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I’ve Got Mine. What are the 7 Wonders of YOUR World?

The Great Pyramids

The voting has finally wrapped up on the New 7 Wonders of the World. It’s drawn a fair amount of criticism because it’s a private for-profit venture. And because, instead of relying on science and academic study, the new wonders have been chosen by online voting. Some of which are paid votes.

But how much meaning do any of these new, or old wonders really have to you? Or me? And why do they all have to be places or monuments?

The 7 Wonders of MY World

  1. Breakfast on any given Sunday with great friends
  2. Learning something from a great mentor
  3. BMW
  4. Artful business deals and strategies
  5. Sexy curves in an old pair of jeans
  6. My favorite people. Laughing
  7. A really great sandwich with everything on it. Everything

The cup is always half full. Take some time and see what’s in it.

What’s on YOUR list … ?

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Don’t Let The Darkness Scare You

This post has always been in the queue to publish itself automatically if I don’t reset the timestamp every day. If you’re reading this now, it means the mothership has arrived. I’m going home. Thankyou people of Earth.

Just kidding. I hate it when a blog I like goes silent. And there’s no explanation or idea of why. Or when the blogger will resume. Or if.

I wouldn’t do that to you.

I’m Taking A Week Off

I kind of alluded in my previous post, blogonomics about putting some serious thought into what it is I’m writing here. Over the last several weeks or so I’ve been reading a lot of different stuff; ebooks, blog posts. And I’ve been keeping my eye on a few blogs with serious zoom.

We all strive to learn more about what we’re doing, and how to do it better. And probably a lot of the time we take in information without stopping and taking the time to seriously understand it and USE it.

‘Cause hey, we’re busy.

Creating A Pattern Interrupt

I’ll be around. I just won’t be writing and posting on Zoomstart for the next week. What I’m doing is looking at what I write. Why. How. For what purpose. I’m also looking at a bunch of material and notes I have on some things I was writing before I started Zoomstart.

So I’ll be thinking, plotting, focusing, strategizing and organizing. There won’t be any big changes. No new amazing Wordpress theme. No big re-launching fanfare. I’ll just be back. Focused. And putting the best content on the page that I possibly can.

Until then. It’ll be a little quiet. A little dark.

But I’ll keep a light on.

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Breaking Out Of The Wash, Rinse, Repeat Cycle

Wash Rinse Repeat

There’s a balance somewhere in between what works and what’s never been tried yet that always yields the best results. No matter what you’re doing.

On the one hand, success that’s repeatable is your best friend. On the other hand, someone else will always try something completely different and innovative that rockets past your process for success. And makes it not so amazing any more.

So wash, rinse, repeat is good. It’s just not the only way to approach everything you’re doing. There are three basic ways to work the things that work:

1. Wash, Rinse, Repeat

If it works, do it again! Over and over, so you can keep reaping the rewards. Easy enough. In fact, it’s the easiest way to create success. It’s formula. It’s autopilot. It’s a great way to not rock the boat when you’ve found a great way to do something.

But over time, the “washer-dryer” you’re using will wear out. And there’s always a new idea on how to do the same thing better. Faster. Cheaper.

The key to using wash, rinse, repeat effectively is to use it for a limited time.

2. Wash, Rinse, And Refine

When you start to build an awareness about what you’re doing, how you’re doing it, and what kind of results you get, you can start to refine the way you do it. This is probably the biggest and most widely used philosophy to keep success rolling along nicely.

It’s about incremental change. It’s about taking something that works and making it work a little better.

The beauty of wash, rinse, and refine is that if it doesn’t work, it’s not a huge loss. You can simply roll back to how you used to do things and make another change in a different direction.

It’s also scalable. Large companies practice wash, rinse, and refine and so do top athletes. Pretty much anybody who’s at the top of their game practices this to take success and move it forward steadily.

3. Break Out To Break Through

Every once in a while, somebody comes out of seemingly nowhere and suddenly they’re at the front of the pack. And this doesn’t happen through the process of wash, rinse … anything.

It happens by breaking the mold for what works. This is innovation. Imagination. It’s also speculation.

Breaking out and trying something completely new and different carries a certain risk. It’s not proven, so it might not work. Sometimes, not often but sometimes, breakthrough innovation yields the exact same measure of success as the old tried and true method of doing something.

But usually, if it works, the payoff is huge. The reason is … you’re first. You’ve taken the whole game to a new level and because what you’re doing is new, it’s newsworthy. Break out ideas put the spotlight on you and that light draws everyone towards it. Innovation is magnetic.

Practice A Little Of Each

Take some of your wash, rinse, repeat ideas and start refining them. Some stuff works great just the way it is, so leave some things as they are and focus on taking some of what you’re doing forward a notch.

And then make a commitment to push the envelope regularly. Take a certain amount of capital, a certain amount of time, energy, progress, and stability. And take a risk.

And then … wash, rinse, repeat.

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Leadership Hats: The Fire Chief’s Helmet

Fire Chief Helmet

Every leader has fires to put out. To do it right, you need the right hat. It’s time to put the Fire Chief’s helmet on.

There are many hats to juggle when you’re leading a company or an organization. Some of the others I’ve talked about are the dunce cap and the inventor’s hat. The key thing to remember is that every hat is just as important as every other one. And the real trick is to know when to wear which hat.

There won’t be any confusion about this one. You’ll know when you need to strap it on.

Fighting Corporate Fires

The Fire Chief’s helmet is a little bit about solving problems, and a lot about directing your fire fighting team. Managing a company that’s in crisis mode is tricky. If you spend too much time stamping out spot fires or battling raging infernos, it’s easy to forget about actually doing business.

And that can make the problem a whole lot worse.

It’s not the Chief’s job to carry the hose except when it really needs to be done. But as the Chief, you take responsibility for everything. And through all the commotion and confusion, you need to have the coolest head in the room.

You have to make sure the job gets done right. Here’s some tips to help you do that …

Rules Of The Helmet

  • Sound the alarm. You can only sweep so many problems under the rug before there’s a huge bulge in it and everyone is tripping over it. When you see a serious problem, sound the alarm and take action.
  • Cut a fire line. If the rest of your business fails because you’re too focused on the problems, you run the danger of losing sales or letting costs get out of control. This is fuel for the problems you’re already dealing with. Cutting a fire line means containing the problems and separating them from the rest of the business.
  • Survey the scene. You want to know what you’re dealing with. The last thing you want to do is throw water on a grease fire. And one of the things too many managers do is go overboard and implement a solution to a problem that’s too much. A solution that’s going to be a burden and cost a lot of time and money long after the fire is put out. Survey the scene and apply the right solution in the right measure.
  • Stay on the walkie. Keeping all the lines of communication open while you deal with the situation is vital. You have to direct your team and you also need quick feedback on how the situation is getting better or getting worse. That way you can make the right decisions as they’re needed.
  • Rebuild. After a problem and even during it, it’s difficult to get back on course. The best thing to do is consult your business plan. Sure, a lot of things could have changed, but your original plan is the foundation of your business, what it’s about, and how you go about it. Make the changes you need to make and use your plan to get back on track and rebuild.

Every venture has its problems. Entrepreneurial ventures have more than most because you’re often walking into new territory. And that territory is tinder-dry.

Fighting the fires that occur in business takes experience and even courage. Stand tall. Stand strong. And above all, honour the hat that real firefighters wear.

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The Simplicity Challenge

Square Pegs

One of your biggest challenges as a leader is to take the complicated and make it simple.

There are a lot of fires to put out when you’re running a business. And it’s easy to run around and stamp out every new fire without stopping to survey the whole landscape. The reason is, the fires catch our attention immediately.

When you stop long enough to find out what’s causing the fire and what’s fueling it and perpetuating it, you have a real chance of stopping it. But if things are so complicated that you can’t see through all the trees, it’s a lot more difficult to see and solve the real problems.

Thinning Out The Forest

The more policies, procedures, processes, and nuances of each that you have, the more complicated things can get. And everytime you have a new situation, it’s easy to just add a new layer of policy, procedure or process to the pile.

But how many layers of new paint can you put on a door before it won’t close any more?

So the key to creating simple and effective solutions is to do a couple of things:

  • Think 50/50. Spend 50% of your effort in finding the right solution, and the other half in implementing it.
  • Hone what you have. Focus on tweaking and upgrading your present solutions rather than just adding more work to a previously simple process.

The Value Of Keeping It Simple

And we’re talking dollars here. And a lot of them. Here’s where you’re going to save money by keeping it simple:

  • Training. The simpler your business is, the easier it is to train and develop new people and move forward and grow.
  • Efficiency. Every layer of policy and procedure you add to a task slows it down. Streamlining your workflow means it takes less people and less time to perform a task. Big savings.
  • Quality. Every step you take out of a process chain is one less place where it might break or cause you a problem.
  • Problem solving. It’s a lot easier to find the missing piece in a 10 piece puzzle than it is a 1000 piece puzzle. Solving problems quickly means you can get back to business that much sooner.
  • Results. All of these savings from keeping it simple allow you to get the job done faster, cheaper and better than your competition can. That sparks repeat sales and it sparks great word-of-mouth advertising.

Stop and see the whole field where the fires are raging. Strip away the layers of old paint. Root through the sea of square pegs and find that one round one that fits perfectly.

With the right mindset you can leave every situation better than how you found it. Simpler. And more profitable.

That’s the challenge.

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The Art Of Balance

There are two great disciplines in art that stand opposite one another.

And you can throw the concept at business or any other endeavor you choose. It sticks. And rather than being a master of one or the other, having a balance between them is what’s truly awe inspiring.

Walking past a gallery, I saw a print in the window. It was a painting by Italian artist Pino called First Glance. It stopped me cold. I always like it when that happens.

First Glance by Pino

The Two Great Disciplines

Maybe we should call them gifts. But regardless, they stand opposite each other and most works of art lean towards one or the other. Most artists do one better than the other …

1. Precision

Detail, exactness, realism. Precision is all about space. And capturing that space in perfect detail with line and color. If you’ve ever drawn something and had someone look at it dog-eared and ask “What is it?”, you missed the precision of capturing the space.

At it’s best and most extreme, a precise representation is easily recognized. It’s also dead and dormant.

2. Life

This is harder to pin down. But the easiest way to understand it is as motion. Time. While a very detailed painting captures a single moment in time with no measureable value, a painting full of life captures a moment and a bit. It takes you there.

Hold your hand out rock-steady. Watch it for a few seconds. It barely moves, but move it does. That’s life.

Just like with precision, life has it’s flaws. By itself it’s a blur. There’s nothing recognizeable in it.

Balancing Space And Time

The balance of these two elements is what makes some of the greatest pieces of art in history what they are. It’s something that artists, maybe unknowingly, strive to achieve. Some do.

You might have heard the phrase “It ain’t no David“. It means something is less than perfect. Which means it’s out of balance.

In everything we do, there are compromises. There’s a balance in business between quality and efficiency. There’s a balance for athletes between strength and stamina. There’s a balance between work and play. Between free abandon and a common good.

These compromises are not compromises at all. They’re balance.

And to really get things done, to be the best at what you do, there has to be balance.

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Six Degrees Of Recreation

6 Degrees of Separation

I spent most of this last weekend out enjoying myself. I was getting some of my most important tasks done you might say.

People connect with each other in all sorts of situations. But none greater than when everybody is having a good time. That’s why golf and doing lunch are so heavily prioritized in many successful business schedules.

Six Degrees

The idea of six degrees of separation was popularized by the movie of the same name. The idea is that everyone on the planet is connected to every other person through, at most, a chain of 6 different people. Jack knows Marie, who knows Fred, who knows Bill, who knows Stacy, who knows Jill. And that’s how Jack is connected to Jill.

There’s also the party game Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon. The object is to connect someone to actor Kevin Bacon through a series of  people who have worked together on different movies.

Recreation

There are quite a few places and situations that are good for connecting people with people. Here are a few:

  • At work or school
  • At home
  • During events, and gatherings
  • Through travel and wanderings
  • During tense situations
  • Through reaching out

When people are having a great time, positive connections happen because everybody is upbeat and having a great time. So the main conduit for connecting with people that’s used the most and is the most effective is recreation.

And the more fun you have, the more connections you make.

These connections introduce new perspectives and new perceptions outside of your own. They open up the world, and the knowledge gained through diverse experiences, situations, and people is that of the whole world.

I connected with some people I hadn’t seen for a little while and made some new friends as well. I learned a few things and learned more about a few others. I ate a lot of great food, discovered a few new places, and at the end of it all, I used the recharge to get quite a few other things on my to-do list done as well. It was all time well spent.

Our lives are about the connections between us. Some are strong, lifelong, while others are fleeting or acquainted. Investing in our connections with others is important. They’re the most valuable things we have. A price can’t be put on them; they’re an investment of our time, of our lives.

So have the time of your life. And spend it connecting with others.

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The Importance Of A Team

3 Hats

You need a team effort to win, and mathematicians are proving that the team effort is your best chance of winning.

Quadzilla puts a little black hat / white hat terminology on a unique problem reported by Sara Robinson that mathematicians and coders are trying to figure out. It’s called the hat problem and was created by Dr. Todd Ebert of California State University.

And it works like this …

The Hat Problem

You put three players in a room and you put a red or a blue hat on each person’s head. The color of each hat is determined by a coin toss, and the outcome of one coin toss has no effect on the others. Each person can see the other players’ hats but not their own.

Other than a initial strategy session before the game begins, no communication of any sort is allowed. Once everyone has had a chance to look at the other hats, the players must simultaneously guess the color of their own hats or pass. And the group shares a million dollar prize if at least one player guesses correctly and no one guesses incorrectly.

Can They Win?

Mathematically, they have a 75% chance of winning if every player passes unless they see two hat of the same color and guess the opposite color for their own. If you play the same game with 15 people, a strategy can be devised where the team wins 15 out of 16 times. Which is almost 94% of the time. Not perfect, but pretty good odds.

Lets Segueway This Into Sports

From ’76 to ’79, the Montreal Canadiens won the the Stanley Cup four times in a row. From ’80 to ’83, the New York Islanders won it all four times and then the Edmonton Oilers had their famous run where they won it five out of the next seven years. Since then there’s the odd team that has won the cup two years in a row, but for the most part it’s been in the hands of a lot of different teams.

The reasons for who wins and who doesn’t are always highly debated, but lets look at a couple facts:

  1. Salaries and endorsement deals have risen significantly since that golden era. Both these things reward individuals, not teams.
  2. Great players don’t stay with a team as long as they used to … see fact one.

So, today in sports, what you see is that you can build an amazing team, but next year you might lose some of the members of that team. Or someone else might come along and build a better team. Or both. Mathematically and statistically, a strong team always has a better chance of winning.

And the biggest hurdle every team faces, is sticking together.

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The Most Important Task On Your To-Do List Today

Matthew McConaughey

“Have a beer”.

Or something just like that. The idea comes from Matthew McConaughey in an interview he did on Leno or Conan (can’t remember which). It’s not the absolute most important task on the list. But it’s just as important as all the rest.

On Your Own Terms

Making a commitment to stop and smell the roses can be difficult. It’s an exercise in living on your own terms. In setting the rules. In balance. And it’s not just a good idea, or a fun idea. It’s a critical leadership skill.

Rather than just following tasks that have to be done, you’re defining them. And you’re making the time to take care of all your best assets; family, friends, your health. When all those things are good, they don’t distract you from the serious tasks on your list.

Most of the time they’re simple things like have a beer. Go for a run. Play the guitar. They’re things we never seem to have time for. And need to make the time for.

The Deliverables

For any idea to be worth something, there has to be some real benefits to it. There are plenty here:

  • Burn-out control. Every battery needs recharging
  • You can bring in new and fresh perspectives on difficult problems
  • It forces you to delegate, lead and direct rather than just doing everything yourself
  • Quality of life and authoritive leadership go hand in hand
  • There are more opportunities in a wider picture

On your own terms … it’s a bold way to look at things. Just like I like it.

So what’s the most important task on your to-do list today?

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Leadership Hats: The Dunce Cap. And Why It’s So Important

Paper Dunce Cap

I’ve been thinking about the different hats that leaders and entrepreneurs have to wear lately. Like the inventors hat, there are a lot of important hats. And this one just might be the most important of all. Why?

Sometimes you just have to dumb it down.

There are a couple of reasons why the good old rolled-up-paper dunce cap is so important. One involves options and the other involves ego.

1. How Many Options Are Too Many Options?

Options are good to have. They’re necessary. Without options, you can’t negotiate or form flexible solutions. But what if you can think of so many options that it literally paralyzes you from being able to take action. All of a sudden, having options doesn’t seem like such a good idea.

The Perfection Wall

It’s great to be able to rip apart a situation and open a whole world of possibilities. But there’s something called the perfection wall. When you can’t get past asking “what’s the best option here?” and just make a decision, you can hit that wall.

And it hurts.

And one of two things happens. Either you make no decision and the clock runs out and no decision BECOMES the decision. Or you make a less than perfect decision.

Might as well just put on your trusty dunce cap and make that less than perfect decision right now.

2. Big, Bad Egos Make Big, Bad Decisions

The absolute worst thing to do when you don’t know, is to pretend you do. Executive decisions are just that. Decisions. They’re not necessarily ideas. You don’t have to have the best idea. You just have to go with the best idea.

Leadership by ego is a great way to fast-track bad decisions. As a leader you’ve got a team. Put on your dunce cap and utilize the whole team to get the best ideas you can on the table. And then pick the best one.

Tips For Geniuses

Here’s a couple tips to help you cut through the infinite options and make great decisions quickly:

  • Got two great options and can’t decide between them? Flip a coin (this is my personal favorite).
  • Hand the decision off to your protege. And in your best Yoda voice tell them “Decide you must. Learn, you will”.
  • Put on that silly paper hat. And don’t take it off until you’ve made a decision.

It’s good to dumb it down sometimes. It makes you unstoppable. Because if you don’t know that you can’t do it, there’s a good chance you can.

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