2020 has been nothing if not a lesson in humility. Every time I think things can’t possibly get worse, they do. (And I wrote the first draft of this post, including that last sentence, last week; before we lost RBG.) It feels at once incredibly chaotic, yet monotonous. “End times” is the phrase that keeps coming to mind.
And yet, we’re still here, and we have to keep going. The only way forward is through.
I’ve been thinking a lot about the things we can control and the things we can’t. This year has done a lot to sharpen that focus.
At this point, my kids are probably so sick of me saying: “the only thing you can control is your own actions and reactions”. It comes out of my mouth so frequently, it’s like a mantra. And this has been true their whole lives, not just during this wild, uncontrollable, year.
In the spirit of controlling only what we can, adapting to quickly changing circumstances, and creating incremental improvement, I want to share with you the central framework that’s been guiding my life (both in work and home) in 2020. It’s what’s been getting me through and helping me to focus on the things I can control.
It’s my new mantra; and I want to give it to you:
Communicate > Experiment > Iterate > Repeat
Here’s how it breaks down:
Emotions are high, boundaries have been eviscerated. Over-communication is key. You know what they say about assuming, right?
We are social beings, us humans. We need to talk to those around us.
Not sure where to start? Start with these questions:
- What’s going well? (Great, let’s double down on that!)
- What isn’t going so well? (You can improve it!)
Now you’ve talked about things; you’ve got it out in the open. You know what isn’t going so well. (And it wasn’t that scary to talk about it, right?) Now that you know, you can do something about it. you can try some new things, you can experiment.
That means we get to ask another question and brainstorm together:
- What can we try (to improve what’s not going so well)?
You’re not looking for the end-all-be-all solution here. You’re just throwing out ideas. You’ll try some things. You’’ll see what works.
Experimentation is less scary, and more palatable, than change.
You’ve tried some things? Great. Let’s keep going. What else can you try? What else can you tweak?
Now it’s time to go back to the beginning. Talk about what you just tried. Let’s see if anything else has arisen that working well, or not working well.
Let’s keep going. Let’s keep improving. Let’s keep adapting.
This framework works at home. It works at work.
You can start today.
So here’s my challenge to you:
Around the dinner table, or the Zoom happy hour with friends, or in your next team meeting, ask these 3 questions:
- What’s working well?
- What’s not working well?
- What can we try?
Let me know how it goes!
I hope this framework helps you to control what you can and to adapt to what comes as we head farther into the unknown and whatever else 2020 brings.