When I worked in the High Arctic in the 90’s, I met a wise Inuit elder who inspired me in new ways to face everyday challenges. He shared how ravens on Baffin Island (up by Greenland) surprised everybody when they began to walk one-day in the 80s.
“Before that, ravens hopped along clumsily,” this elder claimed. “Then they learned to take one step at a time, and everything changed.”
I saw reflectively that day how ravens step forward by learning each new step, just as we must do both personally and professionally. How so?
When you change focus by adding feet and wings to your best ideas, you begin to walk and fly past limitations.
Not an expert in arctic ravens, I’ll admit to being unsure if this raven story is myth or fact. I do know, however, that it takes courage to exchange any deep-seated habit for an improved approach. Fortunately though, change that walks you away from failure or limitations, often prepares you to ascend with highly successful leaders.
We do know the brain requires a step-at-a-time-action in order to rewire new neuron frameworks. Step away from failures and we move ahead, preparing to rise above constraints.
What drawback has you running backwards, or colliding with walls that hold you back?
You may well believe as Einstein did, that to do the same things, in the same ways, gets the same results. But are you aware that whenever you act in a different way, or draw from multiple intelligences that lie dormant in your gene pool, you open new opportunities? You also narrow the gap between limiting strongholds, and the innovative change you seek to lead. Not that you’ll progress past all obstacles at once.
Ravens in Arctic Bay, the size of small dogs, still act as scavengers. The difference is they now no longer fly South to survive. You too can endure winter chills that come with change. Ravens withstand frigid temperatures well below freezing, and subsist on a tundra that’s far too bleak and barren for most creatures to make it alive.
Here are 5 surefire steps that add feet, wings and life to your next innovative change:
- Look beyond what you see. It’s a bit like looking beyond a waterfall to catch radiant colors of its overarching rainbow. To settle for what the masses see, is to remain stuck in mass mediocrity. The media may pipe bleak news into your office like BP piped oil into the ocean, or managers may vent about a shrinking corporate purse. But if you focus on media bombarding bad news or if you fixate on corporate complaints, you’ll simply create neuron pathways for more of the same problems. Your brain is much like markets that rise when good news rallies, and plummet when stories hit the skids. It produces serotonin, a chemical for well being that fuels innovative growth when you look past problems to see possibilities.The opposite is also true, it shuts down basic brainpower through harmful cortisol chemicals when you fail to look beyond where you stand, to map out where you hope to arrive. The key is to set your vision on a site that challenges and inspires you, and then hitch your wagon to a nearby star that will lead you there. At least take one step in a new direction, and you can expect your brain to lead you there like a lighthouse guides a ship to its destination.
- Laugh at the little things. Not surprisingly, failure overtakes many who feel they must endure daily encounters within a toxic workplace, that fosters cynicism rather than healthy humor. Research shows that those who can laugh at themselves often find winning responses to pressing problems in their own brains and in others. Humor, when it’s the kind everybody can laugh at, releases endorphins into the brain so that people are distracted from difficult situations, and prepared to focus on winning solutions. To laugh is to alter chemicals within the brain, in ways that reduce stress. Lift emotions and add motivation by building new tools from past mistakes. Laughter opens your mind to operate more from your working memory where you design new approaches to solve old problems, and less from your basal ganglia, where ruts are stored and repeated.
- Focus with background music. Rhythm holds an immense power over the brain once you recognize how it shifts brain waves up or down for focus and innovation. Unfortunately few workplaces benefit much from addictive musical sounds that can calm thinking in one moment, and focus people on innovative change in the next. You can ratchet up brainpower with Makeba’s, Pata Pata, to reconfigure a part of your job that is not working, or discover the best cadence to create an amazing mental landscape for your next innovative project. On the flip side, certain musical genres can make you moody, edgy and anxious – so that you slip into guilt over past mistakes. How so? Music literally shifts your brain waves, impacts focus, and controls how neurons talk to one another.
- Gaze forward – glance backward. At 14 I found myself on the street after my 38-year-old mom died of cancer. When I discovered the hard way that females often don’t get financial perks for their talents, I assumed the role of victim. Without family support of any kind – I often hit the dust – as I focused on failures and setbacks more than on progress beyond shortcomings. Can you relate to times when you gazed at an overwhelming pool of problems? Or you forgot to run after possibilities? It’s like driving a car forward at full tilt, while gazing out the rear-view mirror to steer. No wonder I headed for repeat collisions in any efforts to get ahead. The lesson learned? When we gaze at a lofty goal, and spot assets, such as those special people who support us, human brainpower often bends to advance our forward trek. It’s opposite of mental meltdowns in toxic workplaces, where cynics stomp out creativity, and it awakens new intelligences as well as opens diverse perspectives you otherwise miss.
- Run with ravens but shoot from the sand. Just as ravens learned how to walk rather than hop sideways like crabs, you too will move forward when you step one foot in front of the other. Start where you stand at the moment, regardless of limitations that challenge you. When problems persist and overwhelm your plans, hit the ball out of the sand trap , like golfers hit wayward shots from sand to the green. Let me illustrate further. Barry Burnett, who leads BDR, has already reached the top of his game in many areas. As a multi-millionaire who mentors other leaders to scale higher peaks, Barry inspires change because he moves forward from wherever he stands at the moment. Innovation embodies brilliant solutions in pools just outside of prevailing thought, where people build beyond limitations.
It’s that solid first step forward that triggers sustainable innovative change. It’s a step forward to laugh at the little things, and inspire others to laugh with you. It’s a step forward to ratchet up brainpower for peak performances by music you listen to while you work. It’s a step forward to gaze at assets and merely glance back at errors as a way to track progress forward. It’s a step forward to run with ravens and shoot from the sand, whenever you find yourself in its trap.
Why not try walking past one stronghold today, add wings to your best idea, and lead change that beats winds of the upper air.