DO NOT QUIT BEFORE THE FINAL WHISTLE

neymar.jpgWhat do you do when you find yourself down on the track while the race goes on without you? We all trip and fall. The question is what comes next?

How often do we use our setbacks as an excuse to check out? We walk off the field before the whistle blows because it’s easier on our bruised egos and depleted resources than getting back in the race.

Here’s a recent example from my own business. A few years ago I ran a campaign for my own school. It was a start up then. The initial response was far below my projections, but I was tempted to let it go. The results wouldn’t have been stellar, but they weren’t terrible either.

Then my coach challenged me. Was I quitting before the whistle sounded? There was still time to reboot the campaign and change the outcome, he said. And he was right. I rolled up my sleeves, retooled the campaign, and drastically changed the results. In the end I actually beat my projections.

  1. Our response builds our character. Very often in those moments where we are tempted to bail, our character is a stake. Character isn’t fixed. As Oscar Wilde said, it’s made and unmade by our decisions. When we push through difficulty and see things to the end, we’re developing our character in a positive way. When the urge to walk off the field comes – and it will – ask yourself what kind of person you want to be.
  2. Our response tests our true abilities. Whatever we think about ourselves or the future, if we walk off the track, we never really know what we’re capable of or what was truly possible.
  3. Our response impacts others. I wasn’t just running for myself. I was running for my team, for my school, for my family and community. The impact of my decision was far-reaching – even down to us discussing it today.

There’s something at stake in every decision to stay in the game that goes well beyond ourselves. Quitting not only robs ourselves of needed character development and a deeper understanding of ourselves, it has an immeasurable impact on those around us.

The issue in all of this isn’t wining or losing, but whether we’re willing to play full out. There are real things at stake – personal, professional, and beyond. We can’t afford to cheat ourselves or the people counting on us buy walking off the filed before the end of the game.

Have you faced a moment recently where walking off was easier than staying in the game? How did you convince yourself to stay in and see it through? 

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WHAT NO ONE EVER TOLD YOU ABOUT WORK-LIFE BALANCE

When it comes to work and life, most of us know what it feels like to be out of balance. But do we know what it feels like to be in balance? It’s not a trick question – even if it seems so at first.

A few months ago I took my mentoring group on a ropes course. For one of the challenges, we walked a long stretch of rope that wound around several trees. We had to hold onto each other as we worked our way across the line.

Here’s what I remember most of all: when we were balanced, it never really felt like we were. Our legs constantly moved and wobbled, and we strained to grip each other and the nearest tree. But we stayed on that line a long time, making little corrections, adjusting our weight, and trying to stay upright. It didn’t feel like balance, but it was.

That’s exactly how life is, right?

We’ve been speaking the last week about the symphonic life – the idea of allowing all the parts of our life to play at the right pace and volume. It’s a metaphor for balance. But what about the people that say work-life balance is a myth, an unattainable condition we all hope for but need to forget about?

It’s only a myth if we misunderstand what balance means. Here are three vital aspects of balance we need to keep in mind, especially as we apply the concept to our work and life:

  1. Balance is not the same as rest. If we think that attaining balance means finally getting a much-needed break, then we’re missing something important. It’s not about rest, though it does include it. Balance is about distributing demands so we can stay on track. And sometimes that takes a lot of work. If that’s where you’re at right now, don’t be discouraged. It’s just part of the challenge.
  2. Balance is dynamic. “Life is like riding a bicycle,” Albert Einstein said. “In order to keep your balance, you must keep moving.” We’ve all experienced this. The slower you go, the more trouble it is to keep your bike up. Momentum helps us stay on course. It’s the same for all the corrections and adjustments we make along the way. Balance requires tweaking our schedule, task lists, and more. If you have it right one week, it still requires attention the next – which lead us to No. 3.
  3. Balance is intentional. Our bodies are programmed to stay upright, but it takes a bit more focus when it comes to the complex responsibilities and relationships that make up our lives. We have to make purposeful decisions and actions if we want balance. It’s not accidental. Those decisions and actions will look different for each of us, but they’re essential for all of us just the same.

If we’ve bought the myth of fun, fast, and easy, then we might be tempted to look at work-life balance as a sort of get-out-of-jail-free card. If we just get the right combination of job, family, rest, and hobbies going in our favor, then we’re home free. But that’s just magical thinking.

Balance isn’t easy, fast, or always fun. It requires constant movement, constant attention. That’s why it can feel like we’re not truly balanced even when we are. Sometimes when we’re doing exactly what is required to keep our balance, we feel the most unbalanced. That’s only because we’ve misunderstood balance and expect it to do something for our lives that it can’t.

But once we adjust our perspective, we can see it for what it is – a difficult but necessary way to approach our lives. Rather than be discouraged when the challenge becomes hard, we can recognize the difficulty as just part of the course.

What do you think about the possibility of work-life balance?

HOW TO DEVELOP THE ONE TRAIT ESSENTIAL FOR SUCCESS

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Success has many determining factors, including dumb luck. But I’ve been thinking of one lately that’s largely indispensable and totally learnable: persistence.

Have you ever felt like bailing on that one thing you know you’re supposed to do? As a teen I picked up guitar and started a rock band. But it took a long time to sound better than cats fighting in an alleyway. I had good feel for the instrument, but I had scales and chords to learn, songs to memorize, and a sound to mesh with other musicians.

There were enough moments of frustration I could have quit and done something easier. I’m glad I didn’t. Not only did I develop my skills, but sticking with it taught me something essential about success in every other area of life, especially business.

The Importance of Persistence

Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. We’ve all seen talented, smart, and well-trained people bottom out. Success takes something more – the willingness to keep going even when the odds are bad and our enthusiasm has waned.

Think of the developers of virtuality reality technology, tablet computers, or ebooks. After initial spikes of interest all of these faded as failures. Yet today they are all going concerns, including virtual reality, because people kept working, tinkering, improving, and waiting. Finally the line of preparation and opportunity came together, and it can happen for us too if we stay persistent. And the good news? Persistence is something we can all develop.

Six Tricks For Gaining Persistence

1- Set goals Some tasks are simply too big. Maybe you’re recording an album, developing new code for a website, writing a book, launching a new product, or taking your business into a new market. Dicing it up into manageable pieces is one way we can stay on task instead of getting overwhelmed.

2- Keep the end in mind – Don’t just think of small goals. Think of the big win. What will persisting to the end do for you? If the reward is big enough, we can stay on task when the difficulties become discouraging. This trick has seen me through seemingly impossible circumstances more times than I can count.

3- Improve your pace and renew your enthusiasm – If you can set goals, you can measure progress. Working against deadlines and milestones enables us to accomplish more, more quickly. And the progress we make can keep us energized for the long haul.

4- Run and walk – When we’re working on a big project, it’s impossible to go all out all the time. But proper pacing improves endurance. Running coach Jeff Galloway has been teaching people to run marathons for years using his run-walk method. Alternating periods of intense effort with moderate efforts can keep us going longer. The method applies in other areas too; we can go farther if we take breaks, go easy, relax, and rejuvenate.

5- Kill the distractions – Exercising our determination is like exercising any other muscle. This relates to No. 5, but instead of taking breaks or going easy, the answer is removing the extraneous stuff working against our determination and wears us down. How many meetings, hobbies, projects, pastimes, even relationships are making it impossible to keep up our determination when it matters most?

6- Change your self image – The most important trick for getting more persistent is to see ourselves as persistent people. When the urge to quit arises, the first and best response is that quitting is not part of who we are. We are people who stay the course, we deliver, we get it done.

Yes, there are good reasons to quit all sorts of things. We can all be grateful that Steve Jobs quit college, for instance. But he quit because it was pointless, not because it was hard. When we have a calling or a dream, the most important factor to seeing it realized is persistence.

Can you recall a time when persistence was the determining factor for the success of a project or something even bigger in your life?