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Sam Davidson's blog

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Posts tagged change
The Beauty of Human Resiliency

There's a great, redemptive article in this month's Fortune. It tells the story of Leigh Steinberg, upon whom the movie "Jerry Maguire" was (sort of) based. Steinberg was once on top of the sports world and then it all came crashing down, largely due to alcohol addiction.

What I love about the piece is that it doesn't end with Steinberg back on top, counting his millions. He's not allowed (yet) to be an agent again in the NFL. He owes creditors a lot of money. He must submit regular urine tests. His office and apartment are small.

But he's trying.

And this is the beauty of human resiliency. He is trying again.

He is bruised, but not crushed. He is still trying to get up.

We can each do this. The crescendo of our story is that we can keep moving forward, not that we always end up on top. The point isn't to win, although it's nice when it happens. The point is that we can keep playing as long as we can. 

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What's Your Lens?

Here's an interesting and short video about perspective (h/t: Kottke.org):

When you change your perspective, things can look very, very different. This is what empathy does for us. Just imagine how different our social, political, or economic conversations would be if we could take the position of the jump rope.

Part of what shapes our perspective, however, is our lens. Call it our upbringing, our background, our experience, our preferences - call it what you like. The truth of the matter is that each of us has a different lens through which we view the world. This lens then brings into focus what's important to each of us, thereby setting us out on a desired course.

Literal example: The lenses used by a microscope and a telescope are very different. Depending upon which lens you're using, an item will look very large and you'll notice fine details. Or, you'll see an object closer, something you couldn't really make out before. One will help you see a star better; the other will help you see a starfish better.

Application: Whether your lens is optimism, pessimism, hope, joy, skepticism, or pain (or any of thousands of other lenses), your view on the world will be different. Perhaps I'm not hopeful because I start businesses; I start businesses because I'm hopeful (in new ideas taking root, in the economy, in my ability to create something out of nothing).

Task: Through what lens do you see the world? When you encounter something new (an idea, a person, an opportunity, a news item), how do you respond? Is there a consistent reaction you have?

If you understand your lens, you'll then be able to align opportunities to meet goals and dreams you have. You'll know the right thing to look at in any situation and you'll respond appropriately. In short, you'll be able to navigate life if you know that you'd rather use periscopes than oscilloscopes.

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Finishing Well [Video post]

Starting things can be an exciting process; the newness, the frenzy, and the unpredictably is often intoxicating. But, finishing things is just as important. I think our legacy depends on it.

In the clip below, I share a story of why we need to finish well. The things you're working on right now matter more than you may realize.

Can't see the video? Click here.

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I Believe in Resurrection

On Sundays, when I write, I do so at length on some topic of religion, Christianity, Jesus stuff, or faith. Beware. I believe in resurrection.

I believe that hearts of stone can be resurrected into hearts of compassion.

I believe that communities of poverty can be resurrected into communities of prosperity.

I believe that hate can be resurrected into love.

I believe that despair can be resurrected into hope.

I believe that addiction can be resurrected into transformation.

I believe that broken homes can be resurrection into healthy families.

I believe that betrayal can be resurrected into trust.

I believe that failure can be resurrected into trying again.

I believe that brokenness can be resurrected into vigor.

I believe that anger can be resurrected into reason.

I believe that embarrassment can be resurrected into pride.

I believe that doubt can be resurrected into belief.

I believe that struggle can be resurrected into triumph.

I believe that regret can be resurrected into wisdom.

I believe that the dark night of the soul can be resurrected into the promise that only comes with the dawn.

I believe that the valleys of death's shadow can be resurrected into mountaintops of life's potential.

I believe that loneliness can be resurrected into community.

...

I believe that each of us is becoming something new and different than we were.

I believe that who we have been isn't who we're destined to always be.

I believe that the the temporary-ness of the present pales in comparison to the potential of the future.

I believe that things are not always as they seem.

...

I don't believe these things because some guy woke up in a tomb thousands of years ago. I believe these things because the story of God in Jesus captivates the best within all of us, forcing us to realize that if anything was possible then, anything has to be possible now.

Easter is about beginning again and the possibility that where we are today isn't where we will always be. You don't have to believe that a giant stone was rolled away once; but you do need to believe that whatever stone is blocking your fullest life now can be removed in an instant.

Resurrection isn't about resuscitation; it's about change.

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Turning Complaints Into Action

One of the 50 things I think people need to get rid of is complaints without action. Bitch and moan if you want to, but sooner or later you need to either get to doing something about your beef or you need to just stop talking and get on to doing something else. Lamenting incessantly wastes time and energy, both of which could be put to good use by righting the wrong or doing something more productive, like cleaning your house. My friend Indie, who was kicked out of the same church my wife and I left many years ago (mostly for the same reasons), has a fantastic post on her blog about standing up for what you believe in and how added responsibilities over the years have made her seemingly speak up less. She rightly recognizes that the root of action is concern and care, and without it, no change can take place.

Her last line is killer, and I think it properly organizes the worlds of cynicism and passion:

I wasn't ranting because I was cynical. I became cynical when I stopped ranting.

Indeed. People who complain aren't merely cynical. We all become cynical when we stop complaining or stop at complaining. The act of doing something - anything - shows a hope and an optimism that something is worth changing. Indie is right. We become cynical when we do nothing, not when we voice a concern.

The big trick (as I mentioned in 50 Things Your Life Doesn't Need) is to move beyond the complaining. The wheels of progress go nowhere if you're unwilling to do the hard work of pushing. I think this is why a lot of things don't change. Anyone can talk; few are ready to push.

Pushing will look different, based on the issue or desired outcome. Pushing to change legislation will require different action than pushing to boycott a product or change a company hiring practice. Pushing for better teachers demands different structures and skills than pushing for lower gas prices.

We need this push, those of us who care. We need to be pushed ourselves, even. We need the lure of better days to push us off our couches and out of our houses and away from our DVRs and into the streets and statehouses. We need someone to push us to be better and make all of us better.

Then, once pushed (by the care of someone else), we can then push against the system or push for justice or push open doors or possibility.

This is the beautiful spot where our complaints that move beyond action - to the push - become a self-fulfilling prophecy. When we act, so do other naysayers. The people who rant with us avoid cynicism, too, by doing something, even if it is pushing others towards forming a coalition of the willing and an alliance of the non-cynical.

Don't stop ranting. Don't stop acting. Do both, together, and watch the world change.

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The Speed of Change

The speed of business or the speed of life isn't any faster than it used to be. What's accelerated is the speed of change. Stuff is new and different faster than it used to be. And if we're not able to keep up, we'll get left behind. I've been watching a lot of Disney cartoons lately with my daughter. While Finding Nemo was on the other day, I was enchanted by the East Australian Current, that mass of water that ultimately lets Marlin and Dory get to where Nemo is. The current moves fast. Hopping in and out is dangerous. But, once you're in and adjust to the speed, you can go anywhere.

Businesses that succeed today don't just move fast, though. They change fast. They explore new ideas and products quickly. They fail rapidly, learn even more rapidly, and try again most rapidly of all. As Rupert Murdoch says:

The world is changing very fast. Big will not beat small anymore. It will be the fast beating the slow.

This is why Netflix and Redbox can shake up an entire industry. Why Pinterest grows hot. How Apple keeps winning. Some of these companies are big. But they're all fast.

How fast is your company? It's important that you get to market quickly or start a trend. But it's even more important that you stop that trend or get to market quickly again once tastes, economics, or technology change. If you can change quickly, you'll be poised to succeed for a very long time.

Case in point: Starbucks. Check out why their CEO thinks they'll keep growing:

Innovative companies

It's about behavior. 

So, how are you acting? Are you nimble enough to go with the flow of change?

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Get off the Carrousel

Many of us, in work and in life, are stuck on a carrousel. Sure - it can be fun at times. But, the constant going around in circles is getting to us. Another day, another revolution, and we're right back where we started.

The constant motion and the ups and downs make it feel like we're going somewhere, but by being honest with ourselves, we realize that we haven't made any progress at all.

We've lulled ourselves into a false sense of achievement. We've distracted ourselves enough to think that the ride is worth it.

It's time to get off.

Worst of all, from our carrousel, we can see the people who aren't on one. The people making real progress, moving forward, off to somewhere else. They're going places. We're stuck.

The only difference between them and us is that they had the courage to step off and back away.

This weekend, resolve to stop riding and start moving.

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The Moment It All Changed

On Sundays, when I write, I do so at length on some topic of religion, Christianity, Jesus stuff, or faith. Beware. These Sunday posts seem to get more interaction that other topics I write about. Religion is buzzworthy, apparently.

It also may be because some of my thoughts come as a surprise to many of my Facebook friends, especially those who knew me before the moment that changed everything. They remember me as the youth group kid, the guy destined to become the next big thing at the next big church. Advocating for churches with expiration dates seems like the last thing I should be doing, in their minds.

These people were also not there, though, when everything changed. The summer of 2002 was a pivotal one for me and my faith (and my love life - that's when I met and fell in love with my wife), due to questions I was asking at the time, books I was reading, and one fateful encounter.

Enter Levi.

One lunch with Levi sent my certainly about religion and theology packing, replacing it with a more compassionate and dynamic faith than I'd ever been a part of. It began over noodles but is a journey that is still taking place.

Want to know the details? Click here to read about it at Niki Mathias' blog.

She asked me to guest post as part of a series of people she's profiling who had things change in a flash, who have had to rebuild an understanding about themselves and their world after things fell apart in some way.

I'm happy to share my journey at her place. Here's an excerpt:

I couldn’t believe I said those very words. Out of my mouth came what I only knew before as dirty devil lies. I shocked myself. What was I doing?  Was I throwing away truth in order to pander to his emotions and come across as politically correct? I was throwing away years of study that had become my very identity. If I said what I did, and worse yet, if I ended up believing it, then I would have no idea who I was. I would be a completely different person and would have to forge a new identity based on who I was after I paid my lunch check. It was my quarter-life crisis five years too early.

I could recant. Even if I never told Levi anything else, I didn’t have to tell any of my like-minded friends what I told him. I could ask God for forgiveness later. No one had to know I even went to lunch. I could just keep it in that secret place all of us keep all of our dirtiest secrets and biggest regrets. I would never have to relive that moment if I didn’t want to. I could continue as before, with this minor road bump serving as a mere hiccup in my quest to be right all the time and keeper of all the answers. I could still study the same theology that dumped me during lunch. Perhaps I could coax it to fall in love with me all over again and we could pretend like lunch never happened.

But to do that I would have to deny who I was becoming. And running from who we are is a chase that never ends and a race we can never win. Our legs will get tired, we will run out of fuel, and who we are will overtake us and we will regret all the miles we ran in the opposite direction. The lunch moment brought to the surface my own destiny and trying to suppress all I was destined to become would only cause me years of heartache I would never be able to get back.

Read the whole thing here.

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On Ending Well

Things end. We don't like to admit it in our world where we prolong death and fight for everything to keep going. We cheer loudly for an encore at rock concerts, hoping the performer will play just one more (set). We badly want all things to keep going. But they're not meant to. Some things need to come to and end.

Sometimes, the best thing for a marriage is for it to dissolve. Some companies need to go out of business. Not all churches need to last forever. In fact, by coming to an end, some things can actually be better for it. If you can end something on your terms and walk away, then there can be beauty in the closing of a chapter of your life.

Watch this trailer about LCD Soundsystem's last tour:

The question at the beginning is haunting: "When you start a band, do imagine how it will end?"

Of course not. When you start anything, usually, you think it'll go on forever. Relationships, companies, and commitments - we think - will last forever. Otherwise, heartbreak and despair will surely follow.

Not always. Not if you end well.

The best way to end well is to "kill it before it dies."

This is an old piece of summer camp advice that we used when leading activities for teenagers. One day, you'd play a new game that the kids absolutely loved. When you recognized this, you needed to end the game. Kill it. That way, you could play every day for 20 minutes or so. If you milked it for everything an hour the first day, they wouldn't want to play it again the rest of the week, forcing you to scramble for other game ideas. It was better to cut it short while excitement and interest were high (kill it) than to let it fester to a point where no one was interested (dying).

Some of our ideas and relationships are worth killing. This is tough to write, but there are many things in our life right now that have reached their maximum potential. They need to come to and end while our experience with them is on a high point.

Unless you think something can be reinvented and drastically improved (which is worth staying on for), it's time to say goodbye. Bid something farewell this week and create a great new beginning for yourself.

Sunsets can be so breathtaking.

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Hearing the Difference

In our world where smart and growing media outlets are those that cater to a niche audience, it's increasingly easy to find viewpoints we agree with. Never again do we need to listen to someone we don't like or who doesn't fit into our existing world view just to get information about something. If I don't like you, care for your values, or already line up with what you believe, no worries. I can find someone to tell me what you're telling me who sees things my way. Of course, lost in this homogeneity is the idea of compromise, community, diversity, and progress. If we only want to see things our way for the rest of our lives, then we can forget about changing. Or growing.

I think you should listen to, read, or watch something each day that you (think you) disagree with.

Spending sacred time to hear someone out - without simultaneously thinking about what you're going to say back to prove your point - can be both uncomfortable and beneficial. Most of the conclusions we come to we view as meaningless unless we got there with some struggle. The harder we wrestled with a topic the more satisfied we are once we have made up our mind.

Flip on Fox News (but not for long). Watch MSNBC (for a little while). Listen to an evangelical sermon or a charismatic one or one by an open theist. Read something different or that you normally wouldn't.

If you'd like a place to start, listen to my friend Alan Sherouse, pastor at a Baptist church in New York City. It doesn't matter if you're religious or not - just hear him out.

The trick, of course, isn't to always be right. Your job isn't to find the right answer and then stick to it the rest of your life. The task is to embrace the harmony that can come when our different solos are blended together. Once you listen to someone else, you don't then immediately retreat back to your position of right-ness. Sit there, in the in-between, where you're not sure what you believe. Let confusion linger. Be happy with not knowing, with being unsure, undecided, and uncertain.

You won't grow until you stretch.

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