The High Road

I have had an idea bouncing around in my head and my heart for quite some time.  I just have not had the right inspiration or “AHA Moment” that put it all together for me.  But reading another blog post, even though the subject matter was very different, finally got me there.

It is all about taking the high road. Going high is better for all of us because it builds sustainable organizations, cultures, and relationships. Think about internalizing this concept. It’s not just words. Wouldn’t it be amazing if everyone  were more intentional about the cultures we created?

“When they go low, we go high”

I have been bothered by our society’s distrust for everyone else.  We no longer trust anyone.  So we take the low road. We insult those who do not share our convictions or beliefs.  We blame those not like us for all of our societal ills.  We prefer to tear down rather than to build up.  Trolling someone is way more “enjoyable” than looking for the good side.

The Low Road

How often do we find ourselves taking the low road?  Calling someone stupid (or uneducated).  Affixing a label on another person that is derogatory simply because they share different views.  Deciding that I get to say or tweet or blog whatever I want to because I am “sick and tired of political correctness”.  I am “empowered” to broadcast anonymously what I would never say in a respectful conversation – even when it is hurtful.

We are so ready to group people in exaggerated ways to build ourselves up.  Have you ever insulted a person at work?  I know I have.  “They are just a bumbling bureaucrat who doesn’t care about our customers.”  “He only got that job because he will do whatever the vice president tells him to do”.

I constantly hear people taking the low road with the younger generation that is collectively called “Millennials”.  The Millennials do this or don’t do that.  They are constantly on their phones.  They can’t concentrate for more than two minutes at a time.  Millennials just don’t get it when it requires to do hard work. Is everyone in that group so similar? Do they only have bad characteristics?  Might their difference from you be the real issue?  If you get a chance, listen for people talking about Millennials as if they were some mass-produced robots.  Is it ever done in a positive way?

The High Road

I’ll start with a small modification on the question from the last section.  How often do we find ourselves taking the high road? Do we look at a group and try to justify their actions based on positive actions?  Do we reject labels?  Do we recognize that people and institutions might have different viewpoints from us, and that is okay?  Might someone else’s life experiences explain their differences from mine?  How might someone or some group that has a totally different viewpoint on a subject help me to more fully understand a concept?

How often do you praise someone or some organization at work?  Do you look at an organization or team at work saying to yourself, “That is not something I would like to do, but I am glad they are here to do it”?  Might that boss or co-worker who drives you crazy have a lot more going on in their life that explains their behavior. Here is an interesting one: How do both the Democratic and Republican Parties help our society?

When in doubt, take the high road.  There is less traffic 

Sometimes I think it is harder to take the high road.  It can sound childish or naive.  Finding a good, plausible reason for someone else’s behavior can be really tough.  It probably never gets a laugh like a witty put down does.  Pundits have discovered that the high road “sells” much less frequently than the low road.  But positivity breeds more positivity. Think about this: “Taking the high road is hard work – walking uphill takes strength and effort”. But it is worth it.

 

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Getting Caught Unaware

I recently found out someone I know  was let go from a pretty high-level position by a Fortune-50 Company.  As far as I know, he was doing a great job for them at a pretty high level.  He was caught totally off guard when he was told “his job had been eliminated”.

When an intelligent, driven, accomplished professional loses their job unexpectedly it gets me thinking.  How could this possibly happen?  Could they have done something to avoid it? How did they not see it coming?  This is one of the reasons I am specializing in career/life issues with my coaching practice.  We cannot predict what will happen with our careers.  Oftentimes we are so focused on doing a great job at work that we unwittingly do so at our own peril.

But I still wonder, How?

I wonder if he was so focused on doing a good job that he did not take time to think of “self”.

Was he distracted by other things going on his life?

Is it possible he unconsciously ignored signals he was getting at work that something was up?

I think we have all experienced the concept of hindsight bias, in which we can piece together scraps of information from the past that explain an event after it happens?  In hindsight bias we all-of-a-sudden see the event as having been predictable, despite there having been little or no objective basis for predicting it.

I am not going to use hindsight bias here.

But these are the kinds of questions we need to ask ourselves.  Now.  Before something happens.  Might it be that we are so busy that we miss the signals?  Perhaps we choose to ignore the signals because they are a distraction.  Or we miss these events or comments because they make us uncomfortable?  Or they don’t fit our perception of reality so we quickly dismiss them?

This instance is just another cautionary tale.  I firmly believe that most of the people in our lives are meant to be role models in different ways.  When someone loses a job unexpectedly, and probably wrongfully, what might it be telling us?

So I am hoping this blog post causes you to pause for a moment.  Could you be in this position sometime?  Is there someone else you know who might be?

 

Considering where you are on your journey

I love reading other people’s blog posts.   I find myself inspired sometimes.  Other times I find myself moved.   But most often, I find myself motivated to take a key point from another’s post and amplifying it.  Building on another person’s expertise, experience or written word feels satisfying.  I feel like I am adding another layer of insight.

A brilliant blog post by Kim Higdon (see link below) on career change finishes with this challenge: “Your list of excuses for not making that leap or taking that chance should be drastically reduced. If it hasn’t and you still aren’t sure, let’s talk. Making a sweeping career change or a big decision will never be easy, but we could all use a little discomfort in our lives to keep us on our toes. I know I have and haven’t looked back.

Perhaps the most important question I can leave you with is this: what will we learn about ourselves if we never take the chance on something new?”

Kim describes in her post her journey to a complete career change.  She acknowledges it wasn’t easy.  But what growth do we make is ever easy?  Change is hard.  Pivoting to a new career requires setting aside a supposedly safe port for new horizons.  It means setting aside the familiar for the foreign.  It means putting yourself outside your comfort zone when you think all you want is some anonymity or the comfort of sameness.  When you look at it that way, is it really so hard, really something to be feared?

Are you giving into the fear of the unknown in order to stay in the misguided comfort of sameness?

Those thoughts merged well with another post I read on the same day.  John Peters (see link below) wrote this:

“When you do anything for 23 years, you tend to fall into a rhythm. You define a target state and what you need to achieve in order to compete and win, and strive to continuously improve towards that goal. . .You feel good. Sometimes even great.

But every once in a while the opportunity comes around to take stock and examine the progress you are truly making, and how far away the target state really is.”

How many of us “fall into a rhythm”?  A rhythm that lasts for 10 or 15 or 23 years?  While time passes by we can convince ourselves that the path to the goal state is taking longer than we originally thought.  That makes it is easy to justify we are on the right track.  That we are we not “far away from the target state”.  John found he was too far away from his target, and in fact was probably drifting farther away.  He made a big leap – but that was the only way to get back on track to the target.

My challenge to you today is to take these words to heart.  Are you really still on track for your target?  Do you even really remember where you wanted to get to?  Where is your fear?  Is it “real” like the scary subjects of a horror movie or is it something we have create in our minds?  Is the status quo rhythm a slow tempo or an improvisational jazz session?  Have we checked out – stuck our heads in the ground?

Maybe it’s time to look up.

If you would like to see my inspiration for this post, I recommend both of their blog posts.

Kim’s blog post – https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/how-leave-career-behind-gracefully-hint-dont-do-through-kim-higdon

John’s blog post – https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/trading-corner-office-desk-lemonade-john-peters?trk=hp-feed-article-title-like

Self-Examination for Self-Improvement

I read an article the other day that caught my attention.  It started with this sentence: ‘We owe it to ourselves to periodically reckon with who we are’.

The author went on to say: “In the Jewish tradition, this month preceding the high holidays is a time of self-examination. For many people, this means sitting quietly and reflecting. That seems appropriate—what makes more sense than thinking about yourself?—except that we all have a bias in our own favor. For example, how often do we think: “I got angry because I was upset, but he got angry because he is an angry person?” Understanding ourselves requires some work in addition to quiet contemplation.”

Yep, truly understanding ourselves requires some work.  It is not easy.  We need to go beyond the simple.  We need to be critical of ourselves.  And an examination needs to be thorough.  It is tough to find quiet time.  To be honest, I think most of us have so much going on in our minds, it is even tougher to quiet the inner voices enough to be able to do contemplation.  But isn’t that paradox – it is tough to find quiet, but I need quiet to contemplate – the challenge we must undertake?

The writer went on with this statement: “The Jewish mandate is not merely to figure ourselves out but to appreciate the effect we have upon the world. To know why you do what you do is important. To know how it affects the lives of others is a different and even more vital task.”

“To know how it (self-examination) affects the lives of others is a different and even more vital task.”

I like that statement.  Self-examination is, by definition, inward focused – looking at your self.  But to take it to the next level and examine how your actions affects others, that is where you gain some real value.  After all, you can decided to retain, slightly modify or radically change a behavior of your own.  But taken in isolation – how will it affect me – is only part of the equation.  To truly make progress, you need to think how it will impact others.

So how might I do this self-examination?

Here are a few different approaches.  Mix and match if you would like!

Journal.  Some of us our writers.  We like to write down our thoughts, our reactions and our list of pro’s and con’s. Taking the time to really examine three key areas of life – work, life (family and friends) and self – is a great start. What are you doing and not doing in each of those areas?  If you could summarize what is happening in each area in one sentence what would it be?  How much time do you think you spend in a typical week or month on each area?

Talk.  Some of us like to explore verbally.  We like to ask others what they think and combine their input with our thoughts. Pick three important relationships (spouse/significant other/best friend, co-worker and mentor/boss) and ask them the questions you have.  What do I do well?  What can I improve on?  Do you think I take ____ seriously enough? What could I do differently to make ____ better?  To take the talk to a different level, why not meet with a neutral third party like a coach?  A coach has no history with you and does not bring a set of assumptions or biases to the conversation.

Meditate.  Some of us are already good at finding the silent times.  Focus that time, whether it is during meditation or walking through nature or laying in the bathtub, on thinking.  What would I like to do differently?  Why? What is something I have wanted to do for a long time but just have not done?  Is now the time to do it?

The bottom line is that two letter word – DO.  Do the self-examination, now.  Do consider the impact you have now on others.  Do challenge yourself to go beyond surface-level thinking.

Best of luck.