Today I decided that it is time to start over. I am writing a new blog post today, although I haven’t written a in about 18 months, and haven’t written consistently in well over 2 years. All despite writing daily for almost 4 years prior to that.
I also get the chance to start over at work. I recently resigned from my old law firm last week, and I’m about to walk out my front door to start a new job in less than one hour (I’ll post on my new role separately).
Sometimes, fresh starts are just what we need. A chance to try something else, to reinvent yourself, to start working on something new.
But fresh starts don’t always have to be big. Every day with a colleague, a friend, a spouse, a customer… it can be like starting over as well. Think about it — it never helps to hold grudges or to focus too much on yesterday’s successes. It’s better to start the day with new goals, new ideas, and new energies spent delighting those most important to you.
It was true in the NBA conference finals. The OKC Thunder were up 3 to 1, but just lost the series to the Golden State Warriors who started each following game like it was a new series.
It’s also true in our workouts — yesterday’s 6 minute mile pace has no bearing on how fast we’ll run today; whether or not we held handstand at yoga yesterday has little impact on if we can hold it today. You have to come out, be present and focus all over again.
If you are in a situation where you can’t get a new start … you might think about whether or not the situation is a good fit for you. In the end, a chance to start over is always a chance to work toward something great.
My friend and former MBA Kellogg classmate Angela Cain spearheaded the activity, which took place on Saturday, July 12 at 9-11am. She organized it through the MLT Atlanta Chapter and the event was located at the Open Hand Campus in Atlanta, GA 30324.
Our activity was to make pantry bags for homebound seniors and undeserved individuals struggling with chronic, critical or terminal illnesses. Open Hand is one of the largest providers of home-delivered, medically-appropriate meals and nutrition care centers.
For more information on the organization, you can visit Open Hand at www.projectopenhand.org.
Thanks to MLT and Open Hand for all your good work. And to all my readers, it’s always great to give a few hours of your week to give back in any way possible.
One of my heroes (and former colleague last summer) Seth Godin once told a story about the importance of being grateful. The story reminded me a lot of the Yama, Aparigraha, which is being grateful for what we have. The story went something like this.
There are more than 5 Billion people in the world. Now, imagine each one of them participates in a mandatory lottery. Imagine that printed on each ticket were the circumstances that would dictate the rest of each person’s life. And imagine these were the numbers on the ticket:
• Parent names, income and jobs
• IQ (normal distribution)
• Weight, height, hair color, etc.
• Personality traits
• Health risks
First, if you are reading this blog post online right now, it’s likely that you had a pretty good ticket.
Further, if you practice yoga at a studio here in the US, the same thing is probably true.
But if you think about the entire world, the probability of you drawing a “good” ticket would seem improbable. The chance of you being born in a city US, with an average IQ, normal income, good health, good parents is 1 in a billion. Let alone having internet, attending college and belonging to a yoga studio.
When you look at it this way, practicing gratitude becomes way more obvious. And while it isn’t something I’m always good at, it has proven me to be one of the most extraordinary ways of living a better life. Helping me to not just be content but also to be more generous to everyone around me.
So I am going to dedicate the next part of the 100 days to being grateful. And I hope a few others will join me. Let us spread gratitude for the generous ticket we’ve been offered. Let us be grateful for the time and space to practice yoga. And let our light shine so others can do the same.
As usual, I did this during my first take. Given the size of the question, I kept my response fairly brief. If anyone has any follow up questions, feel free to send them my way. See below for the question and below that for my response.
Good day Jeremy Wilson, this is Ezra. Hope your Thanksgiving week went well with family. Thank you for the advice on career advancement when we met at Cornell University’s Information Session in Fall 2008. I have decided to pursue obtaining my masters in real estate development finance. To help me move forward in taking the next steps, any advice on courses, study materials and resources for preparing for the Graduate Management Admissions Test (GMAT) would be greatly appreciated. I thank you in advance for information provided on the subject.
Here is my video response.
High level summary:
1. You’ll have to choose between MBA programs where you can study real estate/finance or Masters in Real Estate finance programs.
2. MBA programs (despite being a great launching pad) can provide challenges as most don’t have large real estate programs and you’ll have to convince employers/real estate firms that you really want to do it.
3. The program you choose will determine the test you take.
4. If you end up taking the GMAT, many people who do well take classes. I took Manhattan GMAT as did a number of others I know.
5. It’s also a good idea to mix resources. One thing I did and like to recommend is to use a book from another GMAT company. That book will probably ask questions differently than the format of the class you’re taking. This will make you more prepared for the range of questions/styles that could come up.
6. Remember to be organized with how you study, to understand what parts you need to work on and that all sections are not weighted equally.
As always, let me know if you have any more questions!
Happy New Year!
I recently wrote a post about the finding the edge. How finding it is one of the most important things you can do. That’s because it’s at the edges where you grow, and where change really happens. But the problem with the edge is that a lot of people never find it.
The first problem with the edge is that most people are afraid of it. Afraid to be too edgy, or afraid they might go too far. That they might be ridiculed or worse yet, that they might fall and feel too much pain. But the good news is you can always get up and try again. So the challenge is to go anywys. To take emotional risks, reach out to people who may say no and to try things that might not work but if it did work could change everything. Because that’s where the big reward is.
Another problem is that edges are different for everyone. This means there’s no rulebook or step-by-step guide, you just have to do it. Feel your way through. Figure out the hard part of whatever is you’re working on and do that first.
The last problem is that the edges change over time. Like your favorite Chicago Bears sweater you used to wear all the time but that got stretched out and now is way too big. Or ideas that seemed creative three years ago, like crowdfunding and Instagram, but now are more common than ever. Like those examples, your edge changes over time and gets redefined, so you have to keep pushing.
Edges are scary and sometimes might feel impossible to find. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t look for them. Because in the end, the edges are where real change happens.
So have you started looking yet? What are you waiting for?
Think about it.
The marketing executive trying to think of ways to make her message more memorable. There are proven and simple changes in the presentation and structuring of information that can make a big difference in how much her message can spread.
The college basketball player who can’t make a free throw for anything. Just a few more shots a day, more balanced form and a small shift in the way he point his elbows, and suddenly he goes from making 50% to 75%. We see this exact same story happen every single year.
The kid in grade school playing hockey for his school team. As we learned from Malcolm Gladwell in Outliers, a few months change in birthdate can make all the difference. Remember, the children born on January 1 play in the same league as those born on December 31 in the same year. Because children born earlier in the year are bigger and more mature than their younger competitors, they are often identified as better athletes, get extra coaching and a higher likelihood of being selected for elite hockey leagues. All because of a few months.
And the yoga practitioner who has been working on a headstand. But once they learn to engage their core, and just push their elbows in one more inch. one day all of a sudden they feel more stronger, more grounded, and can get into a pose easier than ever.
The ideas above are all different but all have one important thing in common. That sometimes, we aren’t as far away from success as we think. That change is often more closer than we imagine. And if we take a step back, think about it and embrace it, we might just be one small step away from changing everything.
I first heard the idea of “fungal” from one of my heroes, Seth Godin, in one of his sessions at the Startup School. And I think in a lot of cases, the idea is spot on. Think about it.
Going viral is one of the best ways to bring about change. Getting millions of people to pay attention to your work. Getting them to come back to your YouTube channel or read your provocative story. Having a voice in the national conversation. And having a platform to show the masses an idea that matters.
On the other hand, “fungal” might also be the best option. When you’re fungal, your idea doesn’t rely on hitting a tipping point or growing in two days. It can also move slowly. Person by person. And view by view. Likewise, it can also work in the dark and keep growing when people are sleeping and spreading drip by drip. And then one day everyone will be forced to pay attention because one day you will become the best in the world.
If you have a choice, viral might be the quickest option and most provocative way to create change. But sometimes fungal is a much better long-term strategy.
Just a thought.
I dropped by the TFA Offices yesterday to talk to some of the Midwest recruits about leadership and Education Matters. It’s always great meeting up and coming reformers, and supporting college students in figuring out what to do next and what type of impact they want to have on the world.
I had a lot of good ideas I wanted to share with the group though time was pretty limited. During the Q&A portion, one question TFA threw out was “[W]hat is wrong with education and what ideas do you have to fix it? This is a pretty big question which makes it hard to narrow down to a few specifics. But here are a few of the ideas I remember bringing up to the group.
Flip the classroom to do homework during the day and watch lectures at night. This is the Sal Kahn model, where at night you have access to world class lecturers online for free. Anyone with an internet connection can find the courses they want and watch them. And the next day (e.g. during the day) they can sit with a human being, face to face and ask question and explore the edges of the topics with experts who can push them to learn more.
Make courses open book and open note. In general, there’s not much need to memorize things anymore. Even as a lawyer I never have to memorize anything. Anything worth memorizing is also usually worth looking up.
Move towards more focused education instead of one sized fits all education. Being focused is how everything else works in the world today. Think about the automobile industry. The idea used to be you can only buy the same model of a car in black, but now you can get any car you want in any color. Education should be the same – more options for more people depending on what they want/need. And we have the people and technology to do it.
Spend more time measuring experiences and less time measuring test scores. In today’s world, experiences matter a lot more for employers. How you solve problems, how you work with other people and times when you bounced back from failure. This might suggest no more multiple choice exams. Multiple choice exams were created because using them was an easy to come up with a score and differentiate people in a mass market where all jobs were the same. But with better technology, more differentiation and more experience based projects, education needs to start thinking about a change.
Find more way to embrace cooperation and to get rid of isolation. Why do anything where we have people do it all alone? It’s not how the majority of jobs work. Most of us work in teams a lot. And the skill is critical to underprivileged communities where the skill isn’t taught early enough and where first generation students are at a big disadvantage.
These are just a few thoughts I remember sharing with the group yesterday. There were a lot more questions/remarks, which I’ll try to share a bit had later in the week .
As a sidenote: is anyone reading this from the event? If so, please do drop me a line. I’d love to stay in touch and help you out however I can.
It’s almost always relevant. Whether you’re applying to new jobs or submitting applications for school. When you’re looking for new customers or looking to convince a jury that your client is innocent. When you’re looking for funding for your idea or perhaps looking for that special someone. The worldview of the person you’re talking to matters more than anything else.
You not only have to understand who the person is, but also where they are from and what they believe. And for a second, you have to forget what you believe, and what you think they believe. Beause it’s more important to know what they actually believe.
The tricky thing is that worldview is not right or wrong, it’s just true. Even when you don’t agree. Because it’s usually formed by the experiences of the other person.
So instead of trying to change their mind, you’re probably better off thinking more about a story you can tell that resonates with them and/or making sure you’re telling the right people the story. Both can be great options depending on the scenario at hand.
I stumbled across the funny cartoon photo below, which got me thinkng about worldview. It shows two people (e.g. chess pieces) in the exact same place, thinking about the exact same thing, and they have two very different views.
The guy who stops by a new yoga studio to try out a new yoga class. The girl who goes to a new concert venue in hopes to find another great performance. Or the date who goes to a popular bar/restaurant for their first drink on Thursday night.
Just because they stayed for two and a half hours doesn’t mean they’ll come back any time soon. Maybe they didn’t like the vibe. Maybe the music was too loud and they couldn’t hear the other person at the same table. Maybe the place was not personable enough. But your company never bothered to figure out the truth.
In today’s world, it’s easier than ever to find drive-by, easy to disappoint people to come use your product or service. That’s the easy part. You can always have a sale, run an ad, or have an open slot on OpenTable to get people to come in once or twice.
On the other hand, it’s a lot harder to delight people. To make them want to come back again and again. To find loyal customers. The irony is that this is where ALL the value of many businesses comes from. Especially in the service industry. Interesting that one of the most popular bars/restaurants in Chicago didn’t even figure that out.
Just a thought.
Panels are very common in the business and legal fields. And in general, I’ve found that most of them aren’t all that useful.
It all starts in grad school when panelists are invited come to campus to talk about their companies. Students start off excited with prospects of having the jobs of the panelists one day but soon they learn that most of the panels are the same, so people stop showing up, unless they need a free lunch. And the reason is quite simple.
On one hand, the panels are useful for the person who doesn’t know anything. People share information about their jobs and their experiences. And sometimes, access to more information is critical. On the other hand, in today’s world, it’s easier than ever to find information – that’s always the easy part. Hearing about someone’s factual experience is rarely unique.
On the other hand, the hard part is engaging with the audience in a new way. Telling them something they’ve never heard before. Inspiring them to do something they’ve never considered. Comelling people to consider a new opportunity they didn’t want to consider when they first showed up.
One reason this is hard is because it has nothing to do with with memorizing case law, reading financial statements or answering interview questions – which is what panels almost always focus on and which is what most students learn in school. Instead it’s about actually trying to get people to see something in an entirely different way. To shift their worldview. To prepare them to understand what they want and what they believe.
If you want to organize a panel, don’t pick someone who will give information I can find online. Pick someone who is inspiring. Pick someone who can help the attendees see something differnently. And pick someone who can help people change.
Otherwise, the people won’t come back.
The blogger who writes the prolific blog post that brings you back to her website day after day after day. She is definitely an artist. The musician who can write a song that makes you cry. The lawyer who can change the hearts and minds of a jury of people who don’t like him from the beginning (think: final scene in A Time to Kill). No question about it, these people are all artists in their own right.
An artist is someone that uses their intuition and creativity to do something that hasn’t been done before. Something that touches the hearts of people. Something that might never work with the hope that it could changing everything if it does.
An artists doesn’t simply draw pictures or paint on poster board. The outsourcing company in China who manufactured the painting on your living room wall, those people probably aren’t artists. Likewise, the people who made the posters that are on the walls in your office at work, those people probably aren’t artists either.
On the other hand, all the people who push the status quo everyday to do things that are creative – to develop new website layouts, tell more compelling stories, design greener cities, build new business models, turnaround entire brands or start a movement with thousands of people from scratch – these people are far more artistic than all the people making the artwork for your office. And none of them do any drawing.
What about you? What is your art?
The Round 1 deadline is October 27th and the Round 2 deadline is December 1st. There will not be a Round 3 this year. So be sure to get your applications in on time.
MLT has already received 1,000+ name referrals! This basically means people who may have never applied without MLT being given the name. So you should be sure to get on the list as well. Let me know how I can help.
Deciding between round 1 and round 2? Then I’ll reiterate something I’ve said over and over to applicants I work with.
If you are considering applying in either Round 1 or Round 2, the general rule is to apply when your application is best. Historically applicants apply heavily in both rounds, but slightly more people tend to wait until round 2. My personal advice is that you should on apply when you can put your best foot forward but on the margin, earlier is better.
Ready to apply? Here is the link.
Questions about MLT? Ask Me Anythng.
Now that you are lawyers, things are going to get even harder for some of you. I bet that’s not what you bargained for.
I remember when I first mentioned law school to friends after graduating 8 years ago. Friends and mentors told me how hard law school was, and warned me that “the bar” was really hard. It reminded me of a few TV shows I saw which made it look like a nightmare.
Then when I was deciding between JD/MBA programs, friends told me that the law school classes would be hard, the competition was going to be harder than before given the recession, and the pressure was intensified with more law grads and less jobs than ever.
I wasn’t too nervous going in, but when I got there, I did find this to be pretty true. But there’s something new and even further out there going on in the last few years. Not surprising but new. The bar in the legal community has recently gotten higher – much higher. Both literally and figuratively.
The law students I speak to are feeling it. When they take the LSATs they are feeling more pressure to score higher. When they are in 1L classes, they are buying more and more supplements. When they talk to employers, they are told they need higher GPAs than students used to. When they have a job they are told to pass the bar, which has gotten harder and harder.
In Illinois, the exam just got harder this year. The score needed to pass goes up in 2014 and then again in 2015. All while the exam is adding an additional topic. The same is true in Michigan and other states.
Maybe there is a good rationale for all of this, but the profession is putting lawyers through a nightmarish path, where no matter what they achieve, it’s never enough.
Why is the bar so high today? It’s probably the result of a few things: (1) the recessions, which has led to fewer jobs; this means that the industry has to create more hurdles; (2) the rising number of lawyers out there; in fact, despite the recession some new schools have stilll opened up over the past two years; and (3) tradition. The legal tradition has always been about hurdles and competition. Amplifiying that a bit doesn’t change anything.
But the profession is doing well these days. And a lot of people who make it through aren’t perfect. So give it your best shot and I’m sure you’ll nail it.
Questions or comments about any of it? Ask Away.
We’ve been trained to ever since the first grade. To get a 100% of our fractions quiz. The get every answer right on our spelling test. Make no mistakes so you can get an A in the class.
Years later nothing has changed. Instead of fractions now people spend their days making better slides. Rewriting their legal memos. Drafting email after email. And trying at all costs to avoid making mistakes in things that aren’t even critical.
But often times, you work is far better when you don’t focus on being perfect.
Facebook has the motto, done is better than perfect. Because early stage companies have to get a lot of things done. McKinsey talks a lot about the 80/20 rule. How getting 80% right is more than enough. And Seth Godin talks a lot about “shipping” products. He says sometimes you have to ship when the project is good enough. He says the definition of “good enough” is “Good.” “Enough.”
Even the best artwork in the world isn’t perfect. Think about it. Some of the best Art has defects. Colors outside the lines. Or has edges that are crooked. That’s what makes it unique.
Sometimes perfection is what you want. You want a computer that doesn’t freeze on you. A car that looks beautiful. And a job application that is mistake free. On the other hand, some of the most remarkable companies and people in the world do things that are not perfect.
Something worth considering.
There are two things I like to think about when deciding whether or not to use a quit card.
First, quitting is usually underrated. Most of us have done it a lot. We don’t still take tennis lessons or still play the saxophone. Or we stopped talking to the girl who didn’t have enough time for us. Along the way, we quit and things may have worked out for the better.
Second, often times, we quit the wrong things at the wrong time. We quit our daily gym routine right before it becomes a habit. We quit running during the marathon. But not at mile 2, but at mile 22 when we were almost done. And we quit working hard in our jobs right before the promotion was about to come in.
So the question is how do we decipher between the two?
The problem is that the longer we wait, the more expensive quitting is. We’ve already spent more time and money on our work. We’re already more emotionally invested. And we already lost time where we could have done something else.
In the end, maybe we should use our quit card more early and often. And maybe we shouldn’t start unless we know we can finish. And unless we’re willing to risk it all emotionally.
On the other hand, perhaps we should also stick it out when it’s worth the time. And when staying put will give us an opportunity to change everything.
Just a thought.
Think about it. When you go to lunch and have decide between two meals, the decision is simple. Because no one really cares if lunch is bad because you get the chance to try again tomorrow.
On the other hand, when you have two jobs offers out of business school and both give you clear but different prospects of success then for most people it feels impossible to choose. Or when you finally have a chance to leave your six figure law firm job to finally launch your start up. The stakes are high because leaving behind financial freedom just to fail feels terrifying.
This is why people avoid high stakes decisions whenever they can. Because the fear of failure is too great. The problem is high stakes projects are the most important type. Because high stakes projects are normally the best way to change everything.
In the end, it’s not the change that’s the hard part, it’s the fear. So we either have to figure out how to address where the fear comes from or just learn to look at it in the eye and walk side by side with it.
Both are really hard but very good choices.
Your first meeting with a client can set the stage for the entire consulting project. The first week selling a new product usually determines whether a customer will ever make a purchase. The first few minutes after meeting that special someone can make all the difference in the end. But not because you put on a show and impressed a few people. But because you did the hard stuff first.
Problem is, most people do just the opposte. They don’t want to discuss things like price and timing with their client. They avoid the hardest decisions on hoping it will all work out in the end. They hide the possible dealbreakers from the new girl, hoping the topic never comes up. And they go work at a big consulting firm or bank out of school rather than just becoming an entrepreneur.
But really, you are more likely to waste their time if you wait and bring it up at the last minute. Because the cost to change gets higher. And your ability and willingness to bring up the topic gets harder and harder.
That’s what fronting the fear is about. You learn how to front load the stuff that you don’t want to do so you can get past it early.
So if your life goal is to be an entrepreneur, the hardest part of the journey isn’t getting a job at McKinsey or working at a top 20 law firm. The hardest part is watching your classmates make six figure salaries while you live paycheck to paycheck. That’s why you have to front the fear. If you become an entrepreneur first, then everyday after gets easier and easier. You get more and more clients. And eventually you see a path to stability.
On the other hand if you do the easy stuff first–if you deal with the errands and clear the table rather than just doing it now–then 5 years later, your salary is a lot harder to give up. You’ve taken on more costs than ever before. And now, more and more people are watching and expect it to work. Under this scenario, odds are, you won’t be turning into an entrepreneur any time soon.
So, if you have a new project, new career or new job in mind, try doing the hard stuff first. Stuff that’s scary. Things that might not work. Stuff that embarrasses you. Because even if it does not work, at least you’ll know. And if it does work, then path to get there will be a whole lot faster.
Easier said than done. But worth a shot.
As a lucky graduate of the Stanford class of 2005, I got to hear the great Steve Jobs speech about connecting the dots. It got me thinking ….
… do we emphasize the value of learning how to connect the dots enough?
In my view, the answer is No. Instead, we emphasize questions like, how many facts do you have memorized? How many answers did you get correct? And how many hours did you bill last year? And we determine a person’s intelligence and value based on that.
So we don’t spend nearly enough time teaching people how to “connect” the dots. We don’t teach law students how to leverage their intuition. Or MBAs how how to see things from a 10,000 foot view. Or managers how to see the story from connecting seemingly unconnected events.
We can’t teach connecting dots in a Dummies” Guide and we don’t have a handbook at work to show us how to do it. We can only do it, by putting people in new situations where they look around, try new things, get more experiences and fail more often than they want to.
And in the end, this experience failing is more important than than the number of answers you got right. Memorizing facts won’t help you make change but having vision in the face of uncertainty might give you an opportunity to change everything.
We need to spend more time helping people to connect the dots.
Just a thought.
Counting sheep is what most people do. They lull themselves to sleep everyday by halfheartedly working in jobs they don’t care about. And as a result, they never do the work they are capable of.
The customer service person who reads the company handbook over and over but never stop to actually answer your question or connect you to the right person. The corporate lawyer who files paperwork with the state but never actually stops to help the client with the hard work of getting the business problem fixed. A vice president who spends millions of dollars on new products, even though she knows they won’t get sold, all because it’s part of her job description.
MBAs and JDs starting all the way back in grad school. They take the same classes and recruit for the same high-paying jobs every year because everyone else in the class did the same thing. That’s because it’s easier to put your head down, fit in and find a good job that pays a salary every two weeks like everyone else than to go out on a limb.
On the other hand, it’s people who aren’t counting sheep that are really making a dent in the world. Like the CEO of Zappos who is willing to spend as much time as needed on the phone with customers even though everyone said it wouldn’t work because it costed too much. The CEO of Starbucks who is willing to change the entire culture of an organization even though it didn’t make sense at the time. A famous politician in New Jersey who is willing to film his losing campaign for city council and years later go on the SNAP diet to show the world what his district looks like, even though people didn’t like it.
If you can find a way to get more with with non-sheep behavior that’s where the good stuff happens. People who are brave enough to look at status quo and say “I don’t agree”. And innovators who are brave enough to say “I am willing to go the other direction”.
What if the world had a lot more people who acted just like that?