Time to read: 2 mins
I have been building on the habit of writing daily. Not only to write, but to write with risk.
It’s easy enough to first learn about a topic and then write about it, but there is very little risk in that. You know that it won’t fail, because the ideas that you are presenting have worked before (for the previous author). When you are regurgitating ideas that are not your own, chances are no one will say that you are wrong.
What’s harder to do is to think and reflect and come up with your own idea, link that to other ideas, examine the reality of the world and then challenge them.
To come up with your own conclusions and not look for something that has already been done and proven is a risk… In essence, this is what it means to lead.
When we do anything to stand out and introduce something that is different from the norm, we stray from the herd and become vulnerable and an easy target. This is not only true of writing but for any other endeavours that we choose to follow.
Followers and leaders
When we follow, there is no fear of being rejected or being called a fraud and there is some comfort in that. Leaders, on the other hand, are constantly fighting off the lizard brain. They work along the edge and try to push the boundaries.
The boundaries are around what is perceived to be our ‘safety zone’ (i.e. what is good enough’) and our ‘comfort zone’ (what we are willing to do). Think about that last sentence for a minute before reading on.
The amazing Cynthia Carroll
I recently finished reading Seth Godin’s book The Icarus Deception. In the appendix, Seth told the story of Cynthia Carroll, the first female CEO and the first non-South African to head the 100 year old company, Anglo American, a multibillion dollar major mining company that employs over 150,000 staff. As one of her first act as CEO, she visited the Rustenburg mine.
Cynthia found out about the dangerous work conditions (where on average 40 employees die a year) and opted to shut down the mine for 9 weeks; a mine that was the most profitable platinum mine in the world. After a multiyear battle with unions, government and other mining companies, a year later, fatalities dropped by half.
Cynthia (illustrated above) did something that no other CEO before her had ever done, she shared stats, provided options and made herself vulnerable. She pushed the boundaries of what is good enough and what she and Anglo America were willing to do.
When to lead
It’s important to understand that we don’t need to be a leader in every aspect of our lives (nor should you try). But there are times and places when you should:
- When you have the passion
- When you have the expertise on a particular subject and
- When it’s your duty to do so.
Leading is risky, it’s sometimes scary and can be painful, but as we have seen in Cynthia’s case, anything that is worthwhile, anything that will make a real difference and anything that creates a lasting change will involve some level of risk (most of the time, it’s on a personal level).
But when we have a noble enough cause, trying and failing is not such a big deal and the risks that were once seen as obstacles, after moving forward, are now viewed as trivial.
Time to read: 4 mins
This article is for those who have ever wanted to start writing, keep a journal or the brave soul who wishes to persuade an audience through personal essay’s (i.e. starting your own blog).
For better or worse last weekend I went to watch the movie Deadpool starring Ryan Reynolds. The last memorable movie I saw Ryan star in was Van Wilder, way back in 2002 (14 years ago!).
Van Wilder is a comedy/romance about a university student who comes to realise that he may be scared of graduating after being in school for the last seven years. I found the movie to be really funny, although at the time I would have been in my early 20’s and what I found funny back then may be classified as cringe comedy with some scenes being more disturbing than funny (You have been warned).
In the movie Van had an assistant who he mentors named Taj. Taj would follow Van around campus and every time Van would utter some words of wisdom he would point to Taj and say ‘Write that down’.
Reasons to write
When I first heard Van repeatedly say that line, I assumed the act of writing would aid in remembering those words of wisdom. But now that I am in the habit of consistently writing both personally and professionally (as a Business Analyst) I can definitively say there is so much more to gained from writing than just being an aid to recall information.
Below I have adduce all of the reasons, benefits and states of writing. Keep in mind that they are not necessarily done in this order. In fact I don’t believe there is a ‘correct’ order at all.
Just like the mind, when you write freely you may go from one state (e.g. reflection) to another (redefining an experience) only to return back to the first state. Hopefully this will all make sense to you by the time you finish reading. Let’s begin.
Writing allows you to reflect upon your thoughts and actions. Your thoughts and actions make up your experiences that you have had in your life. Writing gives you a tool to make your actions more purposeful.
Redefining or reinforcing experience
Writing enables you to redefine or reinforce what your experiences mean to you. Positive experience should be reinforced, negative and unpleasant experiences can be redefined. Your life experiences make up your identity.
The sum of all your experiences make up your identity. Your identity defines:
- your beliefs
- what you think you are capable of
- the bearings on your moral compass
- how you judge what is good, right and fair and
- how you act and react within your life situation.
Who you are
To piggyback off my last point, knowing how to act and react to life situations stems from your interpretation of past or similar experiences in your life. Just scheduling the time to think independently allows you to clarify your own thoughts.
Clarifying and understanding your own thoughts and biases is an important precursor to all good decisions making. Examining decisions helps you to understand where you are today and what decisions need to be made to:
- obtain a certain life style or
- pursue a future endeavor.
Having the right reasons ultimately give you confidence because by this time you have a clear and deep understanding upon the ‘why’. With having the right reasons you can take the steps to move forward in your thinking, decision-making and actions.
Making sense of all it
As I mention earlier there is no sequential order to follow. But as you write you will undoubtedly go through one or more of these stages. As an example:
your thoughts –> finding reasons –> understanding past actions
reflection –> on experiences –> creates identity –> determines who you are –> creates future actions
Still waters run deep
Each stage will serve you and will slowly transform you into a more grounded person, someone who is not easily shaken and someone who truly grows wiser with every experience that they go through.
Where to start
Start by examining how you write at work, appreciate how the simple act of jotting down a to do list keeps you focus. How saying thank you in a reply email shows your character or how adding a smiley face emanates warmth. If your job involves problem solving, try writing out the problem before figuring out a solution.
Back to Van Wilder..
Whatever you are thinking, whatever you feeling, whatever hopes and dreams you may have of the future, a life worth living is worth recording. So in the words of Van Wilder ‘Write that down…’