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?

Source:www.lynnecazaly.com

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.

 

dress-fdn-protocol

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 LinkedIn.com 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 | Inc.com

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.

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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 Inc.com 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 | Inc.com

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.

24 Daily Habits That Will Boost Your Intelligence -Musashi would be proud

One of the core themes behind the writings of Miyamoto Musashi and what he refers to as Strategy, is the idea that;

“Before you can manage and lead others, you must be able to manage and lead yourself.”

weston-brain

In a Business Insider post, forwarded by Inc. Magazine, columnist Skye Gould created an info graphic with several great specifics on this self-management principle. The article focuses on broadening your mental horizons but the habits mentioned have far greater implications in terms of overall well-being and the capacity for leadership. Some are perhaps a bit of a stretch but there are a few that are at the heart of the Five Rings of Sustaining Excellence;

  1. Diet, rest, exercise and stress release as a means to increase mental alertness(as reflected in numbers; 22, 23 & 24)
  2. Engage in creative, “right brain” activities (Musashi talks directly about “studying the arts” in his Nine Rules)
  3. Study other professions, engage in activities outside of your comfort zone – engaging new people, new ideas, new fears can expand your horizons and create new opportunities.

Check out the link below for more

Can changing up your daily routine actually enhance your intelligence?

Source: 24 Daily Habits That Will Boost Your Intelligence

That Which Does Not Bend

“When a tree branch grows brittle, it easily snaps, whether long or little. An inflexible army seals its own fate.”             -Tao Te Ching, Verse 76

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Marcus Aurelius

He reluctantly inherited an empire in chaos when his brother died and left him sole leader of Rome. Tempering action with philosophy and a belief in the discipline of duty, he stabilized a land racked with plague and warfare. History would define him not only as one of the great emperors of Rome, but among the great Western philosophers.

George Washington

At one point he struggled with financial debt. He would lose more battles in the American Revolution than he would win. He came close to being fired as commander of the revolutionary armies. Yet his ability to hold himself and those around him up amidst adversity would allow him to find eventual victory and freedom for a nation.

Mark Twain

He would be forced to work and educate himself in public libraries after his father died at age 11. He would fail at every business venture and be forced to work his way out of bankruptcy. He would battle personal demons most of his life. Yet his ability to find humor in it all and to direct it into written and spoken word would place him among the literary geniuses of the 20th Century.

Franklin D Roosevelt

He would be stricken with polio in his youth and suffer from it throughout his life. He would become president of the United States during the countries worst depression. He would become leader of a nation during a world at war. Yet his ability to smile, focus on action and solutions would allow him to help create alliances to bring the world back to peace and prosperity.

Miyamoto Musashi

He would be born into violent and turbulent times. He would have to duel to the death, 60 times by the age of 30. He would have to fight in six major military battles. Yet he had the intuition to understand that the ability to fight alone was not enough for a changing world. His written paradigm of strategy in all things continues to be studied to this day.

History has proven that strategic toughness is better than either toughness or strategy by itself. The idea of resilience lies in the ability to bend past the weight of adversity yet remain rooted and upright once the storm has inevitably passed.

 

The Virtual MBA

It’s been close to seventeen years now since I first heard the term Virtual MBA used in business. The company I was working for at the time (a Fortune 500 company with over $12 billion/year revenues as of 2009) used the term to describe their training curriculum for newly hired employees, recruited almost entirely from local colleges and universities. The idea was a clearly defined and institutionalized methodology for developing a practical set of business skills that every employee and naturally the company could benefit from.

These were the, “things they didn’t teach you in college” skill sets for business. They were the skill sets that could be universally applied to almost any business endeavor and which included an intangible component, mindset. It was a practical and holistic business philosophy that drove the symbiosis between customer service, marketing, employee development and ultimately profitability.

None of those practical skill sets were new and there is some historical debate among executives at several companies as to which was first to create a ‘curriculum’ of sorts for their employees. The fact remains that this organization was among the first to practice what they preached and market this “Virtual MBA” as what differentiated them from other companies. It worked and it worked well because over the last three decades the companies ‘Management Trainee Program’ has earned a reputation for producing shrewd, well-rounded business professionals.

Since then I’ve continued to define, refine and expand upon this theme drawing from other organizations and leaders who have continued to sustain excellence even through the economic challenges of the latest recession. Putting the fundamentals into a brief and general overview presentation, I’ve shared this Virtual MBA concept with CEO’s, executives and professionals in a variety of industries across the country. Over the last few years it’s been interesting to observe the interactions with those professionals on the topic. Many have asked my permission to ‘pirate’ my material, keep a copy and/or use what they perceived as my ideas. Professional colleagues, friends and even a few family members have had me help craft the platform for their business reviews as well as VP level job interviews, in which they won out over their competition.

Ironically, there is nothing proprietary in the platform, no secret sauce. Its all just practical business skills, practical business philosophy and some common sense aggregated into an easy to digest set of fundamentals. So I’ve decided to publish a very generic version of this overview here and allow any and all professionals access to these best practices. Additionally, feel free to reach out to me for questions and/or comments on the material in the overview.

 Virtual MBA

Click on the link above to view the entire overview.
Click on the link above to view the entire overview.

Later this month, Jack Welch’s new book, The Real Life MBA becomes available to the general pubic. I have not read it yet but it will be interesting to see how many parallels there are between that book and this concept of the Virtual MBA.