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Business & Life Skills

How to Reinvent Yourself?(Bernard Roth)

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Professor Bernie Roth, co-founder of the at Stanford shares his strategies on “design thinking” that has helped entrepreneurs and engineers develop breakthrough products and businesses. Learn how to reinvent yourself using these same strategies.  Get strategies on how to create lifelong habits that solve problems, achieve goals and help make our lives better.

All quotes are pulled from: Roth, B. (n.d.). The achievement habit: Stop wishing, start doing, and take command of your life.

What is the meaning of achievement?

“Getting on the honor roll, graduating from college, getting a high-paying job, getting a higher paying job, being salesman of the month, getting the corner office, getting a company car, getting interviewed by the media, winning awards: this is what most people think of when they think of achievement. To me all this misses the mark.

Each of those things can be a genuine achievement-something that means something to you for more than a day- or each could just be a badge of importance that you use to show people that you’re somebody. Do those things make you happy in and of themselves?”  P25

“Achievement for achievement sake, then, is pretty hollow.  It’s the endless pursuit of a carrot on a stick as you rack around a track.”

“ I define achievement as having a good life; getting the job of living done in a satisfying way that nurtures the life force within us and within those we associate with.  It entails developing some self mastery to handle the difficult aspects of our lives and relationships.  It involves finding something to do with our lives that engages us and gives us positive feedback.  If we’re doing t right, life shouldn’t be a debilitating struggle, even if at times it takes considerable effort.” P26.

How do I have a life of meaning?

“You can choose meaning and importance to place on something, you can also understand that it is you, not external circumstances, who determines the quality of your life”. p20

“Once you accept that you give everything in your life its meaning, you feel like the master of your life, not a powerless victim of circumstance and chance.” P 23

“Typically, the only one keeping a scorecard of your successes and failures is you, and there are ample opportunities to learn the lessons you need to learn, even if you didn’t get it right the first-or-fifth time” p 21

What are reasons that we don’t move towards meaning?

“Most times there are no armed guards; we simply stop ourselves.  We are Number One.  You are responsible for deciding what you do or don’t do.  Don’t blame others, and don’t use reasons to justify or rationalize your behaviors.  Although excuses may seem to get you out of difficult a at the moment, in the long run they are often counterproductive.” P60

As a coach, one of the most common reasons someone may not something is because they blame someone else. They project their issue onto another.  Here’s what Professor Roth says about projection:

“Projection is a common response.  It happens when someone attributes a feeling or trait to another person, when it’s she herself who owns that particular trait or feeling.  Although psychologists usually use the term projection to connote a negative behavior, projecting both the positive and the negative aspects of ourselves onto others is an important part of life that can be a major influence on our interactions with others. It is the experience of seeing traits in others that helps us to see thm in ourselves. If you notice a flaw in another person, it problabe means you’ve had that same flaw yourself”. P47

Who am I? What do I want? What is my purpose?

Here’s an exercise that Bernie shares in is book “The Achievement Habit” to help you devote them to thinking deeply about the meaning of your life.

  1. Ask yourself “Who am I?” “What do I want?” “What is my purpose?”
  2. Don’t over think Ask yourself these questions and write down your answers in a notebook or journal.
  3. Each questions should be repeate3d for at least five or ten minutes.

“You don’t take anything with you when you die, so you might as well spend your time on Earth Experiencing all that you can, rather than stagnating and accumulating”. P238

How do you remove obstacles?

Professor Roth brings his design thinking into problem solving.  In life, we get stuck on a problem.  Bernie suggests that the reason that we can’t find the answer to this problem is that we are not asking the right question.   Here’s what Professor Roth has learned from his experience:

“Experience has shown me that one of the main causes of losing sleep over a problem is that we think we are dealing with a questions when in fact we are dealing with an answer (a solution) that turns out not to be a good fit to our actual problem.

A way around this dilemma is to ask, “What would it do for me if I solved this problem? “ the answer to this can be turned into a new, more generative questions.  The result of stepping up a level is that you come up with a new question with potential answers you may not have considered before.

QUESTION: How can I find a spouse?

ASK YOURSELF: “What would it do for me if I solved this problem?  How might I get companionship? How might I get taken care of? How might I stop working?

NEW QUESTION:  How might I get companionship?

NEW ANSWERS: Meet friends online, Take classes, Get a pet, etc.

Other Resources:

Fear of Failure

“ The accepting-repeating-failure route, if used with an open mind, can lead to much better solutions than does a fear of failure.  A system that punishes failures rather than accepting that they occur on the road to success squelches creativity”. P122

How to work with others who are blocking your progress?

Part of working well is having hard conversations.  While they are hard, they are necessary to improve situations and to create positive outcomes.   Here’s Professor Roths’ advice on hard conversations:

“ I have found over and over again that if one person speaks from his heart, others follow, and the group‘s feelings of community and commitment increase tremendously.” P145

Why Problems are good for you?

“Problems,… are gifts that provide vehicles for the natural development of our life-giving forces.” P242

About Professor Bernard Roth

Bernard RothBernie Roth is the Rodney H. Adams Professor of Engineering at Stanford University. A longtime veteran of the Stanford design scene, he first came to the Stanford Design Division faculty in 1962. He arrived from New York City, his birthplace, with a wife, two children, a proper haircut, a sports jacket and a very traditional background in Mechanical Engineering and liberal New York politics. The experience of the Vietnam-War protest movement, the Human Potential Movement, and the other social upheavals centered in San Francisco Bay area, totally changed his life as an educator. It added a missing dimension, the explicit concern for his students’ education and growth beyond simply developing their technical expertise. The only things that he seems to have lost in the transition are the clean haircut and sports jacket. His most recent activities have moved him more strongly into experiences that enhance peoples’ creative potential through the educational process. His primary intention as an educator and person is to empower his students, colleagues and friends to have fulfilling lives.

In 2003 he joined a small group of colleagues to bring more cross disciplinary collaboration into education. These discussions led to the formation of the Stanford institute nicknamed the  Bernie brought to the a wealth of experience in teaching design, an intimate knowledge of the functioning of Stanford University, and a worldwide reputation as a researcher in kinematics and robotics. Since 2005, the has been the primary focus of Bernie’s professional activities.

In the 1980’s, Bernie, (together with the late Rolf Faste and Doug Wilde) developed the concept of a Creativity Workshop. The Workshop was offered to students, faculty and professionals around the world. These same techniques have been made available to students and are described in The Achievement Habit. He has found that these types of learning experiences enhance students’ ability to make meaningful positive difference in their own lives. He is especially pleased that his activities at the have contributed to creating an environment where students and coworkers get the tools and values for realizing the enduring satisfactions that come from assisting others in the human community.

Bernie and his wife Ruth live on the Stanford campus. He is fortunate to be able to bike to work and to many other daily activities. For over thirty years he has been part of a group that rides a twenty mile bike loop each Sunday morning. He has two grown sons; Elliot lives in San Francisco, CA and Steven lives in Novato, CA.