John Muir Had It Right

Spring has sprung! Has the urge to go outside and bask in the sunlight or stroll through the park become so strong that you can no longer ignore it? You know the feeling…you’re sitting at your desk or around the conference room table, and through the window you see clear blue skies and can think of nothing else except escaping the office and going outside to play—run, surf, cycle, whatever—as long as it involves breathing fresh air, you’ll be happy. Maybe the drive is deeper and what you crave is not just ditching the daily grind, but truly immersing yourself in the wonders of wilderness and spending some time in a pure and natural environment. Admit it, we’ve all been there, but what is it exactly about the call of the wild that is so irresistible? Why do some people feel so compelled to connect with nature?

JM_walk with nature

The answer lies in evidence that it’s not only good for your body; it’s also good for your brain. In a series of behavioral science studies, researchers demonstrated that spending time outside on good weather days, particularly in the springtime when it’s warm and sunny, can positively affect memory, mood, and openness to new ideas that leads to creative and flexible thinking styles. Another key finding is that people who spent more time indoors experienced the opposite effects of their outdoor counterparts. So if you’re struck with spring fever, then it would behoove you to get outside and scratch that itch!

Decades before environmental and cognitive psychologists began studying the mental health benefits of spending time in nature, John Muir (1838 – 1914) himself advocated the now substantiated claims of increased mental clarity and reduced fatigue through stimulation of the senses in the great outdoors. This legendary Scottish-American naturalist and conservationist is affectionately called the Father of National Parks and is the beloved founder of the Sierra Club, one of the foremost organizations dedicated to wilderness preservation. An eloquent writer and speaker, John Muir’s inspirational message is crisp and clear: In order to be whole with yourself, you must first be one with nature. If that statement rings true with you, then find out how much you emulate this iconic environmentalist and renowned nature-lover by taking the Sierra Club’s quiz: How Muir Are You?

JM_beauty and bread

An explorer at heart, I have long admired the work of John Muir and I often dream of traveling in his footsteps. When I entered my doctoral program four years ago, I quickly learned the lifestyle fate of all graduate students: goodbye sunshine and social life; hello Friday night dates at home with my laptop. Determined to succeed and hopeful that extrinsic motivation would help carry me through, I dug in my heels and set a goal that when I finally finish the program someday, I will reward myself with an epic backpacking adventure! Living in Southern California, I set my sights on thru-hiking the majestic John Muir Trail, a 211-mile long journey in the High Sierra back country which passes through Sequoia, Kings Canyon, and Yosemite National Parks, and ends at the top of Mt. Whitney, the highest peak in the contiguous United States (elevation 14,497 feet). Although I have not yet earned the grand prize, the mountains have been calling me and every once in a while, I must go!

JM_break away

During my second year of graduate school I joined a group of 8 hikers who climbed Mt. Whitney, and I remember one of my companions asking what in the world I had in my pack that made it heavier than everyone else’s when we weighed in at the portal. I’m sure I’m not the only hiker in history to foolishly load her pack with journal articles and books to read at camp after a day of grueling high-elevation trekking, but I certainly would not recommend it. Not only was I too exhausted to concentrate on reading, but more importantly I found that my mind was more drawn to simply sitting and being than engaging in any sort of academic exercise. Although my body was weary at the summit, my mind had never felt so awake and open and free! I wanted nothing more than to just sit and be, to listen and smell and feel, to observe and appreciate the raw and captivating beauty and energy of the environment all around me. If you’ve spent any time in the wilderness, then like John Muir, you know exactly what I mean. And if you haven’t…what are you waiting for???

JM_going in2

About the Author:

Sarah is a Professional Services Intern at The Ken Blanchard Companies. She is also pursuing a Ph.D. in Consulting Psychology and her research is based on mindfulness. You can contact her at sarahmaxwell@kenblanchard.com.

 

Can You Get the Delicious Cake?

Several years ago, someone posed the following challenge on a popular internet image board:

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The goal was “get the delicious cake” and you had to draw your solution. No other rules were given.

One response showed the figure crawling through the spikes, while others used elements from pop culture to get the cake. For instance, Harry Potter magic spells, Star Wars lightsabers, and Super Mario warp pipes were all presented as solutions to this challenge. The following are a few of the more original and creative ways people attained the cake:

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Use the door!

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When you want to get rid of something in an image, the eraser tool is handy

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Thinking outside of the box

The lesson I took from this was that people can get very creative when presented with a problem and given the freedom to devise a solution.

As a leader, you may have goals you need to accomplish, but it is left up to you to determine how to accomplish those goals. With a little time and ingenuity, you can come up with many different and often surprising ways to achieve those goals, particularly when you have the help of others.

So how would you get to the delicious cake? Type your solution in the comments, or you can use your favorite image editor or an online one and post a visual of your solution.

Are you a Whine Sommelier?

If you are like me, you probably know someone who is a Sommelier, or an expert on all things wine. They know the flavors, the smells, and what will best complement each food item on the menu. They can tell you about the regions the wine came from, how long you should wait before you open a bottle, and the perfect temperatures for each bottle you have. Wine experts generally all agree on 1 rule: don’t drink the same bottle of wine every time.

Well here’s my number 1 rule for those who may be a Sommelier (of sorts).

Don’t uncork the whine.wine_couple

There’s nothing worse than when you’re having a great dinner conversation with friends, and someone busts out the whine. Maybe you’re trying to have fun, talking about good times, and someone has to complain all night about some inequitable atrocity that was bestowed upon them. Don’t get me wrong, a good whine is great for certain occasions, but you have to know when to share it and when to just leave it corked. I mean, some people bring that whine to every occasion and I think to myself, “That whine is 100 years old, you should have saved it for a special occasion.”

I get it. Sometimes you just need to vent and be heard; I’m definitely with you on that. However, next time you are in the mood for a good whine, just remember that not everyone drinks.

Gus is a Learning and Performance Professional at the Ken Blanchard Companies and is currently finishing his PhD in I/O Psychology. He can be reached at gus.jaramillo@kenblanchard.com

 

Quit & Stayed, or Quit & Paid?

If you’re not familiar with the term “quit & stayed”, it is the act of mentally quitting, yet staying in the same physical environment. More specifically, it’s the act of becoming disengaged in the work you complete, whether that’s for a business or just in general.

"Image courtesy of Stuart Miles, / FreeDigitalPhotos.net".

“Image courtesy of Stuart Miles, / FreeDigitalPhotos.net”.

Chances are that you work with one or more people who have quit & stayed.  They are people who show up just for the paycheck.  They aren’t passionate about their job.  They don’t have the motivation to go above and beyond.  In a perfect world, everyone would get paid handsomely to do what they love, but unfortunately, we don’t live in a perfect world.  Almost every company and organization has employees who fit into this category.

Amazon recently listed this trend in the annual letter to shareholders from company CEO Jeff Bezos along with a plan to deal with employees who have quit & stayed.  The idea behind this plan is that once a year, employees will be offered a payout to quit.  Depending on how many years you’ve been with Amazon, you could make anywhere from $2,000 to $5,000 for handing in your resignation.   The idea isn’t to create a high turnover rate, but instead, bring in new blood and energy where existing employees may have no interest in maintaining their career with Amazon.

Personally, I’d be curious to know what this does to their turnover rate.  Will they see an uptick in the number of employees who move on to other companies?  More importantly, are they paying adding unnecessary costs by paying employees to resign who might resign in either case even if they weren’t getting a bonus to do so?

Jeff Bezos says it best: “In the long-run, an employee staying somewhere they don’t want to be isn’t healthy for the employee or the company.”  That is one statement I wholeheartedly agree with.

Be sure to take a look at The Ken Blanchard Companies Quit & Stayed Leadership Livecast.  You can even view 17 minutes of the Livecast for free.

Leave your comments!

Leadership is a Matter of Life and Death

The room fell silent as the stranger with an interesting accent introduced himself, and his wife. “Ve have taken zee time off from da revolution, to come to United States to learn about effective leadership.” The details of the current struggles in Ukraine were brought to life through first hand accounts of recent tragedies and fears that have been unfolding over the past few months in an unstable region of the world.Pro-European protests in Ukraine

Our guest was no ordinary learner. Usually we have a room full of individuals and students eager to learn how to become effective leaders. Individuals who choose to sit in a classroom, accept assignments, and eagerly collaborate with managers, teachers, and coaches, while exploring ways they can help their communities grow and thrive.

This day, we had a group of participants from the incredibly fragile nation in the world who was in desperate need of a different leadership. One that our group had not grown up with or have been experiencing the last decade—a model that empowers individuals to freely choose to influence others toward a greater good, through manipulation and intimidation.

As we listened with sober minds to our new friends struggle for leadership concepts that work, we explored the impacts of good and bad leadership on the local communities, organizations, and the world. As we did, we discovered the timeless challenges that have faced individuals trying to influence others toward freedom and independence. We explored skills and habits that encourage and inspire effective collaboration and communication that draws out the best in everyone, directing them toward a common vision and good.

“For us, leadership is not a nice to have,” our brave learner concluded at the end of our training day. “For us…it is a matter of life and death!”

The reality is that no nation or organization is exempt from the root characteristics of ineffective, poor, or in some cases, ruthless and unethical leadership. Great organizations and individuals place a high premium on, and appreciation for, effective leadership. Without effective leadership, things fall apart.

About the Author:

About the Author:

 Jason Diamond Arnold is a leadership consultant at The Ken Blanchard Companies. He is Coauthor of Situational Self Leadership in Action a real time, real work, leaning experience that develops effective communication and collaboration skills for individuals in the workplace. He is Co Producer and Director of Stepping Up to Leadership with Scott Blanchard, at lynda.com.

 

Be the Gazelle

There is much to admire about the gazelle. She is a beautiful creature—delicate and graceful yet agile, fast and resilient. What makes her truly remarkable is her unique ability in response to a life-threatening situation to literally just shake it off. You’ve probably seen a similar National Geographic video: a gazelle is grazing with the herd when she suddenly becomes the target of a ravenous cheetah’s hunt. One second she’s foraging and the next she’s running for her life. Instantly her heart is pounding and adrenaline is racing through her veins as survival instincts take over. Watching this scene you can’t help but think, “this is NOT going to end well,” but the cheetah unexpectedly gives up. When the gazelle realizes she’s no longer being chased, she slows to a halt and waits to ensure that she is safe. Then something incredible happens: she starts shaking and quickly her entire body erupts into convulsion. Her nervous system is physically discharging the excess energy and arousal that it no longer needs. Soon she’s bounding off across the plain…time to get back to the herd.

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Have you ever had an experience in which you were faced with some kind of threat (physical or psychological) and as fear creeps in, you start trembling uncontrollably? I will never forget the moment when this happened to me two years ago. I was faced with an absolutely overwhelming situation that I didn’t know how to handle and suddenly it started–I began shaking and I couldn’t stop! It’s a very strange sensation. I felt completely helpless until I realized what was happening and thought to myself, “yes, be the gazelle.”

Self-leadership is predicated on self-preservation and it comes down to being adaptive. We must be keen to what’s happening around us and prepared to react appropriately to any trial. Evolution has made it difficult for humans to simply shake off the physical and emotional effects of trauma, but we all have the innate capacity to organically restore our own inner balance. Absorbed negative energy can be detrimental to our health, making us inefficient and more vulnerable to future stress.

What are you holding onto that’s preventing you from returning to the herd? What is keeping you in place, at risk, or in peril? Life is tough. You never know if a cheetah is lurking in the bushes waiting to attack. The next time something confronts you, terrifies you, or chases you to the point of exhaustion, don’t just collapse and surrender. Get back up and shake it off! Let go of whatever you’re carrying around that no longer serves you. Shake off the fear of failure, the anxiety of the unknown, the soreness of the sprint, the ordeal of a near miss. Don’t let a setback paralyze you. Shake it off and move on.

In the midst of challenge it’s easy to lose sight of the beauty before us. Look to the horizon…the sun is still shining and the grass is still growing across the plain, so get back out there and enjoy it! Be the gazelle.

About the Author:

Sarah is a Professional Services Intern at The Ken Blanchard Companies. She is also pursuing a Ph.D. in Consulting Psychology and her research is based on the study of mindfulness. You can contact her at sarah.maxwell@kenblanchard.com.

The Smile Test and the Positive Leader


Did you feel happier? Now try this experiment again with a group of friends in the same room. Look at one another as you smile. Does anything change?

From what I’ve experienced, being around a group enhances the effects of the smile test. Why? Because happiness is contagious. And by smiling, you encourage better moods in the people around you, which can even circle back around and improve your own mood further.

So share your smile and laughter with those around you as much as you can every day. You’ll be regarded as a more positive leader, someone who uplifts and inspires anyone and everyone. You may even find, as Brent did in his experiment, that your day becomes a lot brighter!

beautiful young girl smiling

Smiling Girl

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