How can you stand grounded and find meaningful moments in such a rapid, constantly evolving world? Scott O'Neil, author of Be Where Your Feet Are, has a few ideas.
What has the Coronavirus pandemic taught us about living in the moment?
My oft-given challenge to: “Be Where Your Feet Are” became truly substantive and less metaphorical over the past year. You can actually find more authentic joy, inspiration, security, peace, and meaningful human connection when you are restricted to one place. I know there are a lot of terrible things that came out of this, but there have also been so many lessons from this pause. At the time of me typing this, 1 in 1000 Americans have lost their lives to this pandemic...so, yes, appreciating moments and being where your feet are in life really matters because life can be fleeting for those we love. Family dinners matter (and I hadn’t been to too many of those in the last 20 years), and you can engage, even with those teenagers when phones are banned from the kitchen! People are more fragile than their Instagram posts might lead you to believe. We have this incredible opportunity to check in with reconnect with people when they cross our mind, or we think of something that reminds us of someone—reach out just to check in! I learned that when I do something for my mind, something for my body, and something for my soul every day, I am mentally healthier and more apt to help others. I learned the power of gratitude through sitting down with my youngest teenager and hearing about her three-year streak of recording what she was most grateful for each day. Listening to her happy-thoughts clicker each night reminded me that gratitude is the essence of being where your feet are.
If you are committed to leading a present, purposeful and passionate life, then you must confront and change or accept that which you uncover in your self-reflection.
How has the concept of work-life balance evolved, for you, into being where your feet are?
Work-life balance? I don’t see it—it’s a myth at best and a quixotic windmill chase at worst. When you are at work, be at work and be amazing! When you are at home, be at home and be amazing! Does this mean you cannot take a call from your partner or text your kids from work? No, but it does mean that when you do it, you are 100% engaged. The line is becoming thinner and thinner between work and home and we need more discipline, process and focus. The reality is that you have limited windows to engage with your family each day. To stay grounded and thriving in life, you need to know when those times are and dig in, put your phone down, silence your ringer and be where your feet are. And, I have yet to come across anyone in life who has been successful and not had to work hard to get there and stay there...in other words, you need to be there mind, body, and soul.
Why do you suggest creating a prompt to signal a boundary between work and home?
“All Access” is a term we use in the live event industry—an “All Access” tour of the NBA Locker Room, an “All Access” behind-the-scenes video of an NHL Training Camp. Access is the premium, priceless experience that money can’t buy. In the sports industry, access and availability is also a competitive advantage. You learn when to make the deal at midnight right at the trade deadline. Our lives have also become all access as life and work and work and life have merged. It has merged a date night with work and work with a date night. We check our phones in the morning before we brush our teeth. We have phones at dinner, just in case. We need separation and space and it is hard to create. A prompt is your signal to yourself to get in “home mode” so you can be the best version of yourself.
We have this incredible opportunity to check in with reconnect with people when they cross our mind, or we think of something that reminds us of someone—reach out just to check in!
In my office, we have a cell phone table in our conference rooms with sign to drop off your phone when you enter. We prompt each other during meetings, “Scott, I see you looking at your phone during the meeting, are you locked in here?” My wife and I encourage each other and our kids in the same way: “I’ll wait until you’re done texting to finish my story.” I promise, your personal conversations, work projects, and fifth-grader’s math homework will be finished more effectively and more richly when you are wholly present in that moment. And your partners, friends, colleagues and children will have more emotionally satisfying engagements with you. Just like you would turn your light on when entering your home after a busy work day, find something that will help you “flip the switch” and shine the light on where you presence is in those moments of transition, too.
What is your four-part process to help people become more present?
- Find Perspective: We are often the center of our own universe (and the star in our own drama). Approach empathy with discipline. Condition yourself to approach others around you not as “means to an end” but as individuals with goals, challenges and passions of their own. Once you see the world through your commitments to others, your actions, decisions and appreciation for “the moment” will become richer and serve a larger purpose.
- Seek Authentic Feedback: Find the right person to deliver consistent, candid and purposeful feedback in your life. Develop a taste for such input and let it feed your own curiosity about your choices and commitments.
- Cultivate Reflective Strength: The world is loud, filtered and moving too fast. Make time and commit to being still. Allow your mind to center on your commitments and passions; allow your mind to explore new, creative spaces, encourage your mind to feel deep passion, grief, anger, confusion, joy, and more—and share the energy and clarity those emotions bring to all those around you. I promise, your peace will be contagious.
- Live Your Leadership Constitution: By answering the questions below, earnestly, you will be able to identify your truest commitments as a leader, partner and teammate. The answers should become your inner compass that will direct your decision making and treatment of others:
- “I declare that I am...”
- "You can count on me to be...”
Ultimately, a Constitution is not what you strive to be “one day.” It's who you are committed to being in every moment. Write one, display it on your wall, and let it serve as a daily reminder.
Today while working remotely, we need more programming, more thoughtfulness, and more engagement to create connection.
How can employers and employees cultivate a more personal connection even remotely?
It has been fun getting a peek inside the world of executives inside and outside the company...between kids, dogs and some pretty nice kitchens, we have an incredible opportunity to connect with those we work with in the crazy Zoom world we live in today. The one thing I know for sure, is that connection will not happen by chance. Start every meeting with an exercise and end each meeting with an around-the-horn gratitude circle. The exercise can be as simple as telling about a time you accomplished something difficult, sharing a holiday tradition, a favorite pet story, describing your best friend, sharing three things you want to learn outside of work, etc. Today while working remotely, we need more programming, more thoughtfulness, and more engagement to create connection.
How can we prepare our children to thrive in our changing world?
Make sure your children know they are loved. Let them know that they can accomplish anything they set their minds to. Encourage team sports and all the lessons they will learn from them (lead, follow, win, lose, sacrifice, etc.). Introduce people that do not look like you into your child’s life early and often. Reduce screen time. Engage in conversations. Do not be their friend, be their parent...you might be told you are hated, but it is okay, you are doing your job.
What’s the first step anyone could take to start applying your advice tomorrow?
Pick one thing you want to engage in and decide it matters. Write it down. Act. The journey to discovering and finding peace with your authentic self and your most fulfilling commitments is a hard, rich and enlightening one. But if you are committed to leading a present, purposeful and passionate life, then you must confront and change or accept that which you uncover in your self-reflection. (Some part of that is also how you “show up” to those around you.) Once you have these rich learnings, own them, declare them, act on them (and bring others along!). When your purpose is present with you continuously; you will be present continuously. And “Being Where Your Feet Are” will lead to richer personal relationships, more effective and focused work production, and more fulfilling and spiritual moments of gratitude and appreciation for this gift—and opportunity—that is your life. Don’t waste a possession.