Thursday, January 29, 2009

i-TFTD #184: The Gift of Risk (What Would Your Life Look Like If)

Two excellent snippets from on taking risks (highlights mine). After reading them, think about your own behaviour. Remember that this need not apply only to major decisions but it could even be applied when hesitating in simple situations like asking help or raising a query to clarify a doubt.

Leading Ideas: The Gift of Risk
By Doug Sundheim

"Do you think the people who were trying to reach the top of Everest were not full of doubts? For a hundred years, people tried and lost their lives. Not even their dead bodies came back. But still, more people tried... risking... knowing that they may never come back. Why? Because it was worth it. Because in the very risk something is born inside you: the center. It is born only in the risk. That's the beauty of risk, the gift of risk."
-Paraphrased from Osho

Six years ago, while coaching a client, I stumbled upon a very important question. We were talking about the idea of living with "no regrets" when I asked him, "When in your life did you feel most alive?" He reflected for a moment and told me about the summer he overcame his fear of water and learned to sail. When he finished he was grinning ear-to-ear. Subsequently, I have asked hundreds of people the same question and have been struck by the similarity of their answers. In particular I've noticed 3 themes. (1) Nearly everyone describes a scenario in which they pushed themselves out of their comfort zone and took risks. (2) The OUTCOME of taking the risk is rarely the main thrust of the story - it's usually the process of taking them that they remember most fondly. (3) When people finish their story, they've often got a big smile on their face.

Consider This:

The gift of risk-taking doesn't lie in what you achieve by risking -- it lies in who you become as a result of the process.
Confident. Engaged. Alive. Furthermore, it isn't something you do once in a while -- it's an approach to life. Open. Exploratory. Daring. You know it when you let it slip out of your life. You feel stagnant, lethargic, bored. Risks have no shelf life -- yesterday's risks are today's ego trip. Today is new. RE-ENGAGE. RE-RISK.

Try This:

1. Ask yourself the same question, "When in your life did you feel most alive?"
2. What were you doing? Why did it feel so good? Which of your core values were you living?
3. It's likely you were taking some risks at the time.
4. If you've haven't felt that alive in a while, what could you do to re-engage, to push past your comfort zone?
5. Remember, the gift of risk lies not in what you achieve, but in who you become by taking them.

What Would Your Life Look Like If?
By Donna Karlin

When reading Doug Sundheim’s excellent post on "The Gift of Risk" I was looking at the other half of the equation as how we inspire someone to take that leap of faith outside their comfort zone and attempt taking that risk.

Often, when working with clients, we'll go to the future and work backwards. Some would call it doing a visualization, however this is different... subtle, but different. It takes what you might visualize as far as an experience or place to be in life and looking at the impact it would have in your life. So the question I ask clients is "What would your life look like if... ?" and end the question with what would complete a lifelong goal for them. For example "What would your life look like if you got that promotion? What would your life look like if you started your own company rather than work for someone else? What would your life look like if you gave up your current lifestyle as you know it and jumped into a new career with both feet?"

For some it spurs them on to push themselves just that little bit more and to take that chance or risk, and for others, once they can see it, taste it, and feel it, they decide not to go ahead as that's not the lifestyle they want for themselves. Either way it's a reality check and alters their lives in a profound way.

The same goes for leaders who are taking the organization through unknown territory. "What would the state of the organization look like if...?"

It's jumping into the deep end of each day.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

i-TFTD #183

i-TFTD #183

#183-1. The void created by the failure to communicate is soon filled with poison, drivel, and misrepresentation.

-C. Northcote Parkinson

#183-2. The heights by great men reached and kept

Were not attained by sudden flight,

but they, while their companions slept

were toiling upward in the night.

-Henry W. Longfellow

#183-3. The real question is, once you know the right thing, do you have the discipline to do the right thing, and, equally important, to stop doing the wrong things?

-Jim Collins, author of Good To Great


Any communication is an attempt to influence beliefs and consequent action. We should remember the risk of not trying to do it, whether it is at home or at work. Parkinson is famous for his Parkinsons Law (work expands to fill the time available for its creation) and wrote many books. In India he co-authored, with MK Rustomji,  many short books on management illustrated with cartoons.

Significant achievements require the sacrifice of comfort and rest, plus consistency and perseverance.

His research on enduring companies and their management styles has been summarized in two bestselling management books by Jim Collins, Built to Last and Good to Great. In the corporate environment whenever anyone (typically someone new to the organization) points out some deficiency, a typical response is, Thats the way it is. What could anybody do? Even at an individual level most of us know most of the right things we must do or wrong things that we must stop doing.

Monday, January 12, 2009

i-TFTD #182

i-TFTD #182

#182-1. Men fear thought as they fear nothing else on earth more than ruin more even than death. Thought is subversive and revolutionary, destructive and terrible, thought is merciless to privilege, established institutions, and comfortable habit. Thought looks into the pit of hell and is not afraid. Thought is great and swift and free, the light of the world, and the chief glory of man.

-Bertrand Russell

#182-2. No problem can stand the assault of sustained thinking.


#182-3. Success is the fruit of action, not of potential or ability. Most plans are really nothing more than a defined set of possibilities. Nothing will ever come of a plan by itself.

-Bob Shuneman


People tend to label themselves and others as thinkers or doers, though we all do both. Thought is powerful. Einstein's thinking revolutionized the world. The difference between my daydreaming and his "thought experiments" seems to be one of subject area scope and intensity. I have alluded to "mental laziness" before. Mind control is the key.

At a more practical level for day-to-day effectiveness for most of us, action-orientation is generally superior to mere thinking.

Let us resolve to lead a year of thoughtful actions.