When Should You Do Your Best Work?

Today (and every day) we can choose to give our best performance…or not. It doesn’t matter what falls in the way, what someone says or does unexpectedly or anything else that happens that’s out of our control. These roadblocks don’t change anything about our posture…unless we allow them. Every time we face a roadblock, what happens if we ratchet up our best selves even more? What happens if we lean in with more positive action and leadership? What happens if we become even more generous? 

The beauty is we know the unexpected is coming. So we can choose what to do with it…in advance. When running a marathon the first time, every mile is new. And when the “wall” comes we’re not sure what to do. But the next time, we know when the real pain is going to appear…when our best self self needs to show up even more.

It’s not nearly as hard to do your best when everything goes as planned. But it’s extremely important to continue to choose to do so when they don’t.

Choose wisely.

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Before you post your next blog, facebook, instagram, article or user review…ask, what’s it for?

And if it’s not positive, informative or with the purpose to change someone or something for the better, it might be harmful. And in that case…best keep it to yourself or at least move it to a private channel.

Just because there’s a tool, doesn’t mean it should be used.

Drawing credit to Hugh Macleod, Gapingvoid

Teaching vs. Telling

Teaching moments occur when both the teacher and the student want to go somewhere…together. Students learn more, understand more, contribute more when they want to know…when they seek a higher level of understanding. Teaching moments don’t happen by chance. And they certainly don’t happen for a test. They occur because some teachers understand that leadership and enrollment in an idea are the essential seeds to learning. They know that no true learning can occur without first earning the student’s trust and enthusiasm for the idea. Want to teach someone to build a rocket ship? First step, get them excited about going into outer space. 

Teaching requires leading. And leading requires more than a high level of subject knowledge. It requires the ability to persuade someone to willingly go along with you. Otherwise it’s just telling. And anyone can do that.

So if you choose to teach, please know the hard work on offer. It’s not on the test. But I hope you choose to do it anyway.

From The Neck Down

I recently had to go to a UPS central pick-up facility to collect a package. After three trips and a fair amount of chaos, the counter representative, sensing the building tension and unable to solve the issue, remarked…When they hired me, they told me they were hiring me from the neck down. 

What a shame…and what a poor choice to settle for this sort of culture. 

Everyone is smart…if they choose to be. Choose wisely. 

The Weatherman is Never Right

Of course he is…almost always. Especially in the short-term, under 3 days. There’s almost a 100% chance the temperature outside right now is within 2 degrees F which was predicted 24 hours ago. Think about this. Outside of celestial movement and tides and such, almost nothing is as certain as the near-term weather. Yet, we hang on to the story and resulting culture from the early Farmer’s Almanac days when the weather was largely unpredictable and changed radically every five minutes (if you don’t like the weather, wait five minutes). And every once in a while the weather doesn’t turn out today as it was predicted yesterday (everyday somewhere, but almost never in your town). So we add that to the lore…and the ratchet continues. Plus, it’s more fun and perhaps interesting to dramatize one time failures than provable statistical outcomes…how boring.

What other stories are we telling ourselves which are based on outdated and unsupportable theories? The purpose of standardized education, the value of meetings, the role of placebos, the effectiveness of advertising…a few to consider.

Choose your stories wisely.

Starting a Magic Club

…with strangers is really hard. You’ll probably need to pressure, coerce, trick or buy them into it somehow. Conversely, it’s much easier to get people to follow you if you first put in the hard work to earn their trust and attention. They’re far more likely to see what you see, want what you want and desire to be a part of what you have on offer.

Building a club then is the hard part…where the magic really happens. Yet so often we see the tricks first.

What's It for?

Schools continue to teach students how to use a fax machine. Of course it's silly. But it happens. It happens because leading change is hard. It’s easier to maintain the status quo than convincing peers, bosses and going through the hard work and possible humility of changing a system. But also it’s about misunderstanding…what teaching is for. The fax machine is but one possible solution to a problem. The focus shouldn’t be on the fax machine. The point should be to let the students determine the most efficient, cost effective way to transfer documents and information between parties…to learn how to solve the problem. At a minimum list all the tools available and let them find their own way. My guess is the fax machine would end up somewhere near the telegraph. And maybe, just maybe the teacher would learn a new way…from the students.

What’s it for?…probably the most important question a teacher can ask…before they start teaching.

The Anonymous Fundraiser

…probably wouldn’t work. Because most donations aren’t for the charity…they’re for the donor. Sure the charity benefits. But the smart fundraiser understands what’s on offer…an opportunity for the donor to tell a story about themselves (and to themselves) about their status, generosity and what they care about. It makes them feel safer within their circle, the people they are trying to influence and those they are influenced by. 

If it was only about the charity…we would have only anonymous fundraisers. But, other things matter... 

What's the Big Idea?

Most big ideas stem from small ideas…and often bad ones. They get shaped like art or music or a dance. Small steps honed, crafted and thrown away making way for the new and improved ones. The current version of Google, Amazon or Photoshop certainly didn’t start out that way. Too often we’re hoping for the big idea, for the hit that a lot of people will use (the ones where we say "I wish I would have thought of that). The fact is it’s not likely to happen…the brilliant hit right out of the box. The better and more effective path is to practice coming up with small, bad ideas. And then maybe some of those will grow up to be big ones. The key of course is to practice…to get really good at developing idea flow. But first you have to start. We hope you do.

What Are You Making Today?

Whether physical, digital or simply an idea. The point is you’re either creating, helping us move forward, or not. Outside of learning, consumption has become the nemesis of creation. Being connected virtually all of the time has its downside…constant inflow of information is disruptive to concentration. Consider that creating something original requires thought which is best isolated to allow focus on the subject. So unplug the fire hose of incoming interruptions and take time to think. Then make something out of it so we can all benefit. Teach us something we don’t know.

Create a Culture

Which attracts…

  • Generosity

  • Lifelong learning

  • Leadership

  • Problem Solving

  • Collaboration

  • Honesty

  • Candor

  • Warmth

  • Curiosity

It turns out most people want to be a part of something like this…something bigger than themselves which creates meaningful change. It might not happen overnight. But when the consistent and convictive work starts to pay-off, as the cultural shift occurs, most of the common hiring problems start to go away.

If your culture is going to be chosen, you might as well make it the obvious one.

What is Complaining For?

Almost all complaints fall into one of these categories...

  • to prove a point

  • to cause harm 

  • to help lead positive and meaningful change

And some fall into the first two. But none fall into all three.

Of course, once you choose the category of being helpful, it’s not really a complaint. And therein lies the true value of complaining…a waste of precious time. Better to offer a generous critique and helping hand instead. Choose wisely.

Leading Change

is what Leadership is for. Everything else falls into a different category, management, productivity, efficiency, busywork, etc.

So if you’re goal is to be a leader, the big questions are…

  • What change are you seeking to make?

  • Who can you enroll to help make it?

  • What story can you tell to inspire them to come along?

  • When will you start?

  • What will happen if it doesn’t work?

The Purpose of the Culture Interview

…is to determine if the candidate’s enrollment in your purpose is possible…to see if she is willing to go where you’re going. The only real way to understand this is to dive deep into the psyche and demonstrated ability of the person…to understand her core values and how she acts, especially when no one is watching. How will she fit (with others) and help us make the change we seek? 

A culture based interview is used to build highly engaged and passionate teams. It’s a long-term approach to solve for purpose vs. transaction. It’s likely you can find someone who can do it faster and maybe even better right away. But will they be disruptive, cause tension and drain the enthusiasm from the organization in the process? What’s the cost of immediate efficiency? 

Ultimately, figure out if someone is aligned with you at the core. Everything else is extracurricular.

Bus Driving

I waved at the school bus driver this morning…she didn’t wave back. She rarely does…too busy driving.

More children would voluntarily ride the bus if the driver was less of a driver and more of a person…a person who’s purpose was to engage, show interest, teach and delight. Children spend hundreds of hours on the bus…to get to the place where learning is supposed to happen. Why can’t it start on the bus?

As an aside…bus drivers are everywhere. They’re disguised as bank tellers, front desk clerks, DMV employees and tech help center agents. Often hired for function over care. What a wasted opportunity…what a shame.

Show Us Something You've Made

Anything. A short movie, a table, a poem, a training pamphlet..a new dance move. The only requirements are original (untested and might not work) and actually released. 

The fear of acceptance, a bosses approval or status in the peer group is the biggest hurdle in trying something new. Creativity isn’t hard until it’s time to show it to someone. 

Leaders dance with this fear and know how to manage it. Status and acceptance is less important than making a difference. And making a difference requires creativity and bold moves into new and uncharted territory. Making something new is the only way to get there.

Leading change requires practice…lot’s of trial and error. It’s best to start with small bits and learn that non-acceptance, failure and ridicule doesn’t hurt as much as you thought. So go ahead…make some art, a new play, a blog post or whatever. Just make.