About 20 years ago, I had three experiences that literally changed – and maybe saved -- my life.
Photo Credit: https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=15582363
One of my favorite reads of the year was the book Conspiracy: Peter Thiel, Hulk Hogan, Gawker, and the Anatomy of Intrigue by Ryan Holiday. What made this story so gripping to me was Holiday’s weaving of three storylines together to create a narrative about the use of power, secrecy and yes, conspiracy.
In the very second paragraph, Holiday says:
We have recently finished renovating 3 old cabins on Mystic Waters. After a dramatic search for the water connection for one them (it’s a long story), the basics are mostly done. Now it’s time to make them beautiful. The walls really need to be dressed up – and seeing my old art through new eyes has unleashed a whole fresh burst of ideas and creativity. It’s also reminded me of how easy it is to forget what makes me strong.
“The chief task in life is simply this: to identify and separate matters so that I can say clearly to myself which are externals not under my control, and which have to do with the choices I actually control. Where then do I look for good and evil? Not to uncontrollable externals, but within myself to the choices that are my own . . .” Epictetus, Discourses
Over the last two decades of sitting with leaders in Corporate America, I’ve noticed a hunger for creativity equally balanced with a belief that sounds something like this: “I don’t have a creative bone in my body.” Or sometimes “I can’t draw a straight line.”
During a recent visit to the car dealership to get my oil changed, I decided to go for a test drive of a new car rather than sit down and write this blog. Usually, I feel like a creative genius sitting in that waiting room with my headset on, pounding away at the keyboard. Today, I felt that nagging question of “what am I going to write about” hanging in the back of my mind.
Note: Today I am once again waiting on the kiln to be cool enough to open and discover the magic – and perhaps the disappointments. In the last three years, I’ve made great progress in my skills – simply showing me that there is another level to now aspire to. I’m republishing this blog from February 2015 to remind me to keep learning.
By: Lynn Carnes
By: Jennifer Maneely
I recently started embarking on this journey of finding that creative outlet that motivates and inspires me to work on this thing called Mastery. I make jokes with people all the time about how I am a jack of all trades but a master of none. I can do a little bit of everything, but I master none of it.
Here is the thing I am acutely aware of, I have all this talent welling up inside of me and I don’t know where the outlet is.
By: Lynn Carnes
In the last several months, I have had a series of difficult conversations. What made them difficult for me was this: I was afraid that the other person would be unhappy as a result of the conversation. To some degree or other, I was delivering “bad news”, and just that characterization set me off into “I-don’t-want-to-have-this-conversation-land.”
For almost every leader I’m working with right now, that is familiar territory. Whether delivering the “bad news” of budget cuts, unwelcome mergers, constricting regulations, or failed business deals, they are leading people through change that they would rather not have to do.
By: Jennifer Maneely
Do you ever fear being judged harshly? Or do you work hard to be liked or respected? These are just a couple of lessons I learned from my experience as a Unit Manager of Waffle House. There is no doubt that the restaurant business is a hard business and Waffle House can push anyone to their limits of capabilities. After all, it’s a 24 hour management job with full P&L responsibility with high expectations for good food, great service and a workforce that is often temporary. In terms of experience and development of skills, it was the best job I could have asked for fresh out of college. It gave me a rich exchange of life lessons I continue to carry with me. Here are just a few principles that apply in many situations.
By: Lynn Carnes
Recently, I’ve watched a couple of true-story movies that involved pivotal and historical moments where a key person had a chance to stand up in the face of dissent. In our corporate lives, we often deal with make-or-break decisions in the face of disagreement, conflict and even bullying. What I loved about both of these movies is how they brought us into the agony of making such a difficult decision in a crucial moment.
By: Lynn Carnes
Do you ever start your day with great intentions and before 9:00 am, it’s nothing but putting out fires? Ok, don’t laugh. It might very well be every day that the distractions, texts, phone calls, and bad news seduce you away from doing the great work you had (operative word HAD here) planned for the day.
Look, your job requires you to be responsive. When an important client calls or something breaks, you want to be able to handle it. But are you handling it with a frustrated, anxious mindset or a receptive and prepared mindset?
By: Lynn Carnes
It’s that time of year again – when we join the gym, clean closets, start a new diet, set big goals, and make all kinds of promises to do better in the coming year.
According to U. S. News, 80% of our resolutions will fail before February. Then we get to feel bad, like we have failed.
Why do we keep doing this to ourselves? More importantly, is true change even possible?
There is a new four letter word in the corporate world. I hear it with virtually every client I meet with. The word?
The year was 1983 and I was a baby banker working for THE bank in my hometown. About six weeks before the cookie event, our group found out we would all be getting off work early Friday to go to a “pool party” at one of the executive’s houses.
Woohoo! An afternoon off! Wait – a pool party? That would involve bathing suits (that’s what we called them back then) No thank you – I will just stay at work and hold down the fort.
According to this “life weeks” chart, I have a little over ¼ of my allotment of weeks left in this lifetime. If you do the reverse math, you will work out that I will be 60 next year. As much as I would like to deny it, I’ve got limited time left on this Earth.
Here’s the question I hate more than any other: “Will you do me a favor?” This question is especially tough when it comes from someone I’m close to, because, well, yes, I would love to do you a favor. So my reflexive answer is “yes”, or “sure”, or something affirmative like that.
Over the last week, I finally transitioned to a new computer. I had been putting it off because I knew I had some old software that might not work on the new machine. Plus changing computers is hard, even when Apple does their best to make it easy.
Well, it was NOT easy and that’s how things got charged. Yet what could have been a miserable experience turned out ok, because I decided to let the charging cable just be a charging cable. Let me explain.
I’ve had recovery on my mind a lot lately. Recently, I fell off a horse, breaking my collarbone. After a couple of long days in the hospital (I also had a partially collapsed lung that required a chest tube), I spent my first full day out of the hospital running light errands. My daughter/co-worker did all the driving, so it really was much less effort than a normal full day of work. By evening though, I was disproportionately tired.
My energy expenditures to run my day exceeded the energy needed to help me heal.
I spent my vacation week at Coble Ski School, going with the flow with a fabulous group of women for our ninth annual Women’s Week. Why were we going with flow? Irma loomed large in the days leading up to the week. Several of us started texting and emailing each other wondering what the heck to do. Would Irma go right over the site, making it unskiable? What were the alternatives? And what about all of our friends in Florida and other places that were right in the heaviest part of the storm? Yes, we are very “addicted” skiers – but what makes us want this week together so much is the support we get from likeminded women.
The idea of value has been on my mind lately. Think about it for a minute – how does one create value? In so many ways, that’s what business should really be here to do. It’s just so damn easy to forget. Where was the last place you spent money? Think about the value they created for you.
I use the f-word pretty freely now, although there was a time in my corporate life when I discovered that the f-word must not be uttered out loud.
It happened in a project meeting. In the back of my mind I had recently joined a club. The name of my imaginary club might have been something like the “speak truth to power club” or the “insiders of big change club.”
Note: This blog post was originally published as a bonus chapter in my book “The Power of Positive Intent: An Inspired Way to Deal with Change in Any Business.”
￼I ended my TEDx talk with this sentence: “You can become the co-writer of an entirely new story for your life.” If you are looking for a new source of power in your life, look no further than the truth of this sentence. Now for the difficult part: implementing it in your daily life.
Master your stories and you virtually remove the ability of others to get to you.
After my last blog about getting back on the horse, it seems I’ve been surrounded by lessons in dealing with fear hits, managing nerves and preparing for big events. This is the season for state water ski tournaments, and we have had several people training on our lake. There has been lots of talk on the dock about how to prepare, whether the training is working and how people react to the pressure. We all have our ways, whether it is to get quiet, be more talkative or something else that works for us.
My theme for this week seems to be adrenaline. Let me start by saying that there is a joke in our house about who is the real adrenaline junkie around here. I contend that it’s me. And I got a lot of adrenaline this week. It’s left me pondering how to use this involuntary pulse of fight, flight or freeze energy pulsing through my veins. What would happen if I actually channeled it instead of running away or curling up in a ball of “make it go away?” What is the best choice to make between that moment of stimulus and response? And how do I continue to build the inner fortitude to tolerate discomfort and get comfortable with being uncomfortable?
Have you found yourself wishing there was more time? Time to do the things you know you need to do? When is the last time you took a moment to really rest? And no, I’m not talking about when you rested because you got sick and had to go to bed for a day.
Virtually every time I facilitate a program, whether for team looking to improve their alignment and performance or a variety of leaders transforming their lives through self awareness, one word comes up almost every time. Communication. Lack of it has killed more deals and relationships than you can count. Too much of it…well, I’ve never actually seen that.
Even what we call “over-communication” barely gets the job done. It’s not that we are not trying. We just have learned indirect ways of talking to each other. Most of the time, our communication is muddled, unclear and confusing. Yes, we are using a lot of nice words – they just aren’t taking us anywhere.
Last week I did a short workshop with the McDowell County Chamber of Commerce to kick off a Woman in Business Series. Our topic? Using Fear to Thrive and Grow. These courageous women tackled the topic of fear in a profound way. Fear is an interesting topic – because it’s like eating. We need fear to survive, just like we need to eat to survive. And like eating, we can overdo fear, becoming bloated with woulda, coulda, shoulda instead of living the big life we are meant to live.
Missing an appointment with an IBM Selectric Typewriter most likely changed the whole trajectory of my life. It’s truly mind-boggling to realize that such a small thing made such a huge difference.
I was in high school, and my teacher had signed up me and several other students for a typing contest in a town a couple of hours away. Thanks to the vintage Royal typewriter at my grandparent’s house growing up, followed by my very own typewriter when I was about 8 years old, I came into the class already proficient on the classic QWERTY keyboard.
In my banking days, one our most closely held values was flawless execution. It may not have been printed up in an official list of values – but I can tell you this: it was a very real expectation. In reality, flawless execution is corporate-speak for perfectionism. For many years, I was a good “soldier’ and bought in to this ridiculousness. Mind you, I did not have responsibility to print accurate bank statements. Perfection is a good thing in keeping track of people’s money! However, it was insane to make flawless execution an expectation for a group that had a strategic imperative to create new things. If something must be perfect the first time, then you better do the same thing you’ve always done – actually, you better do it slightly smaller– to guarantee it goes flawlessly. There is a saying that perfection is the enemy of good. I will take it several steps further:
What is the thing we want more than anything else in the world – and yet we don’t want it at all? In my experience, that would be change. It’s as if our brains somehow think that the order of the universe is stability and equilibrium. Nothing could be further from the truth. The order of the universe is change. From the minute we are born (actually, from the second we are conceived), we are changing. The earth of today is not the earth of yesterday. The same is true of our businesses. From the time we start them, they are in a cycle of life and that cycle includes death. The Fortune 500 list has lost 88% of the companies from 1955 to 2014. It brings to mind one of my very favorite quotes: “You are either green and growing or ripe and rotting.”
We interrupt the regularly scheduled blog post to bring you this moment of inspiration.
Last week I hosted a “Create Your Life” workshop in which we increased clarity and set intentions for the life we truly want to live. We used Vision Boards and Vision Books as our medium – but it was energy of the room that was transformational.
In one of my recent workshops, a very successful businessman was struggling with balance. He adores his wife and children and also has a hugely demanding job that includes long hours and travel. He came into the session wanting mostly to find a way to produce that elusive dream of “work/life” balance. His high achieving mind was determined to make it happen, yet the more he forced the issue, the less balance he felt. Worse still, when spending time with his family, he felt guilty about not being responsive to the people he worked with. You can guess how he also felt at work. Yep. Guilty. Guilty that he was not spending time with his wife and children. Guilt is a heavy weight – it’s certainly not the best emotion to make life feel harmonious and in balance.
Know anyone who thinks (and acts) that way? I see it all the time, whether in a small business - where doing it all seems a necessity - to teams in giant corporations. The very same people who treat money as a scarce resource are willing to spend their energy doing tasks that provide a low business payoff.