Remember When We Met Tomorrow?

Today’s Lesson: The future is a nice place to visit but you wouldn’t want to live there.

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You have known your spouse, best friend, or sibling for a long time. You know them better than they sometimes know themselves. Except you do not know them at all.

A funny thing happens when we learn someone’s habits and thoughts over time. We begin anticipating their thoughts and habits. We think we know what they are going to say next. We know how they will decide. We know what they will order when out for dinner. We know what movies they will like. We think we even know what people they will like.

Sometimes we guess right. Sometimes we miss the mark. Our accuracy is not important. When it comes to the most intimate and important people in our lives, what matters is we have stopped dealing with them in the present. Instead, we are always anticipating their future selves. We are having conversations with the people in front of us, but from the future, because we think we know what they are going to say. We choose not to ask certain questions or broach topics we know will anger them, for example. Or we correct them before they make a mistake (“Don’t forget to…”).

We assume past performance indicates future probability.  

As you might have guessed (based on my past performance), I am about to assert this is not an effective approach. Congrats–you got it right this time.

The problem is, our present is always changing. “Now” is already gone. “Now” used to be now but now it is Now, and now “Now” is gone again. Yet it is always now.

Because “now” is always changing, this means the past is always changing, too. The people we think we know so well today are only echoes of the people we knew before. We relate to our friends and family as if they are never-changing yet they surprise us, at times, with what we think are out-of-character decisions or pleasant surprises. Shocking revelation: they are never out of character! They are just different people than when we first met them.

The other problem with dealing with future echoes of present people is we limit them as people in the present. We take away possibilities for their future, like putting up detour signs on roads they could have traveled. We decide their future for them when we finish their sentences. We dictate their life and who they should be when we “know” their reaction to our past self. We even start conversations with, “Promise you won’t get mad”… how can anyone know if they will be mad 5 seconds from now?

I am terribly guilty of all of this. I am a chronic interrupter, for example. I finish sentences, thoughts, or words for people all the time and I know it is a terrible habit. I might interrupt because I think I know where people are headed in a conversation, or I believe my time is more precious to me than theirs is to them so I try to usher their brains along and move us to the next topic faster. Maybe I am merely impatient. I know the general idea of what is being said and the remaining context, to me, is drawn-out filler around what I already knew or decided. I am not sure why I interrupt but I am sure it is not always received well.

One of my personal challenges this year has been to listen to people until they are done speaking. It takes a great deal of effort for me because I have found people often pause to collect more thoughts rather than to invite my turn at speaking. I suspect much of my life has been only hearing and responding to half of conversations. Imagine that! Going through your life only able to speak half sentences because no one lets you finish a thought!

Maybe that is why I became a writer–so I can complete a full thought out without being interrupted by people like me!

I know no one is supposed to say this, but I do not mind telling you it is excruciating for an impatient person to listen to others muddle all the way through their thoughts, but I recommend trying it. I have found (and I think you will, too, because I know you are working on being more patient) that dealing with people in the present instead of dealing with their future echoes opens doors I never knew were there.

Listen without an agenda or worrying what to say in return (because otherwise you are planning the future). See where a conversation takes you. It might lead to a future you never saw coming.

 

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The Doctor Is In

Today’s Lesson: Patience is a virtue… until it isn’t.

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Our office dog, a charming Shih Tzu known as Doctor Monkey, knows how to get what he wants. Doctor Monkey knows where I hide the treats. He knows how to sucker me out of them, too. Those pleading eyes, the cute little dance with a slight, excited whine…

Doctor Monkey, to his credit, also knows when it is pointless to try. If he hovers around me for more than a few minutes and I am engrossed in my work, he half-heartedly tries a whine or two. If I do not respond, Doctor Monkey casually walks over to Bill’s office where he knows he has another opportunity to get what he wants.

Follow Doctor Monkey’s lead. Use your tried and true techniques to achieve success first. If they are not working, though, don’t keep hanging around waiting for magic to happen. Change your approach or move on to the next opportunity.

 

 

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Sleep On It

Patience is often the part to moving forward.

*****

After many failed attempts at assembling the base to a new cat tree tower last night (the directions were literally just a drawing of the finished product), I was ready to send it back to the shipper with a very long complaint letter.

I was certain, though, that all the parts were there. I knew I had to be missing something but for the life of me I could not figure out what. Rather than act out of anger and frustration, I decided instead to give up the project until morning.

When I woke up today, I took one look at the tower and saw what was wrong. Two of the posts were on backwards.
Easy fix, and suddenly I was on my way to happy times for my cat.

Today’s Lesson: Sometimes just making time to rest and then taking a second look can solve the world’s problems.

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The Change Store

This would be an interesting shopping experience…

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What if you could visit a store that sold change? Not like pocket change but real world change–transformations in your life? You pay money and you receive a change in your life. There is no way for you to know what the change will be. It would be like gambling. You pull the lever, the slot machine spins the wheels and… maybe a new dining experience at a restaurant you have never visited or a recommendation for a Tony Robbins book or a new relationship or change in career or an unforgettable vacation or a move to a new city or who knows?

All you are promised when you enter the store is if you buy something, you will not leave the same and, almost always, the change will be for the better. How often would you frequent this store? How much change would you become addicted to? Would you be a frequent shopper?

Can you imagine walking into every mall and seeing, amid the stale, predictable shopping mall staples (JC Penney, Sears, Express, Macy’s, Forever 21, Yankee Candle, etc.) a store that always promises a new experience–a life changing experience–The Change Store?

 

Today’s Lesson: Guess what?  You probably knew this was coming, but The Change Store actually exists! The owners do not actually call it The Change Store, though. We just call it “life” and the best part is you do not actually have to pay any money to walk out with a positive change! Depending how much change you really want, all it costs is a little Courage (sometimes a lot of courage), Patience, and Persistence. Ready to go shopping?

 

 

 

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Today’s Lesson: 9 Lives Left [141003]

She barfed again, this time on the bed.

I was furious, already in a bad mood, and I wanted to act out; I wanted to kick her.

 

It was not easy to maintain my composure and remember she did not do it intentionally. It seemed like she did. It seemed like it was just minutes after I cleaned the puke in the hallway. The worst part was, there was not even a hairball. This time, I think my cat barfed because she liked the way it made her tummy feel afterward.

 

The barfing is definitely the worst part of owning a cat and on a bad day, it can be a true test of compassion and patience.

 

Of course, this is true of lots of things that make us angry, especially things we have little control over. Traffic. Emergencies. The weather during a vacation. Stubbing your toe. And yes, a cat barfing or dog peeing on the rug.

 

When things like this happen, I remind myself who I am (and who I strive to be) and either turn off the emotions or choose different ones. I know the world is not out to get me. It is just the world and sometimes it is great and sometimes it is difficult.

 

It is certainly inconvenient to clean cat hairballs and vomit after the accompanying “hurk… herf… halurrrkkhrf…” signal the arrival of an empty stomach, but that is part of the price for having a cat. It is enticing to complain about it (I love to complain!) but I know there is no point in doing so. The barf will still be there when the complaining is done. My cat will still be cute an hour later and the carpet (or sheets in this case) will be clean.

 

When you know the outcome, sometimes it is easier to take the shortcut there in your mind, while the physical world catches up.

 

An hour later, Rainee was on my lap, purring while I petted her. What attempted hairball?

 

 

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Today’s Lesson: “I Hate Learning Patience” [140926]

“I hate learning patience,” Nicole said as she left for work.

She was waiting on an important answer and knew it would still be a few days before she heard. When I want to know something, I am also impatient but rather than see the lesson in it (waiting helps us learn to be patient), I agonize over not knowing.

I love this lesson because it applies so many times and in so many ways for me. When I am waiting for a response, or an important decision, or for information, or for clarification… being frustrated, anxious, and over-analyzing things that are not yet in my control is a choice.

The other choice is to see the opportunity to practice being patient. That does not mean I have to like it, just that I can choose to learn and apply or to agonize and whine.

I hate learning patience (but I like it better than feeling frustrated!).

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Today’s Lesson: The Zen of Success [140829]


I am proud to have a team that regularly outperforms teams double its size in arguably better markets with more tenured staff. My team performs at a high level regardless of moving targets, staffing adjustments, market changes, or customer traffic patterns. I attribute much of our success to two things, and I was reminded of these today while speaking to a peer: Patience and Persistence. Here is how it works:

Patience: I distill information. It is rare for me to make a decision without analyzing available data and asking for input from my team leaders. Even when I am not directing a team, this is true. For example, I read lots of books on leadership but I throw most of the information out. It is not all relevant to my style of leadership and some of it is plain bad (one popular example is the idea of “servant leadership“–an oxymoron that makes great copy but is meritless as an actual principle). When a directive is delivered to me, I do not necessarily pass it on to my team untarnished. I examine the core value of the message, decide if it is right for us and how the team can best ingest it, and then act in alignment with our team values.

An easy way to kill team effectiveness is by delivering conflicting messages. That is why it is important to be a filter for the information coming in. I once worked for a company that had, as one of its core values, “Empower employees” yet required employees to complete a requisition form for the most basic office supplies, even Paper Mate cheap ball point pens–if you wanted one, you were “empowered” to fill out a form. Of course, the irony of that was lost on no one… except the head of HR.

Persistence: I take the long view. I have learned that everybody wants something and they want it now but that is almost never a path to sustainable success. In personal affairs or in business, we deal with agendas. Family, friends, coworkers, bosses, vendors, television news anchors, brands, even our pets have an agenda and they all want you to follow theirs.

Instead, I stick to my team’s agenda, deliver the results we are focused on despite distractions and requests coming at us (distill the information), and ensure we are operating within our team values and principles. If we understand the overall mission we have been charged with (which is usually closer to “grow the business” than it is to “we need to sell more widgets now, now, now!”), then it is easier to quiet the noise, take the long view, and follow our agenda.

In a more than 20-year old company, my team has quietly become the fifth most consistent performing team in only 3 years and we continue a quiet but steady rise. Sometimes we are recognized but usually we don’t make big splashes; we just continue to do well and try to improve day by day. We never seek magic bullets and we do not compromise our team values of Integrity, Honesty, and Trust.

If there is a secret Leadership club where all the popular leadership skills are passed out to every author basically re-writing the same book, I was not invited. I have figured out a few things, though, by simply being persistent and patient. It takes persistence to seek information, edit what does not fit and find those little nuggets that change everything. It takes patience to walk, not run, when others are screaming “fire!” and you know that keeping your team on task sometimes is the task.

Whether in business or personal success, I can tell you patience and persistence always pay off.

 

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The Lesson I Learned Today… 140618

Patience is one of the best things to learn and one of the hardest things to practice.

I struggle daily with applying patience to my life. When my focus is interrupted by a message, a person, or even sometimes a random thought, I quickly become frustrated. It takes (sometimes) a lot of effort to be still, be calm, and even greater effort to be appropriately responsive.

When I am tackling a problem, I devote myself to it. Whether the problem is generating more sales, planning my week, coaching someone through an issue, or just making dinner, I tend to turn the problem over in my mind, examine likely outcomes, plan my actions, and then move toward my goal.

Even in conversation, if someone is clearly not hearing my point, I must force myself to wait for them to finish speaking and to hear them nonetheless, before moving forward.

An interruption, however, is sometimes exactly what I need. Sometimes it forces me to recalculate or provides a break to see a problem from a fresh perspective.

Even when Nicole or Rainee is seeking my attention, I must pause, check my inner anger at the interruption, and remind myself to be still, be present for a few minutes and enjoy the things in life that bring me pleasure. I am treated to many daily lessons that allow me to practice patience, presence, and attentiveness rather than single-minded focus on a task or chore that ultimately contributes far less to my life than the people (or pets) in my life.

Patience, truly, is a virtue, but it’s not the easiest one. Also, sometimes learning the virtue of patience actually happens when I remember I am not the only one who needs practice!

 

 

 

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Patience And Vision – 2

Is there a time when having Vision and Patience is not appropriate or useful? Sure.

If your house is burning down (figuratively or literally), it is not the best time to map out and reassess a strategic goal and reflect on the nuances of your path and potential obstacles between your destination and you. You want to either grab a fire extinguisher or get out of there!

In other words, do not chase so single-mindedly your overall vision that you dismiss what is in front of you right now. Focus on both, and practice becoming better at weighing the benefits of each.

My family thinks I am too quick to fall in love, for example. When I meet someone compatible with my needs, I am not afraid to commit and try to enjoy every moment together, even if I think the predictable future is not likely to be success. Though I might know where I want my future to ultimately lead, there is always a chance I may not reach the goal I desire. I would be a fool, then, to pass an opportunity for joy only because there is the potential for sorrow.

I must choose intelligently, of course. I must have the Vision and Patience to continue working toward my overall goals, but I also must live in reality and acknowledge that I can lose everything at any moment. The trick is to be content in every moment I can.

To follow suit with my examples from Part One of this post, in martial arts if I am fighting someone else, I must have the vision of my goal and patience to make the right decision at the right time, but I must also be clever enough to spot an open opportunity if my opponent drops his guard for a moment or loses his balance.

In business, I need the patience and vision to master my career and follow my goals, but I also must be cautious not to foolishly turn down a promotion or opportunity that presents itself now, as long as it is still aligned with my overall vision.

Live for the future but live in the present. Exercise Patience, follow your Vision, but don’t lose sight of the fleetingness of life. Everything changes, all the time. Allow yourself to be content in every moment.

Sometimes you just have to wait… but sometimes you only have to wait a moment.

 

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Vision And Patience – 1

I have never won anything in life by simply racing to the finish (not even a race). Whether business success, relationship needs, or material wants, any victory of significance for me has come from having patience and vision.

I am certain the goals I reach in life happen because I am able to see, where others do not, the long road to the future I wish to make reality. I can not express the value of waiting for the right time to make the right decision. In the interim, though it can be extraordinarily difficult, sometimes all there is to do is wait. Patience, then, is an action. Patience is the act of finding inner peace when your mind is racing, of answering to your calmness and self-control, which in turn allows you to think clearly and move swiftly when the very decision itself runs out of patience.

Patience without vision, though, is boredom, is death. If it is time to wait, then be sure you know clearly what you are waiting for. Vision is an action, too. Vision is the act of looking into possible futures and choosing the one you will make reality, and then seeing the road to travel from where you are to where you want to be. Further, you must keep looking and checking the state of the road, over and over–obstacles can change–indeed, will change, causing you to re-assess both the goal and the direction to reach it. The trick is never losing sight of the goal or the future you are choosing.

This applies in relationships, of course. What is sweeter than the wait for the first kiss with a new love? But without patience, you might jump the gun and find yourself rejected. Without vision, the first kiss may never happen and you may find yourself watching the woman of your dreams meet someone else because she simply was not sure if you wanted her.

Another example is in martial arts. When you are fighting, you must start with the vision of your victory over your opponent and then see the path to reach it. You must be patient when he strikes to avoid traps, feigns, or mistakes in your own balance and emotion that he might turn into his victory (naturally, his success depends on his patience and vision, too).

This applies in business as well. To reach number one in any field, you must know what the metrics are to surpass them (Vision) and you must build yourself or your team by learning and applying and gaining experience (Patience) to overtake one-by-one the opponents or obstacles in your way.

Sometimes the hardest part is waiting, but knowing what you are waiting for and why can make it infinitely easier to bear. I suppose the secret here is to know when the waiting is no longer worth the reward, but to understand that you must know your own values and how well those values are aligned with your vision.

It should go without saying, but Vision and Patience are only values if  they stay true to your other moral and ethical values. Taking that kiss the wrong way could be rape. Getting ahead in business by being unscrupulous could be stealing or cheating. Not having patience and vision in a competitive fight could lead to serious injury or worse, death.

 

Anything worth winning is worth waiting for, to what extent it is worth waiting is up to you, but the best things (or goals, or people), I can tell you, are often the ones that require the most patience and surest vision.  Sometimes you just have to wait.

 

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