I’m reading the book, Grant, by Ron Chernow. I’m on page 90. Ulysses Grant is 32 years old. He just resigned from the U.S. Army after multiple drinking issues. He has two children and no money. His wife and children are 1800 miles away. He suffers from alcoholism, depression, and a propensity for making really bad financial investments. It’s April 11, 1854.
Over the next 11 years he leads the North to victory in the Civil War and preserves the United States of America. He goes on to become the President of the United States.
Whatever challenge you’re dealing with today is almost certainly not the end of your story. There are many chapters still to go.
Take a deep breath, focus on what you want to do today, and step forward. Who knows where the journey can take you.
If you are lucky enough to be inside today in the many parts of the U.S. and Canada that are below zero degrees Fahrenheit, use this opportunity to reflect on some aspect of your life.
Some days things simply shut down. Schools shut down, cars don’t start, and your external world grinds to a halt. When you can’t do what you had planned to do, turn inward.
Choose an area of your life: work, home, family, personal, financial, physical, social, community, or some other area.
Then answer these three questions:
- What is going well in this area of my life, and why is that going well?
- What is not going well in this area of my life, and why is that not going well?
- What could I do that I’m not currently doing to make this area of my life better, and why do I feel that way?
Take an hour out of a bitterly cold day, and reflect on those three questions. Look at your answers, and discern what you want to pull out of your answers and put into action.
This act of using your mental engine can make today an incredibly important day for your future.
Then, of course, you have to go do what you identified in order to improve your future.
The fathers of Robin Williams, Fred Rogers, and Ulysses Grant all wanted their sons to go into business like they did.
Instead they each chose a different path, and went on to become one of the funniest stand-up comics and finest actors of his generation, perhaps the most popular and impactful early childhood educator in history, and the general who saved the union in the United States.
You can carve out a new path for yourself and be whatever you choose to be. It starts with the part about you carving out the path you want for yourself.
I like definitions. Sometimes I get them from Merriam-Webster Dictionary, and sometimes I create my own definitions. Once we land on the meaning of a word then we can use it in many situations.
Here’s Merriam-Webster’s definition of a metaphor: a figure of speech in which a word or phrase literally denoting one kind of object or idea is used in place of another to suggest a likeness or analogy between them (as in drowning in money).
I believe a great way to gain new insights into your organization is to describe it using metaphors.
Steve Jobs famously said about the original Macintosh computer, “It’s a bicycle that helps you have control over where you go.” His point was that the personal computer was not something for a hundred people to use at the same time, but rather for one person to use.
I think of my work as a one-stop shop for mountain climbers. Not real mountains, but metaphorical mountains like achieving an important goal at work or growing your company’s brand. Mountain climbers need tools, training, guidance, support, and experience. That’s what I provide to my clients. You choose the mountain. I help equip you for the climb.
Now define your business using metaphors. What is your business like? Write down 8-10 metaphors. And then use those metaphors to guide your decision-making going forward.
In my work, I think about what I can do to better equip business leaders to achieve what they are trying to achieve.
What should you be thinking about that fits with your metaphors?
Rote Learning is where you’re told how to do something and then you do it that way over and over and over until you can replicate that procedure on a test. The best rote learners get A’s on a lot of activities both inside and outside of school from teachers and bosses and society members.
Reflection learners think about a situation, combine ideas together to make new ideas, and then discern what they think are the key ideas to extract from the situation and then apply those ideas in new situations. Reflection learners don’t get A’s on a lot of activities because their teachers or bosses or society members don’t agree with their conclusions.
Which is a better preparation for life and adulthood and responsibilities?
(Hint: It’s not the first one.)
On page 22 in the book, The Good Neighbor, Fred Rogers is quoted as saying the following:
“You rarely have time for everything you want in this life, so you need to make choices. And hopefully your choices can come from a deep sense of who you are.”
I love that quote. It’s not enough just to make a choice. The real challenge is to make sure the choice fits with your purpose, values, character strengths, passions, and talents.
In other words, your choice should come from who you are rather than what you think other people want you to do.
The year is still fresh.
Before it really gets going into full swing, clean off your desk. Take everything off your desk, go through every item, and then only put back on what you really want on your desk.
Go through your closets and remove anything you haven’t used in the past two years. Just get rid of it or donate it to someone else.
Just those two actions can allow your brain to ease up, shift gears, and move forward.