Smash Your Ego! Why Humility Matters

Hulk Smash Ego!

Humility may be losing ground.

However, for some reason I value it more than virtually any other human trait. I don’t know why, but the people I respect most are the ones that are out there, doing incredible things, but are so humble about it that it makes their accomplishments that much more amazing.

A colleague once told me about an author that she really liked and that she was excited to meet in person at a conference. Then she met this author and got the sense that he was pompous and it totally turned her off. It’s difficult to say what function this serves for us as human beings, but it’s wired into us.

It’s important to acknowledge that in our “marketing wins” world, you do have to promote yourself. I’m not advocating for a silent promotion strategy. What’s important is how you come across – in my opinion, you should be confident but not arrogant.

Note for the psychology majors: I know that an ego itself is not a bad thing. It is your definition and perception of yourself, and without one, you would be lost. A healthy ego is important for self-esteem. Here, I am speaking about common usage of the term – like in the phrase “Wow, that guy really really has an ego.”

Here are some considerations when you are telling others about yourself, your business, your charity or your product.

Don’t: Have an overly inflated ego.
Do: Value yourself. While it is possible to overdo ego, this does not mean you shouldn’t have pride or a sense of self-worth. True confidence comes from self-acceptance and embracing who you really are, not trying to be someone else.

Don’t: Only talk about being good. It will likely have the opposite effect you intended.
Do: Be good. Be your best self and you will build a strong reputation, which will serve you well in the long run.

Don’t: Put yourself in the spotlight all the time.
Do: Encourage and support shining a light on others. Give them the credit they are due.

Don’t: Promote yourself heavily or loudly to the point of annoyance.
Do: Ensure others know you exist and the value you can add for them. Stay in touch, add value over time and be consistent. That will do more for you than just trying to be the noisiest.

Don’t: Dominate conversations.
Do: Listen strong and let the other person speak. It will help you build a stronger connection, give you information that will help you better serve others and meet their needs.

Don’t: Assume you can solve all of the problems of the world alone..
Do: Ask for help. Give others a chance to succeed, present ideas and speak up. Sharing ideas can yield a better solution and a place to build from together.

Don’t: Brag.
Do: Connect.

There’s always a place and a way to sell yourself, get in front of the right people, let others know you exist, and show your value. Just don’t overdo one-sided self-promotion.

Smash your ego. Channel your inner Incredible Hulk.

Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it’s thinking of yourself less. C.S. Lewis

Constant Questions: Do you agree with this view of confidence, humility and self-promotion? How do you feel when you meet someone arrogant? Do you feel that it doesn’t matter how you come across because you are just so amazing, awesome and the best person ever and no one else is even close to as good as you? You might need some ego-smashing.

This video does a great job of explaining the difference between confidence and arrogance.

Watch Your Language: Why We Should Stop Skinning Cats

Language Wordle

People often ask what is more important – what you say or how you say it?

They are both important – this post focuses on the language we use to convey our ideas, and how they can effect the conversations we have.

As someone who believes that life is 50% content, 50% presentation, the language we use in our daily lives fascinates me. I’ve seen people who have a lot of great things to say, but their delivery made for a less than compelling message. On the flipside, I’ve heard people who are amazing presenters and communicators, but they lacked substance. In the marketing world we are in, we tend to embrace the latter, and they may succeed at least in the short-term. Ideally, you can have a strong message that is presented well, and it ‘sticks’.

Why do we talk the way that we do? Do you think about the origins of what you are saying or the impact of how you speak on the effectiveness of your message? Or the end results?

The words we use affect our conversations. Think about a racial slur, a derogatory term, a swear word, a slang word for a body part. These have more obvious effects because of the societal taboos put upon them. They draw instant emotional reactions.

Now think about these other categories of phrases and words that we use that impact your conversation in ways you may not even think about – until now.

Phrases with violence to animals

For some reason, a lot of these phrases have made their way into our regular vocabulary. They are quite graphic and violent, and yet are spoken by some of the most mild-mannered and peaceful people, because they are widely accepted phrases.

  • There’s more than one way to skin a cat
  • Kill two birds with one stone
  • Let’s stop beating a dead horse
  • Not enough room to swing a cat

Instead, can we find less violent alternatives? They don’t have to be boring and can convey the same message. How about instead of skinning a cat, we say, “There’s more than one way to scale a mountain”?

Failure talk

When we use certain words or phrases, there is a subconscious psychological effect on ourselves or others. These phrases can be especially toxic in organizations because they can destroy productivity and creativity.

  • “I will try…” or “I aim…” or “Hopefully…” or “If we are successful…” – these phrases imply the possibility of failure and are proven to make the achievement of whatever you say afterwards less likely to happen. Instead, say “I will…” or “When we succeed…”
  • “It’s impossible…” or “I can’t do it…” – by saying these phrases, you are creating negative reinforcement pathways in your brain. Steve Jobs had the sentiment that you can achieve the impossible if you don’t know that it is impossible. Keep an open mind and think about how you can make something happen, and you will be surprised at the results. If you must say you are not doing something, say “I choose not to…”, which at least reinforces your own power to make choices.
  • “That’s a bad idea…” – as adults, we often shut each other down before letting great ideas breathe. This can stifle creativity and eventually make us stop generating or sharing ideas. This is an innovation killer. Open your mind to new ideas. At the very least, we can learn from and build on ideas that initially may not make sense to us. Huge change doesn’t happen without creativity.

Bad apologies

Apologizing is a difficult thing to do. When done right, you can rebuild bridges, repair relationships and ease tension. When done poorly, you can make things much worse very quickly. The first step is being sincere about apologizing. Next is making sure the language you use doesn’t have the opposite effect you intended to have.

  • “I’m sorry but…” – think of the word ‘but’ as a magic eraser that eliminates everything you said right before it. This apology doesn’t take on any accountability, and that is what the other person is usually looking for.
  • “I’m sorry that you were offended…” – saying it this way also doesn’t take accountability for your actions. You are disowning your role in the situation.

A real apology would start more like this – “I’m sorry for what I did and for offending you.” An earlier post I wrote talks about how to really apologize.

Compliments

Sure, we all like to be told something nice. Maybe for a few moments, it makes us feel good about ourselves. Usually, a compliment is superficial and doesn’t require much understanding of who you are as a person. It doesn’t hit deep into our souls, so it likely doesn’t have a lasting effect. Check out what compliments sound like:

  • I like your shirt
  • Good job
  • You are awesome

Nothing is wrong with compliments – they can be nice and uplifting. However, if you really want someone you care about to know that they are important to you and really elevate their spirits, consider using acknowledgements which are very specific and speak to the essence of who the person is. Here is what an acknowledgement sounds like:

“The way that you handled that situation really speaks to your courage and resolve. You always have such a strong way of reading people and what is important to them, and I’m sure that is why you are able to manage difficult situations that come up.”

So what can you do to start using better language? The main thing you can do is to really listen to yourself and others – by being conscious of the language you are using, you can make better choices and increase the success of your communications. That is, if you care about that sort of thing.

Constant Questions: What language do we use that has effects we may not even realize? How can we become more aware of the impact of the language we use, and change it for the better? I guess we can’t do it, because it’s impossible. I’m sorry if you are offended, and I don’t want to keep beating a dead horse, but your idea is bad. Well, at least you’re wearing a nice shirt.

This post was inspired by conversations with my great colleagues at Future Possibilities for Kids, where we talk about random issues like this all the time in the interest of self-development and building our own leadership and coaching skills.

BONUS: Another thing that has an effect on others around us is grammar. Like it or not, when you use bad grammar, it may take away from your message. Weird Al preaches on this below.

5 Things You Can Do Instead of Drinking Coffee

Big Coffee Cup

We live in a coffee culture.

  • When you ask someone to meet up with you, you will often say “Let’s grab a coffee.”
  • Many of your co-workers or family members will say things like “I can’t get started without my morning coffee.”
  • According to Infobarrel, 50% of people over 18 in the US drink coffee regularly and they drink enough to fill up over 14 Statues of Liberty…every day!

As someone who has a busy schedule, is a parent of two young children, and likely as sleep-deprived as the rest of you, I can totally understand the need for a morning boost. However, given my sensitivity to caffeine – even a 9am coffee will disrupt my sleep – I am not a coffee drinker. Yes, the truth is out. When I tell others about this, it often leads to disbelief, shock, and looks that say “How do you survive?”

I’m not here to knock coffee – in moderation, many studies have shown coffee to have short-term positive effects like increased alertness, memory, and even happiness. It also smells and tastes wonderful.

I’m here to ask what about the rest of us non-coffee drinkers who still need that morning boost?

Here are some alternatives to coffee that you can do to start your day that will energize your body, uplift your spirits and sharpen your mind. While it’s a small sample size, I am speaking from personal experience that all of these things work! Even if you do drink coffee, you can still do them.

1) Drink lemon juice – Lemon juice is a super food with many amazing properties. Having a shot of lemon juice (and for the adventurous, a dash of cayenne pepper) with warm water can boost your immune system and give you a burst of energy – to me it is comparable to drinking a shot of espresso, but with no side effects. Just remember to brush your teeth before doing this instead of afterwards and rinse with water after due to the acidity of the lemon.

2) Do a 30 second burst of exercise – Doing even 30 seconds of intense exercise first thing in the morning like jumping jacks, running rapidly on the spot or burpee jumps can boost your energy and adrenalin. It has been compared to drinking coffee with no downside (no crash, no disrupted sleep). That’s less time than it takes to start up your coffee maker!

3) Express gratitude – There are no magic bullets in life, but this is one of the quickest and easiest ways to gain short and long-term benefits to your emotional health and energy. Every morning, write down (or type) 3 things that you are grateful for. It doesn’t sound like much, but you find that by the end of this exercise, you are completely uplifted. The best part is doing this even occasionally can have a positive effect on mood even up to 3 months after you stop doing it. If you haven’t set a New Year’s Resolution yet, making gratitude part of your daily routine could make a real difference in your life.

4) Laugh – Laughing is an emotional cleanser. It has so many proven benefits, one of which is increasing your energy levels. One thing you can do is to create an easily available list of things in your life that REALLY make you crack up just by thinking of them and then take a peek at it and let the laughter do the rest.

5) Do some self-affirmation – Look in the mirror, right into your own eyes and tell yourself whatever it is you think you need to hear. It could be as simple as “You’re doing great.” If you’ve never done it before, try it – it’s quite powerful. Many of us, myself included, could stand to be more gentle with ourselves. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t push yourself to achieve more and be ambitious, but sometimes what we really need to hear from ourselves is that we’re doing alright.

Disclaimer: I’m not a doctor, psychologist, or someone with any credentials that allow me to credibly give such ideas – I’m just a coffee-free guy who found some things that help me. So check with your respective professionals, mostly for #1 and #2.

Constant Questions: What gives you energy in the morning? Do you depend on coffee for your morning fix? Would you give up coffee and try some alternatives ways to wake up? Is the best part of waking up really Folgers in your cup?

If you want to know what really happens when you drink coffee, check this out:

The lean forward moment

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I wait for that moment. It happens every time, without fail. I meet someone, and they start telling me what they “do”. Sometimes they’re excited about it, and sometimes they’re barely showing any signs of passion.

Then, as I start asking questions, and we get deeper into conversation, it happens.

The person’s eyes light up, a genuine smile breaks through, and they lean forward and really get into the conversation.

That is when I know we’ve made a real connection and I’ve been let into the person’s world. What makes someone lean forward is what is at the core of that person and gives you a great idea of who they are.

I have experienced so many lean forward moments – people from all walks of life, backgrounds, ages and career paths.

  • The leader of a social profit agency leaned forward talking about the letters she reads from families that have had their lives changed as a result of her organization’s work.
  • A rising star fundraiser leaned forward when he told me about how excited he gets working with donors one on one, walking them through an inquiry or even a complaint, and taking them to a place of understanding.
  • An introverted engineer turned consultant specializing in innovation tax credits leaned forward when he started talking about his vision of the future of Canada as an innovation hub.

  • Sometimes, people ask the question “If you didn’t have to worry about money, what would you do?” as an attempt to determine someone’s true calling or passion. Maybe that works if the person answering the question is very self-aware and has already figured it all out.

    I think having a meaningful conversation is more likely to reveal the real answer, because it’s coming about naturally and organically, and we may not always be highly attuned with our own deep-seeded passion.

    The next time you go to a networking event, or anywhere you are meeting new people, you are bound to have someone asking you early in your conversation “What do you do?” Answer them, then try something different as a response. Don’t ask “What do you do?”. Ask “What makes you lean forward?”, pause while the person gives you a weird look, explain yourself, and see how it goes. I have a feeling it will be much more interesting that way.

    Sometimes we do what we have to do, but we hope that for the most part, we get to do what we want to do, what we like to do and what we believe is our calling. Find what makes you lean forward, and make sure, even if you’re not doing that all the time, that it is part of your life often enough to keep you fulfilled.

    Constant Questions: What makes you lean forward? Do you get to do enough of that in your life? Have you seen other people lean forward and realized you just discovered what makes them tick? Would you lean on me, when you’re not strong? Because I’ll be your friend.

    If you do have a million dollars and are struggling for ideas of what to do with it, here are some great ones.

    Thank you, but no thank you

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    Stop saying thank you to donors. Of course, I don’t mean that as it sounds. Showing appreciation for donations is one of the (if not the) most important things that happens after someone gives. All I’m saying is find another way to say it.

    You are a bunch of creative people out there and I’m sure you can find some awesome alternatives. A simple thank you always has its place, but to get people’s attention, show them that you’ve taken some more time to think about showing gratitude.

    So how about a contest?

    I am looking for the best opening line for a thank you that doesn’t say “thank you” in it. Get creative, get fun, get quirky, but show your appreciation.

    Starting as soon as this post is released, tweet your best opening line for a thank you email, letter, phonecall, fax, or stone tablet message to #BestTY and the best one wins, it’s that simple.

    Just don’t say thank you.

    The contest will close Saturday, August 17th at midnight, EST, and the winner will be announced shortly after. The best ones will be Storified, along with the announcement of the winner, and captured here in a future post.

    The judges for this contest will be me and these four amazing fundraising type people:

  • Mary Cahalane, Director of Development at Charter Oak Cultural Center and fundraising wizard, as her blog Hands-on Fundraising will show you.
  • John Lepp, Partner at Agents of Good, standing up against bad fundraising everywhere, and mega-zealot about treating donors right.
  • Ann Rosenfield, Executive Director of the WoodGreen Foundation, and her hands are insured for $1 million because she is a handwritten note legend.
  • Brock Warner, Donor Programs Officer at War Child Canada and recent entrant into the blog world with iamafundraiser, much to the delight of…well…everyone!
  • Supreme appreciation to these excellent friends for supporting this – I know they are all big advocates of showing ‘donor love’.

    So what’s up for grabs? Recently, I was lucky enough to win a Twitter contest run by Zipcar, and I won a $25 Amex gift card. I committed that if I won it, I would find a way to give it away, so that was the birth of this contest. I know it’s not a trip to Paris, but it’s the pride, not the prize, folks.

    However, after hearing about the contest, John and the good folks at Agents of Good have generously offered to do a free evaluation of an appeal or thank you letter for the winner. Now that’s something to write home about…hopefully to say thanks.

    UPDATE August 12, 2013 – I’m going to up the ante to spur on entries by adding three $10 Amazon.com gift cards to be given out randomly to those that enter. Use it towards a fundraising book or a waffle iron. Maybe get something nice for a friend. Whatever you like!

    Note, the Amex card is a US gift card, but it should be usable at any online vendor if you’re not from the US. If you win, I will mail it to you once the contest is done, wherever you are in the world.

    Here’s the catch. You must be on Twitter! This is as good an excuse as any to start.

    Good luck to all!

    Constant Questions: I would ask you here for the best opening line for a thank you, but you’re going to tweet it, right? Instead, what is the worst opening line for a thank you that you have seen? What are some creative ways you have said thank you or seen it done?

    FBO – Why charities need it

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    There are an estimated 85,000 charities in Canada, 180,000 in the UK, and 1.1 million in the US.

    (Pause for gasp)

    That’s not even factoring in the various other not-for-profits and causes that although they may not issue tax receipts, are still a destination for donors.

    So…the big question. Why should anyone give to you?

    You can’t compete only on:

  • Product (your cause)
  • Service (how you treat people)
  • Loyalty (how much people like you)

  • Why not? Because these things can be replicated and built by others. In this free market, openly competitive charitable world, when something is seen as successful, originators may win in the early stages, but imitators gravitate to your success. Unless there are real barriers to entry, they can do the same thing that you’re doing.

    So your differentiation factor, the unique space you occupy where there’s no room for anyone else, is the one thing you can use to stand out and get people to pay attention.

    If you don’t differentiate, you end up competing on…price.

    In the charitable sector, this could be seen as competing on administrative costs. As we know, in isolation, this is usually a weak indicator of how well an organization is doing. It also doesn’t connect someone strongly to you when a “cheaper” charity comes along.

    Guess what – it’s our fault.

    If donors want to keep comparing charities based on something like administrative costs, it’s because we haven’t given them something else to talk about. If you’re not different from anyone else, then what’s interesting about you?

    So what do you need to do? Find your FBO.

    Figure out what you do where you are the first, best and only. That’s your differentiation factor.

    First = longevity and trust.

    Best = credibility and confidence.

    Only = exclusivity and pride.

    Then find a way to build this into your branding, communications and organizational soul. More importantly, talk about what it means for people considering getting involved. (Plus gentle reminders to those that already are!)

    One caveat – this must be tempered with ensuring your donor and volunteer communications are focused on their role as the hero in the story. FBO is only for those rare moments when you are talking about yourself. By the way, also stop asking for money. Instead, start conversations.

    FBO – think about it. Then find it and use it! It’s the best shot you have in standing out in a sea of same.

    Thanks to Krishan Mehta for first introducing me to this concept and to Tim Rooney for his wisdom about the importance and mechanics of differentiation.

    Constant Questions: As an individual, what is your first, best and only? How about your organization or charity? Did you think that FBO was a typo and I meant FBI? If you’re worried about the FBI, what for? Something you need to share with us? Maybe this blog isn’t the best place – it’s a public space and I don’t want it to get virtual cyber yellow tape wrapped around it!

    Why the heck are you here?

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    “The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.” – Mark Twain

    Have you figured it out yet? Why you are here?

    Sometimes it could take a lifetime, but never stop searching for that reason.

    We are all here to accomplish some purpose. Start a movement. Teach others. Make a product which will make life better for people. Keep our streets safe. Create art for others to enjoy. It likely involves contributing something to the greater good.

    Stephen Covey talks about defining your own personal mission statement as a habit for success. Maybe it changes over time, maybe it doesn’t stick forever, but if you don’t have a sense of purpose, then it’s very hard to determine where to invest your precious time. FranklinCovey has a personal mission statement builder that can help you figure yourself out – complex, enigmatic puzzle that you are!

    My core belief is that “we are all responsible for each others’ success” – so my mission is to help others to achieve success, in whatever way I can. It’s not that I have any amazing abilities to help others, but if there is a way I can help someone out in their journey, why wouldn’t I? It’s a privilege and an honour, because it’s a small way I can pay forward all of the amazing mentors, leaders, coaches and inspirational people who helped me on my path.

    Anything and everything we have achieved in our lives, we didn’t do alone – someone helped us, whether we knew it or not. There are some people who believe they did everything on their own. I’m not trying to undermine the role of the “pull up your bootstraps” story, where hard work and tireless perseverance were essential ingredients of success. Although somewhere along that path, a person reached out their hand to support you, you accepted it, and it made a difference. Their purpose and path intertwined with yours and created a stepping stone for you.

    What is the point of humanity if we aren’t supporting each other? I don’t think on your path to success that you have to step over other people or achieve success independently. The most generous people out there seem to be the ones who have the most good fortune, and that’s probably not a coincidence.

    By defining your purpose on the planet, you can find your route to generosity for others and your connection to the big picture.

    Don’t stop trying to figure out your purpose, and if you have figured it out (lucky you), don’t ever stop trying to achieve it!

    Thanks to Promod Sharma for bringing the opening quote by Mark Twain into my life, amongst many other amazing ideas he has instilled into my mind. Check out his excellent blog network – you won’t be disappointed.

    Constant Questions: Please share! What is your personal mission statement? What do you believe you are here to achieve? Do you remember the day you were born? Seriously? You are indeed special, my friend.