It’s easy to get overwhelmed by failure, errors, bugs, hurdles and drama. Rough patches and setbacks are never fun. You can either throw up your hands, whine and get beaten down by them – or you can look past and move forward. Focus operates hand-in-hand with success. If you keep your eye on the prize and ignore the rest, you can still cross the finish line in good time. Do what you can to put the stress, pain and drama aside for the time being. Go for a walk, eat a meal, take a nap – whatever it takes to cleanse, reset and get back on the horse. Man up, get the job done – and then complain.
In a world where everyone in an organization needs to be on the same page, hierarchy can be fatal. The time it takes for information to travel up and down the ladder, pass decisions up to the qualified decision maker, and fix broken translations will derail your team. Hierarchy in an information-age company turns into a big clumsy game of telephone, a jumbled mess of words and directives totally unacceptable and avertable in a world ripe with efficient communication technology.
Hierarchy today helps only in one scenario: eliminating the time it takes to collectively vote on a decision that needs to be made. In some situations, big decisions need to be made quickly without consulting the committee. That said, the time it takes to disseminate and re-orient everyone around the decision may take as long or considerably longer than taking the time to vote in the first place.
An efficient organization awards every member of its team the autonomy and trust to make decisions and solve problems when they arise. An efficient organization rallies everyone around a core mission and invites everyone to shape objective extensions of that mission. An efficient organization promotes true transparency, total accessibility, and the free-flow of information. Everyone who needs to have a say has a say. No one is left out. And no one needs to answer to anyone but themselves and their work.
All too often I find it difficult to thoroughly engage in entertainment, conversation or recreation if I jump in having left active tasks incomplete. You cannot always push plans back to make room for completing the task, but it can make a big difference in helping you enjoy yourself if you find extra time to get the job done. Better in most scenarios to show up late and fully connect with the moment than stick to the calendar with a head full of unsolved problems. Fight the habit of tardiness and never accept it as a personal trend, but forgive yourself if it means victory, understanding on the part of the people you keep waiting, and an untarnished engagement. After all, your original plans can double as a celebration if you complete the task at hand. Get it done and go have a good time.
The public cares little about how long Olympians train or how many practices football teams suffer before playing a game; the public cares about gold medals and victories. Big wins define success. Many successful companies grew by the hand of all-nighters and sweat, others by beer and four-day work weeks. What matters at the end of the day is attitude, strategy and inspiration. With a team on the same page and in good mental health, the engine can plow forward full steam ahead. Through calculated innovation and disruption, an organization can leapfrog the competition overnight. If everyone believes in what they are doing and work hard to make a difference, anything is possible. Long work days are symptomatic of success and passion – hardly ever the source. Man hours do not scale an organization – that’s industrial era nonsense. Asking your people to work longer days will not shovel fresh coal into the fire. The message should be: care more. If your team does not inherently care a lot, then find different ways to get them charged. Set the vision. Plaster a mission statement to the wall. Whatever it takes to remind everyone why they wake up everyday and come together.
Writer’s block is a very difficult dragon to slay. Bad ideas are better than nothing – at least you are coming up with ideas at all. A pile of bad ideas can still be useful. Never kill a bad idea prematurely. Let it run its course, in tandem with other bad ideas. Bad ideas can overlap and form alliances. Enough bad ideas can inspire a good one. Keep your mind open. Let the ideas flow. Analyze and annotate without surgery or criticism. Brainstorm until you can brainstorm no more. Then dig the gem out from underneath the rubble.
We wouldn’t get anywhere in life if we didn’t think “getting there” was possible. Pessimism, naysaying and caution may protect people from risky business, but they do nothing to help meaningful change or make the world a better place. Progress depends on setting a goal and the confidence to see it through. More important than confidence, I think, is faith. Blind and unrestrained optimism for doing great things, supporting great people and believing in the impossible. If it hasn’t been done before, surely it’s impossible – right? Wrong. There are no boundaries we cannot cross, no puzzles we cannot solve or no messes we cannot clean up if we truly believe. Perhaps ignorantly, if we need to. Whatever it takes to get the job done. While I refuse to identify with myopia or traditionalist thought, I do respect people who can believe in their mission so wholeheartedly that nothing can stand in their way. That’s bigger than persistence or stubbornness – that’s faith.
Balance between input and output is key. Lately, consumption is easier than ever. Distractions run amuck. But the tools are easier than ever, too. Save for more distractions, you have no excuse to procrastinate your work and talent. If you’re not creating, you’re consuming. You’re not giving back to the world and people in it who give you so much. You’re living a selfish relationship with life. Good luck leaving a legacy. No thank you.
Write. Paint. Speak. Raise children. Build things. Get your hands dirty. Give back to the world and the people you care about. Make a difference. Don’t sit still. Don’t wait and watch. Don’t only take in – put out (no innuendo intended). Try not to concern yourself with turning your creation into your business – if you create well enough, the business will come. Focus on building great things and gifting them to all. It’s good for the soul (and can’t hurt your legacy).
I am astonished by people who archive nothing and let their inboxes run wild. How can you keep track of anything? Crazy people. Over the years, I’ve developed a fairly focused behavior of keeping only active task emails in my inbox. If I’ve taken care of it (or if someone else already did), the email gets filtered and archived away. If it doesn’t deserve to go away yet (e.g. the task is not complete), it sits there…haunting me. That alone inspires me to get the work done.
The behavior takes disciple. I have an email or two in my personal inbox that are two or three years old. Because they are not complete, I cannot archive them away (Charlie, I’m sorry I haven’t finished editing that scene yet for your reel. I promise I’ll get to it!!). This system helps me honor everyone who emails me directly, lets nothing slip through the cracks and gets everything done. Want to find your way onto my to-do list? Email me. I can’t promise you that I’ll get to it immediately – but I can promise you I’ll get to it. It may haunt me and I’ll hate you for it, but I’ll get to it.
I can think of few things more unfulfilling and overwhelming than leaving an incomplete pile of work on your desk at the end of the week. You feel like you don’t deserve the weekend. But you do. That work will keep coming and coming. Sometimes you just need to let go.
I’ve found that it’s better to draw the line in the sand on your to-do list first thing every morning. Realistically outline and prioritize the tasks you think you can complete in one day and set the rest aside. Do not let the other tasks bother you. Fold them up and hide them – whatever it takes to focus and feel like you accomplished the list you’ve reasonably committed to.
I’ve turned into a sticky note junkie. I’ve found that the size of a sticky note keeps your list focused, finite and reasonable. I try not to commit to more than one sticky note per day. Nothing feels better than to crumple complete notes and throw them away at the end of the day. You should try it sometime.
It happens. Deal with it. Schedule time to catch up, prioritize or cut your losses. Don’t complain, don’t freak out. Get ‘er done and move on.