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The inevitable

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What comes first—talking about the crisis or the actual crisis?

What if we only think we are doing ourselves a favor by predicting and taking measures to avoid the inevitable, when, in reality, it is only making that thing we don’t want to happen, happen?

I’m seeing a lot more articles about the next recession. They’re from well- intentioned economists and analysts who 1) want to propel themselves as thought-leaders and/or 2) warn and inform people so that society is prepared for what is to come. Are they doing more harm than good, though? Sure, it’s important to plan and prepare, but how we allocate our energy matters. And now, instead of focusing on earning and growing the economy, we’re pulling money from our investment accounts and worrying more about saving than earning.

If you can defend, you will certainly put yourself in the running for a championship. But if you can defend and you have a high-powered offense, you’ll be in contention every year. What I mean is, taking precautionary measures is important, but not at the expense of moving things forward.

If you are winning and winning big, don’t let your foot off the gas pedal. Play to win rather than play to not lose. If you’re spending your time worrying about the inevitable, the inevitable will happen. People can sense worry. They know what desperation looks like. And the subsequent ripple effect of hoarding and clinching is a quick race to the bottom.

Here's what I need from you

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What inspires you more—a goal that you set for yourself or a goal that someone else sets for you?

Yet, this is the trap management falls into time and time again. They set goals for their subordinates, hoping they can inspire them—or rather—poke them with a stick to make them reach those goals.

We say we want to help, but then we talk 90% of the time.

We say we want you to reach your goals, but then we give you our own goals to work toward.

Shift the conversation. Say not ‘here’s what I need from you,’ but ask: ‘what do you want to accomplish?’ ‘What do you need from me?’

Good job

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For whatever reason, things don’t work out.

Sometimes it’s because of randomness. “Wasn’t meant to be.” Other times it’s because you didn’t care enough or you were neglectful. You did a bad job.

When someone says you did a good job, it’s probably because you made a promise and kept it. There was a bar and you reached it. Good job.

And then there is something more impressive, beyond just ‘good job.’ You exceed expectations. You do something worth noting. But even these moments are often forgotten.

So, what are the things people remember? What makes people trust you, like you, believe in you? It’s definitely not just ‘not doing a bad job.’ It’s also something different than merely ‘doing a good job.’ What is this called? There’s probably a word for it.

You’re right, who cares, let’s just stick with ‘good job.’

On deciding

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When you elect not to decide, you’re still making a decision. Which is usually the wrong decision. Instead of letting down one party, you're letting down both. 

When you are the person that is left to decide, you will make right and wrong decisions. But that’s the not point, what’s important is that you were the one entrusted to make a decision. Being in that position will either bring great satisfaction or sorrow. Either of those emotions is better than being ignored. 

People are drawn to decisive people. Even if you make some wrong decisions along the way, make decisions confidently. With time and experience, your ability to decide will improve

Prove you right

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Do you believe you have what it takes? Why or why not?

Is that something you were born with? Is it something you were told?

Which begs the question, is it something you can teach?

Howard Schultz seems to think so, and it’s a big reason why Starbucks has grown from a 6-shop franchise to a 17,000-store giant.

I really, genuinley belive that if you tell people that they have what it takes to succeed, they’ll prove you right.

So, let them prove you right!

How often are we tempted to criticize and nitpick weaknesses when there is so much to complement and be proud of? This isn’t to say to shy away from coaching, it’s merely looking at personal and professional development from a higher view.

Take a step back and reflect on all of the variables at play. Chances are, it’s impressive. If there is room for improvement, first let them know you believe in them. Let them sense your confidence. Allow them to see it in your eyes that you know they have what it takes to succeed.

Let them prove you right.

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.

Against? Or for?

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How easy is it to say: this food is bland, that movie has awful acting, this book has no plot? We, as a society, love being ‘against’ things. It is, after all, how revolutions are started, unfairness is brought to attention, and conversations start.

But if it’s change you’re going for, lasting change, the kind that transforms opinions, brings people together, and produces important results…be for things.

What are you against? Okay, that was easy. Now, what are you for?

It’s easy to criticize, isn’t it? It’s much harder to have an opinion, formulate an argument (if you will), and back something with conviction.

So be for things, not just against stuff.

The first bird? Or the second mouse?

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Why do birds fly together? How do they know who leads and who follows? Does it matter?

Who has the harder job, the person who uses a compass to forge a new path? Or the person who uses a map to follow one?

It’s not that one is more challenging that the other. Sure, leading can be more demanding, but it doesn’t mean that it’s more important. Following requires a different skillset and is very much in demand.

I guess what I’m trying to say is, seconds don’t always have to be sloppy. There are times to lead and times to follow. And the world needs people who can follow—and follow well. Without followers, trends don’t catch on, movements remain stagnant, and innovation comes to a halt.

The point is, are you a leader? Or are you a follower? You can be both! How can you be a better leader? And how can you follow more effectively?

Remember, just like the first bird gets the worm, the second mouse gets the cheese :)

The middle ground

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You hear world-class athletes say this all the time: not too high, not too low. It’s about keeping a level head. Not getting too excited when things go your way and not getting too down when things don’t.

The thing is, uncontrolled ambition is easy. Anyone can keep their foot on the gas pedal. Complacency is easy, too. The trick is to find the right balance between the two. It’s about applying the right amount of pressure at the right time during the right circumstances.

The “Golden Mean” as Aristotle put it. It’s what makes excellence so difficult. He wrote: “In each case, it is hard work to find the intermediate; for instance, not everyone, but only one who knows, finds the midpoint in a circle.”

Find your middle ground. Check yourself when you feel like you’re getting reckless, realize when you are shying away from responsibility. What lies in the middle is courage.

Find your middle ground. Know when to speak up, sense when to keep your mouth shut. What lies in the middle is respect.

Find your middle ground. Look for opportunities in obstacles, beware of pitfalls in possibilities. What lies in the middle is mastery.

Liked? Or respected?

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When it comes to seeing real change, too often, we let the need to be liked get in the way.

Our ego wants us to be liked. It begs us to seek validation, to put things off, to double down on bad decisions, to avoid asking the questions we don’t want to hear the answers to.

Being respected is the long game. It takes time. It’s something you earn as opposed to something that’s given.

Failure is going to happen. You’re going to do things that don’t work, be places that aren’t a good fit, make decisions that have poor repercussions, have unfortunate circumstances befall you. It might be your fault, it might not be, but at this point, it doesn’t matter. It’s what you do now that matters.

Will your next decision be based on what others will think of it? Or will you dig deep, reflect, and take ownership?

What pushes you?

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Or, maybe the better question to ask is “what pulls you?”

There’s a quote I came across that I haven’t been able to stop thinking about over the past few days. It’s by Viktor Frankl, who happens to know a thing or two about motivations and aspirations:

“Man is pushed by drives. But he is pulled by values.” 

When a situation presents itself, you are free to either accept or reject a value that is being offered.

Are you being ruled? Or are you ruling?

Being acted upon? Or acting.

Without the right values, success is brief. Happiness is fleeting. Progression is stifled.

Here’s the thing, the most successful people I’ve ever heard of or met, aren’t very well-known people. And that’s how they like it! Sure, there are plenty that get recognized, but the greats will never credit their achievements to their own devises. The need to be praised and heard may drive some people to climb the ladder, but not these people. They are pulled by something more important, meaningful, and bigger than themselves.

If man is only being pushed by his desires, then he is a slave to circumstance. There also needs to be a pull—in the right direction—something else that provides context and perspective. Only then can man be truly free.

Make it about the work you do and why you do it. Choose principles over accolades. Check your drives and evaluate your values.

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.

Cookies and data

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Companies, entrepreneurs, and employees are spending a lot of time, money, and energy on trying to figure out what makes them different. It’s an honorable pursuit. What makes anyone or anything stand out more than the next? Most marketers will answer that question by referring (in one way or another) to the 4 ‘P’s’: Price. Product. Placement. Promotion. But what about the 1 ‘R?’: Relationships.

In a world that is becoming more and more detached, virtual, and hands-off, what if the thing that makes you the best is merely your ability to build authentic relationships? Simple concept, not easy to do.

That’s what makes where I work so successful, is its focus on developing genuine relationships. Again, not an easy thing to do in a competitive landscape like recruiting. But it’s something that is ingrained in every employee.

No matter what your job is, you’re going to deal with difficult people. People won’t respond, they’ll be impatient, demanding, and have unrealistic expectations. The thing that will make your relationship with them successful won’t come down to how good your product is, how much it costs, or how many times you can expose them to what you’re selling, it will largely depend on how well you have been able to win their attention and earn their trust.

This, of course, begs the question: “how does one win someone’s attention and earn someone’s trust?” Answer: cookies and data!

Now, this may be an oversimplification of a larger lesson, but, at the very least, it’s a memorable one. Here’s what I mean when I say that “cookies and data” are the keys to building genuine relationships:

1) Clients have lives, too. They have families, friends, bosses, responsibilities, fears, doubts, and insecurities. Go into every interaction with this in mind and you’ll already be well on your way to understanding them.
2) Most people really like themselves. So let them talk about themselves. What are they passionate about? What do they talk about?
3) This is where the cookies come in. Show them that you were listening. Treat them to something. Add in a ‘nice touch’ that makes you memorable.
4) Then bring the data. Show them how you are adding value. Provide evidence and insight into how you have been able to help and why it matters.

Building lasting relationships that pay off time and time again doesn’t have to be difficult. It takes time and it requires caring. But most importantly, it takes putting aside your own agenda for the sake of building something genuine.

Which comes first?

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The decision to commit? Or figuring out what you’re good it?

So many of us want to prove to ourselves (and others) that we can be good at something before we commit.

But what if we’ve got it backwards? What if we are spending too much time teaching tactics and not enough time teaching commitment? Here’s the thing, most of the time, for most people, if we want to learn something, we can learn it. It takes a decision, then a commitment. Because when we commit to something, we are then more likely to keep up the effort and push through the failures and frustrations that inevitably come.

It’s a defense mechanism. A defense against failure. We don’t want to fail so we sit back and gossip until something sticks. And when it does, then we commit.

And, as a society, we feed that reluctancy to commitment because we prefer disapproval to dedication.

Teaching techniques is important. But if you want to be a great teacher, leader, or mentor—teach commitment.

Winning routines

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The organizations that really get it—the ones that always win—have been able to develop a workforce of autonomous individuals who are bought into the organization’s routines.

For, successful individuals have habits, and successful organizations have routines.

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. 

Fighting the cycle

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In the words of the famous Vince Lombardi:

You don’t win once in a while; you don’t do things right once in a while; you do them right all of the time. Winning is a habit. Unfortunately, so is losing.

Ever wonder why that is? Why losing is a 'curse?' Why is it, when you tell a 'B' student to try harder, work smarter and faster, they, more often, become C students rather than A students? The same goes in the workplace. Getting better rather than getting worse is something you can learn. In other words, responding to failure is a skill that can be taught. But, too often the coaching is: 'double down, stay longer, work harder, or else.' The stakes get higher and things only get tougher. And, in response, people spend more and more of their energy fighting the cycle (playing to not lose) rather than building momentum and gaining confidence to win when it counts. 

Turns out, the best way to fight the cycle of losing is to change your mindset on what that cycle is. Fear is going to ask a lot of you. When it does, that's not your cue to pull back but push forward. Meaning, embrace it! Do the opposite of what it asks. Otherwise, you'll always be fighting against the inevitable. 

It's like if someone tells you over and over to stop being angry, what is your typical response to that? You get angrier! The same goes for winning and losing: 'don't lose, don't miss quota, don't underachieve, don't make a mistake, don't fail.' what happens? You end up doing exactly what you didn't want to. 

The solution is simple (not easy); embrace the cycle, the failure, and keep playing loose. Play to win and only focus your attention on winning. You will fail. But learn to love failure because, without it, you won't ever know how sweet success really tastes. Pretty soon, you'll stop thinking about what it would be like to lose, those thoughts won't even cross your mind. You'll live in a world where things always work out. Afterall, they do! 

A case for micromanagement

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I like micromanagement. I think it gets a bad rap. To me, it shows my boss cares. Because, here's the thing, when it comes down to it, everyone micromanages to a certain extent. 

Here it goes: what does it even mean to 'micromanage?' Getting involved in too many projects? Not delegating things because you think you can do it better? Worrying too much about the tiny details instead of seeing the big picture? Wanting every decision and every action ran by you first? Yes, I would agree that this is what micromanagement looks like. But I would also argue that even the managers you love, the ones who let you be autonomous, the bosses who aren't jerks about things, still micromanage—they just do it more tastefully. 

It's the inadequate managers out there—who like hearing the sound of their own voices and just like to say stuff for the sake of sounding right—who give micromanagement a bad name. Because when they micromanage, it's noticeable. It becomes the scapegoat. 

"But my manager doesn't micromanage." Of course, it doesn't seem like it. That's what good leaders do. They know how to not only make you be successful but also feel successful. They don't take credit for your successes even though they deserve way more than they receive! Make no mistake about it, they are still tracking your progress. They, no doubt, know your numbers, understand your goals, are involved in the day-to-day activities of your work, take over when there is something you don't know how to do yet, and help you with the major decisions that need to be made. In other words, they are caring...and managing...at the micro level.

Every manager I've had has micromanaged me. Some, I've appreciated it, and others, I've thought it was annoying and condescending—but the difference had nothing to do with how much or how little they were involved in my work—it all had to do with how they approached it (which usually stemmed from their motivations). 

Don't confuse engagement for micromanagement. Maybe you do know everything. Maybe your way of doing things is better. Maybe if people would leave you alone you could make it happen. And, maybe, there's a job out there for you...maybe.

Never buy groceries when you're hungry

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Don't buy bottled water at Disneyland (or at any other time). 

Don't set your alarm clock the night before, when you're tired.

Put money into your savings account first, then spend what you have left. 

Don't set goals after a disappointing day. Set them when you're on fire. When you're crushing your number. When you're feeling good about things. Then review your goals when something falls through. 

When it comes to planning and setting goals, time and context matter. It takes self-control and follow-through to do what you committed to doing. But if you allow a poor circumstance or an unfortunate situation to dictate your future goals and plans, then you'll consistently set a bar that is too low and follow a plan that you're not really serious about.