As I often do, I made a social media post which was intended to remind people of their power to control their responses to their world. In this case, the post was “Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional.” The intent of the sentiment is that we cannot prevent painful things from happening to us, but we can choose our response to it and whether we choose to suffer in that pain or deal with it in other ways.
Some people were inspired by this post and others were offended. I was hurt by their taking offense. I understood that those who were upset read the words through the lens of their experience and took a different meaning from that which was intended. What it took some time to recognize was the source of my own pain at the misunderstanding.
Rob Tull is an author, speaker, and success coach. As an executive and parent, he experienced the stress and burnout that drains energy and happiness, and derails success. Through his experience, training, and studies, he rediscovered his passion and energy, and found his new path for success and fulfillment; his Path2. He lives and embodies the Path2 philosophy. He is passionate about progress and his mission is to educate and empower others to create progress in their lives and shape their paths according to their desires.Learn more about Rob!
Michael O’Brien, one of our great Conference21 speakers, is the Chief Shift Officer at Peloton Executive Coaching and serves on The Healthcare Businesswomen’s Association Global Board. As a coach, speaker, and best-selling author, he helps leaders build resilience and prevents bad moments from turning into a bad day. He has shared his personal transformational Last Bad Day story and leadership advice on the TEDx stage, with Fortune 500 companies, Entrepreneur, Fast Company, Real Simple, ABC, and NBC.
I talk a lot about goals and knowing your ultimate objective. Some people push back that they can’t think about big goals right now with all that is happening. They are focused on survival. That’s all they can focus on.
Survival is the first step to success.
Imagine a ship captain sailing from London to New York. During the ordinary part of the journey, he focused on many things: the exact course, finding the best currents to achieve the best speed, crew efficiency and discipline, and more. All of these are in service of getting to New York as quickly as possible.
Then a storm comes up. High waves. Unpredictable winds. At any moment the ship may threaten to capsize or break up.
When the storm first begins, the captain is still trying to maintain the course to New York while fighting the storm. The storm gets worse. The captain no longer cares where New York is. The only focus is keeping the ship afloat in the storm.
The captain has not forgotten his goal. He knows that eventually the ship will sail into New York. Additional steps have been added before that goal can be achieved. His focus must be on fighting the storm from minute to minute.
At that point, working for survival is working towards his goals.
Every minute he keeps the ship sailing is one minute closer to the goal, no matter what direction the bow is facing.
When the storm passes, as it will, entirely without the Captain’s help, that part of the challenge is complete, and the course to New York can be resumed. The ship and crew will be ready and engaged to that task. The storm may have set them back some, but the capability of reaching the goal is not reduced.
The same may be true in your life. The storms in your life may be unexpected child care and education duties. They may be illness in your family. They may be an inability to work due to the quarantine. They may be your sense of isolation and fear.
I hope you do have goals, but the goals may need to become more flexible. Time restrictions may need to be altered or removed. The goal of “buy a house by 2022” may be changed to “buy a house.”
If you are in the storm, your job is to survive the storm, and in so doing you are working towards your goals.
We focus so much on progress because many of us do the same thing day in day out, year in year out, and nothing ever changes because we do not work towards change. In a storm, it is different. The factor that holds us back is external, not internal, and external factors eventually resolve themselves.
Like the storm, the child car issues, the illness, the quarantine, the economy, the isolation, all that will pass in their own in time. You cannot hasten their departure, and if they are preventing your progress, then you need only mark time until they are done.
Not all of us are facing a storm. It is important to do an honest assessment. Are the unusual conditions of these times actually stopping you or just slowing you down? If you are merely slowed, or possibly even not slowed at all, then you do not want to make the mistake of assuming you can just wait and things will get better.
But if you are deep in the storm and the ship is barely afloat, then your job is to keep the ship sailing. You need to stay afloat so that when the storm ends (and it will end) you are ready to resume sailing to your destination.
When that time comes, everything that made you great and strong and successful before will still be there. This time it will be augmented by everything you learned and all the strength you gained surviving the storm.
As you focus on survival, occasionally spare a thought for that distant goal. It’s still there, and you will still reach it. Remind yourself that you are not surviving for the mere purpose of survival. You are surviving to reach the time after the storm when you’ll move into the next stage of pursuing your goal.
Every storm ends, and yours will as well.
Do you find yourself storm tossed and aren’t sure what you should be doing now? Let’s talk. Click here to schedule a free, no obligation coaching session to help get you on course.
In 527 Petrus Sabbatius succeeded his uncle and adoptive father to the Eastern Roman Empire’s throne to become Emperor Justinian I, and would, through his long reign, completely destroy what was left of the Roman empire in Italy and Africa.
I have been listening to the first season of an amazing podcast called Tides of History by Patrick Wyman in which he discussed the fall of Rome and the rise of the modern world. These historic stories are surprisingly relevant to our modern challenges.
Justinian wanted to restore Rome to a former greatness that dubiously actually existed. He was committed to this goal with a single minded dedication.
At the time North Africa, Italy, and other parts of the former Western Roman Empire were ruled by various Germanic tribes under the “authority” of the Eastern Roman Empire. They continued to follow Roman customs, laws, and traditions. They used Roman imagery and titles, and Roman aristocrats were still prominent.
But Justinian felt that things were not as great as they had once been, and he would be the great emperor to restore it. It was a close advisor of his who would first write that Rome had “fallen” in 476. This would start a movement in thinking in Constantinople that the West had been “lost” and needed to be “restored.”
Justinian was focused. He was dedicated. He knew his Why. He was committed.
He deployed the armies of the Empire first to Africa then to Italy after various succession issues provided provocations for military action.
Ultimately, his forces prevailed, but in the process, the fighting, combined with famine and plague, killed nearly half of the population of Italy and completely destroyed what remained of Roman custom, tradition, trade, and technology in the region.
This was partly due to the war, but it was also because he kept on fighting even when the climate cooled and disease spread. He was too focused on the victory he sought to realize that the conditions had changed and the cost of the war was growing too high.
We often talk about “knowing your Why” and “being focused on your goal” and “commitment” as though that alone will make everything come out well.
In the coaching world, we are often speaking to people who do not have the power of an Emperor or even a billionaire. As such, the result of such didactic thinking is unlikely to collapse an entire way of life.
However, I believe that it is a valuable object lesson to look at Emperor Justinian I. He was all the things that we encourage a good entrepreneur to be. He was highly effective. He was organized and focused. He had a strong sense of purpose and was able to share it with others. He knew his goals, drove towards them, and achieved them as stated. He reconquered the West.
He also destroyed the West in the process.
I don’t think we spend enough time encouraging people to fully evaluate their goals. Focusing on your goals and working with the end in mind is all well and good, but if they are the wrong goals, or if they are incomplete goals, all the focus in the world will not bring true success.
This is why in my goal setting process, I added the first step of “dream.” I ask people to imagine their perfect life with no restrictions. Too often, people choose expected goals like “money”, “power”, or “fame”. Plenty of people achieve these goals only to find themselves more miserable than they were before they achieved them.
What are your goals? Do they truly align with your dreams?
The greatest tragedy is to sacrifice everything needed to achieve your goals only to discover they were the wrong goals.
In a few hours, it will go from 2020-12-31 23:59:59 to 2021-01-01 00:00:00.
Balls will drop! Champaign will be consumed! Dates will be kissed!
Nothing magical will happen.
If you don’t believe me, ask someone in Sacramento who will still be waiting another three hours for their New Year.
There is nothing magical about flipping a page on a calendar. When you wake up on the 1st, there will still be a pandemic. There will still be high unemployment. There will still be political turmoil.
None of those things change with the simple turning of the page. All of them require work. The work of scientists. The work of leaders. The work of everyday people to wear their masks and act like responsible people who care about their neighbors.
There is no magic.
Or maybe the magic has already happened. Maybe it happened in March and we didn’t all realize it.
In March, everything was thrown into confusion. The table we were playing the game on was flipped over. Many of us are looking at the mess and lamenting that they can’t do anything with the pieces on the floor.
But some of us are looking at it and seeing that we now have the chance to play an entirely new game. It is in these moments when the greatest opportunities come to us.
For as long as I can remember, I have been bringing people together and building community. In high school, I hosted our parties and planned our outings. In college, I ran conventions. After college I opened Phoenix Games to be a center of community. In my 30s I worked at all manner of genre events.
But 2020 brought an opportunity like I’d never seen before. The quarantine forced everyone to discover the potential of virtual space. Virtual networking, virtual communities, virtual conferences, once the realm of a cutting edge few are now possible for the mainstream.
With lower overhead and completely obviating the effect of geography, it is possible to bring together amazing talent and hundreds of attendees together for pennies.
From this, I was able to create Conference21. It is not just a place to help people learn from 32 experts, but it’s a place to create a new kind of community. A community that defies borders, that ignores geography. It is a community that anyone can become a part of if it is right for them.
We are able to use these new technologies to create networking events before and after the conference that are almost like being face to face.
None of these technologies are actually new. They existed in 2019.
What changed in March was that we became open to them.
“Have you ever shown up for a meeting in your bare feet?” they asked as they showed a Zoom-like video conference.
This technology became commonly available years ago, but most people prior to 2020 had never participated in a virtual meeting.
In 2020, AT&T’s predictions, which had been technically accurate for years, became socially accurate. Virtual meetings, distance learning, and all the rest became part of all of our lives.
The promise of the future is here, and we are all ready to embrace it.
There is no magic in the turning of the calendar, but there can be great magic in uncertain times. Uncertainty means you don’t know how it will turn out. That can be a bad thing, but it can also be a very good thing, especially if you weren’t winning beforehand.
All the pieces are now up in the air. You have a choice. You can let them clatter to the ground, or you can grab some and find your new future.
Have you ever seized your own new opportunities?
And the company that will bring it to you… is you.
Michael Whitehouse knows all about games, having owned a game store for many years. He has never heard of a board game that can still be played after the table is flipped, but it’s a good metaphor anyway.
If you’d like to hear more strained metaphors or discuss how you might make your own magic in 2021, click here to schedule a free half hour coaching session with Michael.
Overwhelm is a term that comes up a lot in the entrepreneurial community, especially for solopreneurs. As the boss you must always think about the big picture, keeping everything in mind all the time. Then you have to execute, doing the ground level tasks.
The great thing about being the boss is that everything is up to you.
The worst thing about being the boss is that everything is up to you.
The longer I work for myself, the more I laugh when someone tries to pitch some kind of opportunity by saying “you can be your own boss.” This is only appealing to people who have never actually done it.
This is where the overwhelm comes from. If you are trying to carry the entire plan for the great cathedral in your head while you lay every brick it becomes overwhelming. There are so many bricks to be laid! What is one is out of place? What if there is a mistake?
The architect on the cathedral building project may be quite stressed out. They think about every little thing that has to go right and could go wrong.
The bricklayer? As long as he’s laying his bricks where he’s told and he’s getting paid on the regular, overwhelm is not a word in his vocabulary.
What if you could be the bricklayer in your own business, only thinking about the next brick?
You can. You can separate yourself into two roles: the architect and the bricklayer.
The architect must think about the big picture but doesn’t lay the individual bricks. The bricklayer doesn’t know or want to know the big picture. They just lay the bricks where they’re told.
You can achieve this by dividing your time into planning time and executing time.
In the planning time, you are the architect. Think of it as if you were preparing detailed instructions for your employee who works in a different office and needs everything laid out for the day or week ahead of time.
This is when you think about the big picture. This is when you make the big decisions of how you will allocate resources. This is when you are the boss.
Then, it’s time to execute. You are now the bricklayer, following the architect’s plan. If there’s a minor error in the plan, you don’t worry about it. If the order isn’t entirely perfect, no big deal. The boss gets what the boss asks for.
In bricklaying time, you execute. You don’t think about the big picture. You don’t worry about the grand goals. You run the action item list in the order that the architect presented it to you.
The bricklayer is never overwhelmed because they lay one brick at a time, no matter how many are left to lay.
Try it. Set aside specific time to be the architect and plan your day or your week. Then, become the bricklayer. Follow the instructions and only think of what must be done next.
How can you be overwhelmed doing one thing at a time?
What do you think? Do you think this strategy can help you? Share your thoughts in the comments.
Michael Whitehouse does not know how to lay bricks or design a cathedral, but he does know how to help you stay focused and motivated on what you need to do without getting overwhelmed.
Click here to set up a free, no obligation half hour coaching session with Michael to talk about how you might better be your own employee.