Frank Watkinson: A Beginner With Confidence (Season 2021, Episode 4)

I’m battling my chronic insomnia. Again.

3 am brings out my best. Sometimes.

Headphones are on and I’m watching buskers on YouTube. YouTube has some suggestions for me. One is a video of a man holding an acoustic guitar. The title indicates he’s covering a Radiohead song, No Surprises. Well, I have to click on that. Not because I love Radiohead ’cause I don’t even like them. But this man does not look like he’d like them either. I can’t imagine what this cover might be like so I have to find out.

Wait a minute. Wait a minute. Who is this old guy? He’s been in my life all of the 3 minutes it took him to play this song and I’m smitten. I like this guy. Instantly. A lot.

This video has over 300,000 views. How have I never seen this man play before? Must be an outlier, but I’m thankful YouTube made the suggestion. I click on his name, below which I see 176K subscribers, which takes me to his YouTube channel’s main page. A hundred seventy-six thousand subscribers? WHOA!

I look at the many videos he’s produced and click on another one, a John Prine cover, “I Remember Everything.” I do love John Prine. I’m still sad that John is gone. I click on that video and I’m fully smitten by this guy now. I click play who knows how many times before I finally stumble into bed.

About 90 minutes later I’m up for the day. I go to Frank’s YouTube channel, to the about section. No details. No website. Just a place to click for an email address for business requests. I click it and shoot him an email.

Frank,

I have no idea what to even say. Except that stumbling onto your channel made me – yes, MADE ME – devote hours watching video after video.

I’m a business guy who began to podcast before it was even called PODCASTING. My passion project is a podcast called Leaning Toward Wisdom (https://LeaningTowardWisdom.com – tagline is “modern tales of an ancient pursuit”).

Would you be open to having a recorded conversation with me for that show? A Zoom video call. Not an interview, but a conversation with a guy from Dallas, Texas who loves what you’re doing. True confession: I’ve had a passion and love for the guitar for as long as I can remember, but I never learned to play. I learned that what I love most is watching/listening to others play. You’re now added to the list. Thank you.

Think about it and let me know. I promise it’ll be fun. More fun than that stunt of your daughter slapping you about the vegan remark. 😀

Randy

Frank replied the same day.

Randy ,

Thank you for getting in touch, i don’t mind having a conversation with you i’m not sure if you know i am in the UK, so we would have to get the times right, i would probably have to take a laptop upstairs or something depending on whether anyone else is at home, my wife and grandson can get pretty noisy at times lol, you mentioned that vegan joke, funny how humour doesn’t always translate as quite a few people didn’t like the idea of a daughter doing that to her dad, but then you can’t please everyone, oh and i have family in Texas (San Antonio), never met them but still family lol, if i’m right i think you are 6 hours behind us, you mentioned you like guitars but never learned to play ……i didn’t either lol!

Frank.

Having watched the 2 videos with his daughter I was not surprised at the snarkiness of his reply. And the bromance continued. 😀

Listen, when you get to be the age of me and Frank you rather enjoy seeing and connecting with people who have some notion of how you grew up in the days before the Internet.

Here’s the original of a cover done by Frank. This will give you an idea of just how much Frank makes these covers his own.

Here’s Frank’s version of that same song.

The video that blew up his YouTube channel was this cover by a heavy metal band, Slipknot.

Frank has a 7 song EP available, My Life Unplugged. Here’s the Amazon link. Here’s the Spotify link. Here’s the iTunes store link.

Frank also has – because people wanted to support him – a PayPal link over on his about page at YouTube.

The edited video of our conversation is below. I hope you enjoy the conversation. I sure did.

The Loudest Horn Blowers Never Are The Best Players (Season 2021, Episode 3)

I contacted about half a dozen business owners expressing interest in hiring them for a future project. Yes, they were all in the same space. I was hoping to figure out the best one to do what I wanted to be done. I sent cold emails explaining what I was hoping to accomplish. I contacted 7 companies. Literally, I contacted 7 business owners.

Right away I heard back from one who offered to schedule a phone call within the next 2 weeks. A few back and forth emails resulted in him wanting a 9 am appointment. I offered to send a calendar invitation, which would include a note that he was to call me on my cell phone, which I listed in the invitation. He accepted the invitation. Now we’d wait.

The morning arrived. My wife joined me here inside the Yellow Studio as we awaited the business owner’s phone call. I was going to run the call through my podcasting gear so my wife and I both had mics in front of us and each of us donned a pair of headphones. Nine o’clock arrived. Then 9:05 am. Then 9:10 am. Then 9:15 am. I told my wife, “He’s not going to call.” At 9:22 am I called him. No answer. Voice mail. I left him a voicemail saying, “I apologize if I got our time slot wrong, but you offered and accepted the calendar invitation for 9 am. Perhaps I misunderstand. I guess we can reschedule. Thank you.”

At 9:33 am he called. I was in another meeting so my phone went straight to voicemail. He left a message that he was calling, acting as though he was showing up on time. When I got out of my meeting I returned his call. Rang and rang, then went to voicemail. I left another message, similar to the first one.

And I never heard from him again.

Let’s get one thing out here upfront. Business requires marketing – getting the word out. Elevating visibility as much as possible. Being top of mind and all that. Nobody will have a successful business without customers. And to attract customers, you need not only a good or viable product or service, but you need to make sure folks know about your good or viable product or service. That’s just the start. You also have to have your act together. Whenever I’m dealing with business owners or leaders over at the day job (GrowGreat.com) I’m focused on the trifecta of business building: a) getting new customers, b) serving existing customers better and c) not going crazy in the process!

So I’d love to tell you about the differences between a business and YOU, but then I realized that may be the foundation of the issue I’m talking about today. Maybe there is NO difference. Maybe we are all in business. Perhaps we’re not selling products or services (or art, podcasts, or music) for money, but we’re certainly vying for attention. And attention may be more difficult to get than money. As a business guy, I know this much – until you get their attention you won’t get their money. So maybe there’s no difference between your personal life and a business. For some reason, that notion depresses me though. And I’m a business kinda guy.

Why Don’t The Best Blow Their Own Horn The Loudest? That was my original title, but the more I thought about it the less I liked it. So I changed it to what eventually was the published title – The Loudest Horn Blowers Never Are The Best Players.

The real point today is probably best summed up in the statement, “If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing well.”

Let’s take it a step further. If it’s worth doing well, then it’s worth doing it as well as you possibly can. It’s worth being great, remarkable, dazzling — and if you’ve got the talent, it’s worth being world-class.

So why don’t those considered “world-class” toot their own horn the loudest? Well, there are exceptions. Muhammad Ali was an exception. Michael Jordan maybe. Tiger Woods in his prime. Maybe. What about a non-sports example? Can you think of one? Yes, me neither. I suppose there are some though. Outliers. There are always outliers.

Then I got to thinking – I’m able to do that every now and again, on good days – “Maybe their being so world-class doesn’t require them to shout at the top of their lungs how terrific they are. Maybe their performance or accomplish speak loudly enough so they don’t have to.”

That thought quickly gave way to wondering if the folks who are doing it really well are so focused on improving and getting better, they don’t have time or take the time to brag about it so others will know.

Which sent me down the path of wondering how people can reach that level of performance where you’re so good you stand out. I know Steve Martin said, “Be so good they can’t ignore you.” But there are plenty of people who are good – very good – who go unnoticed all the time.

Many years ago I attended a five-day training. Part of that training was on selling. The primary point of the training was what’s called “call reluctance.” Call reluctance is the reluctance people have to sell. Mostly, as an art or science, it’s about the reluctance to cold call. That is, to reach out to somebody you don’t know and attempt to get an appointment or to make a pitch. But this training was deeper than just that. It was focused on how we’ve all got head trash that can get in our way of being as good as we might otherwise be. And there was considerable (as I remember it) time spent talking about how the real key to success is VISIBILITY.

During the training, a number of cultural examples were offered. These examples were relevant at the time. Names like Lee Iacocca, who was the head of Chrysler at the time. His face was all over the TV. Chrysler’s advertising was dominant at the time. The question was asked, “Do you think Lee Iacocca is the world’s best CEO?” I don’t think anybody raised their hand.  Not likely, but he’s absolutely winning the visibility war. Nobody is more visible. There were other examples offered, enough to convince me they were probably right. Visibility is a big determining factor of success.

Keep in mind, this training was years ago and it happened pre-Internet. When the Internet arrived folks thought visibility would be easier. After all, Seth Godin taught us that we were no longer living in a permission society. We could now write what we wanted and publish online ourselves. On our own website. We could start a podcast. Gone were the days of thinking we had to earn the right – and get permission – to be on the radio. It was a new day.

The problem that we didn’t see early on was that if nobody needed permission…if nobody had to earn the right…then it was like the Sooner land rush. Anybody could join and give it a go. Which meant the sheer volume of people clamoring for visibility would skyrocket.

Sure enough, it did.

In 1992 I had no clue about building websites. It would take me a few years of learning enough HTML to mangle together some hideous website by 1994. I had no clue about this Internet thing. I saw no money-making opportunity. I was running a retail company. A brick and mortar operation. With legal agreements that prohibited us from even selling mail order. We were restricted by various “franchise” agreements from selling outside our local market area. Never mind that our local market area was Dallas/Ft. Worth. Still, to think of leveraging something like the world wide web was beyond my ability to compute.  And I certainly didn’t see how it would improve visibility. There didn’t seem to be too much going on frankly, other than email. Remember? That’s when you were as thrilled to get an email as you were as a kid to get a piece of mail in the mailbox. 😀

By the time the Internet was wide-spread, literally becoming the WORLDWIDE web, I still couldn’t see it because it seemed to me the people getting noticed were geeks. Brainiacs. I sure didn’t fit into that group.

More and more people were going “online” every day until the Internet was commonplace in everybody’s home. Which meant more and more people were “surfing” the net (a phrase that began around 1992). But…

Not everybody had an online presence though. Being online then was mostly viewing. Chat rooms and forums didn’t much count. Neither did chat. Individual people didn’t have their own websites. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram weren’t yet invented. Social media wasn’t even a phrase until Ted Leonsis, an AOL executive mentioned it as a need. He said people needed someplace, “social media,” where they could gather and be entertained.

Before long Blogger and other technologies made it easier for individuals to be online on their platform. Journaling became blogging. Audio journaling became podcasting. Smartphones changed the game thanks to built-in cameras and video. Now, every ninnie on the planet has a digital footprint. Some of us are BigFoot. Others are more petite. A few odd ducks are digital hermits who can’t be found. And the noise is deafening.

Blow your horn as loud as you’d like. Somewhere there’s a far more famous hornblower who is louder. That whole “be seen everywhere” works when you have the drawing power to actually BE seen everywhere. Most of us lack that power. No matter how hard we blow our horn.

And then we have to introduce the notion that it doesn’t work. “People hate it when others blow their own horn,” we’re told. Tell that to the Kardashians. Or just about every other cultural icon. Or just about every best selling author. Or every highly paid keynote speaker. Or every billionaire. Or every popular pro athlete.

We hate it when it works so we enjoy fooling ourselves into thinking, “That doesn’t work.” 😀

Some of us hate the fact that it works! I know I hate it. But I also admit that’s partly because I’m awful at it. It feels yucky to me. And I don’t think that highly of myself anyway, so there’s that! I’ve always figured that I needed to spend all my time focused on doing a good job or producing something of value. I lack the talent or brainpower to do something really great and have time left over to shout about it. This brings up a good point…

Time. Specifically, how we spend it.

Business-minded folks often lean on many cliches.

“Always be selling.”

“Always be closing.”

“Always be marketing.”

“Always be prospecting.”

I don’t have that many “always” hours, do you? I mean, if I’m ALWAYS doing one of those, then I’m necessarily not doing anything else. But like I said, my talent and brainpower are limited.

I understand that visibility is a big deal. Not only for making money but for getting noticed. Duh. Visibility is all about being noticed. Whether you’re the owner of a company, a C-suite occupant, or a cubicle dweller – you want others to favorably notice you. We’ll come back to that adverb, “favorably.”

I also understand how everybody enjoys a good story. And our story – the story of our life, or this particular chapter of our life, or this page of our life – is not just the one we’re writing (or living), but it’s also the one we’re sharing when we tell others.

So it seems to me it’s about living (or doing, performing, achieving) and sharing (telling our story). This reminds me of the song written by John Sebastian, “Stories We Could Tell.”

Unless we do something we’ve got no stories. By doing more – and better – we have more (and better) stories, right? It makes sense to me that’d be true.

Donald Miller wrote a book entitled, A Million Miles In A Thousand Years: How I Learned To Live A Better Story.

Here’s how the publisher describes the book:

After writing a successful memoir, Donald Miller’s life stalled. During what should have been the height of his success, he found himself unwilling to get out of bed, avoiding responsibility, even questioning the meaning of life. But when two movie producers proposed turning his memoir into a movie, he found himself launched into a new story filled with risk, possibility, beauty, and meaning.

A Million Miles in a Thousand Years chronicles Miller’s rare opportunity to edit his life into a great story, to reinvent himself so nobody shrugs their shoulders when the credits roll. Through heart-wrenching honesty and hilarious self-inspection, Donald Miller takes readers through the life that emerges when it turns from boring reality into meaningful narrative.

Miller goes from sleeping all day to riding his bike across America, from living in romantic daydreams to fearful encounters with love, from wasting his money to founding a nonprofit with a passionate cause. Guided by a host of outlandish but very real characters, Miller shows us how to get a second chance at life the first time around. A Million Miles in a Thousand Years is a rare celebration of the beauty of life.

Many people, including me, found the book quite enlightening and provocative, in all the best ways. I can highly recommend it. Miller speaks to the doing. And he’s a storyteller. But the book – and today’s show – is first about our performance. What we do. And how well we do it.

By the way, Donald Miller figured out he could follow Michael Hyatt and make a lot more money by teaching business practices than he could by writing. So off to Nashville he goes and forms Business Made Simple, an online learning platform that he’s been promoting for a few years now. From creative “faith-based” kind of writing to marketing and sales. Miller found the path to financial enlightenment.

I’m not judging. Truth is, I’m rather impressed. It was a major pivot that would have evaded most people. But after attracting the attention of lots of readers, Miller was convinced there was something more to do with that attention. Namely, sell them something. I love capitalism at work…especially when it works well.

Doesn’t a big part of you wish you had it in you? Yeah, me, too!

I learned a long time ago about myself that I have little trouble promoting or marketing somebody else or something else. But ME? Well, that just doesn’t feel very right, you know?

I lean toward the belief that I’d prefer to do it (whatever “it” is) and do it really well (at least as well as I’m able) and not fret too much about who knows about it. I’m not telling you that that’s a recipe for success because I know it’s not. We need others to know about it if we want to have a bigger impact. If we want to have a positive influence!

Let me backtrack and revisit that whole notion of being “favorably” noticed. Lots of people make daily headlines because of poor choices and poor behavior! We don’t want that kind of notoriety. We want people to admire us and the product of our efforts.

Whether we create art, podcasts, writing, goods, or services – we need others to notice. Some of us need others to notice because we earn our living by selling something. Some of us need others to notice because we want to educate or train people. Some of us need others to notice because we want to be popular. Some of us need others to notice because we enjoy showing off. We need others to notice us because we all need a degree of affirmation that what we’re doing is worthwhile. Yes, we all crave encouragement and acknowledgment. Everybody needs to know they matter! The attention of others is a major barometer for all of us.

I prefer to think the work will speak for itself, but I know that’s not true. I’ve spent too many hours watching unknown musicians play great music on YouTube or Facebook. They’re putting their music out there or I’d have no way to find it or hear them. But many of them aren’t making money playing music. They’ve got day or night jobs to pay the bills and they play music because they love it. A common refrain among even successful musicians is, “I’m thankful I can do this for a living.” Countless others wish they could.

Just because I notice some unknown musician doesn’t mean millions of others will. I regularly watch a YouTube video by a really good musician with incredible skills and the video has only a few thousand views. Ridiculously small by any standard of popularity. Then I grow disgusted when I can go watch some inane video of nonsense that has hundreds of thousands or millions of views. Depressing, isn’t it?

I’ll get really personal and tell you that as limited as I know my natural aptitude may be I often listen to podcasts or watch presentations or speeches that get rave reviews and think, “I’ve got many episodes that have more value than that!” Do you ever feel that way? If you’re a podcaster I guarantee you’ve felt it before.

The business guy in me knows, from years of experience, that we must get the word out. My Christian background knows the truth of sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ. We strive to live righteous lives and be a good example and influence on others, but still we share the story of Jesus. And the gospel itself tells us the fact of our influence.

Matthew 5:14-16 “You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.”

Gospel means “good news.” What do you do with good news? You share it, of course. Well, even the introverts among us (like myself) have to learn to share and to do it more effectively.

I know modern culture demonstrates that the loudest horn blowers appear to be the best. But mostly, I believe modern culture shows us the majority of people care most about the loudest horn blower more than they care whether he or she is the best. Most popular seems to matter more than best.

While that can sometimes depress me, I’m growing to accept it. Mostly because there’s little I can do about it. Except as I’m writing and telling my own story. I can more highly prize those who first focus on doing great work, not those who focus on just playing the loudest. It’s not about being a contrarian. It’s more about respecting and appreciating people and their work, especially when it’s well done (and I don’t mean like a steak).

“You owe it to the world to share your brilliance.”

Or something to that effect. We hear it all the time. A sentiment designed to help folks blow their horn more loudly. Why? Because you’re so special the world must know about it.

Randy’s Horn

And now Houston, I think I’ve found my problem! I don’t think I’m so special. No, better said – I know I’m not so special. Which is why my horn has one of those mufflers in the end of it. 😀

“Well, you need more confidence,” somebody may say. Perhaps. But what I think I may need – in order to be a bigger horn player – is more arrogance.

I need to think I’m special. So special that I shouldn’t hesitate to blow my horn. And loudly.

So the conclusion is that folks who don’t blow their horn loudly must lack pride or performance. After all, if they produced superior work, then it’d be worth shouting about. Or if they had confidence in their work, they wouldn’t hesitate to tell others. At every opportunity.

Maybe that’s true. I don’t think so, but I could be wrong. Maybe if I had more confidence I could be certain.

Or maybe I have little or no talent.

Or maybe my performance, accomplishments, and achievements are ordinary. Average. Or even sub-par.

I mean, the odds are very high that I’m average. Stop laughing. You’re facing the same odds.

I don’t care if you’ve taken your horn out of the case and you’ve been polishing it for days. That doesn’t mean you can play it. And it sure doesn’t mean it’ll play louder. Because you know the main ingredient for playing a louder horn? Air!

Air. From your lungs.

The term blowhard describes people who boast about themselves too much, and who often don’t have the great qualities they claim to have.

That’s from Writing Explained.

How much confidence do you have to have to exhale more air?

Clearly more confidence than me! 😉

I realize I didn’t answer the question, “Why Don’t The Best Blow Their Own Horn The Loudest?”

Fact is, I don’t think we even established whether it’s true or not. I may be more confused than I was before. But I’m still pretty clear about myself.

I’m not a great hornblower. Maybe it’s because I don’t think enough about it. And maybe I don’t think enough about it because knowing that it works doesn’t change the fact that I don’t believe in it for myself. I don’t think I’m deluded about it, but I might be. I just honestly think I’m no more special – defined any way you’d like to – than anybody else. It seems to me that our special-ness is mostly determined by the few people who benefit the most from having us in their life. And the people who benefit us most, they’re the special people to us.

I follow lots of people in social media who are accomplished. Even brilliant. But they’re not terribly special to my life – not in the grand scheme of things. I mean, none of them have changed my life. They’re not there to walk with me through thick and thin.

That whole inner circle thing seems to have quite a lot to do with it. And my inner circle is as small as it’s ever been. Largely because some key figures have died. So it goes as we grow older.

There are nine people who comprise my most immediate family. That number grows to eleven when I include my parents. Beyond that, there’s honestly not that many more. So maybe part of the answer – at least for me – is that my crowd (my audience) is so small…I don’t have to play loudly. The quality of my impact on them isn’t determined by how loudly I blow, but by how present I am. And I realize that of all the crowds to which I’m a part – the one that matters most is very, very small. So I’m not listening for loud. I’m focused on benefit, value and impact.

Scope and scale. That’s the focus of modern culture. Bigger is better. But bigger is also less intimate and that doesn’t work for me. But that’s my problem.

I wish I had a bottom line to all this. Or some really clever ending. But I rather think this is a never-ending story. I suspect we’d all go farther if we gave ourselves more wholly to doing the very best work of our lives, then like little boys who run to tell mom, “Hey, look at me” – we’d rush out to the world proud to show it off without any embarrassment or shame. And when they watched us doing some magical feat of our best we’d shout, “Hey watch me do it again!”

OK, We’re Good, Right? – Season 2021, Episode 2

“Are we good?” I ask.

There hadn’t been any tension. No drama. No strife. But there had been a bit of quiet. And how could you know if it was caused by the pandemic or something else? Well, you couldn’t. Unless you ask. So I did.

“Yes, of course,” was the reply. A 15-minute phone conversation followed, catching up on a few things. Each of us reinforced to the other that we’d just not been in touch like either of us desired because the pandemic had completely thrown us off our rhythm. One last time, before we hung up, I said, “OK, we’re good, right?” Confirmation came immediately. “Of course, we’re better than good.”

I hung up the phone and wrote the phrase, “OK, we’re good, right?” Truth is I had already been thinking quite a lot about how people – all of us – are prone to surmising.

supposing that something is true without having evidence to confirm it

When I was pretty young I became keenly aware of people’s obsessions with other people. Maybe something prompted it, but I don’t remember anything specific. Just a bunch of things – various situations where I’d observe people who’d make assertions about people without having any facts or evidence. It was likely the language that got my attention because I’ve always had this weird fascination with words. Especially the words people use. “I’ll bet he…(fill in the blank on what they were thinking).” Lots of people would say that about somebody.

During my early teen years, I was particularly irked with what we now call “fronting.” People pretending. I naturally found pretentious people unpleasant. Mostly, I was intrigued by why people would so desperately care what other people thought about them that they’d be fake.

Couple these two colliding youthful observations about people and I grew increasingly perplexed by why people weren’t just forthright with each other – and why people wouldn’t behave more honestly with each other. Besides, I’d grown up hating strife and tension. Unlike what I saw in many adults – avoiding facing it or confronting it – I was naturally wired to find out the problem because it seemed to me you couldn’t fix something without first knowing what was wrong. Making peace seemed to demand to get to the crux of the matter so you could find some common ground so everybody could move on.

I’ve learned through the years that sometimes people may think I’m insecure about whatever relationship we’ve got. “Are we good?” likely smacks of “he’s feeling insecure about our relationship” to some. I don’t always word it that way, but in spite of knowing how it may sound to some, I’ve also learned that the same people who may feel I’m taking aim at my own insecurity about our relationship feel that way no matter how I make the inquiry. I know because I’ve asked. 😀

Then, there are those of us who ask a lot of questions because of our desire to know. Some of us are more naturally curious than others. It’s why for decades I’ve often told people, “I know what I know, but I don’t know what you know.” The only conversations that I hate – after the fact – are those where I feel like I’ve talked too much. It happens more frequently than I’d like and I’m constantly reminding myself to be quieter.

I’m genuinely interested. Well, let’s be completely honest. I’m genuinely interested when I’m talking to somebody I really want to talk with. There’s only a small percentage of people in whom I’m not that interested. Self-absorbed, full of themselves types. Know-it-all, smartest-person-in-the-room types. I find myself lacking even a small amount of curiosity about such types, but I’m fairly interested in most people. I’m the guy who will not likely give up on the conversation until after 2 or 3 uncomfortable questions – made only uncomfortable by the person’s not being forthright to answer. NOT, by my asking some uncomfortable questions. Before I got out of high school I had learned some people are just uncomfortable talking about themselves. So I’d press on in hopes they’d grow more comfortable. Most do. Some don’t.

One point of today’s show is that surmising we do. 

The stories we tell ourselves about others. Last time we talked a bit about self-delusion and our ability to lie to ourselves. But today it’s about our ability to tell ourselves lies about others. Well, to be fair, things that might be lies. We just don’t know. And mostly, we don’t take the time or trouble to find out.

Evidence-based leadership wasn’t known by that term when it first dawned on me that in business I needed to follow evidence coupled with my intuition. I’m intuitive. Very much so. Subtle cues don’t go unnoticed. I wasn’t yet 30. I was running a retail company and had a direct report who I had a good intuition about. Months into hiring him something happened. I caught him at work with some marijuana. It was the early 1980s. I wasn’t naive to marijuana, but this man was a number of years older than me and I remember being so disappointed not just in him, but in myself. For failing to know I had hired a guy with such a lack of character to be that irresponsible at work. And he was part of my leadership team, making it all the more dreadful. At that moment, I remember looking for books and advice from mentors on how I could incorporate evidence more in my own leadership. It was my first real “gotcha” moment where my intuition had let me down. So I felt.

The Internet wasn’t around yet so I remember looking for books, magazine articles, or anything else I could on how to improve how I was seeing things. And people.

People hadn’t been a real problem because of my habit of asking lots of questions and doing my best to figure people out. But, as I had now learned, people can fool you.

I had thought better of him. Not worse.

Things Aren’t Always What We Think

I used to say, “Things aren’t always as they appear” until I realized that appearances vary. Some things are exactly as they appear or seem. Some aren’t. But we all form opinions and judgments – the things we decide to think.

The evidence can range from non-existent to flimsy to rock-solid.

Maybe this year we can collectively do better at avoiding surmising things about each other. Maybe we can extend more grace, compassion and understanding to one another.

Let’s at least try.

Everything Is Hard, Until It’s Easy – Season 2021, Episode 1

Today’s show was prompted by an email from a new listener who asked if I had any episodes giving “my story.” Well, I didn’t have the heart to tell him this entire podcast is pretty much “my story,” but I know what he meant.

Hopefully, this is my not-so-boring effort to provide him, and YOU, a bit more context about me. But as always, this isn’t about me, but it’s about US. All of us, who have an interest in leaning more and more toward wisdom…while simultaneously leaning further and further away from our own foolishness.

Mentioned in today’s show, as a resource for those who care to learn more, is RandyCantrell.com.

I hope you enjoy this show. And I hope collectively and individually we devote ourselves to making 2021 a year where we live better lives.

You Have To Be Totally Tired Of Who You Are (Season 2020, Episode 15)

He lost 75 pounds in 3-1/2 months. He admits it wasn’t likely the ideal way to do it or the ideal timeframe. But he was sick and tired of being sick and tired. Here’s what he did:

1. Gave up soda and sugar
2. Ate oatmeal every morning
3. He ate grill chicken every day and premade enough for the week, his only veggie was broccoli
4. When he got too tired of chicken he ate eggs instead
5. He ate special k bars for sweet cravings (high glycemic but it worked for him)
6. He did eat fruit but his overall calories were under 1500 calories a day
7. He was hungry at night so he would go to bed early
8. He avoided dairy and went to almond milk
9. He did not go to the gym but he did walk and run

I saw his video about a year ago and for some reason, it popped up in my YouTube feed again so I watched it again. He’s just a good ‘ol boy trying to get better. The minute he said it, I instantly remembered watching this a year ago – because it’s such a true statement.

Lots of folks who are smarter than me had said it. We all know it’s true. In our own lives. In the lives of others.

“We change our behavior when the pain of staying the same becomes greater than the pain of changing. Consequences give us the pain that motivates us to change.”                   – Dr. Henry Cloud

Our slimmed-down country boy says it in a way I can completely understand.

“You have to be totally tired of who you are.”

Why would I be totally tired of who I am?

Let me count the ways. 😉

Self-awareness is the ability to see yourself clearly and objectively through reflection and introspection.

That’s how an article at PositivePsychology.com begins. The title of the article is, “What Is Self-Awareness and Why Is It Important? [+5 Ways to Increase It].”

Social media is overrun with people disparaging the opinions or viewpoints of others when it comes to YOUR life. It goes well beyond the seemingly wise admonition to ignore the haters. It presupposes that everybody has the ability and desire to see themselves accurately and that each of us is able to do that without any help. It also foolishly holds that none of us benefits from listening to others.

The truth is we all struggle to accurately see ourselves or to face the realities of ourselves. We likely lean toward thinking too highly of ourselves, or too lowly. It’s too easy for us to overestimate or underestimate ourselves. Accuracy is difficult. Others can help provide just enough perspective where we’re able to more accurately see ourselves. If we choose to ignore their help, it hinders us. We need the insights, experiences, and observations that others can provide.

But not just anybody can do that for us.

Those with whom we’re fully safe serve us best. These are the people who only want our best. They have no other agenda. They don’t want to live our lives for us. They don’t want to make our choices for us. They simply want us to do the right thing by helping us make the wisest choice that will help us be our best. They love us enough to challenge us, nudge us, push us, question us, support us, and do whatever else they can to help us move forward. If we choose to ignore or banish these people, we do so at our own peril.

Self-awareness is not a solo pursuit. It demands we make wise choices in who surrounds us.

That’s a critical component to succeed in growing tired of who we are when who we are has become destructive or detrimental to being our best.

Recently we learned that a business hero to many – Tony Hsieh, founder of Zappo’s – was living a life most of us knew nothing about. Virtually every major news publication, including the Wall Street Journal, has written pieces that reveal Hsieh had a serious drug addiction. According to multiple accounts, he banished those who attempted to help him correct his poor behavior, choosing instead to surround himself with people who would support anything he chose to do – common behavior for drug addicts. Sadly, Hsieh’s story ended as so many do…with his death.

During this pandemic, there have been a number of other sad stories where people have died at their own hands. Mental health is, thankfully, gaining more and more attention as we’ve seen too many people fall into depression and despair. I’m certainly not able, or willing, to pass judgment on people in such cases and I only use them to make the point that self-awareness and improvement demand a degree of being tired of the status quo – but it also requires a clear enough mind (free of drug abuse and addiction and also free of mental illness) to face, in the most healthy way possible, the pain of our present state. Enough pain to compel us to consider making different – aka *better* – choices!

The Dunning-Kruger Effect

The pandemic and the Presidential election have both proven how valid this is. As Psychology Today says, “The Dunning-Kruger effect is a cognitive bias in which people wrongly overestimate their knowledge or ability in a specific area. This tends to occur because a lack of self-awareness prevents them from accurately assessing their own skills.”

Last year Jeff Haden, one of my favorite Inc. contributors wrote an article entitled, Here’s How to Tell Within 5 Minutes If Someone Isn’t as Smart as They Think.

Writes Jeff…

That’s because wisdom isn’t found in certainty. Wisdom is knowing that while you might know a lot, there’s also a lot you don’t know. Wisdom is trying to find out what is right rather than trying to be right. Wisdom is realizing when you’re wrong, and backing down graciously.

Some are certain the pandemic is a hoax. Others are certain if they contract COVID 19 they’ll die.

Some are certain Donald Trump won the election. Others are certain he’s the worst thing to happen to humanity since Adolf Hitler.

Now, some are certain the COVID 19 vaccine is going to a lifesaver. Others are positive that their family will never take the vaccine.

It seems we’ve leaned further and further away from wisdom and more and more into being dead sure that we’re right. Even though certainty goes from one extreme to the other, rarely are we pausing long enough to wonder, “If both extremes are certain, does that mean both are right? Might both be wrong?”

How can such a wide gap exist in certainty?

The Dunning-Kruger Effect. That’s how. And it’s not about being confident. Or sure about things. It’s about being open enough to consider things before you reach certainty. It’s about embracing questions – or at least not resenting questions – as you navigate your decisions, choices, and actions.

Truth will withstand tough scrutiny. So will wisdom.

Defiance is another enemy of growth and self-improvement.

Our stubborn refusal to listen, question, discuss, consider, and think don’t serve us well. Defiance is our stubbornness fueled by anger. Or bitterness. Or some other negative emotion. 

Defiance isn’t the fuel for self-improvement. Or wisdom. It’s destructive.

So how does pain serve us? The pain of facing the reality that we’re now unhappy with ourselves?

Lately, I’ve been looking more deeply into heart issues. Not cardiac stuff, but spiritual stuff. The Bible-view of our heart, our mind. That place where we reason things, believe things, ignore things, disbelieve things. That place from which flows who we are, which is based on what we choose to do.

The Biebs posted this over at Instagram just a few days ago, “What you do doesn’t define who you are.” I share what commenter Jake Callanan said, “Yes it does actually.”

If what you do doesn’t define who you are, then what does?

There’s a sermon in the Bible delivered by Jesus. Even non-Bible readers know about the Sermon on the Mount.

Matt. 13:1-9, 18-23 “On that day went Jesus out of the house, and sat by the sea side. And there were gathered unto him great multitudes, so that he entered into a boat, and sat; and all the multitude stood on the beach. And he spake to them many things in parables, saying, Behold, the sower went forth to sow; and as he sowed, some seeds fell by the way side, and the birds came and devoured them: and others fell upon the rocky places, where they had not much earth: and straightway they sprang up, because they had no deepness of earth: and when the sun was risen, they were scorched; and because they had no root, they withered away. And others fell upon the thorns; and the thorns grew up and choked them: and others fell upon the good ground, and yielded fruit, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. He that hath ears, let him hear.”

“Hear then ye the parable of the sower. When any one heareth the word of the kingdom, and understandeth it not, then cometh the evil one, and snatcheth away that which hath been sown in his heart. This is he that was sown by the way side. And he that was sown upon the rocky places, this is he that heareth the word, and straightway with joy receiveth it; yet hath he not root in himself, but endureth for a while; and when tribulation or persecution ariseth because of the word, straightway he stumbleth. And he that was sown among the thorns, this is he that heareth the word; and the care of the world, and the deceitfulness of riches, choke the word, and he becometh unfruitful. And he that was sown upon the good ground, this is he that heareth the word, and understandeth it; who verily beareth fruit, and bringeth forth, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.”

This matters because it determines whether or not we become tired of who we are – when what we are isn’t good. Not all hearts – or minds – are the same. Not all of them are good, or wise enough to recognize the need for a change. Some people lack self-awareness, wisdom, or sobriety. And it may be due to their own self-will and defiance. Or it could be due to mental illness or substance abuse. There is a reason it’s so difficult to convince people who abuse substances or who suffer a mental illness that they need help.

So many among us are roaming about aimlessly lost in drug use and/or mental illness that they simply are unable to see themselves in the nose-dive that’s apparent to the sober people observing their lives. Like the drunk who thinks he’s perfectly capable of driving safely, they suffer delusions. Their detachment from truth and reality has skewed their ability to get tired of who they are. The result? They lack the desire to make a change that just might save their life.

I’ve yet to see anybody who harbored bitterness and defiance ever reach the positive place required to be totally tired of who they are in order to grow, change, and improve. Growth, self-improvement, and improved wisdom demand a humility that only sober people can fully embrace. Defiant, bitter, and angry people tend to spend more time thinking they’ve been victimized by others. The line of people who have suffered wrong forms to the left. We’re all in that line. Humility affords us the opportunity to escape that line so we can busy ourselves making changes that will make us better.

Let’s talk about these pronouns. YOU have to be totally tired of who YOU are.

This isn’t about you being totally tired of who somebody is. 

Well, you can be tired of somebody’s poor, foolish, or self-destructive behavior, but it won’t do you or them much good.

So it’s best to just sit down, hold that mirror in front of your face and look intently to see yourself as you really are. That’s the hard part – seeing yourself as you really are. This is where we all have to leverage the power of others. We need people in our life who care so deeply about us they’re willing to tell us what we need to hear. Willing to teach us what we need to learn. Willing to serve us no matter what. All because they have our best interest at heart. Not for any other reason.

That’s who the safe people are. People who can help us figure out if we are or should be totally tired of who we are.

Then there are the unsafe people – like the ones who made fun of the guy who lost all the weight. By making jokes about how he looked pregnant, it got him to see something. Of course, he already knew he needed to drop some weight. Their comments didn’t give him a sudden flash of insight, but they did serve to inspire him. Maybe it was an “I’ll-show-you” kind of inspiration. Whatever it was, he described it as provoking him to instantly be totally tired of who he was…so he set about to change. He made up his mind to do something about his weight. Nobody else could do it for him.

He could have made a different choice.

Anger. Resentment. Bitterness. Defiance. Sadness. Depression. Blame. He could have hugged it out with any or all of those when those co-workers poked fun at him.

Instead, he chose to face what he already knew was true. As he says in his video, he knew they were right. He didn’t blame them. He opted to blame himself for letting himself get so out of shape. Accepting responsibility for his current state helped him accept responsibility for changing it. When others could have hidden behind resentment, he chose to step forward, taking on the challenge to control his own destiny by doing something about it.

His refusal to just accept his current state as some new norm prompted him to chase improvement.

We have those same choices. All of us.

No matter what our current problems may be. Weight. Career. Fitness. Money. Relationships. Plugin whatever ails you and it’ll fit. Accept your current state and continue down a negative or destructive path. Or, accept that your current state can be changed if you’re willing to take matters into your own hands. He’s right – until we’re sick and tired of being sick and tired, we’ll continue to remain sick and tired.

The Dr. Cloud quote needs to be emblazoned in our mind…

“We change our behavior when the pain of staying the same becomes greater than the pain of changing. Consequences give us the pain that motivates us to change.”                   – Dr. Henry Cloud

Pain. Let’s wrap this up thinking about the pain because that’s the impetus for this change – growth and improvement. If there is no pain, we’re not likely going to change anything. Of course, millions of people are blocking out the pain with drugs, alcohol and all kinds of illicit and immoral behavior in hopes they can keep running from their pain. But like a shadow that follows them everywhere they go, they can’t outrun the pain. Sadly, they wind up making the pain worse and worse. Wasted lives. Horrific lives that serve no positive purpose in their own life or in the lives of others.

The Bible calls it the “root of bitterness.” It’s how many people opt to feel about their own need to grow, improve – to change! They hate those who try to help them. They hate even more those who aren’t trying to help but to hurt (like the co-workers making fun of the guy’s weight). They’re totally tired of others, not their own shortcomings, or failings, or weaknesses. They focus more on what others “do” to them instead of focusing on what they can do for themselves. Their pronouns are them and they, not me. The irony is that by refusing to focus on their own need for growth, improvement, and change they’re behaving with colossal selfishness.

Are you in touch with your pain? The pain of something you know you can change if you’ll just make up your mind?

Are you blaming that pain on others who really aren’t responsible for your situation, but you’d like to think they are?

Are you deflecting that pain away from your own responsibility in order to stop feeling so badly? Are you searching for solace in feeling like a victim?

Perhaps you’re tired of being the victim and you’re totally tired of who you are as a victim. Lean hard into that pain so it can fuel your desire to at long last do something about it.

Others may have their own desires for your best but until you want it for yourself, nothing matters! First, you must do it for yourself because it’s your life. You alone will answer for the life you’ve lived. What others have done to you, or for you will not excuse you from facing the reality of your own choices, behaviors, words, and actions.

Permit me to leave you with a few tips that might be helpful.

Step One

Be thankful. Be exhaustive in your attempts to be thankful. See how many things you can list or name. When you think you’ve reached the end, keep going. Figure out what else you have to be thankful for. Make sure people are your first thought.

Step Two

Now focus your gratitude on the present opportunities. Keep on going with your thanksgiving, but now focus it on the chances, happy accidents, people, and circumstances that afford you the opportunities to at long last do something about those things you need to fix or repair.

Step Three

Figure out the answer to, “What’s next?” Don’t fret about getting too far ahead of yourself. Just figure out the first step. What will you do to get yourself on the right path toward self-improvement, growth, and change?

Ask those famous journalist’s questions:

Who? What? When? Where? Why? How?

Apply those questions to the first step. Just the first step!

Step Four

Get busy with that first step. Start. Don’t delay. Don’t talk yourself into waiting.

You will not make matters worse by taking that first step. Any movement in the right direction will help. The sooner you take the step, the sooner you get on the path toward growth. The key to getting unstuck is to MOVE.

Step Five

Be very aware of how it’s working and adjust. This is why it’s unimportant that you have every “i” dotted or “t” crossed. No worry about it being just right, or perfect. It just has to be good enough to give you clarity of what you’re going to do first. After you take that first step, pay attention to how it’s working, and make adjustments.

Step Six

Don’t quit. Keep going with the intent of improving just a little bit each day. Embrace the process of daily improvement. Quit thinking about what you’re giving up and instead, think about what you’re gaining. One day at a time. Remember that adage about how you eat an elephant – “one bite at a time.” Small steps compounded over time make BIG IMPROVEMENTS.

Step Seven

Remember, the end result – the goal – is the reward for the work so stay focused on enjoying the process, the work!

And don’t forget the pain that you’re ridding yourself of. It’s important to remember what we’re running from as we focus on what we’re running toward. It’s that “this is better than that” kind of thinking that will help us stay on course. We want to put THAT behind us so we can reach for THIS.

I hope that helps you in your battles.

And I hope you and your family have a safe and happy holiday season!

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