• Chemical Brain Freeze

What if, When Making Plans for the Next Adventure

Mike RayburnThere I was, working and planning away on my new adventure and feeling good about it. Then I had an opportunity to go see Mike Rayburn(www.MikeRayburn.com) live at a recent program. He was absolutely phenomenal. Not only a gifted musician and storyteller but he really got you thinking. He has a book titled “What If?” and I would suggest purchasing it on his website. I wanted to point out just a few key things Mike got me thinking about as I plan my new adventure.

He asks the question, “What if?” Not meaning that you are going to do it but rather just asking what is possible. What if I could? How would that work if I could?
He points out that our default behavior in life is that we look at or for reasons not to do things. Instead we should change our default behavior to where we look for reasons we can do things! A very simplistic but astute rationale on how we can get things done. He also points out the only way to manage change is to create change. Again our default behavior is to fight change. What if we shifted that to creating change and embracing change? It creates a completely different picture doesn’t it? The one thing we know to be true about our plans is that nothing ever goes according to plan! So embrace change.
Here is the reason for these default behaviors: We take problems and put them on a pedestal and worship them. Mike’s perspective is, quit driving through life with the brakes on and get creative. The world need’s our creativity. He lined out three steps to get started:
1. Outside Observation – get that 30,000-foot view of what you are dealing with and get a handle of the size and scope.
2. Take a problem or situation and say, “What is the Opportunity?” Then ask, “What if?”
3. Open up creativity and take physical action on it.
Here are a couple of his other thoughts, which will get your thinking moving in the right direction:
A. Set goals you can’t achieve, not 5-10% increases. What does it take to double what you want to do?
B. Don’t start with what’s possible?, start with what’s cool?. The type of goal it takes courage to think about.
A sense of purpose is the most motivating factor. What is your sense of purpose? Some good food for thought until next time.
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What’s your next Adventure?

Backpacking crossingThe great Helen Keller provided this prolific statement, “Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all!” What a great way to look at our lives. Helen Keller overcame so much adversity and became an inspiration encouraging boldness and audacity. We may not have the adversity Helen Keller did, but we do have our ups and downs, our successes and failures and our starts and stops. Sometimes life doesn’t turn out exactly as we plan but the key question is, ”What do we do about it?”
I have watched people who have stumbled and they just struggle trying to get back up and moving forward. Sometimes they get moving again but its like they are in a fog and not really living life but rather just going through the motions.
What is it that we have to do to begin living the life we want to have and move in the direction of our dreams? In my book Chemical Brain Freeze, I talk about overcoming default behaviors and moving forward. These are some key thoughts to making a positive move in order to get you moving in the direction you want to go.
Sometimes it just makes sense to break things down into smaller steps.
Summer has just about come to an end and it was a great summer. We usually think of all kinds of adventures to be had during the summer months.
Now ask yourself the simple question; “What’s my next adventure?” What’s my next adventure for today? This week? Next month? Next year? Come up with an adventure and go make it happen. It can be such a positive experience. Don’t wait for something to come to you. Go make something happen and have fun with! You’ll be glad you did! In the weeks ahead I’ll fill you in on what I have been working on the last half of this summer and what an adventure I’ll be starting. Over 25 years ago I was told I couldn’t do something and I decided now was the time to go it.
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Teaching and Learning Need to be in Sync

Michael J FoxTeaching and learning need to be in sync to be successful. Whether it is in school or the business world. To be able to learn and then apply your learning is even better. Sometimes we have material put before us and there is just not a connection nor an application. Simon Sinek has a very good TED Talk on How Great Leaders Inspire Action. It’s a few years old but if you haven’t seen it, it’s definitely worth watching.
Start with why — how great leaders inspire action | Simon Sinek | TEDxPugetSound

Nimble Interview

Tom on LeadershipLast week Tom Cox, columnist for the Oregon Business News magazine, interviewed me about my book “Nimble-How to Lead Above the Turmoil of Change.“ Tom is a leadership expert and hosts a radio show “Tom on Leadership.”  It was a fun Nimble interview and we focused on leadership qualities and the role of emotional intelligence in leadership. To listen to the radio interview just copy the following into your browser.


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Change and Fear of the Unknown

Last week we talked about unmet emotional needs and the impact they play on our behavior.  We had talked about the five key emotional needs consisting of: Safety, Power, Acceptance, Respect and Value.  When we feel one of these needs is not being met, our brain sends out warning signals and our behavioFear of the unknown Ar can change.
Let’s take a look at how change can affect how we are feeling about ourselves, especially when dealing with the fear of the unknown.

I had a discussion with a surgeon who was complaining about a piece of equipment he had bought.  It had cost him $80,000 but his staff wasn’t spending the appropriate amount of time learning how to use the equipment and getting it into the patient flow process.
Think about why people struggle with change.  In the current mode people are recognized for their performance. Their rewards are based on this performance.  They know the process, can multitask, balance out the workload, understand the patient flow and all the various intricacies of the process.  Now you ask them to introduce a new piece of equipment that will interrupt the process as the staff goes through the learning curve.  The staff is not familiar or confident in running the machine and even less confident in answering questions by patients.
They begin to question their value.  Will they be as effective and be able to provide the same performance as they have in the past?  They second-guess quite a bit about having to use the equipment.  The piece of equipment begins to take on a negative nature.
As the surgeon watches the piece of equipment gather dust he realizes that if it doesn’t get into the process quickly, he is going to have a very expensive boat anchor on his hands.
The amygdala portion of the brain picks up warning signals about this piece of equipment and the staff ‘s struggle with getting trained on the equipment and getting it into use.  Many times one of the key warning signals is the fear of the unknown.  How will this equipment affect our process?  How will it affect our workload?  Will we be able to process more patients faster or fewer patients?  Will someone lose a job because this equipment is utilized?
The best way to soothe the amygdala is at the beginning of the change process.  Communication is key at this point and the time spent explaining why the equipment is coming into the practice is time well spent.  Don’t assume the explanation has to be done only once.  Get someone trained on the equipment fast enough so they can help train others and take away the fear of the unknown.  So many times sales reps show staff what the equipment can do but don’t allow for hands-on-training.  The hands-on-training takes the fear of the unknown away.
Anytime you can remove a fear,  you’re moving in the right direction.
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Exceptional leaders know the combination to “Playing Big”


Last week we discussed how the amygdala part of the brain can affect how leaders can either play big or play small in dealing with stressful situations. One key point that we focused on was how easy it is for the amygdala to “awfulize” and think of all the bad things that can possibly happen. The amygdala naturally does this to prepare for the worst that can actually happen to us. In some situations it can be a great benefit. In other work environment situations it can stop us in our tracks. To understand why the amygdala reacts in certain situations it’s important to understand what the baseline is for a non-reactive amygdala.
We all have emotional needs. Maslow in his work mapped out the emotional needs of humans. People have added to his work and changed portions but Maslow’s work still provides a solid foundation. I like to keep it simple, so I focus on five key emotional needs. They are:
• Safety
• Power
• Acceptance
• Respect
• Value.
These five needs are applicable to children and adults. When these needs are met the amygdala is pretty content. When these needs are not met, people will act out. Watch what happens to a small child when they try and interrupt talking adults to show them something. When the adult says, “Not now, can’t you see we’re talking.” The child will walk away and pout. They don’t feel accepted or included and the amygdala will go into action and they pout and withdraw.
Now watch in a business meeting when people are sharing ideas and when one person finally gets a chance to speak up and the meeting leader says, “Sorry Cindy, but we need to move on.” Cindy will typically do what a small child will do. She will sit back, cross her arms and withdraw. I have watched men and women do this in meetings for years. They don’t feel like they are accepted or treated fairly (respect) or valued (feeling heard). The amygdala goes into action and the person doesn’t even realize they have sat back and folded their arms.
Exceptional leaders know the combination to Playing Big by recognizing unmet emotional needs and the acting out by the person who experiences this situation. A quick comment by an exceptional leader can bring Cindy back into the meeting in seconds. “Cindy we are short on time but I would like to get your input after the meeting.” In seconds Cindy feels valued. Simple example but the combination to playing big is not complicated. When you see people acting out, whether its children or adults, you can be pretty certain that there is an unmet emotional need not being met. We’ll share some more examples in the next couple of blogs because observing and understanding what is happening in stressful or difficult situations can help you work on becoming an exceptional leader.
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Exceptional Leaders “Play Big”

one on one dialogueOver the last several blogs we have been covering Chemical Brain Freezes (CBFs) from what they are to how do you keep them from occurring. Now that we understand the brain science a little bit, it makes sense to discover why we don’t always do the big things that need to get done.
You’ve heard the expression “Play big, don’t play small!” haven’t you? It refers to taking the steps to accomplish some of the big things that need to be completed. Sometimes this means having those difficult conversations and speaking up when required. Playing small is when we send an e-mail or a text message instead of meeting someone face-to-face or over the phone for a critical conversation. Playing small is not speaking up in a meeting when the group is asked if anyone has any input. Instead two days later you put out an e-mail and try and address the issue. But as we all know e-mails and text messages have no tonality and can be interpreted in many different ways.
Now here comes the science on why we do this over and over again.
The amazing amygdala, will sense danger when you consider having a face-to-face or phone call with someone. It goes through the catastrophizing stage of assuming everything that could go wrong will go wrong. This portion of the brain is trying to protect you from the fears and feelings of being vulnerable. You can get yourself so worked up thinking about all the bad things, which could happen that you don’t pick up the phone and call or have that face-to-face meeting. You calm yourself down by telling yourself you’ll send a text or e-mail message and your amygdala cools down, you don’t go into a full blown out CBF and your breathing returns to normal. You actually think you are in a good place because you have calmed down and now with all sorts of clarity you are assuming you are doing the best thing possible for the situation. In reality, you have resorted back to default behaviors and playing small.
It takes courage to meet someone one-on-one or pick up the phone. Exceptional leaders know the value of playing big and crossing over to the other person’s side to gain their perspective. They may not always agree, but they do understand the importance because they play big. They can get over how they feel and then focus on how to accomplish the goal in the best way possible.
Watch how your body responds the next time you have an important meeting or have to make a key phone call. Do you feel your heart rate pick up? Does your breathing get shallow? Stop, take a couple of deep breaths, go to your gratitude story and then ask yourself, “What are the advantages of ‘Playing Big’ right now. Will it matter in 3 minutes? 3 days? 3 weeks? or 3 months? Now you have your neo-cortex back in the game, you’ve regrouped. Now you can walk into the room looking forward to playing big or pick up the phone expecting some good results from playing big. Exceptional leaders play big and they also know how to keep others they deal with playing big. More on keeping yourself in the game in the next blog.
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Leaders Understand How to Stay in the Moment

slurpee freeze
Do you remember those hot summer days as a kid when you would get a Slurpee, a mixture of crushed ice and flavoring, or a snow cone and after a few slurps or bites you would get this incredible searing pain in the middle of your forehead?  Remember how it would render you useless for about 20 seconds and you screamed and danced in place rubbing your forehead?   The physical cold temperature caused that excruciating pain as the Slurpee hit the roof of your mouth.  You managed to survive the ordeal but how effective were you during that 20-second period? Not a whole lot got accomplished did it?  I like to refer to that as a Slurpee Brain Freeze caused by a physical response.
There is another type of brain freeze, which is caused by a chemical reaction the amygdala portion of your brain performs when you are under danger, anxiety or stress.  It is a survival mode that is very primitive and basic but very effective in today’s chaotic world. Have you ever been so angry you couldn’t think straight?  During those types of situations you can say or do things you wind up regretting later.  This is the fight, flight or freeze, syndrome I refer to as a Chemical Brain Freeze® (CBF).  This happens because the thinking part of your brain literally shuts down due to chemicals the amygdala has ordered to be released into your blood stream.  If you don’t do anything about it, you can lose most of your thinking brain for up to 20 minutes.  That’s why after a heated conversation with a customer, employee or spouse its not until 15-20 minutes later we think of all the good things we needed or wanted to say, but the moment is gone.
Other classic examples would be if you got a voice mail message from the IRS? Or your spouse called asking why you didn’t pick up your child at the day care center?  Or when you look for your purse or wallet and it isn’t in its normal place?  How about that difficult conversation you need to have with a customer, employee, vendor or family member?
You want to be at you best during these difficult situations, how do you keep from having a CBF?  Exceptional leaders understand the value of how to stay in the moment and being your best during difficult times.  Next blog, we’ll talk about what actually happens to your body during a CBF and then we’ll explore how to recognize it and what to do about it
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Conquering Fears

What scares us?CBF
It’s interesting to watch some of the cable shows about ghost hunters, big-foot hunters and other things that go bump in the night.  We all have fears of different kinds but what is interesting to note is that we are only born with two fears.  Do you know what those are?  Take a moment to think about it, what two fears would we be born with that would help us survive?  The two fears are the fear of falling and the fear of loud noises.  Every other fear we have is a learned fear.  Amazing isn’t it?  However our brain will respond to our learned fears exactly the same way it will respond to the fears we are born with as a species.
Think of the fear of falling and the fear of loud noises.  One occupation that comes to mind where they have to deal with this combination of fears on a daily basis is a dental practice.  What is one of the first things that is done to you as you sit in a dental chair?  You are lowered backwards in the chair, fear of falling.  One of the other things if you’re having work done on your teeth is that a noisy instrument is placed inside your mouth about as close to your eardrum as you can get, the fear of loud noises.  Dental practices struggle with patient retention and sometimes just the factor of dealing with the two born fears have can a major impact.

Most of our learned fears come from other people and what scares them.  We learn from watching them behave when they encounter a spider, snake or even a difficult discussion.  Talk around a campfire with a group of people about ghost stories and people will scare themselves silly.  You never see a couple of homicide detectives standing looking at a corpse and proclaiming, “It looks like another ghost murder.”  Do you know of anyone who has ever been killed by a ghost?  Me either.
There is a part of our brain called the amygdala that deals with our fears, whether they are the 2 born fears or the learned fears we have. We are going to explore how the amygdala responds to these threats, whether real or perceptive in the next several blogs.  We’ll also put it into perspective on how exceptional leaders deal with conquering fears.
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Authentic Leadership

Authenticity seal

Being authentic is one of the traits used to describe someone who is considered an exceptional leader.  In the last Nimble blog we talked about transparency and what it takes for a leader to be transparent.  It is the consistency of your actions lining up with your intentions that provides the impact you want to have as a leader.  If you really focus on being consistent with your actions then the impact you have on people will be positive.  With positive impact comes trust.  When people can count on you to be consistent with your actions and decisions through daily interaction and during difficult times you develop the qualities of authentic leadership.  It is not easy by any means.  Some of the decisions we have to make are extremely tough and not everyone agrees with the decisions we make.  But if we are transparent, consistent with our actions and concentrate on the goals that need to be accomplished, authenticity will become part of the language used to describe you as a leader. Wouldn’t it be nice if you could be awarded a seal of authenticity for your leadership so people would know the type of leader you are?  Leadership and building trust isn’t quite that easy.  However, if you are consistent with your actions and decisions and have a positive impact, you build trust so you won’t need a seal.  People will be able to determine on their own, you are authentic.
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