I’ve discovered that change is a shape shifter. Let me explain.
At the end of March 2003 we had Tom Antion, a guru on internet marketing, run a workshop for the New Zealand National Speakers Association, travelling down from his home in the USA. I’d attended two of his Butt Camps in the States over the previous three years, before we managed to lure him down to our lovely country.
To cut a long story short, as Tom and I sat over lunch a few days before his workshop, enjoying the sunshine of the Auckland Viaduct basin (where only a few weeks prior the America’s Cup crowd had buzzed), Tom threw down a very appropriate gauntlet – politely, and with a smile!
I’d just finished telling him I’d wait until my term as President of New Zealand’s National Speakers Association was finished before I’d get stuck seriously into my e-commerce business. As well as the National Speakers’ voluntary position, I was very busy with speaking and training, writing another two books and all the normal family living that goes with our large family (husband, six kids and partners, plus four grandkids at the time).
‘Robyn, do you mind if I say it as I see it?‘
I like forthright people, so wondering what was coming, said ‘Sure’.
‘You’re mucking around. You’ve been listening to me for nearly three years, and although you’ve achieved a bit with your web business, there’s a heck of a lot more to do. In the same time you know how much my business has grown. Time never comes again, and you KNOW that. If you don’t move on with your next steps NOW, while you’re fresh with enthusiasm, you’ll kick yourself later when you realise how much business you’ve missed. You’re the time management specialist – I shouldn’t have to spell this out to you! Stop talking about it, and thinking about it, and get started – NOW – not in another four months.‘
Well, that was straight from the hip! And it was a great call….
I often recommend people find an ‘unreasonable’ friend to keep them honest when they want to make habit changes, and here was I being delivered one with lunch!
I took up the challenge, and the next four months flew by. In the process I seriously stretched the borders of my internet, web and computer skills.
In that time we got international real-time processing for online orders instead of having to manage it manually, learnt enough Dreamweaver to update our own website, created and went live on a new website for our exciting goal-setting and life-balance tool Getting A Grip On Life Goals Toolkit , got a new and very sophisticated web shopping cart recommended by Tom, sorted out some challenges with our new list management service, upgraded to a new computer, with the obligatory tweaking that entails (I’d worn the old one out!), and more.
You may wonder why I would want to learn some of these things: surely it’s better to stick to your knitting and let specialists do the specialist stuff? The bigger question is what is your current or future business model? If learning a new skill will help you be quicker and more cost-effective in the long term, then invest the time.
I’d already chosen to leverage my time with e-commerce, to make it a significant part of my business. Therefore, for me learning to manage these things was totally relevant. And here’s where the shape shifting comes in. When I stood at the fork in the road, looking at all the things I needed to do and learn, it seemed like a huge mountain in the way. Even whilst I battled with new ways of doing things, setting a day aside here and there, squeezing new learning in around all the other ‘stuff’, sneaking early-morning sessions into an already busy schedule, it still seemed like an almost insurmountable obstacle. Everything seemed complicated; everything seemed hard; everything seemed to take AGES!
But there comes a time when you’re comfortable with the new behaviour, the new information, the new processes. And then, you look back and hey presto, the mountain you saw from the fork in the road has become a very small foothill, once you’re standing on it. It’s shifted shape.
- What events, what new learnings, are you confronting right now?
- What seems like a mountain in your world?
Here’s the strategies I used: some may be helpful for you.
- Keep focused on the main target – when you doubt your sanity, step back and remember the reason you’re doing this.
- Chunk down the activities to the core issues: don’t get bogged down on unimportant peripherals that try to divert you into dead ends.
- Drop off anything you can that’s not absolutely critical.
- Put yourself into a position where you have to push through, even if you don’t want to – a good tool to overcome potential procrastination! It then becomes like having a baby – there’s only one way out!
- To avoid discouragement, keep a daily focus on what you have achieved, rather than what’s yet to be done.
New things are hard to do until they’re easy, and then you wonder what all the fuss was about. Expect that. Trouble was, I was trying to get my head around about four different major new technologies. Overwhelm was the result. If I allowed myself to feel frustrated I wasted even more time: when I accepted that it would take time and that it was ok to feel confused, it wasn’t as bad and each time it got easier.
Pressure will freeze your brain – for a while.
- Don’t try to learn something new when you haven’t got time to experiment.
- Don’t try to implement something new when you’re rushing out the door – Murphy’s Law WILL prevail, and unnecessary stress is the result.
- Find supportive people to help when you get stuck. Be prepared to pay them – they’ve invested their time in sweating it out too.
And take time at the end to savour your success.