August 28, 2013

Rear View Mirror

Would you drive your car by staring into the rear view mirror instead of looking ahead?

Most would answer no, but in life there are a lot of "rear view mirror" drivers...

Let's use driving your car as a metaphor for life. It makes sense to focus on what's in front of you and be aware of your surroundings while "driving." What's in front and around you takes precedence over what's behind.

The past can help you learn from your mistakes and give you context for making better decisions, but dwelling on it can destroy you. Successful people don't sulk about their past. They recognize it and move forward. How do you know if your past is guiding you? See how often you repeat making the same mistakes over and over again.

People who live in the past make excuses. They play victim to their circumstances. They believe they have no control over what will happen next. The problem is they choose to believe all of the above is true. When you create a self-fulfilling prophecy about yourself usually it comes to fruition.

If you want to escape your past and move into your future, you've got to stop looking in the rear view mirror for answers. Your ability to "move on" is determined by your perspective.

Don't be a prisoner of your past. Be present and focus on the future. It's your choice where to look while you're "driving." What direction are you headed towards?

August 21, 2013

The People Who Run the World

Guest Post by Josh Allan Dykstra
The people who run the world do so because they care to do so.

They are not any smarter than you or me.

They don’t have access to any better information.

They’re certainly not of higher character or moral fiber (if that wasn’t proved to you in 2008-2009, you weren’t paying attention).

They don’t have more grit or resilience.

(If we’re being honest, they may very well have started with more connections or money, but that’s becoming less and less important as it gets easier and easier to connect.*)

And this is why it all comes back to “care.”

The people who run the world — those who make the rules, etc. — do so because they want to do so. The vast majority of us opt out of these decisions because it’s such a hassle to participate. We want the world to be better, but if we’re being honest, it’s just such hard work to actually make it better.

If you feel this way, you are not alone.

There are many days when I wake up and think…

Is it really worth the hassle?

Good question… for my kids and their kids, I’m pretty sure it is. Then I think…

Can one person truly make a difference?

On most days I stay convinced that’s the only way it works. Then I think…

Deep down, do I somehow enjoy banging my head against a brick wall?

No, I don’t. But if I don’t care, who will?

The thing about making a “dent in the universe” is that you often have to be the hammer doing the denting. We don’t talk about this very much. It hurts, and often times, if we’re being honest, it kind of sucks. But I’m also pretty sure it’s the only way things really change — if we care enough to actually see it through.

*The money thing is admittedly tricky because of the whole Maslow problem: unless we have our basic needs taken care of, we don’t really think about these “bigger” issues. But “need” is more relative than we give it credit for. Money is horribly distracting — most of us, particularly in the US, do NOT need as much money as we think we do. We think we have to compare ourselves with the people who were born into a higher tax bracket, but of course, we don’t. We don’t REALLY need many of those things. We’ve just convinced ourselves otherwise.

August 14, 2013

When Failure is Your Best Teacher

I remember hearing a coach say "You can't learn anything from winning, only losing." At the time I thought he was crazy, but over the years I believe that statement is true.
Nobody grows up wanting to fail, but failure is inevitable. Even if you're risk-adverse at some point you'll experience defeat. Because it's not "if," but "when" you'll encounter failure so here are some ways to shift your thinking when it comes to failing.

There are no overnight success stories. There is so much hard work put in behind the scenes that no one will ever know except the person going through it. Have you ever heard the quote, "Success is 99% failure?" If that's true it's a "numbers" game. That means the more times you try, the greater chance you'll eventually succeed (with a lot of failure along the way).

Failure has such a negative connotation to it, but maybe you should start looking at failure as a part of the journey to succeed. The better you are able to cope with and embrace failure, the less rejection and losing will sting. Most risk-takers become numb to failure because they know it's just part of the process.

Now don't misinterpret failure by attempting to experience it daily. Knowing what you should avoid and not repeating the same mistake next time around will lead you to victory. The more ambitious your goal, the more arduous the process. Any great accomplishment will encounter setbacks along the way. What matters and what you can actually control is how hard you go at it and how determined you are to try new methods and along the way.

There's nothing worse than functioning by insanity (doing the same thing over and expecting different results). If you're willing to fail, then success isn't too far ahead.

August 7, 2013

Framing Perspective & Praxis For Innovation

Guest Post by Charles Lee
Innovation, in its most foundational form, is the introduction of something new (e.g., a new idea, method, or device).
While there’s some value in defining innovation, it’s far more important to frame one’s perspective and praxis for innovation. Innovation is much more than simply introducing new things and/or ideas. Good innovation actually solves problems for the one(s) receiving its benefit. Here are some thoughts that have helped me frame how I view and approach innovation:
  • Innovation changes the current situation into a preferred one. Innovation is not simply the act of adding a new idea on top of previous ones, especially those that created the problems in the first place. Rather, it’s an endeavor to create a new reality that breaks through our current roadblocks to the future that we desire.
  • Innovation requires good problem solving and design skills. Good innovators have (1) the ability to identify, clarify, and articulate the real problem and (2) design a practical solution that people actually need. Development of these skills require lots of practice and time.  
  • Innovation moves beyond creativity to strategy, metrics, implementation, assessment, and on-going refinement. Creative ideas are not enough for innovation. Innovation is not brainstorming nor just talking about new ideas. Innovation, in order to be effective, must attach itself to intentional planning, execution, and continual refinement.
Innovation is hard work. It’s far easier just to talk about ideas that might create the change we desire. Unfortunately, ideas are impotent without action.
The good news is that once you get in the habit of acting upon your ideas, your ability to innovate will quickly improve. Furthermore, you’ll start to see noticeable change in your life, work, and play. (You can thank me later.)