I received a number of emails last week from people who indeed felt stuck. This blog is for them, and for all of you who were too stuck to email in. I’ll explore getting unstuck over the next bunch of blogs and see if we can get something, well, unstuck.
Stuck is a great word that we don’t use enough. Stuck sounds like exactly what it is. Being stuck means that whatever you are referring to isn’t working. It’s stuck.
Some things start stuck, and curiously these are the easiest things to get unstuck. They were never working in the first place, so nobody is holding out hope that it might start working again on its own. It’s easier to see what you have to do when you don’t have to convince yourself to stop doing something else.
The stickiest stucks are those that were working but are not any longer. These stucks tend to stay that way and even get more stuck because the idea of changing – strategy, or your market – is really scary. The Lizard goes into overdrive.
The opposite of stuck is ship.
Shipping means getting it done and out the door. My friend and business partner Tom Frisby is the love child of UPS and FEDEX. Nobody ships like Tom. When either of those companies have a meeting, item one on the agenda is: “How do we ship like Tom Edward Frisby?”
What Tom taught me early is that the biggest obstacle to people shipping is a lack of focus. You need to be relentless about shutting out distractions so that you can focus on what needs to be done. When you do this, when you focus your efforts and energy on the things that matter and cut out the crazy (stalling and distraction and hiding) then amazing, measurable things will happen.
Some ideas you have are just distractions, like great ideas that don’t make sense to your business. Tom and I reserve a special time each week to talk about ideas. We call these sessions “blue sky meetings” where we thrash and share all the ideas we have – some of them become things we do – but a lot of them get aired and shared and shelved.
It may not seem like much, but delegating a specific time to talk about ideas limits the danger of ideas becoming distractions.
What separates your present stuck self from your future shipping self?
As regular readers know, the Lizard is that little voice in the back of your head that tells you that “it” will never work, and it doesn’t care what it is. The Lizard tells you to sit on good ideas, and it makes you worry that if you share your idea you’ll look like a fool.
The Lizard loves committees and it hates deadlines. The Lizard stokes fear and uncertainty and it works tirelessly to keep you from being noticed. The Lizard is hard-wired into you through your amygdala. When you feel uncomfortable, the amygdala (the Lizard) will shut you down.
The Lizard finds excuses, it suggests you “start next week when you’re fresh” or it tells you not to call until tomorrow because “people are really busy after lunch.” The Lizard makes everything remarkably complicated (or it over-simplifies so much that you fail).
The sneakiest move of the Lizard is to give you an even better idea just before you finish the current one. The Lizard will do anything to prevent you from shipping.
Why does my tiny little company get so much more out the door than a big company? Because big companies are cumbersome enterprises with too much management, too many committees, too many people who might think they are helping but they aren’t, they’re just enablers of the status quo. These people see change as potential catastrophic failure. Before they make a change, they need to be assured nothing will go wrong.
As a consequence, instead of making great changes that lead to important innovations (all very scary ideas) like completely rethinking the retail business model before it’s all over, committees instead suggest half measures or suggestions that don’t get anyone’s Lizard all aroused. “Let’s not scrap it and start over, let’s do this (nothing much) instead.” Which means average. Average is a fail.
The Lizard makes you do things that feel safer.
You don’t defeat the Lizard by reading about it. You kill the Lizard when you change your attitude and the purpose of your work. Call the Lizard by name (as my friends now do) and recognize it for what it is – the single greatest threat to your future happiness and security.
You have to kill it, with fire, before it lays eggs.
Change the purpose of your work. If you feel stuck, it’s probably because what your work is about, the reason for it, doesn’t even excite you. Nobody is interested in hearing about it, and you feel the same way.
You need to come up with something else. Something so important that it is worth the death match fight with your Lizard, something that is going to capture the imagination and attention of the people you want to work with.
I left sales training behind and moved right to The Serious Shift and haven’t seen the Lizard in years.