It Gets Challenging

The arrival of summer in Oregon ushers in blueberry season.  I love this, because fresh-picked Oregon blueberries are for superior tasting than anything I could buy in a grocery store.  Aside from their superior taste, picking your own berries from one of the local fields is a summertime activity that is not to be missed.

The beginning of the picking season is the best!  All of the bushes are loaded with big clusters of ripe berries.  This makes for easy picking.  You don’t have to work very hard and in a short time you can be done picking and on your way with several pounds of blueberry goodness.

The scene is a little different as the season progresses.  The picking gets more challenging as more people get out and hit the field.  Gone are the huge, numerous clusters.  This is when you have to start searching the branches for smaller clusters that are hidden from site.  The more the season passes, the more you have to work to get the results you want.  The berries are still sweet and delicious; you just have to work harder for them… but it’s worth the effort!

I think it’s a lot like that when we’re learning new skills.  Starting out, we often see results quickly because we’re going from total ignorance on the topic to acquiring the most basic skills.  We go from knowing absolutely nothing to knowing something about the topic.  Although this basic knowledge often comes quickly, we soon realize that there is a whole lot more that we don’t know about the topic.  We also realize that if we want to get beyond a beginner’s skillset, it’s going to be challenging and require significant effort on our part.

I think it’s here that people often give up pursuing something they want.  They’ve gotten past the initial easy steps and arrive at the point where it’s going to take more effort than before to get where they want to go.  If that effort seems too great, they give up.

We’ve all been here in some form or another. It’s where we ask ourselves just how badly we want it.  How much do we want to:

  • Improve upon or learn a new skill
  • Learn a new language
  • Be able to use a new piece of technology
  • Improve a relationship
  • Become a better leader
  • Or simply pick enough blueberries to fil the large container we brought with us

Knowing that the challenges increase after starting is helpful, because we can anticipate them and be ready to address them when we might otherwise be caught off guard by them and give up.

Covering the Basics

 

So which would you rather experience from an individual or an organization:

Column A   Column B
Someone who goes above and beyond what they said they’d do.

 

-Or-

Someone who says, “I’ll take care of that” and doesn’t follow through.
Someone who shows they appreciate your business through actions and words.

 

-Or-

Someone who responds to each of your questions with, “HUH?”
Someone who teaches you about their product or service and invites your questions and then answers them.

-Or-

Someone who shows up 40 minutes late for an appointment (without even calling to let you know they’d be late) and also smelling of alcohol.

 

Let me guess.  You’d rather experience Column A, right?  Yeah, me too!

It seems to me like doing the items in Column A and NOT doing the things in Column B are the basics of doing business, or even relating with another human being.  However, I’m amazed from my own experience (I’ve recently experienced each item in both columns) how many people don’t have a grasp on the necessity of covering these basics in a business setting.  I find it frustrating… and also encouraging.

I find it frustrating for obvious reasons, but I’m encouraged, because if there are so many people NOT covering the basics, I can very easily stand out, in a positive way, if I make sure I’m covering the basics in my interactions with others.  And so can you!

Covering the basics in our interactions with others looks like:

  • Doing what we say we will do.
  • Presenting ourselves well in appearance, language, and attitude.
  • Looking people in the eye when talking with them.
  • Being present and engaged with the person you’re with (Put the smartphone away!)
  • Being courteous and respectful of the other person.

It feels to me like covering the basics is a secret competitive advantage whether you’re in business, applying for a job, or just connecting with another person.

Let’s take advantage of this secret and make sure we’re covering the bases in our interactions with others.

Things Look Different Close Up

I prefer the window seat whenever I fly, because the view is spectacular!  Everything appears so peaceful.  Mountain ranges are picturesque.  Cities appear slow, calm and quite.  Everything seems to be in order.  From 30,000 feet above, things look pretty good.

View From a Distance

This peaceful view, however, hides the reality the conditions below.  Frigid winter temperatures, scorching summer heat, or a congested, noisy city aren’t really noticeable when viewed at in climate controlled comfort at 30,000 feet.

It’s not until we get up close to the environment that we realize things are markedly different thank they first appeared.

I think it’s like that with people as well.  From a distance, people often appear to be free of difficulty or challenges in their life.  Yet it’s not until we get close up and connect with someone that we realize they are facing challenges, concerns or difficulties that aren’t easily seen from a distance.

This thought reminds me that most people are likely struggling with, worried about, or concerned with something that’s not visible to us.  It also reminds me that I would do well to approach others with grace and, when appropriate, the willingness to be close up.

Without Even Knowing

On Friday June 2nd at about 9:45am Pacific Time, I completed the Rim to Rim hike in the Grand Canyon.  This is a hike I have wanted to do since first visiting the Grand Canyon back in 2013.  It was a fantastic experience that I will never forget.

Completion

One of the key motivators for doing this hike was a view of Plateau Point I saw from the South Rim during my visit in 2013.  Plateau Point is easily visible from the south rim of the canyon, just west of the El Tovar Lodge.

Plateau Point

What captivated me about this view was the small trail that lead out to the point.  From my vantage several thousand feet above I could see people walking along that trail toward the end of the point.  As I watched them, I wondered what type of view they must have and how great it must be to be down there walking that trail.  Their presence on the trail intrigued me and stirred a desire to find out for myself what that experience is like.

The people I saw on the tail had no idea that I was watching them and that their presence on the trail was motivating me to one day hike that trail as part of my Rim to Rim experience.  As I hiked the trail to the end of Plateau Point last week, I wondered if there were people on the South Rim watching me.  I’d like to think there was someone that saw me and thought, “That looks like something I’d like to do.  I’m going to make that happen!”

I think we can motivate others to do great things without even knowing it.  The people I saw on Plateau Point back in 2013 had no idea they were inspiring me to take action.  They were simply doing their thing out on the trail.

I like to think that maybe I’ve been able to do the same for others.

Keeping Our Word

“When you promise a kid something, you’d better do it. They take it seriously.”   ~Unknown

When I came across this quote recently, I was reminded of a nephew of ours.  Last year when my wife and I went to visit him and his family, he mentioned a specific hike that he’d like to do the next time we came to town.  I told him that next time we were in town, we would do the hike together.

We’ll be going to visit him this summer and I’m already planning on doing this hike with him.  It’s going to be a fun time!

It’s not just kids that notice when we don’t keep our word.  Adults notice too.

Making promises or committing to something is easy.  Following through on those promises requires more from us than mere words.  It requires not only action, but a mindset that our words have value and that when we commit to something we’ll follow through. To do so, or not, says something about our word and our character.

Let’s be aware of the promises we make.  If we make a promise, to a child or another adult, let’s commit to following through.  Otherwise, refrain from making promises we know we won’t keep.

Sharing What We Know

“Everybody is ignorant, only in different subjects.”   ~Will Rogers

Think of all the things you know, from your skills, to experience, to the knowledge you possess. If you were to write them all down, it would likely take multiple sheets of paper.

Now consider all the things you don’t know.  Whereas your list of things you knew would fill pages, the list of what you don’t know would fill multiple volumes.  I know my list would!

And that’s ok.

This quote reminds me that although I have many skills, talents, and knowledge I can offer the world, I am also dependent on others to do the same.

For instance, I know nothing about:

  • Indoor plumbing (except for how to use it!)
  • Electricity distribution
  • Growing fruits and vegetables on a large scale
  • Processing oil into gasoline
  • Building a refrigerator, oven, microwave, or other major appliance
  • Performing dentistry
  • Or a zillion other things!

However, fortunately for me, there are other people that know all about these topics, and who gladly offer their skills and talents in service to the rest of us.

For that, I’m grateful!

Choosing Responses

Last Saturday I got a phone call from a relative who was experiencing computer problems and they needed help.  Computers are not this person’s thing, so when something with their computer goes wrong, it’s a catastrophe for them.  This case was no exception.  They were frustrated, stressed out, worked up, and not handling it very well.

As I was helping them solve their computer issue, it would have been easy to let this person’s stress and negative energy cause me to become stressed out and irritable as well.  (In the past, that’s exactly what I would have done!)  But a negative response to a stressful situation is not a forgone conclusion, it’s a choice.

I think that’s good news!  If our negative response to a stressful situation is a choice, that means we can choose to respond positively instead.

Other people don’t make us behave poorly or bring out the worst in us.  The more accurate statement is that we chose to behave poorly around them.

While that comment stings a little, it also reminds me that other people don’t have control over how I respond to them, unless I hand control over to them.  Ultimately, we are each responsible for our responses, regardless of the influence of others.  And for that, I’m thankful.

The next time you feel yourself getting stressed out or worked up because of someone else’s negative influence, pause for a moment and remember that how you respond is your choice.  Then, choose how you ‘d like to respond.