Multiply Yourself: 6 ways to improve your life

Imagine doubling your productivity.  Hard to do, especially if you’re like a lot of people — on any given day you feel overworked and yet underutilized. It may seem impossible to believe we can do any more than we’re already doing.

But I’m guessing we can. According to Liz Wiseman, author of Multipliers, businesses can achieve a 2-fold improvement by leveraging their people. Her insights are based on analyzing data from more than 150 leaders.  So, I asked myself: “Why can’t we do that for ourselves?”  If the best leaders make people smarter at work, how can we use these techniques to enrich our own lives? Don’t wait for someone else to do it.  Be your own leader and apply these concepts yourself.

Focus on your strengths and multiply your productivity

1. Be a talent finder — in yourself. How well do you know your talents?  Take the time to research your natural strengths. Find your “native genius,” as Wiseman calls it.   While “genius” may seem a bit grandiose, we all have an area or two where we truly excel.  It’s a skill we find as easy as breathing.  Something we’d do even if we weren’t getting paid, where we easily forget about time because we’re so engrossed.  Often it is something we’re passionate about. Plus, the more we devote time and energy to our talent, the more likely we are to get “extraordinary results from very ordinary people.” It makes sense because the activity is a better match to our natural skills, interests, and abilities.  Identifying talent isn’t a new idea, but how many of us have really taken the time to know ourselves — until there is a crisis.  That’s not always the best time to be open minded about ourselves.  So spend less time trying to shore up minor talents (unless they truly hamper your relationships), and focus on what you’re good at.

2. Find ways to fully utilize your natural strengths. Think about ways you can accelerate your learning cycle.  To spark the learning in you, Wiseman advises the development of an overactive imagination and a serious case of curiosity.  Find ways to create the right environment or mindset.  That way, you’re less likely to hold back because you’re more confident.  As you offer your very best thinking, creativity, and ideas, your intelligence and skill level grows.

3. Remove roadblocks. What’s really getting in the way of your being successful — your happiness?  It is easy to suggest “other people,” when often we’re our own worst enemy.  Which roadblocks apply to you: Time wasters. Overly committed.  Perfectionism.  Constantly shifting priorities.  Second-guessing decisions.  Addicted to the adrenalin rush of crisis.  All too often, reacting seems easier than planning; but the price is lost productivity.  Weisman suggests we tone down our egos.  Forget being a know-it-all and our need to be right. Stop “making a millimeter of progress in a million directions.”  Instead, leverage your actions on what’s most important.

4. Develop success traits. Motivate yourself by investing in your success. Find safe opportunities to test your skills, your ideas, and your learning — and learn quickly.  You’re sure to make mistakes — so having a sense of humor is essential.  A little laughter can go a long way.  Find smart people to learn from and debate your ideas.  As Wiseman says, “listen and ask questions 80% of the time.” Don’t feel you need to have all the answers. Spend time with people who help you become smarter, more capable. When people believe in us and support us, we’re naturally more productive.

5. Commit to working hard. Major achievements never come easy.  But you’ll be doing what you’re best at, so you’ll generally be less stressed and better able to work harder.  You’ll be highly motivated because you’ll be doing something you’re good at, which makes  improving much more likely.   Set your goals high, but give the stress a rest.

6. Believe it is possible. What will it take to ignite a fire within you? What will make you “feel exhilarated, challenged, and gratified?”  What are the first action steps you can take to test it out? Learn enough so that you can believe it just might be possible.  Break down your goal in such a way that you can actually imagine it happening.  Reframe problems as opportunities.  You can’t expect to be as motivated solving an impossible problem as you are creating a compelling opportunity. Wiseman writes about Steven Spielberg’s mindset: “All good ideas start from bad ideas.”  But Spielberg produces so many successful movies because his crew is twice as productive as others, people doing their best work, working together, giving their best.  Of course, you’ll need to anticipate problems, respond and adapt.  Above all, make sure your goal is worthy of all your hard work. Keep track of your progress — and make it visible to yourself and the people you rely on for support.

The cynic in us is quick to discount this theory. Exhausted from long hours at work and managing our complex lives, negativity and pessimism can loom large — killing our own passion. Wiseman calls this a “Diminisher.” It’s bad enough when people around us are motivation killers, but it is far worse when we do it to ourselves.  Under the guise of logic or experience, we think we have the answers.  It’s easy to lose track of how unreasonable we’re being, feeling trapped when there are options for practically all of us.  Both Diminishers and Multipliers have high expectations, but Diminishers get caught up in what they think of as honesty.  Sure, there are real obstacles, but there are real opportunities too. Often the Diminisher acts as a guard for the status quo, feeding complacency or inaction.

Of course, Pollyanna thinking won’t help either.

Smart people examine the facts, know themselves, and confront reality. To give your idea fair consideration, it requires you to think like a Multiplier.  Remove the urge to come to the first conclusion — and actively debate the pros and cons.  Even when the stakes are high, explore ideas with as little stress as you can.  Stay calm — and committed — enough to feel you’ve given it a fair shake.

A recent Twitter quote summarized the dilemma well:

RT @tnvora: There’s a difference between having a vision and suffering from a hallucination. ~Peter Scholtes

I’d say there is a fine line between the two, which requires a combination of facts and intuition. It requires an honest evaluation of your strengths and engaged debate about the possibilities.  Many great things have been accomplished while others thought the people involved were “suffering from a hallucination.”

I’m not suggesting that everything you do will automatically translate into more wealth, fame, and power — but I’d say that if you focus on your strengths and think like a Multiplier, you’re more likely to happier — and therefore more successful too. Given the right circumstances, you can even exceed the 2x multiplier by a long shot — because opportunities create more opportunities.  Or as the old adage says, nothing breeds success like success.

So start thinking about applying your strengths to your dreams:  writing that novel, starting your own business, retiring early, volunteering in Africa…or?

RT @SangyeH: “Like all explorers, we r drawn 2 discover what’s out there w/o knowing yet if we have the courage two face it.” ~Pema Chodron

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