Archive for the 'Fast Track' Category

Lesson 6: The Real Niche

April 28, 2008

When things are right, they have a way of falling together. It looks effortless from the outside, but if you’ve followed the previous lessons up until now, you realize that careful soul searching, and planning all come before a person is prepared to take advantage of the opportunities that are available to him.

There is an odd kind of symmetry that arises when you have a deeply felt motivation, and the steps along the way to your final goal all seem to point toward that goal, with an almost poetic integrity. Steps that are only incidentally related turn out to have a deeper value that propels you toward your destination.

I want to create products that help people in tangible ways with serious problems they have. I want to become wealthy while I learn how to do that, so I am not beholden to any outside investment to make my vision a reality. I am now involved with a company that will make me wealthy, introduce me to major players in an industry related to my ultimate goal, and teach me how to recreate an organization with all the pitfalls that go with that.

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Lesson 5: Always be Looking

April 25, 2008

Before I married my beautiful wife, I was a student of flirtation. It sounds ridiculous to put it that way, but my interest in human interaction and the opposite sex had an academic air about it, even when I was very young.

When my friends, who were invariably goofy and shy, asked for dating advice, I would ask them all the same thing:

If you like this person, what is the worst possible outcome of talking to her?

The simple answer is that the worst possible outcome is that she won’t be interested and won’t want to talk. Basically, you won’t interact and you won’t date. That’s good news, because that’s exactly what would happen if you never talk to her in the first place. Moral of the story: if you don’t talk to her, you are dooming yourself to the worst possible scenario.

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Lesson 4: Aim High

April 23, 2008

I have a strategy when dealing with customer service agents. No matter what has happened, no matter how egregiously the company has screwed up, I go to the agent as if it’s my fault. I say, I’ve made a mistake, I feel really silly, and I’m hoping you can help me out with this. I never, ever imply that they are under any obligation to help me at all, and I never indicate that I feel entitled to a solution. It’s all about them helping me out the goodness of their precious little hearts.

I always get phenomenal customer service, and the reason is that I ask nicely for things.

The effect of asking nicely is shocking the first couple times you try it. It opens a whole new world of possibilities. People will bend over backwards for you if they think you understand their situation and that you value their assistance (I bet you didn’t notice that bit of fictional context, did you?) .

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Lesson 3: Lie to Your Boss

April 21, 2008

There’s an idea in the world that one must work his way through the ranks, pay his dues, and move up when he’s earned it. If you believe that, I have a bridge to sell you.

There is substantial evidence that experience makes virtually no difference to job performance after about 2 years on a particular job [need sources, can someone help me out with that?]. There is also evidence that the quality, not the quantity, of experience is the deciding factor in the output quality of a person.

But as I discussed in People Matter, hiring managers have to be confident in you, and be able to justify their confidence in you to their superiors. This is where fictionalized context has a place.

Fictionalized context is simply telling the essential truth in way that your audience is comfortable with.

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Lesson 2: People Matter

April 18, 2008

Peter Norvig, director of Google Research, wants to hire people who are better than he is. He wants to make sure candidates are able to do their jobs, but he also wants to be able to save face if those candidates fail.

Business is about relationships, not credentials. Anecdotal exhibit A: George W, who has pretty much been handed the keys to the kingdom, and run every venture he’s headed into the dirt (Biased Source with quick run down of utter failures). More immediate and less controversial examples include all the barely competent, superficially friendly middle managers you know. There is a reason they exist, and the reason isn’t that they’ve hoodwinked their superiors.

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Lesson 1: Undocumented Credentials

April 16, 2008

Here are the harsh facts of my credentials:

  • Someone who was rightfully covering their ass as a hiring manager could say that I had about 9 months of experience in my field.
  • I have no college degree.

College Graduate

These are the credentials of a person who, if they are even employable, is working at a help desk making $24,000 a year.

I know I’m better than that, though. Not “better” in the entitled, rich kid sense of the word. Better as in, at my job. I am able to add more value than my experience level would indicate. I know this, and I am able to convey this, which is why I was recently hired as a technical manager making substantially more than six figures a year — my bonus is bigger than the $24,000 paycheck common wisdom would have me bringing in.

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Lesson 0: Motivation

April 14, 2008

This is lesson zero because it underlies everything I write about here. This is a blog about how to manage a successful career, but without a clear purpose in mind, there is no such thing as “success.” This post is about defining what your motivations really are, so you can get a clear vision of what success looks like.

Getting to the top is not a valid motivation. You skip the cracks on the sidewalk or eat pizza with a knife and fork “just because,” but you don’t build a life around doing business “just because.” If your motivation is to “win” in business, stop now. Become a monk. Become a beatnik poet. Become a community college instructor. You will lead a happier life.

Business is not a race

There is no “winner” in business. There are those who profit, and those who do not, and you will play both roles at various times in your life. A life of business for its own sake isn’t healthy, and if your highest virtue is to make a dollar, you will end up stepping on innocent people along the way in that pursuit, even if you fancy yourself a moral person right now.

If you have a real goal, with a real plan, then all your decisions will flow from that goal. It will save you time, and stress, and keep you a on the path you began.

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