“what we’re doing here is so important we had better not take it too seriously!!”  –         zen master Suzuki Roshi

“if the words of certain teachers move us, and if we were to examine our thoughts while reading them, what often strikes us most is not that these teachers are telling us something new, but that they are reminding us of something we already knew but, perhaps, had forgotten!!  It is as if we had always known these truths at some deep level, so we respond with “aha!” “Yes, of course! I knew that all along!”  These teachers reveal the truth that has always been within us.    Richard Hooper, “The Parallel Sayings”

Ralph Waldo Emerson:

Write it on your heart that every day is the best day in the year. No man has learned anything rightly, until he knows that every day is Doomsday.

Ralph Waldo Emerson:

Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could; some blunders and absurdities have crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day; you shall begin it serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense.

 

Who knew my choice in television shows for my 4 year old would lead me to one of the deepest philosophical answers to life. 

 

Being somewhat selective on what the kid watches on TV, led to discovering SUPER WHY© on PBS.  The premise of each show is: a character has a problem, so they literally say we have a problem so lets look — in a BOOK!!!.  They go into a story (jack in the beanstalk, princess and the pea etc.) with a similar conundrum (wanted to use that word thank you very much), and they look for answers in the story that can help solve their problem, while also helping the characters in the book all based around letters and spelling. 

 

Basically in every story one of the characters is having a huge struggle and can’t get over it.  The Super Readers can see how obvious the behavior is that’s creating this problem and say “hey cut the shit” (I may be paraphrasing here).  Every time the struggling character replies; “I have to keep doing this, this is my story, this is how it’s written, see” while pointing to the actual words that do indeed describe this very behavior and response. 

 

Being on a path of enlightenment that has a few bumps and detours, it took me into my thousandth or so viewing of these shows before I had my life altering epiphany (it’s obviously improved my vocabulary as you can see) “this is no kids show dam it,  this is our LIFE!”

 

These characters don’t even consider there are options or possible variations to their story, so wouldn’t even consider looking for other options they know this is their story they know what the words are in their story and that’s that.  They state it that simply “I have to keep doing this see, its how it’s written”.  And don’t for a minute doubt that, while it may be a bitter pill to swallow, and we may not be as obvious about it, each and every one of us does this same thing every day. 

 

I think every single one of us often unknowingly lives like this.  We do the same things, think the same thoughts, and follow the same patterns because “it’s our story, that’s how it has to be its how it’s written”.  We fancy ourselves so creative, revolutionary, modern, liberated, self aware, ssooo DIFFERENT.  And dam if we aren’t any different than freakin’ JACK AND THE BEAN STALK!!!!  We tell ourselves every day in our own creative ways!!! “This is how it has to be this is how my story is written”. 

 

“Something we were withholding made us weak, until we found out it was

ourselves.”

 – Robert Frost, American poet

 

We have this set of beliefs (I wont get into from where they come, that’s a wholleee other article) the thing is they are there,,, it really becomes irrelevant who wrote the story or what pen was used.  That no longer matters.  It’s our story name it what you will.  Our past story impacts us of COURSE, but does it dictate the words moving forward?  The real thing that matters is recognizing this is our core belief, following our storyline that largely impacts our lives.  The other amazing thing is when we recognize how much can change when WE realize we impact the words!  And it can change.  Doesn’t matter where it came from what matters is from today on we’re always rewriting the story and don’t have to use the same lines. 

 

 

I often wonder what’s scarier or more intimidating to us; the belief that we can’t change the words, or we can?  Is the possibility that we can write our own story more daunting than acting our our story even if we don’t like it?  Is it somehow easier to blame the author, to think as a mere character in the tale, we just have no choice, we have no creative license, it’s just the story man (hands up in the air in surrender).  We literally don’t consider the option many times, that we have creative license.  Its in ink man, it’s my karma, it’s my story.  I’d love to but I can’t.  But look how good I am at making the best of it.

 

Perhaps a first step is to quiet down a bit.  To stop acting out our stories or at least observe for a bit and become aware of it, see what the plot is, decide if we like our story.  Trust our gut, our reactions and core feelings.  Is there something in the storyline that isn’t quite working for us anymore? Just begin to consider that we can change the words, that it’s not true that it’s in ink and nothing we can do.  Become aware of how much our storyline and perceived inability to alter it effects our decisions, actions feelings.  It can allow you to view things with a different lens which alone changes our story.    

 

We begin to pick up our own pen just by becoming observers and aware of our storyline.  Flipping the page, what’s more liberating then a blank page, or to some terrifying!!  But just start to consider that you have your own pen, your own page and can create your own story.  Every day you can.  Every day it’s said you can die a new death and begin a new life.  And this is the most liberating, exciting thing we can be faced with. 

 

“Conditions for creativity are to be puzzled; to concentrate; to accept conflict and tension; to be born everyday; to feel a sense of self.”

 – Erich Fromm, psychologist

 

 

In light of full disclosure, it can also honestly be one of the most daunting, paralyzing, depressing things to be faced with.  Those are normal feelings as well.  When we lose the premise of someone else being the author that comes with a lot of mixed emotions.  We can feel there are so many options it’s overwhelming.  It can feel lonely and too heavy.  It can stop you in your tracks.  It’s enough to want to hand the pen back.  The realization there may have been different choices all along, makes us want to use the pen to beat ourselves over the head because we followed this storyline so long.  It can also leave us with “writers block” sometimes abdicating the responsibility to another seems easier, maybe they know more about how the story should go, or at a minimum they’re willing to write it, I just cant handle the responsibility.  So we do the thing where we hold our personal book up over our eyes and just dive into the story.

 

It’s normal and natural to feel these things.  It seems a core requirement for writing our own true story is to be gentle with yourself.  When we aren’t gentle and forgiving to ourselves we slip back into using old stories, words that no longer enhance or are true to our current story.  Then we become like one of “those” writing the unauthorized biography, just isn’t accurate.    Realize that as there are books, there are endless versions of our personal stories.  There isn’t one best or right or one book fits all.  There are many chapters to our stories.  Feel these feelings, they are normal.  Feel them and let them flow through you and go on.  Envision your story, go, and pick up your pen, your magic wand, your pencil with the big ole eraser on it!  Start writing and if you don’t like what you read you can change the words.  And at the risk of sounding like a big HUGE ole’ cliché/hallmark card, every moment is a new chapter.  Don’t stop using yourself to write your own story.  You have the best version of your story to be told, and the world needs to hear it.  I, for one, can’t wait to read it!

 

 

“When we don’t prune in the garden, Nature does it for us through wind, ice, hail, fire, and flood. One way or another, the boughs will be shaped or strengthened. If we don’t prune away the stress and plow under the useless in our lives, pain will do it for us. Make no mistake; I think pain is a wretched gardener. Her cuts stun and sting. But after pruning, and preferably voluntary, we’re able to discern what’s real, what’s important, and what’s essential for our happiness.”
– Sarah Ban Breathnach

We’ve established that Martha Stewart I’m not, but I do admit I love wild, beautiful flowers and would love a bunch of wild things all over the back yard. I had gone out once to find these horrible, prickly weeds had grown up and taken over the garden. While I hadn’t spent any time there weeding, or taking care of it, I was “dismayed” that I didn’t have a prize-winning garden with wonderful flowers and no weeds.

While weeding this mess, few things about this struck me.

  1. It’s amazing how fast things can get out of control and nasty when you don’t pay attention to them.
  2. Funny how I really value and enjoy something, but haven’t spent any time on it, and am upset (almost surprised) when it doesn’t flourish.
  3. Once out there and weeding, I enjoyed it thoroughly, it didn’t take much time at all and it was well worth the effort, it was less effort than looking at the weeds every day.
  4. My actions would say I seem to want to plant a few seeds and have this big, wild, weed-less beauty of a garden pop up on its own.

So what’s going on? (Yes, I actually can take a day in the garden and turn it into an article)

“Who you are speaks so loudly,
that I can’t hear what you’re saying.”
– Unknown

I’m not necessarily saying we’re liars, but I do want to say we’re full of bull a lot of the time. Maliciously? Intentionally? Not necessarily, (in some cases yes) but it’s there. Sound a bit strong? Let’s tawlk, because this phenomenon isn’t contained to our gardens, it’s also prevalent in our lives and businesses, and has a big effect on the success of both. We talk a lot about what our priorities are, what we’re about (our gardens). We even sometimes make plaques proclaiming our priorities, put them into writing or even take vows or make declarations. Then our actions don’t support these declarations, in fact the only evidence that these things are priorities are in these plaques or declarations.

“True religion is the life we lead,
not the creed we profess.”

– Louis Nizer

Although we logically know it’s not true, our actions say we believe things will take care of themselves and flourish with no attention or work from us. This is where the disparity comes in. That’s where the trouble starts. That’s when we’re dismayed to see weeds, clutter and ugliness where our “priorities” are supposed to be. We declare what’s most important but do not spend the time, effort and energy on those things. When this gap exists continuously, our declarations eventually become untrue to our actions. They’re each telling different stories.

“When someone shows you who they are,
believe them.”

– Maya Angelou

Examples of and reasons for the gap:
We don’t have time for our gardens. If you needed to have life saving surgery tomorrow, I’d bet a lot of money you’d find time to have it OR If someone offered you $10,000 to complete a task that had been on your to do list for months, I bet you could have it done very quickly. “We all find the time to do what we really want to do.” My point? We make time for things that are a priority. More time would not solve our lack of attention to our gardens; we would then fill that time up as well.

Our customers or employees are number one to our business if our actions reflect just the opposite and neither could tell you they were your priorities.

Our families/marriages/children are the most important things in our lives if they get the least time, worst of our attitudes, and less respect than we give a barely respected coworker.

Our health, weight and feeling good is very important if we won’t get off the couch, stop eating bad food and take action to feel better.

We want a big beautiful garden if we’ve spent no time effort or energy on making that happen.

“Knowing and not doing are equal to not knowing at all.”
– Unknown

We’re programmed to say these (and others) are our priorities in our businesses/lives. We’re also programmed to busy ourselves and make decisions on the fly, reacting and making short-term decisions that we fill our time with activities that are contrary to supporting these things. As I said we don’t do these things on purpose (most of the time), we don’t do it because we particularly like the results. We’re not happy with the results and can’t possibly be at our true potential when operating like this.

There are many reasons this happens:

  • It’s a difficult process, almost impossible for many people and businesses, to get crystal clear on where you want to go and why.
  • Utilizing exactly what (actions, processes, resources) will get you there is another difficult step in the process. You have to know what will get you there then implement.
  • We often do what has been done in the past, what we’ve always done, what others are doing or what we’re told to do without really knowing or checking if that is, in fact, that best way to support our objectives. “If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will get you there.” – Ancient Chinese Proverb
  • Once we do know the direction, tools, resources, systems that will truly serve our vision; keeping that clear and in the forefront for all involved is yet another big challenge.
  • Our priorities often come from other places then us. “I don’t know the key to success, but the key to failure is to try to please everyone.” – Bill Cosby
  • If a goal is not something we truly have ownership for or oomph for, it will be hard to keep up activities on a regular basis that support it.
  • We sometimes have our priorities and actions very clear and straight, but others have their own that supersede ours. We have bosses to answer to, mortgages to pay, projects to complete, competitors to outperform, kids to take care of. It’s so easy to get sidetracked or to even know what will get us there.

So what do we do? “Learn to say ‘No.’. It will be of more use to you than to be able to read Latin.” – Charles Haddon Spurgeon

  1. Reevaluate your priorities (with the help of a great coach).
  2. Notice where you’re spending your time and why.
  3. Confirm what your true priorities are and compare to where your time is actually spent (tips for how in the e-course).
  4. Weed your garden. Pick top priorities and weed out others. I was afraid to cut back the flowers thinking nothing would grow in its place. We do that with our time as well. What I found was weeding and cutting back was the way to truly get the best and most beautiful growth possible. I couldn’t have made a better metaphor if I tried.
  5. Make sure you have the right habits, processes and tools in place.
  6. Take Mr. Cosby’s and Mr. Purgeon’s advice. It’s valuable to learn that time is precious, and we are accountable and responsible for our time only and we’d better be pleased with the results. No one else can change it for us and no one else knows what’s right for you.

We’re human. These things don’t come automatically or easy. But most of the time the steps above are much easier than letting our priorities to go the weeds. Get support to go through this process. I’m biased, yes, but a coach as a resource is an invaluable tool in growing your garden, or find whatever works for you but do something.  Close the gap between what your garden is and the reality of its condition. But start now even in little ways. 

“It is never too late to be what you might have been.”
– George Eliot, 1819-1880
(pseudonym of Marian Evans Cross)

“Be yourself; no base imitator of another, but your best self. There is something which you can do better than another. Listen to the inward voice and bravely obey that. Do the things at which you are great, not what you were never made for.”
– Ralph Waldo Emerson

Let me tell you a little story (as those that know me know I like to do) about bloodhounds and how they’re related to jagged edges and Stunning Prisms. I watched a show once on Bloodhounds. Besides being incredibly cute, they have an amazing and valuable talent that we’re smart enough to recognize and utilize. They are great smellers – great trackers. One factoid that amazed me, in yet another example of perfect engineering, was about their ears. Besides making them cute as can be, their ears are masterfully designed to help them be the best smellers they can be, and provide us with a great service. How is this you ask? Good question, glad you’re here, ’cause that’s just what I wanted to talk about.

Their ears are really long and floppy. When they are tracking, they lower their head to the ground and move it back and forth (which I logically thought was to smell on both sides). Actually, when they sway their head, their ears flop back and forth and catch the smells and scoop them up to the dog’s nose. AMAZING really, but not surprising; we’re each equipped with such traits, designed perfectly for unique and great contributions.

The whole process works to make that bloodhound great. The nose, the ears, and the way they wave their head from side to side, the fact that they’re tall enough to walk over brush and other obstacles. They’re geared towards sniffing, and they love it when they’re doing it. You can see it; they’re in the “zone”.

Let’s pretend for a sec that you’ve just been promoted to the sniffer department, which oversees all the dogs that sniff for many important reasons (finding bombs, drugs, people etc.). You’ve been watching the bloodhounds in their work and have made the following few key observations to incorporate into your process improvements:

  1. For one, they aren’t at all like the greyhounds you’ve worked with before. I don’t think they care as much about their task, they’re much slower. They move around a lot, get distracted and bored, I think. They’re always looking back and forth in an inefficient manner with wasteful movements. To increase speed of tracking, enhance effectiveness, reduce variation and just plain make us more comfortable by dealing with what we know, they can’t be swaying their heads back and forth anymore either, that slows things down, less movement the better.
  2. I don’t even think they look where they’re going, their ears are in their eyes ½ of the time. Changes are in order!
  3. We know from experience (our experience) what makes a successful dog, what attributes are necessary and long floppy ears isn’t one of them, we need to pin ’em back.

Now consider the following…

  • How successful do you think we’d be in this situation given our ultimate goal of great tracking?
  • What are some of the drawbacks of this scenario?
  • How do you think the bloodhounds would react?
  • Why does it seem silly for us to consider this approach given what we know about the bloodhounds?

It does seem silly, but we do this to ourselves and to each other every day. And there are many reasons why it behooves us to cut the crap (yeah you heard me, time for tough love). We all have our floppy ears and swaying heads. Everyone, has their unique pure GOLD to contribute and are perfectly designed to do so. (See more in “Don’t quack if you’re a cow… the August 2002 Issue of TAP Into It.)Unfortunately we often pin back the ears and stop the swaying of the heads and the contribution is lost.

“Man is the only creature that refuses to be what he is.”
– Albert Camus

I have this vision of each of us as a unique, beautiful cut of glass with different shapes and projected prisms (just work with me, it’s a vision). We take these varied and beautiful cuts of glass, and we push and prod and shove them into these same round holes we’ve conjured up. In the process, and in our quest for results, many of the unique attributes (floppy ears), the very stuff that could have gotten us far greater results, get broken off. We’ve created jagged edges that cut where there were Stunning Prisms.

Some of us are sniffers, some of us racers, some are creative, some good negotiators, some work best in suits, some sweat suits, some of us are parents, some of us aren’t, some get married, some don’t, some work best from home, some the home is their work, some shine in the board room, some are humorous, others direct, some make great contributions with tattoos on their arms, others in ties and kakis. Some are great, creative thinkers, some are fantastic at the details and planning and bringing things to closure. Some of us want to climb the ladder some of us want to work on the ladder.

When we don’t recognize the wonderful role and necessity of the differences we bring to the table (floppy ears, cuts of glass) we tend to push and prod and change until we’ve taken that away. There is such power and strength in being able to see the relationships between the ultimate objective, what really will get you there, and discovering and cultivating that in people. If we reinforce the same thing and same attributes only, we’ll get sameness. We’ll get bloodhounds with their ears pinned back, we’ll get jagged edges. Get clear on our real goals, recognize the unique greatness in others by listening and appreciating what they have to offer, and we’ll get stunning prisms. We’ll get true control and results, not the illusion of that through our comfort and familiarity.

We’re jagged edges when we’re forced into something that doesn’t fit, that doesn’t honor our greatness. It doesn’t work and by not working I mean it’s simply a “getting by”, it’s not an optimization of who we can be, of the potential we’re capable of. When we honor the individual, the special attributes, knowledge, thoughts and paths we all have, we’re Stunning Prisms just begging to dazzle.

  “Everybody shake it,
Time to be free amongst yourselves
Your mama told you to be discreet,
and keep your freak to yourself
But your mama lied to you all this time,
She knows as well as you and I
You’ve got to express what is taboo in you
and share your freak with the rest of us
Cause itsa beautiful thang!”

– Macy Gray, 2001 zomba songs

What does this title mean, you ask (besides me cracking myself up?)? Basically, and quite frankly, it’s that we need to stop underestimating the power and importance of discovering, defining and cultivating our greatness. And stop underestimating how incredibly costly it is to quack when we’re not meant to quack and not just on a personal level (although I wonder why personal sacrifices are more acceptable than “corporate” sacrifices)

Sound corny? Sound touchy feely? Sound like something more suitable for a mid-life crisis when we have the time, money and inclination? Well it’s more of a present-day crisis, I believe. I chuckle to myself (and often out loud at inappropriate times but that’s another discussion) when people say “what do you work on, the personal or the business/corporate?” …I’ll give you a second to stop and look around our corporations, go ahead I’ll wait… (to the left, to the right)…What are they filled with? Yeah, that’s right! They are filled with PERSONS! The personal IS the business/corporate. Get it??

When we try to quack (do things that don’t feel right, don’t support what we’re best at, things we feel no passion or commitment to, that aren’t us, are contrary to our integrity, we don’t have the skills for, etc.)…when we should be mooing (if we’re a cow, of course), we cannot possibly, I’ll say it again, CAN’T reach our potential and can’t serve our clients or people in our lives (friends, spouse, children, community) to the best of our ability.

We tend to measure what and how we should be doing things by an external yardstick. An external yardstick will get us what everyone else gets and do what everyone else does, and in some cases that may be driving right off the bridge with the likes of Enron. We know we’re all unique, varied, bring different experiences, education, and talent to the table. With this knowledge we often attempt to beat those things out of us for conformity and ease of measuring sake, and in the process pour the pure gold out with the bath water. (And that ain’t good.)

Greatness is not the same for everyone, yet we attempt to measure with the same tools and criteria. We are all different and all lend something different to the process. If we measure the by the same standards, we are limiting ourselves to what others are doing. If we don’t know what is great about how we do our job, how we interact with others, how we make others feel, the work we do and simply do what others are doing or think we should be doing, how can we possibly make the greatest impact possible? Ok Cyn…get to the nitty gritty…

I recently presented an “uncommon area of responsibility” to a great group at a conference in Tennessee (you know who you are, go on…wave to the people), and now I’ll present it to you. You have the responsibility to know what your greatness is, how it’s best used, and to cultivate greatness in others as well. (Email me NOW and let me know how that sits with you, what is your first reaction to that statement?)

As I said, these concepts will be explored more in future material, but what we’re talking about here is:

Excavating: Discovering the passions you have, what you do best who you work best with, when you’re performing best, when you get the best results. What environments you work best in. The brushing off, the discovery, the clarity and overall vision of what your greatness is.

Articulating: Clarifying the specifics and measurables on what the results define your greatness. What does it look like? How will you know when your greatness is showing up? How will you recognize, find and speak to those you work best with the tasks you do best? Clearly knowing and speaking to the specific things that support our greatness. Knowing how to communicate this to others, specifically how will you know and how will they know.

Cultivating: What steps can you take to attract these things that best support and utilize your greatness? What boundaries do you need to help this happen effortlessly? What habits need to change to help this happen? What changes, enhancements, tools, and resources do you need to seek out to help this happen effortlessly? Why do I feel this is so important?

 “The musician must make music, and artist must paint,
a poet must write, if he is to ultimately be
at peace with himself.
What a man can be, he must be.”

– Abraham Maslow

An interesting phenomena I’ve noticed with the human race is when someone takes a “road less traveled”, or makes a significant change, we have the wonderful tendency of doing two things:

  1. ridiculing them and pointing out how crazy, unusual and stupid these actions are because they are different; and/or
  2. once we see the possible benefits of this unusual behavior, point out how it was somehow “easier” for that person to take these risks than us.

I jest and exaggerate a tinch, a smidge if you will, but I want us to consider our definition of risk, our approach to risk, and what we consider “risky”. I want to challenge our definition of “safer”. We often hold back on making a change until there is catastrophic event that forces us to do something. We’re then forced into a reactive mode, which takes away our power. We’re never guaranteed success, but reevaluating how we define success and failure can be so empowering.

“Most success springs from an obstacle or failure. I became a cartoonist largely because I failed in my goal of becoming a successful executive.”
– Scott Adams, Creator of “Dilbert”

Thanks for being here, let’s consider a few things on risk.
Truly…Cynthia

“Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure, than to take rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy much nor suffer much, because they live in the gray twilight that knows no victory nor defeat.”
– Theodore Roosevelt

“Courage isn’t the absence of fear,
it is wetting your pants and doing it anyway.”

 

Risk (defined by Webster’s dictionary 1. the possibility of suffering harm or loss; danger 2. a factor, element or course involving uncertain danger; hazard.

We often operate under the assumption that an action is risky when we’re taking some action. Most often, we consider “safe” actions, playing it safe, taking the safe route, the true and tried route, as those that involves not making a change, doing what’s always been done, doing what everyone else is doing, when you know the outcome. We make these assumptions and use these assumptions to guide our actions and decisions. I think these assumptions are costly.

We’ve gotten almost arrogant in our risk analysis by making the assumption that what you’re currently doing = the safest, smartest thing to be doing. We keep this as a working assumption often until we’re met with some catastrophic event to throw us headfirst into the realization that something needs to change. Same = right and safe until proven horribly not. So much is lost in approaching things that way (jobs, relationships, customers, lives, health). When forced to change, we’re thrown into a reactive mode where a fraction of our true strength and ability is used, and our focus is on survival rather than thriving.

What I challenge you to consider, is that we’d be wonderfully well served to concentrate and hone our talents at evaluating the consequences of NOT taking an action, making a change or going outside the norm. Just because no action has been taken and no decision has been made doesn’t = no risk!

“If you choose not to decide,
you still have made a choice.”

– Geddy Lee, Alex Lifeson and Neil Peart of Rush

I remember when a friend, ok…relative, ok…you beat it out of me, my brother, Paul, had worked hard and landed a great, “safe” corporate job at Bell Labs, but wanted to make a change. Actually he wanted to go to Squaw Valley for a few months to bartend and ski and then get a job out West. Many “helpful types” immediately went to work helping him “evaluate the huge risk” of his actions, which, as we do, was defined by pointing out all the things that were wrong with this move and what could happen (you’ll never get another job as great as this, you won’t be able to pay your bills, no one will hire someone that took time off, etc.). What wasn’t considered in the “risk analysis” was the price of not making the move of staying the same (not learning new skills, quality of life, breadth of experience with different companies, etc.).

Again it’s assumed if we’re somewhere and it’s not horribly broken, it’s working. Paul has since worked for Microsoft (this little company that has potential), Adobe, firms in Manhattan, climbed mountains in the West, ran the New York Marathon (the list goes on, I’m biased, I brag). Things he very well wouldn’t have done without making the difficult decision.

“Always listen to experts.
They’ll tell you what can’t be done and why.
Then do it.”

– Robert Heinlein, Writer

The point is…yes, any risk needs to be evaluated, planned for, and thought out. But we also need to redefine what we consider risky and also factor in the consequences of doing nothing, getting locked in sameness. We often concentrate on what could happen, why things may not work and what the possible consequences are of taking a certain action. We’re masters at it. How often do we single out those who haven’t made a move those who stay the same, those who follow the norm with the same scrutiny?

Another great, high-stakes example of where the true risk would have been if the “standard” approach had been taken, involved Lockheed Martin, highlighted in Fast Company’s May edition years ago, High Stakes, Big Bets. To quote the article, “Tom Burbage and his 500-person team at Lockheed Martin went after the biggest military deal in U.S. history — and scored a $200 billion victory: a contract to build the Joint Strike Fighter. They didn’t play it safe…they played to win!

Lockeed, in the project of a lifetime took huge risks, such as partnering with the “enemy”, designing their plane—not based on the input from the ones with the biggest pocketbook—but the biggest passion, among others. Again, many said they were crazy because of how it couldn’t work out. But look at how it did…$200 BILLION dollars isn’t exactly chump change! How much would it have been scrutinized if they had taken the “traditional” path? And what would the risks really have been there?

“Aim for success, not perfection. Never give up your right to be wrong, because then you will lose the ability to learn new things and move forward with your life. Remember that fear always lurks behind perfectionism. Confronting your fears and allowing yourself the right to be human can, paradoxically, make yourself a happier and more productive person.”
– Dr. David M. Burns

Where do we go from here? Am I saying sameness is bad and doing things the way things have been done before is bad? NO siree boboreno!! Awareness in our approach is a huge first step. Be aware of the potential tragedy (yes, tragedy), of staying the same for the sake of it without analyzing the risk of doing so until forced to reevaluate. Anytime we’re in a situation because we’re forced to be we are at our weakest, most vulnerable and least powerful.

– Cynthia Ronan, TAP

“I’ve been happy lately thinking about the good things to come,
and I believe it could be, something good has begun.”

– Cat Stevens, Peace Train

“Need to be in control? Let go of it. Control is an illusion.
The more you seek it, the more it will evade you.”

– James Autry and Stephen Mitchell, Real Power

I recently spoke with someone about coaching. She made a great analogy between coaching and her former role as a midwife. Both are experts in the facilitation of a process. The midwife, as does a coach, listens, pays attention, is there with the client, uses their expertise to help get rid of blocks, determine what is needed to let the natural strength of the client come through and produce wonders! She made a comment about the birthing process that struck me as relevant to the theme for the newsletter and the “renewal” of this season (and yes, it’s relevant to all of you).

She said the birthing process is so amazing and profound because it is when a woman is at her most vulnerable and has to totally surrender and “give in”. It is also when she is at her most powerful and full of strength. It struck me that this former midwife had put into words another law life tries to teach us that applies to many situations we find ourselves in as managers of our employees, our work, our time, our lives. No matter what we’re trying to “produce” the concept is the same. We must “let go,” surrender to truly TAP into our strength and get the most amazing results.

In our logical/business minds these two states are mutually exclusive – totally surrendering, being most vulnerable and being most powerful and full of strength. It seems contrary to what we’re constantly reinforced for. Ever notice the Olympic skaters are often flawless when doing their exhibition skate after the competition? Typically, the more important something is, the more it means = the more control we need, the tighter we need to hang on, the more rigid we are. And it often results in a literal or figurative fall on our butts.

When we tighten up, get more rigid and inflexible, we dilute what we’re truly capable of. Our desire to do well and to have control and focus on a certain, specific result causes the very thing we’re trying to avoid (see last month’s topic on Have Vision, Horsepower Will Follow).

I swam in high school. I wanted to break the school record. I really worked it in practice and felt like I was swimming as I never had, muscles sorer then ever, tried as hard as I could, to no avail. It was so frustrating. “Why try?” I thought, “I’m working so hard and nothing.” Then a shift happened, (the eye of the tiger type thing, oh yeah, I had it) I finally relaxed on breaking the record. I surrendered, I actually physically felt it, and the next race felt like I was in practice, it felt like a warm down. I noticed the feeling of the water, just going with it and had fun. And just for the heck of it looked up at the clock after the race and was blown away to see I had broken the record! I had mentally and physically let go of the “control,” which actually opened me up for better performance.

“In striving for continuous improvement and higher productivity, you can push so hard for “more, bigger, faster” that you diminish your people and impede the results you most desire.”
– James Autry and Stephen Mitchell, Real Power

There’s a difference between surrendering and not trying, to being vulnerable and getting walked on. It’s about honing the skills, continuously learning, being as prepared as you can, working as hard as you can, while at the same time relaxing, being “in the zone,” being open and flexible…whatever you want to call it.

It’s about really listening, really knowing who you are, having a clear vision, knowing what’s important and trusting your gut. Yes, even in business a large part of success is preparedness and faith, knowledge and trusting your gut, the knowing what you control and what you don’t and taking advantage of both (not overcoming one). It’s about balance. It’s realizing that the strength isn’t in having all the answers but being open to them when they present themselves.

“Come to the edge,
no, we will fall,
come to the edge,
no, we will fall,
they came to the edge,
he pushed them,
and they flew.”

– Unknown

Disclaimer (hey if they need on in windshield shades, I need one here): This is a symbolic message, not a literal one telling you to go to the edge of something so someone can push you. I believe you can fly symbolically, but am in no way endorsing your ability to actually fly off the edge of anything!

 

“When you feel in your gut what you are and then dynamically pursue it – don’t back down and don’t give up – then you’re going to mystify a lot of folks.” – Bob Dylan

Years ago after having done lots of research, comparison and deciding on a new car, I also got the benefit of taking part in the promotion they were running for a day of professional driving school run by very handsome race-car drivers from all over the world.

One of the most powerful things for me about that day, aside from the wonderful racecar driver accents, was a point the lead trainer drove home (excuse the pun) throughout the morning. He discussed defensive maneuvers (code for when driving down the road and a semi skids into your lane) and the importance breaking, steering, how to take a corner, and positioning play. He said, repeatedly, “If you hear and learn only one thing today I want it to be this; no matter how you’re steering and breaking I want you to be aware of where you are looking. WHERE YOU LOOK IS WHERE YOU WILL GO.

“If you look over to the left on the side of the road around the semi, that is where your skills, instincts and actions will take you. That is where you NEED to look. If you look straight into the grille of the oncoming truck, that is where you will take yourself. I can promise you this.”

We often underestimate the power of a vision. We give it lots of lip service. The point the Aussie driver made reminded me literally and figuratively what can happen when our visions aren’t clear or when they take a back seat to our daily actions and results that we get tied up in. It’s so easy to cross the line and get caught up in focusing solely on specific results and actions, intended as tools to support your vision, and lose that vision in the process. Results, systems and actions are the means to the end that end being your vision, what is most important. And developing a vision isn’t a one-time thing. It’s not a 4-hour session to decide which would sound best on a card or web site. It’s a dynamic, vital component that should drive your choices, decisions and actions.

Another thing that sidetracks our success is focusing on what we don’t want to happen instead of what we do want to happen. We create what we fear or don’t want by focusing on it. Where you look is where you will go. It’s a powerful phenomenon (be bee de bee dep – sorry Benny Hill was channeling).

“The greater danger for most of us is not that our aim is
too high and we miss it, but that it is too low and we reach it.”

– Michelangelo

Of course we need to take action to see results and get closer to our vision. What we often underestimate is the power of attraction in achieving those results when our vision is clear. Once we have clarity of vision, solutions, results, systems, people, solutions we hadn’t considered present themselves with less effort and more bang for the buck.

“If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will get you there.”
– Unknown

Remember (and try to hear this in a great Australian accent) where you look is WHERE YOU WILL GO. Where are you looking????? If you have a clear vision and all the horsepower, skills, energy, momentum,…instincts will follow. Look at the grille of the oncoming truck and the same will happen. Where do you want your energy projecting you?

For a few points to keep in mind thoughts on what keeps us from our vision and coaching questions…continue here.

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your thoughts…
• What is your vision?
• What activities support your vision?
• When is it hard to keep the vision in focus?
• What activities do you feel probably don’t support your vision?

“I know you believe you understand what you think I said, but I am not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant.”
– source unknown

Come, take a virtual mind stroll with me if you will (watch your step). A local eating establishment was the catalyst of the “epiphany” for today’s topic (good word – feel free to look it up (www.dictionary.com). I like the ½ soup and salad deal at this eatery. I fancy the ½ turkey bravo, but on swirled rye, and I like the low-fat turkey noodle soup (for taste more then my girlish figure). Stick with me it’s relevant! (Oh yeah, and I also order a cold bottle of root beer!)

Of course, I would never go in craving the above yummy meal combo and say, “Give me lunch!” and expect to get satisfaction…to get just what I want, just the way I want it for obvious reasons.

How often, however, do we figuratively say, “Give me lunch!” (under the guise of “Increase productivity, give me a summary, you need to communicate better, be more customer oriented, put together a report…”) and are amazed, disappointed, frustrated, mad… (not to mention behind schedule, increased defects, lost time, quality and satisfaction…) when we don’t get JUST what we had in mind.

It’s amazing the attention to detail we give our $7 food orders that we forget, underestimate or don’t know how to give in our daily communications when we have productivity, sales, relationships, happiness and health on the line. For some reason the concept that the person behind the counter has no idea just what you want unless you clearly and specifically articulate it, and the ramifications of not, are much easier to grasp than the fact that the same holds true for our employees, coworkers, family members, etc.

Give it some thought. Next time you are communicating with someone stop and ask yourself (hypothetically) first – do you know EXACTLY what you want for lunch? If so, are you asking for it clearly? (Have you gotten that this isn’t really about food?)

What now you ask? Consider the following:
• First, is it clear to YOU what you want? What do you want more (less of, differently)? I mean specifically (more customers? How many more, what kind, why?).
• How will you know exactly when you get “it”, how will others know?
• Do you know or have you put thought into (no, more thought then that) who exactly can help you get it?
• Have you written your thoughts down?
• Have you specifically and directly ASKED for it?
• Have you ASKED the person if it’s clear?
• Have you gotten other’s input or involvement? No one gets more points for doing it on their own just for doing it.

Why don’t we always clearly ask for these things?
• We often feel it’s a sign of strength and independence to complete things totally on our own. I’m guilty as charged, but I truly believe the greatest leaders and most successful people are those who know who their best resources are and tap into them!

In writing this newsletter, this very topic came up with my coach. Something that was surprisingly clear is we often hide behind subtle, less direct requests, for fear of “totally putting it out there” and the vulnerability of being very direct and declaring what is most important to us. The funny thing is in being less direct, we create what we fear.

• We assume people know what we know and think in the same way we do. Not everyone is always as continually brilliant and perceptive as you, it’s a tough job!

• We don’t always know exactly what we want.

• We like when things are difficult and frustrating? NOOO, I firmly believe the strongest motivator in any situation is to be heard and understood,, its so important but we’re not always perfect at it.

• Our advanced form of communication is supposedly what sets us apart as the most advanced form of life (which is still under debate), so it’s NOT easy! It takes commitment and practice.

• We fear asking for it and:
– Not getting it, feeling personally rejected, or
– Getting it, but then what?

Here are some last minute tips:
• We often don’t realize we’re being vague – it really helps to ask others for input and focus on which result is most important.

• When in doubt simplify your request, not because the other person is stupid (although that can’t be totally ruled out!) but because da da daaaaah not everyone thinks the same at the same time.

• Be as specific as you can, as simply as you can. (I already said it wasn’t easy!)

• Know how you’ll know when you’re there? If you aren’t sure exactly when you’ll be satisfied, chances are others are even less clear how to help you.

• Use examples or stories, (like very witty lunch stories).

• Pay attention to all cues, lots are non verbal,, if their eyes are crossed pay attention (they may not understand)

• Ask if they get it. Ask if it’s clear!! HOW SIMPLE and POWERFUL!!! Admit you aren’t always clear (GASP, a little honesty can go a really really wonderfully looooong way).

Remember, this takes focus and practice like any other skill, so go easy on yourself!

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