Category Archives: observation

what do you practice?

I have a friend who had a bumper sticker that reads “Practice Kindness.” More that later.

At my workout today, we did sprint work. I haven’t sprinted since I was like 20 years old. Heck, I do these silly workouts so that if a situation arose, I wouldn’t have to run 🙂 Something that stuck out today, however, was a simple statement. The leader of our class said that we were going to practice sprints so that we can get better at them. Not really a mind-blowing statement, right?

However, being me, I pushed myself through those workouts but found myself thinking philosophically about this the whole time. We’re sentient, condition-able beings and the more we do something, the more we develop that behavior as a part of our being. I began to ask myself “What do I practice each day?”

If practice makes us more able to do something, wouldn’t it make sense to practice things that matter? 

Do I practice communication?

Do I practice listening?

Do I practice leading with equity?

Do I practice time management?

Thorough-ness?

Self-care?

Do I practice anything?

Do I practice kindness like my friend’s simple but wonderful bumper sticker?

 

And what does what I practice matter to the big picture?

 

Good questions to mull over on a beautiful Spring morning.

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Filed under communication, lists, motivation, observation

how to suffer without going crazy.

A few days back I posted about the gift of putting oneself in a position to suffer (so as to learn, grow, and break through plateaus). For me, when thinking about struggle states, the next question revolves around how to get through that state of frustration and duress in a way that allows growth to occur and to get through in one piece.

humility

Suffering stinks. It doesn’t feel good and it is not supposed to. From an evolutionary biology standpoint, pain serves a very specific focus: it forces us to provide effort and attention to an area that requires improvement or to cause a condition change.

Think about a time when you were motivated to accomplish a big task, example being passing a large test. You probably felt an intrinsic stress to study, learn, cram, and get it together to win the test. This distress most likely propelled you to surpass your expectation; without it you may not have accomplished your goal.

So what are some helpful ideas and tools to remain in that state while not being bowled over by the distress? Here are some that help me:

  1. Community – I try to stay connected and avoid isolation. Let’s make it clear – I am an introvert – and big groups of people can make me tired. However, even if I can stay in communication with a couple people who can support and uplift me – or who have been in a similar place and can provide opinions or advice – this helps me to remain confident that I will grow beyond the frustration state I am in.
  2. Reflection – I make time every day to meditate or simply stop what I am doing and reflect on existence. What am I doing? Why am I doing it? What is the purpose and why does it matter? Keeping the big picture perspective in view allows me to know that my efforts can have significance and that intrinsically motivates me to push onward.
  3. Health – I choose to not allow any challenge compromise my own personal and physical health. Ensuring that I am eating well, sleeping well, and exercising allows my body to remain healthy – which allows my brain and conscience to make clear and smart decisions that support my efforts… and to hold a degree of optimism.
  4. Forgiveness – As leaders, we push ourselves to great lengths to be the best. Not being the best at something can be hard but internally berating ourselves when we’re not the best can be easy. Remember to stick it out and that your state of struggle is short-term, not permanent. Allow your max effort each day or time to be good enough for now.

struggle-state-graph

An example of my own intentional struggle can be seen in the daily cross fit classes I attend. Last year, I became bored of standard gym-type exercising and I do not have any mountains around where I live any longer (so I am not able to hike like I used to [and deeply miss]). My goal around doing cross fit was to become stronger, happier, and healthier. Two months in, I am far from my strength goals. In fact, I’m firmly in last place in most classes. I won’t lie – I genuinely hate to see myself, a person used to being successful, struggling to just finish some workouts – and my hyper-competitive internal dialogue can have relentless, shameful, and unforgiving tendencies. But then I think about the above assistance points: I am surrounded by positive people who support me in this endeavor, regardless of what place I come in. I will be stronger long-term because of the pain and ridiculous effort I have to put in every day just to get through these workouts.

My arrow is pointing up and this state is temporary. I must remember that.

Someday I will not be in last place. I might even be good… and that is when the flow state will start to show itself a bit more. I will continue to weather the storm in the temporary to enjoy the future capacity growth and other benefits. I have faith that my hard work is creating ability and will lead to some degree of success, however that may look.

A fifth point not mentioned above is also worth mentioning: gratitude and appreciation. We leaders push ourselves to meet almost-impossible success standards. Don’t just focus on future happiness, but recognize the small moments of happiness and victory during this season. Life is too short to allow a relentless drive to manifest an ever-present sense of discontent. Don’t forget to notice on the happy and wonderful things around you. I actively choose to laugh and enjoy the daily struggle of cross fit – and to embrace the opportunity I’ve been given as joyously as possible, even when it’s remarkably hard, and it keeps me going back every day.

Humility is not fun… but conscious and proactive choices can make this state of being manageable. Because of our intentional struggle, we grow, accomplish, and become more than we can imagine. We further actualize our potential and increase our capacity to be amazing.

What are some struggles you intentionally put yourself through? What things you do to make struggle states more bearable? When have you struggled to eventually overcome a plateau?

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Filed under change management, leadership, motivation, observation

Becoming Superfluous

We’re leaders. We’re used to – well – leading our teams and other leaders. That’s sort of our thing.

Being leaders, we’re used to calling the shots, making the hard decisions, and spearheading positivity from the front. But what if we were present with our teams but unable to do most of that when it mattered most?

This was my last two weeks.

In retail, the holiday season is gigantic. Come November, one half of our being is spent focusing on the normal job stuff but the other half is spent preparing for the last two weeks of December. I am no different here. However, around December 15th, something unexpected happened: I lost my voice. When I say “lost,” I mean straight up “lost.” We’re not talking Joan Rivers voice or Dom DeLuise. We’re talking whispering as best case scenario but even then it felt like broken glass in my throat. What’s more is that it was almost totally gone up until today, December 26th. What the heck?

I am a firm believer in the value of learning in every moment. It really bugged me that I was stuck stocking or doing office stuff when I wanted to be sweating and laughing alongside my team amidst the holiday shopping frenzy…but it didn’t take long to realize that I was largely not needed… and that is awesome.

It showed me that I have outstanding leaders just waiting to take flight, waiting for their chance to step up and shine. Everything I’d invested in my people could now be put on display…and did they ever shine!

Customers were happy. The sales floor looked awesome. Morale was great. Numbers were fine. No disasters happened. Everything was awesome.

How often do we stand in the way of our leaders, even when it is well intentioned?

How many people are ready to jump up to the next level and take our place of leading leaders?

So here is my challenge to you: Get the heck out of the way. Let your leaders lead and be awesome. Even if it is uncomfortable – and it should be uncomfortable – trust your leaders to learn on the fly, lead their teams confidently, make some mistakes, and make some awesome decisions. Give them feedback and create factors in the environment that will allow your leaders to grow through that process. It may surprise you who steps up and how they step up.

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December 26, 2016 · 8:14 am

The economy of our time

How profound would your life be if you truncated fluff from your daily schedule and replaced it with actions that matter?

Let’s say this is a prototypical weekday schedule for many American millenials:

6am-7am – Workout

7am-8am – Get ready for work

8am-5pm – Work

5pm-6pm – Eat

6pm-7pm – Browse internet, facebook, chat with friends

7pm-9pm – Netflix, Hulu, HBOGo, etc…

9pm-10pm – Get ready for bed, various tasks

10pm – Go to sleep.

This is pretty close to typical for many people in my age group. It’s not a bad day – and let me make it clear that I am not against this – but what’s the point?

“Wake, eat, work, eat, work, eat, rest, sleep, repeat.” Is that what we hope others remember of us long after we’re gone?  Where is the impact on the world?

What if life could have more purpose by rearranging some things and prioritizing a more profound focus on others?

6am-7am – Workout

7am-8am – Get ready for work

8am-5pm – Work

5pm-6pm – Eat

6pm-7pm – Volunteer somewhere

7pm-8pm – Journal/meditate/pray/blog about your volunteer experience

8pm-9pm – Decompression time. Netflix, book, whatever.

9pm – 9:30pm – Intentional time to connect with a loved one

9:30pm -10pm – Get ready for bed

10pm – Sleep

In an ideal world, consider this schedule. A person gives 1-2 hours a day towards bettering others. There is still self-care, still introvert time, and still time to let the brain rest…

Imagine a world where we each invested 1 hour a day in improving each other.

Each person would give 7 hours a week, 365 hours a year to others.

A town of 50,000 people would give 350,000 hours a week to each other!

How would this effect society? Politics? Socio-economic divide? Poverty? Depression? Mental and physical health?

Is this commitment possible? What do you think? Or am I just one more idealist millennial blogger, dreaming big and believing too much in the goodness of others?

 

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The identity of a leader

Who are you? I mean – really.

Have you ever found yourself claiming an identity that – upon further reflection – only applied to your past self and no longer reflected your present-day identity?

yesterday

I can remember being 10. When I turned 11, I continued to say I was 10, simply out of habit.

This also applied to my work. 3-4 years ago, I loved going on long distance hikes of 15-20 miles at a time. It’s been awhile since I’ve done that distance in a day but I still feel tempted out of habit to respond “long distance hiking” when others at work ask me what my favorite outdoor activities are. Nowadays, the truthful answer is probably “dog park” or “casual bike ride.”

Our yesterday is often not our today.

today

It is a challenge to live in reality and the present-day consistently. Our pride in yesterday’s accomplishments can cloud our present-day understanding of our self, our performance, and our impact.

Your past has helped define who are you but that is only a part of your self. For instance – if you saw yourself as a developer in your management role because you promoted 5 people 3 years ago… but you haven’t promoted anyone since… are you still a “developer?” Or have you shifted into a different season of management, life, style?

Your daily actions in the present inform who you are, just as your present-day identity informs your actions.

tomorrow

Who do you want to be? What impact do you want to have on the people, the world around you in the future? What do you want your legacy to be when you’re long gone?

These are questions that sobering but imperative to answer. Here’s the cool thing: You can have a lot of say around what your future looks like. You can lead, influence, and impact the world and the people you come in contact with.

Leadership and identity start with a choice. Who will you choose to be? Will you choose to have an impact? What will your tomorrow be and will you matter?

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Above the treeline

IMG_2009

I was talking to a person close to me the other day. She has an opportunity to build her resume and plug her talents into an organization that she loves. To get it started, all she has to do is call them. I asked her “Have you called them?” and she responded “I just didn’t have time today.”

I recently had another person close to me mention their interest in getting a promotion… but to do that, they needed to create a strategy for what they’d do in the prospective position. When I followed up with that person, they let me know that they’ve been so busy with their day-to-day job that they haven’t been able to make the necessary hour of time for this task.

How many times do we have greatness within our grasp but we are too caught up in maintaining the status quo to reach out and grab that opportunity?

It’s like hiking on a mountain. There is a nearby trail that is heavily wooded and absolutely beautiful. It’s hard to dislike the trail in any way. However, as tempting as it is to be satisfied with the wooded view of the trees and surrounding forest, a much more marvelous view exists just a mile above the start to the trail. Think: a view above the tree canopy featuring snow-capped volcanoes, alpine lakes, and an endless sky. The push to the top is well worth it.

So ponder this: How would your life, your career, your well-being change if you made 30 minutes a week to look beyond the daily life? To think beyond what is immediately around you? And how would those 30 minute sessions impact your life a year from now?

There might be something really cool above the treeline.

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Not enough brainpower for everything

IMG_0043

Recently CNN posted an interesting article that looked at why certain successful entrepreneurs (eg Mark Zuckerberg, Steve Jobs) choose to only have one outfit. In their article, East and Tinker more or less cite efficiency of brain power as the reason. The more brain power we use on decisions that are irrelevant or less significant, the less brain power we have for more significant and impactful decisions. Information overload can harm productivity. It’s a good article and covers more than a couple topics.

My brain is a muscle and I want to make sure I am using it but not over-using it. This article inspired me to spend time examining my priorities: what are they and what should they not be? I’ve personally made an increase/reduce table and it goes a bit like this:

Increase (decisions for higher impact):

-Spending more time managing relationships proactively

-Intentionally focusing more on the immediate environment/present

-Spending more energy on assessing my own physical and emotional well-being

Reduce (decisions that are lower impact):

-Trivial decisions energy (where to eat, what to eat, exercise questions, being rushed/hurrying to appointments, etc…) through better planning ahead of time

-The noise around me (radio, podcasts…) to lessen some of the overstimulus in life

-Making things more complex than necessary

Brainpower and decisions are currency; We only have so much and we should be smart about how we invest. What do you need to increase or reduce in order to manage your brainpower better?

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