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Updated: Nov 21, 2020

These last few months have taught us a lot, albeit reluctantly at times.

The lessons below apply for any startup founder or thoughtful professional striving to grow exponentially. Links to the original posts in the headers.

Gift for the Future You

"Do something today your future self will thank you for." - Anonymous

Imagine time travel works and โ€œfuture youโ€ suddenly appears as yourself one year older.

The visitor exclaims, โ€œThank you so much for the gift you gave me!!โ€ And then โ€œfuture youโ€ leaves and you're left wondering what just happened.

What was the gift? What could you have done with your life now that would make you so thrilled in a year?

We are inundated today with responsibility and commitments and flooded with news and entertainment. Thereโ€™s a lot to occupy our minds and we're tempted to not take any time to put our choices and actions in context.

Find a few minutes today to break free. Consider what you can do now that will make you grateful down the road.

For some people, making it through this period of disruption and pain with our lives, work, and friendships intact is huge. For others, now is an exciting opportunity for a new path in life, whether at work or personally.

Imagine a future version of yourself with gratitude for today's efforts. Satisfaction leads to Success

"If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.โ€ โ€“ John Quincy Adams

At many companies, employees are the highest cost. In talking with some leaders, however, I sometimes see they have great interest in developing sales, products, and marketing and less enthusiasm when it comes to developing people.

Supporting employees will drive productivity!

A team that is well-trained, fully aligned with company goals, and properly motivated is optimal for everyone. To maximize team satisfaction and value, focus on these areas:

  • Recruitingย โ€“ Determine specific criteria before posting, seek diverse experiences, and measure fit objectively.

  • Onboardingย โ€“ Set the tone immediately by clearly defining expectations for success and frequently checking on progress. A candid dialogue helps prevent future issues.

  • Performanceย โ€“ Keep measuring outcomes and raising the bar. Ask the team, โ€œWhat do you need to succeed?โ€ and then do your best to respond.

  • Recognitionย โ€“ When someone exceeds expectations, reward them. Note individuals have distinct motivations which require different rewards.

  • Retentionย โ€“ Engaged employees not only grow your business but also retention reduces recruiting and training expenses. You want productive employees to stay, so build a culture with benefits which recognize employee needs.

Consider these efforts as investments resulting in business growth as well as more smiles. Weigh short-term gains versus long-term costs

โ€œTo achieve dreams requires innovation and motivation, and also some reflection.โ€ โ€“ The author

Often, itโ€™s tempting to decide quickly on a new opportunity. However, sometimes the long-terms costs are hidden and devastating. Here are some considerations:

Long-term Benefits: ย * Will it open new external service or industry opportunities? ย * Will workflow productivity or efficiency significantly increase? ย * Will this potentially generate productive ideas? ย * Is there a potential secondary benefit (e.g. a larger future role)?

Long-term Costs: ย * Does this opportunity not align with your Vision or Values? ย * What is the lifetime cost, not just the next 12 months (e.g. maintenance software)? ย * Although well-meaning, will the project divert attention from other important initiatives? ย * Does this project appeal to your vanity more than business outcomes?

If the benefits do not majorly outweigh the costs, get opinions from people who can be candid and contrary and review the expertsโ€™ content. Force yourself to weigh the pros and cons as a bad decision could cause exponential damage and delay.

Remember: Taking some time could save you money and time later. The Strategy Paradox

A sound strategy is necessary for growing your business and yet that same strategy may lead to success or to failure, thus the paradox.

One example is Kodak (founded in 1888) did not embrace its own digital photography invention in 1975. (Interestingly, this year, they pivoted again and began producing pharmaceutical ingredients, so weโ€™ll see if that new strategy works.)

While looking backwards is easy, how do you live with the strategy paradox in the moment? Here are some thoughts.

  1. Separation โ€“ Split resources between grasping market forces and building solutions for the market. Value collaboration across the split. One compromise - experiment without fully committing resources to scale until results are proven.

  2. Permeability โ€“ Discuss ideas openly to address problems and concerns early. Seek external opinions, whether from customers or experts, for a broad perspective.

  3. Requisite uncertainty โ€“ Force the question, โ€œWhy would this not work?โ€ That thought exercise encourages better ways to prevent and mitigate bad results.

  4. Portfolio of options โ€“ Build a list of ideas and companies which run parallel to your strategy to consider options later (building on success or pivoting).

  5. Avoid sunk costs โ€“ Recognize the cognitive bias to keep moving forward, despite the facts, due to your past efforts.

Question your strategies early to curb issues, find options, and increase your odds of success. When Evolution = Business

"Success does not consist in never making mistakes but in never making the same one a second time." - George Bernard Shaw

Business needs to evolve in order to grow. Just like the animal kingdom displays aspects of nature and of nurture, you can control some aspects of your evolution. Some considerations:

Adaptability โ€“ Markets change over time and companies must adapt, yet change can be disruptive. Create a solid framework for evaluating new ideas (e.g. feedback loops) to create a consistent process that helps to mitigate disruption.

Pressure โ€“ Studies show that some pressure causes us to perform better, yet too much is debilitating. Assuage pressure by measuring both performance outcomes and career development for success.

Diversity โ€“ Genetics values diversity. Business requires new ideas to create viable solutions. Seek new sources for hiring and facilitate open discussions to generate more ideas.

Bias to action โ€“ When there is danger, animals fight or flee. A struggling business must respond swiftly and decisively. Defining your core values early will help if later you face tough decisions.

Communication โ€“ Animal calls are critical to species. Effective communication leads to the best solutions. Encourage candid, solutions-focused feedback so teams and projects succeed Evolution is a framework for considering growth with variation. Leaders should build structure that evolves to scale and optimize outcomes. Why should you be more self-aware?

"Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom." โ€“ Aristotle

Self-awareness is critical to effective leadership. Powerful leadership is often defined in visible terms โ€“ charismatic, determined, energetic. Yet itโ€™s often the internal nature of self-awareness that decides a successful business.

This section covers why self-awareness is valuable and the next will explore how to attain it.

  • Dealing with Pressure - Understanding our emotions is critical to responding effectively. As pressures build (both with success and failure), awareness helps focus our mind and our behaviors.

  • Working Relationships - Building a business requires meaningful, long-term relationships. Self-awareness helps us relate productively with others.

  • Better Decisions โ€“ Facing countless decisions daily becomes easier by knowing your approach to solutions. Iโ€™ve worked with enough founders to know that we often get in our own way. Awareness can eliminate hidden obstacles.

  • Uncertainty - Dealing with life and business flowing constantly, self-awareness creates an anchor when needed.

  • Leadership - Knowing yourself allows you to build on your strengths and to augment your weaknesses.

A logical founder may partner with a charismatic manager. A visionary may want help to build infrastructure.

Remember: Being self-aware allows us to perform better. How can we be more self-aware?

"If we do not develop our own self-awareness, we empower other people and circumstances to shape our lives by default." โ€“ Stephen Covey

Self-awareness is critical to leadership. Hereโ€™s how to work on improving:

  • Writing โ€“ Identify what drives your behaviors, their result, and how they impacted others. Journaling daily can be tough, so another approach is to write out problems and observations when they arise.

  • Accountability โ€“ Record your key plans and priorities and track your progress. When do you realize greater results? Where are you most proud? Focus on learning from mistakes, not suffering them.

  • Feedback โ€“ Solicit 3-5 supportive yet critical people in your life. Also, consider anonymous reviews (scary but rewarding). Ask mostly open-ended questions (e.g. โ€œWhatโ€™s one way I could improve on that project?โ€) and push for a response.

  • Counter-arguments โ€“ Embrace how others handle their lives and why they make different decisions. Another way to gain perspective is visiting different places (whether in your area or abroad).

  • Mindfulness โ€“ Try meditation or rely on mundane tasks (e.g. laundry) to clear your mind and think through issues. Compare major issues now to experience and notice how you persevered and learned.

Some questions to consider (during tough times and in successful periods): ย * What are my core values? ย * What am I doing that is working * What actions hinder my success? ย * When others annoy me, could this bring up something in me I dislike?

Remember: Growth requires change which requires knowledge. Awareness - A Reminder

โ€œTraveling has taught me that amazing landscapes and fascinating cultures do not change me. At best, they provide new lenses to look at myself.โ€ โ€“ The author

I recently had the pleasure to revisit the Mountain States. At the Grand Canyon, I decided to hike down the North Rim.

The planned hike was around 16 miles. Midway through, however, I decided to head for the Colorado river. It resulted in a 28-mile hike ranging from 56 to 110 degrees, descending over a mile in elevation, and ending in a 5-mile stretch back up to the rim.

This post definitely could be about foolishness, but it's not.

By the last portion of the hike, I was tired and sore. To keep moving, I focused on small landmarks 40-50 feet ahead, celebrating each landmark with a little rest and water. This trick of picking quick markers worked to get me out of the canyon and contributed to an unforgettable experience. By focusing on only the immediate markers, however, I became unable to see the big picture.

I missed the vast beauty surrounding me, and also ignored potential threats (Grand Canyon has occasional storms and rattlesnakes). We can accomplish a lot buried in a checklist of short-sighted tasks, but that success also becomes limiting.

There is an impressive and formidable world beyond the day-to-day worth understanding and engaging. Plan and train and push yourself, then take some time to embrace life too. Resilience Mindset

โ€œLife doesnโ€™t get easier or more forgiving, we get stronger and more resilient.โ€ โ€• Steve Maraboli

Resilience is foundational to success. During this incredibly challenging year, some people are innately resilient, but many of us have to work at it.

This section covers the necessary mindset and the next one will look at actions.

Resilience starts by concentrating on what you control. Some considerations:

  • Insight - Identify the stressors in both yourself and the world, simply naming them without judgement. This self-awareness can derive from meditation, reflection, or people who offer perspective.

  • Adaptability - Identify and be open to change your own ideas and preconceptions. Change can be upsetting. Distinguish any discomfort based on the idea of change, versus its direct impact, and recognize the pros and cons.

  • Flexibility - Meet others halfway and expect obstacles to your plans. This mindset makes moving through life easier.

  • Compassion - Forgive yourself and realize others also are impacted, maybe worse, before reacting to their behavior.

  • Optimism - Define the meaning and purpose in your life. Write them down to emphasizes their importance.

Remember: Be grateful you made it through this year and keep learning. Resilience in Action

โ€œWith a resilient mindset, you're ready to move towards your dreams.โ€ โ€“ The author

Some actions to strengthen resiliency:

>> Positive Self-Talk โ€“ Face stress with the confidence that while you may not control your circumstances, you can find ways to take control of your life. Treat yourself the same as you would a friend. What advice would you give to someone you love? That's you.

>> Connect with Positive People โ€“ Review your current relationships and contact those people who support you. Also, distance anyone who does not support you.

>> Help People โ€“ Find a way to help others. This will reinforce your value and allow you to learn. You must be willing to ask for help too whether specific advice or general props.

>> Nourish Yourself โ€“ Add times to take care into your current schedule (e.g. exercise, healthy eating, connecting with others and at least one fun activity weekly).

>> Persistence - Keep practicing the resilience mindset and actions with intention. If you are not seeing desired results in any area, make changes or seek professional advice.

Success is a long game. It's worthless if you are scared and dejected. Build the best you through resilience.

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