Using local sports to expand your network

sports and netwoking

The other night I had the opportunity to go to the Inaugural Monumental Sports and Entertainment Business league event at Verizon center and I think it’s a really interesting and exciting concept.  As happens in any medium to large city, you end up over time doing business with the same network of folks that you know and for better or for worse you stay within those networks. There’s a lot of benefits to that. It’s great to do business with people that you’ve known a long time and that you trust but it can be a bit limiting. The problem is that it’s hard to meet the right kinds of folks that you’re going to want to work with going forward and I think that is the neat thing about something like the Monumental Sports and Entertainment Business League. What they’re trying to do is draw on the fact that they’ve got a ready built community of people that share a common bond or common passion for something and in this case its hometown sports whether it’s the Capitals, the Wizards, or the Mystics. It’s a shared passion for something that gives you that sort of immediate common bond with other people.

I never thought about it this way but when they were opening up the event they were talking about the fact that Verizon center was the largest gathering point for people in the area. There are so many people that are so passionate about their hometown sports it does provide a sort of unique opportunity to group people around that and expand your network.  I know that as you meet, greet, and talk to different people it’s amazing how the fact that you have that common bond eases you into making some of the normal hurdles you associate with understanding where other people are coming from as a business standpoint easier to overcome.

Now I don’t know if there are other teams around the NBA or NHL who do this but I think it’s just and absolutely incredible concept. I’m excited to get to the next event and continue to meet some of the great people that I met at this past event.  So I’m curious as to what other people’s experiences were at sort of closed community network events. What other types of shared passions have helped bond together communities around something where the purpose of that event is one part whatever that activity is and the other part is about the networking and expanding your circle of folks that you may want to do business with?

Thanks as always for reading my blog, I hope you will join the conversation by commenting on this post.

If you liked this post, please consider subscribing to this blog and following me on twitter @jmillsapps. I regularly give talks via webinar and speak at events and other engagements. If you are interested in finding out where to see me next please look at the my events page on this blog. If you would interested in having me speak at your event please contact me at events@joshmillsapps.com.

If you are interested in consulting services please go to MB&A Online to learn more.

Tired? Beware the temptation to shortcut

JITSU

Every once in a while jiu jitsu will highlight something for me that is really important for business or personal life with regards to performance.  This past week I was sitting around with a couple of the guys after class and we were talking about how it seems like being tired makes us want to rush through things. In jiu jitsu, you’re trying to work through a sequence of moves to get to some endpoint very much like you might do in a business project or anything else that has a deadline. The guy who brought this up mentioned how he feels like he has a tendency to rush during drills the more tired he gets. So we talked about it for a little bit and I think this is something that happens so often in life it was worth pointing out.

A lot of times when you’re in the middle of a project, you’ve got a deadline looming, you’re under the gun, and you’ve been working late to try to get things accomplished as the project winds towards the close, the tendency or the temptation is to try to skip some steps in order to get things done. Now whether it is trying to go directly from your head to a final project and skipping outlining, drafting, or other steps that you might normally do, or trying to cram down your review process; what I found in life as well as jiu jitsu is that those things have a tendency to set you back more than they help you. You have to really sort of embrace the grind and understand that there really are no short cuts. More often than not attempting to rush through or cut steps out of the process isn’t going to work. It’s simply going to end with either a poor result or in taking more time because you’re going to have to go back and go do the steps that you should have done the first time anyway.  I think that one of the things you have to do if you want to be successful under those conditions is you have to resign yourself or mentally prepare yourself to grind through it. You have to understand that it’s a process and you have to decide for yourself if you’re going to be able to make it through to completion because you’re probably not going to be able to shortcut that routine without the end result suffering.

Thanks as always for reading my blog, I hope you will join the conversation by commenting on this post.

If you liked this post, please consider subscribing to this blog and following me on twitter @jmillsapps. I regularly give talks via webinar and speak at events and other engagements. If you are interested in finding out where to see me next please look at the my events page on this blog. If you would interested in having me speak at your event please contact me at events@joshmillsapps.com.

If you are interested in consulting services please go to MB&A Online to learn more.

Maintaining the health of your social and professional circles

Maintain the health of you social and professional circles

I’m going to try something new out today. I’m not going to tell you that this is a tried and true method I’ve used to maintain a healthy network or that this has led to me being a happier or more successful person because I’ve never tried this before. All I know is I was thinking about this the other day and I think I’m just going to go ahead and give it a shot. So I have talked quite a bit about how important maintaining your network is. I think sometimes when you say networking it makes it sound really commercial and I don’t necessarily mean it in that sense. Certainly some of your career success and your professional success is predicated on the folks that you know but it’s not just that those people connect you to opportunities. It’s that those people help you experience new things and learn about things you otherwise wouldn’t know. It’s the same thing in your network that is purely social.

Those are people that are going to influence what you think about and how you think about the things you think about. When you get right down to it, those are huge factors in not just how successful you’ll be but how happy you’ll be.  So I’ve decided that I’m going to try something today that I’ve never tried before. I’m going to reach out to one person that I haven’t talked to in a really long time.  The thing that got me thinking about this was one of my childhood best friends, who’s been a friend for practically forever, and I hadn’t spoken to him since our 20 year high school reunion. What prompted us to reconnect was finding out that his father was going to pass and you know that’s one of those things that just shouldn’t happen that way. So I’m going to be a little more proactive and I’m going to talk to someone that I haven’t really spoken to in a long time. I want to ensure that I maintain that connection to people that I’ve known for a long time, I’ve always enjoyed speaking with, and not take it for granted; because it shouldn’t take something terrible to bring us together.

The second thing I’m going to do is reach out to somebody that I believe can change my life.  Someone that I maybe don’t know but would like to know because I think that what they do or what they stand for is exciting or interesting or could be a changer for me.  Maybe I’ll be successful or maybe I won’t but at least I’ll have tried to make that connection.

The third thing I’m going to do is reach out to somebody who I maybe only connected with via email or had casual routine or business sort of exchanges with. I’m going to reach out to that person on the phone and see if the person behind the mail is somebody that I would like to talk to on a more regular basis.  So I’m going to do all those things and I’m guessing those will take me less than an hour. I’m just curious where it will lead.  I’ll report back on if those things translated into anything either that were worthwhile either personally or professionally.  I’m curious what other people think or if other people have attempted things like this. Do you regularly make an effort or schedule time to refresh or renew relationships that may be getting stale over time or that had been neglected?  What are the things that you do to maintain the health of your social and professional circles?

Thanks as always for reading my blog, I hope you will join the conversation by commenting on this post.

If you liked this post, please consider subscribing to this blog and following me on twitter @jmillsapps. I regularly give talks via webinar and speak at events and other engagements. If you are interested in finding out where to see me next please look at the my events page on this blog. If you would interested in having me speak at your event please contact me at events@joshmillsapps.com.

If you are interested in consulting services please go to MB&A Online to learn more.

Checklist for what to do at work before you leave for vacation

Vacation Checklist

Summer is vacation primetime.  People coming and going from the office can be stressful for everyone. In order to reduce the stress on yourself and those you leave behind at work, I thought I’d list some ideas for how to make sure your summer vacation goes smoothly. So before you check out this summer take a look at these 7 tips:

  1. Give people enough notice. It’s imperative to make sure you give enough lead time in order for those around you to plan accordingly.
  2. Coordinate with the rest of your team to make sure that you are all not out at the same time.
  3. Ensure that your regular duties have been transferred to other parties within your team so that they continue to get done. You don’t want to have things piling up on you while you’re gone or worse, you have to do them while you’re gone
  4. Take the time to transition the knowledge required to do those duties. You do not want the first call you get when you leave the office for your vacation to be, “Hey, how do I do that stuff you wanted me to do?”
  5. Make sure that your external stakeholders, clients, etc., have a point of contact that they can get in touch with you or information for whom they can get in touch with while you’re gone.
  6. Make sure that if there is a REAL emergency they can get in touch with you so you don’t have a complete mess when you get back.
  7. If it’s necessary that you check in while you are on vacation, make sure that you have a scheduled time and stick with it. You do not want your vacation to turn into a workcation.

As always I’d love to hear other people’s thoughts or any ideas for making the work to vacation transition easier.

Thanks as always for reading my blog, I hope you will join the conversation by commenting on this post.

If you liked this post, please consider subscribing to this blog and following me on twitter @jmillsapps. I regularly give talks via webinar and speak at events and other engagements. If you are interested in finding out where to see me next please look at the my events page on this blog. If you would interested in having me speak at your event please contact me at events@joshmillsapps.com.

If you are interested in consulting services please go to MB&A Online to learn more.

3 Common characteristics of successful people

Success

I certainly don’t claim to be a scientist or somebody who has an incredibly nuanced opinion of nature vs. nurture but there are certainly a lot of folks on the market right now that talk about what motivates people. Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us is a great example, by Daniel Pink. There’s another book I loved about what engages people to work hard to move forward in their lives. There’s also another great book called “Outliers: The Story of Success” by Malcolm Gladwell about what it takes to master things. I’ve been around enough successful people, not just in the sense of people that you might’ve read about in newspapers or magazines, but everyday people that have been able to achieve things that maybe they hadn’t had formal training in otherwise. They would look to be unprepared to do something yet you watch them succeed and I think that they all encompass the same essentially three characteristics that jump out at you.

  1. The first characteristic I’d like to discuss is dogged determination to succeed. It’s amazing how much learning something new or anything else, just depends on simply sticking with it. I’ve watched people teach themselves some pretty complicated things in a pretty compressed time period just on the basis of knowing it had to be done and figuring it out. I think there’s just a mindset there around that level of determination that if you put it in your head that you’re simply not going to fail, you’re a lot more likely to succeed.
  2. The second thing is a willingness to work with others, communicate, explore new avenues, and do what it takes to reach success.  That’s another one where I’m always impressed when you see someone who is willing to ask questions. I think sometimes, and I know that I’m as guilty of this as anyone, that you can be hesitant to ask something because you don’t want to look dumb, expose a weakness or lack of knowledge, and have somebody think that you’re not as smart as they thought. That is a path to not growing.  I think you have to be willing to show your weaknesses in order to improve.  If you consistently play to your strengths you’re locking yourself out of a lot of growth opportunities.  When you’re forced or put in a position where you absolutely have to learn something new or develop a new skill, it becomes really hard if you cut yourself off from one of the primary avenues of succeeding. By that I mean finding other people who have done it before you that can help you.  I think that this second factor is huge in attaining success; finding avenues for communicating with folks who have done it before you, asking questions, and being willing to look a little bit silly on the path to understanding what you need to do.
  3. Finally the third thing should come as no secret, and that is you have to be willing to put in the work.  It’s really hard to be successful at something new if you constrain yourself to just the time you put into the everyday things that you already know how to do.  When you’re trying to transition into a new skill set, learn something, and apply something in a short period of time, if you’re not willing to put in some extra work and some extra time I don’t think you can get there.  There’s a lot to be said about work/life balance and maintaining a perspective of what you’re trying to achieve in the context of who you are as a person but sometimes you need to spring  a little in order to get things situated in your mind in a way that you can use it on a daily basis. There’s absolutely nothing like immersing yourself in something for a few days or weeks to overcome some of the hurdles you would otherwise have in learning or figuring out how to do something new.

So I think those three things are kind of common sense qualities needed for success. Time and time again I see people that are teammates, people that I work with, and people that work for me who are succeeding and the common ingredients that they all share are the ones I mentioned above.  Now again, I know that they seem to be common sense but they are not always applied. The people that are frustrated and saying, “I’m not really picking this up,” or “I’m really struggling to understand this,” and you watch what they’re doing; it should come as no surprise that they’re not working as hard as the people that are able to pick something up. They’re not asking the right questions of the right people.

Now while I think there’s a lot to be said for being able to ask for help and being able to reach out to people, there’s a balance that needs to be struck there. You need to push through and make your own breakthroughs sometimes so you can really own the material or the skill whatever it is rather than simply having someone else do it for you because they’re better at it.  I’m curious what other people have seen and what other people believe are the short list to succeeding at those sorts of things.

Thanks as always for reading my blog, I hope you will join the conversation by commenting on this post.

If you liked this post, please consider subscribing to this blog and following me on twitter @jmillsapps. I regularly give talks via webinar and speak at events and other engagements. If you are interested in finding out where to see me next please look at the my events page on this blog. If you would interested in having me speak at your event please contact me at events@joshmillsapps.com.

If you are interested in consulting services please go to MB&A Online to learn more.

Fighter food: Getting fit for better personal and professional performance

Flinstone fighter food

Paleo: The “caveman” diet

Today I’m going to step outside my normal blog topics and talk a little bit about health, nutrition and some of the things that I’ve been doing that I believe have led to better personal and professional performance across the board. The last few years I’ve really been stepping up my exercise quite a bit.  I had gotten to a point where I was hovering right at 299 pounds. I had basically stopped weighing myself until I was pretty sure that the next time I did, I wasn’t going to be over 300 pounds.  Now I realize the signal probably should have come a little bit earlier but when I hit 299, I realized I really needed to do something. Even though I’m pretty tall and I’ve got a pretty big frame, there’s just no way that I should be 300 pounds. So I got involved in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and immediately shaved off 25 pounds and got down to about 275 pounds.

I started feeling a lot better and like I was in pretty good shape.  I was still about ten pounds off the weight I played ball in college at, but I still felt pretty good. So I was content for a little bit. That was until I had an instructor in the jiu jitsu program, Greg Souders, that pushed me and a couple of the other big guys to lose some weight with the idea that we would feel better and we would enjoy our exercise and sport a little bit more. So we had a competition. It’s amazing how making something a competition will push you to try new things and push you to break down barriers.

It was then that I actually started to follow a paleo eating program.  For those of you that are unfamiliar, I won’t go into too much detail but the paleo sort of lifestyle involves giving up a lot of things that I had really come to love. In fact, for about the last 7 or 8 months I’ve essentially been grain free, bread free no pastas, no milk, no dairy, and nothing with sugar added. It has been amazing the transformation, in not just how I look but how I feel.

I’m now down into the 240’s, which is where I was as a senior in high school. I feel absolutely tremendous and I think it carries over into my work.  I’ve finally gotten to a place where I can excuse any type of meal.  I used to drink a lot of lattes, I had a lot of high carb snacky type meals, a lot of, “Oh I’ll just catch a sandwich for lunch,” and it had become a habit over so many years working in such a high paced environment. It had become such a habit to the point where I actually thought I was eating fairly healthy. Looking back on it, I was eating terribly.

Now I have lunches that are salads, big hearty salads, but salads nonetheless. They can have steak on them, chicken, shrimp, whatever type of proteins you want including bacon. I also eat a lot more plain vegetables and a lot more meats that aren’t wrapped in grains. One thing that I’ve really noticed is that when I miss a meal, I don’t get the type of cravings that I used to get when I was on the more industrial based food diet.  While all of this is for the better, I think the one thing that has really driven me to stick with it has been that it’s not just that I lost this weight and I look better. It’s the whole feeling better at work and home all the time part that has really made this change worthwhile and enjoyable.

One of the things I thought I’d do is share a recipe. This recipe has been sort of what I’ve used to put in the lunchbox to take to work throughout the week. Despite how it may sound, it is extraordinarily tasty and my kids actually call it “fighter food” and they’ll eat it. This dish gets made every Sunday to make lunch for the rest of the week.  It is as follows:

  • 6 pounds of ground beef
  • 2 pounds of kielbasa,
  • 3 or 4 beets
  • 1 onion
  • 2 peppers
  • a bunch of carrots
  • curry powder
  • cayenne peppers
  • 2 cans of coconut milk
  • 1 can of diced tomatoes

I cook up the sausage and beef in a pan first.  Then I put all the rest of the ingredients into the crockpot along with the meat and let it stew for about two hours. (Side note: I leave out the cayenne peppers when cooking for the whole family and use it solely for my own personal stash of fighter food.  While I enjoy spicy foods I realize not everyone feels the same.) That is all there is to it. It’s a very easy dish to cook up and it keeps well for a whole week’s worth of lunches. Anyway I know this was a little bit of an off topic blog post but I really do think how you feel is a big proponent to how you perform at the office. So I wanted to share something that I think has really worked for me. With this combination of exercise and diet over the last year, I’ve dropped more than 50 pounds and I really feel good. I think it has led to better performance. So I would love to hear your responses and please don’t feel as though you’re obligated to try my meal, although if you do I’d love to get your feedback on it. Thanks for reading as always.

Thanks as always for reading my blog, I hope you will join the conversation by commenting on this post.

If you liked this post, please consider subscribing to this blog and following me on twitter @jmillsapps. I regularly give talks via webinar and speak at events and other engagements. If you are interested in finding out where to see me next please look at the my events page on this blog. If you would interested in having me speak at your event please contact me at events@joshmillsapps.com.

If you are interested in consulting services please go to MB&A Online to learn more.

Respect your peers: Self-Checklist before you ask for help

Peer review

I was having lunch with a good friend over the weekend and we got on the subject of reviewing things for people. Now this was somebody I’ve actually sent quite a few things to review and I know I’ve been guilty of violating his pet peeves from time to time. He had an interesting take on things and it’s definitely something I’m going to apply to my life so I’d like to share it.  One of the things we talked about was how frustrating it is to get something from somebody with the caveat of, “Don’t worry about spelling or nit nats, just take a look at the content.” Now this is something that I’ve actually said on a few different occasions so maybe it was a subtle message to me but the more I thought about it, the more it made a lot of sense.  His take on it is that there are three things that everyone should have to do before they send a draft out to someone. They don’t take that long, they make the editor’s job immeasurably easier, and they greatly enhance the appearance of professionalism that you put forwards.

  1. Run spellcheck.  It seems obvious but I know that I’ve been guilty of forgetting to do it myself.
  2. Read it at least once and preferably out loud for grammar. I know how easy it is to quickly dash something out and send it across for somebody to check over. You don’t ask for much, you just want to see if you’re headed the right direction or if this is the right approach. While this doesn’t seem on the surface to be to harmful, his take on it is that everyone has time to read something at least once. You shouldn’t send anything from your desk that you haven’t at least read and I have to agree.  If you don’t read it and you’ve got some glaring grammatical errors or you’ve made some really obvious mistakes, even if you’re an otherwise an excellent writer, it takes away from the appearance of professionalism that everyone should try to put forward. It often unnecessarily increases the effort required by the editor to do the work. This may be fine if you’re paying a professional editor and it’s on your dime but if you’re asking for a peer review, or particularly if that person is in anyway involved in reviewing you from a professional standpoint, you may want to think twice about what you send across, even if that content is early stage draft.
  3. Lastly, you should always include a simple line that says what you’ve done to ready your work before sending it across to them.  Again I think this is something that I hadn’t necessarily thought about but I kind of agree that it’s important. It sets the stage for the person that you’ve asked to review or edit to understand where in the writing cycle this work is. I know that I’ve had quite a few things dropped on me where when you open it up you think, “Wow, this looks like it’s in a really early stage or really unformulated.” That uncertainty makes it hard to gauge how you should phrase your response back.

So I thought those were three pretty good tips for anything that you’re trying to get edited by somebody, get reviewed, or even if you’re crafting a simple letter out to somebody. Following through those simple steps increases the appearance of professionalism that you put forward to other people. Running a spell check and correcting simple and obvious grammar mistakes shows you being respectful of their time in not making them waste time on simple unnecessary corrections. Finally just conveying what type of document you’re putting across to them frames what you’re asking much more clearly.  Just some things to think about next time you ask a friend to look over something for you.  I’d appreciate your thoughts as always.

Thanks as always for reading my blog, I hope you will join the conversation by commenting on this post.

If you liked this post, please consider subscribing to this blog and following me on twitter @jmillsapps. I regularly give talks via webinar and speak at events and other engagements. If you are interested in finding out where to see me next please look at the my events page on this blog. If you would interested in having me speak at your event please contact me at events@joshmillsapps.com.

If you are interested in consulting services please go to MB&A Online to learn more.