Medium 9781605090009

Be the Hero: Three Powerful Ways to Overcome Challenges in Work and Life

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"At times we all feel frustrated, stressed, or out of control. What if you could be at your best when your challenges are on the rise? Well, you can. Be the Hero introduces us to the way of the “Everyday Hero” and shows how to turn self-defeating thoughts and behaviors into heroic actions.

All day long, without even realizing it, we tell ourselves dozens of stories—about other people, our situations, and ourselves—stories that shape our emotions and behavior. These stories are so powerful, they make us think and act like either a hero or a victim. Be the Hero shows you how to choose the stories that lead to personal and professional success.

In the tradition of the best storytellers, Noah Blumenthal weaves a tale of a young professional’s journey from victim to hero, one that is both captivating and profound. The powerful resources at the end of the book, including a hero tip of the week, smart cards, manager tip sheets, and more, will help you make your hero stories stick
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Challenges of Work and Life

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Jeff was in a rut.

The day started off with a familiar pattern. His alarm rang and he hit the snooze button. He used to wake up on the first ring. Today it took him four snoozes.

“Why is this happening to me?” This wasn’t the first time he had asked himself the question. It had become a common lament, usually followed by, “When is my life going to get better?”

Jeff’s company had recently adopted the acronym B-HAG, which stood for Big Hairy Audacious Goal. B-HAGs were supposed to energize people and encourage them to strive for greater things. Jeff had adjusted the term slightly. By the time he cut himself shaving and spilled his coffee, Jeff had declared the day a B-HAD. For him B-HAD stood for Big Hairy Atrocious Day, and lately he felt almost every day was a B-HAD.

Jeff had never experienced a funk like this in his life, and it was quite possible things were about to get worse. Today he had to hand in his year-end performance appraisal to Yvette, his boss.

Jeff wasn’t certain how Yvette would rate him, but he was willing to bet she would not have good news. She had been on his case constantly lately. He knew he had to be on his best behavior, but all he wanted to do was tell her to shove this job. Each day he felt like he was about to lose his cool completely and do more than a few things he would certainly regret.

 

People Stories

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It was the Monday after the meeting, and Jeff was staring at his year-end self-appraisal form wondering what he could possibly write. He hadn’t crossed paths with Yvette since the meeting, and now he had no idea where he stood with her. Every time he looked at the appraisal form his mind drifted to his worst moments with Yvette. He shook his head, trying to remove the negative images, to no avail.

“I have to get out of here,” Jeff said aloud. He looked up quickly to see if anyone was walking by and might have overheard him talking to himself. No one was in the hallway.

Jeff got up and walked out of his office. He took the elevator to the lobby, which opened up into a large, bright atrium. Jeff headed over to the side that housed a coffee shop. The breakfast rush was over, and very few people were around. Jeff walked over to the refrigerator and grabbed a bottle of apple juice. As always, since he didn’t drink coffee, he felt like the odd one out buying juice at the coffee shop.

After paying for his drink, he walked back into the atrium and looked up at the sky through the ceiling of windows, not really sure what to do or where to go. He had left his office to calm down, stop thinking, try to relax, but he couldn’t. His mind kept snapping back to his performance review and his anger toward Yvette.

 

Situation Stories

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It was cool outside, but the fresh air felt good. Martin led Jeff out of the building and a couple of blocks away to a nearby park. Jeff wondered why he didn’t do this more often. He could feel his head clearing. Just this short walk, the fresh air, the trees in the park were relieving some of his tension.

They stopped at a railing that bordered a pond. Martin leaned against the railing and stared out at the water. Jeff could see him taking long deep breaths. It was almost hypnotic.

They stood in silence for a while until Jeff’s impatience got the better of him. “So what is the next story?”

“First, tell me what you see.”

“You mean here in the park?”

Martin nodded.

“I see a pond, trees, building tops beyond the trees. There are lots of birds, mostly pigeons, a few ducks.”

“That’s good. How about the people?”

Jeff looked around. “Well, a young couple is sitting on the bench over there. Some old men are playing bocce. A handful of people are scattered around — I assume from the way they are dressed that they are businesspeople.”

 

Self Stories

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The next day Jeff arrived in the lobby at precisely twelve thirty. This time Martin was standing alone. When he walked up, Martin grabbed him by the shoulders.

“Today, my friend, I have two very special treats in store for you. The first is that I am going to introduce you to one of my favorite people. She’ll be joining us at lunch, and we don’t want to keep her waiting. So let’s go.”

A part of Jeff was annoyed by this. It was petty, but he wanted Martin’s time to himself. He had gotten so much out of the last two days he didn’t want anything to spoil his opportunity to learn the third story.

Then Jeff realized what he had done. In only an instant he had made himself into a victim. His situation wasn’t what he wanted. Woe is me. He nearly laughed out loud. The hero would see the opportunity in this situation. He got to have lunch with not one, but two wonderful people.

Martin ushered Jeff outside and into a cab. After Martin gave the driver an address they both watched the city glide by for a few minutes. Then Martin turned to Jeff and asked, “So? Any more revelations for me?”

 

Afterword: Find Your Heroic Inspiration

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In the past decade I have coached and taught thousands of people who were facing challenges. They suffered from critical bosses, missed promotions, loveless marriages, abuse from their customers, personal and health tragedies, or frustrations with their kids, their employees, or their companies.

Some clients had allowed minor issues to get under their skin; others had felt unable to recover from major disappointments. Whether they were dealing with everyday events or major life challenges, the stories they told themselves influenced their ability to curb their negativity, adopt a more positive frame of mind, and respond effectively to their challenges.

I had been helping people change their stories for years when my second daughter, at the age of six months, appeared to have a seizure. Her eyes rolled back in her head, her body stiffened, and she was unresponsive for about fifteen seconds. My wife and I took her to the hospital immediately, where she exhibited the same symptoms in front of five neurologists who had all squeezed into the room to see. They confirmed our fears. It looked like a seizure to them.

 

Overview of Book and Online Resources

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You may have observed that just reading a book might not be enough to change thoughts and behaviors that are not working in your life, and now you are wondering how to apply the lessons you have read to your own life.

This section can help you take immediate actions to cement the lessons of the book and can also serve as an easy reference guide any time you want to refresh your knowledge. You may decide to try one or all of the steps suggested.

Additional resources, tips, tools, and support are available at the hero Web site:

www.be-the-hero.com
Access code: HEROSTORY

Go to the Web site now and use the access code to enter the area reserved for readers of this book. Many additional resources are already available, and this is where I will continue to post new tools as I build them, and where you can ask me questions and connect with other readers in the forum.

At the time of the printing of this book the Web site included:

Weekly reminders. Sign up to receive a weekly email with a brief tip or message to support you in telling heroic stories.

 

Recognize Your Stories

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Learning to change your stories takes practice. When you are in an emotional state, whether you are angry, disappointed, stressed out, or excited, your mind will be predisposed to fall back into old patterns and forget to focus on what the hero would see and do. The following tools can help you incorporate hero stories into your daily life.

I hope you enjoyed reading the parable and might even choose to reread it. However, you shouldn’t have to reread it every time you want to refresh your knowledge. The first tool, the quick cards, can help you recapture the lessons of the book. Each of the three quick cards — one for each of the three stories people tell — contains a summary of the major lessons of that story. They are positioned on facing pages for easier photocopying. The quick cards can help you review and thus maintain your understanding of the book.

As you learn new behaviors, it is wise to keep in mind the phrase “out of sight, out of mind.” The second tool, the smart card, can keep the lessons in view. I call them smart cards because they raise your storytelling IQ. These cards are the size of a business card, and they are meant to be used as visual reminders. Carry them with you. Post them on your desk, computer monitor, refrigerator, bathroom mirror, or dashboard. Put them anywhere you will see them and read them at least once a day.

 

Build a Community of Heroes Around You

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One great way to cement your learning is to build a community of people who share the lessons and point of view. If your colleagues, family, or friends also understand the idea of storytelling, then the ideas from this book can become part of your common language.

You can help one another craft new stories when one of you is struggling. What story are you telling? can become a question you ask each other. You can hold one another accountable to keep using these techniques.

There are two great ways to build a community of supporters. The first is admittedly self-serving on my part. You could buy copies of this book for the people with whom you want to share this concept. The common grounding of Jeff’s story and the smart cards can guide you as you help one another tell hero stories.

The second way is based on the truism “If you want to truly understand a subject, teach it.” Get your group of supporters together and teach them about the three stories and how to turn stories around. Go to www.be-the-hero.com for more resources, including additional uses for hero stories and lesson plans for teaching this material.

 

Take Actions to Encourage the Hero in You

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Sometimes, despite our best intentions, we get caught up in the moment and forget or find ourselves unable to make the changes we desire. Often people believe their failure is caused by lack of willpower: they just didn’t have enough determination to do the right thing. I don’t believe willpower is the key.

Rather, I believe we change by practicing new behaviors in a disciplined way. Regular practice will build your strength and make telling your new stories easier and more natural, even when you face a challenge. You can find many ways to practice the new pattern you want to establish. Try the following five suggestions or let them spark your own ideas for specific actions to guide you to new behaviors.

Take five minutes each day to write down the stories you tell in a small notebook. Record the victim stories that came to you, and then add the hero stories you told to replace the victim stories. If you didn’t think of a hero story when your victim story arose, create one for your journal. You may be too late to change the situation that formed the victim story, but creating the hero story will help you build the skill for the future.

 

Hero Tips for Managers

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Managers can find many ways to apply the lessons of this book to become stronger, more effective leaders. I encourage you to go to www.be-the-hero.com to find additional tips and tools to become heroic leaders (access code: HEROSTORY). But here is your first tip sheet — five easy steps to creating a team of heroes:

Be the hero. You are a role model and must lead by example. The strongest influence on your team’s behavior is your own behavior. Tell yourself heroic stories and show your team you are choosing a positive outlook and seeking solutions.

Share your stories. When you have a positive interpretation of the actions of team members, other departments, customers, or senior management, share these stories. By doing so, you will help team members build their own stockpile of positive views.

Hear and shift. When team members tell victim stories, it is important you recognize their concern, showing that you understand their perspective. Don’t be critical of them for expressing their view. However, don’t allow them to accept their own view as the only possibility. You might respond, “I understand why you might feel that way. How else could we view this situation?” Then explore heroic alternatives.

 

First Steps to Take Today

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Now it is time for you to go and tell heroic stories and take heroic actions. If you have read this far, you have probably already recognized times in your life when you have been both a hero and a victim. As you work to become a master of heroic stories, take these three steps to move forward now:

Place your smart cards where you will see them regularly, and read them at least once a day, every day, for the next month. Awareness is the first step toward any change.

Tell someone else about these techniques. The best way to learn is to share your knowledge.

Go to www.be-the-hero.com and enter the access code HEROSTORY to find many additional tips and tools to help you think and act like a hero every day.

Remember, mastering your stories doesn’t happen automatically. Just as it takes time and practice to learn how to play the piano, swing a golf club, or cook a perfect Grand Marnier soufflé, it also takes time to master your heroic stories. And even the world’s best chefs still botch a dish every now and then.

 

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