My New Take on Happiness

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Whoever coined the adage “the grass is greener on the other side” never lived in Southern California.  Under the greener grass philosophy, you should not waste your time on wanting a better life somewhere else, doing something different, or become someone different; the idea being, once you’re there- the appeal will fade and leave you wanting once again.

Of course, there is some merit to this idea- the insatiable appetite of the mind can leave even those with everything, feeling empty #everycelebrityever. However, what this type of thinking should not do is dissuade you to pursue something better, different or more exciting.  I’m here to tell you that the grass can be greener on the other side—if you measure the grass differently.

This past year was a whirlwind of change for my wife and I.  We moved across the country, each quit our jobs with no prospects, started brand new careers, made all new friends, got a puppy, and I became a semi-pro surfer*.  It tested our resolve on the decisions we made and what it means to be happy.  Behind every hardship that this new life presented, we had no choice but to unconsciously contrast it against the familiar, comfortable and safe life in New Jersey we’ve only known up to this point.

Reflecting back, now almost a year into our new settlement, I think it is safe to say we are happier than we were a year prior.  This should in no ways discount the continuing difficulty of being separated from our family and friends back east- there is no replacing that.  Instead, it’s an honest assessment of how my wife and I feel on a day-to-day basis.

I would conjecture that happiness should be assessed on your daily mood, fulfillment and excitement levels– rather than facts that people typically associate with happiness (nice house, well-paying job, big family).

FLASH BACK A YEAR AGO:
A time where our day-to-day grass was of a yellowish hue.  Both my wife and I worked in New York City every workday and battled the onslaught of the morning commute savages.  I had a particularly demanding accounting job that left me working 12-14 hour days.  A typical day was —-us getting up at 6:00am, almost missing the train and as a result- drenching ourselves in sweat by 6:50am, then choosing which middle seat on the train will offend the outside patrons the least, power walking to the subway and comically packing in like Black Friday at Walmart at 7:10am, walking the garbage-ridden, always somehow wet New York to our jobs- arriving at 8:30am, to only be greeted with a solid 12 work day, culminating in us doing the same aforementioned God-forsaken commute in reverse at 8:30pm, stumbling defeated into home at 9:30pm with the silver-lining of enjoying a glass of wine and dinner prior to calling it at 10pm.  5 days a week.  Every God damn week.

This would have been completely fine given we were fully subscribed to the ‘New York motto’- work like an absolute animal from your 20s through your 40s and eventually, magically, you will have gotten so successful you buy away any of your troubles.  Not to mention the bragging rights at social events.

The reason we weren’t fine is because we felt stressed, unfulfilled and unhealthy on a day-to-day basis By the Metropolitan’s definition of success – all external facts would lead you to conclude we were heel-clicking happy– impressive jobs, good pay, nice house, members of an exclusive wine-club, I could go on and on.  But that continuous-dread we both felt on Sunday, peering over the impending week, was telling us otherwise.

So we took a leap of faith, grabbed the chalk eraser and wiped our chalk board clean.  Then we clenched the chalk, nervously, and started writing down the greener life we wanted. We wanted to eat better and exercise more.  We wanted flexible work schedules that allowed us the ability to be more mobile and spontaneous. We wanted more sun and less stress. We didn’t know what would lead us to all these so we went searching.  Needless-to-say this search took a long, often uncertain, nerving process.

The answers came in the form of moving to San Diego and each starting new careers.  Everything else fell into place from there. San Diego can be summed up in two numbers: 75 and 6. It’s always 75 degrees and 6-pack-abs can even be found on the babies.  With SD’s native salt-of-the-earth hippies and never-ending sunshine, it’s a haven of healthy food and plentiful exercise.  Also, despite eye-bleeding house prices, no one apparently needs to work; half of all San Diegans can be found biking, running or surfing mid-freakin-workday.  This attitude and weather were exactly what we needed to cleanse ourselves from our work-obsessed past.

After we moved we needed new jobs, badly. This part was very tricky and took a lot of soul-searching, trial-and-error, patience and optimism.  The process made us evaluate what we were good at, what made us excited, and what potential careers fit our greener grass goals.  In the end, I went from a Controller to a Salesperson.  I now sell accounting software to CFOs and Controllers of companies which leverages my passion for accounting-nerdiness and public speaking BUT I don’t have to do any actual accounting work (boom).  My wife went from Fashion Research Consultant to Yoga & Wellness Instructor and Entrepreneur.  She is leveraging her 10+ years of yoga training, her love of great food and cooking, and her wanting to provide meaningful value into people’s lives.

This is the beginning of our journey- a journey that is not perfect, that will have its ups and downs, and will surely change many times over.  But that’s ok, because our day-to-day lives are filled with quality time together, laughter, exercise, healthy eating, and with jobs that excite and challenge us.  There’s also surfing, lots and lots of surfing.

Going forward we will use our daily excitement, laughter and health as our barometer of happiness- rather than the dollars in our pockets or the titles next to our names.  Let’s call it The Daily Mood Happiness Barometer®**.   In this way, decisions about where to live, who to work for, and how to live our lives become much more straight forward.

The goal for this post is to provide you a new perspective on how to measure happiness, which is much different than my previously held beliefs. Consider assessing your mood on a daily basis- are you upbeat, laughing, stressed, or irritated?  Happiness, I now believe, is the sum of these daily measurements.  Don’t fall victim to sacrificing the enjoyment of the journey for the perceived delight of the destination. Chances are if you’re climbing sh*t, once you get to the top, you will be still be standing on sh*t, albeit with a view.

It is also to provide you our story, an example of what happens if you chase after the values and lifestyle that makes you happy.  It has helped my wife and I become sillier, healthier, calmer and undeniably more tan.  If you think the grass might be greener somewhere else, and it’s the right kind of green, it may just be worth checking it out.

Eric

*I’m actually a god-awful surfer
**If you steal this million dollar phrase and make said millions, I probably won’t do anything, because I won’t have any legal recourse.  But I will be really sad.  Think about THAT.

 

Funny Craigslist Car Ad – Volvo V70

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Only once in a millennia can one be gifted the opportunity to create a funny craigslist car ad.

I was recently gifted such an opportunity; to showcase the provocative curves and childish vigor of a Volvo V70 Wagon.

I would say that I created this Volvo ad but that would be misleading. This Volvo created me. It’s awe-inspiring 300,000+ miles, premium headlight wipers and devilish charm left me on a soul-searching quest, leaving me feeling lesser-a-man as a result.

Check out my pitiful attempt to capture the majesty that is the Volvo V70 here:

If you want this car act quickly- there currently is a line of 92 women and 45 men, in heat, outside the owner’s house right now.

God Bless Volvo,

Eric

 

Funny Craigslist Car Ad – Volvo V70

Best Meditation Apps for Busy People

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Best Meditation Apps for Busy People.

If you have been interested in starting meditation but don’t know where to begin — this post is for you.

So hike up your socks and fluff your pillows – the top 3 Best Meditation Apps for Busy People are here – and they’re glorious.

Finding time for meditation can be hard. As a finance professional that typically works 10-12 hour days, I can relate (kill me). However, not meditating can lead to chronic work-stress, inability to keep a level head and really holds you back from enjoying each day. In addition to your ability to brag to coworkers that you meditate, there are serious mental benefits professionals can gain from meditating. Just ask Rupert Murdoch (CEO, News Corp), Russel Simmons (Founder, Def Jam Records), and Oprah Winfrey (you know Oprah) here. Personally, meditation has been a game-changer in my life, specifically with lowering my daily anxiety/stress.

I’ve been meditating for a year and a half now and continue to deepen my practice today by reading books, sitting cross-legged for hours on end, and trying out the best meditation apps out there.

I’ve found that using a high-quality meditation app is the best way to start and sustain a meditation practice.

A forewarning– of all the best meditation apps I have tried, the paid apps have been the best by far.  Two of the apps I recommend have ongoing charges but are worth the money a-hundred-fold. These apps teach you the proper ways to meditate and the science behind it all, instead of just providing you random guided audios. If you are just starting out, I highly recommend starting out with the free content from 10% Happier and/or Headspace, then moving to a paid subscription.

Note: These best meditation apps are for practical, non-hippy, hard-working professionals that are looking to improve themselves at home and at work. If you’re busy, you’ve come to the right place.


App Pick #1: 10% Happier

Best Meditation Apps Pick 1

Level: First Timers, Beginners and Intermediate Meditators

Price: Free for first 7 lessons, $9.99 per month with subscription

Supported: Only on Apple App Store

Summary: Gives you access to practical meditation teachings from arguably the best meditators in the world today. Great for those looking for the “why” in meditation and starting meditation for the first time.

This is by far my favorite meditation app and is my #1 recommendation. The two experts in the app are Dan Harris, anchor of ABC News, and Joseph Goldstien, meditation master who brought meditation to America. Dan Harris started meditating and later created this app as a reaction to a panic-attack he had on national television. Joseph Goldstien, a less-traditional-business-type, has been studying and pioneering mindfulness meditation since 1967.

Each lesson is broken down into a short video, teaching you something very significant about meditation, followed by a guided meditation by Joseph that solidifies the teachings. What I love about 10% Happier is that Dan and Joseph’s teachings are so practical and applicable to the lives of busy professionals. Dan Harris is a very successful and popular news anchor that had to claw his way to top like the rest of us.  He cuts through the crap and “hooplah” typically associated with meditation which is really refreshing.

The first seven days are free and you can replay these lessons as many times as you’d like. My recommendation when beginning meditation would be to run through these free lessons at least twice over. The content is profound and I still refer back to them this day.  After the two weeks you can decide for yourself if the ongoing subscription of $9.99 is worth it or if switching to Insight Timer, with the lessons you’ve learned, is the best idea.

I have subscribed to the app and have found it invaluable. There is new content and lessons being released each month, with Dan Harris and other world-renown meditators joining him. The app also assigns you a professional meditation coach that you can tap into when you have any questions (I never use this feature personally).


App Pick #2: Headspace

Best Meditation Apps Pick 3

Level: First Timers, Beginners and Intermediate Meditators

Price: Free for first 10 lessons, $12.95 per month with subscription ($7.99 per month if you buy a full year up front).

Supported: Apple App Store and Google Play

Summary: extremely user friendly app and calming-UK voice, guides you through the first stages of meditation practice. The animations and guided meditations are top-notch and make it easy to stay engaged.

Headspace has been making waves in the meditation community after they raised over $35 million to build and promote the meditation app. The founder and calming voice behind each meditation is Andy Puddicombe, who while in college for sports science dropped everything and moved to the Himalayas to become a monk (so typical…).

Headspace is a fantastic app and my #2 paid meditation app on the market. In a similar format to 10% Happier, Headspace pairs engaging animations with very effective guided audio meditations. Honestly, my favorite part about the app is the narrators voice whose accent is the perfect combination of a United Kingdom Accent and a snugly, yet bad-ass, cuddle bear. Besides the voice, the app has a ton to offer including 30 foundation lessons to learn proper meditation practice and hundreds of hours of guided audios on topics like happiness, sleep, stress, self-esteem, relationships and creativity.

The first 10 lessons are free and can be recycled for your pleasure. The pricing for a full subscription is a bit steep but its for a reason; you’ll see the quality once you start. There is new fresh content being released all the time. The app also includes a “buddy” feature where-by you can connect with friends and motivate each other.

My recommendation is to run through the 10 free days and see how you feel prior to pulling the trigger on a full subscription. If you are not convinced or are looking for a deeper understanding, check out 10% Happier’s free 7-day content. I think its important to have the basics down first.


APP PICK #3: Insight Timer

Best Meditation Apps Pick 2

Level: Beginner and Intermediate Meditators who have a foundation in meditation

Price: Free

Supported: Apple App Store and Google Play

Summary: Over 1,500 FREE guided audio meditations created by the Insight Timer community. Great for trying new meditations and keeping your practice exciting. The App is not great for just starting out. The audios are not professionally made but are still quality.

Insight Timer is the #1 free meditation app that is out on the market today. The App has a simple interface that allows you to select from 1,500+ different guided meditations (over 500+ hours of content).  There is no other free app that comes close to this amount of available free content. The guided meditations are communally-rated so the ones you listen to will be the cream-of-the-crop.

Insight Timer has all types of meditations; it is not restricted to mindfulness meditation. For purposes of the busy professional I suggest starting with the in-app-categories of “Introduction to Meditation” and “Mindfulness”. Other topics include relaxing, deep sleep and exploring meditation techniques. The audios are user-generated so no two audios are the same – which can be good and bad. Some voices make me want to punch a cat while others are super enjoyable (its pot-luck).

One aspect I love about Insight Timer is that it logs your meditation activity and also displays who in the world meditated at the same time as you. When I meditate, there is typically a few hundred that are also meditating which helps me feel not alone and supported. You can friend other meditators and send messages within the app (great alternative to Tinder).  Another feature I love is a simple timer with a meditation bell to use when you’re a little more advanced and want to go un-guided.

My recommendation for first-timers is to first check out 10% Happier and Headspace’s free content, then move over to trying out Insight Timer.


FINAL VERDICT- which is best?

It depends where you are on your meditation journey. Here are my recommendations for success in the best meditation apps:

First timer?

Download both Headspace and 10% Happier. If you are an android user, you can only download Headspace (sorry brah). Start out by doing the first 10 free days of Headspace. Headspace is really easy and fun to start with. Once you’re done with Headspace’s free content, and you’re an iphone user, switch over to 10% Happier and complete their 7 free lessons.

Once you have completed all the free lessons, its time to make a decision on if and which paid app you want to continue your practice on. I find Headspace more easeful and fun to follow along with, while I find 10% Happier more thought-provoking and interesting. For me I chose 10% Happier because it allowed me access to world class teachers and focused on a deep understanding of the practice. However, many find Headspace and its intuitive design really engaging and helps keep their practice active (and that voice is delightful).

If you are dead set on not paying any money, complete all the free lessons on 10% Happier and Headspace to get a foundation understanding of meditation, then download Insight Timer. There are more than enough free content there to keep you active. But be warned! The key to deriving benefits from meditation (and there is a ton) is to practice daily. The paid apps are the reason I’m able to practice daily. If you’re able to buy two drinks at a bar each weekend, a better investment may be these apps.

Experienced Meditator?

My recommendation is to use 10% Happier as it will allow you the opportunity to meet and learn from the world’s best meditation teachers. Each lesson is practical and rich in profound content.  I think Headspace is a little too focused on keeping it simple to encourage beginning meditators to continue their practice.

Also Insight Timer is a must for experienced meditators as it includes a nifty timer and a huge selection of free guided audios, covering a large variety of meditation disciplines. Its a great app for expanding your practice to other areas outside mindfulness.


All-in-all the goal here is learn about meditation and start practicing each day. The above best meditation apps have helped me innumerably and I am now much less stressed and focused because of them.

Please leave comments of any of your best meditation apps!  Happy meditating!

Eric

 

Best Meditation Apps for Busy People

Working Remotely-Escape the Office Grind

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Working remotely is as good as it sounds.

No commute, no office drama, few interruptions, freedom of space and ability to work from anywhere are game-changing benefits. For many, working remotely is used as the foundation in cultivating a well rounded work-life balance. It is one of the best ways to start the process of lifestyle design.

I’ve successfully negotiated working remotely five different times in my career and I know the steps you can use to achieve the same success. I’ve negotiated working remotely both 1-2 days a week and also 100% full-time which allowed me the freedom to move across the country.

It’s probably not as hard as you think. More and more companies are adding working remotely into their HR policies and even more are making remote-work exceptions for those employees who make a valid case for it.

Before diving into the how, I need to first put the nay-sayers to rest (thoughts that I had to overcome initially).

There are hundreds of excuses that your mind will use to deny the possibility of working remotely, many of which will appear to be 100% logical reasons.  However, as with anything in life that is worthwhile, these benefits are reserved for those who can be both creative and push past their initial fears and doubts.

Working Remotely Excuses“My job cannot be done remotely.”

This is the most common argument and hardest to conceptually overcome. However, the majority of white-collar jobs today can in-fact be done remotely. It helps to run through a thought experiment. Imagine you had some pressing family issues and had to relocate across the country for three months. How will you make it work with your current job? What job responsibilities 100% require you to be physically present?  Is it possible to transfer those duties to someone else on site under your remote supervision.

This was an eye-opening exercise for me when I was a fully integrated director at a Company. When I boiled it down the only task that 100% required me to be there was to physically sign checks.  Every other part of my complex role could, in theory, be done remotely including attending meetings and staff management. One caveat is there are some traditional jobs that do not jive with working remotely, namely nurse, teacher, construction manager, etc. But don’t stop your thinking there. Each of these roles mentioned have creative solutions for working remotely- remote case manager for nurses, online professorship for teachers, and remote project manager in construction, etc. Check out indeed.com, type in your current job, and in the “where” put remote. You’ll be surprised at what’s out there.

“My boss will never go for this.”

This may be true if you just walked up to your boss and proclaimed “I’m going to be working remotely 100% from now on – sound good?”. You will find that after reading the step-by-step guide below that this is approached much more intelligently. The goal is to make it a win-win for you and the company since you will demonstrate greater efficiency and ability to deliver more when working remotely. Also, the proposal that you deliver to your boss can be non-committal and contains a series of “test runs” that will allow your boss the insight to make the right call.

“Now is not the right time.”

Our minds are really creative and will craft a compelling story as to why now is a bad time to embark on this journey- I’m newer at my job, there has been a recent change, I just got a new boss, I’m going to get fired, etc. First off, I can tell you from experience- there is never a right time. Secondly, you are the only one that is perceiving the timing and situation this way. Your boss and everyone else in your company have their unique list of priorities and views that are not the same as yours. What you perceive as bad timing may be good timing for your boss, so discounting an opportunity on the basis of bad timing is illogical.

Working Remotely GuideStep 1 – Define your role

First, what type of remote arrangement do you want?  Do you want to be able to work from home one to two days a week or do you want to be working remotely full time? This will help frame the rest of the steps in this process.

Next, write down all the tasks that your job requires. Next to each task write whether it can be performed remotely or if it requires that you are in-person to complete.

Next, follow this simple diagram to see the thought-process behind making remote work possible:

Working Remotely Diagram

 

Nowadays, very few tasks require that we be physically present: this includes meetings, training, presentations, etc. Most office applications are on the cloud and meetings can be held on skype or google hangout.  I challenge you to be creative and figure out solutions for how to make in-person tasks remote-able. For remaining non-remote-able-tasks (awesome compound word), see if they can be accomplished the days you are in the office or see if a coworker could take them on.

Step 2 – Redefine your role

In the event you can’t make all your tasks remote-able or transfer them to coworkers, this process may require that you redefine your role. There is a right way to do this. First, peruse over your list of job tasks and pick out the ones that are:

  1. the most valuable to your company. It is likely that 20% of the tasks that you deliver on contribute to 80% of the value derived from your position. This takes some honest reflection but is a very helpful exercise. A good starting point is- what in your role contributes to sales or customer retention directly or indirectly?
  2. of most interest and preference to you. Identify the tasks that bring you the most pleasure and keep you the most engaged.

With any luck the above few tasks can be done remotely or re-framed in a way that they can. The goal will be to rewrite your role to encompass only these smaller set of tasks and placing more time and effort into them. You will need to demonstrate to management that the best use of your time and to maximize your value to the company, will be to work solely on these tasks, remotely.

Step 3Draft your remote plan

Using the insights from above, draft a list of the tasks you will complete remotely and what technology solutions and methods you will use for doing so. In example: Task 1- Oversee team process on projects- I will schedule two Google Hangouts each day, at 9am and 3pm, and invite all team members. The team will be required to submit their status on the project, prior to the meetings, on our shared Google Doc. Task 2 Etc.

Step 4Trial Run

Plan to work from home for 1-2 days in the coming week. You will need a valid reason so either “schedule” a plumber, get your car fixed, drive someone to airport, call out sick, etc. You will need this opportunity to work remotely as your case-study and support when vying for a remote work arrangement with your boss later.

On the day(s) you work remotely- make sure you absolutely crush your work, and then some. Its important that you jot down some measurable accomplishments (e.i. I completed all my days work in 4 hours and made meaningful progress on these long-term projects).

Step 5The Pitch

Now the fun part. Schedule time with your boss to talk about your role in the company. During the conversation these are your main objectives:

  1. You were working remotely the other day because of x, and you couldn’t believe how much more work you accomplished. Cite very specific accomplishments.
  2. Without the commute and interruptions, you were able to devote more hours to work then you ever could do at the office. Cite actual hours.
  3. You are wondering if, for a trial period of one month, your boss would allow you to work remotely (1,2,5) days a week. You know you will accomplish so much more for the company and it would make you significantly happier. You will make sure to be overly-communicative and provide updates throughout.
  4. Reinforce that it is a trial and that your boss can pull it at anytime. At the end of the trial you can both decide if the arrangement makes sense to continue.

The trial is a great way to keep the power in your boss’s court and really highlights that you want to do what’s best for the company. A helpful tactic, commonly used in sales, is to end the proposal with something like – “does that sound reasonable to you?”. Of course it sounds reasonable so its hard to say no to that.

Step 6Hustle Time

During your trial remote days, make sure you are contributing at least 50% more than you are contributing during your in-office days. Keep detailed logs of what your completing on which days and make sure to be 100% available and over-communicative with your team/boss. Over the next month your goal is to build the case such that your boss would be out of his/her mind to not continue this remote arrangement.

Step 7– Enjoy working remotely!

Not surprisingly, very few employees ever attempt to negotiate remote work. It requires creativity, a lot of effort and going-against-the-grain. And don’t worry. Employers value employees that go after what they want and who speak up, especially when it’s in the best interests of the company.

Working remotely isn’t for everyone, but for me, it was an amazing alternative to commuting to the office each day. I’ve gotten hours back in my life each day and am able to accomplish more at work, with less stress.

If you go after it- congrats and good luck! Feel free to share your experiences or leave a question in the comments below.

All the best,

Eric

 

Lifestyle Design- Stop Envying The Rich

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Lifestyle design is better than being rich and I will show you why.

If you’re anything like me I spend a lot of time playing the “what-if” game, specifically with money.

If I landed that job that paid X dollars I’d be totally set.

If I got promoted to that new role, that additional cash would get me X and Y, then I’d be set.

If I had time to work out my million dollar idea, I’d be rich and rich = me being happy!

The problem is such thoughts lack a full consideration of what the end goal is. To that I ask- what is the end goal that this extra money will buy? Specificity is the key here and requires a deeper investigation.

After peeling back the onion a bit, I have found that after the cars, jetskis, and being able to act like this, the real perceived benefits money can afford is time and freedom. It buys a better lifestyle. The ability to work where you want, when you want and doing what you want. It gives you the freedom to spend more time with your family and out in the sun.

The interesting truth is that money does not buy you this lifestyle.

In support please refer to exhibit A: a list of hundreds of thousands of so-called-rich, that work 60 hour work-weeks, fly around the world constantly, and are neck deep in debt from luxury cars, big houses, and dining out every night. They need to keep working their six/seven-figure jobs to sustain their “awesome lifestyles” of excess. Not surprisingly, they are no more free than us regular guys and gals.

If money does not by time and freedom, what does?

Effort.  Effort to design your life how you want it is the cost of having that life (referred to as lifestyle design). The best part – you can start designing your life today to gain more time and freedom. This takes creativity, and no path is the same- but here are some lifestyle design suggestions to get your mind-a-thinkin’:

  • Can you negotiate working from home full-time or a few days a week in your current job? Can you shift your job responsibilities to lend better for remote work?
  • Are you valuing the full cost of your commute? 2 hours a day is A LOT.
  • Can you move to a place that is better suited and supportive of your lifestyle goals?
  • Can you build passive income sources that demand less time and bring in some supporting $$$ – buy rental real estate, create an e-course, sell on etsy, build an Instagram following (affiliate marketing), etc.
  • Can you build enough career-value that you can dictate the hours and environment of your work with employers?
  • Can you piece together 2-3 different, flexible part-time jobs that allow for more freedom and creativity?

Lifestyle design requires active participation. If you’re not designing your life, someone is doing it for you.

How are you taking control and designing your life?

Eric

 

Mindfulness Meditation- Introduction

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Mindfulness Meditation has profound implications for your career, home-life and general happiness. Specifically I’ve found it really effective at reducing stress and anxiety from my work and home life.

The truth is, mindfulness meditation has been getting a bad rap and image for decades. When you think of meditation what do you see? I see robe-wearing spiritualists or hippies that have no connection to the actual real world. I thought I was too type A and too busy to meditate.  Besides, I was not interested in superstitious practices that result in “enlightenment”.

Now picture high powered CEOs, professional sports teams and other highly successful types.  These are the real faces of mindfulness meditation today (examples here and here).

Granted there are other types of meditation that are spiritual based, however, you can’t get any more practical than mindfulness meditation.

Mindfulness meditation is the practice of investigating and training your mind.

For the majority of us- our days, actions and feelings are hopelessly guided by a string of thoughts, images and emotions generated by our minds.  This string of thoughts and internal dialogue is a never ending flow that cascades through our minds. The mistake we make is that we internalize this dialogue as if it was our own, not something separate.

What is interesting is that we as humans, possess this next level, above thinking, that allows us to observe our thoughts and emotions, independent of them. Taxonomically we are considered Homo Sapien Sapiens. This extra “Sapiens” is an important addition- the full meaning is – “he who thinks and knows he’s thinking“.

Mindfulness Meditation Introduction 2

Unlike almost all others in the animal kingdom, we have the unique ability to observe the flow of conscious thought as it’s happening. Mindfulness meditation is the practice of observing our thoughts and emotions as they occur, so we can have the choice to act on or simply discard them.  This has huge implications as it will allow us to proactively manage stress and other emotions as they materialize. The first step in unlocking this ability is to understand the nature of our minds.

My mind is an idiot. So Is Yours.

My mind is an insane, illogical, frantic, worry-wort that will not shut the hell up. This realization came within the first few times I practiced meditation. Here is a graphical depiction of the anarchy that is my consciousness:

Mindfulness Meditation Mind

 

The first common big breakthrough for those who start mindfulness meditation is to realize how overwhelming, illogical and inconsistent their minds are. Once this realization is made, it opens the door for the meditator to observe their mind more deeply and realize who the real driver of their actions are.

My whole life my idiot mind has been in the driver seat and I let it take me wherever it was going. A common analogy in meditation is that the mind is an elephant and our true-selves, the mindful person, is the rider of the elephant. Without meditation practice, the elephant (the mind) runs wild and we (the riders) are subjected to wherever it goes. The mindful person has trained and controls the elephant, guiding it when necessary in the best interests of the person.

Whether its being overly stressed at work, struggling with focus, saying that embarassing thing to your boss, or eating that tenth cookie, the uncontrolled elephant (your mind) is the culprit and it must be tamed.

Start your meditation journey here – A five minute meditation (audio included).

Benefits of Mindfulness Meditation

 

The benefits of mindfulness meditation are far reaching and there are five practical benefits that I noticed after a few months of practice:

  • Increase focus and effectiveness at work. The ability to wholly dedicate ones attention to a particular task is a skill that can be developed. Practicing meditation is the best exercise for this out there.
  • Keep calm under pressure at work.  And I do not just mean the perception of being calm under pressure. I mean the ability to genuinely be at ease in very stressful situations and deadlines.
  • Realize how crazy your mind is and question why you’ve been listening to it for so long. Joseph Goldstien, a world reknown meditator, jokes that his mind gives him a really good thought once in every ten years or so. I personally was blown away with how many bad and illogical thoughts passed through my mind each day. Now I’ve grown to laugh at the tendencies of my mind, instead of blindly being guided by them.
  • Ability to “respond, not react”. This practice gives us the ability to mindfully respond to situations instead of blindly reacting to them. In example- a mindful person will know, because she is in-tune with her mind, when anger or stress is starting to cultivate in her mind. Instead of letting the emotion inhabit her completely, she can pause and analyze the string of thoughts that led to this change. Many times this process enlightens the non-importance of the situation in question and eases the mind. Strong leaders do not let emotions affect their performance and being mindful is the most effective way to have control.
  • Realize how insignificant a thought actually is. As you study deeper into your mind you will start to realize that thoughts, in and of themselves, do not contain any power or worth. They are only as meaningful as the worth we assign them. This is a game-changer because when we are not mindful of our thoughts, they can have huge impacts on our decision process and emotional states.

The goal is to use the insights learned during meditation practice in our daily lives and work. To start reaping the benefits of mindfulness meditation I suggest starting with five minute meditations, once per day, for a week or two. Gradually increase the duration to ten minutes over the next month.  I posted a five minute guided meditation that both beginners and experienced meditators can use–

Start your meditation journey here – A five minute meditation (audio included).

As you develop, one of my favorite apps for meditating is a free app called Insight Timer. It has hundreds of guided meditations and a nifty timer that you can use.

Hows your meditation practice going?  Any benefits you can share?

Eric

 

 

Exceptional

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Anything exceptional, takes an exceptional investment to get.

There are no ‘gimmies’ when it comes to exceptional things. If you want to be an exceptional artist, live in an exceptional place, have an exceptional work/life balance, or make exceptional money- you have to put in exceptional time and effort to get it.

Exceptional is defined as – (adj) unusual, not typical.

If you are working just as hard as your typical coworker, you will get what your coworker has, nothing exceptional. Conversely if you study on the weekends to become an expert in your company, you will be rewarded as an exceptional employee, with more freedom and compensation.

All the exceptional things I’ve achieved in my career has been directly related to providing something exceptional, that no one else was providing. It has afforded me the ability to work remotely, have flexibility in schedule and increased my compensation.

What is the one exceptional skill you are currently developing?

Eric

 

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5 Minute Meditation – Guided Audio

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I perform the same 5 minute meditation everyday.

This highly effective, yet simple 5 minute meditation, has significantly reduced my stress and has helped me accomplish more in life with greater ease.  I learned this process from Joseph Goldstein, a world renown meditator.

When I began meditating a year ago, I thought the sole purpose was to relax and get away with wearing stunningly-cool robes.

I also thought it mainly had to do with being “enlightened” or “spiritual”, whatever those mean. As I deepened my practice I learned that the benefits of meditation are practical and far-reaching, both at work and at home.  Specifically, these benefits are derived from “mindfulness” meditation, which is the type of meditation this post will focus on.

Mindfulness provides us the ability to not be carried away by our thoughts and emotions. It affords us the ability take control of our brain, rather than blindly following it.  I will discuss the many benefits of mindfulness meditation in future posts but without further ado — here is the magic 5 minute meditation.  I have included both a guided meditation audio that I recorded and also step by step instructions below.  The guided meditation is perfect for a train commute or anytime you can steal away for 5 minutes.

5 Minute Meditation Guided Audio

(audio file- click on play button above)

Step-by-Step Instructions with additional tips/tools

Step 1 – Sit

Set your phone timer for 6 minutes and begin the time. Click the 5 Minute Meditation Guided Audio above. Sit in an up-right comfortable seated posture on a couch or seat.  Seriously focus on comfort; just make sure you are not slouching. There is no need to:

  • Cross your legs
  • Use a meditation cushion/pillow
  • Be a hipster/instagram that you are meditating
  • Flip your hands upward in a enlightened pose

Step 2 – Begin

Place your hands downward on your knees, aim your head directly forward, and gently close your eyes. Consciously relax your eyes.  Next loosen your jaw and lower your shoulders.  Working your way down your body relax each part until you feel your feet ease into the ground.

Step 3 – Body

Settle into your seated posture.  Begin to feel the physical sensations of your body’s contact with the chair.  Focus on the pressure, heaviness and warmth the body feels against the chair.  Bring your attention to your whole body, from your face, to your chest, to your stomach, down to your feet.

Step 4 – Breath

As you settle into the awareness of your body, you will begin to notice the sensations of your body breathing. Turn your focus onto your breath, from the beginning of inhale, through the end of your exhale, then repeat. This is not a breathing exercise so let the breaths come as naturally as they would if you weren’t observing them.

Step 5 – Begin Again

Continue to maintain your focus on your breath for the duration of this meditation.  You will find that your mind will begin to wander, almost immediately, to random thoughts and day dreams.  This wandering of the mind is fine and happens to everyone (my mind is ALL OVER THE PLACE).

The goal is to notice (become mindful) when your mind has left on some tangent and that your focus has been taken away from your breath.  When you become mindful of this, bring you focus back to the feeling of your body sitting.  Once your focus is on your body, turn it back to the sensations of your breath.  This is what is called “beginning again”.

Step 6 – Begin Again, Again

The simplest goal of mindfulness meditation is to recognize when the mind has wandered and “begin again” with your focus on the breath.  Each time you notice you are lost in a train of thoughts, bring your attention back to the body and the feeling of the breath.  This process helps you immediately in two very important ways:

  1. For the first time you will be “looking-in” to the workings of your mind, without letting it take you wherever it is going.  This was extremely revelatory for me because I immediately started to realize how insane my mind actually is; most of my thoughts are sheer non-sense.
  2. Improved concentration and ability to focus.  Our minds provide a constant torrent of images, thoughts and distractions that prevent us from giving our full attention to tasks at hand.  Our ability to quite this noise can have huge implications on productivity and effectiveness.

Step 7 – The End

After the 5 minute meditation alarm sounds slowly open your eyes.  Congratulate yourself on completing 5 minutes of being mindful.  Reflect back on your meditation and ask yourself these questions:

  • How often did I begin again? [every few seconds, few minutes]
  • At what point of the thought did I become mindful [just at the beginning, after a few minutes, I can’t remember]
  • Were there consistent types of thoughts [worrying, planning, work, commenting]

The key to deriving benefits from anything in life, mindfulness included, is in the repetition of performing tasks daily.  I have found meditation to be immensely beneficial in my life and maintain that practicing daily is essential. Stowe away for 5 minutes and get started on taming the monkey that is your brain!

Eric

 

Selling Solutions – Complex Software

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What’s the secret to selling solutions and enterprise software? If you think its shmoozing and rubbing-elbows with your customers, new research says you’re wrong.

New well-supported studies show that there are five distinct types of sales people when selling solutions and software, and only one type outperforms the others by a landslide.

Which of the following sales types would you guess is the winner?

Challenger Sale - Selling Solutions

Survey says? The Challenger.  

“More than 50% of star sales performers fit the Challenger profile in complex sales”

The next closest type of salesperson is the Lone Wolf, who accounts for 25% of all star performers.  You know Lone Wolfs- the guys who throw tantrums, don’t follow rules, and were in fraternities in college?  How about the relationship builders, the type of salesperson that your boss has urged you to be for years. – only 4% are high performing.

This finding frankly didn’t make sense to me. It flies in the face of “customer-centric” philosophy that dominates the business world today. CEB, a sales research firm, after reviewing 6,000 sales reps across 100 companies made it clear; if you want to be highly successful in selling solutions and software, your best chance is to be a Challenger. They also found that Challenger reps perform exceptionally well in good and bad markets, many times keeping sales organizations afloat when the economy goes sour.

So who are these Challengers and what separates them so significantly from the other cold-calling-smooth-talkers?  Here are the four most important take-aways from the book The Challenger Sale by Matthew Dixon, that you can use to start breakin’ mo’ necks and cashin’ mo’ checks.

Challengers are made- selling solutions

A common misconception in sales is that high-preforming reps are sprinkled with a glittery magic dust. Sales managers know who their best reps are but can’t put a finger on exactly what makes them so effective at selling solutions (besides the dust). Armed with a clear definition of what a Challenger rep looks, smells, and acts like, we can demystify the high-performing rep.

Challengers are made, not just born.  Any rep that follows the Challenger sales process will show improved sales performance and will get better over time. Becoming a Challenger is teachable and its not only reserved for innately talented reps.

Challengers Teach- selling solutions

Over the past 15 years, sales training on selling solutions focused on one overriding theory- the quickest way to a signed deal is by gaining a deep understanding of the clients needs, then showing how your solution meets those needs better than anyone else.  Sounds completely reasonable right?

However, this theory is based on a deeply flawed assumption that:

Customers actually know what they need in the first place.

Challengers are not world-class investigators as so much as they are world-class teachers. Challengers tell customers what they need, and by doing so, strengthen their competitive advantage. The relationship of vendor and customer has changed significantly over the last decade. Customers now look to vendors selling solutions and software as consultants and advisers, not widget makers. Customer loyalty is gained by providing them valuable new insights about their business and challenging them on their assumptions.

Over 50 percent- selling solutions

When surveyed, over 50% of a customer’s loyalty to a vendor is attributable to the sales process. Only 19% is attributable to the actual product and service delivery.  The actual product and service accounts for less than 20%?? CEB found the highest drivers for loyalty were when sales reps:

  • Offered unique valuable perspectives on the market
  • Helped customer navigate alternatives
  • Provided customer ongoing advice or consultation
  • Educated customer on new issues and outcomes.

If you look at this list, not one of the points relate to the vendor or their amazing product of service, they all relate to the customer. Let’s face it, prospects are going to struggle to differentiate your company from your competitors in this hyper competitive world we live in. Challengers teach when selling in order to convince the customer of a completely new way to look at their own business, which sets the vendor up to be the only one that can capitalize on it.

A Challenger rep does not focus on confirming or validating the needs/concerns the customer is trying to solve. Rather, the Challenger highlights other very important areas the customer overlooked, which will result in significantly increased revenues or cost savings, which the vendor is uniquely positioned to help them with.  This approach “reframes” the customers thoughts on their own business and the vendor, separating them from the herd of similar competitors.

Ironically, if your customer reacts to your sales pitch with something like, “Yes, I totally agree! That’s exactly whats keeping me up at night!” – You have failed.  The goal is to reframe your customer’s thought-process which highlights your firms unique strengths. Challengers know they are on the right track when they hear a customer say “Huh, I never thought of it that way before.”

Challengers are storytellers- selling solutions

Challengers take their customers through an emotional roller-coaster.  Their teaching of the customer is framed as a compelling story with some drama, a little nerve-racking suspense and BAM, a surprise.

“The goal is to take customers…to a rather dark place before showing them the light at the end of the tunnel. And that light, of course, is your solution.”

Without engaging both sides of the customer’s brain, the rational and emotional, it’s too easy for the sale to fall into the black hole of “indecision-mode”. Creating an emotional impact with the customer will help them digest the ground-breaking insight the rep laid out and will spur a call-to-action to get the sale across the finish line.

The good news is you don’t have to be Robert Frost to pull off such a compelling sales story.  The format of the story is always the same and looks like this:

The Challenger Sale Process- selling solutions

This process is much different than the traditional method of selling solutions:

  •  Show slides all about the vendor- select clients, years in business, product features, etc.
  • Discover what customer’s biggest challengers are “What keeps them up at night”
  • Tailor vendor solution pitch to match the customer-defined challenges
  • Convince customer that the vendor is best suited to solve their challenges

The Challenger sales method is different in two fundamental ways. First, it is all about the customer. The vendor’s product is discussed at the end of the sales pitch, not led with it. The lion-share of the sales process is devoted to giving value-add insight to the customer and help them think about their business differently. Secondly, since customer-defined problems did not drive the discussion, the sales conversation is completely different than those of their competitors. While all other competitors are competing over the same customer “hot issues”, the Challenger is in a league of their own.

Pulling off a Challenger Sale does take more effort and preparation than a traditional sale. Knowing your customer better than they know themselves is not easy. To know that much takes a lot of preparation.  Pop in another Kuerig K-Cup and enjoy another mediocre corporate coffee to push you through.

Challengers take control of the sale- selling solutions

Challengers are awesome at two skills that help them take control:

  • More comfortable talking about money
  • Able to “push” the customer when selling solutions

These skills come easily when the rep is very confident in the value they are providing to the customer. They create value by teaching the customer something really important and new about their business and demonstrate how their vendor is the only one on the block that can help. The Challenger has no problem respectfully pushing back when the customer asks for a discount, looser terms, or increase scope without a commensurate increase in price.

Since the Challenger values their contribution and time they respectfully push the customer to keep the sales momentum and avoid stalls.  An early test to see if a sale is going to stall is if the customer is not granting the rep access to key stakeholders that are needed to close the deal. Non-challengers would fold over if a customer put up a wall and insisted that the vendor only work with lower-level staff. Challengers push the customer for expanded access in exchange for continued dialogue, and if not given, move on to the next sale.

Companies that have implemented the Challenger Sale process tell their reps, at the close of the first interaction, to say to customers “You know, typically when we engage with a customer for this sort of solution, we need certain key executives to be involved in the purchase decision.  Is that the case here?” When the customer says yes, the rep then asks when they will be able to meet with those individuals.  If the customer stalls or gives an unclear answer, the rep explains that “if you can’t guarantee time with those key leaders, we will be unable to check that everyone is aligned on the value of the solution; and without alignment it doesn’t make sense to continue engaging in further discussions”.

Now that’s how you push back!  Challengers recognize that they are investing in customers, and customers should expect to invest in them in return.  They maintain this level of control throughout the sale, not only reserve it for negotiations regarding price.  This does require an ability to handle tension in conversations which is something that can be developed; something I’ve been working on recently.

Summary 

The Challenger Sale represents a more consistent and effective way for selling solutions and software in today’s business world.  Competing on product features and service alone is a losing battle.  Every company now-adays is a “market leader”, “innovator”, or has “excellent customer service”.  The Challenger Sales represents a proven way to cut through the noise and pull ahead of competition.

Providing customers with a unique insight, delivering it in a thoughtful emotion-activating story, and keeping control throughout the sale are a few of the main ways Challengers are far-and-away the best performing reps in organizations today.  If your sales manager hasn’t forced you to read this book yet, you can purchase a copy here.

Let me know your thoughts and happy selling,

Eric

 

 

Nerds Rejoice: Real Life Human Mutants Not Far Away

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I watched a video yesterday that left me in awe and scared the suspenders off my back.

Mutants are coming soon and you may have the option to become one.

In a recent Ted Talk, Lisa Nip, a certified psychopath synthetic biologist, presented a number of theoretical questions that we as humans will face in the distant future. Questions like- what are we going to do when all of earth’s resources are depleted or where are we going to live when our sun explodes.  Obviously these are very pressing issues.

Lisa’s solution, not surprisingly, is for us to colonize far away potentially habitable planets. She then uses this as her platform to investigate the various issues we will run into, namely, how is our feeble human body going to withstand the harsh environments of these other planets?  Earth is the equivalent of spring break in Cancun, whereas other planets are likely spring break in the Sahara (considerably less redbull vodkas).

The answer to this adaptability question is by altering the human genome to match whatever we think will make us better-able to handle these conditions.  One example Lisa provides is to make humans immune to radiation by stealing a gene from a bacterium and splicing it into humans.  I’m not kidding.  I’m going to roughly paraphrase here but this is essentially the proposal:

Human Genome CRISPR project

The craziest part is that this technology isn’t hundred of years away, or even decades, we have the technology today to alter the human genome.  CRISPR is a “gene/DNA editing tool” that was recently discovered by scientists within strep bacteria.  Think of it like the “find replace” function within Microsoft word, but with DNA.  More on CRISPR here.

As scientists work to perfect this technology over the coming years the only consideration holding us back, is that of morality. The ability to alter our life-span, height, eye color, sex, and every other attribute of humans will come into question.

Unfortunately Lisa Nip doesn’t dive into the X-men like future that will inevitably transpire but her closing thoughts say it best:

 “We’re approaching a time during which we’ll have the capacity to decide our own genetic destiny.  Augmenting the human body with new abilities is no longer a question of how, but of when.”

What are your thoughts?  Good or bad?

Eric