Tag - success

The Benevolent Dictator

I just received an advance copy of Michael Feuer’s book The Benevolent Dictator. Feuer is the founder and former CEO of OfficeMax, and the book is largely based on his experiences and learnings as he took that company from 0 to 1000 stores in about 15 years.

The subtitle is “empower your employees, build your business, and outwit the competition,” and I found the book intriguing primarily because I’m so immersed in the online/electronic world, and this book is by a guy who’s so bricks-and-mortar.

A couple insights I liked were an emphasis on the mucky side of business success … “discipline and process is the secret.” It’s not attractive – who doesn’t want instant gold – but it’s true. Another was his very kaizen way of boots-on-the-ground managing, leading to almost instant process improvements.

As the saying goes, you don’t make omelets without breaking a few eggs, and I’m sure Feuer broke more than his share along the way. People who say things like “whenever I asked for anything it should be inferred that I said please,” and when he received something “it should be implied that I said thank you” are probably not the easiest people in the world to work for or with.

Feuer is best when he’s recounting a business story that illustrates a point … and weaker when he’s making abstract generalities.

Overall: 7 out of 10.

Standing out in an organization

I’ve just started following Chris Guillebeau’s Art of Noncomfority blog, about his non-traditional work/jobs/career, and his travel around the world.

One thing that stuck out for me in today’s post is this quote on The Heart of the Matter:

The way you stand out in a non-profit organization isn’t that different from what you do in any group or company. You show up, give more than expected, and try to make other people look good.

Unbelievably true.

90% of success might be showing up, according to some, but it makes a big difference how you how up. Are you just there, or are you really all there? Do you do the minimum, or the maximum that you can contribute? Do you make others look good, or are you just focused on your own goals.

Love the quote, love the reality.

Now: to focus on making it come true for me.

The cult of done and perfect pots

Yesterday I was courted by a member of the cult of done. I’m still deciding whether or not to join. I hear it’s a good community but the health bennies suck.

Here’s their manifesto. If it looks a little incomplete, that’s because they only spent 20 minutes on it:

  1. There are three states of being. Not knowing, action and completion.
  2. Accept that everything is a draft. It helps to get it done.
  3. There is no editing stage.
  4. Pretending you know what you’re doing is almost the same as knowing what you are doing, so just accept that you know what you’re doing even if you don’t and do it.
  5. Banish procrastination. If you wait more than a week to get an idea done, abandon it.
  6. The point of being done is not to finish but to get other things done.
  7. Once you’re done you can throw it away.
  8. Laugh at perfection. It’s boring and keeps you from being done.
  9. People without dirty hands are wrong. Doing something makes you right.
  10. Failure counts as done. So do mistakes.
  11. Destruction is a variant of done.
  12. If you have an idea and publish it on the internet, that counts as a ghost of done.
  13. Done is the engine of more.

If I joined the cult, I’m sure I would get more done. But would I get good things done? Probably.

It’s like that old art school experiment. The prof asked his class to do one of two assignments – the only requirement for the class. Students could pick their favorite.

  • The first was to make one perfect pot.
  • The second was to make 50 pots of any quality.

Who made the best pots? The students who did 50, of course. Without worrying about quality they just went and started making pots. By 20 or 30, they were pretty good at it. By 50, some of them were experts.

Meanwhile, the perfect pot students (I kinda like that phrase) were so painstakingly slow their one pot took forever … and because they only had one pot to make, their skills did not increase at the same rate as the 50 pot students.

So will joining the cult be a good thing? Perhaps.

I just don’t want the builder of my next house to be a member … and on his first pot.

Japan? America? Europe? Who's working the hardest?

There’s been a very interesting little “discussion” going around what we used to call the blogosphere.

TechCrunch’s Michael Arrington spent the previous week at LeWeb, in Paris, where in response to some questions, he said that Europeans love life too much to generate the biggest technology success stories. They have too many 2-hour lunches and too few late-night coding sessions. LeWeb’s organizer Loic Le Meur responded by asking – on his blog – whether Arrington should be invited back.

Meanwhile, Zoho Office blogger Sridhar reflects that Japanese work even harder … often 12 or more hours daily.

This issue is bulls-eye topical for me, as I’ve been working 12 to 14 hour days lately in my new job.

But … let’s be honest.

There can be times when you go way overboard and work mega-hours to pass critical checkpoints. But 99% of people will not be long-term successful (or happy) being out of balance all the time. The old saw about no-one wishing on their deathbed that they’d spent more time at the office is true. And realistically, almost no-one is actually effective spending that many hours for very many days.

As I mentioned on the Zoho Office blog …

I’ve also read first-hand accounts from ex-pat workers in Japan who said that a LOT of the office time was actually just face time … there was not a lot more work actually getting done. But people couldn’t leave, because that would have been see as slacking. So they stayed at their desks, doing a little online shopping, doing a little of this and a little of that.

Here’s the deal: I’d much rather work smart than work hard. That is where you’re actually going to make the major difference – where you’re going to leap-frog the competition.

But to succeed, often you have to do both.

Fighting & listening

Just saw this great quote at Bob Sutton’s blog:

Learn how to fight as if you are right and listen as if you are wrong: It helps you develop strong opinions that are weakly held.

That is a great, great strategy. I also like another quote of his:

Indifference is as important as passion.

I guess the key is knowing what to be passionate about, what to be indifferent about … and when to switch.

7 spiritual laws of success

Tina at ThinkSimpleNow posted recently on 7 spiritual laws of success. I responded, and as I sometimes do, am cross-posting my response here …

Nice post. A couple of thoughts that struck me as I saw a few things:

“Success is the ability to fulfill your desires with effortless ease.“
– Deepak Chopra

This really strongly contrasts with John Wooden’s definition of success:

“Success is peace of mind which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you did your best to become the best you are capable of becoming.”

Personally, I think the effortless ease part is shallow nonsense. I acknowledge that we too often needlessly complicate our lives, our relationships, and many other things … but things that are worth having are not easy. Anyone over the age of 35 who has done some hard thinking in life can attest to that. And in fact in your case it took a fairly intense study series and commitment of time, energy, and focus.

. . .
. . .

One thing that I wonder about:

“Part of writing this post serves as a reminder to myself, of what’s most important: my wellbeing. … and how I need to create the time to work on me. Only when I’m well, can I be of service and help to others.”

I’m glad you added the second sentence. But what’s most important is very often NOT my own wellbeing, but the wellbeing of others or doing what is right, not just what is best for me. That’s the hard part about doing the right thing … it’s not always in your own immediate best interest.

The funny thing is that doing what is right, and putting others first at least part of the time is much more likely to result in wellbeing for yourself than an internal “me” focus.

That’s the “secret” of success … it’s a byproduct, not a goal in itself.

Selling yourself

Pickthebrain has a post on selling yourself. I can personally attest that, after getting the qualifications and knowledge you need to succeed in your chosen field, being able to “sell yourself” is the most critical part of professional success. The highlights:

  • Be Sold on Yourself
  • Have a Saleable Package
  • Be Positive and Enthusiastic
  • Be Real and Authentic

I’d have to say the most important one, though, is not there. To me, it’s that day in and day out, you have to work hard, put your best foot forward, make those around you look good, and not care (too much) about who gets the credit.

A-lister conspiracy theories and dreams of easy success

There’s an interesting conversation happening right now about the equity or insularity of the blogosphere.

(Nick Carr, Kent Newsome, Labnotes, and Chip’s Quips are covering it as well. And now, Shel Israel.)

Partly, it’s the perrennial A-lister bitch-session: why am I not in the Technorati Top 100? Partly, it’s the angst of someone who started blogging with great expectations only to find he’s talking to himself in an empty room.

In other words: why aren’t “they” listening to me? Most especially, why aren’t “they” linking to me? (“They” being the top bloggers out “there.”)

Bloggers start blogging full of piss and vinegar, ready to take on the world and win, zoom up the Technorati rankings, get links from everyone, earn $100/day from AdSense, get the (supposedly) cushy panel speaker invitations and keynotes at hotter-than-flame conferences with weird names, receive free stuff from funky companies with missing letters, eventually write the book, make a million (or ten, a million isn’t what it used to be), and ride off into the sunset. Easy, isn’t it?


This is real life
This isn’t the movies. And this isn’t the crazy-stupid-brilliant flash-in-the-pan that you hear about from time to time, and wonder why you didn’t think of.

Anything worth doing is hard. Doing anything well is hard. It takes time. It takes effort. It takes talent. It takes skill.

But sorry, that’s not enough.

The L factor
Here’s the hardest part for any of us to accept: It takes luck.

We’d have it a lot easier if there was a clear-cut algorithm for success. Do X amount of work for Y number of days with Z degree of skill, and you’ll be successful.

Sorry. I wish it was true. But it’s not.

Some weird magic happens in the world.

  • Some wacked-out left-field idea like Snakes on a Plane just comes out of nowhere and hits a home run.
  • Some odd idea like getting people to write secrets on postcards and send them to you so you can post them on a website results in a top ten blog and a successful book.
  • Some 18-year-old kid creates a piece of software that others start contributing to that turns out to be really good and amazingly popular.
  • Some slightly-shady entrepreneurs take an old idea and a lousy site and sell it for over half a billion.
  • Some crazy geniuses create the best hardware/software combination the market has ever seen and spend decades struggling to get to 5% market share.
  • Some other crazy geniuses with duct-taped glasses buy a piece of junk software, land a distribution deal with a clueless giant, and become the most profitable company in the world.

The point
It doesn’t always make sense. In fact, it usually doesn’t. Success or failure in any venture, blogging, business, or personal, is a combination of so many factors that predicting it is virtually impossible. Ask stockbrokers.

This doesn’t mean you can’t stack the deck. It doesn’t mean hard work doesn’t pay off. It doesn’t mean that skill and intelligence and tenacity don’t make you more likely to succeed.

It just means that shit happens.

Ecclesiastes says it best:

I returned, and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favor to men of skill; but time and chance happen to them all.

A-lister conspiracy theories
It’s hard, sometimes. I know. You don’t get the link you think you should – the one you think you deserve. I’ve had it myself.

The reality is, the blogosphere is a big place. Lots happens. Conversations abound. Blogs proliferate. Attention is limited. Blogs shoot up, blogs tumble down. Enough churn occurs to make me believe that success is still possible.

But you are already more successful than you know. Think about it: there are now 52 million blogs. 52 million!

Let’s say your blog is ranked 39,756 (coincidentally, just like the one you’re reading right now.) How lucky are you?

Let’s break it down:

  • If you’re in the top 5 million, you’re 1 out of 10
  • If in the top 500,000, you’re 1 out of 100
  • In the top 50,000, you’re 1 out of 1000
  • just for fun, let’s continue …
  • Top 5000? 1 out of 10,000
  • Top 500? 1 out of 100,000
  • And top 50? 1 out of 1,000,000

See the point? Even being in the top 100,000 is an accomplishment! (Of course, for all of us who are serious about this blogging journey, it may not be enough. It may not satisfy.)

We have to have a sense of realism. If everyone was a star, there’d be no fans. Not all of us, as Russell Crow said in Master and Commander, become the man (blogger, woman, person) we once hoped we’d be.

Maturity is the ability to see that fact without becoming bitter.

Genius is the ability to see that fact without becoming bitter – and to continue to hope, and continue to fight against the odds – and perhaps, eventually, through blood and sweat and tears, succeed.

It’s magic. Just don’t quit the day job.