Raise the Bar

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Whatever you may be doing now, someone else is out there thinking about how to do it better. Why not be the one to raise the bar?

The track and field community at Medford High School thought sixteen-year-old Dick Fosbury was crazy when he started to run diagonally toward the high jump, launching himself back first and clearing the bar with ease. Today, every high jumper learns the Fosbury Flop and Debbie Brill‘s Brill Bend. All it took were two kids who understood physics and had the courage to feel the fear and innovate anyway.

We blindly accept current realities, endure inconveniences, and put up with the barely acceptable because the mediocre performers hate change agents.

But nothing changes until someone raises the bar.

This mindset applies to whatever you’re up to. Got a to-do list? How can you sequence it to knock things off more efficiently? Stuck in an antiquated work process in a job you hate? If you ran the circus, what changes would you make? Map them out. Propose a test, a pilot program, an experiment.

Innovation happens two ways. Something like the Pandemic forces us to re-think our paradigms because we have to. Or we look over the horizon and imagine a different future, like Steve Jobs did with the iPhone, because we want to.

We read this week that the US Postal Service is raising our rates and slowing down delivery. What would it take to lower our rates and speed it up? I bet Jeff Bezos has some insights on that one.

Our capacity for accepting reasonable risk will determine the extent to which we can maximize our contribution. Comfort zones may feel comfortable, but in reality, they are where people go to die.

This week, we took Juliette to the park. She linked up with another girl her age on the swings and I struck up a conversation with the man who revealed that he was her great grandfather. He’s 90. He’s had C-Suite jobs in the automotive industry. He’s lived and worked all over the world. He seemed alive with energy and enthusiasm.

“What are you doing now?” I asked, assuming that he was basking in the joys of a slower pace, while experiencing the magic moments that come from watching a child’s journey of discovery.

“I’m still working a bit,” he said.

“A bit,” turned out to be guiding the strategic direction of a tech company that is integrating artificial intelligence into those horrible, automated bots that try to solve our problems on the phone without connecting us to an actual person.

“There’s an enormous opportunity to raise the bar in that space,” he told me.

And I knew I had a topic for this week’s message.

We can’t wait for the Pandemic “to be over” so we can get back to the way things were before. Let me clue you in. We are not going back. Covid has added an extra dimension to our existence that is never going away. Work will be done differently. The science we depend on to protect us is evolving. Fresh threats to old comfort zones will keep coming at us.

Those who thrive will look for opportunity amid uncertainty. It’s always there. Fear of the unknown is all that stands between us and the answers.

Whatever you do now will be dramatically differently sooner than you can imagine. Your ability to adapt and innovate can reveal new vistas of opportunity and keep you vibrant, healthy and employable for as long as you can dream.

Raise the bar.