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Connecting to Stokefire's 4th Core Value

Hey folks! I’m back with Stokefire’s fourth core value: Stay Connected.

(If you haven’t read the first three values I recommend that you do that first. You'll find 'em all here.)

Okay? On to the brain dump! ‘Stay Connected’ is the last of the values derived from Linden’s Lens, though there’s another value left in Stokefire’s set and we’ll keep that one for next time.

Today’s value is one I’ve been trying to pin down for over a decade, and I’m still actively wrestling with it. It’s huge, complex, and evolving. But I’ll do my best to give you solid footing.

The most obvious question that comes up when I say that staying connected is a core value?

Connected to what?

The answer is less obvious. The mass of potential things we could be connecting with is impossibly large. It’s taken more years than I care to admit for me to establish a few broad categories that seem to be critically important in reaching sustainable success. And it’s to these things that Stokefire stays connected:

  • Our deeply held beliefs and guiding values.

  • Our objective situational environment, our impacts upon it, and its impact on us.

  • Our own skills, abilities, and potential

  • The interests and well-being of those impacted by our actions, decisions and inactions.

Each of these things is, in itself, something that I can (and do) talk about for hours at a time. Mostly because each bullet point stands in for vast amounts of information.

It’s borderline absurd. Those four bullets encompass entire broad fields of study and rely heavily on complex concepts like purpose, motivation, faith, awareness, strategic thinking, reality, objectivity, causality, morality, empathy, behavior change, leadership, community, and countless more.

I’ve been regularly awed and frustrated by the scale of this massive idea. And yet, as overwhelming as all these concepts are to me, they only represent half of the ‘stay connected’ value. Something important is missing. To illustrate - a quick (and legit true) story from last week. My ever-patient wife asked me to plug in our electric smoker so I could cook dinner. I happily went outside, grabbed the plug and stuck it in the wall socket. I even went further, adding the wood and loading the raw chicken inside. I even flipped it on and set it to the right temperature. Job well done, right? (I made sure that the plug would ‘stay connected.’)

And yet? An hour later when she went to check on the progress? No smoke. Cold bird. I’d made sure the plug was secure and I still failed. What happened?

Reader? The other end of the cord was not connected to anything.

Metaphorically speaking, the end of the power cord opposite from the wall receptacle is where we should find the second half of the ‘stay connected’ value. The connection is supposed to do something. It’s where we take all that stuff I listed earlier, like our goals, values, situational awareness, and abilities, and we convert them into sensible action.

It’s not enough to stay connected conceptually to our goals, values, and the rest. We have to follow the line through to the other end and ensure that we act. Most of the organizations I’ve worked with had established and communicated their values long before I arrived. They’d dutifully plugged their cord into the wall. Far fewer consistently hooked up the other end. Examples? Sure.

One company that claimed to value 'employee well being' above all else had later changed their healthcare policy so it didn’t kick in until after employees had been there a full year. Another had established and advertised 'customer care and respect' as the cornerstone of their value set while averaging 90-minute wait times for support. The end result of not connecting a driving purpose or value to a logical action is no more effective than my attempt at cooking dinner. The first company couldn’t keep their new employees, and the second was losing customers faster than they could find new ones.

It's a stimulus and response relationship. Cause and effect. When our values (and the rest of our inputs) are firmly connected to our actions we strengthen our structural integrity and are more likely to get our desired outcomes. When they’re not connected? We’re gonna end up in situations we really don’t want to be in.

Not the happiest of thoughts. And, seemingly, neither is this: No matter what, we’re gonna miss stuff and mess up on occasion. Sometimes badly. Because there’s just too damn much. Far more than I currently know how to even summarize.

Staying connected to everything isn’t humanly possible. There’s too much stuff in the world and not enough time to find it all, let alone connect meaningfully with even a fraction of it.

So we start from the other end. We start from what matters most. Not for everyone else, but for us.

That could be a mission, a belief, or (as in Stokefire’s case) a defining value. (If you’re not at Stokefire, all is not lost. Helping others identify theirs is something we happen to do pretty damn well.) Remember all those dents in the universe from my first values post? As long as we remain connected to our drive to fix 'em, we’ll never stray far from the right path. (And even when we get a little lost, that's okay too, but we'll talk about that next time.) I’ll end it here for now, knowing that there is so much more that I could share and explain, but also that there’s meat needing to be cooked for tonight’s dinner, and (on good days) I’m the way my family stays connected to their evening meal. Up next from me on the blog, though? Stokefire's last value. A lesson seemingly ripped from a 1970s Weeble ad: 'Embrace the Wobble.'

Until then!


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