Disappointment

Photo of climbing a rock wall
Photo copyright ©2018 David J Crone. All rights reserved.

What was your last great disappointment?

I don’t mean the regular everyday disappointments, like finding that somebody took the last cup of coffee, or mounted the toilet paper the wrong direction. No. Something that was a really – big – deal.

Mine happened last week. I won’t bore you with the details. Like many of our greatest disappointments, what is a big deal to us often seems trivial to someone else.

Don’t you just hate it when, while you are wallowing in the injustice of it all, someone else hears your tale of woe and points out the insignificance of it in the big picture of life? Yeah. So, I won’t delve into the specifics of this particular issue.

However, I will share that it was a big deal. To me. At the time. Perhaps later we can share with each other the specifics of what last sent us into a pit of personal despair and laugh about how out of proportion our respective reactions were. For now, let us enjoy the pain of that moment in the same way we enjoy picking at a scab and watching with fascination the renewed oozing of blood from the wound.

How long did it take for you to get over your disappointment? How many hours, days, weeks did you spend literally or figuratively lying on the floor thrashing about, pounding the carpet with your fists? How many people had to hear your tale of woe as you dumped your raw feelings of anger and disbelief upon anyone who provided the slightest opening to do so?

Ah, good times.

Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, a Swiss psychiatrist, is credited with defining the 5 stages of grief: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and Acceptance. Known as the Kübler-Ross Model, these 5 stages define the progression of emotional states typical of someone who is terminally ill, and also those who are dealing with the loss of a loved one.

What is disappointment? Is it not a sense of great loss? The loss of an idea. The loss of a goal. The loss of a desired outcome. The heartbreak of not getting what we wanted. Deep disappointment hits us in ways similar to grief.

In my biggest times of disappointment, I have definitely experienced Anger and Depression. Denial usually presents itself as disbelief. Bargaining typically plays out as a desire to refute, debate, and argue the decision. Eventually, though, I reach a state of Acceptance. I’m not happy about it, but I accept it. (Well, except for that toilet paper thing. It really needs to come over the top.)

I hope that you are able to reach that point of acceptance in your disappointments.

What differentiates disappointment from grief is what comes after we have reached the state of acceptance.

Do we give up on the goal? Or, do we dig in with renewed determination, learning from the experience?

Sometimes what we fail to achieve is a once in a lifetime opportunity. There is no second chance. Most times that is not the case. Sure, if you are an Olympic athlete, you might have to wait another 4 years for your next shot at the gold medal. And maybe you can’t be the first to achieve whatever it was you were targeting. But, so what? You can still go for it.

Maybe that specific job for which you thought you were the perfect match won’t be posted again at that one company until the person who got it instead of you leaves. There are other jobs and other companies.

In my case, the goal I did not achieve can be applied for once per year. The next window of opportunity for submission is not until next January. My intention? To start now in planning and preparation to make my application undeniable.

There are those (I’ve been guilty of it myself) who would suggest that even if you don’t attain the desired goal, even if you don’t win the race, or get the trophy, you are a better person for having gone through the process.

Yeah, right.

I am not a “winning is everything” kind of person. But, when I was a kid playing little league baseball, our coach only took us out for ice cream when we won. And only those who hit a home run got a banana split. It was a great reward for practicing and playing hard. If we didn’t win, we moped and dragged our baseball mitts on our way home. Then we showed up with fresh determination at the next practice.

Allow yourself the time to grieve. Go through however many of the 5 steps you need. Once you’ve reached the “A” for acceptance in the Kübler-Ross Model, add another “A”. Action.

Reset your focus. Determine your next step. Chart a new course. Try again.

Do not allow the disappointment of a single misstep to be the end of the climb.

 

There Is No Joy

Photo of field of spring flowers
Photo copyright ©2018 David J Crone. All rights reserved.

What brings you joy? What holds you back from experiencing it?

Most of us have participated in some form of an exercise designed to help us let go of a deeply held fear or concern. One method that many people have experienced is to write the fear or concern onto a piece of paper and then throw that paper into a fire, allowing the flames to symbolically consume whatever it was that was written on the paper.

Several weeks ago, during lent, I attended an appropriately somber church service on Maundy Thursday. After the service, I made my way through a series of stations for further reflection. At one of these stations, people were encouraged to write a concern onto a Post-It note and stick it to the cross, leaving it there as a way of releasing it and letting go of that concern.

As I sat there, pondering what to write, I glanced up and saw a note someone else had left. It said, “There is no joy.”

Those words struck me deeply.

I think a lot about joy. Joy is my purpose. Joy is at the heart of this blog. Joy drives nearly everything that I do.

At its core, the whole “Work Should Be Fun” concept is about joy.

I can understand not feeling happy. I can understand feeling sadness. I can understand many things. But, I can’t contemplate a life without joy.

Joy runs deep. Even in sadness, anger, or frustration, there can be joy.

To me, sadness is not the opposite of joy. Sad is the opposite of happy. Both are surface level sensations of the moment. They come and go.

Joy is eternal. It is deeply rooted. I find joy and hope to be more closely linked than joy and happiness.

The absence of hope is despair. So, for someone to say, “There is no joy,” says to me that they feel utter despair. They lack hope.

Without hope, we might as well sit down and give up. Hope keeps us going, even when things look bleak.

Joy and hope are inextricably connected.

Do you see the joy around you? It is everywhere. It is especially visible in this season of springtime. Take a moment to look around and see it. Then find a way to share it with others.

Take a moment to connect with another person. Walk down the hall, into the next cubicle, or talk with the person at the cash register. Share a few words. Smile. See the beauty that is all around. For just a moment, ignore the trash in the roadside ditch, look beyond the dirty dishes piling up in the sink, look away from the pile of unread emails in your inbox.

Experience joy.

 

What Do You Think?

Photo of Llama
Photo copyright ©2010 David J Crone. All rights reserved

“What do you think?”

Have you ever asked that question? Did you get the answer you were hoping to hear?

Here are a few scenarios:

  • You just served a meal that you spent a week researching and 4 hours preparing.
  • You finally opened up to a friend about a new direction for your life that you have been nervous to share with anyone.
  • You shared a new logo for your company that is fresh from the graphic designer.
  • After weeks of preparing in private, you delivered a final test run of your presentation to a friend or trusted colleague 2 days before the big event at which you are to deliver it.

When you ask that question, what are you really seeking? Most of us, when we ask that question, are seeking affirmation. We want to hear, “That was great!” Or, “I loved it!”

Sometimes we are looking for feedback on a specific aspect. Was there too much salt? Do you like this color in the logo? That photo on slide 23, was it too much?

What we often get is something we didn’t expect. Our friends and family, in an effort to be helpful, often take this opportunity to offer feedback on some aspect of what you shared that is outside of what we needed to hear at that moment. Or, they express something in general terms, where what we needed to hear were the specifics of what made them think that.

The result is that we feel crushed. Deflated. Hurt. Maybe even angry.

We think: How could they be so insensitive? Why do they always go for the jugular? See, this is why I don’t ask for feedback. All I get is negativity.

Soliciting and receiving feedback is a skill. It takes practice to develop. You might even call it an art.

If you are not getting the feedback you are looking for, it might not be the thing that you are soliciting feedback about that is the problem. It might simply be that you are asking for it in the wrong way.

Of course, sometimes what we just shared really did suck. But, I’m not talking about those times. I’m not too concerned about those instances because I trust that each of us, inside, knows when that is the case.

We’re all familiar with the dreaded question, “Do these pants make me look fat?” We can laugh about it, but that’s actually a great question. It is specific as to the feedback being sought. It is not a general question, such as, “What do you think of my outfit?” It is specific about one article: the pants. And it is not generic in the request, such as, “Do you like these pants?” No. It is clear that the one thing the person asking is concerned about is whether those pants, specifically, make them look fat.

My advice when soliciting feedback is to be specific in what you ask. Be clear to the person about what would be most helpful to you.

Instead of, “What do you think?”, ask something specific. Here are a few examples:

  • For that meal: How was the spice level? Too hot? Not hot enough?
  • For that new direction in your life: Knowing me as you do, what is the biggest aspect of this that surprises you?
  • The new logo: Does this make you want to know more, or run away?
  • The presentation: Did the images help you connect with what I was saying? Which ones worked best? Which ones did not?

If we do find ourselves asking the question, “What do you think?”, probe deeper into the response. If the answer is, “I hated it.”, ask, “Why?” Go for the specifics. You might have served a meal that contained a lot of cooked carrots. I can’t stand cooked carrots. Everything else about it was great. But, that one detail set me off. My response to the question of, “Did you like it?” would have likely been a simple, “No.” Don’t be offended. Dig deeper. Find out why.

The same goes if the response is, “I loved it!” Why? What about it, specifically, did you most enjoy?

Then, with that information in hand, you can decide what, if anything, you are going to do with it. Maybe you love cooked carrots and the group of people you are planning to serve that same meal to next week also love cooked carrots. Go with it. Just don’t invite me.

A key component of soliciting feedback is to remember that each person’s opinion is simply one data point. That one person might not even be a good representative of the intended audience for whatever it is we have solicited the feedback.

Ultimately, we need to trust our gut.

What do you think?

 

Watch, Do, Teach

Stylized photo of water
Photo copyright ©2011 David J Crone. All rights reserved

What phrases stick in your mind?

Here’s one I heard when I worked at OhioHealth: Watch one, Do one, Teach one.

The person who taught me this phrase explained that this philosophy was engrained in her as a nurse. To fully learn a new procedure, you watch it being done, you do it yourself, and then you teach it to someone else.

That last step is critical. It is what separates common practitioners of any craft from the masters. It is where most of us stop short.

Think about it. If you are going to teach something, there is a level of expectation that you know the material. It forces us to raise our game. We must have the confidence in our skills if we are to teach others.

I believe that is why so few of us teach; we lack the confidence in our own skills or knowledge. That is a shame. There are many people with much to give, who hide behind a cloak of fear.

A clear benefit to teaching others is that we learn more ourselves. One of  my friends in college taught classes at another school. He was not the smartest person in our own classrooms. But, he was a good teacher. His own struggles as a student helped him as a teacher because he could relate to his students’ challenges. He shared with me how much he was learning by teaching. He also shared his joy in receiving high marks from his students.

You don’t have to be a master of the material to teach. Some of my most memorable teachers in school were those who, rather than spewing forth their vast knowledge from on high, invited us to join them in their own journey of exploration on the subject. Those shared explorations were far more interesting than sitting through boring lectures.

Now it’s your turn.

Watch one. Do one. Teach one.

(Side note: I take this concept of teaching seriously. I now offer one-on-one coaching for speakers and entertainers who want to better connect with their audiences. If you want your time in front of others to be more powerful, give me a call.)

Better Together

Photo of 2 people blowing out candles on a cake
Photo copyright ©2018 David J Crone. All rights reserved.

Are you fiercely independent? Do you love doing things all by yourself?

Here’s a thought. Invite a friend to join you.

Confession time. I love doing things myself. I abhor asking for help.

Maybe this is a guy thing. Watch people burdened by a load of boxes enter a building. Chances are, you will see what I have noticed. A women laden down with a bunch of stuff, when approached, “Can I help you with that?” will more often than not say, “Sure.” A man in the same situation is far more prone to respond, “Nah, I’m good.” despite items falling off the stack they are balancing.

It is only over the last few years that I have learned the joy of asking for help. It is not the asking that I enjoy. It is the camaraderie that results in working on a project together.

My fierce independent streak has put me in dangerous situations.

For example… Several years ago, I purchased a large air compressor for my shop. We’re not talking about a nice portable unit that is meant to be moved. No, this is a full-scale, 5′ tall, behemoth typically used in a mid-sized production shop. (Why? Because I could. But, that is a different topic. )

The point is, it’s big. And quite heavy. When I bought it, it required 3 of us to load it into my van. Those other 2 people did not follow me home to help unload it. They had other customers to serve.

At home, I realized the folly of what I was attempting to do even as I was sliding it out of the van – by myself. I knew this could easily go wrong. In my head, I was already playing out the worst case scenario of being pinned underneath this thing, wondering whether I’d be able to hang on long enough to yell out to the mail carrier who was due to arrive sometime in the next hour.

OK, let’s be honest. It’s not an independent streak. It is shear stubbornness.

Obviously, since I am now telling the story, it worked out in the end. There were no trips to the emergency room.

I’d like to say I’ve learned my lesson. Don’t do stupid stuff. But, I’d be lying. I still get myself into dangerous situations. However, I am getting better at asking for help.

It is not avoiding danger that has helped me change. It is a realization that it’s more fun to do things with another person.

Just last night, I drove to a friend’s house to have him help me replace the side view mirrors on my truck. I could have managed it alone. Maybe.

The real reason I made the trip was to spend time with my friend. The side benefit was that the new mirrors are installed. Correctly. The first time. (My friend is an avid car repair hobbyist.)

What it has taken me way too long to figure out is the joy of treating projects not as a way to accomplish a task, but as a means to spend time with another human being. The task itself becomes secondary to the pleasure of the interaction.

Next time you find yourself laden with boxes, burdens, or tasks, reach out to another person and invite them to join you. You’ll both benefit.

You might or might not accomplish the task you originally set out to accomplish. Either way, you’ll enjoy the process more with the company of a friend.

Involved Detachment

Photo of blue sky through trees.
Photo copyright ©2018 David J Crone. All rights reserved.

In one of the gyms I used to go to, there was a sign prominently displayed in the weight room that read, “Go heavy or go home.”

In another context, I frequently heard the saying, “Play to win or don’t bother playing.”

Each of these sayings has their place. If you are a naturally competitive person, then both of these probably strike you as being obvious. You likely feel wholehearted agreement.

One problem with these concepts is that in the wrong circumstances, they can induce substantial unnecessary amounts of stress.

Another issue is they might cause you to give up early. Maybe you look ahead toward the finish line, realize there is no way for you to win this particular race, and therefore stop trying. Give up on this one, move on to the next race, maybe you’ll have better luck there.

These sayings do not fully incorporate the level of influence factors beyond our effort have on the outcome. I’m not talking about making excuses when things don’t go our way. I am talking about accepting the reality that there’s often more involved in the decisions others make than simply the amount of effort that we put into trying to sway them one way or another.

I recently spoke to a group of recruiters for an organization. Their key metric is the number of people they are able to get to sign on the dotted line. The majority of their training is based on classic sales methodology, with “getting to the close” being a key component.

The problem is that they were becoming overly obsessed with that metric of closing the deal. Each person they were recruiting was seen as critical to their success in their job as recruiter. When they were unable to seal the deal with a particular individual, they viewed it as failure. They took it personally. It was creating an enormous amount of stress on the individuals.

I can relate.

I have this same experience in my own business. I tend to view each prospective client as critical to the success of my business. When a prospective client tells me, “we’ve decided to go a different direction” (a frequently used phrase instead of simply saying, “no”) it is easy to take this personally. Being a one-person service-oriented business, the product I am selling is, essentially, myself. As a result, failure to close the sale takes on a high degree of personal rejection.

Do you enjoy rejection? I sure don’t.

The attitude shift that has helped me the most, and that I shared with this group of recruiters, is the concept of Involved Detachment.

What does that mean?

It means going heavy and playing to win… while detaching yourself from the outcome.

It means giving it your absolute best shot, doing all you can to convey your value proposition. And then once you’ve done that, let it go. You’ve done your part, now it is up to them.

This is still very much a work in progress for me. There are good days, and there are not so good days.

It is easy to view an opportunity as being impossible to win. As the level of the events at which I work has elevated, so has the level of the people I am being compared against for the time slot. While it is pretty cool to be considered alongside some of these people, it can also be intimidating.  I view many of them with such high esteem that it seems pointless to even bother submitting my proposal.

But, just as there are factors beyond my influence for which another person might be chosen, there are also factors beyond my control which cause a client to select me over the others being considered.

Got that? It is not my job to tell them “no”. There is a reason that they chose to contact me in the first place, to include me in their search.

My job is simply to understand as much as possible about the client’s goals, put forth what I have to offer as clearly as possible, do it well, and then let it go.

Where can you apply this concept in your life and work? In what areas are you being overly concerned with the outcome? Are you quitting before you even start?

Practice involved detachment.

Do your part. Do it well. Then let it go.

 

Asking for Help

Photo of two camels
Photo copyright ©2017 David J Crone. All rights reserved.

Do you find it difficult to ask for help?

If you’re at all like me, asking for help does not come naturally. Giving help, sure. Asking for it? No way!

I’m not sure when this started. It’s been with me for as long as I can remember. Perhaps you can relate.

“Can I give you a hand with that?”

“Nah, I’m good.”

And the next thing you know, that load you are carrying comes crashing to the ground. If only you had accepted that offer of assistance.

I am starting to come around. In small ways, here and there, I am allowing others to provide assistance. In some cases I am even asking for it.

And guess what? Nothing bad has happened. My friends are not running away in terror, viewing me as some selfish jerk who is constantly asking for things. Rather, the opposite is happening. My friends continue to offer MORE help.

What? How can that be?

Think about it. When a friend asks you for your help, how does that make you feel? If you’re like most people, it feels good. It feels like you are valued by your friend.

Sure, there are situations (like non-profit groups to which we belong) where it just feels like one more thing being added to our plates. But, that’s not the kind of thing I’m talking about.

When a friend, or someone you respect, asks you for your help, it feels good. We feel honored to have been asked.

You can honor your friends in exactly the same way. Show them how much you respect their opinion by asking for it. Show them how much you respect their ability to do whatever it is that they do well by asking them for their help.

Do a friend a favor – ask them for their help.

Seeking Approval

Photo of dog at top of staircase
photo copyright ©2018 David J Crone. All rights reserved

What are you waiting for?

What is holding you back from taking the steps that you know you need to take to get what you want?

One of my dogs, Westley, loves to be with people. When there are people in the house, he goes crazy if he can’t be in the same room. If you move from one room to another, he will follow you.

The problem is that he doesn’t like stairs. My office is in the basement. When I head to my office, he will stand at the top of the stairs and whine. And whine. And whine. Until I stand at the bottom of the stairs and coax him to come down. Without that urging, he will stand there and continue to whimper.

He knows he wants to be down in the basement where I am. But, he can’t make himself take that first step to get there. Unless someone is standing there calling him. Once he takes the first step, he readily continues down the stairs. It is only that first step that requires encouragement.

It’s as if he needs someone else’s approval to take that first step. He can see it. He knows he’s done it before. But, for some reason he must have someone else tell him it’s OK.

Where are you behaving like this? What goal do you have for yourself that you are finding it difficult to take that first step? Where are you waiting for approval?

You know that all you need to do is make a start; once that first step is accomplished, the remaining steps will flow naturally. But, you find yourself staring down (or up) that staircase, unable to take that first step.

How badly do you want to achieve your goal? Are you going to continue standing there, whining, whimpering, waiting for someone to coax you across the threshold?

Don’t wait. Take that step. Coax yourself. The only approval you need is your own.

Know your goal and go for it. You’ve been approved.

Shake It Off

Photo of polar bear shaking off water
Photo copyright ©2017 David J Crone. All rights reserved

How long do you hold a grudge?

I am a Pittsburgh Steelers fan. This past weekend I watched them play against the New England Patriots. Coming into the game, the Steelers had already clinched the division title. They’ll be in the playoffs. This game was about locking in home field advantage. A meaningful game, but not all that critical in the grand scheme of things.

In the final minute of play, it looked like the Steelers had regained the lead with a touchdown pass. However, after a lengthy review by the replay officials, they ruled it an incomplete pass according to a relatively new rule specific to a pass that leads to a touchdown. The game ended with a Patriots victory.

There has been much uproar among my fellow Steelers fans. Many are still talking about it, stuck in what could (should?) have been.

Meanwhile, Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin and the rest of the team are heads down, preparing for the next game. They are not wallowing in the defeat. They are not endlessly whining on social media about how the new rule is stupid, or that it was a bad call by the officials. They are moving on.

I have seen this repeatedly while watching my favorite team play. There is a questionable call on the field, or in replay review. It doesn’t go the way I’d like for my team. I get all upset, jump up and down, scream at the TV. I am stuck on that previous play. And there is coach Tomlin, calmly standing on the sidelines, focused on the next play and the next.

How often do we get stuck when one thing does not go as we think it should? That sales proposal we put so much effort into is rejected. Someone cuts us off in traffic. We go for a cup of coffee only to find that somebody else took the last cup and didn’t make a fresh pot. We don’t get the raise or promotion we thought we deserved.

We can’t all have the calm demeanor of Mike Tomlin. We get wound up in the unfavorable ruling on the field, or in the office. We rant. We make a fuss. And while we do, other people around us are moving on, getting ahead.

Not every play is going to succeed. Not every ruling is going to go our way. Not every game is going to end in a victory.

How do you react when things don’t go your way?

How long does it take you to get your head back into the game?

Taylor Swift captured this concept in her hit song, “Shake It Off“. Whether you like her music or not, these lyrics are a great reminder to move on. Let others get stuck complaining. It is better to keep moving forward.

But I keep cruising
Can’t stop, won’t stop moving
It’s like I got this music in my mind
Saying it’s gonna be alright

Cause the players gonna play, play, play, play, play
And the haters gonna hate, hate, hate, hate, hate
Baby, I’m just gonna shake, shake, shake, shake, shake
I shake it off, I shake it off

Focus forward. Stay on target. Shake it off.

Truth matters

Photo of soaring bird.
Photo copyright ©2017 David J Crone. All rights reserved.

How important is your integrity?

For me, it is a big deal. Integrity is everything.

Integrity is earned. It comes from repeatedly doing what you say you are going to do. It comes from telling the truth. It creates trust.

Truth, integrity, and trust go hand in hand.

These qualities have been ingrained in me since childhood. The most severe punishments I received as a kid were the result of veering away from these qualities. Telling a fib was simply not tolerated. Punishment for lying about something was far worse than for whatever it was you were lying about.

As a result, if you ask me a question, I feel compelled to give you a truthful answer. Being a magician, this has often caused me a fair amount of stress. Refusing to answer, “How did you do that?” is anathema to lying. Please don’t ask me, “Does this outfit make me look fat?” unless you want an honest answer.

A promise is a promise. If I say I will do something, I won’t stop until I have done it. Or, at least given it my best effort before admitting defeat. To do anything else is the same as lying.

My wimpy way out of this predicament has been to say, “I’ll try.” The Star Wars fans among you will immediately quote Yoda, “Do. Or, do not. There is no try.”

I feel for Luke in that scene. Avoidance of the word “try” is an ongoing challenge for me. If I say I will, then I must. “Try” provides the sense of having a bit of wiggle room.

Do you have friends who are compulsive liars? Liars can be annoying. Liars can also be great fun to hang around.

One of my lunch table companions in high school was well known for his stories. He could take the simplest occurrence from a weekend family trip and spin it into a complex, highly entertaining yarn. There was always the smallest seed of truth in the stories, which made it all that much more fun.

This particular prevaricator would never admit to stretching the truth. He would insist that it was all true. We were highly entertained by these wild stories and urged him on.

The stories were harmless. However, the side effect of this consistent pattern of exaggerating was that we never fully believed anything this storyteller said. He lost our trust.

(Nonetheless, I count him among a small group of dear friends from high school.)

The problem with even a single lie is that it instills doubt. How do you believe anything this person says once they have demonstrated a capacity for telling lies?

At one of my previous places of employment, a guy was fired after making a mistake that caused a major outage in our systems. He wasn’t fired for making the mistake. He was fired for lying about what he did. Mistakes we could learn from and move forward. Being a person we could no longer believe was not acceptable. Lying was a “pack your boxes, there’s the door” violation.

A reputation of integrity and trust takes a long time to establish, and only a moment to destroy.

It seems that, more and more, we are living in a world of outright lies and deception. The problem with this preponderance of lies is that everything is met with skepticism. A healthy dose of skepticism is a good thing. But, not when it becomes overwhelming.

Here in the US, our legal system is founded on a “presumption of innocence.” It used to be this way with truth. I would venture to say that most of us lived much of our lives with a “presumption of truth.” Now, it seems, we are shifting to a world where we assume we are being lied to, and truth must be proven.

This affects all of us.

We can turn this around.

Start in your own small circle. Let’s get back to speaking the truth. Not just try, do.

Truth matters.