3 Books That Changed My Life

Growing up, I rarely saw Dad without a book in his hands. Every night, I’d watch him settle his large frame into the sofa, pick up a Wilbur Smith novel and immerse himself into it for hours on end. As a young child, whenever Dad left a book lying around (which was often), I’d pick it up.

I would run my hands over the cover, flip through the yellow pages and imagine what fantastic stories were contained within. My imagination would run wild, trying to make sense of the story based on the cover alone (that magnificent lion on the cover – could it talk? What about that lightning bolt – what did that signify?).

It’s no wonder then, that I’ve become a voracious reader. Like my dad, you’ll rarely see me without a book in my hand (or, perhaps, a Kindle).

I’ll read when I’m on the bus or taxi. I’ll read when I’m waiting stuck in a queue. And at night, I’ll fall asleep listening to an audiobook.

I read between 15 to 54 books per year. I’ve lost count of how many books I’ve read, but I’d say it’s in the high hundreds (possibly even a thousand?). Yet, when I look back at all those books, I’ve forgotten most of what was in them. Many of them were enjoyable but did not make a significant impact on my life…

Except for these three. If you’re looking for your next read, here are my top 3 recommendations:

  1. Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl. This is a hard book to put into words. It’s a heartbreaking story that details the horrors of a Nazi concentration camp; but at the same time, it’s an uplifting, beautiful tribute to human resilience, optimism and courage. Nothing I can say about this book will do it justice, so it’s best if you pick up a copy. It’s one of the most profound books you will ever read in your life.
  2. Millionaire Teacher by Andrew Hallam. I admit – the title sounds kind of scammy. But it’s far from it. I only wish I’d read this book sooner. Stumbling into this book at a random bookstore in Singapore, and making a spontaneous decision to pick it up because the bookstore was about to close and I had nothing else to read, was one of the best decisions. Not reading this book earlier has literally cost me hundreds of thousands of dollars in lost income. Implementing the advice Andrew shares has put me and my family on the path to financial freedom.
  3. Mindset by Carol Dweck – I read this book when I was still a University student. Funny thing is, I’m sitting at the exact same Starbucks location in Hong Kong writing this email as I was when I first read this book. Mindset was the first book that exposed me to the science of how we can radically transform our lives just by changing our beliefs.

Since then, I’ve devoted my life to learning more about how the stories we tell ourselves (“mindsets”) influence every aspect of our lives.

Research Study Invitation

In fact, I’ve just put together a mindset training protocol in the form of a video. It’s the kind of training corporations hire me for. It’s part of a research study I’m conducting, and if you haven’t already taken part, you can do so by clicking this link.

If you decide to take part, you’ll be asked to answer a bunch of questions, and then watch a 10-minute training video. The survey is kind of long, but I promise you that it’s going to be worth your time (based on the great feedback I’ve received so far).

Here’s the link to take part in the study.

How to Create a High-Performance Plan for Your Organization

High-performance plans are a vital part of corporate benefits these days. Yet, not all plans are created equal. The benefits of a high-performance strategy can’t be measured.

They make a greater impact when the plan is designed with a strategic vision in mind. Here are some ways to create a high-performance plan that works.

1. Executive Support

Leaders of companies should view high performance as an essential contribution to a productive and effective working environment. You don’t want leaders that just want to check a box.

You want to create a culture in which employees take steps to improve their physical and mental health. You want to offer the full support of their colleagues, bosses, and company, as a whole.

To do that, your leadership team must communicate this through their actions. They make budgetary decisions that protect the effectiveness and integrity of their strategies. More importantly, they should take part in them. They literally walk the talk.

2. Offer Tools That Create Effectiveness

Even the most motivated people could use a little help from time to time. High-performance provides that help at various stages of an employee’s growth cycle.

The first step is to provide in-house screening events where employees can check their wellness levels. Once employees have that data, they are eligible to meet with a consultant who can provide practical advice and a personalized plan.

For those employees who are not yet ready for one-on-one support, there are seminars and digital coaching options available to provide advice.

High-performance plans also provide a range of tools for ongoing support and day-today feedback, including online integration with the most popular apps and devices.

The most effective plans understand that high-performance growth can be social. High-performance incorporates these social nudges to help people stick to their plan.

3. Offer an Incentive

High-performance plans are driven by human motivation and engagement. When employees see their colleagues participating and reaping results, they’ll get motivated to take part.

How to get that participant base? Research shows that plans that provide incentives for participation reach higher participation rates.

The most effective plans have a monetary component. Some plans give participants a gift card or make a contribution for reaching a goal.

Other plans give the incentive first, but with the stipulation that it will be taken away if participants don’t fulfill certain requirements within a given timeframe.

4. Make Your Plan Scalable

Companies change over time. They engage in mergers or acquisitions; they develop new products and services, and they expand their team.

High-performance plans should grow with them. They need to be able to scale as a company’s employee base increases and becomes more diverse.

As high performance becomes a more major addition to corporate benefits, your strategic plan becomes more important.

Companies can differentiate their plans and engage their employees by paying attention to small details that make a large difference.

Make sure you push the limits to lead the way in driving growth in your strategic planning by adding these high-performance elements.

High-Performance Changes That Boost Productivity and Increase Revenue

When you hear the phrase “high performance,” your mind defaults to someone trying to lose weight or going to a personal development seminar. You think of fad diets and a faded poster in one of your employee break rooms.

High performance has to be more than its perceptions if you’re going to build a thriving workforce. You can’t put a dollar value on one good employee.

A good manager can do wonders for an organization but the scope of what they can accomplish still only goes so far.

That manager will need the right team to help them scale their efforts. They need systems that help your company run on autopilot. They need to understand how to fully harness high-performance principles.

Your team has to be able to operate efficiently without the leader’s constant supervision. Their ability to self-manage and be productive is how successful businesses are built.

Investing time, training, and resources into high-performance training can build your team and do wonders for your organization’s growth.

Look at any successful company and you’ll see an organization that invests heavily in high-performance.

Give Your Team More

Every dollar you spend in team building will pay dividends—assuming you’re spending those dollars on training that matches your organization’s mission statement, values, and goals.

Give your employees the kind of training that helps them grow individually and as an organization.

When an employee is invested in becoming the best version of themselves, they’ll be better in every area of their life—this includes their work life.

One out of every three employees says that uninspiring content is a barrier to learning. That means, there’s a need to develop training that entertains and informs.

Not only is this type of training more enjoyable for the employee; it’s more effective, translating into less money spent on retraining.

High Performance is Best Modeled

Your leadership team should be consistent in learning and their commitment to becoming high performing leaders. They can’t give what they don’t have.

Your leaders should be the first “volunteers” for any performance training initiatives you offer. When your leadership team paves the way, your whole organization wins.

Train your leaders.

Listening is an Important Part of High Performance

Change happens when you sit back and listen. The “issues” your employees bring up shouldn’t be an annoyance.

There’s value in going through your company’s Glassdoor profile to see how your employees truly feel. It’s invaluable feedback.

Listen, evaluate, and pivot. Maybe there are simple changes you can make that change the trajectory of your company’s growth.

Your goal is to be open to any feedback that helps you understand your organization in a deeper way. That’s high-performance principles modeled.

Don’t fall into the trap of thinking you don’t need to do more to build up your team and give them the tools they need to grow. Invest in their growth and watch your bottom line continue to increase.

Employees have options these days. If you’re going to experience explosive growth, you’re going to need a team filled with great employees to get there. Take a high performance based approach.

Build up your team in every way.

How to Foster Mental Wellness in Your High-Performance Plan

Mental Health affects every employee. Mental health issues affect about 80% of people in one way or another.

Chances are, you know someone who is or has dealt with mental illness and
recovery, or know of someone who is going through the process of dealing with some sort of anxiety, depression, addiction or eating disorder.

Don’t be deceived, it does affect your team.

High-performance is essential to living a full and productive life. One must develop and maintain a set of skills and strategies to prevent the onset of or shorten the duration of unproductiveness.

Being well is more than just being free of disease. It is understanding how, when, and why to seek help and being willing to fight.

Things that can assist in building balance are diet, exercise, plenty of sleep, a healthy self-image, and the development of coping skills.

Each employee goes through stressful times and the development of good coping skills allows them to maintain high performance in the face of stress.

1. Teach Your Team to Value Themselves

Teach them how to treat themselves with kindness, respect, and avoid self-criticism. Make time for their hobbies and favorite projects, or help them broaden their horizons. 

2. Take Care of Their Bodies

Taking care of themselves physically can improve their mental health. Be sure they:

  • Eat nutritious meals.
  • Avoid cigarettes.
  • Drink plenty of water.
  • Exercise, which helps decrease depression and anxiety and improve moods.
  • Get enough sleep. Researchers believe that lack of sleep contributes to a high rate of depression in college students.

3. Learn How to Deal with Stress

Like it or not, stress is a part of life. Practice good coping skills, exercise, take a nature walk, play with a pet, or try journaling as a stress reducer.

Also, they should remember to smile and see the humor in life. Research shows that laughter can boost an immune system, ease pain, relax a body, and reduce stress.

4. Set Realistic Goals

For your leaders, decide what you want to achieve professionally and personally, and write down the steps they need to realize their goals. Have them aim high but be realistic and don’t over-schedule.

They’ll enjoy a tremendous sense of accomplishment and self-worth as they progress toward their goal.

5. Get Help When They Need It

Seeking help is a sign of strength—not one of weakness. It is important to remember that treatment is effective. People who get appropriate care can recover quicker.

High-performance involves complete and general well-being. It’s a balance of emotional, physical, spiritual, and mental health.

Being willing to take good care of one’s health means taking stock of feelings, emotions, stress levels, and coping mechanisms, even getting screened just as you would for various physical illnesses.

Your employees must fully embrace high performance to improve the mind, body, and spirit in order to maximize the potential to lead.

High-performance principles will also lead to the prevention of mental health conditions, substance use conditions, and promote a more productive company culture.

3 Tweaks for Greater Energy

Want to be more productive? Want to have higher levels of energy throughout the day? Then try these three tweaks.

1. Modify Your Morning Shower

Everybody enjoys a warm shower, but the bad news is that a warm shower has the opposite effect of energizing you.

As you step out of the warm shower and into a cooler room, the sudden drop in body temperature signals to your body that it’s time for bed.

Your heart rate and digestion start to slow down, which make feel sleepy.

Instead, if you really want to gear yourself up for productivity, stand under a blast of cold water for thirty seconds.

You might want to let out a scream, which is fine if it helps.

Alternate to warm water for thirty seconds, then cold for another thirty. This will get your blood flowing and really wake you up. Although it may not feel very pleasurable, your newfound sense of morning energy will speak for itself.

2. Eat with energy in mind

Eating breakfast has a significant effect on your energy levels throughout the day.

Skipping breakfast hurts people’s ability to concentrate – at least until lunch. Eating something in the morning is vital, but what you eat is just as important.

Starting your day with bagels and coffee may be tempting, but high-carb, sugary foods lead to energy crashes later on. 

Early in the morning, energy levels are low from the day before and cortisol (stress) levels are high.

Protein have been shown to reduce cortisol and keep energy levels steady throughout the day.

Try porridge, eggs, peanut butter, bacon or ham for breakfast, topping up energy levels throughout the day with fruit or nuts instead of energy bars.

If you only have access to junk food at work, take time to plan snacks by bringing food from home.

3. Do what Howard Schultz does

As soon as you wake up each morning, there are no doubt emails, phone calls, and people that need your attention. But resist the urge to start responding right away.

Put your phone down and move away from your laptop. Checking those messages may seem like a great way to get a head start on the day, but it leaves you reacting to other people’s agendas, rather than setting your own.

Instead, outline your own priorities.

Consider Starbucks founder Howard Schultz, who puts aside one hour every morning to set his agenda. If judging only by the success of his company, it looks like Schultz may be on to something.

The truth is, how you start the first hour of your day determines how much you have accomplished by the last. So, spend that initial hour mapping out your objectives, eating a healthy breakfast, and meditating or working out. Not only will these things increase your focus, they’ll also provide the boost of energy you need to get more done in less time.

Want more productive employees? Then don’t neglect this

Want more productive employees? Then don’t neglect their physical wellbeing.

Through my work at HPX, I get to speak and consult with a lot of companies on the topic of wellbeing and vitality at work.

Every organization I work with wants it’s employees to be more productive, to make better decisions, to be self-starters and ambassadors of quality.

When an organization hires HPX to work with its employees to increase energy, engagement, and resilience, one of the first things we typically do is conduct as an assessment of the current habits of the employees.

One of the habits that we focus on is on the physical wellbeing of the individual. This includes:

  • How much sleep are they getting?
  • Do they exercise regularly?
  • Do they lead an active or sedentary lifestyle?
  • What foods do they rely on to fuel themselves?

The sort of results we see are shocking! 

Typically, these are the ranges we see:

  • 40 – 70% of employees report being physically inactive
  • 50 – 65% report getting only 6 hours or less of sleep
  • Up to 70% say they lack energy at work

How do you think that impacts your organization if 70% of your organization says that they are constantly tired and lacking energy at work?

Akash Karia

If you want more productive employees, take care of their physical wellbeing. Create a culture in which employees understand that they don’t need to sacrifice sleep for work; that being physically active is critical to sustainable performance.

If you’re a manager, model that behavior for your team. Bring in experts to work with your team on their physical, mental, and emotional habits so that they can perform at their peak.

Akash Karia
Founder, HPX Institute

How to Make Your Healthy Habits Stick

We all want to be healthier – exercise more, eat better, sleep more restfully. However, over 80% of people who set New Year’s Resolutions fail at them.

So, how do you avoid becoming a part of the statistic? How do you make your healthy habits stick?

Here are a couple of strategies that have helped us and our clients.

1. Make sure the habit itself is enjoyable – e.g. if you hate going to the gym, try running. If you don’t enjoy the book you’re reading, try another one. If the work you’re doing isn’t fulfilling, look for ways you can make it so.

2. Accountability – When our founder needed accountability writing, he used Focusmate.com, which assigns you a virtual work partner. For personal habits, we at HPX prefer to use Habitbull.com to track our habits and keep ourselves accountable.

3. Find the right placement for your habit – Akash tried exercising in the morning but found himself skipping the workouts. Once he changed it to afternoons, and he was much more successful at it. Experiment with what time of day works best for you.

4. Convenience is king – Want to exercise? Find a gym close to your home or work. Or do an “at home” workout. Want to eat healthily? Get rid of the junk food at home, and fill up the kitchen with fruits and healthy snacks that are visible and within arms reach.

5. Set a trigger – “After I take a shower, I will do 10 squats”, “If my alarm rings at 1:00 p.m then I will close my laptop and go for a walk”.

6. Be fluid with your habit – Don’t feel motivated? Do the 30-second version of your habit (e.g. 5 pushups). Feeling very motivated? Do the 30-minute version. But do something on the day you said you would do it. That’s how you build discipline. And that’s how you build habits that stick.

5 Strategies for a More Productive Workday

What is it that makes certain people highly productive at work? If the three cups of coffee you drank this morning aren’t doing the trick, it might be time to try a new approach.

In his article on Fast Company, HPX Founder Akash Karia highlights five ways to get more out of your workday with a little less anguish. Click here to read the article.