Randy Cantrell

Randy Cantrell is the founder of Bula Network, LLC, a boutique coaching company specializing in peer groups to help people leverage the power of others. Visit the website at ThePowerOfOthers.com.

Blind Optimism, Not-Too-Much Practicality & A Plan That So Boxes You In There’s No Escape (Season 2021, Episode 9)

On Saturday, May 29, 2021, I watched a suggested YouTube video. It was a 2014 award-winning documentary entitled, RESTRUNG. I guess I watch so many guitar videos that the YouTube algorithm had no problem suggesting I watch this video. Here’s the YouTube description of the video:

He had always considered making guitars a passion, not an occupation. In 2007, Randall Wyn Fullmer, an ordinary guy with a cat, decided to turn his life-long hobby into a full-out obsession. To launch his adventure he did what anyone else would do — he quit his high paying dream job at Disney, leaving behind a successful 20 year career of creating major motion pictures such as “Chicken Little” and “The Emperor’s New Groove”. It seemed to make so much sense at the time! With Disney in the rear-view, he launched his self-proclaimed “Mad Plan”, crafting small-batch bass guitars full time. From a beginner’s electrifying success to near break-down, this is a beautiful, honest and inspirational portrait of a passionate craftsperson who walked headlong into a foolhardy dream … a true tale of a life unwound and restrung.

You can check out Randall’s website, Wyn Guitars. Watch the documentary and you’ll be motivated to cheer for his continued success. And more.

A little over one minute into the documentary Randall says this…

Blind Optimism, Not-Too-Much Practicality & A Plan That So Boxes You In There’s No Escape

Randall had figured out what he believed were the ingredients for success. I won’t spoil the documentary for you, but I will tell you that it’s not a story of a man who ditched a successful career at Disney only to experience hockey stick growth curve success. Mr. Fullmer has ups and downs. Like all the rest of us. Watching his journey made his quote even more powerful for me.

Besides, only days earlier I had shared a graphic on social media.

I suppose the earliest observers of success and achievement figured out how important it is to refuse to quit. One of the best quotes is from Babe Ruth.

You just can’t beat the person who never gives up.

Well, maybe you can, but it’s extremely tough. Angela Duckworth is a Wharton professor at the University of Pennsylvania who wrote a book entitled, Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance.

From an old-time baseball player to a modern-day researching university professor, there’s plenty of evidence that sticking with it can pay off. This much is sure, if you quit, you’ll never achieve whatever you’re chasing.

Randall, the guitar maker, stated it differently. And I was immediately taken by how he voiced his beliefs about the requirements of achievement, especially when you’re pursuing something creative. Like building guitars. I wonder how his Disney career influenced his wording – and his point of view. He had experience in collaborating with extraordinarily creative people. That’s why I listened to his insight more intently. He was credible. And humbly vulnerable sharing things he didn’t have to share, but in doing so helping us learn and better understand his journey.

Based on the volume of books and courses copywriters learned decades ago that people are attracted to formulas, secrets, and blueprints for success. While chasing success we’re tempted to think the people already on top of the mountain of success know something the rest of us don’t. Surely they’ve got the secret, formula, or blueprint. Then all the charlatans emerge posing as gurus. We don’t know who is genuine and who isn’t. Desperate to find the path toward the life of our dreams, we read, follow, consume and buy whatever it is they’re selling. Only to be disappointed that the secrets they share with us – for a fee – aren’t moving us any closer to our dreams.

Just before hitting record, I got an email invitation to attend a free webinar, The Secret Formula for Success. 😀

Randall knows why that’s what’s being sold. So do we.

Listen to what he said – the ingredients he determined were most needed for him to reach his goal of building a successful guitar building business.

Blind Optimism, Not-Too-Much Practicality & A Plan That So Boxes You In There’s No Escape

Ain’t nobody gonna line up to buy that book. Or course. People aren’t going to pay hundreds or thousands of dollars for an online course about those things. Because those things sound hard. Secrets, formulas, and blueprints don’t sound hard. They sound like something people just hand over to us. As one female marketer says about her multi-thousand dollar course – “it’s literally a business in a box.” That inspires buyers to invest thousands – I’m told it’s about $6,000 – because they desperately want somebody to make it easy. This attractive female marketer makes the promise people willingly buy.

But this isn’t about Internet marketing ploys and fake promises. It’s about Randall’s brilliant insight. His beliefs about what it would take for him to embark on this brand new business-building adventure. And it’s not his secret, formula, or blueprint. It’s a lot of hard work. Arduous. It requires that grit, determination, and stamina that so many observers and professional researchers have concluded are required to become a high-achiever.

You may be inclined to critique or edit Randall’s wording, but let’s avoid being ticky-tacky. For instance, blind optimism isn’t really blind. It’s not without some evidence or purposeful viewpoint. And it’s not just random. We choose our optimism based on something. Maybe mostly on what we want. But there is a basis so let’s just go with it knowing how Randall likely meant it. That’ll be easier for you to do after you watch the documentary and you see the man’s devotion to his craft.

Blind Optimism

Choosing to think the best rather than the worst is hard work. Harder for some than others.

You’re called to the boss’s office. What are you thinking?

“Oh great, I’m getting a raise!” ?

“Oh no, what have I done?” ?

Yeah, it’s that last one.

Reminds me of that old joke.

Worried that their son was too optimistic, the parents of a little boy took him to a psychiatrist. In an attempt to dampen the boy’s spirits, the psychiatrist showed him into a room piled high with nothing but horse manure. Instead of displaying distaste, the little boy clambered to the top of the pile and began digging.

“What are you doing?” the psychiatrist asked.

“With all this manure,” the little boy replied, beaming, “there must be a pony in here somewhere.”

When it comes to your own achievement – pursuing your own success – what’s the downside of optimism? Overall, I don’t see much of a downside in being an optimistic person. For years the only kickback I’ve gotten is, “You’ll be disappointed.” My retort is simple, “You’re gonna be disappointed anyway, so where’s the risk?”

But there are some downsides when it comes to personal optimism – that is, optimism about yourself and your own abilities. That’s a bit more precise than an overall optimism.

We all know people who aren’t nearly as terrific as they think they are. Full of themselves. They’re overly optimistic (yes, I think there is such a thing) about themselves. They think more highly of themselves than they should. Self-centered. Self-focused. Self-absorbed. Life is all about them.

The downside? Well, this podcast has no time limits, but I really don’t want to spend a ton of time talking about why that’s a bad way to live. Mostly, because I live and work with one notion and point-of-view. It’s one that I don’t always get right, but I know I should. And when I slip, I know I need to give it greater effort. I use one phrase to express it: a focus on others!

Yes, it’s a personal philosophy that I choose to embrace. Yes, it has caused me – at a variety of moments in my life  – to question myself and think less of myself than may be healthy. I also have to sometimes wrangle that to the ground, admitting that many times it wins pinning me to the dirt, making me cry, “Uncle!”

But is optimism, even if it’s self-focused, a bad thing? Yes, when it makes us delusional about the reality of our limitations and weaknesses. And sadly, some folks think optimism is literally blind because we ignore reality or evidence. Well, that’s foolishness.

Over the weekend, singer B.J. Thomas died of stage four lung cancer. He lived here in DFW. He was 78. Optimism wouldn’t prevent him – it couldn’t prevent him – from dying of lung cancer. Sadly, B.J.’s reality was that he had stage four lung cancer. It killed him. Believing the best. Thinking he’d overcome it. Those wouldn’t help. But I rather choose to think he embraced a different kind of optimism during his final days. An optimism that helped him make the most of whatever time he had.

You see the delusion people experience when they think more highly of themselves than they should. You see it in the older man who tries to be physically alongside folks 20 years younger. Whether it’s a game of backyard football. Or climbing on the roof to clean the gutters (Google how many stories you see of older, aging men who die that way). Accepting the reality of our limitations can be tough – but wise!

No matter how hard or harsh the reality, knowing it and accepting it is vastly better than not knowing or not accepting the truth.

The truth. There’s the rub.

Just the other day this video was published on YouTube. It’s produced by The Art Of Improvement and is entitled, To Have The Great Life You Deserve, Do These 6 Things. It’s 4:30 minutes long and typifies the messages we hear daily.

  1. Believe you are worthy.
  2. The Universe is your ATM. (but only if you make great deposits often)
  3. Create time to think and dream.
  4. Minimize the toxic input.
  5. Get off the couch and act.
  6. Know who the real judge is. (don’t worry about what others think)

  1. Believe you’re worthy would be better replaced with “be worthy.” Be a good human. Behave wisely. Not selfishly.
  2. The Universe is not your ATM. It’s much less about making deposits and withdrawals as it is “you reap what you sow.” See the first point of being a good human. Act in ways that are honorable and right. It’s a better route to go, but it won’t guarantee you’ll never be mistreated. The Universe is never going to bend to your will. But your mind will. And that’ll drive how you act and behave. You’re responsible for your actions, not the Universe.
  3. Creating time to think and dream is necessary because “as he thinketh in his heart, so is he.” We tend to be what we think about because our thoughts determine our choices and actions. Again, it’s all “reap what you sow” in full effect. And it’s always true.
  4. Minimize the toxic input. Agreed. That includes people and situations. Toxic is defined as things harmful to your growth and improvement. Things, circumstances, and people who don’t help you be your very best. It’s not about people who disagree with you. If you want to be a drunk, drug addict and think the toxic people are those who would help you get and stay sober — well, you’re not seeing reality. You are the problem!
  5. Get off the couch and act. True enough. Thinking and dreaming are terrific activities, but the world is filled with good intentions. The power is in the doing. Do something.
  6. Know who the real judge implies (and the video states) is YOU. Well, kinda sorta. You get to make up your own mind. God is the final Judge. I’d suggest you not leave Him out of things, but you can if you want. The context of the video is dealing with critics. We all have to silence the unfair, unsafe critics – those who don’t want or care about our best. WE all live in glass houses, but some of us walk around with our bags of rocks looking to throw.

This kind of advice permeates our culture today. In short, it’s always got a similar theme. Be your own god. Forget everybody else. Expect the world to bend to your strongest desires so you can get what you deserve. Let me tell you – it’s likely a great thing that most of us don’t get what we deserve. Mostly, we get much better than what we likely deserve. 😉 #JustSaying

Take Control Of Your Own Success

This is another social media headline I saw just on Sunday (yesterday). Those of you who blog or podcast or write…do you ever take off in pursuit of a particular idea or line of thought and suddenly it’s like you bought a yellow car and now you notice all the yellow cars on the road? Within the last 24 hours – which honestly I don’t think are much different than any other 24-hour period – I’ve noticed a barrage of cultural notions about success is (a) designed to market or sell something and (b) which extol the idea that you are in full control. “If it is to be, it’s up to me.”

Don’t get me wrong. We must do all we can. And yes, that means we should pursue improvement, growth – and where necessary, transformation. And I’m all in favor of chasing the ideal outcome. I urge clients every week to get intentional about what they want and why. No, the ideal outcome is never “win-the-Powerball-lottery” kind of a thing. We don’t want to rely on random chance. Else we’re all just sitting around waiting for that Publisher’s Clearing House crew to arrive at our house with a bouquet of flowers and a six-foot-long check. It’s not a productive way to spend your days.

Usefulness. Value. Benefiting others. Making a positive difference.

Those are the things that matter. That’s how to spend a good day! Doing something worthwhile.

After that, of course, we hope serendipity, time, and chance work to our advantage. Sometimes they do. Sometimes they don’t. Either way, we’re doing something of value to ourselves and others.

Not Too Much Practicality

There’s something to this. Figuring out the balance between practical and not too practical may be one of the tougher challenges. If you’re too practical then you’re not likely pushing or challenging yourself enough. If you’re too impractical then you risk being deluded. And there’s the reality that innovation, growth and change happen when we let go of being too practical. It’s also why the critics come out of the woodwork when we’re working to create something new – including a newer and better version of ourselves.

Years ago I laughed at a cartoon that showed two gorillas, one on all fours and the other walking upright. His buddy on all fours remarked, “Stop that, you’ll hurt yourself.” So it goes with our efforts to do something different – something that might be creative or innovative.

“Don’t be distracted by criticism. Remember – the only taste of success some people have is when they take a bite out of you.”
– Zig Ziglar

 

“Any fool can criticize, condemn and complain – and most fools do.”
– Dale Carnegie

The past dozen years of coaching executives, business owners and city government leaders has proven to me that high-achievers crave being challenged to grow and improve. Sadly, many of them just haven’t found somebody capable of doing that while simultaneously making them feel safe. That’s where I come in. My clients know that I only want their very best. Nothing more. I have no hidden agenda. No secret goals. They’re in control of their own lives – to the degree any of us are. They establish their objectives. I just work to help them figure it out more quickly, then to help them navigate life so they can make it happen! Much of the work is helping them see beyond the merely practical to see – and believe in – the things they couldn’t see earlier.

At some point, I began to use the graphic below with clients. “Look at this and tell me what you see.” Most say they see a young woman. “Do you see anything else?” Most say no. I tell them to keep looking. Then, rather than let them languish, I’ll give them a hint. For instance, I may say, “Look at the young woman’s jawline. That’s the nose of an old woman. Do you see her?” Some see it instantly. Many don’t. They stare at it for a few more seconds before they see it.

Now that they see both the young woman and the old woman, they can’t unsee it. What was impossible to see before is now easy. Hence my favorite quote…

Everything is hard…until it’s easy.

Seeing the young woman, in this instance, is practical. Seeing the old woman is less practical. You may need to be less practical when it comes to your own pursuits and accomplishments. Note that I’m not talking about being impractical in life affairs – like finances, or marriage. We’re not talking about leaning into selfish foolishness. We’re leaning toward wisdom when it comes to challenging ourselves to achieve never-before-realized accomplishments.

A Plan That So Boxes You In There’s No Escape

Some describe this as a “burn the boats” strategy, which is taken from a mythical story (we don’t know if it’s true or not; I’m highly suspicious).

In 1519, Captain Hernán Cortés landed in Veracruz to begin his great conquest. Upon arriving, he reportedly gave an order to his men to burn the ships in which they arrived in.

The point was to avoid giving the men an opportunity to go back. He wanted to move forward. To make the conquest. It’s certainly not very practical. I’d argue if he did do it, it was stupid and foolish. Like the decision that goes well and makes one a hero versus the decision that goes poorly and makes one an idiot. I don’t much like those odds or potential payoffs. The gap between winning and losing seems too wide to me. But what do I know. I’ve never adventure to far away strange lands. And don’t plan on it. So there’s that! Plans.

I follow a guitar player on YouTube who ends each video with the saying, “No plan B.” It’s another common phrase that means the same thing as “burn the boats” but it just sounds less foolish to me. Besides, I happen to know success is often found not in plan B, but in plan M. Or R. Or V. Or Z.

In 2009 a book was written illustrating the truth of such, Getting To Plan B: Breaking Through To A Better Business Model by John Mullins and Randy Komisar. Many businesses have found big success not with plan A, but with some plans more fully developed after plan A didn’t work out.

At some point in venture capital-driven entrepreneurship, the term pivot entered. Tons of extremely successful companies pivoted into something they never intended to be. They chased success with plan A only to find it never happened. Forced to consider ways to change, alter, grow, innovate, be more creative – they figured out something else that worked like a champ.

So how can you know when to give up on plan A? I know of no hard and fast rules. It’s personal. It’s individual. We each have to find our way forward. Nobody could learn to talk for you. Or walk for you. You had to do it for yourself. So it is with this.

But the guitar maker, Randall Wyn Fullmer is onto something with his quote.

A Plan That So Boxes You In There’s No Escape – it’s an important idea because it means if we’re going to make progress we have to have a starting point. One that we’re willing to stick with for some period of time in order to give success a chance. It means we make a plan knowing it’s going to take some time. That’s where it gets very personal.

A guy works in construction. He’s newly married. He plays music and writes songs when he’s not swinging a hammer. He loves it. His wife, friends and family think he’s pretty good. But he’s not sure they count. He’s right, but not entirely. The encouragement is valuable. He dreams of moving to Nashville to see if music might be something he could be paid to do. With his wife’s encouragement, they develop a plan to move to Nashville. The plan is a pretty nice box. They agree to take the money they’ve saved, go to Nashville where he has a construction job lined up that will afford them to support themselves. His wife has a job lined up, too. A job that pays enough to allow him to take a job working fewer hours so he can concentrate more on music. “Five years,” they agree. “We’ll give ourselves 5 years to see if we can make music for a living.” Off they go with their plans. Time will tell if he can make it within 5 years. Will he achieve any traction during the 5 years? What if he’s feeling close as he enters year 5…will he give it an extra year? That’s for him to figure out, along with his wife.

The reality for him – and for Randall – is that there’s always an escape. The sentiment is to not give yourself an easy out. Randall and others who are pursuing a dream know you can’t quit every time you have to do something uncomfortable. Or something you’d rather not do. Everybody has to endure doing things we’d rather not do. We need to be boxed in enough to push through such things. For Randall, in his guitar making efforts, it’s sanding. He hates sanding. But guess what guitar making – high-quality guitar making requires lots of? Yep, sanding. So if Randall wants to be a successful guitar maker, then he’s got to push through days of sanding.

The Olympic games are getting closer. They were postponed last year due to the Pandemic. Every single athlete competing in the games, regardless of the country they represent, endure things they hate in order to get to the things they love. Maybe it’s different for some, but I dare say they all enjoy the competition more than the training. And there’s some training they hate versus some training they enjoy. They do what they do because overall they love it. It doesn’t require them to love every single minute detail of the pursuit. That’s unreasonable. It’s just not how things work.

People who travel a lot – albeit the Pandemic curbed it last year – will tell you they’re not paid for what they do so much as they’re paid for the inconvenience of traveling. Speakers who appear on a stage for an hour and get five figures aren’t paid because their insights in that hour are so remarkably invaluable. They’re paid because they have to give up an entire day to travel to and from. It’s a hassle requiring hours just to get on that stage for one (hour).

But I know some who love the travel. And the stage time. That’s a real win when there’s nothing you hate, even if there are things you may love more. Most everybody I know have certain things they must do – in order to do what they love – and they hate doing those things. But they love what they love so much it makes what they loathe less offensive. Randall hates sanding, but he loves plugging in a finished guitar to test it by playing it. The sanding doesn’t matter in that moment. And when he’s sanding he’s reminded of how great it feels to plug the instrument into an amp for testing.

“Don’t make a mistake from which you can’t – or may not be able to recover.”

Not all mistakes result in equal consequences. Some choices and decisions have higher risks. That’s why the failure of plan A may not be so bad if it helps us form a successful plan B. Is it giving yourself an escape? Not really because we don’t embark on a high-speed chase of plan A thinking it won’t work out. Or thinking we’ll have to hit the eject button. But if a time comes demanding we make a different decision – some adjustment – then we have to be open and courageous enough to make a better decision.

What’s holding you back? Right now. Today. At this moment.

But first, let’s think about what we’re pursuing. Happiness is a common answer. In fact, it may be the number one answer. But what is happiness? Answers I’ve heard include “being able to do what I want when I want,” and “the freedom to control my schedule.” That sentiment seems to be at the heart of how we view happiness. Being the curious type I am, I wonder who on the planet has that? Think of the most powerful people on the planet. Like the richest. Or country rulers, including the President of the United States, arguably labeled the most powerful person on the planet. None of them have what people feel like they need to be happy! Rather, they each likely endure impositions few of us can relate to.

So is happiness really the ideal outcome?

Think back over your life. Think about your moments of sadness and sorrow. Think about the times you’ve suffered.

Keep thinking. Now think about the times of relief. The times the news was good. Even great.

If you were to plot the events and emotions of your life would the graph look like a roller coaster or would it look like a straight line with an upward trajectory? Delusion causes us to think there are real humans who don’t suffer. Or experience the sorrows we’ve endured. But they have. All of them.

Delusion also causes us to think happiness is the pinnacle of achievement, but nobody knows how to capture it to make it a long-term sustainable experience. For a simple reason. It’s not possible. We’re pursuing an impossibility – not an impractical goal.

Let me end by challenging us to consider other pursuits. Like peace. Contentment. Purpose. Valued.

It’s like sanding for Randall. In that moment, he’s not happy. But he’s contented and at peace. The purpose of sanding matters more to him than the act. It results in a value that’s hard to measure because guitarists appreciate the feel and quality of a properly sanded instrument. Randall himself appreciates the outcome of his own arduous chore. It’s not about happiness – being to do what you when you want. Rather, it’s about doing what is necessary because your pursuit is beyond yourself. Because in the end, it’s not about you. It’s about others.

Breakthrough. That’s what most of us need. Some of us want it.

We can get it. Likely by being humble, vulnerable and open. Less likely by trying to tighten our grip. Or by attempting to control everything in our lives.

Turn loose. Hit pause. Sprint. Catch your breath. Sprint some more. Jog a bit to let your heart rate catch up. And to let your lungs relax. Then take off zigging and zagging as if you’re dodging bullets. Pick a spot ahead and now run straight toward it. Stop and heave if you must. But don’t quit.

Decide. Do. Rest. Recover. Go again. Think. Ponder. Adjust. Go some more. Recover again. Persist. Figure it out. ‘Cause that’s the point.

Epilogue

Abraham Lincoln said, “I don’t like that man. I must get to know him better.” All of us are going through things. Some of us are enduring things nobody truly knows or understands. Today I’m thinking of some folks who are enduring the suffering of death in their family. Others I know are going through family trauma due to betrayals and abandonment. Some are in the middle of a career or financial crisis struggling to find some path forward. Any path.

I think of the suffering and struggling that I know about, then I quickly ponder all the suffering going on among people I know personally – suffering I know nothing about. Not that I should know. Or that I need to know. Some things are confidential and private. And even if I did know, I’m not the right person for every service. I know my lane and consciously try to stay in it.

Like you, I know my own struggles. My wife knows most of them, too. But not all of them. Some are unknown by anybody else. Don’t we all operate that way?

Then proceed to understand you don’t know all the sorrows and suffering of others. Step carefully. Be gracious. Practice empathy. Display compassion. It may help you figure out your own stuff better. It sure can’t hurt.

“Before we can forgive one another, we have to understand one another.”
― Emma Goldman

I Want More By Having Less (Special Episode)

Before you click play on the episode click play on this music video from Iceland’s best kept musical secret, Kaleo. I’ve spent hours with these gents playing in my headphones whilst walking about in the middle of the night, or in the early morning hours. They’re terrific.

I like them so much I bought their latest record – Surface Sounds – twice! Intentionally. Well, I pre-ordered it on Apple iTunes and was able to download a couple of songs that were released early. This was early last year. Then the release date on the record kept moving back. And back. Hello, COVID Pandemic. Then the album was released, but Apple iTunes didn’t let me download the other songs. So I Googled to troubleshoot Apple iTunes and followed at least 3 things suggested to fix such a problem. Nothing worked. In time I gave up and just hit the buy button again. Two weeks after the second purchase I got an email from Apple iTunes (see below).

So I bought the album twice but got it once. Maybe it’ll put a few extra pennies into the pocket of the band. Thanks, Apple Music (I still call it Apple iTunes). Did I tell you I’ve been a devoted Apple user since the first Mac in 1984? Well, it’s true. But even I lack the skills to know how to contact Apple about the aforementioned customer challenge. Such is life in 2021, right?

But I digress from the main point of today’s special episode – yes, that’s two special episodes in a row. Special because it wasn’t planned. Instead, it’s spontaneous. But I rather enjoy a good bout of spontaneity at times.

That song, “I Want More,” rang in my ears and played in an endless loop for days. It sounds selfish, but it isn’t. Not really. It’s ambitious. It’s restful. It’s like a favorite place of mine. A place where you go to just exhale. And feel better. But where you can’t quite get enough. Leaving you wanting more. And more. Because it’s so highly valuable. A place where your arrival causes you to sigh with relief. Where the weight is lifted away.

A place where less is more. 

There are gobs of books about less being more. Some are business-related. Others are about health and fitness. Some are about stuff and lifestyle, like the one published in 2016 by noted minimalist Joshua Becker, The More of Less: Finding the Life You Want Under Everything You Own.

Another famous minimalist Leo Babauta wrote The Power of Less: The Fine Art of Limiting Yourself to the Essential…in Business and in Life in 2009. That was my first foray into the idea, meaning…it was my first deep dive into learning more about minimalism and why folks became converts of that way of life.

But in 2006 I had already been influenced a bit by John Maeda, author of The Laws of Simplicity (Simplicity: Design, Technology, Business, Life). Maeda is an MIT-educated tech brainiac. My lifelong devotion to my own lack of brainpower had forced me to simplify things. Part laziness. Part stupidity. I had a lifelong history of searching for simplicity in 2006 when I bought the book. I still have that passion – a relentless pursuit of straight-forward and simple.

I had to learn the hard way that simplifying things is hard, hard work. Sometimes my laziness doesn’t pay quite like I expected. No matter…I still found it worthwhile. So much so that I continue to do it. Every single day.

Beginning with your physical surroundings.

I wish I had, but I didn’t. My quest for more by leaning toward less first erupted in my career. Business pursuits. Business is challenging enough. There’s no need to complicate it further. So I figured. So I still figure. Experience has confirmed my youthful yearnings for simplicity.

And one of the first things I learned as a young business leader was the power of beginning with your physical surroundings. It was intuitive for me because I was the child unable to sleep in a cluttered room. Toys and stuff had to be put away or I couldn’t go to bed. But I wasn’t a kid plagued with OCD-type behaviors. I just didn’t like clutter. And I also wanted my things to be in place. I was the kid who didn’t want my toys wrecked or destroyed. I took pretty good care of my toys. It always felt like natural wiring to me because even though my mother exercised military-like discipline for cleanliness and order, I was oriented to keeping my space orderly because it’s how I wanted things.

Years later, in my 20’s, during my first business leadership role where I was bequeathed with number 1 responsibilities, I began with physical order. It would be my habit at every leadership stop I’d make. I called it exactly what it is, house cleaning. Except the place was a business, not a house. It was always positively powerful. People were energized and there was always an elevation in pride when the clutter and filth was fixed. It was further proof for me that people benefit greatly for simplicity and less. Less is more. And I wanted more.

I still want more. Of less.

But the physical surroundings continue to be a challenge. Age does that, I think. The longer you live the more moss you gather. That rolling stone metaphor isn’t exactly accurate. Go into any old person’s home and you’ll likely see more clutter than people much younger. Stuff piled upon more stuff. And I’m not talking about hoarding. I’m talking about the accumulation of stuff, piled on year after year. I chuckle whenever I look at real estate photos of homes for sale by older owners. The nicknacks and clutter are sometimes remarkably dominating. I’ve got a lifelong fascination with the folks who enjoy having their front yard decorated with clutter. I’m not talking about trash and junk, per se. I’m talking about those folks who have pink flamingos, bird feeders, birdbaths, hanging baskets filled with ferns, yard gnomes and all sorts of “hey, this will look good here” stuff. My fascination is with the mind that thinks it’s becoming and contributes to make their place a showplace. (They’re showplaces alright…”Hey, let me show you a place!”)

Thankfully, my front yard isn’t cluttered with ornaments, bird feeders, gnomes, and more, but the sheer volume of stuff that I have is…well, ridiculous! I need to schedule and perform a “house cleaning.” I want more so I need to ditch some things. A lot of things. Because I want more. And I’m convinced having less is just one way forward toward that objective.

My ideal outcome.

A challenge with figuring it out is how much of a moving target it is. It takes time. We have to sit with things for a while. It’s like stirring up water when you walk through a creek bed. Only by standing still can you let things settle so the water becomes clear again. But we all know standing still isn’t a good strategy for progress, growth and improvement.

There’s another element to figuring out the ideal outcome, too. Holding a thought for a while to make sure it’s your ideal outcome. I’m not naturally impulsive, but if I were, it would be offset by my urge to ponder and live with an outcome in my mind. Since I was a little boy I’ve considered consequences and worked to weigh the pluses and minuses. Doesn’t mean I always got it right! 😉

What’s the ideal outcome? For me, it’s not a question to be answered quickly. Sometimes I need to do more research. Almost always I need to think it through by putting myself in the situation where that outcome is realized. It’s imaginary of course, but still…it gives me the feeling I might have if it became true. Wrestling down the feeling – the psychology of it – is valuable. I’m increasingly interested in our mental health, my wife and I.

The circle of trust in Meet The Parents is kinda-sorta real. We all have them. Here’s mine.

My circle is shrinking, but not due to paranoia. Age and experience tend to show all of us how difficult it is to truly lean on people. When we’re children we trust almost everybody. Then we learn that’s a bad idea. As we learn to discriminate in choosing our friends we find sometimes people don’t mean well. Others prove themselves untrustworthy. So we thin the herd as we grow older. Think about the broad population of friends when you’re in elementary school and how narrowed down it is by the time you emerge from college. And there are practical reasons for it, too. Like proximity. And seeing people less frequently. Sometimes we just grow apart because we make choices in our life and they make different choices that steer us further away from each other instead of closer to each other. It happens. Not always because of betrayal or anything sinister.

Then there are the betrayals. We’ve all been betrayed and likely we’ve all been guilty of betraying. It may be intentional and selfish. It may be completely innocent and unintended. Every human knows the feeling. Good friends work through it and come out the other side. But sometimes, it ends the relationship and things are never the same. So it goes.

By the time I reached 50, I made a conscious decision to populate my circles of trust with fewer people. For me, it meant devoting more time to fewer people. I wanted more and figured that the path forward (for me) was by having less. Fewer people meant I could be more devoted. I wasn’t driven by what I’d get or how I might gain. I was focused on viewing myself as a resource – a finite resource. And because I’m just not that talented or good, I knew with whatever time I had left I needed to serve the people who mattered most – the people who, for whatever reason, found value in my presence.

Wanting more by having less comes to life for me more and more almost daily. Within the past decade, I’ve learned so much. About myself. About others. About life. About death. And all the stuff in between.

Books, Ideas, Feelings, Friends And Family — Not In That Order (Season 2021, Episode 8)

These 5 books have been on my mind lately. I’ve not re-read them lately, but I’ve ruminated about each of them (and others). Click on any of the images if you’d like to buy any of them. Yes, they’ll be affiliate links earning me a rinky-dink commission. But you won’t mind. Will you?

12 Rules For Life by Jordan B. Peterson How Will You Measure Your Life? by Clayton M. Christensen Why Epiphanies Never Occur To Couch Potatoes by Mark Amtower The Goal by Eliyahu M. Goldratt Myself And Other More Important Matters by Charles Handy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Some other random useless/useful information about today’s show:

Dunbar’s number 

Beyond Order: 12 More Rules For Life by Jordan B. Peterson (his latest book)

Here’s the view I looked at for a few days in Arkansas last week.

Thanks for listening!

And Bob’s Your Uncle (it is about the destination) (Season 2021, Episode 7)

Here’s one theory about the origin from Wikipedia:

The origins are uncertain, but a common theory is that the expression arose after Conservative Prime Minister Robert Gascoyne-Cecil, 3rd Marquess of Salisbury (“Bob”) appointed his nephew Arthur Balfour as Chief Secretary for Ireland in 1887, an act of nepotism, which was apparently both surprising and unpopular. Whatever other qualifications Balfour might have had, “Bob’s your uncle” was seen as the conclusive one.

Salisbury is widely believed to be the Uncle Bob that the expression refers to. “Bob’s your uncle” is said to derive from the supposed nepotism of Lord Salisbury, in appointing a favorite nephew, Arthur Balfour, to several political posts in the 1880s.

“Bob’s your uncle” is an exclamation that is used when everything is alright and the simple means of obtaining the successful result is explained.

Here in America, we’d say, “a piece of cake” or “easy as pie.” But I rather prefer, “And Bob’s your uncle.”

Today’s episode was prompted by something that happened one year ago. I recorded the event on my personal Facebook page. Here’s what I wrote.

Grandson #3 (Easton) and grandson #4 (Cason) went with us to see my parents yesterday. On the ride home Easton sees something and the obsession begins. It’s the little marking on the side pillars of the car indicating that there’s a side curtain airbag.

He’s reading out the letters and asking, “What does that say?” All the letters are capitalized though, presenting a new challenge for his reading skills. From the backseat he’s announcing the letters. “S, L, D, E, C, U, R, T…” No break or pause, just reading the letters in straight succession. I quickly realize the problem. The L isn’t an L. It’s a capital “i.”

Me: “That doesn’t spell anything. S,L,D aren’t the first letters to anything.”
Easton: “Yes, it is. That’s what it says, S, L, D, E, C, U…(he goes on to announce every letter for the umpteenth time).”
Me: “That says, ‘Bob’s your uncle.”
Easton: “No, it doesn’t. Bob’s your uncle doesn’t start with S.”
Me: “Sure it does.”
Easton: “No, Bob’s your uncle doesn’t start with S.”
Me: “What does ‘Bob’s your uncle start with?”
Easton: “B.”
Me: “Very good.”
Me: “That second letter isn’t an L, it’s an “i.”
Easton: “But it doesn’t have a dot.”
Me: “It’s a capital i. All those letters are capitalized.”
Easton: “But it’s S, L, D, E…” (again reciting every single letter)
Me: “It says, ‘Side Curtain Airbag.” (I go on to explain what that is)
Then comes a 10-minute conversation on how those airbags deploy. And I interject “Bob’s your uncle” some more along the way.
Me: “When the airbags come out they say, ‘Bob’s your uncle’ on them.”
Easton: “But I’ve never seen them say, ‘Bob’s your uncle.'”
Me: “Because you’ve never seen airbags. They don’t come out until you crash the car. You never want to see ‘Bob’s your uncle’ unless you crash.”

To add confusion, Rhonda inserts, “Cale is YOUR uncle.”

Easton: “Then why does it say, ‘Bob’s your uncle?”
Me: “To let you know the airbags are out. And uncle Cale answers to, ‘Bob.'”
This goes on for about 5 more minutes with Easton growing increasingly skeptical. Rhonda finally tells him I’m “pulling his leg.” Of course, that means she has to explain what that phrase means.
Easton: “I thought so. I knew it didn’t say, ‘Bob’s your uncle.'”

Now, I’m Googling for Bob’s Your Uncle t-shirts in kid’s sizes! I’m also coaching him to call Cale “Bob” the next time he sees him!

I smile every time I think of that car ride.

I wish Bob was my uncle, but I do have a cousin named Bob.

Easy peasy. That’s our hokey American equivalent. Much less clever than, “And Bob’s you’re uncle.”

That’s that. Kinda sorta the same thing.

I don’t know if the story is the correct origin of the saying, but I hope so because that makes it funnier to me. Some ner-do-well fella gets a high position and everybody stands around questioning, “Who? Who? Who got it?” Then some lone voice says, “Arthur. Arthur got it. Bob gave it to his nephew, Arthur.” Then some crusty old politician says, “And Bob’s your uncle!”

So many ideas rush through my punny brain. So many different directions to go with all this, but a few that I don’t want to pursue are nepotism, having a leg up because of family ties, or getting advancement because of who you know, or who knows you.

Easton sat by me during a recent church service. He and his little brother often sit with us Sunday afternoons or Wednesday evenings during worship. As he settles in he shows me a folded-up five-dollar bill. My wife unfolds it asking him which president is on it. He correctly answers, “Lincoln.” She then proceeds to look for where it was printed. We have a U.S. Mint here in Ft. Worth so she was looking to see if it may have been printed locally. While she’s doing that I told him, “In very fine print somewhere it says, “And Bob’s your uncle.” He proceeds to point to every line of fine print and act as though he’s reading, “And Bob’s your uncle.”

I’m pretty determined to keep this bit going as long as possible. Or until I can get him a T-shirt. Or maybe until I can get myself one.

Eventually, he’ll be old enough to understand an explanation of what it really means. In the meantime, I’m enjoying the quirkiness of his confusion.

And of course, I’m adding to the confusion at every turn. Like this past Sunday, I asked him and his little brother, “You know what Bob spelled backward is? It’s Bob.” Cason, his little brother who I nicknamed Road Rash Roy because the kid always has scratches and skinned elbows and knees, says, “No, it doesn’t.”

“Yes, it does. Bob forwards is also Bob backward…”

“And Bob’s your uncle.”

It’s just that easy to confuse 2 little boys who I love dearly. I mess with them so much they know it. They’re learning how to discern it all. Little do they know how important this training in sarcasm will be to their successful future in navigating the world. But I know.

I also know that everything is hard…until it’s easy.

I’m about 20 years into a mild fascination with minimalism. If only I’d discovered it 40 years ago my fascination might be wild, not mild. By the time kids were in college I was too far down the road to clutter and accumulation. Now that it’s just the two of us parts of it seem less daunting, but other parts more so. There is nothing about decluttering that seems worthy of uttering, “And Bob’s your uncle.” It’s insanely hard.

My wife took three days a few weeks to paint the inside of some of the kitchen cabinets and reorganize things. This included purging lots of things. It also included numerous instances of, “Hey, look here at what I found.” There are so many items in a kitchen that haven’t been used in years, if ever. Begs the question, “Why do we have that?” No need to ask, “Why don’t you get rid of it?” because until you dig it out of the back of a cabinet, you have no idea you have it.

Permit me to coach myself through this, with you serving as witnesses. Invisible accountability partners of sorts.

The world tells us lies. Lots and lots of lies. In fact, I dare say most of what we’re told, exposed to, and the stuff that gets shared on social media are outright lies, phony ideas and falsehoods.

For instance, it’s the journey, not the destination.

No, it’s not. It’s all about the destination. Why do we get in the car and drive hours and hours? To get someplace where we’d like to be. Somewhere other than where we were. We endure the journey so we can get to the destination.

Another lie, it’s about the process, not the outcome.

No, it’s not. It’s all about the outcome. Why endure the beating of the process unless we’re pursuing the outcome.

I read an article entitled, Why People Who Focus More On Processes Than Outcomes Gain More In Their Life. There’s no proof that this title is correct. But it sounds good. To some. Maybe to many. The article speaks of people who want to lose weight. Okay, just stop and think about this. A person sets out to lose weight, but that’s not the reason (motivation, a’hem “inspiration”) for it. Oh, really? Well, then why do they want to endure the process of losing weight? Because they just want to experience another area of self-discipline that requires sacrifice? No, dummy. It’s because they want to be thinner, lighter. They want the outcome. Just like when I get in the car, there’s someplace I want (or need to) be. Otherwise, I’m staying home! And staying fat!

…and Bob’s your uncle.

Here’s an aside, but it’s important. Do you know the difference between motivation and inspiration? Many people confuse them as synonyms, but they’re not remotely the same.

Motivation is the energy you bring with you to get it done – whatever it is.

Inspiration is the too-often-short-term-excitement resulting from an external source.

Can I inspire you? Maybe. Mostly, here at LTW, I’m working to provoke thought. You can determine whether I succeed or not, but suppose I do inspire you to lean more toward wisdom. That inspiration won’t last unless or until you summon up the motivation – the inner energy and dedication – to do the work. I can’t want it for you enough. Nobody can either. You have to do it for yourself. That’s motivation.

Easy Peasy. Bob’s Your Uncle.

But more accurately, everything is hard until it’s easy.

As I was making notes in preparation for this episode I wrote down three words: create, play, perform. I was thinking about musicians and how that process of making music translates to just about anything else. We create art, music, math, or athletic competency. Then we play or do. We practice the art, the music, the math, or the athletic endeavor. We do it. Over and over and over. Some of us do it well. Others of us, not so much. And we perform. Sometimes, like musicians, it’s in front of people, live or recorded. Like athletes, we have games, or matches, or meets or tournaments. People watch us perform. They look at the results of our work.

There is no “Bob’s your uncle” moment in these endeavors because, unlike a political appointment, nobody can bestow these on us. We have to earn them. It made me wish I had an uncle named Bob. I wish some things – like learning guitar – were easier. But I realized if that was true, then it wouldn’t likely be as remarkable as I know it is. It might be relegated to common, ordinary, and uninspiring.

Another truth appeared as I considered these 3 words (create, play, perform) — excellence isn’t in those outlier performances, but in the ordinary. I was watching (again) that Michael Jordan documentary series. MJ had some extraordinary performances, but as I watched his story – one I was able to see in real-time since I’m so old – I realized that his greatness was in the consistency of his performances over time. His level of performing at his ordinary level was so vastly more consistent than many players, and his remarkable moments were so much higher…he achieved superstar status. Rightly so.

Everyday. Consistent. Discipline. Dedication.

Got nothing to do with Bob being your uncle. Bob can be your uncle and it won’t matter!

Here’s the thing. Some people are waiting for Bob or somebody to bequeath to them success. Or achievement. It could happen in some things, like politics. Or a lucky inheritance. Some other form of chance. But it’s got nothing to do with merit. Instead, it’s favor. It’s getting something easily.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m all in favor of getting something easily if you can. It’s just a horribly unreliable way to get anything. To wait for somebody to give it to you. It’s the life of folks who embrace that “if only” philosophy. If only I could win the lottery. If only I could get that promotion. If only that company would hire me. If only I had my master’s degree. If only I had their luck. It’s an endless stream of “if only” excuses.

Well, you’re a loser and life isn’t going to magically get better for you. And Bob’s your uncle! 😀

I heard a musician wonder if high achievement were the norm…would creativity lean toward awful? If everybody were bent toward creating remarkable work, would unremarkable work be deemed innovative and creative? Thankfully, we’re not beleaguered with such things because most of what’s produced isn’t all that good. I’ve even heard it argued that the universe rewards mediocrity. Maybe we can’t handle too much remarkability. Maybe average makes the world go round ’cause it’s everywhere all the time! 😉

And Bob’s your uncle.

The phrase evokes a smile. Every time. Because it’s funny to me.

But there’s another side that’s slightly serious. “And Bob’s your uncle,” signifies it’s easy. Effortless even. And in spite of the historical context of the phrase, most things worthwhile require a degree of dedication and hard work. Unless Bob’s your uncle.

Smooth paths. Easy decisions. They’re mostly roads to nowhere, but not always. For example, surrender is a smooth path, an easy decision. It’s not something I’ve done much of when it comes to trying to make a positive difference, but as I’ve leaned toward older age…it’s become increasingly more tempting. More so in the past few years than at any other time in my life. Especially when it comes to groups where people are clamoring for power and authority. My lifelong battle against tyranny has taken a toll I guess. I find myself not caring quite as much as I once did. I’ve had my bouts battling resignation (surrender), but that seems to demand a degree of apathy, which I just don’t have. To any degree.

Apathy may not always be bad though. And it may not really be apathy – not caring – as much as it may be caring less than you once did. Priorities change. Objectives do, too. I think my apathy isn’t true apathy, but my caring less than I once did. And that’s absolutely true about many things, including some group dynamics where I see people wrangle to propel themselves and their opinions forward at the expense of the group. I find myself not caring so much to benefit the group with experience and insight because wisdom has taught me I’m not able, capable or even the right fit all the time. Sometimes, as older and wiser heads always taught me, it’s best to be still and quiet so things can play out. That’s been difficult all my life…until now. Now? It’s not that hard. In fact, it’s my preferred course. And Bob’s your uncle! 😀

 

We’re now about 4 months into 2021 and I’ve made a number of key decisions for moving my life forward. This phrase has been part of the process as I’ve carefully examined my natural abilities, my opportunities, my challenges, and my ideal outcomes. Sir Ken Robinson wrote The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything.

Sir Ken defines being in your element as finding that place where natural aptitude and what you love intersect. It’s not about simply pursuing what you most love because what you most love may not be what you’re good at. Both natural aptitude and passion (what you love) are important.

At my age, I know what I’m good at. I know the very few things I’m great at. And I know what I most love.

Professionally, I’m doing it. Coaching executives and leaders in high-performance careers, teams, groups, and organizations. I’ve spent my life learning these things and now I’m able to pass them on in a non-judgmental way. I challenge my clients to examine their natural abilities (including their personality, their communication styles/preferences, and what they prefer), their opportunities, their challenges, and their ideal outcomes! It’s not easy work, but clients know it’s the most worthwhile professional work they can do – to invest in themselves so they can be a more positive influence for their employees. The bottom line is making the most positive difference possible.

Enter the phrase, “And Bob’s your uncle!”

Last fall I began to wrestle with, “What’s easy? And likely the best course of action?”

I had one specific situation of my life in mind – a group I’ve been part of for over 30 years. I concluded that being still and quiet was now easiest, and likely best. Maybe you can relate because you may be in a group that just no longer has the value it once did. Or one where your contributions aren’t needed any longer. Not a group you’re going to walk away from, but a group where you’re simply going to be a more quiet member. In my case, a very quiet and still member. And it’s fine. Fact is, it’s more than fine. “And Bob’s your uncle!”

It easy. And that’s the point. It wasn’t always the case, but today things have changed. My mental and spiritual health matter. They’ve always mattered, but today there’s a renewed focus on those that I know I must pay close attention to because the damage to those can be high if we don’t protect them. For me, stillness and silence are terrific tools of protection for spiritual and mental health.

Fact is, I’ve never been better.

Never been as fit for the work before me. Never been this patient. Or this skilled. Or this knowledgeable. Or had this level of understanding. Or had this much ambition to want to focus on helping others. Because the window is closing and I want to benefit others with what I’ve learned. They can do with it whatever they will, but generations should never pass away without sharing what they’ve learned. Whether the next generation wants to learn it, that’s up to them. Some will. Some won’t. Either way, I don’t get too fixated on that because it doesn’t remove my urge or responsibility to do my part. This is exactly why I’m continuing to grow my coaching practice and lean more heavily into my professional pursuits more than ever. And that seems weird perhaps, given that I’m in my early 60s and not in my early 20s or 30s. But it’s completely true.

For one important reason that I must convey before I finish today’s show. You have to invest yourself where you matter most. As Harry Callahan, aka Dirty Harry, said, “A man’s gotta know his limitations.” When you reach my age, hopefully, you’ve learned your limitations.

But I think I’ve known all along. My limitations. They’re easy to spot. Learning what I’m best at has been a slog. Much, much tougher to figure out. But I’m there. I’ve been there for the past dozen years or more. Helping people reach new heights in their leadership is my talent. Helping leaders build high-performing cultures is my gift. Shining the spotlight on others while I remain in the shadows is most comfortable. And Bob’s your uncle. These are easy things for me. And at this age, I’m tired of doing hard.

So for me, today, Bob’s your uncle means it’s high time for me to lean more heavily into helping people who most want my help. Serving people who are anxious to achieve new levels of success in their own lives and in helping the lives of those they lead. And to help people who are struggling through issues in life. It’s what I do – and what I’ve done all my life.

I recently posted this diagram, a progression I’ve used almost all my life. I posted a podcast about it here at GrowGreat.com. And I referenced it in a little article at RandyCantrell.com just this week.

I encourage you to think about what you’re good at – really good at. What others see you being good at, not what you most want to be good at, but aren’t. The things where your natural aptitude shines. Easily. And the things you most love. If you’re as lucky as me, they’ll be things that benefit others in some way.

And Bob’s your uncle!

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