Why Aren’t You Applying Yourself?

Growing up teachers and parents tell their children “there is nothing you can’t do if you put your mind to it.” In other words, you figure it out. Do you believe this? Telling your children anything else might be considered child abuse in some circles. The message is if you “apply yourself” you can do it. It, being anything. I think we all want to believe this, because in our culture the American dream is all about working hard, lifting yourself up by your bootstraps and achieving success. Our modern media is filled with these types of stories, and we love them.

Recently I have been listening to some podcasts of various types as I like to do, and just like movie stars who make the round of late night and early morning talk shows promoting a movie, social media celebrities make the rounds of podcasts when they have something to promote.  Marie Forleo, who I have seen on video and has a popular, Oprah-like web show, interviews all the big social media stars. Yes, there are stars in the social media world.

Marie Forleo recently talked about growing up In New Jersey with a do-anything Mom whose attitude was that she (the mother) could do anything and fix anything, thereby providing the inspiration for Forleo’s latest book “FigureOu Able.” In her mother’s mind, Forleo’s attitude is that everything can be figured out, solved and fixed with time and effort, “Figureoutable.” In several podcasts in which I have heard Forleo she recounts the story of her mother fixing her beloved radio and using this phrase.

Richard Dean Anderson portrayed MacGyver with the perfect combination of cool and nerdy

The question I have, is everything truly figure-out-able? Perhaps it is. Perhaps with unlimited resources it is, but the end result may not be world-class, or even close. If you have a problem or conundrum in which you find yourself, there is likely a solution. You don’t always have to be MacGyver to figure it out, but it doesn’t hurt. I like stories of people who failed hundreds of times before hitting it big. I think in my field of work, economic development, there is less patience from our private, and in particular public sector leaders for failure and trying things many times before success.

This brings us to our fourth characteristic of Flow (see previous blog posts if you are just joining us or check out the starting point of this series here). The fourth characteristic of FLOW is that “there is balance between what the challenge is, and the skills one has.” The job or task isn’t too easy but not too difficult to present a major obstacle to completion. You know you can complete the task, because you have trained for it, you have been here before (almost). 

Repeated attempts at something, training for an event or skill, practicing a speech gets one to the point where they can almost get there and succeed and get into a state of flow. How many times have we seen or experienced this state? If you have ever played a musical instrument for any period of time you get better if you consistently challenge yourself to play more difficult pieces. New music that you have never played before may be difficult, and there is certainly balance between “what the challenge is, and the skills one has.”

You can get into FLOW more often than you think. Think about the skills you possess. Think about the things you have done well repeatedly. Ask yourself if you see a pattern. Ask yourself if you see how these skills, patterns and repeated efforts could be replicated at the next level. Perhaps you can take these patterns and move towards challenge that will nicely balanced with your burgeoning skills. 

Perhaps there was some truth to the idea that Mom or Dad had when they told you can do anything, “you just have to decide to do it”. 

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