- What is my unique value?
- What should I be saying yes to?
- What should I be saying no to?
- What makes me feel good/bad?
- What conditions allow me to be at my best?
- Who do I want to be at work?
- How do I behave when I’m angry or frustrated?
- When do I find myself outside of my integrity?
- How do I accept and deal with feedback?
- What do I have complete control over?
What am I working on?
I believe that wisdom can only be created through our own action and effort. We do that by exhausting our own resources working on problems, ideas, and asking ourselves tough questions. Here you will find (almost) daily posts of the things I'm trying to figure out for myself. Have a quick scroll through and see if you can find something that interests you :)
Almost daily I write a reply on an index card to the following question:
“Who do I want to be today?”
I’ve been doing this consistently since February 2021, and it was only today I realised that I was only doing half the exercise!
The part that’s missing is to, at the end of the day, look back over it and see how closely my actions and behaviours corresponded with who I wanted to be today.
I share this with you for a few reasons:
- It’s a very simple exercise
- It has helped me to do better work (and it may help you)
- On bad days, it has helped me come back to my values
…and right now, I’m looking back through three months of entries and it’s clear to me a) who I *really* want to be, and b) what I struggle with on a daily basis.
Here’s a snippet of what keeps turning up for me:
- Be kind
- Listen and be genuinely interested in others
- Pay attention
- It’s not about you
- Lean into your strengths
- Believe in the value you bring
- Be the best teacher/coach you can be
- Ask great questions
- Don’t take things personally
- Don’t let fear control you
- Don’t make assumptions
- Just be yourself
- You don’t need to prove yourself to anyone
- See the potential in others
- Assume that people are good and trying their best
- Elevate and celebrate others
I’ve had a number of major ‘career’ transitions this past 10 years.
A highlight reel:
- Left home to start my first management job (19)
- Employee to student (at 29)
- Student to entrepreneur (at 31)
- Entrepreneur to employee (at 38)
Of course, there’s always uncertainty when making big changes and decisions, but when I look back I never really got bogged down or distracted by the uncertainty.
Why is that?
About 18 months ago me and a friend were both going through a major career change, and although we had both landed in a good place, we were both unsure about many things.
That’s when we changed our thinking.
Instead of worrying about what’s uncertain (not within our control), we focused on what is certain (what we have complete control over).
Here’s a quick list of what we could rely on:
- Our work ethic and willingness to do the work
- Our ability to study and learn quickly
- Our ability to get on with and help other people
For me, knowing that these three factors are always within my complete control gives me the certainty that I will do well wherever I end up.
Over to you…
What can you rely on when things in your life are uncertain?
- Let go of perfectionism
- Don’t let fear control you
- Lean heavily into your strengths
- Strive for better, rather than best
- Make mistakes and learn from them
- Be strict about who and what gets your energy and attention
- Get really good at saying no with kindness and integrity
- Get clear on the conditions for doing your best work
- Focus on what you have complete control over
- Accept that you can’t do everything well
- Know and respect your boundaries
- Remove pointless distractions
- Take control of your schedule
- Ask for help quickly and often
- Measure your work on inputs
- Embrace constraints
What do they have in common with each other?
They both want to:
- Make the world a better place
- Work hard for something that matters
- Feel fulfilled and satisfied at work
- Work to serve and help others
- Provide for and create a better life for their family
- Learn, grow and get better
- Make their dreams a reality
- Create ambitious ideas
- Express their agency and have choices
…and, they also make sacrifices and take risks for their work.
I feel we all have a duty, perhaps more now than ever, to look at what we have in common with each other and challenge these stereotypes.
Let’s work together to mend the fabric, rather than tear holes in it.
One of the most common challenges I see in my work is leadership spending very little time thinking about how to communicate a change or solution to their high-performing teams.
A lot of work goes into solving problems at the leadership level, and often times the value of that work is dramatically diminished by poor communication.
Simply put, solving a problem is only half the work. The other half is where you put time, effort and energy into communicating it to your team.
You may have the single best solution, but if your team don’t buy-in to it then you are going to be spending a lot of your time and energy dealing with resistance and push back.
Leaders present their team with solutions and wonder why they get problems.
Instead, leaders should present their team with problems and get help creating solutions.
I watched a video from Joe Satriani (guitarist) today. He said:
”If it doesn’t exist you really have no right to talk about it. If you are brave enough to take that first step and put that first stroke of paint on the canvas or lay down that first rhythm part, then you have the right to talk about it further and get other people involved”
I thought to myself…”Ok, I better get to work then! I won’t talk to anyone about this project until it’s done. That’s the challenge. Just do it, and don’t tell a soul.”
It’s all too common set goals and immediately sharing them with the world. But it’s just more distracting noise about a thing they might do, rather than something they actually produced that adds real value.
Two other examples:
- Architects (band) – you don’t hear about their new album until the first single is released.
- Ryan Holiday (author) – you don’t hear anything about his new book until it’s being published.
So, what’s the lesson? Creating something people want to talk about is more important than talking about something you haven’t yet created.
Anyone can talk a good game about what they are going to do. What’s rare is getting the head down, staying quiet and getting the work done.
It’s the quiet ones we should be watching!
Many people don’t like being told what to do. They want to feel in control and make independent choices about what they give their time and attention to.
Which is completely fine, however…
…at the drop of a hat, they will let their emotions carry them away by getting defensive, angry and drawn into the drama. They may even change their whole direction just to prove other people wrong.
You may not like being told what to do, but you ultimately let other people control you in a different way. Either way, the outcome is the same – you are being carried away by other people.
You are still being told what to do.
What’s the lesson?
It’s somewhat easier to reject overt instruction – like being verbally told what to do by someone else – but it’s much more difficult to recognise when your emotions are making irrational decisions for you and changing your behaviour based on how the people around you act and behave.
- Who’s carrying me away?
- Who am I giving control to?
- Who am I letting get to me?
I enjoy this challenge, and maybe you will too…
The next time you are tempted to use an inspirational quote to make a point, resist.
Instead, try to express that same point in your own words…through your own thinking.
It’s not so much that you might be able to say it better, or that quotes are necessarily bad or wrong (those that know me well know that I love an inspirational quote). But that’s all quotes will ever be – inspirational.
A quote will never transfer wisdom, which is something you have to create for yourself.
Using other people’s quotes short circuit the thinking process. It’s means we don’t have to think for ourselves.
I’ve found that I end up disagreeing with quotes, or that they don’t really mean what I think they mean, or that I can say it better in my own words, or that I don’t really have an opinion on that thing.
But at the end of the day, I feel more confident and clear because I took the time to think it through for myself.
It might not be as cool, or as succinct, or as catchy…you may even arrive at the same conclusion as others. But the important thing is that we don’t get complacent in our thinking, and that we continue to challenge ourselves.
Up for the challenge?