Mike Birbiglia is one of my favorite comedians. His effortless mix of storytelling and comedy is something I haven’t seen anyone else be able to pull off.
Throughout his jokes he has a recurring theme where he finds himself in a high-stakes conversation. He builds up the audience with the statement “What I should have said…. was nothing.” It’s an incredibly simple concept to grasp, but incredibly difficult to practice.
This is something I’ve been trying to get better at. I’m chock-full of opinions and thoughts that I share freely and unsolicited at times. Instead, I’m trying to listen more, talk less, and understand before sharing what’s on my mind.
I think this will make me a better manager and will help me better focus on the people around me.
I’m as guilty as anyone when it comes to uttering the words “I can’t…”. That’s almost never actually true, though.
Here are some things I know that I can’t do:
I can’t fly by flapping my arms
I can’t speak Mandarin
I can’t eat my weight in Oreos
Here are some things I’ve claimed that I can’t do:
I can’t take a break to eat lunch
I can’t help you find a solution to problem XYZ
I can’t work on your project
The first list contains physical or scientific impossibilities. The second list contains choices. Unless you are locked in a room, we all can take a break to eat lunch. This represents a choice to temporarily stop doing one thing and start doing another.
There are influences that go into all of our choices and there are consequences to all of our choices. By joining a meeting we may be making a choice to skip a phone call or hold off on sending an email. There are plenty of reasons why one activity may be more important than another.
So instead of claiming that you cannot do something, start making your choices explicit. “I can’t take a break” instead becomes “I am choosing not to take a break because task XYZ is more important right now”. Recognize that you have a choice. Decisions are easier when we aren’t held hostage by what we claim we can and cannot do.
PS – The same goes for saying “I have to”. You don’t have to work late. You don’t have to send that email right now. Most of the things we have to do boil down to trade-offs.
Believe me, there is much that you “can’t” do or “have” to do 🙂
I have a wide variety of topics that I would love to write about, but I want to hear what you’re looking for.
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It happened. I’ve finally jumped in to the world of blogging. My hope here is to teach, learn and have some fun.
I’m planning on sticking to technical topics, but I make no guarantees. It’s safe to expect a heavy dose of Agile software development, PHP & .NET code, design and tools, and plenty of phpScheduleIt.
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