Stop Reading and Start Doing

Featured

I read. A lot. Books, blogs, reports, research. Tweets (of course). You name it; I read it. Throughout my adult life  I’ve believed that I read because I’m curious. I’ve told myself and others that I read because I am a proud life-long learner.

Of course I am both of those things. But if, like me, you spend more time reading than doing, you may detect the deeper problem here — can you spot it?

Truth is, there is a deeper story. I read because I’m scared. I read to avoid what I do best, which is write.  In my moment of truth I had to ask, am I really learning or simply running?

Do you read as a way to postpone real action? It’s cool if you don’t want to raise your hand. I’ll be honest; writing this blog post is uncomfortable. It stirs feelings of shame that here I am — with a God-given talent — and I’m not fully using it. I’m hiding in the pages of someone else’s good writing.

Continue reading

What Kelli Schmith, Studs Terkel, and Albert Einstein Have in Common

Featured

Despite lives that span three centuries, these two guys and I share a belief that transcends time, space, and (yes) even communication platforms.

Community, be it visible or not, transforms you.

I discovered it this morning, half awake, clinging to my coffee cup, the universal shrine of Mondays.  Savoring the 5 a.m. silence, I opened a new book and (of all things) began reading its Forward, contributed by Studs himself:

Once you join others, even though at first your mission fails, you become a different person. A stronger person.

You feel that you really count; you discover your strength as an individual because you have, along the way, discovered others share in what you believe.

You are not alone; and thus a COMMUNITY is formed.”

This I Believe

Terkel was paraphrasing Albert Einstein in This I Believe: The Personal Philosophies of Remarkable Men and Women

The Serendipitous Epiphany

It turns out that the Aha prompting me to start this post  wasn’t the Real Aha.

The Real Aha — the Epiphany — is both very personal and very public.  Those 55-words  — borrowed from Studs Terkel and on loan from Albert Einstein — sum up my life’s journey  in the last year.

Thinking 2010 was the kick-off to marketing significance, I hadn’t factored in the impact of ignoring my health and a life-changing crisis in my extended family.  My vision of success dimmed in the glare of developments far greater and intensely more humbling.

But in the midst of that change, I’d become part of a group.  I belonged. I shared something. The people inside of that group taught me more about myself than I could have learned in solitude.  The stress, the deadlines, the drive to change were glue for the team; but more importantly those elements were the foundation of friendships.

Failure: the Real Aha? Continue reading

Every A-Player Needs a Playbook

Featured

Add to FacebookAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to TwitterAdd to TechnoratiAdd to Yahoo BuzzAdd to Newsvine

I recently worked on a project that included the creation of a Sales Playbook, and it sparked an idea worth sharing. What would happen if you created a Career Playbook that captures your methods for success?

Personal Playbook Page

Mindmap from Kelli's Playbook

Could you use it as a competitive advantage if you are job hunting? Perhaps you’re craving an opportunity to do and be more where you already work, and you want to prove you’re ready.

If a Personal Playbook did nothing other than map what makes your methods unique, would it be worth your effort?

My answer? Yes. Definitely Yes.

What Do I Mean By a Playbook?

Just as in sports, it’s a notebook containing narratives, lists and diagrams of the plays you have practiced. It is the blueprint for how you operate in business scenarios. This is the HOW, not simply the WHAT.

Your Playbook is a highly-personalized tool that reflects YOUR direct experience. It’s your reference, your bible, your go-to resource.  It is your proof of concept.

Fast Company founding editor Bill Taylor wrote The 10 Questions Every Change Agent Must Answer, and in it he asked ‘What Are You the Most of?’  That is the guts of your Playbook. It’s the User Manual of what you do best.  It isn’t your memoir or a journal nor is it a lesson book.

Your Playbook is a collection of YOUR tactics and best practices (not those of your favorite guru). It’s not a history book; it is a living-breathing body of knowledge about your methods and rituals.

Why Write a Playbook — More Than Just Intrinsic Value

No matter what type of thinker you are or whether your strengths are strategic or tactical, a Playbook will boost your market value.  I came up with 5 reasons to do my own book:

  1. High performers have a methodology. Own yours, because it sets you apart.
  2. Methods and rituals do co-exist with creativity. Even the most spontaneous people are predictably spontaneous.
  3. You can’t scale without process. When you articulate a scalable methodology, you will blow the door open for new career opportunities.
  4. Prove to yourself that you are a repeatable success story and not just a tale of one-hit wonders.
  5. If you want to jump industries, you have to prove you can transfer your knowledge.  Your process makes that possible.
Timeline Exercise

Brainstorm technique: Timeline your highlights of a key position.

The Content: Part Ritual, Part Process, Part Magic.

If you’re still with me on this idea, you may have guessed it is no small task to create. Let’s be real about this project: creating a Playbook demands an honest look inside of yourself and a fair bit of writing.

What goes into your Playbook? Simply put: any (or every) scenario that is part of your regular work life.

Here is part of the list I created for my own Playbook:

  1. How do you (begin to) understand your customers?
  2. How do you gather competitive intelligence?
  3. How do you seek understanding of the formal and informal communication norms inside a company?
  4. Where do you look for new ideas outside of the company?
  5. Who do you turn to for advice?
  6. How do you make an unforgettable impression?
  7. What is your decision process?
  8. How do you break down the walls of communication with people who are NOT like you?
  9. How do you communicate most effectively (i.e. what do people need to know about the way you do it)? This includes all channels of media.
  10. How do you cross cultural barriers?
  11. What are the signals that you’re stressed or over-committed?
  12. How do you know when you’re short on resources? What steps do you take to get what you need?
  13. What feeds (and kills) your creativity?
  14. Who is in your power base?
  15. What motivates you? (don’t skip this, because you need to be very clear with your own boss about this.)

3 Ways to Start the Process

  • Replay your success reel. Think through your career in 5-year increments and identify the 1-2 remarkable achievements that stand out.  What made those possible? What did you face, and (most importantly) how did you make it work?

    Left Brain - Right Brain Example

    Inside the pages of my separate Vision and Mission Book, an ongoing project.

  • Look at where you’ve prevailed against all odds. Your biggest lessons often come from there.
    List the project or the job or the company. Explore how and why it didn’t meet your expectations (in some cases, maybe it did, but it fell short of someone else’s).
  • List your Always and Nevers. This is your sacred ground and the deal breakers.  Know where you draw the line with colleagues and clients.

The good news is that you already have the content for your Playbook. The content is in your head,  but in order to make it tangible, you need to invest the time and discipline to put it on paper.

Have you done something like this? I’d love to hear about it.

Great Additional Reading:

What Do Marketers Need to Learn?

Featured

Add to FacebookAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to TwitterAdd to TechnoratiAdd to Yahoo BuzzAdd to Newsvine

Marketers are a special bunch — sometimes creative, always colorful and occasionally maddening.

Weigh in on how marketers could do a better job of being meaningful at work (5 simple questions).

Survey: What Marketers Need to Learn

I will use the insight in an article for marketers who want to clarify (and improve) the value they bring to their organization.  The article will also appear here on the Dig Deep Thinker blog.

Thanks in advance for sharing your perspectives!

*Poll conducted with Survey Monkey. No personal information is gathered.

Deconstructing Your Failure

Featured

Photo credit: Steve Ford Elliott

Career Grief sucks. There, I said it. It sucks — horribly.

I sat in a pool of it this past week, despite an astronomical EQ, a mad set of business skills, and growing demand for my work.  That, my friends, is exactly why it torques my day.  It rolled through at the most unexpected (and least welcome) moment, leaving me cranky that I still feel the aftershock of losing a job I loved.

Some days grief is like a spider web. You walk face first into it and no matter how much you spin and try to pull away from it; the tiny strands cling to you all day long.

Rather than wallow in a pool of self-loathing, I pinned down the source of recurring frustration.  I confess that my departure felt like a failed mission — it’s one thing to admit defeat but altogether castrating when someone else calls the time of death for you.

A Sense of Failure at the Root of Grief

It turns out that I’ve been mourning a vital part of me that I left behind. That part of me is kick-ass brilliance and talent, and I’d be an idiot not to retrieve them. In order to do that, I deconstructed my (self-labeled) failure by asking four questions:

  1. Did I attempt too much?

  2. Where did I contribute to poor communication or incomplete information?

  3. How did I dilute my own authority or weaken my team’s responsibility?

  4. When and how did I permit “drop-in crises” to derail our primary mission? Continue reading

Fresh Articles that Make You Go “Hmmm”

Control Freaks Hate Community

Control freaks hate community. And most recruiters are control freaks. Ergo, recruiters hate community. Perhaps my deduction is a little harsh (and purposely attention-grabbing). Maybe a better way to describe how many recruiters feel about community is that they are suspicious, or at the very least skeptical

Freshly posted to ere.net, this article lays out several compelling reasons why community and relationships (formed there) are essential in the 21st century Web 2.0 model of recruiting.

I just discovered the author Marvin Smith, who is a Talent Community Evangelist at Microsoft. Smith’s use of social media for recruiting  and his understanding of how community and branding make him worthy of your RSS Feed.

How to Decide How Much to Reveal About Yourself

People ask me all the time how I can be so honest about my life in my blog. They want to know how I can write about marriage, sex, abortions, or running out of money over and over again. It’s an endless list really, of the stuff I write about that people can’t believe I’m writing about

This is fabulous first-person article written by Penelope Trunk.  She shares the powerful and personal reason behind her ability to lay it out there for everyone to read.

Trunk, is the founder of 3 startups — most recently, Brazen Careerist, a social network to help young people manage their careers.

6 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Taking on a New Client

At the start of their careers, most freelancers take on every new client that comes along. But as we mature and gain more experience, we become more discerning when we’re choosing who we work with

This is a short, solid article that every freelancer or self-employed professional should read. Written by Celine Roque, it’s just one example of the great content on Web Worker Daily.

What is EQ and Why Should You Care?

75% of careers are derailed for reasons related to emotional competencies, including inability to handle interpersonal problems; unsatisfactory team leadership during times of difficulty or conflict; or inability to adapt to change or elicit trust.”  — The Center for Creative Leadership, 1994

EQ is the acronym for Emotional Intelligence, and it represents your ability to handle yourself and others.

I took  my first EQ test when I joined an executive team of fellas.  I wasn’t surprised that my ability to manage my emotions eclipsed the rest of the gang, but I learned that a high EQ won’t buy you job security.  In retrospect,  it does come in handy when your boss tells you you’re off the team.

Life coach and consultant Margaret Meloni authored this new article which is posted at PickTheBrain

Practical Resources for Self-Employed Professionals

At last, the self-employed worker goes mainstream. It’s too soon to look fondly at the recession and give it credit for accelerating the process, but give it time. Until then, let go of the resentment and put your skills to work.

The freelance life is exhilarating, thrilling, and stimulating.  It can also be frustrating, maddening, lonely, and shocking (at tax time). If self-employment is new to you, take a deep breath and shore up your resources (in this case, information and people).   Here are some practical websites for starters:

Getting Started and Staying Viable

  • Hourly Rate Calculator — this hourly rate calculator helps you arrive at a sensible hourly rate based on your costs, number of billable hours and desired profit. It is a simple and time-saving way to look at what you should charge. (NEW)
  • Business.gov — Specifically geared toward self-employed citizens, this U.S. government site provides critical information if you’re contemplating self-employed status or already headed down that path.
  • Small Business Administration (SBA) — Free, online courses (each are 30 minutes or less) cover every stage of conceiving, launching and managing your(self and) business.
  • National Association of the Self-Employed (NASE) –Admittedly, this one is new to me, but it’s been thriving since 1981. NASE wants to be the go-to source  for micro-businesses and the self-employed.
  • WebWorkerDaily — The knowledge worker’s happy place. Tips, trends and advise on how to be more efficient, productive and successful.  Everything from how to find freelance clients, build your brand, maintain  work/life balance to dealing with isolation.
  • Brazen Careerist — You’ve got to think young to stay young! This Gen Y-powered social site transcends the notion that a paycheck, or a corner office, or a fancy title, will ever lead to a passionate life.
  • Women Entrepreneur — From the folks at Entrepreneur Magazine, a female-centric ezine. More down-to-business content than Pink.
  • Guerrilla Freelancing — The website dedicated to helping every freelancer still in the trenches, working as hard as they can to build up a solid freelance business. (NEW)
  • Freelance Radio Podcasts — Tune in for tips, tricks and news about freelancing. Downloadable through iTunes, FreelanceRadio won the People’s Choice for Best Blog Podcast of 2007. (NEW)

Managing Yourself and The Business

Copyright and Trademarks

  • Trademark Electronic Search System (TESS) — Thought of a snazzy new business or product name but wondering if it sounds just a little too familiar? Start here to see if someone already staked his claim and owns the legal rights.
  • Creative Commons — One of the most promising (and productive) ideas to come along. This is a must-see site to learn how to share and build upon the work of others while honoring the rules of copyright.

Writing, Design, and Communication

  • Graphic Leftovers — A marketplace for designers, illustrators and other creative souls to sell their “leftover” artwork on the web (so that folks like you and me can buy it on the cheap).
  • Language is a Virus — Widgets (and more) to cure writer’s block!
  • The Writing Lab — Over 200 free (online) writing resources, from Purdue University
  • Ragan.com — Never fancied yourself a communicator? I assume that since you’re self-employed, you’ve since realized you ARE the mouthpiece of your company.  This website will keep you just close enough to the cutting edge of communication strategy and tactics.

Promotion

  • Blog Talk Radio — Check this out, if only to tune in and learn! This is a social radio network that enables anyone to create free, call-in talk shows using an ordinary telephone and computer. Cooler yet: each show is automatically archived and made available as podcasts.

And now for some articles: