Latest "Business Life" Posts
Finland, I had read, is a land of introverts.
Before landing in Helsinki, home to 600,000 of it’s 5.4 million Finns, I expected the lack of extroverts to mean I’d be delivering my keynote speech to a roomful of grumpy, anti-social Scandinavians. In the speaking business, we call it Death by Silence. By departure, I realized that not only is Finland not a part of Scandinavia1, but that introversion has little to do with reclusiveness, lack of expression or sociability.
Kristian, my taxi driver from the airport, confirmed in impeccable English that Finns, including him, would happily stare at their boots rather than look a stranger in the eye. “We have not much time for small talk and if you smile at us before we know you, we might trust you less. And we like Formula One racing,” he added, with rumbling laughter. Racing is a solitary sport, I noted; laughter is not.
Yes, you are an over-committed over-achiever.
How do I know with such certainty?
- The chances are very high that you are reading this on New Year’s Eve or New Year’s weekend instead of spending time doing all of the life-balance things you constantly promise yourself you will do (maybe in last year’s New Year’s resolution).
- You wouldn’t have continued past the title of this article if you weren’t at least a little bit over-committed, trending toward an over-achiever.
- Pretty much all of us are over-committed in this 24/7, hype-connected, information-addicted country we inhabit (having lived in other countries, I know that to a large degree, this is an American phenomenon).
It’s snowing, non-stop a week ago Tuesday in Denver as I’m trying to catch a standby flight from Denver International Airport to a speech in Sacramento before the afternoon flights get canceled due to weather. I have an hour to spare. I put my bags on the belt and walk through the metal detector without a problem.
Until the TSA screener manning the X-Ray tells me not to move. Literally, he says, “don’t move”. I’ve been standing there for about two minutes when three or four other screeners come over and take a look at whatever is on his screen. I can’t see anything, and he won’t talk to me. When I ask him what the problem is, he won’t even make eye contact with me. But everyone else is looking at me.
Why am I stuck in Memphis? I’ve been in four airports in the past 24 hours, which is how long I’ve been trying to get home to Colorado. I started in Fayetteville, North Carolina yesterday at lunch after an amazing day at Ft. Bragg speaking to soldiers (I got to try on the parachute uniforms of the mighty Golden Knights – don’t I look dorky?). But my flight left three hours late, so I missed my connection in Atlanta. I went to Atlanta anyway, because there aren’t many flights out of Fayetteville and I couldn’t picture myself staying in the 100 degree heat and 42,000% humidity for an entire weekend.
I had an amazing experience last week. I was lucky enough to share the stage with the very energetic Suze Orman (thus the self-promoting image to the left) at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C. But Suze Orman wasn’t the amazing part, despite being a very dynamic woman. And I wasn’t the amazing part.
Our Warriors in Transition were the amazing part. They are in transition because they’ve sacrificed their limbs and eyesight and hearing and sanity and dignity defending our country in Afghanistan or Iraq. And it was the honor of a lifetime to meet some of them.
We are obsessed with finding and leveraging our strengths, and it makes us boring.
For example, Marcus Buckingham, an intelligent, dynamic and well-spoken best selling author (with a lot of strengths), tells us to Go Put our Strengths to Work. One of his premises, as discussed in his article What the Happiest and Most Successful Women Do Differntly, is Imbalance. In discussing why more women are less happy than ever, he says it’s because they are too focused on balance:
… when you are balanced, you are stationary, holding your breath, trying not to let any sudden twitch or jerk pull you too far one way of the other. You are at a standstill. Balance is the wrong life goal. Instead, do as these women [the self-proclaimed “happiest” ones in his survey) did, and strive for imbalance. Pinpoint the strong-moments in each aspect of your life and then gradually tilt your life toward them.
We’ve gone soft; we fear honesty. I think we even fear being honest with people more than we fear people being honest with us. Honesty has become synonymous with ugly confrontation, rather than just being, well, honesty.
Yesterday, a good friend emailed me a two sentence note reminding me that I hadn’t done something that I’d promised I would do. What I had promised is immaterial to this post, but that I had promised to do it, and then failed, is very important. I gave my word to a good friend, and then ignored my promise. And he had the guts to remind me. In fact, he’s laughing at me right now that I even consider his reminder to be a big deal, because to him it would be phony not to remind me. That’s who he is. And he’s a better friend for it. And in no way could what he did be called confrontational. Direct, yes. Honest, yes.