Thursday, December 18, 2014

Are You Too Tired

Are you too tired? I think we should be asking this question a lot more often than we do. We tend to say "this is too important for me to rest." What we should be saying is "this is too important to tackle when I am this tired."

The science of fatigue and sleep deprivation is pretty straight forward. In essence, being overtired is like being drunk: you feel clever but you're really not clever. You can't learn when you're overtired, which means you can't adapt to change. You really shouldn't be making decisions or negotiating them or doing anything that demands your best thinking. You will never have your best thinking when you are sleep deprived.

I am at the beach this week because I have been too tired. I stretch. I accomplish great things. People think I'm the Energizer bunny.  And I am, when I remember that even batteries need regular recharging. I am here because I have too much to do over the next few months to do it in a fog. I need my best stuff and recently it has taken formidable focus and determination just to keep the bus moving. 
Are You Too Tired?
There will be times you know you are too tired. Stop. Sleep for one whole day. If possible, get outside. If outside is Canada in winter, sit by a window in the sun or watch a movie just for its beautiful setting (and take some vitamin D). Practice your own version of mindfulness, which means allowing yourself to forget the past and the future and only carry this one moment at a time. 

Practice because you deserve to feel and think and do your best. Don't cheat. You know what I mean because we all do it: we get a quick hit of peace so that we can overwork again. This is better than lots of options, but it is ultimately not satisfying unless sometimes you really notice what you are feeling and decide your life will be a better life if you feel better.

What does it mean to you to be too tired to think?

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Warning: Difficult holiday ahead

The hardest part of the holidays is the expectation that they are supposed to be easy and fun.

The very word "holiday" suggests a lovely break from work, a time when the world is a happy place full of lovely people, good food, and fun things to do.

Occasionally, happiness happens. There are nice surprises when we are looking the other way. They are truly lovely breaks, moments to celebrate and remember that the world can be a really great place. 

Most of the time, happiness develops slowly and with effort. We make choices and notice results and make an effort, and sometimes we notice that we're making progress and it feels good. Holidays are happy when we think about what has made us happy and do more of that.

It snowed today. People worry that we won't have snow for Christmas and they complain bitterly when it snows before Christmas.  Some of them are frustrated and unhappy because weather changes their plans. It's quite inconvenient.

This is true for me too. But I will take a breath, get the work done, and get on with doing what is important to me. And this year, I will be a tiny bit better at choosing to make happy happen.

Saturday, December 06, 2014

How to let go of failures and move forward

Someone asked me this week, "how do you teach a kid to let go of a failure and move on."

You can't get there from here. As long as you are thinking about failure, you are holding onto it. Even if the voice in your head is chanting "Let it go."

We're not built that way. Our brains are built to let go of things we are not accessing, not giving any attention. As soon as we give something our attention, we make it easier to access. You make your fears and your failures stronger when you give them your attention. Even if you're telling yourself "just let it go."

"Let it go" is impossible advice. It's like telling kids to "sit still and listen." Many kids listen by moving. They can't listen if they sit still and they can't sit still if they are listening.

One of the secrets to leadership is to give people instructions they can follow. In this case, the instruction is not to "let go." It's "build." Ask "how will I teach someone to recycle parts of a failure to build something new?"

The way to move forward is to catch a glimpse of what you want to build. Then you begin to reassemble the pieces available to you. Some of them will be building blocks that were created or freed up by a failure. You won't learn from those building blocks if you continue to see them as part of a failure. You'll learn when you start to see them as the components for building something you want.

I don't like failure any better than anyone else and I am still learning to encounter it as a step on the way to getting what I want. Over the years, however, I have come to suspect that failure is a much better teacher than success.  When I trust myself and God (call it the universe if you're more comfortable with that) to be making choices that will get me where I am supposed to go (substitute want to go if you're more comfortable with that), then every choice is a choice that can move me forward. The trick is to move my eyes around until I see the opening it has created.

Of course you have to let go if you want to move forward and build. But you don't have to think about it. You have to think about the next step and put your eyes on what you want to hold.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Is loyalty a good thing?

Loyalty is an old-fashioned word. We think that our pets are loyal, but we no longer expect loyalty from our business partners and often we don't expect it from our friends either.

The Oxford English Dictionary thinks loyalty means this:
A strong feeling of support or allegiance

What do you think it means to be loyal to a person or company? To me, it means having someone's back, showing up when you know it's important and when it is reasonable for someone to make a claim on your time and effort. It's not a matter of keeping score, but it is a matter of action and presence.

I show my loyalty by making an effort to show up and pay attention. Presence (the kind that involves both body and mind) is the rarest of all gifts, the one that is not renewable. When we want someone to know that they mean something to us, we show up. That's loyalty.

It's a struggle. I struggle with it. How can I be present for people who are doing work I believe in or who live lives I want to support? How can I find the time, the resilience, and the resources to show up? I wonder sometimes, "if I feel betrayed, does that let me off the hook? Or do I need to stay loyal to something beyond the moment?" There are times I have been less loyal or disloyal. There are times I have been loyal too long.

I have been told that I expect too much. I have heard people say variations of "there's not enough in it for me" as if it were unfair to think that someone would stand up and translate good wishes into action. Like all of you, I have sometimes been misled and sometimes been used.

Still, I'd like to hold myself accountable.  Not for being loyal - that's too high a standard.  I want to be accountable for making choices about when to show up and to counting the costs of not showing up. I think that loyalty involves paying attention to the costs of not showing up - costs to me and costs to the people who would value my presence. I think it means the difference between saying "I can't" and "I choose not to. . ."

Someone wrote me this week and said, "I choose not to. . . ."  I respect that.  It's a hard choice, and sometimes it's the right one.

But oh, I am grateful, for the dozens of times someone says, "well maybe I can. . ." And then they just show up.

The pay off for loyalty is joy.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

What happens when the storm hits unexpectedly?

We had a storm in Toronto yesterday. Not a storm like they're having in Buffalo this week, but enough snow to turn a one hour commute into a four hour commute. We all expected a little light snow. What came was more than that, and many drivers hit a little ice and everyone else was suddenly trapped in a car that had nowhere to go.

That happens in life, too. Out of the blue, there's a storm.  And little girls all over the world are celebrating those storms because of one Disney princess.  She causes a storm by exploring the full nature of her power. I watch my 3 year old niece singing "Let it Go" and I know she gets it - there's energy and there is also joy in finding out what you can do.

It would be cool (pun intended) to follow Elsa's lead and sing "The cold never bothered me anyway." The cold is the price that comes with letting go and risking the consequences of finding your own power.

I'm running a conference on November 29 on the theme: Don't Go with the Flow: Go with Desire! It's about taking the chance to find out what you can do - even when it stirs up a storm around you. It's about what it takes to make your way through the storm and out the other side. It's not about a Snow Queen or even a snow storm, but it is about finding the thread of continuity that runs through your days and makes sense of the themes that are driving you.

Finding that thread of continuity is what lets us move through storms with some of Elsa's grace. It will let you hear the noise and feel the cold and keep moving and keep discovering the voice and the power you didn't know you had.