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Opening Your Mind

Opening Your Mind

There’s a common saying that human beings were given two ears (and two eyes), but only one mouth to show that they should listen (and look) at least twice as much as they speak. I think that for managers and leaders that ratio is far too low. Looking and listening should happen maybe ten or more times for every time you open your mouth to make some pronouncement or decision. Yet in our rushed, stressed, action-obsessed corporate cultures, it sometimes seems that leaders speak at least ten times as often as they listen. Is it any wonder that so much time and effort is wasted in mistakes and false starts?

A leader who is out of touch is a liability to everyone, including him or herself. A manager with a closed mind is like a ship sailing at full speed for the rocks. More mistakes and losses are caused by people who have closed minds and open mouths that by all kinds of incompetence. I think rather few managers and leaders today lack enough competence. Mostly they are well-trained and highly skilled in their specialist areas. Where many are grossly deficient is in being sufficiently open-minded and willing to listen. All their skill and experience goes to waste as a result.

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Then there’s arrogance: being too proud and full of yourself to listen to anyone except a small clique of chosen associates (and sometimes not even to them). That trait is a certain killer. There are always people who will encourage you to tune out the rest of the world and listen only to them. The trouble is that they nearly always have a hidden agenda and a strong attachment to their own self-interest. A manager who surrounds him or herself with people like this is playing an extremely risky game. You may boost your ego still further (such sycophants are expert at polishing the boss’s ego), but the price you will pay is being cut off from reality and fed a constant diet of warped data that suits the interests of your minders.

Successful leaders understand that it is never anyone else’s responsibility to save them from becoming blinded by ignorance and surrounded by minders and toadies. That is their job alone, and they make it their highest priority. If the data reaching you is wrong, limited, out-of-date, or twisted and censored by others, any decisions you make will be as poor as the data they are based on.

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How do successful leaders behave?

  • They seek out the information they need. They don’t rely on others to bring it to their attention.
  • The know that the more glib, polished, and authoritative the person speaking, the more closely he or she should be questioned. Confidence tricksters and sharp salespeople are very persuasive and articulate. The person who knows the truth may not be either, but is still the only one worth hearing.
  • They never judge the worth of a piece of information by the status of the person they get it from, only by its reliability and importance.
  • They know that laziness in seeking out and testing information opens the door to being manipulated by those who are devoted to self-interest and not to the truth.
  • They never make a final decision until they must. Until then, they keep their minds, ears, and eyes open and alert to possible changes that would require a different choice.
  • They value evidence above convenience.
  • They know judgment and emotions are poor bedfellows.
  • They are aware of their own biases and take care to allow for them in making a decision.
  • They may have strong opinions, but they hold to them very lightly. They never cling to any opinion when the evidence is pointing another way, and they drop it instantly if it proves unsound.
  • They use at least 80% of their time to look, listen, explore, analyze, reflect, and consider. Only then do they speak.

Look around you at all the people with their mouths constantly open, and their minds,eyes, and ears tightly shut to anything that doesn’t immediately support the opinions they are so eager to proclaim. That’s how many fools there are in the world. Sadly, many of them hold important positions of leadership too. Just don’t join them. They are headed for certain disaster.

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Adrian Savage is a writer, an Englishman, and a retired business executive, in that order. He lives in Tucson, Arizona. You can read his posts most days at Slow Leadership, the site for everyone who wants to build a civilized place to work and bring back the taste, zest and satisfaction to leadership.

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Last Updated on September 15, 2020

7 Helpful Reminders When You Want to Make Big Life Changes

7 Helpful Reminders When You Want to Make Big Life Changes

Overcoming fear and making life changes is hard. It’s even harder when it’s a big change—breaking up with someone you love, leaving your old job, starting your own business, or hundreds of other difficult choices.

Even if it’s obvious that making a big change will be beneficial, it can be tough. Our mind wants to stay where it’s comfortable, which means doing the same things we’ve always done[1].

We worry: how do we know if we’re making the right decision? We wish we knew more. How do we make a decision without all of the necessary information?

We feel stuck. How do we get past fear and move forward with that thing we want to do?

Well, I certainly don’t have all the answers, but here are 7 things to remember when you want to move forward and make positive life changes.

1. You’ll Never Have All the Information

We often avoid making important decisions because we want more information before we make a tough call.

Yes, it’s certainly true that you need to do your research, but if you’re waiting for the crystal clear answer to come to you, then you’re going to be waiting a long time. As humans, we are curious creatures, and our need for information can be paralyzing.

Life is a series of guesses, mistakes, and revisions. Make the best decision you can at the time and continue to move forward. This also means learning to listen to and trust your intuition. Here’s how.

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2. Have the Courage to Trust Yourself

We make all sorts of excuses for not making important life changes, but the limiting belief that often underlies many of them is that we don’t trust ourselves to do the right thing.

We think that if we get into a new situation, we won’t know what to do or how to react. We’re worried that the uncharted territory of the future will be too much for us to handle.

Give yourself more credit than that.

You’ve dealt with unexpected changes before, right? And when your car got a flat tire on the way to work, how did that end up? Or when you were unexpectedly dumped?

In the end, you were fine.

Humans are amazingly adaptable, and your whole life has been helping you develop skills to face unexpected challenges.

Have enough courage to trust yourself. No matter what happens, you’ll figure out a way to make it work.

3. What’s the Worst That Could Happen?

Like jealousy, most of your fears are created in your own head.

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When you actually sit down and think about the worst case scenario, you’ll realize that there are actually very few risks that you can’t recover from.

Ask yourself, “What’s the worst that could happen?” Once you realize the worst isn’t that bad, you’ll be ready to crush it.

When you’re preparing to make a big life change, write down all of the things you’re afraid of. Are you afraid of failing? Of looking silly? Of losing money? Of being unhappy?

Then, address each fear by writing down ways you can overcome them. For example, if you’re afraid of losing money, can you take a few months to save up a safety net?

4. It’s Just as Much About the Process as It Is About the Result

We’re so wrapped up in results when we think about major life changes. We worry that if we start out towards a big goal, then we might not make it to the finish line.

However, you’re allowed to change your mind. And failing will only help you learn what not to do next time.

Furthermore, just because you don’t reach the final goal doesn’t mean you failed. You chose the goal in the first place, but you’re allowed to alter it if you find that the goal isn’t working out the way you hoped. Failure is not a destination, and neither is success.

Enjoy the process of moving forward[2].

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5. Continue to Pursue Opportunity

If you’re on the fence about a big decision, then you might be worried about getting locked into a position that you can’t escape from.

Think about it a different way. New choices rarely limit your options.

In fact, new pursuits often open up even more opportunities. One of the best things about going after important goals with passion is that they open up chances and options that you never could have expected in the beginning.

If you pursue the interesting opportunities that arise along the path to your goal, then you can be sure that you’ll always have choices.

6. Effort Matters, So Use It

It sounds simple, but one of the big reasons we don’t make life changes is because we don’t try. And we don’t try because then it’s easy to make excuses for why we don’t get what we want.

Flunked that test? Are you stupid? “Of course I’m not stupid. I just didn’t study. I would have gotten an A if I actually studied.”

Stuck in a job you hate? Why haven’t you found a new job yet? “Well, I haven’t really tried to get a new job. I could totally ace that interview if I wanted.”

Why do we make excuses like these to ourselves? It’s because if we try and fail, then we just failed. But if we don’t try, we can chalk it up to laziness.

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Get over it. Failure happens to everyone.

And the funny thing is, if you actually try—because it’s pretty clear that most people aren’t trying—then you’ll win a lot more than you think.

7. Start With Something Manageable

You can’t climb Everest if you don’t try hiking beforehand.

Maybe applying for your dream job seems intimidating right now. What can you start with today?

Can you talk to someone who already has that position and see what they think makes them successful? Can you improve your skills so you meet one of the qualifications? Can you take a free online course to expand your resume?

Maybe you’re not quite ready for a long-term relationship, but you know you want to start dating. Could you try asking out a mutual friend? Can you go out more with friends to practice your communication skills and meet new people?

You don’t need to be a world changer today; you just need to make small life changes in your own world.

More Tips to Help You Make Life Changes

Featured photo credit: Victor Rodriguez via unsplash.com

Reference

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