choose yourself

The Performance Business

No one goes to a U2 concert expecting anything less than their very best effort…maybe even the best one ever. It’s remarkable entertainers pull this off so often…pouring their heart into it, night after night. Same goes for dancers, magicians, actors and circus performers. The entertainment business is built on the rule that the final act, the one everyone sees must be remarkable. All of the work, practice, preparation, filing down takes place beforehand resulting in the best moment for the audience at a given point in time. Successful artists simply care more about the delight they seek to create than the hardship (and monotony) of getting there. And it’s expected.

Everyone should be an artist. Everyone should use emotional labor to cause delight for someone. And everyone should consider themselves in the performance business…every time they enter the stage and interact with someone. But we fall short…we don’t see ourselves as performers on stage. We see ourselves doing a job, going to class, or fulfilling family obligations. We do the work to get through our day, hoping to meet spec and check things off our to do list.

Imagine what the world would be like if everyone approached their job, class, interview, study group, or family time as a performance. Imagine the unexpected delight, the captivation, the excitement and the learning that might be created…if everyone made each performance the best one ever.

Is this tiring, hard and sometimes embarrassing? For sure. That’s the cost of performing at the edge and more importantly, creating new ones. But the world needs that. And it’s what your audience deserves.

Read Email 2nd

It’s the official season of creating new goals, habits and self-improvement. Here’s one I adopted a few years back…read email 2nd.

Many people have a habit of reading email (Facebook or the newspaper if you’re old enough) as a first step to start off their day. The problem with consuming “news” first is that it steals your time. Time which could be better spent on creating something, leading change, learning or somehow moving things forward. There is virtually nothing that can’t wait another thirty minutes…unless you’ve overslept by two hours.

Imagine what you might accomplish if you reserved the first thirty minutes of your day for creation vs. consumption. You might become a better writer, marketer or poet. You might finish that model ship. You might enjoy meaningful conversations with your children. You might do something far more important…first.

Try it for thirty days straight (that’s what it will take to form a habit). If it doesn’t change your life for the better, go back to Gmail.

Happy New Year!

Some Thoughts on Leadership

Leadership- to create a culture of causing delight and change (improvement)

Why Lead?- What would be missed if you were gone? What do you hope to change? Who will you enroll to go with you? What is your legacy?

Leaders...

  • Take responsibility- This might not work
  • Establish a hospitality and change oriented culture
  • Are highly intuitive. They notice things (that need to be changed). And can see an outcome which will cause delight.
  • Care enough to leap...to try something that might not work.
  • Recognize they can’t do it alone.

Leaders are people who inspire and enroll others on their journey. They are...

  • Artists- Not all artists are great leaders. But all leaders are artists. They are emotionally engaged in their work...beyond the transaction.
  • Craftsmen- they create something (from nothing) and take responsibility for things that might not work.
  • Improvisors- they seek the discomfort of handling the unexpected and enjoy the exchanges along an unknown path.
  • Innkeepers- they are in the hospitality business...causing delight through pleasant surprises and serving others in a meaningful way.

A List of Things That Didn't Work

We all have this list…the things we were so enrolled in at the time that we took the leap. And then we stopped. Perhaps we ran out of money, out of time, out of patience. Or perhaps we didn’t find others to come along. Or maybe we found a new, more meaningful idea to pursue.

The important point is that work was begun…a new idea was considered. Without this attitude, this choice, change does not happen and nothing improves. Thankfully, people try things. And occasionally a meaningful change occurs…something to be thankful for.

Today is good day to reflect on all of the meaningful work you’ve done…even if you haven’t finished it yet. And perhaps more importantly be sure to thank others for their efforts as well.

Happy Thanksgiving 

Create vs. Consume

Change happens when we create...when new things get done.  We have more tools than ever before to connect, invent, solve problems and learn. Yet change is often left to the few, the more educated, the more powerful and those with better jobs. Simultaneously, consumption and the resulting distractions are at an all-time high. What was once reserved for TV hour at the end of the day has morphed into a constant and immediate flow of noise. Entertainment is fine, actually necessary, to keep the mind fresh…and to make life fun. But the consumption creep we are experiencing is a bad trajectory. People are learning less, making less and doing less at the expense of being entertained and informed. Too bad there’s so little signal…and so much noise. 

If you’re not busy creating something original, making something (that might not work) and leading change you’re wasting a wonderful chance…and we need you. 

Go create…and leave the consumption to those other people.

Why Learn About Prepositions?

To get good grades?

To pass a test?

Not really…to spread ideas and create change.

The ability to effectively communicate orally and in writing gives you a significant advantage in being heard, trusted and invited into the conversation. There is plenty of meaningful work, creation and invention coming from people who aren’t proficient communicators. But imagine what the world might look like if their ideas spread…if the stage was larger. Imagine how they might inspire and teach others to do the same. Turns out being seen as smart has more to do with moving the idea along than creating the idea in the first place. Make no mistake, competency is a powerful world view.   

Choose yourself for a spot on the stage where you can make change happen. Learn to communicate well...practice a lot.

The World Needs You

...to change it.

The human condition is a gift. The chance to be creative, imaginative, angry, persistent and happy should not be wasted or lost in a life of meaningless wandering. Rather each of us has the opportunity and the power to change something...to make a dent in the universe. But most people settle in because they take "changing the world” too literally. They believe that short of a Nobel prize the effort is wasted…better to leave to someone else...someone smarter, more powerful, wealthy or more creative. The truth is that all big, world stage, changes start small with someone taking a leap and acting on an idea. And almost every time these little steps are not calculated to end up as world changers…at least not the entire world. They begin as adjustments on a much smaller stage, the neighborhood, the school or department. Eventually some of these small steps get traction and spread to a bigger stage. But many don’t…and that’s okay. One smile is as meaningful as a million. 

So go ahead…make a ruckus in your slice of the world. Who knows what will happen next.

Expertise and Skill

Most experts chose to be there…they worked hard on improving skills until they were the best. They worked through the dips, the disappointments, the monotony until they arrived at the edge. Sometimes, but not nearly as often as people think, talent and natural ability come into play…and give people an edge. Strength, particularly leaping ability, for instance is an important element in the ability to dunk a basketball. But it takes skill also. And where does talent give way to skill? Do you remember Spud Webb? People very often confuse the two. And worse don’t give proper regard to the skill part of the equation. 

You should practice to improve your skills because it’s virtually impossible to compete on talent alone. And it turns out that skills are far more important than talent in becoming an expert on something. Skill overcomes talent 99% of the time.  

Things You Should Be Able to Do

  • Develop a well constructed thought in writing
  • Hold a naturally flowing conversation
  • Ask insightful questions
  • Create a useful spreadsheet (with formulas)
  • Develop a budget
  • Develop a One Page Marketing Plan
  • Create a One Page Website
  • Buy a URL
  • Understand how Facebook/Instagram/Twitter works
  • Take photo with your phone and post it to Instagram
  • Create a short movie
  • Create a Youtube/Vimeo Channel
  • Make a podcast
  • Create a Blog
  • Create a Mailchimp/Constant Contact program (including the email to be released)
  • Explain RSS
  • Understand how a personal computer works
  • Understand how the combustion engine works...and how a car moves
  • Understand how a camera works
  • Be able to explain the “cloud”
  • Be able to solve interesting problems
  • Inspire others to change the outcome of something
  • Greet strangers and make them feel welcome
  • Smile...a lot
  • Be wrong
  • Create art
  • Plan an event
  • Describe far-off place you have experienced
  • Share your Core Values
  • Share your Dream...your Purpose
  • Share the last five books you read
  • Share what you do for fun
  • Share what you are learning now
  • Share something you have made (created) in the last year

A Learner's Non-Traditional Study Guide

There are many choices when it comes to learning. Whether you're just venturing out or starting over, here's a list you should spend some time on before you decide which path to take...

Books by Seth Godin
Books by Others
Video/Audio
Leap First (audio)
Blogs
Michael Chaffin (of course)
Classes/Courses- Self Learning
Leadership Workshop (Seth Godin)
Specific Ideas/Posts on School
Stop Stealing Dreams (TedEx video)

 

(Thanks Haley for the inspiration to share it)

Bespoke Grad (or UnderGrad) School

Here’s the all too familiar dialogue (often between parents and student)…
Go to business school.
Why? (What is the expected result?)
Graduate with a better degree.
Why get a “better” degree?
Get a better job.
What’s a better job?
The answer is rarely clear. So we make an investment of time, money and emotion going down a path without a clear goal in mind. This could be a huge mistake.
The most important step then is the first one. You need to define the desired outcome…what does success look like? Perhaps being happy and fulfilled…while working in a hotel. Or is to earn more money out of the gate? Or is it a guarantee to be picked (which I doubt there is). To make it even more fuzzy the traditional expected outcomes (more money and an improved chance of landing a job) are not realistic, especially outside of education, science or advanced accounting.
So, what sort of education is best to get me that result? University coursework? Maybe. Or perhaps it’s a highly customized educational plan complete with unique work, life and social experiences. A plan that also includes coursework and book learning, but not necessarily in the institutional sense. Here’s a list of books (to satisfy the part of you that says books are a necessary part of learning)...
Now, build your own MBA…
Develop a list of books to read
Develop a list of jobs to work
Develop a list of projects to complete
Develop a list of people to connect with
Develop a list of places to explore
The point is to develop a plan…get it funded…and go learn! 

 

Happy New Year...Now Go Learn

In the course of my work I'm often asked what sort of education is best which is usually a clever disguise for wanting to know if a college degree is worth pursuing. Well, that's really hard to say. An institutional product like college education is just like any other thing or service we buy. It has varying levels of value depending on your goals, values and world view. There is no one answer that fits everyone. I know that's the system we've been taught (or conditioned or even bullied) to believe in. But it simply isn't that simple...anymore. We grew up believing that if we had the money or could borrow it we should (must) get a college education because it would open the doors to opportunities (higher paying jobs) we would otherwise not be in a position to secure. Well now that model is being blown to bits because learning and the product of knowledge have been completely redefined. In the matter of just a decade what you once had to go to a classroom in a famous college to consume...you can do so from your house anytime you want. In that same amount of time, the job of teaching has gone from a privileged minority (those that went to college) to virtually anyone who takes the time to do so.

So the point on this celebrated day of new beginnings is not to decide where to learn but rather just to start learning of any kind. Here’s a list of inspirational blog posts to help get you going. Now go Choose Yourself.

Happy New Year!


 

Create or Consume...it's a matter of choice

Generally speaking I tend to busy myself with creating stuff or experiencing new things. And I actively limit consumption, particularly of the media sort. In that vein I only pay attention to those I trust and care about. So the chances of me tuning-in to the morning news is highly unlikely (here's a better explanation of this effect). Technology makes it easier than ever to fall into this trap...to consume vs. create. Technology also makes it possible to connect with anyone, anywhere at virtually anytime. It's a remarkable point in history. You can learn anything from whomever you want. You can make things and give people a peek or show off your skills to precisely the audience you're looking to attract. You can build your own fan club. So the choice is yours...be entertained or do the entertaining...choose wisely.

You.com

I interview people for jobs almost every day. And almost as often as I interview I’m disappointed in the lack of preparation. Not the kind of preparation you’re probably thinking of…a resume with no typo’s, a conservative look, a memorized list of their skill set and a forced smile. But a way to show me why I can’t possible ignore them. Before computers and the internet you relied heavily on testimonials (former bosses, co-workers and anyone else who would sing your praises) to instill confidence that you were the right choice. Smartly, some people figured out that providing references before someone asked for them was the big bold move…everyone else chose me, shouldn’t you? Now there’s a better way. And sadly very few use it. We use the internet everyday…to consume. But few people actually claim a spot and take the time to make something. Something that could be shown off, something that can’t be ignored, something that helps you choose yourself.

I would take this a step further. I wouldn’t show up for an interview without my own website. Not Facebook (although the right content there could be powerful). But a site you build yourself…about you. If you can’t get your namesake URL, get one that resonates with you. And then have some business cards printed with only that URL on them. Hand them out. The obvious question then…what to put there? Everything and anything that you are proud of…that screams you need me on your team. Sure you can have your resume there. And a few photo’s. But surely there must be some way to show how you can solve interesting problems and how you’ve led and inspired others to achieve remarkable work. There must be some evidence of a school project, a hobby, a craft or special interest. Surely there must be a really long list of the books you’ve read…and perhaps a short report on some of them. And surely you’ve had some interesting things to say and you’ve captured that in a blog or a video or two. Surely…

The point is that it’s easier (and cheaper) than ever to show-off. Please start.