Last year at the State Fair I saw a vendor selling rocks. These weren’t just any rocks. You could heat them up, put them in a blanket and they would keep you warm. They glowed a gentle red when heated and retained their temperature for a long time. The banner above the rocks read:
Experience the Life Changing Warmth
‘Life Changing’ has become a common phrase to describe so many things. That movie was life changing. Our trip changed my life. It seems we’ve taken a fairly extraordinary description and used it so frequently that it can now be used to describe something as mundane as hot rocks. Like ‘awesome’, ‘radical’ or ‘unbelievable,’ ‘Life changing’ has become just another exclamation of the marginally beneficial but unusual experience.
It’s unfortunate. We lose something when we use our most vibrant, descriptive, and extreme words to explain the average. We lose the ability to speak honestly about our experiences. A death in the family is life changing. A major career move from one state to another is life changing. Getting married, having children, landing just the right business deal, discovering you’re adopted, deciding to adopt – these are life changing experiences.
There are, however, four questions that lead to genuinely life changing results. These four questions don’t simply influence how things change, they are the standard by which we evaluate succes. They prescribe our culture, define our choices, and explain the unique characteristics that set us apart from everyone else. The speed and reach of your success are directly rated to how you answer these four questions.
What do you talk about?
Words matter. Like a programming language, words determine the thoughts we think. For example, in English we have one word for ‘love.’ I love my wife. I also love ice cream. In Greek there are four different words for ‘love.’ Because the language is more descriptive the meaning I intend can be more precisely expressed. Finding and using the right words, in the right way at the right time, changes everything. Do you want a better culture in your business? Find better words. Do you want a better outcome from your team? Inspire them with well chosen words. Do you want to know what people care about, engage better with clients and become the solution to their problem or the one who empowers their dreams? Listen to what they talk about, then use those words to connect and influence. Words explain our choices and influence our thoughts and actions. Listen well and choose the right words.
What do you do?
The choices we make demonstrate what we believe. Everything else is just talk. Words may explain our intent, but actions define what we really value. What habits and practices do you or your business repeat everyday without much thought or effort? How do you react in stressful situations? How do you respond to success? If you want the outcome to be different, make a different choice. If you want your world to change, do something you’ve not done before. The subtle answers to this question explain success and failure. They influence attitude and set the course for the future. You are where you are today because of the choices you made yesterday. Tomorrow’s destination is determined by the decisions you make today. This isn’t a skills statement, it’s a practical one – Know what you’re doing, and why.
What do you correct?
Practice is the systematic process of overcoming a series of small failures and reinforcing right choices. How do you practice? What words, attitudes and actions will you correct? Is there something that pushes your buttons to the point of breaking? Like Popeye the Sailor Man, what causes you to “Have all you can stands and you can’t stands no more!” That discontent leads you and influences others. What you correct defines how you play the game. “Offsides!” isn’t a call you’ll hear from an umpire. No one will shout “home run!” during March Madness. The meaning and method of your correction sets the limits of what is acceptable. Correction can empower and strengthen or diminish and destroy. Use it wisely.
What do you celebrate?
The old cliche’ says, “What gets measured is what gets done.” But that’s not the whole truth. What we celebrate is what gets done. Why do children dream of becoming star athletes instead of multi-billion dollar corporate leaders or not-for-profit cultural engineers? We celebrate world-class athletes. Today, Little League is a multimillion dollar industry. In your workplace, how do you define the win and how do you celebrate your victories? The way we celebrate tells the story of what we value most. If correction defines the limits of the game we play, celebration sets the standard for what it means to be a champion.
Take time to apply these four questions to yourself, your family, your coworkers, clients, colleagues, and career. Your answers will reveal where you are and set the course for your next life changing step.
I have an idea for something to sell at the State Fair – A Bacon Wrapped Tootsie Roll Deep Fried on a Stick. I have no doubt it would sell. It may not rise to the level of life changing hot rocks, but I’m certain many would find themselves moved by the experience.