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

 

I’m not a patient person, so waiting in line for anything, anytime, is a detestable activity to be strenuously avoided. Some part of me decided a long time ago that there are some things that life is just too short for. Waiting in lineups is one of those things. Let’s just call it one of my useful biases.

Lineups represent “waiting” in general. That Invariably triggers other stuff. Waiting for that promotion that never seems to come, that colleague who procrastinates, the boss who can’t decide, the deal that takes forever to close. (There’s got to be a support group somewhere for folks like us)

Mass enforced waiting due to the COVID 19 Pandemic has made our collective psyche more than just a bit uptight.

That may in part explain some of the dramatic social upheaval dominating our headlines.

It’s taken the waiting game to a whole new level.

It also has reduced our attention spans so if you make it all the way through this post, then congratulations! A special treat awaits.


“Please Wait Here” has become the iconic symbol of our times. 
Seeing that you’re just standing here, I could tell you a COVID joke, but then we’d have to wait for two weeks just to see if you got it.
With much of our world experiencing some degree of disruption, distancing, or discouragement, this obviously isn’t the happiest of times.
Waiting has become an unavoidable part of it. ANYWAY…,

Let’s all resolve to come out of 2020 smarter, better, and stronger.

As always, thanks for reading. It means a lot to me. Lorne 

Photo Courtesy of Raquel Garcia in Unsplash ​

Why Waiting Can Make Us a Wee Bit Bonkers
(it’s actually not the wait that drives you crazy)

In researching this, I learned that there is a bit of an art and science to waiting.
I came across an excellent piece written by business author David Maister who wrote on this topic some years ago.
I’m borrowing heavily from his key points. 
  

Occupied Time Feels Shorter Than Unoccupied Time.

That’s why business often strategically place mirrors in high wait zones like elevators, waiting rooms and even gymnasiums. What better way to occupy a wait than the inane activity of looking at yourself or others while waiting for that “UP” arrow or taking a mandatory rest between reps.
Then there’s always that default activity of looking at your smart phone. What better way to appear cool and confident while trapped in a wait zone? Mea culpa on that one myself.

People Just Want to Get On With Things (rather that wait to get going) 

Anticipatory stress while waiting for something to happen makes it feel like we’re waiting much longer than we actually are. That’s why physiological stress symptoms like tension headaches or stomach nerves often appear ahead of key meetings, presentations or difficult conversations.

 Anxiety Makes Waits Seem Longer.

“Waiting + Anxiety = Seriously Not Good”

Waiting plus a strong undercurrent of anxiety is crazy-making stuff.
We’ve all had the experience of choosing a line at Ikea, the bank, or the airport, and stood there worrying that we had indeed, chosen the wrong line.
A debate with yourself ensues as you try to decide whether to move, or switch to another line. The anxiety level ramps up and the wait becomes intolerable.
Being a leader in circumstances where your entire team is anxious and wanting to switch lines is especially difficult.

 Open-ended Waits Are Longer than Waits with a Time Frame 

At the doctor’s office, patients who arrive early will sit contentedly until the scheduled time, even if this is a significant amount of time in an absolute sense (say, thirty minutes). However, once the appointment time is passed, even a short wait of, say, ten minutes, grows increasingly annoying. The wait until the appointed time is finite; waiting beyond the point has no knowable limit.

Unexplained Waits Are Longer than Explained Waits

If the doctor’s receptionist informs me that doc just got called out to an emergency and offers a re-schedule, I can wait with greater patience.

Airline pilots also understand this principle well. On-board announcements usually reference baggage being a bit late, fog over landing strips, safety checks, or waiting for the air-traffic controllers’ runway instructions. Explanations may have varying degrees of veracity, but they are way better than no explanation at all.

Unfair Waits Are Longer than Equitable Waits

In traffic jams, (a vehicular form of lineup) where you don’t know the cause of the delay or the timeline for getting going again, the level of anxiety is demonstrably high. Situations like this are fertile ground for incidents of road rage.

In other wait situations, facilities have a “take a number” system where you are served in strict numerical order. Often the number being served is prominently displayed so that customers can estimate the expected waiting times.

 The Higher the Perceived Value, The Longer People Will Wait

This explains why ardent fans will camp out on the sidewalk days in advance of an event to get priority positioning for their favorite band or artist.

Disney Corp. marketing folks work this to perfection. They are so successful that they get parents with young children to happily stand in line for an hour for a four-minute ride — a pretty remarkable feat.

This illustrates the principle that wait tolerance largely depends upon perceived value of service, -perhaps with the emphasis on the perception.

Solo Waits Feel Longer than Group Waits

One of the remarkable things to observe in these Pandemic times is to witness how conventional social isolation suddenly has become cool. People with zero connection now have a common threat and a common bond

Total strangers suddenly turn to each other from 6 ft. away to express their exasperation, wonder collectively what is happening, and console each other. What this illustrates is that there is some form of comfort in group waiting rather than waiting alone.

WAITING IS NEVER EASY! Sometimes having a better understanding and awareness of a situation helps. It doesn’t make the waiting time any shorter, but it does make it more acceptable or bearable to those of us who wait.

You still here?

Here’s that treat I promised.

See STAY IN QUEUE from Laboratoire Ferdinand Lutz Enjoy.

FYI – I’M PRESENTLY REACHING OUT TO SOME OF YOU FOR HELP WITH AN IMPORTANT RESEARCH QUESTION. IT’S FOR AN ONLINE COURSE CONCEPT I’M PLANNING FOR THE FALL. IT WILL BE SPECIFICALLY FOR EMERGING LEADERS AND EXPERIENCED LEADERS WHO WANT TO “LEVEL UP”.  Thanks to those of you who already helped out in this way. Thanks also to those of who have booked a future research conversation. I appreciate your valuable insights.

If you are interested in knowing more or participating in this, I’d love to speak with you about this. Just click the link below and book a time for a 15-20 minute Zoom conversation.

Until next time,
Lorne

Click here for a ” time 

 

 

Climbing Out of the COVID Rabbit Hole and Looking Back, Forward and Up

It feels like I’ve been in a rabbit hole for the last 8 weeks. 

Photograph by Richard Barnes. Set Design by Jill Nicholls

Who knew Hey What’s Next?, would be THE question on everybody’s mind these days?

It feels as if we’ve been under some kind of weird siege and we’ve had to “hole-up”
until there’s some sort of all-clear signal. My personal time/space continuum has gotten seriously messed. Tuesdays feel no different than Saturdays and it all just kind of melds together.The crisis has been physical, emotional, spiritual, financial, political, and existential.
It’s individual and collective. Hope you and yours are doing ok.

I’m more grateful than ever for coffee!  My morning coffee ritual has been one of those little things that help “ground” me. One of those familiar and comforting constants that stays the same when all else seems to have changed.

What’s helping keep you grounded and going these days? (In a good way) However small or weird it may seem, if it’s working for you, please share. It may help others as well. Shoot me a note and I’ll share it with everyone next time. Deal?

BTW. Feel free to pass this along and invite other readers. Easy signup here. 

Yup. I’ve had that holed-up feelin’ for about the last 8 weeks now.

Finally, it’s semi-safe to pop my head out and have a look around. (appropriately masked, gloved, and socially distanced of course)

Much like the fierce rabbit characters in “Watership Down” (a tale of survival and adventure) we all had to scurry to our respective warrens and hole up ‘til the outside threats of danger subside. The pandemic has upended things with breathtaking speed.

Our hopes and plans for the future have been compressed to almost nothing. We’re flying blind into a foggy future. If we make plans or draw assumptions that don’t embrace uncertainty as an all-encompassing factor, we’ll get messed for sure.

Side Note Rant Re: Uncertain Times

The ubiquitous phrase “these uncertain times” bothers me in several ways.
It dismisses the pain and disruption that many people are experiencing right now.

Yeah, we’re feeling uncertainty alright. But many are feeling far worse as well. Some are dealing with the certainty of being painfully sick. Others are worried sick about their loved ones. Millions are grieving the certainty of loss, while others are living in fear of layoffs that are certainly coming. Hordes of people are feeling intense loneliness, confusing disruption, or getting squirrely with cabin fever. So, these are not just “uncertain times.” They are also painful times, distressing times, sad times, frightening times, and so much more. “Uncertain times” seems like such a woefully inadequate description.

It also feels like a phrase coming from a position of considerable privilege, people who haven’t lost their jobs, who aren’t worried about their health, whose loved ones are well, and who are relatively comfortable during this pandemic. The worst thing in their lives is right now is the inconvenience of uncertainty.

Truth slap!  I’m probably one of these people, at least so far. My angst these days is mostly due to uncertainty related inconveniences.  My decades in the housing and health sector taught me that there are those around us who are poor or powerless, people whose lives are regularly disrupted or devastated by things beyond their control. They live with a measure of uncertainty that—honestly—is rare in my life.  I need to remember that millions of others are struggling with much worse.

I’m thinking of those, and I want to be compassionate and helpful in tangible ways.

Looking Back 

Realize this. Our generation has never had to face a world event of this magnitude. My pattern-seeking, data gathering brain immediately goes into hyperdrive to make some sense of it all.

Just one hundred short years ago, the civilized world was reeling from the effects of WWI.

By the end of 1918, twenty-million people had been killed. In that same year, 1918, the Spanish Flu pandemic broke out. Combined these two world events killed approximately 50 million people, which included mostly young, healthy people.

Then came the roaring 1920’s and people felt good for a while. That is until the Great Depression began, putting 15% to 25% of people out of work for years. And what was it that ended the Great Depression?  World War II, which caused the deaths of about 70 million people between 1939 and 1945.
For almost the first half of the 20th century, the world was slogging through one big honkin’ disaster after another. Those were hard times, but people got through them, and later prospered like never before.

COVID-19 is a big problem, but in hard comparison to past world-shaping events, it’s not quite as catastrophic.
Our familial grandparents and great grandparents had to walk through all this stuff. Both world wars, a global depression multiple economic collapses, political revolutions, and much more.

Each time, they didn’t acquiesce and say “well, I guess this is the new normal… we’ll be at war or depressed forever.” Yes, those events shaped them and changed their worldview, but it wasn’t like they emerged into a completely new way of living.
They adapted and moved on. They innovated.

I suggest we’ll do the same.

The takeaway? Own your mindset. Protect it

“It’s entirely possible to be both realistic and optimistic at the same time.”

Yes, it’s a tough time, and there’s a chance of more difficulty before it gets better. It’s important during this time to stay clear-headed and acknowledge the challenges while maintaining a sense of hope in the midst of it all.

Hope is not just a feeling. It can also be a plan.

Looking Ahead  

Of course, the immediate future presents a difficult set of problems.
All the easy ones are already solved.
Difficult problems are precisely what we as leaders sign up for, right?

Here, in no particular order, are a few emerging trends that I think will become more mainstream.

URL (virtual connecting) AND IRL (in real life)
It’s like these two very different things got popped into a high-speed blender and totally homogenized. Can’t say I’m totally used to this yet, but adapting.

Touchless – I love hugs and handshakes.  This won’t be okay, at least for a while now.  On another front, public touch screens and keypads will still be the enemy, too. Touchless payments and digital transactions will be a big part of the new normal.

Concise and to the point- We’re in attention overload. Alvin Toffler’s book, Future Shock, pointed to the overall mental state brought on by unrelenting change.

This pandemic has been the tipping point factor that’s caused a lot of people and situations to hit a wall. The result is that people will begin to need everything to be brief, compact, and repeated. More prompting and instruction could be the new protocol.

Green(er) – It’s hard to want to go back to driving my car everywhere when I see satellite images of how air pollution has dropped since we all were forced to stay home. Luxury travel and exotic vacations via planes and boats all are going to get a serious re-think.

Different /Better Work – Work colleagues have seen us in our jeans and a hoodie now. Kids and dogs are increasingly a part of Zoom business meetings. Why do we have to stay so formal? And why waste so much time?  Meetings for the sake of meetings has never been my thing!  Learning to teach, lead, and manage remotely just became the new must-have skillset.

Gig Economy – and work from home. Job monogamy has been in decline for some time now It appears we’re going deeper on this one. Big corporations are taking notice and following.
We have a capacity for more fluid interactions. More than one boss. More than one team.

Creative Renaissance – What’s happened during quarantine? A lot more art. More music.
A lot more business creativity. It seems forced downtime gets the creative juices flowing.

Take a moment to think about whichever ones resonate with you.
Better yet, shoot me a note or book a “let’s just talk” time. I’d love to hear
your thoughts and ideas around this.

Looking Up 

Generations of writers have used the “peaks and valleys” of life analogy, so let’s go with that for a bit.

Each successive change in life comes with its own built-in dip. You know – a downside, a trough, and an upside. Change management researchers tell us we can’t avoid the dip. We just have to find our way through it.

This infographic courtesy of J.M.Fischer explains it beautifully.

On the downside of the curve, we experience a whole range of seemingly unrelated random negative emotions (of fear, anger, denial)

At the bottom, or the trough is where the existential questions arise. Who am I? where am I going?

The trough is the fertile zone for finding resilience. Bill George in his book True North calls these times “crucible moments”

This is where we re-prioritize, rediscover, or perhaps reconnect with a personal faith tradition. We human beings are after all spiritual beings with intellect, creativity, will, and purpose. (not just a bunch of sophisticated bio plumbing with a survival instinct)

Other sample questions might be:
What brings me meaning and joy? What do I really want?
Where do I want to be? What do I want to build?
What do I have control over/absolutely no control over?
Where do I need to fight?
What do I need to surrender?

By processing the negative emotions that come on the downhill side and digging deep on personal meaning, goals, and direction, then and only then, can we begin to contemplate processing forward and looking up. Here’s where individuals find their resilience factors

If you can find your way past “the trough” then there’s really nowhere to start looking other than up.

Face it. Everything just became so different. Life and work just got more intertwined than ever, and really, none of us have enough time left on the planet to hide and worry.
The pace of change in and of itself can be mentally exhausting and physically draining.

There’s an additional undercurrent of anxiety and It doesn’t take much to set people off or get a little bonkers. I’ll pick up on that thought next time.

Meanwhile, stay safe and strong.

Until next time,

Lorne

 

 

The call for courageous leadership in days like these is more important than ever.

Why?

Because authentic leaders find their mojo in times of great uncertainty.

Now’s not the time for a predefined response plan.

It requires leaders with behaviors and mindsets that deal with the realities, prevent overreaction, and lay the groundwork for a better tomorrow.

The Panic

Photo Courtesy of Unsplash

 “Everyone has a plan ’til they get punched in the mouth.”  M. Tyson  

This quip came from world champion boxer Mike Tyson when a reporter asked him about his “fight plan” for an upcoming opponent.

It captures that sinking feeling of panic and disorientation when things go horribly wrong.

Seemingly overnight, jobs flew out the window, vibrant businesses failed and investments tanked. Everyone I know is struggling to cope. If your health or family routines have been turned upside down its little comfort that this is happening across the nation and around the world. A whole new 27 million North Americans had to claim unemployment these past few weeks.

Science tells us that when we face threatening change, our “caveman software” kicks in. Suddenly fight, flight or freeze responses are triggered and we experience a flood of random emotions from anger, denial, anxiety to just plain old fear. Composure dissipates. We’re not at our best

Now’s the time to take a deep breath, literally and figuratively, and decide what really matters. Rely on your faith, training, experience, skill, and instincts to figure out the next right thing to do. Then move towards that in the very best way that you can.

We’ll likely have to shelter in place for a while longer.

There’s a lot of uncertainty between now and our new normal, the next normal, and the never normal.

There will likely be false “all clear” in some regions. There may be future spikes. But everything will play out.

It’ll be different, but ok.

The Pause 

“April seems like it lasted a year and March seems like a distant lifetime ago”

The forced suspension of plans, travel, schedules, and times with family and friends pale in comparison to the real devastation of lives lost. The daily news updates tell the story.

There’s unfathomable grief for those who’ve lost loved ones to this insidious pandemic. There is care and concern for those who are suffering loss and genuine economic hardship.

The things we learned?
We learned that shaking hands can be deadly.
That the economy can stop overnight.
We’re all more vulnerable and fragile than we’d like to believe.
How people can bond in adversity, and how isolating lockdown can feel.

There is also a slowly dawning reality.

While health care workers and home-schooling parents are busier than ever, much of the rest of the world has come to a screeching halt.

Streets are emptier, the air is cleaner, even at a distance, people seem friendlier and more supportive.

Perhaps a growing recognition that life just got simpler?

Perhaps the whole world as we know it just got a cosmic “time out”.

We’ve suddenly been given a windfall gift of time. A chance to reset. A chance to reflect how fragile, human, and inter-dependant we actually are.

Processing Forward 

When friends, colleagues, and clients are making hard decisions about, layoffs, personal futures, and whether or not to keep the business doors open, the best thing I can do is stifle my internal advice monster and simply “be there” for them.

Many of the questions I’m being asked these days don’t have easy answers.

Talking things through to cope with the present seems to be the foremost healing conversation.

Some sample questions and scenarios I’m coming across:

“When does this end? I wish I knew when this would all be over.”
Often this question masks deeper concerns.  My response is usually something like, “What part of this have you found to be the hardest?”
This allows us to identify and talk through those deeper concerns.

“What’s something you’ve learned during this crisis you would have never expected?” 
This uncovers hidden capabilities and resilience.

“What’s one thing you hope remains after this crisis?” 
We can acknowledge things we’ve discovered that we actually enjoy — like the perks of remote work and extra family time.
It helps to see past the current challenges.

“What’s the absolute  worst thing you could imagine happening from all of this?”
This helps sort through real concerns vs. irrational or imagined concerns.
Those prone to worry have trouble distinguishing between what’s “possible” and what’s “probable”.

What is something you’re looking forward to when things somewhat normalize?  
Having some well-defined goals can have a powerful effect to mitigate anxiety.

Coping with current reality while laying the groundwork better days is leadership job 1.

Until next time,

Lorne

 

Feel free to connect with me here and Let’s Just talk 

 

JUST FLY THE PLANE!

Focus on what matters.

It’s both profound and eerie to be living out this moment in history in real-time.

Everything happened so fast.

And it keeps on happening in waves. It overwhelms.

History, as you and I are living it, has taken a pivot toward the unknown.
We can feel the change, even as so many things stay the same.
But we can’t know where it will end. We watch instead and stew.
We scroll through all the news trying to filter out “what does this mean for me?”

The confirmed cases.
The jobs lost.
Empty schools.
The businesses to be closed.
Quarantine?
Isolation?
Potential worldwide recession?

We watched the world change and the future shrink this week.

It turns out timelines only really matter when you’re feeling safe.

A few short days ago we could speak of five-year plans. Today, even next month feels impossible to see.

Gotta admit that  I’m finding it hard to process all this. This degree of change and overwhelm plays havoc with our human sense of pace and scale.

Just Fly the Plane!

Like you, I’m finding it hard to focus forward right now.

This has become an anchoring phrase or mantra for me.

“Just fly the plane” is a phrase from one of my favorite books called “The Checklist Manifesto” by Atul Gawande. 

He gives an actual sample of the checklist for ENGINE FAILURE DURING FLIGHT.

The very first item on the list is “Fly the Airplane!.
Beyond that, instructions are surprisingly sparse.

In times of extreme crisis, as pilots run through worst-case scenarios,
they need a reminder to focus on the most important job they have, flying the airplane.

Figuring out what really matters at this moment is the job of a leader.

From there on, it’s all about relying on your training, experience, skill, and instincts to figure out the next right thing to do and then do it the very best that you can.

The priority is to focus on our primary responsibilities; our family, our friends, our faith, our businesses.

As we are forced to slow down, there is an opportunity to do the work we’ve put off amid the swirl and busy-ness to which we are constantly subjected.
But we may need to be reminded. It may need to be the first item on the list.

Suddenly, all of that stuff I’ve put off, all of the things I meant to get to personally and professionally are available for me to do now.

Why I Like Checklists

It’s easy to scoff at checklists when we think of them as scrawled reminders or a glorified to-do list.

However, when a checklist outlines what really matters In a concise user-friendly format, it becomes a powerful tool.

A few things on my pandemic strategy checklist are:

1. Keeping some things that are familiar and at the same time establishing some new routines that support self-care- physical, mental, spiritual, emotional.

2. Being available for “friend support” and staying connected with you and others who are important in my life, even though we’re socially isolating and distancing.

3. Practicing self-discipline by putting some boundaries on “worry time”. I.E. not over-saturating with ongoing updates. It’s good to stay informed. Overdoing it can lead to anxiety-fuelled fatigue.

4. Getting back to some of those personal and work projects that have been waiting. Especially those under finished “deep work” type projects that require uninterrupted focus.

5.Taking things (and days) one at a time. Finding ways to help and support others less fortunate.

6. Finding gratitude and joy in the things that I can do. Making a checklist of things to get back to once this blows over.

I can’t pretend to know what happens next.
I do know that you and I still have work to do, and as we try to understand all that’s happening.

We all have to focus forward.

Stay safe.
Stay healthy.
Stay home (if you can)

Until next time,
Lorne

Are you finding this article useful? There’s more at #HeyWhatsNext?

PS I’m working with several clients right now to chart their course through this unique moment.

Each business has challenges, but each call ends with greater clarity.

Each person leaves with a plan that makes sense for them, even in times of uncertainty.
If your mind is spinning and you’re trying to figure out the next steps for yourself or your business, let’s talk.

All you need for our first call is your time and attention; I’ll bring mine as well. Ready to get started? Let’s connect.

What Does Success Look Like For You ? How Do You Know When You Get There?
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Like You, I Wonder About “Success”.  How Do You Know When You Arrive?

Are there “stages of? ….building blocks for?….  formulas or recipes?

It’s a big topic so let’s get it popping.

True story:

I recently ran into a business friend from many years ago.

We’d known each other when we were both grinding it out through a dismal time in the construction industry.

We’d agreed to catch up over a Starbucks. Now here we were.

Phil is a burly guy with a kind of brusque manner and voice that is permanently set on “outdoor” volume.

After some opening banter, he pauses and then declares (outside voice).

“I googled you man. You’re a freaking 40-year overnight success!”

The conversations around us fell silent. I could feel multiple laser stares aimed right at me.

His spontaneous outburst and the absurd hilarity of it all caught me off guard. Something welled up and I bust out laughing and couldn’t stop.

He joined in full volume, enjoying the dramatic effects of his own comedic delivery. When our moment of mirth subsided, the surrounding conversations came back to the normal Starbucks level.

As with any honest humor, it’s usually wrapped around a nugget of truth. This was no different.

Examples of “success” in any field if examined, come after a ton of hard work, sacrifices made and obstacles overcome over extended periods of time.

“Success is walking from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm.”    -Winston Churchill

When you talk “success” and how you actually define or quantify it, the definition tends to vary.

A quick G search of the word renders 210 million hits in .64 seconds so it’s obviously top of mind for lots of people.

For some folks, it’s about money.  Ok, probably for most folks that’s the measuring stick for comparison.

For others, it might be house size or being able to travel to faraway places. For others, it’s about a relationship to their family; for some it’s faith, and for many, it’s honestly just staying alive another month. The definition of the term will change relative to where you’re at in life, probably dozens of times.

The part I love most about my work is helping clients figure out what success looks like for them. Then we start navigating obstacles, achieving more or getting better at something – a.k.a. becoming “successful.”

Because most of us spend on average 1/3 of our life (about half of our waking hours) pursuing a livelihood to make ends meet, it’s important to have some sort of scaffolding or contextual framework around how to think about this concept.

From observation and experience, there are some underlying factors to success in any realm.

Wealth is definitely an easily understood way of keeping score, but if that‘s the only way then look out!

Ok – back to the point.

 

Because the wealth/success thing has such an overshadowing effect,  I’ll get it out of the way in this months’ post.

We’ll deal with the other success factors in future posts.

“Try not to become a man of success. Rather become a man of value.”  ― Albert Einstein 

A Remarkable Essay

I love it when someone else writes a brilliant article around something I’ve been thinking. Moreover, they absolutely nail it.

In this instance, kudos to American venture capitalist Morgan Housel who has provided a remarkable essay ranking every type of wealth and poverty.

It’s equal parts enlightening, entertaining, surprising and useful for perspective.

Stage one of 19 on the wealth spectrum begins where you would expect – complete dependence on others for sustenance – but quickly jumps to people who have money and assets but are impoverished in other ways.

Stage four is a cautionary tale, “Your lifestyle expectations consistently grow faster than your income and assets. Adaptive poverty.” Stage seven is too: “Your entire personality is built upon the appearance of being wealthy, attracting a predatory social group that will abandon you.”

The stages of wealth start looking attractive around number 13, where you love your job enough that it feels like a hobby and pays more than you ever expected.

I’ll let you go on to discover the highest stage of wealth – the psychological equivalent of the Forbes billionaires list.

If we command our wealth, we shall be rich and free; if our wealth commands us, we are poor indeed.  –Edmund Burke  

 

The overriding revelation in the piece is that wealth is often as much a matter of perspective as it is a sum of money.

Folks who are deeply envious and generally insecure are unlikely to feel wealthy no matter how big their investment account becomes.

Those with close family ties and social connections can feel content with far less.

Another poignant revelation of this innovative list is that we often fail to recognize the wealth of all types that we already have.

Here Are The 19 Stages Of Wealth

  1. Complete reliance on the kindness of strangers for sustenance. Deep poverty.
  2. Your income is above average but you are overcome with envy and a feeling of inadequacy towards those who earn more. Psychological deep poverty.
  3. You have a large income and net worth that was acquired in a way that brings active disdain from people who would otherwise want to like you. Socially bankrupt.
  4. Your lifestyle expectations consistently grow faster than your income and assets. Adaptive poverty.
  5. You have so much money you can do nothing, and doing nothing leads to boredom at best, self-destruction more often. Ironic poverty.
  6. You have a large income and net worth you are satisfied with, but your career and assets are fragile (often leveraged) and will disappear when the world shifts only a little leaving you yearning for the money you used to have and became accustomed to. Pent-up poverty.
  7. Your entire personality is built upon the appearance of being wealthy, attracting a predatory social group that will abandon you without remorse the moment the money stops.
  8. You have a large income and net worth that was made in a job you hate that requires such long hours that it derails your social and family life. Financial wealth, life poverty.
  9. You have a job you love surrounded by people you enjoy but one that doesn’t pay well and leaves you vulnerable and stressed about your finances. Financial poverty, life wealth.
  10. You have enough money to stay comfortable and a good group of friends but you didn’t earn the money yourself, creating a lack of pride and ability to appreciate the value of a dollar that makes you feel poorer than someone with less money that was earned from hard, meaningful work.
  11. You can afford a little bit more than the people you interact with daily and it makes you feel superior to them. Technical wealth but actually insecurity that’s likely to backfire into social poverty.
  12. You can afford a little more than the people you interact with daily but you still live the same material lifestyle as they do, which creates social cohesion among your friends that’s valuable. You have a high savings rate that puts a gap between your mood and most financial hassle.
  13. You like your job so much it doesn’t feel like work and it pays more than you ever expected to make.
  14. You could stop earning a paycheck tomorrow and your lifestyle could remain the same for the indefinite future.
  15. You can go to bed and wake up when you want to. You have time to exercise, eat well, learn, think slowly, and clear your calendar when you want it to be clear. Health wealth.
  16. You can, and want to, use your wealth to help other people. And you want to help them because you care about them, not because it will make you look good or make them beholden to you.
  17. You genuinely feel no benefit from the social signal of wealth, because everyone you want to love you would still love you if you weren’t wealthy. So everything you spend money on is for its utility, rather than glitz.
  18. The people you love the most will have to work hard in life, but your wealth provides them a safety net that will help them avoid undue hardship.
  19. You are respected and admired by people you want to respect and admire you regardless of your financial circumstances. Psychologically speaking, you’re now on the Forbes list of billionaires.

“I’m a success today because I had a friend who believed in me and I didn’t have the heart to let him down.” ― Abraham Lincoln

Phil’s perception of my alleged success was that somehow I had “arrived”.

My read on the same scenario was that I was merely “staying on track and keeping going.”

Huh! Guess that’s the kind of stuff that makes life interesting.

Like Abe,  I had some friends who believed in me. I didn’t want to let them down.

Until next time!

Note to Reader:  This “Success” article will probably wind up being one of a three-part series into 2020, so stay tuned.

 

 

 

(Don’t Try This Alone)

“As humans, we’re hardwired to connect with others. Direct contact matters: tight bonds of friendship and love heal us, help children learn, extend our lives and make us happy. -Susan Pinker

It felt like I had won the lottery. At least what I imagined that would feel like.
An unexpected windfall of riches and resources suddenly deposited on my side of the ledger.

Work friends threw a farewell party for me and quite the party it was! The venue was stunning. The food was exceptional. The memories flowed in animated conversations.

We were major shareholders celebrating a long- term investment of time, effort and relationship that had gone well.

I had given leadership to a bunch of ordinary radicals and visionary misfits who like me were determined to make a difference in this world in the housing and healthcare sector.

While It was about me and our time together, in so many ways it wasn’t.

Most of us had worked side by side for many years. Others were newer to the scene. Through it all, we enjoyed fights, jealousies, pettiness, arguments, faith, tears and tragedy, laughter and joy. You know, – all that confounding pile of human-ness that comprises genuine community.

Some of us watched each other’s kids grow up. At times, we vexed each other beyond words, then managed to pull it from the brink, forgive, reconcile, hug it out, and refocus.

In the end, it was a celebration of compound interest in invested lives.

Here’s the Math Part 

As a kid, I disliked math. It didn’t help that I never had a good math teacher.
Besides, my active juvenile brain was saying “way too boring!”

The irony is that now I work with math every day. I appreciate the unyielding inerrancy of good math.

Whether you’re arguing a parking ticket, buying truckloads of concrete, or convincing a board of directors these budget numbers really work, you’ve got have the math right or you’re dead in the water.

Math done right doesn’t lie!

One of my favorite math formulas is the one for exponential growth:

 

Here’s the Standard Compound Interest Formula

“A” is the ending amount, “P” is the beginning amount (or “principal”), “r” is the interest rate (expressed as a decimal), “n” is the number of times compounded in a year, and “t” is the total number of years.

It’s the formula for the compound interest that savvy investors have employed for centuries. Some have called it the eighth wonder of the world.

Let me explain it this way:

There’s a picturesque pond with a small patch of lily pads. The little lily patch doubles every day.

 

If it takes forty-eight days to cover the whole pond, how many days to cover half of the pond?

Our linear way of thinking screams twenty-four. Wrong!
The answer is forty-seven days.
Compound interest is difficult to grasp because it is difficult to think exponentially. In other words, we think by 1 + 1 + 1 = 3.

The compound interest principal uses exponential thinking.   Just like the lily pad, it takes forty-seven days to cover half of the pond and BAM!

Only one more day to accomplish what was done in the previous forty-seven.

What if we applied the same mathematical law to the social currency of our relationships? 

Here’s the Relationship Part

In her 2014 book “The Village Effect” psychologist Susan Pinker provides compelling evidence of our need to invest in face to face human relationships.

From the flap: “As humans, we’re hardwired to connect with others. Direct contact matters: tight bonds of friendship and love heal us, help children learn, extend our lives and make us happy. Not just any social networks will do: we need real in-the-flesh encounters that tie human families, groups of friends, and communities together.

In one of the lengthiest longitudinal studies ever, Harvard researchers undertook a multi-generational 75-year study. The Grant and Glueck study tracked the physical and emotional well-being of two socio-economic groups: 456 poor men growing up in Boston from 1939 to 2014 (the Grant Study), and 268 male graduates from Harvard’s classes of 1939-1944 (the Glueck study). You can read all about the 1 Secret To Leading A fulfilling Life.

Bottom line?

You guessed it.

The clear message that we get from this 75-year study is this:

Good relationships matter, Good relationships keep us happier and healthier. Being a world-beater in a chosen field, or having tons of money just plain doesn’t matter in the long run.

Begs the question: Can a precise law of math be applied to the social currency of relationships?

From lived experience, I’d say a resounding “yes”!

Only one minor caveat. Our flawed human nature messes the variables somewhat, but in general, the principle still works fine.

Author James Clear in his book “Atomic Habits” says

Time will multiply and compound whatever you feed it.” 

That goes for regular deposits in our portfolio of relational investments.

Something to Think About. 

What if we asked investment type questions around our relationships?

What is my investment timeline? Am I prepared to be patient?
What is my tolerance for risk here?
Does this investment pay dividends? Am I happy with the results?
Can I ride out a reversal?
Am I comfortable with the costs associated? (time, effort, emotional energy)
What is my strategy for allocation? One-time invest? Regular deposits? Both?
Do I double down, reinvest, buy and hold, or cash out?

Something to Do

Check your list.
See who matters
Do the math
Invest regularly and often

The windfall of rich benefits will astound you!

PS. A deep heartfelt thank-you to all of you who made my farewell bash such a memorable time. I’ll cherish your kindness forever. 

As usual, I’m thrilled if you check in with me.
Call, text, email, smoke signals.
Here to help.

Until next time
Lorne