Be Excellent at Anything: The Four Keys To Transforming the Way We Work and LivePaperback

Be Excellent at Anything: The Four Keys To Transforming the Way We Work and LivePaperback

by Tony Schwartz  (Author) , Jean Gomes (Author) , Catherine McCarthy (Author)

This book was previously titled, The Way We’re Working Isn’t Working.
Be Excellent at Anything is one of those rare books with the power to profoundly transform the way we work and live.
Demand is exceeding our capacity. The ethic of “more, bigger, faster” exacts a series of silent but pernicious costs at work, undermining our energy, focus, creativity, and passion. Nearly 75 percent of employees around the world feel disengaged at work every day. Be Excellent at Anything offers a groundbreaking approach to reenergizing our lives so we’re both more satisfied and more productive—on the job and off. 
By integrating multidisciplinary findings from the science of high performance, Tony Schwartz, coauthor of the #1 bestselling The Power of Full Engagement, makes a persuasive case that we’re neglecting the four core needs that energize great performance: sustainability (physical); security (emotional); self-expression (mental); and significance (spiritual). Rather than running like computers at high speeds for long periods, we’re at our best when we pulse rhythmically between expending and regularly renewing energy across each of our four needs.
Organizations undermine sustainable high performance by forever seeking to get more out of their people. Instead they should seek systematically to meet their four core needs so they’re freed, fueled, and inspired to bring the best of themselves to work every day.
Drawing on extensive work with an extra-ordinary range of organizations, among them Google, Ford, Sony, Ernst & Young, Shell, IBM, the Los Angeles Police Department, and the Cleveland Clinic, Schwartz creates a road map for a new way of working. At the individual level, he explains how we can build specific rituals into our daily schedules to balance intense effort with regular renewal; offset emotionally draining experiences with practices that fuel resilience; move between a narrow focus on urgent demands and more strategic, creative thinking; and balance a short-term focus on immediate results with a values-driven commitment to serving the greater good. At the organizational level, he outlines new policies, practices, and cultural messages that Schwartz’s client companies have adopted.
     Be Excellent at Anything offers individuals, leaders, and organizations a highly practical, proven set of strategies to better manage the relentlessly rising demands we all face in an increasingly complex world.

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Schwartz, CEO of the Energy Project, stretches an obvious thesis to the breaking point in his plaint on how the American workplace—theoretically where technology has allowed us to reach for more, bigger, faster—has bred an atmosphere in which workers have become disengaged from their work. We fail to take care of ourselves, he points out, and end up undermining our health, happiness, and productivity. Using a series of quadrants describing the emotional workings of both employees and companies, he argues that nothing is gained—and much is lost—by constantly pushing people to achieve more and more in less time and with fewer resources; rejuvenation and rest are necessary for creative breakthroughs and broader perspectives. All well and good, but the bulk of the book is then eaten up exhorting readers to get more sleep, exercise, eat better, and take care of their emotional health. While a reminder to cultivate engagement and mindfulness is always relevant to the modern business reader, the usable content is slim—and fluffed out beyond the point of readability. (May)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. –This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

Schwartz coauthored the bestseller The Power of Full Engagement (2003) and is the CEO of The Energy Project, bringing effective energy management coaching to organizations such as Google, Ford, Sony, Toyota, and the Los Angeles Police Department. His project and this book are shedding light on what most working folks know but don’t like to talk about: that most of us are not fully engaged or satisfied in our work environment; that we are constantly running on an unsustainable schedule that does not allow for enough sleep; and in addition to being physically tired, we are not allowed the kind of emotional, creative, and spiritual outlets that we need to be fulfilled. Schwartz notes that people at work are expected to run continuously, like machines, but unlike machines or computers, people do not function well when forced to work and process information on a continual basis, but need a balance of activities that allow for both expending and recovering energy. He proposes solutions for business leaders to maximize human potential by embracing our need for both effort and renewal. –David Siegfried –This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

“Now, more than ever, we need a unified science of energy–what makes us work (and what doesn’t.) [Schwartz] begins to unlock essential insights we’re going to need to get more done and feel better while we’re doing it.”

(Seth Godin, blogger and bestselling author of Linchpin)

“I’ve read dozens of books about leadership and management. What makes this book unique and essential is the integrated and comprehensive way it addresses the challenge of getting the best from people. At Zappos we deeply believe that truly meeting our employees’ needs is what inspires their great performance. [Be Excellent At Anything] lays out a compelling new workplace paradigm and a detailed roadmap for organizations, leaders and individuals seeking to gain true competitive advantage, even as the rules change every day.”

(Tony Hsieh, CEO Zappos.com)

“[Tony Schwartz] is essential reading for anyone who wants a more productive and meaningful life. It’s less a self-help book than a peer-reviewed survival manual for the modern age …[He] provides a road map for how to take back control of our lives from our faster-better-more-techno-merry-go-round culture.”

(Arianna Huffington, The Huffington Post)

“[Schwartz] takes a look at self-destructive behaviors that are common in the workplace, then gives a prescription for correcting each…entirely refreshing.”

(The Wall Street Journal)

“An engaging, thorough, and authoritative manual for optimal performance and for a rewarding life. Tony Schwartz has done it again. A business must read.”

(Daniel Goleman, author of Emotional Intelligence)

About the Author

Tony Schwartz is the founder and president of The Energy Project, a consulting group that works with a number of Fortune 500 companies, including American Express, Credit Suisse, Ford, General Motors, Gillette, Master Card, and Sony.  He was a reporter for the New York Times, an associate editor at Newsweek, and a staff writer for New York Magazine and Esquire and a columnist for Fast Company.  He co-authored the #1 worldwide bestseller The Art of the Deal with Donald Trump, and after that wrote What Really Matters.  He co-authored the #1 New York Times bestseller The Power of Full Engagement with Jim Loehr. Jean Gomes is Managing Director of DPA, a London-based management consultancy specialising in leadership and culture change. For the past 20 years, he has been advising companies like Coca-Cola, Pfizer, Cable & Wireless, Sun Microsystems, Sony, ICL, The Home Office, Nokia and Intel in the US, Japan and Europe. He is also Chairman of The Energy Project Europe. Catherine McCarthy is the former COO of The Energy Project and currently an independent consultant.  At The Energy Project, Catherine delivered keynotes, facilitated training and coached executives at companies such as Google, Sony Pictures Entertainment, Ernst & Young, the Los Angeles Police Department and Goldman Sachs.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

 
More and More,
Less and Less

The way we’re working isn’t working.

The defining ethic in the modern workplace is more, bigger, faster. More information than ever is available to us, and the speed of every transaction has increased exponentially, prompting a sense of permanent urgency and endless distraction. We have more customers and clients to please, more e-mails to answer, more phone calls to return, more tasks to juggle, more meetings to attend, more places to go, and more hours we feel we must work to avoid falling further behind.

The technologies that make instant communication possible anywhere, at any time, speed up decision making, create efficiencies, and fuel a truly global marketplace. But too much of a good thing eventually becomes a bad thing. Left unmanaged and unregulated, these same technologies have the potential to overwhelm us. The relentless urgency that characterizes most corporate cultures undermines creativity, quality, engagement, thoughtful deliberation, and, ultimately, performance.

No matter how much value we produce today—whether it’s measured in dollars or sales or goods or widgets—it’s never enough. We run faster, stretch out our arms further, and stay at work longer and later. We’re so busy trying to keep up that we stop noticing we’re in a Sisyphean race we can never win.

All this furious activity exacts a series of silent costs: less capacity for focused attention, less time for any given task, and less opportunity to think reflectively and long term. When we finally do get home at night, we have less energy for our families, less time to wind down and relax, and fewer hours to sleep. We return to work each morning feeling less rested, less than fully engaged, and less able to focus. It’s a vicious cycle that feeds on itself. Even for those who still manage to perform at high levels, there is a cost in overall satisfaction and fulfillment. The ethic of more, bigger, faster generates value that is narrow, shallow, and short term. More and more, paradoxically, leads to less and less.

The consulting firm Towers Perrin’s most recent global workforce study bears this out. Conducted in 2007–2008, before the worldwide recession, it looked at some 90,000 employees in eighteen countries. Only 20 percent of them felt fully engaged, meaning that they go above and beyond what’s required of them because they have a sense of purpose and passion about what they’re doing. Forty percent were “enrolled,” meaning capable but not fully committed, and 38 percent were disenchanted or disengaged.

All of that translated directly to the bottom line. The companies with the most engaged employees reported a 19 percent increase in operating income and a 28 percent growth in earnings per share. Those with the lowest levels of engagement had a 32 percent decline in operating income, and their earnings dropped more than 11 percent. In the companies with the most engaged employees, 90 percent of the employees had no plans to leave. In those with the least engaged, 50 percent were considering leaving. More than a hundred studies have demonstrated some correlation between employee engagement and business performance.

Think for a moment about your own experience at work.

How truly engaged are you? What’s the cost to you of the way you’re working? What’s the impact on those you supervise and those you love?

What will the accumulated toll be in ten years if you’re still making the same choices?

The way we’re working isn’t working in our own lives, for the people we lead and manage, and for the organizations in which we work. We’re guided by a fatal assumption that the best way to get more done is to work longer and more continuously. But the more hours we work and the longer we go without real renewal, the more we begin to default, reflexively, into behaviors that reduce our own effectiveness— impatience, frustration, distraction, and disengagement—and take a pernicious toll on others.

The real issue is not the number of hours we sit behind a desk but the energy we bring to the work we do and the value we generate as a result. A growing body of research suggests that we’re most productive when we move between periods of high focus and intermittent rest. Instead, we live in a gray zone, constantly juggling activities but rarely fully engaging in any of them—or fully disengaging from any of them. The consequence is that we settle for a pale version of the possible.

How can such a counterproductive way of working persist?

The answer is grounded in a simple assumption, deeply embedded in organizational life and in our own belief systems. It’s that human beings operate most productively in the same one-dimensional way computers do: continuously, at high speeds, for long periods of time, running multiple programs at the same time. Far too many of us have unwittingly bought into this myth, a kind of Stockholm syndrome, dutifully trying to mimic the machines we’re meant to run, so they end up running us.

The limitation of even the highest-end computer is that it inexorably depreciates in value over time. Unlike computers, human beings have the potential to grow and develop, to increase our depth, complexity and capacity over time. To make that possible, we must manage ourselves far more skillfully than we do now.

Our most basic survival need is to spend and renew our energy. We’re hardwired to make waves—to be alert during the day and to sleep at night, and to work at high intensity for limited periods of time—but we lead increasingly linear lives. By putting in long, continuous hours, we expend too much mental and emotional energy without sufficient intermittent renewal. It’s not just rejuvenation we sacrifice along the way but also the unique benefits we can accrue during periods of rest and renewal, including creative breakthroughs, a broader perspective, the opportunity to think more reflectively and long term, and sufficient time to metabolize experiences. Conversely, by living mostly desk-bound sedentary lives, we expend too little physical energy and grow progressively weaker. Inactivity takes a toll not just on our bodies, but also on how we feel and how we think.

THE PERFORMANCE PULSE

In 1993, Anders Ericsson, long a leading researcher in expert performance and a professor at Florida State University, conducted an extraordinary study designed to explore the power of deliberate practice among violinists. Over the years, numerous writers, including Malcolm Gladwell in his best-selling Outliers, have cited Ericsson’s study for its evidence that intrinsic talent may be overvalued. As Gladwell puts it, “People at the very top don’t just work harder, or even much harder than everyone else. They work much, much harder.”

But that conclusion doesn’t begin to capture the complexity of what Ericsson discovered. Along with two colleagues, he divided thirty young violinists at the Music Academy of Berlin into three separate groups, based on ratings from their professors. The “best” group consisted of those destined to eventually become professional soloists. The “good” violinists were those expected to have careers playing as part of orchestras. The third group, recruited from the music education division of the academy, was headed for careers as music teachers. All of them had begun playing violin around the age of eight.

Vast amounts of data were collected on each of the subjects, most notably by having them keep a diary of all their activities, hour by hour, over the course of an entire week. They were also asked to rate each activity on three measures, using a scale of 1 to 10. The first one was how important the activity was to improving their performance on the violin. The second was how difficult they found it to do. The third was how intrinsically enjoyable they found the activity.

The top two groups, both destined for professional careers, turned out to practice an average of twenty-four hours a week. The future music teachers, by contrast, put in just over nine hours, or about a third the amount of time as the top two groups. This difference was undeniably dramatic and does suggest how much practice matters. But equally fascinating was the relationship Ericsson found between intense practice and intermittent rest.

All of the thirty violinists agreed that “practice alone” had the biggest impact on improving their performance. Nearly all of them also agreed that practice was the most difficult activity in their lives and the least enjoyable. The top two groups, who practiced an average of 3.5 hours a day, typically did so in three separate sessions of no more than 90 minutes each, mostly in the mornings, when they were presumably most rested and least distracted. They took renewal breaks between each session. The lowest-rated group practiced an average of just 1.4 hours a day, with no fixed schedule, but often in the afternoons, suggesting that they were often procrastinating.

All three groups rated sleep as the second most important activity when it came to improving as violinists. On average, those in the top two groups slept 8.6 hours a day—nearly an hour longer than those in the music teacher group, who slept an average of 7.8 hours. By contrast, the average American gets just 6.5 hours of sleep a night. The top two groups also took considerably more daytime naps than did the lower-rated group—a total of nearly three hours a week compared to less than one hour a week for the music teachers.

Great performers, Ericsson’s study suggests, work more intensely than most of us do but also recover more deeply. Solo practice undertaken with high concentration is especially exhausting. The best violinists figured out, intuitively, that they generated the highest v…

From AudioFile

Based on solid research presented in the HARVARD BUSINESS REVIEW, this richly textured book argues that we are more productive and feel better about it when we supply four kinds of energy to ourselves–physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual. Our culture and most employers expect us to work continuously with no time to balance effort with renewal, action with reflection, and serving others with caring for ourselves. Tony Schwartz’s measured passion and resonant voice make this audio sound like a polished documentary–engaging, heartfelt, and dense with satisfying intellectual substance. With many attractive suggestions for getting our lives back in balance, the audio strikes the type of humanitarian chord needed to stimulate broad personal change. T.W. © AudioFile 2010, Portland, Maine –This text refers to the Audio CD edition.

 

About bambooinnovator
Kee Koon Boon (“KB”) is the co-founder and director of HERO Investment Management which provides specialized fund management and investment advisory services to the ARCHEA Asia HERO Innovators Fund (www.heroinnovator.com), the only Asian SMID-cap tech-focused fund in the industry. KB is an internationally featured investor rooted in the principles of value investing for over a decade as a fund manager and analyst in the Asian capital markets who started his career at a boutique hedge fund in Singapore where he was with the firm since 2002 and was also part of the core investment committee in significantly outperforming the index in the 10-year-plus-old flagship Asian fund. He was also the portfolio manager for Asia-Pacific equities at Korea’s largest mutual fund company. Prior to setting up the H.E.R.O. Innovators Fund, KB was the Chief Investment Officer & CEO of a Singapore Registered Fund Management Company (RFMC) where he is responsible for listed Asian equity investments. KB had taught accounting at the Singapore Management University (SMU) as a faculty member and also pioneered the 15-week course on Accounting Fraud in Asia as an official module at SMU. KB remains grateful and honored to be invited by Singapore’s financial regulator Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) to present to their top management team about implementing a world’s first fact-based forward-looking fraud detection framework to bring about benefits for the capital markets in Singapore and for the public and investment community. KB also served the community in sharing his insights in writing articles about value investing and corporate governance in the media that include Business Times, Straits Times, Jakarta Post, Manual of Ideas, Investopedia, TedXWallStreet. He had also presented in top investment, banking and finance conferences in America, Italy, Sydney, Cape Town, HK, China. He has trained CEOs, entrepreneurs, CFOs, management executives in business strategy & business model innovation in Singapore, HK and China.

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