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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.

How to find a needle in a haystack

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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

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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.

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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.

The CEO of you

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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

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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

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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?

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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.

Plus, minus, equal

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If you are always the teacher, it means you are no longer progressing because you aren’t learning.

LeBron James, Tiger Woods, Serena Williams—they all have coaches, lots of them. They are at the top their game but are in no way, shape, or form below having coaches to tweak their performance and help make them better.

Even if you are the mentor, find yourself a mentor.

Be a true student, meaning, be a sponge. Soak in the important stuff, filter out the not-so-useful stuff, and always be improving so that you are ready to take on the next challenge that comes your way.

To quote an excerpt from Ego is the Enemy:

“The mixed martial arts pioneer and multi-title champion Frank Shamrock has a system he trains fighters in that he calls plus, minus, and equal. Each fighter, to become great, he said, needs to have someone better that they can learn from, someone lesser who they can teach, and someone equal that they can challenge themselves against.”

A real student is also a teacher. There is always knowledge you can pass down—which is also an effective way to learn. But never shy away from those that are similar in skill to you. That’s how you get better. And, no matter how good you get, you should always surround yourself with people who are better.

When ambition backfires

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We talk a lot about passion. How passion should be the driving force for everything we do. But plenty of people have fallen without getting up in the name of passion.

Passion will get you kicked out, force you to surrender, coerce you to make irrational, inaccurate decisions.

What you need is not passion, it’s purpose. For purpose is passion with principles, boundaries, if you will. Purpose will allow you to detach, work toward something bigger than yourself, gain the proper perspective.

Ambition is an incredible trait to have. Give me someone ambitious over someone who doesn’t care any day. But with unbridled ambition comes vulnerability. So watch your back, because if you are too aggressive, you leave yourself defenseless to a counterattack.

The counterattack

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Your move.

This moment will change you, but not define you. You think you know what you are doing and are even rewarded for it. But then you are blindsided. Something comes out of the blue and takes you by complete surprise.

An oversight.

A devastating blow.

Your move.

Incentives

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Incentives work—on the surface—and then they don't...most of the time.

What I mean is this: incentives might drive the results you are looking for, but not necessarily the behavior. And, most of the time, those results aren't indicative of actual production.

You can incentivize how many calls a rep. makes, safe driving, responsible consumer spending, and you will see favorable results. But remove the incentive, or modify it, and the results become skewed.

Instead, teach principles. Explain why. Provide context and make it relatable. This is, after-all, what marketing is about, isn't it?

What I'm saying is, be careful what you incentivize, you just might get what you’re looking for.

Shiny new toy

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The new opportunity presented to you before you get the chance to show what you can do.

The young up-and-comer taking on the veteran champion.

The impulsive purchase on an Instagram ad.

We've all been there. How quickly do we forget why we are doing what we are doing, why we have what we do, and how great things actually are.

There's a difference between contentment and complacency. Being content simply means being grateful for what we have and putting things in perspective. Being complacent, on the other hand, means not bothering about trying to make things better. It's the difference between improving your circumstances verses merely trying to get out of every difficult situation that comes your way. It's the difference between investing in things that work versus constantly searching for the next best thing.

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.

Work and chatter

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Don’t confuse the two.

Some activities you’ll do will contribute to the work you do. But, unfortunately, most things will be chatter.

And, the only relationship between work and chatter is that one kills the other.

Those plans you are creating, the website you’re working on, those emails you’re spending so much time on, those meetings and seminars you’re attending—chatter.

The other stuff no one else sees—work.

Week 41 '18 reflection

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I have been absent lately with my blog. It came to the point where I didn’t even think about it, which I kind of feel bad about, but, at the same time, it was kind of nice to not have the pressure of writing something every day. However, I definitely want to get back to writing every day. Not only do I have a lot of things I want to share but I also feel like there are more ways I can add value.

That being said, you can expect a daily post again from me. I am recommitting to that. I am also recommitting to creating content that relates more to what I do as a recruiter. Finally, I am recommitting to spending more time working on actual work.

So there.

Reading your way to a jump shot

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Do you think that’s how the best shooters in the world developed their jump shots?

Exactly.

Sure, reading may have been part of the process at some point. And the ones that perfected their form may have studied the game more than others. But the muscle memory of putting the ball into the basket came after literally thousands upon thousands of attempts.

The intangibles

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It's the 'nice touch' during an interview like bringing hand-written notes to the people you're speaking to. It's going into a client meeting with cookies and data. It's showing that you are actively listening by asking engaging questions.

These are the reasons why you'll get that job, or not. These are the reasons why you'll land that account, or not.