Self Improvement · Teamwork

Are You Exercising Due Consideration?

What if you took as much time and consideration about your next charity donation as you do about your next smartphone? (Samsung Note 7 aside). Would you check out available options that would meet the issue itch you are trying to scratch? Did you know that there are pros and cons to every charity? Do you just ‘buy’ the default without thinking about how your gift might be used? Do you visit websites and read reports and stories? Compelling narratives about how and why individual organizations enact their mission and the difference it is making are easily available or they should be. If I can’t find them regarding a specific agency, I drop them from my list of potential recipients.

I have heard friends talk about how they visited the Apple store 4 times and talked to 3 different geniuses and read consumer reviews about a product they were considering that might make their lives marginally better (or worse). They then rush to the Red Cross website in response to news coverage of Hurricane Matthew hitting Haiti and without consideration donate money to a life and death situation. I asked ” Did you consider Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF)?” ” or Oxfam?” ” or Care Canada?” They shrug and indicate that it isn’t their job to investigate if they money would be put to good use. With that attitude (and no judgement of the agencies named here) they might just as well be throwing the money in the air.

Each opportunity to make a difference that we discover should be given the IRC test. Is the action immediate? You are ready to do something and putting off the action will not benefit you or those people that are impacted by the issue or problem. If an action meets the immediate criteria, it will also immediately cause ripples. Not all actions are going to make the same ripple and while we can never be sure how the ripples will grow, we can anticipate what the results might be.
The second criteria is relevance. We can get caught up doing things that are not relevant to the issue or a solution. In order to be relevant, the action needs to have significant bearing on or connection to the act. Don’t be fooled into doing ‘busy work’ just for the sake of doing something. Ask questions about the effect of your actions. “What difference does this acton make?”
The third and possibly most important criteria for choosing everyday action that the action needs to be concrete. While it is important to raise your awareness of an issue, attending an information session does not constitute concrete action. After your awareness has been raised the next step becomes action.

Donating money as a humanitarian response to a catastrophe or a chronic social problem is a type of action that many opt to exercise. What if you just did a simple IRC test – will the money have an immediate impact, will it be relevant to the issue and the anxiety that I am feeling, and is the money going to make a concrete difference for the impacted population? If yes – proceed. If no – look for a better way or a different cause.

The world needs us all to become more discerning and diligent in the choices we make.
You can start today.

B

Monday 168 report Sleep 18, Workout 3, Learn 4, walk 6, Read 3, Eat 2, Netflix 6, Work 6

Tuesday Sleep 14, Learn 4, Workout 4, walk 2, travel 2, Read 4, Work 10, Eat 2, Write 2, TV 4

Original Thought · Self Improvement

Truth or Dare

William Shakespeare ~ In Act 1, Scene III of the famous play, Hamlet, Polonius says, This above all: to thine own self be true. And it must follow, as the night the day. Thou canst not then be false to any man/Farewell, my blessing season this in thee!”

shakespear

There is a lot of Greek philosophy embedded in the quote, especially the Stoics and Epicureans,  and Shakespeare was a wise and learned guy who certainly borrowed ideas and words from previous writings. The idea of copywright and intellectual property wasn’t well formed in 1603 or 350BC and citing sources wasn’t as prominent. Over the years we seemed to have reduced the meaning from Polonius’s mouth to make it sound more like Ayn Rand. Rand suggested that commitment to yourself is a commitment to your mind and as such an extension of the individual. She articulately and cleverly used this idea to demonstrate the futility of collectivism (I disagree with her thesis but still admire her intellect).

I am not sure what the Greeks were thinking and don’t have anymore than the context of Act 1 to know what Bill meant but for me the meaning is a paradox that I have been uraveling for years, both abstractly and in practice.

For me it plays out as a choice to think or act. With my tendency to impatience and imperfection and my bias to action and destinations, I struggle with the reflection and analysis. I can convince myself that by the time I arrive at a moment of truth, I have already equipped myself with research and advice. When I am feeling impetuous and instinctive I hear “to thy own self be true” as a siren call to trust the loud inner voice.When I  am less certain hear the progression and rhythm of ” as the night follows the day” and worry that I am being impulsive rather than logical. On my best days, I am able to see the biggest picture and realize that all the fretting into one decision isn’t as monumental as I am making it. I can act, evaluate, adapt and decide to move on again or not.

I do want to be true to me and ergo true to you so I will commit to disclosure of the best and not so best that arises.

 

Make Today Remarkable, for you,

B

Self Improvement

Teamwork

“Teamwork is the ability to work together toward a common vision. The ability to direct individual accomplishment toward organizational objectives. It is the fuel that allows common people to attain uncommon results.” Andrew Carnegie How do we discover and agree on a common vision if we all have a personal agenda. I have worked on teams that excelled and achieved uncommon results and worked with others on projects who believed that working together meant we all could do much less (because of our collective effort) and get the same results. The difference wasn’t the quality of the vision but rather the commitment of the people. Teams are relationships and not all people understand the commitment they make when they enter into a collective endeavor.

sharing

“When a gifted team dedicates itself to unselfish trust and combines instinct with boldness and effort, it is ready to climb.” Patanjali Key to this quote is dedication and unselfishness before instinct, boldness and effort. Both require courage and both should be held to severe scrutiny. When joining others on a team project, their dedication and yours should be confirmed and an understanding arrived at that anyone can openly question another team members’ obligation to the common goals. Additionally if someone takes a selfish approach they should be subject to and willingly accept reproach. Then the gifts and talents become important and remarkable results will arise.

In the vein of easy to say harder to do, Casey Stengel said “Finding good players is easy. Getting them to play as a team is another story.” This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t seek the best people but team leadership needs to ensure through autonomy, mastery, and purpose that everyone is pulling the same ropes in the same direction. Any free loaders, malcontents and egoists should be released of their commitment and given the opportunity to seek other challenges. When that decision is needed, it needs to be fast, full and forceful – leaving no doubt or room for negotiation. Big, wicked problems can’t afford toxic participants on the solution focused team or the whole barrel becomes rotten.

Team leadership isn’t easy and it probably shouldn’t be. Disagreement is healthy, dissent necessary but distrust is dangerous. Encourage the former and then come to an acknowledgement of a path or process and don’t detour until the way is impossible or unfruitful. If you hit a wall that is unmovable, leadership should accept responsibility and redirect the team to a new starting point. If distrust wells up, face it and name it as quickly and honestly as possible. Make amends, atone, or abandon but don’t press onwards with doubt and skepticism in the air.

Make Today Remarkable, by challenging yourself and your team,

B

Uncategorized

The Power of a Myth

Mythology exists in all aspects of our life. We believe we are a country of intelligent, entrepreneurial, caring, radical individualists who come together to share our resources and skills and make the world a better place. It likely doesn’t matter where you live, The myth of people and place is pretty powerful. And there is some truth in every myth.
We listen to our Genesis stories; as people, cities, companies and celebrate them by rewriting them to fit our current expectations, mores, attitudes and regrets. The adaptability and flexibility of our stories reflects that we understand that they may never have happened but are definitely true.

My myths keep me safe, keep me calm, help me stay rooted and inspire me. I have absorbed some from my kin and their strange Scottish Scandinavian practices and history. I was taught some from my grandmother and mother that form the basis for my morality and responsibility. I have crafted a few myths myself so I am able to continue doing what I do and to justify my actions in the face of resistance. As the narratives become embedded they earn mythology status, for a time. They are relative to an audience that is predisposed to the lesson. Christians lean towards and love Christian narratives although most zealots would be uncomfortable with the myth reference since they see the stories as complete and inerrant.

There are myths about the glories of capitalism that supporters love and myths that deride and denigrate capitalism that detractors love. Myth – Under capitalism, anyone who works hard can succeed. Myth – Under capitalism only those with a silver spoon get to eat from the golden dish. Sometimes the myth is accepted by both perspectives but for completely different reasons. Myth – We are all in the same boat.

I was raised with a protestant work ethic with tinges of puritan morals so shaking those off and seeing the world with more joy, hope and optimism was a long process and there are days that the baggage rears its head as a defense mechanism against an idea, a party, a person who I disagree with. When I am struggling to understand I can twist and turn my personal narratives with all kinds of logical fallacies. I see injustice when none exists, I hear slander in feedback, I taste opposition in diversity but on the days that I trust and hope (another area of mythology) I grow in all those circumstances.

Myth, as a social construct, is most often destructive as we are seeing in a current election campaign. The myths of race, gender, ethnicity, orientation, money creates sides and factions. And when you choose a team or are picked for a team loyalty overwhelms our senses. I have found myself accepting and then defending something that didn’t sit right because it was part of the team’s narrative. Political parties and religious factions have notorious influence on the common sense and common decency of adherents. When the narrative creates a them and us, it is time to deconstruct it and hold it up to the brightest light because it is likely in service of an agenda that is self serving and selfish.

I love myths, ancient and modern. Like the heroes of ancient myths, modern superheroes have extraordinary powers. The most famous superhero is Superman, created by American cartoonists Jerry Siegel and Joseph Shuster in 1938. In comics and on radio, television, and movie screens, he fights for “truth, justice, and the American way,” using his powers of flight and incredible strength, powers he possesses because he is from another planet. Like most modern superheroes, Superman keeps his identity a secret and pretends to be an ordinary man. Such myths suggest that anyone can have unsuspected potential for heroism.

Make Today Remarkable, because you believe the myth that you are,

B

Self Improvement

The Gift of Fear

“I don’t run away from a challenge because I am afraid. Instead, I run toward it because the only way to escape fear is to trample it beneath your feet.”
– Nadia Comaneci

fear is a liar

If someone who overcame every day, tried harder and became one of the best gymnasts of all time can trample big fears surely we can stomp out ours by charging ahead and taking them on. I am not suggesting that we take dangerous and crazy risks just to prove we are brave but I think we all can learn to face down our fears by facing them, acknowledging them and still moving forward.

I have written about intentional versus organic often, some may say ad nauseum and believe that nothing happens without deliberate action. But intention without action is as empty as waiting for the world to change or improve on its own. So if you are facing fears, anxiety or uncertainty you can’t just intend to face them – because you won’t. Saint Bernard of Clairvaux (1091-1153), wrote more than 1000 years ago “Hell is full of good intentions or desires.” The quote is often mistakenly attributed to Samuel Johnson because James Boswell in “The Life of Samuel Johnson LL.D.” ,1791, records that “No saint, however, in the course of his religious warfare, was more sensible of the unhappy failure of pious resolves, than Johnson. He said one day, talking to an acquaintance on this subject, “Sir Hell is paved with good intentions.”

Nancy Bouwens in “3 Ways Facing Fear Will Make You Brave” offers these steps;

1. Take the first step while still afraid. Hesitation is the enemy, it holds you in the current state and makes excuses for not acting.

2. Brave means standing your ground. Once you have taken the first step retreat isn’t an option. Internal forces and external ‘threats’ will try to make you back down. If you do, know that you are defeated.

3. Brave means not giving in. Overcoming fear isn’t a one step process. You may be afraid in certain situations for a long time. But quitting isn’t a small step backward, it is a return to the trap and paralysis.

Courage is the opposite of conformity and when we are courageous we are at our best.

Make Today Remarkable, by being afraid and acting anyway,

B

Self Improvement

Another Way

There is always another way. If the path is blocked or a barrier rises up, there is always another way. I’m not completely sure that is always true but it is the premise that I begin with when faced with an obstacle. If i encounter resistance, it is an opportunity to reflect, reset, and restart or resist, regroup, and reconfirm or retreat, reform and reengage. Or any number of other re’s . What the barrier identifies is a possibility that hasn’t been considered and shouldn’t be taken as a criticism or a personal affront. The barrier may simply be surmounted, circumvented or crashed or there may be a reason to think about the approach and discover that there is a different and better way to get to your destination. Don’t be deterred unless reflection tells you that the new information offers an insight that you hadn’t considered. Then there may be a reason to reimagine the destination in a new light. Tilting at windmills is something I have done and only rarely has it been satisfying and even more rarely has it been successful. But if new information serves to inform the map and suggest a detour then that is valuable to achieving your goals.

I try not to anticipate a block in my path and try not to be watching for it but when I encounter one , I want to be able to examine what put it there, does it serve a purpose, is it an accident or an anomaly or should I be concerned about danger or other ramifications? I suspect that most of us get a feeling of disappointment when confronted with a setback but if we can get past that to the learning there is another way, there always is.

Self Improvement

In the Game

Sitting on the sidelines or on your hands or with your hand over your mouth is the only real failure in life. Choosing not to join in, contribute or speak up is the ruination of a purposeful and remarkable life. Remarkable people use their strengths to strengthen others.Every moment in every day, you have the opportunity to choose remarkable.

th (3)

So what drags us to the grandstand or the couch rather than playing the game? There are external forces at play. The single perfect model of reality TV says ” Go Home, You are Cut, You are Voted Off, You are Not Good Enough.” As ridiculous as it seems having 4 judges, or chefs, or pseudo celebrities deciding what talent or personality is, it is even crazier that this craze is still growing. Millions tune in every week to live vicariously through the small lives of characters on a screen being rated and chastised by people whose opinion should have very little value. But the popularity of watching network spectacles rather than living life and the premise that someone you don’t know or care about should have a meaningful opinion about you, creates a barrier to us raising our hand and saying ” put me in coach”. If there isn’t a coach or even if there is, get off the bench and join in. Have fun doing it and the more you try, the more proficient you will become (if that is important to you).

There are numerous times every day that an opportunity arises for you to share the load or take the lead. That’s when you drag your mitts our from under your butt and say ” I can do that”, and then you go about getting it done. Whether it is something smaller like writing a note, making a call, checking out some sources or something bigger like organizing the team, collecting relevant data or guiding a decision making process – you are capable and if your are willing and ready then the opportunity will come your way.
The key to seeking permission is completing the assignment to the very best of your abilities and following up to see if there is anything that you missed or anything else arising from your efforts. Taking the extra step rather than the bare minimum sets you apart but more importantly it gives you confidence and a sense of accomplishment.

Sometimes the immediate, relevant and concrete action that is needed is for you to speak up and support, modify or challenge an idea or premise. Even if your thoughts aren’t fully formed, they can contribute to the active iteration and help generate a new pathway for discussion. Speak up to add value to the debate, discussion or conversation rather than to win the day. Ask probing questions in order to understand not defeat or belittle. So often I observe passive/aggressive behavior in gatherings that derails the flow and stifles the open dialogue. When someone asks a clarifying question or asks someone to “say more”, it leads to more diverse and ranging possibilities.

Success lies in the doing of one or all; getting in the game, taking your turn and speaking up. Right or wrong, brilliant or naive, true or imagined isn’t relevant. Playing with others with respect and interest leads to respect and interest being the norm and it will gradually be reciprocated. It won’t be immediately accepted because we have so many cannibalistic group encounters that leave us exhausted and without fresh fruit.
But I/we can start the change today. If you spend more than a couple of hours in the company of others, there will be dozens of chances to shift tone by simply becoming an active participant or agreeing to use your skills to make sure something gets done. Either or both will reduce any tension in the group and leave others with a sense of relief and maybe a bit surprised.

Take time today to measure the quality of your interactions. Am I asking to hear more or asking to trap her? Did I want to understand better or embarrass him? What did I learn? How will that change something for me/us? Am I better for having spoken up? Are others better? Will this move the discussion closer or farther awy from some resolution?

We all have choices and all our choices create consequences so if we are mindful of what we choose we can be confident that the results will carry that same care and respect.

Make Today Remarkable with remarkable choices,
B

Uncategorized

Ready, Fire, Aim and Fire Again

Planning can be helpful, planning perfection can be paralyzing. I am reading Next City’s The Future of Street Design and am amazed at the pilots that are described that bypassed red tape  in favor of doing stuff (well reasoned but not belaboured stuff) and then diligently observe and adapt the scheme. The selected cases show lessons learned that lead to permanent design changes and a couple of pilots that were abandoned very early (lesson learned).

I am applying the ‘build fast, fail early, fix’ approach to some social issues and startups that I am working on. What is we took each day or each hour as a pilot? Would we experiment more? Differently? Would each 3 second moment carry more/less energy and import?

My standard disclaimer is that I am an impatient imperfectionist with a serious action bias so doing something (that makes sense in the moment) and fixing or tweaking as needed. I use that technique in most of my independent work but haven’t shared, very often,  the process with colleagues when working towards some shared goals.

I am excited to try something new rather than rely on practice and approach that I already know will work in some measure but that is still unsettling and unsatisfying. Would you be willing to try a rapid-do approach to your weekend? If you give it a whirl, we would be thrilled to hear your experience.

 

Make This Weekend Remarkable,

B

Self Improvement

Is Planning Crazy?

The world changes so quickly and the variables that impact us and our lives are so interconnected. Does this make planning ahead (more than 168 hours) utter nonsense?

I have meetings booked into July. A vacation is booked for next January. I am looking at financial requirements for mid 2017. We have been discussing goals for 10 years from now. Is this all just to quell anxiety or is it helpful in shaping the future?

A few years ago, I would have said ” it is  essential to lay the groundwork and make specific plans for the future”. Everything seemed so predictable then. Predictability has been shaken. Two economic downturns in ten years. World conflicts bubbling everywhere. Political partisanship and pandering is the order of the day and thousands of variables that I don’t recognize are banging into each other and creating and recreating trajectories.

I obviously am still planning, even if it with less certainty. In uncertain times having a preferred planned future appointment or direction creates a bit of a frame around all the tomorrows. Today I need that range of possibilities or fear I would be paralyzed by the undetermined and erratic possibilities.

pathway

I suggest we all continue to lay out the future with the understanding that adaptation and evaluation may be our most important tools. Planning may be crazy but it is also crucial and constructive.

Make a Plan Today,

B

Uncategorized

Self Imposed Barriers

I was reading Ali Polin’s post this morning Isn’t it Time You Dare Yourself to Up Your Game?  and she had a link to a post from early this month on self imposed barriers which got me thinking about what barriers am I throwing up to stop myself from stepping over the safety fence into the ‘little bit crazy” zone.

For me being audacious looks easy but one man’s outrageous is another’s normal and when I am out in left field outside your pasture of comfort there is still a fence penning my ideas, actions and behaviours. Just because I look weird to you doesn’t mean I am operating outside my status quo. This is also a good reminder when I observe others whose barricade is way outside or inside mine. Pushing boundaries is personal. We may need to be prodded and encouraged by others to stretch over or straddle the fence but being there is a personal decision.

Take a look at Ali’s 50 things where permission is granted and see if any are over the net and give them a try. If you are comfortable with all or most of them, write your own list of 10 and begin trying a few of them a week.

silliness

Foolishness is where we encounter as yet unimagined solutions so the journey there is worth the effort. Take some time today to figure out where your impracticality line is and then step over into the unknown territory.

 

B