You Don’t Have to Love It

Have you ever been asked if you have passion for your sport or your work – and when you look inside it felt a little parched? No love to be found – just the feeling that it’s hard.

It’s OK. It happens. It’s human. When you are heads down, working diligently on a long-term goal, there will be times when you look for the energy that passion provides and it’s just not there. There are days…and sometimes those days can become weeks…when it’s just hard.climber-984380_640

So what’s a person to do? Rather than languishing, start by asking a critical question – “what do I want?” Sound too simple? The truth is, it’s a question we probably don’t ask enough. So if it feels a little uncomfortable – maybe out of place – don’t be concerned, it is natural to hit an uninspired stretch when we are working toward a big goal. By knowing, ‘what I want’ I can find energy even when inspiration is in short supply. If “what do I want” feels like a big question, good, you are looking in the right place. I’m pointing you toward understanding your bigger game – what you are hungry for in your life.

I worked with an athlete who told me he realized he no longer loved the game. Practice had become hard and he felt like a fraud – surrounded by teammates who were passionate about practice and learning when it just felt like work to him. We focused on what he wanted for his life. He saw that the game would provide the scholarship that would provide the funding to get the education to pursue his dream. He discovered what he wanted. He also realized that he wouldn’t keep his scholarship if he didn’t continue to develop his natural talent and bring value to the team. By understanding himself a little better, he reframed his relationship with the game. He realized he didn’t have to love it. He did have to work hard because it was the path to what he wanted.

I invite you to allow “what do you want?” to be a big question – to take you beyond goals of making quota, winning games, or getting the position. You may find that great questions lead to even more valuable questions for you. What impact do I want to have? Where do I want this investment to take me? Where am I in this picture? Where do I want to be? These are the questions that help you find your direction – your purpose. From those answers emerges commitment.

You can re-calibrate and decide if the mundane work (that in itself may not be inspiring) gets you where you want to go. If the answer is yes, let that be your passion when it gets boring or hard or tedious. Knowing what you want – really want – in life can provide clarity, patience, and commitment.

Changing the world is easier than you think!

I was out driving a few days ago and passed a house where the front yard was FULL of ceramic duck statues…30 or more. The duck army was in straight rows on the ground. They were all sizes and colors. My first thought was “what an ugly thing to do in the front yard.” My second thought was “I bet someone makes those things in the garage and is trying to sell them. Tacky!” Notice how easy it was for me to create a story based on what I was seeing. Ducks

Just for the record, my next thought was, “I’d never have anything like that in front of my house!” I drove on feeling rather superior.

Later that day, I drove back on that street and noticed an older woman with two small children. The children were now putting the ducks in circles. HMMMM. What a shift in perspective I had. The stories I had made up of tasteless inferiority were giving way to a grandmother-figure helping two little ones create a world of make believe. My judgment gave way to the delight of watching giggling toddlers redesigning their world.

So, why the story about ducks? It’s really a story about how the choices we make define how we experience the world. Notice how I easily created a story based on partial information. I was simply driving along, observing and jumping to conclusions. I easily judged the character and motivations of people simply by what I saw.  Now imagine what changes when I make the same drive being curious rather than judgmental. In this scenario I drive by a very interesting house and smile at the sight of the duck army. No judgment, no conclusions. And I go about the rest of my day being curious and open to whatever might show up.

Let’s apply the story of the ducks to leadership. As a leader, I get to choose how I see my world. I can question people’s motives (judging) or I can be curious about why they make their choices. So instead of jumping to conclusions, I wait to see the outcome or better yet, ask what was involved in the decision. My perspective becomes the difference between seeing people as inferior and the possibilities that open up when people are seen as unique and creative. It seems like such a subtle point and yet, how I see people defines how I show up in the world. Remember the ducks – absolutely nothing changed in the story but how I was seeing it.

Here’s your choice – seeing a world of possibilities or seen a world of scarcity… Seeing people as “people” or seeing them as “objects.” Here is something you can try – spend today practicing possibilities. It’s as easy as “wondering” rather than “judging.” And think of the power!

And the truth is – by changing your perspective, you can change your world.

Leadership lessons from a Greyhound.

The lesson: get out of the rut you’ve been running in, look around, learn as much as you can.

The greyhound is our Belle.  She came to live with us after 3 years as a racer (terrible life!!)  We noticed when we first got her that almost EVERYTHING was out of her realm of experience.  She had no language skills, had never been in a house (it was very disconcerting) and even when she ran in the backyard, she only turned to the left…think of a racetrack.

We realized that all she had ever done in her life was to live in a crate and get out to race.  Pee, poo, run, repeat.

As Belle became more aware of her surroundings she literally began to see more.  Her singular training as a racer had her look straight ahead, aware of other dogs only when they were in front over her.  There was no other input.  Anything not directly in front of her basically simply didn’t exist.  That was her world and she executed well in it.

It didn’t work so well when she moved in with us.  They it occurred to us that our job was to introduce the breadth of possibilities to her: stairs, dog parks, even her own name.  They don’t teach dogs their names – it’s a distraction.  The more she learned, the more curious she became.   She learned she could move from one room to another, that the doorbell meant to run to the front door (rather than the hallway where the noise actually was) and when she ran in the backyard, she could turn any direction she liked.

So where’s the leadership lesson?  Think of a worker – an individual contributor: someone who is really good at what they do – so good that their attention becomes narrow.  Focus stays on those things that pertain to getting the job done, life becomes predictable and its easy to run an auto pilot.  Do that too long and you forget how to turn right when you’re running – a greyhound racing reference – you lose the ability to see other ways to do things.  In fact, in business, the distinction is between 10 years experience versus one year’s experience 10 times.

So to embrace leadership, no matter what the job, means to look broadly, be curious and not get lost in “rules”. A leader gets above the task to look around at the bigger picture. Leadership is a “way of being” as much as an activity. A “curious” way of being that is energizing, creative and well, strategic!  And you can be  in that way of being no matter where you are.   Lead from your seat, lead from the corner office, lead from the trenches… being a leader is more perspective than title.

When Belle moved in with us, her world got bigger.  Actually, the world was the same.  What changed was her ability to see it.  Sometimes it was scary, but look at her now and you know its more fun.  Deciding to embrace leadership can do the same thing – it can be scary at first.  But get past that and its fun!