Personal Development

The dark side-effects of high performance

I am an overachiever. I set high standards, break boundaries and am driven to succeed. Over the years I started noticing a pattern, a dark side-effect of this behaviour. At first, I thought it was just me. But through questioning individuals with the same approach to life and work I made a startling discovery. High performance can lead to some nasty side effects.


The attitude of winners

High Performing individuals have a strong desire to succeed. This desire drives our determination and attention to results. It is energy intensive and our relationship with time is stretched, we want results now. ‘Later’ is a concept that only applies to others. We make sure that we squeeze every possible minute for the potential to produce better outcomes. The pace of the working world has definitely increased – but performers struggle to wait for results, whether it is getting a new client to sign a contract or producing new marketing material for the website.

Sounds great – what’s the problem?

My findings are NOT scientifically validated but I will share them – and you can decide whether it makes sense. I have identified 3 main challenges to this approach to work:-

  1. Pace – our desire for results can ‘alienate’ us from people who prefer a slower pace. We can come across as aggressive, a trait that may cause others discomfort and lead them to say ‘no’ – just to get away from us. This negatively effects relationships with co-workers and clients.
  2. Authority – we have a tendency to justify overstepping authority to get the results we want. To us, the ends justify the means, to others it is destructive and negatively impacts their ability to trust. Trust, in the workplace, is very important for success.
  3. Energy – being ‘us’ is energy intensive. The wins are great… but when we don’t experience frequent wins we can become almost frenetic in our actions to create them. It is easy for us to become ‘addicted’ to wins and, like any addict, when there is no win, we experience withdrawal symptoms. We can even become desensitized to winning which leads us to pursue bigger and bigger goals. Our internal drive increases stress and the greater the stress, the more likely that we produce results that fall short of our expectations.

Oh Sh*t… I’m stuffed!

Not necessarily. There is no need to seek medical intervention just yet. Awareness of this dark side of performance can allow you to challenge the way you approach work and life. If you are happy to continue making these trade-offs, then there is no need to adjust your work behaviour. If, however, you feel exhausted, out of control or down in the dumps on a regular, ongoing basis… perhaps it is time to encourage a healthier approach.

 We are interested in your success stories! Please share your experiences with us, and if you found this article useful – share it with your networks.

Leadership Learning Personal Development

What if we’re wrong?

dunce kidIt starts at school. Our pathological fear of being wrong. We are taught that being wrong is embarrassing, undesirable and will get us into trouble.  We learn that being wrong is bad. Our desire to be right has some pretty nasty consequences.


What’s wrong with wrong?

Absolutely nothing! As a species we are obsessed with getting it right, seeking perfection and avoiding mistakes at all costs. This is simply not possible. I’m not advocating that we deliberately give up… I’m suggesting that being wrong about something isn’t an indication of your value or worth. It is a part of being human. The only thing wrong about being wrong is how we fear it, avoid it and punish ourselves and others for it.

Challenging assumptions that make us right

Even when we are wrong, we will justify that we are right. This introduces some assumptions that can play havoc in our lives. When people disagree with us it is natural to assume some things…  like they are ignorant; they are idiots and just can’t connect the dots; or they know the truth but disagree because they are bad. Thinking that other people are wrong, and we are right, can cause us to treat people unfairly, not to mention some indignation, irritation and unhappiness. It can also prevent us from experiencing some great learning that introduces new possibilities! Imagine your reaction if you were to realize that you were wrong about something. Now imagine that instead of beating yourself up, feeling miserable and retreating into a cocoon of isolation; that being wrong opens a door to possibilities you didn’t even know existed. That isn’t so bad, is it?

Help break the stigma of wrongness

The next time you catch yourself, or someone else, (and especially your kids) doing, thinking or lose the fear of being wrongbehaving a way that you decide is wrong – pause! Instead of trying to correct them, challenge yourself to see it from their perspective. If we work out how to separate the doing, thinking or behaviour from the person, it becomes possible to provide a learning experience for ourselves and others. This approach is only effective when we address it without anger, frustration, irritation or contempt. I invite you to try this just ONCE. Really give it a go. I’m pretty confident that you will be surprised at the results –  if not, does it matter if I’m wrong?

There is nothing wrong with trying to get it right. It drives our intention to improve, push boundaries, innovate and grow. Being right isn’t a bad thing… it’s just not the only thing. The message is that we are all going to be wrong, sooner or later, and that is ok.

If you are interested in learning more find an inspirational TedTalk video by Kathryn Schultz on being wrong in our video inspiration section. She uncovers some surprising consequences and inspires us to embrace our very human nature.

 We are interested in your success stories! Please share your experiences with us, and if you found this article useful – share it with your networks.

Leadership Personal Development

How we sabotage our own success

self sabotageWhether you ride a bicycle or a Ferrari you are able to experience success. I posed a question to the founder of the Neurobusiness Group, Dr. Srini Pillay, on whether he experienced what I perceived to be ‘the height of success’. His response was humbling, with far reaching implications.

Depth – not height – of Success

When asked whether he experiences, from my perspective, the ‘height’ of success, he responded “I don’t think success has a height – maybe an endless depth.” Once again I am struck by the power of words and meaning on our experiences in life.   All of a sudden, success becomes accessible to everyone. Think about the word height. Does it feel far away, reachable only with effort, almost like something you have to ‘do’? Now think about ‘depth’. Does this feel easier, deeper and almost like a natural consequence?

Mine your own Success

Many of us feel that success is a consequence of achievement. Very often it is measured in wealth, status and power. The very measure is enough to trigger our ‘that’s impossible’ internal dialogue, and once we believe that it is impossible – it becomes impossible. But what if we could adjust the way we measure success? What else could success look like? What else could success mean? This allows us to explore internal frames of reference for success. We are looking at how we are able to experience success, as opposed to what we have to do, to achieve it. Where we are isn’t as important as how we feel about where we are.

A little goes a long way

Dr. Pillay prescribes ‘imagining’ our way to success. Imagining strengthens our brains GPS system to navigate toward the things we want. Feel lost, stuck, blocked, empty or just ‘off track’? Harness the power of your subconscious mind to steer you where you want to go. All you have to do is uncover what you really want. It sounds simple… but it is pretty challenging. Are you clear on what you really want? Can you imagine what it will look, smell, feel, taste and sound like? If you believed that anything was possible – what would you dare to allow yourself to want? Unless you send your subconscious GPS clear signals of the destination, it is not able to direct you there.

We are all navigating an uncertain and turbulent future. We are expected to improve results under increasingly complex conditions. It is very easy, under these conditions, to lose sight of our own ability to influence our direction. Decide what success means to you and go for it!

For more information, find this Tedtalk by Dr. Srini Pillay on Wired for Success – The Science of Possibility in our collection of inspirational videos. Dr. Pillay is the founder and CEO of The NeuroBusiness Group, a part time assistant professor at Harvard and author of ; Your Brain and Business; The Science behind the Law of Attraction and  Life Unlocked.

We are interested in your success stories! Please share your experiences with us, and if you found this article useful – share it with your networks.

Leadership Personal Development

How to ‘Fail-Proof’ your life

i can i willFailure – it’s a very FINAL word. It’s demotivating, depressing and avoided at all costs. The problem is: if you aren’t failing – you aren’t trying. If you aren’t trying… what results can you really expect? I would like to invite you to look at failure in a whole new light. Imagine viewing failure as nothing more than a feedback mechanism. Imagine what you could do…. if you knew you couldn’t fail?

Find a new meaning for failure

How we feel about anything is dependent on the meaning we give it. If failure means we are useless, stupid and weak then it makes sense that we will avoid anything that could end up that way.  We naturally want to protect our self-worth. What failure really means is that we haven’t achieved the results we set out for. It means we are working on achieving something. We are stretching out of our comfort zone. We are daring to do something we aren’t certain of. How wonderful! Our self-worth is actually increased when we invite risk, try new things, push our boundaries and challenge ourselves.

Embrace ‘Not Yet’

Traditionally, failure is like saying “The End” after a story. It means there is no chance of success. You can only fail when you stop trying. If you’re still trying – you haven’t failed yet. As long as you can say ‘not yet’ it means you haven’t given up finding a way to achieve your goal. By saying ‘not yet’ we introduce potential, we encourage growth and keep the focus on moving forward.

Mix it up

A single minded approach is bound to cause trouble. When you focus on a single thing, at the expense of other interests, it is bound to be more challenging to keep positive and motivated. The brain is a connection machine – it functions best with variety. How many great breakthroughs were achieved when the individual wasn’t actively trying to solve the problem at hand? AHA moments are more likely when you aren’t trying to ‘force’ your mind to come up with a solution. Give your subconscious space to work on the issue – it is vastly more powerful than our prefrontal cortex (where conscious thinking and problem solving takes place).

Uncover Possibility

Often, when we don’t succeed at something, we learn things that end up being even more important than the original goal. Sticking at something builds resilience, tenacity and strengthens your ability to delay gratification. Delayed gratification is rated as the highest indicator of whether children will grow into successful adults. The skills you learn while TRYING are the skills you need to succeed – in every aspect of your life.

We are interested in your success stories! Please share your experiences with us, and if you found this article useful – share it with your networks.

Personal Development

Apologize like a Pro

Every single person alive has said or done something that requires an apology. Surprisingly, most of us really suck at doing this well. If you want to repair your relationships, nurture trust or take responsibility for your actions – here are some tips to apologize like a pro.

Know what you are apologizing for

Before you go ahead and accept all responsibility for everything that has gone wrong – think about the part you played in it. What, specifically, do you wish you had done differently? If you are clear about what you did your message will be clear and your apology won’t be misunderstood. This step should take the most time. Think about it. Then think about it again.

Timing is everything

When you throw your apology at someone then scamper away – it doesn’t count. Make sure they are ready and willing to talk to you. Make sure their attention isn’t on something else. Ask whether they have time to talk. By asking whether it is a good time to talk – you give them a choice. This makes them feel more ‘in control’ and is likely to make them view your apology more favorably.

Don’t defend or justify your behaviour

The quickest way to destroy an apology is to defend the thing that you are sorry about. Don’t allow excuses for your behaviour to enter your head. Don’t justify the behaviour you are apologizing for. As soon as ‘but’ comes out your mouth – you’ve lost. Keep your message short and specific. Once you’ve said your piece, listen to what they say. Listen to understand, not respond.

Define a solution

You have to apologize because you said or did something you could’ve done better. How could you clearly define the measures you will take to make sure it doesn’t happen again? This is a great trust builder – but you better follow through!

Forgiveness isn’t a ‘given’

You’ve said your bit – and the person is still angry. What then? Don’t expect forgiveness straight away. Sometimes time helps and sometimes it doesn’t. Your apology shouldn’t be dependent on trying to get someone to forgive you – it should be about ‘owning up’ to yourself, and others, about your behaviour.

You are now armed with the framework to apologize like you mean it – and make it count.

Good luck!

Personal Development

The Cinderella Complex

Bad working conditions. Sleep deprivation. Hunger. Loneliness. Hopelessness. Resignation. Cinderella is the perfect victim. If her fairy godmother didn’t pitch up in time for that ball what do you think would have happened to her? My guess is she would end up marrying the stable boy, have a couple of kids and slave away for her stepsisters till she died. The end.

But that doesn’t make a good fairytale. So we need to introduce the fairy godmother. The magical saviour who acknowledges Cinderella’s worth and rewards her for it. In the real world… who would that be? Your partner? Your boss? Friends? Family? Who knows your worth and has the ability to do something about it? What would Bill Gates, Richard Branson, Elon Musk or Marissa Mayer say? I think if you asked them they would likely have a laughing fit and then get security to escort you from the building. Trust our ‘happily ever after’ to someone else? Really?

But we do it all the time. We play it safe, avoid risk and convince ourselves that working for ugly stepsisters is just fine. This wouldn’t be a problem – if we didn’t have a vision of something different. A dream of something amazing. An idea that there is actually more for us out there.

As far as fairytales go, I would prefer to be Hansel and Gretel. They are abandoned in the woods. Happen on a cottage made of gingerbread and candy (already my dream-come-true) and get captured by the witch who wants to eat them. Do they cry? Do they shout about how unfair it all is? Do they give up and become the witches dinner? NO… they strategize, they plan… and then they toss that witch in her own oven. These are hardy little kids! These are fighters, who don’t accept the status-quo. These are individuals who make their own ‘happily ever after’… take no prisoners and fight to win.

If you want your life to be amazing, if you want to achieve your potential and make a difference… don’t wait for external influence. You have to fight for it. You have to bleed for it. You have to take that leap of faith and DO SOMETHING about it. It’s not going to be easy. No-one can do it for you. It will never just be given to you.


Personal Development

Make New Years Resolutions Stick

You’ve committed to losing weight. To getting a promotion. To changing jobs. To stop smoking. To stop procrastinating. To travel. These are just some of the many New Year Resolutions that we embrace in the spirit of new beginnings.

They are all great, positive things. They would positively impact us. So why do we lose traction after deciding to accomplish them (usually around March – and sometimes before)?

In truth, there are many reasons that contribute to losing the dedication to our goals. Life is busy – and it is always easier to do things the way we are comfortable with… because we can do it without thinking. Changing is something we have to think about, actively achieve and the process is awkward and uncomfortable. If we really want to commit – the pain of ‘not changing’ has to be so powerful that we just won’t stand for it anymore.

If you think about WHY we make resolutions, the purpose, what we would like to achieve – it is usually because we want to be happy, and believe that our resolutions will MAKE us happy. The problem with this is that we ‘delay’ potential happiness until we have reached our goals…. no wonder they don’t stick!

So how can we put these simple truths to good use?

Think of your resolutions. Ask yourself what your resolution will really accomplish if you achieve it? Keep digging until you are clear what lies underneath. Once you understand your own motivation – it is much easier to work toward achieving it. It also becomes easier to implement small wins along the way that will keep you motivated.

Our underlying beliefs definitely influence how we go about reaching our goals. Sometimes, it is more powerful to challenge beliefs than to achieve a goal. Beliefs colour our experience of life. If you would like to achieve more happiness, success and wealth it makes sense to challenge the way you look at yourself and the world.

So, investigate your goals and keep digging until you discover what you really want…. then make it happen!

Personal Development

Are you carrying an elephant?

Is this person capable of creative thinking, problem solving, strategic intervention, planning? I’d bet that the only thing on his mind, other than the tusks, is ‘put one foot in front of the other’. Imagine the effort of will, the crushing weight, the laboured breathing, the mild panic when the load shifts.

We all know not to carry elephants. The idea is preposterous. But we DO carry guilt, fear, loneliness, worry, shame, frustration and disappointment. Our emotional baggage is just as heavy and has a similar effect on our ability to think clearly, make good choices and see solutions.

If it is so ridiculous to carry an elephant, why do we carry emotional elephants? Perhaps we don’t know better, perhaps we don’t know how to put the load down without getting crushed and maybe, just maybe, we are completely oblivious to the fact that we are carrying something around that is weighing us down!

Ask yourself these questions:-

  • Do I connect easily with people?
  • Do I experience ‘happiness’ regularly, laugh often and smile daily?
  • Do I feel that things are ‘under control’?
  • Do I try new things, enjoy learning and challenging myself?

If you answered ‘YES’ to all of these questions – congratulations!! You are probably not carrying an elephant. Can you spot someone close to you that might not be as fortunate?

If you answered ‘NO’ to some or all of these questions, it is likely that you are carrying an elephant. Don’t be hard on yourself (no need to add more weight!), it is more common than you would believe! The good news is that you don’t have to keep carrying it. Just imagine what it will be like to put down that 5 ton load. Explore your emotional elephant… and let it go.

Emotional elephants are part of what makes us human but we really don’t need to carry them around.

Leadership Personal Development

Leadership and the Lord Of The Rings

My secret is out. I am a Lord of the Rings junkie.

The overcoming of seemingly insurmountable odds, the breathtaking scenery and the knowledge that nothing will ever be the same again – no matter what happens.

While watching it…. let’s say for the second time….. I came to a realization. Frodo Baggins annoyed the living daylights out of me. My hero was Sam. Sam the dull. Sam the coward who can’t find the courage to talk to the girl of his dreams but faces true terror with a tiny sword to protect his hero. Without Sam I don’t think I could face Frodo’s ‘I wish this had never happened to me’ inner turmoil.

So what about life? Self-help sections are full of books on how to be the best, on how to be a great leader and on how to be better, stronger, faster. It is easy to lose sight of one single truth. We can’t all be Frodo. So when you figure out that you are not going to be the leading character what then? What does it take to be a first rate number two?

Followers, even more so than leaders, have to believe in what they are doing. Perhaps the motivations behind their belief differ from the leader – in the end this is irrelevant. The first rate follower provides the support, dots the I’s and crosses the t’s… cooks the food, carries the heaviest pack and protects the hero – even from himself.

If you are going to be a follower – be the best follower. The leaders have to get the job done but they cannot do it alone. It takes combined effort to face challenges, overcome obstacles and pioneer change. The world is full of average people doing extraordinary things. You never hear Sam complaining that Frodo didn’t appreciate his contribution or argue that his load was just as great. Sam believes so firmly in what he is doing that he does it without question or complaint. What a great gift to any hero.

Greatness can be achieved at any level. In every role.