Bold endeavors involve degrees of uncertainty. Athletic competitions are on my list. Viewing in-race photos afterward is always surreal. I know how the event turned out and yet at the moment of the picture (unless it is at the finish line) there is often uncertainty swirling in my mind. Uncertain thoughts include:
- Can I sustain this pace?
- Have I taken enough feeds at the aid station to avoid ‘bonking’?
- How can I overcome ______ (mechanical issue) and still finish?
- I should have worn a different layer.
- Will I make it?
- Am I still on-course?
The more ambitious the challenge, the deeper the uncertainty dip or, the longer it endures. Formidable quests are similar to swimming in breaking waves. The deepest troughs offer no visibility of the horizon and the anxiety of an approaching swell. The highest crests provide the sensation of weightlessness and a crow’s nest scan of the surrounding landscape but the reality that we will recede into the next trough. The constant ebb and flow create a dynamic environment. If we become complacent, the waves will wash us ashore or drag us out-to-sea.
The signature moments for many individuals is when we overcome the moments of uncertainty. When we sign-up for a heroic journey and intently venture into the uncertain world, only to return with a new perspective about the world we inhabit and ourselves, we have achieved the remarkable.
Sometimes we have to encounter moments that remind us why we do what we do. Occasionally, we stumble across a memory, place, or event. Other times the moment is created. Return to the summer camp of your youth and recognize the campfire songs and traditions. Immediately, you reclaim a formative experience.
How often do we query why people lack engagement with us? Why do only a few maintain the energy and passion of their first involvement? Perhaps we realize that our interactions are limited to a few unremarkable places at set intervals. What if we put them back on the ski trail and encouraged them to make another joyous run? What if more of our engagements started with anticipation and excitement? What if we thought of ourselves as storytellers who customize remarkable moments?
Full moons are not unexpected. However, they can be noteworthy. When two occur in the same month, the second one becomes a Blue Moon. The second full moon is the same as the first, but the sequence makes it unique.
Sometimes it is not what you do but when you do it. People donate goods and services every day. Often the impact is not evident because the effect is not visible. One can offer simple acts of kindness to their neighbor, taking out the trash, picking up a newspaper, holding a package until they return from a trip. However, if a neighbor suffers a catastrophe, the outreach from the neighborhood is palpable. Time of great need equates to more impact. Being prepared to act stands out. Sequence matters.
Johnny Carson’s gift to guests on The Tonight Show was his ability to be generous with his questions. He rarely told a cheap joke at the guest’s expense or attempted to tell a better story. His questions were strategically curious, drawing out the best from the person sitting in the chair next to him. Jonny was willing to ask for more. He calculated that his guest’s success would benefit the show for the years to follow.
How can we emulate Johnny and be less insistent about inserting our stories into a conversation? Ever stand next to a stranger at a party and have a remarkable interaction, later to realize that they asked insightful questions such that you spent the majority of the time talking about what makes you unique. Set people up for success and both of you will be rewarded.
Ultimatums are for your benefit. Promises are for the benefit of others. If we only focus on creating value, then either an ultimatum or promise works. If we aspire to be of service and create value, then a promise is ideal.
How do you measure progress? By the value created? By doing what is best for those you serve? Do you provide what is easiest or do you combine the unconventional and produce the remarkable? A promise reinforces your core values, which may be more important than any scorecard.
Seth Godin is the master of keeping it simple. I borrow his expression ‘doing the work that matters’ frequently. Seth’s blog post simplifies the difference between choices and decisions and our confusing of the two. We encounter choices in our real-time wayfinding process. What if we streamlined our efforts by making quick choices, so we open bandwidth to focus on the decisions that matter. Make a game of choosing by spinning a wheel, asking the opinion of the next person we encounter, selecting the adventurous route, or going left. Decisions impact the work that matters and requires time and information. Which TSA security lane to stand in at the airport is a choice. Which person to join you for a month-long expedition is a decision. Make time for the decisions that matter, few remember how quickly you navigated TSA, but many benefit from your decision to commit to the mission.
A template for a spinning wheel if you are game to choose differently.
People may remember more about us because of our reflection. We are not always aware of what backdrop upon we are projecting. We stumble on a puddle in the middle of a hiking trail, only to be captivated by the reflection of the moon, a mountain spire, or evergreen boughs creating an overhead canopy. The same happens in community narratives.
Volunteers, program partners, and neighbors offer testimonials that are highly contagious. Encounter a citizen who speaks glowingly about an enterprise, and we are intrigued. Travel to a new location, and we rely on the recommendations of others. Sometimes the information is accurate, or suggestions are based on old information. But their reflections start to shape our worldview. As a child residing outside of New York City, Time Square, the subway, and Central Park were all things to be avoided at night. I could continue to share those observations but those landmarks have changed in today’s New York City.
How do we set the people around us up for success? How do we make sure they possess an accurate worldview or at least the courtesy to encourage others to create their own experience? How do we make sure people make it to our front door without being misinformed or detoured by the neighbors?