“We don’t know who discovered water, but we know it wasn’t the fish.” – Marshall McLuhan*
Do you have a goal or dream that you’re ignoring because you’re not sure you’re worthy of it? Have you ever considered one of your aspirations only to think “but who am I to accomplish this?”
This is your wake-up call!
That goal or dream is yours for a reason! It’s calling you to fulfill it! And the fact that you have it, the reality that it ever danced across your brain, that’s the goals way of telling you “you’re enough!” and “start moving!”
Allow me to recap the serendipitous conversation that jolted me awake to this same conclusion…
I was chatting with a girlfriend and I was telling her about my attempt at starting this blog. I was explaining how it’s been a serious challenge to come up with topics to write about.
Luckily for me she replied with the BEST. THING. EVER.
She said “I know, I’ve thought about writing a blog too, but seriously, what would I even write about? Kindness!?”
The reason this was so helpful for me was because I would never in a million years think to write about kindness – and I still don’t intend to! Don’t get me wrong, kindness is fantastic and I am a fan! I just don’t care to be the Subject Matter Expert on Kindness – but she does!
She made that “but seriously, what would I write about?” comment so authentically that it was a total ‘fish didn’t discover water’ experience. My friend was innocently projecting her natural inclination and interests onto me (and the rest of the world)! I could practically hear her thought process of “writing about kindness wouldn’t make me special – anyone could write about kindness!” #mindblown.
So I started to wonder… how often do we keep quiet because we think “well surely everyone is thinking this”?
How many blog posts go unwritten because we shrug and ask ourselves “who wouldn’t write a blog about ‘kindness’?”
Me! I wouldn’t! So, please – you write it – we need you!
I feel like this epiphany has Seth Godin written all over it. This is my favorite quote from the book “Linchpin”:
And this is a quote that I have displayed on my vision board:
And yet even as I write this I am still working through it myself. It’s not easy to discover the water as a fish – but we must keep trying!
Are you ready to take on this challenge with me?
Consider these 4 steps to get started:
- Share your goals and dreams. Authentically share the things you expect people will hear and react with either a “well, duh, me too!” or a “you really think you can do that?!”
Ok. Right. That’s probably scary. So start small. Grab a trusted friend who’s into self-development too and do the exercise together! Each come up with something you feel is a “moonshot” and something you believe “everyone” (including you) wants. Share and see what happens. My guess is that you’ll end up learning something interesting about your friend and encouraging him/her to go after what they want! I bet that they’ll hold up that same mirror for you.
- Take steps (any steps) toward your goal! I believe we grossly overestimate the competition and underestimate ourselves. I think we also miscalculate the length of time and level of pain it will take to accomplish what we want. The only way to correct these errors in judgment is to step into the arena. See the competition firsthand and throw yourself into the training regimen. Don’t overthink. Just act. Just move. Remember, the very fact that the goal is whispering in your ear is reason enough… because that same goal is not whispering in mine!
- Practice intentionally taking a step back. Practice awareness of the water. Remember that the world has made it so easy for you to be remarkable. Don’t dare let that go to waste!
- Embrace abundance. We need to know that there is ‘enough to go around’ in order for this to work!
If I operate from a place of lack (i.e.: there are a finite amount of goals that can ever be accomplished/wishes granted/dreams fulfilled) then I will believe that you accomplishing your goal decreases my odds of achieving mine.
I would guess this is one of the reasons we miss those golden opportunities for encouragement so often! If I project that you have the same dreams as me (if I believe you want to blog about ‘kindness’ too) and I believe there are a finite number of dreams fulfilled, then I will be less likely to be open with you about my plans, goals, and insecurities thereby giving you no opportunity to help and encourage me (and tell me that you don’t actually want to blog about ‘kindness’… at all).
When you understand and embrace abundance you understand that someone doing the exact same thing that you hope to do – even if they’re doing it with a greater skill level than you’re currently at – only increases your opportunities to be great!
The Backstreet Boys and N’Sync didn’t steal market share from one another… they expanded the market. (Forgive that ridiculous analogy… but I do think it applies.)
There are an unlimited number of dreams that can come true.
The world has made it so damn easy for you to be remarkable.
Please, do not settle.
Step back. Look for the water. Be you. You have work to do.
PEACE & LOVE.
*I know absolutely nothing about Marshall McLuhan so I am not certain if this is the correct attribution. I googled. This is what I came up with.
Limiting beliefs are sneaky little pests that can do some serious damage. They’re like the mental equivalent of termites. They can be hiding anywhere – in fact, I once found several in the last place I would’ve thought to look… my goals!?
This is a PSA. If it can happen to me it can happen to you. We need to find these suckers and exterminate them. Leave no thought unturned… even when casually daydreaming.
Manifesting a Plane
One day I was out on a “database drive” with a salesperson who reported to me. A “database drive” might be exactly what it sounds like but in case you’ve never been responsible for a sales territory I’ll explain: Imagine a road trip, except much less fun. You drive up and down the roads in your territory and with painstaking detail you record observations from each building you pass – what is the company name? How big does it look? How many cars in the parking lot? Etc.
I see the value in this activity but I’ll admit… my mind wanders. After about 20 minutes this pseudo road trip gets very old for me.
So I was on this drive with a salesperson – I was driving, she was taking notes, and I noticed a structure set back from the road with a sign that read “Airplane Hangar For Rent” with a phone number. Immediately I thought: Man, I am dreaming too small!
I imagined that somewhere there was a couple that woke up this morning and, as they were talking across the bedroom getting ready for their respective days, one said to the other “…and after that I’m going to check out a few airplane hangars.” I marveled that this was occurring in someone’s day. The term “Airplane Hangar Rental” was blended into someone’s otherwise normal dialogue. Wow.
Why wasn’t I trying to figure out how to get a plane? What was I setting goals about?
Whatever they were they suddenly seemed too small.
I had an epiphany during that database drive. I was setting goals and intentions and using my thoughts to manifest material things but my limiting beliefs were putting a cap on my goal setting itself. (Disclaimer – I do not think that material things are the path to happiness! I know the plane will not make me happy. But having a plane would still be pretty f*&%ing cool. Why not mentally ‘go there’?)
I understand the position that aiming low could be a byproduct of staying grounded in reality… but personally, I rather aim high than be grounded.
After that day I started to, very casually and in an unattached manner, think about hangar rentals – and other absurd/cool things that might come with owning a plane. I found it fun to visualize!
A few months later the topic of private planes came up in a conversation with girlfriends and, in an outer-body experience, I heard myself say (warning – this is embarrassing – but it happened) “I know! I decided the next man I date needs to have his own plane.”
(Insert the sound of a record scratching to a halt.)
W. T. F!?
How did that happen?
To give you some context, I am above average on the independent-woman spectrum. I have never relied on a man to buy me anything (well… that’s not entirely true. I asked my college boyfriend to buy me a bunny once… but that was a disaster for 11 different reasons and is truly the only example I can recall of a time where a man purchased more than a dinner on my behalf) but somehow an imaginary man found his way into my aim-high goal setting.
Why does that dude get the plane?! And why am I creating this?!
Time to exterminate that sh*t immediately.
Enter Peter Thiel
Peter Thiel has been famously quoted as asking “How can you achieve your 10-year plan in the next 6 months?”
I say “Right on! How can I?!”
Why do we place limits on how things come to us?
Why do we place limits on when they come?
I do this all the time. I write that I want to be earning X dollars by the time I am X age. But… like… WHY!?
Why the timeline?
Or, perhaps more importantly, what is that implication of that timeline?
If I personify my subconscious as a mini version of myself I can visualize her hearing the first part of the desire “I want to earn X dollars” and perking up! She grabs her mini running shoes and steels herself thinking ‘We have work to do!’ but then part two comes across her wavelength (or loudspeaker or however those things work) and she hears part two: “by age X” ‘Oh!’ she sighs ‘Jumped the gun! We have time. Let’s nap!”
I can’t help but wonder: Are we unnecessarily delaying our rewards by allowing our limiting beliefs a seat at the goal setting table?
Of course, they weren’t intentionally invited to the meeting – but have we made certain that they’re not around? Not in the walls? Not under the table? Not gnawing away on the legs of the very chair we’re seated in?
Here’s my recommendation and now-personal practice: Keep an open mind and unattached spirit in regards to how and when things come to you in general. Let the universe do her thing. But regularly double check your goal setting framework to ensure it’s structurally sound. Pay special attention to the language you use and investigate all time-related parameters. Don’t let your limiting beliefs delay, restrict, or diminish the full expression of your desires.
PEACE, LOVE, MANIFESTING & AIRPLANES (if that’s your thing).
I love goals. I love setting them. I love writing them down. I love talking about them, checking them off, re-reading them, exceeding them… I love it all.
I was 24 years-old when I very randomly got my hands on the audio version of Brian Tracy’s Ultimate Goals Program. It was a game changer. I had never heard of Brian Tracy before and his message blew my mind! (Despite the direction I am going to turn in here, I highly highly recommend reading or listening to this work. I can’t stress that enough!)
As a result of Tracy’s program, I started writing down my goals on a semi-regular basis and then eventually adopted his full blown recommendation of listing your goals in the positive, personal, present-tense every single day without exception. I did this for years.
The results never disappointed. It wasn’t uncommon for me to find a ‘goals notebook’ from several years back, open to a random page, and realize that nearly everything I had set my intentions on had either come to pass or was on track with almost frightening accuracy.
Naturally, I wanted to share this positive experience so I gifted both the audio and written version of this book to a handful of people. Get me started on the subject of Brian Tracy and/or goal setting and I will happily and enthusiastically talk your ear off. This is my comfort zone. I am happy here. I am certain of the power of goal setting.
So imagine my surprised when I was chatting with a group of girlfriends this week and I completely blanked when the subject of long-term goals and ‘lasting legacy’ came up! My brain short circuited. It wouldn’t compute.
I know there are things that I want to do in the next 10 years (for example) but I don’t know where I want to be 10 years from now. Or, oddly enough, maybe I realized that part of me wants to be in the same place I am today. (That’s a trip!)
In trying to mentally reconcile why I could no longer wrap my arms around this concept I recognized that I may have abandoned the idea of a ‘destination’ altogether. I don’t know when it happened but I suppose along the way between that first audiobook and today I acquired and blended different ideas about the world that have reshaped my once solid “10 Year Plan”.
Those ideas that I have collected include (but I’m sure are not limited to):
I no longer personally feel that there is a finite end. There’s an end to ‘earth school’ as Gary Zukav (author of “Seat of the Soul” among other works) calls it, but I don’t feel like I’m up against a deadline.
In the same manner that you do not have a finite amount of time to learn things in College, I don’t feel I have a timer placed on my ability to learn while in this ‘institution’. Sure, you may not pass the exam if you don’t learn the lesson by the end of the term, but life goes on. If it’s a lesson you need, it’ll present itself again. You’ll learn once you need to apply it. You’ll get there if you must.
I am sincerely working on adopting a mantra of “It Won’t Make Me Happy.” In order to enforce (and reinforce) the truth that if it is external, it is fleeting at best.
At one time I really wanted a Kayak. I wrote it down every day. I lived near the water. I thought it was unfathomably oppressive to live on the water and not own a Kayak. I finally got it. I think it was yellow. There was a particularly fun (sarcasm) incident where it repeatedly fell off the roof of my car. I used it a few times but never got it out of the harbor. I left the Kayak in New York when I moved. The fulfillment literally could not have been more fleeting. Goal accomplished. (And it’s not the kayaks fault. The examples are endless)
My Universe is occurring inside of me – and yours inside of you. Nothing I can ‘leave’ (in terms of legacy) will mean anything to you unless I can affect you to become more aligned with you because nothing outside of you And if my affecting you is about me and what I’ve affected… it has no value anyway. (I know, it’s trippy.)
Your universe is all about you. You don’t need me to ‘leave’ you anything.
When I think of 10 years from now I imagine that I’ll want the exact same things I want now. I believe I’ll also want these things in 9 years, 11 years, and tomorrow at 3:07pm.
The opportunity to be creative
To choose love
To show up
To feel productive
To do “the work”
To solve puzzles
To breathe deeply
To feel free
None (not one) of the words on that list ever landed on a ‘goals page’for me.
That’s not to say that they couldn’t! Or shouldn’t! Maybe I’ll take this new perspective right back to the habits I created at 25… it’s probably not a bad call!
But what the recent “10 Year Plan” conversation revealed to me is that I’ve found unexpected and deep appreciation for ‘goals’ that cannot be scratched out in a notebook or stored in a closet.
I don’t want to “get there” with any of the above these feelings or ideas.
I don’t want to solve the puzzles and then rest.
I don’t want to contribute and then retire.
I want to be present in those ways every day. If you ask me today, that feels like the ultimate achievement.
There is an annoying cliché (I’m sure you’ve heard it) that “Happiness is not a destination, it’s a way of life” and (begrudgingly) I can’t help but agree.
(Side note: I’m aware that I find clichés annoying because they’re overused. I am acutely aware that they’re overused because they’re so friggin tried and true.)
It’s simply not a destination for me anymore. I can no longer draw the map. I am throwing out my 10 Year Plan and trading it in for a daily internal/emotional inventory. I’ll continue to accomplish things along the way because it’s fun – and why not? Let’s test the limitlessness of manifestation! And no disrespect to the brilliant Brian Tracy as I suspect he learned this lesson long before I did – but I have a new Ultimate Goals Program – and it feels a lot like wholehearted living.
PEACE & LOVE.
“Holding Others Accountable” is a challenge for many leaders regardless of how much experience they have. The good news is once you “get it”, you GET IT. You can’t un-learn it, and it’s one of the most valuable competencies to master.
More good news? I’m pretty sure it’s not genetic.
Sure, it may be naturally easier for some, but I believe everyone is capable of learning and developing this skill. So if you haven’t had your ‘aha moment’ with accountability yet, don’t write yourself off! Read through the 5 Roadblocks I witness most often and see if you can relate… they’re probably not what you expect!
*But wait: Before we start we need to make sure we’re addressing the right problem. Do you have an accountability problem? Or do you have the wrong people on the bus?
My favorite quote on this subject is from Jim Collins’ “Good to Great”:
“The good-to-great leaders understood three simple truths. First, if you begin with “who,” rather than “what,” you can more easily adapt to a changing world. If people join the bus primarily because of where it is going what happens if you get ten miles down the road and you need to change direction? You’ve got a problem. But if the people are on the bus because of who else is on the bus, then it’s much easier to change direction. “Hey, I got on this bus because of who else is on it; if we need to change direction to be more successful, fine with me.” Second, if you have the right people on the bus, the problem of how to motivate and manage people largely goes away. The right people don’t need to be tightly managed or fired up; they will be self-motivated by the inner drive to produce the best results and to be part of creating something great. Third, if you have the wrong people, it doesn’t matter whether you discover the right direction; you still won’t have a great company. Great vision without great people is irrelevant. “
Be real with yourself. If you’ve got the wrong people on the bus you need to start there!
So for our purposes let’s assume we’re dealing with the right team:
- Holding Others Accountable Might Feel Awkward IF: You’re not sure if what you’re holding them to is really important.
“Is this important?” is the first question we need to ask.
“Why?” is the second… and the third, fourth and fifth. Six Sigma calls this the “5 Why” approach. It’s a simple and effective tactic for identifying “root cause”.
It is going to awkward and near impossible to hold your team to something that you do not wholeheartedly believe is important. If you don’t believe it, they won’t believe it, and then you’re dead in the water. So you need to dig to find the important nugget… and it’s usually not the number/aspect you start with.
For example: Let’s say your sales team’s quota is to make 50 calls per week and you want to hold them accountable to this. You need to ask yourself if the “50 calls” is the most important piece. Your thought process may sound like this:
Is “50 calls” important? – Yes
Why? – Because I know my sales reps average 10 calls per presentation and they need to make 5 presentations per week.
Why? – Because one out of every 5 presentations results in a sale and they need to hit one sale per week.
Why? – If they do less than 5 presentations they are not likely to hit their sale.
Consider: Are the 50 calls important? Or is the 1 sale per week important? If they consistently hit the 1 sale per week by making 47 calls per week, is that acceptable?
This could (and should) go on and on…
Keep asking why and self-questioning until you’re stuck – until you arrive at your most essential piece.
The behind-the-scenes work and self-talk that sets the framework for Holding Others Accountable is often overlooked. Very few people are effective at holding someone accountable to something they don’t believe in or fully understand. That’s not personal! That’s universal!
Work out your “Is this important?” first and foremost. Write it out and/or ask a co-worker to challenge you through it. Just keep asking “why”.
- Holding Others Accountable Might Feel Awkward IF: You believe that “Accountability Conversations” and “Discipline” are the same…
You’re not disciplining someone each time you challenge them or hold them accountable. These instances should feel VERY different.
Discipline should be short, concise, and generally one-sided. Discipline may be necessary is a commitment is missed repeatedly, but it’s not where we start.
Let’s imagine you are my Direct Report:
An Accountability Conversation is just that – a conversation. It is a two way street where we talk about the ways which you’ll commit to taking action on the abovementioned IMPORTANT task.
For an Accountability Conversation, we’re on the same team. Our interests are aligned. We both agree that the task is important and we make a plan to succeed.
You may have questions about WHY the task is important (which is the reason I need to be sure I have the answers!) That’s OK! Your questions are valid. I had to question it too otherwise I wouldn’t be strong enough to hold you to it!
This conversation might be long, especially if we’re new to each other or new to Accountability, because we both need to walk away feeling confident and committed.
While we’re both feeling engaged and inspired I need to ask you an important question in an empathetic tone. I say: “You know, this plan really sounds great and I think we’re going to nail it, but to be sure I’m holding up my end of the bargain, if I feel like I hear you making excuses about any of this or if I feel like you’re not living up to your potential in the areas we’re talking about, how do you want me to address that with you?”
Boom. Accountability game changer.
It should really be smooth sailing from here on out (although we have 3 points left, so read on…)
- Holding Others Accountable Might Feel Awkward IF: You’re more concerned with their immediate comfort than their long term success.
I’ll be blunt on this one: It’s not fair to NOT hold people accountable. It’s not fair to ‘let it slide’. No matter whom you lead or in what capacity it’s your job to develop them and help them to succeed. If you’re not down with that, please stop leading.
If I know the task is important and I know that Accountability does not equate to Discipline, there shouldn’t be a lot of discomfort to begin with BUT sometimes (for example) my Tuesday afternoon would just go smoother if I let you slide when I see you not upholding an IMPORTANT obligation.
Bottom line? If I know it’s important it’s not fair for me to turn a blind eye – so we might have a slightly uncomfortable conversation. I’m doing it for your benefit. Your long term success is more important to your immediate comfort (and my immediate comfort for that matter).
If I watch you breaking a commitment and I want to say something but instead I think ‘I am so annoyed by this but I don’t know if I really want to confront him… he might get defensive… and it’s almost 5 o’clock and… excuse, excuse, excuse’ you’ll know what’s up. Not to get too esoteric here but if that’s my mental talk-track, my energy will inevitably be different towards you. And if my energy is different and I don’t address it with you, I break our trust. Not completely or irreparably – but I cause damage. So the next Accountability Conversation will be just a little bit less impactful… and so on…
I am teaching you how to treat me. I am teaching you how our relationship works. I’m teaching you a little about how the world works – and if I am not holding up my end of the bargain and challenging you to keep your commitment then I am not teaching you a lesson that will serve you well. I am not being fair.
- Holding Others Accountable Might Feel Awkward IF: You make it personal
Accountability is not personal.
Discipline is not personal either.
Business is not personal.
Here’s when it will feel personal:
- When I don’t know if the task is truly important
- When I have not set clear expectations
- When I dodge the follow up conversations as I see you not upholding your commitment
- When I am inconsistent in my message and/or methods
- When I haven’t done the behind-the-scenes work to really adopt the ‘impersonal’ aspect of it all
This could potentially be confusing because I’ve said it’s my job to be fair and develop you and teach you to succeed… and it could be argued that there’s an emotional feel to that, but here’s what I mean:
If you said you were going to make five presentations and you made three – YOU, as a person, are not a failure. Your performance may not be acceptable, but I know your performance is not your character. You’re not a bad person. Neither am I. This is not personal.
- Holding Others Accountable Might Feel Awkward IF: You have not set the stage
This point may be belabored by now but that’s OK: it’s critical.
Expectation setting is paramount in every relationship and interaction.
People generally do not like surprises, they don’t want to be caught off guard, and they don’t want to be unaware of the rules. You can say or do almost anything (legal and ethical of course) if you just give people the heads-up that you’re going to do it.
I recommend starting this conversation on day one if you have the luxury of writing on a blank slate. If not, it’s really never too late! Either way will require strength and consistency from you.
Make a promise to those you lead that you will only hold them accountable for things you genuinely believe are important and are in their greatest good. Tell them it is your commitment to them and their development never to ‘turn a blind eye’ or ‘let it slide’ because those approaches do not make them better. Make it safe and prepare them: there WILL be times when they miss on a commitment. You’re going to speak with them about it. It WON’T be personal. And so long as they prove that they’re the right person to be on the bus, you’ll work through it, set a new goal, learn and be better for it.
And then keep your word.
Create a Culture of Accountability and your results will take care of themselves.