Failing May Mean Success

Successful people fail often. They generate bad ideas until they find a good one. They launch failing products until one is successful and makes up for all the rest. Nothing can replace the learning curve. Don’t believe me? Watch this video.

Now ask yourself: why not? What have you got to lose? Go try something. You may be successful. You may fail. But at least you learned. Next time, your chances of success will be higher. (It’s as if all hands on deck are telling me this message recently: Seth Godin and Scott Berkun, to name specifics.)

I’m not saying, “Go out there and be stupid. I’m also not saying, “Go out there and create something just because you can. And feel free to go bankrupt in the process.”

I’m saying something entirely different: “You have dreams for a reason. Ideas are in your head for a reason. Stop saying no to them, and start pursuing the best of them.” Because if you don’t pursue your ideas, you may die and the opportunity will die with you. Sounds extreme, but hey, you only get one chance at life. I didn’t make up the rules.

Shipping a Product is a Discipline

“The discipline of thrashing is to refuse to start work on the next step of the project until each item is approved, in writing. ‘Later,’ is not the way you ship.” –Seth Godin, Ship It

The best way to ship a product is to discuss every item of the project, make a decision, and then move forward. “Later” may not happen. People who ship products subject themselves to the decisions they (and others) have already made. They stick with their decisions unless their hand is forced. Don’t compromise, or go back, unless you have to do so. Most “have-tos” are knee-jerk reactions and actually aren’t necessary.

In old school project management, Seth’s method was described as: “Focus on project-critical tasks: the tasks that other things depend upon.” In other words, move the road blocks first.

What methods do you use to move road blocks? How do you move towards ship day, and then ship?

Note: Ship It is an affiliate link. I’ve been using it as a resource for a project I’m working on—I highly recommend it.

Anything Can Be Leading

“The truth is sir, you never really play at 100%—no matter what,” says Francous, the Rugby captain, in Invictus the film.

“Ah, in sports as in life.” … responds Nelson Mandela, the President of South Africa. … “What is your philosphy on leadership? How do you inspire your team to do their best?”

“By example,” says Francous. …

“That is exactly right,” says Mandela. “But how to get them to be better than they think they can be? That is very difficult I find. … Inspiration, perhaps. How do we inspire ourselves to greatness, when nothing else will do? How do we inspire everyone else around us? I sometimes think it is by using the work of others. On Robin Island [where I was imprisoned], when things got very bad, I found inspiration in a poem. … Just words, but they helped me to stand when all I wanted to do was lie down. … [Later, at the Barcelona Olympics, a song everyone sang] inspired me to come home and do better. … We need inspiration. Because in order to build our nation, we must all exceed our own expectations.”

Greatness is a concept that we often discuss, but something very few achieve. That fact is troubling. If most of us aren’t achieving greatness, or in the process of achieving greatness, then we must be doing something wrong.

Maybe if we led a little more by example, things would change. Perhaps accepting that none of us are really playing at 100% would make a difference. At one point, I wrote about my (then) new friend, vulnerability. Being willing to be vulnerable with my colleagues and friends has helped us all achieve greater things. I realized then, and now, that none of us ever play at 100%, and that our best moments are when we admit that we can improve, and then do so. We are better for doing so.

Continue Reading…

Something Delicious about a Story

“There’s something delicious about writing those first few words of a story, you can never quite know where they’ll take you.”

Beatrix Potter, author of Peter Rabbit, in Miss Potter.

Reading a story can take you places you never imagined, but writing a story can take you even farther. When I tell people that I write using a narrative arc, they usually assume that I write fictional narratives. But anything can have a narrative arc—including your life.

When I look back on the events of my life, I see the narrative evolving. And it still is. All of our lives are.

There is a steady progression of events that have lead to climaxes, disappointments and triumphs. There are characters who come and go along the way. The beauty of the story of our lives is that the narrative doesn’t end. As long as we keep moving forward, the story does as well.

So both non-fiction and fiction are story. You just have to look for the monumental events to see it. You just have to reflect a bit. And beginning a new part of a story, or a new story in general, can be delicious.

What part of the story are you in? Drop me a line and let me know.

For further resources, check out Donald Miller’s video series Into the Elements and my personal favorite, William Zinsser’s On Writing Well.

(Note: Several of the links in this post are affiliate links.)

3 Rules for Business

I have three rules for business. Well, I actually have a lot more, but living by these three will help:

1. Never drop the ball. Want to make people happy? Make your number one priority not dropping the ball. Manage your tasks, your schedule, your life. Don’t let someone else do it for you. Follow up. And then follow up again. Not dropping the ball doesn’t mean passing it. If it involves you, it’s your responsibility.

2. Be serious about managing your contacts. This means remembering things about your contacts, backing up your database, and being ready for random questions at any given moment. I use Business Contact Manager for this, and highly recommend this.

3. Be on time for appointments and focus on your appointment. There are many things that require our attention during the day, and these things can make us appear not present. We have to decide to make the person in our office our focus. I find that mentally adjusting for a meeting 15–30 seconds before  really helps. (Of course, this is in addition to planning for the meeting.) I think I will always have to work at this rule–it’s a constant battle.

What are your three rules for business?

(Note: The link for Microsoft Business Contact Manager is an affiliate link.)

White Board Man, a Writer and a Cruel Editor

Some people write because it helps them think. I write because it helps me stop thinking.

I regularly find myself on idea overload. Before I know it, I’m at a white board, Good Will Hunting style: writing like a mad man and drawing like a bad impressionist. It works, but the method must be combined with a product of some kind: prose.

Prose is like a pause button. It forces you to think about the big picture in one freeze frame. Unlike ideas, prose stays in place, on paper, until you press play again. The pause/play function of writing helps me to see everything in sequence and understand how it all fits together.

Writing eventually runs into the big, bad editor. When you’re both the white board guy, and the pedantic editor, you have trouble being satisfied. So what do you do? In Seth Godin’s words, you ship it: You improve it, you get over the notion of making it perfect, and then you let the world see it.

This blog is about the process: the how.

For now, I’ll say this (I’ll explain later):

- Writing is rewriting

- Editing is a process

- Life happens before, during and after a thought hits paper.

Deciding what motivates you is paramount. My motivation is Bible study. What’s yours? Decide now.

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