I am an idea guy. I like to do big things.
Through trial and error I’ve learned to mesh the big idea with the small steps. Like many who have come to their senses about this, before I jump head-long into a big project, I spend some time thinking about the small steps I must take to get it done.
Little by little
The value of the small step is that I can often do it quickly, and I can tell that I have done it. Check it off the list: done. And that feels real good. There’s an immediate reward and a sense of both accomplishment and momentum.
When I was younger I wanted to write books, but I didn’t know how, and it seemed like a pipe dream that was out of reach for me. Now, I’ve written four with a fifth one in the works. I write and self-publish all my training courses and certify instructors to present them. I blog. I podcast. And I’m helping to grow a network of Millennial leaders emerging onto the scene across Oklahoma.
How do I get all this done? One step at a time.
Do I have every step identified and planned out? No way! But I have a pretty good idea of what needs to get done. I know what I can do now, and I do it.
First things first
Sometimes I realize that I needed to do something else first. I learn from the mistake, which causes me to review my list and see if there are any other instances of overlooked first steps. After going through that a few times, it’s become more automatic for me to pause and ask if there is anything I need to do first, so I can accomplish that task effectively and not waste time and resources.
You see, when ever you set out to do anything, there is usually something else that needs to be done first. Another small step.
I’ve learned that several small steps add up to a significant milestone. Like in my writing, I sketch out an overview of where I want the story to end up. I chunk the story into smaller bits and make some notes about what the scenes might be. I make some notes about plot, the sequence of the scenes, and characters involved. Then I get started and see what happens. I tweak as I go.
Before too long, I have the story pretty well shaped. Then I go back and revise.
Small steps. Getting even the smallest next step done is a thrill. And that goes to my basic approach to everything, which is to finish the day a little better off than when I started it.
Small steps are a big deal.
They show me how to be more
Perspective is your physical relationship to information. You cannot have multiple perspectives by sitting in the comfort of your office, or your home, or in the company of your closest friends and ruminating about the world out there. You must go out there and get in the middle of the action.
Perspective is vantage point
The vantage point from which you experience a situation is your perspective. If you are a new employee in a large company, you cannot have the same vantage point as the CEO or even your immediate supervisor because you are not in their position.
The converse also is true. Just because you were once a new employee does not mean you fully understand what it’s like to be a new employee now. Your experience once upon a time is not exactly the same as that experience today.
Perspectives are experienced
You cannot have the perspective of what it’s like to be a person of color living in a white dominated society if you are not a person of color, and vice versa.
You cannot understand the terror of being told you have cancer unless you have experienced that conversation.
If you are financially secure, you cannot understand the gut-wrenching feeling of knowing you have a mortgage or a rent to pay and you have just lost your job and have no savings.
You cannot understand the world of affluence and high society if you do not have the wealth that gives you access to it.
You cannot understand what it’s like to be me because you are not me. And vice versa.
You don’t understand
A friend told me, “You don’t understand what it’s like to be a teacher these days.” They were right. I had never experienced it, so I became a substitute teacher to get a different perspective. It wasn’t the same as, but it helped.
The point is, you cannot have a perspective that you have not experienced. So before you say, “I understand what it’s like,” stop and consider how your experiences compare.
Sympathy is lip service; empathy is a shared experience.
Get up close and personal
I cannot be a person of color, but I can befriend people of color and hang out with them in their places. I can become friends with their friends and try to understand as closely as possible their circumstances.
The television series Undercover Boss showed the mismatch of perspectives and mutual understanding by placing the boss in the employee’s daily environment. The results were amusing and eye opening.
A CEO client once told me how he stayed close to his employees by walking through his plant every day. The problem was, he didn’t spend any time with any one person. Consequently, his employees perceived him as too busy to stop and understand what was going on. I wonder if it would have been more effective to spend an hour a day in one work area interacting more personally with the workers who spent full-time there? And what if he brought one employee a week to shadow him for a couple of days as CEO? Perhaps they would take a different story back to their co-workers from the experience.
I’m not high on critics, because most critics sit in judgement of things they have not done themselves.
I recommend opening yourself to as many experiences as possible. Expand the borders of your comfort world by experiencing, as much as you can, the world in which others live every day.
Enlarge you perspective, and you will be more
Accountability is a 100-percent situation: either I did, or I did not. As the Star Wars character Yoda, said, “Do or do not. There is no try.”
Willingness is at the core of accountability.
I must be willing to do what it takes to get what I want. Otherwise I cannot hope to succeed. If I have all the resources and support I need, but lack the desire, I will come up short.
I will settle for something less than intended. The danger with that is that I will convince myself that close enough is the same as fully successful. Little by little, I delude myself into believing that I am doing my best when I am far from it.
How bad do you want it?
There is no aspect of my life that is not affected by this: work, finances, health, relationships, you name it.
Accountability is keeping the promises made to yourself.
Any promise I have made to someone else I also made to myself. I am committed to stepping up no matter what. When I don’t, I take the hit.
So I have to ask myself, “How badly to I want to be healthy? How badly do I want to grow my business? How badly do I want my marriage to be amazing? How badly do I want the respect of my friends and peers? How badly am I willing to do what it takes to make all that happen?”
There is no one else to do my part of the heavy lifting. Others might help out at times, but there is no walking away from the task until it is accomplished.
Be excellent to yourself
I deserve excellence. Don’t you? One of my tenets for living the INPowered life is to be excellent to myself. I am accountable for doing just that.
There is leverage and freedom in being accountable. Click here to see what I mean.
I am still learning how to use accountability to make my life better–to be more INPowered. I have renewed my promise to eat excellent food, and by that I mean more healthful food. No more junk food or comfort food as my main course. I also have renewed my promise to walk at least 12 miles a week. I deserve good health, and I alone am accountable for my wellness.
I urge you to accept my accountability challenge and live the excellent life you deserve.
I know that when I am more accountable, I am more
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I’ve experienced the good, the bad, and the ugly of job situations. The overwhelming majority have been of the good variety. I’ve been very fortunate to get the boss’s attention and have excellent working relationships with all but one of my bosses.
I’ve also been the boss. And I can speak from experience about those who got my attention. In this episode of The Spirit of Leading, I list three qualities that worked for me and that I appreciated in others.
You can read the details in the about tab of my blogsite. Suffice it to say I’ve had the good fortune of being selected to board positions of my professional associations and civic groups. I’ve led important projects in my organizations. I’ve enjoyed several management leadership positions.
Through it all I would have to say I was successful because I got the attention of managers and leaders above me, and I did not realize they even noticed. I deeply appreciated and valued my relationship with those managers.
I believe anyone who follows these three tips will be noticed by her or his boss and enjoy the opportunity to step up and lead in their organization.
I’m an avid football fan. HDTV and large-as-life images give us an up close and personal view of the players and the game.
What’s deceiving, however, is the elevated level of talent these amazing athletes possess. Only when superior athletes play against lesser talented competition is the level of the talent more obvious.
The very best of the best get to compete on the NFL gridiron where they command our attention and admiration. And we will pay top dollar to watch them play. In exchange, we expect them to give us 110 percent on every play.
These amazing athletes make what they do look easy. Yet, we know it is anything but easy. When we get a behind the scenes look at what they went through to be so successful, we see hour upon grueling hour of practice and study they endured to raise their performance to their personal best.
This is true for anyone who performs his or her skills at a high level of proficiency. They make it look easy. Athletes, musicians, actors, performers, authors, doctors, and other professionals and craftsmen and women go through the same routine of practice, study, and experience to reach their peak performance.
How the pros do it
Here’s the pro’s formula: prepare, practice, perform, evaluate, repeat–relentlessly.
- Prepare: Learn the game. Learn the fundamentals. Expand and build the skills you need. Get and stay physically and mentally fit.
- Practice: Focus on the specialized skills and strategies needed for the immediate situation. Build on your strengths. Improve your weaknesses. Get good coaching.
- Perform: Execute your game plan. Focus on the immediate mission. Avoid distractions–keep your head in the game. Hold nothing back.
- Evaluate: Be coachable. Get feedback on your results and performance. Accept responsibility for your effort. Enjoy the recognition of excellence. Look for every possible way you can raise the level of your game.
Repeat the process. Be relentless. Pros pursue excellence. Amateurs are satisfied with good enough.
I think one of the greatest compliments I can receive when others attend one of my workshops is, “Wow, you make it look easy.”
That’s when I feel like a pro.
That’s when I feel
Our mind plays tricks on us, and our eyes and ears are unwitting co-conspirators. They continually get us in trouble. It’s a WYSINWII kind of thing (What You See Is Not What It Is).
Remember Benjamin Franklin’s advice, “Believe none of what you hear, and only half of what you see.”
Perception is the process of interpreting sensory stimuli. So, in a literal sense, touch, taste, and smell get in on the game, too. Our sensory organs take in information from our surroundings and feed it into the brain where it is interpreted into our reality. IIWISII (It Is What I Say It Is)–EOD (End Of Discussion).
Every one of us has experienced a situation in which we were absolutely certain we had our objective facts correct, only to find out that we had been fooled again. Drats.
Misperception is the root of all kinds of unintended conflicts.
And here’s the danger zone: our misperceptions–misinterpretation–becomes our reality, and we act on it. Then, someone perceives our intentions and reacts to our actions. Then, we react to the reaction, and the vicious cycle takes on a life of its own.
What we have here is a failure to communicate: the other person obviously doesn’t understand. After all, how could I possibly be wrong about what I saw with my own eyes and heard with my own ears?
Been there? Done that? I have.
How, then, can we avoid getting fooled?
I have not found a failsafe workaround. But I have been able to come up with a few rules of thumb that help keep me balanced. Maybe they will work for you, too.
- Everyone is always right in their own mind, at any point in time. Think about it. Why would anyone intentionally be wrong? I Accept that everyone has his or her understanding of events, and they are as legitimate to them as mine are to me.
- Never tell anyone they are wrong. Allow their perceptions. Seek to understand the underlying information and how they worked through it to arrive at their understanding. Have a conversation, not an argument.
- I like myself more when I admit that I could be wrong about something without damaging my self-esteem. Always having to be right is too big a burden to bear. Being wrong does not mean I’m incompetent or inadequate–just human.
- Do a double-take. Most things are not quite as they initially seemed. After my initial knee-jerk reaction, which I cannot prevent because the fight or flight system hijacks me, I stop and reflect on what is happening. Reserve judgment about right-wrong, good-bad, and take another look at the situation. Focusing on different aspects of the information might result in a different interpretation of it.
- Change perspective. I shift my point of view to that of the others involved. I try to envision how I would see the situation through their eyes and experience. This also helps me to be more empathetic, and even compassionate; thus, potentially altering my response.
I have never been more embarrassed than
when I was so certain of my opinion
and told everyone so.
Your ability to more accurately perceive the reality you create
will help you to be more
And others will perceive that, too.
Everything you need to find joy and fulfillment in life is within your reach–literally.
All you have to do is get off your seat, and put yourself in position to grasp it.
I’ve learned over and again that when I put myself out there, good things are more likely to happen for me than when I sit on my sofa and wonder why I’m not getting anywhere.
You, too, huh?
I drift into routines. Routines have benefits, but they can result in mindless, rote behaviors that dull our sensitivity to what’s happening around us.
So, let’s shake it up a bit.
I discovered Jessica Hagy’s work on such an outing. Here’s the story.
I was visiting a friend one weekend and we were about to settle into our routine of watching our favorite political pundits on cable TV. When I said, “I’m bored. Let’s do something different.”
“Like what?” she asked.
“I don’t know. Let’s just get in the car and drive somewhere,” I said.
“OK,” she agreed.
So we did.
Within the hour, we drove into a small town a few miles down the road where we found a combo coffee shop and curio store and decided to stop for a cup of coffee.
While milling around, sipping my coffee, I spied a book title displayed on an old crate used as a merchandise display (a technique often used in curio stores). The title read, How to Be Interesting (in 10 simple steps).
I so want to be interesting, and if I can do it in 10 or fewer steps, so much the better.
I was curious and bought the book. And that’s how I discovered Jessica Hagy, the author, and her work. Click here and save yourself the trip to the curio store.
The very first chapter is, “Go exploring,” (See how that works?). She offers some ways to be creatively curious. I’ll not spoil the fun of learning her secrets for yourself.
There is, by the way, a direct correlation between being interested and being interesting.
Henry Miller, a trendsetting author, advised, “Develop an interest in life as you see it; the people, things, literature, music – the world is so rich, simply throbbing with rich treasures, beautiful souls and interesting people. Forget yourself.”
Then, share your interests with others. It encourages them to share their’s with you. Before you know it, everything just got more interesting.
Curious . . . how that happens.
The INPowered are seekers. They want to know what’s happening in the world around them. They want to engage with different ideas, people, cultures, tastes, nature, and ways of understanding and knowing each other.
Take an interest in becoming more creatively curious.
And you will be more
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Ranya O’Connor (rt) accepts award for Curbside Chronicle from International Network of Street Papers
What can you do to make things better in your community for yourself and others? What can you do to live INPowered?
Whitlley and Ranya O’Connor are helping the homeless of Oklahoma City become self-employed.
In this episode of The Spirit of Leading, they tell their story.
Their project is called The Curbside Chronicle, a street newspaper written and sold by the homeless and unemployed population of Oklahoma City. It’s going into its third years of production.
Whitley and Ranya’s interview revealed several enlightening aspects of their project to anyone considering whether to launch an ambitions project of their own.
- Crazy ideas get traction
- Create partnerships with those who bring skills and expertise you do not have personally.
- Learn from those who have done similar projects.
- Prior experience is not a prerequisite. When you believe in your project, you can learn how to make it happen.
- The best advocate of your service or product is someone who had directly benefited from it.
- Age is not a factor. Passion creates believers and advocates.
- Passion never makes anything any easier. It just makes the hard work worth it.
Whitley O’Connor (second from right) with Curbside Chronicle vendors at a baseball game
For his leadership, Whitley was recognized by iON Oklahoma online magazine in 2014 as one of it 30 Under 30 Next Gen leaders. Ranya was selected to the 2016 NextGen Under 30 class.
The Curbside Chronicle, view online issues
More information on homelessness
The Curbside Chronicle
Oklahoma City street magazine
Report: The State of Homelessness in America 2015
The National Alliance to End Homelessness website
The Oklahoma City Homeless Alliance website