At birth, each and every one of us is endowed with the most powerful piece of equipment known to humankind: the brain!
Our brain comes to us free and clear. Often, things that are free are taken for granted. The brain is no exception.
With it, “the collective we” have built rocket ships, skyscrapers and computers. We have conquered major diseases and I know one day we will conquer cancer. All through effective use of the human mind.
It matters not the size of the brain. In one of Earl Nightingale’s programs we learn that the largest brain ever recorded was that of an idiot and the smallest was that of a genius.
So, why are there “so few” who truly fulfill their dreams? By and large, we don’t THINK.
Getting up in the morning to an alarm, brushing one’s teeth, grabbing a cup of coffee, driving to work takes NO thinking. How many times have we arrived at our job and said “Man, I don’t remember the drive! How did I get here?” We were on auto-pilot.
Then, while at work we “go through the motions” until the 5 o’clock bell rings and head home, only to go through the same process again the following day. While we may be doing what it takes to earn a paycheck, there is so much more…
This whole “THINKING” thing really hit home for me back in the early 90’s. I was working for a cellular telephone company in Atlanta, GA. I led an IT team responsible for maintaining and enhancing the core business application we used to manage customer subscriptions, credit, invoicing, collections and customer care.
The firm engaged “the guru” who knew how to make the operating system, that our cellular management information system was running on, hum. Because we were growing so fast the application wasn’t keeping up performance-wise, so we needed to do some major tuning. Time was of the essence!
This guru (which he definitely was) really knew his stuff! He made a number of recommendations which we implemented with great success. However, he also made a set of “foundational recommendations” that were pretty far sweeping (and high risk). I was placed in the role of evaluating the potential risk and impact of implementing these changes. I thought: “What, me, a lowly team leader, up against “the guru” of the operating system?” I was a “little” stressed, to say the least.
But, I got started…The first thing I did was draw a diagram of the application landscape (all the moving parts) on my whiteboard. I “was” the expert on this. I had been in just about every nook and cranny of this application, broke a few things myself and fixed way more (which is why I was still in the role 🙂 ).
Then, each morning before others arrived at work and in the evening after everyone left I would sit, stare at that diagram and THINK. I would ask myself: “What would his [the guru’s] recommendation mean here, and here, and here?” This went on for several days. And, the outcome was nothing short of amazing. I could not believe the number of epiphanies that I had. While I certainly was no match for “the guru’s” knowledge of the operating system, I was able to identify numerous issues and risks that would have brought this mission critical application to its knees.
Now, frequent readers of this blog know that I am a person that looks for ways to “make things happen.” In this case, the thing I was asked to “make happen” was ensuring our core application survived the guru.
After gathering and organizing all my notes I was asked to present my findings to the CIO, COO and several others, including “the guru.” In summary, the “foundational recommendations” were nixed. We achieved the necessary performance improvements via other means.
This experience taught me a valuable lesson that I try to impart to others when they say something like “But I don’t know how to do this.” My response is: “If you DID know how to do this, what would you do first, second, etc.” Initially, they look at me like I have 2 heads.
The point: I’m NOT going to tell them how to do something until they’ve at least demonstrated that they’ve tried to THINK about how they might do it. Once they’ve done that they can share their thoughts and ideas with me at which time I can provide guidance.
Too often people either decide not to do something, because they’ve never done it before, or they ask someone else how before sitting down and firing up their thinking apparatus.
Give this a try. The next time you are confused, unsure of a situation or assignment, or just plain stressed, sit down with a piece of paper. Write out the problem being faced and then THINK. What is the true problem? What are the possible outcomes (good and bad)? What are steps that I can take to address this? Turn it over and over in your mind, writing down the ideas that come up. You will be amazed at just how much you really do know.
Then, organize your thoughts and ideas into a plan of action.
If it is high risk and/or highly complex now would be time to run your thoughts and ideas by someone else (preferably a trusted advisor, someone who has faced similar challenges in the past). Then act! Remember, as long as your ideas are “directionally correct” you are on your way. Monitor your progress. If you get off track a bit, simply adjust as you go.
As we do this process over and over again we soon realize just how powerful our minds are — WHEN WE ACTUALLY THINK!