Scaling Up Your Life

In its simplest form, economies of scale is a phenomenon whereby the efficiency of a large scale producer, which is attained over time, allows it to spread out the high-cost basis of its capital expenditures over a larger per unit basis, lowering the per unit cost. With economies of scale, a widget that cost $1.00 to manufacture now only cost $0.25.

Simply, a company attains the ability to do more with less. It attains a competitive advantage.

The same phenomenon exists in our personal lives.

Reading scales.

The more books you read, the more knowledge you have –  the richer your perspective. Your ability to problem solve, be creative, and do work that matters increases at a multiple higher than the number of books you have read.  Knowledge becomes a competitive advantage.

Exercising scales.

The more you run the healthier you are. The more in-shape you become. Your ability to run faster and further increases. Being healthy and in-shape becomes a competitive advantage.

Relationships scale.

Writing scales.

Eating healthy scales.

Public speaking scales.

Being generous and empathic scales.

However, not everything we do in our personal lives scales.

Watching Netflix doesn’t scale.

You watch one episode. Then two episodes. But what comes next? More episodes? There’s no change. There’s no improvement. There’s no competitive advantage from watching Netflix.

Watching cable news doesn’t scale.

You watch it. Your fear increases. You feel helpless. What’s next?

Reassurance doesn’t scale.

Likes do not scale.

Follows do not scale.

Re-tweets do not scale.

It turns out that the things we are afraid of. The things that are hard to do. The things that take time. Are the things that scale. The things in which the more we do them, the better we become.

How much of your day do you spend doing things that are going to make your better?

Things that are going to increase your ability to connect with others?

Things that are going to increase your ability to create the world you want to see?

Things that help you leap?

Things that scale?

 

 

Are You Testimonial Worthy?

What would the people you engage with say about you?

Three simple questions:

1. How do people experience you?
2. How do people experience themselves in your presence?
3. Would they recommend you to others?

In the old industrialist economy, little emphasis was placed on testimonials.

Because instead, it was much more powerful and easier to simply pay for endorsements.

In the industrialist era, the endorsement of Michael Jordan made more people drink Gatorade and want to wear Nike shoes.

People purchased George Foreman grills because they thought to themselves, “if it’s good enough for a guy like George, it’s good enough for me.”

However, the power of endorsements was largely in their scarcity at the time.

There were only a few major brands and a few major stars to feature in a scarce number of advertisements through a scarce number of marketing channels.

However, in the connection economy, there is an abundance of all of these things, largely decreasing the overall effectiveness of the famous endorsement.

In the connection economy testimonials have power and leverage.

Testimonials have power because in a world of abundance, a world of so many products, services, and talented people, someone has decided to speak up on your behalf, expecting nothing in return.

What is it that makes someone want to speak up?

Transformation.

Change agents.

An experience that changes how someone views the world.

An interaction that causes someone to pause and say “I used to believe this, but now I believe that”.

 

An opportunity that takes someone from a posture of not believing and not engaging to a posture of attention and action.

However, just as with endorsements, testimonials come at a price.

However, the price is not currency.
Instead, it’s the price of emotional labor.
The price of caring.
The price of being generous.

The price of showing up and doing work that is remarkable. Doing the work of an artist.

A price worth paying.

Are You a Change Agent?

The simple answer is yes.

The only constant in our life is change. 
Business and capitalism, in general, requires it.
At the most basic level, to win consumers and build loyalty businesses must differentiate themselves from the competitive set, regardless of their industry.
Whether that’s in packing, pricing, product features, or promotions, differentiation, or creative destruction is an essential fact of capitalism.

The same is true for individuals.
The act of living is not and cannot be a stationary state.
Every bit of information we consume has an impact on how we engage with the world.
Every conversation we have either confirms or challenges our worldview.

Not only do things change us at the individual level, but also our change impacts others.
There is always someone watching our behavior.
Taking social clues.
Making a subconscious decision to mimic our behavior or to ignore it.

If you eat healthy those around you will start to think about what they eat.
If you workout often those around you will.
If you watch less tv, those around you will start to pick up a book more often.
If you have a positive self-narrative those around you will start to evaluate theirs.

You see, we are what we repeatedly think and do. As such, those in our tribe in many ways are and become what we think and repeatedly do.

We must consistently ask ourselves, am I becoming who I want my wife, husband, friend, brother, sister or co-worker to become?

We are all change agents. We can all be artists.

The question is whether we are driving change for better or for worse.

We have the power. The choice is ours.

Class of 2017: Will You Have The Audacity to Make The Future?

Graduates of the Class of 2017,

Contrary to what our loved ones may think, we’ve spent the last two years working. Maybe not work in the traditional sense, but work that I personally consider much more valuable. Work on ourselves. Because to identify the impact you want to make in this world, you must first begin to understand who you are.

Personally, the pieces to the puzzle of how I intend to make a difference in the world came together only a few months ago. It came to me during my most powerful learning experience over the last two years.  During this experience, the edges of my puzzle emerged. It occurred during the fall semester in Professor Scott Snooks Authentic Leadership Development class, better known as ALD.  The purpose of ALD is to help second-year MBA students become more effective, authentic individuals and leaders.

In our third session, in September, the level of reflection and interpersonal openness reached its zenith. That morning, Professor Snook handed everyone a small sheet of colored paper. On this sheet of paper, he instructed us to write down our greatest fear over the next five to ten years. Next, everyone passed the sheets with their answer, nothing else to the end of their row. Professor Snook then collected the responses, shuffled them up and asked each of us to randomly select one of the sheets of paper. What followed was truly an eye opening experience. The room had a stillness and a muteness about it that I will never forget. Next, the classroom of over 90 second year MBA students, read the words on the sheet of paper they had randomly selected. The fears of my classmates were stirring.

The fear of not being able to have kids.

The fear of ending up in some of our current relationships.

The fear of caring too much about money, at the expense of marriage and relationships that matter.

There was one response however, that was read over, and over again. The one fear that loomed over the heads of my classmates like a wave at its peak before it breaks, was the fear, the fear of ending up alone. By themselves. Void of the connection and relationships that are as essential to human life as air itself.

The experience brought back memories of my own. I have vivid memories of being dropped off and picked up from Cary Academy, a private middle school experience that no one else in the lower-class neighborhood I grew up in was privy to.  The car my hard working parents drove at the time was a 1985 Oldsmobile Tornado. It had a long, wide body covered with varying shades of steel and pearl gray paint. There was a comet-sized dent above the right rear wheel that caused it to make a thunderous sound. As we arrived and departed, I would sink in my seat, in an effort to remain invisible to my peers. Why? I was embarrassed. I didn’t believe I belonged. I believed that my socio-economic status and the neighborhood I lived in defined me. I felt alone as one of only three black students in the school.  Alone as the kid that didn’t have a big backyard. Alone as the kid whose parents weren’t doctors or lawyers. I felt alone – a feeling that I fear is becoming all too familiar in the 21st century.

The experience in Professors Snook’s class also brought to mind the social and political events that have roiled and ruptured individuals and relationships across our country over the last two years:

Kendra James. Sean Bell. Michael Brown. Just a few, of the many black men or women that died at the hands of the police over the last two years. “Black lives matter” – three simple words, packed with a deep yearning to belong. A yearning to feel a part of the whole. To feel connected. You see, the fear that many of us share, a fear of being alone, is a reality for a growing portion of our population.

And lastly, in the business context that we will be re-entering, is the growing alienation between corporate America and main street. Plunging trust in business, diminished confidence in the fairness of the economic system, and a loss of faith in capitalism itself pose a crippling threat to our economic future.

All of this is unsettling, as over the last few decades the narrative of prosperity has shifted, to one in which a commitment to steadily increasing openness and the destruction of boundaries was supposed to result in an economic tide that would lift all boats.

However, as many of us know deep down inside and as the stories over the last two years illustrate, the promise of a more open and connected world has fallen short of expectations in many ways. However, that’s not to say that Globalization and technology haven’t created prosperity. Because they undeniably have. The challenge is the distribution of this wealth and the impact it has had on the ties that connect the local communities of our country and the global community.

This is not, however, a condemnation of globalization itself. Or a reason to turn inward and close ourselves off from one another or the rest of our global community. The problem is, our actions as leaders and humans have lagged the open and accepting narrative of globalization.

Globalization is like a house. A house with infinite rooms to accommodate the citizens of the world. The economic engine has done a pretty decent job of allowing us to build new rooms and add new extensions to the house. The problem; however, is that those of us in the house have failed to reach out, failed to connect and failed to invite others inside.

So here we are, the class of 2017, walking into this large compound with access to resources and ideas. Each of us with some desire deep down inside to reach out and to share these ideas and utilize our resources to let others in. However, what stands in our way is fear. The little voice in our head that says it’s too soon. That we should wait to establish ourselves before we take the leap. Wait until we pay off our student loans, or make partner – then, we tell ourselves, the time will be right.

However, graduates of the class of 2017 it will always be too soon. Over 500 years ago Johannes Gutenberg launched the printing press. 96% of the population in Europe was illiterate at the time. When Karl Benz introduced the car to Germany it was against the law to drive a car. No one knew how to drive a car. And there were no roads and no gas stations.

You see, it will always be too soon.

Class of 2017, it is our task for the rest of our lives to work towards filling the house that globalization has built. However, the only way we can do that is to do something that the little voice in our head will tell us that we aren’t ready to do. Something that is too hard. Something that takes a different kind of labor – emotional labor.

Class of 2017, we must have the audacity to be Artists.

Artists have the audacity to do work that is personal.

Artists have the audacity to do work that is creative.

Artists have the audacity to work that changes the receiver.

What I am proposing is not the narrow and mainstream definition of an artist: “a person who produces paintings or drawings as a profession or hobby.”

Instead, that we are more generous, empathetic, gracious, and open.

That we are artist.

The writers of the declaration of independence were artists. They had the audacity to articulate a vision that would change how individuals viewed the world and their place in it.

Martin Luther King, Jr was an artist. He had the audacity to be creative and champion a movement of non-violence that was a catalyst in shaping how blacks and whites viewed one another.

Lastly, Henry Tsai, a fellow graduate of the HBS class of 2017, exemplifies the work of an artist. He had the audacity to create “Hi from the other side” (https://www.hifromtheotherside.com/)  a personal work of art that matches people who supported different candidates in the most recent election – with the aim of  not only bringing people together but, more importantly, bringing them together in a way that’s productive or civil

Class of 2017, we can do more than being bankers, consultants, startup founders, or hedge fund managers. We can restore the balance that our culture and the business community so desperately needs. The opportunity to do work that encourages people to seek to relate, to listen, to become themselves. Work that connects people so that they can experience the belongingness that over 90 second year MBA’s in Professor Snooks classroom expressed a yearning for the past September.

Our culture, and the business community, in particular, has an artist deficit. We need more people that aspire to provide products and services that are personal, creative, and passionate. Products and services that change the receiver.

We need more artists, not more managers.

In our current culture, too many leaders pretend that nobody can change anything. That we are in a world in which society is huge and the individual is less than nothing: an atom in a wall, a grain of rice in a rice field.

But the truth is, every day, individuals, change their world over and over. They do this because they are artists.

Artists make the future. Class of 2017 I challenge you to have the audacity to make the future by imagining that things can be different.

 

A Dream Deficit

We need more dreamers.

More people that believe in the impossible.

More people that refuse to accept the status quo.

More people that ignore the propaganda of the media, who’s aim is to splinter our communities. To make us believe that we are in this alone. To indoctrinate us into believing that all we should worry about is ourselves. To indoctrinate us into believing that only seemingly “powerful” individuals and institutions can make a change in our world and that we should stick to watching cat videos and reading buzzfeed “news” articles.

We need more dreamers.

People that dream to create the new institutions that will lead us to prosperity in the post-industrialization age.

People willing to dream of a different way to educate and prepare children for the connection economy. People that recognize that the current model of education was built to cultivate obedience. Built to efficiently produce individuals that work in factories, follow orders, and never think to question authority. People willing to dream of an education system that fosters difference, is project based and cultivates creativity.

People willing to dream of a world in which all corporations actually care about their consumers. A world in which the health of the individual is prioritized before profits. Do we really need another can of soda? Do we really need another package of cigarettes? The answer is no. However, the incentives of the current system put profits before the well-being of the individual.

We need more people willing to question the incentives of the current system.

More people willing to change the incentives.

Dreams, by their nature,  are evanescent. They flicker long before they shine brightly. We, as a culture, must embrace the individuals that dare to dream.