That’s Life

Today’s Lesson: Life is coming at you and it will never let up. Who are you going to be about it?

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Maybe the best advice I have ever received came from a quirky French guy named Alan. He was a Landmark Forum leader (basically a high-end Life Coach) and, among many nuggets of wisdom he shared, was a gem that has never left me.

It serves as a regular reminder for me whenever I face what seems to be an insurmountable challenge. When I do not know what to do or where to turn, I hear Alan’s accent sharing what sets heroes apart in the world. I don’t remember if he said it exactly like this, but it is pretty close. Alan said:

“You know the saying, ‘Shit happens’, yes? Well… that’s it. Shit happens. Life happens. There is nothing you can do about that. Life is going to happen no matter what. It’s not going to stop happening until you are dead. It’s not going to be easy on you today because it knows you are having a bad day. Life is not going to spare you bad news until tomorrow because you are having such a good day and it does not want to ruin it. No, it doesn’t care. It’s Life.

Life happens. What can you do? You can’t stop it, can’t pause it so you can catch your breath and think through it. It’s happening now. Always now. It’s happening, happening, happening. That’s it.

Life happens.

The only power you have–this is very important, listen–the only power you have is in choosing who you are going to be in the face of that.”

Life happens. The only power we have is in choosing who we will be when faced with the tough parts. 

Thanks, Alan.

 

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How to Tactfully Challenge Your Boss (5 of 5)

A friend asks: “Do you have a blog post on ‘How to tactfully challenge your leader?” Yep. I have 5!

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Your boss asks you to do something that seems bad for business or bad for your team. You want to speak out but you are not sure how without the situation backfiring.

Every boss and every working relationship is different, but here are five tips that help me keep the peace while challenging the status quo:

((Read part 1part 2, part 3, and part 4.)) 

 

5 (of 5). Ask dumb questions. A “dumb” question is what I refer to as “a blatantly obvious question to which you already know the answer“. Pretend you have no idea why your boss is asking whatever he is asking and that you are somehow missing the point. Ask the dumbest question you can think of that will innocently challenge his proposal (probably something like, “Okay, but may I ask why?” or “Help me understand why we are… ” And consider following up with, “Okay, what can I do to help?”

Today’s Lesson: Sometimes asking dumb questions leads to great insights on both sides of the conversation.

I hope this series helped you find ways to politically and tactfully challenge the ideas you think might not lead to the best outcomes. If you want to keep the conversation going, share a story, or offer a tip of your own, be sure to comment on my FaceBook or Tumblr page, or via Twitter. Also, if you found value in the posts, be sure to share them or subscribe to the blog. Thanks for reading and sharing!

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How to Tactfully Challenge Your Boss (4 of 5)

Reader question: “Do you have a blog post on ‘How to tactfully challenge your leader?” Why, yes. In fact, we have 5!

*****

Your boss asks you to do something that seems bad for business or bad for your team. You want to speak out (and your peers are hoping you will) but you are not sure how to do it without the situation blowing up.

Every boss and every working relationship is different, but I can offer five tips that help me keep the peace while challenging the status quo:

((Read part 1part 2, and part 3.)) 

4 (of 5). Use humor. Not agreeing with your boss is almost always more palatable if you can have her laughing while disagreeing with her. Most people love to laugh and are more amenable to suggestions if they are at ease in a good mood. Here is a super secret pro tip I stole from James Altucher: if you know you are going to confront your boss tomorrow, spend today listening to comedians or watching stand-up comedy.

Think about it. Stand-up comedians are professional speakers who challenge conventional ideas for a living and they do it in ways broad audiences accept (and even laugh about!). Before having a challenging conversation, watch stand-up acts. Pay attention to their movements, mannerisms, and vocal cadence. Notice the pauses and set-ups for punch lines. Don’t steal their act. Steal their actions.

This tip is also great as preparation for public speaking, interviews, most social gatherings (if you feel nervous about crowds), or pretty much any speaking engagement.

 

Today’s Lesson: Laugh it up before putting yourself on the spot. It puts both you and the other person at ease. Also, learn from the people who do what you need to do best.

Tomorrow, I’ll share a dumb tip that works magic.

 

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How to Tactfully Challenge Your Boss (3 of 5)

From a former colleague: “Do you have a blog post on ‘How to tactfully challenge your leader or something like that?” Why, yes. Yes, I do. In fact, we have 5 now!

*****

I have been there. My boss asks me to do something that seems bad for business or frankly just sounds like a bad idea. I want to speak out (and my peers are counting on me to) but I am not sure how to do it without the situation blowing up.

Every boss and every working relationship is different, of course, but I can offer five tips that help me keep the peace while challenging the status quo:

((Read part 1 and part 2.))

3 (of 5). Understand your boss might not necessarily agree with the instructions he or she is giving you either. If your boss is generally a bright person yet he is asking you to do something that seems counter to his personality or typical leadership style, he might be following directions, too. A good manager never lets his direct reports distinguish from the Company’s viewpoint and his own (because that is a sure-fire way to disenfranchise employees and pit them against their employer, as well as make the boss seem ineffective and powerless). Or he might understand how the Company is looking at it because he has information you are not yet privy to. That info might change your mind but he may not be at liberty to share it yet.

In all my years leading teams, I have never seen a strategy rolled out without the Company’s best interest in mind. Companies never come up with ideas to sabotage themselves (not intentionally). Front line workers and middle managers do not always see the big, long-term picture. Unfortunately, middle managers are stuck between both standing behind the Company and standing up for the Employee–it is a tough, unfair spot but that is why the best people in the company are usually there.

 

Today’s Lesson: Companies and bosses, like all people (which is what companies and bosses are made of) sometimes have to learn from their mistakes before they can grow again. You can challenge every decision you think is bad but remember you might not have all the information and you can always try trusting your boss first…

Tomorrow, I will give you a super-secret tip that will help you stand up in front of any crowd!

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How to Tactfully Challenge Your Boss (2 of 5)

Question from a reader: “Do you have a blog post on ‘How to tactfully challenge your leader or something like that?” Why, yes. Yes, I do. In fact, we have 5 now!

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((Read part 1.))

I have been there. My boss asks me to do something that seems bad for business, for my team, or frankly, just sounds like a bad idea. I want to speak up (and my peers are counting on me to) but I am not sure how to approach my boss without the situation blowing up.

Every boss and every working relationship is different, of course, but I can offer five tips that helped me keep the peace while challenging the status quo so far in my career:

2 (of 5). Keep your emotions out of it. When your boss asks you to do something you think is stupid or not in your best interest, probably two things are happening. The first is, your boss likely struck a nerve that makes you feel intimidated by the request or demand (which probably means it will lead to personal growth–something we all react to with initial resistance). The other thing that happens is it becomes an interruption to your emotional comfort zone, which means you are going to feel emotional about it. The problem with acting on your emotions is they are sometimes misplaced or out of proportion to the actual problem.

We sometimes become irrationally mad at inanimate objects that do not act differently than they have acted before (I am prone to be angry at my phone when it runs slowly–something it sometimes does yet I am always surprised and angered by until I reign in my emotions). When I react emotionally, I am giving away my power and authority to random chemicals and inciting the other person to do the same. Soon, any actual conversation has ended and we are both only trying to out-emotion each another (whoever seems angriest wins). The actual problem is never solved. The only resolution is the contest of emotions is over and ultimately my boss has the trump card on that anyway.

You can not control or dictate the emotions of someone else but the calmer and cooler you remain the more you signal the other person to do the same and the more power you gain in the conversation.

 

Today’s Lesson: Some people think power is loud and boisterous. Power is the opposite. It is the quiet, calm collection of thoughts and precision placement of words and influence. Before any storm, there is always the Calm.

Tomorrow I’ll tell you what your boss can’t or won’t.

 

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How to Tactfully Challenge Your Boss (1 of 5)

Great question from a friend: “Do you have a blog post on ‘How to tactfully challenge your leader or something like that?” Why, yes. Yes, I do… now. In fact, we will have 5 this week!

*****

I have definitely been there. My boss asks me to do something that either seems bad for business, bad for my team, or frankly, just sounds like a bad idea. I want to speak up (and sometimes my peers are counting on me to speak up) but I have no idea how to approach my boss without the situation blowing up in my face.

I do not think there is a good “fits all” cookie-cutter answer for this because every boss is different and every working relationship is different, but I can offer five tips that have helped me keep the peace while still challenging the status quo. I can probably also offer 100 tips of how I learned NOT to approach bosses and challenge them, but here are 5 that have not bitten me back so far in my career:

1 (of 5). Start with a request for help (even if you do not actually need help). “I need your help with…” or “Help me understand why…” is a more effective way to start the conversation than directly confronting someone who has power over your employment. Starting with a request for help is better than starting with, “Well, I just don’t agree with that…”

Requesting help puts the burden on your shoulders as someone who wants to do the right thing but is maybe not understanding how, instead of putting your boss in a corner and forcing him to defend his character or actions. Put another way, “I need your help with…” translates to, “I don’t get why you are asking me to do this AND… I want to get it right.” On the other hand, “I don’t agree with…” translates to, “I don’t get why you are asking me to do this AND… I think I can do your job better than you can.”

 

Today’s Lesson: Sugar is a better way to attract flies than salt. Sweeten your challenge to an idea by becoming a partner (asking for help) instead of by becoming a combatant (which at the very least tarnishes your boss’ opinion of you and at worst can lead to the end of your employment).

Tomorrow, I’ll tell you how to prepare yourself for any tough conversation, including challenging your boss.

 

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Today’s Lesson: Be Uncomfortable [141020]

 

The room was cold, and I could feel the goose bumps prickling up my arms. It was not unbearable but I knew I was going to be stuck there for at least a few more hours and I hate feeling cold.

As the weather turns toward winter in Michigan, I find myself needing long-sleeved undershirts again, but there is a few weeks between fall and winter where it is too warm for an undershirt and a sweater but too cold for a sweater alone.

I usually opt for the sweater alone. I actually prefer to be too warm rather than too cold but I try to seize small opportunities to embrace being uncomfortable.

Like most people, I avoid and sometimes even fear change. Still, I seize opportunities to be outside of my comfort zone–not too far, but just a little more each day. Being chilly for a few hours is low-hanging fruit (it is definitely not as challenging as, say, giving a speech in front of a hundred people) but the point is not about the extremes. It is simply to try being okay with being uncomfortable for a while.

For some people, that might be as easy as wearing your socks with the heel cup on top of your foot for a few hours. Or it can be as challenging as saying hello to a stranger while standing in line at the grocery store, or having dinner at a restaurant by yourself, or dancing in public. For some of us, all of those things are on the low-end of feeling uncomfortable. For some people, those things are more challenging than jumping out of a plane or scaling a mountain.

What can you do now to increase your ability to embrace change and be more comfortable with being uncomfortable?

 

 


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Today’s Lesson: Sleep And Lose Weight! [141011]

“I’m just tired of these lingering 15 pounds,” I said, “But by the time I get home, I am exhausted and there is still a ton of work to do.”

Nicole thought about it and said, “Get more sleep.”

“What? To lose weight?” I asked. She is pretty clever. She pointed out three things I had not given thought.

 

  1. Most people are sleep-deprived (including me). I sleep 5 or 6 hours each night, but sleep is not the same as rest. I wake up probably a dozen times throughout the night which means I am not completing the sleep cycles my body demands. Stupid, inefficient body.
  2. When we are not getting enough rest, our bodies want more fuel. If your body is not able to do its job while you sleep (repairing, healing, and rebooting), then it will look for the resources to do its work elsewhere, which means it will ask for more food to provide more energy so it can do what it would normally do while you sleep.
  3. If you are sleeping, then you are not eating. I actually added this one, but it is obvious, right? If I get 8 hours of sleep instead of 6, then there are 2 fewer hours where I am likely to snack, munch, drink, or otherwise stuff my face. 

 

Personally, I think this is the best diet plan I have ever heard! I probably will not follow through as recommended (sometimes my brain just refuses to shut down) but I will commit to going to bed earlier and trying not to spend so much time during a day sitting instead of moving around.

Nonetheless, more rest is probably a good prescription for all of us. Let’s take the Sleep Diet challenge!

 

 


 

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Today’s Lesson: “Overwhelmed” is an Adjective, Not a Verb [140929]

 

We all feel overwhelmed at times.

 

Work, family, and personal stress can mount and sometimes many events cascade and need resolution at the same time.

 

No matter how much you have planned for a day, no matter how much pressure you accept from others (and any pressure placed on you must be accepted by you), and no matter how stressed or powerful you feel… you can only accomplish in a single day whatever you accomplished that day.

 

Obviously, you can’t go back and add another three tasks to yesterday. If you do not get something done today, then it simply was unable to fit in today. You chose other priorities.

 

Never stress about what did not happen. You are always doing the thing that is most important to you in a given moment (or else you would be doing something else, right?).

 

The word “overwhelmed” is a verb in the dictionary, but I think that is wrong. “Overwhelmed” is not an action or a state of being. Rather, it is a descriptive word like “green” or “clever”. The distinction is important. By removing “overwhelmed” from your list of verbs (action words) and transferring it to your list of adjectives (descriptive words), you essentially transform it from an inherent state of being to a choice of descriptors.

 

“Overwhelmed” is a choice, not a fact. We demonstrate this all the time, too. If your boss tells you she needs the TPS report by 9 am, you might drop everything to do it, rearranging your priorities. You accept the pressure. If a stranger walks up to you and demands you wash her car, you might laugh at her. No pressure because you would never accept it as a priority in your life.

 

So… the next time you feel overwhelmed, drop the façade. You accepted the pressure. Either embrace the challenge or choose other priorities (of course, that also means you accept the consequences of your choices but that is a different lesson…).

 

 

 


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Today The Lesson I Learned Is: Every Day Has a Lesson. (140727)

I really racked my brain trying to figure out what lesson I learned today. I replayed the whole day in my mind, I talked to Nicole about it, I started to write hoping something would come to me… I had nothing.

There were good things that happened today (bought some nice new sunglasses and kept myself from buying some nice new luggage that I do not need) and some disappointing things (broke a key and procrastinated against much of what I wanted to do today). Overall, it was a decent but relatively unremarkable day.

I tried to find a lesson in those things and couldn’t think of one that was good enough to share. I thought and thought… until I realized the lesson I learned today is:

You have to challenge yourself to find a lesson in every day. The point of this daily blog is to show there is a lesson in every day of our lives if we choose a commitment to learn and grow every single day. Every day of your life goes by whether you squander it or relish in it, and no day comes back for a do-over. Sometimes the lesson is just to learn a lesson!

(P.S. I did learn another really good lesson about broken promises and the 30th anniversary of the movie Purple Rain, but I’ll share that later…)

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