Paradox of Choice

Years ago I heard a story about a guy learning to water ski for the first time. 

He was having trouble getting up on the skis, on top of the water – a common challenge for newbies.  After several unsuccessful attempts, his buddies on the boat started shouting all kinds of ideas for him.  All at once.  All of them were seasoned skiers, and all of them spoke over themselves giving this guy ideas to help him succeed.  Likely all good advice. But not all at once.

Within a few seconds, the guy finally yelled, “Shut up!”

He then picked one guy and said, “You, and no one else, tell me what to do.”

He took the advice and came up at once on the next attempt. 

It’s most likely that each of his buddies had good ideas, but when it’s all coming at you at once, it’s all diluted by too many choices, with none of them standing out as one clear pathway to success.

He cleared the choices and chose one path. And it worked.

Zig Ziglar, famous sales trainer and motivational speaker, used to share the story of the lion tamer.  This person would go into the lion cage equipped with a pistol (just in case) and a chair.  The chair was what was used to “tame” the lion.  How? Simple. The chair has four points, meaning four points of focus – and we all know you cannot focus on four points at once. And neither can the lion.

Here in lies the paradox of choice.  For the lion, the options, or choices, created a paralyzing effect – leading to inaction.  A good thing for the lion tamer.  Not so much for us.

Unfortunately, many of us are carrying this same chair in our lives.  Too many options often mean no clear options.  What is the right sales technique? There are tons, but perhaps the best plan is to simply pick one and start swinging.  Just go and adjust as you go.

Get rid of the chair and start executing.  It’s not about wrong choices; it’s about choosing and making it right. 

Advice from years back: Make a decision and then make it right.  

He Will Take Another Step

(Contributed by Mitch Greene)

If you were to define the absolute best part of your character in one sentence, how would it go?

At the beginning of the summer, I posed this question to Al, the head cook at my job. I love open-ended questions like this one, and he was used to being on the receiving end of my games, so it was just another normal day of conversation for us. After about three hours of discussion on this topic, we eventually came up with this sentence for him:

“Though my feet may tire, I will take another step.”

The reasoning was simple. Al works way too much, and he is getting older. Literally, his feet get too tired, and he has to sit down to rest them before he can keep going. He just wishes that he didn’t need that rest. He wanted to be able to push through the pain so that he may accomplish his goals. The sentence was meant to be funny and literal.

This one little sentence seemed like nothing at the time, but a few weeks later the hardest week of the year was here, and things were crazy. We went from the crack of dawn until midnight, running around trying to make things happen. On one of our insanely hard and long days, Al walked past his chair, looked at it and stopped. After staring at it for a little too long with a longing look, he turned to me and yelled at the top of his lungs… “THOUGH MY FEET MAY TIRE, I WILL TAKE ANOTHER STEP!”

I heard him repeat that sentence easily over one hundred times since that moment. What I haven’t seen is… my brother Al giving in.

I believe that creating a statement that describes the best part of a person helps them become just that, the best that they can be. He chose that sentence, and he truly lived it out to the best of his ability.

Take the time to put the best part of your character into a sentence and live it out. Choose the wording and what it means to you. Let it drive you to be you, the you that you choose to be! To start you off and give you an example, here’s mine:

“It’s always just another day in paradise.”

Bully on the Court!

Mitchell was in his first year of high school tennis.  He was the smallest on the team, having my genetics to work with (I’m 5’7” with shoes on), and he was bumped up a grade – a freshman at the age of an 8th grader.

But he played good tennis. He was smart on the court, fast and nimble, and had good consistency. Through team ladder play at practice, he eventually worked his way onto the varsity team, sharing the second spot on second team doubles.  His partner was his junior varsity coach’s son.  This was the kind of player who had the big serve, the big swing and no consistency.  Trying to be unbiased, he was good when he was good, but usually he was bad.  He towered over Mitch by nearly a foot and almost doubled his weight – and had the attitude and action of a nasty bully.  On the court, he’d tell Mitch, “If it’s close, call it out!” and if he made a mistake, which was often, he’d usually blame it on Mitch or take it out on him in some twisted way.   And Mitchell paid for it.

It got to a point where Mitch told us he wanted to quit the team. I remember the discussion in our kitchen shortly before another match.  He just hated playing with this guy.  We told him we’d support him no matter what, but that the best course of action might be to talk to the coaches and sort it out together. I would never have had that kind of courage.

He did.

He talked to his junior varsity coach the next day.  Remember, the coach is the bully’s dad!  And Mitch actually told his dad that he would not play with his son anymore – not could not, would not. No exceptions. Yikes.

Fortunately, this coach might have known a few things about his son. So the conversation went well, but because Mitch could not yet move up (over his son), he had to accept junior varsity again, which he gladly did. 

He finished the year, though, earning his varsity letter and went on to do so every year after.

Confrontation can be difficult, but handled properly and straightforward, maintaining purpose and respect, it can be highly productive.   Mitchell did not confront his teammate, but he did confront the coaches, who should have seen it all along.  And they respected his position, leading to an ultimately positive outcome. I admire that.

How do we see confrontation?   Maybe if we redefine confrontation, take away the assumed negative implication and see it as potentially productive, we’d engage in it with much more effectiveness at home and work, rather than attacking or avoiding – which does nothing productive.

Let’s seek the win/win in difficult situations. It’s usually there if we look for it.

The Noise in Our Heads

(Contributed by Mitch Greene)

How many times have you experienced silence in the past year?

Got a number in your head? Okay, now take out the time you are not awake. Now take out any time when there is background noise like the TV, your family talking, music or the sound of your own movement. Okay, now you are down to very few moments. Lastly, exclude the time when you have any thoughts you have about the past, the future or anything happening in any place other than right where you are. This leaves you with what? Very little or possibly nothing at all. There may not be a time on any given day where your mind was not consciously involved in some way.

Our brains are always so occupied with something. We always have the TV or music playing. We are having a conversation, or maybe we have a podcast playing. We’re working on a project, doing chores, driving somewhere, and so on. There’s always something filling the void in our thoughts.

I feel that some of us do this so that we can avoid this outer silence. We know that the second the noise on the outside stops, the noise on the inside picks up. It feels as if we are flooded with thoughts. We drown in our own heads. The million things we have to do or everything that’s going on in the world around us. It gets so loud that it becomes overwhelming. So, we avoid it, by filling the space. Most of us don’t want to be alone, in silence, with our own thoughts. It’s almost as though we’re afraid of the silence.  Maybe it will expose us to ourselves in ways we don’t want to face. So we just keep our minds busy.

But what if, occasionally, we let our brain go wild. Take out all other noise and be left alone with our thoughts in complete, uninterrupted silence. Take a second to think only about what is going on with you in that moment of silence. You’re breathing. Your muscles relaxed – particularly your face. Your emotions settling down.

It feels pretty nice to be truly aware of being alive.  And that often comes into our awareness only in the silence.

A Bad Fit

There we were, rookie coaches, at an evening social event with other, more seasoned coaches, trainers, staff, and spouses. 

I was talking with a few of the newbies, of which I was one, when the lead dog came into the room.  This was the guy who started this thing many years ago and who built it into one of the most successful franchises of its kind.  At least that was what I was told.  I never really checked.  Either way, this guy was a genius at how to build businesses by virtue of his own experience, his track record helping others succeed, and the worldwide company he now owned.

It was pretty cool. Except for one small challenge.  I didn’t like him, not one little bit.

While we were standing there chatting amongst ourselves, the “big dog” walked into the room and headed toward us. Not much choice, since we were right inside the door he used. He walked up, said something shallow, and I could not help but notice him looking over our heads.  In all honesty, he was a pretty tall guy, but looking “beyond” us was pretty condescending.  What was he doing?  Small, shallow, I-don’t-care-who-you-are-or-what-your-story-is talk in order to buy time, look over our heads and find someone he deemed important and far more worthy of a conversation. Then he was gone. Off to someone or something seemingly better.

I hope you’re getting the gist of what I’m sharing. If you are, you might have had similar experiences.

Rude, arrogant, condescending.  Not attributes I’m very fond of. Outwardly smart and successful as this guy was, he rubbed me so far the wrong way! I struggled from that point on with him being the leader of this entire gig.  While many of my colleagues were the polar opposite of him, he was at the top and that just did not sit well.

Our values are what we hold to be true and important in our lives. They are filters through which all decision are made.  If it fits the filter, keep moving forward; if not; run away.

So I eventually ran.  A good decision. One that led to my company today.

What are your top 3-5 values? Companies define these things often, some even live and execute through them consistently.  But this is about you – what are your personal values? What filters do you use to evaluate careers, relationships, and difficult choices?

Having the right filters, or defined values, will lead us to make better decisions and live with fewer regrets.  And that’s a good way to live.