2016 Year In Review/Contributing in 2017

Every year I take some time to reflect on the previous 365 days’ events. The good, the bad, and the weird. 2016 was one for the books! I set personal records, I moved back to my hometown (for the time being), ended my strategically unemployed streak, and more.

It wasn’t all great, I had my dark moments. In fact, I had many depressing days and nights in 2016. I had to go back and revisit the photo album in my phone to remind myself of all that happened this year that was positive (priceless memories with friends/family, traveling to TONS of new cities, playing Pokemon, selling my house, speaking to a graduating class, and more).

Bottom line: it wasn’t all good and it wasn’t all bad. It was another year. Another year I wasn’t promised. Another year I didn’t waste. Another year I grew – though maybe not as much as I would have wished.

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2017 Reading List

It’s no secret that I love to read (and listen to) books. I do my best to gift books, especially to the children in my life, as often as possible. And since it’s that time of year when everyone is buying presents, I thought I’d share some potential gift ideas.

A number of my favorite authors have sent me lists like this and I thought you might like the same from me. I’ve compiled my highlights from 2017 with a few bonuses, most of which can still arrive before Christmas thanks to Amazon Prime.

My reading is slanted toward business/non-fiction books, but I’ve found myself getting into fiction as I get older and I’m not mad about it one bit. I’ll start there 🙂

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Retrospective Training: Start Taking Notes (now)

The company I work for has accomplished a ton since inception just shy of five years ago. This year we’ll eclipse $100M in revenue and we’re continuing to grow at a rapid pace. But our onboarding process, particularly in the sales department, is lacking. It’s what most would call a “sink or swim” environment.

This isn’t a problem, except that the hiring doesn’t always match the training program. Because of this, I’ve been thinking extensively about training programs. As Nassim Nicholas Taleb points out in his (excellent, thought-provoking) book Antifragile: training doesn’t precede success.

First, comes success. Then, comes a theory about how said success was achieved. Finally, a training program is built around these ideas. Again, not a problem, just how time works.

There is a problem with waiting years to analyze success though, you’re opened up to things that skew the facts such as survivorship bias and the halo effect. If no one is studying how prosperity was attained, than there is no blueprint from which to train new hires. Sometimes companies are moving too fast to take notes on what’s happening. They’re focused on the next sale, the next deal, the next merger, the next acquisition, the next milestone…

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Who To Hire

Generally speaking, you can hire two types of people:

  1. Those who can hit the ground running
  2. Those you need to train

If you go with the former, you’ll pay them more up front and you’ll typically get fast results. You won’t need to invest as much in training, but you will have to invest in recruiting. After all, rock starts don’t just show up at your front door asking for a job (if they did, they’re probably not a rock stars).

If you go with the latter, you’ll save money up front on salary. But you should invest in a robust, ongoing training program. Over the long-term, this cost can add up. Then again, investing in your people has never been a bad idea.

College football coaches know this idea well. They can sign high school players with four years of eligibility who may need a year or two to develop OR they can sign a junior college player who is expected to step in and contribute on the first day. Scholarships are limited, so there is an opportunity cost.

This isn’t rocked surgery, it’s common sense. The organizations that ask themselves who they’re hiring and how to train them are the ones who will succeed in the long-term. If you haven’t slowed down to ask yourself these questions, it’s worth the thought exercise. Find your organizations sweet spot and be intentional about your hiring and training programs.

Study Group Invite: “Under Our Skin” by Benjamin Watson

Preface

Stepping out on a limb is dangerous. It lets people know where you stand. All eyes are on you because you’re exposed. When you’re exposed, ancestrally speaking, you’re vulnerable. When you step out on a limb there’s a real threat of vulnerability: you could fall off, it could break, you could publicly fail, or sadly, you may succeed and be scrutinized you didn’t do it better.

When you lead, you run the risk of looking foolish. Sometimes nobody follows. Sometimes you take people to the wrong place. But its destination often takes care of itself if the movement is justified.

Followers don’t have it any easier. In fact, the first follower is the one who makes the leader a leader. As a follower, you have to accept risk. But you also accept responsibility to keep the leader accountable to you and any other followers that may join.

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Using Strategic Constraints To Make Progress

strategic constraints

I had four months until I was broke. I sat up straight, removed my glasses to rub my eyes, and stared at the wall ahead. There was nothing left to determine from the Excel spreadsheet on my computer.

I was evaluating my finances to determine if I could quit my job.

I wanted to focus on finishing my book, but needed more hours in each day. I realized the week prior that there was too much to do, I wasn’t going to be able to finish the book by my self-imposed deadline unless something changed. I couldn’t work, coach, and finish the book. Coaching was temporary and I justified it by telling myself that it helped inspire me to write. Work had been a means to pay the bills while I focused on the writing. If I had enough to get through publishing, which should take about three more months, I could walk away.

I replaced my spectacles and began planning my denouement at work with impatience. I had no choice but to publish on time.

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Deliberately Sharpening Skills: 3 Ways To Find Sharks’ Teeth

deliberately sharpening skills

I am infatuated with practice. Deliberately sharpening skills is an idea I’m comfortable with from extensive time playing and coaching football. I have seen how consistently honing skills can bring about improvement and, eventually, mastery.

But not just idly practicing, or “going through the motions.” By challenging ones’ self with new exercises. By getting out of a comfortable place and into new territory. With intention.

In addition to my personal experiences, I have studied the work of individuals who have dedicated their lives to the science of improvement. I have drawn from a well of inspiration that includes, but is not limited to, Steven Kotler’s The Rise of Superman, Angela Duckworth’s Grit, Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers, and next on my list are Anders Ericsson’s Peak and Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s Flow. These thinkers have inspired me to concoct new ways to practice.

I now know more about intentional practice than ever in my life. But instead of applying these principles to sports, I now apply them to writing.

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Long Ball > Short Ball

Q: What do the Netflix, Uber, and heroin have in common?

The first two cases are generally accepted as good things. The third is not… unless you’re a junkie. Most new technology, products (which, for this example, includes heroin), and services are aimed at giving us low-friction, instant gratification solutions – the answer to my question. For example, Netflix allows you to stream your favorite show anytime, anywhere, on any device.

At first glance, life appears better because of instant gratification. We endure less boredom and enjoy more productivity. Less waiting, more doing. It’s like we’ve paid for a permanent fastpass to the skip the line and go straight to the ride, no standing around, ever. The world moves faster than it did 50, 20, or even five years ago. In most cases, that’s a good thing. Because many of us are used to getting what we want when we want it, the rest of this post may be hard for some to digest.

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