Retailers' ambitious notions of seasons aside, as of this week we officially slide into the most demanding part of the year, otherwise known as "that infernal holiday season."
Me, I like a good party and a wee bit of revelry as much as the next gal. But Thanksgiving-to-New-Year's here in the West is big, demanding and overly sprawling, full of relentless socializing, pernicious consumerism and eggnog. Okay, not so much eggnog anymore (and certainly not on the SCD), but you get my drift: there's a reason my holiday card from 1982 was about excess, and it's not because I was a college student rolling in dough.
Somehow, I've managed to opt out of a lot of the madness in recent years. Most of my immediate family either died or stopped talking to me (only the latter is my fault), and it's fairly easy to keep the commitments to a minimum when you're self-employed with only family of choice. It is not enough to cut things out, however: we must be generative and thoughtful, making things rather than just tearing them down (or locking ourselves in the bedroom with a stack of old MGM DVDs and a bottle of Pinot.) So I now use the holiday season for reflection and planning.
I've spoken before of my love for Ginny Ditzler's Your Best Year Yet. I've done her backwards/forwards, heart-centered goal-setting plan for several years now, and I can personally attest to the magic of it. While I cannot similarly vouch for my friend Chris Guillebeau's method, I think that his meteoric rise and staggering list of accomplishments is proof enough. (And if you're L.A.-local or up for a visit and like reading my stuff and are looking for some one-on-one help, I'm guessing my friend Peleg Top's retreat might be just the thing for you.)
If stuff isn't happening as quickly as you might like, and/or if you're just an overachieving, diehard-DIYer type like yours truly, I'm going to throw another book on the pile for you: Who's Got Your Back: The Breakthrough Program to Build Deep Relationships that Create Success, and Won't Let You Fail. (And now that we have the Mad, Mad World of book subtitles, can we go back to the good old days of Moby-Dick or even How to Win Friends and Influence People?)
As you might suspect, the business books I like the most are the ones that are only nominally about business. What I really want are great stories that help me unlock my brain, with maybe a few how-tos thrown in there to fill the newly-opened spaces. Most of Keith Ferrazi's latest book* is really well-argued rationale for finding that mirror you really need to look in, filled with great stories about how the light finally went on for him. (It's a great story involving former Sony Pictures chairman Peter Guber, and it actually sent chills through me, it was so startling and spot-on.) I was distracted and agitated while reading most of it, which may account for my not finding what I thought was enough in there about actually locating the right people to be on your accountability/guidance panel.
The section that makes it all worthwhile, though, is perfection: in Section Four, he lays out precisely how to conduct a meeting of your own, personal mastermind group (they're called "Greenlight Groups" in Ferrazzi-speak, including the principles that should be informing the group, rules of engagement, and a bit about recruitment/vetting/voting people in. It's pretty comprehensive for just being one piece of one chapter; nestled as it is in a book full of juicy stories delivering the "why," it's a pretty useful "how."
Other fine bits of useful information include learning to differentiate between the different types of support you need in your life and a really excellent section on goal-setting, complete with a distribution pie chart thingy that is amazingly close to the aforementioned Ginny Ditzler's. The similarity was so close, it made me wonder if Ferrazzi's book isn't the perfect companion piece to Ditzler's: use the latter to suss out your goals, and the former to find the right people to help keep you on track.
Before I even finished it, I recommended Who's Got Your Back to two friends who are at a point in their careers much like Ferrazzi was when he had his breakthrough around asking for help. They're established and successful and substantial at the first tier, ready to go nation- (or world-) wide. They are into a whole other level of biggification, as my friend, Havi, likes to call it.
But I can see that there is also valuable information in there for me, the slightly smaller lady cowering in my safe, rent-controlled abode of 10 years. Relationships, I finally realized this year, are the underlying structure that supports all growth, business or otherwise. So I'll definitely be reviewing that part of Section Four as I mull over how to improve my own group experiences in 2010. And I may re-read the rest of it, as well, to help goose myself into moving toward the bigger bigness, after all...
*Ferrazzi also wrote Never Eat Alone, which I imagine is one of those Do One Thing Different(ly)** books, where you really only have to read the title to get the gist of the innards.
**Yeah, the "-ly" is mine. Can't help it.