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-By Matt Leedham

I need to inform you of a word that may not always be appropriate.  But this is our blog, so it’s very appropriate.  And it so accurately describes an important process in human thought patterns that it must be discussed.

I learned the phrase “unclench” a couple of years ago from a guy I admire.  His name is Michael and he’s based in California.  He owns a very successful catering and food delivery service and he has taught me a lot about strategic planning.  I was helping him administer a strategic planning session with a group of entrepreneurs last year and we ran into a challenge.  He was the facilitator and was trying to get the group to think BIG about the future.  But instead, the group kept wallowing in their disadvantages and why they just couldn’t accomplish BIG things.

After about 10 minutes of this drudgery, Michael called a halt to the meeting.  He said, “Alright everyone, we’re getting mired in can’ts and won’ts – there’s something here that’s holding you back.  We need to unclench.”

Unclench? I chuckled to myself.  That’s quite the reference, but definitely what needed to happen.

He continued, “Just let go and let it out.  Shout out all of the dangers, obstacles, and weaknesses you feel you have as a group.  I’ll give you 5 minutes to get it all out of your system.  Then we’re going to move on and capitalize on all of these opportunities in disguise.

What happened next was amazing.  The group didn’t need 5 minutes — they needed maybe two minutes.  After that, the next 2 hours was full of positivity and optimism.  It was just a mental block that needed to be addressed.  No doubt the challenges were very real, which is why everyone was getting tripped up on them.  But once addressed, confronted, and reversed, (i.e. the opposite of a danger is an opportunity), the energy in the room shifted toward setting their sights on BIG goals.

Flash foward to this week.

Jaime and I are chatting about a project we’re working on.  Unknowingly, I started to complain and whine about something that didn’t go right.  After patiently listening for a few minutes, Jaime interrupted me and said,

“Okay, you have…”now looking at her watch, “…10 minutes to vent, complain, and stomp around about this before we decided what we’re going to do about it.”

I looked at her for a moment, both shocked and impressed.  Did she just challenge me to unclench? Haha! She did.

I came up with maybe 2 or 3 things that were frustrating me and then that was it.  I only needed about a minute.  Then we started focusing on the opportunities that could result from things not turning out the way we had hoped.

Are you, or is someone you know, getting hung up on the negatives of a situation? Are you getting stuck in the weeds of why something won’t work? Try a little exercise that might get you unstuck.  List all of the things that are holding you back — all the reasons why it just won’t work.  Take your time.  After an exhaustive list, go down the list and try to uncover the opportunity within each challenge.  it’s helpful to do this with a buddy or small group as they can help you discover opportunities where you may not have seen them before.


Danger/Obstacle:  I don’t have the expertise or skill set.
Reversed: I have an opportunity to learn something new.

Danger/Obstacle: I don’t have the money.
Reserved: I have an opportunity to explore financial resources that are available to me and to be creative with budgeting.

Danger/Obstacle: I don’t know the right people.
Reversed: I have an opportunity to reach out to my existing network and make new friends that can help me.

Give it a shot!  Once you realize the opportunity, then it’s just a matter of using your innate creativity to find a way to get it done.

Need help? Jaime and I are Opportunity Ninjas! We will help you find a way! Contact us!

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