Decision paralysis and the donkey

A donkey that’s hungry and thirsty stands at equal distance from hay a few feet to its left, and water to its right. Not being able to decide whether to eat or drink first, the donkey dies of hunger and thirst.

Death by indecision is an extreme analogy. But a reminder that you can have both when you see the bigger picture and plan properly. So many of us are fortunate enough to live in a world of “and” not “or”. Think it through but then commit to taking action. Don’t be an ass.

How to apply what you learn

When you consume a lot and are in learning mode, whether via mentors, books, lectures, seminars, or podcasts, there are better and worse ways to internalize what you learned.

One thing that helps me turn a chunk of new knowledge into something immediate and actionable is to ask these two questions: Based on what I just learned…

  1. What will I commit to start or stop doing?
  2. What perspective have I gained that converts to valuable advice?

The illusion of control

The “close door” button on elevators isn’t connected to anything. Pushing it does absolutely nothing.

We often believe we have control over circumstances that we don’t. This can work against you. We might blame ourselves for outcomes which were never under our control. That’s just as true for the outcome of a product launch, the stock market, to how our children turn out. Of course you influence these things. But there are far more variables that lead to the outcome for you to assume full responsibility.

Next time you’re placing blame on yourself because of an unwanted outcome, try to look for the (many) other factors that have contributed to it.

The other communication skill

The U.S. education system teaches three kinds of communication: speaking (think grammar and presentation skills), reading and writing.

There is a fourth communication category that’s hugely important: listening. Chances are, if you have knowledge of active listening, empathetic listening, “I” statements, and other related skills, you learned them outside of academics.

You can make big communication skill leaps by learning and applying good listening skills. My goal isn’t to teach you listening skills in a few sentences, but to urge you to think of them as every bit as important and technical as delivering a speech or interpreting the written word.

10x greater

Growth can be either linear or exponential.  What happens when we set our sights on10x rather than a 10% sales increase?

For one thing, you will imagine possibilities that you never would otherwise.  To grow sales you might think of hiring a salesperson or adding a new campaign or promo.  To multiply sales you might think of partnering with or even acquiring a competitor.

Whether you reach the goal or not, you’re thinking anyway, so you may as well think big.  After all, the one driven to be the world’s first trillionaire may never hit that number, but is virtually guaranteed to make an enormous amount of money.

Remaining who you are

A man sees a snake that’s headed into a firepit. He picks it up trying to save it and it bites him. When the snake then actually enters the fire, the man again tries to save it and is again bitten.

His friend asks why he would risk this a second time when it was obvious what would happen. He replied: “The snake was just being a snake, and doing what was in its nature. I was also being myself, and doing what was in my nature. I won’t let outside forces change who I am.”

We don’t have to put ourselves in danger to be true to our nature, but this is a good reminder that even if we’re victims of harmful gossip, manipulation, or someone else’s uncontrolled anger, doesn’t mean we have to employ those tactics. Others’ “bad” shouldn’t change your “good.”

Who’s in control?

A psychologist in the 1950s coined the term “locus of control”, which identifies the difference (internal or external locus) in whether we perceive to be in control of our lives, or outside forces are controlling us.

We can change our own perception to notice how much of our lives we are able to architect, despite (or even because of) external forces out of our control.

Not surprisingly, those with an internal locus of control are consistently happier, less stressed, more productive, and more fulfilled than those who believe that they are victims to outside forces.

You first

Not only is putting yourself first healthy, it’s the only way to remain resilient enough to be of service to others.

For those in a rough place who feel guilty about putting themselves first in terms of  emotional well-being, financial situation, or energy, ask yourself this: would you wish on someone you love that they live life feeling exactly how you do?

Always do your best

Always do your best. Simple to the point of being trivial. This is the fourth of the “Four Agreements.” When I conduct a keynote session, I ask the audience to raise their hands as high as they can. Then I ask them to raise them even higher. You can probably guess what happens – magically they do raise them higher. Hmmmmm.

It takers a just a moment of thought to assess our own effort level. Did you really do your best with that project, that conversation, that partnership, that work product?

Effort and progress over perfection. Do your best. You are more powerful than you know.

Dependability

Dependability is a high-ranking “soft skill” that employers, colleagues and customers desire.

When it comes to your career, there are many worthwhile investments you can make to sharpen the saw of your particular expertise. On top of this, try to cultivate a reputation for being dependable. People want to know that they can count on you, and that your word is reliable.

Don’t make the mistake of thinking that so-called soft skills are not trainable. All of them are. For this particular skill, all you have to do is make sure you always do what you say.