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03 Oct

When things don’t turn out the way you had in mind

Datum: 2011-10-03 12:00

With all cer­tain­ty, you have also expe­ri­enced that some­thing didn’t turn out quite the way you had expect­ed it to. 

Per­haps some­thing took longer than planned? Did some­thing show up right when you had decid­ed to do some­thing else? Did piles form on the desk in spite of your most sin­cere efforts to keep the chaos of papers in check? Were you unsuc­cess­ful in pitch­ing that idea to that one par­tic­u­lar per­son who would have made an excel­lent client? 

We real­ly need­ed to have that meet­ing with the client, the boss, the col­league, the project-man­ag­er, but then at the last minute, it was re-scheduled. 

At times like these, it is easy to let cir­cum­stances get you down. The con­se­quence: We lose speed, become list­less and have trou­ble get­ting going with what we actu­al­ly should be doing right now. 

Hav­ing phys­i­cal, con­crete struc­tur­al tools which makes us more effi­cient is one thing. If you in addi­tion to this have an advan­ta­geous atti­tude and approach, your life will be made even easier. 

Today the tip is about two words and a com­ma which will get you on the right track again, regard­less what happens. 

Embrace rather than block

One con­text in which things rarely turn out the way you expect­ed them to, is impro­vi­sa­tion­al the­atre. The leg­endary the­atre teacher Kei­th John­stone writes about how cru­cial it is to have an embrac­ing approach to what­ev­er hap­pens when we impro­vise, in his book Impro”, in order for our actions to be mean­ing­ful, so that we can move on and cre­ate some­thing valuable. 

An impro­vi­sa­tion­al exer­cise on an emp­ty stage might play out like this: Two peo­ple are quick­ly assigned a role each, for instance a real­tor and a poten­tial buy­er. The real estate agent begins to present the apart­ment (spon­ta­neous­ly, and with­out a script of course) and the buy­er fol­lows the realtor’s lead. 

John­stone describes how dif­fer­ent peo­ple act and react in the impro­vised sit­u­a­tion. If one replies No,…” to an idea the oth­er per­son puts for­ward, the pro­gres­sion for­ward is obstruct­ed. The co-actor will have dif­fi­cul­ty con­tin­u­ing the scene and con­tin­u­ing being cre­ative. If on the oth­er hand the oth­er actor replies Yes, and…” and there­by adds to the sequence of events, a new thread emerges for new ideas to be made from, which at least takes the sto­ry one step further. 

An incur­able optimist

One per­son who unques­tion­ably said Yes, and…” rather than No,…” was the vision­ary and Nobel Price lau­re­ate Gustaf Dahlén who man­aged the com­pa­ny AGA dur­ing 28 years until 1937

In an explo­sion result­ing from an exper­i­ment in 1912, he lost his sight on both eyes. In the begin­ning of the 20’s both AGA and Gustaf Dahlén per­son­al­ly fell into deep finan­cial cri­sis, but which they suc­cess­ful­ly emerged from. Dur­ing the 30’s he was affect­ed by anoth­er cri­sis ensu­ing from the Kreuger-crash, and for the sec­ond time he and the com­pa­ny made it through. Accord­ing to Gus­tav Dahlén, it was his opti­mism that saved him. 

The opti­mist is object­ed to the same mis­for­tunes as every­body else. What dis­tin­guish­es him from oth­ers is that he says Yes, and…” when these occur. 

Life con­sist of con­stant improvisation

As I see it, we can regard all sit­u­a­tions in our dai­ly lives as impro­vi­sa­tions. When we have a meet­ing or when we work togeth­er with oth­ers, we rarely know what is going to hap­pen, so we think and act on our feet” when react­ing to what some­one says or does. Exam­ples of every day sit­u­a­tions which require impro­vi­sa­tion can be a sales sit­u­a­tion, it can be that we are per­form­ing a ser­vice or that we sim­ply are hav­ing a con­ver­sa­tion with someone. 

Sure­ly we would rather move for­ward, from clar­i­ty to clar­i­ty, instead of run­ning into obsta­cles, get­ting stuck and being forced to start over from scratch?

There­fore adopt an embrac­ing approach to what hap­pens in your life and you will eas­i­er get to where you want to go (and have a more pleas­ant jour­ney get­ting there). It takes more effort to resist and work against what hap­pens rather than work­ing with it and sim­ply direct your­self and your efforts in the direc­tion you wish to head, so that that is where you end up. 

Try this

When some­thing unex­pect­ed occurs which you rather had not seen hap­pen, say to your­self: Yes, and…”.

After and” you add some­thing con­crete you can do instead or do as a con­se­quence of what has hap­pened, for exam­ple, Yes, and there­fore I can get in touch with … instead of…”, or Yes, we will resched­ule this meet­ing as well, and we can dis­cuss the most impor­tant mat­ters by e‑mail instead.”, or Yes, now every­thing remote­ly close to being struc­tured just went out the win­dow, and that means that I can sim­ply start by orga­niz­ing a detail at this end of the mess and work my way forward.”

With Yes” you accept what hap­pens with­out becom­ing a vic­tim of any cir­cum­stances, since Yes” is fol­lowed by “,and…” and now is the time for you to act in a favor­able man­ner. It is what you allow to come after and” which deter­mines how you can and will affect the sit­u­a­tion and make the best of it; you will prob­a­bly even make sure that the sit­u­a­tion results in some­thing even bet­ter than it would have if the mishap hadn’t happened. 

Yes” – you take respon­si­bil­i­ty for the sit­u­a­tion, the ball in is your hands, “,and…” – you hurl the ball in the direc­tion you want it to go with full strength and energy. 

How you can remind your­self of this

Remind your­self of think­ing Yes, and…” by for instance:

  • Paste a note on the edge of your com­put­er screen which says Yes, and…”
  • Cre­ate a slot in your cal­en­dar with­out a spe­cif­ic time attached to it (recur­ring dai­ly for a few weeks) where the words Yes, and…” can be found. You will be remind­ed every time you check your calendar.
  • Put a note on the inside of your front door. That way you will be remind­ed every time you leave the house.
  • Arrange for a col­league to e‑mail you ran­dom­ly at some point dur­ing the day, every day, for the next cou­ple of weeks, send­ing you an e‑mail with the sub­ject line Yes, and…”
  • Ask your chil­dren to paint a pic­ture with the words Yes, and…” in the mid­dle of it, scan it and use it as your com­put­er desktop.
  • Fin­ish the fol­low­ing sen­tence how­ev­er you want to: Yes, David, those were some of your ideas of how to be remind­ed, and my idea is to…”

What was your way?

What allowed for you to get through the most recent cri­sis in your busi­ness or pro­fes­sion­al life? What was the deci­sive fac­tor? Leave a com­ment to let me and oth­ers know.