Swing for the Fence

Imagine you’re on a baseball team and it’s your turn to bat.  You’ve been practicing at the batting cage, and you’ve become quite good; not to mention, you enjoy batting.  Could you imagine saying to your coach, “You know what, Coach?  I don’t know if I’m ready for this.  What if I strike out?  I think I’ll skip my turn and go back to the comfort and security of the batting cage and let someone else bat instead.”

That would be ridiculous, right?  Who would do that?!

I would argue that we may be guilty of doing something similar when we doubt or play down our abilities in the face of opportunities that would grow and stretch us out of our comfort zone.

It’s easy to wish for opportunity, or even seek it out, in the comfort of the daily routine.  However, when an opportunity actually presents itself, we often begin doubting our abilities and whether we’re really capable of being successful.  We wonder if we are capable of rising to the challenge, or if maybe we’re really not as good as we, or others, might think.

It’s totally normal to have some doubts or be nervous about taking on a new and challenging opportunity.  However, what’s tragic is when we decide not to pursue an opportunity we’re capable of either out of fear of failing or because we doubt our own proven skills and ability.

I heard a quote recently that stated:

“In 20 years we won’t be disappointed by the things we did to; we’ll be most disappointed by the things we didn’t do.”

The next time you’re presented with an opportunity that will stretch you and your abilities, grab your bat, step up to the plate, and swing for the fence!  Take the risk.  Step out of your comfort zone and into the challenge, and give it your best shot.  And if you happen to fail, which you most likely will NOT, at least you’ll go down swinging.

Always remember: No Grand Slam home runs have ever been hit from the safety and security of the batting cage.

Comfort and Order

“Humans are designed to seek comfort an order, and if they have comfort and order, they tend to plant themselves, even if their comfort isn’t all that comfortable.  And even if they secretly want something better”

Donald Miller

A Million Miles in a Thousand Years

 

I was half way through Donald Miller’s book (pg. 100) when I read those words above.  I found them to be both haunting and eye-opening.  They’re haunting, because I’ve been in this exact scenario for many years, and eye-opening, because it finally feels like the root cause to one of my primary struggles has been revealed.

I find it extremely easy to put off making a change when I’m comfortable or complacent in my current situation.  I’ve been struggling with making a career change for many years.  I currently work in Information Technology, but my preference is to work with people, rather than with hardware, software, and systems.  I’ve wanted to make a change for several years, but I’ve made minimal progress.  Often, weeks or months go by without me having done one thing to move closer to a new career.  I know what I’d like to be doing, but I find it easy to put off taking action, primarily because my current situation isn’t all that bad.  It’s comfortable enough to keep me from taking decisive action toward bringing about the career change I desire.

I knew this, to a certain degree, about myself, and could observe this scenario in my own life.  However, reading Miller’s words, that so clearly articulate this concept, it felt like a harsh slap or glass of cold water thrown in my face.  As if my mind was screaming, “He’s describing you!”

After reading those words, I’ve been keenly aware when I’m letting comfort and complacency chart my course.  It gets me fired up, because I can’t think of a single time in my life when I was driven by comfort and complacency, that it ever led me anywhere significant.

How about you?  Are there any areas in your life where you’re actions, or lack of actions, are being driven by the desire to maintain comfort and order?  Is the desire for comfort and order taking you where you really want to go in life?  If you’re struggling in this area, join me in taking the following actions:

  1. When you feel yourself being motivated by the desire to maintain comfort, acknowledge it. Call it out right there on the spot and say, “I’m not letting comfort chart my course any longer!”
  2. Think about the next step you need to take toward a goal or path you’ve set.
  3. Take that next step. It doesn’t matter how small a step it is; take it!
  4. Repeat the process as often as necessary

I don’t think we were designed to live lives that were above all, comfortable.  I think we’re at our best when we’re growing, improving, and pursuing the goals we’ve set for ourselves.

Decide today to stop letting comfort keep you from pursuing a remarkable, fulfilling life.  All you have to lose is the discomfort of being comfortably stuck.

The Intersection

On Monday evening January 12th Ohio State played the University of Oregon for the College Football National Championship in Dallas Texas.  What struck me most about the game was not the score or the collective ability of each team, but the very clear life lesson that was on display during the game.  The lesson was that great things happen at the intersection of preparation and opportunity.

Although I was rooting for the University of Oregon, myself being from Oregon, I was really impressed with the performance of the Ohio State quarterback Cardale Jones.

Consider this:

  • The National Championship game was only his the 3rd college start as quarterback
  • At the beginning of the season, he was the 3rd string quarterback on his team

I was amazed by these facts while watching the game.  While on the biggest stage in college football, Jones showed the command and poise of a seasoned quarterback.  He didn’t look like a 3rd string quarterback, or someone who had only started 3 games.  He looked like he belonged there.  Was he perfect?  No.  Did he make mistakes?  For sure!  However, he was able to step in for his team when his number was called late in the season and perform extremely well.  Well enough to help win a National Championship.

It is obvious from his performance that he had been practicing and preparing for the opportunity.  His preparation intersected with his opportunity, and great things happened.

If Jones hadn’t been diligent in practice while he was still the 3rd string quarterback, he never would have done so well when he got the nod to lead the offense.  Imagine what a different outcome Jones would have had if he had said, “Once I’m the starting quarterback, then I’ll really start practicing!  However, since I’m only the 3rd string, there’s really no point in doing my best at practice.”  Jones had great performances during his 3 starts because he put in the effort to prepare himself in practice; to be ready for the opportunity, even when he didn’t see one or know that one was coming.

What about you?  Are there areas where you need to begin preparing for a future opportunity?  Is there a class you need to take, a habit or discipline you need to develop or stop?  Is there a reading, networking, exercise, or eating plan you need to get on?  If so, begin today.  Don’t’ delay and think, “I’ll start preparing when I see an opportunity.”  That kind of thinking leaves out half of the intersection equation:  There can be no greatness-causing intersection between preparation and opportunity if opportunity shows up alone.

So begin preparing today for the opportunities you seek in the future.  My guess is that, if you’re preparing, the opportunities are closer than you think.

What Football Can Teach Us About Goal Setting – Part 2

There was some good college bowl games played on New Year’s Day 2015!  Ohio State and Alabama played a close game in the Sugar Bowl that went down to the last play, and Oregon dismantled Florida State in the Rose Bowl, breaking a Florida State 29 game winning streak in the process.  Despite the differences in each game, there was one aspect that was exactly the same:  Each team knew the significance of the goal line.

I love the name:  “goal line”.  It very clearly states the objective of the entire game for each team, no matter what side of the ball they’re on.  For the offense, the objective is to cross the goal line and score points for your team.  For the defense, the objective is to keep your opponent from crossing the goal line and scoring.

The goal line is a very clearly defined critical reference point that each team is striving to cross or protect.  There is no question from anyone, on either team, as to the objective of the game and the goal they’re working toward.

Imagine if there was no goal line in football.  The game would be confusing and chaotic, with no one really knowing what they were supposed to be doing or what the objective of the game was.  It can be like that in our own lives without clearly defined goals.  If we don’t know what goal lines we want to cross for our lives in 2015, we will be unclear and confused as to our daily direction.  In addition, unless we’re content just drifting through the year like a leaf in a stream, going wherever the current takes us, we’re going to be disappointed on December 31st 2015 when we realize we haven’t made any progress or significant changes in our life.

What goal lines have you defined for yourself for 2015?  Do you know what you’re moving toward achieving throughout 2015?   If so, great!  Begin taking steps every day to move ever closer to crossing your goal line.  If you haven’t determined what your goal lines for 2015 are, it’s not too late.  Spend some time deciding what you’d like to accomplish this year and clearly define what success in those areas looks like for you.  The definitions you create will be your goal lines.  Your objective for the year will be to make incremental progress toward crossing them.

Where Do You Want to be on December 31st

Are you looking to make significant changes in any area of your life in 2015?  If so, seriously consider the following question:

What do you want your life to look like on December 31st 2015?  

This is not only a great question, it’s also a great goal setting starting point, because it causes us to really think about how we’d like our life to look in 12 months, and gives us a target to shoot for throughout the year.  With this vision firmly planted in our mind, we can move backwards and determine what steps we need to take, and by when, in order to arrive at our desired life in 12 months.

As you start your goal setting and life planning for 2015, begin by creating a very clear and measurable picture of how you’d like your life to look on December 31st 2015.  Hold this picture in mind all year.  Do whatever you can to keep it in the front of your thoughts.  Use it to intentionally guide your behaviors and decision making which in order to cause you to arrive at the life you desire 12 months from now.

Know where you’re going in 2015, and take the necessary steps to get there.

Happy New Year!

What’s the Outcome We’re Expecting

Have you ever hopped in the car with somewhere important to go and just found yourself driving around and never making it to the destination?  It may be somewhere we’ve been multiple times, or it may be somewhere we’ve never been before.  Regardless, when we get in the car and start the engine, we usually know where it is we would like to go, so our probability of getting to our destination is quite high.

What about a meeting, appointment, or important phone conversation?  How many times do we begin one without really knowing or specifying what a successful outcome looks like, leaving others in attendance to think to themselves, “Where is this going”?  I think the best way to avoid this scenario is to ask the people in attendance for their expectations.

Business consultant Ray Edwards addressed this in a recent podcast (time remaining 6:03), and I thought his insight was significant.  At the beginning of any call he has with a client he asks, “So that we get the most out of this call, what’s the most important thing that needs to happen on this call?”

What a great question to ask!  This question is applicable not only for phone calls, but also for meetings and appointments.  The question allows everyone in attendance to know the desired outcome the appointment was created to achieve, as well as creating a framework to keep the appointment on task.  I’ve already asked this question once this week, prior to a scheduled meeting, and found the insight I received enabled me to better participate.

If you find that your meetings, appointments or important phone conversations lack direction or a specific outcome, try doing one of the following before the meeting:

  • Describe to the attendees the desired outcome of the appointment. This is most applicable if you scheduled the appointment.  It lets everyone know why they are there.
  • Ask attendees if there is any specific outcome they need from the appointment.

Asking this simple question, or stating a desired outcome at the beginning of an appointment, will bring focus and efficiency that may otherwise not be present.  Not only will your appointments be more successful, those in attendance will appreciate being asked what is important to them.

All I’ve got is a 5

Imagine you need change for a 10 dollar bill (USD).  You ask someone next to you if they have change for a 10, to which they reply, “All I’ve got is a 5”.  That’s not what you want to hear.  You want change for a 10, not a 5.  You may get frustrated or upset because the other person doesn’t have change for a 10, but the reality is, that the most this person can give you is a 5.

It can be like that in your relationships with those closest to you, especially with family.

Picture an interaction rating scale ranging from 1 to 10, with 1 being the worst possible interaction (yelling, fighting, abusive language, a lack of caring or interest in you) and 10 being the best interaction imaginable (kind words of love and affirmation, good spirited laughter, and an appreciation of your presence).

Now envision going to a family event where you’ll encounter a family member whose interactions usually come in around a 3 or 4, with the occasional rare 5.  Perhaps it’s a parent, a spouse, a child, sibling, or grandparent.  If this person is someone close to you, you may find yourself hoping, even expecting, that this time your interaction will be closer to a 9, maybe even a 10!  Perhaps this time, they’ll speak kindly to you and finally tell you how much they love and appreciate you.

This expectation is unfair to the person you are interacting with.  If, on their best day, they are only capable of giving you a level 5 interaction, and you’re expecting a 10, you are not only setting yourself up for disappointment, you are setting them up for failure.

Here’s something to try at your next family get-together this holiday season.  Instead of starting from the place of expecting a level 10 interaction, consider what the person is capable of offering, and adjust your expectations accordingly.  If the best they can offer is a 6, set your expectations at a 4 or 5.  They just might surprise you with a 6.  Wouldn’t it be better to be surprised by a 6 when you were expecting a 4, than to be disappointed by a 6, when you were expecting a 10 that was never going to happen?

It’s worth mentioning that if interactions are always on lower end of the scale, you should consider putting some healthy boundaries in place, which may involve drastically reducing, or even eliminating, your interactions with this person.

We can choose to have unrealistically high expectations of certain people and set ourselves up for disappointment, or we can lower our expectations to realistic levels that other person can achieve.

Just remember, we can never get change for a 10 from someone who only has a 5.