Aliveatwork's Blog


Goodwill Hunting?

Good-Will-HuntingIn the movie Good Will Hunting, Matt Damon plays a tough, wise-cracking, but emotionally scarred math genius  named, Will Hunting. And although he is extremely brilliant he is working (hiding) as a night janitor at Harvard.

Robin Williams play a therapist who attempts to help Will go inside of himself in order to own the truth about his abusive past and discover his authentic self.

The climax of the movie is a scene where Williams, on the verge of giving up on his rebellious patient, takes a leap of faith and starts telling Will, “It’s not your fault, listen to me son, it’s not your fault.”

Damon literally pushes back but Williams persists, “It’s not your fault, It’s not your fault,” until Will surrenders and the tears erupt like a broken dam.

Have you ever put up a facade that things were fine on the outside, yet on the inside you were going through a tough time (troubles at work, fractured relationship at home, the loss of a loved one, or just plain loneliness)?

Sometimes what people project to the outside world isn’t an accurate picture of their inside world. And the holidays can be especially tough because there is an expectation to be cheerful and filled with holiday spirit even though there is an emptiness on the inside.

What if … you believed that over the course of the next 2 weeks you will encounter someone who is in need of an extraordinary act of kindness?

What if … you believed that this person was put on your path for the specific reason that you were chosen to show them that they matter, that they are valuable, or that they are not alone?

What if … by helping that person you later came to the conclusion that they were really put on your path to help you in some unexpected way?

This holiday season, do a little goodwill hunting … it will certainly bring a bit more peace on earth and who knows … maybe even some goodwill towards men (people).

Happy hunting!

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Purpose: Are You Being Called to Play a Bigger Game?

The other day I was conversing with a colleague and fellow coach by the name of Barry Zweibel. We’ve been friends and have had a Mastermind of sorts since the day we met about 12 years ago.

We were talking about life in general when Barry, as only Barry can do, pulled out a 2 x 4 and walloped me upside the head with a question that challenged what I believed about my purpose in life. He was challenging me to embrace my purpose at a much higher level.

Now if you asked me, I would tell you that I am living my dream, I love what I do, and I can’t imagine doing anything else at this point in my life (speaking, coaching, and consulting).

But Barry was challenging to go deeper into my purpose and look into the recesses of my heart and soul for any remnants of old beliefs, ideas, or defense mechanisms, that were holding me back.

And of course I found them. I won’t bore you with the details, I will however tell you that I had to search deep in the recesses till I discovered some leftover remnants of good old-fashioned … fear!

Now I’d like to tell you that as a Professional Speaker and Executive Coach that I have overcome all my fears and I am completely self-actualized … but the truth is I am not. I am not perfect, I bump up against things that slow me down and temporarily hold me back. I guess the key words here are slow down (not stop), and temporarily (not permanently).

Fear can cause you to drift from your purpose, it can stop you in your tracks, and it can kill your dreams. It doesn’t have to be a full-blown fear that is evident to you, it can hide in the deep pockets of your mind and actually disguise itself as reason, logic, security, or limited success.

That said I want to share with you a quick way to get out of your fear and moving forward again so you can achieve the level of success you want.

3 Questions To Ask Yourself To Put Fear Behind You:

  1. What am I afraid of losing? Fear is always associated with loss and the quickest way out of fear is to identify the loss.  I refer to these fears that can occupy your mind as Fear FILLERS ™ – Loss of  F-reedom, I-income, L-ife, L-ove, E-go, R-eputation, S-ecurity.
  2. What is the truth? Will I really lose my freedom, life, etc.? Remembering that 93% of the things we fear never happen!
  3. Now that I know the truth, what action do I need to take to move forward.

This a simple process that will take you from a fearful place (emotion) and move you into a more logical place where you can move into action.

So … got any leftover remnants of fear hiding in a corner in your head, heart, or soul?



10 Things You Need to Know About Purpose …

Every since the beginning of time humans have searched to find their purpose in life.

Thousands of  books have been written and hundreds of thousand of speeches, lectures, and discussions have been given on the topic of purpose.

And yet, how many people do you know, if asked, could succinctly complete the following sentence, “My purpose in life is to …”

So I thought I would share a few insights I have gleaned over the years regarding this life altering topic.

 10 Things I’ve Learned About Purpose:

  1. Without purpose, people drift from one thing to the next or they wake up one day feeling trapped in a situation or place they don’t want to be in.
  2. Purpose leads to clarity and clarity leads to focus … focused energy, focused actions, and focused results … and that leads to happiness.
  3. When a person loses their purpose in life they soon atrophy and their desire to live diminishes. (think about someone you know who retired and lost their desire to live).
  4. Finding your purpose in life doesn’t mean you have to find a cure for cancer or quit your job and move to Africa and work for Feed The Children.
  5. Discovering your purpose begins with being crystal clear about your strengths, talents, gifts, and brilliance and then showing up with them in all you do.
  6. You will never find your purpose in life if you spend your time watching Honey Boo-Boo, Redneck Island, Pawn Stars and the other garbage on TV.
  7. You will know you’re on the right path if when you embrace your talents, strengths, and gifts and others begin to consistently recognize you for them.
  8. The number one cause of Death of Purpose is fear … fear of success, failure, loss, dying, surviving, disappointing, poverty, etc.
  9. The single most important factor in finding your purpose is Belief, believing that you were put here on this earth for a reason and discovering that reason needs to be the number one priority in your life. Living out your purpose needs to be the second priority.
  10. Discovering your purpose is an inside job, it already exists inside of you, you just have to clear out the old beliefs, lies, and junk that are preventing you from seeing it.

Need a kick start?

Go online an order the StrengthsFinder  2.0 book by Tom Rath. It contains an assessment that will give you your top five strengths. It is extremely accurate and will start you on your path of discovery.

Obviously the list is incomplete, feel free to add your wisdom in the comment section

One last question: So … how would you complete the sentence, “My purpose in life is to …”



Faux Praise … Faux Pas
November 8, 2012, 6:45 am
Filed under: Aliveness, Authentic Leadership, Joe Contrera | Tags: , , ,

Much has been written on the positive effect that praise can have on a person.

Whether it’s an employee, coworker, or your children, healthy praise can help a person to feel good.

Yet there doesn’t seem to be as much written about the negative impact that false praise can have on an individual. This typically happens when the intent is to manipulate or to selfishly serve the needs of the person who is giving praise.

Recently I listened to an audio book written by Napoleon Hill (Think and Grow Rich) in 1938 entitled, Outwitting the Devil. It was held back from publication for 73 years because of what Hill wrote about the the church, the government, and the media. It was finally released in 2011 at a time when the challenges our country was facing in 1938 are eerily similar to those we are challenged with today.

In a later chapter Hill writes that one of the most powerful ways a person can drift  from their definite purpose in life and get off-course is if they have an inflated desire for praise and admiration. Hill labeled it as the ego of men and the vanity of women (the word metrosexual wasn’t invented yet).

Now regardless of whether or not you believe Hill is being sexist, the point here is that faux (fake) praise can lead you down a path to faux pas (mistakes).

Think about it … if a person’s sense of self worth and value is tied to external factors such as praise and admiration from others, they are setting themselves up to be redirected by those same outside factors. Some of the greatest con men who ever lived used faux praise as a powerful tool to mislead their victims.

So what about you? How is praise impacting your life?

3 Things Ask Yourself About Praise:

  1. Do I seek praise from others (external) so that I can feel a sense of sense of self worth and value (internal)? Granted everyone needs a pat on the back. However, if you don’t feel valuable on the inside nothing anybody can say from the outside will give your life meaning.
  2. Do I feel a differently when I receive praise from someone of the opposite sex?  Yes, we all like praise, but if you get a much bigger buzz off of a compliment from the opposite sex you might want to pay attention and ask yourself why?
  3. Do I ever give praise in order to manipulate others so that I can get what I want? A good rule of thumb here is to give praise to an individual with no strings attached. Simply give them the compliment and walk away. Hanging around and then asking for something in return will give the other person a sense that they are being manipulated.

Zig Ziglar once said, “If you’re sincere, praise is effective. If you’re insincere, it’s manipulative.”

And that’s all I have to say about that!



What’s Really on Your Mind?

Every couple of months I have the privilege of working work with a group of folks from Best Buddies of Arizona.

Best Buddies is an international organization who’s mission is to create opportunities for one-to-one friendships, employment opportunities and leadership development for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

Each and every time I go I always receive an unexpected gift or lesson.

A few weeks ago while I was interacting with one of the team members, I was struck by the notion that I was surrounded by some of the most authentic people I have ever met in my life.

And that got me thinking … what is it about this extraordinary group of individuals that makes this experience feel so genuine?

As I pondered that question I came to this conclusion: The reason this feels so genuine is because they don’t hold back … they say what’s on their minds and have no problem telling you how they feel.

In a world of soundbites, political back-stabbing, spin, and dis-ingenuousness … they are a  welcomed breathe of fresh air.

No filters, no facades, and no masks. They live in the moment … totally engaged in life!

How wonderful is that … how authentic is that … how real is that?

What if more people spoke their truth instead of hiding behind a veil of filters and fear?

What if we didn’t have to be soooooooo politically correct that we defy logic because someone or some group is offended?

What if more people said what they meant and meant what they said at work, at home, and especially in Washington D.C.?

And for the record: I am not talking about maliciously hurting others out of  ignorance or fear. That isn’t the point, that is just the other extreme.

What I am saying is that we seem to be trading authenticity and truth for dis-ingenuousness and mis-truths.

My friend Richard shared this quote with me by Aristotle and I think it applies perfectly:

 “It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.”

So what about you … what’s really on your mind?



When I Grow Up … Making Your Dreams Come True!

Do you remember when you were a kid and someone asked you what you wanted to be when you grew up?

“I want to be a … fireman, policeman, a nurse, a superhero, etc.”

So what did you want to be when you grew up?

When I was 7-years-old I wanted to be an entertainer, a stand-up comic. My parents and I would listen to Pat Cooper albums and we would laugh hysterically.

Pat’s real name was Pasquale Caputo and he would talk about growing up in an Italian Family. It didn’t matter if I understood the jokes or not … if Mom and Dad were laughing, I was laughing too.

When I was 16-years-old, I wanted to be the drummer for Van Halen. It didn’t matter that I didn’t play the drums, I dreamed of getting an emergency phone call from Eddie Van Halen telling me that Alex got sick and they desperately needed me!

What is it about children and dreams?

When you’re a kid your dreams and ideas are unlimited, you don’t care if it’s realistic or not, you simply believe you can be anything you want to be.

When a group 5-year-olds were asked what they wanted to be when they grew up, the number one response … a super-hero.

What is it about adults and dreams?

At some point most adults give up on their dreams and end up settling. The excitement and aliveness that once filled them seems to fade away each year that passes. Almost as if time is slowly erasing the image of their dreams they painted so many years ago.

A recent Salary.com survey found that only 16% of the people surveyed said they were living their childhood dreams. They went on to say that 60% of those surveyed still wished they could fulfill their dreams!

So what about you?

Maybe your dream to be a ballerina or a policeman changed over the years. The core question here isn’t whether you actually became a super-hero or not … the real questions are:

  1. Are you happy?
  2. Do you love what you do?
  3. Do you love the person you’ve become?
If the answer to any of those question is “no” or “maybe” here are 7 steps that will help you:

7 Steps to Realizing Your Dreams:

  1. Ask yourself: What did I want to be when I grew up?
  2. Look for any correlations between what you wanted to be and who you are today.
  3. Write down on a sheet of paper 10 things you love to do?
  4. Look for any gaps between who you wanted to be and who you are.
  5. Look for any gaps between what you do and what you love to do?
  6. Write down one action you can and will take today to close that gap (make a phone call, an appointment, or put on a cape and run around the house).
  7. Commit to doing one of the things you love to do once a week for one month and watch what happens to your happiness meter.

No, I never became a stand-up comic or the drummer for Van Halen and yet … I love what I do … I cannot imagine doing anything else.

Sometimes I get chills thinking that I get paid to be a professional speaker and to help other realize their potential. It’s like I’m living a dream!

Oh and one last thing … I have a drum set in my living room that I play whenever I want to feel like a rock star …

I’m sure Eddie will call … eventually!



Multiplying Your Talents …

Yesterday we talked about the difference between talents and skills.

We said that getting clear about your talents, strengths, and gifts, will lead you to your purpose.

Well maybe that got you thinking … how will I know if I’m getting close to my purpose?

Here’s how you know you’re getting close …

Answer this question: “Is my purpose about serving me, or is it about serving others?”

You see when you utilize your strengths and talents to serve others you accomplish 2 things:

  1. You have a greater sense of fulfillment and joy in your life.
  2. You will be multiplying your talents by inspiring others to work and live from theirs!

Marianne Williamson in her famous “Words To Live By” says it so eloquently …

“There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you.

We are all meant to shine as children do.

And as we let our own light (talents) shine we unconsciously give others permission to do the same.”

Think about that … living and working from your talents actually inspire others to live from theirs.

And THAT my friends … is a powerful multiplier of your talents.

I think this may be the first time I can truthfully say that I like math!