helpgrowchange

Humility and change

I learnt humility last week. It hit me like a freight train. I am still thinking about it almost a week later. I wasn’t prepared for it. And it has forced me to rethink the way I go about my life.

Ok, not quite that bad, but the feedback I received last week was still pretty shitty – forcing me to get out of my comfort zone and exactly where I needed to be.

About seven months ago, I got the opportunity to lead a new team. I saw it as a challenge as I hadn’t worked with the team before, didn’t understand the tools they used, or technologies they worked with. I was unsure as to how they would accept someone without the relevant technical experience to lead them forward.

Over time I have strived to build strong relationships through mutual trust and respect, both as a team and with each of the individuals. One of the questions I am continuously asking is for honest feedback about me and how I am leading them.

This question often brings out an array of opinions ranging from ‘you are doing great’ to ‘maybe change the time of the team meeting’ or ‘there have been a few misses, but overall it’s great’. These responses are fairly minor, and I can work pretty quickly to adapt and grow. That is until last week.

The discussion I had then hit the core of what I strive to achieve with the team every single day. What I thought I was doing right, was being perceived in a completely different way – a way detrimental to the growth of this team.

I was stricken (in a leadership sort of way).

At first, I wanted to justify myself. I wanted to use all the excuses in the book to explain why this action was taken, how it benefits this person and the team. But then I put myself in their shoes and realised that they are different to me. They are perceiving the situation through their eyes. I realised I simply needed to listen.

After this person had finished, I didn’t retaliate. I didn’t try to justify myself. By then I had realised that in order to grow, one must receive and process all feedback. Because this feedback was core to my leadership style, I needed time to mull it over. I thanked them for being so honest with me. The whole situation made me realise one thing.

If you want honesty from someone, you need to build trust and respect first.

You won’t get honesty right off the bat. It doesn’t come overnight, nor is it easy. A strong relationship needs to be built first, then the true changes begin to happen. When we become comfortable with someone, we open ourselves to vulnerability. We open ourselves to honest criticism. We need to be open to this criticism.

Without being open, we cannot learn anything new. Without learning, there is no growth. Without growth, we can’t be better than yesterday.

The calm before the storm

I’ve been away on a family holiday for the past two weeks. It was a great time away from the office, away from home, away from life in general. There was much needed reflection on where I am today, where we are as a family, and where we want to go.

But as I sit on the train, ricketing its way into the office, I can’t help but feel that this holiday was the calm of the storm. Almost like the slow motion effect you get after ramping off a hill and calmly floating through the air for a few seconds before slamming into the surface to continue racing downhill.

We all need these periods of calm bliss to get away from it all. To take some time to go see and experience some place new. Just something to get out of the daily grind. And when you do have the opportunity to do so, take some time to simply stop and think.

Think deeply about many things.

Think about…

where you are in your life.
Are you where you want to be? Are you happy with the person you have become? Celebrate the successes you have achieved. Reminisce about the past handful of years and see just how much you have gained, lost, or changed.

what you have.
Appreciate the little things you have that make your life easier. Appreciate the people in your life. The abundance of food, clean water, or even a roof over your head. Being able to afford pension fund or medical insurance. Do you really need everything you have? It might be time to let go of some ‘stuff’.

the future.
Where do you want to be in your life? What does success mean to you? How can you get there? Start to formulate a plan of how you can achieve your dream, or become the person you want to be. It doesn’t need to be super detailed. You will know what you want to become by using the first thought that comes into your head when you ask yourself that question.

My reflection

I’m not the type of person to tell you how to do things without doing it myself. I thought a lot about the three things I’ve mentioned in this article. I am more than comfortable in sharing it with you.

Overall, I am happy with the person that I am today. My family and I have achieved a lot over the past few years (the last 7 in particular). I want more of it. A stronger family bond. Success for my wife. More positive impact at my workplace.

More and more do I find myself appreciating what I have in my life. My healthy family, my house, the opportunity to afford the little pleasures in life. I am an extremely lucky person to be able to have all of this around me.

Get away

I encourage you to take a break from your daily grind – whether that be an amazing getaway or staying with family in another city. Holidays can be expensive, but I believe the experience that you or your family will gain will make it well worth your while. Just the act of getting away from monotony of daily life helps the process of reflection, planning, and eventually, the action you need to take to get the life you want.

Where will you be going?

3 Ways to initiate change

I’ve written a number of articles trying to pass on the message that you can change your world. You can make your own changes in your life to better your job, your family, or simply… you.

You’ve been thinking about making a change. But you don’t know where to start. Do I start a new hobby? Should I try change my team structure? What will happen if I say no when asked to do something?

After re-reading some of the articles and some thoughtful feedback from my wingman (ie my wife), it has become evident that I often don’t mention how. Let me remedy that right now.

When you want to initiate change, there are 3 is simple rules to remember:

  1. DECIDE
  2. TRY
  3. LEARN

Decide

The first thing that needs to happen before any action happens is to make a decision to do it. We have to be willing to take that first step. We have to be willing to take a risk. We have to be open to the possibility that this might just fail. We might fall far short of what we dreamed and planned. In the same breath, we might surprise ourselves. We might far exceed our expectations. We might just make it happen.

Decide on a new hobby. Decide on a possible new team structure. Decide on whether you are going to say ‘no’.

We choose change by making decisions. The magic begins with the decision to at least give it a go. We have to try.

Try

Action must be taken on the decisions we make. We simply just don’t know what will happen when we try. Good or bad, the truth of the matter will only appear once we attempt to make the changes necessary. The attempts don’t have to be big either. I’m suggesting that you make small ones.

Like starting one little bit of your new hobby, or reviewing the team structure with peers or the team, or saying ‘no’ when you can’t take on a new task.

What happens next is just as important. Whatever the outcome of our actions from decisions, we must learn from them.

Learn

There is no point in trying out our decisions if we are not willing to learn from the outcomes. That is like hitting your head against the wall and hoping the next time won’t hurt.

Enjoyed the introduction to your hobby? Make the decision to explore some more. Didn’t enjoy it? Ditch it and make the decision to try something else.

The review of the team structure didn’t go so well? No problem, now you know what the team really wants.

What happened when you said ‘no’? The person maybe said ‘ok’, and carried on their path. Or they asked ‘why’, and a more fruitful conversation evolved about your workload.

I seem to have oversimplified how you can initiate change, but I fully believe it is as simple as this. Make the decision, try the decision, learn from the experience.

[Featured image: Sylwia Bartyzel]

Contemplating disappointment

It’s not often I let disappointment get to me. Its dampening of my will really does not mix well with my more positive outlook on life. But sometimes, just sometimes, disappointment squeezes through the cracks and I contemplate it for a while.

Like now. I am contemplating the validity of things and the inadequacy of human nature. How have we survived so long as a species with so little thought for anyone else but ourselves and our money.

I’m in the process of studying an online social psychology course with Coursera. One of the assignments within the course is a ‘Day of Compassion’ in which one has to go 24 hours showing compassion in their surroundings – whatever that might be.

I partook in the challenge, eager to make a positive difference within my reach. I volunteered to help raise funds for a burnt down school, I was more compassionate with the people around me, and I was happy with that. However, two of the bigger tasks I attempted ended in disappointment.

One was rebuffed due to corporate logistics, and the other was a person unable to take a phonecall from someone on the otherside of the world. Failure due to money and too much focus on the self. These two failings are pitfalls in our lives. There is way too much focus in our society around money, materialism, and self-preservation.

I am just as guilty of these weaknesses as the next person. It’s quite something when you discover the true emptiness of our surroundings for yourself, rather than reading about it in a book somewhere. It hits home a lot harder when you see it and live through it each day.

The more I think about these two major failings in our society, the more disappointed I get. The more disappointed I get, the more I want to change it. This is a major challenge, but one that you and I can rise up and defeat.

This was one of the main reasons I started this blog. So that I could document this journey of discovery. To inform myself, and you, about how we can find true meaning in the world around us. To find a way we can make effective change in our lives. It’s funny, how with me never having been much of a spiritual person, I am now saying that we have to change.

Thank you for reading my contemplation of disappointment. As I’ve typed this, disappointment has turned into resolve. It’s now time to change this world. Time to help each other grow out of mediocrity, discover ourselves, and be awesome.

Will you join me?

[Featured image: Aleksi Tappura]

In times of disaster, we stand strong

A few days ago, over half of my son’s school burnt down. Four of the seven classes are lost, one of them being my son’s. Also lost in the inferno was the school library containing 125 years worth of archives. In addition to this, the school was preparing for it’s 125th anniversary in November, and to be hit by something as devastating as this, is simply crushing.

I am in shock at the moment. Still unable to process just how much has been lost. The amount of information lost in the blaze. How many projects have been destroyed. How much personality and culture taken away. Not to add computers, resources, books, all of it gone.

But, out of the ashes, before the sun rises in the morning, the human spirit of compassion began with offerings to help in any way. People want to give anything they have in order to get this little school up and running again. Ready to tackle another day and make a difference in our children’s lives. As the day wore on, I grew more deeply appreciative of the community I live in.

I love how, deep down, we humans band together in rough times. When disaster strikes, our tribal instincts kick in and we pool together to defeat what ever tragedy has occurred. We rise from the ashes to build something even better than before. We let go of our subtle differences, our minor grievances, and do what is necessary for the greater good.

This event was a fire at a little school in a little community on the far side of the earth. If something as small as this makes such a big difference in the lives of the people affected, I am emboldened by the thought of how communities have stood together in much larger events – such as the Christchurch Earthquake of 2011, or the Japan Earthquake and tsunami of 2012, and 9/11.

We might think the human race is getting worse by the minute with our overindulgence, our greed, our selfishness. But it’s at times like this that it all disappears. All that selfishness dissolves into selflessness. It amazes me and brings great joy when I see people banding together for the greater good. How we can simply find ways in order to help those in need. How we can let go of our own insecurity to reach inside ourselves and rebuild something that was lost.

This is the first time I’ve personally been affected by something like this, and it has hit me out the park. I like to help people, but this event is making me want to go that extra step and do whatever I can – dive into the rubble and help clear it away, donate money to help rebuild, or even help organise some sort of fundraising. Anything I could do to help, I want to do it.

It’s not only me. It’s the dance studio owner offering to entertain the out-of-school children this week for free. It’s the rubble removal company removing the leftovers for free. It’s the musician attempting to organise a variety concert to raise money. It’s human compassion, and I want to give more of it.

[Featured image: Terry Presley]

Embrace the new chapters in your story

This month, my eldest son started ‘big school’. He turned the grand old age of five, and started a new chapter in his story by starting primary school. In the weeks leading up to him taking his first step in school, he didn’t display nervousness or sadness, but rather excitement. He would badger my wife and I about when it would be happening.

Every time we drove past the school, he would state that he was going to be going to that big school. There is a lesson we can all learn from the way in which he approached making the big change to ‘big school’.

Embrace change. Embrace it fully with no looking back.

When change is upon us, we should not resist it. Change brings new experiences, new challenges, new opportunities. It leads us down new paths that we may not have considered previously. While I agree that not all change is good, there is always something new to learn. Be aware, always learn – always want to learn.

It’s easy enough for me to tell you to ‘embrace change’ or ‘always learn’. I don’t know you, or your circumstances. What I do know, though, is that change is inevitable. You have two choices when change comes knocking on your door;

  1. Resist change. Fight it. Be angry. Complain, and bemoan how things used to be.
  2. Embrace change. Lean into it. Learn. Take up the challenge to get what you can out of the situation.

When we resist change, we create tension, stress, and negative emotions. When negativity runs through us, our minds are closed to learning and enjoyment. We tend to complain and reminisce about how things were. We protect any shred of what used to be.

Negativity is the road block to achieving anything new.

If my son had resisted his first day of school, he would have been crying, having tantrums, or clung to my wife or I until the last second we had to leave. Even then, there would have been more tears and drama. There would have been much wasted time with himself and the teacher in order to calm him down. Wasted time in order to actually get him to the state in which he would be receptive to reading or learning.

Instead, on the morning of his first day, he couldn’t get his school bag ready quick enough. He couldn’t wait to hang his bag on the hook outside his class. He showed us where he was sitting and the playground he would be playing at during break time. When the school bell rang signalling the start of the day, he went straight to the mat, said goodbye, and was immediately listening to the teacher. Ready and waiting to learn.

Starting school is a massive change in his short life, yet he has taken it on with arms wide open. With that openness, so too is his mind open to new information. He is going to soak up any new learnings like a sponge – because he has made himself ready for it.

We can do the same in order to make the best of change. Instead of closing up, fighting, and making our lives difficult, we must receive change with enough openness to learn as quickly as possible. Quickly enough to adjust to the new circumstances. Quickly enough to understand the new circumstances in order to instigate new change if the situation is worse than before.

It was an extremely proud moment for us, seeing him sit on the mat attentively waiting for his new teacher. This is the beginning of an epic journey for him. There is so much for him to learn, explore, and decide on a path of his own. I can’t wait to see how he adapts to these new challenges.

[Featured image: Coley Christine Catalano]

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