Being Wrong

Being wrong is a natural part of the human condition. We're wrong all the time and about all kinds of things. What's rare, though, is acknowledging it. Why is it so hard to say the simple words, "I was wrong"? Sometimes we don't know we're wrong and we continue on our path in ignorance. But so often we know we're wrong and we defend it to the death. When we step back and look at it, it's such a strange thing to do. The consequence of being wrong is typically negligible. Certainly some mistakes carry greater weight than others. But I'm talking about the routine stuff - the incorrect assumptions and mistakes that happen every single day. What if instead of just focusing on being right, we focused on being true? If we're going to lead well it's an absolute imperative. We don't earn trust and respect by being error free. We earn it by acknowledging when we're wrong, learning from our mistakes and doing it better the next time. 

It feels trite to even write that last sentence because of how obvious it is, but I needed to hear this today. I hope you did, too. 

Many Hands

"Many Hands Make Light Work"

English poet and playwright, John Heywood, is credited with coining this phrase. I know next to nothing about him, but I've learned a lot about the phrase lately. In the next couple of weeks I'm launching a new venture with some friends that I'm really excited about. It's different from anything I've ever done before, both in concept and execution. For most of my work and entrepreneurial life, I've worked on my own or with a single partner. I've never managed more than three people at a time and I've never had the need to recruit and hire multiple employees.

This time around I have numerous business partners. We have a team of contractors building out our space and getting us ready to launch. We are interviewing employees, making offers and getting our team in place. Because of all the people involved, I've seen more accomplished in the last week than I thought was possible. I've tended to believe that if you want something done right, you have to do it yourself. Yes, that can be true, but it also comes at a huge cost - time. You just progress so slowly when you put everything on your own shoulders.

I'm not encouraging you to go hire a bunch of employees, buy an office building or go in search of a business partner. These things may not be necessary. I'm only suggesting that you think about the way you work - maybe the way you're spending your time now could be used more effectively. Maybe more hands could make the work light. 

Where We Are

Eight weeks ago I launched Bold Future with a post called Launch. It was completely spontaneous. Though I had been thinking about the project for years, I had never given myself a deadline for when I was going to actually put something up. Exhausted by debilitating excuses and inaction, I bought a domain, signed up for a Squarespace account and started writing. Five hours later, Bold Future was a reality. Finally. 

I didn't and still don't completely know what this project will become, but there were only two things I committed to:

1.  Quiet the voices in my head, overcome the fear and figure it out through action. 

2. Share the journey with you authentically and honestly. 

To say that my life has changed since then is an understatement. It's not because I have a huge following or that my content has gone viral. There are 51 people on my email list and I've had maybe 10 shares on all forms of social media combined since I started. It's not because I've made a bunch of money with it. I've spent about 20 hours a week producing content (mostly on upcoming podcast episodes) for 8 weeks and monetization is far from within reach. No, it's changed my life because I did it. The entire process has been a massive success because I just keep hitting add, record, save, post, submit and publish. 

There are times when the content isn't as good as I want it to be. I wish my grammar was better, or I wish I had more time to edit, or I wish I had asked a different question in an interview. Struggling and feeling clueless has been the rule, not the exception. I've made all kinds of mistakes and I've been disappointed a lot. Yet somehow, none of that matters. What matters is the doing and the getting better at the doing.

The icing on the cake is the connections I’ve made along the way. It’s cliche to say that if my message touches just one person I’ll be happy, but it could not be more true. I’ve gotten emails, phone calls, texts, Facebook messages and LinkedIn messages from people I know and don’t know who want to share what they’ve learned. They tell me about specific points in specific podcast episodes where they had epiphanies. I’ve been sent pages of notes from a guy who dissected every word Dave Gray said and then used that information to increase his impact at work. 

I’m telling you from firsthand experience, if there’s something you want to do, do it. You’re probably not qualified enough and you probably don’t know enough to make it work. Do it anyway. If you keep going, you will figure it out. I can’t guarantee you that your idea will succeed, your business will take off or that even one person will subscribe. However, I can guarantee you that trying is so much more rewarding than not. Next week, I will release a podcast episode that will give you further guidance on how to implement this mindset. My interview is with Caleb Chancey, a photographer, musician, event organizer and true launcher of ideas. Truth is, though, you don’t have to wait to hear the episode to take one tiny step in the right direction. You can take it this weekend. Better yet, right this second.

Trials & Triumphs

There aren't any great stories without great trials. 

Frodo Baggins, Harry Potter, William Wallace, Elsa, Roadrunner - each of them has to overcome some terrible stuff. Regardless of what medium we're talking about, we see characters struggle in books, movies, plays, religious texts and anywhere else stories are told. If you're going to have a great story, something really terrible has to happen to the characters. More likely, a series of terrible things has to happen before a resolution is warranted.

The difference in the outcome of every story typically revolves around one thing: the response of the character. It's not what happens to them, it's what happens next. It's how they regain their composure and stand to defeat the enemy, outsmart the bad guy or rally the troops in the fight for freedom. 

The same is true in our lives - we are going to experience major challenges. The difference between failing or prevailing is in how we react. We can get down on ourselves or we can dust ourselves off and get 'em next time. People don't follow a leader because he never struggles. They follow a leader because he keeps going in spite of the struggles. 

Language Matters

You know that feeling you get the first time you use the term girlfriendto introduce the girl youre dating to your friends? It's a strange feeling. Something happens in that moment like it hadnt before. Maybe youd already had the talkwith her, but saying it out loud and telling others makes it more official, more real. Of course, you werent just substituting one word for another; you were making a statement about a change in status, commitment and purpose. But it was in changing a single word that you changed everything. Your entire perspective of herand your relationship with her is immediately altered in a way that can never be the same. Shes no longer just your friend. Shes something better. Something more valuable. All that with one single linguistic tweak. 

Without question, language matters to humans a great deal. It matters in our personal lives and our professional lives. It affects how we view ourselves and how we view others. It has the power to change relationships, change emotions, and change minds. Our tone can build a castle or level a house of cards. Our vocabulary can soothe and calm or stir chaos and discord. The choice is ours. On Monday, Ill release the first episode of the Bold Future podcast. In it, I talk with Dave Gray about company culture and why language matters. He speaks predominantly from a business perspective, but the lessons translate to every aspect of our lives. Im excited to share it with you. 

In the meantime, think about your words. Im doing the same. To lead well, we must choose them wisely. Do you?

Rest

I was forced to rest this week. Sick with some kind of head cold or whatever seasonal ailment is going around, I found myself doing little other than binge watching House of Cards. Part of me really hated it. I had a mountain of work to do and I only got farther behind with each passing moment. I felt trapped on my couch with barely enough brain power to shoot out an intelligent email. 

But, part of me loved it. I never rest. Never. I move from one action item to the next. I maintain a robust schedule in my day job and I come home to work on my podcast or this website. On the weekends, I write these posts, I clean my house or I catch up on reading. I fill every moment of my life with some accomplishment related task. Being forced to just lie down and not do anything but let my body heal was surreal. I felt like I was doing something wrong the first few days, but as time went on I realized how therapeutic it was not just for my body but my mind and soul, as well.

I'm not alone in this. You're probably the same way. Maybe you're not maniacal enough to set a goal for how many episodes of a TV show you can watch while you're sick, but you probably do something else that's just as ridiculous. You fill your mind constantly with stuff - things to do and places to be. Some of them are important, most of them aren't. But, is there ever a moment when you stop thinking and planning? I've realized that whether it's our culture or our nature, we aren't going to rest unless we're intentional about it. I intend to eliminate the hypocrisy from my request, but for now, I challenge you to rest. Take the weekend or a day or just a moment, and rest. 

The courage to connect

I don't like talking about myself. If we have a conversation, it is likely that I am going to ask you a lot of questions about you and your life. I'll be concerned with your job and your family and your pets and your new workout plan. If we know each other well enough, I'll find out what makes you tick, what motivates you, and we'll cover the exciting topic of what you're most passionate about. If you ask me questions, I'll answer them, then quickly move back to the subject at hand... you. I'll do my best to perfectly balance between asking too much and caring enough to ask. What book or communication expert have you ever heard say this is a bad thing? 

But, as much as I would like to say my strategy is driven by a genuine humility and earnest concern for others, a lot of times it's just not. I do it because I don't want to be vulnerable. I don't want you to turn the tables and ask me tough questions and find out that I don't have my life figured out or that my career is a mess. It's a defense strategy and it works really well. You can win a ton of friends by simply asking a lot of people a lot of questions.

And I'm a man so this is OK, right? We're supposed to be macho and tough and not talk about our thoughts or our feelings. We shouldn't flinch or show weakness. We should converse, but not really engage. It would be weird to be vulnerable and real with people, right? 

Of all the experiments I've run in my life, I've never more convincingly disproved a theory as I have this one. My notion that vulnerability is weakness has proven over and over to be incorrect. When I dive in with people and truly get to know them, and when I've allowed myself to drop the facade and speak the truth, I've connected with people like never before. There's a richness and a peace in allowing yourself to fully be who you are, ugly parts and all. I'm not suggesting you start telling strangers your darkest secrets. But, I am suggesting that with rare exceptions, when you open up to others, they will naturally open up to you in a way that may surprise you. The resulting connection will be worth infinitely more than the courage it takes to make it happen.

Let them tell you

How many great ideas have you had that never came to fruition? (Whether business, personal project or otherwise)

Of those, how many of them didn't happen because they were met by such great resistance from someone outside of yourself?

If you're like me, the vast majority of your big ideas don't happen because you shoot them down before anyone else can. You don't put them out into the world or test them or find a way to see how viable they are. You dig up the seed before it can germinate. You tell yourself no. 

The only way to get past this is to "let them tell you". Don't assume you know what the market is going to say. Ask and be willing to hear the answer. If the answer is no, if no one likes your idea, if you can't generate any interest, then reconsider. But, not until then. 

Of course, this applies to so much more than just launching something. It applies to all manner of questions you need to ask, but are afraid to... the raise at work, the date with that girl, the terms of the lease you're signing. Ask. Let them tell you. 

I'm not suggesting that "it never hurts to ask". Ever asked your boss for six months of paid vacation? It's not likely you would recover well from that kind of request. But, it does hurt to not ask when you need to.

You're a natural, kid

For several summers during high school, I worked for my dad at his landscape lighting business. The job took place outside in the 100 degree heat and stifling humidity. I dug ditches, I dug holes, I buried wire, I installed lights and I crawled into cramped spaces under houses. There was rarely a time that I wasn't sweaty and dirty. It was a long slog to get through those days and I would finish each one completely exhausted. Instead of playing basketball or hanging out with my friends who didn't have jobs, I was toiling away in the summer sun. Of course, I couldn't see it at the time, but those summers were teaching me the value of hard labor. Without question, my current work ethic was shaped and formed by getting up every day to go do something very difficult. Today, I love the challenges hard work brings.

But, while that all sounds great, what I've come to realize is that I tend to work hard on the stuff that I'm comfortable with. I work on things that I pretty much already know how to do. There's something in my head that convinces me that I should be a "natural" at everything and that if I have to work hard to get better at something, maybe I should avoid it all together. 

As an example, I've started interviewing guests for an upcoming podcast I'm launching in March. On the surface, it looks easy... you ask them questions, they answer, you ask them another question. Unfortunately, that's not the case. To create something compelling that people actually want to listen to, you have to think through the narrative, figure out where you're going to start and where you hope to end, deliver questions in a clear and concise manner, listen to what the guest is saying and respond accordingly while tying to stay on topic and a million other tiny nuances. I am not naturally great at this process. I've asked questions that made no sense, forgotten what I was going to ask and fumbled over words. The temptation is to back down, to leave this job to someone else, to quit. 

I mentioned the struggle to a friend and he reminded me of some insights offered by Ira Glass. Ira contends that everybody goes through this and that at the beginning, you're just not as good as you want to be. You've got great taste, but there's a gap between your taste and the quality of your work. The only solution is to keep working and to create a huge volume of work. It's hard, uncomfortable, and sometimes, just plain awkward. But, I'm convinced it's absolutely worth it. So, that's what's what I'm going to do. I encourage you to do the same. 

Here's what Ira has to say: 

Launch

I'm fascinated by a podcast called Startup. For those unfamiliar, it's a podcast about a guy starting a podcasting company. Super meta, but insanely good. Alex Blumberg, the host, documents the step by step journey of his venture from a safe, secure job in public radio to a life full of uncertainty in his new startup, Gimlet Media. I like it because it's honest. Alex doesn't hold anything back. He doesn't pretend things are going better than they are. He just documents what is happening along the way. 

Sometimes it's really painful to listen to. Like the time he gives a pathetically bad pitch to an investor. He said everything wrong. He fumbled over his words. He left the potential investor so confused that he no longer knew what the conversation was about. But, instead of omitting the flub, Alex left it in. He allows us to hear what failure, what messing up, what not knowing what you're doing and doing it any ways sounds like. And I love that. But, I can't help but contrast his approach with mine. 

I've had ideas for projects for years. Projects that I believe in, that I believe can have a big impact on my peers. But, I haven't launched any of them. Not one. There are a lot of reasons, but none of them the more likely culprit of inactivity than fear. Fear is the great swindler of ideas and intentions. It is omni-present, vigorous, and has an incredible memory. It lingers like a thick cloud of smoke and fights to remain a dominant force in the subconscious. 

So, I've analyzed this fear. I've dissected it down to its smallest, most manageable parts and I've had conversations at length with some of my friends and family. What I've found is that most of us aren't afraid of the known dangers. Cancer is a known danger. Getting run over is a known danger. Though not entirely, we're typically able to navigate those possibilities with relative ease. Where we really struggle is the unknown dangers. "What is going to happen when I hit 'post'?" "What will people think of my new podcast?" "How will this sales pitch go?"

What's strikes me about all of these scenarios is how inconsequential the potential negative outcomes are. Most of the outcomes I have been afraid of legitimately don't matter. I'm not afraid of having a terrible car accident, or losing my life to a disease, or really any other lethal experience. I'm afraid of what someone might think of my podcast. I'm afraid of someone's opinion. I'M AFRAID OF WHAT YOU ARE THINKING WHILE YOU ARE READING THIS.

But, this is a terrible way to live. It's robbing me of possibilities, opportunities and joy. I'm not out to "conquer fear once and for all". I don't think it's the way humans work and I'm not even sure that would be healthy. My intent is simply to listen to the fear in my head, take what's useful about it and ignore everything else. 

Bold Future is my first response to this new awareness. You can find out more about what it is here. I'm not going to delay it anymore or wait for everything to be perfect. I'm going to move fast and, likely, make mistakes. As one of my heroes, Seth Godin, says, I'm going to "ship". So, I bought a URL, I signed up for this Squarespace page and I'm about to force myself to post this on social media. I'm going to share my journey along the way, so if you're interested in a open dialogue about addressing and fighting fear, please stay tuned. I don't know exactly where I'm going, but time will bring clarity and I would be honored for you to join me.