CAT | Balance
My friend Laura Steward Atchison used to be a computer consultant. After successfully selling her business, Laura started looking at her own success. One of the things she realized is that she had worked hard at asking the right questions.
Her new book – What Would a Wise Woman Do? Questions to Ask Along the Way – focuses entirely on this concept. She begins with a discussion of how we tend to lead our lives on autopilot. This is a very powerful concept. If you get up every day and do what you did yesterday, you will tend to assume you know the right questions to ask, so you’ll put your energy on the answers.
Too many folks focus on the “answers” instead of the “questions” in life.
Laura argues that you should step back and ask yourself whether you started with the right question first. Asking different questions will necessarily lead to different answers.
This book is a great “starter” for quiet time and meditation. One of the great “starter questions” Laura asks is: “What questions am I asking myself that got me to this place?” She encourages us to use this to examine the path we’re on.
After all, if we’re not happy with our choices, we could make different choices. But more importantly, we need to realize that those choices are answers to questions. So examining the question might lead us to a completely different set of choices.
This is really a powerful point. Different answers to the same question can only have so much variation. But answers to different questions could be dramatically different from the options we’ve put in front of ourselves so far.
This excellent book discovers questions about relationships, business, personal crises, money, faith, and a lot more. If you’re interested in beginning a new kind of journey of self-examination, this is a good place to start.
Here is a quick interview I did with Laura right as she was releasing the book. I caught up with her at a technology event in Florida.
Available on Amazon in paperback or Kindle.
After years of ignoring it, I finally face the fact that I was (am) depressed. Not just a little bump in the road, but truly, honestly depressed. I had been in denial for over three years.
Depression doesn’t look like what most people think. Depressed people don’t always lie in a fetal position doing nothing day after day. Most depressed people struggle through the day, doing what needs to be done.
As strange as it sounds, most people who are depressed don’t realize it. At least not at first. Depressed people are happy a lot of the time. I know that sounds strange. But a person can be happy in the moment and depressed overall. As with any other task, depressed people can put on a happy face – and actually be happy – a lot of the time.
Forcing yourself into smiling and putting yourself into “happy” situations can actually be very theraputic.
Depression doesn’t start out with feeling completely unable to cope. It starts out with feeling not quite right. Then you realize that it’s been awhile since you believed that you could conquer a big challenge. At some point you realize that you have more difficulty making decisions. Especially decisions you used to make very easily. You feel isolated. Even if you spend all your time with friends and family, you feel like there’s a barrier between you.
I’ve always been forgetful and distracted. I’ve always had to come to a complete stop in order to think things through. But with depression, I would stop and then not be able to think. It became very difficult to focus. I had to isolate myself to experience a sense of focus.
After spending 50 years being extremely positive, I found myself focusing on my failures. Instead of focusing on what I CAN DO, I focused on what I can’t do. I kept track of failures instead of keeping track of victories.
I never felt suicidal.
But I felt like a failure. I felt like a fraud because I only saw my defeats and not my victories.
Depressed people laugh. They love. They do everything that everyone else does. But all too often it’s a mask they put on so that they don’t have to be the person they really are – overwhelmed and feeling like no one can possibly understand.
My depression started when my wife of 19 years left me. She was and is clinically depressed. She has fought this fight for as long as I’ve known her. Her specific circumstances led her to stop trying to live the life she was living and move to something else.
She will never be truly happy. Not like the rest of the world experiences happiness. There’s an upper limit on her happiness. It’s not her fault. She’s not a horrible person and I can’t blame her for anything she’s done. A piece of me still loves her.
At the same time, she has been a part of my life for 25 years and losing her tore me apart. To be honest, it took me a few years to realize that I had not been happy in that marriage for a long time. But we cling to the familiar.
Having a life coach helped me phenomenally. Jenifer Landers kicks ass!
Today I can honestly say that I accept that you can love someone and know that you will never be together. Some things just don’t work. And then I fell in love with another woman who was also wrong for me. She showed me greater happiness than I had known as an adult. But we were also not meant to be together.
I had moments and hours and day of happiness.
But my depression had a life of its own. No matter how much happiness I felt in spurts, I felt a general sense of darkness and grey. The world was in black and white – with ocassional moments of color. Perhaps everyone thought I was happy because I put on a happy face. But it’s a bigger picture.
I worked hard to keep working. I disciplined myself to move forward. I found numb, mechanical things I could do. I took a full year longer to finish a book than I had any excuse for. I started and stopped projects that cost me thousands of dollars. One huge, massive push in my business lost me $300,000 because I could not focus enough to put my head down and push through to the moment of success.
Financial losses in the middle of a massive recession can be depressing enough.
But I can’t blame the recession for my depression. If there’s one thing I’ve learned through thirty years of thinking about life, it’s that 90% of my state of mind is determined by what *I* bring to the situation. So when I am in a positive mood, things roll off my back. And when I am in a negative mood, everything contributes to the bad mood.
In early 2012 I decided to seek help with my depression. Like most people who experience depression, I probably waited too long. It took one appointment to put me on the right track. But it took me eight months to realize that I was headed in the right direction.
I’m not saying I’m “cured” or that I’ll ever go back to being as amazingly happy as I have been most of my life. But the darkness is lifting. I know I can’t go back, but I also know that I CAN go forward.
I won’t presume to give any advice on this topic except, if you think you might be depressed, seek help. Talk to someone. All those people who “can’t understand what you’re going through” will be extremely supportive. And you’ll be surprised at how many of them understand exactly what you’re going through.
You are not alone.
Life is funny sometimes. You can go along enjoying the “status quo” for years – even if you’re dissatisfied or unhappy. There is something built into the human psyche that keeps us in one place even when we aren’t happy there. But eventually change happens. Either we decide to make a change, or it is thrust upon us by other people or events.
Once we get into the “change” mode, we seem to be more willing to accept change. This is very common with health issues. Once we decide to exercise more, we are also very likely to eat better and consider other habits that might be bad for us. I guess the idea is, as long as I’m working on Me I might as work on all of me!
I’ve been through some personal turbulence over the last few years. In the middle of it all I started to think in terms of the “New Normal.” For example, when my daughter went off to college. I was not ready to be alone! I hadn’t lived alone in more than twenty years!
Your brain doesn’t just create pathways for habits and memories: It creates trenches! We’re not talking about a little line drawn in the dirt. After ten, fifteen, twenty years your habits are trenches deep enough to stand in. So when you dig yourself out, you may be uncomfortable with your situation. It’s not wrong. It’s just different.
And you can never go back.
That’s why you need to create the new normal.
Recently, my daughter took some time off from college. Yesterday she moved out again . . . back to Southern California.
You know how moves are. There’s lots of activity getting ready. Packing boxes. Sorting things. Even though she’s only been home about six months, she still had to go through the ritual. Then we had to pack the truck – some from her girl friend’s house, some from ours. A long day of lifting followed by a nice sit down dinner at a restaurant.
And in the morning they drove off.
I wandered around a bit. Made some lists of things to clean and things do. Planning a big reorganization of my study (formerly her bedroom).
Thats when I realized that I was consciously – and comfortably – creating a New Normal. I didn’t resist it (like last time). I didn’t deny that it was happening (like last time). I didn’t put it off (like last time). In fact I embraced it. I will certainly miss my daughter, but I’m much more comfortable with the idea of her moving out and me living alone than I was two years ago.
There’s no denying that experience goes a long way. I went through the moving out and being alone transition once. So I know a bit about what to expect. The funny thing is, I had eighteen years to prepare the first time and I wasn’t ready. I had six months to prepare this time and I *am* ready.
Change is always easier if you’re the one creating the change. But even if you didn’t create it, welcoming it and getting used to it helps a lot.
And now I can get back on the track of finding and building my next New Normal.
I hope it’s not a big surprise that too much work is bad for you. I know I harp on it all the time, but there’s plenty of research to back it up.
I recently came across a great article by Nancy Shute on the effect of long hours on depression. See http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0030719. The key finding is pretty stark: “People who worked 11 hours a day or more, more than doubled their risk of major depression compared with colleagues putting in eight hours a day.”
That’s only three hours a day – and it doubles your chance of depression. The interesting thing about this research is that they found results across all socio-economic classes. So those white-collar executives who get a flat salary and put in super-long hours are NOT immune from the effects of long hours.
Those extra hours – about three a day – have to come from somewhere. Do they come from family time? Sleep? Relaxation? You need all of these.
We can all put up with on super-long day and bounce back. It’s the constant, non-stop long days that can literally kill you. People who work long hours non-stop are obviously more sleep-deprived, have a higher risk of heart disease, and reduced cognitive function. All in all, long hours can kill you.
At a minimum, it can make you miserable and depressed.
Depression is extremely serious and should not be dismissed as temporary sadness. Depression can affect everything in your life – and in the lives of the people you love.
You Can Also Work Too Little
Sometimes people hear the phrase “Relax Focus Succeed” and think I am advocating sitting on the couch all day doing nothing. I am absolutely NOT recommending that. People need work. We need to feel worthwhile, and that we contribute something to society.
We are now well into the fourth year of this recession and unemployment for some people has been dragging on a long time. And with that unemployment is a dramatic increase in depression. See http://www.livescience.com/13710-unemployment-depression-identity-job-search.html and http://www.livescience.com/13496-unemployment-stress-job.html.
Whether it’s you or your spouse, lack of work puts a huge strain on people. And that leads to all kinds of health problems.
I’m not sure what makes human beings different from all other animals. We get to choose what we do every day. You might think we’d choose to sit by a calm lake and fish all day, every day. But that’s not the case.
As social beings, we need to feel that we’re part of society and that we contribute our share. Yes there are exceptions. But let’s discuss things from the rule and not the exception. Overwhelmingly, people like to have a job, go do something at a “place of work,” and have a life outside the house. It’s normal and natural.
It’s a slightly different subject, but many people love their jobs so much that they can’t see how they are hurting themselves and their relationships by working too much. So they work and work and work.
So, whether the boss forces you to work long hours, or your choose to do it yourself, it’s still bad for you!
And working too little is bad for you.
Both lead to depression and imbalance in our lives. Sometimes we can control that imbalance and sometimes we can’t. But in either case, we can take action to improve our perspective on things. We can stop each day and re-focus ourselves. Trust me, I know how hard it is to get out of a depression funk. And I know how it feels to believe you have to work non-stop.
The goal is balance. Somewhere in the middle of all this perspective and balance. But balance never just happens: We need to work on it regularly if we value it and desire it.
Begin today. It’s never too late.
I’m a big advocate of balance. In work and play and everything else. Ironically enough, you have to WORK at balance: It simply won’t happen by itself.
Part of balance means saying no. Make that “NO!”
Business owners tend to be doers and joiners. When someone drops a request on our laps, we tend to say yes. Whether its a client, a service organization, a church, or even our own business. When the world puts an abandoned puppy on our porch, we take it in.
But we all know that we have a tendency to do too much. We find ourselves on committees and members of clubs, starting new ventures, and joining others. At some point, we simply can’t live up to all of our commitments.
January’s gone and February is upon us! If you haven’t complete a beginning-of-the-year review of your commitments, there’s still time. Just ask yourself whether you might be over-extended.
When you’re over-extended, several things are wrong:
- You’re not living up to your commitments.
- Others are relying on you and you think you might be letting them down.
- Your business may be suffering due to inattention — or attention to the wrong things.
- You feel stress because you “can’t do it all.”
In the big picture, you’re spending time doing the wrong things. You’re energy is bound up trying to figure out what you should be doing — instead of doing something (anything) fruitful!
So why don’t we stop? Why don’t we drop some of these activities? The two primary reasons are guilt and habit.
Horace Mann said “Habit is a cable; we weave a thread of it each day, and at last we cannot break it.”
There’s very little we can do about our habits except to commit ourselves to change. Once committed, we must unravel our existing cable one thread at a time and begin weaving another to take its place.
Guilt is another matter.
Perhaps the best way to deal with guilt is to get some perspective.
Ask yourself: are you really obligated to [this cause/this committee/this organization/etc] simply because you have participated in the past? Probably not. So why do you participate?
Legitimate Reasons to Continue:
- I find it personally fulfilling
- I need a change from the other activities in my life
- I enjoy the people/the project/etc.
- It makes me feel good/important
- It helps me in my business
- People express gratitude for what I do. I’m not taken for granted.
- It makes me happy
- It contributes to my physical or mental health
- It is profitable!
Poor Excuses to Continue:
- Other people expect me to be there
- If I don’t do it, who will?
- I made a commitment at some point
- I started this and now a lot of people are expecting it
- If I quit, I’ll feel like a loser
Notice I added an extra line there?
Above the line are legitimate reasons to continue. Below the line are poor excuses to continue. Most of them involve you believing that the stuff won’t get done without you. Sorry to tell you this, but you’re wrong.
Some time ago I took on the job of program chairman for an organization because the president was over-worked and needed help. Two years later I found that I had taken on too many “outside” activities and needed to cut back. I felt that this one thing needed to be done by me because no one else would step forward.
Then I realized that was stupid. After all, the group existed for many years before I joined and has many members. Any group that relies solely on my participation for it’s existence has a pretty weak foundation.
Some people go through this filtering process once a year. Some more frequently. In January a gave up a number of projects and commitments that just we’re working anymore. Part of me wants to feel guilty about that.
But I know that achieving balance means taking stock from time to time and deciding where to spend my energies. It is not selfish to take care of yourself. It is arrogant and selfish to think that communities, organizations, and projects can’t survive without you.
When you re-evaluate and re-organize your commitments, you’ll end up with more energy to dedicate to the remaining activities. You’re time and talents will be more keenly focused and your contribution will be more meaningful.
So do yourself a favor: Re-evaluate your commitments. Put it all in perspective.
And have a happier, healthier, more balanced year!
As we prepare for the Christmas vacation in the U.S., my mind wanders to vacations and family gatherings. These are sometimes combined and often separated.
I remembered, as a kid, that traveling to see cousins in another city was just was much fun as driving to see a national park or an old fort. For us these were both chances to go somewhere and do something.
Vacations are opportunities to “get away” and relax. Don’t work. Don’t worry. Just enjoy life.
We all know that we need to do these things to maintain balance. But somehow we feel guilty.
In these days of technology, it is easy to stay in touch with work, keep up on email, and never actually escape while we’re on vacation. Should you feel good about combining work and rest, or should you feel guilty? I, for one, feel very good about it.
I’ve worked very hard to combine my vacation time and work time. For about fifteen years now, I have been traveling a lot. Sometimes as few as five business trips a year. Sometimes ten, fifteen, or even twenty. As a way to create a little balance, I started added days to the beginning and end of my business trips.
So, for example, I travel to the business city a day or two early. Then I have my meeting. I might travel back right away or add another vacation day at the end of the trip. When I’m going from city to city, I might add vacation days in either city, or even in the layover city.
In this way, I accomplish three things. First, I never have a quick fly-in and fly-out that’s 100% business. Second, I always have a more relaxed business trip. I get to take vacation days. I get to visit friends. I get to actually SEE the cities I visit. And, third, I get to have some very relaxed time to catch up on reading, playing, and putting my toes onto sandy beaches.
Don’t get me wrong. I occasionally take a good five day vacation all at once with no business. But I don’t feel like I’ve taken less of a vacation if I take five days off between two business cities.
For example, 2011 started out with me on a plane at 6:30 AM on January 3rd. I went to Charlotte, NC and spent the next day with a friend, visiting sites and wandering into South Carolina for BBQ. Then I had my business meeting. The next day, I flew to Ft. Lauderdale, FL. There, I hung out on the beach, visited friends, sat on the beach, wrote poetry, and had a BLAST for five days.
On one of those evenings, I attended a business meeting.
Then I hopped on an airplane and flew to Portland, OR. Almost as far as you can go from one end of the contiguous United States to the other. I did another show and then headed home. I landed back in Sacramento on January 12th. In all I had eleven travel days. And while I had plenty of time meeting with friends and relaxing, I had exactly four true “business” meetings. The rest was travel time and relaxation time.
That wasn’t the norm for the year, but it was sure a great way to start the year!
In all, over the last twelve months, I’ve made 18 trips to various cities. I had a total of 76 travel days and 48 days of vacation. By vacation I mean a whole day off work with no business meeting scheduled.
I’ve seen New York City at Christmas Time. I’ve been to Atlantic ocean beaches on three different vacations, and Pacific ocean beaches on three different vacations. Somewhere in the middle I’ve visited half a dozen lakes. I’ve gone on boat cruises, fishing trips, and family get-togethers.
So, for me, the question of whether I should feel guilty is very simple. I do not feel guilty about checking my email between bar hops in Vegas or after spending the day hiking around Lake Tahoe. Email helps me feel confident that the world keeps spinning and that my businesses are going along fine without me.
It’s not cheating to check in and make sure things are fine.
Stopping the vacation to deal with a problem is different. If you do that, you can’t count it as a vacation day. But you have to keep it in perspective. That job that wants to invade your holiday is probably the same job that makes the vacation possible in the first place. Respect it, but keep it in its place.
Many people are taking off the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day. For many of us, taking off all that time is nerve-wracking. So don’t feel bad about checking email and tuning in to work once in awhile. The key is balance. Are you on vacation with an occasional email check? If that balance works for you, don’t feel guilty about it!
Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, and Happy New Year to all!
Not too long ago I was speaking to a group about automating social media. I mentioned that I post to Twitter with socialoomph.com, and that Twitter feeds Facebook and LinkedIn. I also schedule newsletters in advance, as well as some blog posts.
My humorous line was that, if I died, no one would know it for a month.
That was on a Friday. Monday, my friend Jim Locke passed away. I found out about it Tuesday morning. Monica had been at my presentation and emailed me a note that someone should make sure his feeds are stopped.
My own Facebook wall is an embarrassing collection of news and chat that mixes up the sad news with everyday posts. I put up a heartfelt note about Jim, and less than half an hour later an automated promotion for a podcast was posted. Then someone popped in and posted an interesting news article link about the Myth of Multitasking. Then an automated “Relax Focus Succeed” meditative thought for the day posted.
I will never forget the day my father died. I was in Michigan (he lived in Washington State) in grad school. I remember wandering around the campus overwhelmed with sorrow. And I thought to myself “Don’t these people know that everything’s changed? Don’t they know the world is different?”
But they didn’t know. The world keeps turning. Life keeps going for the living.
Facebook is a wonderful combination of personal and professional. A mix of friends, associates, business connections, and strangers. It’s a big, buzzing, busy world of thoughts and pictures and videos.
It’s really a lot like life.
And sometimes there’s great sorrow.
It’s an interesting thing that Facebook keeps on chugging away, even in times of great sorrow.
No disrespect is intended. But there’s a strange kind of “in your face” feel to it.
My friend Kari Hagensmith wrote a book called The Girlfriend Will. It gives advice from one woman to another about all the things that need to be taken care of on the personal side when you die. It is somewhat light hearted, but also very thoughtful.
You want to close down the social media accounts. But you also want someone to clean out your computer history, certain drawers, and boxes around the house. The online component is only part of it. But as technology marches on, the online component will become more and more of what we need to tend to when someone passes away.
I am sad for my friend Jim. But he will be remembered in large part for being a driving force in creating communities – online and off. So managing his online presence upon his passing makes perfect sense.
This is not a blog about sex. It’s a blog about life. About balance. About all the things that make you a happier, healthier, more productive, more successful person. Well one of the best things you can do for yourself is to develop a happy sex life.
At some level, pretty much everybody “likes” sex. What’s not to like? But, all too often, we get busy. We’re tired. We approach it at the end of the day, the end of the week. It’s easy to put off. And then it becomes an occasional thing instead of a regular part of life.
I encourage you to chat with your mate and make sex a higher priority. In fact, a high priority. In addition to being a core element of bonding between two people, sex is a shared experience unlike anything else. It is, literally, unique.
Wanting sex is not bad. It’s biological. Having sex is not bad, as long as it is among consenting adults. What you do and how you do it can be a lifelong exploration.
And women: Please believe me that men take sex very seriously even though we love to joke about it. Monogamous sex with a dedicated partner is a huge turn-on for men. I’m not sure who writes movie scripts and TV shows, but I suspect they have deep emotional scars and very bad sex lives!
If you want to see the latest research on the health benefits of sex, just Google “Sex Is Good For You” and read the results. Web MD is one of the best sites on the Internet. Start there. But also look for several articles on Ten Health Benefits of Sex or Seventeen Health Benefits of Sex, etc.
One specific article that caught my eye was Ten Surprising Health Benefits of Sex. Anyway, do your research. Here’s some of what you’ll find:
Sex lowers your blood pressure.
Sex lowers stress.
Sex increases self esteem.
Sex is associated with lower diastolic blood pressure.
At least for women (haven’t seen research on men), hugging your partner lowers blood pressure.
Sex is directly related to increased levels of immunoglobulin A or IgA, an antibody that can protect you from colds and infections.
Sex burns calories. About 170 per hour. Can’t keep going for an hour? Well, just like any other physical activity, build up a little more each day. :-)
The Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health reported that the frequency of sex was NOT associated with strokes. And that’s a large study done over 20 years. So no excuses there.
Sex two or more times per week can reduce the risk of fatal heart attack by HALF for the men. Haven’t seen a stat on women.
University of Texas researchers published an article in the Archives of Sexual Behavior. They listed 237 reasons people gave for having sex. How many can you count?
Sex increases levels of oxytocin, a hormone that helps people bond to one another, feel trusting, and generous.
Even better, oxytocin increases the level of endorphins, which decreases the level of pain. Suffer from an injury or long term illness? Sex may be just what the doctor ordered!
And, of course, oxytocin helps you sleep better.
Sleeping better is a whole different subject with a long list of benefits. The point here is that sex is a good way to help you get the sleep you need.
The Bottom Line
If you’ve let your sex life slip, maybe right now is a great time to consider what you can do to get back on track. You might just live longer, be happier, sleep better, have less pain, feel more generous, lose some weight, feel better about yourself, and fall deeper in love with the one you love.
. . . Oh, and have fun, too.
- – - – -
Disclaimer: I’m not a doctor. You’re responsible for your own actions. Blah, blah, blah.
I love this passage from Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert:
“We gallop through our lives like circus performers balancing on two speeding side-by-side horses — one foot is on the horse called ‘fate,’ the other on the horse called ‘free will.’ And the question you have to ask every day is — which horse is which? Which horse do I need to stop worrying about because it’s not under my control, and which do I need to steer with concentrated effort?”
There are many pieces to this puzzle.
First, there’s the division of what you control and what you don’t control. And even within that, there’s a big piece that you could control if you knew how to control, but you can’t control because you don’t have the skills or self confidence. But still, the big division is between the things in life you might be able to control and those you never will be able to control.
It is worth spending a good deal of quiet time and meditation on the question of control. It takes great wisdom and experience to recognize the parts of life we can’t control. After that, it takes a lifetime to accept the limitations we discover. This isn’t really something you every “achieve.” It’s more like something you come to accept that you will always have to work on.
Second, there’s the question of worrying about those things we can’t control. No matter how much control you want over things, we all tend to worry about parts of our life over which we have no control. Some people see “the world” as being so powerful that they can’t control anything. These folks tend to accept that “stuff” just happens and they need to figure out how to deal with it. Other people try to control as much of the world as they can.
In some cases, this second group probably has a better sense of how much they really can control because they’ve explored the margins of what they influence. At the same time, they probably spend more time worrying about the world they can’t control.
One final note to think about: The world keeps changing. As you grow, have new experiences, and gain new skills, you can influence more of your world than you did before. But world isn’t the same as it was yesterday, last year, or ten years ago.
So, many of the lessons we’ve learned about control are no longer valid. We “know” about a level of control that simply doesn’t apply any more. Like animals walking past an opening in the fence, we stay on the path we know and don’t consider testing limits we’ve tested before.
Consider adding “control” to the list of topics in your daily meditations. It’s amazing how much of the world is different from what our experience has told us. We’ve changed and the world has changed. But our internal thoughts about the world may not have changed.
Last week I had a chat with my girlfriend Ronda about some changes to my business.
Like many of us, Ronda leads a busy life and can get caught up in the daily buzz, buzz, buzz. But in this instance, she showed me two very important lessons about important decisions.
I have a tendency to get worked up about an issue, formulate some alternatives in my head, and then ponder them for awhile. But once I make a decision, I stop considering alternatives and I push on towards my chosen path.
Well, last week I took an important decision to my local Mastermind Group. I wanted some feedback and advice. Afterward, Ronda asked me how things went. I started to tell her and she interrupted me: “Actually, let’s talk about that when we’re not in the middle of something else.”
I was a little taken aback. After all, I was pretty excited about the topic, the feedback, and what I think I need to do with my business. Would we really come back to this? After all, I would like to hear her advice.
A few hours later (I think over dinner. Maybe over drinks.), Ronda picked up where we left off. “Okay. So tell me about your big discuss with the Mastermind Group.” I then proceeded to lay out my thinking over the last month, what I brought to the group, their feedback, and where I think I need to go next.
But I was keenly aware of what Ronda had done. First, she took my needs very seriously. She didn’t let me jump into a frenzied report when she wasn’t in a position to absorb the information and listen to me attentively. While it felt like being put off, it was really a respectful expression of her desire to give meaningful feedback. If she let me jabber on when she wasn’t able to focus, then she couldn’t possibly give me as much focus and attention as she would like.
Second, whether she realized it or not, Ronda had given me time to organize my thoughts and present them in some kind of meaningful order. Allowing me time to relax a bit and organize my thoughts allowed me to present my ideas with a little more perspective and precision than I would have been able to provide immediately after the group adjourned.
And then something else happened.
I proposed my rough idea of where I wanted to go with my company, and what the first few steps looked like. Ronda asked a few questions, gave some opinions, but didn’t endorse a course of action. A few days later, in a casual conversation, she said something to the effect of “You were so excited, I didn’t want to encourage you until you calmed down and had time to think about it.”
Ronda realized something I didn’t: When I get excited, I have a tendency to start moving in that direction. I really need to follow my own advice and slow down. After all, when we’re excited about something, we tend to overlook or rationalize the downside. We haven’t looked at the finances. We haven’t considered “what else” can come into play. We haven’t considered the down side of the decisions we are about to make.
It’s funny. When we jump on a new idea, we have this tendency to get excited and want to rush toward it. But just when we’re most excited is the moment we most need to slow down and take our time.
A true friend won’t give you advice for a day or two. After you’ve had time to Chill Out, Cool Down, and consider the big picture.