The two illusions of being behind and catching up

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Being behind feels bad. Catching up feels great! Both are powerful feelings, and I wouldn’t deny you either of them.

But what are we actually behind? Who decides that? And have we really caught up? Every new moment brings new opportunities and new possible tasks.

It may be more helpful to remember that these feelings are illusions. We are neither of them – neither ahead or behind. We’re just right here, right now.

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Giving Voice to Joy: The Antidote to Fear

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“Find out where joy resides, and give it a voice far beyond singing. For to miss the joy is to miss all. We have heard, perhaps, too much of lesser matters. Here is the door. Here is the open air.” -Robert Louis Stevenson

In these often scary times, we have an alternative to the fear that inevitably arises – an antidote. When it seems or feels like things in life, the good things in life, are getting scarcer and more uncertain, to defeat that scarcity, the smallness inside and out, the antidote is to give, and to give freely – to give joy to yourself and those around you, and to give to joy.

Now is a wonderful time to see clearly how richly and deeply the natural world gives to us. As the birds sing and make their nests, and the flowers bloom, and the leaves open on the trees, and the sky is clear and blue, and the warm sun lights up our faces and bathes us in warmth, we’re better able to see how simply beautiful being alive can be. And we can see how effortlessly and simply the world gives to us all of the simple joys that we need to lighten our loads.

The challenge and the way through any moment when you are scared is the courage of giving freely and trusting that that giving frees up the river that flows both ways. It may be helpful to remember that this giving is a natural part of our life. Each moment we give away a breath and take in a new one again. Everything we own, every gift and natural ability we possess has been given to us. The Chinese sage Lao Tsu said, “If you want to be given everything, give everything up.”

Research tells us that that happiness travels from person to person farther and longer than sadness does. Give voice to your joy and watch it travel. May you find the strength to courageously give voice to your joy, give your best to the world and notice as it gives its best to you.

Learn more:
Emotional Intelligence Works  – EQ is twice as important in contributing to excellence as IQ and expertise combined. Learn how to effectively manage your emotions and those around you for sustained success.

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Where feet hit the ground

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Our bodies are meant to move. But we don’t just get physical rewards.

In the office, leaving the house, walking our errands, leaving the car alone and using our feet instead.

Where our feet hit the ground?

That’s where adventure and connection happens.

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Discomfort is how you learn

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“Have you only comfort, and the lust for comfort, that stealthy thing that enters the house a guest, and then becomes a host and then a master?” – Kahlil Gibran

We have low tolerance for discomfort. Really low. As in, a few seconds in and we’re looking for the exit. Emotional discomfort, physical discomfort, the mind doesn’t seem to differentiate.

But discomfort is how we learn. We enter a situation that we haven’t mastered yet and practice it. We expose our blind spots, our lacks. We see clearly the distance between where we are and we wish we were.

So it’s helpful to work with discomfort. One way is using physically uncomfortable moments. We can start with the obvious (physical discomfort)and move to the subtle (emotional discomfort), we start with the easy (physical discomfort) and move to the hard (emotional discomfort).

We can train our minds to rest in the discomfort. Mindfulness meditation and Buddhist practices help us with increasingly being comfortable with our discomfort.

We can practice when we exercise. We can let the feeling of discomfort in a little bit, then a little bit more, aiming towards welcoming it fully into the guest house.

And we can simply just keep going. Not grimly, but with a sense of humor at our infinite capacity for trying to duck out of discomfort. And not stopping.

“If you’re never able to tolerate a little bit of pain and discomfort, you’ll never get better.” – Angela Duckworth

(PS: If you’re wondering, this thought came to me on the treadmill.)

A note: physical discomfort is different than strong physical pain. Especially sharp, stabbing pain. Stop what you’re doing as soon as you feel that.

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Sudden, Explosive Growth

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Every day we can easily see the difference. It’s that obvious.

The first day of May, then a day, a week later. Look around at any plant or any tree and we see big changes have happened. Plants poke out of the ground where bare earth was. Flowers open. Trees unfold citrine leaves. This looks like sudden, explosive growth. It looks miraculous – and it is!

Everything grows more in the spring and summer, not just plants. Research shows that kids grow more quickly as well. Think also of the ‘spring’ of a human life. In their first year children triple their body weight and sprout up 10 inches.

The words “sudden, explosive growth” resound in the dreams of company leaders, Wall Street analysts, entrepreneurs, and anyone with high career trajectory hopes. We may all harbor the secret dream this month promises. Perhaps anything is possible.

But do we really want the dream to become real? Imagine humans continuing to triple their body weight or grow 10 inches each year they’re alive – not a pretty sight. And we have a word for continuously explosive growth and production. When our cells do it we call it cancer.

Now let’s look below the surface. Do we also want the long winter of perceived dormancy? The autumn of perceived decline and death? It’s the courageous few that say yes to apparent stagnation of the work, to what look like dead ends, to lack of enthusiasm, progress or motion.

Yet that’s what’s required for the growth of our dreams. Persistent commitment to the work we were born to do. Long periods of nothing visible, and then the excitement of unexpected growth. And that growth slowing again… and the wheel turns again.

As coaches, veteran players and analysts often advise during seven-game NBA playoff series, it’s our task to not get too high from success, and not get too down from failure. Just calmly persist, and persist again. Stay in the game and keep showing up to the change we want to make.

And how about when we are rewarded with beautiful (and fleeting) growth? Open up our hearts and eyes to be flooded with appreciation, just like every plant this month invites us to.

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Do you suffer from progression obsession?

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“Life, to be worthy of a rational being, must be always in progression; we must always purpose to do more or better than in time past.” – Samuel Johnson

 

I used to live by this quote. Throughout High School and into college it was always somewhere inside influencing decisions. It didn’t end well.

There’s nothing wrong with progression. The promise of progression helps us through many hard times. And when we progress, we get a jolt of positive energy that helps us persist. That’s why I counsel teams to break big projects into small gulps and to start with the easiest part.

But how much allowance is made for the shadow of progression? The opposite of ‘more and better’ – less and worse? These are scary words for companies, teams, stock markets.

But not for the seasons. Not for night where there’s less daylight and worse ability to see things. In fact animals prefer the night – 90% of animal activity happens at night. The tides are also fine with less, so are moon phases.

And ‘less and worse’ is not scary for people relaxed enough to see the big picture, the larger purpose. We will get sick, we will age (if we’re lucky), we will die. Others will be born after us and they will live this cycle again.

More of our projects won’t be completed than will be. The moon wobbles. We will only progress – today and always – to the extent that we become friendly with failure.

 

“Winning does not tempt that man.

This is how he grows: by being defeated, decisively,

by constantly greater beings.”

-Rainer Maria Rilke

 

Learn more: Emotional Intelligence Works - EQ is twice as important in contributing to excellence as IQ and expertise combined. Learn how to effectively manage your emotions and those around you for sustained success.

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Finding the Words (A Quest Story by Lou Manzi)

LouMI love being able to divide my time among performing as a guitarist/singer, teaching music to people of all ages, and facilitating Quixote Consulting’s musical programs. I’ve always known that music can enrich our lives and touch us deeply. I was reminded of this at a recent performance.

I often drop into a rehabilitation facility/nursing home in my home town of Stonington, Connecticut. While there, I stroll around with my guitar and pop into different rooms to sing to the residents. It’s an informal sing-a-long as I visit one person after another. And the chatting we do about our families and interests is as important as the music.

During a recent visit, I sang some Johnny Cash songs in the dining room as the residents were eating. As usual, most of the residents were sitting with other residents or aides. One woman was sitting with her daughter and I noticed that they both were enjoying the music. The daughter was singing along with some of the songs and although the mother was looking at me, and looked interested, she was silent.

After a few more country tunes, I decided to move into some 70s rock and roll, beginning with Jim Croce’s Bad, Bad Leroy Brown. I noticed that the daughter was singing along and, suddenly, the mother started singing also. The daughter actually started crying. I was quite curious since I’ve never had anyone cry when I played Bad, Bad Leroy Brown. I know it doesn’t turn out good for Leroy at the end of the song, but it’s never brought anyone to tears. After the song, I spoke to the daughter and found out that her tears were tears of happiness. Like many who suffer with Alzheimer’s or some form of dementia, her mom had stopped speaking quite awhile ago. Yet the joy of sharing the music with all of the others in the dining room gave her the power to not just speak a few words, but to sing along with a song she remembered from her past.

For me, it was a truly special moment and again showed me the power of music in our lives

Lou Manzi heads up Quixote Consulting’s music teambuilding programs as well as many of our other high-energy offerings. Since 1984, he has led dynamic and successful programs for corporations such as IBM, Exxon-Mobil, and Jones New York. While a consultant for the Boys and Girls Club of America, Lou was a keynote speaker at their national convention in Las Vegas and designed extensive parts of their music curriculum. Lou especially enjoys leading Quixote Consulting’s Play the Blues harmonica music team building and Sing the Blues music team building events and any program where people are ready to have some fun.

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All inhale, no exhale

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The GNP must go up.
Our output always has to go up.
We must relentlessly improve.
We must get more done in a day.
We have to do more with less.
We should only progress, moving forward, upwards.
We should only breathe in, never exhale.
Oh wait, that last one doesn’t work. No exhale, no way to get the oxygen to the rest of the body. We’ll die.
The waves at the beach should only come in, never out. Uh oh, that doesn’t work either.
It should always be sunny and during the day, no night. Hmm…
It should always be summer, that’s nicest. Well maybe!
We must not age. Okay, modern culture I hear you saying that, but aging beats the alternative.

If you’re tired of the ‘straight line up’ treadmill, try a story that’s bigger than that, one that’s been around longer instead – ebb, flow, patience, joy, woe, delight, sorrow. Better, worse, richer, poorer, sickness, health (sound familiar?).

Exhale and start really living.

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Mark Hamill vs Rian Johnson on who to focus on when you want to influence

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At times, I’d say to Rian, “We gotta think of what the audience wants.” And he’d say, “No, we’ve gotta think of what wewant.” – Mark Hamill

Who’s right, Luke Skywalker or the new Star Wars director Rian Johnson?

They both are.

When we’re making a change, when we’re influencing, we do it with empathy. We travel to where the other person lives, where they are most comfortable. We unearth their unstated wants, desires, hopes and fears and try to address them.

But it doesn’t stop there. People need to help getting to their best selves. If we just cater to their lowest selves, that’s accommodation, not empathy.

We’d be best served to do the double emotional duty – bravely look at what’s underneath for the people we want to help and bravely look at what change we hope to do, what we know to be true, to stand for something.

True empathy, true influence, true connection, true change, true teams are built where “what the audience wants” and “what we want” meet.

And it all starts with what happens today.

“You can’t always get what you want. But if you try sometime, you just might find you get what you need.” – the Rolling Stones

 

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No more guys

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While working with the Kaiser Permanente National Equity, Inclusion and Diversity Team, one of the team members told the team that she is committing to no longer using the word ‘guys’ to describe a group of people that is comprised of women and men. A diversity team, perhaps more than any other team, needs to be the change they want to see in the world.

That hit me. I use ‘guys’ while working with teams all the time and have for 20 years. And over the last year, it’s felt more uncomfortable – especially if I’m addressing a group of women with no ‘guys’ in sight.

So that moment I committed as well. I want my impact to be positive. And while I harbor no conscious ill intent using that word, it’s impact that matters to others, not intent.

This is how change happens:

  1. Lack of awareness
  2. Awareness that is built up in the background over time
  3. Contemplation but not action
  4. Epiphany (often accompanied by excitement and/or remorse)
  5. Decision to change
  6. Make the change public. She did to her team. And I’m doing it with you, my team.
  7. Conscious, persistent action
  8. Change sticks sometimes, sometimes it doesn’t.
  9. Play the change – try, fail, learn, try again.
  10. Stay in the game no matter what
  11. Change is internalized. It’s now unconscious level and happens naturally without any additional effort.

So what’s the new word? I’m going with team or everyone for now. I’ll keep playing with it.

Like all change, it’s awkward at first, and takes more energy. The longer a day with a team is, the more likely I’ll be to unconsciously say ‘guys’. And it’s no big deal if I do.

But I will persist, and over time the conscious change will be engrained unconsciously.

Where are you in the change cycle with what you’re trying to change?

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