Category Archives: Sunday Wisdom

I know better

Our desire for improvement can be powerful. And sometimes it can be helpful. But not always.

If we feel that we know better, then it’s not a massive logical jump to conclude that others don’t know what they’re doing.

‘Knowing better’ is mostly a status we award ourselves. ‘Doing better’ is an assessment most usefully offered by others.

Rather than arriving into a given professional scenario with an assertion of knowing better, perhaps it might be more valuable to ask if our contribution might be useful, or even needed?

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This post was adapted from one of Aodan’s Sunday morning newsletters, eagerly anticipated by hundreds of readers. Give yourself the gift of that weekly wisdom by signing up here.

How we see ourselves

Reflections of the Past by Tom Hussey

Disruptive change challenges our identity. This pandemic is certainly such a disruption.

As life has become more restricted, this has narrowed our range of identities. This is worth noting and investigating. How we see ourselves, and how we talk about ourselves carries a lot of psychological weight.

If you identify with just one or two roles in life, then if things aren’t going so well in those domains there is a risk that you will internalise those struggles (this is shit, therefore I am shit). It’s great being ‘just’ a pop-star if you’re #1 all the time but when the attention evaporates, does the ‘feel good’ go with it?

If you’re finding this second year of pandemic life a bit heavy, it may be worthwhile to reflect on your relationship with your various identities. You may notice that some aspects of your pre-Covid life, especially those with social interaction and adventure, feel like they’re no longer part of who you are.

Even if this brings sadness, it’s a useful realisation as it reminds us that there’s more to us than Zoom calls and never-ending domestic chores.

Here’s a challenge that may well be helpful. Describe yourself with at least ten identities. Most people can get to five easily enough but slow down as the number rises. As an example, maybe you’re an accountant, a mother, a tennis player…..and so on. Give it a shot, you’re likely to be grateful you did.

You are greater than any transient set of circumstances. Never forget that.

Of course, you may well be a toad.

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This post was adapted from one of Aodan’s Sunday morning newsletters, eagerly anticipated by hundreds of readers. Give yourself the gift of that weekly wisdom by signing up here.

The right call

The thing about making the right call is that it often takes a long time to be proven wrong.

As professionals, we frequently need to chart a path forward where uncertainty and ambiguity are unwelcome visitors.

What feels like the ‘right’ thing to do may not lead to the outcome we are hoping for, or may even look foolish with the benefit of new Information.

The easiest sport in the world is to sit in the armchair, or on the barstool, and criticise other people’s decisions. There are so many bad calls to choose from, and so many ways to assert our superiority. But while entertaining for some, it’s as professionally valuable as chewing bubblegum.

Knowing that the perfect decision is unlikely and that as humans we are prone to many biases, maybe a wiser course is to proceed with equal respect for what we know and what we don’t know.

Being right is overrated. Making wiser decisions, without the compulsion to be right, is a better long term bet.

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This post was adapted from one of Aodan’s Sunday morning newsletters, eagerly anticipated by hundreds of readers. Give yourself the gift of that weekly wisdom by signing up here.

Stick or twist?

When things are going well, it’s easy to ‘rinse and repeat’. Don’t change the recipe. Stick to the system. It’s working.

Of course, nothing lasts forever. Circumstances and markets change. The rules of the game evolve.

“Should I change?” isn’t as useful a question as “How do I ensure I can adjust appropriately?”

Flexibility is more useful than inflexibility. Agility is more useful than rigidity.

But all too often we get stuck, or choose to stick. Habitual forces are strong, culture can be powerful and old narratives can be comforting.

The practice of staying flexible involves asking “How does this serve me?” and being open to the answer. Paradoxically, that’s a habit that can be built and strengthened too.

Chubby had the right idea.

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This post was adapted from one of Aodan’s Sunday morning newsletters, eagerly anticipated by hundreds of readers. Give yourself the gift of that weekly wisdom by signing up here.

Something in common

Our most enduring human connections are often forged during shared experiences.

School friends, work colleagues, team mates, especially those who’ve been with us through challenging times – those people tend to stay front of mind.

What sets those relationships apart is how easily we pick up where we left off, interacting as if we were ‘back in the day’.

With those connections, we don’t need small talk. We just get straight into it. The work of building trust is already done.

The paradoxical nature of the pandemic is that it has provided us with a shared experience but yet we haven’t had the physical proximity that normally cements connection.

While we are in different boats, we’ve all had the challenge of trying to do our best work during complicated circumstances. Some of us have struggled more than others, but none of us are unaware of the disruption.

Perhaps the greatest gift this time will give us is removing any justification for feeling shame about struggle. Working through a pandemic is hard. Most of us have struggled in ways we previously only read about. And we’re also noticing that we’re not alone in that.

In good times, it feels awkward or embarrassing to be talking about underperformance. Or asking for help to get better. I know this first-hand from my coaching work. The first step is often the hardest. But it no longer needs to be that way.

We have the opportunity now to strengthen our relationships by acknowledging this massive shared experience we are going through. And the direct path to that is to be present in an open way: “How are you?”, “How are you finding this?”, “Where could you do with a hand?”

One antidote to our ever-shrinking world is to remember we have something in common.

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This post was adapted from one of Aodan’s Sunday morning newsletters, eagerly anticipated by hundreds of readers. Give yourself the gift of that weekly wisdom by signing up here.

 

Useful but not essential

Lots of things are useful. But only a fraction are truly essential.

As professionals we often get hung up by mis-classifying useful things as essential.

This leads us to create ‘If-then’ loops in our mind. If the essential thing is available, then I can do what I need to do.

In this start-stop Covid era, any kind of momentum in our work is useful. But we waste time when we insist that momentum is essential before we take the next steps.

Sure, momentum is essential in some scenarios such as a spacecraft needing escape velocity to break the gravitational pull. But those scenarios are rarer than we might think.

If you reviewed the projects on your plate right now, I’m pretty sure you’d find some examples of hold-ups due to your assessment of some requirement as essential. Maybe it’s merely useful?

Waiting for perfect conditions diminishes our potential contribution. Better to build the habit of doing what needs to be done.

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This post was adapted from one of Aodan’s Sunday morning newsletters, eagerly anticipated by hundreds of readers. Give yourself the gift of that weekly wisdom by signing up here.

Let the pilot fly the plane

It’s likely been a while since you’ve flown on an airplane.

If you can access the deep recesses of your memory, you may recall the little ‘bing’ tone as the captain turns on the seatbelt sign when turbulence arises.

Some passengers close their eyes, some continue to read, some attempt to fly the plane.

Flying the plane from your own seat involves gripping hard on the arm rests, nervously checking out the window and swaying to balance the bumps and rolls.

Flying the plane from your own seat is dramatic, distracting and draining. It also has no impact at all on how the plane flies.

I’m noticing in this Covid era that many of us are trying to fly the plane from our own seat. So much time spent chasing anxiety, monitoring events and second-guessing every aspect of public policy and visible behaviour.

Dramatic, distracting and draining. And almost never helping us do the work we need to do.

Let the pilot fly the plane.

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This post was adapted from one of Aodan’s Sunday morning newsletters, eagerly anticipated by hundreds of readers. Give yourself the gift of that weekly wisdom by signing up here.

What’s the point of planning?

It’s likely there’s never been a greater planning challenge than the one facing humanity in the endeavour of vaccinating billions of people against Covid-19.

For the rest of us outside the public health domain, our attempts at planning are more likely to face a weary response like, “What’s the point?”

Just when it looks possible to begin preparing for events or expeditions, new restrictions or gloomier prognostications come along and burst our bubble.

Repeated disappointments over the past year have drained our enthusiasm for being proactive in the use of our time.

Project managers love to quote the Mike Tyson line that warns everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth. The past year has felt like five rounds in the ring with Tyson.

Despite this environment, the practice of planning retains its value. Planning requires us to reflect on what’s most important to us, to gain clarity on our priorities and to make difficult choices when faced with multiple options.

Even if it’s just planning for tomorrow, or the week ahead, it’s useful to keep our planning muscles in shape. Otherwise, we’re at risk of drifting and are vulnerable to distraction and disruption.

Keep the faith. You are a capable professional. We need your service. Plan accordingly.

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This post was adapted from one of Aodan’s Sunday morning newsletters, eagerly anticipated by hundreds of readers. Give yourself the gift of that weekly wisdom by signing up here.

 

Who can I blame?

When faced with disappointment, we often feel the impulse to find someone else to blame.

It’s understandable, and a very human response. But it’s not a useful habit to cultivate.

Blaming can be a form of avoidance. By externalising our feelings onto someone else, we can minimise our own culpability or responsibility. By ‘defending’ ourselves we can avoid the hard work of acceptance and adaptation.

We seem to be living in a golden age of blaming. Public discourse is dominated by scapegoating and ‘othering’. Everything to do with Covid is everyone else’s fault. The dynamics within our teams and organisations are spoiled by others who play the game differently.

Of course there’s no shortage of injustice in the world. No shortage of manipulation and abuse. No shortage of coercion and misappropriation of power. There’s important work to be done, always, to face up to malfeasance and bring truth to falsehood.

But doing that important work doesn’t require us to continually indulge our desire to blame. In fact, continual blaming drains us of our agency to act.

Better for us to mindfully reflect on where we are, what is required of us and how we can more skilfully honour our own values through the work that’s most important to us.

Next time you notice that impulse to blame, try to tap into your courage and ask yourself the antidote question, “How am I complicit in creating the conditions I say I don’t want?”

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This post was adapted from one of Aodan’s Sunday morning newsletters, eagerly anticipated by hundreds of readers. Give yourself the gift of that weekly wisdom by signing up here.

I can handle this

Whatever our challenges, they are compounded when we lose faith in ourselves. At our moment of need, our inner voice can pull the plug by saying, “I can’t handle this”.

But you almost certainly can. And you probably will.

I’m generally not an advocate of mantras or prescriptive self-talk. “You are amazing!”, “Go get ’em tiger!” and similar urgings don’t appear to be that valuable.

But timely reminders to ourselves are useful.

Based on our lived experience across multiple domains, we are not bullshitting when we remind ourselves that we can handle this. We’ve handled hard stuff before. We’ve figured out complex problems. We’ve got through unexpected challenges.

Take a breath and remind yourself “I can handle this”.

(You may notice that this phrase doesn’t contain the words ‘on my own’. Often, the wisest move in handling any situation is asking for help).

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This post was adapted from one of Aodan’s Sunday morning newsletters, eagerly anticipated by hundreds of readers. Give yourself the gift of that weekly wisdom by signing up here.