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All I Want Is To Blend In

August 6th, 2018 // Tom Doescher // 0 Comments
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Tom Doescher - Doescher Advisors

One of my Flint business colleagues gave me a copy of Imperfect: An Improbable Life, an autobiography of Jim Abbott. Because he grew up in my new hometown, I found the book to be very educational. For those of you who don’t know of him, Abbott is a famous baseball player who got his start as a star pitcher at Flint Central High School and the University of Michigan. He was a starting pitcher on the 1980 U.S. Olympic gold medal-winning baseball team and he pitched a no-hitter for the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium.

After finishing the book and reflecting on Abbott’s life, I pondered what I could tell you about this remarkable man. I could focus on his mom and dad, who were teenage parents, or the cutthroat nature of professional baseball, or the painful process of determining when to end a professional career, or what it’s like to be the spouse of a professional athlete in the crosshairs of the media, or what a great job his young parents did raising him.

Oh, yeah, did I mention that Abbott was born without a right hand?

After a great deal of thought, I decided to share two lessons I learned from reading about Abbott’s life.

The first deals with his desire not to be thought of as different. If you see pictures of him in street clothes, he always has his right (hand) in his pocket, and looks like any other person you might walk past. He tells a story about a time he was being introduced as the speaker at an event. In his introductory comments, the well-intentioned master of ceremonies mentioned that Abbott was missing his right hand. As Abbott listened, he thought to himself, Why? Just let my accomplishments of a gold medal and a no-hitter stand for themselves.

The takeaway, for me, is that it’s important to be more sensitive to any labels or adjectives I use when telling my many stories. Is it really necessary to say things about a person’s height, or where they’re from, or what ethnic group they belong to, or to make observations that sound more like stereotypes? I felt convicted.

My hero on the subject of avoiding labels is my youngest son, Joey. He had a new roommate who I had not yet had a chance to meet. Joey often spoke about his roommate and, from everything he said, they seemed to really be a good match. Well, one day I finally met the roommate. Based on things my son had said when describing his roommate, I had been expecting that this young man was going to look a lot like our family. To my surprise, he wasn’t like us at all. I was proud of Joey’s ability to overlook the stereotypes that might have been placed on his roommate, and to instead focus on the person his roommate is.

The second lesson I gleaned from Abbott’s life is “deliberate practice,” a concept with which I am obsessed. Starting at 4 years old, Abbott would throw baseballs against a wall in his backyard for hours and hours. It was there, in his backyard, that he taught himself to switch his glove to his right arm so he could throw, and then return it to his left hand to catch the rebound. (The book includes some really cool stories of how Abbott overcame adversity and was able to field balls, including bunts, in the majors.)

Do you want to be successful at something? If you didn’t have a right hand, would you dare to set a goal of pitching a no-hitter against the Cleveland Indians in Yankee Stadium?

Switch On Your Brain

July 9th, 2018 // Tom Doescher //
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Tom Doescher - Doescher Advisors

Switch On Your Brain is actually the title of a fascinating book written by Dr. Caroline Leaf, a neuroscientist with more than 20 years of clinical experiences. Since the ’80s, she has intensely studied the brain. Caution: I want to mention, upfront, that she’s a practicing Christian who incorporates her faith and scripture into her practice (which I believe only strengthens her scientific positions). With or without the scripture references, the plethora of brain research over the last 20-plus years is quite convincing.

I’m out of my area of professional expertise when it comes to discussing the brain, but I’ll take that risk. Today, we all experience and observe so many situations that seem hopeless and have the potential to drag us down. I found that Dr. Leaf offers some very practical and worthwhile advice for many of us.

For over 100 years, learned students, brain experts, and conventional wisdom believed that the brain was hardwired, or fixed. However, based on volumes of brain research over the past 20 years, Dr. Leaf and colleagues from prominent medical research institutions have come to recognize that the mind can reprogram the brain. The scientific word describing how the brain changes as a result of mental activity is called neuroplasticity. This means the brain is malleable and adaptable, changing moment by moment, every day. Additionally, the research indicates that DNA changes shape according to our thoughts.

Dr. Leaf would say, “You are not a victim. You can control your reactions. You do have a choice.” She would also say neuroplasticity can operate for us — as well as against us — because whatever we think about the most will grow (this applies to both the positive and negative ends of the spectrum).

Dr. Leaf provides a 21-day detox plan, which I decided to personally apply to a 15-year-old issue in my life. Just the idea that there may be light at the end of the tunnel was encouraging for me. So far, it has actually worked. I don’t want to take the space here to explain it, but I would be happy to share my issue with you if you’re interested.

Most of you who know me will probably say that I’m pretty solid, stable, and fact-based. That being said, if you are, or have for some time, struggled with an issue — even something as debilitating as posttraumatic stress disorder, for example — consider at least taking the time to read Dr. Leaf’s book. I found her life views very uplifting and inspiring, and I hope you do, too.

 

p.s. In previous posts, I’ve referenced Mindset, by Carol Dweck, who coined the terms “fixed” and “growth” mindsets. Her studies support the position that with the proper instruction/coaching and lots of correct practice (deliberate practice), you can get better. I like both Dr. Leaf and Dweck’s views because they provide hope.

 

 

What is the Key to a Happier Life?

May 21st, 2018 // Tom Doescher //
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Tom Doescher - Doescher Advisors

Rhonda Byrne, in her book The Magic, claims the answer is gratitude. This reminded me of a conversation I had last spring with Dr. William Malarkey, who espoused the importance of gratitude in a healthy life. Byrne, a television and film producer, quotes many diverse sources to support her position, including Einstein, Isaac Newton, John F. Kennedy, the Holy Bible, the Quran, and Buddha.

It’s impossible to prove with absolute certainty that she’s right, but her advice is very practical, so I thought I would summarize her key points — and, of course, add a few editorial comments:

  1. Give to others, rather than taking (Byrne believes merely taking is a sign of ungratefulness).
  2. Say “thank you” often.
  3. Make lists of the things for which you’re grateful.
  4. At the end of each day, journal the best thing that happened to you. (Editorial comment: I’m going to incorporate this one into my daily routine.)
  5. For every complaint you have about another person, whether in thought or word, there have to be 10 blessings for the relationship to flourish. (Editorial comment: John Gottman says it’s five to one, but whether it is five or 10, I think you get the point about negativity.)
  6. When you’re grateful for your job, you will automatically give more to your work.
  7. The way to receive your dream job is by first being grateful for the job you have.
  8. Lucky breaks don’t happen by accident. (Editorial comment: Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.)
  9. Taking things for granted is a major cause of negativity.
  10. Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting some kind of battle.
  11. There’s no room for harmful, negative thoughts when your mind is focused on looking for things to be grateful for.
  12. Everyone has received help, support, or guidance from others when we needed it most. (Editorial comment: Make your list and make sure you have thanked people for their help.)
  13. Holding onto anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you’re the one who gets burned.
  14. There’s gold in every relationship, even the difficult ones. To bring riches to all your relationships, you have to find the gold.

Again, these are Byrne’s opinions, but I found the list to be very practical and applicable to my life.

I hope you find at least one suggestion that will enrich your life and relationships.

Do You Want to Turn Followers into Leaders?

March 5th, 2018 // Tom Doescher //
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Tom Doescher - Doescher Advisors

In Turn the Ship Around!, L. David Marquet, a retired Navy nuclear submarine captain, proposes using a leader-leader model rather than a leader-follower model in the workplace. If you know anything about the military, the power of his contrarian point of view is revolutionary.

Based on firsthand experience, having survived U.S. Army basic training at Fort Ord a few decades ago, it seemed to me that the Army’s goal was to get us to do whatever they told us to do, no matter how stupid or unreasonable it may have been. Some of the absurd things drill instructors said to us were laughable — although, for self-preservation, no one would dare laugh out loud. I recall coming home on leave for the first time and Barbara asking me, What’s the matter? The opinionated fellow she had married suddenly wasn’t able to make any decisions for himself. That’s when I realized that, in order to survive, I had put myself in a mental state where I just did whatever my superiors told me to do, no matter what I personally thought. As a result, I had become — and remained throughout my military career — a really GOOD follower.

In his book, this former captain is proposing something very foreign to the military. Marquet says leadership in the armed forces has historically been all about controlling people, but he goes on to admit that there’s a vast untapped human potential being lost under  the leader-follower model.

I know you’re trying to figure out the business application. Well, if you’re a regular reader, you know I’ve commented many times on the importance of listening to your team members, even when you don’t like their input, and creating an atmosphere where team members at all levels are encouraged to share their ideas. Marquet offers an interesting point of view that I believe applies to businesses as well as the military.

In addition to the above, Marquet provides some insight into the how the leader-follower model is only effective in the short run. He gives examples of submarines with effective leader-follower captains who failed under a new captain. In the past, I’ve addressed the importance of business succession; Marquet believes the leader-leader model is best for succession.

If you’re like many of us who prefer to control, I would suggest reading Turn the Ship Around! I’m certain you’ll be encouraged by Captain Marquet’s revolutionary ideas.

Buckingham’s 8 Questions

December 11th, 2017 // Tom Doescher //
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Tom Doescher - Doescher Advisors

Those of you who personally know me or have been reading my blogs are aware that I have highly recommended using the 12 questions found in the book  First, Break All the Rules, by Marcus Buckingham. This summer, I heard Buckingham speak, and discovered he has pared his 12 questions down to eight (fewer is always better).

During his presentation, he explained that some of the original 12 questions were focused on the company, while others pertained to the team member. He went on to say that the best employers encourage their team leaders to really understand their team members’ point of view.  In reviewing and reorganizing his original 12 questions, Buckingham classified half of the questions (four) as company-focused; the other half address the individual team member. Then, he paired up the questions and categorized them: Purpose, Excellence, Support, and Future.

View the Buckingham 8 Questions Chart.

As with the 12 questions, I would highly encourage leaders/supervisors to use the Buckingham 8 Questions as a tool for career planning sessions (annual reviews) and/or as a gut check to make sure you’re thinking about questions from your team members’ point of view.

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Tom DoescherYou’ll find stories from the trenches, business lessons, and pertinent questions to help you find inspiration, professional growth, and leadership savvy.

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