Blog Post # 152 – The Space We Need

Are we giving ourselves the mental space we need?

Sometimes it helps to have a physical space to go to that then makes it easier to establish that mental space.

A place to relax and center.

Too often, the monkey brain takes over and the ideas seem to be coming from every direction.

This makes it hard to focus.

Even while writing this blog post, my mind is jumping around from three different worries.

Not only does that take me away from being present in the moment, it actually feels like my mind cannot rest.

Way too many stimuli, too many things to worry about.

This is where the physical space comes in first.

To box out the distractions.

To serve as a shield from all of the things vying for our attention.

We need space to think, space to rest, space to free ourselves from the daily grind.

It may be helpful to have a regular time for this physical space as well.

For me, this is early morning before the other occupants of my home get moving.

I am at my best when I have my physical space and my dedicated time.

Working towards recapturing my space and my time today.

Hope you can too.

Blog Post # 151 – A Decision to Compete

You cannot win an Olympic medal in a day.

Michael Phelps trained for four years for a two-minute race that he won yesterday.

Four years.

There is no such thing as an overnight success.

Phelps became a champion long before the race even began yesterday.

At some point, he and all of the other Olympic athletes made a decision to compete.

To do their best to make it to the Olympics, qualify for the finals and run the race or vault the pole or balance on the beam.

It was a decision before anything else.

A decision to compete, a decision to succeed.

The deciding was very important; but it had to be backed up by years of work.

Some of these races come down to slices of one second, an inch or two or a single one-tenth of one percent on a judge’s scorecard.

The amount of effort and dedication that all of the Olympic athletes put into their events is awe-inspiring.

All of the training, all of the sacrifice, all of the repetition.

So amazing.

What goals have we set for ourselves? What concrete aims do we have?

More importantly, what are we doing to get there?

We need the same level of commitment to succeed in this life.

Will we start today?

Blog Post # 150 – Connect First

In a hyper-connected world, we feel disconnected.

Electronic devices allow us to communicate at the speed of light.

Yet, we feel alone.

Connection. Real connection.

It seems to be missing from our day to day existence.

One cool thing about meeting with potential new clients most days is that it allows me to connect on some level to my clients.

To learn about other worlds.

To hear amazing stories.

To empathize, to relate, to connect.

I guess it is sort of ironic that I am writing on an electronic blog that I will promote through social media to mildly complain that we are not connected.

But the blog does help with connection.

People know me better. People relate their tales to me more often. People feel safe to share with me in a way that is different than before I started this little blog 150 days ago.

When I came back from vacation, I met with four clients the next morning.

I was relaxed, calm and receptive to what they were saying. I was open and relaxed.

All 4 clients hired our firm.

I believe it was because of the connection. We connected first and then the decision to hire us was easy.

That is how it is supposed to work.

Connect first, everything else will sort itself out.

Blog Post # 149 – Flow

Flow.

You can’t beat flow.

If you find yourself in a state of flow, you are unstoppable.

At least until your phone chirps and you get distracted.

Flow is the state of getting things done efficiently and with a clear mind.

When you can do no wrong.

When things just fall into place.

When you get ten times as many things done in 60 minutes than you do the rest of the day.

Flow is hard to achieve.

And once in a state of flow, it is very easy to fall out of flow.

There are things that we can do to increase our state of flow.

We can eliminate, or at least cut down, distractions.

We can carve out dedicated time for doing important work.

We can focus on doing just one thing at a time.

We can unplug.

Flow is almost like a superpower.

But it is also like a muse, or a ghost. Hard to get to, hard to hold on to.

For today, let us do what we can to increase the chances of us finding that state of flow.

Watch and see how much we get done then!

Blog Post # 148 – Moment by Moment

Depression comes from worrying about the past.

Anxiety comes from worrying about the future.

So says Mr. Tim Ferriss in a recent talk he gave at Google.

Projecting our fears to the future and/or beating ourselves up regarding past failures is a tough way to live.

Especially if we engage in both activities simultaneously.

In these two simple sentences, Tim distills down the two major ways that we can distract ourselves from living in the moment.

Why are these two mindsets such attractive invitations?

Why do we find ourselves drawn to sadness and/or to anxiety?

Is it something about the human condition?

The fact is that being sad about past mistakes is utterly pointless.

We can’t change the past.

We don’t have a time machine to enable us to visit our past selves and urge ourselves to make different decisions.

Yesterday, and all the days before yesterday, are gone.

So too with the future.

We can think of all of the worst case scenarios that the future may hold.

We have the ability to spend hours worrying about bad things that will never happen.

Obsessing on these potential outcomes can be debilitating.

Our invitation today is to be present. To be aware in this very moment.

Aware of the gifts that we have been given.

Aware of the people that love us and care about us.

Aware of the fleeting nature of time and that these moments will not last forever.

For today, let us leave the past in the past. And let us take the future as it comes, moment by moment.

Blog Post # 147 – You Will Respect My Authority

“You will respect my authority.”

This is one way to govern, to parent or to lead.

By creating an atmosphere of fear and distrust.

Where one is powerful and the other weak.

Many organizations thrive, for a while, under iron-willed CEOs who obtain good results from petrified subordinates.

Old-school coaches like Bobby Knight made a career out of developing talented athletes through fear and intimidation.

Throwing chairs does work.

But maybe not as much anymore.

Today’s employees don’t really respond to intimidation, yelling and pitting them against together.

And that is a good thing.

Ruling through fear is a bad approach.

Especially when dealing with our children.

Perhaps there is a better approach.

Discerning what motivates the people that we are tasked with leading is the first step.

Helping them tap into what they want out of life, out of their job, out of this collaboration is essential to maximizing performance these days.

Once that is achieved, our job as leaders is to develop the skills within those we lead to help them succeed.

Less yelling, more teaching.

Going the fear-based route is easy, but lazy. Effective, but ultimately futile.

It is also an unpleasant way to live.

Who wants to walk through life having those around them be fearful of an explosive tirade every other day?

Instead, lead by example and train for success.

So much more effective.

Blog Post # 146 – Our Tarnished Reality

Facebook is not reality.

The lives we portray on Facebook are not 100% accurate.

When the boys and I went to the baseball game the other day, I asked them to pose for a picture in their seats.

I have posted many photos of the boys calmly smiling, enjoying a game, over the years.

This year, I posted what sometimes happens before or after the “perfect shot” – the boys all punching each other.

I think there is such a temptation in this uber-connected world to hide our tarnished reality.

We want to polish everything up, make ourselves appear perfect.

To brag on our kids without talking about how they drive us insane.

To discuss the cases we win, while de-emphasizing our losses.

To show the peaches and cream, but not the warts.

Who are we trying to impress? Why do we care so very much what others think?

Are we fooling ourselves as well?

It is funny because the Facebook posts that resonate with me the most are the ones where a mom talks about how hard it is to stay up all night tending to a sick kid or a dad talks about losing his temper.

Or when friends share about their struggles with cancer, a dying parent or other heavy issues.

These types of posts strike a connection because they are real.

Maybe we need a social media platform where people could be 100% (or we could even settle for 75%) real. Maybe anonymity would be an important component to that. We could call it Wortbook.

Perhaps we could settle for just being “more real” on Facebook. Sharing the things that bother us, trouble us or make us sad.

Takes courage. Takes an honest look at ourselves. Takes commitment to tell the truth.

Or maybe we could just post more cat videos and call it a day.

Blog Post # 145 – Smoke and Ash

Smoke and ash.

Ultimately, everything around us will turn to smoke and ash.

Civilizations crumble.

Institutions falter.

Time marches on.

We can allow these truths to paralyze us or galvanize us.

Our time on this planet is short.

Way too short for some.

We plot, we scheme, we maneuver, we act.

We try to counteract the passage of time.

We numb ourselves to our humanity with drugs, alcohol, sex and food.

To distract us from the fact that our time will eventually come.

Our time to turn to smoke and ash.

Perhaps this is a bit morbid.

But not if we use this knowledge to our benefit.

To leverage our knowledge of our eventual passage to make the most out of every moment.

To suck the marrow out of life.

To dream big, to live large and to constantly seek to improve.

This is our charge. This is our moral imperative. To make the most of this day and every single day that we are given.

Before it’s too late.

Blog Post # 144 – Our Ability to Affect

Why fret?

Why worry so much?

Why engage in mental gyrations over and over and over?

Everything will work out.

Everything will be just as it is supposed to be.

Our worries don’t change outcomes.

The world does not consider our fears; the world simply marches on.

It is certainly understand when we worry about things beyond our control.

But the worrying accomplishes nothing.

Some things in life, we can control.

But so very much of life is beyond our ability to affect.

We may feel helpless.

We may be scared.

But our job is to get beyond the feeling of helplessness, beyond the fear to a place of centeredness.

Of knowing that things are as they are supposed to be.

Society tells us a lie that we can control it all. That we can make the universe bend towards our will.

But this is a charade. We are not in control. We never were.

For today, let us accept our small role in the world.

We are one of many, facing things way beyond our immediate control.

To be humble, to be grateful and to be fearless.

For any other response is folly.

Blog Post # 143 – If This Were Your Mother

“What would you do if this were your father or your mother?”

A wise woman close to me often asks this question when confronted with having to ask an expert for help.

If she takes her mother to the doctor and the doctor offers two or three possible courses of action, she asks the doctor “what would you do if this were your mother?”

When our 2006 Honda Odyssey heads back to Johnson Auto Care, “what would you do if this were your minivan?”

At Back to School Night, she often asks the teacher “what would you do if this were your son or daughter?”

This approach works very well because it taps into the expert’s empathy.

If we can get the expert to remember that this is somebody’s mother, father, son or daughter that we are discussing, it takes them slightly outside their analytical prescription and gives them an emotional connection to the patient, client, etc.

I know this because every once in awhile, a potential client asks me “what would you do if this were your wife that you were trying to bring to the U.S.?”

Questions such as these offer the recipient the opportunity to view the beneficiary of their advice as a living, breathing person and to advise accordingly.

Many times, this approach is used when an expert has offered two or three possible courses of action, each with its own possible benefits and detriments.

When it is a close call, it sometimes helps to have the expert recognize that it is a close call.

Having the opportunity to tap into the expert’s knowledge about prior similar situations and how those prior experiences impact their opinion on what to do in this instance is another reason why this approach is so helpful.

Overall, asking someone to empathize, to see their client/patient as an actual human being and not simply just the next case to work on provides both essential, qualitative information and builds an emotional connection between patient and expert.