Ready Set Go

ready set go 2

The best time to start was yesterday.  The next best time is now.

It has been 3 years and 357 days or about 4 years since I last published something on my blog.  Since that day, my life has changed in insurmountable ways… I got divorced, lost my job and my ex-wife’s father passed away to name a few.  It is safe to say that over these last few years, I have not had the energy, drive or desire to write anything.  I have been existing; treading water and maintaining a life that, in hindsight, was making me unhappy.

Over the years, I began reading numerous blogs via sites like Thought Catalog and Medium and it started to dawn on me that I (still) had something to say.  I was not giving back to the universe with my own personal wisdom, humor and insight.

Writing a blog, one you think is meaningful, requires commitment and the only way to deliver value to others through one is to continuously publish your thoughts for the world to see.  You have to put it out there, regularly, and force yourself to share ideas about whatever topic you want.  I started this blog out as an experiment, nothing more.  I never believed it would lead to anything…and it did not.  That is the point.  I have not published much and so, few have read it; it has led to nothing.

I am not sure why I even decided to write today, but I did.  And I will.  I am making a commitment to contribute to the universe, one blog post at a time.  I have not decided on the frequency of my writing, but I am ready.  The time is now.

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Vision

“There’s nothing more demoralizing than a leader who can’t clearly articulate why we’re doing what we’re doing.” — James Kouzes and Barry Posner

Fight Club

I am continually amazed how many ‘leaders’ in business lack vision – any kind of vision.

Many people believe that Leadership requires a vision—and I don’t mean just a photograph or an image in the leader’s head. I mean a complete understanding for the big picture of where the leader wants to be.  The thing is, a leader’s vision does not have to be something big or dynamic.  It only has to be clear and tangible; an idea that you can communicate to others in a way that they see their role in it.  It must set the pace through expectations and example.

In absence of it, a team or organization creates its own vision; individual employees begin to do what they think the leader wants vs. what he has told them.  The result can be progress towards goals through sheer will, but with a lot of wasted resources and time. 

I worked for a CEO once who had zero vision.  She did not know what she wanted – ever.  What was worse, she was great at telling you what she did not want…that is when you presented a strategy, option or solution for her to react too.  She created frustration within the team and especially her ‘revolving door’ of direct reports; one of which was me.  It was incredible how someone so smart, skilled and strong was unable to look past the day-to-day tactical activities and see the horizon; the direction of where she wanted the company to go and not where the company was heading.

We often put our business leaders on pedestals and expect them to deliver awe-inspiring words that excite employees and create success through the sheer act of delivering a speech.  Yet, not everyone is Steve Jobs, nor do they need to be to have vision.  Vision may belong to the leader, but the followers work with the leader to find the best way to get to it.  Great visionary thinking utilizes a symbiotic relationship between the leader and the follower, fostering collaboration, innovation and camaraderie.

Articulating vision can also be as simple as saying “I am not sure what this looks like, but I need you to figure out how to <insert goal here> without adding new resources.”  The leader’s vision may be muddled, but at least the employee knows what the leader wants to accomplish and the one known variable is not to exceed budget. I have worked in numerous positions where my job was to interpret the vaguest of concepts from a leader and create something from it.  A few variables and ‘points of bearing’ was all I needed to deliver something that was close to what was desired. From there, it was only adjusting and fine tuning to accomplish the task.

So, do you know what you want?

No Limits

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I met a buddy the other day that lost his job. He was depressed and upset. I felt bad for him. However, what he did not know was that it was his lucky day; I am the king of lost jobs. I have had many jobs in the last eight years; left on my own, fired once (Yes, we all have a Mulligan) and “laid-off.” So, I know a thing or two about failing and picking yourself back up.

When it happens, we all freak.

There is nothing worse than being asked to come to your boss’s office only to be blindsided by him and HR asking you to sit down to let you know you are fired laid-off. Even if you hated him, the job, the company etc., it still sucks.

That is when the default process in our brains kicks in high gear and we start telling ourselves the sky is falling. Some people panic and start blasting resumes all over the web hoping to get their next position from sitting in front of a computer. Others fall apart; they have defined themselves by their work in the world and losing their job hits them at their core.

The story of their job NOW is that they are failures (in their minds) and everyone – knows – it. Fear takes hold and keeps them from focusing on what they can NOW do. Funny thing about fear; it is a root default process in and of itself. It is there to protect us from danger; real danger, like making sure we stay alive when fighting lions, tigers and bears etc. in order that we can bring home food for our families.

But we are not hunters or gatherers today….

Most of us are desk-jockeys that attend meetings, write lots of emails and fear about stuff that will not kill us in any shape or form. Yet, we literally make ourselves paralyzed from seeing anything other than having failure, loss and despair…especially over losing a job. I also see fear in people who are stuck in a job that they hate, but have no idea what to do or have just been laid-off or worse, fired and are emotionally beat up. Everyone is scared that their world is coming to an end.

So, as a guy and self-proclaimed “puzzle solver,” I start giving him suggestions on next steps and what does he do? He starts telling me why he can’t do this or can’t do that. He was revealing his wall of “limits” around him right in front of me. I hate this….probably because I am so good at it too. I have to fight my inner voice that tells me I can’t do something every day. It is unfortunate, but we erect artificial walls around ourselves as a way of protecting us from being hurt.

In my opinion, his story of being unemployed is a lucky one; he has nothing but learning opportunities to look forward to and can do what he wants to do. Nobody controls him, you or me except….us. What is important to remember is that no one can tell you what experience you can gain and what you can’t. Remember, you don’t need a job in order to learn cool stuff, met cool people and work on cool projects. You control what you do with your time and you can make it useful or not.

I told him to get out and meet people; network and explore what opportunities exist. Talk about what can be, not why the last job didn’t work. Heck, he could talk about the great things that leaving his job has opened himself up to!

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“We are defined by opportunities, even the ones we miss.”

His situation makes me think of one of my favorite movies; “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.”

The gist of the story is that Benjamin, played by Brad Pitt, is born with the body of a very old man. As he grows older, he appears younger and younger. While everyone around him ages, including all the people he cares about, he actually become younger. The irony of the story is that he’s aging too; he just doesn’t appear to be. Benjamin accepts his condition and learns to love and appreciate people while they’re alive. He realizes early in his life that we’re all dying whether we realize it or not.

One of the best quotes in the film is…. “For what it’s worth: it’s never too late or, in my case, too early, to be whoever you want to be. There’s no time limit. Start or stop whenever you want. You can change or stay the same; there are no rules to this thing. We can make the best or the worst of it.”

A lot of people spend their life thinking it’s too late to do the things they always wanted to do, but it’s not. Where there’s a will there is a way and anything is possible if you set your mind to it. Screw the fear and do not look back. We must keep moving forward, opening up new doors and doing new things, because we’re curious…and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.

Your life is not a rehearsal. We get only one to do everything we want to do so experience as much as you can. I told him this very point. I think it helped. He walked away with a different perspective on things…and a hammer & chisel to knock down that wall!