Time and time again the battle call is: Be more productive. Stop doing X, Y and/or Z so you can get more work done. (By the way, please let’s not be foolish enough to still believe multi-tasking is an answer. It’s not. It’s a fool’s game.)
News flash! The brain doesn’t work that way.
That is, the brain, like any muscle, has limits. There are real (i.e., scientific) reasons why there are times you feel like you just can’t think anymore. It’s because you actually can’t think any more.
The reality is, to be more productive, less can, and very often is, more. Push harder against the rock your brain has become doesn’t make the rock movable. In fact, you’re probably only making matters worse. Or put another way, there are reasons why you have breakthrough ideas at what seem to be weird moments (e.g., in the shower). Sometimes the brain needs to catch its breath. Sometimes the brain needs silence.
Two related books I’ve read and recommend:
David Rock – “Your Brain at Work”
Daniel Goleman – “Focus”
Yes, Goleman is the “Emotional Intelligence” guy.
You may have also noticed that often breakthroughs come once you start to discuss a problem out loud (usually with a colleague). Verbalization changes how your brain processes the ideas, and sometimes that shift is enough to help see something that previous wasn’t as visible. Verbalizing helps you see the bottleneck differently.
The bottom line…Make time for the pause. Plan for the pause. Because the pause is a milestone.
A couple days ago I received a phone call from a colleague. Specifically, it manifested itself as a voice mail. The message was long. It was filled with details; plenty of which were unnecessary and distracting from the core ideas being communicated.
I’m not the voice / phone person I used to be. I believe this is true of more and more people, and probably most people at this point. To be clear, I just don’t expect War & Peace via a voice mail. Does anyone?
In any case, I confess, I didn’t listen as closely as I should have and botched a minor detail or two. Yes, I was upset with me. I should have known better. It’s not the first time the sender has TMI’ed someone.
That said, my colleague could have done better as well. We all could do better when it comes to be brevity, clarity and context.
The message could have made better use of brevity. It could have focused on clarity—the necessary highlights for the medium (i.e., voice mail). Finally, it could have probably had some consideration for the context of the receiver (i.e., me). Even a short follow up text message (e.g., “i left a long voice msg, u might want to have pen and paper ready. call me later pls” ) would have been a big help.
Communication isn’t just words or ideas. It requires a mindful sender, as well as a ready, willing and able receiver.
The bottom line…In the words of Frank Luntz (from his book “Words That Work”): “It’s not what you say, it’s what people hear.”
It doesn’t happen often, but when it does, it’s big. Bigger than the Super Bowl big. The it is The World Cup. Perhaps you’ve heard of it?
I believe that football / futbol / soccer is much like life itself. You’re not always moving forward to reach the goal. Sometimes you’re on the defensive. Sometime things are slow, sometimes fast. Sometimes what looks like bad news suddenly turns good. It challenges both the body and the mind. In short, football is fluid. It’s like a chess match. A thinking man’s / woman’s sport. A creative man’s / woman’s sport.
As you probably already know, this year’s winner was Germany. And while it’s too early to declare a dynasty there are some well known “tricks” that went into Germany’s process for achieving this massively difficult milestone.
You need a plan. Accidents rarely result in victory—on or off the pitch.
You need a team. Be mindful of the fact that a collection of individual players does not necessarily mean you have a team. As Jim Collins said in the classic Good To Great: “Get the right people on the bus.”
Don’t be star struck. Germany has some serious footballers but none draw the same level of media attention as some of the sport’s (individual) superstars. It’s worth mentioning that Spain—the winner of the 2010 World Cup—had a very similar approach in terms of team development.
Good things come to those who wait. There’s no such thing as an overnight success. In order to be successful you have to be willing to grind it out. Germany’s 1-0 win over Argentina for The World Cup 2014 was 14 years in the making. Yes, 14 years!
Be humble. From the three articles listed below if nothing else please be sure to read: “Mesut Özil donates World Cup winnings to 23 children’s surgeries in Brazil.” You’ll be touched, impressed, and ideally also inspired.
Success in being effective and being efficient is (IMHO) very similar to regular success. That is, it’s not about grand slams and home runs. It’s not even about doubles and singles.
The real magic happens at the plate. It’s about knowing which pitch to swing at, and which to let go. In short, you can’t hit a single—let alone a grand slam—if you’re constantly swinging at the wrong pitch.
For example, many people get all jazzed up about Facebook. “Look at that grand slam!” And those same people get all star-struck about on how far the ball went / is going.
The brilliance is that Facebook swung at the right pitch at the right time. Obviously, the swing (i.e., execution) also plays a significant role. But they also didn’t swing at some crap pitch in the dirt.
The bottom line…Mitigate your risk—i.e., increase your chances for success—by staying focused and letting the wrong pitches pass by. Losing focus and swinging at pitches not worth swinging at is not a strategy of the successful.
As is the American pop-media tradition, there has been plenty of Monday morning quarterbacking going on over the Super Bowl commercials. Did you, like me, think the VW commercial was going to be for tourism in Jamaica? Or what about the Ram truck commercial? Inspiring or too dark and murky? Or what about the general lack of appreciation for viewing context? That is, I would imagine a significant percentage of those watching can’t hear the audio. Yet there was not a single advent—that I saw—that functioned well with the volume off. Perhaps big time advertising / TV creative types don’t go to sports bars and/or Super Bowl parties? The answer is obvious, yes?
However, none of those were the marketing low point of the evening. That anti-crescendo happened prior to the kickoff. Most of you probably weren’t even watching yet and even those who were, I bet, have no idea what I’m talking about.
Since I like to eat my own dog food let me provide some of you less enthusiastic NFL fans some backstory (i.e., context). For starters, there’s the ongoing controversy over concussions. which even President Obama has hinted at. After player safety there’s player conduct. Let’s just say that the NFL would be happy if some players were better known for their performance on the field than off. Naturally, with the Baltimore Ravens being in the Super Bowl, (their linebacker) Ray Lewis’ murder more info
indictments were back in the public consciousness. Nice, right?
Which brings us to the Dallas Cowboy’s Jason Witten and the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year award. Please raise your hand if you’re drawing a blank.
OK then, let’s get to the bottom line…
In light of all the NFL’s image problems, would it really have been too much to devote 60 to 90 seconds to Mr. Witten at half time? Here is a family man the league should be proud of, but they blew it. All that was needed was a quick bit on Mr. Payton, his legacy and the tradition of the award (all of which would been helpful to many of the NFL “amateurs” who were watching), and then something on Witten’s work for stopping domestic violence. 60 seconds of video, plus 30 second of live award would have been 100% brilliant. Heck, put it dead smack in the middle of the Beyonce show and let her present the award to him. Talk about a photo op. Yes, make a big deal out of it. Why? Because it is a big and very positive deal.
Instead, this—dare I say—ceremony was during the pre-game and the segment was excessively short. If you got up to get another cold one, you might have missed it. Pretty sad, don’t you think?
A couple weeks ago I attended TigerLaunch Startup Challenge 2012 at Princeton University, as hosted by The Princeton Entrepreneurship Club. The keynote speaker was Bill Taylor (Princeton ’81) the co-founder of the iconic Fast Company Magazine. Bill was also one of the judges in the competition. Thought the magic of YouTube, The Princeton Entrepreneurship Club has shared Bill’s keynote.
Based on my now cryptic notes here are the highlights I gleaned from Bill Taylor’s keynote address at TigerLaunch 2012.
Be passionate. When someone say no just drive harder.
Luck and timing helps.
Business plans are written to reflect singles and doubles. The reality is there are strikeouts and home runs.
The business plan is a good exercise but it never goes as planned.
Be naive, be an outsider, it’s an advantage. Fresh eyes can be as important as experience and expertise.
Hire for attitude. Train for skill.
Entrepreneurs must learn to manage emotions and emotional connections.
Being smart isn’t enough.
Eat your own dog food.
“The only thing worse than failing is success.”
“Architecture of participation”
When crowdsourcing be exact about what you want. Ask for participation everywhere you go.
Good stuff, yes? But wait there’s more…
In total there were eight presentations—Bill Taylor plus seven start-ups. The start-ups were: Collections, Waiter d’, QualTraxx, nat|Aural, DUMA, Pasand and BeneTag. Obviously, there was a lot of creative entrepreneurial energy in the room. However, there was one thing that was (pleasantly) absent. That was the use of the word innovation. There was plenty of talk about customers, business models, technology, growth, etc. but no one seemed to be over-focused on innovation for innovation’s sake. Realistic and refreshing.
Conclusion? Innovation as an ends is highly overrated—as it should be.
Every now and then an idea/project comes along that’s too good to pass up. Maybe the appeal is its off-beat nature. Maybe it’s the challenge. Maybe it’s the potential for fun. Maybe it’s the chance to shine. Maybe it’s the bragging rights. Maybe it’s more productive than Big Bang Theory reruns on TV. Our homegrown VT802.us is all of the above and then some.
Background: Some months ago, in the process of purchasing some other domain names, I grabbed VT802.us. Call it pennies for a rainy day if you will. But at the time I had no idea how I might spend that cash cow. It just seemed like a good idea. Oh! Let me explain: VT is for Vermont and 802 is the telephone area code up there. Yes, they only have one area code. Make sense so far?
Long story short, I passed on the idea of a bit.ly Pro account. That was too mundane and too obvious. I waited. Then approximately six months ago I came across YOURLS.org. YOURLS is an open source project—thanks Ozh!—for doing your own URL shortener. Before you could say bazinga, a brand was born.
VT802.us – The World’s First Vermont-centic URL shortener.
Key Features & Innovations:
Submitted URLs that are already “shortened” will be unshortened and then reshortened with the VT802.us base domain name. This includes redirects. In other words, if a URL is a redirect to another URL, VT802.us will get to the end point and then shorten using the actual final destination URL.
Along with the to-be-shortened URL a short message for sharing to social networks can also be entered. Once the shortened URL is returned, the Guest has the option to share to any service supported by AddThis.com. Shorten once, share many. Neither bit.ly nor TinyURL offer this feature.
The AddThis code was heavily customized. In fact, in the process of trouble shooting a couple of bumps in the web development road even AddThis.com’s tech support admitted that the innovative configuring was an “unanticipated use” of their service.
Contact form (icon in upper right) is AJAX and jQuery. The main form and the contact form also use the jQuery Validation plugin.
Images are selected randomly on each page load from a pool of files and meta data managed via the admin config.
The admin config has a number of fields for each image including: title, description, photographer and others.
Top message bar is done with the free version of HelloBar.
Banner ad is served with Google’s Doubleclick for Publishers. This feature enables us to analyze impressions, as well as allows advertisers to A/B test their banners. Pursuing advertisers is a Phase 3 pursuit. For now it was a matter of getting to play with Doubleclick again. That said, better to be ready sooner rather than later.
Logo and website design is also by Alchemy United. The markup uses HTML5 and is best viewed in Firefox or Chrome.
VT802.us also has its own Twitter account and Facebook Page. Please feel free to follow as well as Like. Thanks.
And yes, of course, Google Analytics too.
In short, VT802.us is a full-service end-to-end project, envisioned and realized by Alchemy United. As short and simple as it might appear to be this project still entailed quite a bit of attention to detail as well as thoroughness across a number of disciplines. Please let us know what you think about our “little” work in progress. Thanks.
I would personally like to thank Burlington, VT photographer/photojournalist Seth Butler (SethButler.com, @SethButler) for embracing the VT802.us vision.
Not only was he the first volunteer shooter to license a couple of images to the project but it was also his idea for the longer more detailed descriptions for the images. As a result, not only does VT802.us promote the visual side of the Green Mountain State but there’s a bit of education/insight as well. He also inspired AU to add the Image & Photographer information “page” (icons in the upper left).
“6 Ways to Fix the NBA” by Stephen Fried (Parade.com, 20 June 2010). As luck (?) would have it, this article managed to come my way via Google Alerts. And yes, sports as an analogy for business is overdone. None the less there are some interesting observation here that apply to incentives, as well as cause and effect gone astray.
Here is a version of the comment that was submitted:
I read the six recommendations on improving the appeal of the NBA and would like to comment. My thoughts are as follows:
1) Change foul out rules — While it’s true people wish to see the star players, no one comes to see fouls either. In any sport fouls are the “ugly” side of the game. I find it hand to believe that what ultimately comes down to more fouls is going to be appealing for the fan. Is there any prescient for ugliness increasing a fan base of any sport?
2) Increase scoring — I would like to suggest there are two flaws here. One, accelerating scoring will only accelerate the gap in two mismatched teams. Does the NBA really need more blow outs? Two, it’s supposed to be a game and sport, the tit-for-tat approach of focusing on scoring is going to wear thin very fast. One could argue it’s the perceived (?) lack of strategy is actually what’s hurting the NBA today. Pass… Pass… Dunk. Followed by pass… Shoot… gets dull after a while. We know they can score, the question is, do they have game?
That said, an interesting idea might be just giving the team that’s leading less time to shoot? Or the team that’s down more time so they control the pace, can readjust, etc.
3) Raise the age limit — Again, two flaws. One, what if the stars-to-be opts out of the college route and decide to play in Europe instead. Two, does this not confirm the criticism that many already make about college basketball? That is, it’s not about education, sport and developing students into citizen, but instead it’s just the minor leagues for the NBA.
4) Encourage quirk — Ha! In this day and age?? Even at 140 characters Twitter is enough for some of these guys to hurt themselves and ruin their careers. In a society that expects perfection this recommendation is just an accident ready to happen. Furthermore, just because they are great athletes does mean they have “personality”. What’s does shooting a basketball have to do with anything other than that? Yes, let them be who they are. Just consider the classic, “Be careful what you wish for”.
5) Change the trade rules — Truth be told, there is already collusion between the agents and the front offices. The free market will be great as long as there is a way to ensure it is remains a free market.
6) Shortern the season — Finally something that makes sense. And please suggest the same for baseball and hockey too. The NFL has it right, as does European football (aka soccer). The irony here is this is a call for quality, yet more (read: quantity) scoring was recommended earlier.
The bottom line… More fans will pay attention when the NBA, or any brand for that matter, becomes a better entertainment value than other choices fans might already have. I’m not so sure most of the six recommendation listed really workt towards that goal. That is to consistently entertain to a level that exceeds expectations.
Thanks for listening.
p.s. I thought it was interesting that the woman’s league was not mentioned. It very well could be that the WNBA is cannibalizing fans from the NBA. Maybe this is because in the WNBA it ismore about “game” than about size, or should I say size of egos?Btw, when was the last time a fan got beat up at a WNBA game?
If there were a Business & Management Hall of Fame, Peter Drucker would be inducted, first shot, all the number one votes. If by chance you’re not familiar, here is his wikipedia page: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peter_Drucker. The irony is that the five recommendations listed by Bruce are really nothing new. For the most page they all date back ages and in some form are rooted in many of the great religions. That not to say, business is substitute for faith, not at all. But we’re not just talking the business you here. We’re talking the holistic you — on and off the clock.
The bottom line… If you can’t help you and improve you, who can? In addition, when you stretch out to help and support others that also makes you stronger too. “No man is an island,” indeed.
“The Future of Money” by Daniel Roth (Wired.com, March 2010). If you thought it was just about dollar and cents then think again. Roth puts one of the world’s oldest traditions in a whole new light. If you like to speculate about the future (pun intended) then this one’s for you.
“Is There an Ecological Unconscious?” by Daniel B. Smith (New York Times Sunday Magazine, 27 January 2010). The majority of this blog is devoted to the more technical if not clinical aspects of life in the business world. But as they say, “All work and no play makes Mark a dull boy.” Speaking from personal experience I have no doubt that there is a positive and necessary connection between my mind, body & soul and my ability to maintain a healthy connection to the world around me.
Yes, Wired’s pro-technology approach – “How Twitter and Facebook Make Us More Productive” by Brendan I. Koerner, 22 February 2010 – makes some sense. That is, humans are wired such that we need to take breaks from the immediate task at hand. However, maybe the true productivity advantages come not from dialing up a browser and Facebooking but from stepping away from the desk and taking a quite moment outside? Maybe there really is an advantage to having a corner office with a view?
Furthermore, if you subscribe to the ecological unconscious ideals then it would seem that they might also explain the increase prevalence of human disconnect (e.g., the need for anti-depressants) in our society. Are we building a world that more and more of us are not fit to live in? Is a (short term looking) productive work environment the same thing as an ongoing healthy human living environment?
“It’s a Wonderful, Horrible Feeling” by Shaun White as told to Alyssa Roenigk (ESPN, 22 Feb 2010). Better knows as the Flying Tomato, Mr. White (age 21) is considered to be one of the best snowboarders in the world. He is certainly the most recognizable.
It’s not often someone of such a young age shares an idea such as:
You know how I said that everyone assumes this is easy for me? Well, I probably downplay the one easy part: I cut out a lot of prep time by visualizing complicated tricks. But I still have to practice, and it still gets gnarly and terrifying. I slam my back against the ice all day just like anyone else. And there are still times when I show up at the mountain and think, I hate this. I don’t want to be here. The halfpipe is terrible. It’s cold. Then I look over at the next guy, and he hates it. And the next guy, he hates it too. Then I get this amazing feeling. Great. Everybody hates it. Their spirits are down. I am going to rip this halfpipe. The best riders shine through in bad weather. I’m probably the most prepared of anyone.
To me, it’s simple. If you really want to do something you can figure it out. If you hurt your hand and you have to write with the other, you figure it out. You adapt. I am a big fan of doing what you are really bad at. A lot.
There you have it boys & girls, this gold winner’s four keys to being world-class:
1) Visualize success
2) Suck it up in order to rise above the rest
3) Perseverance and adaptation
4) Get out of your comfort zone and force yourself to do what you’re bad at
Sound just like a day at the office sometimes, eh? Simple and brilliant at the same time.
For the most part Mr. Gates’ perspective is global. He does however mention during the inteview that s in the United States the two biggest issue his foundation is addressing are helping teachers and online learning. Contrast this with the fact that Uncle Sam’s approach has lead to a system where only 60% of the students who start high school actually graduate. The irony comes when one considers how many massive corporations jump through tax loopholes to avoid paying into the system and then those same outfits also expect to have a well educated work force available so they can be even more profitable.
Is the system just dented and bent, or broken and in need of a complete makeover?
“2010 Annual Letter from Bill Gates” by Bill Gates (Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, 25 Janueary 2010). While certainly not an oracle, Mr. Gates, former Microsoft head honcho, is well established and well connected and needless to say very very wealthy. If you’re curious about what’s ahead then invest some time in Mr. Gates’ thoughts. In short, good economy, bad economy or New Economy, we have a lot of work to do.
In the event you don’t make it to the last page, Bill says:
I have decided to take the notes I make after taking a trip, reading a book, or meeting with someone interesting and pull them together on a web site called www.gatesnotes.com. This will let me share thoughts on foundation-related topics and other areas on a regular basis. I expect to write about tuberculosis, U.S. state budgets, creative capitalism, and philanthropy in Asia, among other things.
What is interesting is that many of The Gates’ concerns are resource and/or “head count” driven. Yet, there is little mention of population and population control as a means to helping solve some of these problems. We’d all agree that technolgy can be a wonderful tool, but let’s not forget about (changing) good ol’ fashion human behavior as a means to a better ends.
1) Consider these as leadership qualities that are universal, not just for IT.
2) You don’t have to be at the top of the org chart to be a leader. This is especially true if you want to get to the top of the org chart.
3) In many cases, these criteria also apply to brands, not just individuals. How well does your brand lead? Or not?
4) Finally, instead of “were chosen” substitute “will be chosen” and adjust your resolutions for the year ahead as you see fit.
Which of these dozen or so characteristics do you value most in a leader? What characteristics did Ms. Fanning and Ms. Keefe miss? Who is your leadership hero?
“The future is a gimmick” by David Weinberger (KM World, 1 Jan 1 2010). The parties are over and it’s back to reality – cold, non-stop reality. But let’s not be foolish and try to break into a full sprint from a dead stop. It’s always smart to loosen up a bit. As you sip your coffee and gear up for 2010, consider this article toe touches and jumping jacks. Enjoy!
Another buzz service that maybe you’re familiar with is Google Voice. In short, it’s a free phone number with it’s own outgoing message. No more using your personal number for business. Or maybe you just need a special (temporary) number for a special project. Skye, Yahoo! and others do provide free numbers but more often than not they don’t allow for your own personalize outgoing message. And this is just the tip of the iceberg.
What’s hard to say, but certain to be interesting, is how Google eventually integrates Wave with Voice. For those who have thus far underestimated Wave, the ball is still bouncing so keep your eye on it.
A colleague and I were fortunate to witness this first hand a couple weeks ago. Considering that this was part of the Web 2.0 Expo’s free seminars, is simply amazing. Rushkoff alone was worth the time and the cost of the train multiplied by a few thousand, at least. Cheers to O’Reilly for bringing that event together and having Rushkoff expand our minds. Challenging, brilliant and not to be missed.
“Work for Change” by Alexander Stein (Fortune Small Business, November 2009). It’s always interesting how the title of an article sometimes changes from the print version to the web version. In this case, the web version is actually, “Break bad habits, make more money.” Look out Spiderman, here comes SEOman. I digress.
Change and innovation continue to be the buzz words of the moment. Add in the fact that the New Year’s resolution ritual is just around the corner and this article becomes a great way to kickoff your post-Thanksgiving week.
As we so often like to do, let’s bait you with a pull quote teaser:
There’s no simple prescription for change. But here are the first crucial steps:
Recognize that your personal history plays a central role in shaping your behavior.
Revise any prejudice against emotional inquiry. Accept the fact that fear, rigidity and avoidance are corrosive — and that reaching an understanding about yourself can reap rewards.
Admire psychological complexity; don’t let it intimidate you. Decode your mind to harness its natural ingenuity.
Respect the gargantuan force of your emotional life. Emotions can propel you to success. They can also impede and even straitjacket you. No matter what, you can’t ignore your emotions and still hope to prosper in business or in life.
Keep in mind, we’re about to enter the second decade of the 21st century. What 20th century habits and approaches do you hope to leave behind already? What do think it’s going to take to make those changes happen? Who or what — aside from yourself — is stopping you? Where else do find sources of inspiration that work for you?