We used to write

There was a time when weeks didn’t go by before I’d write a post here. These days that happens a lot less frequently. For lots of reasons, most notably because I don’t feel like I have a lot to say. If you deal with me on a regular basis, you might find that pretty hard to believe. So I’ve decided to make a more concerted effort to blog here. Not really for your benefit internet crickets, but rather because this space provides me a semblance of creative catharsis and over the years has been a source of very valuable feedback. I owe a lot to this space and I figure that rather than worry too much that there’s a “right” way to blog, that I ought to just whatever comes to mind as I did when I started.

It worked once, I don’t see why it can’t work again.

Intentional Walks In The Workplace

This post is going to talk about baseball to make a broader point (I hope) so if you’re initially turned off, you should just go with me for a minute.

Joe Posnanski is probably the best writer about baseball in the business right now. His blog posts are quite long, but he writes yesterday about the World Series in Game 6. In case you weren’t watching, the long story short is basically that the Texas Rangers were just a strike away from winning the World Series twice in Game 6. They eventually lost that game and Game 7 the following night to go home runners-up from the World Series for the second straight year.

I’ll let Joe’s article set the backdrop to what I want to talk about here:

Then came Game 6, 10th inning, the Texas Rangers up a run. The Cardinals had the tying run on second base. And Albert Pujols stepped to the plate.

Baseball fans watch for a million reasons. It’s silly to try to reduce the game to a simple, “This is what the game’s all about” cliché, because the game is all about many, many things. But, Game 6 of the World Series, 10th inning, two outs, runner in scoring position, Albert Pujols at the plate, the whole city of St. Louis going bonkers — yeah, that’s a pretty good moment for the game. That’s a time when you wake up your kids to watch. That’s one you think about for the rest of your life.

And Ron Washington had his pitcher Scott Feldman intentionally walk Albert Pujols.

Now, you can question the strategy of the move, and you would be right. Washington was putting the winning run on base. The next batter, Lance Berkman, is one of the best hitters of the last generation, and he would have the platoon advantage being a switch-hitter, and in 2011, anyway, Berkman was actually BETTER against right-handed pitchers than Pujols.

2011 vs. righties:

Pujols: .300/.372/.525

Berkman: 307/.427/.571

But, I’m not talking strategy here. I’m talking about competition. I’m talking about conviction. I’m talking about guts. Ron Washington, in the biggest moment, didn’t trust his pitcher to get the final out. Ron Washington, in the biggest moment, tried to win the World Series by means of evasion, tried to win the World Series with an out-of-court settlement. And it was grotesque.

This whole sequence didn’t bother me because it was questionable baseball strategy — I’m a web guy with some tennis background, I might love baseball as a spectator, but I can only second guess — but rather because it was so clearly a questionable leadership decision. At the most critical moment at the most critical time. At a time when the boss could only watch, he inserted himself into the situation and made the best call that he thought he could make at the time.

There’s no shame in that. But the choice was essentially to concede defeat at a point when the stakes were high, but not so high that if there was a problem (worst case: pitcher gives up a 2-run home run to tie the game) that it couldn’t be fixed in some myriad of ways after the at-bat. But to step in and raise the stakes (now we’ve got 2 guys on base and are sending the winning run to the plate to face the music) and expect optimal performance — even if it’s just a situation that happens routinely in the sport — given the magnitude of the circumstances, it seemed extremely shortsighted.

I don’t have to live with the choice. Sure it might have cost that franchise millions of dollars in lost revenues associated with the prestige of winning a World Series title. But he won’t get fired, because somebody has to lose the World Series and it’s a rare occasion to even be there. A real life example? You’ve got to pitch a big project to a particular client and your ace comes down with some rare non-fatal, highly contagious Antarctic flu and can’t deliver. You need to rely on someone else and you’re not able to do it yourself. Rescheduling is not an option. So what do you do? In our baseball example, you’d just say “there will be other people who want to work with us. We’ll just wait for him, because if we can’t pitch him with our best guy, we won’t pitch him at all. They’re good for us to give our B game.”

I’m being over the top here. I just think there’s a real lesson embedded in this sports metaphor and it prompted me to jot all of this down. You draw your own conclusions and if you’re so inclined, leave a comment. (Especially if you’re one of those sixthousand Cardinals fans on my Twitter feed who surely supported Ron Washington’s decision. Hehe.)

You have to fuel your own vision

When I was younger, I used to think that it was enough to have a good idea. After all, we tell kids that good ideas can lead to great things happening. After years of failing, I started to realize that it doesn’t really matter how smart your mom thinks you are, how successful you were in your last job or how much you think you deserve to “make it.” It’s not the job of other people to empower your dreams. Will it happen sometimes? You betcha. But it’s not a bet you can make nor should you gamble your life away assuming that someone else is going to show up recognizing the intrinsic abilities you possess and try to help you get there.

It’s all about timing. But it’s more than that, too. You’ve got to bring your A game more often than not and when it’s prime-time, you just have to be ready. Sometimes, it won’t come all at once. It’ll be a slow crescendo that rises up from nowhere. Maybe it happens so fast you didn’t even know it while it was going on. But the biggest thing I’ve come to accept over the years is that you can’t expect anyone else to embrace your vision.

If they did, it’d cease to be yours. Or they’ll screw it up and annoy you, when really, it’s just your fault. Too much of this stuff starts earlier than we realize. So when you ask someone how they became an overnight success, they tell you a story about when they were six. Or nine years old doing that thing they loved. Or how they transitioned at a certain point, committed themselves to it and good things came about to the point that they’re talking to you.

There have been far more eloquent folks who’ve tackled this topic in a far less impromptu manner than I am right now. So much of the rhetoric these days rests on blaming someone else for what didn’t work out how we wanted it to go. It just seems misplaced. Are there structural problems with certain things? Yup. Are there people who exist in the same places we live, work and play who have legitimate grievances and don’t even know it? You betcha.

Success isn’t a pill and it doesn’t come in the form of a piece of paper. You have to define it for yourself. It might not be what your neighbor wanted for her life, it might not be what your dad wanted for his. That’s okay, because so long as you’re excited to wake up everyday working towards whatever this thing might be…there’s not much more you can ask for than that.

It can be disappointing when we’re not where we want to be at a particular point. I know I think about this a lot and try to find the words to describe it; but I usually don’t have them. Resilience comes from recognizing that if you’re still in the ring, that you have to keep fighting or else you need to find a new thing to do.

Tomorrow is a new day and what happens isn’t entirely up to me. But there are things I can do to make it the best day possible and you can best believe that I’ll do that tomorrow as I did today, yesterday and the days, months and weeks before.

Ultimately, all you’ve got is your ideas. Bring them to life or spend your days daydreaming and wondering “what if?”

Three goals for 2010

New Year's fireworks in Helsinki
Image by taivasalla via Flickr

I sat down to ask you this question, so I’ll answer it first.

1. Putting work in perspective. Work became a bigger part of my life than I liked and I had to take a step back. I went from someone I thought was pretty interesting, to being pretty consumed with this nebulous thing called success. If I’d arrived there, I decided it wasn’t a place I wanted to be. Since the middle part of this year, I’ve discovered quite a bit about myself and what motivates me. For someone who has made a vocation from preaching the importance of being authentic in communicating your message, this is no small thing. 2010 will be better for me, as a result.

2. More social, less media. I’ve made a conscious effort to use social media more as a tool to inform my everyday life, rather than a stream of consciousness communications tool. The majority of the people in my active life simply don’t use social tools. Which is a bit strange, but…it happens. Those who do are primarily confined to Facebook and I think we’ve covered how I feel about that already. Over the past few months, I’ve done a lot more watching and reading, rather than participating. My interaction hasn’t decreased, I’ve just been more selective about what I say and when I say it. I felt more constrained by social presence and made a change to fix that. In 2010, I feel like there’s more balance in that area and it’ll result in better conversations, posts and content on the whole.

3. More interactions. I wasn’t able to do much on the conference circuit this year and it’s a gaping whole I intend to fix in 2010. In part because I’ve talked to so many people on the web that I feel like I already know, that it’d be nice to actually meet them. So this is a pretty big one.

What are your goals for next year?

Thanks for your comments, emails and other feedback this year. I’ve far surpassed my humble expectations for this blog, by simply knowing I’m connecting with so many people professionally and personally. Here’s to a whole new set of adventures!

Nobody Cares

What you want just isn’t important.

People have their missions, their plans, their goals and their ideas about what matters to them. What they want, is for you to be part of helping them do precisely what they want, when they want it.

Fairness has nothing to do with it.

So you have two options. You can get upset or you can start to seize control of your own life. No one says you have to live a life that’s comprised solely of doing other people’s bidding all of the time. Your goals matter. Your dreams are important too. But not if you choose never to get out of your PJs and start making them happen.

You can do better and you deserve it. But does it mean anything if you don’t begin trying to reach where you want to go?

You only get one real crack at this life thing. And time seems to fly faster than you can often keep up with. That’s okay. It just keeping you honest.

So what are you going to do about it? Is this the day, the time and the year where you start plotting the course towards something better for you? When you stop looking over your shoulder or across the fence to see what your neighbor is doing? It’s not about them, it’s about you.

There is no such thing as a stupid goal. Or a useless career unless you make it so. You have the ability and the will to make big things happen. But you’re not always going to have people in your corner telling you how great you are and validating what it is you do. You need to start digging deeper and surrounding yourself with folks who’ll enhance what you’re trying to do, rather than cut it down.

It all seems like a lot, I know. But it’s really not. Think about it this way, if you’re going to sit there and remain frustrated; wondering why things aren’t going your way and trying to concoct plans that probably won’t get you out of it (because you won’t execute), you need to start being more proactive about your future.

Because it’s yours. And the headline is wrong. Someone does care. That someone ought to be you.

Workplace 2.0: Managing and Motivating Millennials

Workplace 2.0: Motivating and Managing Millennials, a manifesto I wrote was published on ChangeThis today.

What motivates young people isn’t the promise of a distant retirement check thirty or forty years after they’ve given all they have to a company that doesn’t let them have a piece of the pie. The first thing you need to keep in mind is the fundamental idea of ownership.

You don’t have to give up stock in your company, to give a young worker a feeling that s(he) is contributing to themselves, as well as the firm’s bottom line. But you do need to invest in their sense of desire to contribute in meaningful ways to institutions that matter. To them, coming to work is an exercise in mutual benefit.

You should download it and let me know what you think.

You can’t tread water forever

I used to think that stepping stones were an inevitable part of the growth process. That following some sort of logical trajectory towards where you ultimately wanted to be was a sensible thing to do. But as life continues to evolve, I came to the conclusion that investing your energy in things you’re not passionate about is just a bad way to live your life.

For me, the Air Force was a stepping stone to college, which was a stepping stone to a supposed career “doing what I wanted to do.” It was this myth of paying my dues and “waiting my turn” just failed to work. Part of it goes back to a lot of what I did as a kid and the sorts of pursuits I took up at a young age. In some ways, the last ten years — except for the travel — have been pedestrian in comparison to the ten that preceded them.

The bottom line is, there is no magic bullet. There isn’t a bell that rings when it’s “your time.” You can make opportunities out of nothing or not. No one knocks on the door and invites you into the club (and if they do, it’s probably a club you don’t want to join.)

I decided some years ago to work just as hard at advancing my own goals as I did for other people. Alas, it never stopped happened. I kept imagining that someone would realize would recognize what I had to offer. And they did, except not in the way I needed them to.

Then I came to realize there are no Bodhisattva’s in real life. You gotta forge your own path and make your own way. I’m not sure why the approach of age 30 pushed me to the edge of believing that this was “my time” but that’s precisely what’s happened.

There comes a time when you have to take the training wheels off, accept that there will be times you fall, but until you put yourself out there you’ll never truly know if you can do it the way you believe it can be done. You never stop gleaning knowledge or wisdom from those who you encounter throughout life, but it doesn’t mean you don’t have lots to offer too.

Better later than never, but why not now?

This is your time.

The Deepness Conundrum

The pressure to find meaning in everything we say is all around us. Whether it’s at work amongst our colleagues and superiors, at home with our friends and family or online with our net associates, it seems that everyone is always looking for tasty morsels of wisdom. It can be hard to keep track of it all, much less know if anything you’re saying actually makes any sense.

It drives some of us to start blogs to flesh out our thoughts and confirm whether or not we actually know what we think we do.

It can be a difficult thing to put yourself through, always trying to figure out what others are thinking, seeking feedback from whoever is willing to give it. The pressure can be unnecessary and will often cause you to chase false leads and pursue ideas that aren’t what you want, simply because you want to give the things people say equal weight.

I decided to start treating people’s thoughts and comments like currency valuation. Not all currencies are worth the same thing. Neither are unsolicited or deep thoughts from people who offer their opinions. Some you weigh equally with your own thoughts and insights and others, you value like the Zimbabwean dollar.

I find it very helpful to get feedback from other people. But I also find that it can often distort my own ideas and at certain times, turns into static cling rather than content with actual meaning and value. If I’m not careful, I can allow it to distract my priorities and send me on a wild goose chase trying to reconfigure my plans unnecessarily.

I’ve gotten better about it over the years in entrepreneurship and in life, but getting distracted by outside influence won’t go away and it won’t be something you can always ignore. I’ve just tried to learn that prioritizing and toning down the need for feedback on things where your gut, experience and intuition should lead the way, are the key to being true to myself and accomplishing more.

And I just realized, ultimately, that you just can’t be deep every day. Even if you want to be.