My Story About Weeds

I realized that they could be a problem. Or not. The weeds.

I could decide.

They could be an annoyance, a challenge to overcome, an obstacle to my enjoyment. Or they could just be weeds.

I could choose. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

You see, I have this beautiful, lush garden in Ireland. I weeded it just before I went to the States three weeks ago on business. When I came back, it was full of weeds.

I found myself railing against the weeds. Lashing out at them. Telling myself the “story” that there shouldn’t be weeds.

But, of course there were weeds. That’s what weeds do. They grow in your garden.

And we… we tell ourselves stories all the time… about the way things “should” be… or “shouldn’t” be. The stories are what get us into trouble; the stories are what suck our energy reserves; the stories are what keep us from doing what needs to be done.

I have a coaching client who is building a business. On occasion, she gets frustrated because something doesn’t work, or she comes up against an obstacle.

She tells herself a story. About how there shouldn’t be obstacles, obstacles to success.

It’s the story that frustrates and preoccupies her really; not the obstacles. There will always be obstacles. And the obstacles can be problems or challenges or annoyances… or they can be opportunities.

Then again, maybe they are just obstacles… or weeds. Nothing more. Nothing less.

We get to choose.

Just Tweak It

“I can’t believe it! Just a couple of tweaks to my resume and marketing materials and, all of a sudden, I am getting dozens of interviews. The phone hasn’t stopped ringing!”

As Gretchen’s coach, I shared in her excitement and joy. But I wasn’t at all surprised. Gretchen’s got the goods: she’s bright, energetic, articulate, and personable. And she’d been doing the work: stepping up, asking the right questions, listening deeply, and taking action.

Making small changes. Tweaking.

You know, water is just water at 211º F. But at 212º it can power a locomotive.

A degree of difference.

And a lot of times, that’s all that’s necessary. Just a degree of difference, just a tweak, just a small shift, can turbo-charge your success and land you at the top of your game.

Think about the recent Winter Olympics at Sochi. The winner of the gold medal in the men’s 500 m had a time of 69.312; the winner of the silver, 69.324.

Tenths of seconds made the difference.

Top golfers like Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson spend huge amounts of time making minute changes to their strokes. Tennis players too like Serena Williams. Top executives, advertisers and marketers split-test their efforts continuously to assess what the nuances are that will impact their sales.

Because nuances matter. Often more than wholesale change.

Sometimes, we look at the road ahead and get overwhelmed about what we think remains to be done to achieve our goals. We can only imagine the road as linear. We can’t see that, by just staying the course a little bit longer, or that by making the tiniest of course adjustments, everything will change in our favor. We can’t see that the finish line is just around the corner or that all of our efforts will suddenly coalesce into that powerful result we’ve been working toward. And we’re sorely tempted to give up.

Even when the tweaks are simple or obvious, we can’t see them. Because we’re just too damn close to see them.

So we need to have faith. And we need to surround ourselves with mentors and coaches and accountability partners who will support us along the way.

Because the truth is that often, with just a few tweaks, we can close the gaps and achieve our most cherished dreams.

So don’t despair. Don’t give up.

Keep tweaking.

Why Right Is Wrong

Mistakes, wrong turns, blind alleys: they are part of the adventure.

I thought about this as I paddled on into the driving rain…and darkening sky.

Hours earlier we had ventured out onto the Killarney Lakes in kayaks. Even with a map in hand, the exit from one lake to another – the route to our pick-up destination – was ‘discreet’ and difficult to find. Two or three times we missed it… paddling windward into blind cul-de-sacs, only to turn around and try again…and again.

What started out as lighthearted fun turned into a bit of an epic… as adventures sometimes do. But it was difficult to feel too sorry for ourselves wandering around as we were in the magnificence of the National Park, surrounded by mossy forests and dramatic hillsides. We were beat for sure by the time we were done. But the wrong turns had allowed us to see more and experience more and enjoy more of this incomparable beauty.

Would that we could take this perspective into other areas of our lives! We (you can read this as ‘I’ or ‘you’ or ‘someone else not me’) often get pissed off when we make mistakes that take us off our intended course, that require extra time, that take us down paths that don’t appear to lead us to our destinations straightaway. They seem to ‘cost’ us; they appear unnecessary; we consider them ‘wasteful.’

But maybe they’re just part of the adventure. Maybe they allow us a fuller experience of this wondrous journey of our lives. Maybe we might discover something new along the way… if only we might see it differently.

‘Mistakes,’ ‘and wrong turns’ led to the discovery of penicillin, the invention of the pacemaker, and the ubiquitous post-it note… to name just a few life-altering ‘ah-has’ down what might have appeared to be blind alleys. DSC_0640

Maybe the delay at the airport will lead to a chance meeting with your next business partner or boss. Maybe the wrong turn will lead you to the site of your new home. Maybe getting stuck in traffic will give you that rare chance to connect with your daughter, listen to a beautiful piece of music, or just be still.

Maybe these things that look like errors or wastes are really opportunities.

Yes, let’s go with that frame this week.

In A Foxhole

I didn’t see it at first. A small pin; on his left lapel; almost invisible on his dark blue suit.

“Bronze Star; Vietnam,” he said.Screenshot 2015-04-08 14.31.56

We were at a networking event of lawyers.

“That must have been terribly hard,” my wife Ann said empathetically.

“No… no it really wasn’t,” he said. “I realized very early on that I could be cold and miserable in a foxhole; or that I could be cold and happy. I decided to be happy. It’s a choice, you know.”

I do know…. At least that’s what I believe; it’s what I teach; it’s what I endeavor to practice.

But I’ve never had to do it in a foxhole.

We all have our stories; our tales of woe; the circumstances we suffer; the dramas we endure. I hear them from my clients. I’ve told more than my fair share to my own coaches. Of course, what we focus on expands. But, not only that, these stories dampen and imprison us. They keep us small. And they shroud us from the very happiness that is but a choice away.

Viktor Frankl was an Austrian psychiatrist interned in the Nazi death camps; his entire family slaughtered, his life’s work destroyed. In his book, Man’s Search for Meaning, Frankl said that our greatest gift – the greatest gift of our humanity – is the power to choose how we will be, regardless of the circumstances.

The power, in every moment, to choose how we will be.

If in a foxhole, if in a death camp, then most certainly in our businesses and our lives.

The Beavers Are Busy. Are You?

Behold, I will do a new thing; now it shall spring forth; shall you not know it? I will even make a way in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert. — Isaiah 43:19

I’ve noticed the beavers at work along the river these past few mornings.

It seems that spring came in the northern hemisphere last week. A good thing. It’s been a long and malingering winter.

Some winters are like that.

Winter, for many, means hardship. Storms and brutal cold; grey skies, short days and long, dark nights; shoveling snow, icy roads and heating bills that seem to never end.

Things tend to lay dormant in the winter. Many in the animal kingdom hide out and hibernate.

In the people kingdom too.

Then the spring comes. New life, new energy, new hope. A reprieve; a new beginning.

And so it is in all our lives.

What we do in the springtime of our lives matters. How we till the soil; what we plant; where we plant it; how much we care.

What we build; how we build it.

The summer will surely come. And then the harvest time. It always does.

That harvest, what we reap, will depend on these very moments in our lives: What we sow in the here and now will dictate the seasons yet to come.

  • In our businesses and careers;
  • In our networks and relationships;
  • In our marriages and partnerships and families;
  • In our health and fitness;
  • In our financial lives;
  • In the service of others.

It’s easy to be complacent in the spring, what with the weight of winter finally lifted off. But spring is a time for focus; the time to re-charge, to re-double our efforts. The seeds that we plant, the investments that we make, the care and the attention that we bring to the spring in our lives will yield a thousand fold in the soft glow of our autumn time.

Of course, the seasons of our lives don’t always correspond with Mother Nature. I surely have experienced some desperate winters in the midst of spring; and brutal heat that killed the seeds long after harvest time had come.

But the spring of the year is a good time to remind ourselves of the never-ending rhythm of things; that even in the darkest of nights, the light will return. And that when it does, we have an opportunity to begin again; to create anew; to make our lives the masterpieces they’ve always been meant to be.

Jim Rohn said, “You cannot change the seasons; but you can change yourself.”

In every moment – in every spring – we get to choose.

Wherever you are, whatever the season for you, let’s begin again.

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This is an encore of a post first published on March 28, 2014.