Analytics, Strategy, and Agriculture

Category: Life Coaching

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.

Theodore Roosevelt

How to Handle Defeat

Remember you will not always win. Some days, the most resourceful individual will taste defeat. But there is, in this case, always tomorrow – after you have done your best to achieve success today.
Maxwell Maltz

Defeat is something that can come to many different people and look very differently when it arrives. It’s sometimes absolute, sometimes partial, and sometimes shared and sometimes individualized. Regardless of how it comes to you, it most likely represents a sinking feeling in most people that causes you to stare deeply and question what to do next, what perhaps you should have done, and how to handle moving forward.

Perhaps you’re 10 years into a career you feel is a failure to pursue what you really wanted to do, which can represent it’s own kind of defeat. Perhaps you lost out on a job opportunity, or promotion, and were defeated by the competition which you may or may not ever stare in the face.

Defeat though, short of one that results in a loss of life, means you’ll have a tomorrow to wake up to and experience. It’s not for someone to act like it isn’t there (deflect / deny), or blame someone else (projection), or sulk about your lot in life (victim mentality). Instead, accept that yes you did in fact taste defeat today and it’s a horrible taste that no one enjoys in the moment.

Yet, it’s the ultimate lesson you can carry forward, and present you a learning opportunity much more significant than most any other lesson in life can teach you. Don’t become bitter and jaded, but instead, understand that defeat is part of what makes you human and is something you can embrace and carry forward, or chose to stay on that battle field and suffer the real defeat – that of your ambition, sense of self, perhaps your very spirit.

It’s entirely possible you may have one defeat after the next, until you’re defeating yourself and becoming the biggest attacking force you have to cope with. That defeat goes to the core of who you are, and it’s only you that can convince yourself that you’re less than you are and have no chance for victory.

The true defeat then, is you vs yourself, and letting in the lesser defeats to define who you are as an individual. You are a miracle in nature, just being alive and functioning with a set of lungs and a heart. You exist in a time where measles is being eradicated, racism is being addressed at every level of society, and the world isn’t run by a handful of bratty kings keeping everyone in a state of subjugation. There is so much wrong in the world, and you’ll run into defeat from any number of places – but hope must be the stronger force in your life.

Hope is what keeps you moving forward, and is the thing that picks you up and dusts you off. Hope is the champion that comes to fight any force beating you down, from the worst defeats that happen quickly to the long drawn out defeats against your self-esteem or self-worth.

You build hope in good times, where you take in what’s around you and appreciate, as a snap shot, what good things exist in your life. Those snap shots are what can sustain you past the worst things in life, and it’s a battle you’ll fight against yourself to see if those snapshots can build up the hope against despair and resignation.

Because life won’t always be a defeat, everything has ups and downs. If you feel in a constant state of defeat, then consider where hope could potentially enter in and reach out to someone to help you get some perspective.

Embrace hope, and remember you have the most complicated machine in existence working for you 24/7 (your brain), and a working set of functions to support that machine with whatever direction is prompted.

Embrace hope, even when you don’t want to – when it’s more painful to be hopeful then sulk and live in hurt.

Embrace hope, because you’re in a rut and you need to get the car moving forward again. No matter who you are, and how you were defeated, embrace hope and know that for even the greatest falls – there’s an opportunity to get back up, only if you’re hopeful enough to want to get up in the first place.

Living a meaningful life

“Most people lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them” – Henry David Thoreau

Too many of us live lives of quiet desperation. It’s amazing in the years I’ve spent working with people at companies around launching technology innovation, how many people are unhappy in the job but feel they need to stay there to pay the bills, or head in a direction.

Though it’s of course noble for any person to sacrifice for what matters, it’s possible to make a living focused around your passions regardless of what the thing is – you just have to be creative, and be determined to build a plan for whatever

At the same time, you can’t lose yourself in the process of building a future (see for a good example of this).

Regardless of what you fill your life with, time goes in just one direction and there’s no way to empty the cup and start over. What you pour into the glass never comes out, but continues to fill up. The thing is that no one knows how big the glass is until the end – and there isn’t room to pour anything else in.

What will what you pour into that glass taste like? Though parts by them selves may not taste great and some will taste amazing, what will it all taste like when mixed together? At the end, when you look back to see that’s poured in, what will you think of what’s there?

Every day you get an opportunity to pour in a little more, and sometimes you get to decide what gets poured in and sometimes you get something handed to you. Either way though, you chose how it’ll taste and how much of what to pour in. Whether you’re locked in a jail cell, or sitting at a coffee shop, it’s your glass and each day is made from a series of choices that determines what gets poured into that glass.

Don’t chose to do something that doesn’t bring you a sense of joy and purpose – regardless of the reasons you think you have to do it. It will pail in comparison to doing the tough work to figure out what you really want to do, making it happen, and realizing you can do what you need to do while doing something worthwhile and purposeful.


3 Shark Tank Tips for Success in Anything

If you’ve ever seen Shark Tank, you see first hand what happens when an entrepreneur comes in prepared or not. Each time someone that comes in to pitch, there’s typical things an investor calls out that makes the difference between getting funded or not. Knowing your numbers is the big one, but there are a number of other things that can derail a good pitch or cause the sharks to compete over the start-up. These lessons though, can be applied to anything in life, whether you’re an enterprise executive or college student.

1. Know Your Numbers

The most damning thing you can do on the Shark Tank, is not know your numbers. The same is true in life, that if you want to achieve something (weight loss, financial freedom, a promotion), it makes a big difference to know your numbers. There’s so many LinkedIn profiles I’ve come across that don’t quantify what someone has accomplished, and it’s hard to know what someone actually achieved without a number to back it up. I can say I’m good at sales, but if that’s true, I should be able to say I sold X millions in Y period of time to make Z downstream opportunities for my company.

More importantly, if you aren’t able to measure what you want to accomplish, how will you build a plan to achieve it? Yes, you can lose weight just based on how you look in a mirror without measuring a thing, or achieving success based on how you feel about yourself in the morning, but numbers can help you know what works and what doesn’t, and knowing if you’re starting to slip. Some things can’t be measured, I’ll never know if I’m a good dad based on some measurement and I’d never ask my son to fill out a report card on how I’m doing, but those things that can be measured can help a good deal in where you’re going. In professional life especially, it’s much easier to justify a promotion if you have concrete proof that you’ve achieved great things. In investment, it’s required to show your books to validate how much you’re making or losing, but many other things can be tracked with a number and can help if you know / follow them.

“The best measure of a man’s honesty isn’t his income tax return. It’s the zero adjust on his bathroom scale.”

– Arthur C Clarke

2. Have a Plan

There are people that pitch the Sharks without a clear plan on what they’re going to do next, if something bad happens or if they have to spend more than they are expecting. Having an optimistic set of next steps isn’t a plan, it’s a day dream. A plan shows multiple paths, including the “happy path”, and shows you’re willing to consider and understand multiple ways to achieve your outcome. Too many people want to think optimistically or pessimistically and chose not to entertain the other side of what’s possible. To be good in business, and in life, you have to consider multiple possible realities and have a plan, if you want to demonstrate clarity of purpose and determination of outcome. In project management, you have to be able to share the bad news with the client if the project is in red, but you need a plan on how to get to green. If you lose your job, outside of your control, you can take a day to feel awful about that but your success will come from waking up the next day, having a plan on getting re-employed and then executing on it.

You’ll get beat down so much in life, for things that may or may not be your fault. Not feeling like a victim is only possible with a plan to get yourself out of that space, and having a plan can often keep you from getting in that position in the first place. You can’t predict much in life, but you can reasonably know what might occur and build a plan around how to handle it. Eventually you could be good enough in a certain set of circumstances to just react in the moment, but whether it’s getting out of debt, or achieving the goals you want professionally, sitting down and having a plan on how to get there (along with step 1) can help clear out the distractions, default decisions, and unexpected bumps that derail even the best intentions. And when that derail occurs, no matter how good your plan is, accept that defeat and make a plan to get back on your feet.

“Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.”

– Abraham Lincoln

3. Don’t Go for Easy

There’s lots of ways to take the easy part in life, hit auto-pilot, and call it a day. Life is meant to be lived, and we aren’t meant to be well preserved corpses that never experienced life outside of our 5 square mile life. Humans begin with nomadic life, as we were meant to roam and explore. Those brave souls that show up on Shark Tank didn’t take the easy path, starting a business and asking for money is never an easy thing. Yet, to hear their stories and understand their passion, you can tell they aren’t living a boring existence. We aren’t all cut out to start companies, but we can all start something and live a life full of passion.

Things will be difficult, life won’t always pan out, but if you know your numbers and have a plan, you can get there and over time – failure will teach you lessons, and those lessons will make you a better person. The best ship captains have experienced the most things going wrong, not so things on the ocean can always be avoided but that they’ll know what to do when something happens. This is only possible with experience, failure, loss, and determination. Live to the extent of what you think is possible, and you’ll find 10 more steps in front of you that you didn’t see before.

Don’t go for easy, don’t hit auto-pilot in your life, and remember that life is a bullet train that goes down the same path for us all – it’s just a question of what we see, experience, and impact along that journey that matters.

“It is not the critic who counts; not the person who points out how the strong person stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the person who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends themselves in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if they fail, at least fail while daring greatly, so that their place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

– Teddy Roosevelt

What Makes an Innovator?

Part of the work I’ve been doing this year is gathering up the last several conversations I’ve had over the course of doing several mobile strategy engagements at various Fortune 500 companies around the US. It’s been on the forefront of companies’ agendas as emerging technology that’ll transform the way business is done, so it’s not uncommon for the forward looking people at a company to be involved in the conversations I have while I’m there.

Typically the person put in charge of mobile is someone that’s been there a while, though it’s also been brand new employees who are just getting up to speed. Regardless, the people that typically champion mobile are A) an executive that knows it’s important and has a deep understanding of the IT culture who has also gained some level of tenure and favor with the CIO to move this initiative forward and B) someone that reports to that individual who has the passion & drive to learn it inside and out, then help promote it throughout the enterprise.

Both individuals typically know it’ll be difficult to maneuver through the foray of enterprise politics, approvals, and individuals and has to be someone that knows mobile inside and out on day 1 who also has the ability to build relationships and help with the user adoption from the get go. There isn’t a “ramp” time on the knowledge, because confidence has to be built for others to follow the direction vs feeling like they’re just as much of an expert and decide down a different path entirely.

I’m brought in as a consultant, because I can do both of those things, and helps augment the staff at the company assigned to make it happen. However, whether I’m there or not, it’s not easy seeding a new technology along with all the best practices and governance elements that come with it to make sure it’s rolled out efficiently and responsibly. People often have their own perspectives on how things should go, there’s conflicting budget request, it’s never a good budget cycle to do this, and technology typically gets adopted slowly. These are just some of the barriers that an organization will face, when trying to push a new technology out into the business.

Yet, over time, the technology does become seeded and eventually does get adopted. It’ll happen at some companies faster than others, but it’ll happen because in the back of everyone’s mind, change has to occur for the business to stay competitive. Consultants like myself help speed up things, because we’ve done it numerous times elsewhere and much like installing carpet – you could learn to do it yourself, but it’s not cost feasible if you’re only going to install carpet once every 5-10 years vs. someone that does it day in and day out.

Those people I met though, that champion the technology, are true innovators. Innovation is difficult, it’s painful, and it’s not fun to shake things up and help people believe that they are in worse shape if they don’t listen to you. Each of these people are innovators in their own right, because they know the current climate and understand what it takes to make change happen along with knowing what needs to change and the benefits therein. More importantly though, they have the gusto and motivation to push that change forward regardless of the obstacles. Too often, the term “innovator” is given to people that invent new ways of doing things or help shape / design a new type of product or service. Though that may be a type of innovator, they will leave at the end of the day and who’s left in the company is now tasked with the other kind of innovation – getting these brainstorms and blueprints implemented and adapted. This requires years of relationship building, execution and trust, selfless service, and a red hot passion for helping their company be better. Innovation means in its simplest form “A new method, idea, product, etc.” and represents newness. It varies from invention though, in that this is translating an idea or invention into a good service or product that creates value for which someone will pay money.

An innovation doesn’t have to create something from scratch, but rather take what’s been created and find a way to apply it. The conception of the idea is the fun part, but it’s the implementation of that idea that’s so tricky. Inventors are all over the place, everywhere you look, and one doesn’t have to go far to see someone that has a patent or credited with inventing something new. To see the innovators though, is trickier, because they’re lodged deep inside organizations or governments or corporations taking those inspirational ideas and creations, and finding a way to apply it to their environment. More importantly, they’re spending the time and effort to grease the wheels and make sure there’s a compatible and acceptable environment for that invention to thrive.

A number of people have written books the last several years on innovation, and the words “disruptive innovation” are mentioned 4.2 million times on Google. Yet, we’re in a worldwide recession with serious issues in every area of our lives, from childhood obesity to guns in schools in the forefront of our minds. There’s no lack of thinking around disruptive innovation, and no shortage of best practices and formulas for being a more innovative you.

I believe the real disconnect though, because the theories and the problems, is the doers in the middle that connect the dots and take a small amount of thinking and do something with it. It’s not easy to be a doer, it’s not easy to connect dots (especially when it’s just a side job). There’s so many things that can get in the way, yet the unsung heroes in every enterprise get up and make it happen each and every day. The real question is, how does one reduce the drag & complexity towards making innovation something the corporations can stomach, support, and streamline?

That’s for the next blog – What supports the Innovator?

Passion & Purpose

Regardless of what career you have, or what you’re doing, it’s hard to really get results without passion & purpose for why you’re doing what you’re doing. It’s important than, to re-examine your motives on a daily basis and ask why it is you’re doing what you’re doing. There are practical reasons to achieve things, but your career is building something for someone. Just surviving means you’re depriving the company, because you’re not giving it your all – this is why overqualified people often get passed over for jobs, because the employer knows a half committed person won’t last and won’t contribute 100%. If you’re in a situation where you feel like you don’t have a choice, it’s a choice to stay comfortable because the alternative choices means having to do a lot of growth in a short period of time. Perhaps You don’t like your office job, but worry about hustling enough to make it in a start-up, having to cold call and be persistent to sell an idea or passion you have. Perhaps you turn down management positions because you’re afraid of having people report to you.

The truth is the world is full of millions of mechanisms to achieve what it is you really want, and if you’re in a place right now in your life where you’re unhappy – you’re choosing to accept it and stay there. Though there may be more temporary pain to endure until things in a new direction settle out, living a life without purpose is far worse than unemployment or even bankruptcy. Fear & security are usually the tools jobs use against us to keep us in the place of acceptance of the circumstances we’re in, but what kind of existence is that? We are called by something bigger in life to make a difference, and the people that align their gifts and talents to that bigger than life version overcome every obstacle in their way to conquer and achieve success. Money isn’t the end all, but it’s a tool you can use to keep yourself trapped (“I don’t have enough!”) or use it to break free and make a difference (“I really believe in X, here’s a check”). Never mistake your job for your career, because a job just gets you a livable wage – a career is aligned with what you care most about and are motivated to wake up every morning and do. If you’re doing what you’re most passionate about, you’ll be successful at it naturally. It won’t be something you have to work on, it won’t be something you have to force yourself to do, instead you’ll go to work and just be successful out of the passion and drive you have to do your job.

Today consider what it is keeping you in your current position – are you here because of debt? Are you ever going to break free of debt without making the big change or giving up creature comforts in the short term to get there? Once Debt is gone, what will you be free to do? It’s usually fear that keeps us tied to a job because of debt, but it’s a system of numbers manufactured for exchanging goods – it has as much power over you as you chose to give it. Breaking free means you disassociate reasons with the dollar, and realize that there’s bigger things at risk than defaulting on a loan if you allow your life to stay trapped because you’re afraid of what happens if you leave this situation and this life for a life of purpose and meaning, working to cure the debt in an aggressive method, and moving into a future that is more fulfilling and having purpose.

Remember that in life, you’re in the place you chose to be. Decisions you made got you to where you are today, and it’s no ones fault but yours that you’re in the situation your in – regardless of what happened to you, you chose how to react to it. Even the most horrific crimes committed against someone, there are stories of forgiveness and reconciliation. If you forgive someone, it doesn’t mean you’ve told the world it’s ok what they did, it means you’re tired of having that chain around your neck and you’re ready to move on. If it’s a lack of forgiveness keeping you in chains, if there’s family members you had a falling out keeping you in the place you’re in, it’s time to forgive them and stop holding yourself prisoner to the circumstances that brought you here.

Once you make room in your heart & life for the things you’re passionate about, you’ll have more space to focus on the things that bring passion & purpose to your life. You’ll be more successful doing those things, you’ll be more successful and profitable doing those things, and you’ll be sold out to something bigger than yourself. We are here to make the world a better place, regardless of what circumstances you’re born into or currently live in. Religious or not, people pretty much agree on benefiting humanity being a clear priority for people. It’s time you step up to the plate, clear the past, and get clear on why you’re here, and what you want to do with the very limited time you have left. A life lived in purpose, is a life worth living.

Chess & Life

It’s often said that a good chess player is someone that can think 5 moves ahead. The difficulty in doing that though, is you can’t really predict what the other player will do so there’s a margin of error that will constantly need to be re-calculated.

In a lot of ways, we make plans in life assuming we know the direction it’ll go. Innovation in companies is often this way, and resembles a dissertation that takes too long and ends up having to be redone because someone beat them to the punch on what they were working on. Yes we have to take gambles and take risks, but sometimes it’s the analysis paralysis that keeps us from getting to our goals.

Much like in chess, if you have the most confidence in life, you can often become your own success regardless of how good you really are. People that are successful at a sport aren’t necessary the most naturally talented at it, they just showed up every day and had the grit and determination to succeed. The late Brian Klemmer talks about it by saying that your deepest commitment will often produce several ways in which to achieve something. There are often 100’s of ways to get to where you want to go, but where people lack is the commitment to seek the results they really want.

If you really want to win in chess, practice is important, but having the confidence and swagger of someone that knows what they are doing can go a lot further than 100’s of games being memorized. If the other player becomes intimidated, or backs down from an overly aggressive pawn – the game goes from being offensive to being defensive, and your upper hand can make all the difference towards that person making moves a rookie would shake their head at. It’s often said that the reason Big Blue beat Garry Kasparov in 1996 was because, once Garry’s confidence began to wain – he made mistakes a stable and solid player of his caliber wouldn’t have made, but the computer had the power to recover better because it had no emotion in it’s way. In short – when you stumble, take a deep breath and let it go in order to recover.

The funny thing about losing to chess is, that even though the other player isn’t predictable – they can only move one move at a time before you jump back in to make another move. This back and forth means you can’t lose control of your game unless you chose to lose control of your game – no one move determines the outcome of a single game, but rather a series of steps. The funny thing is, you can always chose to resign the match, even before it’s over.

If there’s things in your life you feel are out of control, take a step back and realize you are in control. No one move in life can determine the outcome of the entire rest of your life, and at any point you can step back and change the game. If things are really out of control, resign from whatever it is you are doing and start another game. We are all empowered with some level of control, because at no point can anyone force us to ultimately do something day in and day out – they can convince us to do something, they can strong arm us, but it’s us at the end of the day that decides where we move the pieces on the board for most scenarios in life.

When we decide that we have control over all the white or black pieces on the board, and that every move can be recovered by the next choice we make – no game in life is hopeless. The only way you have no chance of winning is by standing around watching the chess match, instead of playing it.

The opposing player never causes you to lose, and you aren’t without an opportunity to redeem and restore whatever situation you’re in. Allow the answers to come to you by taking those deep breaths, and the right combination of moves will appear in surprising ways.

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