Is the grass truly greener on the other side of the fence? Many creative pros spend their career wondering if there is a better path for them, or whether they’re missing out on something that everyone else knows about. This can result in hopping from job to job, or never really fully embracing the opportunities in front of you because you’re always “hedging your bets” and looking for a better option. Patrick McGinnis coined the phrase Fear Of Missing Out in a college paper several years ago, and he’s just released a book by the same title to help us work through our anxiety about forgoing opportunities.
Here are a few key ideas to help us avoid FOMO:
Move Toward, Not Away From
I’ve had many conversations with people who never seem to be satisfied with their job. They hop from company to company thinking that there has to be some place that will better mesh with what they’re looking for. The problem is that these people are often chasing vapor. They are perpetually moving away from something they dislike, not something they aspire toward. People who thrive learn to move toward their ambitions and goals, not just away from discomfort.
Is there any area of your life or career where you are simply moving away from discomfort rather than toward your goals?
Another hallmark of thriving professionals is that they are willing to be decisive in the face of uncertainty. That doesn’t mean that they make foolish or rash decisions, however they don’t wait for absolute certainty before moving forward. Instead, they make decisions with the best information they have knowing that if they make a mistake they can typically navigate back on course.
Is there an area where you are paralyzed because you are being indecisive? What decision do you need to make?
Don’t Compare, Except To Improve
There are two kinds of comparison, and one is harmful and one is beneficial. The beneficial kind of comparison is when we look at someone else’s performance in order to gain insights into how we can improve our own skills. By studying those who are great at their craft, we can see where we are deficient and establish a course of action to help us improve. The harmful kind of comparison is when we become envious about what someone else has, or fear that we are being “robbed” of opportunity because another person possesses something that we want. This can lead to bitterness, self-destruction, and eventual hopelessness.
Compare yourself to others in order to improve, not to stew about what you’re missing out on.
Don’t worry about what’s “out there”. Be present this week and tackle the opportunities in front of you.
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I’ve been noodling on ways that my at LexBlog team and I can help people impacted by the pandemic. That’s most everyone on the world.
You’re getting my thinking out loud on the ways LexBlog can help by quick iteration of our existing technology and harnessing the passion and expertise of legal professionals. It’s the latter who’ll drive this.
Who are the people we can help? Consumers, small business people, corporations, government agencies, fellow legal professionals and more. We all have legal issues and a need for information and insight arising out of the pandemic – and likely will for years to come. We also need to know know where to turn for help.
Interpretation will be required of existing codes, regulations and case law on matters never anticipated by legislatures and judges. Add to that the executive and agency orders coming down from the states and the federal government.
It takes lawyers with niche expertise, or the desire to learn, to provide the needed interpretation, guidance and advocacy.
We need to make it easy for legal professionals to share what they know. We need to make this insight and information open and accessible. We need to syndicate this informant to relevant publications and sources.
One, for the information itself, and two, so people can find the lawyers who understand the issue and who can help. We’re going to see lawyers help in the years to come like we never have before.
Like tech and pharmaceutical companies iterating from what they already have, for testing, treatment and vaccines, so as to bring products to to market as soon as possible, LexBlog can take what we have – years of iterative software development – and bring new products to market as soon as possible.
We may not be saving lives, but we can quickly bring products to market that can help people impacted by the pandemic.
LexBlog has one of the best, if not the best, content aggregation and curation technology solutions around. This technology has been developed and deployed over time. First, to run LexBlog.com and then to run our Content Portal product for the syndication of relevant content.
With it, LexBlog is aggregating as much, if not more, pandemic related legal information and insight (in the form of the blog posts) as anyone. Three hundred posts a day and growing. Talk about caring legal professionals, here they are – in spades.
At the the time the pandemic hit the States, our aggregation technology was reaching its capacity. In a Boston meeting at the end of February between Scott Fennell, our leading developer, and I, Scott explained that we’ve reached the limit of aggregating blogs not running on LexBlog’s publishing platform. Not only would the process of adding blogs be slowed, but syndication performance would be hampered.
We’d been working on building our own aggregation technology for awhile, rather than continuing to use the most powerful third party aggregation technology available. With the pandemic, we wanted to aggregate and syndicate more data – content, with relevant metadata. The team quickly completed its development, testing and launch of our own aggregator.
Faced with filtering content by subject (virus related), versus sources (a blog), as we have in the past, the team then developed a new filtering system in five days. The next step is sentiment or text analysis of content to understand what a piece of content, and its parts, are addressing.
Though our Syndication Portal has been used by state bar associations (Arizona, Illinois, Texas, Wisconsin), law firms and recent associations wanted to modify the appearance and features of the Portal for the aggregation and curation of pandemic related blog posts. In less than a week the team did the necessary work for the Sheppard Mullin pandemic site (aggregates all of their pandemic posts from ay source) and major metro bar pandemic site that will go live on Wednesday. The team did this through the development of additional options in widgets to the theme so we can scale for continuing and expanding use.
The bar associations and other associations we’re already working with and talking with wanted to provide low cost publishing platforms – blogs or spots – for lawyers to share pandemic related information. Over the last week, the team worked on a turnkey blogging solution and site that we expect to sell for thirty-some dollars a month. Spots can be provided at a comparable price for publishing directly to association portals and LexBlog.
Leveraging our evolving technology, here’s how I think we can help people:
Tap into the energy, passion and desire to help of legal professionals – don’t underestimate the power of good.
We have thousands of legal professions blogging about pandemic issues on our network.
Get the legal bloggers not on our network onto our network. It costs them nothing. The visibility and knowing they’re contributing to the public good is more than enough reason for them to get their blogs on the network. This is for law firm blogs and the blogs of individual legal professionals.
Get non participating blogs in LexBlog data base – lawyers, law firms, associations and companies. Expands the data base.
Curate Covid blog posts (writing about covid) at LexBlog (most every post). Large data base. Inspiration and recognition of the lawyers – profiles of them, their firms and their publishing.
Curate Covid blog posts per each larger law firm so that the lawyers in the firm have a searchable data base from which to access the firm’s knowledge they did not know was there. Nice business development tool for sharing proactively (email) with clients knowledge/resources from the firm. Curated publication ideally runs on a separate site ala Sheppard Mullin’s COVID-19 Insights.
We’ll begin contacting each of the large firms whose Covid content is not in our data base.
Curate Covid blog posts by state, via state bar and major metro bar associations. All but two bar associations have Covid related information. I’m not sure that any of them, other than the five running our portal product, are automatically feeding the information with lawyer’s insight from their state or metro area.
We’ll begin contacting each of the State and Metro Bars to make sure they’re offering their lawyers’ insight to the public like this.
Empower lawyers, law firms, law students and other legal professionals who want to contribute — get them blogs and spots. Lawyers want to help whoever they can. Bar associations, law schools and other organizations can be good partners to share word of the opportunity.
Provide education on how to help. Blogging can feel intimidating so can writing an article for direct contribution to a portal or LexBlog. LexBlog can make this easier by sharing the questions we needed answered for consumers and business. Think FAQ’s and this can be state and metro’s. The early legal web was built on lawyers helping people via FAQ’s. My first company, Prairielaw, had a ton of FAQ’s by area of the law and jurisdiction. So did lawyers.com when we expanded FAQ’s upon LexisNexis’ acquisition of Prairielaw. Great early legal bloggers kept track of the questions they and their staff got from clients and prospective clients.
Cost should never be an impediment to helping people. LexBlog will work with legal professionals, law firms and associations to make certain that they have the opportunity to help people.
More to come – and how about #Blog4Good as a hashtag.
I spoke about the pandemic’s impact on law firm business development with Jack Newton, the co-founder and CEO of Clio, a couple weeks ago.
The emphasis was – at least for me – that this is the time to be as different and unique as possible. Being the same as other lawyers and you may not survive – literally.
What’s does it mean to be different? It can be as simple as doing something that no other lawyer in your town or state is doing.
Let’s take a Workers Compensation law practice.
People are not working, so they’re unlikely to get hurt. Administration claims may be slowed or stopped, so getting claims resolved has become near impossible. Defense lawyers can defend those claims not moving forward.
At the same time, hundreds of healthcare workers are being sickened by COVID-19. Here’s a story on such healthcare workers in the State of Washington, alone.
Publish a blog for the State of Washington healthcare workers COVID-19 workers compensation claims. You will quickly become the leading resource on the subject.
People will find the blog by Google and word of the blog will spread by word of mouth from healthcare worker to healthcare worker and family members to others, including healthcare workers.
Forget landing new cases, that may may well happen. But think “I’m am people helping on the front lines in the fight against the pandemic. I am making a real difference right from my family room. This is why I became a lawyer.”
Workers compensation lawyer? This is not hard nor terribly time consuming.
You have the core knowledge of workers compensation.
Put up a blog site on a site that is separate from your website and any other blog. Make it a real and authentic publication dedicated to healthcare workers in your state. That’s not a marketing website nor blog. Time to give.
LexBlog will give you such a site, with coaching, consulting, hosting and free support for thirty-some dollars a month on our #Blog4Good program. Don’t have any resources, it’s free.
Make a list of all the frequently asked questions you and your team can think of. Turn the questions and answers into a one post (brief article) each. Some of our successful bloggers over the last 16 years just answered questions one post at a time.
Look around the net for relevant FAQ’s. Use the questions, you’ll need to draft the answers.
Look at your state’s department of labor or workers compensation site. Use their content in posts. Organize it better. Break it into more digestible pieces. Such government content is not password protected.
LexBlog will help.
We’ll get up a national site on COVID-19 workers comp claims for healthcare workers and do relevant profiling work for you.
We can coordinate a network for the exchange of information between lawyers.
We can provide counsel and support for you.
Already have a comp blog. Get it in LexBlog. It’s free, We’ll curate the content anyone and now do it for people with COVID injuries.
I started just saying to be different. Along the way, I thought of comp blogs for healthcare workers with COVID-19. Is it a big area that needs to be addressed? It seems so, but what do I know.
But even if it’s small number of people (and that would be great) you would be helping some people in real need. People who are putting their lives to help people.
Good things come to lawyers who help others – and you’ll be building a name as a caring and experienced lawyer who can be trusted. That’s an asset you’ll carry for years.
Someone asked me my thoughts on virtual conferences vis a vis typical conferences we’ve always had before March of this year. They were doing an article for a publication. I thought I’d share my thoughts with you.
Those of you that know me know that I am a people person. I enjoy social interaction and have found legal technology and publishing conferences over the last twenty-five years to be fun, inspiring and rewarding.
But I’m very pro virtual conferences. There’s no question that virtual conferences can bring energy, excitement and learning opportunities on the topic and cause of conference and the hosting associations.
Virtual conferences also democratize conferences – and this is big, if your focus is giving.
Most top shelf live conferences are limited to an exclusive group of people who can afford the cost of registration, airfare, hotel rooms, and in some cases, childcare. Assuming a person can personally cover all those – and most cannot, they will attend few conferences – maybe one a year.
Virtual conferences democratize the process. Younger professionals can learn and gain passion about their work from some of the better people in their field. They can easily connect with these folks, follow them and be mentored by them via social media.
I was told by a good younger lawyer a month ago that they were totally jazzed after attending day one of RocketMatter and Larry Port’s two day virtual conference.
What did he like most? He could be there. He told me he’d never get the chance to learn from the quality of speakers and companies Larry had at his conference — attended by over five hundred legal professionals. He couldn’t have afforded to go.
This lawyer shared that virtual conferences were going to enable him to attend more top shelf conferences. How cool is that.
He got me so fired up, I attended the second day. I enjoyed it, left jazzed and impressed by how well the conference was run — and saw the opportunities for virtual conferences in the days ahead.
Might be a better return for companies exhibiting too as the set up for companies talking to attendees at this virtual conference was pretty slick.
Personally, I would go to more conferences if more were virtual.
I’d also expand the topics and industries. I go to legal industry related conferences because that’s where my customers are. But I’d probably better serve my customers by attending publishing, digital media, and tech conferences outside legal. I’d learn more and bring back more ideas for products and solutions of value to my customers.
I would also meet people I would not have met otherwise met through virtual conferences – it’s the sheer number of attendees and conferences I would be attending.
For associations and conference hosts, it’s also time to become realistic.
There will be no large conferences this year and it’s very possible it will be the end of 2021 or the beginning of 2022 before we have ever large conferences.
Dr. Anthony Fauci testified this morning it will be a year or two before we have a vaccine for the virus. I don’t see large conferences without it.
Finally, good products for conducting virtual conferences will be created. Necessity and opportunity is the mother of invention in technology.
And these solutions will not be built by people who have run conferences of the past, they’ll be developed by innovative people without blinders on. I am real optimistic we’ll see some great stuff on virtual conference solutions.
I shared my thoughts a couple weeks as to how legal bloggers and LexBlog, in combination, could help people facing legal issues arising out of the pandemic.
Our thoughts have jelled into an actionable plan that lawyers, associations, law firms, and LexBlog have put in motion.
Here’s the need, the plan, and the action being taken.
The people facing legal issues arising out of the pandemic include consumers, small business people, large corporations, associations, government agencies, and other legal professionals. All of us.
And their need for information will continue for years to come.
Issues never faced before are requiring the interpretation of codes, regulations, and case law as applicable to a pandemic. Pandemic law was never taught in law school.
To get this information, insight, and advocacy takes lawyers with niche expertise and lawyers with a desire to learn a new niche. Blogging lawyers.
We need to aggregate Covid-19 related legal blog posts from existing bloggers.
We need to get more lawyers blogging on all the many legal issues going uncovered.
We need to make it easy for legal professionals to share what they know – and what they’re learning on blogs.
We need to make this insight and information open and accessible.
We need to have searchable databases of this information by jurisdiction.
We need to syndicate this information to relevant publications, sources, organizations, and jurisdictions.
We’re deploying the LexBlog blog publishing and syndication platform like never before.
A special mobile-first blog like I am using – with our entire turnkey platform and free support – is free for six months to all lawyers who are members of bar associations participating in #Blog4Good. Only $39.99 a month thereafter – we worked to keep the price less than the WordPress business plan lawyers are using.
Lawyers not in a participating association may now receive a LexBlog blog – including our entire turnkey solution and free support – for only $39.99 a month.
“Syndication Portals” are being built for each state in which a bar association is not already running a portal.
“Portals” aggregate all legal blog content into a quasi digital magazine featuring the best and most relevant blog posts on a constant basis. “Portals” include original copy as well. Each “Portal” includes profiles of the contributing lawyers, their blog, and their firm.
“Portals” will be built and deployed by law firms with a good number of existing blogs. Such portals will aggregate and curate blog posts coming from various firm blogs. Such portals may include all posts or posts limited to Covid-19 related issues.
Portals enable lawyers in the firm or anyone to reach have a searchable database from which to access the firm’s knowledge they did not know was there. Nice business development tool for sharing proactively (email) with client knowledge/resources from the firm.
Each portal provides a searchable database of Covid-19 related legal insight – by firm or jurisdiction.
LexBlog’s Coronavirus Legal Daily aggregates all of the content, showcases lawyers, law firms, and blogs – and provides a nationwide database of Covid-19 legal content.
LexBlog has built seventeen state portals and is now on schedule to build five a week. See the maps and checklists on our #Blog4Good campaign roadmap.
The New York City Bar Association (NYCBA) launched its portal, NYC Bar Insights, yesterday
As part of NYCBA’s member benefits program, LexBlog has already received dozens of lawyer inquiries looking to blog on niches – on free blogs.
Bar Associations in Illinois, Texas, Arizona, and Wisconsin have launched portals with Covid-19 posts.
We’re beginning calls to associations and law firms as their portals are built so they’re included in #Blog4Good.
And LexBlog make it easy for everyone.
Cost will not be an impediment to helping people. LexBlog will make certain that legal professionals, law firms, and associations have the opportunity to help, no matter their available resources.
Education on blogging – and it how blogging can be easy – will be provided. Legal Blogging, A Chapter Day, is already running on my Facebook Live at 11 PT each morning. The videos will be transcribed and run on LexBlog’s YouTube channel. Bob Ambrogi is writing a blog post a week on LexBlog’s Blogging at LexBlog.
Blogging can feel intimidating. We’ll make it easier by sharing the questions needing answers for consumers and businesses. Think FAQ’s and this can be done for state and metros.
#Blog4Good is not about LexBlog. We’re just tapping into the energy, passion, and desire to help of legal professionals, everywhere.
One, for the information itself, and two, so people can find the lawyers who understand the issue and who can help them. We’re going to see lawyers help in the years to come like we never have before.
When most of us tell the story of our career journey, it’s often a very linear tale. “And then, I left that job and took this one. Then, I decided to step away for a bit and start something new. Then, I took a role with a marketing firm.” However, the reality is much more complex.
Most of our lives and our career journeys are much more circuitous in nature. My friend Mitch Joel calls it “the squiggly path”, meaning that it veers left and right and doesn’t seem to have a rhyme or reason looking forward, but looking back it all begins to make sense.
My career path was definitely “squiggly”. As I discuss with David duChemin in this week’s episode about his book and podcast A Beautiful Anarchy, twenty years ago I could never have imagined the career I’m in now. However, looking back, the clues were there all along. (There weren’t many early-twenty-something musicians dragging personal development books along to gigs or tracking creative productivity in notebooks…)
Careers Usually Only Make Sense Looking Backward
There are two dynamics present early in your career: (1) there are clues all around you as to what you might be great at and enjoy, and (2) you lack the wisdom, self-knowledge, and foresight to be able to put those clues together. So as you move forward, you do your best to navigate according to what you know. Many people eventually figure out the pieces some time in their early to mid thirties, and are able to begin assembling a life and career that brings more meaning and opportunity to contribute. However, by that point many people are often more encumbered by things like mortgages and family responsibilities, making shifting a career more of a challenge.
If you find yourself in a place where you might be ready for a change, I challenge you to take a hard look at the clues in your past successes and try to identify any patterns that stand out to you. Where were you (a) fully competent, (b) deeply driven, and (c) well-received by others? That’s the very definition of a “sweet spot”.
You Need To Bring Stakeholders Along
In any career or life move, you must ensure that your stakeholders are fully considered. The general rule of thumb for family decisions is that the least risk averse person gets to determine the threshold for action. In other words, if one person is ready to leap, but the other says “we need six months of savings in the bank first”, the more risk-averse person gets to call the shots. That way, everyone feels good about the move.
Are there any stakeholders you need to include in your planning? Are they aware of your present thinking?
Be Responsive, Not Reactive
Many people are reacting to the present circumstances without fully absorbing the implications of their actions. In any stressful moment, I find it best to take a pause, consider everything that’s happening, consider the all of the possible consequences of my actions (first, second, and potential third order consequences), consider my values, and then act in a meaningful way. I find that by taking this approach, I am much less likely to jump into something I’ll regret later. Be responsive, not reactive.
As you consider all of the effects of our present situation on your life and work, where are you tempted to react instead of meaningfully responding? Take some time to pause, to reflect on the consequences, to consider your values, then to craft a strategic plan of action that moves you forward.
Embrace the beautiful anarchy that is a life well-lived and work well-crafted. Use this time we all have to respond to your circumstances, to strategize, and to embrace the possibility of what awaits on the other side.
Albert Einstein once wrote “The world we have created today as a result of our thinking thus far has problems which cannot be solved by thinking the way we thought when we created them.” In order to go to new places in life and work, we need to expand our thinking beyond the confines of our assumptions.
But how do we do that?
This week’s podcast episode features Ozan Varol, who has just released a book called Think Like A Rocket Scientist. In it, he articulates several strategies for breaking through assumptive ruts and taking your work to a new level. Here are a few of my takeaways from the conversation:
You Must Question Your Assumptions
In the past, I’ve frustrated many managers and peers for my annoying tendency to ask lots of “why?” questions. I’ve never been able to simply accept the way things are, and that can be very inconvenient when you’re trying to make quick progress on a project. However, this tendency has also served me well, because it’s frequently allowed me to circumvent norms that are preventing others from seeing possibilities.
As you think about your current situation, your work, your life goals, what you are pursuing, are there assumptions that need to be challenged? They are often guidelines that have been in place for a number of years, or industry norms that others assume are hard and fast rules. Spend a bit of time this week challenging an assumption or two, and see where your thoughts lead you. Ask “What if…?”
Return To First Principles
Over time, it’s easy to get distracted with tactics and to forget what you’re actually trying to do. In the interview, Ozan shared the story of Steve Martin, who challenged the very conventions of what it means to be a comedian. In traditional comedy, the comedian will create tension and then relieve it by delivering a punchline, hopefully generating a laugh. Martin, however, wasn’t distracted by the tactics, and instead realized that the first principle was simply to make people laugh. He would create tension, but not relieve it with a punchline. At first, critics were apalled by his strategy, but audiences warmed up to it, and he became one of the most popular acts in the world, selling out arenas wherever he performed.
What are the first principles of your work? What are you really trying to do, and how can you return to them and develop new tactics for accomplishing your goals?
Have A Moonshot
Right now, many people are simply focused on survival. I understand this necessity. However, I also think this is the perfect time to begin working on your personal “moonshot”, or the idea so big that no one else would dare try to compete with you. Physicist Max Planck once said, “At the initial stages of idea formation, the pure rationalist has no place.” Many of the world’s greatest accomplishments were met with skepticism and scorn at their inception, only to be accepted later.
What is your personal moonshot? What could you aim for that seems scarily big to you, but that would completely change the trajectory of your life and work?
To make progress on the other side of the pandemic, we will need to think in new ways. I hope this interview and Ozan’s book will expand your perspective and grant you a renewed enthusiasm for what’s possible.
Have you ever been in a situation where someone offered unsolicited advice?
“Let me tell you what you need to do…”
How did it feel? If you’re like me, you were probably grateful that they wanted to help, but it put you in the awkward position of either refusing their advice or, if they were your manager, acting on it just to avoid offending them in spite of your better instincts.
It’s tempting to fall into the “advice trap”, which is when we lead with advice-giving instead of pausing to listen to the other person, to consider what they really need, and to ask questions that help them arrive at the answer on their own. Not only is this a better way to ensure that we are truly helping the other person, but it’s also the best way to help them learn to solve problems on their own. Here are a few things I took away from my chat with Michael:
Lead With Curiosity
Ask a lot of questions. You should lead with your curiosity, not your advice. By asking a lot of questions, you will not only better understand what’s truly going on, but you will also help the other person learn to think through their problems in a more guided way. This is how a great manager (or peer) can build into team members in a lasting manner.
Ask questions first, and let the other person sort through the problem in conversation with you.
Release The Control
One of the biggest temptations of a manager is to clamp down and attempt to control the output of the team. Brilliant, driven creative pros need freedom to think for themselves and to try new methods for accomplishing their work. When you control your team, the work shrinks until it’s only as big as your personal sphere of attention can bear. Instead, you should aim to allow your team freedom to operate within clear principles and boundaries that guide their decisions.
Lead with influence, not control.
Give Empathetic Advice
The worst advice is always the “if I were you, this is what I’d do” type. Why? Because you are filtering your advice through your own lens, not the world of the other person. Instead, when you do give advice first put yourself in the other person’s position and try to imagine how it would feel to be in their shoes. How might their feelings and concerns differ from what you’d be experiencing if you were in their situation?
Before giving advice, imagine that you’re in the other person’s situtation.
Once you learn to temper the “advice monster”, you’ll become the manager (or the peer) that everyone wants to work with.
The biggest challenge that we’re facing right now as creative pros is not necessarily economic or physical, it’s psychological.
I believe that those who come through this season not only having survived, but ready to thrive, will be those who are able to adopt a mindset that is realistic yet focused on possibilities and not limitations. Yes, current circumstances are hitting everyone in different ways and are much more challenging for some than others. And, I want us to focus today on a few beliefs that I find creeping into the mindset of many people I’m chatting with these days, and hopefully identify them and learn to counter them before they rob us of our focus, our goals, and our sense of curiosity and possibility.
I’m tired of not being tired.
That sounds like a strange thing, no? But really, it’s very normal and natural.
As humans, we are wired for rhythm, which means that we thrive in cycles of tension and release. One of the dynamics that’s been causing grief among many friends and peers that I’ve been chatting with is that all of our days seem to run together. Every day is very similar to the last. There is no rhythm, no tension and release, no ups and downs.
As a result, I want to challenge all of us to consider a few “lies” that I’ve been believing – or allowing to limit my thought process and approach to this season – and see if perhaps they might be affecting you as well.
Everything is subtraction.
This is a phrase I used with a friend who asked how things were going. What I meant was that, unlike in normal times, in the midst of this pandemic there is little opportunity for adding anything new and good to life. Instead, it’s mostly just subtraction. Good things are being taken away without the opportunity to add new things to the mix.
This is a lie, but not obviously so. In fact, this is very much what it feels like. For example, in the core part of my business, which is traveling and working with clients and speaking to groups, I’ve only experienced the removal of opportunity, but not the possibility of new ones. In normal times, even when things were dry there was always the possibility of something good just around the corner. Now, it’s just subtraction.
However, if I step back and look more holistically at life, it’s easy to see why this is a lie. So many wonderful things have been added to my life in the midst of this time that I didn’t even realize I was missing. We’ve been having very long family dinners each day where we get to re-connect with our kids without the rush of “I need to get to my homework.” My wife and I have been taking long walks in the evening. We’ve been able to connect with friends via virtual happy hours in a way that we just didn’t when everyone had so much going on.
So, when I say “everything is subtraction”, I really mean that only in a business sense. If I were to look at life as a whole, there have been many opportunities and gifts during this season. Yes, it’s hard, and I hope it ends as quickly as possible, and it’s certainly taking more of a toll on some than others, but it’s important that we be able to step back and consider the entire set of our experiences, and not just the painful ones.
Where have you seen some semblance of good in the midst of this time? Spend a bit of time reflecting on it, even writing a few paragraphs about it, and see if you can find something to be grateful for even in these difficult times.
This is the new normal
We hear this all the time in the media, so much so that I’ve largely stopped paying attention to what they’re saying. There is no such thing as “the new normal”. Throughout history, humans have had to endure seasons of hardship and adaptation. Our great grandparents had to walk through a global depression, both world wars, multiple economic collapses, political revolutions, and much more. Each time, they didn’t say “well, I guess this is the new normal… we’ll be at war forever.” Yes, those events shaped them and changed their worldview, but it wasn’t like they emerged into a completely new way of living. They adapted and moved on. They innovated.
We will do the same. There are many people who make a living from preying on your fears and planting seeds of mistrust and worry. Don’t let them do it.
Own your mind. Protect it. Don’t allow others to warp and twist and distort your perspective. The only “new normal” is the one that we will make out of this. This is a season, and someday we will look back and say “Remember when we all had to social distance for a while? That was weird.”
Neither of these lies are helpful to you. They only serve to limit your ability to be present here and now, to leverage and take advantage of opportunities that are right in front of you, and to rob you of your very life.
James Stockdale was a Navy Admiral and the most high profile prisoner in what later became dubbed the “Hanoi Hilton” prisoner of war camp in Vietnam. He once stated that the POW captives who survived their experiences weren’t the optimists. Most of the optimists died. And, it wasn’t the pessimists. They died too. Instead, it was the realists. Those who survived were those who were able to be realistic about the difficulty of their present circumstances, but who also maintained hope for a better future.
It is possible to be both realistic and optimistic at the same time. It’s a difficult time, and it may get even more difficult before it gets better. It’s important during this time to maintain a clear head, to acknowledge the challenges, and also to maintain a sense of hope in the midst of it all.
Set small goals and hit them. In The Progress Principle, Teresa Amabile demonstrated the importance of small, consistent progress for maintaining momentum and engagement. Don’t aim for big goals right now. Hit the goals you set.
Engage in unnecessary creating. Make something just for yourself. I’m working on an album of new music, just for me and my family.
Take time to connect with others. Find ways to help them and support them. Get outside of yourself.
Most of all, don’t buy into the lies that will keep you trapped in a place of stasis and inflexibility. Stay curious, stay hopeful, stay realistic.
If I had to choose one gift to impart upon every person I meet – one master key that unlocks their potential – it would be bravery. We need radical bravery in our workplaces, our schools, our neighborhoods, and – God help us – in our politics. If more people committed to making brave choices daily, we would see stronger, more effective teams, less corruption, less unhealthy conflict, and more progress on the societal issues that truly matter.
Organizations need leaders committed to cultivating a culture of bravery, and who themselves are making brave choices in the face of uncertainty. The marketplace needs more business owners who are willing to step up and do the right thing for their employees and their communities, even at the risk of personal cost. And, society needs more people to cultivate brave, empathetic relationships with people who think differently from them.
My ambition with this manifesto is to inspire an epidemic of everyday bravery both in and out of the workplace.
Bravery Is Not What You Think
To begin, we need a good definition of what bravery actually is. Most of our cultural reference points for bravery involve heroic actions like storming a beach, risking everything on an unlikely business deal, or casting caution to the wind on a massive career change.
Yes, those actions can be brave, but the call to bravery is not just about mustering courage in the face of overwhelming odds.
Bravery exists whenever someone a person engages in right action at the potential expense of their own comfort. Cowardice, on the other hand, exists when someone chooses self-protection at the expense of right action. It is possible to appear brave to others while actually behaving in a cowardly way, or to appear a coward to others while doing the brave thing. Others may not always know your internal considerations, and may filter your actions through their own biases.
Bravery exists in an environment of high agency, and high optimism. When there is a lack of either agency (belief that individual actions can make a difference) or optimism (there’s a possible better future), the environment is ripe for potential cowardice.
Leaders can help cultivate a culture of brave action by focusing on increasing both the level of perceived individual agency (by giving permission to speak and act), and the sense that a better future is possible for employees and for the organization as a whole (by tying decisions and actions back to core operating principles.)
What bravery is: Bravery is doing the right thing, as best you know it, even when it’s the uncomfortable thing. It’s needed now more than ever in the marketplace, in the political realm, and in our schools and neighborhoods. Most bravery in the world is exhibited in small, everyday actions, not big efforts.
Bravery is a choice, not a trait. People who choose to do the right thing in the face of personal cost are choosing to sacrifice their life and comfort for a better future. They are not superhuman. They are perhaps the most fully human.
Bravery is always empathetic. It’s about the other, not about yourself. The other might be a person or a core principle, but the brave person is always looking outward when deciding. The coward looks inward and to his own interests.
Bravery is action in spite of fear. People who act bravely feel fear and insecurity as much as everyone else. It’s just that they choose cause over comfort.
Bravery is willingness to fail in the pursuit of what matters. T hose who choose bravery recognize the risks, and proceed because they are driven by deeper principles.
What bravery is not: Bravery is not stupid risk. A brave person counts the cost, and decides to act because the cost of inaction is simply too vast to bear.
Bravery is not bravado. M any people (especially some politicians) love to put bluster ahead of action. However, brave people do not feel the need to posture. Instead, they allow their actions to speak for themselves. They are fine being misunderstood, and even unliked if that’s the cost of right action.
Bravery is not for a select few. There are opportunities to be brave everywhere and every day. The need for bravery is in the workplace, in the home, in relationships, in neighborhoods, and everywhere humans interface.
Bravery is not impulsive. While brave actions often happen in a flash, the source of those actions are deeply-held beliefs about right and wrong, and a vision for a better future. Brave people are realistic optimists.
Be brave today, friends. Choose cause over comfort. Have the conversation. Make the thing. Dare to be a realistic optimist.
This episode is sponsored by Lightstream, who believes that people with good credit deserve a better loan experience. Learn more at Lightstream.com/accidental.