To achieve great things, two things are needed: a plan, and not quite enough time. – Leonard Bernstein
Struck by the response I received from last weeks post, Why Motivated People are Waaay More Productive, I asked myself this question, “What does it mean to actually believe that you have everything you need to build something way bigger than yourself?” If you are an entrepreneur who wants to build something great then you need to ask yourself this question as well. This is part one of this series.
I had to ask myself this question a couple weeks ago. Biking home I passed a man sitting beside his car at an intersection. The only thought that went through my mind was, “That’s strange for him to be parked there, it’s kind of dangerous.” As I pedal past the intersection I heard someone yelling at me, turning around I saw the man at the car gesturing at me. Screeching my brakes to a halt I spun my bike around, waited for a car to pass, and went to see what was up. Turns out that while driving his car this man, now sitting beside the road, suddenly broke out in a sweat became nauseas and pulled over. Through broken breaths he explained that he was completely disoriented, dizzy and needed help. After speaking to a 911 responder on a cell phone a police officer arrived at the scene and I was released to go. As I biked away I had this thought, why hadn’t I stopped, why did I assume he had everything taken care of? I always imagined that in moments of need I would rise to any challenge and be the hero. But I hadn’t done that, instead I had biked right past this guy without stopping.
This got me thinking, what if I needed to make decisions about what I will do before I encountered disasters, rather than hope I will do the right thing when the moment arises. So I did just that, I made a personal choice that the next time I saw someone that looked like they may be in need (even if they are not), I would stop and ask if they needed help.
Well already a few opportunities have arisen in the last week and a half. Again while biking home last week I saw a man lying beside a women sitting in a wheelchair. But this time I braked to stop and ask if they were alright. I was quickly greeted with two laughs as the man was only adjusting something on the wheelchair. The next week while driving from a meeting I saw a man on the side of the road gesturing to the traffic. As a car drove past I spun my car around and pulled over and asked if they needed help. Turns out they did. They needed jumper cables. Luckily I had some and we were able to start their car.
The moral of the story isn’t that I am a hero. No, it’s that I’m not a hero, yet after making the decision to help first and ask later I’ve found myself responding to opportunities where I would normally have driving past. I think that my change in behaviour is interesting. It has me wondering if we are wired to act on decisions that we have already made, rather than hoping we will make the right decision in the moment. In other words, will indecision lead to inaction and vice versa. Even as I write this I can think of numerous examples where I can see this applying elsewhere, but I won’t write all those thoughts now. Instead I would love to hear your thoughts on this, have you noticed pre-decisions making a difference in your life or business? Or do you think it matters at all?
I have a colleague who is passionate about chocolate. But not just passionate about consuming it, but radically passionate about where he is consuming it from. I discovered this passion one day after giving him a Mars bar. For the next two days the bar sat unopened on his desk until he could determine without a shadow of a doubt that the cocoa beans were not purchased from plantations that involved child slavery. He could not, and the chocolate was politely returned to me. An interesting conversation followed about the horrific world of child-slavery and African cocoa beans.
The thought that our everyday choices could be impacting the world around us is unnerving. As a business owner I am out there creating products, in my case it is web products, whereas you might be creating products in an entirely different space. And from my perspective the thought that is even more unnerving is that we are relying on consumers to make the ethical decisions. Are we creating a product that is ethical? Or are we making a product that makes it really easy to be unethical? Like the tasty chocolate bars fuelling child slavery. (Not all chocolate bars are made from plantations using child-slavery and Mars Bar may not use child-slavery either).
Some people don’t care about this. I’ve heard the following statement just a couple weeks ago, “First make money, then care about making the world a better place.” I wrote another post on the 10 traits of a leader, which is a summary of a talk given by Dave Olson. One of the points is that you can look around a room and see the leaders by observing where the buck stops. Who is taking responsibility for the problems and doing something about them. That is the leader. When we create products we often avoid the awkward questions and pass the responsibility onto either the consumer or the factory managers? We have the ability to empower people to make good decisions by giving them good products. However, if we aren’t taking responsibility for our product lines then we aren’t being leaders.
With the web we have a huge opportunity to use technology to empower the individual to shape one’s own self. Let’s give people more of the good choices. Let’s be leaders.
Last night was awesome. I got to sit and listen to three guys talk about their journey starting a business and keeping their values in tact. I learned how they made really important, life-altering decisions. Like how Lance, as the original animator of the game, came to the major conclusion to make all the characters in the game penguins. His reasoning? “It was easier to animate a wobble than a walk.” In all seriousness, these three guys Dave, Lance and Lane built a really cool game, Club Penguin, and a really amazing business while keeping their values in tact. I am writing this blog post as much to share their unique story with you, as for myself, just to unravel what I heard with the kinds of questions I face every day.
I want to be part of a business that holds its values highly, doesn’t care about what “normal business” is, and creates a culture where everyone is free to become better. Sitting, listening, to these guys, reminded me just how much I want that. I’m sorry, but I don’t think money is the only goal. I think making money must come secondary to humanity. Every time. These guys really knew their values, and when big decisions came they didn’t have to run numbers and sacrifice their values. They let their values decide.
How many of you have heard the phrase “business is business”. I have, sometimes it feels like I am hearing it weekly. In my opinion it’s a copout. And after hearing these three talk, I really believe it is. It is saying that we don’t need to be accountable for how we are treating people because making more money is the highest priority. It’s sad, but that disease of thinking seems to have penetrated our business culture so deeply.
The founders of Club Penguin, Lance, Lane and Dave, told a very different narrative. They spoke of how they built a company with a culture that cared about each other. It didn’t calculate shares based on numerical value, but based on a fair partnership. When they sold their company to Disney they insisted that their company continue donating a portion of their revenue. When Disney acquired Club Penguin it instantly became Disney’s largest donation department.
When things get stressful or scary we can sometimes feel like we are unqualified to make the right decision. We look around to see what others are doing and we can sacrifice our values for security. Lance Merrifield said that every bad decision he made was when it was made out of fear. Why do we think fear is a good motivator if we make bad decisions when we are afraid? Lets know our values so well that when we are afraid we can stop and ask, does this really align with my core values? Or am I doing this because everyone else is doing it this way? As the old metaphor goes, just because everyone is jumping off a bridge doesn’t make it a good idea.
Club Penguin is an inspiration because they demonstrate that it’s possible to build companies differently. Let’s build great companies without sacrificing our core values. Let’s change the norm of business. One day we are going to look back and money won’t matter. What will matter is our family and how we treated those around us.
I’m just going to straight out say it. Our test of intelligence is wrong! Not only is it wrong, but it is crippling people’s confidence for no good reason. As a society we love our heros. I love Spiderman, that guy is amazing, he’s quick witted, out-smarts his enemy and has the agility of a spider. That’s pretty cool. But spiderman is not real. We often create great stories of our real heroes too. Einstein, great guy, huge imagination and remarkably intuitive. He proposed theories 55+ years ago that modern physicists rely heavily on to explain the phenomenons they are discovering today. We are told that Einsteins IQ was around 160-180. But guess what folks. He never ever took an IQ test. So that number is as much a figment of our imagination as Spiderman’s ability to climb walls.
Like our notions of beauty, the idea of IQ has been largely brought to popular culture through Hollywood. Wait, you say, what about IQ tests and academic scores? I’m not saying that IQ tests are not valuable. However they more accurately tell us our current level of education than anything else. Most IQ tests are broken up in 5 parts. There is a grammar component, mathematics component, problem solving component, pattern recognition component and history component. Each test is organized a little different, but all of them contain those components. They are scored based on efficiency (time to solve), accuracy and subject knowledge. The last IQ test I took was while I was in University. There was a question that I was asked that I only knew because the class I had just taken earlier that year had talked about that exact scenario. I scored fairly high on the test. Which is great, it meant that education was doing its part, I was retaining what I was learning. But as an intelligence indicator it failed. Had I taken different courses I would not have known many of the questions.
As I am sure many university students do during school, I conducted personal experients (often with my classmates and professors as the primary subjects). While attending the University of British Columbia Okanagan I loved getting to know my professors. During those years they became some of my heroes, they are experts in their fields of study, passionate about learning and passionate about sharing that knowledge with others. So I would watch how they interacted with the students, how they graded them, and how they evaluated intelligence. Then I started watching the students, the way in which they portrayed themselves, and how their marks reflected that appearance. I learned very quickly that in certain classes, those that were graded by theoretical, abstract or essay style exams the marks had a direct correlation between the student/professor relationship. You can read more about some of that experience here. It was in those classes I came to the astonishing conclusion, that I could predict marks based on the professors relationship with the student.
This is a very long topic, something I am fascinated by and which I am going to write about again in the future. But if you took the time to read this I want to compel you to do something. Reevaluate the way in which you view intelligence. Do you assume doctors, engineers and programmers are more intelligent than say a hockey player? If so, why do you think that? Do you assume that a successful business person is more intelligent than a successful chef? Or a professor with a doctorate is more intelligent than a business person? Are people born with certain aptitudes or do we become what we believe we can become? Lastly, what are your thoughts on intelligence? I would love to hear them.