The Willpower Instinct

The Willpower Instinct by Dr. Kelly Mcgonigal is a great primer on how to make a change or climb a mountain. Mcgonigal covers the latest research on what it takes to set a goal and achieve it. There are so many surprising ideas in this book regarding more effective ways to get to the top of your mountain. Here are some of my favorites…

1) Plan for Failure –
To prevent the emotional high of setting the goal and the crash of having to implement the goal, researchers have found that people who plan for failure are less likely to give up when the first setback comes. Planning for failure isn’t self-doubt–it’s determination.

2) Getting Distracted From Our Goals is Due to a Lack of Meaning –
“We live in a world of technology, advertisements, and twenty-four hour opportunities that leave us always wanting and rarely satisfied. If we are to have any self-control, we need to separate the real rewards that give our lives meaning from the false rewards that keep us distracted and addicted,” writes Mcgonigal in the book. The key to a determined mindset is to focus on the meaning of the goal. When we get distracted, we need to remember the rewards and stay in the game.

3) Practice Willpower –
Like most things in life, stronger willpower comes from practice. Willpower is a skill that can be learned. If you don’t use it, you’ll lose it. Like a weak muscle, we run out of willpower when we aren’t working it.
This book is like your willpower personal trainer. I really enjoyed its helpful, practical advice. The Willpower Instinct is well researched and friendly, a refreshing approach to setting and achieving goals.


What’s worked for you in sticking with your goals?

My dear friend Stephen Covey taught me: You Can Have It All, But Not All at Once

I sat with Steve in his backyard one afternoon and asked the guru: If you could choose just one of the seven habits, which one meant the most to him personally after 30 years of teaching this stuff? It was a rare moment to see him because he was still globe-trotting in his late 70s and kept an outrageous schedule. He invited Bonita Thompson and I to his serene French Provincial-style home overlooking Provo, Utah, where we talked privately about his busy life with the unusual perspective that comes from sitting in the Zen-like setting of his backyard terrace.

“If you focused on one thing, it should be the ‘foundation habit’ —being proactive about just the few things that matter. It’s the habit upon which all the others are based,” he mused. “Cut your priorities down to a few good things that mean the most. You can have it all, but not all at once!” Covey said there is a big difference between giving your attention only to urgent matters that compete for your mindshare and the more important things that will help you prosper in the long term. Our primal brain is easily seduced by fight-or-flight urges, which means that anything that feels like a crisis—and does NOT require deep thought—ironically will be given highest priority.

Covey believes that’s backwards. Unless you’re being chased by a saber tooth tiger, it’s likely that you will benefit from stopping to distinguish between “fire drills” and other issues that would have a longer term impact on your work. In other words, you may have to address certain pressing matters in the next hour, but think about what you need to do this week to invest in your long-term work and life objectives and carve out some time for that too. Covey cautions us against compiling massive to-do lists without first taking a serious reality check.

Bonita and I had come to Provo to see him for insights on a new book we’re releasing this fall called Admired: 21 Ways to Double Your Value. We did a national study with help of researchers at Stanford and Northwestern looking at how to be admired as a leader—not for just anything—but for something that matters over the long term. Covey smiled and winked, “If you just had a short time to live, what one thing would you like to be respected, admired and valued for? Be proactive about that.”

Third Edition of Coaching For Leadership: Writings on Leadership from the World’s Greatest Coaches

An excellent new edition of the book Coaching For Leadership, edited by Marshall Goldsmith, Laurence S. Lyons and Sarah McArthur, is now out and available for purchase.

This version features writing by Frances Hesselbein, John Baldoni, James Kouzes, Barry Posner, as well as myself, Bonita Buell-Thompson and many outstanding others. The chapter Bonita and I penned, “Double Your Value”, is an iteration of the successful webinar we did with the AMA last year.

Warren Bennis calls the book, “the single best collection of writings and writers on executive coaching.” It’s an incredibly valuable, well put-together resource for anyone interested in coaching and leadership, and it was an honor to contribute to. Order your copy here.

The Dream is Free, The Journey’s Not

Why is it that we get in our own way as entrepreneurs? We have the ambition, the drive, we’re highly motivated to accomplish the goal. So what is it that holds people back?

I recently had the opportunity to meet with the leadership-great John C. Maxwell. John’s taught and authored over 60 books on leadership, including the bestseller, The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership I posed the question to him–what prevents us from following through on our dreams?

“I think that when we don’t follow through, we lack enough valid reasons to follow that dream,” he responded simply.  “If I don’t have a lot of valid reasons to pursue my dream, I’m likely to give it up because the journey to accomplish it is very difficult.”

John went on to articulate the difference between dream and doing in a way I’d never heard–the reason we like dreams is because they’re free. They don’t cost us anything, there’s no sacrifice involved. Dreaming is the easy part. Making it happen?

“We can sit around the table imagining all these great things, ‘Wow! Wouldn’t be great if I did this? Bought that?’ Well, the dream’s free–the journey’s not,” John emphasized. “When we start the journey, that’s when we begin to realize there’s a cost. And every time we have to pay another price, or experience another set-back, the troubles and trials try to pull our hand off of the dream we’ve been clutching.”

Unless we have a lot of good, valid reasons to continue pursuing our dream, more than one or two, we’re likely to give it up.

“Entrepreneurship has a lot of uncertainty,” John affirmed.  “The more valid reasons we have for why we want to be what we want to be, and why we want to accomplish what we want to accomplish, gives us the tenacity and holding power to stay true to that dream and not let go of it so quickly or easily.”



Watch the video version of my chat with John C. Maxwell below:

Mark Accepts JFKU Lifetime Leadership Award

I am extremely honored to be receiving the Chuck H. Smith Lifetime Leadership Award from JFK University’s Institute of Entrepreneurial Leadership today. They will also be awarding the distinguished columnist and economic advisor Tapan Munroe in recognition of lifelong dedication to entrepreneurship, innovation, and leadership.

Wahid Tadros, President of California Engineering Contractors Inc., and Jeff Gray, CEO of Glue Networks will be presented with inaugural Entrepreneur of the Year Awards. They are two leading California entrepreneurs who exemplify business entrepreneurship with a social conscience.

JFK University’s Institute of Entrepreneurial Leadership offers a powerful program designed for today’s entrepreneurs, who are at the heart of future business growth and job creation in the Bay Area. They’re a wonderful institution and it’s a great honor to receive this recognition from them!


Richard Branson Selects Mark Thompson as One of 5 Judges in the World

Sir Richard Branson has selected me to join him as one of only 5 entrepreneurship expert judges in the world for the Virgin Global SBAU Entrepreneurship Competition.

The panel of judges also includes Jane Tewson (Igniting Change), Creel Price (Co-founder of Blueprint Management Group), Peter Boyd (COO, Carbon War Room), and Tony Banks (CEO, Balhousie Care Group).

 The Screw Business As Usual competition, launched in November 2011, was designed to find ideas from around the world that are truly screwing business as usual and making the world a better place. They have had a wealth of brilliant ideas, ranging from an ethical football Soccket that harnesses and stores energy from play for use as a power source in resource-poor areas to Rapanui, an eco-fashion brand that makes casual wear in line with the latest trends from sustainable materials, to an idea to introduce a ‘Thinking Class’ for air and train passengers to opt into, where passengers can donate their time and generate ideas through a virtual community platform.

 Sir Richard Branson and this great group of entrepreneurs will be responsible for judging the Top 10 ideas, as voted by the public. The winning idea will be announced on 14th May 2012. The lucky winner will join Richard on a money-can’t-buy Connection Trip to South Africa with Virgin foundation, Virgin Unite. As part of the prize, the winner will get to meet frontline leaders who are making a difference, share ideas with young entrepreneurs at the Branson Centre of Entrepreneurship and get to spend several days with Richard and the rest of the group, experiencing the beautiful wildlife of South Africa at Ulusaba, Sir Richard’s private game reserve.

The contest is open until April 17th 2012, so there is still time to vote for your favorite idea to help find the winner of the 2012 Screw Business as Usual competition.

Read more about it here.

Create Value at Any Job

Floodgate co-founder Mike Maples has been responsible for helping to kick start some of the most revolutionary new companies around: Twitter and digg, just to name a couple. His secret? The ability to recognize talent and value in even the most wild sounding ideas and business plans.

“Great value creation is fundamentally a creative act. Part of that is taking the current job you’re in and doing the best you can at it. But the bigger part is taking only jobs that you’re passionate about. If you don’t have a job you’re passionate about, you’re flunking a cosmic IQ test,” he imparted.

As Mike says, most of us here in the U.S. have more choice than we think about pursuing the things we’re passionate about.

You have to have an authentic voice for what you do. You can be entrepreneurial at any job,” he shared emphatically. “If you think about your product and what you do not as convincing someone to buy something but rather as propoagating the truth because you care about it so much, than you’re more likely to succeed and you’re more likely to create value.”

Creating something valuable that people will be attracted to and want to be a part of first comes from your belief in it, so why waste your energy on something you don’t think matters? True value comes from the pursuit of your passions.

Watch the video version of my interview with Mike Maples below:

Actions That Stop Depression

Depression is 10 times more common than is was 50 years ago–particularly among our teens.  Here are some actions you can take that not only stop depression, but have been found in studies to be as effective as antidepressants.  These are from the book Flourish by Martin Seligman.

1) Do a kindness for someone.This action has the greatest increase in self-reported well-being.

2) Write a letter of gratitude to someone who has changed your life in a positive way (or visit the person and tell them how much they mean to you.)

3) Keep a diary of the top 3 greatest blessings that happened that day and why they happened. For example:
Husband ran to the store for me – I have a thoughtful husband.

Daughter did really well on a test – My daughter is a hard-working student.

I organized a closet so it is much more peaceful – I enjoy peace and am willing to work for it.

It’s important to physically write these down, and keeping a log helps you to review what’s right about your life when you are feeling low. This is great activity to do before going to sleep.

4) Focus on your strengths and tell a story of how you use those strengths.  You can even use a “Strengths Finder”, found at

5) Forgive by acknowledging how negative events strengthened you.  

6) Focus on increasing satisfaction rather than maximizing satisfaction.  What can you do to increase your satisfaction in a situation?  Don’t expect perfection but rather increase.

7) See bad events as temporary, changeable and local.

8 ) Plan pleasurable activities and practice truly savoring them when you do them.  Savoring is a skill.

9) Exercise – Get oxygen to your brain.

10) Set goals that are achievable and achieve them.

11) When you have problems, brainstorm their solution.  Brainstorming helps you focus on the solution rather than the problem and it also helps you recognize that there may be many possible solutions.

12) Acknowledge when you have given value to others.  We’re taught it’s not OK to praise ourselves, but it’s actually very healthy to do this, even if it’s just in private.

My New Production, Peter and The StarCatcher, Co-Produced by Disney

Exciting news: my latest endeavor as a Broadway producer includes Peter and the StarCatcher, which will be co-produced with Disney. Like Wicked, Rick Elice’s fantastical play is based on Pulitzer Prize winning humorist’s Dave Barry‘s book, Peter and the StarCatcher, a wildly popular bestseller by Hyperion/Disney.  It’s the semi-irreverent prequel to the beloved children’s classic, Peter Pan, that provides the backstory of Peter Pan and Captain Hook. Roger Rees and Alex Timbers direct the production, in which 12 actors play scores of vibrant characters.  Nancy Nagel Gibbs from Wicked is General Manager, and the cast includes Christian Borle, who’s also currently starring in NBC’s Smash!

Showbiz at its most brazenly infectious.”
Ben Brantley, The New York Times

World Business Forum 2012

Announcing that Mark Thompson, Jack Welch, Jim Collins, Richard Branson and many more will be featured at Radio City Music Hall, NYC, for the Oct. 3 World Business Forum. You can register here.