Achim’s Energy Boost


Admit it – you’ve had the thought.

“I hate business dinners,” George Brinkman said to me. I was startled by the ferocity with which George uttered these words. George is a highly seasoned business executive, after all – a Fortune 500 guy with a keen mind. Funny, sharp. The sort of fellow who talks well, really well.

And George attends lots and lots of such dinners.

“I hate the moment when we run out of things to say,” George added. There was a long, pregnant pause. “And that moment always comes …”

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You know the conference call that drones on and on? The meeting that’s chock full of updates you’re not the least bit interested in?

You want to stay engaged. You do, you really do. But darn, it’s hard.

Try fiddle/scribble/doodle/dawdle.

If you’ve attended a training program and had a really fine facilitator, chances are she gave you some toys to play with. It’s the same principle. Malcolm Knowles, the grandfather of andragogy (the study of how adults learn), postulates that as adults, we’re used to being active. When this urge is squelched – as in a seemingly unending meeting of any kind – our mental and physical energy will be quickly squelched, as well. We check out.

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Visualize the scene.

Author sits on airplane, jetting off to a work assignment. Flight attendant strolls by:

FA: What can I get ya to drink?

AU: I’d love a ginger ale!

FA: I’d love to bring ya one.

Simple exchange, right?

I so appreciated that she picked up the word “love.” Volleyed it back at me. Had fun with it. Her response conveyed a sense of delight in her professional role, to boot. Yes, this flight attendant was a language-cue-pick-up artist!

So simple. So energizing.

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The Boston-marathon-events hijacked last week.

It was everywhere. Twitter, television, the web. Even when I didn’t wish to engage, Boston played on the TV monitor at my gym, behind the counter at California Pizza Kitchen.

Boston carried loads of psychic energy.

Something horrible happens. We have an instant emotional response. Sadness, outrage, empathy, indignation, fear.

The first response is primal. The remainder is pure story. I want to call it “the Boston tragedy” – and here we are, smack in the middle of “story.”

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They vilified him.

Wilhelm Reich, psychiatry-enfant-terrible of the mid-20th century, based his entire framework for understanding human behavior on the notion of blocked energy. Reich believed that folks who experienced significant challenges in life did so because their energy “got stuck” sometime during the early stages of life. Getting well meant getting rid of body armor and getting the energy moving again!

Reich was ahead of his time.

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Lunched with Victor, youthful president of a global-ueber-electronics firm, in the Chicago burbs this week. I relish Victor’s smarts. He reads brainy stuff, thinks in unexpected ways, keeps me on my conversational toes.

“I just watched this TED talk about the power of introverts,” Victor volunteers. “Interesting!”

I find myself starting to boil inside. Not at Victor – no, at this infuriatingly narrow and culturally perpetuated narrative about the introvert/extrovert dichotomy. Here it is, again.

I appreciate Susan Cain, the lovely and immensely articulate power-of-introversion speaker Victor references. Cain is a leader of the lets-reclaim-the-introvert movement. A backlash against a North American business culture that values constant collegial engagement.

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I spent time with a group of magnificent MBA students at a university in Boston last week. We explored personal presence. We talked about personal energy. We went to the well.

“So what IS energy?” a young lady named Melinda asked.

Ah yes – that question.

Melinda asked it with a big beaming smile, and I wondered, does Melinda know that she has a high-energy smile?

I had great fun with the “so what is energy question” when I wrote my book INFECTIOUS. I talked to a bunch of energy experts. Here are some answers that stuck:

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90-minutes of focused activity, followed by a 10-minute interval of conscious rejuvenation, maximize productivity.

Yes, that’s the 90/10 rule.

Who came up with that, you ask? Professor K. Anders Ericson and his colleagues at Florida State University have studied elite performers, including musicians, athletes, actors and chess players. In each of these fields, Dr. Ericsson found that the best performers typically practice in uninterrupted sessions that last no more than 90 minutes. They begin in the morning, take a break between sessions, and rarely work for more than four and a half hours in any given day.

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They’re commonly known as affirmations. The simple yet powerful things we say to ourselves to claim our highest good – radiant health, wondrous prosperity, boundless love.

I like the word self-talk. Because that’s what I am truly doing when I make an affirmation – I’m talking to myself.

I talk to my self every day.

The self-talk that I find utterly irresistible is the one that shifts my energy. Instantly. You know, when I’m about to enter a meeting and feel anxious (and being anxious is not helpful). When I feel tired (and showing up tired is not an option). When I, for whatever reason, do not care for a person (and that person is a crucial client). Yep – time to shift energy!

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I sit in an old German Brauhaus on the outskirts of Frankfurt with Martin, the European General Manager of a global manufacturing firm, and our talk quickly settles on members of his staff.

“Sabine, your assistant, was immensely helpful to me all day,” I let him know.

Martin chuckles and says. “You know, I inherited her from my predecessor.” I know the history behind this comment. When Martin became GM, he inherited quite a few folks who did not perform all that well.

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