Category Archives: Fitness

We Didn’t Have to Wait

Many people see 2020 as a year to (un)remember. Lives disrupted.

A new year is upon us, and with it, a new outlook. Is it a New Year’s resolution? Is it the promise of the vaccine(s)? Is it new habits that help us cope?

We didn’t have to wait. A new outlook can be adopted on any day. It’s a shift. Most people don’t shift until they have to, until they are pushed to. But, the shift isn’t required. The shift is a choice.

Heightened Intuition

Remember the bio-feedback days. It was all the rage, an entire arm of the psychology, self-help, medical community started a little cottage industry. I don’t know where it started, maybe with the old lie-detector machines that measured Galvanic skin response. The essence of the science was that various stimuli in the environment create predictable biological responses in the body, sparking electrical and chemical changes in brain patterns and hormone levels. It’s what gives you the sweats when you get nervous.

You don’t hear much about bio-feedback anymore, but the bio-responses in your body are still very real. As a Manager, these bio-responses can work for you and against you. For the most part, bio-response is unconscious, we don’t know what is going on inside, but the hormones are being released nonetheless. As brain patterns change or hormone levels build, if the Manager can become sensitive to the change, two very important things can occur.

  • Heightened intuition
  • Channeled reaction

Charlie was in my office yesterday. We were talking about mostly nothing for a half a minute, when I suddenly became uncomfortable. Something happened inside of me, mostly with my stomach. I wasn’t in discomfort, but there was a significant twinge. Some people believe that intuition is unexplainable, but I think intuition is simply getting in touch with the bio-responses that unconsciously occur all the time.

The twinge in my stomach was caused by a short silence, a white space in the conversation. I had asked a question about Charlie’s last meeting with his boss. There was no response from Charlie. Silence in a conversation often causes a momentary awkwardness, which is a bio-response to “I don’t know where this conversation is going next? I thought I knew, but I don’t know now. I wish I knew, but I still don’t know. I hope this conversation get some direction soon, because this awful silence is killing me.” BOOM. That’s the bio-response. Heightened intuition (simply getting in touch with the bio-response) tells me that we are talking about something more significant than the weather. The first important element of bio-response is heightened intuition.

The second is channeled reaction. The automatic (unconscious) reaction to a bio-response is to avoid. Do anything to make this feeling go away. The silence was awkward. The automatic (unconscious) response is simply to “talk.” Make the silence go away. If I talk, the silence will be gone, the awkwardness will be gone and I won’t feel this way. It is also likely that the conversation will steer back to a discussion of the weather.

Channel the reaction. When the Manager becomes aware of the bio-response, the reaction can be channeled productively. My bio-response to Charlie was a twinge in the stomach. The twinge told me that this conversation had potential to be more meaningful. I could avoid it or I could engage. Avoiding it would be easy, simply talk to fill the silence, talk about anything. OR, I could engage, and channel the reaction. I could let the silence continue. I could let the silence do the heavy lifting to move this conversation to the next level. Something significant had happened between Charlie and his boss and Charlie needed to talk about it. We could have talked about sports, or we could have engaged in a meaningful discussion that had real impact on Charlie.

The bio-response gives the Manager a heightened sense of intuition and the possibility to channel the reaction to a more productive outcome. Listen to the twinges, watch for white space in conversations.

With Gratitude

“What are you thankful for?” I asked.

The eyes from the other side of the table turned kind.

“I am thankful for this time of year, where things slow down. I stop. I stop being busy and become aware. If we don’t stop, we just keep going. Gratitude is about awareness. When I stop, my heart rate goes down. I am calm. In the quiet, I can take it in. I can watch and see things more clearly for what they are.”

“And, what do you see?” I prompted.

“I see connections, the relationships I have with other people. I play a role in other people’s lives and other people bring value to mine. It’s all about connections.”

“And, what are you thankful for?” I asked again.

“I am thankful that I am not wandering alone. I am thankful for those around me, that are connected to me. It sounds too obvious. That’s why it is so important to slow down and become aware. If we don’t stop, we just keep going.”

During this time of Thanksgiving, I am going to stop. To become aware.

See you next week. With my gratitude.

Which Mental State Do You Feed?

Mental states trigger different parts of the brain. Mental states trigger different hormones in the blood stream.

There are several versions of a story, this one ascribed to the Cherokee.

There was a grandfather speaking with his grandson, telling of two wolves. “There are two wolves living inside me,” the grandfather explained. “They fight with each other, one is evil, one is good.

“The evil wolf uses anger, sorrow, fear, judgement, greed, self-pity, guilt, lies, false pride and ego.

“The good wolf uses love, serenity, hope, empathy, exploration, generosity, gratitude, truth, compassion, creativity and purpose.”

“In this fight between the two wolves,” the grandson asked, “which will win?”

“The answer is simple,” the grandfather replied. “The wolf that wins, is the wolf you feed.”

Which wolf are you feeding? It’s a shift in mental state.

Negative Stream

Around the water cooler, have you noticed the tone of conversation?

  • “Did you hear about so and so, can you believe what happened?”
  • “You should have seen this guy who cut me off in traffic this morning.”
  • “Can you believe the gall of that person, why are they so opinionated?”

And, most of this is unconscious. It comes streaming out with little thought, guidance or direction. So easy to find fault, condemn or complain.

Ask a person about something good that happened yesterday, and they will stop, suddenly out of flow. Something positive requires conscious thought, does not come streaming out. We can usually find that positive moment from yesterday, but we have to interrupt our unconscious negative stream to do so.

The negative stream and positive thoughts sit in two different parts of the brain. Negative thoughts, from the primal brain arrive from a mental state of survival. Reflexive in speed, we don’t have to think. Positive thoughts require that we trigger the neo-cortex, fully visible on a fMRI brain scan. Responsive in speed, we have to think. Which part of the brain are you thinking with? Which mental state are you using to solve problems and make decisions?

Not the Surrounding Circumstances

I woke this morning, looked around to see. This new normal is emerging, funny that today looks a lot like yesterday and I anticipate that tomorrow will look a lot like today.

Five months into this journey, things have changed. And, our ability to react, nay respond, nay adapt depends not on the surrounding circumstances, but on us.

What have you learned in the past five months, not about the world around, but what have you learned about yourself?

Agile

I let others conjecture the path of COVID-19, AND a couple of things are clearer. My focus is not on the pandemic, but your business-model-response to shifting circumstances.

  • The heat of summer in the northern hemisphere will reduce the ability of the virus to survive, creating a seasonal impact. This does not appear to be true.
  • There will be waves of contagion. I don’t know if we are in the second wave or the lingering impact of the first wave. Does it matter? There will be more waves.
  • Hope against hope, there will not be a vaccine until early next year.

Those business models that survive will be those who adapt to reality.

  • Find a market with a business need, set out to solve it.
  • Test the solution to be adequate and understand its value in the market.
  • Determine if the cost of the solution is less than the market value (profit).
  • Determine if the market is large enough (enough profitable transactions) to build a business.
  • Determine the next adaptation required to sustain the business model.

This begs the question of innovation and creativity. What is the agility of your organization?

What Do We Bet On?

As we wait, what are the possibilities? What are the uncertainties? Ambiguities? And what do we bet on?

  • We look for things we hope for.
  • We look for things that drive our optimism.
  • We look for things we like to see.
  • We look for data that supports our wishes.
  • We look for data that confirms our suspicions.
  • We look for data that supports our own bias.

Reality always wins.

Do not be mislead by hope, what we like, our wishes, suspicions and bias. It is too easy to be lead astray. Most managers I work with are optimists. It is a valid way to see the world, AND there are other possibilities.

What is the worst that can possibly happen?
Prepare to accept the worst-case scenario.
Work to improve on the worst outcome which you have mentally agreed to accept.

I suggest these are not mutually exclusive AND we can hold two simultaneous thoughts that appear to contradict. The intersection of worst outcome and the position of optimism may provide the guidance we seek. It will ALWAYS be better than the worst outcome.

Improve on the worst outcome comes from Dale Carnegie, How to Stop Worrying and Start Living.

Off Balance

“Sometimes, during the day, I feel like I am lost,” Miriam lamented.

“How so?” I asked

“Things just seem off-balance. I don’t know if it’s the circumstance we are in, with all the changes, or if it’s me?”

“It’s easy to see the circumstances that have changed. And, part of it is you,” I nodded.

“So, it is me?”

I continued to nod, “Yep. Think about the moment you feel off-kilter, what happens?”

“I am just about to do something, out of instinct, then I have to second-guess, is this what I should really be doing, right now?”

“So, you have a habit that is breaking, at least in question?”

It was Miriam’s turn to nod. “And, breaking a habit feels off-balance. Habits are supposed to help me take consistent action. And, now I am not so sure the next action is right?”

“Miriam, it’s normal, welcome to the world of professional growth.”

Process and People

“I feel a bit overwhelmed,” admitted Melissa. “There are so many things that can go wrong on this project, and I’m just not sure if I can manage it all.”

“You are right,” I replied. “You cannot manage every detail. Success consists of the execution of a hundred things, most of which cannot be managed.”

“Then how?”

“Most things we accomplish as managers consist of process and systems with elements that can be measured and managed. But that is only part of the story. Success also requires elements like focused attention, cooperation with team members and commitment to the result. Those are elements, difficult to measure, but more importantly, almost impossible to manage. You cannot manage focus, cooperation and commitment. This is the people side of management, and people don’t want to be managed.”

Melissa was silent, thinking. “The people side is more difficult than the process side, and maybe more important. I think I would take a mediocre process with some fired up people, over a spectacular process with a poor attitude.”