Surprises change our reality.
The good kind, like a surprise birthday can take us from “I’m having a quiet dinner with one friend” to “looks like I’m having a party with 30 of my friends”.
The not so good kind, like a big client deciding they no longer need our services can take us from “there are plenty of projects for us next quarter” to “coolcoolcool, we need to step up our business development.”
In both cases, in order to navigate what’s happened and move forward we must accept the circumstances of our new reality.
Consider how odd it would be to ignore the 30 friends throwing us a surprise birthday party and pretend we were still having a quiet dinner with one.
When faced with a surprise, then, a good question to ponder is: what’s my new reality?
The only person who knows what you know is you.
No-one else hears the thoughts that go through your head or has experienced your lifetime of experiences.
The same is true of everyone around you.
always missing context.
Knowing this, it pays to show up with curiosity for others and, when appropriate, share our story.
Is this decision likely to provide me more time and/or happiness?
‘Likely’ because we can’t be certain that a good decision will lead to a good outcome (thank you
‘Time and/or happiness’ because what metric(s) could be more important?
That’s what we’re all doing.
Whether it’s your boss, the CEO, a mentor, the person you admire, your best friend or a complete stranger.
Sure, we might notice patterns or rhymes based on our past experiences, but it’s worth remembering we’ve never experienced this moment, these people, this context or this year before.
The sooner we accept this, the sooner we can let go and bring joy, purpose and humanity to our work.
Case and point:
Your next meeting doesn’t have to be one hour long just because Google or Outlook said so.
In fact, 20 minutes of focussed, intentional and non-distracted conversation in small groups is enough to create meaningful connection, progress and alignment.
We default to one hour because it’s easy and safe, not because it’s the most effective.
Instead, we can take the more intentional and generous route by pausing to consider:
What’s the one thing I want to get out of this meeting? What if I only had 20min to achieve it?
Often it’s really helpful to say things out loud.
To share, using your voice, what you’re working on, where you’re stuck and how you could use some support.
To unpack what it’s like to be you right now, what you’re excited about and what feels hard.
Anyone who’s ever had a coach, therapist or curious loved one knows this.
Saying things out loud can help us connect dots, solve problems and cultivate empathy with others.
It’s why we say things like “Thanks for letting me get that off my chest” or “I feel better having said that out loud”.
The catch is it requires someone who’s generous enough to hold space for us.
The opportunity then, is to be that person for someone. To checkin with others for no reason other than to give them the gift to share what’s on their mind.
It’s quite possible we are (
read: I am) striving for the sake of striving.
Maybe it’s increasing revenue, finding a better job, gaining another client, getting more listeners/readers/followers or listing more examples of things we strive for.
While this can be an effective strategy to grow and develop we also risk getting stuck on the metaphorical treadmill with the setting set to 16, sweat pouring down our face and legs pumping faster than we thought possible in order to stay upright and avoid being the next viral face plant video.
Knowing that it’s worth pausing to consider: What does
enough look like?
PS. I recently had a wide-ranging conversation with Craig Harper on The You Project related to this and other topics including coaching, leadership and making change.
A selection of noodley questions that all start with the same two words:
What if you weren’t afraid?
What if you weren’t stuck?
What if it was easy?
What if you’re right?
What if you’re wrong?
What if this fails?
What if this succeeds?
What if we didn’t do things the same way we always have?
What if we tried this instead?
What if you’re right where you need to be?
What if crunchy peanut butter is just smooth peanut butter that didn’t quite make it?
These questions that start with
‘what if’ serve as great pattern interrupts for the stories we tell ourselves.
Is it about “getting everyone on the same page?”
Or “providing an update”?
Or “sharing a progress report?”
If so, it’s worth noting these are merely ways of passively sharing information.
Passively sharing information can easily be done in an email, Slack message, voice recording or video. In fact, that’s precisely what these mediums are for.
Meetings, on the other hand, can be reserved for active participation and connection.
That is to say:
What if we did away with the slide decks and reserved meetings for human connection?
For checking in and asking: what’s it like to be you right now?
For real-time brainstorming and collaboration?
Might we start to enjoy connecting with our peers, rather than loathing another one-way business update?
Requires precision, patience and careful attention.
You have to boil the water before wetting the paper filter.
Measure and weigh the right amount of coffee into the damp filter (15g for one cup).
Then, gently pour 30-40g of water at a time, allowing the coffee to ‘bloom’, until you have 250g of delicious liquid gold.
It’s a slow, gentle process that does not benefit from being rushed, or optimised.
A process that is well worth the effort with a coffee that ends up smooth and full of flavour.
It makes me wonder:
Where else is the same rule true?
Where might we slow down?
What if we practiced precision, patience and careful attention in our work and with our teams?
Might that change the frantic energy many are feeling in this moment?
NB: Contrary to popular belief manicured beards and/or tattoos are optional in the process of making a delicious cup of pour over.