Doubt together

“Self-approval is a dangerous state of mind” – Napoleon Hill

Doubt is a double-edged sword: an essential ingredient for doing creative work, and a barrier to even trying. Really, it’s a call to action:

  • For your team: Assuring them to stay the course will release them to use doubt as a tool to improve their work.
  • For your clients: Enabling them to focus on moving in the right direction will release you to do your best work for them.
  • For your prospects: Equipping them with the information they need to make good decisions will release you to start serving them.
  • For your mentors: Sharing your doubts with them will release them to guide you toward your next phase of growth.

Doubt is a double-edged sword that can help you stay on track and serve others more deeply. Or it can hold us all back. Be sure to wield it wisely.

Mind salsa

Without rhythm, our brains wouldn’t defer breathing to the unconscious. Rhythm means we’ve figured out how to make something work, every time.

And when it comes to breathing, that’s great. But when it comes to creativity, which only appears when we try things that might not work, we have what Einstein would call ‘insanity’ – doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.

Creativity needs an extra step to shake things up. How can we be consistently creative? I call it ‘mind salsa’:

  1. Find the beat.  This salsa beat has five steps instead of four: a consistently odd number of steps. Breaking out of your normal rhythm makes space for creativity.
  2. Move. Watching the same moves over and over gets boring. Changing your approach, changing your environment, driving straight instead of turning right, forces your mind to figure out what happens next.

Rhythm carries you, for better or worse. If you choose to ‘mind salsa’, you might unlock more of your creative genius. How would your work benefit if you were consistently more creative?

Raising your will

Whether it’s a workout or a project, there comes a point where you say, “That’s enough.” The project is all done. Your legs are burning from the hill climb. Nothing.

Nobody celebrates or talks about what we’ve completed.

But we suddenly get very evangelic whenever something is 101% complete. When we went one more hill, created for 10 more minutes, wrote one more email.

  • 100%: Those who work-out only as far as they set out to, eventually get fat. Those who merely complete their work, run out of work.
  • 101%: Those who push themselves little further, eventually look amazing. Teams who go beyond for their clients, get more clients. After all, you’re already in the gear, why not commit to one more 1%? Your only barrier is your will.

Like working out, raising your will creates your new standard. Done together, this is how teams put themselves in a class all of their own.

Raise your will, one more hill, build goodwill, or it’s all downhill.

Stable work

Work. Career. Mission. Which do you have?

  • Work: ‘Doing as we’re told, for a while, for money.’
  • Career: ‘Doing as we’re told, for a while longer, for money.’
  • Mission: ‘Breaking the rules, indefinitely, because it’s right.’

Unless you’re a doctor, doing as we’re told works only up to a point, now that the world rewards rule-breakers. Ironically, from that volatility comes the greatest stability.

We assume the world will stay the same. That, in five years time, we’ll type on laptops, search on Google, and your company will survive using today’s tactics.

If your team is on a mission to change the status quo, that gives you an opportunity to be remarkable, indispensable, and supported in your efforts.

It’s either that or doing as you’re told for just a little while longer.

Paint your engine red

I don’t know much about cars. When Ferrari releases under-the-hood photos of a new vehicle, I’ve little idea of what I’m looking at. But it looks good.

Under the hood, most of us wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between Ferarri’s latest and that of an economy-class vehicle… were it not for the presentation. Shiny, symmetrical, considered, cared for, and painted red.

Open the hood of your work. What do we see?

  • Care: Can I tell how much you do? Is it blackened with dirt, assuming it doesn’t really matter? If you don’t care, why should anybody else?
  • Red: Is yours, under the hood? There’s no need for it to be; engineers did it for the love of their craft. People who love their work do good work. Can I tell how much you love your work?

Most daren’t show under the hood of their work. Don’t just show it. Paint it red.

Result lists

To-dos can be deceiving because an activity is not an achievement.

“Leave 10 voicemails” is easy to check off, with an assumption they may lead somewhere. But what if the goal wasn’t to merely leave voicemails, but to “receive enthusiastic interest from Mr. X”?

The problem is, if the voicemails yielded no reply, the to-do is still checked off. You ‘succeeded’, even when your goal remains unachieved. Mr. X isn’t enthusiastic yet–you’ve yet to even speak.

Consider replacing your To-do List with a Result List. It has 3 components:

  1. What Result do we want? This is the ‘What’, not the ‘How’, behind this item on your list. For example, “receive enthusiastic interest from Mr. X.”
  2. Why do we want that result? This is the ‘Why’, not the ‘How’, behind this item. For example, “Mr. X. has enormous value our tribe could benefit from.”
  3. What are all the ways we could achieve it? This is the list of all the possible ‘Hows’ you could utilize in order to achieve the ‘What’ in #1. For example, “Voicemail, email, send our book, hand-written letter, intercept at a conference”, the list is endless.

After a method in #3 creates the result in #1, you toss out the rest of the items in #3. Why do the rest? Your result was achieved!

Ticking off a to-do does not mean achievement, but working through divergent approaches toward a single goal–while being mindful of why you’re doing it–ensures achievement.

Consider your to-do list: how could you turn it into a Result List?

‘Dread locks’

Take a look at this week’s calendar. How does it make you feel? Do you feel motivated by the momentum you’ll create, or do you feel locked down by dread?

Dread locks you out of your genius–your ability to do your best work. It moves you from “How can I make today amazing?” to “How can I get through today?” I call the latter state ‘dread locks’. When you have it, for each task in the week, ask yourself:

  1. What’s the goal? Every action needs a goal or you’ve no way of knowing if it was successful or not. That can create dread. Assign one or delete the task.
  2. Does the goal need to be achieved? If not, delete the task. Why do things that don’t matter? The feeling of wasted time can create dread.
  3. Does it need to be achieved by you? If not, find who it belongs to and give it to them. Doing the wrong work can create dread.
  4. Does it afford you enough time and resources? If not, get them, and commit to ensuring they exist for this type of task in future. Trying to do things with a hand tied behind your back can create dread.
  5. Do you know how to succeed with this goal? If not, get the training and clarity you need, or revisit #3. Not knowing what success looks like can create dread.
  6. Now how does the week look? If there’s still dread, return to #1 and repeat.

Life’s too short to do work that doesn’t matter, and your team deserves better than you showing up with ‘dread locks’. How would your week feel without them? How would your work benefit?

Goals, out of reach

When you set ‘bad goals’, everything feels entirely within arm’s reach. You need not stretch yourself to attain them.

Microsoft did this during Ballmer’s leadership when they optimized for the 20th century when the rest of the world had moved into the 21st.

When you set ‘good goals’, everything is slightly out of reach. You need to grow from where you are now to possibly reach them. And that creates fear: you might not make it.

If you choose the latter (I call them “Growth Challenges”) you get to decide where to focus: on growing to meet your goal, or on the fear associated with having made it:

  • Fear: “I can’t reach it. It is unreachable to me. Is it even possible?”
  • Growth: “What can I do next that could move me closer to my goal?”

How would you feel, what would you think about, and how would you act, if you supposed for a moment that your goal was entirely possible?

Great teams

Creating, leading, or belonging to a great team is a privilege.

Like a great childhood, a great team has lasting effects on us that we wouldn’t change for the world. What makes a great team? And how do you know when you’re on one?

  1. Initiative. Members step up for challenges outside their comfort zone.
  2. Committed. Members show up for reasons beyond the dollar alone.
  3. Good stewards. Of time, attention, energy, resources. Self-sustaining.
  4. Time. Members want to spend it together.
  5. Trust. No babysitting. Members are treated like–and behave like–adults.
  6. Growth. Members are becoming–or helping others become-A Players.
  7. Respect. Opinions, values, and apologies are all accepted and honored.
  8. Tough-love. Members are relationally strong enough to challenge each other.
  9. Protective. Members actively reject ‘bad fits’ for the benefit of the team.
  10. Pride. Members are all proud of the work they do together.

Great teams are rare. How many of these does your team have? Which could you bring to your team?

Words control emotions

When you belong to a great team, it’s great because of you, as well as the others. Otherwise, it would be a ‘mostly great’ team. But we don’t always ‘feel’ great.

Turns out, we can do something about that. We control more of our emotions with our self-talk than we realize. Consider these contrasts:

  • Terrible or Inconvenient?
  • Cold-caller or Treasure-hunter?
  • Losing or Learning?
  • Nice or Absolutely-Marvelous?
  • Nutritious or Delicious?
  • Organizing or Recreating?
  • Scary or Growth-opportunity?
  • Expensive or Valuable?
  • Weak or Delicate?
  • Confusing or Intricate?
  • Hurtful or History?
  • Paycheck or Calling?

Which words sound more like yours, the left ones or the right?

Which would you prefer? What’s stopping you?