Procrastination and It’s Cousin Fear

Procrastination hardly ever enters a person’s life by force. It’s most often invited in by it’s close cousin fear. That being the case perhaps the most effective way to end procrastination in your life is to stop being afraid. 

I’ve had lots of good excuses for procrastinating in my life. Didn’t know where to start. Didn’t have time to get started. Wasn’t going to have time to finish so why start at all. Had more important things to do. “Somebody” would be unhappy if I did it. Didn’t have money to do it. Didn’t know how to do it.

Most procrastinators have great excuses for not taking action. But they will seldom tell you the real reason. They won’t even tell themselves. 

The real reason is fear. The biggest reason I suppose is fear of failure. I can tell you that pretty much every time I’ve failed to take action that would have led to success it was because fear held me back. 

Every time I missed a sales goal it was because fear held me back. Fear of prospecting, fear of asking for the order, even fear of asking a customer basic questions. It probably never looked like fear to someone else, it most likely looked like your run of the mill procrastination. 

But fear was driving the procrastination. 

It was the same for trying new things, attempting something new. “Tomorrow” became a shield against the fear of not knowing how to start, not knowing how to avoid looking like a fool if something went wrong. 

I never really overcame procrastination, I kinda outlasted it. I’ve had enough success now that I don’t have to worry about failing. If I fail I can just shrug and move on. But here’s what I have learned through my success and failures…I could have always shrugged off the failures. I didn’t need a base of success to do that. 

And neither do you. Failure is a part of success and the sooner you get some failures under your belt the sooner you can stop worrying about it. Procrastination quickly loses it’s interest in people who don’t fear failure. 

Now yes, as some of you will point out, sometimes plain laziness leads to procrastination too. That is true but when compared to fear laziness is a distant relative. Fear and procrastination grew up together, they are inseparable, they can finish each other’s sentences. 

Eliminate fear and procrastination has no place to live in your life. You can do it, you only need to begin the focus on the potential for success rather than the unlikely failure. 

The sooner you try the sooner you’ll wonder why you ever procrastinated in the first place.

Try today! 

Catch 22 and The Kobayashi Maru

The term Catch 22 is broadly used to describe a tricky problem or a no win, or even an absurd situation. You have a couple of choices for solving a problem but neither of them actually solve it and likely make the problem worse.

If you were, or are, a fan of the Star Trek television series or movies then you know that The Kobayashi Maru is a training exercise designed to test the character of Starfleet Academy cadets in a no-win scenario. It’s a Catch 22 on steroids. 

With the Kobayashi Maru cadets were put in a situation where they had two options and neither of them were good. But the test required that they select one the two available options. When they picked one they discovered just how bad their choices were. Both choices resulted in the loss of their ship and the entire crew. 

No cadet had ever “survived” the Kobayashi Maru until James T. Kirk arrived at Starfleet Academy. He was given the same two terrible choices and told he must pick one. Yet both his ship and crew came through intact. 

So how did this Kirk guy do it? Well when presented with two horrible options he declined to pick either one. He manufactured a third. 

All the other cadets stayed within the guidelines given to them, even knowing the likely outcome. Kirk refused to be limited to choices that would lead to his destruction. So he created a third option, seemingly out of thin air. 

Some people would say he cheated. Some would say he was very creative. I would say he merely broke the rule that needed to be broken in order to survive. 

Many of the things we take for granted today were at one time thought impossible. The people who overcame the impossible didn’t do it with conventional wisdom. They didn’t do it by applying the same limited thinking that made whatever it was impossible in the first place. They also didn’t meekly follow every direction that was given. 

They took a risk by breaking a rule or two that apparently didn’t need to be a rule to begin with. They colored outside the lines a bit to determine what was possible. They pushed the widely accepted limits.

People don’t often create new things with old thinking. People don’t change their lives and the lives of others by doing what they have always done. No one overcomes the impossible by asking for permission to do it. 

When they run out of options they do what James T. Kirk did, they manufacture another option. 

They don’t quit and they don’t accept options that will lead to failure. They beat the Kobayashi Maru. 

Can you beat it too?

Looking for Problems

Someone told me recently that looking for problems is not a healthy outlook. I suggested to them that at least in business, not looking for problems was a fatal outlook.

I suppose it all depends on why you’re looking for problems. If you’re looking for problems so that you always have a fresh supply of things to complain about then obviously that is not helping anyone. Especially you. 

If you’re looking for problems so they can be changed from an obstacle to an opportunity well then that’s a completely different story. 

I think everyone looks for problems. I also think everyone looks for problems for both of those reasons. The question is, how much time do you spend looking for problems to complain about and how much time do you invest in looking for problems to solve? 

The answer to that question provides a huge clue about the level of your success. 

We all sometimes fall into the trap of complaining about problems. The most successful people don’t complain for long. 

The most successful people look for problems with the intent to solve them. They may solve a problem for others or they may want to solve a problem for themselves. They may also want to solve problems to make money cause making life easier for others can be very profitable. 

Here’s the difference between looking for problems to find problems and looking for problems to solve. One leads to a healthy outlook on life and one leads to permanent attendance at the world’s largest pity party. 

When successful people walk into a pity party they immediately start looking for a door to get themselves back out. Walking in may have felt good but they just can’t tolerate the atmosphere once they are inside. 

The exit door they are looking for is labeled “Positive Attitude.” It is labeled that way because it is impossible to wallow in problems when you have a positive attitude. 

Maintaining a positive attitude is step one in solving any problem. A positive attitude widens your vision. It allows you to not only see the problem but all the potential solutions orbiting around the problem. 

There has yet to be a problem discovered that doesn’t have a solution. There are only problems that have yet to have their solution discovered. 

I have also yet to see a problem that was solved by merely complaining about it. There are likely enough people reading this that one of you will one day solve what today is thought to be an unsolvable problem. Of that I have no doubt. 

One of you will cure an incurable disease. One of you will invent something that will make the world more livable, even if we don’t know we need it today. It’s not that hard because even if the problem you’ve solved only makes the world better for one person you have still made the world a better place. 

That all begins with making the choice to solve a problem rather than complain about it. 

Will YOU make that choice today?

Don’t be Surprised by Surprises

I like surprises. Well, actually I like some surprises. I like the ones where I get something out of them or when I’m able to surprise someone else with something they will enjoy. 

The surprises that pop up unexpectedly that do nothing but cause problems or force me to change my plans, I don’t like those surprises at all. But are those kinds of surprises really surprises at all? 

Stuff happens. Despite our best plans and attempts to prevent the unexpected things from happening they can still happen. That’s why successful people and experienced leaders are prepared to deal with those “things.”

The first thing I recommend doing when the unexpected happens is nothing. At least for a while. Take a breath, examine what happened as dispassionately as you can. Don’t rush into a decision or take action until you understand the implications of that decision or action. It’s possible, probably unlikely but possible, that no action is required at all.

The other advantage of pausing instead of panicking is you appear under control to those watching. They want to see how you respond to this unexpected situation. The reality is you’re not really doing nothing during this pause. You’re  gathering information, facts, options and most importantly your wits. 

You’ll want to determine if this is a temporary situation or a new permanent wrinkle. It’s seldom wise to make permanent changes because of a temporary problem. 

The second suggestion I’d offer people dealing with the unexpected is to stay positive. If you have any experience at all, in life or in business you’ve likely overcome other unexpected and unwanted situations in the past. Remind yourself of those successes because the fact is, if you’ve overcome the unexpected once you can do it again.

Finally when facing the unexpected, especially when the unexpected includes many unknowns, I encourage people to ask for help. Knowing when to ask for help and having the courage to actually ask for it is not a weakness, it is a strength. 

You may be tempted to think “handling” unexpected circumstances on your own makes you look like a leader but it may make you look like the opposite. Leaders work well with other people, lone wolves go it alone. Lone wolves make very bad leaders.

Ignoring the experience and skills of co-workers and colleagues most often makes it harder on yourself. Rule number one when dealing with the unexpected is NEVER make anything more of a challenge than it needs to be. 

The next time you’re facing the unexpected pause for a bit, remind yourself you‘ve got this and seek help and advice from others. You may just find that this surprise is a pretty good surprise after all.