Category Archives: self-awareness

I Get To Say No, and So Do You – Ten Things I Know To Be True #10

traffic officer

I get to say no to things that make me feel uncomfortable, or I just don’t want to do. And I don’t have to justify anything. 

That’s my part of the relationship. I get to put my gas mask on first. I get to take care of myself. I might even be taking care of myself for you – so I can show up authentically and honestly as me.

You get to say no too, and I should thank you for taking care of yourself for me. I promise not to take it personally, even if I’m disappointed. I’ll try to remember to be happy for you.

My Value as a Human Doesn’t Depend on My Job – Ten Things I Know To Be True #9

imagesMy value as a human doesn’t depend on my job, or my things.

It depends on my kindness.

My happiness depends to my friends, my family, and those closest to me. My success is not measured by material wealth, but by my contribution and connectedness to the world. What I give away for free. My volunteer-ism. The kindness I show when I shouldn’t or can’t.

As unselfish as I strive to be, helping others without judgement or expectation of gratitude always pays off. Always. At the very least by feeding my soul and allowing me to feel grateful, connected, and human.

My Definition of Success – Ten Things I Know To Be True #8

lucky-pennnySuccess, however you define it, is never guaranteed.

I could be the smartest person in the world, and there will always be somebody not as smart, or talented, or inspired as me who is more successful. For whatever value of success I care to choose, I may be the hardest working person in the world, and there will be others who are more successful than me.

The reverse is also true – I will be more successful than some people who are smarter or harder-working than me. Just by being born in Canada I already won the life lottery. What I do with it after that is up to me.

I believe making good choices and working hard are prerequisite to success. I can’t take advantages of the opportunities when they come along if I don’t make good choices and word hard . But that doesn’t mean they’ll come. I can’t control what opportunities come, or even if they’ll come. No matter how deserving I think I am.

Does this mean I should give up? No. It means I design my life a different way. Instead of measuring myself against others, I get to do the hard work of figuring out what I want for myself. Instead of collecting things, I get to connect to people. Instead of time controlling time me, I get to decide how to use my time.

…and if one day I am the best in the world at something, then I’ll count myself very lucky. In the meantime I’m going to design a happy life, connected to people, with a healthy parts of compassion, prosperity, joy, and dignity.  If I achieve that, I will count myself very lucky.

That, for me, is success.

I Am What I Pay Attention To – Ten Things I Know To Be True #7

If I control my focus, and how I spend my time, and I will control my life. How I spend my moments adds up to the totality of my life.

I will figure out what kind of life I want to live. Figure out what I need to do it make it happen. Then do that, day over day. A little at a time. Spending my time the way I want to.

Habit and repetition have power. I am what I do over and over again.

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” – Aristotle

Part of my Ten Things I Know To Be True series.

I Can’t Change Other People – Ten Things I Know to Be True #6

(or “I Can’t Help Other People That Don’t Want to Be Helped”)


The best predictor of future behaviour is past behaviour. This isn’t true of stock markets, but it is true of people. People seldom change unless they’ve been through a life-changing event or under sustained, focused effort over time. Studies show our personality traits are pretty much set by first grade, if not earlier.

Which means I’ve wasted a lot of time and effort up to now wondering why people can’t just do what they’re “supposed to”. To behave in a rational way, for whatever value of rational you want to define. I can’t make people change, and I can’t make them behave or do things that I want them to. And now that I write it down, it makes me sound like a bit of a jerk, doesn’t it?

I might be able to influence others with my example. I may be able to hold them accountable for their actions and explain what impact it has on me. I may be able to clearly communicate my wants, needs, and expectations. But the choice about what to do about it, and how others choose to act, is totally up to them. Not me.

So what am I going to do when people make choices that I don’t agree with or like? How do I not get frustrated when the change that I *know* they need to make doesn’t happen? My only control is over myself and what I’m going to do about it. Up to and including changing or ending the relationship if that’s what’s right for me.

How other people feel is always valid, but how they act is their choice. Hoping, wishing, expecting somebody to change how they behave because it benefits me, or because I have a persuasive argument, or logical argument, is silly. Especially when their past behaviour doesn’t line up with what I expect or am hoping for.

Part of my Ten Things I Know To Be True series.

Multi-Tasking is Evil. Stop It.

Traffic Stop“If you chase two rabbits, you will lose them both” – First Nations Proverb

There was a Toronto real-estate agent on “Canada’s Worst Drivers” a while ago who was bragging how he only ever paid one of his dozens of traffic tickets by always showing up at court and challenging them. He was proud  of his ability to drive, smoke, text, and eat simultaneously. He rationalized his unsafe behaviour as what you needed to do to get ahead in a competitive market. My thought was “You might not have to multi-task so much if you spent less time in court. You wouldn’t spend so much time in court if you weren’t always multi-tasking.”

I also thought, “I don’t want to drive on the same road as you.”

It’s been known since the 1970′s that interruptions reduce the quantity and quality of our cognitive work (thinking). It can take as long as fifteen minutes to get back to where you were before the phone rang or somebody knocked on the door. Multi-taskers are fare worse at memory retention and focus in standardized tests. It inhibits creativity and causes stress.

Some jobs need you deal with interruptions. Probably not yours, or probably not to the extent you think it does. Focus on one thing at a time. Do it, and only it. Do it well. Then move on to the next thing. If you don’t know what to work on next, then flip a coin to choose.

Being frantically busy is not the same as being effective. You’re not fooling anybody.

…and on a related note:

“There is nothing quite so useless, as doing with great efficiency, something that should not be done at all.” ― Peter F. Drucker

Big Changes Happen in the Small Moments – Ten Things I Know To Be True #5

The last of the human freedoms [is] to chose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances – Viktor Frankl

Photo: Alternate description of photo goes herePeople are who they are. Behaviour is consistent over time. Somebody who’s an ass-hole now will probably be an ass-hole ten years from now. But it is possible to change.

Not easy. Just possible. Otherwise nobody would ever be able to quit smoking or lose weight. Change happens one cigarette or one spoonful or one breathe at a time. Repeated. Consistent. Over time.

Behaviour gets changed in the small choices we make in every moment. Learning to pause, or going to a place we can pause, before we act.

The choice to be self-aware, to choose what to change, and how to change it, and to remind ourselves day-by-day, hour-by-hour, or minute-by-minute if necessary, to hold true to what I said we want for ourselves and those I love. To put down the lighter, or the fork, or to wait a breath before responding.

To recognize the moment and sneak up on it over and over again until I’ve rewired my brain. To recognize I cannot change others, only myself or my context. To accept the lessons that failure tries to teach me, and persistently and faithfully reach for the hope of a better future. In the moment. Now.

The same is true when we are trying to create change in a team or organization. Change happens in the small moments, when we are paying attention, and being brave – recognizing the behaviour that needs to move and speaking to it in the moment.

The best sports coaches in the world know that timely, accurate feedback is what allow their athletes to improve. That means speaking to the observable, actionable behaviour as it is happening. Yearly performance management is great for accessing the talent of an organization for the organization, but it does nothing to improve performance.

The big changes happen in the small moments, repeated over and over again.

What we think, we become. ~ Gautama Buddha

Part of my Ten Things I Know To Be True series.

Laptops in Meetings? No. Just No.

When I see a laptop in a meeting I assume you’re cruising for porn.

Okay, that’s little extreme. I know you’re probably not cruising for porn, but I think it. You’re probably doing email, or writing a report, or something half-assed productive, maybe. But you’re not paying attention to the meeting. And that pisses me off.

If you’re not contributing to the meeting and not paying attention, then you’re wasting  your, my, and the organization’s time. And the time of everybody else in the meeting. Because we have to go back and repeat things just for you when you should have paid attention.

Your message to everybody in the meeting is “I have to be here, but I have more important things to do. So f*** all of you, I’m going to do the more important stuff in front of you now.” And that’s the generous interpretation that assumes you’re doing something work-related. Probably because you can’t manage your time well enough to get it done before the deadline.

So, to summarize, when you bring a lap-top to a meeting, and you’re not the assigned scribe or doing real-time research in support of the meeting, then I’m going to assume one or more of the following:

  • You can’t get your work done in the allotted time
  • You don’t respect me or the people who you’re meeting with
  • You think this meeting is a waste of your time (which may be true, so then why are you there?)
  • You waste company resources – your salary – by showing up to company meeting and not contributing anything because you’re too busy playing on your machine
  • The work you’re doing is of inferior quality (I believe multi-tasking is evil, but that’s a separate topic)

Please don’t do it. If other people in the room don’t think you’re listening, you’re not. You’re subtly damaging your relationships with them.

How I Act is Always My Choice – Ten Things I Know To Be True #4

We accept the love we think we deserve
Stephen Chbosky

How I feel is always valid, how I act is always my choice. My feelings, my emotions, my history are all valid. Nobody gets to tell me how I should feel. My feelings are mine and I get to own them. Sometimes whether I want to or not. Especially when I don’t want to.

Nobody else gets to have them, and nobody else can make me feel any particular way. Even when I feel “provoked” or “manipulated”, they’re still my feelings.  Nobody else controls how I feel. Nobody else is responsible for resolving or processing or controlling my feelings. 

I don’t control anybody else’s feelings. I can’t make anybody else feel sad, or happy, or guilty, or ashamed. Yes, I must consider about how my actions and words affect others. Especially the people I care about. But that won’t hold me back from acting with authenticity, courage, and honesty when I need to.

And no matter how I feel, I am always the only one responsible and accountable for how I act and what I say. How I act or react is always my choice, my decision, and my responsibility.

I can be courageous with dignity. I can be honest with kindness. I can be authentic with love. I can model the dignity, honesty, and authenticity I want to see in the world.

Also Known As:
Be mad all you want, just don’t be cruel

Part of my Ten Things I Know To Be True series.

We All Get a Turn – Ten Things I Know To Be True #3

In times like these, it helps to recall that there have always been times like these. ~ Paul Harvey

When things are crappy, and I’m confused, scared, alone, or lonely – when I’m being laughed at and not with – I need to remember that it doesn’t last. That there are people that love me and trust me.

There is value not only in my contribution but in my existence. There will always be somebody to hold me and wipe my tears. And even if there isn’t (and there have been times in my life when there wasn’t or it didn’t feel like there was), this too will pass.

I will remember that it happens to everybody at some point. We all need somebody to reassure us,  just be with us without judgement. To accept who we are at that moment just the way we are.

Just as there will be times when I get to embrace those I love, and wipe their tears, and just hold space for them without needing to make them feel better, or cajole them, or fix things, or fill the awful awful silence with words. Just love them and be loved.

And when things are good, and I am full of joy, and happy, I will embrace the moment. Because it won’t last either. There’ll be other moments, of course, but soon it’ll be somebody else’s turn. I’ll cherish the moment I had, and I’ll be happy for others when it’s their turn.

Because we all get a turn.

Corollary: Thereare few decisions that are irreversible, and few events that are irrecoverable.

Part of my Ten Things I Know To Be True series.