Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Practice Makes Permanent

When I was five my parents decided it was time for me to start piano lessons. After all, I'd already mastered reading by the time I was three, so I needed something else to occupy my mind.

Although reading came very easily to me, piano, not so much. But as a budding perfectionist even at age five, this was something I was determined to figure out - not so much for the joy of the music, but to have something to be right about.

Early on it was easy - learning anything new came pretty easily to me. But after a couple of years of basics, when it came time to actually begin mastering this craft, that's when it occurred to me that this was going to be harder than I was used to.

There came a point where my mom had to start dragging me to the piano to practice. Her words of wisdom - and probably pretty enticing for a perfectionist - were "practice makes perfect." What I learned over the 12 years of piano lessons was that practice doesn't make perfect: perfect practice makes perfect. Practice merely makes permanent. So the way we practice is the way we perform.

I'm thinking this morning of how this relates to any activity or skill we're using in our everyday lives as adults, specifically today, communication - and even more specifically, listening. Whether practice makes perfect or practice makes permanent, the key word in each is "practice." So when do we ever take time to practice our communication and listening skills?

For many people, our default communication mode is defensive, holding on desperately to our beliefs so we can maintain some sense of control. But when we listen defensively, we end up communicating defensively, and defense is always the first offense.

How effective are we at transmitting information if our default mode is to defend beliefs that were handed to us over the years without question?

Just notice today where your communication - and especially your listening - has fallen into default mode. Where has your practice (or lack thereof) made permanent in your communication habits? Create some time in your day where you become conscious of your intrapersonal communication: that little voice in your own head that never stops communicating. That's a great place to start, since you have 100% control over your own inner chatter. Practice saying to that voice when you notice it: "not now, I'm busy" and then get busy listening.

Whether perfect practice makes perfect; default practice makes permanent. Which will you choose?

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Notice - Really Notice - What You Notice

I was compelled today to get out my second-favorite gadget, a little notebook I carry around with me to record random observations, quotes, stories or ideas that grab my attention. Steve Farber calls this a WUP - short for Wake-Up Pad. In his book The Radical Edge Steve devotes an entire section at the back of the book to helping us set up our WUP. The first part is to Scan and Eavesdrop. Some ideas for this step are to skim the bestseller lists, magazine racks, television listings, watch the trends in technology - be an anthropologist. Scan like a computer scanner would do - without judgment. I call this noticing what you notice.

Steve goes on to tell us to really listen to what people are saying - at home, at work, at the supermarket or at the coffee shop. Listen - really listen - to your customers. What are you hearing? These are the kinds of things to write in your WUP.

Once you get into the habit of writing down your observations, think about what you've observed and then talk about it with other like-minded people. Compare your notes and then do something bold - audacious - something that could change the world for the better. As Lisa Haneberg reminds us: breakthroughs happen out in the world, not in our heads.

So today I scanned and eavesdropped at Starbucks. What I heard really showed my age, I think. Three guys in their late 20s or early 30s were sitting around a table talking about business ... but what threw me was how cavalierly they were throwing around the F-word (yes, that F-word). It was being used almost exclusively as an adjective, from what I gathered after my ears got more accustomed to it. In my day that was a vulgar word, or was used by people who were angry or crude or nasty or (insert judgment here).

What I noticed, after I got over my initial reaction, was that the word was not being used in a negative way, it was just being peppered into their conversation about some investments they were working on involving some rental properties. What I noticed was 1) my reaction to that one word and 2) their comfort and ease with using that word.

For me this was a reminder of my biases and judgments and how they really can cloud my own opportunity to see the substance behind or beyond my initial reaction. The times, they are a-changing and I can resist, insist, or persist in my judgment ... or I can accept and allow - and even learn something. What I saw after I allowed myself to listen was a very intelligent (and confident) conversation among a group of colleagues who were working a business deal.

How often might we let our biases get in the way of really being present to the learning that is available to us every single day? What are we not hearing because we're deafened by our perceptions? And where did we get the idea that the way we perceive something is the only way it can or should be perceived?

Drop your guard and just listen to a conversation around you without the filters from your own perception or your own past. What is available from this new vantage point?

Sunday, April 06, 2008

My Coolest Gadget Yet

As many of you know, if you read this blog, I'm an associate of Bob Proctor's as a licensed and certified Life Success Consultant. One thing we really teach a lot is the distinction between setting goals and really achieving them. A technique that Bob uses (and that many of us have used in similar fashion thanks to John Assaraf in The Secret) is the concept of goal cards, or vision boards.

Well, I found a great way to combine both in one handy-dandy little device. I found it at Target by the stationery department and is meant to be used as a business card holder (you can see how big it is here next to my business card).

I combined the goal card idea and the vision board idea into this little gadget. I found or created pictures of the goals I wanted to achieve, and on the other side of the picture, I wrote the goal, stated in the present tense, and dated in the future. Instead of having the vision board in a place where I can only see it when I'm in that place, I can take my cards with me wherever I go and pull them out whenever I have a free moment.

So here is the front of the cards when fanned out. They have pictures of places I want to see or create, people I want to meet and plans I have for my business.

On the back you can see that each picture has a corresponding affirmation or statement relating to the picture. Each of them are stated in the present tense, beginning with "I am so happy and grateful now that I ..." If you have trouble believing yourself with that wording, Michael Losier, author of Law of Attraction says you can use the words "I am in the process of ..." because that is always a true statement if you make up your mind to change your mind. You may not actually have the thing or the situation right now, but it's true to state to yourself that you are in the process of achieving or acquiring or attracting it to you.

Here's a link to a place you can find the flip card decks - or just head to your local Target store. I think we made a run on the Fargo store because I've been telling all my master mind groups about them, so hurry out and buy them all up!

Friday, April 04, 2008

The Power of the Master Mind

Have you ever wished you could be better at a certain task? Have you ever wondered how some people are so good at big picture thinking when you're more of a head-down person who likes to take care of details? Have you ever made yourself wrong for not being great at everything?

It might seem to be frustrating to become aware of our weaknesses, but the only real frustration happens when we dwell on those weaknesses. After all, weaknesses are only those things that make us feel weak - no judgment, just a fact.

The really great thing about recognizing that weaknesses are not a bad thing is to realize that one person's weaknesses can be translated into another person's strengths. Thus the power of the Master Mind concept.

Here in Fargo we now have a wonderful group of more than 100 people who have been involved in various master mind groups studying the Napoleon Hill classic Think and Grow Rich. From that first 10-week study, many of the groups have chosen to stay together and have studied other books or are working on projects and goals together.

We will be holding our first Meeting of the (Master) Minds on April 23 where all 105 people will be invited to come together and meet each other and exchange ideas (and maybe a cocktail!). The idea is that when we meet other like-minded individuals who are dedicated to personal and professional growth and expanded awareness, we can start to leverage each other's strengths and weaknesses so we can develop a "master mind."

I can't wait to tell you more about how our shindig goes! I'm hopeful that with that much energy and passion coming together, we will come up with some really powerful ideas for new community projects or activities or maybe even some joint business ventures.

I'll keep you posted - in the meantime, consider forming your own master mind group. Think and Grow Rich is a great foundation, and you'll find that word spreads rapidly when people start sharing their insights and their successes.

Let me know if you'd be interested in a virtual master mind group. We can use Skype or Free Conference to get together on a regular basis to create a master mind over the miles. If you're interested, please leave me your email address so I can add you to our list (I think I have 4 or 5 people just waiting for our number to get to 10, so consider joining us!).