Archive for 2011

Yesterday’s Toys

December 26th, 2011 — 5:35am

The pace of change is now blazing fast, and getting faster. The change in e-Readers and tablets versus a year or two ago is a dramatic example. Companies like Google, Apple, and Amazon must innovate at nearly impossible speeds to keep ahead of each other, and recently-dominant companies like Borders and Best Buy are being left behind. It’s natural to be skeptical of change, because for virtually all of human history embracing change was a threat to survival. Being the guy who sampled all the traditionally-avoided berries was a recipe for a short life.

Now the opposite is true. Embracing change is essential for survival as an organization, and for effectiveness as an individual. Because our economic and technological environment is changing way faster than ever before, stay-the-course is rewarded less and innovation is rewarded more.

Our instincts don’t know the difference between things that really can kill – like eating the poison berries – and things that at worst will cost money or create a feeling of failure – like launching that new product. This means it’s often in our best interest to act against what feels natural and safe.

Former U.S Army Chief of Staff Eric Shinseki is often quoted for saying “If you don’t like change, you’re going to like irrelevance even less.” I think it’s true that we have more to fear from resisting change than from embracing it. I encourage you to push yourself toward things that are objectively worthwhile but feel uncomfortable and risky. I’m really thankful for people who frequently nudge me in that direction, it’s paying off.

Christmas Morning

December 25th, 2011 — 5:30am

It’s about anticipation, giving, gratitude, and togetherness. I hope you have lots of those things in your life. Merry Christmas.

My Why

December 24th, 2011 — 5:30am

This year is almost in the books. I’m very thankful for the remarkable business success and transforming personal growth I’ve experienced this year. I’ve reached milestone business and personal goals that a few years ago I thought might take a lifetime.

This leaves me asking “What next?” and that leads me to deep questions about why I do what I do. Being really honest with myself, why do I get out of bed every morning? What worthwhile thing motivates me to work hard, deal with unpleasant situations, and take frightening risks?

I wasn’t always aware of it, but almost every day of my adult life I got out of bed in the morning because I urgently needed something. I needed to believe that I was a competent person doing a good job on my work. I urgently and intensely focused ever fiber of my being on trying to make that come true.

I was good at it. I experienced a string of extraordinary successes in my work. I was genuinely grateful for every success, not feeling entitled to it at all. In spite of all the over-the-top results, I still needed to believe that I was a competent person doing a good job on my work, and deep down I still didn’t believe it. This gave me a compelling reason to get out of bed every morning.

This year tectonic plates have shifted in me. Through the influence of generous people investing their time into me, I have received what I needed. It took a lot and it took a long time. Now that I have it, I can see how much the pursuit of it has been the driving force of my daily life. Oddly as it sounds, it left me for a few weeks without a clear answer to why I should get out of bed in the morning. I was so used to spending my days chasing that need, I had never needed an alternate source of motivation. This limbo was surprisingly unsettling. I was afraid I’d lose my drive and passion without this need urging me forward.

It been a lot to think through, but it’s starting to come clear.

My new “why” is less urgent and more free. It involves time to take in and enjoy good things, time I didn’t think I could spare before. It involves less fear and more joy. It includes even more ambition than before, ambition to live all the way up to my potential and accomplish significant things. Perhaps most importantly, it’s about living deliberately to impact people like those generous people impacted me. Here’s to paying it forward.

Gymnastics, Reality and Management

December 23rd, 2011 — 5:30am

Occasionally I sit with the other parents and watch my daughters’ gymnastics class. The first time I watched, I was taken aback by the uninhibited feedback from the lead coach to the students on the competitive team. The stream of comments from him sounded like this:

“If you’re not ready to go on your turn step aside. We didn’t come here to socialize, let’s work. Good Clara, nice feet. The first one was good, second one was all over the place. Susan, You’re not getting your shoulders over the bar. No, no, Beth. Ok, come down, go to the back of the line. If you’re not ready to do your best, don’t get on the bar. Next please. Legs, watch legs. Not bad, do that five more times. You’re throwing your head back, keep your chin tucked. Stop bending your arms – ladies – all three of you are bending your arms. That would score about a 4 in competition, it’s got to be better.”

I was uncomfortable watching and listening to him coach. I guess I was afraid he’d make a girl cry or they wouldn’t have the self-esteem to handle the feedback about what they were doing wrong.

As I’ve watched this from week to week, I’m starting to see a lot of good in it. The coach acknowledges something done well, but his standards are high. He doesn’t sugar coat the negative feedback, maybe because there’s just not time. Each girl who gets on the bar needs to know quickly and simply what to improve on the next try. Reality is their friend, it’s their only way to improve. He is a constant and immediate mirror of reality to them. I can also see how it strengthens them for the toughness of competition, because they don’t practice in an A-for-effort world. “Failure” is normal and constant.

I contrast this to some companies, where low performing employees might be stalled for years, and nobody has the guts to tell that person exactly why they are not advancing. Where negative feedback is a big scary deal for both manager and employee, because it’s not part of the regular routine.

I believe every employee deserves to know specifically what standards they are expected to meet, and how they are currently performing relative to those standards. I wonder what would happen if we did that gymnastics-coach style.

The Most Popular Post So Far

December 22nd, 2011 — 5:30am

The all-time most-read post on this blog is about constrained resources. Upon noticing this, I re-read it to see what the big deal is. Check it out, you might find it relevant to whatever’s frustrating you lately.

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