The art of pushing through

Pushing Through-Erin Burrell
The art of pushing through

adjective push·ing \ˈpu̇-shiŋ\

Definition of PUSHING

  1. marked by ambition, energy, enterprise, and initiative
  2. marked by tactless forwardness or officious intrusiveness

preposition \ˈthrü\

Definition of THROUGH

  1. into one side and out the other side of (something)
  2. from one side or end to another side or end of (something)

Based on these definitions in order to push through (you) must be marked by tactless forwardness or officious intrusiveness into one side and out the other side (of something).

It is the concept of officious intrusiveness that makes getting through personal blockages so key in my mind. It’s the idea that in order to get past/over/through something hard you have to stop being polite. You need to knock down the things between you and your goal in a bit of obstacle bowling so to speak.

When you are alone there are a thousand things that you can use as excuses as to why you can’t. They are all about being polite.

I have other things I should be doing: Really? Your laundry will wait for you to write that novel or climb that hill. We know you have clean underwear left in the drawer.

It’s not really what I want anyway: (I’m shaking my head as I write this phrase.) We cannot (and should not) give up greatness because it is too hard. If you want something: GO. DO. Carpe Diem is thousands of years old. Seize the damn day people!

Support-Erin Burrell
Sometimes we need a little support

It’s hard for a reason

If the things you hope to achieve are easy, they aren’t special. When you reflect on the lessons you have learned in the process you will be reminded why so many people never get to say they did this or that. Many years from now you might think back to a challenge you were faced with and it won’t be the finish line that you reflect on, but the hurdles along the way that you defeated.

Remember that you are overcoming something in order to feel the joy of achievement. The rush of victory is a powerful motivator, but you have to get out of your own head and stop listening to your excuses.

Stop being polite and start taking names

Excuses are your enemy. Between you and I we can come up with heaps of them.

Reasons why you shouldn’t be the hero in your story. Reasons why that goal was too big for you. Even reasons why you don’t deserve that achievement.

We are WRONG. The world is yours. Goals are specifically designed to be stacked up and knocked down like freaking dominoes.

Keep moving forward

My friend Anna was writing something that wasn’t easy to say. She is a woman of many talents and professions and had lots of reasons to walk away from the keyboard. BUT she didn’t. She pushed past the voices in her head that told her not to finish it. (You can see her thoughts on a page over at Too Convoluted. She’s funny and honest, read her stuff.)

Facing these fears and thoughts of inadequacy is never easy. They might have slowed her progress, but they didn’t stop her, she kept writing. One. Word. At. A. Time.

It took longer than it should have. It was harder than it usually is. It is some of her more thoughtful writing and I can’t wait to see what she comes up with next. I get to say that because, she did it. She was marked by ambition, energy, enterprise, and initiative into one side and out the other side. I know that her next goal will be bigger, harder, and more complex than the last and I can’t wait to cheer her on.

There is no easy button on things worth pursuing.

No, it isn’t easy. No, it isn’t fast. It is, however really freaking worth it.

She was reminded (as was I) that by persevering past the blockage, that she could. The mere fact that she was able to do this thing reminds us all that we can continue to pursue bigger goals and achievements.

Pushing through to greatness

  1. Don’t apologise for wanting something for yourself.
  2. Surround yourself with empowering people who don’t accept excuses. They can help get you through the hard times.
  3. Choose big, hairy, goals. Goals that intimidate regular people. Goals that make you a bit afraid just by thinking about them. Then when you accomplish them you will dance by the light of victory.
  4. Use your fear of failure (and actual failures) as fuel. Let them remind you that the odds of achieving your goals can improve when you learn from your previous mistakes
  5. Don’t stop trying until you get there. Famous entrepreneurs, athletes, celebrities cite failure as their strongest motivational factor. A friend and accomplished endurance cyclist gave me some advice on how to achieve a goal. His thought was that any forward momentum, no matter how slow or small was getting you closer to your goal.

It is because I continue to be inspired by great people like Anna that I have accomplished what I have so far. Hopefully, these few words help to remind you that you are capable of doing something great as well.

The value of mentors (and why you should become one)

Recently LinkedIn told me that I should be thanking my mentors. While I think gratitude is important and I am an advocate for saying thank you publicly, I feel that the best thank you comes through action. I see the need to pay forward my gratitude in physical ways whenever possible and I think this is the lesson many of my mentors would like to have seen me learn.

Many people credit their mentors for offering them the insights they need to succeed while others state that it was their mentor that taught them not to be hard on themselves while they were learning. I see both of these concepts as adding value, but feel that we should all be reminded that no matter what age or career level we may have achieved, we have something to offer to other people.

Becoming a mentor/advocate is the most meaningful role I have ever held. Today most of the wins I experience are not my own. Instead, they are the achievements of people I have been lucky enough to work with and contribute to the development of.

Mentoring involves hard and soft skills

Dealing with conflict at work or challenges with navigating business politics are common themes for mentors. It is our gift of hindsight that helps to inform the knowledge we share with our mentees. However, it is the ability to see what worked and didn’t in our past experiences that leads us to offer tools, models, and approaches that will support our mentee in their hard skill development.

If you read Harvard Business Review you will discover that most articles regarding leadership success or management involve being a mentor to those below you and learning from those above you. I started to look for a particular article that displays this brilliantly and discovered this one.

While it also talks of the evolution from manager to leader, I don’t see any of the concepts being less relevant for those at any level in their career. Including ideas such as seeing the micro and macro pictures and understanding when to fight and when to negotiate will help to grow every resource.

What’s in it for you?

Victory in business and personal efforts feel fantastic. When you add those of your team and direct reports that feeling is increased immensely. Ultimately it comes down to the reality that helping someone else feels good for you.

What always surprises me is how much I learn when I’m mentoring. From the reminder to be excited about challenges, the desire to face new tasks with reckless optimism (often hard for those of us with battle scars), to the ability to be humble and learn new skills, my mentees teach me every day.

When you win: you feel good. When they win: you feel good. How can you possibly lose with that approach?

My lesson for you

Before you merely thank your mentors, become one and learn why acting is more valuable than speaking.

A few of the lessons I take with me daily from great leaders I am proud to have my career crafted by:

Work with people you love and respect.

Work with people you want to spend time with. While the relationships weren’t always critical to business success, it was worth the exchange for enjoying work more. Sometimes this means you don’t get the cheapest deal or resource, but making less profit and loving your day will be more impactful over the long term. Jeff Rushton

Detail matters in everything you do.

Going back and reviewing your work or someone else’s won’t ever hurt your business. As he always said “circle the wagons” (to make sure your load is stable). Mario Policicchio

Silence is powerful.

People are afraid of silence. It makes them uncomfortable. They will rush to fill the space you leave empty and that is where you will learn what to do next. Be quiet, watch, and listen. Andreas Lorenzen

Dr Seuss Quote
Oh, the thinks you can think up if only you try!

The importance of teams

Being a part of a high performing team is a pretty rewarding thing. What few people realise is that it rarely happens overnight, and is incredibly special when it does.

Pulling the weight

I’ll admit it, I never used to like working on teams. A team always meant pulling someone else’s weight and dealing with last minute scrambles to do work that someone else committed to delivering and didn’t. I’ve talked about how everyone wins when everyone contributes here, but sadly this is not always the case.

Over years of working in ineffective teams, it became easier to promise only what I could deliver and so I became an advocate for independent projects. Truth be told, even when I started to manage people I was selective about how I continued to work within the team I was leading. This is a bad habit to get into and only serves to create large groups of people doing tasks in a similar space.

Nothing changes without new inputs

In order to create a new output something has to change or be introduced. Yes, as an individual I was able to get things done. I was able to consistently deliver at a reasonable level, but nothing was pushing me forward.

Working independently doesn’t offer as many chances to grow a skill base or challenge ideas. By working with others, you are able to collaborate and create great ideas and output from what would otherwise be good enough, but not spectacular.

Some people would argue that they are pushed by reading and engaging with new content through independent development efforts and while this is partially true, we cannot always see past a single idea or concept limiting the scope of our ability to grow. A second (or third, or fourth) set of eyes, experiences, and ideas offers us that new perspective to help us develop.

Making things great

Great teams challenge one another through dialogue, brainstorming and more. By introducing new variables, (such as alternate skill-sets and backgrounds), we are able to develop hybrids of our approaches that meet the needs in new ways.

Sometimes this leads to creating something that is entirely new. This magic cannot happen without a collaborative approach to delivery.

With good comes bad

Challenging a person’s ideas is a place for potential growth and has the high potential to create conflict. Having lived through some pretty tense team environments, I can say that this is something that should be addressed early on.

Setting expectations for engagement and conflict resolution early in the effort cam serve to avoid or limit the scope of these issues. I understand that one bad experience can create a bit of fear when it comes to team delivery, I have to say that when it all comes down to the end it is all worth the drama.

My discovery: great teams are strange polygamous relationships.

Each person finds their way to contribute and cares for the team dynamic differently. I’ve been lucky enough to work with some great people I might never have met because of team assignments and I am better for them all.

In order to create high functioning teams, tools like charters, communication plans, and expectation management are critical.

There are lots of resources out there that can help, but Lane Sherman, a former team coach of mine recently wrote a book that really steps you through everything you need. You can buy it here. I was lucky enough to help provide feedback on it, and he has done a great job taking some of the mystery out of developing (or fixing) teams.

 

 

An open letter of immense gratitude

As I began to write the list of acknowledgements for my graduate project I realised that most of my thanks need to go to many who will never read such a document. Gratitude this large and passionate deserves broadcast to an audience wider than just that of a paper filed neatly in a folder somewhere.

My life has changed a lot over the last few years. I have a new partner, friends, company, job and now a new country. The person many of you met was going through a massive change and I credit my success this far to each and every one of you.

I’ve finally started to become a version of myself that I respect, on my way to being the person I want to be when I grow up. Certainly, not the version someone else wants, but one I was seeing in my head and heart not so long ago. I jumped into a hurricane and ended up on a quest to this new life by walking the yellow brick road and meeting all of you along the way.

There have been scary times during this adventure I promise. I have made choices that are not at all popular and certainly unconventional but I have grown and evolved. Today I feel that it is time that I offer credit to all of you who helped me get here.

To my partner: you are my everything, my future and I am (literally) willing to follow you to the end of the world.

To my family: yes, I am different than what you thought I would be. No less flawed, but it is with the knowledge that you will love me anyway that I have had the courage to make the leaps I have so far and those I am merely plotting for the future.

To my support system and chosen families: you know who you are. You cheered me on, heard me cry, told me I WAS good enough, strong enough and smart enough. You pushed me up hills that I never would have challenged both physically and emotionally. You offered honest and sometimes hard feedback to help me grow and change and I am forever in your debt.

To my team, company and customers: it has been the act of working for you that has made me willing to forget about myself. Thank you for helping me to see the big picture.

To my scholastic colleagues and leaders: each day I spend with you in my life I become stronger and more capable to face what the future brings. I am lucky to know each of you and credit you among my nearest and dearest.

So, with a little love and honesty I need to offer credit to each of you for the massive dent that my bucket list has taken over the past few years. I credit your support for the fact that it has also more than doubled despite the long list of items marked happily with a strike through. You are helping to push me forward and for that I am eternally grateful.

Title Goes Here- (The Road to my MBA-Post 1)

This is my topic sentence. Anyone who has ever gone “back to school” after a time away from academia knows that the sentence above is funny.  Not funny as in “Ha! Ha!”, more funny as in “ouch…hehehe”.  This is mostly due to the fact that we as business professionals are more used to keeping our messages down to the most condensed bullet points that can be read in one screen view of a mobile device and less concerned with whether or not our overall communications have flow.

The idea of going back to school was not forced upon me, but has actually been something that I have been toying with for a couple of years now.  I am not sure when I decided that getting an MBA was a must have bucket list item, but I know that once I decided that I was doing it, it all came together very fast.  The school and the program type came to me organically as I rated and reviewed all of the programs available.  Once I decided on Royal Roads , all of the rest of the items just flowed right behind it.

MBA @ RRU

Life Changing

At the end of May I had a conversation with the Dean of the Faculty of Management and the program manager and knew that this was the right program for me.  With an outstanding level of academic achievement and a much higher than average age (43 versus 26), I was going to go to school with leaders from many different industries, and I was going to be able to learn from everyone there.  The other learners in the program would be leaders from every industry there was.  The perspectives and life lessons presented were going to come from talented professors AND every other person in the room.  I was going to learn so much in this program!

I applied… now what?

Much like anything in my life it all came together almost overnight.  Not quite “Erin Burrell please cross the stage” fast, but speedy, none the less.  From application to the first day of class, just over five weeks passed.  From the day I was accepted to today it has been less than two months, and here I am in the fifth week of the program.

Back in Class

The program is designed as a mostly online model, but includes two three week “intensive” residency sessions, the first of which I am at the end of day ten.  I’m tired.  My brain is so busy, that I’m not sure it is going to have room for the readings I have to do for tomorrow’s classes.  I woke up this morning unsure if the case study I read last night,  had been read thinking of the right course (for those of you who are interested… I was thinking strategy when I should have been thinking of organizational behaviour and yes, I re-read it).  We are busy, between team and individual assignments, reading and trying to absorb the materials most of the students, myself included are going from about 6am-midnight.

Over the last ten days I have had my writing and thinking processes ripped apart in order to make room for the new tools that my professors and fellow learners are giving me.  This exercise is not just necessary in order to help me grow as a leader, it is mandatory in order to help me to expand my notions of what it means to be a leader.  Each comment in the margins of an assignment is designed to help me to understand the lessons that my instructors are teaching me, don’t get me wrong…they still hurt a little but I am learning my ass off!

Have I mentioned my broken leg?

Oh… so…yeah, I fell and broke my leg practicing hits at roller derby.  When?  Well gee… I was in the hospital the morning of our first day of online classes, but it’s ok.  Yes, it is hard to get around a campus that has more than it’s fair share of stairs on crutches, but the entire campus is helping me!  Every member of the staff has gone out of their way to help make my RRU experience better.  It goes well beyond opening doors and offering me shortcuts, they have made the girl on crutches feel welcome and not even slightly out of place.

So here I am… just around 5% of the way through the program and couldn’t be more pleased that I made the choice to come.  I will do my best to share my journey along the way, but really… both you and I know that I should be doing homework right now.  Conclusion goes here.

Is Your Intent Pure?

Over the last few months I have had a chance to chat with some amazing individuals and they have spurred me to challenge my own motivations.

We do things every day that may or may not enrich our lives or the lives of those around us.  What we really have to dissect is why we are doing things.

The question of intent is valid for work, home or play.  It’s ok to do things merely for pleasure or adrenaline, but for those big tasks you should ask yourself why.

What is the reason you are doing the task in front of you? 

Is it because you want to help? 

Is it because you were asked to? 

Is it because you need to find some validation?

Is it for the credit (money/praise/title) that you will receive?

Is it to meet the expectations of others?

Is it fuel for your ego?

I have taken these questions to heart and they have really started to make me dig deeper into my own motivation for doing things.  I have asked myself why.  I haven’t been proud of all of the answers.

In doing this exercise I have discovered that some of my reasons for doing things are not pure.  In these cases I have set myself on a path to correct them.

The truth is that juicing my ego is NOT a good enough reason to participate in a task.  Neither is having a nicer than the person next to me.

For others I have discovered that my reasons are actually better than I ever gave them credit for being.

An example of this is the fact that a couple of years ago I made the commitment to ride across Canada with the Sears National Kids Cancer Ride.  Participating was easy to validate; I was helping to raise much needed funds and awareness for pediatric cancer.  I was going to help make a difference.  I made the validations my reason why, which was not 100% true.

I could never put it into words why I had felt compelled to join this cause until I started to really dissect my own intent.

Why pediatric cancer over any other cause?

The answer is twofold:

  1. There is an end date on this cause.  Each day we are making remarkable progress on finding an end to pediatric cancer.  Each dollar raised is getting us another step closer to a world where kids aren’t dying of cancer anymore.
  2. This is a battle worth fighting.  While we aren’t going to win every day, we are making progress.  It is also something beyond a single person’s control.  Unlike many causes that are fighting to end something end we have the capacity to prevent from happening in the first place.  Hello Occupy Movement (Yeah I’m looking at you).

My goal in this regard is simple: To find an end to pediatric cancer and then tackle the next most deserving item on my list.  Today I don’t know what that next item is, but I can tell you for certain I will dig into my motivation for doing the task before I commit to starting it.

We all have the capacity for good.  We can make the world better for being in it if we so choose.  Ask yourself why you sent that email, did that task, bought that thing.

What will your participation accomplish?

 If you feel that my reasons for riding are valid please take a moment to donate to this year’s four day cycling event Tour for Kids in support of kids cancer camps.

The “I” Statement

“I” is much more powerful than we often give it credit for being.  This is not something that another person can even debate.

Think about them.  Short.  Powerful.  Defined statements.

I love you.

I am hungry.

I hate Mondays.

I don’t love you.

This isn’t a “We Should” conversation.  “I” is about one person’s needs and views only.

A few weeks ago I wrote an I list.  Things that I want/need to accomplish or experience, a bucket list only better.  It is not comprised of all selfishly focused items, but it is very clearly about my needs and desires.  Writing the list I took into account no budget, partner, employer or regionally based limitations.  I wrote it freely as though any one item could stand alone.

It wasn’t a list of tasks or items that could be checked off one by one (though some can) it is more the bricks of a foundation of what my master vision of who I am and who I would like to evolve to being.

Rereading it you know this is all about me, almost too much so.  Reading my own list I was overcome by my own selfish approach to the rest of the world.

It does not factor in a single “We”  statement and that reality is big for me.  It took me a long time to realize that many of the “We” items of my life had crushed or overshadowed any “I” items.

Don’t get me wrong.  I don’t believe in becoming completely self centred EVER.  Some of my I statements include items like volunteering more of my time etc., but to the causes that I believe in.  Not causes for my friends or family or employer.

My causes.  My needs. Me. Me. Me.

This week I had a conversation with a friend about a fight with her partner.  It had included many I”statements from both parties.  These strong messages left the two on their own islands wrapped up in their selfish demands.

So how does a person balance sharing a message that is almost overpowering with what they can acceptably say without making it all about their individual needs?

We don’t.

My list of “I” statements is for nobody but me.

When and if I discuss these items with another person I will balance the  “I” focused needs with those of my environment.  I will weigh in the desires, feelings and limitations of my friends, family, locality, partner and/or employer and make a comprmise statement that includes softening factors like “would like to” to each of them to make them more palatable.  It won’t change my list item, but it may leave me in a place that does not abandon me on the me island that these conversations can often deliver us to.

So the next time you hear yourself crafting an “I” statement in your head, decide if it is an “out loud”message.

There is a profound weight associated with words.

Feel the following:

I love you.

I don’t love you.

I leave it to you to deliver your own I list as you define is best, but mine will stay for my eyes only.

The Path to Good Intentions

I have a friend who is absolutely brilliant.  He has opinions that make you think.  He inspires conversations that stay with you.

He used to blog.  It was clever and challenged your perceptions and preconcieved notions of everything from bacon to music.
Last year he came up with an idea.  It was amazing.  He was going to redefine his blog and create an entire brand surrounding it.
He kept the concept pretty quiet.  He wanted a bold design and layout ready before he made the domain public.  The only reason I got to know about it was because he wanted to bounce the brand and concept off someone who wouldn’t judge it before seeing it live.
I just discovered that he never finished the design and let the domain lapse.  Life, it seems got in the way of his execution.
Now the world will not get this chance to know how smart he really is, and since he neglected his old blog for the last year they have mostly forgotten his older very clever posts.
So the question I have to ask is if you have a seedling of an idea do you plant it and water it in a pot that you know it will outgrow just so that it can at least start to take root?
The challenge it seems that those of us with big brands behind us in our day lives face is the need to “go big or go home”, when just going would have been enough to start.
So I allude to the path of good intentions.  We can get detoured along the way, but there is nothing to say that we can’t still start.
It is never too late to begin a great project that will help you to grow and evolve, even if you have to start it just a little bit smaller than you originally intended.