Archive for the ‘Peter Bregman’ Category

Why Aspire To More?

June 24, 2011

A couple of days ago, Peter Bregman wrote a nice article on his Harvard Business Review blog and it clicked with me. I seem to have had it pretty easy these past six decades, and actually get a little nervous about success. But articles like this make me step back and look at the absurdity of those fears.

Peter mentions a book by a friend who ended up as president of the world bank, who got into fencing with no experience at all. This friend had enough spunk to just try something that was over his head and make things up as he went. He found he liked fencing and ended up going to the Olympics, and did quite well in the end.

How many of us take opportunities to just jump into something completely out of our range of experiences and try it? I don’t mean skydiving without a parachute; I mean trying a restaurant we don’t think we would like, or tasting a dish we don’t like the look of. I’m horrible that way, and it probably reflects something about my character I don’t realize. But when it comes to ideas or techniques or intellectual concepts, I’m like a magnet. You can’t keep me away from shiny objects.

This morning, there was another timely post from Seth Godin. (It’s also about fencing.) How many of us depend on an outside stimulus to get us moving? Look around you and see if your boss is watching. There isn’t a boss, not like there was ten or even five years ago. Anyone you report to is probably more worried about what their boss is thinking.

These two ideas make me wonder why someone who has seen so much would want even more. That’s an easy question. I’ve had periods in my life when I was in a zone, and I want to be there again. Since I started working on my planning and tracking tool, I’ve had flashbacks to those times. I want the rest of my life to be as good as the best of those times, or better.

But I won’t get there is I’m not striving for more, not a couple of times a week or even once a day, but all day long. I need to take lessons I learned from Deming and Pareto and Humphreys and Smith and Mandelbrot and put them to work for me. There are so many people who have figured out pieces of the puzzle. I’ve seen lots of those pieces and have figured out a way to get them to work together. Why would I stop short?

Unlike the character Peter writes about, I didn’t have a tough childhood. My parents weren’t rich but we got lots of experiences other kids missed. I learned to swim before I graduated from the first grade. We travelled across the country numerous times, driving as a family, taking an entire month off for vacations. When I graduated from high school, I wasn’t particularly motivated about college other than the deferment it would give me for the draft. I’m a big guy, so I would be a larger target when the shooting started. After two years at a tech school, I worked for a year before going into the Air Force. Didn’t get what I wanted but did get a lot of experiences I might not have gotten otherwise. Learned to ride motorcycles, and play volleyball. Did an overseas tour in Nebraska, and worked for the guy the movie BAT 21 was about.

And when I was established in the corporate world, I still pushed the limits much of the time. It didn’t do anything for my career, but I saw a lot of interesting ideas and was years or decades ahead of my colleagues when it cam to doing better work. Only I didn’t enjoy it very much. There were times when I was focused and directed, but years when I was just getting by.

I don’t want to live like that anymore. I don’t need to be good at stuff that lots of people can do. I need to get great at stuff that no one else is doing, or only a few people are doing. Our world will need the kinds of stuff I think I can deliver.

I can get on that train and go to that fencing match and lose every game. Failing is learning, assuming you get up and try again.

Why aspire to more? Because I’ve tasted how things could work better and I want to do it again.

Anyone want to join me?