photo by: david__jones

photo by: david__jones

A caution to American Idol contestants dreaming of a record contract… science says if you are paid for your hobby, you will lose pleasure in it!

To many, the inspiring “do what you love and the rest will follow”, expression means that if you’re committed enough, a paycheque will come out of something you’re doing for fun anyway, and you will live happily ever after. I’ve explored this many times in partnership with clients who start out positioning this as the ideal situation, and through reflection, research and trial, they realize it’s not exactly what they want. (But hey, who doesn’t romanticize the life of a dog walker?) Perhaps we innately know what science has now proven.

Hobbies do have the power to lead you to your ideal career in a few ways, though. I have seen a hobby lead to career success through its power to put people in a wonderfully positive state of mind.  Connecting to what you are effortlessly drawn to gives you an appreciation of who you really are, and that is a great place from which to get the energy and perspective to explore your career from an uninhibited place. The painter’s studio in your sunroom may be a perfect place to quiet outside influences and think clearly….and so perhaps in your private life it should stay.

Your hobbies also offer many “career clues”. For example, say you love being a volunteer hockey coach in your spare time. In this role, you encourage others to learn and grow; you socialize, get to be competitive, and are a part of a team.  You can certainly look out for opportunities to do all of these things – or do more of them- in a professional setting. Hobbies tend to blossom out of things we are naturally good at. So chances are if you identify transferrable skills to take from your hobby into the workplace, you’ll do well by it.

Please, don’t get me wrong –I have witnessed many people become successful in making a career of an extension of an activity they have always loved to do! By all means – if you can’t get enough of it, be a professional singer, a dog walker, a painter or a hockey coach. If you can make a living like this, they say “you’ll never work a day in your life.”  I must admit, my work as Coach comes very close. But if you’re paid for your hobby, well, technically it’s no longer a hobby – it’s a job. And when it starts to feel like a job (I don’t always get excited about early morning meetings) that means you no longer have a hobby to escape to.  A special spot to do what we want, when we want, is necessary… and priceless.

PS: Here’s the amusing article that brought this topic to my attention: )


Photo by Rishi S

Photo by Rishi S

We’ve got it backwards: happiness leads to success, not the other way around.

In the book The Happiness Advantage by Psychologist Shawn Achor, he lays out the scientific evidence:

– Positive-thinking doctors make accurate diagnoses 19% faster

– Optimistic salespeople outsell others by 56%

– Students primed to feel happy before tests outperform their peers.

– Happier people live longer

– Positive employees get better reviews and higher pay.

– Positive thinking makes our brains significantly more open to learning and more productive.

The book teaches that infusing small bursts happiness is all it takes. Effective happiness boosters include:

– spend 20 minutes outside in good weather

– commit an act of kindness

– reflect on something you’re grateful for

– put something on your calendar to look forward to.

This rings true to me.

Surely some clever critic will argue against the effectiveness of a “happiness practice”, just as there is another side to many “be better” recommendations. Think about the debates around eating organic food, putting children in multiple extra curricular activities, company work-from-home policies….people have strong opinions about this stuff on both sides of the debate!

Here’s what’s different about this “be-happy” improvement tactic: There is absolutely no down side. Go ahead, poke holes in the science, but you can’t convince me it’s not worth a try. Why shouldn’t we all add more happy moments to our day for no reason but to have more happy moments in our day? Why shouldn’t our office strive to be a happier place for the sake of creating a more positive feel when you’re there? And if it causes a wave of success-boosting side-effects –bonus! Both the Dreamer and the Realist in me agree it’s both possible and probable.



By m kasahara

Photo by: m kasahara

“I don’t belong here.”

“I don’t really know what I’m doing.”

“I can’t believe they think I’m capable of that.”

“They have no idea I’m faking it.”

I have heard these confessions from people at all stages of their career, from new grads to senior

executives. It can show up as occasional pangs of doubt or a nearly crippling fear of being “found out”.

Are you one of these impostors?

Ambitious people in particular are often plagued with the feeling that they are. But when challenged, I find the “ impostors” uncover these truths:

– Who they are and what they bring to the table are valuable. Their current circumstance is not an accident.

– They don’t actually believe they should be experts who can do their job with their eyes shut. (And when push comes to shove, they don’t want to be—that would be boring.)

– Thinking back, the imposter feeling has been there before, and it faded over time. There’s wisdom there that can help now.

If you constantly feel like an impostor please know – or remember – that it’s temporary. If you sometimes do, be comforted by the fact it means you’re stretching and learning.  To feel successful through these times, ask yourself, like I do of my clients: “what’s the TRUTH?”

Also, you can leverage this brilliant body language research described by Harvard professor Amy Cuddy:  She demonstrates the incredible impact that “power poses”, done (privately) for just two minutes before important interactions can have on your level of confidence. Dominance hormones soar, stress hormones fall sharply, risk tolerance shoots up, you feel great and others perceive you more positively.

Psychologist and author Arny Mindell says “you can’t pretend something if it isn’t already in you.”  And that’s the truth.

By SigNote Cloud

Photo by SigNote Cloud

2013 will have 525,600 minutes. In honour of reminding us that we have a finite amount of time to make this year the best yet, here’s a “lucky 7” shortlist of some of the simplest, most effective time management behaviours that you can implement right away:

1) Pick up the phone or book a meeting if you need to have a conversation. E-mails aren’t for conversations…and typing is way slower and less accurate than just speaking. If need be, action items can be recorded in an e-mail after the fact.

2) Have written agendas for all your meetings. It will keep you on track. If the agenda’s not clear, don’t have a meeting.

3) Don’t round up meetings to the nearest half hour. Send calendar invites for 20 minute meetings, 35 minute meetings, etc. It will send a message to those you’re meeting with that you respect their time and that you are very intentional in how you spend yours.

4) Just say “no”. Make sure you’re not the guy/gal that happily takes on anything and everything in terms of work. (Do you say “sure – no problem!” a lot?) If this rings true, you are probably known as just about the nicest person on earth, but you’ll at some point begin to resent it, as you’ll be spread very thin and your hours and days will get swallowed up. If tiny tasks are distracting you from important projects and bigger-picture thinking, look carefully at how you might redirect requests.

5) When responding to a request that is definitely yours to handle, ask “when do you need this by?” Don’t assume that just because it came from the big boss that it has to be done immediately. Acknowledge that it’s important, but still ask explicitly about the urgency. Then you can prioritize accurately.

6) Set a timer when working on a task. Turn off your e-mail program, grab your iPhone and put 20 minutes on the clock to do your admin, finish the proposal, proof read the report, whatever. (I enjoy the polite “xylophone” to tell me when time’s up…) You’ll be shocked not only at how many times in the 20 minutes you must resist bouncing to something else, but you’ll also be amazed at how much you get done. And if you’re dismissing this one because you think you can multi-task, read this and then reconsider:

7) Don’t reinvent the wheel. If you know of someone with experience in doing what you’re doing, ask about what they did, what you might borrow, or at least what templates or resources might get you further ahead, faster. You will find that people are generally quite enthusiastic to share their wisdom.

Happy new year!


Photo by Erunion

photo by Erunion

The power went out at the coffee shop I’m working at. A short while later, the generator kicks in and in dim light, coffee is being made and served. There’s no music, no noise of fancy frothing and blending machines. The manager and his staff needed to quickly prioritize what he would use the limited power for in order to keep things going until the power came back on.  And with a fraction of the electricity available, he managed to run his business at a basic level.

Ever had that happen to you? An experience where your resources were suddenly slashed and you were forced to take a new look at what really matters? For example, you’re all of a sudden one employee short, or a project timeline is moved up, your expected bonus just didn’t happen, or – god forbid – your smartphone dies. You might panic at first (and/or negotiate, plead, swear….) but you ultimately gather your wits about you to examine what is really important, and how you can carry on.It’s a sobering experience when this happens. We live in a world where we can do (or think we can do) a dozen things at once, and then complain about being overwhelmed…run down…burned out…unable to turn off.

I have a challenge for you: Create your own power outage. Go dark for one waking hour of any weekday. Be completely inaccessible and don’t turn on any personal technology. Notice what happens. Notice what you’re missing. Notice what you go back to first. What do you learn about your priorities? Repeat the next day if you think there’s something more to notice and learn….or if it just feels great. 🙂

Credit: emilydickinsonridesabmx's photostream

Credit: emilydickinsonridesabmx’s photostream

“High Potential” programs are a great way for companies to recognize talented workers who would make good future leaders. Increasingly, organizations are singling out their best workers in this way, and with the label comes extra training and opportunities. There’s certainly a pride that comes with being recognized, and high-potential employees, more often then not, excitedly participate in all the program has to offer. A recent Globe and Mail article has some great tips on keeping momentum when you’re on the fast track. And if you’re on the track you want to be on, you’re golden.Here’s where my cautious streak rears it’s head. Getting swept up in other people’s plans for you is really easy. Particularly, if you thrive from recognition of this type.

An analogy: When I was young, I was put in a Gifted program and won awards for the highest marks in my grade. The message was: “you are smart and good at school.” And so, as was expected I suppose, I proved them right and continued my focus on getting A’s. When the Guidance Counselor at my high school told me that I was eligible to get into a prestigious University business program (“business” sounded sort of interesting and just as good as anything else…) I proudly went that route when I was accepted. I was entirely swept up in satisfying others’ definitions of success, and I honestly never stopped to think critically about what I was really interested in until after I was already in the workforce.

It’s not just young people who are susceptible to following the path of what they’re good at. It’s a great feeling being good at something, particularly if you have cheerleaders (family, employers) on the route. A truly satisfying career, however, adds another dimension to having the skills: the dimension of what you truly enjoy.  At the intersection of “what you’re good at” and “what you love to do” is where you will thrive. You’re where you’re at now because you have (consciously or unconsciously) identified at least part of this equation. Keep evolving. What part of your work do you love? How can you do more of it in a current role or another? What are you great at? How can you demonstrate more of this in your current role or another? Create a personal “high potential” program!