Happy New Year!
This is a favorite time of year because it offers a metaphorical mulligan on how we live. It is important to re-connect to our calling and choose – re-commit – the way forward that will best fuel our happiness and contribution. Below are three blog posts I wrote several years ago that I re-read and enjoy during the New Year. In addition, I have included an edited version of my essay, “The Butterfly Effect”, which I humbly believe has the power to transform lives (not because of my writing, but because of the butterfly effect itself). I hope you enjoy these pieces and launch into the New Year with exuberance and peace. Sincerely, Lisa
You are Amazing Even if Today You Are Off Course
Originally published on Management Craft December 30, 2009
I thought I would end the year's blog postings on a high note and with a call for self-forgiveness as a vehicle for refocusing on generating the life and work you desire.
You are amazing. I know this! If you and I enjoyed a chat over foaming lattes, I am sure that your greatness would shine bright and I would find your hopes and dreams inspiring. Everyone I meet possesses clear and special talents. I love to discover the source of a person’s passions and am fascinated by our diverse natures.
Every night on the TV, we see people at their best, but more often, they are at their worst (crime shows, reality TV, Jerry Springer). If everyone is amazing, what’s going on? I think that stress and the dizzying circumstances of our lives can push us off course. We know this is not how things ought to be. We know that we have something greater and more compelling to offer the world. Even so, we get farther off course with each mismatched turn.
You are amazing even if today you are off course. You have the potential to contribute to society and live a wonderful and fulfilling life. You can get back on track. I have worked with people who choose to stop moving in the wrong direction and see a new set of possibilities. They flap their butterfly wings fast and furious, manifesting joy and wonder along the way. They ooze exuberance and become flexibly strong, like a tall Sequoia tree swaying in the wind. An awesome force of nature. What’s your goal? Do you need an adjustment? You can start right now. Define - Answer - Act - Use that energy to repeat.
- Ask: What can I do in the next 12 hours to get unstuck? (Do one big or five tiny things then rejoice)
- Which is more powerful - physical or mental barriers? (Hint: it's likely mental - obliterate the barriers by taking on a new perspective)
- What two things can I do for the next five days to get back on track? Isn't it more complex than this? Yes, of course it is, but if you act like it isn't - guess what? It will become simpler. And yes, this is familiar. To generate breakthroughs: Define goals that inspire you and share them broadly. Take forward action in support of goals. Make requests that move things forward.
Do all these things and you will create velocity. Getting back on course can be this simple - elegant and simple - powerful and simple. But we all get off course sometimes and that does not make us any less amazing - we're like Ferrari sport cars parked in our garages. Not performing because the engine is off. Turn the key and go for a ride.
Are you off course? Here is a thought about how to get back on track.
Originally published on Management Craft April 20, 2012
Yesterday I was reminded of a post I did a couple of years ago called, You are Amazing Even if Today You are Off Course. I have been thinking about this topic a lot this week. Partially because I want to ensure that I stay on course with my goals but also because I see how hard we are on ourselves and the toll this takes on our spirit and desire to keep moving forward. Shorterm"itis" perhaps.
I think there is something to be said for believing in ourselves. Really believing. Believing that even though our daily choices are imperfect and our resolve wanes at times....And even though we sometimes say one thing and 30 seconds later do the opposite.... That we are fully capable of massive and transformative progress. That we can do _____ and we can be the one that others think about when searching for a good role model. "Nothing stops her," they will remark.
Few aspects of our lives require perfection to work. This is true! Woo-hoo! Yippeekayee! Momentum, progress, small wins, sweet daily victories, moments of glorious clarity - that's the ticket to success.
Don't let being off course become a source of power pulling you away from your goal, see it for what it is. A spec of time that will be gone in a minute. If in the next minute we become the change we seek, we can skip forward once again and enough that future setbacks will be insignificant. Keep the progress big and the setbacks minuscule.
Enjoy being in alignment in this moment. And don't look back.
Shake Your Piano!
Originally published on Management Craft April 26, 2005
Last week my husband took me to hear David Benoit at Jazz Alley. We got there early and snagged a great table overlooking the stage and slightly behind David. I could see his fingers moving a million miles an hour, using each and every key, even the first one and last one. It was a great performance that made me smile. Here’s the cool part. He was playing so hard that the piano was shaking. I had never seen that before, but he had the big black beast jiving to his beat. David Benoit has been around a while and he’s playing many of the same tunes. Even so, when he plays he is on fire. He was working harder and with more enthusiasm than his three band members combined. These were young guys who should have been playing their hearts out. But it was not their music. Not their legacy. Not their names on the tickets. They were very good, by the way, just not like David. So ownership - extreme ownership - has something to do with it.
Why do I share this story on my little management blog? As I was watching David shake his piano, I thought about the things that I felt that strongly about. Those things that I would be willing to “do” for the thousandth time with passion and energy. For me, the list contains serious and silly things including:
- Air conducting (I love doing that)
- Coaching a willing person
- Facilitating breakthroughs
- Creative nonfiction writing about a topic with which I am fascinated
- Traveling to new places
- Taking on new challenges at work - so foreign, that one should wonder if I know how to begin.
No job - with a company or my own - will offer these experiences all the time. No life - regardless of the money we make - will offer these experiences all the time. Nor does David Benoit’s. Along with the opportunity to play to an eager audience, he has to do PR interviews, spend time on airplanes and in hotels, and endure many other hassles. But it’s all for those moments when he can play HIS stuff. In a way, he ought to enjoy those times, otherwise the crappie hotel beds and endless runway delays would not be worth it. Right?
So what about us? Do we ensure that we experience the great parts - and enjoy them fully - so that it all works out to be a great life? I think many of us (present company included) don’t do enough to make sure we are still shakin’ the piano.
What’s on your list?
The Butterfly Effect 2: A New Year’s Wish
By Lisa Haneberg
In a world that is focused on big things—big business mergers, box office hits, platinum music CDs, supermodels, best-selling books, Humvees, big-box retailers—it’s nice to contemplate the power of the very small. Even more satisfying is the notion that small might be greater than big.
The butterfly effect is a popularized interpretation of one of the key elements of chaos theory and has its roots in something that mathematicians refer to as “extreme sensitivity to initial conditions” (small and seemingly insignificant changes at the start of a process can produce wildly different and practically unpredictable results). It’s the notion that something as small as a flap of a butterfly’s wings can make a big impact, like causing a tornado on the other side of the world. The flapping wings move the air and the effect reverberates.
A sensitivity to initial conditions is one of the defining characteristics of a complex system - like the weather and human systems. Ah yes, we are chaotic! People are sensitive to conditions – some more than others and you know who you are.... Our moods are affected by whether we slept well, the traffic, whether our pants feel loose or tight, a smile from the good-looking guy in the elevator, and dozens of other things. We can’t predict what other people will do, even those we know very well, because there are many tiny variables that impact their thoughts and actions.
Why am I sharing this with you now? Within chaos hides possibility….
How can we use the big power of small things to improve our lives? How do we influence what we can neither control nor forecast?
Let’s not forget that we are each a flapping butterfly. Even if we could control and predict our future behavior, which we can’t, we have no way of knowing who else might be flapping in our direction. TV news programs love tragic stories of butterfly flapping gone bad. Road rage that kicks off a twelve-car pileup. Childhood bullying that turned a good kid into a killer. A teen’s curiosity about drugs that led to unprotected sex and pregnancy and impacted generations of kin. Tiny decisions reverberate, the reverberations reverberate, and then something happens. BAM, we weigh 300 pounds and it seems like just yesterday we were frolicking in the surf in a yellow string bikini. But let’s not focus on the negative stories; the butterfly effect also catalyzes awesome outcomes. I was giving a talk at the Fayetteville library in Georgia. Before the talk, I mingled with the group of about twenty. I met a man who was starting a new business, but he had a hard time explaining what it was. Also in the group was a woman who was a freelance marketing communications writer (someone who makes a living explaining businesses). Another woman brought pastries to the talk. People lined up for the pastries. The businessman and writer ended up next to each other in line and they got to talking. Pow, the man hired the writer to help explain his business. The head librarian flapped, I flapped, the businessman flapped, the writer flapped, and the woman who made the pastries flapped. All the flaps mattered. Had there been no pastries, the businessman and the writer may never have met.
A month before our wedding, I asked Bill the following question. If you could live anywhere, doing any kind of work, where would you live and what would you do? To my surprise, Bill said that he would like to live in Seattle and have his own geology consulting business. We lived in New Mexico at the time and he had never mentioned Seattle or starting a business. I flapped a bit more and asked, Well, what’s keeping us from doing this? To make this long story short, I applied for a few jobs in Seattle, got an offer from a company that included full relocation benefits, and within six weeks we were living in Seattle and my husband started his own consulting firm. Looking back, I wonder how our lives would have been different had I not asked that one question…
Here’s the thing – and one reason why I find chaos so interesting - we don’t know which flaps matter. We act hundreds of times each day and some reverberate more than others. Why? One reason is that we are not the only ones flapping! We go to Starbucks on Monday and enjoy coffee. On Tuesday, we go again and meet our soul mate. Actions lead to reactions … sometimes.
Complex systems. They’re fuzzy, enigmatic and wonderful. And we can put the imperfect, unpredictable nature of humanity to work to improve our lives and the planet. The key to harnessing the power of the butterfly effect is that small, daily, directionally correct actions can change the world. Our goals define the futures we want to create. When our flaps are focused and frequent, our energies reverberate in a direction aligned with our goals.
Flap strategy #1: Talk. Not all flaps are created equal and conversations are among the most potent. When we talk, we set forth an invisible relay race. People love sharing – especially share-worthy stories. We tell our friends about what our others friends are up to and we spread the most interesting news like butterflies on crack. We talk and things change.
Flap strategy #2: Talk about what’s important and ask great questions. The question I asked Bill created a new reality for both of us and those we touch. What if you asked your significant other the same, “If you could live anywhere, doing any kind of work, where would you live and what would you do?” What might come from this conversation? Or some other question? Give it a try right now.
Flap strategy #3: Make more requests. And while you are at it, make some requests that “feel” unreasonable and BIG. A request can alter our situation in an instant. Really! Making requests allows us to shortcut the reverberation process and to move directly toward our preferred future. Do you think making requests is selfish? I invite you to think differently. The types of requests that I suggest are not the “give me” kind, although sometimes you should ask for what you want (you never know). Catalytic requests seek ideas, connections, accommodations, and coaching. When was the last time you shared your goals with your significant other and asked him or her to help make your intentions a reality? BTW, people love to help and often feel they get more than they give.
Do you know which possibilities you want to harness in your life? If not, take some time to explore this and choose a desirable path. And if you find that this is not THE path, don’t worry, you can adjust it. There is no one best path, so don’t waste time in a state of inaction trying to find yourself. YOU are not a destination. Life is the process – living is being. The end game is not the game.
Because I write a lot about the butterfly effect, I receive emails from people telling me how their directionally correct flapping has changed their lives. One of these emails was so moving that I cried. It came from a man named Perry, a musician who admitted that he struggled with winter depression and had been in a long and frustrating slump. I asked Perry to write a song about breakthroughs and the butterfly effect. To write the song, he needed to learn about the butterfly effect. As is the case for many, learning about the butterfly effect is so inspiring that it leads to beneficial flapping and progress. Perry wrote a wonderful song called “Breakthrough” and produced his then best studio recording. In his email to me he wrote, “These last four days have truly been the most productive and rewarding of my entire career as a musician.” What made this story special is that Perry is my brother. And since this time, he has gone on to write and record several other wonderful songs.
Possibilities abound. By using the power of the butterfly effect, we can enhance our lives and impact others in ways we cannot today fathom.
Flap, flap, flap.