Trust Built on Pain

Have you used your experiences with pain (heartache, disappointment, failure) to build trust with your followers?  Do they know where you've hurt?

As crazy as it may seem, it's our experiences with pain that build trust.

It's the "I don't have to look over my shoulder" variety.  So many people/clients/organizations are searching for this even if they don't know it.

Show them the way.

The Idea and Reality of Self-Employment


I never became self-employed because of some ache to be my own boss or the next producer of a killer app.  Far from it, I had a mission and corporate America had no interest or desire to fund it.

Most people I know who are great at entrepreneur pursuits have a mission.  I mean they have this burning in them that won't go away.  Even after trying to kill it, they continue onto the unknown, scary and sometimes insane world that is the mission.

So in the end self-employment is merely a vehicle.

This past week two big things came down the pike for me.  First, Steve Jobs stepped down as CEO of Apple and Andy Frank thanked me for some unintentional advice.  Andy's thank you was the bigger of the two.  Andy is working on his "thing" and was lamenting the process of incorporating.  I told him that only a mission could make it worth the price paid.  It was like holding up a mirror to my own face.  A gut check with gusto.

I am on a mission.

For clarity, let me explain my thoughts on the difference between the idea and the reality of self-employment:

  1. Everyone's self-employed.  The gal working at the bank, the guy serving the latte and the partners waiting for their first round of funding.  If you haven't noticed we live in a self-directed world. It's scary ironic that more don't get this.
  2. What you do for money can and will vary.  The world of going to one place and doing one job are gone.  It's our freaking obsession with comfort that has us unwilling to give up that life.  Our work and life will morph and contract in different ways.  This is especially true in an ever-changing global economy.
  3. Infatuation with output is killing us.  We see the car, the press release on the millions in funding and we want it!  Funny how we choose to ignore the near-collapse experiences of most entrepreneurs.  Quite frankly, I don't think I could trust someone who hasn't lost big.  Losing big is, or should be, a refining fire.
  4. Self-employment should produce humility.  That's all that needs to be said.
  5. Our (America) economic woes would be lessened, if not cured, by putting more emphasis on helping entrepreneurs versus the bloated manipulators.  Ever notice how many of the big boys manipulate things like lay-offs, write-offs and revenue to produce a shiny result for a group of people they hate.  That's not growth, that's Vegas. 


Life Currency

In my post last week on the new net-worth, I challenged you to look at net-worth in a different way.  I even went as far as to say your life depends on it (in so many ways).

An important thing to keep in-mind is the currency each of us is given in the following 8 areas.  Call it life currency:

Wheel of Life 
The currency is with you all of the time, if you haven't declared bankruptcy in any of the areas yet.  The irony is you can invest this currency in any way you like.  You can be foolish or wise, greedy or giving the choice is yours.

So what if you you awoke tomorrow and no one was interested in your career currency or your money currency?  How would your fair?  Could you find any currency in your family account or your physical account?

My words could fly in the face of what you hold dear (like your career or social).  And in many facets, you won't get any encouragement from your investment house (as in the money variety) or family.  You might get objections like "what about your retirement" or "how are you going to support your wife and kids?"  Hopefully, you noticed that I've never advocated you ignore those.  I am asking you to do just the opposite.  

Pay close attention to each of the 8 areas. 

The idea here is to adopt integration-every day.  Starting small and moving to the big and great.



When Managers Are Vague-2011 Update

The following is a re-post of something I wrote over 3 years ago.  Had a conversation yesterday with a peer and we still see way too much of this:

Talked to a friend yesterday who works for a large organization with many deadlines and targets to hit.  She's a star in the company's eyes.  And like other "stars," she tends to get access to places and people that average performers don't.  She takes advantage of the opportunity-in a good way.  What's frustrating this star is managment's lack of clarity around directives.  Management has taken the approach of "need to know basis."  That might work at the CIA, but not in an organization made up of performance-workers.

Funny thing about star performers, they demand clarity.  It isn't given often with management.

Why the dichotomy?  A languishing leadership/management culture as far as I can see.  The company may have a viable product, long-standing customer base,  and a model that's effective in good times and bad.  But getting managers who understand how to lead great performers is tough.  Here are a few reasons:

  • High insecurity on the part of the manager.  Maybe they were taught (erroneously) that they were supposed to be the smartest gal/guy in the room.  The reality of this can be crushing to some.
  • The manager may talk a good game around diversity, but leading diverse people in real-life does not come through.
  • The manager has atrophied in their leadership and just wants people to follow orders.

When managers are vague, it creates an environment of vigilantes.  Everyone (star performers and bottom-feeders) wants to take control based on how they need to survive.  In many ways, the manager has become nothing more than a body in a suit.

Restoring (assuming it was there some time in the past) clarity is vital.  To not to do this would be organizational suicide.

Is Your Life a Misdemeanor or a Felony?

Scales of Justice 
This post will require you to forget the normal definitions and feelings about crime.  My play on words for this post require the following context:

    Misdemeanors will only create an insignificant interaction with legal authorities.  You might even get off with a warning.  In the end, your act was more of a blip or blur.

    Felonies, on the other hand are serious actions and cause disrupption.  Authorities will do all they can to see that something big happens.  Proper attention is given and depending on seriousness of the action, in might create widespread interest.

I'm going to give you a compare and contrast illustration from a few areas of life to help:

  • Money -A misdemeanor would be throwing a few dollars into a savings account every now and then.  A felony would be creating a plan to get out of debt, that would map out small experiments/steps to accomplish the goal.
  • Physical – A misdemeanor would be taking your dog for a walk in the warmer months, but not in the cooler seasons.  A felony would be creating a plan to get your heart rate up to 70% max, that includes small experiments/steps around biking.
  • Social – A misdemeanor would be saying hello to a neighbor when you see them in the morning or afternoon.  A felony would be creating a plan to introduce yourself to someone you've never met in 3 areas of your company, that would incorporate small experiments/steps of networking with a manager or co-worker.

The big take-away is, blips and blurrs are forgotten and lead to a wasted life.  On the other hand, serious actions and disrupptions are remembered and lead to a life well-lived.  Which do you prefer?


Thankful for Today

July 2011 021 
Today's post is dedicated and in honor of those who are just hanging on or battling demons to fierce for me to know.

Today, only because that's all I've been given, I am thankful for:

  1. Jesus Christ
  2. My wife, my kids and my dog
  3. My friends near and far
  4. My Health
  5. My mission
  6. Running in cool temps
  7. Music
  8. The ability to have empathy
  9. Prayer
  10. Humor
  11. Nature
  12. Wine


Mirror image 

We're seeing much upheaval in many spots right now.  Besides the business disruptions, we see a world that seems to have lost its mind.  In America we wonder if our elected leaders realize the impact of their influence.  There is also a big portion of folks who just want to live their lives and take care of what's been given to them.  All of these are legitimate concerns and situations.

As I write here, I wonder if way too many have ceded the management of their lives to governments, corporations, etc.

Here's the thing, we often talk about wanting balance, wanting meaning, wanting a great career, wanting the best for our family.  But those outcomes don't arrive without you actively managing their process.  The rub is firmly affixed to the reality that management is hard work.  And when the corporation (or any other formal institution) comes calling offering to take over management, trouble is set in motion.  The kind of trouble that gets  more difficult to change the longer you're involved.

I've written and worked with people on the art and science of total life management.  The idea of it can be daunting at first thought, but total life management is the single best approach to keeping life healthy in a holistic way.  For additional perspective, consider this piece from Thomas Friedman of the NY Times.  His thoughts are timely and almost prophetic.

The New Net-Worth

Measuring net-worth is a pretty linear process for many people/businesses.  Just subtract your liabilities from your assets, and voila you have your net-worth. Right?

Where I live (USA), we all are dealing with a new paradigm.  Some of us know it, some of us are denying it and some of us are just wondering in the desert.  Regardless of where you fall on that list, change has come. Our lives are different and I sense it's permanent.

It's interesting to me how old habits die hard.  Many are still rather obsessed about money and career.  Still partying on the Titanic I guess.  But what if money and career are only a part of your net-worth?  Sort of like two rooms in your house versus the entire dwelling.

In our work we advise people to see their net worth in way that is representative of their entire life…8 areas specifically.  The illustration below will reveal what those eight areas are:

Wheel of Life 
If I asked you to calculate your net-worth based on the wheel, how much would you be worth?  Are you in the black or in the red?  How prepared are you for the harsh winds of change?  And by the way, there are some who make six-figures who are actually very poor.  It is tragic.

I think you've probably figured out that my post is not designed to get you to abandon money and career.  But it is designed to get you to put things in their proper place.  A place where you begin to integrate the 8 areas in a deliberate way.

Yes, it is tough work.

The take-away here is found in that new paradigm.  If you think focusing only on career and money is a sound strategy, then I have some bad news for you.  It worked (or so we deluded ourselves into believing) during the days of continual prosperity.  But the truth is, it never worked and it certainly won't work now.  We have now entered into an age where the danger of ignoring/neglecting our total life will produce catastrophic results.  Maybe you've lost your job of 20 years and you never took the time to pay attention to your mental health, so managing the stress of job loss is crippling.  Maybe your marriage has crumbled around you and your wondering why you didn't spend time listening to your spouse's needs.  You get my point.

Turn around while you can, things have changed.  If you're wondering how this work is accomplished, then stay tuned.  We'll be working with our strategic partner Take Time for Life to present an experience that will show how managing your life (totally) can be done.