Making Cabinets

building-cabinets

“It was easier when I was making cabinets.”

“Why, what was different?”

“At the end of the day, I could see and feel my progress. Now I just deal with people and it is hard to know if I accomplished anything.”

As I reflect on my own work. I can relate.

A lot of what we do is less measurable, less tangible.

It is certainly easier when you make something. It wasn’t there before. You built it. It now exists. You can see it.

Ideas, thoughts, managing, leading are harder to quantify.

But we are still making.

Building ideas.

Crafting thoughts.

Developing people.

Creating and expanding organizations.

“Maybe it would be easier to ask yourself a simple question at the end of the day: What Cabinets Did I Make Today?”

“What do you mean?”

“Think about your work now in terms of cabinets because that is where you started. Take your interactions with customers, sales gained, estimates written, and turn then into cabinets.”

“You are a little weird.”

“Yeah I know, but keep tracking. This will tie your current work to the familiar and fulfilling work that you keep longing to do again.”

“I can try. So when I complete four estimates in a day, that may be a cabinet? Instead of not feeling like I am making progress, I can look at that pile of paper, and see a cabinet?”

“Yes, making cabinets out of your current work.”

Maybe that is how we can all calibrate our time, our effort. Think about our work in terms that are familiar and comfortable. A lot of our lives can feel like spinning our wheels instead of Making Cabinets.

What Cabinets are you making?

What [insert your cool creative thing here] have you built today?

Go. Make a difference. Make Cabinets.

 

Eel Gloves

American Eel (USFWS Biologist Steven Smith hollding eel caught while night electrofishing for salmon in Whallon Bay)

(Image Courtesy of adirondackalmanack.com and USFWS)

Sometimes we can be hard to pin down.

Sometimes we wiggle and squirm our way out of accountability, progress, or accomplishment.

Sometimes we say we are going to do something, but try to slip out of it.

A good friend calls it being slippery. Slippery like an eel.

But they make Eel Gloves.

Eel Gloves make it possible to hold onto the slipperiest eel.

Maybe what each of us need is that friend, partner, spouse, coach, or mentor that has OUR pair of Eel Gloves.

The person with the Eel Gloves could hold on to us when we are trying to explain away our lack of progress.

The person with the Eel Gloves could wrestle with us, not let go, and make us face why we are trying to slip out of the accountability.

That sounds like a good name for a coaching option for 2016.

Eel Gloves Coaching: You may be slippery, but we can still hold on.

 

Dancers Dance

Dancers Dance

I am surrounded by dance.

Strange rhythmic sounds echo from the upstairs of our house.

Spins occur in our kitchen.

Spontaneous taps break out during random lulls.

Terms foreign to me are thrown around during cookouts.

Pottaburray? Pleeaaayyy? Kickball steps? Kickball chains?

For two decades this foreign culture has invaded my land.

Different language.

Different rituals.

But I am learning.

I learned about the teacher who drives three hours each night after work just to be part of a tribe.

I learned about the young person who was shy and now beams with confidence.

I learned about the mom who started again despite injury and now spins with ease.

(I just learned that the term is turn, not spin!)

I learned about the owner, the instructor, the master-stylist, the sibling, the financial analyst, the consultant, the student, the teacher, the bartender, the business owner, and the parent (and soon to be parent).

I learned about the struggle, the pain, the work, the practice, the goals, the frustration, the ambition, the need, the sorrow, and the joy.

I learned that dancers have different stories.

I learned that dancers have different backgrounds.

I learned that dancers have different reasons.

Most of all I learned that Dancers Dance.

 

 

 

 

 

Lists are Good

Lists are GoodI have a love/hate relationship with lists.

Lists keep track of what needs to be done.

Lists can feel overwhelming when there are so many things to be done.

A friend recently had a contractor over their house. The house needed numerous small repairs. As they prepared to walk from room to room and discuss the projects, my friend handed the contractor a list.

“I hope you don’t mind, but I made a list of all of the various projects.”

“Lists are good. I cannot tell you how many times I come to someone’s house and they rattle off all these things that were not part of our original discussion and expect me to remember them all.”

There was a sigh of relief from my friend. The last contractor didn’t have the same perspective on lists. There would be discussions, but not all projects were remembered or completed. There seemed to be agreement on what needed to be done, but various details would be missed that required projects to be either redone, or re-visited.

When it comes to lists, I think our egos can come into play.

“Don’t worry about it.” (As we tap our heads.) “I got it, I will remember, I don’t need to write it down.”

We don’t always have it.

We don’t always remember.

We do need to write it down.

Lists help in other ways. Lists provide accountability to ensure that we accomplish the task. Lists also provide the often needed sense of accomplishment. Each crossed-off item can bring pride for a job well done.

I will try to bring a little more love, and a little less hate to my lists.

I will also try to remember: Lists are Good.

For When You Ship

During the holidays it is hard to say “this is my favorite gift.” Undoubtably someone will wonder why their gift didn’t make the list, and then the comparing will begin. In order to thwart this comparison and potential hurt feelings, let’s simply agree that certain gifts stir our souls. Often this stirring is not a reflection of cost or value, but because the giver connected with us in a way that went deep and said “I know you.”

A few months ago, we hosted a get-together at our house for an educational experiment. Seth Godin announced a relational educational initiative where people get together and learn together.

The first class focused us on picking ourselves, overcoming fear, and learning to “ship.” Shipping as Seth describes it is the act of getting our product, idea, proposal, or whatever off the ground and out the door. The class ended with each of us completing the handy “SHIPIT Journal” that helped us work through the obstacles that typically prevent us from moving forward.

While opening gifts this year, I opened a small shelf organizer for magazines. It was black with a little metal tab. The kind of organizer that you may find on library shelves.

IMG_0667

After thanking the giver, I thought to myself…“That is cute, but are my magazines in such disarray that I need some organization?” Also, we had started the second Seth Godin class based on the work of Gretchen Rubin and the Happiness Project and a big part of our discussions were based on cleaning up clutter in our lives, homes, and surroundings. My first impression connected this gift to the second class.

It was then that I found the note. Tucked inside the organizer was the real reason for the gift. There were only four words, but those four words touched my soul. The giver instantly changed a simple gift into a memorable one.

For When You Ship

The ordinary organizer had transformed into something more. This simple black box with a metal handle was now the place where accomplishments would reside. This box was now the monument, the official record, or the proof of shipping, overcoming obstacles, fears, and doubts.

To the Giver: Thank you for transforming something so simple into a lasting memory.

To All of Us: Connect with others when we can in the simplest but meaningful ways.

To the Universe: I shipped!

The Record of Shipping

Learning to Lose

Learning to Lose

 

(image courtesy of my daughter: thanks kiddo!)

There are some things that come easy to us. It may be a task, a sport, a relationship, a job that we are either naturally gifted at, or has just gone well for us. Nothing about this was particularly hard or required a lot from us, but we had success.

The success can lull us into thinking that if we continue the same level of effort, the same level of accomplishment will be ours. As if success is a simple machine and as long as we keep feeding it the same parts, the product just pops out the other side.

Something happens.

The other team wins.

Our relationship fails.

We get fired.

We lose.

The loss hits us hard and we scramble to figure out why.

We blame ourselves. Sometimes we blame others.

We struggle and get back up.

We play more games, and don’t always win.

We meet more people, and don’t always find the one.

We apply for more jobs, and they don’t call us or they pick someone else.

The old stuff that made us a success is no longer enough.

So…

We train harder.

We work on our stuff.

We refine our skills.

After some time passes, we begin to win again.

We become better players.

We develop deeper relationships.

We discover better careers.

Learning to lose reminded us that what was good enough for yesterday won’t get you through tomorrow. Success can get you pretty far, but learning to lose challenges you to become great.

What is YOUR Number?

Earlier this year we talked about yearly goal setting as a way to bring focus to our lives, and give us something to aim our lives toward.

As part of our collective journey, I set my goals for 2012 as well.  One of these goals was to run a few races.  I had been talking about running races again for a few years and not actually racing.

I was falling into a trap as described by Derek Sivers on Ted.com where talking about your goals may not always help  you achieve them.

I did go against that advice a little and shared the race goal with a friend.  I decided to share it because this person is a runner as well and I knew they would encourage me, and hold me accountable for my periodic whining.  For other goals, I did take his advice because I have a tendency to talk about goals more than actually achieve them…

The Friday before the race, this person checked in with me with one simple question.

“What is YOUR Number?”

For all non-runners out there, here is what this question means:

“What is your total time goal for the race?”

Setting a time goal (or having a number) is a way to quantify the goal.  Having a number helped me stay on task to accomplish this goal well, and it made me train harder to make sure I could actually run that fast.  That number made ordinary runs (either outside or on the treadmill) mean something.  Each run was part of a larger goal.

Whatever your goals are for 2012, I hope the process of goal setting has helped.  For the more broad goals, are there ways to set specific accomplishments to help you achieve them?  In other words, What is YOUR Number?  You can decide whether or not to share it, but establishing that number may make the difference.