Archives for Leadership
The great thing about classic tales is they’ve stood the test of time. And so has all the great advice you can get from them …
- Never judge a book by it’s cover. Just because a guy is wearing a leather skirt and a funny hat, doesn’t mean he can’t still kick your ass.
- Never send a boy to do a man’s job, (Achilles’ cousin gets killed by Hector while pretending to be Achilles). If you’re at that “almost a man but not quite” age, just know, we’ve all been there. We got razzed for doing some of the dumbest stuff you can imagine. So will you.
- Never accept gifts from your enemies. Especially if it’s a wooden horse. Remember, Sun Tzu said “keep your friends close, and your enemies closer”. Well, this is what he was talking about.
- Always give gifts to your enemies. Especially wooden horses.
- Make short term and long term plans. Sure, there’s a guy standing right in front of you with a spear. There’s also a guy way up ahead with a bow. Be prepared for both challenges.
- Burn your dead. Metaphorically speaking … maybe your house is full of clutter or you’ve got a list of must-do tasks sitting in the procrastination zone. Get rid of that stuff before it starts to stink up the joint.
- Never follow a fat king. Guys like Agamemnon care about one thing; Agamemnon. Good leaders fight at the front of the pack and they know the very real consequences of their decisions.
- Enjoy the little things. Once in a while it’s good to sleep till noon. Bear skin rug and beautiful nymphs are optional. But highly recommended.
- Nothing is absolute. Not even the walls of Troy; In time, all things fall; stocks, business models, civilizations. You should always have a secret back door out of the city or an exit strategy.
- Women. Let’s just say it’s complicated. Very, very complicated.
For some more amusement also check out 5 Things Every CEO Can Learn from Frank Miller’s 300 and From Bourne Identity to Leadership Ultimatum.
Stuff happens. Stuff goes wrong. If it doesn’t, then something really is wrong. And when stuff goes wrong, sometimes we have to get as close to failing as we can possibly get to see the right course of action …
A number of years ago I was driving down a highway here in Vancouver with my girlfriend at the time. It’s a 4 lane highway and there’s the odd light-slash-intersection. As I was driving, a woman coming the other way decided to turn left in front of me.
She started to turn; she had all the time in the world. And then she just stopped. In my lane. She froze and I was barreling straight towards her.
And there was no way I could stop in time.
I know, I know … you’re a machine. And I know if they could bottle the drive and passion you put into every second of the day, a crate of the stuff would be worth a king’s ransom.
But even machines need an oil change and a tune-up once in a while.
A Very Important Leadership Hat
Out of all the different hats that leaders wear, the sombrero (or as I like to call it, the siesta-time hat) earns the least respect. But it’s one of the more important hats you can wear. And probably not for the reasons you’re thinking.
Yes, the sombrero combats fatigue and burn-out and helps you bring some balance to the mad dash of whatever you’re pursuing. It also does two other very important things:
There’s an anecdote I love that says “Poor people are crazy. Rich people are eccentric”. And that leads us into a chicken and egg question …
Are celebrities wild and crazy because they’re rich and famous, or are they rich and famous because they’re wild and crazy?
It’s pretty easy to argue that one feeds the other, but I have to go with the latter because getting attention is marketing 101. It’s the first job that every brand, or rather, that brand’s packaging has to do.
The Risky Business Strategy
Tom Cruise’s career is a great case study. There are lots of people who have amassed huge fortunes and achieved great fame. But his case is very special because we can pinpoint exactly the one thing he did that started it all.
The year was 1983. The movie was Risky Business. And the one single (and risky) scene that took a relatively unknown actor and launched him into a superstar was Tom Cruise dancing in his underwear to Bob Seger’s Old Time Rock and Roll. Pretty easy to read that scene in a script and think you’re going to look like a total fool if you do it.
But that’s the point. It’s just another version of “feel the fear and do it anyway”. You have to own it with unflinching confidence. And he’s been capitalizing on that first big success ever since and rolling it into bigger and bigger successes.
The next time you’re brainstorming on how to create your own break-out moment or a launching point for something, make sure it’s a little scary. There has to be a risk. And sure, maybe you just think Tom Cruise is crazy.
Eccentric maybe. Crazy … not a chance.
Tough decisions are usually pretty easy to identify. They’re those moments when your only choice is to (hopefully) choose the lesser of two evils. To choose the path that’s bad instead of the one that’s worse. To try and figure out if a risk is worth taking or not.
There’s no easy way to make a hard decision. But there is a right way and a wrong way.
The Pitfalls of Avoiding the Tough Decisions
This is the wrong way. There are two ways to avoid making tough decisions. One is bad. The other gives you a fifty-fifty chance of making the right decision.
- Do everything. One of the easiest ways to avoid making a tough call is to choose both. Do everything. Be all things to all people. The cost of doing everything will kill a business because every business has competition. The cost of doing everything will either drive your prices up out of your market’s reach, or they’ll whittle away your profit till there’s nothing left. Or less.
- Do nothing. I guess the popular way of saying this these days is “stay the course”. Not making a decision IS a decision. And you’ve got a 50% chance that it’s the right one. Of course, the very fact that a decision needs to be made in this case means that the present course is not going well at all. So giving it odds of 50% is pretty optimistic.
Seeing the Future and Making the Tough Decisions
You gotta love the human spirit. And it’s love of the here and now.
Our natural fight-or-flight instinct helps us make difficult decisions. At least, it does when there’s a crisis right here, right now. But these aren’t difficult decisions and that instinct doesn’t help us make truly difficult decisions whose consequences are often somewhere down the road.
And that’s how you make the tough choices. You have to look into the future. Look down the road. And like a master chess strategist, you have to look at all the possible outcomes of each of your choices.
If the answer still isn’t apparent, then look a little further down the road or track back and see if there’s anything you missed along the way.
Luckily, it’s not a fight-or-flight situation. So take your time.
I was helping some friends move a couple weeks ago when another friend blurted out a hilarious one-liner describing her romantic experience with waterbeds … push once, coast for five.
You know I love metaphors. And we can use this one to understand the paralyzing effect a small success can have. Picture someone in the middle of a field. A football hurtles through the air and in a moment of triumph, they catch it.
If you’ve never made the catch before, it’s easy to freeze and bask in the triumph of the moment. It’s easy to coast. But this is the time to push even harder. This is the time to take the ball and run with it to the end zone so you can create an even bigger success. The time to capitalize on that first small success is right now.
And no matter how small the success is, you need to keep going while you still have all its momentum at your disposal.
How to Push for 5 and Coast Once
All you have to do is flip the numbers around and you have a better formula for capitalizing on success. But what we really need here is a way to break through the shock and awe of that first success so we can use it to get to the next one …
- Plan for success. By planning for success, you won’t get caught like a deer in the headlights when it happens. You know what to expect, and you’ve put some thought into “what to do next”.
- Celebrate along the way. One of the big traps that prevents people from getting to the next success is stopping for too long to celebrate the last one. Celebrate while you’re on your way to the next one.
- Use the buddy system. Partners, mentors, family and friends are all good for giving you the right encouragement at the right time. When you catch the ball, you want to have someone on the sidelines ready to shout “Run”!
- Think “now”. Just as important as the big goals are the small ones. Standing in the middle of the field ready to catch the ball, your only goal is to catch the ball. Your next goal is to make it 10 yards down the field. Then another ten, and another ten. All of these little goals get you to that big-picture goal of winning the season.
- Break through the perfection wall. It’s easy to have a small success and try to make it bigger by tweaking a few things here and there. Learn from all your experiences, but focus on your next success. The last one wasn’t perfect, but it was still a success.
Okay. Now you can coast.
If you’re like me, you’ve flipped through a few books on leadership and business. Well, when it comes to leadership, there’s only one book I couldn’t not buy. And that’s The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership by John C. Maxwell.
It’s a great book and the things John teaches should be practiced.
So I’ve put together a 21 day leadership challenge. Each day for the next 21 days, make it your mission to practice one of the laws of leadership. Someway, somehow, any way you can …
The 21 Day Leadership Challenge
- The law of the lid. Every leader has a ceiling. Maybe you’re destined to be the supreme master of the universe or maybe you can’t even get your dog to come when you call him. Think about your leadership lid and what you can do to push it higher.
- The law of influence. Leadership is not about your title or position. It’s about leading. Can you lead in a situation where your title or position don’t matter? Practice some anonymous leading.
- The law of process. Leaders use a process whenever they build something. It makes your ventures repeatable and scalable. Build a step-by-step process for doing something.
- The law of navigation. Setting goals is important. Navigation takes it one step further because you’re plotting a course of actions that take you to the goal. Define a goal for yourself and plot a course to reach it.
- The law of E. F. Hutton. This law is taken from the old commercials “When E. F. Hutton speaks, people listen”. Find someone who’s a stronger leader than you are. Now just listen.
- The law of solid ground. Leaders build trust. Spend some time today building or strengthening the trust that someone has in you.
- The law of respect. Loyalty and respect take trust a step further. Think about who you would follow no matter where they wanted to go. And why.
- The law of intuition. With experience, you’ll build great instincts. Leaders go with their gut many times because they need to make quick decisions. Practice making quick decisions using your intuition.
- The law of magnetism. Leaders attract people like a magnet. And good leaders always attract the right people to get the job done. What kind of people do you need to attract? Figure out how you can do that.
- The law of connection. Remember, without people there’s nothing there. Network and really connect with someone today.
- The law of the inner circle. Every leader has an inner circle of people they trust and rely on. Inner circle people have great talents and vision of their own. Better than yours in some things. Start building your inner circle.
- The law of empowerment. To build a team, you have to give other people ownership of what they’re doing. You have to let them lead. Empower someone else and let them lead.
- The law of reproduction. Leaders create followers. Great leaders create other leaders. Start being a leadership mentor to someone today.
- The law of buy-in. You believe in someone’s ideas after you already believe in the person. Practice selling YOU instead of just your ideas.
- The law of victory. When something doesn’t work out, you learn something new. But it’s important not to start with that idea or else you might give in to it. Strive for nothing less than total victory today.
- The law of the big mo. Momentum is capital. With every success, you build momentum that makes the next success easier. Take something small and use its success to do something bigger.
- The law of priorities. Leaders are busy. And some things are more important than other things. Put together a list of everything you have to do and prioritize it from most important to least.
- The law of sacrifice. You have more responsibilities to other people and other things as a leader. Sometimes, you have to give something up to take care of those responsibilities. Sacrifice something you care about for someone else today.
- The law of timing. Opportunities are everywhere. One of the big things that makes something a good opportunity is timing. Recognize an opportunity and pounce on it right away.
- The law of explosive growth. To grow, you need to lead everyone in the right direction. To create explosive growth, you need to lead other leaders in the right direction. Reach out and start leading other leaders today.
- The law of legacy. Eventually, someone else will do what you’re doing right now. More than building other leaders, more than being a mentor, you have to build the leader that can take care of and do everything you can do. Start building a leader you can pass the baton to.
It’s a big challenge. Have some fun with it.
Sooner or later we all come to the realization that we’re human. And there’s only so much that’s humanly possible.
And when we’re stretched to the breaking point and need a break, the worst thing to do is to take one without a plan to restart the fire afterwards. All our momentum is gone. And it takes a lot of work to start from the bottom of the hill and get rolling back up it again.
No worries. All we need is …
A Firestarting Kit
And it’s got everything you need to find balance and get going again.
- A windbreak. If you try and jump right back into the hurricane, you’re gonna jump right back out again. So even though there’s a whole mess of things that are coming at you that need to be done, they’re not getting done right now. You might as well put a plan together before you start doing them.
- Tinder. Step one of the plan is to declutter. We’re surrounded by a hundred little nagging things that demand our time and energy. It’s good tinder so we’ll use them to start the fire. Start by taking care of all the little things that have been piling up that aren’t important … but are. Wash the dog, pay the bills, fix the garage door. Take a little stroll around your world and jot down every little thing that needs to get done. And then get it done.
- Spark. Step two is defining your goals and your passions. Some of the things you WERE doing are important to you. Some of them aren’t. What’s important? And even more importantly, which of your goals are you really passionate about? These are the things you want to do so much so that you need to do them.
- Timber. This is the big stuff. It’s a mix of things you really want to do, and things you have no choice but to do. The stuff you really want to do is easy. It burns hot and makes a great fire. The stuff you have to do is like wet timber. It’s tedious. It’s work. It sucks. But as long as you’ve got plenty of good burning timber in your pile, you can handle the wet stuff pretty easily.
Now where’d I put the matches?
When I was about 10, we flattened a bunch of bottle caps with a hammer. Then we trimmed them down to the size of a quarter with some heavy-duty scissors. We took a pocketful of these slugs down to the local coin-op car wash and had the waterfight of the century. For free. We gamed the system.
Picture yourself stuck in traffic on a busy stretch of highway. Someone speeds past you in the off-ramp lane. But at the last second, instead of taking the off-ramp they cut into your lane. In front of you and 30 other cars. You just got gamed.
Somewhere, somehow, for some reason we’ve all gamed some system. Gaming something is an adrenaline rush. It has elements of risk, of secret knowledge, instant riches, and the best part … a great story to tell to your friends.
The allure is huge. Every time you turn around, someone is gaming something. And even if you’re 110% against it … wouldn’t you like to game the gamers? Just once.
How to Play the Game. Any Game
I’m not going to tell you NOT to game anything. After all, I did game a car wash when I was 10. And that guy that screamed past you in the off-ramp lane? It might have been me. Probably wasn’t, but I wouldn’t put it past me.
You’re going to do it anyway. So here are some commonsense rules for gaming the systems of the world to make sure you keep your stick on the ice …
- Game the people that everyone wants to game. That’s what the MIT Blackjack Team did. They devised a way to beat the blackjack tables and pulled millions of dollars out of the casinos. Not everything stays in Vegas.
- Be humble. Save the action-packed stories for your friends. While you’re playing, someone else is paying. So, getting the word out to everyone about how you gamed someone is just asking for a slapdown.
- Game for the good guys. Kevin Mitnick, probably the most well known computer hacker in the world, now runs his own security company.
- Be the real deal. You can create a lot of success by phreaking all the rules. But it’s scattered and transient. There’s a ceiling to what you can accomplish by gaming the system because your victories are always tarnished in some way. And the truth is, successful people create success no matter what they’re doing. By being the real deal you can accomplish much bigger things.
I went out to Hicks Lake with some friends this weekend to get some very important things done. What I noticed along the way is that our world insulates us. And that insulation has a nasty side effect …
It can make us too comfortable. Too intolerant of anything remotely uncomfortable. Too wary of taking the risks that teach us valuable lessons and lead to great successes. And great rewards.
We’re surrounded by comfort. So letting go of the most basic things that we take for granted is not always easy. Things like indoor plumbing. Electricity. Central air. Not sleeping on the ground.
There are no big lessons to be learned without taking a few risks, going through a little discomfort, and taking a few on the chin. Can you remember how you learned that fire was hot? Or figured out how big a tree branch had to be to hold your weight?
Get to Where You’re Going by Going There
Everyone has a question about how to succeed in something. What’s it take to build a million dollar company? How do you create a successful blog? When’s the right time to buy a stock? Or sell it?
The textbook answers are all around us. The smart textbook answers come from experience and yet they’re still missing something. Because they’re not YOUR experience.
Take the bumps and the bruises. Jump in. Test, try, fail. And then keep moving forward. Because, beyond the cold, hard ground that you have to sleep on, past the wall of bloodthirsty mosquitos … there’s a pristine lake.
It’s just about the most perfect place on the entire planet to go swimming.
And there’s only one way to know that.