Take the First Step to Solve Big Problems

Ever been in a difficult situation, where you knew exactly what the first step was to improve it or even extricate yourself from it, but the first step seemed overwhelming?

Even in cases where the first step might not even be the hardest or most demanding among the many to come. Taking that first step, in a series of likely many, can prove daunting. Ending a toxic relationship, quitting a job, letting go of a loved one, selling a home, or some other significant, life-altering event.

Enter Dave Hollis. Many of you know the last name. Dave is a new author of the book Get Out Of Your Own Way, A Skeptic’s Guide to Growth and Fulfillment debuting this week. Dave lives in Austin, Texas, with his four children and his wife. He’s had, by anyone’s measure, a phenomenal career, and life, recently ending a nearly twenty-year professional run with Disney and entering into an entrepreneurial venture with his wife, Rachel Hollis.

If you don’t know who Rachel Hollis is, we need to talk. In a sentence, she’s the next Oprah, and you can quote me on that. The only thing taking up more space on the internet than Rachel is the coronavirus. After spending some time with both Rachel and Dave—as a guest on their multiple podcasts, speaking to their team in their Austin offices, and being invited to speak on stage at their RISE Business event last year to 6,500 attendees in Charleston—it is clear to me that they are in fact, to anyone they are in fact, ON THE RISE.

These two give life their all every day and are inspiring, lifting, and building countless people, including myself, through their books, blogs, videos, coaching, and conferences.

Let’s just say I’m a raving fan. I’ve come to know them reasonably well, and I like what I see and hear.

So, I’m interviewing Dave for FranklinCovey’s On Leadership series, and in his book, which I read an advance copy of, he demonstrates the same level of vulnerability as his wife did in her own two recent books, Girl, Wash Your Face and Girl, Stop Apologizing. I highly recommend all three books for everyone reading this.

Midway through his new book, Dave talks candidly about how seeking and engaging in therapy transformed how he saw himself, his many roles in life, and generally gaining a level of clarity and self-awareness that he otherwise felt he lacked. It sat with me, and I revisited the therapy topic during our interview.

Halfway through our podcast conversation I asked him about the role therapy played(s) in his life and also what advice he’d offer to those who could benefit from it.

I listened carefully (as should you), and the next week made a long-awaited, delayed, anticipated appointment of my own and booked 90 minutes with a therapist in Salt Lake City.

Yep, I “saw” a therapist last week. I had a particular topic I wanted to address and ideally solve. Still, our conversation not surprisingly meandered across vital topics I’m facing, including parenting, finances, marriage, career, my entire future, and existence as a person. It was, in a word, cathartic. Even better, I might say than a good Lenten confession.

Was I fixed? Hardly. Did I progress? Absolutely.

I entered amid a hurricane. I left walking on the beach, stepping carefully among all the odds and ends washed ashore, but at least I could see all the obstacles more clearly in front of me and step around them more carefully…including the ones that I’d placed in my own path.

Should I go back for another chat? Duh. Like four to five more, I’m thinking. Life is hard, and mine appears charmed by most when you view me through Facebook or Instagram. Even on LinkedIn, I look pretty solid. But like everyone, our lives are our own, mostly by our own creation and we know we’re by most measures a product of our own choices. I certainly am. Every, and I mean every, complicated issue I am facing right now in my life is 100% the result of a decision, choice, behavior that I made, or continue making. 

Most of my choices are driven by fear, scarcity, and jealousy.

I certainly didn’t need a 90-minute therapy session to know that. But what I’d denied myself of to this point was the objective, non-prejudiced perspective of someone trained to tease out the knots I’d created and tied so tightly, I couldn’t summon the patience to unravel them.

I once watched an episode of The Amazing Race, and one of the challenges a contestant was given was sitting down on the ground, legs crossed and presented with a massive pile of string that was tangled into a giant mess and the first one who could successfully untie it, won, and their team moved onto the next challenge. At first blush, because of the adrenaline the show runs on, time was of the essence.

Untie it as fast as possible so you can race to the airport and board the plane to who knows where next.

I watch next to zero television (except Schitt’s Creek…please tell me you’re watching all six seasons of Schitt’s Creek), so perhaps this is was not as captivating as I recall, but I was transfixed on the different approaches each person took.

Most were frantic, episodically humbled by their lack of progress.

Eventually, they would slow down and focus until even that fatigued them and in a series of nonstop fits and starts repeat the same process; mania/focus, mania/focus, mania/focus, constantly surveying everyone’s progress around them to benchmark their own success, which always resulted in more frustration and mania.

Then there was this one person who was calm, uncharacteristically calm, and utterly disinterested in the other’s strategies or momentum. They just patiently took on each knot, one by one, for what seemed like over an hour, and through patience, really unrelatable patience, they finally unknotted the entire challenge. To their own amazement, they finished first, far before everyone else – it wasn’t even close.

Perhaps this was staged to get me to blog about it years later, I doubt it.

My short but important first step with a therapist last week felt like me transitioning from the here-to-now, focus/mania strategy in life (which has given me wildly mixed results, some great and some not so much), to summoning in myself, an uncharacteristic calm and patience to take on some of those challenges in my own life, by my own doing, one knot at a time.

What’s the best way to find a therapist to help you untie some of your own knots?

Ask around. It seems like this is very much a referral kind of thing. I’d suggest be so bold (as millions of people will read this blog) to take the same risk I just did, post on your social, ask your friends, “Hey, I need some help untying some of my life’s knots, anyone recommend a great therapist that might be a fit for me?” If you’re not using social media, call or email some friends and family and solicit some names. I bet people come out of the woodwork with recommendations. 

If you live in Salt Lake City, I can help you…I know a good one, and yes, even after 90 minutes, I’d endorse her.


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About the Author

Scott Miller

Scott Miller is a 25-year associate of FranklinCovey and serves as Senior Advisor, Thought Leadership. Scott hosts the world’s largest and fastest-growing podcast/newsletter devoted to leadership development, On Leadership. Additionally, Scott is the author of the multi-week Amazon #1 New Release, Management Mess to Leadership Success: 30 Challenges to Become the Leader You Would Follow, and the Wall Street Journal bestseller, Everyone Deserves a Great Manager: The 6 Critical Practices for Leading a Team. Previously, Scott worked for the Disney Development Company and grew up in Central Florida. He lives in Salt Lake City, Utah, with his wife and three sons.

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