Quests Can Be Massively Transformative. Here’s How To Choose Yours

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“When your desire is not clear nor strong, it cannot take shape. Besides, if your desires are personal, for your own enjoyment, the energy you give them is necessarily limited; it cannot be more than what you have. When you desire the common good, the whole world desires with you. Make humanity’s desire your own and work for it. There you cannot fail.”                         Nisargadatta Maharaj

This quote points to the power of having a quest that is bigger than yourself.

Taking on a quest is a transformative trigger. By doing so you are giving yourself permission to change. Here we look more closely at the nature of quest.

What defines a quest?

It is classically understood to be a journey towards a goal. It is the act of seeking or pursuing something important. In many cultures it is viewed as a long and difficult effort to find or do something.

In contrast to simply living day to day, focusing on a quest changes your perspective: it’s bigger, it’s harder, it’s longer, but doing it packs a punch. In fact, the essence of a quest is change. If a quest doesn’t leave you changed, it’s more a hobby than a quest.

8 common quest characteristics

* What are you ready to own?
A quest is an act. It requires you to step up and own it. You take on the responsibility of doing your utmost to complete the quest.

* What do you already know you have to do?
Determining what quest to embark on may at first seem daunting. Until you realise that it can be influenced by injustices, by inequalities or by the hand fate deals you. In many respects a quest is presented to you, not selected by you.

* What is the difference you can make for others?
A quest is bigger than you. A quest is not about you. It is not about gaining recognition or status. If it doesn’t benefit others, be they a community, a company, a country or even the entire world, then it isn’t a quest. As such a quest benefits the many, even though some or all may never become aware of what was done for them.

* What intention can you crystallize?
A quest can be long, challenging and anything but linear. At any stage you can get sidetracked or lost. It’s imperative that you crystallize out a compelling intention that you can hold onto in order to reinforce your thinking and ensure you stay the distance and complete the quest.

* How can you attract others to your quest team?
the quest does not have to be undertaken alone. Remember that pride has nothing to do with it. At different times on your quest journey you may need different kinds of support. Determine how you can attract the best team around you to help you complete the quest.

* What is your next step?
A quest requires momentum and movement. A quest is completed one step at a time. It cannot be done by not taking action and you need to constantly be putting one foot in front of the other, constantly thinking about the next step.

* Are you ready to take a leap of faith?
Questing is not for the fainthearted. You will be required to take many and myriad leaps of faith on your quest journey. There will be times when you doubt yourself. There will be moments of second-guessing. Fear may be your constant companion. You may want to turn back or find an easier way, but you can overcome these tests on your resolve.

* Are you ready to brave the elements?
Embarking on a quest is filled with uncertainty. As much as you plan, the outcome of a quest can never be known in advance. A quest is an organic journey of exploration. You need to build an understanding deep within you that you are comfortable with whatever happens. Your normal constraints and constructs will get in the way and try to hold you back from making the choices and taking the action that the quest demands of you. You will need to be willing to stride into the center of the field and stand exposed, braving the elements and embracing change.

Come Alive

The EXOscalr Come Alive Program is a 12-month, quest-based coaching program designed to trigger and support clients on their quest journey.

 

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A Unique Opportunity to Experience the EXOscalr Coaching Philosophy

How do you know if transformational coaching is for you? No amount of marketing material can help you make up your mind. It is an intensely personal choice, both for you as client and for your potential coach. There needs to be a meeting of the minds for both of you. The only way to really gauge compatibility is to do a coaching session.

In this spirit, the philosophy we are taking at EXOscalr is to invite interested people to join us for a one on one coaching session. Our premise is that, even if you do not become a member of our Masters Circle we will make a difference in your life and that makes it worth doing.

Visit our page to get more information and click on the call to action if you want to avail yourself of this opportunity.

 

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How to Design Your Life to be Frictionless

Frictionless

No one wants friction in their life. We all want to reduce it. We praise people who choose better business or life partners. We admire people who restrict time wastage and mindfully reduce friction. Yet, somehow, friction manages to sneak into our lives. How do we achieve the life design goal of a frictionless life?

Frictionless design evokes the intuitiveness of the Apple mantra: “it just works.” According to Andreessen Horowitz partner Steven Sinofsky it is about “reducing the energy required by an experience.”

Consider also that frictionless design fits into flow theory. When you reach the point of flow in an activity it becomes frictionless, it just works for you.

Frictionless does not mean simple or minimal. A complicated process may be smooth in its operation. One of life’s greatest joys is losing yourself in the narrative of a good book. Getting the latest novel from your favourite writer used to be a painful experience. You saw the review in the New York Times and then had to wait for your local bookshop to stock the book some months later.

Today you take for granted the process of reading an Amazon-purchased digital book on one of your devices. There is a lot of complexity in the model of delivering a book to your device. Yet it is almost instantaneous. Once you’ve purchased it, you can lose yourself in its pages at any time by opening the Kindle app. The book will synche to the latest page you were on across all your devices.

Think about your life. What barriers and constraints can you deal with and remove to make your life run more smoothly?

Look for activities that frustrate you, that induce rage or that are unnecessarily complex.

There are three friction-prone areas in which to start. These are areas where you can achieve easy wins:

1. Travel
How much travel do you do a year? Do you make the decision to travel lightly? Do you consider alternative ways of connecting and engaging?

One of colleagues is in high demand not only for his work coaching clients one on one, but also as a speaker at various corporate events around the world. He loves giving talks and meeting face to face with his clients, but cannot stand being on the road too often. It cuts deeply into his contemplative time. He could be writing another bestseller that will impact the lives of thousands. Instead he is standing in line at Heathrow Airport security.

I’ve suggested to him that he reduce friction by limiting his travel. This does not mean less client interaction. It means designing his method of interaction around a medium that is better suited to smoothing out his day. Connecting with clients via videoconference can be just as effective as meeting with them face to face.

2. Direct Reports
How many direct reports do you have? I once worked with a CEO who had 12. This is far too many. It is not only too much of a burden on you, but it is also unfair on your team as they each have minimal access to you.

You should have a small team of trusted lieutenants and provide as much autonomy to your broader team as possible. Hire great people and empower them.

3. Meetings
Does your organization run on meeting fuel? Do people need to meet in order for a decision to be made? How many regular meetings do you run, or attend? Do you require an agenda for every meeting? Does the term “meeting” mean a specific algorithm to your people, for example, must a meeting always be an hour (or more) in length? What percentage of your meetings are face to face versus via videoconference?

Creating a Frictionless Design Playbook

I recommend you consider implementing the following 8-step process over the course of a year. Work with your coach to refine this playbook and then discuss your progress in your regular coaching session.

The results will not only please you, but surprise you with how much more productive you become.

1. Categorize and chart your activities;
2. Score your various interactions daily, from 1 to 10 according to how much friction you feel;
3. After a month you should have enough data to determine which are your high friction interactions;
4. Plan out how you can reduce those frictions;
5. Introduce frictionless behaviour modification into your life. Focus on changing your behavior so you reduce the frictions;
6. Chart your interactions for the next 2 months. Pause monthly to review your progress;
7. Rinse and repeat this process over the next 3 quarters;
8. Conduct an annual review of your friction count.

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Does Your Business Have the Capabilities for Achieving Exponential Growth?

Growth
As CEOs and Boards you are faced with an unprecedented level of pressure to achieve growth. Your company needs to stay ahead of increasingly aggressive competition, from other companies in your industry, from outside your industry and even from scrappy startups who define their own playbook.

Growth is not a lever you turn on or off at will. It requires focus, it requires a set of core capabilities that work together as a well-honed scalable operating system. Does your company have such an operating system in place? To achieve the nirvana of hyper-growth, this operating system needs to be working at peak performance capacity. How close is your business to operating at optimal capacity?

THE HYPER-GROWTH CAPABILITY QUIZ

We’ve designed a set of questions that help you uncover whether your business has scale in its DNA, whether it will be constrained by limitations and frictions and whether it has the capability to easily add fuel into its mix.

You can access the quiz via exoscalr.com or directly here.

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Finding Your Soul Work: A Journey from Near Death to Nirvana

EXO1Rewind back to early 2014 and I was enjoying working for the world’s leading research and advisory firm as an executive leadership and innovation analyst. I spent my days flying around the world advising Fortune 500 Boards, CEOs and CxOs on growth, leadership and disruptive innovation.

On a Sunday night, mid-February, I’d prepped for an international flight in the morning and then…I dropped dead from a sudden cardiac arrest. I was able to revive myself, but was in a state of conscious ventricular tachycardia, a severely life threatening condition in which the heart beats at an extremely rapid rate.  I was rushed to hospital and spent several weeks undergoing a number of surgeries and also had a mini stroke, which was terrifying. I’ve detailed my health journey over this time (here and here), but in summary after an initially positive response my health deteriorated from mid 2014 leading to a further operation in December. Since then my health has improved dramatically.

Coming out of hospital for the first time in March 2014, I felt extremely grateful for being alive, for breathing fresh air and I saw the world through fresh eyes. I felt at the time that I had to make use of this opportunity to do something world changing. How could resuming the status quo be sufficient?

As Joseph Campbell puts it, “Only birth can conquer death – the birth, not of the old thing again, but of something new.

But what was it that I would do that was new? As the months passed, I spoke with many people, considered diving into a few opportunities and also went back to my work as an analyst. I realized that I’d been given a very rare second chance at life and to honour that I needed to do more than what I had been doing. I also realised that what I did had to resonate within me, deeply.

Steve Jobs explains this so eloquently, “Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.”

Even though I had some very trying times over the course of 2014, I was enthused by the journey I’d embarked on to search for my soul work, my calling. I came to realise that during my time as a VC and previously as a coach, I found most joy in helping great people transform themselves into being extraordinarily great – asking the right questions, guiding them to make the right decisions and acting as a trusted advisor. In this regard the role of a VC and a coach are very similar. As Roelof Botha of Sequoia Capital points out, the role of a VC is to help entrepreneurs navigate and solve problems on their own, to provide perspective and ask the right questions, and to provide frameworks for decision-making.

And so I’m super excited to announce that I’ve left my high flying analyst role and set up EXOscalr, the elite performance and transformational coaching and advisory firm. Our moonshot is to help create $1 trillion in value over the next ten years while also positively impacting 2 billion people. To achieve this goal we are working with entrepreneurs and leaders who have the capability to build exponentially scalable or exoscale companies, leaders who we can guide through a transformation into elite performers.

I invite you to join me on this journey.

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Achieving Flow In The Face of Near Death: My Recent Experience

Flow

I had one of those major mind focusing events over the past three weeks.

I collapsed on the evening of Sunday, 16th February for 15 seconds and then went into an extraordinary conscious ventricular tachycardia at 200 bpm. The ambulance crew were astounded that I was conscious. The trick was flow – I’ve been a proponent since my youth when I was an elite athlete and serious surfer. I managed to pull myself into the zone and maintained this on the journey to the hospital. En route a code 3 had been called and I was greeted at Royal North Shore Emergency by a crack team of 15 doctors. I was still at 170 bpm and they were literally just about to stop my heart and try to shock me out of the tachycardia, when to their amazement I self reverted down to 70 bpm. I’d like to say it was flow again, but my humility refuses and I dare not say I purposefully did that all myself.

I was very lucky. This conscious VT event took place at home and my quick thinking family called 000 immediately. That morning I’d done a stand up paddling training session alone and in the dark, with no safety devices. And the next morning I was scheduled to fly to New Zealand on business. If this event had happened in the air or out on the water I’d very likely not be having this dialogue.

After a series of extensive tests, the specialists determined the best course of action for me would be the insertion of an implantable cardioverter defribrillator. The plumbing of my heart reflected my super fit status, but for some reason the electrics were out of whack.

I had the device installed on Thursday, and on Friday afternoon I walked out of intensive care for the first time in a week and into a private room for recuperation. I felt like a new man, but this feeling was shortlived. Unfortunately a clot had developed and within fifteen minutes my speech slurred and I lost all feeling on my right hand side. Again I was very lucky, as my wife noticed the signs of a stroke immediately and called the medical staff who jumped into action. It was a very scary feeling and not one I’d like to repeat. Within about 20 minutes I began to get feeling back, again to the amazement and relief of the medical staff and my family. I’d had a mini stroke or transient ischemic attack and the clot had moved through my brain.

I again found myself in Emergency and it was established that while I had about 85% recovered from the stroke there was still a strong possibility of further clots. I was given a thrombolysis – a very powerful procedure that reversed all effects of the stroke and broke up any other clots. This was a very intense six hours as there was the possibility of a haematoma developing on the brain.

I made it through that phase, but a haematoma did develop around my defib wound site. I spent another week in intensive care and returned home on Saturday 1st March. The haematoma developed some complications and a week later I was operated on to drain the site – the fear being infection. I remained in hospital on intravenous antibiotics and was discharged on Monday, 10th March.

All through this experience I was thinking about flow, performance and optimizing human development, aided in part by reading Steven Kotler’s book, The Rise of the SuperMan.

Commenting on my experience, Steve says, “It  did seem like you’ve moved through fight or flight and into flow – a very difficult thing to do, so you have some mad skills!”

This whole episode has got me really thinking hard about what I do with my life once I’ve recuperated. I know I have been given a gift, a second chance, and I also know that I’ve adopted a new mantra, GO BIG.

I’m still working this all through, processing and thinking about what I do next. I’m going to have some interesting conversations over the coming weeks.

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