alive@work Blog with Joe Contrera

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Chapter 1: Leading Others & Influence – The Simple Truth

The following is an excerpt from Joe’s newest book, Extraordinary Results: Mastering the Art of Leading, Coaching & Influencing Others -Available April 2018

People have been studying, analyzing, and attempting to define what characteristics and attributes make a great leader for thousands of years. Every few years or so a new leadership theory hits the training and personal development world and a new fad is born. Each fad promises success, whether it be 10 Ways To Communicate Better or 5 Ways To Be More Effective.

The bottom line is that there are a lot of folks trying to grab your attention and they all have the best intention to help you be a better leader, salesperson, manager, husband, or wife. That is just the way the self-improvement industry works.

The hope is you will find what you need to grow in one of these books, and yet the expectation seems to be that they each hold the silver bullet that will cure all of your problems. The simple truth is that there is no silver bullet, book, or single training event that will cure your dis-ease or your issues. Chances are, if you are struggling with an issue, you always will. You can work on it and improve in that area, but it rarely ever goes away completely. 

For example, if you don’t like conflict you probably never will. You can acquire skills and a mindset that may change how you face conflict that will make you more effective, but you will never like it! That’s okay, you don’t have to like conflict to be a great leader, you just need to effectively manage through it.

This book is rooted in simple truths, simple ideas, and simple actions you can take to increase your ability to influence others more impactfully. Just remember simple isn’t always easy, and easy isn’t always simple. Things will be hard until they are not. In other words, when you decide that something isn’t hard, it won’t be, it will just be something you do.

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Posted by Joe Contrera in Coaching, Extraordinary Results, Influence, Influencing, Leadership, Leading, Leading Others.

Freedom & Social Media – an Oxymoron?

So-cial – late Middle English: from Old French, or from Latin socialis ‘allied,’ from socius ‘friend.’

Me-di-a – the means of communication that reaches large numbers of people

Facebook used to be a way to connect with your friends, a medium to find out what was going on in their lives and informing others of what was happening in yours. Though some of your “friends” thought the world was interested in knowing that they just ordered a half-caf, half-decaf, skinny, no foam, caramel-machiatto latte, at the Starbucks next to your house with their BFF (who wasn’t you).

In the beginning Facebook and other social media outlets had an innocence about them … and then something changed!

As I scrolled down my Facebook page today, I was struck by how this medium to share with friends has become a diatribe of hate. It seems as though Facebook and other forms of social media have become a place for folks to project their inner dissatisfaction and hatred for themselves out into the world. Yes, all you can project on the outer world is the inner landscape of what’s going on inside of you. That, in and of itself should scare the hell out’ve you and cause you to pause before you post.

Sigmund Freud once said, “Most people do not really want freedom, because freedom involves responsibility, and most people are frightened of responsibility.”

And yet, social media has given us an extraordinary amount of freedom to say what we want to say, post what we want to post, whether we have the facts or not. It is a medium to voice our freedom and opinions without any sense of responsibility for what we post. I find irony in the fact that we have become a society who screams for freedom and yet revolts at the thought of being help responsible for our actions, especially when someone with opposing views speaks out.

And in our actions to exercise our freedom, we become prisoners …

While searching for the news of what is happening in my friends lives, I am continuously bombarded by ads for products I searched for 6 months ago because my searches are being tracked. These advertisements sneak into every page I bring up on my screen. Clouding, distracting, and blocking the information I am searching for. Yes, even my paid subscription to the Wall-Street-Journal has become polluted. We all experience the onslaught of pop-up videos that materializes out’ve nowhere, blasting a commercial through your computer speakers as you desperately search for the skip, pause, mute, or ‘x’ to close button that has been hidden for their convenience?

Abraham Lincoln said, “America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves.”

That said, here are 10 things you can do to stop destroying yourself from the inside and start taking back your freedom.

10 Things You Can Do To Take Back Your Freedom:

  1. Stop leveraging social media to voice hatred – it speaks more about your inner landscape than the person you are projecting about.
  2. Start taking responsibility for what you feed your mind – garbage in and garbage out.
  3. The one thing that constantly trips you up is you and your ego. Ego is defined as your level of self-worth or self-importance. If your self-worth is tied to the number of likes you get on Facebook … you’re screwed!
  4. Start taking responsibility for what you are creating in your life. Remember, that like attracts like – hatred attracts more hatred, love attracts more love, forgiveness attracts more forgiveness, what do you attract?
  5. Don’t be gullible by believing everything that you read – most stuff is just someone’s opinion – and you know what they say about opinions … everyone has one.
  6. Just because someone wants to project their inner landscape on the world with anger – doesn’t mean you have to buy-in or do the same thing. It robs you of your freedom to choose
  7. The media makes billions of dollars by stirring emotion and creating dissent so that they can run ads for companies that want to stir emotion and get you to buy more stuff – you don’t have to support them.
  8. Buying more things only dulls the inner dissatisfaction with yourself for so long. Eventually, you end up where you started before you bought all those thing … by yourself … only now with less money!
  9. You cannot control the world or anyone else. You only can control yourself. You take control of yourself and your life when you begin to take control of what you think (See #2).
  10. Remember that life is short, your legacy will be told by what others say about you … not what you posted about yourself on Facebook.

And by the way …

Oxy means sharp, a moron is defined as a stupid person. An oxy-moron is literally defined as a sharp, stupid person. See the paradox?

You have a choice to be one or the other … I hope we all choose to be sharp, more times than we choose to be stupid.


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Posted by Joe Contrera in Happiness, Influence, Influencing Others, Personal Growth, Social Media.

Ideas + Actions = Success

This week we’re talking about success …

After pondering the topic I had this realization, ideas are simply thoughts that when acted upon, materialize in the physical world and push us closer to success.

The Empire State Building was just an idea that formed in someone’s mind. It took action and a whole lot of collaboration to bring it into existence and become the historical icon that it is today.

Think about it … how many times you have a brilliant idea THAT YOU NEVER TAKE ACTION ON?

Three months later, you see your idea materialized in someone else’s business, family, career, relationship, and you say to yourself, “That was my idea or Why didn’t I do that?”

It is the actions you take (or don’t) that bring your ideas into existence. Sometimes, not taking action is the only thing holding you back from accomplishing the level of success you desire.

If Nicolas Appert never took action on his idea to can food in 1809, Ezra J. Warner might never had the idea to invent the can opener in 1858. Both of these inventions were simply ideas that were acted upon.

So, the next time you have an amazing idea, act and act fast. It is far better to act upon a slightly imperfect idea, than to NEVER act upon what you believe is a perfect idea.

So what amazing ideas have been rolling around in your mind lately? And you’re waiting for what?

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Posted by Joe Contrera in Decision-Making, Leading, Results, Success.

A Top-Secret, Exclusive, Special Offer?

Have you ever received top-secret, exclusive, special offer because you are a very special person? No?

That’s funny, I get them all the time, I must be more special than you!

I received another offer from a publication because I am a “Professional” and that entitles me to the “Professional Rate!”

And what does that get me?

You’re not going to believe this, but the normal cover price of the magazine is $319.00 when it’s bundled with a 52 weekly-issue of an additional magazine that I must need to help me manage my money. However, because I am a “Professional” I can get them both for only $11.00!

That’s a savings of $308.00!! How in the world could I pass this up, after all, I am a “Professional”?

So that got me thinking …

What if I followed their advice when it came to promoting my products? What if I discounted the cost of my services by 96.5%? Just think of how much business I could have?

While I would be slammed with work, I wouldn’t be making any money. I don’t think that’s such a Smart idea?

What if I over-inflated the price of my services and charge 96.5% more than I normally would and then discount the hell out of the price so that people think they’re getting a special deal?

Does that really work? Are people really not that smart with their money? Wouldn’t they see through the deception?

4 Lessons To Learn:

  1. Don’t devalue your services. If you believe your services have value, help your customers see the value and how it will help them solve their problems or reduce their pain.
  2. Don’t try to lure customers by cutting your price, especially by 96.5%. It sends the message that your product is obscenely overpriced or that your customer is ignorant. No matter which way you look at it … you lose.
  3. Don’t lie to your customers! If the true value of your product is $11.00 charge them $11.00. If you don’t make any money at that price level, then either change your price or improve your product so that you can sell it at a level where you can make a profit.
  4. Sometimes as an entrepreneur, we struggle with valuing our product, especially if we are the product. Be careful not to tie your self-worth and value to the value of your product. They are not one-in-the-same. You can end up over-inflating your value or under valuing it, neither being a great choice.

And remember …

The next time somebody wants to offer you the sun, the moon, and the stars for the price of a cheap telescope … walk away and look for some place else to invest your time, money, and resources!

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Posted by Joe Contrera in Brand, Self-Worth.

Jumping Into The Deep End …

A while back, a friend of mind and I were discussing the topic of commitment. I was sharing a situation where I felt that I needed to be ‘all in’ or not. Sitting on a fence for too long can become uncomfortable.

My friend was telling me about a television show he watched where they asked a guy if he knew how to swim. The guy replied, “Sure, I watched videos on the internet and practiced on the kitchen floor!”

He was quick to follow up with, “Imagine, someone thinking they could swim because they watched a video, rolled around on the floor, but never got in the water!”

It get worse …

He then said “So are you in, or are you out? By the way, do you remember when you said those exact same words to me not too long ago?”

One of the worst things about having a close friend is that they will remind you of things you told them when they were in a similar situation. One of the best things about having a close friend is that you can trust them to tell you the truth … even when it stings.

What’s The Point?

  1. You can’t swim until you get in the water.
  2. You will not realize your dreams until you take the first step to act-u-a-l-i-z-e them.
  3. You’re not a leader just because you read a book on leadership or have the title.
  4. You’ re not a parent, if you’ve never raised kids.
  5. You will never experience love, if you’re not willing to open your heart, take a risk, and let it in.

If you really want something, you have to be willing to take a leap of faith and jump into the deep end of the pool. And you have to do it, even if you’re afraid.

Author, David Hawkins once wrote, “Greatness is the courage to overcome obstacles.” You have to be willing to bump up against and overcome obstacles, if you want to realize your dream.

A lot of people have dreams and desires, very few people are willing to take the risk to experience them. Maybe they hold back out of fear that their dream will die if they fail? Sometimes, the idea of a dream is better than the dream itself. If that’s the case, there is a good chance that it’s probably not your dream. It might be better to let go and move on. Find the dream that tells you that your life will be incomplete, if you don’t experience it.

Realizing your dream, jumping into the deep end of the pool, facing your fear, believing in yourself when others don’t, putting your body of work into the marketplace so others (who never have) can poke holes and criticize you, requires courage. Immense courage and a willingness to jump!

Sometimes you need to let it go, sometimes you just need to jump, and sometimes, you need to lean-in … lean-in so far, that you can’t go back!

So which do you need to choose?

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Posted by Joe Contrera in Decision, Decision-Making, Empowerment, Fear, Joe Contrera, Leadership, Leadership Speaker.

Are You Achieving Excellence?

At different times when I ask my clients if they believe they are achieving excellence, I often hear “No, I wouldn’t say excellence, but we’re better than we were X years ago!”

My first response when I hear that is always, “Well what if you were mediocre 2 years ago? Congratulations, you’re now better than mediocre! Are you really okay with that?”

Comparing yourself to what you did 2,3, or 10 years keeps you trapped in the past. It can prevent you from taking risks (so you feel safe) and keep you chained to average or poor past performance.

But what if you were doing really well 2 years ago? Comparing yourself to that point in time only tells you what you were capable of back then. It doesn’t help you achieve your optimal level of excellence today.

Your customers don’t care what you did for them 2 years, 6 months, or 6 days ago, they care what you do for them today. Besides you can not assume that your competition has stayed the same or that the market hasn’t changed. That would be an even bigger mistake.

Achieving excellence means you continuously push yourself beyond where you feel comfortable and into new territory. Sometimes that means striving for a goal that scares the hell out’ve you because you’re not sure you can hit it!

It means that you embrace change, fear, and new ideas. Notice I didn’t say ACCEPT change, fear, and new ideas … I said EMBRACE … their is a big difference.

So are you achieving excellence? If not here’s a few thoughts:

6 Thoughts on Achieving Excellence:

  1. Remember, excellence is not a place you arrive. If it was, you wouldn’t be there very long because as soon as you stop striving for excellence … you lose it!
  2. Excellence is a state of mind (belief) that needs to permeate every crevice of your business and your life.
  3. It takes less than a nanosecond to decide to “be” excellent (Step 1).
  4. Once you decide, start acting with excellence in everything that you do (Step 2).
  5. And when you get stuck (not if, but when) simply ask yourself this question … What would an excellent __________ (leader, sales person, parent, teacher, spouse, partner, programmer, developer, etc) do in a situation like this? (Step 3)
  6. And then as Nike says … JUST DO IT! (Step 4)

If you want to be a student of excellence, remember what psychologist Warren Bennis said …

“Excellence is a better teacher than mediocrity.”

Excellence or mediocrity, you always have a choice … choose wisely!

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Posted by Joe Contrera in Excellence, Goals, Growth, Joe Contrera, Leadership Speaker, Results, Self Improvement.

Your Personal Philosophy … Socrates, Plato, or Puppies?

When you think about the great philosophers, who comes to mind?

Aristotle, Socrates, Epicurus, Confucius, Contrera???

Wait a minute, hold the phone, stop the presses, kill the power!!!!

Contrera??? What impact does his philosophy have on the world?

While the likes of Socrates and Plato may have changed the way we view the world, it is our personal philosophy that determines the level of happiness (internally) that we experience on a daily basis.

Your personal philosophy is rooted in your beliefs, and the sum of your beliefs reflects your internal belief system. This system provides the lenses with which we both see and experience the world. It determines what we make things mean.

What you believe about money, relationships, education, government, success, love, etc. determines the actions you take and therefore the results that you get. If you aren’t happy with the results you’re getting in your life … chances are you’re probably not happy.

Your personal philosophy and what you believe today impacts the results you’re getting in your life far more than what Socrates wrote 2,485 years ago.

So what is your personal philosophy? What are you making things mean?What choices are you making in your life? Are you achieving the results you want?

Below are 3 situations and 3 possible reactions that may help you gain clarity on your own personal philosophy. Choose the way you most typically react:

1. When someone you love makes a mistake do you: A) Get angry and tell them to get there act together. B) Say “don’t worry about it, we all make mistakes.” C) Say “Don’t worry about it, everyone makes mistakes” and then spend the next hour lecturing them on how they could avoid making mistakes in the future?

2. If someone shares bad news about a person that you really don’t like do you: A) Think to yourself … good they deserve what they get. B) Think to yourself even though you are not fond of them you still hope they are okay. C) Think to yourself better them than me!

3. When your driving and someone cuts you off do you: A) Slam on the horn and yell an obscenity. B) Smile and let it go. C) Yell, smile and give them the finger as you pass them.

If you answered B to all of the above questions, than chances are you have a healthy personal philosophy and are reasonably happy. If you answered everything but B to all 3 questions you might ask yourself … how’s that working for you? Are you truly happy? Do you want to be happy?

Sometimes happiness comes down to having a personal philosophy that is based on enjoying the simple things in life, letting go of all the things that create frustration, and angst, and most importantly, letting go of all the things you have no control over!

Maybe the great philosopher, Charles Schultz (the creator of Charlie Brown) was right when he said …

“Happiness is a warm puppy!”

I guess if you can’t lick ’em … might as well join ’em!

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Posted by Joe Contrera in Authentic Leadership, Beliefs, Happiness, Personal Growth.

Could 2018 Be Your Best Year Ever?

As your year starts to wind down, you might be coming to the realization that you didn’t accomplish everything that you had planned on this year.

You might be asking yourself, “Why am I not getting what I really want in “X” area of my life?”

For some folks, this might be an area of focus where you’ve had a recent discovery about yourself – you’ve discovered you want to write a book or start a business. For others, this area might be the same one you’ve been talking about for 10 years – you’ve discovered you want to write a book or start a business.

It may be your financial situation, your job, your health, where you live, your relationships, or the way you feel about ourselves deep down when no one is around.

If you should find not getting the results you want there are …

4 Paths You Can Choose:

Path #1 – Hope the situation will change by itself.

Path #2 – Make excuses as to why you can’t change then end up having the same dialog in December of 2018 or January of 2019 … again!

Path #3 – Choose to accept your situation exactly the way it is and decide to be happy. Sometimes what we say we want is not really what we want because the idea of owning X, is actually better than owning X (a boat is expensive, a lot of work, and somewhat useless especially if you live in the desert).

Path #4 – Choose to change your attitudes and/or beliefs about your situation, and then take the necessary actions to correct it so you can achieve the results that you want.

That said, here are …

5 Great Question to Ask Yourself if You Want to Have an Amazing 2018:

  1. Is there anything about my life that has to change in order for me to have a my best year ever in 2018?
  2. Which of the 4 paths (above) will help me achieve the results I want? Achieve my dream? Help me take the leap – once and for all?
  3. Why is this goal, dream, etc. so important to me (this is critical because it defines the purpose that will drive you)? What happens if I don’t achieve it (the cost)?
  4. What is the first action or step I need to take and when will I commit to taking it?
  5. Who can I be accountable to in order to stay on track and to help me get back on track when I am off the rails (even though deep down I may not want too because I am afraid I might fail)?

Wishing and hoping for things to be different is not going to get you where you want to go. Don’t wait till the first of the year to start thinking about how you want 2018 to be your best year ever.

Unless of course, you’re completely happy with the way your life is going and don’t want to change a thing!

Don’t just sit there … start thinking … better yet … start writing!

BONUS – If you are interested in creating a plan for 2018 and beyond, send an email to and put NEW YEAR 2018 PURPOSE & CLARITY in the subject line and I will send you a tool to help you get started!

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Posted by Joe Contrera in Decision-Making, Goals, Personal Growth, Professional Growth, Results, Self Improvement, Success.

Arrogance … Death of a Leader!

You know an arrogant leader …

You’ve worked for an arrogant leader …

You are an arrogant leader?

God I hope not!!

How would you know?

10 Things Arrogant Leaders Do:

  1. They put their needs before the needs of their people.
  2. They make irrational business decisions based on their emotions and how they feel not on sound business judgment.
  3. They take everything personal because everything is about them.
  4. They attempt to control everything and everyone.
  5. They believe that people are in their lives to serve them.
  6. They’re the first one to point the finger of blame and the last one to take ownership for their mistakes.
  7. Their actions are in-congruent with their words.
  8. They slow the development and growth of others so that they get ahead and stay on top.
  9. They talk big and play small.
  10. They play small because deep down inside they are small.

The good news is that just like Extraordinary Leaders … the law of reciprocity prevails and so they always reap what they sow!

Just be sure that you are putting out there what it is you want in return … respect … trust … honesty … etc.


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Posted by Joe Contrera in Authentic Leadership, Leadership, Leadership Speaker, Values.

Change … an About-F.A.C.E.™

Life continuously offers us opportunities to change and move forward in your growth and development. This may mean that you need let go of the past and embrace your present situation. It may mean that you need to view an old problem from a new perspective in order to find a solution. Or, it could mean that you need to attempt something difficult or different, something that pushes you past your fear and far beyond your comfort-zone.

Regardless of what the change may be that needs to take place in your life, the truth, is that each of us navigates change in a different manner.

The good news is that you have choices in how you F.A.C.E ™ change. You can:

  1. F-ear it – You can run, you can hide, you can pretend like it isn’t really happening and therefore you don’t have to change.
  2. A-ccept it – You can agree that it’s there and that maybe, possibly, someday, you might have to adapt … or not … least not right this moment or for the foreseeable future!
  3. C-hallenge it – You can confront it, fight it, and attempt to convince yourself and everybody else around you (mostly yourself), why it doesn’t really apply to you, or why you can’t, won’t, or don’t need to change.
  4. E-mbrace it – You can wrap your arms around it and look for the hidden gifts that this new opportunity might bring you. Sometimes the gifts are not quite so evident at first glance. That said, if you look for gifts you will find them. If you look for excuses you will find those too!

So how do you respond to opportunities to change? Do you find yourself consistently reacting to change in one of these four ways? Do you find yourself clinging to the past, hoping and praying that nothing will change? Or do you consistently lean into the change so far that you can’t step back?

3 Questions to think about as you wind down this year and begin a new one:

  1. What would you do if you weren’t afraid? If you could not fail?
  2. What if you believed that you were so powerful that you could change your life starting this very minute!
  3. What if you made a decision to not just F.A.C.E. ™ change but actually embraced it this next year? What would you start? Stop? Change? Do?

2018 could be just like 2017 because you decided to continue going through the motions while clinging to the past and praying that nothing changes?


2018 could be the most significant year you have ever experienced. It could be your best year ever because you broke through your comfort zone and achieved the success, love, purpose, you deserve!

Just remember, it all begins with you and the choices you make. Most importantly, how you F.A.C.E. change.


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Posted by Joe Contrera in Decision-Making, Empowerment, Fear, Growth, Leadership, Personal Growth, Professional Growth, Results.