Archive for February, 2015

So you’re a successful person walking down the street to a business meeting, and a small bird lands on your shoulder. You immediately think:

  • A small bird just landed on my shoulder

You call yourself a successful person? You’re an idiot. In business, a successful person has learned through many painful experiences to look beyond the obvious, to peel away the layers of a situation and uncover the truth. Only then can you act appropriately, with confidence. In this case, the small bird is clearly serving two purposes. First, it is a puzzling distraction that will make you stop walking and ponder its behavior. Second, the bird is a spotter. It is lighting you up so the rest of the flock can accurately unload on you from 100 feet. So run to your meeting and don’t stop until you’re safely in the lobby! Or maybe your first thought is:

  • It’s just a small bird – it can’t possibly hurt me

A wise man once said “Don’t underestimate a Pomeranian”. Sure, it’s a small animal, but did you know that these Doberman chew-toys are descended from a large, wolf-type breed that used to pull sleds in Siberia? They are smart, manipulative, and have the personality of a much larger canine. A co-worker is training for a sprint triathlon, and recently went for a six mile walk with his fiancé’s eight year-old Pomeranian. That little beast walked the whole route on her little stick legs without breaking a dog-sweat! So don’t be blinded by first impressions or prejudices – a small bird can hurt you, especially in a close proximity battle. If a small bird lands on your shoulder, assume it is some avian ninja and prepare to fight! Or there’s a chance the first thought crossing your mind is:

  • I am going to rock this business meeting

This is the correct answer.  What, did you really think I got to where I am today by worrying about pooping bird flocks and avian ninjas? The scarf around my neck isn’t that tight. The point is don’t over-analyze. If you have a good plan, stick with it – you have already considered all angles, reasoned through the possible threats to a successful outcome, and decided how to address these if encountered. Small birds (real ones, hallucinations, or literary symbols) should not cause any deviation from your chosen path because they are inconsequential. Be prepared, and thee shall rock.

Simple as that – here’s a couple of tips:

Do your research – Know your adversary, but do ask questions. No one knows everything and careful questioning can give you the advantage in a negotiation.

Be alive – Show some interest and enthusiasm. You don’t have to go ADHD, but zombies are only fun to watch on TV.

Stick with your plan – If you have analyzed everything, rehearsed your speech and believe in your message, use it! Don’t let anything get in the way of your success.

If you make up imaginary issues, lame excuses, or allow yourself to be sidetracked by irrelevancies (i.e. small birds) you are not prepared and you will fail.

Just so you know, I do realize that the two bird paragraphs were silly. Except for the first one, which actually happened. To Gary Busey.

Throughout recorded history, famous scientists and philosophers from Sir Isaac Newton to Paula Abdul have opined on the law of attraction. Simply put, opposites attract….or do they? Well, yes, but not when people are involved. Research shows that hobbyists will seek out others with similar interests, political types will gravitate towards their like-minded wonk brethren, and singles will be most interested in dating alternate versions of themselves. At the macro level, winners will seek out winners. The opposite is also true – losers will congregate, presumably to eat ice cream out of a giant tub and lament their collective fates.

Now you know me – I would never say anything insensitive, but WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU LOSERS?

As long as you’re a winner, everything is fabulous.  You get to hang out with smart, successful people, learn their habits, emulate their behaviors, and soak in their general awesomeness. Best of all, you have a great time doing it, since these folks are personable, witty, good looking, have great hair and smell like fresh cut pine and jasmine. The rich get richer.  Birds of a feather flock together. A jackdaw is always found near a jackdaw (Ok, so that last one is a little obscure – it is often attributed to Aristotle, most likely while attending a poetry slam).  The main idea is that people who are already blessed with certain gifts surround themselves with others of equal or greater fortune. By creating this petri dish of perfection, its inhabitants become more skilled, more clever, more creative and more adaptable to the world we live in. How can this behavior not guarantee a positive outcome?

Since my logic is unassailable, I will ask this again, but in a different way. Assuming we all want to be successful, why do so many of us engage in the one behavior that limits our chances?  Really, why does this happen? The appropriate idiom would be “If you lay down with dogs you will wake up with fleas.” I suppose (with apologies to Pink Floyd) if all you touch and all you see is all you want your life to be, then by all means keep the status quo. If you are happy with your current existence then you don’t need to aspire to anything more. If you are at peace with yourself and happy to have realized your full potential as a person (even if that translates into eating cheese popcorn on the couch), congratulations, and have fun on that couch! But don’t bitch and whine that you are stuck on a couch with orange fingers, and don’t be envious of those who stepped up and left you behind. The path to success is clearly marked, and you don’t even have to dump your slacker friends. Just start hanging around with successful people, or if you don’t know any, try hanging out where THEY hang out. At the same time, educate yourself – about anything.  Business ideas, current events, job skills, media trends – just do it. If nothing interests you, find out what your target audience likes and emulate them. Over time you will find that your group of friends will change for the better and your life will take on a whole new trajectory.

In the words of tiger blood-infused actor, philanderer, and self-proclaimed warlock Charlie Sheen, “Boom, crush. Night, Losers. Winning, duh.”

Leadership Sucks (and I wouldn’t have it any other way)

Don’t let the title fool you. I do love what I do.  Deploying the latest in digital printing technology for Wright’s clients – love that. The chess game of crafting a big licensing deal – a must have for me.  Theoretical marketing debates that turn into “light bulb” moments – these get me out of bed in the morning. Blogging about smartphones and toilets – let’s just say I’m Uma Thurman…..and John Travolta just administered some timely “first aid”. I really do love what I do, but with regard to leadership…I absolutely love it. But it sucks (stay with me, people!).

Equip & Release

Volumes have been written about leadership. What makes a great leader, how great leaders inspire others, the 10 Commandments of leadership, great leaders and their goldfish, blah, blah, blah. But after that poor pony has been pummeled to death, only two simple truths remain. Equip. And Release. Equip and release – that’s it. Leaders lead by equipping their teams with the tools and mindset to be successful. Leaders lead by preparing their teams for stormy weather. Leaders lead by encouraging their teams to think creatively, to get inside the heads of others, to study and learn from their competitors, and to be relentlessly focused on the prize of success. Don’t fear success – romance it. And once you as a leader have fully equipped your team for the mission at hand, you release them into the arena to battle the lions.  As you continue to mentor your people, their skills will increase to the point where they begin equipping others. The rewards are endless, and like compound interest, keep growing.

All of this I love – it’s a never ending series of challenges, with every one slightly different and offering new lessons for the future. But now for the sucky part.

The downside to leadership is leadership – more specifically, the responsibilities that one must assume alone to join the club.  How do you separate your desire to be one of the team and participate in office events and group lunches with the need to maintain your executive aura and Yoda-like presence?  You really can’t, and it sucks.  What happens when you mentor the hell out of a productive employee, equip him or her with all the tools needed to be a star, and upon release witness a total self-immolation that you are powerless to stop? Sucks.  And after countless hours working with a promising employee, serving up the sum total of your decades of collective wisdom on a silver platter, what happens when you realize that all your efforts have been ignored or discarded and this person must be fired? And you have to do it, bearing the sense of loss and the accompanying heavy heart for the ramifications of your action?  Bullet train to Suckville Station.  Leaders can have lots of friends when times are good, when everyone is performing well, when business conditions are as predicted.  But give me a business downturn, an employee performance problem, a black swan event, and it becomes very lonely. This is a huge downside for me. As much as I am thrilled by the constant challenges of my profession and my life, the periodic loneliness that makes it possible will always suck.