The First Time I Got Fired 

One of my first summer jobs in high school was working on a concrete forming crew. It was grueling, sometimes dangerous work setting up heavy oil-soaked panels in the hot sun, but I kind of liked it. I took pride in building the forms straight, strong, and true.

Being quite young, I didn’t know much about leading people.

My boss was one of the partners and he was always in a big rush. He had a furious temper and would unleash a stream of expletives at the slightest provocation. On top of that, he had a pronounced stutter which only got worse as his emotions flared.

One time he and I were working together setting up big panels on a windy day. It was a struggle as wind gusts kept pushing over the panels.

Even back then I had a problem-solving, “make it better“ mindset.

I tactfully suggested that if we slowed down a bit and set up bracing as we went, it would prevent the blow-overs.

He declined, and we forged ahead with the setup as if going harder would solve the problem. The second time the whole wall blew over, he cut loose with the predictable torrent of non-stop cussing.

I stifled a snicker.

By the third time it blew over, the absurdity of the situation overcame me, and I started laughing. Couldn’t stop.

Beside himself with rage, he turned purple and cut loose with a tirade of unfiltered, stuttering wrath.

Only this time it was aimed at me.

His crescendo ended with him screaming “you’re f-ff-f-f- ff f-f fired! *

Confidence Can Be Taught

Since then, I’ve been on the receiving end of a few firings. In retrospect, it was always for the better.

Each time it was a learning experience that matured me, made me smarter, and grew my self-confidence.

Since those days, I’ve gained even more confidence in accurately reading situations, and working with all kinds of people, in all kinds of situations.

Let’s face it. As leaders in this mid- pandemic era, we could all use an extra shot of realistic confidence.

Gaining confidence in leadership is a learned process.

The same goes for competence.  

In fact, confidence and competence go hand in hand.  

Join me for LeaderLab, a 6-week online learning experience beginning on October 5. 

It contains straightforward and practical ideas on how to build your own confidence and competence as a leader and how to strengthen and develop your efforts going forward.

This training comes from decades of earned experience paired with lessons the wisdom of others.
This is immediately applicable to you, no matter if you lead a team of hundreds, or only yourself.

“My personal mission is to offer you the tools, programs, and strategies to enhance your leadership competence and confidence” LE

Peek at the agenda and see if it resonates. 

The Agenda

•          Working with Yourself
•          How the COVID Era has Changed Leadership
•          Leading When You’re Not In Charge
•          Leading and Managing Change
•          Making Tough Decisions
•          Working Effectively in Teams
•          Understanding & Improving Systems
•          Thinking Critically (Without being Critical)
•          How People Think/Organizational Culture
•          Effective Communication/The Feedback Loop 

Features Include

•          Six weekly sessions live group learning sessions via Zoom (recorded)
•          Email and phone support with scheduled check-ins
•          Two 30 minute 1-1 personal coaching sessions with Lorne.
(ICF Certified Leadership Coach)
•          Highly interactive co-creating approach.
•          Course materials adapted to your specific needs.
•          Weekly sessions begin Monday evenings October 5 through November 2
•          Start time 6:30 pm Pacific Time
•          Each session 60 -90  minutes in length with lots of time for Q &A
.          My results-oriented guarantee

Space is limited to10 participants and spots are beginning to fill,  so if you’re thinking about it, or have further questions let me know.   
Web Link for LeaderLab 

Until next time,
Lorne

*PS  I was invited back to work one week later, but by then I had found something else.


Hang in there with me for a bit. This is Part 1 of a 2 Part-er
I’m trying to capture the prevailing mood of what’s happening these days.
We’re navigating the vague ambiguities of just about everything, and I’ve got
to admit, I’m struggling to come up with the words.

There’s a new kind of antsy with the current “half normal” weirdness we find ourselves in. It’s distinctly different from the zombie apocalypse weirdness of the total lockdown. It’s distinctly different from the zombie apocalypse weirdness of the total lockdown.

The best descriptor is the secret phrase that got me through French in high school.
“Je ne sais pas.” ~ Simply “I dunno.”

August usually signals one of the more carefree months.
“Normal” means barbecues and beaches, a buffer time to ease off a bit, and recharge.
Later on, comes that creeping back-to-school, back-to-work, Sunday-night feeling.
 
But in August 2020?  What kind of school? What kind of work?    

What this will mean for many of us is a return to the home office (or couch) where we’ve been Zooming in varying degrees of casual since March.

 

Take a simple idea and take it seriously.”
—Charlie Munger

This pithy quote stuck with me and served as a visceral kick-starter.

The Idea: What if I start talking with fellow leaders about the toughest challenges that they are facing right now in our COVID-impacted world?  

One of my projects over June and July was to invite 40 Leadership Conversations with leaders I know.
A huge “thanks” to those of you who participated in this.

I started personally inviting leaders to a focussed 15-20minute conversation with me around”
What is the toughest leadership challenge facing emerging and existing leaders in your sector today?”

The conversations have been rich and varied.
I’m still wrapping up, collating, and compiling results.

Why 40 Conversations? 

Well, that seemed like a nice round sample number.

A bit of a stretch for me, but doable if I buckled down
(BTW, if you’re wondering “why didn’t I get a call on this?”, there’s still time.
More is better and I’d love to hear your story, so just hop on  my scheduler, pick a time, and we’ll make it happen.)

Why now?  We all have a bit more time.

Bigger Picture Why? 

I need help articulating current realities for an Executive Leadership course I’ll be offering in October.

Leadership realities are often way more fluid than can be captured in the latest business bestseller. LE 

Our Topic? What is the toughest leadership challenge facing emerging leaders in your sector today?

Here at HeyWhat’sNext? HQ,  I like to ask the hard questions, keep us on our toes, mix things up, try new things.

This month is no different.

Most leadership newsletters give you a litany of best practices.

Boring.

How many give you an opportunity for real-time feedback on leadership issues?

Here’s “40 Conversations” Part 1 Let’s get to it.

Today’s Toughest Leadership Challenge: Tackling Uncertainty 

THBigee: Dealing With Uncertainty

The one thing that was top of mind for most everyone I spoke with was the topic of “uncertainty”.  Most leaders I know are Ok leaning into a certain amount of the unknown. COVID has ratcheted this up to a whole new level.

Privately, it has everyone a bit freaked out. It casts a pall over everything.

A trusted friend, who is always a good bellwether on all things leadership says, “Yeah it’s very weird. Usually, I have a sense of plans and direction, but suddenly all my reference points have been wiped out. It’s hard to know if we’re even moving in the right direction.”

When we come up against situations that are charged with anxiety and ambiguity — a pandemic, a recession, a job loss, an unwanted family change — most of us have trouble thinking about an upside. We can easily become paralyzed by circumstances. It’s tough to see the bigger picture let alone figure a way forward. Scientists call this a status quo bias.

There’s Always Options 

The key here is not to get stuck in “paralysis by uncertainty”  It easy to be overwhelmed by the array of possible negative outcomes. Start rethinking things in the broader context.

To my way of thinking there are three distinct mental models that are clear options when thinking through the chaos of uncertainty.

  1. Victimhood
  2. Survivorship
  3. Accept and Navigate

Victim Mentality

One is that of defeatism and victim mentality. “Nobody ever tells us anything” and “They’re doing it to us again” are some of the common narratives of this mindset.  It’s surprising to me how many “progressive” organizations, actually have little open and transparent communication. So “us against them” rumors are an easy way to explain what’s going on and why.

It comes quite naturally. Most people can quickly identify what’s wrong. It’s less instinctive to focus on what’s right and build upon that. It takes much more courage to correct a problem than to point and complain about the problem while waiting for somebody else to fix it. For some, it brings on personal existential crises.

Left unattended, cynics and naysayers can easily hijack our emotional well-being. You might need to point out that raising complaints without possible solutions can be unproductive and even harmful. If team members or co-workers insist on remaining a victim, I’ve gone so far as to encourage, or even help them to find another work setting. Unfortunately, with this mindset, things aren’t that different in a new job,

Survivor Mentality

The second mindset is that of a survivor. These are the “let’s just get by” folks. Imagine a body of water where the surface is the status quo.  Survivor mentality says “let’s just wait and see what happens” while furiously treading water. Sooner or later survivor mentality succumbs to victimhood or eventually “gets it” that change is necessary and either adapts or looks elsewhere.

Navigator Mentality

The third mindset is that of a navigator. These folks look at an upcoming change and say “Hmm, this is really happening. How can I make this work for me and others on my team?”

Leaders who foster a climate of openness and welcome genuine dialogue about what’s happening earn a whole lot more respect and trust. It’s been my experience that with the right leadership coaching approach, staff colleagues and even family members can unlearn victim and survivor mindsets and actually become navigators.

Challenging the fear-based narratives by weighing objective evidence against imaginary outcomes needs to be on-going. Keep desirable alternatives or what you would prefer to happen front and center. Harness the power of imagery —you have a clear picture of what outcome you want from this situation. Ask yourself, what would a successful outcome look like? What would you be doing with the key players involved? How would you be feeling? What mindset have you adapted to rise above the difficulties and problems?

If anything, over-communicate and be very “present” during times of high uncertainty. Make the vision of the future, the picture, a very real presence in your communication. If they see a vision that you have, they will find new ways there. If they don’t see your vision, they will only find ways to do the tasks.

My life has been full of terrible misfortunes, most of which never happened.
French philosopher Michel de Montaigne

During times of necessary, non-productive downtime, we often get stuck imagining extreme either/or outcomes.

Creative leaders who are adept at managing uncertainty think realistically in terms of probabilities.
I.E. It’s possible that a meteor can land directly on your house, BUT it’s much more probable that it won’t.

They also think in non- binary terms that include “both /and”.

If we can remember there is a context vaster than we might initially have thought, filled with more options than we might have envisioned,
we are much more likely to find what I call the best minimum viable outcome.
(A Minimum Viable Outcome is the most  basic outcome you want to achieve)

Most importantly, with that broader mindset, we can weather the discomfort of unproductive uncertainty with greater optimism and calm.

Remember Those Options? 

I recently reread Victor Frankl’s account of his years in concentration camps. I was struck by his observation of how critical it was to their
survival that his fellow prisoners could find meaning in their lives, even with their suffering.

His conclusion is a powerful testament to the potential for growth even in unthinkable circumstances.
He wrote: “Everything can be taken [from a person] but one thing: the last of human freedoms
— to choose one’s attitude in a given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”

The opportunity to exercise that freedom is available to all of us — and it is key to finding a way forward in uncertain times.

Stay safe! Stay strong!
  
Until next time.

Lorne

Smatterings From My Liminal Summer Brain.
 
Ahh… summer.
I just got back from some serious cabin time. It’s my high country wilderness “analog retreat”.  Here I can read, think, pray and do some blue sky dreaming about how to lead creatively in a world that can get chaotic at times. How to make life richer, more fulfilling, and meaningful for those I love. 
 
I have a confession to make.
It’s an addiction that crops up every now and then. Especially in summer, I definitely fall off the wagon. My addiction fills my deep-down need to create order out of chaos and build things.
 
No, it’s not messing up my life or anything. I don’t think it’s time for an intervention. But still, it’s ever-present, lurking, tempting. 

It’s my struggle with Tetris. There. I said it!

It’s that amazingly simple yet addictive puzzle game where a colorful procession of seven different pieces falls endlessly into a geometric hodgepodge. I have to strategically rotate, move, arrange and drop the tiles at ever-increasing speeds. If I clear as many lines as possible by completing horizontal rows of blocks without empty space, I’m rewarded by achieving a new level. If I fall behind in the process and the unarranged shapes surpass the skyline then –BAM! Game over. 

Tetris Life Lessons (With Some Bruce Lee Thrown In For Kicks)

Let’s face it. Games and sports are hugely analogous to life. The term “Tetris Effect” became a way to describe how players were inspired by the game in everyday situations.
Because Tetris, like the real world, challenges you to establish order out of chaos using an organizational system. There are transferable concepts everywhere in real life. Everything from packing the car trunk, loading a dishwasher, or building a team or an organization. How’s that next thing going to fit for optimum efficiency? That’s the Tetris Effect!
 
Focus, Focus, Focus 
It’s called it being ‘in the zone”. This near-meditative state can happen in all aspects of life, from playing chess to driving in rush hour. Being in the zone is nothing more than achieving a heightened state of focus. A good example is 16-year-old gold medal gymnast Laurie Hernandez set to do a balance beam routine at the 2016 Rio Olympics. There’s intensity in her eyes and she can be seen to mouth the words “I got this“ just ahead of her near-flawless performance. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lfsf2gbR4K8  


Whether you’re playing Tetris or writing a funding proposal, this level of mental intensity is not easy to achieve. Figure out how to get there, then stay as long as you can. When it slips away, take a break. Take 20 or 30 minutes to grab a snack or go for a walk. Let your mind rest, then come back and start again.

You can’t always get what you want (Rolling Sones) 
You build and build and wait for a “straight” piece to clear off a whole bunch. Guess what? The stick is just one of the 7 pieces that fall, so chances are 7 to 1 you won’t get what you want. Not right away, at least. You’ll get something you think might work, but then you’ll get something that doesn’t fit at all, and you’ll get three or four clunkers in a row. In real life, this translates to settling for something that’s not quite right or ending up in a job that pays the bills but shrivels the soul. Know what? It’s not the end of the world. Patience my friend, Eventually the right piece shows.

But if you try sometimes you might find, You get what you need (More Stones)
I used to think “Tetris or nothing” stacking and stacking, holding out way too long. Sometimes I would get a stick at the right time, and get my Tetris. Most of the time, however, I would just stack everything up to the top and that would be the end of my game. Sometimes it’s ok to knock off two or three lines at a time and keeping everything manageable and mediocre while waiting for the big move. The key is to sustain and survive until you see your opportunity for that big move. Keep your end goals in mind, but don’t feel bad about making some mediocre moves along the way.

You gotta have faith.
You know what you want. Just a bunch of shapes that come together then the stick piece at just the right time. right? Well, take heart and know that there is always a stick piece coming. Good things are out there, but you must be patient. Keep at it, have faith, and eventually, the right pieces fall into place.

You can’t rely on faith alone.
Strategy helps. The Tetris powers that be seem to favor those who indulge in a bit of planning. Faith is important because there is definitely a stick piece coming.  Having a strategy and plan is equally important. Sure, the left side of the screen tracks each piece, but it doesn’t give you the bigger picture or help you predict the immediate future. A little forethought can go a long way. Keep your game manageable as you practice patience. Get a line here and there, keep yourself in the game. Before you know it bingo, you’re on a roll. 

Bias for action beats doing nothing.
The number one killer in the game of Tetris is overthinking and hesitation. “Should I put it here, or flip it over there?” This might translate into, “Should I take this course or apply for this position or that one?” Speed in dealing with circumstances and opportunities matters in business and in life. Many decisions and actions are reversible and do not need extensive study.
 Spend too much time mulling as the pieces fall, and you miss out. Think about what you do, but DO SOMETHING!

The more you do it, the better you get.
The more time you spend playing, the higher your average score. The same goes for life. A great photographer takes a lot of pictures to come up with several that are exceptional. If you’re a writer, write a lot of stories. Little by little, more and more of them will be good. Same with anything. Keep at it, you’ll get better.

It doesn’t get easier
Your reward for doing well? You get to it all again, only tougher!
 
In Bruce Lee’s final film, the hero yips, yowls, and Eee…yahs! his way to the top of a multi-level pagoda, crushing bad guys of different fighting styles on each floor. His quest is to retrieve something sacred, though it’s never named.
 
On each floor, the opponents are more badass-y than the last. On the top floor, he faces the towering 7’2” Kareem Abdul Jabbar, whose martial arts style and prowess match his own. 
5ed85440-d472-421e-b1de-6f2f865b0586.png
 
You can watch this epic battle here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8ic2k2P_FG0 
When he discovers the big man’s vulnerability to light, that’s the tactical advantage our feisty little hero needs to prevail.
Remember. No one is asking you start on the 19th level. But if you’ve already gotten past the first 18, then why not try?

Turn off the music.
When I’m driving and looking intently for a street address, I instinctively turn off the music to help me look.
Don’t know exactly how that works but it does.
When you stack your pieces too high, the music in Tetris speeds up. This creates the illusion that the pieces are moving faster. They aren’t. Don’t cave or freak out.  Music distraction only diverts your focus. Know your deadlines, but don’t worry about them. Keep your objective in mind, and finish strong.

I love it when a plan comes together
The whole reason I and millions of others play Tetris is that every now and then you get that perfect coming together. Piece-piece-piece-TETRIS! Piece-piece-TETRIS! Sometimes it just flows, and it all fits together perfectly.

I love that feeling. It’s the best. No one expects life to work like that all the time, but sometimes it does.

Love it, appreciate it, and know that it’s ok to look forward to it.
 
 What’s your favorite summertime game obsession? And why?

Visit me at https:// LorneEpp.com and drop me a line. I’d love to hear what’s going on for you this summer.

Until next time. 

Lorne 

Congrats! 
Opening up this blogpost is one of the better decisions you’ll make today. You’re one step closer to being a smarter, happier, and just generally more interesting and well-adjusted human being. Way to go!

Every month you can look forward to a hand-crafted, expertly curated blogpost and update from me on the 1st of every month except when that falls on Sundays. That’s because I like to slack off on Sundays and do other super cool things that others might not understand.
 
I write about life, leadership, faith, relationships, hard work and connecting the dots to try and make it all come together. I love learning new things and I love helping others do better. My goal with this monthly reach out is to propel us toward excellence in becoming better servant leaders. Most importantly, it keeps us tracking with each other and our work together.
 
Grab a cup of your favorite hot drink and let’s hang out for a bit. I’m tending a mug of ambrosial Guatemala blend. It’s a Christmas gift that I’m trying to make last. Thanks, out there.
You know who you are.


 Dealing With My Monkey Brain
 
 So I’m at Starbucks with my friend Brad, solving the world’s problems over a Grande Americano and he asks a vaguely disquieting question.

“How are you really doing with this whole resignation thing? “ I could have easily skated around that one with a stock “doing ok.” In a moment of radical candor, I had to confess there were times I was  was dealing with the monkeys in my brain on this one.

This doesn’t happen often for me, but it does happen. You know how your mind can race around in 14 directions?
 
Monkey Brain Syndrome is “brain gone wild” due to excessive multi-tasking and hurried activities fueled by addictive technology, media stimuli overload, and the rigours of everyday life demands.
Our 86 billion neutrons in our brain that regulate our thinking/feeling processes get over charged and start crashing into each other at warp speed. The next thing you know, the thinking/feeling train starts coming off the track.
 
Engaging in this frenetic brain activity has diminished our ability to complete simple tasks accurately, think clearly, accomplish a fulfilling day’s work, maintain a healthy body, develop meaningful relationships, grow and have fun.
We may be at risk of losing control of our most important personal asset,- focussed brain power.
 
The term “monkey brain” was originally attributed to Buddha more than 2500 years ago, 
He described the human mind as being filled with drunken monkeys, jumping around, screeching, chattering, carrying on endlessly.

Today in the 21st century, his observations are as relevant as they were then. The digital age and smartphones are actually re-wiring our brains to have shorter and shorter attention spans.
A 2015 survey of Canadian media consumption by Microsoft concluded that the average adult attention span has fallen to 8 seconds, down from 12 in the year 2000.
We now have a shorter attention span than a goldfish!   
 
We think in McNugget time. Informational flotsam and jetsam flows unfiltered, along with the meaningful stuff in an eternal stream. We get a feel-good hit of dopamine from the perception that we’re getting things done.

Seems I can’t wait for a haircut, or stand in line at the bank, or even pause long enough for the microwave to ding, without fighting a reflexive urge to sneak a peek at my smartphone. It seems the last digital micro-high only accelerates the need for another one.

Here are some of the symptoms of Monkey Brain Syndrome

    • Inability to stay on-task longer than 10 minutes
    • Checking emails or texting more than 5 times an hour
    • Dissociative or distracted interactions
    • Random irritability at slightest delays or interruptions
    • Can’t remember what you did 30 minutes ago
    • Difficulty solving normal problems or making decisions
    • Feeling of being pulled in too many directions
    • Feeling like busyness is out of control *
    • Not enough time to get things done*
    • Making frequent mistakes
    • Nearly impossible to quiet your mind (trouble sleeping)
  • Strained relationships with people you care about

**Hurry Up Sickness **is closely related to Monkey Brain Syndrome


 
To some degree, we all have monkey minds with dozens of monkeys all clamoring for our attention. Fear is an especially obnoxious monkey, sounding the alarm incessantly, pointing out all the things we should be wary of and everything that could go wrong. Ego, is very loud, pushy monkey and wants a lot of airtime. Then there’s Doubt, Not-Good- Enough, Rationalization. Perfection and Procrastination and Rebellion all on a rampage, swinging from limb to limb, agitated and noisy.
 
I’ve been around long enough to have developed a few personal antidote strategies.

    • S-L-O-W D-O-W-N. Not to the point where my productivity lags, but enough to remember that I will get everything done eventually – it doesn’t have to be right now. Manana is sometimes a good day to get things done.
    • Take a few deep cleansing breaths – I prefer an outside walk and imagine the new air circulating through my body, revitalizing and refreshing me.
    • Take a mini break. Nearly all well-known creatives do this. IE Einstein was well known for his violin breaks. Me, I prefer guitar.
    • Have routine daily quiet time meditation.
    • Count blessings – instead of the numerous tasks at hand. We are all blessed with so much goodness in our lives– we just need to remind ourselves of those special things and people in our lives.
  • Stay positive – The game plan for each day emerges from God’s drafting room. Even with its hang ups and bang ups, I need to give it a chance to unfold. Trust more. Stress less. Dial up gratitude. Mute grumbling. Stay true to what I’m about

Author Rick Warren (Purpose Driven Life) has three great questions to help manage our emotions.
 
1. “What’s the real reason I’m feeling this?” 
Maybe the answer is fear or worry. Maybe it relates to something someone said to you years ago that was never resolved. 
 
2. “Is it true?”  
Is what you’re feeling at that moment true? Have a good listen to what you hear yourself saying . You’re acting like you’re the only one trying to do the right thing in the whole world! No. That’s not true.” 
 
3. “Is what I’m feeling helping me or hurting me?” 
Will you get what you want by continuing to feel this way? A lot of feelings we have seem natural, but they’re actually self-defeating. 
Let’s say you go to a restaurant, and the service is extremely slow. You wait a long time to be served, and then a couple comes in 15 minutes after you and gets their food before you do. You get increasingly more irritated until you feel something welling up inside you. 
What’s the real reason you’re feeling that way? You’re hungry! 
Is it true? Yes. You’re frustrated because the service is slow. But is your emotion helping or hurting? It’s hurting. Do you get better service by getting angry with the server? Absolutely not. 
Does nagging work? Has it ever worked? When somebody tells you all the things you’re doing wrong, does it make you want to change? No! All it does is make you defensive. 
When you ask yourself these three questions, you get a better grip on why you feel the way you do and what you need to do to help the situation. 
That’s called managing your emotions. 
 
Brad’s deadpan assessment?
 
“Don’t feed the monkeys!” 
 
 12d0fab2-b33e-4123-9ed7-b0c4b74d509a.jpeg

 
Have great month of March! 
 
Got any monkey’s you’re dealing with right now?  I’d love to hear about it.
 
Seriously, hit me up. Here to help.  

Lorne