Do you look for solutions to problems or problems to solutions?

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 In many different ways I’ve written about being open to new ideas and change. In my book I shared a story about snowboarding through a gladed run. This particular story spoke of the importance of looking and moving to the spaces around the problems and not looking at the problems themselves. If you want to hit the trees, I concluded – look at the trees. If you want to ‘hit’ the fresh powder, well then …(For that full story click here, but I’ll also put a link at the end of this message.)

Previous to this post, I’ve also written about the value of being young and naïve vs. well seasoned and experienced. I have found that it’s not uncommon for experience to sometimes act as a burden when it comes to problem solving. When we think we know it all we start to become those who know less and less. At some point, because of our experiences, we inadvertently become closed off to challenge of new or changing ideas. That’s when we hear from others, or think to ourselves, “I’ve been doing it this way for X number of years – why would I / should I change?” Our well-honed routines provide us with the comfort that we know what we are doing but they put us at risk for becoming less curious about what we could be doing differently.

So, I come back to my opening remark; do you look for solutions to your problems, or do you find yourself finding problems in your solutions?

This isn’t the type of message where I offer an easy fix-all solution. There isn’t one. It is simply a question that I ask of myself, and I am suggesting that you ask it of yourself. I believe that simply this act of self-reflection will lead you to do a bit of both, which is, in my humble opinion the right way to go. In order to perform at any efficient level you must be looking for solutions to problems but you also must have a sense of what problems might arise.

Having an idea that a problem might present itself is much different than assuming that a problem will present itself. The former allows you to anticipate change and challenge; the later leaves you unwilling to change at all.

 

Before I sign-off – another self-reflective question; (and it’s one of my favourites!) In conversation do you listen, or do you wait to talk? !

 

 

Previous posts on being open to new ideas.

See the Spaces – an excerpt from The Power of More

What are you Listening to?

What Super Heroes Don’t Tell You

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Speaking at TedXBelieving that we can achieve success and big, seemingly infinite, goals can seem impossible for us “normal*” people. For the likes of Super Hero Buzz Lightyear, who will readily leap “To INFINITY and Beyond!!!” it’s a breeze. How do they do that?!

This weekend I spoke at a TedX event at the University of Toronto’s Scarborough campus. I titled my presentation “What Super Heroes Don’t Tell You” and had a lot of fun delivering my message.

I used a few big-event examples from my rowing career that tended to push my ego to believing that I was special. It’s easy to think that crossing an Olympic finish line in 1st place can make a person believe in their own Super Hero status! But almost invariably for me, something happened immediately after each of my big achievements that served to remind me to put my feet back on the ground. I was just a normal person who was doing some pretty special things; not a special person, and certainly not a super hero.

Eventually I figured it out. Continue reading

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