Learning Resolutions: Promises Can't Take a Punch

Mike Tyson, the former heavyweight boxing champion, once said, “Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the face.

I had a plan recently which was more or less a promise to myself. Up at 4:45. 30 minutes on treadmill, press clothes for an evening event, make kids’ lunches. I’d be done by 6 and move on to check my PLN and work on that nagging blog post. And then my 6 year old daughter greeted me in the laundry room in her PJs. It was only 5:20am. She was up an hour early because her tooth was falling out. The next 50 minutes were spent in the bathroom, looking in the mirror discussing “Should we pull it?” “Who should pull it?” “How?” Then once it was out, the activity shifted to what to do about the bleeding, the bad taste, the “It hurts to touch,” and “We need to get it ready for the tooth fairy.”

This was my punch to the face. It wasn’t a bad punch, but yet it knocked out the promise I made.

Life’s punches are typically unexpected. These punches come in the form of sudden family needs or surprise demands from stakeholders. They can come from traffic jams, they can come from unresponsive software, but ultimately I think we invite them through our poor decisions in communication, time management, and task management to name a few.

Promises can’t take a punch, but commitments can.

I’ve heard that a commitment is an action. A promise is a just a word. Promises then can be wishy-washy, commitments are more firm. With a commitment, I would have picked myself up after my morning distraction and continued. I didn’t. So when the punch comes, we may recoil, stagger, and try to keep our bearings. If committed, we shake it off and we respond. If only a promise though, we and our plan, hit the canvas.

So, in 2015 I’m elevating some promises to commitments and thus bolstering them to better take the inevitable punch. To do this I have boiled it down to 3 efforts or actions:

  1. Determining Essentials over Incidentals
  2. Trusting the Plan
  3. Integrating Efforts

1. Essentials over Incidentals: I can complicate my life by filling every moment with activities, many that drain my cognitive pool and can leave me less motivated to focus on the essentials. This year I will be saying “no” much more often than yes to opportunities that are nice to do vs. need to do. When not saying, “no” then I will at least say “maybe” – but not a definitive “yes” until I reflect on its status as either an incidental or essential. Doing this, I can buy time to process how, where, and why I might want to fit this in. This effort is one that trims the fat or thins the herd if you will. By cutting out the incidentals, more energy can be put towards those activities that matter most. To support this effort, I am doing a better job of calendaring my commitments. I’ve enlisted the Sunrise calendar app with its integration with other tools such as other calendars, social media, and Evernote, I can be more aware and make balanced decisions regarding my time and energy.

2. Trust the Plan: My plan is “Social First.” It’s pretty simple. I write about it, I live it, I’ve helped individuals and organizations to get it, but when I took on my new position, one that had no learning function prior, I slipped into a long stretch of analysis and organizing and meeting individual needs. These were all Important, but I lost touch with my passion. Much needed to be done in terms of understanding the organization, getting things going, articulate the plan, and meet the initial needs. My network, practice, and reflective writing suffered. Success with social does not happen overnight, I know this and yet the pressure is always on for results. To truly make a difference, I need to trust myself, my network, and my plan. To do this best, I’ll need to do better with #3.

3. Integrate Efforts: One thing I’ve realized in my personal life is that there are natural connections that can be made between activities and if recognized, can make two into one and therefore more efficient. Think about household responsibilities and time with one’s spouse and kids. Bringing them together can take work but the sum is greater than the parts. Professionally I aim to better integrate my interests in social learning and the tools used into the needs of my organization, it’s why I’m here. Sharing posts I write are not going to interest too many non-learning professionals but helping employees understand blogging and its value will. Posting information about L&D is not going to help my project managers, but helping them to become better curators is. I use many tools to help me connect and curate and these tools are critical to my Personal Knowledge Management (PKM) strategy. I need to share more about their uses, how I use them, and the results one can achieve to help my fellow employees make the connections to their own work. Leading separate lives is not efficient personally and not effective in transforming an organization.

Sticking to these 3 simple actions should make me more effective, efficient, and resilient in order to better roll with the inevitable punches.

Mark is currently the Manager of Corporate Training at Systems Made Simple. With over 12 years in L&D, Mark strives to challenge conventional beliefs about organizational learning by leveraging collaborative technologies and user-generated content to improve performance. He can be found on Twitter and his blog LearningZealot.