365 Lessons. What Next?

Today’s Lesson: Learning a lesson every single day is a good lesson.

*****

When I set out to post a lesson learned every single day, I set a lofty target of doing it for a year. I had no idea if I could actually learn something valuable every day of my life. Now, I am less than 2 weeks away from my 365th lesson (actually, I will be a little over because I am not always good at remembering to categorize my posts).

The lesson I learned this year is that I can actually find a lesson in every day. I have no doubt this has affected my life and personality. For one thing, it has taught me to listen for the lesson in each day (and sometimes to ask others what it was in case I missed it).

It also taught me that I can make time to write every single day and, if I want, I could take these 365 lessons and turn them into a 365-page book. How about that? I wrote a book (well, if I actually wanted to make it a book)!

I don’t know what I am going to do after the 365th lesson. I have been thinking about it for the last few months. Do I go to weekly posts? Doing so would allow me to do better quality checking before I post. I could revise and do better research, publish more insightful stuff less frequently. On the other hand, I like the habit I have built up of writing every single day and I can easily see that slipping away.

I thought about writing random snippets of fiction each day, as an experiment. There are always random made-up conversations or note-taking going on in my brain, how I might turn a particular moment in life into a moment in a screenplay or book. I think it might be kind of confusing to readers, though, just having a daily dose of random words with no real context. I also thought about actually writing a spontaneously built story, one day at a time, just feeding off the day before’s post, with no real story outline in mind, just see where it goes each day.

I have considered splitting the blog into multiple blogs and writing for each one each day (which would amount to a post per week for each blog).

I don’t know where we are headed next. If you have ideas (or like one I mentioned), send them my way via FaceBook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, email, Tumblr, or wherever you found me or normally follow me (I am “Michael Salamey” everywhere–just search my name if we are not connected).

What should we do this next year?

In the meantime, I will probably just keep going so keep your eyes on the daily posts and if they take a weird turn suddenly, you will know why!

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Would You Pay 30 Dollars to See 300 Million Dollars?

Today’s Lesson: Movie theaters are still worth going to.

*****

Perhaps sadly, I remember when movie tickets jumped from $3.00 to $4.25 in my neighborhood. I could not believe how expensive going to the movies was getting and I have complained about the prices ever since (and still do).

Dropping $30 for 2 Imax tickets to see a mediocre movie (plus another $20 in outrageously over-priced concession items) makes a night at the show something to think twice about.

Comedian Louis C.K. thought twice about it. He has a funny bit where he talks about the production costs of movies. I am paraphrasing but he basically says, “Movies cost as much as 300 million dollars to produce. If you have 300 million dollars, why produce a movie? I would pay you 30 dollars just to see a room filled with 300 million dollars!”

He is right. If that was a museum exhibit, I would happily plunk down the price of a movie to see it! His quirky observation gave me a new perspective on going to the show. It made me realize I am not just going to look at the art or experience a thrill ride of emotions. I am also going to see what a group of people thought was a good use of 30 thousand, 300 thousand, or even 300 million dollars. Movies have become rather fascinating in that light.

If you think about it, going to the movies might even still be a good value for your investment. How much would you pay to watch someone burn 300 million dollars or turn it into 3 billion dollars by seeing how many seats they can fill and how many other people can be enticed to watch it and talk about it?

 

 

 

Marketing Is Rocket Science

Today’s Lesson: The best results come from having fun.

*****

My friend and sometimes business partner, Chris Lucido, was discussing Marketing technique with me. I was pointing out the wild success of his company’s Astronaut showing up at the Tampa Bay Lightning games and giving the team’s actual mascot a run for its money.

It was never intended to be Marketing gold with genius execution. “We were just having fun,” he told me. “Ben bought the suit because all of our products were space-themed at the time. We took it to the game to have fun with it since we still owned it anyway after we re-branded. We hoped local fans would get a laugh out of it and visiting teams might be distracted by it.”

They didn’t expect it to become national news picked up by ESPN, USA Today, ABC, every local station and paper, and, of course, being blasted all over FaceBook and Twitter.

Sometimes the best way to run a business and become endeared to the hearts and conversations of others is to just let your company be itself (by letting its people be themselves). You do not have to attempt to create or demand “fun” as a core value, motto, slogan, or directive. Just have it. Other people will get it if they get it, and follow along.

Just Say “Thank You.”

Today’s Lesson: A compliment is not about your self-esteem.

*****

“You’re the one with the brains,” Dani, the host of the Katy Says podcast, told Katy Bowman. As the only actual biomechanist I have heard of, and as a decent critical thinker, I thoroughly enjoy Katy’s podcast. This moment, though, annoys me, because Katy’s dismissive response was, “No. You have brains. Everyone has brains. I think what I am is the person who is trying to explain something.”

Dani added, “…Which you are so good at!”

Katy quipped, “Well.. I guess that depends on who you are talking to.”

Twice the host tried to compliment Katy and twice Katy batted it away as an inaccurate assessment.

When someone gives you a compliment, they are not asking you to judge yourself. They are not hoping to see your low self-esteem shine through. They are acknowledging something in you they think is great.

Your job is neither to be arrogant nor humble when someone says something good about you. When you dismiss someone else’s compliment, you are not only demonstrating low self-esteem, but also you are passive-aggressively telling them they are too stupid to see the real truth about you. You are actively rejecting their ability to think for themselves and tell you they think well of you.

We think we are being humble when we down-play a compliment, but in fact, we are being jerks. When someone says they think you are smart, or pretty, or important, or a good parent, or clever, or witty, or just that you had a good idea, your response should be to accept the compliment gracefully. The way to do that is the simplest, easiest thing in the world.

All you have to do is smile and say, “Thank you.”

 

Who Are They Talking To?

Today’s Lesson: Your team talks about you and it is not all pleasant. Get over it.

*****

After overcoming a hefty amount of fear (and continuing to overcome it), I introduced a group chat tool to a team of remote workers. There was some hesitation from the executive team (who “grew up”, so to speak, in the traditional work environment) and I give them credit for embracing their fears and moving forward anyway.

They said…

“…But these people don’t talk to each other now. What if they start talking to each other and finding out some of them are paid differently or have special exceptions made?”  They already assume not everyone is paid exactly the same and life is not always perfectly fair. As leaders, we are thrusting our heads into the sand and pretending the world does not exist if we really think our employees never talk to each other. (After I enrolled the employees, it turns out a few of them were already using the app anyway!)

“…But what if they say bad stuff about the company? Can we shut them down?”  They already say bad stuff about the company (some of them). The difference is, you have no insight at all into what they are saying now. By being involved in the conversation, you might have a chance to correct misinformation or bad attitudes, or prevent both altogether.

“…But what if somebody posts something inappropriate or uses bad language?” How do you handle that now, if someone does the same thing in an email or at a meeting in front of everyone? Why would you do anything different here?

“But… but… but…” But it is time to stop pretending we work in 1950. People will talk, collaborate, and occasionally misbehave whether or not you are watching. At least now, you might have some input. Even if you do not, you are naive to think your people can not lambaste you or your company now on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, or their own blogs, or just by texting or emailing their friends. You are plain crazy to think you can isolate them from a world of mass communication. Your choice here is to embrace technology and leverage it to become a better leader/ team/ company or sit idly while your people and your competitors embrace it.

Your people are already talking. The question is, if they are not talking to you, then who are they talking to?

 

Soylent Green Inc. Is People!

Today’s Lesson: People make the company.

*****

Our new hire, explaining why he chose to work with our company, said to me, “You know what really clinched it for me was two things. Number one, my wife felt good about it and that does not happen often. She is quick to figure out what is wrong with a picture, you know? The second thing, you know what really did it and made ME feel good about it, was coming here. Meeting you guys. It was just… you guys are real. You are what you say and you make me feel good about coming here and being on this team.”

A company is not comprised of its job postings, mission statement, or the Successories lining the walls (you know, those motivational posters with pithy quotes that are supposed to inspire you). A company is made of the people who choose the company.

For better or worse, your company is as good (or bad) as the people who choose to work there. For better or worse, your leadership is as good (or bad) as the people who choose to stand with you.

People do not choose to work for the hallway posters.

 

How To Lose a Customer in 3 Easy Steps!

Today’s Lesson: You lose a customer for the same reasons you lose a lover… a relationship is a relationship. Healthy people get out of bad ones.

*****

Our current car insurance agent has been virtually useless in helping us buy our new cars. In fact, they were the only bad part of the process. I don’t want to call this particular agent out by name so let’s just say their name sounds a lot like “State Farm”. Like, really close to “State Farm”. It actually is “State Farm.”

What prompted the new car purchase was being rear-ended by someone a couple weeks ago. Our current insurance agent was not very helpful then, either. In fact, they were again the worst part of the process. Once they determined it was the other driver’s fault, they refused to help me any further in the process. However, the person that hit my car had a different insurance company (let’s just call that company “Geico” to keep it anonymous) and throughout the process, “Geico” was proactive, friendly, informative, and responsive.

Not only did the company we are calling “Geico” explain exactly what steps would be taken by when, but they also determined my old car was going to be a total loss and paid me more than current Blue Book value for it. Quite a different customer experience… and I am not their customer (though I might be soon!).

The point is this: Your customers (even the “loyal” ones) do not have to think you suck before they choose to leave. They just have to know they will be treated better by someone else.

3 easy steps to lose a customer:

1. Show you do not care about them (or worse, that you are indifferent to having them as a customer).

2. Do not communicate with your customer, especially when they ask or need or want you to.

3. Wait for your competition to solve their problem better than you were willing to (ahem… *cough*notetoVerizon…*cough*T-Mobile…*cough*).

 

One more note that might be important… we are definitely shopping around for a better insurance provider, and of course, Geico is high on the list but may not be the one we go with, despite the great experience I have had with them. We like to have our renters and auto insurance with the same provider–keeps it easy and usually garners an extra discount. Geico does not offer that (at least not in our area).

I share this to illustrate you do not have to lose your customer to your direct competitor. The customer does not even need to know you suck. They just need to know someone else–anyone else–will treat them better.

Be Your Favorite Teacher.

Today’s Lesson: If you want to learn something, go ahead.

*****

“You have great experience with Auto CAD and Microsoft Visio,” I said to the interviewee. “Really impressive knowledge. Was your minor in I.T. or something?”

“Oh, no sir,” he said. “I didn’t study anything technical in college. I have a degree in Journalism. I taught myself Auto CAD and Visio and I am studying to take the Cisco Certified Network Associate exam in a couple weeks, but I have been out of college for years. Just wasn’t for me. I learn whatever I want, now, through the web. I learned Auto CAD from YouTube videos and web tutorials.”

Hired.

A college degree is a means to an end, but it is not the only means to the only end. You can teach yourself anything someone else can.

 

Burning Down The House

Today’s Lesson: When the building is on fire, you don’t wait for a fireman. You grab a bucket of water and get to work until the fireman gets there.

*****

When your team is not trained well, it sucks. It hurts productivity, adds to your workload, and causes stress everywhere. It puts you in a bad position. Do you hurt productivity further by getting the right training program with the right trainers in place, and launch it at the right time? (Hint: there is never the right program with the right people at the right time.) Do you leverage your resources and stretch your people even thinner while trying to meet customer demands? Or do you wait until an answer arrives, paralyzed by indecision?

Your training program does not have to be pretty or elegant all the time. It just has to exist. “Elegant” can happen later. Choosing training instead of throwing everything you have at meeting productivity demands means not sitting still, spinning your wheels.

I would rather suffer my lumps today and miss a deadline or two by making time for (even mediocre) training if it means tomorrow I have three more people who can produce.

Training is the willpower of an organization or team. How much does yours have?

 

Choose Your Poison

Today’s Lesson: You can beat addiction, but sometimes it’s better not to.

*****

I have more than 100 podcasts waiting for me to listen to them and more pile up every day. There are at least as many books I would like to read, and many audiobooks as well. There are more movies and television shows in my Netflix queue than I think I could watch if I retired from my job tonight and did nothing but Netflix until I turn 130 years old.

I am an information junkie. I love learning new things, seeing new art, creating new ideas. No matter how much I force into my little grapefruit-sized brain, I want more. Unfortunately, there is only one way to manage this addiction.

I have to choose what is important enough to spend my limited time on.

I have to choose what to allow into my grapefruit-sized brain. Since there is limited time (more so than the limited space), I have to decide if I want to fill it with violent games or space operas or self-help mumbo-jumbo. I have to decide who the people are that I think are important enough–have important enough things to say–that I should give up a bit of my life for them. Who are the authors, singers, animators, actors, friends, family, ideas, etc. worth letting into my head?

The worst part is, I even listen to my podcasts at one and a half times their normal speed so I can take in the information even faster.

I don’t even like chipmunks.