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The thing about bottlenecks

Bottlenecks can be useful—but only to the extent that they direct the attention to whichever part of the system is receiving the most pressure. Like with fire hoses, traffic jams, hiring processes, or procurement procedures.

But, of course, knowing the location of the bottleneck isn’t good enough. If you’re the bottleneck, then it’s your job to either finally succeed in achieving “inbox zero” or effectively delegate the task so that someone else can do it.

And achieving “inbox zero” doesn’t only apply to having a clean email inbox—it also means having a high level of responsiveness in Slack, in your project management tool, and in approving things that need your sign off.

Yes, bottlenecks suck. Sometimes, they’re caused by an inefficient process. Other times, they’re the result of fear. Either way, fixing the issue should be your top priority because if there’s one thing we know about systems, it’s that they degrade and eventually fail under constant stress.

Combine your passions

Lin-Manuel Miranda did this when he created Hamilton.

It’s how Pixar got its start.

Who knew I would be using my Russian as much as I am!

There’s no such thing as cookie-cutter career paths anymore. You might love anthropology but have a knack for selling things. Startups love these kinds of people! Just because you went to law school doesn’t mean you have to practice law, the same goes for any other kind of education. What’s important is that with each new endeavor you’re figuring it out and adding more proverbial feathers to your cap.

The workplace is changing. Jacks of all trades are having their day. So keep broadening your intellectual horizons. You never know how that knowledge might come in handy one day.

A short post on starting

You don’t have to have everything figured out before you start. So what if your script isn’t that great, still make the call. Who cares if you are lacking resources, there is still plenty you can do. It might not work. Your process probably isn’t perfect. But starting where you are and taking action with what you have is still the best thing you can do.

Data and intuition

There are places you can go now that let you order food based on predictive analytics. You literally enter in key data points like the month you were born, your current mood, and what form of entertainment you enjoy and it will recommend a dish for you. But what happens when these machines recommend things you aren’t in the mood for? Then, what was the point if your ‘gut’ already knew what it wanted?

Data allow us to glean information. But it (in and of itself) is not information. Data’s job is to educate and advise. Yes, it provides key insights and allows us to make better decisions quicker but it should never be the deciding factor. That’s what humans are for.

The goal

Productivity: the act of bringing a company closer to its goal. It’s ALL meaningless. All of it - the note-taking app you use, your project management solution, your time blocking technique, OKRs and KPIs - unless you know what your goal is. 

Until you know what the goal is, everything else is just you playing games with numbers and words. 

And, for a company, there’s always only ever one goal. 

Source: The Goal: A Process of Ongoing Improvement

Create what you love

Create something that you’d want to consume.

The best movies out there were made by people who wanted to watch something that moved them. The same is true for the best software, books, cars, blogs, or pieces of art. They were all made by organizations and/or individuals that cared more about the gratification of the work than the profits. 

Learning at work

New employees at Behavox are sent a box of books a week before they start.

During onboarding, you’re shown a list of books recommended by other employees in the company and how to access copies.

You’ll even occasionally catch people reading at their desks.

Yes, we all love hiring smart people. But what are we doing to also show that we care deeply about the intellectual progression and development of those employees once they’re hired?

“Never stop learning” is a core value at a lot of organizations. But is it promoted? Valued? Appreciated?

Don’t make 100 decisions when 1 will do.

This applies to sales, design, business, and life.

Make 1 overarching decision that can be replicated many times. It’s easier to decide once that you are going to make 20 cold calls a day than to wrestle with overthinking your sales strategy. It’s easier to innovate according to an outlined structure than to reinvent the wheel every morning. It’s easier to stick to a proven routine so that you can save the rest of your mental capacity for work that really matters.

This is probably why so many successful people eat the same thing every day, wear the same thing, use the same tools, and stick to the same habits that helped them become successful.

Have rules or principles that govern actions. Then, the rest is just execution.

How good is your advice?

When people come to you for advice, what’s your first reaction?

I’ve personally noticed that the best leaders and mentors I’ve had rarely provide solutions. They resist the urge to offer their expertise although they clearly know much more than me on the topic. Even when we are trying to move fast, their response almost always comes in the form of a question.

Your advice isn’t as good as you think it is. We don’t need all the answers. We need to learn how to refine our thought process and come up with our own conclusions. 

PS take the advice purposed in this post with a grain of salt.

Hiring? Or recruiting?

The first step toward improving your recruiting strategy: create a job opening so good that you can recruit people for it.

Otherwise, you’re just hiring—publishing a job posting, running a few ads, and hoping people apply for the position. 

Recruiting is different. It’s direct marketing. It’s persuading people to stop what they are doing and come join you. You’re making promises, creating internal conflict, and sparking new conversations. So you’d better make sure it’s worth it.

People like you

Here’s the problem with perfection—it doesn’t scale. Not every product launch will go as planned. Every event has a hiccup. And no candidate checks every box. It’s a bad strategy that leads to ineffective hiring and growth. 

It usually stems from the fear of being wrong. “We’re not going to try anything new so that we know we get it right.” “Let’s only hire people like us, they’re less risky and we know that they’ll stick to the status quo.” 

In reality, the opposite is true. Although it’s tempting to strive for perfection, it’s a fool’s pursuit. Instead, strive for improvements. 

Raise the average! Learn things you don’t understand. Take on projects that are hard. Find people more skilled and smarter than you. If you keep insisting on working with people like you, then you’ve already hit your ceiling. 

Thoughts on entrepreneurship (why I've changed my mind)

When I started this blog, I originally had intentions to make it a documentary (of sorts) about my journey toward becoming an entrepreneur. I was in love with the idea of owning my own business, calling the shots, and then teaching others how I did it.

I explored lots of ideas: an SEO company, a few app ideas, created some automatic light switch prototypes, did career coaching for a while, dabbled in starting a design studio and, of course, kept a running list ‘business ideas.’ During these formative years, I was in sales. So as long as I hit my number, I could hide. Hide behind the wall that divides great employees from good ones. Because that’s what I was, a good employee. I came on time, did my work, hit my number, went home. But my mind was elsewhere…always fixed on the next big thing. I’m realizing now, I didn’t really fully engage in my work in the moment like I could have because I was, instead, choosing tomorrow.

I was in search of greener pastures, inspired by the podcasts I was listening to and books I was reading. I wasn’t lacking time, resources or even passion, things just didn’t work out. So I kept chugging along at my day job—forever dissatisfied because I wasn’t ‘making an impact’ or ‘putting a dent in the universe.’

Then, I got into recruiting. I started to see (and continue to witness on a daily basis) the value of a great employee, and I’ve started to change my tune a bit.

Entrepreneurship isn’t the end all be all. It’s certainly not for everybody—and it shouldn’t be! The world needs brilliant minds to think up new ideas, push innovation forward, and traverse uncharted territory. But it also desperately needs incredible employees—workers that believe in these missions, take ownership over the projects and work as if it was their idea.

Entrepreneurship is so romanticized these days. And, maybe, rightfully so. We love a good underdog story. But, to use an analogy, entrepreneurs are like the quarterbacks of a football team. They’re the stars of the show and get all of the credit when they win, but also the blame when they lose. Employees are like the linemen (or skilled players, or maybe even the front office), you don’t necessarily recognize the good ones while they’re there but you’ll absolutely miss their presence when they’re gone.

Here’s the thing, most of my icons are still entrepreneurs. I communicate with some of them, follow lots of them and gain valuable insight from all of them. But it’s no longer my goal to become an entrepreneur. And this shouldn’t come across as ‘disappointing’ or that I’m ‘giving up on my dreams.’ THIS is the point! Why can’t my ‘dream’ be to become a trusted advisor in career development and building a better workplace? Why can’t it be to help build out a remarkable recruiting process at my current employment? Why can’t it be to become a mentor, coach, and friend with my colleagues and others I come in contact with?

Entrepreneurship isn’t synonymous with leadership. You can be a leader in any capacity. But you can’t lead in two different directions. If you choose entrepreneurship, be an entrepreneur. If you choose Learning and Development Specialist at a startup, be the best one out there. Whatever you do, don’t keep one foot out the door. Either come inside and make yourself at home or go find other doors that need opening.

Wealth, to me, means living the kind of lifestyle you want to live and being able to do so without health or financial restrictions. You define the kind of life you want to live. For many, that means lazy Saturdays sitting on the porch drinking lemonade, for others, it’s a new speaking gig every weekend. Will becoming an entrepreneur give you the kind of lifestyle (and wealth) you are looking for? Because the reality of the situation is even if your business is making a million bucks a year your corporate salary is still probably more than you’d be taking home as a business owner. Another thing, you think 50-60 hours of work per week is a lot now? Wait until you become an entrepreneur where 60 hours/week seems like a walk in the park.

I get it, for some, entrepreneurship is just an itch they have to scratch. It’s in their DNA. But consider your situation from a broader perspective. There are lots of ways to make an impact. You can have the kind of influence you desire through a plethora of different means. You can accumulate wealth using countless strategies with almost any job title.

There is more than one way to change the world. Whatever that looks like for you, you probably won’t have to go very far to find it.

Grading yourself on a curve

is a great way to never get disappointed.

Low expectations, after all, lay the foundation that allows you to hide in mediocrity. They ensure you keep quiet, don’t raise your hand, and never keep an ear to the ground regarding potential opportunities. 

The curve will never provide the insight you need into how you’re doing. You’ll constantly compare yourself and you’ll never fully realize what you’re capable of. 

You deserve better than that.

The alternative is hard. But it’s supposed to be. It will be unstable, flakey, full of disappointment, and riddled with errors. You’ll doubt yourself, reflect on why you’re doing what your doing, and nothing will ever be good enough. But you’ll thank yourself later. 

Dream big. Have high hopes and make big promises. Then work like crazy to recalibrate when you fall flat on your face. But trust that you’re working toward something greater because you are.

Real change is cultural change

The longer you live in New York, the more impatient you become. People honk so you honk. They walk around you so you start walking faster. You weren’t always this way, you were affected by rules (spoken and unspoken) around you.

Good attorneys debate. Practicing Mormons don’t have to have a daily conversations about abstaining from alcohol. Great entrepreneurs grow businesses.

Here’s the thing, if you ask these people who are advocates and practitioners of their respective cultures why they do what they do, their response will be something similar to ‘that’s what people like me do.”

“I work long hours because I’m passionate about what we’re building.” “I’m a friendly person because I believe I can help people.” “I’m a great cook because of how I choose to look at the world.” “I’m a writer, so that’s what I do, write.”

Culture is what defines people and organizations. And culture is happening whether you realize it or not. It’s up to you to define what your culture is and what you want it to become. Without that baseline, culture will happen ‘naturally’ (for better or for worse).

If there is a cultural shift that needs to take place, keep in mind that it’s going to get messy. Your intent, now, needs to be to change culture—which has never been easy.

In so doing, you just might be engaging in best work you of your life. There is no rulebook, map, or checklist when it comes to solving interesting problems. There are iterations, trials, and testing.

So speak up. See the world as it is then choose to make a difference.

On being an expert

What makes an ‘expert’ an expert? 

1. You probably know more just by doing your job than the vast majority of the market. You’re more of an expert than you realize. 

1.1. But here’s the thing—if you’re constantly running around proclaiming you’re an expert, it weakens your authority which, by definition, makes you less of an expert. 

2. If you were an expert on something a while ago but haven’t bothered to continue your education on the subject, you can’t be considered an expert anymore. Expertise comes from curiosity and a desire to never stop learning in a particular field. 

3. You can’t be an expert in isolation. An expert is “a person who has a comprehensive and authoritative knowledge or skill in a particular area.” It’s a social activity! You will need to gain people’s trust and earn their attention. Only then can you have the kind of influence required to be an authority figure. 

3.1. But here’s the final thing—again, it’s not up to you to decide if you’re an expert or not (see 1.1). That’s for others to resolve. The best you can do is to consistently show up. Make promises and keep them. Do what you can to put yourself in a position to have influence and make an impact. 

Sticky companies

In tech, we talk a lot about creating products that are ‘sticky.’ Solutions so good that customers can’t afford to not use your product.

But how do we create sticky companies? Work environments so good that employees won’t ever want to leave?

Trust your employees upfront. Tell them you know they have what it takes to succeed then watch them prove you right.

Stand up for them. Take risks for them. Ask them what they want and help them get there. Be there for them. Help them achieve their dreams.

The results will take care of themselves. And a significant result, in this case, is loyalty.

Transparency in the hiring process

Transparency means not only acknowledging and understanding what the culture is but also what it isn’t.

You attract candidates by showing them what kind of organization you are building. You impress them by allowing them to see how amazing your product is. You sell them the dream and convince them this is the place for them to do their best work.

But you get great ones when you are upfront about what the culture really is. When you mention your core values and talk about how everyone on the team expects the best, how do they react? Do they shy away and ask about what the company can do for them? Or do they get excited and start offering solutions?

If you want to foster a forward-thinking culture of innovation and collaboration where people challenge each other and provide feedback, try challenging your candidates. If you want curious employees, hire curious candidates—the ones that ask the best questions and do the most research win.

Be transparent, you’re not going to scare people away, but rather, attract the kind you want.

Week 13 '19 reflection

So here it is! My new goal-setting (and accomplishing) system. After hundreds of iterations and hours spent setting and not accomplishing goals, this is the system that has been working for me.

For me, it’s a new way of thinking about things. It’s still relying on my system but redirecting my focus on one goal at a time. It’s also simple, very simple, but it took me a long time to come up with the core statements you will see below. I loved reflecting on what I believe, who I think I am and who I want to become. And I would encourage everyone to take some time to at least envision what your ideal life looks like.

Here’s the system. 1) Start with your purpose—why do you exist? This should be a very high-level statement. It’s your ‘why’ and should written using this format: To…so that…. I got this from Simon Sinek’s Start With Why methodology and think it’s a brilliant way to define what your purpose is. 2) Next, your mission. This is more about what you do. Do you teach? Coach? Mentor? Do you create technology? Do you innovate? It’s not necessarily your career but rather your vocation. What you are meant to do, regardless of what you do. 3) Vision. This isn’t necessarily a backlog of things you want to do, but it could be, I look at it at a more high level again of who you want to become. So, instead of having a bucket list saying I want to visit 100 countries, I simply write down ‘I love discovering new places.’ Again, maybe an oversimplification but I like that it’s adaptable to situations and whatever my current goal is.

Which leads me to my last point: 4) only set one goal at a time! That’s it. What is your number one goal you want to accomplish in the next 90 days that aligns with your purpose, mission, and vision? Make it measurable, achievable, and measurable. Then, literally everything else is a means to accomplish that goal. Here’s mine:

Purpose: 
This is why I exist.

  • To fulfill the measure of my creation so that I can inspire others to do the same. 

Mission: 
This is what I do. 

  • To teach people how to become masters of their craft.

Vision: 
This is who I want to become.

  • I envision myself becoming a loving husband, dedicated father, successful (credible and financially independent) professional, and spiritual leader who loves learning new things, discovering new places, and creating stuff that matters.

Goal: 
This is my #1 goal that I’m going to accomplish by June 30, 2019. 

  • Create and publish a $25, 2-hour SDR course for prospective and recent graduates looking to successfully kickstart their career in sales. 

Strategy: 
This is how I’m going to accomplish my goal.  

  • Spend 1 hour every day researching, building, structuring, writing, recording, creating your SDR course. 

  • By May 24, have your rough draft completed and send beta to SDRs in your network. 

  • Workout 6 days a week for 45 minutes. 

    • Run at least 20 minutes + at least 10 minutes of lifting (25 pushups, 25 abs, 25 band reps). 

  • Only eat out twice/week. Cook more meals at home. Drink 8 glasses of water daily. Floss daily, brush teeth twice/day. Seriously limit the sugar. 

  • Keep house tidy and organized - 10 minutes each day. 

  • Write one blog post every day - publish on LinkedIn. Be engaging on LinkedIn. Share other insights. Comment. Like. Network - message people you want to learn from. Meet new people. 

  • Hit hiring goals at Behavox and make hiring managers happy. Be engaging and useful in other areas. 

  • Mediate for 10 minutes every day. Pray and read for another 15. 

  • Plan and go on another trip (someone warm) with Hannah. 

  • Read for 1 hour every day. 

Tactics: 
These are the methods and tools I’m going to implement to execute my strategy.  

  • Tools for SDR course: Google Slides, Teachable, Quicktime. 

  • Schedule all strategic activities into calendar. 

  • Use your notes app as a to-do app to collect actionable items and ideas. Then distribute accordingly into either Dropbox, blog, course, or other relevant app. 

  • Review your progress during your weekly reflection on your blog. 

Execution: 
See calendar. 

That’s it! Then, review every week and live by your calendar as that is your system.

The 10/5 rule

Christine Porath, author of Mastering Civility: A Manifesto for the Workplace shares a great tip to not only show appreciation to employees and co-workers but also eliminate awkwardness from those uncomfortable moments in the elevator and break-room encounters.

The idea is, if you’re within 10 feet of someone, make eye contact and smile. And, if you’re within 5 feet, say hello.

People want to feel valued and appreciated. But it’s sometimes difficult to know what that looks like in day-to-day work life. Remember, it’s the small things like listening and paying attention that matter. And the 10/5 rule is a simple tactic, but it might be the thing that starts driving engagement again.

Busy!

It probably seemed important at the time. That thing you had to do. That place you had to get to. But, in reality, it's usually the exception, not the standard. 

We like to appear busy. We've romanticized that state of being in movies and media. But busy is not productive. The appearance of busy is a form of deception, not only to others but to yourself.

We all know those people who are always in a hurry. Who, upon asking them, "how are things?" reply: "busy," then continue doing their job without taking the time to consider how the other person might be doing. 

Why has the busy badge become such a great honor? Maybe it's to compensate for the lack of real production? Real work? 

When we are appearing busy we are pretending to be someone we aren't. It's based on fear. Fear of being "exposed." But fear is a funny thing. Fear holds us back from saying things, doing things, loving, creating, being ones-true-self. All of which are the very things that align who others think we are and who we say we are with who we actually are. 

Appearing busy, therefore, is a symptom of something bigger. "It's insecurity dressed up as confidence." Embrace the fears that appear to be roadblocks. In time, those "so-called" roadblocks will turn into pathways.