Thursday, August 19, 2010

Being a Great Friend

"Keep away from those who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you believe that you too can become great.” Mark Twain

After reading this quote a few days ago (a friend posted it on Facebook) we've reflected on how true this is. New research is indicating that our friends can influence us to be happier or more miserable, healthier or fatter, so why wouldn't it be true that they could, simply by social pressure, either help us to achieve our greatness or influence us to give up?

If we were focusing on the negative we would talk about "defriending" all of those acquaintances that put us down or "belittle our ambitions" as Mark Twain said. However, rather than focus on the negative, we'd prefer to focus on finding and/or becoming those types of friends who help others achieve greatness. And so we want to identify the qualities of friends who assist us in our greatness journey.

Primarily these friends encourage the growth and development of the unconventional thinking that leads to greatness. Rather than correcting or admonishing new thinking, these friends encourage it.

Also, when we propose a new thought, a breakthrough, a new discovery, or just the next level in our journey a good friend does not attack or undermine us, but congratulates us and asks us to tell them about it. (It is a skill called Active Constructive Responding - more info at Positive Psychology News Daily).

Yet the greatest skill of true friends is that they challenge us to go further in our idea, goal, or work. Gently they provide encouragement by pushing and prodding us to continue on our journey. And they journey with us as much as possible to help us through the difficult times.

Whether you are looking for true friends, or trying to be a good friend, these are the qualities that encourage greatness in others. Remember Mark Twain is right, "the really great make you believe that you too can be great".

Monday, August 9, 2010

Groundhog Day

Many of us experience the reality of doing the same work, task, sales pitch over and over. Currently I'm heading north to facilitate the same workshop I've lead at least 3 times a day for most of the summer. Yes, there is something to be said for repetition creating predictable, repeatable success, but after a while you have to wonder how to be great every time when you not even sure if your repeating yourself. Yet greatness unveils itself in how we ritualize success yet keep our work fresh.

Bill Murray starred in “Groundhog Day” and whether you enjoyed it or not, there are some personal greatness lessons to be learned from the film. In the film Murray keeps living the same day, Groundhog Day, over and over again ostensibly until he gets it right. But it is a good analogy of how great individuals continue to excel by fixing their mistakes, capitalizing on success and keeping things fresh.

Fix your mistakes. One of the keys to success is to realize how an action, a comment, a decision hindered the process. Identify the mistake and correct it. But don't spend too much time on this. This is where most people get stuck. Fix it and move on.

Capitalize on your successes. If you do something repetitively, experts point out that you need to debrief your success more than your failure. If you have an unexpected success one of the many times you perform a task, take the time to think about what was different and memorize it so you can repeat it next time. Create your own predictable, repeatable success.

Freshen things up. Seems like this contradicts the previous suggestion especially once you've got things going well, but the reality is that you need to continuously inject new energy into what you do. Finding ways to freshen things up helps you approach the same task differently. Some writers move their desk so they will have a different perspective. Actors focus on a different aspect of their character to enhance the role. Facilitators draw participants into the discussion to engender different dialogue. Even musicians change up their performance to enhance both their enjoyment as well as that of the audience.

Personal greatness is a complex balance between repetition and ingenuity. Examining what you do, creating predictable repeatable success, and then allowing it to evolve not only keeps your actions fresh, it allows development even in those tasks you do over and over again. Since for some of us every day is Groundhog Day, wouldn't it be great if it just keeps getting better.