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SPENCER WISCONSIN May 12 2015 Package of Lemon Lime Flavored Kool-Aid. Kool-Aid is now owned by Kraft Foods and was invented in 1927

Don’t Drink Your Own Kool-Aid

Today I was reminded of a lesson I thought I had learned many years ago. It was a humbling experience and something I want to share with you because it is so important (and something I had to relearn many times throughout my career) and that is… Don’t drink your own Kool-Aid.

What do I mean? Well, think about when you are passionate about what you are doing. You firmly believe in everything you and your team are doing and passion is exuding from everyone, which is a wonderful high and intoxicating. What could be wrong with that? You are changing the world, you know it and every cell in your body is pulsing at this wonderful opportunity. I love the feeling and focus that comes with that kind of passion and even though I guard that energy very carefully, it totally engulfs me when I think about the people a particular project or initiative could impact.

So, last week, I’m head down, focused, working on a presentation and feeling very proud of its unique and “non-powerpoint” version. I’m feeling it and already thinking it is going to be a done deal and that the project will get legs and mankind will benefit, especially children –and I get really excited about making children’s lives better! I am wound up, not taking any calls, totally focused with this most unique, one page, full-size poster presentation.

We get in the meeting, the cordial conversation ends and I pulled out my full-size poster, proud as a peacock, and guess what… I totally misread the customer. I mean, totally misread. Yup, had to quickly try to recover, but there was no recovery. Oh my! I personally fell into the same trap I tell entrepreneurs to avoid all the time and that is, don’t drink your own Kool-Aid. Yup, whewwwww!

Right now, as I write this blog, I am on a plane, going to another city and another meeting and wondering how I got into the very trap I tell everyone I mentor to avoid. Now I know it was so that I would be able to share this experience with you.

How many times have you gotten inside your own specific view, whether it be in business, in your organization, or in your family? Do you get so inside your own thoughts that you forget someone else may have a totally different thought process? Oh, my! I live that! But in this particular case, it escaped me and now I have to dig deep into something that I am to close to. Do you ever drawn your own conclusions, or work off assumptions without vetting? Yes, of course we all do, and it took this wake-up call for me to realize it.

In many ways, it was so fantastic because you can get to a point where people may applaud certain things you do, and at the same time others wonder if you are crazy. But I believe any of us that are working towards major change run into this and it is a great tool for all of us.

So, back to the meeting I mentioned above. I quickly remembered a moment in a meeting in Seattle. I was with 3 people, talking about an industry I knew nothing about, so I was reading the energy in the room, waiting to say something –anything– relevant, and couldn’t really think of anything. I was intimidated by all the words I didn’t know. Then the CEO of the company asked me what I thought about this situation and I remember I didn’t know what to say and I just blurted out, “How many of you or your key employees have lived in your customers’ shoes?” Everyone in the room just paused and thought I was really smart –I wasn’t. I was just trying to be relevant, but it was one of those career defining moments. Today I realized that I had forgotten that valuable lesson. I wasn’t walking in their shoes.

So the message here is whether it is your significant other, a boss, a child or whomever –before you come up with a strategy, a thought process or even an opinion or anything you are going to say, take the time to be objective and live in their shoes. And, OMG! I learned the hard way –stop drinking your own Kool-Aid!

The most amazing thing to me, and the thing that I am so thankful for is, if it wasn’t for the one person that reads this blog, I might never stop to realize how much I needed to relearn this lesson today. So thanks to anyone that reads this, and I hope there is a morsel here to think about. I know no matter how much you think you know, it is a wonderful experience to learn and share. So the real point of this blog is to share your insights and experience with your business associates, your friends, your organization, whoever. Be objective. Celebrate everyone’s unique talents and point of view, and never, never drink your own Kool-Aid. Always walk in someone else’s shoes before presenting, judging or leading.

Onward and upward–

AZ

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