Motivation that moves you

A lot of learning and performance improvement fails not for lack of logic or reason but for lack of heart.

When I think about my motivation for my daily meditation practice, I don’t think coldly and logically about what I would like to achieve through training the mind. No, I dig deep within myself for a feeling that makes my skin tingle. I think about how meditating will help me be more present for my daughter, have greater access to my creativity and so help me to help others through my work. I connect to these deep, powerful, feelings based motivations and I find that I am moved to practice diligently.

Too often we pass over this part of training as a tick-box exercise. What do I want from today? Meet people. Learn about leadership. Get better at negotiation. Are these the kinds of motivations that make your skin tingle? Doubtful.

But what if we change them a little:

I have a crippling fear of being rejected. I want to overcome that fear and gain confidence so I can bring my talents to the people who need me.

I’m always stressed about my quarterly appraisal. I never want to feel that anxiety again. I want to always enter that room feeling powerful.

I’m worried that I could be doing more with my life. I want to learn the skills I need so I explore what’s possible and when I die I can say I left it all on the field.

How about those motivations? Any tingles?

If you’re trying to begin a learning and performance practice and finding you’re not getting the momentum you need, there’s a very good chance you haven’t fully connected with the emotional core of your motivation. That’s something I would encourage you to spend more time on. Find that thing that sends electricity through you and realise that this is why you’re trying to learn and grow, this is why you want to have control of your performance profile – so you can have what matters to you.

Sampling

Specialisation is great but it’s often overrated or, at the least, stressed too early. The concept of hothousing and the 10,000 Hour “Rule” have made people believe that finding your thing early and then becoming hyper focused on that one thing is the magic bullet of success. These people have been mislead.

Whenever you begin anything new – be that a whole new life, a new job, a new hobby, or a new relationship – the aim initially should be to go big on sampling and experimentation. Instead of trying one kind of yoga, try twenty. And instead of settling on the first teacher you find, try a dozen or more.

Why?

Sampling has a range of benefits:

  • You get a nice, high level view of the terrain you’re working within which gives context and richness to the detail you begin to accumulate.
  • You learn more about yourself – remember that as we gain experience we find out what does and does not work for us. Why not accelerate that process?
  • You find overlaps and synergies that, combined with your personal idiosyncrasies, increase your chances of catching lighting in a bottle.

In the end, it is important to achieve depth as well as breadth of knowledge. But these are not alternatives. One is dependent on the other. By rushing to specialise you increase the chances of choosing a suboptimal path and needing to start over, but even if you get lucky it’s a bit like building a tall tower without a deep foundation. You’ll seem to be making great progress at first, racing ahead of your competition, and maybe for some time you’ll look like the winner, but the first strong wind or, worse, earthquake and you know what will happen.

How to mentally prep for sampling

Sampling, swapping around and changing direction, often seemingly at random because there’s not enough data in the system yet to make strategic moves, can feel like a waste of time. But that’s only if you see waste and progress in terms of some distant goal.

To be a great sampler you need to find the intrinsic joy, the fun and playfulness, in trying stuff out. Imagine being a child in a dress-up box indulging every whim and curiosity. This isn’t a performance, it’s play.

So remind yourself that you’re here for a good time, not a long time. Remember that you deserve the chance to try things, enjoy what they bring to you, and choose to move on when the time is right. You’re exploring a wilderness. To pretend that you know the way is folly.

Actions:

  • Look at your practice – is it over focused?
  • Consider the paths you didn’t take – do any call to you?
  • Ask yourself if the architecture of your life is open to serendipity.

Let’s get real here

It’s hard to be honest. Not always. Sometimes it’s easy because the honesty aligns with what others want to hear. But at other times honesty comes with consequences; for you, for those you love, and for those who you depend on.

Think about your boss at work. How easy is it to be 100% honest with him or her? I once had a boss who would ask three questions during appraisal time:

  1. How do you feel about how you’re doing?
  2. How do you feel about how the department is doing?
  3. How do you feel about how I’m doing?

I admired this choice. He invited us to be honest about his performance. But even at the time I knew it wasn’t real. I knew I couldn’t be 100% honest. How could I? This man had the power to end my employment. Did I have such power over him? No. So it was an uneven and, therefore, inherently tricky relationship. I think, deep down, he knew that too.

Running Sabre Tooth Panda for these past five years I’ve come to see that a lack of honesty need not be inherent in the dynamic of the workplace. In fact, part of why I designed Freestyle Learning & Performance is to begin to chip away at what causes dishonesty.

We don’t like to lie. When we lie to ourselves or to others it is usually out of some kind of fear. I fear that I might lose your respect if I tell you I’m afraid. I fear that I might lose a friend if I tell him I think he’s wrong. I fear I might lose my self esteem if I admit to myself that I’m wrong.

This is attachment at work. We are afraid to lose things that, in the final reckoning, aren’t really ours anyway. The dishonesty is already a wedge between what we want to keep and the person we want to be. Ironically it’s a sure way to lose what you’re grasping onto.

Yes, this might all sound a little hippyish. I’ll admit it. I’m a bit of a stereotype in that regard. Vegan, yoga and meditation loving, reader of stoic and eastern philosophy. I have and frequently play an acoustic guitar. But if you can forgive all these things I hope you’ll find that there is some truth in these ideas. Grasping, attachment, and dishonesty are connected.

What has this got to do with Sabre Tooth Panda and Freestyle Learning & Performance? Well, I believe that we can begin to more easily let go of what we grasp if we become more self confident. We’ve all seen the newbie ice skater clinging to the edge of the rink as the confident skater wizzes by, gliding with ease on the same ice that our novice sees as more threat than opportunity.

I think we’re all a lot like this when it comes to our careers. Job hunting suuucks! We fear that we can’t adapt to new situations, learn to cope with new work norms or colleagues. What we want is to keep things from changing because we fear we cannot change.

Freestyle, I hope, will help you prove to yourself that you can do what you think you can’t. I don’t believe in positive thinking. I believe in proof. And the only way you can prove to yourself that you can learn and adapt your performance profile to anything that comes your way is to do it. Just as the only way you become confident on your skates is by letting go.

Be honest with yourself. Are you grasping on to something for fear of change?

Freestyle is a free framework with optional paid services. If you think you could do with a greater sense of confidence in your life I hope you’ll try it out.

The Promise of Creativity

This year has been a, let’s not be too coy here, pain in the arse. COVID-19 has upended our plans and forced us to rethink how we do what we do. And that’s just at work. But we wouldn’t be the home of Freestyle if we weren’t ready for this.

We tell our clients that the promise of creativity is that there is always another way. A pure being of endless creative ability, someone who sees every option and entertains every possibility, would never find a dead end. All change would come with opportunities, no matter how horrible the situation.

And it is horrible. It’s horrible that we can’t see our friends, that we can’t gather together the way we want to. Human connection is essential to happiness and growth.

That said, as believers in The Promise we had to look at this situation and ask ourselves what other ways we could find. We knew we would be looking to make Freestyle our core offering sooner or later. Well, it turns out it’s sooner!

Freestyle Learning & Performance is a new approach to self directed, peer supported, real world performance driven learning. And we’re now open for early adopters, Daredevils if you will (and that’s what we’re calling them!) who’re sick of being on the back foot and ready to start changing things for themselves.

We have a lot more to share on this topic in the next few weeks so get in touch if you want to be on the mailing list (we really will try not to spam you – no matter how excited we get). But for now maybe it’s enough to remind you that there are no dead ends. If you can reach inside you, find a little more creative juice, and stay patient with the challenge for a moment or two longer, you’ll find that whatever you’re facing can be overcome.

The Obstacle Becomes the Way.

Marcus Aurelius’¬†Meditations¬†5.20