Category Archives: Persistence

The pause speeds the sprint

We humans are built for sprints and rests of effort and work. Yet modern business is built on the sprint marathon oxymoron – steady upward growth, and often sustained panic. We’re okay with the sprint. We just don’t know how to stop. It’s the pauses that can scare the heck out of us. And that’s exactly where we need to be challenged. Pauses help us persist and be at our best. It’s when we get smarter. As Tony Schwartz and Jim Loehr laid out in their book The Power of Full Engagement, it’s energy management, not time management. And energy management means strategically disengaging to facilitate maximum engagement. In other words, we need to walk away from something if we want to get closer to it. The pause speeds the sprint.

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Celtics coach Brad Stevens on what to do when things change in a heartbeat

“Your rotation can change in a heartbeat. You can work all summer on it and then you’ve got to adjust in one day. The bottom line is we have an idea of who we’ll play together and who best fits together and what lineups we think we’ll try to use, but we’ll see how it shakes itself out.” – Boston Celtics coach Brad Stevens Most coaches know this truth. But Stevens knows this better than most. The first game of the 2017-2018 season he lost star Gordon Hayward in a season-ending injury. Then later in the season his other star Kyrie Irving went down for the season as well. The remaining squad still managed to push the Cavaliers to a Game Seven in the Eastern Conference Finals, making it one win away from the NBA finals. So what do you do when change happens to your team? Do what Stevens did. Take the time now to see how the team best works together. See who best fits together. Start there. Get to know your people better than you ever could have imagined – their strengths and blind spots. That’s the groundwork. The MBTI and StrengthsFinder will help you do that. Then know that it WILL all change. Plans don’t work out. Things change in a heartbeat – a client change, an industry change, a personnel change, a personal change for a team member, it can all change. You can, as Stevens said, “work all summer on it and then you’ve got to adjust in one day.” Lastly, rely on the people on your team that have the MBTI Perceiving function, and the people on your team that have the Adaptability StrengthsFinder talent. These people are energized when unexpected change happens. They’ll bring positivity and energy to a stressful situation. Because unexpected change happens in a heartbeat. It may have even happened while you were reading these words.

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Steph Curry tries something new for the offseason

“Basketball you are consumed by for nine full months every single day. In the playoffs, every game feels like two regular season games in one. You need to just be able to turn it off.” – Stephen Curry Golden State Warrior point guard Stephen Curry’s workouts are legendary. No matter what city he’s playing in, the stands fill up well before the game to watching him go through his insane pre-game routine. He worked himself out of “pretty good” into “unanimous MVP.” After winning his third championship in the past four years, he did something different the summer of 2018. He rested. He shut down his body to give it a break. No basketball, no lifting weights, nothing. Three weeks, nothing. Then he slowly returned to physical exertion with biking and yoga. The other side of the persistence coin is to persist with rest and recharging. You have no idea how stressed you are right now, how tired and worn down you are right now, how badly you could use some rest. And you won’t until you stop. If you’re playing the long game, recovery times are the shortest path to maximum passion, engagement, productivity These ‘persistence recharger’ rests ideally happen daily (breaks during the day), weekly (some time devoted to shutting down), quarterly (workday days off), AND annually (at least a week solid away from all of it). If Stephen Curry can pause for three weeks, so can you.

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What happens when monarch caterpillars stop eating?

As soon as a monarch caterpillar is born its primary job is to eat. It eats and sleeps, eats and sleeps. Along the way it molts (sheds its skin) five times. It eats so much it even eats its shed skin. It gains 2700 times its original weight. We’re a consumer society. It was the solution that businesses came up with after World War II to keep themselves in business, and the government did its best to help out, hoping to avoid another Great Depression. It worked. Today, we consume more than we ever have: obesity, consumer goods purchases, energy consumption, waste generation, entertainment consumption are all at the highest levels they’ve ever been since we first showed up on the planet. When we consume we feed a hunger – literal or metaphorical. Now that we have enough food to eat (if you’re reading this, that is), this hunger is usually emotional. Back to the butterfly – once it has eaten enough, it forms a chrysalis. 9-14 days later it turns into a butterfly and takes to the air. It no longer needs to eat enough to gain 2700 times its weight. In fact that it would be a pretty bad idea. They need to travel light to make it to Mexico. They start leaving in September. That’s what monarchs do. What do we do when we stop eating? When we’re done consuming and trying to fill a hole there’s a period of waiting and unknown that can be quite unsettling. It’s the visit to the underworld in the Hero’s Journey. We can refuse the call and go back to eating, consuming, preparing. Or we can enter our personal chrysalises and “wait without hope” as T.S. Eliot wrote. If we’re brave enough, we’ll find that, “the faith and the love and the hope are all in the waiting.” Because after we’ve stopped blindly eating like the caterpillar, and we’ve waited in the darkness like the chrysalis, guess what comes next?   “I said to my soul, be still, and wait without hope For hope would be hope for the wrong thing; wait without love, For love would be love of the wrong thing; there is yet faith But the faith and the love and the hope are all in the waiting. Wait without thought, for you are not ready for thought: So the darkness shall be the light, and the stillness the dancing.” -T.S. Eliot

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Are you happy when you’re right or when you’re wrong?

Carol Dweck says we have two mindsets: fixed and growth. In the fixed mindset we’re happy when we’re right, when we know something. In the growth mindset we’re happy when we’re learning. In order to learn we have to not know. In order to learn that we do not know, we have to be wrong. Fixed mindset people are less happy and successful than people with the growth mindset. Do you want to be happy and successful or would you prefer not to be? It starts with the answer to this question: are you happy when you’re right or when you’re wrong?

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What’s even better than direct experience?

Direct experience is how we learn. If we don’t do it, we don’t learn it. Even better? Repeated direct experience, including pauses. When we pause, we learn from our direct experience how to do what we do better by seeing our failures clearly (with kindness). Then we try it again and again and again. Play and persistence together help each other out to help us grow.

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What percent of Florida panthers are black?

Q: What percent of Florida panthers are black? A) 22% B) 100% C) 12% D) 0% Correct Answer: D) 0% In your mind’s eye, when you think of a panther, what color is it? Probably black. Our minds are good at things like that. Minds like to fill in the blanks, to simplify the world, to organize it into right and wrong, good and bad, friend and foe. It’s easier and has historically been safer not to concern yourself with nuances when a saber-tooth tiger is charging at you. The mind says, “that’s foe.” The problem? When the mind fills in the blanks for things that aren’t immediately life-threatening. And that’s pretty much most of our experience. We live in a complex self-induced web of duality. As Antonio Machado said, “In my solitude I have very clearly seen things that were not true.” Growth mindset says we’re not at our best when we’re right – we’re at our best when we’re learning. There’s the story we tell ourselves and the real story. Get curious about learning the real story.

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A tracking form helps you persist

The research says that journaling and tracking your progress greatly increases your chance at persisting at something that’s important to you. In my experience I have found this to be true. I’ve been using a tracking form daily to help me persist since October 20, 2010. I just wrote on mine this morning. Here’s how I use the tracking form. Take the concept and make it your own. The date I put on top is the start date. After the date in smaller type I include inspiration to encourage me and focus me. I don’t often change the inspiration part. I also don’t often notice it. But it doesn’t hurt to have. Each form lasts for two weeks. The first week is on the left side of the day column. The second week is on the right. I include current items in the following ‘buckets’ of my life that are important to me: work, music, exercise, nature, health, each of the 4 Ps of At Your Best (passion/play/purpose/persistence), and inner work. I focus on what’s most important to me that could otherwise be buried in the tugs of a myriad of small urgencies that life and work blithely hand out. My work examples: revamp website, blog writing, newsletter writing, current client work that demands greater focus My exercise examples: flexibility, aerobic, strength My health examples: icing painful areas, posture, physical therapy exercises, tendonitis stretches, sleep log (when I fell asleep and woke up), what hindered or help sleep, whether I took a siesta My inner work examples: meditation, mindfulness, and whatever old fear I’m working on to loosen its grip on me. I place the greatest importance on some aspect of the ‘big stuff’ I’m here on earth to do. That big stuff, if not tended, can lay forgotten. The things that I actually end up tracking invariably are SMART: specific, measurable, attainable, realistic. Mine is double-sided. Most people would be well served to make their forms single sided. I print it out on yellow card stock and put it on my clipboard. I mark it by hand, ideally by the end of the day. I find it helpful to also look at it at the beginning of the day, but don’t always get to that. I’m at my best with this form when I feel the pride of filling something in, with no berating for all the things I didn’t get to. Everything counts, even five minutes. A tracking form is not for everyone, but it might be for you. Give it a try and let me know what you come up with. Click here to download this tracking form

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Go outside and play? “It’s too real!”

“Go outside and play,” Mom told us all summer long when we were young. Mom meant it literally, and Mom is always right of course. It’s also great advice metaphorically. But get outside what exactly? We have a comfort zone where life is easy and enjoyable. And we have a panic zone where life is too hard, too scary, too overwhelming, too…much. There’s a Calvin and Hobbes cartoon where he complains about being outside his TV-watching comfort zone, explaining, “It’s too real.” We call this ‘too real’ zone the challenge zone. The challenge zone is built between the comfort and panic zones. It’s where we learn. It’s where we grow. Too much reality and we’re panicked. Too little and we’re stuck trying to stay comfortable, what Walt Whitman railed against as “indoor complaints”. The literal outside is not always comfortable. It’s often too hot, too bright, too humid, too buggy, just as Calvin so astutely noted. And the metaphorical outside is the same – it’s really real outside the comfort zone. Yet if comfort is our highest priority, we can give up the hope of learning and growing. Every team development session we lead has lots of new concepts, research and ideas to help teams and individuals grow into the challenge zone. And I pair every training with team building activities to try those concepts out, an immediate leap into the challenge zone. That’s where the growth happens. High hopes accompany new ideas. That’s great! And then there’s the reality when trying to put them into play. It’s not easy to see enthusiasm get a dose of direct experience. But that’s the beginning of learning, of “going where I have to go” as the poet Theodore Roethe said. Happy summer! Now get outside and play.

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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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