Five Years From Now

The question, “Where do you see yourself in five years?” really used to bother me. I believed it was a throwaway question in an interview that didn’t measure anything.

How are we supposed to know where we are five years from now?

I was flipping through old notebooks this weekend and I came across a quote I wrote down from Atlas Shrugged, written by Ayn Rand. It read:

“The greater the mind, the better the range. A man whose vision extends to a shanty, might continue to build on quicksands, grab a fast profit and run. A man who envisions skyscrapers, will not.”

The quote gave me a new perspective, so I thought I’d share it.

Dream Jobs Require Sacrifice

Earlier this week our two other Pursue the Passion trip mates, Noah Pollock and Jay Whiting, flew in to help create some PTP media. Both are now living in L.A. pursuing their music career. This weekend will be one of their biggest shows, opening for Pigeon John at The Knitting Factory.This should be a fantastic opportunity for their group “Class Project” and speaks to the potential those in the industry see in their music. Furthermore, these types of opportunities do not present themselves without a tremendous amount of hard work and risk exhibited by the artists.

For many new artists the opportunity to play shows is accompanied by a required draw. In the case that the artist can’t achieve the draw, they are responsible for the seats that went unsold. This means that you often may not only be performing for free, but have to pay to for the chance to be heard.

This is a profound representation of the type of sacrifices those who love something make in pursuit of a dream. Many of us sacrifice the opportunity to do something that interests us because it doesn’t pay as much as another less personally rewarding option.

The level of competition associated with the most desirable industries requires monetary sacrifice. It is for these reasons that internships, part-time jobs and volunteer opportunities are so important. That little bit of experience can separate you from the pack and allow you to get your foot in the door, helping you land the dream job that makes you rich in more ways than one.

When you’re young take the experience over money. It’s an investment in yourself and your future with greater dividend potential than any 401k.

Five Tips for the Arizona Basketball Team

I went to the grocery store at around eleven o’clock last night. Wearing my Arizona basketball jersey, I stood in line annoyed at yet another first round exit from the March Madness tournament. A Sun Devil fan walked by in a t-shirt with that horrid yellow color, which to Wildcat fans, has the same effect the color red does on a raging bull. My matador smirked at the sight on my jersey, smugly walking by to let me know his side of the rivalry won this round. I hate what UofA basketball has become. I’ve come up with five tips, all of which could be applied to the workplace if you so choose, for the Wildcats to consider if they want to keep that twenty-three straight seasons of postseason appearances alive next year.

1) We all know about the candidate, player, or recruit with the perfect credentials. Degree from Harvard, 4.0 GPA, quick first step, a McDonald’s all American. Very rarely do these types of people have the impact on an organization or team that you’d like them to. They are the individualistic and/or egotistical that play for the “I” in team.

Tip: Make them (aka Jerryd Bayless) humble. Don’t allow them to put themselves on their own pedestal. Teach them how to play as a part of the team, and don’t allow them to play until they learn that lesson.

2) To be successful in any organization you need a leader with a vision. A vision gets everyone on the same page. A leader empowers others to work towards that vision.

If a leader kinda has a vision, or if they are leading with the mindset they just want to get by without making any mistakes so they can really get em next year, then they will never be able to lead others.

Tip: Find a new leader (aka head coach. Sorry Kevin)

3) Companies pride themselves on culture. The culture of an organization can greatly enhance, or severely hinder people in their success. If the culture of a company relies on name or buzzwords alone, that is not culture. A culture exists within each and every person that operates in an organization.

Tip: Just because the name Arizona is labeled across the chest of every jersey does not mean other teams fear you. If anything, it fires them up. Opposing teams can sense the lack of heart and leadership within the culture, and know that if they are able to bring just one person with heart or talent down (Fendi, Jordan Hill, Nic Wise) the rest of the culture will crumble. Build a new selfless culture that puts emphasis on the word “team.” Maybe have everyone write “I will play as a team” a thousand times on the blackboard.

4) An organization cannot exist without clear communication. Especially when that communication is coming from the top. This year Lute Olson temporarily resigned, then resigned, then was coming back, then wasn’t. It left the team in limbo all year.

Tip: Lute, I love you. I don’t know what happened this year, but I hope that you communicated with your team, because it didn’t look like they were ever on the same page.

5) Life deals all types of things that are unfair. Things we don’t agree with. Things we would dispute. But it all comes down to the same thing: you have to deal with it.

Tip: So what if the ref didn’t call a foul. Maybe it was a block instead of a charge. Control what you can control. Shut up and play.

You should not be happy with yourselves as a collective whole right now Zona. The committee put you in the tournament instead of the Sun Devils (who deserved it more, btw) and you did not give them any reason why they should let you in next year. There’s a lot of work to do.

Have a good off-season, gentleman.

Small Changes, Big Results

A big part of the Pursue the Passion’s mission is to improve the quality of student’s lives, both as professionals and individuals. While we have a multitude of theories and messages that we try to utilize for articulating our message there is still the question of how to facilitate actual change.

It requires more than consciousness and simple acknowledgement of a goal or problem but an action that can be quantified, tested and benchmarked. This is what I would consider the lifestyle change at the root of any self improvement process and, for me, the most important part. I need something that I can practice on a daily basis that will help me stay motivated and see actual results.

These lifestyle changes can be as simple as changing what we eat, reading more or even self affirmations. The power of these small changes is not in the act itself but rather their cumulative effect on our ability to maintain focus and effect our attitudes. After our weekend of “Leading You” training with Jobing I committed myself to making 1 lifestyle change that would, ideally, enhance my productivity and focus at work.I decided to switch my workouts from the late evening to before work. It means getting up at 5:00, but it also gives me incentive to go to bed early, lets me wind down in the evenings and energizes me before heading into the office. My point isn’t that anybody else should follow suit, only that it is something I’d been meaning to do for a long time and had put off with nothing but my own apathy as an excuse. Every one of us has at least one thing that we know we should be doing, but have justified putting off until another day. I recommend we all just get started, because after all tomorrow’s another day.

Initiation to the Real World

Last night I went to the Golden State Warriors vs. Phoenix Suns basketball game. This post is not about basketball and the millions players make, nor how it was very nice of Mary Gilbaugh to provide me with complementary tickets, but rather about the initiation college graduates have when entering the “real,” working world.

Brandon Wright around this time last year was the most recognized figure on the North Carolina campus. His lanky six foot nine frame and fifteen points per game scoring average was the subject of many basketball commentators praises as NBA scouts drooled at the opportunity of drafting him. Buying into the hype, Brandon decided to forgo his final three years of college and go to the NBA.

With the third overall selection in the draft, Brandon went to the Golden State Warriors.

Being a huge Golden State Warriors fan and Bay Area native, I have had the privilege of enjoying the best year the team has had since the ’91-’92 season. I have also seen very little of Brandon (the Mr. Wright is completely unnecessary considering he is three years younger than I). He has averaged about four points a game while appearing in half the games this season, with the other half being spent on the bench.

Last night Brandon did make an appearance in the game, albeit for about six seconds. As he joyously responded to the call to put him in the game, he was briefly corralled by the head coach before reporting to the scorers table. Brandon’s first impact on the game was immediately fouling Shaquille O’Neal, which the big man did not take a liking to. For a minute I thought Shaq was going to break Brandon’s braces with one swift jab. With that, Brandon was quickly taken back out of the game and took a seat on the bench, where he would not move from for the remainder of the contest.

What Brandon did for the Warriors is what an entry-level college grad would do for his first employer. Fouling Shaq was like getting a cup of coffee, or washing the boss’s car. Both are meager tasks only assigned to rookies, for no other good reason other than to give the message of “welcome to the real world. If you think you’re going to own this business in six months you’re wrong. Now take a seat back on the bench/cubicle.”

Follow the Leader

This weekend myself and two other members of the Pursue the Passion tour will be attending Jobing’s leadership retreat, “Leading You”. I have been able to learn very little about the nature of the training from my coworkers who seem to have been sworn to secrecy. I think it’s pretty clear we’re being taken to Vegas to be taught how to count cards. We will then be sent out to earn the bulk of Jobing’s revenue at the table.

Just in case I’m wrong, I’ve been trying to imagine what leadership training would entail. It initially strikes me as counter-intuitive that you can be taught to be a leader. Wouldn’t the nature of that role require you to blaze the trail yourself, choosing the direction and establishing the boundaries based on personal benchmarks and beliefs?

At the same time, on our trip those we interviewed repeatedly stressed the importance of good mentors. It helps to have someone you can look to for advice and example, not just learning the specifics of your job but the dynamics of a broader skill set that will ensure your success.

The conclusion I’ve come to going into my own leadership training is that there is value in teaching leadership skills. The practices and distinctions that allow you to set the standard as opposed to living the standard are part of a broader learned skill set. However, there is clearly an innate capacity for leadership that some possess and some don’t. While you can teach individuals to lead, you cannot teach all individuals to lead.

Maybe the most important thing to realize is that each of us has a certain capacity for leadership and achieving that simply requires flawless execution of our role at that level. Not all of us want to, or can, be the star. Some of us are role players exhibiting eccentric strengths. Vitally important, but tilted towards a certain end of the spectrum. The hard part is identifying what those strengths are and playing up to those, rather than far more numerous weaknesses.

Freeloader Service Review

How often do you receive customer service on a level that compels you to tell people of your consumer fortune. I’m guessing not often enough… Well, last night I had such and experience and can’t wait to sing praises.

Last night Brett and I left the house at 6:30 to play a little pick up basketball. In our hurry to get to the courts we neglected to have dinner, and while our lack of sustenance proved no factor in our on court dominance it did bite at 10:00 o’clock when we left to go home. After urgent deliberation we decided to head to Joe’s NY Pizza at 7321 E. Shoeman Ln. in Old Town Scottsdale.

When we arrived I realized that, despite an assurance to Brett that I could pay for both of us, I had forgotten my wallet. On top of that I managed to lock my keys in the car during my moronic confusion. Luckily Brett had left his window open a crack and after we got my keys we headed in to place an order that we would have to return to pick up.

I don’t know if our apparent helplessness contributed but after looking at us and hearing our plan the manager, Lori, suggested we just take advantage of her offer for free slices. That’s right, derelict neglect of adult responsibility got us free pizza. Such is life for Pursue the Passion.

With complete objectivity I can say the pizza was phenomenal and we will be back many times. All because of this one small act of customer service, or in this case freeloader service.

The Perfect Season

Last night my softball team completed a long streak seldom achieved in the annals of sports. It’s the type of result that cannot be realized without a strong team effort and consistency of play. Despite the pressure and palpable expectation, we put on our game faces, played one of our best games of the year and loss for the 15th time in a row. That’s right, we went 0-fer, the perfect season. Apparently the losers don’t get lucky sometimes.

I’ve been thinking about this all day. I’ve never been on a team so arguably competitive yet so proven to be terrible. My new theory is to blame our mental preparation. Halfway through the season we had become so accustomed to losing that we were preconditioned to fail. I watched our best players go the way of our worst and our bad players struggle to remember their mitts. There’s no way to experience defeat that consistently without at least subconscious participation in the destruction. We went to play without expectation and walked away essentially unaffected, tacitly approving of our defeat.

In the future we need to work on our mental prep, poised to take advantage of those points in the game where we can tip the scales and get the W. It’s important to visualize the win, act as if and think positive. We should also learn to hit.

Receding Pessimism

By no means am I an economist. I am not qualified to write this article. That’s why this post is merely a paraphrase of an article I read last night in Forbes, written by Rich Karlgaard, which said we don’t need to worry about going into a recession for three reasons.

1) This is an election year. Therefore all we hear about in the media are the bad things that candidates will improve upon if elected. The sub-prime mortgage crisis. A receding economy. Mr. Karlgaard made the point that there has been $150 billion already written off in the sub-prime mortgage mess. Standing alone, this number makes jaws drop at coffee shops nationwide. But this number, when taken into context, makes up about 1% of the $13.86 trillion that is the GDP of the United States . In other words, it doesn’t hurt the economy as much as we might be led to believe.

2) The incompetence of business journalists. Mr. Karlgaard told the truth about business journalists. He said they are mostly failed sportswriters. He went on to make a pathetic pitch about how Forbes writers are great, and then went on to say that it takes a lot to be a business journalist. You need great communication skills. The ability to ask CEO’s tough questions. Great business sense. An insatiable attitude towards research. Most of those that possess these skills go into business themselves or get a job consulting. Very few chose the low pay of a business journalist. This, Karlgaard argues, thins the pool of talent, which lowers the quality of information reported.

To support that claim, just on the way to work my carpooling accomplice informed me of how the New York Times, arguably the most respectable publication in the world, ran a front-page story on an author who produced a stunning memoir about an impoverished upbringing. A week later it was realized that the memoir turned out to be fiction after the author’s sister called in to say the stories were untrue, and that author was in fact from a suburb of Los Angeles.

3) Statistics. Tying the 70% disapproval rating of our President with the 70% of Americans who believe our economy is heading towards recession, Karlgaard said that it was too much of a coincidence to not take a look at.

Are we going into a recession? There are people much more qualified than I am to answer that question. Even the experts aren’t certain. But I thought I’d share these points with you because it defies what is now conventional thinking, serving as a reminder that there are always two sides to the coin.

Where is my mind?

This week was my first spent entirely in the office and provided me with a much needed opportunity to work on the documentary. Watching video of our trip for ten hours while intermittently trying to engage myself in real world conversations has left me red eyed, frazzled and unnecessarily brazen. Our trip promoted a certain sensibility, characteristic of irreverence, spontaneity and indulgent personal analysis.

One moment I’m inside the RV moving at 80 miles per hour, blitzing up the northwest coastline while eating month old baked goods, listening to Bob Marley and arguing with Noah about the fundamental nature and significance of work. That’s when Brett taps me on the shoulder and tells me we’ve got a strategy meeting for the PTP Program. I was about to interview the Director of Shoe Design at Jordan!

Everyone else is in the present while I’m resurfacing from this fictional world that hardly seemed real while it was happening. Let’s just say I’m slightly unpredictable at that point. Brett wants to know who’s driving to lunch and I think we should hitchhike.

But, I have to say I love the creative process and the task of building something from the bottom up. As I’m watching footage the themes are taking form in my mind and I’m allowed a chance to evaluate a significant time in my life on a level few are permitted. I get to decide how to tell my own story… Hopefully, someone wants to hear it.