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What's it for?

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Does it pass this simple test: What’s it for?

That thing on your desk, that shirt or pair of shoes, this email, that sentence, this meeting…

Why are we doing it? Why do we have it? Why are we still allowing it?

If it doesn’t pass the test, get rid of it.

Because, all too often, what it’s there for is to take up space, hide, or not be clear.

So many of us do things, have things, say things because we seek validation and/or approval. We need to be heard. We want for things, get them, then want for what we had.

That’s how you get stuck, trapped, lost.

How do you escape? Start by asking: What is this for?

Good now is better than perfect later

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This applies to sales people spending too much time researching leads rather than just calling them.

This should be the mantra for all creatives: designers, writers, producers, artists.

Most organizations could benefit from this simple (not easy) concept of setting a deadline then shipping on that date no matter what.

As individuals, we, too could use a little more good now instead of fretting over perfect later.

Your brand

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How do you answer the following question: “What’s your brand?”

Do you immediately talk about what you do? What’s on your website? Your background? If so, you’re only providing context around what you want other’s to think and say about you.

Or, do you dig deeper and reflect on your values and principles? Do you ask yourself the tough questions to dive into whether or not you are representing your brand?

Because here’s the thing, you might think your brand is one thing, but if others think it’s something else, then you’re missing the mark on establishing your brand. At which point, too many go back to the aesthetics (the website, logo, service, backstory) instead of focusing on what matters.

Here’s how to tell what your brand is: can other people tell what your values are without you having to tell them? That’s your brand. Don’t like what they have to say? Change the narrative and act accordingly.

For a brand isn’t what you say it it, it’s what they say it is.

An offer you can't refuse

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You’re probably being offered these kind of opportunities more often than you think.

The offers, however, aren’t always obvious. They come in the shape of small ideas and in the form of meeting new people. And we refuse them all the time.

There are times in our lives when we are offered exactly what we were hoping for. In those moments, don’t delay! Say yes! But then there are other moments, smaller moments, when things come our way and we disregard them. More often than not, those are the offers we can’t refuse!

Have the courage to say yes, to choose yourself. It’s an exciting time in history where you literally have all of the resources at your disposal to be responsible for what you do and how you do it. It’s still hard work, but it’ simple work. Simple in that you already know what needs to be done, hard in that now you have to decide to do it.

A chance to find yourself

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Your work might not be what you think it is.

Because there’s more to work than what’s in the typical job description.

The furniture company might think that it’s job is to create furniture—go figure—but it’s more than that. It has a responsibility to influence and an obligation to connect. Same goes for Graphic Designers, Writers, Chefs, Teachers, Salesmen, the aim is the get the job done, the purpose is to do so with integrity, grit, and passion. Otherwise, there won’t be much meaning in your designs, people might not read what you write, your food will turn out bland, students may lose interest, and sales will go down.

The objective of work is given. It’s your job to provide results, complete a series of tasks in order to move the needle. This is important, but work involves more than that. And the results, too, should be more than that. There is value in the work itself. In how you do it, and it how it shapes you, changes you (if you let it).

To quote Joseph Conrad:
”I don’t like work—no man does—but I like what is in the work—the chance to find yourself.”

The challenge, therefore, lies in defining what your work is, what it entails. Your job might be to answer some emails and jump on a few phones calls, but your work paints a larger picture. What masterpiece are you creating with your work? Why does it matter? How is it changing you?

What do you need? Vs. This is what I do.

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If you’re a freelancer and you are always taking on projects where people tell you what they need and you adapt, you’re always going to be spinning your wheels wondering why you can’t ever get any good clients.

If you’re applying for a job with the attitude that you qualify for every role out there, you’re going to be on the market for a while. But, if you can clearly outline that you have 5 years of SaaS closing experience selling into state and local government agencies on the east coast, then the world is your oyster. You’ll find your next dream job in no time.

Riches in the niches.

People aren’t afraid to charge too much, they’re scared that once they do find their niche that people won’t like it. But here’s the thing, in today’s gig-economy, that will never happen.

‘What do you need?’ might work in the short-term, but your true value will never be noticed unless people know exactly what you do—and that you’re the best at it…

People can afford it. In fact, not only will they buy it, they’ll thank you for being so generous with it.

But it starts when you decide what you do.

Doing something different

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This is much more difficult than it seems. 

To pivot means that your previous assumption was incorrect. It means admitting you were wrong. Or maybe it's you merely changing your opinion based on new information, which means you were as correct as you could be. Changing directions like this isn't even the hardest part. The challenge will come when others are involved. 

What will they think? What will they say? How will I ever explain this to them? I can't simply say "I changed my mind."

Try this: "We did the best we could with the information we had, then because we continued to test, learn and grow, we received new information that will allow us to make an even more important decision." 

When it comes to pivoting when it counts, making the right decision should always trump avoiding embarrassment.

Business expenses

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  1. Out of pocket costs. In addition to business expenses, your salary, benefits, and other perks you’re currently receiving at your company and would lose if you were to quit and start a business.

  1. Time. If you come home from your day job, continue to work on your side business and hustle hard on the weekends, it’s costing you the time you could be spending with your loved ones. 

  2. Opportunity cost. Quite possibly the most expensive of the three. What is it costing you to not start a business? Could be nothing, could be a lot. 

What, if anything, are you willing to sacrifice? 

Red eye

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The airline industry is a prime example of how, sometimes, our quest for efficiency can be our downfall.

40 years ago, flying was much more comfortable that in is now. It used to be something people got dressed up for, took seriously, and got excited about. Then the race to the bottom began and airlines started cutting costs, lengthening flight routes and shortening leg room.

It works because we still pay for those flights. The demand is there. There is nothing stopping them from being more and more ‘efficient’ - aka - uncomfortable. Except, maybe, us.

20 seconds

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Two minutes is a long time. It’s enough time to do something that can either totally change your life for the better or for the worse. Every 120 seconds, we do things that are either forgotten rather quickly or remembered forever. 

Benjamin Mee from We Bought a Zoo takes it one step further:

You know, sometimes all you need is twenty seconds of insane courage. Just literally twenty seconds of just embarrassing bravery. And I promise you, something great will come of it.

Whether it’s 120 seconds or 20 seconds, seconds matter. Our lives are defined by how we spend those seconds. Will you spend them standing down, or standing up? Being complacent, or being brave? 

Chopping down the last tree

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Did the folks on the once-great Easter Island know what they were doing to their lush, beautiful island when they started taking down all the trees? Or were they too concerned with short-term results? At which point did they realize what they had done? What were they thinking as they chopped down the last tree?

Our society loves short-term successes. We are impressed with those who 'burst onto the scene' or 'become great overnight.' So we fall for it. We focus on how quickly we can get there rather than on how well we are doing it. But in doing so, are we (metaphorically, of course) chopping down our own forest?

Any way you slice it, it's going to take effort. Whether it's doing it fast or doing it right, the amount of energy spent will be the same. In fact, I think most would agree (especially those who have gone through the painful experience of chopping down their last tree) that it will take less time and less effort to do things the difficult way—the 'long' way—than it will to cut corners, take shortcuts, 'chop down trees at an unsustainable rate,' all in the name of looking good today, instead of building for tomorrow. 

The sport of information

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Where the tiniest head start means the difference between winning and losing. Where every match is played in overtime. Where everyone is in a scoot to gather as much information as possible, but few have managed to figure out how to use it, let alone present it to people who desperately need it. 

Information, therefore, has turned into a sport. It's all about the flashy headlines, clickbait, and real-time updates. There is more information out there than we could possibly ever comprehend, so we turn to 'the house of information highlights' for our information needs. 

Forever learning but never getting closer to real insight.

You're going to miss the game-winning update. You might find out a day late that Apple dropped a trillion on everyone else. There may come a time when you catch yourself asking "who's that?" This doesn't make you ignorant. It means that you're 'selectively ignorant.' It doesn't make you uninformed, it means you're using the information to your advantage by looking at it as a resource rather than as a sport.

Be okay with missing out. Take joy in it, even. #jomo. You'll find yourself less tied down by dogma and more empowered to think for yourself.

Pressure

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It's what powers locomotives.

It's how diamonds are made.

It's how companies become successful. 

It's what makes us perform, better.

Here's the thing about pressure. Pressure can be good. It drives things forward. Refines things down. Makes average things remarkable. And if you don't shy away from it, you'll thank yourself, later.

Here's the other thing about pressure—you get used to it. In the beginning, it might be scary to talk to a group of two or three people, then you get used to it, and presenting to a crowd of over 100 feels like a cake walk. It might seem tough now, but you'll get used to it, and you'll thank yourself for sticking with it, later. 

Every job has it. Even the cushy ones. And, if it doesn’t, you may want to rethink if it's a job worth doing. You can’t have both, you shouldn’t want both. Meet the pressure head on. And you'll thank yourself for embracing the challenge, later. 

On urgency

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You don’t need more time, you just need to decide.  

Some of the most innovative products or influential works or art out there WERE built in a day (or close to it). John Grisham wrote a best-seller in a day. Willie Nelson wrote his three best songs in a day. The first version of Facebook was shipped in a week. The best salesperson on the floor doesn’t think about when she is going to do her next call, she just calls.  

Chances are, you're way more prepared and further along than you think. Sure, you might break stuff—in so doing you learn way more than you ever could by not trying in the first place. 

If you’re not embarrassed by the first version of your product, you’ve launched too late
— Reid Hoffman

Here's another one you hear a lot:

Most fast and break things

This one might be more difficult to apply to relationships, which might sound more like "move fast and build things." Where, in this case, the 'thing' is the person. In any event, it's your job to drive the relationship, process, product, or service forward. And, again, you don't need more time, you just need to execute. 

 

Feeling unprepared

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It's easy to spot the tourists in New York City, just notice the people constantly looking around, either in awe or pure confusion. They also usually have maps and are trying their best to navigate where they are going. 

You can study a map, read articles, talk to the 'locals,' watch videos, etc. but to a certain extent, when you are visiting a new place you will still feel (at times) a little lost and unprepared. Something always comes up that causes a moment of panic. 

This happens when we are trying something new or doing something for the first time. We will always feel unprepared. 

We've been trained to not be okay with this. We, unfortunately, compare this feeling of unpreparedness to how we felt when we took a quiz in school and forgot everything we had previously memorized. 

This feeling of being unprepared is not a happy feeling. So we might be tempted to take certain measures to ensure we limit the number of times we feel unprepared. But therein lies the paradox. The things we feel most unprepared for are the very things we should embrace and pursue. For they are things that bring the most satisfaction. They will be the sources of our growth and development. 

Another thing about the 'feeling' of being unprepared. There comes a point when this feeling is a choice. You may still be leaping into the unknown, but you've seen it play out enough times that you have an idea of how it possibly ends. I'm convinced that this ability to remain confident in ambiguity is one of the most important skills someone can develop—especially when it comes to navigating one's career and, of course, life. 

Letting yourself off the hook

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You are doing yourself a disservice when you say you need more time to prepare. 

You don't need any more ideas, you just need to execute one. 

Stop being jealous of others' 'talents' when they are actually skills. 

Make the call, do the thing you've been talking about, learn the skills. It's more possible and achievable than you think, and it certainly doesn't require MORE experience and MORE time. After all “experience is something you don’t get until just after you need it.” — Steven Wright. 

For the moment you might feel better, now that you've let yourself off the hook, but you're also slowly making yourself more and more miserable. 

Creating problems

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It's the job of the marketer to present to you a problem. Trade this in order to obtain that.

It's the job of a recruiter to create problems. Leave something good for something great (something you didn't think existed). 

It's the job of the designer to come up with something unique. And coming up with something unique doesn't come by solving problems, it's a result of creating them. Because if you're going to create something original, you're going to have to solve something that's never been solved in quite this way before. There is no script. No rulebook. No map. And it might fail. But it's also a lot riskier to keep chasing problems rather than creating them. 

Keep creating problems for yourself, good problems, problems that are worth solving. If you can do this, you become someone worth keeping around. 

Work like an editor

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Here’s what I mean: there are thousands of things you could be doing, but there are only a select few things that can be deemed "important." 

The job of an editor is to hack away at the non-essential in order to bring out only the best. Successful editors have a knack for sorting through countless possibilities and proposals and selecting the one thing (or few things) that will make the most sense and have the greatest impact on what they are doing. 

Work like an editor. That is to say, do things that will make life as effortless and simple as possible for those you serve (i.e. work for). An editor of a book might do things (add structure, subtract frivolous details) to make the message more clear. An editor of a sales organization might limit the number of messaging tools to drive focus. An editor of an email campaign might simplify the use of graphics to ensure it’s addressing the correct audience. As an editor of your life, you might reconsider if that object really is bringing you joy or if that pursuit really is worth your time and energy.

Condense, correct, and clarify—wise words to live by. It’s not just about activity, it’s also about meaning. It’s waiting, observing, enabling, empowering—then stepping in only when necessary. 

Week 21 '18 reflection

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I've been thinking a lot this past week about my blog. What it is, how it has served me and those who read it, and why I do it. 

I started my blog almost a year ago as a way to put my ideas out there and help me along in my journey of self-education. It has served as a reference point for meetings, conversations and decision making. It's essentially my journal. But as I look back at my entries and what people are saying, it's also a story. Each blog post has a story behind it. I am either experiencing, learning, or noticing something that merits a post. As I step back and look at the theme of my blog, I have realized that this blog is a story about me and my aspirations to become really good at what I do. I am constantly trying to improve and think about things. This blog has given me the outlet to reflect on whether or not I am actually improving. I am learning what I am passionate about and what I don't like. I am also learning about how others (individuals and organizations) become really good at what they do. There are many interesting details to explore and learn about the subject that it's something I could continue to write about for the rest of my life. 

My hope is that one day I will become a master of my craft—my craft being teaching, writing, mentoring, leading. My greater hope is that I help numerous people become masters of their respective crafts. And, since I do a fair amount of reflecting on this blog, I have decided to now call my blog "reflections on becoming a master of your craft."

Everyone has a story to tell. I believe one of the most powerful ways one can tell that story is through entrepreneurship.

My dad is an entrepreneur. He has built a healthy real estate and construction business over the years. He is also a master craftsman. He tells his story each time he designs and builds a house. Each time he fixes a cabinet. Each time he teaches another how to build a beautiful jewelry box. His story is engrained in every piece of his work, his story is his art.  

My mom is an entrepreneur. She has built a piano-teaching empire in her own right. She has a loyal tribe of followers and has always maintained a waiting list of people wanting to have her teach their children piano. Her consistency and love for what she does and who she does it for has made her business thrive. Her story is one of diligence, joy and the art of caring—just ask any of her students. 

Yes, Steve Jobs, Elon Musk, and Tim Ferriss are all entrepreneurs, but my buddy who does freelance photography is also an entrepreneur. My co-workers who manage accounts or develop software are entrepreneurs. My sister who spends her days taking care of five kids is an entrepreneur. Because entrepreneurship is an attitude. An attitude of taking what you know and adding to it. An attitude of taking what you have and improving it. An attitude of seeking out problems and solving them. But most importantly, entrepreneurship is an attitude of taking action. It doesn't matter if you are Jeff Bezos and have unlimited funds or a recent college grad with 100k in loans, if you have this kind of attitude and do something about it, you are an entrepreneur. 

And that's what my blog's about. It's what my book is about (which I am halfway through writing), it's what my courses and podcast (which are in the works) are going to be about—about becoming an entrepreneur. I'm not only talking about what it takes—in terms of work ethic, courage, and grit but also what it requires—in terms of tools, skills, knowledge, and other resources. 

Thanks for reading my story and following my journey as I continue to add to it daily. But I know that it is serving its purpose when the things I have to say and teach add to yours. 

Why most people quit

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- The odds are too stacked against them.
- They see how far they still have to go.
- They look for reasons why they can't do something. 
- They are playing to not lose.

You might remember the story in the book "Think and Grow Rich" about a man who gave up on his quest for gold too soon.

Day after day, month after month the man went prospecting for gold in the hills of California. He was full of confidence and was certain wealth was just on the horizon. He dedicated himself to reaching his goal. He woke up early, used simple tools, and worked tirelessly throughout the day. He found a few pieces of gold here and there, but nothing life-changing. 

But the burden became too great. He lost his enthusiasm and decided to sell all of his tools and give up. The prospector who bought the man's tools then began working on the same mine shaft as the man from whom he had purchased his tools. He hired a surveyor and a geologist to inspect the land. It turned out, the first man was a mere THREE FEET away from a large gold deposit.


I sometimes wonder if we get goal-setting all wrong. Sometimes we focus so much on how far we have to go that we never really take the time to ponder how far we've come. In this story of the man searching for gold, what if the prospector had taken the time each day to reflect on the massive mine he had so meticulously carved away? What if, sometimes, the work itself is the goal?

I think most people quit, not because they feel that they aren't capable, but because they get overwhelmed by how far they still have to go. Most people quit because of the anticipation, not the work. Most people quit because they fear they won't hit the expected results—as established by 'others'—not because they feel they lack confidence or skill. We begin to doubt and lose faith in our abilities only when we focus on the result as opposed to focusing on the journey.