Ask Dr Bob Tobin where he lives and he’ll tell you “heaven.” That’s Japan, to you and me.
Tobin moved there from California, where he had what looked like a great life – a house by the beach, a good consulting practice, a BMW – but which, in reality, wasn’t so great. “I didn’t really know how to work,” Tobin reflects, in our Expert Interview podcast. “I had a good education, I had a good job, but I had trouble getting along with people. I had trouble figuring out what it was that I really wanted.”
So far, so familiar. How many of us feel like we might be missing out on our perfect life? What’s interesting about Tobin’s story is that – apart from moving from one country to another – the changes he made were not huge… But the impact was.
That’s why he wrote “What Do You Want to Create Today?” an eclectic collection of personal tips that worked for him. “People would say to me, ‘Where’s your book, where’s your book?’ and I really wanted to share with other people. I want other people to have the same kind of happiness – or their own kind of happiness,” he says.
One small change that packs a powerful punch is to embrace silence more. This is central to Tobin’s tip about “reading the air,” which can be summarized as: look, listen and, above all, don’t talk. “People are in such a hurry to say something,” Tobin observes. “They want to get their point across. But what’s the point of getting your point across if people are not ready to listen?” It’s much better, he says, to read the air before talking – to “understand the invisible… It’s really seeing people’s reaction to something that you say. It’s knowing when the best time might be to ask the boss for a raise. It’s about understanding people and reading the non-verbals.”
Tobin gives us an example from his own experience: “I was teaching communications at a university and the boss wasn’t very good at communication. It was those days when everybody had a small office with a telephone, and I didn’t read the air very well. Whenever I wanted to talk with him, he never would talk to me face-to-face. He always would go back into his office and call me, and then we’d talk on the phone,” Tobin recalls.
“If I’d really read the air, I would have just started calling him, rather than try to engage him face-to-face. So that was a mistake that I made. I think when you ask for a raise, when you have a performance appraisal, when you’re going to speak up at a meeting, you really need to read the air. You need to ask yourself, ‘Is now the right time to say this?'”
In other words, take a moment to reflect. This point comes up again in Tobin’s advice to “get rid of the jerks.” Spending time with negative people can be destructive on many levels. Instead, we should surround ourselves with the “best people,” he says. In this audio clip from our Expert Interview, he explains what he means by this.
Did you hear the silence in his last point? If you can create a little bit of peace and quiet, you can begin to see who you really want to have around you – and those people may be attracted to you, too, because you’re not surrounded by a lot of bustle and noise.
Dr Bob Tobin found “heaven” in Japan, but he’s the first to admit that it could have been anywhere. After all, you can take a moment to be quiet and reflect wherever you happen to be, and you never know what a difference that can make.
Question: How do you make space for quiet in your life? Share your piece of heaven here.