Astoundingly Simple. Boringly Consistent. Still Magic, Nonetheless! (Part 11)

Winding down one year and starting the next is always an ideal time for reflection and thinking forward.

As a leader, having a robust goal-setting mechanism and consistent follow-through is critical to your overall personal and professional success.


My last article examined the rationale for having written goals.

 This month’s article will provide tools and tips to implement the goal-setting process.

There are many sound systems out there, but I’ll stick to the three I’m most familiar with simply because I know they work.

SMART(ER) SYSTEM

The first is the SMART system. It’s an acronym for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound. It first emerged in the early ’80s when the CEO of GE, Jack Welch, used it to enhance employee performance and time management while boosting job satisfaction.

In a nutshell, this technique advises creating a specific goal rather than using vague language (for example, swimming three times a week versus simply exercising more). You also want to be sure that your goal is achievable and relevant to your situation. So, make the goal big enough to challenge yourself but not so big that it will likely be out of reach.

In more recent times there’s been the been the addition of an E and an R representing Evaluate and Re- Adjust.

OKR SYSTEM

Another system being used successfully by organizations I’m familiar with is the OKR system.

OKR stands for Objectives and Key results. Introduced by investor and stakeholder John Doerr, Google began using OKRs in 1999 when they had just 40 employees. With more than 132,000 employees today, Google still uses the OKR approach to setting goals.

But why does such an innovative company as Google still use the same old approach from more than 20 years ago?

Why didn’t they switch their strategy to setting goals with something more innovative and fancy-sounding?

The answer is simple. When you foster a culture that cares about reaching ambitious goals and gives them a simple approach to achieving them, such as OKRs, they lead to success.

Adding needless complexity to such a smooth and easy-to-follow process may have killed Google’s success.

The beauty of this system is that Objectives define what you’re trying to accomplish, and Key Results measure if you’re succeeding. Objectives are best when they’re qualitative. Key Results are best when they’re quantitative. Moreover, Objectives and key results are applicable at the personal, team,  and corporate levels to synthesize and unify efforts toward a common goal.

Placing a reasonable time frame on all of the above makes it easy to see if you’re making progress.

THREE WORD SYSTEM

A third goal-setting system that is a personal favourite is the three-word system.

Simple, but never easy!

It’s a challenge each year to come up with three words representing the year’s strategic directions. But, of course, two isn’t enough, and four’s too many, so three is about right.

There’s nothing weird here. It’s just a way to incorporate a small success habit by bringing consistent intent, focus, and clarity to my decisions and actions in the year to come

That’s why I’ve been taking the time to thoughtfully select three words that will serve as keys to my year. If you’re unfamiliar with this exercise, business writer and consultant Chris Brogan started this in 2006.

A lot of other folks are doing this. Just check out #my3words.

My Process

I spend time reflecting on the past year, what’s worked or not, And what was unclear or perhaps missing. But, more importantly, I understand how I want my next year to unfold.

Sometimes the words come out of the goals I have set. Other times I will jot down words that capture my attention and accurately reflect my intention.

I usually discuss my goals and three words with my wife and close friends. That’s always helpful.

It shaped my ideas into something more tangible. It also reaffirmed that we’re in this together, and no matter what goals I have or the words I choose, they are meaningless without mutual support.

My Approach

I interact with my three words each day. For example, I’ll jot them at the top of my planner page or workout calendar. Doing this keeps them front and centre, pointing me toward my goals and grounding me in the interim work needed to achieve them.

Other Systems

Beyond the ones I mentioned, there are several other goal-setting systems and processes worth exploring, including HARD (Heartfelt, Animated, Required, and Difficult), WOOP (Wish, Obstacle Outcome, Plan) and others that may or may not have a cool acronym.

The point here is to have a system that works for you and your organization.

Six Tips For Getting Started

Reflect on where you’ve been.

As you consider where you want to go next, think about where you’ve been. How have you grown? What have you learned? On the other hand, do you need to let go of any behaviours or relationships to move forward? Keep in mind that we all make mistakes in our lives, but these “mistakes” enable you to grow. They aren’t mistakes as much as platforms for advanced learning.

Where do you want to go next?

Now that you’ve reflected a bit on how you got to where you are, it’s time to think about what comes next. And “next” can mean different things. It may mean simply the next area of your life you want to grow. Or it may be time-based, as in by “next month” or “next year.” So take a moment to add a timeline to your written goal. When do you plan to start implementing it, and for how long?

Write it down. Be specific.

Writing down your goals helps to make them more “real” and allows you to commit to them. Plus, it’s easier to keep track of your goals this way. It’s also important to be specific. For example, saying you want to eat better doesn’t give you a way to measure your results. But, if you say you want to start eating a plant-based diet and then specify steps to take, such as doing “meatless Mondays” each week for a month, you have made your goal specific and measurable. Keep a journal or perhaps a whiteboard at your desk. Simply seeing your goals in writing each day can help to keep you on track.

Divide your goals into categories.

Thinking in terms of categories can help you to examine your life in 360 degrees. First, you can decide on the categories you want to use. For example, consider goals for your life’s physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual aspects. Or, you could be more specific and use categories like health, family, relationships, personal interests and hobbies, spiritual, work, and finance. Next, think about the areas you want to address in your life, and then write one to two goals in each category.

Personally, each year, I reevaluate the areas of my life and hone in on my overall goals— personal, professional, and financial. Then, I make a specific goal for each to be accomplished by the end of that year. Then, every year, I try to advance my goals further, which results in growth over time.

Push yourself a little beyond your comfort zone.

When you set a goal, think big. By placing your goals a little further than your current ability, you will set yourself up to stretch. This may cause a feeling of anxiety. Instead, channel that energy to help propel you forward. Pushing yourself beyond your comfort zone will provide enough challenge to keep you motivated while also being realistic. And if you don’t quite hit your goal, that’s OK. Chances are you still will have grown more than you would have if your goal were less challenging. Surprise yourself!

Get Started and Set Milestones

Once you have all of your goals and tasks and their start and end dates mapped out, you can get started on working toward them. Follow each step you plan for yourself and try your best to stay on track.

The more you do in one direction, the more momentum you gain.

On days when you feel bombarded with work or personal events, push and motivate yourself to follow through with hitting your goals.

It can be helpful to picture how fulfilled and accomplished you’ll feel in the long run once you’ve successfully hit all the goals you’ve set for yourself.

Until next time.

 The Magic of Written Goals

Roald Amundsen was a superhero of his day. He was a scientist, adventurer, and explorer.

In 1911 he led the group that first reached the South Pole.

As a researcher, he made observations and took scientific measurements.

He was one of the “big thinkers” of his era.

He was also an inveterate “journal-er” and note-taker of daily happenings and activities, large and small.

Consistency and the 20-MILE MARCH

 In his book “Great By Choice,” business writer Jim Collins tells the Amundsen/South Pole story this way: In 1911, two explorers, Roald Amundsen and Robert F. Scott would, lead separate teams on an expedition race to the South Pole.

The final push was on foot. There and back was roughly 1400 miles, representing a round trip from New York to Chicago in some of the world’s harshest climate conditions.

While both teams had the same goal. They would travel the same distance in near-impossible conditions. However, each had entirely different strategies for their journey.

Scott’s strategy was to walk as far as possible on good weather days and then rest up on bad days to conserve energy.

Conversely, Amundsen and his team kept up a strict regimen of hiking only 20 miles a day, no matter what. Of course, on good days, his team could do more than 20 miles; however, Amundsen was adamant that they pace themselves at 20 miles to conserve energy.

Which team won?

 It was Amundsen’s, simply because they took consistent action toward a measurable goal.

Scott’s team arrived nearly a month later.

Numerous books and movies have been dedicated to his compelling story.

Here’s a grainy 10 minute YouTube Clip.

There’s a simple elegance in mundanity, especially when it moves you in the direction you want.

That same leadership principle holds true for you and me with our “here and now” goals.

As a leader, having a robust goal-setting mechanism and consistent follow-through is critical to your success and that of your organization.

Jotting things down in real time has become second nature for me. I rarely think about it. I just instinctively do it. Sometimes it’s as simple as a one-word goal for that day or that year.

See My Three Words

It’s resulted in a growing archive of notebooks and daily planners that I often refer back to. Particularly when it comes to tracking progress toward my personal goals.

Why is this important?

It boils down to three immediate benefits.

For starters, it fast-tracks my thinking toward clarity. It helps me distill facts from those annoying emotions. As a “dyed in the wool” INFJ, I seem to have an overabundance of those.

Secondly, writing things down creates a measure of accountability. I’m a progress and productivity nerd, so having goals and interim reference points to measure progress are vitally important to me.

Thirdly, it provides a platform for meaningful interaction when others become aware of my goals.

They have a chance to metabolize information, respond, and maybe even join me in an adventure.

 

Unwritten goals are like unplanted seeds. Not much happens until you plant and care for them.

 

The benefits of written goals are numerous. Here are but a few

Goals Show You Where To Go

Okay, so there are some things you want to get done in life. But to what extent? Setting a goal shows you where and how to get there. While you may be headed in the right direction, you could wander off the path without a plan and get lost. You could also end up somewhere other than where you wanted to go.

Goals Measure Your Progress

You may be already pursuing something you are passionate about in life. How far have you come? Do you know? If you don’t, you don’t have a goal guiding you.

Besides just showing you where to go, goals also help you see how far you have come, giving you a good measure of what you still have to do.

Goals Keep You Motivated

Do you struggle with staying motivated? This is why you need goals. As you see your progress toward your objective, this will help keep you motivated, even when the going gets tough.

The physical act of writing down a goal has been shown in one Harvard study to increase the likelihood of you achieving it. Simply writing it down can be a huge motivator to help you change your everyday life to make your goal a reality.

Goals Inform Your Purpose

Knowing where you should go or the career you should pursue can take time and effort. Goals help us make choices. A seemingly insignificant and simple goal might even help you make better choices.

In Conclusion 

There are umpteen reasons why written goals are essential. But overall, to achieve success, you need to start by making a written list of your aspirational goals. Then start crafting a plan about how to get started.

This will help show you where to go, keep you on track, and keep you motivated as you go.

Before you know it, you’ll be well on your way to achievement.

Until next time,

 

 

 

 

Recently we watched the people of the United Kingdom and others from around the world mourn the loss of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. Both the funeral service and the procession that followed were tremendously moving.

As a very young boy, I saw the Queen (then Princess Elizabeth) pass by while I was perched on my father’s shoulders. It was her very first trip to our country. The palpable joy of the enthusiastic crowd that day left an indelible impression.

A short time later, I watched her Coronation speech on a very grainy early 50s TV broadcast.

“I have in sincerity pledged myself to your service, as so many of you are pledged to mine. Throughout all my life and with all my heart, I shall strive to be worthy of your trust.    Queen Elizabeth II June 02, 1953— London, England

  Each year that followed, she would address the world with her annual Christmas message. She would talk candidly about hard things going on in the world and sometimes in her own family.

Yet, her message was always one of wisdom, courage and gratitude.

She always built trust and inspired hope!

Even in her departure, there was a measure of grace and elegance.

Today she is being remembered as a world leader who consistently served the United Kingdom and the British Commonwealth with grace and dignity. The crowds lined the streets, and millions more watched online to pay homage and respect. It says a great deal about her legacy and how she will be remembered.

We can only imagine the volume of change and turmoil she witnessed in her seven decades of leadership!

It might be my understatement of all time, but we live in uncertain times.

We’re witnessing one of the most rapidly evolving business and social environments ever seen.

There’s never really has been a time when people could be sure how things would play out. But now, with new powerful forces in motion, it’s dicier than ever.

What’s different now is that the volume and the pace of change have increased dramatically.

Well huh!! There it is.

In the midst of it all, people are looking to leaders for help and hope.

And that takes grace.

Much like authenticity, art, or love, -grace is hard to define.

But we sure recognize it when we see it.

Rocker/philosopher Bono (U2) says it this way:

Grace, she takes the blame

She covers the shame

Removes the stain

It could be her name

Grace, it’s the name for a girl

It’s also a thought that changed the world

 

In a recent book, The Five Graces of Life and Leadership, author Gary Burnison delivers a meaningful and thought-provoking exploration of leadership.

He emphasizes the five kinds of grace that leaders absolutely must have to lead their teams in today’s rapidly evolving world. He also happens to be the CEO of the iconic consulting firm Korn Ferry.

That fact alone grabbed my attention.

In today’s world, leadership is all about establishing community and connectivity.

People instinctively long to be part of something bigger than themselves. But, to have the grace to create this kind of leadership, we need greater self-awareness and a genuine connection to others.

To Burnison, G.R.A.C.E. is an acronym for what great leaders convey.

He calls us to be “radically human leaders with greater self-awareness and genuine connection to others.”

I love that “radically human” part.

The best leaders make their teams feel accepted, safe and secure that they’re headed in the right direction.

It includes insightful discussions on each of the five indispensable graces, including:

Gratitude–the mindset that elevates our spirits, boosts morale and lifts our hearts. It recognizes we’re not in this on our own. We need the help and contribution of others to succeed.

Resilience—that quality that allows us to weather the ups and downs and helps us achieve beyond our wildest dreams.

Aspiration–the knowledge that we can make tomorrow better than today. It elevates everyone’s vision around us of what’s possible.

Courage–the ability to understand and move beyond our fears. This requires us to ask hard questions of ourselves and sometimes others.

 Empathy–the understanding needed to connect with others from their perspectives and meet them where they’re at.

Like the late Queen, we all have a limited shelf life with an expiration date. It was only three days before her passing that she was swearing Great Britain’s new Prime Minister.

Like her, we also don’t have any control over when our time is up.

It begs the question …….. – How do you measure a life lived in grace?

Can you say you’ve lived a life of grace?

For me, it’s never been easy. I can’t pretend that I’ve been successful at it in any consistent way.

(just ask my wife)

Have you given yourself grace?

Giving yourself permission to forgive your mistakes, lapses in judgment, or hurtful behaviour is probably the most important of the Graces.

Extending that same grace of forgiveness to others is equally important!

Let’s face it, no one is perfect.

We all have to come to a point where we recognize our fragility and mortality and that we cannot always control outcomes.

Leadership and Grace

“A leader’s higher calling is to surround the organization with purpose.” – Gary Burnison

All of these qualities overlap and intertwine. For example, it’s difficult to be resilient without gratitude and courage.

Approaching each day with gratitude fosters a mindset of humility. You know you can’t achieve success on your own. Humility opens us to greater awareness and the ability to empathize with others.

Then add in aspirations. – That’s truly powerful!

As the leader, it’s your job to see the vision, be the vision and articulate what the vision looks like for everyone in the organization.

In Conclusion

 Here’s your mission, should you choose to accept it.

(This is a powerful exercise that I encourage my coaching clients to do)

Find some quiet time and space and write a letter to your future self.

In your letter, I want you to consider these questions:

What do you want to be known for?

 What accomplishments do you want to have achieved?

How do you want others to remember you? 

Be as wordy and as eloquent as you like. Then, when you’re done writing your first draft, set it aside.

Give it some marinade time and come back to it.

When it’s done, keep it close by and refer to it often.

This powerful tool helps you become the change that you want to see.

Until next time.

The Mentor Advantage

What’s the difference between coaching and mentoring? 

It’s a question I often get asked.

This time the question came from a young CEO inquiring about one of my interactive learning sessions.

Much like harvest gold or avocado-coloured appliances, formal mentoring is something one doesn’t see much anymore. However, that doesn’t mean it’s not valid or necessary.

For centuries the idea of mentoring was considered a cultural norm. It was the time-tested way to learn one’s craft and get ahead. But, first, one would go into a line of work under an ‘apprenticeship’ arrangement where they would work under someone with more experience to learn a trade. This was simply a very formal arrangement that holds the seeds of what modern mentorship looks like today.

A quick search reveals that the major business publications like Forbes, McKinsey, and HBR are now touting the superior benefits of finding the right mentor for leaders who want to grow.

If you cannot see where you are going, ask someone who has been there before. – J Loren Norris

My short answer to the question is that today there are some similarities and overlaps between formal coaching and mentoring approaches.

However, there are also some distinct differences.

Mentoring can be personal and long-term, helping the mentee reach their overall potential as a person and as a professional.

On the other hand, coaching is more likely to be more short-term and aims to improve a specific skill set of the person being coached.

Beyond that, the differences lie in the expertise and skill level needed, overall focus, questions to be answered, and the desired outcomes.

A mentor is someone who sees more talent and ability in you than you see in yourself, and helps bring it out of you. – Bob Proctor 

As an Executive Advisor and Leadership Coach, I incorporate the best elements of coaching and mentoring into my working relationships.

One reason I regularly write about leadership topics is to foster long-term mentoring relationships to share with colleagues and clients.

 In today’s world, we put much value in being a self-starter, getting our own lives in order without help from anyone else.

There are some aspects of life where we feel we might be looked down on if we ask for help.

We have this limiting belief that we should be able to do it all on our own, that asking for help is a sign of weakness. But in fact, just the opposite is true.

The reality is that recognizing you need help usually indicates an advanced level of honesty and intelligence. 

But let’s face it. When you first embark on a new journey, whether professionally or personally, you feel much better when you have someone you can approach when you need help.

  • Someone you can talk to about your goals.
  • Someone who not only listens but can ask questions from earned experience when you get stuck
  • Someone with insight and intellect who is there for the sole purpose of helping you to get ahead.

  Finding a good mentor can help you:

  • Boost your leadership and communication skills.
  • Deepen the knowledge you already have.
  • See things in a new way.
  • Become more aware of the needs of others.
  • Feel more self-assured and confident

 You see, mentors are incredible individuals who have a sincere desire to give back to the world.

They want nothing more than to see you succeed and have the tools to help you do it.

Depending on the situation, it’s essential to recognize that mentoring can be a paid or unpaid arrangement.

The truth is that mentorship is necessary if you want to get ahead.

Mentorship could be considered the original life- hack. LE

 It holds all the shortcuts and gets you where you want to go faster than you could in any other way.

So we all need mentors, whether we realize it or not.

In retrospect, I’ve benefitted enormously from the mentors who have spoken into my life.

 I try to recognize and honour them whenever I can.

On the flip side, I’ve also found incredible value in being a mentor. I love sharing my experiences and observations with people eagerly looking to improve themselves or achieve new goals.

That is the beauty of mentoring.

It’s a relationship where we can both give and receive for mutual benefit and advancement in our lives.

Until next time,

Lorne

For more resources on this topic, drop me a line, and I’ll send you my guide:

(Free for the asking)

SEARCHING FOR GUIDANCE

20 Things To Look For When Seeking The Perfect Mentor

 

Rolling With Resistance

As a leader, I bet you already know a thing or two about resistance.

It usually involves people balking at change.

It can be a new strategy, a new board policy, changing market conditions or even a new person on your team.

Circumstances unexpectedly change, and plans become come unravelled.

Everything slows down or, worse yet, comes to a screeching halt.

In physics, this is known as “Rolling Friction.”

In rough terrain, a mountain bike with fat knobby tires encounters much more rolling resistance than a racing bike with skinny tires on a paved surface.

My truck gets much worse fuel mileage when I’m on a steep incline hauling a heavy load. But, conversely, it sips fuel and goes like stink on a straight-away with no load.

Why? Because there is less rolling friction. This frees the truck to move with greater ease.

The next time a big rig goes flying by you on the highway, this is something to think about.

The dynamics of rolling friction can be just as easily applied in business leadership and life.

“You can’t make an omelette without cracking a few eggs.”

I’m talking about change.

As a leader, you can’t change things without upsetting a few people.

After all, a core leadership function is bringing about change.

Resistance is only natural. It’s human nature to resist change.

Bottom line up front! There is no way to make people like change.

You can only make them feel less threatened by it.

From experience, I find it best to just assume resistance exists. It may not manifest immediately.

There can be “issue” resistance that might require people to change a pattern or learn something new.

There’s “emotional’ resistance.

It’s entirely predictable and typical to come up against a wide range of intense emotions around a proposed change.

It often isn’t logical.

There’s “political” resistance.

Somebody for sure will feel that their authority is being threatened or questioned. Someone might think that personal or professional freedom is being lost.

Rolling With Resistance – What Doesn’t Work

Ramping up persuasions usually backfires and increases resistance.

Stressing the urgency of making a change or highlighting benefits can be equally ineffective.

Arguing or pushing back – forget it.

Rolling With Resistance – What Does Work

Override the strong urge to “set things right.”

Listen intently to understand any barriers or fears the other party is expressing.

Empathize with the concern and explore in a non-judgemental way.

Revisit the agreed-upon goals that brought you together in the first place.

Present the possibility that goals and attitudes don’t mesh with agreed-upon goals.

Identify the gap between “where we are now” and “where we want to be.”

People will only commit to a change if there’s a degree of readiness on their part.

Sometimes it just takes a bit of patience for others to pick up what you’re laying down.

Don’t be afraid to kindly say your piece, and then let silence do the heavy lifting.

Does it always work? No guarantees.

It will get you a bit down the road together in a way that’s better informed.

Until next time.

 

Letting Go to Gain Control

One of my scariest moments happened early in my construction career. I was high atop a wooden beam structure. The task was simple. Drill a hole down through a large horizontal beam to secure it to the supporting post below.

It required a powerful two-handle drill with a sizeable auger bit.

Having double-checked the location, I stabilized my stance on the beam and hit the “on” button. Slowly the heavy drill began its descent.

Then it happened. About halfway through, the bit hit a knot. So instead of turning into the wood, the powerful drill began twirling me around. So yup, there I was, twenty-five feet above the ground, desperately hanging on with legs wildly dangling while doing a not so graceful aerial twirl.

Talk about a pivotal moment!

Moments of high uncertainty often carry a flash of insight. I immediately knew I had to hit the “off” button to halt the process.

It meant letting go of the handle with one hand while groping for the “stop” button with the other. Of course, the letting go had to be timed perfectly so my feet would land back on the beam.

The margin for error was zero-to-none.

Had it not been so dangerous, it might have made a viral “massive fail” video hit on YouTube.

I made it ok. That’s one reason I’m here writing you today. Although, admittedly, it took a while for the adrenaline shakes to subside.

My leadership lesson from that moment is that letting go is hard in times of high uncertainty. Even if it means letting go with one hand to secure a safer future with the other.

 

Control is never achieved when sought after directly. It’s the surprise outcome of letting go.                                                                                
                                –  James Arthur Ray

There’s an old story of how tribal hunters capture monkeys in the wild.

All it requires is a banana strategically placed in a hollowed-out hole of a tree.

Once the monkey happens upon the tempting treat, they reach their hand into the hole to grab the banana.

However, when it tries to pull the banana out, it can’t. The hand grasping the banana is now too large for the hole.

So despite trying different angles and methods, it becomes impossible to pull out without letting go of the banana.

The monkey is so fixated on the banana that it doesn’t perceive the more significant threat.

Even as the trappers draw near, the monkey will refuse to let go of the banana.

Ultimately it leads to their capture.

Fixation on a short-term reward leads to an irreversible long-term consequence.

What do monkeys refuse to let go of? Bananas.

What do some leaders refuse to let go of? Control.

As a leader in times of uncertainty, you’re not alone in feeling anxious about jeopardizing what you already have.

Losing control within your business or your team is a legitimate concern.

It seems counterintuitive, but the more you give, the more you gain.

On the flip side, if you do not let go, share leadership, and delegate at some point, chances are you’ll lose control of the situation regardless.

Got any “stop” buttons you need to hit?

Any bananas you need to release?

Until next time.

 

 

 

 

 

There’s zero doubt that mentors and advisors have played a significant role in my life.

Good advice and good mentorship are really synonymous. At times when I was facing decisions, weighing options, or having some sort of crisis, there’d be someone with timely and applicable words of advice that helped get me through. This has been true of career, health, personal finances, spirituality, and relationships. Finding the right kind of mentor with the right kind of advice isn’t always easy.

It’s not always just about the big picture, either.

Recently, in a high country off-road adventure, the red light on my trusty ATV began flashing and telling me the drive train was about to fail. Multiple scary scenarios raced through my brain. We were deep in grizzly bear territory and about 30 miles from the nearest civilization.

Photo by Author

The prospect of abandoning my ride on a mountainside in the heart of the grizzly bear country was definitely upping my heart rate.

However, my biking partner Trevor, wasn’t too fazed.

Photo by Author

“You had the quad trip checked, right?” Check.

“You had the drive belt replaced, right?” Check.

“The machine seems to be running fine, so the light is probably a factory thing.

Let’s just keep going and see what happens. Worst case scenario- we’ll be that much closer to home.”

Trevor called it.

We got back to civilization OK, and a short session on the University of YouTube explained everything.

Turns out the warning light was pre-programmed at the factory to come on at a certain number of hours to ensure getting back to the dealership. A motorcycle gearhead on YouTube named Oaky knew my machine’s exact make, model, and year and exactly why the light was coming on.

Like any good mentor, Trevor challenged my limiting belief and provided common sense encouragement to keep going. Oaky had the precise knowledge and expertise to help me fix the problem and reset the light

OK.

Now, if only everything else in life was that simple!

In Today’s World, We Value Self-sufficiency

After all, shouldn’t we be able to get our own lives in order without help from anyone else?

In fact, there are some aspects of life where we feel like we might be looked down on if we ask for help. Aren’t there?

Unfortunately, some cultural values and practices have dwindled through the years. For example, for centuries, the idea of formal mentoring was considered a cultural norm. Thus, one would go into a line of work involving something called an “apprenticeship” where they would work under someone with more experience to learn a skill or trade. For some modern-day disciplines, this is still the case.

The true secret of giving advice is, after you have honestly given it, to be perfectly indifferent whether it is taken or not and never persist in trying to set people right. Hannah Whitall Smith

Fast forward to today’s information age. Naturally, there’s an “I’ll just Google that” mindset that kicks in.

The truth of the matter is: mentorship is necessary if you want to get ahead. This was simply a very formal arrangement that holds the seeds of what modern mentorship is today.

It holds all the shortcuts and gets you where you want to go faster than you could in any other way. So we need mentors, whether we realize it or not.

Consider some of these benefits of mentorship:

Mentors Help Us See Things Differently

One of my favorite writers from another era is C.S. Lewis. In his essay “Meditation in a Toolshed,” he describes the dramatic difference between looking at a beam of light and then looking along the same shaft of light.

“I was standing today in the dark toolshed. The sun was shining outside, and through the crack at the top of the door, there came a sunbeam. From where I stood, that beam of light, with the specks of dust floating in it, was the most striking thing in the place. Everything else was almost pitch-black. I was seeing the beam, not seeing things by it.

Then I moved so that the beam fell on my eyes. Instantly the whole previous picture vanished. I saw no toolshed and (above all) no beam. Instead, I saw, framed in the irregular cranny at the top of the door, green leaves moving on the branches of a tree outside and beyond that, 90 odd million miles away, the sun. Looking along the beam and looking at the beam are very different experiences.” C.S Lewis 

Perspective makes all the difference.

A good mentor helps us see things differently.

Mentors Challenge Us Toward A Better Version Of Ourself

 

He that gives good advice builds with one hand; He that gives good counsel and example, builds with both; Francis Bacon

 

In the 2000 movie The Legend Of Bagger Vance, a disillusioned burned-out war veteran, Ranulph Junuh (Matt Damon), reluctantly agrees to enter a local golf tournament. He used to be a pretty good golfer. However, the psychological scars of war left him struggling with PTSD. As a result, he finds the game and much of his life futile.

Enter a mysterious caddy, Bagger Vance (Will Smith), who coaches him back to the secret of his authentic golf swing. It turns out also to be the secret to mastering any challenge and finding meaning in life.

The cinematic turning point is a beautifully captured scene called “The Woods.”

Bagger helps Ranulph look “along the beam” and see what’s possible and just play the game.

Mentorship works much in the same way. You have a goal. The mentor has the expertise and experience to lead you right to what you need to achieve this goal. They’ll even point you to the resources and give you some advice on achieving this goal.

The best mentors are the ones who give their mentees the skills to succeed. This means taking the time to teach them what to do, pointing them toward resources that will be useful, and even sometimes guiding them to the questions they should be asking.

Timely advice is lovely, like golden apples in a silver basket. King Solomon

To paraphrase this ancient proverb from the good king, great advice can actually serve as a highly valuable centrepiece that we can build a strategy around.

Every situation is relatively unique when it comes to mentoring. The best mentors are attuned to the needs of the moment. While a checklist might provide guidance in a general way, finely tuned instincts are needed to know what is called for.

For example, there are times when empathy is the answer and other times when it’s tough love and vice versa.

Today, you can find thousands of hours of content and advice on virtually any topic on Youtube alone.

It’s not the volume of information that’s valuable. Is it from a reliable source?  Can you boil it down into a simple system you can quickly implement?

Remember, sincerity, dedication, and a genuine desire to help that counts most for both parties. The rest is just icing on the cake.

Until next time,

 

 

 

                                                      Photo by Author 

Recent times have given us the opportunity to pause, reflect, perhaps change direction, or clarify what matters.

Pandemic restrictions have fostered an imposed simplicity of life and lifestyle that many were never previously accustomed to.

One outcome has been a resurgence of Minimalism. This countercultural movement has been around for centuries.

Minimalism has influenced art, music, design, architecture, science, business systems, and personal lifestyles.

I love it when an ancient concept comes roaring back with new relevance.

Wholesale changes in our lifestyle include spending less, saving more, working more simply from home, and rediscovering the great outdoors.

Me?  I loved it and lived it long before Marie Kondo started cleaning up, Elon Musk decided to sell all his houses, or some guys made a Netflix movie about it.

The recent past has allowed us some head-space to evaluate everything. I mean everything from how we “do life” and how we do “do business.”

If you hold vague negative feelings about things like consumerism, clutter, debt, and all forms of distraction, you’re well on the way toward a minimalist lifestyle.

Don’t freak out. It doesn’t mean you have to toss it all and adopt a monastic existence.

The basic tenets are to combat the chaotic excesses of modern-day living.

History abounds with minimalists who adopted a simple living lifestyle in support of a greater life mission.

JESUS OF NAZARETH   Rabbi | Prophet | Healer

“What shall it profit a man if he gains the whole world but loses his soul.”

CONFUCIUS  Philosopher | Chinese Mystic

“Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated.”

 

LEONARDO DA VINCI – Inventor | Painter | Sculptor

“Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.”

More recent examples include:

 HENRY DAVID THOREAU – Writer | Philosopher

“Our life is frittered away by detail… Simplify, simplify, simplify! … Simplicity of life and elevation of purpose.”

LEO TOLSTOY – Author | Essayist | Educational Reformer

“There is no greatness where there is not simplicity.”

ALBERT EINSTEIN – Physicist | Nuclear Scientist | Scholar

“Three Rules of Work: Out of clutter find simplicity; From discord find harmony; In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity.”

More importantly, Minimalism has become a viable antidote to what I’ll call the info-demic. Never before have we been carpet-bombed with so much information. So often, the data is conflicting and confusing.

Like guard rails on a mountain road, or radar in the fog, there’s a measure of wisdom in functional Simplicity.

There’s really no manual or rulebook for adopting Minimalism.

Here’s my take on how it works in real life.

Desires and Expectations; Deliberately expecting less from those around me and the world, in general, allows me to appreciate what I have. That doesn’t mean I stop striving for better. I can only do the best I can, and others can only give what they’ve got. Often that leaves gaps of unmet expectations. Approaching those gaps with a measure of grace and understanding smooths the bumps. Sometimes you find pockets of joy along the way.

Possessions; This means being intentional about owning only what you really need. I’ve started ditching stuff that no longer serves a purpose and stopped buying things for the sake of ownership.  This frees up resources for me to be generous with the people and the causes that I love.

Relationships;  Minimalism in this realm is brutal to explain but here goes.

Relationships have different degrees of value. I think of them as relationship “buckets.”

Some are purely transactional– like the guy who cuts my hair. We have some friendly chit-chat about family and life, but that’s about it.

Then there’s the relational bucket. Here’s where I relate and stay in touch with many folks, but it’s more at the “acquaintance” level.

My standard Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram Disclaimer:

Hi Ray! Great to hear from you, and I hope you’re doing well. Thanks for your Invitation to connect, but it was probably an algorithm suggestion – right?  Fair warning – I’m a minimalist FaceBook contributor. I do enjoy staying in touch with what’s going on for others (minus cute cats and what so and so had for breakfast)  So – just so you know – my FB “friend” bar is pretty low. You don’t have to loan me money, bail me out of jail, or visit when I’m in “The Home” or anything.

This usually gets a good response and opens the door for further conversations.

Thirdly, there’s the transformational bucket. These are my “spark” people who inspire me with their intellect, wisdom, care, love, and humor. Time together is always an energizing, uplifting, and nourishing experience. Hopefully, I do the same for them.

In the end, it’s about discerning which relationships add genuine value and making enough time for those who mean the most to you.

Thought Life;  Thought life minimalism involves confidence to not over-think (worry), underthink (neglect), or race ahead to check off as many boxes as possible. It’s being present and engaged while keeping the bigger picture in mind. Each day is a chance to engage fully in the joys, triumphs, sorrows, fears, faults, and near misses that make up a life.  Each day is a chance to do better and make a difference for yourself and others.

A Myriad of Benefits

Go ahead. Google “Benefits of Minimalism,” and you’ll quickly get the picture.

Personally, I enjoy the less stress, more freedom aspect of Minimalism. The additional freedom allows me more time to be productive. It leaves more room for people and causes I care about. Decision making becomes much easier because either it fits my value system or it doesn’t

Wrap Up

You see, simplifying, and removing clutter, whether it’s figurative or literal, isn’t the end result – it’s merely the first step. Understanding why you’re doing this gives you the traction to keep going.

Until next time,

Lorne

 

 

Photo by Steve Harris on Unsplash

Amazing Ways We Fool Ourselves

Historically, April 1st should be the most light-hearted day of the year.

If ever we needed a splash of levity in our sea of seriousness, it’s now.

It’s a day of hoaxes, pranks, and practical jokes with people we love. The best part is nobody gets offended, at least they’re not supposed to. If the recipient responds with cursing or tears, you know things have gone too far.

It’s a chance for self-deprecating humor. It acknowledges that there’s a certain amount of folly that resides in each of us.

Back on April 1st,1976, the BBC nailed it. British astronomer Patrick Moore announced on BBC Radio 2 that at 9:47 AM, a once-in-a-lifetime astronomical event was going to occur. Listeners could experience this in their very own homes.

Due to this unique alignment of planets, the earth’s gravity would be reduced by a certain level. Whoever jumped with all their might at just the right time could possibly float in the air! People worldwide who hadn’t noticed the date were jumping up and down, hoping that they could achieve levitation. Other classics are the penguins of King George Island taking flight and the great spaghetti harvest.

Special day aside, there some amazing ways we fool ourselves year-round. Sometimes this comes with tragic consequences. It’s become more evident and rampant over this past year. That’s what I’m writing about this month.

Nobel prize-winning economist and social psychologist Daniel Kahneman states that we have two thinking systems. One thinking system is “fast” and the other, “slow.”

Fast thinking is the area where we can often fool ourselves.

We apply mental shortcuts, “hacks,” or biases when problem-solving or deciding things. It’s the realm of gut instincts, snap judgments, and hardwired systemic flaws in our thinking.

Slow thinking is a more deliberate examination of thoughts and motives.

We need both systems.

Biases are those deeply ingrained codes in our caveman software that can’t be quickly unlearned.

They have a profound impact on the following:

  • Our Perception – how we see people and perceive reality.
  • Our Attitude – how we react towards certain people.
  • Our Beliefs – how we interpret and respond to events
  • Our Behaviours – how receptive/friendly we are towards certain people.
  • Our Attention – which aspects of a person we pay most attention to.
  • Our Listening Skills – how much we actively listen to what certain people say.

It’s helpful to think of them as optical illusions. You know- things that appear to be there but really aren’t. Or that photo distortion app that makes for a very unflattering selfie.

Here are just five of the biases I’ve run into recently.

Negativity Bias (Good Plus Bad=Bad)

We want to think we’re rational, well-adjusted human beings, but our brains are naturally hardwired toward the negative.

Have you ever found yourself over-thinking a mistake you made a while ago? Are you replaying in your head a conversation that didn’t go so well?

That’s the negativity bias at play: not only do we register negative stimuli more readily, but we also tend to dwell on these events for longer.

A Queen’s University research study estimates the average person has about 6,200 thoughts per day. Other studies indicate that a high percentage (67%- 80%) are negative, and up to 95% are exactly the same repetitive thoughts as the day before.

So…if 80% of our thoughts are negative and 95% of them are repetitive, we have a serious “built-in” flawed perception problem.

Quite simply, negative events have a more significant impact on our mental state than positive ones.

Kahneman suggests an end-of-day exercise where we intentionally reflect on at least three good things that happened that day to bring positive counterbalance to our natural tendencies.

While the negativity bias may have been a helpful survival mechanism for our ancestors, today, it has a powerful—and often unconscious—impact on how we behave, think, and make decisions.

Groupthink Bias

Groupthink is a genuine phenomenon that happens when a group of well-meaning people makes dumb decisions to identify or belong to a particular group.

Another term for this is conformity bias.

In this scenario, any kind of dissent is unwelcome. Any reasoned questioning automatically makes one a social leper.

This bias is often fueled by a particular agenda—plus the fact that group members value harmony and coherence above critical thinking.

This bias causes people to simply “follow the herd” rather than thinking things through and using their own independent ethical judgment.

History is riddled with tragic examples of groupthink. The mass suicide known as the  Jonestown Massacre is just one of them. Hence the dark meme “Don’t drink the Kool-Aid.”

Confirmation Bias

Confirmation bias is the strong tendency of people to seek out information that exclusively supports views they already hold.  Evidence and information get interpreted in ways that affirm their pre-existing beliefs, expectations, and hypotheses.

Any contradicting evidence or information that may lead to a different conclusion is ignored.

A humorous illustration of this is the Texas Sharpshooter fallacy, where the cowboy unloads his pistol at the fence and then paints a bullseye around the closest cluster. He wants to believe he’s a good shot and manufactures proof to support that notion.

A close cousin to this is the Belief bias. If I believe something strongly enough, it must be true.

The question to be asked. Is this really true? Or do I just want it to be?

This thought pattern can easily lead to conclusions that are inaccurate or even unethical.

 

Diffusion of Responsibility Bias

Diffusion of responsibility occurs when a leader needs to decide but then waits for someone else to act instead. It becomes a ripple effect. The greater the number of people that are aware or involved, the more likely it is that each person will do nothing, believing someone else from the group will probably respond.

Psychologists John Darley and Bibb Latané set up a Bystander Apathy experiment where a distress call made it appear that a person nearby had suffered an injury. When subjects heard the cry, and though they were the only ones who heard it, 85% of them helped.  But if subjects thought there was another person who heard the call too, only 62% helped. And if subjects thought that four other people also listened to the cry for help, just 31% took action.

Diffusion of responsibility makes us feel less pressure to act because we believe, correctly or incorrectly, that someone else will do it. When we don’t feel responsible for a situation, we feel less guilty when we do nothing to help.

In this way, diffusion of responsibility keeps us from paying attention to doing the right thing or ignoring our own conscience.

It’s complicated, but there is hope. Here’s a TEDx explainer.

Self-Serving Bias

The self-serving bias is where we seek out information and use it in ways that advance personal self-interest. We often unconsciously make selfish decisions other people might view as questionable.

It can also take the form of a person taking credit for positive events or outcomes, but blaming outside factors for negative events.

The irony is that we can easily spot this trait in others, but we have difficulty seeing it in ourselves.

An example might be doctors who believe that they are immune from the influence of gifts they receive from pharmaceutical companies. Studies show those gifts have a significant effect on what medications doctors prescribe. One study found that 64% of doctors believed that the freebies they received from suppliers influenced other doctors. However, only 16% of doctors thought it affected their own actions.

So, the self-serving bias often blinds us to how we are prejudice in favor of ourselves. Indeed, it can cause even the most well-intentioned of us to overlook our own wrong actions completely.

To summarize, these five biases are just a small random sampling. The good news is that when we encounter them, we can switch to “think slow “ mode and ask some questions.

Here are some helpful questions the I borrowed from Annie Duke’s book THINKING IN BETS

  • Why might my belief not be true?
  • What other evidence might be out there bearing on my belief?
  • Are there similar areas I can look toward to gauge whether similar beliefs to mine are true?
  • What sources of information could I have missed or minimized on the way to reaching my belief?
  • What are the reasons someone else could have a different belief, what’s their support, and why might they be right instead of me?
  • What other perspectives are there as to why things turned out the way they did?

Hope this helps,

Until next time,

 

Lorne

 

 

 

 

Regret Has A Dark Side 

Here Are Three Ways To Overcome It In 2021

Well now. Didn’t see that coming!  Regrettable. Tragic. Heartbreaking. Painful. Difficult.
It’s like the cosmos did a once-in-a-century hit-and-run and there’s no going back to the way things were.

Whether we like it or not, we’re all in some kind of in-between space and dealing with some form of loss.

It’s been a universal public stress test and a very uncomfortable patience-builder.

I firmly believe that we have been changed in profound ways by this year, and probably will continue to be.

Our hopes rise and fall like a yo-yo in tandem with the daily tally of new infections, hospitalizations, deaths, jobless claims, government relief action and inaction, the latest news on therapeutics and vaccines, school opening and closings, and so much more.

Too soon to breathe a collective sigh of relief?

As much as I’d like for that to happen, I think we’re still in for more uncertainty at least for a while longer.

You see, I’m writing as much to myself as anyone else.

I resolved a long time ago to live life with as few regrets as possible.
How’s that going?

Pretty much OK, but I’ve got to admit, the impact of the past year has brought this area back into sharp focus.

Regret comes up a lot. It is a recurring conversation theme with many of my colleagues, clients, friends, and acquaintances.

No one seems immune. It doesn’t matter if you’re an up and coming professional or a hardworking barista, sooner or later you encounter the effects of cumulative loss.

Personal freedoms lost. Opportunities lost. Health or income losses. Time lost. Pandemic fatigue is real and I think we’re all allowed the occasional crank-out or bout of cynicism.

Even the indomitable Michelle Obama is admitting to low-grade depression due to quarantine.

The long term effects of regret (a form of grieving) are well documented. Not only is it detrimental to our mental health, but it also has physiological effects as well.

The litany of nasty side effects can include sleeplessness, heart disease, diabetes, addiction, and eating disorders.

How To Face Regrets Head On 

Practice Intentional Change Adaptation 

Innumerable changes have been foisted on us and there are numerous rationales we feed ourselves that make us resistant to change.

How many times have we needed to “pivot” in 2020? (plans changed, course reversed, gears shifted, etc.)

We all know people who haven’t been able to change with the times. Sooner or later they slide into irrelevance.

Our brains are just wired to prefer the familiar.

The good news here is that we can be intentional about metabolizing change. How we feel about it is less relevant than trying to understand why the change is needed, then make the necessary personal or professional adjustments.

Another piece of good news is the more you engage with change the easier it becomes. Keeping a clear sense of personal mission and an end goal in mind makes moving through changes easier.

Fighting the irrelevance that comes with not changing helps keep things on track in the face of discouragement, delays, and setbacks.

Have A Self-Care Routine That Works 

Well-being is a key aspect of living a truly successful, satisfying life even through challenging times. What does that actually mean?

It means tapping into a daily, weekly, and monthly rhythm that supports your health and well-being.

It should, at the bare minimum, include getting enough sleep, fresh air, recreation, and a balanced allocation of time and activity in the seven areas of optimal living (Body, Mind, Spirit, Work, Love, Play, Money)

Body – Our energy levels, diet, stamina and strength, sufficient sleep.

Mind – The ability to focus and learn new things.

Spirit- Care for that intangible life force at the core of our existence.

Work- Meaningful and financially rewarding career, business, or profession.

Love- The quality of our relationships.

Money- How we utilize finances.

Play – Our recreational options.

All of these areas are vital to our existence. If even one of these areas is short-changed, or out of whack, personal well-being gets messed up pretty quickly.

Lead With Gratitude 

This actually works if you dig in and do it.

There’s plenty of scientific data to back it up.

In his book, A Simple Act of Gratitude author John Kralik set out to write 365 thank-you notes over the course of a year.

Initially, he did it as a way to feel less hopeless during a time when he wasn’t sure his life was worth living. But with each letter he wrote and tracked, he was able to literally count his blessings.

At the same time, the act of sitting down each day with pen and paper helped to retrain his brain to focus more on the good things in life and less on the bad.

But Kralik didn’t just write letters. He also made a practice of answering simple “how-are-you?” with things he was grateful for rather than complaints.

“Gratitude gives us a break from regret and despair”

Personally, I’ve found that gratitude gets me out of my own self-absorbed head, and soon it becomes just plain fun.

It is so much more helpful than focussing on all the ways life is unjust or imperfect.

Does that mean I’m turning a blind eye to poverty, racism, social justice, climate change, and other important issues?

Nope.

Color me weird, but gratitude regularly reminds me of the important things I’m standing for, fighting for, and want to see change.

It also is a great way to sustain and build relationships. Relationships are necessary for any good fight. We can’t be in this alone. Telling people that we value them and their contributions is the very least we can do.

For me, giving thanks each day has made truly tough times more bearable. For that, I’m thankful.

Thanks also for the important work you do!

Until next time,

Lorne