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  • Writer's pictureDavid Rhoads

Stop Drinking from the Firehose

Napa January 31st.

I was having a great afternoon sipping Cabernet under a pergola at a tasting room. It was very sunny and mild not a cloud in the Sunday sky, and I was happy to have some 'normal' for a change. In the distance I could see the Napa Fire Department Station. As usual my mind was daydreaming in and out about business, then I got very focused on what was happening at the Firehouse.

Two firetrucks were out in the field in front of the station, gleaming Red and Chrome, and you could hear the engines revving up even from a 1/2 mile away. The engines got louder, then the sound evened out, all of the sudden two HUGE streams of water shot into the air.

I couldn't tell how far the streams were going but it looked like nearly a football field. They were testing their pumping trucks! It was absolutely stunning to watch. The streams of water were being directed back and forth. The operators of the hoses were doing some type of pattern and they practiced "crossing the streams" in mid-air. I am assuming that this is to get practice in putting as much water into one spot as possible.

The thing that was most surprising to me was the absolute force and volume of water being shot out of these water hoses, it was mind boggling. At that moment a light come on. When we are thirsty we take a sip of water, perhaps a chug, sometimes we down the whole glass. Then we wait a bit to see if that was enough. But there is no way for our body to process the amount of water coming out of one of those hoses.

Same with our brain and change management.

It has been found in neuroscience that we have about 6,000 thoughts each day ( ), the maximum number of things we can think about at one time is about 4. When it comes to what we can focus on that number drops to 1 pretty fast.

Clients usually come to me from frustration. They have an idea that they want to make more money. Maybe grow their business, fix a problem or get it ready to sell. They have been thinking about this for a long time and not made any progress.

They read, and search for information to help them solve the problem. They've purchased books about the problem. They read Harvard Business Review or INC and subscribe to all the blogs by the gurus of that problem. Listen to Podcasts about the problem. Add that to their daily news, business email, social media and very soon information overload sets in. They are facing a firehose of input when all they really needed was a sip or a chug.

Then they need to take care of their business. Employee issues, client issues, equipment breakdowns, whatever the problems of the day are.

What happens next is very predictable, they shut down. There is too much to do and too much to focus on, so they don't. They get stuck. When I say "They" I also mean me. It's happened to me many times.

I remembered my most difficult days at my last company. Feeling like I knew everything to do but somehow couldn't get anything done. It was frustrating and isolating. More importantly, I felt like a failure because I was overwhelmed. What would have helped me?

This thought also came to me at that moment in Napa because I was thinking about someone in particular. He comes to me with new ideas about what to do based on something new he read or heard. How can I help him?

By going through our process to find the two or three KEY things to work on right now. The sip or chug that can be used right now. Then we communicate as often as needed to keep things focused and moving in the right direction. One step at a time, one moment at a time, completing one thing at a time.

Can we find a hundred great ideas to solve our problems? Yes. Do we need most of that information? No.

There is an unlimited amount of information we can find (or that finds us) every day. It's too easy to be distracted and get off course. My job as his coach is to keep the focus until the object has been achieved, then go through the process again to develop the next thing to focus on.

If you need help charting your course and piloting towards it call or email me. I love this stuff.

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