What a little white ball taught me about authenticity

From the desk of Greg Giesen

I’ve been working with this whole authenticity concept for years. I’ve written three books on it and created the Leading From Within program—which is all about authentic leadership. Why, I even sign off my emails and letters with, Authentically, Geese

But guess where I first learned the true meaning of authenticity? No seriously, guess?

Wrong!

Not even close. Guess again.

Still way off.

I’ll just tell you…playing golf. That’s right, playing golf. Well sort of. Allow me to explain…

Golfer Carrying Bag

You see, I’m what’s commonly referred to as a hacker when it comes to golf. In fact, if you look up hacker in the dictionary it says See Greg Giesen. I’m serious. A hacker is someone who never puts the time or effort into improving his/her golf game; hence their game is erratic at best and never improves.

My problem isn’t that I don’t want to improve; it’s that I can’t seem to clear my head of all the stuff that I’m supposed to remember when playing, especially when swinging at the ball. It’s hard enough being me with all the voices I already have in my head, let alone all the uninvited golf pros that have joined the fray the moment I step on the golf course. It gets a little crowded up there, if you know what I mean.

I keep quitting golf too. Actually every nine holes I usually quit a couple of time. And why is it the golf Gods make sure that my best shot of the day always happens on the very last hole? What’s up with that! I drive away rationalizing…I think I’m finally getting it. I can’t wait to play again…

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A few years ago after quitting golf for the 1,567,321st time, I had a revelation. Actually it could have been heart burn, but an insight just the same. It went something like this…Perhaps the reason I stink in golf is because I’m not applying myself. Maybe I need a more concentrated approach…like intense lessons for four straight days…at a luxury resort in Phoenix…with friends. Yeah, that’s the ticket!

It was as if the circus of golf experts already in my head were calling out for reinforcements. I even think I spotted a white flag waving somewhere in that image, now that I think about it. The bottom line was this…apparently I didn’t have enough stuff, or the right stuff, and needed additional stuff to think about, remember, and of course purchase, so that I could finally improve my golf game.

Are you buying this so far? I did.

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So I go to Phoenix and engross myself into every little nuance around the game of golf. I developed a new swing. I purchased new clubs. I even had the fancy glove and matching golf shirt. Best of all, I had a stack of “how-to” lessons on a set of cards that I could carry with me, wherever I go. I was a mean, lean, golf machine.

And yet my game got worse.

By the end of the four days my ball was hitting more houses and landing in more pools than a poorly sighted bird dying of thirst. Why, I even think there was a warrant out for my arrest before I left.

 Oops! Road Sign

“I quit!”

“You can’t quit!” shouted my uncle Roger as we drove back to the Phoenix airport. “You just spend a lot of money on these lessons. You need to give it time.”

“I quit. I don’t want to ever see a golf ball as long as I live. I’m done. And I mean it this time,” I cried.

He could only shake his head.

At the Phoenix Airport

My delayed flight back to Denver gave me an unexpected couple of hour to roam around the airport and check out the various stores and shops. Normally not a shopper, I noticed a lot of commotion going on in the little bookstore right across from my gate and decided to see what the excitement was all about.

bookstore

As I approached I could see that there was a particular book display drawing all the attention.

Ah, I sighed, that is exactly what I need to get my mind out of this golf funk that I’m in, a nice novel to read on the plane!

I pushed and shoved my way over to the display. What book could possibly be drawing such crowds, I thought as I weave to the front of the line.

And then my mouth dropped as the title came into view. No way! I exclaimed. Are you kidding me!

To be continued next week…

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The Science Behind the Smile

From the desk of Greg Giesen

We are going to be talking about the science behind the smile on tomorrow’s show, Mondays At 3, and I wanted to pass on a great blog written by Leo Widrich called, The science of smiling: A guide to human’s most powerful gesture:

Why did the Mona Lisa become one of the most famous paintings of all time? That’s a question an incredible amount of people have asked themselves in the past. And one possible answer is this: because of her unique smile.

mona-lisa

What happens to our brain when we smile?

Let’s say you experience a positive situation and you see a friend you haven’t met in a long time. This means that neuronal signals travel from the cortex of your brain to the brainstem (the oldest part of our brains). From there, the cranial muscle carries the signal further towards the smiling muscles in your face.

Sounds simple enough right?

And yet, that’s only where it starts. Once the smiling muscles in our face contract, there is a positive feedback loop that now goes back to the brain and reinforces our feeling of joy. To put more succinctly:

Smiling stimulates our brain’s reward mechanisms in a way that even chocolate, a well-regarded pleasure-inducer, cannot match.

Smiling then seems to give us the same happiness that exercise induces in terms of how our brain responds.

What smiling does to our health, success and feeling of happiness

Smiling reduces stress that your body and mind feel, almost similar to getting good sleep, according to recent studies. And smiling helps to generate more positive emotions within you. That’s why we often feel happier around children – they smile more. On average, they do so 400-times a day. Compare that to happy people who smile 40-50 times a day. Quite a difference. But wait, there’s more; the average person only smiles 20-times a day.

Why does this matter? Smiling leads to decrease in the stress-induced hormones that negatively affect your physical and mental health, say the latest studies:

  • In the famous yearbook study, they tracked the lives of women who had the best smiles in yearbook photos compared to the rest. Women who smiled the most lived happier lives, happier marriages and had fewer setbacks. Here is a sample of the women from the observed yearbook. I let you guess who was successful and who wasn’t:

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  • The baseball card study also found a clear correlation between how big a smile someone made on a baseball card photo and how long they would live. The people who smiled the most turned out to live 7 years longer than those who didn’t.

Of course, the above only shows a correlation, and not a causation. And yet, I can’t help but agree that smiling breeds trust, makes you happier and helps you to live longer.

And most importantly, smiling can be learned. Or to put more precisely, re-learned. Most of us forget how to smile genuinely over time, as we adopt social smiles more and more. Here is a guide to get your genuine, duchenne smile back:

A 3-step guide to a better smile 

1)  Imagine a situation of joy before an event:

One of the best ways to make your smile more genuine and real comes from researcher Andrew Newberg:

“We just asked a person, before they engage in a conversation with someone else, visualize someone they deeply love, or recall an event that brought them deep satisfaction and joy. It’s such an easy exercise, and we train people to do it in our workshops.”

Personally, I’ve tried to do the same experiment before a phone call or even before writing an email. I’ve found that people can always tell if you have a smile on your face, even if they don’t see you.

2)  Practice smiling in front of the mirror

Here is something I’ve done for almost a few years in the morning: Stand in front of the mirror and smile. Practice to activate both your mouth corners and your eye sockets. You will know whenever your smile is genuine, because you will immediately feel happy and relaxed. The power of a smile, even practiced in the mirror is that it can invoke the emotion immediately.

3)  Become comfortable with smiling

A lot of people (myself included!) see smiling as something that makes you weak. Personally, I’ve found that developing a better smile starts with being very comfortable to smile a lot. If in your head, you can imagine yourself going through the day and smiling lots to everyone and everything, that’s often when a happier life starts.

Yes, this might be just a small change in thinking. And yet, for me personally, that was the most important part to smile more every day.

Quick last fact: Women smile more than Men, here is why 

Here is something interesting. Researcher LaFrance concluded that overall women smile a lot more than men. This comes not just from the fact that they might be happier, but also, that socially it is more acceptable for women to smile.

Geese

“I now pronounce you husband and wife!”

From the desk of Greg Giesen, founder of the Zen Leadership Institute

I’ve officiated eight weddings in the last three years—mostly family and friends. For me, it’s quite the honor to serve in such a capacity for a day that will last a lifetime in the memories of many.

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If you are—or have been—married, do you remember the person who married you? I bet you do. This is also why I don’t take the role lightly. It’s too important of an event to just show up. I need to bring my “A-game” every time.

There’s just one problem.

I have no idea if these marriages will work. My role all along has been to marry the couples—not counsel them.

This leads me to an honest omission: Had I undergone pre-marital counseling with my past wife, I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have gotten married. Too much? Too soon?

Like many couples, my wife and I got married in bliss with the intent of living happily ever after. In fact, the infatuation phase for me lasted well into the first year of marriage—which, if you know me—you know that’s a long time. And, like many couples, we really didn’t fight or argue much before we got married. I attribute this to a few reasons:

  1. Our relationship was greater than the problems we faced, making it easy to come to agreement and compromise.
  2. With the wedding looming off in the distance, we were motivated to avoid any kind of conflict that could threaten our special day.
  3. We didn’t do pre-wedding counseling and/or any kind of relationship work. As a result, we weren’t prepared for all of the relationship issues and challenges that were soon to emerge in our marriage.

But I don’t think we’re the only ones! Actually, I know we’re not the only ones.

Last night I met a friend for a drink (actually it was bachelorette #3 from Monday’s show…shhh!) and she also performs weddings. However, as a licensed therapist, she will only marry a couple “after” they’ve done a pre-marriage counseling program with her.

I like that idea.

Did you know that in Colorado a couple can marry themselves instantly the moment they turn in their wedding application? True. All they have to do is put a check mark in a particular box and sign under it and Ta-Da!—they’re married.

Couple on Beach

 Something seems wrong about that.

Have you ever gotten divorced? Not exactly as simple a process, is it? Why is it so easy to get married and yet so difficult to get divorced? Shouldn’t both processes be equal? If pre-counseling were to be mandatory before getting married, do you think we’d have as many divorces?

I think not.

Why is that, you ask?

I think most couples have not done near enough work on their relationship before they get married. Like me, they figure they’ll simply handle whatever arises when it arises. Talk about throwing dice out on the craps table.

The ability to communicate effectively, resolve conflict, and problem-solve are essential elements to any relationship. If a couple has not practiced these skill sets together over their own issues, how are they supposed to master them later?

I recall learning some things about my wife’s background during the divorce proceedings that I didn’t even know about while we were married. How did that happen?

If we really want to cut down the divorce rate in this country, more work needs to be done upfront before a couple ever gets married. Waiting until problems arise is not a healthy strategy for a long-term relationship. In short, I now believe pre-marriage counseling needs to be a mandatory requirement before a couple can get married. It’s a win-win if you think about it. Even if a couple decides not to marry, isn’t it better to find out before they get married?

stuart

 I think so!

Note to self: Make sure couples I marry from this point forward do counseling before the wedding. 

Geese

The Dating Game…Seriously?

From the desk of Greg “Geese” Giesen, founder of the Zen Leadership Institute

Many times when I sit down on Sunday mornings to write this Blog for the next day’s newsletter I have no idea what I’m going to write about. When this happens (today being one of those mornings), I look for some kind of divine intervention—and/or a couple of cups of strong coffee—to guide me along the way.

Now, if you haven’t noticed, today’s show (Monday, Sept. 15th) is a departure from our traditional format. Instead of interviewing a guest about their latest book, Lisa and I will be asking dating questions to two or three bachelorettes calling in to in hopes of winning a date with me during the next week. I should mention that I’m using the word “hopes” loosely. For all I know, they may have been coerced to call in, although Lisa assures me that wasn’t the case.
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What I have found interesting about the Dating Game show being promoted on my website is that every woman I’ve either gone out with or am conversing with over the phone has mentioned it or questioned it. To be honest, I think it is making them slightly apprehensive about going out with me.  Imagine that! Who wouldn’t want to go out with a guy who’s literally advertises on the radio that he wants a date? When did that stop being an attractive trait? I’m so confused.

Perhaps the Dating Game wasn’t such a great idea after all.

It’s weird being single again. Truthfully, I was never very good playing the dating game before I met my wife, so why should it be any different post-wifey. It seems like the older you get…okay, the older I get, the more particular I get as well. But that’s not unusual, is it? So what if I have some regular routines and an idiosyncrasy or two? Who doesn’t! I just need to find someone who thinks my quirky habits are cute, loveable, and not self-serving whatsoever! Hmm. Maybe I should just go out with myself.

I wonder if it’s not too late to be a priest? Think about it…they get to give a speech every week, have meals cooked for them, and they’re treated like celebrities when they wear their collar out in public. Hmm. And think how much I’d save on clothes! I wonder what the pay is?
wedding
But then again, I’m not ready to throw in the towel on woman and a “hopeful” significant-other relationship just yet. I know my luck is about to change. Can you feel it? I’m pretty sure I can…or is that the indigestion from the pizza I just ate at the airport. Not sure.

Do you ever watch other couples to determine if they have a good relationship or not? I do it all the time. Phone conversations are pretty revealing too, aren’t they? It’s not like I try to listen or eavesdrop to people’s conversations mind you, but it’s not rocket science to sense if there is a positive or negative charge between two people’s batteries. And what it there’s no charge at all? That might be even worse.  After I got divorced, most of my friends told me they were not surprised. Was it that obvious?

I want to meet someone who makes me feel giddy again. I remember the first time I ever sat next to Carol Hook at a 6th grade basketball game. Every pore in my body radiated with infatuation.  I could barely breathe. I had a crush on her for years but was too timid to ever talk to her. Finally, there I was with the woman of my dreams and all I could manage to say was, “So, who you pulling for?”

Really? Who you pulling for? We go to the same school you flathead! But that’s what I’m talking about. I was so dumbfounded that I could barely put a sentence together, let alone make any sense. I was giddy.

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I’m not sure how today’s show will play out but I know it will be fun. Every show since Lisa signed-on as my co-host has been a blast. Maybe that’s the secret. Maybe I should simply focus on having more fun in life and just let the chips fall where they may on the dating part of things. After all, I have to be whatever I want to attract, don’t I?

Forget you ever read this.

-Geese

Mondays At 3 Talk Radio, 3-4pm MST on http://www.milehiradio.com.

Leadership and the Hiking Stick

From the desk of Greg Giesen

I like meaningful rituals. I like traditions; and I like to use metaphors as a powerful teaching tool. I’m also a sentimental guy—if you haven’t figured that out by now.

It is also why my hiking stick means so much to me.

Allow me to explain.

Tom

I came up with the idea of giving each participant in the Leading From Within program an authentic hiking stick about ten years ago. These hiking sticks are carved from the very Aspen trees that encompass the beautiful North Fork Ranch where we host the Colorado workshop (September 18-20th in case you’d still like to attend).

As part of this ritual, participants are asked to sign each other’s hiking stick, using paint markers. In many ways this part of the activity feels like the last day of high school to me where we all signed each other’s yearbook. Remember those days?

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But it’s much more than that. It’s what these hiking sticks have come to represent that make them so symbolic, especially for me.

You see, my hiking stick has both a practical and sentimental meaning. From a practical standpoint, it provides added stability, support, balance and protection for me whenever I go hiking. And from a sentimental standpoint, the ten-years worth of signatures that cover my hiking stick serves as a constant reminder of both my purpose (to help others embrace their authenticity) and the people who have supported me in that endeavor. Seriously, if my house ever when up in flames, the hiking stick would be one of the items I’d grab before running out. It means that much to me.

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For the participants, the names on their hiking sticks represent not only their support group in the Leading From Within workshop but serves as a reminder that none of us can be successful in life without a support group of our own. To reinforce this point, I ask participants to add additional signatures to their hiking sticks after the program from the people that they would consider part of their broader support group.

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Last year we traveled to Illinois to bring the Leading From Within program to a corporate leadership team. After the program the group decided to prominently display one of their signed hiking sticks in their conference room to represent the importance of their commitment and support to one-another. Many other past participants have placed their hiking sticks in strategic locations in the homes or offices to remind them of their own support team.

Who would have thought a piece of lumber could carry so much meaning.

Group

We’re saving a spot for you in next week’s Leading From Within program. Come join us and get your hiking stick. It will be an experience you’ll never forget.

For more information, inspiration and to register for our September 18th through 20th Leading From Within adventure CLICK HERE!

-Geese

Greg Giesen