October 1, 2010

Straight Lines

Posted in Business, Life, Technology tagged , , , , , , , at 9:16 am by lindaslongview

I recently had the pleasure of hearing David Brooks speak about politics and his career as a journalist (now for the New York Times).  He was both funny and insightful.

Mr. Brooks spoke on many subjects, but I was especially piqued by his observations about one specific character trait that makes President Obama unduly effective in his role as leader – extraordinary CALMNESS.

The story he tells about Obama’s calmness is as follows (paraphrased):

When Obama debated McCain in the 2008 presidential election, each man took turns at the lectern. Both could be seen writing notes onto the provided notepad.  An observer later collected those notes.  McCain’s notes were jotted words topical to the debate.  Obama’s notes were six extremely straight drawn lines. 

Wow!

I deeply appreciate those who have mastery of calmness because I am personally a hyperactive, difficult to sit-still person.  Yet I recognize that calmness is an essential ally in gaining mastery over new material or terrain.  It is easy (and natural) to panic when a situation seems overwhelming and futile.  However, panicking never breeds success.

Having pushed thorough to higher knowledge and performance many times before, I know that every obstacle must be overcome to achieve success.  As I continue to push myself professionally and personally, I often find myself in over my head. At those times, I must channel calmness to proceed.   My personal mantras (long view advice) for learning new things and tackling more demanding challenges are as follows:

  1. Breathe deeply through your nose (channel straight lines) – it helps to retain focus and minimizes irrational thoughts about quitting.
  2. Break down the problem – try simpler versions to validate the strategy or idea before incorporating into more complex scenarios.
  3. Ask for help – consult someone more knowledgeable and learn from them.

Although #2 (teach oneself) enables deeper learning, don’t wait too long to seek #3 (learn from another), because of #1 (irrational thoughts).

Would you benefit from channeling straight lines?