You Can’t Sprint A Marathon

You will burn your team out if you expect them to hold a breakneck pace all the time. Demanding consistent, consecutive sprints can only get your group so far. Before you know it, you’ll have a death march on your hands. I know some of the hardest working people alive and even they can’t keep it up forever.

As a manager, you need to pick one or the other: train for sprints or train for a marathon. If you want your team to run faster, make room for breathers in between runs. Expect regular half days or days off. Plan retreats. Schedule time for your people to recover. If you want your team to consistently deliver, you must manage a pace that can sustain itself. Steady days. Reasonable expectations. A full night’s sleep.

Neither is right or wrong. Some groups perform better as sprinters, others as marathon runners. It’s important to study your situation, listen to your team and coach accordingly.

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Hiring Should Be More Like Dating Than An Arranged Marriage

If you find yourself responsible for staffing a team, do not take the responsibility lightly. You will bring people on board with whom you may spend more time with than your real family. More than finding skilled people who fit the bill, you need to find people with whom you like to spend time.

The modern approach to hiring is more like an arranged marriage than dating. Members of the company sit in a room together and grill the candidate, call references, and put the interviewee to the test. It’s a lot like your romantic prospect’s family attending the first date and grilling you about housecleaning or parenting. Not a natural courtship process. While perhaps less “professional,” a reasonable amount of the interview process should be spent eating, drinking and hanging out with the interviewee. It’s one thing to get to know someone through his or her skills. It’s a whole other ball game to get to know someone culturally.

It does not matter whether he or she is a prodigy talent – if you can’t get along together in person, more harm will come than good. Never hire from a phone interview alone.

How do you find “datable” hires? Start by encouraging your team to invite friends. Friends of friends have a better cultural in than a random chap off the street. If no luck with friends of friends, branch out through the network. If you find someone promising, do not settle on business references alone; find a way to collect social references as well. If nothing else, take him or her out to dinner or throw a company party. Have a little fun. Make sure you can have a good time together. After all, you’re bringing on a new member to the family. Behave and celebrate accordingly.

Take Life At Your Own Pace

There’s nothing wrong with that. It’s your life, you can do what you want. Do not let anyone slow you down or push you along. You learn from, work through and experience life differently than everyone else. Embrace that – and fight back if you need to. Going too fast may burn you out and going to slow may drain your soul. Only you know your own equilibrium. Find balance and stand up for it.

Reward Yourself

A major accomplishment, surviving a challenge, or simply making it through a long week are excuses enough to celebrate. A nice dinner, outing with friends, or a full night sleep – whatever it takes to let off steam and conclude the trial. Treat yourself to punctuate the deed. You deserve it.

Optimize the Commute

Commuting is a bitch. Last month, I spent 29.3 hours in my car driving to and from work. That’s a full day out of my month lost to driving. There are so many things I could do with that extra day. Worse, there were times in Los Angeles where I spent as much as 4 hours in my car going to and from work for a 24-mile round trip (that’s 6mph in traffic on the 10 freeway!). I dare not do the cumulative math on that one.

As a society, we lose so much time getting to work every day. To put things into perspective: if Denver’s average commute time is 23 minutes one way and working population is roughly 600,000, the city as a whole loses 52.5 man years per day to the streets. From another angle, that’s 57,500 eight-hour work days vaporized per day. Can you imagine what businesses, communities, and our government could accomplish with that much time?

When it comes to personal productivity, public transportation can work for people who find ways to use that time effectively. But when it comes to driving you’re own car, there’s not much you can do except sit there. I tune into NPR and make phone calls to catch up with people, but I wish I could get more done. Siri and other dictation applications are a step in the right direction, but they still have a long way to go.

A world without commuting is a utopian fantasy. Without question, people should live where they want to live or where they can afford to live. Working from home is a pleasant solution, but difficult for collaborative work. And while it was nice for me to walk to work every morning in Hollywood, there were also downsides to living so close to the office (like 2am phone calls from people who forgot their keys). Regardless, it’s worth extra money for me to live close so that I can help save that full day per month. I will hopefully make that change again soon. I just have to decide how much a day of my life is worth.

If you are forced to commute, do what you can to make that time worthwhile. For my fellow commuters out there, what do you do to make that time worthwhile? I need ideas.

Treat Loneliness Like A Shark

When I was 13 years old, I realized the popular kids were not always happy – they just looked really happy when they were busy hanging out with friends (which was often, but not always). When they went home and found themselves alone, they suffered the same withdrawal that I did when they thought too hard about it (some hyper-social kids are never comfortable alone and have worse withdrawals than anyone else). We find ourselves at our lowest points at home left alone with nothing but our thoughts. In rough patches, these lulls sap our energy, optimism, and confidence. Loneliness cripples us.

The popular kids taught me early on that staying busy and surrounding yourself with good people dramatically increases your positive energy and quality of life. Like a shark, you are happier if you keep moving. Stay active, keep friends close, and only stop to reflect if you dare. Before long, you might even become the popular kid.

Mortal Passion

You could die tomorrow. Probably not. But who knows. Today may be your last. The activities, tasks, and adventures before you may fill your final chapter. Coast through it if you want. Or face it with a mortal passion. Accept every challenge, job, and event as if you will never get the opportunity to do it again. Pour your heart and soul into it. Give it all you’ve got.

If you find the work unworthy of your mortality, you better find something else to do before it’s too late.

End on a Good Note

Finish the day having completed something. Finish the meal with your favorite bite. Finish the conversation with a hug and a smile. Finish happy and fulfilled.

Life is full of transitions. Each step bleeds into the next. Want to increase the odds of a great next step? End the previous step on a good note and carry that sense of accomplishment forward.

Never end on a bad note. No matter how painful, it’s worth the fight to make things right. It’s worth the energy and time to end things well.

Life In Thirds

With the traditional 40-hour work week, most people’s lives are roughly split into thirds – work, sleep, and personal time. Work provides for your human needs, sleep keeps you healthy, and personal time enriches the soul. Without question, these thirds must stay in balance to keep you sane.

Each third must not infringe on the others to keep you healthy. Work must not take over and instead provide the means to make the most out of your personal time. Neither work nor personal time should threaten the time you spend taking care of yourself. Moreover, work is necessary to sustain your life and activities. Keep the three in equilibrium and life will be good.

No, you do not have to spend an equal amount of time on each to keep the three in balance. If anything, you should maximize personal, soul-enriching time as much as possible (it often takes a lot more than you realize to truly balance out your work). But you can definitely add up the hours in a week to determine whether your work/life balance is out of whack or not.

Keep your time in check. Keep your life in balance. Juggle the three balls well and you may yet find happiness.

Why Before the How

Contemporary business culture moves faster than light. Every day, we’re bombarded with tasks and decisions. We are often forced to dive into problems and projects without context. Managers ask us to do things without explaining why. To protect our job, we do not ask questions. But we really should.

If you believe in what you do, you will perform better. To believe in what you do, you need to understand what you are supposed to believe first. Arbitrary assignments without context make it near impossible to connect with the material. Leaders are responsible for setting the stage, helping you understand why, and inspiring you to deliver.

If your boss fails to inspire you, take a moment to reflect on the tasks you’ve been asked to do. Avoid complacency at all costs. Know the “why” before approaching the “how.” If you cannot figure it out, ask for an explanation. You will do yourself and your company a favor.