Great Question: What would help?

This past week I was fighting with my husband about 'that issue' -- you know, the one that will probably always be an issue (we all have them, right?). I was really, really angry and resentful and my emotions were running in unproductive circles. I was not the person that I enjoy being.

I eventually had to step back and ask myself: What would help? What would help me stop being angry? 

Immediate clarity.
Immediate ability to ask for what I need.

I have to say, I am beyond proud that Michael & I made our biggest breakthrough on this issue in at least 5 years. Now that's a huge win... and it all started with a simple question.

As usual, asking great questions is an underrated skill

The importance of AND thinking

I've been dismayed by many things over the current state of political reality television. But perhaps most of all, I've been disappointed in both the left and the right by their desperate grip of black and white, frequently extreme, thinking. In nearly any complicated discussion, the most accurate view point tends to be an AND...

Globalization and free trade has been great for overall American wealth AND it hurts a portion of our society.

Capitalism is (arguably) the best system we've found for large scale societal organization AND, especially when coupled with debt, it is inherently a paperclip maximizer that needs to be regulated.

Healthcare should not cause bankruptcies AND we need to have some difficult discussions about health care consumption  and personal responsibility as a society.

Diversity is good for meritocracy AND there are very real (and innocent) losers when we increase diversity.

The freedom of speech needs to be defended, especially when we don't like what the person has to say, AND it is our responsibility to ensure that everyone is treated with the respect and dignity deserving of a human being.

White men are responsible for many of societies greatest achievements AND white men are responsible for many of societies greatest ills.

There are population level gender differences (and age, race and height for that matter!) AND women are under represented in leadership and under paid in the workplace.
note - I don't think that the author was perfectly accurate about the population level differences, but that's not to say that there aren't any.

There is significant bias against some populations AND many the people who are biased are basically innocent: they don't desire to be biased and are unaware of their bias.

We have to stop shouting about only one side. Its more complicated than that.

I'm tired and weary of the extreme positions that completely miss the muddy middle. It might not be sexy, but at least its real.

Are you a marathoner or a sprinter?

Do you burst and rest? Do you have intense periods of high energy and creative inspiration... and other times where the energy just isn't there? Can you get incredible amounts of work done in a short time? Do you occasionally burn out after long periods of intense exertion?

I do. We're sprinters.

Is consistency your jam? Do you work at a similar pace all the time? Does slow & steady sound familiar?

You're a marathoner.

Chalk this one up to the underrated skill of self knowledge.

Neither is better, but it's easy for both groups to be jealous of each other! I wish I could get that much done! /// I wish I could be consistent like you! Or, in turn, to be disdainful of each other.

Just as both groups have their strengths, each group has different needs and struggles under different conditions. Sprinters struggle doing anything consistently and may require extreme external pressure. Marathoner's struggle when they feel like they don't have enough time or that they've been being pushed too hard for too long.

Once you own this self knowledge, think carefully about what conditions will support you most effectively -- and experiment!

The Void Left by Religion

The very act of being human has needs beyond the physical. A need to be accepted. A need to know one's place. A need to understand and be understood.

For most of human existence, magic, folklore and then religion fulfilled these needs.

They answered who you (and your people) were, why you were here. They kept track of the seasonality of life. They celebrated births and milestones and offered solace at death. They provided a steady cadence to life.

Modern society allows many of these needs to go unmet.

We don't have built in answers to "what is the meaning of life?" or "why am I here?" We don't even have clarity over who to ask about it. We don't have the comfort of weekly guidance and an opportunity to reflect as a community. In fact, few of us has a larger community to be a part of.

As a non-church going atheist leaning agnostic, I'm hardly advocating for religion. I am actively anti-religion in its current form. I think that its wonderful that we have the opportunity to think for ourselves and determine our own beliefs. I believe in seeking our own answers, rather than accepting pre-determined dogma.

But that doesn't mean that we haven't lost something.

Weekly reflection & guidance. A larger community. A cadence to life and the seasons.

LearningRebecca Rapple
Dashboards Should Measure Health

Requests for dashboards are almost always the same: I want to know what's going on.  That may be true, but that is not the purpose of a dashboard, and its not what you should really want.

Great dashboards measure the health of the leading indicators of the business.

To measure health effectively you need to:

  1. Get clear on what success looks like for your business
  2. Identify the leading indicators for success.
  3. Measure & track how reality compares with targets

With that information, you're armed to make powerful, strategic decisions in your business. If you just 'know what's going on', you're likely to miss out on the important early indicators.

Finding Your Sweet Spot

When I want to do something hard, I try to find my sweet spot: long enough to be impactful, short enough to be do-able. My friend asked me about how to work on his relationship with booze, especially after the holidays. After a conversation, he's decided to do a sober January: long enough to have a real impact on his health, his emotional coping skills and his relationship with alcohol... but short enough to feel do-able.

When I was writing my first book I was absolutely daunted at the prospect. So I tried to just write a chapter. But that wasn't my sweet spot, still too daunting. Rather, at that point, my sweet spot was just a page. I could get through a page. And enough pages strung together makes a very crappy first draft! Win.

In general, I'm a big fan of 30 day trials as sweet spots. Sometimes thats too much, sometimes not enough, but its quite often just right.

When something feels like too much to tackle, search for your sweet spot.

Big enough to be impactful. Small enough to feel do-able.

Go fast: push Go Far: pull

I know how to push. How to talk negatively towards myself. How to fear failure more than anything. How to just make myself do it. I'm afraid I won't be as good / go as far / be as successful if I quit pushing.

The tough news is that I might be right in the short term: I won't be as successful if I don't push. I can probably lose more weight on a crazy 4-day crash (read: push) diet than I could on a 4 day "pull" diet.

But successful long term change comes from pulling. From honoring your deep desires. Those same diets over a year? No competition. Pull will knock the socks off the crazy push spree.

And for even more honesty, there are times that we need a break from the push.

Pulling can feel like cheating. But, its hardly always easy. The hardest thing about pulling is making sure that you actively remember what it is that you really want.

I want to feel light and energetic more than I want this donut. I want to have extra energy, so I want to go weight lift today. I want to feel accomplished tonight, so I want to send this uncomfortable email now!

Its not always easy, but it is simple & effective.

When you want to go fast, push... when you want to go far, pull.

I strive to play the long game in life: I aim to pull myself towards my goals.

I use my ability to push as a tool to sprint.

It's powerful (and smart) to use all the tools in your arsenal.

Fighting the same battles

We all have our battles. Many of which we fight time and time again.

I was reminded of this yesterday, as I perused the archives of this site. Over the years, despite my efforts not to, I've repeated several articles. Different words, same exact themes. The same battles.

It reminds me to keep fighting the good fights. And that I am not alone in repeating my battles.

You're not alone either. Keep going. Keep practicing. Keep fighting.

Sound Bite Culture

Sound bites are sexy. They are attention grabbing. They are clear and succinct. Trouble is? Our world isn't.

Our world is complicated, our challenges multi-faceted and our solutions, they are shades of grey.

And although they have their place in marketing, they should not have a place in our decision making. We seriously undermine our ability to understand and appreciate the many facets of the truth when what we hold true is a sound bite.

Remember, the sexy sound bite doesn't lead to the nuanced truth.

Underrated Skill: Energy Management

Closely related to the skill of self-management, energy management is the foundation on which we build our lives. Its extremely challenging to build a great life on a shoddy foundation. I think of energy curation comes in four flavors:

  1. Physical Wellbeing
  2. Mental Fitness
  3. Drive / Desire
  4. Replenishment

A breakdown in any of these categories can kill productivity and even happiness.

I've been struggling with energy for a few years now, its been low and I've struggled to replenish even the small amount that I had.

I tried something new this weekend and its like I turned a on a light switch. I went from lethargic even after 8-12 hours of sleep... to waking up before the alarm, excited to get out of bed. If it holds up, I'll share more about my experiences soon.

This drastic shift really helped to open my eyes about the importance of protecting and fighting for my life's foundation. If you haven't been feeling at your best, I highly recommend you do too.

To note -- if you're also feeling low energy, this article from Josh Kaufman might be useful for you. It's not the solution that I came to, but it certainly gave me some motivation to fight.

Caring for your future self

One of the lessons I constantly find  myself relearning is how to prioritize -- and care for -- your future self. This may mean choosing salad over lasagna so your future self doesn't fall asleep while trying to hit a deadline.

It may look like caring for your body by going to the gym three days a week, like my 94 year old grandfather! (3 miles on the bike + 5 weight machines -- he's an inspiration!)

It may mean working before playing, so that you can be stress free and enjoy yourself fully. Or giving yourself enough time to actually accomplish your goals (rather than set them so lofty that you inevitably fail).

This lesson is really a framework for living: Value your future self as much as your current self.

Sounds simple, but its certainly not easy.

Practice Makes Perfect?

Despite what you've been told over the years, practice does not make perfect. Practice makes permanent.

Practice entrenches what you are doing through repetition. If you're practicing perfectly, then, yes, practice makes perfect, but that is rarely the way it goes.

We may practice a lazy swing, or practice procrastinating to the last moment, or practice doing just enough to get the A. In time, that becomes permanent, that becomes who you are.

I offer you (and myself) two powerful reminders:

from Aristotle:

We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence therefore is not an act, but a habit.

and, from Archilochus:

We do not rise to the level of our expectations, We fall to the level of our training.

Practice like you mean it, the way you practice will become who you are.

ExcellenceRebecca Rapple
Don't wait for the milestone start

I'll start it on Monday.I'll write everyday starting next year. I'll start the project on the 1st of the month.

I'm guilty of employing this delay tactic a million times.

But, despite its rational roots, that is all that it is: a delay tactic. A way to feel good about your ambitions while procrastinating and not taking any action.

The truth is you should start. Take the creative energy you're putting into fantasizing about the "perfect" start in the future and turn it into something concrete right now.

Your future self will thank you.

Liberation or Limitation?

Sometimes constraining your choices feels freeing: the freedom to not think. But other times the same constraints feel like a trap or like its overly "safe", leaving you with the feeling that you don't get what you want. The constraints feel, well, constraining.

Where do constraints make you feel liberated? Where do they make you feel limited?

Don't screw with the baseline

Every social situation has a baseline series of expectations.

In an interview at a bank, you're expected to dress formally. On a first date, you're expected to have showered recently.

These expectations are often unstated and sometimes highly nuanced (for example, swearing is acceptable at some companies and shunned at others) -- but when you want something, to the best of your knowledge, don't screw with the baseline.

Breaking social expectations  is a simple and easy out for someone to say no to you. Don't give them that opportunity.

ExcellenceRebecca Rapple
Deliberate infusions of serendipity

I attended a conference last week with lively discussion about the deliberate introduction of serendipity into our lives. We are becoming more and more saturated by information and that is highly curated. In general, this is a great thing -- its more efficient, more interesting and generally validating. That's pretty hard to argue with.

And that is exactly the challenge: serendipity, which is inherently uncertain, struggles to win the competition for attention with curation. Curation is an almost guaranteed dopamine hit... while seeking serendipity is anything but guaranteed (and may be negative).

This explains why we check our phones rather than strike up random conversation.

Serendipity fuels creativity, innovation and luck. We need it to outgrow our own limitations. Yet taking the risk to seek it out is becoming more and more challenging.

LearningRebecca Rapple
The Light of Day

When times have been hard I've found a (nearly) universal cure: The Light of Day.

When I'm most uncomfortable and ashamed of something, the best thing to do is share it. To bring those complicated, messy, painful feelings into the light of other people.

Here's a real world example: in college I had a pretty nasty eating disorder (a combo of anorexia and bulimia). While I was eventually able to mostly break it in secret, I didn't stop fearing it until I could comfortably share my experiences: until I brought it into the light of day.

I also know that if, on a tough day of procrastination, I find myself compensating by saying how great my day has been, I'm digging myself deeper in the hole.

The funny thing is, that in the moment, I believe that stating my day was great will motivate me to change or make me feel better. FALSE! So false. It makes me feel worse!

By being honest and open about my flaws, I find a well of compassion that enables me to move forward and drop the baggage about what's happened in the past.

It may be uncomfortable, but the light of day is generally the best medicine.


ExcellenceRebecca Rapple
Internal Expecations

I am a horrible painter. It's true. I'm sure I could become better, master some techniques, but that's not the point.

I enjoy painting because I have absolutely zero attachment to the outcome.

I expect it to be bad. I don't care when it is bad.

I have no fear when it comes to painting - even showing it to other people because I have no ego attachment to the outcome. I don't care that I am bad and I don't care if other people think that I am the worst painter on earth.

My ability to paint (or lack thereof) is not part of my self-identified value.

What this tells me is that the fear of being seen comes not from skill or lack thereof -- but from internal expectations of your performance and your confidence that you can meet them.

If you're afraid, maybe you should try caring less and perhaps even enjoying being less-than-amazing at something.

Excellence, LearningRebecca Rapple
Underrated Skill: Identifying Frameworks

This past week, I was hanging out with Nikki when she dropped an amazing framework on me: When offering criticism use verbs, not adjectives.

Nikki identified this in the publishing industry after deep study of her bosses, mentors and peers who were able to effectively communicate (and those who weren't). The idea is that rather than directly criticizing their idea (that book cover is ugly) -- you talk about what the idea is communicating (the book cover suggests that...).

Amazing. I'm totally stealing this framework.

The real genius though is in the study and pattern recognition that enabled her to identify and communicate the framework.

Frameworks are worth their weight in gold as they quickly and effectively enable others to improve their decision making.

Here are a couple of other frameworks that I've shared: