This morning I was thinking about what I wanted to share with you that would be the most helpful in this New Year. I probably wrote several thousand words until they condensed into:
Please stay awake!
You may recall a central idea of Fierce conversations…
Our careers, our companies, our relationships, and indeed our very lives succeed or fail, gradually then suddenly, one conversation at a time.
Note this definition…
1. quickly and unexpectedly.
"the ambassador died suddenly"
synonyms: immediately, instantaneously, instantly, straightaway, all of a sudden, all at once, promptly, abruptly, swiftly
We all wake up when we arrive at a "suddenly," whether it's something to celebrate or something to bemoan but it's the antonym—gradually—where we live 90% of our lives, and where we are often asleep at the wheel.
The thing is, our graduallys add up and eventually, catch up to us. For good or bad. For example, we are currently witnessing the sudden, spectacular fall of many powerful men – Hollywood, broadcasting, CEOs, politicians - whose careers are ruined and whose spouses are departing. No "stand by your man" if your man is a serial sexual predator. Gradually, gradually, gradually—one offensive, unwanted comment or action at a time—these men arrived at "suddenly," and it's not pretty.
What I've noticed is that we usually pay attention to the positive outcomes we desire and behave in ways that will move us in that direction. We are awake, alert.We are on it.That promotion you received was not a miraculous event. You earned it, one job-well done-after another. You are aware of the many things you did over time to get where you are.
We are often less conscious of the graduallys that are pointing us toward a disastrous suddenly. One thing's for sure.When a negative suddenly arrives - we learn that our boss, co-workers or customers are unimpressed with our work or our spouse or partner reveals that they are deeply unhappy with the relationship - we are instantly wide awake. Now you've got our attention.
Some negative suddenlys can be remedied. A health diagnosis, job performance, a struggling relationship. Others can't. The loss of a key customer, a valued employee, a termination, a divorce. Once we reflect on the path that led us to a disappointing or difficult point and place in time, we remember, often in vivid detail, the conversations that set things in motion, ensuring that they would end up exactly where they found themselves. We lost that customer, that employee, that job, that marriage, even our own health gradually then suddenly, one failed or missing conversation at a time.In fact, it was often the missing conversations for which we have paid the greatest price, the conversations we avoided for days, weeks, months, even years that caused the most devastation.
In the world of business, what I know for sure is that what gets talked about in a company, how it gets talked about and who is invited to the conversation determines what will happen. And what won't happen.And it's the same for our personal relationships, including our relationships with ourselves. We are either having the conversations that are moving us towards positive suddenlys or we are failing to have them and our halls are full of mokitas, the Papua New Guinea word for that which everyone knows and no one speaks of. What was the Weinstein Company pretending not to know?
Imagine you are standing on a game board—the game of life. Your life. How did you arrive at this square on the board, with all of your current results—professional and personal—spread out in front of you, some you like and some you don't? You arrived here one conversation at a time. And when you project yourself into an ideal future, how will you get from here to there? Same way you got here. One conversation at a time.
My wish for you and for myself in 2018 is that we will enjoy many positive suddenlys. Our careers will thrive, we will celebrate another happy year of a relationship, we will feel beautiful and strong in our bodies. This requires that we have the conversations central to our success and happiness and that we stay awake through the 90% of our lives known as "gradually."
I leave you with the poem that has been on my refrigerator door for 20 years.
- Robert Francis
Keep me from going to sleep too soon
Or if I go to sleep too soon
Come wake me up. Come any hour
Of night. Come whistling up the road.
Stomp on the porch. Bang on the door.
Make me get out of bed and come
And let you in and light a light.
Tell me the Northern Lights are on
And make me look. Or tell me clouds
Are doing something to the moon
They never did before, and show me.
See that I see. Talk to me till
I'm half as wide-awake as you
And start to dress wondering why
I ever went to bed at all.
Tell me the walking is superb.
Not only tell me but persuade me.
You know I'm not too hard persuaded.
With fierce affection,