Here are articles on psychology

How 23-year-old Ryan Allis created a $10 million business in three years

Ryan Allis is the 23-year-old founder of iContact.com, the web’s second biggest marketing website. Ryan spoke in this podcast about how he ended up where he is and the role passion plays in business. This is a companion interview to the Get-it-Done Guy podcast, “Passion Play.”

Happy or Successful? Which will you pursue?

On a recent birthday I was looking back at the strategies that my friends from high school and college and I employed to get where we are today. We assumed that success would bring happiness, and as far I can tell, we were wrong. It turns out that the two are separate, even though marketers would have us believe otherwise…

Click here to read the entire Happy or Successful podcast as an article.

The world is what you make it; what are you making it?

Chris Matthews was just commenting that Benazir Bhutto’s assassination was “a reminder of the dangerous world we all live in.”

In that moment, it struck me: we all live in a world of our own making. Oh, I don’t mean literally, though fans of The Secret may disagree. But our experience of the world is so deeply tied to our interpretations that what most of us call “truth” is nothing more than our own made up stories.

I look at the world today and see more than 6 billion people surviving. Many don’t have enough water or health care, but they’re surviving. It fact population continues to rise. That doesn’t sound like a dangerous world to me; that sounds like a world that’s provided us pretty much everything we need to thrive. Heck, we’ve even exterminated or controlled all of our natural predators.

To the extent we live in a “dangerous” world, that danger comes from other humans. For example, investment bankers and financial managers who deal in collateralized debt obligations. And yes, the occasional human being kills others. Sometimes it’s in war, or for political reasons, or whatever. And the media focuses on those events precisely because the violent, dangerous events are the exception, rather than the rule.

Most Americans have never suffered pain worse than a stubbed toe. We’re surrounded on the east and west by oceans so broad that no one can cross them without ample warning. We have Mexico and Canada to the south and north. The greatest danger there comes from having too much cheap labor and better ice hockey teams, respectively. As for the rest of the world, we have more intercontinental warheads than everyone else put together and then some.

In short, we’re the most dangerous thing in the world, and in the absolute scale of things, even we aren’t doing much damage. (Except unintentionally, to the environment, but that’s not what Chris Matthews was talking about.)

So Chris lives in a dangerous world because he finds the danger and then calls the world dangerous. He could also look at all the good things and call the world safe, secure, and happy. His choice.

And what is your choice? Which world do you live in?

If you want to bring this into a business context, since this is a business BLOG, let me ask you: when you look at your competition, your industry, and your trends, what stories do you tell? How do you explain the actions of others? The actions of markets? Do you tell a story of luck? Of skill? Of timing? Are you a victim of the market (“the failure of our initiative was because of a bad economy”) or are you a driver of the market (“we did everything we could think of and found the combination that let us become market leader in a mature market”)?

Examine your stories. They’re only stories, and they dictate your every perception, your every decision, and your every action. Choose your stories well.

Is Love of Counting is the Root of All Evil?

The love of money isn’t the root of all evil; *arithmetic* is the root of all evil. More specifically, counting. And it could be ruining your life. Here’s the podcast. My full October 2007 newsletter on the dangers of counting can be found in my website’s articles archive at:

What is personal integrity?

 A friend asked:  What is personal integrity? Does a person have personal
integrity when their personality is integrated, or what?

Interesting question. One meaning is that you act congruently with our values, tell the truth as you see it, etc. This is “integrity” n the sense of having societally-accepted good values like telling the truth and keeping your word.

For the structural meaning of integrity–that bridge has structural integrity–it means all parts of a system are aligned in support of  the system’s function. In a human, it would correspond to having minimal conflicts, clear values, acting in accordance with those values, and acting consistently enough over time that you actually anage to produce the results you want in your life.

That’s my interpretation, at any rate.

Questions for reflection:

  • Do you have personal integrity in the honesty sense?
  • Does your business?
  • Does your life have personal integrity in the structural sense?
  • Does your business?

Is being nice worthwhile?

I just had this exchange of answer/email/response on LinkedIn on the topic of: should you be nice?

The original question:

Is there power in being nice, with people in general or as a management tool?I’m reading the new book “The Power of Nice” because it was sent to me by Bzz Marketing. It is quite interesting and turns what everyone should do anyway (IMHO) on its head slightly.

Call it pay it forward, golden rule, random acts of kindness, the book makes the point that this is good business, good for your health and good for your overal happiness.

Do you agree, or is this just so much psychobabble?

My reply

I haven’t read “The Power of Nice,” though I’m amused that we’ve created a culture where we believe we have to make a case for treating each other nicely.It can certainly be better business to screw people. Prof. Howard Stevenson of Harvard Business School did a study about that years ago. He concluded that being unethical did, indeed, pay, but it produces a world we don’t want to live in, so we tell stories like, “Being ethical is good business.”

In my life, I find when I’m centered and calm and at my best, I naturally want to be nice to people, and it feels darned good. And yeah, there’s more and more research supporting that position.

Clarification added 1 hour ago:

I notice many of the respondants are personal and executive coaches. So take us with a grain of salt. Perhaps the I-bankers and Swim-with-the-Shark types can give us their perspective? Too bad Leona Helmsley is no longer with us–she could argue the other side.

The author wrote back

Are you saying there are times when the best thing to do is “screw people”?

My reply

The “best thing to do” depends on your value system. In business, if you value profits over people, you can sometimes maximize profits by screwing people. Nicotine-enhanced cigarette, anyone? Unethical behavior is common in business. The Conference Board did a study showing 60% of all people interviewed over a wide range of companies and industries routinely were asked to do unethical or illegal things. That makes it the majority way of doing business. That says to me that unethical behavior is more normal in the workforce than being female. (Copy of the study is available in PDF form here. See page 22.)

Personally, I value people over profits. I would love to live in a world where, if a business can legally, but unethically, make a profit, it would go out of business regardless of profitability. I used to stand up in meetings and point out when we were doing something unethical. Now I’m self-employed; honest self-examination isn’t a survival trait in corporate America. What was a survival trait, however, was the willingness to help everyone convince themselves that the profit-maximizing choice was also the ethically and morally “right” choice.

My own life has been a continual effort to deepen my integrity and building a life that aligns with my values. It disturbs me to see people damage their own integrity through self-denial.

That’s why I quoted Prof. Stevenson’s research. There’s this very comforting, but empirically false story that we can somehow maximize our business fortunes and our ethical/moral fortunes in one happy bundle. When we adopt the story, we get to have it all. When we face tough choices with very real tradeoffs between being a “good businessperson” and being a “good human being,” we relieve ourselves of having to confront the real choice, since our little story lets us maximize people OR profits, and claim that in the long run, our decision was magically best for both.

So back to your original question… I’ve had a very happy, satisfying, successful life on many levels, and have forgone chances to get a lot richer, legally, in ways that would have compromised my personal sense of integrity.

You may be different. If you prefer profits to people, then yeah, the best thing for you may be to screw people. I suspect if you do that, you’ll find yourself at life’s end surrounded by people you don’t like very much, with fewer happy memories than you might like. But that could simply be MY wishful thinking. I’m sure there are people who’ve been total jerks their whole life, accumulated huge fortunes, and died quite happy and quite oblivious to any suffering or harm they cause to others.

The good news is that you get to choose who you’ll be.

All the best,


Take a vacation, if only for perspective.

Just returned to the so-called “real world” after a week camping at a festival. Well, car camping. We had running water, a little shack happily selling us gyros, port-a-potties, and garbage collection. So we weren’t really roughing it. But happily, the campground had no internet access or cell phone. So it was a truly un-connected week. The week was spent hanging out with friends, attending an occasional workshop, building bonfires, and reading books.

Today I got back to stacks of mail, email, etc. Looking at it all, I realize that most of the daily stuff that occupies so much of my time is extra. It’s stuff that doesn’t give me joy or pleasure. Some of it is necessary, but it’s put in stark relief how much of my daily life and crap is just that: crap. It’s not building a happy life. It’s not bringing in immediate income. It’s busy-ness. Twitter? Busy-ness. The four dozen social networking sites intended to revolutionize my life? Busy-ness. Email (1400 email backlog from one week)? Busy-ness, except for three or four of the messages, should I ever be able to dig them out of all the rest.

I’m not sure what to do with this new realization. I may just drop a lot of stuff on the floor. A whole lot of stuff. Concentrate on the things that pay off most in the currency of happiness, short-term or long-term, and relax about everything else. Cheryl Richardson says a high-quality life often has more to do with what we remove from it than what we put in.

So go take a week’s vacation, totally un-tethered from the modern world. When you return, be careful and deliberate about which of your projects you pick up again. You just might end up doing less and living more!

Have you seen Dove’s Campaign for Real Beauty?

I’ve totally internalized the media images of the Ideal Male Body. Abercrombie & Fitch, galore. So, in a very 21st-century way, I often feel inadequate with my body. Like every time I walk past a mirror. Especially in summer. The amazing thing is that we’ve created these images of beauty for marketing purposes, so people will feel inadequate and will buy our products in some gut-level attempt to capture that beauty. It works.

Today a friend passed me a link to Dove’s Campaign for Real Beauty at http://www.campaignforrealbeauty.com. How refreshing! I especially like the video of the transformation from woman to Beauty.

Collect some fan mail 🙂

I’m going to be working with an experienced PBS Producer on how to break into the media. Before we meet, she’s asked me to poll some colleagues as to what qualities make me stand out, and what they find special about me.

Being typical, non-emotional, task-oriented guy, I thought of this purely as a request for information. So I sent it out to about 30 people and promptly forgot it.

Then the responses came in. My reaction was anything but task-oriented. By the fifth or sixth message, I was crying (in a good way). I get so wrapped up in my own struggles (or perceived struggles) that my attention is always on where I’m falling short, what’s not working, where I’m not achieving or connecting or loving or doing or being. These messages really hammered home how I’m special, and how others perceive my great qualities.

If you’ve never asked your friends what they love about you, give it a try. It’s very, very powerful.