It’s Monday again and it’s time to start the week with a good energy!
Monday Productive is a weekly interview format, featuring peak-performers from my network, who share 5 ideas on how to boost your productivity and stay at the top of your game.
Alden Cass is a performance coach for Wall Street executives, sales teams, athletes, and performers and an international motivational lecturer and author of Bullish Thinking. Cognitive Behavioral therapist for adolescents and adults suffering from mental health problems and/or addiction. Recently has been doing marriage and couples counseling.
I’ve got in touch with Alden a couple of years ago, when I started my first project as a performance coach for a trading company in Denmark, and I was looking for an advice from the best in the industry. Alden gave great ideas and directions to me and my partner at that project Dimi Cholakov, which helped us to put up a good program for the team.
1. For those, who haven’t read your book: What is ‘Bullish Thinking’? Is it applicable only for financial professionals or can this mindset be applied to other industries too?
▶ Bullish thinking is a strategic mindset derived from the principles of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy used for analyzing and interpreting ambiguous, uncertain, or complex events, so that one can remain positive, empowered, and fully engaged in achieving optimal performance under stressful conditions.
Bullish Thinking is applicable to individuals in high stress positions from all walks of life, from Wall Street to Main Street. As a tool, it enables an individual to nullify negative or bearish thoughts by harnessing healthier, more adaptive ones to wipe out the original thoughts that may render someone helpless and feeling apathetic. Bullish Thinking, if mastered as a cognitive-behavioral technique, can enable one to become the champion of their own thoughts, and consequently will allow anyone to develop emotional discipline, resilience, and conviction in the workplace, regardless of where it is. I give my clients thought monitoring logs as a means of putting their thoughts under a microscope so that they can harvest only the most adaptive ones and cancel out self defeating ones.
2. Imagine you’ve just got a new client; a well respected Wall Street exec. How does the first coaching session of Alden Cass go?
▶ Most of my clients come in with a chip on their shoulder and feel insecure about asking for help. In essence, they believe it is a sign of weakness to come in to see me. I quickly disavow that point and explain how emotional discipline can help them to achieve optimal performance both at work and with their personal life. As soon as I can help them understand the correlation between emotional discipline and financial success, which is their bottom line, they are finally able to trust the rest of my directives toward both financial and personal success. Once I take a history of what seems to be driving them to reach out finally, I offer them any number of my cognitive tools that are used for pro athletes, entertainers, and high flying Wall Street traders. I tailor-make a treatment plan based on each individuals goals for success in a variety of life areas from career to home life.
What’s important to align on before you continue forward?
It’s important to align on collaborative goals and accountability from day one. I will be assigning homework aimed at helping them reach the optimal performance zone, and if they do not follow through I will question them on it each week. Sometimes, they even have to make donations to charity when they forget to do their homework!
3. Can you share 3 of the most common challenges you find, that traders and other professionals from high-risk environments struggle with most?
✅ Dealing with loss/ mistakes: most type-A perfectionist individuals have a very difficult time dealing with failure or setbacks. They can freeze up and become hesitant when they are losing money. They may start trading not to lose more money and stop taking the risks necessary to make money or they may stop calling on clients if they believe that they cannot succeed.
✅ Resilience: Most successful Wall Street execs have been wildly successful for most of their careers. Everything they touched turned to gold. When things go against them later on in their careers and they have no experience dealing with obstacles or failure, they can become burned out or lose their confidence rather quickly. Often their minds can play tricks on them, and they will let their performance and moods be dictated by a false narrative in their self talk. My job is to turn a setback into learning experiences and opportunities even for the most successful executive.
✅ Work-life balance: High achievers have a tendency to be tunnel vision in their focus on success. Many of them ignore their feelings and are unaware of the cognitive errors that are underlying a performance lag. Unfortunately, they become less inclined to focus on other areas of satisfaction in their lives such as family, recreation, and physical health. It is my job to keep them focused on diversifying their energy and emotion into other more pleasurable and fulfilling aspects of their lives. The key is to realize that one should not live to work. One should work to live well!
What would be your initial advice to them?
▶A few things.
First is one of my math formulas for success, which is
Happiness = Reality / Expectations.
This formula emphasizes the importance of keeping a relatively even balance between ones expectations of success on any endeavor or goal they are about to embark on, and the actual reality of the performance. The closer the alignment is while setting a goal, the lower the chances one will be disappointed by the outcome and the higher the chances they may overperform their expectations. In order to accomplish this, I have client create three lists: All that can go right (best case scenario), all that can go wrong (worse case scenario) and a most likely list that is the hybrid of the first two lists.
The second thing I would say is “Don’t Aim! Just Throw the ball!” which is a motivational catalyst I use with athletes who are trying to be too perfect, thus causing them to overthink and not perform optimally. This statement reminds us to trust our hands and let our minds and bodies do the mechanical work naturally. Thinking can sometimes get in the way of this process and this statement reminds us to just throw as hard as you can and let the mind/body synergy take hold to create flow.
4. Achievement vs Fulfillment? Is it possible to have both? How does one find their own balance, their own “sweet spot” of living a meaningful and productive life?
▶ Most of my clients are high achievers, but most of them are not fulfilled with their jobs. It is rare for someone in any profession to have both, but it is possible. Since it is so difficult to have both, I often advise clients to take on more fulfilling hobbies and volunteer work in their out of office life to mitigate the apathy that may come from the drudgery of daily work. In order to find that sweet spot, one needs to diversify their energy into more than just work as noted before. Be involved in charity, philanthropy, play competitive sports, do cross fit, run marathons, and be a great spouse, partner, and parent!
5. In the last 24 months – what habit or belief have you acquired, that helps you to be a more effective professional today?
▶ I have stopped checking my phone for emails and texts when I wake up each morning. I go to Orange Theory for an intense hour of working out and won’t attend to work matters until I key into my midtown office. This way, I stay in control of my day, I create my own momentum, and I own my mornings. I have also taken more steps to become an expert in my domain by continuing to challenge myself with reading up on the financial world, politics, and placing more of an effort to attend networking events this holiday season.
[BONUS] Name one to three books that helped you to become a better leader?
If you have any questions to Alden, please leave your comment below!
And make sure to check out his book: Bullish Thinking
Thank you for reading and tag someone to nominate them to be my next guest!