Building Community Through Better Relationships

The World Does Not Stop Spinning Because You Stopped Running

A hamster running in its wheel is the classic metaphor for futility. The hamster runs faster and the wheel spins faster. Unfortunately, a lot of activity results in very little progress. The hamster has a task to do, but has no clue what is his true purpose. He probably does not even remember how he ended up in the wheel in the first place. The hamster simply runs because it was told to do it and occasionally receives a reward.

Like the hamster, people are often deluded to believing that their activity contributes to progress. The tragedy happens when the person eventually learns “The World Does Not Stop Spinning Because You Stopped Running”. The metaphor can illustrate an individual’s childhood, education, career, or life choices. Some authority gives them a role; maybe even gives them a purpose. But, never effectively explains why. Consequently, the importance that the individual attributes to their activity does not reflect reality. The following three points highlights the negative effect on the general good created by this delusion.

Confusing Activity With Productivity
The hamster has been placed in the wheel and is inclined to run, so it naturally begins to run in the wheel. As the hamster runs faster, the wheel spins faster. The hamster gets the attention of some child who rewards it with food, water, and more opportunities to perform. The hamster is happy to do a good job and in true corporate fashion, has no clue that the unseen parent is ultimately responsible for its subsistence. Literally, the hamster’s physical labor is for entertainment purposes only. To maximize individual contribution, whoever runs and spins the wheel needs to know what benefit they individually want, who they are truly serving, and why they should want to continue serving.

Who Dictates the Highest Priority?
So, while the hamster is busy entertaining, the question remains who dictates the hamster’s highest priority? The hamster runs because he receives a reward. The child is entertained for the moment. The parent receives its return on investment by having the child occupied. We can debate the value of a child demonstrating responsibility for a pet and the value of down time for an over-worked parent. But what tangible value is created by this activity? The hamster wheel aimlessly spins. No one really knows why. Worst of all, there are few real consequences if the hamster stops running, or the wheel stops turning.

No Enduring Value, No Consequences
The hamster is not creating enduring value. Its usefulness exists only as long as it performs better than the next best alternative. For people, it is more important why something is accomplished, as opposed to what is accomplished. Once the why is established, how does one know that it has been done satisfactorily? The hamster continues to work, but its productivity is limited. It doesn’t think, it only obeys. Without understanding why it contributes, the hamster cannot improve or grow in its role. Without growth, then value and consequences are irrelevant.

People, the world does not stop spinning because you stopped running. Your contributions must be valuable in order to have personal and societal progress. Deliberately learn, grow, and produce. Then, contribute to additional individuals and environments. Work beyond what you are told. Identify the reason you do what you do. Know the why, and perform for that reason. Then, identify another reason and fulfill that one, too!

Unlike hamsters, people can exercise choice and identify personal challenges. By conquering those challenges, plus contributing beyond individual wants and immediate surroundings, the world does keep spinning. It’s called progress! The alternative is to mindlessly obey, work hard, have someone feed you, clean you; and when you die, replace you. Then, eventually forget about you.

By Glenn W Hunter
Principal of Hunter & Beyond

Thank you ADW!


October 31, 2014 Posted by | Better Community, Better Person | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Feed the Monster in the Still of the Night!

A hard-driving, Type-A entrepreneur told me late one night that he has trouble sleeping. He argues that nothing gets done at night. His future is so promising that he wants to be productive all the time. Between the lack of productivity, the endless demands, and the anticipation of the next day, he stays awake chomping at the bit. I calmly told my friend to feed the monster in the still of the night.

In this case the monster represents all the challenges that an over-extended professional has to fight. The monster is the anxiety of competition, the eagerness to please clients, the endless to-do lists, and the family obligations that must be prioritized. The snarling beast is preventing you from doing the work that you need to do, while threatening to devour you when you don’t get it done. Simply put, feed the monster in the still of the night means compartmentalize work pressures to recharge yourself to be most productive when your energy level is highest.

The daily stresses will not truly be resolved in the middle of the night. However, rearranging your time, activities and priorities so that the monster feasts while you re-energize is productive. Strategies to feed the monster and turn stress-time to productivity-time include:

Leisure Time is Progress Time
Busy professionals must thoroughly understand their personal schedules. Time that is not focused on work can still be productive. Business golf is the classic example. Time spent enhancing business relationships doing an activity that you enjoy is still time spent enhancing business relationships. Same with leisure time with the family. Being in the moment with the family does not require avoiding professionally or intellectually stimulating activities. Casually connecting with other parents surrounding youth soccer games, choir performances, or birthday parties can also be valuable. Chances are that other parents are likewise wrestling with maintaining balance and will appreciate the understanding ear. Sharing challenges build great relationships.

Progress Is a Choice
While the monster eats, shut down. Letting the monster gnaw at your problems, while saving a few for yourself, is counterproductive. Even worse is identifying more problems after feeding the first batch to the monster. Pursuing new problems is regression. Regression is the exact opposite of progress, and a poor alternative. Rest and recharge. In the morning, before the monster and your problems awaken, choose to speed toward achieving new daily goals.

Excellence Is a Habit
The key to sprinting toward high performance in the morning is greeting the day with a refreshed attitude. New challenges await, so start pursuing them before the previous days anxieties start chasing you. Eventually, the monster will awake and wreak havoc. Excellence is definitely a habit. It is practiced and sharpened every day. Optimally, excellence requires an energized mind and a productive routine. Exercise, meditation, accountability conversations are effective tools, but find the routine that personally makes sense.

To maximize productivity, monitor closely what enters your mind. You don’t always have to be working. But, all behaviors must focus on contributing. Reading, puzzles, Ted Talks are attractive alternatives. Entertain yourself with experiences that will stimulate conversations, ideas, and progress toward your goals. Recognize that “the thinking that created the problem cannot be the same thinking used to solve it”. Be willing to change your thinking. Such tactics change the process of engaging the monster, and consequently increasing your productivity. Feed the monster to distract the monster. Set aside life’s anxieties. Focus energy on your goals, then productively pursue your desired outcomes.

By Glenn W Hunter
Principal of Hunter & Beyond

October 20, 2014 Posted by | Better Business, Better Person | , , , , , | Leave a comment

You Cannot Save Them All, So Save The One That Makes A Difference

A modern fable tells of a young boy walking along the sea shore. He is tossing starfish that had washed onto the beach back into the water. An old man approaches the boy and tells him that there are hundreds of starfish on the beach and you are not really making a difference. The boy tosses another starfish into the surf and replies that he made a difference to that one.

The moral of the story is that we can each make a small difference. But, in the world of professionals responsible for making large contributions, this message is dead wrong! Yes, the boy made a difference to a number of individual starfish. However, the problem remains. Ultimately, leaders are responsible for using resources at their disposal to solve large problems.

Too often, people solve problems by doing what feels good and avoids pain. Particularly in community service environments, the emphasis defaults to demonstrating good intentions. In reality, the objective needs to be to eliminate some social wrong. In fact, effectiveness dictates that you do not save one, but rather you save the one that can make a difference for the many. Toss the starfish into the ocean that can keep other starfish from washing up on the shore in the first place.

Find the Root
With regards to most societal or business problems, correcting the issue resides in changing behavior. For example, a fundamental function or process has been poorly constructed, or has failed in achieving its desired effect. Throwing more resources at a solution that has not worked feeds the disease of bureaucracy. The behavior that initially created the problem has to be identified so that the root cause can be addressed. Effective leadership involves deploying resources and people who are equipped to address the root cause in order to replicate solutions. This practice will most likely require experimentation. Nevertheless, the purpose is not to get the perfect answer. The objective is to get a workable solution that scales.

Think Bigger
Scale is critical. Saving one troubled youth does not impact a community. Creating a collection of leaders purposefully focused on improving young lives will facilitate change and deliver results. Unfortunately, success requires recognizing that a byproduct of any revolutionary improvement involves losses. However, the ancillary benefit of accepting some losses is that it frees innovation to be more aggressive. Thinking bigger requires solving the problem such that it impacts the greatest number of possible constituents. For egomaniacs that need to gratify themselves by singularly helping each individual affected by the problem, you have your selfish reward. For leaders who want to truly make a difference, engage others to lead the charge, maximize their capacity and then, share the credit.

Be Bold
In efforts to save as many as possible, be bold in your ambition. Upon addressing a problem in one community, seek available resources to enable serving multiple communities. A bold leader accepts the challenge of feeding the hungry. But, to save, feed, and serve them, more than one good-hearted person, no matter how good her heart, is necessary. Successful results demand leveraging like-minded souls to contribute. You may not be able to save them all. But, start by saving the ones who are equally inspired and motivated to save others. Then, allow them to own their individual contribution toward maximizing the impact on the outcome.

Obviously, the hungry, abused, uneducated, and oppressed are not starfish. A lost child is irreplaceable. However, honest leadership realizes that some irreplaceable children will be lost regardless. If we are going to save people with needs, then processes need to be in place to save as many as possible by leveraging maximum resources for their benefit. Helping them one at a time, makes one individual person feel good. Leaders don’t help, they solve. Endure the pain, recruit and empower support, share the credit. It’s nice when a compassionate boy saves a starfish. The world improves significantly when the starfish population is sustained by intelligent and scalable efforts that require vision, execution, and lots of resources focused on a big solution.

By Glenn W Hunter
Principal of Hunter and Beyond

October 13, 2014 Posted by | Better Community, Better World | , , , , | 2 Comments

Swimming With The Current

While helping my wife strap a canoe to her car’s roof, the similarity of travelling on a river and through life hit me like a cold splash of water. Whether recreationally paddling down a stream or raging down rapids, the water experience reflects life choices. Specifically, some people float with the waves, while others swim with the current.

Mapping these contrasts to how people approach their life experiences, the floating with the waves group moves forward at a reasonable clip. They safely enjoy their time in the water. They embrace the calculated risk, while recognizing the limited likelihood to capsize or get injured. They enjoy the experience, get wet, and make predictable progress. On the other hand, more thrill-seeking people choose to swim with the current. They propel themselves down the waterways at greater speeds and heightened recklessness. In both cases, the people experience risk, reward, and results. But the experiences vary greatly!

Systemic risk in both cases involves drowning. People who float with the waves minimize that risk. The lifestyle equivalent to bobbing up and down in the water is going to work, joining the PTA and waiting for your two weeks of vacation. These people help in their community and contribute to an employer. Thrills are for other people. And, those other people would be those swimming with the current. Unseen dangers, driftwood, and marine life may also be in the current with them. They recognize the increased risk and navigate their speedy adventure regardless. Accepting the risk makes it worthwhile. Their work is their play. They do not want to take the time to discern the two.

When floating with the waves, the experience rewards you with a comfortable diversion. These people crave the routine and this diversion is just enough in order to feel alive. But, those swimming with the current are acutely aware that risk is merely the lens to see clearly their upcoming reward. The squeals, the pace, the empty stomachs are all part of the life-affirming process. Being driven by the rewards make them more action-oriented. These people will take a chance because that is how they work and play. In fact, that is how they exist!

The results of these two perspectives dramatically differ. For the floating with the waves group, the river reflects their to-do list. Input experience, output recreation. These people can check the fun box and move onto the next item. But by swimming with the current, the other group lives their story. The result is another adventure conquered. Swimming the current demands matching the environment regarding speed, and then going faster! The victory is overcoming the best the environment can throw at them. The winning against superior forces, like nature, transcends across their lives. They want risks in their professions, their social relationships, and their recreation.

Of course with risk, negative experiences are possible. But, with an attitude to pursue the next challenge, the highs get higher. In both cases there are no guarantees. However, in evaluating the probabilities there are strong tendencies. Floating with the wave will most likely yield stability, measured progress, and eventually regret. Swimming with the current will most likely yield excitement, victories, injuries, and recovery. Every individual has to make their own choices. Society encourages floating with the wave. Progress will come in time. But, by swimming with the current, the individual is embracing unique experiences that include some danger, but enviable thrills. Each individual must decide which experience they will choose and what rewards they will take. I have already decided to dive in and swim with the current!

By Glenn W Hunter
Principal of Hunter & Beyond

October 1, 2014 Posted by | Better Community, Better Person | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment