Why We Are Afraid to Try New Things

This is part three of our series on learning new things. This post talks about why we are afraid to try new things. Follow the links after the post to read the other parts of our series.

Learning something new can be daunting. There are reasons why we avoid trying new things. One is that we fear what others will think of us if they see us try something and we fail at it. Or we fear being outside our comfort zone, especially if it might make our minds look less sharp than we think they are.

We fear what others will think of us if they see us try something and we fail at it. People who make fun of others for looking goofy when trying something new are jerks. These jerks just keep others from trying new things. When anyone tries something new, they are going to look goofy. Or they won't know the answer. Or they will give the wrong answer.

Even when there are few critics (which is never the case, right?), you will always find plenty to improve, change, or be harsh towards. To those of us that are scared of looking like a fool, I encourage you to press on and remember that it’s ok because when you strike out, you learn. And when you learn, the next time will be better.

When I am learning a new dance routine, I have to expect myself to wreck the train several times. On my first attempt, I don't lead well enough. Trying a second time, I lead way too strongly and throw everything off balance. Finally, I sometimes lead just right. It takes repetition to find the right way to do things.

If I don't try it the first time because I'm scared of what I'll look like, then I will never get to the "just right" part.

The same goes with learning something mental. I know when I am facing something new I want to get it right the first time. Whether it's a test, or a project, or task. Whatever. However, I usually have to mess up and get the wrong answer first. And sometimes I have an audience. The audience can be one or several people.

If you are having trouble getting to the right answer, focus instead on looking for what is wrong. Be a critic of the problem and identify the ways it won't work. Make mistakes and figure out how to correct the errors. If you are writing, put something down on paper that is awful. Then go back and make it better. Don't try to hit a home run on the first draft. Get the words down on the page, then go back and edit. The hardest part of writing is first getting words on paper.

Critics can be demoralizing and can paralyze us into inaction. The worst critic of all is yourself. Seth Godin writes a lot on this subject and calls this part of our brain the lizard brain. The lizard brain dislikes change, challenges, and moving forward. What the lizard brain likes is status quo, not rocking the boat, and boredom.

If you want some more reading on using mistakes to get better, check out The 5 Elements of Effective Thinking by Edward Burger and Michael Starbird. There is a whole section that deals with failing to make yourself more effective.

Brene Brown spoke about being vulnerable and dealing with critics. It's a twenty minute video but worth the time. (Link to the Roosevelt speech Brene mentions in her talk http://www.theodore-roosevelt.com/trsorbonnespeech.html )

And remember,

"A man's errors are his portals to discovery." - James Joyce

What are some other ways you like to fail in order to grow?


You can find the other parts of our learning new things series by following the links below:

Part One: Three Different Ways We Can Teach Ourselves - By Mary Williams.

Part Two: How to Learn From the Internet - By Maranda Gibson.

12 Ways to Get Motivated Right Now

This thing that we refer to as a “bad” day is really a personal choice to let the blues rule the day. It’s human nature to feel a little down sometimes but it still remains something that we can control.

When that day stretches into a few days or a week, there could be a bigger problem. We can see the light at the end of the tunnel, but it’s hard to keep from getting lost in the darkness. You’ve been there, I’ve been there – so what do you do? Here are 12 ways that I refocus to get motivated.

Talk to my mom.
(Also acceptable: talking to Dad) My mom gives the best advice and I love being able to sit down with her and just talk about things. Sometimes, my mom holds my hand and tells me those wonderful mom things like, “You’re so special”. Other times, my mom tells me to get over myself – which is usually exactly what I need to hear.
 
Make a playlist.
Grab yourself some new songs from iTunes or Amazon and make yourself a list of songs that make you tap your feet and get excited. Listen to those when you’re trying to get unstuck on a task.

Stop for a few minutes.
Put down your pen or iPad and step away from the keyboard. Give yourself a clean five minute break.

Do something else
.
Stuck on a task? Put it down and come back to it later.

Make a list.
When all your upcoming tasks are swirling in your head, it can feel a little overwhelming, so write them down. Cross them out as you get them done. You’ll feel better.

Change the way I’m trying to complete a task.
Trying to write a blog post on your computer and it’s just not working? Grab a pen and a notebook and try going that route. You’d be surprised how often I can be found jotting down notes or whole posts on a piece of paper.

Look at something positive.
Go back and remind yourself of something that was challenging, but you were able to get through and come out on top. That can sometimes help you remember that you’ve been down this road before – and you made it through. Find something inspirational to read.

Ask for help.
Seriously, there’s nothing wrong with this. I think we’d all be a little less frayed like a knot and spend less time rubbing our faces if we could just do this.

15 Minute Facebook break (No, seriously)
Just do something to make your mind not think about work related things. Scroll your news feed and talk to a couple of people. Give yourself a little mental break.

Change your location.
Sitting in the office trying to write a blog post? Grab your purse and go get some coffee. Change the scenery and get busy.

Go for a drive.
Now, don’t just walk out in the middle of your day at the office – that’s going to have an opposite effect, I suppose. Instead, take a little detour on your way home, or if you have the luxury to make your own schedule, just put some things on hold and get in the car. Roll down the windows, turn up the radio, and let go.

Turn off your electronic devices.
Give yourself at least 30 minutes every day without a notification or email notice. The really bad thing about email notifications is that we feel pressured to respond right away. It’s totally acceptable to read a book and relax when you’re at home – the email will wait.

Hey, we all get the blues. I’m not immune to it, none of us really are – so what kind of things do you do to get yourself feeling, well, like yourself again?


Looking for ways to improve your speaking abilities? Here are four more resources:

17 (+4) Tips For More Productive Conference Calls

Conference calls have become an important part of corporate business life and yet they are not always used to their best advantage. The world of telecommunications has traveled light years since the old days of the traditional party line, but the modern conference call is really just an expansion of that retro concept. Today, most companies use a specialized service provider for conference calls and they are being used more and more in conjunction with web conferences. These service providers maintain the conference bridge and provide the phone numbers used to access the meeting or conference call.

How can your business better utilize this service? First, let us define exactly what service we are talking about. What is meant by the term, conference call? This is a telephone call in which the caller wishes to have more than one party listen in to the audio portion. Calls may also be designed so that the called party can participate during the call or so that the called party merely listens in and cannot speak. A conference call is also sometimes referred to as an ATC (Audio Tele-Conference).

In a book called "Death By Meeting" author, Patrick Lenzioni, argues that conference calls really should be more fun. He says: "If I didn't have to go to meetings, I'd like my job a lot more." According to Merlin Mann and his fascinating, irreverent and very witty family of websites dealing with personal productivity known collectively as 43 Folders, the following ideas have helped to make his life in general and conference calls in particular, easier and more productive. Also check out this interview with Al Pittampalli, the author of the Modern Meeting Standard. Consider them the next time you schedule a conference call. Read on and hold that call, please!

  1. Circulate an Agenda.  Don't do a conference call without first circulating an agenda to all involved parties. An agenda helps to structure the conference and helps members to prepare by providing in advance the type of information they will need in order to effectively participate in the discussion.
     
  2. Get familiar with each other. Have everyone in attendance introduce him or herself up front. In fact, make that the first thing on your agenda. It is important for people who don't know each other's voices especially well to become familiar as quickly as possible.
     
  3. Give the conference a theme. Don't meander, for the road is costly and time-consuming and leads ultimately nowhere! Use the agenda to amplify the theme in question by explaining how it will be covered or explored in each section of the meeting.
     
  4. Have conference calls only when you need to. Many are unnecessary and could be avoided with either a one-on-one call or a focused e-mail exchange. Group calls should only be made when either in-depth dialogue or brainstorming is required.
     
  5. Establish meeting timing. This includes when the meeting will begin, break and end ahead of time. Provide a time structure, which all participants must adhere to and matters will flow smoothly.
     
  6. Focus on the conference. Limit "electronic grazing" to during the conference call. Set it up like they did in the old frontier days at the saloon with all who enter checking their guns at the door!! The equipment is different; phones and laptops to be exact, but the attitude is the same. No multi tasking while the meeting is in session. This means no email, no phone calls and this means you! Attending the meeting is like being pregnant; one either is or one isn't present at the meeting. If an emergency occurs and a call needs to be made, then the person should leave the room to make the call and not tie up the meeting.
     
  7. Schedule guests and make the best use of everyone's time. Use your agenda to indicate when people will be needed to present their arguments and avoid the traffic jam of having thirty people in a room for three hours, twenty of whom will have nothing at all to do or say until the last 15 minutes of the meeting. Tick off items on the agenda as they are covered.
     
  8. Delegate roles. Don't wear too many hats at your own meeting. Employ someone to keep track of the time so that you as the leader are free to focus on the matters presented in the agenda and keep the meeting rolling along at an even pace.
     
  9. Stay focused on your time element and subject matter. Not all issues require the same amount of time to settle and any issue that can be resolved offline or does not require the input of the majority of the group should be dismissed as quickly as possible and ticked off the mighty agenda.
     
  10. Welcome late arrivals. If you join into a conference call after it has already begun, make sure that other people know you are there. If you are the organizer of the conference call and this happens, seek an opportunity to introduce that person and then quickly review any key decisions that have been made. (If the person being late is you the organizer, you probably should find someone else to head the conference call in the first place.)
     
  11. Meetings won't run themselves. Be aware of which tips work best for you and remain consistent in their use. Meetings have never been able to run themselves, and you as the leader, must always think things out thoroughly so that people attending do not feel they are wasting their time. After all, that is the one commodity that we never seem to have enough of and that waits for no one, as the old saying goes.
     
  12. Stick to the point. Keep conference calls short and very sweet. This way, each participant knows what to expect, more or less, in terms of why they are there and what they are supposed to do. There is nothing more boring than a rambling speaker and nothing that will lose a listening audience more quickly, except maybe a sudden office fire.
     
  13. Get through the agenda first. Consider dealing with any matters that are not  on the agenda last even if they are brought up at the beginning of the conference. This prevents sidetracking and losing precious time in covering the more pertinent issues at hand.
     
  14. Invite only the people that need to be on the conference. Don't call bosses and technical experts to attend the conference unless you know in advance that their advice will be needed. Regardless of the outcome of the conference, they will definitely owe you one and be eternally grateful.
     
  15. Limit the Chaos. Limit the number of people on the conference call to four or at most five. Chaos is sure to follow if there are too many opinions circulating at the same time. Problems are likely to occur because the more opinions, the harder it becomes to keep track of who is speaking and a common reaction is to go on automatic pilot and "leave the meeting in your mind."
     
  16. Wait your turn to speak. Try not to interrupt when others are speaking and wait for the appropriate moment to jump in. One has to listen and concentrate much more acutely over the phone than is necessary in person.
     
  17. Summarize and follow up on meeting proceedings. This can either be done by you or by a project manager, if one has been so assigned. Take a few minutes at the end of the conference to review any major new projects that were generated in the meeting and email the list of resolutions to all participants. Also, take a minute to identify those issues or questions that must be explored further. Don't forget to thank everyone for his or her participation and say goodbye.
     
  18. Practice makes perfect. Familiarize yourself with the conference call service before you use it.  You're going to want to know how to use the conference call service so that you can use your mute functions and any of the moderator controls.  You should be able to call the conference company and get a quick overview of the different commands that you can use. 
     
  19. Start the conference on time.  You've sent out a lot of invitations that have a specific date and time provided to the other participants.  Start at the right time so that the conference will begin for those who showed up at the right time. Participants who are late will just have to miss the introduction. 
     
  20. Pay attention. As a participant you should take good notes. This will help you retain information and it will encourage you to pay attention, rather be distracted by your cell phone, email, or social networking. 
     
  21. Use visuals on conference calls that require them.  Not every conference is going to require them, so use them only in situations that call for the visual representations. 

The mercurial business world of today demands quick decisions based on as many facts as possible. Aided by the cold hand of technology, telecommunications has made the transfer of information an instantaneous and ubiquitous affair. Take advantage of this process. Wasting time hurts business and morale on many levels and it is something that can be avoided by planning ahead all the details for your next conference call. Follow these tips and you are sure to have more productive conference calls. Perhaps not all of these ideas will work for you, but many of them will.

And by the way, hold that call, will you? I have to go. There's a conference call I have to attend ...


Looking for ways to improve your speaking abilities? Here are four more resources:

How Do I Avoid Decision Fatigue?

In a given day you make hundreds of decisions. What time to wake up. What to wear. What to eat for breakfast. New research published in the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) has discovered that each decision taxes our brain’s ability to make decisions, so that as the day wears on and we make more and more decisions, our ability to ponder different options and choose wisely becomes hindered.

In the NAS study, they offered the following example (via the New York Times). Three Israeli prisoners went before a parole board on the same day. Prisoner 1: An Arab Israeli serving a 30-month sentence for fraud. Case was heard at 8:50 a.m. Prisoner 2: A Jewish Israeli service a 16-month sentence for assault. Case was heard at 3:10 p.m. Prisoner 3: An Arab Israeli serving a 30-month sentence for fraud. Case was heard at 4:25 p.m. Of the three prisoners, can you guess which one was paroled? The researchers analyzed 1,100 decisions over the course of the year. In their research they found a pattern: prisoners whose cases were heard early in the morning received parole 70 percent of the time.

Prisoners whose cases were heard late in the day were paroled 10 percent of the time. True to this statistic, the prisoner whose case was heard at 8:50 a.m. was the only one who was paroled, despite his case being very similar to that of the prisoner who appeared at 4:25. For the late prisoner, the judges’ brains had given up. Their ability to make tough decisions had been sapped. Studies similar to the above have been duplicated time and time again. In another instance, for example, people on a diet were offered M&Ms and chocolate-chip cookies throughout the day. A control group was offered nothing of the sort throughout the day.

Later both groups were given difficult geometry puzzles to solve. Researchers found overwhelmingly that the group who hadn’t forced themselves to turn down chocolate-chip cookies and M&Ms all day, the group who hadn’t sapped their will power, were able to stick with the problems and more likely to solve them than the other group. The M&M- and chocolate-chip-cookie group simply gave up more easily. So what can these findings teach us about making decisions in our own lives? Here are a few things to try

  • Schedule important decisions in the morning – In the morning your mind is fresh and ready to think. Your decision ability hasn’t been drained.
  • Make decisions on a full stomach – Giving your brain a dose of glucose, which is contained in food, can recharge your decision-making ability and your willpower. (Unfortunately, a catch 22 for dieters!)
  • Establish habits which avoid things that test your willpower – For instance, schedule a workout time so you go every day, no matter what. This makes it a habit, something you don’t have to force yourself to do, which eliminates the mental effort of making choices.
  • Schedule downtime in between important decisions – Simply allowing your brain some time to idle will give your willpower a chance to recharge.