leadership dot #2625: bug book

On one side of the spectrum, some people think that their passion will just reveal itself to them and then others are in a perpetual state of searching through an array of self-reflection techniques. Jim Collins, author of (my favorite) Good to Great utilized a technique that I found intriguing as a new way to learn what helps you get in a state of flow.

Collins deployed the scientific method of observation to himself the same way he used to document movements of bugs in a jar as a kid (Yes, he was a self-proclaimed nerd!). Jim designated a notebook as “A Bug Called Jim” and for a year he recorded his actions and emotions as they related to work. Every day he noted the activities that excited him and those that drained him and after several months of doing so actionable patterns emerged that led him to leave his job and pursue teaching and research.

I have just started a “Bug Book” of my own but already have found that it has made me far more conscious of the tasks that bring fulfillment and those that are done from necessity. I hope I can use the insights to adjust some of my projects or at least to schedule them differently.

Maybe channeling your inner scientific nerd could help you identify happiness amongst that which bugs you.

(As told in Creative Confidence by Tom Kelley and David Kelley)

leadership dot #2623: adjustment period

Some of the resistance to change comes just from the dissonance of having something be different. Often, if we allow even a short amount of time, we’ll acclimate to the change as it was originally made and become comfortable without any further adjustments. It’s just that we pass judgment too quickly – and too many times others address our initial displeasure without giving the change time to settle in.

For example:

  • People get a new watch and “don’t like it” – not because the watch itself is an issue, rather because it is a different weight than the previous one. Within days we wouldn’t notice it, but we don’t give it that long.
  • Freshmen go off to college – and every year someone will call their parents to retrieve them before orientation ends. They have no idea what college is really like but are too fearful to find out.
  • A new procedure is introduced and people spend more time lamenting about it instead of learning it, and the powers-that-be rescind the change rather than fight the backlash.
  • As part of my redecorating spree, I purchased a throw pillow that I initially didn’t like, but came to embrace before I had a chance to return it – realizing that my main sticking point was that I had to get used to any pillow being there but that the colors really did work well with this one.

When your first reaction to a change is unfavorable, pause for a moment and consider what is generating your response. Before you back-pedal or return something, wait a few days and see if you don’t come to feel differently. It’s often love at fifth sight or twentieth, not first.

leadership dot #2619: elevator

Trying to do too much sometimes works like an elevator. You think that you’ll make just a quick stop on a floor – only to discover that when you come back the elevator is gone and you have to wait for another to arrive. It ends up not being quick at all and you would have been better off heading directly to your original destination and finishing the first task at hand.

Think about your to-do list like an elevator and try to do all the things on one floor before heading to another. The less time you spend riding in the elevator, the more time you’ll have to actually accomplish tasks.

leadership dot #2615: climb

The arduous climb to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro may be easier in the coming years as the government of Tanzania is planning to install a cable car on the route. By assisting tourists in reaching the top faster, it hopes to increase tourism by 50% and provide access to physically disabled, elderly and children.

When I heard this, John F. Kennedy’s quote came to mind: “We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard…” Climbing to the summit becomes a personal challenge for those who attempt it – something that isn’t done for the views, but for the symbolism and accomplishment that it represents. They do it because it is hard.

There are many things easily done today that were once hard to do and I’m all for progress. I’m glad I can fly across the ocean instead of needing to go by ship. I couldn’t do the daily dots on a typewriter or by quill and ink. Thank goodness I don’t have to hunt and kill my own food.

But there is great value in doing something that is hard to do – for the sheer value of doing it. Completing a triathlon. Writing a book. Earning a Black Belt. Finishing a doctorate. And climbing a mountain.

Sometimes the benefits come from the process as much as from the outcome. Don’t cheat yourself by taking the cable car.

leadership dot #2610: need to

As I was listening yet another book on creativity, it occurred to me that I really did not “need” to learn more on this topic. Most people who know me would consider me to be creative already and I have been teaching workshops in this area for decades. And then a thought from James Clear’s Atomic Habits popped into my head: “I don’t need to because I do things I don’t need to do.”

For example:

  • Those who routinely go to the gym when they don’t need to, don’t need to go because they go regularly
  • People who save money when they don’t need to, don’t need to save because they save routinely
  • Folks who clean their homes or maintain their yards when they don’t need to, don’t need to deep clean because they have a habit of regular maintenance
  • Those who take a vacation don’t need to take a vacation because they regularly take time away
  • Students who study when they don’t need to…well, you get the idea.

The same applies to me listening to a book on creativity, and the concept is relevant for most any positive habit that you wish to develop. Engaging in a practice is something that you do over time, not just once in hopes that the behavior embeds itself.

Think about the skills or habits that you wish to cultivate or maintain. The best way to do so is to work on those things – even when you don’t “need to”.



Atomic Habits by James Clear, 2018

leadership dot #2609: easy money

The more layers retailers and service providers can put between purchase and outlay of money, the easier it is for people to buy. Thus, there seems to be an intentional strategy today to put consumers at least one step removed from actually paying for anything directly.

  • Buying online seems like typing in some numbers more than it feels like taking cash out of your wallet – and buying through an app that stores your information is even easier to do
  • Choosing a book with and Audible credit from your subscription happens much more quickly than if you had to consciously pay $15 for that same listen
  • Skipping a college class doesn’t feel like throwing away money because it was all billed as the semester’s tuition but those same students would never waste the equivalent amount of their cash
  • Purchasing a car wash coupon book makes it more likely that you will wash your car when you can just use a coupon instead of hesitating before you pay $15
  • Having insurance removes some of the pain of how much medical care truly costs and numbs the realization of how onerous the burden is for those paying directly
  • Subscribing to a movie pass or a gym membership makes it seem like participating is free even though it isn’t
  • Utilizing a gift card, purchasing card from a rebate or income tax refund feels like you have bonus money even though you paid for it in another form

Retailers intentionally craft ways to remove every decision point and barrier to making purchasing as easy as possible. Therefore, it pays to apply equal diligence to counteract their subterfuge and be conscious of all the money you spend – no matter in which manner you spend it. A dollar is a dollar – whether through the airwaves, over months or out of your wallet. Don’t let the ease of spending subdue you into doing too much of it.


leadership dot #2608: detours

On a recent trip out of town, I encountered three fairly major detours where the entire road was closed and we were detoured around for miles on a different road. The route was marked and I was confident that I would end up in approximately the same place but it was still unsettling to be on a strange road at the mercy of DOT signage.

During “construction season” (as the summer is lovingly called in the Midwest), we should come to expect detours and anticipate them as a natural part of travel; nonetheless, they still cause frustration, uncertainty and delays.

I think of the parallel with people on the change journey. They, too, should prepare to encounter detours en route to their goals but unlike with the roads, there are no signs or known endings. Detours during the change process are vague, unmarked and often set people back instead of moving them forward.

In both situations, taking the detour may still be the best way to arrive at the chosen destination. While you can’t avoid detours, it may help to expect to have your plans follow a circuitous route – whether literally or metaphorically – as you traverse on your journey.