Monday, November 23, 2009

You DO Have Control

To some degree or another, almost all of us are feeling a little scattered and out of control. We are unsure of the future. We don’t know what next year (or even next week) will bring. For many of us, this is the first time we’ve felt this out of control.

But the truth is, even now, we are all in control.

I remember having sushi with my daughter during her last year of high school. For the first time, she was realizing that the decisions she was making would impact the rest of her life.

“I am just so out of control. I don’t know what I’m doing,” she said.

In case you hadn’t guessed, I’m a know-it-all for a dad. I give my children constant pep talks. I’m sure Kate knew she was in store for another enlightening talk from her old man.

“Let’s take a look around the sushi bar,” I told her. “You are probably in control of something here.”

Kate looked at me quizzically, and then she rolled her eyes. “Yeah Dad, I’m in control of what I order next.”

“You sure are,” I said. “And when you get home tonight, are you in control of anything?”

“I’m in control of whether I study or not,” she said.

We proceeded through a litany of seven or eight things she was in control of, and then I gave her my pep talk. It went something like this:

There will always be things inside and outside your control. The key is to focus on those thins you can control. The others will be what they will be, so there is no reason to focus on them.

Then Kate told me her real concern. “I don’t know if I will get into USC,” she said.

And to some extent, this is out of her control. She cannot control the pool of candidates who compete for a spot at USC. She cannot control the subjective factors the review panel will use to judge her application. But she can control how much she studies and how much community service she packs into her schedule.

And if she doesn’t get into USC, other opportunities will be open for her.

And with that thought, Kate ordered her next piece of sushi.

Today’s Challenge: Make a list of ten things you are in control of. When you are feeling like a thimble in the ocean, grab onto one of those things and take control.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Getting Control of Your Business

In the weeks surrounding the market crash, I received more than few calls from clients who basically said, “I don’t feel like I’m in control. I don’t know what to do. I’ve lost a lot of money. Things are not good.”

Things were not good for a lot of people. And though I’m a tax planner and not a financial advisor, I wanted to help. I wanted to give advice to my clients as to how to make that money back. I wanted to give sage advice that extended beyond: “Hang on…don’t do anything. The market went down, it will come back up.”

And then I realized that giving advice was not what I should be doing.

Collectively, we have all lost a lot of money. Collectively, things might not look so god. But instead of focusing on all that money lost, all those opportunities down the drain, let’s take a minute to redefine who we are and what our goals are.

We know that we will live to fight another day. Eventually, the market will come back up. So instead of focusing on all that money lost, let’s talk about who we want to be in the meantime. Instead of looking at the gap between what we had two, three years ago and what we have today, let’s simply look at what we have today.

By focusing on our current capacities, we can stop reacting like thimbles in the ocean to the waves crashing around us. Instead, we begin applying our strengths to address problems with confidence.

In Say Hello to the Elephants I talk about the importance of wielding strengths. Let me take the steal the following from my own book:
Strengths constitute your confidence. Your strengths will give you the confidence to discover hidden problems instead of evading them. Your strengths represent the confidence that gives you the ability to take advantage of opportunities and protect yourself from dangers. Your strengths stop you from standing in front of danger like a deer in headlights. By giving you confidence, your strengths develop, implement, and sustain your solutions. Your strengths will help you plan for various futures, be flexible about the paths you choose, and recognize opportunities others cannot.

Today’s Challenge: Answer the following questions...
  • What are my strengths? 
  • What attributes, resources, and skills do I have? 
  • In what activities do I feel most confident?