How to Live ‘The Good Life’

Is there a secret to living a better and happier life?

In The Good Life: Lessons from the World’s Longest Scientific Study of Happiness, Robert Waldinger, M.D., and Marc Schultz, Ph.D., co-directors of the Harvard Adult Development study, write “Positive relationships are essential to human well-being.” This finding, drawn from the Harvard Adult Development Study, which began in the late 1930s, echoes something we humans have known for millennials. The authors quote Lao Tzu, who wrote 2400 years ago, “The more you give to others, the greater your abundance.”

Building good relationships

Relationships, according to Dr. Waldinger, are not merely external. “If you think about it, you carry around many people you care about inside you all day long. You can call up a warm image of a friend or a loved one. And so in that sense, we carry them around. You carry around a warm image of somebody who may have passed away a long time ago. So it’s often useful to think about how we carry people with us as we go through the world.”

Fostering good relations with others can depend upon what the authors call “the power of generosity.” 

In our recent interview, Dr. Waldinger said, “Research tells us that when we are generous, we feel better and happier. We feel like our lives are more meaningful. So when we help people, we take care of ourselves… We know that being generous makes us feel like our lives are better.”

Helping ourselves

One practical element, among many, in the book is the W.I.S.E.R. model (Watch. Interpret. Select. Engage. Reflect). “Wiser model is really just a way of slowing things down when you have a challenging interaction, particularly with another person.” As the authors write, imagine you receive an email from your boss at 5 p.m. saying he wants to meet you at 9 a.m. The intent of the email is ambiguous. “And the problem with our wonderful minds doing that is that we can often create a story that isn’t true when we get this kind of challenging stimulus from somebody else.”

Dr Waldinger says, “Don’t jump to conclusions, don’t reply right away if you don’t have to. But just think, okay, what might be going on? What am I assuming and what do I actually know for a fact?” 

“When you receive an angry email or an angry text and you want to reply right away with something, and that’s the time to stop and slow down,” says Dr. Waldinger. “Take a moment, take a breath, or count backwards from five back to zero. Just anything to interrupt the swirl of thoughts. Think about it.”

Addressing loneliness

Loneliness is an epidemic in our country, and according to the U.S. Surgeon General, Vivek Murthy, it is a health issue. In a health advisory issued by his office in 2023, Dr. Murthy wrote that beyond health hazards such as cardiovascular disease and dementia, “the harmful consequences of a society that lacks social connection can be felt in our schools, workplaces, and civic organizations, where performance, productivity, and engagement are diminished.”

Fostering a sense of belonging is an essential antidote to loneliness. Human resource professionals need to address this issue more seriously in the workplace. Leaders must show the way by “being interested in other people’s lives, curiosity about your colleagues and your workers. It means modeling vulnerability and not knowing. It means modeling, learning to get help from other people, all that as part of enhancing relationships with other people.”

Value others

Good relationships are essential to a life well-lived. We must find ways to connect that benefit others and, in turn, ourselves. It is important to be open to possibility of deep connection. It’s good for you and your life. The authors write in their concluding chapter that it is essential to realize that “the good life is not a destination. It is the path itself, and the people who are walking it with you.” 

“Keep reaching out to people, email people, text people regularly saying, just thinking about you, wanting to say hi or checking in about how they’re doing,” says Dr. Waldinger. “For the people who are really important, make regular dates with them. Make sure that you have a once a month lunch with that friend who you don’t want to lose touch with no matter what.” Recognize their contributions to you and let them know it. 

Note: Here is my full LinkedIn Live interview with Dr. Robert Waldinger.

First posted on Forbes.com 4.04.2024

Understanding Bad Leadership

Catch this clip of Professor Barbara Kellerman of the Harvard Kennedy School talking about “The Social Disease of Bad Leadership.”

Synopsis:

In the YouTube video “GRACE under pressure: John Baldoni with Barbara Kellerman,” Barbara Kellerman, a Harvard Kennedy School Center for Public Leadership fellow, discusses her focus on the negative outcomes of leadership and challenges the industry’s portrayal of leadership as only positive.

Kellerman argues that there are many bad leaders and managers and shares her unique perspective on the dark side of leadership. John Baldoni emphasizes the importance of understanding how leaders become bad and the role of followers and context. They use extreme examples like Adolf Hitler to illustrate the subjectivity of defining good and bad leadership. Baldoni also discusses the concept of bad leadership as a social disease and the importance of accountability.

Kellerman emphasizes the need for individuals to have a moral compass and take a stand against bad leadership, even in complex situations. They also touch on the importance of qualities like gratitude, respect, authenticity, clarity, and ethics in leadership.

Here is the full interview with Professor Barbara Kellerman speaking about her newest book, Leadership from Bad to Worse.

Inspire Your Leadership

Think deeply while reading these poems and they will get to the bottom of your heart. The Leader’s Path will make you better.

Dr. Oleg Konovalov, the da Vinci of visionary leadership, author of The Fisherman’s Path to Leadership and The Vision Code

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Explore themes of purpose, teamwork, community, laughter, resilience, and leadership as you navigate the intricacies of the leader’s journey. This anthology offers timeless lessons on leading with authenticity, empathy, courage, and grace.

Jenny Fernandez, MBA Leadership and Branding Coach, Adjunct Professor at Columbia University and NYU

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The Leader’s Path and Other ChatBot Poems is an exciting exploration of leadership themes from the poet’s perspective.

We used my proprietary ChatBot to generate poems from my published works — some 16 books and nearly 1000 articles.

This effort brings my work to a wider audience, those who have yet to encounter my lessons in leadership.

The result is a collection of poems about what it takes to lead with heart and courage as well as humor and grace.

Beautifully illustrated with my photographs, The Leader’s Path is easy to read as well as uplifting.

Kindle $3.99

Paperback $9.99

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John Baldoni has created an offering of grace and empathy. These poems are a breath of fresh air for those of us pursuing leadership and creative professions.

Emily Falvey, Nashville singer-songwriter

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John Baldoni is innovating in a new e-space. Poetry is simple and powerful, offering nurturing benefits for us all.

Grace Ueng, Founder and CEO, Savvy Growth

Amazon reviews welcome! Thank you.

Kenan Thompson: Knowing What You Do Best

If Kenan Thompson ever decided to give up his career in show business, he could be a master trainer teaching teams how to put ego aside for the good of the team.

“I’m tough with self-praise,” Thompson tells Tonya Mosley on Fresh Air, “but I am definitely an ensemble-minded individual. And if… people want to consider me as a glue, great.” Thompson sees his role to “showcase to these brilliant writers and brilliant minds and all of our departments – makeup and hair and directors” and many more.

Thompson has been a cast member of Saturday Night Live for twenty-one seasons, the longest tenure of any performer on that show, which will mark its fiftieth season next year. Thompson has also done film and television and lots of voice-overs. And you can catch him on commercials, too, something that was his first break into the business as a child actor. His new memoir is When I Was Your Ageand as the title says, it has many life lessons. 

Facing hard-knocks

Thompson had early success on Nickelodeon, but sadly, earnings from that show were pilfered by an unscrupulous accountant who cleaned out Thompson’s holdings and left him with a huge bill for unpaid taxes. It was a humbling experience because his stardom had made him famous but now he was broke and paying for fast food with change. “I wasn’t too proud to, like, get by, necessarily, but I would definitely watch the reactions on people’s faces… Some people would make jokes, but then some people didn’t notice either. And some people were just like, have a nice day, and just happy to see you.” 

Fortunately, he had friends. “I slept on my couches, but I had friends’ to sleep on. We had an open-door kind of policy because, you know, it was just about who can help us make a couple of hundred bucks a day.” In retrospect, this loss of wealth taught him to appreciate life more fully.

One person who helped Thompson career-wise was Tracy Morgan, the actor he replaced on SNL. “And [Morgan] just immediately ‘little-brothered’ me. I had been wanting that, you know, from adult performers for so long.” Receiving support from others helps build confidence, something that, when done right, enables you to do the same for others on their way up.

Keeping polishing your craft

Thompson, like many performers, did not watch his performances in his early years. “Because it was just too awkward for me. And I didn’t want to second guess or overly criticize myself.” In time, he eased upon himself and started to watch sketches that had gone over well with the audience. He did not ease up on his work ethic. “You’re digging a lot of the time as a creative. You’re digging for something that’s going to stick when you’re trying to build something.”

Bob Newhart is an inspiration to Thompson. Newhart, who had three long-running television series, “taught [Thompson] what consistency looked like, you know, because as creatives, we have a tendency to always want fresh or always want new or switch it up in pursuit of topping the last person that was on that subject.” 

Such drive has its place but so too does stability. Newhart, who lived close to the studio producing his shows, showed Thompson who has two daughters “there is a way to do it where you can be a steady adult and be in one place… It’s not necessarily what happens for 90% of us, but, you know, it is a possibility.”

The ability to be consistent in what you do is a form of self-knowledge that breeds self-confidence. And that confidence gives performers the sense they can be their best and do their best individually and as part of an ensemble.

First posted on Forbes.com 2.20.2024

Master Your Craft by Reflecting On It

Sometimes, you must slow down to realize what you like doing.

In an interview on Fresh Air with Sam Briger, actor Paul Giamatti was reflecting on what it was like to work with young actor Dominic Sessa in his first film role, The Holdovers. Giamatti praised Dominic for his approach to his craft. “Working with him was really easily one of my favorite things I’ve done in a long time in I think a lot of ways because he was so fresh to it, you know, and his – and he was so thoughtful about it.”

Giamatti drew a contrast between himself a veteran and Sessa newcomer. “I’ve gotten very proficient with things. I can do stuff fast and easy and, you know, move on and do my thing. And it was wonderful to have this guy who was less acquainted and more questioning and more – in all ways, and to sort of slow down and just take it easy with him was really nice.”

Learning experience

This experience with Dominic Sessa echoed Giamatti’s experience when he first starred in another Alexander Payne film, SidewaysGiamatti recalls being very nervous then, but he has become confident in his abilities since having played significant roles in series like John Adams and Billions. “I think I have more command of things. Am I better or anything like that? I don’t know. But I was more relaxed, that’s for sure. And with him, I was even more relaxed because I trust [Payne] a lot.”

Working with Dominic reminded Giamatti of where he had begun and where he is now. Giamatti’s experience is a good reminder for anyone in their role for a long time. With it comes confidence, yes, but it can breed an “easy street mentality.” You may stop trying as hard. You avoid risk, and perhaps, in some ways, you go through the motions. Therefore, it’s always good to reflect on the what, why, where and how of what you do. Here are some good questions to ask.

What do I like about what I do? Itemize what you enjoy doing and why. Is it the joy you get from doing the work? Is it because you are working with people you respect? Do you want the impact you are having on those you serve as customers and colleagues?

What is holding me back from doing my best? As much as we like what we do, some things get in the way. For example, is busy work taking up too much time? Do you have the time you need to think and reflect? Do you have the right people to do what needs to be done?

What is one thing I can do to improve my situation? The answers to the above questions will illuminate the changes you need to make. Often, you can only do some at a time, so begin by doing one thing differently. That is, delegate busy work, stop wasting your reflection time, or act now to upskill your people.

Making connections

Later in the interview, Giamatti discusses why he became an actor. As a child, he liked the world of make-believe. Later in high school, performing school plays helped him fit in, especially as an outsider. (He was a day student at a boarding school.)  “I felt connected to people, to the other actors and to the – and I felt a sense of communal effort that was really exciting to me.” 

Again, considering what we do, think how we fit it. Are we sticking around because we like work, like the people? Or are we, as noted above, just going through the motions? 

Fitting in is pleasant, but if what we are doing is not challenging, we need to seek a different stage where we can become, if not the stars, supporting players in a venture that brings greater satisfaction. Making time to reflect and then taking steps to implement your feelings will enable you to find the satisfaction you seek.

First posted on Forbes.com 1.24.2024

The Servant Leader (ai)

With open eyes I see the need, 

And open heart I plant the seed, 

Of service rooted deep within, 

That grows through care my soul has sown.

I walk among with ready hand, 

To lift the fallen where they stand, 

And voice of calm that stills the storms, 

That rage within through anger born.

A servant first I’m called to be, 

To lead through love and empathy, 

Putting others before my pride, 

That side by side we walk, not I.

The path ahead I do not know, 

But follow where good spirits flow, 

Past fear and doubt my role above,

Is servant first when leading with love.

This poem was generated by the Baldoni ChatBot that draws upon the library of my published works.

The Leader’s Path (ai)

The road is long, the way unsure, 

Yet still I forge ahead each day. 

With purpose strong and vision pure, 

I guide my team along the way.

No obstacle can block our route.

No setback can our spirits shake. 

Each challenge makes our will take root, 

And models courage we can make.

I walk beside in storm and strife, 

To lift them when their strength grows faint. 

I show the light to better life, 

Where justice and compassion reign.

This path unfurls before our feet. 

We tread as one, our bond grows tight. 

Our shared commitment is complete – 

Together we will climb the height.

The summit gleams bright up above 

This landscape steep and filled with care. 

But with our hearts aligned in love, 

The peak shines promise rich and rare.

Onward still our expedition goes, 

Past doubt and pain without a halt. 

The leader’s road itself bestows 

The grace to persist without fault.

Stay true, stay fast, stay by my side, 

The way now opens up anew! 

Take heart my friends, and stride with pride – 

The leader’s path belongs to you.

This poem was generated by the Baldoni ChatBot that draws upon the library of my published works.

How Thought Leaders Are Using AI


For many people, the concept of AI sends shivers up the spine.

For others, it may breed resentment or even fear.

For those in the thought leadership field – business advisors, coaches and consultants – AI is here. And for that reason, “fear and loathing” (to borrow from Hunter S. Thompson’s adage) must go. So, I took the plunge into AI with the launch of the Baldoni Chat Bot, a fusion of AI technology with leadership knowledge and practice. 

What I did

My Chat Bot brings together my body of work – more than a dozen books, hundreds of articles and many interviews – in a way that makes them accessible and engaging. This approach enables the Chat Bot to respond with targeted answers to user questions.

My Chat Bot is trained to answer what it relevant to my insights into coaching and leadership development. Now in its third-generation, the Chat Bot can provide answer questions more readily and more quickly than I could when chatting.

Therefore, it cannot tell you what time it is, who the president is or what color the sky is. It can, however, give you answers to questions such as:

  • What is the difference between leading and managing?
  • How do I lead with purpose?
  • How can I influence my peers?
  • How do leaders show grace under stress?
  • How do I balance compassion and accountability?
  • How can I give difficult feedback to employees?
  • How do I lead my boss?

“The Baldoni Chat Bot began as a way to engage John’s fans and followers in a meaningful way” says Mahesh M. Thakur, the founder and CEO of Influencer Kit.AI, which conceptualized, developed and personalized the Baldoni Chat Bot. “It has quickly morphed into a tool synthesizing John’s ideas, expressing them using his tone and personality.”

“Those working in the field of human development can use AI as a tool to help them organize their content and deliver it virtually in real-time. This engages their fans meaningfully, generate leads, get speaking enquiries and sell books.” says Thakur, a technology executive and entrepreneur who has worked in the field of AI for the past two decades, including as product management leader for Microsoft Bing Search.

InfluencerKit is a platform that is built for coaches and for SaaS businesses. 

“The power of AI when applied the right way can be transformational for small and medium size businesses.” says Thakur. 

The Marshall Bot

The idea for creating my Chat Bot came from Marshall Goldsmith, often referred to as the world’s pre-eminent executive coach and the author of multiple New York Times best-sellers, including What Got You Here Won’t Get You There, Triggers, Mojo and The Earned Life

The Marshall Bot draws upon Marshall’s many books, speeches, and videos. The Marshall Bot uses text and soon with audio to enhance the user experience. The Bot also incorporates Marshall’s hands-on efforts. He has spent hundreds of hours training the bot to think and speak like him. 

“After three months,” Marshall told technology author Jyoti Guptara at the Global Peter Drucker Forum, “Generation 3 of Marshall Bot can answer questions given to me, I would say in a more articulate way than I can, about 50% of the time. This is a primitive version … I have no doubt [future Marshall Bots] will be able to answer 95% of the questions I get better than I can – as judged by me.” 

It is also important to imbue a bot with a personality. “I’m practicing trying to give it some humor,” says Marshall. “For example, suppose you ask it how many languages I speak. In that case, the answer is now: ‘I can barely speak American English.’ Or, if you ask about my grandchildren, it replies with: ‘Marshall has the greatest grandchildren in the world.’”

The Marshall Bot will be freely accessible to users, keeping with Marshall’s commitment to sharing all that he knows with the world. 

Exploring the impact of AI

One person who is wired into the exploration of AI – as well as VR and AR (virtual and augmented reality, respectively) — is Martin Lindstrom, the founder of a $22 million project called Engineering our Dreams – the world’s largest extended reality project that will explore the effect of these new technologies on business and people. 

Lindstrom told me, “The two words – ‘human’ and ‘evolution’ often go hand in hand. Progress is hardwired into our DNA, making humans the dominant species on planet Earth. Technology has become the main tool of the 21st century, further evolving humans towards ‘technological augmentation.’ This concept refers to the integration of technology into various aspects of human life, enhancing our physical and cognitive abilities and extending our dependence on technological advancements for everyday functioning.” 

“To understand this evolution and where it will lead us,” says Lindstrom, “it is essential for people working in the field of human development to utilize AI. The potential and outcome of this can only be fully comprehended by those who are actively engaged in or familiar with this technology.”

It takes a team

Developing the Baldoni Chat Bot has been a team effort. The chief technologist behind InfluenceKit.ai is Pavan Tallapragada. “The Chat Bot is also always learning,” says Kumar. “More data from the author and more user engagements make the Bot smarter and the user wiser.”

“Like any new tool to get to truly understand it,” says Lindstrom. “Play with it. Explore it. Test it. And then finally begin developing theories and hypothesis helping the authors frame this new tool ensuring that it is used to its full potential … in a safe and trustworthy way.”

The Baldoni Chat Bot is my first step with AI. It resides on my website and is available free. I plan to use it with my senior leader clients as a reference tool to help them coach and teach their own people. The Chat Bot also can extend the lessons of my keynote presentations. Looking ahead I believe HR departments will license Chat Bots from thought leaders as part of their library of tools for personal and professional development.

“Marshall’s exploring AI inspires many of us in the leadership space to emulate his example to share what we know more widely and in new and different ways,” said Mahesh M. Thakur. “The power of AI is available to more people on more platforms. We believe AI can bring out the best in us that we can share with others. We focus on what’s good to help you become better.”

Note: Click here to try the Baldoni Chat Bot.

First posted on SmartBrief.com 1.10.2024

Jackie Gleason: The Great One Dishes on Talent

Is talent a gift or a burden?

In his only interview with Johnny Carson, Jackie Gleason said, “Talent is a very annoying thing because you can’t take any credit for it. It’s a gift from God, and you’re stuck with that. Somebody says you’re good… God did it,” Gleason deadpanned.

The gods may have been with Gleason, nicknamed “The Great One,” but he earned it with his work ethic. One of the comedic giants of his era, Gleason began his career in vaudeville and burlesque, then pioneered the early days of television with a variety show and later created the pathbreaking sitcom The HoneymoonersGleason then moved to film, won an Oscar nomination for his performance as Minnesota Fats in The Hustler, and performed on Broadway. His last major gig was a reboot of The Jackie Gleason Show, a variety show featuring sketches from The Honeymooners and other comedic sketches.

It almost makes you winded just listing all of his accomplishments. Of course, Gleason had talent – timing and gesture for his comedy and subtlety for his drama. And he had energy – not only as an entertainer but also as a bon vivant. Gleason was the toast of New York nightlife but never missed a gig.

Putting talent to work

Talent is a gift, but for all successes like Gleason, you need to put in the work. The Malcolm Gladwell rule of 10,000 certainly applies. The Beatles played six-hour gigs up to seven days a week in Hamburg. Night after night, gig to gig, Bruce Springsteen wedged himself into a U-Haul-style truck packed with his band’s gear. Larry David did stand up to earn his comedy chops as he made the journey to writer-actor-producer.

Stephen King, the mega-selling author, put it best: “Talent is cheaper than table salt. What separates the talented individual from the successful one is a lot of hard work.”

Talent opens the door to possibilities. For example, one may have a head for numbers, a gift for presenting aloud, an ability to conceptualize, or an attention to detail. Those are talents, but they stagnate unless married to skills that enable the individual to apply the talent or talents toward what you loves doing.

Talent offers choices

Of course, if you are talented in a particular discipline – sport or the arts – it does not mean you must pursue it professionally. It may become a hobby that leads to personal enjoyment, or it could lead to coaching or teaching, helping the next generation of talents to hone their skills.

There is another aspect to talent. “You gotta have luck,” said Gleason to Johnny Carson. “Anybody who thinks, it’s just their talent, they’re crazy. You gotta have luck.” Fortune, however, smiles most on those who put in the effort to be at the right place at the right time

“True happiness, wrote John W. Gardner, a life-long public servant, “involves the full use of one’s power and talents.” From the application of talent can come fulfillment. And as Jackie Gleason would say — “How sweet it is!”

First posted on Forbes.com on 11.00.2023

Michigan Wolverines: Competence, Confidence, Community

When teams perform well, credit goes to their leaders, often at the team’s expense. Good leaders know that little gets done if team members do not coalesce around the mission.

A case in point might be the Michigan Wolverines, which captured its first national championship title in over a quarter century. This year was their first trip to the national game after two tries at the playoff series, which ended in losses. The team was committed to staying together and going for it all.

Overcoming adversity

Standing in the way were not merely their opponents, including the always formidable Ohio State and Alabama and undefeated Washington this year. A couple of cheating scandals marked this season; both focused on head coach Jim Harbaugh, who was suspended the first three games of the season as well as the last three games. This situation left the Michigan players relying more on themselves than the head coach. 

[It must be noted that two coordinator coaches, Jesse Minter on defense and Sherrone Moore on offense, led the team ably in Harbaugh’s absence. Moore served as head coach for the last three games, and arguably the toughest part of the regular season schedule.]

The late Pat Summitt, who won 8 NCAA basketball titles as head coach of the Lady Volunteers at Tennessee, told her biographer Sally Jenkins that when a team is cohering and playing well together, “you can hear it.” The players have each other’s backs and can be audible in how they interact. 

If such coherence were audible at Michigan, it would be a roar. Game after game. Time after time. Situation after situation, when adversity struck, they did not bend nor break. They became more robust, and as my colleague and author Eileen McDargh likes to say, they would be transformed – stronger, better, and wiser.

Leveraging resilience

One word to apply would be resilience, and from this team, we can learn that what matters most truly in sports is who is on the field, not who’s off it. Players count on one another to do their jobs. The lessons for those who do not play the game come down to three factors.

Competence. People know their jobs and do them. Competency can also be contagious, especially when new team members come on board. The veterans take them under their wing and school them.

Confidence. From doing a job well comes confidence, the feeling that comes from doing the job well. While immediate tasks are accomplished, the mission still needs to be completed. Fulfillment of the mission requires the continuation of functions and the commitment to keep working toward a common goal.

Community. When teams cooperate, they lay the foundation for collaboration, where individuals create something that emerges from the collective effort of people pulling together as one. Call it community, where individuals feel they belong because their voices are heard and their contributions are recognized.

One team. One goal.

When competence breeds confidence and creates community, the team operates as one. It can focus on the job without being distracted by the outside noise. Things may not always turn out right, but in the moment, the team is clicking, and in the parlance of Pat Summitt, you can hear it.

“It doesn’t happen unless all 11 are clicking,” said quarterback J. J. McCarthy summed up what it means to play as a team.  “The players, they really can’t make the plays unless everyone’s on the same page. So all credit goes to everybody out there on the field and the coaches.”

Blake Corum, who scored two touchdowns, said, “We’ve proven a point. We’re a good team… We went through a lot of adversity this year, but to everyone who said we shouldn’t be in the natty, or they shouldn’t have been allowed to be in the College Football Playoff. What are you going to say now? You’re just wasting your breath at this point.”

What the Michigan football team accomplished is laudable. Its sense of teamwork holds lessons for those who play the game as well as for those who work in teams.

First posted on Forbes.com 1.09.2024