On a recent 710 WOR “Mind Your Business” broadcast, Yitzchok Saftlas (YS) spoke with guest, Chuck Garcia (CG), CEO Of Climb Leadership International.

YS: Can you explain how perception of a situation, especially in times of challenge, can make or break a person?

CG: Think about the way we were brought up in school. In school, you are rewarded for getting things right, and punished, so to speak, for getting things wrong. So, if you got 92% of an exam right, congratulations. However, I know that whenever I finished an exam, once it was over, I would forget that 92% I had learned, because I was already on to the next test. What school didn’t teach me is, what to do when you face adversity. There’s nothing in that exam model that helps me to confront or to overcome challenges. So, instead, we just wing it. And what I’ve found is, as I was training people to speak, or as I was hearing their stories, there was a common thread among all of them. They never learned the tools to operate when facing challenges. If you spend your time perceiving the situation with too much focus on the problem, and not enough focus on the solution, or you’re too busy trying to fill your mind with information, because that’s how we were taught, what happens if, in that moment of adversity, you take a moment to clear your mind? We know that when a machine isn’t working, we need to hit the reset button. But, as human beings, who teaches us to reset? Who teaches us to stay calm and to count to three in our heads? Think of all that needless energy that is burned focusing on the problem. What if we could flip our perception, our awareness of the situation? What if instead of putting all that energy into the struggle, we put that energy into the resolution? Our minds are so cluttered with the avalanche of all of this information, solutions, the 64 brands of toothpaste you could buy, the hundreds of choices you have for bottled water, etc. How are we supposed to get through a day when our minds are so exhausted? So, this is the lesson that I learned. What happens when it begins to rain? You could complain about it, but that’s not going to solve your problem. Instead of focusing on the weather, the survivalist figures out, “I need a roof. I need food. I need water.” So, when you’re facing a challenge, you need to change your perception of the situation. Instead of thinking, “oh my gosh, what am I going to do,” just calm the mind.

YS: What are the most important qualities for effective leaders?

CG: Every year, LinkedIn publishes two important lists based on the top skills employers are looking for. One of them is a list of “hard skills,” science, technology, cloud computing, and all of those things. My realm is the other list, which they call “soft skills,” but to me, they are not soft at all. I call them “leadership competencies.” If you look at LinkedIn’s “soft skill” list, it is remarkable what comes up. Number one is creativity. This appears more than anything else. It’s not just for the musicians and artists. Think about an engineer or a doctor, and the need to bring creative solutions to conventional problems. Number two is persuasion. Number three is collaboration. Companies are actually telling you how important it is to play on the team and that it’s not all about you. Your ability to make others better, makes you more valuable. Number four is adaptability. And number five is emotional intelligence. The message here is, as the world has changed, have we changed with it? Have we retooled and been taught the skills that the employers continue to demand? These skills that I’m describing, they work in an office, they work on a mountain, and they work in marriage. Every human being has two sides of the brain. The left is the logical and analytical side, and the right is the creative and emotional intelligence side. To me, you will never be at full career capacity until you have found some equilibrium between your left and your right brain. Many of my students are great with the left brain. They get A’s and are technically perfect. But that only brings you to half capacity, until you have activated and developed creativity, persuasion, and adaptability. All of those have become critical for someone starting a career or for someone trying to climb the corporate ladder.

YS: Why is emotional intelligence so important to learn?

CG: In the midst of my career ascension, I had a speaking engagement in Tokyo. I got in front of this large Japanese audience, the lights went down, and I had everything ready to go. The same speech and passion I had delivered to an audience in New York only a week before, by golly, I was going to deliver the same thing in Tokyo. But, as I was speaking to my Japanese audience, they weren’t even looking at me. They weren’t listening. I didn’t know what was happening. But, what I knew the moment I stepped on that stage was that I couldn’t do for this audience, what I had done for my New York audience. It hit me like a lightning bolt. I was looking into the eyes of an audience that wasn’t paying one lick of attention to me. It was a moment that was startling for me. I forgot to adjust my style. I didn’t know my audience. It wrangled me emotionally when I was on that stage, but it was the best teacher I ever had. The first thing it taught me was that I was unprepared and ill equipped, because I didn’t know my audience. I should have taken the time to understand how to get in front of that crowd. But, more importantly, it also made me ask the question, “where do I learn how to deal with this emotion?” Throughout the 90’s, a social science called “emotional intelligence,” was sparked by a book called, Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ, written by a Harvard guy named Daniel Goleman. And he talked about the Four Models Of Emotional Intelligence. These are the four things that make us who we are. Number one, Self-Awareness. Am I aware of the impact I had on that Japanese crowd? Number two, Social-Awareness. That’s reading the room and knowing where you stand. Am I aware of the audience? I had no social awareness in Tokyo. I was talking to a wall, instead of adjusting and speaking in a way that I thought would connect with them. Number three is Relationship-Management and number four is Self-Management. So, think about what we have gone through in this model. If I’m not self-aware, what implication does that have toward the ability for other people to want to be in my gravity? As I was reading about emotional intelligence, I was adapting myself to fit the things that I was reading. And I didn’t know whether it was right or wrong, because nobody ever taught me this, I just had to test and try it. But, it taught me how to clear the mind. When I’m in a situation, instead of getting all riled up and reacting, I use a simple technique called “stop talking, start counting.” Think about any situation you encountered recently. Think back to that confrontation. You likely talked too much, too fast, or responded too quickly in reaction to the thing that you heard that you didn’t like. Instead, start counting and clear the mind. It is much harder to stop the momentum of a behavior you’ve been doing all your life than to learn a new one. So, the first thing you have to do is, become aware that part of learning to be emotionally intelligent is stopping certain behaviors. It’s no different than breaking habits.

YS: How does one prepare for unpredictable challenges?

CG: If we think about our lives, the one conclusion that I have found is that we overestimate the value of planning. I’m not saying it’s bad to plan. It’s good to have a plan. But what any general will tell you is the battle plan never survives the first shot. I feel that we underestimate two things. One, we underestimate the importance of self-correction and adapting when things do not go as planned. Two, we underestimate temperament. How do we behave in adversity? Anyone who sits around and plans, I appreciate that, but I can guarantee that it’s not going to go as you planned it. So, how do you act, and how do you react, when the outcome is not what you expected? If things don’t go according to plan, people are going to notice how you respond. They don’t notice your planning because they don’t see your planning. They don’t know what you planned. But what they do know is how you act and how you react. And what is the consequence when react by blaming someone else because the plan didn’t work? You’re not solving the problem. You’re only exacerbating it whenever you start thinking, “oh my gosh, it didn’t go as planned.” I’ll give credit to the athletes. They are taught how to respond in unpredictable situations. For example, if you’re a pitcher in baseball, and there’s a guy on second and third, and you have the greatest hitter in history coming up. They are taught how to deal with that situation and how to pitch out of that jam. Why aren’t we taught as children or college students, how to pitch out of our own jams? We just keep memorizing information. The pitcher doesn’t have anything to memorize. He’s about to face the greatest hitter in history. So, how do we learn to deal with these moments when they come? And they will come. We can’t predict it. But as a human being, you will encounter life defining moments. How are you going to act and react when those moments come to greet you? It’s your choice. You need to be prepared for the things you can’t predict. Think about the enormity of that. I remember there was a massive storm in the Hudson Valley. There was eight inches of rain in two hours. Who could have predicted that? It was the storm of a lifetime. But how did people react? It was wonderful. F.E.M.A. (Federal Emergency Management Agency) came out with the policeman and the firemen. It was a phenomenal reaction, because they were trained to do it. We’re not trained to react to a sudden blizzard or flood. So, I wrote my book, The Moment That Defines Your Life, for if you’re struggling, if you’re facing a challenge, or even if everything is going great. I hope you will get lost in the stories of the people that I had the privilege of writing about in this book. I hope that you will be able to relate to them, learn from them, and that they will become your teachers. You may not be going through the exact same thing, but at some point, you’re going to be going through something similar. And when you do, will you be ready? Think about that. Are you ready, or are you ill-equipped and unprepared for the unpredictable? Get ready for what you can’t predict, so that when it happens, it’s going to be just another day without worries. Clear the mind and learn how to adapt to the things you can’t predict, because they will come.

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