Prepping Your Star Player

Here we go again, Inner Game for Geeks.  Tonight, I coach seven start-up execs.  Its the usual Psychological Strength stuff, detailed below.  I’ve re-arranged the six step order, added some snarkiness, and polished the prose.  Also, note the hyperlinks to added content.  Also, note that the Tech Accelerator I’m working with chose the title.  All start-ups aim for a billion dollars, I guess.  I’ll support that goal as long as I get free rides on their Gulfstream when one of them makes it.  Of course I believe the best way to attain wealth is to be your (best) self then ignore wealth assuming wealth will find you.  But that’s for a different post.

Introductory Preamble:

Greetings, Geeks.  My name is RG3 and I want you to be rich and happy and successful.  The three rarely go together, so listen up. 

Biz is a game.  But before you even get on the field, you got to take care of your Star Player – Yourself.  We call that Inner Game.  Its all about boosting your Psychological Strength.  That’s what we are talking about today (below).  Once your Star Player steps on the field, we get into Outer Game – Social Dynamics.  Those ideas will have to wait for another day.  A quick preview of Outer Game:  Frame Control, Attraction/Connection/Respect, Calibration, etc.  Lastly, there’s a few other elements of Inner Game you can explore at your liesure, like Healthy Masculinity, Functional Psychopathy, Congruency, and Nice Guy vs Good Guy

/comment  Normally at this point, I’d launch into the 4 types of Players, Which Type Are You discussion (Naturals, Wannabes, Noobs, and Numbs) but these are start-up Geeks, a special breed.  Those categories apply more to large organizations.  Noobs and Numbs don’t last ten mins in the Start-Up Game.  /comment

So, Geeks, we are about to get philosophical and literary and whatnot, to help you level up.  But real quick, I need to you pop this Red Pill for me, and embrace Paradox.  For instance, I’m about to tell you  that you will more easily and successfully achieve your goals if you quit caring about your goals.  That makes no sense.  Paradox. 

Alright.  Let’s huddle up and get started.  Dominate on 3.  





 “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

 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 judgment.  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 and your team will have an aura of difference about you.  Investors always value team first.  This “aura of difference” can lead directly to more investors meetings, smoother engagements, and potentially higher funding levels.  This can be especially true for video game start-ups where management  teams are notorious for being passionate but immature.  

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

 Step 1 – Quiet Down- Stoicism  –  Nervous energy sucks. Neuroticism sucks. The ancient Greek and Roman Stoic philosophers figured out how to hack their brains.  Consider 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.  Stoicism is a school of Greek philosophy that holds that poor decision-making results from the presence of destructive emotions.  Makes you immune to emotional manipulation and “shiny object” syndrome. Dave McClure, self-professed High Priest of Start-Ups, posits that VC’s screen for management teams with “balls of steel.”  Stoicism gets you pretty close:

 “And if you come across a man who is never alarmed by dangers, never affected by cravings, happy in adversity, calm in the midst of storm, viewing mankind from a higher level and the gods from their own, is it not likely that a feeling will find its way into you of veneration for him?”  Seneca

 –  Balance – Von Clausewitz – “The ability to keep one’s head at times of exceptional stress and violence…balance the strong feelings in one’s characters without destroying them…strong character is one that will not be unbalanced by the most powerful emotions.”

–  Melville – “The invulnerable jollity of indifference”

–  Differentiation of Self – one’s own value not tied to another’s mood or judgment.  Take responsibility for your own emotions and manage them without placing blame.  No one can “make you feel” any way other than how you choose to feel.

–  Neuroscience – The forebrain has been scientifically proven to be capable of overriding hindbrain reactionary instincts and limbic emotional reactions (similar to explaining the physics of flight to yourself so you aren’t scared on a 747 flight).  Do so, often.  

 “The man who looks for the morrow without worrying over it knows a peaceful independence and a  happiness beyond all others.”  Seneca

 Step 2 –  Quit Try-Harding – Outcome Independence 

“You got to know when to hold em/know when to fold em/know when to walk away/and know when to run.

You never count your money/when you’re sittin at the table.”  The Gambler by Kenny Rogers

 By wanting anything, like a business goal, you give that thing power over you. Screw that. You are free– 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.  In other words, Buddhism for business.  Remove all desires from yourself.  A mindset that does not focus on a specific results in the moment while still maintaining a sound longer term strategy and goals.  


–  Strong Defense – You become immune to manipulation, high pressure deal tactics, etc.

–  Peacefulness – Removes yourself from the immediate chaos by disconnecting your ultimate goals from the activity in the moment.  Makes you more effective in the moment.  

–  Separates your identity and self-esteem from immediate outcomes.  Helps you own the frame.  

–  Shields you from disappointment of momentary failures and setbacks, giving you consistently higher energy levels and psychological strength.

–  Makes walking away from uncertain, risky, and negative situations much easier.

 Step 3 –  Positive Energy Flow

 “People remember how you make them feel, not what you tell them.”  Maya Angelou

 Negativity of any kind depletes your vitality, makes you petty. Noobs failing at the game of business 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:  Cali surfer style, “it’s all good, no worries, brah!”  What the kid’s call “chill,” which is good, versus “intense,” which is bad.  Eliminating negative energy from your life has so many benefits in promoting overall physical and emotional health, making you more attractive to other people.  It’s a multi-step process:  first clear yourself of all sources of negative energy, then develop a daily habit of keeping  negativity out.  It requires you to fully accept yourself and others around you, to release all bitterness, fear, and judgment, to forgive all those that have wronged you, including yourself and living a non-judgmental life.  St Paul has a couple things to say here.  First, he encourages us to “forget what is behind and press on towards what is ahead.”  Second, to “take captive every thought.”  To fully release themselves from the past, men need to have made peace with their fathers.  Women, to live in full positivity, need to be at harmony in their closest intimate relationships.

       “We are shaped by our thoughts. We become what we think” The Buddha

 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.”

True power comes from humility.  The Buddha and The Christ, among many other  spiritual leaders teach this.  “The meek shall inherit the earth.”  Humility means realizing the best you you  can be is you, the you that encases the unique divine spark imputed in you upon creation.  Do not idolize your heroes.  You are you; attempts to be them will only meet failure and erode your energy.  Steve Jobs is dead;  Zuck and Pincus are discredited, 99.9% of the wunderkinds from the last bubble are gone.  Emulate their best traits, to the extent they match your strengths, but do not worship them.  Also, your venture should be as much about self-discovery as getting rich.  In that way, you will emerge wealthier even if you go bankrupt.   And always be Congruent with who you are, even as you work through all this material and other leadership philosophy.

 –  Lead From Your Strengths  – Identify your organizational strengths, specialize in those, release yourself from all other responsibilities as soon as possible.  Do only what only you can do.  Don’t think you can do everything.  Specializing in your strengths will release higher energy levels and effectiveness.  You don’t have time in a start-up situation to grind out improvements in your areas of weakness (highly highly recommend spending 30 mins working through   

–  Lead From Your Values – Become an authentic leader by boldly living out your personal values in the workplace, in a way that drives your team’s success.  A far less tricky proposition than you would think.  Authentic Leadership inspires immense trust, turning teammates into comrades-in-arms willing to fight and bleed for one another.  Bury My Heart in Conference Room B

–  Team – Always be open to a team member being better than you at something.  Delegate immediately if possible.  

–  Pride/Ego – Is the root of all sorts of evil (aka suboptimal management and leadership).  Let go of yourself.  This isn’t about you.  it’s about a vision, an adventure, your team, not your own glory.  

Step 5 – Stay 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 (or the female equivalent thereof). People feel more alive in your presence, because you are fully “present.”   A concept developed by the stoics, and recently plagiarized by a goofy German philosopher named Eckhart Tolle.  The idea is to improve clarity of thought by centering your consciousness in whatever moment you are in (meeting, dream session, hot date, tennis match).  Your senses and emotional sensitivity are thus heightened.  

 “Anxiety is…due to projecting our thoughts far ahead of us instead of adapting ourselves to the present.”  Seneca

 –  “We must learn to reawaken and keep ourselves awake, not by mechanical aids, but by an infinite expectation of the dawn…to live deliberately.”  Thoreau

–  Don’t “project,” rather see what is actually there, not what you think, believe, or hope should be there.  

–  Practice self-awareness and other-awareness – you aren’t in the moment unless you can identify all parties’ subtexts, what the frame is, who has frame control, and what the competing frames are.  

–  In a meeting, be only in that meeting.  Don’t think about last meeting, don’t think about next meeting, don’t think about strategy, or goal setting, or milestones, or budgets.  Think only of that meeting’s goals and participants.  Forget that time exists.


 –  Enables deeper, easier connections with people:  enhanced networking, team leadership.  

–  Reduces emotional volatility.  Forces you to leave negative emotions at the door.  

–  Draws meeting participants into your frame.  

 “Be happy for this moment.  This moment is your life.”  Khayyam

 Step 6 — Give It Away Now –  Abundance Frame

 “To affect the quality of the day, that is the highest of arts.”  Thoreau

 An attitude for engaging people in social/biz situations where you presume you have value to share for all parties, confident that all outcomes where you are involved will provide value increase for everyone.  You approach each person eagerly anticipating that you will leave them in a higher energy state than you found them.  Network according to the Golden Rule:  seek to give, not to get.  Assume the “ whole” of business and networking relationships is always more than the “sum of the individuals.”

 “A generous man prospers.” Proverbs 11:25

 “Happy the man who improves other people not merely when he is in their presence but even when he is in their thoughts!”  Seneca


–  Networking:  Your network will grow exponentially faster, and generate much more value for you.  

–  People will seek you out, you will be included, invited more often.

–  Problem Solving:  “The universe will provide.”  Solutions hunt your problems down.

–  Investor Meetings: Eliminates neediness, which comes across as weakness.  Enables you to flip the script from prey to prize.  Also stimulates intrigue.

 Conclusion (errrr, Payoff) – Judgment – Embracing the six principles above frees your instinct and subconscious, which is far wiser than you can imagine, to guide you while leaving your conscious free to stay in the moment and fully engage people making you an inspirational leader worthy of human and financial investment.   

 “If one listens to the faintest but constant suggestions of his genius, which are certainly true, this is where his road lies.”  Thoreau

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Playing Defense: Pride versus Ego


When it comes to playing Defense, the opponent is yourself.  Here, paradox pops up again.  As it will, endlessly, in the tussle to win bizness victories.  Paradox:  have pride with no ego.

Pride gives strength;  ego, weakness.

Pride relates to self-perception.  Ego relates to others’ perception of you.

Pride walks; ego talks.

More paradox.  Winning biz championships requires mastering the social game.  It would seem, then, that we must care about what others think of us, as ego compels.  The truth, and paradox, is, the more we care about ourselves, and the less we care about others’ opinions of ourselves, the stronger our social status.  And elevating our situational status puts points on the board.

Pride truly motivates the player to up his or her game:  personal appearance, physical health, intellectual depth, charisma, charm, positivity, etc.  All steps Wannabes must take to escape the apathy of noobism.  Ego motivates the player to explain to others, errrrrrr, brag, how he is not a Noob or Wannabe but a true Boss.  Bragging grosses people out and has the (paradoxical) effect of lowering status in a lame attempt to elevate status.

I exploit ego weakness mercilessly.  Upwardly mobile execs display this weakness the most.  They’ve experienced some success.  Their career trajectory has inflected and is accelerating.  Adrenaline flows through their workday.  They feel they are winning the game.  They are little bosses projecting themselves forward into the Big Boss they are 100% confident they know they will become.

I roll into happy hour.  There he is, posted up at the St Regis bar, spitting at some hotties.  Its an industry trade show. Competitive spirits are juiced.  Drinks are poured, the conversational volume steadily rising.  I’m introduced:  strong eye contact, medium-strong handshake, biz card exchanged, I’m oozing warmth and happy-to-be-thereness.   Crack a joke or two, tease the attractive gal, she giggles, quickly find common ground while subtlety shifting into the Alpha position (back to the bar, leaning away, completely relaxed), offer a mild compliment.  Rapport fully established in three minutes, with a base of social strength under my feet, it’s time to dance.

My opponent subconsciously begins straining to keep his place in the shifting social hierarchy.  I”m rising, he’s stable, he likes me, but feels the widening gap even though he couldn’t explain it.

Another two minutes of convo, and I’ve demonstrated deep industry knowledge.  I make an off-handed comment showing my personal connections at higher industry levels than him.  All in the spirit comparing notes, talking shop, industry gossip, all very friendly.

Suddenly, I flip the script.  I directly challenge him and his division’s performance, and his company’s strategy.  Surprised by the sudden turn, he’s instantly put on the defensive.  He has no time to intellectually adjust, he merely reacts.   Let the bragging begin.

I’ve set him up.  He’s charmed, and startled, and feels instinctively compelled to explain to me how I’m wrong.  He feels the need to prove himself, since I appear to have higher status.   He brags up and down about his new products, new marketing tactics, new management techniques, blah blah blah, you go Mr Harvard MBA.  I look unconvinced.  He gets frustrated, tries harder.  Offers more evidence:  their next big thing, why nobody understands the brilliance they are about to shine.

I’m a complete stranger.  Why is it necessary that he prove himself to me? His ego, pricked by a situational social status wind-sheer, betrays him.  He just gave me his playbook. Unreal.

Now these junior exec guys don’t know enough to get anybody in real trouble;  they don’t hold the secrets that determine stock movements or anything like that.  But before they rise to the C-suites at the big game, they must be broken of ego.  A Boss can never talk freely.  That’s why he has IR, PR, and Corp Comm handlers.  They craft the bragging message for him or her.  So that it becomes the company messaging, not boss bragging.

Back to pride.

Pride drives excellence when no one is looking.  You are your only spectator.  You can’t lie to yourself, yourself knows you are bag of worthless noobsauce.  Pride makes you take steps forward to better yourself, for yourself.   And climbing from Wannabe to Boss Baller takes lots of steps.  Pride kills apathy.

John Steinbeck wonderfully captures this in his book Cannery Row (actual cannery pic above taken from my kayak in Monterey Bay).  The boys (Mack, Hazel, Eddie, Hughie, and Jones) move into their new pad, the Palace Flophouse.  Its an empty shack not fit for a animals.

“The Palace Flophouse was no sudden development…only a long bare room, lit dimly by two small windows, walled with unpainted wood smelling strongly of fish meal.  They had not loved it then.  Their eyes became outraged by the bare board walls.”

Then they paint the door.

“The apathy was broken then.  The boys outdid one another in beautifying the Palace Flophouse until after a few months it was, if anything, overfurnished.  With pride, the Palace became a home.”

Paint the door:  a metaphor for getting started on fixing yourself up.  Do one thing, taking pride in yourself, to better yourself.  Only for yourself, though, which brings strength, and not for the sake of others.  You cannot be motivated to lift, run, read, converse, grow, by the compliments of others.  Those compliments will come too infrequently, and make you needy.  Neediness disgusts people.

Every time you walk through your newly painted door, you will be visibly reminded that you are about your business of upping your game, errrrrrrrrday.

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Reviewing Other Playbooks – Bury My Heart at Conf Room B

Go forth, lead, live, authentically being your best self, and you will kick ass.

Sounds good. Let’s do it. Ready, break.

Then the book gets lost in a 5 step plan with 4-6 substeps each across multiple scenarios. Damn. Better hire McKinsey to help with the implementation. But then a storm of 28 year old MBAs telling you what you already know is rather unpleasant.

That’s a little unfair, but the whole simple methodology thing is an fatal flaw in most red and white covered biz books (thanks to Stan Slap for at least going with Black and Red). So before I carry on with my bitching, let me tell you about Room B’s premise. And I happen to whole-heartedly agree with it, bee dubs (for noobs and corporate stiffs, bee dubs is colloquial for BTW, as in Bee Tee Dub, the phonetics for BTW, which is texting short hand for By The Way – your welcome).

Premise: integrate your personal values into your workday life and you will become a more inspiring, effective leader. You will find your work and life better balanced. You will feel good about yourself. Higher innate passion and energy will drive you and your team to what the author calls the “Better Place.” Which helps you get out of the “Bitter Place.” Implied in the Better Place is crushing every quarter, slamming competitors gracefully, and Winning Togetherness.

If I could condense the book: Lead with your authentic, true self, driving forward with your unique personal values, while clearly envisioning your team with where you are going and how you are getting there.

So a book in three parts: find yourself, be yourself corporately, then envision your peeps. Then pop the champ and get your ring.

Conf Room B has extremely practical action steps for each phase. Its definitely a “how-to” book. That is its strength and its weakness.

Find yourself is not quite the simple half day task outlined early on. The author gives a list of 30 values to pick from. You quickly narrow that down to three. A brief exploration of how you got those values, and poof, self is found. No need to read Thoreau, Nietzsche, or your favorite religious or anti-religious authors.

From there, he wants you to stage a 20-minute launch event with your team. You explain your values, that you will begin authentically living them and leading with and through them, taking your team from the Bitter Place to the Better Place.

Good luck with that. If I were on your team I’d be LMAO’ing for days. Cheeeeeeeeeez.

But I see his point, from one perspective. You can’t sell your exec coaching services to a big enterprise unless you can offer a relatively instantaneous implementation plan.  Corporate Bosses are about Action and Results and Dynamic Change; not personal evolution.

Imagine this pitch to the SVP of HR: I will lead your most promising high potentials on a one year journey of self discovery, followed by a one to three year implementation phase. I then promise immense ROIC on my services in year five.

Haha, get real. Like not never.

But that’s the real real. Caterpillars may metamorphise (sp?) into beautiful butterflies overnight; managers into philosopher king leaders overnight, not so much.

Let’s step into the Real Talk Zone for a moment, noobs.

Here’s your average American’s value set: Comfort, Pleasure, Incremental Advancement (thanks, Consumer Capitalism Culture). I see it everyday in my own life, my own team, my own organization, and the firms I invest in. I do know some rock stars though, real corporate bad asses. Some of them are the best executives in the world. Some of them are start-up heroes. But they are maniacal psychopaths. No work/life balance for them. But that’s a topic for a different post.

The author brings in neuroscience for a brief moment. This is all the rage right now. Guys if you can just up your Testosterone (hit the weight pile, rookies) and Gals, your Oxytocin, or is it Oxycontin, I forget. Anyway, he asserts that failing to honestly live out your values at work will inherently cause dissatisfaction. You will generate too much adrenaline and cortisone. Next is burn out, passionless management instead of passionate leadership, ultimately leading to physical and mental health problems. Complete agreement here. Unfortunately, Slap (seriously, the guy’s name; Mom, Dad, really?), doesn’t further explore the brain chemical side of our existence any further. Just figure out your values and all your mental problems will be solved.

I actually agree with that last statement. That’s the whole point of OffWins: psychological strength leads to wins.

Remember the last point of our Psychological Weight Lifting plan: Find Thyself, Be Thyself. As biz bosses we want immediate results. Thus, I advocate the StrengthFinders thingy. Its quick, like 30 minutes, and starts helping you immediately. Over the medium term, you should read this blog. Over the longer term, you should grapple with life’s existential questions directly for yourself: Origin, Ethics, Meaning, and Destiny. Reading the thoughts of the greatest thinkers who have ever lived will help. But we’re biz bosses so we don’t really have time for Plato and Tolstoy. So I’ll read that stuff and blog it for you so you can skip step three until retirement, if necessary.

Value-finding, as advocated by Room B, is probably adequate as a substitute for Strength-finding. I actually think latter is superior, but its probably not a big deal. Superior because “Strengths” sounds more businessy than “Values.” Strengths are easier to discuss without cheez than Values. And lastly, the StrengthFinder stuff can be adopted by both Bosses and Minions (I make my team do it so I can better manipulate, errrr, manage them). Room B seems to focus only on the Boss: find and live and lead your values and they will follow, instead of helping them win by finding their own values.

Finally, the book suffers from grandeur – it proposes to be the only book on leadership you will ever need. It does this implicitly, by leaving out its sources, or describing how it fits into a broader journey of self-discovery. The Tibetan Monks would be seriously pissed off if they knew. But they are too busy living in the moment to be bothered.

So in summary, Room B fits nicely into the Playbook, but is not a complete playbook in and of itself. For our purposes, it helps with the grand task of learning how to live better in the workplace and be more effective as an intended consequence. I think I shall add it as a secondary reading rec in the Find Thyself/Be Thyself section.

Thanks, Electronic Arts for the book rec. And EA, noobs, bosses, players, and wannabes, is not the worst company in Murica. Proof: the last two Call of Dutys (an Activision game – EA’s primary competitor) failed to work properly on my uber high end Alienware and Razer gaming laptops, whereas Battlefield 3 worked perf. So GTFO with that worst company non-sense.

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Player Profile – Saint Paul and What Psychopathy Can Do For You

I just returned from my weekly classical literature discussion group.  There, I posited that Saint Paul was a psychopath.  It seemed timely since Easter was only a couple days ago.  And behold, there was much push back.

Given that I have a blog or three, and the other guys don’t, I get the last word.

Psychopaths get a bad rap.  Of course, part of it is the name.  The word Psychopath rings darkly in the ears.  Perhaps a re-branding?   Summon the consultants…

Many of my personal heroes were functional psychopaths:  Patton, Churchill, Charlie Wilson.  Who else?  Astronauts score high on psychopathy tests, along with successful business execs, accomplished surgeons, great politicians (can’t think of any living politicians that fit that description), bomb disposal experts, SEALs, hedge fund tradres, and so on.

Most people think only of Killer Psychopaths.  Academic research reveals that the vast majority of psychopaths are socially functional like those above.  Their mental sharpness, charm, and lack of fear actually enable them to be outperformers in the cultural chaos that is the modern, secular, frenetically paced world.

The Persian poet Rumi claimed that “anyone who is calm and sensible is insane.”  Perhaps then, the socially functional psychopath is actually more sane than the average (boring, rule abiding, non-threatening, beta, risk averse) good citizen.

Manie sans delire,” or “mad without being mad,” as the Frogs say.

Let us consider all the admirable qualities of psychopaths.

They care not what others think of them.   Marked by  “shrewdness and agility of mind, they talk entertainingly and possess extraordinary charm.”  How about mental toughness, charisma, focus, persuasiveness, coolness under pressure, and “other such qualities that separate the men/women from the boys/girls.”  Foregoing emotional hangovers.  Stoicism, the ability to regulate emotion, to live in the moment, an altered state of awareness, to be heroic and selectively empathetic…

It might be said that psychopaths are marked by a lack of neurosis, that plague on today’s overstimulated consumer capitalists society, thus making them healthier than the average population.

What is functional psychopathy? Fair question.  Perhaps it can be defined as Fearlessness Minus Bad Decision Making Calibrated for the Social/Moral Context.  For our bizness purposes, that would be the We Win Together thing.  Since we are fellow travelers on this journey to business nirvana, we should consider a commonality shared by psychopathy and spiritual enlightenment:  “anchoring your thoughts unswervingly in the present, focusing exclusively, immediately, on the here and now, as a cognitive discipline.”

Now let’s get back to Saint Paul:  he sanctioned the death of an untold number of good, simple religious folk after their leader had been publicly executed.  In today’s world he’d be tried for genocide under the Geneva Convention.  To his ruthlessness, after seeing a light and hearing a voice, he added fearlessness, focus, drive, and charisma.  For the sake of the executed leader, he endured three ship-wrecks, 24 hours adrift at sea, multiple imprisonments totaling six years jail time, was brutally flogged many times including three times to 40-1 lashes, the max allowable to a Roman citizen, beaten by rods three times, and once stoned by a hysterical crowd and left for dead.  He confronts his new religion’s primary leader, Saint Peter, directly, calling him a hypocrite, which one academic characterizes as a “total failure of political bravado and Paul soon left Antioch as a persona non grata never to return again.”

Of course Paul did author several hundred pages of the best selling book of all time (the Bible), took his religion to Rome where eventually one of the Roman Emperors adopted it and the rest of Western Civ is History.  A functional, effective psychopath indeed.

What does this all have to do with Nice Guys trying to not finish last at the corporate game?  Well, you need an edge.  Maybe a little functional psychopathy in your life can help:

Leadership Traits as the Flip Side of the Psychopathic Coin:

Charismatic/Superficially Charming


Ability to Influence/Manipulation

Persuasive/Con Artistry

Visionary Thinking/Fabrication of Intricate Stories

Ability to Take Risks/Impulsivity

Action Oriented/Thrill Seeking

Ability to Make Hard Decisions/Emotional Poverty


Wrapping this up, the Brits did a country-wide survey of their workforce called the Great British Psychopathic Survey (no really, not making this up).  Those scoring high on the scale were, in order:  CEOs, Lawyers, Media personalities, Salespeople, Surgeons, Journalists, Police Officers, Clergy, Chefs, and Civil Servants.

Low on the scale were Care Aides (low paid nurse), Nurses (higher paid nurse), Therapists, Craftspeople, Stylists, Charity Workers, Teachers, Creative Artists, Doctors, and Accountants.

What’s your ambition?






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Real Players are Congruent and Calibrated

Congruent and Calibrated

Two of my favorite words.  You should sprinkle them liberally in your conversations.  These two words make you sound really smart, and no one really knows what they mean so they can’t argue with you.

But seriously, Congruent and Calibrated should never leave your side.  In any endeavor, but especially leadership.

In all situations, be Congruent with yourself.  With all people, without losing that congruency, be Calibrated to who they are.

Let’s apply this concept right now, right here, to you.  This is a self-help blog.  You are here to help your self.  That implies that you think your self could use some improvement.  Cool.  Nobody’s perfect though Lebron lately has been close on the basketball court.  So you are reading all this social dynamics stuff, you want get in the game and try it out.  There’s a temptation to fake it til you make it.  Which I whole-heartedly endorse.  But in faking it, you might also be tempted to fake your self.  Like, lose your core identity in a vague effort to grab some situational status.

I/we are not about that here.

Harken back to the Psychological weight-lifting we were doing a few posts ago:  Know Thyself/Be Thyself.  I forget, I think that was item number five or six, though the order is not too relevant.  Psychological Strength grows from being thyself, and being true to thyself.  If this were a rap song, we’d call it keeping it real.  Like really real, not fake real.  Fake real sucks.

Congruency with yourself is not optional.  To succeed at the highest levels of leadership, you need authenticity.  You are asking people to follow you, to believe in you, to go to war for you, to take a bullet for you, to bleed for you.  Formulaic, robotic, textbooky leadership will not inspire this level of commitment.  Neither will showmanship.  Any hint of fakeness, of hollow rhetoric, of gimmick, and you lose your power to inspire and lead.  So think on all these concepts we discuss on offwins, and all the other red and white covered biz books collecting dust on yourself, and try them out, but don’t try to become someone else in the process.

Some organizations call this “Authentic Leadership.”  Others call it “Value-based Leadership.”  I call it Congruency cuz Congruency just sounds so much cooler than that other stuff.

Calibration with others is not optional.

Bizness is about relationships.  Connection with others starts with Acknowledging them as a person.  As in they have value merely by existing and being a unique person.  This concept indwells many psychological, philosophical, and religious systems of thought.  It forms the basis of Christian thought and Stoic philosophy, among others.  The next step would be Acceptance.  Last, if you want to really connect with them, you have to find something in them you can Affirm.

That’s hard.  You have to take your eyes off yourself and really see the person there in front of you.  Their story, their values, their humanness (whatever the hell that means), the divine spark in them that the ancient Greek philosophers referred to (of course, if its guy to guy, you can also just talk about sports, too, but that lacks true substance).  Lacking this depth, and your networking merely becomes a business card exchange ritual.

Acknowledge-Accept-Affirm.  Those Greeks I mentioned, like Plato, Aristotle, and Socrates, upon which all of Western Civ is built, besides boring you to death in your HS Latin class, called this “Philea.”  This is one of the four classical forms of love, the others being “Agape,” “Storge,” and “Eros.”  The latter being the type of love advertisers mercilessly exploit to sell us stuff we don’t need.

A quick glance at Wiki:  “Philia (φιλία philía[3]) means affectionate regard or friendship in both ancient and modern Greek. It is a dispassionate virtuous love, a concept developed by Aristotle. It includes loyalty to friends, family, and community, and requires virtue, equality and familiarity.”



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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