Getting A Tree To Tumble

GETTING A TREE TO TUMBLE

With ax in hand, you approach a towering tree. Your intention is to chop it down. It’s a big task, but with the right approach you know you can achieve your goal. You take your first swing of the ax. Making a nice divot in the tree bark you move to another side of the tree and take another swing. One more nice divot. You continue this approach, taking chunks out of various random parts of the tree with every swing. After 500 swings you look up and the tree is still very much towering above you. In fact, it hardly looks like you’ve made a dent in your goal, regardless of the 500 missing chunks of bark. The random pattern of swinging has left the tree nearly as stable as it was before you started. Worn out and frustrated, you toss down your ax in failure, having failed in your mission to get this tree to tumble.

Sitting in your own frustration, you watch as someone else walks up to the same tree with ax in hand. This person is clearly smaller than you, and if you couldn’t get the tree to come down, there’s no way they can. As you sit and watch, this person begins to hack away at the tree. Only, instead of moving around the tree and swinging at any and every part of it, this person stays in one place, chipping away at the same exact spot with every swing. In a matter of minutes the foundation of the tree has been whittled to nothing, and before you know the tree is making it’s timbered march toward the forest floor, having been defeated by this small but focused ax swinger.

And so it goes with life.

Success and achieving the goals we set out to achieve has little to do with the quantity of effort, and everything to do with the concerted direction of that effort. Much like the tree in the forest, our goals can seem daunting and unachievable, but with intense focus in the singular direction of our goals, we can take down even the tallest trees. But the key is that intense focus. We can’t be trying this method and that method and those methods, expecting the sum of their parts to equal anything significant. It’s only with the compounding interest of pushing in that single direction toward our goals that we see the fruits of our labor. Goals and aspirations are tough, but they are not complicated. In fact, they are simple. They require hard work, directed at 100% straight ahead. Much like a sprinter would never zig zag back and forth to win a race, an achiever doesn’t waiver from the concentrated path of their goals.

Swing the ax and swing it hard. But swing it in one place, allowing small divots to become large holes. Then and only then will the tree tumble.

Consistency Over Passion

CONSISTENCY OVER PASSION

Passion. It’s one of those elusive, somewhat undefinable words that is regularly used in the form of advice, articles, and “key to success” speeches. People tell us to find our passion, and how that will lead to successful careers. People tell us to use passion as our motivator every day, driving us to be hyper productive, energetic, and unfailing. People use passion to define the world’s most successful leaders and entrepreneurs. But here’s my problem with passion…

Passion isn’t actionable.

There is no way to bottle it. There is no formula to find it. There is no class teaching it. Passion is a vague, misconstrued word that has a different definition for everyone that uses it. When my best friend Jordan passed away in May 2007 “Live life with passion” was used as the slogan of his funeral (& thus his life), and is still used today by myself, his friends, and his family. To me, “Live life with passion” means living each day the way I know Jordan would be living today – with love, creativity, and a refusal to accept mediocrity. But that’s my personal definition of passion relative to my relationship to Jordan. Give that same advice to someone else and it will mean something completely different.

Taken at face value, people might run with believing that passion is all they need each day, and that will somehow lead to achieving their goals and dreams. But passion is fleeting. It’s disrupted by our mood. It’s derailed by motivation. It’s as unreliable as the weatherman. When it comes to finding success day in and day out, I think it’s much more important to focus on something more definable…

Consistency.

Consistency means I wake up early every day and write. Consistency means I’m planning out my day, hour by hour, each and every week. Consistency means I have a running to-do list to make sure things don’t fall through the cracks. Consistency means I work, and work a lot. It’s the consistency of work, after all, that gets us where we want to be. It’s the consistency of work that makes sure our goals and dreams are in our control, and not the control of a fleeting emotion or spurt of motivation.

I wake up each and every day with the intention of living life with passion, the way I know Jordan would want me to. And you know how I do it? By simply showing up, working, and being consistent.

The Freedom Of Structure

The freedom of structure. Sounds like an oxymoron, right? Those two don’t belong in the same sentence, or so I used to think. But over the past several years of managing sales teams and sales pipelines, starting companies, and studying personal growth, I’ve realized there truly is nothing more freeing than structure. Here’s why.

When we think of the term “freedom” what do we think of?

Lying on a beach?

Being on a road trip?

Running through a wide open field?

Whatever we individually think of, it most likely ties back in some way to being unshackled. One of the many definitions of freedom is: the state of not being imprisoned or enslaved. And so you and I, being rational human beings, paint the picture in our heads that freedom equates to not having something: a boss, a job we have to go to every day, bills, so on and so forth.

But what are we really imprisoned by in today’s society? It’s not our bosses. It’s not our jobs. It’s not our to-do list. It’s having no clue how to manage it all. We are inundated with information, distractions, responsibility, and stress more than ever before. We want to flee from it when it becomes overwhelming, but maybe it’s not that we need to take something away. Maybe we actually need to add something. Enter structure.

Picture this non-structured scenario:

You have 57 things on your to-do list.

You sit down to start your workday and find yourself mumbling “How the heck am I going to get all of this done?”.

You start doing one of the easier tasks on the list just to build momentum and get something done.

Then your phone vibrates with a new email. It’s a client, so you feel like you better get back to them immediately.

You open your email to find 11 other emails that need attending to as well.

You spend an hour and a half pouring through your email before getting back to your to-do list.

Your phone vibrates again. This time it’s a Twitter notification. You go to Twitter to reply to the tweet, and see an article that a colleague of yours has tweeted out. It sounds interesting so you give it a read. 25 minutes later you’ve finished reading that article as well as 2 others that caught your attention while on the site.

Back to the to-do list.

Your boss pops their head at your desk. “Got a second to chat?” 30 minutes later you’re back at your desk after talking about a non-urgent client issue with your boss.

You look at the clock. It’s almost lunchtime. You’ve completed a single easy task on your to-do list and nothing else.

Overwhelming stress is compounding, and we think of the freedom of not having to do any of this.

Has that been your story before? I know it has been mine, and I would guess it has been most people’s reading this. So what would this day look like if we used structure as our guide?

Now picture this scenario but structured:

You have 57 things on your to-do list.

You understand how hectic your day can become, so you wake up 20 minutes early to map out how your ideal day will go.

Out of the 57 things, you choose 2 that if you completed would make the biggest difference in your day. You move those to the top of the list.

Next you start mapping out your day, hour by hour. Any standing meetings you have get added first.

Then you take your top 2 priorities that you marked for the day, and you add them to your calendar with enough time to complete them.

After that you start adding the rest of your to-do list to your hourly schedule providing enough time to complete the tasks and not overwhelm you.

Anything that doesn’t make the cut that day simply stays on your to-do list for the next day. When it’s important enough it will move it’s way up the priority list.

Your day is mapped out and you sit down at your desk. You get to work on priority number 1.

Your phone vibrates. It’s a client. The issue appears to be non-urgent so you set your phone to the side and get back to work on priority number 1. You will get to the client’s email during your “email catch up” time which you already have slotted on your schedule.

An hour and a half later you’ve completed the task and you breathe a sigh of relief. What a great feeling. Your day could end now, and you would have still made a good dent in it.

Your phone vibrates. It’s a Twitter notification. You set your phone aside knowing that you have your lunch break for eating and catching up on social media, news, etc.

You instead get to work on your 2nd most important priority.

An hour later you’re almost done with your 2nd priority when your boss pops their head at your desk and asks if you have a minute to chat. Since your schedule is already set, you can honestly say no. So you ask your boss “If it’s not urgent is it okay if I swing by here in a few minutes on my way out to lunch? I’m wrapping up a project and want to finish up this last bit.” Your boss of course says yes, that’s fine.

You get back to your work, wrap up your 2nd priority, look at the clock and it’s almost lunchtime. You’ve finished your top 2 priorities for the day, you have wasted virtually no time, and your afternoon is setup for success to crank through the rest of your to-do list.

That is the power of structure. In today’s hyper connected and hyper “busy” world, our definition of freedom needs to change. It is no longer the absence of something, but instead it’s the presence of something else – structure – that allows us to approach our life and days with a clear head. That is structure. And there is freedom in structure.

Filling The Glass

FILLING THE GLASS

Put a glass in front of you. Fill that glass with muddy or murky water. Look through the glass and try to see through to the other side. You can’t. There is simply too much stuff in the way to do it. The glass is our mind. The water is our thoughts. The murkiness is any negativity that we let seep in.

By controlling the way we react or think about things, we have the ability to create positivity where there easily could have been negativity.

Your flight is delayed 3 hours. Perfect. 3 extra hours to catch up on a project or prepare for a big meeting.
You sprain your ankle and have to be on crutches for several weeks. What a blessing that we have 2 ankles to sprain, 2 legs to walk on, and a beautiful world to explore with them.
Your significant other snaps at you after a long day. You have an opportunity to practice forgiveness and grace in your relationship, which could be exactly what the other person needs.
We cannot always control what happens to us, but we can always control how we respond to it. When we begin to approach life with positive reactions instead of negative ones, we slowly begin to pour clear water in the glass. As the glass begins to fill and eventually overflow, the murky water has no choice but to be pushed out by the clear water. Then, and only then, are we able to to see clearly to the other side.