Friday, October 24, 2014

Knowing who we are by what we choose in a difficult time

It's been a rough week for Canadians. We were shocked out of complaints about the stock market and the weather by a gunman who killed a young soldier and then walked into the Parliament buildings and began to shoot.

As such things go, we were lucky. It could have been much, much worse.

The Canadians on site were calm and caring and clear about doing what needed to be done. The people who represented us in this crisis were chosen (MPs and staff and military and police) and they were random - people who were going about their lives and found themselves in the middle of something terrible and frightening.

There are people who say that things will have to change now.

I would say that we are doing something very right. Read this article and know that in a crisis, we hold up.  Look at the pictures of our leaders marching back into the House of Commons and hugging. Under all the noise and venom, there's something pretty right going on here when we respond to a crisis this way.

None of us know how we would react to a situation like this until we are tested. The Canadians who represented all Canadians this week were awesome.

Sometimes, hope looks like people who drop their briefcases and their biases and practice kindness in a time of terror.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

The economic value of bounce

I know. You don't want to be resilient. You don't want to have courage. You don't even want to have hope. You want to win every time out of the gate. You want the business to grow steadily and the ground you walk on to be covered with fresh rose petals. You want to do the right thing and know the right thing to say and you want to be right.

Tough luck.

Even if you got all those things today and tomorrow and the next day, you would know that change was coming. And change frequently feels like getting knocked on your fanny. The world is nothing if not tough love.

The hardest thing to teach sales people (and, as Dan Pink says, we are all in sales) is to put aside their longing to have more control over other people and spend some time learning what they will need to bounce. I know that people come to me hoping that I will teach them magic words and powerful strategies for getting what they want. In fact, I really can show them stuff about themselves that does feel magical and that will eventually get them what they want.

But not every day. The thing you can control is not having 100% success rate. The thing you can control is having 100% bounce rate. Whenever you get knocked down, you have 100% control over getting back up.

It's not as much fun as rose petals and good chocolate and parades in your honour. But you can count on it.

And knowing what to count on has real economic power. It lets you predict the future and hang in until you make it happen.

Thursday, October 09, 2014

Just ten minutes is just enough time for one thing

This is a reframe. For those of you familiar with NLP (neurolinguistic programming), a reframe is the first step towards a shift. If you're new to NLP, a reframe is a new context for information that allows you to see new choices so that you can get different results.

"Just ten minutes" is an excuse about to happen, a reason for not doing anything because you can think of things that would take longer than ten minutes to do well. The reframe is that ten minutes is a unit of time that can hold just one thing. And one thing is about the capacity of the human mind to do well at one time.

If you have ten minutes, you have ten full minutes (not just ten). And in ten minutes, you could play a game on your phone, or grab something from the fridge or browse Facebook. Or you could write an email, make a call to connect with someone, or write a blog post. Ten minutes isn't long; it is long enough.

It's been a long time now (at least ten years) since I first noticed that "busy" had become the new "fine." I mean that when you ask someone "how are you?" the answer is most likely to be "busy." Maybe we are busy because we have too much to do. Maybe we are busy because we keep waiting for bigger units of free time to magically appear. Chris Brogan encourages people to think about using smaller units of time. While it is true that some thoughts take a long walk or several hours of peace and quiet to sort out, many of your thoughts can be tucked into a smaller space.

So step into a moment and notice that it is roomier than you thought. In just a moment, you can stretch your mind and breathe deeply and allow some muscles to relax and others to brace. In just a moment, you can catch a smile or send one. In just a moment, you can forget that you are stressed or tired and be charmed instead.

Imagine how much you could accomplish in ten minutes of moments.

Thursday, October 02, 2014

Lost! One purse containing all my bank cards and all my ID

This is a story about what is different in me now that I have been teaching and studying NLP for more than 10 years.

I teach several classes a week at Sheridan College in Mississauga. It's a twenty-minute drive by highway (on good days) or about 35 minutes when avoiding highways (which are not always reliable). My plan on Wednesday was to avoid highways (since my car was going into the shop for new brakes today) and so I knew I would need to leave about 55 minutes to get there in time to pick up a Starbucks and get into my room just as the previous teacher was leaving.

About 20 minutes before I needed to leave, I put my keys next to my phone and thought "I'll put my purse here too and I'll be set for a quick getaway."  But my purse wasn't in any of its usual places.  In fact, it quickly became obvious (my house is quite small) that my purse was nowhere to be found.

By now, I had to put on my make up and head for the door. Steady hand required. As I reached the car, I realized I had no money for parking. I called my mom and let her know what I needed and that I'd be there in ten minutes (fortunately, she lives on my route to work). I didn't have time for a Starbucks, but I did make it to class comfortably on time.

My purse does not always have all my credit and debit cards and almost all my ID in it at once. It did on Tuesday, the last time I had seen it. As I was making arrangements to get to class, I was thinking, thinking, thinking. Nothing made sense. I was 85% sure the purse must be somewhere in the house (after all, my keys and phone had made it home and they ride in my purse). But there was that awful 15% chance that my little black purse had fallen on the driveway or in the parking lot or somehow been left in a classroom or bathroom at Sheridan. Did I mention it had all my ID and bank cards?

I felt my thoughts racing to disaster. And stop. And then race some more. And then take a break while I checked in with security (who didn't have my purse). And then race. And I walked into class knowing that for the next three hours, I had to give my best stuff to my students. So I told them what had happened as our warm up conversation and then we got to work on how to ask the right questions to get answers you can count on. And we laughed and talked and focused.

My phone vibrated halfway through class. I keep it on "Do Not Disturb" which means that family calls comes through. My mom left me a voice mail saying that she had driven out to my house, but she couldn't find the purse.

I still wasn't panicking. I was still a little surprised that I wasn't panicking.

On the drive home, I had a thought - a wonderfully calm and peaceful thought that there was a place I hadn't looked where I might find my purse. And then when the other voice chimed in with an inventory of everything I would have to cancel or replace (and all the other things I wouldn't be able to do while I was replacing everything), I started to move from "OMG! I'll have to...." to a more matter-of-fact "I wonder how much I can do online" and "it's good that everything requires a PIN number now."

When I got home, I walked into the house and straight to my purse.

That's NLP for me. The state management to know what I wanted to do, get it done, and then walk through the problem without freaking out. And the little place of calm where I recognized that some part of me outside my awareness was sending me a quiet little message that I did know what I thought I didn't know.

I've staged this picture for you. In real life, the little black purse was under a layer or two of tshirts.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Write yourself a postcard to focus and feel better

Do you ever write to yourself?  Of course you do - we all write notes to help us remember things.
Some people put affirmations on post-it notes so they'll get a mini-pep talk from their computer screen or bathroom mirror. We write to put an idea outside of us so that it will stop wriggling and let us take a good look.

Journals are much longer - all those inviting blank pages (if you're on a computer, the screen is endless). If you fall into one, it can take a long time to climb out. As you begin to tell the story of who you are and what you are feeling, one thing can lead to another. It's hard to be positive and specific and if you're not positive, it's hard to leave the melancholy between the sheets. Longer writing carries the risk that the thoughts we wanted to focus will wriggle free and multiply.

Today, I wrote myself a postcard. There's not too much room on a postcard but it's quite a bit roomier than a post-it note. I wrote it as if I were writing to one of my friends or coaching clients.

I wrote it in two columns. On the left side, I wrote began with "I am impressed with how you. . ." and then I took a few sentences to talk about what's going well this month.  On the right side I started with "I know you are scared."

When I am being me talking to me "I know you are scared" can lead to a rather strained conversation. Either it spirals into all the very good reasons I have to be scared or it is met with some version of "you'll be fine."  This isn't how I talk to friends and clients, but it is frequently how I talk to myself.

On the postcard I said something like this: "I know you are scared. I don't know if you'll succeed. I do know you have light and power inside of you. Connect with that."

It's easier to offer encouragement after you've built up some evidence that what you are saying is true. So when you write your postcard, start with "What has impressed me about you (this month, this week, today)" and then tell the truth. Because even if you think that things are pretty bad right now, you're not just getting beat up. You're also writing a postcard so you can focus and feel better. And that, in itself, is a pretty impressive response.