“You don’t have to make a billion dollars. Just fill a void. If you can’t get to profitability without investors, start over.” – Jay Adelson, CEO, Digg
I have to disagree.
You actually can fail at something even if you choose not to quit.
Some people chant this mantra in the face of unbeatable odds, hoping that somehow, by holding on for another day, something will happen. Something miraculous. Unfortunately, circumstances usually don’t change themselves.
Take GM for example. GM failed miserably in several ways. They failed to make innovative fuel efficient vehicles even when the market was thirsty for them. They failed to pay attention to the bottom line. They failed to sell off unprofitable product lines.
GM failed as a business, but they didn’t quit. They didn’t quit because they knew the government would bail them out of their failure. And now we, the American public, are paying the price (but that’s another issue altogether).
Some people would argue that because GM is still around, they haven’t failed. But that’s not the point.
It’s difficult for a lot of us to accept that failure is not always a bad thing. Often, failure is just an indicator that we should do things differently. And doing things differently means we have to quit doing things how we were doing them before. It sounds elementary, but most things are. Knowing what to do, and not doing doing it, is really not knowing (sage advice from my wife, Mandy).
Sometimes you have to quit in order to succeed.
Here’s my new business philosophy: I think we should toss the 40-hour workweek.
I mean, who decided that the standard workweek should consist of 40 hours anyway? If you think about it, the purpose of any given job is to accomplish a certain number of things in a designated amount of time, right? But why do you need a “designated amount of time?” What if the amount time you spent on said things was irrelevant, thereby forcing all of the relevance to the thing accomplished?
What I’m trying to say is that I think business should function on a goal-based workweek.[Disclaimer: I realize that there are some jobs for which the job itself requires time as a framework. Take retail for example. A person must be present in the store during operating hours to serve the customers. However, this could still apply to some aspects of those jobs.]
At the beginning of a goal-based workweek, you would set a series of goals/projects to accomplish in that week’s time. It might take you 40 hours or 10 hours or 80 hours. The point is to accomplish your objectives in the most efficient way. So instead of thinking to yourself “I have 40 hours to do X, Y, and Z” your thinking would be, “I need to accomplish X, Y, and Z this week no matter how long it takes.” Then, you wouldn’t have to feel guilty or try to fill time if you finish in 20 hours, but you also have to stick it out if it takes 70.
What often happens during the typical workweek can be explained by Parkinson’s Law. It states that work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion. So based on Parkinson’s Law, if you have 40 hours available in any given workweek, it will take you 40 hours to complete your tasks.
This just seems so inefficient to me. There is little incentive for efficiency.
How much more efficient could you be if you knew you could go home as soon as your projects were finished for the week?
Hopefully I will get a chance to try this someday. I’ll let you know how it goes.
I just finished reading “All Marketers Are Liars: The Power of Telling Authentic Stories in a Low Trust World” by Seth Godin. I learned so much from this book that I actually feel like I spent a week at a conference. I wanted to share what I learned with you.
In case you don’t know who Seth Godin is, he writes the most popular marketing blog in the world and has written ten best selling books.
First of all, Seth is not accusing marketers of being liars. Marketers are storytellers. The consumer hears the story, filters it through his worldview, and he or she is the one who chooses to believe or not believe the story. If he chooses to believe it, he actually lies to himself because marketing is not based on needs, it is based on wants. What matters is what the consumer believes.
“Either you are going to tell stories that spread, or you will become irrelevant.”
A couple of points that are especially salient:
1. Every person has a worldview and we are not going to change their worldview, no matter how much we try to convince them. Worldview = the rules, values, beliefs and biases that an individual consumer brings to a situation. Case in point: we will never convince anyone that they need our material or creative services and we shouldn’t try to convince them. Whether it be a pastor, individual or business, they are either going to identify with our story or not. Even IF we were able to convince them to buy something from us, they certainly wouldn’t be so excited as to tell their friends, and if they don’t tell their friends, the story stops with them. So, we need to seek out people whose worldview fits ours and not worry about anyone else.
“In order to be believed, you must present enough of a change for people to notice. But then you have to tell a story, not give a lecture.”
2. A good story doesn’t shout the facts, it merely hints at them. It really doesn’t matter how many hours of material our DVDs contain or that we can shoot in HD. Don’t get me wrong, these are good facts, but facts don’t drive people to make decisions. Emotions drive people to make decisions. And yes, even most purchasing decisions in business are based more on emotions than on facts.
“You succeed by being an EXTREMIST in your storytelling, then gracefully moving your product or service to the middle so it becomes more palatable to audiences that are persuaded by their friends, not by you.”
3. Our story should be extreme. Take the title of this book for example. Seth named it “All Marketers Are Liars” intentionally because if he had named it “All Marketers Are Storytellers” or something like that, no one would disagree/challenge/hate/talk about it. Our story needs to be extreme and then we need to bring people back to the center where are products and services are.
“Your opportunity lies in finding a neglected worldview, framing your story in a way that this audience will focus on and going from there.”
So, what do need to do with this information?
Let’s not waste our time trying to convince people they need our products. They are not for everyone. Either you are in or out. The people who are in are the ones we need to develop strong relationships with because they are the ones who will spread the virus.
We should not be afraid to tell an extreme story. It’s perfectly alright (and necessary) to offend some people.
One of the points Seth makes is that companies with authenticity thrive. One of the ways to do this is to “humanize” your website. Potential clients need to know who they are going to work with. They need to see that we are real people with real ideas and energy. They need to see an authentic team, not just a shell of a website. Why not film goofy interviews with the team, set up a blog that is updated at least weekly.
Have a clear definition of WHAT you do. Be very careful about not trying to be all things to all companies. If we try to be good at everything we will end up not being good at anything. Clearly defining (in the context of a compelling story) what you do will always be a challenge because you really can do so many different things – and do them well. But just because you can do something well doesn’t mean you can be the best in the world at it (to throw in a little wisdom from ‘Good to Great’).
But what do you do that you can build an extreme story around that creates an emotional want, not just “I need a widget so I’ll call Widgetmakers.” The way you win is to have people looking for an excuse to work with you because they WANT to, not because they NEED to. Telling a great, authentic story is the way to make that happen.
There are so many other great ideas in this book that I won’t belabor here. I strongly recommend that you read this book!
Thanks for listening.
I’ve never had a mentor as an adult. I’m not even sure what the official definition of a mentor is.
Yet it seems that mentoring has become sort of a buzz word. I hear people say, “You need to have a mentor,” or “I had a great mentor who taught me a lot about business.”
But what does this relationship entail and how does it come about? Are you suppose to ask someone to mentor you? Is someone older and wiser suppose to seek you out and offer to mentor you? I guess I don’t understand proper mentoring protocol.
I’m not the only one who’s confused (surprising, isn’t it?).
Last week I was talking to a friend who also has never had a mentor. He too was confused about the dynamics of this kind of relationship. So maybe a lot of people are without mentors.
What do you think? Do you have a mentor? If so, how did this relationship develop and has it been beneficial?
On a recent trip to Philadelphia, I met a homeless couple on the street near our hotel.
David and Alicia recently moved from New Jersey to Philly looking for work. They have a three year old son and Alicia recently gave birth to what would have been twins if one hadn’t died in the womb. The surviving twin was born with multiple deformities and diseases. They didn’t say where the surviving infant was, but I’m assuming she is in the state’s care.
David and Alicia’s three year old son was recently taken away from them after they tried to check into a Philadelphia shelter. They were turned away and the shelter alerted the Department of Human Services. The shelter wouldn’t take them in because apparently you have to live in Philly for at least 30 days before a shelter will house you. So, they are being forced to live on the street until May 26th.
There’s no doubt that drugs had a hand in creating their present reality, but that morning, I could tell they were both sober. David told me they had been clean for over a year. I believe him.
The first time I saw them I was taking a short walk before our team met for breakfast. It was all I could do to ignore them as I walked by. There was just something different about them. Something about the innocent desperation in David’s eyes. But I forced myself to keep walking, justifying my callousness by thinking there’s nothing keeping him from getting up off that sidewalk and finding a job. What do I know.
I went back to our hotel room where the team was eating breakfast. We had a lot of uneaten food, more food than David and Alicia had probably eaten in the past two weeks. So I bagged it up and took it downstairs, hoping David and Alicia were still there.
What followed was one of the most heart-wrenching conversations I’ve had in a long time. This couple was sleeping in a park, had no money, just had their three year old son taken away from them, and somewhere their handicapped baby was living in state custody.
I gave them the food and a little cash, shook their hands and left. As I was getting up, David peeked in the bag. I’ve never seen a grown man be so excited about a bag of apples, muffins and granola bars. I hope it made their day on the street just a little easier.
So tonight, as I curl up in my warm bed I will remember David and Alicia sleeping in the park. I will remember the marginalized. Remember that everyone has a story. And I will remember that everyone deserves a chance to tell that story.
“A man is rich in proportion to the number of things he can afford to let alone.“
~ Henry David Thoreau
Simplicity is much harder to achieve than complexity.
It’s easy to make something complicated. It’s much harder to make it simple.
On the surface, this might sound like a contradiction. But it’s true.
Take Google for example.
I recently listened to Larry Page, co-founder of Google, give a commencement speech to the 2009 graduates of the University of Michigan. He described Google’s mission to “Organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.” This is an extremely simple way to describe an incredibly complicated idea.
When I think about Google, I visualize the homepage with one search field surrounded by a sea of white nothingness. The homepage hasn’t changed much (if at all) in years.
Simple and effective.
Sure, the people at Google could get all excited and add tons of new features and gadgets to the homepage and probably drive a lot more traffic…for a while. But then it would start to look and feel like every other search engine.
Google made a conscience choice to pursue simplicity emphatically. I’d say it has paid off.
So how do you take a complicated idea and make it simple?
I’ll tell you how I try to do it. In the midst of the excitement/confusion/storming of an idea, I try to mentally separate myself from the discussion and ask a question that opposes where the idea is headed. This is sometimes called “dissent” or being the “devil’s advocate.” It forces you to think in a different way than you were before. Often, this new thought map leads to an insight that was missing in the previous line of thinking. And that insight is usually much simpler and more directed than the one before it.
Simplicity can sometimes be complicated to acheive. But it is always worth it.
I love this quote from Teddy Roosevelt:
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; because there is not effort without error and shortcomings; but who does actually strive to do the deed; who knows the great enthusiasm, the great devotion, who spends himself in a worthy cause, who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement and who at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly. So that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.”
Is it fair to say that everyone wants to do something spectacular? Something that makes a big splash? Something significant?
I don’t know if it’s true for everyone, but it is definitely true for me. I really want to make an impact by challenging the status quo and breaking through the mediocrity of tired ideas.
But what does it take to do that? And why do so many of us settle for less?
I think it’s partly because it is so easy to get comfortable with the way things are. It takes time, energy and a plan to do something great. We have to be intentional about how we use our precious “free” time. In my experience, it’s time that might be spent doing irrelevant, unproductive things anyway (like surfing Facebook). It also takes a willingness to fail (see my post on failure). The best way to come up with a great idea is to first come up with a hundred failed ones.
Another reason I think so many of us never reach our potential is because we are constantly distracted. Especially in the uber-connected world we live in today. For instance, at this moment, I have six tabs open in Firefox, I’m listening to iTunes, uploading a video to Vimeo, checking new Tweets in TweetDeck, and writing this blog. It is amazing how refreshing it can be to completely disconnect from your digital life for a day. Try it sometime.
A lot of us don’t believe we are capable of doing something great. We’re just average people. I think this is crap. Everyone has a story. Everyone has potential creative energy stored inside.
We can also get caught up in criticizing those before us who have tried and failed. It gives us a great excuse to not expose ourselves to failure. It’s much easier to be a critic than a craftsman. They may have failed, but I guarantee you they learned invaluable lessons in the process. Failure is an amazing teacher.
Like Teddy says, greatness can only happen when we actually get in the fight. And it will feel like a fight most of the time. It takes a scrappy resolve to do something great.
So the question is, what’s holding you back from getting in the fight?
Sometimes you work really hard on things and they never get used.
This video is one of those things. Many many hours were spent creating this video several years ago and it never saw the light of day. Until now.
This really bothered me for a long time. I never received any feedback about why it wasn’t used. Maybe they just didn’t like it. Maybe something about it offended them. Who knows.
All I know is that I was proud of the work I did and I felt like it was time to share it.
I received a letter today (yes, some people still send those) from a company that outsources web development services on an a la carte basis.
Not a bad idea. Especially at $20 per hour.
I perused the letter looking for their web address. No luck. A sales letter for a web development company with no web address. Interesting.
Ok, I did find a couple of email addresses and I’m smart enough to know that the URL after the @ will usually take you to the right place. But each email address had a different URL after it!
I’m not sure why terrible marketing efforts fascinate me, but they do. I guess I’m just amazed at the amount of money people waste on irrelevant, unsuccessful advertising.
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