Move the fence

We’ve all got them.

Fences that dictate who we let into our lives.

Fences that set the boundaries of ideas we’d consider.

Fences that are all about, me, mine and I, instead of we, ours and us.

Fences that mean that if you’re on my side you’re safe, you’re good, you’re “normal”.

Fences that say I’m right, you’re wrong.

Many times, the area prescribed by our fence is arbitrary, determined by inertia, what our parents modeled or simply because “we’ve always done it that way.”

More often that not, we’ve constructed them out of fear.

The fact is that expanding the perimeter allows for a whole new world of possibilities, one that is never as scary as it may seem at first.

The fact is that until we all becoming more willing to move our fences out, we risk remaining hopelessly and sadly stuck.



Just because you killed Jesse James . . .

“Just because you killed Jesse James, don’t make you Jesse James.”

- Mike Ehrmantraut to Walter White, Episode 3, Season 5 of Breaking Bad.

Just because you’ve shot down my idea doesn’t mean yours is better. Defending the status quo can be necessary, but mostly it’s an excuse to stay trapped in our fear.

Just because you sit in judgment of all the “idiot” drivers and “slothful” welfare recipients and “feckless” politicians, doesn’t actually do anything. Though your fragile ego may get a hit for a few seconds, putting others down isn’t a solution. And it certainly adds nothing to the level of discourse.

Tearing down something else isn’t the same as your building something worthy or interesting. So instead of complaining, let’s see your plan.

Being the critic is mostly a place to hide from the hard work of leading us to something new and meaningful. So instead of judging, let’s hear your ideas.

Eliminating the competition may make life easier for a bit, but eventually our art, our projects, our passions have to stand on their own merits.

The universe is listening. And waiting.


It’s just cheese

My now ex-wife had a great first career in brand management at Kraft Foods. Early in our marriage, when she would get all wound up about something that had gone wrong at work, I would often find myself saying “you know Nancy, it’s just cheese.”

Around the same the time, I was in working at Sears. To be sure, I had my share of seemingly miserable days. And when I would get caught up in my own tale of woe, Nancy would sometimes remind me that I was devoting my life to making the world safe for moderately priced, largely unfashionable, family apparel. It’s fair to say that neither of us was curing cancer.

At a dinner party a few years ago, several of us endured a tax attorney prattling on about how tough his day had been. Finally, the pediatric surgeon seated to my right interrupted his rambling and interjected: “Yeah, that sounds really awful. Of course when I have a bad day somebody’s kid dies.”

It’s so easy to get caught up in the minutiae, to tell ourselves that because we are spending time on something it must be, by definition, important.

It’s so easy to spin ourselves into a maelstrom of worry about the small stuff.

It’s so easy to lose perspective.

But more times that not, it’s just cheese.

Collaborate with the unknown

Few truly important things happen in the warm safety of the familiar.

Clearly, the tried and true works some of the time. Yet much of the really interesting and impactful happens as we challenge our self-imposed boundaries and confront the bracing chill of our discomfort. When we choose–and don’t let any one tell you it’s not a choice–to walk through our fear, nearly infinite possibilities come in to view.

Innovation, by definition, implies a dance with uncertainty. Meaningful change occurs when we accept that this might not work, but we forge ahead anyway.

We exert so much energy–and spend so much time–fighting the unknown.

What if we decided to collaborate instead?

I don’t need to make you wrong

I don’t need to make you wrong to have a valid point.

I don’t need to make you wrong to express my wants and needs.

I don’t need to make you wrong to own my truth.

I don’t need to make you wrong just to feel better about myself.

My happiness does not require others’ suffering.

And what exactly is the point of creating a longer list of enemies and idiots?

When we make cutting the other person down our priority, our energy is almost always wasted.

When we start from a position of  “I’m right, you’re wrong,” our capacity for compassion is diminished.

When our ego pushes us to focus on everyone else–and to believe that everything would be okay if all these other folks would just get their act together–we lose sight of what we uniquely can do…what we are called to do…what we must do.

Attend your own lectures

I wish I could count how many times I’ve given advice to others that, while perfectly suited to my own circumstances, I’ve never taken.

I wish I could resist being irritated by character flaws or annoying behavior among friends, families and (sometimes) even random people on the street. Of course, usually what irks me in them is some reminder of my own perceived shortcomings.

Why is it so easy for me to notice  your failings while conveniently ignoring my own?

Why do I feel better pointing the finger at someone else, when really it should be pointed right back at myself?

Carl Jung pioneered the notion of the shadow self, describing how we often project our perceived, often unconscious, inferiority onto others while being unable or unwilling to see these traits in ourselves.

Debbie Ford–until her untimely death last year–and quite a few others have carried forth Jung’s work and expanded it in many useful ways.

In 12 Step groups “you spot it, you got it” is a familiar refrain.

And believe me, I’ve heard the phrase “consultant heal thyself” more than a few times.

None of this should be news. But I sure need to be reminded of it quite often.

I am aware that when I remember to spend less time worrying about you, and more time focused on the things within my control, things go a whole lot better for me.

I accept that when I attend my own lectures most of the time I have all the knowledge I truly need.

And then it’s time to act.




Might happen, will happen, has happened

In a classic Rowan Atkinson and Richard Curtis routine, Rowan asks “what is the secret to great comedy?” But before Richard can offer his reply, Rowan interrupts. “Timing” he blurts out.

Timing is, of course, essential to great strategy as well. Commit too early, and we risk over-investing or distracting ourselves from something more urgent and important. Commit too late, and we might miss a new opportunity entirely or end up falling woefully behind.

Understanding when to act at all, much less knowing when to act decisively, has everything to do with developing keen awareness of relevant factors and acceptance of their implications. Here is where most get it wrong.

Because most brands fail to invest sufficiently in developing actionable market and consumer insight, their ability to discern between “might happen”, “will happen” and “has happened” is woefully lacking.

Because most organizations do not have sufficient commitment to experimentation, they aren’t ready to act boldly when “might happen” becomes “will happen”.

Because most companies spend more time defending the status quo rather than embracing the future, they are often stuck in the past and miss “has happened” entirely.

Many important dynamics have–or are about to–change your customers and your business. Whether you realize it or not, is one thing.

And whether you are prepared to act on that realization is ultimately the difference between winning and wondering what the heck just happened?