Being First

Being first doesn’t always mean you’re the fastest.  In fact, I’d argue that sometimes being first means you’re the slowest.

Have you ever been on the leading edge of change?  Whether that’s adopting a new process or perhaps integrating new and unfamiliar tools or software to improve your work, being the one to go first usually results in slower performance as we adopt to the newness before us.  We also have the added challenge that, if we’ve gone first, there usually aren’t experts on our team that we can ask questions of.  When we go first, we are the expert.  Albeit the expert in in training.

I’ve often discovered that while slow-going, being first affords us a unique opportunity to shape how the change we’re embracing will be used and adopted by others.  Being first also puts us in a position assist those who come behind us and offer them a smoother transition than we had.

Personally, I’d rather be involved in shaping change and guiding others who come behind rather than sitting around and waiting until the path is clearly spelled out.  That’s why I like being first.

Thousands of People Do It Everyday

When I set out to learn a new skill, there’s a phase in the beginning where I feel stupid because I’m being challenged by something I’ve never done before.  Whether it’s learning to read music, mastering a piece of software, learning to fly, or pumping my own gas ( I live in Oregon where we have laws against me doing that), there’s an initial awkward feeling that raises questions and doubt regarding my ability to grasp and apply what I’m attempting to learn. This is a time when it’s very easy to quit because our doubt is high and our ability is low.

Whenever I feel like this, I reassure myself with the following thought:  “Every day thousands of people are successfully doing what I’m trying learn today”

Now I’ve never been accused of being the sharpest knife in the drawer, but I’m also far from the dullest.  As experience has shown me, I am quite capable of learning new skills and grasping complex topics.  I’ll the same could be said of you.

I think we’re all susceptible to feeling overwhelmed and frustrated when we’re in the beginning stages of learning something new.  However, I also think each one of us is capable of positively resetting our minds by reminding ourselves that several other people, just like us, have pursued and mastered the same thing we’re attempting to learn.  And, just like we are now, they likely struggled doing it.

May we be encouraged by their success.

Impose a Deadline

I recently took a position with a new organization that requires a specific professional certification within 6 month of my hire date as a condition of employment.  Failure to obtain this certification within the designated time will result in termination.  Period.

Roger that!

I’ve been in this new position for 4 weeks and have been studying a little every day for the certification exam, and making good progress.  However, in an effort to make sure I’m focused in my study, I imposed a deadline by registering to take the exam on August 18, 2016.

For me, having a deadline causes me to be more focused and purposeful in my study, because I know the test is only a couple of weeks away, and I need to take steps today so I can be ready when August 18th arrives.

It is easy to slack off or lose focus during the pursuit of a goal if we don’t have a very specific target in mind.  Consider the following goals many people have:

  • To get out of debt
  • To lose weight
  • To start a business
  • To write a book

My question to people that state these and other goals to me is, “By when?”

Without a deadline in mind, it’s just a desire or a wish that may or may not ever be started, let alone completed.  If I ask someone the “By when” question and they instantly give me a date, the probability of them being successful is quite high.  They have a hard deadline they are working toward, rather than just a lofty dream.  A deadline provides the motivation, the game clock on the scoreboard, to let you know if you’re on the track toward reaching your goal.

Do you have a goal or objective you’re working on that could use the boost of a deadline?  If so, set yourself a deadline and use it to help you make consistent daily progress in the direction of your goal.

You Are the Force

Let’s start this week’s post with a quick test:

  1. Who is ultimately responsible for the success of your relationships?
    1. Your friends
    2. Your parents
    3. Other people
    4. <Insert your name here>

 

  1. Who is ultimately responsible for your success at work or in your career?
    1. Your employer
    2. The customers
    3. Shareholders
    4. <Insert your name here>

 

  1. Who is/was ultimately responsible for your success in school?
    1. Your teachers
    2. The school administration
    3. The financial aid office
    4. <Insert your name here>

 

  1. What is the strongest force that will shape the quality of your life?
    1. Circumstances
    2. Fate
    3. Santa Clause
    4. <Insert your name here>

Now check your answers:

  1. 4
  2. 4
  3. 4
  4. 4

How’d you do?  Hopefully your test score revealed a strong understanding that you are the driving force behind any success in life you want to achieve.

Success will rarely come our way if we are of the mindset that other people should, or will, take the initiative for our success.  Success requires effort and a self-starting mindset on our part.  Does that mean we shouldn’t ask for help from others?  By all means, seek the assistance of people who can help! (And depending on your belief, don’t forget to ask for assistance through prayer too!)

What we shouldn’t do is sit back and wait for anyone other than yourselves to make something happen for you.  No one should be more motivated for your own success than you.

 

Light Your Own Fire

Imagine you’re camping and, in an effort to take the chill off and warm yourself up, you decide to build a fire.  You crumple up some paper, collect and arrange wood in the fire pit and then… you never put flame to paper and light the fire.  You’re still cold, and you’d still like to get warm, but you never light your fire.

Sounds silly, right?  Yet how often do we do the same thing when we have a goal or a dream we want to pursue, we know the first (or next) step we should take, yet lack the motivation to get started?  In a sense, we fail to light our own fire.

Motivation is the fire that moves us to get started and stay committed to our goal.  This “fire” can look like, but is not limited to, a desire to:

  • Life a healthy lifestyle
  • Achieve an educational goal
  • Start a business
  • Be debt free
  • Travel

What’s important about the fire of motivation is that it has to come from us, not others.  We are the ones who must light our own fires and motivate ourselves to take action.  If we’re relying on others to motivate us before we take action, I would have to wonder if we really want the goal or dream we’ve laid out for ourselves as much as we may say we do.

If you’ve got a goal, but have been waiting for motivation to come from somewhere other than yourself before you get started, decide today to light your own fire.  Determine why achieving this goal is important to you, focus on that, and move boldly toward the goal before you.

You Already Know

My wife has been traveling for work a lot lately, so she’s interesting in looking for tips to help her pack lighter or more efficient.  After she had looked up some tips on-line I asked her, “So what did you learn that you can start applying?”  Her response was, “Nothing I didn’t already know.”

That response got me thinking.  How many things do we already know we should be doing, that we aren’t?  My guess is that in the gap between where we are and where we want to be, we already know the steps we need to take to get there.  At a minimum, we usually know the specific step we should take right now.

The real question then becomes; what’s keeping us from doing what we already know we should be doing?  There are several potential reasons, such as:

  • Fear – of all sorts
  • Indecision
  • Lack of confidence
  • Lack of focus
  • Laziness
  • Maybe we just don’t feel like putting forth the effort

So there we sit, where we’ve always been because we know what we need to do, but don’t do it.

Think about that.  When we already know what we need to be doing to achieve a desired outcome, and fail to act, the only thing standing between us and our goal… is us!

What do you already know you should be doing, that you currently aren’t?  Do you already know what you need to be doing in order to:

  • Improve a relationship
  • Get in better health/shape
  • Manage your finances better
  • Advance your career
  • Improve yourself intellectually or spiritually
  • Live the life you desire

If you answered, “Yes”, then starting today, get out of your own way and do what you already know you need to be doing.  You are not only the biggest obstacle to overcome in achieving your dreams; you are also the greatest force to bring them about.

How to Make a Difference

Most people have a desire to make a difference.  Whether it’s in their family, relationships, community, or career, people want to know what they’re doing, or have done, matters; that they have added value to others; that their efforts have made a difference.

I feel the same way.

Sometimes it can be challenging to determine how we can make a difference or add value to those around us.  The challenge of “how” to do this can often keep us from taking any action at all.  I think one way to determine how we can make a difference is to follow this simple 3-part process:

  1. Determine what you do well, what you enjoy doing, and what you are excited about.
  2. Find someone who has a need you are able to solve and, excited about doing so.
  3. Get started.

I started doing this at work earlier this year, after feeling like I wasn’t making much of a difference.  Here’s what the 3-part process looked like for me:

  1. I enjoy providing information about our business in a clear, simple format that business partners can easily understand and use to make business decisions. I discovered that the company I work for has a great tool (QlikView) for building information dashboards, so I began learning how to use this tool.
  2. The business unit I support has been lacking clear, easy to understand business reporting.
  3. I began using QlikVeiw to put some dashboards together and share them as prototypes with the business. The business found the very useful and asked me to create additional dashboards to help measure the business.

Since I took this initiative to make a difference, I really feel like I’m making a significant contribution regarding how the business receives and uses data.   The work I do feels meaningful, relevant, and important.  Plus, I just love doing it!

What about you?  What do you do well or what are you interested in that you can share with others?  Look around.  Who has a problem that you can solve with the skills and interest you possess?  Have you identified them?  Good.

Now start making a difference.

Getting from Here to There

From the perspective of achieving your goals, getting from where you are to where you want to be can often feel overwhelming.  Especially if we’re unsure about the steps we need to take to get there.  The following visual exercise can be very helpful in gaining clarity on what we need to do to start moving forward.

First, make a write in where you are, and where you want to be, as shown below.

Step 1

Second, on the left side of the page, fill in what you currently have in the way of resources and things to work with and overcome.  This gives you a starting point.  On the right side of the page, note what you will have once you achieve your goal.  This will help provide motivation, clarity, and direction.

Step 2

Next, think of all the major tasks you need to take to get from where you are to where you want to be.  The list doesn’t even have to be in order, or 100% complete.  Just start thinking of all the tasks that you need to do and list them in the gap on the page between where you are and where you want to be.

Step 3

At this point we know where we are, where we want to be, and a bunch of tasks that need to be done to get there.  The next step is to number the tasks in the order we need to complete them.  This is where our action plan gets created.  When you’re done with this step, you should have a plan to bridge the gap between where you are and where you want to be.

Step 4

Now, we come to the most important step in the process:  TAKE ACTION!  The best plan is useless until we take action toward implementing it.

Step5

If you’ve got a goal you’d like to achieve, but need a plan on how to achieve, try this simple exercise.  It will give you clarity on what needs to be done, and motivation to see what you’re moving toward.

Just remember that the most important thing you can do, once you’ve completed the plan, is take action.  Your goals are waiting.  Start today.

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!

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.