What Do My Arch Nemesis, Listening and Chili have in Common?

chili-whnSo I’ve been putting off these small projects that I know will help my business. I keep finding something better to do. I’ll send off an email or check my Google RSS reader or come up with a plan for some new product or grab myself a snack.

The good news is that I realize it’s not my fault. How could it be? 😉

It must be my arch nemesis, the evil Dr. Oatzel. I believe he has been putting drugs in my tea, making me groggy and unable to focus.

Okay, I’m giving too much credit to Dr. Oatzel. I can’t let my arch nemesis run rampant all over my life. So yes, I’ve finally accepted the fact that my arch nemesis wants me to fail, but some of my issues are my fault. He is trying to wreck my confidence so I never gain the power to not need him. I’m letting him wreck my confidence.

Invite your arch nemesis to “coffee”

My plan is to have some coffee with Dr. Oatzel next week. We need to have a sit down and figure out why he hates me. Why doesn’t he want me to do these small projects to help people become more productive and happier in their careers and businesses?

The best part is that I know he will show up because wherever I go, he is there. How can I escape such a fiendish being?

A fellow blogging friend and I are creating a new product about overcoming fear so people can start doing the work they love. Too often we hold back because we are afraid of failing, rejection and judgments.

I was afraid of being rejected by people I admire. I held off on asking them to do interviews so I could get my emotions in line. This lack of confidence opened a window to the “core me.”

Instead of looking like a weirdo and sitting at a coffee table talking to my imaginary arch nemesis, I decided to make myself some iced tea and take a walk with my sidekick (my dog). I just had to ask myself the right questions to get to the heart of my issues.

The painful questions

What was I really afraid of?

Yes, I was afraid of rejection, but why?

I began to dig. It always comes back to the why.

I began to see my need for social acceptance. I don’t want people to think that I’m stupid. Wow, that’s hard to admit. Yes, I have a lot of superpowers, but I also have a ton of weaknesses. I can be thick headed in many situations.

I realized that this fear was self-created, as most fears are. Most of my responses that I have gotten back from past interviews and meetings were very positive. I started telling my sidekick about all my great interactions with people I admire. Just sharing these fears with my sidekick helped me gain confidence and motivation. I understand where my fears were coming from, so now I could do something about it.

Swift Action

I went home and reached out to two popular bloggers that night. Both of them said they would love to do an interview.

By taking time to listen to my arch nemesis, talk to my sidekick, and take action on my answers, I found out what was holding me back.

When coaching a client, I have to listen to the emotions underneath the words. Too often we lie to ourselves because we want to believe that we are something that we aren’t.

Where chili comes into play

I used to think that I hated chili and I refused to eat it. Then one day I saw a pot of something that smelled amazing. I scooped a little tried it and loved it. I asked the hostess what it was and she told me it was her mom’s chili.

For years I had avoided something that I loved. I thought I knew that I hated chili when secretly I loved it.

Listening isn’t passive

Too often we think of listening as a passive activity.

A good listener asks the right questions. That takes full engagement. When I began to ask great questions I became more interested in what the other person was saying.

I wasn’t always a very good listener because I used to be afraid of fully engaging with the person. I was too worried about what the other person thought of me. I let my arch nemesis’ voice prey on my insecurities. When I let go of this fear I was able to engage and connect with more people.

As my listening skills have blossomed for others, my listening skills have also bloomed for my inner voice. Listening to this voice has helped me grow. My inner voice may come in the form of my arch nemesis or a sweet angel. Whatever the voice is saying, I’m listening.

How this mess all ties together

So I hated chili, but once I chose to engage with it and enjoy the taste, I found love in the food. I also hated listening to certain people, but once I opened up to asking questions while listening, the conversations were much more interesting. My arch nemesis was always there to destroy me that was until I began to open to his ideas and use them to fuel my actions.

Do you have clients with whom you can’t connect?

Do you have co-workers who just don’t float your happiness boat?

So start asking better questions and see how your productivity, happiness, and communication all improve.

* Join the Work Happy Now Facebook Page and interact with other people who are trying to improve their superpowers. It’s very basic right now, but it’s a fun place to visit. We ask good questions, support each other, and laugh. I’m going to improve the design some time soon, but until then stop by and hang out.

* Seth Godin wrote an interesting piece about working funny. We can’t let bad habits seep into our day unnoticed or they will start seeping into the good days as well.

If you enjoyed this post then you will probably like these too:

> How to Discover Your Superpowers

> A Simple Guide to Overcoming Project Resistance

Image courtesy of flyzipper

18 thoughts on “What Do My Arch Nemesis, Listening and Chili have in Common?”

  1. I was hoping to blame someone for my distraction and lack of focus and I had no idea he had a doctorate and followed YOU around too! Seriously though, what is it about us feeding on distractions? Sometimes it’s a balance – if I didn’t, I would not be reading this great article about it. Thank you – I WILL focus on my projects this week!!

  2. Hi Farnoosh, He’s a mad genius. He can get inside the heads of even the most confident.

    We feed our distractions because it feeds our fear. It’s easier to worry than take action. By knowing this we can use this power to listen, adjust our perspective and stay focused on what really matters.

  3. One of the insights that helped me ask better questions was shifting from the past or the present, to the future. The past tends to be about blame, the present tends to be about values, and the future is about opportunity. “Why” is good to get to root causes, then “how” is good to shift to the future and solutions — e.g. “How are we going to solve this?”

  4. Hi Karl,

    Well there is a way you could take Dr. Oatzel out for coffee or tea and not look completely crazy talking to an imaginary person. Take along a notebook, silently ask Dr. Oatzel what his issues are and then madly take down dictation while the mad genius tells you what he really wants or is about. Alternatively,you could use the empty chair technique in which you literally move back and forth between two chairs to have a dialogue between you and your Arch-nemesis. If you opt for the empty chair (also called two chair) technique, you might want to do that one at home or you will get strange stares from people in a coffee shop because it does involve literally moving back and forth between two chairs and role playing Dr. Oatzel. 😉

    I think it’s natural to procrastinate and allow ourselves to be distracted when we’re feeling some resistance to doing a project that we know is important but isn’t always urgent; i.e., there is no deadline hanging over our head like Damocles’ sword. In some cases, it could just be that there is some mental aspect of the project that hasn’t quite finished “cooking” or simmering on the back burner so the ingredients in the project “chili” haven’t quite come together and it isn’t ready to be eaten yet. Sometimes I find that making a conscious choice to go and do an enjoyable activity that is relaxing,and a confidence booster helps me to move forward when I return to the project I’m “supposed” to be doing. The trick of course is to be mindful and fully conscious of your choices and why you’re making them.

    Have a great day.

  5. Hi Karl

    It was funny to read your adventures with Dr.Oatzel 🙂

    Fear is such a funny thing I am beginning to realize more and more. It is like you said something about social acceptance, but why? Why do we feel like we cannot go for it and be ourselves with everyone? Is it because in society we feel judged so much, or does it go back to nothing more than a fear of the unknown?

    Well the good news is, you are now enjoying the benefits of yummy chilli 😉 I guess it goes to show, we will never know until we try!

  6. Karl,
    I was recently on a business trip with someone from work that I don’t typically talk much to. And guess what – once we got out of our normal environments and were together more – the conversation flowed. And – it’s made for even better working relations now that we’re back. That whole idea of connection…and what is really there…mmm….good stuff….

  7. Pingback: Tweets that mention Why asking the right questions matters so much | Work Happy Now! -- Topsy.com

  8. Hi Sue, Role-playing might sound like a kid’s game, but it can really help people see their life from a new perspective. You are right it always comes back to being mindful of thoughts, feelings, and other people. The more awareness you bring the more clear the communication will be with yourself and other people.

  9. My husband says he hates chili. I wonder if he’s been avoiding things he secretly loves? See if I focus on him, I can avoid doing what I’m afraid of….thanks Karl! ; )

  10. Hi Karl — I like that way of putting it — that emotions, even fear, can be like food, in the sense that we can learn to enjoy a variety of them, and to recognize that trying to eat only Ramen or even filet mignon all the time isn’t going to give us a fulfilling experience of life.

  11. Hi Evita, It was fun to write as well. I think it goes back to the deep need for survival. We know we can’t get by without other people, at least most of us couldn’t be hermits. We need love. We want to fit in so we are very aware of being judged and typed an outcast. Some use this knowledge and try to be the black sheep, connecting with other black sheep in the process. Our social rules don’t always make sense, but they got us this far. It’s tough to throw away all our social training since we’ve been little kids.

  12. Hi Audra, Lol. You make a good point. We focus on others because we are afraid of working on ourselves. Although, we can’t focus on ourselves too much, so try slipping a little chili on to his plate this weekend. See what happens. 😉

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