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.
Forty miles from the nearest Scottish inhabitants lies the remote island of Borelay, one of the most inhospitable places on the planet. Ringed by a treacherous coastline and pounded by furious seas it was always clear to experts why Borelay was devoid of settlements.
Except it wasn’t. Archaeologists have found evidence that prehistoric people once lived on the island. How did they get there? How did they survive? The answer may be lost in the mists of time.
Or maybe they went there because no one told them they couldn’t.
“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.
I caught the end of a radio interview with a hundred-year-old woman. The interviewer asked the cenetarian for the secret to how she handled the myriad trials and tribulations that had been visited upon her during her journey through life.
“When you climb a hill always know there’s another hill, and another hill after that,” she said. “Once you come to accept that there’s always another hill, you will have far less aggravation and stress in your life.”