Don’t look back in anger

Don’t judge me, but I was watching Kung Fu Panda II last week and it put something back on my radar I felt I should write about.

Yes, I am saying Kong Ffu Panda inspired me to write a blog.

Maybe as something I’d like to ponder over a bit more, maybe as something to make you think. It’s really about perspective if you like. And maybe about a different perspective.

For those of you who haven’t watched the animated movie and those of you who never intend to watch an animated movie about a Panda who becomes a Kung Fu warrior, I’ll paint the picture.(Careful: spoilers ahead)

So, there’s this Panda, right, and he’s called Po. His dad is a Goose, called Mr. Ping. And then there is an evil Peacock, Lord Shen, who wants to rule the world. But a prophecy predicted he will be defeated by a black and white worrier. To make sure he’ll survive, he kills every Panda in the universe, bar one.

You guessed it: this is where Kong Fu panda Po comes in. While the story unfolds Po finds out Mr. Ping is not his real dad and his panda parents got killed by Lord Shen. In the end, taught by his Kong Fu teacher Master Chifu, Po learns to find “peace within” and uses that superpower to defeat Lord Shen.

The moral of the story: The past might have made you what you are today, but it doesn’t define your future. Accept your past, leave it in the past and move on.

I appreciate this is easier said than done, but there is so much truth to it. I mean, can you think of any example where dwelling on the past has ever helped you moving forward? And by this, I mean using the past as an excuse not to try something new, stop doing something that holds you back or is bad for you, or not to allow yourself to achieve something?

Do you ever find yourself thinking or saying: if it wasn’t for X (person, situation, circumstance) I would’ve been Y now? Sure, maybe that’s true. But is there anything you can change about that? No, because it’s in the past. It’s out of your ability to influence. Which in my opinion makes it useless to dwell on.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m not denying your past might have been awfully hard, life hasn’t treated you fair or you’ve made mistakes that had a big impact.

I’m not trying to preach either. Who am I to tell you to get on with life? What I’m trying to say, I guess, is that when I consider it, there is really nothing in my past I want to use as an excuse to hold me back. Even taking it a bit broader: there is nothing in the past, in general, I want to use as an excuse to hold me back.

I don’t think I’ve fully mastered “being at peace” with everything in my past. I might hold a little grudge here and there, and sometimes I do think: “what if I would’ve…”, or “what if that wouldn’t have happened” even though I know it’s not very useful. Sometimes being aware of doing something is a good start of changing it for the better. Most of the time I do choose to focus on what is now, who I am now and what I want to be when I grow up and it suits me well.

Life happens. And whatever comes your way, it’s your decision how to deal with it.

I’ve seen the lady (Martine Wright) in the video below tell her story live and I thought her it was incredible and it really puts things in perspective. Just food for thought…

Inspirational read: Option B by Cheryll Sandberg

Influencer

In a role with leadership responsibility the majority of things you say, don’t say and do or don’t do will be measured and weighed.

On top of that, people will form a perception of you. No exception. Sometimes, you might not even realise what that perception is and what you’ve done to prompt that perception.

Flipping it slightly: consider how critical you are towards the directors in your company making company announcements, sharing information in “all hands” meetings… You weigh and measure things those directors might have not even deemed to cause an issue when they prepared for the meeting (Which they meticulously tend do to make sure their messaging is spot on).

Consider the perception you have about your line manager, the Managing Director or CEO of the company you work for, influencers you might follow on Instagram, the founder of Microsoft, the Prime Minister, the President of America, the President of New Zealand… It might be really positive, or quite negative. But it’s likely to be strong.

As someone with leadership responsibilities (Don’t just think managers or world leaders: think teachers, parents, influencers) have you ever considered what the effect of your words and actions are? Have you realised that every action causes reaction? That you have the power to influence people?

Everything you say or do, or don’t do, can blow up, be taken out of proportion, can cause an unintended effect. Scary, right?

The more visible or influential you become, the stronger opinions will get; both positive and negative. It probably helps to develop a good sense of awareness of what you want to portray.

A couple of weeks ago, one of my reports told me they couldn’t understand where I found the time to do all the things I was doing with my life. He felt like I am never just doing my day job but always get involved in a million other things to keep me stretched and challenged. Inside as well as outside of work. He said he felt that I might expect the same of my reports or consider them to be lazy or inadequate if they didn’t have a similar approach to life.

My initial thought was: Why would he have that perception of me? I never feel like I read enough or am massively busy and I often consider other people to do many more useful things with their time. Also, I appreciate I have quite some more me-time available to spend than people who have caring responsibilities other than just themselves and their house plants.

Then I got a little shocked and worried. O dear, people take things from me and care what I think and consider changing their behaviour because of it!

Just because I like to do a lot of things at the same time, because I like to read management books and write blogs, it doesn’t mean I expect my reports to do the same! I’m not after copy-pasting myself into an army of duplicates! Do what works for you! And that’s not necessarily the same as what works for me!

It was a good eye opener though and it got me to reconsider influence and perception.

I believe that one of the most important aspects of leadership is understanding what your messaging does to other people. “Seek to understand”, in Covey speech. Put yourself in the shoes of people on the receiving part of your message. This applies to unconscious messaging, which might lead to unintentional perception, or conscious messaging, which should lead to some more deliberate effect.

I’m not saying you should be frantically worried about what people might think of you. I’m just suggesting you need to find a good balance. Be careful people don’t think their perception of you is the same as your expectation of them and be mindful and considerate about you messaging. Lead by example and treat other people they way you like to be treated. Just in case someone does go in to copy-paste mode… If you influence people, it better be in a positive way!

Oh, and you probably need to accept you can never please everyone. Good luck 😊

Reads:

How to make friends and influence people; Dale Carnegie

Never thought a video about firefighters would ever make an apprearance on this blog. Worth a watch!