Friday, May 30, 2008

Uncomfortable Conversations

An article in LeaderTalk got me thinking about some things. One of the contributors wrote of his new-found habit of starting conversations with strangers and learning from them. It reminded me of something Tim Ferris wrote in his book, The 4-Hour Workweek. To paraphrase the book - a person's success is related to the number of uncomfortable conversations he or she is willing to have.
I found that interesting, and along with the LeaderTalk article, have decided to pursue that a bit further. It seems to me, in this age of political correctness and more volatile society, that we sometimes avoid difficult conversations at the expense of growth or truth. Overcoming the fear of rejection or failure that accompanies talking to strangers or having uncomfortable conversations with anyone is the first step in achieving success at this type of communication. I would be interested to hear of success or learning that has occurred from an experience with this.

Monday, May 12, 2008


I was recently reading an article in the May 12, 2008 edition of Fortune. The article was entitled, "The Best Advice I Ever Got," and was an interview with several highly successful persons from the business world about the best, and for some the worst, advice they had ever been given. 

Indra Nooyi, chairman and CEO of Pepsico, was one of the interviewees and her best advice came from her father. He told her that, "whatever anybody says or does, assume positive intent." Her thought is that too often we assume the negative intent, get angry, and risk missing an opportunity to learn something from someone else. What also tends to happen in those situations is that both persons in the conversation become defensive and negative and nothing good comes from that. 

I once learned from William Glasser in his book, Stations of the Mind, that there is a gap of time between stimulus and response. (I may be paraphrasing greatly, but that is how I remember it.) Anyway, in that gap, we have the opportunity to choose our response. So often, we choose unconsciously and allow emotions to direct our response. By adopting Nooyi's philosophy of finding the positive intent, we begin to see opportunities to listen, build relationships, and find success.  

Monday, May 05, 2008

We can Learn

I read a recent Scientific American online article about a study done that showed that certain memory exercises can bolster intelligence. There are critics of the study and its methodology, but if the data holds, it is a great finding. It is common thought among psychologists, that transference of improved intellectual skills from one kind of task to another does not work. This study would alter that line of thought.

As I think of this, I am reminded of the studies on expectations and success. Students whose parents and teachers hold high expectations and helped their students realize that they could learn tend to learn at a higher rate. In another study, students who were led to believe they could learn a subject, even if that subject were difficult for them, had more improvement than those that didn't believe. One example of this might be math. Too often I've heard from parents or other adults, "I understand why he/she can't learn math. I wasn't very good at it either." Instead, we must help our children see that learning some subjects may be difficult, it is not an impossible task. Giving examples of others who struggled with the subject before finally "getting it," helps provide students with a model for perseverance in learning.