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Taking Action Through Practice
By: Dan Beatty
Leadership is about taking action. In order to be a good or great leader, you must first learn how to lead yourself. Therefore, you must learn to lead yourself before leading others.
Leadership is about courage, confidence, control, desire, passion, having a willingness to endure when it seems impossible and yes, the ability to take action. Many times, that action will seem as daunting a task that one would never like to imagine. For without action, there is only thought. Pondering whimsical aspirations of success aligned with well outlined stories that will never be told. Action, my friend, is what makes a leader. Getting up and implementing a plan no matter how good or bad it may be but, implement you must. It is said that it is better to run 100 miles in the wrong direction rather than to stand still and take no action.
Fear of failure will cripple you if indeed, you think that failure is negative. I want to change your thoughts for a moment and have you rethink your definition of failure. You see, failure means you took action but did not get the results you wanted or expected. Failure, means you chose to do something. Unfortunately, we tend to measure failure and success in a world of absolutes. You either were successful and achieved, or you failed. There simply is no in between. This is where a fear of failure can and will infiltrate your mind if you allow it. In life and death situations, failure truly may not be an option. But, what I want you to consider is this…. 99.9% of the decisions that you will make on a daily basis will not involve life or death situations. Your boss or manager, your partner, your children, may all try and make you feel that it is life or death, but in reality, you know it isn’t.
Fear, anger and doubt are associated with failure. Emotions that affect us negatively and tear at us with potential scaring. Better not to do than risk failure, right? I could lose my relationship, I could lose my job, I could lose___________. If you continually start your sentences off with “I could lose,” or “This might happen,” implying negativity, then you are certainly right. But, what if your sentence started off with, “I could actually make this happen and that would be great!” We are taught to fear early in life, “Don’t touch that,” or “You’ll get hurt.” We have negativity engrained in us early on to live cautiously and always fear what could happen rather than taking action and finding out for ourselves.
You see, action means that you need to think first. Actions means you need to prepare and understand. Action means you need to put in the effort and practice. Yes, practice is action. Practice may mean failure or at least lacking a truly successful outcome. What we need to focus on is PRACTICE! Practice is a safe place. It is allowable failure/learning in order to improve! It is how we get from a place of thought to a place of action without 100% total immediate expectation. It is minor improvements happening in a methodical manner. It is a step progression where we have small victories that are measured and improved upon in order to lead us to our goal. All-to-often in our work life, and maybe even in our personal life, we are graded on a scale that is either black or white, right or wrong. We are not allowed to experience the incremental successful outcomes along the way in order to accomplish the task.
PRACTICE! Practice allows improvement to happen in a measured way over time. What is your plan? What is your goal? Why will you not start today? It’s time to start practice!
Where is your O.A.R.?
by, Dan Beatty
From as early as the eight century BC, man has been using oars and rowing as a means to power their ships. From small canoes to large ships with 170 rowers, oars have been designed, developed and used to create agility and maneuverability in war ships as well as handling the basic transportation needs of the shipping industry throughout history.
The concept, design and use of an oar is a simplistic one. The rower holds that shaft of the oar and places the blade (flat portion) in the water and pulls from the front to the back of the area in which they can reach. The blade of the oar comes out of the water and the process is repeated. But, what happens if you are the only one in the canoe? Well, this repeated motion will cause the canoe to initially travel forward but the rower will soon find that he is going in a rather larger circle. Thus the need to paddle a few strokes on one side and then transition to the other side and repeat this in order to steer the canoe in the proper direction. Likewise, if there are two people in the canoe each must paddle on their respective side in order to keep the boat heading in the correct direction.
Ok Dan, thank you for the basic lesson on how to paddle a canoe. Get to the point.... It is important to back up for a minute and think about what an oar is, how it is used and its purpose. Without an oar you are at the mercy of the wind for sailing (or not sailing as the case may be). You need to provide your own method of propulsion when you are not able to rely on other sources.
It is important to understand that in life you must grasp the oar and start paddling. But where are you paddling and what is your purpose? I'd like for you to take a moment and think about the three letters in the word oar and use them to help you find purpose for your rowing.
It is simply the fact of being the owner. It belongs to you and no one else. Therefore, you are the person that makes the decisions as to what will happen. You can sell it, change it, hold it, destroy it or even give it away. You can keep it to yourself or share it with others for a fee or at no cost. Ownership gives you power. The power to make decisions that will affect your life and maybe even the lives of those around you. So what happens when you do not own something, what then? Is it not your problem or not your job to do something with? Owning the situation at hand simply means that you treat it like it is yours. But, what if you do not have the ability to make all of the decisions? Why should you try and take ownership of something that you cannot truly own? Mentally, you take more pride in your approach to dealing with the situation whether it is at work, at home or in a group setting. You will tend to take more time and look deeper into the causes and reasons for the situation. It does not become someone else's task or problem. People tend not to take ownership as they do not have the time or are in fear that if there is a negative outcome, they will bear the burden of what follows. Ownership allows you to have the willpower to see something through. It requires you to adapt and maneuver to create and change. Realize that by taking ownership, you may actually learn more from those situations that did not go according to plan than those that have a simple positive outcome.
To be accountable means that you are obligated to report, explain or justify something. Therefore, accountability is the act of being accountable. Alright, I do not know about you but the words for being accountable are not ones that usually conjure up warm, happy fuzzy feelings. Report, explain and justify? Are you kidding me? Yikes! I think that I am beginning to like the sounds of ownership much better at the moment.
All-too-often, accountability sounds like a word that you need to lawyer-up for and prepare for the worst. Like most things in life it all depends on where you are sitting and what your frame of reference is. Accountability goes hand in hand with ownership. It does mean you need to report and explain but why would you not want to do that? Accountability is simply a reference for measurement. It is the opportunity to show yourself and others exactly what you can do. Supervisors, managers and leaders have chosen to be accountable because they want to assist others to do the right things and accomplish more. Accountability creates value. It states that you are worth more than those that do not measure up to a higher standard. Accountability keeps you from meritocracy by your willingness to simply not just be a face in the crowd. Accountability means that you will put your oar in the water and paddle because you want to and the ship needs you to contribute. Accountability gives you purpose when others do not or will not.
It is within your power or control to take the right action. When you look at the root word of responsibility you see the word response. Response is a reactive word. Something had to have first happened in order for there to be a response. Therefore, responsibility may be acknowledged as the reactive word for accountability. Many times you will see accountability and responsibility used interchangeably. I'd like you try and put a thin line between these two words and look at responsibility as more of the action behind accountability. Accountability is the choice or stand that you take in order to show your value and responsibility is the way in which you act and carry out that accountability.
How are you responding to the choices that you have made? What are you doing to adapt and maintain your accountability when your initial efforts are not what is expected? How will you empower yourself to carry forward and handle situations that are not always positive? Responsibility is the ownership that you take in order to succeed at accountability. It is important to realize that just as you are part of a company's or workplace's rowing team you are also your own rower. Make the decision to put your oar in the water for the right reasons and I will assure you that your purpose and direction will be one of a confident and competent rower, capable of handling any ship you need to power.
by, Dan Beatty
In our ever changing world, the choices that we make shape the present and our future. Our past has happened. We choose to either learn from it (positive) or abandon it in hopes of some non-correlated reasoning (negative). Yet, where we go from this point forward will make all the difference in what we will become.
Choices, in and of themselves, are not difficult. Knowing how to make the right choice requires having a skill-set that will lead you to the best plausible outcome. Understanding why we make choices and their expected outcomes has a relevant purpose. Faced with no choices and the inability to decide, a person lacks the capacity to function within their environment. Realizing that choices are required in order to function, we must be equipped with the ability to make complete and relevant choices.
Each of us are prepared by the time we reach our adulthood to possess basic decision making capabilities. If you are tired, do you fall asleep in a bed, a chair or on the couch? If you are thirsty, do you drink water, tea or a soft drink? These are simple choices that we inherently make everyday along with hundreds of other basic functioning ones that require little thought. Our goal is to go beyond the hundreds of daily basic choices and target the other “not-so-simple” choices each of us will face throughout our lives.
So why do so many of us fear making tougher choices? To get a better understanding of this we need to take a moment and review the basics of physics from high school. We were taught that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction, cause and effect, decision and outcome. So by having to make a choice we have to be prepared whether we like it or not, to deal with the outcome of that choice. Fear, anxiety, depression or a host of other emotional reactions can and will hinder your ability to make choices. Therefore, in many cases, we choose not to make a choice because the possible outcome is not worth the risk of making a poor choice.
Ok, if you were paying attention to the last statement you will realize something not so profound. That is, when we choose not to make a choice we are making a choice. Therefore, avoidance of a choice is in fact, making a choice. This is where the weak minded and weak willed individuals will continue to spend most of their time, caught in the never ending black-hole of wasted thought processing. So what can you do to avoid this? Quit letting the thought of bad decisions that you may make (or avoid making for that matter) run and ruin your life. The “what ifs” or “fear of failure” mentality needs to stop!
To better understand this thought processing we need to review the three main rationales why individuals do not choose to embrace their choice-making capabilities. These are excuses, responsibility and education or the lack thereof.
I grew up with one simple statement that I created for myself, “If you have to make an excuse, there is no excuse.” While you are sitting there trying to make sense out of what you just read let me make it easy for you. It is simply a statement that reminds me that there is no excuse, reasoning or logic that can be used to justify an excuse. Please do not confuse a reason with an excuse. A reason has a justifiable explanation founded on fact such as having to miss work because you are in the hospital having surgery. An excuse is rooted in a reasoning of avoidance or procrastination of having to decide or choose. Excuses are for the weak minded, lazy individuals that want to skate through life without having to be accountable to anyone or anything. Excuses are nothing more than lies to yourself and others. Quit lying to yourself and using ill fated reasoning to perpetuate your inability to come to grips with your life and everything around you. In the time you took to make an excuse and justify it, you could have made a positive choice and done something with it.
Excuses are most likely made in order to reason your way out of having to choose or make a decision. Why? Because once we make a choice, we have committed to creating an outcome, an outcome that we will ultimately be responsible for. What will happen if I made the wrong choice? How will this make me look to others? Choosing to take responsibility for your actions is one of the first steps that will make your decision processing easier.
Choices are nothing more than decisions; but where so many of us come up short is realizing the responsibility, and acknowledging this before a choice is made. How many of us were told growing up that our actions speak louder than words? Since most of us in society are better visual learners than auditory learners, this statement presents a pretty visual result. “My peers will see what I have done and I will be judged by that,” is a common thought process that comes to mind. Responsibility can breed fear and this is why so many of us are insecure about making the right decisions and therefore shy away from tough choices.
Responsibility means taking ownership of your choices, decisions and actions. The statement I made in the preceding paragraph about being judged is justifiable reasoning in making a choice or decision. What you need to realize is that many of the choices you will make are not easy ones and require time, thought and even outside help from friends, family or co-workers. The greater the responsibility, the more time, thought and energy needs to be given to making the best choice. Notice that I did not say the right choice. You will only know if it is the right choice once you have seen the results from that choice. Remember, cause and effect.
With the word responsibility comes a heavy burden that we all may need to realize. Too many times we can come to the conclusion that we are Atlas, the Greek god of ancient mythology that has to bear the weight of the world on our shoulders for these heavy decisions that need to be made. What we fail to realize is that responsibility can be a great thing. Too many times we picture all the wrong that can happen when having to accept the responsibility of a decision when in fact the outcome might just be what we wanted or even better.
Let’s go back to the statement, “actions speak louder than words” for just a moment. Take the time to think about what the positive outcomes could be, or will be and visualize what can go right with this decision. Golfing legend Jack Nicklaus wrote a book titled, “Golf My Way” many years ago. One of the key elements of this book was shot visualization. He stated that before he would swing, he would visualize where the ball was going to go. He had a positive goal or target that he was seeing in his mind before he ever took a swing. Did the ball always go where he visualized it? No, however, his success rate was significantly improved because of this technique that he developed and implemented into every shot of his game.
Education (Seek advice from others)
Responsibility also means taking the time to properly educate yourself regarding all aspects of the choice you have to make. You certainly would not make the choice to go scuba or sky diving without being properly trained or certified or having the right equipment. So why would you make a choice without taking the time to learn about all aspects of that choice you are trying to make? Fear of a decision (or fear of making the right decision) will usually stem from a lack of understanding or education regarding that choice. In order to make the best choice, you will need to take adequate time to educate yourself as to the best alternatives or potential outcomes.
Please be careful not to fall into the trap of over analyzing a choice to the point in which you believe that you can not have enough information and therefore procrastinate in the making of the choice. A simple solution to this is for major decisions, choose a time or date in which you will make this decision. Write it down, circle it on the calendar and tell someone you trust in order to help your accountability. You will be surprised at how the choice will be easier to make. Additionally, the success of your choice will usually be based on the time, effort and energy you invested in the decision making process of that choice. Education can be looked at as the preparation that you need to exert into making the best choice.
In order to get results you have to quit making excuses, take responsibility (ownership) and make the time to educate yourself properly. You may be asking yourself, “So what if I do all of this and don’t succeed or get the right outcome, now what?” First of all, you need to quit playing the victim and expecting failure and then using the results to further justify your failed reasoning. Let’s take a moment and use a simple example to illustrate this.
I am going to shoot an arrow at a target and aim at the center of that target. Now, I have to have the proper items to do this, a bow and arrow and a target. Next, I have to point myself in the direction of the target. I then put the arrow on the bow and draw it back aiming at the center of the target and then releasing the arrow. My results? Well, I could have missed the target, hit the target or hit the center of the target where I was aiming. Just because we choose to see the center of the target does not mean we hit it. Jack Nicklaus will be the first to tell you that he missed many a green when he aimed for the pin. Did Jack quit playing golf because he didn’t hit the green every time he visualized it? Of course not. Too many times we see our choices as 100% success or 100% failure. We choose to see the 30% negative results and overlook the 70% success rate that was achieved. It is important to realize that important choices rarely have 100% successful outcomes the first time around. Finding positive results, even if they are small, and building on them are exactly what successful people do. They do not focus on the negative regardless of its size but rather on the positive from which they can build.
I was listening to a recent interview from a well known college coach whose team was heavily favored to win a game they had just lost a couple of days before. He recounted that his quarterback called him at 11:00 pm the night after the game and apologized for fumbling the ball on the one yard line costing the team the game. The coach reminded him that he had thrown for nearly 400 yards and his performance and competitive nature were reasons that they were in the game and had the opportunity to win.
Once you make a choice, results WILL happen whether you are ready for them or not. By removing excuses, taking responsibility and educating yourself, you will not only be ready for the results, you will be embracing them and looking for a way to improve those results for an even better outcome on your next choice.