Your greatest hits

Your greatest hits

Recently, I heard the photographer Joe McNally talking on the Chase Jarvis podcast. Joe was describing an annual event that he attended regularly. He and the other participants were asked to bring 5 photos to introduce themselves. Joe decided that he would bring his 5 best shots from the previous year – rather than a lifetime portfolio.

(I intend to adapt (or steal) this is idea for my own photoblog. Essentially, I plan to do an end of year ‘highlights reel’.)

This concept bubbled to the top of my mind during a conversation this week. I was having a chat with a colleague who was feeling a bit flat. They were (in my words) in the doldrums. They were struggling to find any positives in their work. Everything seemed mundane or sub-standard. As I teased out a couple of the examples highlighted, it became clear that:

  • they were being unduly hard on themself;
  • there were elements of good work in the midst of their gloominess;
  • they were able to recall other, recent examples of great work.

As I reflected on our conversation later, I asked myself, “What are my ‘greatest hits’?” “When did I last do some great work?”

Then I realised that too often we focus our thoughts on what goes wrong, rather than what goes well. Yes, we learn from errors and experimentation, but we need to stay motivated and maintain a degree of confidence.

So, the next time you’re feeling a bit down, or when you’re talking to someone in that mindset, ask about your greatest hits and see where the conversation leads.



My self-limiting story

(Actually, one of many!)

Yesterday’s entry highlighted an issue that probably applies to most of us. One topic stood out for me as I thought about the question:

What are the self-limiting, self-fulfilling stories that I tell myself?

I am not good at thinking on my feet.

I’ve been telling myself – and others – this story all of my adult life. It’s true that I like to have time to reflect and think before responding in most situations.

So, what am I going to do about changing my story?

Well, the first thing that I’ve told myself is that this is not unique to me. I’m confident that all of our self-limiting stories apply to many others.

Secondly, there are ways to turn my strengths to my advantage. Given my preference for reflection etc, I tend to be well prepared for most situations. And, if I tell myself that story, my confidence in responding to ad hoc queries will increase.

Thirdly, I adopt a philosophy that assumes positive intent from the other person. They’re generally not trying to trip me up or embarrass me. They want me input. So, if they value my thoughts, chances are that they’ll be willing to wait a wee while for them. So I can ask for breathing space.

 Finally, I’m actually quite comfortable with saying “I don’t know”. Omniscience is beyond me, so why add pressure?



Change your habits, change your life

I recently listened to Chase Jarvis interviewing Ramit Sethi. (It’s a long listen at approximately 80 minutes, but it’s worth it!)

This interview triggered several thoughts, which will appear here in due course.

My key takeaway was:

What are the self-limiting, self-fulfilling stories that I tell myself?

We frequently limit our potential by accepting limitations and developing a fixed, negative mindset about them. We tend to express them in extreme terms – for example, “I can never… “

“Never”? Really? That’s a very long time!

I’m not suggesting that you can be good at anything that you turn your mind to. But, if you have a self-limiting, self-fulfilling mantra that you’d like to change, what are you prepared to do about it?

Are you willing to invest a bit of time to generate ideas to overcome the problem? Will you commit to some focussed learning to develop skills in this area?

Or, are you comfortable to stick in the self-pitying, ‘whinge zone’?

Tomorrow, I’ll share an example from my own whingeing!

Operating at the speed of intention

Yesterday I wrote about slowing down to the speed of intention (prioritising and planning). But how do you stay at that speed? How do you resist the temptation of the reactive?

I’m certainly open to ideas on this. My own attempts are still work in progress.

There are a number of tools and approaches that I think are helpful here. I’ve written before about my preference for a hand-written to do list. I recently came across Cal Newport’s approach to daily planning. cal-newport-planningI like the combination of diary and to do list (handwritten). I particularly like the commitment to blocks of time for specific tasks and deep work.

I’m currently dabbling with a similar approach. My tasks descriptors are a bit more expansive than Cal’s – all starting with a verb. I’m also using colour to monitor the success of my plan.

I’m also experimenting with my working environment in an effort to minimise distractions (when appropriate). For me, this includes closing down Outlook to resist the temptation to check e-mail. (I have designated slots for that purpose!). Also, part of being agile means that I can change my location. This requires a bit of intention, and resisting the comfort zone of ‘my usual place’.

As an aside, there are times when ‘distractions’ are an important part of being a team member and manager. My ‘distraction’ is someone else’s priority. So, being available is important – provided that you control it.

You can find some other nuggets on this approach in this article by Steven Handel.