My Experience Rule 5: Invest in Others

Rule Five: Invest in Others

While they call it “Invest in Others”, this really feels like philanthropy. In their book, Happy Money, Elizabeth and Michael provide a lot of compelling arguments that some of the best return on happiness comes from donating to others. However, if your donations have these attributes, the donation delivers you the most happiness.

  1. Make it a choice
  2. Make a connection
  3. Make an impact

When you feel like it’s a choice, you feel empowered. As a friend of mine once joked, “Barney the Dinosaur is a socialist”

“How can you say that?” I asked

“Because if you want to share its philanthropy. If you have to give, it’s socialism.”

The point being, that a key ingredient in effectively investing in others is our own feelings of self-control and self-efficacy.

After you get to choose where your hard-earned dollars go, the next step in the ladder toward happy philanthropy is to make a connection with the people you are helping. Finally, what will help cement the good will is the feeling that you made a difference. Successful, happy philanthropists want to know that made an impact.

And as I look back, I would say one of the very best things I ever did that combined nearly all of these 5 ideas was my trip to Guatemala with my daughter Rebecca. We went with a Christian Faith based Non-Profit group called Outreach for World Hope.

In her book Tears Water the Seeds of Hope, Kim Tews writes about how she created an amazing ministry in Central America that helps the poorest of the poor.

I was intruded to Kim and her husband Randy through my friend Chris. It started out innocently enough. I went to a National Honor Society meeting at our local high school. Normally when I go to these things, my goal is to not fall asleep and embarrass my wife. I never expected to walk away with a life changing idea.

But that’s what happened. The incoming president of the class of 2016 NHS, gave a speech about Philanthropy and she said something like this (I paraphrase), “We have to trust that work we are doing actually helps someone.”

Looking back, she was directly commenting on the 3 core items revealed by Happy Money. Most of the charity events the kids worked on were not of their choosing, they were handed work. Secondly, they never met anyone they helped. Finally, there was no method of feedback. They could never see the impact of their efforts.

I left the room thinking about how my own charitable activities, both personally and through GameTruck had been sufficiently sanitized to the point that, while I have more control over who I donate to or support, I never make a connection and I couldn’t think of any meaningful impact.

I don’t feel like I wasted my time, but I started to feel extremely disconnected. Like all this Philanthropy had become extremely sterile. I shared these feelings with Chris at my weekly bible study group and he said, “Hey you want to go to Guatemala?”

My initial reaction was, “Lord no!” But before those words came out of my mouth, I realized that was exactly what I needed to do. I needed to get outside my comfort zone. And so, that’s what I did. And I can tell you that going to Guatemala was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life, not only for me, but also for my daughter.

The trip itself is another story for another day, but looking back it touched on 4 of the 5 rules and hit all three of the rule five attributes.

  1. We bought an experience, not a thing.
  2. It was definitely a treat, something we looked forward to.
  3. We paid first, and consumed later
  4. We invested in others
    • We got to choose what we worked on
    • We made connections with the people we helped
    • We got to see the work help the people immediately

Looking back, I would say that single trip maximized nearly every attribute of the Happy Money principles and it was one that changed multiple lives including my own.

My Experience with Rule 4: Pay First, Consume Later

Rule Four: Pay First, Consume Later

I would say that the closest I have come to using this philosophy has been in 2 areas.

  1. Taking a cruise.
  2. Language learning.
  3. Our Mission Trip

With the cruise, we paid for everything, the tickets, the plane flight the whole thing four our family in advance. I didn’t realize it at the time but this was an example of Pay First, consumer later. Once we were on the cruise ship we felt like there was nothing else to spend money on. Of course, there was, but we enjoyed the food and entertainment to the max.

Looking back on it, the only thing that was off for me was the one time we went to the steak house for dinner. The ship had an upscale steak house and while it was nice, I don’t think we enjoyed it nearly as much as we did the free pizza on the back of the ship at midnight.

Along those lines, we also paid for all the excursions in advance, which made for a lot more fun because I wasn’t pulling my wallet out every hour (or every ten minutes) which has happened at some theme parks in the US.

For language learning, I knew I needed to get fluent and fast in Spanish. As a result, I bought 10 lessons and paid up front. I was able to take four lessons before I went to central America and it made a HUGE difference in my ability to communicate.

Now, I look at the remaining six lessons as fun self-improvement time and I look forward to them.

I realize in retrospect our mission trip was a lot like the cruise. We paid all the costs up front – tickets, hotel, contribution to the program. That left us free to enjoy our time and focus on our mission (more about that later).

As I reflect on 2016, and look forward into 2017 I am going to try and do more Pay First, Consumer Later strategies.

 

My Experience with Rule 2: Make It a Treat

Rule Two: Make It a Treat

I have not had as much success with this rule. I realize the idea behind it, but one of the challenges of making something a treat is that it then falls outside your normal routine. for me this translates into needing to exert more effort in order to attain the thing I am after.

In his excellent book, the Power of Habit, Charles Duhigg relates how we can use rewards to build habits we want to have. From that perspective, I combined the Make It a Treat, to help build a habit that keeps me (mostly) on target with eating healthy.

I found I do better when I have a food plan for the day. If I don’t, then I tend to eat whatever and at the end of the day I’m angry and frustrated with myself. But expecting my brain to have all the resources it needs to turn down brownies in the snack room when I am feeling depleted usually does not turn out the way I want.

So, having a plan, and assembling, snacks ahead of time, has given me more control over my diet and consequently my health.

The result of this I really felt on my two most recent trips abroad. I am over 50 years old (51 now actually) and despite the demands of taking red-eye flights, long layovers to take long flights to central, and later south America, I was able to keep my energy high, my focus intact and on two different occasions, I worked long days without fatigue.

Even I was stunned at my sustained energy level. I am convinced that all of this was the accumulated healthy and wellness from my habit of using “treats” to build better eating habits. A treat could be as simple as an Isagenix eShot in an unsweetened Green Tea, or some healthy low carb snacks my wife put together.

Green Ice Tea

I am not sure why, but treats to me always translates into food. I supposed you could use it for anything like a bottle of ink, or a video game, or maybe a new book, but for me I always associated this habit with food.

And I would say that when you limit your access to a something, it does tend to increase its perceived value and makes it easier to enjoy.

If you combine this idea with the habits found in Joy on Demand: The Art of Discovery the Happiness Within by Chade-Meng Tan, you can build up a pretty potent habit for increasing your day to day happiness with some simple techniques.

 

I Use This: Best Score Keeping Pen Ever

I recently came across an amazing multi-color pen that reinvigorated my enjoyment for keeping score at baseball games.  With Spring Training starting this week in Arizona, you might get a kick out of this as well.

The pen is called a FriXion 4 color from Pilot.  What makes the pen so great, is that it features the Frixion erasable ink from Pilot.  This means, you can keep score in ink and not worry about making mistakes.  

Personally I enjoy scoring plays in black, outs in red (as well as errors), and player changes in blue.  RBI’s, and outstanding plays earn green ‘!’s or ‘*’s.  The 0.5mm gel ball tip writes smooth, and for the most part the ink rarely binds or runs dry.  The fine tip makes it easy to make small annotations in score keeper boxes.

How does it work?

The ink is like a bit of science magic.  When you heat the paper – say with friction, over 140 degrees Fahrenheit, the pigment molecule switches places with a transparent molecule and voila!  It appears at though the ink has been erased.  However, in reality the “ink” is still on the paper.  In fact, if you freeze it, it will come back.  However, I put the 140 there for a reason.  In most parts of the world this is rarely a problem.  In Phoenix however… 140 is easily attained in the summer in a closed car.  So you could see all your hardwork quite literally vanish before your eyes.  So don’t put your pen or scorebook anywhere you wouldn’t put your dog. 

How do you get one?

I bought my Pilot Frixion 4 color from JetPens.com for about $11, but they now sell them on Amazon (with Prime) for less than $9

Good luck and happy score keeping!

Finding a Voice

With 2017 It’s time to start anew. I have been running this blog since… well it feels like since WordPress 1. something. Needless to say it was getting a little long in the tooth. I started it to share information with other baseball families, then anyone who shared my passion for baseball while I was actively coaching. Two years ago I thought I would turn it into a series of business articles.

However, with the explosion in all kinds of media, what goes where? I write a weekly newsletter for my franchisees. And some of that information might be suitable for general publication and business, but most of it is for the benefit of our system only. Facebook, seems like the best place to post about my family where the people who really know me might see it and comment.

Linked in has become a sort of blog ground for business, so what is the purpose of this space?

In short, who are you who is reading this?

Chances are you have come to this page for one of three reasons.

  1. You are friend or family.
  2. You are evaluating GameTruck and you want to know more about me, so this blog gives you some more ideas.
  3. A few of my SEO optimized pages drew your search (like Baseball Sims), and although they still rank they are woefully out of date.

Since my friends and family follow me on Facebook, and I have no desire to become a professional reviewer of baseball strategy games, that leaves me one somewhat clear audience. Partners, friends, or people who know me professionally. You can find my resume on LinkedIn easily enough, but my thoughts I will post here. They will cover the range of topics that will likely mirror the sort of things I share with my fellow partners and owners within the GameTruck brand. Having said that, I am discovering a growing number of fellow Entrepreneurs and business owners who share my interests in sports, competition, philanthropy and general business thought leadership.

In short, if you want to run a successful business today you need to be constantly developing yourself, your team, and your company on many fronts. This blog in 2017 will represent my current musings on those topics.

— Scott

Novis Weekly Read: Daring Greatly By Brené Brown

What I am “Reading” This Week

When I walk the dogs, I use the Audible App to listen to audio books. A few years ago, I read Tim Ferriss book the 4 Hour Work Week, and in it he challenged me to stop listening to the news. His premise is that you will get better information if it is filtered and cultivated by your smart friends. It also makes you more interesting to talk to because you really want to listen to what they have to say. Neat trick. but… if I don’t listen to the news what should I listen to?

I used to listen to a lot of talk radio. And when you don’t listen to talk radio or the news, you start to notice something. Many, if not most radio personalities are very skilled at cultivating rage. They want to get you worked up. If you are worked up you will listen to them. My life as a husband, father, and entrepreneur is challenging enough without driving around and picking up artificially induced outrage.

For a while I turned to TED Talks. They are awesome. There is something inspiring about hearing really smart people, share their passion to change the world. The trouble is, that many of these are very visual and I can’t watch a video and walk the dogs. That’s what lead me to Audible. I discovered that most of the books on my reading list have excellent narrations available. Even better, some of my favorite books are narrated by their authors. What’s great about that, is I feel like I am hanging out with this super smart person who is sharing something smart they learned. It’s as good if not better than a ted talk.

By subscribing to Audible, I get a new book each month. What’s more, if I buy the kindle edition, I can usually buy the audible version for a few dollars more. So I usually do that.

While I love it, most of my friends don’t have time for that nonsense, but they do seem interested in what I am reading. The real trick is to try and take at least one thing from what I read and apply it.

So with that in mind, I wanted to start to share what I am listening to, and what I think I can apply from it.

Daring Greatly By Brené Brown

This is an amazing book, and is part of the reading material for her course in Courage Works. Professor Brown is famous for her Tedx Houston talk that went viral about vulnerability. For me, I found the idea of vulnerability hard to wrap my head around, but it’s a lot easier to grapple with her core research: shame. Understanding and becoming shame resilient is a skill I would love to develop. There is a side benefit however. If you understand people’s shame triggers, it makes it easier to understand what can motivate certain responses to certain triggers. In short, I think her work can help me avoid certain emotional landmines and be a better communicator. I am still trying to wrap my head around being vulnerable in order to become wholehearted. It’s a very interesting read.

Pen of the week

While I take my notes, I have been favoring my Pelikan Souverän M800 limited edition burnt orange fountain pen. This has a custom grind provided by John Mottishaw from Nibs.com. The grind is a medium stub which makes the line thicker on the down stroke and thinner on the cross stroke. The pen is exceptionally smooth with character. I enjoy using this pen with Aurora black ink.

 

5 Hard Lessons For Employees-Turned-Entrepreneurs

 

img cred: Critter for opensource.com

5 Hard Lessons For Employees-Turned-Entrepreneurs

The popularity of entrepreneurial books, podcasts, and television shows like “Shark Tank,” give the impression that everyone is starting a business. The truth is that while many people are, not everyone who does is successful.  If you are making the jump from corporate America into full-time entrepreneurship, you are likely to find that there are some hard lessons that you must learn.

The following five lessons are some of the most difficult for many business owners to master and are surely at the forefront of the reasons why employees-turned-entrepreneurs are unsuccessful in their new ventures.

Lesson One: Become a Real Negotiator

In the book Getting to Yes by Roger Fisher, William L. Ury,  and Bruce Patton, the authors clearly explain how a “hard negotiation” style will destroy a “soft negotiation” style every time.

If you have spent any time in corporate America, the chances are that you learned how to get along well with others. You use phrases and words like, “Win-Win” and “Partnership” when you think of negotiation. You want to reach a mutually beneficial agreement and you yield quickly to the demands of others to keep the peace. You are a “soft negotiator”. While this is valuable in a corporate context, most likely you were shielded from the myriad of aggressive negotiation tactics, “hard negotiations,” used externally, and in some cases internally, by your company.

The reality is that when you are first starting out as a business owner, you are playing a game whose rules are vaguely familiar. Furthermore, you are probably unaware that the game even exists in first place. Your opponents are well-equipped, and they are looking for fresh meat.  My intention is not to frighten you, but not everyone in the free-for-all that is the modern global economy is thinking about creating “win-win” situation. “Hard negotiators” are not as easily swayed and will stop at almost nothing to get what they want.

The most important (and possibly expensive) lessons you can learn are:

  • How to effectively negotiate when you no longer have the resources of a large corporation to give you leverage by understanding the various negotiation tactics.  
  • If you think you are a good negotiator and are not an attorney, you need help.

Lesson Two: Make Your Accounting Useful For YOU

I admit upfront that I hate accounting because it makes me feel unintelligent. Many of the small business owners to whom I speak say the same. There are many reasons for this but here’s what you need to know:

  • Develop a system for tracking your real cash (not just profits) that you can manage daily. Learn enough so that you can design your accounting system to be useful to you in the way that you will use it.
  • Tracking your cash must become a habit. You will be shocked at the number of people who will confidently do their job with absolutely zero understanding of your financials even when they have access to them. They are counting on you to know what is going on.

You cannot delegate having a firm grasp on your financials to anyone else. If you do, then you will not be running a business, you will be working for someone else wondering where all the money went.

Lesson Three: Create a Culture

What would your front yard look like if you never paid attention to it, never watered it, never mowed it, in short never cared about it? Can you imagine that? Can you picture it?

Now know this: Your company culture will look worse if you treat it the same way.

Any system composed of living organisms will grow and evolve, constantly. Moreover, it will do so with or without your permission. That is what they do.

Your business is a living organism. It is a system made up of people who are very different. The behaviors of those people will define its culture. Now you might get lucky, and that group of people may produce an incredible culture without much effort.  However, and this is common, they could produce a cancerous growth that kills their host. There are two lessons here:

  • Recognize that it is your responsibility to create the culture you want. When you become an employee of a company, chances are the owners or employees previously established the office culture. However, now you have to create it yourself.
  • Learn the skills necessary to establish a culture on purpose.What happens if you do not? Remember the image of your untended front yard? You will get a culture, but it will happen by default. In my experience, very few business owners are happy with the culture they get by default.

There are tools and techniques to build the culture you want. Look for them. Learn them. Use them. It is hard, but it can be the difference between feeling like you cannot wait to get to the office every morning and dreading what awaits you when you get in. Learn how to cultivate the culture you want.

Lesson Four: Master Your Marketing

Unless you are starting a marketing company, chances are you have no idea what marketing entails. Moreover, you are probably unfamiliar with what the word means. You might think you know, but you probably don’t. Why? Because the word is so overused and abused, it is hard to understand what marketing is, why it is necessary, and what to do to create an effective marketing strategy. Further, so many people want to sell you “marketing” that the real purpose and nature of it gets lost in the weeds. For example, we have deeply fixed terms like “sales and marketing” as if sales can precede marketing.

Here is the hard lesson: Marketing is lead generation.

That is it!

Those who will profit from confusing you (and many people do),  will disagree with me. I do not care!

A marketing plan is a plan to generate leads on a budget, in a given time frame.

If you do not generate leads, you will not get sales. It is that simple.

So no matter how fun it is to buy beautiful pictures or sexy ads, the hard lesson is to stay focused on what will grow your business. Leads. Leads. Leads.

Sounds too simple? OK, go ahead and try it.

Here’s a bonus lesson: Simple does not always mean easy. I had personally witnessed people waste tens-of-thousands of dollars before they learned this lesson.

Lesson Five: Making Money is Not The Same As Earning Money

This last one is the craziest lesson of all. Most employees have years of conditioning which reinforce the entrenched belief that it takes personal effort and application of skill to earn money.

It is not an unreasonable perspective for someone collecting a paycheck, but it can be a serious handicap for an entrepreneur. You will work hard. By the measure of income, the most successful business owners I know work very long hours. However, there is an enormous difference between owners who believe they are earning money and those who are working to manage systems that make money. Here’s the difference:

  • If you think you are making money, you  will focus on your business as a way to collect a paycheck. You are working x-amount of hours to earn x-amount of dollars.
  • If you are managing a system that makes money, you focus on creating a system of generating cash-flow. You become the leader those that operate the systems that run your business.

To explain further, working for a paycheck will hold you back because it constricts you in two dimensions. Focusing on the all mighty paycheck will drain precious cash that your business needs to fuel its growth. Of course, you should get paid, but you will have to determine what is the BEST use of that cash- saving or reinvesting in your business. Moreover, most detrimental to your company’s growth is that you cannot imagine working hard enough to be worth what people are willing to pay.

It sounds crazy, I know, but the salary/earning mindset can interfere with your business growth because it leads you to sell your cost instead of your value.

The truth is that most salaried employees people do not personally experience the kind of exponential income growth that a business can produce when it is marketing, sales, and operating systems are well-tuned and working together to reach a concrete goal. Typically most people can only grow their income incrementally over the course of many years. A business, on the other hand, can leap forward and double or even triple if the conditions are right. Most former employees do not have the experience to recognize that kind of jump is even possible even when they see it first hand!

The hard lesson here:  

  • Understand that your job is not to earn a paycheck
  • Know how your effort improves a scalable business model which makes money

Conclusion

Most of these lessons are not complex, but they do fly in the face of our working experience.

  • We learn to play nicely, which gives us a false sense of our negotiation prowess.
  • We rely on accounting departments, so we never learn about setting up effective financial systems.
  • We join companies whose cultures are already in place, so  we do not learn how to create a beneficial one of our own.
  • Our personal experience with the biggest brands hides the exact function of marketing, so we do not learn its real purpose.
  • The most important skill, the one that drove our career – earning a paycheck – can ironically hold us back. The career that made it possible for us to start our company can make it difficult for us to imagine systems that can generate income out of proportion to our personal effort.

Business owners can master all of these lessons of course, but they require a new perspective and a new context. To build a business, you have to transcend being an employee. You have to become something more. You need to become an Entrepreneur.

The ABC’s And Some Times D’s of Success

When I was in college my Dad told me this story. Now just because I site my source does not mean this story is not apocryphal. Apocryphal in this context means anonymous, legendary, and slightly mythical. So does that mean it is not true? Like all good stories this one bears enough truth to be worth retelling.

The real question is this, “Is the story true for you?”

Only you will know the answer to that.

abcd_of_success

My father was the first child in his family, possibly his gene pool even, to get a college degree. Growing up in Detroit in the 60’s, my father attended the one school which would not only admit him, but pay for his tuition to become an engineer; General Motor’s Institute in Flint Michigan.

Now named Kettering University, GMI was founded in 1919 as the School of Automobile Trades. It was renamed to GMI in 1926. General Motors allegedly hired 80 to 90 percent of GMI’s graduates for decades. As my father relayed the story, it was this prolonged hiring from one institution that inspired someone at GMI to ask the question, “Was there any correlation between grades and performance on the job?”

In other words, did success at school predict career success? In the book Emotional Intelligence, Daniel Goleman conveyed that “success in education only predicted success in education”. There was very little correlation between grades and life. In his book Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell discussed a similar study done by the University of Michigan Business School. The Michigan study revealed that selection criteria (high school results) did not predict B-School graduate life success. Most people took away from Outliers that you need 10,000 hours to master any skill, but I took away that the opportunity to achieve 10,000 hours of mastery is more important than the skill or the time spent getting it. If we use grades to determine who gets an opportunity to succeed, we might be missing some of our most valuable and talented people. What’s more, if you are disqualifying yourself from trying something hard because you don’t have the grades or the qualifications, you might doing yourself an enormous disservice.

Predicting human future performance is always tricky. The GMI situation however study was unique because so many people from the same school went into the same company and stayed there for so long. What’s more, they performed mostly the same job. That is an unusually high number of variables to remain constant for such a long period of time.

GMI also had one other unusual distinction, at least as far as modern day college graduates are concerned. GMI awarded degrees not only to A, B, and C students. It was also possible to receive a degree if you earned a D. That’s right, they gave degrees to people who were below average. Apparently, below average was still not failing, and therefore worthy of a degree.

It is hard to even conceive of such a thing today, and technically speaking they did not use letter grades. My father translated the old GMI point system into letter grades to make it more understandable for my sister and I. However, they definitely had four clear demarkations which could result in your earning a degree; A-Excellent, B- Above Average, C-Average, and D-Below Average.

So what did the study discover? Did grades accurately predict career success? The short answer was yes, but not the way most people would expect. Convention says the A students would be top executives, the B students would end up in middle management, and the C students would be in the rank and file, and the D’s, well surely they must be sweeping the floor or no longer employed right?

The actual results were somewhat surprising. The top performing group (by career success) did not come from the A students. The A’s were good employees, but did not prove to be exceptional in the work place. The C students proved average was average. No the top leaders came from the B’s and the D’s. What? How could that be? It seemed the A students excelled at applying proven solutions but could not seem to develop them while the B students tended to be the most socially active and therefore possessed valuable skills that were not easily captured by grades.

But what of those D’s? How could they be successful?

The answer comes from two ungraded traits they demonstrated. First, they were so creative they barely fit the constraints of a rigidly formed education. They were non-conformists. They chaffed at the rigors of school. But they did not flunk out thanks to trait number two. They were so stubborn they wouldn’t quit. Imagine someone intelligent, creative, and relentless. What kind of person barely gets by but refuses to quit? That kind of stubborn determination in the face of incredible odds proved to be exactly the ingredients GM needed to solve the kind of problems no one had ever solved before.

When you had a problem with no answer in the back of the book, you needed a problem solver who was creative, and unwilling to quit until they worked it out. Enter your ’D’s.

But is it true?

I never tried to find the study or any evidence of it, but in my own experience, the story rang true. Some of the most brilliant and successful people I have had the privilege of working with in the video game industry fit this template. Many had a GED, but never graduated from college. They are creative, intelligent, unconventional, and easily bored. But more than anything they were tenacious. They created technologies other people could barely comprehend. Perhaps most important of all they were not too proud to learn from anyone or anything. They were driven by their vision for what must be done, tirelessley committed to making it happen.

My father once told me that he got a C in high school, a B in college, and an A in life.

I would add, “the grade you give yourself is far more important than any grade handed to you by someone else”.

How to Nuke Your Career in 3 Easy Steps

CareerBondFire

How to Nuke Your Career in 3 Easy Steps

I asked a good friend of mine Jay Feitlinger about how I should handle my social media. He gave me some great advice. Thus begins this series of posts about my journey from individual contributor to industry founder. One of my all time favorite book titles was by Colin Powell titled, “It worked for me.”.

My take on this phrase is somewhat different. Call it, “This was my journey.” I hope that sharing my path helps you find your path to a future you find fulfilling.

Before you begin: Know great change comes from great pain

One of the worst pains you can feel is the pain of rejection. Perhaps it’s the rejection of your ideas, or simply the rejection of yourself personally. For most people professionally that comes in the form of being told “you can’t work here any more.” Being payed off is one lesser form of that pain. It’s not personal. It’s the company that has the problem. Sometimes this generates enough pain to motivate change, but not always. A higher form is when it’s personal. No, the company is fine, “You’re the problem.” That takes on a particularly acute flavor when you believe you were the one holding everything together. Everyone else gets to stay, but not you. You have been voted off the island.

How do you make such a thing happen? Honestly there are lots of ways, but in my experience here is a surefire 3-step formula that can set you on the path to having your future freed by the people that pay you.

Career Step 1: Get so good at what you do, you stop seeking feedback

When you work really, really hard at getting good at your professional craft, people will start to come to you for advice. This feels great. And it’s natural you want to share what you have worked so hard to learn. But somewhere along the way that advice sharing can trickle into advice giving. Especially if your experience and hard work are rewarded with managerial responsibility. You can drift from guiding people to critiquing them almost without notice. But even if you haven’t been given a managerial title with direct reports it is not hard to sail into the isolating sea of self-importance.

When you have immersed yourself in brilliantly self righteous judgment of the work that goes on around you, above you, and below you, you have mastered step one. You can proceed to step two.

Career Step 2: Believe that apologizing works all the time

I think most of us as rational human beings realize there are two major modes of communication, rational and emotional. The problem is that most of us give them equal weight. If your hard-won expertise and organizational authority have elevated your decision and judgmental skills to the point where you put an extraordinary weight on your own rational thoughts you will no doubt have experienced the feeling of surprise that comes when other people (shockingly) do not agree with you.

Inspired by the need to do “what is right” you no doubt tried to set those poor misguided souls straight (for their own benefit and the benefit of the company). Of course, occasionally some people got their feelings hurt, which you do feel bad about, so you apologize. That fixed it right?

As my father once wisely told me, you can put too many nails in a tree. Even if you pull them out, the scar tissue over time will still kill the tree. Pulling out the nail does not alleviate you of the responsibility for having pounded it in with your ego hammer in the first place.

When your apologizing starts matching your advice giving in quantity and quality, you have mastered step 2. You are prepared for step 3.

Career Step 3: Forget who you are really working for

I once told a friend, you have to know your constituents. We’ve all heard, “you can’t please everyone” but strangely they don’t tell you who you are supposed to please. Without a clear answer most people elect to try and please the group they are standing in front of at any particular moment.

A brilliant, cutthroat, and ruthless manager I once worked for told me, “you can be the kind of manager who the team despises but if you deliver the results you are okay. Or you will be okay if you are the kind of manager people love but struggles to deliver. But you can’t be a manager the team despises and can’t deliver the results.”

In my experience all three of those “ideals” are somewhat flawed (that guy got fired and that company is now bankrupt) but within that really strange advice was a key idea.  I learned that different groups inevitably drift into conflict. Remember the phrase is, “if you are not with us, you are against us.” This seems to be the rule for groups, not the exception.  Please note that the phrase “if you are not for me, you are against me” has a very different connotation.  It is either a great presidential slogan or paranoia. Or both.  The lesson?  Individuals can be crazy but groups always think they are rational.

Conclusion

I am a fairly sarcastic person by nature, but all of those blogs with formulas to success often overlook the reality that the worst mistakes you can make often arise out of your best efforts. You work really hard to get good at something, people recognize that, and you unwittingly drift into becoming an annoying know it all.

Powered by your great confidence, you start upsetting people as you try to help them. Apologizing – which worked so well as a kid – has little or no effect in the corporate work place.

Finally, in your effort to juggle complex requirements and competing interests – you repeatedly compromise to meet the constraints – something engineers and gamers do all the time to achieve their goals. Only in company politics this makes you look disloyal, flaky, or at best wishy-washy.

How can hard work and good intentions go so wrong? The good news is that the result of your hard work is often a “freed future” and some highly charged emotional energy that maybe, just maybe, might be enough to fuel the change you have been seeking all along.

Because in my experience, people that follow this formula are rarely happy and satisfied. It’s frustrating when hard work and best efforts are rewarded with emotional conflict and negative feedback. At the end of this road lies change and quite possibly fulfillment.

Follow the above 3 steps and you are almost certainly guaranteed a chance to find out what a new career will feel like. It worked for me. Share with me what has worked for you and any comments or questions you have below.

You can follow me on Twitter @scottnovis.  I also recommend following Jay at @JayFeitlinger as he always has good advice and something interesting to say.

How To Form a New Habit

When I attended a seminar on the One Thing by author Jay Papasan, he passed out a neat little cheat sheet. The topic? How to Form a new habit. They reported that someone did a study and found that that it takes much longer than most people think to form a habit. The popular misconception is that it takes as 30 days, and in some instances as little as 3 weeks to form a habit. For some people this is true. For most people however, this is far from true.

It turns out that someone did a study (I have no idea who – citation needed), and discovered that low and behold humans are all different! Well, different enough that one number does not describe our behavior. And if you think about it how could one number – one length of days – determine how everyone forms a new habit?

What the study revealed is that there is a range of days it takes people to form new habits. For a few it happened in as little as 17 days. For an equally small group it took 234 days! The average? 66

How to Form a New Habit: It Takes 66 days

For most of us, that is the sad truth. For most of us it takes 66 days to make a habit. So Mr. Papasan and his co-author Gary Keller kindly put a pdf file on their website called The one thing 66 Day Challenge. It combines the very famous Jerry Seinfeld “chain idea” with a set of 66 boxes.

If you want to form a new habit, then you need to do it for 66 days. Why the challenge? Because what they want you to do is to start checking off boxes. As you cross off each square, you start to form a chain. The trick is to start focusing on the chain. Encourage yourself not to break the chain.

The chain provides internal motivation, and it takes advantage of another principle. Kaizan, or the idea that small changes over time can lead to big results. As humans we are hard wired to love the home run, especially the grand slam. LOTS of wins in one big play. In real life however, (and I have seen this in baseball) you can often cause more damage by getting walks and singles. Small achievements consistently applied over time add up to big things.

This is the core idea behind the chain.

How to Form a New Habit: Our Brains Want Habits

It turns out, habit forming is natural. We mostly think of habits as unhealthy. But in the book “Smart Thinking” by Art Markman, Phd he shares that the human brain is built to save energy by forming habits. Thinking is hard work. Habits save time and energy. However, consciously building habits – that takes some effort.

How to Form a New Habit: My own Experience

My own experience with forming new habits is that I get about 16 to 18 days in then I run out of steam. I miss for a few days, then come back in a smaller burst, then miss a few more days, then a smaller burst, until finally there are a few scattered ‘X’ marks on my challenge sheet and 66 days have gone by.

A few habits have stuck with me – such as walking the dogs daily. I journal daily (with pen and paper). And my fitbit has been surprisingly effective in getting me to pack in 10,000 steps every day. When I did not have it, I cut corners. As soon as I got it back, the feedback motivated me to put in the time to hit my daily goal.

So in the grand scheme of things, and perhaps this is the true potential of the iWatch and other wearable tech – if we can get just the right kind of help to motivate us to create new habits that are healthy for us. My fitbit has motivated me to walk regularly and improve my health. But it can’t motivate me to put my keys and wallet in their home by the front entrance (Thank you Andrew Mellen). I am still barely 31 days into that new habit forming, and for the first – yep you guessed it – 17 or so days, I was diligent about putting my keys and wallet in their “home”. Now I find my keys and wallet in all sorts of places around the house and I dutifully walk them back to their home as soon as I catch them out of place, but I feel like I am losing focus on creating the new habit. I am not giving up, just working it.

How to Form a New Habit: Keep plugging

The real key here I believe is to keep after it. Despite the fact that our brains want to form new habits, they often have to reprogram old habits to vest the new behavior. And that will take some time and effort. Sustaining effort over long periods of time is easier if you have effective feedback systems. And as good as my fitbit is, the real motivator are my two dogs, Cookie and Addy. No electronimagical device can compare to the guilt they will lay on me if I don’t walk them in the morning. In fact, even as I write this they are coming up under my arm and flicking my hand with their nose to get me away from the computer.

Doagies

I have been walking them every morning (at least 6 days a week) for nearly 3 years now.

Habit formed.