The Benefits of Serving Others

As I write this I’m sitting on the famous Copacabana beach in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil about to go watch the World Cup 2014 match of Spain v. Chile at the fan fest down the street. In a few days I’ll attend the Russia v. Belgium World Cup Match in Maracana Stadium in Rio. My trip here, my hotel on Copacabana beach and all the World Cup games were completely free for me. The only reason I am here is that 22 years ago I decided to join the Community Service Corps in my high school and it has impacted every part of my life ever since.

Doing things for others is what has given me everything I believe is great in my life.

Doing community service is the way I met my wife, is how I paid for my college, taught me almost everything I know about working with people, showed me elements of the world I would have never of seen, taught me countless life and day to day lessons, helped me appreciate what I have, and way too many other things to name.

The lessons I learned helping others through community service are the lessons I use every day at work and at home. It’s even helped me learn how to organize a great party. Here’s a few more things it helped with:

  • The skills I learned building homes for Habitat for Humanity help me fix things around my house, and recognize how lucky I am to even have a house.
  • The tactics it took to teach a group of kindergartners on a Navajo reservation are things I use to keep my kids engaged.
  • The organizing principles of fundraising and organizing I learned organizing Dorney Park trips in high school are what helped me start a non-profit group.
  • Starting a non-profit group has helped me learn what it takes to run a small company, and how to engineer programs that have sustainable impact not reliant on one person or funding source.

Marketing, finance, leadership, quality, human resources, creativity, innovation, sales, and just about every other “business skill” I’ve wanted to develop in life have been presented as an opportunity from the different community service programs I’ve been involved in.

Most importantly, throughout all my experiences I’ve learned to be incredibly grateful for what I have, to care for others, and realize that the world is a lot bigger than what I might see everyday.

Given all this, I wonder why it’s not more popular. Why do more kids sign up for little league vs. girl or boy scouts? Why do more parents prefer their kids to be on the school’s sports team vs. the school’s community service group? Why do professional sports players make more than non-profit CEO’s?

And yes, I didn’t play many sports throughout my school years and do believe there are good qualities to being on those teams, but in comparing it to what I know about sports in terms of developing young people, I would say that community service is much more impactful. Yes, sports teaches many valuable lessons, but usually the opportunity to be involved with organized sports wanes after high school or college years. You can continue serve others forever.

Also, many people get involved with sports in the hopes that they, or their kids, will get some type of scholarship or end up on a professional sports team. Well, there’s only so many members of professional sports teams so your chances are pretty slim. However, there’s no limit to the number of people who could be doing something to change the world, so you have a great chance of being able to do that.

I’m even thankful for how I was introduced to the idea of helping others. My mom volunteered for the Red Cross and would help families get back on their feet. When I was just a little kid, I remember my mom getting calls at night when a home would catch fire or some other reason a family needed help. I distinctly remember her trying to collect clothes (by taking some out of her closet) for some people who just lost all of theirs. I didn’t necessarily ‘do’ anything related to Community Service for a number of years after that, but having that type of role model is what led me to do the things that have built the rest of my life.

How will you be a role model for helping others? Where will it take you, and where will it take the person you influence?

As for now, I’m off to the beach to watch the game–which I happened to win during a contest at work that celebrated people who did caring acts for others. Sure, the material type things that you can get out of doing acts of service are nice – like the random contest win – but the things it’s changed in me are worth a million times more.

Get involved. Go Serve.

Accelerate Your Career Growth by Understanding How Promotions Happen

When you start to analyze how and why people get promoted in any large organization you can see that interesting patterns have developed.  The important part in understanding those patterns is making sure that you are using them as you develop your career plans. I imagine every organization is different to some degree, but there must be some universal truths as well.

Can you accelerate your next promotion or opportunity within the same company?

Note: I’m not commenting on the topic of how to do it by moving out and around other companies.

Here are some thought starters on the topic:

  • Which matters more–your skills and track record or the actual role? Look around, are some positions geared towards faster advancement opportunities just because of the role itself and not even the skills or work you might be able to do within that role?  Yes!  Sure, it does even out over time, but if you can get it to work in your advantage earlier it could be a good bet.
  • Do certain groups seem to be have a better track record for advancement?  If no one from the group your in has been promoted within in the last few years, how much harder would it be to work out for you? Go where it’s more normal.
  • Can who you work with help or hurt your advancement?  Not just the team, but what business partners are you working with and do those groups generally aid in your career development in some way?  For instance, supporting or collaborating with other groups that are fast-growing and expanding probably give your position a better chance of advancing vs. collaborating/supporting a group that is historically stagnant or declining.
  • Are the skills you’re learning in that particular role going to help or exponentially accelerate your growth to the next level?  Finding a role that helps is not nearly as transformational as a role that will accelerate exponentially. Of course, the latter type roles could also bring about a bigger risk as well. One good example: my company (this is public info) recently had a mid-level job posting for a person to work directly on a deep and daily basis with one of our new Executive Members that has an amazing track record of success. I’ve never seen a role like that and the things the person would be exposed to and get to interact with, not to mention the networking aspects, would be almost even a level above exponential acceleration.  Seek those types of roles. (For those of you wondering if I follow my own advice – I didn’t even try because of the 60% travel requirement and I was a new father at the time. Sometimes life decisions easily outweigh career decisions.)
  • What can you create to completely change the career growth trajectory curve?  Who says you absolutely have to follow the traditional trajectory through each level of your company’s hierarchy? What can you create or do that is so amazing that it helps you radically jump through the organization?

I’m not saying you should use promotions merely as a way to guide your career planning.  In fact, I’ve taken some interesting steps back or sideways in my career to learn different skills that have proved to be absolutely more valuable in the long run.  What I am saying is that you should understand the different ways advancement happens if you hope to continue growing through your career.

What I Learned About Business From Steve Aoki

 

Steve Aoki is a DJ/Producer that puts on one of the greatest shows in music today.  Seeing him live is an interactive experience and his energy is infectious. By the end of the show you’re jumping up and down along with him–more than you ever have in your life–covered in champagne and cake, and you never want it to stop.

Then, when you leave the show and think you’ve seen the best of what he has, you learn more about him and realize that he’s a great role model for your business too.

Here are a few takeaways from watching a true maestro of his craft like Steve Aoki:

1. Amaze
When Steve Aoki puts on a show, he delivers.  He brings more energy to the party than anyone there and is willing to do whatever it takes to make sure people are having a memorable experience.  While his main product might be the music, his live shows can make an audience member a lifelong fan.  It’s not uncommon to see floats, cake diving, champagne showers, special previews of unreleased music, and just about anything else to make sure that his shows stand above the rest.  When was the last time you thought through your product demo or meeting with the goal to amaze?


2. Hustle

If you look at his schedule you’ll see that he is putting on a show practically every night, sometimes two per day.  You’ll then notice that he’s doing this around the world.  Africa one night, UK the next, over to Spain, then off to California in four days.  Did you ever have to leave for that conference a day early for a “travel” day. Yeah, he’s been traveling and putting on a show everyday for years and I thought my fifty minute commute was bad. That being said – he still delivers at every show and will stop and connect with fans anytime they ask. What time can you carve out in schedule for that extra work? 


3. Collaboration & Partnership

Succeeding in certain businesses is about being able to find the right people to partner with and collaborating with everyone that needs to be involved.  Over the years Aoki has demonstrated this by making music with some of the best in the business, as well as up-and-comers.  Are you trying to work with the best in your field? Are you taking the time to develop newbies?


4. Engagement

I already mentioned how he’ll stop whatever he’s doing and talk to a fan along his travels or on his way to a show. Take a look at his twitter feed for some other amazing examples of fan engagement. He’ll fly into a new town, ask where the best local places are, invite people to come eat where he is, randomly pop into college classes and invite people to hang on the lawn, and is constantly reaching out and connecting. He’s on just about every major digital outlet and always providing updates to keep his fans engaged. How often and how creative are you methods of engagement? 


5. Risk Taking

It was definitely a big risk the first time he sprayed a club with champagne or got on a float to crowd surf over thirty thousand people or partnered with an unknown lyricist to make a new song.  Yet, those risk are what has allowed him to keep upping his game and bringing his art to the next level.  What risk have you taken recently?


6. Trust

Consistency builds trust and I’ve already mentioned how consistent he is with his output. His authenticity adds to that level of trust. He’s just as into the music, the show, and all the fun stuff going on around it as his fans are.  He’ll even jump into a large cake and be covered in it before he’ll go and do the same to his fans.  Are you willing to do everything you ask people on your team to do?

I was going to call this post “Everything I Know About Business I Learned from Steve Aoki” but I don’t think anyone can learn “everything” about anything from just one person.

But that’s another story.