Build In the Cost

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Part of living in reality is accepting all its shortcomings and inefficiencies. All the inputs you may work hard to put into a system – materials, technology, talent, management, etc. – will not work at maximum efficiency or ever be balanced.

When your systems become more complex, there is going to be more leakage and failure points. And a good system designer will account for the cost that comes from trying to make a workflow or system work.

That cost plus comes from the dependencies and statistical fluctuations which are a natural part of life.

People get sick. A vendor doesn’t deliver goods you need on time. A strategy missed the mark. You get a software virus.

Every working day has these types of statistical fluctuations and it has an impact on how your business and workflow will operate.

It’s why accounting for the costs that are natural from everyday work as well as Old Man Murphy is so important to consider. You have to have margin that’s based on the inevitable inefficiencies which will impact your results.

I think it makes operational efficiency somewhat of an art as well. You don’t know what will impact your well-intended and well-laid plans. You can only know that there are places in your workflow that will take a hit, sometimes sporadically, and other times regularly.

When it comes to getting business results, the cost side of your systems are real and if your expectations can have a buffer to what is ideal, you can rely on a lot of flex in your outputs. This is especially true with people-dependent processes and systems.

I like to think about contingency planning along with continuous improvement in known areas that will require support at untimely intervals. This not only keeps you from being blindsided, but you manage the risk from an imperfect world we all have to tolerate.

Consider where your costs will arise and how it impacts your overall results, whether that is in selling, demand generation or operational workflow. Mitigating that cost can go a long way towards allowing for continuity and sanity.

Fooled by Heroics

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We do not tend to give compliments or recognition for, “Look what I prevented from happening.” It’s simply not how our brains work.

Yes, we have heard the wisdom of Benjamin Franklin, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” However, who do you observe living this out consistently?

When crises happens, it’s an opportunity for heroes to shine. This is where heroes can extinguish the threat, problem or failure and get things on track again. It’s a time when such big spirits can shine.

But what if your business or life requires continuous heroics? Is that a good thing? Do you keep applauding when your problems finally get solved? Or do you have a downer?

I am not quite sure why people have neuroses. Some people really love drama. Others get off on the adrenaline of all hands on deck. Many in sales believe month’s end has to be extremely high energy.

Maybe life is too boring without drama. We like entertainment and movies because we can escape into some fantasy of plots, villains, world catastrophes, natural disasters and so many other problems that get solved in a couple hours. Maybe we all secretly want to be divas and actors saving the day.

We like the score to be close. It’s why we tune in at the last minute shot or crunch time in the bottom of the 9th. The pressure and the glory of winning is right there clear as can be.

Perhaps, our businesses become a platform to act out our repressed heroic desires. Who knows. I see it everyday, and I know people like heroics.

But, I’m not impressed. It’s easy to get fooled by heroics. And, don’t get me wrong, we can’t account for every scenario that can happen. However, if there’s a pattern happening, isn’t it worth subduing?

If you keep having missed deadlines for customers, do you simply ratchet up the effort? How is that building a business or culture?

Problem solving can be done far ahead of time, especially with repeatable events. You can ask simple questions:

How many times have I seen this issue play out?

What is the root cause of the problem?

Can I solve it? Do I know someone who can solve it?

Can I test my assumption in reality? What happens?

Heroics are simply not sustainable. It can do a lot for the ego and solicit attaboy’s, but it’s simply a cost at the expense of growth, scaling, and resource allocation. If you spend so much energy in crisis mode, how can you get to the good stuff such as imagining double the business or exploring exotic places or enjoying relationships fully?

Don’t get fooled by heroics. They feel great, but good businesses and people are on to better things.

How You Get Conviction

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Believe nothing. Move with the popular notions of your peers. Play it safe. Fit in.

That’s a good way to blend in without much change. It can work well as a strategy for work that is predictable and factory-oriented. In fact, most people are seeking this kind of stasis.

However, the reality of today doesn’t leave such a convenient existence as much of an option. Technology and people’s behaviors keep pushing the envelope and create new normals. And, if you are not careful, you can become disoriented, marginalized and irrelevant.

You have to have conviction.

It is the awareness, decisiveness and deeply embedded belief in what you do or value that matters most. You have to believe that it works or is true.

You need conviction to survive.

You need conviction to be valuable.

You need conviction to get results.

It’s a rare quality. And the key to getting conviction is struggle. That’s right,

Struggle = Conviction

When you struggle through work or hard problems, you gain insights that bystanders and observers simply cannot appreciate without going through the same journey.

Try doing something like building your own website on a server. You make a lot of mistakes as you learn. You understand how IT works with FTP uploads, server security, blank home pages, and all sorts of tripwires and pieces that make a site work. Albeit, it’s easier today than ever. The information and instructions are readily available. And when you experience the failure along the way, you have to keep choosing to push towards your goal until you eventually launch something.

This is true for anything that is complex. You have to struggle through the work. Along the way you give yourself a gift. You know what is true and why. You gain conviction.

So many opportunities are within reach for anyone with initiative. And getting conviction in leadership, technology, organizational behavior, selling, projects, and everything else we deem as worthy work is critical. You know that you know that you know.

What Moves the Needle?

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Most of the people I know are in a daze. Life is simply overwhelming. Sure, we have revolutionary technology that increases our productivity. However, are we really more productive?

We can push more information and work around like never before. But much of what is being pushed around is noise. It often doesn’t have much to do with the goal.

I’ve often stated that most things don’t matter. If you start with that premise, your mind can focus. You can cut through the onslaught of demands and unimportant projects that can suck your energy, time and attention. You can redirect your mind and work to what does matter. And my guess is that this is a very short list of items.

You have to honestly ask, “What moves the needle?”

For this, you have to figure out what your goal is. What do you want to exist that is not reality today? That goal has to stay front and center. Let’s say you have a business and want to make money. Here would be some things that don’t matter:

  • Coffees with people that cannot say, “Yes.”
  • Reading endless newsletters and emails that don’t change you
  • Traveling all over and making no deals
  • Working endlessly on your website look and layout
  • Organizing your office supplies

These are simply busy activities without a relationship to the goal. While we can be blinded by activities and effort, it does not move the needle. Wastefulness happens often because of our ability to rationalize and delude ourselves. Richard Feynman said it best,

“The first principle is that you must not fool yourself and you are the easiest person to fool.”

I think it’s fine to do all sorts of fun activities. However, if you want to move the needle, then there are likely a few things that matter above all others and those are the activities that must be considered as top priority. With the goal of money-making for a business owners, it could look like:

  • Thinking specifically and creatively about creating value for customers
  • Spending time with the best customers
  • Talking to ten people a day that can say, “Yes.”
  • Developing ideas to help solve problems for people that can say, “Yes.”
  • Making selling a process that is repeatable and specific for a team

Those are examples that could focus your thinking and schedule so you don’t fool yourself. It’s an input/output approach to money-making. Do things that matter and move the needle.

It sounds simple, but we have to think about where we put our attention these days, lest the pull of things that simply don’t matter sucks all the hours out of our day and energy from our souls.

Consider making a short list of what moves the needle. Can you identify 3 things you need to do that moves the needle in your pursuits that have to be done above all else consistently?

You Could Probably Make Much More

You are never stuck. You just choose what you are worth by the value you decide to give others. A little imagination and effort can probably make you much more in the way of money or reward. Consider this simple story for today.

Steven T. FLORIO Vice Chairman of Advance Magazine Group

One day, when I was about twelve, I was down in my carpenter grandfather’s basement workshop when he said, “You should start earning your own money. You clean up this wood shop and I’ll pay you what it’s worth.”

So I spent the next three hours making that place shine. I swept up all the wood shavings; I wiped down every piece of equipment and made it gleam. I stacked all the wood neatly.

Then I found my grandfather and we went back to the shop. He looked around for what seemed like a very long time. Then he nodded slowly and said, “Fantastic!”

You can imagine how proud I felt. Still nodding his approval, he reached into his pocket and handed me my wages—a quarter! Twenty-five cents.

A quarter?! I couldn’t believe it. Even in 1960 a quarter for three hours of work was nothing to an American kid.

He said, “I want you to learn something about the world.”

“In the real world, cleaning up is useful, but it’s not worth much. Anyone can do it. It’s worth, maybe, a quarter.”

“Now, if you had built something useful with these tools, a bookcase maybe—something that was functional—that would have been worth a bit more.”

“But if you had envisioned something new, something no one had ever thought of before, and if you had built that, pouring your heart and your soul into it, well, that would have been worth a lot of money. Remember that.”

And I have. To this day, I still carry that quarter.

It reminds me of the importance of envisioning and building something excellent, something that will last long after you are gone.

And that kind of vision and love of craft is not something you can get from most businesses. You certainly don’t get it from a business plan or a five-year projection. You get it from your heart. It’s got to be something you feel in your heart. That’s where it all begins.

Trump, Donald J.. Trump: The Way to the Top: The Best Business Advice I Ever Received (Kindle Locations 831-847). The Crown Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Can you consider doing something more and make yourself worth more? Too often the thing that is holding us back is our own determination and imagination.

 

The True Entrepreneur is a Doer

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“The critical ingredient is getting off your butt and doing something. It’s as simple as that. A lot of people have ideas, but there are few who decide to do something about them now. Not tomorrow. Not next week. But today. The true entrepreneur is a doer, not a dreamer.” ~ Nolan Bushnell, founder of Atari Computer

I know true entrepreneurs. I love them. They move to action decisively. That critical ability to generate ideas and act on them quickly is a true separation. It creates energy, momentum and something out of nothing.

It’s creativity in action when you see entrepreneurship.

I like to play things loose and see what happens. I like to generate ideas, lots of them. And I turn those ideas into movement. I like to get the universe to react from some action I create. It is what works for my entrepreneurship by doing something quickly and clearly.

Most of my ideas are not perfect. But action helps perfect the concepts. Here are some ways I start the process of moving from ideas to action in my entrepreneurial approach:

  • Sharing my idea with my audience and looking for reactions
  • Tapping my network and starting conversations
  • Building requirements documents
  • Booking a meeting with a person that can move my idea forward
  • Finding a platform to start posting, positioning and engaging
  • Opening a loop so I get dissatisfied
  • Closing a deal
  • Creating a new service offering and pitching it

I like the challenge of making ideas happen, and the more action that is clear, the more fun it becomes to create value in the world.

There are so many resources, technology and people to make entrepreneurship happen. Leading is the key, and that starts with Nolan Bushnell’s insight that action is a critical habit. Anything short of that is simply dreaming.

The Problem with Infrequency

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How do you know the price of something?

Ultimately, it’s an agreement between the seller and buyer. You don’t have to pay the price. You could go elsewhere and get what you want cheaper. Or you could forego what you want if it’s not a need.

Buyers are at a disadvantage on infrequent items. If you only buy a home every seven years, are you calibrated to the pricing and all the fees along the way? Something you do once every seven years compared to sellers along the way that do dozens or hundreds of deals a month makes them an expert and you an amateur.

The same goes for the infrequency of buying a car, college tuition, health care, and a number of items that we run across in life’s journey and demands.

On frequent items like gas, cell phone service and eggs, it’s easy to dial into the price. You see it, touch it and interact with the pricing so much that there is less of a debate between the buyer and the seller.

It’s interesting to watch people get more excited about a 20 cent raise in gas prices and miss the upswing of university rates. We pay attention to things we frequent more easily.

Perhaps being scarce in attention can help you lever up as a seller. Your service could morph or integrate with other offerings. Or you could work in an innovative, infrequent purchase area to have more pull on pricing.

You could also be a price-focused hustler lowering your operational and delivery costs so that the language of price becomes collaborative with your buyers while you move the cost needle down.

Infrequency has its rewards for sellers and finding a game where you can assign pricing based on that value and advantage might be worth exploring in this vast, hyper-competitive marketplace.

A Year’s Worth of Living

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I got to see an unbelievable human being last night with my family, Alex Honnold. If you have not gotten to see some of his work climbing daunting mountain faces, including being the only person to free solo climb Yosemite’s El Capitan simply with his shoes and a chalk bag, be sure to catch his incredible feat on Youtube:

One of the reasons I love living in the mountains is the accessibility of the outdoors and spirit of mountain people. We are always doing something fun and always living with adventure.

Honnold shared his recent trips out to Kenya and climbing Mt. Poi in the North Face Speaker Series. We saw him vomiting climbing Mt. Kenya at over 17,000 feet with his friends. And he had that wonderful perspective,

You get to have a year’s worth of living in two or three weeks.

He had that intentionality and freedom which gets all of us onlookers and fans dreaming bigger. So inspiring and true to hear how he has lived his life and pushed himself.

I’m not sure any of us can get away with excuses on being stuck in the doldrums of life, not when there are people like Alex Honnold out there exploring, pushing and challenging themselves.

Playing it safe, checking off time until we die, doing the known things – these can all be comfortable. Yet there’s a crazy, alluring and adventurous life out there waiting to be opened if we simply make choices to get out of our comfort zones.

With 8 billion people on this giant earth, I’m glad we have those that push the limits and help us dream. Total respect and kudos to a young man that has done unthinkable things and lives fully. It’s got me stoked for sure.

Avoidance is Not a Skill

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Are you comfortable with confrontation? Have you ever thought that the ability and willingness to be confrontational can be a differentiator?

I think when Thoreau observed that, “Most men live lives of quiet desperation,” he was commenting on their inability to confront reality, situations and people when they would be served well.

And in our indoctrinated, secular humanistic culture, we are continually pushed towards a form of tolerance that causes individuals to lose conviction. When there’s the trade between truth and tolerance, our culture overvalues the latter.

Tolerance can confuse people and makes avoidance a default action. Instead of talking about something important or addressing issues before they snowball, we lack the guts to push into something when it is required.

I think you get much better results when you are clear, know what you want and bring up discussions at the right time. Playing in the shadows and avoiding hard things when they need to be dealt with or surfaced won’t get you very far.

At the end of the day, the truth will be validated by the results you see and get. If you see a pattern and abundance of positive results, then keep going. If you are not seeing results or find yourself frustrated, then if you want more, you have to change approaches.

I can’t read people’s minds, nor do I care to. I want to talk about issues at the forefront so we can solve problems in a timely and efficient way. That requires candor and confrontation. And I’m comfortable with those interactions. It’s a form of leadership.

The great thing is that if you find yourself avoiding issues, when they need to be dealt with or presented, you always have the opportunity to lead. No one is stopping you. It’s risk. But it’s also rewarding, and it’s how people enjoy more results in their lives.

Do you avoid confrontation? Why?

The Terrible Idea of Trying Harder

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It is true that when we find ourselves in a hole, the first thing we should do is stop digging. Sometimes that pull to keep digging or keep trying harder can overwhelm our sensibilities. Instead of being smarter, we simply add horsepower and determination. It’s a terrible idea.

When something’s not working despite your honest, forthright efforts, the last thing to do is try harder. Better to think. Think of a new way that can yield different results.

We’re not automatons. We can use our brains to bend reality to our desires. So, a bit of strategy to help you in problem solving and getting new kinds of outcomes.

  1. Find space. Sometimes, when you are too close to your problems, it’s hard to see. Get away.
  2. Get a pad and paper. Computers and smartphones can suck you into convergent thinking. When you need creativity, a simple piece of paper and pen can open you up. Doodle for a second. Then do a brain dump. Get your mind to unlock.
  3. Push ideas out. You need to entertain new pathways. Let whatever you think of come out and keep pushing yourself to come up with ideas, no matter how far fetched, that can be considered.
  4. Try something new. Take a look at what came out of your creativity. Push a small action out into the world. Get someone to react. Send an email to a company or person to get a response and move the ball. Action creates momentum.

Sometimes we can get in a rut or we overvalue effort. In the age of automation and ridiculous efficiency, consider the tactical approach more of a commodity. Having clear ideas that stick in reality with creative thinking is what will tend to get results. Changing directions and continuously evaluating are your better assets to nurture.

Can you stop trying harder?