Saturday, November 21, 2015

On Shortcuts and Overnight Success

If you want to be an overnight success, you do the work day in and day out. You do the work that everyone else gives up on. You do the work that everyone else has mistakenly labeled a waste of time. You do the work even when you're convinced that everyone on Twitter and Instagram has figured out some foolproof system that they haven't clued you in on. You do the work even when it is boring. You do the work even when you don't feel like it and would rather curl up under a blanket on the couch with a cup of tea and Netflix.

Then one day, out of nowhere, you will be labeled an overnight success. A door will open to a new hallway with new doors bearing new opportunities. You will still have to do the work to open these doors, but they will swing a little more freely.

Everyone will want to know how exactly you got so lucky. How you found the shortcut to that hallway with those doors. And you will smile because you know the answer isn't one they want to hear.

The shortcut is doing the work.

Originally published January 2013

Friday, November 20, 2015

Limitless Creativity

One of the fastest ways to limit your creativity is to behave as though your experiences represent everyone else’s.

“I had a terrible experience with this airline, therefore no one should fly them ever again.”

“I had a great experience at this restaurant, so everyone who says they’re treated rudely there must be high maintenance.”

“My millennial employee showed up late and snapchatted all day, therefore everyone in this generation has a weak work ethic.”

“I didn’t qualify for a college scholarship even though I was top of my class, so the educational system is a failure to everyone.”

“I’m not booking as many clients this year, so everyone who is “busy” must be lying or charging next to nothing.”

“But he was nice to me . . .”

The most creative people allow their perspectives to be challenged, are empathetic and choose not to harden their minds or hearts, and understand that their worldview is not the end-all and can always be broadened.

If you want to be more creative, you have to ask better questions and listen more deeply, both to those around you and to the stories of people outside your immediate circle of family and friends. And — more importantly — you have to allow that their side of a story may have a certain element of truth to it even if it doesn’t completely line up with how you’ve understood things to be.

Originally published August 2014

Thursday, November 19, 2015

We Tried That Once, It Didn't Work

A common mistake people often make is refusing to try something again that didn't work before.

On the surface trying something again that failed in the past may seem counterintuitive. The reality, however, is that outcomes are driven by many things: circumstances, the market, your audience, your company's infrastructure, and your mindset, just to name a few. If any of those things have changed over time, then something that didn't work for you five or ten years ago may work now.

Proceed with wisdom, obviously, but don't be afraid to proceed.

Originally published March 2012

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

On Choosing a Mentor

I've been really fortunate to have some amazing mentors in my life over the years. People who were and are generous with their wisdom and poured into me, who weren't afraid to lovingly call me out on my BS, who didn't laugh at my crazy, outlandish dreams, and who checked their ego in order to cheer me on. I am a firm believer that we should be lifelong learners and that everyone at ANY age should have a mentor (or several) in their life, especially if you are in a position of leadership (and if you own a business, you are). Here are seven things I've learned over the years about selecting a mentor. It is by no means an exhaustive list, but just a few things that come to mind as I write this:

No mentor is one size fits all and it's fine to have different mentors for different areas of your life. Some people may kill it in business, but have a parenting style you'd rather not emulate. Some may have a marriage relationship you want to learn from but have a managerial approach you don't care for. If you're looking for people who are perfect in all areas of life or work, you will end up navigating life alone.

They should be good at or continually working to improve their conflict resolution skills and will encourage you to voice your truth. Effective leaders use healthy communication to work through conflict. Cowards use the silent treatment to dissolve relationships. While no one is perfect in every area, conflict — large, small, exaggerated or imagined — crops up in every part of life and a good mentor is willing to do the hard work of peacemaking. They won’t push you to sugarcoat reality or to sweep things under the rug and they won't model that in their own life.

A good mentor will be committed to helping shape you into the best version of yourself, not a mini-me of themselves. They will give you the space to be yourself yet will push you out of your comfort zone. Extroverts who insist extraversion is the only way to do life won’t be a good mentor to introverts. Extroverted mentors give introverts space to recharge, recognizing that for an introvert, alone time is life-giving and provides the needed capacity to be effective in interpersonal relationships. Likewise, introverts realize that extroverts need more activities and opportunities to socialize as they draw their energy from other people. A good mentor helps you create the margin you need, not necessarily the margin they need.

A good mentor will recognize that different seasons of your life require different priorities. For a long time, "go big or go home" was a mantra that worked for me. These days when I hear that phrase, my first reaction is, "home, please" and I have made embracing the joy of missing out (JOMO) a top priority. Acknowledging that different seasons bring different priorities is healthy; not just for you, but for your family and friends as well.

Some mentors are a good fit for a season, some for a lifetime. It's okay to recognize when you have outgrown what a particular mentor has to offer you. This doesn't mean they or you have stopped learning, but rather that you are now on different paths. This also doesn't mean that you need to end every aspect of your relationship with them, just that the mentorship part has reached a point of closure.

A good mentor should have similar values as you. It’s okay if they don’t match exactly, and you may be passionate about different things. One of my mentors is passionate about animal rights and, while I feel this issue is important, my passions are very specifically orphan care and issues of systemic poverty. What matters to me is not whether we champion or donate to the same causes, but that we’re both interested in the world beyond the end of our driveways — that I’m not choosing to be mentored by someone who is solely interested in using all their resources to make their own life better in the name of “looking out for number one.”

Choose a mentor based on who they are offline rather than on how put together their life looks on social media. Instagram is typically a (heavily edited, well curated) snapshot of singular life moments, not a portrait of real life as a whole. On the other side of the coin, oversharing via social media is typically a red flag signaling deeper issues and isn’t necessarily an indicator of healthy transparency. Not allowing strangers to have access to every part of one's life does not make someone any less authentic. Choosing a mentor should never be based solely on what you see online.

Originally published May 2015

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Success and Busy-ness

The most successful leaders never use the phrase, "I'm busy" as an excuse.

Of course they're busy — that's a given. They simply choose never to play that card for an ego-boost or as a convenient and politically correct way to write off their relationships as less important than their work.

Related: the most successful leaders also understand the importance of rest and restoration and have designed their lives to include healthy amounts of margin.

Originally published March 2015