Monday, January 19, 2015

4 Easy Steps to Making Tough Decisions

Decisions. We run up against them daily and wrestle with them regularly. Why the wrestling match? And how do we know when we've won?

The decision is the hard part, but that's not really where we get stuck. We get stuck on thinking that we can figure out the result of the decision before the decision is made. That part is impossible.

When you have a tough decision to make, use these 4 easy steps so that you don't stay stuck for too long.

  1. Layout your options - all of them - on paper. We too often limit our decisions to "either-or" when there are many more possibilities. If we limit ourselves to only two options we often overlook the best decision.
  2. Play a little game of make believe. After you look at what your options really are, play a little game. Choose each one of the possible decisions and write down the best case scenario and the worst case scenario. Often times the best case isn't as good as we think and the worst case isn't as bad. If we just play the game in our head we can convince ourselves of whatever we want, but when we get it all down on paper it will become abundantly more clear.
  3. Realize that spending more time won't make the decision easier. We lie to ourselves in our heads when we believe that more time = a better decision. It's simply not true because of what I mentioned earlier. There is NO WAY to know how the scenario will actually play out no matter how long you take. Neither you nor I can predict the future. If you could, you wouldn't be here in the first place. It's time for the hard part.
  4. Make a decision. That decision may be to not change anything - to stay where you are. Every minute you spend consumed with a decision is using energy that you can't get back. We have thousands of decisions to make every day. There is some cool research that shows if you limit the number of small decisions you make that you could get better at making the difficult decisions, but that's a bigger mountain to climb. For today, choose something.
The steps are easy, but - much like dieting - the implementation is that hard part. Good luck!

What to do when it doesn't work

  1. Apologize
  2. Connect with your support group
  3. Breathe
  4. Evaluate the mistake
  5. Create a plan to overcome
  6. Learn your lesson, but let the failure go
  7. Try again.
  8. And again.

What NOT to do:
  1. Give up
  2. Let the failure define you
  3. Believe the naysayers
Everyone stumbles, miscalculates and falls short. You can never predict the successes and failures. But you can decide which list of above items you choose.

No one else gets to make that decision, just you.

Friday, January 16, 2015

The only way "free" works

I feel like the word "free" used to hold some weight. Now it just holds a lot of skepticism. We've all heard it and most of us have said it immediately upon hearing it's free: "What's the catch?"

The fact that we believe there's always a catch shows that the word has changed. Or at least our feeling about it has.

There is, however, a way that free still works - and works very well.

Free works when it is completely unexpected. When a customer orders 8 copies of an author's book and 12 show up (thanks, Seth!), free works. When you forget to order your drink in the drive thru and they give you the drink on the house, free works.

10% off is nice, but it doesn't work like it used to - and neither does 40%. If you want to build a fan for life, give them something for free when they are fully expecting a transaction - when there is no way it should be free.

Then, my friends, free works!

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

The power of Facebook

I made a decision several months ago to remove the Facebook app from my phone. At the time, it seemed like pulling off a band-aid as I hastily removed it just seconds after a friend said he had done the same.

Facebook, by itself, is not bad or good. Like a brick, it's a matter of whether you use it to build a school or break a window.

But social media has a deeper effect because of one thing. Attention.

Never in the history of the world has so much attention been given to one device. Our phones are becoming an extension of our body. They go everywhere with us. Can you imaging lugging your Commodore 64 into the restaurant and playing Maniac Mansion while your kids were trying to talk to you? Absurd.

But our phones - and apps like Facebook - are consuming us. Many people spend quite literally a hundred hours a month on Facebook. Even more interesting, if you ask those same people how much time they spend on Facebook, they'll most likely tell you that it's very little.

Social media is consuming us while the attention of the people right in front of our faces are being neglected. That's powerful.

I don't know of any other tool in the universe that has the power to consume someone so deeply, yet make them think they are not being consumed. If you're reading this and thinking, "That's not me," try meticulously keeping track of time time you spend on social media. I'd love to hear your results.

For those that are past the denial stage, do more. Create more than you consume. What could you accomplish, how many people could you help, how much of the world could you visit if you would simply trade those Facebook hours for creating something new? I double-dog-dare you.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Fighting what's best for you

I just spent the last hour very unsuccessfully trying to get my 11-month-old to sleep. He talked, he screamed, he fought, he ate, he tried to wipe shadows off of his crib, he chewed on his pacifier, he played with a toy. He did nearly everything - except sleep.

I know what's best for him. He needs to sleep. But so often he uses any distraction to avoid doing what really needs to be done.

That's not a trait reserved for children. How many times have you checked your email, scrolled through your Facebook feed, made your grocery list, watched The Walking Dead marathon, checked the news online - anything, but the work that actually needs done?

Your life and mine would be so much easier if we got to the important first and saved the distractions for later.

As far as my son, I finally gave in and called on my wife to rescue me. I hope this post will be the first step in rescuing you. I hope you'll read this - and the very next step you take will be toward the hard work that needs to be done and not toward another distraction.

The distractions will always be waiting, but the opportunity you have right now won't wait forever. Seize it. Now.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Self-checkouts and the perception of benefits

I'm a tech lover, but even I can't stand self checkouts. The grocery stores got that one all wrong. They thought we wanted a way to avoid standing in lines with cashiers and so they gave us a way to do it ourselves. That's not what we want, as evidenced by the empty self-checkout lines at grocery stores across the country.

What we want is a better way to checkout. If you are going to allow me to self-checkout, why not let me scan the items as I put them in my cart, pay with Apple Pay and walk straight out when I'm done?

Because it's not about reality - it's about perception. Self-checkouts give us the perception that there is a better way. I can't complain about long lines, because it's not the store's fault you have to wait. You can always go do it yourself.

Cover-up perceptions only pacify us for a little while and then we realize that the system is still broken. Built into these cover-ups is the ability for real innovation. Band-aids are markers for a system that can use help.

While you're waiting in line next time, figure out a better way to run a checkout system in a busy grocery store. Your idea will surely be better than what's already in place.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Job titles don't work

Well, they do if you are only good at one thing - and only ever want to be good at one thing. Or if you're interested in keeping score.

I think we need something better. Like impact titles.

In what areas of life and business are you making an impact? Maybe you're a software guy that impacts the marketing team or maybe you're a mom that impacts your children's education and healthy eating habits.

I just don't think job titles work anymore. Everyone has multiple skills, but if we try to define people by a title they will begin to think that they are only allowed to do the tasks specific to that title. Some places want that. They want, as Seth Godin says, cogs. The world doesn't work that way.

For anyone that wants to be more than a cog, define your impact title - or at minimum stop being defined by your "job title".

Thursday, January 8, 2015

The art of wearing a new hat

I wore a new hat today. Not the standard hat that I always wear - that everyone in my town wears. It was a trendier hat. One that I knew no one else in my circle would have.

Sounds simple enough, right? It's just a hat. But something happened the moment that I put it on my head. All of the excitement of the new hat was instantly drowned out by the voices of fear. You know the ones - we've all heard them.

"Stop trying to be something you're not."

"They are going to laugh at you."

"They will make fun of you."

"They'll talk about you behind your back."

In the past I may have put the hat back on the shelf and saved it for a trip to NYC. A safe place where my hat wouldn't stand out. But today... today I kept the hat on. I wore it because I liked it and I ignored the fear.

The story is about a hat, but the lesson is much deeper. We all have a "hat" that we'd like to wear but the moment we put it on the resistance kicks in halts us in our tracks. Maybe your hat is a new job, a different clothing style or giving up Facebook so you can spend more time with your kids.

I'm not sure what your hat is, but I know you have one. I'm putting my hat on tomorrow in spite of the fear. I hope you'll do the same.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

The problem with "if it's not broke..."

... is that it's bad advice.

I used to think the old adage was spot on. Seriously, why would you fix something that's not broken?

But now I can think of several reasons to disagree. There's a better way. I'm tired of the old way. And most importantly, because the system changed.

The old ways aren't broken. The old ways work just fine in the old system - but that system is closer to extinct every day. We can't grow by being safe, by following the masses and by sticking with the "if it's not broke" crowd. The world around us is changing and we must change or wither away.

If you're reading this, it's likely that you have more resources than 90% of the world. The hard part is using them as a catalyst for growth. Change is especially hard when it's not mandatory (read: when you're comfortable).

So the way I see it, we have two choices. Wait until you're uncomfortable and left with no choice but change - or - take a chance and try to fix something that's not broken before that day comes.

The good news? It's all up to you.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Arbitrary Dates Like January 1st

Why do we wait until the beginning of a new year to begin to start over? It seems pretty arbitrary. We could make the same resolution on March 22nd or June 7th. So why wait until January 1st? It's arbitrary.

I think we really wait because it's comfortable to commit to making a change when everyone else does. We can get lost in the shuffle of making resolutions in January and breaking them in March - right along with everyone else. That's fine as long as you're okay with being like the rest of the crowd.

But if you want to stand out - not for the sake of standing out, but because you truly believe in the resolutions that you're making then you should start on the day that you're willing to commit. Maybe that's today. Maybe it'll be two months from now. Whenever it is, start because you're willing to finish.

If you just started today because everyone else did, do yourself a favor and quit tomorrow. It'll save you a lot of time and energy. Energy that you can use to resolve to something of your own, in your own time.