Chris Brogan‘s latest weekly newsletter was around the subject of choice. You can read it over on his site, too, if you like. In it, he talks about the importance of remembering that you have a choice, and that a negative impulse ‘in the moment’ can lead you away from the path you want to be on.
I wholeheartedly agree with Chris’ sentiment. I also think we can go a step further and apply this beyond a single moment. We can ask, “What choices did we make that led us here, now?” because the most powerful thing you can do when something goes wrong is to look back and ask yourself what choices you made that led things to go wrong.
“I was late because the bus was really slow today.” Well, did you leave enough time in case the bus was slow?
I remember, whenever I was a child and my mum took me to the train station for an important trip, we’d always leave about 40 mins before the train was due to arrive. I never liked it it was a 10 minute drive so this it meant I had to stop whatever I was doing earlier than I needed to. Still, we’d leave early every time. She explained to me that she was leaving enough time to walk there if our aging and somewhat unreliable car wouldn’t start. This is one of those silly little things that stuck with throughout the years. I apply that lesson all the time nowadays… and I’m rarely late.
Your project is behind schedule because approvals took a long time? OK, were we realistic about those timelines? Did we brief the client properly so they knew how long bit might take? Did we make sure we let them know how long they had? What could we choose to do differently next time?
So when someone points the finger at things out of their control, I think back to that lesson. “Did you do everything in your control to prevent that from happening?” I ask the question of myself and I ask it of my team at work, all the time. Not because we need to assign blame, but so we can get better an improve next time. Another important lesson: blame takes us backward; lessons take us forward.
Asking the question about our choices lets us learn those lessons.
(Side note: I receive a lot of emails — somewhere in the region of 200-300 on an average day. Chris’ newsletter is one that I find time to read — every week. You should too. It’s interesting, friendly, easy to read and it makes me think. Plus, Chris is a nice guy and I want to know what he’s up to.)
(Image: Flickr, via CrazyFast)