It Starts with Effort

It Starts with Effort Make an effort and put in the work

“All things are difficult before they are easy.” — Thomas Fuller

“Hope is wishing for a thing to come true. Faith is believing it will come true. Work is making it come true.” — Dr. Norman Vincent Peale

Thomas Fuller sums in eight words what I want to express in the next few hundred words. He was obviously much better as a concise and to-the-point writer.

Dr. Peale also accomplishes a profound sentiment I share in three short sentences.

I share the following with those I mentor and coach to arrive at the same conclusions as Mr. Fuller and Dr. Peale:

I was raised by the hardest-working person I have ever known. From my perspective, there was nothing he could not do. That didn’t mean that he knew how to do everything. He just never allowed not knowing how to stop him.

He could fix a car. Any car. His Ford Torino. Jeep Wagoneer. Ford Thunderbird. Plymouth Reliant. Grandmother’s Ford Pinto.

He remolded the kitchen. Twice. Two different houses.

He replaced the roof, siding, and 90 panes of glass in the windows of our house after it was pulverized in a “microburst storm.”
He replaced the carpet. Rewired the entire house—it was an old house with aluminum wiring. Replaced all of the plumbing—same old house had lead pipes.

Oh, and before all of this, he taught himself to read. He was educated and graduated from high school. But the Catholic school he attended through 8th grade did not teach him how to read. He was promoted to public high school with only basic reading proficiency and given a diploma when he completed the 12th grade because he was an excellent student who had won awards and excelled in other areas, particularly in fine arts and industrial arts.

His lack of reading ability was not due to a lack of effort.

As an adult, he recognized how much this limited his ability to do things he wanted to do. To learn what he wanted to learn. To achieve all that he wanted to achieve—for himself and his family.

No excuses. He was motivated. He applied himself. He worked hard. Very hard.

I was nearly an adult before I learned of this story. He was embarrassed and didn’t want anyone to know—especially not his only son. To me, I was proud—and am even more so today—of the man he was, and this took nothing away from that.

Actually, quite the opposite. I admire him tremendously. I cannot imagine how difficult that was and how much effort it must have required.

Then, to think about all that he was able to do. Not because he was a great reader. Even though he improved greatly, it still took a lot of effort to him read and comprehend.

But, from my perspective, if you can teach yourself to read, then figuring out how to do just about anything else—including fixing cars and remodeling houses—will not be an intimidating feat.

Unlike all of us today, he did not have Google. No YouTube. No shortcuts.
If he could, he’d find a book or manual. Then read. Study. Learn. If needed, he’d find someone who had experience. Then ask. Listen. Learn.

If neither of those options were readily available, that didn’t stop him. I was an eyewitness to him figuring out how to do many things with nothing more than effort.

I brag about my dad a lot. Yes, I am a proud son. But more than that, I was privileged not only to be actively taught to work hard and have a strong work ethic (he never missed a “teachable moment” on those subjects), but I also had a front-row seat to see what an impact making the effort can have on someone’s life. That is the most valuable education I could have ever received. It transcends all the secular education I have pursued.

No matter what we attempt to do, we can expect that it’ll be difficult at first.Then with effort and hard work, it’s not so difficult. More effort, more work. Repeat until it’s easy.

At Ortulum Digital Consulting Inc., we can help you to achieve your work and life goals. No excuses. With effort and hard work, we’ll help you pursue your life’s passion, create new opportunities for your business, or make a daunting career change that fits your goals and aspirations.

Schedule a free 30-minute discovery call with us to talk to us about how we can help you.

Leadership for a supportive, engaging remote work environment

It was in the early 2000’s that I first started to work remotely full-time. That certainly wasn’t so common then, outside of sales and consultant roles, but even they were typically traveling to meet with customers or on-site with a client most days throughout the month.

Most of us have, however, experienced working remotely from a home office every day due to the pandemic that kept us largely sequestered over the past 2+ years.

Now virtually all of us have first-hand experience with the pros and cons of remote work. For many, it was a significant adjustment. Not just for all employees, but for many companies and their executives, leaders, and managers who may have had no experience–and no interest–in enabling and leading a remote workforce.

For me, it was muscle memory. I had been working primarily in an office for a couple of years at that time, so I was able to appreciate the contrast, the pros and the cons, with the opportunity to work daily from a home office again.

I recently read an article that is an excerpt adapted from the book, Lift: Fostering The Leader In You Amid Revolutionary Global Change, by Faisel Hogue, et al., that speaks to much of what I have learned from working and managing remote teams spanning 10 time zones for most of the last 20 years.

The authors address the pros and cons, the advantages and drawbacks, with reference to help from leaders:

“Business transformation where digitalization plays a central role can be key in leveraging the advantages of remote work arrangements while addressing its drawbacks. As for those downsides, business transformation should also include management helping remote workers to address and mitigate the issues of isolation and loneliness.”

When I first started working from home years ago, people would often say things to me like, “Oh, must be nice to sit around the house all day, sipping coffee in your PJs and slippers, watching soap operas!”

My response? “I wouldn’t know.” Admittedly, I was frustrated that this was the perception, but it quickly became apparent that no matter what I said in rebuttal, I could not change this perception.

They just didn’t get it.

Want to know a secret? Neither did I! At first, at least…

No, I did not sit around watching TV in my bunny slippers all day. For me, it was the opposite. I worked far more hours, often 16, 18, 20 hours a day, 6 and sometimes 7 days a week.

That was not healthy. Mentally or physically. It took me years to realize this, though.

Eventually, I learned keys like setting boundaries, forcing myself to take time away from the desk and the computer, and packing up the laptop a day or so a week to work from a coffee shop or park.

Another key that I had to learn, which was especially important for my remote teams, was finding ways to have more social interaction among the team and other colleagues.

“Transformation which includes a significant digital role can narrow that chasm, and digitalization can help cement a commitment to flexibility—a cornerstone of employees’ view of an engaging and supportive place to work.”

I have virtual 1:1 meetings that I schedule at a time most convenient to the teammate based on their time zone and work schedule, whether that is 5 am or 9 pm for me. I make it a point for these meetings to be focused on the teammate, not on an agenda I might have as a manager to get status updates, etc. For teammates in other countries, I’ve rarely had the opportunity to meet them in person, so this especially is one of the only opportunities for me to get to know them on an appropriate personal level.

I want to learn about them, their story, their experiences.

What brought them to where they are today?

What are their motivations, goals, aspirations?

What gets them out of the bed in the morning?

For the larger team, I have meetings at least once a month with all teammates where a wide span of time zones are represented. I alter the time of these so not one or more time zones are inconvenienced each time. I strongly encourage everyone to attend, though–if at all possible.

I try to find ways to ensure that the agenda is not just work topics. I include highly participatory activities, sometimes not directly related to work, that are more of a social nature.

For example, I’ve had each teammate send me a “fun fact” about themselves, something that no one on the team likely knows. Then, during a team meeting, everyone will try to guess who that is… This has always been fun, good for a lot of laughs, and can really help to break the ice to get to know each other a little better. While this may not having anything to do with work, I have seen this be an instant boost to collaboration among teammates.

I also encourage giving presentations on something that a teammate has learned, is learning, or is researching. This may be related to a specific task or project; in other cases it is just something that they have wanted to explore and learn more about that I have encouraged them to pursue. This too often leads to collaboration and exchanging ideas that otherwise would not have happened.

Of course, these are not only applicable to remote teams. It is important, however, to consider the need for more deliberate engagement and interaction when teammates or entire teams are remote too help address feelings of isolation and loneliness that can easily become overwhelming for some of us.

Over the years working 100% on-site, 100% remote, and a hybrid of both, I have come to appreciate the flexibility that is afforded me and my teams when we are able to work remotely from home offices. I have learned valuable techniques and a balanced perspective that has helped ensure the advantages of working remote outweigh the downsides.

Here a few specific suggestions from the article that I can personally attest to:

What has your experience been working remotely?

Has management been supportive, actively engaged to make the experience work to your advantage?

Have there been challenges that you’ve struggled to overcome?

What impact has the flexibility that often comes with or is associated with working remotely had in your life away from work?

Wind & Fire

Will your career ambitions be driven or extinguished by the wind?

According to the National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC), which reports on wildfires across the United States every weekday, on July 11, 2022:

“Currently 73 large fires and complexes have burned 2,805,239 acres in 10 states. Alaska continues to be the busiest state, with 56 large fires and complexes that have burned 2.6 million acres.”

I personally find it difficult to comprehend the vastness of these fires and the destruction they cause. I witnessed small-scale wildfires that were quite destructive—killing livestock, obliterating crops, and destroying homes and other structures on the surrounding farms and ranches—in the rural Midwest many years ago. Yet, those pale in comparison to the wildfires that I have seen reported on in much of the west over just the past few years.

Among the many functions the NIFC performs, the Predictive Services group uses data from many sources to “provide decision support information needed to be more proactive in anticipating significant fire activity and determining resource allocation needs.” This includes analyzing fire danger (based on “fuel models” with data related to the combustible material, moisture levels, etc.) and weather data and then creating forecasts that are critical for fire managers.

Today’s report includes this statement: “Gusty northerly winds will develop in portions of Alaska, including southwest and south-central Alaska.”

Why is this significant? Clearly, we know that wind can be a major factor in how quickly a wildfire spreads and the direction of the spread, among other effects.

Fires can be classified as “wind-driven,” which is defined as “any fire at which the effect of the wind is causing an abnormal acceleration or spread.”

What about a flame, like that of a candle or match? What effect does wind have on that?

Ah, yes. The effect of wind on a flame is very different from a fire. “Poof,” and the flame is extinguished. There might be a trail of smoke for a minute, but the fire is gone. Vanished.

When it comes to our career ambitions—any pursuit in life, really—are they “wind-driven,” or are they likely to be extinguished by the wind?

Even raging wildfires often start from a spark or flame from a carelessly thrown match. Not from a big bang or an instant explosion.

Likewise, our ambitions often start with just a spark. It is on us to feed those with “combustible material” and create an environment in which this spark grows in and with us and can be driven into a raging, not-easily extinguishable fire.

We will encounter “winds of change” and other sudden gusts that can be obstacles, challenges, and circumstances we did not anticipate. Rather than stopping us in our tracks, we need to find ways to use these as inspiration and motivation to drive us forward. We may need to replan, make some adjustments, or refocus our efforts, but we can always learn and grow from these, using them to “fan the flames” of our ambitions rather than put them out.

At Ortulum Digital Consulting Inc., we have decades of experience not only growing our own ambitions, but also coaching and mentoring others in various stages of their careers to work with the winds of change and sudden gusts to learn, grow, and continue moving forward. Schedule a free 30-minute discovery call with us to talk to us about how we can help you.

And now for a backstory…

In my late high school and early college years, I was in a rock band. Of sorts anyway. One of the songs I wrote that we recorded is entitled, “Wind & Fire.” The song is a fictitious story about “a man I used to know” and the conversations I had with him.

It came from something that had struck me then and had a degree of meaning to me, but it’s been something that I have often reflected on and has become more meaningful to me since.

In the song, the story, something that this man “said almost every day” was:

“The wind can blow out a flame, but it can’t blow out a fire.”

To me, this came from the idea that wind, or even just a breath of air, could extinguish a flame, like that of a match or candle, yet strong winds would only accelerate a fire. Like the bellows used to help grow the fire in a fireplace. Or “fanning the flames” of a campfire to keep it going. Winds driving a wildfire.

Here are the full lyrics:

Wind & Fire
Written by Steven P. Frank

Thinking back to a time long ago
Remembering a man I used to know
The things he used to say to me
Bring back memories I now see

He would tell me how it was
He never said it was just because
Always reasons for what was done
Everything had a purpose under the sun

I’ll never forget the look in his eye
As he stared into the dark night sky
I wondered what was on his mind
Or what it was he was hoping to find

Arms crossed, he let out a little sigh
He looked down and closed his eyes
Slowly leaning back, he’d look my way
Then take a deep breath and say…

The wind can blow out a flame
But it can’t blow out a fire
The wind can blow out a flame
But it won’t blow out your fire
No, it can’t blow out your fire

What he meant, I may never full see
But whatever he says, I will believe
He never spoke what he didn’t know
To him that was the status quo

If I can remember nothing else
This I will repeat to myself
He had many wise words to say
But this he said almost every day

The wind can blow out a flame
But it can’t blow out a fire
The wind can blow out a flame
But it won’t blow out your fire
No, it can’t blow out your fire

©1988 Steven P. Frank. All rights reserved.