Since 1910, when the Stanford-Binet IQ system was developed, it’s become the standard for measuring intelligence. And then quite a few years ago when Daniel Goldman came out with his book EQ, he wrote about how our intelligence shouldn’t be measured by how smart we are, without factoring how our emotions sometimes get in the way of how smart we are. I thought that was smart in and of itself. But what counts in the real scoreboard of life isn’t what we know or isn’t what we do with what we know based on the limitations or restrictions that our emotions might place on us.
I think the true measure of one’s intelligence and capacities isn’t necessarily the IQ or the EQ, but the TQ. To me, the TQ is the time quotient. The time quotient is the amount of time that passes between when we become aware of something and when we actually profit from our knowledge. I want to reveal bridging that gap between what you know and what you do. The things that we can do right now, every day, in real time, you can start today.
Number one, make everyone your teacher. We don’t pride ourselves to our life lessons, we humble ourselves to our life lessons. But sometimes we forget that. You see, humility is the key for us if we really want to be students. And part of that humility is making everyone our teacher, not just people that we admire and respect, but also when we see people do things that we don't admire, don’t respect, or perhaps don’t even like.
There was one time with my mom, whom I loved very much; I had driven her to the grocery store. I was just 16 years old at the time. And she was hell-bent on buying the groceries for the family. She was probably under incredible stress to get the groceries and get home and cook and clean and do the things that she felt she needed to do that day. She was busy and tired to say the least. She got the butcher’s attention at the grocery store and said, “Excuse me, do you have this product?” Whatever it was she was looking for, this particular cut of meat. And the grocer stopped what he was doing, came over to her, and said, “I’m sorry, ma’am; I didn’t hear you. Would you repeat that?” And once again she goes sternly, “Do you have this cut of meat?” And he said, “No ma’am, I’m very sorry; we don’t.” And she stormed away to find whatever alternative that she needed.
And I appreciated the pressure that she must have been under and the difficulties that she was facing in her life. I also know that she was a lovely woman. But I also know that the butcher didn’t get to meet that lovely side of her. And I decided that I would make her my teacher in that moment, and rather than saying that that was wrong, I don’t respect that, or I don’t admire that, I simply said she didn’t give her best in that moment. In making her my teacher, I learned to try to be polite to people that I meet and that I ask things from in stores. And so in that way, I was still able to be humble enough to say I don’t want that characteristic in me to ever come out that way. Or at least I’ll try. And so my mom became my teacher in that regard.
We have to humble ourselves to our life lessons, not pride ourselves to our life lessons. When we walk around leading ourselves with pride, it’s very difficult for us to find lessons.
In making everyone our teacher, let’s also make sure that we understand that no one is perfect. A lot of us, as students, look for that perfect teacher until we find that perfect flaw. And then that person is no longer our teacher. What I like to do is have a number of people who are my teachers, and each one of them can teach me different things. So there is no perfect role model.
I know that the craze for a while has been for people to wear a bracelet or a piece of jewelry that says WWJD. What would Jesus do? In other words, there’s a role model for them to say to themselves, Okay, if I were more Christ-like, what would I do in this moment? And that’s a great reminder of a great role. In our lives we’re surrounded by people who are less than Christ-like, but that doesn’t mean that they can’t teach us something or be our role models.
Once I had to interview the athletic director for the school newspaper. I walked into his office, and there wasn’t one piece of paper on his desk. Now in high school I remember everyone’s desk was always cluttered and full of stuff. But Mr. Macintosh’s desk was completely clear.
So before I got into the subject I was there to talk about, I said, “Mr. Macintosh, your desk is completely clear. How do you do that?” He said, “It’s not that hard.” He said, “I have a system.” I believe that clutter begins with one piece of paper, and that when I get clutter, I’m not thinking clearly and I’m not operating effectively. So what I do is, if I’m working on it, it’s out. If I’m not working on it, it’s in the file.” And I thought, Well that seems simple enough. I wonder if I can try that. And so here was a man I hardly knew whom I didn’t have to make a role model to become his student and learn something from him. And it’s something that I practice to this day.
Number two, practice accepting reality. One of the ways that we should accept reality is to say to ourselves, You know what? There isn’t going to be a time in my life where pain doesn’t exist, where stress doesn’t exist, where worry doesn’t exist, where problems don’t exist. I’m a human being, and these things exist in the human condition. What I have to do is learn to cultivate my appreciation while these things happen.
While there are different concepts, depending on your genre of nirvana or self-actualization or some version of reality where joy is all that exists, there’s no pain, no suffering, no struggle, and so on, I’d like to suggest that I’m not sure that that is true for most of us. I’d like to suggest that you can choose to be happy and learn to be happy in a world full of problems. Remember, the world’s a mess, it’s always been a mess, and it’s not ours to fix it. It’s ours to learn how to be happy and effective in it.
Now one of the things about accepting reality is to understand that happiness and unhappiness don’t exist separately and apart from each other. They exist at the same time in different levels.
What I say about practicing acceptance is to understand and practice accepting reality for all it is. It has challenges, it offers struggles, it’s not ideal, but it is perfect. And in accepting that perfect reality, we can go to the next step, which is to constantly celebrate life. I ask myself all the time, Hey, Joe, are you celebrating? As a matter of fact, I say that in some of the most difficult moments.
One night in December, I was driving several hours to speak at a convention in northern Michigan. The snow was blowing sideways, and it was at least minus 40 degrees outside. All I know is the wind was blowing through my coat, through my clothes, right to my bones. And I had to pump gas. I got outside of my car, shivering, jumping up and down, and as I was putting the nozzle into the gas tank I was thinking, Oh, my gosh, you know what, I got to go up and I’m going to talk to these people. I’m going to drive five hours; I’m going to get up tomorrow morning to speak for 45 minutes. I’m going to drive five hours back; I’m going to be tired. It’s freezing out: what am I doing? I can hardly see the road. The car’s sliding all over the place. I’m going to get killed trying to do this.
And then I said to myself, Hey, Joe, are you celebrating? And I reminded myself, one of the gifts, one of the rewards that I thought would happen someday if I trained myself to become an expert in the human condition, would be that people would want me to share that information with them. And here I am with this opportunity to do just that and the blessing to do just that, and I’m not celebrating it. And it changed my attitude.
When we learn to accept this perfect reality, which is less than ideal in our minds, we can also balance that by making sure that we’re practicing celebrating life. As Italians would say “celebrare la vita.”
The next thing you can do to help you bridge the gap between what you know and what you do is to practice using the power of context. Remember, it’s very difficult for us to get to our myths or our striving truths, those stories. But it’s not difficult for us to shift the context. It’s difficult for us to deny how we feel; as a matter of fact, it’s almost impossible to deny how we feel. But it’s not difficult to change what something means. Remember, the general which lends meaning to the specific. And shifting your context helps you find power in a process rather than feeling victimized by it.
I remember I was working with a senior VP, and the CEO was very concerned about her because, while she was incredibly valuable — she knew the industry better than anyone; she knew the company better than anyone; she knew the products better than anyone — her passion was getting in the way. Not just of herself, but of people in the organization.
She had an ability to walk in to somebody’s office and render the person useless in five minutes, and not just for that period of time, but for the next three days. I mean, she had a capacity to be so passionate about everything that no one could do anything right, no one could be as smart, no one could be as efficient or effective. And while she caught many people doing things wrong and saved the company a lot of money by finding problems and solving them, she was costing the company more than she was saving them, and the CEO knew that. So he asked me to talk with her to give her a chance to try to find a way to be more valuable to the organization and a little less expensive.
Her name was Marjorie, and at our first meeting Marjorie was perfectly polite and cooperative. But she made it a point to make sure that she straightened me out on two things. She said, “First, Joe, you need to know that you don’t know anything about our company’s business or how infuriating it is for me to see these young kids screwing up. And secondly, you need to know that I’m a very passionate person. It’s in my nature. I’m Italian and I can’t help that.”
Now, what she’d done without realizing it, I’m sure, was to try to neutralize any suggestion that I might make by telling me in effect that I didn’t know what I was talking about, before she even heard what I had to say. In other words, she was establishing the context of how much power I would have in our relationship. And she was going to validate the power of her myth by attaching it to something greater than herself and out of her control, her genetic makeup. So she’s smarter, she’s more attuned, and she’s more passionate, and it’s just genetic and there’s nothing I can do.
So we talked about the fact that passion, like any emotion, can be something very good. It can drive one to achieve excellence. But passion can also have a negative effect if we use it in a context that doesn’t serve us.
I validated her truth by agreeing that the company needed her passion and her experience. But I also suggested that what the company didn’t need were the problems her passion was causing. She admitted that she knew that she had a tendency to create problems with her passion. I simply wanted her to consider shifting what she was passionate about. And what appealed to her sensibilities was I suggested that I didn’t want her to stop being passionate, that I thought her passion was good. What I wanted her to do was to start considering how to become more passionate about the solutions than she was about the problems.
Well, this appealed to her. She found power in that. She agreed and said, “You know what, I realize that when I’m passionate about the problems, I’m expensive. I can do that. I can bring my passion to the solutions.” And she made herself a note that said be more passionate about solutions than problems. And she put it on her bulletin board and asked her staff to remind her to do that every day. And she did become more effective by doing that.
So I’m asking you to make sure you remember the power of context and how powerful it can be in our lives. Not just with ourselves but with other people.
These are just some of the things that you can do to begin the process. Keep in mind, this is a process. And I promise you, the walls aren’t going to come down and dancing girls aren’t going to start singing; this is a process. This is a process that begins with the way you see yourself. When you can see yourself differently, you’ll see a different world, and you will respond naturally to the world you see.
In this process that we’re in, it’s important that we remember to accept, adjust, and advance. This is a very important concept that I learned years ago.
Once we’ve taken that first step, we need to take it with a level of commitment that faith can provide. And then let’s expect to be off course. Let’s expect air current and wind and the winds of change to move us around. And that’s fine. Let’s accept that reality, and let’s just remember after we accept it, to adjust, not to a new destination, but to adjust back to our goal. And most importantly, advance, keep going. There’s no reason to quit and start again. Life is a journey, and where we are is perfect. It’s where we are. Now we adjust, and we keep going. And that’s what I want you to think about in bridging the gap between what you know and what you do in order to get what you want more often.