Sunday, December 29, 2013

Live life as if you're playing putt-putt

When I work with my Life & Career Coaching clients, I quote movies fairly often. Undeniably the film I quote most often is Bull Durham. In one of my favorite scenes Annie Savoy (Susan Sarandon) gives Crash Davis (Kevin Costner) tips in the batting cage to help him through a slump. She says to him that hitting a baseball is like making love: you just have to RELAX and CONCENTRATE.

Not one or the other, but both at the same time. In a humorous and direct way, Annie described what athletes often call being in THE ZONE. However, it's not just for athletes. I help clients to get into a zone so that they can access peak performance, enabling them to do things well, whether it be accounting, housecleaning, dating, negotiating with a spouse, saving money, completing a resume, interviewing for a job...whatever!

To help yourself enter a relaxed and concentrating mindset, consider the game of miniature golf, or putt-putt. To set the stage, remember that no one in their right mind (ahem!) takes putt-putt too seriously; everyone knows that the main point is to have fun. For example, my favorite putt-putt experience was near St. Petersburg, Florida, where you can use a fishing pole to feed chewy dog-food squares to alligators in between holes. 

Now, remember that the idea is to relax AND concentrate at the same time. We could just relax and whack the ball around and not care. However, it's more fun if we concentrate enough to try to get the ball into the hole. If it took you six strokes to get the ball into one hole, then it's fun to see if you can succeed in five strokes next time. If the ball doesn't go up an incline, that's good information! Next time, you stroke the ball slightly harder until you figure out how to get the ball over the rise. If the ball goes left, aim slightly more to the right next time. If the ball shoots past the hole, tap it more softly next time.

Relax! We're having FUN, here! No big deal. Every time something doesn't go well, learn and adjust so that you do it better the next time.

I do realize that there are some people who choose to take putt-putt too seriously, and we all know how annoying THAT can be. Let's take this thought further and imagine people reacting to putt-putt in the same way they react to other parts of life; imagine how silly, unproductive, and annoying it would be: 
  • I can't believe I missed that shot. I'm so STUPID!
  • I haven't been able to finish a hole under par; he'll never want to go out on a date with me.
  • I screwed up again. This kind of crap ALWAYS happens to me.
  • I missed again. This is such a DISASTER!
  • I shot over par on every hole. This is hopeless...what's the use. I might as well give up.
  • It's "do or die" time...I HAVE to nail this shot! 
I'll bet that some of you are thinking that life isn't a game of putt-putt. On the one hand, you're right. On the other hand, it SHOULD be and it CAN be. Take a good, close look at extraordinary performers: they usually move quickly past the so called mistakes and failures, and they use what they just learned in their next venture. A great basketball player doesn't care that she went 0 for 13; she still can take and make the game winning shot. Or heed the Thomas Edison quote: I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work.

So, get into that putt-putt frame of mind when you'd like to perform well. Keep "having fun" front and center, relax AND concentrate, and mistakes and failures are information you need for your next big success.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

LinkedIn: Skim the job titles

After having undergone some training and having engaged in some conversations with knowledgeable people, I'm changing how I use LinkedIn. LinkedIn is a great professional networking and social media tool on the Internet.

I used to try to connect with everyone I know or have known. Of course, when you're just beginning to build your professional network, it's great strategy to start with who you already know and with former coworkers. However, it can quickly grow limiting. For example, given that I'd lived in Boston for 30 years and that I now live in Baltimore, my connections became heavily slanted toward  friendships, people in my former field of technical writing, and people who lived very far away from me. This is not particularly useful to me at this point in my professional life as a Life & Career Coach.

Now, I'm trying to be more strategic with my networking, and I'm trying to build up my Baltimore connections. One technique that I'm using is to seek out mutual connections between people with whom I'm already connected and those in the Health & Wellness field. The idea is that fellow professionals in that field might be able to do business together by cross referring.

Here's another simple adjustment that made a world of difference. When LinkedIn gives you a list of people with whom you might like to connect, don't skim the names for people you know. Instead, skim their JOB TITLES to see if a connection would be mutually beneficial on a professional level. 

Finally, when you do request a connection, click the "pencil and paper" icon to send a personalized message. I recommend mentioning how you're connected, how you might help each other professionally, or that you're simply interested in learning more about what she or he does. A personalized message that highlights the reason for the connection will get better results than the default message, which is impersonal and gives no context for the connection.