“A smooth sea never made a skilled sailor.” – Franklin D. Roosevelt
We often think that learning takes place in a controlled environment like a classroom or an online course. Here, lessons are orderly, information is dispersed, and an opportunity to apply the knowledge we’ve gained is provided. While this is certainly one way to gain knowledge, the best learning and experience is usually gained when the wheels are coming off.
Don’t get me wrong, the base knowledge we gain on a topic from classroom instruction, or in other ideal conditions, is crucial in helping us develop an understanding of our topic of choice. However, when we find ourselves having to apply this knowledge to solve a problem in an uncontrolled setting where conditions are far from ideal, that’s where experience is forged. And that experience is valuable!
Consider the following scenarios:
Parenting a child through a challenging time or situation
Restoring a computer network outage that is keeping scores of people from working
Leading a family or team through an unexpected tragedy
Running a business during a global pandemic
Problems like these can easily cause us to feel like we’re in over our heads, which may be accurate. What we can do, is take the skills and knowledge we’ve gained to this point and focus it toward solving the problem we’re facing. No, it’s never fun to be in “rough seas”, but if we can see past the storm and be confident in our abilities to apply what we have, we’ll likely come through with a greater depth of experience, and even wisdom, than we possessed before.
Last Monday morning I was enjoying a beautiful sunny walk through the neighborhood before work when I noticed a plant growing out of the asphalt. “Must be a weed” I thought to myself as I approached the spot in the road where the plant was growing. I was shocked when I got close and observed that it was not a weed, but instead, a small, beautiful flowering plant! Its purple and yellow petals a striking contrast against the charcoal colored asphalt. It was a wonderfully unexpected surprise!
I love the tenacity of that little plant! Not only the plant, but the seed from whence it came. That seed was dropped in the least likely place for it to grow. None the less, it literally took root and found a way to thrive within the environmental constraints it had been dropped into. No greenhouse. No potting soil. Nothing more than an opportunity to succeed.
That plant was a great reminder to do my best with the opportunities I’m given. Even when conditions might not seem optimal.
There’s so much going on in world and the US lately! Compared to what was happening just 6 months ago, it feels like we’ve been transported and dropped off in a whole new world. As a result, there is so much news coming at us every hour (or very often in real time) in an attempt to keep us informed. While it’s good to be informed, it’s not good to be over saturated.
When I watch too much negative news, it starts to impact my attitude and my thinking. It leaves me feeling weighted down. I’m grateful that I know this about myself, so that I can monitor my news intake and stop watching once I’ve been informed, instead of continuing to watching to the point of over saturation. It’s good to know my limit!
Do you know your oversaturation limit for negative news? If not, pay attention to your attitude and outlook based on the amount of news your consuming. If you too find yourself being weighted down by current events, perhaps throttle back on the consumption. Who knows, you might be able to improve your outlook, and free up some time, by watching less news.
I laugh when I look back at things that seemed like such a big deal in the moment, but are soon forgotten. Like the time I tried to put in a sprinkler system in my yard. It seemed so simple and made perfect sense on paper, until I actually set about the task. After renting a ditch witch (that I didn’t even know how to operate) I proceeded to tear up my lawn in a failed attempt to dig trenches for the sprinkler lines. I addition, I also broke off my main water line to the house at the meter while attempting to connect the sprinklers to water. What a mess!
Needless to say, I was pretty anxious and discouraged in that moment, and for several moments beyond. I had a hard time seeing past the big expensive-looking mistake I had just made and was worrying about I would get it corrected.
Fortunately, I was able to get things rectified. The plumber came out and fixed the main water line, and a local landscaper came out and took over where I left off. Never before have I been happier to pay for someone’s services! Everything worked out, and before long, my discouragement and frustration were a distant memory.
I think back to my sprinkler event whenever I find myself experiencing a similar “adventure”. This memory is important in that it helps me not to become anxious or fall into needless worry. When I think back now about how much worrying I did over the sprinkler situation, it seems like such a waste of time. I don’t want to waste time like that because it doesn’t achieve anything. Mathew 6:27 sums it up well for me, “Can anyone of you, by worrying, add a single hour to your life?” I know I can’t.
Dale Carnegie also has several good thoughts on worrying. One of my favorites is, “Decide just how much anxiety a thing may be worth and refuse to give it more.” I like the premise in this statement that we decide how much anxiety or worry we give something, and we can choose to give it less.
I hope you’ve got some “adventures” of your own, where in the moment they seemed like such a big deal, but after you worked through them, you now wonder why you worried so much. If you do, use those memories to help regulate your anxiety when the next adventure occurs. We’ve got better things to do with our lives besides parking in worry’s driveway.
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.
I’m a firm believer in trying. By trying, we explore and discover new things, create new experiences, and live an interesting life. We often:
Try our hand at…
Try our best
Give it a try
Try something new
But sometimes we need to do more than just try. Sometimes we need to actually “do”.
Trying sometimes feels like taking a chance, rolling the dice, or making an attempt without the expectation of a definitive outcome. Doing on the other hand, has a more decisive feeling. When we say we’re going to do something, it shows intention, purpose, forethought, and the expectation of a pre-determined outcome.
Here’s what I mean. Check out how different “try” and “do” sound:
What “try” sounds like
What “do” sounds like
I’ll try to get to the gym this week
I’ll be at the gym at 5:30 every morning this week
I’ll try to make it
I will be there
I’ll try to get that done today
I’ll have that done by 3:30 this afternoon
I’m going to try to and save for retirement
I’m going to put X% of every paycheck into a retirement account
There are certainly times when just need to try; like trying a new type of food or listening to a new type of music. However, there are other times when the stakes are much higher or the outcome much more important. This is when we need to do better than just try and actually do.
Is there anything you’ve been trying lately that you really should be doing instead? If so, make the jump and begin doing. Determine the outcome you desire and do what’s required to make it happen. Because according to Yoda, we’ll either do it or we won’t.
With 2017 looming, many people are beginning to express their intentions for the New Year in the form of goals and resolutions. I love this time of year, because it causes us to pause and think about how we’d like to change our lives to be better in the next 12 months.
While we have no problem expressing our intentions, we often lack the commitment to take action that will move these intentions toward becoming reality. Dr. Steve Maraboli states:
I would agree. It’s easy to talk about our desires, because it doesn’t require anything from us. The more challenging step is to parlay that talk into action, which often requires a potentially uncomfortable or unfamiliar step out of our norm. Our willingness to take that step is a strong indicator of our commitment to what we say we desire.
Consider this, as you look ahead to 2017; what if the only thing standing in your way of achieving what you desire for the New Year is your willingness to take action?
Two and a half months ago I started a position with a new organization as a Data Analyst. I’ve been extremely happy with the change and continue to be excited by tall the opportunity. The only thing I wish were different was that I was further along in the learning process.
I love learning new things. To gain knowledge and successfully apply it in a real life situation is exciting and causes me to be eager to go to work every day. However, two things I have to continually remind myself are that:
Learning is a process that takes time and consistency
I have to be ok with that
When it comes to learning, I’d always like to shorten the process and spend less time fumbling around as new concepts slowly become familiar, so that I can start contributing sooner. The reality is that I can never gain understanding or mastery of a topic if I’m not comfortable with the discomfort that comes during the learning process.
If you’re currently in the process of learning something new (which I hope you are) and perhaps you’re frustrated with process that may be slower than you’d like, be encouraged, because you’re on the right track! Just know that your commitment to the learning process will pay off in understanding, if not mastery, of the topic. And if it takes longer than you’d like, be ok with that.
It’s getting close to the time of year when people will start looking ahead to 2017, and part of that process will likely included listing goals for the upcoming year. It’s an exciting and encouraging activity that I enjoy doing; however, my thoughts about goals shifted slightly this week after listening to Jon Gordon on Dave Ramsey’s EntreLeadership podcast.
Goals are great because the provide direction for where we’d like to arrive in the future. Consider the following goals:
Earn $X per year
Lose 30 pounds
Earn a degree
Complete a marathon or other significant physical activity
Buy a house
Pay off a debt
Those are all great goals, and similar to what many people list at the beginning of each year. But here’s where my thinking has changed. I think that just a list of goals is incomplete and misses the mark, because the list alone says nothing about how these goals will be attained. What’s missing from the list is our commitment
Consider our list of goals above. It’s aspirational, for sure, but that’s about it. Now consider that same list with a corresponding list of actions we’re willing to commit to in order to bring these goals about.
Our revised list might look like the following
Earn $X per year
Study 1 hour per day toward the mastery of a marketable skill that would yield the salary I desire.
Lose 30 pounds
Stop eating sugary snacks and fast food and instead opting for healthy whole food alternatives.
Earn a degree
Devote 2 hours after work on week nights and 8 hours during the weekends to study and class attendance.
Complete a marathon or other significant physical activity
Work with a coach to develop a training and nutrition plan and adhere to it.
Buy a house
Save X% of my earnings to apply toward a down payment.
Pay off a debt
Stop using credit cards and cut out discretionary spending and instead throw that money toward eliminating debt.
Now that’s a much more compelling list! Not only is it aspirational, it has more “punch” because it describes what we’re willing to commit to in order to achieve the goal. Without commitment, we’re relegated to just hoping our goals come to pass.
As you’re considering goals for 2017, I encourage you to join me in also listing what you’ll commit to doing in order to achieve each goal. I think we’ll be amazed by what we can accomplish when we add commitment to the equation.
Last Saturday, three friends and I completed a hike that has been on my list for a couple of years.
The hike was to remote Golden Lake in Oregon’s Three Sisters Wilderness. About a mile beyond Golden Lake was a glacial tarn at the base of Broken Top that was the ultimate destination for me. Ever since I first saw pictures of this tarn I have wanted to experience this beautiful setting for myself. So last Saturday I finally did! The beauty of this tarn was greater than I imagined. It did not disappoint!
I think it’s important to have a list of goals we’d like to accomplish, whether they’re personal, professional, financial, physical, or any other type. Life is more interesting when we have goals and take steps to make them happen. Not only does it make life fun and exciting, it makes our world, as well as us, more interesting in the process.
Do you have any goals or activities you want to accomplish? If so, take a step today that will move you closer to making it happen. And once that goal has been achieved, set your sights on your next goal and take action on making it happen as well.