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Broadcasting Failure

Posted by Daniel in Advice, Entrepreneurship, Finance, Gen-Y, Good Business, Jobs, Life, Uncategorized

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I recently read an article in the Harvard Business Review entitled Why I Hire People Who Fail. Not to spoil it, as I recommend everyone read the article, but the premise is quite simple, “mistakes are the predecessors to innovation and success,” so without mistakes and failures, there can be no innovation or success.

In light of my last post, this article opened my eyes to see that failure is good. Dots started connecting in my head, if failure is good and something I should be proud of then why are my failures not showcased on my resume?

What sort of response would I get if I added a section titled “Failures;” on it I could list a variety of things that would definitely add more insight to who I am than a bland list of prior employers. Besides my failures are way more interesting than my (to date) successes and I know that I have learned more in my failures than in my successes.

What sounds better? Listing the duties of a generic role like “Financial Analyst” or listing where you went wrong and what you learned after stating ”Failed at Founding a Social Network for Pets.”

If I were hiring, I know which one would interest me more.

Flawed

Posted by Daniel in Advice, Entrepreneurship, Finance, House, Jobs, Life, Uncategorized

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What started out as a personal (pseudo lent related) challenge, became a point of pride; two blog posts a week. I was doing great, but quality content creation not easy, so after a solid six plus months I decided to give myself a break, cutting back to one post a week.

Now I sit here writing my first post in two weeks and I find myself not rusty, but confused. As I intermittently thought about what I might write today I began to feel that I lost my voice, so I started searching; but for what I didn’t know so I kept looking.

In my search I kept coming back to my flaws. “Those who can’t do teach” rings through my head and I freeze. Perhaps this is the phrase that defines me and this blog. I write a ton about entrepreneurship, but out of three businesses I’ve started I let two fail while one sits idly. Additionally, I write a lot about personal finance and yet I still haven’t figured out the timing of my automated billpay system which leads to overdrafts.

I’m definitely flawed. Maybe being flawed is my thing, maybe being flawed is my voice which allows me to stand on my soapbox and be worthy of an audience. I’m not perfect. I’ve fought down credit card debt, I have failed at being an entrepreneur, I’ve been laid off, I’ve been (and still am) house poor, and I might be the only personal finance writer who still overdraws his bank account. But with that said, I know what it’s like. I remember being jobless and staring at thousands in credit card debt, and I’m reminded monthly of how stupid I was when I bought the house I live in, I know it’s a battle because it’s still a battle for me. Business and personal finance are not easy; I’ve been beat down by both of them, but I’m still here trying to learn from my mistakes.

This is a journey and I have no idea where it will lead, but I have faith that the best is yet to come.

The Camel Story / Embrace Being New

Posted by Daniel in Advice, Entrepreneurship, Good Business, Jobs, Life, Uncategorized

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There is a story from the Middle East about three brothers whose father passed away. In his will he left them his all of his camels to be split in the following way, the oldest son would get half of the camels, the middle son would get a third of the camels, and the youngest son would get a ninth of the camels. But there were only 17 camels, and 17 is not divisible by two, three, or nine; the brothers had a problem. They argued and could not come up with a solution; finally they all agreed to go to someone who was a neutral party and had fresh eyes on the situation; an older woman in the village. They presented their problem to her and the woman thought about it for a moment before saying “I hate to see you all fight, so here, take one of my camels.” The brothers now had 18 camels, of which the oldest took his half (nine), the middle took his third (six), and the youngest took his ninth (2). When they were finished they realized they had one camel left over, so to thank the woman they gave the remaining camel to her.

As the new person to the situation the woman did not spend any time focusing on the problem, instead she only saw the solution, and as a result I’m certain she became known as a problem solver.

In our careers, being new too often means that we spend time focusing on “getting acclimated” and “fitting in” when everyone would be better served if we focused on “being new” and “standing out.” As uncomfortable as it can be, only as the new person can we mess up and no one minds, only as the new person can we ask the questions that others are afraid to ask, and only as the new person are we able to see straight through a problem to the solution.

So next time that you are the “new guy” embrace it. Stick your nose where it doesn’t belong, offer to help regardless of if you are asked, and ask whatever question comes to your mind.

Edit: This version corrects an earlier version of the post where the youngest brother got a sixth, which would have given him three, not two camels. Math is hard (doh!).

What Happened To Generalists?

Posted by Daniel in Entrepreneurship, Finance, Gen-Y, Good Business, Life, Uncategorized

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One of my best friends recently called me to tell me he accepted an incredible job. The company found him on LinkedIn, flew him across the country to their headquarters, had a car and driver for him, and offered him a great package with huge upside; it’s an awesome opportunity and I’m extremely excited for him. After I finished talking with him I explained this awesome opportunity to Mary and she excitedly (and half jokingly) asked “Why can’t you find an awesome opportunity like that?”

Without skipping a beat or even giving thought to it, I responded and said “because he has a speciality that he is very good at, I don’t have a specialty, my function is currently in Finance, but my specialty is general business.”

My comment caught me off guard; it just flowed out of my mouth without thought and led me to ask the question: What happened to generalists?

In college we were taught to pick a major, which will turn into a career with a tract we should stay on, which will lead us to success as a CFO, CMO, CPO, or COO, then maybe a CEO. CEO was the pinnacle, but only after we achieved the specialized status of another C level position.

There is something wrong with that; those paths are so specialized how do they learn enough about other areas to become the CEO? A Chief Executive Officer should know a great deal about finance, marketing, operations, hr, and sales; and he should specialize in none of it! The CEO should be a TRUE General Manager of the corporation; and if they are not then you should ask who is running the company?

I recently found a very interesting post from the Harvard Business Review entitled Bring Back the General Manager that hammers this point home. In the post the author discusses exactly what I’m talking about and he makes the shocking statement that “for many chief executives I’ve recently worked with, the first real GM job that they had was CEO!”

I find that quote shocking, but I guess it isn’t that surprising when I think about it. Recently in a conversation with my boss (who is clearly on the CFO track), he talked about how all of us in Finance want to be the CFO; then he saw the look on my face and asked “wait? You don’t want to be the CFO?”

“No,” I responded, “I have no desire to be the CFO; I would be miserable. I will be a CEO.” I don’t know how I’m going to get there yet, but you can bet it’ll be an interesting path.

Reciprocating Excitement

Posted by Daniel in Advice, Entrepreneurship, Gen-Y, Good Business, Life, Uncategorized

There is a natural draw that we have towards people who show interest and enthusiasm in us. We want to be pushed, we want to be encouraged, and we want to impress others. It’s natural to desire this affection, and it’s natural to want to reciprocate it.

But this affection isn’t given, it’s earned. It’s earned by your thoughts and your actions, and it’s reciprocated when you show genuine enthusiasm to others. We must ask ourselves “What am I doing that gets people excited and how am I encouraging others to do exciting things?”

Stimulating Senses

Posted by Daniel in Advice, Entrepreneurship, Health, Life, Uncategorized

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This weekend I did something I hadn’t done in a long time. I made something. I created something from nothing and followed an idea all the way through to fruition. And while I could go on and on about what I made, the fact that I only had to go to Home Depot twice (a personal record), or how I measured cut the wood perfectly/ none of that is important. What is important is that I physically made something. I used my hands to create something physical and it felt great.

We live in a rapidly evolving age where we are becoming more so connected digitally that it is causing us to become disconnected physically. I had a realization today that my son may never learn to type on a physical keyboard; even the devices we use to connect to the digital world are finding more ways to further disconnect us physically. And yet of our 5 senses the digital can only (currently) account for 2 (sight and hearing). We need the physical; we need the touch, the smell, the taste.

Perhaps subconsciously we know of the void in our physical lives. As a result the destinations that cause a collision between our physical worlds and our digital worlds are rampantly successful. The Food Network thrives as we settle for someone describing taste and smell, and Pinterest makes crafting and the thought that people are still creating with their hands cool again. But if we subconsciously aware of our need for these things, what are we consciously going to do about it?

Step away from the computer and TV. Experiment. Get your hands dirty (literally). Unplug and do something. Make something…anything. Create. It could be a bird house out of popsicle sticks or your first painting. It could be something you’ve wanted to do or something random. It doesn’t matter. Seeing a physical accomplishment touching it, smelling it, even tasting it, is something that we all need. We now have to make time to stimulate our senses and this is something that fewer and fewer people are making time to do.

To Be Trusted, You Must First Trust

Posted by Daniel in Advice, Corporations, Entrepreneurship, Good Business, Life, Uncategorized

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This week I had the privilege of going to see Guy Kawasaki speak. His presentation was on his book Enchantment, and he talked about the 10 key aspects of being enchanting to people. Overall the speech was fantastic, and if you are interested in hearing it you can listen to the same presentation here.

Instead of doing a whole recap I want to talk about one of the key points he spoke about; trust and its place in the customer/merchant relationship.

To be trusted, you must first trust.

As customers, we often overlook the amount of trust that businesses have in us. They trust that when we walk through aisles of goods that we won’t take or break anything. Nordstrom trusts its customers so much that it famously allowed a customer to return used tires. Many internet companies (like Zappos) trust the consumer so much that they offer free shipping both ways on merchandise bought online. Apple trusts that you won’t e-mail the MP3 you bought to all of your friends, and many local retailers trust that when you walk in their store you will buy from them and not try to save a few bucks from buying the same thing online. Amazon trusts that you won’t abuse their ebook return policy (which is 7 days from purchase…more than enough time to read the book) and Netflix trusts that your DVD really did get lost in the mail. The great companies trust you, and for that they all have millions of satisfied customers who in turn trust that they are getting a fair deal when they shop with these companies; as a result all of the companies are very highly regarded and very highly profitable.

On the other hand; think of Blockbuster, who didn’t trust the customer and used absurd late fees to “encourage” that the customer return the video on time…they were recently purchased out of bankruptcy for pennies on the dollar. This is just one (easy) example out of many.

In business, as in life, trust is usually rewarded; your customers, coworkers, and bosses all appreciate it and remember it. Sometimes you’ll get burned from the 1% of people who will break your trust, but that is no reason to stop trusting the other 99%; you and your business will be better off for it.