Thursday, April 30, 2015

Starting

Starting is always the hardest part.

Whether you're starting a...
  • new job
  • diet
  • family
  • garden
  • fitness plan
  • business
it's the beginning that's most challenging. 

One of the reasons that starting is so hard is that we intuitively understand that in order to get off to a "good start" a lot of thinking should occur.  Thinking about what we want, why we want it, what we hope to accomplish, how we might manage the outcomes, what happens after we actually get started, etc.

That thinking-about-it component is the reason a lot folks stay un-started.  It's easier NOT to start, because the thinking and the starting are so stinking hard.  "Stuck" just feels easier and safer.

But, the fun is in the learning and the learning is triggered when we get off the starting line.

Time to get started.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

BadStuff

Bad stuff is gonna happen.  Bad stuff is completely impersonal.  Bad stuff doesn’t discriminate.  It happens to all of us.

Life is not so much about avoiding bad stuff as it is about learning from it.  Our experiences and what we learn from them are the things that ultimately define our lives.  Our experiences (with family, with friends, with antagonists, with events) cause automatic neural mapping to occur in our brains; we call it memory.

Via our memory, we should reflect on the experiences and digest the learning we gain from them.  That learning is what prepares us to handle the next experience with even more skill/grace, which means handling the next round of bad stuff that comes our way a little better, too.

I've heard it said that good judgement comes from experience, and experience comes from bad judgement. (Numerous folks have been attributed with articulating that wisdom.)

Life isn’t fair, but it doses out a good bit of bad stuff to all of us.  What we learn from it and how we handle it the next time around is what makes the difference.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Forgiving

Forgiveness is often thought of as an act of grace, of overlooking the faults/offenses/sins of another, of wiping the slate clean and starting over from “now.”

Perhaps it’s a little bit of all of those things.  

Forgiveness is usually thought of in terms of what it affords the receiver.  Yet, some of the most beneficial effects of forgiveness are granted to the forgiver, not the forgivee.

Once we choose to forgive others, we are better able to forgive ourselves (and who doesn’t need a healthy dose of that?).  Forgiving others begins the process of freeing ourselves from some pretty unsavory burdens - like resentment, bitterness, even hatred.  Forgiving others offers us a fresh start from “now” just as much as it offers the forgivees that opportunity for do overs.

Yes, we can be wary.  
Yes, we can hold others accountable.  
Yes, we can protect ourselves from repeated abuses.  
But we can also liberate ourselves on many levels by not ingesting the lengthy menu of toxins associated with the unwillingness to forgive.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Distractions

Distractions...
> Divert our attention.
> Suck our energy.
> Waste our time.
> Create disharmony.

They can spring from...
> External events/people.
> Poorly structured environments.
> Weak or devious team members.
> Misaligned metrics and incentives.

A fundamental job of leaders (whether they be moms, teachers, coaches, or bosses) is to minimize and/or eliminate distractions.  

How?
By being perfectly clear about...
> Vision, mission, goals, objectives (too many of these are a distraction in itself).
> Praising and supporting acts aligned to those guiding elements.
> Noticing and candidly calling out acts that don't.
> Permanently removing persistent distractors.

Can't and won't happen if the leaders are sissies, unfocused, unclear, or ... distracted.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

DirtyHands

Whether we're talking about gardening, building relationships, learning to play a musical instrument, or writing an essay, we've gotta "get our hands dirty" to fully appreciate and accomplish meaningful work.

By getting involved in the work ourselves we get to experience the contexts, the challenges, likeminded others, the tools/skills needed, the nuances, the shortcuts, the sweat, the tears, the failures, and, ultimately, the successes.

Of course, we can "outsource" the work (i.e., pass it off to others).  When we do, we have robbed ourselves of the self-actualization and the self-satisfaction that comes with tackling important work and "getting it done."

The magic happens when we get our hands dirty.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

FoodSanity(12.0)

Frankenfoods.  What are they?

They look sorta like food.
They taste sorta like food.
They smell sorta like food.
They cook up sorta like food.

Yet, at the end of the day, what they do to our bodies is pretty scary.  Frankenfoods are engineered fabrications of food.  They're food-like substances, lacking the nutrition of real foods.  They're sterile, lifeless, processed, chemical-doused impersonations of food.

Frankenfoods are not what our bodies want and need for vitality.

What then should we eat?  Food that is minimally touched by humans.  Food that is grown and harvested naturally.  Food that is grown in or eating from healthy soil, not from applied chemicals.

Need a good starting place?  Dr. Mercola's Beginner Nutrition Plan is a nice primer.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Competence

Most of us want to feel competent. Competent in our work, competent in our relationships, competent in our hobbies and passionate pursuits.  

But, how do we gain competence?  How do we get to that place where we know what we're doing, understand good ways to accomplish those endeavors, are respected in our management of those pursuits?

Competence springs from a web of entangled variables:
  • Learning we achieve through reading, listening, and engaging with knowledgeable others.
  • Practice, practice, practice at using the talents and attributes with which we have been blessed.
  • Skills developed purposefully through disciplined growth.
  • Wisdom gained through reflection on experiences (the experiences are rather worthless unless we learn something from them).
  • Insight acquired through stretching our own limits, with the associated successes and failures (no pain, no gain, no competence).

Competence is NOT derived from titles or money or privilege.  It cannot be bought.  It cannot be faked.  Competence cannot be conferred on one.  It has to be earned, and no one else can earn it for us.

Finally, competence is not an end in itself.  No matter how "good" we get at doing stuff, knowing stuff, applying processes, the competence only has real value when we're using it in service to others.  Otherwise, we are only competent narcissists.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Flexing

Flexing, in both our personal and work relationships, can help us maintain vibrant relationships, achieve our goals, and be happier in the process.

When we learn to read others, and adapt our behavior/thinking in a way that opens channels of communication and deeper understanding, we have effectively "flexed" to those others.  Flexing to others keeps the possibility of productive engagement, solution crafting, and resolution open to us.

Conversely, when we harden ourselves against others, against the forces (physical, intellectual, emotional, or spiritual) that push against us, we begin closing many doors of rich possibility.

The way trees bend and sway in strong winds is an excellent analogy for the skill of flexing.  In extremely strong storms trees can sometimes bend all the way to the ground without breaking as they flex to the buffeting forces.  While they flex to the powerful forces that press upon them, they not only get stronger, they also keep themselves viable.

We can do that, too.  When we learn to flex to others, we make ourselves more adaptable, more resilient, more collaborative, more open, and more tolerant.  That's a pretty nice list of attributes.

Friday, April 17, 2015

LearningTo

Learning is built into our DNA.  We were designed to learn.

Here's how learning happens.  Whether it's learning to...
  • ride a bike
  • read
  • speak a new language
  • be healthier
  • hit better tee shots
  • speak in public
  • (this list can go on forever)
here's the process:
  1. We decide we want to learn it
  2. We try it
  3. We fail
  4. We seek information/guidance/coaching/teaching
  5. We try again
  6. We fail (but better)
  7. We seek information/guidance/coaching/teaching
  8. We try again
  9. We fail (but more better)
  10. We...
At step 10 one of three things happens:
1) we die, 
2) we decide to stop trying to improve that skill (which is a form of dying), or 
3) we keep getting better at it (i.e., we keep repeating steps 7-9).

Happy learning...

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Praise

Praise is the act of expressing appreciation or admiration to/for someone.

Praise can be an uplifting, almost worshipful expression, emanating from the very core of our being.  Done in that spirit, praise is buoyant for both the praiser and the praisee.

Praise can also be bogus and hollow, expressed with little or no conviction.  That kind of praise is icky and diluted.  Kinda makes you feel like you need to take a shower after hearing it.

The best leaders I know are masterful in the art of giving authentic praise.  They find things to praise others for, often and in many ways.  These leaders even manage to praise others vicariously, through their colleagues, employees, and family - sort of an indirect pathway for the praise.  Consistently, these leaders praise others in the context of their shared values, beliefs, missions, and vision.  The praise is specific and meaningful.

One of the main reasons these leaders are so good is that they actually pay enough attention to the people around them to see/hear/know what is being done by those others that is actually praiseworthy.

For that, they deserve our praise.

Monday, April 13, 2015

NegAttrition

Attrition is the slow bleeding down of someone or some entity.  It's the proverbial "death by a thousand duck nibbles."  Not only does attrition diminish effectiveness and strength, it does it in a protracted way.  Attrition is the gradual sucking of life and vitality from a person or an organization.  The downward pressure is relentless.

Negativity is the foot soldier of attrition.  Positivity is the combatant of attrition.

The good news is...
we can choose how we think, 
we can choose what we read, 
we can choose what we listen to, and 
we can choose who we associate with.

Attrition is reversible.  It's all about the inputs (which, of course, we get to choose).

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Folks,ThisAin'tNormal

I recently read Joel Salatin's Folks, This Ain't Normal (2011).  JS is a farmer/writer/speaker/environmentalist who is known internationally for his beliefs about holistic, sustainable agricultural practices.  I should also add that JS is part comedian.

I learned quite a lot from reading this work.  Here are some of the resonating ideas I took from JS's work:

  • Depriving our children of the experience of raising the food they eat is a huge mis-step in our culture.
  • Engaging in the work of growing food nurtures both our immune systems and our souls.
  • The average morsel of food in America travels 1500 miles from field to fork.
  • Agendas drive data, not the other way around.
  • The health of plants, animals, and humans starts with the health of the soil.
  • Full and absolute transparency is the accountability measure of integrity.
  • "Economic segregation protects the haves from seeing the needy, and prevents the needy from seeing possibilities."
  • The only reason the current grain-based food system works is because of cheap fuel. If that fails, the system crashes.
  • Artificial manure = artificial food = artificial animals = artificial humans.
  • "No government agency has been more successful at annihilating its constituency than the USDA." (p. 250)
  • According to our government, Coca Cola is safe but raw milk is not.  Really?
  • "Safe" food is deemed so only because it kills you slowly.
  • A risk free life is not worth living. 
  • Real food is ALIVE. Sterilized food is not.

My favorite quote:  
"The truth is this: 'If it's worth doing, it's worth doing poorly first.'" (p. 87)

Saturday, April 11, 2015

EveryWord

Every word we speak either...
  • Builds up or tears down.
  • Enhances trust or compromises it.
  • Accelerates improvement or slows it.
  • Nurtures relationships or diminishes them.
  • Facilitates progress or impedes it.
  • Fosters peace or suppresses it. 
What we say matters.  A lot.

And, every word we speak influences the words others speak.

Lots of powerful, magnifying possibilities exist in those realities.

Friday, April 10, 2015

StoryTelling

Story telling took a bad rap when I was growing up.  My parents took a pretty dim view of me and my brothers if they ever caught us "telling a story" (i.e., lying).

Turns out story telling may not always be such a bad thing.  Truthful stories are just fine and actually need to be told.

Fact is, our story will be told.  We can tell it for ourselves or we can let others tell it for us.  Define, or be defined.

Our story gets told through our intentions, through our habits, through our gestures, through our service, through our acts, through our interactions with others, and, occasionally, 
even through our words.

If we’re gonna be the storyteller, it is imperative that we know what story we want to tell.

For our pondering:  What stories are being told about us?  And, who's doing the telling?



Wednesday, April 8, 2015

SuccessAccelerant

Trust is the accelerant that boosts the likelihood of success.

Trust in our team.
Trust in our leaders.
Trust that our product performs.
Trust that our suppliers will deliver.
Trust that improvement is part of the deal.
Trust that our services will be deployed with integrity.
Trust that tomorrow brings more and better opportunity.
Trust that all have carried out their assignments with fidelity.
Trust that all involved will honor commitments (written or spoken or implied).

Disruptions in trust have the same effect as trying to run uphill.  It can still be done, we can still "get there," but not without a lot of extra effort and energy.

What is trust built on?  
Relationships, founded in integrity, dependability, fairness, commitment, and transparency.

Hmmm...  If we use the logic of mathematics, then there must be some sort of direct connection between our prospects for success and the relationships we build and nurture. 

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Radical

I was raised in the Christian faith.  I have attended many kinds of churches over the years.  I have read extensively the Christian writers, both historical and contemporary, both liberal and fundamentalist.

I have been witness to countless righteous exemplars of the Christian discipline, and to far too many who have committed egregious acts in its name.

I have perpetually struggled to gain a clearer grasp of the God of my understanding, and thus, of my own role in this life.

I am fully aware that not all my readers and friends are followers of the Christian teachings, which is fine by me.  Whatever our personal conceptions and beliefs about Jesus, it is indisputable that he radically disrupted the socio-political landscape of his time (and still does).  

From the biblical book of Matthew, chapter 22:
36“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”  37Jesus replied: “ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’c38This is the first and greatest commandment. 39And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 

What a radical assertion!  That our lives and our relationships could be governed by two simple rules.  How much healthier might we, and our world, be, were we to adopt and fully subscribe to both?

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Hardening

Moe (my lovely bride of 38 years) introduced me to a new word recently.  She has been starting her garden plants from seeds this year.  The process includes her providing them loving daily attention - from the selection of the potting soil to the regular mistings with water to the exposure to sunlight through our dining room windows.  Of late, she has been moving the plants out onto the porch during most days (the ones in which we don't have 40 mile per hour winds, anyway), then moving them back into the house in the evenings.  Her purpose in that persistent moving in and moving out process, she tells me, is to "harden" the plants.  That hardening is the preparation for their soon-to-occur transplantation into the garden, where they will spend the rest of their lives.

Hardening, Moe tells me, is the process of acclimating the young plants to the temperature swings, the insect exposures, the heat of direct sunlight, the humidity swings, and the wind.  All that swaying back and forth, the heating and cooling, the pecking and nibbling, serve to toughen the plants up for their eventual relocation in the harsh reality of living in the garden.

Reminds me of the processes we used when raising our children, to prepare them for the ebb and flow of life "in the real world."  Reminds me, too, of how some of my best bosses and mentors over the last 50 years have "hardened" me by providing just the right amounts of pressure, responsibility, exposure, support, and, yes, protection.  Just as Moe does with her plants, they thoughtfully and persistently prepared me for my future.

Some still are.  (Thanks.)