The Purpose of Work

One of the “secrets” I have used is to help my team identify the purpose in what they are doing. One of my departments focuses on behind-the-scenes work that is the same day in and day out. It is critically important (I work for a financial institution) but it can be monotonous all the same.

I have spent a lot of time with this team in helping them keep a “face” on the work that they do. They aren’t just processing a wire transfer. They are helping one person move funds to fulfill an important need. They aren’t just processing a direct deposit. They are bringing peace of mind to a person who is expecting funds to arrive in their account on time, every time. They aren’t just providing process steps to a person who just lost their spouse. They are bringing a caring and thoughtful service to a real person during their deepest, darkest hour.

This approach has developed a strong sense of ownership in this team. They care deeply about what they do. They keep their eyes open for new efficiencies and are quick to help other team members outside their department understand what they do.

Work without purpose is work. Work with a purpose is a calling.

5 Steps to a More Productive Morning

Published on April 19th, 2012
Written by: Markham Heid

Does every morning start like a scene out of Zombieland—and you’re the zombie? Skipping breakfast may be to blame. A review of 134 breakfast studies conducted by the University of Leeds in the UK found that your memory, problem-solving skills, verbal fluency, and several other measures of cognitive ability all suffer when you miss the most important meal of the day.

New research provides a road map that can help you get the most from your breakfast and your brain every morning.

Eat like a cow. Verbal reasoning and problem-solving ability improved roughly 35 percent among those who practiced grazing, or dividing breakfast into four smaller meals spaced an hour apart, finds a study from Cardiff University in the UK. Spreading out your meals gives your brain a more consistent supply of energy in the form of blood glucose, the study explains.

The best breakfast nut. People who ate a small handful of polyphenol-rich walnuts every day improved working memory 19 percent, finds Spanish research. Polyphenols have been shown to reduce oxidative stress, which may help improve communication among your brain’s neurons, the study hypothesizes.

Walk your brain awake. Just 20 minutes of walking improves your “cognitive flexibility”—your brain’s ability to produce a flow of ideas and answers when presented with a problem—by 16 percent, says a study from the University of Illinois. The researchers attribute the brain benefits to improved cerebral blood flow and increased levels of the neurotransmitter dopamine.

Protein power. Eating a protein-rich breakfast resulted in a nearly 20 percent boost in brain activity compared to either no breakfast or a breakfast high in sugar, Japanese research shows. That’s because protein, unlike sugar, provides your brain with a consistent energy source, the study says. Eggs are a great source of hunger-quelling protein, not to mention a lot of other good stuff.

A better source of caffeine. A recent study from the University of Bristol in the UK found that just 20 to 30 milligrams (mg) of caffeine boosts brainpower—regardless of how alert the subjects felt. That’s about 100 mg less than your average cup of coffee. Higher doses didn’t provide any additional brain boost. So have a small amount of dark chocolate in the morning. Research has shown dark chocolate improves blood flow and cholesterol levels, and may even help you lose weight. One ounce—or about two 1-inch squares—containing 70 to 85 percent cocoa packs roughly 25 mg of caffeine. (For even more great food choices, make sure you check out Eat This, Not That! 2012.)

Hour of Power


By Joy Bing Fleming, MBA

The “Hour of Power” consists of 20 minutes of meditating or just relaxing, 20 minutes of exercising, and 20 minutes of reading. If you don’t have an hour in your day, then you can shorten it to 30 minutes.

Mind Relaxation. You can use the relaxation time to simply clear your mind, calm down, and get rid of any stresses that you may be feeling. Sometimes, you may become so calm that you fall asleep. That’s okay. Right before you start the “hour of power,” just remember to set your alarm for 20 minutes, so you’ll wake back up. You can also use the relaxation time to figure out what you’re passionate about and to clarify your purpose. You can ask yourself:

– If I absolutely knew that I would not fail, what would I really like to do?
– If money was not an issue at all, what would I like to achieve?
– What do I desire most?
– What really makes me happy?
– What does success mean to me?
– When do I feel the happiest and the most alive?
– What are the top 10 things that I really want in my life?

Exercise. Everyone needs some form of exercise in their lives. You can walk or run in the neighborhood, watch a workout video, walk the dog, etc.

Reading. Reading everyday is very important. You should read for 20 minutes. If you don’t have 20 minutes, simply reading 5 or 10 minutes a day will begin to change your life. Reading positive and inspirational books will improve your self-confidence and help you become an even better person. Building up your self-confidence will help you overcome your fears. Your thoughts will change. You will become a positive thinker. Once you’re focused on positive events, thoughts, and occurrences, you’ll begin to notice all of the wonderful small things that you missed before (like how amazing it is to see the sunshine outside, getting all green traffic lights on your way to work, getting an up front parking space, etc).

Books concerning your life’s purpose are helpful to read. Books about whatever suits you and whatever brings joy and happiness into your life are also important to read. Reading improves self-esteem, creates awareness, as well as empowers one with unlimited knowledge. The “Hour of Power” has helped me a great deal.

In school, I had to read many books, and I didn’t find reading enjoyable. So, when I finished college, I decided that I didn’t want to read anymore books. Therefore, reading everyday was a challenge for me. However, when I became interested in learning more about how to figure out my purpose, that made it more enjoyable. Also, today you can purchase many books on CD. Once I focused on reading or listening to a CD just 20 minutes a day, it became alot easier.

Change Your Day by doing these 10 Things

1. Make a list of five immediate actions that need to be done in order for progress to be made on the big project(s) on which you are currently working. They don’t have to be big: target what you know to be absolute “musts” and take massive action on them without hesitation or fear.

2. De-clutter your workspace. Be ruthless with your organization, and toss out what does not belong or what no longer has a practical use. Embrace a zen-like workspace.

3. Answer that e-mail you need to get to. You know which one I’m talking about: that e-mail that you know is crying out for a response. Maybe it’s work-related, maybe it’s personal; it doesn’t matter. Respond immediately and clear it from your mind—your focus is needed elsewhere. Oh, and before you hit send, be sure to make sure that the e-mail doesn’t suck.

4. Write a letter or e-mail of gratitude to your parents. At first, this might sound a little strange, particularly if you don’t have the best relationship with your parents, but write a letter or e-mail simply thanking your parents for having you. Even if you’ve lost them, even if you don’t know them, even if they weren’t great parents, you can still write this letter. None of us would be here if our parents had not given birth to us, and that’s a unique bond that should not be ignored. Here’s the best part: you don’t even have to send it if you don’t want to, and the process will be an empowering, healing experience for you.

5. Schedule a meeting that will move you forward. I’m not talking about having a meeting for the sake of having a meeting (ugh…those are truly awful). I’m talking about getting together with someone who has information that will be beneficial to you. This doesn’t have to be formal; in fact, it doesn’t even have to be related to your professional life at all. It can be dinner with a friend from whom you want marriage advice, for example. Just get that person on the phone, and then get that meeting on the calendar.

6. Answer two very important questions that will keep you productive all day long: What’s important now? What’s next?

7. Do absolutely nothing for 15 minutes straight. Yes, choosing to do nothing is, in fact, doing something. Spend 15 minutes in silence, with no agenda, giving your mind and spirit and chance to refresh and regroup. I promise that when the 15 minutes are up you will be able to return to whatever you’re working on with a new perspective.

8. Celebrate the fact that you are still breathing at this very moment. A huge thing you have going for you is in the “plus” column right now. Turn on some music and dance, get out of your chair! Be grateful that you’ve made it this far.

9. Change your setting. Get out of the office and go for a walk outside to breathe in the air. If it’s raining, go outside anyway! Admire the life-giving miracle taking place before your eyes.

10. Simply start whatever big project you’ve been putting off or thinking about, no matter how big it seems. In high school, I had a teacher who told me that when you start something you are already half-finished. That has worked for me to this day, and it can work for you, too. Get started right now!


7 Strategies to Become a Better Public Speaker


Posted by Lindsay Traiman

It was Dale Carnegie who said, “You can conquer almost any fear if you will only make up your mind to do so. For remember, fear doesn’t exist anywhere except in the mind.” A common fear among many people is the fear of public speaking. The idea of standing in front of an audience to persuade or present often causes worry and anxiety, but it doesn’t have to. If you can remember Dale Carnegie’s words about fear and follow the strategies below, you will overcome your public speaking fear in no time.

1. Think Out Your Ideas

In order to speak well in front of multiple people, you need to have your entire presentation planned out. Just as you would create an outline for a research paper, you should do the same for your presentation. You’ll need to support your ideas, so think of examples that you can use as evidence. Try to structure your thoughts in a way that makes sense, and create a sense of completeness with a beginning, middle, and end.

2. Be Prepared

You will need to practice your speech significantly in order to feel confident while speaking. Don’t wait until the last minute to prepare or you will not feel ready to present. Instead of trying to memorize every word, only memorize the key points of your outline and the examples you will be using for support. You want to be engaged, not robotic-sounding. Your speech should flow naturally, as if you were having a conversation with another person.

3. Start Confidently

The opening of your presentation will determine how the rest of the speech goes, so speak with assertiveness and at a volume where everyone can easily hear you. Try opening with a strong statement and bold language in order to convey confidence. Remember that the audience has no prior opinions or thoughts on what you are going to say, and you are the authoritative source in this situation.

4. Make Eye Contact

Throughout your presentation, it is important to make eye contact with individuals in the room. While you should not focus on one particular person for two long, it is okay to hold someone’s gaze for a few seconds. If you look at the floor or in a random direction, your audience will sense that you are not as engaged as you could be. Making eye contact lets your listeners know that you believe in what you are saying and that you are there to inform them about something new.

5. Slow Down

A beginner’s mistake when it comes to public speaking is to rush through the presentation. When you walk to the podium or front of the room, take a deep breath, look at your audience, and even count to five before starting to speak. It may feel like an eternity, but it will seem like a normal amount of time to the people in the room. Remember to speak clearly and annunciate your words. You should have a slight pause after commas and between sentences, and an even bigger pause between paragraphs or major points in your argument.

6. Stay Steady

Most people know that it’s important not to fidget during a presentation, but it’s also crucial that you limit your movement as much as possible. Slight swaying or talking with your hands can be just as distracting as ordinary fidgeting. Stand with your feet about shoulder width apart, keep your head up, and plant your feet firmly to the ground. It may feel awkward to hold this stance for a long time, but it will help you to stand up straight and look more confident while you speak.

7. Be Human

Remember: it’s okay to be nervous. In fact, it’s normal. Don’t worry about seeming nervous in front of others, since everybody in the room has had to give a presentation at one point and understands how you feel. If you make a mistake, that’s okay too. Just take a deep breath and pick up where you left off. Keep in mind that everyone in the room is looking forward to hearing what you have to say.

This article was brought to you by Dale Carnegie Training, a company founded in 1912 by one of America’s most influential speakers and leaders. Today, the company offers corporate training and helps businesses and individuals achieve their goals. Visit today to learn more about management training programs.

6 Tips to Help Leaders Think Before They Speak | What the *@#K Were You Thinking?

by Peter Baron Stark


Just when you think you’ve seen it all, someone comes along and reminds you that you haven’t.

I recently heard a woman mumble in front of a TSA agent, “What should I expect from someone who makes $10.00 an hour?” As I watched the TSA agent take all her bags to secondary inspection, I felt like saying to the woman, “When you open your mouth and say something really stupid, secondary inspection is exactly what you should expect.”

Unless of course you are a leader. Leaders who speak to others in that way face a different set of challenges.

A good portion of our practice is coaching executives and managers to be successful leaders. To be successful as a leader, you need to be able to build relationships where people are highly motivated to follow your passion, vision and direction. Some people are masters at saying the right thing to build relationships, teamwork, and motivate people to accomplish great things. On the other side of the fence, we have all seen leaders whose ways of communicating drive people away. Almost immediately, the recipient of the communication loses their motivation and increases their instant dislike for the person sending the message.

After hearing people say things that undermine their ability to achieve their own goals, most of us ask ourselves, “What were they thinking?!” I am reminded of the NFL football player who told the referee that he “stunk” after being called off sides. The referee called a second penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct on the player, then marched off the 10 yard bonus penalty, turned around and asked the player with the big mouth, “How do I smell from here?”

Like this NFL player, some people seem to have come into this world with the innate ability to stick their foot right in their mouth. Then there are other people who make a conscious effort to filter their words and say the right thing at the right time. The key difference here is that the second group of people usually consider the person they are talking to and how their words will affect that person, themselves and the relationship between the two people.

Here are 6 tips to help you build even stronger relationships when you speak.

  1. Remember, words are permanent. It is easy to say something, especially something mean and hurtful, under the umbrella of honesty. “Hey, sorry this hurts, I was just being honest,” is a phrase we have all said or heard. The great reality is there are a lot of things in life that don’t need to be said. Better yet, there are a lot of things in life that do not need to be said by you. What is important to acknowledge is that your words are permanent. Once you say something, it can’t be retracted. Your words have a lasting impact on people, either in a negative, or in a positive way.
  2. Think before you speak. As you start to speak, think about what you want to accomplish. Do you want to build someone up, or tear them down? Great leaders work hard at saying the right things that will motivate people to move in the right direction, especially when they need to give people really tough feedback. They work harder than the average person at saying it in a way that will successfully accomplish their goal.
  3. Shut up and listen. A great rule of successfully leading others is getting other people to talk first. When you understand where others are coming from, it makes it a lot easier to do two important things. First, you can respond choosing the appropriate words. Second, you can respond with empathy, a better understanding of where your counterpart is coming from. Listening is especially important when there is disagreement. When you are not in agreement, instead of talking, stop, think, and choose your words carefully to ensure you reach your goals.
  4. Ask questions. A good rule of thumb is to not give others advice unless they ask for it. If someone doesn’t agree with you, there’s actually a good chance that talking more and listening less is going to help you be more persuasive. My 92-year-old dad says it best, “People like you so much better when they do the talking.” If you still feel the need to give people your advice, ask if they would like to hear your opinion. If they say yes, they’ll be more likely to listen and value it then if you had just outright stated it.
  5. Be confident. People who lack confidence feel a need to tell others what they know, whereas people who have a deep level of confidence feel much more comfortable being silent and thinking about what others are really saying before they respond. For confident communicators, silence can be golden.
  6. Be grateful. When you are grateful for the people and places in your life, it makes it a lot easier to say something that will motivate others to want to be closer to you and help you accomplish mutual goals.

Because they think first, and speak second, when great leaders speak, their words help them get closer to their goals. Recognize the power that your words can have on others, both positively and negatively, and choose your words carefully, understanding that you can’t take back what you’ve said to others.


6 Tips to Help Leaders Think Before They Speak | What the *@#K Were You Thinking?

Peter Barron Stark Companies is a nationally recognized management consulting company that specializes in employee engagement surveys, executive coaching, and leadership and employee training. For more information, please visit