The Other Side Of Risk Or Fear
You know the cliches, so I will spare you all of the pithy sayings about growth occurring on the other side of risk or fear. It’s always going to be easier to avoid confronting that sickening feeling deep in your gut that results from being in an uncomfortable situation. The irony? The people who appear most comfortable in front of strangers, party guests, boardroom execs, co-workers or on a stage in front of an audience, are just as petrified as you are, but they have learned how to act in spite of their fear.
I’ve experienced this first hand. Now’s the part of the podcast where I tell you to follow my six steps and your discomfort flees away and connection awaits with open arms, right?! Does it always work out and go splendidly? Ha! NO! Sometimes you look like an idiot…just like you imagined. You say the wrong thing, spit a piece of food out of your mouth while trying to appear fascinating and engaging, or call someone by the wrong name who you just met 10 seconds earlier.
Yep, I Did That
Give yourself a break – laugh at yourself even if others don’t see the humor. Here’s the truth that others won’t tell you: there will be times when you were right for wanting to avoid the gathering. You will embarrass yourself, spill food on your white shirt, act like you know what you are talking about when you don’t, and feel completely alone after doing all of the right things. So now what?
You do it again, and again, and again! Welcome to being human. No, not welcome to being the perfect human. There was only one of those and there haven’t been any others since. No, welcome to imperfect humanity. Now before you get all depressed because you aren’t all that, let me encourage you with a couple of points that are critical for you to remember. First,
It’s Worth The Pain To Connect
I’ll go so far as to say that as a leader, it’s one of the most important things you will do. The ability to relate with your team, with customers, with executives, with communities, with lawmakers, with activists, it’s WAY undervalued in my opinion. This ability certainly comes more naturally to some than it does to others. But you can learn, through practice and repetition, how to connect with people. Second,
It’s Never Going To Be Easy
I’ve participated in quite a few small groups over the years and have led many of them. When people who don’t know each other come together for the first couple times, it can be REALLY uncomfortable. It’s growing pains and I’ll tell you this for sure: if each person doesn’t understand why they are there, what they want from the experience and where the group is headed along with the outcomes you hope to achieve, you are going to have a really difficult time getting to authentic connection. Your time is precious and should be guarded. I recommend open and frank (not rude, but friendly) conversations about what you want from your investment.
Would you just hand over your retirement portfolio to a financial advisor without clarifying your expectations? Does it mean that it’s all going to happen just as you planned or communicated that you wanted it to happen? Of course not! However, everyone knows the objective and you are going to work together to achieve it. I recommend that if you don’t get the sense that the person(s) that you are communicating with are just as committed to the objectives as you are, then don’t waste your time.
So maybe you recognize your need to connect with others. This is clear to you. But maybe you don’t have any idea where to start. Some of us aren’t bombarded daily in our physical or virtual mailbox with invitations to gather. No one hosting the event of a lifetime with a list of incredible and accomplished people has called you up and asked YOU to make sure YOU were there…that’s okay. You don’t have to be a socialite to make an impact (or be impacted) through an authentic connection. But you will have to do something.
Start Where There’s An Opportunity
A few years back, I took Mike Kim’s Pivot Course. As a result, there were several opportunities to connect, not only with people who were participating in the course but with others as well. This was where I first met Bryan Buckley. During the course, Bryan reached out to me, Rick Marion and Woodly Zacek to start a mastermind. This group would come together weekly using a consistent format.
The first few minutes would be updates and progress reports from previous week action items, productivity tips or recommendations on something we had read/seen/used, then one or more of us would have a “hotseat” where we would bring a particular problem or question, and get input/ideas from the others about how to address the problem or question. We would wrap up with action items all of us were going to take over the next week. Val Brown joined us a bit later and to this day, more than two years later, I still meet with Val and Rick weekly, speaking to Bryan and Woodley regularly.
It’s one of the best examples I can offer of what happens when you push through the discomfort of the unknowns to reach authentic connection. Our connection absolutely is authentic. When you meet with people for several hours a month with the express intention of being accountable, it’s hard to avoid deep and real connection. The reason? Because accountability requires honesty. You can kid others but you can’t kid yourself. If you are looking for growth, I know of no more effective path than finding people who will challenge you, push you, question you, love you and support you.
Yes, You Really Need This
You’re probably thinking “Mark, I already have that in my spouse or best friend!” Your spouse is critical to the success of authentic connection, but he or she is likely too close to give the kind of criticism or support that an objective external party can provide. This doesn’t invalidate their input and it isn’t true in every circumstance. A coach or mentor can be another critical asset. And it will cost you – dollars and time. And it’s the best investment you will make. What you want is balance to be achieved in the advice provided collectively. Proverbs 15:22 says there is wisdom in a multitude of counsel.
As you practice, it’s going to feel more and more natural. You are going to get pushed and challenged. More thought and work will be required to validate your ideas. You might even feel like it’s two steps forward and one step back. Frustration will grow. It will seem like you aren’t making the kind of progress you wanted and yet, here is where you find the stretch.
The stretch that takes you beyond where you were. If it’s easy, if it’s comfortable, then red lights should go off. You want the team, the people you are connected with, to raise objections. To push back and question if you have got an accurate view of the issue at hand. And there are times when it’s going to upset you. There are times when you absolutely will have to trust the process and scrap where you thought you were going in favor of where you know you need to end up.
Comfort Is The Enemy Of Progress
My recommendation is that the moment you start feeling comfortable, get concerned. When you think “I got this” – check to see if you are settling! Comfort is the enemy of progress and growth. As I learned how to participate in and contribute to the mastermind environment, Mike continued to stretch and challenge the participants in the Pivot Course. Eventually, it was his (along with Bryan, Rick, Woodly and Val) prodding that led to the creation of the podcast you are listening to today. I can honestly say that without that group, this podcast would not exist.
Does it sound like I want it to? Am I satisfied with the impact? Can I honestly say that it couldn’t be any better? No. No to all of the above. But you know what I can say? I understand a lot better today how to do it than I did a year ago. Without a doubt, it’s better than it was when I started. The podcast has been an incredible outlet which has allowed me to pour myself into the hearts and minds of listeners looking to progress on their leadership journey. I constantly think about delivering the best content because your ears are on the other side of it. I want this to be the best investment of any 15 mins you spent this week!
It’s Not Easy – That’s Why Not Everyone Does It
It’s been anything but easy. Sometimes incredibly tough – even a grind in some instances. Schedules don’t cooperate. Work doesn’t cooperate. Travel interrupts – actually, life interrupts. Working around and through that would not have been possible if I wasn’t committed to the objective. My goal was and continues to be, to NEVER waste your time with fluff. It’s meaningful or I scrap it. It helps or doesn’t see daylight. Because of my commitment to you, and because of my commitment to myself, it happens no matter what.
Next week, I’m going to share about moving to EPIC conversations. It’s a step beyond authentic – not better, but different. Don’t miss next week’s episode. I’ll share more about where you can take and shape your desire to connect. Understanding the reason for authenticity, the reason for powering through the discomfort lays the foundation for moving toward the EPIC conversation. Don’t miss it.
Great Quotes From This Episode:
“Comfort is the enemy of progress and growth.” – Mark Slemons
Resources Mentioned In This Episode:
Mike Kim’s website
Bryan Paul Buckley’s website
Rick Marion’s website
Val Brown’s website
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Now, go lead like someone you would want to follow!