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Adopting a "one less" mindset

Like many people who struggle with bad habits, I’ve developed a “one more” mindset over the years.

Without even thinking twice, I’ll have “one more” drink, stay out “one more” hour, or try to squeeze in “one more” task while I’m working.

What’s the harm in this?

Like most things, it wouldn’t be that bad if it was just once in a while.

Unfortunately, it isn’t just once. These moments of “one more” compound on each other and end up biting me in the ass. One more drink + one more hour out with friends = one less productive morning.

Instead, what would things look like if I focused on developing a “one less” mindset?

I would probably feel a little better if I had one less drink, I wouldn’t be as grumpy if I spent one less hour out, and I definitely wouldn’t be as stressed out if I took on one less obligation - I would have way more mental bandwidth for the things that matter most to me.

The question is: how does someone adopt this “one less” mindset when they’ve built up a series of unhealthy habits that make it easier to say, “I’ll have one more…”?

I’m not exactly sure yet, but this is a question that deserves at least one more minute of my time.

Altruism and profit

Last night, I had the opportunity to be a panelist at a pitching event where local entrepreneurs present their businesses and ask for feedback around one specific question.

When it came to the final pitch, an interesting conversation popped up.

The entrepreneur mentioned they were including an altruistic component to their business model and one of the other panelists responded by saying, “You can focus on being altruistic once you scale up. As a startup, you need to focus on making mountains and mountains of big, ugly money.”

Maybe I’m just naive, but I couldn’t agree less.

Sure, if you want to eventually become a fully-sustainable company, you have to (eventually) have revenue coming in, but the idea that altruism and profit are mutually exclusive is ludicrous.

One of the smartest things you can do when starting a company is to focus on growing a community around your company.

Can you guess one thing people care about when it comes to the brands they support and the products/services they purchase?

A cause.

In today’s world, it’s becoming harder and harder to differentiate based on product alone. You have to plant your flag and stand for something when others may not.

If you ask me, doing good will always be good for business.

A significant shift

There has been a tangible shift over the past few years.

As I catch up with friends who live in different cities, I’m noticing that more and more of them are dipping their toes into the worlds of freelancing and entrepreneurship.

I’m hearing origin stories that include turning a previous employer into a first client, partnering with a significant other, and even catching a big break after sharing some work online.

I don’t really believe in blanket statements, but if you think this is simply a fad, you’re dead wrong.

At this point, over 43% of the U.S. workforce is subcontracting and that number is only getting larger.

Sure, the gig economy plays a large part in all of this, but there is also a huge shift in mindset.

People are tired of working their asses off for companies that don’t appreciate the value they bring to the table.

I’ll admit - I was extremely lucky to find a progressive company like Slalom Consulting that embraces everyone’s individuality while working towards a collective goal.

I feel like this sort of progressive mindset is rare, especially in the Midwest.

Whether you’re working for yourself or looking to align with a company, think about the things that matter most to you in the long-run.

Otherwise, you’ll probably remain unsatisfied and uninspired, no matter where you work.

The people around me

I’ve been at Slalom for two weeks now and I’ve already found something that I felt like was missing.

Each day, I’ve had engaging, thoughtful conversations with other consultants, and they weren’t even during meetings. From passing by someone in the kitchen to intentionally setting aside time for lunch, I’m really getting to know the people around me.

We’re not talking about water cooler chit chat.

We’ve gone from high-level topics like sharing our hopes, dreams, passions to actionable ways in which we can make the world a better place.

I hoped this would be a part of my everyday life in this new job, but I didn’t anticipate it happening so fast.

Since one of Slalom’s core values is being your authentic self, people where seem much more willing to share who they really are instead of the outer facade we’re taught to cultivate.

Sure, I’m eager to solve interesting problems for various clients, but if I’m being honest, I’m much more excited to share stories, form deep bonds, and get to know the people around me.

After all, each and every single one of us is here for a reason.

I can’t wait to figure out what that is.

Widening the cirlce

As part of my new job, I took my first diversity and inclusion course last night and, honestly, it opened my eyes more than I thought.

As a white, cisgendered male, my identity is not something that is usually challenged in society.

I’ve never feared for my life when getting pulled over by the police, I’ve never had to question whether or not I was being fairly compensated for my work, and I can’t think of the last time I felt out of place somewhere.

That is, until now.

In only two short weeks at Slalom, I’ve met some of the smartest, most ambitious people St. Louis has to offer, and they come from all walks of life. Each day, I am surrounded by intelligent people who solve complex, technical problems and it would be very easy for them to make me feel out of place.

After all, I’m not coming from a corporate or technical background which means, I find myself asking a lot of “simple” questions just to keep up.

Since this is technically my first full-time job, I am definitely in the minority.

The thing is, people here aren’t reinforcing this truth.

Instead of making me feel stupid, they’re helping me realize that asking clarifying questions is a big part of being a good consultant.

During the course last night, I got to hear from others who might fall within more “traditional” minority groups and it really helped to put things in perspective.

At the end of the day, we’re all human which means, we all share a need to be loved, recognized, and respected for who we are and the ideas we share.

If you ask me, acknowledging this is the first step in widening the circle and making everyone feel included.

Living with uncertainty

After only one week into my new job, I’m learning to live with uncertainty.

Let me rephrase that: I’m learning how to quickly turn uncertainty into certainty.

By no means has this come easy. As someone who has been self-employed for almost a decade, I’ve always been fairly comfortable with uncertainty, but that’s only because I’ve always had time to let it sink in and then figure out next steps.

In my new position as a consultant, turning uncertainty into certainty as quickly as possible will be one of the most valuable skills I can grow.

How exactly does one practice this?

1) Ask questions
2) Become a lot more proactive with Google.

I wish there was a more “refined” way to go about this, but these two things have already saved my butt several times over the past week and a half.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard a or word or acronym and then Googled it in real-time only to then use it in a (relatively) sensical sentence minutes after.

Some might call this “faking it until you make it” - I call it learning on the fly.

The best kind of regret

Last night, I had the chance to talk with a friend who recently moved to another city for a new job.

After catching up, he admitted that he wasn’t sure he made the right choice.

While living in St. Louis, he felt like his job wasn’t aligned with his core values. So, he did something not many people do - he made a change.

After being gone for about a month, he now feels as if he left behind some meaningful relationships that weren’t initially apparent to him.

Sure, hindsight is always 20/20, but you don’t get hindsight without making a decision.

In this case, he made a bold decision that many people probably wouldn’t have the guts to make.

If you ask me, it’s almost impossible to life a life without regrets, no matter how hard you try. We’re human, which means we’re messy and imperfect.

When I look back on my life, I would much rather regret the things I did instead of dwelling on the things I didn’t do.

You may not be thinking about moving across the country, but I’d bet there’s something else you’ve been wanting to do fo a while.

What are you waiting for?

One simple question

In this very moment, do you know why you’re doing what you’re doing?

Do you have some idea, no matter how vague, of where it fits in with your future plans?

If I had to guess, the answer is probably no.

I don’t mean to make assumptions here - you very well could have your life mapped out.

For the rest of us, we don’t take the time to sit down and actually think about our future.

Unfortunately, life isn't like college where we’re assigned an advisor that’s in charge of helping us make a five to ten-year plan.

We’re on our own.

Sure, you could hire a life coach, but that takes money you might not have. You could retreat to a cabin in the woods to think about what would truly make you happy, but that takes time you probably don't have.

Like most things, it doesn’t have to be as hard as we make it.

You can start with one “simple” question:

What might my life look like in one year from now? Three years? Five years?

You don’t have to figure everything out at once. In fact, most people don’t. It takes time to make a thoughtful plan and the willingness to update that plan when life gets in the way.

Just because it’s simple doesn’t mean it’s also easy.

Start now and you’ll figure out the rest as you go.

The calm before the storm

I’ve only been at my new job for one week and I have already learned so much.

Some might attribute this to the fact that I haven’t had my official orientation yet, which means this past week onsite was filled with new introductions, onboarding materials, and online courses.

In other words, many would call this the calm before the storm.

Once I begin working with clients onsite, the rubber will actually meet the road and I will know what it’s like to be a consultant in the real world, or so I’ve heard.

Without knowing what I’m fully getting into, I’m excited about this. After all, I’ve always prided myself on my ability to thrive amongst uncertainty and organize chaos.

At the same time, I am trying to make the most out of the breathing room I have now, soaking up everything I can before I’m expected to apply it in a setting where things are very much at stake.

The more I think about it, the more I realize most of us have trouble using this time to our advantage. It’s easy to let our guard down when there isn’t an immediate threat or an overwhelming problem directly in front of us.

In reality, we should be making the most of the calm before the storm.

I didn't go to school for this

I’m looking out the kitchen window of Slalom’s office, thinking about how lucky I really am.

I didn’t go to school for any of this. I don’t have an MBA from a top university. Hell, I’ve never really had a full-time job until now.

What I do have (and what I think Slalom saw in me) is ambition, the willingness to learn, and the ability to solve problems with critical thinking (i.e. figuring stuff out on the fly).

I’ll admit, when I was a freshman in college, I never thought I would end up consulting. 19-year-old me was ready to “stick it to the man” and create my own path on my own terms.

I’d like to think 30-year-old me is a little smarter, wiser, and more open-minded. I’ve realize there is more than one way to create your own path, especially while working with another company.

In fact, I would say the best companies encourage you to follow that path while acting as a resource along the way.

From what I’ve seen so far, I’m right where I’m supposed to be.

You're in the wrong room

By this point, we’ve all heard the saying:

“If you’re the smartest person in a room, then you’re in the wrong room.”

Now, I have never been the smartest person in a room, but a lot of the time, I have felt like the most ambitious, and it’s not always a badge of honor. Sometimes, being overly ambitious can be a curse because you constantly fall short of your own expectations.

After accepting my new job, I confidently say this is no longer true. I now work with a diverse group of insanely smart people who seem naturally ambitious and, honestly, I couldn’t be happier.

I have been looking for this opportunity for years, trying my best to proactively find these people on my own. Now, all I have to do is walk into the office and and say, “Hi!”

Here’s to making every room the right one.

Connecting the dots

A new mentor of mine recently told me that, when thinking about my new job, I should ask myself two questions:

  1. What does the city of St. Louis need from me?

  2. How can I use the company as a resource in providing this?

As someone who has worked for myself in the past, I have had plenty of time to think about question number one. If you ask me, St. Louis is a city of dots and I want to help connect them using shared ideas as a vehicle.

When it comes to question number two, I’ll be honest, I’m stumped.

Sure, this is only my third day in this new position, but I never thought I would get to work with a company that positions itself as a resource, both for learning and for taking action.

Moving forward, I get to consider these questions each day as a I learn and grow.

I can’t think of anything that excites me more.

Growing pains

After only one day in my new full-time position, I can tell I’m going to learn A LOT in a very short amount of time.

This is one of the main reasons I decided to take this opportunity in the first place. In all honesty, I felt like I was plateauing as a freelancer, worrying more about finding work than pushing myself to learn more and become better.

I can already feel the mental growing pains that come whenever you have a ton of information thrown at you all at once and, honestly, I love it.

I’ve always welcomed uncertainty in past - you have to when you choose to work for yourself.

Now, since learning is built into the company culture, the only uncertainty is exactly how much I will learn each day and, like most adult things, this is completely up to me.

Growing pains are inevitable when you actively push yourself to learn and grow. Much like after working out for the first time, you experience a certain mental hypertrophy that eventually levels out with practice.

If you ask me, I would much rather feel the discomfort that comes with change than live with the atrophy that comes with apathy. 

Change is coming

As someone who thrives amongst the chaos of everyday life, I tend to welcome change.

In my mind, it allows us to grow and adapt while learning more about ourselves in a shorter period of time.

At this point, I'm ready for a significant change, a new chapter in which I can reshape my story.

It's not that I'm unhappy, I just have veered a little off course and I would like to get back on track.

In an ideal world, I could make a change like this on my own. However, I'm self-aware enough to know that I am more externally motivated than anything else.

Put me in an environment in which others are thriving and succeeding, and I will rise to the occasion. Ask me to do the same on my own, and admittedly, it will take me much longer.

I look forward to the discomfort that inevitably comes with change. This sort of friction is productive, much like the pressure needed to turn carbon into a diamond. There isn't anything necessarily wrong with carbon but, if you ask me, I would much rather be a diamond.