I have to and I choose to

There’s a great exchange in the chapter on the first habit – “Be Proactive” – of Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits between Covey and a student.

One time a student asked me, “Will you excuse me from class? I have to go on a tennis trip.”

‘You have to go, or you choose to go?” I asked.

“I really have to,” he exclaimed.

“What will happen if you don’t?”

“Why, they’ll kick me off the team.”

“How would you like that consequence?”

“I wouldn’t.”

“In other words, you choose to go because you want the consequence of staying on the team. What will happen if you miss my class?”

“I don’t know.”

‘Think hard. What do you think would be the natural consequence of not coming to class?”

‘You wouldn’t kick me out, would you?”

‘That would be a social consequence. That would be artificial. If you don’t participate on the tennis team, you don’t play. That’s natural. But if you don’t come to class, what would be the natural consequence?”

“I guess I ‘II miss the learning.”

‘That’s right. So you have to weigh that consequence against the other consequence and make a choice. I know if it were me, I’d choose to go on the tennis trip. But never say you have to do anything.”

“I choose to go on the tennis trip,” he meekly replied.

“And miss my class?” I replied in mock disbelief.

I think of this anecdote on days when I hear myself slipping into reactive language. Fortunately for many of us, we choose to more than we have to.

It is on us to make the most of it.

The ball in front of you

You can only play the ball in front of you.

It is good to prepare for that shot you really want to hit and it is also good to reflect on the shots you missed – both in moderation.

However, what matters most right now is playing the ball in front of you.

How you hit that is both the culmination of what you’ve learnt from the past as well as the path to what you want to do in the future.

Focus on playing it well.

Puzzles of the moment

Referring to the work we do in our offices as a collection of puzzles – instead of “problems” or “issues” – can have a very positive effect on our attitude toward them.

Using the word “puzzle” helps drive home the realization that it is a privilege to do work that is sometimes challenging, rarely difficult, and never hard.

Hard is when we have to struggle for the basics, toil in the sun to put food on the table, or hope for someone’s generosity to find shelter. Everyone reading this has luckily escaped hard.

So, don’t stress about the puzzle of the moment. Instead, divert that stress into momentum to do our best to remove “hard” for those who experience it.

Without the background music

I am a sucker for feel good movies. One of the common features of these sorts of movies is the end sequence with lots of lovely “and they lived happily ever after ” memories/montages with great background music.

I remember witnessing a few lovely moments yesterday with our kids and close friends/framily (typo intended) who were visiting. It occurred to me that those moments were befitting a great feel good movie end sequence – the only thing missing was some background music.

Of course, such moments happen regularly in all our lives.

It just falls on us to recognize them and appreciate them for what they are… and imagine some background music while we’re at it.

3 notes for a better Saturday

1. Switch off your phone.

2. No, don’t reach for it. Put it somewhere hard to reach.

3. Need to check your email? Use a large screen.

It’s surprising what a little bit of friction can do to our instinct to check the news/some feed/our favorite sports or entertainment website.

And, it is amazing what a relaxing nap, a casual stroll, a tight hug, or a good book can do instead.

Here’s to a good Saturday. :-)

Appreciation for small mistakes

Over the years, I’ve developed great appreciation for small mistakes that cost us some reasonable amount of pain or money in the short term. While some of these mistakes are indicative of a high volume of experimentation or bias for action, many may simply be errors of judgment.

Regardless of the variant, they should be welcomed because small mistakes help us avoid big mistakes. By removing any false sense of over confidence from being temporary flawless and by giving us an opportunity to learn from them, small mistakes can be valuable if we take the time to reflect on them and improve our processes.

Good judgment comes from experience. Experience comes from bad judgment. And, small mistakes are just opportunities from life to improve our judgment.

PS: Of course, a steady stream of small mistakes also become a useful pipeline of content if you’re writing a daily learning blog. :-)

Reality and the perception of it

There are many ways to segment people. One approach to segmentation I’ve been thinking about of late is around reality and the perception of it.

There are two kinds of people in this regard. The first kind are those who care deeply about understanding reality and regard perception to be a second order priority. The second kind are those who care a lot more about perception than about the reality underpinning it.

As is the case with many of these things, the right path tends to lie in the middle. Reality matters. But, perception matters too.

However, when it comes to most marginal decisions, we tend to make calls based on our preference. So, if you are kind who indexes high on reality over perception, I’ve found that it helps to have folks who are different from you on your team so you can understand the other perspective.

That said, I think there is reason to worry if the folks who are making big decisions are more worried about perception over reality.

If reality sucks, perception can only tell a different story for a finite period of time.

Turning a blind eye to climate change

I sometimes wonder how future generations will view the current crop of leaders. Faced with facts about the dangers of climate change, so many of them have chosen to turn a blind eye.

The American administration chose to back out from a global agreement to keep temperature levels in check – despite being the worst offender. The leader of Brazil is accelerating the pace of deforestation of the Amazon rain forests – the world’s largest source of fresh oxygen.

In the long run, are these actions any worse than crimes committed against human beings?

How will we look back at these times three generations from now?

When will we wake up to what is actually happening?