Ignorance

I'm a runner. Been running since I was in high school. Ran a marathon at 16. Ran a mile in under 5 minutes. That one's not especially remarkable as most high school track milers can do that. It just sounds good to me now!  I used to run 7 miles every day, in the summer, around noon. Incidentally, my favorite part of the day came a few minutes after the run. The rest?  No. The water?  Yes!

And yet was I in good shape? Depends. In good shape for what?

During the summer before my college senior year, I took on an internship as a sales person for a staffing company.  It was more of a favor to my mom, who knew the owner.  So selling was important, but I also was the backup for any key "temp" workers who selected to no show on any given day.

Well, this was the day. Nearly 100 degrees, major humidity, and the guy who did not show up was intended to be a landscape helper.  So I became that guy. No worries, though.  Landscaping - cutting grass, trimming shrubs, edging, whatever. It would be no match for me.

And as I showed up on the property, meeting my supervisor, it was even more evident this would be no big deal. This guy was clearly out of shape, or at least he sure looked like it.  I figured if this guy can do manual labor in this heat, I'll breeze through it.  Way wrong.

When I arrived home at the end of the day, I pushed myself upstairs, fell on my bed and passed out. I don't remember if I napped for hours or just called it a night completely.  Boy, was I whipped. So much for correct assumptions.

That guy probably went home and worked a second job or grabbed a few beers with his buddies. But not me, Mr. 7 mile a day, noon-time-in-the-summer, super runner. Checkmate.

Oh, I was in shape, but definitely not the right kind of shape for the kind of work I had to do. It got better, as I was asked to be there several more times.

Bottom line. Things aren't always what they seem. The one who looks like he can, maybe he can't. The one who looks like he can't, maybe he can.  Be open-minded, less judgmental.  Or better yet – don’t judge at all. Be more accepting.

And definitely be humble.

Deer in the Headlights

Years ago I remember driving with a friend of mine down a hilly road near our home.  He's a hunter, has been all his life. Me - never hunted.  There were cornfields to our right and homes on our left.  It was evening - dark out - at the time, and we live on the outskirts of town - rural country.  He saw a deer, then another and a few more. I saw none of them.   

Or did I?

I remember learning about a little part of our brain that might have something to do with the answer. It's called the Reticular Activating System.  As I understand it and without going into depths I'll never be able to explain, the RAS acts as a sort of filter between the subconscious and conscious - determining what we should be aware of and alert for on the conscious level.  Various factors play into why we're subconsciously driven to filter our environment in differing ways, but I can share my understanding regarding this experience with my hunter friend.

As a hunter, he's trained and motivated to be hyper-aware for "opportunities" - in this case, deer.  Even though he was not hunting, his brain, or RAS, was still filtering based on priority and importance.  Deer are important to him. Not so much for me.

I believe I did see the deer, but I did not know it, because my RAS filtered it out - not important, or not relevant to me.

Makes me wonder what I've missed in my years because somewhere along the line I became trained not to see. Not just based on relevance or importance, but on experience and perhaps belief. When you got your new car, so did everyone else, or so it seems - because you were more aware.  When you named your newborn that highly unique name, seems so did everyone else at the same time! Again, it didn't matter before, but now it does, so you notice.

Goes back a bit to the idea that we get more of what we focus on, or as in Earl Nightingale's, timeless classic, The Strangest Secret, "We become what we think about." If we change what we think about - a newborn's name, a new car - we change what we're aware of and alert for.

Bottom line to me is I need to change my RAS to work for me, not against me, by being intentional about my focus, my priority, and even my beliefs.  Intentional about a great marriage, great kids, great business, great health, ...

You get the idea. I want to see the "deer" when it matters and because it matters.  

Snake Guts

Snakes. Who doesn't love 'em?

My wife.

And the problem was planting the new flowers in the snake infested garden along the driveway. So, "Who you gonna call?"  SnakeBusters, or Madi and Seneca.   Madi is our 23 year old daughter who not only is not afraid of snakes, bugs, spiders, etc., she loves them and catches them anytime she has a chance.  Good to have her with you, if you're Amy, and entering enemy territory.  Then there's Seneca - our 7 year old Yellow Lab. She loves snakes, too. A little jumpy around them, but that adds to the fun. At least for her.

I received a call the other day from Amy about a snake encounter that eclipsed all our previous ones. She had Madi with her as they entered the danger zone. And yes, there were snakes. The big, slithery, flesh eating, venomous Garter snakes. Well, slithery.  In comes Seneca - fired up, barking, charging, jumping. And that's usually where it stops. Then things turned bad - for the snake. Seneca caught it in her mouth, probably unexpectedly, and by pure reflex, she shook.  Violently. Guts. Everywhere. Even some showered on Madi. Exciting times.

I really don't think Seneca had any intention of killing the snake. That's just not her nature, but maybe when she got it in her mouth, writhing, striking, she just, well, freaked out.  Dead snake. Kind of - they're pretty hearty. So I had to finish what Seneca unknowingly started when I got home.

So Seneca didn't mean it to kill it. But she did. Result:  dead snake.

This little episode really made me think about intentions and outcomes. Intentions matter, but outcomes do too, whether it was part of our intention or not.

And so it is with us. How often do we unintentionally offend, hurt, disrespect or even bully someone we care about? Yet the result is the same whether we intended it or not.  We must own it either way. "I didn't mean it" or "It wasn't my fault" doesn't cut it, unless we're a very young, immature kid or perhaps a Yellow Lab.  Neither knows any better. We should.

Selling Meat

Once upon a time, I sold meat off the back of a small pick-up truck. Yep. Not a whole lot of people know this, until now.

It was an attempt to change up my career back in the early days. I had been working as a waste hauling sales rep and, though the work was okay, I had little respect, if any, for my manager. And the work was not overly fulfilling as a result. Not a good fit.  So I struck out into the word of meat peddling. High-end stuff! 

The original idea looked good as I rode with a “seasoned’ rep who ran his route, delivering frozen filets and assorted meats to enthusiastic and expectant customers.  It looked like a good gig:  you’re your own boss, you go home when you’re done, you earn commissions on results, you ride around and meet lots of different people, and you get to wear jeans and a t-shirt – no more suit and tie! 

I even hit pay-dirt in Carlisle a week or so in, having hit upon an Eloctrolux dealer/owner who offered to buy out all the meat on my truck if I would deliver it to her mom in Perry County.  Uhhh…Yes! Setting records my first week! Nice start.

Yet, I didn’t feel right about my pitch and process – hitting up unknowing retailers to try to offload the “extra” supplies I had.

It happened a few days later. I walked into a jewelry store in Lemoyne. The owner went ballistic on me once I started my pitch. And I went ballistic right back at him, defending my role and approach. He was wrong in the way he treated me and backed down a bit. I left.

Yet a day or two later, while pitching retailers in downtown Middletown, I hit the low point, coming to grips with the reality of my altercation with the jewelry store owner. He might have been wrong in his attitude toward me, but I felt deep-down that he was right as well. I was interrupting his business (though I’d always wait to be sure customers were taken care of) but I was there, in his business, with no intention of buying and every intention of selling. Once I fully grasped what I already felt, I stopped at a payphone – yes this was a few years ago – and called my wife and said, “I cannot do this anymore; I’m coming home.” She knew. 

If you sell or sold meat off the back of a truck at one point, you may have made it work in a good way, much like my “seasoned” trainer did. It just wasn’t for me. Didn’t feel right and certainly didn’t leave me fulfilled.

It’s important to have some passion for your role and to feel good about what you do and why you do it. It matters that you leverage your strengths in the process as you’ll find it easier and certainly more enjoyable and fulfilling. 

A few weeks later I found my next career and stayed 15 years in the printing industry with a great team, excellent owner support, and an opportunity to truly serve clients.  It was a great ride that offered me the experiences, relationships, and opportunities that led me to coaching and training – the best, most fulfilling and energizing role I’ve had to date.

And yet…I sure learned a lot by selling meat off the back of a pick-up truck.

Triggers

I have a chair in my office that has one overriding use. Reading.

This chair is one we bought for our daughter a few years ago. She knew I always loved it, and when she no longer needed it I got it! And it’s for reading only. 

When I get up in the morning, my first action is to get the coffee. Critical. My second action is to sit in my reading chair in my office. And I read something to help me improve – my business, my marriage, my faith, my disciplines. Growth-focused reading.

The chair is my trigger. Strange as it may seem, my mind knows that when I’m in this chair, I’m programmed to read. I’m not forced, not limited, not stressed. It’s just a trigger since I don’t do anything else there. At least not significant – I might check some email on my cell, or some mornings I’ll finish reading and meditate/rest for few minutes, but those all happen after reading. That’s the chair’s purpose – provide a place for reading.  And the reading is not leisure. I have multiple leisure reading spots – the couch, the deck swing, the porch chairs, the kitchen table, but not my “reading” chair – that’s for growth only!

I shared this at a business conference recently and another guy at our table quickly said that he has a nap blanket trigger. Might sound silly, but this guy has a specific blanket he whips out only for power naps. These are 10-20 minute naps that allow for excellent relaxation, refreshment and revitalization, without the sleepiness that follows longer, deeper naps. The blanket is only for that purpose, and he drifts off immediately when he uses it. A trigger. 

Another woman at the table shared that she can never nap, tried it but never got into it. Slept too long or didn’t at all – as her brain wouldn’t turn off.  Maybe she needs a trigger like he has. I think she missed that point entirely and will likely continue to struggle with this discipline until she finds the right trigger.

If you’re struggling with some discipline, perhaps you need a trigger. Something to set the stage for the action you want, something that is not confused with anything else.  Maybe a blanket for that power nap, or a reading chair, or a specific location or place where you meditate, reflect or strategize.  Power napping, reading, meditating and strategic thinking, we’d all likely agree, are excellent uses of time, but so inconsistently acted upon, if ever.

If you haven’t tried a trigger, maybe it’s time to create one.