motivation

Not Quite Ready to Live…

Not Quite Ready to Live...

I’m not sure why it feels this way, but I’m sure it’s not just me. In fact, it was Ralph Waldo Emerson who actually said it first, and hell, that was what, 130 years ago?

Sure, there’s the tired expressions like “life is what happens when you’re making plans” and “life is the journey not the destination.” True to both of those, though not very useful in ridding us of this annoying tickle in our brain stem – the one that nags us that we’re just not LIVING, you know?

I think what Emerson meant, and what bothers me most, is the recognition that the “living” we’re never doing, is the kind that forces us to meld our highest desires and our most basic actions.

We want to be productive, but ‘damn it! the Oscars are on!’ We want to be more connected to our friends, but we can’t put down our smart phones for the person in the room telling us about their day. We want to get further ahead in life, but we neglect to take the steps to make it happen on our own.

Obtaining the authentic kind of living, the only true happiness available, is a process that requires nearly reckless independence from the rest of humanity. It requires that no one else set the docket for your day or your life besides you – even if that means you’re out of the loop on a lot of trivial things.

I don’t mean run off to a cabin in the woods (it’s been done before), I mean one has to reject a whole slate of obligations, or observances of custom in order to pair it down to what ultimately matters. To give those things, and little else, the total time and attention to live an authentic life.

Who gives a damn if you’re fast approaching 40 and there’s not a suitable candidate for a spouse in sight? Are you happy with your life? Do you do the things you’d ultimately love to do and say to hell with the rest? Do you work to make yourself the kind of person you’d like to be? REALLY like to be?

I can promise you this: If you are truly happy – No bullshit, actually, infectiously, enthusiastically, forest-fire-of-confidence-happy, then you won’t have a problem finding a spouse. Or a job. Or a friend. Or a good time on a Friday night.

Because you’ll make those things happen on your own. You’ll decide for yourself what a good time is and won’t have it decided for you by some televised guidos with a penchant for fist-pumping. Unless you like fist pumping, in your heart of hearts, in which case go nuts.

I think the “getting ready to live” is the idea that one day, we’ll just wake up and ‘want’ to; do all the things that are good for us, or what others would like us to do, or what we think we’d like ourselves to do. That doesn’t happen – it just results in more waiting for us to magically align with something we think we want or are told we want.

Don’t wait. Don’t think your going to wake up with a series of immutable desires that compel you to; work out, fall in love with accounting, or go to church three times a week.

Do: focus on what you love and what an actual life you’d die for looks like, and what steps exist between you and that life.

The happiest people around never hide their passion, and give few damns about what anyone ultimately thinks. No way that’s a coincidence.

Your Silence Isn’t Helping Anyone…

Your silence isn’t helping anyone. Least of all you.

Sure, it fits with all the things you’ve been told. That it’s better to “fly under the radar” and to “live to fight another battle.” The problem is you aren’t looking for any battles. And you definitely aren’t looking to live another day – because you’re not doing any living right now. At least not the kind that matters.

I’m not talking about rock climbing and cliff diving and all the risky things one does with one’s life that might provide a rare dose of adrenaline. I’m talking about the day-to-day living that would do a lot to make you happier and more successful. It’s easy to be daring when jumping out of a plane with a trained instructor strapped to your posterior, but another thing altogether to open your mouth at the next meeting and say the unpopular thing that needs to be said.

Forgive me, I’ve been reading/listening to an insane amount of Seth Godin lately, and like all good philosopher poets (we’re calling a “marketing guru” this now? – I am) they have their ONE. BIG. THING. And Godin’s is seductively simple: Make Art. Cause a ruckus. Be bold. Sure, there’s a lot more, but this is the overarching summary in my eyes. And it’s a summation that rings big ass church bells in my noggin.

As a business leader and overall fan of the human condition, I’m constantly motivated by learning what motivates people – or as I’m finding out – what holds them back. My current project is leading a team of 40+ in the daily operations of an off-campus Student Housing community near UCF. It’s exhilarating and every bit a seething mass of awesomeness. At the same time, a big part of my role is as teacher to a number of them whom are still in college and finding their way in the world. This is the messiest part, and also my favorite.

On certain days (read: the best days) I pontificate a lot. My passion gets to run free and I become a whirling dervish of know-how. I try to start with underlying principles and work up from there to the more concrete issue at hand. If you don’t know the “why” you won’t care about the “how”, I always think.

With that in mind, and a good dose of Godin in my ears, I’ve come to believe the biggest restraining force working on anyone is the fear of being wrong. No one likes it and frankly, we’re not taught how to deal with it and accept it. In fact, we’re taught to avoid the whole possibility entirely:

  • If you have nothing nice to say, don’t say anything at all.
  • Everyone has their own opinion
  • Who are you to say?
  • There’s a time and a place and this isn’t it. (Never is!)
  • Better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to open one’s mouth and remove all doubt. (this is my favorite)

It’s all part of the same thing. Sit down. Stay quiet. Hide your art. Hide your knowledge. Hide your passion. No one can crap all over your dream if you don’t actually do anything to make it concrete. This extends past dreams to mere notions of “wouldn’t this be cool…” so we don’t dare do anything we’re not explicitly told to.

It sucks. And I’ve known this for as long as I can remember. I’m done with it.

I’ve had a great career thus far and I owe it entirely to my inability to shut my pie hole. I say the wrong things at the wrong times. I break rules and conventions when they don’t suit the mission and act as obstacles to our goals. I don’t do this recklessly, but do you realize how many rules exist because some idiot not following it could do real damage?

And failure has been a big part of it. I’ve screwed up royally for sure. Mostly, I’ve finished with far more success than not, and in failing, have cleared a new path of others who could benefit from my failure. It gets seen, it gets celebrated. “Whoops, I did something stupid guys – but this is why I did it.”

So speak up. Stand up. Be counted on. Be a part of whatever it is you’re already a part of instead of just dipping in your seat to avoid getting called on. Guess what? They know you’re there and they know you’ve got nothing to say. Isn’t that way worse than being thought stupid?

Prepare. Learn. Think. And sit up straight next time, lean forward and open that mouth god gave you. Your living doesn’t happen on the weekends or in a mountain – it happens wherever you are, everyday.

Worst case? They fire you for looking/thinking/saying something stupid. You move on, get a new gig, and you are in a better place for it. And most importantly you’ve learned something.

Your silence? No one wants that. Unless a movie is on. Then by all means shut up.

Congrats! You’re living in the future!

So how’s that working out? The future I mean.

Everything you hoped? 

Oh. You don’t think this is the “future” or better yet “the FUUUUTTTTURRRREEE?” Just imagine a deep ominous voice announcing it. Or is that how you already imagine it? Like, maybe to qualify as the future it needs to be properly announced and fawned all over?

Make no mistake my friend. This is the future, and you are here. If you were alive yesterday, or a year ago, or 20 years ago, this qualifies. No, we’re not all living in Jetson-style cloud dwellings with robot maids, but that doesn’t change the fact that a significant portion of time has passed. I know, nine-year-old Rob is still pissed about his lack of a working hoverboard. 

So what do you think? Happy with your place in it? With your station in life, with your previous selves’ choices? Because you’re living here and you should be. Odd, because nothing you can do at this moment will change your immediate situation. Only, things you can start to do to change your new future. The good news is, for most of us, you get to have new “futures” all the time. Until you don’t. 

What do you want to do with this future to set up the next one, and the one after that? Every day, every hour is a chance to do something new – or more of what’s working for you. How will you use it?

The yacht doesn’t show up magically on your 50th birthday. The 30th wedding anniversary surrounded by adoring friends and family just doesn’t materialize out of thin air when you turn 60. The promotion, your business, your slate of memories of doing amazing things doesn’t just plop from the sky.

Odds are, when you hit those milestones you’ll likely feel like they won’t be the “future” either. They’ll feel just like this. Just like right now. After all, you’ll be there, and you only think you live in the present. 

I guess what you should ask yourself is this: Do you, only live in the future? And if not, what do you want to do now to make the new future what you’d like it to be? 

Don’t Mess With Texas, or The Power of Stories…

I had five meetings today. That’s a lot for me in my current position as I don’t typically have five in a week. I’d heard a maxim “The only people who enjoy meetings are the ones doing the talking” and it’s served me well. These meetings were different though – I had stories to tell.

More on that in a minute…

You’re no doubt familiar with the slogan “Don’t mess with Texas“, especially if you’ve ever been to the state. What you probably don’t know is that it was/is an advertising campaign to curb littering. Yeah, littering.

I wouldn’t mess with it if I were you.

It was a huge deal for the state that cost around $20 million per year in highway clean up. The problem was massive and so were the proposed solutions: stiff fines, stronger enforcement, pleading messages to “keep Texas beautiful” printed on everything in sight – nothing worked.

The solution came from a pair of creatives at an advertising agency which tapped into the power of stories. They looked at their target market (18-35 year old males – the ones most likely to litter) and found a story that spoke to them. Texas, having been its own country for a time, has a strong independence streak, and possibly more pride than any other state. To be a Texan is a badge of honor and a huge part of one’s identity. It even applies to transplants to the state – it doesn’t take long for converts to adopt the “Don’t mess with Texas” attitude. It’s really quite something to see.

The campaign consisted of State heroes in print and video, conveying that Texas wasn’t to be screwed with, and that if it were, well… not good things would happen. Check out this classic commercial for an example.

The beauty of the campaign is how well it stuck with people. Dan and Chip Heath relay the whole process in their book “Made to Stick” which I can’t recommend enough. By telling these guys a story: “Texans are proud of their state. It’s the best state there is! All other states suck by comparison! You’re a Texan and all Texans (REAL TEXANS, anyway) don’t litter! They don’t degrade the proudest state in the Union. They defend it in with their dying breath. People in Arizona or California may litter, but not us by god.”

That’s a powerful story. It’ s simple and yet still manages to have a massive impact on behavior. I relay this story as I’m trying to do the same thing. In fact, I think the test of a leader is how much they can affect the culture of their team for the better. What kinds of stories do they tell? What effect do those stories have? How did we get better? This is the most significant part of  my job.

texting

“Oh, yeah… what? Water is included. I think…”

So today was about telling stories to my team and what separates us from the rest:  “Other Agents text their BFFs on tours and ignore prospects, we stand and greet people with a warm smile and an eager handshake.

We ask lots of questions because we want to get things just right for our clients, even if that means referring them to the place down the street if it’s a better fit. That’s what we do. We’re great at our jobs and we make a difference in people’s lives. We seek to constantly get better. This is who we are. Other people, they’re not as good, and who cares – we’re not them. We’re us, and we’re elite!”

Motivating, right? The truth is, I LOVE these meetings. I get animated and excited and start wildly gesticulating all over the place. I can’t help it. I swear, I get as much out of these meetings as I give, I think. And that’s why five meetings wasn’t so hard. It was important and it was empowering and thoroughly necessary.

At it’s core, telling stories (the right ones) is what leadership is all about. Fortunately, I really like telling stories.

“Be Confident”… why didn’t I think of that?

A friend recently posted a very nice Facebook update that read something akin to “Be Confident. Be Fierce. Be Rad.”

Confidence

Ok, she didn’t actually say “Be rad” but that would have been a nice touch.

As I was in an introspective place when I read it, I thought “Oh, why didn’t I think of that? I’m going to be confident today! Psssshhh.” As though confidence is a thing you decide to do vs. a thing you either are or aren’t. Try: “Be experienced today” and see how far you get. Confidence, like experience, is a thing that once obtained tends to become a part of you. Before you blow me up here, I know there are a myriad of exceptions and confidence can be lost – but just go with me on this one.

Working in Student Housing, one of the hardest things to do is to get College Student Leasing Specialists to be confident in the selling process. To most people, sales is a filthy, perverse word readily eliciting the image of a car salesman wearing tweed and twirling his waxed mustache, like some silent-film-era-villain, while he forces some damsel into purchasing a Jetta at 13.9% interest – with an extended warranty. Terrible things, no doubt.

So before I can tell them to “Ask for the sale! Close EVERY lease!” (read: Be Confident) and do my best Alec Baldwin impression from “Glenngary Glen Ross” I need to build their confidence. There are multiple ways of doing this but I have my favorites that tend to resonate with everyone.

Often I’ll ask them to tell me about their last big purchase. Inevitably this is a laptop. When I ask them how they decided which one to buy from the endless sea of choices they’ll inform me that they went into a Best Buy and told the person what they wanted and that person told them which was right for them. VOILA! SUCCESS! Could it really be that easy? 

You want confidence? Here it is: These people are coming to you because you are that person! You’re the expert! People buy things from people who they believe know more than them on the subject and have the solution to their problem! Your prospective Residents WANT YOU TO ASK THEM TO SIGN A LEASE! They may not consciously know it, but they want to be told. A guy doesn’t walk on the lot lest he wants to buy.

Alec Baldwin - "Second prize is a set of steak knives"

So true Alec. So true. 

Often, after this exchange, confidence levels soar as our Leasing people understand their role in a new light, and their own capabilities. The frame changes from, “can I ask someone to sign a $10k lease after 45 minutes of meeting them?” to “can I attempt to solve someone’s problem that is looking to me to do just that?”

p.s. 2nd prize is a set of steak knives. 

Instead of imploring someone to be “something”, can you help to actually make them “something”? Can you offer a quote, a perspective, a new way of looking at things that helps make them; confident, proud, assertive, aware, concerned, involved – or any other adjective?