Not too long ago I remember driving on 81 near Carlisle – our hometown.  For a strange, brief moment I didn’t know where I was. Yes, I knew I was on 81 and I lived in Carlisle. But there was something missing, which I’m struggling at this moment to describe. It was as if I had never been where I was – all the familiar parts of the highway and surrounding area were completely unfamiliar. Nothing was resonating with my memory – I couldn’t seem to pull up and match with the peripherals around me. It’s happened many times, though thankfully, the lights come on pretty quickly.  Usually, it takes a couple of seconds and everything is normal again.

Sounds like a medical condition!

But I don’t think so. I think it’s just a mental thing in the moment that, for whatever reason, blocks out all the points of familiarity I’ve accumulated over the years of being on this road.   Makes me appreciate the peripherals I have around me 99.99% of the time.  And makes me think about the peripherals that others don’t have, especially when I’ve treated them under the unconscious assumption that they did.   No wonder there were gaps in their understanding and performance. Perhaps if I understood upfront that others don’t always have my peripherals, I might be more patient, more open-minded, and more empathetic.

The next time we’re giving directions, or training someone, or teaching a concept to one of our kids or one of our colleagues...let’s ask ourselves: “Do they have my peripherals?” If they don’t, you may want to change the way you communicate by having more patience, providing more upfront clarity, gaining more understanding, and being truly empathetic. Speaking of empathy…

We’ve all heard empathy defined as “Walking in someone else’s shoes.” Have you ever said, “If I was in their shoes, I’d …”? That’s not empathy – It’s still YOU in their shoes.

If I’m being truly empathetic, I’m not only in their shoes, I’m in their head, with all their peripherals, and none of mine. Changes everything.

Thank You For Your Smile

Years ago, while I was walking in the mall with a friend, business partner, and mentor, I heard him say to a guy passing by, "Thank you for your smile."  And at the immediate moment, the guy was not smiling. But after being thanked for something he wasn't actually giving, he complied, with a smile.

He did not say it in a condescending, arrogant or even sarcastic manner. He was just confident and friendly, and his comment seemed to always result in a smile that was not originally there.

Of course, I asked him about it. And he told me that people don't like to be complimented for something they haven't actually they'll usually earn it by giving the smile, even if it's after the fact.  It was kind of corny, maybe, but really stuck with me. I can't say I've made a practice of doing this since then, nor do I believe he did - I think it was just another teaching moment from him to me. Obviously, an effective one since I'm sharing it 25 years later!

This kind of goes with another lesson he shared with me those years ago - treat people into existence.  In a way, he wanted them to be happy, positive and show it with a smile – so, he thanked them. He treated them as he wanted them to be - toward him, maybe, but I think more toward themselves and therefore toward others.

Tricky, manipulative, controlling?  Could be. But few things we do in relation to others could avoid that categorization.  I believe he was authentic in his comment - he really wanted to influence others in a positive way, and this was one way to do that. Plus, he loved to have fun with people, and this certainly accomplished that as well.

Smiling makes a huge difference. It cuts through negativity and dread and, yet, it's easy to do, and perhaps easy to drive others to do as well.

So, thank you for your smile!

Five Pennies

If you're like me, and I know I am, I hate having stuff in my pockets.  Whether it's my phone, glasses, wallet or just loose change — can't stand any of it in my pocket.   And yes, I've left my phone, wallet, and glasses behind at times. Still not worth it.

Assuming you might feel this way, there's a trick that might be useful to you.  

I was in a professional sales capacity and having difficulty keeping up with my cold calling numbers. This is back in the days of actual, door-to-door, cold calling.   In order to manage my daily cold call goal, I put pennies in my pocket and removed one each time I completed a cold call. If my goal was five that day, then after five cold calls my pockets were empty! Funny how motivation works - the results of increased sales and thus, increased commission was not as motivating as getting rid of those uncomfortable pennies!  Maybe that's because the return on effort paid much faster with the pennies, not sure, but it worked.

At networking events, I might have put five pennies in my pocket with the goal of meeting five decent contacts — and getting rid of the pennies as soon as the goal was achieved — which definitely sped up the process as much as it clarified the goal and focus.

For me, the pennies typically represented a source of discomfort greater than the discomfort of chasing my goal. For you, it might be more about the focus, or the reminder. As long as it motivates action.

How could you use this?  It's all about actions — things you control in order to cancel out a penny.  Some ideas — put five pennies in your pocket and pull one out each time you —

  • Praise or encourage someone
  • Remember someone's name
  • Meet someone new
  • Make a cold call - email, phone or old-fashioned door-knocking
  • Say thank you

You could even keep all of them in your pocket until you hit your daily goal.  Might get you to the goal faster. Lots of ways to leverage the five penny philosophy — and it doesn't have to be five or pennies for that matter.

If you want to get crazy...maybe put rocks in your pocket. Whatever it takes to motivate you!

Awake or Asleep

My wife and I were recently having a discussion about people and moodiness. She reminded me that in the beginning of our relationship nearly 30 years ago I told her that I can't stand moodiness.  Thankfully, I must have said it in an appropriate manner and more important, Amy has never been a moody person. 

As we talked about our past and current disdain for moodiness, we landed on a common excuse for it — being tired.  It's fair to say that often people whose demeanor seems to scream "Take notice: I'm in a bad mood right now!" are often just tired. Being tired is a poor excuse for a lousy mood.   Very little is.

My friend shared a great statement years ago that has always stuck with me, and came right to mind in this conversation:

 "If you're supposed to be awake, be awake; if you're supposed to be asleep, be asleep. Don't confuse the two."

I love that statement!

He shared it with me when we were driving home late one night, or actually, early one morning. He was singing some old country song, and as always he was full of energy and enthusiasm.  I asked how he does it and that's when the statement of wisdom was shared. And it stuck.

I really believe there is great insight in his words. Yes — we all have times when we're tired beyond the norm or when some unforeseen tragedy occurs and we go through depressions of mood — understandable. I'm talking about the other 99% of the time.  When we're just in a bad mood because of a variety of excuses, the most common of which is tiredness.

Wake up! If energy is low and fatigue is high, change! Be awake. Be energized. Be present.  Or maybe take a nap.  And then…  

Be awake or asleep; don't confuse the two.

Get Up

Parting words from a guy who sold me his road bike – "Eventually, you'll fall."

Considering it’s a road bike, meant to ride up to 40+ mph downhill, and maybe averaging 15+ mph overall, that didn't sound too inviting. Especially on some of our rural back roads. They're the oil and chips kind. Know them? If you fall, all skin and likely other critical fleshly matter will transfer to the road very quickly. Might as well be glass chips! Not a good place to fall. Seriously.

I'm used to running. If I fall, I have some vote on how badly, feel a little silly, check who saw me, get up and go. Haven't fallen much, and definitely more painful to the ego than the body.  Plus, I'm much more in control when running. If a deer comes out, I move; if a squirrel or other small rodent runs across my path, I can jump (can't say that actually happened); if a motorist is veering my direction because he is texting (that's happened a few times!), I can move quickly.  On a bike – nope. Any of those at the wrong time and down I go. Ego aside, it could be pretty bad.

So, when he said I'd fall at least once...

I was grateful when I did.

I was at my mailbox, rolling to a stop as I prepared to start my ride. At the point of stopping, I smoothly twisted out of my right clip but was leaning slightly left. That's a problem. And it took a millisecond to decide what to do. Take the fall. I was not moving at that point, so any attempt to push or fight would have created movement, and on our road – oil and chips – it could have been much worse. Fortunately, I just fell dead left. Yep, it hurt, a little. And yes, I looked around first. Clear. And fortunately, with little damage, I ventured out for a nice ride.

I'm glad I got that fall out of the way! And I sure hope there are no others...

But isn't life like that? You do your best, and you will fall. Sometimes, it's good to fight; other times, maybe it’s better to just take the fall. But every time, at least figuratively, if not literally, it's always good to get back up.