Before you take action, take a look around.

Yesterday was one of those amazingly frustrating days. You know, the kind where you feel like you’ve gotten sucked into a black hole and will never, never, never get out again? That kind.  Once I got through gnashing my teeth down to nubs, I realized I’d been blessed (I use the term loosely) with an AFGO—Another Flippin’ Growth Opportunity.

On the surface, it looked like no big deal: meet a potential strategic ally in downtown Minneapolis.  Unfortunately, my brain seems to turn to guacamole whenever I get near the downtown area, and I almost inevitably get lost. Having directions, not having directions, it doesn’t matter; I get lost. Yesterday was no exception.

Here’s a brief rundown of how I got myself into a blood-pressure-spiking situation:

With this combination of sloppy behaviors, it’s not surprising that I felt like I was in some sort of Twilight Zone episode.

Sigh.

Beyond the frustration of not quickly and efficiently getting where I wanted to go, I also made myself crazy because I keep thinking I’ve learned these lessons already, for heaven’s sake.  Apparently, however, that’s just wishful thinking on my part; if I’d really internalized them, I wouldn’t keep getting opportunities to (re)learn them yet again.  So, in the interest of shortening your learning curve, I share an encore presentation of the following lessons.

Stay focused.  I only had to count five streets! Even on a bad day, I can do that. My ongoing challenge is SQUIRREL!!!  to stay focused on the task at hand and refuse to be distracted by bright, shiny objects of any sort.

Pay attention to what’s going on around you.  While this may sound contradictory to lesson #1, it’s really not.  You can be aware of what’s happening on the periphery while staying focused on your primary goal; it’s mostly a matter of choosing where you’ll put the bulk of your attention. If I’d only done this, I could have take the elevator up to my correct level and gotten to my car quickly and easily.

Be cautious about assuming that you already “know” something important.  When I read the directions, they clearly stated that the garage I wanted was between blocks five and six.  However, when I read “turn right into the garage”, I assumed they meant “turn right at the fifth block”.  There was no reason for me to assume that; I just got sloppy and did it—hence the unplanned scenic tour of Minneapolis.

Once I got back to my office and soothed myself with some chocolate, I realized that I must also be at risk of derailing my business-building efforts by ignoring these lessons.  How many times have I lost (or simply chosen to give up) my focus? How often do I drop an important-but-not-urgent task to work on something that’s both in my face and easier to do, but doesn’t have the same future impact on my business? And how frequently do I act on assumptions or on what I “know”, only to find out later my actions were based on faulty or incomplete premises?

So I’m going to be more stringent about challenging myself with questions like these:

Here’s hoping that these observations and questions keep your learning curve shorter than mine apparently is.  However, if you feel you’ve kind of learned them but still struggle to actually implement them, maybe I can help.  (I, like many entrepreneurs, am a whiz at doing better work for my clients than I sometimes do for myself.  See the April 7, 2012, rant/blog on this topic.)

If implementing your great ideas and applying your painfully learned lessons remains a frustrating challenge for you, contact me.  We can have an offline, let’s-see-what-we-see conversation, ask each other some questions, and explore whether there’s a solution I can offer.

BTW, thanks to Omar Omar for posting his garage photo on www.flickr.com.
This entry was posted in counterproductive, focus.

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