The Now and the Not Yet

One of the great mysteries in this drama called life is the tension between the Now and the Not Yet.

There are times when we need to act now, and delay means a loss of opportunity. It may even display cowardice. Yet there are other aspects of our life that are on long simmer – we’re made for this, but…not yet.

It’s tricky, on a given day, month, year, or decade, to know what is now, and what is not yet. When do we seize the day, and when do we need more seasoning in our own character and experience?

As parents, we yearn for our kids to get their act together and be gold-medal human beings by the time they reach 20. But people – especially young people – don’t often seem to follow our script. The long haul of the not yet is the constant (sometimes painful) companion of everyone who joins the adventure of shaping a new generation.

Several things are coalescing in my life right now that lead me to believe that it’s time. For instance, I’ve known since my late teens that I was destined to write books. Yet only now, in my 50’s, do I feel like I’ve developed the message and the “voice” and the direction and the platform to start long-form writing. That doesn’t mean I haven’t been thinking and writing and learning all along – I have – but there was a not-yet doorstop in my soul for decades as I slowly developed.

Some, however, end up successfully launching businesses or books or speaking careers or multimedia fame in their 20’s. The now came early. How can you program (or predict) all that?

You can’t. But sometimes we can help other people decide between the now and the not yet by providing an objective voice. Don’t underestimate the importance of a pointed encouragement forward, or a cautious word of wisdom to wait.

I’ve got no answers – just that we have to be ready for now each day, and be patient about the not yet even when it seems to make no sense to wait.

How do you live with this tension?

Your Internal Wiring: Strategic, or Tactical?

I’ve been theorizing here at Connection Agent about how our internal “wiring” shapes our workstyle. I do believe that we all have a level of malleability – that is, we can learn new skills outside of our comfort zone. But I’m thinking that also have baked-in orientations, or preferences, that shape how we best work.

So far, we’ve looked at the following ideas on the workstyle spectrum:

Introversion – – vs  – – Extroversion

Me-working – – vs – – Team-working

Now let’s take a look at another (proposed) scale: Strategic thinking vs Tactical thinking

StrategicTactical Scale

Someone with a more Tactical orientation really just wants to get it done – their mindset is less on the big picture, and more on the short-term execution. They prefer to implement, not plan.

On the other hand, those with a Strategic orientation always tend to see the bigger picture – how the pieces fit into a larger plan, and how to go about the work with a longer-term blueprint.

This isn’t a matter of intelligence or performance. It’s simply an orientation. And someone with a strategic mindset who is stuck in a tactical job will quickly become dissatisfied – do you agree?

However, I confess to being a little bit torn on this scale, because I wonder if it shouldn’t be three fold: Tactical—-Strategic—-Visionary. Is visionary a workstyle? Or is it a leadership style? Not sure about that. I know that my mentality is very much on the visionary/strategic level – I can do implementation, but I prefer not to be in the weeds of details. Where do you see yourself?

So – do you think this a valid distinction as proposed, or should the labels be something different? I know there’s truth here, but I’m not entirely sure I’ve got the labels of the spectrum nailed accurately.

>> And just what is the purpose of this whole exercise, anyway? Actually, it is part of a big-picture approach I’m working on – how to help people find their best professional “fit” as far as job/role. I believe that we have wired orientations, and that by becoming aware of our preferred workstyles, we can make much more intelligent career choices. My vision is seeing thousands of people and companies doing far more effective work because they start with a “you-based business” approach.

You Have the Goods

I spent a couple hours recently going in-depth with someone about an impending major career change – a BIG jump from one type of endeavor to another.

Without giving away too much about his/her background, I’d say that about the last thing you’d expect from this individual is the hesitancy and uncertainty that stems from fear.

But there it was.

“I don’t believe I have the goods.”

I think one of the best gifts we can give one another is an assessment of what we’re really good at, and a huge pat on the back to go forth and conquer.

If you believe someone has the goods, tell him or her. That little word of encouragement – that expression of faith – may well be the needed push to get someone over the barrier of fear.

Even the most seemingly-successful folks have the “you don’t have the goods, you big jerk!” minor-key soundtrack playing in the background sometimes.

Many times what we need is someone from the outside, someone both objective and encouraging, to say out loud, with a smile and little shove forward, “You have the goods!”

The Seven Shortcuts to Creating Trust

  1. There
  2. Are
  3. No
  4. Shortcuts
  5. To
  6. Creating
  7. Trust

We all want shortcuts. And for getting from A to B in some things, shortcuts are possible.

But not in that fragile, yet powerful, realm of human trust.

Trust is created by people of character, who live and act consistently.

You earn it. One action at a time. One person at a time. Over a long period of time.

No shortcuts.

(Image credit: John Hartsock via Flickr)

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Related posts on Connection Agent:

>> A Tale of Two Welcomes

>> Creating a Welcoming Climate

How I Manage My Introversion

I’m happy to be an introvert. Maybe I wasn’t always so sanguine about this aspect of my internal wiring – in fact, most of my life, I guess I felt somewhat inferior to my more extroverted earth-dwellers – but not any more!

(What is, and isn’t, introversion? Read this excellent summary post by Lisa Petrilli – also, Lisa’s e-book on the subject is extremely helpful: The Introvert’s Guide to Success in Business and Leadership).

A tendency toward introversion is quite common – anywhere from a third to a half of the population tends toward the “Quiet Side.” While extroverts tend to gain energy from being around other people, introverts recharge through being alone with their thoughts. The introvert is usually not the life of the party, but the person having an earnest one-on-one conversation in the corner (and secretly wishing to be away from the noise and chaos). Extroverts will tend to speak first, and organize their thoughts later; introverts often pause to carefully consider their words.

It’s not easy being an introvert in a world that tends to value extroversion (the theme of a superb book on introversion by Susan CainQuiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking).

So, how have I worked with and worked around this tendency over the years? A few thoughts:

  1. Above all else, the primary step is to embrace it. We can’t change our fundamental wiring, and why should we? A tendency to walk on the quiet side often leads to fountains of creativity, richness of perspective, and relational depth. In Lisa’s book referenced above, she tells the story of how our friendship and professional collaboration blossomed on the foundation of shared introversion. I can remember way back to my high school days feeling an aversion to loud groups and superficial chatter, and wondering what my problem was. Actually, there was no problem. My style is different – and goes deep instead of wide. AND THAT’S A GOOD THING!
  2. Also, I’ve learned to have realistic expectations. I can only take so much people-time before I have to back away, and I now give myself permission to retreat. I have learned to become outgoing and pro-active, but I’ll never feel at home in a loud, crowded schmooze-setting. I’ll always look for the quiet corner and try to find an individual or small group.
  3. I use social media extensively as my relationship-building bridge. I have “pre-met” so many wonderful people using on-line networking, which removes the awkward stage when we finally meet face-to-face. Nowadays, first-time in-real-life meetings are like reunions, because on-line networking has allowed me to get through the first layer of introduction. Lately, I’ve been doing more and more video Skype calls to move past introduction and start getting in-depth with people in ways that could never happen randomly at a party or a conference. I think digital social networking was created for introverts!
  4. I ask a lot of questions. Introverts tend to be better at this. By focusing on the other person and trying to understand, you often can bring a surprisingly amount of value and kindred-ness to a person who drowns in the sea of surrounding superficiality. Sometimes, by playing this very natural role, you can bring surprising levels of comfort and healing and wisdom, even in a brand-new relationship.
  5. I’ve disciplined myself to be outgoing. Not extroverted – outgoing. Introverts can seem (or be) anti-social at times, and I’ve made a lifelong commitment to be pro-active to the point that, now, it’s pretty natural. I still have a hard time making small talk with seatmates on airplane flights, however. My default setting there is to retreat into my own reading and my own thoughts. That’s a tough one!

As with any other tendency, there can be a dark side to introversion. Tendencies to insecurity, analysis-paralysis, or depression. All of these things need to be seen clearly and managed, sometimes with the help of both introverted and extroverted friends. But my main point in all this is to state unequivocally: Introversion is not a curse. It is not a problem. It is not a weakness. Introverts can lead, and can speak effectively in public. It’s actually pretty wonderful to be introvert-ish, noisy parties notwithstanding. And if you see me in a crowded social setting, looking around a bit awkwardly, then pull me off to a corner and let’s talk about it…!

For further reading (and aren’t these a couple of beautiful introvert-authors?):

(affiliate links to these books on Amazon: Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking | The Introvert’s Guide to Success in Business and Leadership).

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Is your professional direction and message CLEAR? Hire Steve Woodruff for Clarity Therapy!

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>> Following Your Passion: A Story

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Charmed

It seems like just a few years ago that I was making my mind up about college.

This New England boy visited Vanderbilt, and utterly charmed by Nashville and the warm culture of the South, decided that a transplant 1,000 miles away was in order.

After 7 years in this adopted city, it was back to the hurried and harried North. But through major career changes, bringing up 5 boys with my (also Connecticut-born) wife, and many travels, I never forgot Nashville.

This week, I have come back “home” to attend BlissDom (thanks for the invite, Alli!), this time introducing 2 of my older boys to their first taste of the South. Their reaction to the warm smiles, easy converse, friendly service, and open-hearted people?

Charmed. In fact, they’re already threatening to stay behind instead of returning to New Jersey!

Yes, I may feel a bit like a fish out of water as one of the few representatives of male-dom at BlissDom. But this Yankee feels very much at home walking around the Vandy campus, eating southern cooking at Loveless Cafe, and re-learning to relax and smile and say “hi” to strangers for absolutely no reason.

Already, catching up with some dear friends from the past and watching my boys fall in love with the South has made the trip well worth it. Nashville, it’s a delight to be back.

Looking forward to some charming days. Maybe even some bliss!!

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Out of my Comfort Zone: Haiti

As many of you know, I recently went on a mission trip to Haiti (small team from my local church). My role was to help one of my long-time friends with a building project – topping off the walls of a partially-constructed church building and putting up a roof on it.

The trip was an amazing privilege, and the whole adventure was WAY outside my comfort zone! Nonetheless, it was a fulfilling and eye-opening experience.

I thought I’d share some of the pictures I took of the country, its people, and the project. Here is the photo set on Flickr. If you scroll through, you’ll see the captions; you can also view it in slideshow mode.

Pictures, and words, can’t do justice to the experience. But maybe they’ll give you a glimpse of a nation and a people far more in need than we are here in the “first world”.

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Hire Steve Woodruff  if your identity and message need clarity (Brand Therapy)

Recent posts on Connection Agent:

>> Who Are Your Influencers?

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