How To Work A Room Like Joe Biden

One area this blog explores is the subtle things successful people do differently than the rest. (When I speak of success, I mean achievement in any field, and by any measure — doesn’t just mean financial success.)

Have you ever watched a politician or high-power executive work a room, and wonder what these “successful” people say (or do) differently than you?

A case-study is Joe Biden, who many say is extremely personable, and great at making people quickly feel comfortable. I can’t comment from personal experience what methods he uses to accomplish this, but I came across a video of Joe working the room at last week’s Senate swearing in ceremony, which gives some insight into his tactics.  (By the way, I’m equally interested in how Reagan worked a room, so please don’t read anything into the subject of this commentary.)

Here are a few things I notice about how he works a room: Read more of this post

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Opinionated Product Development

I was recently speaking with an entrepreneur about a failed software start-up, reflecting on lessons learned.

During our chat, I shared a thought that has crystalized over some years of experience: the idea that as a software company, you need to have a perspective on how the world works (or how it could work).  You could call this an opinion.

When your product has an opinion, it is capable of resonating with Clients, Users, and Partners.  If your product is opinionated, you may find that people drawn to the product because of the ideas and possibilities it inspires.

For example: at MindFire we’re trying to solve the challenge of how to do marketing automation in an increasingly multi-channel world, while maintaining our mission of helping marketers generate higher quality leads for their sales team.

We’re certainly not the only ones trying to solve this challenge. But we have a set of ideas, theories, and hypotheses embedded in our platform, which add up to give our software  a point of view — a way of seeing the world. (By the way, I believe these hypotheses are what you try to validate with a minimally viable product; read more about that here)

I think it is good to have opinionated product development. By that, I don’t mean that you should have a product development team of jerks and a-holes — but that there needs to be a strong sense of what drives the product and its values.  

Otherwise, it is easy to fall victim to development by committee, which is one of the things that seems to have led to problems for the entrepreneur I mentioned earlier.

What do you think?  Does the idea of opinionated product development make sense?  What are some of the dangers of opinionated development?

 

Lessons Learned Filing a Software Patent

Over the years, we’ve filed trademarks and copyrights (which are interesting in their own right), and now I’m having a great time working on some patents for various aspects of our product suite.

I’ll share some information that might be helpful if you find yourself in a similar situation: Read more of this post

People Don’t Buy ‘What’ You Do, They Buy ‘Why’ You Do it

If you’ve never visited TED.com, you really need to take a look. It’s filled with glorious ideas that are candy for your brain. Each speaker does a short presentation (no more than 20 minutes) on a very specific topic.  It’s easy to get sucked in for hours listening to different thought-leaders.

One such presenter and topic is Simon Sinek and his “Golden Circle” philosophy.

In a nutshell, Simon believes that people don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.  He argues that for leaders to inspire action from their employees, customers, or anyone else involved in their mission, they have to successfully communicate the why behind their ideas.

As he puts it:

Martin Luther King, Jr. gave the ‘I have a dream’ speech, not the ‘I have a plan’ speech.

Simon has written a book called “Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action,” where he lays out a process for getting to your why.

If you have a moment, watch the video (18 minutes); I think you’ll find it worth your time.  What do you think of this concept?

The Difference: Problems of Opportunity v. Problems of Existence

Since I met “J” (who is homeless and lives under a bridge), I’ve taken to using a mental image of him to help me get over myself.

Here’s what I mean:  During this morning’s drive to work, I contemplated a number of issues facing us at home and at work.  I’m sure you have a similar list of concerns, worries, and irritations.

I suddenly realized that most (if not all) of my problems are born out of opportunity  — whereas J’s problems (and those faced by billions) are existential problems.

What’s the difference?  A problem born out of opportunity is one like, “Should my wife go back to work, or stay home with our daughter?“, whereas an existential problem is one that threatens our existence.  For example, “What will I eat or feed my children today?

In other words, what I perceive to be problems are situations brought about by the fact that I’m blessed — not a victim.

Let’s break down the problem of opportunity (Should my wife go back to work, or stay home with our daughter?) into its component blessings:

  • Blessing: I have a beautiful wife (and she chose to marry me); she’s also healthy!
  • Blessing: My wife has a great job (not everyone has a job)
  • Blessing: My wife’s job is waiting for her (not always the case)
  • Blessing: We have a home (certainly not always the case)
  • Blessing: We have a healthy daughter (not every child is healthy — plus, not everyone is able to have kids!)

Broken apart in this way, my problem is composed of multiple blessings that bring about additional situations to consider — but unlike the problems faced by others in this world, none are life threatening.

They’re merely by-products of having opportunities.  Why is it so hard to remember this?

I challenge you to name a problem you’re facing.  Next, list the blessings your challenge is born from.  Does your perspective change?  

How to Build a High Traffic Blog Without Going Crazy: Secrets From Tim Ferriss

A few years ago at the Inc500 conference, I had an opportunity to meet Tim Ferriss, author of “The 4-Hour Work Week,” “4-Hour Body,” and “4-Hour Chef” (all three are New York Times and WSJ best-sellers). Tim has a great blog at fourhourworkweek.com/blog/, and has built a successful empire around his content.

Around the same time as the Inc500 event, Tim spoke at the WordPress Conference about how to build and optimize a high traffic blog.

Even though it was a few years ago, some of the lessons are still helpful and relevant. Here’s a summary of some of the interesting points:

Read more of this post

What’s The Difference Between You and J?

This is where I met J.

This is where I met J.

As I hugged him, I could see he was crying.  He kept saying, “Man, I’m so tired.  I’m really just so tired…I just want to rest.”

All I could think of to say was, “I know.  It’s ok.  I know.

But really, I’m lying. I have no idea.

And so do very few of the people passing us on either side, as they make their way to and fro within the Target parking lot.  For a brief moment, I forget about them, and what they might be thinking, as I just let this man cry.

In an hour and a half, this 44-year old man I’ll call “J” shared his story with me.  Of how little by little, he crept closer and closer to the streets, until finally he found himself living under a bridge in a nearby city. Read more of this post

What’s Your Casket Score?

Earlier today, a friend and I attended a men’s gathering at Rock Harbor.  The discussion centered on how as guys, we need to foster and invest in strong relationships with a small group of other dudes.

(The same is true for ladies, but it seems to be easier for them … guys don’t seem to be as naturally wired for community.)

The speaker said he finds that most guys don’t have a “best friend.”  The next thing he said struck me:

Imagine that a casket requires 6 people to carry it – 6 people who are the best of friends with the deceased.  If tomorrow were your funeral, how many close friends would be carrying your casket?

Really makes you stop and think.  Do you have enough close (best) friends to carry your casket?

What’s your casket score?

Fact or Fiction: A Home Business = Freedom?

For many, the idea of owning a business is synonymous with freedom, flexibility, and riches. In another post, I’ll explore this notion, as I can argue both sides of that statement: I’ve seen many business owners become consumed by their business, to the point where the business owns them.  They’re miserable.

But that’s for another day.

Today, the question is whether it is possible to have a small at-home business that provides a meaningful level of financial and personal freedom. By meaningful, I mean something that generates the equivalent of a full-time income, with the possibility of scaling beyond that should there be a desire. Read more of this post

Success-hack: Using an Issue Log to Improve Personal Performance

Are you interested in what makes certain people and organizations more successful than others? Have you ever wondered what they do differently than you?

I don’t believe there is one magical formula, but I do think there are certain tactics that successful organizations and people have that contribute to their success.

One such tactic is an “Issue Log“. Read more of this post

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