I don't know about you, but at some point every day I find myself feeling bad about where I'm not. It might just be that I have an over-developed sense of guilt (I mean I went to Catholic school for 13 years and come from a big Indian family, so the combo turns normal guilt trips into epic guilt pilgrimages) or it might just be that I always feel pulled in too many directions.
When I'm working, I worry that I'm not spending enough time nurturing my personal relationships and when I'm spending time with people I love, I worry that I should be doing something for my businesses and when I'm working diligently on my businesses, I worry that I'm not investing enough time on my health and fitness.
It's a no-win situation that can drive anyone crazy. And I remember clearly the day a few years ago when I was going down a spiral of "I should be here, no I should be there, no wait, I NEED to be way over there..." and a really wise friend - who is a successful, seemingly non-stressed business owner (who travels all the time for her business) AND is a mom of three - gave me the best advice I have gotten for my business and my life in general: Make a decision and then own it.
Now this little bit of advice might look obvious - and often the best advice is - but the profundity (now there's a big word for a Sunday morning!) lies precisely in its simplicity. And I can usually tell how profound advice is by how difficult it is for me to implement.
In this case, it's that much harder because there are two parts: 1) making the decision, and 2) owning it. I find that as I've practiced and gotten better at 1 (Get Good at Being Decisive), I've really needed to up my game when it comes to 2.
And damnnnnnnnnnnn, is it hard. Not because I abdicate responsibility for my decisions, but because with every decision I make, there is a trade-off, and in my heart of hearts I am an unrepentant maximalist so I hate that I can't have it all, be everywhere, do all the things, and be everything to everyone all at the same time.
Trade-offs suck, but the grown-up (and homo economicus... gosh, I am being really nerdy today!) in me knows that trade-offs are inescapable. And it's only with time and practice and catching myself that I've gotten better at accepting that truth and being truly present wherever I am instead of agonizing about where I'm not.
Because the thing is, once we make a decision, that should mean we have already considered the relevant facts beforehand. That should mean we have done our best to make the best decision with the circumstances we are given. And that should then mean that it is easier to own the decision - trade-offs and all - and move on.
So now, whenever I am traveling to grow my business or spending evenings giving talks or writing on the weekends, I TRY to be fully present and focus on delivering the best talk, having the best meeting, writing the best chapter I can, and leave everything else where it is. And then when I am with my family, I TRY to focus fully on them, on what we are doing in the moment, and leave my phone and all of the things on my never-ending to-accomplish list physically and mentally out of the way. It's not easy, but I try as best I can.
And I firmly believe (know!) that we are not compartmented people, despite what we tell ourselves, and we take everything with us wherever we go. But the key is not to let guilt come there with us too, because it will consume us AND the fun and success we could otherwise be experiencing if we hadn't invited guilt to the party.
I get it. Like I said, I struggle with this on a near-daily basis. And there are no hacks that I've uncovered other than practice. So, the next time you start wishing you were somewhere else or feel guilty about where you are not, remind yourself that you decided to be wherever you are and then practice owning that decision.
It will make being a grown-up, a boss, a business-owner, a leader, a parent, a partner, and a person that much easier AND will be a reminder that choice is a gift we shouldn't always spoil by wishing we had made a different one.
Summer may already seem like a figment of our imaginations, but I gotta say, I love the “back to school” energy of September.
Around this time each year, I find myself bursting with new ideas, itching to do all the things, and craving stuff to do and places to go.
BUT, I also recognize that while so much of success and progress depends on what we do, as much depends on what we don’t do. So on this fine September Sunday, I thought I’d share some essentials on what we can all stop, avoid, prevent, let go of, and kick to the curb.
Essential Don’t # 1 - Don't hide behind "perfectionism"
I get it. We love to be in control. We love to get things done. We love having things done our way. And we are really, really, really good at some things, maybe even a lot of things. But too often, self-proclaimed perfectionism is just anxiety in disguise.
"It has to be perfect or people will never buy it"; "No one will execute my vision as perfectly as I can"; "If I don't do it, it won't ever get done"; etc, etc, etc.
But the thing is, done is better than perfect. Trying is better than worrying. An imperfect business is better than one that stays in your head. Get something out there and then improve, iterate, and - dare I say - perfect it later.
Essential Don’t #2 - Don’t shy away from asking for what you want
Whether we admit it or not, we all have standards and expectations and preferences for the way we want things to be done. It doesn't matter if someone else thinks it's stupid or over the top or irrelevant because no one else can tell us what we care about. And that's why it's so important, in life and in business, to ask for what you want.
We wouldn't go to a coffee shop and expect the barista to know what we wanted without telling her (well, unless you're a regular and always order the same thing...), so why do we do that with our partners, our clients, our suppliers, or our colleagues?
Why not just communicate what we want, exactly how we want it, and take the guesswork out of it? Why not be specific about when certain instructions are must-haves and when others can be executed within general parameters? It doesn't mean we'll always get what we want, but at least it leaves no room for mis-interpretation. And when we communicate what we want and are specific about it, it frees the people in our lives from the stress of not knowing and makes it easier for them to succeed.
Essential Don’t #3 - Don't Always Listen to Your Customer
There’s that great Henry Ford quote: “If I had asked my customers what they wanted, they would have said a faster horse.” And that is true for all of us.
Sometimes a customer doesn't know what they want until you show it to them. And sometimes what they want is not part of your plan for your business. You can only offer what you can offer.
Now, I'm not saying we should ignore our customers or pretend like their suggestions or requests are irrelevant. What I am saying is that we should work hard to make our service or product as good as possible, hold ourselves to really high standards in how we deliver it, commit to always improving, listen to feedback and requests, and then filter the feedback and requests.
Some ideas might be worth considering, others might not. A request is not an order. Feedback is not a command. You don't always have to listen to your customer. And sometimes when they ask for a horse, you have to give them a Model T instead.