No Shortcuts - How to Own Your Superpowers

In order to succeed in today's economy you need to be able to leverage your super powers.  You have to stand out from everyone else.  When you are using your super powers you are energized, willing to work harder (because you like what you're doing!) and stand out from others as you leverage what you're better than other people at. 

As jobs are cut, companies look to automate work and we shift more to a technological revolution (and out of the industrial revolution) it's critical you find your super powers and OWN them.  When working in a factory or an office job that acts like a factory you are essentially a commodity.  Do this.  Do that.  Come back tomorrow and do it over again.  The world is shifting away from this type of and you need to strive to NOT be perceived as a commodity.  You must be different. 

There is a transition going on because schools are still setup more to prepare people to work in factories.  You are taught standard skills.  The exams are literally called "Standardized Tests".  You are not tested on creativity.  You are not tested on ingenuity.  You are not tested on your leadership.  You must break out of what school has taught you and realize the "Real World" is now different. 

Here is a step by step guide to find your superpower(s) and a path to ensure you leverage them in your career. 

What do you Naturally Like Doing?  

What did you do as a kid for fun?  Build things?  Organize friends to do stuff?  Draw?  Work with electronics?  I know when I was a kid I used to go to the corner market to buy candy for 50 cents and then walk to the playground and sell it to my friends for $1.  I liked finding opportunities and making the most of them.  Makes sense that I am in business and also like doing entrepreneurial things.  You can often find a seed of what you intrinsically enjoy doing by looking at what you enjoyed doing as a kid.

Figure Out How to Turn That Into a Career

So this is the hard part.  It can be solved though.  The key is to be open minded about how to transition what you like to do and are good at into a more formal career.  The biggest challenge here is coming to the realization that not EVERYTHING you do in your career will be fun and there are often things you need to do to prepare yourself to be successful at that career.  For example, if you really had a passion for building things as a kid, then you might need to go to engineering school to become an expert at doing that.  For me, I went to business school......twice!  You have to learn the trade and become an expert in that space, which takes time.  Often it takes many years.  Most people give up along the way to do something easier.  The key is figuring out the path you need to take and then sticking to it.  

When You Are on the Path You Stick With It and Share Your Vision 

People get on the right path and then see shiny objects.  More money.  A promotion to management.  A new company that wants to stretch you.  You think to yourself that these are opportunities that you can't pass up, but you then get away from your true superpowers.  Is managing people your super power or is building a new device your super power?  You then are in the industry where you COULD stand out, but you are no longer in the right role.  

Another trap is not sharing your superpowers with your management.  It might be a little different from what is standard for the company, so you just keep rowing doing what is expected.  No need to rock the boat.  Sharing what you REALLY want to do could be risky because management would think about you differently.  It takes a lot of courage to do this and you also need to understand the lay of the land.  If you are a consultant and tell management you want to play professional soccer, then that's not going to go well.  If you are a consultant in the manufacturing space but have a deep passion for technology, then it's not too crazy to ask to be transferred to the technology group.  Many people don't make that request though because everything is "fine".  You need to push for more than "fine". 

At P&G I was in a traditional business for 7 years learning the core skills of brand building.  I have a passion for digital, innovation and entrepreneurship though.  I did some of that in my traditional role, but I wanted to do way more of it.  I was worried that if I asked for it, then I would then be removed from the traditional group and I'd be on an island by myself.  Would they not want me around anymore?  Would I be seen as less than?  I ended up telling them that's what I wanted and my career has taken a totally different trajectory. 

I was moved to a digital group that was not seen as highly as people in the traditional business.  I learned SO MUCH though in this new group.  I took hundreds of hours of digital classes and soon became a digital expert.  That opened the door for me to move to the P&G Ventures group where I am starting new businesses.  EXACTLY what I wanted to be doing. 

All situations are different, so you definitely need to think about what you really want and the best path for you.  If you feel good about that path you have to go for it.  You spend too much time at work to just be "fine".  There is a better way.  That way does require hard work and courage though! 





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No Shortcuts - What's a Digital Native and Why it's Important to be One?

I read an article recently from someone giving advice to marketers who are looking for jobs.  Many marketing roles are now making "digital marketing" skills a requirement.  The author felt like companies are demanding this skillset too much and not being balanced with the skillsets in other tactics like TV, OOH, radio, etc.  He's worried that companies are following hot trends like AI, Big Data and personalization right out the window.  

His advice was to essentially lie about your less than perfect skillset in digital.  Fake it until you make it.  He pushed that tactics should be driven by the consumer.  What platforms are they engaging with?  Where do they find out about new products?  Where can they be best influenced?  I 100% agree with the consumer leading the choice of tactics, but disagree on faking it until you make it.  

In 2021 marketing HAS to include digital marketing.  If you are a marketer, then you need to also be skilled in digital marketing.  The trends are just to powerful to ignore.  Younger people aren't watching TV.  The shift to eCommerce is happening rapidly and the pandemic is accelerating the shift.  Marketers who have not been upskilling themselves to this disruption would be like an NBA player getting complacent and not doing the hard work needed to remain competitive.  

The phrase "digital native" is tossed around a lot.  Different people have different definitions.  I believe a digital native is a person who has a strong understanding of all of all aspects of digital marketing (content, social media, search, eComm, analytics, streaming, programmatic, website UX/UI).  Many people extend the definition to needing to be proficient in all the tools like ads manager, Google Analytics, Shopify, etc.  I think that extra understanding is nice to have.  Knowing all the aspects of digital marketing to LEAD an agency team to execute is enough for me.  

If you are not on top of the above topics, then I suggest you starting taking online courses to familiarize yourself with the platforms and languages.  Here are my favorite upskilling tools.  

LinkedIn Learning:  They have numerous courses and paths in digital marketing.  The content is solid and they do a good job keeping it engaging.  

Coursera:  They have similar courses as LinkedIn Learning.  Both are on par from a depth of content and engagement perspective.  

OMCA/OMCP:  Online Marketing Certified Associate and Online Marketing Certified Professional.  This is a certification that I have leveraged to make sure I truly understood the concepts.  The OMCA is the 101 and the OMCP is the 401 that goes deep into particular subjects.  Their website has curriculum they recommend to prep you for their courses.  I took the Simplilearn courses.  They weren't as engaging as LinkedIn Learning or Coursera, but get the job done.  

It can be tough to start.  Many of the courses are long and learning new concepts can be intimidating.  In order to remain competitive you have to learn this stuff.  I found the more that I learned the more I became curious.  I couldn't get enough!  

The trends are shifting quickly and you don't want to be pounded by the wave.  Ride the wave to success and become a leader in the space!

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No Shortcuts - Did My MBA Help In My Entrepreneurial Journey?

Recently Elon Musk said that, "I think there might be too many MBA's running companies.  There's the MBA-ization of America, which I think is maybe not that great.  There should be more focus on the product or service itself, less time on board meetings, less time on financials."  The Wall Street Journal concluded that he was essentially saying there are too many MBAs polluting companies' ability to think creatively and give customers what they really want.  

Woah.  Shots fired!  Elon is now the richest man in America with multiple breakthrough ventures, so we have to listen to the man's opinions.  I have a ton of respect and admiration for Elon and believe there is truth in what he is saying.  I also believe my entrepreneurial path was opened by my MBA, so the exact opposite of what he is saying.  

I'd like to break down my thoughts both as a pure entrepreneur with my own company and also an employee at a large Fortune 50 company that recruits MBAs heavily.  

Pro's of the MBA:

Time to Explore:  I did a full time MBA program at USC and it totally shifted my impression of my own skills from one of low risk almost robotic thinking to one of entrepreneurial high risk thinking.  I was in the insurance industry before, which is one of the oldest most conservative industries around.  It didn't excite me and didn't really expose me to breakthrough thinking.  The MBA gave me a break to explore other things, talk with creative people and allow me to realize what I REALLY am good at.  Without my MBA I could foresee myself still in my old insurance job not knowing that I actually am entrepreneurial! 

Exposure to New Ideas:  I took a lot of unique classes in MBA school.  I took a class at Hulu that explored new media.  I took a class at CAA that opened my mind to talent and creative.  I took a movie marketing class where executives from different studios spoke every week.  I took a digital marketing class.  All of that opened my eyes to a fast changing media and technology landscape.  I realized that is what I want to be an expert in going forward. 

Exposure to Amazing People:  At USC I was surrounded by hundreds of really successful people.  In talking with them everyday it changed me.  I realized that I needed to do something very different from insurance and I was inspired to make the most of my talents after seeing "the light".  In talking with my classmate/roommate the idea of Sloane was born.  We had talked about different entrepreneurial ideas in the car all the time and the idea of fixing the annoying white cotton undershirt sparked with me.  That is where Sloane was born.  If I stayed in my old job I doubt I would have been able to have this conversation and my mindset would've been more focused on doing well in the job I had versus being open to new things.  

Con's of the MBA:

Curriculum Might Not Spark Creativity:  I took very unique classes. Many were actually outside of the business school itself.  I do see a path where you just take the standard classes that were also offered 50 years ago and you come out operating like it was 1972.  Stats.  Finance.  Old School Management.  Excel Modeling.  You aren't exposed to new ideas.  You are taught about bean counting and taking a conservative approach.  The PRODUCT is what sells and pushing hard on PRODUCT is what drives breakthrough.  You can see many companies that have cut costs to the max using these traditional tactics and they no longer have a path to growth.  Bye bye. 

You Expose Yourself to the Same People:  The network and connections are critical within business school.  It is very easy to hangout with the people you are comfortable with versus exposing yourself to diverse thinking.  Some people actually see the MBA as a bit of a vacation from the realities of work and true to have as much fun as possible.  Companies like Nike, Warby Parker, Rent the Runway and many more were started in business school.  These founders made the most of their time there meeting people, collaborating with professors, using class time to hone their idea.  That is the right path.  The wrong path is to stay very insular and basically hangout and talk with the similar people you were with before you school.  You don't change. 

Attitude of Superiority:  Many people who go to MBA school also did well in undergrad.  They might have gone to a prestigious company post MBA too.  That likely opened the doors to a highly respected MBA.  These people start believing they are the shit.  They are better than others.  They have the ultimate resume and skillset.  As the world shifts quickly they actually have the WORST skillsets.  People don't like working and collaborating with them.  Their skills are no longer relevant as technology quickly transforms all industries.  Their arrogance doesn't make them self aware, so they keep thinking there is something wrong with other people versus looking in the mirror.  Absolute dumpster fire. 

I agreed with many of Elon's points and totally agree if you aren't focused on teh CONSUMER, which drives amazing product innovation, then you are not relevant.  Trying to create breakthrough companies by just looking at financials and spreadsheets will not end well.  I do also think going into your MBA with eyes wide open on the opportunity can create true leaders in today's world.  People who are consumer focused, great to work with, aware of the changing environment and with the skillset to lead successful companies. 

The MBA changed my trajectory and I will be forever grateful.    


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No Shortcuts - What You Do Is Who You Are

I read Ben Horowitz's book a year ago or so and it really stuck with me.  It's called 'What You Do Is Who You Are'.  It's a pretty basic concept.  You daily actions accumulate and turn you into the person that you are.  I think it's a great phrase to go back to and ensure what you THINK of yourself is what you're actually DOING.  

If you say you're into health are you eating well, getting sleep and going to the gym?  If you say you're entrepreneurial are you taking risks, thinking differently, starting stuff?  If you say you're going to be a good dad or mom are you spending time with your kids, present during that time and being a good role model? 

It's very easy to get something in your head on what you want to be, but backing that up with action is the hard part. 

Leadership is another great example.  Do you say you're a great leader, but then micromanage, not enable your team and become a cog in the wheel?  I am trying to keep myself honest this year.  I have things I want to work on where I am not following through as much as I need to on things I see as important in my life. 

Looking at what you're DOING on a daily and weekly basis is a great way to do a pulse check.  Too much time on your phone?  Too much crappy food?  Too much taking orders from people and not enough standing up and being a true leader?

What you do is who you are. 


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