FRICTIONLESS: Finding the path of least resistance

FRICTIONLESS: Finding the path of least resistance.

by Aaron Bare

WHAT IS FRICTION?

The best-known definition of friction is scientific: the resistance created when one object rubs against another. Friction can also be social; for example, a conflict between two people, or two ideas, or two cultures. It can also be personal, which is the kind I’m going to discuss. For our purposes, any action, behavior or idea that makes it harder for you to accomplish your goals is friction.

 

This kind of friction occurs when a customer service call center transfers you 5 times, or if you feel anxiety when you go to buy a car. Friction can be caused by a late flight, a missed appointment, or a cancelled reservation. It can also be caused by a meaningless meeting, a poorly-designed process, or a boring conference.

 

The technology designed to make your life easier can cause friction. If you’ve ever tried to fix a malfunctioning printer, or consulted an incomprehensible manual, you know what I mean.

 

Friction is why employees leave companies, businesses fail, and marriages end. It’s why families feud and friendships dissolve. Friction can even cause wars when different races, religions or ideologies come into contact.

 

Reducing friction should be the ultimate goal of every company. Six sigma and other quality initiatives have helped us achieve near zero defects. Soon, similar efforts will help us produce sales, marketing and services with zero friction–whether it means helping a customer buy a car, resolving a service issue, or demonstrating a new product.

 

A frictionless world may be hard to imagine. But that’s only because most of us don’t understand how to achieve it. But friction is not totally out of your control. How friction affects you is influenced to a large extent by your response to it–by your attitude.

 

The goal of this exercise is to give you some simple skills that will help you reduce the friction at work and in your life.

 

THE BEGINNING OF FRICTION

When we are very young we ask our parents a lot of “why” questions. “Mommy and Daddy,” “Why this?” and “Why that?” We use their explanations to construct our own understanding of the world around us. As we get older, we stop asking “Why?” so much. Not only are Mommy and Daddy tired of explaining everything, but at some point we decide that we understand the world well enough to draw our own conclusions.

 

 

Unfortunately, this is not a foolproof process. Sometimes our parents’ answers are incomplete, or misguided. Sometimes we misunderstand them, or misinterpret the events around us. And some times we just get it wrong.

 

What we end up with is an inexact and only partially accurate understanding of how the world works. One that doesn’t always serve us well as we venture out into the world on our own.

 

For example, how well did you handle your first broken heart? If you’re like most people, not very well. No one likes to get the message that they aren’t loved and appreciated. And the first time it happened, nothing in your experience, or your parents’ explanations, had prepared you for the emotional pain.

 

Even so, the way you responded to that first heartbreak created a pattern that you’ll probably follow for the rest of your life. When faced with stressful situations, we tend to repeat familiar responses–even if they don’t work very well. An old habit, even a bad one, isn’t as risky as trying something new!

 

Over time, we can get attached to these patterns. It’s easy for us to become set in our ways–even when our beliefs don’t serve our purposes, or conflict with how others understand the world.

 

We start to build barriers to protect ourselves from new information and ideas. We become worried, fearful, doubtful, stressed, and defensive about our beliefs. We fight for what we already know, instead of being open to learning new things from the people around us.

 

New meaning. Meaning making machines.

 

And when we run into something that contradicts our world view–at work, with friends, in a relationship–the friction we experience is often painful. It may be that strategies that worked for us in the past suddenly fail. We don’t understand why our boss is so unfair. Or why our friends don’t appreciate us more. Or why our boyfriend or girlfriend has such high expectations.

 

As you can see, this kind of friction is self-inflicted. It’s based on our misunderstanding of the world around us, and complicated by our efforts to defend what we think we know.

 

Too overcome this kind of friction, we need to “update” our understanding of the world on a regular basis. And one of the best ways to do this is to approach new people, ideas, and situations with an open mind–searching for new “building blocks” to rebuild our world-view.

 

Think about how a friend would describe a concert that you both attended. Your experiences were probably very different. You might have loved the music. But your friend might have been distracted by problems with the sound system. You  might have been in a hurry to get home to download the music you heard. But your friend may have written the event off as a wasted evening.

 

Is one of you right, and the other wrong? Or are both of you right?

 

Once you begin to understand how other people see the world–and use it to improve your own understanding–the potential for self-inflicted friction will start to disappear. You’ll discover a world full of new opportunities. Not candy canes and sugar plums, but situations and possibilities that will get you closer to your goals.

 

In many ways, how you see the world determines what you get in life. This is the  basis of the powerful “law of attraction” made popular by the book (and the movie) “The Secret.”

 

Broadening your outlook will help you see the good in almost anything. And how you handle the friction that surrounds you determines whether you’ll be a victim of circumstances or take advantage of the wealth of opportunities around you.

 

Some people resist the idea that they have so much control over their own life, For example, I believe that any boy who really wants to play in the NBA can do so. Many pessimist totally disagrees. His arguments are pretty familiar: Not everyone is tall enough. Not everyone is athletic enough. Not everyone is willing to work hard enough to develop the skills necessary to play in the NBA, and some won’t develop the skills no matter how hard they work at it.   Although, the attraction to a sport is often from the natural or athletic ability of a youth and the effort to get to the top of the game.

 

These are all valid points. But from my point of view, you have more control over the situation than you think. A boy who really wants to be in the NBA can work harder than anyone else. He can get the coaching, find the mentors, put in the practice time, and eventually develop the skills he needs. It may be harder for him to achieve the same level of performance as someone with more talent or ability, but it is NOT impossible.

 

Plenty of NBA players fit this pattern: Steve Nash, Spud Webb and Muggsy Bogues come to mind. They were three unlikely candidates for the NBA who decided that nothing was going to stand in their way.

 

No matter where you are or what your situation is, stay open to the possibilities around you. Enjoy the snow, the heat, the rain, the wind, the waves, and the clouds. All of them are beautiful from the right perspective. As I write this, it’s 115 degrees and sunny in Phoenix, where I live. Right now, my air conditioning is the most beautiful thing in my world!  It has given me a great opportunity–to be able to write about how to reduce the friction in your life.

 

KEYS TO A FRICTION-PROOF LIFE

Now that you have a better understanding of what friction is and how it affects you, let’s take a closer look at six key strategies that will help you reduce the friction that stands between you and your goals.

 

There are 6 steps to creating a life without friction.

 

  1. Learn to change
  2. Speak the Language
  3. Open your Mind
  4. Build your network
  5. Make better mistakes
  6. Find your opportunity

 

 

 

1. LEARN TO CHANGE

“The  only constant is change.” We hear this so often that it’s almost a cliche. And if it’s true, why do so many people find it so hard to change? You’d think we’d be good at it by now!

 

According to Billy Schley’s book, “Why Johnny Can’t Brand,” there are eight reasons why people change. People change if it helps them be happier, smarter, healthier, richer, safer, more secure, more attractive, or more successful. Pretty clear, right?

 

Robert Cialdini, a great researcher of influence, has documented six ways to influence other people to change. They are liking, scarcity, social proof, reciprocity, authority and commitment.

 

What do these terms mean? First, you can influence people more easily if they like you. If you’re very busy, they may want to spend more time with you. If you have lots of friends, you must be OK. If you help someone out, they may try to return the favor. If a successful executive pays you a compliment, people are more likely to trust your judgement. Finally, if you can get someone to agree with you in public, they’re likely to keep on agreeing with you.

 

These are just two of many different ways to think about how change works. If you want to be successful in today’s rapidly changing world, you need to learn as much as you can about change. You must become a student, if not a scientist, of change.

 

Understanding how change works–both in yourself and in other people–will help you create the changes you want.

 

Let’s say that you feel the need to be more outgoing, more social, in order to build an effective network. Think about how being more sociable will affect you. What are you afraid of? What are the payoffs? Think of ways to minimize the risks, and focus on the rewards. If you can, you will reduce the friction that makes it so difficult to achieve your goal.

 

And let’s say you want to influence your customers to visit your website? Cialdini’s insights should give you at least a few great ideas on how to get started. Customer referrals, celebrity endorsements, special offers or free samples–all you need to do is decide which of these to try first.

 

The number of books and articles written about change is almost endless. Some are great, so not so much so. Some will apply to you, and some won’t. But resistance to change is an important source of friction, and  if you can discover new ways to change, you’ll be that much closer to your goals.

 

 

2. SPEAK THE LANGUAGE

 

I firmly believe that everyone–no matter what their profession or role–is actually a salesperson. No matter what your program or goal, you need to be able to “sell” your message to others, and one of the most powerful tools you have is the spoken word.

 

First of all, let’s look at the words you use. Imagine one person tells you that, “We’ll try to do a good job.” Another  promises, “We’ll get the job done.” What is the difference? Which is more compelling?

 

The problem in the first case is the word, “try,” which weakens the speaker’s message. “Try” is a powerless word. It makes the message uncertain, ambiguous, undependable. By implying the possibility of failure, it creates doubt–and friction.

Other powerless words include “can’t,” “don’t”, “but,” and “probably.” These words should only be used by people who lack the ability to deliver results, or who are afraid of committing to a specific outcome. Eliminate these words from your vocabulary at all costs!

 

What words should you use? You best bet is to use strong, positive, active words that describe what you’ll do and what the benefits will be.

 

It’s also important to tailor your language to fit your audience. “Knowing  your audience” doesn’t mean just demographic analysis. It also means understanding the kind of language you should use so that your audience understands what you’re trying to say.

 

Many public speakers try to impress their audience with big words or sophisticated language. You want to come across as an authority on your subject, but using language that your audience won’t understand creates a lot of friction–your audience will either feel talked down to or that you’re wasting their time.

 

Simple language is best–simple words, direct expression, clear organization. You will both reduce friction and increase the number of people you reach with your message.

 

The book “Meta-Talk,” written in the 1960’s explained how to decipher the hidden language–the hints, references, and implications–in ordinary conversation. Understanding what others are trying to say can be hard, really hard. But there are better ways to achieve than by trying to “crack the code.”

 

As Steven Covey puts it, you should “seek first to understand, then to be understood.” My approach is to ask questions, listen intently to the answers, and then restate my understanding of what I’ve heard. The person I’m talking to will either confirm my understanding or offer further corrections or refinements. This process of continuous checking and counter-checking ensures that both parties are satisfied that they’ve been understood.

 

Close and careful listening is a great tool to use in communications, especially in negotiations where parties come to the table with different assumptions and agendas. You can use it to build mutual understanding and trust, and reduce friction, whenever you need to influence others.

 

Good communication is really pretty simple: Say what you are going to do, and do what you say you’re going to do. Everything follows from this principle.

 

 

3.  OPEN YOUR MIND

The human mind is a wonderful thing. It’s the best tool we have for problem-solving, pattern recognition, and creativity. But it also has a less wonderful side. As discussed earlier, the mind has a nasty habit of defending itself against new ideas and information. Our natural instinct, when confronted by new facts or evidence, is to close our minds.

 

Closed minds create a lot of the friction you will encounter. Closed minds have caused every war, every conflict between religions, every ethnic or racial prejudice. Closed minds have created filibusters, tax laws, and the sinking of the Titanic.

 

Let’s look at a common sources of friction in the business world–the sales call.

Most sales professionals have been trained to try to control the conversation. They want to make the call, get the appointment, make the presentation, close the sale, and go out to celebrate. Listening to the client and trying to understand the client’s needs is pretty low on their agenda.

 

But most buyers are tired of this approach. They know that some salespeople will try to sell them products they don’t want or that don’t work or don’t fit their business. Naturally, they view the sales call with a great deal of skepticism, and are prepared to resist.

 

Think about it. Could you design a situation with more potential for friction if you tried? Both sides are working, pretty deliberately, to keep their minds closed–to ignore the other’s point of view.

 

When I go on a sales call, I try to focus on every word the client says, and then try to understand the sales transaction from their point of view. I don’t assume that my product or service is the right solution for them. In fact, I assume the opposite–that I need to understand their situation better before I know what or how to sell them.

 

Of course, not everything you hear is going to be useful. Everyone you talk to faces pressures and problems at work, and few of them get enough opportunities to share their feelings. As soon as they know you’re going to listen, you’ll probably hear a lot more about their business than you really want to know.

 

But don’t let that stop you–the conversation you’ve started will not only help you prepare an effective sales pitch, you’ll probably find out things about your customer and their industry that you wouldn’t have thought to ask about. And your willingness to listen is really going to pay off in terms of appreciation.

 

Keeping an open mind isn’t easy. It takes practice and a lot of patience. Remember, your goal is to find out things you don’t already know. If your mind is closed, and you think you already know what your customer wants, you’re going to miss any new opportunities that might be there.

 

A  lot of people drift through sales pitches only half-aware (if that) of what’s being said. They may be thinking about lunch, or distracted by the challenges in their in-box. They may be remembering the last sales call they sat through and the clever things they wish they’d said.

 

You need to stay fully focused and connected to the present conversation. Make sure that the person you’re talking knows that you’re paying attention to what they’re saying. Make now the only time that matters–to both of you. Again, for many people, it may be the first time they’ve been really “present” in a sales call for a long time.

 

Let’s look at another business situation that demands an open mind: negotiations. In my opinion, listening with an open mind almost guarantees your success in any negotiation. Not “winning,” necessarily, but “success.”

 

I once took a class in negotiating at Harvard. The first thing I learned is why so many business people don’t get what they want out of a negotiation. It’s mainly because they’ve focused on the “what they want” part, and not on reaching an agreement satisfactory to both parties.

 

To succeed, you need to find out what the other party wants as well. Once you know, it’s usually relatively easy to figure out ways for both parties to get what they want. Or at least, what they’re willing to accept as part of a compromise. If you don’t know what they want, or you’re sure that you already have the right answer, then there’s no chance that you’ll reach an agreement. Keeping an open mind is absolutely crucial to reducing the friction that comes naturally in any head-to-head negotiation.

 

 

4. BUILD YOUR NETWORK

 

One of the benefits of learning to communicate in an open and honest way is that you’re going to develop a group of friendly contacts among the people you do business with. And making friends, in a business context, is the best way to build a network that will help you achieve more in almost every aspect of your life at work.

 

About five years ago, I created a network of about100 people by inviting them to talk about themselves at lunch. I picked people out of the newspaper–my guests ranged from quasi-celebrities to CEOs at great companies. Most of the people I contacted were happy to meet with me. I learned an important lesson about networking: People love to talk about themselves.

I listened intently and asked questions. I learned what they cared about, and what they thought made them successful. My contacts were flattered by the attention, but as we talked I found myself forging invaluable connections.

 

Today, I have a powerful and productive business network. The opportunities and career offers I’ve received from this group are the foundation of my current success. I am only a few conversations, phone calls, emails, or referrals away from anyone and anything. If I need to meet an expert, research a new business opportunity, or find out more about a new technology, my network is my starting place.

 

The business world is a maze of networks, social layers, and closed doors guarded by gatekeepers. Whether you’re interested in finding venture capital, or starting a charity, the strength of your network will determine your success. Mastering the art of networking will help you reduce the friction involved in making contacts, getting advice, finding funding, producing references or referrals, or finding your next job.

 

The bottom line? Your “network” is your “net worth.” The connections in your network will lead to some of  your biggest opportunities, and will make the lifestyle you want possible.

 

Here’s another important benefit: A recent article in the American Journal of Health Behavior reports that your connections with other people are the single most important factor in how happy you are!

 

Networking isn’t always easy. You may find it difficult to call people, or worried about rejection. This is another example of your attitude getting in your way. Most business people will tell you that meeting and talking to new people is one of the most interesting parts of their jobs–and, remember, everyone loves to talk about themselves. All you have to do is ask!

 

 

5.  MAKE BETTER MISTAKES

 

My fifth friction-reducing strategy is to make mistakes–and make them often.

 

It may seem strange to encourage you to make mistakes. After all, if you make a lot of mistakes at work, the level of friction between you and your supervisor is likely to go up, not down.

 

So let’s be clear about what we’re talking about. You don’t want to make obvious mistakes, like forgetting to send a contract, or agreeing to terms that you can’t deliver, or failing to prepare for a big meeting. You do want to make the kind of mistakes that come from taking the initiative–like underestimating the cost of introducing a new product, or the difficulty of adopting open source software, or betting that people will want to watch cartoons on their cell phones.

 

Whether you’re trying to grow a business or steal market share from a competitor–you hardly ever get everything right the first time. In most cases, you fail, learn from your mistakes, and then try again. Sometimes you fail repeatedly.

 

These “learning experiences” are invaluable. Every time you fail, you learn something new about your audience, or your market, or the business you’re in. And you can put that knowledge to work immediately. You may fail many times before you succeed, and there’s sure to be some friction along the way, but at the end of the day you’ll know how to turn your failure into success.

 

It is a well-known fact that some of the biggest innovations and business successes of all time have been achieved by people who failed many times. For starters, think of  Thomas Edison, the Wright Brothers, and Albert Einstein. All had their failures before their eventual success.

 

The rule in my company, Buzz Mouth, is: “Make Mistakes Once.”  If all of our people made their mistakes only once, and never repeated them, we would end up with a very experienced, accomplished and successful organization. I’m fine with our people making mistakes–as long as they learn from them and don’t make the same mistake too often. The key word is that statement is “learn.” Mistakes are an excellent way to learn about how your business works.

 

A great way to get started is to do something new and different every day. You’re going to make more mistakes, but you’re also going to break out of your habits, and hopefully uncover some new opportunities.

 

If you’re worried about making mistakes, start small. Try drinking tea instead of coffee. Or make a phone call instead of sending an email. Move up to bigger challenges as you grow more comfortable with the process. Try a different vendor. Share an idea with someone in a different department. Eat lunch somewhere you’ve never been before. (I hear the Greek salad is great….)

 

 

6.  FIND YOUR OPPORTUNITY

 

My final strategy introduces another unique concept: You don’t really have any problems.

 

Say what? This may sound completely wrong. Everyone in every business has problems. In fact, one of the best things you can say about a colleague is that he or she is a great problem-solver. If there aren’t any problems, just what are they doing?

 

From my point of view, there are no problems–just opportunities. Every problem you face is also an opportunity to grow. Again, your attitude is key–whether you’re going to struggle with your problems, or try to turn them into opportunities. Problems, of course, create friction–they make it harder for you to reach your goals. But if you can turn them into opportunities, your only worry will be how to take advantage of them.

 

When I was 28, I was stuck with $240,000 in unsecured debt. I decided I wasn’t going miss a payment, and I never have. I started paying more attention to my finances, and decided that I was going to fight my way from debt into abundance. I learned a lot about making and managing money. Not all of the lessons were easy or frictionless. But by the time I had resolved my debts, I had developed an important new skill, and discovered that I had a natural aptitude for making money. This turned into a fundamental change in the course of my life and all because I decided to turn my problem into an opportunity.

 

I once participated in a communications exercise that required me to share stories that were funny, scary, lonely, exciting, and sad. As part of the exercise I had to demonstrate each of these emotions. The point of the exercise was to show that we do have some control over how we feel.

 

The same thing happens when you respond to a problem. You control whether you deal with it as a problem or as an opportunity. I changed my attitude–I stopped worrying about my debt and started focusing on abundance–and I changed the outcome.

 

The best hand doesn’t always win at poker. The person who plays their hand the best usually wins. The same is true of your life. It’s not always the person who’s dealt the best hand in terms of wealth, intelligence, appearance, or athleticism that is the most successful. The successful person is almost always the one who has made the most of the hand they’ve been dealt.

 

 

HOW FRICTION AFFECTS YOU AT WORK

 

Our focus on minimizing friction has some powerful applications in the workplace. Earlier, we looked at how we tend to repeat comfortable patterns of behavior even when they’re dysfunctional. Replace “comfortable patterns” with “conventional wisdom” and you’ll see a nearly identical effect in the business world.

 

The more we think we know, the less open we are to new developments. In the rapidly changing world of science and technology, holding on to conventional wisdom can lead to profound ignorance.

 

The medical profession, for example, often resists new treatments that could save lives. It took 10 years for the H. pylori vaccine, which cures ulcers, to catch on. It was only accepted after Professor Barry Marshall of Australia, the man whom discovered it, drank a whole glass of H. pylori to create an ulcer and then later cured himself with his vaccine.

 

Major innovations often start with a simple idea. Most of them require a dramatic shift in world view. You can imagine the radical rethinking required by the introduction of the light bulb, the airplane, the television, the microwave, the internet, and so on. Today’s breakthroughs are sure to require the same kind of fundamental changes in your world view.

 

What do these innovations have in common? They all removed friction in some form, and dramatically improved our quality of life. The light bulb reduced the friction of having to burn a candle every night. The airplane reduced the friction in trying to do business in a distant city. Television reduced the friction of having to travel to an event instead of being able to watch it at home.

 

Notice that this advantage is seldom permanent. The incandescent light bulb wastes energy. The CFL is born! Airplanes are always late, and airlines lose your luggage in the bargain. Perhaps leading to growth in teleconferencing? And television has been characterized as a “vast wasteland” for decades. To be replaced or at least forever changed by the internet.

Change, as noted, is the only constant. As friction creeps back into the equation, there are always new opportunities for innovation.

 

But when opportunity knocks, you have to do more than just answer the door. Opportunities, possibilities, potentials–they are all wasted unless you make something out of them. Most of corporate America is caught up in meetings–planning instead of executing. But without execution–without “deliverables”–the planning is counterproductive.

 

I think most meetings are a terrible waste of time. Instead of bringing together the best efforts of a talented group of people, they serve as an antenna for friction–bringing together the worst impulses and worst outcomes for everyone in the room.

 

Every large company, and most small ones, have meetings about meetings and meetings that are scheduled “just in case,” How much productive work can possibly get accomplished in this kind of meeting? So why have them?

 

Beyond meetings, there are several things that are the largest producers of friction.

 

 

NO MEETINGS

Eliminate meetings.

 

NO RESUMES

I feel the same way about resumes.  Tell a story about how your experience relates to the opportunity.

 

NO INTERVIEWS

I feel the same way about job interviews. Offer to work for free for a day to a week, mitigate the risk for both parties.

 

NO BS

Stick to the truth.

 

NO HIERARCHY

Create a company of execution.   My companies have developed

 

NO SCHEDULE

Go digital, embrace change and eliminate paper in your life.

 

NO WASTE

Go digital, embrace change and eliminate paper in your life.

 

 

 

CREATE PROCESSES

Reduce scope and create realistic expectation.

 

OVER COMMUNICATE

Reduce scope and create realistic expectation.

 

CREATE MILESTONES

Reduce scope and create realistic expectation.

 

COMMIT TO DEADLINES

Reduce scope and create realistic expectation.

 

 

 

EFFORTLESS SUCCESS

The key to personal success is to define the life that you want to live, and then identify and remove the sources of friction that hold you back. When the friction is gone, you can focus on what you want to achieve. The barriers, concerns, and insecurities that were in your way will be gone.

 

Life is a game played at many levels and in many different situations. You can play at the level of yourself, your relationships, family and friends, community, workplace, geographical location, state, world and so on.  What impact do you want to make?  Fortunately, you get to choose which games to play, and how to define your own success. Most people start at the simplest levels, and as they gain competence and self-confidence they move on to bigger and better things.

 

For most people, the first level–the individual or the self–turns out to be one of the most difficult. It’s possible to get stuck, to lack self-confidence, to be limited by fear, to play the victim, to make excuses, or to depend on self-justifications or lies. All of these create friction that will hold you back from your personal goals.

 

If you can move beyond the personal level you’ll find that the barriers created by your circumstances disappear, paving the way to the future that you want to create. And the freedom and power created by self-mastery make it possible for you to have a greater impact on the next levels–your relationships, your friends and family, your community, your organization, and the world that you live in.

 

The results you create in your relationships depend on your relationship with yourself. If you have a good relationship with yourself you will generally have good relations with others. Listen carefully to your friends to make sure that you understand what they’re saying. Keep an open mind–you’ll be surprised at what you find out! Go beyond finding friends who are fellow students or colleagues–try to find people who are most like the person you’d like to be. Finally, share who you are with as many people as you can. The more people you meet, the more people who know you and know what you’re like as a person, the more successful you’ll be–both in your relationships and at the more public levels.

 

Dealing with your family can also be difficult. Families can be unpredictable or unfair and, unlike your friends, you don’t get to choose your family. This lack of control can be frustrating; it can be both demanding and rewarding. Again, you have to share yourself–your ideas and your aspirations–with your family, and dedicate yourself to understanding what makes them the people they are.

 

Self-confidence is key. In most cases, your relationship with your family started when you were young, insecure, and vulnerable. It isn’t easy to overcome these early experiences, but you’ll have to develop great self-confidence and the courage to be yourself to succeed.

 

Fortunately, you do get to choose the communities you live in. Further, you can pick and choose which communities matter to you–where you want to make a difference. This means different things to different people. Your community can be your neighborhood, your college friends, your extended family, your softball league, your town council, a local political party, or any combination of the above.

 

You’re likely to play a different role in each. In some, you’ll be an acknowledged leader. In others, you’ll aspire to leadership, or maybe be content to play a key role, or just do the heavy lifting.

 

In any of these cases, the key to success is identifying and removing the friction that makes you less effective, or make it difficult for you to play the role you want. By eliminating the friction (as far as possible–some communities have huge and unsolvable issues) you’ll find that you develop more influence in your community, and you’ll feel free to use your skills and energy to achieve your goals.

 

There are some limits to how much you can influence an organization. After all, someone else ordinarily owns both “the train” and “the track” the organization moves along. Your job is to “grease the wheels”–by reducing friction as much as you can. Frictionless organizations can be things of beauty. They can create new business as though by magic, departments can communicate without direction from management, and sales professionals can find themselves in “the zone.”

 

I once ran a cultural assessment company that evaluated some of the largest companies in the world. We found the same issues–the same sources of friction–operating within almost every large company.

 

Companies that succeed are able to attract the best talent, and know how to project a clear image of themselves to the world. They have open communication and their leaders are willing to share their decisions and their plans. As a result, everyone in the organization has the same vision of what they’re good at, what they’re trying to accomplish, and how they can achieve the best results.

 

This approach reduces the natural friction of poor communication and individual agendas that plague most organizations. It’s not always easy to fix this kind of environment, but it is possible. The key is to identify sources of friction and work to reduce them.

 

You are free to pick which part of your world you want to influence. The basic process is the same–start with yourself and the obstacles or friction in your own mind. Work on yourself and your relationships, and enlist your friends, families, and communities to help you make a difference on the largest stage you can find.

 

Your world expands as you expand. An open mind will lead you to new opportunities. Facing the truth, overcoming obstacles and learning from you mistakes will strengthen your ability to influence the world around you. There is literally no limit to the impact you can have.

 

LIFE AFTER FRICTION

To create a frictionless life, you must set your eye on exactly the life you want to live.

Once you understand the concept of friction, identifying it is easy. And once you’ve identified it, you can learn how to reduce its effects.

 

The key is to remember that you do have a lot of influence over friction–by changing how you respond to new challenges and new situations.

 

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