On Choosing A Path

Ten years ago I was coming back from a business trip and found my self waiting at the baggage claim for the bags to start coming out. I had just spent 2 weeks inside an office in the beautiful mountains near Grenoble, France.

It was an overnight flight, so I was a little groggy when all of a sudden two paths for my life became instantly clear. It was like a fork in the road, with brightly-lit signs for both paths, had appeared right there at baggage claim. Each of these paths were being represented by two distinct groups of people.

Path 1
To my left, two men and a woman were returning from the some major sporting event in Switzerland. They were waiting for their athletic equipment to come around the baggage carousel. They were in sneakers, athletic type wear, and appeared to be in the best shape of almost anyone I had seen before. They appeared to be older in age, but looked better than most people I knew who might of been 20 years younger. They were animated while they talked and laughed and were playing off of each other’s energy and had a camaraderie that was so strong it was apparent from even 20 feet away where I stood.

Path 2
On my right, three gentlemen were returning from some type of corporate business meeting. They were waiting for their bags, with their heads down staring into their blackberries (this was so long ago it was when blackberries were just starting to be ubiquitous). They didn’t seem to want to talk to each other, and they had slightly miserable scowls on their face. They seemed drained from the overnight flight. They had on these horrible 90’s type camel hair blazers on top of the standard corporate guy’s outfit of slacks and a blue button down shirt.

That’s when it hit me, without consciously choosing, I was more likely to end up down Path 2 than Path 1. 

I’m not even talking about the choice between being a top athlete vs. a corporate businessperson–I’m talking about the level of energy each group exhibited in their lives.

For years, I thought about having to choose between those two paths and used that story to talk about going towards one vs. the other. I know I didn’t want to end up the begrudged corporate miser staring at my blackberry (or iPhone) in a camel hair blazer, but I didn’t necessarily think it would be possible or even desire to train for the upper echelons of sport everyday, like I did for a period in college.

Not until very recently have I started to think “why not be both.”

What would it look like to have endless energy and engagement and focus of a Olympic-type athlete, but still engage in the work and opportunities of someone building a business?

What is the fork in the road that you’ve been thinking about for a while? Could you take the best parts of both and make something new?

Don’t have one or the other, have it all.

Finding the Payoff in Your Work

When I was a little kid I was always on the search for odd jobs. A couple times my Uncle Mike brought me to a warehouse he managed where they distributed VHS training videos in all sorts of subjects. One of the jobs I did there was to take huge boxes of VHS video tapes and stick stickers on the front of them before putting into other huge boxes. It was one of the greatest jobs I ever had.

The reason why: there was an immediate payoff (and maybe it’s related to singular focus).

I could see hour by hour, minute by minute the exact output of my work and set up little games to challenge myself to get better. If I did 2 boxes of video tapes the first hour, I would challenge myself to get 2.5 boxes done the next hour.

How many times do you get to the end of your day and think “what the hell did I do today?” Sure, you know you went through hundreds of emails and sat in hours of meetings and did SOMETHING today – you just have no idea what it was and there was no payoff at the end that lets you realize your impact. It usually after months and months of a large project to realize any payoff when it launches.

What would happen if you or the people on your team were absolutely clear, every day, about what the payoff was that you were working towards? How can you tie your daily actions to overall longer term goals?

Whatever you do, just please don’t set up some little system where you make the number of emails you send in a day or the total number of minutes you spend in a meeting any criteria for success.