What’s in your head may be totally wrong.
The above statement may make you shrug your shoulders, as you think I’ve grasped something so obvious.
I had a conversation with a client today who relayed multiple stories of leaders who continued to rely on the faulty data roaming around in their heads. It was clear to him that much was missing and much could go wrong on multiple projects. As I’m sure you can imagine, big plans and tight deadlines were the drivers.
I asked him whether these leaders lived inside their own heads. I proceeded to explain why our own thought processes can deceive us. I pointed out that our thought processes have a tendency to be reliant on self and past accomplishments. You’ve experienced this before. A smart person who has been told how smart they are, with success to show for it, typically is not accepting of contrary opinion or advice. Who needs it when you’ve pretty much figured out the riddle of life and work.
People from all walks of life are interesting in how they apply thoughtful analysis, or critical thinking. My coaching client saw an example at work of how very smart people can fall into the trap of leaning on their own mental capabilities. Much of it is a pick and choose proposition. What if you were told by their doctor to come back annually for a test, you’d say of course they will make the appointment without missing a beat. Isn’t it ironic how you can rationalize not doing it. Recognize these sentences:
- “I have to complete this project, and then I will…”
- “I feel great and I’m not in any pain.”
- “I don’t think it’s as serious as he told me it was.”
It really is arrogance-covert or overt. Arrogant people often have the biggest blind sides. Once again, relying only on information that fits what’s in their head. It took me years to turn around on this front.
I’ve spent a lot of time communicating the importance of stopping and looking around. The path to finding the moments, and moments are gifts, if we stop and look around.
How many gifts do you think you’re given every day?
The truth is, we miss many of the gifts because we’re overlooking them to get to the next thing. It’s a mad world when our sole focus is on the next promotion, the next love affair the next great feat that’ll make us loved. I know the power of mindfulness intimately, the power of stopping and being in a moment, goes beyond worn-out marketing slogans and worn-out company initiatives to solve problems that can’t be solved corporately. What I’m speaking to is remembering that we only have a certain amount of time in a lifetime. It’s up to us as to what we embrace and what we ignore.
Before I go into writing about the five reasons to stop and look around, I want to remind you that there’s repetition in the way I approach the subject the way I do. I believe we’re in a war for our gifts because it’s almost as if we have forces that seek to destroy what moments we have. The fight is vitally important and what comes within it.
Let’s look at the five reasons to stop and look around:
- Slow down and breathe. Great things occur when we slow down and find our breath meter. Taking time to do this will give room for reflection. The maddening rush of the world around us the continually messages us to grab more, take more and conquer more. Slowing down is a key, instead.
- Determine what’s really most important to you. I stress really because many of us are professional in lying to ourselves. We’re connecting back to slowing down here. The idea that we’ve got to establish what is most important and be courageous to commit. Are you willing to be allegiant to what’s most important, in a way that my actions can be measured?
- Get some people around you that can keep you accountable. These people don’t buy your self-BS. They are not willing to just take your word for it. These folks deal in the real, with love.
- Stop the maddening pursuit of retirement income, work/career and whatever else that preoccupies. I’m not indicting the aforementioned, just the maddening pursuit. The truth is, at least in America, it’s delusional now. We’ve given working/ career and retirement way too much of our attention. For example, how do you know what 65 is gonna look like? Many have lost what they love because they killed themselves pursuing wind.
- Get over yourself. That’s right, stop making you the center of the universe. You do realize that the focus on getting you balanced is so there can be light behind you. A brilliant light is the aim. A wise mentor told me not too long ago, “Eric, you have to give yourself away, like Jesus did.” By the way, you’ll get more in return by doing it. It’s counterintuitive (the reason many refuse) and it’s beautiful.
Positioning to stop and look around is key to finding true meaning. Why not let yourself be found?
As I progress through life, I am more aware of the trade-offs each day brings. When I look at my calendar, when I reflect on my thoughts or when I consider a business opportunity. Regardless of the situation, a trade is made in everything. Like you, I want to be pleased by what I trade. I apply this to today and tomorrow.
In my younger days I thought I was made of steel. I still feel really strong. I now pause and consider my choices more carefully. My margin for error has changed. I’ve found an interesting correlation between feeling like a man of steel and ignoring life’s trade offs; comfort.
Comfort is worshipped in many parts of the world. America is a leader in this type of worship. I’m not against comfort, I just see it as something to be careful with. Change never comes through comfort, no matter how much we delude ourselves.I even introduce discomfort for the purpose of keeping myself on a healthy razor’s edge. For example, I practice muscle confusion in my exercise plans. This is not revolutionary, but it helps my mind stay focused on growth and not on what feels “familiar.”
It’s a daily battle and it doesn’t happen naturally.
I highly recommend you give careful consideration to the trade-offs in the following areas of life:
- Relationships-Is what you’re pursuing more important than your relationships?
- Business and Career-Is the move into something bigger, more important than the space you operate in now?
- Physical and Mental Wellbeing-Is trading the quality of your physical and mental wellbeing worth compromising, in the end?
- Spirituality-Is your spirituality only a passing thought?
- Learning-Is what you’re doing supported by something that will last, like learning?
Each of the above will require something from you, make sure you can live with the transaction.
A re-post from 2010.
I read once that if you want to get comfortable with telling lies to others, you need to get comfortable with telling lies to yourself. Kind of chilling when you think about it. I agree with the analogy.
Now what are these self-lies we tell ourselves? In my case, during my days in the corporate world, it was performance. For example, if I hit this number I will get an applause at the weekly staff meeting. I would sit and find myself perspiring and feeling so much adrenaline at the thought of telling my peers how well my group was doing. The lie I embraced was that age old dysfunction of; “if I do this or that, I will be liked/loved.” Did my peers like/love me because of my great feats? No, and if some were of the flattering variety, it never lasted very long.
Telling, and believing, self-lies is a dangerous habit. Like an awful addiction to any opiate. You can never find the strength to stop. It can cripple you from finding and leading an Epic Life. One scary part is found in how many people/messages are out there to fuel the habit. It ends when the habit births regret.
In the end, lies are lies, no way around it.
Lying to oneself is not only confined to the individual. But creeps into the organizational world too. Take the large corporation that proclaims, via marketing, that it values the client. Ironically, though, its client service department can’t even return phone calls in a reasonable fashion. The organization continues to print materials, hold town hall meetings, format focus groups, but the truth is still the same; valuing a client is more of a fantasy. And by the way, most loyal clients know this.
So what happens if we start embracing the truth versus the lie? Here are some outcomes to consider:
- We can get down to the business of change-for the better.
- We’ll stop blaming the competition, our dads, the economy or some other phantasm for our poor results.
- Focus and happiness.
- A legacy colored in the brush strokes of love and action.
I’m sure there are more outcomes to list, but the point remains for un to stop the lies. Our Epic Life/Venture depends on it.
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”
I am a fractured man. I have multiple scars and limps from battles lost, and won. All of these are forming every day. The forming of:
The fractured men and women I’ve known are full of clarity. They see no point in pretense and posing. They understand that life is a limited time offer. This is only known when a human comes in touch with the brink (death, business failure, relationship loss, and more). Each time I’ve been in the position of looking at the brink, I’m reminded of the futility of thinking I have control. The story will never cede its authority.
I used to see the process of fracturing as unwelcome visitors. I discovered some time ago that these visitors are friends designed to bring me to a form of completeness.
In the age we live in, my words are contrarian and not talked about. Everything is about winning, typically at all costs. You would think life is just a big contest with all the glory at the end. I wish we paid more attention to the input, the blood, the sweat. It could make a big difference.
Courage is following Your path, even though the odds favor failure. It is unwavering, even when a decision seems to make no sense.
Careful consideration is needed when living in an age of surrender and compromise.
The following are my top ten finds in 2015, so far:
- Personality differences between entrepreneurs and employees –http://read.bi/1vOZdQ6
- The stability trap – https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/stability-trap-carmen-medina
- Why telemedicine’s time has finally come – http://onforb.es/17EawVP
- World’s most romantic cities – http://www.foodandwine.com/slideshows/worlds-most-romantic-cities/25
- Building the chest through exercise – http://www.menshealth.com/fitness/anarchy-chest-workout
- Risks leading to reward – http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/243061
- Jazz vs. Symphony – http://on.bcg.com/1hi5LVj
- Will Uber make your job obsolete – http://cnn.it/1FumHQf
- Academic economics, strengths and weaknesses – http://bit.ly/1HOwfGS
- Lack of sleep and Alzheimer’s – http://bit.ly/1CVmdUh
I can’t think of a more abused/overused word than “leadership.” So few practice well the ARS DUCENDI (latin for the art of leadership). Seems like we should shy away from using it. But, alas, this post isn’t about how to remove a word from our modern lexicon.
I’ve come to a point in my life where I believe that the “art” of leadership is found in integration and balance. Show me a man or woman who integrates and applies balance to their lives, and I’ll show you someone who understands what true leadership is. They may not have a title, may not have a corner office, may not rake in tons of dough, but they know and live the art of leadership.
The integration part is when the leader sees all areas of life (eight in my view) as important and therefore worth the time and work needed. It would be easy here to anoint then as a superhero/heroine. In a culture like ours (America in my case) we see these folks as superhuman and worthy of worship. This is a fatal mistake. We should never allow any human to live out our destiny for us. As rhetorical as that statement sounds, many people are on the sidelines, content to let someone else play their role. As you have heard before, only you can be you.
The balance part is a thing of beauty. I consider it the knowing when to and when not to. Miles Davis was brilliant at this from a musical standpoint. He seemed to know that the music was inside him and he needed to get out of the way so that it could flow out. Balance is found when you know the context and you live accordingly. For example, you know you’ve hit the point of diminishing return in the workday and your daughter is nudging you to communicate. You want to tackle one more email, but there she is. At this point, those who practice balance know it’s time to shut the work down and inject themselves into the life of their daughter. Like Miles, you get out of the way.
It’s time for you to start your version of ARS DUCENDI. You can’t ignore it and expect to have a life you want. Fools have tried and find themselves in the sad state of regret.
The shift from arrogance to humility should not be a take it or leave it process. Far too often, the two opposing mindsets have been relegated to personality test outcomes or to individual behaviors. We all know the two have far reaching impact on multiple areas of life. Like the following:
- Performance (business and personal
Most businesses (large and small) are afraid to tackle arrogance and humility. The pendulum either swings to enablement of the arrogant, or swings to not feeling comfortable with the “touchy, feely” of humility. When an organization refuses to deal, they run to distractions. Typically, meetings and over-thinking financial performance are du jour.
I am a man who has gone (still going) through the shift from arrogance to humility. I’ve grappled with regret, sadness, embarrassment, and more regarding this. It’s very hard work and the sooner you do it the better. I’ve even had the 3 AM visits, from above, reminding me of things I thought were buried and unknown to others. Maybe you have too.
I decided awhile ago to allow God to change me so that I can be like the sun, not gray and overcast. I couldn’t change myself. Arrogance, like humility, begins with a seed, moves to the roots, and then evidence in the form of a plant. Seeing a field of plants was too daunting and intimidating to change. Besides, even with the self-loathing, I also built a place of comfort, It was something I knew how to be. This quote from Jony Ive reveals how subtle this battle can be:
“I remember talking to Steve Jobs and asked why he was perceived as harsh. And I said couldn’t we be more moderate? And he said why? And I said, because I care about the team. And he said: “No Jony, you’re just really vain. You just want people to like you. I’m surprised at you, because I thought you really held the work up as the most important and not how you are perceived by people. People misunderstand Steve because he was so focused.”
Remember, there’s a lot on the line here. I’m choosing to shift. How about you?
I’m thankful for my friends who’ve had the courage to call me on my BS. The was done out of love and a keen sense on their part that something wasn’t right. In the last 10 years I’ve been recovering from the habit. I’m sure my time in corporate America, insecurities and a fear of being the “real” me contributed to all the posing. I see it for what it is now. I hate it!
Two strong conclusions leap out. One, we live in a BS culture. Two, if we don’t do a gut check everyday (yes, everyday), we’ll become that BS culture.
Some people who know me on the surface, might be surprised by the above. They know my acting, not who I really am. Fortunately, BS rears its head less and less these days, so don’t worry, I’m the boy you see now.
So what’s so urgent about the problem? Time, and time is running out for all of us. Some of the most outwardly successful people personify the problem. They act as if tomorrow is an eternity away. Most would never dare call them on it either, let alone walk the other way. A sick form of enablement. Often we close our eyes and pretend to only hear and see certain things. Most are willing to look the other way if it means getting what they came for. In America, that usually means a title, an investment account or who they know. It’s a cold reality we live in.
I only woke up, and learned (still learning) how to live differently, when I lost all my stage props and the interest of the culture. Imagine going to an audition and thinking you had one more good line for the director. Only to find, God was the only in attendance. With me, He only wanted to talk about where the real Eric was. I used to walk out, but then my life unravelled to a point where I had nowhere else I could go.
It was the best place for me, I could breathe.