Helping the Chronically Overworked Find Life Balance

Do Looks Matter For Success?

Busting Your Corporate Idol - the new cover

Busting Your Corporate Idol – the new cover

Do Looks Matter for Success? When it comes to my book, I think they do.

I’m excited because for the first time, my book has hit the top ten on Amazon in the Work-Life Balance category. What has changed? The cover and the keywords.
I’m putting my money on the cover as making the big difference. At a writers workshop last year, Jack Canfield, author of Chicken Soup for the Soul, did an exercise where he showed that people were having a negative emotional reaction to my old cover. Everyone loves my author picture, so I decided to create a cover with that picture. And BOOM – I’ve sold many more books in March than I did for much of last year.
It’s just one more indication that looks matter – a lot. Jack Canfield did something called muscle testing. He had someone hold their arm out, and he pushed down on it with them resisting. Then he showed them the cover, and it became easier to push down the arm. Why? When the subconscious is disturbed, our muscles get weaker. The theory is that people saw the cover, and just didn’t feel right in some way, which made it less likely for them to buy.
This is another flavor of unconscious bias, the phenomenon where we are biased against something and we don’t realize it. Unconscious bias has been shown in attitudes towards women and minorities. For example, when auditions for symphony orchestras are conducted where the musician is behind a screen, more women are hired, showing that there was an unconscious bias against female musicians.
So what are we to do to counteract our own unconscious bias? Mussar teaches us to look for the Soul Trait that is out of balance, and then to find an action to move back towards balance. Currently, I am practicing Honor, and I suspect that could help. Honor is about how we treat other people. Some of the traditional practices for cultivating Honor include:
  • Greeting everyone you meet before they greet you.
  • Holding doors for others
  • Smiling at everyone you pass
These small steps each make an imprint on the Soul. When it comes to unconscious bias, the key is to focus on consistently executing the practice with everyone. In a diverse environment, I will be honoring people from many backgrounds. I’ll be on the lookout for any hesitation on my part with particular people that could indicate some unconscious bias. With the heightened awareness, I can act to override the hesitation, which will actually begin to eliminate the bias from the subconscious.
Whether or not you believe in unconscious bias, give one of these practices a try for a week. You’ll may be surprised at how it will make you feel.
What do you think? Do you believe in unconscious bias?
See the latest ranking of Busting Your Corporate Idol on Amazon.

Help! I’ve Fallen Into Work Idolatry

Book collection via flickr I am running a contest design the cover for “Busting Your Corporate Idol.” The average contest lasts seven days, and gets 100-200 total designs. This one has over 300 designs in just 3 days.  Many are outstanding, and picking the winner will be hard.

The contest runs through July 2.

But how do I pick? This isn’t really about me, it is about readers. This book would be no where without the 15,000 of you who read the blog. THANK YOU!

Would you like to help find the best possible cover? This is an eBook only, and I need something that will jump off the Kindle page and pull people in.

It is pretty cool- see for yourself at 99designs. You can leave feedback by design number below in the comments through July 2. I am having polls on a regular basis, where you can rate covers 1-5 and tell why. Keep an eye on comments for the latest info. I will send your feedback directly to the designers, and they are very responsive.

Here is how 99designs works. You write a creative brief describing what you want in the design, designate prize money for the winner, and begin a project. Designers from all over the world submit covers, and then revise based on your feedback. If any of you ever worked with me on a creative project in marketing, you know that I have a lot to say. I am having a blast. I always liked working with creatives on ads.

Some people feel 99designs and other sites like this are exploitive, because only one person gets paid, and the rest are working for free. I don’t see this as exploitive, any more than submitting a blog to the Huffington Post is exploitive. Everyone knows the conditions, and people submit for a variety of reasons. In some parts of the world, the $299 prize is a lot of money. Many are building a portfolio, while getting feedback every day.

There is a personal downside to the fun I am having. The book cover and editing has taken over my life. In the last 3 days, I’ve missed turns when driving. I got confused about when to pick up my daughter from camp, and had to pay for being late (literally and figuratively). Last night I started cooking dinner 45 minutes, and had to cram some food down to get my daughter to an event. I kept look at designs while a tape ran in the background. You have to stop and start cooking. You have to stop and start cooking. We are running out of food because I haven’t gone to the store. 

Yes, I am having a mini-outbreak of idolatry, because my work is getting in the way of my primary job as stay-at-home parent.

Looks like I need to read my book again before this week becomes a lifestyle.

Is the Era of Work Over People Coming To An End?

Chapter 10: The People-First Life Part 16 (Conclusion)

Busting Your Corporate Idol (Conclusion)

I’m incredibly optimistic that the era of busting corporate idols is upon us. Look to the millennial generation – they grew up watching their parents work all the time, and want something better for themselves.

And more and more, those of us in middle or the end of our careers want a better life too. Even senior executives are starting to publicly admit that it doesn’t have to be this way. Ten years ago, it would have been unthinkable that an executive from Goldman Sachs would condemn the company’s values in a public resignation letter. But that is exactly what Greg Smith did a year ago.

In 2007, it would have been unthinkable that Erin Callan, then CFO of Lehman Brothers, would one day write about the regret she feels for putting the company first. Yet that is exactly what she did last week. Callan wrote

“I didn’t have to be on my BlackBerry from my first moment in the morning to my last moment at night. I didn’t have to eat the majority of my meals at my desk. I didn’t have to fly overnight to a meeting in Europe on my birthday. I now believe that I could have made it to a similar place [CFO] with at least some better version of a personal life. Not without sacrifice — I don’t think I could have “had it all” — but with somewhat more harmony.”

None of us can have it all, but we all can have people who love us. It’s just a matter of values and priorities.

Wherever you are in your life, whatever you have done in the past, it is never too late to shift your focus, to bust your corporate idol, and to start putting people first.

The people are there, waiting for you with open arms.

How To Think Less About Work and More About Life

Chapter 10: The People-First Life Part 14

Have I convinced you that there is something to this Corporate Idolatry thing? Maybe or maybe not, but in either case, I hope you see the world a little differently.

The first time I presented the outline for Busting Your Corporate Idol, the writing class was split. Some people thought it was an amazing idea that spoke to them. Others were viscerally upset, arguing that the book attacked the basic work ethic, and was anti-corporation. It took me only ten minutes to present the outline; we discussed the idea for forty-five minutes.

That class was a safe place to talk. I hope you can find a safe place to re-examine who you are and what is most important to you. An outside perspective can really help. If you play your cards right, you can get your company to pay for an executive coach, for “professional development.” Once you are behind closed doors, you can ask the coach to help you get your life back into balance. Coaches tell me this is very common.

Maybe you want to change, but are afraid to start. The first step is the hardest, so let me give you some help. Say to yourself  out loud “My company will no longer be my idol. I’m going to start putting people first.” And thereafter, begin each day thinking or saying “I am the kind of person who puts people first.” You’ll start to see the world differently, and you’ll start to make different decisions.

This may seem hokey, but if you really want to change, what do you have to lose?  Does it seem scary to pull back from work? That is understandable too. You may also feel like you are the only one who has doubts about the corporate life. Believe me, you are not alone.

There is a secret army of people who are starting to speak out, and starting to make changes.

What do you think about Corporate Idolatry? Please comment below, and then click through to read the conclusion to the book in the next post.

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Should Working Seven Days a Week Carry the Death Penalty?

Chapter 10: The People-First Life Part 14

According to the Torah, the basis for traditional Jewish law, the penalty for working on the Sabbath is death by stoning. Is this just another example of the grumpy, jealous God of the Old-Testament, or is there something we can learn today?

I don’t think it is a coincidence that the Sabbath was first introduced in the Bible when the Israelites were slaves in Egypt. (Moses asked that the Israelites be given a day off.)  As slaves, they did not have control over their time, and needed to do what the taskmaster asked them to.

And we can never forget that in Egypt the Israelites worshipped the idols of the Egyptians. It is amazing to me how often the Israelites tried to go back to Egypt. In fact, the Israelites made it all the way to the border of the Promised Land, chickened out, and tried to go back to Egypt. As a result wandered for 40 years in the desert. The story of the death penalty for working on the Sabbath took place during the time in the desert.

I see the Shabbat Laws in the context of cultural change. The Israelites were a people who would not change.

The draconian nature of the punishment for working seven days a week highlights both the difficulty of getting people to stop working, as well as the importance of a time to recharge for human health and welfare.

In addition, I know from firsthand experience how addictive the always-on experience can be. And from from a business standpoint, there is a competitive advantage, at least in the short run, of being open seven days a week. The death penalty solves both of these issues – it levels the playing field for all businesses, and for all people.

But punishment alone is tough sell for changing behavior. Jewish Laws and customs also describe the Sabbath as a taste of the World to Come (Heaven). Shabbat is a day of contemplation and life-affirming activities. For example, Jews are commanded to have a festive meal, take a nap, and have sexual intercourse.

Let me get this straight, once a week I am commanded to eat well, get extra sleep, and have sex?  Throw in watching a college basketball game and it really is heaven for me.

So the lesson for recovering corporate idolators is this: combine some hard and fast rules to limit work, and plan some fun activities in it’s place.

For me, a day without work means no email, no writing, and no social media. I’ll be honest, it is hard for me, even today. I try, and most weeks I succeed. Living in the post-idolatry world does not mean never making a mistake, or a problem free life, but it does mean a deliberate effort to steer towards the family.

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