There's a Starbucks on I-5 headed south out of Seattle, near Dupont. It's our go-to spot for a quick coffee on road trips. Our dog can sense it too - as soon as we're within ten miles of Dupont, he starts shaking and drooling in anticipation of his pup cup. It's uncanny how he knows we're close to Dupont, almost like a sixth sense.
But the truth is, it's just a learned response from repeated patterns. Despite being a rescue dog initially scared of car rides, he now associates them with the joy of a pup cup.
It serves as a reminder to pay attention to the habits we've formed and how they impact us, whether positively or negatively. Developing new habits is simply a matter of consistent practice.
Perhaps the positive reinforcement of a pup cup can be the key to solidifying a new routine.
Many years ago I had a chance to tour Newgrange in Ireland.
If you don't know about it, Newgrange, is a 5,200 year old passage tomb located in the Boyne Valley. Above the entrance to the passage there is an opening which allows sunlight to penetrate the chamber for 17 minutes at 9am on only ONE day of the year, Dec 21st, the winter solstice. The accuracy this time-telling device is remarkable when you considers that it was built 500 years before the Great Pyramids and more than 1,000 years before Stonehenge.
For me - it is always a reminder of new beginnings. The year is over, and starting again. Like New Year's day. Fresh beginnings. From Dec 21st on, the days get longer. The sunshine lasts a little more (which is Seattle is a necessary thing...)
It's also a great reminder of letting go of past mistakes. That workout program didn't stick last year? Try a new one! That business venture failed? What's next? It's all cyclical - and it all starts over again.
My friend Armaund in DC has a Solstice party every year where people can write notes about things from the past year, they put it in a ball, light it on fire and roll it down a hill. (it's more like a ramp in his backyard...) The idea is still sound. It's time to release those things and start over again.
So what will you light on fire today?
I grew up looking at this sign often and I never realized how funny it is. It was just some thing that was always there. Street Rd. Nothing special about it, nothing funny about it, it was just the name of the road. This is a Road named Street. Street Road.
It wasn’t until I took my wife to visit the area where I grew up and she looked at it and said “Street Road. That’s funny“. Suddenly, I saw the name in a new light. Why would you name a road Street Road?
Sometimes you overlook things that are right in front of you, because they blend into the everyday surroundings. This is why it never seemed funny to me that near where I grew up we have a road named Street Road. (The word road is beginning to look like not a real word.)
I always told new employees in my company that I really valued their input and questions when they started working. They were the only people who didn’t have the rose-colored glasses on, so they could see things that I could no longer see - for me, it was all normal. I had to rely on the newcomers to let me see things in front of me that maybe needed addressing, or changing. But it had become so familiar to me, that my eyes just glazed over when I saw it.
There was an exercise I did in graduate school to help with noticing things as they are. It involves touching objects — calling them by their name, then moving to the other side of the room and touching a different object, then calling it by its name. As in, I would touch a chair and say “chair“. Then cross the room and touch a backpack and say “backpack.“ The second step is starting to move faster — touching objects and calling them by the names of things they are not. Example: I would touch the chair and say “orange juice.“ And then cross the room and touch the backpack and say “vacuum cleaner.“ The goal of the exercise was to disconnect the defined name of an object from the object itself, so that you stopped ignoring something because it had a specific name (and therefore a finite and specific value) and started focusing on objects for all the value they had. When you looked at the chair, you didn’t see all of the detail, or dirt, or scratches. You just acknowledge the “chair” and then moved on. This exercise helped me to focus on the specifics and the details of objects by disconnecting the object from its predetermined, and agreed upon, name.
In business, we can potentially get ourselves in trouble if we use the same solution for every problem. We ignore the details in front of us, keep the status quo, because change is scary and difficult. But what if we challenged ourselves to see new solutions? New options for situations we have looked at every single day? Well then, the possibilities are endless.
We can look for our own personal Street Road. (Still funny.)
Whether we like it or not, there are a lot of things happening in our world right now that we cannot control (or even fully understand). The one thing we can control is how we react to what is going on.
A practice I do at each of my workshops is a quick check-in: How are people feeling? This is sometimes done as a virtual exercise or as an in-person discussion. Everyone gets a chance to be honest about how they are feeling and share it with the group. It allows us to be vulnerable and open with each other. It also allows us to be honest with ourselves. How are we feeling? What is keeping us from being present in the room, available, listening and focusing on how to support the group?
Once we can identify these things, we can begin to accept those distractions and allow them to exist. We can accept and build on (yes, and…) what is happening to us in a positive way.
I know I am feeling excited, a little overwhelmed and slightly anxious about the new year. As my schedule is filling up, and I am planning activities, I start to feel anxious about how I will be able to manage it all!
Going forward, my question to you is: How are you feeling?
Let’s embrace the messiness of life and start to figure out how to take what we have (whatever it is) and make something amazing.
Happy New Year. I can’t wait to see what we can do together.
My first time in a Neolithic tomb was eye opening.
On one day - one day only - the sun shines over the hill, through the lintel above the entrance and shines into the chamber. That one day is the solstice: December 21st.
It’s a reminder that as it gets colder and the days get shorter, there is a point where it changes. Things get brighter and warmer.
Neolithic people used it to mark the end of winter and the coming of spring.
As we reach the solstice, what is the thing that reminds you that things get better? What reminds you that no matter how cold or dark it is, things will change. Summer will be here.
Brighter days are always ahead. Look for the reminders.
A lesson I learned running my non profit: many orgs operate under the idea of ‘if we HAVE these resources, then we will DO these things and we will BE this type of org.’
What I always prescribed to was, well, the opposite: who do I want to BE - be that. What do I want to DO - do that. And the HAVE (money, space, etc) will show up.
It’s more about doing what is right, what you want to do — and not waiting to have everything perfectly set up before you start.
In other words ‘if I HAVE these expensive running shoes, then I will DO the 5k, and I will BE fit and healthy.’
Or you can start running now with whatever shoes you have and BE a runner and get healthy and then get the shoes later.
BE, DO, HAVE.
The past two years have created a lot of isolation and distance. It has also brought many people together, in ways that would have been previously unimaginable.
My last workshop for a client had participants in Singapore, London, Johannesburg, Mexico City and all over the United States. I've adjusted to waking up at all different hours to accommodate all different time zones. As much as we have been at home, adjusting to virtual work and figuring out how to look good on Zoom while in sweat pants and slippers, we've had the opportunity to connect with people in places all over the world. I can now count these people as friends. I get to hear how their lives and situations have been in upheaval due to COVID, and they get to hear about what is happening here in the US. They have expanded my understanding and knowledge of our connected human experience in ways I would have never imagined. We share stories of our lives, families, joys, sorrows and recipes.
We have all lost something in our lives from this pandemic. Let's also look at what we have gained: a global understanding, an international reach, and new friends. For this, I am grateful.
Happy New Year everyone. I hope to see you all face-to-face soon.
You might have heard of OMG or ROFL. Well, here’s a new acronym to help with your communications at work: LARO
What does it stand for? Listen, Acknowledge, Reflect and Offer.
When you are in a work meeting, and people are blocking the forward motion of the conversation by saying ‘yes, but that will not work because of…’ or ‘we don’t have the resources for that…’ or ‘that’s a bad idea…’, they have lapsed into CRITICALthinking rather than staying in DIVERGENT thinking. CRITICAL thinking is about evaluating, DIVERGENT thinking is about problem solving and solutions. There is a time and place for both methods, however, shutting down creative problem solving at each turn is not a useful strategy.
Try LARO to keep the conversation moving forward:
- LISTEN to the objections that people are bringing up.
- ACKNOWLEDGE they are bringing up a valid point. Critical thinking is necessary for strategic planning.
- REFLECT back what you hear. This allows the person to know that you heard them, and understand what they are saying and feeling.
- OFFER alternatives to move them into the possibility of problem solving. Use sentences like:
As an improviser, I stepped on stage not knowing what I was going to say, or what was going to happen. I had no set, no script and no costume.
I got used to dealing with the uncertainty of not knowing what would happen.
As we start 2021, I think it’s important for us to accept that we don’t always have control over what will happen. 2020 definitely threw us a few curveballs! We learned to pivot - we found new ways to communicate and new ways of creating work.
We never know what will happen next. Let's embrace not knowing, and being comfortable with the uncertainty. (And if you do know what is going to happen, then email me. I’d love to know what your crystal ball tells you!)
I recently spoke to an individual who is in charge of a company, and he mentioned to me an award they give out called the ‘First Penguin Award.’
The idea is - if you are a penguin on the edge of the iceberg, with all the other penguins standing with you, who is the first one to jump into the water and swim to land? What risks are lurking under the surface? Will they all just freeze waiting on the iceberg? No one wants to go first… because maybe the first penguin will get eaten. And if they do get eaten then the others know not to jump in. So all the penguins just stand on the iceberg looking at each other.
Until one brave penguin steps up. They are the ‘first penguin’ to jump into the unknown. And they make it to land safely! The other penguins decide to follow! And everyone moves forward. Or, maybe they don't make it safely. And the other penguins now know they will get eaten if they jump in. Either way, someone had to take the first step...
The leader I spoke to encourages his employees to be the ‘first penguin’. To jump. To try something scary. He especially rewards them if they fail. And he publicly acknowledges them for being brave enough to jump off the iceberg.
By making failure something that is celebrated, his company culture encourages taking risks and trying innovative new ideas.
How can you encourage taking risks in your organization?
One way is to make it fun to fail. Employees can be more confident to experiment and try new things, knowing it is more important to try than to worry about failing. Give out your own 'first penguin' award. The winner gets to keep a stuffed penguin on their desk for a month.
That is how you succeed and create an innovative / growth mindset for your company.
To learn more about Innovation and Growth Mindset workshops, Contact Andrew for more info.