Posted by: ericssoderberg | April 27, 2013

The Challenge of Help

All throughout school until an algebra class in high school, academics came easy to me.  I was that guy that could put minimal effort into actually studying and still ace the tests and quizzes without a problem.  Doing that for years got me used to that feeling of success I reached independently.  Then I found myself in this algebra class.

I thought I was great at all subjects in school, and then this math class just hit me like a brick wall.  I failed tests, struggled to even understand what was going on, and it was very difficult for me.  The problem continued to get worse though because of my strong distaste of asking for help.  I had always viewed it as a weakness in myself to ask for help.  I never gave a second thought when someone needed my help, but when it came to me asking for any help you could forget about it.  I made it even harder for the teacher to help me because I was a huge fan of mental math and hated writing out each step I took to reach a certain answer.  I let my pride get in the way of my academic success and paid for it.  That class was the first and only class I have ever had to re-take.

Through the hardship I brought on myself by not asking for help, I have learned several things that I have found helpful in encouraging me to ask for help if I need it.

The first is that people do not read minds.  If you want help, you’re going to have to ask for it.  It’s hard, trust me I know it is, but that is the only way you are going to get the exact type of help you need.

The second thing is that just as people cannot read your mind, you cannot read theirs.  Do not exclude potential helpers based solely on what you believe they may think about you for asking for help.  This might be my biggest one to remember.  I had always been the one that people came to for help, but never went to others for help because I believed it would show a weakness in myself.  However, I have now realized that is not the case.

The last thing to remember when it comes to asking for help is that people like to help!  It’s human nature to want to feel needed, and when you come to someone for help it makes them feel that way.  They appreciate that you value their effort, opinion, or advice.  It means a great deal and is mutually beneficial since you get the help you need as well.

The only way to overcome an adversity to asking for help is to start doing it.  Take the risk and just ask.  I can guarantee there will be harder challenges than this, and they will be much easier with someone else in your corner to help.

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Posted by: ericssoderberg | April 25, 2013

If Losing Didn’t Hurt, Winning Wouldn’t Feel So Good

In a post from a few weeks ago, I wrote about how failing does not make you a failure, and how it is better to gain something from a time you fail as opposed to being defeated by it.   But even gaining something from a failure doesn’t lessen the hurt that it brings.  It can still be very demoralizing to try your best and come up short.  You know what the good news about that is though? It’s that when you succeed, that win will feel exponentially better.  You will be on an even higher high than if you had succeeded the first time.

I haven’t used an example from my soccer career in a while so here it goes.  Up until I was about 12 years old, I had only played soccer in the league where everyone makes some team.  You know, the one where even the last place team gets a trophy for “participation?”  Then when I was 12, I tried out for the competition league.  The first time I tried out, I didn’t make a team.  I was insanely distraught and couldn’t believe that that no one picked me.  A little later, one of the coaches called me and told me that the first time he tried out, he didn’t make it either.  After talking to him, I felt much better.  I put more work into improving my skill and then tried out again next season.  This time, I made a team.

That feeling of having gotten the call saying I made the team after I had just failed to do so the last season made it so much better.  If I had made it the first time, like I had expected, I don’t think I would have been as thrilled about it.  This has held true about anything I fail at and then later succeed at. Failing the first time, second, and maybe even a third, makes the success so much better, that win gets so much sweeter and feels much more deserved.

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Posted by: ericssoderberg | April 24, 2013

Challenges in Leadership

Leadership Today 300x206 Simple Leadership Ideas for Complicated ChallengesWe as humans like to take on challenges.   It is one of the ways we increase our skill levels, get better at our jobs, and ultimately add more value to the organization we are a part of.  Employees want and need to be faced with difficult challenges, even challenges that may result in failure.  When given the choice, studies have shown that more people would prefer to be tasked with a more challenging activity, even if the chance of failure is greater than the alternative.

To pull from a post I recently read:

To grow, people need to be challenged. Research at the Center for Creative Leadership shows that challenges—including having to work on unfamiliar tasks, lead change under uncertainty and exercise influence without authority—are important predictors of learning and development on the job. And three decades of evidence reveals that people achieve higher performance when they are given difficult goals. Difficult goals motivate people to work harder and smarter, develop their knowledge and skills, and test out different task strategies, all of which facilitate effectiveness and growth.

Your challenge as an employee is to accept challenges.  Realize that, in most cases, you aren’t being assigned something difficult just because your boss feels like ruining your weekends.  Use the challenge as an opportunity to grow and show what you are capable of.

Your challenge as a manager and leader is to assign challenges.  You grow yourself and your team by raising the bar.  The more challenges you assign your team, the more you can showcase your talents as a leader managing a team being faced with challenges.  In addition to showcasing your talents, you are showcasing what your team can do, and their abilities to overcome obstacles.  Now is the time to lead your team to accomplish things that no one thought possible.

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Posted by: ericssoderberg | April 12, 2013

Becoming Independent

One of the biggest challenges everyone faces is leaving the nest.  It’s that time when you start to move away from your parents, be it fiscally, physically, or both.  It is a big step in becoming an independent person and learning to truly fend for yourself.  One of the biggest reasons it is so hard to finally cut almost all support ties is fear.  For birds, leaving the nest can literally be a life or death situation.  If they’re nudged out of the nest too soon, they are unable to fly and fall to the ground.  Luckily for us humans, our parents don’t take us to the top of a building and nudge us off with a wave and a “good luck!”

Usually our parents try to be very understanding and help ween us off of their support.  However many people still feel like this concept of leaving the nest is a life or death situation.  What if you don’t already have a job lined up? No place to live?  There are plenty of scary variables out there, especially with the current state of the economy.  In some senses it is true.  But the old way of dependency must go by the wayside in order to experience a new form of life.  Your own life apart from the crutch that your parents provide while you are growing up.

Everyone must leave the nest at multiple times in their lives.  The first is the young adult leaving to college or the military.  Another is a newlywed who leaves the old ways of singlehood behind.   An aging adult leaves behind the strength and appearance of their youth to gain knowledge, patience, and acceptance.  An entrepreneur leaves the comfort of a stable job behind in order to venture out on their own and develop the skills needed to bring their business to a higher level of success.  Leaving the nest is nothing to be afraid of.  Quite the contrary actually,  I believe it is something to be looked forward to since it allows you to explore your potential and new horizons.

What are your thoughts on leaving the nest? Comment below and follow me on Twitter @soderberg_eric

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Posted by: ericssoderberg | April 11, 2013

Failing ≠ Failure

The Benefit Of Failing Prior To SuccessFailing does not make you a failure anymore than sitting in the garage makes you a car.  I would even go so far as to say that we must fail in order to truly experience and appreciate success.

Another one of those facts of life is that we will fail, and many times fail hard.  Then we will start to look at those around us who are succeeding at whatever it is we are trying to do, and question our own abilities.  We start to wonder if we have what it takes and then think we can’t compete.  It spirals down even further as we get to the mindset of “why try?”  Many of us view failure in a very negative way.  We think that if we didn’t accomplish our goal, that it means something is wrong with us.  We think we weren’t smart enough, didn’t have the right connections, the right amount of money, or didn’t work hard enough.  Maybe even a combination of all of the above!

Maybe we need to start viewing failing differently.  A harsh but necessary truth of the business world is that you will fail more often than you succeed.  The Small Business Administration states that over 50% of businesses completely fail within their first year.  95% fail within their first five years.  With the fact that only 5% of new businesses survive long enough to celebrate their five year anniversary, it becomes necessary to to accept failing as an integral part of the business experience.  This brings us to the lesson that can be applied to your personal life as well.  Learn and enhance your efforts to ensure that each failed attempt at something comes with a learning opportunity.

Success does not come overnight.  It comes from one’s ability to execute, fail, and then adjust.  If you get everything right the first time, you will never know where your limits are.  Failing does not make you a failure.  It does not mean you weren’t strong enough, smart enough, or rich enough.  Exhaust all your resources before throwing in the towel, and then even if you fail, you gave it your all and learned something in the process.  You were changed for the better.  To me, that does not seem like a failure.  It seems like an opportunity to apply what I just learned to a new endeavor.  Never end up asking yourself “what if?”  Don’t let a fear of failure hold you back.

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Posted by: ericssoderberg | April 10, 2013

Showing Up Is Not Enough

In every organization I have been a part of, there has always been one common problem throughout.  Sometimes it is not as bad, other times it can greatly affect the productivity of the organization as a whole.  That problem is people who just show up without really contributing anything other than their presence.

Uncle Sam say's "Get Involved, Dude"When we get to college, and even earlier in high school, we are told that getting involved is the best way to get more out of our time at school.  This can be anything from joining a fraternity or sorority, a club on campus, or student government.  I could write a novel on how great it is to get involved in organizations and the benefits of it, but there’s probably already a few others out there.  The thing is that in most organizations, you come across those people who are there just to add to their résumé or to feel like they are involved without really getting involved.  Getting involved means more than showing up just enough to make any attendance requirements or to get extra credit for a class.  Getting truly involved means taking on some form of responsibility within that club or organization and adding value to it through your efforts.

If you just show up, all you really get out of the organization is the ability to add it to your résumé.  You do not obtain any of the skills that the more involved members obtain, you do not gain any of the real connections that other members gain either.  It goes with that saying of “you get out what you put in” to something.  If all you put in is the time it takes to show up, all you get out of it is a few hours of social time around others that may have otherwise just been spent in front of the TV.  The challenge is to become a truly contributing member.  If you are not willing to commit more than just the time to show up to something, is it really something you want to be a part of?  If the only thing you do is show up, all you are doing is wasting your own time.  I can guarantee you will be happier and get more out of spending that time doing something you really enjoy, and you should want to do more than just show up to things you really enjoy.

Get involved!

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Posted by: ericssoderberg | April 6, 2013

Managing Challenges

10 day mental dietMy past two posts have given a bit of information about why challenges are good and about how they never stop.  So now that we understand the value that a challenge can bring, let’s check out a few ways to manage them and make the most of those sometimes difficult situations that pop up in life.

The first thing to do is to accept that you have been presented with a challenge.  Being upset about it or questioning “why me” isn’t going to make it go away.  Don’t be put off by it or pretend that it isn’t there.  Accept the fact that you are being challenged.  It goes a long way to changing a challenge from an unexpected tradegy into a minor hurdle to clear.

Next you have to see that the only way out of a challenging situation is by doing what it takes to overcome it.  It is  your challenge, so on one else is going to solve it for you.   You can utilize the help of other’s, however this challenge was presented to you for a reason.

The next step is to look for the benefits.  As I mentioned in The Value of a Challenge, the best thing you can do is make sure you can take away any possible positives and make sure you learn something from the challenge.  This aids in allowing you to begin looking at challenges as a positive, growth inducing event, as opposed to something holding you back.

Since you are the one presented with the challenge, the final step is to figure out the steps to take to overcome the challenge and then take them.  There is no reason to allow yourself to sit and wallow in an unfortunate situation for longer than you have to.  Figure out which way you want to start moving, and begin taking the steps to manage through the challenge.

These are some of the best ways I have found to manage the challenges that come to me in my life.  What do you do when presented with a tough situation?

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Posted by: ericssoderberg | April 4, 2013

Challenges Never Stop

Going off the point I mentioned in The Value of a Challenge, challenges never stop.  It is just a fact of life that everyone has to deal with.  Life doesn’t have to get worse because of them, or even harder.  However, life will never fail to deliver more and more advanced challenges.  As we experience the challenges that are presented to us today, we become used to them, dealing with them turns from a challenge into a routine.

Every challenge can seem overwhelming, but it is only overwhelming compared to what we have already accomplished in the past.  Do you remember when you were learning to tie your shoes? It may have been extremely frustrating when you were first learning, but then it became easier and easier, until it doesn’t even phase you anymore.  Have you ever learned how to drive a manual transmission car?  That was one of the most frustrating things I was trying to learn when first being able to drive.  However after I got better at that, the next challenge was dealing with all the horrible drivers out there!  The manual driving never bothered me again.

Many people get discouraged when presented with more and more difficult challenges.  They may succeed at some and fail at others.  However, being presented with so many challenges at once does not mean you are failing.  It means that you have grown to a point where you are able to handle them.  You wouldn’t have gotten involved in so many things in the first place if you didn’t think you would succeed in them.  Some things don’t happen at the snap of a finger.  The one thing that you can really count on though, is that these challenges you face will help you grow, and since challenges never stop, your growth should never stop.

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Posted by: ericssoderberg | April 3, 2013

The Value of a Challenge

This post is going to be the start of a short series that encompasses the main theme of my entire blog, the value you gain when you challenge yourself and how to manage these challenges.

Have you ever found yourself thinking about how life would be if it was free of challenges?  I used to think that would be pretty great.  Being able to live happily through life without facing any opposition.  Through my experiences, I have realized that a life without challenges is actually something I do not want, and below I will outline why you shouldn’t want that either.

1) Challenges exist for a reason.  

Even though some events in your life challenge you to a level you never thought possible, if you had a life free of challenges, you would miss out on a huge amount of opportunities that would allow you to get stronger and grow.  If you want to do something, yet turn away when challenged by it, how committed are you to really doing whatever it was that you wanted to do? From personal experience, I like being challenged because it helps me show myself how much I really want something.  This article gives tips on building and sustaining commitment.

2) Challenges allow you to live up to your full potential

Simple enough, if you are never tested, you will never be able to find out what you are truly capable of.  Many people don’t buy into the “challenges are good” mantra, and they have plenty of (what they think are) good reasons.  The thing is, those people will constantly live well under the threshold of where they could be.

“Someone once told me the definition of Hell: The last day you have on earth, the person you became will meet the person you could have become.” – Anonymous

To me, this is a hauntingly powerful quote.  Your ability and desire to strive to reach your full potential will determine how bad that last meeting will be, and it may even determine how great of a feeling that meeting is.  Push extra hard to make sure that any version of the person you could have become is miles behind what you have become.

3) Challenges never stop

This one is just a fact of life.  No one is capable of perfectly planning everything, and unfortunately, things don’t always go the way you planned.  The best thing to do is make sure you take away every positive that can be found from a challenge and make sure something is learned from it.

What are your thoughts on the value of challenges? Comment below and follow me on Twitter @soderberg_eric

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Posted by: ericssoderberg | March 30, 2013

Impossible is Nothing

The guy in the picture to the left, Muhammad Ali, has one of the greatest quotes I have ever heard.  This is how it goes:

“Impossible is just a big word thrown around by small men who find it easier to live in the world they’ve been given than to explore the power they have to change it. Impossible is not a fact. It’s an opinion. Impossible is not a declaration. It’s a dare. Impossible is potential. Impossible is temporary. Impossible is nothing.”

Take a second and let that sink in, and then think back to the most recent time you have said something is impossible.  Was it really?  We live in a world of nearly seven billion people.  It is hard for one to convince themselves that they have the power to make a real impact on the world around them.  It’s easier to say that something is impossible than to even think of reasons why it isn’t.  Remember this though, nobody who made a significant mark on the world gave up hope.  Everyone has their doubts about something they are pursuing when it starts to get harder, but remind yourself of why you tried so hard in the first place to pursue that goal.  The idea of something being impossible is your own creation.  It might be a thought someone else put in your head, but you decide how real it becomes.  You make the ultimate decision to prove those around you, and maybe even yourself, wrong by going out and doing what they or you did not think was possible.

People often forget about the considerable amount of resources they have at their disposal, especially in this age of constantly growing technology.  No matter what you want to accomplish, it is basically a guarantee that you have someone in your life, right now, that could help you get on your way.  Recently I spoke with a friend about my plans for law school and after telling him where my top choices are, he told me he knows current students at two of the three schools and offered to pass my information on to them so I could get an inside perspective of what the program there is actually like.  Now I know that is just one small example, since Google would probably yield similar results, but having someone so ready to help me was awesome.  Something may seem highly improbably for you personally to accomplish, but start adding in your friends and their networks and the probability of success increases exponentially.  Just because something seems challenging doesn’t mean you should run away.  If you keep shying away from challenges, you will never grow.  Some events in your life are there to sharpen you.

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