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Great Eight (#156)

The end of the year is often a good time to reflect on and reiterate what’s important. I thought I would cap off 2018 by highlighting the top eight Friday Forwards from this past year along with a quick summary of each. In my own review of these notes, I was reminded of just how relevant these topics and messages are as we head into 2019.

Stop Doing List (Jan 18th)
The first few weeks of the year are focused on goal creation and to-do lists for the developing year. While those are certainly important, what you really need is a “stop doing” list.

With Gratitude (March 8th)
The next time you stay in a hotel, this small act of gratitude has the power to change someone’s life in ways you could not imagine. 

Early Riser (July 28th) 
How three near-death experiences led Hal Elrod to discover a powerful morning routine that has changed his life and the lives of over 500,000 members of his “miracle morning” community (me included).

Respectful Disagreement (Sept 13th)  
The best leaders triangulate their view with believable people who are willing to disagree and challenge their closely-held assumptions and beliefs.

World Class (Sept 20th)
A story of how doing the little things (such as making world-class photo copies) led to the opportunity of a lifetime and launched the career of a top U.S. venture capitalist.

Prism & Laser (February 1st)
Understanding the fundamental difference between a prism and a laser can predict success in life and business.

Raising Values (April 5th)
The key lesson from a study of non-Jews who risked their lives to save Jews during the Holocaust and how it led back to how they were parented.

Gaining Perspective ( May 3rd)
How a trip to Puerto Rico for hurricane relief brought my family out of its comfort zone, taught us many lifelong lessons and demonstrated the value of community.

 

Quote of The Week

“Repetition is the mother of learning, the father of action, which makes it the architect of accomplishment.”

 

Zig Ziglar

 

 

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Missing Out (#155)

I have always been intrigued by Jason Fried, the charismatic thought leader and creator of the very popular blog, “Signal versus Noise.” He’s also the CEO of the popular project management tool Basecamp, which is used by millions across the world.

A Chicago-based company, Basecamp has only 50 employees, all of whom work remotely on a 30-hour per week schedule. What’s more is that within this work structure, Basecamp generates over $25M in revenue each year and is very profitable.

Jason wrote one of the leading books on remote work titled, REMOTE: Office Not Required. To date, Basecamp has also turned down unsolicited offers from over 100 investors.

Certainly, Basecamp could grow faster. Many might argue that they are missing out on an investment market that is willing to pay a jaw-dropping amount to acquire software companies like Basecamp with recurring monthly revenue.

There is no question that, if they wanted to, Jason and his partner could make hundreds of millions, retire and financially set up future generations for decades to come. Yet, that viewpoint comes from the FOMO mindset, or “fear of missing out.”

FOMO has become a major psychosocial phenomenon due to the presence of social media and our ability to see what others are doing in real-time. Rather than being content with what we have or even realizing that we are happy with what we are doing, many of us benchmark ourselves against others and assume that the grass is greener. For some, FOMO is a debilitating condition that is exacerbated by scrolling for hours through Instagram and Facebook.

Jason Fried does not live within a FOMO mindset. In fact, in his upcoming book, he coins the term “Jomo” The Joy of Missing Out.

Jason doesn’t pay much attention to what anyone else is doing or thinking. He reads the paper once a day. He has no long-term goals for himself or his business. Everything at Basecamp is designed in six week sprints; if something can’t get done in six weeks, they don’t build it.

Jason and his team focus intently on what they are doing now, discovering what is most important to their customer and doing the best job they can to deliver that. They aren’t driven by an arbitrary growth goal. Years ago, they even decided to stop selling a few of their ancillary products. They felt their flagship Basecamp product was world-class and other complementary products were not. Less was more.

While Jason’s JOMO mentality and company philosophies are not for everyone, they contain three very healthy principals that we can all learn from.

  1. Intrinsic motivation: Jason not only displays this himself, he works to cultivate it in others by removing traditional carrot-and-stick motivators. He rallies his team around doing great work, rather than by demanding that they look at what their competitors are doing or acting on market/investor pressures.
  2. Living in the present:The biggest manifestation of JOMO for Jason is simply not worrying about what came before or what will come after. It’s about enjoying the present and taking the time to “think”.
  3. Tuning out the noise: Developing a remote workforce. Not taking investment. Being profitable for 17 years. None of these were historical blueprints for creating a great software company. Yet, by tuning out what the market touted as the “right path” to business success, Jason’s been able to build an enormously successful company that reflects his values.

The next time you are worried about “missing out,” perhaps reflect on JOMO and what you might gain from not knowing what others were, are or might be doing.

Often, ignorance really is bliss.

Quote of The Week

“That fear of missing out on things makes you miss out on everything.”

 

Etty Hellesum

 

 

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Going Bananas (#153)

Over the past year, I have started to share and post more of my content on LinkedIn.

Most of my articles are written in a positive tone and attempt to propose solutions to common leadership and organizational challenges. Therefore, I’m always surprised by people who choose to comment on articles with insults, banter and accusations, often about something that wasn’t even directed at or personal to them in any way.

Posting these kinds of responses and comments on such a public forum is not only unproductive, it’s shortsighted for those in leadership positions; and it’s downright foolish for people who are actively seeking employment.

I would never hire or partner with anyone I found spending their time and energy in this manner and I can only imagine how bosses and team members react when they come across this sort of behavior from a colleague.

I simply can’t comprehend why anyone would intentionally go out of their way to make strangers feel bad about themselves or their beliefs. It’s bananas.

Speaking of bananas, a lot of these individuals could learn from the example of Stacey Truman, an inspiring leader and cafeteria manager at an elementary school in Virginia Beach, VA.

Using a black marker, each morning she writes inspirational messages on the bananas that are a part of lunch that day.

Here are some examples of messages she’s written on her now designated “talking bananas:”

“Not all those who wander are lost.”  

“If you can dream it, you can achieve it.”  

 “You get what you give.”

“Never give up.”

“Your future is bright.”

Writing uplifting messages on bananas was a practice she started for her two daughters (10 and 7) to build them up and help them start their day on a positive note. She then thought that the kids at the school might have a similar feel-good response, and she was right.

In an interview, Truman said, “I want them to succeed in life and have an awesome day at school. Whenever I can put a smile on all of those little faces, I’ve done my job.”

Her “talking bananas” have made a bigger impact than she could have imagined and her story has taken off on social media. She’s now garnering national attention for the right reasons and inspiring strangers to want to uplift and build capacity in others with far less effort than it takes to troll social media looking to pick a fight.

While I don’t expect “talking bananas” to become ubiquitous in corporate cafeterias anytime soon, the lesson is that while we don’t have to agree, we can all be nicer in how we disagree. And we all have the ability to use our energy in more productive ways that inspire and lift others up.

You never know how something as simple—and free to give—as an encouraging word can impact people for years to come, especially if it comes at the right time.

 

Quote of The Week

“Kind words do not cost much. Yet they accomplish much.”

Blaise Pascal

 

Image Credit: Washington Post.

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Conscious Inaction (#151)

Today is Black Friday, an American tradition that has now spread overseas. People fight lines and even each other in their attempt to not miss out on the latest hot deals.

Although a principle that I regularly espouse in Friday Forward is the need to be action-oriented in life (especially since the basis of most regret is inaction), there are times when conscious inaction is the best path, particularly when based upon a careful reflection of our core values.

Take, for example, outdoor clothing retailer REI. For the fourth year in a row, they will be closed on Black Friday. Instead of encouraging shopping, they’re promoting their #OptOutside campaign, an initiative designed to inspire people to reconnect—with themselves and others – outdoors.

In a statement about the decision, REI’s CEO Jerry Stritzke said, “You don’t win in the long-term by pushing what I call rampant consumerism.” Stritzke even credited the decision to close stores on Black Friday with helping REI survive the “retail apocalypse.”

For REI, the decision to not get caught up in the fervor of Black Friday is very intentional and conscious. I’d argue that those who are surrendering by being open from dawn till late evening today may not actually want to do so. They may not be able to afford to play the deep discount game and company leadership might not be ready to go against the grain. Unfortunately, their employees and shareholders are the ones who get the short end of that decision stick.

In life, many of the best decisions are the ones we consciously didn’t make.

The employee we didn’t hire.

The company we didn’t buy.

The job we didn’t take.

The emotional e-mail we didn’t send.

The thing we didn’t say.

There is an important difference between complacency and conscious inaction.

Sure, if our inaction is based on fear or insecurity, we need to push through. However, if we are being pulled to do something that is not aligned with our values or that won’t help us achieve our desired outcome, then the conscious decision not to act is often the best one. Especially if we are being drawn to something that is urgent but not important.

My friend, Rob Dube, wrote a book on this subject and leads “do nothing” mindfulness retreats specifically designed for business leaders and entrepreneurs. By learning how to do less, Dube and his team help them find more presence and awareness, which ultimately helps make them better people and leaders. He describes it as “The most rewarding leadership challenge you will ever take.”

This mentality is clearly shared by REI’s Stritzke. In a recent statement he said, “Day in, day out, we’re looking down instead of up, looking at our phones instead of the world around us. We’re asking people this year to reevaluate that picture of themselves. To see technology as the starting point to a journey outside, not the destination. And to go explore the world with someone they love – on Black Friday and every day.”

As I have in past years, I am going to do exactly that, spending today with friends, family and getting outdoors. I hope you’ll join me.

 

Quote of The Week

Choices are the hinges of destiny.

Edwin Markham

 

 

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Art of Brevity (#148)

Last week was the deadline to turn in the draft of my next book, Outperform, which will be released next Fall and features the principles of capacity building in Friday Forward.

Before submitting it, I was asked to cut about 1/3 of the content to get it to the targeted length. A key tip from my editor was to eliminate parts that were not as valuable for the reader. I thought this was going to be a much harder process but discovered that it forced me to make points more succinctly, which made it better. I worked harder so the reader won’t have to.

I then thought about how often this dynamic comes up in our communication. We struggle to get to the point, either because we haven’t taken the time to be clear or maybe or we don’t want to be clear.

Years ago, when I was directly managing affiliate programs, I would reach out to someone I suspected of engaging in fraudulent activity for an explanation of their tactics. They would often respond with a long, vague e-mail filled with marketing jargon. I would then ask for a simple screen shot of their methods and get no reply.

To this day, I remain wary of people who can’t get to the point quickly. It’s not that they are up to no good (as in the example above), it’s just a poor first impression and weakens the message.

A great framework for communicating clearly and succinctly is to focus on three core elements: What, Why and How, in that order.

  1. What do you want from someone; what do you want to share?
  2. Why does/should it matter to the recipient?
  3. How can they help or benefit by what you are telling them?

While some believe that starting with the “why” is important, it’s critical to first establish the “what” to capture your audiences’ attention in the first few seconds.

The why comes into play after that. Yet, interestingly, so many fail to address it. For example:

People regularly reach out to me to offer their company’s services to our clients. They establish the “what” (sell their stuff to our clients) and even the “how” (they want me to introduce them to our clients), but they fail to address the “why” of how doing this would benefit me or our company.

They are focused on their own agenda, not on creating value for others. And this is why they often don’t get a reply from me.

Take time to get your message clear before sharing it – and don’t mistake length or volume for quality. Sometimes the most effective messages are the briefest (e.g. “Just do it”).

And there you have it. The shortest Friday Forward of 2018 using the What, Why, How framework.

 

Quote of The Week

“If I had more time, I would have written a shorter letter.”

Mark Twain

 

 

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Problem-Solving (#136)

Travelling overseas always gives me new perspectives and opportunities to reflect.

My wife and I recently returned from a trip overseas in which easy access to the internet via our smart phones made renting a car and finding our way around a new place a very different and less stressful experience than just 10 years ago.  Now, if you take a wrong turn, Google Maps puts you back on the right path in seconds. There are even apps that will translate a menu or webpage and you can always look up ratings for everything.

In contrast, when a friend and I took a backpacking trip around Europe twenty (plus) years ago, we were armed only with traveler’s checks, a Let’s Go Europe book, a hostel card and a Eurail Pass. We made our way through Europe with no real plan or easy way to communicate with home.

In many cities we visited, we arrived late at night without a place to stay. We had to sort our way through a new train system, city maps and foreign languages just to find a suitable hostel with beds available – all things that would likely be performed today by an app.

None of our challenges were life-threatening, however they did require us to get out of our comfort zones, figure things out and immerse ourselves in the local culture. In retrospect, the experience was invaluable.

I recently read through the journal that I kept during our journey and it was eye-opening. As I read through my entries, I kept thinking “What would my parents have thought if they knew these details?” I then realized that because they didn’t/couldn’t know, we were both better off.

Reviewing my journal made me further appreciate that, although technology has many benefits, it can also have its drawbacks.

My daughter has realized this as well. During our trip, she sent us the opening of a speech she gave while at overnight camp titled, “Disconnecting to Connect.” She spoke about the benefits of being offline for most of the summer which gave her a chance to really connect with those around her.

I then had the disheartening realization that, should any of my kids choose to backpack around Europe (or anywhere for that matter), the reality is that they will never have the type of experience that I did.

They won’t have to translate, learn currency exchange rates, manage a limited money supply because funds aren’t easily accessible, read a paper fold-out map, find a hostel or experience the adventures that can come with getting lost in a new place.

A phone call or tap of a phone app makes things so easy.

Technology will help them, but it will also deprive them of important growth opportunities, especially at such a formative time to solve problems on their own.

As we rely more and more on AI and machine learning, it’s very likely that our own problem-solving abilities will deteriorate – at a time when cognitive, emotional intelligence and interpersonal skills will be needed most to compete for the jobs of the future.

Problem-solving is also rarely an individual endeavor. It’s often done in teams, creating a shared sense of purpose and accomplishment.

One of the highest-rated activities to date at Acceleration Partners was our Amazing race through Boston three years ago. Teams could not use any technology. They were given a list of activities to complete in a given time-period, a fixed budget for transportation, a map and some clues about each location. Everyone had to interact and solve problems in real-time and had an amazing time doing it.

What I’ve learned is that, in the end, when we don’t learn to solve little problems, we find ourselves getting derailed by speed bumps and unable to tackle bigger problems down the road.

What’s needed is a shift in our mindset to embrace the challenges before us and see problems as opportunities to learn, grow, connect and interact with the world around us in new ways.

 

Quote of the Week

“The problem is not that there are problems. The problem is expecting otherwise and thinking that having problems is a problem.”

Theodore Rubin

 

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