Innovation · Inspiration · Life Lessons

Out of ignorance or fear?

There are all sorts of reasons we stay stuck, fail to take action on the things we tell ourselves really matter, spin on items big and small.

Whether it’s deepening (or ending) a personal relationship, finishing our book, quitting a soul-crushing job or starting that new business we keep talking about, there is an aspect of our evolutionary biology that holds us back.

Vulnerability is scary.

Bringing our ideas, wishes and dreams into the light risks criticism–or even ridicule.

All too often, The Resistance is real.

Half the battle in overcoming our fears is to accept the reality that we crave both growth and safety at the same time. Yet there is simply no talking ourselves out of the fact of our hard-wiring. Our job, then, is to learn how to quiet the lizard brain and press on.

Ignorance is a different matter entirely.

Ignorance is often a major contributor to stoking our fear and anxiety. One needs neither an advanced degree–or any degree at all–nor dedication of substantial time and effort to see how much our society is burdened by irrational fears borne largely out of misinformation, misunderstanding and verifiable mistruths.

The fact is, in the developed world at least, most people have plenty of access to all the information they need to be reasonably well informed. Most folks have the tools to apply a decent level of discernment.

If it matters to you and you don’t know, your ignorance is a willful act.

In fighting our stuckness, in being willing to put our art out into the ether, in exposing who we are to another person, in contributing to a better world, it’s important to understand what holds us back.

Fear is a dragon to slay. Ignorance is a choice.

 

This post was simultaneously published on my more spiritually driven blog I Got Here As Fast As I Could.

Inspiration · Leadership

“I’ve wasted enough of my viewers’ time.”

The best moment on television yesterday was clearly this.

The second best, in my opinion, was Jake Tapper’s CNN interview with White House adviser (and front-runner for the least likable person to grow up in Santa Monica) Stephen Miller.

For more than 10 minutes Miller spouted off irrelevant nonsense until Tapper finally showed him the door with the send-off “I’ve wasted enough of my viewers’ time.” If only more folks had the courage to take decisive action on the useless, the meaningless, the dishonest, the distracting.

We waste our customers’ time with undifferentiated products, boring experiences and one-size-fits-all marketing.

We waste our teams’ time with meetings that have no discernible goals or impact.

We waste our friends’ and followers’ time with posts that serve no purpose other than to prop up our egos.

We waste our own time by needing to be right, staying stuck in resentment, obsessing about things we cannot change, confusing busy with effective, and on and on.

Mary Oliver, probably my favorite poet, beckons us with the question: “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?

Great question.

Tick tock.

another-way_0

This post has been simultaneously published on my other, more spiritually oriented blog.

 

 

Inspiration

Gratitude

With 2017 now in the rear view mirror, I’ve been reflecting on the people (and organizations) to whom I am most grateful for their support, the examples they’ve set and for challenging me to keep pushing to make my little dent in the universe.

A precious few extended a measure of grace when I didn’t feel like I deserved it. Others were simply there to listen or give me a hug when my heart felt broken and shattered.

Literally thousands of folks energized me, connected with me (“in real life” or on social media) or touched me in some important way. Of course, any list such as this is always incomplete and imperfect. In that way, it’s an incredibly human thing. If I missed you, I’m sorry. Either way, thank you.

So here goes…

I’m eternally grateful to Seth. In the nearly 40 years (!!!) I’ve known him he never ceases to amaze me with his insight, encouragement and generosity.

So many folks inspire my thinking on all things related to retail, leadership and innovation. At the top of a long list are Scott Galloway, Deb Weinswig, Jason Goldberg and Kasey Lobaugh.

Thanks to the folks at Forbes, who added me as a retail contributor this year, to IBM Watson Customer Engagement, Vend and BizTech for making me sound more influential than I am and to REVTECH for naming me an Executive In Residence.

I am also deeply appreciative to those who invited me to share my thoughts on reinventing retail in the age of Amazon as a speaker at their conferences or internal company events.

Thanks as well to all my social media followers, who share my thoughts, help me evolve my thinking and catch my errors.

I’m fortunate to be involved with a number of wonderful organizations that allow me to help advance social justice causes, including Social Venture Partners Dallas, The GroundFloor and the First Unitarian Church of Dallas. I’ve made so many great friends through these groups and have received so much more from them than I’ve been able to give.

I’ve also gotten to work directly with several incredible social impact organizations including Akola, Bonton Farms, Education Opens Doors and Miles of Freedom. Phenomenal teams doing important work.

I am so touched by those who tolerate my spiritual musings and explorations, including–and most especially–the intrepid and tolerant few who have found my second blog “I Got Here As Fast As I Could.” I hope to write more consistently this year. Consider yourself warned.

My spiritual journey continues to be informed and deepened by many phenomenal teachers including Pema Chodron, Brene Brown, Thich Nhat Hahn, Jack Kornfield, Eckert Tolle, Sharon Salzberg and the Rev. Aaron White.  If you don’t know their work, you should. Just sayin’.

No list would be complete without including the irrepressible KimQi, who has enriched my life in more ways than she can possibly know–even when the lessons haven’t always been easy.

And lastly, thanks to the amazing Elena and Claire, who are sources of constant delight and who have bestowed upon me my greatest title: “Dad.”

1gratitudepooh

Inspiration · Leadership · Life Lessons

That which we worship

“What people revere, they resemble, either for ruin or for restoration.”

– Greg Beale

The word “worship” most often has a religious connotation. But we can revere, adore, exalt, venerate and glorify many things beyond whatever concept of a Higher Power we have (or don’t).

We can worship money.

We can worship being right.

We can worship a bigger house filled with more and ever cooler stuff.

We can worship the demonization of people different from us.

We can worship busyness.

We can worship propping up or protecting our ego.

We can even worship feeling like a victim.

And on and on.

Then again…

We can worship compassion.

Or generosity.

Or acceptance.

Or courage.

Or forgiveness.

Or love.

The thing to remember is that which we worship is a choice, made each and every day, in the present moment.

The other thing to remember is that, ultimately, what we worship defines us and our impact on the world.

As we embark on a New Year maybe it’s time to make some different choices?

1fcaaf1

A version of this post originally was posted on my “other” blog: I Got Here As Fast As I Could.

Innovation · Inspiration · Life Lessons

Misteaks were made

Our culture tends to reward perfectionism. Never say die, never fail, never let them see you sweat, be all you can be. And so on.

I’ve worked with–and for–a lot of perfectionists. Some of my best friends are perfectionists. I might have even fallen in love with a perfectionist or two. And, in the spirit of full disclosure, I’ve had my own bouts with setting impossibly high standards for myself and then falling short time and time again. Let the self flagellation begin!

It’s a trap.

In fact, more and more research suggests that perfectionism actually hampers success, while being a major contributor to depression, anxiety and even suicide.

Unfortunately, the growth of social media only exacerbates the situation and sets us up for a ridiculous game of comparison as our “friends” share all the fabulous things they are doing, all the great relationships they are in (“best boyfriend ever!”) and all the wonderful food they are enjoying (“nom”).

All these crazy comparisons only make us crazy. When we stop worrying about what others will think we are truly free to embrace being ourselves, warts and all.

Our fear of looking stupid or vulnerable hinders the possibility for intimacy. Letting go of our desire for control and certainty paves the way for real connection.

And it’s precisely our unwillingness to fail that is the biggest barrier to innovation (of all kinds) and personal growth. As Seth reminds us, “if failure is not option, neither is success.”

Fear of failure, of making a mistake, keeps us stuck in so many ways.

Perfectionism is a curse. Imperfection yields many gifts.

What do you say? Let’s go make some mistakes.

Quotefancy-251942-3840x2160

A version of this post originally appeared on my purpose-driven blog I Got Here As Fast As I Could.

Innovation · Inspiration · Leadership · Life Lessons

Predictable crises

When someone we care about fails to admit they have a serious problem and fails to do the work to remedy it, are we shocked when they eventually experience the consequences of their addictive or dysfunctional behavior?

Are we surprised one little bit when a brand facing stiff competition and highly disruptive forces finds itself struggling to stay in business because it never bothered to get serious about innovation?

Is it at all astonishing that deficits mount or poverty persists or bridges collapse when politicians lack the courage to address the root causes and constantly kick the can down the road?

In The Sun Also Rises one of Hemingway’s characters famously answered the question of how he went bankrupt by saying: “Two ways. Gradually, then suddenly.”

If we are honest, many of us see the wall we’re going to crash into long before we feel the impact. But fear keeps us stuck in inaction and false hope.

Liars lie. Gravity always wins. And few problems unaddressed magically fix themselves.

The best time to start was likely years ago. The second best time is now.

yves klein

 

 

Innovation · Inspiration · Leadership

The price of waiting

It’s typically not difficult to calculate the cost of starting something, of moving ahead, of taking the plunge.

Perhaps it’s a new IT project or a marketing test. Possibly it’s a decision to try a pilot concept or invest in a promising technology. Or maybe we’re considering taking the next big step in a hopeful personal relationship.

When we have to ante up additional time, write that big check, invest more emotional commitment, the price tag often seems pretty obvious.

Yet what we get wrong (or dramatically underestimate) are the consequences of our hesitation. We lean on the desire for better data and convince ourselves we need more time to weigh or explore our options. We become a slave to the pull of our perfectionism. We tell ourselves the time is just not quite right to act.

Ultimately, what keeps us stuck, what causes us to not pull the trigger, is our fear of getting it wrong, of looking stupid, of being judged, of fully experiencing and feeling our vulnerability.

It’s not hard to see how waiting too long to innovate has been the death knell for many companies. Think Blockbuster, Netflix, RadioShack and (soon) Sears. They paid (or are paying) the ultimate price for waiting.

My guess is that with whatever organizations you’ve been involved in you can readily point to opportunities that were missed because moving ahead was deemed too risky, when just the opposite proved to be true.

And maybe we’ve let real love and connection allude us for similar reasons.

Indeed, sometimes the waiting IS the hardest part.

Alas, other times it’s all too easy.

And we realize how high the price is when it’s all too late.

236952-If-We-Wait-Until-We-re-Ready-We-ll-Be-Waiting-For-The-Rest-Of-Our-Lives.jpg

 

Inspiration · Life Lessons

Heads you win

As we celebrate Thanksgiving in the United States, many of us will engage in some practice, formal or otherwise, to name that for which we are grateful. Our health, our families, a roof over our head, the delicious food we are about to eat, and so on. You know the drill.

This is mostly an exercise in naming “the what” of our gratitude, and recognizes little of “the why” or “the how.”

Clearly plenty of folks have worked hard to achieve levels of wealth, connection and safety that millions cannot even fathom; some of us overcoming childhood trauma, poverty, illness or other very challenging circumstances. That is to be acknowledged and admired.

Yet it also true that the sheer serendipity of our birth can play a significant role, and working hard may have rather little to do with whether on this day we experience abundance or scarcity or somewhere in between. This is what Warren Buffett refers to as the “Ovarian Lottery.”

Heads you win. Tails I lose. Or vice versa.

The fact is that the zip code or particular family situation we just happened to be born into is often a huge determinant of our future. In the United States inequality begins in the womb. So as Barry Switzer famously said, if we were born on third base we shouldn’t go through life thinking we hit a triple.

As I sit down for our Thanksgiving meal, I am extremely grateful. But I am also humbled and filled with compassion. Yes, I worked hard, but I also got lucky. Very, very lucky.

Inspiration · Leadership · Life Lessons

The 3 things we cannot change

Despite our earnest wishes there are three important things we cannot change.

The past.

The truth.

Another person.

Sure, we can learn from our history.

Yes, we need to be careful to separate facts from our often distorted perceptions.

Of course, people can evolve. But never through the sheer force of our will.

Life only happens in the present moment.

Meaningful change comes from confronting and accepting reality, however unpleasant.

We are solely responsible for our thoughts and actions.

To get out of the mental prison we’ve built, we must first realize we are in it.

h/t Anne Lamott

63e728454305e0bd296d183d3181f2ab

 

 

 

Inspiration · Leadership

Our initial descent

When we let a wildly inappropriate comment go because we don’t want to make waves or embarrass the person who made it.

When we take a comment too personally and shift into argumentative mode because it’s more important to be right than to stay present and connected.

When we stay stuck in habits that don’t serve us because we’re afraid to fail or look foolish.

When we take any kind of short-cut at the expense of quality.

When we put others down because we’re not feeling good about ourselves.

When we defend the status quo even though we know we’re headed for a fall.

Our initial descent into tolerating bad actions is barely noticeable.

In the beginning, our acceptance of mediocrity can be undetectable.

Falling into the habit of ego protection (or inflation) can be subtle at first.

But what’s clear is our trajectory. And we’re headed down.

We get to choose whether we want to crash or soar.

soar-hero