Tag: Love Letters

The Wake We Leave

As we go through life, we leave a wake behind us in the results we produced and the lives we touched. I first heard this concept during a conference with Henry Cloud, and it has left its mark on me. Depending on your attitude about yourself, you may imagine your wake to be entirely positive, or entirely negative. In reality, it is probably a mixture of both.

In my opinion, the wake we leave with people is more important, and more lasting, than the wake we leave in tasks or results. Rarely do we remember people who delivered a particular project on time and how that changed our lives. Although I think working hard to deliver results is key to our success and fulfillment, changing lives is much more satisfying to me. The challenge is that it is very hard to know when you have done it.

Love Letter

I discussed that problem a bit in my post about being Defeated. In that post, I also mentioned keeping a file of “love letters” to help you remember you are doing a good job. I got one of those letters today, and it made my day.

Hi Dave
I recently transferred to [city] as the Training Team Lead directing a small team of 4 individuals to develop and design training programs and curriculum for operations and maintenance for [Company]. It is a very exciting time in my career development and I really feel our team will make an positive impact on the development of personnel. I’m not sure that this would have been possible without the interaction with RMG and in particular yourself. I felt I learned much from you in the short time we worked together on the incident management process. Hope everything is well with you and your family and thanks again for the part you played in my personal development.

We could talk all day about how to improve the wake we leave. However, this post is really about letting people know you benefitted from their wake.

Your Next Move

Have you been affected by someone in an amazing way? Write them a quick note and let them know. You will make their day, and improve your wake at the same time.

Defeated? Keep Moving

Never Give up

When I was a much younger man, I played soccer. I started when I was six and my Dad coached the team. At that age, I am not sure we should call it “soccer” as much as “22 person amoeba crawling in the grass with no discernible purpose” but that takes too long to say. One of the first lessons I learned was to “play to the whistle”. In soccer terms it means keep playing until the ref stops you, regardless of what happens. If you think you have been fouled, keep playing. If you think the ball is out, keep playing. Over the 15 years I actively played, I remember winning several goals, and several games, because I kept playing. Now in life there are many times I think the play is over, and I have to keep playing.

Why we feel defeated

In real life we feel discouraged from time to time. I get discouraged when I make mistakes I think are unrecoverable, usually pertaining to hurting someone’s feelings. I get discouraged when I feel like my goals are unachievable. Now, I don’t need the goals to be easy, just possible. I get the most discouraged, even to the point of feeling defeated, when I realize, “I have no value here”. Maybe I think I have skills or insight, but those are not recognized. Maybe the landscape has changed so much I am out of date and irrelevant. Maybe I have failed to nurture the relationships required to have any credibility or influence here. When those happen, I am tempted to give up.

How to keep moving

Although there are times we are all discouraged and even defeated, we hope that is not a lifestyle. If it is, then you may require a larger change. Consider changing your situation (new job, new location, new community, etc.) or asking for help. When your discouragement declines into depression, counseling is a wonderful outlet to sort out the malaise. In regular times, though, here are some ideas on how to keep moving.

  • Stay in the game. We just finished the World Cup recently and I was amazed how many of the goals I watched were not made on the first shot, or even the second. Sometimes just a few more seconds of play can make the difference. For us, that means show up to work. Go to that meeting. Come home for dinner. Even if you don’t care or don’t want to go, there may be just a few more seconds of play before you get that shot at a goal.
  • Do something useful. Structured Procrastination is your friend. We all have that list of stuff we thought was a good idea at the time, but have been too busy to get to. Go do something on that list, regardless of how important it is. Maybe that means you clean out a file drawer, or sew that button on your old shirt. In my experience, doing something – anything – useful gets me back in gear to do the important stuff.
  • Share your hurt. Go cry on a friend’s shoulder. Get a beer together and talk about everything wrong with the world and your life. Grab a coffee and complain about your boss, or your marriage. Put time on the calendar, with someone else, and release all that pent up fear and frustration with no expectation of a solution. This is not a lifestyle choice, just an event with a friend who can tolerate you for an hour while you spout all the stuff you can’t say in your professional environment.
  • Read your love letters. Go through your file of love letters from past friends, colleagues, and clients. These are all the quick notes you have received in your career saying, “you are awesome”. Reading through some of these is encouraging and a reminder that you really have value in this world. What? You don’t have such a file? Go build it.

These are four easy activities to keep your head above water and get you moving again. Once you are moving, then let God direct your steps. In my own life, I have found great direction when I am in motion and very little guidance when I am stuck and stationary.

Your Next Move

If you are feeling discouraged or defeated today, refer to this list and pick one. Whichever one you chose, comment on whether it helped or not. If today you are feeling pretty good, then build the infrastructure to do those things – build an action item list of things you might want to do someday, nurture a relationship you can call on, and start your file of love letters. Trust me, build the file. Start today.

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