Are you really listening to what others have to say?

“Successful people ask for the criticism of others and consider its merit.”

Ray Dalio

If you are going to ask for the criticism of others, you have to be ready, willing, and able to HEAR what they might have to say. To do this effectively, one must surrender their ego and desire to be right and instead focus on the desire to be BETTER. Of course, this is much easier said than done. However, the burning platform in all of our minds should be that “what got us here won’t get us where we want to go” if we aren’t seeking out FEEDBACK and perspective.  

That’s what the second part of the quote is all about, can one put their ego aside long enough to consider the perspective and perception of others? Does the view of the world, seen through someone else’s lens, have merit that should necessitate a change in understanding or behavior on your part?  

I think this is where the world falls apart today. Everyone is talking, very few are listening. Very few are willing to open themselves to input and criticism and then do the much more complex work of interpreting the merit of that perspective in an honest and meaningful manner. Wouldn’t we be much more successful in life if we all did this?

Is your growth based on success?

“Some people could be given an entire field of roses and only see the thorns in it. Others could be given a single weed and only see the wildflower in it. Perception is a key component to gratitude. And gratitude a key component to joy.”

Amy Weatherly

Roses or thorns? Weeds or wildflowers? Which ones do you naturally see? Or, stated another way, what is going well versus what needs improvement?

I fully admit that I tend to view the world through the lens of “opportunity for improvement” instead of seeing things going well. As a result, I bias towards what can/should be done better or more effectively and focus my energy on improving and growing those areas. It isn’t bad necessarily, but just as it helps to list the things you are grateful for, it is vital to list the things you are doing well and then find a way to do more of them.  

A daily gratitude journal has been one of the best personal growth habits I have ever implemented; perhaps a daily “successes” journal would be just as impactful, especially if one were to take those things that built the win and use them as a foundation to create more successes.  

Sometimes disconnecting is the best way to really connect…

“I firmly believe that nature brings solace in all troubles.”

Unknown

There is something special about being outside in nature. All the problems, challenges, and obstacles we face seem to take a different meaning when we get away and disconnect. Maybe that’s it—disconnection from the temporary things that cloud our judgment and reconnection to the eternal. Nature is a reminder of the enduring aspects of life. The mountains will be here in ten, twenty, fifty years. The ocean will still be rolling and surging and the creeks will still be flowing.

Find time to get away, disengage, unplug from all the distractions. Plug into nature and see what a wonderful world we are blessed to share. 

Do you spend your time focused on “as it is,” or “as it should be?”

“When we take people merely as they are, we make them worse; when we treat them as if they were what they should be, we improve them as far as they can be improved.” 

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Do you take this perspective with others? Do you see people as their best and brightest selves? How do your views and interactions change when you intentionally shift your mind from the “as they are” to the “what they should be” viewpoint? What questions would you ask, and what changes would you make when you take the latter view?

What about yourself? Do you spend your time in an “as you are” or “as you should be” mindset? More importantly, when you make the mental shift, what action are you going to take for yourself or others? 

Think “present past” or “future back.”

“The pessimist sees difficulty in every opportunity. The optimist sees opportunity in every difficulty.”

Winston Churchill

Do you choose to see the world through a lens of positive or negative opportunities? Is your first inclination to look for the reasons why something won’t work? Or do you have a tendency to see the silver lining in every cloud? How you choose to answer these questions will have a profound impact on your life.

Everything that happens creates an opportunity for growth and development. One technique that I have found helpful is to reframe the current situation and think as if I were recalling it a year from now. Ask yourself this question. One year from today what is the biggest opportunity that was presented I am so glad I didn’t let slip through my fingers?

In many ways, the bigger the difficulty, the larger the opportunities that exist to change your world, and the world of those around you. Reframe your mind to think about the world from a “future back” perspective and suddenly all those challenges will present themselves as opportunities…

Who are you?

“I have found that the greatest help in meeting any problem with decency and self-respect and whatever courage is demanded, is to know where you yourself stand. That is, to have in words what you believe and are acting from.”

William Faulkner

Do you have a written list of the things that you hold most dear? A list of principles or values that you use to guide your thoughts and actions? How long is your list? Is it a list of things that describe the person you want to be or the one that you actually are? I would suggest that if you list is longer than three things it is too long. You can’t be everything to everyone. Your values can’t be aspirational or only apply some of the time. It must be the deep bedrock of who you are as a person so that no matter what storm is going on around you, you have a very clear picture of what is really important.

If you don’t have this written down then carve out some time to think about it. Brainstorm a long list of all the principles that matter to you and then narrow it down so that you can have, in writing, that which truly matters. Look at it every day and ask yourself this question.

Am I living my life in a manner that reflects what I believe?

Endurance…

“That which does not kill us makes us stronger.”

Friedrich Nietzsche

I recently read “The Shackleton Way” and was absolutely fascinated by the leadership skills and expertise that Sir Earnest Shackleton displayed during the epic “Endurance” expedition attempt to cross the Antarctic continent. It intrigued me so greatly that I then read “South” which is Shackleton’s book on the topic and am in the process of reading “Endurance” which is considered to be the seminal work on the subject.

I am continually amazed by the fact that in the face of the greatest of unknowns, and with no outside influence or support, that men could rise above the uncertainly of the next moment and survive for months at a time in the most grueling of conditions. The name of their ship, the “Endurance” was incredibly apt for what was to come.

Knowing that others have survived conditions that are far beyond contemporary understanding helps put everything in perspective. Having a positive attitude and focusing on what is truly important is how one perseveres. On the other side you will be far stronger than how you went in…

Advise vs. compel…

“To advise is not to compel.”

Anton Chekhov

When someone asks you for advice are you focused on giving them your perspective or your permission? If you are offering advice in a “tell people what to do” manner then you are creating and reinforcing a hierarchal culture that seeks permission before acting. So be very careful that when you offer advice isn’t seen as a directive.

If you cross the line and deliver a message that is focused on compelling others to do things your way, and only your way, you are killing creativity, innovation, engagement and discretionary effort. There is a time and a place for issuing a mandate, but by and large it isn’t when people are seeking advice or perspective.

Quicksand…

“The more sand that has escaped from the hourglass of our life, the clearer we should see through it.”

Jean Paul

How is it that you only start to really understand the value of life and time when you have gained some experiences and taken a few knocks? As the sand in our hourglass slides past are we focused on maximizing the value of each grain? Or are we lost because we are focusing on the next big thing that may or may not be important at all?

Don’t let a single grain of sand slip through unappreciated and unvalued. This is our one and only life. Why would you waste any of it?

Are you willing to be wrong?

“Always be willing to look at both sides of the argument. Understanding the other side is the best way to strengthen your own.”

Jim Rohn

Are you willing to be wrong? Maybe a better question to ask is “do you have to be right?” As a leader how do you make it safe for others to be wrong?

Following the wisdom outlined in the quote above is a great way to gain perspective and show your team and those around you that you don’t have all the answers. It demonstrates a willingness to be wrong, a capacity to be vulnerable. Understanding the other side of the argument might reinforce your own beliefs but it just might give you perspective that you didn’t have before you sought the additional information.

And just what if along the way to seeking understanding and perspective you learned something that changed your mind? What if the other side of the argument provided the answer you didn’t have before? What if you were wrong? In order to truly learn, you have to be willing to be wrong…

Surrender your ego…

“He who closes his ears to the views of others shows little confidence in the integrity of his own views.”

William Congreve

If you aren’t willing to listen to, and learn from others, then by default you are saying that your ideas are better, your thoughts are better, and that you are always right. That’s a pretty big gamble if you ask me.

I assume that others might know more, have a different perspective, or offer something that I haven’t considered. There is a great advantage in seeking input from others but only if you surrender your ego and truly listen to learn.

Outside in…

“If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.”

Wayne Dyer

What challenge or opportunity in your life would be improved if you could get an outside-in perspective? There are only two ways to make this happen. Ask for help, or seek to change your own perspective. What’s preventing you from doing either one?

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dusty

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