“Sorry to move this meeting. I had a last minute meeting show up on my calendar.”

“Sorry to move this meeting. An executive put a meeting on my calendar.”

“Sorry to move this meeting. A conflict came up.”

“Sorry to move this meeting. A conflict that I need to prioritize came up.”

“Sorry to move this meeting. A conflict that I want to prioritize came up.”

“Sorry to move this meeting. A conflict that I choose to prioritize came up.”

All of these are slightly different ways to share the same message. Some versions have a strongly reactive bent – “something happened to me.” Others veer toward a more proactive message – “something happened and I made a choice.”

2 reflections –

(1) We can tell ourselves and others many different stories about the same situation. It helps to be thoughtful about them.

(2) If we want to build the habit of being proactive – learning to find the space between stimulus and response – it helps to use proactive language. Words often precede action.

Walking into a dark room

Imagine you walk into a dark room from a brightly lit one. If you try to move around quickly, you’re likely to hurt yourself.

You might trip, ram into a bed or table, or walk into the wall by mistake.

However, give it a few seconds and you’ll soon start getting a sense of the space. Your eyes will adjust, you’ll begin moving slowly and with smaller steps, and you might even stretch your hands to make sure you aren’t about to crash.

A few seconds later, you’ll have enough confidence to pick up speed and the environment will look clearer as your eyes fully adjust to the darkness.

Change works much the same way. When a lot changes on us, sudden or hurried movements can cause a lot of pain.

But if we give ourselves the time to let the change sink in, start taking small steps, and give ourselves the chance to adjust to the surroundings, we’ll be able to get moving again.

We have an incredible capacity to deal with change. We just have to work through the process and be kind to ourselves while we’re at it.

Why double opt in intros matter

You met Adam and realized he’d benefit from a conversation with Anita. You pitch the idea to Adam and he’s grateful for the help. You know Anita really well and know Anita would be happy to speak with Adam. So you send out an email connecting them and move on.

That exchange is a “single opt in” intro. Single opt in because Adam opted in. However, Anita didn’t have the opportunity to.

A “double opt in” intro would have entailed an extra step. You would have sent Anita an email to ask her for her permission. Once she said yes, you’d then introduce Adam. This is a “double opt in” intro as you now have permission from both sides.

Double opt-in introductions are an order of magnitude better than single opt-in intros in every scenario –

(1) If Anita said yes as expected, you still gave her the choice to do so and demonstrated that you don’t take her time for granted.

(2) If Anita said no because of some unexpected circumstance, you just helped her dodge a potentially uncomfortable or embarrassing exchange.

(3) If Anita said some variant of “yes but” (e.g., yes but I’m busy over the next few weeks), it gives you the opportunity to set the right expectation with Adam.

Always choose a double opt-in intro. It is worth the extra effort.

Consistently good enough

I came across a nice articulation of the power of “consistently good enough” in a newsletter by Brad Stulberg, a coach.

“Anyone can burn bright for a few days, weeks, months, or maybe even a year. But burning bright over the long haul requires consistency. And trying to be great all the time usually leads to illness, injury, and burnout. It also creates a lot of tension and stress.

But if you can string together a whole lot of good enough, you generally wind up with something great.

I first heard about the idea of good enough from the mid-twentieth century psychologist DW Winnicot. Among other things, Winnicot was known for his concept of the “good enough parent.” The parent who tries to be perfect all of the time burns out (and sadly, they often harm their kids along the way). The parent who is neglectful or just wants to be average generally isn’t great either. But the parent who can be repeatedly good enough—their kids tend to be the most well-adjusted and their relationships the most enduring and best.

I was thrilled to see it validated by Stuart McMillan, arguably one of the best coaches alive across any discipline. He’s worked with over 35 Olympic medalists and countless world champions in sprint and power sports.

In a recent conversation (this is a must-listen podcast), Stu put it like this: human performance is super complex. Complex systems have all of these interacting parts. If you try to optimize them all, you end up with unintended consequences and a whole lot of stress. But if you can be a 7 or an 8 out of 10 across all of the parts, then the whole ends up being incredible.

It is an idea that resonates deeply. One of the bigger shifts in my thinking over the years was to change how I approached days in a work week. When I was starting out, I sought to make days great. And, every week, I’d get a day or two when I just felt extremely productive or “great” by my definition. But I’d have also have a couple of poor days.

In recent years, my focus has shifted away from “great” days. Instead, I just try to be consistent about making progress on my priorities. In other words, to be consistently good enough. And I find myself consistently more productive and happier with this change.

The impact of aiming for consistently good enough is as much about long term performance as it is about its impact on our psychology. By keeping things simple and keeping our expectations low, it helps us focus on what actually matters – doing the best we can given our constraints.

Drip by drip, the impact of that consistent effort adds up and compounds over time.

I’m blue to I’m good

For a time during my teenage years, “I’m Blue” was my go-to song. It perfectly captured my melancholic emotions of the moment. And it’s stayed on in my playlist since.

So I was amused to hear David Guetta and Bebe Rexha’s flipped version – “I’m Good.”

Same old tune with modified style, lyrics, and people. An immediate winner.

Sometimes, that’s all it takes to flip our moods as well – a different environment, different people, different words, and, most of all, a desire to change.

The voice of the gut

I shared a recent quote about the conscience that resonated – “The voice of conscience is so delicate that it is easy to stifle it; but it is also so clear that it is impossible to mistake it.”

The more I reflected on it in the days that went by, the more I realized that the quote works just as well if we substitute “conscience” with “gut.”

It is easy to drown our gut with data and thought. But it is also impossible to mistake it’s clarity – if we pay attention.

Bare necessities

I was listening to the “Bare Necessities” from “The Jungle Book recently. These lines made me pause and replay the song.

And don’t spend your time lookin’ around
For something you want that can’t be found
When you find out you can live without it
And go along not thinkin’ about it
I’ll tell you something true
The bare necessities of life will come to you

It resonated.

Grace periods

When we experience a significant change in our lives (new place, new job, new people), the existing systems in our life often break. A learning that has been immensely valuable in such periods is to use grace periods.

Instead of attempting to get all our systems in order as soon as possible, setting a simple grace period – e.g., 6 weeks – while we settle and figure things out tends to be more effective. The grace period does 3 things –

(1) It sets a clear boundary for us to take stock. For example, in some cases, we’ll realize that we’re settled by the time our grace period ends and ready to resume normal service. In other cases, we may have to extend it again by a few weeks. Regardless, setting a clear grace period ensures we’re paying careful attention to our systems as we navigate the change. They help us ensure we don’t run with broken systems for any longer than we have to.

(2) The presence of a clear boundary removes any mental pressure we’d normally put on ourselves.

(3) That absence of pressure frees up space for us to pay attention and observe. Sometimes, these kinds of changes give us the opportunity change things for the better by helping us find that our existing systems are inadequate.

What got us here won’t get us there.

Short term messy

An idea I’ve found myself referencing a lot of late as we navigate change is “short term messy, long term good.”

My belief is that we can all handle a bit of messy as long as our expectations are set right. And navigating that mess as a team – with emergent direction and eyes wide open – typically results in good outcomes in the long run.

It is always challenging navigating the messy part.

But, on the flip side, these experiences often tend to be learning-rich and transformational.

No pain, no gain.