Career Advice

Focus Pocus - Put Focus on Top of Your To-Do List

By Cindy Yantis

Fifteen phone messages need to be returned, 55 emails need to answered, the laser printer needs ink, a proposal needs to be written for a sales pitch, an annual report needs to be delivered in a half hour, your son called and forgot his baseball uniform, six employee evaluations sit on your desk - due yesterday, you have to reschedule a lunch meeting for twenty, oh and Hugh Jackman is on the Today Show...and it's only 9:15 a.m.

What do you do first? Does your list of tasks, obligations and deadlines leave you sitting paralyzed at your desk?

I recently re-read two books which continually have a profound impact on my life and career. It's hard to fathom that "Think & Grow Rich", by Napoleon Hill, was first written in 1937 because the principles still hold so true today. In fact, if you ask many of the top leaders currently, they'll tell you they built their formulas for success based on Napoleon Hill's brilliant insights and foresight. His book has become the Kleenex, if you will, or the generic brand, of platforms that teach us to focus on what we truly want in life as well as a clear blueprint to turn big thoughts into big reality.

The second book is "The Power of Focus", by Jack Canfield, Mark Victor Hansen and Les Hewitt, in which they layout a guideline for attaining clear focus on goals and creating new habits that lead to success. They say, "success isn't magic or hocus-pocus, it's simply learning how to focus."

A key attribute for being a strong Leader is to be a Multi-Tasker. An effective multi-tasker can have several projects going on at once, but to be truly effective, one must use what I call "Focal Point Clarity," which means peeling back the clutter around the current task so that it becomes your singular focus of the moment.

A great illustration of Focal Point Clarity was in the film, THE LEGEND OF BAGGER VANCE. Matt Damon played a golfer who had the ability to focus so clearly on the ball going into the cup that literally everything disappeared from his mind's eye except the ball, his club, the flag and the hole. There were no trees, no screaming crowd, no judge and jury, no wind, no mind clutter. Just his focal point - putting the ball in the cup. It's worth watching the YouTube clip if you can find 6 minutes.

Napoleon Hill said, "Hold a picture of yourself long and steadily enough in your mind's eye, and you will be drawn toward it." The same principle can be used for a task on your growing list of to-do's. Here are some tips to help you focus and get to Focal Point Clarity.

  • Stop to prioritize - list by due date and how long you think it will take to finish. You may Focus To Do Listhave to do this 2-3 times a day.
  • Schedule the time by project into your Outlook or calendar program.
  • Clear everything else off your desk except for your task at hand - this is immensely helpful for peeling back the clutter, allowing your Focal Point Clarity to take shape.
  • Focus on your strengths, not your weaknesses - when you peel back the layers of the job in front of you, zero in on what makes you brilliant at doing what you do. Let that lead you. It brings some joy into the moment and before you know it, it's complete.
  • Keep a running list - when something pops into your head put it on a pop-up list; to be prioritized later.
  • Handle email/mail only once - shuffling it around makes your lose your focus. Add it to your calendar if you need to and let people know you'll be responding to email twice a day. That will help you stick to the schedule without being concerned about "ignoring" someone's email.
  • Set boundaries - set your own rules for interruption - hold your calls for a time, close your door, let people know when you're available.
  • Walk away - what does this have to do with focus? Taking a break allows your conscious mind to breathe while your subconscious mind continues to work. As Napoleon Hill said, "The subconscious mind works day and night."

And, some other good tips to help you focus in general:

  • 3 squares & 8 hours - get a good 7-8 hours of sleep followed by 3 meals filled with healthy brain food - proteins, anti-oxidants, grains, vegetables - during the day, particularly breakfast which revs your focus engine.
  • Exercise - a steady flow of oxygen in the brain helps us focus, so get moving on a regular basis.
  • Take vitamins - B Complex, A, C and E vitamins help keep the brain sharp.

The reason I picked up my well-worn copies of these books is because I can sometimes fall victim to the fast moving train of ideas, obligations and deadlines that flow by all day long! In fact, I like the train analogy because it describes how my brain starts my day.

I'm standing on the train platform, sipping my first cup of java, gazing at the myriad of trains leaving the station for that day, with my mind's voice yelling out the various ports of call, "All aboard! Platform 1 leaving for Writer's Paradise; platform 2 leaving for Client Project Cove; platform 3 leaving for Fabulous Brand New Idea Island; platform 4 leaving for Hugh Ja... you get the idea.

Then, I look down at the note next to my computer which says FOCAL POINT CLARITY, and I look at my PRIORITIZED to-do list that I made before I left work the night before. I board the selected train and begin my day's journey.

As a primarily right-brainer, I've learned that I must put Focus on the top on my daily to-do list, every day, day after day. After day.

 

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Cindy Yantis is the Thought Changer Blog creator & curator. She is a freelance writer living in Los Angeles. For more info: CindyYantis.com

 

 


Two Ways to Recognize and Let Go of Fear

By Cindy Yantis

I recently got an email from a reader asking me to send her a post I'd written three years ago about dissolving fear, stating "I think it would be very helpful to me right now."   I happily sent it to her and decided updating and revisiting the subject might be helpful to all of us.  

“The key to change…is to let go of fear.” ~ Rosanne Cash   

The very word can stop us in our tracks sometimes.  FEAR.  It can keep us from making a decision, or from taking advantage of an opportunity, or from stepping into any situation that puts us out of our comfort zone. The very notion of fear can cause inertia. 

Scared kidLet's take a moment to re-define or reframe this word, to think about it in a new way.  Some define fear as False Evidence Appearing Real, in other words fear isn’t real.  And, there is truth to that sentiment. But, when you’re paralyzed by a fear it feels pretty darn real. 

Here are two new ways to redefine, reframe and dissolve the notion of fear:  

1. Fear as expectation – Think of a fear as a set of expectations. In a fearful moment, ask yourself: What are my expectations if I do this?  Then, make a list of all of those expectations.  

  • Do you expect that you’re not good enough?  
  • Do expect that you won’t be liked?  
  • Do you expect that you’re going to lose your job if you step out like that? Or you won't get the job is you speak your mind? 
  • Do you expect that people won’t think you’re smart if you say that?  

Write down what you expect to happen if you proceed with whatever you're holding back from.  When you see it in black and white, sometimes the simple acknowledgment helps to bring a light to the non-reality of your expectations.    

So what do you do?  The great news is you now have a chance to re-write your expectations surrounding the event or decision, making them positive rather than negative.  Literally create a set of expectations that allow you to move forward:  

  • I expect that they will recognize me as the expert that I am on this subject, that's why I'm there.    
  • I expect that if it’s meant to be I will make a connection at this meeting.  
  • I expect that I will be hired for this job if I’m right for this job, and I decide I’m right for this job.
  • I expect that they want me to nail this interview/presentation/audition. It will make their job easier.  

Then, what happens is fear is replaced by a stronger sense of courage and ownership of self.   

2. Fear as resistance - What is resistance exactly?  The definition of the word is: conflict, struggle and opposition.  It shows up just at the time when you’re about to learn something, or you’re about to make a change or advancement to your current situation.  Personal resistances are created in the mind.  They’re not real.  They’re not in the present.  Resistance takes place in the subconscious mind and it invades or stops the new thought or idea in the forefront of your mind.  

How does it show up for you?  Resistance can show up in little behaviors or obstacles that our minds create in order to avoid and mask fears.  Resistance can be a pesky little devil!  And, we can get really creative in our resistances.  Maybe you just haven’t had time to get to it; or perhaps you get tired or create a headache which makes you put it off again.  Mind chatter is another form of resistance.  Maybe you tell yourself that things really aren’t that bad where you are.  Or this is a silly exercise, what does it really have to do with getting a job or setting a goal?  

To get through a fear or resistance, let’s take a look at the notion of polar opposites and how what you want many times sits directly on the other side of what’s stopping you.  The Chinese say that on the opposite side of chaos is order.  In other words, what's in the way is the way. Whats in the way_j

The antonym, or opposite, of resistance is SURRENDER. This doesn't mean to give up or give in or throw in the towel.  By surrender I mean to trust what you can’t see in front of you yet.  Trust that the answers will come to you.  Trust in the quieting of the mind.  And, allow some space for compassion.  Tell your fear that it’s okay. You acknowledge it, but you’re moving forward anyway.  Surrender to just doing your best, your best in that moment.   

So, give yourself permission to recognize and reframe, then surrender and change your expectations.  If you do this on a consistent basis you’ll see the fears begin to dissolve.  We get fixed into a certain way of thinking.   

Yes, it’s uncomfortable.  But, that's the good stuff.  That's being alive and expanding.  So, I invite you to live in the uncomfortable, to become comfortable being uncomfortable. 

 

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Cindy Yantis is the Thought Changer Blog creator & curator. She is a freelance writer living in Los Angeles. For more info: CindyYantis.com


Make What You Love What You Do

Labor Day is about honoring the contributions workers have made and are making to our lives, to our country and to the world.

But, it's also a time to rest, relax and regroup.  It got me thinking about how important it is to have sense of accomplishment and meaning in how we spend our time and in the work that we individually do. When we each aim for our own highest good then it also serves the collective highest good.  

For me, it comes down to simply this...

Make What You Love What You Do

Would love to hear your thoughts on this.  

How do you go about loving what you do as you do what you love?  

How do you discover what you're meant to do?  

Let's share and get the conversation going...

 

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Cindy Yantis is the Thought Changer Blog creator & curator. She is a freelance writer living in Los Angeles. For more info: CindyYantis.com


30 Awesome Ways to Promote Your Blog Posts

This is a fantastic compilation of well researched ideas on how to spread your message and promote yourself and/or your blog/site.  I've already started to incorporate the ones I hadn't heard of before. Some of these are also excellent suggestions if you're promoting an event or upcoming show.  

Courtesy of Andreea Ayers of LaunchGrowJoy.  Andreea gives some blogging tips and then breaks down the 30-ways-to-promote ideas into five essential categories: Social Media, Bookmarking Sites, Your Contact LIst, Other Blogs & Syndication.  Brilliant!  

I just had to share the wealth.  

 

30-ways-to-promote-your-blog-posts

 

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Cindy Yantis is the Thought Changer Blog creator & curator. She is a freelance writer living in Los Angeles. For more info: CindyYantis.com


Rekindling Possibility

By Cindy Yantis

A recent dinner with dear old friends conjured more than just catching up.  Sure we did a quick rewind through the last three years since seeing each other.  But, with this particular family of friends I always leave much more grounded and inspired than I was at hello.  And, we echoed many stories being told around many dinner tables right now, stories of challenges faced, jobs changed and upcoming choices being made.  There was a shared rekindling taking place. It's the same theme after every encounter with my friends, the Googasians. 

I left them after dinnSanta Monica ferris wheeler and walked across Ocean Boulevard in Santa Monica to gaze out over the ocean.  It was vast and dark and  mysterious.  But, stealing the scene from the ocean was the ferris wheel whirling on the Santa Monica Pier which was bustling with activity.  The ferris wheel was a sight to behold.  At night it glowed with a vibrant spinning kalaidescope of color. 

As I marveled from a distance it hit me what the theme of the evening was.  "Rekindling Possibility."   And, at dinner we sparked in each other a kaleidoscope of possibilities. We challenged each other with thought provoking questions about life, career and love.  I wish I saw them more often; I'd be a better person for it.  

A kaleidoscope is a cylinder of mirrors reflecting colored objects resulting in a surprising, ever-changing and magical vision.  A possibility is an unknown potential outcome that holds promise of success.  So, it's intriguing to think about rekindling your possibilities by looking at them through a kaleidoscope lens.  

  • Kaleidoscope1Be limitless - what have you always wanted to do or create in all the areas of your life?
  • Brain noodle - ask yourself open-ended questions, then allow yourself to not answer them right away. Write down what comes to you over the course of several days.  I call this noodling.  I'm amazed what comes to mind sometimes when I set the question in motion and then noodle it around for awhile.
  • Let the colorful ideas flow - turn the kaleidoscope around and look at trying something in a completely new way.  
  • Keep learning - take a class or read a book to expand your horizon of possibility.
  • Believe - it's important to have full conviction behind your possibilities.  When you believe it can really happen, energy shifts toward making it a reality.
  • Embrace the mirrors - your possibilities are mirrors reflecting your truth. Be honest with yourself and let your heart be your guide.

Finally, stir up your possibilities on a daily basis.  Reflect on them.  Shine a light of curiosity on them. Expand on them.  Accept their promise. 

And, breathe as they become reality. 

 

Cindy Yantis is the Thought Changer Blog owner & curator.  She is a writer living in Los Angeles.  For more info: CindyYantis.com

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It's the Good Stuff That Matters

By Cindy Yantis

It was a shiny new menu sign.  All the yummy drink choices with the prices lined up perfectly next to them.  Dollar signs aligned vertically in almost lyrical fashion.  And, then… an oops.  The third item from the bottom, the Ice Blended Mocha, was missing the dollar sign.  The $ was “v”.  v3.80?  Clearly it was a typo on a freshly printed menu board, one that had likely been proofed by several sets of eyes.  And, it wasn’t just a local job.  This was a board that had been special ordered and hung by professionals.  Latte Menu

I’ve ordered lunch in this café numerous times and have never noticed this little flaw.  So, what do you think happened as I sat there waiting for my lunch order?  I was unable focus on anything except for that measly v3.80.  The typo.  The one imperfect note amidst the otherwise perfect symphony of $$$$$$$$$$$$.

What is that?  It got me thinking about how easily this same mindset pervades so many areas of our lives. 

Continue reading "It's the Good Stuff That Matters" »


The Power of the Seed

By Cindy Yantis

It was announced in Variety last week that the Tony Award winning play, The Normal Heart, is finally being made into a film, and with no less than the brilliant Ryan Murphy directing.  I found this news particularly exciting because I witnessed firsthand the very beginning of the fast moving surge that's culminating with the film.  

My friend, actor and producer David Youse, had the spark of an idea to bring Larry Kramer's 1985 masterpiece back to life for its 25th Anniversary.  He had Mr. Kramer's blessing, then hired Oscar & Tony winner Joel Grey (that's David and Joel to the right) to direct a star studded reading at The Geffen Playhouse in Los Angeles which has raised over $175,000 benefiting several AIDS organizations.

David & Joel GreyA New York reading starring Glenn Close followed which really created a buzz.  Broadway producer Daryl Roth took the play to Broadway and The Normal Heart won three 2011 Tony Awards including Best Revival of a Play!

Now the film, which is being produced by Ryan Murphy and Brad Pitt's Plan B Entertainment. 

It got me thinking about the power of the seed. 

Continue reading "The Power of the Seed" »


Life Lessons from a High School Basketball Game

It had been raining for days in Los Angeles.  On one such afternoon, when the rain took a breath, I looked out my kitchen window and saw something you don't see very often.  A red balloon.  A red balloon that hovered mid-air as it's white string tapped hopefully on the patio cement.  A red balloon that had survived the storm.  Red balloonHow did it wander into my yard?  Did it feel safer there?  Was it hiding under my olive tree, hoping the storm wouldn't find it there?

For me it created a sense of wonder which I sort of think red balloons were put on this earth to do, to create in us a sense of wonder, of what's possible. 

So, I've been noodling that around for a few days. 

And, then last night I went to my nephew's basketball game.  Kirk's team, Walled Lake Northern, played cross-town rival Lakeland for a spot in the District Championship.  It's been a couple of decades since I've been to a high school basketball game; my nephew lives 3000 miles away and I usually visit during the holiday or summer.  So, it was kind of nostalgically thrilling to be there, not only because I was going to finally see him do something he loves and is really good at, but also because it reminded me of why I used to love high school sports and also why I love sports movies.

It seemed to me that there were red balloons all over the ceiling, flying out of the air vents and bobbing along the stands among the passionate we-have-to-win-this-game-or-we'll-die fans.  Okay, there wasn't really a red balloon in sight, but the room was buzzing with possibility.  And, in that span of about 90 minutes, emotions ran the gamut of a full lifetime, from the birth of the opening jump shot to the final buzzer which meant death on one end of the court and another birth on the other end.  And, in between, I couldn't help but think of the many life lessons that were stuffed into a time warp of those four quarters.

  • Play well with others - it seems obvious but nevertheless it's a good daily reminder
  • Don't hog the ball or the glory - giving credit where credit is due establishes you as not only a team player, but as a leader
  • Slow down and assess before jumping into action - if you don't you may miss the mark
  • Listen to your advisors and coaches - don't be intimidated to ask for help
  • Trust your training and knowledge - allow your instincts to guide you

The best plays of the game were those between team members where they appeared to be connected by an invisible rope. They happened quickly and could only happen with good training followed by cohesive instinct. 

  • Learn from defeat - take the time to reflect on what you can glean from the experience before you move on

It can all come crashing in a matter of seconds as it did in this smashing game. 

The game was virtually tied all throughout.  Lakeland was supposed to win as they had the last two times the teams met.  So, the fact that Northern kept it neck and neck added to the excitement, added a few more red balloons to the room.  It came down to the last 12 seconds of the game.  Lakeland was up by two after a quick series of fouls and free throw shots, and they had already started to celebrate.  After a breath-holding timeout, Northern had the ball.  Kirk started the play and began the perfect set-up for the perfect play.  His best friend, Jared, had the ball with 2 seconds to go.  He swooshed an ideal 3-pointer to win the game.  Instant celebrity. 

Also in that instant, Lakeland went from scraping the ceiling to puddling the floor.  Faces were stunned, mouths agape, for several moments.  But, then as the elated Northern Knights rejoiced, they handled their defeat gracefully, congratulating the winners and then headed back into the locker room, no doubt to a lecture discussing what they learned from their defeat. 

  • Relish in the victories - allow the good feelings to last as long as possible; it's what builds us up to keep moving forward

In those last split seconds red balloons were flying and popping with joy.  It was fascinating how explosively and organically victory and defeat lived side by side and on top of each other in the same room.  It worked.  Life is the same way as the high and low moments flow like a river.

And, lastly,

  • Kiss the spot - recognize and appreciate the small and big milestones along the way.  Those milestones make a life and help to identify the richness of the journey.

The fans and team rallied around Jared after his heroic play.  They placed his name on the floor where he'd made his winning shot and then chanted, "Kiss the spot!  Kiss the spot!"  So Jared obliged and kissed his spot on the floor, his moment in time, his milestone that he most assuredly won't soon forget.

Remember to look for the red balloons.  They're everywhere if you just take time to notice.

 

 

 


Think Acceptance - Not Resignation

One expands your energy, the other puts a lid on it.  Guess which is which. 

I had a discussion with some friends yesterday about phrases we habitually use, whether they are thought connectors, or simply phrases that fill the space.  Words like "right", or "like", or "exactly."  A phrase that I have used and have started to use again is "it is what it is."   I had even included it in an article a long time ago as an example of an equalizer in a difficult management moment, an momentary acceptance if you will.

But, now I realize it's more a phrase of resignation, of resigning to a less than ideal situation or circumstance.  It has shifted my thinking about the notion of acceptance.  The very synonyms of resignation say it all: acquiescence, conformity, long-suffering, uncomplainingness.  That kind of makes me want to laugh and cry at the same time.  Whereas to accept means to favor, to respect, to relish and admire or to come to terms with favorable reception and gratitude.  IluvMyBody

It's a very simple shift.

Resignation means staying in the struggle and feeling of lack.  Acceptance means respecting what there is and working with it and beyond it with tolerance, respect and love.  I don't mean to sound woo-woo here, but try it on for size.

It will make you think about aging, being in an unsatisfying work environment, not being where you "think" you should be at this stage in your life, body issues, and relationships in a whole new light.

George Orwell said, "Happiness can only exist in acceptance."  Bravo.

I say, acceptance expands your energy, resignation puts a lid on it.

It no longer "is what it is."  I'm taking the lid off.

 


Take this job and... love it

I'm sure there are many days you'd rather end that sentence as in the classic 1977 Johnny Paycheck hit.  I find it ironic that Johnny’s last name is Paycheck given the theme of this post.  I’m just sayin’. 

I read a crazy statistic that some 1 million people call in sick every day and surveys vary, but anywhere from 45% to 87% of people in this country don’t like their jobs.  So, if this Lovemyjob
is you, you’re definitely not alone.

But, this isn’t a misery-loves-company kind of day.  How about in honor of this day of love, you make a vow to really love your job.  Even if it’s just for a day?   

If you’re already there, congratulations!  If not, perhaps some of the following ideas might help:

  • Call in sick.  Kidding.
  • First morning thoughts – when you get up in the morning, think of 3 things you’re really looking forward to that day, anything from seeing certain co-workers, to working on a pet project, but list 3
  • Greet everyone you see during the day – exchanging positive energy throughout the day helps to raise your spirits
  • Tackle the tough stuff first – you know what they are, whether it’s a task that has been nagging at you or a mini-crisis that comes up in the moment, crossing those things off your list brings a sense of accomplishment which increases your endorphins (your happy hormones)
  • Ask to be involved – possibly in other areas of your company that interest you, or in a project that you’ve been thinking about
  • Showcase your talents – any time you get the opportunity to show your superiors your successes or even your unique thought process on a given problem, it’s a good thing and makes going to work more enjoyable
  • Make your desires for advancement known – it’s not going to happen if you just have the conversation in your head.  Put yourself on the top of their promotion pile.
  • Take mental health breaks – have a quick chat with a co-worker, call a friend or family member to tell them you’re thinking of them, walk around the block, do 20 twenty squats in the bathroom (you may laugh but I’ve done it!), drink a fast 8 ounces of cold H20, or close your eyes for 3 minutes at your desk and breathe deeply.
  • Eat your lunch away from the office! 

Then at the end of the day look back at the good things that took place.  Don’t allow yourself to focus on anything negative, just the good stuff.  What you focus on expands and if you're only thinking about the negative events that took place during the day you'll only wake up to more of it the next day.  Yuck.

And, tomorrow is a new day!  Who knows?  Maybe you'll do it again tomorrow.

Happy Valentine's Day!