Monday, April 6, 2009

Increase Your IQ for your desk

To give you a little something worth tuning into, I thought I would give a tool that has proven to increase IQ! There is a company out there called Soak Your Head. They've created brain training software with a free demo site for you to try (
It reminded me of the old Simon game from the 1980's where you had to remember the combination of colors lighting up in order.
I played with this for about 15 minutes and my scores were like a roller coaster. You will be asked to download a particular desktop program for your PC or Mac, but it only takes a moment and its easy to un-install.
From there, a 9 box grid lights up with an orange box at the same time a voice says a letter. Your job is to try and remember which letters are said and which boxes light up. You type in "A" for the boxes and "L" for the letters. Your brain is having to use the RIGHT and LEFT hemispheres the entire time.
The right side is busy creating a big picture, while the left is trying to analyze what is right/wrong while executing a decision immediately. For me, the right was getting overwhelmed with too much information and my emotions kicked-in with an "overwhelm". I could tell that I needed to REALLY focus to remember enough information for the points to increase.
What was waaaaaay cooooool, was my brain ability to create a mental picture memory of the events. This then helped me recall the Visual Memory of what happened, and helped me increase my score. I also found that if I repeated the letters out loud, I created an even better memory of what the last 3 moves were on the grid.
I'll continue using the demo for the next several days...and we'll see how the scores improve.
If you try it out...let us know how it works for you!
~Kathy Potts

Monday, March 30, 2009

I Have A Plan (left) = I Have An Idea (right)

I wasn't home for 5 minutes this evening, when my 4 year old son Nolan rushed over to share a story with me, "Mommy...I had a plan. My plan was to go to the park, but my Daddy did not listen to my plan and we didn't go to the park."

To anyone but Brian and I this may not sound like a big deal. However, we have a little saying in our house, "Hey! I have an idea...howl's about we..." and then we finish the sentence with our idea of what we would like to do.

Tonight, for the very first time, Nolan's brain came up with the language of the Bottom Left Brain for the exact same concept/point. To test this I asked, "Nolan, do you mean that you had an idea that you and Daddy should go to the park?"

"Yes mommy. I had a plan and Daddy did not listen."
Amazing! Nolan's speech center is developing and the language he is choosing to express himself for referring to his ideas is "plan". They say that the assessment of a childs brain should not be conducted until age 12 - yet, I believe his nature is left sided.

When he was 2 years old, Santa gave him a whole bunch of Hot Wheels. He dumped them all on the center of the floor and then lined them up side-by-side, using his tiny little hand to align them in as straight of a line as he could manage. This was NOT a taught behavior. This thought that "things need to be in order" has been visible from that moment on.
Then at age 3, Santa brought many presents. Nolan was very careful to open each one slowly, looking at each item, and then placing it in a spot along the wall. When we tried piling the toys up he got VERY upset, "mommy don't move them...this is where they go, just like this" and he placed each item back in his original position.
I am starting to prove my theory about brain preference being rooted in ultimate innate values. Nolan shows a drive for accuracy and accomplishment. The signs are pointing to accuracy however, as his dominant driver.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Slow Down, Stop to Think..and Listen!

This week I had a wonderful opportunity to coach 2 very different indivuals, with almost the exact same need - patience and appreciation for others.

The first person is an engineer for a power company. Having the wrong answer costs millions of dollars in his business. As an engineer, its his job to ensure that everything is as accurate as possible. When people come to him, its his job to shoot holes in the ideas.

For the most part this guy has good relationsihps with others. He is tired however, of people coming to him because they 'have to'. He would like for people to see his value and come to him because they want to. He admits that sometimes the way he acts gets in the way. Regularly he thinks to himself, "they should have already realized this before come to me!!!! Don't they realize their idea isn't very good? They should do a better job of thinking things through before coming to me!!!!"
When he has judged them for being 'wrong' - frustration sets in and he controls the conversation to the 'right' answers.

The second person is 75% more productive than the entire sales force put together. Time is money. If a conversation doesn't make sense ($ and cents), it may not be worth having. Getting to the point quickly matters. This guy recognizes that he can shut down a conversation by interrputing others. In his head he thinks, 'yeah, yeah, yeah...c'mon. Let's get on with it, you're going to slow." He misses half the conversation. When he judges the conversation as a waste of time, frustration sets in, and he controls the conversation.

When our minds are working on being right, and getting to the point the ability to stop and listen to others without analying requires us to use the bottom right side of our brains.

The first client is constantly using the top left side of his brain to poke holes at "theories" (analytical problem-solving and critique). Its all about accuracy.

The second client is analzing information (again left side) to prioritize what maters most to his plan (using the bottom left side of his brain for creating order & structure). He then dominates the conversation so that he can move on to accomplishing whatever is next on his list. Its all about efficiency.

In order for them to get what they both need - they must buck their mental system. Look at the picture on this post titled "Main that Tune" . Basically - these two need to be quiet in their heads long enough to listen to their inner dialogue. This requires that they go to the bottom right side of their brain. The challenge; they both have to use the top right side of their brains to get there...and this is their LEAST USED part of their every day brain!!!

In otherwords, they guys have to imagine the possibility that the person across from them has something worth listening to.

Each conversation lasted 1 hour. The first client...was able to recognize that listening didn't have to mean proving anyone wrong. He realized that he needed to understand their stories first, then find common ground for what everyone was trying to achieve instead of asking them questions that left them feeling miffed and stupid. Appreciating others means guiding your mind over to the right side, seeking what you have in common with one another.

The second client tried an exercise where he crossed his arms. This is a physical technique for slowing down the processing of the brain. People who make many hand gestures when they talk, usually think at a very fast pace. By limited his hand movement, his brain is forced to slow down reinforcing him to be less expressive and much more passive. Slowing his physical body, slowed his mind enough to 'stay with me' at my pace. He recognized that as I was talking, his mind would wander...and he repeatedly caught himself wanting to finish my sentences for me.

At the end I asked him, "Are you thirsty?" His eyes buldged and he said, "Yeah! How'd you know? I'm exhausted! This is VERY, you don't understand, its, just that, this isn't how know?" (hee, kidding, this sentence is not me being dramatic...its that his brain processes so fast his speech ability doesn't catch up and he leaves his listeners with having to assume what he means.)

At the end of the first client's meeting, I asked "are you mentally tired" and the answer was similiar...although he laughed a little at himself. The reaction of being surprised was the same.

For nearly an hour they had both practiced using the right side of their brains; allowing my ideas to be possible, listening to me, not coming up with answers - connecting and showing an appreciation for what I had to offer. They practiced being calm, objective, and open.

Our brains are mostly water which is used to support the synapses triggering. Since they were triggering an entire portion of their brains rarely used for long periods of time...they got a great mental workout.

Here are the steps we took to get there:

  1. Notice the tiny dialogue you have with yourself when others are talking (You know like the one in your head that just said...what tiny voice...what is she talking about?) :-)
  2. Get a notepad and take notes of what you are thinking in meetings when others are talking and you start getting frustrated. Practice seeing your thoughts on paper. What do you notice?
  3. Paraphrase what the other person just said. If you can do this, good! It means you were listening. If you can't you'll be able to tell when you zoned out AND that you weren't listening.
  4. If you weren't listening - acknowledge it, for example "I'm sorry, I zoned out for a moment. Would you mind repeating that. I really do want to hear what you're trying to tell me."

I'll put another post up next week to share what progress is being made. My prediction is that these two will share:

  1. They didn't realize how much information they were missing in conversations
  2. They didn't realize just how much time they spent judging other people
  3. Ultimately...they feel more connected with the people who typically frustrate them at work.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

The Big Idea

When I was 23 years old I wrote a simple little book, Mission Fruition: Finding Your Flourishing Purpose. I was working as a Success Coach for Success Coaching Institute. I had no real schooling on being a coach, just experiences with clients I picked-up at Barnes & Noble, tyring to find themselves on the shelves of the Self-Help section.

It was through their stories that I sat around thinking about the final point to our conversations one random day.

The idea of a tree seed, with DNA came to mind. A tree is designed to be a tree. It doesn't try being anything other than that. Its sole purpose is to grow and create more trees.

I'll never forget driving in Safety Harbor, Florida realizing that just like the tree, each of us are pre-coded for a purpose. Just like there are pine trees, oak trees, maple trees - we each have a special code for who we are meant to be as humans. Voila...Mission Fruition.

When I was 32 I met and became friends with Larry Wilson (of Wilson Learning, author of Play to Win). At age 33 I came to know Jim Cathcart (author of The Acorn Principle). I found that my little old theory, and idea was right on target with some of the most successful entrepreneurs of human performance theory!

I am now 34 years old. My career journey has afforded me the opportunity to actually learn about, and become an expert myself in human performance.

For 11+ years, I have been putting together a "big idea".
A philosophy.
A model.
A process.
A practice.

My brain exploded one day on a white board, as everything I understand came together for once! My team was victim to a MOST excited Kathy Potts. People from HR, Engineering, IT, and whoever else happened to be walking by...stopped for me to explain. Some walked away thinking I was crazy.

It was the ones that said, "oh my god...I think you actually have something here" that I choose to listen to now.

Mike, this post is for you buddy. The time has come to start communicating this in a way that is simple, understandable, and relevant

The time has come to execute the launch of YOU Q - into a world in great need of understanding "HOW" to move forward.

Let's do eet!

Monday, February 16, 2009

Rx -A Dose of Fotitutude & Resiliency

RESILIENT: (adjective): 1. springing back; rebounding 2. returning to the original form or position after being bent, compressed, or stretched; 3. recovering readily from illness, anxiety, depression, adversity or the like; buoyant.

Have you started hearing this word lately? People are gathering around tables, TV's, and social networks trying to figure out if the rubber band will stop stretching or...break. In the meantime...
  • "We just need to make sure our organization is ...resilient."
  • "If Pat doesn't learn how to be resilient, he's never going to make it."
  • "The leaders we need now, are those who can be resilient in this chaos."
True...resiliency is a great trait. But most people don't understand what it takes to be resilient. Telling someone to be resilient during a time of chaos and stress can be like telling a depressed person to happy. The road to getting there isn't like taking a pill. It takes stamina and a discipline.

I was reading something the other day, and came across the word 'fortitude'.

FORTITUDE (noun), means mental and emotional strength in facing difficulty, adversity, danger, or temptation courageously :Never once did her fortitude waiver during that long illness

In what has become known as the Nun Study (, 120 Catholic Nuns were observed from age 22 to death. Basically, those who practiced a positive state of mind, out-lived the negative mindsets 2.5 to 1.

Both sets of nuns were resilient in their lifetime. However, the nuns with increasingly negative attitudes, developed dementia earlier on in life, leading to an earlier death in the end

At work, in church, across the neighbor's can see when people make it through a situation, tainted by their circumstance. They do what it takes to succeed...but mentally they are exhausted, jaded, and dissatisfied. Left unchecked, this leads to anger, depression, and a feeling of victimization.

Fortitude is the Richard Simmons workout to help you keep the heavy weight of the world, off your mind. Fortitude is not living in a dreamy, idealistic fantasy land. It means facing reality - and choosing a frame of mind that supports your mental health.

The Rx
Tune-in to what you say about your daily life, and see if your thinking is in your best interest or, if you are living emotionally, using circumstances to justify your positions.

1) Get clear about what you are saying in your head -what is the theme? Is it serving for or against your best self?
  • "I just can't seem to find the time", "I'm in a funk", "this sucks" -

2) Decide what is real, and what is a made-up story - what are you acting like you believe? It is real...really? Are you believing in something that might not be true?

  • "I am not organized", "I'm not good enough", "I should be better, more, different"

3) Make a decision to be supportive to yourself - what do you need to confirm about yourself to shift your mental attitude?

  • "I can do this", "I did my best - I'm simply learning", "I am good at what I do", "I don't have to be perfect"

If you are running around in circles, trying to figure out how to be resilient these days, take a break to build your mental immunity. Set aside 2 times each day, and run yourself through a mental check-up. Drop the mental baggage. And let the good stuff rise to the top.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Silos, Politics and Turf Wars

I started reading a new book yesterday, Silos, Politics and Turf Wars by Patrick Lencioni. Its a story about a guy who leaves corporate life to become a consultant. The story reveals his journey in finding a model for how to help executive teams get aligned, and rallying in a common direction.

This book is par for the course right now. American life is being bombarded with a need to save, and protect turf. Its exactly this type of focus that gets people set in a self-serving mentality. Its even worse if the people are self-serving to begin with.

Lencioni's book reminded me of George Morrisey's Strategic Planning Model. The basics of strategic planning are what we need; start with a vision - a target destination, and break it down to spending energy and resources that will mobilize the group towards execution that matters.

We need higher level strategies - for the good of the whole. We need the strength of an outstretched hand to tip the heavy chins of leadership up, out of the overwhelming details.
It is truly the act of leadership at this point - to pull the team up. Leadership needs to facilitate the focus on invention. Leadership needs to ensure teams stay true to the course of what matters for the lifeblood of their business. It is not necessarily the day-to-day stuff - this will always be there. It is the solutions to moving forward now, in these times that needs to be strategized.

Here are the clues the book gave for getting back on track:
  1. Define the overarching goal or theme that describes what your business most needs to pay attention to in order to survive/thrive.
  2. Identify 3-5 ares to focus on - that act like legs on a stool; without these the place falls
  3. Identify operating standards (metrics) for each area, that can tell you how well you are doing.
  4. Make these the flow of your meeting agendas - and keep them as top priorities
  5. When you get the sense that turf wars, politics and silos are invading the priority focus - crush them immediately and get the group back to whats best for the whole.

The Partnership between the CEO characters and the consultant gave each business just the right amount of "out-sight" and unbiased perspective to help the group move forward.

If you think your team could stand to go through this exercise, feel free to reach out!

Monday, February 9, 2009

Break Through Your Brick Walls

Breaking Through Your Brick Walls

Seeking to appreciate is about making relevant and useful connections with other people and their circumstances, to help you advance the goals you have for your life.

Sitting on my desk is a little peel-off calendar titled “Zen: 365 Daily Thoughts and Inspirations”. Today’s quote comes from Henry Miller who writes, “The moment one gives close attention to anything, even a blade of grass, it becomes a mysterious, awesome, indescribably magnificent world in itself.”

When the quote above is about things like grass…well, good for the grass. Not real inspiring when we’re dealing with difficult people or when you’re knee deep in bills trying to figure our how in the world you are going to make it all work with nothing in your account.

Let’s face it; trying to imagine these circumstances as “awesome and indescribably magnificent” sounds like a big waste of precious time! When you’re banging your head up against the brick walls in your life, the last thing that makes sense is stopping to study the grass.

Why would anyone spend time trying to appreciate the very things that are standing in their way of being productive, focused, energized, committed, and ultimately, happy with the situation at hand?

Okay. So I gave the answer away. But still, knowing this and doing something about it are totally different. It’s like putting down the chocolate cake to lose weight. Sounds simple enough, and yet the weight loss industry is booming in profits off people fighting this battle.

If dealing with difficult people were easy, there would not be 1 million Google results on the topic. If the financial issues facing many families today were easy to fix, we would not see unemployment rates, foreclosure rates, and divorce rates at all time highs.

What to do?!?! Give your head a break.

5 Actions for Breaking Through the Brick Walls
1. Be curious about the world around you
2. Discipline your thinking in the moment, and quietly observe
3. Make connections with people and resources
4. Practice thinking with empathy for the other 270 degrees
5. Make decisions to best meet your goals…not to satisfy your feelings

The remainder of this blog post will focus on #1. You’ll want to sign-up and visit this blog again soon for numbers 2-5.

First, a little science.

Those of you looking for the golden pills to life, are about to move away from this blog. If you can spare one more moment, please let me tell you these 5 actions work BEST for the impatient; those seeking critically practical advice, people who others don’t describe as a” people person” but perhaps “passionate under pressure”, and people who stay as far away from “woo-woo” as possible.

Turns out, this advice is practical. It’s actually logical, and it is proven to work. While coaching people through hundreds of challenges, taking these action steps has been like putting the chocolate cake down for people who have hit the emotional brick wall. For the left brained, practical/logical person, 1, 2, and 4 are particularly difficult. For the right brained, creative, relationship-oriented people 2, 3, and 5 are particularly difficult.

No matter who you are, your issues are complicated and they can get emotional. When you are banging your head against the wall, you have feelings that you don’t necessarily want to experience.

During times of stress, frustration, and chaos you are physiologically hard-wired to let your emotions drive the decision-making bus that rests just above your neck.

In fact, this bus-driver has a name, it’s called your Amygdala. Your amygdala is a funny little almond shaped portion of your brain nestled just at the bottom of your brain stem where your emotional center (your limbic system – right brain) and your center of reason (your prefrontal cortex- left brain) meet. Under every day, normal circumstances these two systems work together to help you be balanced in your decision-making.

When you are upset or anxious, however, it’s a whole new story. Your adrenal glands basically send your amygdala a big, red, flashing signal in the form of adrenaline which tells your brain you are in grave danger.

When man was first fighting off saber tooth tigers, and other prehistoric wild animals, this primitive brain function helped to save his life. Today however, your brain rarely knows whether something is actually life threatening or not.

When you are dealing with difficult people, getting upset about your finances, career, or what have you…your brain gives you all the energy and blood you need to fight the situation, or run away as fast as you can.

Basically, all of your body’s blood is being used in the most emotional area of your brain. The challenge is to perceive the signals, and retrain the neurons to fire in the left prefrontal area, rather than in the right as they are ignited by the amygdala.

During times of challenge, if you take a step-back, you might just find the very tools you need in order to bust through to the other side of that brick wall you are beating your head up against.

Like I said at the beginning, seeking to appreciate is about making relevant and useful connections with other people and their circumstances, to help you advance the goals you have for your life.

So, I’m not telling you to become best friends with your arch nemesis, nor am I saying that stepping back will give you a truckload of golden financial pills. Stepping back will provide you with perspective - just what you need. After all, its the "old way of thinking” that got you up against the brick wall to begin with.

Be Curious About the World Around You

Try these questions on for a minute:
How does so and so perceive me (think about that difficult person)?
What does so and so needs in order to be successful once they leave these meetings (again, think of a difficult person)?
What are my chances of meeting the type of people I need to know, to help me with my financial situation?
How will I ever get advice without having to pay for it?

Pay close attention to how you answer these questions right now. Let’s move on.

For fun I looked up a few synonyms for the word “curious”: inquisitive, interested, questioning, searching, inquiring, peering, puzzled, peeping, meddling, prying, nosy (yes, it was actually fun –sick I know).

There is a booming business rooted in curiosity. After all, enquiring minds want to know! To be clear, I am not saying be curious, like the camera-toting paparazzi.

I am saying that being curious about challenges you face begins by being interested in other points of view… as if you don’t already have the answers. You know someone who has actually been interested in you like this.

In fact, think about someone you highly respect. What characteristics does this person have? How does this person treat you? What value did or does this person offer you? Do they have little idiosyncrasies that are easy to overlook? How did this person show you they were interested in you? As you think about this character in your life, how do you feel?

Ok. You also know plenty of the other type of people. Its “them, those people” that don’t make sense. You know the ONES that get under your skin. Think of just one person like this. How does this person treat you? What value have they offered you lately? What little habits do they have that drive you crazy? Are you genuinely curious about why they do what they do, other than to add to your collection of stories that prove they are ridiculous and that you are right? Do you care much about what circumstances led-up to their reason’s for acting the way they do? If you better understood why, would you be better off? Now how do you feel, thinking about this person?

Most issues stem from not understanding enough about another person, a situation, or a topic. “If they only knew what it does to my work when they miss the deadline!” “If they just understood the process, they would complete it properly!” “We just need to get them to understand!”

In my work, we have department information sessions aimed at helping employees from outside areas better understand what the function does, why they do the things they do, and what happens to the work when challenges and obstacles creep into the process.

It’s kind of like watching HGTV, the Food Network, or the Discovery Channel when you have a slap on the side of the head, “ah-ha” moment.
Oooohhhhh! So THAT”s why you have to prep before you move forward”, or “Ohhhh! So THAT’s how they get the those little ships inside the glass bottle!” or “Oh, so when you mix these two things together, it’s the perfect storm. Got it.”

Most people simply want to be understood, without being made to look like the ‘Bad Guy’.

When you genuinely get curious about other people, finances, and anything you don’t quite get…you naturally become drawn to better understand until a time comes that you feel you’ve gained enough information to move on.

Again, your brain is hard-wired for it! For example: have you ever purchased a new car, or started collecting something rare? If you are the car buyer, do you all of a sudden start to see that car everywhere you go? If you are the collector, do you all of a sudden start meeting people who collect the same stuff?

Here’s another example. Whatever you do right now…don’t think about a red car. Do not picture a red car in your head. Do not imagine a red car you typically see in a parking lot.

Can you not notice the red car? NO! When you give your brain instructions to notice something (even when you say don’t notice)…the only thing it picks up is “notice”.

When you choose to start paying attention to the things that you need to better understand, your brain will get to work and search for ways to learn more about these. You are hard-wired to make sense of the world around you.

If however, you don’t care…and the answer you give your brain is, “I don’t care.”, or “I don’t know”, or “because he is X” or “because she is Y”, or “because, because, because…” you get the point. You have told your brain that you are done with the search, and you stop. There is no more reason to keep learning. You’ve satisfied the need to know.

Remember, the goal of seeking to appreciate is to help you achieve the goals you have set for your life. If your goal is to make more money, you’ve got to get curious about how to do that without the answer of, “I don’t’ know how” or “I’ll have to wait until…”. If your goal is to work better with difficult people, you’ve got to get curious about how to do this without the “but I’ve tried” response.

Getting curious is about asking your brain questions…so that the new answers, like the brand new red car, and the rare items you collect…all of a sudden, POP-OUT.

Try the questions below, without the same old answers:
How might so and so perceive me? What can I do to change this?
I wonder what so and so needs in order to be successful once they leave these meetings?
I wonder how or what type of people I would need to know, to better understand my personal financial situation? I wonder who I know already?
I wonder how I could get advice, without having to pay a large fee?

Seeking to appreciate begins with getting curious about the world around you. Seek to make connections. Once you connect, the pathway to reaching your goals will be waiting. Take the steps!