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3 min read

Overcoming 'Gravity' in the Workplace

2/4/20 6:55 AM

As I speak to customers and employees about their daily struggles, I have come to better understand the challenges that all of us face on a regular basis. There are many things in this world that hold us back, keep us from converting our potential energy to kinetic energy, moving from opportunity to accomplishment. I have come to call these things 'Gravity', as they are holding us in place and keeping us from breaking free to accomplish the big goals in our universe. Keep us from getting off the ground and heading for the stars. Gravity kills inertia and inhibits progress. It drags us down instead of lifting us up.

 

Based on my observations of our company and the feedback I have received from our customers I have come to some conclusions which are well summarized by a couple of poignant quotes. The first is:

 

"Foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds."   ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

Nothing holds us back more than an inability to recognize our weaknesses, understand how to correct them, and take the necessary steps to aggressively insure that they are forever left behind. Too often we (and our customers) have a broken process or partnership and we don't do anything about it. We know intuitively that something is wrong, but we keep doing it anyway because it is easier than trying to change. We are foolishly consistent in following the patterns of the past, whether they be the way we implement software, interact with customers and prospects, solve technical challenges, or communicate with those around us. We do the same things day after day and are surprised when we don't get a different result.

 

We often fail to expand our minds and embrace our potential and that of our co-workers, customers, friends, and family members because we only know how to do things one way. We are held down by our inability to adapt and change, even when we know there is a better way. Our small minds are overcome by fear - fear of the unknown, fear of being vulnerable, fear of being seen as a failure. Instead of understanding and taking ownership of our shortcomings, we press on in the same way, day after day, hoping no one figures out that we are flawed, and in doing so, we are held down by an invisible force of our own making. We have generated our own gravity that keeps us from being the best we can be. We all have limitations, but those limitations are more often than not self-imposed because we are comfortable doing things the way that we always have. We just can't seem to get out of our own way.

 

"We have met the enemy and he is us."     ~ Walt Kelly

 

In addition to fear, there is another variable in our gravitational equation. It is our own arrogance and sense of self-worth. We all believe we are capable and excellent at everything we do. We get insecure when we don't know things or if we make mistakes. We consider it a sign of weakness to ask for help or to admit we are lacking in areas in which we are supposed to be proficient. We launch ourselves down a path of poor decisions which leads to extra effort, stress, and unhappiness. Instead of reaching out for a hand up or graciously accepting feedback or assistance, we let ourselves stay earth-bound for far too long. We miss out on the joy of breaking free from gravity to reach the stars because we are too proud to admit we are not perfect. We end up stuck on the ground by ourselves, mired down by our inability to recognize that our problem is not that we are not successful, it is that we have defined success incorrectly. Our success and self-worth are not derived by doing something ourselves. Our success comes from employing the talents of everyone around us to go to places that we are incapable of reaching on our own.

 

You might be tempted to read this and think that you see this in those around you, but it doesn't apply to you. If you find yourself in this situation, re-read the first quote. We have all created our own gravity out of fear and ego. We will forever be stuck in low-earth orbit unless we seek out the assistance of others and endeavor to use all of the resources available to us to achieve our goals. There will be days when gravity is strong. Those are the days that is it most important to get out of our own way. Do things differently. Ask for help. Accept and incorporate feedback. Don't be defensive or stubborn. Listen, really listen, to what others are telling us. Our biggest failures will be when we succumb to fear and protect our egos. We can break the bonds of the Gravity we have created and reach amazing altitudes if we stop repeating the behaviors of the past and get out of our own way.

Richard Sellar

Written by Richard Sellar

President at Stellar One Consulting

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