Ideas to Inspire Your EXTRAORDINARY hi
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Yesterday is one of my favorite days of the month. I belong to the Women In Networking IV group in Louisville, which meets on the third Tuesday each month. I love this diverse group of women owners and leaders. The caring among this group runs deep, and the support given extends beyond business.
Joining this group started me on an unplanned journey. I am a solo practitioner. And I realized a few years ago that I genuinely missed having work colleagues. I tried business networking fourteen years ago when I left my corporate life, and I didn't get it. It felt like the business equivalent of speed dating - everyone trying to make their elevator pitch to as many people as possible before time was up. All of the focus was on telling, not listening. I didn't feel community or connection was present. I quickly disavowed committing my time to this activity.
This WIN IV group is everything I was looking for back then and more. The bonus is the way this positive experience has enabled me to recognize and connect with several other groups of smart, generous, thought-provoking, and inspiring business people. I am so grateful that this one counterpoint to my networking experience has allowed me to attract similar groups into my inner circle of support and generative thinking.
This step that morphed into a conscious choice to seek and grow my business community has been affirmed in several books recently containing this advice.
Surround yourself with people you want to be like, who model what you want to become. Having people who inspire you helps you get to the next level.
As a business owner, I have many competing demands. I've come to realize in the last year that committing time to engage in creating a community of business colleagues fuels my health and well-being. If you are struggling to find the energy you once had for your business, if you are feeling uninspired, if your relationships require more of you than you get in return, then I encourage you to find a business community that nourishes your mind and spirit. Start small. Just commit one hour each month or join an online community on Facebook or LinkedIn.
In Stephen Covey's 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, he emphasized the importance of renewing ourselves (Habit 7, Sharpen The Saw). This wisdom is as poignant today as it was in 1989. So don't just take my word for it. Know that this idea passed through the decades, evolves but doesn't diminish. And remember that that speed dating style business groups are still around, so don't be afraid to ask questions before you invest your time and be prepared to try a few groups before you find the right one for you.
2020 is your year to Claim Your Extraordinary! I hope you'll give this one idea to aid your journey a try. Please comment and share your wisdom about how you are building your business community to support your growth.
If January is the month of optimism and hope expressed in New Year's resolutions, February is the month of commitment (and not just because of Valentine's Day). It is the month when we have to dig deeper. The demands of life are encroaching. Our old patterns of behavior are reasserting themselves, looking for a foothold. Our results may be shaky or slowing, diminishing the fuel of instant gratification. Whatever the goals and resolutions riding on the tides of a new year and a clean slate, the real tests of your dedication and tenacity are on their way if they are not already here.
What is lovely about this moment is that it is a microcosm of our experience anytime we set out on a journey to create something new in our lives. Our thoughts can trap us in familiar loops where we feel in control - we know how to be angry, struggling, content, mediocre, getting by. Stepping out of those loops requires trust in ourselves and the belief that we can create the future we want.
Progress also requires us to forgive ourselves for being imperfect. It requires us to recognize and address the self-imposed limitations that are shaping our thinking and actions. Oprah Winfrey dedicates several chapters in The Path Made Clear (2019) to developing courage and persistence. Here are a few of my favorite passages and ideas on how to reframe your thinking, dig deeper, and overcome the pull to throw in the towel and settle for the ways things are.
"There will always be setbacks. What you are experiencing is a detour. It's not the end of the road. You've got to be prepared to fail up."
I am obsessed with this language - failing up. How freeing and motivating it is to know that even when we fall, we are learning something new that becomes the building block for our next success. Reframing our setbacks as detours, not terminal events in our journey, makes space for a completely different conversation and choice set.
"Well, look what came down the road today. I wonder what this will produce. I wonder what we'll learn from this."
Life is full of imperfections. For many of us, our automatic response is the "Oh Crap" conversation. Life is in constant flow, and we get to control very little of it. That is why this shift from our danger, fear, disaster response to a thoughtful and openness response is extraordinary for our mental well being. When life unfolds differently than we expected or we slip up, seizing that moment with the grace of wonder and learning can be transformative.
"How am I making things more difficult than they need to be?"
Everyone overcomplicates. Many years ago, fluid on my Dad's heart and lungs landed him in the hospital. We live in different states, requiring me to suspend everything in my life in Louisville to be at his side. I was away for a week or more without a thought to my business life. All the busyness and demands of work became silent. When I returned home, I started anew, as picking up where I'd left off was impossible. Realizing the unnecessary importance I'd given to things at work was palpable at that moment. I wanted to hold onto that clarity, and yet I was soon back in the rhythm of the life I knew, where minor things carried the power and weight of the essential.
Simplicity is a practice honed through reflective questions such as this one. When we struggle or lose momentum, it is the perfect opportunity to ask ourselves this question and shift our focus to a simpler path forward.
"The more important the activity you are pursuing is to your evolution as a person, the more resistance you will feel to it."
I close with this reminder that change requires effort. Take heart when struggles emerge and know that they portend meaningful change.
Thank you to all of my loyal readers for your feedback in response to last week's blog, "The Opposite of More is Enough." I am happy that my words resonated with so many of you who like me feel constant pressure in business and in life to participate in the endless game of seeking more.
This week I want to stay with that powerful word, ENOUGH. I offer it to you in a slightly different context - I AM ENOUGH.
Self-doubt and living in the shadow of comparison to others are behaviors we learn in childhood and are as core to our being as our DNA. Many of us wrestle with knowing who we are and naming the essential things that genuinely matter to us. We search outside of ourselves for clarity and affirmation. We become experts at pretending in order to gain the acceptance of others, and it's exhausting. I AM ENOUGH is the invitation to shift your focus inwardly, and trust in your ability to know yourself and to make the right choices.
"When you can really be who you are and find out where you fit in and function from a place of comfort, then you stop working. You stop wrestling." The Path Made Clear, Oprah Winfrey (2019)
In The Path Made Clear Oprah shares excerpts from her interview with Brian Grazer, co-founder of Imagine Entertainment. Brian talks about being in third grade and earning failing grades, which was a big deal to his mother. And yet, in the face of those D's and F's, his grandmother confirmed his specialness and expressed confidence in his future potential.
"She just had this sustained belief in me and validated me for asking questions and for my curiosity. I used this curiosity to meet new people in subjects that I would have never learned anything about. And by meeting these new people, it's given life to movies and television shows that I've done."
Like Brian, your version of success may look different than others around you. Their measures may hold little relevance to your path to success. When we understand our special gifts and uniqueness, when we give them space to grow and shape our lives, we make space for our fullest selves to emerge. And it is in becoming our whole selves that our most significant contributions are possible.
As leaders, the concept that I AM ENOUGH is both personal and institutional. We have a responsibility to engage with those we lead in ways that make space for them to experience and lay claim to I AM ENOUGH. We must recognize the uniqueness of those around us and avoid the ease of same treatment instead of choosing the impetus of equal treatment. Like Brian's grandmother, we have the opportunity to remind others that they are special and to disregard standard measures of success that are insufficient to embrace the full potential of each individual we lead. We can encourage and honor the differences among us and trust in our leadership to keep those we lead, working together towards common goals.
As espoused in "The Opposite of More is Enough, " I AM ENOUGH is an invitation to live your life free of the terms and conditions that others try to impose. It is an invitation to trust in yourself and pursue your vision and purpose regardless of what others say and choose. It is not belligerence. It is not confrontational. It merely lays claim to your true path without the need to respond to conventional thinking.
In a world filled with siren songs to conform, compare, and chase, it is easy to stay trapped and trap others in a self-limiting loop. I agree with Oprah and her sage guests; it is possible to break out of this loop. When we focus on our gifts, gain clarity about our purpose, and trust in ourselves, those self-imposed limits dissolve. I AM ENOUGH is an invitation to power, to possibility, to a life lived fully.
The opposite of more is not less; it is enough
is the single, most powerful idea in The Path Made Clear (2019), by Oprah Winfrey.
What an EXTRAORDINARY paradigm shift!
No, really think about it. Is this the math in your head?
When your friend, neighbor, competitor earns more, owns more, has more than you, does that make you less - less successful, less affluent, less capable?
Do you compare yourself to others around you and tell yourself, "If they can do it, I can, too," without asking yourself whether you genuinely want or need what they have?
When you examine your values, lifestyle, commitments, pursuits, does it add up to something that matters to you?
When enough replaces less in the equation, everything shifts. There is a feeling of peace, contentment, centeredness, and accomplishment when we set our sights on our definition of enough and then achieve it.
The pursuit of more rarely leads to happiness, but a clear focus on creating enough in your life does. What are you chasing in the more column of your life? Do you know when it will be enough? When you do, you are on the path to freedom, fulfillment, and a happy life.
This weekend I made the drive across the mountains to Winston-Salem, North Carolina. As we crossed into Virginia near the Blue Ridge Parkway, a gorgeous vista of the valley below us came into view. As my daughter and her friends headed off to dance class each morning, I headed to a nearby estate to enjoy my ritualistic woodland, morning walk. Bluebird houses studded the Reynolda Estate, and their inhabitants flitted among the trees and shrubs along my path.
It was during this time of reflection that the idea of changing elevation to gain insight and clarity occurred to me. It struck me that in sharing my Vision Casting tool last week, I left an opportunity on the table to share a richer context. And that context, my friends, is this idea of breaking free from the mental models that constrict you. Here are four ideas to get you started.
I work with small businesses, and many of them have just moved from their initial start-up phase. They are now successful entities, and their success is mainly due to their all-hands-on-deck methods. No matter rank or role, everyone rolls up their sleeves and pitches in to get the job done, including the founder/CEO. The good news is that the CEO knows the business inside and out. The bad news is that the CEO is so enmeshed in the details that s/he can't think or act beyond this daily grind. A process like the Vision Casting tool reconnects these leaders with their purpose and gives sight to the enormous potential before them.
While start-up leaders are enmeshed in every part of their business by necessity, CEO's of established companies often become disengaged from the day-to-day operations. They are out-of-touch with the struggles and frustrations of their team and fail to bring the organization together to develop solutions to real problems and perceived issues. At its worst, these CEOs unknowingly contribute to disruption and dysfunction, which can erode their company's culture and the commitment of the team. One of my favorite books, How The Way We Talk Can Change The Way We Work (Kegan and Lahey, 2001), proposes that complaint is a sign of passion. "Beneath the surface torrent of our complaining lies a hidden river of our caring, that which we most prize or to which we are most committed" (p. 20).
Stand In New Shoes
All successful companies and leaders develop a playbook. It is a way operating that is their path to success. It shapes and is shaped by your view of the customer and competitive landscape. Typically, the more successful your playbook, the more unconsciously you operate within its parameters. This is why big companies can fail. The buggy whip market became obsolete when the Model-T became the new standard for transportation. The Palm Pilot was usurped by the Blackberry, who saw it's market decimated by the introduction of the smartphone.
My point is simple. The speed of change brought by market disrupters is escalating. Becoming insular, or worse arrogant can cause you to miss important tides of change. The best CEOs understand that their success is predicated on strong relationships with a variety of stakeholders - customers, governing agencies, partners, service providers, investors, employees, etc. They give priority to connecting with these stakeholders, listening to their needs and concerns, and then adapting business practices to maintain alignment with these shifting sands.
No man is an island (John Donne's Devotions (1624)). As humans, we are innately social creatures looking to make genuine connections. The old models of doing business are insufficient because technology has enabled us to connect and create in new and more powerful ways. To learn more, watch Seth Godin describes this idea in his humorous and inspiring Ted Talk.
Wherever you are in your personal leadership journey, I hope that one or more of these ideas will ignite your imagination and set you on your path to Claim Your Extraordinary in 2020.