Pay It forwards

Often times, i’ve been told i’m too generous, with time, money, ideas etc. I’ve been lucky to see a few ideas i’ve spoken to people about, actually bear fruit and become successful. I think its important to maintain a sense of humility, it might have been my idea or suggestion, but all the risk, effort and time was done by someone else, it took me moments to think of something, and it’s nice to think i was part of what made a project successful, but the effort to get it from an abstract drawing on a napkin to something fully realised wasn’t my doing.

The valuable thing for me is that i’ve been able to make many friend, garner respect, build a reputation and get invited to do and work on some really interesting projects, simply off the basis of being helpful and ‘paying it forwards’. I really believe the more charitable and helpful you are the more it will repay you in years to come, at the very least you get more access to interesting people and you develop a reputation for being someone that can help.

 

Bite the Bullet

starting TLC from idea to beta has taken 4 weeks, and you’d be surprised at how many twists turns and changes can happen in 4 weeks, and at some point, you just need to bite the bullet, and put your trust in your capabilities and experience, i can see why most start ups fail, too often startups are full of bravado rather than experience, so they take blind leaps of faith.

whilst i’m suggesting that you need to bite the bullet and ‘just do it’ that experience working in a company for a period of time, and getting some expertise will help you deal with all the twists and turns that you’ll encounter in a more efficient and effective way. Also, you’ll develop and cultivate relationships and friendships that can help you and support you.

yes you need to believe in yourself and have faith in your idea, but belief and faith in your idea come from having the experience to know if the idea is good or well planned, this can only really come from experience. and why, i believe, most start ups fail.

so yes, bite the bullet, chase that dream and be decisive in your execution of the plan, but before you even take that leap of faith, first make sure you’re experienced enough to make that kind of decision.

make the call

I had an interesting experience with a friend of mine previously who was getting very anxious about some decisions she had made whilst in a leadership position. She was very concerned about if she was going to make the right choices, what the ramifications of those choices might be and how she might be able to deal the eventualities of any choice she picked. Nw the key here is she’s trying to predict the future, these are choices she has not yet made.

Now, in general, we’ll assume that you do your due diligence and investigate and assess and weigh up the pro’s and cons and benefits and disadvantages as you normally would, this should be standard practice.

But what if you’re picking between a rock and a hard place, what if the decision you have to make is too similar or it disadvantages so aligned that really, no matter how you try and deal with the situation you’re still going to end up in a pickle, naturally at this point you want to assess which has the minimal disadvantage, and which you can recover from quickest.

The reality is that as a leader, sometimes even after all the due diligence, even after all the planning, forecasting and attempts to read the tealeaves and predict the future, at some point, you just need to be conclusively decisive and make the call, which ever choice that is.

Even when you do everything right, you could be wrong, as Nokia found out when they finally succumbed and were acquired by Microsoft ending with the line – “we didn’t do anything wrong, but somehow, we lost”

as a leader, its your job to make a decision, and deal with the consequences of that decision no matter what they are good or bad. thats what you’re paid to do, thats why people trust you and thats why you’ve . been given that position of authority. If can’t make that decision, that you’re ultimately in the wrong position. and there’s nothing wrong with being in the wrong position, but it simply means you need to find a role more suited to your skills sets and abilities.

Leadership isn’t meant to be easy, its about making choices and appreciating what the consequences of those choices are and being able to handle those outcomes as and when they arise, good or bad.

Live a Life of Life Long Learning

The last two years have been pivotal for my personal development, mostly stemming from the passing of a dear friend. This and a month long hiatus kickstarted something in me.

I’ve since developed a keen-ness in learning, not just for the end goal of something that can be applicable or recognised, but also for the pure interest in a subject matter. I’ve studied multiple sports certifications, apprenticed with a physiotherapist, learnt JavaScript, studied basics in the Common Law of England, to name a few.

This has really given me insight even on a foundational level into other industries and other ways of thinking, and for someone working in tech, innovation and digital this is crucial. it’s so important that we learn from other fields of study, that cross pollination of concepts, approaches and theory is so useful, not just from an absolute knowledge perspective, but also from the perspective of enabling and developing lateral thinking and creativity.

The more you learn the more you understand the world and formulate perspectives, and the more you do this, the more you can develop a sense for the opportunities and potentials in the world around you.

Self-help is just a circle jerk

Ok, i’ll admit it, the title is a bit of an attention grabber, but my point is really self-help advise is all well and good, but far too many people seem to think that ALL they need to do is read The Secret, or listen to a few Tony Robbins tapes and the universe will provide.

I’m sorry, but that’s just ridiculous thinking, the problem i have with Self-help is they give you lots of abstract concepts and theories and ideals, trying to help you think positively and have a growth mindset. But rarely do i see them showing you HOW to APPLY these concepts. Its one thing to have a philosophy of thinking positively, its an entirely another to actually know how to practice that, and a yet even harder challenge to apply it and apply it regularly.

Ok, maybe i’m taking too aggressive a pot-shot at the self-help community, the reality is that they provide good advice. Really the issue is – that’s not enough. Its simply advice, you need follow through, and my concern is that self-help can sometimes hinder that though process, because people can get stuck in the message and get swept up in the cheerleading chorus of “Embrace your hustle. Embrace the struggle. Chase the dream.”

But, what does it mean to hustle? Have you REALLY struggled? HOW do you hustle? – its all well and good having a mantra, but these are just words.

In business, you’re ultimately judged on your actions and what you deliver, your results, having a mantra is all well and good until it fails you. if you’ve got a mantra that motivates you, thats great, but you need to follow it up with action, you need to back it up with results, anything less and you’re simply standing on a soapbox.

The even bigger threat is when this self-help actually creates a sense of delusional thinking here’s an example – “i don’t care what you think about me, I don’t think about you at all” (coco chanel) – thats just stupid… in the wrong mindset this simply leads to a sense of self-entitlement and arrogance where none might be deserved, that arrogance and inflated ego can hold a person back from learning and discovering more about themselves and treating criticism as an opportunity to learn and grow.

So, whilst its good to live by a mantra and be inspired by these self-help tools and motivational quotes, one still needs to retain a sense of humility and willingness to learn as to actually improve, and one still needs to be able to actually deliver.

Routine and its ability to develop Grit

I made this joke the other day with the ‘smart thinking meme’

Sure, its sounds like i’m complaining about the fact that i have to work a weekend, and sure, its tough that sometimes i can’t get a break to ‘just do nothing’ but in the wider scheme of things, i actually enjoy the sense of routine i have. I get up at a reasonable hour and sleep at a reasonable hour every day. and i usually spend from 07.30 till 12.30 working on various projects every single day (including weekends), during week days that extends till 1800, and on weekends i allow myself some time off from around 1430. I like the routine, and it actually gets me frustrated when i can’t keep to it, i like accomplishing goals, even one’s i set myself, routine helps me to do this.

Routine reduces options, which allows me to focus on the task at hand and achieve my objectives, it allows me to predict and plan, which helps me maintain a sense of order, this predicability helps develop discipline by allowing you restrict the variables that affect your state of mind. So, duty gives you a goal, routine gives you the structure and through that, you forge discipline.

 

Grit- Perseverance and discipline

I’m not a big fan of people like Tim Robinson and self help gurus who extol the virtues of positive thinking… this who idea that all you need to is have a positive mindset and good things will happen to you. this kind of misguided belief that all thats needed to succeed is a lot of chatter, a good idea and a yoga mat full of happy thoughts.

Its not that i’m against positive thinking or even motivational self-help. its more that, that’s simply not enough. I have have all the happy motivational thoughts in the world, but if i don’t lift a finger, nothing will happen.

Even the most positive mindset won’t help you balance your budget or negotiate that critical deal.  For me, all the chest-thumping and back slapping simply does is serve as a circle-jerk of self-praise, to be honest, i’d rather be getting that line of code finished, polishing off that power point, getting that contract signed, balancing out that spreadsheet. The biggest ‘self-help’ i can have, is when what i worked on actually succeeded… anything else, is simply premature celebration.

Which brings me to my key point. Work is work, its not meant to be a walk in the park, its not meant to be fun and games, its work, its hard, its tough, you have to suffer through it, sure HOW you endure has a part to play, but basically, work is work. Success at work comes from luck, smarts but most importantly that ability to DO, and get shit done, and, the ability to get shit done even when the going gets tough, that perseverance is crucial to success, its that doggedness that allows you to micro-focus and simply put one foot in front of the other and chip away at a problem until you get a solution. Ultimately isn’t’ that what business is? a series of problems of varying complexity?

For me, i believe the ability to persevere comes from discipline, discipline being that mental conditioning that ensure that you follow through on a plan, i view discipline as a form of extreme responsibility, its a sense of duty that ultimately defines a person, you take personal responsibility to ensure  your duty is done, to the expected standard, not because you’re asked, but because thats what you expect from yourself. you have your own standards and goals, these form the foundation of duty, which forms the basis for discipline. Perseverance is the result of this, its the outcome of having a sense of duty. You’ll only persevere at things you care about, and when the going gets really tough, what will keep you persevering is that sense of duty to your beliefs. In other words duty forms discipline which results in perseverance, and this is what we define as the trait ‘grit’.

According to psychologist Angela Duckworth, the secret to outstanding achievement isn’t talent. Instead, it’s a special blend of persistence and passion that she calls “grit.”

Being gritty, according to Duckworth, is the ability to persevere. It’s about being unusually resilient and hardworking, so much so that you’re willing to continue on in the face of difficulties, obstacles and even failures. It’s about being constantly driven to improve.

In addition to perseverance, being gritty is also about being passionate about something. For the highly successful, Duckworth found that the journey was just as important as the end result. “Even if some of the things they had to do were boring, or frustrating, or even painful, they wouldn’t dream of giving up. Their passion was enduring.”

Duckworth even came up with two equations she uses to explain this concept:

• Talent x effort = skill

• Skill x effort = achievement

“Talent is how quickly your skills improve when you invest effort. Achievement is what happens when you take your acquired skills and use them,” Duckworth explained.

(From this forbes article)

In Summary, stop chest thumping and back slapping, go out and start doing, develop grit and get shit done.

Mark Zuckerbergs Harvard Speech

“Purpose is that sense that we are part of something bigger than ourselves, that we are needed, that we have something better ahead to work for. Purpose is what creates true happiness.”

 

“my hope was never to build a company, but to make an impact.”

Jumping through hoops

(credit to the original writer – Momo)

I’m writing this as part of a dissection and elaboration of Momo’s article. so this is part one, focusing only on “Lesson 2: You can be the winner in the room.”

Here’s a trick I used to use in the past, and it worked quite well. It might sound a bit mechanical, but it can definitely help you navigate conversations, pitches, group decisions, and so on.

Think of each big business meeting, pitch proposal, or any other situation that has an audience to your message. Now imagine they’re all in a village.

The Gatekeepers are often the ones in charge of not letting you in. Understandably, they’re often tasked with the hardest part: Figuring out if you’re adding value before opening the gates.

Committee is the group of people in charge of being inquisitive – Oftentimes the very senior ones, the connoisseurs of the inner workings of the village. They’re tasked with checking the feasibility and viability of what the newcomers bring.

Chiefs are the decision makers. Simple as that.

While this might be too generalist – It has proven to be an effective way to navigate/defuse/conquer situations where one or more of these groups play a role. Note that this isn’t meant to give you a method to interact with people, but merely to understand a bit better how you can group participants or attendees with traits that are common amongst them. This is entirely based on the expected positive outcome of said interactions.

I really enjoyed this part of Momos article, as i’ve generally encountered the same dynamic. this being said, I’ve been in quite senior positions at agency, so usually, i’m not dealing with gatekeepers, instead i’m dealing with committee and chiefs, and usually my focus is dealing with committees, the reason for this is these are usually the operational guys, if you’re smarter them them and able to make them think they’ll generally support you as they’ll know you’re capable of delivering. Chiefs i generally find fall of one of two camps, either they are super involved, in which case you’re trying to demonstrate trust. or their hands off, in which case you’re aiming to demonstrate that you can work will with the committee. Gatekeepers i generally find are pen-pushing bureaucrats, they generally have overinflated sense of their abilities or a big ego, personally, i try and by-pass them where i can, by trying to get to the committee via contacts. If i get pushed to a gatekeeper or i find that i can only reach a gatekeeper i generally know that i’m dealing with morons who don’t value my expertise, so in that way, its self eliminating, in otherwords, its not worth my time to deal with a gatekeeper.

Why i strive to be the least dressed person in the room

Firstly, let me state the obvious. Suits are stupid. literally they are a relic of a by-gone era, when stitching and tailoring and fabric/ material technology hadn’t evolved sufficiently to allow for more functional clothing.

Consider the quote ‘never judge a book by its cover’, yet ironically thats what we do with men in suits, ALL THE TIME. I Think you’ll get that i’m generally against suits.

On a practical level suits are restrictive, so if you’re spending 16 hours at a desk coding and trying to ‘make the world a better place’, doing it whilst restricted like an S&M victim doesn’t make much sense.

now, to the important part of this article, if you’re the kind of person who feel that its justified to spend 15minutes or more putting on clothes each DAY, and then having to walk around stiff and uncomfortable whilst trying not crease your three piece jail, maybe thats not the most efficient use of your time.

What this all really comes down to is, that i try to be the most casual person in the room, firstly, its sets me apart from the suits, secondly it saves me time and i feel more comfortable so i’m in a better state of mind to work and explain things. thirdly, i don’t waste 3.8 days a year on trying to look capable instead of actually BEING capable.

I’ll concede there are times when a suit is required, but in all honesty, i personally avoid any situation where what i wear has any bearing on the outcome of a meeting.