Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Rule #1 When the Going Gets Tough, The Tough Relax

"Don't let fear undermine your chance to do that one thing you've wanted to do." ~Alan M. Webber

Yesterday afternoon I spent over three hours with the one and only Alan M. Webber. Alan is the cofounding editor of Fast Company magazine and former editorial director of the Harvard Business Review. His new book is titled, Rules of Thumb: 52 Truths for Winning at Business without Losing Yourself. My dear friend, Alex von Bidder arranged our meeting. Alex knows that my journey as an entrepreneur challenges me at times and he knows this man is a Jedi Master.

I was a nervous wreck as I entered the lobby of his hotel. Where do I begin? How should I be? Do I ask a lot of questions? Or do I just be quiet and sit in awe? This is a once in a lifetime opportunity, I'd said to myself; I'd better not blow it. Then I remembered his Rule #1: When the Going Gets Tough, The Tough Relax and I started to calm down.

In this 52 potato-chip size chaptered book, Alan's Rule #1 is definitely one of the more important rules. In it, he speaks about a critical interview he is about to give when at the last minute he realizes his anxiety about how it "should go" is about to sabotage the way it "will go." In addition to each brief yet powerful vignette he concludes each chapter with a "So What?" And Rule #1's "So What?" is this:
"W. Edwards Deming is famous for his fourteen-point program which includes: "Drive out fear, so that everyone may work effectively for the company." What he didn't say is that the place to start is with you. Anytime you approach a task with fear you are at least a double loser. First, you color the work with fear and increase the chances of failure. Confidence and composure trump fear every time. Second, you guarantee that you won't enjoy the experience. Whether you succeed or fail, wouldn't you like to remember the experience as one you enjoyed, not one you suffered through?"

This rings through my ear as I wait. And I promise myself that I will enjoy myself and this amazing man, and let go of how I "should be" and just be me and enjoy this time with him. And boy did I enjoy my time with him! Alan is incredibly down to earth, has an incredible wit, all in addition to being a genius. (He also does a mean imitation of Don Corleone.) He put me instantly at ease and thanks to that; I was able to learn so much. I don't know about you but the only teachers I've ever learned from in school were the ones that put me at ease and made me feel as though I was capable. That is another one of Alan's gifts; his ability to hold you as though you are capable of anything.

And as I asked him how to take my coaching to the next level and how to approach new opportunities, I felt like I was with an old friend. What's so amazing about Alan and his Rules of Thumb is that you feel his warmth and clarity. How he is in the book, is how he is in person. A combination of sage-like wisdom, great humor along with powerful story telling and coaching.

A few other favorite chapters from the book:
Rule #6 If You Want to See With Fresh Eyes, Reframe the Picture
Rule #9 Nothing Happens Until Money Changes Hands
Rule #11 We've Moved From an Either/Or Past to a Both/And Future
Rule #16 Facts are Facts; Stories Are How We Learn
Rule #21 Great Leaders Answer Tom Peters' Great Question: "How Can I Capture the World's Imagination?"
Rule #24 If You Want to Change the Game, Change the Economics of How the Game is Played
Rule #29 Words Matter
Rule #31 Everything Communicates
Rule #46 Tough Leaders Wear Their Hearts on Their Sleeves.

And then there is Rule #53 which is where Alan invites you to write your own rule. My Rule #53 is: Be Your Own Hero. And the greatest part of that rule is that being your own hero doesn't mean you can't have other heroes. Alan M. Webber is one of mine. And I've no doubt that after you read Rules of Thumb he will be yours as well.

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