Tag Archives: failure

The Ultimate Life Lesson…

Lips blue and hands shaking beyond human control, Carl Brashear struggled to find the next step up the side of the metal ladder to the wooden pier.  As he made it to the top of the landing, he staggered to a wooden bench to sit down.  His legs were no longer strong enough to hold him beneath the weight of a 200 pound brass diving suit.  No one had survived this long.  No one yet.

For the past 9 hours, he had searched the floor of the ocean for the couplings, brackets, and screws he needed to complete his task.  Against supernatural odds and direct opposition from the world around him, he had found deep within himself the power to continue.  Years later when asked why he fought so hard, he simple stated: “I ain’t going to let nobody steal my dream”

In 2000, Cuba Gooding Jr. starred in the telling of Carl’s story.  It ranks right up there with Rudy as one of the most inspirational movies of all time, Men of Honor

Which got me thinking about a personal quality that is often overlooked by those who want to be high performers — honor….

Honor can be a confusing concept.  I think of it less as a “knight and fair maiden fairytale” and more of the quite resolve that guides what we do.  It’s our own code of conduct.  The rules we set for ourself and how we do business…

Changing the world demands a code.  Without it you get lost in the noise of the critics and lose out to the temptations to chose shortcuts and the easy way out.

Here’s the harsh reality of our lives:

Most of us will quit too early…  Give up too soon!

We let our critics wear us down to the point that we convince ourselves that changing the world is no longer important.  We get tired of the friction of being different and acting different and decide that maybe the cause isn’t that important.  We start taking failure too personally and start living petty lives derailing others.

We let others steal our dreams and our souls.

And here’s another harsh reality:

It’s our fault we lost our way… We let this happen.

We gave in to the pressure.  We stopped fighting when things for too tough.  We traded acceptance for belief.

And now we need to change it.  We can recharge our honor system; invest back into our code.

So let’s do that….

(It starts with patience…)

Soren Kierkegaard, a danish philosopher said it best: “Patience is necessary… you cannot reap immediately where you have sown.”

You can’t build your honor system overnight.  You can’t.  There is something about living by a code that requires you getting a thorough beating.  An untested code is nothing.  You have to be tested (and many times over).

But the good things about honor is that you alone are the master of your destiny.  You control your responses to those around you — the critics, the fans, the rest of the world.

SO:

  1. Be honorable to you You are all you have in the world and as soon as you lose your sense of “you”, it all stops making sense pretty quickly.  Don’t lie to yourself.  If you put in 40% effort and failed then admit it and put in more effort next time.  If you try to convince yourself that 40% was really 100%, then you just trimmed your peak performance in a huge way.  The effects get worse and worse and eventually you will find yourself sweating just to contribute 10% of your old self.  Decide to be unapologetically honest with yourself and you will find that even when you screw up, you perform at consistently higher levels than you did in the past.
  2. Be honorable to your dream It’s hard to stand up when you keep getting pushed back down.  But the dream (your dream) is the most powerful force you know.  People live and people die.  Bad things happen and good luck too.  You can’t always control your immediate circumstances.  But you can always control your attitude.  That’s important.  Bad things can turn right around into amazingly good things almost overnight.  It’s hard but you have to remember your dream.  You can’t lose that part of you when it looks like the world is fighting against you
  3. Be honorable to your core values Don’t do bad things to other people.  I don’t know how to say it any other way.  It’s amazing how karma comes around at the worst possible time to take it’s “pound of flesh”.  If you make it a habit to take advantage of other people, you can expect that you will get your ass kicked eventually.  Let’s hope it’s not at the time when you are taking down the biggest sale of your life.  Earn karma points by giving help to others without asking for anything.  Just do it to be a delight.  When you do take an uppercut, you’ll find yourself surrounded by people wanting to help.
  4. Be honorable to your peers Admit when you make a mistake and apologize.  Nothing tests your code like having to admit that you were a idiot.  It happens.  What doesn’t happen a lot of the time is us letting go of our egos.  And that sucks.  You can’t be better — operate consistently as a high-performer, when you don’t take responsibility for your actions (even unintended outcomes)…  Own up.  Move on.  Don’t hold out on apologizing because you think your peers haven’t noticed that you screwed up.  Guess what?  Now, they not only think you’re an idiot but an as$%hole at the same time.
  5. Be honorable to your critics It’s OK to go down after you take an upper cut.  Let’s face it — you weren’t expecting it in the first place.  Right?  You thought everyone wanted to play nice and instead you find yourself flat on your back trying to clear your head so you can get back in the fight.  Take your time standing up (take the full 10 seconds), but when you get back up, don’t throw low blows.  Critics operate under one basic premise — trying to convince the rest of the world that everything you do is motivated by the “mania of an ax murderer” (or something close to that).  Nothing you do will be right.  So just know that and move on.  Don’t let it affect your code.  And whatever you do, don’t really do something legitimately spiteful on purpose.  That just feeds the addiction your critics already have.

Friends come and go and circumstance change every few seconds but you have to live with yourself longer than anyone.  Be cool with yourself.  Live with honor.  Sell without limits…

My roots in understanding the concept of honor came from my dad, who just turned 61 on Monday.  Everyone who knows him knows what I am talking about.  He set a high standard…

I remember one snow day where all of us kids had the day off because the schools were closed.  Pebbled ice covered the road about 2 inches with another 6-7 inches of powder snow on top of that.  I expected my dad to be home with us as most of the federal offices were on leave because of the weather.  Instead, he took 5 hours to make the drive into the office at the NSA.  I don’t really know what needed to get done that day, but my dad make the trek because it was important to him.  It’s the small things that define our code.  It’s the things that we are remembered for in years to come.

Skin in the Game

bruise_first_aidWarren Buffett famously coined the term “skin in the game” in his business insight that you can “guarantee” the success of a company by requiring C-level executives to use their own money to buy stock in the particular company they are running.  Since the company’s interests and the senior leadership’s interests are the same thing, you have maximum inertia in the right direction…

That’s great for running a business, but let’s go another direction.

If you’ve played on an outdoor basketball court at all, then you know what it’s like to leave “skin in the game”.  It can be brutal.  Every dive and fall leaves a scrape, a gash, or a bruise.

The harder you play, the tougher you need to be.

So it is on the court of “changing the world”…

You should assume that you will leave skin in the game if you really believe in something:

  • If you don’t have skeptics… then your idea isn’t big enough…
  • If you don’t have critics…  then you are doing everything wrong…
  • If you don’t have a nemesis…  then you are not changing the status quo

If you have skin in the game, you can expect to be regularly maligned, misunderstood, hated… and most possibly SUCCESSFUL!

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When People Don’t Understand You…

Vision can be lonely

(I have had this article half-written for  more than 13 months but never finalized my thinking about it.  Today I present it to you as a work in progress…)

It is a certainty in life that not everyone will agree with you.  Further, no matter how hard you try, there will always be those that NEVER understand why you do what you do…

Let me tell you how that makes me feel: LONELY! (Frankly, I can also be pretty frustrated…)

You might feel a similar emotion… The feeling of “I should just give up” or “what I’m doing doesn’t matter”…  Sometimes anger or resentment become the flavor of the day in place of creativity and innovation…

All of these are fairly typical responses when peer pressure is applied to our value system…  Bear in mind that we are not discussing opinions or perspectives, we are talking about VALUES — the underlying core of our psychological being…

The fact that others do not understand that part of us can be damaging if not put into perspective…  Ralph Waldo Emerson made his case for sanity by noting that:

“Is it so bad to be misunderstood? Pythagoras was misunderstood, and Socrates, and Jesus, and Luther, and Copernicus, and Galileo, and Newton, and every pure and wise spirit that ever took flesh.”

Seems easy enough in a few lines of quotation…  In practicality, leading anything is very lonely.  I don’t say that to be discouraging.  I say that to make sure you are realistic.  I learned this lesson the hard way

If you are the type of person that needs other people to compliment, reward, and respect you to perform, then you might have a hard time performing  for more than two weeks.

When people don’t understand you, you need to understand yourself — your mission, your reason for leading.  To lead others you must first lead yourself… (DEWism)

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Focus on priorities

What would you be doing if today were the last day for you to be alive?

Would you work harder, take the day off, or just spend the day with regrets?

For the vast majority of us, there will be more days than today, but there won’t be a way to get back the time you spent today NOT focusing on your priorities.

Focus on your priorities for today like tomorrow might never come.  It’s amazing what you can accomplish with the proper perspective…

P.S  Don’t worry about getting it wrong as long as you are willing to keep trying…

Wrong, stupid, and half as bright as you

DanThat’s me by the way (the topic and scary pic)…

Some of my recent blog posts seem to have touched a raw nerve in the business world.  Besides the stupid comments I deleted from this blog about how stupid I am and ego-maniacal (I might actually be that one), I got a whole series of personal attacks (i.e. threats) that made me pause for a moment and reconsider…

And then I thought: WHO CARES!!!!

Can I share a little secret with you?  A huge part of long-term high-performance is understanding who you are….

Seriously.  Let me share my own personal story with you:

Concepts like discipline, hard work, goal mastery, and passion were drilled into me from an early age.  I was raised by Christian parents who were very moral people (still are) who set the bar very high for performance and personal endeavor.  I was trained in the musical arts (piano and trombone) and in public speaking.  I started my first business before I was a teenager.  I had no access to television for 18 years of my life.  In fact our house was not even wired for cable — my dad told the builder to skip it altogether.  During the summers, I had to read books for at least 2 hours per day and during school “season” I was fined if my bed was not made, shoes lined up in the closet, or (God forbid) I left the window open.  Silly or not, I was trained to be efficient and effective.

I also picked up some bad habits.  I worked so hard to be “perfect” that I spent a lot of “Dan PR” time trying to make sure everyone around me was happy with me.  Was I wearing the right thing to go the right place to see and do the right things……..  It became an internal guessing games of “am I doing everything right”.  That trickled over into my college choices, my business habits, and my selling style.  I was out to prove everything to anyone within earshot, eyeshot, or “texting range”.

And then I hit a few rough patches…  And all the critics that I was working so hard to please were no where around to help me.  They were happy to throw their mental “sucker punch” and run.  Everyone I was trying so hard to please was pleased that I was failing.  I was pushed myself to “be better” and they were providing enough criticism to feed my addiction.

It took a great coach, a great wife, therapy, and lot of experience for me to come to grips with me being me.  And guess what?  I am more successful than ever — in every sense, style, and shape of the word…  Lesson learned!

When you try to be who you are not, you waste enormous energy being someone that who is not effective.  I may be wrong.  I may be stupid.  I probably am half as bright as you are.  But I am cool with that.  Being me is pretty surreal…

But I also have a secret that you should know: Long after you give up, sit down, and throw in the towel, I will be achieving excellence because the “me” that was trained to be effective and efficient  is a warrior — and warriors conquer.

Do not apologize for greatness, achieve it.

P.S.  I had the best parents a child could ever ask for.  Thanks Mom and Dad for being rockstars!

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Create A Legacy of Trying

This could also be subtitled something like: NOT “Putting out” Only Works When You are Looking for a Girlfriend (and then sometimes “not-so-much”)… or  The “E” for Effort stands for “Everytime”

And so I give you some musings on “trying” and (2) videos you need to watch…

If you run a search on The DEW View for the idea of effort, you get like 50 or 60 posts on everything from investigating the best of open source technology to how to run a presentation so that people stay awake to how to get back up when you get your ass kicked (all good topics, I hear…).  The reason I am writing another post on the idea of trying is that a lot of entrepreneurs I speak with get the idea of trying all wrong.  They think “trying” is something to do after planning or building or everything else…  TRYING is what you DO while you DO all those OTHER things!

Try Harder Smarter like AVIS

Start-ups have one really differentiating quality — the art of trying harder.  Sure market timing, customer sensitivity, price incentives, management insight, cash flow, and a thousand other micro-factors impact your chance of success.  Sometimes, these factors have a HUGE impact on your success.  But the great equalizer is the effort the entrepreneur (YOU) puts into their own success.

Trying harder, better yet, “trying harder smarter” is the ONLY guarantee that you have.

You can’t change the economic outlook to get better financial terms.  You can’t change international geo-political trade regulations to grow new markets.  You can’t force people to care about you are doing…

YOU CAN ALWAYS TRY HARDER SMARTER!

If you haven’t read The Dip by Seth Godin, you need to go buy it from Amazon.com for the entire $5 that it costs.

Seth Godin Talks about Losers!

I read this some time back and recently did a re-read of all 96 pages.  It’s a 45 minutes pithy read on WHEN you need to quit.  Seth did a brilliant job of talking about this concept called the DIP, where most entreprenuers give up (or “stop trying” in DEW-speak).

I like that Seth puts some science behind the experience that I have been through several times in my life.   I certainly have been in the DIP several times in my career and it’s BRUTAL…. until you power out the bottom of the curve and get  superstar results.  Life is miserable at the bottom until you “figure out if you have enough guts to keep pushing”.

When critics complained to Abraham Lincoln that his leading general was a drunk, Lincoln made the witty response:

“Tell me what brand of whiskey Grant drinks.  I would like to send a barrel of it to my other generals.”

That summed up Lincoln’s analysis of what he wanted from his leadership — not DRUNKENNESS but FIGHT!  (By the way, the story of Grant as a warrior is inspiring by itself.  He had no friends and no real experience like General Robert E. Lee and yet his courage to FIGHT on was a deciding factor in his success.  He didn’t quit…)

Have you ever noticed that quitting is something that we perfect as we get older?

We try to say sophisticated things like “market research indicates that current demand ratios point to slower growth patterns” or “I need to think about this some more.  I don’t want to make the wrong decision”.  What we really need to say is  something along the lines of  “I am really scared right now.  I think I have a great idea and I passionate about it, but I could lose everything if I’m wrong.”  Now we’ll getting somewhere.  Now we have the personal integrity that is foundation for deep-rooted, passionate enterprise.

It’s hard work.  No one said being successful would be easy.  But you CAN do it.  You CAN be the WINNER you want to be.  If you are in a DIP right now, here are a few things you can do to stay sane and motivated:

  1. Recognize that you are in a DIP.  There is no use denying the obvious…
  2. Refocus your attention on the basics (customers and cash flow)…
  3. Rationalize what “seems” or “seemed” to be working into a process that you can examine at a later date…
  4. Repeat to yourself and anyone who will listen your core values driving what you are doing…

There is no silver bullet that makes your pain go away or your fear of failure disappear.  You are your own best medicine.

Let me leave you with this quote from a reader and commenter of The DEW View, Lydia Sugarman: “I do it because I can, I can because I want to, I want to because you said I couldn’t…”  If you really understand that quote then you are on your way to creating your own legacy of trying!

Keep Trying!

Try today!

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Stop Sucking and then I Might Care

Seth writes the #1 ranked blog in the world on marketing...

Seth writes the #1 blog in the world on marketing...

I was just on the phone last week with Seth Godin (who is one of my heros) and I couldn’t help but be blown away by his amazing take on marketing that works.  I love that practical sense of “let’s really get the job done” not just pretend to show up.

This morning I read his post on “You’re Boring!” — and basically ran through the GNOSO hallways clicking my heels with delight that I wasn’t the only “nut job” in the world that believed in the concept of BEING MEMORABLE

Here is what Seth wrote:

If the marketplace isn’t talking about you, there’s a reason.

If people aren’t discussing your products, your services, your cause, your movement or your career, there’s a reason.

The reason is that you’re boring. (I guess that’s what boring means, right?) And you’re probably boring on purpose. You have boring pricing because that’s safer. You have a boring location because to do otherwise would be nuts. You have boring products because that’s what the market wants. That boring staff? They’re perfectly well qualified…

You don’t get unboring for free. Remarkable costs time and money and effort, but most of all, remarkable costs a willingness to be wrong. [There’s more in an interview I just did with John.]

Remarkable is a choice.

Brilliant, Seth!

I get calls all the time from people engaging in discussion around branding and selling big deals (that’s the stuff I obsess about on a daily basis) of new products, new services, or new ideas….  Cool stuff!  The reason I am being called is usually to be a sounding board for how an idea or product might be best sold (all that “who, what, where” stuff).

I have not had a call YET where we did not start talking about how to memorably market the idea or who we might connect with for a viral springboard.

And, here’s the kicker:

Being memorable is an investment made long before the gain is realized…. (DEWism)

And here’s the #1 rule of being memorable:  STOP SUCKING at what you do!  Seriously!

  • Stop “half-assing” your relationships with clients… do the unexpected and do it with passion!
  • Stop being normal and un-risky with getting your message out… believe in your story deeply!

You have to care about your message more than anyone else in the world (several times over) before you start seeing results — so Stop Sucking and Start Selling yourself…Be memorable.  Be passionate.  Be obsessive about your story.