Thursday, January 27, 2011

Success Delusion

All of us delude ourselves about our achievements, status, and contributions. We overestimate our contribution, and take credit for successes that belong to others. We have an elevated opinion of our skills and our standing among our peers.

We ignore our costly failures and exaggerate our impact on net profits.

These delusions are a direct result of success, not failure. We get positive reinforcement from our past successes, and we think that they portend great things in our future. This wacky delusional belief instills us with confidence, however unearned it may be. It erases doubt and blinds us to risks and challenges, which isn’t all bad. If we had a complete grip on reality, we might be chronically depressed.

But our delusions become a liability when we need to change. When someone tries to make us change our ways, we first think the other party is confused or misinformed; second, we go into denial mode, thinking that the criticism does not apply to us; and third, we attack or discredit the other party: “Why is a smart guy like me, listening to a loser like you?” Those are just the surface responses. You get even more resistance to change when you add the positive interpretations that successful people assign to their past performance, their ability to influence their success, their optimistic belief that their success will continue, and their sense of control over their own destiny.

Four Beliefs Hold Us Back Four beliefs that help us become successful can also make it tough for us to change. That’s the paradox of success: The beliefs that got us here may hold us back in our quest to go there. Let’s examine each belief:

Belief 1: I have succeeded. Successful people believe in their skills and talent.

Their mantra is this: “I have succeeded. I have succeeded. I have succeeded.” It’s their way of telling themselves that they have the skills and talent to win and keep winning. They edit out their screw-ups and failures and run the highlight reel of their successes. They focus on the positive, calling up images of performances where they dazzled everyone and came out on top. To them, the past is always prologue, and the past is always rose-colored. Successful people never drink from a glass that’s half empty.

When the team achieves great results, they tend to believe that their contribution was significant. This I have succeeded belief becomes an obstacle when behavioral change is needed.

Belief 2: I can succeed. This is another way of saying, “I am confident that I can succeed.” Successful people believe that they can make desirable things happen. They believe that through sheer force of personality, talent, or brainpower, they can steer a situation in their direction. They see opportunities where others see threats.

They’re not afraid of uncertainty or ambiguity. They want to take greater risks and achieve greater returns. They will always bet on themselves.

Successful people do not feel like victims of fate. They see success largely as a function of motivation and ability -- not luck, random chance, or external factors.

They carry this belief even when luck plays a critical role. They insist that their good fortune is a payoff for hard work.

They believe that success is earned through their motivation and ability (even when it is not). They always link what they have done and how far they have come -- even when no link exists.

It’s delusional. They assume: “I am successful. I behave this way. Therefore, I must be successful because I behave this way!” Sometimes they are successful in spite of this behavior.

Belief 3: I will succeed. This is another way of saying, “I have the motivation to succeed -- and I will succeed in the future. Successful people not only believe that they can manufacture success; they believe it’s practically their due. As a result, they tend to pursue opportunities with an enthusiasm that others may find mystifying. If they set a goal and publicly announce it, they tend to do “whatever it takes” to achieve the goal. That’s a good thing.

But it can easily mutate into excessive optimism. It explains why successful people tend to be over-committed. It’s difficult for an ambitious person with an "I will succeed" attitude to say no to desirable opportunities. Most executives are drowning in a sea of opportunity.

Their "I will succeed belief" can sabotage their chances for success when it’s time to change behavior.

Belief 4: I choose to succeed. Successful people believe that they are doing what they choose to do, because they choose to do it. They have a need for self-determination. The more successful we are, the more likely this is to be true.

When we do what we choose to do, we are committed. When we do what we have to do, we are compliant.

I have now made peace with the fact that I cannot make people change. I can only help them get better at what they choose to change. Getting people who think “I have chosen to succeed” to say “and I choose to change” is not an easy transition. The more we believe that our behavior is a result of our own choices and commitments, the less likely we are to want to change our behavior.

Success Makes Us Superstitious

These four success beliefs -- that we have the skills, confidence, motivation, and free choice to succeed -- make us superstitious to some degree. And, the higher we climb the totem pole, the more superstitious we become.

Superstitious behavior comes from the mistaken belief that a specific activity that is followed by positive reinforcement is actually the cause of that positive reinforcement. The activity may be functional or not -- it may affect someone or something else, or it may be self-contained and pointless -- but if something good happens after we do it, then we make a connection and seek to repeat the activity. We repeat certain behaviors when we believe money and recognition will come our way because of it.

Superstition is merely the confusion of correlation and causality. We tend to repeat behavior that is followed by positive reinforcement. The more we achieve, the more reinforcement we get. So, we wrongly assume, “I behave this way, and I achieve results. Therefore, I must be achieving results because I behave this way.” This belief is sometimes true, but not always.

What got us here won’t necessarily get us there. Some success happens because of our behavior, and some success comes in spite of it.

Almost everyone I meet is successful because of doing many things right, and successful in spite of poor behavior. My challenge is helping leaders see the difference between because-of and in-spite-of behaviors, and avoid the superstition trap.

Pick a quirky or unattractive behavior that you do -- something that annoys friends, family, or co-workers.

Does this behavior help you achieve results? Or is it one of those in-spite-of behaviors?

We All Obey Natural Law

People will do something -- including changing their behavior -- only if it can be demonstrated that doing so is in their own best interests as defined by their own values. You can’t force people to work together. You can’t mandate synergy. You can’t manufacture harmony. You also can’t order people to change their thinking or behavior.

In order for me to get you to do what I want, I have to prove that doing so will benefit you in some way, now or later.

Every choice, big or small, is a risk reward decision where your bottom-line thinking is, “What’s in it for me?” This natural law is the force that gets squabbling rivals to cooperate – it’s the only way each of them can get what they want. It’s the force at work when people swallow their pride and admit they were wrong. They’ll do it if it’s the only way to put the trouble behind them and move on. It’s the reason people will turn down a better paying job because they sense the new situation will not make them happier.

Without this natural law, getting successful people to mend their ways would be impossible.

What keeps you coming back to work day after day? Is it money, power, status, or popularity, or is it something else? If you know what matters to you, it’s easier to commit to change. You’ll only change your ways when what you truly value is threatened.

Life is good.


My newest book, MOJO, is a New York Times (advice), Wall Street Journal (business), USAToday (money) and Publisher's Weekly (non-fiction) best seller. It is now available online and at major bookstores.


Marshall's Upcoming Schedule

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Be Happy

Once during an executive development session with a group of investment bankers, I was describing the process of helping successful leaders achieve a positive, long-term change in behavior. One banker asked, “How will this stuff help us make more money?”

I replied, “This process will help you make more money, but that is not what is most important.”

I then got up the nerve to say, “My mission is to help you and the people around you have a happier life.” I looked at the faces of the executives, expecting some kind of challenge. Then I asked, “Does anyone have any objection to this mission?” No one objected. So far, no one has ever objected.

My clients come to me with one common desire -- to improve in changing their most important behavior as judged by the most important people around them. My approach is not centered on helping my clients get more power, status, or money. Instead, my passion is to make them happier and better human beings. The rest naturally follows.

My clients are smart, high-achieving executives, but they may become so focused on their work that they miss the impact of their behavior on others.

I spend as much time coaching the people around my clients as I spend with my clients. In this way I bring the greatest benefit to the greatest number of people.

As I see it, anyone can change. If you want to change and are willing to work on the process, you can always get better.

However, you need to devote the time needed to make it stick. I only take on clients who dedicate at least a year to the coaching process, who have the courage to admit they want to improve and the humility to ask their colleagues for help.

One of my first tasks is to determine the key stakeholders that impact my clients’ lives. I only get paid after people get better. And “better” is not determined by me or my client -- but by the key people around my client.

Before starting the coaching process, I request four things from these people: First they must let go of the past. Whatever real or imagined sins this person has committed in the past, I can’t fix and they can’t fix, and if you consistently dredge up the past you will only inhibit the person’s ability to change.

Next I request that they swear to tell the truth about my client and adopt an attitude of help and support.

Finally I request that each of the supportive people pick behaviors that they want to improve in their lives. This establishes a culture of reciprocity and creates a positive feedback loop between my client and the key people surrounding him. The culture shifts from blame to mutual support.

The next step is to work with clients and their managers to establish clear goals for changing behavior, swapping negative behaviors for positive ones. They then begin a disciplined process of ongoing feedback with key stakeholders. This process helps clients build a network of positive relationships and achieve their goals as judged by people around them.

I also work on changing my own behavior. Once I was in a plane when the pilot announced that the landing gear would not engage. I asked myself if I felt regret about anything. I realized that over the years I had received many kindnesses which went unacknowledged. Today I write around 2,000 thank-you notes a year. A key to happiness is feeling and expressing gratitude. Life is good.

Life is good.


My newest book, MOJO, is a New York Times (advice), Wall Street Journal (business), USAToday (money) and Publisher's Weekly (non-fiction) best seller. It is now available online and at major bookstores.


Marshall's Upcoming Schedule

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Learn the Truth About Yourself

Remember the character Gordon Gekko in the movie Wall Street? Michael Douglas won an Oscar for his portrayal of this rude, larcenous wheeler-dealer.

Well, I worked with a real-life investment banker who in some ways could have inspired the Gekko character.

As an executive coach, I work with successful people who may need to change some behaviors to achieve the next level of success. The man I coached – let’s call him Mike – wasn’t amoral and unethical like Gekko, but his competitive fires made him treat people like gravel in a driveway. He ran right over them. Mike’s score for treating direct reports and colleagues with respect was 0.1 percent. Out of 1,000 managers rated, he was dead last! But Mike put up equally astounding numbers with his trades. His profit contribution was so vast that the CEO promoted him to management. This should have been the apex of Mike’s career. Instead, it exposed his bad side.

The firm's leaders, who had been insulated from Mike's behavior, then got a firsthand dose of his "lead, follow, or get out of my way" style. In meetings, they saw that there was often no checkpoint between Mike's brain and mouth.

He was surly and offensive to everyone, even mouthing off to the CEO (his biggest supporter), who called me in to "help him change now". When I met Mike, the most obvious thing about him was his delight in his success. He was making more than $4 million a year, so professional validation was coursing through his veins like jet fuel. I suspected that breaking through to Mike would be tough. He was delivering results, and he knew it.

So I sat down with him and said, "Let's talk about your ego. How do you treat people at home?" Mike insisted that he was different outside the office, that he was a great husband and father. "I don't bring my work home," he said. "I'm a warrior on Wall Street but a pussycat at home." "That’s interesting," I said. "Is your wife home right now?" "Yes", he said.

"Why don' you call her and see how different she thinks you are at home?" He called his wife. When she finally stopped laughing, she concurred that Mike was a jerk at home, too. Then he got his two kids on the line, and they agreed with their mother.

"I'm beginning to see a pattern here," I said. "Do you really want to have a funeral that no one attends, other than for business reasons?" For once, Mike looked stricken.

"They'll fire me if I don't make my numbers, won't they?" he asked.

"Not only will they fire you," I said, "but several people will be dancing in the halls when you go." Mike thought for a minute and said, "I'm going to change, but my reason has nothing to do with money or with this firm. I'm going to change because I have two sons, and if I were receiving this same feedback from you in 20 years, I’d be ashamed to be their father." Within a year, Mike's scores on his treatment of people shot up past the 50th percentile, and he doubled his income.

Our flaws at work don't vanish at home. And, our personal flaws and problems tend to show up a work.

Anybody can change, but they have to want to change. Sometimes you can deliver that message by reaching people where they live, not where they work.

If you want to know how your behavior comes across, stop looking in the mirror and admiring yourself. Let your colleagues hold the mirror and tell you what they see. If you don't believe them, ask your loved ones and friends, the people who want you to succeed. We all claim to want the truth. This is a guaranteed delivery system.

Life is good.


My newest book, MOJO, is a New York Times (advice), Wall Street Journal (business), USAToday (money) and Publisher's Weekly (non-fiction) best seller. It is now available online and at major bookstores.


Marshall's Upcoming Schedule

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Achieve Your Goals

A key to developing yourself is setting -- and achieving -- meaningful goals for personal change. Often, however, you don't set goals in a way that ensures the follow-through needed to turn great plans into successful outcomes.

What is required to produce positive, long-term change in behavior? Why do you often set great goals, yet lose the motivation to achieve them? How can you stick with the plan and ultimately reach your desired targets? Whether you set a behavioral goal, such as becoming a better listener, or health goal, such as losing weight, you face challenges in changing behavior. Why do goal-setters give up so soon? Why don't most New Year's resolutions last through January? What goes wrong?

Six Explanations Six reasons explain why people give up on goals. Understanding these roadblocks can help you achieve your objectives.

1. Ownership: I wasn't sure this would work in the first place. I tried it, and it didn't do much good. This was a waste of time. One common mistake is starting a program that promises, "This will make you better". The problem is that the emphasis is on this and not on you. Ultimately, only you can make you better. Successful people have a high need for self-determination. The more you commit to behavioral change because you believe in the process, the more likely the process is to work. The more you feel that the change is imposed on you -- or that you are just trying it out -- the less likely the process is to work. You need to ensure that the change objectives come from inside and are not externally imposed with no internal commitment. You are ultimately responsible for your own behavior.

2. Time: I had no idea this process would take so long. I'm not sure it is worth it. When you underestimate the time needed to reach your goal, you are tempted to give up on the goal. The optimism about time to meet goals is evident when you are trying to change while others seem to ignore your new behavior. You tend to be seen in a manner consistent with previous stereotypes; people look for behaviors that prove their stereotype is correct. In setting goals, you need to be realistic about the time required to produce a positive, long-term change in behavior. Know that others' perceptions may seem unfair and that -- as you change your behavior -- others may not recognize the change for months. If you set realistic expectations, you won't feel that something is wrong with you when you face a time challenge. Ultimately, changed behavior will lead to changed perceptions and more effective relationships.

3. Difficulty: This is harder than I thought it would be. Most achievement takes longer and requires more work! Don't confuse simple with easy. You want to believe that once you set a simple goal, it will be easy to get results. If this were true, all people who know that they should eat a healthy diet and exercise regularly would be in shape. The challenge is in the doing! Long-term change requires real effort. It can be challenging for you to listen patiently while others say things you do not want to hear. While you may see the need to change -- and desire to change -- it is still hard to have the discipline to change. Real change requires real work. Buying into statements like "this will be easy for you" makes you feel good in the short term, but backfires in the long term; when you realize that change is not so easy and begin to face trade-offs and challenges. Knowing the price for success at the start prevents demoralization that occurs when challenges arise.

4. Distractions: I'd like to work toward my goal, but I'm facing a unique challenge right now. Perhaps I should stop and pursue this goal later! Goalsetters tend to underestimate the distractions and competing goals that appear. Be assured: some distraction or crisis will emerge! It may come from a problem or opportunity. It's hard to focus on long-term development when you face a short-term crisis, or a "once in a lifetime" short-term opportunity. In planning, assume that distractions and competing goals will occur. Expect the unexpected, and build in time to deal with it. You'll be less likely to give up when problems or opportunities appear.

5. Rewards: Why am I working so hard at change when, after all my effort, I'm not making any more money! You tend to be disappointed when achieving one goal doesn't immediately translate into achieving other goals. For example, dieters who lose weight may give up on weight loss when prospective dates don't soon become more attracted to them. You need to buy in to the value of a long-term investment in your development. If you mistakenly believe that improving your skills will quickly lead to short-term profits, promotions, or recognition, you may become disappointed and give up when these benefits don't immediately occur. If you see personal change as a long-term investment in development -- one that will help you become more effective over time -- you'll pay the short-term price.

6. Maintenance: I improved when I was being coached, but I have let it slide since then. I can't work on this stuff for the rest of my life! Once you achieve a goal, the work required to maintain changed behavior can be tough to face. For example, upon reaching your weight reduction goal, you might think, "This is great! Now I can eat again!" Of course, this mind-set leads to weight gain and the yo-yo effect. Change is a process: you never get there -- you are always getting there. The only way exercise helps you stay in shape is when you face reality: "I have to work on this for the rest of my life!" Your development is an ongoing process, including your relationships. When you change, your relationships change. Maintaining positive relationships or results requires ongoing effort. There is no easy answer. Real change requires real effort. The quick fix is seldom the meaningful fix.

I encourage you to get a good coach to ensure that behavioral change becomes a reality and that your goals are met. Set challenging goals -- just understand the commitment required to reach them. Clear and specific goals that produce a lot of challenge -- when coupled with an assessment of roadblocks -- produce strong long-term results. Coaching can make a big difference in your life.

Life is good.


My newest book, MOJO, is a New York Times (advice), Wall Street Journal (business), USAToday (money) and Publisher's Weekly (non-fiction) best seller. It is now available online and at major bookstores.


Marshall's Upcoming Schedule

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Advice to New CEOs in Tough Times

Wall Street Journal
Wall Street Journal, Marshall Goldsmith logo
Advice to New CEOs in Tough Times
Wall Street Journal, Marshall Goldsmith print print version

by Marshall Goldsmith

When times are tough, becoming a new CEO from outside the organization is both a blessing and a curse.

The good news is that the world's not going to immediately blame you for the company's problems. The recession has lowered performance expectations. And the board has confidence in you.

The bad news is that the company does have serious problems you need to fix. And the economy may get worse before it gets better, inhibiting your chances for an effective turnaround.

So what are some of my suggestions for a new CEO entering into a difficult situation?

My first: Don't trash your predecessor. Whatever happened in the past happened. You cannot change that. Your predecessor probably had good relationships with many of the executives who are still in the company and are running key divisions and key functions. Do whatever you can to learn from your predecessor. Although a few CEOs are asked to leave because they engage in immoral or illegal activities, most are asked to leave because they just make mistakes. Your predecessor probably did many things right. Your predecessor knows ... perhaps more than anyone ... the key relationships that you will need to develop in order to be a success. Go out of your way to build a positive transition.

For instance, I have a colleague who has been working with the Obama team on the transition from President Bush to President Obama. He has been pleasantly surprised at the level of help and cooperation offered by leaders in the outgoing administration. He has found them incredibly helpful in sharing the 'nuts and bolts' of running the government and found them to be grateful that they are being listened to and treated with respect.

My second suggestion is to respect the history and tradition of your organization. Consider my friend Frances Hesselbein, who won admiration from management gurus for her incredible turnaround at the Girl Scouts of the USA in the 1980s. In her thirteen years at the helm, she dramatically increased membership and raised significantly more money. She also focused on the importance of diversity and made an organization that was becoming irrelevant ... relevant again. While she worked very hard at creating a vibrant organization that met the needs of changing times, she always respected the history and traditions that had made the Girl Scouts a great organization in the past. (Ms. Hesselbein and I are on the Leader to Leader Institute board of governors, of which Ms. Hesselbein is the chairman.)

My third suggestion is write off whatever you can ... now! As an incoming CEO in a tough situation, you need a brutally honest assessment of the problems faced by your company. Turn over every rock! Let your executives know that they will not be punished for disclosing concerns now ... but that they will be fired if you find out later that they did not tell you the truth about what is really happening.

One of my favorite clients, who eventually succeeded in turning around a disaster, tried valiantly to implement this strategy. He thought that he was being clear with all division presidents. By year's end the company had written off over $1 billion, which was by far the largest write-off in the history of the firm. As it turned out, one key division president, who was near retirement, had "fudged the numbers" in an effort to look good in his last year. When this mistake came to light, the company had to write off another $200 million the next year. The CEO told me that the $200 million write-off that occurred the second year did more damage to the reputation and stock price of the company than the billion-plus write-off that had occurred the first year.

My final suggestion: Be a role model for humility and continuous learning. Kent Kresa, who in the 1990s led an amazing turnaround at defense-contractor Northrop (now Northrop Grumman), developed a profile for the desired behaviors of the leaders in the company. He personally received feedback on his own leadership behavior. Kent worked hard at improving himself and set the example for all of his executives who also did the same thing. If you want others to develop, start with yourself! The positive role modeling by Kent and his executive team did more to encourage other leaders to focus on their own improvement than any amount of 'preaching' or courses on leadership. Ultimately for a company to change, individual leaders need to change. By being a positive example of learning, agility and personal development, you can inspire your leadership team to do the same. (I worked with Northrop and Mr. Kresa as consultant in the early 1990s, helping them with a large executive education effort.)

If you are a new CEO in a tough situation, I cannot guarantee that following these suggestions will ensure your success. But I do believe that following these suggestions will improve your odds in turning around a tough situation.

Dr. Marshall Goldsmith's 30 books include: Mojo: How to Get It, How to Keep It, and How to Get It Back When You Lose It! - a New York Times (advice), Wall Street Journal (business), USA Today (money) and Publisher's Weekly (non-fiction) best seller, What Got You Here Won't Get You There - a New York Times best-seller, Wall Street Journal #1 business book and Harold Longman Award winner for Business Book of the Year.   Succession: Are You Ready? is the newest edition to the Harvard Business 'Memo to the CEO' series.   His personal website,, contains hundreds of his articles and videos.

Life is good.


My newest book, MOJO, is a New York Times (advice), Wall Street Journal (business), USAToday (money) and Publisher's Weekly (non-fiction) best seller. It is now available online and at major bookstores.


Marshall's Upcoming Schedule

Thursday, January 06, 2011

The Right Thing to Change

I spend serious time with people helping them decide what they need to change.

The first thing we do is review what they’re doing right. From an organizational perspective that’s valuable because it eliminates certain challenges that don’t need to be addressed. Assuming I have gotten an individual to commit to changing for the better and changing something, I often have a hard time convincing successful people not everything needs improving.

Successful people have a glaring tendency to over commit. If you outline seven flaws, they’ll want to tackle all of them. But giving people unlimited choices only confuses them. Faced with too many options, they go back and forth trying to maximize their choice. This can turn into paralysis; in their never ending quest to find the best option, they end up deciding nothing. Worse, they may cycle back around to the same old idea that led to problems in the first place.

It’s no different when an organization is given a directive to innovate. Leaders see their favored market position weakening as competitors develop new products. They realize that favored status has led to complacency, and that complacency has infected the organization until everyone is operating within a successful box that is slowly shrinking around them. But they aren’t sure how to get out. After all, what they did to get in the box worked so well before.

It’s the same with successful people. Successful people hate being wrong even more than they like being right.

So I turn their attention to the one vital flaw that needs fixing. Rather, we identify the one thing that will affect the most substantive change. In many cases that one thing might seem obvious. In the case of the competitor closing the gap by innovating in product or service, the obvious thing is to come up with the next great thing the customer wants. Or, to solve a problem the customer has in a new, cheaper or some other appealing way. But what is that problem? More importantly, would we know it if we saw it?

Often people I work with will ignore that in-your-face problem and instead tackle any and every other problem around them instead. I’m not sure why. Maybe it’s denial, although if one is committed to change, denial shouldn’t be an issue. Maybe it’s our natural urge to take the path of least resistance, to start with the easy fix first. Maybe it’s just contrariness.

Whatever the reason, if innovation is the goal, the talent leader must get his stakeholders to see that improving the organizations’ situation requires focus. The other issues are moot.

However, I can see why people have problems choosing what needs fixing. In golf, for example, 70 percent of all shots take place within 100 yards of the pin. It’s called the short game, and it involves pitching, chipping, hitting out of sand traps and putting. If you want to lower your score, focus on your short game, which represents 70 percent of your score.

Yet, if you go to the golf course you’ll see most people attempting great feats of athleticism by trying to hit their oversized drivers as far as they can. It’s nonsensical. If golfers really wanted to stack the deck in their favor, they’d spend three hours on their short game for every hour spent trying to hit the ball a mile. If you improve your short game, you will shoot lower scores and beat the competition. The numbers don’t lie.

But getting people to fix their flaws in golf -- a highly pleasurably game totally within our control – isn’t nearly as difficult as getting people to change at work. In the workplace the stakes are higher, but the results are not completely under your control.

Therefore, when people commit to getting better, when they commit to change -- being open to it and executing on it when opportunities arise -- they are doing something extremely difficult, yet heroic. I applaud my clients when they begin the process of fixing their flaws and identifying that one key problem that’s throwing a wrench into the organizational works, not complete it.

With the right follow though, beginning a process, wherever it leads, helps to make success a foregone conclusion.

Life is good.


My newest book, MOJO, is a New York Times (advice), Wall Street Journal (business), USAToday (money) and Publisher's Weekly (non-fiction) best seller. It is now available online and at major bookstores.


Marshall's Upcoming Schedule

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Vive la Difference

In the past, even as recently as a few years ago, markets operated on a national or regional scale. This meant company leaders had little trouble communicating and interacting with each other, their employees and their customers, as most of them shared a common language and culture.

The advent of a truly global economy brings new opportunities and challenges. The advantages of global trade are well-known. Increased global competition leads to higher-quality products and services at lower prices.

Consumers have access to an incredible diversity of goods that may have been produced anywhere in the world. Poor countries with lower labor costs can “catch up” by doing labor-intensive work that would cost much more in wealthy countries, and eventually gain the purchasing power to buy more goods and services from the rest of the world.

As a result, communication, trade and culture have become more global and, in all likelihood, they’ll continue to move in that direction. Amid this change, opportunities for learning will be greater than ever. “Global connectedness” means we can interact in ways that lead to rapid and positive learning.

The road to globalization is not without its bumps, though. While the global culture has great potential benefits, it also can have great costs. People around the world are much more likely to look alike, act alike and sound alike.

Today, we likely are as concerned with “cultural extinction” as we are with the extinction of plant and animal species.

Three problems in particular could make economic globalization a nightmare:

1. A world of conformity, in which billions of people wear the same clothes, speak the same language and consume the same media.

2. A world of short-term stimulation, in which countless hours are spent on mindless television programs, Web sites, video games and virtual reality that greatly diminish life experience.

3. A world of isolation, in which large portions of people’s lives are spent striving for personal excitement and gain with little thought for others and even less effort devoted to helping future generations.

Still, attempts at stopping the flow of globalization are doomed to failure for two reasons:

1. The Internet is global, and information can spread faster than any institution’s ability to control it.

2. Almost all of the brilliant, young people developing new technologies believe in the free flow of information, do not like censorship and are not intimidated by government edict.

With all of these issues in mind, how can we create a positive global community? We can start with efforts in three key areas:

1. Reach out to humanity. In the global community, it’s easy to reach out, but it’s also easy to become isolated. We need to be inspired by the value in trying to benefit the world, not just ourselves. As opportunities for huge individual achievement and wealth form, we need to better recognize people who make the transition from success to significance. Community heroes need to be celebrated based upon their skills in giving, rather than taking.

2. Celebrate diversity. Our ability to adapt to changing situations largely is a function of our diversity. Language leads us to view the world in different ways and to have different approaches to making decisions and solving problems. We need to encourage diversity in language, culture and lifestyle to ensure our survival. Powerful countries must not try to make other countries become like them. Residents of the global community need to celebrate the fact that “different” may be synonymous with “fascinating, “enhancing” and even “necessary.”

3. Build long-term value. We need to inspire and educate people about the value of investing for the future. Long-term value is the result of vision, creativity, innovation and hard work, and we should foster these qualities in people before they enter the workforce.
By inspiring people and educating them in the values of celebrating diversity, building long-term value and reaching out to humanity, we can build a global community that is neither a nightmare nor a pipe dream.

Life is good.


My newest book, MOJO, is a New York Times (advice), Wall Street Journal (business), USAToday (money) and Publisher's Weekly (non-fiction) best seller. It is now available online and at major bookstores.


Marshall's Upcoming Schedule