In honor of Fathers’ Day yesterday I’m sharing a personal story which I’m incredibly proud of, as well as continuously inspired by.
Often I hear people say that by your late 40’s to early 50’s a professional has hit their zenith, their peak, pinnacle, apex, summit - if you will, in their career. Late 40’s? How can that be? At that age you’re only half way to retirement. What’s to become of the next 20 years?
I like to think that statistics like ‘hitting your peak in your late 40s’ is nothing other than just a data point. We only make it relevant if we live up to it.
Imagine this - at the age of 51, could you completely reinventing yourself professionally? Not because you have to but because you want too.
I know someone who did just this and it happens to be my father, Steve Smith.
After a tenured and very successful career in consumer products, “condoms to caskets” our family used to say, my father hit a pivotal point in his career. He had just exited a senior leadership position with a large multi-billion dollar company in 2008 and found himself in a predicament. He was looking for his next career step at the age of 51 and at the same time the economy was starting to come crashing down.
Needless to say it was a tough time back then. The uncertainty in this country was thicker than pea soup. We didn’t know which way was up or if the recent paycheck we received would be our last. As companies were closing down left and right someone I know took a bold stand and decided to open up a company.
Looking back at this point in my life I didn’t appreciate or quite frankly understand that moment in my fathers’ life. How he felt, the challenge of reinventing oneself, the stress of having a family to care for, etc. I just knew he was tough as nails, he’s always been a superhero in my eyes, and would figure it out. Worried, I was not.
And figure it out he did.
In the middle of the largest economic downturn of our lives my father chose to become an entrepreneur starting a business in executive and small business coaching. He vowed never to return to corporate America to work for another man/woman as this time he was working towards his own dreams under his own rules.
At the ripe and spry age of 51 he became an entrepreneur. He hustled; he got out and met with people 3-4 times a day. He shook hands and kissed babies, maybe not so much on the baby side but I’m telling you he worked hard. He outworked even me, someone at the time half his age. His determination and mindset was flawless, at least it was from the outside. What’s just as impressive is that our family, mainly my sister and I, never saw him sweat. He was starting a business from scratch, something he had not done before and was doing it with the poise of a statesman.
It didn’t come easy but sure enough my fathers’ business eventually started to grow. He leveraged relationships, made new ones, offered a niche service and delivered impeccable results. He kept his word and delivered the goods. Nothing in life comes easy or quick for that matter and my fathers’ story is no different.
Fast forward, both my sister and I are entrepreneurs who have started our own businesses from scratch following in our fathers’ footsteps. I must give my father credit because he showed our family that you can be successful and start a business from scratch, it just takes time, effort and the mindset to see it through. As a result I was encouraged to follow my own dream, just like my father did.
I’ve learned a lot from my father and the experience he went through some 10 years ago. I’ve learned that age is just a number. Your mindset is what will carry you through. I’ve also learned the importance of having a support system to help you along the way. That credit goes entirely to my mother who stuck by him and continues to do so today. Lastly, I learned that taking risks in life is important. If we constantly live saying ‘what if’ we run the chance of missing out on a lot of rewarding experiences. If we are going to make a bold step in life the best way to go about that is by giving all of ourselves to it. That’s a choice, one we can exercise freely.
Today my father, Steve Smith, runs a successful executive and small business coaching company. I see firsthand what he does for his clients and am continually amazed at what he’s doing to inspire, impact and develop other people not just professionally but also personally. As if that wasn’t enough he’s having fun doing it as he lives the American dream.
Honored. Humbled. Appreciated. Dad.
Is the grass always greener on the other side?
We quit our jobs with the idea of leaving for green pastures only to find out that the new job we just landed is just as bad if not worse than the last. Yikes!
Why does this happen?
Simply, we made a decision without fully understanding the ‘why’ behind it.
When we’re at a point in our careers where we’re considering leaving our employer typically one or more of the following is happening:
These are the top five answers people share on why they resigned from their employer.
When we’re frustrated at work, especially if it has been going on a while, all too often we’re ready to jump ship without checking first if we have a life preserver on. The first opportunity that comes along meeting our ‘minimum qualifications’ can appear to be a god send. We yell out, “where have you been all my life” as we go through the interview process with our new prospective employer hoping they’ll give us the chance to say “Adios” to our current employer.
But wait! How much research and investigation did we do ahead of time to ensure our hopeful new employer is better than the last? Does it meet our needs? Do we even know what our needs are?
Here in lies the trap many of us fall into. We convince ourselves that what we have (our job or employer) is crap and anything else that presents itself is therefore exceptionally better than the last. We dive into the new opportunity to get away from the old to find ourselves quickly back into the same situation we were in before.
How could this be? (it certainly isn’t our fault because it never is)
Sorry to be the bearer of bad news – if you’ve experienced this it is indeed your fault. Now, let’s be fair, maybe no one ever taught you how to go about finding a new job and ensuring it met your needs. If that’s the case consider this first situation ‘my bad’ and moving forward use the following steps to better understand what you need and how to get it with a new job:
Step #1: Self Reflection – take time to better understand where your unhappiness comes from. Without knowing this it will be very difficult to improve your situation
Step #2: Honesty – are you giving your current job everything you can? If not then you’re putting yourself at risk of running from one issue to another, just at another company
Step #3: List Your Expectations – write out a list of 5-10 things you want in a career and employer. Your top #1-3 should be non-negotiable no matter what
Step #4: List of New Employers – if you’ve decided it’s time to move on build a list of companies in the area you want to work which meet your needs, at a minimum your non-negotiables. This information can be obtained by speaking with current employees of those companies or reading reviews online.
Step #5: Network – this is the biggest misstep of all. Many times we don’t do this which means we aren’t getting a good enough perspective of what is going on within the industry we want to work in. Networking builds our connections and insight for businesses in the area we’re trying to find our next employment. It can also help us land a new gig.
Step #6: Confirm Expectations – when you get to the point of interviewing with a new company make sure to ask them how they show up with the list of items you have created that are important to you. Ask every person you meet within the company. If their answers don’t jive with your expectations this isn’t the right company for you.
Step #7: Show Up – if you do decide to take a new job with a company that meets your new set of expectations it is imperative that you show up and give them everything you’ve got. 150%. During this time you should also be making mental notes to see if your new employer is in fact upholding their commitments to your expectations. Caution – when you’re new it is a 50/50 split of responsibility where both parties have to come to the table to make the employer/ employee relationship work. Don’t just sit back and expect your new employer to drool all over you and praise you without you showing up in the new job accordingly. Praise, respect and opportunity are earned – never given for free.
Unhappy at your job? Looking for a new one?
Before you act on it make sure you understand why you’re in your present situation before you get into a new one. Once you know what you want it will be much easier to find the right opportunity rather than the first opportunity.
Perhaps you’ve already noticed. Things are changing all around us and it’s happening at lightening speed.
The workplace, as many of us know it, is going through a facelift. A facelift commonly referred to as ‘the gig economy’. It is estimated that 35% of the US workforce in 2017 is now comprised of Gig’s.
Gig’s and gig users have something in common…
work doesn’t always need to be 9-5, M-F…
And many of us have been slow to adapt to this change in our workforce.
What is the Gig Economy anyways?
It’s an alternative work approach in which temporary positions are common and organizations contract with independent workers for short-term engagements.
This doesn’t sound new, so what’s the deal?
While using temporary labor may not be a new thing, what is very new is the amount of work that is now being facilitated through Gig’s on short-term engagement. (AKA freelance, independent contractors, contingent workers, temporary workers, etc.)
Gig freelancing is taking a much wider foothold in our economy. Today it’s common to find all sorts of work being packaged and facilitated through Gigs whereas before these jobs were considered only as fully employed roles. Management roles, engineering, software, events, cooking, the music industry, professional coaching and even academics are a few examples of work which is now being performed largely by the current day Gig worker. It could also mean you and I having a separate part-time job which we use to bring in extra income on the side. (AKA moonlighting)
For example, there are companies and people who do nothing but provide short term support for other companies which have a need for an interim CEO. There are just as many options for companies who want additional support in doing their product design but don’t want to hire a full time employee because it’s work that is intermittent. These are examples of where Gigs come into play.
They serve a role for a period of time on behalf of a separate organization. Once they’re done they’re off to finding their next opportunity, often times they may have multiple jobs/ projects going on at the same time.
Why are companies and people alike moving in this direction?
As our economy and technology continues to evolve we become less and less reliant on doing business face to face. For those of us who grew up in business when you were expected to be in the office for no other reason than ‘face-time’ you should be happy to know that many companies are moving away from this model. Why? We’re learning, slowly but surely, that ‘face-time’ isn’t productive. Employees can be just as productive from home, at a coffee shop or at the local water hole (not that I recommend that) rather than being shackled to their four foot cubicle for nine hours a day.
Productivity soars thanks to the usage of Gigs because it offers people the ability to do work and do so on their own accord. We often hear people who are Gig’s say they “like working this way because it’s more creative, allows for a better work/ life balance and gives them the ability to choose the work they want to do.” The benefit to the employer utilizing a Gig approach is they can reduce their overhead on costly brick and mortar facilities (estimated at $12k per employee per year) while having work completed by true experts in the field. Employers are also able to onboard new talent and off-board unneeded skills without the burden of employment taxes and paperwork.
Why it is important for me to be aware of ‘The Gig Life’?
The reason you should care about what is going on in the Gig Economy is because very soon we will all need to adjust to this new work style in order to remain competitive.
Now I’ve got your attention!
It’s time we gave some good introspective thought on how we do things at the workplace and whether or not that is the right way to do it. Perhaps your business, your department or your team could benefit from using Gigs to handle freelance work. Maybe in doing so you’ll be able to facilitate a wider volume of business which means more customers, more money and more margaritas on the beach in Acapulco. Maybe your employees are tired of seeing your face on the daily and could use a little R&R while working from home.
Either way, it’s time we all jump on the wagon because whether we like it or not the Gig Economy is here to stay and it promises to only grow as time goes on.
It’s a vital part of any professionals’ career. Networking! The people we surround ourselves with, the relationships we build and the connections we make are the secret sauce to a long term successful career. In fact, networking is one of the best things we can do to advance our careers. If networking is so important why is it so many of us go about it all wrong?
For the better part of the last six years I’ve had the great opportunity to be a part of a non-profit professionals association called DeviceAlliance. It’s focus is simple - help people elevate their game professionally through impactful connections and education in Southern California. Needless to say we do a lot of networking. The time I’ve spent with this organization has opened my eyes to a lot of learning opportunities which I wouldn’t have been exposed to in a typical corporate setting.
One of the biggest learning lessons has been why networking is so important.
Over time I began to also learn that so many of us, including myself, went about networking all wrong.
Networking professionally is a fine art, one that takes practice and consistency. In order to be an effective networker we need to keep top of mind these two important considerations:
When we are in a time of need this is the exact wrong time to start a networking. There seems to be a common misconception that networking should only be done when we’ve ‘hit the skids’ professionally. We’ve lost our job, hate our boss or company for that matter and finally make the decision we need to get out in the world. We’re going to give it the old college try, shake some hands and kiss some babies, to hopefully wrestle up a new opportunity and get ourselves out of the mess we’re in presently.
Professional networking is most effective when we do it proactively, not in the moment of need. On more occasions than I can count I’ve heard people say, “I’m in transition so I’m networking to find my next gig.” Often times these people go to one event and then stop networking altogether once they land themselves a new opportunity. They’re failing to see the bigger picture which is networking is not something to do just when you need it in the moment.
Long term career impact comes from a steady stream of professional networking. It becomes a constant part of your to-dos just like that morning cup of coffee you have every day. Be proactive and be consistent in your approach.
2. Quid Pro Quo
I’ll do this if you give me that. When our focus is to help ourselves people can smell us from a mile away. It’s uncanny how quickly people pick up on this when they meet someone at a networking event. It’s like they’re wearing cheap perfume bought from the Dollar Store. As your unflattering fragrance permeates the air we know all too well that your intent for networking is entirely self-serving. What’s worse is that people, without realizing, can build a reputation for being self-serving which produces counterproductive results.
The best approach to effective networking is to take the approach of ‘The Go-Giver’. This book has impacted my life more so than any other book I’ve read. It talks about how a genuine interest in helping others can lead to a life of fulfillment and prosperity. Essentially, if we put other people’s interests before our own what we find is that through helping others we actually benefit in the long run.
Using this approach to networking helps build trust quickly which then leads to fostering new relationships and friendships. Think about it this way – the more deposits we make into the professional lives of others the wealthier we’ll be in our own careers.
When it comes to professional networking timing and intent play a huge role in our success. Now that we know how to be a successful networking the next thing we need to do is get involved.
Action Item: find an association, peer group or industry event you can get involved with. You’ll be glad you did. (If you are a part of the life sciences industry check here for events in Southern California)
Working for big business certainly has its perks, there’s no doubt about it. Stability, direction, benefits, work that is defined – you name it. It can be a magical place so long as we do enough to stay off the radar of those watching while mentally checking out for 8 hours a day to do this thing we call ‘work’.
If working for the bigs’ is so great than why are so many people changing their professional course of direction and seeking the world of the start-up?
The start-up world can be an exciting place. I’ve experienced this personally over the last two years while also support many clients who are in the same place. Decisions are often made speedily, there’s typically less bureaucracy, work is more flexible and of course it tends to be much more creative.
Then it’s settled, everyone should work in a start-up! I mean, who wouldn’t want to work in that kind of an environment?
Pump the brakes my impatient chums. Before you diving into the world of a start-up (including small business) take a moment to check in with yourself on how you land with these five characteristics of the start-up world:
1. Working Outside the Box
When we work for big companies often times our job and daily output is focused on a certain set of tasks. It’s the opposite in the start-up world as often times the mentality of those who are successful in this space is that they’re willing to do whatever it takes to get the job done and company moving forward. This includes taking out your own trash! If you’ve ever said “that’s not part of my job description” in response to work that was requested of you I would recommend taking a hard look at whether a start-up or small company is the right move for your career.
2. Time Requirements
Working 8-5 in a large company can be a very nice perk. If you’ve done that for any length of time you may have forgotten how nice it is to mentally shut off at 5PM. In start-ups working 8-5 is non-existent. It’s common to work long hours and or be tethered to your smart phone around the clock. The statement of ‘work life balance’ is blurred beyond recognition in the start-up world. Those that are successful here know and understand that it takes time and effort to create something. How dedicated are you to making that happen and what are you giving up in the process?
3. Ambiguous Nature
Working in a large company doesn’t necessarily mean that everything is clearly defined and outlined yet it is typical that SOPs (standard operating processes) are at the very least available for workers who choose to use them. In the start-up world you may find yourself creating these on your own. Take a moment to think how you would feel about being confronted with a daily situation where you are supposed to be working hard, hell – harder than ever before, and there isn’t a lot of direction or support to help you in that effort. If the thought of that excites you than the start-up world may be a breath of fresh air, if not then maybe your 3 foot wide cubicle and plush ergonomic chair your large company bought is the safer bet.
This is one of the most overlooked aspects of a start-up in my opinion. Leadership. If you haven’t worked in the start-up world before you may not be aware that people in leadership still do much of the hands on work. In big business this is hardly the case. Neither camp of leaders are necessarily better than one of the other, it’s just a very different environment. In start-ups every person on the team has to give 150% to the cause which means those who don a leadership title still have to get dirty in the day to day work. The reason you want to consider this as a part of your ‘can I make it in the start-up world’ is because leadership ultimately can have a great or very grave impact on the start-up business. Seems a bit obvious but when someone is doing both daily work and in charge of strategic decision making their influence and involvement has a much greater impact. In big business if a company experiences a failure with one of their leaders it typically can be salvaged whereas in the start-up world one or two cost mistakes by leadership will send the company into a grave six feet under.
Start-ups offer an intimate working experience. It’s a necessity. Working in a start-up everyone knows everything about everyone. It’s close quarters with high amounts of communication, partnering and feedback. Collaboration of course exists in big business but not at the intimate level of the start-up. When we work for a big company we are often a part of a team but doing work independently, even times on our own little island. If you’ve come to enjoy your island and aren’t interested in having neighbors up in your grill on the daily than perhaps staying in big business is the right decision for you.
A professional life in a start-up can indeed be a rewarding and exciting adventure. Once we’ve spent some time analyzing what’s most important to us in our career and what we’re willing to do to get it than we’ll have a better idea of how the start-up environment and career fits in with our plans.
The media loves the sensationalism of it. Many love to protest it. Others use it as a platform for reconstruction.
The American Dream - is it dead or alive?
Seems like there’s a lot of talk about the American Dream at present in our country. What is it anyway?
The American Dream is the national tenet of the United States, the set of ideals (democracy, rights, liberty, opportunity, and equality) in which freedom includes the opportunity for prosperity and success, and an upward social mobility for the family and children, achieved through hard work..." What stands out to me in this statement are the words ‘opportunity’ and ‘hard work’. What this tells us is the American Dream is an opportunity to prosper yet it only comes through hard work.
Yet this still does not address the question - is the American Dream alive or dead?
I know of a story which may help you with this question. While this may be just one story it’s important to note there are thousands of others like it. You decide.
Our story starts off with a talented young woman who calls Portland, Oregon her home. Carly Sitner is a mother of two, a wife, a sister, a daughter, a vegan and one tough cookie with the courage of a tiger. Needless to say she's incredibly busy. Speaking of cookies, Carly happens to be a chef with a specialty in pastries, desserts and other fancy baked goodies that sooth the soul and make your taste buds run wild.
Carly (pictured here) has been a chef for 13 years in Portland working for a variety of bakeries, including some very large corporate establishments like the grocery store that sells only 'wholesome' things to eat.
At the age of 31 Carly decided that enough was enough and she was going to make her dream a reality. She was going to open the first ever vegan donut shop in Portland. What’s amazing about this story is what Carly is leaving behind in order to follow her dream, the American Dream. She's leaving behind a stable leadership role with the 'wholesome' grocery store, a good paycheck and a job that is rewarding - all for the unknown. Yet she’s doing it anyways. Mind you she has a very full life outside of work yet that doesn't seem to stop her.
Starting a small business is no day at the fair. It’s hard work, long hours, risky and takes determination. If it was truly easy everyone would be in business for themselves. Yet Carly pushes onward. It would also be important to note that neither Carly or her business partner are wealthy, nor have they been given a huge sum of money in which to seed the business. Often times I hear people talk about business owners and just automatically assume they all came from gobs of money. This just isn't the case.
Carly started off the ole fashion way with nothing more than an idea and a will to see it through. First they built interest in their product (craft made vegan donuts) in the local community by doing bake sales and small catering. They then took their idea on Kickstarter where the community responded with praise helping them pass their goal, handsomely. Carly and her partner then took those early wins and proceeds which were acquired with lots of time, patience and hard work and presented it to a couple local banks. With little collateral and just a dream a bank shared their vision and gave them a loan to start the business.
As we fast forward to present day, the donut shop, called Doe Donuts, is scheduled to open early this summer, albeit with a line around the block from patrons feverishly waiting to sink their teeth into the tasty baked goods Carly whips up.
The story of Carly Sitner and Doe Donuts may still be in the early chapters yet as with any good story you know you’ve got a winner even when you’re only a couple pages in. The story of Doe Donuts and the entrepreneurial spirit of Carly and her business partner sheds much needed light on the types of opportunities that exist in this country. Thomas Edison once said, “Opportunity is missed because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.” Apparently Carly enjoys overalls and hard work because this opportunity isn't passing her by.
Is the American Dream alive or dead?
I believe it is indeed ALIVE and well and Doe Donuts is a fresh and tasty example of what can happen when someone puts words to action and follows their dream.
As it turns out Carly Sitner, our pastry chef extraordinaire, also happens to be my younger sister. I’m incredibly proud of her and the decisions she’s made to follow her dream of owning her own business while doing something that she truly loves.
I look forward to being one of her customers waiting patiently in line to savor their tasty donuts while taking a bite of Carly’s version of the American Dream.
My father once shared some sage advice with me: “never burn a bridge”.
I’ve been consistently amazed at how small a world it can be as I often times run into former colleagues, clients and friends who I shared a past relationship with to varying degrees from a past life. When I bump into these past connections its uncanny how often I find out the person I knew prior now has a direct ability to impact my current life, professional and personal. This is the prime reason I firmly believe one should never burn a ‘relationship’ bridge.
What about when we have to quit our job?
January and February represent the highest attrition months of the year, meaning the largest percentage of resignations and terminations occur within these two months. Why does this happen? Companies and employees alike are looking at the New Year and wanting to start fresh which typically means getting rid of employees that aren’t cutting the muster or employees themselves who leave jobs that have lost their luster.
When we’re the one to make the decision to quit our job it can be fun to think about the moment you deliver the news, after which you imagine yourself singing and dancing through the office like you’ve just won the lottery while your colleagues look at you like you’ve lost your damn mind. We experience our very own Jerry Maguire moment and we’re all too thrilled to ask everyone around us “who’s coming with me”.
In these moments are we thinking about how our actions will impact our future?
Some of us do, however there is a rising majority of people that seem to forget that the way we handle our resignation may or may not pay dividends in the future. If you plan to quit your job in the near term use these steps to deliver the news to your employer while leaving gracefully.
Step 1: Quit before things get bad
Often times we wait too long to quit a job that we know isn’t right for us. If you wait too long you risk your reputation suffering as often times our productivity begins to lessen as we aren’t as passionate about the job as we once were.
Step 2: Don’t tell anyone
It’s a big mistake telling colleagues you’re quitting before you’ve actually delivered the goods. The last thing you need is your boss to find out you’re quitting before you’ve actually confronted them with the news.
Step 3: Be professional but save the novella
It’s a good idea to inform your employer about why you’re leaving and perhaps even some small detail on where you’ll be going. Anything after that and you’re just wasting time and energy. This is not the time to spill the beans on all of the crap you hated about your job, the company or your boss, creating a drama tornado in the process. If you work for any sizable company HR will typically ask for this information however it does nothing to serve you for the future, it only serves their interests and that isn’t your problem anymore. The time to give feedback was when you were fully employed, not when you’re exiting.
Step 4: Make it official
Your resignation should be given to your direct boss and no one else. Be sure to provide him or her with a formal, typed out resignation. Google ‘resignation templates’ and you’ll have all the options to your hearts’ content.
Step 5: Respect & professionalism at all times
What’s most important to remember while you’re going through the resignation process is your professionalism will be noted by almost everyone involved. If you plan to continue working in the same industry or similar industry you’re current job is in more than likely you’ll run across your company’s employees in the future. For this reason and many others it’s important to be respectful to whoever is involved, which also means providing at least a two week notice to your employer. Also, you should never gossiping or talk ill about your boss or company after you’ve left. All that does is make you look bad in the process, which includes going online to rant about how thrilled you are to not work there any longer.
Step 6: Keep it classy
I once had an employee of mine who had quit send me a letter several weeks after the fact thanking me for the time she spent on my team while also sharing what she learned. I was really impressed by this because it signaled that while the job wasn’t for her any longer she did appreciate the opportunity while she was here.
In the end, we all will be judged by our actions so it’s best to remember these sage words…
“Never burn a bridge!”
As generations continue to evolve in our country so do the thoughts and feelings of people in present day.
One thing that has been consistent through the years is the questioning of authority across all sectors: government, public and private. Those who are in a position of authority certainly have a tough job ahead of them as they are constantly under fire by the very people they claim to serve, whether its justified or not.
Which leads me to an important question: Does questioning authority help or hurt us?
Let’s examine some current situations in our country:
Wells Fargo Scandal
Wells certainly isn’t the first bank to ever have dealt with a large scandal. Most of us recall the recent recession where banks by the hundreds got rich off of consumers thanks to unscrupulous business practices. Nothing new here. What is new with the Wells Fargo scandal is that it went on for a period of five years with almost zero questioning by internal management. Customers were certainly questioning Wells aggressive sales tactics however I’ve not been able to find one single instance of an internal person in management which stood up and said, “this isn’t right”. Two comments are appropriate here: 1) it’s highly possible this did happen it just hasn’t been publicly released; 2) when you’re an internal employee it can be incredibly scary to blow the whistle on your own employer, especially when your employer is the largest banking institution in the world. In this case, the lack of questioning authority proved to be harmful as thousands of customers were negatively impacted, jobs lost and countless tax payer dollars will be spent and wasted dragging this banking giant through the legal system.
CDC & DTaP Vaccine
In June of 2016 the CDC (Center for Disease Control) announced in a 13 page report that one of the nationally required vaccines, DTaP - which all children are required to take to enter school, has now been linked to cause autism. In 2016 it is expected that 1 in 68 children will develop autism in comparison to 1 in 150 in the year 2000. Autism is a major issue within our country with its occurrence rate doubling over the last 15 years. While this information is still very new to the general public it was eventually brought to the surface thanks to hundreds, if not thousands, of parents who stood up and demanded transparency from our government. In this case, questioning authority has proven to be helpful as the general public will now have more transparent information in which to make decisions by.
Societal Altercations with Law Enforcement
It’s a tough time in our country to be in law enforcement. It’s equally tough for many of our fellow Americans who feel their rights have been stricken from them as a result of discrimination. Regardless of which side of the fence you’re on its one of the most sensitive topics in our country today. As shootings during police altercations continue it’s increasingly difficult to discern what is justified versus what is crossing the line, infringing on the rights of the common person. When we question authority in these moments it is vital that we do so with a quest for transparency and truth. This is why I believe Martin Luther King Jr. was so successful as he believed violence was not the answer toward successful activism and change. As a result he was able to lead our country through some of the largest equality reforms in our nations history. In this instance questioning authority is appropriate however the way we go about it can either support or diminish our cause which is why it’s important to think before we act.
Kaepernick Takes A Knee
Colin Kaepernick, NFL Pro Quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers, started a movement which makes a statement about the inequalities within our country, addressing the law enforcement altercations mentioned above. While he certainly has the right to a peaceful protest are his actions impacting change or causing further issues? Furthermore is the forum in which he’s doing it, employed by private organization (which the NFL is), appropriate? While I may not agree with all the things that go on in our country I still respect the flag and our national anthem as they symbolize the freedoms which were brought about by men and women who gave their lives so we could enjoy a life of choice in this country. There are plenty of other countries in this world who have much harsher living conditions, sometimes I think we forget how good we have it here even with our current day challenges. Are there equality reforms which need to be made, certainly, but we can’t lose sight of what’s important just to make a point. In this situation I believe Kaepernick’s questioning of authority and the way he is going about it is actually counterproductive to what his original cause is.
I’m a believer that questioning authority or the status quo for that matter is always a necessity however perhaps the real question isn’t ‘Does questioning authority help or hurt us?’ Perhaps the better question is ‘What is the best way to go about questioning authority to drive actual change?’
Please feel free to share your thoughts and remember to be respectful of other people’s views – it’s what ultimately makes this country great.
I had always wanted to start a business!
For years I tried my hand at inventing stuff, products that I thought would get me rich, if I could only sell a few million of them. First it was a gaming chair, then workout towels and even a handheld flashlight projector. I laugh looking back on those days while in college and the years shortly thereafter at some of the absurd things I did to try and be entrepreneur.
What I would eventually find out are those ideas didn’t work out not because they were bad ideas necessarily but because I was following the wrong dream.
It wasn’t until the summer of 2015 that I would find my way, diving head first into entrepreneurship. Thankfully I had a lot of help from many close people around me (wife, parents, friends) who all were incredibly supportive, as without them I’m not sure I would be here today.
With the first year of entrepreneurship under the belt I’m continually amazed at how much I’ve learned and how much I continue to learn about being an entrepreneur and business in general. These are the eight experiences I’ve had which made the biggest impact being an entrepreneur:
1.Get A Mentor
This is the single second best decision you’ll ever make in business. The first best decision is to become an entrepreneur. Mentors have experience which you can learn from helping you avoid mistakes along the way.
2.Support Gets You Over The Hump
Make sure those close to you understand your vision and support it. They don’t have to buy in 100% but if it’s you against the world there are going to be some very long nights in store. If you are married it’s vital your spouse understands the opportunity and supports it, even in the down times.
3.Some Things CAN Wait
Some people will tell you it’s important to write a business plan, vision, mission, blah blah blah, right away. Unless you’re in a situation where you need to ask for capital to start the business the best thing to do is put those things aside and focus all your efforts on how to make money. Ultimately being an entrepreneur means you’re selling something to someone so the more time you spend on how you’re going to gett paid for the product or service you’re providing the better off you’ll be.
4.You Can’t Be Everything To Everyone
I failed miserably here. When I did start to get customers I tried to offer everything under the sun to get their business. Now, I never over promised and under delivered, however I spent an exorbitant amount of time in areas that weren’t lucrative or didn’t align ultimately with what the companies direction was.
5.Having A Plan-B Is Dangerous
I’ve read countless articles about “the power of having a ‘plan-B’ ” or an alternative course of direction. I hate that advice. As an entrepreneur if you don’t believe in what you’re doing and have a plan-B set up in case you fail you’re almost destined to set yourself up for disappointment. I’m not saying it’s not important plan ahead for bumps in the road but if you’re going to start a business that should be your one and only focus. Anything other than a mentality of success has no place in your new direction. Visualize to materialize.
The first several months I attempted to handle all the accounting and finance portions of the business only to realize two things: 1 – I’m not good at it nor do I like it; 2 – I created more problems than I remedied. Best advice I got was to pay the money to get a good CPA that understood our business and could help us scale it up by making good decisions. Best money I’ve ever spent was on our CPA.
7.The Power Of Saying ‘No’
Crucial to your success as an entrepreneur is the ability to politely and professionally say ‘no’. Similar to ‘you can’t be everything to everyone’ saying ‘no’ is harder than it sounds. Naturally you want to say yes to everyone, making everyone around you happy, especially if it’s a customer. Unfortunately when we do this we get pulled in a hundred directions which causes us to deviate from our destined course. If you are asked to do something and it doesn’t align with your top 2 or 3 priorities politely decline and thank the person for the opportunity to be considered.
8.Breathe, It’ll Be Okay
Very few things in life actually have the ability to stop you from moving forward in your new business. When bumps in the road momentarily derail you (you will experience plenty of bumps along the way) take a deep breath and be thankful for the opportunity to learn and grow as a professional. Stephen Covey put it best when he gave us the 90/10 principle:
“10% of life is made up of what happens to you, 90% of life is decided by how you react.” – Stephen Covey
Last week a friend and I had an interesting conversation over dinner having to do with hiring new grads from college. The two of us agreed that we have seen a rise over recent years with the number of people coming out of college ill-prepared for the working world. But why?
We discussed the disparity that exists with some new grads and their ability to actually put their years of scholastic achievement to work in the real world. Regardless of their GPA many of them struggle and it has employers concerned, especially in the engineering world.
This is where our conversation hit a crucial point and where the rubber meets the road for our recent college graduates: theory versus application.
In academia theory is served up on a silver platter. Students learn by lecture, book and lab. They learn the ideal setting and framework of hundreds of concepts. What they learn is ‘HOW’ something works, where it comes from and should you need to replicate it follow these guidelines, etc. Kind of like a recipe for baking a cake. Follow these instructions and the result will be a nice red velvet cake. My favorite!
Unfortunately what we get a lot of times after the supposed recipe has been followed by new grads is not red velvet cake at all. It’s a pile of crap that doesn’t remotely resemble a cake nor is it edible. Simply being able to follow a recipe, or recite a definition for that matter, does not mean you truly understand the concept which can be a really rude awakening for a newly hired recent graduate in the working world. Our recent engineering grads may be able to tell us the definition of Ohms Law, reciting it verbatim however they struggle to actually use that same theory in practice in the working world when it actually counts.
What academia fails to accomplish is teaching and engraining in its students heads the ‘WHY’ part of the recipe, not just the ‘How’. Learning the ‘WHY’ behind a concept provides us with a larger frame of understanding rather than just surface level information. This articulates the important difference between information and knowledge. (information = theory whereas knowledge = application) When we know why something exists we can better apply said concept to real world settings and or make suitable adjustments when things go array. The ‘WHY’ piece also addresses creativity. When we’re confronted with an issue or challenge in the working world there’s no professor or recipe to help keep us on track. No directions that say ‘substitute this for that if this happens’. One has to be able to draw on their creative juices AND theory to come up with possible solutions.
Why do recent grads struggle with applying their education in the workplace?
My humble opinion falls on two primary contributors:
Don’t worry employers. Fret not new grads, we can fix this challenge so that everyone comes out on top.
How can we change this to help our new grads?
About the Author
Serving over a decade in the technical services industry in Orange County, CA, Travis Smith has developed a talent for assessing technical talent and overseeing technical projects. His other areas of specialty include: leadership development, business development, resource planning and creative solutioning.