Posts Tagged ‘professional development’

7 Ways Leaders Can Hack Into Their Own Lives: Tips From a Former FBI Counterintelligence Agent

Monday, April 22nd, 2013

As an FBI undercover and counterintelligence agent, I spent twenty-four years investigating people. But the most important life I ever investigated was my own.

Hacking Your Mind

When I sleuthed out my own story, I could begin to pinpoint patterns in the way my mental toughness was developed over the years—the times I’d persevered in business and life, and won.

Just as importantly, the times I’d given up and sold myself short.

Hacking Into Your Own Story

You can do the same by hacking into your own story so you can apply the same knowledge to understanding your behaviors, traits, and strengths. You learn which ones move you forward in business and life, and also identify the ones that hold you back.

In my book, Secrets of A Strong Mind, I discuss many ways to hack into your own life.

Here are 7 ways:

1. Take Ownership. FBI new agents spend a great deal of time defining their strengths, talents, and skills so they can quickly lean into them when confronted with risk, uncertainty, and discomfort. The secret to strong living in both business and life is being able to repeat instances of success again and again.


This article is a guest post on Linked2Leadership. To read the entire article click here:

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4 Simple Ways Leaders Can Follow Their True North

Sunday, February 26th, 2012

Most of us are passive spectators in our life. We plan careers, retirement nest eggs, and vacations, but we do not plan our life. As a result, we don’t live our life on purpose.

True North

Is it any wonder that many of us feel unfulfilled and not following our higher calling? We are not empowered and are no longer active participants in the direction our life is going.

Research has shown that people who regularly write down their goals earn as much as nine times more than their counterparts who do not write down goals.

  • Over 80% of Americans do not have goals
  • 16% say they do have goals but don’t write them down
  • Less than 4% actually write them down

Guess who they are? They are the ones making nine times more than the rest of us.

Without goals to anchor us, we find ourselves adrift in life. We may think we know what our goals are, but if we aren’t living our life around them, then we’re not living our life on purpose.

A goal is a dream set to paper. If you don’t have a dream, how can you have a dream come true?

In a previous post, I shared the story of Oleg, a KGB officer that I met while working as an FBI undercover agent a few years ago. Neither Oleg nor the Russians knew that the FBI had identified him as a Russian Intelligence Officer.

If they had, he would have been sent back to Moscow immediately.

Oleg’s cover was a Russian businessman involved with the joint venture. I represented myself as an individual working for an international public relations company.

We met at a seminar, but the one thing we never talked about was his work.

It wasn’t that Oleg couldn’t talk about some aspects of his overt job; it was that he didn’t want to talk about them. He couldn’t drum up enough enthusiasm about the job to even keep up a good conversation. His lack of engagement in what he was doing was a clue that he was not doing something he felt passionate about.

Oleg was not following his True North. Somewhere along the line, he had compromised and had settled for less than his dream.

Here are 4 ways I encouraged Oleg to empower himself and start following his true north:

1. Explore Lifetime Goals

I encouraged Oleg to look deeper into the goals he set for himself in each of the areas listed below. It helped for him to look at each aspect of his life as a spoke in a wheel, with each leading to the hub, which is the heart. To have a balanced life, each spoke needs attention.

  • Career
  • Spirituality
  • Education
  • Recreation
  • Travel
  • Relationships
  • Family
  • Health
  • Financial

As I got to know Oleg better, I’d probe about the important aspects of each spoke—not all in one day, but over time—and ask how much attention he gave to each of them, and what his goals were in each area.

2. Be Specific

“If you aim at nothing, you will hit it every time.” B.J. Marshall

I encouraged Oleg to be specific with his answers. How many of us go into a restaurant and say, “Bring me food?” Instead, we’re very specific, picking what we want from the menu, and sometimes asking for substitutions to what is offered.

Do not just say, “My goal is to be more spiritual.”

  • Be specific.
  • Articulate ways in which you will be more spiritual in the 6 months, in the next year, in the next 5 years.
  • Write down your goal in clear and vivid terms.
  • List the steps needed to get there.

3. Own It

As I talked to Oleg about his goals, I learned that, besides relationships with his family, his goals were to travel and write. He had fallen into a rut in his career at an early age and was now afraid to move away from a secure job and retirement.

At some point, Oleg needed to learn that he was either living his own life or someone else’s dream for him. He was not setting his own course, and it left him empty and unfulfilled in his work and life.

  • Review your list of goals.
  • Write down reasons why your idea or goal will work.
  • Acknowledge issues that will need to be overcome.

4. Start a Life Plan

Never ask, Can I do this? Instead ask, How can I do this?

Living your life on purpose is an intentional act. It requires a simple plan to set your goals in action. Start by answering these questions:

  • Envisioned future – when and how is the goal functioning at it’s best
  • Inspiration – identify scripture, books, poems, speakers and authors from which to draw inspiration
  • Current reality – be honest; where are you in relation to the envisioned future
  • Specific actions needed – list what you will need to do to accomplish your goal

Writing down his goals helped Oleg to gain clarity on what he really wanted to do in life. Once he took ownership of his future, he was able to break it down and follow his True North. As it turned out, Oleg’s higher calling turned out to not be the KGB, and he resigned to begin a new career in writing.

How did you find your True North? What tips can you share about how to live your True North with intention? What can you share about your implementation of a life plan?

Article first published on

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Have You Found Your Purpose in Life?

Sunday, January 15th, 2012

Two Paths Diverged in a wood

Image via Wikipedia

When we were young, the purpose of life was very clear—have fun! We focused on being independent, doing things our own way, seeking adventure, and looking for the best in ourselves and others.

And then we graduated from school, got jobs, and took on adult responsibilities. Suddenly, the purpose of our life had more to do with meeting the expectations of others and less about what we wanted for ourselves.

As a result, we start to live more on the fringes of other people’s lives than in the middle of our own. But here is the thing: when we don’t live life for ourselves, it’s impossible to find fulfillment and purpose.

This is the adventure of life—to find our purpose. At the end of the day, we’re the ones who must take responsibility for the choices in life that we’ve made along the way, so we might as well live it as our best.

A serial number on an offical German personal ...

Image via Wikipedia

Personal Identification

As an FBI agent, I relied upon a suspect’s identification to tell me the basics: name, date of birth, place of employment, and Social Security Account Number. This gave me a legal description of the individual but nothing more. To move into the personal identification, I needed to flesh out the details of the person.

Too many of us live our lives as nothing more than a legal description. We have become part of the gray masses that are indistinguishable from one another. We have not dug down to find our true character, we lack the confidence to reach for the higher goal, and are filled with too much fear to move out of our narrow comfort zone so we can become a bigger person.

Personal identification is a means for each of us to work towards finding our purpose in life. It takes work because we want to create the life we want to live, and not a version of what someone else thinks will work for us.

Over the next few months, I’ll be talking, and writing, more about Personal Identification and will break it down into the development of three areas: professional development, personal achievement, and spiritual growth. We’ll take a look at how to find our purpose in all three areas of life.

Let’s start with professional development.

Who Are You At Work?

Steve Jobs at the WWDC 07

Image via Wikipedia

Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, an the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the way only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. Stay hungry. Stay foolish.”  Steve Jobs

Less than twenty percent of Americans can answer the following questions with any clarity. How would you answer them?

  • What is my job?
  • What about my job really counts?
  • How well am I doing?
  • Is my job an expression of my personal values?
  • Can I list my 5 top personal values?
  • In my job, am I building a life of success, but not of significance?
  • What can I (or my employer) do to help me become more passionate about my current role?
  • Is there another job I’d rather be doing?
  • Why aren’t I doing it?

There is a silent killer that stalks America and it is called “rustout.” It’s actually even scarier than “burnout” because, while burnout can wear down your body, rustout can wipe out your soul and spirit.

“Rustout is the slow death that follows when we stop making the choices that keep life alive. It’s the feeling of numbness that comes from taking the safe way, never accepting new challenges, continually surrendering to the day-to-day routine. Rustout means we are no longer growing, but at best, are simply maintaining. It implies that we have traded the sensation of life for the security of a paycheck . . . Rustout is the opposite of burnout. Burnout is overdoing . . . rustout is underbeing.

Richard Leider and Steve Buchholtz, The Rustout Syndrome

Write down ways you can stretch yourself in the next few months. How well did you answer the work questions with clarity? Which ones were the most difficult? Why? What areas of rustout do you suffer at work?

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