Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Stop Planning - Start Doing

Have you ever hesitated to apply for a job because you thought you weren't good enough? "I'll study a bit more", you'd tell yourself. "I'll have to acquire more experience. Right now, I'm not ready." Or maybe you've been thinking about starting a new business, making it on your own. You're so tired of having a boss, of not being able to make your own decisions. Or have you found yourself dreaming that you could be a painter, a traveler or an actor. How marvelous it would be to do something you like for a living. But you never had the guts to give it a go, because you thought you weren't good enough.

Well, you were so wrong. If other people can do it, so can you. "Yes, but they know what they're doing", you might say. No, they don't. Most of them just took a chance and did their best. Because this is how things are done. If you wait around until you're ready, someone else will take your place. Not to mention you'll never do anything, because you're never ready. That's why you're stuck with a job that doesn't satisfy you anymore: because you're afraid to push yourself out of your comfort zone.

Being afraid of the unknown is natural. It's what kept our species going. Running away from a savage animal or a strange tribe member is a self preserving instinct. But we don't live in tribes anymore. While a new job or a stressful situation might be a little unpleasant, it is surely not life-threatening. You have to understand and accept your fear, but don't submit to it. The reason why human beings have evolved so much is because they pushed themselves in spite of their fears. That's what you should do too, if you don't want to spend the rest of your life stuck in the same place.

One of the self sabotaging mechanisms we all use is the "lack of preparation" excuse. But no-one is a hundred percent prepared. You've done enough learning, studying and preparing. You know everything you need to know. No amount of courses, exams and diplomas will prepare you for what's to come. Learning is inaction. You are fooling yourself that you are taking steps towards your goal, but what you're really doing is keeping yourself stuck in the early stages. A surgeon who only operates on a computer is not a surgeon. An actor who knows all the lines by heart but never steps onto a stage is not an actor. You have to really be there, in the middle of it all, if you want to learn something. Because learning is done on the job. The only way up is to act.

Are you afraid to make mistakes? We all are. And we all make them. Are you afraid to make a fool out of yourself? We all do. That's how we learn. And that is how we become exceptional.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Forget Resolutions! Try Re-Solutions !

All over the Western world, the arrival of January signals the return of a event that is as predictable as the North American holiday called Groundhog Day and just as accurate in visioning the future. I am referring, of course, to that combination of good intentions, self-delusion and wishful thinking known as New Year's resolutions.

There does seem to be something in the human spirit that needs to recognize the letting go of the past and the promise of the future. Many of the customs of New Year festivals note the passing of time with both regret and anticipation. The baby as a symbol of the New Year dates to the ancient Greeks, with an old man representing the year that has passed. The Romans derived the name for the month of January from their god Janus, who had two faces, one looking backward and the other forward.

Shooting off firecrackers on New Year's Eve is the Chinese way of sending out the old year and welcoming in the New Year. On the stroke of midnight on New Year's Eve, every door in the house, and even windows, have to be open to allow the old year to go out.

For Jews, the ten days starting with Rosh Hashanah are commonly known as the "Days of Repentance." This is a time for serious introspection, a time to consider the sins of the previous year and repent before Yom Kippur, the "Day of Atonement."

The practice of making resolutions to rid oneself of bad habits and to adopt better ones also dates to ancient times. And my guess, the ancient resolutions were as ineffective as our modern ones. It's not that resolutions don't have benefits. It's that they often benefit others. Among the biggest beneficiaries are gyms, weigh loss centers, & smoking cessation hypnotists.

So what to do? Abandon all hope of change for the better? No! We do have the power to realize our goals. It's not as easy as it was for Alice in Wonderland, who all along had the power to change her situation just by clicking her heels. Or maybe it is. We all possess the power within us to change. It's just that we tend to think globally (I want to lose weight, budget better, be less stressed, etc). And life is lived locally (what's for dinner?; I deserve that vacation; I need this job for the health insurance).

The key is act in doable chunks, which is why I propose "Sequential Re-Solutions." Don't make resolutions, take action steps. The "re-solution" is now focused on small, concrete actions that keep you on the path to you goals. Last year, one of my resolutions was to "get more organized." This year, it's to "start each day with a 5- 10 minute focus on the one or two most important things for me to accomplish this day." Another was to keep in touch with my far-away friends. This year, it's "compile a list of all my friends' birthdays and put it into my calendar with reminders to send a note."

What sequential re-solutions will you make that will keep you focused, motivated and successful? It's as easy as clicking your heels together.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

It's Not Complicated!

Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication. -Leonardo da Vinci

No Rules or Boundaries

The Internet is so intriguing. It's like the Wild West. So few rules and boundaries. The unimaginable is now real. Anybody with a lap top computer or even a smart phone can turn their thoughts and opinions into a video and launch it to the world in an instant. Sounds so easy, so why isn't everybody all over it? Well what seems so easy is a lot harder to engage for the majority because when they see the sizzle they freeze. Remember when computers and the Internet were a scary place for anybody not born into it?

Scary Geniuses

Why was it scary? Because it was new? Did you really need to know how to program code just to turn on the old IBM or the early Macintosh... certainly not. So why do we freeze, or worse, run in the other direction when we're confronted with something we've never seen; and why do we credit the early developers and adopters with having a certain genius that we definitely don't have? After all, what is genius and why not us?

Simple Einstein

If you consider Einstein, who seems to serve as the universal symbol for genius, yet it was that same guy that said, "make everything as simple as possible, but not simpler," sounds like simple wisdom not genius. In fact, when you look into Einstein's work, you'll run into many an anecdote about how he leveraged his imagination to the maximum, including riding alongside a beam of light as he considered his theory of relativity. Sounds fairly simple. Maybe you could do the same without any advanced degrees.

Frustrated Sleuth

Well similarly, I'm fascinated by the Internet and have a blast figuring out how things work. Yet rather than throw the word genius around, I study the person and what they're doing. I start by assuming that what they are doing is simple and then I go to work on discovery. You can believe that frustration shows up quickly because I too have become accustomed to instant gratification and that's led to many slamming downs of the cover of my Mac. However, I've now made it a game worth playing.

Cracked the Code

I use that same Internet to study. If it's something I really need or want to know, then I roll up my sleeves and go to work... hard work that is... the kind a farmer might be used to. As the time passes, suddenly there are big ah-ha and eureka moments that come with the discovery of some simple truth where I say out loud... that's how they do that, that's so easy i can do that! By the way that happened at the Mac store this week. For a $99 membership I can book unlimited coaching consults to learn amazing programs that can change the way I do many things like online "pros" and "geniuses" who wax on poetic about how that cracked all these codes... really?

Simple Foundation

So where's the motivation in all of this you say? Hello! You are the genius! You don't need anything but that mega-super computer you were born with. It doesn't matter whether you were born rich or poor, short or tall, and who cares what grades you got or what school you went to. In all things great and small there's a foundation. Sure maybe you have no interest in certain subjects or endeavors so those things will seem forever complicated, but the things you really really want to know about or achieve all you have to do is remind the super-computer that nothing's complicated down at the roots!