When it comes to hiding from discomfort, I can mix it with the best of them.
Whether it’s sitting down to write this blog (meta), deciding to propose a new idea/project, recording an episode of The Long and The Short Of It, reaching out to a friend, asking a favour, having a difficult conversation, getting feedback on something, giving feedback on something or >insert any creative task that requires emotional labour and leadership< I have my fair share of hiding places.
My bet is you do too and that it might be helpful for us to name them.
So here are a handful of my favourite places to hide, as observed over the last week:
- In spreadsheets (maybe I could add another VLOOKUP or trend chart?)
- On social media (*scrolls aimlessly*)
- In email and Slack (Once I’m at Inbox 0, then I’ll be ready)
- Checking the weather (I wonder what the forecast is for next Tuesday?)
- Listening to (another) podcast (Maybe this guest can provide the nudge I need)
- Tidying my desk (The notepad is a little crooked)
- Tidying my desktop (Surely there’s a better way for me to arrange the 3 icons on my desktop)
- Window shopping online (Let me add all these things I don’t need to my cart, then close the window without buying anything)
Looking back at your last week, where have you hid? And what might happen if you made an intentional effort to avoid these places, even just by 10%?
What if the answer is less tasks?
Because more isn’t always better*.
*Unless it’s related to peanut butter and coffee.
- The first thing that comes to your mind is often predictable and safe
- If the current way(s) you were trying to do things was working, you wouldn’t feel stuck
- When it comes to creativity, innovation, and leadership, there is no ‘right’ answer
- It’s fun to think beyond the obvious
- You’ll come up with ridiculous and crazy ideas that make you and others laugh
- It’s a way to practice micro-failures
- You might coin new terms like micro-failures
- Amongst the ridiculous and crazy ideas you might just find some great ideas
- You might realise being stuck is a choice
- You might realise being stuck is a story you’re telling yourself
- You might realise being stuck is annoying
- Chances are you’re thinking binary (ie this way or that way)
- You might be able to combine multiple ideas into one, like some sort of mad scientist
- Wednesday’s Noodle Scratcher asserted it to be true
- 16 backwards is 61, which is also an arbitrary number
- You can write a blog about it in the form of a meta arbitrary numbered list that you’re not even sure makes sense
Next time you or someone you’re working with feels stuck: pick an arbitrary number and come up with that many ways to get unstuck.
Who knows, maybe unfiltered and unencumbered brainstorming might just become a hobby of yours like it has mine.
What are 7 things you would tell your closest friend if faced with a similar situation?
a) we’re often much better at helping others see possibility than doing so ourselves and;
b) there are at least 16 reasons why picking an arbitrary number is the world’s most underrated technique for generating ideas.
Last week I told myself I would complete my daily writing before lunch, knowing that my brain turns to mush in the afternoon.
Then, every single day, I found myself looking for, creating and sticking with some sort of excuse to delay the task until the afternoon.
“Let me just empty my inbox”, “I better make a coffee first” and “the kitchen bench could do with a wipe” were some of the common stories/justifications.
Much to my horror the afternoon would arrive, the kitchen bench would be gleaming and, as predicted, I’d feel sluggish, fatigued and like my brain was mush.
Annoyed at my past-self I would pull on every ounce of remaining energy I had left, open a Google doc, mash the keyboard with my meat sticks and produce some truly terrible writing.
“Tomorrow, I’ll do better” I would promise.
After a week of this I’m reminded that postponing until the conditions are perfect is rarely a good strategy.
Better to start early, and start small. One word at a time, bird by bird, as a past version of myself once wrote.
Progress, momentum and flow are the results of starting, not the pre-requisites, so what would it look like to behave accordingly?
How might you double the amount of risks you take?
Wherein a ‘risk’ is merely an action that might not work out the way you want it to. For example: asking a question, sharing an idea or eating a tablespoon of peanut butter from the jar.
With risks comes learning and with learning comes progress.
A small selection of books and podcasts that made me think, laugh, cry and do some noodlin’ in September:
For the mouth breathers in the house (ie anyone looking for mind blowing science and insight into the way we breathe):
Breath – James Nestor
For a fictional, hilarious and at times painfully accurate take on humanity:
The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy – Douglas Adams
For a ‘I need to pause this and write that quote down’ podcast interview on entrepreneurship and family:
Suneel Gupta on Design Matters.
For the perfect mix of comedy and intellect:
Absolutely Mental – with Ricky Gervais and Sam Harris is back with Season 2.
PS. Do you love feeling useful? Then share this blog with a friend or two and put your feet up knowing you’ve done a good deed for the day.
What do you think about that gets you really excited?
Because if there’s one thing we humans do well it’s get lost in thought.
In her best selling book Bird by Bird, Anne Lammott tells a great story about her brother rushing to finish a school assignment on birds at the last minute.
He was overwhelmed at the magnitude of the project and impending deadline until their father sat down beside him, placed a hand on his shoulder and said:
“Bird by bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird.”
It serves as an amazing (and at times annoying) reminder that the small actions we take consistently compound over time to create change.
Framed as a question, because that’s how we roll around here: What would it look like to suspend your obsession (and worry) of the desired outcome and instead just take it bird by bird?
Where might you invest your time today in a way that will set the next 12 months up for success?
Because sometimes it pays to get out of the weeds and look up.
PS. I shared a recent experience noodling on this question with my favourite tiny American on this week’s episode of The Long and The Short Of It.
Some good old fashioned fill in the blanks to provoke some noodling. You might pick one, three, all or none, there is no right answer. Write as much or as little as you like.
Most of all, make a mess and enjoy. It’s called noodling for a reason.
My super power is ___________
I could make more space to use it by ___________
The three people I go to when seeking feedback are ___________, ___________, and ___________
If I had all the time and money in the world I would spend my time___________
Success for me is ___________
When I’m 90 and I look back on my life I hope to think ___________
I want to be remembered as ___________
I spend too much time ___________ and not enough time ___________
This current chapter of my life is all about ___________
I currently feel stuck ___________
16 ways I could get unstuck are ___________
I am grateful for ___________
These fill in the blanks make me want to ___________
Is what you’re doing today getting you closer to where you want to be tomorrow?
Because, thanks to the compound effect, if you get 1% better at something every single day, then on day 72 you’ll be twice as good as when you started. See this post on the magic of 1%.
Thanks to my amazing girlfriend for writing this question on a sticky note and putting it on my desk this week. I didn’t realise how much I needed to hear it. Maybe you do too.
Three examples of actions you can take that have a disproportionate reward for effort and positive return:
- Buying a beautiful bunch of flowers costs between $20-$40 and has the potential to provide joy and calm to you and anyone else who lives in your house for 1-2 weeks. A pretty great dollar:joy ratio by most measures.
- Saying a genuine and heartfelt thank you to someone in your life costs a mere 30 seconds and has the potential to strengthen your ongoing relationship with them for days, weeks, months, and even years to come. A very worthwhile time:connection practice.
- Checking in with everyone in your team by asking, in one sentence, how they are feeling or what they are excited about costs 5 minutes of a 50-minute meeting and has the potential to make everyone feel seen and heard. At just 10% of the allotted meeting time, this is a hard to rival time:empathy situation.
And so, as you ponder this nood (short for noodle for those of you just joining us), consider:
What small actions can you practice that have a disproportionate reward for effort and positive return?
How might I make this something that people want to attend?
Because there’s a big difference in how people show up when they want to as opposed to feeling like they have to.
A small selection of books and podcasts that made me think, laugh, cry and do some noodlin’ in August:
For anyone seeking a (very) practical guide to making better decisions
How To Decide by Annie Duke.
For a fictional and captivating escape back in time to Darwin, Australia during WWII:
All Our Shimmering Skies by Trent Dalton
For those ready to laugh so hard you have to pause the podcast:
Any episode of Smartless will do the trick, including this recent interview with Octavia Spencer
For a healthy example of what it sounds like to model vulnerability:
Ryan Shelton on The Imperfects.
PS. Do you love sharing useful, noodle-worthy resources with others? Then share this blog with some friends and sit back and relax knowing you did a good deed for the day.
Imagine a game of basketball comes down to the last play. There’s 1 second to go, scores are level and someone hits a shot right on the buzzer to win the game.
The fans of the winning team go nuts, jumping out of their chairs screaming, hugging and high-fiving one another (it’s a pre-COVID game of basketball after all).
The fans of the losing team slump forward in their chairs, throw their hats on the ground and look for the exit.
The neutral fan is somewhere in the middle, in awe of what a great game they witnessed and not as invested in the result as the other two parties.
Everyone in the crowd has seen the exact same series of events and ascribes an entirely different meaning to said events. This meaning, depending on who they choose to support, then shapes how they feel, behave and respond to others.
Without the basketball analogy: We each create our own meaning of things that we see/read/hear/consume.
Of course, this isn’t only true in a hypothetical game of basketball.
So the thing that has me scratching my noodle, puffing my imaginary pipe and peering out the window over my spectacles is: What am I choosing to give meaning to? What would it look like if I didn’t?
How will you know you’ve been successful?
Because the temptation to be self-critical, unsatisfied, and seeking the allure (and falsehood) of perfect is real.
No one will judge you as harshly as you judge yourself, so how will you know you’ve been successful?
They can change your life in 30 seconds.
It could be by asking a great question, challenging you to step up or installing a magic blue table.
The good news is there are a myriad of ways teachers open doors and turn on lights for others, so it’s worth pondering:
- What would it look like to thank the great teachers in my life?
- How might I seek to be a great teacher for others?
Thanks to Jim Collins’ 2016 blog for the reminder and the brilliant Robbie Wood for sharing it with me.
What might I create today?
Because to-do’s could do with a makeover and to-create’s inspire agency and curiosity.
Hear more in this week’s episode of The Long and The Short Of It. It’s only 17min (or 11min if you listen in 1.5x speed because you love efficiency).
A couple of weeks ago I received the following message from my brother:
“If you are what you eat, then you think what you read.”
These last five words struck me as profoundly true.
That is: that our thoughts, beliefs, dreams, fears, doubts and insecurities are shaped by the things we consume. Be it books, news articles, social media, TV shows, movies, podcasts, advertisements and anything in between.
With this in mind, I see two things worth noodling on:
- What am I reading and consuming?
- How is it serving me?
Also, full credit to my sister who, within minutes of receiving the same message, replied:
“I guess that makes me a chocolate frog.”