No Shortcuts - Are You Paying Attention?

I read the book Biggest Bluff by Maria Konnikova.  She was a journalist and entered the world of power to see how good she could get.  She worked with several stars in the field.  The biggest piece of advice given to her about the game was: PAY ATTENTION. 

Poker is a game of odds and understanding of people.  It's a good parallel to business, which is why I thought the piece of advice as being so good.  The advice was more so about the need to pay attention to EVERYTHING.  Not just your hand.  It's about the competition.  It's about what you have done to prepare.  It's about the dynamics of the situation.  It's about how you physically feel.  It's everything.  

I think self awareness is a key to success.  This piece of advice broadens that to being aware of everything around you.  I think it's spot on and a great reminder for people.  I see a lot of people with their head down working away.  They're working hard and thinking their going in the right direction, but are they paying attention to what's around them.  Are others doing the work better?  Is there a big industry change coming that could impact them?  Is their team happy? 

You need to make sure you are aware of everything around you and adjust.  Here are a few things I see coming that people in my industry need to be preparing for. 

AI & Machine Learning:  This capability is already here and will only get better.  Many professions (including marketing) will be impacted.  Are you educating yourself on this and putting yourself in a position to lead? 

First Party Data:  This is a big topic and I am trying to upskill myself in it right now.  So much data is able to be collected and analyzed.  It can be called Big Data.  This data can help you learn on your consumer and be more targeted with your advertising.  That will increase effectiveness and result in more sales.  If you think traditional linear TV has the same power as it did 10 and 20 years ago, then you could be in for a wakeup call coming up.  I like TV, but it has to be part of a broader plan that is led by first party data.  

eCommerce:  COVID has accelerated eCommerce penetration by 10 years.  50% of sales in China are done via eComm.  We are in the low 20% range in the US, but it is growing rapidly.  If consumer won't be coming into stores as much, then brand blocks and # of facing won't be as critical.  Physical distribution was where brands are made.  You see an ad and then go to the store and pick up the product.  That is now getting totally changed.  You will now be ordering your groceries online and either getting them delivered or picking them up.  You will not be walking into stores like you did before.  Skills in eComm are going to be very critical and table stakes to keep up.  

There is a lot going on, which is very exciting.  With change comes opportunity.  You have to pay attention to see where that opportunity will be though.  Don't let the coming wave crush you.  Ride it to success.  

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No Shortcuts - Advice for My 20 Year Old Self

I was on a panel this week for a class at University of Cincinnati.  It was a career discussion where we provided career advice.  We covered a bunch of topics and many I wished I heard when I was an undergrad.  It could have made my career in my 20's more focused on enjoyable.  ha.  

You live and learn though.  Below were the biggest pieces of advice. 

Be Open:  When you're 20 years old you are young and don't have as many serious attachments (significant other, children, mortgage, etc).  You have more freedom to explore ideas and take more risks.  I had 3 jobs in the insurance industry in my 20's as I tried to find a good fit for myself in the industry.  I couldn't find it and decided to go to business school in my late 20's.  It felt like I kept on moving from job to job, but that was the time to do it. 

Careful Following Others:  It's really easy to get caught up in what other people are doing and feel like you're missing something.  When I was at Wharton everyone was headed to investment banking in NYC.  It paid well, was well respected and it felt like you were a dumbass for not pursuing it.  Even though I was horrible in finance, didn't really like the culture and couldn't imagine working 90+ hours a week I shifted totally away from my passion in marketing and went for financial services.  I was the lemming following all the other lemmings off the cliff.  My heart was in marketing.  My skillset was in marketing.  I didn't take one marketing class outside of the required 101.  Thankfully I was able to find my way back to marketing.....7 years later!

Find What You Are Amazing at....and Like:  Lean into your strengths.  Find what really gets you excited.  If you really love what you do you will work harder, be more curious and have way more positive energy for it.  All of that improves your likelihood of success.  When you attain that success you will likely enjoy what you are doing even more.  It's a  flywheel.  I like the concept of Ikigai.  It's an old Japanese concept that says that you should find the intersection of 4 things:  What you love.  What you are good at.  What pays you.  What the world needs.  If you hit that sweet spot you will succeed.  

I have a lot more pieces of advice, but those were the top 3.  We are living in a rapidly changing time, so I see a ton of opportunity for young people.  You have to play your cards right though.  Don't get content and not push for greatness. 

 

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No Shortcuts - Does Meditation Actually Help?

I've been meditating off and on for years.  My dad used to be very into it when I was growing up, so was exposed to it......and felt like it was super weird for a long time.  Something that the Berkeley people would do while wearing odd colored robes and chanting.  Meditation is has become more and more mainstream over the years and I've been doing it off and on for 10+ years. 

I recently read that book about how an ABC news host went all in on meditation after having multiple panic attacks.  His book is called 10% Happier and that's exactly how much he thinks meditation helps.  When I think about my experience with meditation I have to agree.  

I took a class in business school called Fostering Creativity and we meditated in a circle to start every class.  It was at first super awkward and then I came to look forward to it.  The premise of the class is that everyone wants to be creative, but can rarely achieve it because life gets in the way.  Traffic.  Work stress.  Long hours.  Lack of sleep.  Too much screen time.  Running the kids around.  Lack of exercise.  Poor food choices.  How can you clear your mind to be creative when that is your every waking minute??

That struck a chord with me because I like to stay busy.  I like to be running around all the time, but really WANT to be creative.  If you can't take 10 minutes to chill out, then how do you expect your brain to spit out breakthrough ideas?  

I read another book recently called Tribe of Mentors by Tim Ferris.  He talks with 100+ extremely successful people across all industries.  My biggest takeaway was LOTS of successful people meditate.  And many do transcendental meditation, which is 20+ minutes of deep meditation a day.  There is something to meditation if that many insanely successful do it daily!

Here are the benefits that I have gotten from meditation.  

Just Slow Down!  If you are just getting started you will find it almost impossible to sit and breath for 5 minutes.  It'll feel like hours.  You'll get frustrated, but also realize that it is crazy that you can't still for 5 min.  You want to check your phone.  You'll think you're getting nothing out of it.  Stay strong and keep trying it.  The practice will soon click and you'll sit there calm.  You'll appreciate the quiet and stillness. 

Clear the Monkey Mind.  Your mind is all over the place.  Constantly thinking.  It's overwhelmed.  It's running a marathon not running a straight line.  It's zig- zagging and often in an all out sprint.  Stressed about a work project.  Wondering when you can pick up the dry cleaning.  Upset about the tone of voice someone used with you.  Stressed because you're stuck in traffic.  Can the mind just switch to a nice walk?   Meditation allows your mind to just TRY to think about one thing.  Your breath.   

Prevent Getting Overwhelmed.  I remember I had a really hard time at work for a year.  I looked at my Calm app streak and I did it every single day for a year.  I felt like I needed to just rest my mind because all I was thinking about was this work drama.  Mad at what someone did to me.  Wondering if I was smart enough to make it.  Thinking about whether I needed to find another job.  What would that job be?  Where would it be?  What would that mean for the relationship I was in?  My mind was snowballing a bad incident and it was getting out of control.  Stopping to just calm my mind helped me from going crazy. 

Meditation is not a miracle maker.  It helps though.  I think showing your commitment and control over your mind also gives you some confidence.  If you can calm your mind for 10 minutes, then what else can you do?   Workout?  Read more?  It's 10 minutes a day and makes you 10% happier.  It's worth the investment!

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No Shortcuts - Are You Getting Out-Worked?

"The only thing that I see that is distinctly different about me is I'm not afraid to die on a treadmill.  I will not be out-worked, period.....But if we get on the treadmill together, there's two things: You're getting off first, or I'm going to die.

- Will Smith 

I love this quote.  People think Will Smith is just a naturally born talent and everything comes easy for him.  Good looking.  Funny.  Musically talented.  Actor.  Caring.  Charismatic.  Rich.  And then you see this quote and it's clear he has had to work his ass off to get where he is.  

I see in this quote that Smith feels like there are people just as talented as him.  Maybe even more talented.  They just aren't willing to put in the work to be great.  That is so powerful in this day when people seem to want things to come easily.  That's at least how it looks on social media.  

Hard work is often the differentiator.  It can be easily hidden that you don't even see what's going on though.  Here are a few examples.  

You and another person are working on different projects.  She seems to be having an easier time getting things done though.  Things are just working out.  Her team likes her.  The actions she is taking are making immediate impacts.  She's seen by leadership as super effective and high potential.  Now what does she have that you don't????

What You Don't See: 

- She reads books while you are watching TV.  Those books make her a better leader, a better strategic thinker, a better public speaker and a better influencer.  

- She goes home when you do, but gets back on the computer at night to handle work when it's quiet versus taking 4X longer doing it during the day with all the distractions.  

- She prioritized learning and took multiple classes over the year in areas that sharpened her skills.  You were too busy with the day to day to take classes.  

Those are just a few examples of what's happening outside of your view.  Someone is out-working you and you don't even realize it.  In business this happens slowly.  It's not a 100 yard dash that's over quickly. It's weeks, months and years.  You don't necessarily see what your competition is doing because it's often happening imperceptibly. 

If you can look yourself in the mirror and say that you can work harder, then I would figure out how to get on the right track.  The job market is incredibly tight right now and companies are going to continue to look for efficiencies.  They want the hardest working people that are making things happen. 

Be Will Smith.  Your competition will give up or you'll die trying.   

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