The Motivation “Hail Mary”

Inspiring work associates or family to greater heights works best when we see things through their point of view:

  • The great Notre Dame football coach Ara Parseghian got the best out of his football players by showing them the future not the present.
  • “A good coach will make his players see what they can be rather than what they are”.

The carrot at the end of the stick is not the status quo, it’s looking ahead to unlocking your potential.

Playing the “Fun Card”

Sports teams dine out a lot and when the check arrives everyone throws their credit cards into a hat and the waiter pulls out the “winner” who will pay for  everyone’s meal.

  • Having fun is dessert – no one complains.
  • I’ve been sharing that in one of my NYU classes, I award a FREE PASS certificate to the class member left standing for the final of 20 questions – yes, they each get a lifeline and the amazing part is that everyone has fun while the main tenets of the course are getting engrained in their minds with new ones added weekly.

Adding fun to life is something we can all do with the knowledge that almost everyone appreciates it.

Flexible Working Hours

It’s just as important to think of how you’re going to use the benefits of flexible working hours as it is to just have them.

  • That connecting with family, friends and loved ones is based on not the number of hours spent in their company, but the quality of time focused on them without external distractions.
  • That humans have a way of filling up “free time” with other tasks and responsibilities – be warned.
  • And that replacing “saved time” such as commuting can be squandered on your phone and social media instead of living it in the present.


Steve Jobs in 1996 at a high school commencement:

“If you don’t have any of these feelings, called dreams, then you’re in trouble. Before you “spend” four or more years of your life going in a direction your heart may or may not want you to go, you need to recapture them”.

  • Dreams are not just a luxury; they are the sparks that ignite our future lives.
  • Take a moment to continue dreaming so that your future success will have meaning beyond only monetary rewards.

Trading In Problems

Here’s a way to lighten our load:

  • As sure as you awaken each morning, you will be the recipient of a new problem or burden.
  • Few people say “hey, I’ve got another problem to deal with, which one of the other problems I’m wrestling with can I let go of”.
  • Instead, we keep allowing ourselves to pile them on as quickly as they come.
  • Trading in an old problem that cannot be solved right now for a newer one is the ultimate act of letting go of anxiety.

All of us can handle a given number of problems, but none of us can be burdened with everything that comes along so introducing this act of choice makes a difference worth trying.


To celebrate meaningfully …

  • To yourself, think of a few people you are or have been thankful for in your life – think about why and enjoy the feeling of being grateful.
  • To everyone you come in contact with that day say to yourself “I wish you well” and see if this doesn’t elevate your mood every time you do it.
  • To the person in charge of your Thanksgiving feast, propose a toast to thank that person in front of everyone else – be prepared for the tears of appreciation.

A holiday is not necessary to practice gratitude but this day is a perfect one for sharpening the skills of showing gratitude.

Our Biggest Distraction

Think it is your cellphone, think again.

  • Half the time we are distracted by none other than ourselves.
  • Meanwhile we are working at slowing down notifications, focusing on digital distractions and other obvious competitors for our attention.
  • One of the biggest distractions is when we allow ourselves to think about all our unfinished tasks.
  • Multitasking is a big mistake and yet employers demand it and we parents feel compelled to do it just to keep order in our family’s lives.

It’s the thought of yet something else to do, our inability to stay focused by promising ourselves a reward if we do and, of course, the dark hole of social media which not only distracts but trains us to return for repeated distraction.

Turns out we have the power to influence that.

The Fix for Focusing

Our attention spans are really, really short and getting shorter.

  • When they first started measuring them in 2003 people’s average attention span on a screen was two and a half minutes.
  • In 2012 it was 75 seconds.
  • In the last 5 years it has been averaging 47 seconds.
  • Many years ago, it was common to see 60 second commercials and they went down to 30 seconds and then 15 seconds. Now, it’s not uncommon to see six second commercials.
  • Personality is a factor as is whether we are more distractable than others.

The Fix:  Stay engaged and stay challenged, it’s hard to lose focus when these two conditions are present and as a bonus when you need the attention of another do the same – keep them engaged and challenged.

Breaking Up the Day

Have you heard of the Air Traffic Controller’s Guide to Life?

  • They are under intense pressure every one minute as another airplane lands or takes off – talk about anxiety!
  • Air traffic controllers work two-hour shifts and then take 45 minutes off to unwind and refocus before returning to the pressure cooker.
  • It’s not necessary for the rest of us to get a 45-minute break every two hours, but some kind of time away is essential.
  • You can’t stare at a computer screen and remain sitting for hours without fatigue clouding the mind – wait, students can’t learn if they are in their seats for too long without a break.

Our brains were not built to be on constantly – if we start recognizing that inherent fact today, we can adapt the stress in our lives to the relief that only we can give it.

Ending Unfair Criticism

The author Amit Sood says “I have learned that there are instances when the negative feedback comes from a place of ignorance” – it’s not a well-meaning critique.

  • Dale Carnegie famously said don’t criticize, condemn or complain.
  • Harsh words are meant to be vicious and not designed to be of help.
  • The iconic football coach Vince Lombardi was famous for not criticizing his players when they did something wrong – instead, he showed them what they had done right.

If you must criticize someone, start with you by sharing what you have done wrong and then suggesting an alternative to others.

This is a powerful and easy lesson in human relations that can make our day better and elevate us to a role of teacher instead of criticizer.