Cartwheels and Comfort Zones

3 Goal Setting Lessons from Gymnastics Class

Last week I had the opportunity to take my daughter to her gymnastics class. For the past 3 months she’s been diligently working to perfect her cartwheels, and as I watched the session, my eyes were opened to some important lessons on goal setting and getting out of our comfort zones. Cartwheels

When you’re 6 years old and you’ve never done a cartwheel before, it’s scary to invert yourself and get both legs in the air. My six year old doesn’t want to get hurt doing something she’s only seen but never done herself. The challenge is wanting to do something significant but being afraid to take actions that move us toward our goals.

We tend to stay in our comfort zones instead of taking steps that move us toward our goals. Sometimes we’re scared of falling, and sometimes we fear what others will think.

There are 3 problems with the status quo.

  • It’s safe, but it keeps you from doing something significant.
  • You’ll never fall, but you’ll never fly.
  • You won’t stand out, but you’ll never see what could be either. 

When you’re 28, 38, or 68, it’s easy to let our desire to stay safe keep us from taking a chance. What if we try something we’ve never done before and we don’t succeed? Staying comfortable is safe. The trade off for staying is safe is that we lose the opportunity to do something truly significant.

Coaches give us courage

An amazing thing happened when the gymnastic coach came over to help. While she was still scared, she began to believe that she could go a little higher and a little further than she could by herself. Her coach instilled courage and was able to spot her to give her confidence.

When we set our goals, who do we surround ourselves with? (Hopefully people that don’t end sentences with the word “with”). Surrounding ourselves with the right coach and community can help us go further than we could by ourselves.

Accountability leads to amazing.

Without accountability, it’s easy to revert back to the old way of doing things. This was apparent when the kids started doing various activities on their own (circuit). The coach couldn’t focus on every athlete, and my 6 year old daughter was smart enough to know when she was being watched – and when she wasn’t.

As I watched her move through the exercises, an interesting thing happened. When the coach with her, she worked harder and took more risks. However, when the coach turned to work with another gymnast and wasn’t watching, she regressed and fell back to doing what was comfortable.

Six year olds know when they’re being watched – and so do 36 year olds. Without accountability, we’ll never accomplish our true potential. Surrounding ourselves with the right people – a coach or a group – can help keep us accountable.

Our car ride home after the class was insightful. Whether she consciously realized it or not, she agreed that she was not pushing herself when her coach wasn’t around. We agreed that she should do her best with or without the coach their, and she should make an effort to move out of her comfort zone and into the cartwheel zone. We’re not there yet, but we’ll get there.

Closer to home

Regardless of what our goal are, we can right them down. We can commit to them. We can structure our days so that we devote time to moving the needle. However, over time we can easily slip back into a mindset of comfort unless we’re self-aware and surround ourselves with the ones that will push us and hold us accountable.

As we get older, we look to stay comfortable. For many different reasons, we’ll never take the actions that we perceive as risky. The result is that we won’t have to worry about skinning our knees or falling in front of others. But we’ll also never have the chance to do something significant. Keeping one foot on the ground is a way to not fall, but it’s certainly not a way to do a cartwheel.

As for me, I got more out of that class than every other young gymnast there. Unless I take the actions that move me out of my comfort zone, I won’t make the progress that moves me closer to my goals.

To my daughter, keeping one foot on the ground is safe. But safe won’t let a 6 year old do a cartwheel. And safe won’t let the rest of us do amazing things. I hope we’ll all find a way to move out of our comfort zones this week!

Instructional Technology

3 Things Technology Can Do (and 3 things it never should)

When I took my first teaching job in 2004, technology was starting to emerge in the classroom. Very few students had their own devices, and teachers were learning new ways to teach and engage students. Technology Blog Pic

Over the last 10 years, technology in the classroom has created some incredible learning opportunities, and we’ve seen a number of changes – from the way we teach to the way we manage our classrooms. From a teachers perspective, sometimes the challenge becomes leveraging technology in a way that takes something off an educator’s plate, instead of adding something else onto it.

Whether in a middle school math class or an intro chemistry class at a university, there are at least 3 things that technology can (and should) do.

  1. Engage – Technology allows instructors and students to engage at a level that was impossible to do just 20 years ago. Through technology, we have the ability to understand difficult concepts that in the past were abstract. If we can utilize the devices that students already use and are comfortable with, we have removed a barrier and engagement increases.
  2. Connect – Today’s student is connected. Very few of us are every more than an arms length away from our phones. Technology allows us to connect to a community, both inside and outside of the classroom. If we as educators can use technology to connect with our students in the classroom, we can start to understand the gaps and reach those students who need us most.
  3. Maximize efficiency – Technology provides a way to streamline many of the processes and housekeeping items that take away valuable instruction time. As educators, we should leverage technology to automate and empower students. Taking attendance, sharing presentations, and providing feedback are ways that educators can use technology to reclaim valuable classroom time. If we simply use technology to help us make the best use of the time we have, then we are beginning to leverage technology, and not just implementing it.

As valuable a tool as technology can be, there are also 3 things that technology cannot do.

  1. Technology cannot replace educators who care. Teachers have an incredible ability and responsibility to create relationships with their students. No App or social network can take the place educators who invest in the lives of their students.
  2. Technology cannot replace dynamic presenters and effective communicators.  It can allow us different ways to communicate, but Siri and Alexa are poor substitutes for the passion and knowledge that educators can bring to the table.
  3. And finally, if educators are to fully leverage technology into classrooms, it should not create additional work. While there may be a learning curve, and sometimes we may have to spend time on the front end to design or create, in the long run, technology should be used to optimize the most valuable commodity we have – TIME. When technology fails to work or creates more problems than solutions, then we have only substituted one medium for another.

Many things have changed since my first year in that 9th grade Algebra classroom. We’ve seen initiatives come and go. We’ve seen technology change the way we do many things. In some ways the role of an educator has changed, but the one thing that remains is the impact teachers have on students.

Now that I’m on the outside of the classroom looking in, I am grateful for the educators who have invested in me. I’m also thankful to be able to work with a group of people that influences future generations, and I hope that in some small way, I can help leverage technology to make a difference with teachers and students.

 

Stop Leading with the Right Hook and Start Jabbing

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For those of us in sales, please stop leading with the right hook. We are passionate about our product or service, but we’ve got to learn more about our customers. Engage your customers and prospects in a meaningful conversation. Find out what makes them tic. Learn their history and challenges. Don’t just wait for your turn to talk and make your pitch. (Here’s the link to the book on Amazon)

Today at a conference, I watched prospects approach vendors. What I witnessed was disheartening, and almost painful. These unsuspecting prospects never had a chance.  Vendors exchanged pleasantries and begin their pitch about why he or she should sign up/commit/or purchase a product or service. Not once did the sales folks stop to ask open ended questions. 

If you haven’t listened to or read Gary Vaynerchuck, start right now. Whether in sales, marketing, design, leadership, customer service, or any other part of business, we have to stop our first interaction being a request to buy or product or service. Instead, we have to jab with our prospects – provide them value, create meaningful content, start to learn about their needs – and if you serve your customers, you’ll not only convert prospects to leads to sales, but you’ll start to develop a tribe and build influential followers. 

Donald Miller crafts it beautifully – our customers are the heroes of the story, and our job is to serve as the guide. Uncover their challenges, or even better, help them discover challenges that they didn’t realize they had. And as you guide your prospects through the story, continue to write the story with he/she as the hero/heroine. 

As salespeople, we know our product or service. We know the value, and we know how it can solve our customers’ problems. If we don’t believe in it, we shouldn’t be selling it. If we’ll take the time to slow down and wait for the right hook, I believe we’ll be successful – both in the short term and for the long haul. 

– Patrick

Starting Over

downloadLast week I got to start a new chapter of my own personal Do Over. Starting over is seldom easy, and beginning a new job brings excitement, doubt, and fear.

The excitement of learning new things and meeting new people can be suffocated by the doubt that says, “you’ll never be able to be as successful as you were at your last job.” And doubt brings his cousin fear alongside to cause you to forget that you were capable before and you can win again.

When I left my last job, I knew the ins and outs. I understood process and challenges. I knew what it took to be successful, and often I could coast threw the day in the hammock of comfort. Starting a new job comes to your hammock and cuts the cords, knocking you to the ground.

Whether you step out of the hammock on your own or you or dumped to the ground, the only way to grow is to leave the comfort of the net and do things that make you uncomfortable.

So as you leave your hammock or climb to your feet after falling out, it’s important to dust yourself off and prepare to start again. As I’ve started over recently, I’ve learned 4 important lessons.

  1. Be Willing To Learn – Regardless of what you knew or didn’t know at your last gig, come into your new job with humility and a willingness to learn new processes and meet new people. If you unconscionably competent at your last job, be prepared to live in the land of conscious incompetence for a season.
  2. Be Coachable – Ask for feedback, especially from your leader. Find out what he or she wants, and work hard to deliver. There will be time for you to adapt and modify, but focus on making your leader successful. This is especially good advice if your leader has been in your position in the past. Listen to their advice, and find out what’s worked in the past.
  3. Be Hungry – Start early. Work late. Focus on the work and do everything you can add value  – to your leader and your team. The ability to win can only be accomplished if there is a willingness to prepare. Learn. Take notes. Ask questions. Be willing to pay your dues.
  4. Be Patient – This is extremely difficult when you want to hit the ground running. Understand that it takes time. You may not have the same success that you had before, at least at first. It takes time to learn the who’s and what’s of an organization, and often times things don’t move as quickly as you’d like. Give yourself permission to be patient, but be ready when it’s your turn.

Starting over is seldom easy. However, I am grateful for the opportunity that starting over brings. I’m thankful that failure is never final, and there are others that have walked this road before me. I was fortunate enough to get to read Jon Acuff’s book, Do Over, and the encouragement and hope that I gained from that book has been key in recovering from the shock of an unexpected career bump. Having a testimony is a great thing – getting one is a pain in the rear.

 

This post is dedicated to Jon Acuff, author of Do Over and other great books (www.JonAcuff.me). I highly recommend this book as you prepare for or go through an experience where you get a chance to start over.

 

The Middle – A fog between start and finish

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10×10 Challenge – Day 7 Days 4-7 are usually the toughest.

Yesterday was day 7 of my latest 10×10 challenge. For those of you that don’t know, this running challenge involves running 10 miles a day for 10 straight days. That’s 100 miles over a week and a half. I’ve done 2 of these over the past 2 years, and I thought this was a time in my life that I could go at this again.

I’ve learned a lot over the course of these 10×10 challenges – I’ve worked through personal struggles, job challenges, goals, and a myriad of other thoughts. With today’s post, I want to focus on the middle miles (days 4-7) and how those relate to life.

Why is the middle hard?

For me personally, the first days and the last days are easier than the middle. When I set goals, the start is easy. I can get up at 4:15 a.m. on days 1 and 2.When I hit days 8-10, I can see the finish line, and it’s easier to get out of bed and hit the road.

The challenge usually comes in the murky middle. For me, running 10 miles on days 4-7 is tough. I’m tired. I know I have another week of this madness. I realized that when we set goals and start working towards them, this MIDDLE is the hardest part of accomplishing anything worthwhile.

How do we fight through after the newness wares off?

How do we stay focused on the goal and take concrete steps when the end seems so far away (or maybe nowhere in sight)?

I realized a couple of things during miles 40-70 of the current challenge.

The middle is necessary to get to the end. 

Anything worthwhile has a middle.

The middle is necessary to accomplish anything of substance.

If you go from start to finish with no middle, you may not appreciate what you accomplish.

Right now, I’m in a season that I would call a MIDDLE. My job ended in December and my new adventure starts at the end of the month (February). The middle has been a place of unknown and a wavering between hope and fear.

The lessons I’ve learned about the middle are real. It’s not easy making it through the middle to the place where you can catch a glimpse of the finish line. And many times it is faith and grit that gets us to a place where we can know the end is within our reach.

For me, the end is now in sight. I can see the finish line, and I know I can make it 2 more days – 20 more miles. If you are currently in the middle – between your start and your finish – keep moving forward. Keep your eyes on the goal, and remember that the MIDDLE is what makes the END worth the fight.

 

 

1095 Days and Counting

8F661017-9499-4A82-B2C7-F20D961072EEThere are some things that I’m pretty good at doing on a daily basis:

  • Eating
  • Checking twitter
  • Looking at my phone
  • Eating sweets
  • Checking Facebook
  • Late-night snacking

I’m pretty solid as eating, but as you can see, running did not make the list of things that comes easy for me on a daily basis.

Some folks eat so that they can run, I, however, run so that I am can eat (and I do that very well).

On Saturday, February 16th, 2013, I started on a goal to run at least 2 miles every single day for 1 week. Little did I know that that 1 week would turn into 2, and then into a month…and then a year. 1095 days later and the running streak (#RunStreak) is alive and well. Today starts my 4th year of running every, single day.

Over the last 3 years, I’ve seen a lot of early miles and a few later in the day. My wife, Chelsea, deserves most of the credit as she has put up with my absurd idiosyncrasy. She tolerates my leaving right before dinner or after work to squeeze in a quick run if I’m not able to get it in during the early morning hours.

For the last 60 days, I’ve been joined by our puppy Lily. She’s been a trooper, and we’ve averaged 4-5 miles a day. Today she put in her longest run – 10 miles as I’ve kicked off another round of 10×10 (running 10 miles a day for 10 straight days).

It’s been said that what we are doing here (Running Streak) is not a mark of intelligence, and that is probably true. It is however, a sign of perseverance (and probably a hint of stubbornness – a quality my wife would attest to).

I’ve run at 4 a.m. and 10 p.m. My job requires travel so I’ve had to think strategically to plan my runs. Some are on a treadmill, but most are on the road. I’ve run in Vegas, Albuquerque, Jackson (MS), El Paso, Dallas, Houston, Austin, New Orleans, San Antonio, and many other cities. Some runs have been hot and some have been cold, but most have one thing in common – you have to be intentional in order for it to happen.

Two months ago I lost my job. It was quite a shock, but these daily runs have been therapeutic and helped me work through my emotions. We’ve read the research on how exercise gives us a boost and helps us physiologically and psychologically, but it’s not easy to hit the road in the middle of a struggle. My RunStreak has helped me heal and allowed me to look forward to the possibilities of a new adventure.

As you think about your daily endeavors, what’s one thing that you’d like to do every single day? Exercise. Reading. Prayer. Find an area and challenge yourself to do it every day for a week. Who knows exactly what your 1 week might turn into…

Margin – 3 Ways to Transition to Home from a Home-Office

Most people hate the idea of a commute. I admit, being stuck in rush hour traffic is frustrating. However, when you travel to an office or a location outside your home to work, you create “MARGIN” in your life.

Margin is the cushion lets you be your best possible self. When you create a boundary between work and home you can process what you’ve done at work and start to focus on your family who’s anxiously awaiting your arrival at home.

When you work from home and you exit your office door at 5:00 p.m., you are thrown directly into the excitement and drama that can be your family. Without margin in your life, you gone from calling on clients to calling your kids out of the tree. From closing million dollar deals to closing pantry doors. From planning marketing events to planning dinners that may or may not be appreciated.

So how do we create margin when working from home? Here are 3 quick tips.

  1. Go through the motions – Shut down what you’re working on, leave the office, go outside, and come back in. The physical action of stopping one thing and starting another can help your mind transition and your energy level increase.
  2. Work with your spouse and kids – Let them know that your plan is to give them 100%, but explain in order to do so you need 5-10 minutes. My wife, Chelsea, has done a great job of encouraging (requiring) me to break after work and before I’m present with her and the girls.
  3. Exercise – The most powerful way I’ve found is to get in a workout right after work and before being home. Even if it’s just 2 miles when I finish work, those 20 minutes (I’m slow) give me an outlet and let me recharge my battery. Do some push-ups or burpees. Go for a walk. It won’t take long, and the benefits will make you a better spouse, parent, or friend.

I’ve worked from home for the last 3+ years, and we are still adjusting to some of the challenges. I’ll address some of the other challenges in subsequent posts, but in the meantime, understand that creating margin leads to stability and gives you the ability to give the people that mean the most to you what they deserve.

What are some of the ways you’ve been able to create margin in your life?