Sunday, August 15, 2010

Banana nut attitude


This was a good Sunday morning. I woke up to warm banana nut muffins and hot coffee. The muffins were made healthy, except perhaps for those little chocolate chips.

A few hours later, I went for my Sunday “long run” preparing for the New Haven 20K race in a few months. The first three miles went fine. I was a little full from those great muffins, but ok. Around mile five the muffins were becoming my enemy. In mile five I was mad at myself for having eaten more than one, wondering why my wife had made them, concerned my race preparation was going poorly and hoping I would make it home in one piece. Mile six made me walk for a bit.

While I was walking with these negative thoughts it occurred to me that it was really nice outdoors, there were plenty of other people walking the path with me and I had a whole Sunday off in front of me. Within a moment, my attitude changed and all was good. As leaders, we owe it to our people to help them see the bigger picture. We are not hiding the truth, but putting the situation in perspective. Within a moment, I changed mine and enjoyed what I was doing. I’ll do fine in the race in a few weeks (thank goodness I don’t run for a living!).

Have you caught your self-attitude in the past and “decided” to be satisfied? Do you believe satisfaction is a decision away?

14 comments:

Scott Wisler said...

John, I’m glad you wrote about your experience Sunday morning, and its simultaneous simplicity and complexity. There is an interesting point just over the horizon of your experience that I am constantly working with for discernment.
In life and business, we can (and need to) use our intention to set goals and use our will and motivation to meet the challenge. When adversity arrives, it is easy to react to it with negativity. You described that beautifully, along with the shifting of awareness. A daily practice to become self-aware of these reactions is incredibly helpful. It eventually brings the possibility of shifting to an expanded awareness that everything is good, maybe even perfect, just as it is right now. My personal will, my intention may not have been met, but sometimes that happens in life. In the moment, one has to accept this. It was a hard process knocking the edges off my egoic forcing. Yet when I deeply accept life on its terms, later I find synchronicity that leaves me speechless. The events that were initially distressing turned out to serve my deeper intention better than I could ever have arranged myself. Even if one dismisses such synchronicity and guidance, it is unarguably much easier to go through life with awareness of how to shift my attitude to one of gratitude for what is happening around me. I also notice that it is easier on those around me, and shifting my attitude helps other shift theirs too.
The advantage of this skill is that when adversity sets in, one has many, many more options for how to respond constructively to the situation. Often there are elegant solutions available. However, I personally find a difficult point of discernment for me in how far to take this in business, because this route usually takes a little more time and a lot more thoughtfulness. When business adversity happens, there are/were often from people above me, and across (peers) the organization with expectations that the situation will be dealt with forcefully. It is a real communication challenge to help others see a different perspective and to create the space to act in a different way. If the culture is not prepared for this approach, one can be viewed as an indecisive leader. The point of discernment for me is this: where is the point where the approach to keep pushing is necessary and appropriate? And where is the point where it is more effective to accept the situation, shift perspectives, create a little space to breathe, and try a different approach tomorrow? Or, put differently, how do I keep bringing my best to life, including my business life, and also give my best to keep listening to what life brings to me? It is a two-way street. I find that the discernment point shifts around some depending on the quality of the people in the situation and how strong and effective the communication channels are.
My weekend was challenged in this shift of perspective. Nine of my men friends and I backpacked into Red River Gorge, part of the Daniel Boone forest in KY. My botanist friends, skilled in identifying edible wild mushrooms, made an error. So in the pitch dark, in a booming thunderstorm, with a soaking deluge of rain, most of the group was vomiting violently well into the night. Fortunately I did not become ill. It was not easy to shift into seeing the beauty in the situation, or deeply accept it. Yet the entire group, individually and collectively was able to shift perspective the way John spoke of. We were able to meet the situation creatively, effectively, and safely. It made a significant difference for all of us.

StayInformed said...

Great post John.I often find myself caught up in the narrow perspective of the current crisis du jour and often loose sight of the wider picture. My current position, when taken from a wide perspective is an awesome oppurtunity to exercise leadership and take control of a wayward orgainzation. Currently I am caught up in a small, albeit time consuming issue that has clouded the overall situation. Thanks for the reminder that I need to refocus and not be consumed by my own tunnel vision.

Craig said...

Spot on again.
Reminds me of some of my favorite quotes:
An adventure is only an inconvenience rightly considered. An inconvenience is an adventure wrongly considered. – G. K. Chesterton
The secret of happiness is not in doing what one likes, but in liking what one does. James Barrie, Sr.
The first question I ask myself when something doesn’t seem to be beautiful is why do I think it’s not beautiful. And very shortly I discover that there is no reason – John Cage

Amit Chaturvedi said...

Human brain is very powerful and complex. You have poer to decide / choose based on logic. You can not get success until you strengthen your intellectual. It is the key of reasoning and supplies you negative or positive energy. In above story, you have seen effect of both , negative and positive energy and seen how it changes your world.

Tolu Enang said...

While on the wife and muffin path, mine is the classic case of two under 5. On the last day of school, my mum was not feeling up to getting the children ready. I had to make their lunch, pack it, dress them up, dress myself. All the while I am thinking "still going to face the traffic to their school before driving to my office". Suddenly, I became overwhelmed I just shut down. Refused to reply to the continued "mummy that, mummy that".
At the point of opening the car door for the crew to get in and belt down, somehow it occurred to me that going to school should be a happy event. "You're not showing that are you?" I admonished myself. Before long, I was able to initiate one of their nursey rhymes and we had a good singalong to school. Whew.

Cynthia J. Starks said...

John -- I really like this post (I was born and raised in New Haven, by the way). I do believe that happiness is a decision. Lincoln once said, "People are about as happy as they make up their minds to be." I often realize this when I'm out walking my dogs or at the town pool on a sunny, blue-skied day. We are so lucky to live with more than most of the people in the rest of the world. It is good to be reminded of this and look at the big picture. Thanks for posting. Cindy Starks

Joy Cardnal said...

I firmly believe that every day, we make the choice to be happy or not. Whether it is in business or a fight against cancer, it is MY choice on how to deal with it. No matter how many lights we hit on the way to work, we have a job to go to. Spilled the coffee? Oh well, get another. Any day that we wake up on this side of the dirt is a good day, and it is our choice not to let anyone or anything spoil it for us.

Eddie Zanner said...

We always have a choice on how we feel. Also, if you feel bad about your lot in life, just watch the news for while and you'll understand. For example, look at all the poor people in the recent flooding in India, Pakistan, etc. Like Warren Buffett once commented; "being born in America is like winning the lottery." We truly have much and should be thankful.

Melissa O'Mara said...

Great insight, thanks for the morning read.

Philip Harriau said...

Great observation John. I have a child with developmental disabilities and our number one challenge we learned through counseling is helping him get PERSPECTIVE. When he does that he is successful at achieving, when not he'll become mired in frustration. It's a lesson I think about and live with every day!

John Bonneville said...

I agree with above, great read John and good luck on your N.H. race!!

Pari Annamalai said...

I have been fortunate to have the unique opportunity of assessing three different companies including two of my own companies in the past few weeks while setting a strategy for a larger merged organization. I have also been doing a lot of reading on leadership versus management.

What I have come to realize through the reading and analysis of the five small companies is that leadership is personnel. One of these attributes in my own personnel definition includes positive attitude and a very important one is vision. Vision is one of the things that sets a leader apart from a manager. Vision along with a positive attitude creates a viral effect on the people you are leading. Most people want to step up to the plate and do GREAT things because they believe the vision and also see the positive attitude from the leadership. I have witnessed this with the leaders of the five companies involved as well as the experience with other companies.

Just my two cents....

MJ said...

Thanks, John. Your blogs are always so interesting and you write so well! Stay well - and tell Barbara that I'd love her recipe for banana nut muffins!!!
MJ

Carrie Johnson said...

"Have you caught your self-attitude in the past and “decided” to be satisfied? Do you believe satisfaction is a decision away?"

Attitude is such an important part of life! It can set the stage for a day, week, month, or year and can certainly help define "success". I think satisfaction is a mindset -- to decide which things in life are fine the way they are, which are not but need to "simmer" a bit more, and which are ready for action. We all get caught in our day-to-day activities and miss out on the bigger picture. It's surely a decision to make the most out of what you have today and to feel good about your place in this world. Afterall, we can't all do everything all the time! So we can each do our part, prioritize the best we can, and hopefully all add a little kindness back in to the world.

Thanks for sharing!

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