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Who are you?

rocksThe security line was not that long considering it was the regular commuting time. Travel for me is easy having in the past four years flown dozens of times. This time, I had my 15-year-old son in tow for an international trip. All the details of getting us both to our destination had my head spinning. Passports? Check. Tickets? Check. Was this the right day we were traveling? Check. It is funny all the things that were running through my head.

There was one detail that had slipped my attention. And it was the most important one of all.

Several years ago my friend started a tradition. We had experienced something remarkable together. To signify that moment he had taken a rock from a high mountain top from where we had climbed together and at a critical time handed it to me and said, “don’t forget who you are.” At crucial times he has continued to return to that same spot, finding more of those rocks. He gives them to me right at the moments I need to remember. About a month ago he handed me another one as I was about to speak to a large group of men. The topic was all about identity, knowing who they truly are.

As my son and I neared the body scanner, the TSA agent asked me if I had anything in my pockets. Checking my pockets was instinctual. “Of course, I don’t have anything in my pockets,” I thought. But teaching my son always to check I patted my pockets down and instructed him to as well. In my side pocket was something about the size of a walnut. What in the world could it be? Reaching into my pocket, I pulled out the rock my friend had given me. I had not worn these pants since that day. The agent, seeing the rock said “that’s ok, just hold it in your hand as you are scanned.” So there I was in the body scanner holding my rock high above my head, remebering of who I was.

None of the other details mattered now. And what my son needed most from me was for me to be myself. He needed me to be present and attentive. He needed me to be his dad.

The worst memory

climbConnection means we will continually put ourselves at risk. Time and time again we will have to reach out, extend, take a chance at rejection.

I’ve always been fascinated with world class climbers. Recently I watched the film about Jimi Chin, Conrad Anker, Renan Ozturk’s climb of the Meru a legendary peak in the Himalayas. The film is way more than a climbing documentary. It is about mentor ship, marriage, loss, and endurance. What struck me most about the story is the relationships.

At one point Chin quotes a climber saying “the best alpinists are the ones with the worst memory. Alpine climbing is a brutal but rewarding sport. The stakes are so hi. I think in the quote “alpinists” could be replaced with friends, lovers, and relatives. Yes, we all get hurt. Along the path of connection, much of it comes with both pain and joy.

My question (and I pose this to myself as well) is not what you will do with the loss or pain but will you risk it all again? We will face trials. But best of all, no matter our age, we will continue to have the chance to connect with amazing people who will forever change our lives. And we will change theirs.

Her time

motherOne of my favorite memories growing up are trips my mom, and I would take to the Oregon coast together. A member of our family owned an old forties era bungalow cabin heated by a wood stove that looked out on the breaking waves in one of the most beautiful sections of beach in the world. The one ingredient that set it apart was mom’s time. I am her youngest child out of five, so having her attention and time was often rare with many siblings to manage, love and herd.

We would spend hours playing Uno or talking. It is these stolen moments with my kids that I enjoy the most as well. Sometimes it takes a period of silence for them to open up but the extra time investment is so worth the wait to hear about their teen struggles and life dreams.

One of the most important parts of our connectedness as humans is one to one time.
I think it is probably the most disrupted one as well. Busy schedules unintentionally force us to make group meetings over the individual time. We become economic instead of intentional in our parenting, leadership, and friendships. Technology acts as a surrogate but a horrible substitute. A text message exchange can never replace looking another person in the eye.

In business, these meetings are where most of the growth happens not just for the employee but also the leader. People share more, open up and ask for help and guidance.

This mother’s day I am thankful for my mother. She still naturally seeks out that time with her children. And she does not stop with us. I see her reaching out to those around her the same way. She is a great example to follow. Thanks, mom.

Night owls and dawn breakers

clockHere is a quick assignment:

Make a list of your closest friends, family and co-workers.

Next to their name write “night owl” or “dawn breaker”(crazy folks like me you rise way too early)

If you can’t think of which they are, ask.

Now start thinking how you can best connect with them around this discovery.

I bet it will make thing easier. You may need to adjust your own schedule, but they will be much more responsive when you respect their preferred daily routine.

Ned and Nancy

Dog with coneA nuclear Ned or Negative Nancy steps into a conversation. “Wait until the teen years” to a parent soaking up the joys of young parenting. “I failed three times” to the entrepreneur who just secured their first angel investment. Worse is the know it all who has to have the last word with the new mom, college grad, freshman, private, new-recruit. Let’s be honest. At best it is not helpful. At worst it is bullying.

Life is hard enough. If you have done this, stop. If you have received it, I am sorry. The truth is no one knows each other’s experiences. No one has been in your shoes.

If we do have something to share, make it wisdom and if that only after a pause. Ask a few questions first: Do they need it? Am I not over something (failed marriage, parental regret, bad business decision, betrayal)?

Most of all be a noticer. On the receiving side, be careful who you hears the details.

Last (but this can be the most important) be ready to forgive.

A question and thanks

Happy Sunday. First thanks so much for reading this post. If you have not noticed, I have been posting daily since February 12th this year. So, if you have been occasionally stopping by or reading daily, I deeply thank you. It means a lot to me.

I plan to continue writing about connection, communicating better and leading with the occasional post on art and creativity. So with those topics in mind, I am opening up the comments here today.

Here is my ask. What topics on these subjects would you like to hear more on? What questions or discoveries do you have? I want to hear them.

Thanks in advance. And thanks again for reading.

Over do it: communication

talkingStop emailing me. Stop calling me. Stop talking.

I would rather hear these from staff, co-leaders, my kids, spouse, friend, and strangers.

Instead, we often hear; I didn’t understand, I heard you wrong, you were not clear, I did not know.

You see, people can filter, schedule, turn off, sign off and ignore.

We think everyone is listening but really few are.

So to really lead, to really change we have to often over-communicate. State things clearly. Sometimes this takes multiple tries, multiple ways. Send a simple “got it” to an email. “Sure” go a long way to say “I hear you and I have it covered”.

Did that make sense?

See what I did there? 😉

Going first: Review of Udemy Leadership Course by Seth Godin

deskLeadership for me has become an exercise in connection.

In my experience, I have only learned to lead as much as I am willing to go first in the harder things in life.

Usually, that means that I will be breaking things first, failing first and sometimes stumbling on what works.

Not many people are willing to go first. I sure wasn’t for probably the first 30 years of my life. Instead, I chose to let others break the ice. That also meant that not much happened for me. I now realize that I was over and over again settling for second best. I had settled for whatever was left in the wake of those who decided to stick their necks out and try something. I was risk averse.

Along the way I learned to step out more. Every time I have, something remarkable has happened. I meet incredible people, nothing stays the same and many opportunities are presented. So in a way, I have become addicted to it.

In this pursuit, I have found many good resources along the way. Probably one the most valuable ones in recent years is the online leadership course I just completed from Seth Godin on Udemy. You can read my assignment journal entries (most of them) here as blog posts. Check it out. For those with a busy schedule it really only costs an hour for each session. The challenges and insights you will gain from are valuable though.

The failed connection

Travel arrangements made, accomodations booked and connections with people planned. Well, most were. There was one last one, an important one. That one had said no.

Why did this single hiccup in our trip matter? An award was be given to us. Two even. We were meeting with some incredible new people and some old friends. It was a great trip even before we left.

This one “no” felt like THE failure, and I could not stop thinking about it. It bothered me for weeks. Why? At the time, I could not objectively understand the why.
Now I see the why. I was taking myself too seriously, hanging my leadership (and my worth) on one detail. That detail was a failure. The dreaded gatekeeper had locked the door, so to speak, and I could not see past it.

Failing should be (I have realized now) built into the plan from the start. Most of all failure can’t be about me.

Getting stuck doesn’t help anyone. Getting stuck blinds us to moving on.

In the end, the trip was great. In the end, it didn’t matter at all.

Over the next month or so some of my daily posts (including this one) will be assignments from a leadership class I am taking from Seth Godin.

We didn’t connect

-Harrison Ford
-Video Games
-Wooden Spoons
-Patchouli Oil
-Heavy Metal
-Donald Trump

man-person-red-whiteThese are ten things that either people love, hate, or at worst don’t care about.
Each has a tribe of people that are crazy about them too.
And that is ok. Better than ok it is great.

It is the same with connections. Not everyone will become close friends, allies, business partners or a customer.
And that is ok too.

We lead when we don’t worry about who as much as the act of connecting in the first place.

We lead when we risk reaching out a hand and greeting someone new, attend an event where no one is familiar, or we stand up and say “I will” when someone asks “who will?’

And back to the list. It doesn’t matter that some will reject you. In fact, you hope some will. If they don’t, you end up trying to please someone who will eventually realize their list of ten things is way more interesting than yours.

Over the next month or so some of my daily posts (including this one) will be assignments from a leadership class I am taking from Seth Godin.

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