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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 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.

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.

References

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When a prospective employer asks for references, they aren’t looking for more information, they’re seeking validation. They have a feeling they’ve made the right decision, but (usually out of formality) they want someone else to tell them that as well.

Every day, we’re forced to make decisions with very little information. And certainly after 3 conversations, you’re not going to know everything about your candidate. Checking references, therefore, acts as a smokescreen. It gives you more time and more information. However, the new information you receive is random (some people exaggerate, some people lie), and the time it takes you to check those references is wasted (when you could be spending that time with your candidate).

More information isn’t the answer—certainly not from people who skew the data (aka, references).

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. 

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! 

Is it worth it?

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The answer is yes, if you want it to be. Or rather, if you let it. 

But, then again, that would depend on the destination. And, in that regard, sometimes it's not so much about the destination as it is the journey. The effort itself can be the reward, not just worth the reward. 

Becoming popular

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If something is popular, does that make it better?

Popular is rarely a sign of significance.

And the race to becoming popular is a race to the bottom. If you are chasing popular, then you are focusing on the things that don’t matter. Which, in turn, means you aren’t creating something or doing something worthwhile. 

Because in a popularity contest, the only thing that matters, is you. It makes you selfish, win or lose. And selfishness, without a doubt, will make you miserable. It’s a life of compromises. Meaning you will do anything to please the crowd—things you normally wouldn’t do. You begin to live a life that’s not your own. It corrupts who you are, eats away at your dignity, and turns the work you do into a factory-made product, not art. 

Instead, focus on connecting with people. Develop your relationships. Become a person of value. And serve. Doing these things won’t necessarily make you popular, but they will always pay off—for the giver and the receiver.  

9 times out of 10...

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People will say no.

Something will not go according to plan.

Your efforts will go unnoticed.

But should that matter?  

Because what happens when people actually say yes? When things finally go according to plan? When you ultimately get what you want? Will you be ready? 

Here's the thing, you never know when that 1 time out of 10 will happen. So why not do what you need to do and do it well 10 times out of 10?

Because it's actually easier, yes, easier to do something 100% of the time than 90% of the time. You get into a groove and things just flow. 

No more backtracking. No more procrastinating. No more analyzing. More doing. More acting. More doing it right the first time. 

On getting referrals

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"Sure, it's important to you, but why is it important to me?" 

Whether they realize it or not, that's what's going through their head when you ask them for referrals. 

Why would people give you referrals? First, is what you have to offer worth offering? We are literally exposed to thousands of brands and services every day, what makes yours so incredible? Start there, because maybe it's not...maybe there's something you need to change. 

Second, make it easy for someone to bring up what you do. You do this by being incredibly generous with your marketing efforts. Free content, clever packaging, making it specific and relevant. Then, of course, it's easy to bring something up when it's already helped you. You're wearing it, you benefited from it, you use it (or go to it) every day.

Finally, be the type of person people want to work with. There's a reason why software companies invest so much money in salespeople. They may be selling machines and robots, but it's the relationships that matter most. Be deserving of people passing your name along, whether they are or aren't; if you do the right thing, others will eventually notice.

The easiest way to help people understand that you are worthy of their referral is to tell a story. Be someone they can relate to.

The best way to get people to refer you is to back up your story with admirable action. 

 

Here's to saying yes

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Saying 'yes' gets a bad rap. It's the popular thing for entrepreneurs to counsel people to learn to say 'no.' But the thing is, saying 'yes' leads to way more opportunities than saying 'no' ever will. 

Saying 'no' doesn't get you out of your comfort zone, saying 'yes' will. 

Saying 'no' is valuable when it comes to personal principles and specific commitments, but for everything else, saying 'yes' will only open doors and push you to exceed your own limitations. 

If you have a lot on your plate, that's a good problem to have. So say 'yes' to your clients, your boss, your spouse, your kids, your friends. Say 'yes' to things that will push you in the direction you want to go. 

'No' is a powerful word. Save it for those rare occasions when you need to stand by your values. But saying 'no' should never be your default answer. Try saying 'yes' to everything. See where it elevates you. 

 

 

Reverse engineer it

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What do people want to read? Write an article about that. 

What does your dream team look like? Recruit the first person.

What is a product people wish they had? Outline it. Sketch it out. Then begin building it.

What would your ideal career look like? Start from the end, work your way back to where you are today, plan it out into steps, start by executing step one. Don't stop until you've accomplished all the steps.

What about your life? If you knew you couldn't fail, what would it look like? Where would you live? What would you be doing on daily basis? Dream a little here. Imagine every detail. Write it all down. Start with the easiest thing on the list. It's more doable than you think.

Of false imperatives

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When something seems like an emergency, it's usually because we are ill prepared. Our anxiety flairs and we turn something small into something urgent. Project deadlines turn into do-or-die scenarios. Simple assignments become mission-critical ventures. 

It's easy to become emotional. We are, after-all, emotional beings. But this way of doing things never scales and is certainly not sustainable.

When everything becomes urgent, nothing receives the kind of attention it deserves. 

Take your time and prepare for what is to come. It's usually not as bad as you make it out in your mind to be. Do the reading. Do the research. Slow down so that you get it right. 

I changed my mind

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I watched this video today on a social experiment some people were conducting. They waited near a booth where you can buy lottery tickets. Then, after people bought their ticket, they would walk up to them and offer to pay them twice as much as they paid for that same lottery ticket. About 9/10 people declined! Most of them were convinced that they had purchased the lucky ticket. When asked why they wouldn't take the deal, many of the 'future lottery winners' included in their response something along the lines of "well, imagine how devastating that would be if I sold YOU the winning ticket!"

How often do we as human beings fall into the trap of convincing ourselves that we are right? That we know what we're doing? Even more, how many times have we seduced ourselves into thinking that our mental efforts can impact external events? We fall in love with an idea. We walk into a meeting with a closed mind. We tell ourselves that no offer is good enough to change our minds.

I have found that the people who are most open to changing their minds are those who are experiencing something new/different. They have either started school, moved to a new town, started a new job, they continually read about new ideas, they recently made a big purchase, or experienced a life-changing event—something that did enough to shake up their world—at least before they start to experience a diminishing return on their current situation. 

I have also found that if you are the first to be vulnerable and either admit that you were wrong or that you changed your mind, others will feel more comfortable doing the same. Start with little things. You read something, believed something was some way, then you experienced something different and decided to change your mind. 

The key here is to not keep going back and forth. Be confident in your decision but humble enough to say that you were wrong. That you learned something that made you rethink the solution. 

You're either right or you're wrong. If you're like most people, you're probably right more than you're wrong. But something incredible starts to happen when leaders admit that they made a mistake—when they tell others that they changed their minds—things start getting accomplished, goals are achieved, and the culture in which this is all happening improves. 

As with most things, if you still think you're right, give it some time. If you can look back after 6 months, or a year and can still confidently state that you were right, kudos to you, learn something from it and understand what it was about that thing that made you choose correctly. But please, take a closer look. If you were wrong, then you were wrong. Don't beat yourself up about it, learn from it.

The person who is wrong, but from it gains important knowledge, has a significant advantage over the person who is 'always right.' Use being wrong to your advantage. It's not a bad thing to change your mind. It's noble. It shows that you love to learn, even if it means from your own mistakes. It means you want to win. It means you're going to be right when it counts. 

 

Managing expectations

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Summers are for barbecuing. Tonight was the perfect kind of night for some roof-top grilling. We brought the vegetables, and our friends provided the tilapia and drinks. 

There were two flavor options for drinks: lemon and cranberry. Without really looking, I cracked open the lemon expecting a sweet, tangy rush of lemon goodness, only to experience the dull, diluted, flavorless wannabe lemonade—lemon-flavored sparkling water! 

It's not that I never had sparkling water before, it's that I was expecting something else than what was delivered. 

And that's the thing about expectations, isn't it? Expectations are usually graded on the curve. You expect water, I give you lemon seltzer, your expectations change, they reset. You eat ramen your whole life, then I introduce you to real ramen, your standard for what good ramen tastes like changes. You then move to Japan—what once blew you away becomes the new standard. 

Low expectations are no good. They make it seem like something is happening when, in reality, nothing has changed. Expectations that are too high also present a challenge. You will always be expected to exceed them. Nothing, therefore, will ever be good enough. You may never be content with anything.

Here's the best way I know how to properly manage expectations: first, understand what expectations are. They need to be internally driven. They need to come from you. It's better to go into something with no expectations than someone else's. Second, good expectations are well-thought-out. They align with our hopes and our dreams. They aren't merely wishes conjured up on the whimsical thought. They represent who we are, where we intend to go, and who we anticipate becoming (given we follow the principles we establish for ourselves). Third, having great expectations is the last thing that is stopping you from turning pro. I can almost promise you that your expectations are too low, not the other way around. Great expectations allow you to explore what you never thought was possible, discover something inside yourself that has been hiding for far too long, and become the person your best-self would expect you to become. 

But those great expectations don't just come. You'll need some help. Help from people who not only understand the purpose of properly managing your expectations but also realize the importance and the value of setting your own expectations. These rare mentors won't set your expectations but will ask the right questions, lead by example, and know how to inspire you so that the expectations you set are truly great. And if you feel like those people who are closest to you now aren't meeting your expectations, maybe it's time you surround yourself with other people who care enough to help you dig deeper. Because there is nothing more valuable than having someone in your life who shares your vision, who helps you open your eyes to the possible, who expects a lot from you because they believe in you. 

Getting to quality

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Most of the time, quantity isn't the point, is it?

The point is to be relevant and to matter. But here's the thing, in order to matter, to be important someway or somehow, we need to first figure out what works. And I think there is really only one way to figure out what works, and that's to do a lot of things that don't work. 

So...

Could it be that the secret to quality, is first quantity? 

The trick to writing a good business plan

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Write a bad business plan, execute it, review the results and your efforts. Write a better one. 

Don't overthink it.

Otherwise, you might miss out on an opportunity to see opportunity. 

This pattern for writing a good business plan also seems applicable to other projects we take on.  

"Put your blinders on"

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—at least that's what it feels like sometimes walking around New York City.

Everyone just goes about, minding their own business. I do it, too. It's difficult to pay attention to the details when you are so overloaded with information. Which is why the ability to notice things is rapidly growing in its demand. 

We aren't as easily astonished as we used to be. Messages are louder. Signs are brighter. Stages are bigger. But the world slows down when we do. When we can learn to take a step back to see the broader view, we gain a significant advantage. Context matters. Perspective is everything. 

Being a skilled observer isn't just about paying attention, it's about how much you are seeing. And in order to see something others can't, you're going to have to look for it. That's how you notice things. That's how you get to the point where you can see things (details, trends, nuances) that others can't (or won't). That's how you build something worth building. It's an active process, not a passive one. 

So take off your blinders, because it's truly amazing how much you can see when you are actually looking.