No One Is Coming

Years ago, a friend said this to me. Her comment profoundly impacted me, and when I recently read this line in a book, I called her. After we talked about our memories of that conversation, she asked me if I would write about it, and I agreed.

No one is coming. What does this even mean? 

The great thing about this comment is that you can interpret it in your way. When I heard it the first time from my friend, the message I heard was that no one would fix this for me, and no one was going to rescue me or the situation. It’s up to me to choose to be a victim or choose to take action.

 I was at a career crossroads. My friend happened to call me one day when I was sitting on my back porch, ruminating. I was frustrated about my situation and wanted it to be different. Until my conversation with her, my focus was on how to change my circumstance. Instead of seeing a bigger picture and possible alternatives, I was narrowly focused on finding a solution to what was.

I shared the story with her, and she shared one of her own, and then she flatly stated, “no one is coming.” At first, I was taken aback by her comment, yet her words caused me to pause and evaluate. After some reflection time, I realized she was right, no one was coming, and it was time for me to choose. 

Embarking on a pivot of my own led to creating The You Pivot™ Program, which enabled me to continue my mission of inspiring others toward action so that they can achieve the results that matter to them. 

P.S. Today, whenever I feel frustrated and powerless in a situation, I remember my friend’s words and remind myself, No one is coming.

Reduce Your Choices

How often do we pause during a day and ask ourselves, “what was my intention today? What did I want to accomplish?” 

  • What if, instead, discipline became a habit? 
  • What if, instead, we gave ourselves fewer choices each day?
  • What if, instead, we prescribed our day such that we spent more time on action and less on deciding?

According to Tony Schwartz, author of Why You Need to Make Your Life More Automatic, “the more conscious willpower we have to exert each day, the less energy we have leftover to resist our brain’s primitive and powerful pull to instant gratification.”  

Conversely, the more of our key behaviors we can put under the automatic and more efficient control of habit — by building something he calls “Energy Rituals” — the more likely we are to accomplish the things that truly matter to us.

And the fewer decisions we have to make, the more likely we are to make better decisions. This sobering story, Do You Suffer from Decision Fatigue? by John Tierney, drives home both the value and the societal impact of leaders choosing to make fewer choices. 

So how do you get started? Begin by slowing down. Then decide your priorities and make those a daily habit. With the remaining time, reduce your choices. The counterintuitive result is by doing less, we accomplish more. 

From Pandemic to Endemic

2021 ended with yet another year of living in a pandemic. As I begin this new year, I’ve been reflecting on one of The Economist’s predictions, “In 2022, we will see Covid 19 move from a pandemic to endemic.”

Over the last two years, we have become so accustomed to making life and business choices based on this pandemic that I wonder, if this prediction is correct, how long will it take for behaviors to change accordingly?

We tend to make choices based on what we know, and it’s convenient to accumulate a bank of knowledge and rely on that to make decisions. What happens, though, when what we know isn’t so anymore?

The changing nature of Covid, what to test, when to mask, what test to rely on, etc., is a reminder, what is so today, may not be so tomorrow.

Can we learn to accept Covid as part of our society, much like other contagious diseases? Can we learn to protect those at risk and share vaccines worldwide while not trying to stop the world in the process?

Can we keep some of the good we learned from these past two years, e.g., we can nurture relationships on Zoom, take precautions to prevent spreading viruses, trust people to work even when we can’t see them working?

And can the lessons of the Covid evolution teach us to pause and evaluate what we are so confident of today that may not be so tomorrow?

“It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.” Mark Twain

Telling Your Tomorrow Story

This week’s Sunday Story is actually a podcast. I am pleased to share my interview with the Northern Trust’s Flexible Advisor hosts Laura Gregg and David Partain. Listen to a 90-second highlight here.

Listen to the complete 30-minute interview here:
Episode 66: Supporting Executive Clients With Their Tomorrow Story — With Elisa Spain

The Ever Elusive Search for Work-Life Balance

For many of us, the holy grail of success is achieving “Work-Life- Balance.” It is a topic of frequent discussion in my coaching sessions and is often first on the list when we start working together.

And yet, despite all the discussions, books, and articles, many of us feel this “balance” eludes us. Perhaps, it is because we see it as an either/or – choosing between work and life to achieve balance?

What if, instead, we saw it, as James Michener did, becoming masters in the art of living.

“Masters in the art of living make little distinction
between their work and their play, their
labor and their leisure, their mind and their
body, their information, and their
recreation, their love, and their religion.
They hardly know which is which.
They simply pursue their vision of excellence at
whatever they do, leaving others to
decide whether they are working or playing.
To them, they are always doing both.”

What Are You Willing To Give Up?

I frequently ask my clients, What are you willing to give up to get what you want? 

One of my favorite marketing books, admittedly an old one, is Ries and Trout’s 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing. For me, many of these 22 laws are relevant to life as well as marketing. Law #13, The Law of Sacrifice, resonates for me for making life choices: You have to give up something to get something.

What I notice in my conversations is those who are willing to let go of something move forward. They invent the new products, hire the person who will free them up to do what only they can do, take the next job or start the next business. These people are willing to give up something to get what they want.

The ‘give up’ may be something we believe. It may be fear (of failing, being wrong), or simply comfort with what we have or what we know. The ‘give up’ may be tangible, dollars that may end up as a sunk cost, or accepting that a long-term loyal employee will not be the one to take the company forward.

In short, when we are talking about giving up something to get what we want, the key questions are these:

  • How much do I want the “something” I say I want?
  • What am I willing to give up to get it?

Go Ahead, Drop Some Balls

A friend of mine recently received a significant promotion. While he is excited about his promotion, he is searching for his replacement and, for now, is doing both jobs. When I asked him how it was going, he responded, “just trying to get it all done, without dropping any balls.”

This conversation reminded me of one I had with one of my clients. She was lamenting the challenges one of her executives has with burnout. In this case, the CEO said, “I wish he would learn to drop some balls; his effort to get everything done is what is causing his burnout!”

The’ to-do list’ can seem endless for those who want to dot every I and cross every T (I admit I am one of them). What I heard this wise CEO saying was, “go ahead, drop some balls,” just choose the ones you are going to drop.

What if, instead of starting each day with a list of what we are going to do, we begin by removing the things we aren’t going to do. Here are some examples to get you started:

  • What if you reviewed email once or twice per day and let everyone know this is your plan?
  • What if you coded your email so that critical emails moved to a priority list, and you responded to these first and removed yourself from cc lists?
  • What if for everything that comes your way, you paused and asked yourself, does this email, call, text, inquiry even require a response? And if it does, is this something only I can do? Or can I delegate it?
  • What if you paused before saying “yes”?

Perception ≠ Reality

We often hear the phrase perception is reality. Philosophers tell us that we cannot perceive reality directly; perception is all we have. “If a tree falls in the woods…..”

As leaders, we transfer this rule into behaviors, i.e., how we perceive a product becomes what it is. How we perceive a person or a company’s reputation is who they become for us. And, at work, how our peers, subordinates, and bosses perceive us becomes their reality and drives their expectations of us. 

And yet, perception is often far from reality. Even in the physical world, if we don’t have enough information, reality can be variable, e.g., without knowledge of time, darkness can be perceived as either night or a storm.

I was reminded of this fact recently when I attended a gathering with other coaches. Coaches as a group tend to pay attention to the subtleties; after all, we are trained to do so. Therefore, one would think that this would translate to “knowing” that what we perceive may not be what is. Yet, like most other humans, we miss sometimes.

Here’s one example. On the first day, we did an exercise that was a “fun” icebreaker. Hmm, well, at least it was fun for the extroverts, and, to a person, the introverts found it uncomfortable. It was an energy break for the extroverts; it was stepping outside our comfort zone for the introverts—a good exercise for sure, yet a very different exercise for us than for the extroverts. It wasn’t until I checked in with one of my fellow introverts that I understood how misaligned my perceptions were. We talked later, and I asked him why it seemed that he didn’t recognize me when we passed each other several times during the first-day exercise, and he responded, “Wow, I didn’t even see you; I was just trying to get through it.” On that day, my perception was that he wasn’t interested in engaging with me. His reality was that he was so uncomfortable with the exercise that he disengaged completely.

Another way to say this: perception is about us, reality is about the other person.

The learning for me…

Ask a question and seek to understand the reality beyond our perceptions, and life will hold some lovely surprises.

Labor Day in a Pandemic – Year 2

When the first nationally recognized Labor Day was celebrated in 1894, the day consisted of a street parade sending up a message of “the strength and esprit de corps of the trade and labor organizations” (in the words of the AFL). 

We have come a long way since then. Today, especially in this war for talent, most employers focus on offering opportunities and benefits to attract and retain talent.

Yet, the disruption from the pandemic continues. Help wanted signs everywhere, a labor shortage stretching from unskilled workers to high-level professionals and executives. 

Pundits of all types are offering commentary on this topic. Some say it’s a permanent shift only to be resolved by wage and price inflation. Others say we have a move away from work and that automation will resolve the issue.  

The Economist recently published a report entitled Will the Rich World’s Worker Deficit Last?  The authors estimate the current employment deficit to be 3% below the pre-pandemic level. While acknowledging demand shortages, their research shows that supply shortages are more significant. They describe three causes of the reduced supply: disruption owing to the spread of covid-19, primarily as a result of disruption to migration; the impact of welfare policy and pensions, recent research by Goldman Sachs, finds that “excess retirees” account for about a quarter of the decline in the country’s participation rate; and finally “changes to longer-term attitudes” wrought by the pandemic. 

They conclude by saying that “it seems that the extent to which the worker deficit endures will depend in part on how long the disruption and the fear caused by the pandemic last. Rising wages might lure some of those who left the workforce back into jobs. But the longer the pandemic goes on, the harder it becomes for those who left to return, and the more likely it is that new habits stick.”

Time will tell. And, as always, within every challenge lies opportunity.  

In the United States, we live in a world full of innovators. I am looking forward to seeing the solutions entrepreneurs come up with to address this latest labor challenge.

 

How Do You Find Serenity?

Sometimes the demands of one part of our life, work or family, consume us. Sometimes because of a crisis, sometimes because of a spike in workload or children’s sports or…, sometimes just because we become depleted.

These days, mobile devices link us 24/7 to the office, our bosses, employees, and coworkers. We are, as I heard it said recently, living in time poverty. Now more than ever, it may be necessary to pause, regroup, and allow ourselves to do something counterintuitive; listen to music, go sailing, jogging, practice yoga, make pottery, or go for a walk.

Why counterintuitive? Because our responsible self says, stay with it, do the work, finish the project, take care of the sick loved one, etc. We tell ourselves it’s selfish to do something for ourselves “at a time like this.”

If we think of our lives as a three-legged stool….when one leg is gone, it won’t balance and falls over. We can’t just go back and forth between the pressures of work and family. This where the third leg, a completely different activity, one that is ours alone, comes in.

At the height of World War II, when the pressures were immense, President Roosevelt would escape to his stamp collection for an hour or so, doing something completely different. General George Marshall would ride horseback many mornings to relieve the pressures of building and leading an army of 8 million.

Consider this —

  • What is your third stool leg to balance your life?
  • How often are you trying to balance on only two legs?
  • How might you feel if all three legs were grounded on most days?