Over the past month I haven’t blogged much. I believe it’s because I didn’t feel like I had much to say and didn’t just want to make stuff up. As for this post, I’m headed to another event today and am starting to approach my world in a very different mindset than I have in the past. Most of my life I’ve been a very impatient human being. I’ve always wanted everything to happen faster than the world wanted it to happen. This has caused me some challenges in my career, in my relationships and my entire life. This need for the answer to reveal itself is something that I looked at as a need. If I didn’t have the answer I was looking for I would not be happy.
I have often written about my thoughts about happiness. I define happiness as the state in which all of our needs are met. So, if I need to have the future reveal itself before it’s ready than how can I be happy? I usually walk around in a state of calm yet lacking that true sense of happiness and completion. Maybe, just maybe, letting go of the need for the answer to be revealed and just living with what is will provide a better experience. I seem to be approaching most interactions from a different place these days, one of more patience and one where I don’t need to have the answer. The truth is that the answer will always reveal itself when it’s ready, not when I want it to. So, the more I get to observe my world and just play my part the more happiness I feel. This might seem obvious to some, but to me this is some sort of awakening.
So how does acceptance fit into all of this? The other day I ran into a fellow dolphin, someone who I met a few years ago who told me that he was a “member of my tribe” yet he likes spending his time with sharks and helping them see the light. From the time I met him I thought that was so odd. Most of you that know me know that I share my story with anyone who will listen and I’ve found some amazing people that just don’t see things the way that I do, and now that’s just fine with me. Earlier on my journey if people didn’t agree I’d be disappointed, thinking that my ideas were not correct. I’ve come to realize that my journey is uniquely mine. There are others that I talk with that align with my views and that’s great, yet those that don’t are not wrong at all, they just live from a different worldview or a different inner voice that provides them with their own clarity.
If everything that we create in our world is just a story, which I truly believe, then none of this is true anyway. So, why be attached to other people’s responses? Why not just accept people exactly where they are and let their story be theirs. I believe I’m finding a way to intersect people where they are and then finding out why they’ve crossed my path. As a natural connector the question for me becomes, who should I be introducing them to and why? In addition to being a connector, I’m an extremely creative entrepreneur. How can I use those skills to help people who cross my path on a daily basis advance their initiatives? When I approach each day from this point of view I tend to enjoy the day more and live in a state of calm and I am more joyful. When I start to think about all the things that the world is not providing me based on the story in my head, that’s when the calm and joy go away. Does this make sense to you?
To a life well lived …..
In most situations in life I believe we react rather than act, at least that’s the way that I’ve experienced the world. One of the more interesting parts of this strategy is that many times our reactions are opposite of the actions that will get us the outcome that we desire. It’s almost like we are put on this planet with the natural instinct to react and our project in life is to stop reacting and start consciously acting, doing things that will get us the desired results that we want, rather reacting and engaging in drama. The funniest part is this is what I’ve been teaching our 17 year old daughter for the past few years, yet I find myself living out the same challenges.
In my personal life these opportunities are easy to spot. How we relate to our children, how we relate to our spouse, how we relate to our parents and siblings and friends. Most of our relationships seem to be on autopilot. We react the way that we are instinctively conditioned from birth until we realize that it’s not really working anymore. The same thing happens with business. We do things that bring us some results yet we think that if something works once than we keep using that strategy. For me, one thing that I did for most of my career is to network like crazy. I was very focused on meeting as many people as possible and pushing relationships at an unnatural speed. If I met someone that I thought I wanted to do business with I didn’t allow the relationship to mature naturally.
Over the past 2 years of starting from scratch here in San Diego, I did a hard court press since I arrived back from our global travels. I met with as many people as possible and told my story and listened to theirs. My story resonated with a handful of people and I continue to be friends with many of those people to this day. I started to filter out who I spent time with and why, the only challenge is that I was pushing. I believed that the more I pushed, the more relationships I looked to establish, the better. It’s now over 2 years since this journey started and the momentum is starting to shift and I’ve slowed down immensely on the pushing and starting to let things come to me and just enjoying the interactions with people more and more. I’m really showing up with a desire to see where things go rather than a set agenda.
This brings me to an interesting story from a recent trip to Mexico. I was staying at a friends trailer down by the beach and the community where I was staying was pretty quiet with only a few people around. I met one couple who have a beautiful little home overlooking the ocean and ended up joining them for dinner. Upon my return I noticed a man sitting by a fire just a few houses away. After parking my car I decided to head over to say hello. It turns out that the gentleman by the fire was living a very parallel life to me in so many ways. Our conversation was effortless and our points of interaction were amazing. We talked for almost 2 hours and it could have lasted so much more. I believe that this can happen all the time, that the people we’re supposed to meet are right in front of us we just need to keep our eyes open and be available.
This has been a phenomenal journey in so many ways, yet not even close to how I expected it to be. I continue to be amazed by people I expected nothing from and continue to see the opportunity in the smallest of places. Letting relationships breath and evolve while looking to be as present as possible with people I meet for the first time and those I’ve known for years. It might sound funny, but it seems to be so much easier to be present with people we meet for the first time. Once we know someone for a while we seem to assume what they’re going to say and start to tune them out. This is definitely something that I know that I need to work on personally.
To a life well lived!
We’ve all been to meetings where a bunch of people show up not knowing what to expect. The agenda goes a bit sideways, the participants hijack the meeting and the end result is not much has changed. Then, there are those rare times when the right facilitator (or facilitaors) show up and magic happens. Everyone at the meeting is engaged, the meeting flows effortlessly and you accomplish more than you ever dreamed of. Well, that happened to me yesterday.
San Diego is loaded with lots of talented leadership development experts and facilitators and I feel like I’ve met many of them. Yesterday I got to experience the brilliance of two of them, one I’ve know for a number of years and one I recently just met. The first facilitator managed the entire meeting, his name is Eric Kaufmann. Eric and I have become good friends over the past few years and he is a master at his craft. A published author, keynote speaker and someone who has chosen the path much less traveled. Eric held space for everyone, kept the meeting on track and we able to elicit the right energy to produce an end product that was just magical.
What was even more magical was the portion of the meeting that was facilitated by a new friend, Elizabeth Deicer. All I can say is this, when someone has deep experience in creating the type of organization we are looking to create, they can take less than 45 minutes to orchestrate magic that gets everyone aligned and brings clarity to an effort that has lacked clarity for many months. Sometimes we forget how nice it is to spend time with real experts, those that have invested the 10,000 hours to learn to be a master. I have learned over my career that to become a master at something is not always hard, yet most people don’t invest the time to earn the mastery. Yesterday I witnessed it twice within one meeting.
I must confess, that the quieter I was the more we accomplished. When the meeting turned to business development and the areas that I’ve focused my 10,000 hours then I was able to contribute in a meaningful way. I guess that the learning from this experience is that it is so worth it to find the right people to take on the right role in any situation. The more we surround ourselves with people that are truly expert at what they do the more we can create magic. At this point in my career I believe all I want to do is to create magic, so it’s time to find the genius in all the people that I meet and make sure I call upon the right resource at the right time.
To a life well lived …..
Later this morning I’ve been asked to participate in a webinar focused on a topic I’ve been focused on for more than 2 decades. The topic, peer collaboration for CEO’s and business owners. I facilitated my first peer event on my birthday in 1996, which is almost exactly 21 years ago. Over that time I’ve probably facilitated hundreds and hundreds of peer groups and round table discussions. I’ve also been able to coach many of these people one-on-one which has been awesome as well. So, what did I learn from all these interactions?
The first answer, I learned more about IT resellers than I ever could have imagined. Starting in 2000 we started to focus all of our energies on businesses that resold technology for Cisco, IBM, Avaya, HP, Microsoft and every other tech firm in the world. We would bring together people from across the US that didn’t compete based on the geography they covered rather than being non-competitive in a specific city, which is the model of most peer group companies. Over 15 years I must have met well over 2,000 owners and learned more about their businesses than I ever could have dreamed. We were even able to write a book about their businesses having never run one.
As for the generic learning, I realized that the best way for a business owner to learn how to grow their business is to spend time with others that are facing the same challenges that they are. The Edward Lowe Foundation, which was started by Edward & Darlene Lowe, is a non-profit that focuses on entrepreneurship. Their $105 million foundation has invested 100% of it’s efforts to help organizations develop peer programs across the globe. They have a document titled Peerspectives which is one of the best documents that I ever read about why peer groups are so powerful and what they can do for you. You can learn more about the Peerspectives model on their website.
The most famous book that outlines the power of peer collaboration or the mastermind is Think & Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill. This book outlines what the mavericks of the early part of the 20th century did to grow their empires. This include Ford, Carnegie, Rockefeller and numerous others. The book talks about how these great titans learned so much from each other rather than each learning the same lessons on their own. This, for me, is the greatest reason to join a peer group. It’s all about the stuff that you don’t know that you don’t even know. In business things happen to others that you could never imagine happening to you. Yet, by listening to their story in a confidential environment you can start to think about what you might do in a similar situation. You can share best practices in areas of business that you are expert in and you can learn from peers who have complementary strengths.
In the end, the best thing about a confidential and trusted peer group is the ability to share everything that you can’t share with anyone else. You can’t talk with your spouse about all this stuff, you can’t talk with your lawyer or accountant, and most of all you can’t share much of it with your employees. So, where do you turn to discuss the most critical issues that you’re dealing with? It has to be your peers. But, and this is a big but, you need to really get to know the people you’re spending time with. There are many times that you’ll get advice from another business owner that you met at a bar for 30 minutes, yet most of that advice is just a story not what they really did. You need to get to the truth and be able to judge the value of the information you’re receiving and that only comes with time and getting to know other business owners. I would always open a peer group by telling the group four things:
- Everything that said in the room stays in the room
- You own your own issues (which means you can share them anywhere you’d like)
- Speak from your own experience
- Focus on asking questions rather than giving advice
Over the years I’ve seen more best friends meet for the first time, seen more owners take a deep breath knowing they found a place to share their deepest darkest secrets and heard more funny and painful stories about the life of a business owner. I wouldn’t trade the past two decades for anything and I look forward to always spending time with business owners and entrepreneurs as that is what I consider home. For each owner that I spend time with I always suggest joining a peer group and I hope that you’ll join Patrick Henry and me later this morning for our webinar!
Have a great day and to a life well lived!
I continue to practice learning to just be and to stop worrying about, or being attached to, the outcome. I believe that the world is letting me know that I’m on the right path, yet there is still a lot of work to do. Because of this, along with two years of intense networking and determination, I’m having more fun in my work life than I’ve had in a very long time. I was speaking with a very good friend this past week and told him that I should have focused on developing companies around products a long time ago. He stopped me in my tracks and said that I was crazy. He pointed out that I’ve had opportunities that most people would kill for. Having owned a services company for almost 25 years allowed me to have a tremendous amount of balance in my life. This process is just the next stage of my journey, and I can take all the lessons I’ve learned and use them on this portion.
I’m approaching my 54th birthday in a few weeks and I can’t imagine retiring. So, if I just make it to the average age of 75 or so, I’m looking at another 20 years of opportunities to create should I be so lucky to live that long. I am excited to see what that time period will allow me to create and I know I won’t be doing this alone. I’ve started to reach out to current friends who might want to participate financially in some exciting companies as well as talented executives and individual contributors who not only want to make money, but also want to make a difference in the world. One of the big issues that I’ve learned through this journey, to not only bring in talented people, those talented people need to be values aligned toward a common goal.
One of the purposeful companies that I’ve been supporting for the past 18 months or so is a water company that can take brackish ground water and turn it into clean drinking water and fertilizer. The company is currently focused on processing brine that is produced by current inland water filtration plants. There are hundreds of existing water treatment facilities that create brine as a waste product and this patented process can turn this waste product into a saleable product with no waste at all. The challenge has been that no one in the US wants to trust a technology that is only working in a plant in South Africa, where the technology was created. That pilot plant in South Africa has been in operation for a couple of years and has produced amazing results, but people don’t want to be the first in the US to install the system.
The technology is actually pretty fascinating. The system takes the waste from a traditional reverse osmosis treatment plant that’s servicing inland water (not salt water) and uses a process called ion exchange to take the waste and recombine the molecules into a usable product known as potassium nitrate. Potassium nitrate is valuable and is used as fertilizer for high valued crops. Most of the world’s supply of potassium nitrate comes from outside the US, so creating a process that creates fertilizer here could be extremely effective on many fronts. The key to the opportunity is to get the first plant built in the US and then the opportunities will continue to show themselves.
Well, just last month a company that also uses ion exchange to process the brine was identified in El Paso, TX. They have built a very similar plant with the only difference being that the company in Texas creates gypsum instead of fertilizer. That plant should pave the way after numerous years of hard work by Aubrey and Glenn Howard, the driving forces behind the efforts. Aubrey has been talking with hundreds of prospective buyers for the technology and taking meeting after meeting looking for the right opportunity. It has been exciting and frustrating at the same time, yet persistence will pay off in the end.
One of the more interesting developments during this process is that the more I pursue these business opportunities the more I enjoy the coaching work I’m doing. When I was just focused on coaching and building a coaching business I realized that everything would always depend on me and that there was no opportunity to create value without my investment of time. This hybrid approach, combined with giving away time to make a difference through Purpose San Diego, is creating a nice picture for the next stage of my career. If you ever have any questions about the projects that I’m working on, or if you have a project where you believe I can be of service, please don’t hesitate to reach out.
To a life well lived …..
I continue to tell our kids that life is a big collection of lessons and that once you learn the lesson you get the next lesson. Life is not about “getting to the end” it’s about the journey and purely the journey. When it comes to lessons, I’ve found sometimes I learn a lesson at one point in my life only to relive the lesson at some point in the future. The lesson that’s coming up for me again at this point on my journey is that of preacher. At numerous points in my life I’ve learned a lesson that has deeply affected my world. In my late 20’s and early 30’s it was all about motivation and positive mental attitude. I told everyone that I met that they needed to get motivated and they “needed” to change their life in order to be happy.
In most of our lives we come across people that need to tell their story and preach about what they’ve learned. I’ve been that person numerous times, I’ve even written books about it. For some people they’re able to do this in a way that is very well received, yet for me it hasn’t shown up that way. This time the lesson has shown up in the concept of purpose and meaning in life. I’ve spent the past few years talking about why it’s so important for others to live a purposeful life and I’ve found a few things. First, those that are already purposeful nod their head and ask what’s so special about that? They’ve learned that lesson and it guides their lives. The ones that are not purposeful don’t want to hear about it and seem to be happy in their own worlds without purpose. So, where does that leave me? In many ways my ultimate objective is to connect more deeply with people, and to that point, my actions are not always producing that result. So why do I continue to do it? I believe this is a repeated lesson and I also believe that there’s a simple solution.
In my last blog post I wrote about building a business where I’m not the product. There are many people that being the product works well for, I’m not so sure I’m one of those people. Putting these two lessons together, I’m realizing that I no longer need to be the preacher, I just need to be an example of what it means to build a purposeful business and live a purposeful life and when people ask me how I did it I’m happy to share. Until that point, I know it’s time to put my head down and follow my passion to what’s next. For me, I have numerous passions and I continue to pursue products and organizations that align with my passion and with my purpose in life. I have often said that our purpose in life changes, and circumstances in life can redirect our purpose.
I love spending time with others that have a shared purpose and those seem to be the people that I connect to most quickly. I continue to meet entrepreneurs and resources that are driven to make a difference and those people, if they’re pure of heart, seem to be the ones I connect with most deeply with. I’m also passionate about brilliant technology, tools that can change the world and can transform industries. I’m also passionate about how we are raising our children in this digital economy and how social media is affecting our young teens. I know that when I stop looking and just let my inner voice guide me the right things seem to show up. In the end I know that I love business, I love helping young companies set a solid foundation, and I love helping people tell their story and connecting them to the best resources they can find. What I’ve also learned is that I need to stop preaching about purpose and meaning and let it be my journey. Not everyone is meant to see purpose and meaning the same way that I do, and that needs to be OK for me.
To a life well lived ……
Ever since I can remember I’ve studied people and tried to figure out how they’ve gotten to where they are. Early on in my career I would often wish I could trade places, but then I’d get to know the person and realize that there were only some parts of their lives that were attractive to me and I didn’t really want their whole life 🙂 Over the past 30 years I’ve had the opportunity to meet and interact with some amazing entrepreneurs, many of whom have built some very cool businesses. I’ve learned what hard work can produce and how much effort it takes to build something from scratch, yet the rewards can be pretty high. I’ve often spoken about calculated risk and not extending myself too far over the cliff.
Over that same period of time I’ve learned that building a life-style services business can be very nice and comfortable. It doesn’t take a lot of capital to get it going and it doesn’t take a lot of money to run it. The only challenge I’ve experienced is that if the business is going to grow it will require more work for me, always. Early on in my entrepreneurial journey a mentor told me that the best businesses are the ones that are scalable, reproducible and not dependent on people. I’ve had that as a mantra for the past 20 years or more. Yet, every business I’ve run and every business model I’ve started since I left GE have been a services businesses that relied on me and finding people that can do the work as well, and many times better, than me as the company grew. I thought that this would be a good thing to do again, but now I’m starting to question that mindset. If I’m going to work this hard to start a services business why not put in the same, or maybe even a bit more effort, into something that is scalable, reproducible and not dependent on me?
I’ve been thinking deeply about this lately and have come to the conclusion that building a company might be the right thing for me to do at this point. I’m not talking about another services company, I’m talking about a company that has a product. This product could be physical or it could be information based. The product could be sold B to B or B to C, although I’m most comfortable with the B to B sale. It can be sold on the internet or could be sold through a traditional sales model. I’ve spent a fair amount of time at the local universities inside their incubators and have met some wonderful young minds that are creating really cool technologies. It might be fun to help support one of them on their journey or take a technology from the Office of Innovation and Commercialization and start something from scratch. I could also build an online training program that I market, as long as my services every day are not the product. I can even see me joining an existing company as an owner or leader. I don’t think I need to rush into anything immediately, yet my mindset is shifting at this time.
I will still continue to support the purpose movement here in San Diego and see where Purpose San Diego goes. I will also continue to support the teen programs I’m very passionate about, yet I don’t see those as my business, I see them as my gift to the community. I will continue to coach selected companies and individuals that I have a passion for and build some peer groups and networking groups to keep me connected to the community. I have often said that life keeps providing us with lessons and we keep getting the lesson until we learn it. In my life one recurring lesson is to stop telling people what to do and to be an example of what I believe. Over the past few years I’ve been trying to tell people how to be purposeful, I’m beginning to believe I just need to live a purposeful life myself and that’s enough. I can make any business a purposeful business by creating a purposeful culture, hiring people that have a passion for the mission of the company and by investing back in the community when the business does well. It’s not a complicated game and one that it seems like I’m willing to play. I will continue to spend time contemplating what this next evolution looks like and I’m excited to see where this leads.
To new beginnings and a life well lived …..