[Warning: If you are interested in a calm, comfortable life, this blog will be counterproductive for you.]

Monday, October 29, 2012

Can I Drive This Truck Over That Bridge? Pt 2 - Heavy Loads & Permission

Confrontations don't have to be so risky. In my last post, I challenged you to think about when you confront, not just whether you're right. And I revealed the question that has made a huge difference to the confrontation conversations in my life:

Can I drive this truck over that bridge?

In the last post, I offered some principles that change how you think about hard conversations. In this post, I'm going to dive deeper into the diagram and help make it very clear how to when it's the right time to confront.

Specifically, there are four questions I ask. Their answers add up to the final answer to the big question above:


1. How challenging to the other person is the issue I'm bringing up?
The more emotionally difficult the issue is, the "heavier" the load in your truck and the stronger your bridge (relationship) needs to be.
In general, start with the easiest issues and as you experience success your relationships and their maturity grows. You can then work your way up to the heaviest issues.
Also, I strongly recommend taking one load at a time (dealing with only one issue). We all have multiple areas of our lives that need improvement and change. But the best people developers I know accept us before we fix all our issues AND therefore have the freedom to challenge us to work on only one or two substantial changes at a time.

2. Do you have permission to proceed?

Just because you see an issue doesn't mean you are allowed to address it. And just because you have permission in one area of life, doesn't mean you have it in another. Correction without permission feels like an attack. Ask permission and respect their answer. (Note roles like being a boss or a parent have built in permissions--even obligations--to offer challenges. The other 3 questions need to be addressed, but this one should be clear for them.)
Note: Sometimes you have to proceed anyway. There is a place for major life interventions, when someone is about to ruin their life long-term. It's like trying to jump the truck over the bridge. Oh, and it's about as easy to do successfully as it would be to really jump a huge 18-wheeler over a bridge. Do it only when you really believe there is no other choice and the rest of their life hangs in the balance.

In my next (and final post on this diagram/metaphor), I'll cover the last two sub-questions.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Can I Drive This Truck Over That Bridge? Confrontations- Part 1

Confrontation conversations are hard. They rarely go well and most people don't like them. But what if you could dramatically increase your success rate?

Most advice on this focuses on what to say. This is important, but not the whole picture. I used to believe that the truth was sufficient all by itself. If I shared truth in love, then the confrontation should be successful. But it didn't always work. In fact, it often didn't work. Something beyond the content of my correction made a big difference. (Of course, that's assuming I was always right--which would be bad assumption.)

This post is about a part of the confrontation that most people don't think enough about. Not only do you need to think about what to say, you need to be mindful about when you say it. Even the most carefully crafted conversation can go wrong if you do it at the wrong time.
I use this question to decide when to confront: Can I drive this truck over that bridge? 

There are some special relationships that I think have special rules, such as marriages or your boss--and yes, those are supposed to be two different relationship categories. :) But for the vast majority of relationships, I think about a truck on a bridge.

First, take a good look at this diagram--which not only has a truck and a bridge, but a cute bird. (It's a picture with something for everyone.)

  • The truck: the issue/problem you need to talk to the other person about
  • The bridge: the strength of your relationship with the other person
  • Driving the truck successfully across the bridge: the other person receives your challenge and growth happens (enter the cute birds singing)
  • Driving onto the bridge, the bridge breaking, and the truck crashing into the river: the other person rejects your correction--no positive change and a good bit of frustration on both sides
Big Idea 1: Having a hard conversation is about helping the other person grow.
It's not about venting your emotions so you feel better. Success--getting to the other side of the bridge--is helping them change and grow, not you feeling better. Usually, the better job you do blowing off steam and feeling vindicated, the worse job you've done helping the other person grow.

Big Idea 2: Readiness is defined by the other person, not yourself.
You've prepped your content and are eager to correct--but it's not about your readiness. Yes, get that ready. But then pay attention to their state of mind and your current relationship with them.

Confrontations are much more successful when they are about helping the other person, not making life easier for you. 

Big Idea 3: You can never MAKE someone change.
No matter how well you prepare for confrontations, you will not achieve 100% success. You do have the responsibility to do your part well. But perfection on your part does not remove their part--personal choice. Even Jesus, the perfect man in my faith, had one of his hand picked disciples (Judas) choose not to reconcile in the end. Allow others the same right you want for yourself. Don't try to choose for them. And don't make other's choices your measure of success. Take responsibility for handling your part well--their response is between them and God.

In the next post, I'll show you some "sub-questions" I use to really decide whether I can drive the truck over the bridge (and I'll talk more about the details of the diagram, like the pillars on the bridge).

Monday, October 15, 2012

4 Life Changing Lessons From How Felix Baumgartner Survived An Impossible (World Record) Skydive

Over this past weekend, Felix Baumgartner took skydiving further than it's ever gone before--literally. He jumped from 24 miles high (no, that's not a typo), was in free fall for almost 4 1/2 mintues, and broke the sound barrier (fell/flew faster than Mach 1), before opening his chute only a few thousand feet from the ground.

He did what had been impossible. In fact, others have died trying to break the previous record (a jump from about 20 miles high).

His motto (seen on his website www2.felixbaumgartner.com) is: Everyone has limits--some people just don't accept them!

What limits have you accepted for your life? What's keeping you from acheiving your dream--from doing what seems impossible?

What if you didn't let those limits define you anymore? What would you do if you knew it would succeed?

I had lunch last week with Alonzo, a new friend, who never believed he had what it took to go to college, let alone have the career he wanted. Then a man he respected told him he could do it, and now he's about to graduate from college and is choosing which grad school to attend (he's got some great options lined up). His life is totally changed because he  redefined his limits.

Another friend of mine told me two weeks ago about her husband's new career. In his 50's, he decided to become a lawyer--a longtime dream. It's too late, others said. She didnt expect him to finish law school. Not only did he finish law school, but he applied to work in the District Attorney's office in a large city--and got the job. He's living his dream more than 30 years after it was "too late".

Stop accepting your limits!

But this isn't just an inspirational moment. Learn from how Felix pulled off the impossible. It really can happen.

1. He planned and planned--he didn't jump and then think.

He first mentioned this record as a goal in 2005. Seven years later, he was finally ready. He set a huge, crazy awesome goal and set out to work towards it properly. Surviving the jump was a key element the dream. :)

Planning is not the opposite of pursuing your dreams. In fact, the best dreamers harness the power of practical planning to their dreams. When practical planning rules, you may not do all you can. But when practical planning serves the dream, it's powerful and freeing.

Just because your dream is far away doesn't mean you don't start working on it today. What would you love to do so much you'd work on it for years?

2. He learned from the best--he didn't isolate himself and try to do it alone.

Felix worked with many experts to build the baloon he jumped from, his suit, etc. But he only wanted one person talking on the radio headset he wore during the jump: the previous record holder. Now in his 80's, Joe Kittinger was not just included, but became Felix's key partner.

Who has done something similar as what you dream about? How can you learn from them? Can you enlist them to help? You might be surprised at how many people who've lived their dream are happy to help others do the same. Ask.

3. He used the latest tools--he incorporated cutting edge technology.

From the balloon to his suit (based off the NASA spacesuit) to the GPS chip in the chest of the suit, Felix harnessed the latest technology to make his dive possible and more meaningful. You don't always need more technology, depending on what your dream is, but don't overlook how a recent breakthrough in another area could change what's possible in your dream.

Even small changes can up in the end. What technology or methods related to your dream can you research to see what's changing? The internet makes finding out this information easier than ever--take advantage of it.

4. He practiced--a lot.

Felix had spent over 2500 hours in freefall before making this dive--and it may have saved his life. The first portion of the jump, instead of getting into a tight "delta" position for a controlled fall, he tumbled wildly. He experience allowed him to stay calm and get control before it was time to pull the chute. Also, he wouldn't have broke the speed record if he wasn't in the right position.

Start building your skills now. When your big opportunity comes, you need to be ready.

Twice, I've changed my entire career. I did the second change with a new wife, smal children, and little money. If you plan and work well, the impossible is within reach.

Monday, October 8, 2012

How Doing Less Can Help You Do More

I haven't posted much here lately. It wasn't because I decided to do less blogging. It's because I forgot a crucial principle for productivity.

I didn't pay attention to my stop doing list. See, for every new activity and goal you choose to pursue, you have to stop doing something else. And if you don't deliberately manage that, it's possible for really important things to accidentally end up with less time and energy. My life got overfilled and something I care about, but has no immediate consequences, spilled out.

In my case, I got a new phone last week. And not just a new phone, but I switched to a new smart phone with a totally different platform. I "had" to spend a lot of time loading apps and setting my greeting and picking a cool background. Where did I get all that extra time? I did less blogging.

Like most people, I don't sit around for hours a day looking for something to do. My days are full of tasks and people and entertainment. So all that phone setup time came from somewhere. Oh, and the week before that I spent my blogging time working on editing the rough draft of my new book.

Every new idea for something to do has to be evaluated not just by how good it is by itself. But you need to think about what you'll have to stop doing in order to make time for this idea.

Do you have dreams and goals for your future, but they never seem to move closer? Want to write a book? Or run a marathon? Or start a company? Maybe your key next step is not to come up with a new idea on moving forward. Maybe what you need to do first is clear up some energy and time by stopping doing something.

What could you do less of in your life to make room for more valuable activities? What could you outright stop?

Here are some of what I stopped doing to make room for actions I value more:

I stopped watching or reading the news. If it's crucial, others will tell me about it. Or I can go look up that particular issue. (Google News Alerts are awesome for this.) Otherwise, 95% of the news is learning about things I can't do anything about.

I stopped watching TV shows live (I only watch them on DVD or via instant streaming). No waiting for commercials or having to sit down at an exact time. I don't even have to finish the show if I'm tired or have other things to do. Watch as much as I want and then pause and come back to it. (Netflix and DVR technology make this option super easy to do and not very expensive.)

I stopped listening to music on the way to work. I have hundreds and hundreds of CDs (and have them all loaded digitally on the cloud, too). But I wanted to read more and discovered audiobooks. So, I made the choice to "read" on the way to and from work instead of listen to music. (Audible.com offers "memberships" that allow you to purchase book credits for $9ish rather than the $20ish listed.)

IMPORTANT--I'm not saying everyone needs to stop these things. Given my particular list of options, they were good choices for me. I don't miss the things I stopped hardly at all. I and certainly love what I'm doing instead. But you don't have to make the same choices I did. You have a different set of dreams and options. I list these examples only because they are assumptions that many people hold on to--you have to do these things.

What "of course I do this" could you stop doing? What would it allow you to start doing?