Go Full Speed

American FootballFootball is the greatest sport ever!

If you’re not a football fan, it’s either because you don’t have a pulse (just kidding!), don’t find the game interesting, don’t like sports in general, or are put off by the violence.

The hitting in football is generally what both attracts and puts off fans. It’s the topic of this post.

Back in 2007 when my son was about eight, he had a revelation.

“Dad,” he told me, “did you know if you’re about to tackle someone and run at them as hard as you can, it doesn’t hurt as much when you hit them?”

He was in the middle of his fifth football season playing Center and Defensive Tackle for the Rockville Wolverines. I tried to teach him that same lesson every single year. His coaches also made “Go Full Speed” the huddle-break chant. I guess it’s one of those concepts you have to actually experience to believe.

I learned it back in 1981 when I hit Tim Fletcher, Melodyland High School’s All Academy League tailback as he ran back a kickoff. He was about 5’8” and probably 200 lbs. I ran at him full speed and laid him out flat. I saw stars, and the impact ripped my chinstrap in half but the rest of my body was fine. Going full speed made it a whole lot less painful. I only hope his knees bother him now as much as my two titanium hips do!

While this is something you learn in Physics 101, (I think Newton or Plato or someone invented this) this lesson applies to nearly everything in life that is uncomfortable or painful to do. Going at it full speed takes the sting off it.

This morning I had some follow-up calls to make to prospects I sent books out to last week. I like the prospects, I just really hate doing these calls! I kept looking for other important things to do like schedule my daughter’s car for service and respond to some emails. Then of course write this week’s blog. Finally I realized those calls had to be done and so I picked up the phone, gritted my teeth and did it! Essentially, I just hit them full speed.   Now it’s done. I can write my blog.

It doesn’t hurt nearly as bad as you think and it feels so good to get them done.

So this week? Go Full Speed!

Fewer Choices = Greater Results

Choices of a businessman
A few weeks ago,  I did the unthinkable and took a business trip using an airline OTHER than my beloved Southwest.

Now if you know me, you know I’m a raving fan of Southwest and have been since 1992. It’s a few-frills, ultra-dependable, friendly experience that I partake in at least twice a month.

This client provided airfare and since it was a site near DFW, I flew American. And I liked it.

Well I actually liked about 10% of it. The other 90% sucked. What was the 10%? Boarding.

Southwest has a unique system of boarding. You don’t have assigned seats. Frequent fliers like me board first so we generally get overhead bins and something other than the dreaded middle seat. It works for me.

But my challenge is then getting boarded quickly so we can take off on time. This is where the trouble starts. With the choice of ANY available seat, it’s hard to decide which one to take.

On an American flight, you go know exactly where your seat is so you just move quickly in, find a spot for your carry-on and sit.  Both my to and return trips seemed to board very quickly and efficiently.  In fact the only negative experience was the fat guy in the next row with really bad B.O.

On a Southwest flight, you board, look around like a confused American tourist in China, and then try to choose not only a place for your bag, but for your ass as well. It takes too long.

I don’t fault Southwest and I’ll be loyal till the end, but it’s something to consider – when you can choose ANYTHING, you find it hard to choose SOMETHING.

Veterans or military retirees fall into the same trap. They’ve been successful in their careers being a jack-of-all-trades, master of most. By the time they hit the 20-year mark, they have served in numerous jobs, both as a primary duty and collateral duty and anxiously await their new civilian job.

Then they make a huge mistake. They build a resume listing off of those many skills, certifications, experiences, and awards expecting to dazzle prospective employers. It doesn’t work. An employer has one opening that requires just one or a few skills. They look at the resume with all the choices and get discouraged. When you can choose ANYTHING, you’ll find it hard to choose SOMETHING.

Finally if you sell products or services, your busy brochure, catalog website, or jumbo-sized email might do more damage to your potential sales than a very basic piece that highlights just a couple of products or services. A prospect that can choose ANYTHING finds it difficult to choose SOMETHING.

This week, look at what you do, promote, produce, or sell. How are you trying to reach others? If you tend to offer too much, do some research on what your customer, employer, or client really wants and just offer that one thing. Your chance of success goes up considerably.

Are You a Political Wuss?

Female hand cutting paper with words. Concept.
It’s time to play the game…

Time to play the game! Ha ha

 It’s all about the game and how you play it.
All about control and if you can take it.
All about your debt and if you can pay it.
It’s all about pain and who’s gonna make it.

The Game by Motorhead

Organizational politics permeate most medium to large size organizations. If you’ve ever found yourself on the short end of a decision, you’ve probably blamed part of it on politics.

I define organizational politics as the informal channel that runs as an undercurrent through most organizations. It involves the use of power and influence to add an edge for those who need to get what they need to be successful.

It that’s true, then politics exist everywhere. You don’t have to like it, but you need to at least consider it. The key to successfully navigating around organizational politics is to know:

  1. Why they exist
  2. How to maximize your ability to succeed within them.

What causes organizational politics?

The more your organization has these conditions, the higher the politically-charged climate:

  • Centralized power
  • Ambiguous decision-making processes
  • Subjective performance reviews
  • Competition for resources
  • Fixed-pie reward systems

Each of these involves a certain closed-off process for decisions. In the absence of information, people fill in the gaps. If this happens, you can bet people will jockey and try to leverage whatever they can to get ahead.

And by the way, the two most politically-charged types of organizations are hospitals and universities. That’s from personal experience!

How to I succeed at organizational politics?

First of all, decide to play the game. You may not like the idea of politics and believe there is a true meritocracy but trust me, you’ll be disappointed. Don’t be a political wuss.

Second, keep in mind that you possess a certain amount of power and influence. Identify these and maximize them:

Power

  • Position power – based on my title
  • Expertise power – based on what I know
  • Proxy power – based on WHO I know.
  • Personal power – based on how well-liked I am
  • Charisma – based on how charming I am (not everyone has this by the way)
  • Information power – based on what and how much I know and have

Influence

  • Logical persuasion – using facts, figures, and logic to convince someone
  • Common vision – to position your ideas to show the greater good
  • Impact management –to use shocking statements to get attention
  • Relationship building – to gain personal power by building rapport with others
  • Interpersonal awareness – build rapport
  • Organizational awareness – knowing who’s who so you can build proxy power
  • Bargaining – exchanging different types of currencies and favors

Think of power and influence as your tools to successfully play the game.

…and

organizational politics is really a game…one you must win if you want to succeed.

Take the time now to school yourself in how to identify, navigate, and participate so you can win and get what you need and what your team needs to be successful.

How Full is Your Litter Box?

cat litter boxOne of the challenging parts of owning cats is the annoying task of emptying the litter box. Litter boxes can be deceiving as it’s usually not obvious they’re full. Cats have an interesting instinct to bury their waste and smooth it out. The only time you’ll know it’s too full is when they scratch into it, kicking little bits of cat crap all over your porch.

In a way, political correctness is a lot like a litter box. Individuals feel very strongly about a topic and yet when trying to express it outwardly, stumble awkwardly and excuse it by saying something to the effect of “let me say this in the most politically-correct way I know how.”

Political correctness has done more to squelch open, honest dialog than anything else. It prevents good conversations and understanding to ever happen. We talk, yet nothing is ever really said. When the conversation’s over, we run back into our corners and let our anger smolder.

Why does this happen? Here’s my theory.

All of us are born as a clean slate and yet as we grow, we’re bombarded with all sorts of environmental stimuli. This, combined with our upbringing tends to establish values, or operating norms, that we’re comfortable with. We tend to surround ourselves by others who share these values and then look at those outside our circle as, well, outsiders.

This is normal. Here’s where it gets ugly.

Without the willingness or ability to mix with others who are different than us, we start to look at them and their differing viewpoints as adversarial or threatening. If we do try to converse, we carefully choose our words, not willing to share anything beyond normal conversation. If we want to go deeper, we then begin to wrestle with saying things politically correct.

While this is unfortunate, here’s what leads to the train wreck.

We believe everything is a zero-sum game. If you don’t support same-sex marriage, you’re a homophobe. If you’re pro-choice, you don’t value human life. If you’re pro-life, you hate women. If you don’t denounce the Confederate flag, you’re a racist. If an American Muslim doesn’t go on record saying that ISIS and terrorist attacks don’t represent peaceful Islam, then they must support terrorism. (Although it’s interesting to note that I’ve never seen a bible-thumping Baptist come out vehemently opposed to the insensitive funeral-protesting practices of the Westboro Baptist Church as “not representing true Baptist-ism).

This either/or mentality either causes some individuals to act boldly. In the weeks following the flap (bad pun) over the Confederate battle flag, I’ve seen numerous folks here in Middle Tennessee driving around with full size Confederate flags mounted on their pickup trucks in defiant protest.   Some folks take their strong protests to their social media. It’s interesting to see some of my friend’s Facebook posts being very conservative.   Some contain memes of liberal and democratic celebrities and politicians portrayed negatively. Contrast that with my Dad’s family’s liberal leanings and their memes similarly done to conservative celebrities and politicians.

Most of the time though, it simply shuts down communication altogether. Sometimes that’s the end of it

But sometimes it doesn’t. The next move is to look for a surrogate to run our viewpoint to the forefront.

We find an external person or entity who believes the way we do and thrown our support behind them. One reason perhaps for Donald Trump’s surge to the top of the Republican poles is his penchant for speaking his mind. When Trump speaks his mind, and his mind matches a group of unhappy voters, you have some unity. Then, this unity somehow legitimizes the viewpoint.

It happens everywhere. Someone once told me to watch Bill O’Reilly because he “tells it like it is.” Of course “like it is” really means “like I believe.” Individuals flock to quasi-news networks like FOX and MSNBC because somehow news reporters represent legitimacy. In the end though, does Chris Matthews, Bill O’Reilly, Rush Limbaugh, or Keith Olbermann really represent TRUTH, or just a doctrine, viewpoint, or perspective that lines up with what you believe?

Over the past 10 years or so, I’ve seen more divisiveness in this country than I can ever remember from before. It shuts down communication, drives wedges between friends and families, and prevents any sort of meaningful dialog from happening.

Yet it seems normal. Kind of like that litter box on the front porch. From a distance, it looks as though all is well. Get closer though and you quickly tell that it’s not. The only way to fix it is to get a plastic bag and slotted shovel and scoop out all the cat crap and clumped-up pee. Only then will the box be truly clean.

So this week, take some time and examine your own litter box. What are you holding to and holding onto? What attempts have you made to open your eyes, ears, and heart to others? Until all of us take the time to do this, nothing will ever change in this country.

 

 

 

Why You Need a “Bucket List”

bucket listLast Saturday I re-watched one of my favorite movies.  It was The Bucket List starring Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson.  If you haven’t seen it, I won’t ruin the ending for you, but it involves two guys who both get the news they’re dying of cancer and have just a few months to live.  They put together a list of the things they want to accomplish before they die and because Nicholson’s character is quite wealthy, they have the resources they need and set off on their quest.  The rest of the story is funny and a little sad, ending as you might imagine, with…well I won’t ruin the ending if you haven’t seen it.

Today I’m thinking about my own bucket list – things I’d like to do before having to answer the final bell.  Here are some of them (and this list keeps growing):

  • See Michelangelo’s mural on the Sistine Chapel.
  • Tour every battlefield from the Pacific theater of WWII.
  • Fight in a UFC mixed-martial arts event.
  • Get full “sleeve” tattoos on each arm.
  • Have lunch with Gene Simmons, Gordon Ramsay, John Tapper, Elon Musk, Donald Trump, and Arnold Schwarzenegger. (but not all at once).
  • Open a BBQ restaurant (Mad Mack’s Famous BBQ – I already picked the name out!)
  • Win the Kingsford Pit Master BBQ challenge.
  • Run with the bulls in Pamplona, Spain.
  • Shake hands with the President.
  • Climb Ayers Rock.
  • Sit on the 50-yard line in the Super Bowl.
  • Speak in front of a crowd of 100,000.
  • Have my own TV show.

Now I know it may seem a little morbid to put a list like this together.  It’s also impossible to know when your time may finally be up.

Who cares?

If you knew exactly when you were going to die, you’d probably make the list.  Since we don’t know that, why not treat every day like it may be the last?  That means working hard on important relationships, mending ones that are broken.  It means doing things that will create lasting memories.  Leaving a legacy.  Dreaming big dreams and taking steps to realize them.

This week, why not put a Bucket List together?  At a minimum, it will help you reveal long time dreams.  At best, it will be a great roadmap to help you navigate each day and allow you to give your very best to the people you care about the most.

 

 

Why You Should be Told that “You Suck”

Poor RatingThis weekend I watched my first-ever high school volleyball tournament. It was pre-season and my daughter’s JV team was getting in some valuable game experience.

While it was fun to watch my daughter competing again (she played youth soccer and lacrosse when we lived in Maryland), it brought back that dilemma all parents face: when to tell their kids or their kids’ team that they’re really not very good.

Today’s parents seem to be of the mindset that constant encouragement is the best way to build self-esteem, which will translate to better performance in the classroom or the athletic field. I rode this bandwagon throughout both of my kids’ youth athletic careers and was right there with all the other parents, yelling out the obligatory “Good Try!” cheer.

Which brings us back to the volleyball tournament.

My daughter’s team, to be blunt, is terrible. She’s not very good either. So I’m torn between the “Good Try” (which is what my heart tells me to say) and the “You guys suck” (which is what my brain tells me to say). But in all honesty, one is useless and one, done properly, is what’s needed.

So when she asked me what I thought, I told her:

“Honestly, you guys need a lot of work.”

“How do you think I did?”

“Well, I liked the fact that two of your serves went over the net and were Aces. I think you need to spend some time really working on getting those serves over, maybe make it a goal to hit 100 serves in a row.” (Mind you this is volleyball coaching from someone who never played a legitimate game other than jungle-ball at the Navy Command picnic).

She agreed. I think her coach also would agree. And we all would agree the team needs lots of work. It’s still the pre-season which means there is time to get the skills and teamwork improved.

But none of this would happen if we all deceived ourselves by thinking the team and each player was great. Platitudes don’t translate into performance.

For all of us non-athletes, the same rule applies.

  • Don’t tell poor performers that their effort is a “Good Try.”
  • Don’t believe that your half-baked presentation was a “Good Try.”
  • Don’t deceive yourself by thinking your half-assed workout was a “Good Try.”

In fact, let’s all agree to remove that phrase from our vocabulary. Maybe replace it with “Try Harder.”

And remember:

  • Criticize with the intent to improve performance, not break the spirit.
  • Critique with the goal of improving performance, not displaying your superiority.
  • Evaluate with the intent of improving the RIGHT things that make a difference, not nitpicking for the sake of nitpicking.

Our goal should be consistent improvement, not accepted mediocrity. Let’s seek and give the proper feedback to reach that goal.