Worst Things First

fish headsHave you ever had one of those days where you knew you had an unpleasant task to take care of but didn’t want to do it?  It may have been a call to return with an unhappy client.  Maybe an uncomfortable conversation with an employee.  Perhaps it was a sales call that you were terrified of.

If you’re like me (or most people for that matter) you probably lost sleep the night before and once at work, began to barricade your time with busywork that would occupy every corner of the day and prevent you from the task.  If you did this correctly, you could honestly say that you would have made that call or had that conversation but were slammed with crisis after crisis.  That bought you some peace, until you came home and realized that unpleasant item would now be waiting for you the next morning…only now the situation would be even more difficult to deal with.

Pain avoidance is normal.  Most of us hate pain and our nature is to do anything to never have it.  Sadly, avoiding just won’t work in most cases.  I’ve learned over time that the best way to deal with it is to use a variation of one of Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits for guidance.

In 1989, Stephen Covey authored one of the most popular business books of all time,

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.  In this book, he detailed principles for personal and professional success.  One of them, First Things First, was clear guidance for priority and time management.   I modified that one into:

Worst Things First

Like ripping off a Band-Aid, eating your Brussels sprouts first, or doing things like making the scary call or having that dreaded conversation, getting stuff out of the way is the best way to power through.  The longer an uncomfortable task is avoided, the harder it will be to recover from it.

Years ago, when stationed overseas at NAVCOMMSTA Harold E. Holt in Western Australia I befriended a group of SEABEES, the Navy construction folks that ran the public works department on base.  Their division officer was universally hated by the group and after enduring him for two years, they came up with a fitting farewell gift.  The night before his car was crated to be sent on the two-month journey back to the States, they stuffed a bag of fish heads under the front seat.  Imagine what that would have smelled like when he retrieved it?

That’s what happens the longer one of your uncomfortable goes unaddressed.  Fish heads are nasty, but it’s better to handle them on Day 1 then on Day 60.

This week, think about those “fish head” tasks you’ve been avoiding.  Why not get busy doing the Worst Things First and free up your time, energy, and emotional health?

 

 

 

Follow the Leader

s-l300Leadership is a big word in corporate-speak today.  It brings up images of company culture and vision with a little mindfulness tossed in to be trendy.  That’s not what I’m talking about.

There are two kinds of people in this world:  Leaders and Followers.  Which one are you?  Which is the right one?  I don’t have any clear answers except that each has risk and rewards.

This morning (and it seems nearly every Monday or Tuesday morning) I boarded a Southwest Airlines flight to my usual destination typically through Baltimore, MD.  Southwest boards through a structured letter and number system, beginning with those passengers holding an “A” position, followed by “B” and “C” and with numbered positions in between.  Usually the boarding time is printed on your boarding pass and this morning it kicked off at 0530.  About 0520 I decided to take my position at A-23.  I was the first one.  It took exactly 8 seconds for other people to pop up out of their seats and take their places in line.  No official announcement was made.  People just followed the leader.

Now there’s nothing philosophical about this although certainly there is some psychology involved.  It’s really not all that significant but since I had nothing else to write about this week and I notice this all the time, I thought it would be good to talk about.  Being a Leader has the following rewards:

  1. You Automatically Stand Out.  Some people don’t mind this.  Most people prefer to blend in.  Whether you are right or wrong, you make a stand when you take the lead.  If nobody follows, you look a little naked.  If everyone jumps in, you look like, well, a leader.
  2. You Set the Pace and the Trend.  There is a benefit to this.  You can be the first to start a new movement.  You can coin a new term.  You can define a new path and chart a new course.  There is no wrong way for you if you define the way.
  3. You Become Synonymous with the Way.  If you’re first, you become recognized as the standard.  We “Google” things, not search for them.  We drink a “Coke” not a cola.  We sit in the “Jacuzzi” not the hot tub.

Being the Leader also has risks:

  1. You Automatically Stand Out.  Once you’re out there, there’s no turning back.  If you jump up to be first just realize you’ll get the blame if things turn out poorly.
  2. You Set the Pace and the Trend.  Innovation has a high probability of failure.  Your great idea might start off with a great deal of promise (Blackberry® or QR Codes) but quickly become the face of dated futility.
  3. You Become Synonymous with the Way.  Decades ago, Earl Scheib developed an innovative system of painting automobiles in branded shops.  It was revolutionary.  Unfortunately, Earl Scheib’s quality was notoriously low.  As a kid, I remember going with my dad to pick up his newly-painted truck and seeing overspray on the tires and several drip marks.  He made Earl Scheib a verb in his lexicon (“don’t do an Earl Scheib job when you rake these leaves”).

Every day brings opportunities to lead and to follow.  You’ll have ample opportunities to do both.  Don’t be taken in and influenced by the label though.  Make good choices and learn to balance the two.  It’s a quick path to wisdom, which may be more valuable in the long run than being seen as a leader.

Enough with the Quotes Already!

As a big user of LinkedIn, I am seeing certain trends that concern me.

  1. Putting stuff on it that really belongs on Facebook (political opinions, “can this WWII veteran get 1,000 likes?” and religious stuff).
  1. Self-congratulatory aggrandizing (“Honored to be the keynote speaker at the Colonoscopy Coalition Annual Meeting”)
  1. 3 photos of self or a book cover asking strangers to pick which one looks best by selecting A, B, or C.
  1. The Boss/Leader graphic depicting bosses driving slaves while the leader is pulling them forward on a rope (and other boss/leader comparisons).
  1. People straying from their lane of expertise while positioning themselves as experts (Tony Robbins now becoming a financial and investing expert or Dave Ramsey pitching pre-packaged meal plans – this being different than a regular endorsement)

Yes, you probably think I’m arrogant and opinionated and maybe I am.  Or maybe I’m just someone who expects quality content from my network.

Which brings us to my latest pet peeve:

The cliché quotes with incorrect or assumed attributions.

Take a look at the following:

lincoln quote

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

jesus quote

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Albert Einstein (1879-1955) on 5 Pounds 1968 Banknote from Israel. German born theoretical physicist regarded as the father of modern physics.

Which one is legit?

Actually, if you picked Einstein you might be correct but even this attribution is not 100% confirmed.  What’s more worrisome is the fact that people look at these, nodding as if there is some pearl of great wisdom here and spreading it throughout their network.

If you ask me (and you are since you’ve read down this far), I’ll tell you my recommendations for establishing credibility and sharing wisdom via the quote.

  1. Make sure the quote is accurate.
  1. Make sure the quote is attributed to the right person.
  1. Make sure the context of the quote is correct.
  1. Don’t quote anyone. Develop your own wisdom and expertise and blog and write on it.

Sending out clichés is the lazy person’s way of attempting to inspire an audience.  You have an amazing brain in your head.  Develop and share your own wisdom.  There is always room for more in this world.