What’s your Water?
Today’s post might feel like you are going back and forth a few times – like multiple flashbacks in a movie. Pardon me but I wanted to experiment with this format. I think you will like it.
One of the shortest (but amazing) books I have ever read is David Foster Wallace’s “This is Water – Some Thoughts Delivered on a Significant Occasion about Living a Compassionate Life.” On a lighter note – the title of the book along with the line following it, were the longest. There is a lovely story that David writes in the book.
The story goes as follows: There are these two young fish swimming along and they happen to meet an older fish swimming the other way, who nods at them and says, “Morning, boys. How’s the water?”
And the two young fish swim-on for a bit, and then eventually one of them looks over at the other and goes, “What the hell is water?”
The immediate point of the fish story is merely that the most obvious, ubiquitous, important realities are often the ones that are hardest to see and talk about.
Now let’s connect back to last week’s post “Are you Upstreaming? (Based on Dan Heath’s book Upstream)”. Do you remember this?
Well, if you do not – here goes a one-line summary. Upstream work is about preventing problems from happening or reducing the probability that problems will happen. As we discussed in that post, this involves a process of change – a change in your systems (not to forget a change in yourself).
Dan Heath writes, “To change the system is to change the rules that govern us or the culture that influences us.”
Tying this line back to David Foster Wallace’s fish story – The system is the water.
We are busy all the time. There is hardly any time to think about our business or to work on our business. We are always working in it just like the fish are swimming in water. We don’t remember what our water is.
Ask yourself “What’s my water? and Am I able to see my water clearly?
Just like we can’t see ourselves without a mirror, so too can’t we see our water (most of the times) without the guidance and wisdom of a coach. Not any coach. An Accountability Coach. Someone who will call a spade a spade and get you to see your water.
A plug for HF here makes sense. Don’t you think? We have been accountability coaches to many of you. We are so happy to share that we just concluded our first annual meet of our select partners and I can’t stop myself from sharing some reactions.
Ketan wrote, “Thanks to the entire HF team for planning and organizing a wonderful get together. The best thing was the entire one and a half-day, there was no market outlook, no numbers, no AUM targets or Goal setting talk. Sheer exchange of thoughts, ideas and experiences was refreshing and inspiring. Thank you to all of you for making us feel as if we are at a friend’s get-together.”
Ravi wrote, “Gratitude for such a wonderful event for all of us, it was like coming home, you made us feel special. Learned a lot, inspired and humbled. Thanks to the entire team of HF for making our experience so pleasant and lovely. Gratitude for such heart-warming hospitality.”
All of these professionals have got a clear sense of what their water is. And mind you, this is not a one-time exercise. This is a continuous process just like the process of learning.
Some more questions to ponder on:
- What are the rules that are currently governing my system?
- What is the culture that is currently influencing my system?
Dan adds, “A well-designed system is the best upstream intervention. Problems sometimes can be solved with minor changes to the environment. In some fast-food restaurants, customers were throwing away the plastic trays their food was served on. So, the restaurants responded by using trash cans with smaller circular holes that do not accommodate trays. Problem solved forever.”
What’s the water you are not seeing in your life or work today?
Here is a reflection exercise that will be helpful.
Brian Johnson of Heroic Enterprises writes about self-development teacher Brian Tracy’s Zero-Based Thinking.
Brian Johnson writes, “Step back from everything you are doing and imagine you have an absolute blank slate in your life. Knowing what you know today, is there anything you are currently doing that you wouldn’t get into again if you were starting over today?
That’s Part I of the reflection exercise.
Here is Part II: If your answer is “Yes”, then your next question is, “How do I get out of this situation, and how fast?” – This can be an even more challenging exercise.”
The most important thing after you do these 2 parts is TO ACT.
As the line goes in Mission Impossible, your mission then should you choose to accept is to complete these 2-part reflection exercises and ACT as fast as you can.
And if you feel this mission (or your bigger one of future proofing your firm) is as good as impossible and you need a Team (to be on your side and with you in the trenches as well as your peaks), simply know that we are eagerly waiting to hear from you.