Thinking you know the answer to the question before its even asked, is a sign of a mind that is at the bottom, impatient, arrogant, and prideful.
When you think you know the answer before the question is asked, you have to wonder if curiosity and empathy, or impatience and self-interest are the motives that are driving you.
Thinking you know the punchline, before the joke is even finished, demonstrates that your ability to be open to the new—is really closed.
Now, there are some answers to some rudimentary questions that are obvious.
But there are so many places to add value to the human experience—through effective conflict engagement, the application of radical self-awareness, and the use of connective storytelling—that we need more people to be impatient for the joke to continue.
And for the punchline to remain non-obvious.
However, if individuals continue jumping to conclusions about the answers to hard problems with non-obvious solutions, in a race to the bottom to “just be done” already, well…
…we all have seen how that has worked out in the past to solve the hardest human problems.
When followers say that they want self-awareness, storytelling, and conflict management as traits in their best leaders, then leaders must ask questions starting with the words “why,” “how,” and “what.”
But, if the answer to questions beginning with “why,”is an ever-descending whirlpool of internal negativity, defensiveness, and fear-based answers in leaders, then followers must ask what the real purpose for pursuing the attaining of self-awareness is.
But, if the answer to questions beginning with “how” is applying, and advocating for, ever-increasing layers of organizational bureaucracy and lethargy in the team, then followers must ask what the real purpose of storytelling is.
But, if the answer to questions beginning with “what,”is endless handwringing about the potential consequences of actions before they are even taken by leaders, then followers must ask what the real purpose of positive conflict will be.
Self-awareness, storytelling, and conflict management are the only traits that matter in the 21st century if we want leaders to lead effectively.
These traits—which are really skills—are also critical to encourage if we want to create more leaders rather than more compliant followers.
The lack of inner curiosity, desire to care, and hiding from decisions are the real skills hobbling the development and growth of the kinds of leadership that followers say they want.
Let’s eliminate those skills first.
I thought it would take less time to hit this milestone than it has taken.
But that’s not an unusual expectation. Many people overestimate what they can do in a year and underestimate what they can accomplish in ten years.
My expectations with this blog started out high minded and then crashed to earth and then became high-minded again.
And you have responded.
You have retweeted, e-mailed, reposted, commented, Facebook “liked” and “shared” posts, and have even gone as far as to reach out to me offline to give me feedback.
That’s how this blog grows.
It’s not like kudzu, where you plant a vine and then come back a year later and there’s growth without investment.
It’s more like planting corn: Some years it’s good. Other years it’s not so good. But the farmer still tills the soil, plants the seed, prays on the knees, and then brings in whatever harvest there may be.
Year after year. Bumper crops and thin ones.
What comes next? What does post 1,001 to 2,000 look like?
Well, there’s another book coming this year, a collection of my best posts about work, disrupting your workplace, and how to accomplish all of that while also disrupting your boss. And it’s about why external training and development doesn’t work for the creation of change.
Look for that in the Fall of 2018.
There will also be a shift as parts of this blog go elsewhere on the web to serve other functions.
In 2018, as I advance and grow my personal brand, the writing will separate, and my blog posts covering conflict management, self-awareness, storytelling, and other contemporary leadership and people management skills and best practices will be featured in this space more prominently
Articles about personal leadership, business development, branding, entrepreneurship, bootstrapping, risk-taking, marketing, social media, the future of human communication on the Internet, and other more personal brand based content will migrate to a new site, focused on building my personal brand with an eye towards keynotes and speaking opportunities.
Look for this split to happen gradually, and then all at once by the Fall of 2018.
But no matter how it plays out, I want to thank you for joining me on the journey so far.
I write this blog because it’s good for my mental and physical health.
I write this blog because it’s good for my writing muscle and it further establishes my own “voice” in my own head.
I write this blog, because it connects me to you, whether that connection happens now, or one, two, five, ten, or twenty years from now.
I write this blog, whether anybody will read this blog or blogs in the future that I may launch, or not.
I write this blog, because the acts of thinking, writing, and then publishing to the world, is still an amazing thing—even in a world of Internet thinness.
So, the real question is where would you and I like to go next?
When we fetishize the act of failure more so than the lessons learned from risk-taking, shipping a product takes a back seat to preening in public.
Ok. But what is shipping?
Shipping is getting an idea out to the world.
Shipping is putting a product out on the market.
Shipping is connecting people together in a network.
Shipping is showing up and working with your whole heart.
The act of shipping—delivering a product, idea, message, or service to the world, whether the world is ready for it or not—is the most important thing.
The lessons we learn from the act of shipping matter more, in the long run, than the act of failing to get people, audiences, and the market to “buy-in.”
It wasn’t that way for the majority of humanity over the last 5,000 years, and particularly in the last 150 years. But now, at this point in human social and economic history, shipping matters more than whatever you learned after the shipping happened.
Stop fetishizing the act of failure.
Start fetishizing the act of shipping.
If your strategy isn’t actionable, at least let it be specific.
Wandering generalities, always quoted business examples, and random statistics can be used to buttress an argument, but if you want to develop a strategy to get an idea from your head to reality, you will need three things:
A goal without a path is a wish, but the fact of the matter is, all strategy starts with the end in mind. The more specific the goal, the easier it can be to envision the path.
A path without a goal is just wandering around, but the fact of the matter is, all strategy begins with knowing that a path to the end goal exists—and that you can walk the path to get there.
A will without a direction is impatient, mercurial, and unfocused, but the fact of the matter is, all strategy begins with having the will to do what another person, organization, or team won’t do.
So, do you want to go somewhere, or do you want to continue to work on getting nowhere at all.
Risks are only risky because of the way we feel about them.
Feelings about risk matter, in as much as they drive decisions that we make.
Decisions have consequences, and thinking about those consequences often creates feelings of fear, which leads to us not taking the risks we need to take to advance a culture, an idea, or a product.
Change happens when our feelings of dissatisfaction plus our first steps toward solving a problem plus having a clear vision of what the outcome (or consequences) could be of not changing, outweighs the resistance we have because of our feelings.
Risks are only risky because of the way we feel about consequences and the resistance we have toward taking them.
But at some point, we must be willing to say to the other party (or ourselves) who is paralyzed by our feelings around risk and resistance to change: “It’s not for you.”
“And that’s ok.”
There are ideas, projects, and even people that we commit to on a Monday in the afternoon, and by Friday of the same week, we aren’t committed to those projects, ideas, or people anymore.
And since human nature rarely changes, even though cultures, technologies, and knowledge bases do, it is important to acknowledge the importance of two things:
One, we pay lip service—that is, advocacy, adherence, or allegiance expressed in words—to ideas, projects, and even other people without thinking about the cost to us of doing so.
We underestimate the costs while overestimating the price of inaction to the other party. This comes through in Friday statements such as “Oh, they’ll find another person,” or “Well, get Sharon to do it,” or “I ran out of time.”
Two, we underestimate the benefit of quitting; quitting early, quitting often, and quitting the right ideas, projects, and even people, for the right reasons.
We often refuse to clarify in our own heads “right”—which is a subjective piece of analysis, not objective (as we would sometimes like it to be)—and we fail to communicate to the other party what our “right” is—this requires courage and candor.
Here’s a suggestion: Instead of committing enthusiastically on a Monday, and then regretfully backing out of your commitment by Friday afternoon, quit early, and quit often. After you’ve done that, explain why you’re not committing (and quitting) to the other party—and to yourself—in a way that both you—and them—can understand.
Otherwise, be prepared to follow-through with what you committed to in haste on a Monday with regret on that Friday.
One easy way to think about strengths and weaknesses is to try writing with your non-dominant hand. This means if you’re left-handed, switching to your right; and from your right to your left.
This also means that the results of your writing with your non-dominant hand will be critiqued mercilessly by people who have had it drilled into them that the results of your non-dominant handwriting matter more than anything else.
To make matters worse, you might not be promoted, chosen, or even given a passing grade (or granted something beyond a passing grade) if you don’t show that you’re putting in effort to get that non-dominant hand in line over the course of a lifetime.
There are all sorts of examples of this kind of deficiency based thinking in our culture (and in cultures around the world), but it manifests itself most notably in the following ways:
Waiting to be chosen by the boss, the teacher, or the person who’s got more status than you.
Raising your hand before answering a question, not because you don’t know the answer, but because the risk of being wrong is too great to bear.
Sitting through a performance evaluation waiting to be given a “passing grade” (i.e. a promotion) or waiting to be given a “failing grade” (i.e. a firing).
And there are more that could be listed.
These are all forms of (metaphorically) writing with your non-dominant hand.
The fact is, when you’re constantly being rewarded for producing mediocre work with your non-dominant hand (metaphorically speaking) the idea of choosing, developing, supervising, managing, and leading people through a strategic application of their strengths, sounds like a foreign concept.
But the thing is when the boss isn’t looking; when the teacher doesn’t choose us; when we don’t get the promotion or the advancement at work; some of us begin to go back, slowly but surely, to using our dominant hand.
Wouldn’t it be better for everyone if we just started people out that way from the beginning?
When you’re an entrepreneur, the emotional labor you put into the project is a sunk cost. So is the time you spent on not getting a deal. The coffees and dinners that you paid for are also a sunk cost.
When you’re experiencing a divorce, the twenty years of marriage is a sunk cost. So are the kids that you raised together and the house that you bought together. The money that you spent on gifts, trips and other items is a sunk cost.
When you’re going through a lawsuit, the respect that you once had from neighbors, co-workers, friends, and relatives is a sunk cost. So is the peace and quiet you worked so hard to achieve in the face of what was metastasizing under your nose.
When you’re fired from work, the mistakes you made at work and recovered from are a sunk cost. The emotional engagements that didn’t work out. The twenty years with an organization and the self-worth that you exchanged for a paycheck—these are all sunk costs.
Continuing to invest time, money, attention, emotional labor, caring, and other investments in a conflict situation, because you’ve been doing it anyway, even after the conflict proves to be intractable, unsolvable, and the other party is unwilling to work, is a fallacy.
It’s understandable. After all, time, emotional labor, attention; these are finite resources from a human perspective that, once they are spent, can seemingly no longer be recovered.
There are two options in a conflict then: lament the fact of the sunk costs and seek to ameliorate the impact of the cost in terms of future gains. Or, just write it off and let it go.
The choice is yours.