I was recently thinking about the various activities I’ve been interested in as I grew up. Not just the passing fads, but the stuff that really inspired me to levels of near obsession for a solid period of time. Things which entered my life and created large chunks of pure happiness and exploration. And now that I look back on them they all have elements which are related. Both from what makes me tick and even my career trajectory.
Kids stuff - When I look at the 3 things I was obsessed with while growing up, in hindsight they are all very similar.
BMX, Break Dancing and Surfing: All sliding across the surface of things, fluid movements which involve an elements of acrobatics. All have their own subculture, community, and even a specific style of dress. All individual sports – but yet often done along side groups of friends who also enjoy it. All of them arrived as a new-ish thing, rather than being activities with long histories.
I feel like this is very telling about me as a person. If consider the work I do today, it is much like this. I like new projects, startups, technology, writing. I work both independently, but along side others. I like exploring new territory and being at the edge of emerging culture – I’ve mostly worked in marketing and advertising.
I think if we look back at our own ‘history of interests’ we’ll be able to find a pattern about what makes us tick. Our kids stuff is probably also what our adult stuff ought be. What we like to do metaphorically might even provide some clues as to whether our next startup project is suited to our true selves.
I can remember a time when it really mattered that you stayed in the same industry. If you wanted a job in consumer goods marketing for example, it really mattered that you had experience in consumer goods marketing. If you wanted to transition industries it was an incremental process. You had to eek your way across to new ground. Small step by small step. They wouldn’t let you play in their playground unless you had played their before, or at least a very similar playground. Sadly, our first job often defined us for much of our career. An potential employee needed a logical straight lined career flow.
I’m glad to say those days are over.
That attitude was one of protection. It’s a guild ethic, where profits are a function of a knowable, existential system. One that must be protected at all costs. But when a system breaks down, the smart players look for a new set of functions. A new attitude and ideas from an unfamiliar realm. If you’re in the middle of career transition, or wanting to break into a self determined entrepreneurial realm then there has never been a better time in history to do it. It’s damn exciting.
The best CV, or should I say personal brand isn’t one with a consistent story line. No, today it needs to be a set of juxtaposed, unusual and significantly differentiated projects, industries and activities. One that shows experimentation and the ability to cope with non-linear complexity. Go ahead and get involved in some, we’re waiting for you.
I’m typing this on a Sunday evening. I’ve had various times in my life when I used to hate Sunday, not due to its own features and benefits, but because it was the pre-amble to Monday. Mondayitus. The dread for Monday was so deep and worrisome that it ruined the day before it which is was a free day. And what is more ironic is that I even liked Thursday more than I liked Friday, because Friday was too close to Monday. It is strange indeed how our minds can work. Sometimes it is worth listening to the strange.
Tonight, I went for a jog and I was genuinely excited about the week ahead and couldn’t even wait for Monday to get some of my projects underway. We are doing another world first for Tomcar Australia which will be global news. I’m attending the FML this Wednesday night to help jumpstart the maker movement in my fair city Melbourne. I’m working on a few Hackathons for some big corporates. I’m doing a new talk on the ‘future of work’, which I will deliver at the co-work in the lane way for the Hub Melbourne. Working on a new technology related property development. Shipping the Super Awesome thing & person from Romania. Working on my new book and might even be launching my new startup by the end of the week. I can’t wait.
I’ve decided that Monday is our best friend. There is nothing more telling in life than how we feel about it. Monday knows all. It is about time we started listening to our internal mental Monday sermon and tried and create a Monday that Monday actually appreciates. I ignored Monday for a while, but now I’m listening to it again and it is helping me smile.
As far as I can tell our Mondays are the ultimate arbiter of happiness.
Over my career I’ve worked for a number of companies, as well as my own startups. And while I invested a good number of years working for others (as an entrepreneur with 1 really big and important customer – which is how I define it any time I am employed, as we all should), I always found that I didn’t quite fit in. I never really fit the bill. Sure, I delivered, I think I even over delivered on many occasions, But I was always a problem child.
I hope for your sake you feel this way too. While it can be uncomfortable at times, it is the muse trying really hard to tell you something, and that something is this:
You are an exotic bird.
Therefore you do not belong in a cage. Therefore your output (egg) is rare. It is possibly a different colour, size, shape and taste. It’s unusual, and so they don’t know how to deal with it. It is not what they expect, and they panic and don’t know how to cook it, or sell it. If they did, they might realise your eggs are worth much more money in the right market. But chances are they’d rather sell the same eggs, to the same people they sold to yesterday. You’ve laid some of these eggs over time, but it turned you inside out…. It wasn’t really you, even though you proved you could do it. When you showed them your natural exotic output, they didn’t want it. Instead they wanted the same eggs being laid by everyone, everyday. They just wanted more of them, and at a cheaper price than yesterday.
If this feels like you, you’re not alone. And if you do manage to escape the coop, and find, or better still, build the right nest, know it will be worth the effort. Exotic birds get paid a lot more for their eggs once they are in the right environment. But in the wrong environment, they are just seen as defects.
There is currently no shortage of people talking about the change of the business environment from a linear model to an omni directional one. What we need to understand is that this isn’t limited to business, it’s a wider eco system change.
Last week I was helping a colleague with his transition into his next revenue phase. He was discussing the need to get his credentials and digital footprint in order before he met up with VC’s / recruiters and the like. He didn’t want to go in and meet people unprepared. And it sparked a thought in mind mind:
Why take a linear approach when lessons from each process can inform the other?
We both agreed it makes sense to do things simultaneously, when they interact with each other, as this case seemed to be. If we do them one by one, then the other there is a very good chance we’ll need to rework our effort once we get real ‘in market’ feedback.
The challenge for all of us is knowing which projects are isolated and which ones live in a feedback loop.
The point was this:
“What we do after 10pm has a bigger impact on our tomorrow than what we do during business hours.”
Admittedly it is a bit confusing. It could even be read as the need to get enough sleep for an energetic tomorrow. But what I was actually talking about was the ‘long term tomorrow’ and what we do late at night… the stuff we can only do once our daily tasks and family commitments are accounted for.
First of all, we must get our job done, earn our way, eat, cook, clean, be with family and friends, and generally live the tasks of life. This takes time, in fact it takes up most of it for most of us. So we know that in reality there may only be a few short hours left. But we also we know that education is a process and and not an event. And this statement is about that process. The only difference being that the most important educational process these days is not studying for an MBA at nights and weekends, it’s experimenting with the ideas, tools and technology which universities don’t have in their curriculum yet. Mind you it’s not their fault, the world just happens to be changing too quickly.
While others settle in for a night of TV, I prefer to get busy on projects. Read about technology, write an article, build a new presentation, help a startup, work on an upcoming lecture at Melbourne University, go to a hackers event… but most recently work on the Super Awesome Micro Project with Raul. We skype chat every night and plan our next steps. Not only is it inspiring, but it is building new skill sets which make me anti-fragile. More valued to the market and most importantly differentiated. The problem with traditional education is that most people have it. The problem with corporate experience is that most people have it. The problem with industry knowledge is that it ties us to a location and is probably going to become irrelevant. Technological disruption means we need to be wide in our skill base, not thin and vertical. And the best way to get a wide base of skills is the become a night time projecteer between the hours of 10pm -1am. (or whichever hours work for you). We need to be pyramids, not sky scrapers.
Not only are broad skilled business people now in greater demand, they are much harder to knock over.
I’ve helped a couple of people who are early in their careers find jobs recently. Well, I hate the word job, so lets say projects or startups where they only have 1 large customer (their employer).
The first thing I asked them is what their digital foot print looks like. While these ‘kids’ are digital natives, you’d be surprised at how many of them haven’t invested their digital knowledge into creating their personal brand on-line. I then remind them of the new amazing automatic CV generator. A lot of people haven’t heard of it, but it’s really cool. Most employers use it these days. If you want to see it in action, just click on this link – and type in your name.
Ok – so you see where I am going with this. And the simple truth is that your CV is what you say it is, not what your past employer or past job title says it is. It’s what you say it is, but if you choose to own your digital footprint. In fact the most important stuff you’ll do in your career these days, is the crazy projects that show you ‘get’ we are living through a revolution and that you want to be part of the revolution. The tools are all here, the tools are all free, all you need to do is allocated some of your daily 24 hours to them and create our own path. The cool part about creating your footprint is that the internet doesn’t care what school you went to, what your SAT score was or what club your are a member of. It only cares about what you create – or better put, co-create. The audience will do the judging, not some gate keeper. Smart employers and investors are more interested in your side projects than how you have earned a living. Your side projects say so much more about you and your capabilities. They do this because there are no barriers or permission requirements to what you can do in this arena. it’s a simple combination of your ideas, desire, work ethic and ability to connect with others who share your type of interest. It is all up to you, and democratized technology means you don’t have to be a genius.
I like to practice what I preach. And so I always make sure I’m doing stuff which differentiates me from the crowd. Stuff which google will like and let bubble to the top, stuff which shows I’m thankful for the resources gifted upon me in this digital revolution, stuff which gives to the community and helps others first. But mostly these are simple tasks which are more about regular effort than unreasonable effort. My homepage, this blog, my startups, my twitter account,my crazy projects, youtube videos, Op-Ed journalism and public speaking engagements are a few such outputs. The sad part is that it’s not that hard to do, but most people don’t bother.
My digital footprint I regard as a financial investment. I see it as a conduit to my current and future earning potential in all realms. And probably a better investment than a post graduate degree in today’s era.
Seth Godin recently advertised on his blog for a new staff member for Squidoo. What he asked applicants to provide was enlightening. Here are some (not all) of the information requests he made when looking for help:
- Point to your personal website
- Show us some of the projects you’ve led that have shipped and made an impact
- Are you restless? What do you make or do in your spare time that leaves a trail and makes an impact?
- Four book covers you think are both effective and beautiful
- Find a particularly lame example of UX on the web and fix it into something better than good
- What’s the best lesson you’ve learned from Steve Krug or Steve McConnell?
- Point to a blog post that changed the way you think about connecting with people online (not by Seth!)
- Show us a Squidoo lens that you’ve built
- Have you created anything worth watching on Vimeo or YouTube?
- In four bullet points, tell us how you’d change the Surface (or some website) to make it spread virally
- Whose picture is this? How did you find out? Why does she matter?
- Where do you work now? What’s great about it?
It’s a pretty clear indication of what matters today and not one mention about formal education. It’s none of the stuff that mattered yesterday, and excitingly it’s stuff we can choose to create with a little effort.
This is a really interesting piece from the late George Carlin – who, despite all his success took the best part of 35 years before he thought he found his place. While all of this 4 minutes is interesting, and it isn’t so much for entertainers, but really appeals to the spirit of any entrepreneur or employee with the entrepreneur wanting to break out. The bit I find most compelling is when he discusses the choice he made at the age of 30. That he was living in the middle of a generation gap and had to choose a new audience – a new young crew who got it, or an older crew who bought into it. We too need to choose our audience carefully. Should our audience be a bunch of senior managers in company XYZ who believe in the status quo, or should it be a new breed of entrepreneur / intrapreneur whose enthusiasm might be the missing ingredient to change stuff?
- thanks to Ender for inspiring this post.
For those in our local startup community, you may have heard little about Tweaky.com It’s one of those ideas that just makes perfect sense in hindsight – or foresight for the founders at least.
Well, the good news is that Ned needs you (oh, and PJ) as his (their) founders apprentice. Which isn’t an intern kind of role, but one that will be a fast track into startup land with that rare thing called a salary. There’s no need for me to go into how bomb tweaky is – you can check that out for yourself. Instead I’m going to tell you that I’d work for Ned in a heart beat. He has taught me plenty in the few years I’ve known him. The fact that he wants Australia to get into the habit of investing back into the local community tells you a thing about his character too.
This post happens a day before the cut off date which is Septmber 5th – to test your bootstrapping skills in preparing to apply. (not really, but you already knew tha!t)
Here’s a non-exhaustive list of random things I have done during my life:
Take gymnastics classes
Play Australian rules football
High board diving
Build multiple cubby houses
Swim in the local river
Learn basic code on a 16kb ram TRS-80 computer in 1981.
Waste all my pocket money on video arcade games (think Galaga)
Mountain Bike racing
Had 9 broken arms (well the same 2 nine times)
Stand up comedy
Do Surf Life Saving (so I could get free beach accommodation)
Live on a farm
Live in 4 of Australia’s 7 capital cities
Collect first issues of magazines ( I have many, it was a weird long term investment strategy)
Start and sell a clothing company
Build a raft that sank on it’s first outing
Learn to speak Italian
Learn to speak Mandarin
Be a Sales Representative
Be a shelf stacker
A valet parking attendant (still my fav’ job ever… could write a movie about it)
Write a movie script (it’s waiting to be made)
Perfect break dancing (all the while wishing I lived in the Bronx)
Work in advertising
Lecture at University
Eat only frozen food for 6 months (don’t ask)
Your list is just as long as this list. Your list is probably more interesting than this list. This list that we all have tells us a great deal about our desires, our passions, our successes and our failures. It shows how much we know and what we are capable of. If we write it and study it closely it often gives us clues on the things that really mattered, and might just tell us what to do next.