Archive Monthly Archives: June 2017

The Secret Success Killer: Cognitive Junk Food

What is Cognitive Junk Food?

I can't claim credit for the phrase "Cognitive Junk Food", but I knew exactly what it was when I heard it!  There have been plenty of articles on the distraction of web browsing and social media.  The problem has become even worse with the advent of the smart phone.  We've are a society that's addicted to distraction, but at what cost?  Often we struggle to be present with our families or at work.  We're unable to focus on important tasks for long periods of time.  We're wasting time that we could be using to make a difference.  Do you find yourself distracted or is any of this starting to sound familiar?  How much time do you spend on social media?  What does your time management practice look like?  Keep reading to get tips on how to address this.

Zero calories, but no time for the gym?

This magical phrase came to me while listening to Cal Newport on episode 9 of Chandler Bolt's self-publishing school podcast.  Cal has a Ph.D. in Computer Science from MIT and also studies the impact of technology on how we work.  I've not read his recent book, Deep Work, but it's now on my list after listening to him on the podcast.  In general I find most people struggle with distraction and it has become much worse with smart phones and social media.  I coach many people seeking to improve focus and be better at execution.  The majority of the time those sessions turn into time management strategies to prevent my clients from being distracted.

It's just Facebook, what's the big deal?​

It's never just Facebook.  After that it's Twitter, Snapchat, Youtube, Reality TV, and the list keeps going.  We can't just put it down either!  I recently had to put my foot down when my own family sat down to watch a movie together.  At the beginning of the movie my kids were distracted responding to messages, snaps, etc..  The initial distraction turns becomes an endless chain and it just goes on and on.  With my children, it was during the early part of a drama where the plot and characters were still developing.  This means it was not exciting their brains yet and it craved distraction!

The question worth asking is how much time do we spend eating cognitive junk food?

That's the big deal!  Our brains crave short term gratification and excitement.  We live in a day and age where there's no limit to the distractions, but also the energy invested by companies to capture our focus.  All of our experiences are engineered to captivate our time and money.  The question worth asking is how much time do we spend eating cognitive junk food? What else could we be doing with that time?  What would your time management strategy look like?

It's time to limit the use of these!

So what should I do to avoid distraction?

Create a time management strategy to stop the madness! This problem stops you from living the life you deserve to experience.  Worse than that, the others around you are losing out as well.  We only have one life to live and you deserve to say you did more than spend hours upon hours distracted liking posts and snap'ing your friends.  Here are three quick tips to help you take your life back from the genius marketing people taking advantage of how your brain is wired.  These will serve as the start of your time management strategy that will prevent you from living a distracted life.

  • Turn off non-critical notifications
  • ​Schedule the time browse the internet, play video games, use social media, etc.
  • Practice resisting your brain's urge to be entertained
  • Read part one on how to improve your self-awareness
The call to action is to be deliberate with your time and make sure it's not floating away in an ocean of distraction.

I would say Cal has rare discipline and some would say he is extreme in his practice, but it's serving him in the way he wants.  I'm just to the left of his practice and that it's also serving me in the way that I want and need for my own life and goals.  I'm not saying you have to give it all up, nor is anyone better or worse based on where they are with their practice.  The call to action is to be deliberate with your time and make sure it's not floating away in an ocean of distraction.  Do yourself a favor and create a time management strategy that prevents you from living the "distracted life".

Inspiration: Armless NASCAR Engineer Overcomes

This is belief!

I had never heard about Richie Parker until yesterday, but better late than never.  I recently wrote about five limiting beliefs we should all let go of, but this guy has done that and then some!  Richie was born with no arms, but learned to feed himself, ride a bike, drive a car, work on cars, and do computer aided design work for NASACAR with his feet…are you kidding me!

Wow!  That’s how I felt last night after I watched this video.  A big part of my job is helping others explore ways to move past what they view as obstacles.  Aside from the positive focus and encouragement from Richie’s parents, I’m confident he did not have a personal coach helping him day after day.

What drives someone like Richie to find ways to live like this in a world that tells him he can’t?  Even if the world was not that way, his day to day experiences growing up could easily have felt insurmountable.  Richie’s vision of his life was different.  He wanted to be independent, to not need help from others, and that’s what drove him to find a way to do it all.  Richie’s goals required that he found a way to overcome.  His focus on those goals created the persistence and wherewithal to chip away until he found success.  As Richie says, “I don’t know there’s a lot in life that I’d say I can’t do.  Just things I haven’t done yet.”.  We would all do well to believe this.

What do we feel we can’t do and is that really the case?  What’s preventing us from doing it and what could we do about it?  Find one thing you’ve felt like you could do nothing about and focus on what’s blocking you.  Come up with three options to begin chipping away at the obstacle and then commit to taking the action.  Turn this behavior into a habit and you’ll find a whole new world is out there.

If you’re having trouble, reach out to a business or life coach to help you out.  In a world where we need to learn and adapt faster, working with a coach is an advantage that will accelerate your goals.

Have a great week!


Simple Self-Awareness: Part Three of Three

Congrats on making it to part three!  In part one we discussed the importance of a desire to change, we talked about two types of change we may want to make (creating new and replacing old), and we started to identify some changes that we may want to make.  In part two we came back to our list and spent more time connecting with the importance of the “why”, then we started connecting deeper with the actions needed to be successful, and finally we explored what may derail us and some basic strategies to combat this.  In this post we’re going to cover how to build awareness of our bad habits and strategy to start working on them.

Habits are our friends…

A quick word about habits.  They’re awesome and they free up the prefrontal cortex of our brain.  This allows us to be creative, deal with complexity, make plans, focus, control impulses, and more.  My techie friends will recognize this value as offloading with specialized ASICS, but I digress.  Controlling impulses will become more important as we’ll use this to break old habits, but first we’ll need to create more awareness.  I do suggest readers learn more about how the brain works, but in this case you’ll want to read more about the limbic system.  This article from Positive Psychology is a good read and speaks more to the science about what I’m covering.

Finding the Gremlins

Onto the harder changes to address.  Bad habits!  We all have them and it’s worth reiterating that there’s little value in judging ourselves, or others, over them.  Some of the bad habits we’re aware of, but sometimes we’re not.  How do we become aware of habits that don’t sit well with others or prevent us from moving forward in our goals?  Unless you’re surrounded by people that care about you and have strong candor, as in the type that will tell you about the booger on your face, then the next best option is to pursue a 360-feedback or multi-rater survey tool.  Some employers will offer this kind of tool, but there are some options online as well.  The first experience I ever had with something like this by accident in my early twenties.  It was part of a course I took which focused on organization and time management.  Part of me was curious to see how my peers felt about me, but another part was not interested at all!  It turned out to be one of the best things I could have done for myself and provided me with many opportunities to improve.  Better yet, it opened my mind to the value of feedback and created a desire to make this a regular practice going forward.  If a 360 feedback survey is not available, then another option is to simply ask others for feedback.  To the extent we make it safe for them to do so, most people are willing to share how they observe and experience us.  If you’re aware of something specific you want to work on, then you can prime these topics with others to observe and report back.

May cause mood swings

If you’re curious to know what you don’t know, then we’ll explore a different approach.  BEFORE YOU MOVE ON, IT’S CRITICAL THAT YOU MAKE IT SAFE FOR OTHERS TO SHARE!  This implies that you CAN TAKE the feedback well.  If you struggle with this, then my suggestion would be to skip to the next paragraph and assume you got needed feedback from a 360 review.  On receiving feedback,  I tell others to not respond, but rather say thank you.  Understand that you do things you’re not aware of and you’re not a bad person because of it!  There are other cases where we know we do it, but we don’t know how to stop or we’re afraid to.  Don’t judge yourself.  Consider the possibility that others see you in small windows of time and form opinions based on what they observe and experience.  We all do it!  Assume it’s an accurate reflection and try it on.  Consider what you may have been doing, or not doing, that could have led to this impression.  If you can avoid reacting poorly, then you want to ask questions such as “When do you find me less persuasive?  What do you observe that may cause this?” or “What habits do I have that get on your nerves?  When do you see these?  Do I always do it?”.  Take note of what you’re hearing and avoid trying to shape it in a way that rationalizes it to your ego.  Once you try on the clothes, then you have to consider if you want to keep them.  There are times where we decide we don’t need or want to work on something and this is not a problem.  You’ll want to consider whether your short-term or long-term goals are at risk if you choose to not work on the area identified.

Seek more knowledge

Assuming we have received feedback, we’ll want to learn as much as we can.   We’ll want to know what the environment is like when the habit is active, is it consistent or intermittent, and how do we feel when it’s intermittent.  The more we study the behavior and the state in in which it occurs, the more insight we’ll have to start working on it.  This can take time to get in touch with, so be patient.  Becoming self-aware is a continual practice and, like a muscle, will get stronger over time as we exercise it.  That said, if you’ve not been doing any physical exercise, expecting to be the next crossfit champion in a few weeks is going to lead to frustration.  The same applies here…patience and practice is the way.
Let’s assume we have another list of habits or behaviors we want to change and we have a decent level of awareness about when these behaviors show up.  What’s next?  To help illustrate an example we’ll use a common problem with many professionals…crutch words!  The technical term for this is a disfluency, but we often call them crutch words and they plague the best of us.  There are much worse habits to have, but this one hinders the ability of business professionals to influence, persuade, and communicate.  How do we stop saying “Right?” continuously while we’re trying to explain an idea or get buy-in from a large group of people?  We’ll assume we received feedback on this from others and we’ll also assume we’ve acquired video of ourselves to watch.  At this point we’re now witness to the 237 times we said “Right?” to 350 people during a 15 minute presentation!  How did we prepare?  Did we practice with a smaller group before?  How did we feel?  Were we nervous or too anxious to have people get on board?  Why did we feel we needed anyone to agree with us?  How do we feel about the thought of others disagreeing?  What emotions do we feel when we consider this?  After further study we feel that we’re not nervous, but we are eager to get folks on the same page and we’re looking for signs of doubt.  When we way “Right?” We’re looking for body language that may look like disagreement, or confusion, that would help us to know if we need to clarify a bit further.

And now for something completely different!

We address this situation by finding alternative actions to take provide the same value and then we start practicing them.  What other ways could we check-in with our audience to see if they’re still with us?  Instead of saying “Blah blah blah…cool technology blah blah awesome blah blah….right?” we could say “I’m finding this technology is heating up and may have potential to displace others in this space.  Is anyone else experiencing or seeing this?”.  We could also invite others to provide opposing views or other perspectives to consider and then we move on with our goal.  If it’s to persuade, then we support our position while inviting perspective to consider and work through.  If we’re trying to inform, then we should continue to do so. The point we’ll take from here is that we have an alternative behavior to practice.
How should we go about practicing?  I always tell my children to practice how they want to play and the same applies here.  Speak out loud, practice in front of others, and focus on using the new behavior or phrase that will replace the crutch word.  Many of us feel silly speaking out loud to ourselves, but do not underestimate the power of your voice when it comes to training your brain.  There’s plenty of content to read on multisensory learning, and some may enjoy this study from the University of California, for but for now understand that our brains are more inclined to learn and store information based on the number of senses we engage.  That said, to the extent that you can see, hear, feel, smell, and yes…even taste what you’re trying to learn, the brain pay attention.  Use this to your advantage as much as possible.  With enough focus and practice, the old habit goes away and our new automatic behavior is helping us move forward and be more successful in life.

Best of wishes in your journey

To recap, we build our awareness by getting perspective and experience from others and taking time to study and learn from it.  We decide if there’s value in replacing the old behavior and then we identify the new behavior that we’ll use to replace it.  After this, it’s a matter of high quality practice.  Use multisensory learning to your advantage and program your brain at a much faster rate.  I hope you’ve enjoyed this series and please reach out if you’re looking for more help with using self-awareness to move faster with your business or career.  Follow us on Twitter, Facebook, and subscribe to the blog and main site to stay connected.  Thanks!

Five limiting beliefs you should let go of today!

The Power of Belief

In 1999 I made very little money, had dropped out of three colleges, and was newly married.  Two years prior that that I was unemployed.  Needless to say, I had plenty of opportunity to carry around limiting beliefs.  That said, I’m confident I would not have become an executive thirteen years later at the 8th largest privately held company in the US had I done so.

What we choose to believe about ourselves, our environments, our opportunities and more has a significant impact on our ability to change and succeed.  There have been plenty of studies showing this to be true, but here’s one from Scientific American talking about simple beliefs improving eyesight and helping with weight loss!  In the case of the weight loss, they told a group of hotel room attendants that they were getting the recommended amount of exercise a week and were found to have improvements in BMI, body fat percentage, and blood pressure.

Our brains may be holding us back

If we know this to be true, why do many people continue to talk about what we can’t do or how it won’t work?  Not only that, but these same people want better outcomes and success!  There’s more science behind negative bias and how we’re wired in this way.   An article from Psychology Today points out that the amygdala, which is responsible for our fight or flight response, uses two thirds of it’s neurons to detect negative experiences.

My experience in coaching others is that many people actively, or subconsciously, avoid getting their hopes up in FEAR they’ll fail, be let down, it won’t work out etc..  For many, the limiting beliefs provide a form of protection.  For anyone looking to thrive and begin tackling the challenges they’ve been avoiding, here are five stories to stop telling yourself today!

Five beliefs to let go of today!

  1. I don’t know enough – What does enough look like?  How can we start learning now?  Who can help us?
  2. There’s not enough time – What’s taking up your time now?  What can you let go of or delegate?
  3. I’ll be told no if I ask – You’ll never no or slow down the process if you don’t ask!  Go ask!
  4. I can’t do that – What’s preventing you from doing so?  Our brains all learn the same way, so it seems some learning and practice will provide the capability needed.
  5. I don’t have enough money – Is there ever enough money?  I find most spend proportionally to how much they make and never seem to have “enough”.  Even those who win the lottery find they don’t have “enough”.  That said, how much is enough?  Where can you acquire the money?  Is there a smaller scale plan that could be used for now?

What other beliefs can you let go of?

I’m confident we all have many more than five, but these were on my mind and come up in conversation quite a bit.  Take some time to write down the various reason why things are not working out and then throw them away or burn them.  What new stories can you tell yourself?  What new beliefs can you adopt that are aligned to where you’re trying to go?

Simple Self-Awareness: Part Two of Three

So much to do!

I know you have a long list of things you want to tackle by now, so let’s get going! In part one we discussed how self-awareness can help us and about two types of changes with differing demands.  I also said we would dive a bit deeper into motivation and the first kind of change, being the “Creating” type, so let’s get going!


The simpler changes are those where we’re looking to create a new habit, behavior, or action.  We don’t have to work on stopping one behavior or habit and then replace it with another.  Stopping old habits requires much more self-awareness and practice.   For this post we’ll stay  simple and focus on goals that need new actions and behaviors.

How bad do you want it!?

At this point you have various changes you want to make.  Take some time to write them down, if you have not already, and then circle the ones that align to the creating type.  Think of the change you want to make that currently has the most mind share or is at the top of your list.  Try and rate your desire to make this change between one and ten.  If you’re at a five or below, then it’s time to question how bad you want it!  If you’re at a six or seven, what would it take to bring up to eight, nine, or ten?  If it’s actionable, then write it down and start thinking about how to move it forward.  If you’re still not able to get to an eight or higher, then spend some time going through your list with this process to see if you register eight or higher.


Whether you’re having some trouble or not, what’s next is sure to create more motivation. Those of you that are still stuck around a six or seven may find your eight or higher here. What’s at risk if you don’t move forward in creating this new behavior? For some it might be rather serious.  It can range from impact to relationships, health, career advancement, or finances.  In other cases it may be smaller like an inability to add a second language.   Take some time to think deeper about what will not happen if you’re unsuccessful in making this change.  Consider all outcomes that will be affected.  What might slow down throughout life? What relationships will be affected, and what’s the longer lasting effect it may have.  Go ahead and write these things down on a list for later review (we’ll talk more about this in part three).

Time for action!

Now, you either have something you’re driven to change, or you’ve just learned there’s less passion around some of your goals.  If the latter is true, you’ll want to spend some time reviewing your original list and work towards an eight or higher.  For those of you that are ready to keep going, please take some time to write down what it looks like to be successful.  What do you see yourself doing or practicing and how consistent will you be?  How long do you practice?  Where do you practice?  Who helps you?  What does it look like when you celebrate milestones?  When you’re successful, happy, and fulfilled in your progress, what have you done that creates these feelings?


Great!  We now have a destination and the mental fuel to get going, so now what?  We need to go back to our list of what’s preventing us from moving forward.  Some of the most common things are time, current health, current finances etc..  Some next steps in these cases may be time budgeting, change of diet, simple exercises, or basic financial budgeting.  Despite the many books dedicated to this area I find this to be the easier part.  I’m not saying it’s not challenging or or  there’s no value in the teachings from these books.  I’m saying there are known processes to follow that will address these kinds of problems.  The need to focus on self-awareness becomes clearer during the doing phase of things.

We have met the enemy and it is us!

Let’s use learning a new language as our simple goal.  To learn a new language you have to speak it out loud and preferably with others.  The obvious blockers will be time to practice and people people to practice with.  We’ll say we did some basic time budgeting and cut out some television shows to make the time to practice alone.  We also connected with someone we knew in the community, that could speak natively, and they agreed to make time to practice with us over coffee.  Things are going great, now it’s only a matter of time right?  It’s during the execution where our brains and subconscious work against us with all the best intentions.  Our brains are wired to keep us safe. This can mean avoiding discomfort from exercise, practicing something new, being vulnerable, etc..


What do we know about ourselves that could derail this?  It may be that we have a stressful week at work and the comfort of the tv show is “needed”.  Maybe we’re embarrassed of the way we sound, so we avoid practice when our confidence is not high.  It could be when we practice with our friend, the feeling of being corrected does not feel good, so we avoid it.  It could be that something new came up at work that needs attention, so we “conveniently” sacrifice the time we just made to learn the new language.


What’s true for many people is that we enjoy and prioritize what’s easy, what we’re good at, and what’s comfortable.  On the other hand, we tend to put off and de-prioritize anything that’s uncomfortable or challenging.  It’s not bad and it’s not worth judging ourselves for it.  This is human nature and only natural for the brain, since it wants us to be happy, safe, and comfortable.  That said, if we know our brain is working against us, how might we adapt and change?

There’s hope!

On high stress days, we may look for ways to reduce it by incorporating mindfulness. We may avoid engaging in projects that would increase stress.  In regards to not liking how we sound, we may acknowledge that we’re not where we want to be yet and that it’s part of the journey.  From there we re-commit to practicing with the understanding it will come with time.  What about the negative feeling associated with being corrected?  We may acknowledge it and let our friend know, so they can help us stay committed while we’re practicing.


As mentioned in part one, there’s tremendous power in involving others in your practice.  Our brains do not like letting others down or admitting to others that we let ourselves down.  That said, when we ask for time from others to help us, we have a tendency to show up and put in work.  I always try to involve others in my change by letting them know that I’m working on it and would like feedback.  In some cases they may be directly involved such as the language example I just used. Without a doubt, involving others is a force multiplier when it comes to increasing the probability of success.  This is because others can reflect back the gaps we have of our own awareness.


While waiting on part three, get in touch with the change you want to make and list out what’s preventing you from success.  As you start to outline the actions you need to take, spend some additional time considering what may derail you.  This may be a good time to start journaling and grading your levels of stress from one to ten.  This can be used to know when you’ll need to be on guard and take more precautions versus not.  Practice building your awareness of when your own mind is working against you.  Involve others to help build accountability with yourself.


In the next part we’ll spend more time focusing on how to deal the more challenging situations where we need to get rid of an old behavior or habit.  Please take time to like us on facebook, add comments, and share with others that you feel would benefit from this.

Positive News Stories for the Week: Because it’s not all doom and gloom

Throughout the world we’re drawn to negative news, drama, crisis, etc., but the fact of the matter is there are a lot of great things going on.  Because these stories don’t draw as much attention, and therefore revenue dollars, we find ourselves in a world where we have to seek out the positivity more than we should.  To that end, here are some stories that I found today and felt they were worth sharing to start the week off on a good note.  Enjoy!


I like the idea that anyone hungry enough can go create value to the world and feed themselves with little overhead or barrier of entry.

Supermarket Now Accepts Recyclables as Payment


I expect soda will eventually go the route of cigarettes…that’s how bad it is for us.  That said, I’m happy to see a change in the trend.

Hope For Obesity: First Time in Modern Memory, Americans Drank More Water Than Soda


Love makes the world go round….do your part!

4-Year-Old’s Teacher Donates Kidney to Father In Need: ‘She’s An Amazing Lady’