There’s a System for That

If you’re having organizational trouble or find yourself doing the same mundane task over and over, chances are pretty high that someone else out there shares your pain. With a little bit of research, you may even find someone who has already conquered your problem. At any rate, it’s worth a look. The internet is a pretty big place these days. There are apps for everything.

As times change, brand new problems crop up all the time that may not yet have structured solutions. Depending on the complexity of your problem and processes, other people’s solutions may not serve your own. If you cannot find a solution, it’s up to you to build one. Given the challenges and material complexity of designing solutions (be they software, logistical or cost), most people opt out and choose to continue suffering. Don’t do that. Don’t settle for the mundane. You should never have to do the same thing more than once – unless you want to.

Growing Pains

Growth is an awkward and confusing experience. By building on the old and bringing in the new, life mixes up and turns to chaos. Oftentimes, you experience bumps and bruises. In the worst of situations, there may be casualties. Whether you like it or not, that’s the name of the game. The only way to stop growing pains? Stop growing. Or die. I endorse neither. Growth and change are instrumental to life. Hell, they’re key to adaptation and survival. Suck it up, learn to love the pain and enjoy the ride.

Put Yourself Out There

If you’re not meeting new people in new places, you’re not testing yourself or your character. You’re sure as hell not networking. Packed bars, group outings, random parties and networking mixers are all perfect places to practice your elevator pitch about yourself or projects in a fairly consequence-free environment. Without practice, there’s really no way to know if you’re actually connecting with people. These loud and impersonal events are not great for building intimate relationships with other people, but they are great for getting to know yourself. The next time you’re invited to a gathering and have nothing to do, get out of the house and go. Mix it up, try a couple different methods for introducing yourself. Take notes afterwards on what worked and what didn’t. You might learn a thing or two about your pitch, your idea or yourself.

A Deal Is Not a Done Deal Until Money Hits the Bank

No matter how good you feel about it, do not boast, act on or go to press about a deal you just made (business, employment or otherwise) until the first check goes through. I learned this in Hollywood and continue to stand behind it as I make deals or watch deals unfold around me. You can never completely guarantee a deal will go through until it actually goes through. You can make a serious fool out of yourself by jumping the gun, making public announcements or spending money you don’t have. Better to keep your mouth shut and fingers crossed until fiction becomes fact.

Culture of Experimentation

Every company claims they are open to new ideas. But ego and fear of change tend to deflect outside forces. There is a major difference between accepting feedback and acting on it. A feedback culture can only get you so far. After all, actions speak louder than words; what you do is more valuable than what you say. An organization truly interested in keeping an open mind must open its doors – not only to ideas, but also to active change. Companies must encourage every employee to tinker in genuine “ask forgiveness, not permission” fashion. Harsh punishment should not land on failure, but instead on apathy or closed minds. Any person or obstacle stifling healthy ideation must move out of the way.

Let your people play. Design and enforce a true culture of experimentation.

Woah There, Hot Shot! Take It Easy On Self-Promotion

You walk a fine line to promote yourself. How do you share your value with the world without boasting about it? How can you exude confidence without coming off as haughty? Blowing your own horn turns people off. I know I prefer to follow brands and artists that spend little time praising themselves and provide value to my life. Who wouldn’t? If Ramit Sethi spent less time praising his own accomplishments, I would spend more money on his content.

The key to building a great brand? Consistently providing great value. Without question, a brand like the one Ramit built will grow if you continue to deliver on your promise. People are thirsty for good content and will follow. However, the distance between a strong brand and a sustainable one can be measured by humility. Without too much self-deprecation, a brand must genuinely acknowledge weaknesses, listen to all parties invested and restrain bragging rights as much as possible. Celebrate success with your fans, defend your gifts to the world – and hold back the rest.

I have learned through nearly a year of writing this blog that headlines, tweets and content centered around myself or plugging my writing perform far worse than direct content. I beg you, dear readers – call me out any time my writing is sullied with boasting. No one likes content adulterated by too much Craig Ormiston.

Reputation Counts

It never hurts to have a team of people on standby to support or validate you. Recommendations, trust and loyalty go a very long way. When it comes to leadership, it does matter what other people think. You may never shake hands on a deal with someone you do not know if naysayers stand between you. Good luck even making it in the door. On the other hand, passionate introductions from a handful of reputable people will secure you meetings and may even tie the knot for you. Connections are worth their weight in gold.

Work hard, lend a hand, expect nothing, respect everyone and love what you do. Reputation will follow.

Protest

I keep my mouth shut and seldom declare my stance on tabled issues in public. I avoid stirring the pot for the sake of it and do what I can to preserve my nonpartisan relationships. But when it comes to legislation or executive decisions that may invariably keep my mouth shut against my will, I speak up.

I learned a lot from Hollywood in the five years that I studied and worked in Los Angeles. I respect and support the industry’s need to fight piracy. To produce and spread content on a sustainable scale requires considerable revenue chains that dare not waver. Due largely to the size of teams necessary to complete them, films will always be expensive to produce. Losing control of your content – and thereby losing the ability to recoup costs on your production – is a huge issue and must be curtailed.

That said, I do not respect Hollywood’s conservative grapple-hold on content in an antiquated scarcity model. While the studios contend that they make more by staggering the release of a film across all mediums, these rigid exhibition windows from theater to home regularly deprive hungry consumers of content they want to consume. The Hollywood release model is effectively inspiring piracy – not because people want to maliciously destroy the industry, but because people want to consume content and cannot do so when and where they want. Street vendors in the third world do not sell ripped DVDs as an attack on studios or because tickets are too expensive; they do it because Hollywood failed to make the content available in their market. Contemporary piracy stems more from accessibility issues than anything else. Hollywood is utterly failing to provide. By holding product close to the chest, the entertainment industry is failing to reach customers, scale brands at the contemporary pace necessary to survive, and collect the money of eager and willing fans. The media industry is killing itself. They need no help from pirates.

Out of desperation and a lazy aversion to change, entertainment turned to lobbyists to craft a bill that would effectively give our government the power to censor or shut down websites. There are constitutional ways to fight piracy; the Stop Online Piracy and Protect Intellectual Property Acts are not it. To learn more about the bills, I encourage you to watch this video.

Tomorrow between 5am and 5pm MST, I will join many Internet companies – including Wikipedia and Google – in protesting these bills by shutting down my site. You will not be able to read my blog.

Under the First Amendment, we have the right to contest any act abridging the freedom of speech. We have the freedom to protest and stand up for our rights. Do not dismiss protests as mass whining or vanity noise. Without protest and public forums for opinion, women would not have the right to vote and many of us would still own slaves. Do not take the freedom of expression lightly. Celebrate your voice at every possible turn. Use it when you can.

The New Age Snow Day

I love the snow. I really do. I always have. On days like today where several brisk inches cause commute times to quadruple and Google Maps to flash black & red, I side with the general public against the nuisance. I don’t condemn the snow for that nuisance, however. I challenge the expectation that people try to tackle it and show up as usual anyway.

Not all jobs or educations can be accessed remotely. For retailers, you need bodies in the store. Most classrooms are not equipped to transmit lessons online. But for many new age companies, working remotely is completely feasible. You can sign in to instant messenger, transplant meetings into Google+ Hangouts, and plug yourself in. Stay warm, stay safe, stay home. And get more work done.

Sound like an unreasonable dream? Far less unreasonable to me than wasting three or four hours in your car without a shred of real work. Employers should see the productivity and time lost to snow. They should call a snow day and unveil a plan to continue operating internally. Far better to do that than expect a troop of soggy, frozen, and demotivated employees to walk through your door.

Transparency and Trust

Unless the key to a secret is murdered and disposed in a large body of water, people tend to find things out. You can try as hard as you can to guise things, but always prepare for the day when you need to own up to it (whether you blow the cover or someone else does).

When it comes to daily life, transparency may be the easiest and most genuine way to build trust. If you have nothing to hide, others will take comfort in believing you and run out of good reasons to hide things from you.

Throughout my entire management career, I have struggled with shielding information from my team to keep the machine running. Secrets don’t make friends, especially in business. As a common example, most managers pad deadlines so that their final deliveries can be met. In many cases, the real deadlines surface and proactive fake deadlines lose credibility. Why not admit final deadlines up front and set padded expectations for your team? Most people understand the truth and will respect you for being honest with them. They will deliver accordingly. Trust me.

Sometimes you need to keep secrets. If that is the case, at least be honest about the reason why (a security clearance or NDA contract are perfectly viable excuses). As hard as it may be for some people to accept, the honest explanation goes a long way. Don’t hide, don’t ignore, don’t dodge the question. Be as honest as you can when you can.