Crucial Conversations – Maintaining Your Honor Through Difficult Times

Crucial Conversations – Maintaining Your Honor Through Difficult Times

Last time, I wrote about honor and its importance. In a world where shallow self-centeredness and broken promises are commonplace, those who manage to act with honor will shine through; especially if they can maintain that honor through difficult circumstances long-term. I have had reason to think on this recently, due to an unconscious breach of my own honor. A promise I had made was forgotten, and through that neglect I caused a significant amount of strife.

It is inevitable that we will break promises, miss deadlines, and fail to meet expectations 100% of the time. Nobody is perfect. So, how do we maintain our honor in such circumstances?

In the past, I have found helpful advice in a lovely little book by Patterson, Grenny, McMillan, & Switzler called Crucial Conversations. The book talks about what a crucial conversation is and provides some methods for handling them well. Per the definition in the book:

Crucial Conversation – A discussion between two or more people where (1) stakes are high, (2) opinions vary, and (3) emotions run strong.

Many of us dislike confrontation in any form, especially if the confrontation occurs between us and someone we hold a high opinion of. But truly impactful conversations often tend to happen in concordance with an element of confrontation. In these situations, we all have our own coping mechanisms: the silent treatment, sarcasm, anger, etc. But really, everyone involved in the conversation has a desire to be heard, not attacked, for their differing opinions. If we utilize some simple tools (and a whole lot of patience and empathy), everybody can walk away from a crucial conversation better off.

A central concept of the book is called the “Pool of Shared Meaning,” which contains the ideas, theories, feelings, thoughts, and opinions that have been openly shared. The more people contribute to the pool, the more information there is to work with, which can lead to new insights. As you can guess, these insights can be much more useful in finding a well-rounded and effective solution than by jumping to conclusions. The more time we take to add to the pool, the better the result for everyone involved.

Next, we need to ask ourselves what we really want. Taking a moment to pause and reflect on why we feel hurt or disappointed (or otherwise) can be very enlightening as we hone in on specifics that will be our guide throughout a conversation. Once we have a “North star,” so to speak, we can keep our proverbial eye on that as the discussion progresses and more information gets added to the Pool of Shared Meaning.

The last element I will mention here is safety. How many times have you been in a dialogue where you felt attacked, belittled, or otherwise put out? There are two elements that need to be universally established in any crucial conversation in order for it to bear good results: mutual respect and caring. Once everyone feels respected and that their best interests are at the heart of others in the conversations, the tension in the room will go down drastically. Then we can actually have a good conversation!

If you start your tough conversations with these elements, you will be well along the path to a successful resolution to whatever conflict that has cast its shadow on your life. There are only a handful more concepts outlined in the book that further enhance the foundation I have provided for you here. If you would like to understand a bit more before picking up the book, you can read an excellent summary on Wikisummaries.org.

And, as always, we here at Protagonist are dedicated to helping you through difficult life circumstances. If you should ever desire our assistance our simply need someone to listen, let us know at hello(at)protagonist.life

Posted by Curious in Reflections, 0 comments
How Your Intuition Can Guide Your Life

How Your Intuition Can Guide Your Life

In this day and age, intuition does not get the recognition and use that it deserves. We seem to revel in logic and routine, our lives on autopilot. Intuition is our soul’s way of telling us something is right or wrong. For example, have you ever felt really strongly about something, but were unable to explain why? That’s intuition. We all have it, but do we have mastery of it? I argue that we don’t; “mastery” is not a word one often uses with intuition, because intuition is more or less a supernatural force.

Now, before you jump all over me about spirituality and religion, let me preface my thoughts with this—I am not a religious person. I was raised Lutheran and am familiar with Christian practices to a degree, but my beliefs do not presently lie with any deities, titans, figures, or otherwise. However, I do believe there are forces at play in the universe that are beyond our understanding. And at the risk of sounding like some sort of voodoo, hippie spiritualist, I will continue.

In my experience, especially in recent years, I have enjoyed the benefits of listening to my intuition. It’s what led to me selling my last business—it just seemed like the best thing to do. I have all sort of reasons why, but at the time I made the decision entirely based on how I felt. Listening to my intuition and whatever drives it led me to feel happier than I have in years. That said, listening to one’s intuition often seems easier said than done. Some of us are so stuck on autopilot that we find it hard to change our course or method. Because of our routines, we either ignore or forget to listen for new things. On the other hand, some of us are such strong empaths that we can’t distinguish one feeling from another. To this, I like to quote a friend who once said, “The universe will keep teaching you the same lesson until you get it.” That, to me, means that if you feel stuck or stagnant, there is a lesson to learn that you just aren’t getting.

Take an ounce of advice from a guy who has tried things that he never thought he would try—listen to your intuition more!

There are different ways to tune in to your intuition, and everyone is a bit different. I recommend meditation and finding a personal place to be still, both physically and mentally. I can’t claim a whole lot of expertise with this yet, as I only meditate (without much direction) every morning for about fifteen minutes. As I begin to work with a new coach myself, that is one space I am looking forward to exploring. As of this post, he has been able to get me to tap into an inner stillness that I have only experienced once before. Until you can find a practice or a coach that works best for you, do some Google searching or download an app. (I use Insight Timer. The Calm app is another good one!)

Take some time to listen more deeply, and you may be surprised where your intuition leads you. The universal forces that drive it want the best for you (just take my word for it) and will not lead you astray.

Posted by Curious in Reflections, 0 comments
Kind of Crazy or Kind of Scared?

Kind of Crazy or Kind of Scared?

Have you ever heard or said the phrase, “They’re my kind of crazy”? For some reason, my brain has fixated on this phrase for the last week and, as such, I have felt driven to write in order to examine it. What the heck does it mean? Is the person clinically insane, or just strange or weird in some agreeable way? Perhaps they maintain a collection of exotic butters?

To put the phrase in my own context: I typically say it to a close friend while having a great time with others, or while watching a video or performance that is perhaps just on the edge of being socially acceptable. You know—one of those “hilarious, but not something I’d ever show my parents” kind of things. “They’re my kind of crazy,” to me, means someone has a similar mindset and is just one or two steps ahead of me, either in terms of thought process or of courage. I want to be like them because of the abilities they have or way they think.

It is so easy to admire others…or even be jealous of what they have that we don’t, and I have spent so much time training myself to not be jealous, but to funnel that energy towards attaining the things I admire in others. For the skeptics among my readers, I will tell you a little story about how I got to that point. In my early college years, I was a lump. Not because I stayed indoors without human interaction, playing video games (although that’s mainly what I did), but because I didn’t do anything to try to improve my life and be happier. I should have been as green as the wicked witch from all the envy I had for the “normal humans” who seemed to effortlessly enjoy life, but I never took the time to find out why they enjoyed life. I never even took the time to figure out why my life sucked in the first place! I refused to.

It was not something I wanted to deal with.

Long story short, my life reached a rock-bottom point where I was forced to look at myself and the pit I had dug. And yes, in my case, the pit was dug by yours truly; I didn’t just fall into it, because it was the culmination of a lot of complicated things I could have influenced. At that point, I realized that I didn’t have a kind of crazy to be drawn to, I was crazy. Crazy enough to let myself slip to that point.

We all have our skeletons—some scarier than others, and some less controllable than others. In any case, a bit of observation and retrospection can lead to some life changing-epiphanies. I encourage you to find a journal or legal pad or some writing surface (yes, I mean writing by hand, because writing engages the brain in ways a computer can’t) and just write out a list of what’s on your mind – good or bad. Did a coworker annoy you today? Write it down. Was your lunch extra tasty? Write it down. Worst or best day of your week, month, year? Write it down. Has something been nagging at your brain for weeks? Yup, you guessed it! That’s it. That’s the whole exercise. You don’t have to do anything else unless you feel like it.

The act of writing thoughts down gets our brain to engage with them, both consciously and subconsciously, which sets gears in motion to move you from wherever you are to a better place. Our subconscious developed to keep us safe, and when you take even the tiny moments to recognize things that are bad, it will start to take notice. Now, I’m not saying that this exercise will change your life overnight. Few things, short of winning the lottery or getting hit by a bus, will do something that drastic. However, if you do this with some regularity, you may start to notice small things changing for the better. In my humble opinion, small, incremental changes, whether good or bad, lead to far less chaos and far more stability than big, abrupt changes.

For those of you that want faster change or are just over-achievers, here’s your extra credit: once you’ve written your list (or word cloud—it doesn’t have to be neat and orderly as long as things are on paper), pick one or two thoughts from the page and spend some more time on them. Think about how those things affect you and, in turn, how you can affect them. Then start doing something about it! Few things change the way we want them to without our direct interaction.

So. What’s your kind of crazy?

Posted by Curious in Reflections, 0 comments
Jude: Thankfulness & Healing in a Busy World

Jude: Thankfulness & Healing in a Busy World

Hey, everyone! 

I want to start off this month’s post with some of my favorites from last month’s Thankfulness Challenge:

Day 9: I am thankful for my friends, family, and those who love me. Knowing that I have them in my life is a true blessing, which I will always be thankful for.

Day 13: I am thankful for the beauty of the state I live in! I am so happy with the decision to move here—it makes every morning worth it!

Day 21: I am thankful for my fiancé. He has done so much for me, and helped to shape me into the person I am today. I honestly would not have the confidence to open up as much as I have without him always there to support and love me. I am beyond thankful for him, and know the rest of my life will be enriched for having him in it.

Over these last few weeks, taking the time to think on what I am thankful for has been wonderful. It has especially been nice to look back on days when I felt like it was a pointless day. By re-reading what I was thankful for the day before, or even the week before, I could find a new outlook on what had started as a bad day. It was a real boost in perspective and confidence to turn a bad day good again.  

This month, I have also given some thought to a subject I haven’t ever touched on before, and I want to do that now. I recently found an article that I can relate to, and that discusses the healing that hiking and experiencing nature can provide during grief. Grief affects us all at some point in our lives. Sometimes we expect these losses, and sometimes we don’t. I have always tried to run away from any sort of painful emotion, believing that I didn’t have enough strength to deal with it. In years past, I acted self-destructively instead of dealing with my pain in a healthy manner.

As I began my long journey of healing, I found the best places for me to heal were in nature. I began with short hikes up the bluff, then started taking weekend camping trips in the desert. Being in nature reminds me not only how different the world is, but also that it constantly changes, evolves, and grows—much the same as human beings do. It is important to learn and grow from our emotions. We all grieve in different ways, which is perfectly acceptable. As long as you are doing it in a healthy manner and not harming yourself or others, I support finding your own method. We are all different, and we all grieve over different things: the loss of a loved one or pet, or even something as small as a friend moving away. Understanding what causes your grief is a wonderful first step to healing.

If you currently find yourself grieving, try being in nature for a little bit. Take a walk alone, let the fresh air help clear your mind of the chaos, and most importantly, begin your healing journey.

Posted by Jude in Hey Jude, 0 comments
Why Your Mindset Is Killing Your Dreams

Why Your Mindset Is Killing Your Dreams

What kind of crap do you put up with? As an entrepreneur, I used to put up with all sorts. I’d let customers trample all over me in the effort to make a sale or close a deal. It was exhausting!

With that said, it makes me so sad to see all the people in my Facebook feed who hate their jobs (or lives). It’s a weird juxtaposition between half of my friends and the other half – one half, mostly entrepreneurs, love what they do and keep forging ahead regardless of how challenging life may be in the moment. The other half–let’s call them ‘9-5ers’–complain regularly about their jobs, lives, or situations. For a good long while now, this dichotomy has fascinated me and, quite possibly, contributed greatly to my list of reasons why I started Protagonist.

What is the difference here? Do half of my friends know some sort of black magic the other half doesn’t?

Let’s take a look at one of the mindset differences: outlook. My entrepreneur friends generally see the world through lenses of endless opportunity. To them, there is nothing that can’t be done; one just needs to spend the appropriate amount of time or find the right resources. On the other end of the spectrum, the 9-5ers seem to have this lens that casts their world into the shadow of passive hostility and a lack of control. To them, many problems are insurmountable because of the obstacles in their way.

Let’s take a quick peek at another element – control. What do you have control over? I promise you if you start asking yourself that question and giving it some honest, objective thought, the answers may surprise you in a good way. Entrepreneurs seem to be masters of their lives. Want to know why? I’d argue that they started asking a question like that early on and began finding answers. Creative or not, they found out that they could exercise control, or at least influence, much more than they were led to believe by society, their parents, company management, etc., and decided to do something with it. Do you ever feel more at ease when you feel you have things under control? I do.

These mindsets can come from a variety of different places. Everyone has their own catalyst, and there doesn’t necessarily need to be a ‘stars aligning’ moment to get there. It’s a lifelong journey that brought each of us to where we are today. The ‘stars aligning’ moment is generally what is needed to get one onto a different track, though. Unfortunately. And most of the time this moment cannot be ‘manufactured’ in the sense that a given individual, say a therapist or coach, guides you to it. There’s a certain magic when deep down you decide you’ve had enough and need a change. Call it chemical reactions, spiritual awakening, decisiveness… There’s a certain resonance that happens that seems to give us permission to do what we need in order to make changes. And it can only happen inside you.

Now, I’m not discounting the elements of depression or anxiety or any other psychological ailments. These play a huge part in one’s mindset to be sure! As a friend of mine once put it,

“When you have depression, you may be overwhelmed with sadness for no reason at all. Logic plays no part in it – regardless of how you try to logic yourself out of it, you get to be so sad that you don’t want to do anything. Congratulations.”

This illogical beast that can strike from the shadows is something more people deal with than you might think. The 9-5ers aren’t alone in that! Elon Musk (Tesla) is a perfect example of an entrepreneur who dealt/is dealing with with depression. According to one study done by Michael Freeman M.D., about a third of the 242 entrepreneurs he tested reported having depression. If that’s any representation of the group as a whole, that’s a lot of people!

One question I have been asked (and one that I have asked others) is ‘how do you get through the tough times?’ I know we’ve all asked that question at one point or another and the answer is different for everyone, everywhere. In my opinion our upbringing plays a large part in not only how we see the world, but how we deal with the dark times. If you were always told to ‘suck it up’ as a kid, chances are you’ve been doing that for years (which may or may not have anything to do with depression/anxiety/etc.). On the flip-side though, if your parents acknowledged the pain you were feeling and helped you through it, you probably have some personal methods and tools for coping when the going gets tough. For me, the best way to get through tough times is to talk. I hop on a call with a friend or ask them to go for a walk with me so I can unravel the tangle in my head. Not only do I feel better because I’ve been able to bring what’s inside out, but my monologuing (let’s face it, it’s usually not a discussion but me talking to myself in the presence of another) helps me understand the angles of the situation. It may even turn on a light that allows me to think differently and more positively.

So what the heck is one to do when life doesn’t just give you lemons, but starts cramming them down your throat?

I will be up front and say that I don’t have a perfect answer. There is no cure-all that will magically make your troubles disappear. Find a place to yell and scream and tear at things. Write. Exercise. Find a happy place, either alone or with someone you really care about who understands. Regardless of how illogically our brains may work or how tough life may be, we always have a choice in how we respond. That is where we can take a stand and make sure our needs get met.

Posted by Curious in Reflections, 0 comments
Jude on Emotions and Thankfulness

Jude on Emotions and Thankfulness

Hey all!

I think we can agree on one thing, here: this past month has been incredibly emotional for all of us. I want to talk about two things before I dive into this month’s challenge.

After the recent attack in Las Vegas, I found myself feeling very emotional. This incident was beyond horrible and has affected the nation in a way that I would never have thought possible. After what happened, we must remember that love will win. Hate and darkness will always exist in this world, so it is up to us and our light, our love, to shine bright through it. What happened is just another reminder to always tell someone how you feel; call your grandparents, parents, siblings, and friends more often, even if just to say hi. With all the technology available today, there is no reason not to remind our families that we are thinking of them daily. You can spread love by simply smiling at a stranger or holding a door open for someone. Even the smallest of acts will grow. Take those opportunities that are offered. Live the life you want, because we never know when it might be cut short. If you would like to help the victims from the Vegas shooting, I’ve put a link at the bottom of this post to an article that can show you where to start.

Another thing I wanted to touch on is the #metoo movement, a very brave and long-overdue movement to help the women in the world stand together and fight back. No matter your profession, age, or race, sexual assault does not discriminate.  I know that some of us may not be comfortable with announcing some of the experiences we have had, and I wanted to remind you that you are more than welcome to send me a message and tell me your story. Talking to someone always helps, and that is exactly why I am here. I am your journal that talks back. Let me listen, and I’ll offer some insight if I can. You are not alone, and it is always important to remember that. If you still feel uncomfortable, or if all the attention on sexual assault has dredged up some painful emotions and memories for you, below is another link to an article that may help you.  

Now, for this next month, I wanted to challenge you to what I call the Thankful Challenge. It seems fitting, since it’s just in time for Thanksgiving. I want you to write down one thing you are thankful for every day, big or small. I feel it is very important to remind ourselves how lucky we are and how important even the little things in life are. You may be surprised by what you actually find yourself thankful for. You can do what I do and physically write these things down, or find one of the hundreds of goal tracking apps available. I personally enjoy writing them down so that I can go back and read them out loud later. Come back next month, and I will post some of my favorites that I have written down. Sometimes you need to be the one to remind yourself of just how lucky you are. Remember: to love others we must love ourselves. Don’t let the hate in—humanity can be beautiful, so let’s show it!




Posted by Jude in Reflections, 0 comments