October 1, 2010
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.
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:
- Breathe deeply through your nose (channel straight lines) – it helps to retain focus and minimizes irrational thoughts about quitting.
- Break down the problem – try simpler versions to validate the strategy or idea before incorporating into more complex scenarios.
- 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?
March 31, 2009
When I was running with my friends Sunday morning, the headwind at the outset was strong. Our progress slowed to a crawl along the trail. As we chatted, inquiries as to the condition of my ankle (six weeks post-sprain) heard reports of recovery – even a wobble on Friday’s run “righted” perfectly as pre-injury. And then, as we continued to chat about the economy and technology, I realized that the P’s of overcoming obstacles for running apply to technology business too.
- Keep Perspective: When there is a headwind out, there will be a tailwind on return (and sure enough, we flew back).
- Be Patient: My friends continue to commend me for taking the long view and being patient with my ankle. I did not run for 4 weeks, I rehabilitated through swimming and targeted exercise, and when I returned to running, I slowly increased distance with time.
- Maintain Persistence: I worked hard to regain proprioception by strengthening my ankle with balance (wobble) boards.
- Create Positivity: My friends enjoy and encourage a positive attitude; we see the glass as half-full.
On Technology Business:
- Keep Perspective: When there are technical challenges, it is important to recognize that they are competitive opportunities. Each solution becomes a barrier-to-entry for competitors.
- Be Patient: In a desperate economy, there will always be significant pressure to attempt to do too much too quickly. However, doing too much is foolish because it dilutes resources and increases the risk for success in any single effort. The long view encourages prioritization and sequencing of effort to achieve the greatest productivity and opportunity for success.
- Maintain Persistence: Key insights are achieved by diligence, being mentally prepared to recognize when key insights have been realized, and acceptance of breadth (be open to “not invented here” – look to other technologies for similar problems and generalize solutions).
- Create Positivity: Staff, customers, investors, and the media are human and thereby obey the law of attraction (subject of ch. 2, How to Be Useful: A Beginner’s Guide to Not Hating Work by Hustad). Authentically projecting positivity and confidence about your technology will encourage others to do the same!