5 Tough Choices
What are the toughest choices you face as you lead yourself and others into the future?
That question was the focus of new, original research by Bill Jensen and his team. The research shows that certain choices will make you stronger and give you a brighter future. Bill has spent over twenty-five years learning how work gets done. In his latest book, Future Strong: How to Work Unleashed, Lead Boldly, and Live Life Your Way, he outlines these five choices and how the answers will shape your future.
Choice One: The Heartbeat of the Past
Let’s talk about the past. You ask, “Will you hear the heartbeat of your past choices?” How do we effectively learn from our past in the Future Strong way?
I’ve spent my whole life asking questions that nobody was asking.
There are already lots of people hyperventilating about how disruptive technologies — wearables, deep analytics, Internet of everything, artificial intelligence, robotics — are going to create futures that are amazingly different from today.
But no one was talking about the choices each of us must make to create our own future in the midst of all that. So my team and I interviewed and surveyed over seven thousand people across the globe, asking each person deeply personal questions about building personal futures.
One of those questions was, “What makes you, you?”
We uncovered what leadership guru Warren Bennis once attributed to all great leaders — people who are Future Strong leverage their past as a tool to leap into their future. They call upon crucible moments from their past: experiences that forged or tested how they view the world. We found that most everyone who leaps into unknown futures, and boldly goes where they have not gone before, does so by calling upon the courage and wisdom from those crucible moments.
One e-learning pioneer learned how to be creative from her childhood friend Albert Einstein. One venture capitalist, who practices servant leadership, drew upon the kindness he received from strangers when he fled his war-torn country as a child. A media and technology leader learned fast decision-making from his teenage successes and crashes as a semi-pro skateboarder. Me…I call upon my mom’s death to truly appreciate how precious life is. Each of us has one or two or three life-altering moments we can call upon.
To effectively leverage those moments in our lives, we each must truly understand our own hero’s journey — moments from our past when change was thrusted upon us. Initially, most of us deny or resist the new truths; then there’s a moment — the crucible moment — where we embrace how to make that change part of who we are.
So hearing the heartbeat of your past choices is about truly knowing yourself well enough (by the way, about 80% of us think we know ourselves, but really don’t) to call upon deeper courage and wisdom than you thought you had.
Choice Two: Who To Become
Choice two asks, “Who will you choose to become?” This is a difficult question for many of us. What do you recommend someone do to help answer this question?
One of our interviewees gave us a great exercise: Write your own obituary…twice.
My Obituary If I Died Today The Obituary I Want
Compare the two. What’s different? That difference is the essence of who you would like to choose to become. To refine this idea and to put it into action, take the “Obituary I Want” to your friends and family and ask for their insights. They know what your soul craves. They’ll help guide you toward the eulogy you deserve.
Choice Three: To Be Vulnerable
Number three asks, “How will you choose to be vulnerable?” What’s your view of vulnerability and the future ahead?
The biggest challenge most have in leaping into new futures is the avoidance of appearing vulnerable. We reinterpret realities and spin truths that make us feel more comfortable; we make plans based on our fears, and we do everything we can to avoid risks and to avoid changing what makes us feel safe.
But you only get to your best future if you take risks, if you’re willing to be vulnerable personally. Not just taking business or innovation risks. Personally putting your ass on the line and going for it.
During our interviews most everyone labeled this courage. But after lots of follow-up questions, we realized that the first act of courage is a willingness to be personally vulnerable, and being OK with that.
The Five Choices
1: Inner Truths
Will you hear the heartbeat of your past choices?
2: Soul On Fire
Who will you choose to become?
3: Humbled Self
How will you choose to be vulnerable?
What are the best hardships for your best future?
Who will you choose to have your back?
Choice Four: Sacrifice
Sacrifice is the theme of number four. What guidance can you give on making the right hardship choices?
We all know that we’ve got to suck it up and endure some difficulties and sacrifices to achieve anything worthwhile. Today’s problem is the deck is stacked against you and against most of us.
Most sacrifices and hardships are pre-designed to get you to do more work that benefits others. For example, most every call to a customer service number is specifically designed to use more of your time and energy and less of the company’s. And most every do more with less directive is designed to benefit the employer and is not designed to help the individual who has to do that work.
To know if you’re making the best hardship choices, do an analysis of your workload over the past six months or more. Assess who is generating the hardships you face:
- Others or circumstances
- You choosing the hardship to further your own goals.
If you chose 50% or more of the hardships and sacrifices, you’re on a Future Strong path. If others or circumstances created 60% or more of your hardships and sacrifices, you are Future Shackled.
Choice Five: Reliance
The last choice is reliance and you ask, “Who will you choose to have your back?” How is that different from just good teamwork?
Reliance goes beyond how most of us see great teamwork. It recognizes that all of us need help in achieving our longer-term goals and dreams. Reliance is a pact between teammates to have each other’s back when it comes to dreams and goals, not just transactional duties.
One of the most important choices you’ll make is in selecting those two or more (up to eight) teammates to have your back on your vision for the future, as you have theirs.
Every day we feel constant pressures to do, do, do. And as teams form and disband at increasingly faster rates, reliance relationships will be crucial to your longer-term successes.
As one of our interviewees said, “The eyes of the future are looking back at us and demand that we get it right.” Too many of today’s leaders see the future as the next two or three quarters – avoiding or kicking long-term responsibilities down the road. We need and deserve leaders who understand that tomorrow’s most wicked challenges will either be caused or solved by the choices they make today.
Future Strong: How to Work Unleashed, Lead Boldly, and Live Life Your Way