Occupy Now – An End to Distracted Living


Living distracted; distracted living – all the time. Physically here but otherwise there. The mind succumbed by random trips – beholding the past and the future again and again.

These trips aren’t planned; provoked by just being. No packing, no ticket, no TSA search – not even a water bottle in hand. Mind trips come and go at-will. The offspring of a virgin day.

Some trips cover short distances – to relive or re-do a recent meeting or to fantasize about an upcoming occasion.  Other trips are to distant times. Still bothered by what occurred or should have been. “I should have spoken up – better that I didn’t.”

Mind travel loves three places: Trips to the past, trips to the future, trips to judge. Trips to anywhere but here. Where is here in my life?

There is science – neuroscience to all this travel. When I’m here, they say my brain is in its task-positive network. My brain is a network. Comforting. Here, allegedly, I’m at my best – aware of what’s around and what I’m doing. Triumph with what’s at hand. Problem is, we don’t spend much time in that network.

In a face to-face competition my brain’s other network, the default mode, wins the time of possession award by a 4:1 margin. The brain’s default network sucks up my time, loves to wander around and stick both feet in bear traps. I suffer and all around me do too.

Stay here; we’ll figure this out with some help from Eckhart Tolle. So I’m here but my brain takes me there (past, present or another chapter in the fantasy book The Joy of Judging).  Seems we are all experts at this reality so there is no need to prolong the explanation (i.e., pain).

Consider how to reduce the “auto-pilot” influence and power of the default network – the network that robs us of the beauty, resourcefulness and power of the life in hand. The preciousness of seeing and being in the current moment.

I’ve dubbed this Occupy Now.


Four ideas.

First, as Tolle might say, hone your skill as an observer. Observe the invasion of the thought snatchers. Observe what’s occurring. Observe how the thoughts about the past, future and judging run about at will. By observing, Tolle suggests, the occupiers begin to dissolve.

Consider the useless thoughts you experience as an invasion force – an enemy of your true self – a barrier to your better thoughts. These run-around thoughts are in you but are not you. You are the observer. This is awesome!

Second, Occupy Now can occur when we recognize that the thoughts that spring from habit, fantasy, wishful thinking, conditioning and regret are indeed pointless, useless, meaningless and unworthy of your existence. Best of all, they are not you. A thought that occurs has no right to claim it represents you. Just a brain flatulent – just passing by.

In the past, I’ve allowed myself to be seduced by ideas such as “We live in our minds.” This heresy implies that if I think it I own it (I’ll blog about this another time). This is living as a lamb to the slaughter.

Third, Occupy Now is difficult because we spend an inordinate amount of time sizing up events and other people. Chill. Stop reacting to and judging every detail in your life. Instead, simply acknowledge what is said and seen. A simple “Hmm” will suffice. Judging and assessing everything takes up valuable life time. The imperative for renewal occurs when neither the brain nor the mouth judges. Welcome the emerging you in place of useless conditioning.

Finally, as you see and reject what your mind is full of, consider what will happen with your new mind. You might adopt a wait and see attitude. You now have room to grow right now – you now experience your emerging resourcefulness – you now get time back right now – you have happiness right now.

By seeing and waiving good riddance to your old ways of thinking (your untransformed self) you now have the joy of Occupy Now – you see and experience your own self – what God created – more clearly and completely.

Peter@peterburchard.com   peterburchard.com

Twitter: @peterbtburchard.com

The Treacherous Effect of Low I

ideasBy Peter Burchard

The treacherous effect of Low I continues to spread across many countries and workplaces.

Business and government leaders, speaking on the condition of anonymity, indicate that efficiency and effectiveness gains have been wiped out by on-going increases in year-over-year operating costs. “No matter what we try our costs just keep going up” stated one city manager from Illinois.

Although additional research is needed, the leadership condition known as Low I is also suspected as a primary cause behind a series of Gallup polls showing that 70% of employees are disengaged at work.

Research implies that employees are bored, unappreciated and don’t care for their supervisor. Gallup research shows that most supervisors are also disengaged.

Just what is Low I? How is Low I causing such peril? What can we do?

Low I is Low Innovation.

Low Innovation has many indicators but one primary diagnosis – the false belief that one (or ones organization) is innovative – often based on a diluted definition of true innovation.

As the authors of one scholarly article wrote, “The assessment of what constitutes an innovation is inherently subjective.” (Innovation Management in Local Government, Nelson, Wood and Gabris.)

Sufferers should look for these symptoms:

  • Uncertainty over what constitutes an innovation
  • Unable to see the ill effects on one’s career or workplace
  • The presence of a big-tent theory of innovation (anything can be innovative)
  • Use of the word “innovative” to describe a new design on a patrol car, costly software, the name of a local nail salon or a public relations video
  • The word “innovation” has as much panache as asking “Who wants more coffee?”

The leading concern is rarely discussed openly – or mentioned as a possibility. Low Innovation could be innovation used to protect, not change, the status quo. That is, an innovation was paraded out but actually preserved most of the underlying program or service; nothing substantively, especially costs, changed.

Recently, a disgruntled public works maintenance worker was heard referencing a once popular saying. “Our bosses think they’re innovative. But all they do is move chairs around on the Titanic.”

What can be done to reverse the ill effects of Low I? What can be done to bring back High I?

  1. Set a high bar for what is innovative. Every change isn’t an example of innovation. Don’t let the urge for success with low hanging fruit cause you to lower your standard for what true innovation could be. Yes, innovation comes in many forms. Don’t settle for easy.
  2. Work on your and your team’s mental preparation. Study great books such as Creative Confidence by Tom and David Kelley. Redefine innovation be elevating your belief in your team and yourself. Push your brain.
  3. Never do what I once did – ask department directors to come up with three new ideas. Ugh! Embarrassing. There are so many ways to elevate this conversation. Instead, talk with others about how to speak to the challenge of innovation.
  4. Create an innovation process or lab. In a world where there are many excellent ways to shepherd innovation, tossing employees together and expecting them to innovate is not a good plan. You might start by asking a group of employees to research how to be more effective innovators. Look, for example, at the Stanford d.school on-line class. Allow skunk works (Peters and Waterman, 1982) to thrive. Let employees define problems and solution – with a framework and a plan for how to innovate.
  5. Seek deeper and sustained innovation. While I concede that efficiency and effectiveness gains are potential innovations, there are more serious tests for deeper and sustained innovation. For example, let’s say a municipal site-plan review process is reduced from 50 to 20 steps and the resulting cycle time is reduced by 50%. On many levels, this is an innovative improvement. As part of the process improvement, you may have introduced a new technology, on-line processes, new training and a new department structure.

A higher level of innovation urges the following questions: What permanent costs were taken out of the process? How was the savings passed on to the customer? How was the over-all operating budget permanently reduced? What regulations and requirements were eliminated? What steps are now easier for the customer? These questions beg for deeper, measurable and sustained change.

  1. Improve your skills. Teach systems learning. Spread the good news of process mapping and realignment. Promote project management, Six Thinking Hats, analytics, design thinking, empathy, scorecards and on and on. Get better at your core skills.
  2. Study and pursue disruptive innovation. Disruptive innovation necessitates small steps. Experiment with new/disruptive service ideas. Ask “What’s good enough?” Discuss possible tradeoffs between service levels and serious cost reduction. Compromise on service levels. Forget best practices. Instead, fix (experiment first) a problem with a simple approach nobody has ever tried. Study what Deloitte and the Ash Institute have written on disruptive innovation.

Creating your cure for Low I will not be easy. I wish you well. Keep me posted.

Peter Burchard is a multi-sector coach, trainer, speaker and healthcare strategist. Website: Peterburchard.com

Coach Your Own Self: Moving Past Bad Circumstances

movingonby Peter Burchard

Every week I speak with people about the hell they went through or are going through at work. The circumstances are always complicated. Their pain is obvious – the facts, not so much.

While I focus on work situations, the reality is that a bad circumstance at work is frequently intertwined with one’s personal life. Life is complicated.

Generally people desire to work through their circumstances; many people start rather defensive – telling me about how they’ve been wronged. Others are bewildered – not sure what the heck just happened. I’ve learned how we create explanations to rationalize our actions and raise questions about the other party’s behavior. We often create a narrative that works to ease or explain our perspective.

I’m fascinated by coaching because I love the process of watching someone see their circumstances more clearly. There is joy in seeing, setting goals, getting past a barrier and having a better career.

Truth, courage and responsibility have a way of cleansing the soul and the air.

Coaching others has helped me clarify my values and actions. What I’ve worked through and learned helps me walk alongside a client seeing what they see but with a fresh perspective. I also see more clearly what’s still on my table (personal and professional).

How should we move past where we are stuck – past a bad circumstance?

First, God has given us two eyes. Use them to see yourself. Pierre Teilhard wrote “To see or to perish is the very condition laid upon everything that makes up the universe by reason of the mysterious gift of existence.” Seeing a circumstance is one thing. Seeing how the matter short-circuits your future is another. The highest hurdle, the one that sets the stage for change, is in seeing and accepting the potentially ruinous impact of the thing one knows is there. The hurdle or matter could be anger, bias, not developing work skills, attitude, defensiveness, a weakness of character, a strained relationship or any matter that may throw one off.

Second, as Peter Koestenbaum wrote in a recent blog, the primary role of any leader is to accept personal responsibility. I have to take personal responsibility for my world – the things I do, the things I need to change, the way I am. If I wax defensive, I will stay as-is. Chances are, staying “as-is” leads to an uneventful career or something worse.

Until I see (Step 1) what I’m doing (or did) and accept full responsibility (Step 2), the next step will ring hollow.

Third, act. Being alive always points to one place – the place where we decide what we will do. Recently, a person I was meeting with emphatically stated how difficult it was just doing what he knows he must do to advance his career. Unexpectedly, he quoted the Apostle Paul who wrote about the same struggle. Paul, a prolific writer of the New Testament, faced a normal human experience – how to act on what he knew was right while sometimes doing what he knew was wrong. This is deciding differently.

Even though it’s several miles from my home, I can see the tall office building of FermiLab out the back window of my home. As noted on the website for FermiLab, they “…operated the Tevatron, the most powerful particle collider in the world.” The on-going work at FermiLab is complicated and powerful.

I think there is a far more difficult project that can also produce powerful results. The project is called Life and the steps are 1) seeing, 2) accepting responsibility and 3) deciding differently.

Peter Burchard is a coach, trainer, speaker and healthcare strategist. Website: Peterburchard.com

Is it a Goal or a Goat?


By Peter Burchard

Is your future filled with goals or goats?

Think about your professional development goals.

Think about your current work goals.

Are your goals more like goats?

Here’s the difference:

If it’s a GOAL, you think:

  • Excitement
  • Future Focused
  • Energy
  • Desired Change

If it’s a GOAT you think:

  • Forgettable
  • Stares Back
  • Chews
  • Doesn’t do much

Look at your goals for work and your own professional development. Now ask yourself: “Three months from now, how will my work place be better? How will I have grown?”

If you don’t have any goals it could be because you’ve experienced too many goats.

Real goals – deep goals - solve real problems and create the work place you and others want. Goat type goals are forgettable and just stare back because we know the goal dances around real problems. Goats like to chew on things - just like people do - as if there is no greater purpose.

Real goals create real change. Goats tend to do nothing that actually matters.

Goats play mind games and create the illusion of progress. Sadly, goat type goals may be what we like – unconsciously protecting the status quo.

A Plan for Creating Goals and Not Goats:

Setting goals can be a waste of time when the effort doesn’t surface real problems. (Read about Good Strategy – Bad Strategy by Richard Rumelt.)

Personal goals may, perhaps inadvertently, just secure our present comfortableness. Real goals need to propel us forward – solving key problems and creating the future we want.

Want goals and not goats? Try this:

  1. Embrace Uncomfortableness: Look at your goals. If your goals make you feel comfortable then your goals are goats. James Collins writes about the curse of the comfortable work place. Create goals that create uncomfortableness.
  2. Surface Real problems: People have problems. The work place has many problems too. How do some of your goals speak to real problems? If none of your goals surface problems, they are goats. Our desire to be positive is also a curse when it protects the status quo and prevents an honest assessment of problems (Read Chris Argyris, Good Communication That Blocks Learning).
  3. Be Big! Really big! When accomplished, what will your goals create? As Rumelt notes, people notice real strategy and goals. You and others will be excited because as a team you are 1) tackling real problems and 2) creating a better future.
  4. Seek Deep Personal Growth: When it comes to skills, how am I too much as I was just one year ago? Am I too satisfied with me? As an old saying goes, do I have twenty years of experience or one year repeated twenty times? To what degree am I more relevant today compared to last year? Can I prove my escalating relevance?
  5. See More Clearly: Test your vision – test your insight. What can you see about yourself, about your team and about your environment that you couldn’t see last year? Here is a difficult question to ask one’s self: "To what extent do I only see what reinforces the world I’ve created – the one I want to see?"

Your journey from goats to goals is packed with personal potential and organizational possibility. Let your personal resourcefulness blossom.

“Passion and Reality at Work”

Peter Burchard develops leaders. www.peterburchard.com. Email Peter at: Peter@peterburchard.com