Learning while waiting…

​”Patience is not the ability to wait but the ability to keep a good attitude while waiting.”

Joyce Meyer

Ah, patience…definitely not one of my strongest virtues.  Though I can’t think of one time in my life where patience hasn’t been rewarded in some way or another.  Though in many cases not in the way that I expected.  

I believe there are two ways one can handle being patient.  First, one can have the “why isn’t this happening already?!” approach.  This is where not having a good attitude can be very dangerous.  It makes it hard to remain positive and learn anything beneficial.  

The second, and much more powerful approach, is is to refocus and ask yourself this question, “What am I supposed to be learning during this season of waiting?”  Doing this requires that one have a positive attitude and it enables your ability to grow and learn while waiting.  

If you can reframe waiting to view the world through the lens of learning it can change how you feel about being patient.  Don’t misunderstand, being patient is still extremely challenging, but maybe waiting is more about learning than it is achieving…

 

Sometimes “done” is just the beginning…

“One’s destination is never a place, but always a new way of seeing things.”

Henry Miller

adventure alps amazing beautiful

Do you climb the mountain to get to the top, or to see how the world looks from the peak?  Is it the journey that matters or is it simply a task to be checked off the list?  

How often do we achieve some dream, goal, or destination to simply mark it “complete” and then move on to the next thing?  I know that I am guilty of this all too often and I that by doing so I am missing the real value of achievement; what you learn from having experienced something new and building a new set of lenses through which to view the world.  

Why is this so hard to do?

Is it simply easier to numb yourself with the next new thing than it is to look internally and say “how could I have done this better?” or “what did I learn that can help me the next time?” Or perhaps it is simply that achievement has become the idol in life where the pursuit of more is the way of our modern world and this takes precedence over reflecting on what we have learned and how we have changed.  

Maybe getting to the destination isn’t the goal at all.  It is simply the beginning of a new journey.  A journey that will be forever different because of our experiences and the lessons learned on our way to the our last destination.  The next trip is different because of what we have experienced.  But only if we take the time to pause and reflect on what we have seen.  

 

Why limit yourself?

“If you don’t have the information you need to make wise choices, find someone who does.”

Lori Hil

“Why” is the most powerful word in the English language.  Well, I guess that is a fairly broad statement, but I will certainly make the statement that “why” is the most important word in English as it regards to leadership.  What on earth does that have to do with today’s quote?  Glad you asked. 

Far too often we bog down and spend so much of our time talking about “what” we are going to do without understanding “why” something has happened.  Digging deeply into the why, and getting input and perspective from others, is critical to making good decisions in life and leadership.  To seek information, to make good choices, to lead, one must understand whatever situation or challenge is in front of you.  To be able to do this you either must have all the information yourself, or you have to go out and get it.  If you don’t have all the information, and who ever really does, you have to be willing to admit that fact and actively seek to gain it from others. 

So why don’t people do this more often?  Why is this such a challenge in life and leadership?  Asking for input and perspective from others takes self-awareness.  It takes humility.  It means understanding that you don’t have all the information, you don’t have all the answers, you don’t have all the knowledge.  Asking “why” takes courage and a willingness to learn without having a bias towards your own self-beliefs.  In today’s world admitting that you don’t know something is challenging for many people and leaders.  Of course the flip side side far worse, if you don’t seek perspective then you are stuck with whatever you have been able to learn on your own.  The more we rely on what we already know, the less likely we are to make wise choices.  Find someone who knows more than you do, and ask lots of questions.  Why limit yourself to only what you already know?

How do you measure return on investment?

“The highest reward for a person’s toil is not what they get for it, but what they become by it.”

John Ruskin

Who am I going to become, versus, what am going to get?  These are fundamentally different questions.  I’ll admit that I have spent a lot of my time in life thinking about “return on investment” and that I haven’t spent nearly enough time time thinking about it at an experiential level.  

Working hard is fun.  It is awesome to put in the effort and the labor and see the results that come from it.  But perhaps the most important results are the ones that we don’t measure through tangible “things” but are instead the experiences we have gained and the relationships we have built.  Those are the things that shape us, mold us and create the platform that we build upon for the future. 

To measure success more holistically I think I need to spend some more time thinking about the question “who am I going to become from this effort?” 

 

The most powerful human freedom…

“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”

Viktor E. Frankl

Last year I had the incredible chance to visit Auschwitz-Birkenau.  Words cannot describe this place, nor the pervasive sense of sadness that emanates from every corner. It wasn’t a place where you could laugh or smile, it was hard enough to find the words to simply talk to another person while there.  I vividly remember walking into the “Auschwitz 2” portion of the camp (the purpose built death camp) and there was a group of high school or college age students  walking out talking and laughing and I wanted to yell at them to be quiet to have some respect and appreciation for this place and the evil that had happened there less than 75 years before.  It was just not a place for laughter.

 

IMG_1287

A view through the wire to the gatehouse at Auschwitz-Birkenau

I first read Viktor Frank’s book Man’s Search For Meaning over 25 years ago and have long considered it to be one of the top ten, or perhaps top five, books that I have read in my lifetime.  Until I visited Auschwitz I don’t think I truly understood the depth of meaning that was captured in these pages.  The difference that happens to a person when they have a purpose, a meaning, a reason for living is simply astounding.  If you haven’t read this book I highly encourage you to do so.  I recently picked it back up and find the words  even more powerful now than in my previous readings.  If you ever have the chance to visit Auschwitz-Birkenau it is an experience that you will never forget.  No one should ever forget what happened there…  

We have the power to choose our attitude.  We have the choice of being a victim or an owner of our own situation and how we react to it.  This is incredibly powerful.  It is what separates those with purpose from those who are simply existing through life.  It might be the “last human freedom” as Viktor states it but I believe it is the most powerful and impactful freedom we have as mankind.  God gave us this gift of choice, the freedom to choose how we react, what we choose to focus on, how we choose to respond.  It is an incredible gift and blessing, one not to be overlooked or swept away.  

I hope and pray that no one that I love will ever have to endure anything remotely close to what Viktor, and millions of others, experienced during the Holocaust.  It is important to realize that the powerful lesson in this message doesn’t apply only in the most extreme circumstances, it applies every single day.  How we frame our lives and the intentional purpose that we are seeking to fulfill, is what I pray for myself, and those that I love to find on a daily basis.  It is a choice.  One that we all have…  

IMG_1259

Auschwitz Guardhouse

 

 

Refresh and reboot…

“Rest when you’re weary. Refresh and renew yourself, your body, your mind, your spirit. Then get back to work.”

Ralph Marston

How do you know when you need to rest?  Do you know the signs?  Sometimes it is hard to recognize in ourselves, but the people  around us certainly know, and will tell us if we are willing to listen.  

Similarly, how do you know that you need to reboot your computer?  For me (as an Apple guy) I will go a week or two at a time and then perhaps things start to slow down.  It will take just a bit longer for the computer to respond when I click something.  Then perhaps I can’t change applications as quickly.  Whenever this happens I know I need to simply close my apps and click restart and within a minute or so I am back in business.

The principle is the same with people though I sometimes, okay all the time,  wish that my reboot process was as simple and fast as my computer.  But it isn’t because our operating system is a lot more complicated and the demands on our lives a lot more severe.  Taking the time do an appropriate system reset is what allows our minds and bodies to start fresh, and get back to work.    

Don’t shortchange your reboot cycle, you won’t be nearly as effective and impactful. If you want to make a difference and serve others you have to take of yourself as well. 

The weight of words…

“Collaboration has no hierarchy. The Sun collaborates with soil to bring flowers on the earth.”

Amit Ray

I love the magic in a meeting or a conversation that happens when the focus is on what is being said, not who is speaking.  That’s when a team is working together to solve problems and not simply waiting to be told what to do. Teams will be most excited and most engaged when the weight of the words being spoken by any one contributor aren’t first measured by their title or position.  The leaders job is ensure this happens by creating an environment that recognizes and rewards collaboration and the results that occur. 

The traditional model of leadership hierarchy has its place, at specific times and for specific purposes. But if you want to unlock the real potential of a team as a leader, ask more questions and facilitate more collaboration.

Embrace the suck…

“Difficulties strengthen the mind, as labor does the body.”

Seneca

How easily we understand the need to change our body by challenging it with difficulty.  We get up early, we go to the gym, we push out just one more repetition on the bench press.  We know that by challenging the body we become stronger.  Embracing the suck is what we do to get stronger physically.  It’s easy to do because we have a goal we are striving to accomplish.

It works the same way with mental difficulties of course, but those aren’t as easy to embrace.  I’m not talking about learning new things and seeking new knowledge, that’s different.  I mean the times when life is challenging us, when things aren’t going our way.  Those difficulties aren’t as easy to embrace as strengthening opportunities, until you set aside emotions and personal pride and truly seek to learn from whatever challenge life has thrown your way.  That’s when the breakthroughs happen.  That’s when we get stronger…

Less is more…

“A wealth of information creates a poverty of attention.”

Herbert Simon

This is our society today isn’t it?  There is so much information available that we can only consume it in 140 character soundbites.  Or so much information available that we never want to make a decision because we can always find “just a bit more information” to ensure our decision is the right one.  What if we had less information, but more focus?  Is the old adage that “less is more” more appropriate now than ever before?  

I have been spending a ton of time lately reading everything I can get my hands on regarding focus and intentionality. I am actively seeking out secret tips and special tactics to be more productive with my time. I found myself reflecting back to the “good old days” when there wasn’t a constant barrage of information coming at us 24/7.  But then I picked up my copy of “The Effective Executive” by Peter Drucker (a gift from a very wise friend) and challenges back then were the same challenges we face today.  (By the way, that book was written 50 years ago)  How do you make the best and biggest impact with the time that you have?  As much as we’d (me especially) like to make it a modern problem, it isn’t.  I’d say it’s a human problem.  Why do you think that is?

One step forward…

“You will either step forward into growth or you will step back into safety.”

Abraham Maslow

Growth is uncomfortable if you are stretching yourself.  It’s fun right?!  It’s exciting and it’s scary.  But in a good scary kind of way.  The kind of scary that makes your heart beat fast and your palms sweat.  Like the first day you drove a car by yourself.  Or the first time you had the courage to pick up the phone and call your crush and ask her out.  But what if we never did?  What if we were always safe? Safety scares me more than growth.  Because “safe” means stagnant, or complacent or perhaps death. I mean, what if we still thought the world was flat?  That would have been the “safe” choice back in the day…

What do you think?

 

%d bloggers like this: