Don’t Drop Your Nuts

(1) Grab a bag of peanuts.

(2) Reach in the bag and withdraw a LARGE overflowing handful.  I’m talking maximum capacity.  (Notice how the shells seem to work in unison, as if they all had a unique assignment.)

(3) Set the handful of peanuts down on a flat surface such as a table.

(4) Using only one hand, pick up the peanuts in one attempt. (Notice how each peanut has taken on a new position.  It’s as if they’ve been reassigned and no longer work in harmony)

If your original handful was large enough you will notice one thing.  Failure.  Some of the nuts will still remain on the table.

I observed this phenomena by chance and was pleased to discover that it contained the following lesson.  We are often the beneficiary of great ideas and ambition.  At first these ideas/goals/dreams/aspirations are almost too hot to handle.  So, we put them down thinking we can grasp them again….only to be met with one thing.  Failure!

Next time you feel inspired, act immediately!  Don’t put the idea down.  Sure you can use “two hands” to grasp all the content.  But that just means more work and less magic.

Do You Speak My Speak?

I know a man whose native tongue is Spanish. Over the last year he has stepped far outside of his comfort zone to learn English. He still feels inadequate and I can tell that he is a little apprehensive when addressing a large group.

He informed me that he obtained his citizenship last month. I felt so happy for him and rejoiced in his progress. His English is so much stronger than he gives himself credit for, and I trust that he will continue to improve over time.

It is noteworthy that my friend did not have to master the language PRIOR to becoming a citizen. I wonder if this concept can better be applied in our social circles.

Think of something you are interested in, it might even be in the realm of your employment. Odds are, it has its own lingo. Odds are, you had to spend countless hours learning to “speak that talk”, I mean really master it. But remember, at one point you were that new guy or gal. You were the rookie. You were the recruit. You were the immigrant.

Next time someone is trying to gain citizenship into your hobby, your craft, your line of work or even your life (perhaps a significant other)…extend the hand of mercy. Let them in. Help them along. Grant them citizenship. After all, they have applied for it.

Three Up, Three Down

It is easy to view the world in black and white.  But remember, somewhere between black and white is a whoooooole bunch of gray.  That is where I fall into ranks.  Lets face it, we all do.  Everything we do gravitates to this ashy pigment…of…gray.

Yes, we may show strokes of brilliance or reach the darkest abyss.  But even then, odds are that someone has done it better and someone has done it worse.  Examine your strengths and weaknesses, do they not offset one another?  This puts you back to the mediocre middle.  Welcome home, I saved you a seat.

Once per year the Navy evaluates its Sailors using language where there are not enough actions (in existence) to match all the lofty adjectives.  No big deal, I liken this to the back cover of a novel.  Everyone is just trying to sell their book.

During the evaluation cycle, Sailors take part in a “mid-term counseling.”  This requires self reflection and open dialogue with the chain of command.  Normally, three strengths and three areas for improvement are identified by the counselee.  This inevitably reminds the Sailor of their existence in the gray zone.  As a matter of personal opinion, I think this is one of the most brilliant things the Navy does.  Sadly, I have yet to meet a Shipmate who *truly* takes this process seriously – but I’ll save that for another time.

At the close of a recent event, I was asked by the facilitator if there were any obvious areas for improvement.  I gave some “minor suggestions”.  His response was an appreciative acceptance with a follow-on call to action.  He said, “Do me a favor, send me an email including three up and three down.” (That is to say three strong points and three areas for improvement)

This facilitator, also a Sailor, was the first person I’ve heard use the term “three up and three down“.  Perhaps I’m late to the party and this is common lingo.  Nevertheless, I am left to suppose that it was originally harvested from a mid-term counseling session.

Next time you need some feedback on your performance or ideas, consider this strong negotiating tool.  It requires the sender to purge or reduce existing bias and evaluate using a two-point perspective.  Who knows, it might just propel you to reach a lighter shade of gray.