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.

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.

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.

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.

I Am Who I Hang Out With – Ten Things I Know To Be True #2

The old adage “People are your most important asset” is wrong; the right people are your most important asset ~ Jim Collins

Two children sitting by a campfire

What makes me human? Community. No matter how shy or introverted I sometimes feel, I need other people around me. Sometimes I just need to be in the same room, maybe not even participating. Just seen, just included.

People that know me might be surprised by this. Many people, I think, see me as outgoing, confident, and capable. I don’t always feel that way. I think most people, at least those that are self-aware and thoughtful, don’t always feel good about themselves or their circumstance once in a while.

But community is what makes us who we are. Song, story, dance, cooking are part of our evolution. A big part of what makes us human. Besides being able to throw things and make tools, who we are as a species and who I am person is directly related to whom I spend time with.

If I don’t like who I am, if I want to change my behaviour, I must also change my context and my company. If I want to be successful at work, I must choose who I work with consciously. If I want my children to be successful, I can and should control who they spend time with. Including other children, because that is who has the greatest influence on them. 

If I want to quit smoking, I have to stop hanging out with smokers. If I want to get fit, I have to spend time with people who spend time at the gym or outdoors. Or maybe get a dog and spend time in the woods with her. If I want to build a successful company, I will be very careful about who I chose to work with me.

If I hang around with people who are always complaining, or blaming others, or or fearful, then I shouldn’t be surprised when they negatively affect how I see the world and treat other people.

I don’t want the people around me always agreeing with me. I need people to challenge me, to call me on my bullshit when appropriate, push me in positive way, and to question and challenge me. This makes me better. In a firm but supportive way. With dignity and respect.

But those people need to be smart, and inspired, and empowered. Because that’s what I want for myself too.

Corollary: As human beings, our greatness lies not so much in being able to remake the world – that is the myth of the atomic age – as in being able to remake ourselves.  – Gandhi

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

It’s Never, Ever Too Late To Try Again – Ten Things I Know to be True #1

I am not what happened to me, I am what I choose to become. – Carl Jung

Regret keeps us locked in a recurring spiral of recrimination from which there seems no escape. I am human. I will make mistakes. I will try to learn from every one of them and try again.

Making the same mistake over and over again is also a mistake. Living my life trying to avoid any mistake is a mistake. I will live to win, not live to avoid losing. These are two very different ways of framing the same outcome, and it makes a real difference to my happiness, success, and my affect on those around me.

The moment that counts the most is this one, and sometimes the one that comes right after it. Not the one that just passed. That past’s value lies in what I learned from it, not wishing I’d done things differently.

Not that I should always be starting over. I should, however, be ready to change, adapt, and seize opportunities as they come. To dig in and try again in different ways for things that are important if I believe it’s still possible.  To shed that things that are no longer working for me and are unlikely to change.

I can and should be ready to always be honest with myself. To examine critically what I’m good at or not, how I’m feeling and why, and what I’m willing to sacrifice or not. To be authentic and true to myself and honest with those I love.

It is never too late to say I’m sorry, admit a mistake, and start again. It’s not the successes that shapes my character. It’s how I deal with my failures and mistakes, and how I learn from every one.

Corollary: Do what you can, with what you have, where you are – Theodore Roosevelt

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

Ten Things I Know To Be True

I’ve been doing a lot of self-reflection the last six months as my life goes through some major changes, some painful and many good. Along the way self-awareness (and a wonderful partner) have kept me between the ditches. But when I came across Sarah Kay’s TED talk “If I Should Have a Daughter” I realized she had just handed me the tools to make my values and beliefs tangible.

After I watch Sarah’s TED talk, I sat down with my Brain Trust – my personal board of directors – and asked them what ten things they knew to be true. Everyone’s list was different, and inspiring, and let me know I was on the right track.

When I first wrote my list of ten things I actually came up with nineteen. But just writing down the titles wasn’t enough, and I wanted to get it down to ten. So I borrowed another technique of “progressive elaboration” from writing (and project management). That was one of the nineteen that didn’t make the final list, although I still know it to be true: “creativity is ideas having sex and making new ideas.”

I wrote a sentence for each truth. Then I wrote a paragraph for each. At each stage ideas merged, emerged, and coalesced. Now I have ten solid beliefs that I want to share with the world. If nobody reads this series, that’s okay too, because I’ll get something out of it. I already have. I’ve made clear what’s important to me in a way I can talk about it.

If somebody else gets inspired, or heck, if people start sharing with each other (like they have at TED, Google, or on Tumblr), then even better! And if you hire me because you have a better idea of who I really am, then fantastic!

So here’s my list. I’ll be writing about each one in the coming weeks and months. I hope you enjoy them all.