My mother grew up on an Oklahoma sharecropper’s farm during the dustbowl and great depression. The residual from that upbringing, plus side-effects from a stroke in her later years, left my mother with some quirks. In particular, she tended to horde things way past their “sell-by” dates. It was no great surprise to me when, during Sunday lunch at my mom’s house, my high-school-age daughter quietly pointed out to me that the Mayonnaise-style salad dressing was three years past the expiration date. My family still laughs when we revisit that episode.
Outdated Leadership Techniques
Lee Ramsay, a friend with Sealed Air Corporation, recently introduced me to a book that highlights a similar issue with leadership capabilities. “Flight of the Buffalo” by James A. Belasco and Ralph C. Stayer was originally published back in the 1990’s with a few updates since then. The questions it poses, however, are timeless. At one point, co-author Ralph Stayer, then CEO of Johnsonville Sausage, admits that the business strategies which made him successful to that point, had outlived their usefulness. Sound familiar?
Unlike many who see their success as proof of their superiority, Stayer addressed his own shortcomings. He asked, “What do I have to learn to lead in this new age?” His answer was, “Learn the new paradigm today — and get ready to learn a whole new one tomorrow.” That begs the question, “What techniques and methods are you and I still relying on because they made us successful up to this point, when in fact, we’ve entered a whole new realm of millennials, diversity-equity-inclusion, and post-COVID apathy?” Some of our default techniques are far more than three years past their expiration dates.
The concept of ”Outdated Information” not only applies to business processes, it rules with an equally iron fist in our personal lives. I once mentioned to a co-worker that I was a student of the Bible. His emphatic reply was that the Bible is nothing but a bunch of old myths and superstition. Due to the emotional intensity of his response, I asked why he was so certain, and he replied that he’d attended Sunday School every week until he was twelve years old. So, here was a forty-year-old man staking his entire adult worldview on his adolescent intellect, amplified by some sort of bad experience. That’s not as preposterous or rare as it sounds.
In his book, “The Power of Neuroplasticity,” Dr. Shad Helmstetter points out that from the moment of birth, we’ve each got an input port that absorbs everything we’re told – from the encouragement of our (hopefully) loving parents to the less than helpful comments of our competitive siblings, to the pure dissonance of television and social media. Everything we hear – positive or negative – creates filters in our brains that categorize and reroute future input. When we’re younger, with fewer filters, we openly accept a lot more of the erroneous input. That, in turn, leads to skewed values which impact every decision we make and every additional filter we create from that time forward (without us ever even realizing what’s happening inside our skulls).
Near the end of his book, Helmstetter provides some powerful methods for taking charge of our brains, rerouting the neural pathways, and literally altering the way we think. Likewise, Shawn Achor, in his books, “The Happiness Advantage” and “Big Potential”, documents numerous scientific studies that validate much of what the positive-thinking gurus have been saying for years – “How we think, determines who we are. And if we want to improve who we are, the power lies within us to rewire the way we think.” Perhaps it’s time we discarded the outdated mental mayonnaise of our youth and began analyzing why we think the way we do.
Maybe there’s a pre-programmed filter in your head right now, telling you this is all pop-psychology and self-help gobbledygook. If that’s the case, then enlighten me, because you could well be right and I could be wrong. Read Helmstetter’s book or either of Achor’s books and then, let’s talk. I’ll even buy your lunch if it provides us an opportunity for honest, open discussion. The alternative is that we could both just go on making the same mistakes we’ve already programmed ourselves to make.
Let’s talk. Just hit the reply button and I’ll meet you for coffee or lunch. If you want to read “The Power of Neuroplasticity”, “The Happiness Advantage”, or “Big Potential” and just cannot find them, let me know. I have extra copies.
“A man never lies with more delicious languor under the influence of a passion than when he has persuaded himself that he shall subdue it tomorrow.”
― George Eliot
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Discipline and Destiny
– Ryan Holiday
Holiday is a great writer with an excellent topic. Listening to his book is like visiting with your grandfather and getting advice on what does and doesn’t work in life.