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Archive for the ‘difficult situations’ Category

“If you don’t believe in yourself, who will?” – Darrelle Revis

Darrelle Revis ESPNWeekend2010-051.jpgDarrelle Revis has had great success, not only on the football field, but also at the negotiating table. ESPN ran a great article on why Revis has achieved his success. That’s where I found this quote. Part of Revis’ success comes from his great belief in himself. Too often, we doubt ourselves. When I was learning about life coaching, one of the first things I came to understand is most people know the answer to their problem. However, they typically lack confidence in themselves. Either they don’t believe they can execute on the answer or they don’t trust its the right answer because they came up with it.

At some point, if you’re going to achieve anything of significance, you have to move past self-doubt. You have to believe in yourself. There’s such a thing as over confidence, but we tend to err on the side of a lack of confidence.

This can be a hard thing for me. However, I learned first hand as a goalkeeper that on the pitch, you pretend confidence, even if you don’t feel it. For instance, the over-aggressive goal keeper can cause an opposing player to make a bad shot, cut off a run, flinch and not complete a header, or simply give up on the ball, even if the keeper can’t actually get to it. When my coach explained this to me, he had me try coming out of the goal like I owned the field and I had exclusive right to the soccer ball. Even experienced players would flinch. Confidence was an edge. Playing with confidence, even if I didn’t feel it, made me a better goalkeeper. I have found this to be true in many areas of life.

Mr. Revis is right: the first step is to believe in yourself. As you do and begin to make things happen, others will begin to believe in you, too.

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When faced with a problem or issue, ask yourself, “Do I need to solve it?” This question is important because you don’t need to solve every problem. I have a tendency to want to solve any problem I come across: mine or anyone else’s. Over time I have trained myself not to try and solve every problem. Some problems don’t need solving. Or at least, not every problem needs me.

I was explaining this idea yesterday to a co-worker. We ran into an issue building a server. As you might guess with information technology, the majority of the build process is automated. We’re not consuming up actual resources like wood and metal because we’re talking about information technology. The biggest consumable resource here is time.

He had already spent a good chunk of time trying to solve an issue with what he was building and the typical solutions weren’t working. Troubleshooting the problem further was likely going to take hours. More hours than it would take to simply blow away what he was working on and start over. This raised the question, “Do we need to solve why we’re encountering an issue?” The short answer is, “No.

Think Like a Freak book cover

Think Like a Freak book cover

In Think Like a Freak, the authors talk about knowing when to quit. Basically, does it make sense continuing to try and solve the problem at hand based on the cost? They cite Winston Churchill, famous for his “Never Give In” speech, who was a serial quitter when it came to things like politics. However, there was good reason for quitting each time.

In the case of my co-worker, it didn’t make sense to continue trying to find out what went wrong. There’s a whole host of reasons why we could have experienced the issues. Going down the path of each one was going to take time. The server was in the process of being built, meaning it hadn’t been delivered yet. It was time to quit. The “reward” or “earnings” for solving the problem was more than the effort to solve the issue. This was not a problem that needed solving.

When you are facing a problem, ask yourself that question. Some things have an intangible cost and/or benefit. You can still ask the question. It’s just the consequences or benefits don’t factor down to a money amount. Know what’s valuable to you in those intangible areas. Know what’s important.

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We all want to feel safe and secure. I am not just talking about physical security. I’m talking about security in our finances, in our living arrangements, in our relationships, in our employment, in every aspect of our lives. We want to feel like we are in control. To be successful, we need to act as if we are in control. We need to try and focus on those things that are important to us, and as the Hagakure says, we need to keep moving forward. 

However, the reality is that there are a lot of things in our lives that we have little to no control over. Our situation can change in a moment. For instance, friends of ours were alerted by a neighbor to the fact that there was smoke coming from their house. A fire had caught in the attic and by the time the fire was put out, the house was a total loss. Or in my case, I found myself at the emergency room with my wife. She needed surgery. She had an extended hospital stay. Another friend has recently passed away. She was in great shape. She was 32. 

All three cases blew apart the llusion that we had things under control. We don’t. We are advised not to stress or worry over those things, but the reality is that most of us do. However, as many things as we worry about, there are so many more that we don’t. Most of those things don’t even register consciously. The advice to not worry is best. Worrying over something we can’t change just causes stress. It just wears us down. But there’s a big difference between not worrying and being oblivious to the fact that our situation can change in a moment. 

That’s why I say safety is an illusion. Don’t count on safety. Don’t get caught in the trap of believing that you are and always will be safe, that your life is impregnable. Don’t live in fear, either. The happy medium is to enjoy the safety you have, so long as it doesn’t limit you, but to be prepared if that safety suddenly evaporates. Relationships crumble. Jobs comes to an end. Medical costs cause bankruptcy. Houses burn down. We can’t always prevent these life events. Let’s not pretend that we can. Instead, let us develop ourselves to handle it when we lose security unexpectedly. 

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I’m not a positive person by nature. It probably has to do with the fact that I am the type to collect as much information as possible and plan for the worst case scenario. Working IT security and being in the military before that, this attitude comes with the territory. After all, the military has coined phrases like, “Embrace the suck,” and acronyms like BOHICA.

However, recent research on positive attitudes, happiness, and like subjects have shown that there are benefits to maintaining a positive attitude. People who focus on the positive tend to have less stress, live longer, and be healthier.

Those studies tell me to change my outlook. If you’re like me, you’ve hidden behind defenses like, “I’m not a pessimist. I’m a realist. I see things as they actually are.” Those defenses might be 100% correct. However, they don’t help your health.

Also, there’s the concept of being able to do things you didn’t know you weren’t supposed to be able to do. I am constantly amazed at how my youngest children are able to work devices that folks would say shouldn’t be doable by toddlers. If you’ve ever had a three year-old and an iPad, you know exactly what I’m talking about. Part of the reason they’re able to navigate around these devices and find Netflix or their favorite game is because no one has told them they can’t (as in, they aren’t able to) do it. The toddler may be told he or she can’t, as in mom and dad say, “No,” but not that such a task is beyond the toddler’s ability.

Apply that to yourself. Have you ever accomplished something difficult simply because you didn’t realize it was supposed to be difficult? Have you ever done something that you found out later others didn’t think was possible, simply because you didn’t know it was supposed to be “impossible?” That’s partially due to the power of positive thinking. As a result, we can accomplish more when we stay positive.

Therefore, even if you aren’t a positive person by nature, it is still a good idea to try and be positive as much as possible. The studies show there are definite health and life benefits that can’t be ignored. Plus, you’ll be able to accomplish some things simply because you believe you can.

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Life isn’t fair. When little girls die of cancer, you know life isn’t fair. We can wish life to be fair all we want, but it’s not going to be true.

Unfairness Isn’t Going Away in People:

As long as their is greed, as long as there is hardship, as long as their is disparity, some people are going to be unfair. Those people are going to look out for themselves and their own first. And if it happens to hurt you, too bad. That is, if they even consider your feelings or situation at all. In a perfect society, we wouldn’t have to worry about this. However, under our own power, I don’t believe we’ll ever see that utopia. All it takes is one person who doesn’t want to play fairly to disrupt things. Therefore, fairness is always going to be an ideal and not a reality.

The World Itself Is Unfair:

See cancer, above. There are illnesses. There are natural disasters. There are accidents, like falling and breaking your arm. There are all sorts of events that just aren’t “fair.” We can’t prevent all of them. Therefore, let us not pretend they don’t exist. We are only fooling ourselves.

Fight for Fairness:

While fairness is an ideal, it’s still worth fighting for. When we see prejudice, disparity, hardship, etc., we should do what we can to change things. Acknowledging that we will never reach the ideal isn’t a reason to give up trying.

What All This Means:

Don’t develop your plans expecting life to be fair. Don’t expect people to always treat you fairly. Don’t expect them to always do the right thing. If you do, likely your plans and your efforts will fail. Don’t misunderstand me: in my experience, the majority of folks will try to treat others in a reasonable way, but there are always a few who won’t. Therefore, you have to be prepared for those who won’t.

Also, don’t build/propose solutions that only work with everything is perfect. Expect failures and hardships. Expect unfairness. Build that into how you cope with things. Case in point: any time you suggest an action which is only going to work when everyone is on their best behavior, you are not making a good suggestion. There will always be some folks who know better but will still choose to be disruptive, to be obnoxious, to be harmful. Any time you propose a plan that will only work if “all the stars align,” you are proposing a plan that will likely fail.

As we say in the military, “No plan survives first contact.” The unexpected will come to pass. Be prepared to deal with change. If possible, have resources available to attempt to handle an unplanned situation or circumstance. If you know someone has the potential to be unfair, especially because of prior experience, consider what to do with said individual. Can you confront? Or is bypassing better? Don’t be caught off-guard by unfairness.

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If you’re not familiar with the Nirvana Fallacy, here’s what Wikipedia has to say about it:

“the informal fallacy of comparing actual things with unrealistic, idealized alternatives.”

I was looking for this when talking about folks who reject partial solutions because those solutions don’t bring about the perfect situation. However, it extends to a good deal beyond those cases. Basically, you avoid the Nirvana fallacy when you choose to make forward progress, no matter how small the progress.

For instance, you’ve not eaten well all day. You could say to yourself, “Well, the day is wrecked, I might as well eat whatever now.” This is falling into the Nirvana fallacy. You aren’t going to reach the  “I stuck to good eating habits all day” state so you reject what you can actually do to eat right for at least part of the day. For today, eating right 100% of the time is idealized and unrealistic. It’s unachievable. That’s why we typically say to ourselves, “Well, since today is a wash, I’ll just try to do better tomorrow.”

Attacking the fallacy is easy. Instead of lamenting today as lost and promising to do better tomorrow, we can simply choose to do better the rest of the day. It’s not the idealized state. However, it is better than continuing to eat poorly. It is moving forward. Don’t fall into the Nirvana Fallacy, especially with respect to your goals.

 

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Social media is different from in-person interaction. One big difference is the lack of physical presence. Because of that difference, some folks are rude and mean on social media when they wouldn’t be in real life. Also, social media is notorious for arguments which serve no purpose: folks already knew each others’ positions and no one is interested in considering a change of their own beliefs. As a result, social media can be both damaging and a huge time waster. This is why some people avoid social media, though it can be an effective tool.

This has led me to drafting my own social media interaction rules. I operate by those most of the time now, but by putting them down I have a standard to compare myself against. This is a work in progress. I am sure I will adjust some of these rules over time. Do note, I’m not saying others I have to interact with have to follow my rules. This is my personal code of conduct.

 

  1. I will treat everyone with kindness and courtesy.
    • It doesn’t matter how I’m treated.
    • I will not insult or demean another.
    • I will not retaliate to any personal attacks.
  2. I will have a positive attitude or I will end my participation.
    • When I begin feeling negative is when I am most at risk for breaking these rules.
    • My negativity does not help anyone else.
    • If possible, I will state why I am disengaging, shouldering the accountability.
    • I can state a problem or a disagreement without being in a negative frame of mind.
  3. I will look for opportunities to encourage and build up others.
  4. I will stay out of controversial arguments where none of the following can be accomplished. In all cases I will clearly state my purpose.
    • I intend to learn more about the positions being argued.
    • I can clear up misinformation or misunderstanding.
    • I can add new, relevant information to the discussion.
    • I can share the Gospel with someone who appears willing to listen.
  5. I will attempt to avoid controversial posts where none of the sub-points in (4) can be accomplished.
    • I consider security, especially IT security, posts an exception to this rule.
    • If I am posting to foster thought and ideas, I will clearly state my purpose.
  6. I will remember than anything I post is not private.
  7. I will remember that anything I post can be referred to in the future.

 

As with any standard, there will be times when I fall short. Over the long run, though, I expect those failings will reduce in number.

 

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