Uphill both ways

When I was a kid my dad used to tell me a story about how when he was my age he had to “walk uphill both ways to school”. Occasionally this was combined with an aggressive slamming of his baseball mitt sized hand to his chest with a sidebar of “..and the snow was this high! You don’t know how good you’ve got it.”

As an adult I know that he meant this as a story that would motivate me. What I’ve since realised is that often the way we interpret things can be dark and scary OR overwhelmingly motivating. It is all about how we chose to take it.

The words he was saying were about how life could be hard and that likely someone nearby had it worse than I did. In hindsight this isn’t a bad lesson, though I wish he had placed a little focus on what I could be doing to make that other person’s life a little bit better, but he wasn’t that type of guy. Most of his stories roll up to being about looking out for number one.

What troubles me is what the kid in me heard when he told that story. I heard that life is always going to be a struggle. I heard that nobody was going to help you find a shorter, easier way. I heard that you should not complain and just trudge through.

This lesson served to damage a little seed inside me that was trying to grow into something soft and kind and it has taken a long time for me to release that outlook. Today I hear a very different message from his words and this is the one I want to share with you.

If the road in front of you is hard, do not be afraid, be brave and optimistic. The laws of physics are on your side. No route should be uphill both ways. That is not to say that your path will be an easy one to travel. Life is only as hard as you make it. If the track you are on says that you should suffer, stop and question everything about it.

Ask yourself if there is a different way over, under, around, or through. Ask yourself if this was the way you wanted to go in the first place because sometimes a left turn takes you to where you should have been heading all along.

Do not accept the status quo. Learn from things that do not go your way and choose not to allow things not going in your favour to stop you on your journey to greatness. 

Make the decision that you are the only one who can change the rules for you and those who come after you.

One choice, one decision, one mistake, one obstacle will not make or break you, but sitting down and letting the world crush the seeds of awesome inside you will. Sometimes plans don’t go our way. Sometimes we need a better plan, or better yet we need to collaborate with awesome people to create a new way forward all together.

My dad told me a story that was supposed to lift me up and it crushed me for a while. That is a reality of how each of us interprets the things we hear and see. It took longer than it otherwise might have for my little seed to push past these obstacles and bloom.

I consider myself lucky that I was able to hear it differently today because so many hopes and dreams are lost in these situations of misinterpretation.

In light of our global political climate, I want to remind everyone that this single setback should not serve to crush the seeds of hope that have been planted. It may delay the blooms the way a late frost might, but I am here to remind you that summer is coming and together we can make a more beautiful world.

Join me in a left turn towards greatness.

Breakthroughs (The Road to my MBA Post 2)

Late last week my team found it’s groove.  We began to communicate effectively, and discovered that as a group we can really work together to get things done.  We became a high functioning team after a number of challenging tasks were presented for us to complete together.

On more than one occasion I was struck with the idea that I could get so much more done alone, and during those times I could have. What is magical is when the team shifts as a group and starts to produce to the volume of their communal capacity. It took us twelve days to get to a place that many teams may never reach.  It wasn’t easy, but it does say a lot about what effective communication can do to help a group move forward together.

I’ve worked on lots of “teams”, but they were more just groups of people following the demands/requirements that a boss set out for us.  We didn’t collaborate on the best methods or approaches to problem solving, we just did it the way the boss said to.

I can admit that I have also been a”boss” at times when I thought I was a leader.  Instead of having a dialogue with my reports I was mandating that they complete a project or task my way.  Being a leader is an evolution.  You need to grow with your team and take turns following another person’s ideas through so that you can understand what the best way to tackle a problem really is.  You need to do things wrong, so that you really know and understand when you do them right.

Leading means learning and growing, not dictating.

Time Vacuums

So often I hear my colleagues complain about how little time they have left in a day.  It always occurs to me that maybe they should be more aware of the tasks and deliverables that they commit themselves to (or are committed to by someone else) and manage accordingly.
Lately, I have had some time thieves surrounding me that are stealing my precious task completion time and I feel a little bit less cranky about those people who can’t get their work done.  Maybe it isn’t all their fault.
Inside a traditional organization we have little grasp on the actual use of the tools we have at hand to make our lives easier.  So often I discover people who arrive late at meetings because they can’t sort out their calendars to give themselves meeting reminders.
Often we lose the first five to ten minutes of each meeting to small talk while people arrive late.
Don’t get me wrong, I totally care about your adventures with Junior, Rover, Your Grandma etc, but I care when we are grabbing a coffee or riding the elevator.  I do not care when we are using up the precious minutes that we have as a group to resolve stuff.
The cost of time.
The average meeting I attend has roughly 6-10 people.  Say each of the six people make a conservative $50,000/ annually, that means that each hour of their time is worth ~$30 add benefits and vacation etc. into that mix and let’s call it $50/hour. SO a meeting with 10 people is worth about $500/hour if we start every meeting 10 minutes late we are throwing away about $85 talking about taking Rover to the park.  Multiply that by five meetings a week $425, times fifty two weeks a year $22,100.  We are throwing away half a person each year just on my one little team.  Multiply that times an entire department or organization and poof! You have enough staff to complete every initiative with time left over.  Just by being on time and ready to go.