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.

The menu connection

Recently I visited two restaurants in San Francisco. One was a famous steak house, and the other was a top ranked Sushi Bar.

foodAt the sushi bar, my friends and I ordered a long list of items without any idea of how good they would be. We had come there because my experience said it would be great.

At the steak house, I scanned the menu frustrated because I had to choose.

With technology, our connectedness becomes often fragmented because we can easily choose which conversations to take part in as well as what parts of those conversations to involve our emotions, attention, and investment.

We miss out on the dives and turns a conversation can take when we only limit it to a text, tweet, blog comment or chat room. Facial expressions and subtle references are missed or ignored.

What would it look like if we risked more, allowed ourselves to be more vulnerable and even stuck within the tension of a conversation in real life more than we do through technology?

MIT Professor and author Sherry Turkle would argue that we are slowly isolating ourselves.

One way to combat that isolation is to be around each other more without technology.

Another way is to be with ourselves in solitude without it as well.

Like the sushi dinner, we open ourselves to a dynamic experience. We take the risk of real connection instead of choosing from the menu.

Oh, and the steak dinner I had was ok but predictable. The sushi dinner, in contrast, was thrilling, unexpected and so memorable.

Re-connecting

friendsThere may be two or three. There may be dozens. Stop and take a moment and ask yourself. Who have I lost contact with?

Maybe a good place to start would be another question.
Why did we lose contact in the first place?

Was it a broken promise or a betrayal?

Often it is just a life circumstance like a move or a change in jobs.

The reasons for lost connection is many. The reason to reconnecting is simple. It is just good.
All of us need connection. Throughout history, there has been a pull toward disconnection. War, leaving a community for a better life or even survival, feuds over family disputes or hardships.

It takes intention to re-connect. Look for the opportunity. Or better yet make one.

We didn’t connect

-Harrison Ford
-Pizza
-Video Games
-Wooden Spoons
-Milk
-Patchouli Oil
-Heavy Metal
-Donald Trump
-Motorcycles
-Clowns

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.

Manners to connect

tableCustoms and traditions keep us from offending our hosts.

Table manners ensure our opinions are heard and not quickly discounted.

Common courtesies build trust and respect.

Grammar eases the reader of even bad news.

Conventions allow for agreements even while in conflict or war.

All of these can be understood, taught, studied and even mastered.

In a connected world where little seems uncontrollable, all of these give us a foot up.

Through a window

door-windowMisunderstood? Left confused? Don’t feel like your point was well taken?

Every conversation is complex in nature. We have moods, influences, and circumstances they play a role in our communication. And that is just our side. The other person has a whole set of those from their side. Complications only increase with each addition person involved.

Taking an inventory first of our own helps us approach communications with a better possible outcome. Even then things can go sideways. What do we do then?

One of the hardest things to do is to take responsibility and reassess not only our state of mind (the results often of the above inputs) and try a different method. The other person could be at fault but is easier to make adjustment ourselves and if possible express how they may adjust as well.

It may be easier to walk through the front door but good communication often takes a climbing through the window.

Story and choice

nature-sky-sunset-manWhat kind of story are you living? A question like that can change everything if you are honest. It changed mine.

It was the summer of 2001, and I had taken a break from “valley life”. I was running in between my job as a fisheries biologist on the Oregon coast and the evening hatch on my favorite river. My sister’s house in the mountains for much of my 20’s was a perfect launching spot for many adventures. As a new dad, I knew I needed to get out into the woods to recharge. I had a lot of demands on my life, but at that moment, I had fishing on my mind.

As I went past a coffee table, a book caught my eye. It was normal to see new books scattered about the house. Some often were yet to be published. My brother-in-law was a consultant for the publishing world and received early copies all the time. My niece was sitting there and I she saw the book I had noticed. On the cover was a man jumping between two rocks in what had to be a wilderness landscape. It was the book Wild at Heart by John Eldredge. “That could easily be you, Uncle John,” she said. I stopped for a second without picking it up and though “interesting”. It would be two years later until I read it after my mom gave it to me as a gift. I had already become hooked on Eldredge a year before after reading his book he co-authored with Brent Curtis called Sacred Romance.

Reading Eldredge’s work change my story for good for so many reasons. Most of all I started to live within a larger story, one that had an impact far beyond my trials.

So this May I am looking forward to seeing Eldredge, Dan Allender, Jon Dale and his three sons on the big screen. For one night the film they shot about their latest great adventure will be on big screens across the country.

I had a chance to ask Eldredge a few questions about the new project. You can read those on the Huffington post here.

Story: Power tool

Close FriendsSharing our story can be one of most powerful tools we possess. People reflect on their lives, dreams, struggles and trails when we share our own.

Every story is not for everyone. Many are too fresh to share. We may still be in the middle of one, and while there may be lessons already learned, those lessons need time to ripen into solid narratives.

Other stories are for trench mates, those trusted friends, and allies who know our story thoroughly.

And if our stories are truly our most powerful tools we should treat them with the same care as a craftsman does their finest tools of the trade. We need to sharpen them, know them well and most importantly when to use them or not.

Wait for it

“It Looked Like A Normal Saturday, But Wait Till You See What Happened”
“What Happens When A Duck Finds An Empty Drink Bottle? You Won’t Believe It”
“A Man Loses His Temper In Public. What Happens Next Will Make You Cry”

These are clickbait headlines. Ones I made up.

picnicWe are falling for real ones like this every day online. Why? Because we are curious.

The best stories are not the sites associated with these headlines. The best stories are the ones people will tell us if we ask.

Today I met a young woman who is about to embark on a Parisian adventure for nine weeks this summer. This alone lead me to ask at least a dozen questions. She and her cousin have been saving since they were 7 for the trip. I was left amazed, inspired and curious to know more. And I WILL be following along as her adventure starts.

Most people have learned to keep their heads down, hide, and never trust their story to others. Too many have suffered from doubters or even those who were too busy to listen and care.

That is where we have the power. Our curiosity fuels it. We are meant to connect.

Will you join me? Instead of falling for that next click bait headline lets put down the phone or tablet. Let’s close the laptop and start asking questions.

In the silence

conversation between friendsThe modern world abhors silence. It is something to be filled. But in silence, there is time to think, formulate, and measure. Lately, I have been enjoying podcasts on longer drives. Some of my favorites include interviews. Something I have noticed is that the better more meaningful episodes have guests who pause before answering a question. Often these pauses are long. To our modern ears, they feel foreign.

Did the app die?
Did I lose connection?
How many bars do I have?

That part of us that wants the next thought fast, the quick replies in our conversations, gets terribly uncomfortable. We squirm until the silence ends.

My grandad told me once to think everything over twice before it is said. See how it sounds in your head before anyone else hears it. This practice goes against our fast paced age.

How many things said but later regretted could have been avoided? Could we have better formulated that statement?

Our conversations might take longer, but they will be richer.

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