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Like

You can fix your ‘like.’ And you probably should. Same goes for your ‘um.’ Because when you say ‘like’ every other word, it’s difficult to actually listen when it’s so hard to hear you.

I’m a recovering ‘like’ abuser. I’ve been able to, more or less, nix the habit not by wishing or willing it away but by persuading myself that it’s okay to pause.

Assume the person you are talking to will allow you to speak. Because, most of the time, he will. Contrary to what your subconscious is telling you, he won’t jump in the moment you hesitate.

It’s not about getting rid of the habit, it’s about replacing it with something else—‘like’ with ‘silence.’

Talk slower if you need to.

Record your meetings and conversations.

Filler words don’t keep the attention of the audience. And fast speakers aren’t heard the most nor do they appear to know best.

Beginner's mind

That mentality you have when you start a new job, begin a new project, or embark on a new adventure is what helps you pick up new things so quickly. You’re open to new ideas, your tolerance level is high, and your open-mindedness allows you to achieve optimal productivity and move fast.

But then something happens. We decide we don’t want to be beginners, anymore. We’ve figured it out so we listen less intently, speak up less, and play it safe more. In other words, we resist the ‘beginner’s mind.’

It’s why startups grow quickly, then lose their way. It’s why James Holzhauer eventually lost. It’s why we plateau.

After all, when we’re starting out, it’s okay to fail. Young children couldn’t care less about what their drawings look like. Two months into the job, it’s fine if you mess up every now and then. Building a jewelry box for the first time, it’s going to look chaotic.

Sometimes, though, chaos is interesting. Some of the best inventions, innovations, and progress has come out of what we call ‘failure.’ But still, we avoid it because it’s…well, scary. The irony is, however, that the attempt to avoid failure makes failure more likely. Running around the field tentatively makes us prone to injuries, working nervously makes us second guess our decisions, avoiding the deep end ensures we never learn how to swim.

Be okay with being a beginner. In fact, have that mindset even if you are an expert. Experts who consider themselves experts are dull. And they usually don’t last long. Experts who consider themselves beginners, however, create things, moments, and change that lasts.

Versatile

This, I believe, is the word I’ve been looking for to describe what it takes to stand out, make an impact, and become a professional.

It just might become the title of my book…

Week 24 '19

You know, it’s interesting. Some of my best blog posts are the ones I write when I know they won’t be read. Meaning, sometimes, I miss the deadline for my RSS to publish so I have to retroactively go back and publish the posts. They are never shared on social or sent to people’s emails. I guess I just feel more freedom. I’m not trying to please my readers, I’m just writing what I feel like. They usually don’t take very long to write, either, because I’m just writing like I would in my journal. I wish I could work like this, usually. I’m getting better, I think, but it’s still a process.

Thoughts on improving a culture

When if comes to improving the culture of an organization, I think it starts and ends with transparency.

Why is that important? Well, in a word: Accountability 

What does creating a culture of accountability give us? 

  • Buy-in (to the company, to the projects, to our managers, and to each other)

  • Realistic deadlines

  • Engagement

  • Unsiloed work (aka - progressive collaboration)

  • Better results

—and you can’t create a culture of accountability without empowering people with facts. 

How?

  • Open communication: Clear about timelines and stick to them - no more moving them forward or pushing them back. Doing so affects clients and employees and only adds straws to the camel’s back. 

  • Transparency around hiring: How many can the firm hire (we’ll get to revenue transparency in a bit)? What’s our current pipeline look like? How high of a priority is it? Can we get regular updates? Can we also please get some more diversity up in here? Especially at a leadership level. Why has it taken a year to fill leadership roles and other positions? 

  • Administration: Things like payroll are getting dropped and the CEO wearing every hat possible is creating too many bottlenecks to the point where nothing gets done. No basic processes like on-boarding. 

  • Project management consistency: Everything is mission critical and burnout has not only been an issue to our high turnover but will continue to be on if this isn’t fixed - and hiring is expensive. We miss deadlines not because we aren’t productive, but because we lack resources. 

  • Career Development: We want to know what our career path looks like here. How do we know if we are doing a good job? What are our metics? What if we consistently hit them? Would we get a raise? How much? How often? What are we doing to keep people? Having a fully stocked kitchen and having activities isn’t going to keep people. 

  • Business Development: Promising things we aren’t capable of or don’t have the bandwidth for. Brining on clients that are out of our scope or cost more money than are worth bringing on. And there aren’t any checks or balances around this like at most companies to ensure the clients we acquire are in line with our business model.

  • Business Model: Where are we headed? How are we doing in terms of getting there? Are we profitable? What’s the plan to see revenue increase? 

When it comes down to it, it’s about the people. People feel like they are replaceable, and that’s bad. It’s bad employer branding which trickles down to future hiring and our ability to acquire customers. Show that you care and employees will give you tenfold returns on your investment.

Be boring

Boring people do the same thing day in and day out and are okay with it. They’ve fallen in love with routines. They embrace consistency. They’re okay with silence. They’ve learned what it means to be content.

Being boring doesn’t mean you’re not interesting. It doesn’t mean you’re resistant to change. “Boring” is just the perception.

Kawhi Leonard is boring. Bill Gates is boring—they aren’t out to prove anything special. They've learned how to embrace the mundane. Great writers are boring, all they do is write every day. Great couples are boring, they’re okay with just hanging out with each other for decades. Great dads are boring, they enjoy small talk and meaningful moments with their kids. In short, boring people are comfortable with minuscule improvements over time. Which seems boring, compared to folks who are constantly announcing that they’re working on the next big thing.

Be boring. Which is to say, focus on the small and simple things that don’t look exciting but, behind the scenes, are helping you become someone impactful.

Burstiness

It’s that moment at your family reunion when your funny uncle shouts out an idea and everyone starts chiming in with theirs. Then, pretty soon, you actually end up with some pretty good ideas. It’s more than just brainstorming. It’s unfiltered collaboration—without judgment or repercussions. It’s coming up with half-baked ideas in front of your boss, and your boss not making you feel like it’s a stupid comment. 

It’s also integral in extracting the best ideas out of the group. And It’s a popular practice among some of the most creative teams on the planet: Pixar, IDEO, and The Daily Show.

An objection is different from an excuse

An objection is an expression or feeling of disapproval or opposition. It’s an opinion. And, objections are healthy. When there’s change or new plans presented, there are usually objections. They represent what’s missing in your argument. Which means they can (and should) also be seen as invitations—to connect, to dig deeper, and to begin to try to solve the problem.

An excuse, on the other hand, is what you say to make them go away or stop talking about the thing they’re rambling on about. It’s a defensive response expressed out of fear; and will only send you on a wild goose chase.

Knowing the difference and acting accordingly can mean either moving you forward or holding you back, depending on how you look at it.

Promoting the group

If group creativity is your goal, maybe you should be practicing together.

Instead of looking for creative individuals, what if we hired intact creative groups?

Instead of promoting individual superstars, what if we promoted entire teams?

Week 23 '19

One of Aesop’s most well-known Fables is called the Goose and the Golden Egg. And it goes like this:

“There was once a Countryman who possessed the most wonderful Goose you can imagine, for every day when he visited the nest, the Goose had laid a beautiful, glittering, golden egg.

The Countryman took the eggs to market and soon began to get rich. But it was not long before he grew impatient with the Goose because she gave him only a single golden egg a day. He was not getting rich fast enough.

Then one day, after he had finished counting his money, the idea came to him that he could get all the golden eggs at once by killing the Goose and cutting it open. But when the deed was done, not a single golden egg did he find, and his precious Goose was dead.”

So, what are we to learn from this tragic tale? That greed is deadly? Definitely! That as soon as we get for what we once wanted, we still want more? Absolutely! It’s a call for temperance and a warning against materialism.

But I think there’s another lesson to be learned - and it’s maybe a stretch but it presents an interesting analogy - and that is, The Countryman, either by the sweat of his own brow or good fortune, had for himself a pattern. A process that was, for a time, working; and bringing him and his family substance and prosperity.

All he had to do was continue to follow the pattern, trust in it, and live below his means—simple enough, but certainly not easy.

The Countryman wanted quicker results instead of trusting the process. And, as a society, we’re bombarded with similar messaging—free one-day shipping, instant health, on demand whatever, and immediate results.

So we (again, as a society) continue to play the short game: doing and buying things that add little value with the time and money we don’t have to impress others rather than improving ourselves.

As opposed to the long game: building and sticking to a pattern that requires a high level of discipline and consistency.

How often are we tempted by the shiny objects around us rather than sticking to a pattern that works?

“A pattern (by definition) is a guide or a model. Patterns are used in almost any and every pursuit, whether it be writing sales scripts, perfecting your jump shot, designing a logo, sewing a blanket, building a table, cooking a meal, learning a new language, and the list goes on and on. Patterns help to avoid waste, and unwanted deviations and help us to learn fundamentals and facilitate uniformity that is appropriate and beneficial.”

There’s a book I read recently called Atomic Habits that I highly recommend. It talks about the patterns in our lives and how they shape us. And how you don’t rise to the level of your goals but you fall to the level of your patterns. Which is to say, having a goal is good, I’ve definitely spent my fair share of time thinking about my goals, but having a pattern or a system to implement and execute that goal is better.

In real terms, having a goal to finish a book is good, but having a system or following a pattern to actually read every day, is better. Having a goal to save money is good, but actually implementing an operation to ensure a certain percentage of your paycheck goes into a savings account, is better. Or, having a goal to get a better job is good, but actually spending 10 minutes each day to learn something new and invest in yourself, is better.

It’s amazing what happens as we seek out the best patterns—we not only become proficient temporally but also protected spiritually and emotionally.

There are patterns in all things. If we pay attention, we can begin to understand and discern the good ones from the deceitful ones.

Patterns are now and always have been important aids to discernment and sources of direction and protection for us. They’re evident in the life of our role models, in the history books, and in the teachings of everyday people.

—I once babysat a family that was clearly being brought up according to patterns. They weren’t doing anything particularly spectacular, per se, but the kids were definitely taught about the importance of the small and simple things.

When the clock hit 6:30, they knew it was time for dinner. It still took a while to get everyone assembled, but once they were, they knew they couldn’t eat without first blessing the food and showing gratitude. Afterward, I offered to turn on a show (thinking I would be the fun babysitter who let them watch tv) but they all just kind of looked at me like “no, this isn’t what we do next.” Then they all started picking up their toys and putting things away. I was like like, “oh yeah…good idea.” At that point I realized I wasn’t there to babysit, I was there to learn. I just kept asking what now? Next came family study. Again, there was still plenty of rallying the troops going on, but everyone eventually settled down…for the most part. It wasn’t perfect, but it happened. And I’m sure some evenings are more challenging than others. But the important thing is, that they all knew what they were supposed to do.

To them, it was just another evening, but it impacted me. It reiterated the importance and reminded me of the power of small and simple things.

Ordinary people who diligently and consistently do simple things will bring forth extraordinary results.

I’ve personally found that many, if not all, of the most satisfying and memorable accomplishments in my own home, in my profession, and in my community have been and will continue to be the product of this important pattern—of simple and small things.

I grew up in a very small town in Utah, a dry town in the southern part of the state where it doesn’t rain much. Water is scarce, yet we always had a garden that flourished thanks to an innovative farming technique called drip irrigation.

And we can learn much about the nature and importance of patterns from the technique of drip irrigation that is used in many gardens and in agricultural areas throughout the world. Drip irrigation is sometimes called trickle irrigation and involves dripping water onto the soil at very low rates from a system of small plastic pipes fitted with outlets called emitters or drippers.

Unlike surface and sprinkler irrigation that involves flooding or gushing or spraying large quantities of water where it may not be needed, drip irrigation applies water close to a plant so that only part of the soil in which the roots grow is wetted. With drip irrigation, applications of water are more focused and more frequent than with the other methods. The steady drips of water sink deep into the ground and provide a high moisture level in the soil wherein plants can flourish. In like manner, if we are focused and frequent in receiving consistent drops of nourishment, then roots can sink deep into our soul, can become firmly established and grounded, and can produce extraordinary and delicious fruit.

The pattern of small and simple things bringing forth great things produces willpower, discipline, strength, and confidence beyond what we think we are capable of. As you and I become increasingly steadfast and immovable, we are less prone to zealous and exaggerated spurts of productivity followed by extended periods of slackness. A “spurter” is one who is given to a short burst of spectacular effort followed by frequent and lengthy periods of rest.

A big spurt may appear to be impressive in the short run, but steadiness in small things over time is far more effective, far less dangerous, and produces far better results. Three consecutive days of brushing your teeth will not yield as great as results as brushing your teeth twice a day, every day. A great attempt to train one time for five hours likely will not produce the results of meaningful morning exercise consistently over five weeks or five months—again, small and simple things done consistently well. And a single, great reading marathon cannot produce the same impact of steady study across many months.

In a real-life sense, we need to become intelligent drip irrigators, humble children, and wise Countrymen - and avoid sporadic and shallow spurting. We can avoid or overcome unsustainable spurting as we employ the pattern of small and simple things and become truly intelligent irrigators.

Interruptions aren’t always rude

When you’re in a crunch, you want everyone to pitch in, fast. And when people are interrupting each other, it shows they’re energized and have lots to say—which beats the alternative of being stuck and staying silent.

The second score

The first score is the feedback you receive. It’s how well prepared you were; your tonality, your questions, your ability to adapt. It’s what you can improve.

Then there’s the second score. This is how well you responded to the feedback. Were you defensive? Abrasive? Accepting? Appreciative? Actively listening? Humble?

The first score matters. It’s a list of things you can do better. But the second score might matter even more—it’s probably the thing that’s either holding you back or moving you forward. 

Foam Pit

When Olympic athletes flip through the air, they have the self-awareness to ‘feel’ where their bodies are in reference to the ground. And, although they are incredibly gifted athletes, this kind of spatial recognition didn’t just happen overnight. They spend hours reviewing film, practicing with a coach and failing into foam pits. 

In a similar fashion, we too can gain this kind of self-awareness as we actively seek feedback, record ourselves (using whatever relevant medium works for you), and practicing over and over—failing into our own proverbial foam pits.

Your challenge network:

Not the people who tell you what you want to hear (that’s what a support network’s for), but the ones who tell you what you need to hear. The ones who make you better, even if it's uncomfortable. The ones who have your best interest at heart. These are your trusted critics—

but only if you’re ready to listen.

Make criticism your friend

What if you didn’t get offended when the haters hate? What if your emotional response was different?

The fact is, if we never hear criticism, we never improve. It humbles you and checks your ego.

Here’s a litmus test: if you’re not looking back at certain times and events on your life and/or career and saying to yourself “wow, that was stupid,” then you probably haven’t learned much over that period of time.

Embrace criticism, crave it, even. It get’s easier and you’ll be all the better for it.

Four questions to ask when considering your career choices

I love the advice to “do what you love” as much as the next person. But sometimes, when it comes to navigating your career and finding your vocation, the platitude falls short. It’s usually given by people who have found what they love and have done it for a long period of time (but may have forgotten how they got there). It’s easy advice to give, but incredibly hard to follow

If you ask yourself “what do I want to do?” you end up with too many options—most of which are more likely to be pieces to the puzzle rather than the full picture. Instead, consider these four questions:

1. What problems do I want to solve?
Thinking along these lines gives you insights into the kind of values and issues you care about. It gives you a foundation. Do you want to help homeless people? Help people travel more? Inspire others to change their lives for the better? Find out what problems you want to solve, then you can begin to look into industries and job titles.

2. Whom do I want to serve?
This one’s important. Sure you might like to work with animals, but what about veterinarians? You might like helping people heal, but what about working with hospital administrators and/or sick people? Who do you want to provide services to? Because if you can’t jive with your clients, co-workers, or customers, you won’t last long.

3. What can I do better than others?
This one takes some reflection, but think about what people come to you for…When people ask you for a favor, what are they asking you to do? Chances are it’s probably what you’re better than most at.

4. How do I want to be known?
When you tell people what you do, are you proud of that narrative? Here’s the trick when it comes answering this question: you might be tempted to start naming job titles at this point but try, instead, to focus your answers on qualities. After naming a few qualities like ‘kind, caring, driven, and organized,’ you’ll start to notice a trend which then leads to vocations.

Throughout your career, you’re going to be presented with countless opportunities. Just because something seems like a good fit on the surface doesn’t mean it’s something you should pursue. The goal, therefore, of asking yourself these questions, is to build a framework—a benchmark that allows you to narrow your choices and think more clearly about the kind of career you want to build.

Week 22 '19

One of my favorite parts of the week is walking through the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens with Hannah on our way home from Church. It’s a wide open space in the middle of the city and the perfect get-away from all of the busyness. It’s when we have our best conversations with each other. Sometimes, we just talk about the plants and birds around us. Other times, we talk about our lives and future together. It’s amazing what happens when you slow down and just talk. Those “quite and low key” moments often turn into the most important moments.

You didn’t get rejected,

you got re-directed to something better.

Maybe it wasn’t a good fit. Maybe you wouldn’t have lasted long, anyway. Maybe (positively) there is something better out there. 

There have been many instances in my career where difference options, for whatever reason, didn’t work out. I remember one of them was for a company I really wanted to work for. Sure, I didn’t have the right qualifications, but I was sure I could learn quickly. I knew many of the employees at the company and we all got along really well. But, ultimately, they went with someone else. It’s interesting, though, because about 3 months later, that person they hired instead wasn’t there anymore. Who knows, maybe that could have been me. If they did hire me and I didn’t meet their expectations I, too, could have been let go and might have a bad outlook on that company. But, instead, I got redirected into something I feel like is a good fit and it all worked out. 

This isn’t just “looking at the bright side,” it’s about being pragmatic about your career situation. There are lot’s of opportunities out there. It’s not the end of the world if this one doesn’t work out. 

The long run is made up of short runs

Every single day is a lot of days. And it’s easy to look at the long run and think you can skip a day every now and then.

But remember, the long in isn’t so long when you focus on a single day at a time.

Is there something you do every day that builds an asset for you?

Every single day?

Something that belongs to you?

Something that makes an asset you own more valuable?

Something that you learn?