When you go through a tough patch, the situation will leave a deep imprint in your mind in all cases. However, what this imprint is actually is your choice. The same situation will be traumatizing for some people, and exhilarating for others. The lessons we learn will depend on the individual.
By going real and testing, by getting burnt and getting scars, we create our memories. We build ourselves. Still we need to choose what exactly we learn from these situations. It is not always adequate to conclude that it is better to stay far from it; it might be better to conclude that it would be better to approach the issue from another way.
The memories and new reactions you build from the tough event are choices you need to make consciously. If possible, try to avoid falling into the trauma side which may consume you. Consider, if needed with the help of others, what good is to learn from the experience and move from there in building a better yourself.
Do get burnt and get scars, and manage your risks to survive in all cases. Then make sure you take the time to overcome the trauma and build constructive lessons from the experience.
“The lessons you learn best are those you get burned by, without the scar, there’s no evidence or strong memory” writes Julien Smith in a very interesting short book called The Flinch.
He continues, “The event didn’t actually happen or imprint itself on your brain— you just trusted those who know better. Adults know what’s safe, so you listen. Over a lifetime, those who listen too much build a habit of trust and conformity. Unfortunately, as time goes on, that habit becomes unbreakable“.
Reflecting on my own experience, it is true that those experiences that really created pain are those that are the most present. They inform the way I deal with certain situations.
The point of Julien Smith is that it is not enough to hear or read about situations, it is essential to live through them. Action is key, together with risk, and scars are proof of experience. They are needed, and there is no way you can gain experience without. Go for it!
I read a very interesting short book called The Flinch, by Julien Smith (available only on Kindle at this stage apparently). The concept is simple. “It’s about an instinct— the flinch— and why mastering it is vital. The book is about how to stop flinching. It’s about facing pain.”
A flinch is ‘to make a sudden, involuntary movement in response to a (usually negative) stimulus‘ (Wiktionary definition). The concept of the book is that this reflex is what beats us in a variety of situations in our current life.
Of course, the flinch was a useful survival reflex in the wild, but in today’s society, it becomes an impediment in a variety of situations. The split second hesitation or pull back leads to being overwhelmed by others or even creates dangerous situations for the self. An example developed in the book is boxing, where training is a lot about overcoming the flinching reflex so as to be able to push into the opponent.
According to Julien Smith, “The flinch is your real opponent, and information won’t help you fight it. […] It’s why the monolithic company gets wiped out by a lean startup— because the big company culture avoids the hard questions. It’s the reason you make the wrong decision, even though you may know what the right one is.”
The flinch is what prevents us from taking risks and from responding quickly to new situations. We need to be able to overcome the reflex in many situations. And it can only be learnt by practicing. When do you start?
In the post she explains how she has difficulty accepting the mantra ‘your work should be your passion’. She describes some experiences where she converted her passion in work and it did not work out! Too much strain and too much focus almost killed her passion. Her advice is then to be careful and not necessarily mix the two together. And while work should be interesting, she states that it is also important to have a passion outside work.
The contrary argument of course, is that if you want to become good at what you are doing, you should be a minimum passionate about it otherwise you won’t put in the effort required.
All in all, and that’s an advice that can be found in several places, it is probably safe to say that you should be passionate about your work, AND at the same time, have a great passion outside work for the balance.
Maybe you have been using the ‘Instapaper‘ application. It is an application that allows you to bookmark webpages and read them later, even when you are disconnected, from any device (more on Wikipedia).
What you may not realize, is that this application was developed single-handedly by one person, Marco Arment, during 5 years, from 2008 to 2013. With no full-time employee, this self-funded startup attracted more than 2 million users!
Marco sold it in April 2013 to allow it to grow and in a very humble blog post tat is worth reading explains how that was needed to allow the product to grow and tackle competition (he still remains involved and has only sold a majority stake).
Think about it: “If a multi-million dollar business can be developed and managed by one person with a laptop in an apartment, what happens to your business and your job as this rapid innovation and digitization continues to ripple through every industry“? This question by Mitch Joel in his last book “Ctrl Alt Delete” is worth considering for a moment. In the Industrial Age, such product development would have required a large staff and a huge investment. Not any more.
And I have personally met a number of entrepreneurs running very profitable companies from home with the help of part-time contractors.
Indeed, the Fourth Revolution is marching on! Are you in?
The interesting side of this book is how our physiology is influencing our decision-making, and how it can be contagious in a group. The book describes in minute detail the working of our nervous and hormonal system when we are faced with the stress of modern life.
If there is a proof that the rational approach of economists and market theorists can only be wrong, it is this book. In effect our primitive brain happens to drive a lot more of our actions than what we’d like to believe – and thus creates irrational behaviors that can have far-flung impact on our economy and our lives.
Read this amazing book to understand to which extend what we believe are our choices are in fact dictated by our deeper, primitive nature; how our physiology influences deeply our behavior and choices – and how seldom in fact our rational, evolved brain intervenes in our decision-making.
Welcome to the world beyond the rationalism of the Industrial Age.
A little useful etymology I stumbled upon – and which explains why career management is about riding a merry-go-round!
‘Career’ comes from the Middle-Age French carriere (race-course), itself a deformation from Latin. It thus means ‘racing’, a competition in scarcity where the few top positions are reserved to those who will be fastest or the strongest.
‘Manage’ comes from the Middle-Age French ‘mesnager’ or Italian ‘maneggiare’ which was used to mean ‘drive a horse’ or ‘hold the reins of a horse’.
I don’t know why and I associated the two ideas and suddenly I was looking at Industrial Age career management as people riding wooden horses on a merry-go-round, always racing and never getting anywhere. Just going around on an absurd race.
Where is your current racing on the ‘career ladder’ really taking you?
“Being productive isn’t about wringing every last minute out of every day doing something or checking stuff off a to-do list and building a relentlessly efficient system that allows nothing through the cracks.” – Amber Naslund
Amber Naslund is an entrepreneur and she’s working in social networks business. She’s quite advanced in the Fourth Revolution. So, no wonder that when she looks at productivity, she looks at it from the point of view of the K.E.E.N. (Knowledge Exchanging Enhancing Networker): productivity of the K.E.E.N. is very much about creativity, not about repeating tasks efficiently!…
Let’s leave the last word to Amber:
“We need time to float along on the breeze. Have a casual, spontaneous conversation. Enjoy some silence. Write a bunch of random stuff that we never finish, and be okay with that. Productivity, at its essence, means being able to bring things about.”
The good thing, is that it just killed our guilt of doodling around (next time you’re asked, say that you are growing your next ideas)!
According to Simon Sinek, what makes the difference for great organizations – and great leaders – is that they know their ‘Why”. It is from their purpose that they derive how they do things and what they do in detail.
All individuals and organizations know their “What”. Some organizations know their “How”, but very rarely their “Why”.
Watch Simon Sinek give a great explanation with fantastic examples related to the Wright Brothers versus the establishment, and other great examples in this TED speech (if you’re a hurry, watch from 1:20 to 5:50 – if you can stop then!):
“New beginnings – professional, personal, or come what may – are always uncomfortable, but being open to them is the only way to grow.” – Marissa Mayer
In an interesting blog post where she describes her transition from Google to Yahoo, Marissa Mayer, the current CEO of Yahoo, describes the issues she faced in taking a key career decision. Her choice was to made in a personally challenging context as she was 6 months pregnant and that meant foregoing the long maternity leave she had been planning.
Big choices in our lives generally don’t happen when we are quiet expecting them – and they tend to happen in moments where we really would like to avoid them (and look significantly like additional worries!).
That’s possibly why most people don’t take those opportunities that come to them in those hectic times. Why most people don’t re-plan.
According to Marissa Mayer, “ In the end, we are all capable of so much more than we think.”
Whatever happens in your life right now, if it’s the right opportunity and the good decision… Go for it. And don’t look back.
In this blog we have often mentioned ‘Resistance’ or how our primitive brain tries to impede us to create or do anything remotely outside our comfort zone (the concept originates in the excellent “War of Art” book). It routinely tricks us into a number of behaviors designed to impede us from trying new things, like for example procrastination. We also know that Resistance is the Symptom That You Are on the Right Track.
Beyond simple Resistance that impedes us from giving our best self, some people, those that are often labelled compulsive artists, probably become so used to defy Resistance that some become addicted. And because they are addicted to meeting and overcoming Resistance, they can’t stop defying it, day-in and day-out.
This symptom can be observed in other areas that require to overcome a significant natural fear for performing the core of the activity: for example, sky-divers and all sorts of extreme sportspeople; actors; public speakers… Some of them (and probably all of those who become professional at it) definitely become so hooked to that sensation of Resistance, of stage fright, that they can’t live without it for long. They need their periodic dose of Resistance. They need to feel that thrill running in their nerves.
Once you become accustomed at identifying Resistance and adept at overcoming it; once you become familiar with Resistance to the point of being able to tame it sometimes, watch yourself. It is possible that you might even become addicted to it without being able to stop stretching yourself.
In all cases, make sure you have the right safety net around you so that you keep it safe, and enjoy every minute of playing with your ‘Resistance’ – and change yourself and the world!
Following on the Safety Net Conundrum, now at the individual level, how well are you really using the safety net you actually have? This safety net includes family and friends, social security and all other social protection institutions, your professional network, etc.
In my coaching assignments I often find that people:
underestimate the extent of their current safety nets and of the protection is gives them;
underestimate the extent of (measured) risk they could take based on this actual protection;
effectively often focus on trying to keep or increase the protection level they benefit from rather than using that protection to try new things.
Yes, most of us could try something really outside of our comfort zone and in the worst case still land safely in our extended safety net, with little or no consequences. So why are so few trying it?
With or without safety net, jumping in the unknown triggers all sorts of fear reactions. It takes a conscious effort to use the safety net as a reason to try it. The question: “What is the worst that can happen?” is extremely powerful in that sense.
Inventory the extent of your safety net. You will be surprised by its extent. You will realize that you can try new things outside your comfort zone. At the moment where your “lizard brain” will kick-in with all sorts of excuses, ask yourself: “What is the worst that can happen?“. Then, go and do it!