Can You be Content with Good Enough?

     This week I have been thinking about the concept of “good enough” versus great.  Another way to put it is “good enough” versus perfection.  This thought process all started as I evaluated my strengths and weaknesses in view of potential future career moves.  Last night, I came to the realization that I will likely never be the best in the world at anything.  The reality is that only a minuscule percentage of our population will ever be the greatest… poet, athlete, leader, dancer, or entrepreneur on the planet, at any given time.  While at first glance this may seem a little depressing and self-defeating, this truth should provide us the freedom needed to strive to be the best we can personally be.  In my experience, the pressure to be perfect (or the greatest in the world) tends to cripple more individuals than it helps.  We live in an imperfect world that requires grace to make success possible.

     I recently read an Entrepreneur.com blog post entitled “Your Secret Mental Weapon: Don’t Let the Perfect Be the Enemy of Good”.  This post addresses the importance of balancing our desire for perfection (being the greatest in the world) with a more realistic concept of being good.  In the article, author Neil Patel (2015) states “The pursuit of perfection is noble, but unless we’re willing to settle for “good,” we may have to settle for nothing at all.”  Likewise, our pursuit at being the greatest in the world is noble, but unless we can be happy achieving our personal best, we may not achieve anything at all. 

     Are you able to acknowledge that you will likely never be the best in the world at your chosen profession or hobby? Does that acknowledgement inspire or discourage you in achieving your personal best?

Patel, N. (August 31, 2015). Don’t Let the Perfect Be the Enemy of Good. Retrieved from https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/249676

Evaluating Opportunities

     I was speaking with a friend earlier this week and he mentioned the importance of leveraging one’s opportunities in the career planning process.  The comment was not meant to be profound but it left me thinking about my current work situation and how I am utilizing the opportunities presented to me each day.   Over the past year and a half, I have put considerable effort into evaluating my professional strengths and weaknesses.  While initially a challenge, I came to appreciate the importance of articulating those skills that come natural to me and those that do not.  As I have stated in previous posts, I firmly believe that people will accomplish the most when working in areas of strength.

     After speaking with my friend, I realized that I must evaluate my opportunities with the same focus I utilize in the evaluation of my strengths and weaknesses.  In pursuit of more information on the subject of opportunity evaluation, I came across a MindTools.com article titled “Personal SWOT Analysis: Making the Most of Your Talents and Opportunities”.  A SWOT assessment builds on the traditional strengths (S) and weaknesses ( W) assessment many people are familiar with and adds the important elements of evaluating our opportunities (O) and threats (T).

     A few examples were put forth that can help us identify opportunities that we may overlook.  These examples included evaluating new technology available for opportunity expansion, attending new networking events, filling in for colleagues on extended periods of leave, and taking on projects that force us to develop new skills. 

Are you in the habit of evaluating, and reevaluating,  your professional opportunities?  If not, how can you cultivate this habit?

Mind Tools Editorial Team (n.d.). Personal SWOT Analysis: Making the Most of Your Talents and Opportunities.  Retrieved from https://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/newTMC_05_1.htm

What Drives You?

I recently started reading George Kohlrieser’s (2006) book Hostage at the Table: How Leaders Can Overcome Conflict, Influence Others, and Raise Performance.  The book utilizes the author’s experience working as a police hostage negotiator to explore the emotional states present in hostage situations.  Those emotional states can reflect emotions people experience in being held “hostage” in their day-to-day personal and professional lives.  Per Kohlrieser, the key to surviving a real, or imagined (hostile boss/ coworker), hostage situation is overcoming the feelings of hopelessness and bonding with the hostage taker.

Another important factor in successful navigation of hostage situations, real or imagined, is knowing what drives us. Kohlrieser (2006) states “most people are driven by fear or by avoidance of pain. Only a few are driven by benefits” (p. 21).  In challenging environments, if we only focus on avoiding fear and pain we are likely to feel powerless and be taken “hostage”.  However, if we focus on potential positive outcomes, we will feel empowered and greatly increase our chances of survival and growth.

Kohlrieser explores the roles an individual’s mindset and language play in learning to be driven by a situation’s potential benefits.  Do you pay attention to the language you use during challenging times?  Are you able to “choose” your mindset?  If so, what steps do you take to that end?

Kohlrieser, G (2011). Hostage at the Table: How Leaders Can Overcome Conflict, Influence Others, and Raise Performance. Hoboken, NJ: Jossey-Bass.

The 80/20 Rule

This past week I read Ken Blanchard and Spencer Johnson’s The New One Minute Manager.  Several things caught my attention in this very quick read.  If you have not done so, I would recommend taking a few hours to read it.  Blanchard and Spencer explore the importance of managers utilizing brief and focused goals, encouragements, and redirections to lead their constituents.  I found these points simple to understand and practical.  However, what really caught my attention was the authors’ brief explanation of the 80/20 rule (Pareto principle) in relation to goal setting.  Blanchard and Johnson (2015) state “80% of your really important results will come from 20% of your goals” (Location No. 257).

At face value, the 80/20 rule reflects a truth that I have observed in my own experiences.  That is, 80% of one’s positive outcomes result from 20% of their efforts.  I believe this is the reason we are best served by playing to our strengths, as much as possible.  One can also observe this dynamic in organizations, athletic teams, and peer groups.  Most results tend to come from a relatively small segment of a given group.

As individuals, I believe the most important thing we can do is focus our energy investing in our areas of strength.  Our life responsibilities and time constraints may limit this investment for a season of life but if we are going to fulfill our potential, we must invest in what we do well.

Do you think the 80/20 rule is accurate? If so, where have you observed it?

 

Blanchard, K & Johnson, S. (2015). The New One Minute Manager. [Kindle Version] New York: Harper Collins.

Increase Your Personal Bandwidth

Last week, I was listening to the news and a reporter commented on a governmental agency’s “bandwidth”.  While I am positive that I have heard the phrase before, it struck me as a succinct and informative way to describe an organization’s capabilities.  As I tend to do, I started to think about applying this concept to myself.  What is my personal bandwidth?   We all have numerous responsibilities in our personal and professional lives.  Is your bandwidth capable of keeping up with all your responsibilities?  If not, how do you increase your bandwidth?

While seeking more information about bandwidth, I came across a blog by Jackie Nagel (n.d.) titled “5 Techniques That Increase Bandwidth For The Overwhelmed Entrepreneur”.  While I am not an entrepreneur, I found that the blog had some sound advice for increasing professional bandwidth.  Nagel listed five practices to avoid to become more productive.  For more bandwidth limit “cerebral snacking” (avoid the blackhole of unfocussed internet surfing), “social media randomness” (who cares what your friend is doing for lunch?), “overcommitment” (you can say it…..NO), “email grazing” (check in a few times a day, instead), and avoid those “unnecessary meetings” (if it is up to you).

These are helpful tips, or a good reminder, for ways to increase our personal bandwidths.  What are things you do to maximize your efficiency?

Nagel, J. (n.d.).  5 Techniques That Increase Bandwidth For The Overwhelmed Entrepreneur.  Retrieved from http://www.synnovatia.com/business-coaching-blog/bid/165645/5-Techniques-That-Increase-Bandwidth-For-The-Overwhelmed-Entrepreneur

Have You Experienced a Social Hangover?

This past weekend I attended multiple social events with family, friends, and my faith community.  From Friday evening until Sunday evening, it felt as if I was either at an event, going to an event, or leaving one.  Last night, I had a difficult time unwinding after such a busy weekend.  Several months ago, after a similar weekend left my head spinning from too many social activities, I did an internet search of the words “social hangover”.  I discovered that there is such a thing.  In an article on Inc.com, Jessica Stillman (2016) described a social hangover this way: “After too much time cooped up with too many people, your head starts to buzz, your brain sort of hurts.”  I believe this is an accurate portrayal of how I was feeling last night.

Sometimes this social hangover can be referred to as an “introvert hangover.”  While I do identify myself as an introvert, I would more accurately describe myself as a social introvert.  I enjoy people and being around them but I need consistent time to be alone and “process.” It turns out that most of us, introvert or extrovert, find that some time alone is helpful.  Kevin Cashman (2008) states “For most leaders, the most innovative ideas and creative solutions usually arise, not during traditional work hours, but during the quiet, inner moments while swimming, running, walking, gardening, or meditating” (p. 157).

Do you ever experience a “social hangover”? If so, how do you recover?

Do you find that your most creative and innovative ideas come in social settings or in relative solitude?

 

Cashman, K. (2008). Leadership from the inside out: becoming a leader for life. 2nd ed., rev. and expanded. San Francisco, CA: Berrett-Koehler Publishers.

 

Stillman, J. (August 25, 2016).  Feeling Rough After an Event? You Might Have an “Introvert Hangover”. Retrieved from http://www.inc.com/jessica-stillman/feeling-rough-after-an-event-you-might-have-an-introvert-hangover.html

Develop a Growth Mindset

     I am currently trying to develop a consistent growth focus in my personal and professional life.  One thing I have noticed about myself is that I feel energized when I am in the process of pursuing a goal.  However, once the goal is achieved, I tend to feel a letdown and can be left thinking “Now, what?”.  To counter this, I desire to focus more on the process of growth and less on the positive results that growth inevitably brings.

     I recently came across and interesting blog post by Sharen Ross titled “5 Ways to Cultivate a Growth Mindset for Self Improvement”.  In the blog, Ross compares a “growth mindset” with a “fixed mindset.”  Obviously, a growth perspective would be desirable if we are to reach our full potential.  Ross gives some simple tips to help cultivate the growth mindset. Such as, obtaining expert help (coaching), seeking out examples of people around you who are committed to growth, focusing your attention on the effort (not outcome) others have put in to be successful, competing with yourself (past achievements), and learning from previous failures.

     This past week I had a chance to develop my growth mindset by learning from a prior mistake.  On Thursday, I had the opportunity to be the guest reader for my son’s second-grade class.  I prepared for the event by selecting a couple of books ahead of time and reading them through several times beforehand.  The event went well, the children were entertained, and my son was excited to see me.  Things did not go as smoothly last year when I read to my son’s first-grade class. At that time, I did not practice reading ahead of time.  Honestly, I had not given it much thought.  As a result, the children were fidgety and they were not as entertained as they could have been.  While I made it through the first experience in one piece, I came away understanding that some practice ahead of time was warranted. 

Does the “growth mindset” come easy for you?  What are things you do to create such a mindset?

Ross, S. 5 Ways to Cultivate a Growth Mindset for Self Improvement. Retrieved from http://www.lifehack.org/357234/5-ways-cultivate-growth-mindset-for-self-improvement