Don’t look now, but the year is coming to a close. Do you have clarity? If you sat down today, to write a headline to describe your year, how would it read?
A little over 20 years ago my headline would have read, “Houston, We Have a Problem!”
You know by now that I like questions. I have not always had a warm relationship with questions. I am sure I am not alone. Goodness, learning to invite inquiry capable of exposing ignorance is uncomfortable.
Through years of being rewarded for having answers we learn to lead with confidence and rely on what we know. Slowly but surely we extinguish our innate teachable spirit and insistently rely on a base of knowledge that grows more fragile every day.
Knowledge is a commodity. Just ask “Siri” or “Alexa.” If you would have said, “Google It,” 10 years ago, few people would have known what that meant. But today “Google It” and “Ask Siri or Alexa” are part of our daily lexicon. Thus some of us are only as smart as our “smart phone” allows us to be.
Known answers are at our fingertips and we are bombarded (even overwhelmed) with data. High alert—“the value of explicit information is dropping.”
I lost something. You’ve likely lost it too. We had a lot of it as kids. But something happens on our journey to adulthood that allows it to slip away seemingly undetected. We lose our innate curiosity and stop asking questions.
It happens to all of us—some more than others. We’d rather stick to what we know. But what we know won’t be enough. In fact, what we know today won’t even be enough to sustain the present let alone allow us to make meaningful contributions in the future.
It happens over half of the time. It may be happening right now. Sometimes we don’t even realize it is going on. Then we catch ourselves and wonder how our minds got sidetracked.
It is easy to get sidetracked and lose focus. We all lose focus. The question is not whether we are going to lose focus—we are! When we employ clarifying personal filters it enables us to focus on the people and outcomes that are most important to us.
One of the first books I remember that truly changed how I lived and worked was Seeds Of Greatness by Denis Waitley. I loved this book! It exposed me to think about many things I could do to increase my personal and professional impact.
“Knowledge is the frontier of tomorrow,” Waitley wrote. He suggested “one of the most important aptitudes for success is also a mystery to 95% of the world’s population.”
It’s not rocket science! This is a bold declaration of hope for those of us who scraped by chemistry class with only a vague recollection of the details. I don’t remember a lot (okay very little) from my chemistry classes. But I do remember the power, importance and potential of a catalyst.
In chemistry, a catalyst is a substance that speeds up a chemical reaction, but is not consumed by the reaction. It creates, speeds up and ignites a specific change but is not consumed by the reaction. In life, the catalyst is a purpose or mission that truly motivates.
They’ve got it! It’s noticeable and drips of something you dream of spilling over to you. You can’t put your finger on precisely what it is. But they’ve got it! It’s compelling, captivating and amazingly genuine. Swagger comes to mind, but it’s different. It’s a cool quiet confidence.
Our first thought may be they possess something that is a secret to be discovered. As a result, we might believe it is untouchable and unattainable because it is a byproduct of elite talent or status. But elite talent does not guarantee it and status only borrows it.
Sometimes I get distracted and discouraged. Maybe you do to—most of us do. Call it intellectual drifting where we lose sight of where and how we intend to create and sustain meaningful impact with the people we love and teams we lead.
Summer is the drifting season. The “lazy days of summer” invite us to take it easy. Planning for relaxation to reenergize is vital to sustained impact and is much different from intellectual drifting. Drifting is losing touch with our most important roles.
Do you want the good news or the bad news? The truth in the question is we don’t like to deliver bad news so we try to soften its impact. Especially if we anticipate the news is not going to be well received.
Not all feedback is created equal. I had a boss once who spoke frequently of the need to have “courageous conversations” with people. It takes courage to coach people towards improvement.