Someone once said that people are more committed to comfort than they are to change. Especially given the fact that with change comes uncertainty.
The reason is fairly simple; uncertainty makes you feel uneasy, out of control and even anxious.
I am reminded of the story of an executive* who, shortly after moving his family to another city, found out that his boss and mentor – who encouraged him to make the move to advance his career, was fired.
If uprooting and moving his family to a new city wasn’t a big enough change, with the arrival of a new boss, he now found himself worrying that he could also lose his job. Unexpected changes like this – especially in today’s business climate, are becoming commonplace.
What would you do if you were in his shoes?
Remember To H-A-L-T
You have likely faced uncertainty at some point in your career and life. Everyone has.
When faced with an unexpected change or a challenging situation, I remember the words that a close friend once shared with me: “Never make a decision when you are Hungry, Angry, Lonely or Tired.” I call it the HALT Rule.
In short, when faced with uncertainty, don’t react. I know that this can be easier said than done. However, taking a step back will provide you with an opportunity to look beyond the initial tide of emotions that can overwhelm you. This pause will empower you to effectively assess the situation and develop a sound go forward strategy.
Or to put it another way, you can turn the apparent curse of uncertainty into a blessing of new found good fortune. You have the power to do that! In this month’s eNewsletter, I will share with you the 3 ways that you can.
1. Don’t Fret; Focus!
Do you fear the unknown or is your fear based more on what might happen?
Think about this seemingly subtle yet significant difference. When the executive referenced at the beginning of this eLetter found out that his boss was fired, he didn’t simply shrug his shoulders and go blank. His first thought was that the new boss might want to replace him. This thought isn’t an unknown, it is a fear of what he imagined might happen.
According to countless studies, 85% of what we fear the most will never happen. While I am not suggesting that your worst fears can’t become a reality, what I am saying is that they aren’t likely to. This is why spending time worrying about what might happen is a waste of energy.
Instead, when confronted with the unexpected, focus on assessing the situation and gathering the facts as to what is actually happening.
Here is how you can stop fretting and start focusing:
- See the potential opportunities. Remember, with every closing door, there is an opening window.
- Gain a “big picture” perspective by adopting an attitude of gratitude. Acknowledging the things that are good in your life will create a sense of balance and calm.
- Seek advice from your coach, mentors and close friends. The perspective of trusted confidantes can help to ease your worst fears, by giving you an objective lens through which to view your situation.
2. Adopt a Contingency Plan
You know the old saying about failing to plan is planning to fail?
Clarify if your fear is generalized or grounded. For example, in October, it was estimated that Hurricane Mathew would make landfall in West Palm Beach, in close proximity to my home on the water. Needless to say, I secured my property, removed all furniture from outdoors and temporarily left Florida. Yes, I was blessed because Hurricane Mathew bypassed my home but I knew my preparedness had been justified.
While it is not always possible to plan for every contingency or unexpected situation that can arise in life, being prepared or having a planning process in place, will put you in the best position to deal with the unexpected. Specifically, there is comfort in foreknowledge, and empowerment in readiness.
Are you ready for the unexpected? There is nothing wrong with having a justifiable fear or concern; but distinguish between a grounded fear rather than a fear based on a sense of fate.
The following steps will make certain that you are prepared to face almost any situation with a cool head, and a steady hand:
- Diagnose the challenges you face. Do an honest assessment of your vulnerabilities. Where in your present situation are you most vulnerable in terms of a looming or present change?
- Like knowing where the emergency exits are in your office building, write down three potential situations that could happen, and then plan your response to each one. Think of it as being your personal fire drill that will guide you to safety in uncertain times.
- Just like golfers keep their mind on their swing and their eye on the ball, your focus must be on the business, upcoming changes and hidden agendas.
- Be willing to adapt or improvise your planned response when the situation calls for it.
3. Face Uncertainty With Confidence, Not Optimism
In his book Good To Great, Jim Collins wrote about the Stockdale Paradox.
He tells the story of admiral Jim Stockdale who, during the Vietnam War, was held captive for eight years. Despite the horrors he endured, and the fact that there was little reason to hope that he would survive to see his wife and family again, he never lost faith.
As Stockdale himself put it, “I never doubted not only that I would get out, but also that I would prevail in the end and turn the experience into the defining event of my life, which, in retrospect, I would not trade.”
Now you might suggest that Stockdale was an optimist. However, it was the optimists according to Stockdale, who did not survive. Rather than facing the dire circumstances they were in, the optimists in captivity put their faith in the unfounded hope that they would soon be released. When it didn’t happen, they gave up.
What Collins took away from the Stockdale experience is that while you must retain a strong faith that you will ultimately prevail regardless of what you are facing, you must also confront the facts of your current reality, whatever they might be.
The following tips will help you to be able to do this:
- Adapt your behavior to reduce your distress. That means making small but meaningful adjustments that are both appropriate to the situation and still honor your own values.
- Expand your network. Good networkers use their contacts as a source for information, insights and changes in the political landscape of their companies.
- Manage your destiny. Whatever happens, there is a purpose and it will ultimately work to your benefit if you can see that your experience helps you to build the gift of resilience.
Look Beyond Uncertainty
When you face the unknown with clarity, confidence, and an enduring faith in an eventual positive outcome, the veil of uncertainty will be lifted, revealing new opportunities and possibilities beyond your present circumstances.
In the end, my advice to you is not to fear the unknown, but to challenge it and embrace your bigger future, even if that future isn’t what you had originally envisioned.
* You can read the executive’s full story in my book The Future Of You.
Whether you like it or not, how others perceive you means that you don’t own your brand. Is reality perception or perception reality? Whenever there is a question of who you are, and in the absence of your understanding and input, you allow others to define you based on their own views and preconceived ideas. (Page 19, The Future Of You)
As demonstrated by the above quote from my book The Future of You, aligning reality with how others see you (and how you see yourself), is critical to your success in business and in life.
An old proverb states that your perception is defined by three mirrors; the first mirror is how you see yourself, the second mirror is how others perceive you and, the third mirror is the truth.
Getting to that truth requires your active involvement so that you can identify and bridge any gaps between how you see yourself and how others see you.
In today’s post I will share with you with the three essential tips to align perception with reality, which will set you on a course for greater success.
Tip #1 – Make Sure Your Perception IS Reality
“Our belief does not change reality or truth. You may sincerely believe something to be true, but you may be sincerely wrong.” (Page 8, The Future Of You)
You know you are doing a great job!
You have no doubt that you are at the front of the line in terms of getting that promotion, or a mere a rubber stamp away from getting a well deserved raise.
Over my 20 plus years as an executive coach, I have counseled many people on the other side of their disappointment at not getting an anticipated promotion or worse, unexpectedly losing their job when they believed that they were on top of their game.
Besides wishing that I had been able to work with them beforehand, the one thing that I would want everyone would realize, is that their view of the world and themselves is not often shared by others. At least not without a conscious effort.
Here is what you need to do to avoid a disconnect between how you see yourself and how others see you;
- Conduct market research. Select approximately ten people (HR, senior executives, colleagues, direct reports and/or customers) to offer you advice on specific areas you could improve upon. Make them comfortable by asking what others might think rather than asking their own personal opinion.
- If you receive negative feedback, do not be defensive or attempt to justify your position. Remember, this is how people see you. There is no right or wrong, nor are there good guys or bad guys. Take in the information gracefully, and learn from it.
- Know how and why your actions affect others and how this impacts their perception of your value.
Tip #2 – Make Sure You See Your True Reflection
“If your brand value truly reflects your personal values that align with who you really are, you will have created a magical harmony from within.” (Page 8, The Future of You)
What you see in the mirror is ultimately a reflection of how you see yourself and your value to the world.
Take a moment to look at yourself in the mirror. What do you see . . . what do you really see?
I have always found it interesting that some of the people we consider to be successful and confident are, in reality, insecure and uncertain.
This internal disconnect is more difficult to align because it is based on what YOU believe about YOU! Like the old saying about being your own worst critic, this can undermine your efforts.
Here are a few suggestions as to what you can do to see the “true” you when you look in your personal mirror;
- You know the saying about treating others the way you would like them to treat you? Well the same principle applies when we look inward. In other words, treat yourself as you would treat others. Show the same generosity of a gentle and forgiving spirit towards yourself, as you would towards someone else. Or to put it another way, and while it may sound trite, always be kind to yourself.
- Know your values and stick to them. It is in our compromises that we lose our true sense of self-worth.
- Don’t carry the baggage of other people’s misconception of who you are and what you can do.
- “Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow has not yet come. We have only today. Let us begin.” You cannot dwell on what has happened in the past, only upon what you can do in the here and now.
Tip #3 – Remember the Emerson Rule
“One of the most important ways to manage the perception of your brand is by being consistent.” (Page 48, The Future Of You)
Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “What you do speaks so loudly that I cannot hear what you say.” After talking about how you are perceived by others and yourself, there is no small irony in the fact that it is your actions that people will remember most.
So how do you walk the talk of aligned perceptions?
Here are a few essential tips;
- Be clear on people’s expectations and then meet or exceed them.
- Misconception is born out of a lack of understanding, and misperception a lack of communication. Say what is on your mind in a productive manner that leads to greater collaboration.
- Don’t say one thing, and then do another. Nothing will undermine the perception others have of you more than inconsistency.
Always Be Value Driven
“All the success you achieve will mean very little if your beliefs and values are not aligned with your actions, and in turn the enduring perceptions that others have of you.” (Page 13, The Future Of You)
To be valued as a person, you must be a person of values and value.
In the end, when our values are aligned with our actions, we have a clear path to a fulfilling career and life that will not only benefit ourselves, but others as well.
Our own light shines brightest when we reflect the accomplishments of those we have helped to succeed. – Roz Usheroff
When you look at people who are in the spotlight of accomplishment, do you automatically assume that they were born with inherent gifts? Do you believe they possess unique abilities that mere mortals do not possess? Do you think that explains why they command and attract attention?
Are you currently surrendering to a belief that you could never aspire to similar heights of achievement in your own right?
If you do, then you are not alone.
But here is the thing . . . many of the people whom you see as strong and confident were not always like that. In fact, many were initially inclined to shun the spotlight and retreat to the supposed comfort of anonymity in the shadows of self-doubt.
The Shadows Of My 4-Person Rule
Many years ago when I worked at Club Monaco, a Canadian retail fashion chain, I had a self-imposed rule that if there were more than four people in a meeting, I would remain silent.
My reasoning was that I had a greater chance of appearing stupid if I spoke in front of a larger audience. I was fearful of being exposed as someone who did not know what they were talking about. You can think of it as being the 4 Smart – 5 Stupid Rule.
As I look back, my thinking seems foolish, especially since I now address audiences of all sizes the world over. Naturally, over time, those fears eventually disappeared due in part to the fact that I allowed myself to accept the positive feedback from my diverse audiences. The real turning point however, was my realization that I had known more about what I was saying, than for what I was giving myself credit.
Overcoming The “Spotlight Effect”
Ultimately, I shied away from the spotlight in terms of speaking up and standing out because I believed that everyone was watching me and would therefore notice my every flaw or imperfection. This highly sensitized level of self-consciousness actually has a name…“The Spotlight Effect”.
If you are not familiar with the term, it is the belief that you are noticed by others more than you really are. What is even more interesting is that rarely, if ever, will you have an accurate perspective on how people view you.
In this month’s eNewsletter, I will provide you with a new set of rules for stepping from the shadows of self-doubt and self-limiting beliefs to shine in your own right.
Rule #1 – Focus on your Strengths
If you want to change the fruit, you have to change the roots. If you want to change the visible, you have to change the invisible first. – T. Harv Eker
How many times have you been in a meeting where someone presents an idea in which you have said to yourself, “Hey! I thought of that!”
This has happened to everyone at one time or another, and not just once. So here is my question to you . . . why didn’t you speak up? Why did you hesitate to share your ideas or flashes of brilliance?
Until you get to the point of realizing and accepting the fact that you have a value all of your own, you will likely be in the shadows of your own 4-person rule.
Tips for discovering and boosting your confidence:
- Think back to your past successes – even the small ones. It could be acing a tough job interview, dealing with a difficult customer or completing a project under budget. How did you feel? The key point is that each success you have had should serve as a stepping-stone to building your confidence in the value of ‘you’.
- Seek input from trusted individuals with whom you work and live about your strengths. Remember, with the spotlight effect we rarely, if ever, have an accurate view of how others perceive us. You will most assuredly be surprised by the answers you receive.
- If you are not happy with something about yourself, don’t lament it – change it! If you feel that you need to be more visible, begin with tiny steps. Challenge yourself to speak up early in a meeting or ask to be first on the agenda of a virtual presentation.
Rule #2 – Knowledge IS Power
If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail. – Benjamin Franklin
Nothing fosters greater confidence than knowing your stuff!
Doing your homework and becoming a subject matter expert removes any element of surprise. It also means that your preparation time before attending a meeting or addressing an audience is as important as the event itself.
In other words, you can’t just show up and wing it. That would be like showing up at the starting line of a marathon race without actually training for it. It doesn’t matter how fast you are, or how athletic you look – you are not going to win the race.
Tips for setting the stage for speaking out:
- Know your audience! Find out who is going to be attending the meeting, and what they want to achieve. Why are they there? Why are you there?
- Get a copy of the agenda and highlight the areas with which you can offer meaningful insight – then carpe diem . . . seize the opportunity to speak.
- Prepare thought-provoking questions in advance. Address those in attendance who are the subject matter experts. Your enthusiastic participation will be duly noted.
- When presenting, don’t just talk at people. Engage them. Create a two-way dialogue which shifts the focus from you to others, and gives everyone the opportunity to shine in a collective spotlight. To make your audience part of the process, try the following:
- “What are your questions?” vs. “Do you have any questions?”
- “How does this resonate with you?”
- “I’m curious to have your perspectives.”
- “What are your thoughts before I move on?”
- Stock the boardroom or audience with allies who will validate your perspectives. Book time to share your vision with them before the meeting to build your sponsorship.
Rule #3 – Sincere Passion Is Contagious
Be still when you have nothing to say; when genuine passion moves you, say what you’ve got to say, and say it hot. – DH Lawrence
A powerful message is dampened by a cautious or uncertain delivery.
Tips to help you to shine when it is time to speak:
- Don’t say what you have to say to gain approval. Say what you have to say because you truly believe it.
- When you speak, make eye contact with as many people as you can. Let them not only hear the conviction in your voice, but see the confidence in your eyes.
- Have documentation at hand that supports your position rather than just an opinion.
- When you are finished speaking, don’t end with a shrug of the shoulders, “Well, what do you think?” submission.
- Never end your point of view with your voice rising as it will appear that you are asking for permission.
Rule #4 – Perfection Is An Illusion
Everyone makes mistakes. The wise are not people who never make mistakes, but those who forgive themselves and learn from their mistakes. – A Buddhist Monk
For me, a major breakthrough in terms of stepping out from the shadows and into the spotlight of my full potential came when I finally gave myself permission to be imperfect. What I have learned over the years is that audiences are more apt to champion me when I focus on them, as opposed to myself.
Tips to help you to own your power and become comfortable being visible:
- If you make a mistake in front of your entire world, admit it, fix it, and learn from it. How you deal with adversity speaks volumes about your character.
- Like a figure skater who falls during their routine, don’t sit at center ice and give up. Instead, get up and continue forward.
- Focus on getting it right, as opposed to being right. When you are more interested in delivering value to others you are less likely to dwell on your missteps.
Everyone Has A Spotlight . . .
I’ve come to believe that each person has a spotlight waiting for them. – Katherine Stone
In the end, stepping into your spotlight and getting noticed means that you are more likely to be considered for opportunities for career advancement.
So go out there and shine!
In my book The Future Of You: Creating Your Enduring Brand, I wrote that even though Colonel Sanders’ Kentucky Fried Chicken brand image had experienced several transformations over the years, its core specialty is and continues to be chicken. Go ahead and ask someone what comes to mind when you say KFC. Almost instantly they will say chicken . . . fried chicken.
Now why am I talking about the Colonel today?
If you have seen the recent series of commercials in which Colonel Harland Sanders has been reincarnated in the form of numerous famous actors and comedians, you will immediately know why. The commercials are a riot. The Colonel is hip!
Beyond watching the videos – by the way, be sure to check out the one with the guy giving his girlfriend a corsage with a crispy chicken thigh to be worn on her hand – I want you to also think of how you are, and how you want, to be perceived.
No this doesn’t mean that I want you to imagine yourself in a white suit with the Colonel’s black tie.
When I ask you to think about perception, I am talking about how leadership, colleagues and your customers view you in terms of your current day relevancy and impact on them. Specifically, are you able to project a newer and more up to date image, while still remaining true to your originality and those things that make you unique?
The Colonel certainly has. In fact, one might say that he has come full circle in that the franchise has returned to its origins, after spending years trying to find its place in an ever changing market.
During that period, when KFC attempted to introduce a new menu of “healthy foods,” it saw its once dominant market share drop dramatically. There was no familiar Colonel with whom the public could relate.
The brand lost itself in its attempts to adapt and compete, and subsequently drifted. It didn’t fit in anywhere.
Have you ever felt like that in your career . . . lost and uncertain as to where you fit in within your organization.
If you have, maybe it’s time to take a cue from the Colonel and rediscover and reenergize what originally made YOU great!
“We have to move away from the belief that people are born with “IT”, and recognize that we all possess unique abilities and gifts to create our own brand of executive presence.”
Are you receiving feedback that you need executive presence? Are you being told what “IT” is, and how “IT” should look?
If you are like most, it is unlikely that you are getting specific direction as to the changes you need to make. Or you may believe executive presence is unattainable as you are not an executive.
In a world that is constantly trying to conform you to somebody else’s ideal image, often times it is far too easy to fall into the trap of being dissatisfied with who you are and your own unique and inherent abilities.
This is why, as an executive coach, I have focused my energy on making “IT” or Executive Presence, accessible to everyone, without their having to become someone they are not. In other words, I have successfully worked with people to empower them to find their executive presence within the framework of their authentic self.
With this month’s eNewsletter, I will help you to lay the foundation for building your executive presence, so that you will shine in your own right.
In Your Own Right . . . The Right Way
“If your brand truly reflects your personal values and aligns with your goals (not someone else’s vision of who and what you should be), you will have created a magical harmony from within and will present a unified and sustaining image that will neither disappoint nor surprise but instead endure.”
The above is an excerpt from my book The Future Of You: Creating Your Enduring Brand.
At its core, executive presence is the ability to know yourself. It is the ability to understand what drives you and the things for which you are willing to work. This is not about smoke and mirrors but honing in on the ability to be your own best PR manager.
Action Item 1: Recognize What Executive Presence Actually Is
“Executive presence is a special quality that captivates others to follow you and inspires allegiance and devotion. It paves the way to personal leadership and is earned rather than appointed.”
Some have suggested that the definition of executive presence is mysterious and subject to personal interpretation. After all, what is this “special quality” that some seem to have, while others don’t? It is as if it is left to chance, as opposed to being the result of a tangible effort.
However, the fact is that you don’t start off with executive presence, you earn it.
In other words, executive presence is not something you are born with; it is the result of making a conscious decision to invest in the management of your reputation and having the courage to step-up and stand out.
Like the person who regularly works out at the gym and is in great physical shape, creating your own executive presence requires your time, energy and full commitment. There are no shortcuts, but the returns or rewards are significant IF you are willing to put in the required effort.
Ready to make the commitment? Here are a few things you must do to get the ball rolling:
- Identify your passion. Be brutally honest with yourself. Do you believe in what you are doing and do you have a passion for being the best at it? You need to follow your heart and invest time in doing what you love.
- Set yourself apart. Determine what it is that makes you unique and different from someone else. This could relate to your style of clothing, your emotional intelligence, your expertise, your interpersonal skills or your readiness to initiate change.
- Build greater self-awareness of how others perceive your executive presence. Conduct market research and seek feedback from trusted advisors/confidantes/sponsors who will tell you the truth.
- Choose those behaviors that support your “best” self and identify success pillars along the way.
Action Item 2: Look The Part
In today’s fast paced business world, we are being forced to form quick first impressions. Whether fair or not, we tend to stereotype people. You need to ensure that you are not giving off mixed messages.
I know that the term dress for success has been used to the point of becoming almost superfluous, even irrelevant. But do not underestimate its importance.
I absolutely believe that executive presence begins with the cover – as in the cover of a book. It is an outside-in proposition, in which the way you present yourself in both your dress and body language is critical.
If the book cover is shabby, bland, generic, it will present an ineffectual image that will, regardless of the power of the message within its pages, make it invisible and dispensable.
However, if the cover is compelling, attractive, unique and current, then people will be moved to pick it up and to open it. This means that you have to manage perceptions. Above all, do not allow titles or positions to intimidate or distract you. Regardless of whether someone is a CEO or VP, you deserve to be seen and heard.
The following tips will enable you to not only gauge how people see you, but also what you need to do to put the right face to your executive presence.
- Be aware of the subliminal messages your body language is sending. Are you open and inviting, or withdrawn and closed? When you fold your arms in front of your body, you form a barrier between you and the other person. This can be perceived as defensive or scared. In contrast, leaving your arms unfolded and maintaining steady eye contact will make others feel welcome.
- When entering a room, walk with purpose and smile, raising your chin slightly to project confidence and approachability.
- Strike a pose. Stand tall with your feet slightly apart when you are engaging others or presenting at a meeting. This pose makes you look bigger and stops you from looking timid. Even if you don’t feel confident, you will feel and look more powerful.
- Don’t wait for someone to come up to you before introducing yourself. Instead, be the first one to reach your hand out to meet someone new. Always shake hands for the length of time it takes to know the color of the person’s eyes and repeat their name.
- Dress for the job you want. If you don’t look the part of a leader, you’re not likely to be given the role.
- While you do not have to wear the latest fashions from Paris, or look like you just stepped out from the cover of GQ, your professional dress should reflect a crisp and clean look and feel.
- Your style should be both current and aligned with your environment. Do not make a statement by dressing or looking radically different from everyone else. The boardroom is no place for purple hair or unconventional clothing.
- Grooming counts as much as clothing. Invest in a good stylist who understands how you want to be perceived. Beards should be trimmed appropriately.
Action Item 3: GET VISIBILITY
“Decide what you want. Believe that you’ll get it. Live as if you already have it
Like the muscles in your body that may be hidden, only to emerge after you begin to really exercise, you already have within you executive presence.
It may be hidden beneath years of uncertainty and career compromises, but it is there within you as it is within a Richard Branson, or a Michelle Obama. In short, rebrand yourself by creating your own publicity campaign, without needing to stand on a soapbox or copy these examples.
This is not to suggest that you need to be aggressively self-promoting, but you do have to be noticed. You may not crave recognition, however, working hard outside of the spotlight often results in being taken for granted or not being given credit for your ideas. If you’re not in people’s thoughts, then you’ll be passed up for new projects, additional responsibilities or promotions.
Let’s look at some strategies that you can use to get noticed in the workplace.
- Move from being a generalist to a strategist. Think strategically about what types of skills your organization needs. Expand these skills, as the more knowledgeable and skillful you become in a particular area, the more likely you are to be appreciated for your work.
- Speak up in the first ten minutes at a meeting. If you are not a subject matter expert, come prepared with a thought provoking question to show that you are present.
- Create a networking navigation plan that will give you the visibility to decision makers and influencers.
- Build a network of “allies” who can help you get assigned to interesting, significant, or eye-catching projects.
- Ask your boss to assign you to a project where you can “rock” and bring in the results that will set you up for success and recognition from leadership.
- Get involved in your company’s charities where you can expand your relationships to include the senior leaders with whom you may not normally have access.
Many Paths To The Same Destination
While the action items listed above are by no means the complete list of steps for creating your own unique brand of executive presence, it is a good place to start.
That said, there is one final point that I would like to make . . . there is no “one way” to achieve presence unless you have a game plan.
However, a solid game plan must recognize the fact that everyone is at a different place or stage, and therefore will need to focus on the development of different traits. Or to put it another way, one size does not fit all.
In the end, there are many varied and diverse paths to achieving executive presence. It is reflected in how you navigate your career to make a difference, your willingness to challenge the status quo, as well as your ability to inspire others to follow you.
As such, and in the words of Greg Anderson who wrote the book 22 Non-Negotiable Laws of Wellness “Focus on the journey, not the destination. Joy is found not in finishing an activity but in doing it.”
Wishing you success at projecting your “IT”,
“Cruise Control is the enemy of success. We resist change because we overestimate the value of what we have and underestimate the value of what can be gained through change.”
When faced with change, there is often a feeling of disorientation. One minute you are cruising along in a certain direction on a path that you believed was leading you towards a desired goal or certain future, and then . . . BAM.
But is what you originally envisioned your only future?
A New Palette
After graduating with a degree in business, Erik Wahl became a high-powered executive at a corporate firm. He had charted his course and knew where he was headed. Then, after eight years, he lost his job when the dot-com bubble burst.
It was then that he shifted his focus to art, and in particular, speed painting.
To most, this was a complete turnaround in that he went from suits and cell phones, to paint brushes and canvasses.
However, and because he was able to adapt and imagine a new future, Erik Wahl is now one of the country’s most sought after business speakers. His speed art presentation called “The Art of Vision,” has enthralled audiences and motivated business professionals from organizations such as AT&T, London School of Business and Ernst & Young to see beyond the familiar to achieve greater outcomes.
At the heart of his message is the belief that it is more important to be creative than to be stable, especially in times of change.
The question is how do you go from resisting change when the rate of change is not going to slow down. What’s the secret for embracing unpredictability? The following four steps will help you to get there . . . wherever your “new” there is.
1. Your First Reaction Is Not Your Best Reaction
Beliefs are at the core of our foundation, and influence our desire to change or move or try something else. This is a principle that I covered at length in my first book, entitled Customize Your Career (2004). Beliefs or “perceptions of self” determine your values and ultimately the goals you both set and work toward achieving in terms of your future success.
As a result, and whether expected or not, change actually threatens your belief system. This is why you may – like so many people, summarily resist it, because it shakes up not only your view of the world, but your view of yourself.
This is why you have to look beyond your initial reaction and open yourself up to the possibilities associated with change.
You may very well discover that what you initially considered to be an upset is, in reality, the doorway to a bigger and brighter future.
2. Be Willing To Let Go
I once saw a picture on a friend’s office wall of a baseball player sliding into base. Above, the caption read, “You can’t steal second with your foot on first.”
Are you someone who likes to (or needs to) hang on to the past? Do you spend your thought power on looking at what has already happened, instead of influencing what will happen? For most, there is comfort and certainty in the familiar. However, sometimes these are not accurate indicators that you are on the right path. Sometime they can actually mask the fact that you are in a rut.
An essential step to embracing change requires you to let go. A priest recently shared his wisdom with his congregation, where he said that if you live in the past, you will live with regrets! But if you live in the present, you’ll live with passion and opportunities. Are you ready to take on the world of possibility?
3. Believe anything is possible
When my Mother turned 88, I remember asking her how she felt about getting old. Her response was most inspiring. She said: ”Roz, when I get there, I’ll let you know.” My Mother lived her life to the fullest and taught me that attitude is the force that makes the impossible possible.
For me, I never believed that I would be travelling around the world, privileged to be speaking to Fortune 500 companies. What’s the change you see possible for yourself, and are your looking through a clear and fresh lens of objective enthusiasm?
Take a step back, and pretend that you are at the beginning of your career when everything is new and all things are possible. At this stage you’re likely not invested so much in your present vision of what the future should look like. As a result, you have an elasticity in terms of options, and are open to trying new things. This is the spirit you want to bring to the table when a change is happening in your career and life.
In other words, look to the future for possibilities, but use the present to lay the foundation.
4. Find Your Undiscovered YOU
Change does not mean that you compromise your values, or attempt to do something that is clearly outside of the scope of your unique abilities.
However, change may actually enable you to discover an untapped well of capability and skills that you have never used. I call this finding the “undiscovered you.”
The questions you need to ask yourself is simply this: Do you have a hidden talent and capability? Is there a gift that you possess that is muted and hidden under the obfuscating belief of what you think you are, as opposed to what you could be? What do you enjoy doing that inspires others to recognize your talents? What type of work energizes you and gives you enormous pleasure?
Going back to my story about Erik Wahl, a sudden and unexpected change was the best thing that could have ever happened to him. Why should change treat you any differently?