March 9, 2017 – Objects Are Closer Than They Appear

This probably isn’t going to go the direction you might think based on the title. I think the things that are creeping up on us—or bearing down on us at ramming speed—can often be far less of a threat than our tendencies to gloss over recent successes in our constant struggle to continue improving. Let me break it down a little.

I’m not saying we should ignore the things creeping up on us or bearing down on us at ramming speed. We should always be aware of threats, deadlines, or obligations that we must handle. As one of my coauthors so eloquently wrote, we simply can’t let the urgent overcome the important and many of these things often fall into the urgent category for a variety of reasons. Inability to distinguish between urgent and important can result in myopia, negative single-mindedness, distraction and wasted energy. As one of my favorite song lyrics goes: Breathe in, breathe out; breathe in, breathe out. You can always handle the challenges closing in on you if you keep a couple things in mind:

  • Maintain your priorities even in the face of seemingly excessive pressure
  • Don’t wait too long to ask for help. You are stronger with others and they are stronger when they help you.
  • You’ve been successful before and you will be successful again.

That last point is where I want to take this post. Too often I’ve seen people and organizations allow the strength of the headwinds overcome the force of the tailwinds to create a negative force. Paradoxically, I think it’s one of the most negative, positive and impactful characteristics of Americans writ large. So many of us achieve successes that range from little steps of progress to significant, spectacular achievements that are marked with a smile, a nod, a pat on the back and then we turn our focus to the next task. I see this where I work ALL THE TIME. These folks take the term learning organization to the ultimate extreme where even when we’ve knocked out a massive transformation of our capabilities the majority of our folks move from “Great job” to enumeration of the things yet to be done. This inability to celebrate our successes can lead to a focus on the negative—the empty space on the checklist or things undone—that are cancerous for organizational morale. I’m not saying everyone should get a trophy or that we should create some sort of Bacchanalian bonanza to commemorate and memorialize our feats of daring do, but I am saying we ought to look in the mirror a little longer and remember that the success we achieved shouldn’t be forgotten so quickly.

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