I’ve always enjoyed reading, and I’ve become a better reader thanks to my book club. Armed with their encouragement and suggestions, I read a larger array of genres. I’ve also learned that I like to listen to audible books checked out through the library, a habit that recently led me to listen to Matthew McConaughey’s book, Greenlights.
It was okay, maybe even good. I listened to the book at normal speed the entire time, which is telling. That’s usually how I start an audiobook, but not how I end it. I either speed it up, wanting it to end soon or slow the tempo, wanting to bask in a text’s poetic beauty.
Still, let’s face it, it wasn’t a bad deal to have Matthew talk to me during drive time. Memoirs are not my favorite genre but I have found that I don’t get bored if it doesn’t follow a chronological order of the person’s life but tells stories centered around themes.
But the part of the book that sticks with me is when McConaughey shared this observation: “If you know how, and when, to deal with life’s challenges – how to get relative with the inevitable – you can enjoy a state of success I call ‘catching greenlights.’”
My days are filled with communication distractions. Like many of you, I’m bombarded by messages via email, text, and phone. Even spoken conversations are often focused on a quick exchange of information before moving on to the next scheduled thing.
These experiences have motivated me to dig deeper for a better way of engaging with others: In a world full of noise, how do we invite meaningful conversations, the conversations that matter? And the follow-up question: Why are these types of conversations important? For human connection? For getting things done? For leading through social complexity?
I think the answers to the latter is yes, yes, and yes.
I often struggle to know whether to say “yes” or “no” to a new experience. Even armed with details and expectations, I never truly know whether something will turn into an opportunity or an obligation.
In addition, I value clarity and purpose. When expectations are vague, I hesitate.
And yet, sometimes ignoring the small voice in the back of my head that says “no” leads to valuable and meaningful connections. Sometimes my curiosity wins and I’m learning to pay attention.
I hate puzzles.
Maybe it’s because I’ve always been frustrated by them.
I remember once, as a child, trying to finish the puzzle of a hot air balloon. It was beautiful: a brilliant blue sky and the balloon was distinguished with bright colors of the rainbow. But it took forever to complete. The puzzle sat on the dining room table and I heard my mom tell more than one guest that they needed to place a piece before they left.
I might have passed on my dislike of puzzles to my kids. One Christmas, I had a photo of the two of them turned into a puzzle. The pieces sat in a box for nearly two years before I made myself put it together. The puzzle wasn’t complicated; it was 25 pieces. But it wasn’t easy and certainly not fun. I threw it away.
During the pandemic, I watched friends on Facebook safely exchange puzzles as their families used time together to puzzle (is puzzle even a verb?!). Yuck. Not me. Not my family.
And yet, I solve puzzles at work all the time. Every time I piece together details of an event or a project, it’s a puzzle. Only recently did I figure out the difference.
You’ve probably heard the Chinese proverb: A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. Another way to think about it: all big and complex things start with a simple step forward.
In many situations, however, that first step might not be so simple.
You likely have your own personal list of to-dos that have been gnawing at you for what seems like forever. For whatever reason, you keep procrastinating and pushing them to the back burner.
That tendency is multiplied when you consider projects that require a team or collaborative approach. Maybe you have a list of projects that you want finished, but you never seem to have the time, energy, or organization to move them forward.
At Reach Partners we’ve seen projects fail to launch or stall because a successful start was an obstacle. Starting is harder than it looks.
We at Reach Partners are big Priya Parker fans. We devoured her book “The Art of Gathering” and even attended an event curated by her.
So when Parker penned an opinion column that ran in The New York Time before Thanksgiving, we paid attention. Titled “Abandon Your Thanksgiving Script,” the column addressed the need to think differently about holiday traditions during a year when nothing has been normal.
Parker challenged her readers to think imaginatively: “That begins with shifting our attitudes from fighting the current constraints to taking inspiration from them.”
As someone who studies and designs gatherings, she most often sees two responses to constraints on gathering: cancellation and rebellion. She encourages a third option: improv.
We’ve seen this play out in our own work and experiences over the last year.
Whenever we plan an event, an in-depth meeting, a social gathering, or virtual experience Reach Partners will always argue for the same thing. Every time.
This thing is the most important detail for every planned interaction. It is the life blood of our work and what drives us to do better every day. Most importantly it’s the power, the energy that fuels the work at hand.
How do you tap into this energy? How do you make it work for you? Draw the right audience? Craft the right marketing activities? Align stakeholders? Create value?
You start by defining purpose.
Project managers are good at risk management.
One of the things we do is identify what we can’t control and then find solutions or actions to mitigate these things. Typically, this means we’re thinking through things like potentially bad weather affecting an outdoor event or how to contain a protester at a women’s event.
These types of risk management plans are appropriate, necessary, and responsible.
And then along came the coronavirus pandemic. We’re not going to lie – this challenges even those of us who spend a lot of time identifying and planning for risks.
A new year – and possibly a new decade?! – will be here before we know it.
As we celebrate Christmas and New Year's with our family and friends, we also will spend some time reflecting on all that happened in 2019 and all we dream of for 2020.
No year is perfect. Frustrations and disappointments often walk hand-in-hand with beauty and exhilaration. Tears and laughter become close neighbors.
And yet, each new year stretches with the promise of possibility. Below are some of the possibilities we discovered in 2019. May you find your own in 2020.
Here’s your challenge for the month: Take on the difficult project that nobody else wants to do.
Or volunteer to handle the assignment that has been kicked back-and-forth between team members and do it with gusto.
Whoa … what?!
That’s right. Next time someone makes a request that nobody else wants to take on, make eye contact with the person and say, “yes.” Become the go-to person who solves problems and has an enthusiastic attitude.
Here’s how you can be the hero when facing a tough project: