Monday, April 23, 2018

I Could Have Been…

After David Cassidy died, his daughter revealed that his last words were, “so much wasted time.”  Darren Hardy tells the story of his father’s friend, one that pursued building a real estate fortune, where during his final visit in the hospital before the man died, he said, “I missed the point.”  Then there is the story about a man who was asked at the end of his life if he had any regrets and his answer was, “I wish I was the man I was meant to be.”

When the end of our days come, will we stand on that final doorstep, looking back at what we have left behind, feeling regret for passing up opportunities leading to non-accomplishments, or be satisfied with the output of our actions, personal dreams and goals that will define our lives to the loved ones we leave behind?  While morbid in thinking of what our final moments and thoughts are going to be, as I get older, I am beginning to think that I would rather start to answer those questions now, as opposed to later.  Many years ago, when I struck out in my own business, one of the answers I gave for doing so was that I did not want to one day look back and say, “I had the opportunity to do this and did not.”  We all know people who have said, “I could have done…”, or “I was approached with something that could have become…” 

While I think that we spend part of our time and brain power to figuring out what other peoples’ expectations of us are, we need to spend time on our own expectations, which means we need to identify our own potentials.  We have all met people in our lives, whether casual acquaintances, family, friends or celebrities, that were talented, but crashed and burned.  For example, we used to know a guitarist who was extremely talented and was able to position himself into playing with a real touring band.  However, he was a heroin addict who lost that extremely lucrative gig.  I realize that drug addiction is an illness, but there are still choices that we make that either put us in front of harm’s way or help us to avoid the pitfalls that can trap us.  The last time I heard about him, he celebrated a positive success by falling off the wagon.

In Charles Dicken’s classic story, A Christmas Carol (whether you have read the book, seen any variation of the movie, or refer to the Mr. McGoo special), Ebenezer Scrooge had the opportunity to witness his own eulogy.  If we had a chance to watch those final words being spoken, would they be the words that you would want / expect to hear?  Will they reflect words that state that we lived up to our potential?  Or just went with the flow?  While Scrooge is a fictitious character, he recognized his failing, saw the impact of his ways, realized his potential and made the necessary changes to achieve a better outcome.  While we live and breathe, we all have the opportunity to live meaningful lives and to write the stories that future generations will tell.  This way when we stand before that last exit door, we can step through knowing that our time here was worthwhile.

Monday, April 16, 2018

The Importance of A Team

Somewhere in life, someone once said to me, “You need to downplay your strengths and develop your weaknesses.”  I was young at the time and took this as sage advice.  Of course, striving to develop a weakness into a strength made sense, but I was unclear about downplaying what I was good at.  If I was a solitary individual, reliant only upon myself, then yes, working on improving not so good skill sets would be appropriate for survival.  Last I checked, I am no Henry Bemis (from the episode Twilight Zone episode, “Time Enough at Last”), so I am surrounded in an active world filled with able people.

Based on years of grappling with this, if I have a strength in some area, I should work towards honing that skill set.  I know that there is always someone better in that area; however, within our subject matter expertise there is always room for improvement.  For some of the weaknesses…I think that I might not want to spend valuable time on something I might never become proficient in.  Using music as an example, I chose to teach myself the banjo.  I already know how to play guitar (rhythm not lead), so I have some knowledge / familiarity with that type of instrument.  If I decided to play euphonium, that would be a big challenge, as I do not currently know valve-based brass instruments.

If we can build on our strengths, how can we overcome our (real or perceived) weaknesses?  Let us now enter the concept of working in a team, where one person does not have to have ALL the answers, nor need to constantly attempt to learn things that are beyond their abilities (not to be confused with stepping outside one’s comfort zone).  With the right team in place, each member can leverage each other’s abilities, compliment skill sets, and provide a broader based team to tackle most obstacles.  While we know the names of Andrew Carnegie, Henry Ford, Thomas Edison, etc., the truth was that these iconic leaders surrounded themselves with people who had the abilities that they did not.  Henry Ford is attributed with making the statement, "I am not the smartest, but I surround myself with competent people."

I have been in Project Management for about 20 years.  I have had the opportunity to work with programmers, implementation experts, application specialists, and people with business area expertise.  While my background is Accounting, it was important to learn other related areas of business and technology.  By working in a team, with people who have various skill sets, I have been part of successful teams, both providing my skills and learning others.  Not to dissimilar from playing in a band.  The guys I play with play different instruments and have different, yet similar, backgrounds.  Together, by listening to each other and complimenting each other, we are able to produce something greater as a whole than as individuals.

Monday, April 9, 2018

Plant the Right Seeds

It is Spring…or so the calendar says.  Regardless, this is the appropriate time of the year to think about planting, putting down seeds, watering and fertilizing them for future growth.  There is a certain amount of pleasure we get when we put in the work and then watch the blossoming of our efforts grow into something that we can all enjoy.  This is a great time of the year to watch the sprouting and the natural re-invigoration of life around us.

The best results, of course, are based on the fertility of the environment that we are working in.  This is great for the physical landscape.  How about the mental landscape as well?  Let us update the above paragraph slightly by substituting “idea” for “seeds” to get the following:

This is the appropriate time to think about planting, putting forth ideas, watering and fertilizing them for future growth.  There is a certain amount of pleasure we get when we put in the work and then watch the blossoming of our actions grow into something that we can all enjoy.  This is a great time to watch the sprouting and the natural re-invigoration of life around us.

Virtually the same words, with similar actions and similar outcomes.  When we work together in a group, we share (plant) ideas between each other, take hold of them and they have the potential to become something wonderful (said completely from my optimistic point of view).  When the right time comes, we have envisioned in our mind the outcomes we desire.  That tinge of fear / doubt begins and then comes the second guessing: What if the weather is not good?  What if my idea is not good?  What if no one likes my planting? What if no one likes my idea?  What if I have the wrong seeds?  What if I have the wrong ideas?  I remember when Gab and Bec were younger and learning to play softball, we would teach the kids that when they went to bat, instead of standing there watching the pitches go by and striking out, to swing – we wanted them to go down trying instead of standing there like a spectator.  The same applies here as well, better to make the attempt and fail, (learning something out of the endeavor) rather than do nothing at all.

With planting seeds, we will never know the outcome if we do not try planting in different grounds to find out the best results; keeping in mind that certain plants grow better in different climates (think of how many palm trees you see in New Jersey).  Ideas are no different; for an idea to take hold, there must be a receptive audience (think of how many breweries exist in the middle of a dessert wasteland).  In either case, stay true to your visions and dreams, be bold and plant the seed to meet the vision, then enjoy the outcomes you have sown.