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What We Can Learn from the Olympics about Life and Leadership

With the Olympics underway­­­—with all the competition, drama, and intrigue—what can we learn from them not only about excellence and teamwork but also about life and leadership? Sure we admire the grueling physical feats and the mental preparation. The years of punishing practices, discipline, focus, and skill-building that go into the nine-second sprint, the epic overtime soccer match, or the attempt to shatter records. Part of what’s great about the Olympics is the quest for excellence—and the occasional flash of it that electrifies the world. “Excellent” is one of the three components of our “triple crown leadership” model (the others

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The Mental Prisons We Build for Ourselves

“Our life is what our thoughts make it.” –Marcus Aurelius, Meditations Though we like to think of ourselves as free, many of us are confined to a mental prison we’ve built for ourselves. Our most vicious jailer is our unhealthy “self-talk”—our inner critic that savagely sabotages us with haunting doubts and harsh judgments. We’re our own worst enemy. We’re a prisoner of our “monkey mind”—feeling unsettled or restless and easily distracted by thoughts that bounce around like agitated apes. Often, we’re dwelling on the past or worrying about the future—always neglecting the present moment. Most of our mental prisons are

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Do You Have Margin in Your Life?

Many of us are always “on” these days, running from task to task. Never-ending demands. Frenetic pace. We fill every available moment with activity or scrolling through our digital feeds. Young hustlers making it happen. Working parents managing the household. Climbing the corporate ladder or growing our small business or nonprofit.  Perpetual busyness. It feels heavy always going at this pace. We get exhausted. The problem: We don’t have enough margin in our lives. It’s not common to talk and think in terms of margin in our lives. But it’s needed now more than ever. A margin is the border

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The Trap of Deferring Dreams and Postponing Happiness

One of the most common—and costly—traps of living is the trap of deferring dreams and postponing happiness. We do it, we tell ourselves, because it’s not practical or “the right time.” So what happens in the meantime? We endure work without enjoying it. We suffer through the days. We become resigned to the dysfunctions of our work, and habituated to its anxiety and stress. We sacrifice health, family, and dreams for the job. We neglect precious relationships with family and friends with the rationalization that we’ll make up for it later. We wait. Hmmm…. Waiting for that “Perfect Time” “People

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The Trap of Caring Too Much about What Other People Think

We humans are social animals. We’re wired to think about our role in the group and about how others think of us. It matters in our families, friendships, and work relationships. We can’t survive and thrive without tending to these relationships. But there’s also a big trap here. The problem is when we’re so influenced by what others think—or, to be precise, what we think others will think—that it causes us to make choices that won’t serve us well over time. We avoid the short-term pain of a possible loss in status in exchange for the long-term loss of missing

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Tired of Settling? How to Light Your Life and Work on Fire

Settling for “good enough” instead of what you really want? Getting comfortable with the ordinary? Letting others treat you poorly? Suffering through a poor work situation? Tired of working with people who don’t want to excel or don’t share your values? Playing small, even though you know there’s something bigger possible for you? Time out. This is your life. Your one and only life, with an uncertain duration and no guarantees. Time to take it back. “There is no passion to be found playing small—in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living.”

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The Problem of Going It Alone

One of the silver linings of this ruthless pandemic has been what it has reminded us about our longing for relationship, for connection, for human touch. What was suddenly stolen was dearly missed and now cherished. Close connection with family and friends and a sense of belonging are the most important building blocks of a life well lived. Yet today we have forces driving us apart. One is a culture of excessive individualism and egocentric living, a sense that life is all about us. It’s the trap of being self-absorbed and caught up in our own stuff, without focusing on

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Feeling Behind? It May Be a Trap

Feeling behind? Have an anxious feeling that others are racing ahead while you’re lagging? This is more common than we think: Feeling behind in school Feeling behind in knowing what we want to major in, or do with our lives Feeling behind in internship or job searches Feeling behind in the prestige of the jobs we take or the organizations we work for, or how quickly we’re climbing the ladder At the heart of it for many is a pressure to prove something, and needless suffering caused by social comparison and status anxiety. It’s a toxic combination of what author

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Choice Overload and Career Transitions

We all face transitions in life and work. The transition from school to work. From one job or career to another. To marriage and family. To a new home. To midlife. To retirement. So we need to get good at transitions. And that depends on getting good at making choices. Like: What’s next? Sometimes we get bogged down in choice overload. Psychologist Barry Schwartz calls it the “paradox of choice.” He argues that the freedom to choose is one of the main roots of unhappiness today. Choice overload leads to anxiety and “analysis paralysis,” in which we become frozen in

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Back to Normal? Not So Fast

In fortunate parts of the world, there’s a palpable sense of relief and celebration as life begins to get back to normal after a brutal pandemic year. In some quarters, there’s jubilation—and rightly so after so many shocks to so many for so long. And of course the pandemic rages on, with so many people suffering, struggling, recovering, mourning, and more. But back to normal? Not so fast. We sense, beneath the surface, that this is an opportunity to revisit and reinvent. Surely there are some things we just want to bring back—things we missed. But we should be wary

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Tips for New Graduates on Life, Work, and Making Big Decisions

With graduation season upon us, new graduates have much to celebrate after navigating a brutal year. Now they face a big transition from school to work (or further school, or gap year, or other pursuits). Here are tips to help them craft their life and work–and make big decisions that will serve them well. Your work now is to find your work. Don’t commit prematurely to the first path you walk. Don’t over-invest in or over-identify with a professional area without having pressure-tested the reality of it against your initial conception of it. Don’t satisfice. Create an intentional process for

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The Comparison Trap

We all fall into traps in life. One of the most common is the comparison trap: constantly comparing ourselves to others and judging our worth by how we stack up—mostly on things that are superficial and unimportant: Where do I live? What do I drive? How much do I make? Where do I fall in the social hierarchy? According to researchers, this kind of comparative thinking is common: “…the urge to make comparisons is strong. Our research has found that more than 10% of daily thoughts involved making a comparison of some kind.” -Dr. Amy Summerville, “Is Comparison Really the

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The Urgency of Sustainable Leadership—and the Promise of Social Entrepreneurship

On this Earth Day, we honor our planet and recognize the importance of climate action and environmental stewardship. We acknowledge our interdependence—and the gravity of the stakes if we fail to meet the moment. What is the role of business in this epic challenge? Of leaders and entrepreneurs? Of all of us? The Role of Business Business leaders of course must address cash, profits, and growth as they manage their venture’s financial health amidst market pressures. Thankfully, there are not just costs associated with environmental stewardship but real opportunities. “For far-sighted companies, the environment may turn out to be the

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Are You Drifting through Life?

“Let us consider the way in which we spend our lives.” -Henry David Thoreau How did I get here? Is this what I wanted for my life? Is this what I chose? Life can be messy. Many of us go long stretches of our lives on autopilot. We sleepwalk through our days. “It is remarkable how easily and insensibly we fall into a particular route, and make a beaten-track for ourselves.” -Henry David Thoreau One of the common traps of living is drifting: getting carried along by the current of outside influences, without traction on our deeper aims. At some

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Why Conflict Is Good–And How to Manage It

Most people avoid conflict. Why? There are many reasons, with fear at the heart of them all: Fear of tension Fear of hurting others Fear of rejection Fear of escalation of tough issues Fear of a break in the relationship Fear of an unexpected outcome, perhaps tougher to manage Fear of being viewed as a troublemaker Fear of retaliation Fear of having to deal with difficult consequences These fears are understandable. So we end up avoiding it like the plague. “In my work with leaders and their teams, I’ve discovered that a universal talent is the ability to avoid conversations

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