Category Archives: Philosophy

Why the Answer ISN’T to Find Your “Dream Job”

Recently I came across a blog entry, that really got me worked up.

Basically the author complained about being 24 and not yet getting her “dream job.” While I appreciated how the advice that followed was well intentioned and somewhat informative, what really got me upset was the general attitude and premise of the discussion.

I think it is ridiculous early in your career to be out in search of your “dream job.” This causes delusions of grandeur and this mentality leads people to feel certain jobs are “under” them or not worth their time.

The truth is, whatever you think your dream job is right now, it will change. Guaranteed. I am 100% sure that for most people, your idea of your “dream job” will be very different 5, 10 and even 20 years from now.

I think this mentality is where many millennials go wrong. We are a passionate bunch that believe in changing the world. We are socially conscious and enthusiastic and have the energy to make our dent in the universe. But at the same time, the answer is not to go out on a Don Quixote journey to find the job that is perfect for us. This mentality also paints you in a corner because if you focus all your effort on one niche area, when your passions shift, it is difficult to take that experience and relevant skills and apply them elsewhere.

Note: I don’t want to burst everyone’s bubble or come across as a naysayer preaching that we should all “give up now!” On the contrary, I am as optimistic as it comes, but I know that my goals, focus and concept of a “dream job” is very different at 30 than it was when I was 24.

The answer is to build foundational skills

Instead of searching endlessly for your dream job and crying because you have yet to have it handed to you, focus on finding (and seizing) opportunities that help you build transferable skills.

Instead of focusing on one small niche area that may be interesting to you now, put equal focus into getting experience that will help you no matter what job, company or industry you will be in.

Our parents’ generation made something like an average of 5 career changes over the course of their 40+ year career. For our generation, that number could be twice as large.

Given that change will happen (multiple times), it is crucial to have skills that will make you successful with whatever your career may hand you.

Skills like project management, product development, managing people, and so on, are important skills whether you are in accounting or operations, whether you are in retail or tech, whether you are at a big company or a start-up.

I believe that your ultimate success in business is more contingent upon what you can lead others to do than you are capable of doing yourself (ex: your ability to lead ten people to make 8 widgets/day provides an 8x output compared to your ability to make 10 widgets/day all by yourself). I know that my experience managing teams will help me be successful no matter what company I work for and what functional area I work in.

It doesn’t have to come from your job

But what about my passions? you might ask…

I am not suggesting you discard your passions and join the ranks of mindless drones collecting paychecks and savoring a measly 2 weeks of vacation a year. I am merely questioning whether your career has to fulfill all your passions.

You don’t have to drop your whole career just to seek your passion, be more creative about it. I have seen time and time again how friends have started a side business or taken a leadership position in a non-profit to explore their passions. The things you do outside of work present a prime place to explore your passions. This is why it is important to seek variety, so you don’t fully focus only on your full-time job.

Ultimately, all I am saying is that you shouldn’t be anxiously waiting for or endlessly seeking what you consider to be your “dream job.” The fact is that your dreams and passions will change and you may never even find that dream job you have fixated on. Or worse, you may get that job and realize that your dream job is really a nightmare. Who’s to say that if you find that dream job that you would even be ready for it or would even be good at it?

That is why we all should build foundational skills at age 24 (and beyond) that will help us as our careers take its own uncharted course, instead of just endlessly seeking a “dream job” that will solve all our troubles and make you instantly fulfilled.

Life and careers are much harder than this. Those who are most successful build skills while their passions are developing and then use these skills to be the best when great opportunities come along (note that I didn’t label it as a “dream job” coming along).

“Dream jobs” will always remain just that, dreams. Instead of dreaming, go out there and build up skills that will make you successful wherever your career may take you. Then, jump on opportunities that you are passionate about, and see what exciting results follow.

 

What do YOU think?

Have you found your “dream job” or have you fallen short? Have you seen how skills you built early on have helped you in other jobs?

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How to be successful as a manager: Removing Obstacles

This was originally posted as one of my entries for the Personal Branding Blog (http://PersonalBrandingBlog.com)

If we asked experts what the first job of an effective leader is, the conflicting answers would be plentiful: Some would say it’s to set a vision and goals. To others it would be to motivate the group being led. A few would even venture to single out something more clever like surrounding oneself with smarter people who fill in the leader’s gaps as the most important.

To avoid joining this debate, I venture to let others battle over what the correct first job is while asserting that the most important subsequent job of a leader is to remove obstacles.

My experience as a manager, leading teams of all generations in both the corporate world and in the community has led me to the conclusion that no matter how diverse, or high performing and regardless of the group’s goals are, the best way to increase results is to remove the things that are hindering the group and its individuals from reaching it’s full potential.

These obstacles, big and small, insignificant or substantial take away from your team’s ability to do their job and fulfill established goals. It demotivates and lowers morale. It even generates frustration within the most talented people you work with, causing them to leave for greener (or at least more frictionless) pastures.

Removing obstacles may take the form of creating a new elaborate process to streamline a legacy way to doing things. It may be conducting your own analysis and confronting a boss or peer whose actions are slowing down your team or it may be something simpler.

The easiest way to remove obstacles for others is to ask them what is preventing them from doing their best. For a team of unionized call center reps I managed a few years ago, the number of obstacles was substantial. After seeing that this played itself out in endless complaints and low morale, I tackled this issue through periodic “venting sessions” where I would collect lists of obstacles, seeking to understand the obstacles discussed as opposed to refuting them. I then worked hard to remove these obstacles, some of which I could and others that I couldn’t.

The results were amazing. Not only did the length and intensity of these “venting sessions” decrease, but morale and results improve dramatically.

Results skyrocketed not because of some analytical tool or special initiative; it occurred because of the effective use of an obstacle removing mindset.

BE AWESOME!

-MR. BIZ

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The One Thing That Can Make You Successful

153. That’s the number of work emails I received yesterday. And that doesn’t even account for the 45 emails that I had to write and send (nor does it factor in my personal email accounts). Pair that with 5 hours of conference calls and an end-of-day deadline and you have a pretty packed day. Then add in Facebook updates, tweets, text messages, news, TV, phone calls and staying up to date on blogs and articles (like this one) and you start to realize how packed with information a normal day is.

For many of us, this type of constant communication and bombardment of information is typical. It is also robbing us of our time. Beyond depending on these forms of communication and sources of information, we feel like we are “out of the loop” if we spend even a few moments disconnected from them.

While these forms of communication and information sources keep us in the know, they keep us from fully living our lives. They also create clutter and challenge our internal filters that tell us what is worth our time and what wastes it. It also creates a bunch of clutter as we access information from many places and are getting more and more distracted from what is important while the trivial replaces what matters.

Do you really need to monitor that Twitter feed or does it distract you from engaging in an important face-to-face conversation with someone? Do the 20 RSS Feeds giving you various forms of advice really help or do they become a chore or time waster?

What we really need to do is get rid of the clutter.  Instead of seeking loads of information, seek simplicity. Take some time to shut things down and just think.

I have found time and time again, that when I resist the urge to become distracted by the various forms of communication and sources of information out there, I begin to listen. I start to listen to those around me and most importantly, I begin to listen to myself.

When you take a step back you start to ask questions like, “is this thing I am doing really getting me closer to my goals?” or “is all this added complexity really helping or distracting me?” things begin to get clearer.

With the publication of my second book approaching, I took some time to conduct a self-inventory.  I realized that only a small subset of my activity promoting my first book produced a vast majority of the sales. I became so wrapped up in having to check off boxes and having a presence on every medium that I lost track of what was truly important: getting my message out and helping people.

I am not here to say that all this information and these social platforms are bad, I am just saying that in moderation (a la the age-old advice of Aristotle) it can be incredibly valuable but too much can be damaging.

This “disconnected” time will help you realize what is important and what to eliminate. It is remarkable the ancillary things we do that keep us from reaching our goals, preventing us from spending our time on what is important.

Take time to unplug and ask yourself whether what you are doing now supports your personal and professional goals or whether you are becoming your own biggest obstacle.  Instead of adopting the complexities that life has created, seek simplicity and clarity.

Don’t come up with 20 goals to reach. Odds are, focusing on 20 things at once will stop you from accomplishing any of them. Pick 3 or 5 and align your efforts and activities on that targeted list.

Seek simplicity and welcome the moments of clarity that come from when you unplug, take a step back and listen. This is the one thing you can do to make you successful at anything you want to accomplish. Whether a personal issue or complex group project, suddenly complexities will be replaced by an identification of what you need to do to reach your goals; a key first step in finding success.

 

BE AWESOME!

-MR. BIZ

 

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Are You Scared of Getting “Called into your Boss’ Office?”

Maybe it’s Hollywood, or stories from friends, mentors and parents, but it seems that a majority of us get nervous (or at least a little edgy) when we are “called into the boss’ office?”

It’s not a new thing either, but one that has probably gone back for generations when subjects were called in front of the king. Post like this are typical on career forums:

Scared of boss post

(http://www.quarterlifecrisis.com/forums/archive/index.php/t-28736.html)

In this case, the person posting didn’t know of doing anything wrong, but was still concerned.

I think the genesis of this inherent fear comes from the fact that most bosses don’t reach out to their people or “want to talk” unless (A) You did something wrong, or (B) they want something from you. Either case is not all that pleasant for you, the employee.

Recently, I even noticed the feeling in myself. Upon hearing I needed to have a “quick one-on-one” with my boss that he didn’t seem to set up with my other peers, I immediately thought about any reason that he would want to talk with me. Since there didn’t appear to be anything particularly good I feared the worst. Maybe I was in for a big job change or something bad was on the horizon for me.

What made me even more concerned with the feeling I had was that I NEVER felt this way. I noted how my friends and peers would always express fear when being called into the boss’ office, but that I always was hopeful that there was good news coming.

It ended up that just like “Paul” in the post above, my boss had some great news for me. A big career development opportunity. And the reason that no one else was having the “quick one-on-one” was because I was the only one given this great opportunity.

As I left my boss’ office, with a pleasantly surprised smirk on my face, I thought about how I could make sure not to let this fear strike my heart any time in the future I was called in by my boss.

Focus on the Good– Most people’s immediate response to being called into the boss’ office being bad, we overlook great opportunity. Realize that when your boss has really good news or needs your help with something that will help your career (or show that he/she really trusts you), they like to do it privately and often in-person.

Ask for clarity– If ever I am concerned, I look for ways to set my mind at ease. One way of doing this is to ask your boss for clarification on what will be discussed during the meeting. Saying something like, “do I need to have anything prepared for the meeting” will give you more of an indication of the meeting’s focus. If you boss shrugs off your request, it may be an indication that the topic of discussion is no big deal.

Don’t get your boss a reason to call you in for something bad– I know this one is a bit obvious, but when you are always putting out 100% effort and that you make you boss aware of any mistake you make (or a heads up when an issue may be in the making) then you will have little reason to fear being called into your boss’ office.

If what you get called in for ends up being bad, focus on the solution. Don’t immediately assume that it’s the end of the world or that your boss hates you. Instead, brainstorm solutions with your boss and solicit his/her help to correct any mistakes or avoid making them in the future. While your boss has a number of responsibilities and things on their mind, most are mindful of your well-being and want to see you succeed.

For you bosses out there, remember how being called into the boss’ office feels and don’t put your employees through the same agony you know you would have felt. Mix in some good with the bad. As Ken Blanchard says, “catch people doing things right” and let them know you are aware of it.

So next time you get called into your boss’ office, don’t immediately expect the worst. Think about the good things that can come out of it. This type of mentality will help you stay disciplined and motivated to produce the highest quality of work. And when the result of the meeting is bad, don’t leave your boss’ office without at least some idea of how to move forward and do better next time.

Millennials, here’s why it’s time to wake up!

Today I was on NPR sharing my perspective on millennials in the workplace.  Here is what I shared during the “Perspectives” segment:

Here is a link to the audio file

Here is the transcript:

Imagine how I felt, three weeks into my first job out of college and facing the thing that strikes fear into the hearts of employees across the nation. It was time for my performance review.

I wasn’t scared though, I was excited. I was expecting that my boss would give me a big raise and promotion. I was stunned when the first words out of her mouth were, “Aaron, you seem like a bright young man, but I am not sure if you even know how to do your job.” I was crushed. I thought I was doing well at work, but in reality had no idea what the working world was like.

In fact, my misguided expectations were way off. I had expected that it would be like everything else I had done in my life; that I would be given an opportunity and then rewarded for being a part of the team.

My fellow millennials, it’s time for us to wake up. The working world is not like our homes were growing up. Our bosses won’t accommodate for us like our parents did and we won’t be recognized just for showing up. It’s time for us to take action instead of just waiting to be given the careers of our dreams.

Older employees complain about our lack of engagement and inability to take on responsibility and follow-through at work. I for one hate having this stigma associated with me and know that we are better than this reputation. We are creative, enthusiastic and agile, with exciting ideas and new ways of thinking.

We need to take ownership of our careers. No one is going to hand it to us on a silver platter. We will have to earn it with consistent hard work and results. We must be coachable, willing to listen and learn from advice coming from all angles. We must be more self-aware, understanding our natural sense of entitlement and impatience that cause us to give up when we face adversity or skip around between opportunities because we will only settle for the ideal situation. Instead, we must have perspective and realize that the lessons we learn now will help us when we do find our passion.

Don’t just wait for someone to hand you the career you want. Go out there and take it.

With a Perspective, I’m Aaron McDaniel.

 

Does anyone have their own perspective that they want to share?

 

BE AWESOME!

-MR. BIZ

 

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One Sentence You Should Never Say at Work

Our jobs can be challenge amidst all the change that invariably is happening at our companies. Whether we are at a fast growing start-up, a huge corporation adapting to new market conditions and competitors or somewhere in between, odds are this is a reality of work.

No matter what your job, company or industry, there are certain principles we all should strive to uphold. From driving results to people fast learners, all have their own level of importance. One of these key categories is our attitudes. Not only will out attitudes affect the quality of our work, but it also will affect how others view us.

It makes sense to maintain a positive attitude. Besides motivating ourselves to push-on in adversity, it helps us look good amongst the team. While a negative attitude can manifest itself in many ways, from small comments like, “this new policy sucks!” to “there is no way we are going to solve this problem!” there is none worse than when you say (and think), it’s not my job.

When you have this 4-word mentality, you are a poison to your team. It shows you have the mentality that you have sectioned off your work and the value you bring to your company to a tiny box that is determined by your job description.

Here are 3 reasons you should never even think the words “it’s not my job”:

  • It limits you from career growth– If you are constantly concerned about how little you need to do to fulfill your job responsibilities or are only interesting in doing what you were initial hired and explicitly told what to do, then you will not inspire others to believe in you and your abilities. You won’t be given any new and exciting opportunities and later (if not sooner) your days will be relegated to mundane tasks that don’t matter as much to the future of your company.
  • You won’t learn anything new-If you have a “it’s not my job” mentality, your work days will not be exciting. You will most likely get caught in the routine things that you are comfortable with (truly successful people are willing to regularly step outside of their comfort zones).
  • You are being a selfish non-team player– If you are being asked to do something or see an opportunity to complete a project that may be outside of the scope of your job, odds are it is needed because there is no one doing it today. In almost every case it will help your team.

Note: This is especially true when you are working on a small team, in a new growing area of your business or are at a start-up. I once founded a start-up with a friend of mine. Routinely my business partners would say “it’s not my job.” Besides annoying me to no end, I was like, “there’s only two of us, so if it’s not your job then whose job is it?!?! Mine?”

When facing tasks that are outside of the scope of your job or that you are not familiar with, use the following 3 steps to help you contribute rock-star results:

  • Partner with someone– If there is a group that does have expertise in something you have been asked to work on, bring them into the fold. Not only will you get their expertise and buy-in, but you will learn more in the process and get the work done faster. Plus it will show good teaming, something all bosses like seeing.
  • Do your research– If you are asked to do something new and outside of the normal scope of your job, odds are the right way to do it won’t just come to you. Research ways to do the task and look for sources of the information you need to do a great job
  • Ask for help-If you aren’t able to find a partner who has the task you have been asked to do as part of their job and if you research efforts are fruitless, ask for help. Make sure to ask to the right person (preferably someone other than your boss), and show them the work you have done and how you think you should do the task instead of just blindly saying “tell me how to do this.”

Take ownership of the work you do and take new work that may be outside of the comfortable scope of your job as an opportunity to grow and learn. It will help you develop a solid personal brand.More than anything else, if you do say “Ok, I’m happy to help,” instead of “it’s not my job,” then people will take notice and before you know it you will be receiving new and exciting career opportunities.

What’s a something YOU think someone we should never say at work?

 

BE AWESOME!

-MR. BIZ

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One of the Biggest Mistakes Companies Make

Working for a large corporation I am accustomed to the same regular routine. If the previous year (or quarter or month) was a good one, then there is a brief period of celebration and recognition and then it’s on this year and how we need to “keep up the momentum” or make “this year the best year ever.” On the other hand, if last year was a bust then management finds a way to highlight a few bright spots but then focuses everyone on the new year/quarter/month, to forget about past failures.

Along with these transitions comes the announcement of the coming year/quarter’s goals and priorities. While the specifics vary for each industry or division, for any company they appear to be essentially the same. Let me break it down:

  1. Increase Revenue
  2. Lower Cost
  3. Improve Customer Satisfaction
  4. Develop our People

The order of the first three may vary but they are pretty straightforward. Every business is looking to increase top-line revenue and increase profits by cutting costs in the process. Customers fuel profits, so they are important and new measurements like Net Promoter Score help companies focus on creating customers that are “willing to recommend” new customers.

Then there’s number 4: “Develop our People”- i.e. improve the skills of company employees. This is always on the list, but interestingly enough it is always last; almost like an afterthought, I would presume. I call it an afterthought because despite good intentions it is the first thing that goes to the waste-side when priority numbers 1-3 are not being met. Plus it is very hard to measure.

I feel like developing employees is such an important thing for companies to focus on, but it consistently gets a disproportionally low amount of funding.

While there have been organizations that I have been a part of that truly do care and have gone to great lengths to develop me and other employees, this is not always the case. A couple years ago, I was at our division kick-off conference and our VP was presenting our priorities for the quarter to the managers. Guess what item was on the list, that’s right, “develop our people” Naturally, it was right where it always seems to be, at the very bottom of the priorities list.

That quarter I proceeded to watch as very little (if anything at all) was done to develop me or the people who worked for me. Our VP didn’t seem to care about his people. There was a hotshot cavalier attitude that permeated through the organization’s culture. It was all about results and no matter what we accomplished we were pushed to do more. I am all for stretch goals, but it is important to set your people up for success. While expectations of success was clear, we weren’t given training and resources that matched our goals.

When the next quarter came around, I remember laughing to myself as I saw the new priorities. “Developing our People” was on the list again, at the bottom, but this time I knew nothing was going to happen.

The question beckons, why even include it on the list at all? Is it because corporate leaders feel like they have to in order to appear to care about their people? Is it a habit? Do they do it in order to retain existing employees? When things play out like they did for me, it comes off as insulting to even include people on the list.

In light of this typical business practice, I have two recommendations to corporate leaders:

  1. Move “developing our people” up the priorities list– Developing employees as leaders empowers us and actually increases the other three typical priorities (revenue, cost reduction and customer satisfaction). This should be higher on the priorities list. Truly making this a priority also improves corporate culture as employees will want to come to work more and will be invested in their work if they know that management cares.
  2. Actually mean it– Corporate leaders shouldn’t just put developing employees on the priorities list, but should make a real effort to foster regular employee development. Create more mentoring and training programs. Better recognize accomplishments to encourage appropriate behavior and actively engage employees directly to see the best areas to focus on. It’s better to leave this priority off the list than to keep it at the bottom and do nothing to support it.

Corporate leaders need to remember that their people are the most important part of the equation that drives profits and happy customers. Developing employees shouldn’t be an after thought; it should be moved to the top of the priorities list.

What do YOU think?

BE AWESOME!

-MR. BIZ

 

 

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The Best Way to Lead is to Follow

Many people have this misconception about leadership.

They think leading others is directing the troops. Setting a vision , telling people what to do, and keeping everyone on track .While leadership is all of these, the real difference between good and great leadership is empowerment.

If the CEO of a company maintains complete control on all aspects of the business, he creates a legion of followers. People who will listen to direction but often do not leverage (or even exercise) their creativity and ambition. Then your people will have less confidence in their decisions and are less likely to take healthy risks that would help the overall organization. While there are a few examples of this working effectively (think Steve Jobs at Apple, or Larry Ellison at Oracle), many times the organization takes a turn for the worse when that leader is no longer in the picture (the verdict on Apple is still out).

Truly great leaders leverage the skills and talents of the group of smart people they build around them, but do so without needing to keep a tight grip on how goals are pursued and ultimately reached.

As a manager, empowering your people helps them grow (even when making mistakes, they ultimately will learn valuable lessons in the process).

The most effective way to empower your people is to follow their lead. As a leader, when someone is passionate about an idea of initiative, give them the opportunity to pursue it.

Doing this builds trust and loyalty. As a leader, if you are constantly saying “it’s my way or the highway,” you will eventually surround yourself with mindless drones, as  top talent will feel restricted and frustrated, eventually finding a place that offers them freedom. Yet when you empower your people and give them the chance to shine, they will work harder for you. That, mixed with the passion they have will create outstanding results.

When you consistently do this, your employees will become loyal to you and when the time comes when you need something to be accomplished they will come through in the clutch, even when the task seems impossible.

There is an “old school” mentality that fear and respect is what leads to results, but this is simply no longer true (if it ever was). Case and point, when building a team vision and goals, do you think that your employees will be more likely to strive for a vision they create, or one that you push down upon them?

Clearly you would be more motivated and invested if you had a say. A great leader facilitates and directs the creation of goals and vision, she doesn’t just demand adoption of it. She knows when to let her people take the lead and supports them when they do.

She backs them up, even when they fail; and builds them back up if they do. She knows when to push forward at the front of the pack, and when to push from behind.

Ultimately, the ability to empower those you lead, through following their lead will lead to ideas you never could have thought of on your own and results that you never could have accomplished on your own.

The true difference between a good leader and a great leader is not the results when she is leading the top, but the results that they continue to achieve long after she has gone. The main ingredient to fostering this greatness is empowerment, and the best way to empower is to know when to follow.

Remember: the greatest leaders don’t just lead, they follow.

 

BE AWESOME!

-MR. BIZ

 

This article was originally published in the Personal Branding Blog

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“Expect Delays”

An early morning a couple weeks ago I was headed to a work conference. It ended up that this conference wasn’t at the typical convention center or hotel. Instead, it was located at a retreat out in the woods. While scenic, the road leading there was naturally winding and heavily wooded.

At one point, where the road narrowed to one lane in each direction, there was one of those electronic signs on the side of the road that typically flashes a multi-part message. In this case, there was only one part to the message displayed. It simply read, “Expect Delays.”

From my experience, these signs usually offer justification as to why there would be a delay. It might read “Road repair ahead.” And then “expect delays” following. But this time I did not. The sign just said “Expect Delays.” Normally I would have passed by this kind of sign paying little attention, but in this case (maybe due to the early hour or the peaceful surroundings) I found a deeper meaning in the message.

Time and time again (in our careers and lives in general) we make plans. We think through all the possibilities and details, catching as many variations as we can think of. Despite this analysis and planning, we are often wrong. Things don’t go as planned.

In my career (and life), I have found that many times when “things not going as planned” it involves something taking more time than I would have expected. I generally get impatient, expecting faster results. This often leads to me giving up, or at the very least not give my 100% in following up and seeing things through.

Unfortunately, this feeling (and response) is something that plagues many millennials like me. We are used to instant gratification and feedback. We are used to getting things when we want them, how we want them. Success in your career (and life) just doesn’t work this way.

It is important for us to be patient when we embark on a journey to accomplish a goal. Whether it is something big like starting a company or something as simple as completing a project at work, realize that things won’t go as planned. Delays will invariably creep in, and if we aren’t ready for them, then we run the risk of giving up before we ever reach our goal.

While it is key to understand and anticipate delays, it is important to go one step further. We must build resiliency. The moment we get knocked down, we must get back up. Every delay that comes our way is an opportunity for another lesson that will help us avoid obstacles in the future (or at the very least will help us get over them faster).

We must also actively look for solutions. To beat these “delays,” we have to find ways to overcome them. Whether it be testing out a new strategy or flat out asking for help, it is better to fight through obstacles and delays instead of letting them happen to us.

As you drive down the road of your career, make sure to keep an eye out for delays. Often times there won’t even be a sign that tells you when or why they are coming. Remember not to just let these delays happen to you. Use them to your advantage. Take away key lessons, they will help you be smarter and more successful further down the road.

Just because you expect delays doesn’t mean that you have to like it. Meet these delays head-on; overcome them and carve out new roads of your own to explore.

What do you think about the “delays” that you face?

BE AWESOME!

-MR. BIZ

 

This article was originally published in the Personal Branding Blog

Follow my blog by clicking the link at the bottom right of your screen.I’d really appreciate it!

If you found this article useful, then please retweet and share on Facebook by clicking Like.

And please leave your comments and suggestions below

Is Taking It Easy a Good Thing?

As Ferris Bueller said in the 1986 movie, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” This was true then and is even more true now. Over the Labor Day weekend, I took it’s purpose to heart and did some thinking.

Our lives as professionals (or otherwise) are full of meetings and emails, commitments and distractions. For many, striking the balance between work and play can be a hard line to walk and something that is never quite mastered.

For me, this is especially true. Besides a full time corporate job, writing books, and managing my entrepreneurial ventures, I want to make sure to spend time with friends, travel and volunteer in the community. In the process of having to take care of a lot of business, the byproduct is generally busyness. With spouses, kids, aging parents and more, there is not much time left for anything else.

Recently I was cleaning out some files at home when I came across an article that my godmother had sent to me a couple years ago. It was a brief prose by Alexander Green called In Praise of Idleness.

This essay really made me think.

Looking back, I have seen how busyness has adversely affected both my concentration and decision making ability. A couple years ago, I was balancing a full time job and running two businesses, not to mention a number of other personal and community involvements. I found that my mind constantly jumped from one commitment to the next. Because of the shear number of things on my mind I found that I was looking for fires to fight. I would prioritize the most important thing with the nearest deadline and would focus on completing it as soon as I could to go on to the next thing. This was good in terms of getting many things done fast, but it affected the quality of my work. My judgment was clouded and I made some decisions that, in hindsight, were pretty stupid. They led to some failures in my businesses.

I needed to remember what Green states, “downtime is an energizing force.” He continues to reference how “idleness leads to contemplation, creativity, and inventiveness.” Taking this time creates clarity.

While it is something that I do still struggle with, I have been able to see the benefit. Whether it is setting aside 15 minutes in the middle of the day to take a walk (or at least get away from my desk) or if it is keeping one weeknight or weekend day free from commitments to have some downtime, I continue to see benefits from this. Create that time, maybe not a siesta or afternoon tea but a break at some point during the day

As Green references, there are many examples of how down time is a good thing. From Churchill’s “economy of effort” to Mark Twain, even these successful people understand the benefit.

The second step in the right direction (after setting time aside regularly) is to simplify. Think about why you are doing something, and don’t just take on commitments for the sake of being busy. Focus on what is important, and be excellent at fewer things. Steve Jobs made Apple amazingly successful through simplicity.

So remember, it’s ok to be a “loafer,” “slacker” or “bum” every once in a while. This idleness can create the clarity you need to be to reach your goals.

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When do you think being “idle” is a good thing? (if at all)

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BE AWESOME!

-MR. BIZ

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