Thursday, February 28, 2013

Persistence is a superpower

There are lots of sexy gifts that we wish we had: wisdom, charisma, strength or acuity.  They are characteristics of the successful and powerful, the characteristics we associate with being better and doing better.  Persistence is not sexy.

Courage is sexier than persistence. We admire courage although if we are wise and honest, we hope that we won't need courage very much or very often. Courage is a gift that means you're in big trouble and it will probably hurt before it gets better. Courage is sometimes so like persistence that they might be twins.

Persistence is the quiet twin, the one who knows how to make herself inconspicuous when the company arrives. She is often found with her equally undesirable cousin, Patience.  The two are hard to notice and yet, when we look we find them both wherever people are able to maintain success. You might be lucky once, but if you are lucky repeatedly, it's because you have made room for persistence.

I think if I were a fairy godmother standing over a cradle, persistence is the gift I might give. I would give it knowing that the child I blessed would often feel cursed by my gift.  I would give it because I would suspect that when all the other gifts are hidden in the dark, persistence just keeps moving, a little at a time, until the light appears.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Reframe. Relate. Recharge.

Bad stuff happens to good, smart people. There are lots of good ways to think about life, but there is no way to out-think life.  Stuff happens.

In my life right now, stuff is happening in my back. I've had significant back pain for two full months now, and I have to say that pain sucks. Given the choice, I would definitely wake up tomorrow pain free and able to move comfortably. I have tried rest, pills, chiropractic care, massage, nlp, hypnosis and EFT.  I still experience pain whenever I try to move: getting up or down or walking or standing. All hurt.

So, you might wonder, what's the good of NLP if it first allowed me to make the choices that got me here and second has not fixed me yet?

1) Reframing.  I am not happy about what is happening and I recognize that I have an opportunity to understand differently and make new choices.  Going back to the patterns that got me here is literally not an option at the moment, and that's a good thing.

2) Relating. I know that the fastest way to problem solve is to heighten my awareness of the good things available to me through my connections with other people. Sometimes I phone a friend and ask for good old fashioned sympathy. But more often, I draw energy from my purposeful connections with people who have energy and freedom and excitement. I know that I am surrounded by examples of exactly the kind of thinking and behaviour I need to get through this and past it.

3) Recharging.  Pain is draining and distracting. It is allowing me to develop better strategies for rest, for setting priorities and for noticing what is so important to me that I will do it anyway.  I know that this time (frustrating as it is) will allow me to find a new relationship with parts of me that I have been neglecting. Ultimately, I will learn from this.

These are not small triumphs.  Chronic pain plays tricks with one's perceptions. Staying sane and hopeful, meeting commitments, and making intentional choices cannot be taken for granted. The temptations to do dumb things are endless, whether the dumb thing is to hide in a fog, to push through regardless of the cost, or to give up on what you want because it will hurt.

Because I do practice what I preach, I am staying relatively sane and hopeful. I am remaining curious about what I will learn and how this will help me reach goals in areas that feel blocked. This is to me the most important part of NLP. It is a model of learning and the fastest way to learn is to make some mistakes and then get really curious about how you will move past them.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

What makes information stick?

In his recent book, To Sell is Human, Dan Pink argues that everyone now spends part of their work day trying to persuade other people to do stuff. He says we are all in sales now. He might also have said that we are all teachers. Teachers all believe they are in sales, but not all sales people believe they have to teach.  And managers are as likely to regret having to train as they to see themselves as teachers. Yet none of us makes it through a day without giving instructions of one kind or another.

Yesterday, I watched a group of great young people give quite dull presentations. They were trying to do what they have been taught to do: to present information they found somewhere else about contexts about which they know almost nothing. When people think of education, this is the kind of experience that comes to mind. I read the text book. I repeated what I thought I found there. I got marks and moved to the next textbook.

No wonder people do not want to see themselves as teachers. No wonder training is often taken to mean something like "a day away from work that accomplishes nothing and is not even much fun."

After the presentations, I told my students stories. I told them about the time I was shot at in my hotel room, and about missing classes so I could watch World Cup soccer games (my students do not have to miss class: they can watch soccer on their computers while in class). I told them about watching my mom get dressed up for parties and how elegant Chanel No. 5 seemed to me when I was very young and my mom was very glamourous. I told them stories because I knew that they will remember the stories.

I happen to teach business communication, and every time I tell them something they remember, I also give them a model of what kind of information sticks and motivates. The stories are not relevant to the textbook: they are relevant to the people in the room. The relevance makes them sticky and earns me the right to teach them something in the textbook. It connects the way they already communicate with they way they might learn to communicate.

The choice is not between an irrelevant story and a relevant page of facts. We do not get to choose how human brains pay attention, encode information or retrieve information. That's a given. We only get to choose how well we respect natural learning processes so that the information we offer has a chance of sticking.

Stories stick. Sensory information sticks. Emotion sticks.  If you don't have any of that in your communication, people have forgotten what you are saying before you are finished saying it.

Sticky information is like tape: it sticks to whatever comes in contact with it. If you want your facts to stick, you need to put them next to something sticky.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

The hazards of friends who believe

Coaches are people who get paid to believe that you have what you need to be more successful at work or at life. They can do lots of good work, but there is always a sliver of an out: they believe in you because it's their job to believe. That leaves just a little room for doubt.

Friends are people who just believe that you have what you need to be more successful. There's no wiggle room.  They don't get a payoff for believing: they just do. This is why people who want to be depressed have to hide from their friends.  Friends would look at them and see possibility and hope and strength.  Accepting their belief would take so much attention and energy that there would be none left for being depressed.

It's also hard to give up, quit, or walk away if you hang out with people who look at you and see strength and skill and resilience.  You might change direction or you might change activities but you would have to be very strong to overcome their belief in you and just give up.  Instead, you would dig deep inside to find a glimmer of what they reflect back to you and you would just keep going.

And so every day you have a choice. You can achieve at the level that you expect, doing what you know you can do and not doing what seems impossible to you at the moment.  You can achieve at the level your coach believes possible, which is more than you could do alone. You'll pick up techniques for discovery that will be helpful and you will have to admit that there is more choice than there seems to you on your own.  That's all good. But you can always decide that the coach is smarter and stronger than you and coast on their belief.  Or you can always decide that the coach is not smarter than you and slide back into the limits of what you know to be possible in this moment.

Or you can hang out with friends who believe in you. Yes, you do have some and you even know who they are.  They may be worried for you. They may say exactly the right thing or say exactly the wrong thing. They will push and pull and prod.  They will hold the knowledge that you really do have what you need to get through or past or over whatever is holding you back.  They will believe that you are capable of being well and doing well.  They will persist in that belief when it seems obvious to you that you do not have any of that.

So be careful who you choose.  Because the friends that believe in you will not let you off the hook. Their belief will carry you forward.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Learning to sell

I will admit that it's taken me a long time to get comfortable with selling.  For many years I told myself a story that said I could be good at selling but it would take a lot of effort and a lot of transition between tasks. After all, my selling hat was different than my talking to friends hat or my working with clients hat. That was so obvious, it took a long time before I realized it did not have to be true.

It is true that interacting with clients and colleagues sometimes requires an energized focus and/or willpower. When it does, it takes me a little time and intention to recharge. Somewhat to the surprise of people who know me through my speaking and training, I usually test as an introvert. I love people and sometimes I also love quiet.  Selling requires energy because it is one of the interactions that requires I be very present to what someone else wants.

But my selling hat is no longer a separate hat. I have come to recognize two things: the first is that I am excellent at selling when I want to be. The second is that if I don't sell, I am letting people down. My courses are excellent: I do great work and provide great value. People make change and like it. If I don't make the effort to sell them my courses, they spend money somewhere else. And frequently, those courses don't provide the same great value. Frequently they are the training equivalent of grabbing some fries and a Coke and calling them lunch.

Pushing in sales is all about pushing myself to uncover what someone needs and match them up with it. Most often, if I am talking to them, I have what they need so my work is to listen and add energy and hope until I have given them enough motivation or inspiration to move forward.  If that sounds exactly like coaching, it's because it is exactly like coaching.

There are only so many ways to be human. There are only so many ways to promote well-being and satisfaction and excellence. So all along, it turns out that I have been learning to sell. I've been teaching it too.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Uncomfortable but not suffering

Here's something that you might have encountered: training in coaching or therapy that puts you through an emotional wringer.  Often, people that take courses that produce this effect end up saying good things about the course and much less good things about themselves. I'd like to think of this as a hint.  Don't let people mess with your head if they are not going to clean up after themselves.

Twice this weekend, I ended up in conversations about people who had taken training that they said was terrific but which clearly wasn't making them feel more able to function in the way that they wanted to function.  This is possibly a good marketing technique since it clearly has the potential to make people pay still more dollars to follow up the original training with more (terrific?) training so that they might finally be able to put the skills they are learning to work.  It's not as clear that there is value for the client.

Sometimes I make my clients and students uncomfortable.  Usually it is because they finally see in themselves or their lives a strength or possibility that they have not been able to see before. Seeing your own strength is disconcerting. It does make you wonder what else you have been missing. It might even make you wonder what you have been influencing in ways you chose not to notice. New information can be uncomfortable.

Being uncomfortable is not the same as suffering. It's not the same as reliving pain in your mind over and over or running patterns to avoid pain over and over. People who are uncomfortable often get moving. People who are suffering need to conserve energy. Sometimes it takes everything they have just to breathe.

Be careful who you let close enough to put pressure on the tender spots. My chiropractor and massage therapist often make me hurt. They don't make me suffer. A moment of painful contact brings release. The pain should not linger. If you are in a training that promises you will eventually stop suffering and start feeling competent, stop suffering now.

How will you know the difference?  Check in with yourself and you will find you already have the answer to that question.