I no longer live in an area rife with pine trees, but I spent the bigger part of my youth amidst them. For me, there’s nothing like a nice stand of pine trees with needles covering the ground. It’s a natural insolation from the world. The smell. The feel. The serenity.
Sadly, my adulthood solitude hasn’t included pine trees. Mostly, it happens in random places sought out at the spur of a moment. It often happens inside a car. Today’s show was recorded in a car. Parked in a parking lot with windows lowered about 1/4 of the way. The sounds of nearby traffic and a clear blue sky over head.
Sometimes we need to find a place with a lower noise floor so we can think more clearly. Introspection demands a focus we don’t often get in today’s constantly plugged-in environment.
People regularly eat with a fork in one hand and their iPhone in the other. They don’t talk to the people two feet from them, often preferring to interact with people miles away who mean much less to them. Important conversations give way to Words-With-Friends, which is an ironic name implying that valuable words are exchanged with friends. Racket replaces relationships even though relationship building gets tons of lip service. Increasingly, it means connecting with people who can help promote us, or make us look bigger, more successful or more popular.
A moment arrives, perhaps out of the blue, and suddenly the urge hits us. We need an instant change of scenery. We need a quiet place to be alone. Away from the ordinary distractions. Including the Internet. And cell phones.
Alone. With just our thoughts. And perhaps our beliefs and convictions.
To ponder. To wonder. To let our minds help us find solutions or options.
Breaking Bad concluded last night. I was captivated initially by the quality of the writing on the show. Throughout the series I’ve read many interviews with the writers. The writing room for that show fascinates me. Six or seven people in a room in Burbank crafting this remarkable story — clearly able to do some things together that none of them would be able to do alone!
When I was young President Kennedy had thrown down the gauntlet to put a man on the moon before the end of the 60’s. NASA accomplished that goal on July 20, 1969 with Apollo 11. Many of those young NASA engineers reported that it was the best work of their lives.
Both Breaking Bad and Apollo missions are a hard act to follow. People commonly report how badly they miss the collaboration. People miss working along side others toward a common goal. Working alone just isn’t the same.
Sometime in the late 1990’s while browsing through a bookstore I noticed a brightly colored book entitled, Working Solo: The Real Guide to Freedom & Financial Success with Your Own Business by Terri Lonier. Prior to that I don’t recall hearing anything about working solo. The term “solopreneur” wouldn’t arrive on the scene until much later.
Then, around 2001 another book caught my eye. Free Agent Nation: How America’s New Independent Workers Are Transforming the Way We Live by Dan Pink gave new meaning, at least to me, to the term “freelancing.”
I was a chief executive at the time, responsible for many people and assets. I was never working alone. Honestly, at that point, the thought never crossed my mind. But these two books prodded the gerbils to start running inside their wheels.
It began like most things – a daydream. A fantasy. A “wouldn’t that be nice?” kind of a thought.
Today’s show consists of my observations about working alone vs. working in collaboration with others.
Grinding it out. That’s the stuff of success, but it’s not fun or glamorous.
It’s arduous. Lonely. Difficult.
In today’s show I want to talk with you about doing what’s next to take you closer toward the success you’re chasing. It may be that you don’t know what to do, but more often than not – I find people do know what to do next. They simply don’t want to do it. Because it’s hard.
We want the performance. We don’t want the practice.
But without the practice – the hard work of preparation – we never will get to perform. Or our performance will fail.
I hope you’ll embrace the good feeling and sense of accomplishment that comes with grinding it out by doing what’s next!
Each of them have their merits, and proponents – as well as critics.
You’re always looking for an edge. Some insight. That’s what Maslow put at the top of his pyramid.
According to him, you’ve got to make sure you’ve got those four other things underneath your feet first.
Watch any survival reality show and the evidence is clear. They always go after the first two blocks of the pyramid. The basic essentials have to be in place before you can think about anything else.
No food. No safe place to sleep. Nothing else matters!
The guy talks about all his credit card debt. It’s approaching $10,000. He’s battling to find enough cash flow to buy food. Forget the house. It’s gone. The car? His mom gave him hers.
He’s got dreams of making it big. There’s a SasS (software as a service) business in his head that he knows can earn millions. Maybe. Maybe not.
So far, he’s got a bunch of notes, some drawings, a mindmap or two and seemingly, a lot of misplaced optimism.
Guys like him are all around. You see them on the Internet posting comments, clapping every time their favorite guru says something remotely intelligent. They’re the people in the stands who buy the tickets, enroll in the courses, cram themselves into conference rooms and look wide-eyed at the Internet celebrities who have “made it.”
It’s their credit card debt that may helping some marketers generate 5-figure monthly revenues.
As for our future Saas entrepreneur, he’s among the ranks of many I’ve seen in the past ten years. I watch with heightened curiosity, hoping he figures it out soon. I’m not optimistic though. Not because I’m a pessimist, but because I’ve seen this movie before. It just hardly ever ends well. It’s not a comedy. It’s a tragedy.
Lately, I’m not in much mood for tragedies.
He says he doesn’t want to work for anybody ever again. Nobody gets rich, nobody is successful if they work for the man. Or WOman.
He believes it. Evidence? He’s always worked for the man and he’s poor as Job’s turkey.
Today’s show is about two (just 2) big ideas. They’re not complicated, but they are profound. They may be just what you need, too – because there just aren’t very many of us who don’t need them.
Competition is a dirty word among a large number of younger entrepreneurs. Admittedly, I don’t get it. But I’m no longer a young entrepreneur. Besides that, I grew up in retailing where it was dog eat dog.
When I was about 27 I was courted by a large retailer out of the west coast. During an interview at DFW International Airport I was asked about how I viewed merchandising. In particular, I was asked how I felt about retail pricing. Not knowing exactly what the CEO meant, I paused and listened. Without allowing time for a response, and realizing that his question was clear as mud, he said, “We want our competition to open the paper and choke on their coffee at how low our prices are.”
Even though I had over a decade of retailing expertise by this point, I had a keen awareness of how to be profitable in retailing. I knew if you were not the low cost leader, with all the associated scope and scale kind of advantages (think Wal-Mart), then it was a losing game. By the way, without answering his question, I politely informed him that I wasn’t likely the guy he was looking for. After a nice visit we boarded our respective planes and went our separate ways. Within a few years his company filed bankruptcy.
There are winners and losers in every area of endeavor. We see it most vividly in sports because there are televised games that have a beginning, an end and a scoreboard. We know who won. We know who lost. Some games come down to the wire. Others appear to be over early on.
Championships, on the other hand, are usually determined over a prolonged series of competitions. Wal-Mart began in a little Arkansas town, Rogers, back in 1962. By 1980 they had reached the billion dollar mark, the fastest any company had reached that milestone. In 1983 the first Sam’s Club was built in Midwest City, OK and in 1988 the first Wal-Mart SuperCenter opened combining general merchandise with a full-blown grocery store. In 1990 Wal-Mart was the champion, the number one retailer! It took them 28 years and during that time they bested various competitors. Today, they’re still battling hard against discount chains and grocery chains. In retailing, champions don’t last forever. Study a company you’ve never heard of called Korvettes.
Champions need competition. Good competition. If the competition is weak, the championship is considered weak.
Already I’ve heard some in tennis talking about the men’s and women’s Wimbledon champions. Many big name players were eliminated early on. A few commentators have noted that the current champions had a path to the championship that may be unlikely in the future. I don’t know about that because I’m not a tennis expert, but I understand the concept. If the field is weak, the champion doesn’t stand out quite as much.
Fact is, champions need the field. If there is no field – no competition – then there can be no champion.
Of or being a situation in which the outcome benefits each of two often opposing groups
Guaranteeing a favourable outcome for everyone involved
I have no idea who first came up with the “win-win” phrase, but it was likely a politician or a savvy negotiator. Whoever it is, I wouldn’t trust them as far as I could throw them. They’ve likely set the world record for duping people.
It’s a pleasant thought. Nobody loses. Everybody wins.
It’s a lie.
No, it’s not impossible for everybody to come out ahead in a single scenario, but we can’t all be champions. A few weeks ago the Dallas Stars Hockey Club facillitated a trade with the Boston Bruins. Both teams traded away skilled players in order to get from the other, different skilled players. Most hockey experts felt each team did well and improved their roster. However, many feel Dallas may end up with the better of it IF the main player involved, Tyler Seguin, pans out. He’s only 21 and has a reputation as party animal. Minor details, right?
The point is, even in a situation like this, where people feel it may have been a win-win, most believe one team got the better end of the deal. True win-win scenarios seem quite impossible.
Not everybody can reside in first place. That podium only has room for one team, one company, one person. Only one champion.
Life Is Not Fair Or Equal
I’m guessing it may have been about the same time, but I can’t be sure. Somewhere along the way the collective idiocy began to concentrate on Little Johnny. You know, Little Johnny, needs to feel better about himself. We need to boost Little Johnny’s self-esteem. It’s really not right for him to play soccer (or any other sport, or any other endeavor whatsoever) and not get rewarded for it. After all, life rewards us all for just existing, right?
We need to teach Little Johnny that he can feel good even if he did finish last. Or make the worst grade. Or fail to learn. Or disobey his parents. Or break the law. Or lie, cheat and steal.
“Oh, Little Johnny, here’s your trophy. You did so good.” Parents line up lying like Rocky and Rosie on the floor of The Yellow Studio. Johnny got soundly whipped. In fact, he didn’t even make a very good showing, but we lavish him with praise because we need to teach him that in the real world, everybody wins!
The problem is, Johnny is going to grow up, get slammed in the face with reality, then wonder why the adults in his life lied to him. And he’ll hate them for it, too if he’s got an ounce of self-respect.
Here’s the deal.
If everybody wins, does anybody really win?
No. If everybody wins, then there is no winner. Everybody can be a loser though, and there we go. That’s the point of it all, don’t you see. To elevate losing to the status of winning so everybody can feel better about themselves.
I encountered some new Discovery Channel show called Street Outlaws. It’s about illegal street racing (is there any other kind, really?) in Oklahoma City. There’s a top 10 list. There’s a race master who keeps track and coordinates it all, including handling securing a place where they can conduct business. Guys on the list can “call out” the guy ahead of them and the race master will schedule the head to head challenge. These guys are serious street racers investing thousands of dollars into their vehicles.
In one episode the #2 guy calls out the #1 guy. Seems the #1 guy has been the top dog for about 3 years. Mr. #2 has worked for a long time to prepare to knock off the champ.
The first scheduled race can’t happen because the champ has a mechanical problem with the car. According to the rules these guys live by, #2 guy can assume the top spot, but he confronts the champ and tells him, “I don’t want it like that. I want to beat you.” What a guy. But I admired him for it. He’s an idiot for street racing, but he’s got principles. Oh, he’s got a wife and teenage daughters, too.
Well, the second scheduled race can’t happen. Tire problem for the champ. Again, #2 has the chance to snag the top spot without even firing up his car. He refuses.
Is this making sense to you now?
Mr. #2 knew that being the champion was worthless unless he beat Mr. #1. What good is the championship if somebody gives it to you, or if you get it without really earning it? It’s not and he knew that. At some point he expressed his desire to be the best by defeating the best. There it is.
If the top dog beats the #10 guy, farmtruck – big deal. He’s #10, you should beat him. But that’s not how champions are made.
So #2 finally races #1. And #2 won, ending the 3-year reign of the existing champ. After the race he said, “I’m gonna enjoy this for as long as I’ve got it.” He also indicated he’s going to work like crazy to keep it. That’s what competition is all about.
He could have had the championship two weeks earlier, but it would come by forfeiture, not by beating the existing champ. That’s no way to win.
It’s about as unsatisfying as getting a trophy simply because you showed up.
But before you go throwing rocks at me because you ignorantly think my philosophy is win at all costs — hang on! The field matters. The champion on Street Outlaws, or your rec softball league, or your bowling league, or anything else is determined by the strength of the competition. The competition matters!
Without all the guys under the champion, the Street Outlaw champion has nothing to brag about. If he’s fast as a blue blaze, but the other guys are all wannabe Speed Racers, what good is his championship?
We want the strongest field possible to compete against.