Everything in life whether it be business or family or otherwise, all boils down to interactions and relationships with people.
Everyone knows the story of Rosa Parks, A black woman who refused to give up her seat on the bus during the era of racial segregation. But the reason Parks was able to spark such a movement was not because of her brave act. Many blacks during that time were also standing up for themselves when whites mistreated them.
But why was Rosa Parks so successful?
Simply put, Rosa Parks was extremely well connected. She was known by government officials for her work in the NAACP and known by communities for being extremely supportive in schools and churches. She had a way of building rapport with everyone around her.
Then, when the famous event happened on the bus on that historical day, it united everyone who knew her and stirred up a reaction big enough to put the event into history.
The same goes for countless of other instances in history.
It’s easy as a creative or an entrepreneur to think that as long as I build something of quality, people will come. It’s easy to just focus on our craft and not get to know the people and the markets around us. Especially with the internet it’s easy to assume that posting on facebook or tweeting a message will get engagement, but that has no comparison to truly getting to know and building a relationship with someone else.
If you just know how to connect people and don’t have anything of quality, people won’t stay. But when you are both connected and have something incomparable to anything else out there, you can start a movement.
Many of us have dreams.
Whether it be solving a global problem, amassing a large fortune, growing a family, or climbing Mount Everest, all of these tasks are much easier discussed than accomplished.
Because even the grandest dreams are built of seemingly mundane and boring tasks. Becoming a billionaire starts with earning one dollar. Painting a masterpiece starts with one stroke. Climbing a mountain starts with one step.
But others of us just collect tools.
Not everyone has a grand dream for their life. Some people go through the system and conquer the mundane because they are told that having tools will lead to success. They never take the time to find the unique value proposition they bring to the world, because they don’t believe they have any great ideas inside of them. Some people collect multiple degrees, hoping that someday somewhere a company will be kind enough to support the lifestyle they want to lead.
But just as a house won’t build itself by having all the right tools lying around, neither will it get built if there is only a blueprint. Sometimes, the process bears little resemblance to the finished product, but it’s through a combination of vision and execution that a house gets built.
The people who are able to think big, but also persevere and show up regularly are the ones who truly accomplish anything they set their mind to.
Yesterday, upon returning to my car in the parking structure after a long class, I found the driver of the car parked next to me writing a note. As soon as he noticed me, he stopped writing the note and came around my minivan.
“This ain’t a compact car, look how much space you gave me. You’re lucky your s*** doesn’t get keyed.”
It didn’t seem to matter to him that I was clearly parked within the lines. I recognized his frustration, apologized, and went my way instead of attempting to defend myself. As I was driving home, I found that some of the negativity that the guy came to me with had rubbed off on me, and I was replaying what I could have said in that scenario.
Ironically enough, I have been reading Ryan Holiday‘s The Obstacle is the Way, a book full of proverbs based upon stoic philosophy and life lessons. I’ve found countless of situations where the topics discussed in the book are applicable to my daily life, but this situation was one I could not ignore.
Perception is seeing a situation from one’s own perspective, which is often skewed with different emotions and biases. Observation, on the other hand, is being able to see things for what they are, without any hype, emotions, or biases. Someone who perceives will often get caught in a cycle of reacting emotionally and irrationally, and can easily miss an opportunity or solution.
Have you ever noticed that it is much easier to be objective with other people’s problems than your own? Many times our own problems seem to be impossible, insurmountable, and hopeless until we decide to open up and have someone else take a look at our problems.
An outsider brings a fresh, observant perspective because they are usually able to see things for what they are without being tangled in a mess of emotions.
Instead of letting the situation bother me for the next couple of hours, I decided to first put myself in his shoes. He probably had a long day of classes too, and probably just wanted to get home, adding to the frustration when he found it would be difficult for him to get into his car.
Next, I put myself in an outsider’s perspective, seeing that I could have simply been a little more thoughtful next time I parked my minivan into a compact spot, even if I clearly was between the lines.
It’s not about who is right or who is wrong, but seeing the situation for what it is and seeing the lesson.
What stands in the way becomes the way. The obstacle is the way.
Consider the following story:
An American consultant was at a pier in a small coastal Mexican village when a small boat with just one fisherman docked. Inside the small boat were several large yellow-fin tuna. The American complimented the Mexican on the quality of his fish and asked how long it took to catch them.
The Mexican replied only a little while.
The consultant then asked why didn’t he stay out longer and catch more fish?
The fisherman said he had enough to support his family’s immediate needs.
The American then asked the Mexican how he spent the rest of his time.
The Mexican fisherman said, “I sleep late, fish a little, play with my children, take siesta with my wife, Maria, stroll into the village each evening where I sip wine and play guitar with my amigos. I have a full and busy life, senor.”
The American consultant scoffed, “I am business consultant and could help you. You should spend more time fishing and, with the proceeds, buy a bigger boat. With the proceeds from the bigger boat, you could buy several boats, eventually you would have a fleet of fishing boats. Instead of selling your catch to a middleman you would sell directly to the processor, eventually opening your own cannery. You would control the product, processing and distribution.
“You would need to leave this small coastal fishing village and move to Mexico City, then LA and eventually NYC where you will run your expanding enterprise.”
The Mexican fisherman asked, “But senor, how long will this all take?”
To which the American consultant replied, “15-20 years.”
“But what then, senor?” asked the fisherman.
The consultant laughed, and said, “That’s the best part! When the time is right, you would announce an IPO and sell your company stock to the public. You’ll become very rich, you would make millions!”
“Millions, senor?” replied the Mexican. “Then what?”
The American said, “Then you would retire. Move to a small coastal fishing village where you would sleep late, fish a little, play with your kids, take siesta with your wife, stroll to the village in the evenings where you could sip wine and play your guitar with your amigos.”
The individuals in this story have two completely different goals and perspectives. Who is right is up to you to decide.
I’ve done a lot of thinking and experimenting with time management over the past couple of years. I’ve tried everything from unorthodox sleep schedules to different diets and techniques. I’ve read and listened to experts talk about time management and how to most effectively squeeze the most out of each day.
However, in implementing these various tactics, I’ve realized that I was seeing time management wrong the whole time.
Most people think of time management as managing your time, but a more effective way is to think of time management as energy management in a time conscious manner.
Under most circumstances, the goal of time management is to be more productive with the hours that you have. The idea of being more effective with your time is so that you can accomplish more.
Under a time-centered paradigm of time management, it makes sense to try to cram as many activities as possible into as little time as possible, using various lifehacks and other techniques to become more efficient. While there’s nothing wrong with this approach and it can easily be implemented to achieve a higher rate of productivity, it only goes so far.
No matter what time management system I attempted, I would find some days where it worked extremely well and other days that were a struggle to remain productive. It was a strange phenomenon that perplexed me until I realized that I should be managing my energy instead of my time.
Under an energy-centered paradigm of time management (or energy management), it’s about structuring your day in way in which you can take advantage of peak mental performance, rest, and leverage the highs and lows of the day to your advantage.
Instead of asking how much time a certain task will take, it becomes equally if not more important to also ask how much energy a task will take, and what the nature of the energy expended will be. That way you can plan the proper rest and recovery as well as lay out your day in a way that matches the type of energy to your state of mind.
For example, I’ve found that mornings are a good time for me to read, as I seem to process things the best between 1 – 3 hours after I wake up. I’ve also found that the act of reading in the morning helps jump start my brain into an active mode for the rest of my day. I’ve found that toward the end of the day is when I write the best code, so my evenings and late nights are usually dedicated to programming.
I’ve also found rest periods to take walks and clear out my mind have been extremely helpful in separating tasks, resetting my mental state, and regaining energy for the next task at hand.
Of course, your schedule will be unique to yourself, and it may even change as time goes on. What does your schedule like and how do you manage your energy?
The book I’m Feeling Lucky talks about Google’s progression from being a 50 person startup company to being the company we see today. It’s an account from a journalist who steps on as Google’s 59th employee. The book shares many of the milestones that Google experienced along the way.
Culture is one of the biggest if not the biggest shift in companies as they transform from small scale startups to large companies. Growing companies inevitably comes with a transforming culture, and is something that needs to be taken into consideration as each employee is hired.
However, when it comes to company culture, culture simply doesn’t scale the same way that most other organizational operations do. Dunbar’s number is a scientifically experimented value that states that humans are only mentally capable of maintaining 150 or so relationships.
How then, do you scale an organization while maintaining a close knit culture?
By redefining what scale and growth mean to your company. Not every company should scale by adding more employees. In fact, not every company should necessarily attempt to scale by gaining more customers.
The company that is able to provide better value to a small number of customers is scaling. The company that figures out how to do more with less is scaling. The company that figures out how to crowdsource or outsource is scaling.
And the end of the day it boils down to two questions: How do you define scale? and How much do you value culture?