Don’t worry about the wrong problem

Most leaders fixate on the wrong problem.

The boss who can’t motivate their employee to show up on time fixates on them setting their alarm earlier.

The parent that wants their child to have better grades takes away their phone and sticks them with a tutor, but fails to ask What is school for? Is it for my child?

It seems so simple. But it’s not.

The answer to complex problems isn’t always suggesting the simplest solution and doesn’t often get to the root of chronic problems.

It’s lazy to think that simply changing behavior we can create desired outcomes.

Chronic problems require more thought and care. They require us to think about the system we have built. Reductionism isn’t the only explanation available.

“Just do it” just doesn’t work

“Shape up and shut up” or “Just do it” only works when you have total authority over someone.

So unless you are a drill sergeant, it doesn’t work that often. Not enough to justify the frequency of use. Because once you push that button, you’ve just spent the last of your capital (trust).

Yet, this is a go to tactic for parents, coaches, bosses, mentors when working with someone who is stuck.

Let’s be clear, most of us that are stuck are not refusing to move to be difficult. No, they don’t know where to go.

This is far from the cry of “they just don’t care.”

Worth exhausting all other tactics and strategies before blowing it up.

A good teacher teaches with us not to us.

What does a real lightsaber sound like?

If you have ever seen Star Wars, most people can think of a sound that a lightsaber makes. They can hear the zap when it turns on, the crashing when they hit each other and the humming when they wave.

Yet, no one has ever held or heard a real lightsaber. No one has ever seen a real one off screen.

We accept imagination as culture.

The question is: If someone invents a lightsaber what would it really sound like?

Probably not like the movie we grew up loving.

Does that make it a real lightsaber then? Is what we have positioned in our mind’s eye the real one?

Worth thinking about while listening to how Ben Burtt created these cultural icon sounds.

You don’t pay your debts in money. You pay it with agency.

Debt significantly limits our ability to make choices.

Because when an emergency comes—and they always do—you are forced to stick with a job longer than you should, work overtime, take a second job, spend time away from your family, put off that book you always wanted to write…

Constantly, we make the cycle worse, by saying things like, “I don’t have time”, “I’m too tired” or “I deserve a vacation” And why not? You have been working so hard doing work you don’t want to do. You need a break. So, we charge it.

Debt is a shackle. Why are we trading so much freedom for a bigger house in a neighborhood we can’t quite afford, a fancier car that is too expensive, TV’s, phones, boats, RV’s…these are artifacts. Status symbols to show off to the Jones’s

It’s worth evaluating, Is this cycle of never-ending accumulation actually never ending?

Is life really about, “I have a car payment so I can get to work. I go to work to pay my car payment.”?

Of course not.

Debt takes away agency.

Changing our framework changes our outcomes

“We are where we are because of the choices we have made.”

When we can learn to accept responsibility for our actions instead of placing blame on circumstances—external forces out of our control—a whole bunch of things open up for us.

We can learn to see the framework of the circumstances we create by the choices we have made.

Not because someone or something did us wrong. Not because of the zip code we were born into. Not because of the things outside of our control. Not because of restraints.

This is about what we can control. 

And what we can control is our posture. When we can adopt this posture that “I am an agent of change” then we don’t become a victim of circumstance.

To be clear, we know that there are those that don’t have access to essential means and don’t have good examples around them. We know that things happen in nature that are completely out of our control. And we can’t discount the fact that some of us are born on third base while many are not.

No one lives without limitations.

Yet, we can still choose.

We can still choose how we will respond instead of react.

We can still choose to be present.

We can still choose to get up after scraping our knee.

We can still choose to ship our work and share it generously.

It’s not a this or that. It’s this AND that.

Is there anything scarier than putting a pen to a blank page?

To know that you can choose, design and architect your life in any way, shape or form. To know that you have total control, autonomy and agency. That you get to decide what goes on your page.

We are not used to feeling that much freedom. In fact, we’re usually relieved when someone else decides for us.


Because what if we’re wrong? What if someone doesn’t like it? What if I’m seen? What if I’m judged? What if this gets me fired?

We don’t have to take responsibility if we give it away.

Deep down, we all want to fit it. Fitting in is a great way to be ordinary, to blend in with the masses, to hide, to be safe from judgement and criticism. But we waste our extraordinary opportunity to put our spin on the world. To put pen to paper.

It’s been done before. Plenty of artists have paved a path for us. It’s only scary because we have never done this before.

Is safer better?

You don’t see anyone riding a mountain bike without a helmet.

And it is the same reason why we don’t drive without seatbelts.

Or have the internet without pop-up blockers.

We’ve evolved. We’ve learned from our mistakes and the mistakes of others.

More importantly, this experience leads to adjustments. Those adjustments, overtime, tend to be safer.

Safer in how we operate.

Safer in how we improve.

Safer in how we innovate.

But we confuse physical safety with emotional.

It is great to have warning labels on cigarette boxes. That is a great safety feature to add.

We also have warning labels come from our internal dialogue…

“You’re not good enough.”

“Who do you think you are?”

These warnings cause us to hesitate. To blink.

Steady improvements and innovations eventually lead us to safety. But safety is a box we need to step out of in order to do things that we have never done before.