High Performing Business – Quality – Listen

Michelle LaBrosse, CCPM, PMP, PMI-ACP, RYT


Rita Soto, the Cheetah Operating Officer, has this uncanny ability to listen to the micro nuances of what people need. It's one of the pillars of her decade long success with Cheetah Learning.

Rita Soto, the Cheetah Operating Officer, has this uncanny ability to listen to the micro nuances of what people need. It’s one of the pillars of her decade long success with Cheetah Learning.

Creating a quality experience for another in any realm is all about listening to them.  When through your actions, people are able to meet their needs, they feel heard, seen and acknowledged.  This is the higher level of “listening.”  Sometimes, though people do not even know they have the needs they do – until they see what it is they could be experiencing.  In learning, we call this stage the beginning of wisdom.  For example, before Cheetah Learning created the four day approach to passing the PMP exam, no one really knew they needed that.  It was just presumed to pass this very difficult exam, it took months and months of arduous preparation.   Yet even then, over 40% of people still failed.

But at Cheetah Learning, we listened to the one need that was not being met and that need was to be guaranteed to pass the PMP exam after a prep course.  It wasn’t just about doing an accelerated approach to prepping for the exam, it was actually passing the exam.   Yes, we’ve had numerous businesses’ who have attempted to copy Cheetah’s accelerated approach over the years – but there are things they are not hearing in what people need to make passing the PMP after only four days of prep a reality.  One of them is this guarantee – who wants a wasted journey?  None of these other copy cat company’s last longer than three years in any level of market penetration.  There is a reason for this – they don’t listen to the students as well as Cheetah Learning does.  They may start by offering a guarantee similar to Cheetah but soon realize they are missing some element of the accelerated four day prep approach that Cheetah uses and end up losing quite a bit of money attempting to satisfy a similar guarantee to Cheetah.   Then they start making changes to their guarantee, exclusions, holding back “administrative fees,” etc – eroding the value of their guarantee.  Soon they find the business just isn’t as lucrative as they once thought.  We’ve seen this play out many times in the fifteen plus years we’ve been helping people pass the PMP exam, at cheetah speed.

When you learn how to really listen to what people need and how they feel about that need, then you can start to create solutions of significant value.  This level of listening is not just a one time event – it must be a part of the culture and an embedded part of the company’s processes.  I read every single course evaluation from every student.   As do all the other key players in Cheetah Learning – we want to hear what our students have experienced.  We have daily dialogs with each other about what our students are telling us and how we can improve.  We share what we are hearing in every realm of engagement with prospective students, the people who are organizing our classes for companies, the third party course resellers, our students, even our students’ families.  Routinely we’ll hear back from our students how to better teach some of the techniques they use in our classes with their children.  So, we create free how to guides and mind maps that help our students use our approaches with others.  Consistent quality delivered Cheetah fast happens because of our ability to listen.

To create a high performing business with quality at the heart of everything you do, pay attention to how well you are listening to your customers.  You can learn how to better listen in several of Cheetah Learning online courses – the Cheetah Certified Project Manager program, the Communicating Through Conflict course, and in any of the Cheetah Negotiations courses.

High Performing Business – Quality – Keeping it Real

Michelle LaBrosse, CCPM, PMP, PMI-ACP, RYT

At Cheetah Learning we live by the core premise that learning is about creation, not consumption.  It is in this creative expression that happens through learning I find the most engaged experiences.  For me it is all about the quality of engagement.  I’d much rather live a life full of passionate pursuits than a ho hum day in and day out here we go again dol drums. Goal directed pursuits brings me not just the most progress, but also the most passion.  It is this passion that stimulates high levels of learning.

While becoming passionate about goal directed pursuits creates a  high quality learning experience, it is not contrived purposefully to maintain a specific level of quality – it is the other way around.   By keeping it real in the moment, where the student is creating their own learning experience, establishing goals that are relevant for their purposes, and becoming passionately engaged in the pursuit of these goals, that the high quality of the participation emerges.

However, this does not mean we just enter into a learning space with our students without significant advance preparation.  This is where our adherance to modern quality best practices of process design shine.  We design every element of our classroom experience so the student can focus 100% of their attention on their own creative expansiveness (aka “learning.”)  While significant learning can and does happen when things go awry,  Cheetah’s goal is for our students to quickly achieve mastery in the specific skill for the course they registered (whether it be mastering some specific element of managing projects to being able to quickly pass a standardized project management certification exam).   But to develop mastery requires Cheetah students integrate these skills into their existing skill base – which takes individual creative effort.  This is where the most expansive engagement emerges which is why people genuinely develop the same level of passion taking Cheetah courses as we have in creating Cheetah courses.

I read a quote recently that said – “how can you expect your readers to stay up all night reading your book if you can’t stay up all night writing it?”   The same is true with creating engaging, high quality learning experiences.   One of the things people notice the most about the Cheetah Learning team is our passion and engagement for what we do – it’s real because we all love what we do.   Right now I’m in the middle of creating a new program called “Project Food Independence.”  I’m totally consumed with the processes involved in setting up this year round food production system.  I jump out of bed ready to go at it again every day while I’m learning the best way to do this and the best way to teach others how to do this.   It’s this real enthusiasm for every part of the learning business that continues to create the high quality learning experiences Cheetah students have come to know and love about the courses they take from Cheetah Learning.


High Performing Business – Quality – Making the Grade

When you design products to meet high standards and deliver a high quality experience, your customers become your primary advertisement. If a company's main business is from word of mouth, like it is for Cheetah Learning, you can be guaranteed they deliver on both the caliber and the quality the most discerning and discriminating customers can easily distinguish.

When you design products to meet high standards and deliver a high quality experience, your customers become your primary advertisement. If a company’s main business is from word of mouth, like it is for Cheetah Learning, you can be guaranteed they deliver on both the caliber and the quality the most discerning and discriminating customers can easily distinguish.

Michelle LaBrosse, CCPM, PMP, PMI-ACP, RYT

In the retail world, the big name brands commonly make lower grade products for the big box stores who demand the lowest prices for their customers and also for different levels of customers.  For example Black and Decker tools are made by the same company as Dewalt tools.  Black and Decker tools are a lower grade for the consumer market whereas Dewalt tools are a higher grade made for professonials in the trades.  Many manufacturers also make lower grade versions of their product for stores like Walmart who go for the lowest price.  For example, if you purchase a Briggs and Stratton lawn mower from Walmart, it is a lower grade than what you would get at a store that specializes in lawn care products who charge more and offer more service.

Understanding the grade of your offering depends on the type of clientele you wish to service.  For example, the people who enjoy shopping at Nordstrom (a high grade supplier of products) are typically not the same clientele who enjoys shopping at Walmart.  Yet there are people who expect the Nordstrom experience at Walmart prices and don’t quite grasp why it is they are paying a higher price at Nordstrom for higher grade products than what you can find at Walmart.  For the company making the higher grade product, success comes when  they focus on targeting the more sophisticated consumer who understands this grade differential.  The key then is to  stay consistent to the grade integrity of the brand along all lines of the value chain interacting with their market – from the quality of their marketing material, detail of customer service approaches,  to the ease of use of the end product and the outstanding results the end user experiences.

Quality is not the same as grade  – low grade products can have significant quality – just look at MacDonalds – it’s the same low grade products worldwide – a MacDonald’s cheeseburger tastes the same in Prague as it does in Pittsburgh – that is quality.  Yet no one would consider a MacDonald’s cheeseburger to be a high grade product.  And on the other hand, high grade products can have low quality – just look at the Jaguar car where the joke is when you purchase a Jaquar, you also need to purchase your own mechanic.

In a wide sea of providers for helping people prepare to pass the PMP exam, at Cheetah Learning, we consistently stand out as the high grade and high quality supplier. The majority of our business is from word of mouth from people in the companies and organizations worldwide who employ the most intelligent people who want a solution they know they can trust (high quality) to help them achieve their desired results, and do it fast (higher grade).  Places like MIT, Stanford, Sandia Labs, etc all have Cheetah graduates on staff.  It is discerning people who grasp the value of their time and understand that achieving great results quickly is worth the price for the experience who become Cheetah graduates.  The folks who are looking for the least expensive way to take a PMP exam prep program are akin to the power tool shopper who picks a black and decker power tool over a dewalt power tool. They are shopping based on price, not the overall quality of the experience or end result they will have using that product.  Those who get there is a significant difference in how Cheetah does accelerated exam prep and want to make sure they use their time (and money) wisely, opt for Cheetah’s high grade, high quality solution.

Think about the difference in grade and the quality of the  experience you would prefer to have the next time you are shopping around for any product or service.  With Cheetah Learning it is possible to have both a high grade and a high quality experience – it’s why we have stayed the market leader for Accelerated PMP exam prep for the past 15 years.  To check out just why we are so different in helping people pass the PMP exam at Cheetah speed, download Cheetah’s free Smart Start Guide for the PMP.

High Performing Business – Quality – Good vs. Bad Project Managers

Michelle LaBrosse, CCPM, PMP, PMI-ACP, RYT

Not all project managers are good project managers - learn how to spot the difference earlier rather than later......

Not all project managers are good project managers – learn how to spot the difference earlier rather than later……

Throughout the years I’ve run into some very good project managers and some very bad project managers.  Just recently I finished cleaning up the mess made by this project manager I had to let go a year ago after a huge mishap.  It got me thinking, how could I have saved myself some headache and heartache and better vetted this particular project manager?

I’ll start here by listing the qualities of the good project managers I’ve known  then list the characteristics of all the bad project managers I’ve run into (fortunately all the bad qualities have never existed in one person):

Good Project Managers

  1. Communicate just enough information the right way – not over or under sharing but the right sharing at the right time in the right way.  They pay attention to what type of communications work best for all the people involved.   They genuinely enjoy the interactions, make communicating clearly their priority and make it a point to be as transparent as possible so everyone has all the information they need to make the best decisions possible.
  2. Focus on completion  – they want to finish their project and move onto the next big thing.
  3. Have the requisite credentials to do the project for which they are hired – whether it be leading a construction project or installing a new computer system, or launching a new course, or building a project management support team.
  4. Are consummate professionals – avoid disclosing irrelevant information about their personal lives not pertinent to completing the project.   They keep their challenges not related to the project out of the dialog with others.
  5. Work autonomously without the need for oversight – they can be trusted to complete the project to the specifications, within budget and on time.
  6. Attract,  hire and inspire good people to do the project work – they don’t just bring someone on the project because they happen to be a friend, or owe them a favor, or want to give them a chance.  Likewise they get bad apples off the project team fast.
  7. Pay close attention to the quality of the project work as it is a direct reflection of their capabilities.
  8. Mitigate risks in a timely manner, offer full disclosure when things are not going to work out as planned, and engage qualified people in troubleshooting creative solutions to the challenges that arise.
  9. Offer fair pricing for their services – being clear about the costs, the options for various price points, and only ordering enough materials to do the job at hand.  They are good at reigning in extraneous costs for doing the project.
  10. Provide detailed reports on the project plans, progress, the costs incurred to date, the cash flow needs for various phases – pretty much they avoid having the client be surprised by any element of the project.

Where as bad project managers:

  1. Way over share or way under share – you never really know which end is up with what you are told.
  2. Make excuses – it’s never their fault why the project is not progressing.
  3. Claim they do not need the credentials and have all the experience they need to do the project.  They may be very enthusiastic and charasmatic – yet when pushed get quite defensive about why those credentials are just BS.
  4. Try to engage you in helping them out in some way that makes you uncomfortable with some pressing problem in their personal life – whether it be to move out a home because they are getting divorced, helping bail a family member out of jail, donating money to a church project, etc.
  5. You question every decision they make as it does not seem like they really have the ability to do the work for which they promoted they could do and had done.
  6. Everyone who works for them has their same last name, was in their college fraternity, was some “chum” from their school days,  or has some type of personal relationship with them not related to the task at hand.
  7. Point out all the projects they “worked” on over the years – but is vague on the details of what it was specifically they did for that project.
  8. Design things on the fly and you only find out about problems when the attorneys show up at the door or some government official shuts down your project.
  9. Either charge far too little or far too much for their services.  They tend to order way more supplies than they need,  and many times the project space is in absolute chaos.
  10. Their plans or progress reports are always just about done – but you never actually see them.  When challenged about this they get angry and defensive as they are clearly in over their head.

So just how do you determine if someone is qualified to be a project manager?  Here is my assessment list:

  1. Are they transparent?  Do they let you know their strengths as well as their foibles?
  2. Do they have a history of increasing complexity of their projects – even if they are young – what is their track record of success?
  3. Can you contact people who have used them in the past that they would not even provide in a reference situation (after all – any reference someone provides should say glowing things about them – but what about the ones they don’t provide?).
  4. In interactions, do they keep their personal life personal (this one is HUGE – I can’t tell you how often I hear about someone’s recovering alcholism, former drug addiction, recent divorce, trouble their children get into with the law, how they found Jesus, etc).  This is now a big red flag for me on hiring them to work on any project.
  5. Who has worked with and for them in the past and for how long have these people worked for them?  If they can pull on a wide cross section of skilled people they more than likely have done a fairly good job managing them in the past.
  6. How well do they communicate the actual work of the project, their decision making processes, and where specifically they will need your input?   I can tell this with how they handle themselves in our early exploratory interactions.
  7. How do they react when things do not go their way?  Do they stay calm and work together towards a mutually agreeable solution or do they get angry, and resort to aggressive forms of behavior?   If its the latter, take a pass on this person.
  8. What is their approach in bidding for the project?  Do they have an established process or do they simply give you a quote and avoid too many details?   If you have an established process for accepting bids, how compliant are they with following that process?
  9. Do they have the guts to tell you what you are asking for may be very hard for them to do, but they may know someone who could help you?   Or maybe they suggest they could do the work if you considered a different approach.  Regardless they are honest about their abilities to do the project you are requesting.
  10. What is their ability to complete the work they started?  You can judge this by assessing the completion of things in their own life – if much of what they need to do the project is in a state of near completion, or needs some type of major repair – you can pretty much be guaranteed that your project could go the same route.

I tend to be the consummate optimist and see the innate good in everyone – it’s really how I prefer to live.  But as I’ve said for decades, I can start being smarter whenever I’d like.  This doesn’t mean I now dismiss everyone as unqualified – but it does mean I have become more discerning and take more time evaluating their qualifications for the task at hand.  I have a more defined selection process in the people I choose to have around me helping with the important projects.   My life has gotten so much saner and more productive as a result.




High Performing Business – Freedom – Expanding Capabilities

Michelle LaBrosse, CCPM, PMP, PMI-ACP, RYT

Expanding capabilities with more formal project management skills not only increases your freedom but also can significantly increase your income (which can also increase your freedom).

Expanding capabilities with more formal project management skills not only increases your freedom but also significantly increases your income (which can lead to even more freedom).

I started my first company in 1987 at 25 years old after completing my tour as an Air Force Officer.  I had several quick successes which were very nice, but because of this beginners luck,  I did not develop the capabilities needed for enduring success.  Over the next ten years, inspired from those early results,  I started up multiple businesses – many of which ended in flames.  In 1997, having had enough of the failure route, I cashed in on my Aerospace Engineering degree to take an employed “vacation.”  I found my way to the United Technologies Research Center’s Systems Engineering department where they wanted to infuse the center with my entreprenurial fervor.  What they wanted though and what they really needed were two very different things.  My boss there told me in my first ever civilian performance review, “You are extremely good at getting things done,  but you could become even better if you developed more formal capabilities in project management.”

While at the Research Center, I was invited to one ineffective meeting after another. To this day I attend few meetings and host even fewer. But since I was doing an employed “vacation,” I decided to make the best of it and started doing “research” at these meetings.  Soon I was running the meetings and being asked to facilitate teams that had lost their way with their projects.  My boss asked me to create a course to teach my meeting facilitation techniques but what these folks really needed was a very simple way to launch and do their projects.  I suggested we create a really quick and easy way to teach and do project management.  She replied “but we are already sending a couple dozen folks to a five day project management program every year.”  Obviously this was not having it’s intended effect.

The Research Center felt they no longer needed the Systems Engineering department but kept me on to facilitate meetings.  I continued to do “research” and experiment on the most effective and efficient way to teach and do project management.  This was where the early ideas for Cheetah Learning were born.  We still use many of the concepts validated in that research environment for Cheetah Learning courses today.  But, what has helped me develop the freedom I experience in my life to this day was heeding my boss’ advice in that first performance review – “develop more formal capabilities in Project Management.

You too can create more freedom in your life by developing more formal capabilities in Project Management.  Download our free Cheetah Smart Start Guide for the PMP Exam and see how you can be on your road to increased independence.

High Performing Business – Freedom – Goals

Michelle LaBrosse, CCPM, PMP, PMI-ACP, RYT

Will achieving your dreams increase or decrease your freedom?

Will achieving your dreams increase or decrease your freedom?

Part of many courses we teach at Cheetah Learning, in the spirit of helping people efficiently accomplish their important projects, is the crucial aspect of setting the “right” goals FIRST before starting a project to achieve those goals.   Cheetah students learn how to set and evaluate their goals through multiple lenses:

  1. Personal, team and organizaitonal success criteria.
  2. Individual and group capabilities, strengths and preferences.
  3. Market and competitive forces.
  4. Stage of life orientations

Without careful consideration of the ramifications with pursuing one goal over another,  the very activity of pursuing goals that are not the best fit can imprison rather than liberate. I see this everyday in how some business owners set up their operations where they are a critical cog in the wheel of it’s success.  Early in the life of a business it makes sense for the business owner to keep things close.  Over time though, when a business owner is a cog in the wheel, they often become a clog in the wheel of their own freedom.   And what started out to create more freedom in someone’s life, being their own boss, can quickly imprision them.

Setting up robust systems,  training others in doing operational  processes, and following key metrics to gauge the business’ performance are goals that can liberate a business owner from the need to be at the helm day in and day out.  These types of goals give leaders the freedom to pursue new, exciting, and deeply fulfilling projects that can in fact expand their business in ways running day to day operations never can.

If you feel imprisioned rather then liberated by your creations, check out Cheetah Learning’s 4o hour online course Project Turnaround to see how you can create goals that better serve your life today.

High Performing Business – Freedom – Trust

Michelle LaBrosse, CCPM, PMP, PMI-ACP, RYT

Having processes and systems you can trust creates a sense of expanded freedom.

Having processes and systems you can trust creates a sense of expanded freedom.

The more robust your business processes, the more freedom you have to live your life the way you’d like to in the moment without having to micro manage the processes required to run your operation. I’ve lived by this axiom the past two decades and it’s served me very well with running Cheetah Learning. I remember in 2003 when I got my first slide in camper for a pick up truck and headed west from Connecticut to Alaska for the summer, Bob who ran the accounting firm we used said to me – “How the heck can you get away with taking off from your office for the summer?” But it isn’t just the freedom to come and go as I please for setting up robust business processes with running the business – the ultimate reason to do so is for business performance.

You can have great people in the business, but without great business processes, they will not shine. It’s not for them to create the great business processes, it’s for the owner to do this. This is what is referred to as working on the business rather than in the business. I do a bi-annual assessment of the performance of our core business processes. Some processes though get more review than others  as we are in a perpetual state of automation of some of the key processes –  course registration and delivery management being one of them. When I set up Cheetah Learning’s processes – the goal was to grow the business by a factor of ten over growth in back end head count.  And as we have continued to work on the performance and automation of our core processes, we have very much succeeded in creating a stable business on the foundation of simple automated business processes we trust.

It isn’t just the processes to run the day to day operations, it’s also the processes for delivering our courses. When a student registsers for any Cheetah courses, they know they can trust they will achieve their learning objectives regardless of who they get as an instructor.  All our instructors are certified in following the process of the course for which they are certified. This ensures that every student gets the same great Cheetah experience. This makes it much easier to onboard instructors and make sure they are great instructors. Trust for Cheetah Learning is not some airy fairy feel good concept – it is an engineering metric.   How well I can “trust” our processes to deliver the results for which they are designed is measured by how well that process performs as designed – whether it be with student registration, venue selection, or student pass rates. Better process performance builds trust that provides the freedom to focus on more strategic and creative elements of the business.

High Performing Business – Freedom – Getting Along Better

Michelle LaBrosse, CCPM, PMP, PMI-ACP, RYT

This month’s theme is inspired by a new on the road lifestyle. (For those who follow this blog you may have noticed I’ve not been posting as frequently).  I took advantage of a seller’s market in Portland, Oregon this spring to flip a property for the company we were not using all that much. Instead of having an office in one place, I am transitioning to a motorhome as my mobile office. Cheetah staff live all over the country so with my children launched, why not get a motorhome and go work where they are from time to time. I feel so free – it’s been a very interesting transtion that is for sure.

The first adventure with the motorhome was setting it up to support my new mobile life.  I did this from my former home base near Lake Tahoe. While back in Northern Nevada, I had the chance to reconnect with an old friend.  We had not parted on the best of terms a couple years back after a misunderstanding.  It got me thinking about how free’ing it was to be getting along better with her now.  I realized though, it isn’t just people where getting along better can create a sense of expanded freedom – it’s getting along better with all of life – both my internal and exernal life.

I’ve studied systems dynamics modeling for three decades.  What I know is that when you establish several key core values, you can create an entire self-replicating system (think fractal).  I experimented with this idea first with Cheetah Learning where our three core values are best friend customer service (treat everyone as you would your best friend), WOW’em (elegant delivery with extraordinary results), and be a cheetah (get things done fast, wherever you are with whatever you have handy).   It’s been a fascinating fifteen year success story creating the system of “Cheetah Learning” with these core values and watching how they continue to self-replicate through every part of the operation.

I was wondering, could I create a system based on several core values where I could create even more freedom by getting along better with everything in my life?  For me right now, freedom means to live my life the best way for me in the moment.  For example, lets say I get pulled over for going through a stop sign.  I could choose to get along with the police officer who pulled me over, recognizing he or she is just doing their job and in fact has my best interest at heart vs. following a pre-scripted self-righteous snit over them “targeting” me and waiting in hiding for me to break the law.  In this case, getting along better certainly does give me more freedom than being snotty to a police officer and risking elevating a simple traffic stop into something more serious.

When I look at “everywhere” I recognize there are two sections relating to getting along  – the internal landscape (which is how I could better manage myself to create more internal freedom) and the external landscape – (which is how I better manage myself with others to create more external freedom).  I looked at the three core values for each that could be my fall back, go to, self replicate, repeat, over and over and over – so much so they just became my inherent nature.

I’ve attached the mind map of the three respective core values for my external and internal landscape.

How getting along better increases your freedom.

How getting along better increases your freedom.


Internal Landscape

1. My new go to is to find ways to respect, enjoy, love, adore and appreciate everything as it is.   This includes respecting the power of my own positive and negative feelings.  I live with a critical monkey mind that passes judgement most frequently on my perception of my own personal failings.  I especially pass judgement on myself when I’m passing judgement on myself for feeling anything less than happy or up beat – does this really ever end?   But what if I learned how to, respect, enjoy, adore, love ,and appreciate all of it – however I’m feeling in the moment about anything?   It might actually be easier to extend this level of grace to others, but extending it to myself helps me get along better with me (and I’m part of all of life).

2. Commit to connect to what is, as it is by consciously living a single point existence rather than getting stuck in nostalgia, regret, hope, and worry.  Ruminating about past experiences from the glory days to regrets from past losses and getting lost in dreams of future plans to worrying about prospective dark scenarios hampers my ablity to connect with what is, as it is.  Recognize I actually breathe right here in the present moment and this is where I am experiencing life as it is right now.  The more I focus on nostalgia and regrets of my past and my hopes and fears of the future , the less freedom I have to experience what is actually going on right now.

3. Master how I choose to feel about my experiences.  It is my choice how I feel about my various life experiences.  No one else gets to choose this for me nor are they responsible for these feelings either.  I call this the no blame, shame game.    When I’m upset, it’s because I’m choosing to be upset.  When I’m happy, it’s because I’m choosing to be happy.  I got a good experience of how choosing my feelings can be so freeing while I was getting the camper ready for it’s maiden voyage.  The day right before I was slated to leave, I twisted my ankle coming out of my camper.  Earlier in the week,  I had invited a friend to come over for dinner but felt the need to cancel after the fall as I was just not sure the extent of the damage to my ankle and was resting it elevated and on ice.   I was upset about many things, missing the dinner, not spending time with my friend, and concerned about the extent of the injury.  Yet my friend  was up to her own alligators in life wtih a number of stressors from work, children, parents etc.  Dinner was as much to enjoy her company as a respite from her stressors.  I made a conscious choice to stop the poor me upset loop running in my mind.  I really did need some down time to just relax before taking off for this several months long trip.   This twisted ankle was a blessing as was her self-involvement in her own very busy life.   Choosing a new feeling about this experience gave me more actual freedom as in this case had I expressed my upset (which had multiple causes), I’m sure she would have come over.  As it turned out the down time was much needed and my ankle healed quickly.  With my mobility back to normal sooner, my freedom was most certainly enhanced

External Landscape

1.  Support, respect and trust each person’s journey.   It is not for me to judge how someone else is living their life.  Supporting people in their own personal choices to live their life the best way for them, gives me the freedom to do the same.   Sometimes people want to join me on my life’s journey.  While this is fun for a short time, it seems I often unwittingly over function and take on a responsibility for some element of their existence so they can more comfortably join me in my existence. This usually ends up with a mutual resentment where I find myself craving my freedom and wanting out.  Being more mindful of how to support, respect and trust that every person has not only the capability but also the responsibility to live their life the best way for them allows me to co-exist with others in ways I can better sustain and enjoy.

2. Be mindful of how my perceptions color how I respond to my current reality.   On the second day of my trip with the new motorhome from Lake Tahoe to Alaska, I was heading to Redwood National Park.  For some reason google maps directed me to a narrow winding road that ended up being a dirt road through an Indian Reservation on the western side of the park.  As I was driving on this narrow, bumpy dirt road, the closet doors and drawers opened dumping my neatly organized belongings all over the camper.  In that moment, I was damn pissed off at the google map that guided me to the dirt road.   What I wasn’t was scared (like many people commented I should have been based on where I was).  There were several four wheel drive cars who passed me on their way down the mountain. The folks in there just looked with surprise – what the heck is a motorhome like that doing on this road?  Of course there was no cell phone signal and I realized if anything happened to the motorhome on that road, I might be relying on people like that in any one of those cars to help me out.  I also knew I had a GPS locator in one of my bags in the motorhome so if worse came to worse I could just set that off.  What I knew would not help me was to have negative stereotypical perceptions about any people I encountered on the road. Not falling prey to negative perceptions about where I was helped me keep the presence of mind to better handle the tough driving conditions and make my way to a better road for the trip out of there.  I had more options and more freedom by being mindful of my perceptions.

3. Play in others innate goodness and inherent positive intent.  People rarely show up in life to make another miserable. Most people are generally unaware of how their behavior is perceived and many others don’t care how others perceive them.  They are simploy living their lives the way that best suits them – even if it might annoy the living daylights out of me. When I give in to the power of the annoyance and frustration of how I am experiencing another, I in fact imprision myself in those emotions. When I allow myself to play with how I experience the best version of others,  I free myself from the annoyance prison and better enjoy my life. For example, I had a friend who as a perfectionist found fault with much of what I did when we were around each other.  Her inherent positive intent was to help me be less annoying because of her perceptions of my faults.  Instead of being annoyed with her behavior,  I appreciated her high standards and hired her to stage a property I was selling. (She did a great job and the property was sold very quickly because of her staging abilities).  Seeing my way to her innate goodness helped me free myself from that property I was not using all that much. Freedom happens on multiple levels by living  this value.

Freedom happens in many different ways for different people.  I’m going to see how this approach helps me experience more freedom by getting along better with life.








High Performing Business – Technology – Change Process

Michelle LaBrosse, CCPM, PMP, PMI-ACP, RYT

When you need to make a change, recognize you can choose to take the bitter path or the better path.

When you need to make a change, recognize you can choose to take the bitter path or the better path.

The previous post on shifting from being super frustrated with the technology in my life to becoming delighted with it is all about change management (and learning).   I was thinking about how technology changed during my grandmother’s life.  She was born in 1900, at home.  The family did not have a car at that time but had horses, wagons, and sleds  to get around (she lived in Northern Quebec).   When cleaning out my parents home a few years back, we found letters she and my grandfather exchanged when he emigrated to Rhode Island in his mid – 20’s.  She joined him several years later – most likely traveling by train to get into America.   She moved into her lifelong home in her early 30’s where she lived for the next fifty years – never learning how to drive (or speak English) – and she was an educated woman having gone to college and been an elementary school teacher before coming to America.   The family had a car in the late 30’s as there are pictures of my mother as a child by the family’s car.   I remember watching Neil Armstrong walk on the moon on her black and white TV when I was 7.   As far as I can remember,  she had the same phone in her hallway the twenty years I knew her.  I remember her being very excited when I was a teenager and she got an automatic dishwasher – she would push it across the kitchen and hook it up to the sink faucet.  I’m pretty sure she never flew anywhere on a plane as she didn’t like traveling all that far from home.  Yes she did experience some fairly significant technological changes in her lifetime – the introduction of the automobile, TV, telephone, space exploration, and the upgrading of kitchen appliances, and a mass migration of people moving from generational homes  to live in another country.  I don’t want to down play the technical changes the people of her generation experienced.   But what is different for us now is how quickly the technology we use day in and day out changes.

I heard something years back that children are born with the ability to use the technology of the time they are born into.  This is why kids seem to be more adept at programming their smart phones then older adults.   This makes sense too as it was very easy for me to learn how to drive. Unlike my grandmother who was born at home and did not even see a car until her teen years, I was born in a hospital.  I grew up being in the car from the get go as my parents had to take me home from where I was born in the family car.  So it was a very easy thing for me to learn how to drive – I was sensorily calibrated for it.  My grandmother was not.   Just like kids born today are sensorily calibrated for all the communications technologies, but for those of us who are older – it takes a more concentrated effort to learn and adapt to new technologies.  Yet is is possible and can even be fun  – but it depends on how you learn to manage all the technology changes.

Changing technology is just a fact of life these days.  Unlike my grandmother who learned how to use the phone in her hall once and then used it for the next 30 years, just yesterday I updated another new operating system on my Iphone 6s – it was the second upgrade this year. I was a late adopter of the Iphone 6 as I was happy with my Iphone 5 until I dropped it in the water on vacation.  But learning how to use new technology is something I have done almost every single day since I got my first computer in the late ’80’s .  I’m very good at technology change because it’s a learned skill to make these technical changes.  But I still have to monitor and adjust my attitude to change from time to time.

I’ve found for me there are two paths in the technology change process – one path I call the “bitter” path and the other path I call the “better” path. Both of these path’s start out in the same place.  First I realize I am required to make a change – whether it be to upgrade a technology that is no longer being supported or to adopt a new technology as a way to in some way continue to function in today’s society (like going from a flip phone to a smart phone).   The first step is denying I even need to make the change.   Sometimes  I go through this denial phase quicker then others.   Next comes the anger, frustration or sadness phase – this is where I get upset in varying ways and degrees I am required to make the change.   Then this is where the path’s separate.  On the bitter path, it’s one of initial resignation -“well I guess I have to.”  Then I land in the resentment zone – “I really wish I could have continued to use Window’s 95 – why do they have to keep changing that?”   On the better path, I learn to accept the change – “I guess this will be okay.”  Then I move into delight (this was the topic of yesterday’s blog) – where I learn all the ways this new technology is in fact making my life better.

I do sometimes find myself moving back and forth from the bitter to the better path – especially when I make a conscious choice to be on the better not the bitter path.   My abilities to change fast with technology has translated into other areas of my life.  I change physical locations fast as well – two months ago I put the Portland Cheetah Office building on the market for sale during a huge seller’s market.  Today I’m back in a office in Nevada that I was trying to sell for three years.  It was empty.  Two weeks ago we moved from the Portland Office to the Northern Nevada Office.  And after just two weeks of moving back in here, it looks like we’ve been here for years.   At Cheetah, we also launch new products fast too – we also decided two months ago to offer  a virtual live version of our top selling Cheetah Exam Prep for the PMP.  Today we are on day two of the initial launch – having created the whole technology approach to do so in under two months (and while we werein the process of moving our office from Oregon to Nevada).   These two changes made so much sense and were relatively easy (if not a lot of manual labor).  So it’s been effortless to stay on the better path of the change process.

I’ve found to stay on the better path of the change process, it very much helps being able to learn fast.  This is why I got into the business of accelerated learning two decades ago.  I found the faster I can learn, the quicker I can adopt new skills (not just technologies) that can in fact make my life better, quicker.  For me, the upside of all this technological change and being able to adapt to it is an enhanced ability to better handle all changes of life.  As  I’ve aged and experienced some of the standarad changes in life I was not all that happy with at the time (mother passing away, relationships ending, kids growing up and moving out, health challenges, losing friends & jobs, etc), my skills at staying on the better path when making technological changes has helped me stay off the bitter path of resignation and resentment for these other life changes as well.

If you want to learn how to stay on the better path too, learn how to learn faster and be happier – take Cheetah’s new 30 hour online Happiness Project Class.

High Performing Business – Technology – Delight

Michelle LaBrosse, CCPM, PMP, PMI-ACP, RYT

We’ve all seen (and maybe even had) those very ugly reactions to challenges with technology – where even the dog goes running for cover.  But I prefer to take responsibility for my reactions, so how I react to any type of technology challenge is 100% within my control.  Is it possible for me to be delighted with the technology in my world?   More often then not though, I have what feels like the all too standard reaction of absolute frustration whenever I introduce a new technongizmo into my world.  I’ve been contemplating why this is so.  Maybe it is because I go into using a new technology solution with an expectation that I will be delighted by it – which rarely seems to happen.  Often I have such high hopes for new techno gadgets to just have my dreams squashed and feel mislead once again by the marketing hype.  I realized though this was all a situation of my own doing.  I could in fact choose a much different experience .  When I take the time to consider how I feel about various technologies used to in some way “enhance” my life, I find much to appreciate.  The new experience is of open minded curiousity exploring how this lovely technology creation achieves it’s mission, for me.  Real people with real talent (and real feelings) created this bit of technology.   Don’t they deserve my loving thoughts and appreciative feelings as much as I want acknowledgement for my creations?

This Big Easy Smoker helped me learn how to shift my perspective on technology from being frustrated to being delighted. Thank you Dado labs.

This Big Easy Smoker helped me learn how to shift my perspective on technology from being frustrated to being delighted. Thank you Dado labs.

A few months back my daughter gave me a smoker called the Big Easy (it’s a radiant heat barbeque grill made by Charbroil).  It has a control panel on it that manages the grill through a smart phone app. (She is on the team that created the smart phone app for this grill).   She set it all up for me, and it worked great on her iphone.  Actually she could see that I was using it wherever she was and would text me something like, “Mom what are you making on your Big Easy?”   I never bothered to set it up on my iphone as it worked well enough for my purposes just by pusing the button on the front.  I discovered it made the most incredible chicken wings on the planet and it became the only item I cooked in the grill.   I am absolutely delighted with this innovative piece of technology.   I recently got a second one for another location and even figured out how to use the Iphone app myself – because I was so delighted with it.

Why not approach all technology this way?  Find out what it is about the technology that could and would absolutely delight me if I took the time to work my way through figuring out the best way for me to use it?  What if I talked with the technical support people as the special souls they are for helping me find my way to being delighted by their technology solution?   I’ve tried it on and it’s been an amazing experience.   I had to call tech support on a web conferencing system the other day.  I greeted the tech support guy by name – “Jonathon, how is it today in your wonderful world of tech support?”  He laughed and our call was off to a great start.  Jonathon is someone’s beloved child as well so why not interact with him as the special being he is?  I mentioned to him the polling feature I found so much fun about the web conferencing service.  I then asked him if he could look into something for me about my bill.   He became my advocate within the company (I was being double charged).  We quickly and very amicably resolved my billing issue.

I’m now approaching more things with this perspective of “how can I be delighted about this?”  When I worked in a large corporation there were posters around the facility encouraging us to be tolerant of each others differences.   But, do I want to be simply tolerated by others or would I prefer to be enjoyed by others?   Of course I would rather be enjoyed!  It’s the same thing with frustration vs. acceptance vs. delight with technology.   I’ve had my share of frustrations with technology.   I can usually figure out how to come to a level of accepting the challenges of the technology, over time.  But what if I shifted my perspective and found out how to be delighted with some element of the technology?  There are real people with real feelings creating these technical solutions – they are someone’s beloved child and they are doing the best they can.  And I do in fact appreciate and am quite delighted by many elements of the technology systems in my life.  I feel lighter, more energized and enthusiastic since adopting this new perspective with finding and focusing on what delights me with the technology tools in my life.