Better decisions ~ Better outcomes


I’ve been fascinated by the concept ever since I read about the Kaizen movement in the mid-80s.

It encapsulates the well-known saying,” A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”

The core underpinning concept emphasizes continuous improvement through small, incremental changes.

It’s been five plus decades of doing life, raising a family, building a business, being a husband, father, brother, friend and neighbour.

Working at “doing it better”  has always been a a part of my process.

Admittedly, I haven’t always nailed it.

The business world strives for improvement in terms of ” lean ” and “agile” business practices.

It’s equally applicable in manufacturing to enhance efficiency and quality.

The concept also applies to anyone seeking personal growth in various aspects of life.

Some examples would be personal goals for saving money, getting fit, or losing weight.

By adopting this mindset, we learn how minor adjustments in our daily habits and attitudes can lead to significant change.

Here Are Five Subtle Shifts I’ve Used In My Own Life

Find Ways To Add Value

“Small acts, when multiplied by millions of people, can transform the world,” Howard Zinn

Leadership is all about looking for small yet meaningful ways to contribute.

These could be simple gestures of support during tough times or creative solutions to minor workplace issues.

They must be done responsibly and within your capacity to deliver.

Each effort deepens relationships, enhances perspective, and strengthens leadership abilities.

Focusing on adding value, even in small ways, creates a ripple effect.

It leads to substantial positive changes in your organization and personal life.

Committing To Being Fully Present

Distractions are everywhere. Focusing and being fully present is a rare and valuable skill.

Cal Newport, author of ‘Deep Work,’ emphasizes the power of concentrated attention.

This commitment involves actively minimizing distractions to enhance effectiveness in both professional settings and personal interactions.

For example, at crucial meetings, I make it a point to turn off device notifications to engage more deeply with the discussion.

This simple practice contributes to more thoughtful contributions, decisions, and outcomes.

Similarly, dedicated time for family, friends or even personal projects can convey, “Hey, I’m here for you !”

Practicing presence means being physically, mentally, and emotionally invested.

This is an essential key for effective leadership and personal fulfillment.

Maintaining Focus on Ultimate Goals

“Begin with the end in mind,” – Stephen Covey.

This principle is central to Kaizen, emphasizing the importance of clarity in your goals and objectives.

My hobby foray into film-making and videography sharpened my storytelling skills.

Every good movie you’ve ever watched has a central plot, a good script that drives it toward a conclusion, – at least it should.

Each scene has been crafted in advance with storyboards, shot lists and well-acted scripts that effectively tell the story.

Even Shakespeare knew that it was not enough just to set goals; every good writer/producer must create a system to review and adjust goals regularly.

This might involve setting aside time each week to reflect on where you’re at in your story and make necessary adjustments.

Keeping your long-term objectives in clear view ensures that your daily actions align with your ultimate aims.

Continuous goal mindfulness and realignment keep you on track toward significant results in your career and personal life.

P.S. That’s what “My Three Words” is all about.

Actively Seeking Constructive Feedback

 “We all need people who will give us feedback. That’s how we improve,” -Bill Gates.

This highlights the importance of seeking out and valuing feedback.

Bill’s openness to others’ perspectives was a cornerstone of continuous improvement and relevant to his leadership.

Holding an open and welcoming posture for feedback from colleagues, mentors, or even friends and family can provide valuable insights into your strengths and areas for improvement.

Good feedback comes in various forms, such as performance reviews, casual conversations, or structured mentoring sessions.

By actively seeking and reflecting on this feedback, you can identify areas for minor adjustments that can lead to significant improvements in your leadership style and personal life.

I know this was true for me.

Cultivating Self-Discipline in Small Ways

Admiral William H. McRaven had a distinguished 37-year career in the U.S. Navy. That was followed by a 3-year stint as Chancellor of The University of Texas.

His advice: “If you want to change the world, start by making your bed.”

For him, this simple daily habit set the tone for a day of achievement and order, essential for tackling more significant challenges in life and work.

Similarly, implementing small, disciplined actions like regular exercise, mindful spending, or dedicated learning time each day can accumulate substantial personal and professional growth over time.

These small, consistent acts of discipline lay the foundation for more significant achievements and resilience, demonstrating the power of Kaizen in everyday life.

My challenge this month?

Explore the principles of Kaizen and how small changes can lead to significant results for you.

 I invite you to reflect on your own experiences.

What small steps have you taken in your leadership journey or personal life that led to substantial changes?

Please D.M. me your stories and comments.

Let’s inspire each other through our continuous journeys of improvement.

Until next time.

Bottom line up front: My Three Words  (Drumroll Please)

INSPIRE. LEARN. NETWORK

Like many things we humans fuss over, the concept of a New Year can be a wee bit scary.

“I didn’t do enough. I should have done more. I failed.”

I hear this quite often. It’s amazing how much angst we can shovel onto our souls at this time of year.

Mind you, January 1 is mainly similar to January 2 or 3. Days. Just days.

Some of you are “fast start” folks who tackle the New Year experience with gusto and zeal.

New systems. New processes. New habits. Get 50 things done this week, probably by Thursday.

Me? I prefer a more measured approach.

So, for the last decade or so, I’ve been intentional about figuring out three broad themes that are personally applicable in the year to come.

Then I distill those themes down to one word for each theme.

 It’s a re-assessment of my calling in the context of my life and my work.

 If you’re still getting familiar with this exercise, business writer and consultant Chris Brogan started it in 2006.

A lot of other folks are doing this. Just plug a quick search for #my3words and see what others are doing.

It may sound simple, but it can be challenging. Two isn’t enough, and four’s too many, so three words are about right.

Year by year, I’ve checked back and assessed progress against my words. Last year, my words were Build, Reconnect, and Breakthrough.

And without me striving for any particular outcomes, all of this happened.

It’s downright uncanny how this type of broad visioning works – and it does.

There’s nothing magic or weird here. Instead, it’s a way to incorporate a small success system by bringing consistent intent, focus, and clarity to my decisions and actions in the coming year.

A recent article in Bain and Co. caught my attention. It reinforced an idea I’ve been observing for some time.

Simply put, it’s this:

 

We live and work in a new era—where traditional leadership models are missing the critical element that this era requires: inspiration.

 

 INSPIRE : (From Merriam Webster)

This moving little word may be traced back to the Latin inspirare (“to breathe or blow into”), which itself is from the word spirare, meaning “to breathe.”

The definition of inspiration is the process of breathing life into new ideas. The very origin carries the sense that you can’t control or contain inspiration, like wind or air.

It evokes images from Genesis 2, where the Creator God breathes life into a lifeless form of man, shaped from the dust of the ground, and the idea of humankind becomes a reality.

Cool huh!

Inspiration connects to more creative concepts, like motivation, ambition, and artistry.

When comparing motivation versus inspiration, think of them as an effect and a cause: motivation happens after you feel inspired and want to put your idea into action.

However, inspiration, like happiness, can be a learned skill supported by a personal system. There’s no natural one-size-fits-all-all system here.

The personal systems for inspiration that I cultivate and maintain may appear quite ordinary, even boring, to some.

However, if wisdom is proven right by its results, then bam! I rest my case.

Activities that support inspiration include proper sleep, rest, exercise, time in nature, meditation, and learning new things.

Keeping an Idea Journal helps!

Then there are people who inspire me. Not just any people. A network of family, friends, and colleagues who are genuine, positive. and have my best interest at heart. (Like my grandkids)

People who uplift, encourage, and sometimes call me on my BS.

I call them my “spark people”.

You know who you are – so thank you.

LEARN

Somehow, inspiration and learning are siblings in my brain. I’ve never really gotten away from the “lifetime learner” posture.

Stepping away from a full-time CEO role to Executive Coaching and Advisory roles has been a perpetual learning curve.

Now, I’m helping to establish a charity foundation to address the pervasive housing crisis. Guess what! More learning.

My propensity to learn and grow in ways that help others is one of the things that keeps inspiring me.

 

NETWORK

This is both a noun and a verb that, in my case, involves people. It’s a carry forward of my last year’s word -Reconnect.

This is partly to restore the healthy people networks devastated by the Covid era.

80 % of whatever we do to sustain ourselves and grow happens because of our people network.

This coming year, I plan to reach out, grow, and expand my people network in new ways.

 

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 center, pointing me toward my goals and grounding me in the interim work needed to achieve them.

 

REVIEW THEM DAILY

The more you review your 3 words, the better. They help me decide stuff. For example, “Should I say yes to this project?” or “Well, how does this align with my intent?”

NOW IT’S YOUR TURN

Some of you have been asking about my words for months now.

 (Right back at Atcha!)

1. Please shoot me a note about your words or share it wherever you like.

2. Use the hashtag #my3words to find other people’s shared experiences, and if you’re a last-minute person, don’t worry.

3. Start when you’re ready.

I look forward to seeing what this next year has in store for us all!

Until next time.

 Master farmer (and brother-in- law) David with a small part of his herd of naturally grown beef cattle.
Photo Courtesy of ohnemusbeef.com 

 

Leading Like a Farmer

I have an abiding relationship with the land. I grew up in farm country. Both my parents came from active farming families.

We lived in a small rural town where life revolved around the seasons, the soil, the crops, and the herds.

My dad started out in farming, but successive years of  prairie drought forced our family to move to the concrete jungle.

There, dad finished degree work and pursued a career as an educator.

A recent visit to my sister and brother-in-law’s cattle farm brought back a flood of childhood memories.

The old adage is true.

You can take the boy out of the country, but you can’t take the country out of the boy.- Somebody

Having that rich rural upbringing in my background helped shape my pragmatic, optimistic worldview.

(a little bit country, a little bit rock n roll)

Farming is a firm belief in the future. A belief that things will happen according to plan. That growth and change will come in due time.

As I followed my sometimes perplexing early adult career path, the profound common sense lessons from my rural upbringing stood me in good stead.

It helped bring things into sharper focus.

It wouldn’t hurt to think more like a farmer to be a better leader.

Yup, farmer. Just think about it for a bit.

They are faithful stewards of the land, working hard to produce everything that feeds us daily.

Here are five ways to approach your Leadership as a farmer would:

  1. Prepare the field (Master the context)

Farmers would never try to grow crops or herds in a barren place.

They do whatever is necessary to prepare nutrient-rich soil for growth.

Similarly, you can’t grow your career—or the careers of those you lead—if you’re in an uninspiring, stagnant or hostile work environment.

As leaders, we need to consciously create a safe place for others to flourish. We’ll foster trust and collaboration by modelling vulnerability, leading with empathy, actively listening, and encouraging open communication. To nourish our own careers, we need to adopt a growth mindset, allowing our curiosity to fuel lifelong learning.

  1. Begin with the end in mind. (Have a vision, strategy and plan)

A farmer would only plant a crop or start a herd with a plan that includes a clear understanding of their desired outcomes.

In growing your career, having clarity on what you want is critical to achieving it. Maintaining focus will help you do the things necessary to expand your experience and skill set.

When you can articulate your goals, you’ll have an easier time aligning your attention and intention to plant the seeds for continued growth.

The same approach works for helping your team grow, too. When you ask what each member wants to achieve, you’ll better understand their goals and create a plan to accomplish them.

  1. Having started – Let things grow

Micromanaging doesn’t work with plants, herds, or people. If you hover or over-control, you’ll impede progress.

Work teams respond in much the same way. Once you’ve helped plant the seeds and ideas for growth, certainly monitor, but avoid getting into the minutiae of every task. Empower your people to make their own decisions—even if they differ from those you might make.

 As a leader who steps back yet offers support and resources, you send a message of trust—and allows others to thrive.

Just as a farmer must be patient and allow their crops to mature before they can be harvested, a leader must be patient and allow their team members to develop and grow before expecting them to produce results. Remember that leadership growth happens steadily over time.

  1. Removing weeds.

Farmers know they must keep their fields free from weeds that threaten to invade and choke out their valuable crops or harm the animals.

When managing a team, one toxic employee can quickly destroy the morale of the most productive team. If you’re a solopreneur, unreliable partners or even over-demanding, taxing clients can take their toll if left unchecked.

Sometimes, the “weeds” you face aren’t people but outdated processes, services, or activities that drain your precious resources and prevent you from focusing on what truly matters.

When you say no to the people and things that don’t support your goals, you make room for those that do. It’s up to you to proactively assess the fields of your career and take action, pulling the pesky weeds early and quickly.

  1. Work real hard and learn from previous harvests.

Farmers know that forecasts can sometimes be wrong and that some form of setback will strike sooner or later. But when it does, they don’t give up. They use this knowledge to be better prepared.

“Opportunity is missed by most people because it’s dressed in overalls and looks like work!” Thomas Edison

Every leader makes mistakes, but the ones who view their failures as learning opportunities thrive. The next time something doesn’t go as planned, set aside time to review where you went astray, what you learned, and what you can do differently in the future.

By thinking like a farmer, you’ll sow the seeds of Leadership and reap a bountiful career harvest.

Until next time- Lorne

Credit Acknowledgement: Adapted from a Forbes Article with a similar theme by Amy Blaschka 

 

You got to know when to hold ’em,


Know when to fold ’em,


Know when to walk away,


And know when to run.

 

Kenny Rogers – The Gambler

 

Quitting, all too often, is cast in a negative light.

How many times have you heard something like:

“Winners never quit” and “quitters never win.”

Like many motivational aphorisms, there’s an element of truth in there somewhere, but it’s not the whole picture.

Most leaders I look up to as “winners” know how to read people, situations, and themselves so well that they know precisely when, why, and how to quit.

It’s what keeps them consistently in the win column!

Leaders who cast themselves as beacons of perpetual positivity and persistence sometimes get trapped by that mindset and find themselves unable to course-correct.

My favourite example of unbridled optomism and not knowing when to quit is the Black Knight  fight scene in Monty Python’s Holy Grail

The overconfident Black Knight denies King Arthur crossing his bridge. A sword battle erupts. He loses all of his limbs in the process

“Tis but a scratch!” – Black Knight

“A scratch? your arm’s off!” – King Arthur.



“No, it isn’t!” – Black Knight,.

“Well, what’s that then?” – King Arthur

 (Black Knight pauses and looks down at his severed arm on the ground)

 

”I’ve had worse.”  
 


As the battle ensues, the Black Knight is reduced to a trash-talking torso 
hollering

“I’m invincible” and “Come back here. I’ll bite your legs off!”  

 

It’s a humorous (slightly gross) illustration of being overly optimistic, persistent, and not knowing when to quit.

 

While my worldview is generally upbeat, I try to ensure it’s tempered with pragmatism and a healthy serving of self-awareness.

Here are five scenarios that may serve as prime indicators that It’s time to quit.

Your Task becomes All-Consuming and Takes Over Your Entire Life

If there is any task or goal that has become so all-consuming it takes over all other areas of your life, then you might consider moving on from it. If you are devoting massive amounts of your energy, and the rest of your life is suffering, is it really worth continuing?

You Feel Stuck or Stagnant

Do you feel like you are stuck in a rut?

It’s been said that “a rut is just a shallow grave with the ends kicked out!”

Maybe your career or specific goals seem to have stagnated.

If so, this could be a cue that it is time to quit. Life moves fast, and if all you are doing is standing still, you could get left behind. Sometimes quitting a job or goal that keeps you stuck allows you to move forward in the long run.

There is an Obviously Better Opportunity

Some people are naturally very loyal. Whether it is a job, your own business, or just a goal you have been working on, it can be hard to give it up.

However, if there is a better opportunity around the corner, why not take it?

You aren’t giving up if you quit your job to take on a better role. You are levelling up.

You Feel Perpetually Restless and Unhappy

Do you find that you are miserable more than you are not?

Are feelings of regret, anger, or disappointment taking up a great deal of real estate in your brain?

This could be a signal that there is likely something in your life you need to quit.

It could be an unfulfilling goal, career, or relationship.

Once you figure out what it is, you will likely feel instantly better once you give it up.

Figure out what it is. Then, once you do, don’t be afraid to quit it and move on to something else.

Your Goals No Longer Align With Your Values

Things change, people change, and you change!

It may be time if your goals, career, or business don’t align with your values.

You can fool yourself for a little while (even a long while), but your actions not matching your values will catch up with you.

Your results will suffer, and you will never feel fulfilled. So if your goals don’t match your values, consider dropping them and setting a new version that aligns with who you are.

Choosing to quit and what to let go of looks different to each of us. It may mean letting go of stuff and clutter, a horrible job situation, or a previously valued relationship. Each case has different levels of difficulty, but you and your well-being will enjoy the benefits of healthy quitting:

You regain emotional energy.

Finally, arriving at a decision and deciding on a new course of action stops the energy suck. Trust me on this. I know.

You regain your identity.

Corrosive situations may leave you questioning who you are. Quitting and course-correcting allow you to rediscover who you are and dream about what you’d like to do with your future.

You open the opportunity for change.

Keeping yourself tied to the same situation because of limiting beliefs or fear prevents you from jumping on opportunities to get that new career or start a business. Let go of the fear and embrace the possibilities.

You rediscover your focus and joy.

Quitting and letting go clears a path to rediscovering what matters most to you and what brings you joy.

Moving forward to reach your goals often requires some quitting and letting go.

It’s vital to your success, so why not start today?

 

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

 

 

 

 


Degrees of Truth, Grasping For Reality,

and Why That Concept Still Matters

I love this fight scene from Monty Python & the Holy Grail.

The fictional Black Knight valiantly denies King Arthur from crossing his bridge and loses all of his limbs in the process.

“Tis but a scratch!” – Black Knight

“A scratch? your arm’s off!” – King Arthur.

“No, it isn’t!” – Black Knight,

Well, what’s that then?” – King Arthur

(Black Knight looks down at his detached arm and pauses)

“I’ve had worse.”  

As the battle ensues, the Black Knight is reduced to a trash-talking torso

hollering “I’m invincible” and “Come back here. I’ll bite your legs off!”  

After all, he’s a Black Knight, and everyone knows that Black Knights are totally invincible.

“Life imitates Art far more than Art imitates Life”.- Oscar Wilde

Take away: Coming to terms with the truth of the situation can sometimes be a painful experience.

It’s said that John Cleese wrote this scene because he hated the saying, “You never really lose until you give up.”

The deadly assault on the Capitol by a bizarre coalition of self-proclaimed

neo-Nazis, white supremacists, camouflaged preppers, Christians, and Viking

wannabe’s, has got to be one of the great head-scratchers of our time.

If you’re anything like me. me you’re wondering, “why are things so haywire?” and “where’s the truth in this situation?”

Everyone wants to believe they’re thinking independently, understanding how things work and why things are happening.

But everyone has only seen the world through the narrow lens of their own experiences and their social network.

There’s a strong force in our human nature that propels us toward interpreting reality in a self-serving and unrealistic way.

There’s an equally strong force that pulls us to conformity.

Demagogues have always understood and exploited this human flaw.

Throw in a compelling storyline that may or may not be true, and suddenly

typically smart people are embracing and defending ideas that range from

goofy to disastrous.

It shows up all over the place.

The same story, again and again.

The best leaders can grasp the reality of situations and take appropriate action for themselves and others. The best leaders also resist self-serving behaviors and mindless conformity.

I really admire that.

To make sure I’m still on track, I revisited my assumptions and framework on the various truth types and how we’re governed by them.

OVERRIDING TRUTHS

“Gravity’s not just a good idea; it’s the law.” Seth Godin

This is one of those absolute, axiomatic truths that just “is.” It doesn’t matter whether you believe it or not.

Gravity is the truth that keeps you from spinning off into outer space. You can ignore it, but there’ll be a price to pay.

You can pretend it isn’t true. That also comes at a steep cost.

The same goes for the seasons of the year, death, and taxes.

Takeaway: The same way gravity keeps you grounded, there’s always an

absolute truth that overrides everything else in any given situation.

WORLDVIEW TRUTHS

(Also referred to as personal or experiential truth)  

We all have a worldview, whether we know it or not. It’s the set of our beliefs and assumptions that serve as our personal operating system.

Most kinds of truth we experience are about the past and the present. These are the easiest to see and confirm, but there are also truths about cause and effect. I.e., stove element- hot! Ice cream – yummy! Etc.

“The only source of knowledge is experience.” Albert Einstein

We all experience things at our own pace and time. Personal experience truth is the truth that’s mostly determined by you.

How you react and respond can only be seen and reported by you.
It’s how most of us interact with truth most of the time.

As we live out a truth based on experience either through direct or indirect participation

“Good decisions come from experience, and experience comes from bad decisions.Rita Mae Brown

Take-away: Your worldview is essential, but it can also change as you learn,

change and grow through experience.

MISCELLANEOUS TRUTHS  

Beyond the types mentioned above, there are many perspectives on veracity that fall along a continuum of sorts.

In the strictest sense, truth is provable, objective, and not “opinion.”

“Likely truths.In the sciences, these are called theories. A theory isn’t always right. Instead, it invites skepticism, opinion, debate, and rigorous testing.

A “half-truth” is a deceptive statement that includes some element of truth. The information might be partly accurate but intended to evade, misdirect or lay blame.

“Truthiness,” coined by Stephen Colbert, is a belief or assertion that a particular

statement is true based on the intuition or perceptions of some individual or

individuals, without regard to evidence, logic, intellectual examination, or

facts.

Truthiness can range from ignorant assertions of falsehoods to deliberate

duplicity or propaganda intended to sway opinions.

Outright BS – (Not the Bachelor of Science ) Well, that’s self-explanatory.

Take away – The more you know yourself and align yourself with facts and reality, the better off you are.

In Summary 

Centuries ago, a famous religious leader declared “the truth shall set you free!”. 

This phrase’s original context and intent refer to spiritual freedom from the bondage of our mortal sins.

“The truth shall set you free” has become part of our common English lexicon.

It is one of those axiomatic truths that has a liberating effect

wherever applied.

This works in business, in relationships, and yes, even in politics.

Yours Truly,

Until next time,

Lorne

 

COMPLICATED VERSUS COMPLEX
You Don’t Need To Be A Brainiac To Spot the Difference

I think we can agree that the world became a more complex place in 2020. The grand irony is that I chose “simplify” as one of my guiding themes for this year. Little did I know that enforced simplicity was headed my way. Lots of things became more simple (i.e. staycations) while other things accelerated towards complicated.
Rapidly evolving circumstances pushed even more things beyond complicated, into the complexity zone.

Most of us think of degrees of complication. The first is simple, the second is complicated and the third is complex. Many leaders I know mistakenly believe complexity is just a higher order of complicatedness as if there is some sort of continuum.  Umm….  Not so!

I’m an ardent fan of straight-forward simple. Simple never really equates with “easy”,  but once achieved, simple is elegant and functional.

Decision-makers commonly mistake complex systems for simply complicated ones and look for solutions without realizing that ‘learning to dance’ with a complex system is definitely different from ‘solving’ the problems arising from it. — Roberto Poli

I’m borrowing heavily from the work of European scholar Roberto Poli, `who writes about Anticipatory  Futures and Systems Theories.

Most complicated situations can be compartmentalized, reverse engineered, and put back together in a workable fashion.

Complexity on the other hand is a whole different animal.

And This Is Important Why? 
Leaders and decision-makers who try to tackle complexity the same way as they deal with complications, soon find themselves mired in futility. It’s much like trying to brush your hair with a toothbrush or nail Jell-O to the wall. It takes an entirely different approach to mindset, skillset, and toolset.

As a coach and consultant, I often get asked to provide a “once and for all” solution to intractable problems that are mislabeled as complicated, when they really are complex.

While much of my life as an executive was in the context of complex issues, I can’t say I’ve always been super successful at it. After a while, the characteristics that differentiate merely complicated scenarios from complex ones become evident.

Being able to identify these quite often is the key determining factor in good outcomes.

Here are five differentiators to help sort things out.   

1. Identifying Root Causes 

Complicated: Has a fairly linear cause-and-effect trajectory where you can pinpoint the individual cause and observe its effects.
Complex: Characterized by patterns of multiple intertwining and overlapping causes. Root causes may be disguised as other things. There’s no real straight line cause-to-effect relationship.
Takeaway: Much time can be squandered trying to analyze root causes in a complex situation. Usually, complex situations in organizations evolve from a host of combined factors over extended time and aren’t quickly or easily reversed.

2. Knowing if there’s a Timeline 

Complicated: Has a finite timeline where you can reasonably predict outcomes. Every output of the system has a commensurate input.
Complex: There isn’t an easily predictable timeline. Outputs in the organizational eco-system aren’t necessarily proportional or linearly related to inputs. Small changes in one part of the system can cause sudden and unexpected outputs in other parts of the system.
Takeaway: Large and costly initiatives can have zero impact, while one misspeak in an email can lead to a chain reaction of revolt. Small “safe-to-fail” experiments are more informative and useful than large projects designed to be fail-safe.

3. Can it be reduced to it’s simplest parts?

Complicated: We can break things down and isolate structural components to better comprehend how things work between the various parts.
Complex: We can’t presume to fully comprehend all the moving parts. Because complexity is a shifting target, conventional approaches and familiar change tools have little or no effect.
Takeaway:  Complex systems are emergent, they are greater than the sum of their parts … we need to interact or “dance” with the system in order to influence it. We also need to understand that our mere presence is already changing things.

4. Is it Controllable?

Complicated: You have a bit of a framework or structure to contain and control problems while they get diagnosed and solved.
Complex:  Complex problems emerge from multiple random moving parts in an unstructured way, so it’s difficult to distinguish the combination of real problems. Even the smallest well-intentioned interventions may result in disproportionate and unintended consequences.
Takeaways: Fluid complexity is prone to bring surprises and uncertainty. Knee jerk interventions can bring unexpected changes and even new or worse challenges. Leaders need to shift the “problem/solution” thinking to “evolving patterns” thinking.

5. Are There Constraints? (Boundaries or Guardrails)

Complicated: Complicated can usually be defined by some kind of sandbox or context.
Complex: Complex systems are more open, to the extent that it is often difficult to determine where the system ends and another start. Complex systems are can also be nested part of larger trends, ideology, or movement. It can become hard to separate the system from its context.
Takeaway: Context matters, ignore it at your peril. As soon as organizations become too internally focused, the naval-gazing makes them vulnerable. Making sure that adequate and diverse feedback mechanisms are in place is a key strategic imperative.

Wrapping Up 

When dealing with complexity, keep expectations realistic. Getting to “maybe” might just be as good as it gets.
It will always take longer than you thought, and the end results may not be what you expected. From experience, it’ll always be worth the journey.
Complexity does demand a new breed of leadership. Today’s successful leader is relational vs. organizational, permission-giving vs.command & control. He or she works in overlapping circles vs. being linear and hierarchical.
Me – I’m still working on it. 

Until next time,
Stay safe,
Stay strong,
Lorne

References: A Note on the Difference Between Complicated and Complex Social Systems, Roberto Poli, 2013