The Temptation to Overuse New Strengths

Maybe we want to develop more patience. Maybe we want to be less judgmental. Whatever it is, we have a specific thing in mind that we want to improve, one of our weaknesses that we want to become our strengths.

It starts as an altruistic spiritual pursuit, and then as we become more aware of how to change it, we launch wholeheartedly into the process. 

Once out on the other side–once we’ve done the work to develop this skill, ability, capacity, or trait–something interesting happens. We develop a sense of pride in our new power. Our change feels like a hard-won victory and as a result, we can begin to overuse this new way of being.

The signs of this happening are often hard to notice. They are much more subtle than our original wake up call. But it’s important to be able to recognize this in ourselves, so we don’t let the pendulum swing too far in the other direction and thus begin to create a new set of problems when we change.

 

Are Your Strengths Destroying You?

Nobody is perfect; we all have ways in which we want and need to grow, or to improve our strengths. However, these desires aren’t always at the forefront of our brains. Sometimes we don’t even recognize the areas where growth is most needed until something drastic forces us to look at them.

We often realize where our weaknesses are in moments of vulnerability. For example, after a person we care about leaves, or when we get difficult feedback, or when a project we are working on falls apart. 

When these moments hit, we may suddenly realize that something about ourselves needs to shift, that our strengths need improving.

The breakdown or crisis that leads to this moment of clarity is usually so deep and powerful that it’s impossible to ignore. Thus, it compels our system into action towards growth. 

So, we set off on our personal improvement journey. 

And it works at least for a while . . .

 

Why older men want to date women half their age?

When an older man dates a younger woman, he steps into a time machine. He feels like he still has youth and vigor.

He trades the problems of aging, of a certain stage of life, for younger problems. It allows him to avoid the truth that his life has moved on or should have moved on from concerns and hopes and excitements he had or skipped over years before.

​​But this doesn’t just happen with younger women. This happens with new ideas. Fast cars. Extravagant vacations. New companies. And all sorts of other things.

It is a truly self possessed leader who chooses to be where he is. Who chooses to be with the problems of this stage of life. Who deals with the old problems, the ones that are really challenging and rises to the cause.

There are no time machines. And even though you may be able to step into a younger relationship or stage through the power of money or mind doesn’t mean your life will be richer for it.

 

What you aren’t listening to? 

It is very likely that the people around you are saying something you’re not listening to. They are telling you what’s wrong with your leadership. They are telling you what you don’t want to hear. They are telling you what they want more of from you. 

But you aren’t hearing it. 

You aren’t hearing it because you are sure it isn’t true. 

Or if it is true it’s not your fault. 

Or if it is your fault it’s not your fault that it’s your fault. 

I see this in almost every single client I’ve worked with. 

Start up founders ESPECIALLY!!!!!

They love to talk about the reality distortion fields of Jobs, Musk, and Bezos. 

They don’t love to talk about the reality filters they all have. 

The filters that hide what could make them even better leaders and people. 

If you want to hear what you’re not listening to start here:

  1. Whatever the most common complaint people have about you, where are they right? Where could you show up more in that space? What’s missing? 
  2. What feedback do you dismiss, deflect, defend, or dissect regularly? Reflect on it and you’ll very likely find something there. 
  3. Find a quiet morning and ask yourself. What am I avoiding hearing? Write down anything that comes up. 
  4. Ask people, What have you been saying that I haven’t been hearing? What have you tried to tell me repeatedly that just doesn’t seem to be getting through? 

You don’t have to keep not listening. You can hear. You can become more. It won’t mean losing your power, it will mean becoming more powerful. 

 

Hope is not leadership

If you run a startup you are familiar with the language of hope. You sell it to investors, you pitch it to your team, you whisper it to yourself at night to help you sleep when things aren’t going very well. 

Hope is a powerful. It can help you generate a lot of interest in what you’re creating. 

But hope is not leadership. 

Hiring someone and hoping they will do a great job is not the same as supporting them to do a great job. It’s not the same as inspiring them and getting the best work out of them. 

Starting a project and hoping it will get completed on time and with excellence isn’t the same as planning it well, giving it the resources it needs, indetifying the pitfalls and blocks and moving them out of the way. 

Hoping you’ll get enough sleep, or that work will ease up, or that your relationship will get better is not the same as creating time to rest and recover, getting clear on what you should and shouldn’t be doing, and being really present with the people you love. 

Hope is a powerful companion to leadership but you, your team, your company, your investors, your dreams, and your vision need more than hope. They need you to be a leader in a world where it’s much easier to act like a leader than actually show up as one. 

 

4 questions to ask when someone is upset

When someone in your life is upset a partner, a team member, or a coworker it can be hard to know how to handle it. There might be a desire to fix or solve the problem that caused the upset. You might feel defensive or scared based on their emotional state. You might even want to avoid the person or situation entirely hoping it will resolve itself. But few of these responses create the space to hear someone who’s upset or get to a place of repair that will help you and them move forward. 

So here are the steps I try to follow when I’m being with someone who is upset. 

1) Do I have space for this and do I want to hold space for this? 

Just because someone is upset doesn’t mean you HAVE to make them feel better, try and fix their problem, or even be upset too. 

You might feel a natural sense of empathy or a desire to help the person who is upset. But even if this is your initial impulse it helps to check in and see how you’re doing. If you’ve got space and want to hear or help the person go for it. But it’s also totally ok if you don’t have space. 

You can lovingly start by saying, “I’m really sorry you’re upset right now, I don’t have the space right now to hold you in your upset.” 

Then you can offer to be with them at a later time OR you can simply decline to hold space. 

You might say, “I’d be happy to talk to you about this once I’m off of work.” 

Or “I’d be happy to talk to you about this once you’ve calmed down a bit.” 

Or “I hope you can find someone else to talk to about this.”

Or “I hope you can find someone else to talk to about this, but if you can’t you can check in with me later.”

This kind of loving boundary might be hard for people to hear, but it’s better than trying to be there for someone when you simply don’t have the space. 

2) Is this about me? 

When someone is upset about someone or something there can be an instinct to either try to calm them down or fix what’s wrong, which is why it’s first important to discern if the upset is about you. 

If someone is upset about someone else or something that’s happening in their lives it’s very likely they just want to express themselves and be heard. They may want a solution at some point but only after they’ve cleared out some emotional space. 

If the upset isn’t about you, the best space to start is to just listen to them and reflect on what you’ve heard. This is also true if it’s about you, but because it’s so easy to make other people’s upset about you I think this is an excellent place to start. 

If it’s about you, you can hold space and reflect on what you hear while trying not to get defensive or combative. If it isn’t about you, don’t make it about you. Let them be upset. It might be hard, but as much as possible don’t try to fix them or their problem. Remember it’s not even about you. They just need a space to be upset. 

3) It’s about me, now what do I do? 

If it’s about you, the best thing to do is to start by hearing the other person. It’s possible they’re going to say things you disagree with, feel unfair to you, or that you think are wrong or upsetting. While it’s important you don’t let someone verbally abuse you, short of that you’re going to be better off if you can avoid taking things personally and just listen to the person. 

Take a deep breath and see if you can simply listen to what they are saying and from time to time reflect back to them what you’ve heard. 

This is KEY! Just because you’re reflecting back to someone what they heard, doesn’t mean you’re agreeing with them, or that you’re saying what they are thinking is true. 

The first need most people have when they are upset is to be heard and to have their feelings validated. Even if what they think you said or did isn’t what you said or did, it’s often better to just honor them and their feelings. 

Whether or not you agree with what they thought happened their feelings are real, so simply reflect what you’re hearing as closely as you can. 

“So when I showed up at 9:05 you were upset because you thought I was late and you hate having to wait on me.”

“So when I went to class without you, you were mad because you felt like I didn’t care if you were with me or not.”

Bonus points if you can tell them their feelings made sense. Remembering that someone’s feelings can make sense based on what they experienced even if what they experienced was different from what you thought or experienced. 

4) What do I have to apologize for or own here? 

The final question to ask yourself is what do you have to apologize for or own. It’s very likely that if someone is upset with you, something you did play a part in it. You may not have intended to hurt them, to say something unkind, or to do something they didn’t like. But your intentions only matter in part, what ultimately matters is your impact on people, so if you can apologize for the impact you had on them or any mistake you made. 

“I’m sorry I was late and didn’t text you. I was trying to text you and it didn’t go through, but that doesn’t really matter, what matters is that you felt dropped by me.”

Bonus points if you add what you’ll shift next time and thank them for sharing themselves with you. 

“Next time I’ll pause as soon as I know I’m going to be late and send you a message. Thanks for helping me better”

 

You need time apart

No matter who it is. Your romantic partner, your business partner, your work wife, your closest friends, or even your kids you need time apart. And this can be hard. You get into a groove, a routine, a rhythm, and you don’t want to step away. 

The thing you need space from might be a person, an activity, even a way of thinking. But no matter the category all grooves become ruts without time away from them. 

So take a moment to reflect on your life and see what you’re stuck on or with. And consider taking some space. For 30 mins, for a day, or even a week. Usually when you return you come back with greater appreciation, love, and a deeper understanding of what does and doesn’t work for you about that relationship, task, or way of life. 

 

How to stop complaining

If you’re honest with yourself, you like complaining. It feels good to kvetch, to moan, to whine, to carp, and to grumble. You’re not getting what you want, BUT you can make it someone else’s problem. You can send the dish back, post a bad review, leave a crappy tip, and get your friends and family to agree with how the world has wronged you. 

But complaining rarely makes us feel better. Even when we’re right, even when the dish is brought back, complaining leaves a residue. One of entitlement, of suffering, of the idea that we are living in an unjust world. 

This doesn’t mean you should let people walk all over you. Or not speak up if they bring you chicken instead of beef, but it does mean that you should be present to the impact of complaining. 

So instead of jumping into complaint try these 3 questions:

  1. What can I be responsible for? – How did I contribute to this? How can I clean up my side of the street? Maybe I misspoke, or maybe they misheard. Where can I find a place to own my part of this breakdown?
  2. Will complaining about this matter? – My complaints will not make the flight leave on time, it will not change the weather, and it will not make a person who canceled plans want to spend time with me. It’s ok to have feelings, but to complain usually just makes things worse for me and others around me. I might be better off just accepting what is, feeling my feelings, and then doing what there is next to do. 
  3. Do I need boundaries and/or communication or a complaint? – If someone isn’t treating us with respect or love, would you be better off complaining or setting a boundary?

 If your friend keeps canceling plans, why not talk to them about it? If your parents keep nagging you about when you’re going to settle down, why not ask them to stop? Often we use complaining as a way to get by, when really what we need is to face our challenges head-on. 

And what about complaining for the fun of complaining? Well, I get why it’s fun, and I’m not suggesting that you try to never complain again, instead my offer is to reflect on what’s behind your complaints, connect with the feelings you have, and accept what there is to accept, change what you can, and try to find a way to be grateful for the goodness life has given you.

 

Why is it so hard to learn new stuff?

We say we want to improve only to find ourselves back in old habits and ways of being wondering how we ended up here.

Recently I’ve been working on improving my Spanish and I find myself struggling. I do pretty well for a while and then a waiter will say something I’ve never heard before, a new accent will make the words tricky to discern, or the speed of someone’s speaking overcomes my ability to translate in my head. 

In English, I have a sizeable vocabulary, I can write poetry, make metaphors, and even make clever puns. In Spanish, a 3rd grader has a more advanced vocabulary than I do. I celebrate navigating the grocery store. I rejoice in understanding simple sentences. 

The experience is humbling and it’s HARD. But I’m committed so I keep going. 

This is no different than what it takes to improve your leadership or get better at communicating. You don’t know the vocabulary of good leadership, you don’t know how to navigate listening to people when they talk. 

You have an old language you’re familiar with, a mother tongue of habits and skills you’ve relied on to get you to where you are. 

But in order to learn a new language, to improve as a leader, to serve your team and vision in a new way, you have to let yourself be humbled, to slow down, and to be willing to look foolish and make some mistakes. 

Otherwise, you’ll just end up speaking your old language and never discovering what a new place, people, or language can hold.

 

Why some leaders aren’t meant for your business

Sometimes leaders think that someone who disagrees isn’t a leader.

But this isn’t true.

You and I can both be on a hike together.

We can both be responsible for getting this small group to our destination.

We can both show up as leaders.

But if one of us wants to go to a different spot, then we’re no longer on the same journey.

We are leading but not together.

This doesn’t mean I’m a leader and you aren’t.

It doesn’t mean if I don’t convince you to follow me I’m not a leader and you are.

Two leaders can lead powerfully and still go different ways.

If you’ve got a great leader on your team.

But they have a different direction.

Get clear on what it is.

Inspire them to lead.

Even if that means it leads them out of your team.