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Which comes first?

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The decision to commit? Or figuring out what you’re good it?

So many of us want to prove to ourselves (and others) that we can be good at something before we commit.

But what if we’ve got it backwards? What if we are spending too much time teaching tactics and not enough time teaching commitment? Here’s the thing, most of the time, for most people, if we want to learn something, we can learn it. It takes a decision, then a commitment. Because when we commit to something, we are then more likely to keep up the effort and push through the failures and frustrations that inevitably come.

It’s a defense mechanism. A defense against failure. We don’t want to fail so we sit back and gossip until something sticks. And when it does, then we commit.

And, as a society, we feed that reluctancy to commitment because we prefer disapproval to dedication.

Teaching techniques is important. But if you want to be a great teacher, leader, or mentor—teach commitment.

Week 38 '18 reflection

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One of my biggest insights lately is this: “if you are saying yes to one thing, what is it you are saying no to?”

This question has come to mind time and time again. And it just seems to get more and more relevant the more I think about it. Whether it be working with candidates and clients, or talking to friends and family, there are so many applications.

Time is our most valuable resource. There isn’t enough time (or even resources) to do it all. So what are you prioritizing? Your time matters. Your sanity matters. Your health matters. So act accordingly.

I say this because things are getting crazy. It’s the end of the quarter and our office is in full two-minute drill status right now. And we have a big trip coming up and some other family things going on. So I’ve found myself saying no more. At first, I’ve felt guilty. But then I’ve realized that it’s actually quite liberating. I’ve been an advocate of saying yes. But saying no is way more difficult. It’s a skill that requires a ton of practice. My best piece of advice: decide now what you are going to say yes to and no to. This blog post might help.

Unlocking potential

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I have a friend who has more money than he knows what to do with. He recently bought a new iMac—the $5,000 one. The one that was made for programmers, videographers, and designers. And he uses it solely to watch Netflix and answer emails! He has no idea what kind of power lies inside that machine. And, frankly, he doesn’t care. He got it because it looks nice on his desk and it keeps up the appearance that he’s on the forefront of innovation.

It’s kind of like someone—who doesn’t know how (or like) to fly—buying a private jet, parking it in their backyard and using it as a showpiece and maybe a guest house. That would be a shame! What a waste!

But how many of us do the same with our own potential? How many of us have heard those voices inside our heads and ignored them because we’re scared?

You were designed to do so much more than to ‘sit in someone’s backyard as a showpiece.’ You were made to ‘fly.’ And you’re lying to yourself if you think you don’t have what it takes.

Learn more today about the world than you knew yesterday. Create something meaningful. Unlock the potential inside you.

Incremental improvements

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When I was learning Russian, the first few months were rough. I felt like I hadn’t learned anything. I was still struggling to say hello! Even after doing nothing but speaking Russian for 6 months, I didn’t know if I was improving or not. Then, one morning, it hit me. I made a few phone calls about a water leak, talked to our landlady, bought some food, had conversations about architecture, software, geography, and religion all in Russian!

6 months! I knew Russian. I felt comfortable I could carry on any conversation in the language. But this realization only came as soon as I reflected. When I looked back and saw my progress, I became more confident. Only then could I see how the dots connected and the stars aligned for this to happen.

It may not be flashy. You may not get the headlines. But, over time, you’ll realize that you are where you are today because of the constant and continual improvements you’ve made over a long series of time.

Winning a conversation

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But missing the point.

After all, what is it you’re trying to accomplish? Sharing something important? Asking for help? Passing time? Teaching something? Learning something? Earning trust? Winning a friend?

If you really want to ‘win’ the conversation, employ the same tactics you would to win a friend or catch a fly.

A drop of honey catches more flies than a gallon of gall. So with men. If you would win a man to your cause, first convince him that you are his sincere friend. Therein is a drop of honey which catches his heart, which, say what he will, is the high road to his reason
— Abraham Lincoln

Intent matters. Intent is always what is communicated, no matter which words are or aren’t used. It opens new doors and shuts possible ones.

So pay attention, it might feel like you are winning the conversation, but is that what really matters?

Pitching features

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Remember when it was a big deal to say your motel had color tv? It wasn't an innovative, forward-thinking motel experience unless it offered color tv.

It's ludicrous to now advertise color tv. Unless you're going for a "vintage, throwback look and feel," most people would roll their eyes at that kind of place. 

That's what happens when you advertise features. People either ignore you or forget about you. 
- "True-depth, 12 MP camera!"
- "Television without the bulky hardware!"
- "Continental breakfast included!" 
- "Lowest taxi meter fares in the city!"

Instead, try creating something people can't help but talk about. Build the extraordinary, not just something that's slightly different than what the competition is doing. You'll know you're on the right track when people start imitating you, criticizing you, or telling their friends about you. 

Don't create another diagram about how you've successfully differentiated your product or service. You're probably doing it to impress your boss and the results are, therefore, manipulated and misleading. Alternatively, focus your energy on understanding what people want and why they want it. 
- "Stay connected and well-informed." - Apple
- "Stream your favorite show...right now." - Netflix 
- "Live like a local, make new friends, and have the experience of a lifetime." - Airbnb
- "Get to where you need to go more conveniently." - Uber

Red eye

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The airline industry is a prime example of how, sometimes, our quest for efficiency can be our downfall.

40 years ago, flying was much more comfortable that in is now. It used to be something people got dressed up for, took seriously, and got excited about. Then the race to the bottom began and airlines started cutting costs, lengthening flight routes and shortening leg room.

It works because we still pay for those flights. The demand is there. There is nothing stopping them from being more and more ‘efficient’ - aka - uncomfortable. Except, maybe, us.

Week 37 '18 reflection

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I finished up the week by going on a quick weekend trip to Utah with Hannah. I got to see people I haven’t seen in years. Which can be awkward, but this time felt completely normal. Actually, in some ways everything felt exactly the same even though I’m different and everyone I talked to was different as well. Funny how that works.

My weeks are fast-paced and full of challenges. But I’m enjoying every minute.

Everyone's got a quota

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Why? Because everyone’s in sales.

If you work for a living, you have certain tasks you need to get done and deadlines you need to meet. It’s part of the job. Whether you are building houses, teaching students or selling software, if you are in the business of earning trust, building connection, having an impact, and creating something meaningful, you’re in the business of sales.

What are you selling?

How are you selling it?

As Q3 ‘18 draws closer to close, reflect on this as you double down on your efforts to hit quota: what you sell is how you market yourself, how you sell it becomes your brand.

So choose carefully what habits you start, stop, and continue doing. They’re bigger (and more important) than your quota. They shape you. They influence what you decide to sell. They directly affect how well you are able to sell it. And they ultimately define who you are.

Week 36 '18 reflection

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My advice to anyone feeling the Sunday/Monday Scaries? Write. Blog, journal, do something that allows you to reflect on the week, think about how things are going in the different areas of your life and set some goals for how you want those things to improve. I almost (almost) look forward to Sunday evenings, now. It's my chance to slow down and take a good look at my current situation. After a solid goal-setting session, I feel reenergized and excited to wake up in the morning and get working on accomplishing my goals for the week. 

This was a great week. My candidates are doing well and I seemed to have figured out an attractive messaging campaign that is allowing me to find more qualified candidates quicker and more efficiently. I feel like I'm making progress on my other goals and passion projects: an online course on career development, traveling/going on more trips, blogging, working out (kind of), and staying in better contact with family and friends. The weather has been cooler, so that's always a plus (why is talking about the weather always interesting when it's so predictable?!). And Hannah and I are going back to Utah soon for a family reunion (of sorts). 


Some other things I'm enjoying, reading, and thinking about:

Book I'm reading: Collapse: How Societies Choose To Fail Or Succeed. I totally nerded out with this read. Jared Diamond, on the one hand, writes with such conviction because everything is so well researched, but on the other, is very open-minded and approaches topics with multiple audiences in mind. So fascinating and really makes you think about the environment in a different light. 

Purchase I'm enjoyingAllbirds. If you haven't heard of Allbirds, yet, check them out. They not only make the most comfortable shoe, but their mission and branding are equally as impressive. 

New thing I'm trying:  In regards to goal-setting, focusing on the 'top-of-the-funnel' activities, i.e. the things I can control. Like prospecting activities, blogging every day, working out x number of times/week, hours spent reading, etc. With repeated consitent effort, the results take care of themselves. 

Consistencies

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When it comes down to it, the only thing that is constant is change. 

A business is either growing or declining. 

Your lungs are either expanding or contracting. 

The universe is either expanding or shrinking. 

If you're not whitening, you're yellowing

There is no 'maintaining.' Change is inevitable. You're either getting better (even if only by a little) or worse (if only by a little). But the paradox is, the amount of energy expended is the same. 

Two kinds of marketing

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The first—build something you like then find people who are like you and are into similar things, then sell to them.

The second—go out and figure out what people like then build something that meets their needs, then sell to them. 

I've seen it both ways. 

 

Chopping down the last tree

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Did the folks on the once-great Easter Island know what they were doing to their lush, beautiful island when they started taking down all the trees? Or were they too concerned with short-term results? At which point did they realize what they had done? What were they thinking as they chopped down the last tree?

Our society loves short-term successes. We are impressed with those who 'burst onto the scene' or 'become great overnight.' So we fall for it. We focus on how quickly we can get there rather than on how well we are doing it. But in doing so, are we (metaphorically, of course) chopping down our own forest?

Any way you slice it, it's going to take effort. Whether it's doing it fast or doing it right, the amount of energy spent will be the same. In fact, I think most would agree (especially those who have gone through the painful experience of chopping down their last tree) that it will take less time and less effort to do things the difficult way—the 'long' way—than it will to cut corners, take shortcuts, 'chop down trees at an unsustainable rate,' all in the name of looking good today, instead of building for tomorrow. 

Fighting the cycle

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In the words of the famous Vince Lombardi:

You don’t win once in a while; you don’t do things right once in a while; you do them right all of the time. Winning is a habit. Unfortunately, so is losing.

Ever wonder why that is? Why losing is a 'curse?' Why is it, when you tell a 'B' student to try harder, work smarter and faster, they, more often, become C students rather than A students? The same goes in the workplace. Getting better rather than getting worse is something you can learn. In other words, responding to failure is a skill that can be taught. But, too often the coaching is: 'double down, stay longer, work harder, or else.' The stakes get higher and things only get tougher. And, in response, people spend more and more of their energy fighting the cycle (playing to not lose) rather than building momentum and gaining confidence to win when it counts. 

Turns out, the best way to fight the cycle of losing is to change your mindset on what that cycle is. Fear is going to ask a lot of you. When it does, that's not your cue to pull back but push forward. Meaning, embrace it! Do the opposite of what it asks. Otherwise, you'll always be fighting against the inevitable. 

It's like if someone tells you over and over to stop being angry, what is your typical response to that? You get angrier! The same goes for winning and losing: 'don't lose, don't miss quota, don't underachieve, don't make a mistake, don't fail.' what happens? You end up doing exactly what you didn't want to. 

The solution is simple (not easy); embrace the cycle, the failure, and keep playing loose. Play to win and only focus your attention on winning. You will fail. But learn to love failure because, without it, you won't ever know how sweet success really tastes. Pretty soon, you'll stop thinking about what it would be like to lose, those thoughts won't even cross your mind. You'll live in a world where things always work out. Afterall, they do! 

It's time for a promotion

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First, do the thing others have asked you to do. Then, figure out how to do it faster and more efficient. Finally, find better things to work on. 

Wondering why you haven't received that promotion? It's probably because you haven't given yourself one, yet. 

Working on things that others have assigned you to work on is good. It's how you learn. It's how you gain experience and make yourself valuable. But there comes a time when you must choose yourself. Give yourself a promotion by learning new skills, trying different things, innovating, and creating a more useful contribution. 

The kind of promotion you are really looking for won't come from others. And it certainly won't come tomorrow unless you invest in the proper things today.

Do simple things (not easy)

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Easy is simply easy. It’s the minimum amount of effort required to achieve a specific result. Easy is comfortable. It doesn’t demand a high level of pressure, investment, or commitment. Assumptions are easy. Judging is easy. Criticizing is easy. 

Simple is deceptively hard. It’s the elimination of everything unnecessary so that what remains is what matters most. It’s less busy but more efficient. It’s uncomfortable. It takes planning, strategy, effort, and discipline. Choices are simple. Principles are simple. Truths are simple. 

If something is simple to understand, it’s usually very difficult to do. This is what makes personal growth and leadership so difficult. Reading and listening to these things is easy. Actually changing means putting an end to certain habits, taking time to ponder goals, and doing away with specific distractions. Simple to understand, not easy to do. But the end result of such an endeavor is a simple life. Just because you choose the simple life, does not mean it’s easy.

Week 35 '18 reflection

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I've changed my mind, again. There is just something about paper, isn't there? I don't know what it is, but every time I tell myself I can replace it, it comes back to remind me that I miss it. I wonder if there is anything software can do to bridge that gap? What can digital products do to appeal to the senses in a tactile way? 

Anyway, I'm reading a ton right now! And it's all because I started reading physical books again. I am also way more organized and on top of my goals. And it's all because I bought a Moleskin and started keeping track of things there. 


In other news, Hannah and I have spent the weekend away from the city in the beautiful Cold Spring. It's nice to get away for a weekend and reevalute things. 

When you're near the end...

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Our greatest threat lies at the finish line. It’s when victory seems inevitable and there’s nothing that can stop you now. It’s when you are the most vulnerable. It’s when you have let your guard down. It’s when your ego steps in and takes over. 

Like a football player dropping the ball right before the goal line to celebrate. Like the Trojans allowing a giant horse into their walls as a token of surrender from the Greeks. Like Odysseus taking a nap when Ithaca was in sight only to have his men open a bag of wind and blow his ship back across the very oceans, they had already sailed. 

There are two forces in the universe: one that wants you to succeed and one that doesn’t. They both know WHEN you’re about to strike gold, to cross the finish line, to be victorious, and they both are telling you two very different things. The first is pleading for you to push a little harder, focus a little more, and be extra cautious near the end. The second is puffing up your ego, turning up the dance music for the celebration party, and telling you to relax; “look! The finish line is in sight!”

You’ve made it this far. Which force are you listening to? Now is not the time to nap, celebrate, or prematurely drop the ball. Those can all come later, but not yet. Not until you have crossed the finish line. 

Why?

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If you look back at your life, there is a pattern. Seemingly random, interconnected dots that have created a portrait of you who are today. There are things you have really enjoyed doing and things you have not. You have been “drawn” to learn important things, acquire certain skills, and meet specific people. Through experience and time, you have developed into a person influenced by the things you have done, seen, heard, and thought. The accumulation of these thoughts and experiences have translated into your “why.” 

Why do you get up in the morning? What causes you to do what you do? Why do you like or dislike certain things? What motivates you to push harder, improve, or stand up for something? 

Taking some time to reflect on your “why” is one of the most important things you can do. Sunday’s are great days to do this. If you know your “why” you can lead, teach, inspire, mentor, innovate, disrupt, learn, create, save.

You may already know your “why” but what does that look like in terms of your goals? Articulating your “why” can help guide you to set proper goals and design your life. Try going to some quiet place today instead of turning on Netflix to write down why you do what you do. Take even more time to set some goals for yourself. Then put those goals somewhere you can see them every day. You will be rewarded for your efforts. 

A case for micromanagement

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I like micromanagement. I think it gets a bad rap. To me, it shows my boss cares. Because, here's the thing, when it comes down to it, everyone micromanages to a certain extent. 

Here it goes: what does it even mean to 'micromanage?' Getting involved in too many projects? Not delegating things because you think you can do it better? Worrying too much about the tiny details instead of seeing the big picture? Wanting every decision and every action ran by you first? Yes, I would agree that this is what micromanagement looks like. But I would also argue that even the managers you love, the ones who let you be autonomous, the bosses who aren't jerks about things, still micromanage—they just do it more tastefully. 

It's the inadequate managers out there—who like hearing the sound of their own voices and just like to say stuff for the sake of sounding right—who give micromanagement a bad name. Because when they micromanage, it's noticeable. It becomes the scapegoat. 

"But my manager doesn't micromanage." Of course, it doesn't seem like it. That's what good leaders do. They know how to not only make you be successful but also feel successful. They don't take credit for your successes even though they deserve way more than they receive! Make no mistake about it, they are still tracking your progress. They, no doubt, know your numbers, understand your goals, are involved in the day-to-day activities of your work, take over when there is something you don't know how to do yet, and help you with the major decisions that need to be made. In other words, they are caring...and managing...at the micro level.

Every manager I've had has micromanaged me. Some, I've appreciated it, and others, I've thought it was annoying and condescending—but the difference had nothing to do with how much or how little they were involved in my work—it all had to do with how they approached it (which usually stemmed from their motivations). 

Don't confuse engagement for micromanagement. Maybe you do know everything. Maybe your way of doing things is better. Maybe if people would leave you alone you could make it happen. And, maybe, there's a job out there for you...maybe.