Nonsense At Work

#94: April 2015 MindShift

Nonsense just is,
but sense must be uncovered, grasped and held tight.The NonsenseAtWork Monthly MindShift

April 2015

Curious Performer Mentoring Fool Opportunity

Get newly curious to live longer and smarter

curvaceous-glassA friend of mine will reach his three score years and ten this year. That age is no longer so remarkable, I know.

What is remarkable is that he has embarked on a new income earning career. Why on earth would he now decide to study to pass a mandated examination for this line of work?  Because, he told me, if he did not, then his brain would rot.

He is right because science tells us so. Research shows that the more we elderly people are stimulated by new things, the smarter we are. But that’s not all. Research also shows that the more curious we are, the longer we may live.

Before you rush out to buy the latest new thingy to stimulate you into living longer, let me clarify. Researchers did not specify new things, but new activities and new events. It’s not about spending and purchasing, but about doing and experiencing.

Be smart – know GPS is a dot, not a direction

GPS-lostMaybe the last bit about doing and experiencing gave you a hint, but I still want you to answer this: Who gets to participate in decision-making in your organization? No, I don’t mean who sits in, but who is heard and heeded.

In struggling organizations some attendees are present not because they can contribute to decision-making. They are sitting in because of their position. And often their position is at the level of their incompetence. (If this statement makes no sense, then do a search on The Peter Principle.)

At successful organizations people who get the most respect around the table, who are heard and heeded, are the ones who deliver the most. They have earned trust by delivering on promises, exploiting opportunities and banking the results.

If you want to be a trusted and heeded decision participant, then begin by being a trusted performer. No one ever trusts your judgement based on your status, your volubility or your volume.

How to tell if you are meddling or mentoring

mentoring-meddlingAre you mentoring or meddling? A trick question for any parent, friend or colleague. Here’s how to tell.

You are mentoring if you use your experience to guide someone who is less experienced. The aim is to help the less experienced person play a ‘better’ role or to lead a ‘better’ life.

And there’s the catch. What is ‘better’?

Meddling happens because you don’t know. You meddle when you try to change or to control what you see as wrong or inappropriate for the other person. You mentor when you support the other person into making meaningful life choices, appropriate to her situation and circumstances, not to yours.

Can you only mentor if you have already mastered? Not necessarily. We teach best that which we have yet to learn. Therefore, to be a good mentor, what matters are the mistakes you are still making. But only if you admit that they are mistakes.

Go deep to survive the power of a fool

grinderSometimes meddling matters more than mentoring. The trick is knowing when. Maybe the following story will help you judge.

I grew up in a woodwork hobby shop, surrounded by power tools, wood and sawdust. I learned amazing woodworking skills, such as how not to lose a finger, hand or arm.

Years later a super confident subordinate told me about his new table saw. Shocked at how he was using it, I told him that it was extremely dangerous. No, he said, that’s in the manual. Read it again, I insisted, I need you with both your hands. The next day he apologized.

I see many examples of superficial reading and shallow thinking. We have spawned a generation too confident to appreciate the depths of experience. Doting you-can-do-it parents and suspect information at their smart-phoned-fingertips trick them into acting the expert and feeling invulnerable.

I have all my fingers and my job only because my deep understanding of the power of tools stopped me developing the power of a fool.

A problem is an opportunity when the opportunity is not the problem

problem-opportunityHere’s a tricky question to mull over while we’re on the subject of fools not understanding deeply. When is a problem an opportunity? And when is an opportunity a problem?

Here’s a hint. My son likes playing video games. The problem is that he wants to get to the next level of the game. No, no, that’s the opportunity. The problem is that which stops him grasping the opportunity, namely his homework.

Climbing an intimidating tree is not a problem; taking out the trash is. The opportunity is making a Frisbee float; the problem is clearing the lawn of dog pooh.

So, what’s the answer? When is a problem an opportunity and vice versa? A problem is an opportunity when you enjoy the process of solving it; an opportunity is a problem when your significant other wants the pleasure of you solving it.

Maybe if we optimists use that definition we will stop annoying others by presenting our problems as their opportunities.

Are you tired of people meddling in your opportunities?

Welcome to our side of the nonsense divide


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