10 Ideas that Rocked My World in 2018

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Maybe I’m just slow, but every once in a while I come across an idea that changes everything for me and I wished I had realized a lot earlier.

This is not a comprehensive list, but here are my TOP 10 from the year 2018 (in no particular order):

1. Ideas have an expiration date and you can wait too long to act on them.

2. You must commit to deserving money to attract it to you.

3. Lack of forgiveness can mess up your life in a subtle, but powerful way.

4. You have to welcome your Imposter Syndrome and get to know it to overcome its hold on you.

5. Today, not tomorrow, you need a side hustle.

6. With great success comes an even greater need to keep your ego in check or your success will be hollow.

7. You are a worse person (e.g., husband, parent, employee, friend) than you realize because it's difficult to see ourselves clearly and you will rarely be told the truth. And when you are, you probably won't be listening. In the rare instances you do listen, it will hurt a lot, but you will grow and become a better person.

8. The pressure we feel to do something or not is not driven by logic, but rather our warring internal programs that seek to avoid pain.

9. The best way to stop doing something is not to stop doing it, but rather to do something else.

10. A good maxim for dealing with managing people, mechanical repairs, and lots of other areas is: “As soft as possible, as firm as it takes.”


Your Move: What lessons do you wish you had learned earlier in life?



Getting Feedback - the EZPZ way

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You don’t have to click too far to come across an article or podcast broadcasting the benefits of self-awareness. As for me, I’ve bought the ticket and I’m “All aboard!” the self-awareness train. The only challenge is, by definition people with poor self-awareness (I include myself in this group) don’t know what they don’t know. It’s a classic Black Swan. You don’t know what you don’t know and that is often the most important thing for you to know to unlock true value or change.

“Great Joe, thanks for telling me the obvious! So what can we do about it?”

You are the type of person that likes solutions. I appreciate that. One of the best ways to increase your self-awareness is to get feedback from others. A lot of people will suggest that you ask trusted advisors what they think or even to participate in anonymous 360 degree feedback. However, there are several inherent problems with this approach.

  • Separating out sour grapes from thoughtful feedback can be difficult.
  • People may be reluctant to tell you the whole truth, anonymous or not, for fear of repercussions.
  • Thoughtful feedback is a gift and if you're an oblivious horse's ass, maybe people won't care to give you that gift.
  • Finally, there is the huge problem of your ego getting in the way of you accepting any feedback at all. Replace the word “feedback” with “criticism” and the challenge becomes more clear cut.

“So if you are saying asking people can be problematic, what’s the alternative?”

The EZPZ way to get feedback is to pay more attention to how people act around you in specific situations.

Allow me to explain. It’s easy to go through life thinking of ourselves and others as individual, self-contained units. In other words, emphasizing the independent and free-willed nature that we have. However, in focusing on this aspect, we may forget how interconnected and responsive we are to each other. Think of yourself as a gear in a high performance race car. How you turn affects every other gear and vice-versa. So maybe you notice when a colleague walks into the room everybody brightens up and when you do it goes silent. That silence is feedback. Or maybe you notice every time you give a colleague a metaphorical “pat on the back” they seem happier and more motivated. That is also feedback. The truth is all the feedback we need is already out there for the taking if we just know how to look for it.

For me I would get negative feedback on my driving from my wife during a longer drive we take every few weeks to visit a relative. I (independent, free-willed me) wanted to drive the way I drove and would get frustrated at the feedback I was getting from my wife (also, independent and free-willed love of my life). To be clear, I did receive verbal feedback on my driving, but somehow it never translated into my driving in a way that made both of us happy. It just didn’t work.

Then, one day it dawned on me how in addition to being two individuals with different styles and preferences, we were also a system in that car. Not just husband and wife, but driver and passenger with each creating a feedback loop. So one day I decided to pay more attention to the feedback coming from my wife. I noticed in traffic how braking later led to one reaction and braking softer and earlier led to another (non) reaction. I noticed during clear stretches above a certain speed she seemed less uncomfortable and at others she was fine. And so on and so on.

This type of behavioral feedback has a few advantages. First, it doesn’t require you to separate truth from fiction or helpfulness from sabotage. People’s reactions to you are generally organic reactions and if you see the same behavior across different people, you can be sure that you are part of the equation. Second, it makes it easier to take your ego out of the equation. This is because instead of getting “judgments” from others about your behavior you are looking at people’s reactions and doing your own analysis of your role.

You are more likely to be persuaded and act on feedback that you generate from your own observations and analysis than the exact same feedback that is given to you by someone else.

Is that childish? Perhaps.

Is that normal and human? Definitely.

As I pulled into the driveway at the end of the drive and put the car into park, my wife smiled as she turned to me and said, “You did a really great job driving today! What happened?”

Ah, the power of feedback!

In summary, to get feedback that can help you improve your results, the EZPZ way:

Step 1. Pick a scenario you want feedback on

Step 2. Be yourself

Step 3. Observe how other people act

Step 4. Repeat the same situation with different people and repeat steps 2 and 3

Step 5. Think about what you observed and what this means about your role

Step 6. Make adjustments, as needed. Repeat until you get the desired result.

If you have any questions or comments or have a story of your own, I'd love to hear from you.

Next post next Saturday, 6:30 a.m.






 

Why You are Having Trouble Communicating With Your X

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Title note: In the title when I say X, I mean [insert name here] and not necessarily your ex-GF, BF, spouse, partner, etc. So X might be your kid, your coworker, or your mailman. 

"You BLEW IT!"

We have a silly, recurring thing we do in our household based on a scene from the movie Cop Land. In it Sheriff Freddy Heflin (played by Sylvester Stallone) comes bursting into Moe Tilden's office (played by Robert DeNiro) and is scrambling to board the "S.S. Do The Right Thing." But that ship has already sailed. 

DeNiro's verbal thrashing is the type that plays over and over my your head - haunting and taunting me after I make a stupid mistake.

"I offered you a chance when we could have done something, I offered you a chance to be a cop, and YOU BLEW IT! You blew it."

Then, disappointment, shame and regret wash over my hunched shoulders as I picture a dismayed DeNiro plop into his chair and resume eating his sandwich. Brutal. Just brutal.

When might this scene play out in our household?

  • How about the time we went on vacation and the only thing I was asked to pack was my toothbrush. "You blew it!"
  • Or that birthday call that was made a day late. "You blew it!"
  • Try not filling up the gas tank the day before Hurricane Sandy. "You blew it!"

Thankfully, those are all incidents we can laugh about today with no permanent damage suffered. However, there is another type of "You blew it!" moment that is more serious. Have you ever had the best intentions of communicating, in a spirit of honest concern, an issue to a friend or loved one and it ends up like a scene from the Walking Dead? Feelings hurt, egos mangled, and barely enough energy to remember why you bothered in the first place. What just happened to turn your good faith outreach into a bloody nightmare?

The Bubble of Understanding

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Try this. Picture the person you are talking to inside a giant bubble. Any communication that takes place inside that bubble is clearly understood. 

You lost me, Joe. What is this bubble and how is this supposed to help me? 

Great question. The edge of the bubble marks the furthest limits of that person's understanding. And here's a crucial point. What makes up the inside of the bubble are all the things that contribute to what that person is able to understand.

It might include any and all of the following:

  • Cultural background
  • Generational perspective
  • Conscious or unconscious biases
  • Intelligence
  • Emotional maturity
  • Energy level or mood
  • And so on...

In other words, the "world" of the listener is inside the bubble. Your world might be very different from theirs. The important point is you have to be inside their bubble of understanding for any real communicating to take place - otherwise, you are just broadcasting and no one is receiving. So I won't bother telling a 5 year old about how privacy laws impact global IT systems. That would be a waste of time. And talking to my parents about the intricacies of the Pokemon Trading card game is similarly a non-starter.

How about some answers, Joe? As Vizzini says in the Princess Bride, "I'M WAITING!!!"

Glad you asked. So with no further ado... 

EZPZ Tip #1: fit the message inside your listener's bubble

Remember, anything outside the bubble is pretty much wasted breath. And NEVER, ever assume that anyone else's bubble is the same as yours! It doesn't matter whether they have the same parents, grew up in the same town or had the same education as you. Nobody will perceive and understand things in exactly the same way you do. So in other words, no one will understand 100% of the things you say in the same way you do.

You can't be serious, Joe! You mean I have to tailor all my messages to each individual I'm talking to?!

In truth, you don't HAVE to do anything. You can just say it in a way you know you would understand and cross your fingers. Or you could get upset when people sometimes don't understand what you are you saying even though you are saying it (in your own mind, at least) in a super clear, helpful manner.

The main point here is to recognize the inherent difficulty in communicating with another human being and taking that into account in how you approach your expectations for what will be understood and how much work it might take.

EZPZ TIP #2: CONSIDER THAT THE BUBBLE CHANGES FROM MOMENT TO MOMENT

Have you ever noticed you can say the same exact thing or ask the same exact question and get a different answer at different moments? No? Well my wife has!

I used to drive her crazy with my consistent inconsistency. We'd be navigating the IKEA labyrinth or chatting at dinner and she would ask me, "What do you think about buying a new couch?" 

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On some days I would hesitate, and on other days I would be flippantly agreeable. My (half) joking advice was to just keep asking me on at different times until she got the answer she wanted. While this was a joking example, there is a true lesson to be learned here. 

Not only do you have to get inside the bubble, sometimes, people put shields up that make it difficult or impossible to get into the bubble. 

What do I mean by this?

Sometimes, it's something your X can understand, but under certain conditions and often without consciously doing so, they put a shield up that stops what would normally work from working. 

What causes shields to go up? This is not an exhaustive list, but a useful rule of thumb is the acronym HALT. Shields tend to go up when the person is:

  • Hungry 
  • Angry 
  • Lonely
  • Tired

So what does this mean? Do I have to monitor how everyone is doing before I talk to them?

Absolutely not. And I can understand the sentiment that good intent and clear messaging should be enough. As for me, I'd prefer the frustration of waiting for the best time to talk or first trying to improve the person's mood over the frustration of not being understood.

P.S. I first heard this concept from my friend Stefano Matini on my Why It Works podcast. Thanks Stefano for allowing me to steal this!