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I’m a practical person. And rather proud of it. But the strength can be a weakness when it’s deployed too much. Or in the wrong way. For instance, it can prevent me from thinking big enough. But it never prevents me from idealism – so I can be a walking contradiction much of the time. It makes me special. 😉

Idealism is the ongoing pursuit of the way things SHOULD be. The dictionary defines idealism this way:

the practice of forming or pursuing ideals, especially unrealistically

An idealist is a person who follows their ideals even to the point of impracticality.

This week we’ve talked a bit about beliefs and perspective, especially how we see things. It’s the Pogo cartoon line circa 1971, “We have met the enemy and he is us.”

Indeed we often are our worst enemy. Especially when it comes to dreaming big, thinking big, aiming high and pursuing the impractical.

I choose to end this week on a note of innovation, creativity and impossibility thinking. I’m bored with possibility thinking. And with practical. It’s much more fun to consider what’s impractical and what may be impossible.

I’m blessed with five grandkids who range in age from 12 (almost) to 4 (almost). Even the oldest is more ideal than practical. I’m curious when the idealism will give way to the practical. I know it’s coming because it comes for all of us.

The interesting thing is how easy impractical is for kids. They don’t know any better. What kid would have as much fun by being practical? There’s no fun in that.

I’m sure the adults in these kid’s lives will tell them that’s not how the real world works. We’ll send them other signals that will methodically squash their idealism. I’m sad about that, but I don’t know to fully prevent it. I can only hope to instill in them my encouragement to keep dreaming and thinking as big as they want.

It’s the Ying and Yang of being responsible (practical) while embracing a safe margin of dreaming (being impractical).

Cason is my almost 4-year-old grandson. I nicknamed him Road Rash Roy over 2 years ago because he’s adventurous and always had some scrape on his face. Road rash from a fall or something.

Roy was scaringly fearless the first couple of years of his life. He’s still pretty fearless, but he was afraid of water. Even after taking swimming lessons for two summers, he’s still not a big fan of getting in the pool. Such is the nature of fear. It is what it is. Who knows why?

I mention “Roy” because nothing in his life is based on practicality. Well, nothing I can think of. Roy’s whole life is the pursuit of the impractical.

He grabs a PlayStation game controller from an older cousin without any idea what to do. When the older kids try to show him what to do, he’s completely uninterested. He’ll jerk away from them, controller in a death grip, and declare, “I can do it.” Nevermind that he can’t. He doesn’t care what you or anybody thinks. The kid is stubborn and determined. Best to leave him alone and let him figure it out.

Seconds go by and he’s frustrated out of his mind. He’ll carry on unleashing his frustration. But you can’t help him ’cause he won’t let you. He’s completely unreasonable. 😀

We grow up (and out of) being unreasonable. But we tend to do it across all areas of our life. And it stifles our creativity, innovation, and dreams. I don’t want Roy to stop dreaming. Or to stop dreaming big.

In 2007 author Paul Lemberg wrote a book entitled, Be Unreasonable: The Unconventional Way To Extraordinary Business Results. It’s been years since I read it but it still sits on my shelves. I admit I bought it when it came out because of the title. I’ve had a longtime fascination with impractical and unreasonable pursuits. 😉

Impractical and unreasonable are synonyms as I’m using them today. I don’t mean unreasonable in that it defies logic and reason when it comes to us behaving responsibility with the resources we’re managing. But it does defy the ordinary, conventional and typical.

Paul puts forth the notion that unreasonable is a must if you want to be extraordinary. Who can disagree? Ordinary is so reasonable it’s average. Well, at least ordinary.

Unreasonable ignores conventional wisdom. It’s doing more than you’re asked. It’s asking more than most are willing to give. It’s giving your best in every situation, even if your best isn’t required.

Unreasonable and impractical is about saying yes to yourself when everybody says no to your idea or pursuit. It’s acting on the prospect of greatness without fretting over whether it’ll work. Impractical and unreasonable increases the chances of success by helping possible things become a reality.

It’s also about making improbable but needed things to happen. Unreasonable and impractical question why things considered normal are normal. Then it figures out how to improve them.

Impractical is about expecting the best and success every time. It’s expecting greatness. Our own, our business and our ideas. It’s about questioning why and why not!

Weirdness is impractical. Unreasonable is impractical. So is creativity. And innovation. And improvement.

Let’s pursue the impractical because that’s where the biggest success is found. That’s where the fun is found.

Today is the day. The best day. To start thinking bigger. To start dreaming about what could be — all those things that seem impossible or improbable. Today is the day to start asking, “Why not?” And when people tell you your idea is impractical or unreasonble, today is the day to start tell them, “It doesn’t matter. I’m gonna pursue it anyway!”

Winners win. Go big! I’ve got an almost 4-year-old grandson who doesn’t yet know better. And it’s worked out terrifically well for him so far. Here’s a video of him when he was 2. This was 50% of his life ago!

Be well. Do good. Grow great!

Randy

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“That’s not how I see it.”

We’ve all used that sentence. Some more than others.

Question: how open are you to understand another perspective?

About anything. But let’s keep this business related.

In the past few weeks, my work has revolved heavily around helping CEOs deal with roster issues. In some cases, the CEO doesn’t feel like he’s got the right people in place. In another case, an owner isn’t quite sure if certain people are doing the work they’re most ideally suited to do. Discussions about handling people challenges can be some of the most personal conversations possible. There’s emotion, sentiment and all kinds of stuff that has to be processed.

It’s just one area where “how I see it” impacts our behavior and the actions we take. Or the actions we refuse to take.

Bob sees a team member underperforming. He draws conclusions about why. That gap between what Bob knows and what he doesn’t is filled in with Bob’s opinions. It’s how he sees it.

When he confronts the team member with his assumptions he then – for the first time – realizes he wasn’t looking at accurately. Turns out the employee, married for 8 years, just found out his wife had a boyfriend. He’s wrecked and it’s obviously impacted his ability to work. Bob had no idea. How could he? He thought this employee was loafing, “slacking off.”

As you may imagine, it ended up being a very conversation than the one Bob had planned. So it goes. We see it the way we see it — until we see it differently.

Bob wonders how he may have improved his perspective. Being the candid communicator I am I simply say, “You could have talked with him and asked him what was going on.” Call me Captain Obvious, but Bob knows he could have done that. He also knows he chose instead to make assumptions based on how he saw things. Nevermind that he wasn’t looking at the whole picture. There was a major piece of the puzzle he couldn’t see – infidelity in the employee’s marriage.

Yesterday we talked about how you see things inside your head, something supremely important. Today it’s mostly about how we see the outside world, but let’s leverage both ideas for our benefit because outside perspectives can serve us in both cases.

Lately, I’ve been fixated a bit on the parable Jesus told about the prodigal son in Luke 15. Here’s a young man who wanted his inheritance in advance of his father’s passing and the dad gave it to him. He promptly leaves home, goes to another country and lives it up. He indulges in every sinful behavior he can while he does whatever he wants. It’s all great and wonderful until the money runs out and the friends all leave. Destitute he wanders around until he gets a job feeding pigs. He’s so hungry he’ll eat what the pigs are eating, but nobody is there to help him. There in the pigpen the Bible says, “he came to himself.” He decides to go back home and beg his father to forgive him and take him back – not as a son, but as a servant.

“He came to himself” is a powerful phrase signifying the value of another point of view. This young man left home seeing things very differently. He likely felt stifled in his father’s house. He wanted to do what he wanted to do. He didn’t realize that everything the father had was his, too. He didn’t realize how good he had it at home. Good clothing. Good food. Safety. Love. Care. He took all that for granted when he was there. But today, he has “come to himself.” He doesn’t see it the same way now. Now that he’s broke and broken.

How can we improve our vision without being broken? How we can improve our perspective without suffering what he suffered?

Step 1 – Be humble.

Be humble to realize you may not have it right. The way you see it today may be right, but it may be completely wrong. Bob saw his employee’s performance through a lens that only allowed for the employee’s performance to be explained by neglect or laziness. Turns out he was neither neglectful nor lazy. He was broken hearted. Bob never considered that possibility because he was confident he had it all figured out.

Step 2 – Be open.

What if this isn’t really how it is at all? Humility will fuel your ability to openly consider something other than your current viewpoint. But humility isn’t enough…you’ve got to intentionally open your mind to other possibilities.

Step 3 – Be curious.

Ask. Find out.

I never cease to be amazed at people who predetermine wrong “facts” that could so easily be prevented. Bob could have likely easily, and quickly, discovered the problem his employee was having. All he had to do is deploy curiosity and ask, “Hey, your performance is really dropping off. I’m worried about you. What’s going on with you?” But Bob didn’t do that. He wasn’t curious enough to find out if how he saw it was accurate or not. He simply rode with his assumptions. Big mistake!

Step 4 – Be clear. Understand.

Be clear in your understanding and in your communication. Be clear in the questions you ask to feed your curiosity.

Clear vision – and clear thinking – aren’t possible with muddy thinking, understanding or communication. This is no time for babbling incoherently – come to think of it, IS there ever a time for that? Don’t tell Capital Hill there’s never a good time for that!

This is a bit of an amplification of step 3 in that you need to dive deeply enough into curiosity to get the answers and information necessary so you better understand.

Step 5 – Be changeable.

Armed with new information and a new outlook the prodigal son went back home apologizing to his father. He didn’t have to. He could have been resentful and bitter at his failure. He could have been too humiliated to go back home. And the father could have berated him when he came back. But none of that happened. The father ran to him, fell on him and kissed his neck, then he put a robe on him, a ring on his finger and shoes on his feet. His son had come home. He wasn’t a servant. He was a son. A son who had learned, understood and grown – enough to change.

The only point of leveraging an outside perspective is to see things more clearly so we can change – aka grow and improve.

It often takes an outside perspective because we only know what we know. We only see what we see. Again, it’s not always a matter of right or wrong. It’s always a matter of clarity though. Can we see things more clearly? Absolutely. Can others help us do that? Of course!

There’s one big hurdle with the outside perspective. Judgment.

Quite often outside perspectives love to judge our current perspective. They like to tell us what we should do. What we shouldn’t do. They enjoy criticizing what we’ve already done or what we say we’re about to do. That’s not helpful. Kick people like that to the curb. Ditch them. You don’t need those people in your life because they’re not serving you. They’re serving themselves. They don’t care about you more than they care about themselves.

Instead, surround yourself with people willing to listen and understand how you see things. And, people courageous enough to share with you alternative ways to look at it. Ways that promote a more meaningful way to consider it. Ways that provoke you to find out if you’re seeing it accurately or not. And ways that provoke you to put in the work to make sure you’re seeing it as clearly as possible. People who want to help you be better without regard for themselves because they understand this is YOUR life, not theirs.

It’s why you hear me constantly say, “You’ll figure it out. I’m just here to help.”

Be well. Do good. Grow great!

Randy

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That line is part of the first page of Og Mandino’s book, The Greatest Salesman In The World.

I will persist until I succeed.

That’s another line from the same passage.

Both lines address something other than a positive affirmation of the desire to achieve something, but they speak to one of our greatest challenges – overcoming our self-limiting beliefs.

Back in 2013, an online article was published over at Tiny Buddha entitled, “Overcome 8 Common Limiting Beliefs That May Keep You Stuck.” 

The author pointed out 8 that were especially vexing to her. They figured out these were the limiting beliefs causing her to be stuck. I suspect it’s an all too common list.

  1. I lack motivation.
  2. I procrastinate too much.
  3. I don’t have time.
  4. I don’t have enough resources.
  5. It’s too late to change.
  6. I have too many responsibilities.
  7. I have no clue who I am.
  8. I have no clue where to start.

Your list may look different. But you’ve got a list. We’ve all got a list.

Dr. Bruce Lipton likes to say that the movie – The Matrix – isn’t sci-fi. It’s a documentary. 😀

So many classic books focus on beliefs – particularly on overcoming our limiting beliefs. I don’t know who first put that verbiage to the idea, but we can all relate to it. Nobody is immune.

ChangingMinds.org gives us this insight thanks to a keynote by Alan Stein, Jr.

Limiting beliefs are those which constrain us in some way. Just by believing them, we do not think, do or say the things that they inhibit. And in doing so we impoverish our lives.

We may have beliefs about rights, duties, abilities, permissions and so on. Limiting beliefs are often about our selves and our self-identity. The beliefs may also be about other people and the world in general.

In any case, they sadly limit us.

They go on to say this…

I do/don’t
We may define ourselves by what we do or do not do. I may say ‘I am an accountant’, which means I do not do marketing and should not even think about it, and consequently fail to sell my services well.

Another common limiting belief is around how we judge ourselves. We think ‘I don’t deserve…’ and so do not expect or seek things.

I can’t
We often have limited self-images of what we can and cannot do. If I think ‘I cannot sing’ then I will never try or not go to singing lessons to improve my ability. This is the crux of many ‘I can’t’ statements: we believe our abilities are fixed and that we cannot learn.

I must/mustn’t
We are bound by values, norms, laws and other rules that constrain what we must and must not do. However, not all of these are mandatory and some are distinctly limiting. If I think ‘I must clean the house every day’ then this robs me of time that may be spent in something more productive.

I am/am not
The verb ‘to be’ is quite a pernicious little thing and as we think ‘I am’ we also think ‘I am not’ or ‘I cannot’. For example we may think ‘I am an artist’ and so conclude that we can never be any good at mathematics, or must not soil our hands with manual work.

‘I am’ thinking assumes we cannot change. Whether I think ‘I am intelligent’ or ‘I am not intelligent’, either belief may stop me from seeking to learn. ‘I am’ also leads to generalization, for example where ‘I am stupid’ means ‘all of me is all of stupid and all of stupid is all of me’. A better framing is to connect the verb to the individual act, such as ‘That was a stupid thing to do’.

When coupled with values we get beliefs about whether a person is right or wrong, good or bad.

Others are/will
Just as we have limiting beliefs about ourselves, we also have beliefs about other people, which can limit us in many ways. If we think others are more capable and superior then we will not challenge them. If we see them as selfish, we may not ask them to help us.

We often guess what others are thinking based on our ‘theory of mind’ and beliefs about them. These guesses are often wrong. Hence we may believe they do not like us when they actually have no particular opinion or even think we are rather nice. From our guesses at their thoughts we then deduce their likely actions, which can of course be completely wrong. Faced with this evidence, it is surprising how many will still hold to the original beliefs.

From Napoleon Hill who wrote in Think And Grow Rich, “Whatever the mind can conceive and believe, it can achieve” — to every self-help author who has ever written and published anything about positive thinking, we’re smothered with quips and quotes about the value of controlling our thinking. If the sheer volume of words would provoke major changes, then major changes would have happened over a century ago. But we still battle our thoughts.

You’re thinking, “What does this have to do with me and my business?” Good question. But I have a better answer, “Everything!”

Everything.

As a leader, executive, business owner – frankly, as a human – everything begins in our mind. Everything.

That doesn’t mean we control everything, but it means the things we do control first happen in our brain.

Acceptance that failure isn’t our necessary destiny or path may be foundational to us thinking bigger. And better!

It’s often a subtle, even gentle killer of ideas, creativity, and innovation among leaders. A nagging thought shooting through our mind telling us, “This will never work.” An ever-present fear that we’re reaching too high. Or not high enough. An idea that the slaughterhouse of failure is bound to be the fate of our idea or endeavor. Or worse yet, our destiny!

“If it is to be, it’s up to me!”

I want to encourage you to carefully consider what you think. Exercise self-control when it comes to your self-talk. There is no more powerful voice in your life than your own. There is no opinion in your life more influential than your own. So let’s invest more in this. In this person – YOU – who so drastically impacts the outcomes of your life.

Be well. Do good. Grow great!

Randy

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It’s true in our lives and in our businesses. We make adjustments – changes and improvements – when something isn’t working very well. Usually, when things aren’t working at all or when something is truly broken.

Within an hour of arriving at the office, Jeff has Katherine sitting across from him. She’s been his executive assistant for three years. And she completely changed his life when she arrived. Her efficiency and organization helped him perform at levels he used to dream about. Everybody knows how valued she is to his operation.

Right now, he’s a nanosecond away from panic mode. Katherine has handed him her resignation and two-week notice. She’s moving to accept a new challenge. Jeff never imagined this would happen. He’s pleading with her and asking, “Is there anything I can do to change your mind?”

She’s sheepish, but mostly just wanting this day to be over. That and the next 2 weeks. Her excitement to begin the new journey of her life trumps whatever dread she’s now enduring.

Jeff gets angry. First at Katherine. Then at himself.

“I’ve taken her for granted for so long,” says Jeff. “I just assumed everything was great because it was great for me.”

A year earlier Katherine asked Jeff about an opening in his company. It was in marketing – something Katherine had told Jeff during her first interview was an area of interest. He forgot. And when the opening appeared he dismissed it as not being a good opportunity for her. “You’re learning much more with me,” Jeff told her.

But that wasn’t the point. Her happiness was the point. Jeff’s happiness blinded him to Katherine’s happiness. And now it’s too late. Well, it’s too late for Jeff to hang onto a key employee whose absence will dramatically alter his life. But it’s not too late for Jeff to learn – and change.

We all experience moments and events that seemingly force us to change or do something different (hopefully, something better). A long-term landlord raises the rent drastically on a new lease proposal. A supplier hits us with a 15% price hike. A key employee resigns. A major customer leaves us for a competitor. These events impose on us. So we face them.

Why wait until these things happen?

Why not deploy our creativity and improvement when things are going well?

Mostly because we don’t think about them until we have to. That’s our mistake. It’s human nature I suppose, but that doesn’t mean we have to accept it.

What if today we decided to change our intentions? Jeff wishes he had been more intentional in helping Katherine achieve her goals – and simultaneously avoiding the disruption his life is now experiencing.

Scenario planning doesn’t require the scenario to be current. Or real.

What if Jeff decided it would be to his advantage to think about Katherine’s career goals and happiness? How can Jeff behave more intentionally with not just his executive assistant, but with all employees to see that they’re engaged in work that means something to them? Work that might keep them on the team longer because it works for them – and the company?

What if you thought about your next lease renewal months in advance? What if the landlord hits you with a substantial rate increase? Plan for it now in advance of it happening.

What if you lost one of your biggest customers? Don’t wait until they walk out the door before you figure out what went wrong. Why not dive into their account (and their happiness) now? In fact, why not do that with all your top customers — the ones who compose the bulk of your revenues?

Psychologists have long known that humans typically need to be metaphorically grabbed by the lapels before we make a change. It’s that hitting rock bottom, having a pigpen moment (parable of the prodigal son) and all the other cliches that happen to be true.

Some years ago psychotherapist Amy Morin wrote an article for Forbes, “Change Doesn’t Happen Overnight: It Happens In These Five Stages.”

Ms. Morin lists these 5 stages:

  1. Precontemplation
  2. Contemplation
  3. Preparation
  4. Action
  5. Maintenance

Each step builds on the prior. If you’re in pre-contemplation you’re not accepting responsibility for the need to change. You’ve got to get to the contemplation stage where you recognize the consequences of not changing. But you still must do more. So you move to preparation where you actually plan to make the change. The better the plan to change, the more likely the change will stick.

All of this is to move us toward action. This is where behavioral change finally starts. And let’s not forget the final stage because it can be the make-or-break phase, maintenance. Too frequently we quit just a few days in because we declare victory too soon. The temptation to think we’ve changed enough is strong. Eating healthy for a few days isn’t nearly long enough to establish a lifestyle change that will stick. Don’t quit the actions to change too soon.

Sit down with yourself. Where are you in these stages of change? Get yourself where you need to be so you can reach new heights of achievement and accomplishment.

Then, sit down with your leadership team. Discuss where you all are, as individuals and as a collective. Get your entire team – and your organization – where you need to be so you can blow the doors off of whatever past or current success you’re experiencing.

Be well. Do good. Grow great!

Randy

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Last week I watched an interview with Dr. Jordan Peterson. The conversation turned toward alcohol. Particularly, getting off of it – breaking the addiction to it.

Said Peterson, “Alcohol is a really good drug. It’s effective. But you need something better.” He went on to extol the virtues of finding things more productive, valuable and worthwhile – things constructive, not destructive.

I kept thinking about that statement, “You need something better.”

And I thought about you, me and every other leader devoted to growing great. It’s what we all need – something better!

Let’s think about the things in our lives that may be working at some level, but they’re destructive. We need something better. Something more valuable so we can ditch the destructive behaviors, processes, and philosophies.

Maybe drugs and alcohol are destructive habits for you. You likely already know you need something better. Perhaps you’ve not yet found it or figured it out. Let me encourage you to get busy getting it figured out. The downside of leaning on substances to mask our pain and fears, or to increase perceived bravery is too high. Losing family and friends. Wrecking our health. Risking our lives. No matter how effective drugs and alcohol are, they don’t make us better humans.

But when I was listening to Dr. Peterson I wasn’t so much thinking about drugs and alcohol, which were clearly the topical context for Peterson’s comment. Instead, I was thinking about business owners and other clients who have destructive habits that impact their businesses and their lives.

For example, Gary operates a successful website design firm. He launched the business as a solo-freelancer 12 years ago, building websites for local small businesses. Clients were happy and his business grew. Technology changed and Gary found himself needing to incorporate other technologies into client’s websites. Integration became increasingly important to his clients – integration with other software so their businesses could run more smoothly.

Gary confesses that life has been a constant, ongoing struggle since hiring his first employee. Now he has 9. And Gary laments, “I’m never satisfied with the work. Fact is, I’m not even satisfied with the effort.”

Gary complains how he has to step in to make anything and everything happen. If he doesn’t step in, then projects fail. If he doesn’t step in, sales don’t get made. “If I don’t do it, it won’t get done.”

Within a few meetings, I learn what Gary already knew. He just couldn’t yet bring himself to face it so squarely. He’s the problem.

He doesn’t know how to find the people he most needs. He’s unable to effectively interview and vet candidates. He’s addicted to chasing employees based on his desperation to “get help.” The result is he’s surrounded by the wrong people who lack the skills he most needs to please his clients. As a result, the culture is not conducive for achieving what Gary wants. Gary needs something better.

Marilyn launched a skincare line 8 years ago. The products grew in popularity with high-end spas, but now sales aren’t so good. Marilyn is stuck and unsure of how to remedy the current trends. High-end spas want their own private label products. Marilyn doesn’t want to produce products that don’t bear her brand. And she’s uninterested in broadening her market. She enjoys the prestige of the high-end spa market. You can see the dilemma. So can she, but she’s addicted (to beg a word) to the strategy that got her where she is. She’s living in the past and lamenting that market conditions have changed. She wished things would go back to how they once were.

Like Gary, Marilyn comes face to face with her problem. The businesswoman in the mirror. Marilyn’s destructive beliefs and desires to go back to a time when sales were brisk aren’t helping her move forward. She needs something better.

We’re starting a new month. A new week. I’m not accusing you of having destructive behaviors in your life or your business – but maybe! I am challenging you to look at your beliefs, philosophies, processes, systems, business models, principles and anything else to see if you need something better. Truth is, I’ll wager we’re all needing something better. And it never stops. Because it’s what growth is all about.

Change.

Fixing what ails us.

Improving what holds us back.

Making good things great.

Asking – and answering – the question, “What can we do to improve this?” How can we make our businesses and our lives more valuable?

By finding something better. So this month, let’s search more diligently for it, then chase it down until we catch it so we can incorporate it into our lives.

Be well. Do good. Grow great!

RC