Programmes on Radio 4 often provide me with inspiration and moments to reflect. On a recent panel debate, one of the guests said something to the effect of don’t worry about instant perfection just get out there and do it.
She’s spot on. I can remember numerous occasions when I have held back from taking action because the timing hasn’t been quite right or the product hasn’t been quite as good as I’d like it to be. At the time it seems sensible but if I’m honest I recognise there was also an underlying fear of having these ‘imperfections’ or mistakes judged.
Watching my son make mistakes it is clear to see how this is the process of learning and developing.
As adults, we can be experts at confusing fear with wisdom.
“I don’t want to go to nursery!”
This is the phrase my son greets me with almost every Monday morning. It appears the ‘Monday blues’ are also experienced by the under 3s. Rice Krispies appears to cure his. If only it could be so easy for the rest of us.
So, what are they exactly?
To help make sense of them, I have categorised them into 3 types:
1. “The conversation starter”.
My friend Tony fits into this category. Rather like the weather, Brexit or Executive Orders, Monday blues is often his opening gambit (on a Monday). Generally this is harmless but on bad days his Monday moans can be a great way to really sap others’ energy and will to live.
2. “The Inhibitor”.
The negative feelings associated with Monday mornings can mask deeper misgivings about a job and dent our confidence in our ability to change course. Are you genuinely unhappy in your role or work environment? Are your skills and experience not being used effectively? Do you dream about a career change? Sometimes this feeling of dread can be so debilitating just battling through the day can be hard enough let alone having the time and energy to work on a plan B.
3. “The Catalyst”.
In some circumstances, the thought of experiencing this anxiety every Monday morning (often starting on Sunday evening) forces us to take action. It drives us to believe change is not only possible but it is the only option.
What can be done?
These feelings are telling us something. We can try to suppress them, make light of them or we can take time to work out what they might mean. What we do next is very personal.
For some, leaving a job is the right answer. I did this once without a job to go to and it was the right decision at that time. Discussing your feelings with the people closest to you and then with people at work who might be able to reshape your role could be another option. I’ve heard of some people who’ve approached their Mondays with a totally different mindset. They’ve given more of themselves, gone the extra mile for colleagues and clients. This doesn’t guarantee solving genuine issues concerning your work but it can change your perspective and open your thinking to new ideas. It can also make you better company.
The important thing is to do something.
Or trust in the wisdom of toddlers and reach for the cereal…
On Wednesday, I had the pleasure and privilege of sitting in front of 6 current and former professional cricketers as they each presented on the changes they had experienced by investing time in their own personal development. They spoke about the intensity of professional cricket and the increasing levels of expectation they felt within the cricket bubble. They shared personal stories, the highs and especially the lows, describing the times when just ‘hitting more balls’ was actually making their situation worse instead of better.
There was often a tipping point. A moment when doing something different was the only option. Taking themselves outside of their usual environment by enrolling in courses, learning a new skill, mixing with non-sporting people during work placements, reconnecting with old friends and/or spending more time with family all helped to open their eyes to what else is out there.
The joy was seeing the excitement and possibility in their eyes as they described the steps they had taken. You could see individuals who had possibly previously defined themselves by their skill in a sport realising they had plenty more to offer and that cricket could be a stepping stone rather than a tombstone in their career.
And if that wasn’t enough, their cricket performance improved as a result.
Happier individuals, with increased levels of self-confidence and resilience, bringing skills and experiences from outside their sport back into the dressing room? Now, that sounds like a pretty professional approach to me.
My last posting ‘Improve understanding by irritating people’ prompted this response from my friend Tony.
“I’ve followed your advice at work and colleagues have said I’ve become an expert in irritating people but they didn’t mention anything about their improved levels of self-understanding as a result. Do I need to be even more irritating?”
This caused me to question whether resurrecting My Minute Mentor was possibly a bad idea but to be fair to Tony he had raised a good point. It’s all very well talking in ambiguous terms about communicating with others but how the hell do we actually do it? Tony was clearly sharper than I had initially given him credit for.
After much deliberation, I replied as follows,
“Well done on mastering the irritating bit. It’s now time to work on a new skill of just listening. And by listening, I mean really taking care to notice the different words people use, the way they use them and start to notice their patterns of behaviour. Develop a sharper eye for the cues in their body language especially when they show signs of approval or disapproval towards what’s being said. Start to build up a library of information for each person and see whether you can start to predict how they’ll react in certain circumstances. Once you can do this, experiment by adapting your style of communication for each person and see what happens.”
I sat back, glowing in the satisfaction of a job well done until Tony followed up as follows,
“Thanks for the advice. However, trying to fathom what on earth you were going on about made me experience a new level of irritation far beyond my own so I’m sticking with my original plan. I’ll keep you posted.”
I’m hoping Tony has an early spring holiday planned.
How common is it that miscommunication is often the cause of stress and conflict in our work and social lives above anything else? You can have 6 people around a table and the unintended outcome is 6 alternative views on one topic and a resolution at the end of an ever lengthening tunnel. If that wasn’t complicated enough, you then have 6 different ways those views are expressed and 6 contrasting reactions when each person is told their view is a load of old codswallop! The person who called the meeting ends up wishing they’d just gone ahead and done what they wanted in the first place and the rest of the team start writing their letters of resignation.
Ok, so that’s a slight exaggeration…
Getting on with people is hard. We often expect others to see life as we do but how could they? We see life through our own lens, shaped by our own experiences with a few innate methods of doing things thrown in for good measure. And anyway, those ‘others’ are probably thinking the same thing about us.
And so, for our own sanity and to simply make things work we have to try. The irony is that by doing so, we often form friendships and learn most from those whose views are contrary to our own. New ideas, pauses for thought, changes of direction, pulling back from the brink as well as love and laughter can all be unintended consequences of a more positive kind.
Carl Jung, whose model of personality type was the catalyst for the development of the MBTI assessment tool said, “Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves”
As much as it annoys me to write this, he has a point.
Ok, it is the blog that has undergone a bit of a reinvention rather than me. It was looking rather tired, unloved and badly in need of a clean and polish since its last outing on Jan 24th 2013. Why it has been left to gather dust for so long is the question. I don’t think it was because I ran out of things to say but more because I’d somehow lost the reason why I was saying them.
I’d also like to think that moving house, getting married and becoming a father since that last post has kept me a little busy!
So, I am back! Or rather My Minute Mentor is back brimming full of energy and with plenty of things to write about on the areas of career planning, transitions, transferable skills, personality types, profiling, interview preparation, observations from my work within professional sport as well as insights from people far more experienced and knowledgable than me.
I hope you enjoy the posts. My reason for returning is quite simple. I want to help. And if this can be achieved through a useful posting or two, inevitably interspersed with the odd howler, then MMM’s return will be worth it.
Please comment if you wish and any suggestions on topics you’d like to read about will be very welcome.
I’ve missed you.
The Lance Armstrong revelations, aptly referred to as the “seven deadly sins” in David Walsh’s book, has highlighted the fact that a goal to ‘win at all costs’ is not always desirable. Napoleon Hill, one of the great writers on success, defined success as being “the attainment of your definite chief aim without violating the rights of other people”.
In sport, both professional and amateur, winning is often seen as the ultimate aim. Although there is much merit in the phrase ‘it’s not the winning but the taking part’, competitive sports teams obviously do not enter a game situation with the intention of losing.
Arguably, the important question is what is a winning goal for you. This is a question that all of us would benefit from asking ourselves. Satisfaction comes with winning a race or with hitting a time target but in some situations this is not a practical or even an achievable goal. It can be very easy to deceive ourselves into believing that nothing else matters and this can lead to dissatisfaction. By doing this, we can often discount the experiences that matter the most – for example, making a commitment, putting in the hard work and savouring the experience of testing yourself often in the company of friends.
A recent experience illustrates what I mean. Last summer, nine of us drove to France to take on one of the most gruelling Alpine stages of the 2012 Tour de France, the Etape du Tour. This is a ‘race’ against the clock where riders can be ‘swept up’ by the Broom Wagon if they fall outside the time constraints. One of our party’s goals was to achieve a Silver Medal, a very tough aim, and it was clear that nothing else would do. When he was ‘swept up’, (as was I and 3 others in our group), this could have ruined his whole experience. Instead, he adapted his goal and three of us decided to keep riding until the organisers forced us to get off our bikes! A camaraderie was formed in that experience that went beyond the constraints of the race and I think the three of us look back on that afternoon in the sweltering heat with pride and immense satisfaction.
Two definitions of winning are ‘To achieve or attain by effort and to make (one’s way) with effort’. Sport is a tremendous outlet for finding out more about ourselves and others. So set the right goal, one that matters to you, make the commitment and immerse yourself in the experience.