Now, later, why

You heard it from your mom or your granddad or an awesome teacher. Maybe you had your very own Mrs. Garrett who taught you life lessons in half hour segments. But however you first encountered it, I’m certain you’ve heard it. “Don’t put off for tomorrow what you can do today.”

I woke up this morning thinking about that line and thinking about my walk yesterday. I took an after lunch walk to refresh my brain and I walked past a  homeless woman. She had a sign, she had a cup and most of all, she had a sincerely sad downcast look about her. In my head I thought about the couple of bucks I had in my pocket and decided when I looped back that way in a few minutes, I would put them in her cup. When I got back, the woman was nowhere to be found.

As I think about it this morning though, it’s not the fact that I missed her that makes the event stick in my head. It’s that I was dishonest with myself. As I re-run the tape mentally, my real thoughts were along the lines of “I’m not sure if I have that cash on me and it would be really embarrassing to stop, dig in my pocket, find nothing and then walk away.” So I waited until I was an acceptable distance away and checked my pockets to confirm that I could be generous without embarrassment on the way back to the office.

Does that suck? Maybe a little, and I hope sincerely that the woman I saw got the money she needed and more importantly that she got some human kindness from someone to lift her spirits.  But I’ve decided to learn something from it; two somethings actually:

  1. Minutes matter. Putting it off until tomorrow is one thing, but putting it off until I get back could be just as bad.
  2. The real why matters. Do not bullshit thyself. The tidy easy explanation I gave myself was a quickie lie to help me feel better.

Facebook, children and your fences

Got a call yesterday from (the awesome) Patricia Kitchen (@patriciakitchen) at Newsday. We had a nice conversation about the Wall Street Journal’s report that Facebook is testing technology to allow children under 13 to have access to the site. Or as one commenter put it “Facebook explores not requiring kids under 13 to lie about their age.” The article says that the accounts would be linked to their parents’ accounts and it appears that parents would have a good deal of control over who and what their young children can interact with.

Edit: Patricia was kind enough to include my comments in her article.

So first things first, I am still surprised at how many people are surprised by this. Facebook, Google, Apple, Amazon, these are our new media companies; it was only a matter of time that one of them realized that it was time to start the Disney, Jr phase of their evolution. I think this could be a positive move if it’s implemented the right way.

Kudos to Facebook for finding a way to create revenue by fixing a problem (kids buy a crapload of games and will probably drive us parents crazy to get them the latest in-game content) . However I reserve final judgement until I see the actual parental controls. I for one want to see the ability to control not only who my kids friend but also whether or not they see advertising and who from, so we’ll see.

So What’s With The Fences?

A fence is a choice not an excuse.

The guy with the fence on the right may have a beautiful yard, but clearly values his privacy over the ability to display his handiwork. The owner of the fence on the left has got no issues with the neighbors (and everyone else) looking into the yard and seeing what’s going on.

I passed these two fences last night and got to thinking about some of the objections I’ve heard to this Facebook plan. According to the more colorful ones, Facebook’s (possible) new plan will make kids fatter, more socially awkward, unable to have a relationship outside of a mobile phone, grow horns, a tail and cloven hooves and various other disastrous consequences.

Thank God, we live in a place that allows us to make choices, especially as parents. If this plan was live today and Facebook complied with all my wishes for the parental controls, I still wouldn’t have my 11 year old on. Why? Because it would add no value to his life right now. Maybe next year but not right now. My choice.

If you like to take the garbage out in your underwear, I hope your fence looks like the one on the right. And if you don’t care if the neighbors see you playing in the yard (and if you keep your clothes on), then the fence on the left is perfect. Either way, the consequences are not the fence’s fault.

Be Selfish – Volunteer

Weekends are great times for me. I’m lucky enough to get extra time with incredible people (my wife and kids) and every few weeks, I get an extra treat on Sunday mornings; I’m given the opportunity to speak with a group of the most awesome teenagers and pre-teens at my church.

There are so many things about this group that make them special (the kids themselves, the team of grown-ups I work with, all the incredible talent, etc) but I have to admit I have three selfish motivations in being involved:

  1. Every time I’m with them, I learn something new. So much talent in one room, so many fresh perspectives on life, so much honesty and bravery. It’s really mind blowing.
  2. They make me feel great. No matter how many times I screw up the Bible verse or totally forget my place or go off on some crazy tangent they’re always patient and only make fun of me a little bit. I don’t try to be super-grownup to them and pretend that I’m perfect (they’d see right thru that anyway).
  3. Lastly, it gives me more time to hang with my kids. My daughter and oldest son are in the group and any time I get with them is precious.

I know we’re all crazy busy, some of us running on absolute empty some days. But when I take this tiny sliver of time and put it into these awesome people, I get so much more out than I put in. I walk away feeling refreshed and renewed mentally and emotionally.

Trust me when I tell you, if you have the opportunity to volunteer somewhere, be selfish and do it. You won’t regret it.

A lesson from an episode of The Pitch

So I’ll admit it. I now have a reality TV show that I enjoy watching, after years of making fun of friends and family. The other night AMC’s The Pitch came on and I saw that a few friends had checked into it on GetGlue so I checked it out. I enjoyed it, you may want to check it out, especially if you work in the field. End of review.

What prompted this post though was one video confessional moment during the Waste Management episode. Paul Cappelli of The Ad Store was talking about his many years of experience and so many of the wins he’d had over the years. And then he said the thing that jarred me and stuck with me. He said (and I’m paraphrasing from memory) that if he lost this pitch that he wasn’t sure that any of his past wins, his past accomplishments would even be remembered.

My first thought, as a good reality TV watcher, was judgmental; “I’m so glad I’m not that type of guy, letting my entire self worth ride on the accomplishment of today.”

But later, the next day and even the day after that I realized the memory was still with me. Suddenly I was feeling less judgement and more empathy, because I know that feel, bro.

I can think of many times in my life (and I bet you can think of many in yours) where I’ve thought “damn was it worth it, will anyone even remember?” Some days I’ve come away from that question without an answer, and those were dark days. But as I thought about Mr. Cappelli and about all the times I’d had the same thoughts, I realized I should share this with you guys: The dark days were always temporary, the days when I felt like maybe I wasn’t really all that, always passed. If you’re doing amazing work, if you’re following your passion, if you’re being a blessing to someone, if you’re changing your little corner of the world for the better there will always be crappy times, but it has been my experience that those times do not last.

It is a cycle,

  • do the amazing work you were put on this planet to do
  • experience awesomeness
  • experience crappiness due to setback, failure or good old human self-doubt
  • do amazing work while feeling crappy (and getting support from awesome friends or family)
  • level up to new awesomeness
  • repeat

Yeah, this cycle is full of ups and downs and it sucks that you have to perform even during the down, but if you’ve read this far it’s because you know it’s worth it. You know you have a purpose and you know it goes beyond your cubicle, beyond your sales numbers, beyond your ordinary day-to-day. I mean seriously, the alternative is boring as heck. Go to work do what you hate, or at best can tolerate, eat, drink, sleep, repeat. You are meant for more than that, don’t let a little doubt ever stop you.

 

Read this if you’re going thru a crappy moment

 The whole getting support from friends and family is a crucial step, make sure you find people you can be honest with and will be honest with you. If you find yourself at a place where you’re a superstar professionally but have no humans who you love and love you, stop immediately and go find humans. Forget the mission you think you’re on, because it doesn’t matter if you’re miserable. Go find someone to love, seriously.

The Wrong Customer

People hire a professional because they need expert advice or service, and yet sometime they want to tell the expert how to do their job. The problem is, sometimes they’re a little off. In fact not only are they sometimes a little off, sometimes they’re completely wrong. If you’re like me, you’ve had one or two financial rough patches in your life where you swallowed your pride, shut off the part of your brain that does the rational thinking and said “ok, fine”. I kept those clients, but I put out crappy work I wasn’t proud of, I learned nothing in the process and those clients were one time hits.

It’s hard to tell a valued client that they’re wrong. Once you’re in the relationship, you have to roll with the punches and learn how to communicate with them. But I’ve learned a little trick in my sales process that’s helped me and I wanted to share it with you. While you’re selling the job, lead with a little shock. Not just any shock, but a very specific one that establishes your value.

Not going thru the whole sales process here, but be sure you’ve established some authority in your sales process. For example, if the client is a word of mouth referral then I just need to reinforce it, but if not, I use a combination of existing work & reputation, people in common and rapport building to establish my authority (I’ll write some more on this in the future). Then before asking for the sale, I insert a little unexpected line:

“Just to let you know, I’m not the bargain guy. I’m more expensive than a lot of my competitors and I’m very good at what I do, so I’m worth it.”

Then I pause (p.s. pause = say nothing, newbie sales people talk way too much).

If they say nothing or say something positive like “well we need quality, we’re not looking for bargains” (actual quote) then I have a sale. If they say anything like “we’ll have to see what your price is first” I will usually assume there is no sale. I won’t do a detailed proposal, or invest too much time into closing that business, because it’s likely to be a problem customer down the line. I’m not walking away, but they’re not a high priority prospect.

It may sound harsh (or a little scary), but the clients I’ve won by being upfront like this always respect my opinion and aren’t offended when I respectfully point out they’re mistaken. On a side note, they also pay on time, become long term customers and often become friends.

 

Still

Look at your calendar; what did you do last week? Now think about all the other things that you did that are not on there, mommy/daddy/husband/wife stuff, errands, shopping, traffic, subway, TV, Facebook, TV, Facebook, a little sleep, TV, Facebook.

Chronically overscheduled is something I’m often guilty of too (although I’m getting better). But I’ve gotta tell you, when I look back over my life, my highest stress times, my times of utter mental/emotional chaos, are the times when I am missing one thing.

A moment of stillness.

And I don’t really mean a quiet moment with a cup of tea or coffee just sitting there thinking. A moment of stillness goes beyond that, it means mental quiet. For me and my always on always connected life, mental quiet is the hardest type of quiet to get.

Here’s what I do:

  • Decide to do it, it never happens by accident.
  • Pick my spot. There’s 2 spots that usually work well for me, a hot shower or a comfortable coffee shop.
  • Focus. This is the hard work for me. I focus on one thing (for me it’s usually a scripture) and clear my mind, but when I do, it’s like my mind just gets noisier, with one idea or problem or solution after another jumping up and down for attention. So I beat them down with a mental 2×4 until they’re quiet.
  • Nothing else. I don’t try to solve a problem, if I was praying about something, I don’t try to force an answer out of God, I purposefully think about nothing. The second I’m thinking about something the still moment is over.

It’s hard for me, because I’m usually going from thing to thing mentally, but it’s always worth it. Whether I can hold that state for 10 minutes or the kids bang on the door after 2, the benefits are awesome. Ideas come more freely, organization is (slightly) less painful, stress is greatly reduced, solutions come to me more quickly and I’m generally a much nicer guy.

If you’ve never just been still, try it and let me know how it goes. If you’re really good at being still on a regular basis, then please share your tips.

Is The Porridge Ready?

I love this story my friend Rich Barker told to explain his Goldilocks and the Three Bears Rule.

After a church service he’s standing next to the Pastor as people come over to say goodbye. The first woman comes up and says “Pastor, I loved the sermon today, but unfortunately it was just too hot in here.” The next woman in line comes up and says “thanks so much, I loved the sermon. Too bad it was so cold in here.” As she walked away the Pastor gives Rich a look of WTH. Without missing a beat Rich grabs another woman from the crowd and asks her “so how was the temperature in here today? Was it too hot or too cold?” “No Rich, it was just right.”

The golden rule today in business is to delight and amaze our customers. We use the tools we have, social graph tools like Facebook and interest graph tools like Pinterest and the old school social tools likes mouths, eyes and ears, to discover what we can do to add value to our customers’ lives. Then we do our best to deliver what we build and profit while doing it.

But no matter how careful we are to make something awesome, no matter how passionate we are about delighting our users, someone will find it too hot and someone will find it too cold. I’ve seen small businesses and friends at startups try to make sure every Goldilocks concern is dealt with before they release a new product or service. The problem is that no matter what we do, there will always be a few Goldilocks (Seth Godin calls it “Alienating the 2%“).

If you’ve truly done your best to create something amazing, just ship the damn porridge. Goldilocks may still not like it, but most of your customers are bears anyway.

Free T Shirt!

Had a great discussion with Ramon Nuez last night, and data came up. Hot topic of late, Big DataSmall Data, even Better Data. So what do you know about your personal data. Do you know what ad networks are collecting behavioral data on you to serve personalized ads? When’s the last time you downloaded your info from the two services that presumably have most of your data, Facebook and Google?

Why bring it up?

Well, one of the other things Ramon and I discussed was financial education. In our common experience growing up in Latino households and in the American education system, there wasn’t (isn’t) a lot of focus on wealth management or how almost any amount of money properly managed is better than any larger amount of money mismanaged. Add to that Ramon’s point of how many college students leave school as well trained debt consumers (apply for this credit card now and we’ll give you a free T-shirt!). Is it really that shocking that so many people took on mortgages that they could never have afforded?

Data is the New Money

I see data as the new money. Our personal data stores in whatever form they take in the future will provide us access to goods and services that cash alone won’t buy. It already happens; give me your friend list and I will give you this virtual tree and a virtual hula hoop for your virtual island on Facebook or give me access to everywhere you and your phone go and I will give you this app. Right now we routinely give away our data in exchange for (trivial) stuff. Are we going to wake up in 5 years and realize this is the equivalent of signing up for 10 credit cards and maxing them out because someone offered us a free t-shirt?

If we’ve learned the hard way that a lack of financial education leads to a lack of personal discipline leads to financial crisis, why not start our data education today?

Less

brevity can be

opportunity for more

creativity.

Sometimes, often actually,  the best way is the shortest way. Less words can say more. Talk less, listen more and sell more. Less ‘look at me’ marketing and more ‘how can we help you’ stories. Less busy work means more time to change the world and more time to enjoy it while you’re there.

Do less today.

What You Don’t Deserve

One.
Three.
Half a dozen or so.
Hundreds.

How much time do we spend striving to get what we deserve? The new widget, the next version of the thing-a-mabob, the first 100,000 users, the A, the raise. Do you deserve those things? Maybe you do, in fact, let’s just say you do. But today, I’m going to ask you for a favor.

Grab your writing surface of choice and make a quick list. For some of you it may not take anytime at all, and for some of you it may take a few minutes, but trust me this will be worth it. Make a list of what you have that you don’t deserve. For me today, it was people:

  • One wife, who loves me more than I deserve.
  • Three children, who look at me in a way I could never deserve.
  • Half a dozen or so good friends, who back me up more than I deserve.
  • Hundreds of amazing loosely connected internet folks whose friendship I’ve done nothing to deserve.

Done? Good, now give thanks for that list. If you’re like me, give thanks to God, if that’s not your deal right now, well just say thank you out loud. Seriously, do it now (if you feel weird, grab your phone, pretend to dial and say thanks to it).

When you’re stressed, and that deadline is looming or you’re not getting the recognition you should or the conversions aren’t happening no matter how many AB tests you conduct or the dinner just burned (again) or whatever thing you’re chasing at the moment continues to elude you, giving thanks for what you don’t deserve will help strengthen you on the path to what you do deserve.