The Dangerous Side of a Blind Pursuit of More ~ and What Ernie and Bert have to say about it

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Ernie and BertI often cite a particular Ernie and Bert skit as one of my favourite examples of Art Imitating Life. I’ve wanted to write about it for a while – but I’ve found it tough figuring out how to approach it. If I’m not careful it will look like I’m suggesting that people can be ungrateful for what they receive – but that’s not what I see as the nugget in the discussion between these two Sesame Street icons. It’s more about the importance of knowing what it is that you want so as to avoid a sense of entitlement that you deserve everything that is available.

In the skit, Ernie has two pieces of pie. He’s going to give one to Bert, but first, he takes one for himself. The two pieces aren’t the same size, one is much bigger than the other and Ernie takes the bigger one. Bert is surprised by this and suggests that Ernie has made a selfish decision. The reason he provides for why he thinks so gets right to the heart of dangerous side of a blind pursuit of more.

I believe in more. I talk and write about it a lot. I firmly believe that in the presence of an ambition to achieve something there is always more that I can try, learn and do. The pursuit of more can be limitless. But it gets tricky if you try to apply this philosophy of more to things that you want to get (versus want to do,) and trickier still if you don’t know exactly what you want or why you want it.

Knowing what you want is the best way to be happy when you get it. Knowing why you want it provides you with some perspective when you achieve it and—as importantly—in case you don’t. It is the why you want something that helps you reassess, realign and if you choose – try again. Continue reading

What are you Listening to? Communication II

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In closing, I'd just like to say thanks - you've been an awesome audience.

In closing, I’d just like to say thanks – you’ve been an awesome audience.

One of the benefits – theoretically – of aging is that as we gain experience and wisdom; presumably we become more competent. However, I believe that sometimes experience can also weigh against us. As we progress into a comfort zone of routine with the feeling that we know what we are doing, we run the risk of becoming less curious about all that we aren’t doing. At some point, because of our experiences, we inadvertently become closed off to the challenge of new or changing ideas. We begin to listen less: Been there, done that. But have we?

I wrote last month that I wanted to flesh out communication and this entry is from the listening side; specifically, what we are listening to. If we have ambition to improve on our status quo (and one could argue even if we just want to maintain our status quo) it’s not enough just to listen – we must ensure that what we are listening to is from more than just our own perspective.

The trick to learning/improving is to make sure that we are putting ourselves in conversations where, at times, we either don’t understand or don’t agree with what we are listening to. Why? Because if we don’t, then we find ourselves constantly preaching to our own choir, letting them preach back, and learning absolutely nothing new.

My biggest challenge is myself. At 23 years old, it’s not really easy to know yourself that well.”

Ah – the wisdom of youth. Wait what? Milos Raonic, the rising tennis star, made this comment at a Canadian Club event recently. In the last 3.5 years he’s made the jump from an impressive world rank of 37th (which might not sound like much until you realize that it was the highest ranking ever for a Canadian in men’s singles tennis) to 8th, and absolutely no one thinks he’s topped out yet. This player has a lot of game left in him and if this statement accurately reflects his personal awareness – it will come as no surprise when he becomes the 1st ranked player and holds that rank for some time.

Here is what I get from Milos’ quote. As much as he already knows and feels about himself and tennis, he is aware that to improve he must listen to what others know and see too. Having been coached to be world leading for almost 20 years myself, I can guarantee that Milos won’t always like what he’s being told to do or change but to get as good as he has, and to get even better, he knows that he has to crave this type of critical and creative feedback and be ready to try to apply it. Continue reading

Getting the Spinach Out – The Value of Hard Conversations

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spinach teethRecently, I found myself recalling one particular evening a few years ago.  I can’t remember if my friends and I were celebrating something or if it was just another night out, but we had gone downtown for a fun evening. We probably went for dinner between 8 and 10:30 and then went out for drinks and dancing. At about 3:30am we found ourselves at Fran’s Diner having – oh I don’t know – probably something like gravy laden open-faced turkey sandwiches or grilled cheese sandwiches. (That sounds about right for 3:30 in the morning!).

Here’s the part I remember clearly. The waitress was one of those classic diner waitresses who likely had been working there since well before I was born. As she was about to take my order she took a moment, looked me in the eyes, and frankly said, “Sweetheart, I don’t know what your friends have been saying to you all night, but you’ve got some spinach in your teeth.”

My friends keeled over laughing. Turns out they had been looking at the spinach in my teeth all night. At first it was just spinach, not a big deal. Then as time passed they each kept expecting the others to pipe in and reveal what was becoming an awkward issue. Then, as time passed, they didn’t know how to bring it up – as if it was getting more embarrassing for them to acknowledge that they hadn’t said anything.

As for me – OMG! We had met so many people! We were having a great night so I’m sure all evening I was smiling a big toothy spinachy-smile. I was mortified, not to mention super annoyed with my friends. Where was the trust? Where was the respect? Continue reading

3 Weeks to a Routine

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Establishing a RoutineTwo weeks ago I told you that I had been struggling to get back into a routine of writing and that it had been hard to get going. It was a popular message; apparently many of us get stuck and struggle to get unstuck.

To get unstuck I committed to a plan to write messages regularly, in which I would share mentor type thoughts and ideas with my self in the past or myself in the future. This plan gave me the “What am I writing about?” and the “To whom?” that I felt I was missing. So…here is the 2nd message in my new series and it turns out it’s from my past self to my current self with some tips, reminders and encouragement for establishing a new routine and making it a habit.

Waking up early – and I mean really early – is a normal part of a rower’s day. But don’t make the mistake of thinking that rowers are good at getting up early or are naturally inclined to like it. The truth is that they know how to get used to, or more accurately how to get familiar with, what an early routine –(an uncomfortably early routine!) – feels like. As it becomes a habit, it’s easy for a rower to see all the advantages and opportunities of the early mornings and barely notice that seeing blurry 5’s or even 4’s as a first digit of time is not entirely normal.

Here’s what getting up really early taught me about establishing new routines:

Waking up early one day, or even every day for one week is not a routine it’s a novelty. Doing something for 1 week is Continue reading