Monthly Archives: March 2013

Player Profile – Mr Scholar

A friend and reader asked me for advice in boosting his schmoozing game. Bro, game isn’t what you do or have, it’s who you are.

LOL. Cheeeeeezy.

So…this guy. Let’s call him the Scholar. He thinks and writes and speaks for a living about heady stuff. Within his organization he is beloved, where he is essentially a co-CEO. Outside, he is struggling to get traction. I think he’d like opportunities to think, write, and speak, for other organizations. To emerge as an industry thought leader.

There’s couple angles to take here. We could look at Framing, Attraction/Connection/Respect, or his Inner Game. In our conversation, I focused on the last one.

I told him to leverage his Masculinity and improve his Positivity.

He’s by all appearances a Macho Macho Man…but he doesn’t own it. So that’s incongruent. People wonder why he looks hard and feels soft. This creates cognitive dissonance. The bad, confusing kind (a solid player will sometimes create cognitive dissonance to his advantage). The result is people feel a bit odd in his presence. That unexplainable odd feeling subconciously pushes them away from him.

Better to own his masculinity.

He’s a big, dark skinned, vaguely-Italian bro with a sick goatee. He could easily pass for a Vato or an Iranian terrorist, depending on his sunglasses choice. As a Scholar, thinking big thoughts, and a man, he sometimes lacks empathy (a nice way of saying he doesn’t always get people). When he inadvertently offends, he should just call it out and move on.

That’s masculine: Honesty.

I gave Mr Scholar a reading assignment, since he likes that stuff: “Iron John” by Robert Bly.

Honesty about who you are, and honesty about what you are about, is very manly, and psychologically healthy. Bly calls it honoring your Inner King:

“The Inner King is the one in us who knows what we want to do for the rest of our lives, or the rest of the month, or the rest of the day. He can make clear what we want without being contaminated in his choice by the opinion of others around us. The Inner King is connected with our fire of purpose and passion.”

The scholar’s worry over his man-bear appearance and his lack of empathy breeds excessive caution and a general neurosis. In other words, negativity.

Now he’s got two strikes. Shame and Negativity.

Addressing the former, will over time, help cure the latter. But Negative Energy flow needs to be neutralized with extreme prejudice. Nothing kills your Schmooze Game more than negative energy.

My Scholar has amazing things to say. He’s one of the smartest, most reflective people I know. I love listening to him talk. But I’ve known him for years. Our bro love runs deep. Casual business acquaintances won’t so easily ignore the slight neurotic undertones.

Noobs, you need to know, nobody cares about your eloquent brilliance if they feel vaguely bad in your presence. Maya Angelou says it very well: “People remember how you make them feel, not what you tell them.”

Or Seneca, a leading Roman Philosopher who also ran the Empire while Nero partied: “Happy the man who improves other people not merely when he is in their presence but even when he is in their thoughts!”

Be that guy.

The Scholar’s desire to be a thought leader in his field could easily lead to over-emphasis on other’s opinions of himself. Better to be “that guy” for himself, for his own improvement. Not to improve his schmooze.

Be congruent with who you are, a positive you with healthy masculinity. Care not what others think, while remaining congruent with yourself and they will ultimately think better of you anyway.

Win Win.

Marcus Aurelius, another leading Roman Philosopher and perhaps Rome’s greatest Caesar at it’s zenith, strongly advises ignoring other’s opinions. Note the following is advice he gave himself in his journal.

“Do not waste the remaining part of your life in thoughts about other people, when you are not thinking in some aspect to the common good. Why deprive yourself of the time for some other task? I mean, thinking about what so-and-so is doing, and why, what he is saying or contemplating or plotting, all that line of thought, makes you stray from the close watch on your own ‘directing mind.’

No, in the sequence of your thoughts you must avoid all that is casual or aimless, and most particularly anything prying or malicious. Train yourself to think only those thoughts such that in answer to the sudden question ‘What is in your mind now?’ you could say with immediate frankness whatever it is, this or that: and so your answer can give direct evidence that all your thoughts are straightforward and kindly, the thoughts of a social being who has no regard for the fancies of pleasure or wider indulgence, for rivalry, malice, suspicion, or anything else that would blush to admit was in one’s mind.”

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Luck = Preparation + Opportunity (and 5 hours of cross country flight tedium)


Luck was sitting a row behind me, Monday, on a transcon flight to DC. Luck’s name shall remain undisclosed, but Mr Luck is the CEO of one of the largest media/entertainment companies in the world. No, really. Like, for reals reals. Ok, fine, I’ll give you a clue. RG3 was on the cover of one of their “products” last year.

Luckily, I have previously made his acquaintance. We exchanged greetings somewhere over the Rockies, chatted for a few minutes, then I let him be about his bizness.

Inspired by the grand 30,000 foot view of our nation’s beauty, I wrote an exec summary of the Offwins Playbook posted in the previous blog for your pleasure. I got done somewhere over Ohio. Or was it Nebraska? The states had all looked the same for a while after the Rockies.

Inspiration struck again, and I decided to email Mr Luck the write up. He bit:

Interesting you write this to me today.

Just last night I was writing one of my key leaders. He was having a
hard time with some tough calls. I explained how path A, being a nice guy
does no one any favors. It just delays the inevitable. And that hard
calls, made when they first arise, are about being the right combo of
tough and winning.

I would argue there is a right way to be tough though. I insist on me or
another top exec responsible and known to visit each location where we cut
a number of staff on a failed project to be there to explain why and to
take Q&A in a direct way. Ducking and hiding is a coward’s way out. Just
one example.

My view is that winning at everyone’s expense usually is a long term
failure in game biz because there are so many critical long term
partnerships. Winning short term while screwing MSFT or Sony might gain
me a $1 now, but cost me $10 later. Winning no matter what, with a long
term view, is what we try to do. Sometimes we lack the courage, but
experience suggests that those that lack the courage for tough calls
usually fail.

Happy to chat but your you seem to have someone napping in 1D.

A couple of my themes appeared to have resonated with him: Nice Guys Suck, Nice Guys Need Courage, Winning Together, Tough Love is the Only True Love.

Unfortunately we were unable to chat, as he references, due to my napping seat partner. That someone happened to be one of my two Cali Senators, Barbara Boxer. While she was nice to me on the flight, her bulldog reputation precedes her. I let that sleeping, ummm, bulldog, lie.

Anyway, Mr Lucky’s people talked to my people, and soon I’ll be meeting with his head of HR, and running a coaching session for his HiPos (High Potential Jr Execs with Upward Mobility Written All Over Them but Need a Lil Extra SumnSumn).

And you, dear readers, be not hearers of my words only but also doers, and you too may one day fly in Row 1 with Senators and CEOs.


Filed under Tough Love

The Playbook – Exec Summary

Winging my way to DC for the week. Beside me slumbers one of my state’s Senators. I’m from Cali; she’s our shorter one.  A row behind me, the CEO of one of the coolest media companies around pecks away at his laptop.

I just sent him the following, an exec summary of the Offense Wins More Championships Playbook. Knowing how sucky Virgin’s internet is, we may land before he gets it. Anyway, I thought you guys might want to see it even though much of it’s redundant from earlier posts here.

Ultimately, the full Playbook will be linked above next to the About tab.

Offense Wins More Championships – A Playbook for Nice Guys Finishing Last in Business

“Let not to get a living be thy trade, but thy sport.” Henry David Thoreau

Nice Guys purportedly finish last. Confused about how the world really works, they muddle along in neurotic misery ultimately taking refuge in moral superiority as a measure of last resort.

Don’t be that guy. Losing the “Right Way” doesn’t help you or your team.

There are four types of players in the corporate world. The Natural Ballers, the Wannabe Ballers, the Benchwarmer Noobs, and the Comfortably Numb. Nice Guys make up the second and third category. Wannabe Ballers who work on their game can actually end up outperforming the Naturals over the long haul. End result: Badass.

Nice Guy Wannabes, this is your Playbook.

The corporate game plays out on three levels. The first two are obvious, well studied, and hyper-competitive. The third is none of those, and where you’ll gain advantage.

G1: The Game itself. Whatever it is that you do and your team does.
G2: Politics. This sucks, and is bad for your soul and your team.
G3: Psychology. The Social Matrix where you and your team can Win Together.

Pop the metaphoric Red Pill and see the Social Matrix that rules existence. Social Dynamics controls the corporate reality, paradoxically, not power or money. Those are merely pocket change. Situational Social Status is the real currency. Attraction, Respect, and Connection – your ignorance costs you. A little knowledge in these areas ups your game considerably.

Nice Guys don’t do well because no one Respects them, and thus people (clients, teammates) are neither Attracted to Nice Guys nor have interest in Connecting with them. Yet Nice Guys spend all their time trying to Connect, and end up bitter and frustrated. This lack of Respect stems from psychological weakness. Easy fix: set strong boundaries and learn Frame Control.

Nice Guys: “We Win Together even at my expense, if necessary.”
Bad Guys: “I win at everybody else’s expense, if necessary.”
Good Guys: “We Win Together, but not at my expense.”
Great Guys: “We Win Together in time for Happy Hour.”

Psychological Strength grows as does Physical Strength: heavy lifting. Men should pursue both. Great Guys throughout space and time have left vast resources. One must merely lift the cover: philosophy, psychology, mythology, religion, neuroscience, physiology, poetry, literature, anthropology, and even the occasional biz leadership book.

Note that Nice Guys are still Guys. Great advantage can be gained by embracing Healthy Masculinity:

Strength – Effective Impact, not False Productivity.
Courage – Risk to Win, Fail to Learn.
Honor – Win Together.
Wisdom – Prudence over Fear.

Every social interaction has a Frame. He who controls the Frame controls the interaction and the outcome. The most common Frame in the corporate world is the Power Frame. Second is the Analytical Frame. Both are mostly worthless. Almost nothing gets done. Thus, endless meetings. Skip all the above.

The Savvy Player always “flips” the Frame to either Intrigue or Bro Frame. His Situational Status pops. He can take the Alpha role. People will follow. The Good and Great Guys use this advantage to lead the team to a win. In particularly tough times, the (functional, positive) Psychopath Frame works. Overtime the Savvy Player’s frame evolves to BadAss Frame.

Once a Wannabe, now a Badass, this Guy’s game finally exceeds the Natural.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. We are American; time to put the work in.

Basic Workout:

Stoicism – Squash your neuroticism , which is highly unattractive. Coaches: a Roman Emperor, a Greek Philosopher.

Outcome Independence – Quit Try-Harding and eliminate your neediness, which is also unattractive and gives others power over you. Coaches: Buddha, Jesus.

Positive Energy Flow – Take captive every negative thought, releasing the nuclear power that is positive human energy. Coaches: Charlie Wilson.

Know Thyself/Be Thyself – Learn your strengths, live and work in them; pop goes your energy, crushing everything and forgetting how to lose. Coaches: General Patton and Gallup.

Stay in the Moment – Anchor the entirety of yourself in this moment with these people…massive Connection and Attraction. Coaches: a kooky German Philosopher and a Persian Poet.

Abundance – Give yourself away and get an infinitude back, lacking nothing, fearless, needless, open. Coaches: Lao-Tzu.

Note: Working out your inner-self as described above is not permission to mis-execute. Keep up with G1 (the Game, noobs): crush your goals, beat the quarter, beat the year, keep the investments and strategy going to own years 2+.

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The Playbook – Inner Game

“The man who acquires the ability to take full possession of his own mind may take possession of anything else to which he is justly entitled.” Andrew Carnegie

You suck (I assume, if you are reading this blog…to fix your suckiness). And that sucks. So let’s quit sucking. Let’s be awesome. It’s much easier than you think. You just need to free your mind and the rest will follow (wealth, fame, glory – though if you follow the following precisely you may end up not wanting these things).

Inner Game – A person’s organization of self. A composition of their values, state of being, human energy, self-perception and -awareness, life philosophy, value set, consciousness, totality of desires, and personal presence.

The ideal inner game state removes negative energy, enhances relationships, and leads to clarity of thought and speedy, effective judgement. Problems begin to solve themselves, people are drawn to your presence. Your calmness, positivity, and self-confidence will lead to a huge status increase. You can trust your instinct, your gut. You become so awesome and effective it’s just not even fair for those other corporate noobs.

Fix your suck:

Step 1. Quiet Down – Stoicism – Nervous energy sucks. Neuroticism sucks. The ancient Greek and Roman Stoic philosophers figured out how to hack their brains. I’ll introduce you to Seneca, Emperor Nero’s right hand man (before he went crazy), who got rich, ran the Unholy Roman Empire, partied like a rock star, and got banished twice for seducing imperial princesses. All while keeping his swag on full with tranquility and joy.

Step 2. Quit Try-harding – Outcome Independence – By wanting anything, like a business goal, you give that thing power over you. Screw that. You are a free man – give nothing power of you. Live like Janis Joplin: “freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose.” This advice works really well with seducing the ladies (in an HR-approved manner of course) as well as baddassing your way to the top. Isolate process from outcome = power.

Step 3. Positive Energy Flow –  Negativity of any kind depletes your vitality, makes you petty. Noobs flailing around in the Game within the Game – Politics – are marked by pettiness, gossip, hate. I know haters gonna hate, but we don’t want to be that. Winning the Game w/in the Game w/in the Game requires pure, unadulterated positivity.

Step 4. Know Thyself/Be Thyself – We are not talking about your sucky self, here, rather your best self. Figure out your strengths, forget about your weakness. Your energy level and work/life satisfaction soars, your “lose” button stops working, you get stuck on “win.”

Step 5. Live in the Moment – Noobs are neurotic basket cases, always fearing the future and fretting the past. Not you, slayer of management objectives. You are in the present, with every neuron, cell and drop of blood, sweat, and testosterone. People feel more alive in your presence, because you are fully “present.”

Step 6. Give It Away Now – Abundance Frame – The Red Hot Chili Peppers were on to something – give energy and value away and it will be returned to you multiplied over.

Notice, nowhere did I say forsake your goals. Nowhere did I say let people walk on you. Nowhere did I say slack off. Nowhere did I say don’t care passionately about your team’s success. Nowhere did I say forget about the long run.

Execute: make the quarter. I work on Wall Street. If you miss the quarter, we collectively execute you (which is the same as crushing your stock if you are a CEO).

Have a Strategy: make the year.  I’m a long term growth investor.  Make the quarter, make the year, while investing for growth in years 2-5.

So the above is a more detailed intro to some of the concepts espoused by the deep thinkers I referenced in the last post. There’s plenty more to come on this. I bring them up now, before fully introducing the entire framework for this corporate Playbook for two reasons. One, I’m bizcoaching some sales guys at a certain LA-based media company soon on this specific agenda. And I wanted to give a preview of how philosophy and psychology can rock the workplace.

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