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What’s your 4-pack?

(Lessons from Arnold Schwarzenegger and his midriff)

Apparently, Arnold Schwarzenegger only ever had a 4-pack. A 4-pack stomach is like a 6-pack stomach but not quite as ‘good’ (some of the abdominal muscles are still covered by body fat), or so I hear. There’s an 8-pack option too.

Genetics meant that even though Arnie was the Mr Olympia for a number of years he was never able to attain a 6-pack.

Did this bother him? Did it hold him back?

I’m not sure we can know the answer to the first question but by most standards the answer to the latter question is a resounding no.

What are the 4-packs in your life, home or business? How much time and effort are you exerting chasing a metaphorical 6-pack? What else could you spend that energy on? Where could you apply the rule of good enough?

The opposite side of the coin from incrementing to awesome is knowing when to stop.

 

 

 

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Fear of the Known

Yesterday, I went for a run through an unfamiliar area. Pretty soon I was lost but I was happy. I knew I had to get back and I knew I was very unlikely to simply turn around and retrace my steps. And I was cool with it.

Then, suddenly, I recognised where I was and I was hit with a sudden feeling of dread as I realised that I was around 2 miles from home.

It dawned on me that a) this made little sense and b) this happened to me a lot. I could be fully aware of, and happy with, a set of risks. But then one of those risks would materialise and boom! I’d experience fear.

Fear is a little like arsenic: it’s natural, ancient, potentially toxic and only occasionally useful. Humans are built to experience fear, to run away, resist change, stay put and hide under the duvet.

On the other hand, fear is good. Fear means we’re evolving. It means we’re pushing forward. Fear means we’re reaching for our awesome.

This blog is all about taking gentle steps but if we’re not ever scared perhaps the steps are too gentle?

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Better than Nothing

‘Better than nothing’ is normally a dismissive term.

Sure, whatever, better than nothing right?

Let’s look at it from another perspective for a second. Consider the activities in our lives and businesses that contribute nothing to our goals. Pointless meetings, wasting hours on social media, dealing with the wrong kind of clients…

Now think of things that are simple, easy and better than nothing. If you did those things instead of the things with no value at all what do you think the net effect would be? After a day, week, year, lifetime?

A 5 minute walk is better than no exercise. Writing a few words is better than writing none. Reaching out to one person is better than helping no-one.

The best thing is, once these tiny better-than-nothings are in place we can do something very slightly better again.

It could be that the biggest opportunity we get in our lives is the opportunity to do lots of tiny things.

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Thinking Outside of the Cave

Where are you most creative? Where do you do your best thinking?

Where do you spend your time? Where do you go to solve complex problems?

Are you desk- or office-bound? What about your team if you have one?

The idea for this post came to me originally when I was running on a treadmill. I forgot about it for a while but I kept remembering it when I was in the shower.

I seem to be at my most creative when walking outside or when taking a shower. I solve problems best in front of a big whiteboard. Yet I spend all day sat on my bum.

It’s easy, inoffensive and conventional to spend hours sat at a desk. That doesn’t make it right (or healthy, but that’s a different topic).

Today, my Path to Awesome is to be more aware and respectful of my own needs for appropriate creative space, and those of my team. How about you?

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Honesty

Incrementing to Awesome is about taking gentle steps towards a better place. There are three parts to this equation.

Firstly, there’s ‘Incrementing’, the practise of making consistent, tiny, mostly-safe changes. It’s the spirit of Kaizen mixed with the Art of the Possible.

Next, comes ‘Awesome’: the destination of your incrementing journey, whether or not you intend or desire to reach it.

But the most important word, so fundamental it’s not even mentioned?

(If you’re thinking ‘honesty’ here I’m glad the subtle clue worked)

The answer is honesty. (Surprise!)

What do gentle steps look like to you?
What costs are you prepared to pay to take this journey?
Who are you willing to become to become the person you want to be?

Whatever stage of your journey you’re on it’s worth considering these questions, maybe even recording the answers. Our future selves don’t always remember what our past selves intended.

I know I didn’t consider these things early enough and it nearly knocked me off my path.

Hopefully, with a bit of honesty that won’t happen to me again, or anyone else.

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The Pricing of Progress

And you, you are not me. The lengths that I will go to.” — REM, Losing My Religion

The person you think you need to be, to become the person you want to be? Is that person still you?

All change has a cost.

The new you, the target you. Are they happy? The sacrifices they made to become who they are, were they worth it?

When they look back will they thank you?

Is your team the PITs?

Are you working with a great team that just can’t seem to deliver? Do you have mavericks putting personal priorities over the team’s best interests?

Are your projects stuck in the PITs? Or is everyone in the team PIsT off? Read on for some TIPs.

These, and other symptoms, can be caused by an imbalance of focus. There are three key components to getting things done with a group of people and they need to be kept in balance.

Alright teach, I’m with you so far. What are these three mystical aspects? (Earth, Wind & Fire? Wine, Chocolate & er… close physical relations?)

I’m glad you asked. The three aspects of getting things done are: Projects, Individuals and Teams.

Projects are about getting stuff done. It’s the hows, whys, whens and whats. It’s about deadlines and success criteria. It’s about making change within a finite (ho ho!) time scale.

The aspect of Individuals regards the behaviour and preferences of the members of the team. What do they want? What do they hope to achieve? What are they looking to get out of their position in the business? What lengths are they prepared to go to?

Team is camaraderie, culture, shared experiences and shared goals. Team will help you enjoy the good times and it’s the Team that will see you through the bad times.

We all have our preferences, our strengths at managing, and different levels of respect for these three areas. That’s understandable. Just be careful before you ignore or dismiss any one aspect.  Imagine the three components to be the three legs of a stool. Neglect any of the three legs and the whole thing falls over.

 

Got something to add? Please feel free to share your 2p worth in the comments.

 

 

 

Focus on Focus

Last year, I put effort into getting focused. It was hard but it felt good. I was getting distracted less, making better progress, for a time.
When things started getting hard, my focus slipped and now I’ve worked out why.
My focus hadn’t been based on conviction; it was more a convenience than anything else, simply the best candidate when I was narrowing down my choices.
Now that I’ve refocused, I’ve discovered the power of focus backed up with conviction. I’m powering through obstacles, gladly. My mind is coming up with relevant ideas and thoughts, rather than the usual scattergun approach of my subconscious. Most importantly, it’s easier than ever to stick to what I’m supposed to be doing.

Now I know that focus requires conviction to back it up it seems obvious. Isn’t that always the case? And that raises a question: what other factors make focus more powerful?

The Power of One

One can be the start of something, a habit: one word written, one contact with another person, one exercise, one step, one jump.

One is far greater than none. One is achievable and can lead to bigger things, gathering momentum with success.

Today is often a day of resolutions. They can be grand, humble, practical or aspirational.

One is a stepping stone. From one you can get to anywhere and what’s easier to commit to than one?

The Next Little Thing

Wherever you are, wherever you want to be, it’s tempting to look forward to, to plan, to rely on the Next Big Thing.

Small changes are more reliable, easier to explain, share, understand and implement.

The best bit? Most big changes can be made up of little changes.