Blog

Best in show

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Everyone’s got an something to say. Opinions. Criticisms. Feedback. How do you sort through the noise? What is credible? What isn’t?

The first question you’ll need to answer is ‘where is it coming from?’ What are the intentions of the person delivering his/her opinions? Is it to spite you and push their agenda? Or are they well-intentioned? Because if you confuse the two, you just might be missing out on a lot of valuable information.

You may not agree with someone’s opinion, but what if they were right? Would it kill you if you experimented with different tactics or tried implementing a minor tweak to your strategy?

Here’s the thing, criticism is not advice, but you’ll have a hard time telling the difference if you constantly come across defensively. Try being a little more agreeable and a little less combative. Your opinion still may not change, but you might.

A world without quotas

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What motivates people to perform better?

Is it monetary value? Or is it a genuine desire for personal growth or education?

But sales reps are different, right? They need incentives, metric-centric goals, and quotas! But what if they weren’t? What if they didn’t? What if we don’t give them enough credit? What if instead of having quotas, you paid your reps a base salary of what they would normally make in OTE?

It’s an interesting idea. I can’t think of any companies who have tried it (granted, for good reason-possibly), but I genuinely wonder what would happen if a company had the guts to eliminate sales quotas. Without a quota, reps just might be motivated by other things like being more engaged with product managers. They might want to spend a few extra hours a week helping the new hiring class learn the ropes. They might stop padding their stats just to win a spiff and instead focus on driving value to clients and co-workers. Sales leadership could now focus on training and developing their talent rather than talking quotas (and rearranging comp plans) and attainment every so often. Reps might be given the freedom to experiment with new methods and systems. Can you imagine? Innovation coming from the sales team?

It’s just a thought. Maybe one day I’ll be in a position to try it out.

Showing up

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Sometimes, that’s all it takes. Sometimes.

True, showing up is the crucial first step. In fact, it’s been said that ‘showing up is 80% of life.’ If that’s true then the other 20% comprises of how you show up. Which sounds a lot like the Pareto Principle, meaning—20% of how you show up makes up for 80% of your results.

So show up to serve, show up to impact, show up to love.

Week 5 '19 reflection

I meet with a lot of unsatisfied people on a daily basis. For whatever reason, things just either haven’t worked out or aren’t currently clicking. This sense of unfulfillment or dissatisfaction boils down to a number of reasons, but from a broad sense, it comes down to us either being too bored or too anxious. We are either so stressed out because of XYZ that we just can’t take it anymore, or we are so bored that we realize we aren’t making the type of ‘impact’ we were meant to make. Which leads me to believe that real enjoyment happens somewhere in-between.

So many of us are spending much of our time and energy in an attempt to make our current situation better by looking elsewhere. And yes, I know that some situations are the exceptions. But beware of the exceptions that become the norms. There’s always something to nitpick. There are inexperienced managers everywhere. Things just run inefficiently, sometimes. Markets shift. People change. But what about you? What if this time, instead of running away, you doubled down your efforts? Instead of looking for a new job, you gave it your all for the next 90 days? Instead of looking for ways this job serves you, you decided to give back and help others?

Watch what happens. If nothing else, you become a better employee and friend at work. But there’s also an interesting paradox that happens when we double down our efforts—lean into the problem, if you will. Those other results we were so desperately in search of (recognition, opportunities, results) seem to naturally happen as a byproduct.

Having a bad week? Take it in stride. You know some weeks are going to be harder than others. Call it what it is, but keep the bigger (more positive) picture in mind. At the end of the quarter, near the completion of a project, there will be saltiness, and people will make snippy remarks. Don’t evaluate the whole thing based on one bad day, bad week, or even bad month. Trust that your rededication and improved efforts will yield better results.

Temporary decisions

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We overcomplicate things. Most of the decisions we make are temporary. This blog post will only be seen by a handful of people, no one will care what shoes I wear today, my new landing page will probably change in a week.

Things aren’t as mission-critical as we make them out to be. There are lots of areas in our lives where we need to stop acting as though every little decision we make matters as much as the big ones we make. The words I choose to use in my book aren’t as important as the words I say to my wife. The decision to subscribe to NYtimes Crossword, isn’t comparable to renewing our lease.

Moving to a new city? By all means, take your time, gather data and make a more calculated decision. Need to drive more traffic to your website? Don’t take one more second thinking about this one—try new things, make mistakes, learn what works and what doesn’t.

Pick a smaller market

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You don’t need more features, you need a smaller market.

Not only is it way more interesting to be the big fish in a small pond, it’s more lucrative and enjoyable as well. Being #1 in a small market means you set the rules—you arrange the menu, the venue, and the seating.

But it also means more responsibility. You may attract the best customers, but you’re also held to the highest standards; not to mention you’re watched like a hawk.

Up to you.

Quantity begets quality

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After you make 1,000 phone calls, you start to know what people like to hear and what people don’t. You know what works. Same goes for designers—after your 500th logo, you start to get a sense of what good design looks and feels like. The same could be said for writers, musicians, marketers, and leaders.

Just like repetition is the mother of all learning, the way to produce something of quality is to first pump out the quantity. Then you can start to narrow your focus, recalibrate your intentions, and take your time on the things of most importance.

The connection economy

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It’s the one economy that will never change.

No matter the medium, it’s what all human beings desire—connection. It’s what makes professionals great and great organizations professional.

So before you start a project, take on a new endeavor, or learn something new, first ask how it’s going to help you connect. Everything else is just logistics.

Cost vs. Value

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The cost of something is obvious. You read it on a tag, calculate it on a spreadsheet, or determine it in your head. But value is vaguer. It is most often understood through experience and there’s rarely a calculable ROI.

The cost of something is the same for everyone purchasing the item. But the value is different for everyone.

Those that only see the cost will never enjoy the full benefits of why that particular thing exists. Similarly, if you’re making something just because you think you can produce it more cheaply, you’re missing the point of why people buy things.

As a marketer, your job is to show the value. It takes patience and resolve, but pays for itself time and time again.

As a consumer, don’t be like the skeptic who sees the cost in everything but the value in nothing. The world needs people who value value.

When disruption distracts

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What you’re doing isn’t new. It’s be done before. Others have tried it in different situations under different circumstances. It’s worked for some, failed for others. But why should that stop you from doing it? From trying something similar?

People have this strange fear that they can’t write the book inside their head, speak up about a trending topic, or build something that already exists. The idea of ‘disruption’ looms in our wantrepreneurial minds. If we can’t create something ‘game-changing’ or ‘groundbreaking,’ then why bother?

Here’s the thing, do it anyway. Of course, it’s been done before. But if you look hard enough, everything’s been done by someone before us. What we need from you is your unique take on the subject. Give us your version. That’s what we’re most interested in.

Week 4 '19 reflection

There was something different about this week. I just found myself saying yes more, feeling awake in the mornings, and on track with where I want to go. I kept thinking about the book I read a few weeks ago The Power of Habit where Duhigg talks about keystones habits—the one habit to rule them all. For me it has been my morning routine. I know this sounds cliche as your morning routine has been a trending topic for quite some time now, but it’s made all the difference. The impact of my morning routine has been significant. I’m writing more, getting ahead of my work before I get into the office, working out, reading, and no longer feeling the Sunday angst like I used to. I’ve been sticking to this routine now for 4 weeks (including weekends). It hasn’t necessarily gotten any easier, but I’ve certainly gotten more used to it. Here it is:

5:00 AM—Wake up, splash my face with cold water, start boiling water (for tea), sit down at the desk, pray/meditate, review my daily plan, write a few blog posts, publish one I like from my saved posts, spend some time on my book and course, get ahead on some past emails.
7:00 AM—Put on my workout clothes and either go for a run or do some home workouts.
7:50 AM—Make a smoothie, drink water, shower, get ready for the day.
8:20 AM—Commute to work. Read/watch an online course or listen to a Podcast on the train.
9:00 AM—Start my workday.

The thing I’ve learned about sticking to this routine is that the key to having a good morning starts the night before. I now start getting ready for bed around 8:30 PM. On a good night I’m in bed by 9:00 PM, but most nights I’m asleep by 10:00 PM. Whereas before I used to spend a few hours watching Netflix, I’m now just too tired and, therefore, haven’t really spent as much time watching TV or scrolling through social media.

The same routine doesn’t work for everyone. We are all on different schedules under different circumstances. But what does work for everyone is spending some time thinking about it, trying a few things, then committing to a certain routine and sticking with it.


What I’m reading, learning, and downloading:

Book I'm reading: Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience. The first half of the book feels like most other self-help books. But once Csikszentmihalyi gets into his research it becomes clear that there is some real substance here. I’ve almost missed my train stop a number of times because I’ve become so lost in this book’s insightful ideas and intriguing case studies.

Course I’m taking: Malcolm Gladwell Teaches Writing. This has been a real gem over the past few weeks. This course feels like a well-produced Podcast. There are so many ideas and things to think about that it’s taken me hours to get through the first 45 minutes of course due to me having to stop and take notes.

New App I’ve downloaded: Good&Co. My company had us download this app in preparation for our offsite and it’s been a great way to not only understand our own personalities but also gain some insight into the dynamics of our culture. Everyone loves a good personality quiz, right? My adjectives are: methodical, empathetic, creative, scientific, collaborative, and ethical. Pretty accurate I’d say…

Execute. re: don't aim at success

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Here’s how most interviews with Gregg Popovich go:

“What does your team need to do to overcome this deficit?”
”We’ll need to execute.”

“A rough second quarter, what are they doing defensively to slow you down?”
”They’re executing better than we are.”

“Your team was down 10, now up 15, what was the difference in the third quarter?”
”We executed.”

Now, this may be an oversimplification, but what if it’s not? We get so caught up on the score, the results, that we forget our assignments when it matters. Sure, every now and then, take a step back and have the end in sight, but let your constant focus be on executing today.

Don’t aim at success. The more you aim at it and make it a target, the more you are going to miss it. For success, like happiness, cannot be pursued; it must ensue, and it only does so as the unintended side effect of one’s personal dedication to a cause greater than oneself or as the by-product of one’s surrender to a person other than oneself. Happiness must happen, and the same holds for success: you have to let it happen by not caring about it. I want you to listen to what your conscience commands you to do and go on to carry it out to the best of your knowledge. Then you will live to see that in the long-run—in the long-run, I say!—success will follow you precisely because you had forgotten to think about it
— Viktor E. Frankl

Keeping your eyes on the prize gets distracting. It is possible to look too far ahead too soon—you just might miss the pitfall right in front of you.

P.S. For more, read: The Score Takes Care of Itself, and Man’s Search for Meaning.

An open letter to managers

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Being a manager is hard. I’ve never held the title of manager in a corporate work environment, but I’ve had some good managers, and I’ve had some who, had great intentions, but were either looking for areas to improve or just flat out contributed to a toxic environment. Here’s my unsolicited advice to those managers looking to get better: 

Be open to feedback. Ask those you manage for feedback and mean it. Really try to make it a point to implement that feedback. 

It’s okay to say “I don’t know.” You don’t have to be the smartest person in the room, and don’t pretend to be. 

Your job is to listen. In meetings with your team and clients, listen. If you feel the temptation to talk, make the next thing you say be a question, not a comment. Otherwise, you’ll soon find yourself surrounded by people who have nothing to say.

Ask, what do you need for me? Not, here’s what we need from you. 

Ask, what can I help you with? Not, here’s your goal by the end of today. 

You don’t need to be included on every email. You don’t need to go to every meeting. You don’t have to know every detail. Trust people and let them prove you right.

When you coach, talk strategy, not numbers. We know our numbers. We know we need more volume. Let’s talk about prioritization, instead. Teach us how to organize the clutter and focus on what’s important. Teach us how to ask for help and what that looks like. Let us set our own goals around that discussion, then be a resource when we feel like we’re falling short. 

The best managers I’ve had are passively working rather than strutting around the office like they own the place. They’re doing all this work in the background, but you’d never know it. They’re like the duck swimming across a pond - calm on the surface but paddling like madness underneath. Again, easier said than done. It’s not for everyone, but it’s been those kinds of managers who have felt more like my mentors than a boss who I now consider to be some of the greatest leaders I’ve met. 

Google is too good

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You ask a question, it gives you an answer. It’s a dead end.

If you want to learn about bananas and you google ‘facts about bananas,’ that’s exactly what you’ll get—data—nothing remarkable, just numbers and figures. But how do you find the interesting stuff? The stories that stick? Google only confirms the direction you’re already on. Your challenge is to find a new direction.

Take a library shelf, for example, or footnotes. Both are undervalued resources these days.

By the way, did you know that bananas are actually berries? So are avocados (botanically speaking). And, if we’re getting technical, raspberries aren’t berries at all but aggregate fruits…And yes, I did just write about Google being too good so that I could recite some facts about bananas.

Work and learn

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For the most part, our days can be broken down into two parts: 1) work and 2) learn.

In other words: 1) create and 2) consume.

Now, ‘working’ doesn’t always have to mean ‘completing tasks for your day job,’ and ‘learning’ doesn’t always have to mean ‘reading’ or ‘studying.’ When you are drafting an email, cooking a meal, updating Salesforce, teaching a principle, spending 1:1 time with someone, you are working. Similarly, when you are reading, listening to a presenter, taking feedback, playing a game, asking questions, you are learning.

We are either creating something or consuming something.

The problem is, too many of us choose to work on things that have little impact and learn things that are of no relevance.
What will you choose to create?
What are you choosing to consume?

Are you doing a good job?

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There are a few ways to approach work: 1) you show up, do your job, you do it efficiently—sometimes even faster than expected—and leave. 2) you create change, make an impact in unmeasurable areas, fail, and solve interesting problems.

Doing your job the first way can be enough. It is, after-all, what you were hired to do. But they could hire anyone with your experience to do that. What will make you irreplaceable?

What will we miss? To answer that question you’ll have to stop thinking about the job description and start considering your own mission, your own point of view, your own platform.

Another question you’ll have to keep in mind is whether or not your organization even values that kind of thing.

Aftertaste

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What do people find interesting?

Think back to some of the most memorable meals you’ve eaten, the most intriguing shows you’ve watched, the most fascinating trips you’ve been on—what is it about those experiences that created the most lasting memories?

It was probably that crazy taxi driver or the ending to the show that just left you with more questions than answers. It was the bit of pepper or added touch of sweet ginger that kept you licking your lips long after you left the restaurant.

It was the aftertaste.

Sometimes, it’s not about creating the most neat and tidy narrative; that’s not the goal of storytelling, that’s not what gets remembered. Good marketing is interesting—it’s the two ingredients that shouldn’t go together, it’s the incomplete story, it’s the problem that has no solution. And, it’s sometimes frustrating.

But that’s okay! Because the puzzle piece that doesn’t fit is the one you talk about.

Week 3 '19 reflection

There comes a point where you kind of just have to realize “this is my life, now.” I know that sounds super depressing, but I don’t mean it that way. Let me explain:

For the past few…years, it feels like, I’ve been setting goals like crazy. I had a five year goal, then aggressive annual goals, then quarterly goals and monthly goals and weekly goals and daily goals. I had goals for my goals! It got out of hand. I literally had a spreadsheet to keep track of my goals spreadsheet. Furthermore, I was never fully satisfied—at work, at home, in school, etc. I was always looking for the next step in my life. I always wanted more. Whatever good was happening in my life, I couldn’t see it because I had goals that told me I was supposed to be doing so much more.

This comes down to something I’ve written about a lot over the years, the difference between being content and being complacent. It’s good to look ahead, but it’s better to feel happy with where things are and look for ways to improve.

As soon as I accepted that I like where things are (even if I still feel like I can do better) and that this was my life, things clicked for me. There was a switch in attitude. I leaned into my work, into my church responsibilities, into my relationships. I went all in on the life I currently have, not for the one I might have in the future.

The funny thing here is that things have opened up for me. Things that I had previously set goals to accomplish. The point is, focus on the present. Give it your all, one day at a time. In fact, stop setting long-term goals. Have a vision of who you want to become, sure. But focus instead on your system for getting there.

Measure what matters

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It’s not always easy to measure what matters. We love the big plays, the metrics, the headlines, but sometimes, the thing that really matters is something that is challenging to measure. Most managers don’t notice it, others forget it, but it’s what made all the difference.

Why do we measure what we measure? Is it because it’s important? Or is it because you think it’s important?

Upselling technique

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Why are we okay with paying more for the piece of meat that’s been cooked in a 120 year-old brick oven when it probably tastes the same as a similar piece of meat cooked in conventional over?

Technique sells.

Details matter. Most won’t even notice the difference, but they’ll feel something is different.

That’s marketing.