Offering What We Have

On a recent fly fishing trip my buddy was telling me about how his young daughter was feeling down one night and his wife asked if he could try to talk to her and cheer her up.  As my friend recounted, he wasn’t sure what to do but he thought about what he could offer his daughter at this moment.  “So”, he told me, “I started talking to her while belching.  And it worked!”  My friend’s daughter was soon smiling and laughing along with her eructing father.

I roared with laughter!  Never before have I heard a parent say, “I didn’t know what to do, so I started belching.”

I really love my friend’s approach to this situation.  First I love how, even though he wasn’t sure what to do, he answered the call to assist his daughter, who was having a rough moment.  It would have been easy for him to say something like, “that’s really not my area of expertise” or “she’ll be able to work through it herself”, but instead he decided to engage.  He decided to be a dad.

Second, he thought about what he had to offer.  Despite not knowing what to do at the moment, he quickly thought of what he could offer his daughter to lighten the mood.  It didn’t have to be a perfect, parentally-correct method; it just had to be something he could offer.

Lastly, he offered what he had.  He didn’t hold back, he didn’t say, “belching will never work”.  He simply offered what he had, and cheered up his daughter.  (He likely created a silly memory she will never forget.  I would have loved to hear my dad offer me belches of encouragement when I was a young boy!)

Whether it’s encouraging words, thoughtful actions, listening ears, or myriad other things, we all have something to offer those around us.  All we have to do is offer what we have.

You Can Tell A Lot From A Little

Consider the following sentence:

“After work, he bought his wife some roses.”

By reading these 8 simple words, we very quickly learn quite a bit of information about this person.  For example, we know this person:

  • Is a male
  • Is married
  • Has some disposable income to buy flowers
  • Is thinking of his wife
  • Has a job

In addition to these details, our sentence also generates a number of questions for us, such as:

  • Why is he buying flowers for his wife?
  • How long have he and his wife been married?
  • Where does he work?
  • What does he do at his job?
  • How old are these 2 people?
  • Does he buy his wife flowers often?
  • Will his wife appreciate the flowers?

In just 8 simple words we now know a decent amount about this person and have several questions to ask that would help us learn even more about him and his wife.

So what, right?  I mean, that’s nice and all, but what does that have to do with anything, and who really cares?  Consider this…

Every day we exchange numerous sentences with other people through digital forms like text, email, social media, as well as through old-fashioned verbal communication.  Therefore, every day we receive a great deal of information about the people we interact with.  If you want to become better at connecting with people, or become a better listener, this information provides a great starting point to do so.

Begin paying attention to what people are saying.  Listen for the facts, but also keep your radar up for the questions you can ask that will help take the conversation deeper.  And when you have a question, ask it.  These are the initial steps in connecting with others.

I’m not saying you have to do this with every conversation you have, but if you’re looking to make a connection or build a relationship with someone, this is a great way to start.

Share Your Struggles With Others

I received an email this week from a friend I serve on a volunteer board with.  She was asking a question about one of the financial reports.  During her email, she confided that due to her lack of understanding about the financial reports, she felt inept to serve on the board.  I knew exactly how my friend felt, because they are in the same feelings I had during my first term serving on the board.

I remember so clearly a conversation I had with the board chairman during my first term.  It seemed to me like I didn’t bring any value and questioned whether I should even be on the board.  He told me that I did in fact add value, and the best thing I could do was to continue asking questions like I had been doing in previous board meetings.  Those comments really encouraged me, so I did what he said.  After a few more board meetings, my own feelings of ineptitude began to wane and I started to feel like I was actually adding value.

I’m so glad I shared with the chairman how I was struggling.  He gave me some encouraging advice, and also communicated that I was needed and offered more value than I realized.  What’s even better is that I got to share that experience with my friend who is currently having a similar struggle.  I was able to have empathy and offer encouragement and remind her of the value she brings.

It felt great to encourage someone and remind them of their value in a particular situation, especially when that value was in question for them.

None of us are perfect.  We’ve all faced struggles that leave us feeling overwhelmed, inept, and even discouraged.  The good news regarding these situations is that once we get past them, we can offer encouragement and perhaps a new perspective to someone who is experiencing a similar struggle.

Pay attention to what the people around you are saying.  Listen for struggles they are facing that are similar to ones that you have experience and be quick to offer encouragement and to reinforce their value.

What a tremendous blessing to be able to encourage someone in their moment of need.

The Clairity from Writing it Down

I’ve recently got back into the habit of daily journaling and have been amazed at the positive impact this discipline has on me.

When I journal, I often write about improvements I want to make in my life and what I’m’ currently struggling with or working toward.  The exercise of giving thought to a topic and spending several minutes putting these thoughts on paper give me the following:

  • Clarity of direction
  • New ideas
  • A way to process and organize my unformed thoughts

When I don’t journal, I find I only spend a few brief minutes each day thinking about what I’m working on, pursuing, or struggling with.  This brief, unfocused thinking always leaves me void of any real plan or direction I can take to make progress in that day.  However, when I journal, especially in the morning before the day gets started, I gain a clarity about whatever issue I’ve written about, but more important, I feel energized and eager to jump in and get the day started.

If you’re considering the practice of daily journaling, here are 3 suggestions that I find helpful:

  • Pick a consistent time every day. Do mornings work best for you or evenings before bed?  Perhaps around lunch time works best.  It doesn’t matter at all what time you journal.  What does matter is that you find a time that you can commit to as much time as you need to journal, whether it’s 5 minutes or an hour.  Find what works for you.
  • Find a journal that you like the feel of. This may seem like a funny thing, but the journal you right on must “feel” right.  Does it fit well in your hand or on your lap?  Do you like pages with lines or blank pages?  Do you prefer a spiral binding, a yellow note pad, or leather bound journal?  I prefer a smaller size page (because it feels like I write more) and I also prefer a journal that lays open nicely.  It doesn’t matter what your preference is, as long as your journal feels right for you.  It should be something you want to spend time with.
  • Write about topics that interest you. I mentioned above how I like to write about what I’m working on our struggling with, but that doesn’t have to be what you write about.  Maybe you want to write about what you did that day, or keep a list of ideas, or record significant events.  Perhaps you just want to write about whatever is on your mind.  Those are all great topics! As long as you’re writing about something that is interesting to you, you’ve got the right topic.

Of these suggestions, I think that finding a consistent time to write is the most important to maintaining consistency.

If you want to increase the clarity of thinking,  make significant progress toward achieving your goals, or just be more mindful of what direction you’re leading your life, I suggest giving journaling a try.  Your writing doesn’t have to be eloquent, flowery or even grammatically correct.  It just has to be a written expression of whatever is on your mind.

The Secret Ingredient

I believe there is a not-so-secret ingredient to achieving results in any area of your life.  Before I share this not-so-secret ingredient, let’s first review the other necessary ingredients in the proven formula for achieving results:

Vision + Knowledge + ? = Results

The first 2 components of the formula make sense, right?  Without a vision of the result you want, it would be challenging to even know where to begin.  We must first know where we’re going (know the result we seek) before we can move toward its achievement.

Likewise, we must also possess the knowledge required to achieve the results we want.  A vision will only prove frustrating if we lack the requisite knowledge for its attainment.

So, you’re probably wondering, “What is the secret ingredient you say I need in order to achieve results?”  The complete formula for achieving results is:

Vision + Knowledge + ACTION = Results

Does that secret ingredient leave you feeling dissatisfied?  Were you perhaps expecting something more exciting and grand?  The truth is, any results or success we seek only come through the disciplined and consistent application of action.  We’re not talking about action that fills our time and causes us to appear busy, but rather specific actions that move us closer to our desired results.

Very often, this is the step that trips people up.  If we’re honest with ourselves, we usually know the necessary action we should be taking to achieve the results we want.  We simply need to be courageous enough to take the action we already know we should.  We need to cause something to happen.

What results are you trying to achieve that could use a healthy dose of necessary action?  You probably already know what action you need to take.  So… when will you take it?  Today would be a good day to start.

Don’t delay.  Results await!

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.

We All Respond Different

My wife’s dad just passed away today (13-Mar-15) after just short of 7 years on dialysis.  Her father wasn’t everyone’s cup of tea, so it’s been fascinating to see how people are responding, based on their experiences and perspectives.

It reminds me that we don’t all see the world the same way.  Our views are shaped by our unique experiences and perceptions.  Since no 2 people have the exact same experiences in life, it makes sense that people often have differing views.

I think we can get into trouble when we believe that our view, based on our own personal experience, is the only way to view a person or situation.  If we’re not careful, we can do great damage to our relationships by trying to convince others that their perspective is wrong, and that we know, better than they do, how they should think and feel.   We clearly don’t, and it would be arrogant of us to think otherwise.

The next time you’re in a situation where people have perspectives that differ from yours, realize that that’s ok.  Not everyone will feel the same way you do about a topic or person, so allow people respond or have their own opinion, even if it’s different from your own.  Who knows, you might gain a whole new perspective that changes your thinking.

Pushing Through Confusion

I love starting something new, whether it’s a hobby, learning a new skill, or any other new endeavor in an area of interest.  There’s so much anticipation, motivation, and momentum at the beginning.  It really is an exciting time.

One of the reasons I think there is so much motivation and excitement at the beginning is because shortly after starting, things get confusing, and we’ll need that motivation to help carry us through the confusion until we start seeing results.

Start Confusion Results

It makes sense that we would become confused soon after we get started, because we are attempting something brand new to us.  Naturally, we don’t have a whole lot of experience in the area, so therefore, we’re going to have a lot of questions and get confused.

This is the point where most people give up on their worthy pursuit, because they can’t see past the confusion of what to do next, or how to do it.  They lose sight of the potential results and give up way too soon.  I know.  I’ve done this.

Perhaps it’s time to change our perception of the confusion phase of this process, and look at what the confusion also holds for us, like:

  • Opportunities to stretch our boundaries and comfort zone
  • New experiences that increase our knowledge and capacity to move ahead
  • The chance to meet new people who are doing what we want to be doing, and who can teach and encourage us along the way
  • The sense of accomplishment we’ll experience when we make a breakthrough and overcome an obstacle that the confusion initially presented

Here’s the cool thing about confusion: it only remains until we take decisive action to move past it.  If we want to remove the confusion, we simply need to seek guidance from people who have already done what we’re attempting.  This can take the form of reading books, watching a YouTube video, or reaching out to someone and asking for assistance.

Where are you struggling with the confusion that occurs between beginning and seeing results?  If you’re feeling overwhelmed and confused, that’s ok.  Take a minute.  Understand what you’re confused about that’s keeping you from moving ahead, and then take specific action to remove that confusion, like seeking guidance through reading, observation, or conversation with someone who can help.

Whatever that next action is, take it today.  You’ll feel great about making progress, and be armed with a new-found confidence to help you tackle the next confusing obstacle you face.  You’ll probably also be amazed at how much you’re learning and experiencing as you become more skilled at pushing through confusion.

Compounding a Compliment

If you want to make someone’s day, share with them how much you genuinely appreciate something they’ve done for you.  If you want to make their week, share it with someone they work for, or someone close to them.

This week I received a nice email from a department leader that my team and I support.  In the email the department leader shared about a recent meeting one of our business units had with a vendor I support.  Even though I was not present, at the end of the meeting, this vendor made a point to mention to everyone how much he appreciates the support I’ve been providing him.

When I read the email, I felt great!  Not only did I appreciate hearing the comments the vendor made, I thought it was extremely cool that the vendor let others know what a great job he thought I was doing.  It really did make my week.

We also have the same capacity to makes someone else’s week by sharing their accomplishments and our appreciation for them with people they know.  For example, you can:

  • Tell a parent about something their child did that was unique, helpful, or showing of good character.
  • Let the owner or manager of a restaurant know what a great job your waiter or waitress did for you.
  • Tell the spouse of someone you know how much you appreciate something their spouse has done or a character trait of theirs that you admire.

What’s cool about doing this is that not only will the person you’re speaking positively about feel good, so will the person you told.  People like to deliver good news, so you’re also giving the person you told the opportunity to pass along a kind word.  It’s a 3-way-win:

  1. You’ll feel good for passing along a kind word.
  2. The person you told will feel good about passing it along to the person you were speaking well of.
  3. The recipient will feel good hearing your compliment AND knowing that you spoke well about them to other people.

Who has done something good for you recently, or over an extended period of time?  Who has some positive character traits that you admire?  Once you determine who that is, tell someone close to them about it.  The opportunities are endless.  Don’t wait, start today.