Don’t Save the Best for Last

I wrote the following post almost 5 years ago. In some ways timeless. I'm convinced everyday that I don't "have time." A great sadness that many live everyday thinking they do.

I'm all for finishing strong/well.  However, the myth of your best years being found in some future day is insane.  I say that due to the importance of the choices you make now and how they will determine those years-taking for granted that you'll see them.  Forever now!

I can't think of a more fitting place than our career to illustrate how this type of logic reigns.  It's subltle and deceptive all at the same time.  If a leader doesn't see his or her life as a whole, then a incongruent outcome is almost always certain.

As leaders seek to navigate a career and a life, I would suggest the following:

  • Think long and hard about value.  Specifically, the value you're creating over time.  In many ways it's like starring in your own motion picture.  Create Epic Value for all those playing a part in your story.  Keep in mind, there are no do-overs.  You will either create value or you won't.
  • Before you read that next journal, newspaper or marketing pitch take a step back and question the motives of the messengers.  For example, many marketers are dying on the vine, so selling is job 1.  What they're selling might be designed to move you in a direction that isn't aligned with your destiny.
  • Stop thinking you have time.  We're all terminal, its just that some know and some don't.  Don't mean to go morbid here, but seeing life as a limited time offer should inspire you to stop screwing around with small desires (titles, money, fame, and power).
  • Be Authentic!  Let the world see who you really are!  If you don't like who you are or think that who you are has no value, then contact me and I can prove that you have a reason to be who you are.
  • Place more value on people than math, no matter how much the numbers say to do otherwise.  Besides, if you're in a position where numbers matter more than people, be afraid, be very afraid.

See the below story from The Guardian/UK on Stephen King for more connection:

"The accident happened on June 19 1999. King was strolling alongside Route 5 near his home in Bangor and looking forward to seeing a film with his family later that evening. As he walked, a Dodge truck barreled towards him. It was driven by Bryan Smith, a drug user with multiple driving convictions. A Rottweiler called Bullet was loose in the truck and had jumped on to a seat where there was a cooler of hamburger meat Smith had bought for a barbecue. Smith became distracted by his dog, swerved across the highway and hit King. The writer managed to turn his head a little before impact and thus missed being struck by a steel support post on the truck that would probably have killed him.

King's head left a many-tentacled crack in the windscreen. He broke his right hip joint, four ribs and his right leg in nine places. His spine was damaged in eight places. "The accident gave me a real sense of mortality, a sense of hurry that I didn't have before. Not immediately, but about a year after the accident I was able to say: 'That guy nearly killed me.'" Smith died of an overdose 15 months later on September 21, King's birthday." © Guardian News and Media Limited 2008

The Power of a Video Resume

In the market we find ourselves in, I think it wise to stand out from the herd. One excellent way is through the medium of video. In this post I'm specifically thinking of the video resume.

Video resumes are not new. That said, I think video can be intimidating for many. This article from Eugen Lim is a great start as you consider this approach. I like Eugene's insights because she has experience on her side. Not in years, but in, she's learning and about to embark on what many are in the midst of.

Enjoy the video and I hope it helps you get to that desired place-may it be Epic.

Why You Should Consider Education ROI

The following is a guest post from Phillip Reed. Phillip is associated with Westwood College in the Colorado area.

There are many ways one can look at higher education:  you can look at it as a way of spending several years immersing yourself in the history, culture and philosophy of the world around you; you can look at it as an effective way of broadening your employment prospects; or you can look at is as a financial investment.  It’s this last perspective that we will discuss here, as return on investment (ROI) is a significant issue in higher education today.

Thinking of higher education as a financial investment is important, because, like it or not, it’s expensive.  Any expense of that magnitude should ideally have some lasting benefit in your life, and in this case that benefit is a substantially increased level of knowledge.  While it would be difficult to argue a direct ROI from higher education, it’s clear enough that it can be achieved in an indirect way.  That is to say, you pay a certain amount for the knowledge, that knowledge translates to a higher level of employment, and that employment brings you a larger sum than the amount you invested.  Simple, no?

Again, though, that’s an ideal situation, and it’s not something that everybody can count on, or should count on.  For those who are looking at education as an investment and not strictly as an opportunity for personal growth and enlightenment, some up-front planning and research is crucial.

Higher education, after all, can be expensive.  And, as we know, high salaries are by no means guaranteed.  It’s important, then, to weigh two things:

1)  The Cost of the Education

2)  The Potential Salary in a Given Field

So far, that’s straight forward enough.  And, fortunately, you have a bit of wiggle room in both areas. 

For starters, the cost of education can vary depending upon whether or not you qualify for grants, your place of residence, the nature of the institution (community college or online college are often significantly less expensive, for example), the speed with which you complete your degree, and other factors that are relatively within your control.

In terms of your potential salary, there’s a lot less control you can exercise.  You can, however, understand that salary can increase over time, and by working hard and investing yourself more deeply in your work you can potentially expect your annual income to grow.  If it doesn’t, you may be able to leverage yourself a better deal with a competitor or, depending upon your given field, by going into business for yourself. 

This kind of versatility is not consistent across disciplines, so research yours in particular before you count on being able to write your own ticket.  For instance, a computer programmer may well go into business for himself if he is not satisfied in his job in a particular company, but a medical assistant may not have that luxury.  A computer programmer may also find himself in demand enough that he may be able to negotiate a better salary or benefits in return for staying with his current employer, while a clerk or receptionist may not enjoy the same element of irreplaceability, and can therefore expect a level of compensation determined by his or her employer.

When you stack up a rough cost against a rough expectation of payout, you’ll want to see the latter much greater than the former.  If the former outweighs the latter, then you have a problem with your investment.

For instance, take a look at this article from Financial Highway.  They highlight several majors that may not have an acceptable ROI in today’s economic climate, including Social Work, Liberal Arts, and Horticulture.  (Sorry, horticulturalists…we didn’t create the list!)  Of course they don’t delve into exactly how much a representative degree in these fields would cost…they couldn’t do that, as the possibilities are too vast to consider in a general article like this one.  That’s the student’s job. 

After all, ROI is relative.  It may be true that the money you spend on a Criminal Justice degree at one college might not see its cost easily recouped, but a similar degree obtained at a less expensive school might just tip the scales a bit, and make the job that much more profitable.

For a sunnier counterbalance to the above list, check out this article as well.  It’s a list of degrees with high ROI, and this time they do try to break it down by dollar and percentage.  As always, you will need to do your own research (after all, they sure didn’t contact your college of choice and future employer to get this information!) but this might provide some food for thought when considering what to take into account when making your decision. 

Weighing your options beforehand can help you to avoid regret and disappointment down the line.  As unromantic as it might sound to say, a focus on potential ROI should be a deciding factor for those considering higher education for the sake of employment.  For those who see college as a chance to grow as human beings, it’s less important…but anyone who wants to secure their future financially would do well to do their research up front, rather than struggle to make up for a lack of research later.


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.


We all know people who are good at positioning for insincere purposes.  This is probably why the word has a fairly negative connotation.  But what about positioning for sincere and "right" reasons?

It could be a game-changer for you.

Whether you're looking for your next job opportunity or pitching a VC on a great business idea, positioning is vital.  Consider it the backdrop for your story.  If your intentions are sincere, then you should want to position the story (compelling and not like the everyone else) for your audience.  Seems to me it would take the edge off of the blues we can tend to experience while pursuing our dreams. 

It's worth it if you want your life to count.  Understand this; if you were looking for any employer, any VC, any business partner, then positioning would be a complete waste of time.  But my guess is you want it to be right.  The question is whether you're willing to go through the fire to find what you're looking for.

After the fire, you'll find the place you were looking for.

Career Fear Factor

3 Headed Dog 


"You are caught by what you are running from." – Sam Keen


Does losing your job or not finding a job scare you?  For many, the answer would be yes.  Now if it’s just a passing thought don’t pass out.  I'm speaking of preoccupation and consistent fear.  Most people have, at one time or another, considered the reality.  In 2011 the reality of this type of change is real-for better or worse.  But do you manage your career and life around that fear? 


I’ve seen leaders make decisions because they were calculating the most foreboding scenarios.  The great fear of job loss controls their every move.  This motivation produces mediocre results, and even worse, an absence of credibility with those that follow.  And since leaders who hold high positions of power are human, they lead by fear and hope for the best.  Sadly, many leaders and managers infect the very people they're supposed to help.  So what was once a singular issue is now organizational.


Human beings are skilled at setting up their own kingdoms…complete with impregnable walls and barbed wire fences.  We think we're in control.  The higher an individual climbs in their respective organization, the more tempting it will become to try to control everything.  That’s why organizations are “certifiable” for not catching their people early in the process.  For example, teaching them about holistic leadership and the danger fear-based living presents.


If you desire something great (something that leaves you, your family, other people, and your health intact) from a career, then you’re gonna have to risk.  Maybe even risk that very career you're hold onto so tightly.  I'm a much better human being, leader, entrepreneur because of the risks I've taken.  The risks have not always worked out in my favor, but there is no way I would have become what I am without those risks.


Better to get ahead of your fears, before they claim you.

The DNA Seminar

Human eye 
The following is an updated post I wrote a few years ago.  Subject matter is still relevant and the problem is still pervasive.  Leaders/managers hear the bell.

A friend of my wife's lost his job this past Monday.  It was done in the name of saving costs.  Yes, at one time or the other you're a cost.  No promises, right?  It's a tough situation that is only made worse by organizations who make lots of promises.

Funny thing is the group he worked in was just started a year ago.  How can you know in twelve months whether something will fly? 

So what to do when Mommy and Daddy fly?  Sorry for the flippant reaction, but this guy just moved here from the west.  Why not use some candor and tell the employees that the organization isn't sure about the prospects and it may not go the way of success?  Two faces are the issue here.  And before you think I'm conjuring this stuff up, please know I've delivered the "two-faced" speech in my former corporate management life.  It went something like this; one face was in the room with management stating we'll let them go if the unit oesn't meet targets (usually unrealistic).  Another face was in front of the employees stating how the future was bright.

I write this post today to communicate something simple, yet complex.  Every leader who has human beings following them should be required to attend an all-day seminar on the marvels of human DNA.  If I were conducting the seminar I would say the following at its conclusion:

"After today think long and hard about who follows you.  And when you make your plans think about the implications-they're real and worth your consideration."

You can read here about some of the dynamics of our DNA.