Self Improvement · Original Thought · Teamwork · Uncertainty

Simon Says

simon

Simon Says’ was a game I played as a child. A group of us stood and one of us was Simon. He proceeded to give commands ” Simon says stand on one foot”, Simon says hold up your right arm.”, “turn around”. If we didn’t do what Simon says or did do what was commanded without Simon says, we were eliminated. The last one standing became the new Simon. Supposedly, I learned to listen rather than react and to obey when the right person gave the order, In reality, I didn’t learn either very well. Obedience and its synonyms submission, subservience, deference stick in my craw when the orders come from some authority, real or referent, that is looking to kick me off the island if I don’t comply completely. Mindless blind compliance ensures that we live a life of mediocrity and never reach the potential we were designed for. When I refer to design, I am referring to the millennia-long evolution that has brought us to this time and place. The destination wasn’t ordained, the process wasn’t prescribed. Evolution doesn’t have an endgame beyond the immediate issue and the solution path it has chosen. Evolution is adaptive. When a change occurs, it is measured and if it improves survival, it is fostered and if it detracts, it is rejected and a new adaptation is tried. But all decisions have an impact and the consequences aren’t easily forecasted so the journey and the destination are still an adventure.
“You could not remove a single grain of sand from its place without thereby … changing something throughout all parts of the immeasurable whole.”
— Fichte, The Vocation of Man (1800)
I am not sure how apt Fichte’s quote is but it provides for me a sense of the power of the unwinding march.

Any dictator would admire the uniformity and obedience of the U.S. media.

Noam Chomsky

Back to obeying the leader for fear of being called out. In a game, this might be trivial but following orders without understanding them, considering the ramifications, or speaking out against them when they violate your sensibilities and values is demoralizing and destructive. When a boss ‘suggests’ that quotas could be met if corners were shaved and you trim the edges regardless of the consequences, you impact more than sales. If a religious head advises that a certain behavior is a sin and associating with anyone who commits the act is also a sin and you begin to distance yourself from a friend or family member, you may think you are saving your tomorrows but at what cost for today?

Obedience without question or consideration is subservience, not loyalty or patriotism or fielty. Obedience without question removes the need for courage, conscience or consciousness. Those three c’s are important enough that they have survived millions of evolutionary adaptations and surrendering them to a president, priest, or popularity contest winner is a tragedy. I am not suggesting mindless cold-hearted disobedience. I am recommending deep reflection and careful consideration before acting on the commands of someone you know, trust and/or respect. If you have doubts or reservations about the character and motive of the commander, then be doubly cautious in joining their parade and marching to their drum beat.
In the end, I hope I am remembered for something other than “he was good at following orders.”

Make Today Remarkable by asking ridiculously impossible questions.
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Self Improvement · Uncertainty

Soar

What is rising from your ashes? Have you been hit with a series of unfortunate and unimaginable circumstances that have you reeling? Have you been given the opportunity to seek employment, relationship, fulfillment elsewhere? Has your world exploded? Did a relationship or project get consumed by flames?

phoenix

Take time, a few days or a couple weeks and recognize the reality, accept the finality, do some bargaining with yourself, feel hurt and angry and then come out the other side. The measure isn’t in what you lost but in what you learned and what you are doing to embrace and use your circumstances?

We all suffer tragedies and trauma and when we ruminate in it and then use the experience to flourish and bloom into something we never imagined.

If a long or short relationship has come to an end, embrace being single. Love yourself and the chance you now have to make decisions that are good for you. Start ticking off the list of things you wanted to do but the relationship prohibited. Spend time in the world in awkward situations. Go to places that you wouldn’t usually consider. Talk to people who aren’t in your ‘loop’. Learn something new every day. (curious.com has a wide menu of possibilities)

If you have been underemployed or unemployed for a while, take advantage of the time and develop new skills, volunteer with organizations, visit family and spend time outside enjoying the fresh air. Look for new ways to be seen and known. If you have been a geologist for years but are interested in food, take a class, visit a foodie event, reach out to the chef you most admire. Whether you are 30, 40 or 60, beginning anew isn’t a failure, it is courageous. We will all start and end numerous careers throughout our lives and many of us will continue to add value in some employment arrangement well past what was once considered retirement age.

For every pyre, there is a phoenix waiting to arise. As long as we don’t douse the embers with disappointment and defeat there is a new you waiting to be born. When the egg hatches, fly as high as you can and be okay if/when the next challenge settles you back on the ground with a thud. Starting over is an opportunity and a testament to your courage.

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Original Thought · Self Improvement

Lean into Uncertainty

Certainty is one of the3 c’s along with comfort and convenience that are eroding creativity, courage, and curiousity and replacing it with the mire and muck of complacency . In my  opinion we need more uncertainty, inconvenience and discomfort. 

Certainty justifies and facilitates intimidation and bullying. When you or a ‘leader’ are so sure that you are right, you stop listening and asking questions. You stop widening your knowledge and begin digging a narrow trench. From the rut, outsiders begin to look dangerous so the ditch gets deeper in order to keep them at bay. Soon they are so far removed from the trench worldview that their unclean ideas feel like a threat so whenever you are able you put them down and diminish their worth. The self fulfilling prophecy of reciprocal resentment leads to ad hominem mud slinging. He said ” nasty stuff”, they said “nastier stuff” and the barrage escalates until someone is pushed too far.

Certainty means that I don’t need to be creative because “my way is the right way”. Comfortably entrenched, I punch the clock and trust the “tried and true”. If we weren’t so certain we could be open to the possibility of different ideas and positions. I could be curious about how, why, what you believe and you might be open to listening to my h,w,w.

I challenge all of you to be observant today and throughout the week for opportunities where you are certain of your position or conclusion and then lean into uncertainty and see how uncomfortable it makes you. – Stay curious.

Make Today Remarkable, by leaning into uncertainty,

 

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Self Improvement

The Choice

Fear is a choice – I can be afraid and paralyzed or I can be afraid and act. The test isn’t being fearless it is being courageous. I heard Jamie Clarke @JC_Climbs and Suzanne West @IamSuzanneWest speak today about failure and the mountain climbing adventurer confessed that he wavers from cowardice to courage in situations that have too many variables. Some days he courts failure as a lover so he can learn from her and other days he hides from her because she can be cruel and unrelenting in seeking accountability. When he faces her she teaches him important lessons.

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Suzanne, who is one of the most self aware people I know, is courageous in her actions, big and brash in her approach and relentless in learning from her failures. They are both inspired by people who are courageous against all odds – Nelson Mandella, Martin Luther King, Laurie Kresslet… Fear is a choice – easy to say, harder to do. Making a choice to move when the mistress is coaxing you to hide, urging you to retreat, inviting you to make excuses is really hard. But when you opt to act, her power wains and yours increases. Even if you fail after facing a fear, you are better off than failing to act and living with the fear and the unknown.

I choose to let fear compromise me sometimes. On the days that I only give 75% (really anything less than 100%), I am preparing a justification for not reaching the goal. “Well I didn’t really work that hard.” as if to justify the limited progress. Fear and failure are about limits. Fear sets a limit, usually way inside our maximum performance or ability and then convinces us not to near that line in the sand. Failure is an accumulation of errors until you reach a limit. If you have an exam in front of you and you haven’t done the preparation. Fear might say ” If you get 60%, that is okay” Failure occurs when you answer too many questions incorrectly and the accumulation drops the percentage below a prescribed pass/fail level.

What if we approached tests, prepared and ready, but also prepared and ready to accept nothing less than our best effort and prepared and ready to learn how you can approach the next exam? Would we move closer to our best? Are you demanding the best from yourself? Is anyone seeing your best work? If the answer is “no” then you might have something to really fear. And another choice to make.

I know I write a lot about risk, courage and taking action. Know that these posts are as much for me as for you.

Make Today Remarkable, by acknowledging fear and acting anyway,
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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,

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Original Thought · Self Improvement

Are You Listening?

I need an audience. Without readers, my words fall on deaf ears- no matter how clever, important or irrelevant they seem to be. But do I need to earn the right to speak my truth into the world? Do I need a plan to cultivate listeners? Should I be writing less but better? More and more spontaneous?
When I began I was just writing for me. It was my process and it cleared my head and brought clarity to what I was thinking. Somewhere around post 125 I began to think about you, the reader, and what you were thinking. By number 500, I was focusing on appealing to a specific model reader (who I imagined was out there waiting for my next post). After 600 on makeityourproblem.com and a nearly daily shipping of content to other blogs and forums I realized that my ideas were being censored by an imaginary prospective subscriber. I was tempering my language and censoring ideas that were either too main street or too out of the park. Do all creatives begin to create what they imagine the world, their world, wants?

My mantra that remarkable people use their strengths to strengthen others when they embrace their personal responsibility rather and allow society to absolve them is the genesis of my musings and prose. I seem to have forgotten the motivation and mission. I want to significantly influence thousands of people in their journeys to living a ‘big life’. Are you influenced by these posts? Do you feel that you are living a bigger life, leaning towards being remarkable? Do you remember any of the past 600 posts or the calls to action in about half of them? Would you recall and act if the message was more compelling? Would a change of medium (video, podcast, animation) make a difference? What if the message was being created and delivered by someone else? would a different style be compelling? If this was always satirical would it be impactful?

This year there have been about 25,000 viewers to makeityourproblem.com. I don’t know if that can be considered significant. I sure don’t know if any or all found a gem or a germ they could take away. Maybe the numbers are to small and in order to influence thousands, I need to reach hundreds of thousands. Would you react differently if you knew that 100,000 other folks were ingesting and digesting the same content?

I am taking a chance on a Saturday to write about my secret hopes for this space and for the decisions that I make in my community. Honestly I am apprehensive being so vulnerable and insecure and afraid of rejection. There is a small part of me that hopes no one is listening and another part that is excited that there may be some of you who will reach out a provide honest feedback so I can improve.

Maybe the seasons are changing and as with all things this one has passed.

Cheers and Three Cheers,

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Original Thought · Self Improvement

Are You Really Committed?

Is today the day you take the plunge? Are you standing at the top of the precipice counting down to one? Have you been standing at the ready for more than a few weeks? Is fear paralyzing you or have you not firmly committed to the next step?
Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe, famous 19th C German philosopher is best known for an inspirational quote. “Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it.” The most quoted piece is a portion of a longer and I think far more profound quote.
“Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative and creation, there is one elementary truth the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents, meetings and material assistance which no man could have dreamed would have come his way. Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it. Begin it now.”
It isn’t in the dreaming that magic happens, it is in the commitment. If you have been planning and re-planning a new venture, a new idea, a new product, a new relationship but haven’t acted then you may be trapped in hesitancy and ineffectiveness.

It is easy to say “that every journey begins with a single step” but so cliche as to be virtually useless. The first step is important but it is in the third and fourth that momentum towards the splendid plan. There isn’t a magic bullet, a secret incantation or elixir that will move you. It takes courage to be committed and a recognition that you are stepping into the unknown. For some of us it is a jungle for others a city park, nonetheless perceived as a great risk. You may never overcome some of the fear but courage isn’t acting in the absence of fear or by simply ignoring it. Courage happens in spite of acknowledging the risks and barriers and moving ahead anyway.
In most coaching that I do, we work to find small steps that make taking the big one more manageable. When you are perched at the top, fighting between jumping or retreating, there aren’t any small steps. It isn’t my judgement or my decision – it is yours. But if you have done some homework (remember you can’t know everything) and are now conflicted it can be as simple as trust. Trust is a choice that we make and once made becomes invisible. Trust yourself and your intuition (framed by your life experiences, observations and research) and act. This isn’t a flip of the coin – heads I go tails I retreat. The decision is waiting for you to make it. Trust yourself and respect the choice. If you leap – good luck. If you retreat – you still are better for having made the decision.

Today is the day to test your commitment. Trust your gut. Breathe and act. Accept the results and consequences and celebrate whatever the outcome.

Uncategorized

Free to Be Me

It takes commitment and courage to be yourself in the face of the coercion of  conformity. Not looking like everyone else or at least looking the same with minor alterations is fearful for many. As I walk through the halls of academia or the corridors of business it is weird to see how uniform we have all become. When I encounter someone who is showing an individuality it is so rare as to be noticed. Where are all the characters? They can’t have all moved to San Francisco.

Have we become so obedient to orthodoxy that we have stopped expressing ourselves as ourselves? If we can our costumes are all the same how can we have our own values, ideas, actions? The bandwagon towards a homogeneous mass seems to roll along picking up willing riders. The parade gets started and people jump in the queue  without really knowing where it is going. Once in the line, dissent becomes difficult or impossible. ( see what happens to people who challenge a speaking point at a Trump rally. or a Clinton rally, or any ideological institution).

Conformity has become madness with a pathology towards predictability and standardization. We hear a ” be a team player” but understand do like we are doing. The pressure is extreme. All the media outlets (especially TV) preach the right way to dance, sing, act, play, dress, by creating and recreating caricatures for us to emulate. Our friends lean with the mass and we feel alone. It takes commitment and courage to be yourself in the face of the coercion of  conformity. Are you courageous enough to commit not to conform, just one time, today?

unique

Make Today Remarkably Unconventional,

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Uncategorized

Live to Lead

I just started reading Wayne Stewart’s new book ” Live to Lead; The Missing Link in Leadership Development” which I will review next week. He reminded me of  Kouzes and Posner’s Five Practices of Leadership from ” The Leadership Challenge”.

  1. model the way
  2. challenge the process
  3. inspire shared vision
  4. enable others to act
  5. encourage the heart.

My take on the the practices will take a few posts. Generally  I think they were right on the mark although as always 5 seems arbitrary (maybe 4 or 8?).

Model the Way is more important today than in the past as more and more people have lost their ability to see the way forward. Conformity, bubble wrapping and an exponentially changing world now makes it difficult for all and impossible for many to figure out the next steps. Leaders need to model the way, for today and into the future. They need to model expectations, style and balance for those observers who are looking for someone or something to follow. Modelling takes courage; leadership courage. Rather than waiting for an easy or obvious path, leaders often need to forge their own and make it wide enough for others to begin following and adapting their journey along the new track.

Modelling the Way is more than management or maybe not management at all. It is setting out a vision, expectations, norms and actively encouraging others to take that pattern and make adjustments so that it fits them. Modelling can take a frustratingly long time to achieve and there will be a temptation to just ‘tell’ people how to behave but in this case patience will be rewarded.

Are you modelling what you want others to see in you? Are you offering a pattern that you would want others to use?

Make Today Remarkable, by using your strengths to strengthen others,

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Uncategorized

Five Reminders of Change

Change is in the air, but the more things change, the more they stay the same.

For the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: ‘If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?’ And whenever the answer has been ‘No’ for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something. ~ Steve Jobs

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference. ~ Reinhold Niebuhr

My friends, love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And we’ll change the world.
~ Jack Layton

When you blame others, you give up your power to change. ~ Robert Anthony

The truth does not change according to our ability to stomach it. ~ Flannery  O’Connor
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