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.

The Distorted Lens

It was almost the same day.

Three separate conversations.

Three inspiring people.

One common theme: the distorted lens.

The distorted lens is similar to the Hubble’s Mirror Problem that resulted in distorted and out of focus images, but in this case the distorted and out of focus images were how each of these people viewed themselves.

The distorted lens is subtle, because you can still see yourself. Like Hubble’s problem, the flaw is so slight and happens so early that it may go unnoticed. Unnoticed until someone else looks through the distorted lens. Images that were supposed to be accurate and clear are blurry and fuzzy. That is when we find the problem.

The distorted lens convinced one of these people that they were incompetent, instead of realizing that their prior job was just the wrong behavioral fit.

The distorted lens continually interferes with another’s ability to see themselves as inspiring to others despite their accomplishments and people gravitating towards them to be coached/trained.

The distorted lens downplays the impact that the third person is having on others in their workplace, and caused real surprise that they were voted MVP amongst their peers for the positive influence they have on others, both personally and professionally.

All three of these conversations illustrate how the distorted lens interferes with our ability to view the impact we have on others, and how others view us.

The distorted lens is flawed for a host of reasons, one of which is our own fears, insecurities, Our Narrator, and baggage. The distorted lens tries for force us to view today through our past failures, struggles, and pain as if those events disqualified us, instead of making us who we are today.

The bad news: the more I work with amazing and talented people, the more I realize the distorted lens is pretty universal.

The good news: like an optometrist who can measure your eye’s distortion and prescribe corrective lenses, we have a few tools to measure the distorted lens of your own self-view.

Measuring your “Sense of Self” is the first step. We can see if the distorted lens is slightly off, or requires more assistance. Since you have been viewing your life through the distorted lens for so long, you may not even notice how blurry and out of focus life has become.

If you need help with the distorted lens, reach out and contact us. We are happy to help fit you for some “corrective lenses” or at least help you understand the level of distortion.

If nothing else, remember that the distorted lens is out there, and the next time you are tempted to view yourself in a negative light, or discount your achievements, pause for a moment and ask yourself,

“What if my view is through the distorted lens?”

Why do we do these things we do?

We start businesses when we already have a job and a full plate.

We go back to school while juggling work, life, and home.

We write stories, and more stories, and sometimes books.

We get other certifications and trainings.

We side hustle on our side hustle.

We quit our jobs and become free agents.

We purchase a second business.

We leave the security of a familiar place to start fresh.

We move on to our second careers.

We move on to our third careers.

Why do we do these things we do? 

It would be so easy to stay comfortable.

It would be so easy to stay put.

It would be so easy to stay.

But, we don’t stay.

We move.

We move forward on our secret dreams.

We move forward on the next idea.

We move forward on that next goal.

Why do we do these things we do?

There is a small voice that says, “What if?”

There is something that keeps us moving.

There is something that reminds us to try.

Moving, leaving, starting, and trying seems to be part of us.

Why do we do these things we do?

I am not entirely sure, but let’s keep doing these things we do.

(Sorry for the hiatus, but we are on the move again.)

 

 

A Hope-Filled Plan

We make plans all the time.

One of best parts of coaching is helping leaders, organizations, and people make and carry out plans.

Over the years, I have noticed two distinct types of plans.

Plan type one is the safe bet. Rooted in “reality” this plan type is achievable with a little stretch, but when you dig this plan is the result of future fears, doubts, and concerns.

“You gotta be careful, we are not sure what things will be like next year. What if the business takes a downturn? What if this doesn’t work?”

I nicknamed Plan type one, the Hopeless Plan.

The Hopeless Plan starts with a laundry list of what can go wrong and assumes that all prior time not completely focused on this direction has been a complete waste of time, and there may not be enough time to try anything new or risky.

“I am too old, and should have started this a long time ago if I really wanted to do this…”

The Hopeless Plan acts like a constricting funnel of all good, cool, and creative ideas, and severely limits what seems possible.

But we have to give The Hopeless Plan a little credit since it does result in small achievements or progress.

But there is another plan type.

Plan type two acknowledges the present reality, but does not allow the same limitation.

I nicknamed plan type two: A Hope-Filled Plan.

A Hope-Filled Plan acts like an amplifier taking the history, the experience, and current resources,  combining them into a vision of the future that seems larger, possible, and exciting.

A Hope-Filled Plan is risky, interesting, and requires you to keep moving.

A Hope-Filled Plan allows you to dream and see beyond the present circumstances.

Recent examples of A Hope-Filled Plan include:

  • A mid 40’s attorney who dreamed of being a foreign service officer taking the leap to give up a successful practice for uncertainty and overseas travel.
  • A late 30’s language professor who suddenly realized they wanted to become a doctor and is starting med-school.
  • A person in their 50’s packing up and moving to a new city, without a job or a home.
  • A person too old to get back into the military traversing the process and waivers to restart a career they miss and enjoyed in their youth.
  • A 70-year-old builder of organizations taking the lead to build another one (ironically in the same area that was intended to be a retirement destination).

Plans are good.

Plans help you achieve your goals.

But choose your plan type carefully.

A Hope-Filled Plan may be what you really need and deserve.

Historian or Futurist?

 

We seem to like history, especially our own history.

Our history was created through a series of events. We get comfortable telling that story. We have told that story many times. We keep telling that story. We like telling that story.

The pain, the struggle, the successes, the joy.

But those things happened in the past, they are not currently happening.

We keep telling that story.

We are the historian. We gather the crowd around us, and take them on the tour. We rehearsed the lines, know when to pause, and draw them in.

But the crowd eventually fades. The story is old. Tickets are unsold.

But there is something else.

Something different and new.

We can become a futurist.

The futurist tells a new story.

The futurist is setting new goals.

The futurist is moving forward.

The futurist understands past events, but not through a distorted lens of over-emphasis or limits.

The futurist embraces today while envisioning something better.

The futurist is creating.

The futurist is risking.

The futurist is living.

We have a choice to make: remain the historian, or become a futurist.

 

 

 

The Spillover of Failure

It was a privilege last week to work with a group of people trying to launch big, scary & creative ideas into the world.

They have ideas.

They want to make a difference.

They brought their big, scary & creative ideas.

We discussed what can get in the way of ideas: their style, organizational resistance and culture, and fear.

We spent some time on fear.

“What are you afraid of?”

The group had many answers, most had to do with the fear of failure.

We pushed them a little more.

“What are you really afraid of? Go a little deeper.”

A new answer emerged, and was met with silence and affirming nods.

“It is not just the fear of failure that is bothering me. What I am really afraid of is the spillover of failure that may cause people to question all of the great things I am already doing through the lens of this failure.”

The spillover of failure.

One failure tainting all the other great things we are doing.

One failure causing others to question us or question our other great work.

How many times does the spillover of failure fear prevent us from launching new ideas?

What big, scary & creative ideas would you bring into this world if the spillover of failure wasn’t in play?

What does it take to create an environment where failure is celebrated instead of feared?

We need your big, scary & creative ideas.

Don’t let the spillover of failure stop you.

Below is a great TED talk with some great reasons why to celebrate failure.

P.S. This is post #299. I wonder what big, scary & creative idea #300 will bring?

Permission

I have been wrestling with how to close out a project that has been consuming my mind, energy, and emotions. The project is a risk, and includes trying to help others launch their big ideas into the world.

I have learned a few things along the way.

Taking risks is hard.

Launching ideas is scary.

Fear of failing is paralyzing.

But.

We move forward despite the resistance.

We will have doubts during the entire journey.

We will feel stuck, get stuck, and periodically wiggle free.

So.

What do you do when you are at the end of a project?

How do you end one journey and make sure it closes out correctly?

How do we move from one project to the next?

I was recently talking to a close friend and they offered a great word.

Permission.

And not just any Permission.

Two specific areas of Permission.

Permission to Rest.

Permission to Celebrate.

Permission to Rest – to acknowledge that your efforts and energy that you put into this project will require recharging afterwards and to make space and allow yourself to rest without feeling guilty, lazy, or worthless.

Permission to Celebrate – to acknowledge that you did something, created something, and made something happen, and to give yourself some credit even if it wasn’t perfect or exactly what you had hoped.

Permission to both Rest and Celebrate is difficult.

We are so “busy” that natural Rest feels like we are doing something wrong.

We are so critical and/or trying to be humble that to Celebrate feels wrong as well.

Maybe all projects should end with Permission.

Go ahead and give yourself the Permission to Rest and Celebrate.

And just in case that is hard to do, we give you Permission for both.