What Defines Success?

I attended a seminar at UBC’s Robson Square downtown campus on Saturday March 24th.  What seminar, you ask?  A seminar on writing, publishing, and making money from writing a book.  As some of you may know, Sam Thiara and I are co-authoring a book, so we attended this event together.

During the seminar, the presenter led us through a short 5 minute practice writing exercise, where the goal was to keep our pens moving.  No matter what.  Just let the ideas flow.

To provide some direction, he gave us a bit of a framework for our 5 minute writing exercise.

(1) Start by asking a question – in this case, “What defines success?”

(2) Include the words “money” and “opportunities.”

After our 5 minutes were up, a few brave people volunteered to stand and share their writing with the lecture hall full of strangers.  One of those brave people was Paula Galli.  Paula proved to not only be brave, but to also be brilliant.

I approached Paula on a break and asked her if she would be willing to allow me to share, via my blog, what she wrote.  She graciously agreed and we made arrangements.

What follows below, is 5 minutes of unedited free-flowing wisdom of Paula Galli…

What Defines Success?

Defining success varies depending on who you are. Some people link it to how much money they have or what opportunities they have had.  For me, success has occurred and will continue to occur when I am staying true to myself and doing what I love doing.  Through following my passions, listening to my heart, following my gut and ultimately believing that my dreams can be accomplished, this to me is when I am the most successful.

In our society we are not taught to think this way, where which success is often related to money, social status or levels of education.  I believe that as we grow older it is our job to begin to define success for ourselves, rather than simply listening to what society, our family or our friends have told us.

Learning to believe in ourselves comes from knowing our values and our viewpoints.

This awareness can be gained through taking the time to tune within and figure out who we really are.

Thank you, Paula!

Paula is a Certified Life Coach, Nutritional Counsellor & Holistic Nutritionist with an Honours BSc. in Psychology from the University of Toronto.  To connect with Paula, please visit her website at www.depths.ca.

Paula creates and offers services that help individuals live their ideal life through self-realization and personal transformation.  Specifically, she is deeply passionate about helping people transform their relationship with food, through transforming their relationship with themselves.

Eat That Frog! Increase Productivity and Decrease Stress

I’ve learned a great deal from Brian Tracy over the years.  One thing in particular stands out from all the others.

This “thing” – call it a concept, an idea, a technique, a metaphor, a suggestion – has been huge in helping me increase my productivity, while also reducing my stress.  Sound pretty good?  It is!

Tracy has developed and popularized the idea of eating frogs for breakfast.  Not the frog’s legs that they supposedly eat in France, but a metaphorical frog.

What he proposes is that we all have things on our ‘to do’ lists that cause us anxiety until they are completed.  These are often important tasks that will create positive results for us, but we delay taking action, because there is something that holds us back.

In this short video, you can learn not only why we struggle to “get stuff done”, but also what you can do to improve your productivity and reduce your stress:  Eat That Frog by Brian Tracy (video).

With respect to the anxiety we experience when we have a frog that we haven’t eaten, I believe that the source of the anxiety stems from two things: (1) having an unmet commitment to ourselves or others and (2) fear about the anticipated pain associated with the impact of not yet having completed the task.

For example, if you said you would send a client or boss a report by a certain date and time and now that time has passed, you will likely experience anxiety.  (1) You will have an unmet commitment, since you have said you would do something and then didn’t.  (2) You will worry about having a difficult conversation with your client or boss, who may be upset or at least less trusting of your integrity and reliability.

I would suggest that the benefits of alleviating (or at least reducing) this kind of anxiety and tension from your daily life is equal to, if not greater, than the benefits of “getting your stuff done.”

For me, my frogs are often things like writing a client a proposal, dealing with a complicated email question from a student, or writing a reference letter for someone.

Breaking it down into smaller more (psychologically) manageable chunks certainly helps.  What can also help is gathering archived information, so I realize that I’m not starting from a blank canvas (e.g., past proposals, emails, and reference letters).

My wife and I now commonly use the phrase “I’m working on a big frog right now” to let the other know we are proud to be making progress on completing something that we, for whatever reasons, felt a great deal of resistance to doing.  This also lets the other know that we would like some time and space to be able to focus on the task at hand to make sure it gets completed.

At the office, I keep a picture of Kermit the Frog on my bulletin board as a constant reminder to reflect on the question, “what are my frogs that I’m currently avoiding?”

It’s easy to busy yourself with an inbox full of emails, attend unnecessary meetings, and to be drawn towards tacking all the easy things on your ‘to do’ list (assuming you’ve even taken the time to make one).  However, you only arrive at the end of the day never having really done the one or two things that would have made the day feel like a success.  Made it feel productive.  Made you feel more relaxed and less stressed.

Also, once you’ve eaten your frog, you’ll feel way more energy and enthusiasm for all the other things you do throughout the rest of the day.  They’ll feel easy!  You’ll feel light!


What’s your biggest frog right now?

Why is it important for you to eat this frog?

How will you feel once you’ve eaten this frog?

What are you tempted to do instead of eating this frog?

What will you chose to do?

Great!  Now get to it!  Here’s a napkin, for when you’re done…



Don’t Sell. Help Buy.

What’s the most recent thing you bought? Was it a coffee? A TV? A song from iTunes?

How about the most recent thing you were sold? Or at least that someone tried to sell you…

Due to the fact that the result often looks similar, in that money changes hands in exchange for a product or service, we often fail to distinguish between the two – buying and being sold. However, as you answered each of the original questions, you could probably feel your mind searching for different examples when thinking of your most recent buying experience versus your most experience of being sold. If you are like most people, you enjoy “buying” and hate “being sold”.

Not surprisingly, higher ticket items such as houses and cars are often the purchases we make where we encounter the feeling of “being sold”. Here the stakes are higher. There is more money to be made – and the person you are dealing with likely faces a positive financial incentive if you buy from them right now (a commission or bonus) and punishment if you don’t (being the bottom salesperson for the month – and if sustained, perhaps even losing their job). They are motivated by both the carrot and the stick. In some situations, there is a lot of pressure placed on salespeople to “sell” and they often pass this pressure on to you.

We’re all familiar with the high pressure sales tactics that leave us feeling gross. We rush home and have a shower, hoping that the icky feeling will be washed away. In these situations, we know the intent of the salesperson is focused on their own self interest – not helping us make a wise purchasing decision for ourselves. What’s a sleazy sales experience that still sticks in your memory?

Have you ever visited an Apple store? Did you notice what the employees did? They definitely didn’t use high pressure sales tactics, such as asking, “If we find the right computer for you that meets all the criteria you have just told me are important to you, is there any reason you will not be able to buy this computer from me today?” Depending on what you were looking for you may have found the employees busied themselves by asking you questions, listening to what you said, and sharing relevant information with you.  I’ll admit, I’m often in an Apple store just to caress the latest sleek device they have on display and I’ve never felt as though I was “being sold” – but I sure felt like I wanted to buy!

Which approach works better for you, as a customer? Where would you rather shop? Where would you prefer to come back to again and again? So why would you do anything differently when you’re on the other side of the counter?

A lesson in this for all of us, whether we are preparing for a job interview, pitching an idea at work, or “selling” a used Toyota, is to avoid selling to people, and instead to remember to help people make good buying decisions.

The path to doing this? In my opinion: ask great questions, sincerely listen for what matters most, and provide relevant information.

Making Tomorrow Better than Today

I was watching a Tony Robbins video clip, in which he was sharing a practical approach to make next year better than this year.  Regardless of whether you are thrilled with your life or feel there is lots of room for improvement, Tony reminds us that there is always room for improvement.  In fact, he often speaks about his personal philosophy of Continuous And Never-ending Improvement (“CANI”), as the path to certain growth, achievement, and even happiness.

In this particular video, he shared a 4-part process that any of us can use to make next year better than this year – and even to make tomorrow better than today.  Here is how you do it:

Step #1 – Select an area of your life you would like to improve and describe what that area is like for you currently.  Be specific!  Write it down.

Step #2 – Write down the rituals that have shaped your current conditions in this area.  Be honest!

Step #3 – Write down what you want.  What’s your compelling vision?  Be specific!

Step #4 – Write down the rituals that will get you your compelling vision.  What would you need to do differently each day to get what you want?

Now the obvious next step is to take action, by beginning to do things differently.  The power of the exercise is that you begin to see your habits differently – and start to see how your habits relate to the results you are getting in your life, for better or for worse.

When I teach Organizational Behaviour, I spend a significant amount of time in the first week (and if I’m really honest, throughout the entire semester) discussing with the students the role of choices (decisions) in our lives.  One way I highlight this is with the following adapted quote:


Watch your thoughts, for they become decisions.

Watch your decisions, for they become actions.

Watch your actions, for they become habits.

Watch your habits, for they become character.

Watch your character, for it becomes your destiny.


If you’re like most people, the little stingy voice in your head may be whispering something similar to, “But, I don’t want to change my habits!  My habits are easy – they’re a part of who I am!”  If that’s the case, so be it – and you can continue to do more of the same and expect more of the same.

Or if you have your stingy voice under control and are ready to do what is required to change your destiny, perhaps the question lurking somewhere in your mind is,  “When and how do I start taking different actions?”  I would suggest that more productive questions to ask yourself are, “Am I ready, this very instant, to decide to take charge of creating the life I want?” and, “What is one thing I can do immediately to demonstrate my commitment and achieve momentum?”

Decide.  Act.  [Rinse.]  Repeat.



Creating Your Own World View

By understanding our world, we stand a far better chance of changing it.

Similar to a scientist, who is seeking to understand the world from their discipline’s perspective (e.g., Physics, Biology, Chemistry), we too can make use of their powerful approach to create our own individual world view.  This post is about the value of actively pursuing the creation of your own world view.

“Now why would I want to do that”, you ask?  Well, first, it’s useful to understand that you are doing it anyway – just unconsciously and unintentionally.  As human beings, we are “meaning making machines”, constantly striving to make sense of our world as we perceive it.  We are continually trying to figure out our place in the world and how to best interact with it in a way that helps us avoid pain and move towards pleasure.

My point is that these world views are passively created.  If your aim is to be in the driver’s seat of your own life, wouldn’t you agree that you should do everything you can to actively pursue the creation of your own world view, such that it serves you?

Did I hear you say, “Okay, I’m sold.  So, where do I go from here?”  It’s fairly simple, but like many things, not always easy.  By regularly and consciously creating hypotheses and testing them, you will begin to form your own world view.  With your latest hypothesis in hand, when you come across information (evidence) that supports or refutes your hypothesis, you are essentially testing your ideas, assumptions, and beliefs about something that matters to you in your life.

As a result of consistently practicing this habit, you will notice that you gradually become more confident in your view of how things and people operate/work.  Consequently, because your perspective on the world will be evidence-based, you will become more effective at predicting and influencing the behaviour of yourself and other people.

Do you have a perspective on this post, from your own world view?  If so, please comment below!

Success Stories

“The initial purpose of my work with Adam Cotterall was to address my fear of public speaking – after my work with him, I realize I attained much more.  Adam has a uniquely thoughtful and sensitive approach to his coaching work.  Anyone lucky enough to work with him will appreciate the time he spends to get an overall sense of a person’s individual background, circumstances and larger picture goals.  This allows his “coachees” to be armed not only with the specific tools necessary to quickly attain tangible results, but also a sense of the barriers that may have existed in the past.  Working with Adam, I felt at ease and within the safety of an environment where I could push past my comfort zone – within that context, I was able to make progress with respect to practicing and improving my public speaking.

I am happy to report that I have quickly met some of my initial goals.  Perhaps more noteworthy, however, is after my work with Adam, I have a renewed sense of confidence about my abilities, and have revamped my goals around communication and speaking to include milestones that I never would have considered prior.  I am grateful that Adam has gotten me excited about my personal potential and the possibilities that abound when we are able to conquer our fears and focus on our abilities.”

– Human Resources Manager, National Law Firm