Where Else Can This Be Applied

Several years ago, I read a book titled, “Don’t Make Me Think” by Steve Krug.  It’s about website usability, and specifically about developing websites that are so intuitive for people to use, that they don’t have to give it much thought at all.  After reading this book, I realized that this concept of not making people think is equally applicable in other areas beyond technology. 

For instance, if you’re in charge of a building or venue that the public uses, like a church or an event center, you can apply this concept of not making people think, by ensuring the facility has signage that clearly directs patrons to the restrooms (Have you ever seen a sign that says “Restrooms”, but doesn’t direct you to where the restroom actually is?  I have!)

I love when I realize that a concept has application beyond the context in which I discovered it.  It reminds me to not only be on the lookout for new ideas, but also to be on the lookout for how I can apply existing ideas in new arenas.

Be on the lookout for how you can apply new and existing ideas beyond their original context.  It will give you more options in your problem solving toolbelt, as well as helping you improve your own personal performance.

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Don’t Let Fear Rule

“Fear rules us only if we let it.”  ~Brendon Burchard

I read this quote in Brendon’s book, “The Motivation Manifesto”.  It’s one of those statements that we would all say we know, but one that we also can be susceptible to if we aren’t paying attention.

The kind of fear Brendon is talking about is the type that keeps us from contributing at a higher level or being the person (or more of the person) we want to be.  Usually, this fear comes from the thought of failing, being rejected, looking foolish, or a host of other possibilities.  Nobody is interested in those things.  I certainly don’t wake up every day looking for experiences like that. 

However, if we allow those fears to rule our lives, we pay an unexpected, and very high price.  That price comes in the form of unrealized potential, impact, contribution, and happiness.  That seems like a steep price to pay all for the alleged security of not looking foolish or failing.  It seems like there’s a higher price to be paid for letting fear rule.

To be clear, we should be listening to fear when our personal safety is at risk.  But the fear we should be on the look out for is the fear that keeps us from our goals and potential. 

There is an abundant life waiting.  Don’t let needless fear stand in the way. 

Let A List Remember For You

Last week was the first week since January 2013 that I haven’t made a blog post.  I’d like to say it was because we were busy traveling last weekend, but I’ve traveled many times since 2013 and have still created a weekly blog post.  The simple excuse is, I just forgot.

Beyond just forgetting, the real reason it didn’t get posted was because I didn’t write, “Post blog” on my list of To-Do items.

I find that when I have a lot of things going on, I need a list to help me keep track of the tasks I need to complete.  Much like a grocery list, a task list helps me ensure that I don’t forget anything important I’m supposed to do.  More importantly, a task list frees up my mental capacity from having to remember to do something.  Once it’s on my list, I don’t have to spend any energy remembering to do it, because the list will remember for me.

I heard a quote once that said, “Our mind are great places for having ideas, but they’re a horrible place for storing them.”  I totally agree!  Whether paper or digital, lists are great places for remembering things like:

  • Groceries to buy at the store
  • Chores you need to complete
  • Things you need to pack for a trip
  • Books you want to read
  • Destinations you like to visit
  • People you need to contact
  • Appointments and meetings you have during the day

The next time you have a number of things to remember, instead of keeping them in your head, consider making a list.  Not only will a list help you remember what you need to do, it’s fun to cross completed items off the list!

I’ll Do It Later…Whenever That Is

I have a lot of positive intentions pop into my head throughout the day.  One that I often get is that I should send a hand-written card to someone I happen to be thinking of.  (In the middle of all the technology around us, I still like sending hand-written cards.  Who’d have thought that going “old school” would make you stand out in the Internet age!)  My problem is that I often tell myself I’ll do that later.  All too often, however, “later” never comes.

This week I had the same thought pop into my head regrading someone I though could use an encouraging note.  Only this time, instead of saying I’ll do it later, I took a different approach.

I went to the closet and got out a card and envelop and put it on my desk where I work every day.  Then, I determined that I would get the card written during lunch and placed in the mail that same day.  And you know what?   IT WORKED!  I got the card written and sent!  Who’d have thought!

Sometimes our biggest barrier to following through on our intentions, is that we lack a plan, no matter how simple, to make it happen.  For me, the simple act of getting the card out and naming a time to write in it was all I needed to ensure I followed through on my intention.

The next time your mind offers up a good intention that will bless someone else, don’t just assume you’ll do it later.  Put together a quick, simple plan that will ensure you turn that intention into completed action.

The person you’re blessing will be grateful you had a plan.

Staying Sharp

I saw a job posting for a similar position to what I currently hold.  No, I’m not looking for a change!  I love what I do and where I do it, so I’m staying put.  However, the required skills section of the posting did capture my attention. 

As I looked at the requirements, I noticed there were a couple of topics that I would benefit from learning more about.  In addition, I got a glimpse into what skills other organizations deem valuable in my chosen career field.  It also caused me to add a couple more items to add to my “skills to learn” list.

I think it’s good to sharpen our knowledge of the techniques and technologies in our chosen careers…

so that our skills don’t become stale or dated …

so that we can skillfully apply our skills to the work that we do…

so that we can help our organizations fulfill their missions.

Staying sharp in our careers isn’t just good for us, it’s also good for those we serve.  Plus, it’s more rewarding when we’ve got an intellectual toolbox full of well-sharpened skills that we can draw from in order to solve the problems we encounter.

Thoroughbreds

I’m blown away of the power of our brains and all the good use we can put them to.  What’s even more impressive (aside from the fact that each one of us owns one of these wonderful things free and clear!) is how our brains are constantly running.  I liken our brains to a race horse that wants to run.  Similarly, our brains need to be trained to run where we want them to run, versus just letting them run wild in any they’d like.

Can you imagine the owner of a highly valued thoroughbred race horse allowing the magnificent creature to run through any rocky pasture, hillside, or street it wanted?  That would be a horrific use of such a valuable investment.  Instead, such a horse’s diet, training, facilities, and environment are all conducive top performance, because that is how you treat a thoroughbred.

I think our brains should also be treated as the thoroughbreds that they are, or that they can become.  We should give them the proper care and training that they are worthy of, in order for them to perform for us at the high level they are capable of. 

So, how do we train our minds so they perform like thoroughbreds?  The following items are good places to start: 

  • Monitor the content we’re allowing into our minds to ensure its productive and positive. 
  • Take our negative thoughts (toward ourselves or others) and quickly redirect them toward a more productive line of thinking.
  • Expose our brains to new ideas through books, classes, podcasts, computer-based training, or conversations with others.
  • Continue to apply our brains toward learning new skills we’d like to acquire.
  • Use them to solve problems and come up with solutions and idea.
  • Engage your brain daily.

What a blessing to be in possession of such a creation!  May we treat them (and train them) like the valuable thoroughbreds that they are.

Slowing Down

I’ve been working on learning to play the electric bass part of the song Far Cry from the band Rush recently.  It’s a quick tempo song with some cool rhythmic elements that I think sound really cool.  One thing that became painfully obvious when I started learning to play the song was that I would have to slow the tempo way down, if I have any hopes of mastering it.

When I stop and think about it, it makes perfect sense.  I can’t look at a challenging song and play it perfectly at the same tempo on my first attempt.  There are note progressions, fingering, and rhythms that all need to be discerned and practiced at a slower pace in order to gain an understanding of how they all fit together within the song.  Once those elements are understood individually, I can then integrate them together as I begin to play parts of the song.  Albeit still at a slower tempo.

This slowness feels clunky and awkward.  What I really want to do is pick up the bass and play the tune like a pro on the first or second attempt.  However, that’s not the way mastery of a topic works.  Mastery requires that we start out slow as we begin the work of obtaining knowledge and understanding.  From there we can begin to apply this knowledge and steadily increase our pace. 

Here is where I think most people give up pursing a goal.  They see the talent in a musician, athlete, or some other person that has slowed down and put in the time to achieve mastery and think that this person must have been “born with it” or is “gifted”.  In fact, what they are seeing is this person’s reward for having slowed down and spent the time in that slow and clunky stage. 

What’s lost on many of us is that we too can be considered “talented” or “gifted” if we’re willing to put in the required time in the slow and clunky stage.

What Does Action Look Like

In a recent team meeting at work, we were discussing an initiative our organization is undertaking to create an even stronger culture of inclusion, diversity, equity, and learning.  During the discussion someone asked the question, “What does action look like?”

I thought this was a good question because without specific actions to take to get where we want to go, as an organization or as individuals, all we really have are ideals or lofty aspirations.  It’s the intentional actions we take that will move us toward our aspirations becoming our reality.  Without action our aspirations remain just that… aspirations.

I was pleased to learn that our organization is currently in the process of defining what those specific actions look like.  With regard to our own personal goals and aspirations, we should all be asking ourselves what action looks like.

Planning Early

My wife and I are going to have some home improvement work done starting in May.  Nothing major, just carpet, floors and interior painting.  It’s going to be nice to have that all done, but what’s really proven helpful has been to start the planning process early.

We started planning this way back in February.  There have been several things to coordinate such as:

  • Getting on the schedules of the people that will be doing the work
  • Selecting colors, patterns, etc.
  • Ordering fixtures and materials
  • Arranging lodging for ourselves and our pets for the time we can’t be in the house
  • Packing things up that we’ll have to get out of the house
  • Saving up to pay cash for the improvements

Starting this project early allows us to manage it with significantly less stress than if we started later.  If we waited until the last minute to get started, we would have had a greater likelihood that contractors would already have full schedules, materials wouldn’t make it in time, or a number of other setbacks that could have been avoided if we just had more time.

If you have a project or task on your horizon, I’d suggest to start it early versus waiting until the last minute.  For the cost of your time (which you’ll have a lot more of early on) you can eliminate unnecessary stress and actually enjoy the process.

When It’s Time To Act

Earlier this week we bought a new washer and drier.  The repair man told us that the bearings on our old washer had gone out, and we’d be better off getting a new washer versus replacing this one.  Initially, we were thinking we’d hold off getting a replacement until May, which would align well with a home improvement project we have scheduled.  However, after the machine continued to get worse, we decided the best option would be to replace it now, on our own timeline.

My wife and I both agreed that as long as we kept using the rapidly deteriorating machine, we ran an ever-increasing risk of it failing in the middle of a load of wash.  I don’t know what your experience has been, but appliance failures never seem to occur at a convenient time, and they usually generate unneeded stress and inconvenience.  Especially if we knew in advance that a failure was imminent.

We decided that, since we knew we needed to replace the washer, we should do it on a timeframe that is convenient for us versus letting the machine dictate a less convenient timeframe via a massive failure.

I think there are a lot of things in life that we can address on our own timeframe, versus waiting for a failure to determine our timeframe for taking corrective action.  These things can range from appliance replacements to adopting a healthier lifestyle to maintaining relationships and beyond. 

Let’s be aware of the areas in our lives where we can take action to mitigate unnecessary risks and damage, versus waiting for things to blow up before they get our attention.  And when we become aware of these areas, let’s actually take the necessary action when it’s time to act.