What’s in the Way is the Way

Growth mindset Resilience Respect

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Key Point: The great Stoic, Marcus Aurelius, wrote: “The mind adapts and converts to its own purposes the obstacle to our acting. The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way.”

The ability to overcome obstacles to our progress is a vital part of our growth and development. Dr. Peter Jensen, Canada’s great sports psychologist, tells an engaging story of a highly touted Canadian speed skater who failed miserably in her first Olympic Games. Peter was talking to this skater’s coach after the unexpectedly poor performance. At the same time, the skater was alone off in the corner, spinning on a stationary bike as part of her post race recovery and quietly sobbing in deep disappointment. A young sports psychologist working with the skater was going over to console her, but was deftly intercepted by the wise coach who asked the well-intended psychologist: “Why would you rob her of this moment?” The skater was then thoughtfully left in her own “white space” to fully absorb the entire experience of what happened. There was plenty of time for coaching/counseling intervention later. Of course the beautiful lesson in this story is that the best thing that can happen from our failures is to take the time to embrace the struggle, a critical component of self-awareness and understanding of what got in the way… Surely, as the ancients have advised, “that is the way.”

Dr. Jensen points out that success and winning comes from climbing the confidence/competence staircase. You add competence and it builds a little more confidence. When you get more confident, you put yourself out there and build a little more competence, and so it goes. And you need the struggles and disappointments as experienced by the speed skater noted above. Those moments create energy to go forward and if you think about it that way, it is about having a continuous growth mindset. (And by the way that skater went on to remarkable performances, including future Olympic gold medals).

Finding a way also requires the ability to imagine. Imagery is a language that the body, mind and spirit understand. Our bodies do not distinguish between what’s imagined or real. Imagery, whether we realize it or not, proceeds everything we do. Positive images support success, while negative images undermine. And powerful imagery is more than visual. Ideally, it involves creating a very specific and vivid picture of what’s possible, engaging ALL the senses. This mental image translates to the body and mind, pumping out positive emotion that leads the way with positive energy most often resulting in improved performance.

Character Moves:

1. Embrace challenges, obstacles, blockages and failure as part of what we need to find the way. Coaches can help us, however we most often advance more successfully when we struggle and take the lead in finding our own way. That energy of disappointment when channeled to progress becomes a tailwind to achieving a higher level. Do not rob yourself of the moments that ultimately shine a light on the path forward.

2. Learn the power of imagery. Is there anywhere in your work/life where imagery could play a bigger role in enhancing performance? If so, mentally practice using imagery. Become more aware of your own imagery and increase the vividness by developing all the senses. The greatest athletes in the world put imagery to work… Why not you?

Picture the way in the Triangle,

Lorne

One Millennial View: When I first read about the coach interfering with the psychologist, asking, “Why would you rob her of this moment?” Part of me wanted to use my “imagery” to punch that coach in the face. “Uh, what moment? Her total misery? Cause she’s upset, you jerk… Why make her dwell on it?” As I read on, I now understand the importance. I happen to be an immediate fixer… The faster things can be fine, the better. But, sometimes when you don’t have that “psychologist,” or “simple fix it,” there are those moments where you devise your own plan of change/action/future success, and once that’s accomplished there’s no better feeling. So I guess, why you want to rob yourself of that personal achievement? Let’s just hope it doesn’t always take until the next darn Olympics!!

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis

Freedom of Forgiveness

Abundance Personal leadership Resilience

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Key Point: I read Laura Hillenbrand’s bestseller Unbroken just after the hardcover was released and was mesmerized by the real-life tale of Olympic runner Louis Zamperini. The account of his horrendous experience as a U.S. airman and prisoner of war during World War II was a jaw-dropping read. Over the holidays, the story was released as Angelina Jolie’s movie of the same name, and Zamperini (played by Jack O’Connell) displays acts of astonishing resilience that keeps him alive in the face of the savagery of man’s most feared adversity… Other men. (Although, sharks do compete for air time). It’s an incredibly inspirational story.

What’s most unique about the Zamperini story is a theme not often found in similar stories: Forgiveness. For those of you who have not read the book or seen the movie, I won’t give away spoilers so you might fully enjoy reading or watching the journey to forgiveness unfold. 

According to a blog in Big Think by Robert Montenegro, A new short film directed by Oscar-winner Ross Kauffman and released by the John Templeton foundation delves into how forgiving his past oppressors helped save Zamperini’s life. Unbroken: The Power of Forgiveness features interviews with several of Zamperini’s family members who muse on the late vet’s post-war rebirth. The film strives to convey the power and strength afforded to those who forgive their enemies. The following image shows up at the end of the 6-minute film.” 

What I find remarkable is that some people like Zamperini find their way to look beyond the most atrocious barbarism and understand that being forgiving and generous of spirit, truly sets one free. And I find the opposite amazing as well; some people carry around grudges and all the associated burden, even for the most comparatively trivial reasons. 

This “I’ll get you back” thinking is naturally resident in the workplace and is such a waste for all involved. Unlike what Zamperini experienced, most people do not willfully intend to hurt others in every day situations. Still, we do so for all kinds of reasons, because we are so ridiculously human and incapable of perfectly navigating a relationship with ourselves AND others. 

Character Moves: 

  1. Recognize that forgiveness of others is something you and I are most deserving and worthy of. Carrying around and/or acting on revenge, while dramatically appealing in many award winning TV shows like House of Cards, Suits, Sons of Anarchy, etc, is just that… TV… It’s fake. In real life, it’s relentlessly painful and a source of chronic grief. It is not a gratifying release at all. Awards are not given out for hateful revenge in real life. Tons of research (notwithstanding centuries of spiritual wisdom) bears this out. Forgiveness may not garner “awards” either, but it quietly helps us feel better.
  1. Empathy involves recognizing that the hurtful acts of others often come from their own complicated shortcomings. This is not to say that such behavior is right or just. Of course it’s not. I’m also not suggesting that we accept abuse. And I know that inflicted hurt is a long and complex continuum. Ideally, we can avoid being around those that repeatedly cause us pain. But why add to it by rubbing salt into our own wounds? Forgive… Heal. If Zamperini could, well maybe we can too? 

Forgiveness in The Triangle, 

Lorne

One Millennial View: So Zamperini can forgive the atrocities committed against him as a prisoner of war in WWII, but you can’t even look at “Cheryl in accounting” because she beat you out for that promotion? See. Petty, right? I like putting these issues in perspective, because I think as a millennial, 99 percent of us can’t even fathom Zamperini’s experience. But it seems we have developed a new, evolved rule regarding “forgiveness.” Since very very few things are “Zamperini Bad” anymore,  it’s just unappealling to be “that person” that won’t let something go, or won’t forgive. These people are the dwellers, the self-righteous victims, and the person unable to recognize a different solution or path to success… That attitude looks ugly on everyone. (I’m clearly talking about when someone steals your stapler or writes you a “harsh toned email,” not serious/criminal situations). Your path for personal success is out there, but unlike your newly leased car, it doesn’t necessarily have a colorful touchscreen GPS display to help you find it. That’s ok. But revenge can drive you in the wrong direction. 

– Garrett Rubis

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis

Your Call! Super Bowl XLIX and Leadership

Accountability Resilience Teamwork

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Key Point: Perhaps the most painful leadership lesson is this: When your team doesn’t win, when mistakes are made, when you make a call and it doesn’t turn out, there is only one person to accept responsibility for the outcome… YOU. I’m not talking about wasteful self-blame and flagellation. I’m talking about authentically, and thoughtfully accepting responsibility for a bad outcome.

If you were one of several hundred million people watching a phenomenal Super Bowl classic this past Sunday, Feb. 1, you witnessed the Seattle Seahawks throwing an interception in the New England Patriots‘ end zone, with less than a minute remaining in the game. Seattle seemed poised to win. They had the field position, players to get the ball in the end zone, and a plan to do so. But they didn’t execute. Credit must also go to Patriot Malcolm Butler who made the great interception.

Accountability has to be taken for a questionable play call and poor execution by the Seahawks. And the leadership lesson is this: However frustrated and heart broken Seattle was, Head Coach Pete Carroll did what he must do… Take full responsibility for the outcome. Yes, players play the game and coaches are not on the field to execute. Yet, it’s the coaches, ending with the head coach, that set the game plan and call most plays; as they did on this occasion.

Listen to Carroll’s explanation here:

He could have said things like, “we executed poorly, the offensive coordinator called that play, the quarterback should have called time out or should have thrown the ball where it couldn’t have been intercepted,”or a bunch of other things to deflect. He didn’t. He shouldn’t. Great leaders simply, “own it.”

Character Moves:

  1. When your team succeeds, let them bask in the limelight. The focus should be on them.
  1. When things go wrong, have the integrity and courage to take full authentic (not phony) accountability.
  1. Remember those moments of failure, especially when accompanied by feelings of despair, often become pinpoints of remarkable learning. Our response to loss defines our ability to persevere, improve, grow, and regenerate. Pete Carroll was fired twice early in his career. That learning led him to championship wins in both the college and pro levels. This will likely be a time to reset and gain even more personal leadership learning. 
  1. Losing also helps us reconnect with humility. We need to be confident. And yet, when we’re winning, we need to be humble enough to know that a loss is one poor decision, or someone else’s “great play” away from our failure. Stay humble. Take calculated risks. But never assume it’s always going to be a win. 
  1. Remind ourselves that one way to know we are fully alive is to passionately “play the game.” This includes sometimes taking a chance or making a decision that ends badly. The only thing horribly worse is standing on the sideline wishing and watching.

Owning the call in The Triangle,

Lorne

One Millennial View: Yeah, this one hurt. A lot. As a Seahawk’s fan, along with millions of other 12’s, everyone seemed to have the answer as to how NOT to mess this game up. Twitter exploded, begging time to be reversed and for the team to simply “run the ball.” Carroll’s explanation is as honest and blunt as they come. He’s spot on, as if saying, “well! Sometime’s $#*t happens.” Even with the best of intentions, things can turn into a nightmare situation in less than five seconds. Most true Seahawk fans on social media that I’ve seen, despite their frustration, understand this… Just as fans wish Malcolm Butler didn’t make that phenomenal catch (interception) to win the game, it’s our job as Hawk fans not to get too caught up on the defeat. They’ll be back.

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis

Do You DWOP?

Accountability Courage Resilience

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Key Point: Having an aspirational dream is sometimes more powerful than thinking about conquering someone or something. And stepping back, recharging while focusing on a strategic approach is often more productive than just charging ahead, hoping for the best. 

You may have heard or read about the recent remarkable feat of climbers Kevin Jorgeson and Tommy Caldwell. The two finished a 19-day, 3,000-foot (915-meter) ascent of the Dawn Wall on El Capitan in California’s Yosemite National Park. Many experts consider this to be the toughest free climb ever completed. Free climbing means that Caldwell and Jorgeson only used their hands and feet to ascend, and applied ropes only for protection from falling. (See pictures of their adventure up the Dawn Wall on El Capitan… Yikes). The climb included 32 pitches in total, and seven of these pitches (about the length of a climbing rope, or 60-70 meters) were rated 5.14 difficulty (on a scale from 5.5 to 5.15). A single 5.14 climb is a once in a lifetime accomplishment for the most expert climbers, and completing seven such pitches in a single push up a route makes the feat a legendary story.

Jorgeson posted during the climb: “This is not an effort to conquer. It’s about realizing a dream.” Once Jorgeson and Caldwell had set the dream of free climbing the Dawn Wall, they began to prepare. They scouted the routes. They practiced the different pitches repeatedly. They trained to build the strength and endurance needed. Planning that dream took SEVEN years of comprehensive training with every detail in mind.

Achieving a dream is usually a test of perseverance even with the best intent, focus and preparation. Despite all the “blueprints” pre-drawn for the ascent, Jorgeson really struggled to complete pitch 15. This was a section of rock where he had to climb laterally between two vertical pitches. He failed 10 times before completing it. It took him seven days. This didn’t involve returning to The Four Seasons for a pillowy rest every night. Caldwell and Jorgeson were sleeping in tents attached to the wall hundreds of meters off the ground. Jorgeson’s determination to overcome this challenge is truly inspirational. 

Character Moves:

  1. What are your dreams? It is ok to take the time to clarify and be intentional. Sometimes it’s very specific, like climbing the most daunting rock face in the world. Other times, it is driven more by purpose or a life defined by making a contribution to others. Dreams can be modest or huge. Most importantly, your dream is exclusively yours! 
  2. For most of us the road to achieving our dreams involves what often appears to be insurmountable challenges. Yet, I’ve come to appreciate that it’s these challenges that really define us. Rather than just whipping and exhorting ourselves to try harder, remember that the best approach may be to step back, rest, recover, regenerate and respond to the challenge strategically. Often people choose to react or avoid, and it’s amazing how avoidance, inertia and fear based paralysis can turn into weeks, months and years. 
  3. While inertia is useless, it is interesting to note that the two climbers were putting as much attention and focus into their recovery and regeneration as they were into their climbing. Do the same. This is a lesson I would have liked to have learned earlier in my life. Take the time to rest, regenerate and THINK through a plan. So, now do you know what a DWOP is? It’s a “Dream Without a Plan.”

Climbing with a plan in The Triangle,

Lorne 

One Millennial View: It’s sometimes annoying to wrap your mind around the idea that you can’t be “comfortable,” and you need to remain challenged, chasing, growing, “climbing.” Your inner monologue may say, “dude, shut up, I am comfortable, let me be for right now, I’ll figure it out.” Well… When? It sucks, but it’s true, no one is going to do it for you, and tomorrow isn’t going to be “magic.” You have a dream? Perfect. Good. Get it! But it’s nothing without a plan to achieve it. (I’ll be the first to admit my night can consist of pursuing nothing but what’s streaming on Netflix… But! Seriously, we’re burning daylight and if we made a point to take our plans just one step further, scrolling through the movie menu will feel that much more justified).

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis

Picking Yourself Up After the Trip

Accountability Growth mindset Resilience

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Key Point: You only trip when you’re moving. I’ve had some great success as a leader. I’ve also failed in small and BIG ways. That’s the plain truth. I’ve learned so much from both. And I am so much more complete as a human being as a result. Am I “perfect?” Hardly and never… But I get better in iterative ways all the time.

Yesterday, I gave a presentation on behalf of a leader I really care about, and I wanted to add so much value to his offsite leadership event. Problem was, I was off my game. I couldn’t seem to achieve a meaningful connection with the audience even though I pride myself in doing that more often than not. The other week, I presented a plan to my boss and he threw up over most of it. I didn’t listen well enough to what he wanted. In between these events I’ve had some nice wins. The goal is to deposit more value than the deficit attached to doing things that diminish it. But trust me, if you’re moving, trying things and have a point of view, you are going to fail; it’s only a matter of when and how big. Don’t believe the pristine press of the perfect “golden child.” Those stories are often made up. The reason we love real and objective biographies is that we see authenticity, humanness and embrace the value or devalue related to the subject. We learn… We relate. 

So what happens when we trip? How do we best respond? To give us some researched guidance, please note the following from a recent HBR blog by Mitchell Lee Marks, Philip Mirvis and Ron Ashkenas:

“We’ve interviewed hundreds of executives who have been fired, laid off, or passed over for promotion (as a result of mergers, restructuring, competition for top jobs, or personal failings). Often, we find them working through the classic stages of loss defined by psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross: They start with shock and denial about the events and move on to anger at the company or the boss, bargaining over their fate, and then a protracted period of licking their wounds and asking themselves whether they can ever regain the respect of their peers and team. Many of them never make it to the “acceptance” stage.

That’s partly because, as social psychologists have found in decades’ worth of studies, high achievers usually take too much credit for their successes and assign too much external blame for their failures. It’s a type of attribution bias that protects self-esteem but also prevents learning and growth. People focus on situational factors or company politics instead of examining their own role in the problem.

Some ask others for candid feedback, but most turn to sympathetic friends, family members, and colleagues who reinforce their self-image (“You deserved that job”) and feed their sense of injustice (“You have every right to be angry”). This prevents them from considering their own culpability and breaking free of the destructive behavior that derailed them in the first place. It may also lead them to ratchet back their current efforts and future expectations in the workplace.

Those who rebound from career losses take a decidedly different approach. Instead of getting stuck in grief or blame, they actively explore how they contributed to what went wrong, evaluate whether they sized up the situation correctly and reacted appropriately, and consider what they would do differently if given the chance. They also gather feedback from a wide variety of people (including superiors, peers, and subordinates), making it clear that they want honest feedback, not consolation.” 

Character Moves: 

  1. The first thing a great pitcher does after throwing a home run is focus on how to make the next pitch better. The same goes for quarterbacks after tossing an interception. The sports metaphors (and others) are endless. Yes, we must REALLY learn from the “trip,” but we have to be both humble students AND fearless going forward. The first step after reasonable grief and frustration is to commit to forward progression. 
  2. As noted above: Do not get stuck in grief or blame. Sure, we must be aware of our feelings of loss, disappointment, etc. But at the right time for each of us, we have to ACCEPT, get up, and look for that chance to “throw again.”
  3. Recognize that you’re writing a rich and wonderful autobiography filled with the fully authentic you. What a boring story if you’re just sprinting on a perfectly smooth highway. And how much would we all learn from that? Relish the TRIP… A true double meaning!!

Tripping and getting up in The Triangle, 

Lorne 

One Millennial View: As someone starting out in an industry where we don’t “know all the ropes” yet, a little “trip” can be day ruining, but a “big trip” could be career ending. (At least that’s what we scare ourselves into thinking). Really though, we can handle the scrapes… What’s even worse than a “trip,” is not being allowed the opportunity to fall in the first place. I’d rather max out a credit card on Neosporin because I “tripped,” than stand in place because my company doesn’t trust me enough to take that risky jump. Millennials want to jump, so let us. 

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis

Practice, Preparation and Courage: Giuliani, Hadfield and Wickenheiser

Accountability Personal leadership Resilience

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Key Point: “My teammates are my heroes and I have the courage to be theirs.” That is the quote that hangs in the virtual dressing room of the most successful women’s hockey team in the world: Team Canada.

This week I had the privilege of attending a leadership conference where the speakers included Rudy Giuliani (the renowned former mayor of New York City), Colonel Chris Hadfield (the world’s favorite and most social media savvy astronaut) and Hayley Wickenheiser (leader of women’s Team Canada and a 4x Olympic gold medalist). All of them talked about key attributes of outstanding leadership and COURAGE was the one consistent theme that came to the top of the pile. Here’s how each elaborated.

Giuliani: “Do you have the COURAGE to confront failure by preparing and practicing?” Giuliani had a mentor who was a Superior Court Judge that taught him that he needed four hours of preparation for every one hour in the courtroom. This maxim stuck with Rudy. Although no one could have fully prepared for the devastating impact of 9/11, the fact that Giuliani had prepared relentlessly for many other disasters in NYC gave him the framework to deal with this profoundly difficult terrorist attack.

Hadfield: “It’s an unusual day when you go for a ride into space on a rocket ship.” Hadfield painted a wonderful story around having the COURAGE to not only visualize success but also envision potential failure. When going into to space there are a lot of ways to die and the only way to overcome the fear is to have the courage to prepare and practice, prepare and practice.  And then do more. Hadfield was the commander of the International Space Station when it started spewing out ammonia; a potential disaster for all the crew.

Wickenheiser: “Have the COURAGE to blossom where you’re planted and to dig a little deeper.” Hayley told the story of how the coaches gave the team beat up old mountain bikes and made them ride up Apex Mountain in Penticton, B.C. (12 percent grade) during pre-Olympic training. The COURAGE to prepare and practice that way gave the team the extra inspiration that helped them win the gold medal in overtime.

Character Moves:

  1. Remember that practicing and preparing for failure as much as success leads to a higher likelihood of achieving desired results when it comes to leadership. Giuliani, Hadfield and Wickenheiser all confronted incredible adversity and in each case intentional preparation and practice was the backbone of their individual COURAGE.
  2. Competence is also part of the framework underlying COURAGE. The need for greater personal competence is insatiable and involves a perpetual appetite for continuous learning. This also includes relentless practice.
  3. Look to your teammates as your heroes and have the COURAGE to be theirs’. When we think this way, we will prepare and practice. How could we let them down?

Preparing and practicing COURAGE in the Triangle,

Lorne

One Millennial View: Especially on the anniversary of 9/11, we’re all reminded of how much COURAGE the U.S. and other allied nations continue to have when combating the worst in humanity and the biggest obstacles on a regular basis. It bothers me when people talk about the negative spirit of most individuals. I fundamentally believe that people are generally good, we just hear more about the bad… I encourage everyone to read this live Twitter feed from former White House Press Secretary, Ari Fleischer, about his behind the scenes, hour-by-hour account of the events surrounding President Bush’s actions on 9/11. It’s fascinating.

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis