think of being hit by a Ray Lewis or Patrick Willis).  But we can take a lesson out of Colin Kaepernick’s playbook – that awesome and special things can happen when we prepare and take advantage of the opportunities presented to us.

How do you make your own luck?

Super Bowl Tickets, Pythons, and 5 Ways to Better Decision-Making

Would you have sex for a Super Bowl ticket (with a stranger)?  This is what one guy wants in exchange for his highly coveted Super Bowl XLVII ticket.

Or how about swallowing dozens of giant cockroaches for a free python?

Then how about drinking a few gallons of water for a Nintendo Wii?

Guaranteed someone will take the guy up on the tickets.  As far as the python and Wii, unfortunately the individuals who both said “yes” to these challenges subsequently died.

Why do we make decisions like this?


For the most part, I’m a pretty risk-averse person.  I tend to over-think things before actually making a decision.  This can be good or bad depending on the situation and possible outcomes.  This isn’t to say I’m not prone to impulsive decisions either:

When I was 13, I stood in line with my best friend for more than six hours to watch the first showing of Return of the Jedi (hey, I was only 13).

In high school, some friends thought it would be fun to go out “egging.”  The homeowner and several of their friends caught me and another friend.  Thankfully the police rolled by.  Put it this way, they had no plans on calling the police.

In college, my car broke down.  I went to the Toyota dealership “just to look” and, several hours later, walked away the proud owner of a brand new Toyota truck…at a bargain 19% APR.

As a full-grown man, I left work and drove an hour just to get an autograph and picture taken with my favorite bodybuilder of all time – Lee Labrada.


Maybe if we were C3PO, our decision-making would be rational with a high probability of success.  Unfortunately, sometimes we let our emotions hijack the rational side of our brain that says STOP.  It’s the same emotion that tells us it’ll be fun to go out egging, eat huge roaches, or flood our body with water.

So how can we make better decisions?

Define the Problem: What exactly are you trying to accomplish?  By defining the problem, our mind automatically starts to search for solutions and alternatives.  Can’t afford a Wii?  Maybe you can get a temporary part-time job or a loan from a family member.  I need a car but do I need one today?  Maybe I can get a ride or take public transportation for now until I figure things out (instead of buying a brand new car at 19% APR).

Determine the Risk: The two who tragically died performing those stunts probably didn’t think there’d be that much risk involved.  I mean, it’s a contest, right?  And a business wouldn’t have this contest if there was real danger involved.  This is where you need to be disciplined enough to call on your left brain for analysis.  In determining the risk, you’ll need…

Sufficient Information: Getting enough information to make a decision is critical.  Granted, you may not be able to obtain all the necessary information, but you should get enough to be comfortable.  Sufficient information allows us to assess any dangers involved and helps us properly prepare to support a positive outcome.

Avoid Peer Pressure or Overconfidence: Probably two of the biggest reasons for poor decision-making.  Having your friends in your ear screaming “do it sissy!” probably doesn’t help when you’re about to undertake something of significant risk (think college fraternity hazing rituals and binge-drinking).  Overconfidence is your ego telling you you’re capable of doing things (when you really aren’t) – like swimming in the ocean when you can hardly swim a lap at the YMCA pool.

Listen to Intuition: Call it sixth sense, the voice inside, or guardian angel, your intuition will tell you if something is no good.  It’s the warning system that floods your entire body and manifests itself through a racing heart, constricted breathing, and an overall sense of unease (like fight or flight).  Your intuition is pretty much always right.  It’s usually our ego and peer pressure that shuts it down.

Despite following all of these steps, things can still go badly.  That’s OK though.  Mistakes, bad decisions, disappointments, and failures are all part of the learning process.  In fact, no matter the outcome, it serves as a reference point from which to draw upon in the future…which will ultimately help us become better decision-makers.

How do you avoid making poor decisions?

On Being “Unbroken.” Four Life Lessons From Louis Zamperini

Imagine being stuck on a tattered life raft in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.  Hungry sharks periodically encircle the raft.  You’re on the verge of starvation and dehydration.  Your body is covered with painful sores from sweltering days and bone-chilling nights.  You endure this ordeal for more than 40 days only to find this was simply a warm-up to the pain, suffering, and humiliation to come.

So begins the incredible story of Louis Zamperini, beautifully captured by author Laura Hillenbrand in her book “Unbroken.”  Unbroken chronicles Louie’s life, from son of Italian immigrants to USC track star to Olympic distance runner.  But the heart of the book details Louie’s capture and survival as a Japanese POW in World War II.

I was drawn to this book because of Louie’s incredible life story.  But more importantly, I hoped to draw life lessons on how to overcome adversity from a man who exemplifies the power of the human spirit.


Set Your Vision and Expectations: When Louie’s B-24 crashed into the Pacific Ocean, there were only three survivors.  After several days with no rescue in sight, the chances for survival became grim.  Louis and co-pilot Allen Phillips continued to pray and believe in their rescue.  The other surviving crewmember slowly gave up and slipped away.

What we visualize and expect sets the direction of our lives.  You blew a big presentation today.  The job interview that you killed never resulted in an offer.  We fail and are disappointed on a daily basis.  However, these are only steps forward to where we want to be.  Continue to hold that ideal picture of yourself and who you want to be.  If you don’t stop, you’ll eventually get there.

Cut A Toughness “Groove”:  A notoriously sadistic and brutal Japanese guard, Mutsuhiro Watanabe (nicknamed “The Bird”), was obsessed with Louie.  He singled Louie out from all the other POW’s, each day administering horrific beatings along with other de-humanizing tasks.  Louie refused to be broken by The Bird, standing as long as he could until his legs either gave from underneath him or he passed out.  These acts of defiance from Louie and other POW’s not only strengthened their resolve to survive; it made them stronger.

Scientific research shows that our mind is malleable, meaning we can form patterns or “grooves” in how we act or respond.  Nietzsche’s famous quote – “What doesn’t kill me makes me stronger” – accurately describes this phenomenon.  We face a fear, conquer a challenge, or fail and get back up.  All of these things help us improve; but more importantly, strengthen our mind for the next time.  So the next time you successfully come away from adversity or a setback, take heart in knowing your confidence and mental toughness will only be stronger when faced with challenges in the future.

stormy sea

Celebrate Small Victories: Beaten down, sick, and with their dignity stripped away, Louie and the other POW’s had to find ways to survive day-to-day.  One way was through small victories.  Whether through stealing food (and getting away with it) or fooling the guards into saying something funny in English, these tiny “wins” were enough to lift their spirits.  No matter how small, it was enough to help them get to the next day.

You might look at 10 things you did today and focus on the one wrong thing that happened.  Instead of focusing on what went wrong, how about celebrating the nine things that went right.  You worked out for only 30 minutes?  You worked out.  Wrote for only a half hour?  You put something down on paper.  Remember the Toughness Groove in our mind?  It works the same with how we look at things.  Focus on the negative all the time and guess what you’re going to see all the time?  By focusing on what’s right, opportunities and joy are allowed to shine through.

Focus on Others: As bad off as Louie was, there were other POW’s in much worse shape.  But no matter how bad conditions were or how little food there was to go around, men were still willing to unselfishly sacrifice their food and clothing to support others.  These acts of kindness strengthened bonds and improved morale.

Sometimes we get so wrapped up in our own problems and issues that we forget others.  We live and look at things in a vacuum.  It’s good to get out of our own heads and focus on others once in a while.  By doing so, we serve others, get away from our own problems, and give our spirit a much-needed boost.

What other ways can we remain “unbroken?” 

Dealing With the Post-Holiday Blues

My wife says she dreads this day.  It’s the day that we put away the Christmas decorations.  Each year is the same routine:

I drag the tree out like a dead body to the Christmas tree recycling bin, leaving a trail of bark and needles.  There’s a tiny part of me that feels guilty, almost like I’m betraying a friend that has brought us happiness for the past several weeks.  The worst year was when we missed the bin pick-up date and a friend of ours had to come over with his chain saw to dismember the poor tree.

I pack away the nativity scene.  Jesus, Mary, Joseph, the three wise men, and the donkey look at me with sadness as I carefully wrap them in plastic and shove them into their little styrofoam molds.

Finally, the smiling Frosty-looking snowman that greets us every morning at the kitchen table is wrapped in paper and placed into a box, not to be seen again for another 12 months.


I definitely get the post-holiday blues.  When I return to work mid-week, it’s as if everything is moving in slow motion.  I feel like I’m out of shape both physically and mentally.  The joy of Christmas/New Year parties, spending time with friends and family, seeing smiling children open gifts, drinking wine, eating great food, and the overall vibe of the holiday season – to see it all go away depresses me.

If you can get up and running right away without any post-holiday hangover, you’re lucky.  For those who struggle like I do, here are a few things that have helped me:

Get after goals immediately: Pick one thing and start on it.  Did you join a gym, get the conversational Spanish audio program, or start work on that novel you were going to write?  Get your mind off 2012 and get busy on a successful 2013.

Clean and de-clutter: If you have leftover house clutter from the holiday (like gift wrap, wine glasses and unopened white elephant gifts), start cleaning.  A cluttered and messy house only adds to stress.  Clear out and clean to give yourself a fresh start in the new year.

Help others: There’s a lot of volunteering and giving during the holidays.  There’s no reason why this shouldn’t occur or keep going the entire year.  Aside from lifting others up, there are benefits to you (like a stronger immune system and heightened sense of well-being).

Laugh: I try to find things that will make me laugh.  This can come from several different places: dinner out with friends, watching a funny movie or TV show, watching a video, or reading a book.  At work, I try to hang out with co-workers who make me laugh as well.  Laughing is the perfect antidote to the blues.

Perspective: I say the same thing each and every year when Halloween rolls around.  “Wow, the year is going by so fast.  Pretty soon it’ll be Christmas.”  By putting things in perspective, God-willing, we’ll be around for another holiday celebration at the end of 2013.  The same joy and happiness will come back again with new holiday memories…followed by another goodbye to the Christmas tree, the nativity scene, and the happy snowman.

How do you deal with the post-holiday blues?


Chimps, Orangutans and Midlife Crisis

Humans are not the only species to suffer through midlife crisis.  According to a recent study published by the National Academy of Sciences, chimps and orangutans seem to go through a similar-type dip as well.  In monitoring more than 500 primates in zoos in the US, Japan, and Canada, researchers used a brief questionnaire to assess the contentment level of these animals.

These questionnaires were simply observations from the researchers.  However, behavior seemed to follow the familiar U-shaped dip that is often used to describe human midlife crisis.  Older apes and orangutans, behaviorally, seemed to look and act differently from their younger counterparts.  This behavior was displayed through anxiety, posture, and overall appearance of contentment (or lack of contentment).  Ages of the animals were from 28 to 35, the human equivalent of ages 45 to 50.

As with any scientific study, the results were met with some skepticism and criticism.  For one, it’s not like these chimps and orangutans could tell their observers that they were depressed or suffering from midlife malaise.  They couldn’t go out and cheat on their spouses/significant other, buy a high-powered sports car, get an awesome tattoo or completely revamp their wardrobe – common red flags associated with a midlife crisis.  I’m no scientist, and the only thing I know about primates is what I’ve seen in Planet of the Apes (the Charlton Heston classic, not the Mark Wahlberg remake).  So what does this mean?

Thinking ape

There were some interesting observations made in this study:

The “U-shaped curve of human happiness.”  Apparently we go from well being (youth, health, excitement for the future), plunging in midlife (failed dreams, transition and anxiety) to contentment (wisdom, success, achievement, appreciation/value of what you have).

Suicide and anti-depressant use peak at middle-age.  This is usually triggered by social and economic conditions.  You haven’t yet made your first million.  The office worker who never became a professional athlete or stay at home mom who never pursued her dream to perform on Broadway.  Apes realizing they will never be the alpha male?  Failure. Regret.  Lost opportunities.

An evolutionary explanation is even more intriguing.  According to one of the researchers, “Maybe nature doesn’t want us to be contented in middle age, doesn’t want us sitting around contentedly with our feet up in a tree.  Maybe discontent lights a fire under people, causing them to achieve more – for themselves and their family.”

I like this theory.  If you’ve ever felt discontent, it’s a very uncomfortable feeling.  A dull, continuous pain that may subside at times but does not altogether go away.  It’s that little voice in your head that says, “Try it!”, “Do it!”, or “Why not me?”  It’s the feeling that tells you you’re equipped to write a book, start your own business, apply for that promotion, or talk to that little red-haired girl.

So maybe your alpha male time has passed.  So what?  There are a million other opportunities available to us each day.  That’s the beauty of life…choice.  Do the thing that scares you.  Follow the path that’s calling you.  Take risks and fail.  Whatever you do, don’t be the chimp or orangutan with his feet up in a tree.

What is something you’ve always wanted to do that you can start on today?

Six Ways To Decrease Your Holiday Joy

Syndicated sports talk show host Colin Cowherd has this rant about how Christmas is one of his least favorite holidays.  Ugly sweaters, too many relatives, Black Friday, and the mad rush for gifts are all aspects of Christmas that some of us would rather avoid.  Me, I love this time of the year.  The winter weather, vacation days, time spent with family and friends and anticipation of the New Year make this a time of reflection and celebration.

However, if we’re not careful, we may do some things during the holiday season that can make this celebratory time less enjoyable.

Here are six things to avoid:

Overeating: H is for holiday, not hibernation.  You don’t need the extra layer of fat for extended slumber.  “It’s the holiday” or “I’ll work it off next year” are not good reasons to stuff your face with endless servings of sugar cookies, pot roast, and mashed potatoes.

I remember, one year, eating two whole pumpkin pies over a period of three days.  I thought my skin was turning orange.  It’s good to indulge during Christmastime.  Just don’t go too crazy.  The extra ten pounds and the need to buy baggier clothes is not a good way to start the New Year – even if joining the gym is one of your New Year resolutions.

Being “That Guy” at the work holiday party: I remember a co-worker telling me a story about drinking a little too much at a managerial function, walking up to the CEO, and saying, “What’s up (insert last name of the CEO)?!”  This is a pretty good way to end your career.  Same with being loud and obnoxious, making inappropriate remarks to the single (or married) women, or beginning your sentences with “Watch this…”  Also, if there’s karaoke involved, it’s probably not a good idea to do your R. Kelly “Bump n’ Grind” impression complete with gestures and hip movement.  It’s OK to loosen up and have a beer or cocktail…but not several.  “That guy” antics don’t disappear after the new year.  In fact, they’ll probably still be talking about you at next year’s holiday party…if you still have a job.

Overspending: I remember reading some crazy factoid that talked about how a lot of credit card debt included Christmas expenditures dating back several years.  You want your kid to have the brand new i-something or gaming system.  You want to surprise your wife with expensive jewelry.  I mean, Christmas is all about giving, right?  Like overeating, though, we shouldn’t have the attitude of, “I’ll worry about it next year.”  Carrying consumer debt is never a good idea and a terrible way to start the new year.  Take a look around the house.  What once was a “must buy gift” is probably sitting in the closet or on a shelf collecting dust.  Check out two of my favorite blogs regarding holiday purchases: The Minimalists and Zen Habits.  You don’t have to be that extreme, but some good ideas to reflect on.


Not Connecting: Christmas is the ideal time to play catch-up with friends and family members you don’t see during the course of the year.  As hectic as the holidays are, ironically, it’s also a time when companies shut/slow down and people tend to take time off.  It’s also the season of parties and get-togethers.  In addition to family house-jumping, I usually meet-up with friends at a bar or restaurant.  We also attend different family functions to connect with relatives we haven’t seen for a while.  I look forward to these times of just relaxing, hanging out, and strengthening these relationships that might not get much attention during the year.

Not getting a jump on next year: Yes, the holidays are a time to relax, eat, and reconnect.  Things at work usually slow down.  People are focused on their holiday plans.  But this is also an ideal time to get a jump on the next year.  I’m not saying go all-out on your personal and professional plans, but maybe lay the foundation and start on some things.  Maybe that project that’s due in Q1. Or get going on some of the goals you’ve written down for yourself.  While everyone else is in a food coma, you’ll already be three steps ahead when you roll into 2013.

Not being reflective or thankful: If you’ve made it through another year, no matter how difficult, you should be thankful.  Take some time to appreciate what you’ve accomplished.  More importantly, be thankful for the things you have now.  As you enter into the new year, think of some of the things you want to change, get done, or accomplish.  If you’re fortunate enough to have some time off, make sure you spend some time giving thanks.  For example, I’m grateful that you’ve taken the time to stop and read this post/blog.

Have a wonderful Christmas and New Year!

Six Sure-Fire Ways To Kill Your Credibility

Credibility – “The quality of being believable or worthy of trust.”


I recently attended an industry training seminar and saw an old co-worker.  This former manager abruptly left the company after several months of abrasive behavior, confrontations with co-workers and questions about her overall integrity.  I couldn’t help but think about the integrity part as I watched her pick up her certificate of completion (they handed them out first thing in the morning) and walk right out of the conference room.  She never came back.  In other words, she left a half-hour into what was supposed to be an eight-hour training class.  

Whether it’s in business or our personal lives, how much time would you spend around someone you didn’t trust?  Would you buy something from them?  Invest in their product?  Have dinner?  Go on vacation?  Probably not.

Credibility is extremely hard to build but very easy to lose.  Like my aforementioned co-worker, after a few slip-ups, whatever good will she had built with her direct reports, peers and higher-ups had quickly deteriorated.  Several years after leaving the company, people still mention her name and cringe.  Now that’s leaving an impression (in a bad way).  Don’t let this be you.  Avoid these six credibility killers:

Lying – This is the quickest and easiest way to end your credibility.  Once your lie is revealed (no how matter how small), every time you open your mouth, people will: 1) Remember the time that you did lie; and 2) Wonder if you’re telling the truth.

Not Helping – I remember being at a work volunteer event where we were helping clear trails at a local park.  At one point, it was just me, one of my department mates, and another guy from a different department who we didn’t know.  The guy from the other department proceeded to put his shovel down while telling us what we had to do.  By not helping, you’re telling the rest of us that you’re lazy and can’t be counted on when needed.

Trashing Others – We all need to vent sometimes, and yes, your gripe or complaint might be legitimate.  But how often and how violently are you trashing other people?  What are you saying?  When you verbally assault people behind their back, the person you’re talking to starts to wonder what you’re saying about them when they’re not around.

Taking Credit For Other People’s Work – If you’ve ever:

stolen someone’s idea;

asked someone for significant help;

worked with others on a project;

and then took credit for all the work that was done, keep in mind these same people will not trust you or want to work with you ever again.

Break Confidentiality – “Just between you and me” is supposed to mean “Just between you and me.”  When someone tells you something in confidence, it should be, well, confidential.  The fact that this person thinks highly enough of you to share something in confidence should be taken as a compliment.  Don’t blow it by telling others.

Taking Shortcuts – I’m not talking about shortcuts that actually increase efficiencies or improve processes.  I mean shortcuts that totally circumvent your duties or responsibilities.  Take for example tragic accidents where a bridge collapses or gas line explodes because an inspector chose to sign off on a safety inspection without actually completing the inspection.  The attitude of “it’s no big deal” can suddenly become a very big deal if something blows up (sometimes literally).

We’ve all screwed-up and probably did one (or more) of the things mentioned above.  The critical thing is how did we respond?  Did we immediately address the situation and course-correct or did we just blow it off?  Even the smallest of actions eventually lead to habits.  These habits result in severe consequences in both our professional and personal lives.  Treat your credibility as something sacred and guard it closely.  Even if you don’t realize it, people are watching you everyday.


What are some other credibility killers?