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. 

Being on Time Matters

If you’ve read this blog a long time you may know that I attended High School at a Military Academy. The staff there, many of which were military leaders were VERY big on being on time. My first day in the building as I entered another kid was coming out…of the window above me. He was tossed out the window for being late. 

During my four years there lots of kids were expelled for being late. They taught us that being late was bad, very very bad. They also taught us that absolutely no excuse was acceptable. Nope, not even dying. I remember one of the Sargents telling me that if I died then I better have someone prepared to drag my dead body into school on time because there were things he could do to a dead person that weren’t very pleasant. 

I was 14 years old at the time, I can still hear his voice. It made a lasting impression on me and from that day on I knew without a doubt that being on time matters.

For the record, the school is still alive and turning out future leaders but I don’t think they can get away with stuff like that anymore…which apparently is good. Okay, okay, it’s good.

When it comes to time there seems to be two major groups of people. Those who believe being on time matters and those who believe it matters that other people be on time. There are always a few exceptions, some people for instance just don’t think being on time should matter at all. They make no effort to be on time and they don’t worry about sitting around wasting time waiting for someone else to show up to an appointment or meeting. I REALLY try hard to avoid those people, they will never reach their potential in life and they could even prevent me from reaching mine.

So which group are you in? 

The group that expects other people to be on time but refuse to hold themselves to the same standard are very frustrating for me. They are thieves. Yep, thieves, they steal from me one of my most vital assets, time. Every minute spent waiting for them is a minute I can’t get back. I could have used that minute in pursuit of one of my goals. I could have invested it with someone who valued my time far more than the person I’m waiting for. If you don’t want to be a thief then be on time.

People who make other people wait don’t think of it this way but they are being selfish. They could be on time, they simply choose not to be. If you don’t agree that timeliness is a choice then consider how many times you’ve been 5 or 10 minutes late. People who are frequently a few minutes late could easily set their alarms 10 minutes earlier. They could leave the house 10 minutes earlier. They could stop hitting the snooze button. They choose to do none of that, they choose to be late. They choose to let other people wait on them. That’s selfish. 

At it’s core being late is an attitude issue. It shows you value your own comfort and convenience over other people’s. It is disrespectful.

People who highly value being on time send a completely different message to those around them. They send a message that says I value my time AND yours. They show they can be trusted and counted on. They demonstrate that their word means something. People who are always on time show they can manage their lives and that they will do what they say they will. 

No matter how laid back your company and your boss may appear to be they are paying attention to your ability to be on time. They are watching to see if you hit deadlines or let them go whizzing past. They want to know if the precious asset of time matters to you because if it doesn’t then it’s likely other precious resources won’t matter to you either. 

Remember, if a meeting starts at 9:00am and you waltz in at 9:01 then you are late. Always get there early cause if you’re early, it’s impossible to be late. 

Five Choices that Change Everything

People who know more than me about the human body could tell you exactly what it’s made of. The chemical compositions, the percentages of muscle vs fat, (or at least what it should be) and all sorts of other cool stuff. 

But all that “stuff” makes you alive. It does not make your life. 

Your life is made from the choices you make. Every big choice and every small choice determines the quality and even the length of your life. 

If you’re like most people you don’t realize how many choices you make each day. You choose what time to wake up. You choose your attitude, and if you don’t choose your attitude then you choose to allow other people and other things to choose it for you. You choose what to wear, what to eat, where to go, what to say, what to listen to. Who to listen to. What to watch on TV. When to go to bed and hundreds of other decisions wedged between those. 

One thing most us seldom think about is the fact that our minds take in everything we see, everything we hear and everything we read. It all influences what we think and those thoughts determine our actions. 

All, yes all, as in every single one, of those choices are influenced by the people you spend the most time with. Your life is basically a compilation of the lives of the five people you’re around the most. 

If you believe that you are influencing them and that they are not influencing you then I’m guessing you may also be excited about an upcoming visit from the Easter Bunny. 

There are some choices in life that only you control and five of those choices are the people you allow to be closest to you. Those are the five choices that can change every other choice you make in life. These are the people considered to be your “inner circle.” 

Are you allowing unmotivated people to be a big part of your life? If you are then I can also guarantee you that you have motivational issues. You likely can’t seem to get started on the things you say that you want to accomplish. That’s because your natural motivation is being negatively impacted by unmotivated people close to you. 

If you’re allowing negative people into your inner circle then I can be fairly certain that other people around you see you as a negative person, even if you don’t. Pandemics have been in the news a bit lately but nobody talks about the Pandemic of negativity all around us. Negative attitudes are as contagious as any virus that has ever existed and masks do nothing to stop it. The only way to avoid catching negativity is to stay away from it. 

It is a worthy effort to try and infect a negative person who a strong dose of positivity. Understand the contagion you’re dealing with however and make certain you keep some space between yourself and the person you’re trying to help. 

Invest some serious time right now to consider the people who you are closest to. Are they helping you and supporting your efforts to have a better more meaningful life? Are they a good influence on you or do they overpower your good intentions? Be honest!

If you want a better life you may need to make some tough choices. You may need to say goodbye to some of your friends. Even though some of your friends may mean you no harm they may be harming you with their choices…because you are influenced and impacted by them. 

The number of people you allow into your personal inner circle may also be less then five. If you determine you currently know only 3 people capable of being “builders of you” then 3 people is the perfect number. Don’t let a couple of nattering nabobs of negativity into your inner circle just so you have a circle of 5. 

Surround yourself with as many positive, caring and supportive people as you can find. Make sure the five people closest to you fully match the positive, caring and supportive criteria. The quality of your life depends on it. 

Weak Leaders – Part Five

Strong Authentic Leaders were at one time committed followers. Many of them still are, at least sometimes. 

If you have always struggled to follow someone else then you will most likely always struggle to earn the right to have someone else follow you. Leading someone requires their commitment. Weak leaders have no idea what is required to earn that commitment. Thus the best they can do is create more weak leaders. It is very uncommon for a weak leader to develop someone into a strong leader. 

I could write for days on what causes a lack of commitment but I can sum up it’s result in one word…insubordination. The act of insubordination can take many forms. It could be completely ignoring the requests of the leader. It might be doing the opposite or nearly the opposite, of what is needed for the organization to succeed. Often it is simply talking poorly about the leader behind their back.  

Talking behind a leaders back results in one of the most productivity killing activities an insubordinate follower can undertake. That activity is known as circular communication. Let’s say the leader directs follower number one to perform a particular task. Follower number one thinks it’s a ridiculous request. So follower number one needs to find someone to complain to, we’ll call that person follower number two. 

Follower number two is never chosen at random. They are carefully selected because they must possess one singular quality above all others. They must agree with follower number one that the leader is making a ridiculous request.

It’s also likely that follower number one finds a follower 3, 4, and 5 to complain to as well. Followers 2, 3, 4, and 5 may also tell several other people until finally word gets back to the leader that follower number one thinks the leader is making ridiculous requests. Then the messy circle is complete. 

So now there are multiple people involved, discussing an issue that only two people have the ability to solve. Only the leader and follower number one. By not going directly to the leader follower number one has impacted the productivity, and likely the morale, of many people in the organization. That’s circular communication.

Follower number one may find themselves in a leadership position one day but they will almost certainly be a weak leader.

If you’re in a middle leadership position today and you’re participating in circular communication then you will be seen as a weak leader. Because you probably are. 

Strong Authentic Leaders do not try to communicate to someone through others. They communicate directly with the person who they need to speak with. Indirect, circular communication is a trust killer. When you lose the trust of the people around you then you’ve lost the ability to earn the level of commitment required to lead. 

The five characteristics of weak leaders I have written about in this series are fairly common. The good news is that each of them can be overcome. It requires a weak leader to make a commitment to improve their leadership skills. 

People who convert themselves from weak leaders to strong leaders often do so with the help of a coach or a mentor. It’s tough to do on your because one of the things that make people a weak leader is their inability to see themselves as they really are. 

The eyes and the objectivity of a mentor can make a big difference…if you’re willing to listen to them and act on their recommendations. 

Most weak leaders are satisfied with holding a leadership position. Strong Authentic Leaders made the choice to make a difference in the lives of others. 

Your position of leadership can make a difference for you or you can make a difference with your leadership position. That choice is completely up to you!