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?

SEE THE SPACES

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PowerofMore_bookjacketSee the Spaces

An excerpt from The Power of More, How Small Steps Help You Achieve Big Goals

 

… I was burnt out, exhausted both physically and emotionally. I needed a change, so at the age of twenty-eight I retired from sport. Or so I thought. The next year would help to remind me of some important and really doable goals that I had once set for myself.

In my retirement I unwrapped myself from my overprotective lifestyle and learned to snowboard in Whistler, B.C. I thought this would be a good time to go and play on a mountain instead of at a lake; I affectionately referred to this season as “the year of the broken bone.” Before retirement, my health had affected not only my performance but also that of my rowing partner. In this “arranged marriage,” Kathleen Heddle was my dependant, and I was hers. If I got sick or injured, I took Kathleen down with me; a port is no good without a star- board. This had made me particularly sensitive to the dangers of getting injured by doing something dumb. There would be little forgiveness if I showed up with a non-rowing injury. I had pretty much turned myself into a one-trick pony in bubble wrap. This was the first thing I wanted to change. I wanted to have fun, to be carefree, and I was prepared to accept the consequences. For the first time in a long while I felt as if I could take an unplanned risk. What joy!

Living in Whistler and learning to snowboard was fantastic, but I still craved structure and focus. At the suggestion of a friend, I took a course, got certified, and—with the help of Intrawest, the company that owned Whistler Blackcomb was quickly teaching adult beginner snowboarding. What a blast! I would free-ride in the morning with the other snowboard instructors, and then, from ten to noon each day, I’d teach a class. Saying that I snowboarded with the other instructors may be a bit of a stretch. The truth was that I had to do everything I could just to keep them in my sights. If this was a cup (of rice that) I was trying to fill, mine was still mostly empty.

Just as I hoped to progress and learn every day, I watched the other instructors improve their abilities too. They kept trying to get more height off a jump, to do a new trick, or to master a bigger feature. I watched how they would try every day but never put a timeline on their learning. They were definitely ambitious about snowboarding, but they were also patient. It made me realize that I had forgotten patience when I was rowing. I was also struck by how playful sport can be— there was so much joy.

The lifestyle I created as a snowboard instructor made a few other things apparent to me. Not the least was that I wasn’t cut out to be a great snowboarder! I missed 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