The Daily Peck
A Beakful to Start Your Day
There is no magic pill.
May 26, 2020
When I was at my unhealthiest, I was taking medication for high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and heartburn. My doctor cited study after study showing these medications would reduce my probability of early death. My dentist prescribed a mouth guard because I was grinding my teeth at night due to stress. As a nuclear submariner, diving into the root cause of problems and fixing them was carved into my DNA. And yet I was taking my most valuable asset and treating it with band-aids because I refused to address the root of the issue.
There are a lot of factors working against us.
We are assaulted by relentless marketing selling us easy solutions to our problems.
Our brains evolved in a way that makes it very easy to delude ourselves.
What changed my life was looking in the mirror and realizing I had a choice. I had assumed that stress and overwork was my burden in life. I learned that this is not true.
There are no shortcuts to what you want. Whether it is your personal health or your relationships, there is no magic pill or a like button that will get you there. Each requires an investment. That investment can be joyful.
The beauty of all this is that it is actually the journey that matters.
Your mindset determines everything.
May 23, 2020
I laugh about it now. My personality is not the type that succeeds in the military. I have taken all types of tests, and a typical output reads “does not shine in systems of strict regimentation and hierarchy, such as military service. Thrives on the ability to question the status quo. Does not appreciate hierarchy, repetition, predictability, boredom. Has to push boundaries.”
Yet somehow I managed to become a nuclear #submarine captain, a pretty good one at that.
How did I manage that?
When I was in high school, I decided I wanted to be a #leader. I wanted to go to a top tier university. The #Navy offered an opportunity to do both.
I couldn’t march worth a lick. I loathed it. But I did what I had to do to get where I wanted to be.
It proved to be a valuable learning experience. It changed my #mindset from a fixed one to a growth one, in the framework of Stanford professor Carol Dweck. I learned I could stretch beyond my perceived limits, which had life-altering consequences.
The skills to teach and align a team to hunt down enemy submarines by integrating ambiguous and uncertain information into a torpedo firing solution are not the same as marching around an overheated gym in a wool uniform.
My weakness became a strength.
It’s never too late to shift your mindset.
Be thoughtful and actful.
May 22, 2020
Today I sent someone a birthday gift that wasn’t perfect. It made me happy to do so.
In my mind, I’ve always been a thoughtful person. I think about people on their special days. I search for the perfect gift or think about the perfectly clever thing to say.
Often that’s where it would die. I’d never find what I wanted or act on what I was thinking about.
The funny thing is, I would give myself credit just for thinking. If they only knew how much I thought about them and how much I wanted to do something nice for them.
But they didn’t feel that. I didn’t bring them joy. They had no idea.
Thoughtful is an interesting word. It can mean a couple of similar things with vastly different outcomes:
1. Absorbed in or involving thought
2. Showing considerations for the needs of other people
I was spending too much time in my head, trying to be perfect and not enough time caring, acting, and just showing up.
The expression “it’s the thought that counts” is a funny one. Without action, the thought is meaningless. Without thoughtfulness, the action is meaningless. Put them together and what may not be perfect becomes so.
The gift is not perfect and it may be a day or two late. And that’s okay.
May 19, 2020
We had worked together in Philly. Our work relationship developed into more. I mentored him to help him develop as a business person and leader. I cared about him. We celebrated together when I left Philly to take the much bigger job in Boston.
Yesterday, catching up on a video call, he mentioned that he just celebrated his fifth wedding anniversary. I was shocked he had been married that long.
He chuckled and said he had tried to connect with me in Boston, but I wasn’t very available.
He was right. I wasn’t available. In the past, pointing out that I wasn’t the person I wanted to be would have bothered me for a while. I would have reacted in a defensive way, knowing he was right, allowing my guilt to manifest in a non-constructive way.
I didn’t. I viewed his remark as a sign I have learned my lesson and am on a better path.
I feel fortunate to have learned this lesson when I did.
For many of us, it takes a significant event to reevaluate what is important to us.
We are experiencing one now.
Be like Mike. Live in the moment.
May 18, 2020
I spent a lot of time underwater in the 80s and 90s. There are elements of pop culture that I never grasped. Michael Jordan was one. So, I didn’t expect to have a revelation last night.
“Why would I think about missing a shot that I hadn’t taken yet?”
Wow! Michael Jordan was so present. He wasn’t worried about the future or the consequences. He focused on doing the best he could right now.
In every element of my life, I would be closer to my potential if I focused on the now instead of worrying about the future.
Great coaches tell you the work is done in practice, so on game day, just go out and have fun.
That’s true whether you are giving a speech, talking to your kids, or hitting a driver off the first tee.
Some areas in my life I’ve been able to do that. I was never nervous leading my submarine. I had put in the work and knew that 150 people were counting on me.
In other areas, I’ve been less confident, not as prepared and not in the moment.
I convinced myself that I cared too much, I wanted it too badly, and got nervous.
What I learned is that I was too concerned with the outcome and not focused on the now.
If it matters, I need to put in the effort ahead of time and stop worrying.
If I do that, I can live with the outcome. No sense worrying about it.
Our reaction to threats is a choice.
May 15, 2020
Some days it is hard to stay upbeat. Like today. :) Recognizing that our reaction to events is a choice helps me turn it around.
Daniel Goleman, the leading expert on emotional intelligence, got me thinking. At first, I disagreed, then kept reading. Approaching with curiosity instead of judgment, I reversed my thinking.
His point: “Priming our minds with thoughts of our death sets up a cascade of defenses, biases, and actions... Reminders of our own death lead the mind to us vs. them thinking, with highly negative opinions of the “other” group... and the heightening of greediness”
“The terror effects only occur if the reminders of death stay below awareness. If we consciously ponder our mortality, our mind goes down none of these negative mental paths.” We become “less self-centered and greedy and value relationships more.”
We have the power to choose our reaction. Choice requires mindfulness.
As much as I hate to admit it to myself, my innate tendency when threatened is us vs. them. I have learned to recognize it and choose not to go down that path.
Through mindfulness, inserting a pause, I am able to shift out of defensiveness and focus with gratitude on my life, relationships, and the good I can do.
Replace nagging with celebration.
May 14, 2020
Nagging. I hate it! Who doesn’t? Even when I know the person is right, my initial reaction is to rebel. It grates on me. Counselors identify nagging as the leading cause of discord and divorce. Stay at home presents an ample opportunity for nagging that might be straining some relationships. My wife leaves most of my BS alone and is pretty careful with how she tries to guide my behavior. Today she did something brilliant and a light bulb went off in my head.
When I buy into an idea, I really get into it and want to teach it to everyone. This week it has been Tiny Habits, behavioral design, and the power of celebration. I’ve been so amazed at how effective the simple act of celebration is at encoding behaviors in my brain.
I haven’t been turning the lid on the pot to keep the coffee warm. This morning instead of once again asking me if I did it, which, once again, I didn’t, resulting in disappointment all around, she just asked me to do it after I finished pouring my coffee. When I did, she raised both arms in celebration and cheered. It was funny and made us both laugh.
Now on cup 5, I haven’t forgotten to do it since. I don’t think I will, because now I am wired for happiness.
Nagging is about being right. Celebration will change behavior.
Wiring your brain for the power of good.
May 13, 2020
I’m an adrenaline junky. I fell in love with submarines during a crazily intense two-month operation. My day:
6 hours driving the boat, totally alert, ready to act at any second, severe consequences if we didn’t.
6 hours to reconstruct events, nap, eat, and repeat.
It was all-consuming. I’d dream about it, rolling over in my rack like I was maneuvering the ship.
In college, I had an innate ability to figure out when to start writing a paper so it would take a full burn with no sleep to get it done. Then I’d start an hour later.
I was a turnaround person in the Navy. I loved jumping into bad situations and making them better.
Ignoring sound advice, I served only on fast attack submarines because I couldn’t stand the idea of being on a ballistic missile patrol schedule that was predictable.
This type of mindset leads to addictive behavior. Fortunately, mine were socially acceptable.
Studying behavioral design made me realize the power of the addictions that we have (Leave me alone, iPhone).
I learned that I could, through celebration, wire my brain to drive positive behavior that I choose.
Lights out leaving the room, keys in their spot, no phone in the bedroom. Yes! Fist pump!
Who knew those would be such a rush?
Now onto bigger things.
The power of the mind.
Celebrating small victories to learn new habits.
May 12, 2020
Throughout our 32 years of marriage, my wife has been teaching me to celebrate. I can be a slow learner. She celebrates everything with tremendous joy, whether it's a birthday (week), our daughter finding a job, or the dog going potty. Every positive event, large or small is to be celebrated. To me, it seemed cute but somewhat silly.
I tend to be a perfectionist, trained as a Navy nuclear #submariner, where the standard is absolute. I viewed anything not perfect as a failure. There was never a reason for celebration because nothing was quite good enough. Even if it was perfect, the next challenge was on the horizon, so there was no time to party, it was on to the next.
Studying behavioral design opened my eyes to the power of #celebration in forming habits. I tended to get down on myself if I didn’t do something, rather than celebrating when I did. The celebration doesn’t have to be big. Clearing those red numbers on your iPhone apps isn’t, but it’s addicting. We can create our own positive feelings to fuel #habits we choose.
The lesson is coming just in time. Two months into stay-at-home, bad habits can be annoying, no matter how much someone loves you.
Progress is being made. This morning I managed to shut off the bathroom light without a reminder.
YES! Fist pump!
Regaining healthy habits in the new normal.
May 11, 2020
How are you doing on self-care? Me, not as great as I want. Now that our world has changed, it's a struggle. It turns out I didn’t understand habits as much as I thought I did.
A couple of years ago, I realized my habits could not sustain my physical, mental and spiritual health. I researched and experimented to develop a routine that worked for me. Eventually, I was able to execute without it feeling like a burden.
Our habits are triggered by prompts. In my case, I’d wake up, weigh myself, eat a snack, take my vitamins, read, work out, meditate in the sauna, jump in a cold plunge, write in my journal then eat breakfast. Each habit was triggered by the one before in a sequence that clicked.
Now that sequence has blown up. It’s hard to get it strung back together because the prompts are broken. I have to think about each step. Every decision requires will power. Right now, with the stress that we all feel, will power is in shorter supply.
I am in the process of redesigning my day, using BJ Fogg’s Tiny Habits approach. Now that I understand the principles, I’ll be happier and it will flow easier once I build my habits back.
If you feel you are a little off, don’t be hard on yourself. We’re all figuring out this new normal together.
Choose your response.
May 8, 2020
Yesterday, walking to pick up some food, I was verbally assaulted for wearing a mask. My initial emotional reaction was to respond in kind, but the mindfulness practices I am learning enabled me to pause and not escalate.
But it still bothered me. I started to worry about the divisions we have in our country today and how things might get worse before they get better. But worrying does nothing constructive.
I’m a fortunate person. I have the means to choose what I do. Many of us do not. I’m grateful for what I have. People face much larger problems. But that doesn’t mean every day is fun and easy. The benefits of meditation, exercise, sleep, and connection become most apparent on those days.
When I write about happiness, I’m not referring to fleeting moments associated with a fun experience. That’s not my goal. I mean something deeper, along the lines of Aristotle's concept of eudaimonia, where living a life of virtue leads to a good life.
Surrounding myself with people that inspire me provides the example, support, and behavioral norms to help me live a life of character and virtue.
There are days when ugliness intrudes into my bubble. I can’t control that. I can choose my response.
Recovering the brain. Part II
May 7, 2020
The analytical side of my brain was back, but something was still off. I was scared. I worried that my recovery was over and I still wasn’t the person I used to be. I’d always had a bias towards happiness and optimism. Now it shifted towards stress and worry.
I could suppress those feelings but I couldn’t ever turn them off. I used to be able to leave work and flip a switch, now something was always lingering in the background.
I was irritable. It took an effort to control that as well, one that my family wished was working a little more effectively.
I prided myself on being able to naturally manage a lot of stress with a positive outlook. As a nuclear submarine captain, I thrived on the stress that came with the role.
Now it took a constant effort to resist uneasy feelings that kept creeping in.
As the jobs got bigger and the stresses greater, this became even more of a challenge until eventually I no longer had the capacity to manage it.
I thought I would never be myself again.
A friend, looking at my face and the pain I seemed to be in, suggested meditation. It sounded hokey. Desperate, I tried it.
Little did I know how meditation would help my brain recover. The neuroplasticity of the brain means we can strengthen and improve it. Meditation works.
Recovering the brain. Part I
May 6, 2020
In 2007, I suffered a concussion in a car accident. I went from a math wiz to unable to do a simple Sudoku puzzle.
One afternoon, my daughter described a segment on Oprah about the world’s largest and smallest dogs. She said, “It was the size of a Hershey bar.” I stared blankly at her and asked: “Which one?”
I was working and betting our future on an EMBA program. I didn’t see a path to complete it, adding to my stress.
I kept testing myself, trying to work through it, but couldn’t due to headaches and fatigue. The holidays came. I finally rested. Back to work and school in January, I felt overwhelmed. I tried not to judge myself, to give myself permission not to be perfect. It was a challenge.
I was in a fog until my first exam. Staring at the blank blue book, not knowing what to do, as the seconds ticked away, suddenly my brain snapped back into place. At least the analytical side of it did. There was an outpouring of stuff flowing from my brain through my hand that I didn’t realize was there. I ended up with a perfect score when 5 minutes before I couldn’t explain the most basic concepts.
The analytical side of my brain was back, but something was off. I was irritable and lost the ability to turn off work-related stress. Tomorrow: the journey to recovery.
May 5, 2020
Yesterday’s question has me thinking more deeply about regret. “Regrets, I’ve had a few....” Frank Sinatra’s “My Way“ was released when I was 9 years old. It sounded old to me 50 years ago. But even then, when I couldn’t imagine “the final curtain”, the lyrics spoke to me.
Living life your way, being authentic to your true self is a longing we all have. The hard part is not the desire to live your life that way, but to take the time to explore and understand who you really are. It is so easy to get wrapped up in the expectations of others, to get swept up in a race that you feel you have to win without even considering if you entered the right race.
Bonnie Ware studied regrets of the dying. Their top 5 wishes:
I had the courage to live a life true to myself, not what others expected
I hadn’t worked so hard
I had the courage to express my feelings
I stayed in touch with friends
I let myself be happier
Being your authentic self, surrounding yourself with friends and family who provide a support system so you can express your feelings without fearing judgment, setting work boundaries, and just giving yourself permission to enjoy life will enable you to live a life without regret.
Yesterday, I realized I could finally say: Regrets, I don’t have any.
Was it worth it?
May 4, 2020
Was it worth it? Would I have taken the highly paid, high-stress job if I knew the repercussions? Another thought-provoking question. Actually two with two different answers.
This answer may be disappointing to some. But the truth is, I have a hard time even thinking about the question since I have rewired my brain to think differently.
Because I can’t go back. I can only make a decision and take action right now, and that decision is to write this. The series of events that brought me right here, right now, brought me right where I needed to be.
Without both the good and the bad, I wouldn’t have learned what I have learned, met who I met, developed the relationships that I developed. If I made every right decision and it all worked out the way I wanted, I would be less happy and feeling somewhat empty right now.
It was all worth it because it brought me here.
There was not just one choice. Every moment is a choice and there are lots I would make differently because now I know better. But that is irrelevant because I already made them and I wouldn’t know what I know if I didn’t go through it.
I share my reflections to help me with clarity and to hopefully help you if you find yourself in a similar place.
I don’t look back regretfully.
Slowing the aging process.
May 1, 2020
How many years have I shortened my life by subjecting myself to job madness? Great question.
I haven’t measured my telomeres. Yes, I’m still bald. But here’s what I do know.
Telomeres are repeating segments of DNA at the ends of your chromosomes, like the tips of shoelaces. They shorten with each cell division, determining how fast your cells age and die. Stress accelerates this, contributing to aging and reducing the quality of your life.
Research shows we can likely reverse this process. It doesn’t happen through a magic elixir.
It happens through lifestyle:
Mindfulness – reframing our view of situations
Mental focus on what we're currently doing, living in the #moment
Eating fresh, whole foods
Being part of a community
I’ve changed my life to incorporate each of these. Without a doubt, I feel younger than I have in 30 years. I’m in the best physical, mental, and spiritual shape of my life. And people notice.
Had I not hit the wall, I wouldn’t have acted. I’m better for it.
We can’t undo the past, we can only live in the now.
The steps here can restore your health and vitality. Most likely you will live longer. It’s not guaranteed, but while it lasts, the ride will certainly be more enjoyable and meaningful.
April 30, 2020
I developed a phantom twitch in my left front pocket, whether my phone was there or not. When the phone did go off, I cringed.
What could be wrong now?
Before, a text was a moment of joy, a note from my daughters. Now it was pain, fear, and guilt.
An immediate response was expected. If I didn’t answer in a minute, there would be more. So I never went anywhere without my phone. I kept it on vibrate because it went off so frequently. I didn’t want to distract everyone around me. At night I kept it on my nightstand so I could hear the buzz and respond immediately.
Sleep wasn’t my priority, survival was. At least the messed up perception of what survival was that I had at the time.
Prompts trigger habits. Those habits become addictive. Companies have gotten too good at exploiting them. But what’s good for Instagram, Facebook, and your boss might not be good for you.
What does it say to the person you are with when you drop everything to respond to the alert on your phone?
It says: what’s happening out there is more important than being right here, now, with you.
You might not want to admit it, but that’s what you’re communicating.
The person sitting across from you feels it.
Can you use your physical isolation as a prompt for positive change?
Motivation to change.
April 29, 2020
At my lowest, I knew that I needed to change, but I couldn’t bring myself to do it.
I kept working harder and harder, as my effectiveness plummeted, my health suffered, and my relationship with myself and others deteriorated.
I suspect that many of you are not living the lives you want to live, yet feel powerless to change.
You are not powerless. You can live the life you want.
BJ Fogg, who runs the Behavioral Design Lab @ Stanford, has a model that breaks down behavior into three elements: motivation, ability, and prompts.
If you’re unable to change your behavior, one of those elements is missing.
Fogg identified three core motivators: sensation, anticipation, and belonging, each of which has a positive and negative side: pleasure/pain, hope/fear, acceptance/rejection.
I thought I was motivated to change, but in reality, I wasn’t. I was more concerned with avoiding the pain of my boss being snarky, the fear of missing quarterly numbers, the rejection of the board.
I've been able to turn my motivation from the negative side to the positive side of each core motivator.
Being motivated by love, hope, and acceptance is key.
Focus on the happiness you bring to others.
Choose your destiny.
Empathy is undervalued.
April 28, 2020
On my first sub, I made a mistake and got chewed out in a very animated way by my Captain. Minutes later we were in the wardroom having lunch. He was warm and cordial. It made it clear he cared about me. I was determined not to let him down again.
Do you want to be loved OR respected as a leader?
It’s a false choice.
One on my mind lately as I watch events play out in the Navy and at the national level.
There are those that equate being loved as a leader with being soft, having lax standards, or being unwilling to ask people to work hard. That idea is a disservice to your team.
People want to respect their leaders. They would also like to love them. They deserve both.
We yearn to accomplish something great, to be part of something bigger.
We don’t love or respect someone because they are easy on us.
We want someone to bring out our best.
We’ll respect someone that inspires us with a vision and aligns us to achieve it.
But that is not enough.
To bring out the best, your team has to feel that you’re as passionate about them as about the mission.
They have to know you value their contribution and care about them and their families.
Work hard. Play hard. Care.
It requires empathy, a leadership quality that is often undervalued.
April 27, 2020
The world is in crisis and I am sitting here in my apartment writing 1300 characters about friendship and connection every day. Why? Don’t I have more important things I could be doing?
Well, not really. We all have to contribute in our unique way. The erosion of personal connection is a fundamental long-term problem that we face.
It was a problem before COVID-19. The physical separation we’re experiencing now has just made the issue more transparent.
My goal in writing is to do more than give you a minute or two of amusement as you get on your day. I hope to help you change your behavior to more deeply connect with the special people in your life.
If you recognize the need for change and are struggling to get moving, we can help. We have a free webinar we can do with your friends, family, team, or company that will walk you through practical steps to strengthen your personal relationships.
You’ll walk away with a better understanding of your closest relationships and a plan to cultivate them in a meaningful way.
If you’re interested, message me or comment and we’ll set up a time to connect: email@example.com
The problem of striving for independent strength.
April 26, 2020
"There was something about our disconnection from one another that was making people's lives worse than they had to be...This shame was particularly acute in professional cultures...that promote independent strength as a virtue."
“While loneliness has the potential to kill, connection has even more potential to heal.”
You are not alone in this feeling.
I know this firsthand. My desire to prove my strength drove me into the ground.
My reconnection with friends and family has made my life more meaningful and joyful than ever.
My mission is to help others do the same.
Please reach out if you want help or check out our website for steps you can take to address your loneliness before it’s too late.
Check out Together by Vivek Murthy.
Getting back on track.
April 24, 2020
Twice, I’ve had to change the course of my life because I drifted off track. In the first, I pulled myself out of workaholism and insecurity stemming from trying to please a boss who didn't appreciate me. In the second, I risked my health and emotional well-being in an all-consuming job that took me to my limit.
Both times, I came back to focus on what mattered most – the love of my family and my friends.
Each painful experience led to an awakening.
Chances are that if you’re off course, you drifted slowly and didn’t recognize what was happening. Perhaps you slowly got caught up in the expectations of a society that values materialism and image over substance and authentic connection. It’s hard to avoid.
If it hasn’t dawned on you yet, COVID-19 is a life-altering event, not a two-month detour.
Not even the greatest experts on the planet can predict how our lives will change.
With all this uncertainty, it’s more apparent than ever the only thing we can control is our choices.
Now’s time to take stock. It’s an opportunity to consider your mortality, what regrets you might have, and to make a change.
The first step is to recognize the need to change, which is not easy.
The next is to change your behavior, which is even harder. I’d love to help.
Holed up and making friends.
April 23, 2020
Yes, despite being holed up in my apartment, I’m making new friends – and I’m making existing relationships stronger. You can too!
You may think that it's impossible right now. Fortunately, that is not the case.
Video creates a sense of copresence that can be very powerful. It’s almost as effective as meeting in person. And it’s way more effective than meeting in person with someone who is distracted by their phone. I know. I used to be that person.
The key is to engage. Look at the other person. Listen. I mean really listen. Be present to the conversation. Nothing else.
Turn off notifications so Slack is not distracting you every 3 seconds.
Share an activity just as you would during an in-person meeting. Have a drink, snack, work on something together.
It will amaze you how much you can get to know someone while intensely focusing on them for 30 minutes without distraction.
It takes about 50 hours together to make a new friend, around 200 hours to make a close friend. Most likely less so when you ratchet up the intensity.
To repurpose an old Chinese proverb – the best time to make a new friend was 50 hours ago. The second best time is now.
Let’s get started! You don’t need to wait for a vaccine.
The greatest gift you can give.
April 22, 2020
I was blown away yesterday. I received the most surprising, meaningful, and heartfelt gift.
In 7 Habits, Stephen Covey asks you to imagine you are attending a funeral three years in the future.
It turns out to be yours.
What do your family, friends, co-workers, and service organization say about you?
It’s a powerful exercise – one I have used to guide the choices I make in life. Right up there with “What would my grandmother think?”
Yesterday, I got to experience the results. Better yet I was still alive to do so!
I had no idea what was to happen when my family sat around me and turned on the video. If you’ve been following me, you won’t be surprised to know a tear or two were shed.
It was incredibly moving to see family and friends wish me a Happy Birthday, talk about the impact I had on their lives, and tell a funny story or two. Some big things, but also little things that have an impact that you don’t recognize, like outlawing clip-on bow ties.
The source of happiness is the joy you bring to others.
Emotion is transmitted through the face.
Seeing everyone, who each communicated their message in their own way, enabled their personalities and feelings to shine through.
My party got canceled but our connection did not.
Reflections at 60.
April 21, 2020
60! People have been asking me how I feel about turning 60. At first, I found the question silly, given that it beats the alternative hands down.
I never would have believed this, but if I were to rank my milestone birthdays, 40 and 60 are at the top. At 40 I was on top of the world – submarine Captain, my dream job, enjoying it even more than I thought I would. The responsibility I felt for my crew and my ship brought out the best in me.
Now I’m in a totally different place. I’ve reached a new sense of awareness about myself and the world around me. I’m less worried about extrinsic measurements and more concerned with just doing good and deeply connecting with the people I care about the most. Focusing on what I can control is so liberating and so much more effective. Focusing on the people that matter most yields so much more in return.
I used to live so much in the future: “I can’t wait till I make Lieutenant, I can’t wait for the kids to be in school, I can’t wait to be Captain.”
I lived so much in the future that I couldn’t enjoy the present. I thought by the time I turned 60, I’d be a nervous wreck because I was running out of runway.
I don’t feel that way at all.
I’ve learned to appreciate the now.
I’m grateful for my family and friends.
Trust your gut.
April 20, 2020
My body is way ahead of my brain. I have learned to become aware and listen.
Have you ever gotten an uneasy feeling in the pit of your stomach on Sunday when you weren’t even thinking about work?
That’s the way it starts for me. I’ve had three employers in my life. Each experience served a purpose and had run its course. My body always told me before my head would allow me to admit it.
If I ignore it, actual physical symptoms manifest.
Why didn’t I act on my gut? First, ego. I was my work. Second, a sense of obligation to my family.
I didn’t want to let them down or deprive them of the lifestyle I thought they enjoyed. Not sharing my feelings built pressure.
When I eventually shared my feelings with my wife, she made it pretty clear she cared more about me than anything else. I had created an obstacle in my head that didn’t actually exist.
In each case when I walked away, an opportunity presented itself that allowed me to take another step closer to my family and towards learning who I really am.
Now when presented with an opportunity that is not aligned with my values, I immediately feel it in my gut. I pause. I listen. I know now that my body is guiding me to my truth.
Where in the body does intuition manifest for you?
Pause, reflect, find your true path.
April 17, 2020
When I got out of the Navy, I couldn't find a job. My skills weren’t “translatable.”
There are times when you have to take a step back to take a step forward. With not very much money in the bank, I forked over 135K that I didn’t have to go to The Wharton School MBA Program for Executives.
It was a life-changing decision. Taking a pause and investing in myself was what I needed.
I didn’t plan it. I grew to see my unemployment as an opportunity to retool, retrain, establish a new network, and launch a new beginning. Through coincidence, no, I don’t believe in them, I happened to be listening to the signals and open to the message of people who wandered into my life at the moment I needed them.
With two kids about to head off to college, along with a hefty mortgage, it was scary. Fortunately, I had a supportive family who trusted me and a lot of zero interest credit card offers in the mail.
Now is not a circumstance that you asked for. Maybe you find yourself unemployed, unhappy, grieving, or angry. Take a moment to reflect. If there is no path forward, perhaps it is time to step back before you move out in another direction, one that is more in keeping with your true path.
My inbox is open if you need help.
Intimidating? I hope not.
April 16, 2020
Yesterday, I was told I used to be intimidating. Yikes! Not the feeling I was going for. Was that really me?
I was on a video call with someone I used to work with who was looking for some advice. He felt comfortable because I’ve shared some of the struggles that I faced.
So far so good. Vulnerability leading to trust, leading to an opportunity to help someone.
He told me that years ago on the first time he came in to brief me he was intimidated.
So I looked up the word: causing a loss of courage or self-confidence, producing feelings of fear or timidity.
Not what I wanted. Hopefully, he meant that I expected him to be prepared, that I would ask hard questions to challenge the rigor of this thinking, that I wouldn't rubber-stamp an idea without critically examining it. I’m good with that. Fear and loss of confidence? That’s the last thing I would want.
Sometimes our title, our office, our experience, or our mannerisms can intimidate others without us realizing it.
As we get more senior we have to work even harder to create an environment where everyone can express their ideas without fear, where the best ideas are accepted no matter where they originate.
I’m still a work in progress.
Be your authentic, vulnerable self.
April 15, 2020
Last week I shared that the USS Teddy Roosevelt incident made me cry. Last night I got choked up watching social distancing while picking up my takeout order. I’m not ashamed to admit it.
It’s who I am. To be anything else wouldn’t be authentic.
I’ve never been shy about showing my vulnerability despite advice that I was showing weakness.
I’m my best when I’m my authentic self.
I want people to connect with the real me so I know the connection is true. If not, it’s not in my best interest no matter what the short-term benefit.
It turns out that vulnerability helps build a stronger team, something that I got intuitively, but I never understood how it worked.
Check out this from Dan Coyle. Vulnerability sparks cooperation and trust. It sends a signal that you can use help.
The key is whether the other person is receiving the signal. If that person isn’t picking it up, you may have surrounded yourself with the wrong people.
Vulnerability is a prerequisite for cooperation and trust.
Trust is the foundation of all relationships.
If you’ve been suppressing your vulnerability to be the leader you think others want you to be, stop.
You are not alone. You are not your job.
April 14, 2020
If you’re feeling that work is taking over your life in an unhealthy way, you’re not alone. When I was at my lowest I felt that I was the only person in the world going through it.
I was embarrassed to express how I felt. I had a great job, more money than ever, a great home, a great family. Yet something was off.
I didn’t want to tell anyone because it seemed so ridiculous. All of my life I thought I wanted certain things and when I got them I realized that those things were not what drove my happiness.
I felt I had something to prove, but I only was trying to prove it to myself.
Some of you find yourself in a similar situation.
You think your feelings are irrational because you’re following the program that society has laid out for success.
Everyone around you appears to be on the same path, so what’s wrong with you?
Your feelings are real. I want to help you discover what matters most.
You are not your job. You are not your thoughts.
More than you realize, you are a reflection of the people you surround yourself with and the connections you forge.
We need a strategy for the most important element of our lives.
Avoid false choices.
April 13, 2020
In my last role, despite the advice of friends, I set no boundaries. I wanted to be on top of it, responsive at all hours, to prove my value. In the end, I was too depressed to get out of bed.
I’m reminded because two friends wrote that they battle with understanding that work is not their identity. They want to build strong relationships but are pulled into work, accelerated by leaders whose identity is work as well.
I’ve seen that movie before, and the ending is not a happy one, no matter how “successful” you become.
We’re pulled into false choices. Something that appears to be an either/or decision, but is not, usually driven by a lack of understanding or imagination.
For many of us, it's work pitted against something else – family, exercise, self-care.
In my case, I did it to myself, aided by the company culture. In others, your boss may be pressuring you.
Leading a full life, with strong relationships and self-care makes you far more effective. You'll be more confident, empathic, creative, efficient, and a better leader if you lead a complete life.
Your team will perform better and be happier too.
Step 1: Realize you have a choice. If you need help figuring out the next steps, please reach out.
Turning a challenge into an opportunity.
April 10, 2020
I got sent, kicking and screaming, to a submarine that was the laughingstock of the Navy, to a dead-end job I didn’t want.
It took a while to get over myself, but once I did, I poured my heart and soul into it. It didn’t always go well. I couldn’t please my boss. I got fired and rehired.
I had never failed at anything before. It seemed like the end of the world.
I was a new husband and a new Dad and my marriage was under severe stress. I was throwing all I had into work and leaving my wife alone on an island with a newborn. One day, driving home, she told me, “I'm not going to let this job destroy our marriage, but if it’s ever like this again, I’m not going to put up with it.”
The next day, lost, I left work, went to a bookstore, picked up this new book by Stephen Covey called “7 Habits”.
Together Laura and I recognized that we couldn’t fully control our lives at that point. But we changed our attitude and resolved that we would live differently once we had the opportunity.
Thirty years later we are happily holed up in our apartment with our youngest daughter. Turning a challenge into an opportunity to grow is not just a platitude. It starts with your attitude.
Everyone needs an inner circle.
April 9, 2020
Today I Zoomed with someone who was instrumental in my recovery from burnout. It was great to see him. I don’t know if he recognized his impact, so it was an opportunity to thank him. When I was near my low point, he suggested meditation as a tool to help my well-being. And for some reason, at that point, I was finally ready to listen. It made all the difference.
We talked about how important it is to stay with our wellness routines to prevent a relapse. When your world flips upside down as it has over the last month, it can be hard to sustain them. When you fall out of the habits that made you well, it opens the door for doubts and depression to reemerge.
It’s vital to have a small inner circle of friends that you can be completely open with. We need friends we can be vulnerable with, to hold us accountable, to trust. Friends who will reach out if they haven’t heard from us in a week to make sure we’re ok.
Who are those 5 or so friends that you can trust completely?
Connect with one today.
Trust is the foundation.
April 8, 2020
Pro tip: Telling a group that you will never throw them under the bus while throwing their boss under the bus is not going to engender trust.
I know. Obvious, right. And yet it happened.
Trust is on my mind. It often is. Lack of trust appears to be a fundamental cause of the issues with the USS TEDDY ROOSEVELT and the Navy chain of command.
Trust is the foundation of any relationship and the success of any organization. Right now it seems to be in short supply across many levels of society.
Intent plays a huge role in building trust. People can sense it. They will trust you or not trust you based on their assumptions about the reasons you do what you do.
You could take the same exact action, but if people believe you are only doing it for your self-interest, they will not trust you.
We have an opportunity for reflection as we sit inside, free of many of the time sinks that occupy our lives. Many suggest learning a new skill or binge-watching something fun.
I am going to do both of those things, but I also want to take time to reflect.
How can I build greater trust with the people I care about?
Covey's “The Speed of Trust” is a practical guide to building trust. Any thoughts or suggestions?
Give up the need to be right.
April 7, 2020
Yesterday I was confronted with something that is challenging for me personally – giving up my need to be right.
The trigger was the Teddy Roosevelt incident. Having had the privilege of serving in command, having studied leadership all my life, I have a strong viewpoint on the Captain, Acting Secretary Modly, and the Commander in Chief.
I read things being written, some from people with similar experience, and battled the need to respond to those I disagreed with. It sapped my productivity and channeled my energy in a negative direction.
When I feel anger welling up inside me, something is off. I’m learning to recognize it and pause, because if I don’t, what happens next will escalate the situation. Nothing good will come of it.
The facts aren’t out, at least not to most of us. And even if we have them, we’re all biased by the frames through which we see the world. When we’re so convinced that we’re right, we don’t recognize that these frames even exist. We don’t allow room for other viewpoints.
Listening to understand and learn is a key element of leadership and absolutely critical to building strong relationships.
Two friends have suggested reading Eckhart Tolle's “The Power of Now” to more deeply understand this. Any other suggestions?
April 6, 2020
Last week I overcame a mixture of fear, pride, and guilt to reach out to some people that I cared about but hadn't been communicating with for quite a while. In one case we had had an argument that didn’t end well. In another, political differences had eroded the relationship. In both cases, the lack of contact was weighing on me.
The English poet William Blake is quoted “It is easier to forgive an enemy than to forgive a friend.”
We expect so much more out of our friends. When we perceive they hurt us, it hurts so much more. The longer you let it go, the harder it is to overcome.
I would advise never to let things like this fester. It’s easy advice to give, much harder to put in practice. I struggle with it myself.
It turns out, both calls went great.
This is a very challenging time, but it’s also an opportunity.
As a society, we’ve never been more aware of our own mortality. When you recognize that your life is limited and could disappear at any moment, the trivial stuff that you were fighting about dissolves. It’s easier to focus on what matters.
People are longing for human connection from those they care about most. Now is the time to reconnect.
April 5, 2020
Over the course of my career, I've changed how I spend Sundays.
In the Navy, I was either on the ship or off of it, and that was reflected in how I led my life. I had a clear recognition that time with my family was limited. I wanted to make the most of it. The physical boundary of the ship made that easier. It worked well.
After I left the Navy, I started planning for my work week on Sunday. I thought the office was for activity, so any deep thinking, reading, planning, I did on my own time, which meant less time with family and friends.
As I became more stressed and burned out, my planning session expanded into a full workday to get ahead. The exact opposite of what I actually needed. At the low point, I would’ve let it take my Saturday too, but I was too exhausted. Saturday was spent sleeping, eating, scrolling, napping, and binge-watching something mindless. Not true recreation.
Sundays are different now – I take time to reflect on my life and my relationships. I think back over the week – who I connected with, how it went, what I want to do to make my relationships better. Relationships are the key to my health and happiness, so I spend time on what matters most.
The bond between shipmates.
April 3, 2020
This made me cry today.
Anyone who has commanded a U.S. Navy warship will tell you it was the most rewarding professional experience of their lives. The responsibility that you feel towards your ship and shipmates enables you to perform well beyond what you believe possible.
Forged in a demanding environment, confined to small spaces for extended periods, the bond that you feel with your shipmates lasts forever. I reflect on my shipmates every day.
Yesterday during a webinar someone asked me if I felt lonely in command. I felt anything but. The strong empathy that you feel for your crew, your overwhelming desire to help everyone work together and reach their potential, and the commitment and support you feel reflected back to you from your shipmates is an experience second to none.
I am fortunate never to have faced the challenges faced by Captain Crozier. We always prepared for the worst and hoped we never had to face it. His ship faced a challenge that few predicted.
I appreciate the love his crew feels for him.
I have no details on what happened, nor an opinion on whether the Navy decision was right or wrong. I just feel for him and his crew and wish things would have worked out differently.
You always have a choice.
April 2, 2020
A friend of mine messaged me last week. I’ve been thinking about what he said a lot.
“Your posts are a wake-up call, but I am not sure if I’m ready to answer it. I’m still ON 24/7.”
I keep coming back to it because I was the same way. I had friends and family and teammates tell me I was burning out and I felt powerless to do anything about it.
The adrenaline rush of being Superman and solving everyone’s problems is addicting, even if you’re just Superman in your own head.
The first step is to recognize that this is a choice. You might not be making it consciously. You should.
Next, recognize that your relationships are the most important element in your life.
The hardest part is deciding to change. Once you truly decide, you’ll make it happen.
It might take some time for you to build a team around you that is not dependent on you. Not as long as you think. You, your team, and your organization will be better for it.
I abruptly left a company that I devoted myself 24/7 to for six years. Somehow it still functioned without me.
I’m grateful that I still had my family.
You can do it. The timing is perfect. Reach out if I can help. firstname.lastname@example.org
Men are going to have to adapt.
April 1, 2020
Believe it or not, men will have a more difficult time with social distancing. I know, you were probably thinking we were socially distant already.
My daughter and my wife FaceTime every day starting while still lying in bed. And it goes on all day long. What can they be talking about all the time? Who has that much to say? It amazes me.
Robin Dunbar’s research indicates that, while connection is important for men and women, we do it differently.
Men need shared activities to sustain relationships. Their average call or text is very short and is usually used to set something up. Now there isn’t anything to set up.
Women connect by talking.
I guess I am actually going to have to learn to sustain a conversation. :-)
Stay home. Stay safe. And Stay Connected.
Now is the time to cultivate a friendship.
March 31, 2020
I had a fun coincidence yesterday.
At the store for the first time in weeks. The first thing I did was grab some LoveTheWild seafood to support my friend. At the very same moment, she sent me a LinkedIn message.
Coincidence? No. I don't believe in them. As Einstein said, “Coincidence is God’s way of remaining anonymous.” What really happened. I’ve been writing to brighten the day of my connections. I could feel they were touching her (the ❤️ reactions helped). That made me happy and made me want to do something nice for her. She sent me positive energy and I wanted to send some back.
I hadn’t connected with her in 4 years. She was always someone that I liked and respected, but our friendship never fully developed. Maybe it was timing, geography, being busy with “important” things again.
Tomorrow we are jumping on a Zoom. Hopefully, our friendship will grow.
But here’s the deal. All one can do is offer. Maybe it develops, maybe it doesn’t for whatever reason. It takes two. And if it doesn’t work out, don’t judge yourself or the other person.
The world has slowed. It doesn’t matter whether someone is across the street or the continent.
The time is now.
Who do you want to develop into a friend? Take the first step.
Relationships are a reflection.
March 30, 2020
With a little bit of time on our hands, my daughter and I decided to take the 16 personalities test.
My daughter is funny, creative, kind, incredibly empathetic. She works hard and plays hard. Time is not necessarily a constraint for her. She has mastered the art of leaving for the airport so she boards just as the door closes behind her. Check-in early, no way. Southwest has retired the number C60 in her honor.
Me — I was a nuclear sub captain and COO of a public company. I lived in a world of discipline, numbers, and constraints.
So, after 29 years together, I was shocked to find we had the same personality. My wife was anything but. It was obvious to her. “Think of how you were when I met you”
Wow! My daughter is me. All the things that drive me crazy about her are me!
I had to overcome those traits to succeed in the environment I was in. I worried that she wouldn’t succeed if she didn’t do the same.
Now I worry that the environment she is in will crush her spirit or diminish what is so special about her.
Our relationships are a reflection of us. What we find so frustrating about someone is often something that we are unhappy with about ourselves.
Take a breath. Be kind and understanding.
Ultimately, you are being kind to yourself.
What I Learned as a Submarine Captain.
March 28, 2020
I’ll never forget leaving for a six-month deployment when my daughters were 4 and 2, sobbing at the entrance to the pier as I said goodbye. I was heartbroken thinking of how long I’d be gone, what percentage that would be of their young lives. I didn’t know I could do it. I hugged and kissed Laura, Dani, & Julia, then showed my ID to the sentry as I wiped away tears, embarrassed about displaying such vulnerability in uniform.
By the time I walked across the brow and onto my ship, I was once again a steely-eyed killer of the deep, ready to execute our mission.
The biggest lesson: You have to live in the world you are in, focus on what you can control. I wasn’t going to see or communicate with my family for months, no sense of worrying about it.
I was responsible for my ship and shipmates–that became my focus. I didn't put my life on hold. I channeled it in the only direction that was available to me.
I wasn’t alone. I was surrounded by my shipmates who were going through the same experience.
You may be physically distanced today, but you’re only emotionally distanced if you choose to be. Don’t worry about what you can’t do right now. Focus on what you can. Stay connected to the people you care about.
Peck Principle 5. Do what your friends like to do.
March 27, 2020
My dog Ruby teaches me a lot. At least when I’m paying attention. And she does her best to make sure that I do.
Each night when I get into bed, she jumps up on my chest and lays there, forcing me to put my iPad down and focus on her.
She does a good job communicating what she wants: rub this, scratch that, keep it moving.
She repeats the process in the morning as soon as she figures out I have one eye open.
The rest of the day I’m free to go about my business.
At first, I wanted her to leave me alone. Now it’s our little ritual. And I love it. It doesn’t matter whose idea it was. It makes her so happy which makes me happy. Or is it the other way around? Hard to say at this point. This brings me to the next principle...
Peck Principle 5. Your happiness is dependent upon the happiness you bring to others. Understand what someone likes to do and share it with them.
Dogs make it pretty easy for us because they do such a good job of communicating what they want and showing appreciation when you do it.
Let’s be more like dogs. Learn what your friends like. Don’t be afraid to ask. Make the time for them. You will be amazed at what gets reflected back to you.
Peck Principle 4. Get face to face.
March 26, 2020
I am not very cute. Sometimes I forget to comb what little hair I have. My office is a mess right now. I’ve been in Ugg pants and slippers for two weeks. The lighting is not the most flattering.
I don’t care. I am turning on my camera for our meeting and I desperately want you to do the same.
Why? Because I want to connect. I want to feel what you feel.
Which brings us to:
Peck Principle 4. Human emotions are transmitted primarily through the face. Do things with other people or connect via video when you can’t be together.
We evolved that way so we can communicate much faster. When I look at you, my face will mirror yours, followed by my central nervous and endocrine systems. I will physically feel what you feel. It’s way more powerful. It was very effective when dinosaurs were chasing us. It still is today.
So turn on the camera if you haven’t already.
I think you are beautiful no matter what.
That is why I am on the other side. I want to see you.
Peck Principle 3. Invest most where it matters most.
March 25, 2020
One of the best moves I made as this crisis was developing was to encourage my youngest daughter to move back in with us for a bit, so when she was working from home, she could work from HOME. When I can’t go outside, it is nice having a little extra sunshine in the house.
She has the opposite problem that most of you do; she has her Dad stumbling into her Zoom calls. But hey, at least I got to meet all her team yesterday :) And I had pants on!
Many of us see the opportunity and are taking action to achieve authentic connections right now. It’s something we can focus on. But how can we sustain it when we go back to our normal lives?
For me, the key is to focus and not overload myself, which leads us to the next principle...
Peck Principle 3. We have relationship circles of different intensities, governed by a rule of three. Each requires a different level of investment.
Here’s the way it lays out (research courtesy of Robin Dunbar):
✔️Inner Circle: 5 people, connect once a week
✔️Close Friends: 15, once a month
✔️Friends: 50, once a quarter
✔️Causal friends: 150, once or twice a year (numbers are cumulative)
We listed out our close friends yesterday.
Now add them to your video call schedule, and connect with one about every other day.
Peck Principle 2. You can only have so many relationships.
March 24, 2020
The most rewarding part of my 24 years in the Navy, still paying dividends 15 years later, is the strong bonds we formed. Serving on a submarine was so special — such a strong sense of community. One of the reasons is the size of the crew.
If you’ve heard of the Dunbar number, you may know there is something magical about the number 150. Dunbar figured out the size of the brain in primates was driven by the size of the social group we evolved to manage. Across hunter-gatherer societies, villages in England, military units through the ages, this repeats.
Peck Principle #2: Your brain can only manage so many relationships. Invest where it matters most, with the people closest to you.
I have thousands of connections on LinkedIn, but no matter how hard I try, I couldn’t maintain a personal relationship with each of you.
If we focus on everyone, without making enough time for the people closest to us, we lose the deeper connection we need.
Now our exercise for the day. Start with your close friends. What are you going to do when we are through COVID-19? Imagine your favorite restaurant welcomes you back with a free private dinner in a room that holds 15. Transportation is included so distance isn’t a factor. Who would you invite? Write their names down.
Peck Principle 1. Relationships matter most.
March 23, 2020
Looking back, I’m not sure when I lost focus on what I cared most about. It was gradual. I focused on getting things done, the “important” things. I expected everyone to understand that I was busy. Have lunch with a friend during a workweek? Not efficient. Put a relationship or a fun thing on my to-do list? Not the place for that. Work was the top priority until it became the only priority, and my health and personal life started to suffer. This brings me to my first principle…
Peck Principle 1. Relationships are the greatest determinant of your health, happiness, and success.
Our relationships are critical to the quality of our lives, a better predictor of health than our cholesterol level, and more important to happiness than our income.
Strategy is how we spend the resources we have available to us. Our most precious resource is our time. Invest yours in the people you care most about. Nothing will yield a greater return. And nothing is more important right now.
Write down the 5 (3-7) closest people in your life, your inner circle. Who can you be your absolute true self with? Who would you call for support if something bad happened? Who do you miss the most right now?
Now schedule a video call with them this week.
Peck's 5 Principles of Relationships
March 22, 2020
After my bout with depression and burnout, I studied happiness and well-being. I learned relationships are critical to our health and happiness. I started a business to help people think strategically and be more proactive in cultivating them.
It is not the time to market our business, but I still want to take what I’ve learned to help now. I will be writing about Peck’s five basic principles on relationships and giving suggestions on what you can do given the challenges we face.
In brief, here are Peck’s 5 Principles of Relationships:
1. Relationships are the greatest determinant of your health, happiness, and success. Don't leave them to chance.
2. Your brain can only manage so many relationships. Invest where it matters most, with the people closest to you.
3. You have relationship circles of different intensities; each requires a different investment to sustain.
4. Human emotions are transmitted through the face. Share activities with other people or connect via video.
5. Your happiness is dependent upon the happiness you bring to others. Understand what your friends like to do and share it with them.
I'll share more detail and actions you can take tomorrow. If you want to do something right away, pick a friend to video chat.
Turn Your Camera On
March 21, 2020
Social distancing is necessary given the uncertainty we face but it is going to be a lot harder than we might realize. Social connection is what makes us human. It is also the biggest factor in our health, happiness, and resiliency.
So what can we do to preserve our connection to others?
Emotions are transmitted through our faces. A video call is almost as effective as meeting in person.
So FaceTime, Skype, Zoom. Turn on the video.
We don’t care if you are in your PJs or didn’t brush your hair. We need to see you, to hear you, to feel you as best we can.
Focus on those closest to you.
If you want to connect with me, here is a link: https://lnkd.in/g9jbFqe
Connect with Your Inner Circle
March 20, 2020
The past few days have been stressful for everyone. Yesterday was a rough one for me.
Then I got a text of encouragement from my daughter, who anticipated something might be upsetting me and offered a few words of encouragement.
And it made all the difference.
It brought me back to what really mattered.
When times are tough, some of us have a tendency to withdraw, when what we really ought to be doing is sharing our concerns with our inner circle to get the love and support that we need.
Reach out, connect, love.
We all need it right now.