Rut vs Groove

Photo of Grand Canyon
Photo copyright ©2011 David J. Crone. All rights reserved.

I love being in a groove. When I’m in a groove, everything flows smoothly. I know what to expect. I feel confident.

Ruts are similar. When I’m in a rut, things flow smoothly. I know what to expect. But, I feel bored.

What’s the difference? Attitude.


3. a fixed or established mode of procedure or course of life, usually dull or unpromising

3. a fixed routine

Based on these definitions, you might say a groove is a rut without the bad attitude. A rut is a groove we don’t want to be in.

Sometimes what starts as a groove becomes a rut. Sometimes, a rut can transform into a groove.

If the Colorado River could talk, would it say it is more in its glory at the beginning of the Grand Canyon? Or would it be happier flowing through the vast caverns of the high walls it created?

Many times, the difference is a matter of who put us there. Is this something we do the same way every time by choice? Or are we doing this over and over again only because it is expected?

That’s not always the deciding factor. Airline pilots are well known for following a preflight checklist. They go through the same list every time. Yet, I’ve never known a pilot to complain about this being a rut.

Often, the only part we can control is our attitude. Is there something you have to do on a regular basis that has you feeling like you are stuck in a rut? Sometimes all it takes to feel unstuck is to change the environment.

Even a rut can be comfortable. A friend of mine says, “I like to get into a rut and decorate it.”

We all have coping mechanisms. Mine is music. The easiest way for me to get into a groove while doing a repetitive task that has me feeling like I am stuck is to put on some music. It never ceases to amaze me how quickly that will lift my mood.

What simple steps can you take to go from rut to groove?



Clean Your Plate

Sign: Clean Plate Required For Second Serving
Copyright ©2017 David J Crone. All rights reserved.

I can’t remember the last time I was bored. There is never a shortage of projects going on at any given time. As a home owner, family guy and self-employed business owner, there is always something new coming up – from mundane maintenance projects to exciting new business ventures.

How long is your to-do list? We are constantly adding more to it. Sometimes this is by choice. Other times it is like having dinner at your friend’s house with the Italian mother who keeps heaping more onto your plate without asking. You don’t dare refuse.

The problem is, each new project takes away time from completing what is already in the works.

Wouldn’t it be nice if we could complete one project before we start in on the next one?

I will admit that sometimes I take on a new project specifically as a way to procrastinate the next step on a current endeavor. This next step is going to be hard. I don’t know how to do it. Or, any other selection from a long list of excuses.

Perhaps you can relate.

Have you ever been to a potluck dinner?  What is your strategy? Mine is to plan on two trips. The first trip is to grab a small sample of as many different things as possible. Then the second trip is to get more of the one or two things I most enjoyed. The trick is that when you go back for that second trip, you have to enter the line with a clean plate – either because you finished what was on it, or because you tossed the undesirable items in the trash.

Lately I have been applying this strategy to my to-do list. Each week I start with a fresh, blank to-do list – a clean plate. As I plan out the week, some items from the week before get added to the new list. But, many items that seemed so important last week don’t. By starting with a blank list each week, it forces me to reconsider which items are the most important.

Clean your plate.



False Handcuffs

Photo of dog at doorway
Copyright ©2017 David J Crone. All rights reserved.

I recently started a project to rebuild the screened porch on our house, replacing sections of rotted wood. Part of the preparation work involved removing all of the existing screens and the door from the frame.

One of our two dogs realized immediately that the door was no longer there and she could go in and out freely. This same dog also quickly realized that the screens were not there and she could go on or off the porch anywhere she wanted.

The other dog, the one shown in the photo above, was not so quick on the uptake. When he wanted to come in, he continued to stand at the now empty door frame and bark. For 3 full days, I had to go out to the porch and stand next to the empty frame before he would make the leap over the threshold. The first day, I had to mimic the motion of opening the non-existent door. He now goes through this empty doorway without further encouragement. But, he still uses the doorway, not any other open area of the porch.

Which dog are you?

We all have this tendency to varying degrees. We have done something in a certain way for so long, it never occurs to us to try it a different way. Or, we have hit the same resistance so many times that we believe we can’t do it.

What barriers are standing in your way? Are they still there? Are you sure?


Watch Your Step

Watch Your Step sign
Copyright ©2017 David J Crone. All rights reserved.

Where do you push the limits? And where do you watch each step, being careful not to offend?

As a comedy ventriloquist, specializing in corporate events, I am constantly challenged to determine where the line is that I should not cross with any given audience. One of the greatest skills of a corporate entertainer is to discern where that line is, and push against it without going too far. Where that line is can vary significantly from one group to the next.

My clients appreciate that my material is clean. Being somewhat of a Boy Scout by nature, what I consider to be edgy is still pretty tame. After all, I’m the guy who once ordered milk to drink at the Playboy Club (a story for another time…) While they appreciate that people don’t get offended, there have been times when the only complaint was that it was maybe too clean. So, lately, I have been pushing that line harder.

Recently, I performed for a large group that I knew would have a much broader definition of “acceptable” than my usual highly sensitive corporate audience. The event included an open bar – always a clue to a group expecting material farther away from a purely G rating – and it was being well utilized.

I came prepared with my most edgy material, specifically from my Gus character. Gus’ material runs the gamut from workplace acceptable office curmudgeon humor to his roots as a rough around the edges country boy at heart. He loves his beer. He’s far from blue humor, but even in the most politically correct versions of his routine, he rarely comes out to play if there are kids in the audience. So, it was a bit disconcerting when I saw a number of families with kids arriving for this particular event.

As the group continued to gather, I decided I’d better check the sensitivity meter with the client. He gave me the green light, telling me my understanding of the group was spot on, and that included the kids.

The show was a great success – including Gus. I received comments and notes from people afterward telling me how much their whole family enjoyed the show.

We can’t always check ahead of time. Sometimes we just need to put it out there and go for it. As a friend of mine likes to say, “It’s better to ask for forgiveness than permission.”  I also have friends in the comedy business who say, “If at least one person wasn’t offended, you’re not trying hard enough.”

How does this relate to your work? How hard are you trying to find the line? Are you always holding back out of fear of possibly offending someone? Or are you willing to push harder, to probe, to find the line?

What I am discovering in pushing harder on the line with my comedy material is that the 98% of people who laugh appreciate that someone finally had the nerve to cross the line set in place by the 2% of people who were offended, because those same 2% have been blocking their progress.

I am not suggesting dropping more F-bombs, literally or figuratively. But, there is a case to be made for pushing the self-imposed limits that are holding us back. Be willing to be the one who crosses the line. You might be surprised how many people will cheer you on and follow your lead.


I’m OK with that

Photo of a beach
Copyright ©2017 David J Crone – All rights reserved

Have you ever drawn a line in the sand that you refuse to cross?  What are your self-imposed limits? Are you OK with the consequences?

Here’s an example:

I was working for a company with headquarters in Reston, VA, near Washington, DC.  My office was in a satellite office in Columbus, OH.  I had teams reporting to me in Columbus and Reston.  My boss was in Reston.

My boss made numerous attempts to get me to relocate to Virginia. Each time, I refused. Finally, I think in a fit of frustration, he said, “You know, David, staying in Columbus is a career limiting move.”

I asked, “Is it career ending? Or just career limiting?” He said it was only career limiting. I responded, “I’m OK with that.”

My family was well established within our community, the schools, and our friends. Columbus was our home. Uprooting my family and starting over in a new community was a line I refused to cross. The possibility of career advancement beyond the level I had already achieved was not worth it to me.

I have never regretted that decision.

When we come upon lines that we refuse to cross, we must consider the consequence and ask ourselves, “Am I OK with that?” If we are,  then fine. But, if we really want what awaits us on the other side, we must pluck up our courage and take the steps necessary to step over that line.

In my scenario above, I was fortunate that it was a career limiting choice, not career ending. Had the consequences been different, I would have been forced to make a different choice – either to relocate or seek other employment.

Where’s your line? What are the consequences of not crossing it? Are you OK with that?