Behavioral changes don’t just happen by accident. They require internal transformations first.
You see, there are subtle ways we sabotage the changes we want to make. If we don’t remove those internal blockers, we’ll never achieve lasting outcomes.
I intimately learned this lesson last year. My family accomplished a milestone goal. We became one of the 20% of Americans who are debt free. My entire approach to this goal was different than my usual run-of-the-mill – goals. This goal required that I show up differently and clearly address my blockers.
Last week I got a Tdap booster vaccination. My arm is still a bit sore. I knew it was going to hurt, because the nurse who gave me the vaccination warned me, “The needle will hurt a bit, and the injection site will be sore for a few days.” I took the shot anyway, because I knew it was good for me.
But in other areas of my life, I confuse pain and harm. And I find other leaders too often make this same mistake.
My 13-year-old son Kael was babysitting my 10-year-old son Zeff last week. Upon my return from an appointment, I asked Kael how it went. “Zeff was pretty good, but he disobeyed me.”
I’ve been knocked off-center. National-level politics, police shootings of defenseless citizens, the assassinations of police, and terrorist attacks around the world have all fed my sense of chaos, discouragement, and vulnerability. I’ve become disillusioned. The world is a mess.
What is my posture towards the assassins, terrorists, self-serving politicians, and lawless police?
I’m the Co-Founder and President of Rare Bird, an internet marketing firm. I’ve recently had the opportunity, if you will, to experience a pretty significant sea change in my world, and it allowed me the chance to reflect on how we react to changes of all kinds.
A few months ago, one of my business partners left the company after 18 years. He was the very definition of a key man: with me from the beginning, he was an integral part of the way we ran the business, the success we’ve had, and the decisions we made. When the opportunity to run a family business came up, he discussed it with several trusted advisors and decided to make the leap. From my perspective, it was the right choice, even though it would require huge changes for his entire family — not to mention being incredibly disruptive for Rare Bird.
Seth Godin poses this question in his book, Linchpin. This little book has rocked my world, and has me thinking about leadership, and life in general, in new and exciting ways.
“Leader” is a term I’ve always labeled myself with. In fact my parents love embarrassing me by sharing stories of me playing with the neighborhood kids at age 4. All the kids would come to our house and ask: “Alyssa, what are we going to play today?” I’d develop the agenda and start assigning roles…
I was driving west on Kessler Boulevard in Indianapolis, near where it passes under the Monon Trail and the right lane ends. In the left lane, mentally zoned out, I was cruising at or slightly above the speed limit. I snapped out of my reverie when a driver sped past me in the right lane, then pulled in front of me before his lane ended. I felt a hot flash of anger. I sped up and started thinking about how I could pass him (over double yellow lines) and cut him off before the light at College Avenue. My blood was boiling.
According to reports I’m hearing, my experience applying for a policy on the federal Health Insurance Marketplace has been pretty typical – I’ve spent many hours navigating the site and trying to get help from well-intentioned customer service reps with no more power or knowledge than me.
I was traveling with my family on Spring Break. We stopped for lunch at the Toro Loco in Jackson, Ohio. The food was delicious and inexpensive, and the staff was focused and attentive. After our meal, I tried to catch our waiter’s eye, but he was elusive. I was starting to feel anxious and frustrated, wanting to pay my bill and get back on the road.
I recall a conversation with my uncle, an entrepreneur who dabbled in all sorts of ventures, including buying and selling rare and high-value cars for individuals. I was a recently-graduated (I would say, “freshly-minted” but that is so 1997) MBA, eager to show off some of my new learning. My uncle had never gone to college, and I had just earned my third degree. I said, “Hey, I know quite a bit about stock portfolio management. If you ever want to talk about that, let me know, and I’ll be happy to share what I know with you.”