Small Steps

by John Spence on July 7, 2012 · 8 comments

I love the idea of small steps. Consistent small steps in the right direction are a sure way to create a happy, joyful and successful life and career. And the great thing is; if you make a small mis-step – and step off the path, it is only a small step in the right direction to get back in step.

I will use myself as an example. I am trying to lose some weight – well, a lot of weight – actually I am trying to lose 100 pounds. For just over a year I have been making small, continuous positive steps in that direction – and I am now stepping at about 77 pounds lighter. But if I do have a bad day and simply cannot resist the french fries – I have only missed a single step – I can get back in step at the very next meal.

Another example: I just read a statistic that stated that 42% of college graduates do not read a single “educational / self help” book after they graduate from college – not a single one!!!  If you were to take the small step of reading just one self-improvement book every two months (6 books a year) – you would be in the top 1% in America for self-learning. If you were to read one book a month (12 a year) you would be in the top 1% in the world for self-learning. So here is my suggestion for a small step you should take… dedicate one hour a day to reading a book that will help you improve your life or your career and you will look up in five years and be in a much, much better position. I promise!

by John Spence

False Courage

by John Spence on June 7, 2012 · 4 comments

As I look around the world today I see a lot of very courageous leaders. They have the courage of their convictions. They have the courage to stand their ground in support of their positions, even in the face of great resistance. They have the courage to take enormous risks, with truly global ramifications, on behalf of their beliefs. Yes, it takes an enormous amount of courage to do these sorts of things, but I would argue it is actually a weaker version of courage…a false courage.

Today, more than any other time in my life, I am witnessing leaders who strive to act "courageously" by exhibiting firmness, resolve, and near total inflexibility in their unrelenting drive to establish their cause, their opinion and their agenda… as the right agenda. Frankly, it actually takes very little courage to say: "I am right and you are wrong." It gives people a strong sense of comfort to know with certainty that their point of view is correct, and that anyone who does not agree with them is in error. But the stark truth is that it does not take courage to refuse to yield your point of view in the face of massive opposition… it takes the greatest courage to admit that you might be wrong.

Although I am a great fan of heroic courage and know that in many situations that is exactly what is called for, what I believe we need from our leaders right now is the ability to show an even more powerful level of courage… the courage of vulnerability. The courage to say, "I don't know," or "I need help" or even "you may be right, I might have made a bad assumption on and be wrong about this."

All of us have been in situation where we have vehemently insisted that we were absolutely right, only to realize about halfway through the argument that we were probably – or even definitely – wrong. But what do you do? Do you throw up your hands and immediately admit that you were completely off-base, mistaken, misinformed…wrong? Hell no, you dig in your heals and fight five times harder to prove beyond a shadow of ANY doubt that you are unequivocally right!!! Even though you know you're wrong.

Well, I think we have an awful lot of that going on in our country right now (and the rest of the world too). In the political system, the financial system, the education system, the health care system, and even in the free enterprise system itself. Let's face it, there are a multitude of things that are very broken right now – there is absolutely no arguing about that. However, it seems to me that a lot of people, some very influential and important people, have staked out positions that are verging on completely irrational and yet refuse to show any "weakness" (or vulnerability) in admitting that they might be even slightly mistaken.

What I am suggesting in this post is that our Nation's leaders (all leaders) need to show more of the incredibly challenging "courage" of expressing real vulnerability. Admit when you don't know the answer and ask for help. Admit that you're not Superman or Superwoman and you can't do it all. Admit that you are confused, in over your heard, overwhelmed or that you might even be… wrong. Admit that the most important thing right now is to think long-term, work together, ask for help and fix things – not to be "courageous" in the defense of your position and proving that you are "right". Throw the positions out the window and work for progress. Dump the false pride and get to work on solutions. Our country needs some real leadership right now, some truly courageous leadership, courageous enough to put aside petty fighting, political posturing, rigid ideology and finger-pointing…and tackle some of the biggest problems our country has ever faced.

***Oh, by the way, I would like to state clearly for the record: I do not have the solution to these problems! I don't know what to do to fix them! I am very, very, very confused!!! I need a lot of help – we all do – we all need as much help as we can give each other and we can get from each other. Things are tough right now – we could all use a few more friends and supporters. I have no idea how to get us out of this mess – but I absolutely want to do everything I humanly can to be a part of the solution – and I hope you do too!!

by John Spence

To awaken to your greatness in your career, you must love what you do…truly love it. You must see it as a craft… as an art… and yourself as an artist. This is the way to greatness!

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by John Spence

Connecting The Dots

by John Spence on April 7, 2012 · 8 comments

Several years ago I read a book called the Cambridge Handbook of Expertise and Expert Performance. To summarize this and credibly weighty tome, it basically said that to become world-class at anything you need the 4P's.

Passion: if you don't really love what you're doing, there is no way you will ever become an expert at it.

Persistence: as Malcolm Gladwell pointed out in his book Outliers it takes about 10 years or 10,000 hours to master a skill or specific area of knowledge.

Practice: but the key here is to do "deliberate practice," which means that every practice session is a little bit more challenging than the last, constantly pushing you to improve and grow.

Pattern Recognition: once you invest 10 years or 10,000 hours in something that you are deeply passionate about and consistently push yourself to improve through deliberate practice… You realize that you have discovered how to "connect the dots" and understand your area of focus at the level far beyond others. This is how the chess grandmaster "sees down board," were great actually see the entire field of play and anticipate their opponents next moves, or how a virtuoso musician can simply look at a piece of music and begin to play it immediately… they see the pattern.

The more I studied this topic, by many different authors and experts, the idea of pattern recognition kept coming up over and over again – there was a pattern around pattern recognition! The interesting thing though is that most often the things that allow a person to connect the dots are the unique, different, surprising and interesting things you find… when you get off the beaten path. When you read a book on a topic you would normally never study, watch a movie on something that you know little about, or go to a museum look at paintings in style that doesn't necessarily fit your normal pattern for the type of art you typically like to look at.

Don't get me wrong, routine can be very good, it is comfortable, it is predictable, it is safe… but routine often creates a rut – the absolute epitome of a beaten path!

So if you want to make new discoveries in your life, find new ways to see things, new perspectives on some of your thorniest problems – then push yourself way out of your comfort zone, far, far off the beaten path… and as if by magic the dots will begin to connect.

by John Spence

Show Some Real Courage

by John Spence

For the past few months I have been working on a new book I am writing on the key characteristics of effective leaders in today’s new business world. As one might expect, COURAGE is one of the attributes that many people look for in a leader they would willingly follow. It seems reasonable that people […]

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Live A Life Of Love

by John Spence

I am giving a speech in a few days at the TEDx event at the University of Florida and they have asked me to talk about “The MOST Important Thing I Have Ever Learned.” I plan to share three key ideas with the 1,600 or so attendees… 1. You become what you focus on and […]

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What Is Excellence To You?

by John Spence

Several years ago a client asked me to deliver a speech on “The Essence of Excellence.” I won’t drag you through the entire process, but I spent weeks re-reading books from my library, calling CEOs and college/university Presidents and asking everyone I could get to talk to: What is excellence to you? In the end […]

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What Should You Give?

by John Spence

A Damn: “Life is a daring adventure – or nothing at all” ~ Helen Keller   Help: to anyone you can offer it to.   LOVE: to yourself first… then to as many others as possible – you have an endless supply!   Respect: because EVERYONE is worthy of it.   Hugs: as long as […]

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I Vote For Overconsumption

by John Spence

  My post this month will likely be different than the other authors here at Jungle of Life, because I am going to be a champion for massive overconsumption!! That’s right, I am going to encourage you to be a glutton, a pig, an absolute and total overconsumption freak for… learning. If you were to […]

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How To Deal Effectively With Change

by John Spence

Right now many of us are faced with massive amounts of change in our careers. Layoffs, downsizing, off-shoring, reductions, budget cuts… It can be overwhelming. Although there are many factors that go into dealing well with change, I’d like to focus on two specific issues that I feel have the biggest impact in a person’s […]

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