Make REAL impact

I was reaching out my hand. From far beyond Mjolnir was coming to me. The sensation to feel the hammer in my hand, was just wonderful. I struck down the hammer into the ground and made an enormous impact.
Thor, the God of Thunder

Have you ever thought your life of being mediocre? Or were you at a certain point in time fed up with average behaviour or performances by others? I find this to be excellent opportunities for deeper reflection in regards to meaning in our lives.

In the way we lead our day-to-day lives or in which we communicate with others, we should focus on the biggest impact we can make.
In my coaching sessions I sometimes start by asking: “Which is currently your biggest challenge that, if it were resolved, would make everything else less urgent and necessary?“.
This is a method that I have copied from Gary W. Keller’s famous book “The ONE Thing”. Basically, he recommends to focus on the biggest obstacle or goal that we can find in all that we do, in our daily tasks, in our correspondence and talks with others or in our way of setting and pursuing future goals.

By asking this question more often, you will benefit from four advantages:

  1. You start using a different frame in your life. You start BIG. It will be difficult for you to reach breakthroughs or come any near a great success if you dream small. You need to increase your dreams and visions like inflating a balloon. Read more on this topic in this blog.
  2. By facing the BIG topics right from the start, you avoid getting caught up in all the small details or aspects that consume a lot of your time but have only peripheral benefit for you (like watching cat videos on youtube).
  3. You start leaving your own comfort zone and walk into territory that maybe new, unfamiliar, yet promising in terms of potential success and maybe even fame.
  4. You get the attention of others and help them to cutting the chase and getting to the really important topics for them (this, of course, requires that you have established a trustful relationship). Eventually, people start to notice you and your work. All you need to do is start asking the right question.

I encourage you to reach out to grasp your own version of Mjolnir, Thors hammer, and to start using it to make a real impact that both electrifies yourself and thrills others around you. Your very personal big dreams enrichen our lives, they inspire us and prompt us to want to support you.

Make an impact and share your dreams with the world!

Thor has spoken.

Choose your box wisely

Imagine yourself lying on the death bed, just hours before your soul leaves the physical body to start a journey into eternity. What would you think of reflecting your life and looking back?
Will you be satisfied? Will you confirm that you lead a life full of richness, intensity and meaning?
Or will you feel dissatisfied and sad in the face of a life that was often unhappy, meaningless and without success?

In his famous book “The ONE THING”, Gary Keller has described effectively how you can succeed in scaling any activity in a way that you can be more successful, happy and lead a more meaningful life.

For this it is necessary to imagine four different scaling areas as follows:

  • Doable: This is within reach of your knowledge, skills and experience. Most likely to be achieved.
  • Stretch: Within your reach, but at the farthest of your range. You will have to extend yourself to the limits of your current capabilities.
  • Possibility: Far outside of your comfort zone, the answer and path to finding one is still highly unclear. The answer will be a totally new one.
  • Miracle: Your wildest dream, something with big impact for the entire world, a wonderful event taking place.

Applying this simple scaling exercise will enable you to change your perspective from thinking “too small” to thinking broadly and visionary.

I will give you an example.
Imagine somebody who would like to be a hairdresser and who is at the very start of his/her career. If this person applied this exercise, it could look like this:

  • Doable: I will do an apprenticeship in hairdressing and work as a hairdresser in a small shop.
  • Stretch: I will participate in hairdressing competitions, trying to win an award and establish my own business.
  • Possibility: I have founded a global hairdresser chain of more than 500 shops and circa 4.000 employees.
  • Miracle: I am Top-1 hairdresser of many statesmen and CxOs in the corporate world. I became a Millionaire with selling hairdressing products and have supported hundred-thousands of people to gain an enhanced self-confidence by having a great haircut.

Do you see the difference in the way you challenge yourself from step to step?

Try it out and start raising “your game”!

Best of success,
Matthias von Mitzlaff

The right question

After growing up in a palace, protected from the problems of the world, Siddharta Gautama went out one day and saw two things: an old person that was grievously ill and a dead body. Gautama, who would once be well-known under his more common name “Buddha”, then asked his chariot driver whom these things (illness and death) happened to. He was stunned by the answer: “To everyone, my lord.”
As a consequence, Buddha started to ask questioning his life in a more fundamental way which later caused him to leave his golden palace in order to travel the world and infect others with a way to lead a peaceful life in harmony with the world.

 

This short anecdote can show us how relevant it is for our lives to ask the right questions. Have you ever had a feeble but existent voice in the back of your head, saying: “Why do you do this? Is it really necessary? Is it useful for you or for others?”.
What did you then do with this voice of yours? Did you shrug it of or did you take it seriously?

From time to time it is for all of us useful to quiet down, to come to a total standstill and to ponder the really important questions, effecting our lives, our values, our fate.

Questions such as

  • What is my destiny?
  • What could make my life really important?
  • What needs for me to happen to lead a fulfilled life?
  • Why am I doing what I am currently doing?

can lead you to an inner wisdom buried deep within you.

The art lies in uncovering the truth that is contained in the answers to the questions above. These truths, of course, are not revealed overnight. Usually it takes many years to find answers that bear a high degree of satisfaction for us individually.

For this it is helpful to establish a conscious change in space and time to make it easier for good answers to reveal themselves to you, meaning: Pick a place or spot that you can find deep quietude in (e.g. outside in nature, in a monastery or on a high mountain). And in addition pick a time interval that allows you to not be impacted by day-to-day tasks or requests from others.

Trust in your subconscious mind to create insights that have meaning for you and that hold a key to your future development and success. All it takes is space, time and a little willingness and patience to let them ascend from the bottom of the lake called your subconsciousness to the surface of your clear awareness.

The truth, your truth has always been there. It may just appear like a shy deer lurking in the twilight, waiting for a trustful impulse from you. By making a deliberate invitation you may succeed in luring the deer into the bright clearing out of the forest of your thoughts. And once the shy animal has shown itself to you, it may offer you a wonderful gift in return – deep insights about your dearest desires.

Cross the Rubicon

Today is a wonderful day in January. A day that may decide my fate.
The cowards of the Roman Senate have decided in my absence to dismiss my army and for me to put down my imperium [“right to command”] before I will be allowed to once again run for the consulate. After careful consideration I have decided against this and, on the contrary, lead my forces across the Rubicon towards Rome. I know that this is equal to a declaration of war for the Roman senate and means the death sentence. But I want to take that risk. Now, there is no going back for me. Alea iacta est.

Julius Caesar

Once, you have crossed your personal „Rubicon“ there is no getting back.
This is why I wonder,

  • Which are your resolutions and goals for 2018 that transform you in a way that you „just cannot go back to where you have been before“?
  • What is the „essence of attraction“ to you that lies in your goal and makes it worth to „burn the bridges behind you“?
  • Have you foreseen that you will be a different individual once you have crossed the Rubicon? What will make the difference in your behaviour your way of perceiving the world around you?

Our lives are full of rituals.
To once in a while establish a Crossing-the-Rubicon ritual can support you in creating your life to be more exciting and unique and to develop personal qualities of bravery and determination.

For such a ritual to work effectively, you will require

  • A compelling reason to transform (either as part of a painful feeling that you want to get rid of or as part of something wonderful that you strive for).
  • A vision of what lies at the end of your journey into the unknown. A picture of what you will have achieved once your journey is over.
  • A setting that hinders you from being able to go back.
  • A clear plan for at least the first steps to take on your journey into unchartered territory.
  • A set of beliefs that keep you motivated and on track (most of the things are about psychology!).

And if, one day, you decide to start your journey to cross the Rubicon, be brave, stay open and never lose your focus on the goals that you strive for.
Good luck!

When she transformed into a butterfly, the caterpillars spoke not of her beauty, but of her weirdness. They wanted her to change back into what she always had been.
But now… she had wings.
Dean Jackson

El Dorado

92 years ago, a man called Percy Fawcett disappeared with his eldest son during an expedition in search for an ancient lost city. Fawcett has started early in 1906 on his first journey to South America. Since then he never really stopped to search for his “El Dorado” until his presumable death in 1925. In fact, he never found it. It is said that there may be an El Dorado like city in the jungles of Brazil, however, so far it has not been discovered.

We can learn a lot from the life of Percy Fawcett who inspired filmmaker James Gray to write and direct “The Lost City of Z” which made it to the movies in 2016 with actors Charlie Hunnam as Fawcett and Sienna Miller playing Fawcett’s wife Nina. Percy Fawcett collected and applied enormous means and resources to fund his expeditions to eventually find the city in the jungle that he was desperately seeking.

At the end of the film we get to see a scene at a party table back in England with relatives and friends having come together to celebrate. At one point, Nina, Fawcett’s wife raises and starts giving a speech. The following words from her are directly addressed to her beloved husband: “I have written this note half a year ago in case I would die as a consequence of my pregnancy. My Percy, I know your first instinct will be to grieve, but I adjure you rather to consider our son and the love you must show him. I knew it would be a boy. Always teach him to dream, to seek the unknown, to look for what is beautiful is its own reward. And I beg you to remember those words so easy to forget: A man’s reach should exceed his grasp, or what’s a Heaven for? My dearest love, forever.”

And concluding this article, I would like to connect this little story of Percy Fawcett with your own story. I wish to know:

  • What is your very personal “Lost city in the jungle”, your El Dorado?
  • What is the essence of a deep yearning and desire within you that has not been satisfied so far?
  • Which are aspirations that you have not dared to seriously consider because you thought they are highly unrealistic?

I hereby encourage you to never stop dreaming. Preserve your phantasies and do not allow anybody to forbid or degrade these. In my opinion, you are entitled to pursue your vision and to cherish every single achieved goal on the way. In that sense I dare you to prepare a new expedition in quest of the things you long for.

Summer of love

“…All across the nation, such a strange vibration
People in motion
There’s a whole generation with a new explanation
People in motion, people in motion…”
(San Francisco, Scott McKenzie)

Forty years ago, there was a global phenomenon going on, later called “the summer of love”. Millions of people shared a view on the world that was characterized by peace, participation and freedom.

It is exactly this spirit that I’d like to use as a background feeling for this short article.

 

You may have just come back from a great summer vacation, with family or friends or just on your own. Having arrived at home you realize that there is a huge amount of work awaiting you and all of a sudden that sweet feeling of relaxation and freedom is gone.

You know it doesn’t have to be like that. I encourage you to try a few of the 5 tips illustrated as follows to deliberately extend that sweet feeling that comes with an enjoyable summer time-out. What you could do is:

  1. Install visual anchors in your daily life that remind you of the great time you had during your vacation. For example, a screen saver with your favorite photos or a framed picture at your working place with a nice snapshot of you at an exotic place could serve as visible anchor that – looking at it – can instantly bring all those wonderful feelings back to you.
  2. Implement short relaxation periods in your daily routine (you may want to call them MWPs – mini wellness periods). Two rules apply: 1. You are totally undisturbed during the MWPs. 2. You do something that is healthy and has a positive impact on your work life balance.
  3. Decrease all parts in your life that are connected with the opposite of relaxation and personal freedom. By downsizing many aspects in your life that you link to “hard work” and activities that drag you down you make it easier for you to enjoy feelings that are similar to what you have experienced during your great summer vacation.
  4. Imagine how great your summer vacation was. Maybe as part of a daily meditation go back in your mind to the places that you liked so much while on vacation. It is a scientific fact that our bodies relate to memories, may they have been good or bad. By conducting a short fantasy trip you deliberately create pleasant feelings within you which further leads to relaxation and inner peace for you.
  5. Plan your next trip. This is what my wife usually does quite soon after one of our vacations. It just gives her a good feeling already knowing where to go the next time and looking forward to it.

As you can see, there is quite a number of things you can do to extend your vacation a little longer, even if already being buried in lots of work.

 

I invite you to comment here on what strategy works for you in terms of conscious initiating relaxation and pleasant feelings within you.

Thanks in advance and
stay relaxed!

A well-balanced team

Balance of information

How do you find the right level of information in your team?
Well, first of all you need to identify what kind of information is essential to team members. What is essential for them to know so that they can do their job? It maybe helpful to categorize information in three different categories: “must know”, “should know” and “nice to know”.

Secondly, analyze what kind of communication channels are already used by the team and what other channels might be useful for informing everybody. As you know, different comms tools are suitable for different needs. Example: if a team receives a regular email from leadership with a link to a video or blog, this might be a nice idea. However, there is a media break involved. You need to click the link to be routed to the internet. Why not stating the 2-3 most important statements of the video or blog in the email itself (with a chance of being read by the users without needing to click on the video/blog link)? Unfortunately, this is an opportunity that currently only few leaders make good use of.

Thirdly, arrange information contents and channels wisely. Always keep in mind that attention spans are short and your reader’s time is highly valuable. So keep focused and stick with your most important messages early during a push information to your team.

 

Balance of monitoring

In times of more and more agile work structures, the concept of “self organization” grows stronger and stronger. Often, individuals refuse to be monitored tightly by supervisors and rather prefer tasks with a high level of freedom. At the same time, it is useful to make sure that all team members work on jobs that bring the team into the desired direction and that no work is redundant.

As a team leader it is necessary for you to find a balance between the two: on the one hand you should give your team members a maximum of liberty to let them shape their work on their own. On the other hand it is essential for you and the organization, that you set clear expectations what you and the organization looks for in the individual’s contribution to the team goal. So you need to combine both aspects in yourself, in your role: You support your team members by establishing a work environment with maximum purpose and freedom and you monitor your team by setting clear expectations and from time to time validating these.

 

Balance of proximity

According to statista.com 50% of interviewed people would prefer to work at least part-time at home (and another 17% of interviewees favoring to work full-time from home office). Well-established office work places are slowly declining in number in comparison to mobile and home office work spaces. More and more employees work remotely and in virtual teams. Team leader need to be skilled and equipped to cope with this challenge. First of all, you need to clarify what kind of activities are essential for a face-to-face interaction between team members. This is usually connected to high quality work and intense get-together. Having clarified this aspect you can assign as many tasks as possible for remote or mobile work environments, enabling your team members to make use of space and time in their own preferred way. When it comes to virtual work, technological aspects are crucial. It comes naturally, that all of your team members will need the necessary tools and equipment to easily get in touch with each other, soft- and hardware-wise.

 

Balance of reliability

Great team leaders have an invisible detector for the actual climate towards change and stability in their team. They apply certain skills to identify to what extent the team requires either change or stability. For example, by frequently asking the team: “On a scale from 1 (high stability / no change at all) to 10 (no stability / constant change): Where do you feel we are currently?” in addition to the question: “And where do you currently need to be on the scale so that you can do a proper job?” they receive valuable feedback on the team’s perception considering change and stability.

Great team leaders do also know that both is important: to constantly ignite changes (so that the team can learn, develop and grow) and simultaneously to offer the team “stable zones” and rituals so that they have a “safe harbor” and well-known ground to work from. Reliability is a quality in our life that is precious and helps us save energy and stay focused.

Murphy’s team laws

Trapped in a paradox.

In the following blog article, I list a few of the most significant challenges that often arise in teams from my point of view. Speaking of teams (instead of groups) I roughly define them as:

  1. Has a common sense of purpose, a goal that binds everybody together and
  2. Contains quite different individuals who have taken over specific roles and tasks to achieve the team goal.

The following patterns occur quite often across many teams that I have worked with so far…

 

The information paradox
Team members usually like to get informed and be updated with the latest news about what all others are doing. However, they usually have a lot on their plate individually and are spammed with information anyway, meaning they do not want to be over-informed.


So, how to find the right level of suitable information?

 

The monitoring paradox
Many people appreciate to have free space and time to do what they want to do. They acknowledge if they are given the freedom to act on their own, being creative and developing concepts on their own. This contradicts the classic understanding of a traditional “manager”, who monitors the team, structures the work to be done and sets expectations. And do not forget, many people also rather like it if their supervisors set clear expectations making the direction to head to clearer for them.


How to find the right balance between “total control” and “laissez faire”?

 

The proximity paradox
Often team members like to be on their own, not hassled by others with a spatial area just for them (not having to share with others). They may enjoy working remotely allowing them to arrange their day-to-day life in the way they prefer. On the other hand, they also like to be in contact with others, share their experiences and work together with other team members to achieve a common goal.


Where do you draw the line between distance and closeness for team members?

 

The reliability paradox
Team members often like reliable work environments and processes. They appreciate if they know what is ahead of them and to be done. This gives them a sense of certainty, probably knowing: “I can do this!”. However, too much continuity can lead to dull and boring work routines. Humans need a fresh impulse and approach from time to time to get energized and to further develop and learn.


What ratio of change versus continuity do you apply for the teams you work with?

 

In this blog I have stated four different paradox aspects that you – as a team member or lead – have to successfully deal with in order to make the team effective and happy.

I encourage you to read on my next blog to receive a few ideas and tips on how to properly handle the paradoxes as described above.

How to live MORE life

In the blog I want MORE in my life! I have illustrated four traps that could hinder you significantly from being able to live a life in high quality and purpose. In the following article I would like to indicate a few aspects that could be helpful to bear in mind in order to live more in the future.

First of all, in the recent blog I have mentioned the Grimm fairy tale called “Stern Talers”. In this tale a poor and homeless orphaned girl with a goodhearted character meets several others along a journey through a forest (a hungry man, three cold children and one naked child) and shares her only belongings with these other poor creatures. As a consequence – and an indication from above – she is rewarded abundantly with talers falling from the sky, ending up as a rich girl.

The morale of this fairy tale is deeply humane and christian. So the question to you is: How and where could you be a good Samaritan and share a certain part of your wealth with others who are in need? Provide them with a bit of your own fortune and let yourself be transformed into a good person.
Being intentionally good to others has the energetic power of taking your life to a higher level.

Star Taler #1: Envisioning (“Where do I want to go?”)
Jack Nicklaus, widely regarded as the greatest golfer of all time, having won a record 18 career major championships, once said:

“I never hit a shot, not even in practice, without having a very sharp, in-focus picture of it in my head.”

This is exactly the quality that I invite you to reinforce in your life from now on. Before making a great move create a mental picture of where you ideally will go to, what will be the final stage of your goal. Visualize this in the wildest colors and the nicest tunes you can come up with. And only then move on and do your first step towards your vision.

Star Taler #2: Self-awareness (“Who am I?”)
Buddha has once said: “We are shaped by our thoughts. We become what we think. When the mind is pure, joy follows like a shadow that never leaves”.
Who am I? What drives me? What is important to me? Questions that you cannot escape and that you need to find answers for that deeply satisfy you. Unless those answers do not have a good quality your path to a successful life with purpose will still be rocky and difficult to travel.

Star Taler #3: Intrinsic motivation (“What drives me from within?”)
“For the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: ‘If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?’ And whenever the answer has been ‘No’ for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something”.

This famous quote by the painfully missed Steve Jobs, founder and CEO of Apple Inc. illustrates a crucial question for everyone of us. Why is it useful to get up in the morning?
Have you ever stayed in bed early being very sleepy and ill-humored and suddenly a burst of energy went through you thinking of an exciting project you might continue working on during the day?
This is exactly the quality I am talking of. What is so meaningful for you that it enables you to overcome significant obstacles and put a high amount of energy into an activity? You need to find out these qualities in your life in order to tap into your intrinsic motivation.

Star Taler #4: Uniqueness (“What makes me special?”)
Our lives are full of competition, here and there. Products, services, attention – from time to time we need to fight with others to win or to hold our ground. And to that there is an alternative way, that takes a lot of self-reflection (see above) and courage: to go the unique way. You may want to start by asking little questions like “What do I do different than many other people?”. For this question it is quite helpful to obtain feedback from others. You could ask for honest feedback with questions like: Which are the three adjectives that characterize me in distinction to all others? What is from your point of view my biggest asset or strength that I “bring to the table”? Whatever answers you will get to these questions, they will provide you with useful insights on how to live a more unique kind of life.

Invest in a few activities, some time and the people around you. Reflect your situation with a clear head and be rewarded – just like the poor girl – with star talers indicating that your life is full of meaning, purpose and happiness!

I know you can do this. I trust you.

I want MORE in my life!

…have you ever stated this before as well? Have you ever wondered, what would need to happen to become a “better” person or to live a life that is so much fuller and richer? Have you ever looked at other people and wondered, “Hmmmm, they seem to have it all, why can`t I have that?”.

Mind you, there are a few traps to beware of that could deceive and entangle you, bringing you on a course that is not useful for you at all. In the following I invite you to become acquainted with a few of these traps so you will be better prepared to avoid them in the future.

Trap #1: Direction (“Where am I heading?”)
Many voyages start with a clear picture of where you want to go. This is where the first question arises: Do you know, where you want to go? How clear/precise/crisp is the image that you have in front of your mental eyes of your goal?

Human history is full of examples that show: many engagements are doomed for failure due to lack of a clear vision for the impacted people. And in contrast think about this sentence: “Before the end of this decade, I want us to land an American on the Moon!” (announced by former US president John F. Kennedy before the US Congress in 1961). This is a perfect example of articulating a vision that electrified many people to make it happen. And it really happened. In summer of 1969 Neil Armstrong of the Apollo 11 stepped off the Lunar module’s ladder and onto the Moon’s surface.
Mission accomplished!

 

Trap #2: Self-perception („Who am I?“)
Currently we see many people in public life – may they be statesman, business leader or just prominent – who obviously suffer from a syndrome called Dunning-Kruger effect, shortly: DKE. This phenomenon is characterized by a distorted self-image and an overconfidence in one’s own actions. Two interesting results from studies carried out by Dunning and Kruger:

  1. Incompetent people often make wrong decisions.
  2. Incompetent people often do not realize that they have made wrong decisions.

This is what also explains why “faked news” are existing. In an attitude of shame (having said something obviously not true) and overconfidence, many people just stick to an obviously false fact pretending it to be true nevertheless.

All this shows that it is quite challenging to really understand “Who am I?” if I suffer from DKE or never ask for honest feedback regarding my behavior from others. How could it be possible to develop into a direction that makes me a better human being if I have a distorted self-perception and do not accept feedback from others? Impossible.

 

Trap #3: Ambition („How much do I want?“)
If you took a new job and the HR person would ask you: „How much do you want to earn in this position?“. What figure would you mention? A maximum figure, a medium figure or maybe a minimum? Or even none at all? The outcome of your actions depend on the ambition that is implied with setting a target (or a figure). Staying in the picture of the mentioned example, any figure stated by you has implications on your interaction with the HR guy. If you name a low figure he/she may think you have low expectations or a rather small self-confidence. If you state a very high figure, you may face early resistance and it could difficult to negotiate. Giving the other one a medium figure might be ok for him, but will it be ok for you? Do you really want to earn medium taking a new job? Or do you want to improve your salary taking this new challenge?
Yeah, the question was rather rhetorically…

Lastly, not stating a figure at all may leave the responsibility to your HR person (to come up with an offer) but it is risky for you as well. If you do not know, how much you deserve how could you ever be satisfied once you receive your first salary having started in the new job?

You need to set goals that attract you. Hereby, two positive consequences are implied for you: a) These goals get you energized and every morning tell you why it is good not to stay in bed but getting up to make something happen. b) You have a clear indicator showing you when you are successful. The SMARTer your goals are the easier it will be for you to reflect on your past once you have reached a milestone or let pass some time.

 

Trap #4: Competition (“Me in relation to others or me in a unique way?”)
Dave Ramsey once said: “We buy things we don’t need with money we don’t have to impress people we don’t like.” To what degree are you already part of a rat race with a “carrot” dangling in front of your face? How often does it happen that others attract you with certain benefits you could get if you just gave a little extra effort? Do you enjoy this competition? Is it good for you, mentally and physically? The rat race phenomenon is deeply ingrained in our socio-economic systems. They have certain benefits (innovation and growth for many), however also many con’s that lead to people suffering from burn-out, depression or a strong lack of purpose in life.

Many people have already found out that there are alternative ways to a rat race competition and that it can be in fact quite fulfilling to lead a life of uniqueness.

I invite you to read more about how to achieve more of EVERYTHING in my next blog.
Stay tuned!