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Decisions decisions

"When you come to a fork in the road, take it!" - Yogi Berra

What the great Yankee was referring to was directions to his house. It's the same distance whether you keep to the right or left.

But the lesson applies to our careers as well. Opportunities will come and go. You'll face difficult decisions. You'll come to forks in the road—one leading you in the right direction and the other, the wrong. Sometimes, you might have to go down the wrong path to know for sure the other one is correct. But, sometimes, both paths lead you to the same place.

Either way, you'll never know until you act. Pick a road, be confident in your decision, and know that (regardless of how many times you have to redirect yourself) it will all work out in the end.

On emails

It's your job to answer emails.

And getting a lot of emails every day is no longer an excuse for not replying. In today's world, it's how you show you care—interestingly enough, it's now something that sets you apart if you're really good at it.

Sure, have boundaries, but even a short reply is better than none at all.

Perks are not culture

Values are culture.

Work environment is culture.

How employees behave is culture.

It starts with hiring better (having a defined process). And it's cultivated when you clearly communicate that culture on a daily basis (in 1:1's, meetings, and through your actions).

More than just rewards, employees are looking for respect, role models, and growth opportunities.

So the next time you're tempted to buy a new ping pong table, consider what steps you've taken already to build a place where people feel valued

Questions to ask during interviews

Instead of asking, “what’s your culture like?”
Ask, “I noticed on the job description, you describe your organization as being a ‘flat’ culture, what does that mean at your company?”

Instead of asking, “what made you want to join the company?”
Ask, “on your LinkedIn, I see you come from a financial services background, what made you want to make the switch?”

Instead of asking, “who are your main competitors?”
Ask, “I read the case study on your website about how your tech differs from ‘x competitor,’ what went into that decision to invest in those specific features?”

Point is, do your homework. Most of the questions people typically ask during interviews can easily be researched. Ask something you can’t find out on their website. Preface your question by mentioning a fact you learned, then dig deeper to gain more clarity. Actively listen to what the hiring manger is saying, show you’re listening by following up with a relevant or related question.

Deadlines on offers—

Love them? Or hate them?

To me, it shows that you know how to make a decision quickly. It says, 'you're our number one choice, are we yours?'

When green meant stop

Until 1925 in NYC, people were used to driving through red stop lights but stopping at green. It was the norm and people were used to it. Until that changed and red became the international color that meant ‘stop.’

That’s the power of an idea. It started when people put their heads together and realized that our brains respond differently to various colors. Then they approached some influential people with viable solutions and, before you knew it, green meant something different than it did a few years earlier.

Ideas are the the lifeblood of organizations and societies alike. Ideas that spread can make or break your current system. And ideas become greater when others build on them.

A hunch

“A feeling or guess based on intuition rather than known facts.”

As recently as a few hundreds years ago, most decisions were based on hunches along with a little bit of data. But now the pendulum has swung to the other side. Now, we are more analytical because we have more access to data. With this reliance on data, however, it seems like we haven’t quite mastered the art of applying the right data to the correct situation. We love data, and that love blinds us (sometimes) to accurate information and, as a result, wisdom. Just because we know what works, statistically, doesn’t mean it will work in this context under these circumstances.

Human judgement, therefore will not and should not ever be replaced. And data certainly should not trump all. The two work hand in hand. Data leads to information which leads to knowledge; as does experience and intuition. Data informs. It improves our judgement which allows our hunches to yield more promising results.

Just because you ‘know’ something doesn’t mean you know it. Trust in something beyond what the data says, what the odds are, or what is popular or widely understood. Believe in something greater—the universe, God, your gut, whatever it is, it somehow already knows.

Deciding where to work

Go where you’re celebrated, not just tolerated.

The average person spends 13 years—over the course of a lifetime—at work.

That’s way too much time spent at places that don’t value what you do. Sometimes, it’s about doubling down and going the extra mile to show your value. Other times, it’s as simple as the decision to choose a new place where you feel like you belong, where you matter.

“Tell me about yourself.”

What they’re really asking is: “why should we hire you?”

Talk about what you are doing right now as it pertains to the role you’re applying for. Dive into some of your past experiences and the skills you’ve picked up along the way. Remember, the hiring manager already has your resume. Keep your stories brief, relax, and tell them why you’d be an irreplaceable member of their team.

The most important part of your interview tomorrow:

Your questions.

Spend more time on thinking of, researching, and crafting well-articulated questions than on any other part of your interview prep.

Engaging questions are what separate the great Podcasters, Interviewers, and Salespeople alike from the good ones. They show you’re interested. They show you know how to prospect and close. They show you care.

Finding a new job is like dating

And sales -

Swipe left, swipe right. Build the top of your funnel by initially scheduling calls with a broad range of prospects.

Until pretty soon you have a good idea of what you’re looking for. Then you find someone that meets most of those requirements you’re hoping for in your next relationship. And they like you back!

What else are you waiting for? At some point you don’t need more data, you need to make a decision.

No job is perfect. No candidate is perfect. Sure, you might find someone with a little more experience or a better background, but they might not like you back as much as this particular opportunity.

Go through whatever process you have to go through to make the right choice, but then decide and love your decision.

Feedback

When a recruiter or hiring manger gives feedback, letting you know they’re moving forward with other candidates, the next move is yours. How will you react? Will you get bitter? Or choose to get better?

News travels fast, especially in tech. If you freak out because you were passed on because of XYZ, don’t be surprised if you start seeing less and less opportunities come your way.

Be humble. Move on. Get better.

Yet, another idea

Chances are you’ve already come up with it.

It’s in there. You’ve thought about it and talked about it long enough. Now it’s time to figure out what to do with it. Because if not you, then who? And if not now, then when?

You know how to make it happen. You’ve seen it done before and you know you can do it well. Don’t worry about the tactics or the logistics, those will take care of themselves. The necessary people and resources tend to show up when we do. 

Just start turning your idea into something beautiful. Start executing. And start today.

Becoming an professional

Everything is difficult before it’s easy. Such is the case for becoming a master of your craft. Because turning pro is a skill. You can learn how to break out of mediocrity and become extraordinary.

But becoming a professional isn’t even the hardest part...

It’s deciding that you have what it takes in the first place.

The three f's

You’ll need all three if you are to accomplish your goals. If you take one out, then you’re only selling yourself short.

Form: shooting a basketball, throwing a dart, playing the violin, riding a bike, writing a book...anyone can improve their form in any skill they are trying to develop. Proper form takes someone who is weak in a particular area and makes them stronger. It allows people who may not be as talented to play at a similar level to people who may be more naturally gifted, but think they don’t need to work on their form. Form is the first step toward mastery.

Focus: if your eye isn’t constantly watching the target, how could you possibly hit the mark? Focus drives motivation. It wakes you up early in the morning and helps you push through your doubts throughout the day. Focus consists of your attitude and approach. Do you cheerfully do what’s necessary? What other people won’t do? Are you humble through the ups and determined through the downs?

Follow through: persistent patience. Consistent performance. Relentless generosity. It’s your continual effort. Repetition is the mother of all learning. It’s also the key to achieving your dreams. Keep doing the things you should be doing—day in and day out. Compound interest is the most powerful force in the universe, it can either be your asset or your enemy. Don’t underestimate the power of small, simple steps. 

Improve your form. Recalibrate your focus. Remember to follow through.

Lasting impression

Just because you have someone download an app or give them a punch card doesn’t mean they’ll keep coming back. It might be the popular thing to do, but that’s probably reason enough to not do it.

A real loyalty program, one that actually works, is one that creates a lasting impression. We, humans, are drawn to impactful experiences. That’s what keeps us coming back. We are loyal because we feel part of something, not because we’re being bought.

Try this for your loyalty program: get to know your customers. Learn their names. Smile. Be interested in them. It’s okay to treat different customers differently but respect everyone equally. You do what you do for the advocates, not the haters. So don’t get offended or change course because of a few negative reviews.

The experience you curate is the story you tell. And the level of success your loyalty program attains depends on how well your story connects with others.

What will your story be?

Medium matters

Sometimes, all it takes is a change in medium.

For the past two years I’ve been posting (almost) everyday on my blog. My goal never has been to generate revenue or gain a massive following, but rather, write about the things I observe on a daily basis. But I’d be lying if I said I didn’t look at the analytics. Because one day I’m going to start selling stuff and, of course, I’m going to need people to sell to. Long story short—this week I saw an awesome spike in subscribers, followers, page views and traffic in general. All it took was a shift in how I produce content. I simply started writing my posts onto Linkedin (in plain text) and hit publish. Some of my posts saw 100x the engagement of my next-best performing posts. It’s been really fun and I’ve already seen some great opportunities come in.

Moral of the story here, location matters. You might be an incredible singer, athlete, actor, writer, coach, but if you never use your talent, no one will ever know. And, even if you are using your talent, but in front of an unappreciative audience or in a close-minded environment, you may never see real improvements or exciting opportunities come your way.

Medium also matters. You might be doing all the right things but just using the wrong tools. A/B test it. Experiment. Keep failing until you get it right.


On a related note, it’s taken us a few months, but Hannah and I are finally starting to take more advantage of living in the city. We are visiting more museums, going to more events, and trying new experiences. But it’s exhausting. New Yorkers love work. They take great pride in working hard and long hours. That’s the environment we are in so we, too, are ‘keeping up with the New Yorkers.’ But we have also realized that that’s where we are in life. This is our NYC/work phase. And we’re embracing it.


What I’m reading and learning:

Book I'm reading: The Liar in Your Life: The Way to Truthful Relationships. I’ve been on this psychology kick recently. I find these kinds of books fascinating. It’s about deception. But it’s also about the culture in which we live. A notable quote so far: “strangers lie to each other about three times in the first ten minutes of meeting each other.” It makes you think about how ‘we’re all just playing the game.’

Something I’m trying: Doubling down on my content creation. Linkedin is for tips, tricks, and trends in the world of hiring, recruiting, and organizational culture, my blog will continue to be focusing on ‘goals, mindfulness’ and ‘getting really good at what you do.’

Managers and leaders

It’s important to note that workplaces need both managers and leaders. However, the problem is, people who are in management positions also think that makes them a leader. By the same token, people who aren’t in management positions believe they aren’t qualified to lead.

The thing is, leadership is a choice, regardless of title.

Managers tell people what to do. They incentivize and employ tactics to get their employees to be a little more productive today than they were yesterday. Their motivations for doing their job well lie in climbing the corporate ladder.

Leaders lead. They take ownership. They have a vision for where they’d like to go, equip their people with the right tools to make something happen, and empower them to get stuff done.

Leaders take responsibility, managers take the credit. That’s why there are much fewer leaders than managers.

Choose to lead.

Good software

Life’s too short to waste your time with subpar software. There are just too many options out there these days to have bad software slow you down or become a headache.

Here’s the thing, if you’re in a meeting and the head of the table feels the need to thank a manager or an administrator for their recent efforts in implementing a particular software—then you’re using the wrong software!

Yes, it should be that intuitive to start using immediately. There should be no “implementation period.” We’re better than that. We can demand more. There are plenty of tools on the market where you can just sign up and start working: SlackTrelloBasecampTeachableInsightly, to name a few.

The user experience is the most important experience. Don’t feel like you have to reinvent the wheel. Because we don’t care if your vehicle can get from point ‘a’ to point ‘b’ in less time. We care about how long it takes to figure out how to make the vehicle, with your newly “reinvented wheels,” turn on, let alone go anywhere.

Instead, make the wheel last a little longer. Make it feel like it’s not even there. Make a wheel that doesn’t require a full support team, that doesn’t need maintenance every 6 weeks, that doesn’t make you wish you’d never purchased it in the first place.

One more thing, if you feel like you are being bribed to buy software, then stop right there. You’re already being bought to believe the experience is something it’s not.

All motivation is self motivation

It has to be, eventually.

You can coach yourself. At least, that should be your aim. Because the sooner you can get to the point where you know what motivates you and what doesn’t, the quicker you can not only coach yourself but begin to lead others.

What I’m getting at here is that we are becoming too reliant on external motivation. Make 30 phone calls today or your boss will hound you. Continue working late so that you can get a promotion. But if we’ve learned anything from Coach Knight or Chef Ramsay it’s that our current system isn’t built to depend on external motivation—and neither are we. If you’re constantly looking for rewards and recognition, you’ll never find enough to fill your cup. If you feel the need to cc your manager on every email so that they trust you’re working, then you’re missing the point (and so is your organization if that’s what they expect).

The point is, the world needs people who would do what they do even if it wasn’t their job. It also tends to favor those who can find that motivation inside.