Tag: making things happen

is this the year for your platform?

Do you have a message that is burning inside of you that you want to share with more people?

Do you have a remarkable company, product or service that you want to have more impact?

Do you want to have more influence on your career trajectory than you currently have?

Are you somebody that is constantly asked for advice on a specific topic?

Do you currently mentor a few people but would like to have a greater impact on a greater number?

Do you have a vision to bring about a change or start a movement?

Throughout my adult life, all of the above questions have resonated with me at some point or another and I have tried to find a coherent model through which I can build something consistently that would help me to be more successful. After observing how others have done this and reading extensively in a wide are of topics about technology, finance, marketing, personal development and success, the model that I believe is the most organic way to increase the impact of your unique contribution to this world is by building a platform.

I am primarily influenced by the writings of Seth Godin on this topic, but I have also observed first hand both at my job and in my personal life how people have taken the concepts he writes about and made them real. I invite you on a journey with me where I will explore platforms, both in my writing and by practicing things in my own life. I would also like to help you to move forward in building your own platform because whatever God has uniquely put in you to share with the world is for the world’s benefit and whatever is holding you back from sharing it can be overcome.

For the purposes of this exploration, a platform is:

  • a homebase from which you can rally supporters (a tribe) for your cause
  • a place for you to both demonstrate and increase your credibility in your area of expertise by teaching, mentoring and/or entertaining your tribe
  • a watering hole for you to build lasting relationships with your tribe that over time can help you increase your influence to a larger group

A platform is not:

  • a soapbox
  • a 24/7 marketing pitch
  • a vanity publication to boost your ego

I do not have all the answers so I invite your feedback and dialog as we go on this adventure together.

moving from goals to themes in 2013

For the past several years, I have spent the final days leading up to New Year’s Day thinking about what I want to achieve in the upcoming year and writing down those goals so that I can track them throughout the year.  This has been a very effective way of keeping myself on track especially as the year progresses and I begin to lose some of my initial passion about some of the goals.

Often as I review what I wrote at the beginning of the year, I am pleasantly surprised to find that there are some goals that I have achieved even after forgetting that I wrote them down in the first place.

This year, however, I find myself in a different place.  Throughout the year, as I have read from several different sources, digested what I was reading and thought about how I can implement some of the ideas that have resonated with me, I have realized that, instead of goals, there are some overarching themes that I need to explore.

Undoubtedly some concrete goals will emerge from these themes, but I think writing down detailed goals this early in the year will limit my thinking and possibly make me miss greater opportunities than I can imagine at this point.

Each of the themes is a critical component to the vision that I have for how I believe I am supposed to contribute to the world in the next five years and they transcend spiritual, personal and professional boundaries.

I believe that the themes will guide who I become – and what I do will then be guided by who I am.  I feel that this is the most authentic way for me to live and I am excited to embark on the journey.

So what are my themes in 2013?

There are 5 of them:

  1. Build Platforms
  2. Define the Hard Edges
  3. Create Space for Reflection
  4. Provide Mentorship
  5. Focus on Lean Methods

Platforms

I am convinced that the most effective way to have an impact with your message, talents or vision is to build a platform from which you can share your gift with the world.  Over the past year and a half, I have read Seth Godin’s blog almost daily and this is a recurring theme in his writing – now that I know the theory, I am going to spend 2013 putting it into practice and discovering what it means for me specifically.

Hard Edges

This is an idea from David Allen’s book "Getting Things Done" that provides very clear direction on how to create and manage boundaries to control the information that flows in and out of your life daily

Personally, I am expanding this concept to the boundaries throughout my life (personal, professional and other); the main idea is to make sure that I have clearly defined ‘buckets’ in which the commitments in my life fall into so that when I am faced with a new idea or commitment I can make decisions faster and with more clarity without allowing the edges to ‘bleed’ into each other.

Reflection

Without fail, whenever I take the time to think through an approach to a problem or an opportunity, I significantly reduce the amount of wasted time I spend on it.  However, despite my knowledge of this, the ‘busyness’ I often find myself in prevents me from true reflection that would enhance my results.  So this theme is about continuously simplifying my environments to create space for reflection.

Mentorship

The more I teach, the more I learn.

Lean Methods

Instead of trying to plan the risk out of any of my ventures, use a process of experimentation where I use carefully designed ‘tests’ to determine what is working and what isn’t and then make the changes necessary (Build, Measure, Learn).  I don’t need to have the full picture before I start – just enough to gather feedback that will help me take the next step.  This process of experimentation is probably the biggest departure from how I usually do things and will help me to fight against the lizard brain.

my early adopter bias

During lunch today I was discussing web applications with a friend and started thinking about some of Google’s products that are used widely today.  I realized that before Google Docs there was writely.com – and I had an account with them.  Before Google Voice, there was GrandCentral – I had an account with them too.

This trend is not limited to Google products though … I remember using ZohoCRM for a freelancing writing business several years ago before the whole suite of Zoho products existed.

I tried out Freshbooks when they first launched …

And don’t get me started with to-do apps or other productivity products.

I watched the launch of Android and could not wait for my contract on Verizon to complete so I could get my first non-blackberry smartphone … in my haste, I purchased the Droid Eris which had so little staying power that the first major update release it received caused it to morph into the most annoying phone in the world – random crashes, freezing when a phone call comes in, applications taking so long to open that I would forget what I was opening them for – I loved to hate that phone.

With all its problems, most people still did not have smartphones and those who did had iPhones, so it was still special.

I have even extended this trend to my job where I enthusiastically volunteered my time to help with the launch of the collaboration platform, Jive, into our company. What drives this constant need in me to become a user of applications that are just starting out – or implementations of established applications into spaces they have not been before?

It usually starts with the following phrase in my mind:

“There has got to be a better way…”

When I come across a problem that theoretically could be solved with technology, I imagine the solution in my mind and rabidly search for a solution.  I sign up for the free trials of services.  I kick the tires of many potential solutions – usually getting more and more frustrated, until I settle on something that meets 60-80% of my needs with the hope that the solution will evolve and one day fill in the gaps.  Sometimes the thing I am looking for seems outright silly and feels like something only a handful of people will buy.  And then a few months (or sometimes years) later I see it as a product or service.

Until today, I thought this was a weird quirk in me, but then it occurred to me that it is actually a valuable thing to be somebody who so viscerally feels these gaps.  In the past, I have looked for a solution built by somebody else – but today, I asked myself, why can’t I be the one to build it?

I had a crystallizing moment for several threads of purpose that have been floating around in my head and settled on a unifying idea for them.

In no particular order, the threads are:

  • my desire to demysitify application development for myself by learning web development
  • my realization that I have reached the limit of self teaching regarding graphic design and need to become more serious with turning raw talent and interest into mastery
  • my total buy-in with the Lean Startup principles I read in this book
  • my fascination with web and mobile apps
  • my constant search for new revenue streams to make my family’s dreams reality
  • and my early adopter bias that I described in the earlier part of this post

I formulated the unifying idea when I read the following description of a business model by Clayton M. Christensen in the abstract of an article he wrote for Harvard Business Review.

A business model has these key compnents:

  • a customer value proposition that fulfills an important job for the customer in a better way than anything competitors offer;
  • profit formula that lays out how the company makes money delivering the value proposition;
  • and the key resources and key processes needed to deliver that proposition.

So my early adopter bias is driven by identifying ‘jobs‘ that I want to do, and what I need to start doing is doing is before I go on an extensive search for a solution, I should design my ultimate service or product that would meet the need and then move into ‘testing mode’, first by searching to see if a solution exists and if not, finding ways to identify if there are other ‘beta guys’ like me that are trying to do the same ‘job’.

In parallel with this, my desire to become an accomplished web developer now has a purpose – because even if I may not e able to build a whole solution myself … I most certainly can put together a minimum viable product if I can learn the basic skills and start using them.

Today I begin my journey and I will post on this blog to take you along on the ride with me.

every system is perfect

‘Systems are perfectly designed to achieve the results they get’ – Organizational Scientist, Marvin Weisbord

I had an interesting discussion with my wife recently about the ‘mail sorting system’ in our house.  The system consists of a plastic container on our kitchen counter next to a powerful paper shredder and the goal is to make it as simple as possible for us to enter the house with the mail and sort it immediately to avoid a large build-up of mail.

In the ideal scenario, the outcome of this system would be that we are always up to date with the shredding of junkmail, filing of important documents and general sorting of mail.  Instead, our counter looks like this:

The content of our discussion can be summarized as follows:

I think we need a better system

My wife thinks she needs to comply better with the system

Because we are both analytical people the discussion was rich with strong rational for each viewpoint but I had a hard time articulating the essence of my argument.

The quote at the beginning of this article very elegantly encapsulates what I think about our mail sorting system – it is doing exactly what it is designed to do because part of the design of a system takes into account the constraints that actors of a system will perform.

So the best way to measure the suitability of a system is to look at its results and not what it is supposed to be doing.  Its design is perfect for the outcomes it is yielding.

In the case of our mail sorting system, it doesn’t properly account for the fact that when my wife brings the mail into the house, she has a screaming 6-month old who most likely needs a feeding and two other young kids (four and six year olds) in tow.  Her priorities in that moment are not to shred the credit card offer from Chase or to file away that medical bill – its to get everybody settled down and fed.  So her default action is to place the mail – all of it – into the plastic container with no further action.

Repeat this several days in a row and she ends up with a pretty intimidating pile of mail to sort and she begins feeling like it is a much larger task that she needs to set aside time for.

But don’t forget the 6-month, four and six year olds haven’t gone anywhere – so there is no time to ‘set aside’ … so the pile just keeps growing and growing.

The solution? I don’t have one yet, but I think this is a perfect candidate for the two rules of simplicity.

We have to start by looking holistically at the problem and trying different approaches with constant tweaking until we find a system that perfectly yields the result we want.