Category Archives: Goals

Lessons from SpaceTeam!

I’ve never been much of a gamer.  The idea of more computer time at night, after spending an entire work day on a computer has little appeal for me.

Until I saw, or more accurately, heard, SpaceTeam.  My little cousins were gathered in a circle, yelling out commands to each other, swiping their devices, and pushing toward the elusive goal of HYPERSPACE.

Set the Duotronic Capacitor to 2!

They’re all on a malfunctioning spaceship, attempting to escape from a black hole.  The only way they will survive is to work together.

It’s called a collaborative shouting game for phones and tablets.

Commands whiz across each players’ device, but here’s the tricky part:  their fellow players are the only ones who can carry out those commands.  And, there’s a time crunch since the black hole is pulling at the ship the entire time!

Calibrate the Hypersonic Thrusters to 3!

Each player has to see their own commands, yell out those commands for their fellow players to execute, and also be listening to the other players’ commands that they can execute on their device.

Disengage the Warp Transponders!

As I watched them play, I thought the game looked like a fun way to practice reading, and learn about team work…and have some fun.

Then, they asked me to play.

My first thought was, “I’m not much of a gamer.  I probably have something else I should be doing.”  But, when do I get an opportunity to play a game with my cousins (who range in age from 5 to 11 years old)…especially where they’re teaching me how to play.

Remember to remove the slime!

Did I mention the slime?  As the game progresses, minor problems start to impact your device.  The game controls come unhinged and swing on the screen.  Slime oozes across the controls.  The slime can be cleared by swiping it away, but that distracts from reading your commands.  It also distracts from hearing your teammates’ commands and executing them as quickly as possible.

This game is a lot harder than it looks!  Like most things in life, spectating is much easier than playing.

Set the Flux Beam to 2!

Luckily, my team is strong and capable.  While I’m distracted with slime and repairing my control screen, they’re executing commands flawlessly.  I can hear the patience in their voices as they repeat their commands.  A sense of calm hovers over us amidst the yelling of commands.  We just might make it to HYPERSPACE!

Disengage the Tripolimer Conduits!

Do the commands have any rhyme or reason?  Does it really matter?  This is a crisis!  We don’t have time!  Our survival is at stake!

Sci-fi fans will recognize many of the words, but that won’t help you.  Your ability to quiet your mind, focus on your screen, and listen to your teammates will determine your success.  That and your teammates’ ability to do the same thing.

You win as a team and lose as a team.  Sound familiar?

If one player is weaker than the others, it’s up to the team to deal with it by executing what they can as quickly and efficiently as possible.

Deploy the Solar Sail!

Do you work with and trust others to achieve your goals?

Do you find a sense of calm and confidence when relying on your teammates to perform?

Are you dealing with “slime” in your life as you work to achieve your goals?

Are you called upon to deliver results without enough time, even when things are a little chaotic and difficult?

Do you allow yourself to be lifted-up by your team when you fall short of their expectations?

SpaceTeam will give you practice on all of these questions…and it’s lots of fun!

HYPERSPACE!

How’d we do?  I’m pretty sure I was the weak link.  We made it to HYPERSPACE anyway.  It pays to be on a strong team!  We didn’t get to play a second round because the evil Schedule Monster emerged from the shadows to remind us about the event we were attending.

I look forward to playing again!

 

Photo by NASA on Unsplash

 

 

Are You Really Outside Your Comfort Zone?

ComfortZone

In the 80’s, the message was, “Dress for Success.”  Dress at least one level up, make a great impression, get promoted.  The concept focused on impressing the gatekeeper (your boss, or your boss’s boss), moving up, achieving success.  “Upwardly mobile” was a phrase people used to describe themselves.  Inherent in this approach was the thought that your success was dictated by how far up you climbed in one organization.

In the 90’s, the message was, “Be nimble, move fast, deliver quality.”  Tom Peters really came into focus in the 90’s with his thoughts on the “nanosecond” 90’s.  Big companies needed to find ways to “bob and weave,” to adjust to the ever-changing market dynamics.  We all searched for ways to shift paradigms, boost quality, and invent new ways of streamlining processes.

One by-product of this nimble and fast-moving behavior was rapid employee movement.  Corporate downsizing, upsizing, and reorganizations, along with an even faster corporate merger and acquisition pace, made remaining in one organization for a lifetime as remote as winning the lottery.

Dress for Success was out.  Upward mobility was out.  The era of the entrepreneur was upon us (even though it had been with us since the dawn of civilization).  The corporate version, the “intrapreneur,” became a big thing.  This was the person in the meeting who was slightly quirky, a bit edgy and imaginative, and didn’t mind “poking the bear” a bit.  He or she operated with a flair that the corporate mindset both embraced and slightly feared.  This was the person that would help the corporation remain relevant in the face of fast-moving competition, but might upset the apple cart along the way.

Somewhere in the late 90’s or early 2,000’s I started hearing that we should “think outside the box.”  “Think Different” became Apple’s calling card.  It was only that type of thinking that would yield meaningful results.  Anything else was just window dressing, or “lipstick on a pig.”  Look at the top 10 companies in terms of market value (both public and private) and it’s hard to argue with this sentiment.

But, even those “renegade” companies struggle to stay “different” over the long term.  What once seemed new, even revolutionary, becomes the new norm.  Soon, there’s a clamor for the next version, the new invention, the new product, the next “thing.”

What’s the answer to all of this?  Organizations and entrepreneurs try to operate “outside of their comfort zone.”  Yeah!  That’s the ticket.  If we can get everyone pushing outside their comfort zone, maybe that will result in something different, and cajole some new ideas into fruition.

But, the truth is that none of us like it outside our comfort zone.  Most companies and shareholders prefer their comfort zone as well.

We constantly seek our comfort zone, even as we talk about pushing ourselves outside of it.  If we happen to venture out and actually operate for a while in the hinterlands, our deep subconscious goal is to regain our footing, by seeking approval or acceptance of our crazy ideas back in the comfort zone.

We may get used to operating in a new zone and call that our new comfort zone…but, it’s still our (new) comfort zone.  This is one definition of progress.

People have varying perspectives on what’s comfortable.  The free climber is happiest and most “alive” when climbing a 3,000-foot rock face without ropes.  Another person’s comfort zone is speaking in front of a large audience.  Still another person’s idea of comfort is analyzing reams of financial data about the performance of their company.

What is your comfort zone?  When are you the most at ease?

What are you doing to operate outside that zone?

When you find yourself outside your comfort zone, what’s your goal?  To return to the safety of the comfort zone, or to extend your reach to an even more uncomfortable spot?

Look closely and be honest with yourself.  You’re probably spending most of your time inside your comfort zone or trying to find your way back there.

It’s up to you to determine whether this is okay, or not.

 

 

 

 

 

Later…

Later creates room for compromises.

Later lives for tomorrow.

Later keeps lists.

Later allows us to avoid.

Later tells us why we’re preparing.

Later delays forgiveness.

Later is born from hope.

Later connects without really connecting.

Later captures what we imagine.

We often try to create what happens later by our actions today.

Later provides direction.

Later reduces today’s expectations.

Later can hijack the present.

Later is the carrier of our dreams.

Later gains power when it remains vague.

Later simplifies execution.

Later is where many careers will find their stride.

Later is where the craziest ideas go to die.

Later tells us it’s okay to delay.

Later is where big ideas find their future.

Later makes it okay to add complexity.

Later drags us reluctantly forward.

Later makes today easier.

Later makes today harder.

Later isn’t guaranteed.  It can easily turn into never if we allow it.

Later only matters in the present. By the time we get to later, there’s a new later that will once again seem more important than our new present.

There’s more to say on this subject.  I’ll probably get to it later…

There are no self-driving…

Airplanes have auto-pilot.  Cars are getting closer to self-driving.  In fact, I just saw a headline about a police officer pulling over a self-driving Google car (not sure who gets the ticket in that situation).

As Aldous Huxley said in his 1931 book, it’s a brave new world.

Auto-pilot and self-driving systems have one thing in common:  they know where they’re going.  Actually, the systems don’t know.  The operator who is (ostensibly) in control knows the starting point, and the destination.

Real life doesn’t work that way.

There are no self-driving:

Friendships.  We don’t know when a new friendship will start, we surely don’t know where it’s going, and we hope it never ends.  The journey is what makes it so good.  Have you put any of your friendships in self-drive mode?  It’s a conscious decision, even when you act like you didn’t notice.  Here’s the good news.  In most friendships, you can switch out of self-drive mode and restart the journey.  Your only decision is when to flip that switch.

Projects.  We usually know when a project starts, and when it’s supposed to end.  We have plans, resources, and our schedules.  We (should) know what defines success in a project, and what the end result needs to be.  That’s all the ingredients a project needs to switch to auto-pilot.  Right?  Not so fast!  Show me a project that’s out of control, off schedule, costing more than expected, and I’ll show you a project that went on auto-pilot while nobody was looking.

Parenting.  We know when parenting starts, and that’s about it.  Parents understand that every day with their kids is an adventure.  It’s an adventure they hope never ends.  There are days when they’d like to go on auto-pilot, but those are the days when they should be most engaged.

Companies.  It doesn’t matter what size they are, or how long they’ve been around.  If people inside a company start to “mail it in,” stop caring, assume someone else is asking the tough questions, assume someone else is making the hard choices; that’s the beginning of the end.  It may take some time, but the end is baked-in the moment self-drive mode is engaged.  It’s just a question of when, and it’s never pretty when the end arrives.

Marriages.  We certainly know when marriages begin.  Sadly, some marriages have ended, yet the people involved don’t even realize it.  Why?  Self-drive.  One or both have engaged the self-drive button and decided that they’re just along for the ride.  Only together can a married couple steer, accelerate, hit the brakes, seek out new routes, find shortcuts, or just enjoy the scenery.  It takes constant work, endless attention, and unending love to share this most important steering wheel.  There’s no room for self-drive in the front seat of a marriage.

Self-drive may seem easier, but its sole focus is the start and the end.  These are only two points on the journey.

The part in the middle is the real reward.  Engage self-drive and you will miss it.

 

Where are You Aiming?

“If you aim at nothing, you will hit it every time.”  -Zig Ziglar

Ready.  Aim.  Fire.

That’s the standard way to shoot at a target.  How many people actually follow these steps?

How many have you seen following other sequences:

Ready.  Fire.  Aim.

Fire.  Fire.  Fire.

Aim.  Aim.  Aim.  Aim.

Ready…  Ready…  Ready… (now what?)

Ready.  Aim.  Aim.  Aim.  Aim.  Aim.  Fire?  Fire?

Life is a series of choices.  A series of challenges.  A series of what if’s.

It’s impossible to know the true definition of “ready” in a life of endless possibility.  One can spend a lifetime “getting ready” for an outcome that may, or may not, happen.  The truth is, we are never fully ready.

What if getting ready isn’t the first step?  What if pursuing excellence is?

Excellence in whatever we do.  Excellence in the way we look at life.  Excellence in our contribution.  Excellence in the way we treat others.  Excellence in our expectations of ourselves and others.  When excellence is the target, the other steps become clear.

Pursue excellence.  Ready.  Aim.  Fire.  Adjust.  Pursue excellence.  Repeat.

Does excellence mean perfection?  No.  Pursuing perfection is a fool’s errand.  The good news is that by pursuing excellence we get a glimpse of perfection from time to time.

The target isn’t the real reward anyway.  That comes from the pursuit itself.

 

Life is…

As we end one year and prepare to begin another, it’s a great time to reflect.

What have I completed, and what will I begin?

How did I fail, and how will I succeed?

Who did I help, and who will I help?

What is my true mission?

I found this great reminder (as I often do) in a quote from Mother Teresa:

“Life is an opportunity, benefit from it.

Life is beauty, admire it.

Life is a dream, realize it.

Life is a challenge, meet it.

Life is a duty, complete it.

Life is a game, play it.

Life is a promise, fulfill it.

Life is sorrow, overcome it.

Life is a song, sing it.

Life is a struggle, accept it.

Life is a tragedy, confront it.

Life is an adventure, dare it.

Life is luck, make it.

Life is too precious, do not destroy it.

Life is life, fight for it.”

 To this list, I’d add:

Life is a journey, explore it.

Life is failure, learn from it.

Life is service, give it.

Life is a gift, share it.

Life is a celebration, enjoy it!

© 2014 Bob Dailey.  All rights reserved.

What would you do if you weren’t afraid?

“…let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is…fear itself — nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.” –Franklin Delano Roosevelt (first inauguration address, 1933)

Fear can motivate. Fear can paralyze. It can save your life. Unfortunately, it can also control your life.

Here’s a list of fears to consider:

  • Failure
  • Embarrassment
  • Public Speaking
  • Death (I’m pretty sure a lot of people fear the first three more than death)
  • Not Being Accepted
  • Commitment
  • Flying
  • Disappointment
  • Success
  • Fame
  • Responsibility
  • the Unknown
  • the Dark
  • New Experiences
  • Being Blamed
  • Heights
  • Snakes
  • Spiders
  • Sharks
  • Geese
  • Open Spaces
  • Anywhere but Home
  • Confined Spaces

I know people who have each of these fears. I have some of them, and I’m sure you have some as well.

Fear is generated in our Lizard Brain . That primitive part of our brain that keeps us alive while we’re thinking about other stuff. Our Lizard Brain means well, and only has our best interest in mind. It’s the center of our survival instinct. It will do anything it can to help us avoid the things we fear. Unfortunately, it’s part of our brain that we barely control.

One way to gain control of our fear is to discover, and admit, that it exists. That, and admitting our fears impact the things we choose to do (or not do). It may help to discuss your fears with someone you trust, or to contemplate them on your own. Either way, understanding your fears is the first step toward controlling them.

Consider a ten-year-old, standing in right field. He knows that he’s in that position because he’s the worst player on the team. Fly balls rarely make it to right field in little league games, so he’s safe out there. What happens when the ball flies into right field? What’s the first thing on that ten-year-old’s mind? Probably something like, “Please don’t let me screw this up and drop the ball.” His first thought comes from a place of fear. Did he catch the ball? Did he make the right play once he had the ball? Maybe, but doubtful.

Imagine the same player who knows he’s in right field because he’s the only player who can make the throw all the way to third base. He has a gun for an arm, and he may be the best player on the team. What’s he thinking when the ball flies into right field? “I can’t wait to get that ball so I can make the play.   We are going to stop this rally and win the game!” Fear isn’t part of the equation. Did he catch the ball? Did he make the right play? Probably.

Fear creates completely different experiences for these ten-year-olds. The secret is that this applies at all ages, in nearly everything we do.

How many of your goals are “off limits” because you’re afraid? How many potential goals are eliminated by fear (your Lizard Brain), before you even know about them?

How often is fear your first response? How often do you talk yourself out of something that’s outside your comfort zone? It’s easy to do…avoiding fear is a powerful motivation.

Start small. Choose one thing that scares you and go after it. Embrace the negative energy of fear and turn retreat into advance. Each time you do this, your list of fears will shrink.

What would you do if you weren’t afraid?

Do it today!

 

 

Your Life’s Mission

I don’t remember the exact year, but it was probably around 2003. My boss invited a couple of us to attend a leadership meeting that he attended monthly. Each meeting had a keynote speaker, and he thought we’d like to hear the talk.

The speaker’s topic was how our life’s mission impacts our leadership style, and ultimately what we’ll drive ourselves to accomplish professionally. He made a compelling case, and then asked each of us to state what our life’s mission was…on the spot.

I hadn’t given it much thought. I was pretty focused on the day-to-day challenges of making a living, trying to save money for our daughters’ college education, trying to find time to run and exercise, maybe finally furnish a couple of the empty rooms in our house.

Luckily I was toward the end of the line, so I got to listen to everyone else’s. There were lots of lofty and admirable missions mentioned. Most were brief. A couple of the missions took some time to explain.

A mission is a promise to yourself. A mission is a set of principles that guide your actions. We may not always fulfill our mission, but it’s always there, pointing the way.

As each person stated their missions, I faced the reality that I didn’t really have one.

My good friend and co-worker went just before me, and he said that his life’s mission could be summed up in two words. He smiled and said, “Have fun!” An awkward silence came over the group. They were probably wondering if this guy was serious, or was he just mocking the exercise.

The awkwardly silent room’s attention shifted to me.

I said something about creating opportunities for personal growth, challenging myself to push past my limits (whatever that meant), and I summed it up with, “Have fun.” Given the fact that I didn’t have a life’s mission when I arrived, it was a decent start.

Definitely not my final answer.

Over the years since that day, I’ve had this question about my life’s mission rolling around in my head. Now that I’m about halfway through life (that is, if I’m lucky enough to live until I’m 94), I think I’ve finally figured it out. I can sum it up with nine words:

Serve God.

Bring joy.

Help others.

Explore.

Have fun!

The room is looking at you now.  What’s your life’s mission?

The Truth about Ownership

“When everybody owns something, nobody owns it, and nobody has a direct interest in maintaining or improving its condition. That is why buildings in the Soviet Union—like public housing in the United States—look decrepit within a year or two of their construction…” Milton Friedman

Dr. Friedman won the Nobel Prize for Economic Science in 1976, and died in 2006 at the age of 94.

I could make this post all about his defense of capitalism, his arguments against socialism, the benefits of reducing government’s role in our lives, and a whole host of ideas that he defended throughout his career.

Instead, my focus is on ownership and how Dr. Friedman’s quote applies to leadership in a business setting.

Look around your workplace. Look at the teams. The committees. The ad hoc groups that come together to solve a problem.

Who owns the outcomes of these teams, committees, and ad hoc groups? Is everyone aligned around the same goals? Does everyone own the outcome, or no one?

Ownership is the key to success. Owners are always more dedicated to the outcome than non-owners. If this is true, wouldn’t more owners be better? As Dr. Friedman points out, when everyone owns something, nobody owns it.

True leaders step up and take ownership. Leaders then unite others around the important goals. Followers, in turn, own their support of the goals and their valued place in that effort.

Show me a team with multiple owners (which is really no owners), and I’ll show you a leaderless team that’s doomed to mediocrity and failure.

Mountains, Elephants, and Steps (they have more in common than you’d think)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI recently read an interview with James Doti, president of Chapman University. He’s a runner, triathlete, and mountain climber…in addition to his day job.

He mentioned a discussion he had with his mountain guide at the beginning of a big climb (I think it was Kilimanjaro) that went something like this:

Doti: That mountain is going to be tough!

Mountain Guide: Don’t worry about the mountain. Worry about the next turn.

Excellent advice. It made me think of two more quotes:

How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.

 

The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step…and then another.

The sentiments in each of these quotes is the same. Every journey, every project, every career path, every big achievement, and every lifetime are made up of small and seemingly insignificant steps along the way.

I haven’t climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro (yet), but I’ve climbed Mt. Whitney twice. There’s a famous section of that climb called The 99 Switchbacks. It begins at about 12,000 feet. Each turn gets you one step closer to the summit.  After 99 turns, you reach the Trail Crest at about 13,600 feet.

Then the mountain plays a dirty trick and descends down the back side about 800-1,000 feet before turning back up toward the summit at 14,500 feet. That small descent may sound trivial. It’s not! At that altitude, and after making it through the switchbacks, descending on the way to the summit is quite a mind bender. The only response to the mountain’s challenge is to take the next step, and the one after that.    

Funny thing about the triumphant photo at the top of the mountain (or graduation, retirement, etc.) is that it doesn’t show all the small steps that made the photo possible. Those are for the climber (or graduate, or retiree) to remember and appreciate.

The small steps represent our decision to start. To continue. To change direction, or ask for help. To persevere. To achieve.

 

Photo:  Our crew on the summit of Mt. Whitney, 2009 (time flies!).  I’m the guy on the far right, trying to catch his breath.  I never would have reached the summit without help from everyone in that picture.