We have become an excuse-making culture. I have been a bit frustrated lately with the quality of service provided by various contractors and service providers. It seems as if there is a minimal connection between what people promise and what they do. Excuses abound as work doesn’t get done and/or quality issues emerge. There is […]
The leader of an organization always sets the tone. Never forget this fact. I am often slightly bemused when I hear a leader complain about the state of things in their organization. It’s almost as if they remove themselves from the equation. They wonder how things have devolved to this point as if it is some deep mystery when all they have to do is look in the mirror. Your people are a reflection of your hiring decisions; the quality of your meetings is directly related to how you lead them and model this behavior for others; missing deadlines is a reflection of what you are willing to tolerate in others and yourself; a lack of focus almost always starts at the top; teamwork only ever happens when the coach sets the expectations and creates the conditions for this to happen; optimistic or pessimistic cultures are usually a reflection of leader’s point of view; etc.
I was talking to my son the other day about his schoolwork and some frustrations he was having. He is a good kid and is in all honors classes. I have noticed though, as the years go on, that school which was once relatively easy and fun for him has become much more of a chore. While not commenting on the varying degrees of teacher quality we have encountered along the way (which is troubling), I believe he is going through something we all go through in life. Rarely is our individual curve always upward sloping and everything comes easy for us. Sure, some people are seemingly blessed in certain aspects of life, but for the most part we all hit periods of frustration, disappointment, and/or low motivation. When you have a passion or care about something it is much easier to marshal the energy required to work through the rough patches. When it is something you have to do rather than want to do, it isn’t always so easy.
During the conversation with my son, we discussed four things that help you get through these difficult periods: Ability, Humility, Effort and Attitude:
I’m very concerned about the artificial reality we are creating for kids today. Everyone gets a medal or award. Disappointment and/or adversity is to be avoided at all costs. We are also teaching our children that they are the center of the family universe and everything revolves around them: their needs, wants, etc. If we let them to think everything they do is exceptional, then ultimately nothing they do will be. We allow them to continually isolate themselves socially and retreat into the comfort of impersonal technological communication without the wisdom of understanding the dynamics of human and social interaction. We worship their youth but then push them to grow up quickly and act more mature than they actually are (or should be). It’s almost as if a whole generation of parents is trying to make up for perceived deficiencies from their own childhood. We are forgetting how to be parents, coaches and teachers and instead striving to become friends, cheerleaders and positive psychologists.
I know quite a few people who actually start feeling depressed on Sunday night because work is the next day. Sadly, for many of them, this has been a feeling that has existed for years. I honestly cannot comprehend this state of mind at this point in my life. Sure when I was fresh out of college and new to my professional work life I didn’t always get thrilled about Monday mornings, but as I have progressed in my career and thinking, that is a long distant memory. If what you are doing makes you that unhappy either change how you think about it or choose to do something else. Life is too short for habitual Sunday night misery.
I’ve always been a bit annoyed with people who are grouchy in the morning on a regular basis. Sure, everyone has a tough morning every once in awhile, but to wake up every day in a bad mood is hard to comprehend. What could have happened between the time you first put your head on your pillow and when you woke up that is so bad you need to make everyone else around you unhappy? If you are too tired, then go to bed earlier. If you are having problems sleeping, then do something about it. Part of growing up is learning how to act like an adult.
So much about life comes down to your attitude about it. I know privileged people who are regularly misanthropic and others with less economic advantages that seem to be mostly happy even though their lot in life seems comparatively difficult. Every day we wake up we get to make a choice about how we approach our life. We can see our existence as an amazing gift full of unlimited possibilities or a burden full of work, obligations and limitations. We can appreciate what we have or yearn for what’s beyond our reach. We can make a positive difference in the lives other people or focus exclusively on ourselves. We can build bridges to solidify positive relationships or forget to tend to the basic maintenance of effective human interaction.
Sometimes life is heavy. There is just no way around it. We lose people we love; our own bodies break down; and other personal or professional challenges appear unexpectedly. When this happens it’s easy to become overwhelmed by the adversity of the moment(s) and wallow in despair. You can sometimes feel like the famous statue of Atlas who carries around the weight of the world on his shoulders. When this happens you need to count your many blessings and seek out opportunities for joy, love and support.
Henry Ford has a famous quote, ‘if you think you can do a thing or you think you can’t do a thing, your right.” I believe this sums up most of life quite nicely. Self-confidence and self-belief do matter. So much about success and happiness is related to your mental attitude and emotional resilience. Some of us may have a harder time than others or start out with more baggage, but the history of civilization proves that ordinary people can achieve extraordinary things and overcome great obstacles in the process. While it may seem easier at times to give up or give in, you must fight these feelings, forge ahead and persevere. Never embrace failure and unhappiness as your default reality.
In life you can decide to be an active participant or not. You can appreciate being part of the community and enjoying a shared experience or instead decide to isolate yourself from others. You can go about thinking everyone has an agenda or be more open minded. You can act like a crank or try and make other people (especially kids) happy. You can spend your time, checking boxes and doing what you think you should be doing or fully embracing the moments and making them special. You can grow up and act like and adult or hold onto the threads of childhood through childlike behavior. You can make everything about your or take into consideration the feelings and needs of others. You can enjoy the passage of time and milestones that occur throughout the year or not.
Choosing to seek and have fun is a conscious choice. Rarely does it just happen. We all have moments of spontaneous joy we can remember, but this is the exception not the rule. I encourage you to make having fun a filter in your daily, weekly and monthly activities.
My whole life I have been accused of being too optimistic. I have always perceived this to be a compliment whether it is meant as one or not. The world has enough pessimism. Pragmatism does have its place, especially when it come to financial matters, however it shouldn’t be a primary mode of being. All our great leaders have been idealists and/or romantics.
All successful people that I know learn from their mistakes. In fact, it is often a big mistake or two that ends up being a pivotal point in their career. If you aren’t making mistakes then you aren’t taking enough risks or pushing yourself hard enough to get a true understanding of your potential.
The attitude with which we approach our life matters. It is easy to get stuck in a rut or not fully appreciate the ability to which we control our own destinies. The truth is that how each day goes is largely up to us. Even in the midst or tragedy or misfortune, we can choose to soldier on and make the most of our circumstances or not.
You get to choose your mood. It doesn’t choose you. Sometimes this may be more work than you’d like, but it is almost always the truth.
One a leaders primary responsibilities is to create an environment where people thrive and good work gets done. Never forget that you are always on stage and have an audience.
The goal of any society should be to secure the future of the next generation by providing them with the skills, talents and attitudes necessary for both survival and success. It is a certainty that every generation will have to deal with some level of uncertainty and challenge as they assume responsibility for their own destiny (and that of others).
Leadership requires you to be at the top of your game physically, emotionally and intellectually. If you want to operate at a high level for any extended period of time you need to be mindful of this fact.
What you decide to focus your energy on is a choice. Even in the most difficult of situations there is a potential “silver lining” if you are looking hard enough.