This probably doesn’t apply to you

Or does it? When was the last time that you took a quiet, introspective look in the mirror and assessed your willingness to be open to new ideas? How often do you welcome discussion with those whose opinions differ greatly from yours? Is your, “open door policy” sincere or merely lip service to keep the masses from revolting? Has the fear of being wrong or making a mistake narrowed your vision?

Ironically, the topic of overconfidence and arrogance in our culture continues to only quietly appear and disappear and has done so for almost two decades. Most recently, the Harvard Business Review article below cites overconfidence as a prime factor of ineffective decision-making. Further, if you Google Search the topic, “overconfidence caused the economic crisis” there are over 300,000 articles pertaining to the idea that the last global recession was a direct result of overconfidence amongst professionals and the financial sector in particular.

Source: 3 Ways to Improve Your Decision Making

Discussion about overconfidence is not new, however. It’s from the ancient Greeks that we get the term, Hubris and combines both overconfidence and arrogance. They obviously had similar issues in their time as this was often a central theme to their literature. In between ancient Greece and today, many have also written on the dangers of overconfidence. Some of those include:

Jim Collins, in his 2001 book, “Good To Great” discusses what he calls Level 5 Leadership being a combination of humility (in other words, a lack of Hubris) and an indomitable spirit. 

The late John Wooden in his 2005 book, “Wooden On Leadership” famously states

“It’s what you learn, after you know it all, that really counts.”

In the “Little Red Book Of Selling” also published in 2005, author Jeffrey Gitomer outlines his sales maxims including, “Resign your position as general manager of the universe”. So essentially, get over the title on your business card. 

Yet with all of this history, how often do you hear organizations, CEOs, leaders or experts of late warning of the dangers of overconfidence? Arguably, it’s becoming more and more of a rarity and there are at least two plausible explanations for this. First is the idea that our culture is becoming increasingly risk averse. Making a mistake is no longer an option and admitting a mistake is often seen as career ending for many professionals. Hence overconfidence has become the default defense mechanism. Judgement errors are for “other people” and admitting that one may need help or solicit the feedback of others is seen as a weakness. 

Second are the by products of the digital age. Technology, the internet and social media in particular have made it possible for anyone to become a self-proclaimed expert or celebrity. Now more than ever, our culture sees popularity and the”number of likes” as some fundamental measure of societal contribution. This digital narcissism has spawned a new version of overconfidence that has spilled over into the real world. 

How to avoid overconfidence?

In researching people, over the last decade, there are some common denominators in those who have thrived, been effective and found excellence both in the past as well as the present. First is cultivating the ability of introspection. Simply put, this is the practice of looking within and examining personal behaviors both openly and critically. Many of found excellence through looking  at themselves both figuratively and literally in the mirror and asking the tough questions; “Am I being overconfident?”, “What could I be doing differently?”, “Am I soliciting input from others?”. 

Second is having a set guiding principles that include keeping overconfidence in check and creating a sense of personal responsibility to self-regulate. I’ve often called this the, “Personal Code” and it can include specific commitments such as;

  • Giving back to the community
  • Soliciting feedback from peers on a regular basis
  • Seeking out mentors or being one to someone in need
  • Reading some form of wisdom literature often
  • And of course, being introspective

How will you keep overconfidence in check in 2018?


What will you read in 2018?

In 2012, a business associate proclaimed to me that, “print is dead” as she carried on in her predictions about the coming all digital age of media and advertising. Yet today there are more physical books in print than in any time in human history. Printed books have actually grown in volume since those proclamations. Jonathan Segura writes, “Despite a less-than-ideal environment—no breakout bestsellers on the adult fiction side and a lengthy, brutal election cycle that sucked nearly all of the air out of the cultural conversation—unit sales of print books were up 3.3% in 2016 over 2015. Total print unit sales hit 674 million, marking the third-straight year of growth, according to Nielsen BookScan, which tracks about 80% of print sales in the U.S.” (Segura 2017). Some estimates state that there were 2.7 Billion books printed in the US in 2016. So it seems that print is not quite dead yet.

In studying people of excellence over the last decade, one of the most recurring themes was the idea of continuous learning and in particular reading across a broad spectrum of interests. Research is showing that physical reading stimulates that brain in ways that other activities cannot and some are beginning to correlate this with reducing risk of disease later in life, such as Alzheimer’s. Consider just a few people throughout history:

  • Benjamin Franklin was said to have self-educated through reading
  • Mark Twain self-educated in public libraries, after age 11. He would go on to earn two honorary Doctorate Degrees
  • Theodore Roosevelt was said to have read a book a day
  • Bill Gates reportedly reads 50 books per year

In the “Book of Five Rings”, the legendary Samurai, Miyamoto Musashi once wrote that fundamental elements of excellence included:

“Take an interest in many arts”


“Know the ways of all professions”

It seems that one of the best ways to expand your knowledge and be exposed to new ideas is still to read across a variety of topics.

So what will you read in 2018??

Source: Bryan’s Year in Books | Goodreads


Segura, J. (2017) Print book sales rose again in 2016


The Circle of Mental Excellence – Self-Management

Recently, my organization asked all leadership to read and analyze the book, “Achieve with Accountability”, by Mike Evans. It’s a short and insightful reminder that builds off of the works of the late Dr. Stephen Covey. The essential premise is that we are all, response “able”…that is, responsible for self management. The idea that there is a space between stimulus and response in which we have a choice. In other words, the idea of leadership, management and responsibility all begin in the mirror. Coincidently I recently interviewed a top leader in the Southern Arizona are who stated,

“I’d say that the most critical element in life and business is the ability to look at yourself in the mirror, each day and ask the tough questions.”

Achieve with Accountability, by Mike Evans

This concept, however, is not new. In researching ‘people of excellence’ over the last decade this idea of self-management, introspection and personal accountability appears again and again. In fact, I suggest that this is at the heart of what I’ve called the “Circle of Mental Excellence”.

Several centuries before Evans and Covey, Miyamoto Musashi eluded to this same concept in his, “Book of Five Rings”. For him, having a strategy as a warrior, in life or in business included this daily self-management. Often interpreted by the phrases below, I suggest that it goes much deeper than looking within. The path of excellence or ‘the way’ as Musashi puts it involves both having a strategy as well as daily execution. The discipline to execute daily must come from that person in the mirror.



Lastly, the idea of teams, organizations and cultures begin with this process. This is why the “Circles of Excellence” begin with the individual and work there way out, like the rings of tree growth or the development of our solar system relies on the sun and what happens in its core. Over twenty years of management and leading others, I’ve often summarized this in these maxims;

“Lead and manage yourself, so others will not have to come in and manage for you”

“You will only be able to lead and manage others as effectively as you manage and lead yourself”




The 5 Elements of Every Organization

At some level, every organization, whether a for-profit business, not for profit and even governmental organizations all have a variant of these five elements. They may use different terminologies, philosophies and vary with regards to when these elements become most relevant. They are there nonetheless….and how they work together determines the long-term effectiveness of an organization.

  • Sales
  • Service
  • Operations
  • Profitability
  • Employee Development

“Sales closes the first deal and operations closes the next ten, or doesn’t”

“You must study this in great detail” -Miyamoto Musashi




Be Great, in your own way


When it’s better to be 2nd, than Wright

And that’s Wright as in The Wright Brothers. Wilbur and Orville Wright have been credited by history for being the first in controlled, powered flight as well as first to bring their planes to market for sale. There were naturally many other inventors and tinkerers fighting with them for the prestigious title and the Wrights fought relentlessly to the first position. But is being first always best?

First flight of the Wright Flyer I, December 17, 1903, Orville piloting. By John T. Daniels [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
In his book, Originals, Adam Grant argues that coming in second if often more advantageous than being in first. Being second allows for stepping back and seeing the accomplishment from an objective view whereas the first place winner can often get caught up or overly preoccupied in the winners circle. This preoccupation can lead to narrowed thinking, not learning from mistakes or a lack of desire to continue to innovate. This is precisely how it played out for the Wright Brothers.

The Wrights, preoccupied with protecting their distinction, would go on to spend many years embroiled in law suits over patents much to the detriment of their health and company. They refused to look at better ways of building an airplane. Their “wing warping” design, although original, was rudimentary and less effective. Their stubbornness would result in the first aerial fatality in 1908 and cost them a successful partnership with the US military.

The Wright’s second place archrival, Glenn Curtiss, saw the advantage of being second. Although he spent years fighting off the legal pursuits of the Wright Brothers, his real focus was on building better, then best aircraft. He did and landed many large contracts during WWI and WWII. His aircraft became some of the most popular of the early 20th Century. He eventually sold his stake in the company for a hansom profit and later formed 18 other companies throughout his lifetime. In an ironic twist of fate, the Curtis Company would end up acquiring the Wright’s company in 1929 to form the Curtiss –Wright Company.

“Learn to see the advantages and disadvantages of each thing” 

-Miyamoto Musashi



Victory over yourself

In other words, if you want to manage and lead others, you must first be able to manage and lead yourself in a comprehensive way. Perhaps you have no desire to manage or lead anyone and that’s ok. Self-management is the best way to avoid having others step in and manage in ways that you may not favor.



What is your IKIGAI?

According to the Wikipedia definition, “The term ikigai compounds two Japanese words: iki (wikt:生き) meaning “life; alive” and kai (甲斐) “(an) effect; (a) result; (a) fruit; (a) worth; (a) use; (a) benefit; (no, little) avail” (sequentially voicedas gai) “a reason for living [being alive]; a meaning for [to] life; what [something that] makes life worth living; a raison d’etre.”

In people who have managed to find and sustain excellence throughout their lives, this concept of Ikigai repeatedly comes up as a common denominator. For some it can be as simple as family and children while others will have a more complex definition.

Socrates, for example, famously said that “An unexamined life is not worth living”. Albert Einstein often made references to his curiosity about the universe as his biggest personal drive.

Ikigai, like excellence, can be found by anyone…So what is your IKIGAI?



Sources: Wikipedia: Ikigai (Retrieved 2017)









The Circle of Physical Excellence

The concept of Mindfulness is very rapidly becoming a new buzzword amongst business and organizational development leaders. In an age of ever-increasing information overload and diminishing returns in productivity, more and more professionals are seeking new ways to increase both energy and focus. With the aid of modern scientific and medical research, many have discovered that these concepts are in fact far more than esoteric feel-good techniques.

Additionally, thanks to the work of leaders like Dan Buettner with Blue Zones and his book Thrive, the age-old idea that longevity is a balanced strategy has begun to wed itself to the business world.

Latest amongst the new buzzwords, Harvard Business Review adds their own term…Self-care into the mix in the article below.

Source: 6 Ways to Weave Self-Care into Your Workday

All of this can be summarized under the “Circle of Physical Excellence”


Ulysses on Excellence

  • He had little interest in going to West Point. Yet he became one of the most influential figures of the American Civil War
  • He had frequent attacks on his character, like the myth that he was an alcoholic. Yet he never wavered in his resolve
  • He was a mild-mannered, perhaps even introverted man. Yet his leadership inspired both sides of a torn nation
  • He had no interest in politics. Yet he rose to the call of President of United States when his nation needed him

Ulysses Hyriam Grant serves as a great example of an ordinary man who found excellence and remained committed to it throughout his life. As a result, he was well positioned when the circumstances of history knocked at his door. Like all people who have found excellence, he had a personal code of sorts that he lived by and influenced his every action.