… is one of the most power words today. For you. For me. For all of us. Not only does it keeps us from being our best but it haunts us so much that we don’t go after the things that we really want. Or we hide away awaiting the results of something we don’t think we’ve achieved. And the word is …. FEAR!
I’ve encountered thousands of people that battle with fear. They have great ideas but don’t make them happen. They fear being criticized, they fear the idea not working and they fear it’s going to be harder than expected. And they fear it’s not going to work out in the end.
Fear is an incredibly strong emotion–no doubt about it. But fear is also what holds us back. We don’t pursue our goals, personally or professionally. It’s what STOPS YOU from going with an idea at work. STOPS ME from writing a controversial blog post. And stops both of us from taking a risk with someone you like. Because we don’t want to get rejected.
On the other hand, the greatest people are those that can overcome the fear. CEOs that don’t fear losing a job. Athletes that don’t fear getting hammered by the media for missing a shot. And investors that aren’t afraid to lose money on a brilliant new idea.
Easier said than done? Of course it is. After all, I hate rejection as much as anyone. And it’s incredibly easy to not take a chance, or to hide away, because of it. Especially when the stakes are high.
On the other hand, fear of failure can also be overrated. Because less people will care than you think. Millions of smart people have failed before. And sometimes, your idea might just work out in the end.
It’s time both you and me took this advice more often.
“The greatest risk in life is not taking one.” -Old Commercial from AIG
** Here is an except from Tribes, where Seth Godin coined this phrase the F word
A few months ago, I opened up a new account at my bank. The first interaction was great. The employees were helpful and nice. They got me through the process quickly, and even gave me a discount.
At the moment I was happy, but over time the experience has taught me that last interactions might be far more important.
After they finished this job, their service has been worse. They’ve charged me with fees they didn’t explain And last week, it took two hours just to get a few cancelled checks. I was transferred between three departments, all on VOIP lines in South America that were hardly working.
The interaction was terrible. And this is what will stick in my memory. The last interaction. In my experience, it can make or break everything.
Good last impressions are great too. When the Dean of your school sent a personal message over the weekend to help with an important problem. When my realtor left me free cookies on two occasions after closing my condo. When I got a call from someone I was waiting to hear from (sorry readers, no links here!!!)
The good news is that just yesterday, the bank helped me get $120.00 back that was fraudulently taken from my account. And it only took 15 minutes. I was thrilled. Can my bad feelings be changing? Maybe not entirely, but the last impression helped.
In today’s disconnected internet-driven world, last impressions are more important than ever. So what last impression are you going to leave today?
One reason people choose to do something is because you get a paycheck to do it. In fact, it’s the one reason most people do things. It makes sense in today’s world, where jobs are harder to get than ever before. But what’s too bad is that for a large number of my coworkers, it’s the only reason they do things.
Some things are worth your time whether you get paid or not. I know people all across the US that are doing things they don’t get paid for. Running for office, volunteering in high impact roles, joining the presidential campaign, starting a movement, building a nonprofit, and joining dance teams. All for very little pay.
Likewise, some things are worth your time, even if you have to wait to see the benefits. Going back to graduate school, even though you won’t get paid for two or three years. Spending time getting to know someone who you can’t see as much as you’d like. Starting a movement for a cause, even though you’re only inspiring a single person at a time.
Now that you’re thinking about this question, what are you going to do this week? Invest all of your time in something that’s worth your time? Or waste it pursuing something else?
It’s a good question to think about every Monday morning.
You were the best before, but today the rest of the people are catching up. The work used to be easy but now you’re struggling more than ever. She used to return your calls the same day but now she doesn’t.
Quitting clearly isn’t the advice your parents gave you. If you asked them again now, they’d probably say, keep working at it. Persistence pays off. You can do anything you put your mind to.
But in a recent book I read by Seth Godin, there’s also the perspective that quitting is a good thing. Because no one will ever become the best at anything unless they are good at quitting.
When a startup won’t work, you have to learn to quit the strategy and adapt to something else. This is known as pivoting
When your project won’t get traction and you can’t find funding. If you keep working, then you forego the time and energy to work on other projects that might be better.
And when someone won’t call you back. Quitting frees you up to stop worrying. To find other things to do. To stop thinking about them so much – even though it’s easier said than done.
On the other hand, this doesn’t hold true all the time.
Data show that salespeople have to keep going — and not quit — if they ever expect to make a sale. The average salesperson gives us after 5 sales but data show for big purchases that it takes seven calls to make them commit.
Likewise, we’ve all heard of stories of entrepreneurs who only made it through because they outworked everyone else.
And of love stories, where one person had no interest in the beginning but where persistence paid off.
So perhaps the most important decision you can make is to figure out if you should keep trying, keep trying to sell your product and keep calling. I’m making some of these same decisions right now. Maybe you should be too.
What a spectacularly bad piece of advice. I think the advice giver meant to say “Never quit something with great long-term potential just because you can’t deal with the stress of the moment”.
Now that’s good advice.
… apply to law school the same way. They have very similar backgrounds, few years of work experience, focus way more on the LSAT than anything else, and end up choosing the highest ranked school that lets them in. Most of these applicants are smart, no doubt about it. But here is the problem.
Most law school applicants get low LSAT scores at least once, and then become afraid to take the test again. Many never take it a second time.
Most law school applicants spend so much time on the LSAT that they forget about the importance of having a good story
Most law school applicants write lofty essays about making a difference in the world, but nearly every single one wants to work at a big law firm by the end of their first year
Most law school applicants are hyper-competitive and don’t do a good a job working together
Most law school applicants apply to law school with very little ‘real’ work experience but don’t realize this is the case
Most law school applicants are more argumentative than collaborative
Most law school applicants are caught off guard during 1L
Most law school applicants haven’t developed certain professional leadership skills
Most law school applicants get rejected from more schools than they get in to
The good news is that if you are reading this post RIGHT NOW, then you do not have to be like most law school applicants
Every time you are making progress on a big project at work but take a 10-second break to check email. No big deal right? Well, if you do that 100 times a day (most people do), that adds up not only to be a significant amount of time but also a significant distraction.
Likewise, drink a coffee every single day in the morning before work? Or a soda at lunch every day instead of water? A little drink never hurt anyone right? But a year later, what if you add them up side by side against a wall. Over 300 drinks would look at lot bigger now.
On the other hand, when you’re in a race to the finish line in middle of a huge project an extra hour can make all the difference. When you’re struggling through a tough project at work or school, a text message from a your mom saying “you can do it” can light up your mood. And we all know this to be true: even a 15-minute call from that special someone you like can change your entire day for the better.
All of us might be better off if we found a way to keep tabs on these little events.
If we lined up all our emails or coffee against the wall, seeing how many were there might be enough to change your mind.
On the other hand, if you just thought for a second about just how helpful an extra hour or a 15 minute call was, we’d do the same for others.
The deadline to work with my friend Emanuel Pleitez for his campaign for Mayor is On Monday. Please remind any students, recent grads or socially-minded professionals you know to consider it.
Fellows would join an amazing team already on the ground of alumni from schools all over the country, including Stanford, Harvard, UT Austin, UC Berkeley, UCLA, UC San Diego, Michigan, USC, Seattle, UC Santa Barbara, UC Irvine, Cal State Long Beach, Princeton, Yale, UPenn, West Chester, Cornell among others.
Let me know if you decide to apply or want to be connected to the campaign.
See recent press on the campaign below
… apply to business school the same way. They have very similar backgrounds, use the same stories, focus on the same parts of the applications and hope to get into the same schools. Most MBA applicants are smart but here is the problem
Most MBA applicants apply to the same business schools and dont think as much about fit
Most MBA applicants write about making a difference but won’t consider a job in that field post-business school
Most MBA applicants are more eager to get high paying jobs than to do what they are passionate about
Most MBA applicants are persuaded heavily by money when it comes to choosing school and careers
Most MBA applicants don’t focus enough on the essays and overall story when applying
Most MBA applicants talk a lot about leadership roles in their applications instead of leadership experiences
Most MBA applicants aren’t afraid to embellish if it will help get them into school
Most MBA applicants don’t write a clear compelling story about who they are in their application
Most MBA applicants get rejected from more than one school
Fortunately, if you like reading my blog (and not blogs about “odds” of getting in), then you’re probably not like most MBA applicants
… is a dangerous concept. It describes the one thing that we think we want more than anything else. Sometimes it’s a job. Other times it’s getting into school or meeting that special someone. But sometimes can counting on one in a million can be a dangerous thing?
The chances of a high school student eventually playing basketball in the NBA? One in a million (probably worse).
The chances of a person becoming CEO of a Fortune 500 Company: the same odds.
On the positive side, it gives you a WIG to pursue and allows you to go after something you believe in and to give it your all.
On the other hand, many would say that one in a million doesn’t even exist. That multiple jobs that could be your dream job and multiple soul mates are out there–not just one. Further, it’s dangerous to put all your eggs in one basket. You might get nervous when game time comes, have trouble performing, and miss out on other opportunities all because you thought there was only was that was meant for you.
In the end the consistent and extremely focused pursuit of a specific goal is dangerous. It makes sense, when the work you do will also prepare you to succeed in other outcomes. So if you’re taking steps to become a CEO and your school, practice, and skill helps you become a great entrepreneur or Managing Partner, then perfect.
On the other hand, if you ou put all your eggs in one basket and live a life in relentless pursuit of a singular outcome that leaves you no other options if you fail, then maybe you should think twice. If your happiness depends on just one NBA draft five years from now, then that’s giving a whole lot of power to a single event not in your control.
On the other hand, I believe that some things are worth going after: jobs, schools, careers and significant others. So I propose that the closer you are to having a One in a Million, the more you have to stack the deck more and make the game shorter.
I know what you’re thinking. That sounds funny — every person I know has tried at diet at some point. Well, me too. Four people in my family are on diets right now. And they’ve all lost a lot of weight. So let me tell you why it won’t work for any of them.
The reason they don’t work is because the diet has nothing to do with what they’re actually trying to do. The aim of a fad diet is to change the outcome not to change habits. And before long, weight loss (e.g. the outcome) will plateau because you can only lose so much weight. Then they’ll return to eating junk food again when they don’t see immediate results.
You see it happen all year long. Every New Years eve thousands of people spend hundreds of dollars on 30 day diet programs. They purchase memberships at fancy fitness centers so they can squeeze into the new swimsuit in a few weeks. They stop eating for a month so they can look good at their wedding and fit in their wedding dress. They buy special gum as a quick fix to stop smoking in two weeks. They work harder than ever for one month hoping to get that quick promotion. But in the end, they crash. The diet not only doesn’t work but often times it also backfires and you’re worse off than when you started.
But (good) habits are what matter. Habits are what build great careers. Habits are what make Olympic athletes. Habits are what can make you a morning person even when you’re not. And habits are what will help you not only lose weight but also keep it off.
Habits make you better tomorrow than you were today. That’s because the key to becoming world class at anything is consistency not a quick fix.
The only way to stay in shape is to go to the gym every morning.
The best way to get promoted is to stay an extra hour at work every day, all year long.
If you want to become a better free throw shooter, you have to shoot 100 free throws every day this season.
And if you want to win an Olympic gold medal, time to start your training regiment today.
In the end, the secret isn’t some fancy technique or quick-fix solution. Instead, the secret is doing it consistently over time. To lay one brick at a time, which will eventually turn into a wall.
In short: (good) habits > diets.
There are two ways most of us generally travel.
The first is what most of us do. You think about your flight time, map out your trip to the airport and then leave on time. Along the way, you do your best to avoid traffic, repeatedly checking your smart phone to make sure you’re on track. But by the time you walk inside, you’re five minutes behind. You consider cutting the security line but you don’t … losing more time than you thought. By the time you get through security you realize you’ve another five minutes, maybe even ten. So you take throw your computer inside a different part of your bag, get repacked as fast as you can and pick up the pace. Many of us can’t get that food we were craving, some of us are forced to start jogging, hoping … praying the doors haven’t shut. In the end, you barely made your flight.
The second way is to leave for the airport 15 minutes earlier. We don’t rush because it feels so early. You don’t spend time checking your clock and never once did you consider jogging, let alone running.
If you travel the first way, you’re sure to get stressed out. Sure you’ll maximize your time but you’ll also maximize chances of missing your flight, sweating by the time you get to your seat and not having enough space for your carry-on.
If you travel the second way, you don’t stress. There’s no chance of missing your flight. And if you want it, you can grab a bite on the way.
So what’s the lesson you ask? It’s probably different for everyone. But here are three:
- First, is the importance of buffer time. Even just a little can change your entire day.
- Second, the easiest thing to do is to do what we’re supposed to – in this case leave on time. But sometimes doing a little extra can make the difference.
- Finally, the easiest way to deal with chaos and all the stress that comes with it, might just be to avoid it altogether.
So the next time you have a flight … or better yet … any important appointment, meeting, due date or deadline, consider getting started just a little earlier. In most cases, option #1 will be the most tempting but option #2 will be better.
is a classic thing that happens to most of us. It happens when for part of the time you are working as hard as you can to get something done, but then once you finish, you have to stop and have to wait wondering if hurrying was ever worth it.
Think about it.
Movie crews hurry to finish setting up but then they wait for the director to finish the scene before scrambling for the next scene. Authors hurry to finish their books and blog posts, but then wait for someone to comment on it or give you a book deal. We hurry and sign the contract, then wait for the lawyers to send their comments and revisions. And government officials — they are even worse than lawyers. You write a memo or brief as fast as you can to give to your superior, just to turn around and wait for hours just to be able to have a meeting with them.
But it’s not just a business concept. It also happens in our personal lives.
We apply to MBA programs or take the Bar exam, expending every bit of energy we have. But then we wait for months to get the result back. Or we call a girl that we like, leave a voicemail and sit around waiting for her to call us back, wasting hours in the meantime.
And in the end, many of us spend as much of our time waiting as we do working.
I propose that the best way to fill up that waiting time is to work on something else. Build in time for new projects. Set up time to revise old ones. And work on things you care about. Not only does it help to pass the time, but it means you are continuing to work on your craft and getting better at things you care about.
And more importantly, for some of us, it helps you take your mind off of the stakes of what you’re waiting for.
Over the past two weeks, we’ve had at least two thunderstorms in Chicago. And loud ones. A new friend of mine in Dallas also told me about thunderstorms they were having. Her comment got me thinking about all the noise around us today.
Today, the noisiest storms that we hear don’t come from the sky. Instead, they come from all the soundbites raining down on us every single day. As the amount of inputs go up — more emails, calls, texts and ideas –more people are fighting for your attention.
This is especially true as our lives are becoming busier. Work weeks are increasing. Some of us have two jobs. And we’re all getting more Facebook friends and Twitter followers than ever.
One way to get past this is to simply ignore all the noise. Turn off your phone. Don’t reply to all the emails. Don’t sign in on Facebook. But I get it–that’s easier said than done.
Perhaps a better way to do it is to decrease the noise and increase human contact. Find your goods friends and people that you want to know better and interact more with them. And over time do more of that, while turning down the volume for the noise.
In the end, the experience you have with someone you trust and like is far more important than random messages on the screen. Especially as some messages that weren’t even meant for you in the first place. Today’s huge surplus of electronic messages means that human interactions are less frequent but more important than ever.
So the next time you need advice, call your friend don’t email them.
And the next time you’re thinking about texting someone you like, try calling instead. He/she will appreciate it more.
I recently got back from a pre-wedding celebration outside of the US. Not only was the trip fantastic but I also really connected with the people I met on the trip. The whole thing reminded of something really important.
One thing I learned on the trip was the importance of your friends’ friends. Think about: your friends are usually your friends because you have some common interest, either professionally or personally. It’s usually both.
But if you think a bit more, you’d realize that your friend could say the same thing about his or her other friends. This means that it is probably that this person’s friends also have similar interests to you. And in some cases, you’ll have a whole lot in common. Similar interests. Similar stories. And similar criteria for making good friends.
So in some cases, your friends’ friends could make great friends for you too.
In my own recent experience on this trip, I found this to be true. Not only did I like every single person on the trip but I also fond a lot in common with them, despite our differences in location. We had similar friends in common. Went to similar schools. Had similar beliefs not only about careers but also about other non-professional issues.
And when they all came to Chicago this weekend, it was like the trip before never ended. We connected when we saw each other. We caught up on the past few weeks. And at the end of the night we all split off to reconnect again .
And that’s precisely why I’ll be meeting up with two of them again when I travel to the east coast in about a week.
So I propose the idea that it’s important to connect with some of your friends’ friends.
On one hand, you never know who you might meet. On the other hand, you always know that the chances are high that you might have a lot in common.
One of the best ways to thing through decisions is to talk things through. It might sound simple but it can be powerful. Especially if you talk to someone that knows you well or to someone that knows more than you about the decision you are making.
Think about it:
It will force you to talk about a decision you may be avoiding.
It’s almost certainly going to get you thinking about new information you failed to consider.
You’ll definitely gain new perspective on the things, ideally from someone much more knowledgeable than you.
The more proactively you think about the issues before, the more likely you’ll come up with something insightful.
Sometimes, the person across the table might be the smartest person you know, but the real benefit still doesn’t even come from hearing them. Instead it comes from talking with them, telling them about your decision, confiding in them and seeing how they think about the problem.
Because in the end, there’s usually not a single answer to the question. So the smartest people aren’t racing to find the one and only-one right answer. Instead they have the courage to admit what they don’t know, understand that their mentors or colleagues might not know it either, but that they can help them look at the landscape of choices and think about the options ahead.
So the next time you’re deciding about career options, graduate school, or anything else, try talking things through.
You’ll be surprised at what you can come up with.
Like figuring out your schedule.
Making a touch decision.
Persisting through to speak to a live person.
Ten thousand things can get in the way of doing these things, every single day. And if you’re not in the mode of being productive, it’s hard. And these distractions can set you back hours, if not more.
But the things you need are the most valuable. They can’t be bought on Amazon, can’t be given to your assistant, and can’t be put off much longer.
How do we get some of these things done sooner?
It’s true much of the time. Think about it. Ask a business person a legal question and here’s what you’ll hear, “that sounds like something the lawyer should deal with. I don’t have time to think about such small details. I’m a big picture person.”
The lawyer is just the opposite. She responds, “the details can make or break the whole deal. But business, that is just nonsense. It’s just guesswork and unpredictable.”
Because the business person does not like law, that person will inevitably fail to consider all the risks, or think about what’s possible with a little more time, planning and leverage. Especially with game-changing ideas that require more attention.
Because the lawyers don’t like business, that person holds back, relies on a rigid roadmap, follows the existing path and may never understand how big an idea might be if they just embrace ambiguity.
You see these personalities play out all the time in business school and in law school.
On the other hand, what if a person could do both: combine the detail orientation and ability to see risks with the ability to understanding the market, hedge on the good risks and scale their idea.
Just a thought.
I love quotes. Good quotes are not only fun to find but they can also be uplifting when you need them and inspiring to read if you find them at the right time. Some of my favorite people online feel exactly the same way. Cory Booker posts quotes at least a few times a week on Facebook. Fred Wilson tumbles a lot of quotes from the web. And Seth Godin includes quotes in many of his blog posts.
Like these guys I also like to think about quotes when I can. One place I like to put quotes is on Twitter. Like Fred, I also recently began to Tumbl quotes that I like and sometimes I’ll even put them in my blog posts.
A few quotes have recently come to mind, in no particular order:
1. One quote that I was recently reminded of last weekend was from Steve Jobs, whose quote on attention to detail/quality is good for anyone in business; or anyone that wants to go to graduate school.
You got to make the back fence that nobody will see just as good looking as the front -Steve Jobs
2. Here is another quote that I recently found online.
I am strong because I am weak.
I am beautiful because I know my flaws.
I am a lover because I am a fighter.
I am fearless because I have been afraid.
I am wise because I have been foolish.
And I can laugh because I’ve known sadness.
3. And here is a quote from one of my favorite songs:
If I were of the highest cliff, on the highest riff And you slipped off the side and clinched on to your life in my grip, I would never, ever let you down
What are some of your favorite quotes?
I’ve been thinking a lot about the purpose of education these days. And I’m not the only one. Every year thousand of people think about it, while they are taking entrance exams, trying to get into the best school they can. Then again when they’re taking professional exams. Trying to learn as much material as they can to go work in certain professions. In my view, the purpose of school often gets entirely lost.
Think about it. The purpose of education is to learn and to get access to more information and opportunities. Not only job opportunities but opportunities to travel the world, learn about new cultures, and explore new ideas. To find your passion, not only professionally but also academically and culturally. And in the end, to come up with new ways to contribute to society.
But today, more than ever, that is being lost. Today, every one of us is forced to think longer and harder about loan papers and assess how much debt we have to pay back.
We feel pressure to land six figure jobs to stack up with our classmates or at least lead us into the Promise Land of status and wealth. To go into finance, law firms or the best hospitals in the world to ensure that school was a good use of our time. Dont’ get me wrong, all that is great – competition, rigor and some level of screening.
But that’s not the purpose of school.
Given the time and money being invested, not only by students but also by taxpayers, we should be thinking more about this. Every student and parent should be pondering. And every taxpayer should be chiming asking about it.
What is school for? Are we doing it right? Are students learning? Are we better off? Or is the hyper-competitive system burning out some of our best and most independent thinkers?
Truth be told: I don’t know the answers either. But if you’re not at least thinking about it, maybe you should be.
In today’s multi-dimensional, interconnected world, success in business is harder than ever before. Not only do you have to be hardworking, smart and a little bit lucky, but you also need as much help and support as possible. In fact, some people say that there’s nothing more important than having support if you want to make it to the top. I propose that one really good way to do that in business is to have a “Sponsor”.
I know what you’re thinking: What exactly is a sponsor? And how does a sponsor differ from a mentor?
Mentors, are what most people tend to have. They are people that offer friendly advice. They offer career conversation when you need them and sometimes before you need them. Not only will the tell you about their own experiences but when possible, they will give you as many tips as they can.
On the other hand, a sponsor is someone who uses their own power and influence on their protégé’s behalf. Not only do they advocate for their performance but often times for their next promotion. Sponsors also help their protégé understand what they can do at a company, make connections to senior leaders; become more visible; and open up career opportunities. In short, sponsors pull you up to the next level.
On the other hand, not having a sponsor means that you don’t have people fighting for you when it counts. You might have people making decisions about your career who don’t know who you are or who have no real vested interest. And as a result, it can be harder to get on a key project, harder to get support if things don’t go as well as you hoped, and harder to learn how things work at the company.
But don’t just take it from me, take it from VPs I spoke with at Aon, SVP at Amex and another executive at Google, all of whom had the same opinion.
In short, if you don’t have a sponsor yet, think about how you might be able to find one.