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Opportunity

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.

Decisions

I'll be the first to admit - I'm not the most decisive person.

Like plenty of others, I have defaulted far too many times to the nefarious decision by indecision.

Decisions like choosing a movie on Netflix or finding a place to eat don't really require that much effort. After all, we're not talking about life and death here.

However, when an important decision comes along, we can't help but fall back on our habits.

Do you have a new job opportunity? Are you deciding where to travel for vacation? As you can tell, these decisions impact our lives way more than other, more trivial things.

We've all heard practice makes perfect, right? Why not apply this mantra to the way in which we make decisions. Use the smaller choices to practice being decisive and, when the larger ones pop up, they won't be as paralyzing.


I'm tired

I'm tired.

I'm tired of being complacent.

I'm tired of not being challenged.

I'm tired of working in isolation most days.

I'm tired of simply surviving instead of thriving.

I'm tired of being the most ambitious person in the room.

I'm tired of not being able to invest in myself and others I care about.

I'm tired of not being in love with my life and not doing anything to fix it.


Friction can be good

I would describe myself as nonconfrontational.

Growing up, I was a huge people-pleaser who always tried to talk my way out of uncomfortable disagreements.

At this point in my life, I've realized how important friction actually is when it comes to tackling important problems.

When you put a bunch of ambitious, passionate people in the same room and task them with solving a problem, friction is inevitable. In fact, in this sort of environment, friction is healthy.

It shows that intelligent people are working together in order to find the best solution.

Notice how I didn't say easiest or quickest solution - I said best.

Ask any high-achieving, innovative team how they work, and I guarantee friction will be part of their process, whether it's accounted for or not.

Sure, I still might be nonconfrontational, but when I need to, I can accept and embrace productive friction.

Can you?


What do I believe?

• I believe in growing a community using honesty, transparency, and a little humor.
• I believe in setting unreasonably high expectations for myself.
• I believe that shared ideas are the best way to form deeper connections with others.
• I believe in doing my best work possible and sharing it with others.
• I believe in taking my work seriously and not myself.
• I believe that people are more important than profits.
• I believe in asking harder questions and listening to those answers.
• I believe that time is the most valuable thing any of us have.
• I believe in focusing on quality over quantity.
• I believe it's never too early to share your story and help others.
• I believe that labels don't matter - results do.
• I believe that every one of us has the ability to create our own path.
• I believe it is easier to ask for forgiveness than permission.
• I believe in taking everything with a grain (or two) of salt.
• I believe ideas are worthless until you share them with others.


Uninspired

I woke up this morning feeling rather uninspired.

No matter how fulfilled I might be, these feelings always seem inevitable.

Instead of beating my head against the wall, my first instinct is to find out why.

Why do I feel uninspired? Which piece of the puzzle is missing?

More often than not, I find myself losing inspiration when I go on autopilot. I've learned there is a very fine line between creating a productive routine and getting stuck in a rut.

If you ask me, there is one major difference between the two:

A routine has a purpose or goal and a rut doesn't.

With a routine comes forward motion, small steps that add up to big progress. On the other hand, a rut is simply a routine without a point.

It seems as if I need to refocus my goals and remind myself why I am doing what I'm doing.

I don't need to solve everything right away.

I'm just trying to find a little of the inspiration I lost along the way.


All-or-nothing

I'm an extreme person.

For the most part, I'm either happy or sad, talkative or quiet, productive or lazy.

As you can tell, there isn't a whole lot of gray area.

My ambition constantly gets the best of me, which means adopting an "all-or-nothing" mindset can be even more dangerous.

For example, if I wake up feeling less-than-stellar, there's a good chance my morning routine will completely crumble. It's hard for me to simply check off a few tasks and call it a day.

As I get older, I'm learning not to be so hard on myself - things happen and no one is perfect.

This doesn't mean we can't hold ourselves to a higher expectation. Instead, we must do one of two things:

1. Manage our own expectations
2. Change our actions so they rise to meet those expectations

For me, this means embracing the messy middle. It means being OK with getting something accomplished even if I have to push a few things off until tomorrow.

Life doesn't have to be all-or-nothing - it can be filled with an imperfect something.

After all, something is better than nothing.


Peace of mind

All I want is a little more peace of mind.

What exactly is keeping me from this?

Obscure health issues, professional uncertainty, the list goes on and on.

At the moment, my answer is to create a more stable income for myself.

When we hear, "Money can't buy you happiness," we forget that it can buy you something else:

Time.

During this time, we can explore, create, learn, live with intention, and ultimately find peace of mind.

I'll be the first to admit: I can usually handle individual problems fairly well, but the real issue is when these stressors overlap and eventually come to a head.

This is when I lose my peace of mind. Instead of strategically picking apart each problem, I become overwhelmed and switch into survival mode. This is the last place you want to be because, instead of thinking long-term, you are simply finding quick fixes that don't add up.

We all deal with issues in our own ways. If we pause to find out why we don't have peace of mind, we can use this as a starting point for living a more intentional life. 


Love it or fix it

I was recently asked an unusual question during an interview:

"How will you fail here?"

Before opening my mouth, I paused for a few seconds.

Plenty of companies claim they support "failing fast" and learning from failure, but how many actually provide ways in which people can productively fumble?

I answered by admitting that, at times, I may be a little too eager to execute on ideas and my impatience could end up getting the best of me.

Seemingly satisfied with my answer, he went on to talk about how he uses one simple phrase:

Love it or fix it.

I can't tell you how close I was to jumping out of my chair and giving this man a hug.

As someone who is still developing a bias towards action, I can confidently say most people complain about problems without offering up solutions.

I get it. After all, it's much easier to focus on problems instead of creating thoughtful solutions - it's the path of least resistance.

Since hearing these simple words, I have already taken steps towards identifying the parts of my life I don't love and doing something about them.

What about your life don't you love? What will you do to fix it?


Seeking opportunity

Opportunity is a funny thing.

When you can't find it, there really doesn't seem to be any around for miles.

On the flip side, whenever you find a little, there is always more on the way.

Whether you're looking for a new job or simply searching for a new project, opportunity tends to follow preparation or, at the very least, some amount of effort.

That's why whenever I am looking for new opportunity, I never stop once I've found one option - I always aim to give myself more eggs in more baskets.

In other words, I try to diversify as much as possible.

You will never regret giving yourself too many choices in life, especially when it comes to finding or creating your own path.

Remember, in this case, more is more.


Make things tangible

I think about the future a lot.

Personally, I want to help create a smaller world connected by ideas.

This might sound great, but if you ask me, it's still a little too nebulous.

How exactly am I going to create this world? Where am I going to start? Who is going to help me?

See? I may think about what my life looks like today and what it will look like 10 years from now, but what about everything in between?

The hardest part about changing the world is making things tangible.

Nothing amazing has ever happened without tangible steps. Don't believe me?

Do you think the airplane just randomly flew into existence? Did we all wake up one day with modern medicine? Were Pop Tarts created by magic?

I think you get my point. All life-changing inventions start with tangible steps.

Sure, there's a good chance these steps weren't even realized until after the inventor got started, but they were eventually captured or jotted down.

Do you want to change the world? Start with the first, tangible step.


"Organic" opportunities

I've noticed something funny over the years:

Opportunities tend to "organically" pop up whenever I put myself out there.

This might seem pretty obvious, but it's harder than you think.

As someone who has created my own path for a while now, asking for help doesn't always come second nature. I tend to beat my head against the wall until I find an answer on my own, usually by brute force.

Instead, whenever I'm going through a rough patch, my first instinct should be to reach out and ask for what I need.

I decided to try this recently while looking for a potential full-time gig and the amount of support I've seen is overwhelming.

People really are willing to help as long as you're willing to put yourself out there and ask.


Take a chance

A friend of mine reached on out Snapchat yesterday about a job (because it's the 21st century and, you know, messaging apps).

He came across a job in St. Louis and wanted to apply, but he was underqualified.

This got me thinking.

If there's one thing I've learned over the past decade, it's that no one actually knows what they're doing.

Sure, someone may seem like they have their shit together online, but in reality, they're just as clueless as the rest of us. They have cracks and flaws (some even make a living from exploiting them - i.e. comedians). 

At the end of the day, we're all human and we're trying our best to find our own way.

Keep this in mind when you're looking for your next opportunity, and it might not seem as daunting.

Take that chance, apply for that job, put yourself out there.

Personally, I'd rather regret doing something than not doing something.