Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The Art of Goal Setting

Again this morning I braved the cold as the city slept. At the onset of 2011, I set a goal to wake up an hour earlier. I achieved my goal! For an entire year I awoke before 5am and got out the door after showering (hygiene is important). The streets vacant, the weather often cold, the sky dark....alone with my motivation.

I lead a strange professional existence. My job entitles me to work from home....I have never actually worked from home. Coming from a hyper-structured environment, I didn't trust myself to build a home office, so I spend the hours before others awake at the coffee shop. When you are arriving for your morning coffee, I am out the door on to phase 2 of the day. It's difficult avoiding the snooze button, but there is nothing more empowering than starting every day ahead of the competition.

I recently tweeted - "If you strive for perfection you will never fully achieve your goals". I will always set goals for myself that exceed the expectations of others. Achievement of everything is too much to ask if your goals are designed in proper fashion. The art of living is always striving for more.

2011 was a success - I reached my revenue goal. But, there are several areas in which I fell short. No matter how monumental our achievements we can always do more. Too often, we allow the past qualification of possible to drive our motivation instead of shattering the standard.

Five years ago, I evolved my business strategy: to do more with less. To try harder for fewer results....such were the times....they haven't gotten any better. The economy continues to struggle and there does not seem to be relief around the corner. With each year, I try harder to find the door in the dead end. I have learned that hard work always yields results, positivity is the only frame of mind one can possess, and creativity has never been more valued. With these skills in my tool belt I brave another year.

How can we take flight in the eye of the storm?:
1. Find a Larger Purpose
2. Shatter the Standard
3. Self-Assess

Stop Punching
If you are a person who dislikes bravado as much as I do it can be very difficult to "buy in". I understand that the "ra ra" thing can be distracting. That being said, you owe it to yourself to develop a higher professional purpose. In simplest terms:
a. Examine your organization's core values and mission statement
b. Develop the ability to derive personal purpose in every assigned task
c. Take a minute every day to research a personal interest

Work is (not just) work. You can create something that will benefit YOU from an instruction given by THEM.

~ I'm not sure why every organization doesn't present their core values to job candidates...?
~ Every instruction your boss gives you is yours to interpret and prioritize as you see fit.
~ It's a refreshing practice to google something you haven't thought of in a while.

Be Kind to the New Girl
I received a promotion in my company and was moved to a new team. The first thing I noticed was the negativity of the so-called team leaders. They thought I would respect their warnings. I thought, "I am going to be the number one producer on this team in six months".

Tenure can be a tricky thing. No one wants to be the new kid on the block and the tenured reps always seem to be more helpful than they need to be. In most cases, the old guard just wants to help the new folks. But the new crew has different ideas and experiences. Those who set the standard cannot seek to protect it.

There was a book written called the first 90 days. From what I can discern, this book offers suggestions about how to make a good first impression and with whom one should align oneself. I'm sorry....The concept of positioning yourself in an organization without results is complete horse shit!

We all know we can perform above the standards set before us but we must be humble in the process. I would recommend the following:
1. Don't speak unless spoken to
2. Don't ask questions with the intent of showing you know the answer
3. Keep your hand down in team meetings
4. Keep your phone on mute during conference calls
5. Don't drink too much and state your (real) opinions

Do your talking in the ring!

Be your worst critic, but let no one know
I know no one who has been massively successful that has allowed the company for which they work to define them. You must always set standards for yourself higher than those of your boss or the company you represent.

The art form is being consistently critical of your own effort without the slightest degree of public transparency.

Allow me to explain: You cannot endure life's challenges by beating up on yourself. Self-assessment is a healthy way to turn your weaknesses into strengths. Only you know how much time you have, how hard you tried, and what you could have done differently. The only person you report to is yourself!

Question: Have you ever given everything you have to every minute of an entire year?

Why not make this The Year...?

Don't Forget to Remember ~


Friday, December 23, 2011

Top 5 ~ 2011

The readers of this blog and my long time friends know I live for this time of year. The movie High Fidelity and the All Songs Considered podcast consistently have me on the watch for the Top 5 records of the year. I love the process of finding new music and enshrining it into my Top 5. 

It was an interesting year in Independent Music. Electronic Music in it's various forms has surged into the mainstream, a bunch of old timers returned, and the Hip Hop genre has found a way to bring the streets into town cars. This list can be a tricky one. If an artist released a record early in the year, I tend to tire of it (blame it on the ADD). There are also those artist that are expected to be good all the time: Bright Eyes, Death Cab for Cutie, Radiohead, and the Decemberisits ~ I'm sure I will receive hate mail from them for taking their greatness for granted.

Here are my favorites of 2011. Feel free to add yours to the comments section.

Bon Iver by Bon Iver 
Expectations produce pressure. Justin Vernon had released a stunning home recording a few years back, some amazing collaborations, and a great EP. Needless to say the pressure was on the for his second proper full length. He exceeded expectations. His voice is enchanting to the point of being haunting, the vocal harmonies soar like a flock of eagles, and the soundscape towers as high as any mountain. Bon Iver took the space of the first album and filled it with layers of sound while maintaining the music's intimacy. This record will be in rotation for years to come. We all love to see the underdog win!

Sky Full of Holes by Fountains of Wayne
We all have bands that can never do us wrong. FOW have been at the top of my list since Welcome Interstate Managers - they have finally returned to that level of awesomeness. One cannot turn on this record without being thrown into a dance showdown with house guests. This record's early August release was a perfect way to celebrate the Summer. Many rotations on the back deck with beverage in hand while the kids swam in the above group pool.

All Eternals Deck by The Mountain Goats
I first discovered Mountain Goats while playing with John Vanderslice at the Noise Pop Festival at the early turn of the century. Both artists known for creating concept albums. John Darnielle has created flowing narrative over the last 2 decades. Consistently heavy in dialog, always well crafted. Very difficult to do. All Eternals Deck is another masterpiece from the mind of JD. Songs drenched in detail capturing the moments in-between: The metaphor of walks in the rain recalling less than forgettable moments.

Hysterical by Clap Your Hands Say Yea
When this band originated they were poised for a theme song on a reality show, car commercials, and tours with the flavor of the month band. They decided to just make great music. After some time off they return to glory with Hysterical. Within 10 seconds of listening to this album you will remember to power of Clap Your Hands Say Yea......and you'll be thankful they decided to keep it real.

Family Tree by Carlos Forster
The former For Stars front man and his college roommate M Ward had been in the process of a collaboration some years ago. Then M Ward became famous and Carlos decided he was tired of being the center of attention. The return of Carlos Forster is a wonderful reminder of different times....rolling waves, shimmering sun, falling leaves. This album recalls all the innocence of Southern California youth. One of music's truly legendary song writer's back for an encore.

Thank you for listening!


Monday, December 19, 2011

Good vs Evil

In 2011, two characters made themselves main stays in the popular media. One by accepting a job another by quitting a job. The world watched in amazement as Charlie Sheen metaphorically burned millions of dollars for all the world to see. Charlie's public display of anti-authoritarianism was cheered by some (while others shook their heads). Enter Tim Tebow a well-spoken college football legand with God on his side. All Tebow did was pray and practice. Even with the aforementioned accolades, Tebow was chastised by the popular media for his lack of fundamental mechanics. 

Charlie Sheen went on a crusade to fight the power. He figured he could dismantle the system while taking more drugs than Hunter S Thompson - he lost the battle. Tim Tebow also went on a make God cool. Both men's goals less than run-of-the-mill. Complete opposites equally determined to do what hadn't been done before. 

In the movie American History X, Eric Vinyard was posed a question by his counselor "have any of your actions done you any good?" They hadn't. He found a person to help him understand the error of his ways. He learned and grew. That's the thing: to have people around you that let you know when you're being a jackass. Charlie Sheen's celebrity polarized him into a world surrounded by "yes" men. His kingdom was built around people who told him he could do anything he wanted to.....when he left the kingdom he found out otherwise.

Tim Tebow's kingdom was built by people who told him he could do anything. They gave him nothing but asked everything of him. So at some point, he figured out how to make it work. He won a National Championship and a Heisman Trophy only to receive more criticism. So he again concluded that he would do what others could not...make his destiny.

Tim Tebow and Charlie Sheen are men on opposite sides of the spectrum. Each with great accolades and an uncompromising commitment to winning. The difference lies in character. The villain is fun to cheer for momentarily, but in the end he always dies alone. Heroes possess something mere mortals do not....another gear. That point when Charlie Sheen stops training Tim Tebow pushes himself further. As Charlie sits on a stool complaining about the world, Tim Tebow heads back out on the field empowering those around him.

Ability and Determination are a beautiful mix when they come together properly. The bow with which you wrap them is also important.

There is always that guy at the party who consumes more than anyone else and gets the party excited. He may even poke fun at the quarterback. But when the quarterback is in church, the "party guy" is in his bed rolling though his regret. Regret fuels animosity which creates a need to win in spite of your detractors.
Commitment in this life is vitally important. It's hard! Everything in this life that has a long-term outcome is worth fighting for. If you are fighting to prove you are not wrong, you usually are.

I guarantee Charlie Sheen is more fun to hang out with than Tim Tebow. But if you were laying in the street in need of help Sheen would run you over in his viper, while Tebow would fashion a life saving device from a tree branch. Having fun is not always rewarding because fun is a temporary. With divine purpose you can create long term opportunity. Fun is temporary, Commitment is forever.

Don't Forget to Remember!


Monday, December 12, 2011

There Goes My Hero

I spent a good portion of my youth in Mission Viejo, California. It's a great little Orange County nugget, a 20 minute a bus ride from California's golden shore. Like most 5th grade kids, I spent the sunny California afternoons playing sports: skateboarding, baseball, hoop and football. I had a lot of loyal friends, our kinship was strong. Our greatest bonding experiences were pick up games against the kids from the other side of town. There was a pride in our neighborhood and sports were our vessel.

So, you can image our excitement when the great Todd Marinovich left Mater Dei and came to Capo Valley High School. There was a massive national back story to Todd, he was known as robo-QB. My friends and I didn't really read Sports Illustrated but watching Todd Marinovich play made us proud of our hood. We loved watching him play! During games we would walk to the other bleachers to challenge the kids from the other side of town to tackle football games. We represented our big brothers and sisters and Todd Marinovich was our leader. He inspired us to be better.

As time passed, the media came to understand what we knew: Robo-QB was a kid like everyone else. It didn't offend my friends and I, but the rest of the world was furious. Todd wasn't perfect. People get mad when their manufactured heroes turn out to be human.

More than training or fundamental football knowledge, Todd Marinovich had a massive competitive spirit. He was an awesome basketball player, he fought the super-sized Food Nelson on the Viejo Elementary playground, he showed young people like myself to have pride in our effort. His crowning moment came after a game winning touchdown pass. An opposing team member offered to help him up after knocking him down. Todd offered him a middle finger. He had friends to lift him up, as did I. It made sense to everyone who followed his leadership!

Then we all grew up. We continued to play sports with the intensity that we learned from Todd Marinovich. After an improbable Rose Bowl win, it felt as if he had given us everything we needed. We were now ready to carry the torch. I saw Todd at my sister's wedding years later and said hello. I told him I liked his music. That was the extent of our conversation. I had hoped he might appreciate the fact that I didn't ask him to sign my tuxedo.

With great power comes great responsibility.

Is it realistic to think that a teenage sportsman should be a role model? Should not one be judged for how they play the game not what they do off the field. There are those who hold their heroes on a pedestal (and when they fail, they die inside). Others find their heroes in the hallways of their own home and forgive athletes when they lose a game. Football is just a game that happens in 60 minutes. The game of life does not have a clock and the goal lines are often cloudy in the distance.

I was really happy to see the Great Todd Marinovich was given an opportunity to tell his story on ESPN last night. Todd did not blame his Dad for an upbringing destined to unfair expectations. He didn't make excuses for falling from grace. He advocated youth sports and it's essential contribution to his human character.

As leaves turn and waves roll in, time becomes the ultimate judge of character. We grow stronger through our experiences, we learn to forgive, we forget heartbreak and we discover that challenges exist on and off the field. As my son races through the California sun with a football under his arm, I am thankful to Todd Marinovich for teaching me how to play the game.

"There goes my Hero....he's ordinary" - Dave Grohl

Don't Forget to Remember!


Friday, December 9, 2011

The 3 P's

Most often, this blog deals the bigger issues that relate one's personality to their professional development. Today, we will work in much more direct terms. As a Career Coach, I am often asked for the silver bullet methods for success that one can implement in their climb to professional nirvana. It changes based on variable factors but I can suggest the following:
Personal Attention

The 3 P's are a excellent method in differentiating a truly successful company from the pretenders. They are also a turn-key to good professional habits. It is important to conduct oneself in a professionally graceful manner. Follow the 3 P's......

Do you get freaked out when someone you meet for the first time knows the college you attended, your favorite sports team or your past employers? Did you ever consider that this is information you have made readily available? Why wouldn't you be flattered if someone took a personal interest in you.

A 2 minute google search can tell you a lot about a person. Understand the common language that correlates to a person's lifestyle and work it into conversation. It's a great way to establish rapport and common interest.

The look of surprise is one of flattery not alienation.

Common purpose creates a company identity that cultivates an organizational culture. A logo represents a professional ethos shared by everyone who humanizes a brand.

No two people are perfectly alike but let's consider a football analogy. The path to victory is driven by a style of playing the game and directives for success. Business is no different: every company has core values, every department has business critical goals. Professionals should be able to recite their company's core values and the top 3 directives of their business group. Purpose is driven by common goals and a style for achieving success.

Personal Attention
Can you commit to responding to every email/voicemail within 3 hours? I bet you can. Even if you do not have a perfect answer, you can at least lay out a plan of action or report that the process is under way. People love to know that they can ping someone and that person is reliable to the extent that any given task will be addressed in short time. Your boss loves it, your customers love it, your wife loves it.

Implement a 3 hour turnaround time!

In summation:
1. Google every person you meet
2. Believe in what you do (or do something else)
3. Implement a 3 hour turn around time

Don't sweat the small stuff but always remember the little things!

Don't Forget to Remember!


Monday, December 5, 2011


You will find success when you learn to say "I" less!

A while back a team of several people presented a major proposal to a large corporation. In debriefing, our team lead went on and on about what she did to impress the client. She continually said "I did a really great job showing them....I told them exactly....blaw, blaw, blaw...". We won the deal and at some point our team lead was promoted. Proof that God does not understand the corporate world. In the court of the opinion of her peers the damage was done. Months of preparation by several people was reduced to an insecure young lady trying to prove herself worthy of a seat at the table with the big boys. The rest of us just wanted to put together a great strategy for our client. We went on working with the corporation we presented to and warned them with the aforementioned team lead was coming to town. While she attempted to impress them with another powerpoint we texted each other from across the table with eyes rolling. When the client (now our friends) laughed at my texts the team lead thought they were smiling with astonishment of her professionalism. What a Dum Dum!

I must admit that there are times when I have acted out of character professionally. I went out of my way to prove myself worthy of greater responsibility. I had side bar conversations with Senior Managers bringing to their attention my latest contributions. I look back on that point of my career with disdain. I simply didn't understand the image I was projecting. I was too naive to recognize my selfishness. My bravado projected insecurity.....not confidence. Over time, I grew up.

We all have milestones in our personal development. This is actually a critical part of our professional development. For some it comes from losing a big deal, others lose a job, and there are those who learn from winning. For me, the transition was very subtle. I saw people acting the way I had and I came to understand the inelegance of my former self.

There are 3 things to consider in consideration of others:
Stop saying "I"
Be humble in victory and accountable in defeat
Learn to blow off the unimportant

There is no "I" in R.e.s.p.e.c.t
I once worked with a man who was unable to delegate. He felt out-of-control if he passed anything along to his "lesser" colleagues. He really cared a lot....but he came off as mistrusting. As if to say, you are going to screw this up, so I'll work twice as hard. We heard the story of the team lead who took credit for her team's hard work. I told you of my shameless self-promotion. All of these people are well-intentioned but terribly presented. We often get so focused on the final score that we neglect the style in which we play the game.

Your boss will fire you tomorrow if someone better comes along. The company you work for could close their doors tomorrow. You will, however, always have a reputation among your peers. Your peers are the people who you see in the grocery store and at the kid's soccer games. When you lose your job, you will most likely look to your peers for support. The same people you see on the way up, you will see on the way down.

The Humility of Accountability
I love hearing post-game interviews with players who compliment their team. Interviews are stupid...we all saw the game, we know what happened. So those who take their moment on TV to compliment their peers are admirable. No one enjoys someone who brags when they win, no one wants to hear excuses from those who have lost.

It is best to be Humble in victory and Accountable in defeat.

Ignore It...
I remember being really upset about something incredibly unimportant. Someone had let the team down and had tried to pass the blame on others. Nothing upsets me more than lack of accountability masked in unilateral communication. After complaining like a little girl for 10 minutes, I asked my boss how he was able to endure such incompetence day in and day out. To which he replied, "I ignore it"!

From that point on, I learned not to take the mundane elements too seriously. I learned that everyone knows when the ball is dropped and attempting to save face is a natural human reaction. I learned to give people the benefit of the doubt when they fail and they will do the same for you. Yes, you too will fail!

No one is perfect yet we all need to approach life with the proper degree of confidence. We cannot go through each day second guessing ourselves. We have to make decisions and be confident in them....and when we fail we have to own it. A whole bunch of talk does not make one confident but the inability to express oneself is worse. We have to learn to pick our battles and to always present ourselves in a nature that is respected by others.

Years from now the team lead I mentioned above will deliver a pizza to my house....and because I'm a nice guy, I will tip her an extra buck. It is in those moments that the selfishness of poor personal promotion comes back to haunt us. In fact, the best personal promotion is no personal promotion.

Don't Forget to Remember!