"Interconnectivity" seems to be the category in which most technological advancement is directly impacting our lives. There appears to be an over-abundance of companies, methods, and means by which we can communicate. All this advancement has changed things - radically - some for the better, some for the worse.
What hasn't changed, however, is the importance of communicating well. No matter who you are, what you do, and what you plan on doing, you will likely benefit from becoming better at communicating.
Consider how many different means by which we can interact with one another:
- Telephone messages
- Voice message applications
- Video conferencing
- Social Network Sites
- Chat rooms and forums
- Greeting Cards
- Video platforms
- Photo platforms
- Addressing a meeting or small gathering
- Carrier pigeon
- Smoke signals
Given the preponderance of communication media, and the growing amount of communicating we do, I would recommend that we begin to consider communicating to be one of the "categories" in our lives. We tend to think in terms of categories such as fitness, finances, and family. Perhaps it's time to add Communication to the list. What I am suggesting is that it becomes an area in which we intentionally monitor our performance, and hold ourselves accountable for improvement.
Let's start with big picture stuff:
Communication should be Clear - how many inscrutable emails do we get?
It should be Often - don't make people wonder, especially in areas of problems (creditors, for instance) or intimacy. Stay in their minds.
It should be Honest - you are only as good as your word. Old fashioned, maybe, but truer today than ever.
It should be Professional but Fun - in today's casual world, it is still okay to be proper, correct, and upstanding in your messaging. However, don't forget to pump your personality into it, too. Nobody likes boring!
HOW you communicate something is critical! You can have the right words, but say them or communicate them in the wrong way, and you've done more harm than good.
Listening will always be a big part of good communication. When it comes to listening, be active, sincere, engaged, with good eye contact, and avoid interrupting. If necessary, have people repeat things back to you, or even summarize key points back to them.
Remembering names is another critical area of good communication. There is no excuse for being bad at this. One of the hottest tips I can give in this department is to always try to be first to introduce yourself, whether to a lone individual, or in a crowd. The reason for this is that you are informed ahead of time, so to speak, that a new name will need to be remembered, and you won't have to be caught off guard. Walk up to the person(s) and initiate, eagerly listening for the name(s). Then, immediately, repeat it back to yourself multiple times as the small talk flies. The name is, by far, the most important thing you need to take away from this initial encounter. Also, repeat it aloud once they've said it. This will both help you remember it because now you're hearing it a second time, and the other person always likes to hear her name spoken anyway. Plus, it shows that you care enough to make a point of remembering it.
Now, when it comes to all those methods of communicating listed above, there are several things to know.
1. Be sure and use the appropriate means to match the situation. For example, don't handle conflict with voice mail, email, or text. It's best done face-to-face.
2. In most cases, your relationship with another person will require a mix of several of the above.
3. Understand that response times have decreased, and people almost demand to hear back from you right away. You can fight this a little bit by establishing "policies," as in, "It's my policy to answer emails within 24 hours." In this way, no one can complain if you don't respond to one in four milliseconds!
4. Think about your privacy rights, and those of your children. Anything and everything you post becomes public and permanent (with the exception of a few questionable app services which are trying to correct this). Do you really want those private moments on display for the whole world? Will your children want that record of their "awkward years" out there forever? Are the photos you're posting causing a security risk because the world knows exactly where you are and who you're with? Is it obvious your house has been left unattended? Did you just inadvertantly alert the world to the location of your child? Just give it some thought and establish some boundaries for yourself.
5. Also think about legalities. Most people don't realize that all of their communication can be subject to a court order of discovery and can be used against them. It may be unlikely, but if it's ever happened to you, it will forever change how flippant you are with what you communicate, to whom, and how.
I could go on for pages and pages in each of these areas, but mostly just wanted to open up the subject here at a high level. The overall goal is to make communication a category in our lives, and strive to be intentional and excellent at doing it.
Ultimately, communication is simply expressing to the outside world who you are at heart. So, when it comes to communication, always try your "heartest."
For instance, one famous quote (usually attributed to Ralph Waldo Emerson, but which is actually a misquote of an earlier statement by him) goes like this:
"Build a better mousetrap and people will beat a path to your door."
But a more accurrate quote, which I'm sure all of you who've had good ideas can agree with, goes like this:
"Don't worry about people stealing your ideas. If your ideas are any good, you'll have to ram them down people's throats." --Howard Aiken
Take wheels on suitcases, for instance. Now there's an idea so good, as soon as you see it you can't imagine how anyone ever got along without it. But would you believe that we put a man on the moon a full two years before we put wheels on suitcases? Probably because we didn't have an American President making speeches and compelling a nation to pull together and fulfill the grand vision of figuring out a way to "make our baggage more mobile within a decade! Ask not what your country can do for you . . . ."
But one man, Bernard Sadow, had the idea for wheeled luggage, and (would you believe it?) he actually had trouble selling his idea! You can read about him here.
In studying this topic and giving some talks about it recently (watch for my soon-to-be-released CD from Life Leadership's Launching a Leadership Revolution series, entitled "Jared and the Journey of an Idea"), I have decided to add to the already enormous body of thought on the subject. It might not be a good idea to do so, but hey, good ideas are hard to launch. So a not-so-good idea? I figure I may as well give it a try. So here goes:
An idea goes through many stages on its journey to fruition:
1. Realization - you see the problem to be fixed, clearly, and perhaps for the first time
2. Mechanization - the method by which you "think it up." It may be a brainstorming session, a conversation with someone, or an accidental occurrence (the invention of Post-It notes comes to mind)
3. Assimilation - the combining of previous ideas into a new one
4. Inspiration - the catalystic spark or insight that puts it together for the first time, and the desire to change the status quo that pushes the process along
5.Germination - most ideas are not hatched fully formed, instead, they need to grow and blossom under more thought and consideration (and even discussion)
6. Elation - the passion that arises when pursuing a real improvement or breakthrough
7. Confirmation - when you first begin to realize you've got it, and evidence suggests that it really will work.
8. Dissemination - the act of forcing your good idea down other people's throats!
Of course, there are many additional "ation" words we could throw at this, but, um, that wouldn't be a good idea.
What's helpful in this is to realize there's a process by which most good ideas come to life, and by considering these steps, we can put ourselves in a position to be more creative and better at problem solving. Let's look at the 8 steps again with an eye to how to apply them:
1. Make sure you have invested the thought time to clearly identify and classify the problem, truly understanding it as thoroughly as possible. Be sure to work toward the root cause and avoid being misled by the symptoms.
2. Take steps to actively generate possible solutions. This may involve gathering with others, making sketches, having a brainstorming session, benchmarking the competition, or just playing around with things.
3. Realize that most new ideas are just combinations of previous ones, and ask questions such as, "What could we combine that has never been combined before?" and "What do we already have available or have already done that could be synthesized into something new here?"
4. Provide motivation to yourself and your team by visualizing and vision-casting success and a new, desired reality that will be brought about by the solving of this problem or the creation of a breakthrough idea.
5. Provide healthy nurturing and incubation for your ideas, allowing them to be considered openly without having to survive the negative attacks of "It'll never work" and "Not my idea." Keep egos and reality tests away from your new ideas when they are young and give them time to morph into something real.
6. Enjoy the process and refuse to become frustrated, which often shuts down creative channels. Instead, foster the enthusiasm of a treasure hunter nearing the red X on a map.
7. Carefully test your new ideas to verify their validity, and have an open process for analyzing how effective they might actually be in the real world.
8. Have a process for sharing your idea outward into your organization (or the world) that allows it to first be received by those who stand the most to gain by it, thereby gaining momentum and strength before it attracts critics and detractors.
But the most important thing to know is this: the future can be whatever you want it to be, you merely have to think it up!
At least that's the idea.
When I am an old man
I want to sit in Italy
On a bench in the sun,
With a view behind me
And the town before,
The reverse of my life.
I will watch it all:
The birds and the buses
And the old Bitties,
And of course the weather.
I’ll wonder why I began
In a cold northern town
When places like this existed
And took a lifetime to find.
I’ll think about time
And how much I once had
And wonder how much
Might still remain.
But I won’t worry
And I won’t hurry
And I will never serve again
A To Do list or a goal
And will no more
I’ll wonder why
(You know I will),
I never really did it
What I was built to,
And dabbled instead
At the edges of it all
Like a child scared of a pool.
But I won’t regret it,
No, not for a bit,
Because I’ll be old -
So crotchety old -
In Italy, no less,
Where every old man
Should get to sit.
Time spread too thinly across too many activities is a killer for anyone truly seeking mastery. There simply isn't enough time to become a master at more than one or two things in life. Time doesn't wait forever. Health doesn't last forever. Windows of opportunity don't remain open forever. Relationships will not wait forever. Time lost is time lost. Period. Mastery is only available if given enough time, and delaying or restarting Immersion or spreading oneself too thin both deprive one of the time required for mastery.
Also, one can easily observe that attempting to compete part-time with someone who has dedicated himself full-time to a profession is likely an exercise in futility. Sooner or later the person with the most focus, the most commitment, the most "skin in the game" will win.
In order to take the fullest advantage of life immersed in a worthy pursuit, one must focus. We are all busy. There are many, many different responsibilities in life. We have family obligations, work responsibilities, friendships and other interests. However, mastery requires concentrated immersion in the subject at hand. The more concentrated our focus, the more quickly proficiency and expertise will result. That means throwing ourselves all the way in. There is no partial immersion. Immersion works because, like the Hokey-Pokey, it requires us to throw our whole selves in.
Okay, I couldn't help it.
While traveling the other day as a family in our jumbo SUV, in which many noises and distractions abound, my ten year-old daughter piped up from the back wanting to read me something she had written. This, just so you know, is a common occurrence. It is also common to be shown art, comic books, dresses, doll's clothes, paper constructs, and many other products resulting from her abundant creativity. She is, quite frankly, the most prolifically creative person I have ever known. So I may be forgiven a little, perhaps, for not tuning in immediately to the quality of this particular composition. But as she attempted to read her poem above the Brady din, I gradually awakened to the realization that it was remarkable.
I had to - just HAD to - share it with you! I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. (And, in the interest of full disclosure, I am beginning to realize that I am the worst writer in our family!)
So here it is (without any parental editing, I might add):
The movie A Long Way Off is set to debut the day before Father's Day. A modern-day rendition of the Bible's "Prodigal Son" story, the movie features several top name actors and is very well done. It's central message is timeless, the script is convincing and moving without being preachy, and the movie even featurs a cameo appearance of the book A Month of Italy (but you'll have to look quick!).
I highly recommend this family-friendly movie and hope you enjoy it!
Click Here for an additional review and movie trailer.