Blog

The good and the bad

kristopher-roller-188180-unsplash.jpg

To do great things, we need to love both. We need to be able to endure tragedy and setbacks…and endure them well.

Come what may, and love it.

If we say that we love what we do, that means that we need to love all that it entails. Not just the perks of the job, but also the occupational hazards.

Let go of your expectations and accept what happens to you. Soon, you will realize that there are just some things outside your control. But, there are plenty of other things that are very much within your control: namely, how you choose to react. It also helps if you think about ‘next steps’ in terms of what you get to do instead of what you must do.

It’s life. It happens. Might as well have a good attitude about it.

Beyond urgent

helena-lopes-1053531-unsplash.jpg

What’s more important: The issue? Or how we deal with the issue?

What’s happening right now has repercussions. Sure, the moment can be stressful. It usually takes quick thinking and sharp acumen. But it’s tempting to get lost in the minutiae when there are bigger things at play. And, whatever’s happening right now, the issue at hand—while important—isn’t as vital as our capacity to lay a foundation and create a system to deal with the next hundred issues.

By all means, don’t put the urgent on the back-burner—what i’m suggesting here is to take some extra time so that you’re not only getting it right, but also creating a process so that it doesn’t happen again.

If you find yourself consistently being a victim to circumstance, or getting blindsided by unforeseen issues, it’s probably an operational issue. Whatever system you have in place currently, isn’t detecting the obstacles soon enough and it’s not efficient enough to recalibrate once problems arise. Which is exactly when you need focus more on the process than on whatever ‘urgent’ thing is happening at the moment—getting the process right will always be more important that the problem we’ve got right now.

Worse case, it’s got us collaborating again, whereas before we spent most of our time arguing about the issue. Best case, well…

A chance to find yourself

yannis-papanastasopoulos-586848-unsplash.jpg

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?

The first bird? Or the second mouse?

gareth-davies-118078-unsplash.jpg

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 :)

It's not you, it's the opportunity

rawpixel-660716-unsplash.jpg

Sometimes.

Because sometimes, it is you. In fact, most of the time, it’s in your best interest to stick it out, see it through, and turn your obstacle into an opportunity.

But then there are those times when it’s not you, it’s the opportunity. There may come a time when you have to call it what it is and find a different way because the obstacle isn’t worth your effort.

Again, this is usually the exception.

So how do you tell whether it’s you or the opportunity? Look for patterns. Are you constantly unsatisfied? Have you felt undervalued at other places? Were you not a culture fit before? It’s probably you. Do they have turnover issues? Are they constantly overpromising and under-delivering? Are they ‘hiring for culture fit’ as a means to discriminate? It’s likely the opportunity.

On sharpening the saw

clark-young-135435-unsplash.jpg

You don’t just sit back and wish your way to a sharper saw.

Sharpening the saw still requires effort, training, and concentration.

It’s about taking calculated (and timely) breaks. Not merely taking time off, but effectively using your time off.

Try:
- Reading
- Blogging
- Meditating
- Serving
- Engaging in a conversation
- Working on your passion project
- Learning a new skill

If it sharpens your mind, develops your emotions, refines your process, increases your knowledge, makes you stronger, improves your health, your blades are probably getting sharper.

And, if they’re not getting sharper, they’re getting duller.

Sitzfleisch

daniel-leone-185834-unsplash.jpg

In english it means Staying Power.

Another word for it is perseverance.

It’s persisting at something over and over again for a long period of time. It takes courage, creativity, and determination. It’s the long game.

The Haitians would say: Deye mon, gen mon – Beyond mountains, there are mountains. For life isn’t about overcoming one obstacle to achieve one goal. It’s about many.

Whatever you want to call it, if you practice it, then keep practicing it, you will be all the better for it.

The middle ground

luke-stackpoole-552423-unsplash.jpg

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.

How to find a needle in a haystack

lucas-gallone-108793-unsplash.jpg

We all have them. Needles we need to find. Haystacks to sort through.

For some of us, those needles are relationships, innovations, breakthroughs.

For others, those needles are goals, quotas, or projects. Whatever your needle is, there will come a time when you will need to find it in the most unfortunate circumstances, improbable scenarios, and unlikely obstacles.

Some will find their needles, others will not. The difference between finding what you are looking for, accomplishing what you set out to do and not, comes down to one word—persistence.

There is no such thing as an overnight success. The men, women, and organizations that have gone on to accomplish great things didn’t get there because they just happened upon ‘their needles’ in the thick of a ‘haystack,’ they got there because they were more persistent than everyone else.

Genius is often just persistence in disguise

Nikola Tesla spent a year in Thomas Edison’s lab during the invention of the lightbulb. He once grumbled that “if Edison needed to find a needle in a haystack, he would proceed at once to simply examine straw after straw until he found the object of his search.”

Sometimes, that’s exactly what it takes. That job you are looking for, that book you are writing, that deal you are closing, that mission are you embarking on, that person you are influencing, that thing you are learning—persist.

Work works—it’s simple, but not easy.

The thing that will set you apart from everyone else will be your ability to tolerate the difficulty and mundaneness that will certainly arise as you continue toward solving the problem in front of you.

Here’s something that helps me. I keep telling myself that ‘it’s supposed to be hard.’ So, settle in, get comfortable with being uncomfortable, and double down your efforts on finding your needle in a haystack.

Inalienable responsibility

kelly-sikkema-411622-unsplash.jpg

If you have the power to make rules, the rules are your responsibility.

And all of us have the power to make rules. We make them for ourselves and others every day.

If we don’t, deciding not to is still a choice. Doing nothing is also a choice. By saying nothing, creating nothing, helping no one, you are making rules that lay the foundation for how you act and how you are perceived.

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

jj-mendez-744962-unsplash.jpg

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.

The CEO of you

hunters-race-408744-unsplash.jpg

What would your approval rating be?

Chances are, not very good. How do you talk to yourself? How well are you managing your health? How much time are you wasting doing things that don’t matter? How much blame are you placing on others? How much ownership you are taking over yourself and what happens to you?

Are you constantly learning and developing your skills? Staying positive and encouraging yourself? Planning out your career path? Focusing on the daily objectives while keeping in mind your long-term vision?

—Like most employees expect from their CEOs?

You are the CEO of you. If you can’t manage yourself the way you expect to be managed, then what are you complaining about?

It starts with you. Managing is hard, and managing yourself is even harder. But it’s a worthy pursuit—for there are few things that are more important to learn.

Week 44 ’18 reflection

rawpixel-567016-unsplash.jpg

As a recruiter, I come across some really interesting questions candidates are asked during interviews. I try to ask myself these questions from time to time. They help me reflect on my own motivations and clarify my ‘why.’ One question, in particular, recently caught my attention: “if you were in a room with your friends and family members and they were all shouting out adjectives to describe you, what is one word you would hear that you wouldn’t agree with?”

This question is a tough one, and it requires thinking beyond just ‘what is your greatest weakness.’ It makes you think about what others would say about you, then pushes you reflect on how you might be perceived—even if it’s painful.

At first, I thought of some obvious ones like ‘impatient’ (but I probably wouldn’t disagree if anyone called me that), or ‘over-analytical’ (but, again, I’d take that more as a compliment). Then I thought about the word ‘introverted.’ I’ve heard people call me that before and I, personally, disagree. Sure, I’m probably not the loudest person in the room, and I don’t show my excitement or my frustrations on my sleeve, but I love getting to know people, and I usually do that on a 1:1 basis rather than commanding the room. 

Now that I think of it, I’m probably more like an introverted extrovert. I like my alone time. I like figuring stuff out on my own. But I’m energized when I spend time with people. I highly value my relationships. I don’t know what I’d do without them. 

That’s a big reason I decided to become a recruiter. It’s the part of ‘the sale’ that I love. I also love the career development side of things. “The candidates’ journey” if you will. So stay tuned. Because I’m working on some projects that will hopefully help people find jobs that align with their purpose and get jobs they love. 

Blinded by features

carlos-muza-84523-unsplash.jpg

Simplicity is making a comeback. Then again, the perfectly simple things never went away. We were just blinded by the flashy new features we thought we couldn’t live without.

Organizations do this all the time. Especially when it comes to buying software. They only see what the reps want them to see. They look past what the business really needs to run more efficiently. They disregard ‘minimum requirements’ and ‘deal-breakers’ in lieu of something ‘shiny’ or ‘innovative.’

Individuals do this, too. Especially when it comes to planning our careers. We take jobs we aren’t qualified for and pursue opportunities that promise more money in our bank accounts over choosing something that fulfills us or helps us feel alive.

Instead of focusing on features, first determine what core functions you can’t live without. Set boundaries and have requirements. Plan accordingly, then make a decision.

Liked? Or respected?

mari-lezhava-265675-unsplash.jpg

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?

stijn-swinnen-145895-unsplash.jpg

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

jr-korpa-1057058-unsplash.jpg

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.

Just making it up

marc-rafanell-lopez-393676-unsplash.jpg

I don't really know of any other way to make things up. There are some days I want to write 10 blog posts, some days I can't think of anything to say. Either way, I have committed to showing up every day in order to write something interesting. Some days are better than others. It certainly hasn't gotten any easier. I would like to believe I'm a better thinker than I was 2 years ago when I started. I'm also pretty sure I can type faster. 

My big learning over the past two yearss: we're all just making it up as we go. 

Your story

zheng-hong-chua-731785-unsplash.jpg

It can be easy to have fear. To feel like you're an imposter for teaching something you’ve learned. But have you considered the opportunity cost? Who could you be helping that you aren’t because you’re afraid of rejection? What opportunities are you missing out on because you're not sure if people will listen? 

Powerful stories have an impact.