Excellence in Excellence: Data and the Truth are Not the Same

One year ago today, I boarded a plane for Seattle. My wife and I were headed to The Allender Institute for The Story Workshop. Look at that language in deep burgundy at the top.

Will you?Will you?

Will you Learn to Tell Your Story in Bold, Beautiful, Life-Changing Ways?

Will I?

I have great difficulty re-reading what I wrote one-year ago for that conference. My story had a moral. I wanted to make something clear to my audience. I was grooming my audience to hate me. I was leveraging facts, accumulating evidence, and presenting a case, a litigator with a 1% chance of conviction busting their ass to sway a skeptical jury.  I took a piece of my past, a story of childhood trauma that stayed with me for 3 decades and I crafted a tale of how the data said I should indeed, be hated.

I will take liberties with a concept Dr. Dan introduced at this event: the dossier. The dossier I think looks like a giant daytimer. Something I once, actually, owned. Do you remember the kind that they used to sell at Staples before iPhones took over the world? Remember how Palm Pilots didn’t really do the job? Sure, I still carry a Moleskine, but I only use that to jot down nuggest of cherished gold. Back in 2008, I bought this $100 monster truck that was like a naugahyde wheelbarrow. I created my own filing system for my life, and had these quadrants that I could check in on to see how I was doing with my “Big Four” in life. The point was that as a daily exercise, I could “easily” drop in and see if I was living the life I wanted to live.

One of those four was “athlete.”

Another was “prospecting.”

Yup. “Athlete + Prospecting” equalled 50% of my life, circa October 2008.

Without even touching “athlete,” I will allow that my family’s provision (aka, “work”) is allowed 25% of my life. In reality, provisional motivations probably occupies 95%.

But prospecting? The intentional action of proactively pursuing new leads and prospects that are encountering daily, life-changing stimulus that will result in a conscious decision to buy or sell real estate? Prospecting ALONE ought to occupy 25% of my LIFE? At precisely the moment that all the wheels were leaving the track in the real estate market and the train was plummeting into the ravine, a singular, evangelizing action my statistically-engaged, data-obsessed brain had frighteningly predicted with staggering accuracy 12 months prior ought to own front and center prominence? Prospecting is the very idea of infecting people with the virus that engagement with such macroeconomic madness… is a good idea. That… should be 25% of my conscious activity.

In some ways, this cruelty makes all the sense in the world: in the midst of total scarcity, farm harder.

But what’s probably the thing I suck at more than any other real estate broker that produces like I do? Asking for business. Another way of saying: prospecting.

What was I doing with my wheelbarrow of shame? Inflicting more shame. Fixating on the 0.82% of what I wasn’t doing “perfectly” and proclaiming that it needed 25% of my conscious understanding.

Several of my friends are somewhat appalled that I am normally such a nice guy, but am such a raging calculating asshole to the cold-calling telemarketers that call me almost daily and tell me “you can always use more business right?” I play with these callers when I don’t block them.

BlockedI am convinced that no one buys a house from the 585… they are only equipped to sell.

Why do I treat them so badly? Because they speak the language of my own self-perpetuated tyranny of data.

I could always have done more.

I can always do more.

100% is never enough.

In 2008, I was actually carrying around my business-expensed wheelbarrow of a dossier. I was able to maintain this pathway to success for about 27 days. I hear 30 days makes a habit. In most ways, the $100 daytimer was an outward expression of a habit already formed, an agreement long-since made. These were the people that expected me to “float the ocean” (thank you HP for that phrase). These were the appointments I would arrive to five minutes early. This was my scheduled action of intentional excellence for the sake of building more excellence, or as Hugh MacLeod once put it:

Excellence in Excellence

The expectations of the dossier can never be fulfilled. The dossier says, “here’s the data. Here are the people you didn’t call. Here are the people you don’t call, because you’ll carry them around, too. Here is where 100% of your energy needs to be committed. These are your life’s instructions. The data doesn’t lie.”

But what it really says is: “Ignore the time/space continuum. Live out of your familiar, amygdalin space. Embrace fear. Go.”

As I flew home from the Story Workshop, I was wrecked that my cohorts experienced me in two violently different ways: a kind shepherd who lead them to kinder waters when it was their story; and a borderline sociopath that was pleading with them to condemn my very innocence when it was my own story. I was holding this bind while I flew through the night on a badly delayed, turbulent flight home and read “The Things That They Carried” which outright played with the very concept of truth. In the story, an American soldier steps on a land mine in the Vietnamese bush. Yes, that man was a doped-out stoner that put the entire platoon at risk in the backcountry with his narcotic addiction. Yes, it was like confetti raining in a parade when he stepped on a land mine and his body was physically scattered from limb to limb, and the light refracted red, pink, black, orange, and the concussion of the bomb was like a drunken heat-filled evening on the Fourth of July. Yes, he was the only man that really listened to a friend’s confessions of pure jungle terror. The dark humor of one man’s joking was funny to only a handful of the other shattered men in the platoon. The same story, told so many different ways. All of the stories told with verifiable data, with facts, all of them contradictory. Data disagreeing with data, and Truth told three different ways.

A year ago, I had created a dossier with a binary judgement. My submission to the dossier was far from voluntary. I could not engage my story with beauty. I could not engage it with boldness. I was beyond resistant to change.

I no longer have a moral to my story. I have no longer arrived as a condemned offender waiting to serve out their life sentence. I still live frequently from my amygdala. But now I can name that. I can share that indeed, I have not arrived anywhere. I am journeying. I can breathe through the pangs of a Kafka-esque landscape where my night time terror imagines my pending conviction, and instead, glance at my phone, where my own 12 year-old visage posing for 7th grade pictures smiles back. I’m still working on making friends with that boy.

And while I can’t say that I play very often, it feels like bold, beautiful defiance to know that I have permission to play.  The data doesn’t reveal that evidence. But it’s the truth.

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