Category Archives: Persistence

Discomfort is how you learn

“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

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?

“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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All inhale, no exhale

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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No more guys

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: Lack of awareness Awareness that is built up in the background over time Contemplation but not action Epiphany (often accompanied by excitement and/or remorse) Decision to change Make the change public. She did to her team. And I’m doing it with you, my team. Conscious, persistent action Change sticks sometimes, sometimes it doesn’t. Play the change – try, fail, learn, try again. Stay in the game no matter what 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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Are you practicing the right thing?

Are you practicing the right thing? Q: Is quantity or quality more important? A: Yes! Quality – are you practicing the right thing? Quantity – are you practicingthe right thing? Summary: Are you practicing the right thing?

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Agile barnacles

Leaders want their teams to be more agile. Change happens more quickly than yesterday, and tomorrow it will be moving faster than today. They want their people to be able to respond and move quickly. Meanwhile, team members have issues with other team members. There’s cynicism and suspicion of more change initiatives. There’s low-level stress from trying to do more with less for so many years. Every team has barnacles. Old stuff has grown over and attached to the team ship, slowing it down. Curiosity has calcified into certainty. Teams usually want to skip over this stage and leap into agility. Sorry, it doesn’t work that way. The barnacles will continue to get in the way until they’re acknowledged and addressed. And people don’t feel valued…until they’re actually valued. If you want to be agile, first face the barnacles. 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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How to Re-charge Your Battery if You Have the Introvert MBTI Preference

Pause. Take a short break from what you’re working on. Find a quiet place where you can be alone and undisturbed. Close your eyes and take some deep slow breaths. Let the demands of the outer world drain away each time you breathe out. Return to yourself. Then allow your mind to freely wander on its own inner exploration. The quieter the spot you’re in, the more quickly you can rejuvenate yourself, whether it’s a park bench outside, alone or a walk on a quiet path. If you can’t find a quiet spot in your office or outside go out to your car on your break, close your eyes, breathe and relax. If you’re in a very busy, loud environment, a bathroom stall will do in a pinch. It’s important to let go as much as possible of the external demands that are tugging at you, just for these few moments and return to yourself. It’s also helpful to take a short pause between activities. For example, if you’ve had a long drive in traffic, take a quiet moment by yourself before you go inside and meet whomever you are expecting at your destination. This gives your active internal life a chance to catch up with all of your external interactions. Another recharging method is to have a meaningful one-on-one conversation with a person you have a strong connection with, either in person or on the phone. This conversation often will give you even more energy than just quiet, alone time. However, don’t try this when your internal battery is on empty. It works best when you’re just a little depleted. Track what works bests for you. Whenever you are able to take a quick vacation from all externalities pulling at you, you will return to your work refreshed and ready to re-enter the challenges ahead of you. Learn more: MBTI Team Quest - Discover and leverage the various ways your people make decisions, strategize and access information, using this organizational standard. Team members begin to recognize the strengths that other types bring to the team, and the power that comes from multiple types working together.

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How to Re-charge Your Battery if You Have the Extravert MBTI Preference

When you’re tired, worn down and you need some energy to get your work done, try this tip. Extroversion Pause. Take a short break from what you’re working on. Get up from your desk and seek out someone to have a short conversation with. What – The topic isn’t important, but try to make it not be about your work at hand. It could be about sports, weather, politics, current events, an interesting bit of trivia you picked up. Or it could be curiosity about their family, favorite vacation spot, anything. Get curious – what would you like to know about this person? Who – Choose someone, even a stranger is fine, anyone that you’d feel comfortable talking with very briefly about anything you choose. Offer to get someone a cup of coffee or a snack, then have a quick chat with them. How – Try to have this conversation in person. A face-to-face conversation will give you the best shot at recharging your battery. If that isn’t possible, pick up the phone and call someone you know. Emailing and Instant Messaging is a third option, and will do in a pinch. After you’ve had your short conversation and you’re heading back to your work at hand, notice your energy level. Is your battery a little bit re-charged? If so, what about the conversation energized you? Get as specific as you can. The more clearly you can understand what energizes you, the more powerful a tool you can add to your re-charging tool-box. Now, head back to your work, refreshed and ready to re-enter the challenge ahead of you. Learn more: MBTI Team Quest - Discover and leverage the various ways your people make decisions, strategize and access information, using this organizational standard. Team members begin to recognize the strengths that other types bring to the team, and the power that comes from multiple types working together.

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What ‘no’ will get you to ‘yes’?

This is the 10-year anniversary of the newsletter. That’s 120 newsletters. This month I’ll post my 1,300th blog post. It’s something I’m very, very proud of – perhaps what I’m most proud of persisting at this past decade. And I’m grateful for you reading these words. If you weren’t here, I wouldn’t be either. This kind of persistence comes at a cost though. Something else had to be given up in order to write each word I wrote. Again and again I had to say no to something enticing or demanding or relaxing or meaningless enough to not have fear attached to it. There is something you want to do, isn’t there? There is something meaningful to you, something that will be helpful to others. Something that will make your world and the worlds you intersect with a better place. There’s lots of persistent work to be done to make that something to come into fruition. But now, what’s even more important? The seed of that something is going to need to some space to begin to grow. You’re going to need to say no to something else. Something is going to have to be left behind. The journey ahead is long, and you’re going to need to travel light. We have a fascination with the TV show Hoarders. How can people compulsively hold onto so many things that are no longer important? How, indeed? You and I? We’re also hoarders of something. What am I holding on to that is no longer important, no longer helpful to my work? What are you? What can you say no to that will clear the space to do the most important work you were meant to do this year and beyond? What ‘no’ will get you to ‘yes’ – to being the change you so want to see in the world?

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