Book Review: The Advantage by Patrick Lencioni

 

The Advantage: Why Organizational Health Trumps Everything Else in BusinessThe Advantage: Why Organizational Health Trumps Everything Else in Business by Patrick Lencioni
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Decided to read this again since the new organization I recently joined has had its challenges and is actively working through them. Interesting how I internalized more of the content this second time around since it’s more timely and relevant at this stage in my career. Unlike Patrick Lencioni’s other books which are more fable format, this was more of a traditional business book with practical tips and a roadmap to follow.

View all my reviews

Life of a DJ Then and Now

Let The Music Play

Mylove for DJing started 30 years ago in high school. Back then in Chicago, before Hip-Hop took over, House Music was the thing with my teenage friends. It wasn’t mainstream so I felt like I was part of something special. Like I was in on some secret that only the underground knew. Chicago DJs would mix the music using Technics turntables and 12″ vinyl, blending the tracks seamlessly so as not to interrupt the packed dance floor. Since my friends and I were too young to get into bars or dance clubs, we would go to dance parties hosted at local VFWs or in somebody’s basement.

That was the scene back then. And the DJ was always the life of the party.

To see a melting pot of people, all grooving to the same beat, was inspiring. I could feel their joy. I could hear their heart beat in sync with the music.

I was just coming out of my super-shy, nerdy phase of adolescence. When I saw the girls swoon over the DJ, something told me that I needed to be that guy. My friend Charlie Manlapaz, a.k.a. DJ Charlie, kindly took me under his wing and showed me the way. After teaching me the basics of beat-matching, he showed me how to scratch and even a few record ‘juggling’ tricks. That’s how my DJ life started.

By the time I was in college, I had enough experience to DJ live at parties. Up until then, I was just practicing hours and hours in the privacy of home. After rotating as a guest DJ at several university dances, I noticed that most of the DJs played the same type of music…the same songs just in a different order. To set myself apart, I chose to play more “new wave.” This is what got me invited to mix at more parties. It wasn’t because I had better skills. That definitely was not the case. I just played good music that people didn’t hear from the other DJs.

DJ Insight #1: Find the gap that everyone overlooks and find a way to bridge it. When introducing something new, it helps to sandwich it between the familiar. Make sure it blends nicely and make the transitions as seamless as possible.

There was a bar at U of I called Skylight Club. They had a DJ every night and there was usually a long line outside to get in. During the weekends, the line would snake around the corner. When the head DJ, a senior about to graduate, auditioned people to replace him, I stepped up. Using DJ Insight #1, I got the job.

After college, I spent six years working in Japan. When I wasn’t working, I spent my free time with Japanese friends as well as other gaijin. Most of them were still in their twenties and loved to party. I began offering my DJ services for special events and even organized a few myself. Mixing music abroad drove home something I guess I already knew…

DJ Insight #2: Music is magic. It’s a universal language that speaks to people from all cultures. It can connect and inspire.

I returned to the States in 1997 and decided to start a mobile DJ business on the side, focusing mostly on weddings along with a few school and corporate parties. This was the first stretch where I had to constantly deal with requests from the crowd. I hated it. As much as I like to please the crowd, especially the client, to get bombarded with individual ad hoc requests — while you’re in the middle of spinning a live set — is very distracting.

While it paid well, the DJ-for-hire life taught me that DJing is much more fun when the only one you’re trying to make happy is yourself.

DJ Insight #3: Selling your services often feels like selling out. Unless you’re in a financial position to be selective and say no, it often takes all the fun out of why you went into business in the first place.

A few years of providing mobile entertainment almost every weekend was enough. When my wife told me we were expecting our first child, I put my equipment in storage and started working my way up the corporate ladder. It paid off, except that in exchange for six figures, I sacrificed my family life and personal interests. Somehow that doesn’t make much sense in the long run.

So now, in this chapter of my life, I’ve slowed things down, gave some things up, but got some great things in return. Family time feels special again. I’ve dusted off the DJ equipment and am exploring other interests (like cooking and writing!) I’m mixing things up again, instead of playing the same tune day in and day out. The magic is coming back.

DJ Insight #4: It’s good to mix things up. You discover new things as you explore and experiment. There’s value in dabbling and incorporating something fresh. And if you do it long enough, you find it gets easier to create the perfect blend for you.

I’ve been a DJ on and off for 30 years. Vinyl is now back. I use the original Technics turntable from back in college. And the songs I used to spin many years ago can still rock a party. So many great experiences along the way and a few very valuable insights. Today, I spin music only when I want to, not because I have to. I still take requests, but I don’t get many since the people I choose to spend my time with are those who like me for who I am, the way I do things, and the music I choose to play.

Let the music play.

-Donn (a.k.a. DJ ReCreator)


Recorded practice set when I volunteered to DJ for my son’s end-of-year middle school party.

Track List:

  1. Tom’s Diner (7″ A) — DNA & Suzanne Vega
  2. What’s My Name (Funkymix by Supa Dave Jackson) — Rihanna w/ Drake
  3. Lean Away (3LAU Mashup) — Fetty Wap vs. Daya vs. Major Lazer
  4. Thrift Shop (Short Edit Xmix) — Macklemore & Ryan Lewis Feat. Wanz
  5. Yeah! — Usher Feat. Lil Jon & Ludacris
  6. In The End — Linkin Park

https://soundcloud.com/donn-durante/3d-blend-fancy-champagne-with-shirt-and-tie

One of my first mixes recorded after dusting off the DJ gear.

Track List:

  1. Champagne — Salt-n-Pepa
  2. Not For Long (Xmix Short Mix) — B.O.B Feat. Trey Songz
  3. Suit & Tie — Justin Timberlake
  4. Only Wanna Give It To You — Elle Varner Feat. J. Cole
  5. Fancy vs. Rich Girl (Xmix Mash-up) — Iggy Azalea

https://soundcloud.com/donn-durante/2016-04-17-5h10m48

This blend is a spicy mix of female vocals with some unusual twists. At 140 bpm, it has a bit of a kick.

Track List:

  1. What’s Up (Original Dance Mix) — DJ Miko
  2. Another Day (Two Man Remix) — Whigfield
  3. When I Grow Up — Garbage
  4. Mickey (Killa Klub Edit) — Toni Basil

https://soundcloud.com/donn-durante/friday-flashback-1-dj-recreator-mix

Serving up some disco flavors, peppering in some reggae and old school rap. Then I top it off with a classic from the Jackson 5.

Track List:

  1. Best of My Love — C.J. Lewis
  2. Got To Be Real — Cheryl Lynn
  3. Good Times — Chic
  4. The Adventures of Grandmaster Flash on the Wheels of Steel — Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five
  5. I Want You Back — The Jackson Five

Time to slow it down a bit. This mix is more of an eclectic blend including mild samplings from Africa, United Kingdom and Japan.

Track List:

  1. No Worry — Angelique Kidjo
  2. Thank You — Dido
  3. Moonchild — Cibo Matto
  4. We Are One — Angelique Kidjo
  5. Can’t Help Falling In Love — UB40

My Drug of Choice: Take a (Lyrical) Hit

 “Music is a safe kind of high.”
 — Jimi Hendrix

As a semi-retired DJ, I’ve always known the high that comes from the right music at the right time. Music really is like a powerful drug. It can take you back in time where a particular song anchors memories from the past. It has the power to transform ordinary moments into special events. And this affective influence can touch the heart, the mind as well as the body.

Some of my favorite songs not only make you feel good, they’re good for you. More than words, there is harmony between [lyrics with substance] and [melody that moves].

Here are some samples. No prescription needed.

Antidepressant or Stress Relief

“I, recommend getting your heart trampled on to anyone, yeah
I, recommend walking around naked in your living room, yeah

Swallow it down (what a jagged little pill)
It feels so good (swimming in your stomach)
Wait until the dust settles

You live you learn, you love you learn
You cry you learn, you lose you learn
You bleed you learn, you scream you learn

I, recommend biting off more than you can chew to anyone
I certainly do
I, recommend sticking your foot in your mouth at any time
Feel free”

Alanis Morissette, You Learn (2015 Remastered)


“I’ve been waiting on the sunset
Bills on my mindset
I can get deny they’re getting high
Higher than my income
Income’s breadcrumbs
I’ve been trying to survive

The glow that the sun gives
Right around sunset
Helps me realize
This is just a journey
Drop your worries
You are gonna turn out fine
Oh, you’ll turn out fine
Fine, oh, you’ll turn out fine

But you gotta keep your head up, oh
And you can let your hair down, eh
You gotta keep your head up, oh,
And you can let your hair down, eh

I know it’s hard, know its hard
To remember sometimes,
But you gotta keep your head up, oh
And you can let your hair down, eh”

Andy Grammer, Keep Your Head Up

When You’re Not Feeling Like Your Self

“So basically all I need
Is to be everything but me
Colored contacts
Liposuction
And some implants
Somehow that don’t make much sense
I must be out of my head
If I think, that I am governed by material things.

So I decided I’m
The definition of fly
And if you want to know why
I know what money can’t buy
Don’t go believing the hype
There’s no runway in the sky
And no way you could be fly
Not if it costs you a dime.”

 — Elle Varner, So Fly

For Acute Laryngitis from Introversion

“You can be amazing
You can turn a phrase into a weapon or a drug
You can be the outcast
Or be the backlash of somebody’s lack of love
Or you can start speaking up
Nothing’s gonna hurt you the way that words do
And they settle ‘neath your skin
Kept on the inside and no sunlight
Sometimes a shadow wins
But I wonder what would happen if you

Say what you wanna say
And let the words fall out
Honestly I wanna see you be brave

With what you want to say
And let the words fall out
Honestly I wanna see you be brave”

Sara Bareilles, Brave

Cure for Creative Blocks

“Staring at the blank page before you
Open up the dirty window
Let the sun illuminate the words that you could not find

Reaching for something in the distance
So close you can almost taste it
Release your inhibitions
Feel the rain on your skin
No one else can feel it for you
Only you can let it in
No one else, no one else
Can speak the words on your lips
Drench yourself in words unspoken
Live your life with arms wide open
Today is where your book begins
The rest is still unwritten”

Natasha Bedingfield, Unwritten

Love Potion

“Now better men, than me have failed
Drinking from that unholy grail
(Now check it out)
I’ve got her, and she got me
And you’ve got that butt, but I kindly gotta be like
Oh baby, no baby, you got me all wrong baby
My baby’s already got all of my love

So nah nah Honey, I’m good
I could have another but I probably should not
I’ve got somebody at home, and if I stay I might not leave alone
No, honey, I’m good
I could have another but I probably should not
I’ve got to bid you adieu
To another I will stay true
(oo oo I will stay true)
(who who I will stay true)

Oh, I’m sure ya, sure ya will make somebody’s night
But oh, I assure ya assure ya, it sure as hell’s not mine”

Andy Grammer, Honey, I’m Good.

Remedy for Homesickness

“Young mom on her own
She needs a little help got nowhere to go
She’s lookin’ for a job, lookin’ for a way out
’Cause a half-way house will never be a home
At night she whispers to her baby girl
Someday we’ll find a place here in this world

This is our temporary home
It’s not where we belong
Windows in rooms that we’re passin’ through
This is just a stop, on the way to where we’re going
I’m not afraid because I know this is our
Temporary Home.”

Carrie Underwood, Temporary Home


“I know sometimes you’re feeling lost
It’s hard to find your place in it all
But you don’t have to fear
Even when you mess up
You always got my love
I’m always right here
Oh, cause

Anything
Come what may
Don’t look back forget yesterday
Forget yesterday

It’s not where you come from
It’s where you belong
Nothin’ I would trade
I wouldn’t have it any other way
You’re surrounded
By love and you’re wanted
So never feel alone
You are home with me
Right where you belong

Don’t matter where you’ve been
You’re here for a reason”

— Kari Kimmel, Where You Belong


“I think music in itself is healing. It’s an explosive expression of humanity. It’s something we are all touched by. No matter what culture we’re from, everyone loves music.”
— Billy Joel

Mixing and Sharing Medication

Even if you’re already feeling pretty good, music can amplify that. When I DJ, the desired effect is to mix music that lifts your spirits and makes you move. When I’m in the zone, I can alter your frame of mind, enhance your mood and get you dancing instinctively. The right songs act as a catalyst. As everything comes together just right, we share the high. The act of sharing the experience — grooving and dancing together — can bridge differences between time and space, language and culture.

JT sums up the feeling quite nicely…

“I got this feeling, inside my bones
It goes electric, wavey when I turn it on
All through my city, all through my home
We’re flying up, no ceiling, when we in our zone

I got that sunshine in my pocket
Got that good soul in my feet
I feel that hot blood in my body when it drops, ooh
I can’t take my eyes up off it, moving so phenomenally
Room on lock the way we rock it, so don’t stop…

I can’t stop the feeling
So just dance, dance, dance
I can’t stop the feeling
So just dance, dance, dance, come on

Ooh, it’s something magical
It’s in the air, it’s in my blood, it’s rushing on
Don’t need no reason, don’t need control
I fly so high, no ceiling, when I’m in my zone”

 — Justin Timberlake, Can’t Stop the Feeling!

Now that you’ve had some samples, here’s your prescription:

Assess your mood, pick a theme and create a soundtrack. You may even share your playlist on Spotify. (There are links to my playlists at the end.) For whatever ails you…cue up your playlist. Plug in. Take a lyrical hit (or two). And call me in the morning.


Overdose

Playlists:

DJ ReCreator Mixes — Friday Flashback Series

What’s your lyric?

You have undoubtedly been inspired by a piece of music either because of the lyrics or the melodic composition. I’m always looking to take another hit and add it to my playlist. Please share in the comments section.

Friday Flashback Series (Vol. 3)

Practicing my other profession, this is the third installment of a series where I post some of my music mixes to kick start the weekend. Most tracks will be reminiscent of years past. And if you were born around 1969 or earlier, you may actually have memories from when these songs were first released 😉 I intentionally keep the mixes short and byte-size. Nowadays our attention spans are too short and our tastes are very selective!

Time to slow it down a bit. This mix is more of an eclectic blend including mild samplings from Africa, United Kingdom and Japan.

Listen on MixCrate

Track List:

  1. No Worry – Angelique Kidjo
  2. Thank You – Dido
  3. Moonchild – Cibo Matto
  4. We Are One – Angelique Kidjo
  5. Can’t Help Falling In Love – UB40

 

Mix it up a little and chill.

Donn (a.k.a. DJ ReCreator)

Flashback Series:

Friday Flashback Series (Vol. 2) In Memory of Prince

Music inspires. It’s the sound of creativity and the lyrical expression of self. It elicits movement and can influence across boundaries. Certain artists know how to push those boundaries, leaving a legacy and setting an example of what can be done by the creative spirit. As these posts are examples of my self expression, this is dedicated in memory of #prince (1958 – 2016)

Practicing my other profession, this is the second installment of a series where I post some of my music mixes to kick start the weekend. Most tracks will be reminiscent of years past. And if you were born around 1969 or earlier, you may actually have memories from when these songs were first released 😉 I intentionally keep the mixes short and byte-size. Nowadays our attention spans are too short and our tastes are very selective!

Going out a little early this week, so we might want to call this Thursday Throwback.

This weekend’s blend is a spicy mix of female vocals with some unusual twists. At 140 bpm, it has a bit of a kick.

 

Track List:

  1. What’s Up (Original Dance Mix) – DJ Miko
  2. Another Day (Two Man Remix) – Whigfield
  3. When I Grow Up – Garbage
  4. Mickey (Killa Klub Edit) – Toni Basil

Listen on MixCrate

 

Mix it up a little and dance.

Donn (a.k.a. DJ ReCreator)

 

Related:

Curiosity And The Creative Spirit

[I originally started writing this on Easter Sunday but then opted to post a different, shorter version. <https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/its-easter-sunday-lets-unplug-donn-durante>
Weeks later, I’m circling back to this draft and filling in the gaps under a different context.]

It’s Easter Sunday.

This day means different things to different people. Resurrection, life after death, hope, and miracles are first to come to mind. On the secular side, it’s an observed holiday that allows us time off work to spend with our family and friends. For me it means a little of all those things. It also got me thinking about something we don’t often connect with Easter…creativity.

When I think about it, creativity is a very subtle part of the holiday. It’s below the surface but it’s there. For example, there’s a creative aspect in the Lenten practice of giving something up in order to make room for something new. On a more common level, kids tend to be very creative when it comes to coloring Easter eggs. Then, of course, there’s the dramatic story of new life and hope that gave birth to a whole new religion.

I like to think of days like today as a day of quiet reflection. A day to be grateful for your blessings and to appreciate the everyday miracles around us. A day to take stock of who we’ve become and the kind of person we want to be…then make conscious decisions on how we’d like to bridge the gap. A great example has been set. If a humble carpenter can change the world, how can we follow in those footsteps? I don’t see a need to be as dramatic, or to expect transformation after only the third day. It’s a process and you can feel good about taking a single small step in the right direction.

Let’s take a break from the hustle and bustle of the everyday routine. Maybe make an effort to unplug. No checking email, Facebook or Twitter…self-contradictory as this post may be. Be with your family and friends. Be present and enjoy the moment. New life is embodied in this simple act. Happy Easter everyone!

I’m at a good chapter in The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. Currently on “Week 8: Recovering a Sense of Strength”. There are several sections talking about the creative process. Some statements that stuck with me are as follows:

“At the heart of the anorexia of artistic avoidance is the denial of process. We like to focus on having learned a skill or on having made an artwork. This attention to final form ignores the fact that creativity lies not in the done but in the doing.”

“Focused on process, our creative life retains a sense of adventure. Focused on product, the same creative life can feel foolish or barren.”

“…creative life is grounded on many, many small steps and very, very few large leaps.”

“One of our favorite things to do―instead of our art―is to contemplate the odds…In a creative career, thinking about the odds is a drink of emotional poison. It robs us of the dignity of art-as-process and puts us at the mercy of imagined powers out there. Taking this drink quickly leads to a severe and toxic emotional bender. It leads us to ask, “What’s the use?” instead of “What’s next?”

From The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron

MYSTERY

Creativity―like human life itself―begins in darkness. We need to acknowledge this. All too often, we think only in terms of light: “And then the lightbulb went on and I got it!” It is true that insights may come to us as flashes. It is true that some of these flashes may be blinding. It is, however, also true that such bright ideas are preceded by a gestation period that is interior, murky, and completely necessary.
We speak often about ideas a brainchildren. What we do not realize is that brainchildren, like all babies, should not be dragged from the creative womb prematurely. Ideas, like stalactites and stalagmites, form in the dark inner cave of consciousness. They form in drips and drops, not by squared-off building blocks. We must learn to wait for an idea to hatch. Or, to use a gardening image, we must learn to not pull our ideas up by the roots to see if they are growing.
Mulling on the page is an artless art form. It is fooling around. It is doodling. It is the way that ideas slowly take shape and form until they are ready to help us see the light. All too often, we try to push, pull, outline, and control our ideas instead of letting them grow organically. The creative process is a process of surrender, not control.
Mystery is at the heart of creativity. That, and surprise. All too often, when we say we want to be creative, we mean that we want to be able to be productive. Now, to be creative is to be productive–but by cooperating with the creative process, not forcing it.
As creative channels, we need to trust the darkness. We need to learn to gently mull instead of churning away like a little engine on a straight-ahead path. This mulling on the page can be very threatening. “I’ll never get any real ideas this way!” we fret.
Hatching an idea is a lot like baking bread. An idea needs to rise. If you poke at it too much in the beginning, if you keep checking on it, it will never rise. A loaf of bread or a cake, baking, must stay for a good long time in the darkness and safety of the oven. Open that oven too soon and the bread collapses–or the cake gets a hole in its middle because all the steam has rushed out of it. Creativity requires a respectful reticence.
The truth is that this is how to raise the best ideas. Let them grow in dark and mystery. Let them form on the roof of our consciousness. Let them hit the page in droplets. Trusting this slow and seemingly random drip, we will be startled one day by the flash of “Oh! That’s it!”

From page 219 of The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron:
“The morning pages and artist dates must be experienced in order to be explained, just as reading a book about jogging is not the same as putting on your Nikes and heading out to the running track. Map is not your territory, and without reference points from within your own experience, you cannot extrapolate what the morning pages and artist dates can do for you.”

Observing My Creative Process

Since I stopped spending so much in the office and working outside of normal hours, I’ve had a chance to reconnect with my creative side. I got back into mixing music and acting out my other side – DJ ReCreator. I took the leap and started publishing my writing. This blog is one example but I’ve also built up my confidence to share some of my posts on LinkedIn Pulse. Experiments in the kitchen have also been fun though it’s been more scripted by other people’s recipes and not my own creations.

All these areas have been creative outlets for me and have brought more balance to my spirit. I’m happier now. Less and less, I’m not displaying what I learned is the “angry artist” that arises from being stifled and held back. I don’t like being grumpy. Caro and the kids don’t like being around me when I am. Who can blame them. I’m just glad they’ve been patient with me as it took me a long time to find my way “back home.”

Anyway, while I’ve been spending time on my creative projects, I take mental notes of my process and try to get a better understanding of what brings out my best. I also note habits that seem to undermine the process.

It really is more about the process than the product. When I focus too much on the product and the recognition I hope to get from it, I lose my way. Enjoying the journey and not worrying too much about the destination is where I’ve been most myself. So here are some observations regarding the process from my own experience (They seem to reflect the truth in Julia Cameron’s words):

  • I’ll occasionally have bursts of inspiration where the ideas or words just gush out and I almost can’t keep up. This usually happens during free association or when I’m writing my morning pages. More often, though, I get an idea that feels like a good seed, so I plant it and let it grow at it’s own pace until it’s ready to blossom.
  • When I’m focused too much on the product versus the process, I get tempted to share something prematurely. I’m learning that my best outcomes are a result of nurturing over time. Maintaining environments and conditions conducive to growth (i.e. balanced and inclusive of all the right elements).
  • By letting things simmer and rest, I’m able to go back with fresh perspective. This allows me to refine and fill in where needed.
  • If I’m ever afraid to express something, I remind myself that it doesn’t matter if some people don’t like what I’m doing. If the process serves it purpose and I’m the only one who benefits directly, that’s enough. Worrying about what other people will think is self-sabotaging. Actually, it’s when I don’t worry about putting my true self out there, that I seem to connect with others in a more magical way…at least based on the feedback I’ve received in those instances.
  • My gut has been a good indicator of whether or not something is ready. Going against it has rarely been a good idea.

 

Quotes on Creativity

‘Trust that still, small voice that says. “This might work and I’ll try it.”‘

― Diane Mariechild


“Imagination is more important than knowledge.”

― Albert Einstein


“Man can learn nothing except by going from the known to the unknown.”

― Claude Bernard


“I cannot expect even my own art to provide all of the answers–only to hope it keeps asking the right questions.”

― Grace Hartigan


“Art? You just do it.”

― Martin Ritt


“Satisfaction of one’s curiosity is one of the greatest sources of happiness in life.”

― Linus Pauling


“The world of reality has its limits; the world of imagination is boundless.”

― Jean-Jacques Rousseau


“Remember first that everything you think, say, and do is a reflection of what you’ve decided about yourself; a statement of Who You Are; an act of creation in your deciding who you want to be.”

― Neale Donald Walsch

 



“Intelligence looks for what is known to solve problems. Creativity looks for what is unknown to discover possibilities.”

― Simon Sinek


“Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep.”

― Scott Adams





 

Get in The Zone Then Step Out

Being in the zoneor in the state of flowis often associated with a special kind of focus. And that focus lends itself to extraordinary performance. You know the feeling. The stars are aligned and you experience a suspended moment of clarity. Everything clicks and it feels like you can do no wrong. Even complex situations are managed with ease as you naturally adjust to all variables in real-time. Every decision, every movement is graceful and appears effortless. While often associated with sports, this happens just as much at work, or in any other activity that requires focus in order to perform well.

It seems like some people are able to get in the zone on demand. It’s like they flip an internal switch and then they’re able to stay in the zone until the task at hand is done. Amazing to watch these people in action. What others find challenging, they make look easy. I used to admire these stars from a distance and wonder how I too could learn to flip that switch.

Locus of Control / Circle of Influence

Before my career even started, I was fortunate to have picked up a copy of the classic 7 Habits by Stephen Covey. Habit 1 gave me insight into how people were able to get in the zone. I started seeing the zone as what Covey called your Circle of Influence. Being in the zone meant having an internal locus of control. In other words, I thought that having a primary focus on the things you can controland attributing outcomes to those ‘controllables’had a direct correlation with peak performance. Covey emphasized exercising your ability to choose and being proactive versus reactive. This concept has served me well throughout my career. Even if luck had a large part to do with it, applying this concept has brought me good luck.

Many of us spend our time thinking about things outside of our control. (Things that are in our circle of concern, but outside of our circle of influence.) We may want to change something without having the ability to do anything about it. Whether it’s the weather or the economic/political climate, some things are just not in our circle of control. We might not have any influence over certain things today, but it’s possible to take steps towards someday being able to.

Expanding Your Circle of Influence

To grow our circle of influence, it’s important to practice things just outside of our comfort zone. Not way out,  just enough to make us stretch. Things that will help us grow but are still within reasonable reach. With enough exposure and practice in those areas, if they’re meaningful to you, they will eventually become second nature and part of your circle of control. This happens organically to some degree. What separates the ordinary from the extraordinary is intention and proactive behavior.

By maintaining an internal locus of control and working in the zone, you create momentum and waves. I like to consider each phase of my career a wave that I ride as well as I can for as long as it lasts. In the past 25 years, I’ve had 6 or so significant career changes, or waves (metaphorically speaking.) With each role, I got in my zone and made the most of each wave I caught. Sometimes it would get choppy and I would get worked, but I’d keep charging ahead. When it was cranking, I felt the flow and did my thing.


It feels like the moment you’re in is where you’re supposed to be…”

― Dave Aabo, Waves for Development


Each ride made me better at what I did and as I grew professionally, so did my circle of influence.  Those rides were good while they lasted, but every chapter has a beginning and an end, and even big waves have to end sometime.

What Got You Here Won’t Get You There

…is what Marshall Goldsmith titled one of his books. He talked about growing as an executive by evolving rather than following the same formula for success that has gotten you this far. We’re all tempted to rinse and repeat when we find an approach or method that works for us. This never lasts though. Things change–conditions, inputs, reactions, etc. What works today will not necessarily work tomorrow, or next month, or next year. There’s also a tendency for successful people to form bad habits that can defeat and unravel any good that they’ve done. One of those bad habits Goldsmith calls “clinging to the past – the need to deflect blame away from ourselves and onto events and people from our past.” In doing so, we’re basically shifting our locus of control from internal to external.

My transition between waves varied. In some cases, I was able to piggy-back off the previous experience. In other situations, I had to start fresh.

There was a point in my management career when I was really in the zone. I stayed focused on the things I could actually control. I took on projects that I knew I could influence, hired the right people and followed the principles that I knew would bring results. Everything fell into place. I was promoted 3 times in 3 years. Stepping stone after stepping stone I climbed, eventually accepting the role of Vice President of Marketing. Then the environment changed – steppings stones became stumbling blocks.

Instead of reassessment, I tried harder to follow the formula that worked for me in the past…it wasn’t working anymore. I kept hitting a brick wall. At first, I kept pounding my head against the wall thinking I could eventually break through. That just caused pain. Then I tried finding a ladder that got me over similar walls I had encountered before. This time, there were no ladders to be found. It took me a while to realize it, but now I see that the wall was there for a different reason. Time to go in a different direction.

Adjusting to Change

New directions and unchartered territory can be scary. Fear of the unknown is natural. As you step out of your comfort zone, you have to deal with the unfamiliar. This is one of those moments where ‘the rubber hits the road’ and how you choose to respond determines how easily you’ll be able to acclimate.

“Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.” “Step out of your comfort zone.” Whatever version you’ve heard, I know it’s cliché. Maybe because repetition is actually required for it to become effective and for the message to hit home.

The more we practice stepping out of our comfort zone, the less daunting these changes are. We get used to embracing change rather than fighting it. When this becomes second nature, you can still be “in the zone” even though you’re stepping out of your comfort zone. Because you’ve done it enough times where you accept it as par for the course. You’re no longer paralyzed by that fear.


“To be outstanding, get comfortable with being uncomfortable.”

― Alrik Koudenburg


As you advance through your career, stay focused on what you’re good at, the things that are important to you and that you’re passionate about. This will help keep you in the zone and boost your performance. Ride those waves for as long as they last and your circle of influence will continue to expand. Opportunities and resources that were once out of reach begin to enter your circle, fueling success in a virtuous cycle. Success begets further success…until it doesn’t.

Relish these moments in the zone. They tend to be fleeting. Athletes can get into a slump. Careers might hit a glass ceiling. When your wave crashes and it’s time to look for your next ride, acknowledge that the rinse and repeat formula may not work anymore. You’ll need to accept change and be comfortable with it.

“The key to pursuing excellence is to embrace an organic, long-term learning process, and not to live in a shell of static, safe mediocrity. Usually, growth comes at the expense of previous comfort or safety.”

—  Josh Waitzkin

Good athletes know this. Successful professionals know this. The difference between just knowing and actually doing is the key to keeping the door open and unlocking the gate to flow. Remember to make time regularly to ‘sharpen the saw’ and do things outside of your comfort zone. Step out and stretch. Do something good that makes you uncomfortable. There will come a time when you’ll need to make a more drastic change in your career and this practice will come in handy. When work or life throws you a curve ball, you’ll be more ready for anything that comes your way if you regularly practice stepping out of your comfort zone. You might swing and miss. That’s ok. That’s how we learn when it’s time to switch it up. Before you know it, you’ll be hitting those curve balls out of the park and making it look effortless.

 

-Donn

Sources and Related:

For The Introvert: The Quiet Evolution Before The Quiet Revolution

“When an inner situation is not made conscious, it appears outside as fate.”

― C.G. Jung


“…the eloquence of silence. Silence is always part of great music. Silence is always part of great art. Silence is always part of great life.”

― Robert Fulghum, From Beginning to End


Pinterest Board:
https://www.pinterest.com/donnedurante/for-introverts/


The Woman Who Started The Quiet Revolution

Recommended Reading:


 

Comics for Introverts

from Grant Snider

tumblr_o3d6njH7Vr1qmoni4o1_500tumblr_njax8fEwxM1qmoni4o1_540

 

 


 



 

 

 

 

Playing with Your Hedgehog Outside of Work

[Originally published on LinkedIn Pulse]

It’s early Monday morning as I write this. For those with a traditional Monday-to-Friday work week, how you feel about getting back to work can tell you a lot. Just depends on whether or not you care to listen. Ideally, everyone would be raring to go, excited to return to a current project they’re working on, or simply looking forward to the unknown challenges of a new week. On the other hand, if you’re one of the many who have the Monday Blues, don’t complain about it. There’s a cure.

You could quit. I know that sounds extreme, maybe even unthinkable, but it’s true. You always have that choice. It’s rarely practical, but the option is always there. I don’t necessarily recommend it. We all have bills to pay and if you’re highly dependent on the income, that wouldn’t be a move to make hastily.

That said, it’s something to consider if you’re not excited to go back to work at the beginning of every week. That’s a sign that you should heed. Life is too short not to. So how would you do it?

You could do it in stages, or go all in and take a leap of faith. Hopefully, you’ve been good about managing your finances and making contingency plans. With the right things in place, it becomes more about timing. Timing is an art in itself so don’t hesitate too much. When ready, have confidence and move forward, knowing you’ve done everything you can to be smart about it.

Applying The Hedgehog Concept Outside of Work

What to do is a different, but important, question. Personally, I’ve applied the Hedgehog Concept to help me decide. Find a career or choose a business where the three circles below intersect. If you haven’t read Good to Great by Jim Collins, click through the illustration below for further background on The Hedgehog Concept as it applies to career choices.

 

To maintain multiple streams of income, I take this approach in parallel ― not as a substitution or replacement for what I’m already doing. This means focusing most of my time on the primary economic drivers while still committing to my extracurricular activities “off the clock.” Only when there are multiple initiatives in play do I consider quitting whatever contributes least to my overall happiness.

Start with Your Interests and Make Time For Them

This is one thing that works for me and what I’m suggesting to you. Set aside regular time each week to work on a hobby you love.  For some, it’s trying new recipes in the kitchen. For others, it’s blogging. For me, it happens to be spinning music as a DJ.

Whatever your hobby is, it’s important to make time for it despite the many demands on your already busy schedule. Avoid being lazy or making excuses.

I started DJing over 30 years ago while still in high school. Even though I usually get paid for it, I’ve continued to do it on and off simply because it’s fun. I love music and blending songs in creative ways. To see a packed dance floor of people letting loose, because of the music set I’m playing, is an incredible high. (At the end of this post, you can listen to a mini-mix I uploaded to SoundCloud.)

Last week, I volunteered to DJ a party for the school where my kids attend. Since I agreed to DJ a few weeks earlier, I had reason to dust off the equipment again and practice. It was like time-traveling to the past when I was a resident DJ at a club in college. I used to practice new sets all the time, imagining how the dance floor would react and looking for ways to put my personal signature on the mix. Over the past 3 weeks, I got lost in hours planning possible sets that incorporated the song requests I received in advance. Then I recorded the sets to listen to how the ideas actually came together. I enjoyed every minute of it.

After the gig was over, I remembered how important it is to make time just for the love of it. No need to wait for a reason. Whatever fulfillment I may not be getting from my other undertakings, I’ve found it’s made up in this area. So making the time commitment to my hobby helps provides balance. It has also set me up to succeed when I find opportunities to monetize.

“Study and work in whatever seemingly unrelated areas you are interested in, even if it’s just a hobby. That way, when your dream job/business comes up, you’ll be perfectly and uniquely qualified for it.”

― Sarah Jansen, writer and editor

Where It All Comes Together

Now back to work…Work could be and should be fun. Normally it’s not. That’s why we call it work. So, for now, if you have to work at a job that’s not your calling, but pays the bills, make time outside of work hours to do what you’re deeply passionate about. That might be cooking, writing, DJing…or in my case, all of the above. Perhaps you like to code. Some of you enjoy organizing events or managing side-projects. Doesn’t matter. As you get better and better at your chosen craft, you’ll improve your chances of finding the missing piece and putting it all together ― combining passion and skill with something that can drive your economic engine. Or in other words, creating a part-time gig, or even better, a viable career out of something you love and are also very good at.

I know fitness instructors, magicians, wedding planners, business consultants/owners and of course other DJs who’ve done just that. I’d love to hear if you’ve also managed to make the transition. What were you doing before and what are you doing today? Please leave a comment below.

Let me wrap up this set with a sample music mix created by my alternate persona, DJ ReCreator:

Use the following link if the embedded sound clip doesn’t load: https://soundcloud.com/donn-durante/3d-blend-fancy-champagne-with-shirt-and-tie

You can also see the track list and download this mix for free on MixCrate:
http://www.mixcrate.com/djrecreator/3d-blend-fancy-champagne-with-shirt-and-tie-9203074

Cheers! Here’s to a happy work week!

Serendipity, Synchronicity or Just Plain Good Luck

jung-synchronicitysyn·chro·nic·i·ty
ˌsiNGkrəˈnisədē/
noun
noun: synchronicity
  1. the simultaneous occurrence of events that appear significantly related but have no discernible causal connection.
    “such synchronicity is quite staggering

 


ser·en·dip·i·ty
ˌserənˈdipədē/
noun
  1. the occurrence and development of events by chance in a happy or beneficial way.
    “a fortunate stroke of serendipity”

“We often dream about people from whom we receive a letter by the next post. I have ascertained on several occasions that at the moment when the dream occurred the letter was already lying in the post-office of the addressee.”
C.G. Jung, Synchronicity: An Acausal Connecting Principle


“Chance is always powerful. Let your hook be always cast; in the pool where you least expect it, there will be a fish.”
― Ovid


“Did you ever observe to whom the accidents happen? Chance favors only the prepared mind.”
― Louis Pasteur


“According to Vedanta, there are only two symptoms of enlightenment, just two indications that a transformation is taking place within you toward a higher consciousness. The first symptom is that you stop worrying. Things don’t bother you anymore. You become light-hearted and full of joy. The second symptom is that you encounter more and more meaningful coincidences in your life, more and more synchronicities. And this accelerates to the point where you actually experience the miraculous. (quoted by Carol Lynn Pearson in Consider the Butterfly)”
Deepak Chopra, Synchrodestiny: Harnessing the Infinite Power of Coincidence to Create Miracles


“I do believe in an everyday sort of magic — the inexplicable connectedness we sometimes experience with places, people, works of art and the like; the eerie appropriateness of moments of synchronicity; the whispered voice, the hidden presence, when we think we’re alone.”
Charles de Lint


“We do not create our destiny; we participate in its unfolding. Synchronicity works as a catalyst toward the working out of that destiny.”
David Richo, The Power of Coincidence: How Life Shows Us What We Need to Know


“When you stop existing and you start truly living, each moment of the day comes alive with the wonder and synchronicity.”
Steve Maraboli, Life, the Truth, and Being Free


“At various points in our lives, or on a quest, and for reasons that often remain obscure, we are driven to make decisions which prove with hindsight to be loaded with meaning. (225)”
Swami Satchidananda, The Yoga Sutras


“As soon as we notice that certain types of event “like” to cluster together at certain times, we begin to understand the attitude of the Chinese, whose theories of medicine, philosophy, and even building are based on a “science” of meaningful coincidences. The classical Chinese texts did not ask what causes what, but rather what “likes” to occur with what.”
M.L. von Franz