“Getters” vs. “Wanters”

I think the great divide between “getters” and “wanters” is the ability to see the obstacles and try anyway. Giving up before you start is what most “want-trepreneurs” do.  The term “want-trepreneurs” got popularized in startup circles to describe the people with million dollar mouths and ten cent execution.  Every “networking meet up” seems to bring these folks out like the bright blue glow of a bug zapper on a hot summer night. These pretend pioneers would rather fail with a good excuse than succeed by innovating around the obstacles they face.  In fact, their favorite conversations revolve around “what would have been”. 

Now it might be my own personal soapbox here, but I have attended enough “after-hours, happy hour, brewpub hang, start-up meet up” events to last me for the rest of my life.  I don’t say that because these events aren’t necessary or good for entrepreneurs, because let’s face it, some of us need the interaction with the rest of the world and some sunlight wouldn’t kill us either, but rather the real entrepreneurs, are in the minority at these events.  For the vast majority of the people in attendance, these events are what it means to be an entrepreneur.  It becomes a business lonely hearts club.  The same cast of characters is at every meeting.  The lady “who would’ve made an excellent CEO”, the “serial entrepreneur” going on and on about how they “almost took investment once, but it just didn’t work out in the end” and of course the “stealth mode” guys.

Excuses are the opiate of the entrepreneurial masses and they are running rampant.

I know it sounds that I think I have my self together but really I don’t at all. I’m no different from you.  I know that I have had a whole host of excuses for why I didn’t accomplish a goal or a dream.  In fact, it’s been a dream of mine to write a book for over a decade but I never even got a good start on it until now.  I didn’t have a good excuse for not doing it either.  I mean, I had a ton of excuses but I never really had a legitimate excuse for not just sitting down and typing until I had something worthwhile to show for it.

We all have a ready made storage container of all our favorite excuses.  I’m not connected enough at work.  I don’t have the prerequisite credentials.  I’m not smart enough, handsome enough, funny enough, intelligent enough. 

Here’s what no other book on leadership will tell you… You’re right.  You are incredibly deficient. Seriously, I know no other way to say it.  You are not an island. Rarely does anyone accomplish anything of note by themselves.  Your dreams, the crazy things you hope for, the things your friends would laugh at you about if they knew you aspired to, are completely out of your reach.

So freaking what!  Still have the dream.  It’s ok to have a dream.  It’s ok to have this thing that you want so bad you can taste it.  It’s ok to want it even though you can’t see a way to it. It’s right to still desire this impossible thing even though you don’t know where to begin. 

Excellence In 2 Steps

It is currently two minutes until midnight, my house is finally quiet.  My three kiddos are asleep upstairs, my wife is curled up in the next room and I am in my office working on my passion project.  If you looked all around my life, you would see that all of the available space has been taken and then some.  I am literally surrounded by my work and it is spilling into overflow areas and piling up in the corners. Honestly, I love it. I revel in it.  Each project has it’s own personality and charm.  In fact, I started two new projects this week simply because I couldn’t bare that they not move forward.  I’m working on a book right now, at midnight, because this is when I could redeem the time.  I tried to write this morning but my “real job” needed me.  I tried to schedule “personal time” for later this week but between being a dad, husband, boss, entrepreneur… it’s just not going to happen. 

I’m not saying any of this to complain though.  I genuinely love the pace my life is at.  I love the chaos of having 45 plates spinning at the same time.  I haven’t stopped creating. I’m up late working on the last ten percent that most people would have just pushed off to the next day.  Entrepreneurs take note.  Most of the people in the “success column” are there because the worked while others slept, dedicated themselves to the last ten percent, and most importantly loved what they were doing. 

Early on in my entrepreneurial journey,  Andrew and I would work to 18-20 hours a day.  We would actually sleep at the office, make grilled cheese sandwiches three meals a day and only stop working to butter the toast.  In those days working alongside Andrew, I learned to redefine the word excellence.  What I realized is that excellence is the combination of two things;  proficiency and passion.  I genuinely don’t believe that you can have excellence without being passionate about what it is you’re doing. 

Excellent work transcends the moment of its creation and it’s circumstances. When things are excellent they are appreciated differently.  We have even created a vocabulary around excellent things.  We say that music and art will, “stand the test of time.”  We talk about feeling “connected” to characters in movies and books. Both examples of excellent work going beyond the bounds of it’s created space and time.  Why do some works do that and some don’t? I believe it is because we are hard-wired to sense passion.  We see it in others and are drawn to it.  The receptor for passion is empathy.  We often think of empathy as being able to feel bad with someone but it is just as powerful when it allows us to feel other emotions like indignation about injustice or joy about a cause for celebration.  It is our ability to have and express empathy that makes us into a community and our ability to express passion and inspire others that makes us leaders. 

When you combine that with a high level of technical proficiency in whatever your chosen area of interest is, then you can create with excellence.

That’s not to say you can’t have proficiency minus passion.  People, maybe even you, go to work every day and spend eight hours a day being proficient cogs in someone else’s passion project. As a leader, I have heard the phrase, “fake it ‘til you make it” a million times.  That popular sentiment is championed by those around us because they intrinsically know that passion will carry the day while you develop proficiency but not the other way around. 

My question to you is, “What are you spending time doing that you’re not passionate about and why?”  You don’t have to.  Life is short and you only get one…go do something meaningful that doesn’t require excuses.

LeadFast Company Launches

What we hope to do here at LeadFast Co. is help you avoid all the mistakes I’ve made.

Farming Success

Success can become something you farm instead of something you hope for. It starts with your people. Every person on your team is borrowed seed.  They are all there for a purpose but they are all not fully deployed all the time.  Some skill sets are only going to be needed in crisis situations for example or when a customer needs to be saved and you need to pour some honey on a wound.  We all have that one person we trust to get to the bottom of a problem and save the account or client relationship when it all hits the fan.  Understanding the seasonality of your team’s skills helps to know when to plant them for maximum return.  I always try to remember that today’s planting is tomorrow’s resource.  If you refuse to understand that you should plant in the planting season, regardless of need, you will be perpetually short on resources when the seasons change because the growth that needed to happen with your team to supply the necessary answers and other resources never happened.  Seasonality as a mindset is crucial to having the right people at the right time.

In sixth grade, I met Townsend Hare. I was new to the school and he was a year older than me.  Townsend is that rare breed of kid that wasn’t really popular but also wasn’t unpopular either.  He was quiet and self-assured.  His parents had a working farm and he was always busy fixing something or helping out at home so he kept his nose pretty clean.  We became best friends immediately.  He was my opposite.  Like I said he’s quiet, I definitely am not. He avoided conflict but wasn’t scared of it.  I, on the other hand,  assumed it was going to happen so I just went ahead and caused it.  He has pulled me out of more scraps and fist fights than I care to count.  He never got in one though, the other kids respected him too much I think.  His character has always been that dependable, consistent, steady kind that is so rare in the world but miraculous when it shows up in a thirteen-year-old. 

Townsend and I are still best friends to this day.  He stood beside me when I got married.  He visited when our kids were born and if I’m in trouble, any kind of trouble, he’s my first call.  Funny thing is we only talk about every other month.  We both have busy lives.  If I didn’t realize that our relationship, like all relationships, is seasonal, I might force a destructive meltdown because I would interpret distance as non-commitment.  I know better.  He is the most committed, loyal person I know and the seasons of life don’t have bearing on his character.  Townsend and I survive because understanding seasonality also builds grace into the relationship with those people that are necessary for your dream to happen.  It’s an additional benefit that I wanted to mention because it could save you from forcing a relational departure with someone that will be crucial in the next season.

Finding the right people really comes down to a few basic filters that I apply at the top end of the decision process.

• Are they “vision first” people?

• Can they bring impact to the situation?  

• Has my familiarity clouded my view of my available resources?  Am I overlooking someone?

• What do I need to plant most in this season?  Notice I didn’t say what do I need most?  If you are asking that question it is too late to plant…you have to purchase.

• Is someone that has departed my organization or outside of my organization necessary for the vision to happen? 

On our wall at my office, we have our core values, number two is “No one will ever love a company until its employees love it first.”  I believe that and I have seen it prove itself true over and over and over. It is my sincere hope that everyone reading this sees their dreams fulfilled.  Nothing would make me happier than to hear that something you read allowed for alignment that made the miraculous happen.