Kindness Spoken Here

In places where multiple cultures are prevalent, or if it’s a frequent vacation destination, it is not unusual to see signs that say si parla Italiano, se habla Espanol, or even English spoken here. It is a welcome sign when you are in a place that does not speak your language. You know this is a place where you will be understood.

This had me thinking. What if in every household, workplace and commercial location, there was a sign posted, Kindness Spoken Here. Here, we watch, listen, care and respond with kindness, concern and respect.

Imagine how things would be different.

I travel during many weeks every year, so many weeks that Southwest Airlines and Marriott really like me. But it’s not the reward points that I review at the end of each trip, it’s the behaviors of those around me. In all of my trips speaking to groups, organizations, parents and CEOs, I routinely have the opportunity to witness how we interact and communicate with each other. Most of us are moving through life on a mission – head down and pushing ahead or looking at a phone walking in a way that would not pass a sobriety test. We are unaware of others, bumping into them, racing to beat them to a line, ensuring that we get what we want before assessing or responding to what they want. Rarely do we watch for the places to help others, let alone even acknowledge them. If one of the most important things we can do in life is to notice, encourage and support the greatness in others, it can’t happen if we aren’t aware of and committed to kindness in our interactions. Kindness is the key to the door to connection and relationship.

How do you develop the Kindness Spoken Here mindset? Here are three ideas.

  1. Don’t be cheap with a smile. This is the best and most inexpensive value builder on the planet. When you smile, you positively affect the moods of others. It is called emotional contagion. When you smile, you subconsciously invite others to join you in a positive and supportive emotion. As you smile and receive one back, you are also benefited from your action. And another benefit: it has the power to relax or undo a negative emotion in someone else.
  2. Don’t be cheap with a greeting or kind word. After a simple smile, offer a kind word. Express interest in them by asking how they are, how their day is, or, my favorite, what is the best thing that has happened to you today? Silent smiles are good, but smiles accompanied by a kind greeting are better. Connecting through actions and words improves the quality of connection with others, whether friends or strangers.
  3. Don’t be cheap with a simple act of kindness. Hold the door for someone. Let someone in ahead of you in traffic. Help someone with a bag, box or suitcase. Chat with them while waiting in whatever line you find yourself in. Express an interest in the lives of others and you will notice how similar we all are: looking to do our best in world that moves fast and can be impersonal.

With a focus on kindness, it’s more likely that you will see the greatness surface in others. As they respond, you are changed for good.

Take Action
Post Kindness Spoken Here at your home, office, car or school. Use the sign as a reminder to always watch and focus on how you speak, connect and interact with others. Lead with kindness.

This week, make a commitment to smile more, use kind and supportive words (instead of critical words), and do things to help others. It will be appreciated and will be paid forward. Great things always start small and catch on because they are great. Kindness can start small and grow into a family, company, school, town or even country that leaves others and ourselves better.

Speak the language of kindness and you will change yourself and your world.

By Jay Forte

Consider reading How Your Memories of Childhood Can Improve Your Future

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The Year to Get Clear

If you don’t enter a destination, your GPS is of little service. If you don’t create a goal, you don’t know where or how to focus your energy and activity. If you don’t have a purpose, you get pushed to-and-fro at the whim of the world around you.

With 2020 now here and its reminder of good vision, this is your year to get clear.

Where do you start to get clear? By deciding what you want to have happen this year – what outcome, success or achievement – would make this a good year?  

No one else can define this for you, but it is a necessary first step to help you get clear about you. From there, you can more confidently work on getting clear about what you want, what fits you and what makes life good for you. When you figure that out, you can determine where you are and what you need to do or make happen so you can move to where you want to be.

To help you get started, consider an approach that  I routinely share with my coaching clients. It goes like this: Imagine it is December 31, 2020. The entire year has gone by. You take a moment and realize what a great year this has been.

Now ask yourself: what happened to make it a great year? What were you clear about that helped you to make wise and sound decisions? What were you clear about to help you make progress on meaningful personal and professional goals? How did you grow, improve and make progress to be the best you or to be the person you want to be?

Think Personally

Complete a mental 360-degree walk around your life using the prompts below. Reflect on your response to each of the prompts. Consider recording your thoughts to help you see a more complete picture.

What do you want to happen this year in your life…

  • With your health?
  • With your family?
  • With your friends and / or colleagues?
  • With your finances?
  • With your school, college or other educational focus?
  • With your leisure time?
  • With your career direction?
  • With your sense of life purpose?

Think Professionally

Complete a mental 360-degree walk around your professional life using the prompts below. Reflect on your response to each of the prompts. Consider recording your thoughts to help you see a more complete picture.

What do you want to happen this year in your work…

  • With your career path?
  • With your salary or compensation?
  • With your relationship with the organization and management?
  • With your impact?
  • With your skill development?
  • With your interactions with colleagues?
  • With your retirement?

Take Action
It is your choice. Don’t let others take control of this for you. Make the time to get clear to boldly and confidently define your directions. With this, you dramatically improve the ability to achieve what you want so when you get to December 31, 2020, you can reflect on the year and confidently state that you had a most amazing year.

Need help getting started? Learn more about 2020 Vision and contact us to schedule your first discovery coaching call.

By Jay Forte

Consider reading 2020 Vision – The Year to Get Clear About The Things that Matter

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Your Check Engine Light

We don’t come equipped with a user’s manual that gives us the information we need to develop our natural strengths and talents. We don’t come with insight into cheat codes, telling us how to advance to the next level faster and better prepared. We don’t come with warning lights or alarms telling us we’re going in the wrong direction or that we’re pushing ourselves too hard, burning the candle at both ends, as they say.

But something we do come equipped with is a “check engine light.” Feeling out of place? It’s your check engine light telling you the fit isn’t right. Feeling run down and tired? It’s your check engine light reminding you of the importance of self-care. Feeling empowered and excited about something? It’s your check engine light telling you you’ve found your passion, your strength, the area where you’ll thrive. 

Learn to recognize when your check engine light comes on. This is what we call the Stop and Notice moment. It’s a moment when something happens that brings your attention to how you’re thinking or feeling about a situation or event.

The check engine light isn’t always a bad thing. It is just a reminder, an interruption that asks you to pay attention. Stop and Notice what you’re feeling, what you’re thinking, what’s happening around you. Consider why you think or feel this way. Consider how it could be better or how you can take advantage of a good situation. Then choose – with intention – how to move forward, how to make the next moment the best it can be with all the information you have. Learn from a challenge or uncomfortable feeling. Celebrate a success or opportunity.

Take Action
Pay attention to what your emotions, thoughts and feelings are telling you. Feeling good? Why? Not feeling good, balanced or happy? Why?

How does your check engine light appear to you? Challenge yourself to identify how your check engine light appears to you. Once you see it, it’s hard to miss.

The check engine light is your signal, your reminder to pay attention to what moves you forward. Without some regular maintenance, you just might break down.

By Kristin Allaben

Consider reading Here’s Your Permission Slip

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2020 Vision – The Year to Get Clear About The Things that Matter

Let me guess: Your days can be chaotic and make you feel like you are running in place. At the end of the day, you are exhausted but don’t really feel like you have made much progress. This could be because you lack a clear vision of what you want to accomplish.

Well, this stops now.

2020 Vision is a commitment to be more mindful and intentional in how you show up to your days – both in work and life. As Stephen Covey shares in habit #2 of his book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, “begin with the end in mind.” Get clear about what you want, where you want to go and what success looks like. From there, you can assess your current performance and develop a plan to achieve that vision of success.

As you start a new year, consider getting clear about the following areas:

  • You: What are your talents, strengths and interests? Identify your abilities to be able to wisely and intentionally lead with what is best in you. With clarity about who you are, you create the ability bring your best, greatest and most productive self to everything you do. How will you get clear about you this year?
  • Relationships: Who are the important people in your life? What amplifies your connection with them? Identify the relationships you have at work. What does a successful relationship look like? Identify the relationships you have outside of work. For each, define what a successful relationship looks like. Getting clear about what you want in each relationship can help you regularly assess where the relationship is to know how to improve it and move it forward. How will you get clear about your relationships this year?
  • Directions: What do you want to accomplish or achieve in 2020? Identify what career path you want to be on. Do you want to change jobs, get promoted, go back to school, become a manager, start your own business? Identify what life path you want to be on. Do you want to change jobs, go to college, get married, get divorced, have a family, move to a new area? The choices are endless and they are yours to make. But remember: even though there are always a lot of options, only some of them fit you. Knowing yourself and what you want of your relationships will influence your direction. How will you get clear about your personal and professional direction this year? 
  • Blocks: What will get in your way to get clear this year? What habits, assumptions, interpretations and limiting beliefs are stopping you from allowing yourself to clearly define what you want for you, your relationships and your directions? Shining light on your blocks (which could be anything from finances to health to education to job availability or even the lack of self-belief and confidence) helps create the ability to address them to stop them from blocking your happiness and success. How will you get clear about the things that are blocking you this year?

Your life is up to you. You are not a passenger, you are the driver. To arrive where you want to go requires clarity. Your GPS is not much help if you aren’t clear about your destination.

Think 2020 Vision. Get clear about you, your relationships, your direction and the things that currently block you. When you’re clear about all of this, you can set your destination and enjoy the ride.

Get clear to get great results.

Take Action
Consider the benefits of working with a coach to help you get clear about you, your life and / or your work. Sometimes, it’s hearing things said out loud to a neutral third party that can offer clarity to you in a completely different way.

Imagine. Create your vision. Build your plan.

Let’s get started.

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Five Rules for A Really Great Life in 2020

We all need guidance. There is so much to figure out so we can live in a way that matters. And though this is individual work to do, I have created five universal rules that will help anyone have a really great life, a list I’ve assembled based on my more than 20 years of managing and coaching others (and doing this work myself).

Here they are.

  1. Life has its ups and its downs. Expect them. Use the ups to help you deal with the downs. Never stay down long.
  2. Never compare yourself to someone else. They are different on purpose and are better than you at some things and you are better than them at other things. Focus more on being your best self.
  3. Make the time to know what makes you happy and stay focused on it. Get clear about your goals and stay focused on them, regardless of the distractions and interruptions you encounter.
  4. Take nothing personally. As the expression goes, “What you think of me is none of my business.” Everyone can and will have their perspectives. Never let what others think and say distract you from being your best and truest self, and from focusing on what makes you happy.
  5. Make everything you touch better. My dad used to say, “It is not up to you to improve the world, just the part of it you touch.” Each day, make where you are – your relationships, your work, how you show up to your world – just a little bit better. Overtime, you will make things significantly better.

Consider using these to guide your thoughts, feelings and actions to set your direction in 2020. These guidelines can help you move through life happy, focused and living your definition of a great life.

By Jay Forte

Consider reading 3 Ways to Help Your Team Start Strong and Focused in the New Year

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Give the Gift of Time

Shopping for a gift for the important people in your life can sometimes seem difficult. There are so many choices from so many locations at so many price points. It’s hard to know for sure what’s just right.

True, it may be difficult to find the right tangible gift. But why is it we think that we must give someone something purchased to show them we care? Much of this comes the constant input from advertisers and marketers whose goal it is to sell what they make.

Think you’re immune to their marketing efforts? Ask yourself how many times you’ve said, “I need to get something for _________ because I am sure they are getting me something.” Or, “I have to get them something nice, I know they are getting me something nice.”

Quite frankly, that’s madness. How did we get here?

I think it’s important to go back to our roots, to remember Christmas and the holiday season as a time to be aware – aware of what is really important. And in the process of doing this, consider what we could give to or do for others that doesn’t require making a purchase. After all, the great gifts are often those that come directly from the heart.

So this year, consider giving those you care about something more from yourself. Consider giving someone the gift of time, uninterrupted and intentionally focused time. Consider what giving the gift of time could look like: meeting for coffee, going for a walk, reminiscing about past experiences, a surprise phone call or visit, or working on a project together (uninterrupted by technology).

Making time for someone, to share their space with them, is a great way to stay connected by acknowledging them and helping them feel cared for, valued and loved. To me, this seems like the best of gifts.

Take Action
We are social animals who join others not just for physiological needs but for the company and camaraderie. We need and want people in our lives. Virtually every holiday show is about reconnecting relationships and how life got better when others changed even just a small moment of their day to spend time with another.

What would it take for you to buck the gift-giving tradition this year in favor of time giving – the giving of your time, concern, interest and love? How will you remember that at the center of every holiday is not the bows, the trees, the lights or the gifts, but instead is about time with the people you care about?

Remember that what truly makes the holiday special is making time, caring deeply, being present and connecting as people. Memories come from the way you feel, not the stuff you own and eventually throw out.

Make a commitment to give the gift of a great relationship to five people this holiday. I bet once you start, you will develop a new and more amazing holiday tradition.

By Jay Forte

Consider reading Stop and Notice Works Everywhere

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Little Moments of Remarkable

Face it. Our world can seem pretty mean and nasty. We can quickly get disillusioned about others, our world and life if we allow ourselves to only focus on what’s wrong, what’s unfair, what’s not going our way. But with some intention, we can train ourselves to focus on the good and the amazing, the little moments of remarkable that are always around us and ready to help us see the joy in life.

Challenge yourself to Stop and Notice

  • the colors and textures in a flower or a leaf. Notice the artwork in its creation. Notice if it’s large  or small, what colors it exudes (the brilliant reds, the screaming oranges, the soft whites, the gold and yellows, the cool greens). Every speck, every line and the variety of edges are works of art. Remarkable.
  • your child. Notice the color of their eyes, the wave of their hair and that their hands look like yours or your spouses. Notice the freckles, the laugh, the expressions, the walk. A human work in process. Remarkable.
  • the food at a grocery store. Notice the colors of the skins of the apples, pears, oranges, limes and lemons. Notice the shapes of the potatoes, onions and shallots. Notice the fragrance of the herbs and the strawberries. Notice the colors and shapes of dried beans, nuts and breads. Notice how much is available. Remarkable.
  • the sky and the constant changing show of light and dark, blue and black, clear and overcast. Notice the shape of a cloud and how it moves over you, casting a shadow as it goes. Notice the sunrise and the sunset, or the way the rays of the sunshine through a storm cloud. Notice the colors of an impromptu rainbow. Remarkable.
  • the sound of the rain as it hits a roof and how it splashes as it adds to a puddle. Notice the smell as a rain approaches and after it leaves. Notice the water that remains on the leaves of plants and the patterns it creates. Remarkable.

Your world, our world, is filled with little moments of remarkable. What is required is the intention and ability to notice. We can move past them, as many of us do, or we can interrupt our mindless approach to our lives and take the time to notice. These moments of remarkable are there for us to stay calm and happy – to bring joy to each of our moments, regardless of what the world sends.

Take Action
When you feel yourself getting irritated, frustrated or aggravated about something, remind yourself to stop and notice a little moment of remarkable. Just one. Focus on something right in front of you and really notice all of what makes it remarkable. This is how to shift your attention to the great and amazing things of life and away from only seeing the negative.

By Jay Forte

Consider reading The Value of Setbacks

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How to Create a Stressless Holiday

Holidays are like a Dickens novel; they can be the best of times and the worst of times. They bring people together to share time, emotions and each other. They also come with expectations to receive and deliver that are rarely met. Up and down. Love and hate. Excited and depressed – all in the same moment.

So, how will you commit to making this year different?

Insanity is defined as doing the same thing over and over, expecting different results. Approaching the holidays the way you did last year without a clear intention or focus leaves you at the mercy of noisy and pushy marketing, unreasonable family expectations and a general sense of stress.

Imagine just for a moment that your holiday – whatever you celebrate – is loving, relaxing and memorable. Don’t roll your eyes and say, “that’s impossible.” Visualize you really enjoying the holiday. Sit with this for a minute because you will need to know what this looks like for you to decide how you and your family could work together to achieve it. If you can’t imagine it, you will not be able to create it.

So, first define it. To help with this, answer the following questions:

  • How do I/we want to celebrate?
  • Who do I/we want to celebrate with?
  • How can I/we redirect the holiday away from spending and buying? (When did we decide that to show someone you care you have to spend money on them? What could you do instead?)
  • What must be included in the holiday celebration that will make it special for me/us, my/our family, friends and colleagues?
  • What is something I/we could do instead of giving gifts to show those in my/our life/lives are important to me?

I’m not unrealistic. It is entirely possible that a holiday event may not ever be able to achieve the coveted status of not stressful. But I think holidays are only doomed to be stressful because we create expectations that are frequently unreasonable.

So, to reduce stress and make holiday celebrations more reasonable, consider adding this on to the end of each of the questions above, “and make it fun and relaxing?” For example, “How do I/we want to celebrate and make it fun and relaxing? Or, “How can I/we redirect the holiday away from spending and buying to make it fun and relaxing? The constant is that the holiday has to be fun and relaxing for everyone. This may show up in doing more than buying, spending time instead of spending money, connecting personally instead of hiding behind technology.

Take Action
Imagine what a great holiday for you. Ask others. Assemble all of the responses. Work together to ensure that everyone has something they want for the holidays, but that it cannot stress others out. A stressless holiday is one that everyone can enjoy.

Anytime you change the norm, you will get pushback. But if the change helps you create new traditions that make the holiday happy and less stressful, then the holiday becomes a great time instead of a time of worry, frustration and aggravation.

By Jay Forte

Consider reading What Does a Good Holiday Look Like for You?

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There’s a Fine Line

Most people know in the context of crazy and brilliance there is a fine line. A most brilliant idea when it crosses the line can become completely crazy.

As is the case in most everything, how you define the events in your life is entirely up to you. The same goes for the “fine line.” You decide what that fine line looks like, whether it’s specific to an event in your life or someone else’s.

I think this phrase can be applied in so many ways, but there’s one I specifically want to focus on: loyal vs. lazy.

Sometimes, you can find your life moving in a direction you know is not right for you. Maybe it’s your job, maybe it’s a relationship, maybe it’s something else. Regardless of the specific situation, you feel like you’ve lost control of what’s happening in your life.

When you find yourself asking “now what?,” what’s your response? Do you stand up and take charge? Or do you sit back and ask why the hard stuff in life seems to find you?

I believe there’s a fine line between loyal and lazy.

I’ve seen and heard more than a few examples in my life where someone used the excuse “well, she’s loyal so she won’t change anything” or “he’s lazy so he won’t make a change.”

The real question is when you notice that things in work or life are not working or feel quite right, what do you do? Do you refuse to change or improve things because you are loyal (seen as a virtue) or lazy (seen as a flaw)? Loyalty and laziness – both left unmanaged – can create negative consequences.

At some point, you have to take control of the direction of your life. If you’re not happy, ask yourself what you can do to make it better. If you’re not certain you’re moving down the right path, ask yourself what about your current direction doesn’t sit well with you.

Take Action
Take the time to get to know yourself. You’ll be less likely to confuse “lazy” with “loyal” and be more motivated and empowered to take control of your life. Check in on your motivation for the decisions you make. Are you hiding from or reluctant to make a difficult decision? Or, are you intentionally choosing to stay where you are because it is a better long-term solution? Only you will know, but be honest with yourself about what you choose and why. See things as they really are.

By Kristin Allaben

Consider reading The Year to Get Clear: What Do People Applaud Me For?

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Finding Your Fit: A Real-World Story

The Forte Factor is dedicated to helping you discover, develop and live your strengths to be happy and successful in life. This requires you to be tuned in, aware and mindful – aware of you and your world, and mindful in the way you connect the two to find your fit. This is the key to living a happy, successful and responsible life. 

Sure, this is all great to hear, but what does it look like in real life?

Meet Jay Forte. Sure, you may have read his bio and know he was a former financial executive before becoming an educator, author and coach. Some of you may even have had the opportunity to be a client or to be part of one of his programs and know what he’s like to work with directly.

Jay Forte, Coach, Author, Educator

But that just scratches the surface. I recently sat down with him to get his full story: how he went from a world of numbers to being a Certified Professional, Executive, Business and Greatness Zone Coach.

Q: You worked as a CPA and Financial Executive. What led you down that path?
I knew early on in life that I was good with numbers and organization; process thinking comes easily to me. It was that and some guidance from my parents who thought that because I was so organized and process-driven, that becoming an accountant was a good fit. I heeded their advice and got an MBA. It seemed right at the time. Though I enjoyed the work, I was never passionate about it or felt that is was my calling or a true vocation.

Q: When did you discover your calling was something else? What did you do about it?
As the CFO for a distribution company, I started a small education department to help my employees become more skilled and more engaged, and it caught on in a big way. Going through the training program I created led to significant performance changes that seemingly happened overnight. As a result, the company’s results improved, which led to us being purchased by a much larger organization. The leadership team of the new organization was impressed with our education approach and asked me to start an education program for the company. Twelve years later, we had a formal education center where we trained over a thousand employees from around the globe, focusing on writing, teaching and guiding performance at every level. This is where I found my true calling of education, performance development and coaching. 

Q: Why did you decide to make the move and start your own company? What factors came into play?
After 12 years of developing course materials and working with a significant number of employees from around the world, I felt the need to leave the corporate environment to step out on my own – to write books, coach, teach and speak. I started off by writing two books: Fire Up! Your Employees and Smoke the Competition and The Greatness Zone. Taking the time to pull my thoughts together in two books helped me find my voice to bring a mindful approach to work – to help organizations learn how to attract, hire, engage, develop and retain great talent. And in my writing process, I discovered that the same tools and approach to improve workplace performance also worked well for life – to discover, develop and live who we truly are to access our potential and to make our difference.

Said another way, I found my fit – the connection of my abilities and passions to a need in today’s world.

Q: How did you come up with the idea to launch The Forte Factor?
A colleague suggested the name The Forte Factor. How amazing to be born with a name that is connected to your purpose – of helping people discover, develop and live what is best in them. The Forte Factor is your noteworthy special talents and strengths that help you achieve your goals and live your potential. Knowing and developing your Forte Factor is the way to show up big to work and life. My organization is committed to helping people discover and live their Forte Factor – their way developing and living their potential – to improve their lives and the lives of all of us.

So, what is your Forte? It’s a question we ask our clients to help them get thinking about their unique abilities that they bring to the world.

Q: Who are your role models?
My role models are leaders who are able to influence, guide and support without making it about themselves. They are self-aware and self-managed – with little or no ego. These leaders show up as regular people – parents, colleagues, clients, flight attendants, waitstaff, LYFT drivers, kids, teachers, CEOs, trash collectors and others. I watch for them everywhere to learn from them.

Q: Do you have a specific role model or mentor that you’ve looked to for your own life guidance?
The CEO of the organization that owned the company I was CFO for took me under his wing and provided both great advice and interest in my ability to learn, grow and be my best. I saw first-hand how mentoring done right could not only raise skill levels but help others feel valued, included and important. Though this person died suddenly from a heart attack and my time with him was cut short, his lessons of watching the details, knowing and being myself and choosing to bring my A-game to every event of work and life to do and be remarkable still guide my approach in work and life.

Q: What is one thing you are still working on that you know you can do better?
Developing a deeper understanding of who I am and how to bring that unique person to all I do, authentically, courageously and wisely. I still find it difficult to be my authentic self in a noisy and critical world. It is always in the challenges that we learn the most, but developing the courage to be authentic is still a work in process for me.

Q: What’s one piece of advice you’d give to someone who may not feel like they’re in the right fit job or position in life? What can they do to find their right fit?
Focus on these two words: Stop and Notice. Interrupt your habits and make time to notice you – what you are good at, passionate about and what matters to you. Then Stop and Notice your world – what opportunities do you see that connect with the real you? It is your job then to work to connect the real you to today’s world to find what fits you.

Be aware of when you listen too much to others at the expense of listening to and choosing for yourself. You are here to be the best version of you. Only you can know and do this. Know yourself. Know your world. Connect the two to find your unique fit.

Q: What is your motto?
No fixing required. You were born with all the right stuff. Discover, develop and live who you truly are. The world is waiting for you to show up as the real you.

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