Visualizing The Journey: Take 1

I’ve always liked frameworks. Going back to my school days, I appreciated it when my teachers and professors taught using frameworks. Why? If I knew the right framework to apply, solving problems got much simpler but still allowed personal creativity. It gave me a feeling of security – I had something solid to lean on.

This is also why I like the Agile Best Self Principles. As you have read in our stories, this set of principles, also a framework, gives me something stable I can use to work through challenging situations in my work and life.

But where are we going, really? Good question. Sounds like we need another framework, or at least something we can lean on a little bit to see if it holds. This is what I am sharing today, a first cut at an Agile Best Self Journey framework. It’s a solid first draft, ready for the world to help make it better.

Notice that it is a cycle: a) this journey never really ends; and b) there is no prescribed starting point. I believe (and Michaele agrees) in this particular journey it is important to start where you are and work your way around the cycle. I also think it is possible, and practical, to put these pieces in whatever order you wish. Maybe you already have some good methods in place, and maybe focusing on connecting these to your values makes sense. Sounds good. If you are like me, and like a more linear approach, start with the North Star perhaps. Be where you are and go from there!

Ok, here it is. As you can see, I have been honing some of my own Methods – I learned some drawing skills by taking a Bikablo class.

Version 1 of the Agile Best Self Journey

North Star

We’ve written a bit about the North Star already. The North Star is a word or phrase that describes who you intrinsically are. Having a deep connection with our North Star helps us show up authentically more often, with more ego resiliency. A clear North Star also helps bring clarity when deciding how to respond in life situations. This level of clarity helps us access our true self in most any situation.

Values

This one is pretty self-explanatory. One definition of values, according to Oxford Languages, is “a person’s principles or standards of behavior; one’s judgment of what is important in life.” I like to think of values as the guardrails I put in place to help shape the choices I make many times a day.

Vision

Vision is just what it sounds like. I like to think about it as my Just Cause. Just Cause is a concept from Simon Sinek’s book, The Infinite Game. Read the book to learn more. It was one of my favorite books over the past few years. Just Cause has five elements to it: 1) it’s for something you believe in; 2) inclusive; 3) service-oriented; 4) resilient; and 5) idealistic. Sounds like the recipe for a great vision statement.

In the Agile Best Self sense, the Vision (or your Just Cause) describes where you are headed — who do you want to be? Or, what outcome or impact to the world do you want to create? It should have the same strong, personal connection, much like the North Star.

Methods

Methods refer to the actions you are taking to create a better version of you. Maybe it’s focused on your self-care, maybe it’s something you are learning, maybe it’s something else. Maybe it is taking a Bikablo class to be able to visualize your ideas more clearly. The main thing is it has a bias toward action. I like to think about Methods and Measures working together. Used in alignment with the rest of the journey framework, Methods work as experiments you run on yourself, based on your own curiosity, to drive yourself toward your Vision.

Measures

Measures describe the data you go to for calibrating your progress. There may be quite a large number of measures. For me, some measures are self-care related, such as weight, blood pressure, quality of sleep, step counts. I also look at happiness data, like Scrum teams do, to catch trends. There are many more, for sure, and they are different for everyone.

Hoberman Ball

The picture above shows two Hoberman Balls. I just recently learned that this is what these spheres were called. I think these two pictures show how our journeys look and feel. On the left – the tight little ball where the sphere is clamped down – this may be how something less than our best might feel like. This is when our inner critic is getting us down or causing us to tighten up; or there are some very real obstacles causing us to engage in ego-protective behavior and be less than we can be. We all face these challenges, there is no denying that. On the right -the expanded ball with lots of space – might be what our best self looks like: our tank is full and we are authentically showing up, resilient, and being our very best. Maybe we are equal parts wobbly and resilient. But hopefully, with the help of a framework, such as the Agile Best Self Journey, we can spend more time like the figure on the right: open to possibility and expanded to our potential. That’s my wish for all of us.

So there it is. We are ready for the world to vet out and help us improve this framework. Michaele and I want to help others. Sounds a little like Principle 1 at work, don’t you think?

Agile Best Self Principle #1: Our highest priority is to be our best self and enable others to be their best selves.

Copyright © 2020 Michaele Gardner and Brian Hackerson

Being Wobbly: FFT and WTF!

In her first podcast on F@#$%^ First Times, (aka: FFT), Dr. Brené Brown candidly talks about “embracing the suck of new.” She shares strategies about how do deal with freakin’ first times by following the process of: 1) naming them; 2) normalizing the situation; 3) putting FFTs into perspective; 4) and start reality checking.

Take some time to listen to the podcast. Then remember that you will most likely be able to apply these concepts almost immediately.

In her podcast, Brené talks about how her inner critic threw her into a spin cycle as she practiced introducing herself. She tried on multiple introductions, and promptly forgot her plan.

So, how does this apply to Agile Best Self? Brian and I have both listened to Brené’s FFT podcast several times – so we use some of her phrases. mentions that she “doesn’t do wobbly”, and I fully admit that I live in a world of wobbly. I’m used to spinning plates, and barely catching those that are falling. Single parent, Adjunct Professor, small business owner 2x over and full-time employee. Honestly, that list looks pretty manageable, until I do the math around the hourly commitment on just the “jobs”. I’m at an average of 60 hours a week before I factor in being a parent of a teenager.

My latest “wobbly” moment happened two days ago when Dahm Mongkol Hongchai founder of OCADEE, interviewed Agile Best Self co-founder, Brian Hackerson and myself.

To prep for the call, I had a couple of things to do – find a way to distract my dogs and install the online recording software. No biggie, right? My new pandemic puppy – Thor – was 6 lbs when we brought him home from the German Shepherd rescue organization. He was cute, tiny and immediately hid under the couch. My existing dog – Jade – a 72 pound, 4 year old Boxer rescue quickly adjusted to having a puppy around.

Puppy Thor is catching up to Jade fast. Now he is about 30 lbs and his personality is coming out. He is smart and expressive. Just like any puppy, he has multiple barks: “Let’s play”, “Pay attention to me”, “I’m hurt”, and “I’m really upset”. Jade has two clear responses: “I’ll play” or “Leave me alone you annoying brat”.

To prep for the call, I pulled out two dog toys with holes in the center and a jar of peanut butter. The toys are indestructible plastic balls you can fill with a tasty treat – like peanut butter – to keep a dog occupied for a while. Here’s the issue. Just like two small children, if you give 2 toys to 2 dogs, they will invariably end up fighting over one toy. We’ll get back to the peanut butter…

I also prepped for the call by trying to connect my laptop to my Ethernet cable. I wanted to make sure I had the best connection possible, and my wireless can be flakey. This was a mistake – I had to reset my entire router and go back to wireless. We were also using a streaming app that I had never used before. Learning a new piece of software isn’t usually a problem for me, but in this current world of cognitive overload and constant tool switching, I had unintentionally started a wobble that wouldn’t derail me until later.

By this time, Dahm had started the call from Thailand. Brian and I were online, calling in from Minnesota. Dahm mentioned the sound quality was a little crackly, and I switched out my professional microphone to a headset. I could not hear the crackle, but Dahm said it was a little scratchy. “Oh well” I thought, “There is bound to be some degradation with an international call.” I was more pre-occupied with whatever the headset had done to my hair, creating some type of weird curl on the top of my head. And, I needed to remember to speak at a third of my normal cadence; and look into the camera lens, not at faces; and see the hand-offs from Brian; and answer the questions in a thoughtful, authentic way. The inner critic was feeding me all sorts of nonsense. Wobble, wobble, wobble…

We started the call. Dahm did something that happens quite frequently. When people see my name written, they pronounce it “Michael”, not “Michaele” which rhymes with “Raquel”. This happens a couple of times a week now that I’m on Zoom calls with my name in the lower left portion of the screen.

In typical gracious manner, Dahm asked a curious kick off question, which made me notice we hadn’t prepped on who would talk first – we had spent too much time working out technical issues (between sound issues and using LinkedIn for a live chat, we had chewed up the pre-talk lead time). I’m the verbal thinker, while Brian is more intentional and likes some time to compose his thoughts. When Brian and I do workshops and presentations, we already have the hand-offs figured out. We’ve never done a live interview like this. Viewers of the interview may not catch the “deer in the headlights” look that both Brian and I had, but I felt it for 3 seconds.

Next wobble-my puppy had eaten through all the peanut butter in his toy, so he was ready to play. Bark! Bark! Bark! It was clearly his “Let’s play” bark, which meant it could have gone on for 30 minutes or more. Bark! Play! Bark! I clicked the “mute” button on my headset. I’m lightening fast at muting my microphone since I’m on Zoom calls about 30 hours a week. Wobble, wobble, bark. However my headphone was configured, using the mute button did not work, and in the quick switch out, I hadn’t tested the mute button.

Now it was time for the cognitive overhead and switching cost wobble to come into play. Dahm asked me to go on mute via the online app. Remember, I had been using this streaming tool all of 10 minutes! I had the camera-microphone sub-menu screen up, and could not get the mute to work. In retrospect, there was another mute button on the main interface itself, but I was already in a sub-menu and couldn’t see the main interface.

As a triad, we all wobbled through the interview, gently propping each other back up and getting each other back on track. Our best selves was to just keep going and share our ideas with the world. We did a brief reflection of what would do better next time, and said our goodbyes.

Agile Best Self Principle #12: At regular intervals, reflect on how to become your best self, then tune and adjust.

I was excited to open up the YouTube link when Dahm shared it. Then my inner critic started screaming in my head. FFT’s are frequently coupled with WTFs.

How in the world did it sound like we were enclosed in a thumping tin can? A tin can being alternately thumped and kicked down the road? Did someone have a geiger counter next to their microphone?

Why was one interview such a big deal? Because my inner critic and my expectations had made it a big deal. Brian and I are currently reworking this website so that we have a spot for recordings of our workshops and presentations. This video was supposed to be the first recording we posted! Yes, our freaking first time, our FFT.

After some reflection, instead of burying this interview. I decided to write a post about just one of our FFTs – our first online interview. Was it perfect? No. Did all my preparation pay off? Absolutely not. Do I have any peanut butter left? Nope. I ended up with peanut butter smeared all over my kitchen floor and a video that sounds like I’m speaking from a radioactive tin can. Am I happy I did it? Absolutely. I went back through the FFT questions:

  1. Was this a freaking first time? Darn tootin’ I had never done an online interview with Brian and Dahm before. By myself yes, I’ve been interviewed a few times. Most of those 10 minute interviews were edited into sound bites anyway. See the AgileCamp 2019 San Francisco Recap 0:20-0:38 – all 18 seconds of me making comments!
  2. How could I normalize the situation? Just calm down and talk.
  3. Putting things in perspective. Much as I’d like to think my Agile Best Self work is important (and I want to get the message right) people that are part of our Agile Best Self community are amazingly kind and supportive people. None of our like-hearted community will be as critical of this interview as I am.
  4. Reality checking. SHUT UP INNER CRITIC. The reality: all three of us learned from this interview. The content we shared is authentic, personal and part of the Agile Best Self story. The reality: it was wonderful to spend some time with Brian and Dahm. The reality is that our work matters, so spreading our framework through some crackle-filled humming audio is still better than not trying at all.

So take that, inner critic! To quote Brian from the podcast: “It doesn’t go perfectly every time”. True dat!

Here is a link to the online learning experience that Dahm, Brian and I wobbled through:

Copyright © 2020 Michaele Gardner and Brian Hackerson

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