Where it All Started.

It started with our parents.

It quickly came to involve their parents, siblings, aunts, uncles, or cousins.

It started with a sacrifice here and there — less sleep, less time with friends, less of doing what they wanted to do and more of doing what we wanted to do.

The little sacrifices quickly turned into large sacrifices — altering career trajectories, postponing the pursuit of passions, moving to the neighbored with the better school, living in a smaller house, working the job that allowed ends to meet.

It started with a teacher.

It quickly became teachers, professors, educators or individuals that shaped how we viewed the world.

It started with a mentor.

It quickly became mentorship, a foot in the door, an internship, the first job, a career.

While we all come from different backgrounds — socioeconomic statuses, family structure, access, exposure, and will ultimately all end up in different places, it all started with someone other than ourselves.

We all have had the help of others to get to where we are today.

And will need others to get to where we want to go tomorrow.

While at times it may seem like it, we can’t go at it alone.

We need each other.

Why is it Easy to do Nothing?

Why is inaction so easy?

Three recent life experiences:

  1. The credit card machine at the local sandwich shop wasn’t working. The guy behind me is informed of this after placing his order, which totaled $4. However, he did not have any cash. Yet, I did. I could have given him $4 to buy his meal. I didn’t.
  2. We recently had a new neighbor move into the apartment across the hall from us. One day, we happen to be walking into the building at the same time. We haven’t formally introduced ourselves. He didn’t speak. I felt the urge to say hello. I didn’t.
  3. On a recent beautiful fall day, I’m walking down the street, in a rush to no where (business school life). The guy walking in-front of me is carrying two bags of fruit. One of the bags, filled with apples, breaks. Apples roll across the sidewalk. I thought about helping him pick them up. I didn’t.

Being aware is simply not enough.

I wanted to do these things. I wanted to lend a hand. I wanted to help. I wanted to speak.

What stopped me?

On a weekly basis we are confronted with a number of situations similar to the ones I experienced recently.

However, taking action is hard. Action is hard because it requires intentionality. Intentionality takes effort. Its not enough to simply be aware. We must be aware and be intentional.

On the train yesterday I gave my seat to an older lady. I was aware that she likely would like to sit down. I was intentional and acted on this awareness.

Not only must we be aware in life, we must also show up.

Which Line Are You Standing In?

I witnessed an interesting phenomenon at a recent marketing conference. The marketing conference attracted over 19,000 marketing and sales professionals. Professionals from a variety of industries, representing companies of all sizes.

There were two talks, in two rooms, right next to each other. To the right, there was a workshop entitled “Creating Ridiculously Good Looking Websites”. It promised 10 “growth hacking” tips to attract new users to your website.

To the left, there was a workshop entitled “Tell Your Story, Give Your Brand a Voice”. It promised to help you tell a better story that resonates with the consumers you want to attract and retain.

The line for the workshop to the right was wrapped around the convention center. Literally, hundreds of marketers shooting for a chance to learn how to “growth hack” their websites. Marketers looking for a shortcut to jolt their customer acquisition efforts.

The workshop to the left, had no line at all. The room ended up being only 25% full.

Why is it that we are so attracted to shortcuts? Why do we care more about the design than the stories that the design is supposed to help bring to life?

Why do we view the story of our brand as a stationary object — one that doesn’t need continual fine tuning?

Instead, we think of the story we want to articulate and then put it on the shelf and let it sit, while we spend time trying to “growth hack” our way to new consumers.

The answer: Brand building is hard. It takes time. A lot of time. It requires consistency. It requires truly listening to our consumers and telling them an authentic story that they actually want to hear.

Telling authentic and compelling stories is equally as hard. They both take a significant amount of emotional labor.

There is no grow hack to help us tell better stories. There’s no growth hack to make it less of an emotional process.

You know what is pretty easy? Building a website. There’s square space, weebly, wix, word press, shopify… and the list goes on. These companies walk you through how to put together beautiful websites. You can even offshore it for minimal cost. Website building and design is a increasingly commoditized category. Anyone can have a nice website, if they want it.

However, what you can’t do easily is build a brand. Tell a story that is authentic. Articulate a message that resonates strongly with an audience. So strongly that they are willing to change their behavior, get off of the couch and to go to the shelf or go online and give your brand a vote of confidence through their purchase.

You can have a pretty website. You can have great specs. However, people don’t care about facts or specs. People care about stories. Stories that match the frame through which they view the world. Build a brand that speaks to people.

Otherwise, you will not win.

This doesn’t only apply to companies. It applies to each of us. We are walking brands.

Ask yourself, what’s your brand slogan? What’s your story? What would others say? Does your brand resonate with your target audience?

You can’t “growth hack” your way to where you want to be. It takes time. It requires consistency. It entails emotional labor.

Will your brand help you win?

The One Debt We All Have — It Has No Maturity Date

Debt: (1) something that is owed or due. (2) an obligation.

In society there is an interesting dichotomy when it comes to debt. There is what some call “good debt” (ie, a mortgage, a educational loan), or capital / resources put towards an investment that has the potential to grow in value. Then, there is “bad debt” (ie, credit card debt, a payday loan), or an investment that quickly loses its long term value and has minimal potential to grow in value in the future. We all have had, or will have, some form of each debt over the course of our lives. Yet, what I want to call attention to is the debt that we share. The one debt that we all have in common. It is the obligation that connects and binds us to one another. The obligation that we all share, is the obligation to be more human.

Be more human:

Be vulnerable

Speak openly about your failures

Smile

Laugh

Cry

Love

Question

Care

Think

Change

Build

Respect

Listen

Learn

Grow

Give

Teach

Try

BE

Being more human is a “good debt”. Our investment in being more human connects us to one another. We make payments with emotional capital. Emotional capital that cultivates the growth we seek in our relationships. Failure to pay according to schedule doesn’t have an immediate impact on our lives. Instead, the negative impact accumulates over time, just as with financial debt. Ultimately, leaving us emotionally bankrupt and disconnected from our community and the world we live in.

Our obligation to be more human has no maturity date and the interest is payable daily.

Unfortunately, there is no auto-pay. It is hard, but we are obligated to do it.