New York City Mayor Ed Koch died today at age 88. Like any politician his legacy will be debated and written about by historians. While others dwell on his policy decisions a simple habit Koch had stands out.
Koch would famously ask constituents, “How am I doing?” Not just when running for office, not just when he thought the answer would be one of gushing admiration, but a question borne of genuine interest.
How am I doing?
It’s a simple question anyone can employ. Rather than waiting for feedback from others, take a bit of initiative. Now and then, ask colleagues, subordinates and superiors this simple question. Ask your clients. Query your friends and family. Run it past a significant other. It can start conversations. It can make sure you’re on track and provide an early warning sign of something that might need correcting. You might learn something.
“Want to make God laugh? Make plans,” goes the old adage.
The best stories are those where the main character makes plans to do something and then the unexpected happens. The ship sinks, aliens invade, the wedding is called off and an assassin shows up. We like that, happily grabbing a bag of popcorn and munching away hoping the director heaps more grief on the hero while we root for him to come through.
Except we don’t like it when it happens to us. A flat tire on the way to work? Derails our whole day. Skiing injury? The month is shot. Unexpected layoff? Kills a whole year.
But life is all about dealing with the unexpected. A fantastic lesson in this is “Life of Pi,” if you haven’t seen it, (or read it) it’s recommended. It’s these challenges—both big and small—that test us, promote us, and cause us to grow and change.
Dealing with the unexpected becomes particularly important when someone is paying you to deal with it. Now you not only have your own challenges but those of colleagues and clients.
You’re a character in your own movie, and the screenplay still has a lot of pages to go.
When sending an invitation to someone via Linkedin, take a moment to compose a quick introductory note rather than using the default message. Few people seem to do this, since using the default is easier.
Doing little things that other people don’t feel like doing can lead to bigger things.
If that sounds weird or outlandish it shouldn’t. The past hundred years have shown us that. Tubes of metal that fly people across the Atlantic in a few hours? Outrageous. Buildings with over 160 floors? Impossible. Ten-year-old kids with communication devices far more advanced than anything portrayed on Star Trek? Absurd.
If you could be printing your own meat via an ink jet, then you might be doing anything a few years from now. That includes what you’ll do for a living. It’s very possible the job you’ll be doing doesn’t exist yet. It may not have been thought of yet.
How to you prepare for that? Embrace the weird and outlandish. It’s the new norm.
Friday is a peculiar day. It’s a day some people wait all week for. “Thank God it’s Friday,” they’ll say on the elevator while you nod politely. Most people probably don’t realize they do this.
But you only get about 52 Fridays a year. So what’s happening to the other 312 days?
Figure out a way to get more Fridays into your calendar. This doesn’t mean more party-do-less-work days but taking that Friday enthusiasm with you all week. You once had it. As a pre-schooler you probably didn’t say “TGIF.”
Find something to get excited and enthusiastic about and spend your week chasing it down.
There’s an old Latin saying, “Qui docet, discit” (He who teaches, learns.)
You don’t need to wait until you have a teaching certificate, a particular degree, or gray hair to pass on knowledge and skills and inspire others. Volunteer to become a mentor, either formally through a program at work or school or informally.
You know more than you think you know; you bring your own unique set of skills and life experiences to the table. If you don’t know the answer, merely reply, “I don’t know but I’ll find out.” (You might even approach each day with that very question.)
The best teachers don’t preach to others, they learn from others.