How much time do you spend doing things you really like?

“Knight? I told yo mam I am nothing.”

“I would beg to differ little man, You are always something. Even the greatest of heroes must carry a washing pot every now and then.”

Travis Hanson, The Bean

We all want to spend our time following our passions and using our strengths. Sometimes there are tasks that we have to do, tasks we need to get done so that we can do what we love. Some of these tasks can be irritating either because they are boring or because we are not good at them and need to put in a lot of energy into them. One task that have given me a lot of stress is my book-keeping. I know I have to do it to run my company but it has never been something I look forward to. I solved this by hiring an accountant that now does it for me, but there are a lot of other tasks that I have to do and that are much harder to delegate.

As long as most of the things I do are fun, then doing a few things that are not is perfectly fine. What we need to watch out for is when we spend most of our time working on things we don’t like and we aren’t good at. If you spend more than 20% of your time doing tasks that make you stressed or irritate you, then something need to change. Either your job description or where you work.

Have you ever noticed how easy it is to find solutions to everyone else’s problems?

“You are always so perceptive about everyone but yourself.”

Thor: The Dark World

Have you ever noticed how easy it is to find solutions to everyone else’s problems? That the solutions to their problems seem so obvious and simple, that you wonder why they haven’t thought about it before. Have you ever tried helping them by telling them your fantastic solution? And have the response been a bit of irritation and a long list of why that will not work in their case?

I have tried helping many people with suggestions, tips and ideas and most of them are rejected directly. Some ideas people have actually accepted but if I have talked to them a few weeks later they never did it. I still give way too many suggestions, but I am trying to change my behavior and stop it. One reason for this is that I have noticed how irritated I get when people give me solutions that will never work for me.

We all want to help the people around us, but people need to find their own solutions. The reason they have not found it yet is that they have not thought about it from all angles, and they just need some good questions to help them think.

What questions will you ask?

How could you find the hidden rules where you work?

“No,” says Freeman ibn Solomon. “Law is error, you see. It’s an attempt to write down a lot of things everyone ought to know anyway. We don’t have that. Every one of us is expected to act within the constraints of right thinking, and to be prepared to stand by the consequences of those actions. That is,” he adds, “not as comfortable a position as you might think.” And he takes another sip of his whisky.“

Nick Harkaway, The Gone-Away World

This is how most cultures, groups and organisations work. We have unwritten rules and laws that people automatically should know and follow. We might even punish people for disobeying them. Many we are not even aware of, and we only notice them when someone does something that is not allowed. You have to talk about the hidden rules and norms with new colleagues, or you could just leave this person to try to figure it out through trial and error.

How could you find the hidden rules where you work?

Where do I start?

“Yet I am small, how can I do this? I don’t even know where to begin.”

“Start from the beginning… that is where you are… and go… forward…”

Travis Hanson, The Bean

Sometimes I get overwhelmed with the tasks ahead of me. It feels like too much is happening and I’m unsure of where I am going or where I am at. What I usually do then is to sit down and replan the project I work on. I write about the needs behind the project, I decide on a new aim, I define objectives, I brainstorm what to do and decide on a plan. Sometime I realise that I’m almost finished with the project; that the only thing I have left is to package the project before handing it off. If I replan the project and realise that there is a long way to go, I have gotten my bearings back:

  • I know where,
  • I am going,
  • I know where I am at,
  • I know the first step,
  • and I know that there is a way to get from here to there.

What I do then is to throw the plan away and start working. I don’t want the plan to hinder my thoughts and my inspiration. A couple of weeks later I might feel lost again. I could take out my old plan and look at it, but it is usually not valid anymore.

So I just plan the project again…

Was that profound or bullshit?

“In unifying your chi with that of your opponent–in aligning the breath of your life and theirs–you will storm the strongest fortress. There! Is that a good Secret?”

“I have no idea. It sounds as if it might be really profound. It also sounds like baloney. It is, therefore, the highest-quality bullshido, or martial arts hogwash. I don’t know whether to commit it to memory and study it or consider it an object lesson in the ease with which you can counterfeit ancient proverbs.”

– Nick Harkaway, The Gone-Away World

When trying to find a pattern or when summarizing something you have learnt, the challenge lies in not making it too abstract. Abstract concepts are great at getting new thoughts and ideas across, but they are usually extremely difficult to use in real life.

In a course or presentation, you want to give short and memorable statements that your clients will remember and can bring from the course. If they become too abstract or if you don’t follow them up with practical ways of implementing them, then they will quickly go from profound to bullshit.

What is a good agreement?

“Might you have any specific advice as to those points I should keep most in mind?”

“Only that agreements that cannot be enforced, in some fashion or another, will be broken as soon as it is in the interest of the parties to do so.”"

L. E. Modesitt Jr., Antiagon Fire

When delegating tasks or negotiating a contract, we are usually too focused on how we can enforce the agreement or how we can verify that everyone will follow it. What if we instead try to design the agreement in such a way that people don’t want to break it? What if we could create a solution that everyone is satisfied with and want to be part of?

This is not always possible but I think it is better to aim for this type of agreement and if this fails then we can choose to look at how to verify and enfore our agreements. Or we could choose not to work with that person or organisation…

Creating a great team require many small steps

“those who rule best are those who accept each man or woman for who each is, and that seldom are such rulers remembered in the chronicles of the great, for it seems that little has happened during their reigns. Even when they are successful at conquest, that success is attributed to others, to their marshals, to the times, to the weakness of the enemy. What angered many was his observation that those who are remembered are those least worthy of such veneration, because they were the rulers who have attempted to mold others in their image, either through fear or flattery, because they had not the strength to recognize different strengths in others”

L. E. Modesitt, Jr., Imager’s Battalion

This quote reminded me of a quote by Terry Pratchett that I already wrote about.

I think that the best leaders are the ones that can create a space for each person he works with, so that they in turn can do the best work they can. It is just to find the best people for the job and then turn them into an effective team. Finding the best people for the job can be quite hard, and creating an effective team are in many cases even tougher. It is a step by step process, where you have to sit down with your team often to talk about how we work together. To reflect about what is going well and what is not working. Then choose one or two things that you want to do better during the next couple of weeks, and just focus on them.

The steps might seem small, but if your team works 1% better every week then you will be truly excellent a year from now.

What unconscious thoughts and feelings do I have?

“Every man has his strengths. The best know how to use them. The worst don’t know what they are.”

L. E. Modesitt, Jr., Imager’s Battalion

I think the most important thing in life is to find my strengths and use them to change the world in a positive way. The second most important thing is to have fun doing what you do. The list goes on but at some point we get to the point that we need to reflect on our weaknesses and work on them. Most people get stuck on thinking about their weaknesses, which won’t get you anywhere. You will become really really good at what you do if you spend most of the time improving your strengths. Working on your weaknesses is about fine-tuning yourself.

One thing to reflect on is our unconscious thoughts and feelings about ourselves and others. A few years ago I did a few of the tests by Project Implicit. It is such a simple concept where they measure how fast you can associate good and bad words with different social groups, sexuality, and so on. From this they can measure if you have any bias. I went back to their web page today and they hade extended their tests to also cover things like alcohol and self-esteem. I directly took the self-esteem test, and apparently I more strongly associate myself with good words than bad words.

I don’t think one should read too much into these results but it can be a way to get perspective on our thoughts, feelings and actions.

How do you put together a great team?

“That might be best, sir.” Zhelan nodded thoughtfully.

“If I leave out anything, of course, you can make sure they know that, as well.” Quaeryt smiled. “As you have done more than once, and for which I am grateful.”

“You do what I cannot, sir.”

L. E. Modesitt, Jr., Imager’s Battalion

As humans we are hard wired to look for similarities between the people we meet and ourselves. We will automatically like people who are similar to people we normally spend time with. We will also become quite nervous if people are behaving in ways we don’t recoqnise or wear different clothing than what we are used to seeing.

This becomes very apparent during interviews or when we want to gather people to work with. You will most likely get along, if you find people who think like you do and work like you do but your skill-sets will be very similar. We need to work with people who are great at the things we are not so good at. It does not have to be your complete opposite, just make sure that the people you work with love doing some of the things you hate. That the people you work with have the skills that you lack.

How do you put together a great team?

Are we all pretenders?

“I’m realizing that everyone has this experience. All of a sudden, you are in the hot seat, and you feel like a fucking fraud. Am I right?”

Bonhomme said nothing.

“Of course I’m right. But that’s everyone. We’re all frauds. We’re all just pretending that we know what we’re doing. The trick is to pretend so well that you convince yourself long enough to get through the rough spot.”

Myke Cole, Shadow Ops: Breach Zone

Sometimes it feels great to get a huge amount of trust placed on my shoulders. Sometimes it feels great to get enormous amounts of positive feedback, where people absolutely love what I have done. Most times this feels great. Other times I feel overwhelmed and I feel like I’m only pretending to know what I’m doing. At these times it is great to have friends around you. People that know the real you.