What type of problem are you solving?
There are generally three types of problems to solve. Resulting in 3 types of businesses; aspirins, vitamins and jellybeans.
Aspirins. These are acute problems that are causing immediate pain. They are a throbbing pain that is affecting our day and how we interact with everyone. We don’t want to work on anything until we deal with this pain.
Mechanics who fix cars that break down, are solving an acute pain, and thus running an aspirin business.
Vitamins. These are non-immediate problems. Their impact is so small that it can be easily neglected, but if not addressed, over time can cause pain and issues.
Auto-maintenance shops who do oil changes, detailing, cleaning and aesthetic bodywork are solving non-immediate pains, and running a vitamin business.
Jellybeans. These are not pains, but sought out gains. These are sometimes known as “nice to have”; luxuries, entertainment, and fun sought out items or experiences that are fulfilling immediate or long-term desires.
Luxury car dealerships are usually selling the lifestyle that one gets to live when driving their brand new top of the line, limited edition, exclusive car. And are thus running a jelly bean business.
When marketing the value of your business or product, we must first understand how our customer sees the problem and solution.
Is it an Aspirin? A Vitamin? or a Jellybean?
Leadership isn’t an opportunity; it’s an obligation — a responsibility for every one of us.
We live in an age with the highest amount of opportunity.
A 14-year old boy in high-school can start an online skateboard shop. He can design his boards, contact suppliers through Alibaba and revolutionize the skateboard industry.
A 21-year old filmmaker can get creative on YouTube. He can film, create and build a community, all while making a living as a ‘youtuber.’ Living a more fulfilling life than the student who chose a major in accounting because the career is stable.
Never has a beginner artist had such an opportunity to build a career selling their art, teaching their craft, and building a community through social media.
Never has an entrepreneur had such access to manufactures and suppliers, through a worldwide infrastructure.
Never have there been so many tribes and communities led by young and old, with no past leadership experience, but love for the community, and a passion that unites them.
Never has any generation before you had the opportunity to lead like we do today.
Many young millennials are outshining Gen X in many leadership positions because we’ve been groomed and trained to look at the world as Global Citizens. See the world is full of abundance.
There is a tribe for every leader who seeks to create.
There is an opportunity for every person who wants to lead.
The opportunity is no longer in scarcity. Therefore leadership is no longer an opportunity.
It is a responsibility that we must all take to make our world a better place.
To create the impact we’ve dreamt of having.
To leave a dent in the universe.
One of the most effective techniques to turn someone from an adversary to a teammate is by getting them to engage in the problem-solving process. Though it’s much easier said than done.
Perhaps they’re not an adversary, but someone who’s neutral, or holds the final decision and you want them to be on your ‘side.’
As Chris Voss puts it in his book on negotiation, “Never Split the Difference,” the most effective negotiation technique is to engage with a “How question.”
A “how question” shares the problem-solving responsibility with the opposing individual.
Chris Voss recalls when a hostages’ wife, while on the phone, in front of the FBI asked the hostage taker, “How do I know my husband is still alive?” This stumped all the FBI agents. As they would routinely ask questions that would require the hostage taker to get an answer from the victim; such as “what is his mother’s maiden name?”
But when asked “How do I know my husband is still alive?” to the amazement of the FBI, the hostage taker put her husband on the phone to confirm that he was still alive.
The first step of a negotiation is to get engagement. By engaging the hostage taker in solving the problem, they had little choice but to work with the FBI. Ask “how questions” leads to a collaborative negotiation.
While we don’t have as drastic of situations in our day to day work, we can utilize these questions to engage in active team building dialogue.
How would you use this technique to get closer to your goal?
You are going to die – The Monopoly Story
Quite some time ago, psychologist James Dobson shared a story and analogy from the world of games.
James’ grandmother introduced him to the game Monopoly. While teaching him, she would always say at the end of every game, “one day you’ll learn to play the game.
While he recalls that she was a loving person, she was also the most ruthless Monopoly player he’s ever known. She understood that the name of the game is to acquire.
Like any beginner player, James would want to save the money he got from the bank. While his grandmother would buy everything, she landed on. She would accumulate everything and eventually become the master of the board. This happened every time they played.
Day in and day out, James would hold on to his money in anticipation of having to pay his grandmother rent. Eventually, she would take every last dollar. Then she would always say the same thing.
She’d look at James and say, “one day, you’ll learn to play the game.” James hated hearing that at the end of every game. Felt like she was taunting him.
That summer, James spent months playing with the neighbourhood children, and he learned to play the game. He came to understand that the only way to win is to make a total commitment to acquisition. James recalled becoming more ruthless than his grandmother and was willing to bend the rules if I had to, to win the game.
That fall, James challenged his grandmother to a game of Monopoly. He recalls how he slowly, and relentlessly beat her; “I took everything she had. I destroyed her financially and psychologically. I watched her give her last dollar and quit in utter defeat. It was the greatest moment of my life.”
Then his grandmother had one more thing to teach him. She said:
“Now it all goes back in the box.”
After pausing she continued, “all the houses and hotels, railroads and utility companies, all that property and all that wonderful money – now it all goes back in the box.”
James frustrated with his grandmother barked back, saying that it didn’t matter and that he won this time! What she said next has stuck with him for life.
“None of it was really yours. You got all heated up about it for a while, but it was around a long time before you sat down at the board, and it will be here after you’re gone. Players come, and players go. But it all goes back in the box.”
Through his story, James illustrates the importance of not being too attached to our material objects. How upon death, we all end up back in the box.
However, I’d like to draw out another lesson.
The relationships you developed with the people who played the game don’t go back in the box. The impact you left on those people lasts beyond your life. It’s not so much about winning the game, but about whom you played the game with.
As leaders, it’s all about relationships.
What if playing the game monopoly was the means by which we created relationships. Moreover, our acquisitions used to amplify the good we leave behind.
For what we do for ourselves is gone when we are gone. But we do for others is our legacy.
My father would remind of this lesson throughout life.
I was of the lucky few individuals whom we would classify in life as “injury-prone.” So much so that my older brother started to joke that I would have to sign waiver forms before we did sports together.
In grade 7, I was playing basketball at school, and I landed poorly on my left foot, causing a significant ankle sprain. The kind of sprain that would keep you off your foot for a week, and hobbling for another. I recall skipping on one foot entering the waiting room, as my father walked in behind me.
“It really hurts, do you think it’s broken?” I recall asking him.
“You know this pain you feel?” My dad rhetorically asked. “In a couple of weeks, you’ll have forgotten all about it, like many pains in life, it’s painful at the moment. But soon after, it’s gone and almost like it never happened.”
Though he didn’t answer my question, the depth of his answer stuck with me. We forget the pain.
Grade 8, I broke my thumb playing volleyball. I know, out of all the sports, and all the things I could break, yes, my thumb. And there was my dad again, rushing me to the doctors waiting room.
He kindly reminded me, as I was in agonizing pain over my thumb, “Do you remember the pain you felt from your ankle?”
The humour is not lost on me, as I sprained my right ankle in high school. Got severely hit in the eye playing basketball and hospitalized. Lastly breaking my right ankle while in University.
My father never let an opportunity go to remind me of the time before, as we spent many hours in emergency rooms, and waiting rooms. As we waited 7 hours in emergency one time over my getting hit in the eye injury, he cracked a smile and said;
“Pain is temporary, and we forget it all as soon as it passes, we have to push through it. God designed us this way. It’s probably the only reason women are willing to give birth more than once.”
I had a good laugh at that one.
The truth is one that you already know. Pain is temporary. It may last for an hour, for a couple of days, and sometimes even months. But at one point it does go away, and we all forget about it.
We forget the pain.
So why not go through it, if it’ll get you to a better place?
The pain of high stress, and pushing yourself past your limits. The pain of waking up earlier, pushing more weights at the gym, making that extra meeting, working extremely long hours, all for that breakthrough.
What pain have you been avoiding that you know if you buckled down for 90-days and pushed through it, that you’ll be living a much happier and fuller life?
Have you ever seen an elephant at a circus? Magnificent creatures. Enormous in size, and truly dominating in presence. Have you seen them when they’re not performing and just in the back awaiting their turn?
Circus elephants typically have a rope wrapped around their foot and knotted onto a small pole that’s wedged into the ground for the purpose of keeping the elephant in that area. It’s quite strange to see this 5000 kg elephant tied to this small, dinky poll. One forceful pull and surely the elephant could break the pole into pieces.
Perhaps the elephant doesn’t actually want to leave, but then, why would they be tied to the pole in the first place?
Much to my surprise, I learned that the elephants don’t think they can break free. You see, when the elephants are very young and much smaller, the trainers use larger ropes to tie them to the pole. At that young age, many elephants will try to break free but the rope and pole is sufficient to hold them. Many months of attempts to break free, and failures to escape have them grow up conditioned to believe that they cannot break away.
Though these powerful creatures can break free from their bonds at any time, they don’t, because at one point in their childhood, they learned that they could not.
Their present strength is limited by their past experiences.
How many of us still think we can’t do something, because we failed at it when we were younger?
How many of us hold on to childhood struggles and memories, as if they were still true to our capacities today?
How many of us go through life holding onto a belief that we once thought was true, and have not challenged ourselves past it?
These are called our limiting beliefs, and they affect our mindset. No you’re not ‘messed up’ for having limiting beliefs, in fact, we all have them about something in our lives.
By identifying these limiting beliefs, you can bring them into your conscious mind. Begin to slowly rewire your way of thinking by challenging yourself when those thoughts reappear.
I was recently speaking to a class of high school students that are part of the school’s leadership LINK crew. The grade 12 students are linked with younger students and tasked with leadership roles throughout the year.
At the end of my presentation, one of the students politely asked; “If there was one thing I could do every day that would help me be a better leader, what would you suggest?”
I found joy in the simplicity of my response, as I tend to overcomplicate things.
“Do one thing every day, that nobody asked you to do.”
It’s quite simple, but perhaps the most powerful thing any of us can do.
Want to get a job, even though you’ve applied 100 places? Pick up the phone and call, schedule a meeting, or stop by the office – all these acts will show your initiative. Instead, most of us do only what we’re asked; submit a cover letter and CV.
Want to get a promotion at your job? Start doing one thing at work that’s outside of your role, where nobody asked, but you took the initiative. Instead, most of us say, “Well that’s not my job.”
Want to have a better relationship? Do something for your partner without being asked, or without it being a special occasion. Or, simply ask your partner, “How can I make things better?”
Want to be a leader? Don’t wait for permission; begin to act. Real leaders don’t need a position or permission. They simply see life as a series of choices and decisions.
Leaders take the initiative in every part of their life.
What’s your one thing for today?
These past weeks have been overwhelming, and my time has been split between many different areas. I began to feel like I couldn’t keep up with my never-ending to-do list. It’s times like these that I go back to my TO-DO LIST PRINCIPLES of Getting Shit Done.
- If the task takes less than 5 minutes to do – DO IT NOW.
- If someone else can do this to 70% satisfaction level – DELEGATE IT NOW.
- If it doesn’t align with your priorities – LET IT SIT (I call this the parking lot).
- Otherwise, SCHEDULE a time to do it. Yes, block out 1-2 hours of time in your calendar to do that task, as you would for a meeting.
- Action begets action. Contrary to popular belief start with the small stuff if you’re feeling overwhelmed.
- Do the things that need willpower and focus, early on in the day.
- Schedule meetings and calls with people for late afternoon 3:00 pm and onwards.
While I was working for Urban Quest developing City Chase Ottawa, my direct supervisor bluntly told me,
“If you’re going to be busy, you better be organized.” Her name was Kelly, we called her Klu-Bot.
She was a machine. Nobody got more shit done than her.
A ceramics art teacher wants to conduct a little social experiment.
The teacher wanted to prove to his students that quality trumps quantity.
He said, “Today we’re going to make the best ceramic pots.”
He split the class into two groups. Instructed the first half that they will be marked by the quantity of pots they produced. The more you build, the better your mark. He told the second half of the class that they will be marked on the quality of the pot they make. The students had an hour and a half to complete their pots. When the students finished their pieces, the teacher lined them up to compare.
To the teacher’s surprise, his social experiment did not turn out the way he assumed. He had assumed that the students who had focused on the quality of their one pot, would have had the best pieces. But the results showed that the group who had focused on the quantity created the better pots.
Dumbfounded he asked his students, “Wait, how did that even happen?”
One of the students replied “well… the more pots I created, the better I got at creating pots. So I made my mistakes in the first few, but got better by the time I made the final one.”
Meanwhile, the students who focused on quality spent all their time trying to fix the first poor pot they made.
We hold the assumption that quality trumps quantity. Even more, that they are trade-offs, where we sacrifice one for the other. But what if they were more connected?
As we can see, in creativity and leadership, quantity leads to quality.
So when we embrace the quantity of our failures and start looking at them as attempts, we can begin to be confident that we’re on the journey of quality and success.
I hate making mistakes. I do. It’s not so much that I hate being wrong. It’s that I hate making silly mistakes. Avoidable mistakes that shouldn’t have happened in the first place.
I grew up playing volleyball and played more competitively in high school. There’s an old saying that says “volleyball is a game of mistakes.” The team that can avoid the most mistakes while causing the other side to make mistakes would win.
Forced errors and unforced errors.
Forced errors were when the 6’8” kid would hit the ball so hard that you could barely get a hand on it, let alone correctly pass it back to your setter. It was an error that was forced by a tremendous play by your opponent.
An unforced error was missing a serve. It was an error that was made by no fault except your own.
“We can’t win if you can’t serve the ball!” I recall our coach yelling.
And so we developed a defensive mentality. A mentality to avoid making mistakes. Avoid the unforced errors.
The problem is that we always played it safe. When it was time to hit the ball more aggressively, we’d peel off a bit out of fear of hitting the ball out of the court.
I see this same mentality occurring in my own life, my fear of making the wrong move. A fear of making the wrong decision. A fear of making an unforced error. I get stuck, unable to make decisions or commit because of doubt that it may not be the right one.
But unlike volleyball, nobody is keeping score in life. It’s filled with forced and unforced errors, but it isn’t necessarily a game of mistakes.
Perhaps instead, it’s a game of attempts.
I heard a successful entrepreneur speaking at Canada’s Startup Day on the Hill say,
“In Silicon Valley, if you’ve failed three times people say, ‘you’re so close! You’re bound to succeed in the next one’, but in Canada, if you’ve failed three times people say, ‘it’s time to call it for what it is, you’re not made for this, go get a job in the government.'”
Fearing to make a mistake, is the biggest mistake of them all.