Posts tagged: entrepreneurs

Life and Death as a Frog

On our rainforest block we have many litoria infrafrenata frogs.  Boy are they loud during the monsoon!

When we think about survival of the fittest, we may not get inspiration from frogs. I’m hoping to change that.

When I mow the lawn, creatures run when they hear the lawn mower coming.  Rabbits, butterflies, large bugs; the vibration and noise from the mower send them scurrying. But I notice that the frogs are not that swift.

I don’t see them in the tall grass but, in theory, they ought to see, hear and feel the mower. And yet, I have run over two frogs in the past two weeks. No matter how careful I am; these frogs do not seem to get the message. In fairness, frogs have limited brain power/access to resources but we don’t. We have access to lots of resources. Do we pay attention?

The frog dilemma got me thinking about times in my life when I saw the warning signs, felt the warning signs and HEARD the warning signs and yet, I still didn’t scurry (read: change my behavior). Instead I carried on about how unfair it was, how upset I was, why did things have to change, etc.

Some of this is a completely normal part of loss and grieving. (see Kubler-Ross 5 stages of grief) Things are changing at home, at work, my kids are growing up, my company is downsizing, I’m getting older and so we need time to process these changes and adapt. I’m not talking about this.

I’m talking about the little frog or me, when I hear the roar of the mower engine, I smell the cut grass, I feel the earth shake as the mower passes by and I still don’t do anything. I am stuck.

Truth is, that mower has run me over a few times. I could have gotten out of the way, but I didn’t. When was the last time you heard the mower coming and didn’t ‘get out of the way?” I know it’s hard. We all procrastinate. Maybe this time, I’ll scurry a little, then rest, then scurry a little more and hope I avoid the blades.

Photo credit: White Lipped Green Tree Frog   maggie p 

I Hate Being A GrownUp

One of the good things about about being a grown up is that you get to choose when you act/think like a kid. The problem is that many of us never choose that path, even for a few minutes. Once we’re grown up, we think it’s wrong to be silly or color outside the lines. This is a shame.

The older we get the more invested we are in ‘the same'; what Seth Godin calls lizard brain. Our prehistoric need to stay in the cave, “to back off, be careful, go slow, compromise.”

The idea is to live our lives according to what we (and our loved ones) need at the time.  This doesn’t mean I have to work at this job or this career forever. Just right now.

People forget this. They also forget that they can change their minds. I am not recommending arbitrarily job hopping. But trying several different paths to build skills and ‘try things on’ is a legitimate path – AT ANY AGE.

The problem is the judgement of other people, specifically our fear of it. When I requested and got approval (in 1984) to manage my team while working part time, many of my colleagues were upset. Here’s what they said; “why does she get to?” “she can’t be serious about your career” and my favorite “I wish I could do that.” Blah, blah, blah. I showed them how to do it, they were too afraid. That’s cool. You do it your way and I’ll do it mine.

But if you think you can go your own way and not face judgement from others, stop. it. right. now. Accept the fact that for whatever human reason, the pack doesn’t like lone wolves. If you choose a path that isn’t like everyone else’s, people are going to be upset and many will let you know.

Insofar as you can (and still pay your bills) stop thinking/worrying about what everyone else wants/thinks. You will NEVER please everyone so you might as well please yourself.  For me, this was a tough lesson, but once I learned it… I was free forever.

It’s hell in the hallway but the difficulty doesn’t last forever. But when you’re in the hallway… it sure feels like it will.

Want a laugh? check out my daughter Jenna’s take on ‘grownuphood” (alert: fbombs & other foul language included)

Photo credit: Why Do We Work?

 

Creating Work You Love (Sounds Scary or Ridiculous)

http://static.planetminecraft.com/files/resource_media/screenshot/1335/hey-you-can-do-it_6287803_lrg.jpg

Why am I an entrepreneur? “We’ve made the decision to let you go,” my boss said over the telephone.  I was shocked and upset.That was, the first time.

The second time I was let go, not so much. By the third time I said to myself, “Never again.” I am not going to put myself in a position where how I earn my living is dictated by someone else’s priorities.

I learned to work hard when I was young and frankly, since I’m a Baby Boomer, being a workaholic is normal and I always wanted my own business. I remember more than one person saying to me, you can’t start a company (you girl, you), what could you possibly do? As angry as I was at them, I used the anger to motivate me.

Assessing the possibilities I had a bunch of skills, foreign languages, marketing, healthcare, blah, blah, blah. They didn’t really fit together into a solid plan for earning a living being an entrepreneur. So I devised a three pronged strategy for creating income.

1) Teaching

2) Speaking and workshops

3) Consulting

Getting started I met with a lot of people and talked about my idea. Some nodded, “Hmmmm, I could see them thinking, she’ll never make this work.”  Some tried to discourage me, “Get a job,” and a few encouraged me, “You can do it!”

I can report that 5 years in, I am doing better than I ever hoped. It isn’t what I expected and that’s not only good, it’s fun.

You can do it too.  So if you are wondering where your next job is going to come from… I will ask you this; what will it take for you to say, “Enough. I’m gonna try something different?  I can guarantee you will learn more in 1 year on your own path than you will in 5 years working for someone else. If, at any point,  you decide to go work for someone else, you’ll be even more valuable to that employer. You will be a better problem solver, see the big picture and actually empathize more with your boss in a different way.

But I can’t…. I have responsibilities   The first time I co-founded a start up I was the single mother of 2 kids, 14 and 12 with no family to help me. That start up only lasted 2 years, thanks to 9/11, but I learned so much and my actions showed my children how to go for what they want and to not be afraid.

Just Do It. Join millions of others who are finding a way to create meaningful, interesting work.

Photo credit: You Can Do It

What I Learned from My Dog: Part 2

Untitled  How do dogs spend their days?

– Eating, sleeping, sniffing, barking, chasing

We human beings can learn a few things from them. The eating and sleeping part we all get. But what about:

– Sniffing – this is the equivalent of learning, but hands on learning, not the… oh I went to college kind. The kind where you have to get right in there and possibly not be ‘perfect.’ This is where the real learning happens.

– Barking – this is the communicating part of the day. We all communicate in various ways, we whimper, we brag, we talk etc. But dogs don’t gossip, they don’t shame each other, (okay they may bully a bit but they do it for a survival reason.)

-Chasing – My dog watches the squirrels, chipmunks and birds out the window. She was bred to dig varmints out of holes so she’s happy to let the critters be. But occasionally she finds something so compelling, she just has to chase it. Can you relate? I can.

One last thing. When the wind blows, instead of turning away, she puts her face right into it. The harder it blows, the longer she stands facing it. This inspires me: when the wind is blowing in my face, I work to stand firm, sniff and see what I can learn.

Job Interview Question: Why Are Tennis Balls Fuzzy?

I recently gave a talk in front of a group of senior executives (older folk) who are ‘in the hallway’ (looking for work). I was talking about the collaborative economy and I made a reference to Porter’s 5 forces model. Now, you may never have heard of this, no big deal. But for a group of people over 50 who made over $100,000 in their last corporate job; it surprised the heck out me that only one them had heard of it but couldn’t accurately describe it.

Let’s be clear, on any given day… there are 1,000’s of things I don’t know and this has nothing to do with Porter’s paradigm specifically. My comment to them was, “good thing this isn’t a job interview.”

I work as a consultant so I go on a ‘job interview’ several times a month. As I’m networking, I never know who is going to be a connection to a gig.

Fuzzy Tennis Balls? This article, “13 Weirdest Interview Questions – 2014” offers us some of the oddest questions people were asked (submitted via Glassdoor). If you got this question in an interview, how would you answer? Maybe you’re thinking to yourself, thank goodness I’m not looking for a job or I’m going to pray that I don’t get a question like that. That’s one approach.

How about this? What if you use these odd questions as a chance to stretch your mind? Just for exercise. Talk to someone about it over lunch. Ask your kids what they think. Have fun for crying out loud.

For those of you who are looking for work, old or young, remember the goal of these questions is for the interviewer to see how you think, how quick you are on your feet, what happens to you when faced with a (small) challenge. Do you stumble and stutter or do you let your creative juices flow? Creativity requires practice so I suggest you play games, answer silly questions, get out those crayons; maybe you’ll get that job after all.

Photo credit: Tennis Kevinzim

A Dog Never Tells What She Knows…

A dog can never tell you what she knows from the smells of the world, but you know, watching her, that you know almost nothing. Mary Oliver

This is my dog Gildie. She is the first dog I have ever had.

What is there to learn from your first dog? Wow. Everything. She is so excited to wake up every day and play. I need this.

She is motivated by food and people and toys. She is completely engaged in life except when she’s asleep and then she’s completely engaged in that.

I got a dog so I would have to go for a walk everyday. Rain or snow, whatever the weather, I needed a reason to get up and walk. Since she has the energy of 2 toddlers, I am compelled to play, walk, laugh and be completely engaged with her.

The quote above about how a dog perceives the world — through her nose– was brought home to me on one of those walks. She trusts her nose more than her eyes and it got me thinking. Which of my senses do I trust the most?

I am certain my eyes deceive me. Happily, I learned to trust my gut. Take all the information and sift it through the sensor that is my years of experience.What do you rely on? What you see, what you hear, what you believe? Do you jump to conclusions about people?

Understand how you learn and make decisions and you’ll be more effective in everything you do. How free are you with your opinions? Do you offer to give everyone the benefit of your wisdom? Or do you use your experience to let others find their own path? Use all the information given to you to help you be a better friend, co-worker, partner and parent. We’ll all benefit.

What Can You ‘Give’ Your Children?

:)

I have two children; they are wonderful people. There are times when I wonder what I gave them. Oh, I think I was a good mother. I’m not questioning whether I gave them a good education or a nice home, but I wonder –  what did I pass on to them that they only could have received from me?

I love this quote from Thomas Edison. Whether you call it passion or enthusiasm – it is the “estate of incalculable value.” How does a parent pass this along?

There is really only one way. That is by example. What you do. Your behavior. How you spend your time. How you treat people. How you learn new things. How you accept the good and bad. Your precious time – how do you spend it? How do you act when you think no one is looking.

Are you excited to be alive? Are you grateful? Do you complain everyday about the weather, your boss, why you don’t have this and that?

Or do you focus on the beauty? the joy? the positive? the kind? Do you greet each day with an energy that says, “life is an adventure.”

Bring passion and energy to your children today and everyday. They might just thank you.

Image credit: Thomas Edison and GE That’s Genius Pinterest Board

No Boss, No Office and My Peers Decide My Pay… What?

“Imagine a company where everyone is equal and managers don’t exist. A place where employees sit where they want, choose what to work on and decide each other’s pay. Then, once a year, everyone goes on holiday together.”

There is such a company, it’s called Valve.

For those of you who think this is: stupid, could never work, is just an experiment and could only work in a handful of cases, perhaps you are correct. I’m not here to argue with you. The point of this post is to challenge our ideas of what is ‘necessary’ in the work environment.

You can read the Valve Employee Handbook here. It is titled: “A fearless adventure in knowing what to do when there’s no one telling you what to do.”

If you are in any kind of leadership role in ANY organization… I encourage you to browse their handbook.

… if you are a 10 year old company that has worked hard “to recruit the most intelligent, innovative, talented people on Earth, telling, them to sit at a desk and do what they’re told obliterates 99 percent of their value.”

The handbook goes on to outline what to expect and how a new employee can find their way through this new way of working.

Check this out: “While people occasionally choose to push themselves to work some extra hours, at times when something big is going out the door, for the most part working overtime for extended periods indicates a fundamental failure in planning or communication. If this happens at Valve, it’s a sign that something needs to be reevaluated and corrected.” And then they give you guidance as to how to get help to resolve the problem.

Would you like to work here? If not, why not? If yes, why?
Most importantly, what about the Valve culture can you adopt at your organization to make it more effective?

Image Credit: Banksy

Living for Today… and Tomorrow

A year from now (General Electric poster)

My aha career moments… here are two.

1) I had been working in corporate America (a Fortune 25 company) when I got pregnant with my first child. I realized that if I was going to create the ‘life’ I wanted, I was going to have to figure out how to work part time. There were no ‘part-time’ ‘professional (non-exempt) women working as managers at the company at that time. I made my pitch to my boss… I’ll continue to manage the group, get my work done and you can pay me less (I’ll work 30 hours a week). In return, I’ll manage my own schedule. He didn’t want to say yes but I made him an offer he couldn’t refuse. (Well he could have but he had a daughter my age..etc.) My aha moment was not getting the green light to test this new idea, which I did… the aha moment was the incredible push-back I got from my colleagues; particularly women.

Take-away: Be clear about your priorities and don’t let anyone stand in your way. I decided that the push-back came from inside these people. They were jealous that I was ‘brave’ enough to do something so radical (haha, radical).

2) Jumping off a cliff – When I left that same large corporation during a down-sizing (I was made an offer.. go back to full time or leave the company) — I decided to leave and start a company. I was the single mother of 2 school-aged children. People thought I was crazy. What they didn’t know was that I was carefully plotting my career to be an entrepreneur. Every assignment I took inside the corporation was designed to teach me a skill I would be able to use in my future entrepreneurial adventure. So I jumped off the cliff and started a company. It worked for about 2 years and then 9/11 happened and all our customer’s funding dried up.

Take-away: If you wait until everything is perfect, until you know what you’re going to do, until you’re certain… you’ll never jump. Some people are born to jump, some people aren’t. Don’t waste your time wishing you were one or the other. Know yourself and take the risks that make your life meaningful.

Live for today… the sun is shining, you can walk, talk, eat, smell, smile, see — but pay attention to your tomorrow. Don’t listen to others when they tell you — you can’t and leap when the leaping feels right. I sleep well at night and look in the mirror with a quiet confidence. I can always improve myself. But I can happily say; I didn’t let fear get interfere with doing it my way.

Image credit – GE Pinterest Board -That’s Genius – Thomas Edison

It’s a Defined Contribution World – Are You Ready?

You can’t learn to surf without getting in the water. You can’t learn to participate in the new world of career and reputation management, if you don’t dive in and try stuff. No matter how much you think you can’t, shouldn’t, won’t, don’t need to etc. — you do need to.

In the old work world, our benefits were defined: pensions, vacation, job descriptions, duties. In the new work world, it’s all about your contribution. No one is going to look out for you; you need to look out for yourself.

For small business people; everyday is still a hustle. The complicating factors are the speed and complexity of change. If we want to survive, however, we will adapt. But for those of us who worked in “Corporate America”, big salaries, big egos, big benefits… the world is almost completely different than it was 10 years ago.

I got hired into Eastman Kodak in 1980. At the time, there was no place in Rochester, NY that I could work where I could make anywhere near the money.  In a company town, once you into a place like Kodak… you stayed.. whether you contributed or not. If you played the game well.. you got ahead. If not, you just languished but… you kept receiving the benefits of an employer who dominated the market and had ridiculously large margins.

One of my favorite writers, Thomas Friedman, explains this whirlwind transition in plain English in his article, It’s a 401(k) World. If you’re under 30… you may want to read it to put the older generation’s dilemma in perspective. If you over 30, read it and then act. Figure out what to do. If your head is spinning, it should be. Hang in there, we’re all in this together.

Photo credit: Father and son surf lesson mikebaird