Action in the Face of Fear

Action in the Face of Fear

“I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.”
~ Nelson Mandela

Action in the Face of Fear

Are you old enough to remember when your local news station touted its weather forecaster because you wanted to know if your weekend plans were going to get rained out? Pay attention the next time the tagline for the meteorologist hits your screen. One of my local network affiliate touts:

Your top source for severe [emphasis mine]weather coverage and the most reliable local
forecast information.

The buzzwords “severe weather” coming before “reliable” is no mistake. You’ve been hooked into watching because of the fear of life-threatening weather and your wish to avoid it. It’s not just the local weather—the news is rife with taglines that appeal to fear avoidance. In short, fear sells.

It’s no wonder that faced with media designed to induce the basest of instincts, fear is the number-one reason most people also never achieve their goals or aspirations. They’re afraid of sticking their neck out. They’re afraid of falling fat. They’re afraid of looking foolish. If that’s you, STOP IT. In the words of the great Zig Ziglar:

F–E–A–R has two meanings: ‘Forget
Everything and Run’ or ‘Face Everything and
Rise.’ The choice is yours.

It’s been estimated that 85% of that about which we worry never happens. Of the remaining 15%, the vast majority of people say when that fear does come to fruition, it brings with it benefits or personal lessons that were more valuable than harmful. Tat means only about 3% of the time that which we fear comes to pass and could be potentially harmful. A full 97% of the time, we’re fearful of something that has a low probability of causing harm.

If fear is a barrier for you, start building confidence blocks that have nothing to do with your business. Go whitewater rafting, bungee jumping, or skydiving. Anything that you’ve always wanted to do, but are afraid to do—get to it. The activity doesn’t have to be grandiose, but those confidence blocks will build upon each other to wall away other fears that are keeping you from your dreams.

Consider this …

1. Write down your three biggest fears either inside, or outside your business or organization.

2. Identify opportunities to face those fears head-on.

3. Develop a plan to take advantage of those opportunities and prove to yourself once and for all that our fears are often bigger and meaner than reality.

 

For more, check out The Top Performer’s Field Guide, The Innovator’s Field Guide, or visit www.JeffStandridge.com.

(Originally published in The Innovator’s Field Guide.)

Twenty-Three Seconds

“Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.”~ Søren Kierkegaard

Twenty-Three Seconds

George Eastman had a vision that drove his invention of roll film and the camera to use it. Eastman wanted to reduce the cost and simplify the process of photography to the point everyone could have access to the technology. The vision of cameras being as commonplace as brooms led Eastman’s company to market dominance for a hundred years, but twenty-three seconds was all it took to bankrupt Eastman’s dreams.

In 1975, it took Steve Sasson twenty-three seconds to record a fuzzy 100-by-100 pixel image from the world’s first digital camera. Sasson, who worked for Eastman Kodak, showed of the new tech to company executives the next year. Pictures of the meeting’s attendees were taken and displayed on TV screens. After processing what they were being shown, the inevitable questions started. Who wants to see their pictures on a TV? How will this technology cannibalize our present film and camera sales? What does a digital photo album look like? Sasson didn’t have the answers to any of those questions then, but he knew in his gut that digital photography would be huge.

Kodak poked digital photography with a stick for the next two decades. The company would never fully embrace the technology and went bankrupt in 2012, largely because of this continuing blunder. Kodak’s failure did not lie in refusing to embrace the future, but in abandoning Eastman’s vision of the past. You see, the entire reason George Eastman founded the company was to put photography in the hands of everyone. Digital cameras represented an evolutionary step in that direction, but most everyone at Kodak forgot that was their mission.

When we do not constantly realign our actions with our purpose, there can never be lasting success. Most mission statements take far less than twenty-three seconds to read, and the example of Kodak represents that review time is well spent.

Consider this …

1. What is the mission of your organization? (Don’t simply recount the published mission statement. Actually DESCRIBE your mission.)

2. Does your REAL mission match your currently published mission statement? If not, correct it.

3. Can every single employee describe the REAL mission of your company? Can they describe how their work contributes to the mission? If not, you’re missing a great opportunity

For more, check out The Top Performer’s Field Guide, The Innovator’s Field Guide, or visit www.JeffStandridge.com.

(Originally published in The Top Performer’s Field Guide..)

Don’t Just Do Something—Sit There!

“The ultimate value of life depends upon awareness and the power of contemplation rather than upon mere survival.”  ~ Aristotle

Don’t Just Do Something—Sit There!

Scotland’s King Robert the Bruce had a problem. He had ascended the throne in 1306 to a fragmented kingdom. Many Scots did not recognize the Bruce as their liege, and other factions vied for control of the Scottish throne. To add to the new king’s woes, the English had also laid claim to Scotland, and England’s armies held strategic points throughout the country. Three months after his coronation, the Bruce and his army were ambushed by the English at two key battles that resulted in three of Robert’s four brothers, as well as his sister, being executed. Legend has it that Robert the Bruce fled the battlefield and took refuge in a nearby cave to escape capture.

His family, army, and country broken, the Bruce surely thought his life couldn’t get much worse and considered leaving Scotland behind. Sitting at the cave’s entrance, the king saw a spider weaving an intricate web. The Bruce had nothing better to do and watched the spider for hours. At one point, the spider tried to connect two far-apart strands. Six times the spider tried to leap the gap and six times he failed. Finally, on the seventh try, the spider made the jump and connected the loose ends. The King of Scotland thought that if a tiny spider wouldn’t give up, neither would he. Robert the Bruce went on to unite his kingdom and defeat the English eight years later at the Battle of Bannockburn.

The story of Robert the Bruce may be a simple legend, but it illustrates more than perseverance. When we don’t succeed, we must be receptive to seeing “failure” from a different point of view. Had Robert the Bruce stomped that spider out of anger over his situation and not observed the creature’s lesson, the history of Scotland would be quite different. While some people advocate the adage, “Don’t just sit there—do something,” ofen the best adaptation of that adage is, “Don’t just do something—sit there.” 

Consider this …

1. In what areas of your work or business are you prone to “give up” prematurely?

2. What areas of your work or business are perplexing you right now? Spend some time some time contemplating those areas.

3. What three actions can you take today to move the ball forward in your work or business?

 

For more, check out The Top Performer’s Field Guide, The Innovator’s Field Guide, or visit www.JeffStandridge.com.

(Originally published in The Innovator’s Field Guide.)

Instant Gratification

“A word of encouragement during a failure is worth more than an hour of praise after success.” ~ Unknown

Instant Gratification

A large part of becoming a top performer is understanding the human psyche in ourselves and in others. The more we can account for instincts that have been part of our genetic makeup since the time of the woolly mammoths, the better we can serve ourselves and our fellow man. One of those primal drives is the need for instant gratification. When the hunter-gatherer within us tells us we’re hungry, it’s time to go out and hunt. Once the prey was captured, our ancestors ate glutinously until they could eat no more. Who could blame them if their continued existence was directly dependent on their hunting prowess?

Millenia of humans living in agrarian societies nearly stamped the impulse for instant gratification out of our systems. Waiting for crops to come to harvest gives one a tempered perspective on fulfilling our needs. All of that training, however, may have been undone by the digital age. The instantaneous access to information, communication, and purchasing conveys ease of existence that subconsciously translates into “every task should be as easy as ordering a couch online.” When our team members are faced with a process that proves difficult or time-consuming, the knee-jerk response is that the task is either impossible broken or beyond their ability.

Leaders have a twofold duty given these circumstances. First, our expectations must be clearly stated with reasonable timeframes. Second, we must fill in the instant gratification gap with timely feedback and encouragement. The hidden benefit of stemming the instant gratification tide is that we are building a relationship with our team members. People follow others they know, like, and trust. The reinforcement that comes from your encouragement will go a long way to achieving those goals.

Consider this …

1. When was the last time you provided timely feedback and/or encouragement to your team members?

2. How prone are you to offer timely support and encouragement to your team members on a regular basis?

3. Where do your team members need feedback and/ or encouragement right now, and how can you best provide it? Do it now!

For more, check out The Top Performer’s Field Guide, The Innovator’s Field Guide, or visit www.JeffStandridge.com.

(Originally published in The Top Performer’s Field Guide.)

Planning for the Inevitable

“I spent thirty years getting ready for that decision that took thirty seconds.”  ~General James “Chaos” Mattis

Planning for the Inevitable

Wisdom can be found in the most unlikely of places. In the Amazon original series, The Man in the High Castle, a Japanese trade minister mystically remarks, “Fate is fluid. Destiny is in the hands of men.” In a Western mindset, we often think the words “fate” and “destiny” are interchangeable. This is not the case. In this context, destiny is the accrual of one’s efforts toward a specific goal. Few people see the years of preparation that go into becoming an overnight success. Fate is the collection of seemingly random occurrences that happen within one’s day. Bumping into someone who spills their coffee on you fifteen minutes before an important meeting is fate. In this situation, the person who focuses on destiny would have a change of clothes in their car—just in case. process.

The contrast between fate and destiny can be reframed as reactive versus proactive thinking. A reactive thinker manages the omnipresent chaos that plagues the everyday. A proactive thinker plays the “what if ” game to develop contingency strategies to overcome that chaos to achieve success. One might think this is preparing for failure. It is not. The facts are clear—successful people have a future orientation. A defensive driver imagines the future actions of other drivers based on observed behaviors and adjusts his or her driving accordingly. Foreseeing potential dangers doesn’t mean a defensive driver is planning to run of the road, but they are taking steps to ensure they arrive at their destination safely.

Planning for every little potential disaster isn’t possible either and is an exercise in paranoia and futility. With any project, identify the top five worst-case scenarios and develop a rough idea of how to overcome those obstacles or setbacks. Especially pay attention when you hear team members say, “Well, that will never happen.” Chances are “it” will happen but you’ll be ready to seize your destiny instead of being a victim of fate.

Consider this …

1. What are the major risks facing your current project, innovation, or business?

2. What is the likelihood of those risks coming to fruition?

3. What steps can you take to prevent those risks from happening, or to respond effectively to them when they do?

For more, check out The Top Performer’s Field Guide, The Innovator’s Field Guide, or visit www.JeffStandridge.com.

(Originally published in The Innovator’s Field Guide.)

Pattern Recognition

““Mathematics is the science of patterns, and nature exploits just about every pattern that there is.”~ Ian Stewart

pattern recognition

Make better decisions. Seeing that on a to-do list will ruin anyone’s day. Every leader from Moses to Musk has wished they could better prognosticate an outcome or choose the correct path. We’ll do everything from putting on six different hats to meticulously analyzing costs/benefits to creating elaborate decision trees in order to ferret out the best course of action, but do those approaches really enable us to make better decisions? Evaluating and improving decision-making is highly subjective, but methods by which we marry pattern recognition with making judgment calls is gaining traction within the business community.

Pattern recognition is a term usually used within computer science where a program identifies input data, like images or numerical data sets, and calculates relationships that exist between the data points. Facial recognition evaluates the unique distance ratios of facial features to a biometric database to produce an identification. There are similar programs that assess stock trends or blood tests to make recommendations based on trend data. Here’s the slick part, your brain puts any computer to shame when it comes to pattern recognition. You’ve probably met a financial analyst who can look at a few spreadsheets and quickly tell you the health of a company. Tat person learned to see the interconnectivity of cash flow, inventory, accounts receivable, and other factors to form a rapid assessment.

Pattern recognition can be learned, and it even forms the basis of capitalism. Supply and demand; boom and bust; consumption and production all form patterns. The topics and techniques of pattern recognition go beyond this text, but the first step is to look for connections in daily causes and effects. A simple example might be tracking why the last ten deliveries were late to a customer. Does the pattern connect with weather conditions, roadwork, supply chain glitches, loading dock callouts, or any other discernable factor? If you see that pattern, you have the beginnings of a data-driven crystal ball that will improve your decision-making process.

Consider this …

1. What business challenges are you experiencing right now, for which you have some data that you can review?

2. What potential patterns do you see in the data that might give you a glimpse into the root cause of the challenges?

3. How might you “test” those root causes so you can ultimately get to a workable solution?

For more, check out The Top Performer’s Field Guide, The Innovator’s Field Guide, or visit www.JeffStandridge.com.

(Originally published in The Top Performer’s Field Guide.)

Numbers Fib, Statistics Lie!

“Facts are stubborn, but statistics are more pliable.” ~ Mark Twain

Numbers Fib, Statistics Lie!

During the darkest days of the Second World War, Allied bombers were being shot down in alarming numbers. To address those losses, a study was commissioned to examine aircraft that had returned to base damaged by enemy fire. After studying where thousands of bullets had struck aircraft , a recommendation was made to armor areas that were being hit most frequently. This would give an aircraft the maximum protection without overburdening the airframe with unnecessary armor. The logic ran sound to the upper echelons of command, but they wanted a second opinion.

One might think top bomber pilots would have been consulted, but the military turned to statistician, Abraham Wald. In this world of numerical connections and probabilities, Wald was a rock star. Wald looked at the data sets provided to him and found the highest percentage of bullet holes were in aircraft fuselages and the lowest percentage fell on engines. The military wanted confirmation from Wald that the fuselages should be armored. Wald answered with a simple question: “Where are the missing bullets?”

No one understood what Wald was getting at and asked him to explain. Wald told them that they were examining airframes that returned to base and not ones that had been shot down. Therefore, a bomber could take hits on the fuselage and return home. The engines were where armor needed to be applied. The recommendation was put into effect, and bomber losses dropped significantly.

Great innovators fall in love with the problem they’re trying to solve before they fall in love with a solution. They objectively articulate their underlying assumptions and they test them relentlessly. They’re willing to fire their ideas if they are deemed implausible. Wald’s missing bullets illustrates that we must question our assumptions before seeking solutions and have the fortitude to speak up against flawed conventional wisdom.

Consider this …

1. List the potential areas of flawed conventional wisdom that you have in your business, work area, or project.

2. What numbers or underlying assumptions in your business do you need to re-examine?

3. What are the key metrics in your business that you need to be looking at on a regular basis to ensure your business is operating effectively and effciently?

For more, check out The Top Performer’s Field Guide, The Innovator’s Field Guide, or visit www.JeffStandridge.com.

(Originally published in The Innovator’s Field Guide.)

Coffee Is for Closers

“Let go of the people who dull your shine, poison your spirit and bring you drama. Cancel your subscription to their issues. “thing.”~  Steve Maraboli

Coffee Is for Closers

I cringe when I think about Alec Baldwin’s iconic, “closers get coffee” scene in Glengarry Glen Ross. The profanity-laden tirade is the antithesis of servant leadership and exemplifies everything of beam in the American workplace. If you’ve never seen the clip, f nd it online, and sit through every smarmy second of it. Why would I ask you to watch a piece of film that is rapacious? Because those seven minutes display a hidden truth.

No matter how much we wish it were not so, the Alec Baldwins do exist in today’s workplaces. At some point, you will have to deal with a client, coworker, or leader whose bombastic behavior crashes the boundaries of appropriate workplace conduct. To make matters worse, leaders often cover or make excuses for such characters because they are “rainmakers” or “sales closers.” It’s not appropriate by any measure, but that is the reality of the world.

Now, I’m no saint for sure. But as one who has studied top performance for over three decades it’s impossible to reconcile in my mind how the this type of behavior leads to sustainable results. Why do we strive to do what’s right, just, and true when others flaunt their accomplishments with inappropriate behavior? The difference is we understand there is more at stake than our own egos. The Alec Baldwins of the world scorch the ground they tread upon, only to achieve short-term goals. True top performers take time to cultivate the same fields to achieve long-term sustainable results. We have faith that our efforts go beyond the office and transcend into higher realms than bonuses or balance sheets. That faith is our comfort when we stand nose to nose and toes to toes with the Alec Baldwins of the world.

The next time you’re told, “coffee is for closers,” or some other asinine statement, get your coffee from someone who follows the same path as you.

Consider this …

1. Find the Glengarry Glen Ross clip online and watch it in its entirety

2. Who are the Alec Baldwins of your business or workplace and what are their notorious quips?

3. What quips or quotes are you known for that others might perceive as “Alec Baldwin–ish?”

For more, check out The Top Performer’s Field Guide, The Innovator’s Field Guide, or visit www.JeffStandridge.com.

(Originally published in The Top Performer’s Field Guide.)

Failure is the Breakfast of Champions

““Failure should be our teacher, not our undertaker. Failure is delay, not defeat. It is a temporary detour, not a dead end. Failure is something we can avoid only by saying nothing, doing nothing, and being nothing.”~  Dennis Waitley

Failure is the Breakfast of Champions

The “F” word is whispered in cubicles and at water coolers. When it becomes public knowledge, the office’s gossip switchboard lights up like a dysfunctional Christmas tree. No one speaks directly of it, but the stigma-laden innuendo will always be remembered. Just one mistake, and the aggrieved party will always be branded with the scarlet letter “F” for failure. When you or a compatriot misses the mark, does the associated shame feel like that? If so, both your workplace culture and personal perception need an adjustment.

The pressure to achieve a result other than 100% success is so engrained in business that it’s easy to forget that an open and honest analysis of not achieving a goal is more important than studying success. The tendency to mitigate or simply not discuss suboptimal results can be damaging to your team. Because when we hide the elements of “what didn’t work,” we’re laying the groundwork for others to fall into the same traps.

We can change the perception of “failure” in incremental steps. Often the missteps of the past cannot be rectified, but we can influence the future by learning from our mistakes. The first step would be to ask yourself or your team member about one thing they would have done differently to have changed a suboptimal outcome. Ten, we hold ourselves or our team accountable to implement that change—not for the initial “failure” itself. The goal is not to create an environment that excuses not achieving results. The goal is to foster a culture that promotes growth. Remember, for the uber-successful, there’s no such thing as failure, only feedback. It only becomes a failure when you quit!

Consider this …

1. List the top three most significant failures you’ve ever experienced.

2. What themes can you find in those failures? How might you address them for future success?

3. Where are you experiencing feedback (disguised as failure) in your business today?

For more, check out The Top Performer’s Field Guide, The Innovator’s Field Guide, or visit www.JeffStandridge.com.

(Originally published in The Innovator’s Field Guide.)

The Royal Flower of Success

“There is no royal flower strewn path to success. And if there is, I have not found it, for whatever success I have attained has been the result of much hard work and many sleepless nights.”~ Madam C. Walker

Working from Home

When Sarah Breedlove was little, her parents probably took her to the banks of the Mississippi and pointed to Vicksburg. She was the first of her family to be born a free woman, and her parents likely told her of General Grant taking the Confederate’s last Mississippi River stronghold, four years before Sarah’s birth. Those stories would end when Sarah’s folks were taken by cholera when she was seven. It was then of to Vicksburg where Sarah worked as a housekeeper. One might think prospects were slim for Sarah. But by the time of her death, Sarah was the wealthiest African American woman in the country with a net worth of eight million in today’s dollars.

“I got my start by giving myself a start,” Sarah was fond of saying. Plagued with hair loss that likely stemmed from malnutrition and the harsh realities of the Reconstruction, Sarah created a line of hair care products designed for African American women. Years before Mary Kay Ash was born, Sarah trained independent “beauty culturists” to demonstrate and sell her products. Thousands of African-American women had the opportunity to participate in an entrepreneurial venture. Sarah’s culturists didn’t know her by that name, to them she was Madam C. J. Walker. Madam was an honorific used by women in the French beauty industry, and C. J. Walker was her husband’s name. On top of that, the name gave her product line a mystique nothing else on the market contained.

Madam C. J. Walker understood that cultivating her royal flower of success meant more than tending her own garden. She used her fame and fortune to advocate African American rights and liberally donated to institutions and charities. She understood that the greater our success, the greater our responsibility to others. Upon her death, two-thirds of Madam Walker’s estate went to organizations that improved the lives of others. Her legacy endures as the rags to riches dream of countless Americans, but more importantly, her legacy provided hope and aid to those who needed it the most.

Consider this …

1. Brief y describe where your own path to success has been a bit rocky.

2. What actions did you take to successfully traverse that rocky path?

3. What lessons do you have tucked away from that prior experience that might be useful to you in the future?

For more, check out The Top Performer’s Field Guide, The Innovator’s Field Guide, or visit www.JeffStandridge.com.

(Originally published in The Top Performer’s Field Guide.)

 

 

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