The Tides of Confidence

PHOTO CAPTION: Delegates at the Pacific Youth Leadership Forum negotiate a confidence-building exercise at Camp H.R. Erdman, a YMCA camp located on the North Shore in Hawaii. The YLF was sponsored and hosted by Installation Management Command-Paci...

Confidence Comes and Goes

I was thinking about my confidence. How it comes and goes like the ocean tides. Sometimes, I feel supremely confident. Like my decisions, my thought process and my ability to ‘pull it off’ are good. No doubts, no questions. Then something happens. I’m never quite sure what happens. Suddenly, I’m questioning everything.

Like the ocean tides (although thankfully not as predictable!), my confidence almost disappears. I can’t control when I feel confident and when I don’t. For me, the first step is to realize when the tide is in (I’m confident!) and when it’s out (OMG, I can’t do anything right). The tricky part is to own the feeling and acknowledge when I’ve done something to deserve the feeling.

I Want to Be Confident All the Time

Because I carried a lot of responsibility at a very young age, I learned to depend on myself. And I know that I can… do a lot of different things, fix what’s broken, change, lead, and make good decisions. I know that I can come off as very confident. As a person who knows what’s going on and can handle things, and oftentimes, I can. But sometimes, I am paralyzed. I don’t know what to do and I can’t quite seem to muster any of that confidence that has served me so well.

In a heart beat, my confidence is like low tide, stinky and exposing everything. It’s like I only have 2 switches – on and OFF. This is not good. Cocky is bad. It doesn’t serve anything.  A dish rag doesn’t either. The really confident person stands a certain way. Even if they are unsure, they pay attention to their body language. They stand up straight, they smile, they’re usually kind.

Monitor the Tide

When it’s low tide , I try this: 1) take a deep breath (no really, do it now… take a deep breath)  2) stand a little taller 3) think of someone who loves me (unconditionally) 4) remember I can trust myself. Practice feeling confident when you’re not ‘feeling it’. Fake it ’til you make it. This is a very important skill.  Modeling this skill for our children is powerful. Realizing that confidence comes and goes like the tides, means that when I’m paralyzed… I have choices. And I won’t feel this way forever.

Image credit: Pacific Region Hosts   familymwr

Banana Management

I've been ignoring you for too long

Banana Management Is Serious Business

If you have a baby at home, you likely know about banana management. This is the art and science of making sure you have enough ripe bananas on hand for your baby (without running to the store everyday to get new ones). When my kids were little, they loved bananas. It was a job to make sure that I had enough bananas, at all stages of “ripeness” to satisfy their banana needs, not too green (tasteless and too hard) or too brown (too mushy, not to mention the fruit flies). Add to that the fact that my kids went to day care part time so that meant that I couldn’t just keep bananas for home, they had to be ready to go into lunch bag. Are you snickering at this “silly” topic? Then you’ve never had to get kids packed up and out the door!

Bananas Are Just The Start

I haven’t had to deal with banana management for a long time, but it struck me that the business of managing a commodity in everyday life probably takes more time than we imagine. If you run a household, you spend a lot of time juggling all kinds of ‘bananas.’ Toilet paper. Dish washing soap. Milk. If you add children to that, now the ‘banana management’ theory extents to all kinds of stuff like paperwork, homework, lessons, sports, etc. If I don’t sign the permission slip (for my kid’s field trip) today, it might disappear and then what?

If you see someone who has a boring wardrobe? Maybe they are managing a lot of bananas and trying to figure out what to wear in the morning isn’t that important. The stories about Steve Jobs and his black turtle neck or Mark Zuckerberg’s tee shirt tell part of this story. Managing the puts and takes of daily life, especially if you have a family, is a lot of work. If you can simplify any parts of the work, then do it.

Just Say No

There’s always someone who wants you to do one more thing. Can you help here? Can you do this? Would you mind? For today, just say no, I have bananas to manage. They’ll probably never ask you for anything again.

Image credit: CRW_2419  30 cent yellow banana

Diary of A Wimpy Adult

Matt's pouty face.

Wimpy Is As Wimpy Does

Yes, I’m calling you wimpy. I’m calling me wimpy. We’re all a bunch of wimps.

Well, not really. But I do think many of us could toughen up. I’m not saying there aren’t lots of genuinely difficult problems that people face, clearly there are. I’m referring to a lot of the whining that goes on about parking spaces at the mall, crowds at restaurants, etc.

I love this article, “How to Increase Your Mental Toughness, 4 Secrets From Navy Seals and Olympians.”

  1. Talk positively with yourself.
  2. Set goals (sometimes really small ones)
  3. Practice visualizing what you want to happen
  4. Practice like it really matters

My favorite is the positive self talk. The author notes, “It’s estimated you say 300 to 1000 words to yourself per minute.” WOW. I first became aware of my negative self talk as I was working to improve my attitude and break the habit of being sarcastic. I had learned negative self talk in response to a dysfunctional upbringing. From that same upbringing, however,  I learned to rely on myself and be independent. My ‘work’ (school, professional, etc.) self talk was very positive but my personal self talk was very negative. I had to learn how to bridge the two. To bring what I knew to be positive about myself and reprogram the negative ‘tapes’ that said I wasn’t good enough, smart enough, strong enough, etc.. The first step is to hear the voice.

What Are Your Internal ‘Tapes’ Saying?

The problem with self talk is that it’s hard to hear. If I’m talking to myself to the tune of 200 to 1000 words a minute, how do I hear what is being said? This takes practice.

Step 1. The next time you are facing a tough situation, try listening to what you are saying to yourself. Are you focused on fear and failure? Or are you focused on doing your best and learning? Write down just a few of the positive and negative messages you are giving yourself.

Step 2. No really write the stuff down. Even if it’s just key words. Go back and review the words.

Step 3. Pick a time of day to focus on your self talk. Maybe right before lunch or while you’re driving. What kinds of things are you saying to yourself? If you can make this into a habit, you’ll benefit.

Step 4. Pick 2 or 3 phrases that you’ll replace the negatives with. These phrases need to be positive but not overly sugary or fake. I like, “I have handled a lot of tough things, I can do this.”

Step 5. Go back to step one.

I know I Hate It Too

Sounds like a lot of work? Yeah. But it’s like going to the gym. Getting started is the hardest part. Slow, steady, repetition is the key to success. If all else fails, please hear me saying, “I believe in you,” because I do.

Photo credit: Whine  Maggiejumps

Outside Looks Inside

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When I go out for a walk, there is so much that makes me happy to be alive. Breathing. Not thinking. Observing. I am grateful beyond measure to be part of it all. There are trees. Glorious and consoling. Changing with the seasons. Reminders that all things change. And change again.Maria Kalman

The Case For Outside

This post is making a case for walking. Outside. A few years back my doctor told me I had to get regular exercise. I hate going to the gym and frankly the cost of the gym that is near my house is ridiculous. So, I decided the only way I would be able to make sure I got exercise everyday was to get a dog that had to go out everyday. This strategy worked for me. The dog is almost 4 and I go outside, 3x a time, in all weather.

There were multiple side benefits to this but the most profound was that I relearned how to appreciate the outdoors. The older I got, the more excuses I found to avoid taking a walk. Wrong shoes, too cold, too hot, too windy, whatever. What I found is that by walking, I had a quiet 30 minutes to myself. I didn’t have to do anything but walk. In fact, I couldn’t do anything but walk.

The Case for Outside, Inside

What have I learned from this adventure? It’s teaching or reteaching me how to be quiet. For me, this is a big deal. I work at a computer, I listen to music, watch TV, watch YouTube videos – you get it. My discipline for quiet is shot. I’m so used to noise, I’ve forgotten the power of quiet. I’m not sure I 100% understand the benefits to my insides, but I assure you, there’s a lot more there than meets the eye. How do you get quiet?

Image Credit: Maria Kalman  A Walk in the Cherry Blossoms

But I Had No Choice, Did I?

I liked both of these images! Why not put them together..??

It’s unlikely you have no choice. More likely: There’s no easy choice. No safe choice, that also embraces your potential. No choice you can make that doesn’t cause short-term misery in exchange for a long-term benefit. Seth Godin

Do I or Don’t I?

When I hear myself say, “I had no choice,” I know that I’ve stumbled. In my time on this planet, I’ve come to realize, I always have a choice. (ok, you can probably think of some time when I might not… but I’m talking about “most of the time.”) When I say, I had no choice, that means that I..

  1. Didn’t see any choices
  2. Didn’t like my choices
  3. Didn’t want to admit I was wrong, change my attitude or stop blaming someone else

But What If I Don’t Like What Happens

I’ve spent the past several years learning to understand that I have choices and then taking responsibility for the choices I make. I’ll admit, it’s been painful and hard. It was much easier to blame someone else for my divorce, my unemployment, my blah, blah, blah. Once I learned that when I default to the choice that is obvious, it’s often NOT great. When I take the time to consider my options and act responsibly towards my own well being, things get better. I could blame my parents. I could tell you a story about their addiction. But the truth is, once I got to be an adult, the responsibility was mine to get help and make my life better. If I’m not happy with my life, I need to make it better.

One fear is that if I make a choice, I might not like the outcome. In some ways, whatever the bad things are, they are “known” bad things. And the “unknown” bad things could be worse. Fear kept me stuck.

Choice is Freedom

When I see I have choices, even if I don’t like the ones I have, I am free. Freedom isn’t just a positive attitude, it’s also accepting responsibility for understanding my choices and then acting on them. It’s often not popular to make certain choices. When you rock other people’s boats, they get hurt and angry and if I change, then people close to me must also change. I’ve learned, when the choice affects others, that I need to act slowly and thoughtfully. But I still need to act. I’m grateful to be free to make choices. Good or bad.

Image credit: Fork in the road   Jrdn7730

Outlook: Grime or Prime?

This quote blows me away. It would seem like being miserable would take less work. Just head to the sofa or refrigerator or both and sulk. But when I stopped to think about it, I find that I agree.

I think the key word here is ‘work’. It doesn’t seem like I work at being miserable, it seems like it’s easy. Some other person just does something and I think I’ve been ‘wronged’. But I think the ‘work’ part comes from letting go. From not taking it personally. From thinking how important is this?

Sometimes it is very important. Most of the time it isn’t.

For today, I’m going to focus my energy on becoming strong. Set my intention to be calm and clear. Let go of miserable. Just for today.

The Case For Adaptation

Look at the picture, really look. Think about what might have happened. Did a child ride this bike into the woods, lean it against this tree and then forget it?  The poor tree was left to adapt to this ‘leaning thing’. What choice did it have?

What’s leaning against you? Loss? A person? An opportunity? Sadness? Take a minute and think about what is leaning against you.

Now imagine yourself adapting. Have the intention to adapt. Don’t try to ‘figure out’ all the steps to adapting, just imagine that you not only survive, but you are transformed.  To be even better than before. That this ‘thing’ that is leaning on you… will change you, for the better. It will make you unique, stronger, and interesting.

It’s easy to blame, rant, whine and moan about how this “problem” is weighing on us. If we can be like the tree and adapt, we’ll not only save ourselves some suffering, we’ll find new energy seeking out the inevitable changes ahead.

Photo credit: Even Trees Want to Cycle

Be Coachable — At Any Age

But I Haven’t Got the Talent

Sometimes I hear people giving up on their goal. That can be ok. Sometimes surrender is the right thing to do. But sometimes, giving up is a very bad thing. We act as if changing ourselves or working harder wouldn’t make a difference. In our hearts, we know changing could make the difference, but we’re lazy.

Be Coachable

Because I can be stubborn, I think I missed a lot of opportunities. One of the most important was, that I didn’t take advantage of finding mentors who could guide me. I didn’t know how important they can be. I did have one. He met me, helped me get out of a dead end job and move into a job that opened a lot of doors for me. He was a very smart but difficult person. Many people didn’t like him. That was because he, unwittingly, tested people and if they couldn’t stand up to him, he would lose respect for them. People didn’t like that.

I had my chance to stand up to him. One day he snapped at me. I looked him in the eye and said, “Bob, do you have a problem with me?” He stammered, “No, why?” I replied, “Well, you just spoke harshly to me and it made me uncomfortable. I’d like to avoid exchanges like that in the future.” He apologized and said it wouldn’t happen again. And it didn’t.

I think what would happen with others, although I never saw it, was that he would snap or challenge them and because he was abrasive (not tactful), they would shrink from him. If someone is trying to toughen you up, so you can face the world… then they need to challenge you. Instead of taking it personally, see it as an opportunity. If you are an entrepreneur, this is even more important because you’ll need multiple mentors and coaches to succeed.

The Coachable Mentee

I wish I had been more open, less dogmatic. Now that I’m in my sixties, I still work to be a more approachable and “influenceable” person. What does it look like? Here are few keys:

  • Good listener
  • Able to summarize and feedback the other person’s point of view
  • Strong but pliable

Being coachable doesn’t require talent… it requires awareness… and work. Got a story about being coachable?

Image credit: Banksy on Twitter

Just Connecting Isn’t Enough

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Me Likey/Me Don’t Likey

Most of us have good work relationships. We get along with people, we know how to help colleagues, we enjoy building our business. In 2016, we know we need to have a strong network so when we need to change jobs (either our choice or our company’s), we’re ready. The part most of don’t like is the meeting strangers, making small talk, finding common ground and then figuring out whether this connection is worthwhile or an annoying person I want to avoid.

5 Ways to Make It Easier

When you watch a really great networker… what do you see? Someone who smiles easily, makes small talk like a champ and instinctively knows how to make friends. There are a few people who really can do all this well. But most of us, need to work on it. We need ideas, tools and support. Here are a few suggestions:

  1. Set a numerical goal for the number of new connections you want to gain every month. Why? Because if we set a goal, we’re likely to reach it. I recommend 5-10. LinkedIn is a convenient place reach out and ask for the connection.
  2. Write down 5 places where you might meet new connections. Does your church/place of worship have a social group? If you belong already, it could be a good place to make connections. If you don’t belong, maybe you could join. The point is to think of places where you are already comfortable and go from there.
  3. Reach out to 10 contacts a month.  Look through your business cards, LinkedIn connections or address book. At the end of each month, find people  to connect to in the coming month. Jot down the following:  name, contact information (phone/email/mailing address), what you might say. If you take a few minutes to do this preparation, you will reap many benefits.
  4. Say thank you to 5 connections a month. Again, I recommend you jot down the names, contact info and what you might say. These people could be customers, old work connections, volunteer contacts.
  5. Review your contacts for people YOU can help. It’s amazing what happens when you give.

Connecting Isn’t Enough

Connecting isn’t enough because if all you do is meet more people and your association never goes any deeper, then you haven’t built a relationship. Engaging with others, thinking about how you can help them and consciously building relationships is the key to thriving in a changing business world. Got something that works for you? Please share.

Image credit: Social Media

Are You Loved or Hated, Success Guarantees Both

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If you don’t know James Altucher, I recommend that you check him out. He’s one of my favorite thinkers/truth tellers. I may not agree with everything he says, but I respect his ability to see the world … and translate reality into words that help me acknowledge changes, even (and especially) when I really don’t want to.

Choose Yourself

Here’s the write up on his book, “Choose Yourself“.

The world is changing. Markets have crashed. Jobs have disappeared. Industries have been disrupted and are being remade before our eyes. Everything we aspired to for “security,” everything we thought was “safe,” no longer is: College. Employment. Retirement. Government.  No longer is someone coming to hire you, to invest in your company, to sign you, to pick you. It’s on you to make the most important decision in your life: Choose Yourself.

This is scary stuff. You mean, if my kids go to college and work hard, they might not get a good job? Maybe this reality doesn’t surprise you. Maybe your family knows this first hand, maybe your neighbor or your work colleague. Altucher tells us that:

New tools and economic forces have emerged to make it possible for individuals to create art, make millions of dollars and change the world without “help.”

But How?

There are people out there doing just that. I hear a lot of negative things about 20-somethings. They don’t ‘fit in’ the workplace. They don’t have a good ‘work ethic’. Look at the You Tubers ** and social entrepreneurs,  two examples of how to do it differently. But more importantly, look at all the people who are ‘doing it their own way.’ There’s not a formula, not a single path to finding this ‘freedom’. What we know is that disruption is a way of life for us. And we can either complain about it or we can capitalize on it. For more inspiration, read this story about a young man who went his own way.

Approval

The biggest problem with going my own way is that there isn’t anyone outside myself saying, “good job.” There’s no boss. Families often don’t understand what we are doing when we don’t conform to the “old way.”  We don’t get society’s approval of our path. The ‘good’ way is to go to high school, go to college, get a job, get married, etc. Many of us don’t fit that mold. And somehow, we need to understand that whether we succeed (whatever that means) or fail, if you walk the road less traveled… you make people uncomfortable. People are afraid of what challenges their security. If you need approval, you’ll probably have an unsettled time. If you don’t need approval, welcome to the club. I approve of your journey… and I hope you’ll approve of mine.

** Full disclosure – My daughter Jenna Marbles is featured in this video.