Emotional Baggage Check

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(Image courtesy of Pixabay.com)

A few of us were talking about how to best prepare for an upcoming event.

You know the type of event: the one with lots of people getting together, both family and friends.

As fun as these events can be, stress and other pressures seem to also arrive whenever lot of people gather in one place.

Half joking, we developed a plan.

“What if we created an emotional baggage check. You know, when people arrive, we could have them check their emotional baggage at the door.”

We all laughed, but then it hit us. What if we really did this? What if this emotional baggage check worked?

How could it work?

  1. When you arrive at the event, you are given a card, and numbered envelope, and a pen.
  2. You write down on the card any difficult or hard emotions that you are carrying into the event.
  3. You place the card in the envelope and exchange it for a corresponding numbered ticket.
  4. You attend the event emotional baggage free.
  5. When the event ends, you have the choice of claiming your emotional baggage, or leaving it behind. (Any envelopes left behind are burned and buried.)
  6. Repeat steps one through three as many times as needed.

We are emotional creatures. Those emotions sometimes disrupt events and relationships, even when we try to keep these emotions to ourselves.

Instead of keeping those emotions bottled up, perhaps the physical act of writing down and checking the emotional baggage is enough to give us a needed break from those challenging or difficult emotions.

And who knows? Once we experience events without those emotional responses, it may feel good enough that we won’t pick them back up.

The Autopilot Problem

(Image courtesy of pixabay.com)

Autopilot can be great. As this Wired Article explains, Autopilot and the Flight Management Systems (FMS) are trying to help remove human error and allow for savings (two cockpit crew members instead of three). Autopilot also seems to help with the monotony of flying and helps calculate the most efficient route.

But there is an Autopilot Problem. The more pilots rely on Autopilot, the less they are actually flying. The essential skills needed to react to an emergency may have atrophied when those skills are needed most. Less time spent flying is less time honing and retaining essential skills.

But the Autopilot Problem is not exclusive to flying.

We have lots of things in our lives that run on Autopilot:

Jobs, Relationships, Various Roles, Parenting, Families, and Friendships.

Many parts of our lives, including our roles and interactions with others may be on Autopilot.

Sort of a Life Autopilot.

Sometimes this Life Autopilot is the result of past success or accomplishment and gives us a chance to rest and enjoy our achievements. This Life Autopilot is great when there are clear skies and perfect conditions.

We cannot use Life Autopilot all the time.

By relying on Life Autopilot, we may have lost some of the essential skills needed to survive the next storm.

Have we lost some of our skills in our jobs, relationships, and roles? Has Life Autopilot been on for too long?

Are we still good at being a leader, boss, employee, manager, partner, parent, or friend? Is the workday, the job, our connections and relationships, or our world just moving along without our active and deliberate input? Are our skills, and relationships as sharp as they once were?

Maybe it is time to switch off the Life Autopilot periodically to ensure we can still fly (preferably before the next storm hits).

 

Comparison, tribes, and the right standard

We are born into small tribes. Each tribe has its own rules, and its own standards. These standards shape the tribe, and set expectations of the members. These standards aren’t usually written down, but they shape who we are and who we become.

Tribes like it when we follow the standards. When we don’t follow, we are compared to those standards and found lacking. When we try to follow new, different, or better standards, the tribe reacts harshly by enforcing the old standards. The comparison continues, we feel “less than” and out-of-place.

But our original tribe is not the only tribe we have. We find and join other tribes as we progress through life and we develop relationships along the way. But these new tribes have standards as well.

The tribe comparison continues and there are more and more standards to be measured against.

But many times we are different. We don’t seem to fit exactly within the tribes, both the original one, and the new ones. We used to fit in the tribe, but something happens when we start to grow, make progress or improve. We start to move beyond the standards of the old tribe, and many tribes feel progress as a threat and they enforce the old standard.

Sometimes the standard enforcement comes as questions. But they are not really questions, they are an attempt to enforce the standards of the Tribe.

“Why are you different?”

“Who do you think you are?”

“Do you think you are better than us?”

“Why are you eating (or not eating) that?”

“Why are you not drinking?”

“Why are you considering college?”

“Why are you asking so many questions?”

“Why are you setting those goals?”

“Why aren’t you just happy with what you have?”

“Why would you go back to school?”

Your improvement can be seen a judgement or enforcing a standard on them, and that makes the tribe very insecure.

These tribes and standards also develop in our workplaces. There are standards to meet, and new-comers are expected to keep their head down, and follow along. Any lack of conformity is met with the standard tribe messaging.

“This is the way we have always done it.”

“We have tried that before.”

“Those new ideas won’t go anywhere.”

“Don’t make waves.”

But in our workplaces, we still want to achieve, to grow, and develop so we try new and creative approaches. That is when the tribe may go on the offensive to shut us down. Again our efforts invoke tribe insecurity.

“He is always changing things, it wastes our time.”

“She spends so much time on how it looks, it makes our stuff look bad.”

“He should just focus on his job, and stay in his lane.”

“She is an annoying perfectionist overachiever.”*

*Note: This was actually said yesterday in a meeting. Tribe insecurity and enforcement of standards is real and can be raw in its application and cause ripple effects in our organizations and cause harm to our most talented people. If you listen, you can hear the tribe standards being applied in meetings and conversations designed to shame and quell initiative and achievement.

(Take a minute and let that last one sink in. Imagine that you were in a group meeting in your organization, and just before you shared with the group, those words were used against you. How do you feel? How is your motivation? How is your creativity? How is your connection to the organization?)

It makes sense that the original tribe might act this way, but even these new tribes don’t like rebels. So the tribes begin to compare us to the standard, and we compare ourselves to that standard.

When we compare ourselves or others compare us to some standard that we are not meeting, we may assume there is something wrong with us, and we try harder to fit in.

But what if the tribe standard is wrong?

Tribes do not like it when you question the standard.

So the comparison against the tribe’s standard continues.

We feel like we are wrong-sized, that we don’t fit, and maybe there is something wrong with us.

But maybe the tribe we were born into, or the tribes we find ourselves in as just simply the wrong tribes for us. Maybe we are not the problem.

We need to find the tribes, filled with people who are more consistent with where we are and where we are going.

Too healthy? Not for the healthy tribes.

Too intellectual? Not for the intellectual tribes.

Too strong? Not for the strong tribes.

Too creative? Not for the creative tribes.

Too driven? Not for the driven tribes.

Too emotional? Not for the emotional tribes.

Maybe comparing ourselves to lessor things, lessor tribe standards, is what makes us feel inadequate or wrong-sized.

Maybe we are not wrong.

Maybe when we find the right tribes, we find the right standards and we can just be ourselves.

First Place

There is something special about being in First Place. You worked hard, put in the time and effort, made sacrifices, and you took the lead.

This First Place status may be with your customers, your employees, your team, your family, or your relationships. They appreciate the work it took to get into First Place, and you are proud of your accomplishments and they are proud to put you in First Place.

But there is something tempting about being in First Place. Once you arrive, the temptation is to rely on the good will you built along the way. Your First Place status is like a trophy put on a shelf and keep pointing at when interacting with those same customers, employees, teams, family, or relationships.

Your over-reliance on your past actions can lull you into almost feeling entitled to be in First Place regardless of our current effort or actions.

“Look at what I did for you.”

Pointing to the past becomes your mindset, and your language.

First Place is not a destination.

First Place is not a trophy to place on the shelf and continually reference.

You are not entitled to First Place.

First Place is more of a journey, a continual effort towards something great.

First Place is the culmination of your daily work, effort, conversations, and progress.

Instead of focusing on, always being in First Place, try focusing on each day’s actions and ask yourself a few questions.

Did I bring value today?

Did I help others?

Did I connect with those who matter?

Did I focus on the important things?

Did I make a difference?

When you answer “YES” to these on most days, your status with those around you should take care of itself.

P.S. Sorry for the long hiatus from writing, I have missed connecting with you through words.

 

Putting Your Friends Out

We live near an airport.

When our friends fly, our home transforms into a park-and-ride.

When our friends fly, our home can also transform into a bed-and-breakfast.

We offer this service.

We are trying to be good friends, not bad friends.

Some participate.

Some don’t.

We hear similar reasons from our friends who don’t.

“We don’t want to be a burden.”

“We don’t want to inconvenience you.”

“We don’t want to put you out.”

Putting your friends out.

The intention is noble.

But helping is not Putting Your Friends Out.

(Unless you are that one friend with a pickup truck and everyone expects you to help move, then we are totally tracking with you.)

Is it a little inconvenient to drive to the airport at weird, early, or late hours? Yep.

It it always the best time? Nope.

Then why do friends offer to help?

Because everyone’s lives are so busy, sometimes the only time we get to connect and see folks are on those small drives to and from the airport.

Connecting with those around us that we care about is hard.

Find the small moments to connect.

The trip to the airport.

The errands.

The grocery store.

Waiting in some line.

Dropping off their car for an oil change/repairs.

The ride to and from [soccer, dance, hockey, or whatever] lessons.

Remember you are not Putting Your Friends Out.

Maybe they are just trying to connect.

Some of my fondest memories are small moments doing the most routine things with my closest friends.

 

Conversations and How to Have Them

Together we discussed friendship, which was one of my favorite experiences. But recently I have noticed that friendship (or relationships in general) are built and fueled by conversations.

Over the past few months I have been observing conversations.

But conversations are weird.

Some are like duels.

Some are like speeches.

Some are veiled.

Some are superficial.

Only a few are deep and memorable.

I recently shared some of these conversation observations with a class. Not just any class, but the last class of the year. This particular class has become a yearly tradition and it isn’t lost on me that the final chapter of the year (right before the Holiday Season) is a class on Emotional Intelligence.

Before I shared, I asked.

“What does it take to have a good conversation?”

The answers came.

“Listening. Letting other people speak. Making eye contact. Not being distracted. Not looking at your phone. Asking questions.”

Great answers. Great advice.

It was the last one that really resonated with me. It is what I have been observing.

Asking questions.

You need all of the first things, but it is the last part that may make the real difference.

Asking questions.

Demonstrates that you are interested in others and not just about yourself. (I have a friend who has made extreme strides in this area, and jokes about how they used to be as a reminder. During a conversation they will jump in with “Enough about me, now I want to hear what you think about me.”

Asking questions.

Questions help you to learn about others.

My assignment to this class was to spend the Holiday Season practicing having conversations. This practice starts with asking questions. It may be helpful to try out a few of these questions over your Holiday Season as well.

  1. How are you? (And listen to the reply. Wait for a reply beyond “I’m good” or “Fine” and maybe ask a second time. Really, how are you?
  2. What is going well?
  3. What are you most excited for in 2017?
  4. What are three things that you would most like to accomplish in the next year?
  5. What is the last book you read?
  6. How are you balancing your multiple roles?
  7. Can you tell me a little more about what you do? What most excites you about what you do?

And the list goes on.

Be careful about asking a question, then jumping in with your own answers to each of these questions. Remember my friend’s quote, this is about them, not you.

Asking questions.

Go try it out and let us know how it goes.

P.S. Sometimes conversations drift towards things that are not as important (Politics, Sports, the Weather) and I have a fun trigger phrase with a few friends when we drift off. Whenever one of us dwells too much on the latest game stats or news story, one of us remembers to say, “Are you Sad?” (Because we must be avoiding real conversation out of sadness…) We all chuckle and get back to focusing on things that matter most.

Speaking of Money

Speaking of Money…

Why don’t we?

We all tend to agree that we need Money to do certain things, but is has become a secretive endeavor.

Sometimes the opportunities present themselves, but we have been trained, conditioned, or accustomed that Speaking of Money is not polite, appropriate, or “right.”

I was reflecting on two recent opportunities.

Opportunity #1: The back porch.

While vacationing with family recently we tended to sit on the back porch and have conversations that ranged from the silly to the sacred (A shout out to Iain for that riff.) Conversations included the weather, our plans for that day, what we liked about the previous day, what to eat, what to eat, and sometimes where to eat.

But it was the questions that came from the youngest ones that were the most fun.

“So you are my dad’s older brother?”

“Yes.”

“Really, so you grew up together?”

“Yes.”

“So you are saying that Grammie was your mom, and my dad’s mom?”

“Yes.”

This went on for quite sometime. But then there was another question.

“So, this place we rented to all get together is pretty nice, how much did it cost?”

“Um, Uh, Hmmmm, Not too much.”

“No really, I was wondering what it cost, like how much money?”

“Hey, what was your favorite part of yesterday?”

Opportunity #2: The Menu.

Recently we decided to go away for holiday and instead of the traditional making of a big meal with all the prep, serving, hosting, and cleaning, we just wanted the simplicity of showing up, eating, and leaving.

To help those involved know what we were having for dinner, I shared the menu. But instead of sharing the whole menu, I folded over the part with the pricing and shared the folded version instead.

Unsurprisingly, most people who took the menu, immediately unfolded the piece of paper.

It was my youngest who asked the questions this time.

“So this food seems good, but how much does it cost?”

“Well you know, not too much.”

“Why did you fold over the menu and the pricing?”

“Hey, did you pack an extra jacket in case it is cold?”

Two opportunities. Two total misses.

The conditioning, training, or whatever it was overrode the opportunity in the moment.

Speaking of Money shouldn’t be so awkward.

Speaking of Money shouldn’t be something that freezes us.

We should look for opportunities where Speaking of Money helps provide perspective, insight, or understanding of how things work.

We may need to embrace this awkwardness and start Speaking of Money when the opportunities come this way.

We want to convey why we spent the money on vacation because connecting with family was that important.

We want to convey why we spent the money on a holiday meal so that we would not have the typical stress associated with holiday preparation.

We want to convey a healthy understanding of the costs, the sacrifices, the choices, and the reasons.

In order to do that, we are going to have to start Speaking of Money a little more often.