Distractions and Considerations

There’s value in staying the course, tuning out the noise and keeping focus…when there’s a specific outcome in mind and a well researched plan to support it. Preparation and planning helps deal with the noise. Part of preparation is to understand the inevitable distractions, to recognize them as such and to move on with little or no fuss over them. Once underway, distractions are ignored. Only opportunities for a better outcome or a serious threat to it are considered. The ship has sailed, choppy water was expected and dismissed. Stay the course. But an ice berg...

However, distractions in advance have tremendous value. At this point, they aren’t distractions yet. They’re considerations. What if’s, crazy ideas, doomsday scenarios and the like are part of the thrashing which should occur before launch. Consider as much as possible while planning. Once underway, stay on point.

Why Wait

…to learn

…to write

…to photograph

…to run

…to lead

…to solve

…to volunteer

Whatever stories we are telling ourselves about the lack of time, resources, ability…or simply it’s not for us, we need to stop. Doing something that matters has far more to do with choice, effort and caring enough. Everything else is just a convenient way out.

This Conversation May Be Recorded

…to improve customer service.

Who does this really serve? What’s it for? Very few people are interested in a recorded interruption at the beginning of a phone call. It’s not hard to imagine that what most of us want a live person who shows genuine interest…a person who nicely says hello and how may I help you.

No one needs a recording to find hospitable people who care and want to serve others. A recording might help determine if the staff is staying with the script. But it won’t help finding the type of people who don’t need one.

You can invest in systems to build a culture of caring. Or you can invest in those that control every outcome. Hard to do both.

Choose wisely.

Better For Whom

Once we’ve achieved better, it’s hard to imagine doing any more. But there’s always a better we haven’t thought of…one defined by someone else. So it might be worth trying to get even better…once we understand someone else’s terms.

Better on its own isn’t worth much. It’s too variable. One person’s better is another’s definition of poor taste, and so on. But better defined specifically for the audience we seek is worth quite a lot. There’s great value in understanding what better means to the people we want to change…before spending time getting better.

Effective Marketing

...is pretty straightforward.

  1. Design and build something worth talking about- Of course it will seem risky. But almost anything that matters enough to change people for the better might not work. And it’s precisely the reason we need you to do it anyway.

  2. Start with a small audience- Staying small isn’t always sustainable. But it’s the most practical way to get going to learn if you’ve chosen the right people and to see if what’s on offer is worth sharing. Big hits are rare and vastly overrated.

  3. Create a bargain- Value is different for everyone. It’s highly subjective and has almost nothing to do with the cost of making something. The goal is to make someone feel like they should have paid more for it. That’s fuel for coming back for more and for sharing the story. Your price doesn’t represent cheap...or expensive. It’s simply the point where the audience you’re serving still feels like it’s a bargain. As you’ve probably guessed this becomes harder to achieve with commodities...which really aren’t worth talking about until they’re nearly free. And that’s very hard to sustain.

Effective marketing is a choice. And it’s hard. But it’s the only way to create loyal, raving fans for something that matters.

Choose wisely.

Which Geeks Are You Serving?

There is a resurgence of the vinyl record. And of course it makes no sense in terms of listening to music. There are now far more efficient means of filling your ears than ever before. And even audiophiles have a hard time agreeing upon the “best” medium. And alas, some of the upward trend is just a fad which will likely wane. But go to any serious record shop and watch what’s going on and it’s obvious… people who like records like going deeper. They like diving into the details of the craftsmanship, the history, the oddness, the weird and sometimes even offensive nature of the record...and its wrapper. And they like the conversation that ensues...about which pressing is best, whether a remastered reissue is better than the original, etc.

The new attraction to vinyl records has very little to do with music. It has much more to do with the conversation you get to have with other like minded people about what’s behind the music, the album art and the process of getting it on the disc. It enables people to be geeks.

Everyone wants to be a geek about something. Which ones are you serving?

Despite

There’s the strategy of using online mediums (and maybe offline ones) to be found, to become popular and successful, hoping your work resonates with enough people.

Then there’s a strategy of doing remarkable work for specific people knowing it will delight them, perhaps enough to share it with others…online or off.

Doing work to fuel social media is way different than doing work despite social media. Choose wisely.

Be Thankful You Have a Job

…said the coal miner's wife.

Times have changed…thankfully. Now we know we don’t have to settle for just any job. Now we know we don’t need to put up with a culture we don’t deserve. Now we know working hard doesn’t need to be dangerous.

And now we know we should be thankful we get to choose the work we want to do and with whom we want to do it. Please don’t settle for anything less.

What Will You Teach?

There’s an abundance of teaching the hard skills…calculus, spreadsheets, present value analysis, vocabulary, coding and so on. On the flip side there’s not nearly enough effort put into the essential skills of leading, engagement, empathy, collaboration, persuasion, generosity, kindness and respect.

Successful people have mastered the people skills as well as the technical ones. In the world of ever increasing connectivity, the separator, the reason they are so effective as leaders of change is due to their competency in working with other people, their ability to engage, persuade and connect. It’s no longer just because they have the highest engineering IQ.

Everyone is a teacher at some point. What will you choose to teach? And most importantly, what do you need to learn to teach it?

Slack

Changing something for the better requires thought. It’s rarely achieved by chance or an impulsive reaction. And thought requires time and focus. Both of which are hard to get if you're busy all the time. So the key to creating something, to affect something or someone in a meaningful way is to make time for it…to create some slack. This shouldn’t be treated as a by product or something to happen after your important work is completed. On the contrary, this is part of the important work…a big part.

Too much time on your hands leads to waste. Not enough curtails creativity. In between there’s a sweet spot. Time to focus, time to think, time to choose. If you’re in the business of leading, of making change and being responsible for decisions and not just sorting or pulling levers, you need slack. It’s big part of your job. Please go make some.

Professionalism and Learning

Professionalism isn’t about getting paid. It’s about who the work is for, changing things for the better and keeping a promise to show up.

An amateur is building experience, honing the craft…a practicing student. It’s mainly for themselves. Professionalism begins when the choice is made to perform the work for someone else's benefit. And then making a promise to show up with their best work.

Choosing to lead, to manage, to teach someone else as a professional comes with great responsibility. It requires your best performance…every time. It requires vigor but also patience. It requires experience but also empathy. And most of all it requires a dedication to leveling up as a leader…a commitment to keep learning the craft of leadership. And understanding that it’s a lifelong journey.

Choosing to learn might be the professional’s most important decision. Because without it, nothing would change. And that would be a shame.

What is Authority For?

  • To enable improvement

  • To give people a chance

  • To stand behind them

  • To take responsibility

  • To allow people to learn

  • To allow people to try

  • To allow people to fail

  • To allow people to build

  • To allow people to take risks

Authority should be used to ensure a positive, change seeking, respectful culture is developed.

Too often though, authority is misused…mainly because it’s misunderstood.

  • To standardize (for efficiency)

  • To limit change (for efficiency)

  • To create fear (of people losing their job, or lowering their status)

  • To veto decisions

  • To enforce rules

  • To make things cheaper

  • To be correct

  • To be the one that gets to choose

Just because you can doesn’t mean you should. Choose wisely.

Accidental Change

In the early days of driving we didn’t take drinks with us in cars. We had drinks…and we had cars. But they didn’t work well together. The business of driving a car required virtually all of our faculties. And the ride was such that taking any unsealed liquid was a pants stain waiting to happen. Interestingly we didn’t seek to develop automatic transmissions, power windows and smoother suspensions to make it easier to drink in cars. But those unrelated advancements did change that outcome. Cupholders exist because of changes in comfort, and having a free hand…which were the result of longer trips and so on.

Change isn’t just direct..if we do this, we get that. There’s a lot of bumping into other things along the way. Study almost any innovation and it’s likely a series of unrelated causes led to the outcome. Not just one planned path. 

Curiosity, desire and action lead to change…maybe even the outcome we were seeking. But maybe something even better…something we could have never imagined. The good stuff doesn’t always come from a plan. Accidents happen…and sometimes they are good. Please go create some.

Skill and Expertise

One of the requirements of being indispensable is acquiring skills. Skills don’t come naturally…they’re achieved. They are the product of curiosity, the desire to make change and an abundance of practice…try, fail, adjust, retry. 

Hard skills like making espresso, piloting an airplane and woodworking will get you noticed. But increasingly (mainly because hard skills are easier to come by) it’s the soft skills, the art, the emotional part of the work that’s seen. Songwriting is a skill. But without the emotional labor of putting it into the world it’s not likely to make much of an impact. The daring work of performing for someone is scarce…yet the stage is available for all of us, everyday.

Everyone should be an expert in something…is more true now than ever before. The opportunity to level up and be remarkable has never been better. It’s a matter of choice…first to lean in…then to pick where to go. Choose wisely…but please just choose to go somewhere.

The Importance of A vs. The

I want to be A (insert job here) is way different than saying I want to be The (insert same job here).

The rules, standards, compensation and the story of A job are made by someone else. The value of The job or The work one will do is established by the person building it…because it’s specific, it’s unique. And it defines the standard.

Of course, being specific about your work and making a promise about how you do it, comes with a downside. You are on the hook for it…completely accountable. There’s no one else to blame when it doesn’t work. But it’s a risk worth taking if you’re building a legacy of meaningful change.

Why be just another one, when you can be the only one.

We deserve more The and less A. Please choose wisely.

The Profession of Leveling Up

Almost everyone wants to level up. They want to move forward, raise their status, perhaps earn more money and feel successful. But almost everyone treats leveling up as a hobby…something to squeeze in when time permits. And who can blame them. School taught us to dislike learning (which is required to level up)…mainly because it was mandatory and boring.  And in life after school there’s too much that just gets in the way…jobs, significant others, kids, bosses, mortgages, fun, rest and on and on. As a result, forward progress is significantly slowed, unless it’s something compulsory tied to survival.

The first step then to improve forward motion (if that’s what one seeks) is to recategorize and reprioritize leveling up and the requisite learning that goes with it. It must be changed from a hobby into a profession. This requires discipline and probably some entertainment cutting. But it must be done if any real progress is going to be made. Take running a marathon as an example. A non-runner can’t become a marathon runner (one who completes a marathon) without a disciplined and structured approach to the required training. It just won’t happen if it’s haphazard. So a serious quest results in hiring a coach who demands a schedule so that training is turned into a job. And the job gets done. Or no marathon.

Learning, practicing and training…the things needed to level up need a plan, just like a business needs a plan. Goals need to be set, purpose established (who’s it for?, what’s it for?) strategy and tactics developed. And then we need to clock in, every day, just like we do for our job. We need to develop the habit of learning just like the habit of working…because learning is work.  And we need to treat it like our life depends on it…because it probably does…at least for the life we seek.

I'm Lucky Enough...

to be able to do this work…is much different than saying I’m lucky to be able to do this work here, in this place with these people.

Being unsatisfied with the work is an individual problem. A problem that is solvable mainly by the person doing it. Leveling up is a product of a person’s desire to learn and then consistently showing up as their best self…both things they control. But creating excitement about showing up (to do the work) is a group problem…one solved by leaders who care enough about a positive culture to focus and invest in it. A positive culture which celebrates and rewards each person’s contribution to group purpose is a very powerful motivator, even for those doing the so called menial work.

Trying to solve an employee's dissatisfaction with their chosen profession is often futile. It’s far more impactful to spend time on the environment they plug into…and the legacy they can build from it.