Starting Conversations

Last week we were on vacation in Denali National Park. While the landscape and wildlife were spectacular, what stood out most to me was how easy it was to start a conversation and connect with other people.

Whether it was on the park bus or standing in line somewhere, it was so easy to start up a conversation with people by simply asking a question like:

  • Did you see any wildlife in the park today?
  • How long have you been in Alaska?
  • How long will you be in Alaska?
  • Where are you from?
  • What are you going to see next?

It was equally easy to start conversations with folks based on a sports team, a geographic location, or some other familiar identifier on a person’s clothing. (“Go Packers!” seems to be a good conversation starter with people wearing Green Bay gear.)

It got me wondering why we don’t start conversations with people around us when we’re not on vacation. When I look at my own life, it seems easy to avoid connecting with those around me, even though there are so many of the same conversation starters in everyday life.

Why not start initiating conversations with people around us, even when we’re not on vacation? We might be surprised with you many interesting and friendly people we cross paths with each day.

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Getting A New Perspective

I was starting to get stressed.  Just days away from going on vacation, I still had a big task I needed to complete at work before I left, and it didn’t feel like I was going to get done in time.

Four days before vacation, a colleague who is working on the same project stopped by to see how it was going.  I told him that I didn’t think I’d’ be able to finish my piece of the project before I left.  As I told him about what I had left to do, I could see he was thinking.

After I was done describing what I believed needed to be done, he started asking about what absolutely had to be done at this stage of the project.  As we talked through it, I realized my focus was placed too far out for this stage of the project.  We didn’t need a 100% finished product; we just needed some basic functionality that could be delivered to the end users as a first iteration.

With this new perspective, I realized that I’d easily be able to deliver my portion of the project before I left for vacation.  In fact, I was able to deliver with 2 days to spare!

I’m so thankful my colleague came by and gave me a different perspective.  Our conversation and his suggestions shifted my focus toward what needed to be done at a specific stage in the project, rather than what needed to be delivered as a finished product.

Are you stuck in a false mindset or stressing about how to get something done?  I suggest talking to a friend, colleague or someone else who can give you a new perspective on your situation.  You might just realize that you’re stressing out for no reason.

Dig In

I was recently practicing bass guitar in preparation for playing on my church’s worship team. There was a specific part of one song that I kept having trouble with.  For some reason, I couldn’t rhythmically understand how a series of note were to be played.  I could hear it when I listened to the song, but I couldn’t make it happen when I actually tried to play it.  It was time to dig in!

First, I wrote out the notes I was to play. Then I played those notes several times in the order they were to be played.  This helped me become familiar with what I was supposed to be playing.  Next, I listened to this section of the song at a much slower speed over and over as I counted out what beats the notes fell on.  Every time I figured out what beat a note fell on, I’d write it down so I could move on to the next note without forgetting what I had just learned.  Once I had determined what beats all the notes fell on, I was able to begin playing along with the song at normal speed.  From here I continued to practice what I learned until it became familiar.

It can be like that for problems we struggling with. Sometimes what we need to do is do a deep dive on what we’re struggling with and give focused energy into figuring it out.  This may involve slowing down, breaking our problem into pieces, addressing each piece separately, and then reassembling these pieces into what will be a solution to our problem.

Think of some problem you’re struggling with or a concept you’re having a hard time grasping. Perhaps you could benefit from devoting some focused attention toward figuring the problem out.

The Secret Ingredient

My wife has been a task-closing machine this past week.  We’ve had a handful of tasks that needed to get completed, but we just hadn’t gotten to them.  One by one she set her sights on these tasks and took action to close them.  I was amazed to learn how many tasks she was able to complete in a relatively short time.

One thing that stood out from watching her was that our biggest barrier to getting stuff done, or causing something we want to happen in our life, is our own failure to take action to bring it about.  Sure, we all want things to happen or task to get done, but “wanting” alone will not make it happen.  Taking action is the secret ingredient to completing tasks, achieving goals, and successfully bringing about change.

Is there anything in your life you want to do, start, or complete?  If so, I encourage you to follow my wife’s lead and take action to make it happen.  And if you make taking action a habit, you’ll likely see positive life changing results.

Paying Attention To Ourselves

I’ve had a couple of instances recently where I should have paid attention to what I was saying to myself.  Here’s an example …

I love to pick blueberries when they’re in season in Oregon, which they are now.  Oregon blueberries are so flavorful and far superior to anything I can get in the store.  My favorite blueberry variety is Legacy, and since they were ready to pick I headed out to my favorite blueberry farm.

When I showed up and told the farm owner that I was there to pick some Legacies, he showed me on the map where they’d be.  He also let me know that I’d have to work for them because his crew had recently picked in that area.  That sounded good to me, so I headed out toward my destination.

Once I got where I thought I was supposed to be, I eagerly started picking.  After a couple of minutes I thought to myself, “There seem to be a lot of berries on these bushes for being recently picked.”  After a few more minutes of picking I thought, “These Legacies seem to be smaller than the ones I’ve picked before.”   Undeterred by these two thoughts, I kept picking until my bucket was full.

When I went to pay for the berries I picked, the owner looked down at my bucked with a perplexed look on his face and said, “You know these are Jerseys and not Legacies, right?”

Arrrrgh!!  It seems I got the instructions where to pick mixed up and picked on the wrong row.  While the Jerseys were still delicious, they were not the Legacies I was looking forward to.

What’s interesting is that I seemed to be trying to tell myself that I was in the wrong place, yet I was not listening to myself.  Looking back, I should have responded to my thoughts with one or both of the following:

  • “Yeah, these are too small to be Legacies.”
  • “Yeah, there are way too many berries on these bushes to have already been picked.”

Instead, I just ignored my own warnings.  Fortunately, the stakes were pretty low, so no real harm was done.  Still, I didn’t get the result was after because I didn’t pay attention to my own prompting.

Has this ever happened to you?  Have you ever ignored your own prompting when oy shouldn’t have?  If so, let’s make an effort to begin paying attention to the promptings and warnings we’re communicating to ourselves.  We just might know what we’re talking about.

Being Bold

“Fortune Favors the Bold”

I really love this saying! To me it implies that good things are just waiting for those who decide to go after them.

The easiest thing to do is to sit around and wait for something to happen. While this requires minimal effort from us, it also yields minimal results.  Think about it, how often did something great happen to you as a result of simply sitting around and doing nothing?  I can’t think of anything significant in my life that was a direct result of my own inactivity.  Any worthwhile achievement has required a degree of boldness to start, and progress, down the path to where I wanted to go.

I also see fortune as far more than just money. To me, fortune can include things like:

  • Rich and varied life experiences
  • Solid relationships
  • Worthwhile achievements
  • Great opportunities
  • A fulfilling life

There is so much good fortune out there just waiting for us to be bold enough to begin moving toward it. The boldest thing we can do is take the first step toward the fortune we seek, followed by the next step, and the next step, and the step after that.  Because fortunes are attained one bold step at a time.

Now go live boldly today!

Making Decisions

“When I’ve heard all I need to make a decision, I don’t take a vote.  I make a decision.”

~Ronald Reagan

In every decision making process there comes a time when enough information has been collected, enough opinions have been gathered, and enough discussions have taken place.  This is the point when it’s time to make a decision.

Yet so often we want to gather more information or simply wait before actually deciding.  Sure, we can give ourselves plenty of good reasons why we don’t make a decision, but I think all those reasons likely boil down to fear.  Maybe it’s fear of failing, of making the wrong choice, or of looking foolish in front of others. Whatever the motivation, fear can cripple our ability to make decisions.

One thought that always helps me make a decision in the face of fear, is that if I make the wrong decision, I can always change course.

The large majority of the decisions we face aren’t life and death.  As we’re making decisions to live our best lives, we can always, and should always, make course corrections in the wake of our previous decisions.

Instead of being fearful about decisions, let’s remember that we should:

  • Make decisions when we have what we need to do so
  • Assess how we’re doing
  • Decide what changes we need to make
  • Repeat this process throughout our lives

Let’s not squander the blessings we have in our freedom to make decisions.  Nor should we relinquish that freedom by allowing someone else to make our decisions for us.  Instead, when we have all we need to make a decision, let’s do so with the confidence that we can always adjust as needed.