Thursday, May 24, 2012

From Face-to-Face to Facebook

In The World In 2012 issue of The Economist, Sheryl Sandberg, Chief Operating Officer of Facebook, wrote an article where she, unsurprisingly, extols the benefits of Facebook and social media, pointing to the realms of our lives where it has brought us together: political rallies, online philanthropy, the sharing of photos, videos, and other information with the people we care about. She then declares that “The science-fiction writers of the last century envisioned a world where modernity led to alienation. In fact, the opposite has occurred.”

Sandberg’s treatise is not supported by a recent study by sociology professor Matthew Brashears of Cornell University, who asked 2,000 adults the number of friends with whom they could discuss “important matters.” The average response was 2.03, down from a similar study conducted just before the widespread use of the Internet and social networks in 1985, which yielded an average response of three close friends.

This news is not entirely new, it turns out. The National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago, which has been conducting a General Social Survey of 1,400 American adults since 1972, compared responses from 1985 to 2004 and discovered that, on average, each person had 2.94 close friends with whom they could discuss important matters in 1985, and by 2004 their number of close confidantes had decreased to 2.08.  In the Chicago study, people who responded that they had no one with whom to discuss important matters more than doubled during this period, to nearly 25 percent.

If it is indeed true, as these surveys suggest, that we are, on average, losing 30 percent of our close friends in only two decades, then these surveys signal a shift toward social isolation that is disconcerting and needs to be addressed. Yet we must first accept the sobering reality of our lives in the third millenium: computers, the internet, and social media are here to stay. To argue against their utility would be as futile as railing against the existence of any new technology that gained widespread usage quickly, such as the typewriter in the 1870s, or the telephone or television in the 1920s.

Almost a century later, the computer—whether in desktop, laptop, tablet, or smart-phone form—is all of the above inventions wrapped up in one unprecedentedly addictive little package. Many of us have become like a child taking up residence in a candy shop, over-indulging in a novelty we never thought we would be able to avail ourselves of: even two decades ago it would have been unthinkable to access a video or information about just about anything we can imagine, with as much detail as an Encyclopedia Britannica (remember them? They just closed their print business and have gone online like the rest), within seconds.

To help you understand the significance of this historic moment, let’s take a look at another mass invention no one had dreamed of until it arrived. When Henry Ford developed an automobile that “the common man” could afford in 1908, his invention generated the nationwide development of highways, suburbs, drive-thru restaurants, and many other amenities for the recently mobile. After the car was invented, people sought any reason to be in one, making any excuse to go for a drive. It was all the rage, for example, to go to drive-in theaters. After many decades, people decided they really didn’t need to be in their cars while watching a movie, and drive-in theaters faded into obscurity. We are undergoing a similar acculturation with a new technology, and our current obsession with digital gadgets will, like our propensity to jump into our cars at the drop of a hat, not disappear, but diminish to a more manageable level.

Yet until we are able to step out of the candy store, my concern is that, for our generation of people, our experience of real life is being poignantly compromised. As the studies indicate, never in human history have we been in contact with so many people and connected with so few. People who, like the Facebook COO, claim that we have never been so connected with each other are missing a vital point: the people making all these “connections” through the internet and social media are, at the end of the day, sitting alone in front of a pixilated screen typing about what they enjoy rather than looking into the eyes of a human being and actually doing it.

I am a leadership and life coach, and at a recent conference I asked 300 people to share what they had done over the previous month that had most contributed to their happiness. There were about thirty responses—ranging from “spending time with my daughter,” and “going dancing” to “going for a long hike in the mountains”—not one of which involved time spent online.

Yet if computers, the internet, and social media are here to stay—and, like the automobile or any other innovation that has significantly increased efficiency for the masses at an affordable price, they are—then the million-dollar question is “What can we do to recover our friendships and our happiness in this uber-technology age?” I have been coaching executives and individuals on work-life balance for almost two decades now, and all of the strategies that I have seen people successfully implement to reclaim their lives from their digital addiction have centered around one principle: You control technology, not the other way around.

Your laptop, iPad, or cell-phone is merely a tool. An addictively fun little tool, yes; yet still just a tool. The critical challenge in the third millennium is the same as in the first: to develop a Vision for how you want to live your life. How does your best version of your Self desire you to spend your time from day to day? How do they want you to act toward the people you care about? What do they want you to be remembered for? Whatever emanates from this self-dialogue is how you should be spending your time. If you can use your clever online tools to achieve some of your most important life goals, then by all means do so. Yet every other moment you spend on your iPad, smart-phone, or laptop is as beneficial to your life as getting into your car and putting the pedal to the metal without a destination.

Every moment of every day you are making decisions about how you will spend your time. If your goal is to have close friends to share your life with, then determine how you will allocate your time to build those friendships. If you want to spend more time in reality and less time sitting behind a screen typing into a keypad about your interpretation of reality, then design some strategies to limit your virtual time, such as a daily maximum number of hours for computer-based activities.

When your laptop or smart-phone is adding value to your life, then you are at balance and headed toward a destination you can be proud of. The moment your addiction causes you to surpass this healthy level, it’s time to spend some time offline—in a place where you feel centered, serene, and inspired—thinking about what you value so you can truly reach your potential and live your desired life. This time alone—which, when practiced regularly, will enable you to connect with your heart and your deepest values—will guide you to spend less time in front of your computer, to spend more time making a heart connection with others, and to venture out into this vast, wonderful world that awaits you.

Do you control technology, or is it the other way around? How do you cope with the digital addiction? Tell us about it in the comments.

_____________________________________________

Anthony Silard is the president of The Global Leadership Institute and the author of the Simon & Schuster book The Connection: Link Your Passion, Purpose, and Actions to Make a Difference in the World. To receive Smile, It's Monday each week in your inbox and a free copy of Anthony's new audio CD, "The Surprising Source of Your Passion", enter your email here (1-step only).

Monday, May 21, 2012

Smile, It’s Monday: Your Weekly Wake-up Call to Create the Intimate Relationship You Desire



When on a date, focus not on what he drives,
but on what drives him.
--- Anthony Silard

What he drives—like his looks, how much money he earns, his job, his status in his company—will change. What won’t change is what drives him. Is his desire to help people or to live a comfortable life? To be a caring husband and father or to just have a good time and enjoy what comes? Whatever drives him now will drive him later. The next time you are on a date, make a concerted effort to see past the paint job to what awaits you on the inside. I know, it’s true that it’s difficult to think this way when she’s wearing that low-cut dress and your biological response wants to take the wheel, or he’s looking sharp and smelling of financial success and your desire for a solid husband is kicking into high gear. Yet what they are wearing or driving or saying is all ephemeral; and underneath is where the eternal lies.

Taking it slow is one of the greatest challenges of dating, as our human needs often get in the way. Yet it’s the only sure path to getting to know someone. In the end, time is the only true test of character. What the other person tells you requires very little effort or commitment on their part, and for this reason is subject to frequent change. What they show you is a greater window into what’s on the horizon, especially when it’s reinforced and strengthened gradually over time.

How has your approach to dating fared in your life?  Share your successes and challenges in this area with us in the comments. 

___________________________________________

Anthony Silard is the president of The Global Leadership Institute and the author of the Simon & Schuster book The Connection: Link Your Passion, Purpose, and Actions to Make a Difference in the World. To receive Smile, It's Monday each week in your inbox and a free copy of Anthony's new audio CD, "The Surprising Source of Your Passion", enter your email here (1-step only).


Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Is Facebook Making Us Lonely or Are We Making Ourselves Lonely?

This recent article in The Atlantic by Stephen Marche, titled Is Facebook Making Us Lonely?, is a must-read. It will force you to ask yourself some tough questions about whether the way you use the internet and social media is facilitating more face-to-face interaction, and its relatively proven bi-product, happiness, in your life.

After you read the article, please respond to this question in the comments: Are the internet and social media making us lonely, or are we making ourselves lonely, or both?

__________________________________________

Anthony Silard is the president of The Global Leadership Institute and the author of the Simon & Schuster book The Connection: Link Your Passion, Purpose, and Actions to Make a Difference in the World. To receive Smile, It's Monday each week in your inbox and a free copy of Anthony's new audio CD, "The Surprising Source of Your Passion", enter your email here (1-step only).

4 Awesome Types of Successful Twitter Contests

I have been reading Jeff Bullas' blog on how to leverage your Social Media and am very impressed. Worth subscribing to. Here he writes about how to create contests on Twitter to build your SM presence. Thanks to Jeff in the land down under.

__________________________________________

Anthony Silard is the president of The Global Leadership Institute and the author of the Simon & Schuster book The Connection: Link Your Passion, Purpose, and Actions to Make a Difference in the World. To receive Smile, It's Monday each week in your inbox and a free copy of Anthony's new audio CD, "The Surprising Source of Your Passion", enter your email here (1-step only).

Monday, May 14, 2012

Smile, It’s Monday: Your Weekly Wake-up Call to Live the Life You Have Imagined



God judged it better to bring good out of evil
than to suffer no evil to exist.
 
---Saint Augustine

There is a difference between sadness and depression. Sadness is what we feel when we acknowledge and embrace the suffering we have experienced in our lives and then transform it into learning and positive growth to benefit ourselves and others. Depression is what we feel when we consider ourselves to be the victim of our suffering, when we do not understand our suffering or find any meaning in it whatsoever, and isolate ourselves from others to comfort ourselves in our pain. People who are depressed say “Why me?” People who are sad say “Yes, me, and this is what I’m going to do about it.” Whether we choose sadness or fall into depression depends on how we perceive the people who have “hurt” us in our lives. In most cases, when you have been “hurt,” the pain you experienced emanated from a part of yourself that needed development, an entrenched habit you were struggling with and needed to change.

Take a moment to think of someone or something that has stimulated pain within you. Perhaps you were fired from your job, or are not being valued highly by your current employer. Alternatively, someone you were going out with may have exited the relationship, or a friend might have spoken ill about you behind your back. Whatever the situation, ask yourself what this person or event came into your life to teach you. Write down a few things you will do differently as you move forward in your life based on what you’ve learned.

How do you handle your life’s difficult moments? Tell us about it in the comments.
_____________________________________________

Anthony Silard is the president of The Global Leadership Institute and the author of the Simon & Schuster book The Connection: Link Your Passion, Purpose, and Actions to Make a Difference in the World. To receive Smile, It's Monday each week in your inbox and a free copy of Anthony's new audio CD, "The Surprising Source of Your Passion", enter your email here (1-step only).

Monday, May 7, 2012

Smile, It's Monday: Your Weekly Wake-up Call to Make a Difference in the World




Bread for myself is a material question.
Bread for my neighbor is a spiritual one.
--- Nikolai Berdyaev

This has always been one of my favorite quotes. It’s a sobering reminder of what separates humankind from most other animals. I once went on a spiritual journey to an ashram in Mount Abu, India. I will never forget meeting Brother Nagaraj, the affluent Mumbai banker cum spiritual seeker, who greeted me at the front door on the first day in his white robe. He spent a week explaining his Hindu sect’s practices while I meditated in the presence of some of the most intensely spiritual people I have ever met in my life. One day, Brother Nagaraj showed me a picture of a fruit tree. After I looked at it, bemused, for a minute or so, he shared: “Be like a fruit tree to all. If someone throws a rock at you, give them a piece of fruit.” This is a prescient message for the What’s-in-it-for-me?/Look-at-me!-Look-at-me! society we live in, where many people have become self-marketed internet brands and distanced from their essential humanity. Whether we wish to admit it or not, each of us converges with every human being with whom we come into contact.

Each person you will meet this week is on their own path. Do your best to leave them either further along their path or at least in the same place where they were when you met them. I believe that Brother Nagaraj’s lesson for all of us is we should have something for everyone: a smile, a question that demonstrates genuine interest, a realized promise, a look of respect, a compliment, a few encouraging words. Each time you meet someone over the next week, ask yourself what you have for them. You will be pleasantly surprised by how this shift in your thinking will transform your relationships.

Has generosity transformed an important relationship in your life? Tell us about it in the comments.

_____________________________________________

Anthony Silard is the president of The Global Leadership Institute and the author of the Simon & Schuster book The Connection: Link Your Passion, Purpose, and Actions to Make a Difference in the World. To receive Smile, It's Monday each week in your inbox and a free copy of Anthony's new audio CD, "The Surprising Source of Your Passion", enter your email here (1-step only).

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Advice for Today's Job Seekers----Anthony Silard Interview with Beyond Words


Hope some of you find this interview with Beyond Words helpful, whether you are struggling to make ends meet and still trying to find work-life balance or just hoping to find the right job and feel motivated again during those long hours between 9 and 6 each day.

_____________________________________________

Anthony Silard is the president of The Global Leadership Institute and the author of the Simon & Schuster book The Connection: Link Your Passion, Purpose, and Actions to Make a Difference in the World. To receive Smile, It's Monday each week in your inbox and a free copy of Anthony's new audio CD, "The Surprising Source of Your Passion", enter your email here (1-step only).