Toronto, May 21 2012
Boredom is when we feel fatigued, or annoyed by someone or something. Somewhere we lost it or it lost us. Boredom can be instant. Or it can dull us down as others wear us out. There is a reason why the alternate definition of “bore” is to make or enlarge a hole. Interest is fleeting at the best of times. Once it’s gone, it rarely returns. But people who try to be too interesting are the people who become the most boring. We can shine too brightly if we put others in the shadow. Hogging the limelight or the conversation is a shortcut to being boring.
The stars, it is said, know nothing about rising and setting. There are those who are naturally interesting. They have an instinctive sense of how to captivate their audience. The rest of us have to consciously work at it. We need to be familiar enough with our audience to create comfort, but we need to be engaging enough to sustain other’s attention. That’s the fine balance we need to strike. Too much familiarity breeds boredom. Too little familiarity breeds alienation. There are also two kinds of familiar – the desirable and the grudge kind. There’s the familiar we love and the familiar we merely endure. What kind are you?
The good news is that human beings are naturally curious. Our interest is “sparked” by anything that’s different. We can experience interest and pleasure immediately. We can also lose it just as fast. Up front, we may endow others with a level of competence or substance that evaporates upon closer inspection. So immediately generating other’s interest in our offering is important but sustaining that interest over time is exponentially more difficult. We need to get close to others but we also need to keep our distance.
If boredom is death by a thousand cuts and interest is the game starter, pleasure is what keeps us in the game. We want to be around people who make us happy. Being delightful is simply irresistible, especially when frustration or anxiety is so rampant. Pleasure is when interest becomes a source of amusement, entertainment, joy, laughter, connection, admiration or love. However, pleasure is evanescent. It can seem so real and then it can vanish in a heartbeat. Embedding pleasure in every aspect of our engagement with others is a vital success skill. The more meaningful the pleasure, the longer it lasts.
Pleasure is why we’re still talking to each other here. It’s a conscious thread running through this entire message. I want to help you truly get it, but I also want to make you happy while you get there. Seriousness and enjoyment are not mutually exclusive, they’re each other’s catalysts.
Trust is the next level of influence. While interest and pleasure can be immediate, trust is always a slower burn. We’re all walking around with the scars of emotional wounds we’ve incurred by trusting too soon. The majority of our wounds may be self-inflicted, but that doesn’t make them any less painful.
I define trust as the reliance on the capacity and commitment of others to increase our wellbeing. Trust is when we become dependent on someone making good on their promises to us. It’s when we take our biggest risk and open ourselves to others. We become vulnerable on multiple fronts. The dominant dramatic theme throughout human history has been the consequences of giving and losing trust.
Trust is always a casualty of change. As reality is shattered and reconstructed, our mental models may not follow. Blame is often our refuge when we believe our world has gone “wrong”. Whenever I hear the statement, “I can’t believe it”, I know accusations are about to follow.
We earn other’s trust by affirming their right to believe in us. We can lose others’ trust through a single event that contradicts that right. It can have everything to do with us or nothing to do with us. But it will happen. Life is about earning trust, keeping trust, losing trust and then regaining trust. Trust is our gift to share or withhold. But life without trust is not worth living. We cannot get anything without it.
The highest level of influence is when we inspire others to be remarkable. We expand their capacity to create extraordinary results. We help them trust themselves to handle situations that previously may have been beyond their grasp. This is a level of performance that transcends Interest, Pleasure and Trust. All of these can be achieved within the framework of existing expectations. Inspiration means performing at a level that redefines what possible. It’s when we set a new standard through our actions that enables others to emulate. That’s when we convert interest into excitement. And that’s when we stand out by truly differentiating ourselves.
No matter who we are, our ultimate role is to inspire others. We can do it from the top of the pyramid or from the base. It’s not a function of position, it’s a function of consciousness. To quote Martin Luther King, “If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music, or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.”
Inspiration must be our aspiration. It is something we give others but it’s also something we get from others. Whatever we look for is what we tend to find. Inspiration is not a miraculous event, it’s a state of mind. It’s also a virtuous cycle – we inspire others because we’re inspired by others. In the great relationships, inspiration is always bilateral. The alternative is to cast oneself as a saviour and that means being a hero with a cast of helpers. That never turns out well.
It’s been my inspiration to inspire you today. Now it’s your turn to pay it forward…