Category Archives: leadership

My Aunt the Sculpturer

sally.pngMy Uncle Blog has a wife, Sally. I remember their wedding so I can speak authoritatively on the accuracy of that claim.

Sally has been playing with mud for years now — and she’s really good at making something out of nothing. My family can attest that her pottery has gone from heavy, utilitarian pottery to now professional-grade art.

Aunt Sally’s local paper in South Carolina decided that they should write about her potting skills also.

She started in pottery by taking piano lessons. 15 years later she was teaching classes of 50 people per semester! You’ll have to read the story to figure that one out!

Her advice is somewhat of a metaphor for success in any field:

The hardest part of teaching is getting students to slow down because they must master the basics first. Hayes said an open imagination is a plus because “anything you can imagine, you can make in clay.”

Mastering pottery is a repetitive process that includes plenty of practice. She said she tells new students they will at least have an ice cream bowl to show for their first semester.

“They laugh and usually call it a doggy bowl, because that’s what it’s usually used for,” she said. “Some people catch on right away, and for others it takes six months before they are really pleased with their work.”

Aunt Sally, one day I want to get over there and photograph your studio. I guess I’ll stick around and hear Uncle Bill preach too if I have to.
😉

photo from scnow.com

The Dip is a Challenge

Enjoying The DipI read Seth Godin’s book The Dip over the weekend. The subtitle is “A little book that teaches you when to quit (and when to stick)”. And honestly, that’s the best one sentence summary of this book!

I think my take-away from this book is to take a look at the projects I’m involved with and determine if the payoff at the end is worth it or not. If it is, and times are hard, I’m in a dip and I need to push through. If the end isn’t worth it, quit. But don’t quit a dip because of stress.

It all seems pretty obvious, no? Seth even addresses that:

It’s easy to complain that the advice in this little book is brain-dead obvious. I mean, who doesn’t already know that the secret to success is to be successful, that providing a great product or service is the right thing to do, and that you shouldn’t quit in the face of adversity?

You don’t. That’s the bad news. The good news is that your boss and your competitors don’t know either.

I mean, you know it, but my guess is that you’re not doing anything about it. (pg 22-23)

So what is this “Dip” we’re talking about? Instead of defining it, let me share this example Seth gives that I think can also serve as a decent summary of the book:

Snowboarding is a hip sport. It’s fast, exciting, and reasonably priced; and it makes you look very cool. So why are there so few snowboarders? Because learning the basic skills constitutes a painful Dip. It takes a few days to get the hang of it, and, during those few days, you’ll get pretty banged up. It’s easier to quit than it is to keep going.

The brave thing to do is to tough it out and end up on the other side — getting all the benefits that come from scarcity. The mature thing is not even to bother starting to snowboard because you’re probably not going to make it through the Dip. And the stupid thing to do is to start, give it your best shot, waste a lot of time and money, and quit right in the middle of the Dip.

A few people will choose to do the brave thing and end up the best in the world. Informed people will probably choose to do the mature thing and save their resources for a project they’re truly passionate about. Both are fine choices. It’s the last choice, the common choice, the choice to give it a shot and then quit that you must avoid if you want to succeed. (pg 24)

When he talks about being the best in the world, he’s not necessarily referring to being the gold medalist snowboarder. He means that you can be the best in your world — the world you live in, your niche. He argues that if you can’t be the best, then quit. But the idea of quitting isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

It’s okay to quit, sometimes.

In fact, it’s okay to quit often.

You should quit if you’re on a dead-end path. You should quit if you’re facing a Cliff. You should quit if the project you’re working on has a Dip that isn’t worth the reward at the end. Quitting the projects that don’t go anywhere is essential if you want to stick out the right ones. You don’t have the time or the passion or the resources to be the best in the world at both. (pg 59)

Just as an aside, I noticed he had a few sentences in italics throughout the book. I thought, “he must think these are important statements”. So here they are:

  • [Winners] just quit the right stuff at the right time. (pg 3)
  • Quit the wrong stuff. (pg 4)
  • Stick with the right stuff. (pg 4)
  • Have the guts to do one or the other. (pg 4)
  • Scarcity makes being at the top worth something. (pg 10)
  • The Dip is the reason you’re here. (pg 28)
  • Quitting creates scarcity; scarcity creates value. (pg 36)
  • The opposite of quitting is an invigorated new strategy designed to break the problem apart. (pg 51)
  • If it scares you, it might be a good thing to try. (pg 76)

As I reflect on this book, I realize visualizing the end-value is the piece I often miss. I think this is when I need external help to endure the dip. And that help needs to show up relationally — be it friends, co-workers, professionals, and God.

Nathan the Desperate Banker

Last night I met a guy named Nathan. We had several conversations. Three to be exact. We talked about money, how I’m doing, my house, and how much interest we pay on our house.

Not the typical conversation I have with someone over the course of three phone calls.

And I use the word “conversation” loosely.

Have you ever been exchanging words with someone when the other person seems to be the only one talking and barely listening? They usually happen when a telemarketer calls.

Nathan is a telemarketer. But there’s something different about Nathan. He is desperate. He first called me telling me what my interest rate was (he was wrong) then started asking me all sorts of questions I assume are related to that. I finally stopped him to tell him I wasn’t interested.

I got the typical push-back I expected. “But we can save you lots of money”, etc. It’s all about me…and how dumb I am to pay high mortgage rates.

I told him I wasn’t interested many times and was polite. Finally I told him I needed to hang up.

20 minutes later the phone rings and it’s Nathan! I said, “Didn’t you just call me?” He told me that indeed he had but that he called my wife and she said we had a second mortgage and then was disconnected. So he needed to call me back.

“Nathan, either my wife is lying or you are. We don’t have a second mortgage. You, sir, are lying. You didn’t talk to my wife.”

He ignored it and went right back to the questioning. I told him I wasn’t interested and I kept my cool. He got so frustrated. I could hear him sighing and grunting on the other end flabbergasted that I wouldn’t want lower rates!

We parted ways again and I asked him to not call again.

45 minutes later, guess who called?!? “Nathan, I thought I asked you not to call again. I’m not interested.”

This time he was really desperate and frustrated with me. “It’s a free offer! Are you satisfied with higher rates?”

“No thank you, Nathan. I’m not interested. Please don’t call back.”

He gave a pitiful “okay” and hung up before I did.

I was impressed with my ability to stay calm and his ability to finally hear my words and not just his.

meet mr bol again for the first time

Manute Bol, the tallest NBA player of all-time, has one incredible story. Manute is 7 feet, 7 inches tall, 42 years old, but his morals, ethics, and faith make him even taller.

The article talks about how he was recruited to the US to play basketball from his Southern Sudanese village of Dinka, apparently the tallest people in the world. It talks about his financial situation, fame, and struggles of going back to his war-torn homeland of Sudan including his warnings about radical Islam and Sept 11. It talks about his family (his grandfather was 7’10” and his mom was 6’10”).

I really encourage you to check out this incredible story of Manute Bol.

enunciate

I heard a commercial on the radio as I was driving in today. It reminded me that enunciation is very important for an audio advertisement.

The ad for the FDA and their new slogan (I guess): “Safe and Effective”

Here’s the problem. Every time they said it, I honestly thought they were saying “Safe and Defective”. The guy put a pause in the word “and” along with a emphasis on the “dee” sound and quickly said “effective”.

I kept thinking, “Surely the FDA isn’t saying they are safe and defective!”

i’ve been marked

I dislike doing these things, but my wife asked me to.

A book that changed your life:
— The Bible

Books you’ve read more than once:
— The Six Trials of Jesus

One book you’d want on a desert island:
— The Bible

A book that made you laugh:
— The Gospel According to the Simpson’s

A book that made you cry:
— Cutting Ronions

One book you wish had been written:
— World History in 300 pages

One book you wish had never been written:
— Prayer of Jabez
— the Left Behind series
— Wild at Heart

Book you’re currently reading:
— Don Quixote

One book you’ve been meaning to read:
— Eats, Shoots, and Leaves (saving for my next flight)
— Power Failure (about the collapse of Enron)
— A Jew Among the Evangelicals (written by local Religion editor for Orlando Sentinel)
— Suite Success (written by a psychologist working on the set of The Apprentice and Survivor)

A category missing that I think should be there is:

Books that made you think:
— Tipping Point
— Blink
— Naked Conversations
— It’s Easier to Succeed Than to Fail

I’m not going to “tag” anyone to do this. If you’re a reader of this blog and want to do it, feel free. Post it up on your blog and link back to this post and/or leave a comment pointing to it.

adding idiots to a group isn’t smart

I love this quote I found today on the SEOmoz Blog:

Group intelligence is multiplicative when idiots are involved – combining a half-wit with another half-wit does not result in a full-witted person, it results in a quarter-witted person (1/2 x 1/2 = 1/4). Combining a full-witted individual with a half-wit still only yields a half-wit. The more of these “wrong kinds of people” you have involved in the process, the worse things get.

I developed this thought a little more on eMinistryNotes if you’re interested, but I just love this quote!