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Insanity Check

July 8, 2010

A wise person once told me a good definition of insanity is, “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different outcome.” I always liked that simple definition because I think it rings true in most people’s personal lives as well as their professional lives. I have noticed a few things this year in my personal and professional life that I’ve been going about in an insane manner. Literally, I’m repeating the same steps time and time again and expecting a different outcome. It took a profound, yet short ambulance ride a few weeks ago for me to come to these realizations.

straight jacket

I’ve always taken pride in being good at self reflection. I know, it sounds rather nerdy and pathetic, but being able to be honest with yourself is a great attribute to have. With that I made it a point this year to build some personal and business relationships that were lacking in years past, set better expectations up front and improve on my personal hobbies as well. These all sound like rather vague goals, but I’ll narrow them down in the next few paragraphs.

Improve relationships:
In the past I’d just email, call, tweet or whatever and my networking skills were always OK at best, but I never really felt like I was getting anywhere with my business relationships. Well, my lack of effort and energy was the main reason. I kept doing the same thing day after day and for some strange reason I expected a better outcome. I know a great deal of people through the digital and business world be it through a mutual acquaintance or through twitter, facebook, LinkedIn or so on. When I say “I know them” I mean we’ve spoken at some point in person or through email. I’m making it a point to improve my networking skills this year by attending more events, having lunches, going to meetings and making a conscious effort to reach out more often. So far it’s been a nice change of pace and I’m having some great conversations with amazing people I’d never had before. Changing my level of involvement has been instrumental in building better relationships.

Better expectations:
I’m one of those annoying people who constantly over analyze results and asks, “Why did we do it this way, or why didn’t that happen?” It’s funny how we get results not inline with our goals or expectations and immediately think someone, somewhere along the way dropped the ball or missed the target and we ended up with X. Well, I’m noticing more often than anyone would like to admit it’s usually a lack of communication and poor expectations being set on the front end that lead us to our end results. If you communicate the same way and manner you always have and you’re coming up a bit short or not quite happy with the way things are going you may want to revise your tactics. This goes for your personal life as well. If your friends show up at the lake for the day with no food, water, sunscreen, money or towels you’re partially to blame. Yeah, they are pretty sad people if they didn’t bring sun screen, but you can still communicate those things on the front end. People are not mind readers. Same thing goes for a board meeting where your coworkers didn’t bring the prospectus PowerPoint file or the cable for the projector so you can give your presentation. You have to be clear and let people know ahead of time or you’re always going to come up short. Change your communications tactics.

Now for the ambulance ride part. At a race in Savannah a few weeks ago I had a little mishap on the bike and ran off the track at a tad over 100 MPH in a very sharp right hand turn. Despite being off the track I rode the bike all the way to the tree line trying to brake on the wet grass until I realized I wasn’t going to stop. I decided to take my chances with the ground rather than a 60 year old oak. Despite my best efforts I still ended up buried in the woods, on my back, with the wind knocked out of me gasping for air wondering what the hell just happened. It was one of those moments where you wiggle your fingers and toes to make sure they are still there and operating normally. Not fun. Well after sitting in the ambulance I started thinking, “I’ve crashed two times in the past month at these freaking races and this is starting to become not fun.” After being released from the EMT’s and waiving all my rights to sue the ambulance company for declining to go to the hospital I hobbled back to our pit area and sat there. “I’m doing it again!” I’m showing up the evening before a race, setting up, registering, getting the bike inspected and racing at 110% of my ability with zero preparation, practice, or time to get my head right. I’m doing this at each race weekend and each time I’m upset with my performance and how the day ends (with a broken bike and a hurt body). It was a reminder that my racing routine was quite insane. How would I ever progress or get to the next level without putting in more effort or energy? The simple answer is, I wouldn’t.


Take a look at the things in your life that may not being going the way you want them to. It could be a job, relationship, family, hobby, home improvement project, career search, corporate strategy, sales numbers or whatever.

If you’re not getting the results you want or things aren’t where they need to be you are probably in need for some insanity checks. Nothing will change if you go about things the same way over and over again. That much I can assure you.

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