Image via WikipediaI am sure you've heard the way too overly used phrase "think outside the box" before. Hell you've probably heard it from me a bagillion (for those of you counting, that's a lot) times. For which I make no apologies....nope, not one. I like that phrase for a variety of reasons none of which I plan to share here and now.
The real reason that I bring it up is the phrase got me thinking about a conversation I had with a good friend recently. We were discussing all that I have accomplished just this year (speaking at Microsoft, speaking at the very same conference as Dr. Stephen Covey, delivering the second edition of my book, etc.) and how despite all of the success of 2009 and so far in 2010 how dissatisfied I am with where I am at right here, right now. There is so much more that I want to do but, and I know this is going to shock you, I myself at times feel overwhelmed! Yep and like you, when I feel like that I make excuses. I avoid doing the heavy lifting. And I have a tendency to think more of what can't be done rather than what can be done.
I hear the gasps now. "No not you Steve!" "It's not remotely possible!"
Oh contrare monfrare (did I say that right?)....but it is! Oh yes my friends it so very much is.
Our conversation started to take the turn towards a pity party. When I really started focusing on all that I haven't yet accomplished my box lids started to close. The excuses started to come shortly thereafter as if a mandatory acknowledgment of my defeat. Our little talk started to turn an ugly direction and one that had the upbeat and positive Ripple man looking like a whiney little baby. I know? Hard to believe right?
More gasps detected from you my dear readers. But again, it is true.
Then my friend stopped me! Said "Enough" so loud that he nearly scared me out of my chair. He was way sick of hearing me bitch and complain about not having enough time, not enough focus, too many distractions, competing interests and "all that jazz!" He gave me a verbal slap and told me to wake up! There was enough complaining in the world and I had apparently used up my quota.
He asked me to open up my box of possibilities one more time (before they forever were shut tight and taped over with my glum outlook). He asked me to look at what was inside - all my hopes, my dreams and my grand plans yet unfulfilled. He then encouraged me to grab those things which I apparently held so sacred - all the ideas, the dreams and visions and simply step outside that box and feel as if I had accomplished what I had set out to do. What would I feel like, what would it mean to me?
His strategy is one that I've used time and time again on my own clients but had failed to follow through and do the very same thing. Suddenly my outlook changed and I was finding my creative rhythmic pulse again. Suddenly ideas of how to make some of the "stuff" happen and before I even knew what hit me I was writing and drawing and explaining this and that like a man possessed. I was suddenly outside my box, shattering the limiting sides of said box which only moments before seemed determined to hold them (and me) inside. Inside in the dark crevices of debilitating self-doubt and loathing.
Our conversation at that moment, at that time and place was exactly what I needed. I didn't need a pep talk or a motivational pick me up from him. I needed to be reminded that my destiny is my own and if I want to crawl up into a ball and play dead that was certainly my perogative to do so but he being a great friend would no longer be a party to it. He helped me realize that my box was mine to hold onto or mine to crush. Totally my choice. I choose, with a little well placed nudging of course, to shatter my box!
It's amazing that when you have those kinds of friends around in your life they can play such an important role in keeping it real. As my excitement continued I asked him how I could ever repay him. To which he replied. "You already did. You bought my coffee remember? Now show me what you mean with this," he pointed to the scribble that lay before him which I had crudely written moments earlier. He sipped his coffee and smiled as the fury of my explanation began.