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Missing Out (#155)

I have always been intrigued by Jason Fried, the charismatic thought leader and creator of the very popular blog, “Signal versus Noise.” He’s also the CEO of the popular project management tool Basecamp, which is used by millions across the world.

A Chicago-based company, Basecamp has only 50 employees, all of whom work remotely on a 30-hour per week schedule. What’s more is that within this work structure, Basecamp generates over $25M in revenue each year and is very profitable.

Jason wrote one of the leading books on remote work titled, REMOTE: Office Not Required. To date, Basecamp has also turned down unsolicited offers from over 100 investors.

Certainly, Basecamp could grow faster. Many might argue that they are missing out on an investment market that is willing to pay a jaw-dropping amount to acquire software companies like Basecamp with recurring monthly revenue.

There is no question that, if they wanted to, Jason and his partner could make hundreds of millions, retire and financially set up future generations for decades to come. Yet, that viewpoint comes from the FOMO mindset, or “fear of missing out.”

FOMO has become a major psychosocial phenomenon due to the presence of social media and our ability to see what others are doing in real-time. Rather than being content with what we have or even realizing that we are happy with what we are doing, many of us benchmark ourselves against others and assume that the grass is greener. For some, FOMO is a debilitating condition that is exacerbated by scrolling for hours through Instagram and Facebook.

Jason Fried does not live within a FOMO mindset. In fact, in his upcoming book, he coins the term “Jomo” The Joy of Missing Out.

Jason doesn’t pay much attention to what anyone else is doing or thinking. He reads the paper once a day. He has no long-term goals for himself or his business. Everything at Basecamp is designed in six week sprints; if something can’t get done in six weeks, they don’t build it.

Jason and his team focus intently on what they are doing now, discovering what is most important to their customer and doing the best job they can to deliver that. They aren’t driven by an arbitrary growth goal. Years ago, they even decided to stop selling a few of their ancillary products. They felt their flagship Basecamp product was world-class and other complementary products were not. Less was more.

While Jason’s JOMO mentality and company philosophies are not for everyone, they contain three very healthy principals that we can all learn from.

  1. Intrinsic motivation: Jason not only displays this himself, he works to cultivate it in others by removing traditional carrot-and-stick motivators. He rallies his team around doing great work, rather than by demanding that they look at what their competitors are doing or acting on market/investor pressures.
  2. Living in the present:The biggest manifestation of JOMO for Jason is simply not worrying about what came before or what will come after. It’s about enjoying the present and taking the time to “think”.
  3. Tuning out the noise: Developing a remote workforce. Not taking investment. Being profitable for 17 years. None of these were historical blueprints for creating a great software company. Yet, by tuning out what the market touted as the “right path” to business success, Jason’s been able to build an enormously successful company that reflects his values.

The next time you are worried about “missing out,” perhaps reflect on JOMO and what you might gain from not knowing what others were, are or might be doing.

Often, ignorance really is bliss.

Quote of The Week

“That fear of missing out on things makes you miss out on everything.”

 

Etty Hellesum

 

 

The post Missing Out (#155) appeared first on Friday Forward.

Controlling Reactions (#154)

Apparently, the past few weeks have been a roller coaster ride for global stock markets, with volatile trading and daily swings of several percentage points.

I hadn’t really paid much attention to these events, but that would have been a different story ten years ago.

I developed an interest in the stock market at an early age, influenced by my grandmother who was an enthusiastic, but notoriously poor stock picker.  I started trading and following the markets regularly in college and would get excited by the highs and anxious when the market declined. I distinctly remember during the 2007 market crash being glued to the TV and feeling physically ill as the market dropped 800 points in just a few days in September. I allowed it to negatively affect my work, my mindset and my interactions with others.

Shortly after, I made the decision to stop watching the market and shifted my investments to mutual funds. Later, I hired an investment advisor to make those decision for me without any emotion or short-term bias. It was one of the best decisions I have made.

The stock market hasn’t changed, but my reaction to it has. The same goes for sports.

As a lifelong Boston sports fan, I’ve experienced both improbable victories and agonizing defeats (most of my childhood). Today, I enjoy the games and may get animated watching them, but I’ve trained myself to mentally walk away the minute they’re over.

If Tom Brady has a bad football game on Sunday, I can understand why he would want to think about it on Monday; it’s his job and life. But for me to do so? It’s a useless expenditure of energy. Yet I see others let professional sports affect them mentally for days or even weeks after a game. It’s self-defeating.

Walking away from playing the market and changing my reaction after a game is won or lost are both examples of improving emotional capacity, a critical skill high performers must learn to develop.

Emotional capacity relates to how we react to challenging situations and people as well as the quality of our relationships, which can either increase our energy or deplete it. The process of improving emotional capacity is challenging. It requires learning to actively manage your feelings and accepting a certain amount of uncertainty and unpredictability from both individuals and circumstances.

For example, consider two people who have a negative interaction with each other early in the day. The person with high emotional capacity is able to shrug it off, move past it and continue on with the priorities of their day. The person with a lower emotional capacity would be easily rattled by this interaction. It would likely consume, if not ruin, their entire day and affect their performance at work and at home.

They each experience the same event but allow it to impact them differently. That delta is the differing degrees of emotional capacity.

When dealing with people and circumstances that influence our mindset, high achievers see two options: walk away or change your reaction. While I was able to do this with the stock market and watching professional sports, I’ll be the first to admit that I have many other examples in my life where I am mindfully working to better apply these principles and continue to build my emotional capacity.

The key is to focus on what we can control (emotions and reactions), not the event or external forces. No one should believe they can control the stock market, sports games or unfortunate run-ins, but we each absolutely have the ability to choose how these events will impact us.

 

Quote of The Week

“Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it.”

 

Charles R. Swindoll

 

 

The post Controlling Reactions (#154) appeared first on Friday Forward.

Going Bananas (#153)

Over the past year, I have started to share and post more of my content on LinkedIn.

Most of my articles are written in a positive tone and attempt to propose solutions to common leadership and organizational challenges. Therefore, I’m always surprised by people who choose to comment on articles with insults, banter and accusations, often about something that wasn’t even directed at or personal to them in any way.

Posting these kinds of responses and comments on such a public forum is not only unproductive, it’s shortsighted for those in leadership positions; and it’s downright foolish for people who are actively seeking employment.

I would never hire or partner with anyone I found spending their time and energy in this manner and I can only imagine how bosses and team members react when they come across this sort of behavior from a colleague.

I simply can’t comprehend why anyone would intentionally go out of their way to make strangers feel bad about themselves or their beliefs. It’s bananas.

Speaking of bananas, a lot of these individuals could learn from the example of Stacey Truman, an inspiring leader and cafeteria manager at an elementary school in Virginia Beach, VA.

Using a black marker, each morning she writes inspirational messages on the bananas that are a part of lunch that day.

Here are some examples of messages she’s written on her now designated “talking bananas:”

“Not all those who wander are lost.”  

“If you can dream it, you can achieve it.”  

 “You get what you give.”

“Never give up.”

“Your future is bright.”

Writing uplifting messages on bananas was a practice she started for her two daughters (10 and 7) to build them up and help them start their day on a positive note. She then thought that the kids at the school might have a similar feel-good response, and she was right.

In an interview, Truman said, “I want them to succeed in life and have an awesome day at school. Whenever I can put a smile on all of those little faces, I’ve done my job.”

Her “talking bananas” have made a bigger impact than she could have imagined and her story has taken off on social media. She’s now garnering national attention for the right reasons and inspiring strangers to want to uplift and build capacity in others with far less effort than it takes to troll social media looking to pick a fight.

While I don’t expect “talking bananas” to become ubiquitous in corporate cafeterias anytime soon, the lesson is that while we don’t have to agree, we can all be nicer in how we disagree. And we all have the ability to use our energy in more productive ways that inspire and lift others up.

You never know how something as simple—and free to give—as an encouraging word can impact people for years to come, especially if it comes at the right time.

 

Quote of The Week

“Kind words do not cost much. Yet they accomplish much.”

Blaise Pascal

 

Image Credit: Washington Post.

The post Going Bananas (#153) appeared first on Friday Forward.

Practicing Distraction (#146)

I can say with confidence that I am probably the least popular person in my household this week. While there are likely a few reasons that I would be up for this distinction in any given week, I know for sure that it was my decision to turn on Apple’s new Screen Time function for myself and my kids that earned me the honor this time.

Part of iOS 12, this new Screen Time feature is designed to provide users with detailed information on how long they are on their phone in a given day and for what.

When a company creates a feature that is designed to make you use their product less, it should raise an eyebrow. Apple clearly is aware that our distraction with technology is becoming a serious health issue. In fact, several other technology giants are also starting to acknowledge that technology and social media has both harmful and addictive properties.

There are two main aspects of the Screen Time function: awareness and control. In terms of awareness, it allows you to see your detailed usage stats for the day, including the number of “pickups” – the times when you pick up your phone from the resting position.

In terms of control, you can both limit access to apps and enable “downtime,” which disables the phone overnight except for critical/emergency functions. Screen Time also allows parents to set usage limits and see how kids are using their phones.

I implemented several of the Screen Time features on my phone, including time limits on apps where I know the little red buttons distract me from both the task at hand and conversations in which I should be fully present. I also enabled downtime an hour before bedtime.

When I did the same for my kids, it did not go over as well. They let me know in no uncertain terms how it would impact their life and one of them stated, “Dad, literally no one else does this.” To which I responded, “Great, I don’t want to be like everyone else, nor do I want you to be.”

Here’s the reality. We get better at what we practice. If you practice 100 free throws, chances are that you will get better at free throws. The same goes for driving and studying a subject.

Sadly, what many of us are spending our time practicing these days is being distracted. And we are all getting really good at it. In fact, many of us are probably on our way to becoming distraction masters.

Recent studies have shown that you are actually significantly more distracted just from having your cell phone in the room, even if it’s not turned on. And the distraction gets worse when it’s sitting on a table next to you.

We are training our brains to be distracted in the same way that meditation trains our brains to be focused. And that has a toll. It changes the way our brain develops, hurts our concentration, impacts our relationships and strips us of the ability to be with our own thoughts or appreciate silence and quiet.

We begin to crave technology stimulation like a drug; the dopamine in our brain responds in a similar manner.

A week into our new experiment, I have adjusted to the changes. Even though I can override the controls I set (my kids can’t), it serves as an important reminder for when I am engaged with my phone. This awareness has noticeably reduced my phone use.

While I can’t say that my kids are happy, they too have adjusted. There are no more fights about shutting down at night, they understand the limits and are learning to manage them better and request more time if they really need it.

Hopefully, with less practice at distraction, we will all become worse at it.

Should you need more evidence for why you should use your phone less, watch this incredibly powerful video titled “Look Up.”

 

Quote of The Week

 “We have been seduced by distraction. We are being pulled away from paying attention to the things that enrich our lives.”

Daniel Goleman, author of Focus: The Hidden Driver of Excellence

 

 

The post Practicing Distraction (#146) appeared first on Friday Forward.

Practicing Distraction

I can say with confidence that I am probably the least popular person in my household this week. While there are likely a few reasons that I would be up for this distinction in any given week, I know for sure that it was my decision to turn on Apple’s new Screen Time function for myself and my kids that earned me the honor this time.

Part of iOS 12, this new Screen Time feature is designed to provide users with detailed information on how long they are on their phone in a given day and for what.

When a company creates a feature that is designed to make you use their product less, it should raise an eyebrow. Apple clearly is aware that our distraction with technology is becoming a serious health issue. In fact, several other technology giants are also starting to acknowledge that technology and social media has both harmful and addictive properties.

There are two main aspects of the Screen Time function: awareness and control. In terms of awareness, it allows you to see your detailed usage stats for the day, including the number of “pickups” – the times when you pick up your phone from the resting position.

In terms of control, you can both limit access to apps and enable “downtime,” which disables the phone overnight except for critical/emergency functions. Screen Time also allows parents to set usage limits and see how kids are using their phones.

I implemented several of the Screen Time features on my phone, including time limits on apps where I know the little red buttons distract me from both the task at hand and conversations in which I should be fully present. I also enabled downtime an hour before bedtime.

When I did the same for my kids, it did not go over as well. They let me know in no uncertain terms how it would impact their life and one of them stated, “Dad, literally no one else does this.” To which I responded, “Great, I don’t want to be like everyone else, nor do I want you to be.”

Here’s the reality. We get better at what we practice. If you practice 100 free throws, chances are that you will get better at free throws. The same goes for driving and studying a subject.

Sadly, what many of us are spending our time practicing these days is being distracted. And we are all getting really good at it. In fact, many of us are probably on our way to becoming distraction masters.

Recent studies have shown that you are actually significantly more distracted just from having your cell phone in the room, even if it’s not turned on. And the distraction gets worse when it’s sitting on a table next to you.

We are training our brains to be distracted in the same way that meditation trains our brains to be focused. And that has a toll. It changes the way our brain develops, hurts our concentration, impacts our relationships and strips us of the ability to be with our own thoughts or appreciate silence and quiet.

We begin to crave technology stimulation like a drug; the dopamine in our brain responds in a similar manner.

A week into our new experiment, I have adjusted to the changes. Even though I can override the controls I set (my kids can’t), it serves as an important reminder for when I am engaged with my phone. This awareness has noticeably reduced my phone use.

While I can’t say that my kids are happy, they too have adjusted. There are no more fights about shutting down at night, they understand the limits and are learning to manage them better and request more time if they really need it.

Hopefully, with less practice at distraction, we will all become worse at it.

Should you need more evidence for why you should use your phone less, watch this incredibly powerful video titled “Look Up.”

 

Quote of The Week

 “We have been seduced by distraction. We are being pulled away from paying attention to the things that enrich our lives.”

Daniel Goleman, author of Focus: The Hidden Driver of Excellence

 

 

The post Practicing Distraction appeared first on Friday Forward.

Giver’s Gain (#145)

Cutco knives are to direct selling what Harvard is to business school. The legendary knife company has put hundreds of thousands of students through its sales training program, sent them out into the world to make their pitch and coach them on how to face regular rejection.

The majority go through the training, learn some sales skills and then ultimately quit. But there are those who have risen to the top of Cutco’s salesforce. Quite a few have gone on to start their own business or lead sales in a variety of industries, including bestselling author and Miracle Morning creator, Hal Elrod, and social entrepreneur Cat Hoke.

But out of the 1.5 million reps in Cutco’s 68-year history, there is one person who sold more knives than anyone – my good friend, John Ruhlin.

John’s not the slick, fast-talking sales charlatan that you might be picturing. In fact, he came from pretty humble beginnings, growing up dirt poor on a farm in Ohio. He had planned to attend medical school as a way out of farm life and decided to sell knives to help pay for it.

As a freshly minted Cutco intern, he pitched his girlfriend’s father, a local businessman and attorney by the name of Paul Miller, on the idea of using Cutco pocket knives as gifts for clients. Paul surprised him by accepting, but he said he wanted paring knives instead. When John asked why, Paul said, “Most of my clients are married and their wives tend to use paring knives a lot. I learned a long time ago that if you take care of the family, everything else seems to take care of itself.”

John took this lesson to heart and started customizing his Cutco sales approach. Investing his own money, he ordered knife sets with the names of CEO prospects and their spouse on them and attached a note that read, “Can you carve out 5 minutes for me?”

From there his business started to take off and he decided to put his medical school ambitions on hold.

A few years later, John saw Cameron “Cam” Herold speak at a conference. Cam is a sought-after coach for helping businesses scale. Although John couldn’t afford Cam’s coaching, he wanted to pick his brain after hearing him speak. It just so happened that Cam was going to be in Cleveland soon to give another talk, so John offered to meet him for dinner and to take him to a game.

When the day they were to meet arrived, John learned that Cam was wiped from his speaking tour and wanted to rest. To demonstrate just how serious he was about meeting with Cam and how much he valued him and his time, he decided to make a grand gesture.

In his research, John learned that Cam’s favorite store was Brooks Brothers. So, John went and bought one each of Brooks Brothers’ new Fall items and had the gifts sent to Cam’s hotel room. When Cam got to his room, he was blown away by the thoughtful gesture. Even though he only kept a few of the gifts, Cam ended up giving John all the time he wanted, answering every question. To this day Cam is one of John’s best referral sources.

John is now the founder and CEO of The Ruhlin Group, an outsourced gifting company that helps businesses strengthen relationships with their most important clients, employees, and prospects. He also wrote the bestselling book, Giftology.

“Radical generosity” is a term John applies to his gift-giving philosophy; it’s a concept that more of us should embrace in our personal and professional lives.  Radical generosity doesn’t need to involve giving gifts. For example, a few times a year, I get a call, e-mail or text from John. True to form, it’s never about him. In each case, he’s introducing me to someone he thinks can help me, is calling with a referral or is checking on me to see how I am.

The simple art of appreciating people is easily overlooked, especially when you’re starting out and/or don’t feel you have much to give. At the end of the day, it’s about putting positive actions out into the universe and recognizing that generosity leads to reciprocity.

To hear more about John’s path to gift-giving and business success, listen to our discussion on my Outperform Podcast.

 

Quote of the Week

 “The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away.”

Pablo Picasso

 

 

The post Giver’s Gain (#145) appeared first on Friday Forward.