GolMojo 10-10-140


How to Get It, How to Keep It, How to Get It Back If You Lose It


Marshall Goldsmith

Hyperion, 2009, 205 pp.   ISBN 978-1-4013-2327-1



Goldsmith is an executive coach and author.  "Mojo is that positive spirit toward what we are doing now that starts from the inside and radiates to the outside." (5)


Section I.  You and Your Mojo

1.  Mojo, You, and Me

"[Mojo] is the moment when we do something that's purposeful, powerful, and positive, and the rest of the world recognizes it.  This book is about that moment--how we can create it in our lives, how we maintain it, and how we recapture it when we need it again." (4)

It is a positive spirit and direction, moving forward, making progress, achieving goals--and doing so with increasing ease.  "What you are doing matters and you enjoy doing it." (5)


There are four vital ingredients to Mojo: identity (who you think you are), achievement (what you have accomplished), reputation (what other people think you are), and acceptance (being realistic about what we can and cannot change and accommodating ourselves to those facts).  (5-7)


Goldsmith focuses on our internal workings, what people can do to achieve more meaning and happiness in their lives.  "Truly successful people spend a large part of their lives engaging in activities that simultaneously provide meaning and happiness."  They have Mojo.  (14)


2.  Measuring Your Mojo

"Mojo is an expression of the harmony--or lack of harmony--between what we feel inside about whatever we are doing and what we show on the outside." (18)


"Positive spirit is unambiguous.  It's a feeling of optimism and satisfaction.  It conveys both happiness and meaning." (18)  It starts inside and radiates to the outside, perceived by others.  (19)


"Five qualities that we need to bring to an activity in order to do it well are: motivation, knowledge, ability, confidence, and authenticity.  Likewise, five benefits we may receive from the activity after doing a job well are: happiness, reward, meaning, learning, and gratitude." (25)  Goldsmith provides a scorecard by which we can measure these 10 categories for each major activity we undertake during a day.  See pp. 26, 29, and www.MojoTheBook.com. The scorecard can help us discern where we need to spend more time and where we might try to find others to help us.


3. The Mojo Paradox

Our default response in life is not to experience happiness or meaning but inertia, to continue what we are already doing.  (34)  "The most reliable predictor of what you will be doing five minutes from now is what you are doing now." (35)  "Very few people achieve positive, lasting change without ongoing follow-up." (36)  However, we can be a change agent for ourselves.  Simply evaluating any activity makes you more mindful and alert and you are likely to perform the task better.  So, as you go through your day, ask two questions:

1.  "How much long-term benefit or meaning did I experience from this activity?"

2. "How much short-term satisfaction or happiness did I experience in this activity?" (36)


Section II.  The Building Blocks of Mojo

4. Identity: Who Do You Think You Are?

"If we change our behavior, but don't change our identity, we may feel 'phony' or 'unreal,' no matter how much we achieve.  If we change our behavior and change the way we define ourselves, we can be both different and authentic at the same time." (50)  It is amazing how much we can change.  Most people can change both their behaviors and identities. 


5. Achievement: What Have You Done Lately?

We tend to gauge our achievements by how we feel about our accomplishments (our personal Mojo) and by how others recognize our accomplishments (our professional Mojo).  (56)


Many people feel trapped because while the world sees them as high achievers, they don't see themselves the same way (such as a high-flying CEO who feels he was called and gifted for another vocation).  Others are challenged because the world does not recognize what they see as high achievement in themselves (such as a social worker, for example).


"By increasing our understanding of achievement--what it means to us and what it means to the world--we can increase our Mojo.  We can look at ourselves more objectively.  We can determine what really matters in our lives.  We can strive for achievement that really matters to us--and let go of achievement that does not create happiness and meaning in our lives." (63)


6. Reputation: Who Do People Think You Are?

"Your reputation is people's recognition--or rejection--of your identity and achievement." (64)


"One of the most pernicious impulses among successful people is our overwhelming need to prove how smart we are." (66)  It often leads to some incredibly stupid behavior.  Because we are so concerned about our reputation, we make many decisions on the basis of whether it will make me look smarter, rather than be more effective.  (68) When you make a decision, remember that it ultimately pays off in our reputation (and our Mojo) to be effective rather than to look smart. (69)


You may be clueless about your reputation because people with negative thoughts about us usually do not express them, at least not to us.  Your reputation may also be affected by how you are perceived by others.  And if people have heard negative things about you they will be watching for signs of bad behavior. So can you form or change your reputation?  Yes, but it's not easy and it takes time.


"Reputations are formed by a sequence of actions that resemble one another.  When other people see a pattern of resemblance, that's when they start forming your reputation." (72)  We are usually oblivious to these patterns.  (See Reputation Questionnarie on p. 74)  


You can't change your reputation overnight.  "You need a sequence of consistent, similar actions to begin the rebuilding process.  It requires personal insight and discipline.  Since people tend to notice what they expect, any deviation back to your old ways will be noticed, provide conflicting evidence, and undermine your efforts to change.  You must be consistent. 


7.  Acceptance: When Can You Let Go?

"The Great Western Disease is that we fixate on the future at the expense of enjoying the life we're living now." (80)   As a philosophical Buddhist, Goldsmith does not suffer from the delusion of 'I can be happy when….'  He can let go of things he can't change.


"…worrying about the past and being anxious about the future can easily destroy our Mojo.  It upsets us emotionally.  I t clouds our judgment.  It fills us with regret." (81)  "Change what you can and 'let go' of what you cannot change." (83)


8. Mojo Killers

Several simple hard-to-spot mistakes lead people to "Nojo."  They over commit, or wait for the facts to change (refusing to accept that the situation will not revert to its previous state), or want things to be logical so they get their due, or bash the boss, or refuse to change course because of all they've invested. 


"After living with their dysfunctional behavior for so many years (a sunk cost if there ever was one), people become invested in defending their dysfunctions rather than changing them." (93)  


"Are your decisions based on what you might lose or what you have to gain?" (94) 


9. Four Pointless Arguments

10. That Job is Gone!


Section III.  Your Mojo Tool Kit - 14 tools to increase your Mojo


11.  Change You or Change It

"Mojo is a function of the relationship between who you are (i.e., You) and your situation (i.e., It)." (110)  Change what is under your control.  If you can't change the circumstances, change yourself.


12.  Identity: Making Sense of Who You Are

Tool #1:  Establish Criteria that Matter to You. 

"…we have a choice to set our own goals.  The best thing about having criteria is that it forces you to be precise--in what you do and how you hold yourself accountable afterward.  It's the difference between saying, 'I'd be happier if I spent more time with my kids' and 'I am going to spend at least four hours a week with each of my kids.'  The former statement is vague--and therefore meaningless.  What's 'more time' mean?  One minute more than you're spending now?  How will that tiny incremental improvement matter to your kids--or you?  On the other hand, 'four hours' is specific and measurable.  It creates accountability.  You either hit the target or miss.  And if you hit the target, you reward yourself with an invisible gold medal every week.  That makes you feel good about yourself on the inside--and this quickly shows on the outside, especially to the people who really matter, namely your kids.  That's how Mojo happens.  It's not magical; it only seems that way." (117)


"When you articulate a criterion for leading your life, it dictates many of the major choices that follow, closing some doors but opening others." (118)  "People with lots of Mojo did not stumble upon their Mojo by accident.  They had a good idea of what and where and who would increase their chances of finding meaning and happiness. … Before you can establish or regain your Mojo, you first have to imagine what it looks like and what it takes to get there.  If you write it down, that's your criteria.  It's as good a place to start as anything I can imagine." (121)


Tool #2: Find Out Where You're "Living"

Sacrificing (low happiness but high meaning) - working in a refugee camp

Surviving (low happiness & low meaning) - doing a meaningless job you don't like

Stimulating (high happinesss but low meaning) - watching television

Sustaining (moderate amounts of both)

Succeeding (high happiness with high meaning) - doing an important job and enjoying it


Tool #3: Be the Optimist in the Room

"Optimism is the fuel that drives the engine of change.  If you can maintain your optimism…you have an enormous advantage over most people." (128)  Note that we are generally optimistic about ourselves but less generous with others. 


Tool #4: Take Away One Thing

"My life might actually be better if I took away _______________." (135)


13. Achievement: Making It Easier to Get Things Done

Tool #5: Rebuild One Brick at a Time - To rebuild your Mojo once you've lost it.

The biggest challenge is getting started.  "You lay down one brick, then another, and before you know it, you have a wall."  Aim for serial achievements.  You must string successes together.  You don't need big, splashy successes, just an observable sequence.  (137)


"Say two no's for every yes.  You never want to turn down a chance to get involved in something good, but in my experience, dead ends outnumber opportunities in almost any walk of life.  For every good idea, there are dozens of bad ones.  So be more ruthless about saying no, especially when other people try to steer you off course.  When someone asks for help, unless it's inappropriate or thoughtless to say no, weigh every yes as if you were spending money.  If it distracts you from you goal, don't do it--no matter how tempting the upside seems." (139)


Tool #6:  Live Your Mission in the Small Moments Too

"When Peter Drucker worked with an organization or an individual, he always posed five very basic questions.  The first was: 'What is your mission?'"  (140)  "When you have a mission, you give yourself a purpose--and that adds clarity to all the actions and decisions that follow. … Once you define a mission, you have to act on it consistently, not selectively.  It's easy to walk the talk at the big obvious moments--like giving speeches.  Anyone but the most appalling hypocrite can do that.  But we establish our mission and prove its value in the small moments more than in the big ones." (141)


Tool #7:  Swim in the Blue Water

Venture out where others aren't competing.  "If everyone you know is looking one way, it makes sense for us to consider another way." (143)  Seek opportunities and invest in the neglected or uncontested areas of a business.  Seek the untapped and unclaimed niche. 


14.  Reputation: Taking Control of Your "Story"

Tool #8: When to Stay, When to Go

"Can you find more happiness and meaning by changing the situation?  Can you find more happiness and meaning by changing yourself?  What are your real alternatives?" (151)


Tool #9: Hello, Good-bye

If you leave, say good-bye with as much class as you said hello.


Tool #10: Adopt a Metrics System

Develop some private metrics to measure your progress.  When you ignore the bad news or stop measuring you have given up on progress.  Measure the indicators of things going sour.  It will show you were you're failing and maybe how to change.  Metrics give us concrete feedback in place of hunches.  They help us check our suspicions and confront tough situations. 


Tool #11: Reduce This Number

Get rid of all the conversations made up of bragging and criticizing.


15.  Acceptance: Change What You Can, Let Go of What You Can't

Tool #12: Influence Up as Well as Down

Knowledge workers typically know more than their bosses about their jobs and tend to feel superior.  It's easy to get relationally crosswise with the boss.


"Every decision in the world is made by the person who has the power to make that decision--not the 'right' person, or the 'smartest' person, or the 'most qualified' person, and in most cases not you.  If you influence this decision maker, you will make a positive difference.  If you do not influence this person, you will not make a positive difference.  Make peace with this.  You will have a better life!  And, you will make more of a positive difference in your organization and you will be happier."  (165)  "Don't get lost in your own ego." (167)


Tool #13: Name It, Frame It, Claim It

Tool #14: Give Your Friends a Lifetime Pass

Some people are great assets to you, maybe among the top 50 people who make your life better.  But they ruin it with an infuriating collection of minor screw-ups.  You're tempted to write them off.  Don't.  Ask whether your life is better off with them.  If so, be grateful and give them a life-time pass.  Who knows, maybe someone will give you a lifetime pass.


Section IV.  Connecting Inside to Outside

16.  Going Beyond Self-Help

"If you want to improve your performance at almost anything, your odds of success improve considerably the moment you enlist someone else to help you." (179) "…knowing we're answerable to someone else, even if it's only to schedule a time for a training run, is also motivating."  (180)  "Start seeing every challenge as a choice between (a) I can do it by myself and b) I may be able to do it better with help." (182)


Appendix I.  The Mojo Survey: Measuring Short-Term satisfaction (Happiness) and Long-Term Benefit (Meaning)

Appendix II.  What the Mojo Survey Results Mean


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