Pause The Music

London - October 2012

My mornings usually start the same way; with me sleepily stepping into the gym.  I turn on my music, put one foot in front of the other on the “dreadmill,” lift weights, get cleaned up and head to work.  I’ve met a few people at the gym, but chat rarely.  You can count on a “good morning” or “hello” and a warm smile as I rest during reps, while the headphones blare.  I may be guilty of yelling my greetings due to the volume (don’t judge me).  Today, though, I plopped down on a machine, started my exercise and a friend came and sat beside me, so I pulled the headphones off.  After we exchanged pleasantries, I kept the music off.  I noticed something.  The sounds of people breathing, the weights clanging, more huffing, sighing and grunting from those people around me.  The silence and the sounds between those seemingly random noises affected me.

You typically hear people talking about cutting through all the noise and getting clarity.  I think sometimes it’s more than noise.  It’s music.  The music is made up of the things we love, things we’re passionate about, and activities that we enjoy.  It’s not noise, it’s the music of our individual life and it may just sound awful to others, so they call it noise.
I think my experience impacted me this morning because I read an interview about Tachi Yamada, M.D., president of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s Global Health Program.  The title was Talk to Me. I’ll Turn Off My Phone. I’m fantastically guilty of NOT doing that and I’m usually doing three things at once and leave people feeling less than special.  And I’m sorry. I don’t want to be that guy anymore.  Technology, connectedness and being in social situations is my music.  It’s time to pause the music from time to time.  I’ll fail, because I enjoy my music, and I’ll try to pause it again.  I’m starting today.

Decision Making Skills from President Clinton

bill clinton.jpg

One of the struggles I’ve continued to experience in my life is making tough decisions.  We’ve all had to make them.  They’re those decisions where no matter how much you research, talk to your trusted advisers in your life and ponder, you don’t seem to get very close to knowing the “right answer.”  Sure, you recognize the choices you have.  You weigh the pros and the cons of each, but there doesn’t seem to be a clear result for either choice, until the choice has been made.

Before I can get to my insight, I have to rewind a bit.  I was in New York City last week for the Search Marketing Expo where our client, Pear Analytics, was presenting.  My friend, Peter, in New York, helped me get in to see former President Bill Clinton speak at the World Business Forum.  Now, no matter your political affiliation, seeing a US President speak is an opportunity to appreciate.  President Clinton spoke of his time in office and his initiatives now to make the world a better place.  The part that resonated most with me, though, was what he said regarding decision making as a President.  He explained that 90% of the decisions for a President are already made by the time they hit his desk.  You rely on your advisers heavily during this time, check a box and sign your name and you move on. Being President isn’t about this, though, it’s about the remaining 10% of the decisions.  This 10% is where the tough decisions are made.  You don’t really know the exact outcome; the best you can do is study, understand, listen to your trusted advisers and make a decision.  At times, he says, you’ll make the wrong choice, but you have to adjust from there and continue forward.  As he said, being the President is being the Chief Decision Maker.

Hearing this provided me some comfort in my decision making process.  If a Rhodes Scholar and former President of the United States says that you’re not always going to know the right answer, make an informed decision, then adjust accordingly, it tells me that I certainly am also afforded the same latitude.  To some, this information may seem self-evident.  In fact, I hope it is and that you’re further along in your evolution than I am.  For those that struggle with those tough decisions, take heart; just do the best you can and adjust accordingly.

Thanks again for the opportunity, Peter, it was life changing.