The One Thing to Change

Are you confused by all the advice about how to be more successful in your work and life?

I don’t blame you. There’s a lot of talk out there, and often it contradicts the other.

Hey, it’s ok. We all get confused from time to time. In fact, my teenage daughters will say that it happens to me more frequently than I care to admit. 

Many of my executive coaching clients admit their confusion to me, too. It’s only natural given the range advice from blogs to podcasts to books. 

You go online and read Arianna Huffington’s guidance on getting more sleep, and just a mouse click away is Gary Vaynerchuk hustling and grinding out his 18-hour day.   

So which is it? More sleep or more grind?

You try to focus on your strengths, but then remember you should also be aware of the things that derail you.  

TED talks and books by Brene Brown and Sheryl Sandburg get you amped up to be more vulnerable and to “Lean-In,” but what you really want is for your CEO to “model the way” so that you feel safe to follow. After all, nobody wants to be the first vulnerable nail sticking out of the wall. 

And when you think you’ve finally found your passionate purpose, you get 360° feedback telling you not to wear your “heart-on-our-sleeve.”

As you scratch your head and wonder which of your reviewers said that, (even though you know it doesn't matter), you try to deliver flawless execution. But be careful: the pursuit of perfection can slow progress. You try to innovate to stay relevant, only to be warned that this is a critical year, so don’t take on unnecessary risks.

If you weren’t confused before, you probably are by now.

In an attempt to sort it all out, you read about the seven things all great leaders do — or it is the 10 things leaders should avoid?

WTF!?! What’s a leader to do with all these opposing opinions and advice?!?

With tongue-in-cheek, I’m exaggerating a little for effect. The good news is that leaders now have more information on leadership, business, and entrepreneurial advice available to them than any other time in our history. Ironically, that’s the bad news, too.

The problem is, when we’re fire-hosed with too much advice, we end up overwhelmed and confused. Humans don’t do well when we’re confused. We tend to freeze, and instead of getting stuff done we sit on the sidelines, listen to our self-talk, and continue with our old habits. 

So what’s a leader who’s looking for more success in work and life to do?

Quiet the noise and clear your mind.

Before you can change, you must recognize the gap between your ideal state and your current one. Only then can you develop self-awareness and clarify your purpose, values, priorities, and self-talk triggers. 

Until this happens, nothing happens. You can hustle 18 hours a day, but without purpose you will end up spinning your wheels. It’s hard to Lean-In when you can’t quiet your inner critic. And those restful Zs are difficult to get if you’re juggling multiple priorities that keep you on edge and distracted. 

Change is radical, often incremental, and takes effort. It requires support from a coach or a strong team (a.k.a., a tribe or a peloton), and emerges when your disgust is greater than your resistance.   

To heed the messages in all the advice out there, you must first quiet your mind so you can hear them. Confusion is the enemy of change. Without a clear mind, none of the advice in books, blogs, workshops, or in motivational speeches will get through to you.

In the wise words of Jim Rohn, “Nothing changes until you do.” Sage counsel indeed.