Are your good intentions masking the truth?

Have you ever witnessed a well-intentioned somebody being genuinely honest with their opinion to the point that they consider it to be fact?

The easiest person to think of is my Mother.

My Mom thinks I’m a great writer. She is also biased. If I submitted a manuscript to my Mother, and she had the power, I am sure would publish it in a heart beat. However, that probably wouldn’t be the immediate case if I submitted my first manuscript to any other publisher. There are plenty of people who probably think my writing is shit (except my Mom also hates it when I use expletives).

In the real world, your boss may think you are the best, but it doesn’t guarantee a promotion (because maybe there is somebody out there who is better but works at another branch and wants to transfer in and would truly be the better fit. So your boss’s boss picks that person instead).

There is danger in being too honest at times. Particularly if you are at a level of Leadership. Being overly transparent can create false hope. I’ve seen false hope crush the dreams of great people.

We can’t make promises we can’t keep. Our words are often taken as fact. We should treat them as such. Our word is our bond.

About a year ago, I shared my opinion with a team member, on how our team handles a particular process. I didn’t agree with it, but still, it’s the way our team has agreed to handle it, so, I supported it.

This team member, walked out of that conversation, into a team meeting and told everyone that I disagreed with it and we should be doing it another way.

That was my fault.

There is a word for this type of behavior that sometimes gets us in trouble, and causes cracks in the foundation of our trust; over-aligning.

This often sounds like, “I TOTALLY agree with you, but we HAVE to do it this way because so-and-so says so.” It demonstrates the exact opposite of that which we are trying to build; trust.

If I don’t trust my Leader, why would a team member trust that Leader, or even myself?

Also, we can’t forget that people are real. They have feelings. They get hurt. We feebly attempt to over-promise or over-align to prevent that, but we are just perpetuating its inevitability.

So we blur the truth with our opinions. Let’s refer to this as subjective honesty. It’s not the whole picture. It’s a piece of it. Mostly the piece that we would LIKE to occur. You’ve heard the saying, “Perception is reality.” And most of the time, we are operating from only one. Our own. But our narrative is not the only one that matters.

It is possible to be far more objective in our honesty (sure, there will always be a little bias in there). It’s ok to say we can’t promise a particular outcome and should not promise a particular outcome. I am still being honest if I say “I don’t know.” Because I don’t. I can’t read the future and neither can you.

Too often I see people getting into verbal handshakes so they can try to ensure the probability of a particular outcome. Sometimes it’s innocent. Sometimes it’s manipulation.

Even the computer can be beat at chess.

So what do we do if we can’t guarantee a particular outcome?

Don’t.

Don’t muddy the truth with unnecessary words.

Don’t make promises about a situation or decision that is beyond your control. Even if your intentions are good.

Be objective. Let life happen.

What to do when you’ve become distracted.

“Squirrel!”

Have you seen the movie, “Up,” where the awesome and loyal dog has a special collar that says what he is thinking? In the middle of the dog praising his master and expressing his deep love and gratitude, randomly is distracted by something far less meaningful…such as a squirrel?

Sometimes I think myself and that dog have a lot in common. For me though, it probably sounds more like, “Let’s do what we are passionate about, change the world, BURRITO!” Or even, “I’m going to write a book to encourage people to pursue their passions and stop making excuses -oooo – a new camera lens…”

Then..rabbit trail.

But sometimes the distraction is a lot heavier. My friend Ariel and I were talking the other day. We know our big pictures and our why’s, but yet have still found ourselves stuck in the same spot regarding our aspirations for a good month or so. Which tends to be the “but where do I start?” or “what’s next?” spot.

It’s a difficult place to be.

Knowing what you want to do and that it just needs to get done, but then feeling like something else maybe is supposed to happen in the in-between to be a magical push in connecting the two.

But then you’re just there waiting. And nothing is happening. You start to let the fear and the doubt settle. The anxiety sets in and then soon the panic.

It becomes too much.

You walk away.

But NO!

That’s NOT what you committed to yourself! Or all the other people who you encouraged to do the same…pursue their dreams.

That’s me. I’ve definitely felt a bit stuck lately.

And this is me being honest with you about it. We have to be. We need each other. We have to spur each other on.

If you happen to be in a similar place, I am going to share a few things that I have found to be helpful when sinking in the quick sand.

1. Help Somebody else.
For me, this is the number one thing that wakes me up, real quick. I’m not sure why, but believing in somebody else tends to be easier than me believing in myself. Giving my time and energy to another’s endeavors eventually lends to a sobering reality that if I do exactly that, there is progress. Inevitably, I will come through to realize that I have some steps to take and then get in motion, and back on track. Just creating momentum does something very powerful, psychologically.

2. Develop a structure.
I found this quote the other day as I was trolling the internet instead of writing. It kind of slapped me in the face a bit (but I needed it), “The art of writing is the art of applying the seat of the pants to the seat of the chair.”- Mary Heaton Vorse. Yeah, so that. Basically, I need to be more intentional with how I structure my time. I already know how much time I should be investing in my blogging and writing my book. But I also need to make sure it’s scheduled. We schedule plans with other people. If you’re like me, you probably put it in your calendar on your iPhone so you don’t forget (I forget everything. seriously. I’m the worst.). We should be doing the same for our aspirations…scheduling and making time for them. And hold ourselves to it. Even ask others to hold us to it. Like with Ariel, we agreed we would both have made some progress by Wednesday. I plan to hold that commitment. But I will need a structure to make it happen.

3. Do something else.
This may seem counter-productive. But it’s not uncommon to not see past a certain point because we have limited visibility or perspective on something. Often, we are even too close to our problems and then just live in this bubble where we can’t seem to break through. I tend to get a lot of inspiration when I just get out of my house. I’ll lace up my shoes and go for a run. No headphones or music. No distractions. Just my brain place and the outside. It’s incredible what can happen inside our brains when we give it an opportunity to be used. During this time is when I tend to think about things I care about and the world and how it all works together, or doesn’t. I’m seeing things and others from a different perspective, not from inside my comfy home on the internet. Step outside of your usual realm and challenge yourself to look around.

4. Summon creativity.
Elizabeth Gilbert talks about this the best, in Big Magic. She treats and honors creativity with the respect that it deserves. She gives it a space, welcoming it. I know that sounds kind of juju-y, but why not? If I call one of my family members…any of them, and offer a seat at a table with some free lunch, they will show up. Because my family LOVES food. They especially love free food. So why wouldn’t creativity feel welcomed to show up to participate in the thing it loves to do. Create. But here’s the deal. Since creativity in its nature, is creative, don’t expect it to look or feel a certain way. It likes to surprise us.

5. Put away your technology.
Wow. Yes. I said it. And as somebody who has been in a career in the Tech industry for almost a decade, this is DEFINITELY necessary. Sure, use it as a tool. I’m typing on my computer right now. But guess what, my phone, it’s in another room. Where I can’t look at the screen constantly and check likes, comments or posts. I LOVE the internet, but it is probably my single largest distraction. All sounds are off. I am in full-screen mode so no dings or pop-ups take me away from my purpose. But if I can avoid it altogether, I try to. I just know I can’t trust myself. I need to keep my brain on the topic at hand, not on the fact that T-Swift and Kanye are feuding again. I’m sure it will still be there later when I re-connect with the world again.

Sometimes we need to remind ourselves that there is a bigger purpose for us. We chose to pursue certain things for a reason. Keep that reason handy. You’ll need to remind yourself of it every once and a while. And then, when you need more than that, recap the 5 suggestions above and then get back in it. It will be worth it in the end, I am certain of it (and that wasting my precious minutes reading about the T-Swift & Kanye feud weren’t).

Ok, time for me to start with #1, myself.

What do you do to overcome distraction and get back on track? Feel free to share in the comments below.

Built on Failure.

Do you ever have those moments where you just stop and think, “How did I get here?”

It could be when you are in a great season or when you are in a bad season. I’ve experienced both.

In any case, the answer to that question is truly just due to a serious of decisions and actions that you put behind them.

For me, it tends to adding up to a whole lot of mistakes landing me to exactly where I am now.

Let me be clear, I am happy, but still hungry. I know there is still more and so I continue to dream.

Continuing to dream is imperative, in both seasons of failure and in season of success. Some might argue that it’s more difficult to dream in the midst of failure. But I disagree. When you are in a negative space dreaming of something better is easy. Because almost anything seems better than where you are now. Doing is an entirely different story.

But what about when you have been successful. You’re sitting in a beautiful home, with a loving family, making a decent income and are content with your life. Is there a need to continue to dream?

Is it worth the additional effort to invest into something a little bit more? To be daring when it’s not necessary?

Everything you may have accomplished in this life is due to all of your failed attempts and what you learned from them. Even down to playing some things safe.

When I was 20 years old, I was crazy. I hated money, because I sucked at managing it and just spent whatever I had on pursuing whatever was my current endeavor. I can’t even begin to tell you the amount of debt I had to pay off for all of my music equipment. It took me getting into my 30’s when I finally decided no more living in debt. Not the way to go. I learned from my failure with money. Then made a decision that I didn’t have to live that way. If other people can do better with it, why was I incapable of doing the same? The truth is, I am capable. I just had to actually decide and then act.

Now, I play it much safer with money. However, playing it safe should not be what we fall into. Comfort is not where we should always reside. I didn’t learn safety by always being safe. I learned it by making a lot of crazy and stupid decisions. Kind of like what hot really means after touching the hot stove for the first time.

So why stay here? In this place of comfort? Why allow yourself to be unworthy of dreaming of something more. Because flying in an airplane is risky, should I refuse to explore the world?

If you stop dreaming or stop exploring, what else will you learn?

Fail today. Fail tomorrow. Fail 30 years from now.

It’s not about the failure, its about how you will recover.

And guess what, you control that outcome.

Edison had thousands of theories and iterations of the light bulb before he finally settled on it. And after each failure, he made an attempt to recover. Until it was so.

Success is in your recovery. Your foundation should be failure. Each crack, each scar; a reminder you how far you’ve come.

Dream.

Do.

Fail.

Recover.

It will be beautiful. It will always be worth it.

Do it when you feel inspired, but also, do it when you don’t.

I know often you might hear me saying, “Take action,” “Just do it,” or even, “Let’s change the world! You only have one life!”

But there are definitely times where I am NOT inspired to take action. Like yesterday, I spent more than half of my day off playing Black Ops III. And it was fun. And sometimes, that is ok. But, I can’t spend half of my day EVERY day playing Black Ops, as much as I would want to.

We are not always going to be inspired and motivated to wake up and change the world. My friend, Amanda, has a joke that she imagines me waking up like some Disney character, ready to greet the world with love and ready to take on everything.

But that’s definitely not real life. Today, I snoozed 3 times. Had a coughing fit (because I’m pretty sure I have a cold coming on), sent my dogs outside to go potty, rescued a cat from hiding under the bed, started making my coffee and then searched all over my house in my underwear for my computer charger (which I still haven’t found, so I’m currently borrowing one at the moment).

Truly, there is always something. Obstacles to keep us from moving forward. Sometimes we feel like Clint Eastwood, we threaten and attack those obstacles, “Go ahead, make my day.” But most of the time, it will just feel like exactly what it is, another hurdle. Like, waking up at 8AM, even though I don’t work until 12PM and I am exhausted because 4th of July celebrations yesterday (‘Merica!).

This is real life. Obstacle after obstacle. Choosing to overcome or to not. I could have stayed in bed. But when I want to stay in bed most days, and if I always did what I want, nothing productive would ever get done.

So here I am. In spite of my grogginess and potential onset of bronchitis, I am investing my time into the thing that I believe in most. Because I believe it deserves it, even when I don’t feel like it.

Take action, even when you don’t feel like it.

What is something you struggle to find inspiration in doing? Do you have a remedy to find inspiration? How do you motivate yourself to remain committed to a cause? Share in the comments below.

3 ways to win trust from others.

Growing up, did your Mother ever tell you to keep your opinions to yourself? Except, she was one of the first people to share her opinions with you? You know she meant well. It felt pretty natural. Like a “Be careful around that one..” kind of heads up, because, well, she cares about you.

We tend to think that we are doing people a favor by giving them this “heads up” and it’s how we justify it to ourselves; that it’s ok to talk trash about this other human. In Leadership, it’s almost even more justifiable because we have to be able to “objectively assess our talent.” But it’s weird and sometimes feels gross.

I remember one of my first talent meetings I attended years ago. Walking out and feeling like I just gossiped and talked trash about a whole lot of people. Even though we still said a lot of great things about people, it still felt icky and dirty discussing the flaws of others. I felt like I needed to take a shower and then go hug a bunch of people.

Years later, these conversations felt normal and one is deemed “brave” when they can sit down and face to face tell somebody else exactly what’s wrong with them, whether they want to hear it or not. I don’t know if it’s brave. Sometimes it feels judgmental and harsh, often like we’ve forgotten the human below the surface. There’s a fine balance there and relational work that should be invested beforehand for these conversations to go well.

trust

So what happens when we make our assessment of somebody and they are not up to our “standards?”

Do we leave it at that? Deciding that perhaps that person’s ethics or character doesn’t align with our own so we choose to be careful with how we associate with them? Still choosing to love or care for them beyond their flaws? Or do we make a hard decision, share it with everybody that we know, so they think the same and steer clear? Destroying any and all potential for that person discovering a better way or improvement?

I’ve uncovered, over time, that these seemingly friendly “warnings” of people and a particular behavior only amplifies our awareness for that precise thing and that ends up being ALL that we look for. To the point where it becomes how we even describe somebody, hence the term “Negative Nancy” or “Debbie Downer.” We are watching and waiting to prove the theory correct and then leap to call them out on it when it occurs. Ignoring the good things they may be doing that we are consciously or subconsciously choosing NOT to see.

So what do we do? We can’t just make people stop sharing their opinions or “friendly warnings” of others completely. It’s going to happen.

Formulate your own opinions of others.

However, we can change how we respond. We can make a choice to formulate our own opinions of others through our own experiences and interactions with people. It’s amazing how infrequently people come to you to “vent” or share their negative opinions about others when they see that you have decided to have your own brain and don’t allow another human bias to change your perception of a person. People tend to respect you more as well. They trust you too. You become safe. They will be more open to hear your thoughts on themselves and how to improve because they see your good intentions. I can’t emphasize enough what a long way this goes.

Keep your opinions to yourself.

But there’s a second part. Yes, formulate your own opinions of others (not accepting the opinions of others as your own, but rather living your own experiences and then deciding) and then (this is really important), keep them to yourself. This will allow others to also formulate their own opinions. You aren’t forcing yours onto somebody else.
This is more important than we realize.

Recently, I started working with somebody new. They are a partner with me in my particular area of business. I have known this person in the past but have not worked with them in a while. It would have been easy for me to tell them, “Let’s get you up to speed and tell you about our team; specifically, who is awesome and who is terrible..” That way our team could go on being led the same way I have led it for the past however long. But we have to think bigger picture than that. We have to care for our people and their development more than that. We have to be open to others learning from people other than ourselves. So, when my new partner came on board, we sat down and had a chat. I told them the big picture things that our team is working on and then said, “I am not going to share my personal opinions about team members. I want you to be able to discover that on your own. Also, you could be the key to help certain under-performers improve. They can establish a new relationship with you, trust you and you be the person that they need to help get them out of their funk.” I didn’t want this person to form individual bias prior to even interacting with some of these people. My new colleague could bring to light new things that I haven’t been able to see because I may be stuck just looking for the bad. I told them that they would discover the under-performers quickly enough. And they did. This person is a respected member of our team because they believe in our team and have formulated their own thoughts of people based on their own experiences.

Years ago, I probably wouldn’t have handled it this way. I would have probably sat down with my new partner and unloaded. Hoping that they saw things my way and then lead the team my way. That is unhealthy. It’s selfish and destructive. It removes opportunity for improvement; or what I like to think of as “surprise.”

surprise

Let people surprise you.

That’s the last part. Formulate your own opinions of others, keep them to yourself and let people surprise you.

When we have worked with people or lived or interacted with specific people over a long period of time, we tend to expect certain behaviors. We learn the way they operate, their habits and tendencies, and then just associate them with a part of their persona. For example, my Aunt was just sharing with me the other day how her and her husband have been married for 28 years and he still leaves his underwear on the floor. They just never make it to the dirty close hamper for some reason. So, she stopped expecting it. It just became a behavior that was consistent with who he is and how he chooses to live.

Now if she came home, and discovered the underwear INSIDE the hamper, it would probably go one of two ways: 1. She wouldn’t even notice, because she is just used to them being outside the hamper and that is what she has trained her eye to see. (Perhaps they are not outside of the hamper yet because he just hasn’t changed today, she may reason.) 2. It would surprise the hell out of her because she knows its outside of his character and had to be intentional about this one thing.

The point is, not how often are we changing our dirty chonies, but are we giving people an opportunity to surprise us and if they do, will we notice?

If we don’t notice that is worse (in my opinions) than listening to a bunch of gossip about them. To say that you know somebody so well, to expect a particular behavior and then not notice that they were intentional about doing something outside of their character is not only bad leadership, its just not being a very observant and compassionate human. Even if it’s small change or incremental. Progress is progress. We need to give people recognition for it.

A few months ago, I had a conversation with one of my team members about their performance. At the end of the convo, there was a quick quip from them, “So 2 weeks of improvement is not enough…” meaning, I didn’t even recognize their improvement in performance that they had already made. They were right. I hadn’t even looked. I didn’t give them the positive recognition they deserved for their progress. I definitely hadn’t given them an opportunity to surprise me. I looked only for the expected behavior. I apologized to that person. They were asked to do something. They did it. I didn’t even notice.

How often do we do this? Let’s challenge ourselves in what we expect from others. Let’s believe in them. Let’s expect the best. And when somebody does something outside of character, let’s be surprised and give them positive recognition. Because we probably all leave our dirty chonies outside of the hamper every once and a while too.

Do you have a story about opinions of others that went wrong? How about being on the other end, where people had negative opinions of you? How were you able to overcome? Feel free to share in the comments below.