Authenticity, Being Awesome, Motivation

Finding Passion

Why do we feel the need to chase passion?

I see it more and more often with life coaches and consultants telling you if your work doesn’t light a fire under you, then you should jump to somewhere warmer. Sure. You could. But why does it have to exist elsewhere, in some field on the other side where the grass is pretty dang green? (Unless you’re on that side, then it doesn’t look as green as you remember.)

We need to be engaged in our work. And our employers want us to be engaged. Engaged people outperform their peers by 147%. (Gallup, 2018) But why can’t we make our own engagement?

I get the draw of going rogue and starting something that is your own, like a food truck. That siren song has called to me too. (mine would be called Let’s Taco ‘Bout It) And it’s tempting because we hear about people who’ve successfully made the jump. We don’t hear about (or listen to) all the ones who jump and don’t make it.

However, it’s not the food truck that is really calling me… it’s the creative control and ability to own some decisions. There’s a root cause, a core mechanic, that makes it attractive.

As a good, ten-minute thought experiment, sit down with a passion you feel calling you; telling you to jump. Ask yourself the five whys, and answer with candor, to get to the core mechanic of that passion. Then plan small action steps to make that passion where you are. It may have to start tiny with side projects or little bits and pieces here and there, but this is an opportunity to make where you are better. This is where innovation comes from! Plus you get to take control and ownership of your experience instead of relying on other people to engage you.

You love boardgames. You are inspired by writing poetry. Your heart is full when you are baking. Whatever it is, there are elements you can bring to any job. You just have to take ownership of being the one who brings it.

Stop hunting for passion in the green grass on the other side, and start planting it where you are.

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Authenticity, Being Awesome, Persona, Understanding the Customer

Marching to the Beat of Your Own Drummers

Knowing your audience has long been touted as a key to success. Yet time after time, we find ourselves trying to speak with too broad of an audience, or making a product that tries to please everyone. In the end, it pleases no one.

There is no better example of knowing your audience than Fred Armisen.

Image result for fred armisen standup for drummers

Fred Armisen created Portlandia with Carrie Brownstein. This is a show rooted in making light of the quirky and free culture in Portland, Oregon.

Fred Armisen created Documentary Now with Bill Hader and Seth Meyers. This is a show that parodies the nuances of various documentary styles and tropes.

Fred Armisen recently released a Netflix comedy special, Standup for Drummers. This is a whole comedy special with inside jokes aimed at, you guessed it… drummers.

It’s not that Armisen finds a narrow audience that is desperate for attention. It’s that he finds HIS audience. The projects Armisen chooses to pursue are things that interest him; places he loves, skills he admires, and experiences he shares. Watching him interact with his narrow audience is the realest kind of real. And you can feel it.

Because his real audience is himself.

“There’s something that I can’t describe about the city [Portland] that I really love – just physically – how it feels to walk around there, and have coffee there. Also, the way that it’s a little overcast sometimes. Something about Portland just really resonated with me.” – Fred Armisen

You don’t have to be part of the inner circle. I encourage you to watch Standup for Drummers. Even though you may not get every joke (I didn’t), you get lured in by Armisen’s passion, his prose, his charisma talking about the funny-to-him aspects of something he appreciates.

But what I really want to challenge you with is this.

Don’t try to make the next extremely profitable thing. Don’t attempt to create the next disruptive to the industry thing. Don’t go make the thing you think everyone will want.

Make something that is important to you, on the deep down soul level. Make something about another thing you love. And then… share it with people just like you.

Your realness. Your soul. Your connection with the topic and the people who share the same connection. It will all shine.

 

 

 

 

Being Awesome, Fear, Grit, Uncategorized

We Have Lots to Fear in the Woods, and That’s Awesome

Fear can be a proxy for when you are going to do something great.

Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell started to rekindle their friendship as they worked together; preparing to face a magician of seemingly insurmountable skill. Mr. Norrell’s hands shook as he tried to conjure enough magic to save England. Jonathan Strange clasped his hands around Mr. Norrell’s and said,

“My hands trembled like that in the peninsula and after Waterloo. Sometimes it was a sign that I was afraid. Sometimes a sign that I was doing great magic. The two things go together.”

FEAR vs IMPOSTER SYNDROME

We often stand on the precipice of greatness, but balk at the task because fear rips our confidence to shreds. I know that in high school, I had a streak of not turning in homework. It wasn’t because I didn’t know what I was doing, it was the fear that somehow my confidence was misplaced. Maybe I was wrong about the correctness of my work? It wasn’t an outward sign that I was off-base or incorrect. No, it was coming from inside.

The Startup Bros put together a list of 21 ways to overcome Imposter Syndrome. But fear goes beyond that. It’s isn’t just “high achieving individuals”. Fear can also consume the novice, the role-jumper, the expert dipping their toes into something different.

SELF-MADE FEAR

I’ve never heard it explained as well as Vince Vaughn did on The Tim Ferriss Show. I have a newfound respect for Vince Vaughn after listening to this episode for many reasons, but especially one line at 1:37:07.

“How much of it is the woods we’ve created, versus the actual path to the destination.”

It’s simple and astute. How much of my fear was distractions and obstructions that I was placing myself? How much of it was the actual task of getting to my goal? Looking back I can clearly say that it was all self-made.

But in the moment, it’s hard to discern the two.

WHAT TO DO WITH FEAR OF THE AWESOME

There we are, about to do something amazing, and the fear creeps in. The woods spring up around our path ahead, and our hands start to tremble.

Just like the process for leading a productive brainstorm, we need every action to be purposeful. So let’s repurpose a strategy from “Getting More”, a fantastic book on negotiation by Stuart Diamond. In Chapter 6, Diamond discusses a process for negotiating and dealing with emotional situations. We’re going to use pieces from that, but make it more about dealing with the fear from inside ourselves.

  1. Recognize when you are acting against your goals
    • Stop, breathe, and reflect. Are these fears stopping you from doing what you want to do?
  2. Find the cause of your fear.
    • Go through the five why exercise with yourself. Keep asking yourself why you are afraid until you find the root.
  3. Avoid using extreme statements.
    • “Life or death”, “Never”, “Always”… don’t use them if you can. Dial down the drama. Don’t initiate the “fight or flight” response unless absolutely necessary.
  4. Correct erroneous facts.
    • Is there anything you are fearing because of a misunderstanding? An error in logic? Try to math this one out. Give your fear a percentage of probability (but only AFTER dialing down the drama).
  5. Write down possible actions you can take.
    • When you’ve done all you can to prepare for success, it gets easier to make the jump. Also realize, you may not be able to do absolutely EVERYTHING.
  6. Tell your fear to shut it.
    • You got to the root, you’ve kept the drama to a realistic level, you’ve corrected errors and done all you can. Now it’s time to tell fear to “hold my drink and watch this”. 
  7. Go forth and be awesome.
    • Press start and be the “fantastic you” that you want to be. The world needs you to be awesome.

You will still feel fear. It’s inevitable. We can’t eliminate it entirely. But now you have a plan of attack, and the ability to realize that sometimes your “woods of fear” is a sign you are about do some great magic on your path to awesome.

Being Awesome, Bias towards action, Going Forth, Innovation, Innovation Mindsets, Pre-Mortem, Systems, Uncategorized

Thinking like a Producer vs Producing like a Thinker – And Three Things You Can Do About It

bigproducinglikeathinker

A bias towards action.

It’s one of the most sought-after characteristics in a lean, mean innovation team. However, can too much of a good thing be hazardous to the quality of your work?

Creating movement and getting stuff in the hands of the user is great, but just quickly delivering what was asked for only perpetuates mediocrity. We need a strategic bias towards action.

“Work smarter… not harder.” – Allan Mogensen

I have succumbed to blind efficiency in the past. And to be honest, I’m not cured of it… but I am getting better!

I wanted to be a rapid responder. I was delivering what was asked for at lightspeed. Yet after completing task after task, I was able to look at my products and realize… I wasn’t solving the job to be done. I was merely doing what was asked for.

I was thinking like a producer when I should’ve been producing like a thinker.

All of my thoughts and energies were around producing a large bounty of checked-off to-do items. I wasn’t making an impact. I was delivering the “fast food” version of my craft; speedy and filling, but it wasn’t a noteworthy meal.

My bias towards action was misplaced.

“You can not dig a hole in a different place by digging the same hole deeper.” – Edward de Bono

“Thinking like a producer” and “Producing like a thinker” is not a dichotomy. Instead of seeing one as bad and the other as good, view it as more like a sliding scale. There are times when one mindset will serve us better than the other. Unfortunately, we can get stuck in ruts.

So let’s get unstuck!

One of the original goals of Go Forth and Be Awesome was to not be another voice providing abstract discussion on theoretical ideas. Oh, I will get theoretical and abstract, but I will also provide tools, process, and things you can use today. I want to be more “activity book” and less “newsletter”.

So let’s dig into how I got myself unstuck, in hopes that it can help you do the same.

A woodsman was once asked, “What would you do if you had just five minutes to chop down a tree?” He answered, “I would spend the first two and a half minutes sharpening my axe.” – C. R. Jaccard

Before we start chopping away at jobs and projects, these tips will help you sharpen your axe, before you strike your first blow.

Identify Triggers

If you’re like me, there are enough projects in your past that you can analyze. Look for the key phrases or situations that shift your mindset into thinking like a producer. Is it a rapidly approaching deadline? A small project window? An easily completable request? Find your triggers.

Add a Process

With your triggers identified, you can now build a gameplan. Do this before your triggers are triggered; outside of the heat of battle. When you’re in the thick of it, you become blinded by the pursuit of progress. You need a calm heart and clear eyes to devise this process. When the triggers strike, what will you do? How might we stay in the “Producing like a thinker” mindset when our reactions argue differently?

My “response to triggers” process  is to go through a quick succession of questions, including:

  • What are they really trying to do?
  • What are alternate ways to accomplish this?
  • What fits with their story?
  • What would I do if time was not a constraint?

Reflect

Developing a process for triggers is like a pre-mortem, so it makes sense to have a post-mortem as well. However, we often don’t make this kind of time for ourselves. It is very crucial to check the direction we’re sailing often, or we will run aground on the shore while trying to sail out to open waters. Make time for this. Schedule it.

“If you create a vision for yourself, and stick with it, you can make amazing things happen in your life.” – Pete Carroll

Get out of the ruts and be free to steer where you need to. Don’t serve up the “fast food” version of your skills. Give them your five-star finest! Make time to identify your triggers, design a process, and reflect on your work. It’ll feel like some projects are too short and too quick to work in a “thinker’s” process. But I say the shortest projects with the tightest timelines are the ones most in need of a strategic bias towards action.

______________________

I am a big process junkie. I believe even the most amorphous and intangible concepts can have their own patterns and processes.

Let me know what your process for producing like a thinker is!

Being Awesome, Micro-Patterns, Tool, User Experience, Writing

Fish & Clicks

When I was a kid, we used to go trout fishing up in mountain rivers. I used to put artificial and fleeting faith in the type of bait I was using. I would vary my bait rapidly in search of the magic fishy elixir. This fake cheese stuff, some scented “marshmallows”, salmon eggs, and even the fancy plastic worms that I think I liked more than the fish did.

Fish bait catches fish, so click bait catches clicks. Not groundbreaking, but why is there so much of it? Do we honestly not believe that there are ways to repurpose bread ties and toilet paper tubes? I feel like that’s something we’ve been doing since arts and crafts time in elementary school.

We know click bait isn’t designed for the reader. It does not care if you save money on your insurance, organize your life, or identify that celebrities are people too. In fact, it generates more traffic by the reader never learning. It becomes Pavlov’s Buzzfeed, where the reader salivates at the sound of a bell and not the presence of food.

People are craving authentic connections. With their loved ones, with their companies, with their world. See here, herehere and here. And yet clickbait pushes a different narrative.

These 12 calls-to-action will make you jump! Number 7 will make you ask “How high?”

powersForAwesome.jpgLet’s stop. We don’t have to stop with the listicles, the lifehacks, or even the quizzes to find out which pizza topping gives you life. But let’s start turning those into something. Something that gives you a great starting place but encourages you to add to the list. Something that teaches you how to solve problems in unconventional ways. Something that helps you understand yourself and how you think. Let’s use our powers for awesome.

Let’s start making engage bait, or learn bait. Even better… change bait. Let’s start making things that draw readers into a worthwhile experience that leaves them better off. As Scott Stratten says in his book Unmarketing:

“What is stopping you from calling yourself one of the experts in your field? Being an expert is not an official designation. You don’t get  a certificate in the mail, nor do you get a cookie.”

splinterWe’re all experts in something. If you have experience, a special skill, or training in something, you can be an expert in that thing. Maybe not THE expert, but definitely AN expert. So be an expert and train someone. Channel your inner Splinter. The mutagen turned the teenage turtles into mutants, Splinter made them ninjas.

We already know how to make people click, now let’s lead them to something better.

CHALLENGE

  • What are you an expert in?
  • How will you become the Splinter of that?
  • What’s your change bait?
  • Let us know in the comments!
Being Awesome, Going Forth, Innovation Mindsets, Motivation

Shooting for the Moon

I trip-to-the-moon-movieam a sucker for a well-crafted motivational phrase. That’s actually how “Go Forth And Be Awesome” got started. But not all motivational phrases are created equal. Some go too far for the cute analogy and miss the point altogether.

It’s hokey hokum.

Today’s egregious example is about aiming for big goals. When I was researching it, I found two distinct versions. Let’s dispense with the wrongest of the wrong first.

“If you shoot for the stars, you’ll at least hit the moon.”

No, that’s not how the universe works. I can’t tell you “Pick up a dart and aim for a wall because at least you’ll hit the bullseye.” You absolutely COULD, but the geometric probability is astronomical. In fact, humankind is especially good at aiming for stars and NOT hitting the moon. As of January 2017, there have been 314 space flights with people, and only 6 of those landed on the moon. Zero of which were by accident. That gives you, at very best, a 1.9% chance of hitting the moon. Hardly an “at least” scenario.

On to the most prevalent version…

“Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, at least you’ll land amongst the stars.”

You missaiming the moon but you’re still in space. Not what you were aiming for, but it is kind of neat. Who says you only get to aim once, though? This isn’t basketball, it’s rocket science! NASA doesn’t aim just once and neither should you. Shoot, check, adjust. Translating that to Lean Startup vocabulary gives you “build, measure, learn”.

 

It is a well-meaning phrase at its heart. No need to jettison it into space. We just need to give it a little corrective push into effectiveness.

“Shoot for the moon. Check your path. Adjust as needed.”

Not as snappy, but it will prevent from people realizing they aren’t headed on the right trajectory and just accepting their lonely drift into space.

Being Awesome, Lenses

The Friction of Innovation

Innovation needs movement. Paradigms shift, viewpoints redirect, and new ideas flow. But anytime there is movement, there is friction.

Friction is the surface or environment resisting the movement. Rub your hands together, they get warm. You have friction to thank for that.

Ok, don’t run from the science. Stick with me.

To create acceleration, you need to push on an object with more force than the force of friction. So if we can figure out what makes the Force of Friction, we can learn to overcome it.

Friction is the Coefficient of Friction (µ) times the Normal Force.

The Coefficient of Friction (µ) is specific for the surfaces interacting and the higher the coefficient, the more friction generated. Carpet = high coefficient, icy driveway = low coefficient.

The Normal Force is the surface pushing back up on the object and can be thought of as the counterpart to gravity. Your laptop doesn’t accelerate down through your desk because your desk pushes back up on the laptop. For the sake of the analogy, the Normal Force is equal to the weight of the idea.

We know have some great components for our analogy. If you’ve stuck with me this far, you’re almost to the payoff.

  • The Coefficient of Friction
    • This is the culture of your organization. How open to change is it? How accepting of new ideas are they? Do they give you resources to make new things happen?
      • If you get told “But this is the way we’ve always done it”, chances are your location has a high Coefficient of Innovation Friction.
  • Weight
    • This is the disruptiveness of your idea. If it is going to keep people up at night, you’ve got a large disruptive weight. If it builds on existing ideas with existing customers, then you’ve got a small disruptive weight.
  • The Force of Innovative Friction
    • This is equal to your Coefficient of Innovative Friction multiplied by the Disruptive Weight of your idea.

It’s important to point out that there isn’t a right or wrong here. I’m not going to tell you to have smaller ideas to reduce friction, or that a culture is bad if it has a high coefficient. This just gives you a model to evaluate how hard you need to push.

“Some people want it to happen, some wish it to happen, others MAKE IT HAPPEN.” – Michael Jordan

You want an innovative idea to pick up speed? You want to make it happen? You’re going to have to push on it MORE than the Innovation Friction around it. And if we know that in innovation you have to be prepared to learn from failures.

Sometimes what you learn is that you should’ve pushed harder.