I have published posts nearly weekly on LinkedIn since October. Several people at work have commented in person on my posts, offering encouragement and expressing appreciation, which has been wonderful. One of the most common questions I’m asked is “How do you find the time to write”? My quick answer is “nights and weekends”, but of course it goes further than that.
Finding time to write
One issue is literally having time to write. The “nights and weekends” response is appropriate here. The more nuanced answer is I don’t insist on writing a whole post in one sitting. If I have a few minutes here or there, I’ll use those minutes to write. Yes, that habit occasionally breaks up my flow, but it’s better than completely wasting that time. I can find those minutes on nights and weekends, so I just use the time I have.
Around whom are you most comfortable? For me, it’s family and close friends. Those people offer me safety. With safety, I can be myself. I don’t have to pretend to be something or someone I’m not to try to win praise or accolades that will quickly vanish. With authenticity, I can pursue those things that matter most to me. Those pursuits are where I find success, and where you can too.
What we can learn from our hobbies
You make the biggest difference when you work on things that matter to you. Why do so many people do such great work with their hobbies? They can be more productive, and do higher quality work, when they work for “free” than when they receive a paycheck. Why is that? I don’t think it has anything to do with the paycheck, or lack thereof.
I have recently fallen in love with a few podcasts. I mostly listen to them on my commute to and from work. I thought I’d quickly share these podcasts here, just in case you’re looking for something new to add to your listening library.
Pat interviews entrepreneurs who establish (mostly online) businesses that continue to benefit them long after their own heavy lifting ends. The interviews focus on actionable items, specifically instructions for reproducing the path of the entrepreneur being interviewed. While your own success may very, knowing the path that led to attractive outcomes can be very helpful. The episodes I have listened to are 45 to 90 minutes long.
The interviews here are nominally 30 minutes long, and they follow a consistent list of scripted questions. You know what you’ll get from each episode. The entrepreneur guests do a good job of sharing personal aspects of their stories, particularly failures that shaped and focused them. The whole engagement is more scripted and contained than other podcasts, but the predictability of the format can be a blessing.
Jeff writes a lot about writing and publishing. He offers guidance and inspiration to creative people. The podcast episodes I have listened to are often conversations between him and Andy Traub, the official host of the podcast. They discuss motivation, productivity, habits, content recommendations, etc. It can go in a bunch of different directions. The episodes seem to be in the 20 to 40 minute range, based on my own experience.
We need great ideas. Our progress depends on it. We see more progress with each passing generation because more people speak up. More people participate. And now, more than ever, we need you. Yes, you.
Our standards for contributions are too high
I believe that when we, generally, think of progress, or evolution, or innovation, we set the bar so high that we assume we, specifically, can’t contribute. I can’t invent the light bulb. I can’t introduce humanity to motorized vehicles. I can’t revolutionize telephones with computational capabilities and touchscreen interfaces. I’m not a visionary.
Vanishingly few people are visionaries. If we waited for the visionaries to do all the heavy lifting for us, we wouldn’t go very far. Rather than rely on a singular genius to solve our problems, why don’t we solve the world’s most interesting problems horizontally?
Card we received from The Big Backyard in Denver. Photos are of our dog Lincoln.
Caring about your customers is a pillar of modern business. Well, at least trying to care about your customers is a pillar. Some businesses pull it off better than others.
I had my most recent exposure to customer care just this morning, as I dropped our dog (Lincoln) off for his last day care session in Denver. My family and I are moving back to Houston in the very near future. We wanted Lincoln to have one more play session with all of his buddies at The Big Backyard before we left.
While we were in Denver, basically over the past twelve months, we used The Big Backyard about once a week, so Lincoln could burn off some energy. He’s an energetic little dog. Play time is essential for his, and our, sanity.
When I dropped Lincoln off this morning, one of the staff handed me a card the owners made for us. The picture at the beginning of this post shows that card. They took two pictures of Lincoln and pasted them into the card, along with a touching hand-written note, thanking us and wishing us well on our upcoming move. It made our day.
Who is my audience? I’ve pondered this question on and off over the past week or so, since I started this blog. I don’t have a compelling answer yet. The best I can come up with at the moment is readers of LinkedIn Pulse and Harvard Business Review.
If that’s the case, then I suppose I differentiate myself in one key way: accessibility. I’m not a famous CEO nor a well-known business school professor. I’m just a guy with a career who happens to think and talk a lot about topics like innovation, strategy, leadership, career development, and analytics. I’ve participated in a leadership development program and have spent a lot of time presenting to and sharing ideas with respected leaders in our business. Those kinds of interactions light a fire inside me that I like to share here on the blog.
The forty hour work week is ubiquitous. It’s super easy to measure productivity by how many hours you, or your direct reports, were in the office. And it’s also super lazy. Don’t do it.
The status quo
In the corporate environment, the expectation is the vast majority of employees will show up around 8am and leave around 5pm, give or take, depending on which company or industry we’re talking about. The prevailing belief is that if I was in the office for forty hours, and I got some useful stuff done while I was there, I met my obligations that week. That may or may not be true.
Measuring productivity by hours “worked” misses the point entirely. Yes, you would like your employees to nominally spend forty productive hours each week across their set of responsibilities. But the hour count isn’t what’s important. What’s important is the contribution, the value that was delivered back to the company.
What are you trying to learn about your business? What question is lingering in your head? What data set is sitting there, begging you to use it to increase your sales, or optimize your product portfolio, or identify your preferred customers?
All businesses inspire these kinds of questions. And we live in an age where using data to find answers is sexy. How do we extract the most value from these seemingly ubiquitous, under-utilized data sets?
The first step is to have the primary question in mind. Think of something like the following: “If I were to sell one instance of a new product or service, which existing customer would be most likely to buy it?” You might have existing sales data and maybe some general purpose marketing data to help you answer this kind of question.
I have contributions to make. This site is where I would like to make them. I have been inspired by countless thinkers who had the courage to share their contributions publicly. I want, and need, to respond. This site is a great place to do it.
I have published about one post on LinkedIn per week since last October. The “likes” and comments have been incredibly flattering and inspiring. I am building this site to engage with an even larger, possibly more diverse audience. I am excited about the possibilities.
What contributions are you excited to make next? Always feel free to leave a comment on any of my posts. One of my primary intentions for this site is to be a forum in which I can interact with, and learn from, interesting folks. I’m all ears.
How do you replace Warren Buffett, one of the most iconic businessmen in American history? And what does the word “replace” even mean in this context? Stephen Foley at CNBC covered some of this ground in an article published yesterday.
To be clear, Mr. Buffett has no intention of going anywhere. He’s about to publish his annual letter to shareholders, and this one is special: it’s the 50th year since he took a controlling stake in Berkshire Hathaway. But given his age (84), speculation mounts regarding what will happen to Berkshire when Mr. Buffett is no longer in charge.
The conversation around the evolution of Berkshire Hathaway is particularly interesting today, when activist investors push aggressively for large companies to spin off divisions that might be more attractive investments on their own. Berkshire Hathaway is in many senses the perfect target of activist investors. It holds a candy business (See’s Candies), an insurance business (GEICO), and a private jet time share business (NetJets), among many others. What do those businesses have in common? What “synergies” exist in that portfolio?