Here’s your FREE reflection worksheet from this episode.
Feel free to share this with your team/colleagues!
I’ll also send you the links to all the available back-catalogue of reflection templates and transcripts so you can access these at any time.
One of the central aspects of my wife Bec’s upbringing was a massive bookcase filled with the books her parents gathered over the years for her and her siblings. The same bookcase is still in her parents home, and filled with an amazing array of books, from kids fables to encyclopedias. One of the most dog-eared books is called ‘Dog house for Sale’, by Donna Lugg Pape. So the story starts like this: Freckles the dog is sitting there one day looking at her dog house. It’s pretty tired and dilapidated. It wasn’t always like that, but it is now. So Freckles decides that she needs a new dog house. But freckles realizes she needs to sell her current one before she can buy a new one, so she sets her sights on putting her dog house up for sale. This is where it gets interesting.
Hey, it’s Andrew, and this is Safety on Tap.
Since you’re listening in, you must be a leader wanting to grow yourself and drastically improve health and safety along the way. Welcome to you, you’re in the right place. If this is your first time listening in, thanks for joining us and well done for trying something different to improve! And of course, welcome back to all of you wonderful regular listeners.
So back to Freckles. She made a sign which said ‘Dog House for Sale’. Lots of other dogs came to check it out.
How often do we set our sights on a goal which necessitates getting through something, like Freckles? She needed to sell the house to get a new one. Get through the sale. The imaged future state will be better, and there’s just stuff in the way of that which we need to get through?
Remember Freckles starting problem was ‘my dog house is old and tired. So I’ll get rid of it and get a new one’. Our management system isn’t used much or liked much, let’s scrap it and start again. People aren’t happy with that training provider, or this member of the team, or maybe an entire function – just get rid of them, clean the decks, and we’ll start again. Our tendency to take a ‘get through this’ attitude to the challenges we face fundamentally misses the opportunity to get value, to learn and improve by asking what can we get from this, right now, in the moment?
You’ll know that the challenges of over-bureaucracy and clutter in safety is topical right now. I had one senior leader tell me recently their solution was to set a target for their team to cut down the amount of safety documents by 50%. 50%!! That is a ‘get through this’ exercise. Bureaucracy and clutter are the problem, we’ll get through it by setting an arbitrary target to reduce it. What’s missing is asking what are we getting from the system right now? There is a great risk that important, useful, and effective things get removed in the name of getting through the bureaucracy problem. But whether it’s a system challenge or a people challenge or whatever, getting through means we ignore the opportunity to learn – to get something from it, so we can understand it, we can appreciate the nuances and detail and find pleasant surprises. And even if none of that positive stuff is there – what we get from an approach like that is to learn what to do next with greater confidence and clarity.
All the dogs came to see Freckle’s house. But no one bought it. One dog said it was faded and the paint was peeling, suggesting it needed painting. So Freckles logically goes out and buys paint and a brush, and dutifully repaints the house.
This podcast episode has mostly come to you at around 4.30am on the day I’m due to fly out from Los Angeles back to Australia. I get on the plane in 19 hours time, but need to stay awake for an additional 5 hours after that to hopefully get my sleep patterns all right. The reason for the early start is I’ve taken ages to get used to the jetlag coming over here, and now having to start to adjust my sleep to get ready to return. It’s a pain in the butt, and getting frustrating, and tiresome.
I think we say and think this statement way too much: just get through it. If I get through it, I’ll be ok. We encourage other people, ‘you’ll get through this’, and it won’t be so bad. ‘It won’t be long/much effort/much pain before you are through this, and the other side will be better’.
It makes perfect sense to take that approach. We don’t like situations when things aren’t the way we would like them to be, when they aren’t optimal, or ideal. So we have an entire language and mindset which says, just get through it. I’ll just get through this week with reaching the weekend as my goal. I’ll just get through this project, as painful as it is, and the next one will be better. I’ll grit my teeth and get through my time with this boss, in the hope that they move on, or I do.
Today for me could have been a day of getting through it, making the massive journey home to be with my wife and kids after being away. But I choose not to just get through today. I choose to get from today, to get value, to get productivity, to get experience and reflection from today. Part of that is making this episode for you. I choose to get from, not through.
For those of you looking for a more serious and reputable reference than Freckles the dog, Scott M Peck gives us this punch between the eyes:
“Life is difficult. This is a great truth, one of the greatest truths. It is a great truth because once we truly see this truth, we transcend it”.
This is the opening to his book called ‘The Road Less Travelled’, and the internet tells me that it’s the second best-selling non-fiction book of all time, after the Bible. I’ve found this book a tremendous help, and I found it to be a comfortable read. Peck continues his opening:
“Once we truly know that life is difficult – once we truly understand and accept it – then life is no longer difficult. Because once it is accepted, the fact that life is difficult no longer matters”.
So now we’ve got the serious book references and obligatory, albeit very helpful quote, let’s keep learning from Freckles:
With a beautiful newly painted dog house, Freckles made a new sign: Red dog house for sale. The other dogs came back. And no one bought it. Another dog said, you need a new bed. So of course Freckles goes out and buys the materials to make a new bed. You can tell how old this book is because that’s when people actually still built stuff instead of going to Ikea. The new sign said “Red Dog House for Sale with a New Bed”.
You can probably see where this is going, those of you who want to get through my meandering story telling and to the point. But bear with me, I’m trying to help us all get something from the story.
Still no dogs bought it. ‘Needs a window’ said another dog, and off Freckles goes with saw in hand. New sign gets written: “Red Dog house for Sale with New Bed and Window”. Then it needs a garden. Then it needs a fence.
“When life gives you lemons, make lemonade”. That’s a real grandparent kind of quote isn’t it?! And maybe we discard that kind of advice, as old fashioned. But what’s it saying? “Make the most of it”. That’s one which my family used a bit. They might seem like pithy and frustratingly simple quips, but the message is clear. The saying isn’t ‘When life gives you lemons, focus your attention on fertilising and watering and nurturing the orange tree’, is it?
The invitation is for us to get from, not just through.
Finally, a dog family offer to buy Freckles new looking house. And you know what? Freckles looks at her new house, with it’s red paint and new bed, and flower garden and white fence, and she says, I don’t want to sell my dog house, so she goes inside and has a contented nap on her new bed.
You can see that I’m building a case here, for a different kind of language, and a different kind of mindset. Regular listeners will know that I bang on about performance and learning quite a bit, because if we aren’t intentional about our learning (which combined with action creates out performance), we’re going to become extinct as a profession and not really make a dent in true health and safety outcomes.
But back to the learning bit. I’m a fan of the 702010 concept of learning, which if you haven’t heard me talk about that before, you can learn more about in Episode 36 with Charles Jennings. 702010 represents three sources of learning, and the approximate proportions they yield for us as humans. 10%ish from formal, informational learning like books and courses and conference presentations and even podcasts. 20% ish, is social, learning from each other, from anyone and everyone like parents and partners, bosses and peers and team members, coaches and mentors, frontline people and senior leaders and everyone in between. And the lion’s share of learning is derived from life – lived experience, trying and failing and succeeding and reflecting and adapting. This speaks to the idea of the potential that exists in what is already around us, in front of us, and in our future if we are open to look for what we can get from that, rather than ignoring it to get through it.
There is a sneaky side to this idea of just getting through stuff too. Think about it in the context of our professional standing. I got some resounding feedback from people in the US of two things which are truths for them. First, being qualified and certified as a professional is critically important to getting a job. The second truth is that the qualifications and certification have very little correlation with actual performance. So what they’re saying is that the job market, which is recruiters and hiring managers and organisations, ask the question: show me what you’ve got through. Show me the hours, or years, or modules, or number of courses, or qualifications you have which prove you got through something. That’s not a great indicator. Our resume’s are an artefact of the ‘getting through process’, which even includes how many jobs, how many years in each, and what you did in that job. The title of a resume should change to ‘A Record of What I’ve Gotten Through’.
The idea of getting through stuff as an indicator of professionalism or competence extends to our ongoing professional development. Lots of people talk about how many books they’ve read, how many conferences they’ve been to, or how many podcast episodes they’ve listened to. The measure is what they got through.
Aren’t we all more interested, proud, and truly valued AND rewarded for what has come from our work? What has come from our competence, from our investment in development and growth? This is the performance equation, learning + action = performance, which loops back and gets better over time.
We all know the status quo is kind of a big lie. Or at least a deeply entrenched cultural and professional deception. Our education, and recruitment, and ongoing professional development is still stuck in getting through mode. Getting through is not the goal, nor the claim of success, yet that’s what we focus on far too much.
It’s getting from, which is important. Whether it is what we get from a less than ideal situation, or what we get from our experiences, or relationships, or the information we digest, or what others have got from us in terms of our results, the value and positive outcomes we’ve created which wouldn’t have existed if we weren’t there.
Get from, not through.
Freckles ended up getting something amazing from her experience. But she was lucky, she got there by accident. I wonder how much happier Freckles would have been if she were focussed on what she had and what she could get from it, as a result of the feedback she got, her own reflection, and the home improvements she did, rather than just the goal of getting through it to sell it.
But no one wrote that book. That’s the point. Books like this (and podcasts like this!) about dogs like Freckles give us the opportunity to learn from them, not just get through them.
So there’s a couple of ways I want to help you get from, not through.
First, you can grab a reflection download for each of these episodes, and often there is an additional resource or reference you can get, plus the transcript, to help you not just get through podcast episodes but get from them with reflection and action. Check out the show notes at safetyontap.com for those goodies.
Second, it helps to get from, not just through, by having others to help you and challenge you. Safety on Tap Connected is a growth accelerator designed just for that, where you get 1:1 professional coaching from me, plus a community of supportive peers and a bunch more value, so you can get more from your professional development, not just get through it. Check out the obligation-free waiting list at safetyontap.com/connected, sign up to that for free, which is just a few emails that I use to explain what you can get from membership, including feedback from current members, and when we open up the doors you can make an informed decision about what you can get from an investment like that.
Third, if you want to find out more about a ‘get from’ approach to decluttering your health and safety system, based in solid research and giving you a structured approach to follow, check out safetyontap.com/clutter for an upcoming workshop, or let us know if you want a workshop in your city.
Fourth, one of the best ways to learn is to teach. So I encourage you to share this podcast episode with a friend, your boss or your team, and have a conversation about what you’re just trying to get through right now, and whether there is a flip side so you can get more from it. If you do share it, I’d love to hear how those conversations go.
Thanks so much for listening. Until next time, what’s the one thing you’ll do to take positive, effective or rewarding action, to grow yourself, and drastically improve health and safety along the way? Seeya!