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Success

Support and discovery

Last week, I had a client call that didn’t go so well.

We were in the middle of our discovery phase for the project and there were some concerns about where things were heading.

The thing is, I wasn’t worried because, deep down inside, I knew everything was going to be OK.

How exactly did I know this?

Simple - I had/have the support of a solid team behind me.

At Slalom, everyone really does look out for each other, especially while solving complex problems for our clients.

You better believe I went back and reviewed what happened in order to avoid making the same mistakes in the future, but overall, my team reminded me that this is part of almost any discovery process.

Organizing chaos and understanding uncertainty is never going to be neat and tidy, but as long as you can communicate learning and progress while trusting everyone around you, everything will be just fine.

Closed mouths don't get fed

As an adult, I think it’s obvious that you don’t get what you don’t ask for.

When I freelanced full-time, my survival depended upon whether or not I spoke up and shared how I could be of value to someone else.

Now that I work with Slalom, this idea means something a little different to me.

It means that, even though I consider myself to be fairly proactive, I still need to ask for help when I need something.

In this type of setting, I don’t always know if there is a mechanism already in place in order to accomplish the thing I want to do.

I would assume this is pretty common with a lot of companies in hyper-growth mode, but the thing about Slalom St. Louis is that I have the ability to help create those mechanisms.

Basically, if I need to accomplish something and I don’t see a good process or system in place, I have the autonomy to help create one.

I’m learning to speak up when I see room for improvement and connect the dots when the opportunity arises.

Emerging strategy

It blows my mind that I get to be a part of a company that is actively involving everyone while creating an emerging strategy for the future.

Yesterday, I participated in one of the many small group discussions meant to gather insight from all of the consultants here at Slalom.

We explored questions like:

• What might the future landscape look like?
• What do we want to preserve and grow?
• What do we want to modify?
• What do we want to eliminate?
• What do we want to prioritize?

Think about this for a moment.

How often does management ask you to give feedback on questions like these at your company? How often do you feel as if you have any say in the direction your company is heading?

The beautiful thing was that Slalom’s management didn’t mandate this initiative from the top-down. A group of consultants got together, used our “Request for Comments” forum, and started sharing this from the bottom-up.

Since everyone is encouraged to participate, we have insight from people who have been here for a few days all the way to a few years.

Is this process perfect? Of course not. But the fact that we’re being intentional about it speaks volumes about where we’re heading in the future.

And that is a future I want to be a part of.

Problems with success

For the first time in my life, I’m working with a company that is facing the right kind of problems, the kind of problems that naturally come with success.

For the most part, successful growth means more revenue, more people, and more impact thanks to more audacious goals.

Much like when a child hits a growth spurt, a successful company experiences growing pains when this growth happens a little too quickly.

What do these growing pains look like day-to-day?

When a company grows too quickly, there can be overall ambiguity for people, both at the management level and for those with boots planted firmly on the ground.

Where does this ambiguity come from? During this period of hyper-growth, key processes and systems fall by the wayside which, ironically, are needed for future scaling.

No matter how hard people try to avoid these growing pains, it’s almost inevitable. That is, unless intentional growth is made a priority from the beginning.

I haven’t been at Slalom from the beginning, but I have had the pleasure of seeing what hyper growth looks like firsthand and I can confidently say, this team is different.

It’s exciting to be part of team of people that is willing to slow down and put people first while turning hyper growth into intentional growth.

Space for creativity

It seems like the older we get, the less space we create for creativity.

That is, unless you work for a company like Pixar or IDEO.

These organizations not only promote creativity, they rely on its application in order make a living. They’ve learned what it takes in order to successfully apply creativity year after year, project after project.

If these select groups can embrace child-like curiosity and create the space needed to foster creativity, why can’t other lesser known companies? After all, the results speak for themselves.

Like most things in business, I think it all comes down to ego.

People are so focused on appearing professional or that they already have all of the answers that they’re afraid to acknowledge more abstract concepts like creativity or vulnerability.

If you ask me, these things make business even more human, They remind us that business isn’t just B2B or B2C - its P2P, or people to people.

Since most companies still don’t recognize this truth, the ones that do have a competitive advantage.

Which type of company sounds more appealing to you?

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?


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.


Now and then

I tend to think about the future a lot.

I can't help but imagine a life in which I, and those I care about, are able to thrive.

I also focus on the short-term - actionable steps I can take today in order to make tangible progress tomorrow.

Unfortunately, I don't usually think about much else.

In other words, I have a plan for tomorrow and goals for the distant future, but that's about it.

This can be pretty frustrating for my fiancé as she constantly reminds me that life happens between now and then.

I can't simply put life on hold until I reach my goals - I have to account for the fact that life isn't linear. It's messy, complicated, and distracting.

Thanks to her, I have taken off my blinders and I am now looking a little further ahead.

Whether it's three months or three years from now, I have started to fill in the gaps for the life I want to create.


One and done

I may be too ambitious for my own good.

Usually, my first task in the morning is to write in my journal for a few minutes. I do a quick brain dump and then jot down three important tasks for the day.

If I accomplish nothing else but these three tasks, I know it's a good day.

The thing is, no matter how hard I try, it's still pretty rare for me to knock out all three. There are always a few tasks that carry over from one day to the next, which is why I'm considering turning this list of three daily tasks into one.

It may not sound that revolutionary, but when you think about the long-term, this could free up a lot of mental bandwidth.

Instead of feeling pressured to create three "important" tasks, I can be much more intentional and paint a bullseye on one thing that will make the biggest difference.

After all, these actions don't live in a vacuum. Each thing we accomplish has the potential to impact other parts of our day.

That's why I want to focus more on choosing one task that will have the biggest domino effect on the rest of my day.


Type. Delete. Repeat.

I tend to overthink things.

When I first started writing, I used to suffer from extreme paralysis by analysis, constantly questioning what to write about. How could I share something revolutionary that others would want to read?

As writing topics became easier, my frustration came from editing my writing as I wrote, which as any experienced writer will tell you, is a huge no-no. Was I using the correct word? Was there a better one?

Today, my challenge is sticking with certain themes and topics long enough to build an audience around my writing. Like most, I struggle with creative ADD and I always find myself exploring new ideas and questions.

At the end of the day, writing isn't that complicated.

Sure, there are countless things to worry about like grammar, spelling, storytelling, character development, dialogue, tone, and voice, but these come with time.

In order to start writing, you only need three steps:

1. Type.
2. Delete.
3. Repeat.

And there you have it.

Don't fall into the same trap I did. Keep things simple and you will eventually get to where you want to go.


Living with intention

Living an intentional life is hard.

We all have things that seem important (our jobs, errands, meetings), but are they really?

Will they move us closer to where we want to be? Do we even know where that is?

Since I work for myself and set my own priorities, I'm responsible for charting my own course, even when uncertainty creeps in. Whenever this happens, there is one question that packs a big punch:

Why?

When was the last time you asked yourself, "Why?"

Why are you having this meeting? Why are working 40+ hours a week? Why are you sitting here reading this?

As much as I try, I know I don't ask this question nearly enough. I often find myself neck-deep in the middle of a task without even knowing why I started it.

Whenever this happens, I do my best to stop and figure out why.

I don't always know the answer, but at least I'm one step closer to living an intentional life.


Real life is underrated

If you're like me, you spend hours on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat (and LinkedIn if you're looking for a job).

When used correctly, social media is amazing. It allows us to easily connect with others who share our ideas and interests.

Personally, I try and use it in order to build communities around my work in a way that provides real value for others. This is a great goal to have, but honestly, I still rely on it a little too much, and I'm assuming I'm not the only one.

We've all forgotten that we're humans. We're social creatures that crave face-to-face connection with others and we need it in order to thrive.

Whether you're looking for new opportunities or a new friend, in-person meetups can help spark a conversation that makes a difference and can shake up the monotony that creeps into everyday life.

I always leave these conversations with a fire under my ass which is why I want to try and meet someone in-person at least once a week.

If you're not used to this, start small by setting up a coffee meeting once a month. It's a great, low-pressure way to meet someone new.

Also, who doesn't like coffee?


Write your own story

Each and every single one of us is an author, whether we realize it or not.

We write our own stories every day.

The thing is, no one likes a boring story - they have enough stress to worry about already. Instead, they are looking to learn from or be entertained by people who are extraordinary and go above and beyond the mundane sameness of everyday life.

This is why you should play an active part in writing your own story right now.

Not tomorrow, not next month or even next year.

Now.

Think about it this way:

Would you want to read the story of your life? Would it help others?

If not, now is the time to do something about it, because if you don’t write and edit your own story, someone else will do it for you.


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.