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We are judged by what we finish,
not what we start.
Anonymous

Hectic days infect us with an amnesia of our actions. Despite our certain knowledge of constant and diligent effort, we sense we’ve fallen further behind.

The determination to achieve is fueled by the knowledge that we can do what we set out to do.

Without believing we can make a difference, even the strongest amongst us get run down. Both sprints and marathons require bright ribbons to mark and entice us towards the end of the race.

In a perfect world, the heavens would announce every achievement with a herald of trumpets. In the world we’ve been dealt, we must blow our own horns, even if we’re both trumpeter and audience.

Every achievement, from finishing a tiny scrap of writing, to placing the call we’ve been avoiding, to the completion of that six month project, is worthy of noting and celebrating. Whether it is with a sly smile of satisfaction, a mark made on a list or a dance of joy performed in solitude; every celebration honours past efforts and prepares us for the next activity.

We measure distances with a ruler, time by the ticks of a clock and small steps of progress by tasks scratched off our list.

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We never have the time to do it right
but always have time to do it over.
Anon

We work as if permanently stuck in high gear. We approach every task, regardless of complexity, with equal obsession for speedy completion. We’ve yet to learn that tasks aren’t all vanilla, some have hard shelled nuts in them.

Ticks of a clock are poor measures of a task. Other measures are: quality or customer satisfaction; cost or savings; teamwork or the simple joy of doing it well; and of course, the cost of doing it over.

The speed at which we can complete a project is defined by the task, not by our need to get it done now, or worse, yesterday. Attempt to push it faster and, like last night’s under cooked chili, it’ll return with a vengeance and holding a grudge.

Cutting corners, increases risk. To afford a task less respect than it deserves, is to invite the attention of Murphy. Time saved when we can’t afford it, extracts too high an interest rate.

Tasks take the time they need, either now… or later, when we really can’t afford it.

A task done carefully, is done faster than the task done over

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There is nothing permanent
except change.
Heraclitus

That’s a well worked, worn and weary cliché… nevertheless, it’s also the truth. It means that no matter what we’re doing today… we’ll be doing something different tomorrow. Forget the notion of catching up. Drop the idea that things will slow down. Let go of that Status Quo posing as a security blanket. Change is now and forever more, our constant, chaotic companion.

That’s scary. It means that our skills, those abilities that put food on the table… will become useless. It means that how we earn our living today… will not earn us a living tomorrow.

When we lose our ability to earn a living, we lose our competence, our sense of self worth… and our self esteem. Is it any wonder that change hurts?

But our most important skill isn’t something we learnt… it’s our innate ability to learn. Learning how to do something takes care of today… The ability to learn, takes care of our tomorrow’s.

In a world where nothing remains the same… learning to do new things, is our most crucial talent. Reading a magazine, attending a conference, going to night school… these are all investments in our future.

The ability to learn, rides the tides of change.
_______________________________

If you’d like to hear a slightly different version of this as a 90 second ‘Keynote’ presentation? Click Here

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We cannot unthink
unless we are insane.
Arthur Koestler

Each thought shapes the world. Desire creates action, actions become habit, habits become the way we’ve always done things around here. Through our thoughts we become the world makers.

The sane live in the world the way others have built it. In thinking the same as others, we can walk only the well worn paths. Only by embracing a form of insanity do we acquire the ability to step outside clearly marked boundaries. To ignore those boundaries is to reject past thoughts…

…and in rejecting past thought, we reject in part, community. The creative person, by definition, stands outside the walls of acceptability. To fulfill dreams, explorers must walk away from people. There is no new territory where there is a crowd.

The sane see only what is, and are blind to all that isn’t thought of yet. Beyond the edge of the safe common map, lies naught but dragons until we think up new worlds there to live in. The new and original is always scary, until it becomes the familiar, the comfortable, the mundane.

Let go of reason, break the rules and create a world.

See what others can’t see, think what they haven’t thunk.

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No man thoroughly understands a truth
until he has contended against it.
Ralph Waldo Emerson

Our experience is a great tool with which to teach others, but until they actually touch the ice, they cannot know what it feels like. No amount of persuasion, instruction or book learning can convey the reality of hard, cold, slippery water.

Our experience is merely a pencil sketch of knowledge remembered. The lines and shape are there, and if we teach well, some textures and emotion.

But to know the heart of fire, they must stand inside the flames. No well intentioned warning can convey the concept of heat as firmly as their hand upon the stove. The truth is in the touching. Gloves protect us from reality, but if always worn, conceal it.

To truly learn what cannot work, they must fail at the attempt to prove the world wrong. Having someone steer them away from stumbles, doesn’t teach them to watch their step.

Failure that they learn from, much more than their success, is the investment we allow, to ensure their future glory.

Whether we are managers or parents, the best among us demonstrate how to succeed, by allowing failure to exist.

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As I post this I’m preparing to heading off to Ireland for a few weeks. I don’t know how often I’ll get a chance to post something.

So… if you want to read some more of my material, you can a) browse past entries and/or b) visit the publications section of my Change Management HQ.

AND of course, you can take a fe minutes and leave me a note or two.

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It is impossible to enjoy idling thoroughly
unless one has plenty of work to do.
Jerome K. Jerome

The simple act of setting down a burden is a joy by itself. Taking the afternoon off when the work is piled high, refreshes deeper than the same break taken when nothing needs doing.

It’s not just the relief of a temporary break from work. After a task is complete, rather than feeling a sense of accomplishment, there’s often a peculiar letdown. A sense of ‘Is that all there is?’ A period of relaxation after a task, is almost like being put out to pasture for a while. We’re no longer ‘necessary’ so we’re allowed to relax.

Allowance to relax in the middle of a task sends a different message. It communicates loud and clear our efforts are appreciated. Relax for a while, come back refreshed, for there’s more work to be done.

A break away from work is a form of celebration. At the very least, a break from work is an abnormally refreshing act in a world where every minute counts, regardless of their quality.

A minute stolen from a task, is leveraged by the work undone into a full hour.

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The things we see
are the mind’s best bet
as to what is out front.
Adelbert Ames

When all we expect are trees, we’ll never see the elephant until it moves. The gray lumbering movement breaks the pattern of stillness and invalidates the view of “there are just trees out there.” The world blurs and then precipitates a majestic elephant. For us, it wasn’t there before.

What we think we know to be true, colours everything we see. Nothing exists outside the context of familiarity. A vintage wine, to a first time drinker, is not the same wine to a connoisseur. Our enjoyment of the glass of wine in hand, is tempered by the one we held yesterday.

The world is a maze of chaos upon which the mind attempts to impose ordered patterns. We’ve all seen simple images where our minds shamelessly impose lines and structure where none exist.

The danger lies in the lines we’ve unknowlingly drawn and structures we’ve imposed on the chaos of the world in our attempt to force sense out of what confounds us.

Our perception of the world is one part what we know, one part what we hope, and one part what is.

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