But that is not what this post is all about. More often than not, we have painfully little time before we must present to an audience. The world of distractions conspires to keep us juggling and fighting little fires, only to find ourselves staring at a sad-looking, boring-as-hell powerpoint deck on Sunday evening, knowing we must lead a discussion at 2 pm tomorrow.
I’ve put together a quick recipe I call the Sakalas Seven Checklist to help improve and renovate any presentation by 10%, 20%, even 52%. We all would like to be strategic evangelists who become trusted advisors. The Sakalas Seven is a little easy-peasy checklist that can be used to make your presentation better in short order.
First, and foremost, you must capture someone’s attention immediately. Do not spend a ton of time introducing yourself. Do not tell people where you fit in your organization. There is always time for those snoozy details later. I often spend almost 50% of my personal preparation time on customizing those first few critical slides and what I will say in the first couple of minutes. Customize the beginning for your audience. What’s in it for them? What is interesting to them. It’s not about you.
2) Next, people can’t generally remember more than three points from a meeting. Figure out your three main points. Put them up front, talk about them throughout, make them the takeaways at the end. Success is not found drowning the audience with too much stuff.
3) Always start with a problem or challenge the people in the audience will relate to.
4) One each slide, try to limit the words to less than 20. If you have more than 20, even after you delete as many words as possible, highlight the words that a “skimmer” would need to get the main point, the gist of the slide — because the world is full of people who skim. It will also help you as a presenter, making it easy to remember what you wanted to say while on the slide.
5) Often, there are slides after slides after slidse of idea-dense, busy, hard-to-understand information. An amazing, easy-hack is to add a one liner slide that illustrates the big idea, the big point you want to make. The contrast makes it magical.
6) There is lots of evidence that people more easily remember visuals than words. In fact, imagining a visual image in your mind’s eye activates the process that moves ideas out of short-term memory into long-term memory. The hack is simple — use an analogy that demands the listener “imagine a visual scene or object” — it will make your point sticky.
7) Features or simply saying “yes, it does that” doesn’t make it real, doesn’t make it memorable. But a customer success story, spoken like you were (almost) there, absolutely does.
Here is the checklist on one page.
The next time you have less than 24 hours to hit a home run during your presentation, I hope you remember // and Google for // the Sakalas Seven.
Life moves fast after you graduate. Many become so busy that they feel like are no longer steering their own lives. They find that their “prime” time vaporizes like a rain shower hitting the sunbaked Texas interstate on an August afternoon.
A college graduate recently asked me for three life-hacks that could really help him in the real world, three habits that I wished I had developed over the last decades, three disciplines that I’m 100% certain would have made a positive impact on my success.
It was a great question that really made my stop and think a bit. After sleeping on it, I came back with three that I believe in my heart would have made a remarkable difference:
1. Strategic-Big-Rock Progress:Pre-plan and then accomplish at least one task of long-term lasting strategic value each and every week.
Keep yourself on track and honest with yourself by writing it down on your calendar. Every Sunday evening or Monday morning, plan the #1 task you will accomplish this week that will have lasting value, that will serve you well, that will increase your momentum 90 days into the future. Then get it done as early in the week as possible, and most definitely before Friday, making notes in the calendar as well.
If you accomplish just one item of lasting value each week of your life, you will go much farther than most, because the world too often keeps you busy on items that are worthless in less than a month. Jim Rohn said that a person should “work harder on oneself than you do on your job” and there is a lot of truth in that observation. Improving your own capabilities is most definitely a task of strategic long-term value. What new asset did you create this week? Creating new stuff usually matters longer-term. I didn’t institutionalize this “one strategic-big-rock a week” habit in earnest until my late 40’s, but in hindsight, it would have made a remarkable difference had I started much earlier in my life.
2. Details-Matter: Write Three Details Down, without Fail
Writing details down, as they happen, is one core idea, but I would suggest implementing this life-hack with three separate email accounts, reserved exclusively for your own use. A person easily forgets 95% of their life’s details if he or she does not make daily notes. If you keep journal, you will be amazed at how much creative and wise you become over time. The act of writing it down makes it easier to remember, and when you don’t, you know where to look.
Go to Gmail and create three accounts like this (what you call them is up to you but you don’t want anyone to ever guess these addresses so you don’t get spam email): email@example.com firstname.lastname@example.org email@example.com
I then suggest creating three accounts at outlook.com that match the Gmail accounts (so that you can have a second backup copy). For example: firstname.lastname@example.org email@example.com firstname.lastname@example.org
Then, go into each gmail account and use the forwarding option to forward all received email from each account to the corresponding account in outlook: email@example.com -> firstname.lastname@example.org email@example.com -> firstname.lastname@example.org email@example.com -> firstname.lastname@example.org
As a last step, create these three gmail email addresses as contacts in your smartphone. Now, when you send an email to the gmail version, a copy will also be forwarded to outlook. The idea is that if you ever lose access to gmail, you will still have the outlook copy, and vice-versa. If Google someday makes gmail no longer free, you would have a backup with their main competitor, Microsoft.
Use each of these accounts only for its one designed purpose:
Send three emails to your perma.journal each day (an easy way to remember is to send one with every meal). Attach pictures. Create tags. A person forgets 95% of their lives if he or she does not make daily notes. If you keep a perma.journal, you will be amazed at how much creative and wise you become over time. Writing it down makes it easier to remember, and when you don’t, you know where to go. I started journalling electronically about 12 years ago, but had I started 30 years ago, I would have been so much better off.
Send every idea that you ever have, as soon as you have it, to your perma.ideas account. Inspirations grow on top of each other, and connect in wondrous ways over time. Writing it down, and reviewing all your big ideas will make you much more creative over your lifetime.
Send everything you learn about anyone you meet, in a conversation, to your perma.peoplenotes mailbox. Great relationships are the backbone of success. Remembering another person’s kids name, and that she plays soccer for the Solar Soccer Club in Dallas, matters immensely when you meet that person again two years later. We all forget 95% of what we learn about people, but the best genuine networking geniuses do not, because they write down details as they discover them. Nothing is more important than the little details – remembering those details shows that you truly care about a person as an individual.
Why email instead of apps? Email is a global standard that is far more likely to survive the test of the next 50 years while smartphone apps and the companies that publish them are way less likely to survive the test of time. Even if email changes a lot, I’m certain there will be universal import/export mechanisms to move the data forward if need be. If you want to create a secure, heavily encrypted mailbox, Switzerland based Protonmail is a smaller company alternative to Google and Microsoft. Lastly, it doesn’t hurt that email is mostly free at this time.
3. What Gets Measured, Gets Improved:Measure and log your progress on the fronts that matter most.
Measure your net worth (assets – liabilities) every month and write it down, without fail. What gets measures gets improved. A growing, positive net worth = freedom. Freedom is the most amazing of luxuries, far more amazing than anything you can buy at the mall.
Measure your health and fitness. I have successfully lost weight my simply taking the time to write down my foods and calories on the MyPlate app. The measurement help make you conscious of what you are consuming.
If it is important to you, measure it in writing. I find the easiest place for these notes is on my calendar, but where you store the logs is up to you.
My three life-hacks for the college graduate are all about writing it down. No matter if your are planning a project of strategic value, writing down the details about a new co-worker or customer that you just met, or tracking your net worth over time, the act of writing it down, even if you use the palest of ink, is still 1000% better than trying to keep it exclusively in your head.
Becoming all that you can be requires smart choices, thoughtful discipline, and unbridled optimism. Best of luck.
We all want to make an impact. We all want to not only be heard, but we want to influence people to see things our way, to do things that we would like them to do.
Scientists, in a number of independent studies, have come to the conclusion that more than 80% of people follow a very predictable pattern of positivity, energy, and attention. Four out of five people are more receptive and optimistic during the morning, turning far more closed and negative in the afternoon, and then become a bit more positive in the evening. A person’s openness follows a classic “hype curve” pattern.
I think many of us “know this” biorhythm from our own experiences and common sense. Unfortunately, our logical brain often overrides common sense when we schedule an important customer meeting at 1:30 pm on a Thursday or when we pitch our new idea to our manager right before quitting time.
Timing matters. Imagine that you could bat .333 vs. .250 on moments when you try to influence others, over the course of a 40 year professional career. What would be the domino effect of one additional positive outcome, one more decision in your favor, 50 times per year? Career momentum builds over time, just like compounding returns in the stock market.
Schedule your meetings at 9 am, 10 am, and 11 am. You might have to wait a few more days to land the favored time slot, but that’s ok. Would you prefer that your doctor is more attentive or less attentive as she diagnoses your problem? Would you prefer that your boss decide that you deserve the raise now or decides to push you off until the following year? Would you prefer to sell your spouse on your idea for a vacation this year? It is actually surprisingly simple to let natural rhythms work in your favor.
It doesn’t have to be hard to be effective. Optimism combined with good timing is a winning strategy.
If you work in a large knowledge-work corporation, your life is often complex, the cloud of internal politics never dissipates, and there is always more to do than time in the day. Over the years, I have found that quotes can really help you think through the clutter and make better decisions.
This is not an all encompassing list, but reviewing this baker’s dozen of quotes once each month helps recalibrate your efforts and focus on what matters.
When in doubt, be bold, for fortune favors the bold.
2. Success is found by going from setback to setback with no loss of enthusiasm.
3. The will to prepare is more important than the will to win. Most show up on game day. The ones who put in the hard work, before game time, achieve greatness.
4. 10% of what you do results in 90% of the lasting value you deliver. Stop investing time on stuff that won’t matter next month.
5. Become a master at the art to saying no, without turning people against you. Only by adroitly saying ‘no’ to good things to do, can a person find the time to do the great stuff.
6. Helping others with true generosity, without worrying about receiving credit, will enable you go farther than you can imagine. ‘How can I help’ is a magical phrase that opens doors of opportunity.
7. If you are not making mistakes, you are simply not pushing the envelope of your true potential.
8. Real, true relationships are only built with one-on-one, personal conversations. Be proactive, honest, and vulnerable, reach out to new people, and make the time to connect on a personal level.
9. Plan your week first, then plan your day, to make strategic progress on your own goals. Otherwise, other people’s urgencies will take over all your best time.
10. Get over it, no matter what it is. Stuff will always go sideways at unexpected times, but those who adapt and overcome, win.
11. Extraordinary only comes from optimism, courage, and the pursuit of perfection. Critics don’t matter. Pessimists don’t blaze new trails. The fans in the stands are average. Be the gladiator in the arena.
12. Focus on what you can control. Most everything is out of your control, except for the breadth of your imagination, your willingness to make new decisions, and the quality of your effort.
13. Have one top priority at a time, the one thing that matters the most. Multiple priorities lead to unfinished, irrelevant, wasted time.
We alone determine our own expectations. They often seem harmless, a simple and mostly inconsequential guess at the future, most often a short-term future. They are not harmless.
Expectations are incredibly important, more crucial than anyone talks about. They matter, not only in small personal ways but also in organization defining, championship winning, even life-and-death ways.
Imagine you are going to see a movie tonight. You have seen the teaser previews and it looks pretty good. You text your friend that “we should see ‘Last Train to Brooklyn’ tonight – I think it looks decent” and she agrees to go. During the day, you mention your plans to three friends and each one raves about the film. Your expectations rise from ‘maybe it will be decent’ before going to lunch to ‘this is going to be amazing‘ as the sun drops below the horizon.
Four hours later, you walk out of the theater disappointed. It wasn’t a bad film, but your expectations for near perfection were far greater than the director and the script writers managed to render at the cineplex. How much more satisfied would you have been if you had not mentioned the film to your friends during the day, and changed your expectations based on their comments?
Off-target expectations happen constantly in daily lives. Imagine the difference between a golfer who expects to shoot one of the best rounds of his life today, versus a golfer who wants to go out to be in the sunshine, to drink a couple of beers, and to hopefully break a 100. Imagine the casual basketball player who heads down to the gym expecting to be the star of the show tonight — even though he rarely is — versus the guy who plans to simply hustle, play good defense, and enjoy seeing his friends. Imagine the person who thinks traffic will be quick and light tonight, or imagine the person that goes to the restaurant expecting five-star service and the most incredible streak she has ever tasted. Sky high expectations nuke your perception of your experiences.
Expectations matter in bigger contexts too.
Imagine purchasing a stock based on a tip you received on the golf course last week. Your golf buddy tells you ABXX’s business is really starting to hit on all cylinders and it should double over the next three to five years. You do a bit of research, the CFRA report validates the story, you ultimately pull the trigger on 1,000 shares, and start watching the news about ABXX.
Just one month later, a talking head on CNBC espouses that ABXX should crush earnings next quarter and might pop 50%. A few weeks later, three Wall Street analysts increase their projections and buy recommendations. Your expectations skyrocket, but the subsequent earnings report comes in at the middle of the company’s previous guidance with no upside surprise. The stock price, which had run up into the print, loses ground overnight. In disgust, you sell your shares almost at the same price you bought them at. You then are annoyed three years later when you notice that ABXX shares have doubled since the day you had originally bought them.
Imagine you are the CEO of a thriving software company. If you and your young finance planners set expectations of 15% revenue growth for the next three years, and the company achieves 22% per year, you become a hero, the employees are happy, and investors smile too. But what if you had set those goals and expectations for 35% annual growth, not based on logic but rather just wanting to set stretch goals? Would anyone be happy, or would people be stressed? Would turnover be higher or lower? Would investors feel deceived? Would the board think about replacing you with a new CEO?
Imagine you are Jerry Jones, the owner of the Dallas Cowboys. Jerry is the perennial king of setting huge expectations. He invariably shoots for the SuperBowl, boldly declaring his true goal to every sports reporter during the summer. The team often starts out well. By the time the Boys are 4-0, everyone is talking about the idea that this year is the year. And then, one loss happens to the Eagles, and the team tightens up, the smiles and laughs become rare. A few more losses and by the end of the season, expectations are a big reason that the Cowboys desperately need a win, and a little help from the Giants, just to squeak into the Wild Card round.
What if Mr. Jones, just one time, built a high-caliber team capable of reaching the SuperBowl, but told everyone that we will focus on giving 100% effort, teamwork, and winning one game at a time this year?
Don’t limit yourself!
It is important to understand that expectations cut both ways. Many people suffer the consequences of limiting expectations. A person who does not expect to get the job, doesn’t often get it. A person who doesn’t expect to get promoted usually doesn’t get promoted. A person who doesn’t expect to find the right girl does not look for her. A person who doesn’t expect to hit the winning shot, misses badly, or more likely, passes the ball to a teammate. So, while it often pays to set expectations a bit conservatively and to not expect perfection, it is important to not set them in a way that limits your destiny.
In the biggest of contexts, expectations often determine who lives and who dies. Doctors and nurses see this every day at the hospital’s ICU. The person who expects to live, the person who expects to recover, is far more likely to make it than the person who expects that this is, indeed, the end. In the same way, people who expect to stay spry, fun, energetic, enthusiastic, and young-at-heart live fuller lives than those who expect to slow down in retirement. Expectations define the envelope of your life.
The choice is yours.
The good news is that you have the power to choose your expectations. Wise expectations set up a positive domino effect that builds momentum. If you become an independent thinker who is not heavily influenced by the opinions of others:
You set and control your own expectations.
Expectations will then fuel your perceptions and decisions.
Your perceptions will absolutely impact your gratitude.
Gratitude is the crucial key to day in and day out happiness, and
Daily happiness is the secret catalyst which fuels greater success.
There is wisdom in being careful about your expectations, setting them mindfully, and avoiding unrealistic hype. Understanding yourself and striving to beat your own bests by just a bit is far healthier for your psyche than comparing your performance to that of others. Win one game at a time, while deciding what “score” is a winning score. If you become a master at setting accurate, mindful, sky’s-the-limit expectations, you will become more optimistic, more positive, more forgiving, happier, a better decision-maker, and ultimately a more grateful and successful human.
This is a “re-post” of a great article, just so that it doesn’t disappear someday. It appears on a new (not sure how new) site that IMHO has a lot of promise: https://www.theplayerstribune.com/en-us (definitely suggest checking in out).
Overcoming adversity, especially in the dense fog of other people’s expectations — expectations greatly exaggerated by the media — is something few people experience to the level that Chauncey Billups has.
Chauncey is one of my favorite basketball players of all time. I would love to have lunch with him one day. His journey in the NBA was extraordinary, as was his optimism. Here he is in his own words, and there is a lot to learn from him. The original is posted on the web, but I posted it here, just in case some misguided webmaster takes it down someday. This story should not be lost.
Letter to My Younger Self
by Chauncey Billups
Dear Young Chaunce,
We’re not coming back to L.A.
We’re not coming back to L.A.
We’re. Not. Coming. Back. To. L.A.
It’s June 8, 2004, about 11 p.m. in Los Angeles. You’ve just lost the most important game of your 28-year-old life. And you’re about to walk onto the Detroit Pistons team bus.
You’re going to leave Staples Center on that bus. You’re going to hop on a plane. And sometime early in the morning, hours from now, you’re going to arrive at home — tied with the Lakers, one game apiece, in the NBA Finals. Yeah, those Lakers: Shaq. Kobe. Payton. Malone. The Zen Master. The three-time, dynasty-building, world-beating champs.
But we’ll get to that later. Right now, we’ve gotta focus on this bus — this bus full of teammates, of brothers, of Deee-troit Baaa-sketball. This bus full of guys who are coming off the most brutal loss of their lives, just like you. And they need you.
They need their point guard.
They need you to calmly, sternly tell Coach Brown — bless him — to miss everyone with that Philly talk. To not even let him finish when he starts in, dejectedly, on, “When this happened last time.” To just cut him off (with love), and tell him, point blank: “Don’t care, L.B.” To make sure he understands — the whole team understands — that no one should care, at all, about what happened to the Sixers in ‘01. And that, when Coach Brown says, “last time” — nah. Nah. There was no last time.
This is y’all’s first time. And this ain’t Philly.
This is Detroit.
Or it will be in a few hours, anyway. But right now, like I said, it’s only a bus leaving Staples Center — and you’ve just gotten on it. And I need you to walk to the back of it — where everyone can see you, can hear you — and I need you to look at your team. I need you to look at all of them — at Ben, at Rip, at Tay, at Sheed — and wait until you have their attention.
And then I need you to say it.
We’re not coming back to L.A.
We’re not coming back to L.A.
We’re. Not. Coming. Back. To. L.A.
Yes. Good. Just like that.
And then, listen, Chaunce: I need you to sit down. I need you to put some music on. Enjoy what’s left of the bus ride. Get a little sleep on that flight. Go home.
And win a fucking championship.
But first thing’s first. Let’s back up a little.
Let’s back up to before you’re a Piston, or a leader, or a winner, or a Big Shot — before any of that.
You know what? Let’s back up to before you’re even a point guard.
Let’s back up a full six-and-a-half years. To when you’re a 21-year-old, in Boston, with a bad haircut and a rookie contract.
Let’s back up to … now. When you’re reading this.
Why ’97? Well — I have some bad news, my dude.
You’re getting traded.
I know, Chaunce. I know.
Everyone agrees — it’s messed up. You’re just a rookie, and not just any rookie: A few months ago, you were the third overall pick in the NBA Draft. Third overall. Third overall picks don’t get traded midseason. It doesn’t happen.
Except, it does.
It’s funny — for the rest of your career, people are going to imagine that you had this terrible relationship with Coach Pitino. But the truth is, the two of you will get along pretty well. And I’ll tell you what: When the trade happens, Coach Pitino will — if nothing else — be honest with you. He’ll at least be that.
(This is already better than you’ll get from some GMs.)
Coach will take you aside, and tell you that there’s a lot of pressure on him to make the playoffs — even in his first year with the team. He’ll tell you that, in order to contend, he feels like the team needed a veteran point guard. He’ll tell you that he’s always been a fan of Kenny Anderson’s — I don’t know, I guess the whole New York thing. He’ll tell you that he still feels you’re going to be a great player — but that, with the pressure on him, and the current roster, he’s gotta do what he’s gotta do.
Finding out about that trade will be a complete shock. No warning, no nothing. You’re going to feel hurt, and betrayed, and confused. You’re going to feel a lot of things — none of ’em good.
But here’s my advice: Just don’t be embarrassed.
I know that doesn’t sound like much. And I know, I know — it’s easier said than done. But that’s the way you’re going to get through this, Chauncey: by remembering that you get to play basketball … for a living.
And then holding your head up high.
You’re going to get through this, simply put, by not being embarrassed. And by understanding that you have nothing, and I mean nothing, to be embarrassed about.
Oh, and here’s what else I can tell you:
That trade will be a blessing in disguise. It’s not going to seem like one at the time — actually, to be honest, it’s not going to seem like one for a very long time.
But I promise: It will be a blessing.
You just have to stay patient.
In the meanwhile, though … Chaunce, I won’t sugarcoat it: it’s going to be tough.
It’s going to be you, on your own, in the basketball wilderness. Boston to Toronto … Toronto to Denver.
“Stud prospect” to “journeyman” in less than two years.
Or that will be the perception, anyhow.
It’s crazy how misperceptions get started.
But in a league that’s covered 24/7, with rabid fan-bases and evolving media: Perception is always going to be an interesting thing. In the NBA, everything needs a story attached to it — a rumor, a label, a whatever. I know that sucks, in moments like this. I wish I had some advice for you on it. But it’s one of those things that you’re simply going to have to accept and move on from. Perception is going to bite you a few times, Chaunce. That’s just real.
I’ll give you an example.
In Denver, you’re going to play for Coach Mike D’Antoni. This will be Coach D before those Phoenix years, before “Seven Seconds or Less,” before all of his accolades — but he’s still going to be that same experimenter, that same thinker, that same outside-the-box type of guy. Y’all are going to have Nick Van Exel — a veteran, and a really good player still — entrenched at the point on that team.
But Coach D will have an idea.
He’ll say, “You know what, screw it — I’m just starting my two best guards, period. I don’t care what positions: The one, the two, it doesn’t matter. I want the guys who can play to play.”
And you’ll take him up on that offer.
You’ll fight like hell, you’ll adapt, and pretty soon you’ll be starting on that Nuggets team — in the backcourt, at shooting guard, opposite Nick. You’re going to be incredibly proud of yourself for that, Chaunce. And between us: You should be. It’s going to take a lot of guts to make those adjustments as a young player, and a lot of talent. When you make that first start at shooting guard, it’ll be a big accomplishment. But here’s the crazy thing about it: That accomplishment is going to dog you for years.
I can already hear you — reading this and thinking to yourself: What do you mean, “dog me” — I thought you said it’s an accomplishment?
Like I said, Chaunce, this league is all about perception. And as bizarre as it is to say: No one around the league is going to care about the adjustments you made, or the versatility you showed, or the skill set you displayed, that made your coach want to start you at shooting guard. No. What people will focus on is this: Chauncey isn’t a point guard.
They’ll see the trade for Kenny Anderson in Boston. They’ll see the short stint and the second trade in Toronto. They’ll see “Chauncey Billups, Shooting Guard” in Denver. You probably won’t even hear it; it’ll just be a whisper. You see they moved Chauncey off the ball? Yeah, he tried, but he’s not a point. And sometimes a whisper is all it takes to manufacture reality. It’s crazy, I know. But that’s the league.
Chauncey isn’t a point guard. That’s what they’ll say.
They’ll be wrong.
The other thing that’s going to be tough about Denver is that it’s home. When you arrive, of course, people are going to make a big deal out of it. You’re the best basketball player in Colorado history, probably, so for you to land with the Nuggets is going to be big news on a local level. They’ll write things like, Hometown savior, or, This is the change of scenery that Chauncey Billups needs.
But in reality, playing at home as a 23-year-old professional is going to be less blessing and more curse. (There’s perception, again, for you.) It’s as simple as this: You’re just not going to be ready for Denver to be Your City. You’re going to think you’re ready — and they are too — but, trust me, you won’t be. You’re still going to be so young. You’re still going to be hanging out with your boys, doing your old thing. There are going to be those … hometown distractions. And those distractions will add up.
And you have to understand, Chaunce: It’s not just that you made it. It’s that your whole neighborhood is going to feel like they made it. All of Park Hill is going to feel like they made it. And don’t get me wrong — that’s special. But at the wrong age, it can also be tough. It can be a lot to handle. And you’re going to be at that wrong age. You’re not going to be mature enough yet, or developed enough yet, to take on that mix of environments, those responsibilities, that role.
You’re not going to be ready to lead.
During your next stop, in Orlando … you’re not even going to be ready to play. A shoulder problem will keep you out for the rest of that season. Three trades, four teams — and, now, one injury.
And that’s when it’s going to hit you.
It’s going to hit you hard, like bricks, and stop you dead in your tracks. When it first enters your mind, you’re going to want to dismiss it. You’re going to want to think, Nah, I’m 24, that can’t be right. You’re going to try to ignore it, to push it away.
But at some point, during that offseason, you’re going to let it hit you.
You need that.
In fact: Why don’t you go look in the mirror, right now, and say it out loud. Go ahead, Chaunce — say it:
This could be your last chance.
Please internalize that, Chauncey. Please internalize it, and accept it, and grasp the urgency of your situation. And choose your next team wisely.
That’s right — your old buddy Kevin Garnett. He and you go way back, all the way to high school.
Well, the end of high school. For most of your childhoods, you’d only heard about each other: always neck-and-neck on the same prospect lists, the same class rankings. But you’d never actually met. Then, finally, senior year, you were named to the same McDonald’s All-American Team — for that ‘95 game in St. Louis. (You, Garnett and Pierce, all on one team — not bad for high school, right?)
As luck would have it, after the game, your flight and Kevin’s flight both got delayed. And so you ended up with some time to kill at the airport, just the two of you.
And man … you guys just … got to talking. And talking. And talking. Probably two, three hours, you guys spent in that airport. Just a pair of 17-year-old kids: chatting, joking around, asking each other stuff — you know, cutting through the bullshit. About hoops. About life. About the big decisions that you both had upcoming.
That was the first time you really got to have a heart-to-heart with someone who was on your level as an athlete — and who was going through the same growing pains that you were, both as a person and as a kind of celebrity. When your flights finally arrived, the two of you exchanged info and went your separate directions. But that conversation … in this strange way … meant everything.
And Kevin became a friend for life.
And so, with your career hanging in the balance, now, Chauncey — it’s time to align yourself with the people in this world you can actually trust. It’s time to go play with your best friend in the league. It’s time do your thing, and work your tail off.
And see what happens.
Don’t worry, you’ll have help.
You’ll have Sam Mitchell, a.k.a. “Unc,” and he’s going to be invaluable in teaching you what it means to be a pro. Those little adjustments, those little maturations — those subtle lessons that you didn’t even know you hadn’t learned? That’s Sam. That’s Unc.
Ninety-nine percent of communication is nonverbal, Chaunce. This, Chaunce, is how you dress like a professional. This is how you act on the road, Chaunce; this is how you act at home.
That’s that old head, cool uncle, Sam Mitchell knowledge. And you’ll never forget it.
You’ll have Flip Saunders — and, listen: That’s probably a whole other letter. But all I’ll say, for now, is this: Chauncey, respect that man. And cherish him. As coaches go … he’ll be one of the good ones. And as people go … he’ll be one of the great ones.
(But don’t waste a big goodbye on him in Minnesota. You’ll meet him again later.)
And then, finally: you’ll have Terrell Brandon.
Terrell will be a star point guard, in his prime, when you arrive in Minnesota — which means that you’re not going to start at the one right away.
But this isn’t about “right away,” Chauncey. Not anymore.
No, this is about building a foundation, now, and earning yourself a career. You want to be a point guard, Chaunce? Then be a backup point guard. Start at the two-spot when they need you, sure — but don’t shy away from the word “backup,” either. Embrace it. Learn from the star vet. Learn from Terrell. And then build something of your own from scratch.
Build the best Chauncey Billups possible.
You couldn’t have a better mentor than Terrell — so make sure you soak it all in. Pay attention to how smart he is, how diligent and patient. Pay attention to his midrange game: a lost art among point guards — and the sort of skill that could come in handy, during a playoff game or two down the road. Pay attention to his court vision, and the thought he puts into each of his passes — never flashy, always purposeful. Chauncey: Soak in all of that.
And that’s just the intro class. Those are just the basics, young fella. Get ready for the advanced lessons, as well.
“Chauncey,” Terrell will say, during one of your daily film sessions. “I’m not just the leader of this team — I’m the guy with the ball in my hands. That’s not to be taken lightly. That’s a status, and it comes with responsibility.”
And then he’ll break it down for you.
“You’ve got K.G., who’s our best scorer — 21, 22 per. You’ve got Wally, who’s our second-best scorer — 17, 18 per. If K.G. don’t have 12-to-14 points at halftime, and if Wally don’t have 8 or 9 — then I’m not doing my job. End of story. There isn’t a moment that goes by during the game where I’m not thinking to myself, What am I doing to fulfill my responsibility as a point guard?”
That’s going to be a very big moment for you, Chaunce. A “wow” moment. Before Terrell, your attitude going into games is going to be unsophisticated at best: Play well, and win the game. That’s it. But Terrell is going to put you on this whole other level. Now it’s, When does Kevin want the ball? Where does Wally like to catch it? What specific play do I have to call … to get this specific guy the ball … in this specific spot? When, and where, and how, is it best to get mine?
Now you won’t just be playing hoops.
You’ll be playing point.
If your first season with the T-Wolves is going to be Terrell Brandon University, then your second season is going to be the final exam. Because that’s when T.B. will go down with a season-ending knee injury … and you’ll be thrust into the role you’ve been preparing for, working toward, all this time: starting point guard.
Before we get to that, though: Read this next part carefully, Chaunce. Because it might be the most important lesson in this entire letter.
A lot of people are going to say that you got your opportunity to start at the point because of Terrell Brandon’s injury. Hell — in the moment, as it’s happening, you might even think that yourself. But here’s the truth: You got your opportunity because of Terrell Brandon’s generosity.
You’re not going to understand this, yet, I know. You’re too young. But one day you will. One day, when you’re knocking on the door of 40, and looking back on this moment … you’ll understand. You’ll understand how, most of those stories people hear, you know, about the vet helping the young guy along? They’re myths.
Trust me. 80-percent, 90-percent, damn-near 100-percent of the time: The guy in Terrell Brandon’s position would not root for you to succeed. Not for one second. I promise you that.
The truth is: This league is built on a game — but it runs as a business. And a lot of guys are real nice, real nice … right up until the moment where you threaten their spot.
As soon as Terrell goes down, he’s going to know that you’re a threat. In fact, he’s going to know that better than anyone — because he’s going to know, better than anyone, what you’re capable of.
But I’ll tell you what: The first thing he’s going to say to you, when you see him on those crutches after his surgery — you’ll never forget it. He’s going to walk up to you, put his hand on your shoulder, look you square in the eye … and say, “Chaunce. It’s your turn.”
And he won’t stop there. Every time he sees you going forward — every morning at practice, every afternoon shootaround, every night before tipoff — he’s going to have those same four words for you. That will be Terrell’s refrain, that whole rest of the season — and it’s going to help you, more than you can imagine, every time he says it.
“Chaunce. It’s your turn.”
“Chaunce. It’s your turn.”
“Chaunce. It’s your turn.”
Once Terrell gets injured … yeah, you’re going to play starting point guard, with or without his blessing. But you’re not going to be starting point guard. For that, you need Terrell. And that difference, of having Terrell’s support — it’s going to mean everything to you.
Oh, yeah, and about that final exam?
You pass — with flying colors.
Later that summer, you’re going to sign with Detroit.
A little advice on the jersey: pick No. 1.
No, not because you’re the best — nothing corny. Pick No. 1, as in … one shot. Detroit is the one shot they’re going to give you — this league, that almost spit you out, is going to give you — at greatness. At running your own show. This will be it, and then that will be that.
If you blow it? Hey — you had a good run in Minnesota, Chaunce. It’s not like you’ll be unemployed or anything. You’ll still be a proven role player, no matter what, and you’ll be able to go right back to that.
But you won’t want to go back to that. You’ll have worked too hard, and overcome too much, to go back to that. And that’s what No. 1 will mean. You’ll have been to Boston. Toronto. Denver. Orlando. And, finally, Minnesota. That’s a lot of pit stops in five years.
No. 1, Chaunce, will mean your one shot … at doing better than a pit stop.
At making everything else the journey.
And Detroit the destination.
The thing about a destination, of course, is that everyone has a different story of how they got there. You’ll have yours, and it’s a wild one. But the best part about Detroit will be the way that each guy’s story on that team seems even wilder than the next.
Take Ben Wallace.
Who? Trust me — give it a few years. You’ll know. You think that you’ve gotten up off the mat, Chaunce, from being third overall? This dude is going to go undrafted — out of Virginia Union — and is going to find a way to stick in the league. This dude is a 6’9 center — a 6’9 center — and is going to become the best defensive big in the NBA.
And sure, he’ll seem a little mean, at first … but only on the court. You’ll love him, I promise. Ben will be y’all’s protector, in every sense of the word — and will embody all of the traits that [deep breath] Deee-troit Baaa-sketball will come to represent. Hard-working. Battle-tested. Self-made. A cast-off of some kind.
And, of course, defense-first.
Oh, yeah, and that mean-looking face? That’ll be the face of your franchise — and you wouldn’t have it any other way.
Take Tayshaun Prince.
Who? Trust me — give it a few years. You’ll know. He’ll be the young guy of the group — you’ll call him “Nephew.” (Hard to believe, I know. You’ll be The Vet — the “Unc” — to someone soon.) Tay will be that shy, quiet guy. Not going to do a lot of talking. At first, if you don’t see him — I mean, physically see him — in the locker room, you won’t even know he’s there. That’ll just be his way. But give him some time. Let the kid grow. Eventually, he’ll open up a little, and turn out to be one of the funnier guys you’ll ever meet. Yeah, that’s right — Tay’ll have jokes. Who knew?
On the court, Tayshaun will be truly unique. There will just be something about his game, that no one can quite put their finger on. He’ll be like this silent assassin.
And, like any good silent assassin …
… they won’t know he’s coming until it’s too late.
In a lot of ways, as crazy as it sounds, Tayshaun will be the future of basketball. The future — bottled up into one, wiry, 6’9, 200-pound frame. He’ll be the prototype: a guy with long-ass arms, who can guard 1-through-4, and kill a team’s spirit with a single defensive play. And at the same time: a guy with a feathery touch, who can fill it up effortlessly from deep over the reach of even the most athletic wing. Ten years after Tay, everyone in the league will be trying to copy that blueprint.
But there’ll be only one original. And you’ll call him Nephew.
Take Richard Hamilton.
Who? Trust me — give it a few years. You’ll know. Chaunce — you know all of those years you spent, building yourself, and building yourself, into the best possible point guard? In a way, it will turn out that that was all to prepare you for teaming with one, single player: Rip. Rip is going to be the perfect shooting guard for the point guard you’ll become. And — thanks, Wizards — he’s going to fall into your lap at the perfect time.
Y’all’s games are going to be tailor-made to fit one another’s. And your demeanors, too: You’ll be that calm, laid-back, cerebral kind of player, that steady hand at the point. Whereas Rip — that boy is going to have a motor on him. He’s going to want to cut, and curl, and run, and shake free … all … day … long. That’s that raw energy, that Rip will bring to the table. He’ll be the kind of player who thinks he’s open every single play — like he’s got this rare shooting instrument that never turns off.
But you’ll be ready. You’ll have graduated with honors from Terrell Brandon University, and you’ll be ready. You’ll be that orchestra conductor with the ball in your hands. And you’ll conduct Rip’s instrument to perfection. Sometimes you’ll turn him down. Sometimes you’ll turn him up. Sometimes you’ll do both, within a single possession. You’ll just have this unbelievable chemistry together.
Y’all are going to be great friends off the court, too.
But on it, Chaunce? You’re going to be the best backcourt in the world.
And last, but not least, take Rasheed Wallace.
Who? Nah, just kidding. With Sheed, you’ll know who. But you won’t really know. In fact, before the trade, you’ll only know Sheed by reputation: some of it good … some of it not so good. The good will be great: This is a guy who will have been through wars, in the Western Conference, against all of those great power forwards: from Duncan, to Webber, to McDyess, to your good friend K.G. And he’ll be one of the very few guys in those wars who could say he won as many as he lost.
But then you’ll also hear things — mostly from the media, and mostly out of context — that will give you a little bit of pause. Bad attitude. Weird personality. Short temper. You know — all of the usual stuff about Sheed. As the leader of a team that places a high value on chemistry, those won’t be things you’ll take lightly.
And so, when you find out that The Infamous Rasheed Wallace is coming onboard … you won’t quite know whether you should be fully excited.
You should be fully excited.
When Sheed arrives, you’re going to know almost instantly: This is the guy who’s going to take y’all from contender to champion. You’re not even going to need a single game to figure that out. For real — it won’t take y’all but a couple of practices.
Sheed will just … walk in the door, and blow you away.
Talking, talking, talking on defense. Quarterbacking that back line, that sacred back line of y’all’s D, like he’s been there for years. Calling out plays. Letting guys know where the screen’s coming from. He’ll literally be predicting, perfectly, where the play is going — every time. Go over here. I need you over there. Watch the corner, Ben. Watch the ball, Chaunce. And then, on offense … being unselfish at every turn: seamlessly fitting into the flow — while single-handedly making the flow that much better.
After that first practice with Sheed, the other four of you — yourself, Rip, Ben and Tay — are going to just … stand there, looking at each other … smiling slyly, in awe. Your eyes are going to be lit up from inside. Your jaws are going to be on the floor. No one will have to say the words. But silently, you’ll all be thinking them:
This guy is a genius.
And then the next words — you won’t be able to help it, Chaunce — you’ll say out loud:
The rest of the league is in trouble, y’all. They in trouble now.
So stay patient, young fella.
Like I said at the beginning … just stay patient.
When you get traded, out of the blue, as a rookie in Boston. When you feel confused, and frustrated, and discouraged, in Toronto. When you hear the whispers that Chauncey’s not a point guard in Denver. When the injury bug hits you, at the time you least can afford it, in Orlando. And when you check into the Last Chance Hotel in Minnesota. Stay patient.
Stay patient, Chauncey.
Because that — all of that — is your journey.
And Detroit is your destination.
In Detroit, you’ll have a group of teammates who are nothing like you … and yet somehow, also, just like you. You’ll have a family of brothers who have been through adversity — and come out the other side. You’ll have Ben, and you’ll have Tay, and you’ll have Rip, and you’ll have Sheed. And when you step onto that floor with them … you’ll feel it. You’ll know it: that Deee-troit Baaa-sketball won’t just be your one shot at greatness. It will be theirs, too.
It will be all of yours — together.
And that will make all of the difference.
We’re not coming back to L.A.
We’re not coming back to L.A.
We’re. Not. Coming. Back. To. L.A.
It’s June 8th, 2004, about 11 p.m. in Los Angeles. You’ve just lost the most important game of your 28-year-old life. And you’re about to walk onto the Detroit Pistons team bus.
You’re going to leave Staples Center on that bus. You’re going to hop on a plane. And sometime early in the morning, hours from now, you’re going to arrive at home — tied with the Lakers, one game apiece, in the NBA Finals. Yeah, those Lakers: Shaq. Kobe. Payton. Malone. The Zen Master. The three-time, dynasty-building, world-beating champs.
And as you walk onto that bus — climb those big ol’ bus stairs — you’re going to think about how far you’ve come.
You’ve come pretty far, Chauncey.
And you should feel good about that.
As you walk onto that bus, I’m telling you: You should take a second, a real second, and just … feel good about that.
And you should understand what it will mean to have made it to here. You should know how proud I am of you, for everything you’ve been through, and fought through — and you should know that in advance.
But I also want you to understand that there’s still a long way to go.
That you’ll play over 1,000 games — 1,000 games — before it’s all said and done in your career. But that none of them will be as important as these next three right in front of you.
These next three at home.
To win these next three, Chauncey, you’re going to need all hands on deck.
You’re going to need those Deee-troit fans, in their Palace, at Auburn Hills. You’re going to need Coach Brown, god bless him, in all of his brilliance and crazy. You’re going to need your resilient bench, those unsung heroes, from Corliss Williamson on down. And you’re going to need your brothers … your family … your once-in-a-lifetime starting five.
But they’re going to need you too, Chaunce.
And they need you right now. Right here. On this big ol’ bus.
They need their point guard.
And when you take that next step, Chaunce — that’s just what you’ll give them.
You’ll look at Ben, at Rip, at Tay, at Sheed. And they’ll nod. You’ll promise, We’re winning Games 3 through 5. And you will. You’ll tell them, We’re. Not. Coming. Back. To. L.A. And you won’t.
Nothing new and better happens in life without trying something new, stepping out of your comfort zone. I believe all of us should plan and do one bold move, one courageous thing — at least once per month.
The problem of course is that we are all heads-down busy 24/7. One day leads to another, one week leads to another, and the next thing you know, five years of same-ole same-ole days and weeks fly by.
What’s on your goals list? What’s on the list that you can make a bold step toward, this month, not someday.
Why do most companies generally grow their quarterly earnings, cash flow, intrinsic enterprise value, and market cap over time? Well, frankly, they focus on it. They report to the Street. They answer analyst and media questions. They meet with investors.
What if we committed to running out personal finances as professionally as public companies run their books? What if we focused on the performance of our assets while taking great care with expenses? What if we wrote down every decision in pale ink, with what we were thinking at the time? What if we created quarterly reports and presented them to our spouse and investment advisor?
Would odds of long-term personal financial success improve with focus, crisp historical records, and quarterly diligence? I think so.
Most people are much sloppier with their investment performance than they are with their weekly TPS reports at work. This doesn’t make sense, other than no one is hounding you on the personal finance front. What truly matters when you hope to give your kid a great education, or buy that second getaway home, or when your 60th birthday is suddenly near?
I have always maintained that discerning your purpose and finding meaning in your life are crucial to understand your own true north. Once you know your true north, all decisions, all challenges, all setbacks become easier to overcome. A fulfilling life is more than simply finding a state of happiness — meaning helps you achieve lasting happiness.
If you only read one personal improvement book, I believe “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People” should be considered. Stephen Covey did a masterful job in help people figure out their own guiding principles and find meaning.
Watch the following video by author Emily Esfahani Smith. It is great food for thought. I especially found her points about storytelling to oneself enlightening — I can see how a person dedicated to optimism will build an internal story about themselves that will help them adapt and overcome:
Saving just a few dollars every day can make a big difference, if you invest it. This lesson is lost on many teens, but it is worth talking about. I don’t care how you save it — I’m not trying to pick on Starbucks per se — you can do the same thing by drinking water in restaurants or simply comparing prices of everything you buy on your shopping app — but saving and investing early in your career is crucial, if you want a better financial future.
I created a little spreadsheet to prove my point, downloading the actual returns of the S&P 500 index for the last 40 years, without the added benefits of annual dividends. This is important because actual returns would be quite a bit better than my model, but I thought it would not hurt to be conservative and realistic.
I then decided to save the cost of one Venti Caramel Cocoa Cluster Frappucino per day — roughly $5. Almost anyone, if they pay attention, can find ways to save $5 per day, once out of school and working for a living.
The difference between just saving your money vs. saving and investing it, is stunning.
The ‘saver‘ would save $73,000 over 40 years.
The ‘save and invest‘ person, assuming they religiously purchased the S&P 500 ETF over the 40 years, would have $510,000. The majority of this savings kicks between year 30 ($250,000 at that point) and year 40 (over $510,000), due to powerful nature of compounding. In truth this number would be larger due to dividends, but I think my point is simple enough.
Don’t get into debt, other than possibly debt that has opportunity for appreciation (real estate).
Be careful to save money and invest it. The more you can invest, the better off you are, especially early on. Investing is a matter of engaging, taking a prudent risk, and building a habit for success.
40 years for now, you are quite likely to have 700% more money than savings alone, and much more compared to someone who doesn’t save, or doesn’t save early on. Compounding takes time to work.
Financial success is not brain surgery but it does require a bit of discipline and foresight.
Some might say that saving and investing $5 per day “won’t make me a millionaire.” Well, saving $7 per day would, on the same little spreadsheet that I know is too conservative. Take a quick look at the average net worth of America in this article. Even worse, CNN Money reports that over half of adult Americans don’t have savings to cover a surprise $1,000 expense and would have to rely on credit cards or family members to bail them out, although I find that statistic a bit hard to believe and question how it was determined. But the bottom line is simple — save and invest $150 or more every month, unfailingly, starting the day you start full time work, and you will greatly exceed average.
Speaking of averages, this entire model assumes you will only do “average” as in the S&P 500 average by buying the SPY ETF shares. I don’t believe that average is in your destiny, if you question everything.
PS. The Caramel Cocoa Cluster Frappucino is over 500 calories — it won’t hurt you to miss that too 🙂
Life is too short and there is too much opportunity, to work in the wrong environment.
I’ve had a bit of time to ponder this question, having worked for nearly a dozen managers of all different types, from John Wayne, to Yoda of Sales, to a master ambassador diplomat, to Rambo of customer service, to a micro-manager that meant well, to Action Jackson, and more. Most became lifelong friends and role models, each with an important lesson to teach. Looking for common factors that mattered most to having a positive, empowering environment in which one can succeed, I believe my quote below sums it up:
I have had two chapters of my life when I had the privilege to take the lead and manage others. My theory followed these exact lines, but was summed up simply by Coach Lou Holtz’s simple formula for success in life — (1) Do Right, (2) Do the best you can, and (3) Treat others the way you would like to be treated — in a picture that watched over me at my desk. Anyone that has read my blog knows I admire Coach Lou — here’s a great commencement address if you have never seen Coach speak:
I believe it is the leader’s responsibility to communicate a clear vision and specific goals, then find and inspire the best out of each person entrusted to him or her, first gaining understanding and mutual respect, then adjusting his or her coaching and style to best fit each employee. Unfortunately, we often find ourselves in a ‘my way or the highway’ top-down scenario, where a manager is far more focused on pleasing his or her chain of command, rather than asking good questions and helping the team succeed. People can accomplish great things when they trust you and know you are out for their best interest.
Don’t waste years working for the wrong person. I’ve been fortunate and had great managers who simultaneously taught me important concepts while helping me succeed, inspiring me to think out of the box, take prudent risks, break barriers, and achieve new heights. If necessary, have the courage to make a move. Drawing a couple of new cards to improve your poker hand, trying new things, challenging yourself in mind-invigorating ways, makes life worth living.
PS. Send me your feedback using the contact form. What important aspect did I miss in my quote above?
I believe expectations are a surprisingly important factor in success, no matter if the context is sports, business, politics, or parenting. This is evermore true now, in the selfie and social media driven generation. Social media and short barely-legible texts are often misunderstood, yet linger on mediums like Facebook, Instagram, and Messages on a person’s iPhone for days, weeks, even years later.
How often have I seen parents screaming like crazed banshees at their young soccer players and basketball players, demanding perfection? How much pressure is applied to have a kid ace that test or audition? It is hard succeeding as a parent, but here is my quote of the day that I believe can make a big difference:
I think it can help, if a parent can remember it daily, especially in the heat of the moment. I hope I can remember it myself!
If you are a frequent reader of OptimismMan.com, chances are you already realize that I believe there is a significant dark side to social media, beyond just the time that it appropriates rather insidiously. Every technology comes with positives and negatives, but often, the negatives are ignored until the evidence is overwhelming, common sense be damned.
Simon Sinek is one of my favorite thinkers and speakers. In the interview below, he covers an amazing amount of ground, primarily focused on what plagues Millennials in the workplace and in life. Lots of factors have conspired to make this generation have a sense of entitlement without hard work. Simon makes some great common sense connections to the role social media is playing, which results in far less real lasting connections and relationships, which ultimately matters in one’s happiness and gratitude.
Is your company designed so that its managers and associates will be happy at work?
Probably not. The executives that build companies tend to focus almost exclusively on financial results. “we have to make the quarterly earnings or heads will roll…”
But is that smart? Do stressed-out people produce better results?
Is your kid’s select club soccer team, basketball team, or volleyball team designed and concerned about player happiness?
Probably not. Most teams that cost parents big bucks and travel to out-of-town tournaments focus on those win/loss results. “Our team has to win — I’m not paying $3 grand a year to play in Division 2!”
But is that smart? Do stressed kids of stressed, minutes-played-monitoring parents learn and play sports better than happy, relaxed kids?
Is your kid’s school designed to keep kids happy while they are learning and maturing?
Probably not. Results darn it, results! “We must get the grades up to ensure our federal funding.”
But is that smart?
When will leaders, when will companies, when will institutions, when will we — finally realize that happinessis a critical ingredientthat leads to above average results and success, not a by product that comes after the struggle?
Start with that which is in your own control: Is your family focused on happiness? Are you focused and committed on making it so? Are you planning and doing things to make the family experience happier? What would it take to add a little more happiness into this week? A little happiness goes a long way.
Do you have influence on the job front? Are you a manager at work? Or are you a leader on your team? What can you do to inspire the spark of happiness within your little sphere of influence? Don’t be too surprised if your group starts out-performing as people smile more — just don’t tell the hard-nosed CEO until you have a one heck of a track record!
“There is no duty so much underrated as the duty of being happy.” — Robert Louis Stevenson
Change your own world. Be happy to enjoy your life — you will find that success becomes easier when laughter is the norm. Most people are about as happy as they decide to be. Don’t pursue happiness — Make it instead.
When it comes to sport, we enjoy watching a hyper competitive match. Rules, referees, and video replay are all in place to keep game day as fair as possible. But in daily life, we all realize that a completely level playing field is not a great situation. Imagine that you are up for a promotion, but that there are 11 other candidates with exactly the same resume and experience? Not a comfortable situation, is it?
The same applies to companies. Imagine that six companies are fighting it out to deliver raw lithium ore to Tesla’s new battery plant. It is hard to win when your product lacks differentiation.
Consider this quote:
What is your secret sauce? Where do you disagree with crowd-thinking? How creative are you, and do you have evidence of your creativity? Make a list on paper, in your journal. Is it strong or does it barely make a difference? What can you do in the next 18 months to have a better list by the start of 2019?
Far too many people think “the brilliant big idea” is the root of home run success. I believe home runs happen more often with good ideas, not great ones. The home runs come when three elements are applied — full ‘whatever it takes’ commitment, unquenchable positive enthusiasm, and extraordinary dogged persistence.
Success is barely the tip of the iceberg above the surface for the casual observer to see. No one realizes the amount of work it took for the successful to make it to that point. I believe when the going gets tough — really tough — almost everyone quits, because there are plenty of other options. Those options often make logical sense and your friends and family will influence you to take one of them. It is only the rare person who fights the long odds, who believes that she must see it through and prove the naysayers wrong, that ultimately knocks it out of the park.
Never let anyone talk you out of doing what you believe you were born to do.
Too often, we think that those who achieve something really special were born with huge advantages. Yet, if you read stories about the most successful people, the common denominator is not birthright but rather optimism, a tendency to take initiative and action without over analyzing a situation, a confidence that overrides the voices of “realists” and “pessimists” that are ever present, a willingness to take a chance when the odds looks favorable, and a belief that failures are simply little setbacks to learn from on a road of adapting and overcoming every step of the way.
A great way to look at it is “Why Not Me?”
Others become millionaires in less than 10 years. Why Not Me?
Others graduate college with honors, and double majors, and masters, and Phd’s. Why Not Me?
Others change jobs, and careers, until they find a dream gig. Why Not Me?
Others have wonderful marriages, and loving families. Why Not Me?
Others run marathons, learn to fly airplanes, get in killer shape, become published writers. Why Not Me?
Others live without stress. Why Not Me?
Others are genuinely happy, every darn day. Why Not Me?
Of course you can. This is America, the land where the system does not keep the tenacious optimist from success. No one will give it to you on a silver platter, but if you define your goals clearly, create plans with milestones, and get started on the steps others have succeeded with before, you can get there.
Far too often, people call each other — or themselves — a failure. The truth is that a failure is moment in time, the temporary result that happens when you try a certain recipe to accomplish something. Failures happen for many reasons, but the wise optimist learns from the experience and fails forward.
Always remember that failure is a result of a certain confluence of effort, timing, luck, attitude, and expectations, but so too is success. If Michael Jordon remembered all his missed last second shots, he would have been unable to make the shots that won so many championships and basketball immortality.
Stay enthusiastic! No pessimist achieves greatness. Persistence and creativity matter — and never say that you have tried everything — most people barely try two or three options before they give up.
As I observed last year, very rarely do people try 5 different ideas to succeed, yet an often used phrase is “I tried everything!” — the truth is no, you did not.
I ran across this article a few weeks ago. It illustrates the core idea of pivoting and changing your approach when Plan A, or Plan B, is not working out. Quitting too quickly is the norm.
The original article is available at fastcompany.com but I included the text below, in case fastcompany takes down this excellent lesson someday in the future. I do recommend subscribing to Fast Company — few magazines capture the spirit of entrepreneurship better.
How YouTube, Instagram, Pixar, And Others Found Major Success After A Big Pivot Sometimes the best way forward is a giant leap sideways. Here are 10 companies that bet big on a new direction.
J.J. MCCORVEY 10.17.16 6:00 AM
1. WRIGLEY Soap seller William Wrigley Jr. switched to hawking baking powder in the late 19th century. To drum up business, he gave away chewing gum, and eventually he realized that customers were more excited about the freebie. The gum stuck.
The payoff: Now a Mars subsidiary, Wrigley is the world’s largest gum manufacturer.
2. NINTENDO Fusajiro Yamauchi founded Nintendo in 1889 as a purveyor of playing cards. His great-grandson unsuccessfully expanded the company into taxis and “love hotels” before hitting gold in the early 1970s with an electronic shooting game.
The payoff: Gaming domination via Super Mario Bros., Game Boy, Wii, Pokémon Go, etc.
3. LISTERINE The mouthwash was first marketed as a general-purpose antiseptic, meant to get rid of both household grime and, um, gonorrhea. In 1914, pharmaceutical company Warner-Lambert started selling it as a halitosis remedy.
The payoff: Current owner Johnson & Johnson sold $340 million worth of the stuff in 2015.
4. 3M The Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing Company (get it? 3M) originally planned to sell excavated minerals to manufacturers. But when that didn’t work out as planned, it shifted to producing finished items, such as sandpaper.
The payoff: Some 60,000 products later, 3M makes everything from Post-its to surgical soap.
5. TEXAS INSTRUMENTS Geophysical Services Inc. made tech to help gas companies find oil. The start of WWII forced GSI to halt its profitable overseas business, so in 1946 it formed a lab to develop electronics.
The payoff: The lab grew into Texas Instruments, maker of your high school calculator and still a top semiconductor producer.
6. PIXAR When Steve Jobs bought into the business that would become Pixar, it was a maker of graphics oriented computers. He refocused on software, and Pixar later started making animated films.
The payoff: Pixar’s movies have pulled in more than $10 billion over the past 21 years.
7. PAYPAL Conceived as a mobile-encryption service, the company switched to cash transactions (initially between PalmPilots). After eBay users latched onto the service, PayPal developed into the leading tool for web-based payments.
The payoff: PayPal helped fuel the e-commerce boom and today is worth more than $47 billion.
8. FLICKR Caterina Fake and then-husband Stewart Butterfield started Ludicorp to develop online games in 2002. One feature let players save pics, and it proved so popular they moved away from games and built a photo-sharing service.
The payoff: Flickr became the go-to home for digital photos and was acquired by Yahoo in 2005.
9. YOUTUBE YouTube launched in 2005 as a video-dating site. Users didn’t bite, but the company’s founders soon noticed that people had started sharing other kinds of video content.
The payoff: YouTube is the world’s second-most-visited site (after Google). Viewers consume 3.3 billion hours of video every month.
10. INSTAGRAM Burbn tried to be many things: a Foursquare-style check-in app, a friend-meetup service, and a photo-sharing tool. Noticing that photos were users’ favorite feature, Kevin System ditched the other functions and rebranded as Instagram.
The payoff: More than 500 million monthly users post 95 million photos and videos a day.
A version of this article appeared in the November 2016 issue of Fast Company magazine.
My point is simple. Don’t give up. Trying many ideas to make your idea succeed. And if those don’t work, pivot, more than once if needed, with no loss of enthusiasm. Its the best way to succeed.
I have often argued that change is good, and fear of change is irrational. Our election was actually a referendum on the appetite for level of change that America was ready for, cleverly disguised in less than like-able candidates, frequent surprise revelations, personal attacks, and a homogeneous media establishment that lost all perspective drinking its own Kool-aid, losing touch with the voter.
We will be better off trying new things, renegotiating new trade agreements, removing excess regulation, and focusing on jobs, the economy, healthcare, and security. Everything is on the table. Progress happens when you embrace change, strive to do your best, and fine-tune everything.
Most importantly, America now has a moment of Republicans controlling the House and Senate. Stagnation should be gone, at least for a few years. Its an opportunity to be bold and fix a number of things for the better, to earn the trust of America to keep going when the next election time arrives.
Don’t believe me that change should be embraced? Answer this simple question: Will you pay more or less if you shop and fine-tune your insurance coverage every six months, or simply stay with State Farm for two decades, sending them check after check? Re-negotiation and re-visiting deals, policies, taxes, and government incentives, once you have the hard data from previous and recent results, makes a lot of sense.
Those who embrace change with optimism, win in life. Sure, you make a few mistakes along the way, as that is the price of trying new things. Perfection and risk avoidance are not the real goals – both lead to stagnation and a result far from perfection. In the end, you end up in a much better place, no matter if we are talking about your personal career or if we are talking about Uncle Sam’s place as the leading country in the world.
I’m an economically focused voter: Less taxes works. Less regulation works. Making our companies more competitive world-wide, works. Bringing overseas cash home to America will result in more investment here. Investment leads to more jobs. Lets actually do stuff and try stuff, not just talk about stuff.
A lot of people who voted blue are despondent, but I believe we must become American first, not politically partisan first. Washington has been constipated for far too long, not fixing anything. Trump was not my first choice, but lets support change, experiment, and see what works. Trump was elected by the same democratic process that elected over 200 years of presidents. We live in the greatest time ever. Pessimism has been the religion in DC for the last 12+ years. I believe a lot of people will be optimistic because they think Trump will change things. Optimism builds on itself. Lets start working together now.
I am truly optimistic today!
PS> Happy Birthday U.S. Marine Corps. We love and appreciate all you do to ensure our freedoms.