If an oyster keeps all the sand out of his shell, he lives a life of comfort. At the end of his life, you find a dead oyster… in an empty shell.

If a grain of sand enters the oyster’s shell, he loses his life of comfort. In order to protect himself from irritation, the oyster will begin covering the sand with layers of nacre. Layer upon layer cover the grain of sand until the pearl is formed.

When an oyster is bothered by a grain of sand, it creates a pearl.

If the oyster lives this uncomfortable period in their life, at the end of his life you find more than a dead oyster… you find a pearl.

Don’t wish for less problems.

Our problems allow us to create our pearls. When we remove challenge from our life, we remove growth from our life.

If you liked this post, you will also like Notes from Cicero and 4 Steps to Stop Self-Sabotaging.

I find it hard sometimes to listen to someone who just wants to tell me about the problem. They have a lot of energy and passion to describe their problem, but I can’t get them to engage in positive ideas for how they can move the situation to a better place.

I am empathetic for a while, then I get tired and tune out.

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The Approach of Leadership Coach Dan Rockwell

Dan Rockwell in his recent TEDx talk shared a scheme for bringing a conversation away from problem description. When people call for his help, they want to talk about their problem. He has 45 minutes to make a difference… he needs to get the conversation moving on from the problem. How?

He uses the acronym: PITSIT’N

  • Problem – Problem “Other people are doing bad things”
  • Imagine – Imagine if things were going perfectly. What would it be like? (they have no idea)
  • Trying – What are you trying to make things better?
  • Stop – What do you need to stop? (try harder doing the same things is never a real strategy) “You seem smarter than this” repeating same and becoming more frustrated
  • Imperfect – What is the imperfect behaviour that will move this forward? (little steps, trying little positive things, “if you can’t see it, it doesn’t count”, “we don’t need a touchdown, we just need a first down”)  What are possible behaviours that will move this forward?
  • Try – What would you like to try this week? How, when? “Pretend I’m that person and say it to me”
  • Next week – Next week, I am going to ask you four questions: What did you do, how did it work, what did you learn, what are you going to try next time?

Watch Dan’s TEDx Talk

What tools work for you?  How do you decide when somebody wants you just to listen to their frustration, or when they really are interested in your coaching to make progress?