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?


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



Not Mr Miyagi, but Master Yamashita

“All karate is same same, you be the best!”

-Tadashi Yamashita

It can be argued that success is a relative term. How wealthy, famous or educated does one have to be in order to be successful? How many accomplishments, awards or titles must be accumulated? The answer will of course depend upon whom you ask. For some, success is measured purely in financial terms while others view success as contributions and lasting impact.

Excellence on the other hand is something different; it involves action at a high level, above the median and much more objective in nature. There are many examples of people, past and present, who have achieved and sustained excellence throughout their lives yet have had modest wealth or limited notoriety.

One example is Tadashi Yamashita. Google the name, the image and for the general public his face might be vaguely familiar but the name even less so. For the martial arts community, however, Master Yamashita is stuff of legend. He is the martial artist that young kids watch and dream of emulating.

Having had the honor of training with Tadashi Yamashita, the quote above is as fresh in my mind as it was almost thirty years ago. It summarizes his commitment to excellence in martial arts and remains a metaphor that can be carried over to any aspect of life.

Grand Master Tadashi Yamashita

Simon Sinek and Sustaining Excellence

Author and marketer, Simon Sinek, has risen to popularity from his 2009 TED Talk called, “Start With Why – How great leaders inspire action”. Listed as one of the third most viewed TED Talks of all time, it only validates what I’ve called 5 Rings of Sustaining Excellence and how it can apply to all things. To illustrate how the two strategies parallel and can be applied universally, consider this;

Most people want to live healthier, have more energy and feel good about their day, this begins with the Circle of Mental Excellence and “Starting with Why”.

Circle of Mental Excellence = Why

Why is it important to exercise regularly?

  • To control weight
  • To have more energy
  • To relieve stress

Circle of Physical Excellence = How

How to create the habit of regular exercise?

  • Wake up an hour earlier each day
  • Hike every Tuesday & Thursday
  • Drink more water

Circle of Skills Excellence = What

What new skills can or should be developed to perpetuate this? 

  • Learn Cross Fit
  • Train for a Spartan Race
  • Study Yoga

Now consider how often people within your various groups (friends, family, coworkers, etc) have inspired you or others to action by “I’ve lost 40 lbs. and I feel better than ever!” This can spark “group think” or the Circle of Team Excellence and has led to developments like the popular Spartan Races. Often it will also grow within an organization, become institutionalized and evolves into corporate wellness programs. At the outermost ring, this can be called the Circle of Organizational Excellence.

It all begins with one person, looking in the mirror and asking…Why?

The Two-Fold Way of Pen and Profession

One of the benefits of the digital age is the unprecedented volume of information and knowledge at the disposal of every person around the globe. Classic books, entire libraries and cutting edge technologies are all available by way of an internet connection, most at little or no charge. Even todays libraries provide free access to computers, internet connections as well as multimedia resources that past generations could never have imagined. Nonprofit universities like, University of The People offer an entire college education at virtually no cost.

Science and medicine continue to provide evidence that consistent brain stimulation through challenging learning can have longterm health benefits. Some studies have linked it to reducing the possibility of Alzheimer’s Disease in later years (visit the National Institute for Health & Aging for more).

History has repeatedly demonstrated that continuous learning is one of the keys to both finding and sustaining excellence. Take one of the most famous examples of the early 20th Century, Mark Twain;

  • His formal education ended at age 11, with the death of his father.
  • He subsequently self-educated in public libraries
  • He would be awarded two honorary Doctorate Degrees.
  • Mark Twain has become one of the most celebrated writers of the 20th Century.

Further example is found in The Book of Five Rings by Miyamoto Musashi. Depending upon the translated version, Musashi makes two assertions in the first few paragraphs; First that self-guided study is the key to finding and sustaining excellence. Second, the need to balance profession with continuous learning. In today’s terms, this is likely what he meant by his famous quote;

“The warrior’s way is the two-fold way of pen and sword.”

-Miyamoto Musashi

The list of examples goes on and there is further reading in the article post below. The evidence, however, is compelling and the conclusion hard to argue. In an ever polarized culture, continuous learning can be the competitive difference that today’s Ronin professional needs to thrive.

“What you love to do you will do well.” ~Japanese proverb What do Thomas Edison, Vincent Van Gogh, Maya Angelou, Bob Dylan, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, John Lennon, Steve Jobs, Jimi Hen…

Source: Self-Direction is the Key to Mastery | Creative by Nature

Mental Excellence in the Digital Age

Sustaining excellence in your personal and professional life requires energy, lots of energy. Science and medicine continues to provide evidence that maintaining a proper balance of good diet, rest, exercise and stress reduction can help maximize your energy levels. But how do we get to that balance and maintain it?

At the core of it all are the attitudes, decisions and perspectives that we focus on each and every day. Deciding to eat right or exercise regularly are decisions we make and those are a result of the regular communication that we have with ourselves. I call that, The Circle of Mental Excellence.

I’ve spent the last ten years researching people of note, throughout history, from Roman emperors like Hadrian to Benjamin Franklin to Steve Jobs. The common denominator in each one is that they all have a set of principles or guiding mantra to keep mentally aligned on a day-to-day basis. Much like the Samurai of Japan or Knights Templar, they have what I call a Personal Code.

Theodore Roosevelt for example was very vocal about his “Doctrine of a strenuous life”. He truly believed that physical and mental adversity not only tests ones character but is essential to building it. Benjamin Franklin had is principles of frugality and initiative. Steve Jobs believed in creating things that were both artful and useful. These people were not perfect, in fact these principles likely rose from each of them to offset significant internal conflicts. Those personal codes, however, became an internal compass that allowed them to find their True North under the toughest conditions.



Mental health, if not addressed, can have debilitating side effects — some of which may be detrimental to your business.

Source: Managing Your Mental Health as an Entrepreneur

“Perceive and understand that which is not visible from the outside.”
-Miyamoto Musashi

A Business Professor’s Fitness Secret: Qigong – WSJ

One of the biggest challenges for Western professionals is cultivating the ability to ‘disconnect’, even just temporarily, from the demands of work and life. The unwritten rule is that you must be, ‘always on’ or ‘always connected’. In the early days of mobile devices, one colleague would refer to this as the “Crackberry” addiction…as in never being able to put her Blackberry down.

But even clinical, Western research has now confirmed that not only is this unhealthy, it’s bad business. Like a battery that gets overworked and runs out of energy quickly, so too can the human body and the psyche do the same. Results? You become less productive at work and more prone to poor judgement.

Traditional exercise is great, however it’s more difficult to slow your mind down and regain a sense of mental balance during intense exercise. You’re typically way too focused on the exercise activity. On the flip side, the idea of meditation in the classical sense is can be foreign and uncomfortable. Some people simply aren’t ready to sit still with just their thoughts for 30-60 minutes.

In between are what I’ve referred to for years as, Meditation-In-Motion activities. These are physical activities where you are forced to slow down although there may be physical movement. It’s physical and mental fitness at the same time. These types of activities may include:

  • Walking
  • Hiking
  • Swimming
  • Yoga
  • Qigong
  • Tai Chi

The key to effectiveness is leaving technology behind for even an hour. Forget your cell phone, your FitBit, your social media posts and just relax.

“At the University of Michigan or on the road, a negotiation expert uses the Chinese practice as the linchpin of his routine.”

Source: A Business Professor’s Fitness Secret: Qigong – WSJ

13 Things You Should Give Up If You Want To Be Successful


The fundamental idea behind ENMEI is that there are five essential cycles or ‘rings’ that drive long-term excellence. I suggest that there is a specific order in which these cycles must be repeatedly revisited. Like the planets in our solar system, the orbit and movement of each planet is critical to maintaining a balance for the whole.

At the core of the ENMEI solar system are the circles of mental/physical excellence. Part of the cyclical process often involves the shedding of toxic mental & physical elements. Or in the words of Miyamoto Musashi,

Below is a good post from about shedding useless acts.

”Somebody once told me the definition of hell: “On your last day on earth, the person you became will meet the person you could have become.” —

Source: 13 Things You Should Give Up If You Want To Be Successful

This Personality Trait Can Lessen Your Stress and Anxiety |

People have often asked me, “What do you mean by Mental Excellence in this strategy of yours?” It’s a valid and in fact key question as the mental excellence component precedes all else in the sustained excellence formula. You can’t create lasting culture, develop effective teams or manage others if you can’t manage yourself first and mental excellence is the first step to managing yourself.


Mental excellence has to do with reconciling with the person in the mirror on a daily basis. It’s the attitudes, decisions, principles and belief systems which you use to communicate with yourself and shape your daily behaviors. For example if you make the decision to justify eating junk food every day, it’s guaranteed to effect your physical energy levels and therefore your productivity. It’s also likely to impact back to your mental well being since when you don’t feel good physically it tends to put you into a negative mental state. So there is both a forward and a backward ripple effect.

Additionally, the core principles which make up your mindset play a significant role in how you navigate your personal and professional life. Principles are different in kind and function from say morals or ethics. Whereas morals and ethics govern a persons actions, principles govern the consequences of those actions. Principles function independently, like natural laws such as gravity. So choosing to step out of a 5th story window may be a moral question. What happens once one steps out of that window  is subject to the laws of gravity, consequentially there is no turning back.

Some people manage to sustain excellence throughout their lives, often despite tragic obstacles and personal short comings. One common denominator in those people is a core set of principles from which they relentlessly operate. I often use the term, “personal code” to refer to these sets of principles. Theodore Roosevelt for example believed in the value of “Living the strenuous life”. That principle was part of his personal code.

Some traits can double as both principle and virtue, such as Humility. Below is a good post from on how to develop humility and some of the productive consequences.

Humility frees you of unnecessary attachments. Here’s how to develop it.

Source: This Personality Trait Can Lessen Your Stress and Anxiety |

What Makes a Good Life? Lessons from the Longest Study on Happiness | Robert Waldinger | TED Talks – YouTube

At the heart of the Five Rings of Sustaining Excellence formula lies the two initial rings of self-management; Mental Excellence and Physical Excellence. Mental excellence being the activities that drive self-awareness, self-image and the idea that true change begins in the mirror. Physical excellence revolves around management of body and energy levels through a balance of the traditional four; Diet, Rest, Exercise and Stress Management.

Studies like the 75 year Harvard study below have provided significant evidence that there is an additional category, critical for sustaining both mental as well as physical excellence…Social connection.

The challenge in an age of connection through devices, screens and key boards is setting them down and reconnecting, face to face, with real people in real settings  with sincerity and an open mind.