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Month: November 2017

Navigating ambiguity and uncertainty

We want to know things for certain. When unsure, when there’s doubt, when the answers are not staring us in the face, we get jittery. Who’s going to make the decision for us? Who is going to tell us it’s going to be okay?

Fact is, no one, really. Goes back to the fact each of us are navigating our own journey based on the experiences we’ve had before. Capitalism is ruthlessly efficient at optimizing without regard for feelings. For life. It takes human empathy to reign it in.

Even the CEO doesn’t know things for certain. Sure, she can make decisions based on experience and data. But success comes from making strategic bets for which the outcome isn’t known until it is.

Many people have a hard time navigating what’s ambiguous. With sitting with not knowing what’s certain. There’s magic and art in ambiguity. There’s differentiation and courage there.

Successful navigation requires confidence and options. It requires a foundation that affords you the opportunity to fail strategically. Because you will fail before you succeed.

Overcoming ego in building teams

The best teams are selfless. But each of us has an agenda. A lens though which we view the world. Unless each of us commits to the greater vision of the team, we’ll undermine the team success for our own benefit. Yet conversely if we give ourselves selflessly to the team we’ll get the rewards in the long term.

Our lizard brains though trick us into focusing more on short term gains. Just look at Wall Street for how prominent that approach is. Few are committed to building companies with legacies. The norm is on how fast you scale and exit. Grabbing a nice pot of cash on your way out. I get the logic in this. Who doesn’t want to be rich?

Yet for society to thrive longterm, we need to think more about building selfless teams. The kinds of teams that can win. And win big. If we get out of our own way.

I read recently Scott Adams’ focus on systems over goals as a means towards success. If you can build a system within a team and operate effectively within that system, you should hit your success.

Profit and loss

If you don’t make any money you won’t be long in business. That’s pretty obvious. And starting up, you need a cushion to do your best work and secure the best opportunities or you’ll make poor decisions just to keep the lights on. And that’s not confidence inspiring.

Taking more in than you pay out is a basic recipe for business success.

And then there are the other profits and losses. The people along the way you need to be successful and who you lose when you take advantage of them in a zero sum gain.

Big businesses think too much of squeezing customers and squeezing employees to bolster profits. Loopholes, shortcuts, lies can lead to greater profits. And greater losses when it comes crashing down.

How you earn your profit matters. It can even differentiate you from your competition. What if more companies focused on building long term sustainable businesses. Maybe they grew at measured rates rather than exponential. And maybe they were the types of businesses that lasted decades and gave more back to the earth than they took. Made those that worked for them earn enough to live good lives. Created community in the face of a world lacking today in community.

Maybe if more companies did this, we’d be on our way to mending the great divide in the country. Maybe it would even pave the way to sustainable solutions to climate change.

At the rate we’re going, most businesses are making profits at the expense of the earth. And most of us are consuming at the expense of the earth. At some point the profits enjoyed will become huge losses.

You might feel powerless to act. But what if each of us took micro steps each day in our businesses, jobs, lives to reverse course. Might we make more profits in the end? Live better lives?

Just imagine.

You are here

While you were busy checking Facebook wondering what your friends were up to, posting to Instagram, checking Twitter and YouTube, others were creating. Writing. Drawing. Designing. Thinking. Shipping.

We often regret the time we waste on things that seemed productive in the moment, lamenting where the time went. If we’d achieved our goals and dreams we’d look back with satisfaction. Yet how many of us do that? You can’t go back. Time once expended is gone.

On the flip side, parsing your time into massive productivity slices isn’t the answer either. Being busy organizing, cleaning, responding is just that: keeping you busy with the false illusion you’re doing something productive. True productivity is doing the right things. And only you know what those are. Those nagging goals and dreams currently unfulfilled.

I’m not advocating a slovenly lifestyle. Clean. And stay that way as that frees your mind from the clutter of distraction. And dust bunnies everywhere are just gross. Whether in your head or your home or your office.

There’s also the argument that idle time is also time well spent. Time where you sit quietly with your thoughts. Where the digital is not present. Ideas happen here. Do this.

Don’t go another year and look back with regret on where the time went without anything to show for it. Look back next year and smile at the experiences you enjoyed. The work you did. And the difference you made. And if you achieved your dreams this year, where are you going next?

Because they said so

They said this was the best thing.
They said we should go here.
They told us this was the best place to live.
They said fevers are bad.

How often have you wondered who ‘they’ is?

I learned yesterday that since 1955 Tylenol invented the concept that fevers are bad and you need to treat them fast. And Tylenol will do the trick. In reality, fevers are your body kicking into action to heal itself. And fevers of 103 or 104 degrees – considered extremely high and certainly not fun – are not bad for you. Tylenol told you they were and it became the truth. And so you went to the doctor to get help. And doctors had to jump on the bandwagon. Parents everywhere panic when their little ones get a fever.

There are many ‘theys’ telling you what to do. The reality is only you know what is right for you. What ‘they’ tell you is one data point often worth considering. Often not. The best is relative. Your mileage will vary.

We frequently look for someone else to tell us what’s right because it’s easier. We don’t want to get it wrong. Yet oftentimes getting it wrong is how we grow assuming it’s not a life threatening decision. Which most are not.

Ask more questions

How often do you ask questions before blindly doing something you’re asked? Do you seek to understand the ‘why’ behind the mission or just follow it?

I ask a lot of questions in business and personal. I am curious to learn more, to understand why we’re doing something. What makes someone get up in the morning. It’s a way of sussing out a bigger story and perhaps finding more innovative solutions. Or connecting the dots in a counter intuitive way that resonates.

When I interview prospective job candidates, it’s all about asking thought-provoking questions and I enjoy the process of learning about people. I find that those that don’t ask me questions are not so curious. They tend not to think critically and are thus less equipped to navigate ambiguity and change. They are less likely to be able to create a map when there is none.

Be a curious explorer. Questions may beget more questions and take you down a path you hadn’t initially envisioned. A path that leads to stronger outcomes.

What questions are you not asking today But should?

What’s next?

That’s the question we are always asking. In business and personal. If you’re not growing you’re dying.

How we answer the question and then act upon it is where the proverbial rubber meets the road. Reactive? Or proactive? Do you let change happen to you or do you navigate through it knowing it’s inevitable and that you can’t control all the forces that conspire to thwart your best efforts?

Effectively answering the question starts with a good foundation. Your vision. Your goals. A roadmap. It’s asking the question, what’s next with a strong sense of self and mission. It allows you to make the most of change.

Granted none of us have a crystal ball. But we can start with what is in our purview. Adjusting course along the way as we take in new information. It seems we ask this question more frequently towards the end of the year. What’s next for you?

Stop and smell the Turkey

Today is the day we write pithy words of thanks and gratitude. Right before the mad dash that is the holiday season.

I, too, owe much gratitude to those around me for their kindness. Their time. And the opportunities I have each day. It’s remarkable what each of us have even when we’re clamoring for more. I have to remind myself of that too.

It’s no secret this has been a weird and trying year on so many fronts. For this day, though, a simple thank you. A chance to slow down and savor the moment. To breathe in the warm scents of a juicy, freshly roasted Turkey. Happy Thanksgiving all.

Digital Disconnection. Analog Reconnection.

It’s been a decade since the first iPhone and most of us now constantly reach for our devices to keep up with the world. It’s displaced so many industries via businesses built around the utility of apps. And replaced much of what we carried around with us to navigate daily life – and continues to do so from music to pictures to credit cards and money. Yet it’s also fostered disconnection with the physical world as we can no matter where we are, engage with our phone rather than the real human next to us.

The promise of convenience is having a detrimental effect on our kids and us that we’re beginning to recognize. My daughter – like many teens – can get caught up in social media where everything teens do is shared and you can see what missing out on. Parties. Trips. Shopping. Same goes for the curated lives most of us post on Facebook. It affects your self esteem.

Living in the analog world is becoming hip for some. I can tell a difference when my daughter steps away from her phone. I can feel a difference when I get lost in the day, not concerned about what’s going on in the digital realm. The flutter of updates and gamification of our lives is a seductive and powerful business model. It’s worked brilliantly to capture our thoughts and attention. I think there’s an opportunity for a business to innovate in ways to make such engagement healthy. Many years ago a creative consultant I worked with talked about future primitive where in we reach back into our past to find balance. This notion is much more real today than when she shared it.

It is noticing what we’re doing. When we’re reaching for our devices and why. It’s learning again to sit with ourselves. To sit with quiet. To be intentional rather than distracted and reactive. Out of this comes better thinking. Better creativity. A sense of well being. Happiness. And making digital work for us.

So how was your year?

Shall I acknowledge it’s been nearly a year since I’ve posted here? It’s pretty obvious and yet I feel I need to do so for you, dear reader.

Why is it that at the end of each year we take that step back to evaluate what we did and didn’t do over the year? Goals set and not achieved. Or set and actually exceeded?

It isn’t that I haven’t posted ANYTHING online for the year. Rather, I’ve kept up my daily photo and a few words about the day over at Mundaily. Using my trusted Fuji X100f each day, I’ve flexed my visual muscles and the workflow of downloading, editing and processing an image for each day. Some days have been visually richer than others. Some I just need to check the image off the list.

As I usually do each year, I think a lot about what I want to do when I grow up. Seems I am in a perpetual stage of growing up! It’s the journey really and embracing that is what I enjoy. It’s about possibility. It’s about engagement. And I’ve realized more than ever, it’s about being intentional.

I won’t make promises that I will blog daily, weekly or on any schedule yet. The proof will be in the pudding so to speak. Yet I am eager to flex my writing muscles to improve. To share what’s going on. To share the possibility I feel in spite of all we read each day.