Your Edge comes from your Inconvenience

The short post which follows, originally appeared on my Say “Alaka‘i” column for the Honolulu Advertiser in October of 2009. The context then was slightly different; as I recall, we were in battle with mediocrity at the time. However having an edge applies to our recent discussions as well. I thought about it when writing up The G in Goals stands for Greatness, which I ended this way:

If you think Goal Setting is boring,
do what you must to light your fire with it again.

But first… by way of intro, and in keeping another recent reminder within sharp focus…

Getting “all fired up” is a Clearing

One way to light your fire, and challenge your most brilliant self, is to “Burn Your Boats” ~

“I’ve never forgotten the story of the famed explorer Hernando Cortés. He landed on the shores of Veracruz, Mexico, in 1519. Wanted his army to conquer the land for Spain. Faced an uphill battle: an aggressive enemy, brutal disease and scarce resources. As they marched inland to do battle, Cortés ordered one of his lieutenants back to the beach with a single instruction: ‘Burn our boats.’ My kind of guy.”

Challenge serves beautifully to introduce you to your best — and most brilliant — self. How fully would you show up each day — at work and in life — if retreat just wasn’t an option?”

—Robin Sharma, The Greatness Guide
(which I highly recommend: One of the most dog-eared books I own)

Too extreme?

Well then, what does it take for you to choose action? Goals are actions of the Hernando Cortés variety: They explore, but they also seek to conquer something.

You may have noticed that fire is a highly visible, hot emotion metaphor for me. Burning, not destructively, but as in having a “burning Yes!” as opposed to a wimpy, unemotional decision.

Another morning for the Keawe

Where I live, on the Big Island of Hawai‘i, brush fires are more common than we would like them to be, but the wonderful thing is that they don’t leave lasting scars behind. In fact, they clear: After a fire, the green shoots emerging from the ground are so life affirming. Fresh. New. Exuberant. Growth happens where it would never have began without that fire, and it happens quicker, for the fire didn’t take everything: It left behind both space and nutrition.

Fire Remnants Green after the fire

So how do we bring those lessons back to us, and understand what motivates us, freshens and renews us, particularly in setting challenging goals, and then, as managers, helping others do so?

January Wildflowers

Well, another way to light your fire is to make things inconvenient for you, just like our Big Island wildfires temporarily do, blocking the main highway. Consider with me, how…

Your Edge comes from your Inconvenience

I have noticed something about the workplaces I have visited recently. Managers are playing it safe, and that’s bad news for all of us. The inventive, edgy work borne from fresh ideas doesn’t happen where managers play it safe.

How often do you seek out those who aren’t on your radar, engaging them in conversation?

How often are you deliberately working on what is completely inconvenient and out of the norm for you?

How often do you push yourself to do the things you don’t like to do, arriving at those places which fall out of your comfort zone —and then staying there long enough to learn a new m.o.?

Make no mistake about it: Any edge you gain in today’s highly competitive world will come from your inconvenience.

I realize that this goes counter to what so much of management is all about. We managers work to make everything comfortable and predictable. We smooth ruffled feathers. We eliminate variance. We knock down barriers and obstacles. We spend considerable time and effort paving over the bumps in the road, and tending to the peace and order of the workplace landscape so that everyday work gets done with some kind of productive regularity our stakeholders can count on.

Well guess what. That’s what everybody else does too.

And remember, even A Copy of the Best is Still a Copy.

Hard as it may be to maintain peace and order, you can’t pat yourself on the back once it’s done and stop there. If you do, you’re the same as everyone else, and you won’t be anything special because you didn’t go the distance.

At first this sounds like a leadership concept (and it is), but it’s about Alaka‘i management too, for when we manage we channel available energies. If you are only working within your own comfort zone, you are missing the catalytic disruption which you can harness, and there is a LOT of energy available in disruption, waiting for you to channel it more productively.

Breakthrough-your-business Word for the Day: Disrupt (link to Ho‘ohana Aloha)

Let’s go back to the questions we started with:

How often do you seek out those who aren’t on your radar, engaging them in conversation?

How often are you deliberately working on what is completely inconvenient and out of the norm for you?

How often do you push yourself to do the things you don’t like to do, arriving at those places which fall out of your comfort zone —and then staying there long enough to learn a new m.o.?

Go spend some time on the wild side: Any edge you gain in today’s highly competitive world will come from your inconvenience.

There’s a fringe benefit too: You’ll never be bored.

Find your Blue Flame Inspirations: There’s no refrigerator space for inspiration.

Dangerous? Risky? Perhaps, but as the saying goes, you go out on a limb because that’s where the sweetest fruit is!

Peach Profusion