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.

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?

Forget Being Well-Rounded

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I see people every day in business lost on what they should or can do. The old rules where you were a good boy or girl and advanced up a ladder doesn’t play out much today. You can’t simply rest on your laurels and hope someone notices enough to develop a career path for you.

In addition, we have this amazing world of access. You can find out what opportunities exist, and get transparency into jobs far away with ventures of all sizes and shapes. And if you research, investigate and talk to people, you see less of a correlation between formal education and credentials to the jobs that they take on. People are continually reinventing themselves because of necessity.

One strategy for talent has been to be well-rounded. Learning and doing a lot without focusing too much in one area was a conventional approach.

The problem is that you are competing against the world now. Someone looking for talent can find that person who is sharp, not well- rounded.  Sharp skills in areas are desirable because we have the options to keep finding what we are looking for out there readily and we want execution.

We pay disproportionately for top golfers vs. mediocre talent. Same goes for executives that have a special skill or all that cream we see rising to the top.

I think in a flatter world that moves extremely fast, you should forget about being well-rounded. Its better to be sharp and be extremely good at those chosen areas where your competition can’t touch you. It’s a way of standing out and letting your beacon of talent distinguish you when people are looking for solutions that get results fast.

If you find the carpet pulled out from under your feet, or if you can anticipate your comfortable position changing in the next year or so, then how about getting sharper in an area?

  1. Take an inventory of all the things you like to do.
  2. Pick one to move your skills, knowledge and ability to the next level.
  3. Find projects and customers that will pay for this one talent now. Do the research where to find them and put your shingle out.
  4. Execute.
  5. Promote your work.

Get that reputation that you stand out and are sharp in an area.

I’m not sure people have much choice otherwise in a hypercompetitive, accessible world of options. It beats obscurity.

Steve Martin Taught Me to Think 9 Lives

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I grew up watching Steve Martin as The Jerk, a Dirty Rotten Scoundrel, Roxanne, Father of the Bride and a traveler in Planes, Trains and Automobiles. He has that brilliant wit and timing that has made us roll over in laughter for decades and I couldn’t believe he was still performing at 71.

That’s a night pic at the Starlight Theater in Kansas City and Steve Martin has been ripping bluegrass on the banjo. He played with Steep Canyon Rangers in several sets and then spun off on a combination of humor and solo picking.

At 71 he shared all his accumulated talents as an entertainer and we were simply enthralled. The reflections on life and career with his friend, Martin Short, made for laughs and delights as we watched them use sarcasm and underhanded humor to shine a light on each other’s accomplishments.

I kept thinking how lucky I was to sit and behold a life’s worth of mastery in so many areas. He truly kept reinventing himself. Sometimes, there were roles to fill. Other times, there was simply curiosity and passion leading Steve Martin to the next thing.

Not a lot of people want to change or explore as much, but with how the world is continually moving on a blistering pace, we don’t have much choice. The things we are doing today matter little in the future that is relentlessly put on us.

But, I do think there are more than inspiring lessons that Steve Martin shares. I think you can find his upcoming shows at stevemartin.com. Here are some thoughts I took away:

  1. Keep expanding your core. Humor and wit were Steve Martin’s core talent. He started there young and went to stand-up, movies, and any other outlet to express his art. He practiced and refined his core talent relentlessly and made that his springboard to opportunities.
  2. Package and repackage. Movies require a certain approach. So do stand-up comedy routines, partnering, music and juggling displays. Ultimately, storytelling within the context of the medium makes for new artistic expressions. There’s always new ways to present your talent.
  3. Live out your 9 lives. If you try a lot of things there are going to be flops. That’s expected and ok. What you are doing today will not necessarily be the same thing you do in a year. Keep exploring and expanding.
  4. Stay tuned in. Though Steve Martin is old, he uses Twitter and other social media. He creates and distributes. He teams up with Martin Short and puts together a baseline theme that reflects on the past rather than is contemporary in content. He’s tuned into himself and where he is at and the world around him and what is available to use.
  5. Remember where you came from. Your baseline are the hard times, struggles and lessons that got you down the road. Go back to them to remain humble and keep thinking bigger by knowing you can always do it again.

If you get a chance to see his show, I would highly recommend it. He’s a treat to the world. I’m glad I got to see a history of work in the flesh and learn some great lessons about 9 lives.

I Want to Grow Opportunities with Apps

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I saw this recent statistic to date for number of apps for my Apple devices at 2.2 million and 2.8 million for Google Play! It blows my mind how much technology is available for every average person out there with a thought and a click. We got here fast.

When you look at these numbers, do you think creating one more app will be much value? How would you get through all the noise to even be noticed? You might find a micro niche that has been undiscovered. Or you could try and unseat a current app leader in a category. Tough game either way to bet on, especially when the proposition of free or $0.99 apps are expected. We’re app snobs these days and want extreme power with no cost.

But you could take a look at the bigger picture. Much like electricity is a commodity that we don’t give much thought towards, apps have come to be a sort of utility. We use them for travel, productivity, banking, entertainment and many other uses.

How do you grow opportunities with all these apps, however? What if you want to produce rather than consume? The use case for this supercomputer in your pocket can surely go far beyond checking out or checking in.

If you want to grow opportunities with apps, here are some ideas and strategies that gets you thinking about the game of increase:

  1. Networking. If you extend your inbox to include participating in forums or Quora, you can play a game every day. Give a great idea or connection every day. See if you can be a matchmaker and make new friends by giving substantive value. Push your mind and creativity. See if that translates to deal making.
  2. Build teams. Start a project that has a money-making goal. Keep it small. Use an app to add people to the conversation and actions. Move the ball forward with leadership and project management. See if you can set the next steps forward using distributed talent around the globe. You’ll have picked up the skill of managing virtual teams. You might consider Basecamp, Slack or Upwork to drive this initiative and make an ROI the goal.
  3. Curate. If you keep tabs on trends, products, food, technology or other natural interests, find a way to make a daily post on a platform. See if you can turn that into a transaction. Work with those vendors you respect. Become a trusted, curated resource. Build relationships with your audience and your product vendors to find where the deal making lies.
  4. Encourage. Life is tough and most people are carrying around a lot of worries, concerns and problems. Use an app that would facilitate the process of encouragement. Find inspirations, apt quotes, solutions and answers that would help people. Make it easy for yourself to connect the encouragement with the person that needs it.

You are not going to have a million apps on your device. But you can think about what you are doing with your time and attention and think a bit bigger than mere consumption. What if you could turn that powerful middleware someone created and get resourceful to turn the tech into opportunity building? It starts with a purpose.