Seeking No Pain or Challenging Toward Success?

James Dean "Giant"

James Dean “Giant” (Photo credit: ElizaPeyton)

I used to get picked on quite a lot as a child and even more in my teen years.  I don’t reflect upon my high school years with happiness like many of my readers.  In all fairness, I had a big mouth and not so big muscle to back it up. I spent many of my high school days being escorted from one class to another.  The background on this is for another day, but it’s fair to assume I messed with the wrong dudes. I remember one particular incident because of the profound change it had, and still has on me.  My friend and I pulled into the high school parking lot to pick up his brother after a football game.  As I pulled into the my spot, I noticed some of the guys that had caused me trouble; and they noticed me.  With the sound of The Clash (Should I stay or should I go?) ringing in my ear, I decided to stay.  I got out of the car to a punch in my chest.  Something in me changed.  I didn’t snap and go crazy like on a cheesy movie.  I realized, although it wasn’t pleasant, I handled it.  I returned the punch to the side of his head.  I’m not sure I caused him much damage either, but he wasn’t expecting it.  Clearly outnumbered, and in serious trouble, I had nowhere to go.  Instead of doom, however, we were simply asked to leave, which we kindly obliged.

Things were different after that. I faced a challenge we all must face in life.  Whether it be high school antics, career changes, or major life decisions, we are all faced with a choice to live defensively or offensively.
We can choose to avoid pain and stay in the background or choose to challenge the causes of our pain and take control.
We typically compartmentalize areas of our life were we are willing to face challenges and some areas where all we wish for is an avoidance of pain.  I recently wrote about the battle between comfort and success.  While it may seem comfortable to avoid challenging those things that bother us, it may be necessary to move toward your goal of being awesome.  Impulsiveness and rashness are not to be confused with challenging.  If you are living intentionally, you will challenge intentionally. Assess the situation for worse case scenarios, alternatives, and the “up-side” to a challenge.
I gained valuable perspective after that incident in High School.  Knowing that I can change situations by appropriately challenging those attempting  or actually controlling the environment gives me the confidence and eagerness to learn and to lead.  My ideas may not always be the best avenue to success, but sometimes they are.
What are you going to challenge in the new year?

My Frog Won’t Boil

Have you heard the story about boiling a frog? The story goes: a  frog put into heated water will jump out immediately.  But a frog placed in room temperature water that is slowly heated, will not notice the temperature change and be boiled to death. This is a great metaphor, and of course a  lie. Are you kidding me? Of course the frog will jump out!  Only PEOPLE are dumb enough to stay in a boiling pot of water. Joseph Overton’s theory, known as the Overton Window, is a frog boiling.  Only the frog is you and I.  The Overton window describes society’s narrow window of acceptance of certain things as norms or extremes. American society shuttered at the idea of a two piece swimsuit or a TV show with one bed for the married couple to sleep in. Even TV’s Murphy Brown becoming a single mom in 1991 was noteworthy.

Today Paris Hilton stops short of having sex with a Carl’s Jr cheeseburger on prime-time TV.  This makes no news.  It isn’t news.

From an adulterous President, to drug abusing sports stars, American society has expanded the Overton window.  In fact, the window is a giant bay window opened as far as the eye can see.

English: Ad for I Love Lucy pajamas.

English: Ad for I Love Lucy pajamas. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

What does this mean to you? We are not in the business of ranting and complaining about things we can’t change.  We are in the awesome and success business.  The Overton Window refers to public sentiment and opinion.  It is not a claim for moral relativism.  Overton never intended to give judgement on these changes, just observe the gradual acceptance of things once otherwise shunned. History tells us that public opinion and morality are not always aligned.  Public opinion, in fact, is not  permanent.  I’m sure 1930’s German public opinion looked a lot different than public opinion in 1950. Truth with a capital “T” does not change.  Neither does right or wrong.  The gradual opening of Overton’s Window is cunning and will surprise you.

Define your values and remain true.

If you know your True North, your moral compass will always point there.  Be sure to check that compass every week during your weekly review and keep it calibrated. Awesomeness is not being perfect. You will fall short of your True North.  The Overton Window will let in some air on the thought that your mistakes are fine.  It’ll tell you that rules governing morality, giving, and sacrifice are outdated.  It will boil you! You, in your awesomeness will acknowledge that you fall short of your goal, but the problem (thus opportunity to improve) lays upon you and not the norm.  That is awesomeness!

What do you accept today that was outrageous 30 years ago?

Rocco De Leo

How the Connection Economy Unlocks the Mystery of Sushi and the Kindle

Sushi is one of those things that draws people together.  Like the comraderie in the trenches of war, eating sushi with someone instantly builds rapport.  Sushi is a cultlike experience.  Maybe its the co-worker who is grossed out or the relative who calls it bait that makes it an experience rather than a meal.  Whatever it is, I love it.  My only problem with sushi is that I can’t order.  I’m not intimidated by the non-tranferable names such as the “santa-monica roll” or the “Vegas dynamite”, names which mean completely different things at Joe’s Sushi and Sushi on Fire.  The variety gets me.  Too many choices.  I’m the same way with Christmas presents.  I am convinced that you can choose something for me that I’ll enjoy much more than I can choose.  I’ll analyse my choices to death, agnogizing missing one joy by choosing another.

Solo dinner: Sushi & Kindle

Solo dinner: Sushi & Kindle (Photo credit: inju)

I am a typical, albeit neurotic, consumer.  I am over saturated, underwhelmed, and looking for assurance that I will make the right choices.

As marketers, how do we capture the hearts and loyalty of consumers paralyzed by too many choices?

My recent journey to choose the Kindle Paperwhite over Nook Simpletouch with  Glowlight was a snapshot of the connection economy at work. Like a hungry patron at Mika Sushi, I was looking for someone to tell me what and why to buy.  The old economy would have me going to a store asking a sales person about each model, then making a choice.  Typically the choice was dumb random luck; like the last store I happen to walk in to. Economy 2.0 had me comparing company websites and reading reviews.  Better, but still predictable.  Nook would champion Nook, and Kindle would champion…guess who.  The reviews usually point out terrible products well,  but comparison of multiple products beyond specs are rare from a website that just sold one particular product. The connection economy is different. It seeks advise from  and true compatriots.  I’ll trust you if you tell me the Miso soup tastes like rotten mushrooms if you are in the restaurant experiencing it with me.

 The connection economy  with tools like Facebook and Twitter is much like the Sushi place with countless mysteries on the menu.

Searching for clarity, I reached out to people I trusted would provide detailed considerations in chosing an e-reader. ultimately, my tribe pointed me to the Kindle.  Not so much endorsing the Kindle as superior, my tribe of writers, entrepreneurs, and leadership experts have more “experiences” on the Kindle.  Amazon has connected with its users by understanding why they use an e-reader.  At least in my tribe, the Kindle is a partner in delivering the fruits of many dreams of people I follow.  Rebels of publishing pushing out unconventional products on a mainstream device through the Kindle.  Amazon affiliate programs at the grass roots on blogs, an ultimately the fear that I would have a Nook and a desire to read a Kindle only book, forced my hand.  The connection economy is real and is growing leaps and bounds everyday.  Individuals, now more than ever, have the capability of building a tribe of trust and influencing customers. Will you be driving influence or watching from the sidelines?

Rocco De Leo

Unintended Consequences: Kitchen Trash and Jenga

imageOne of my favorite games is Jenga. You know the game? You stack blocks and carefully remove them without knocking down the growingly cumbersome and wobbly tower until, alas, the blocks are scattered and a winner is crowned. Jenga is fun with blocks, not with piles of kitchen trash. I hate taking out the trash. Someone has always stacked juice boxes, cans, and bottles in a well enginered stack that I simply cannot maneuver. This is especially true on rainy days and in the middle of the night when the prospect of walking outside to dump the smelly remainants of last nights’ pasta bake and fish filet is about as pleasant as eating it. I am usually the unsuspecting victim who chose to volunteer to take the bathroom trash downstairs, or empty the vacum cleaner. In my unwavering kindess to my family, I am often known to pick up those mystery pieces of paper that always finds their way to my kitchen floor. Many times, this ritual is done after a long battle with the dishwasher, homework, and tupperware containers with lids missing in action since the Bush administration. The sinks are wiped shiny clean, the hum of the dishwasher sings in the background and the lights are extinguished for another evening of clean, relaxful slumber. Oh, so I think! Next time, I’ll pretend I don’t see the extra trash.
How many times have you stopped to do something so simple and found yourself facing a monster? Unintended consequences haunt our good itentions. In this case, my intention to clean a “little” has resulted in me cleaning “a lot”. This isn’t simply relegated to the terrible and almost nonsensical analogy of trash can theory. People have debated unintended consequences for years. Gun control is a hot topic. “Gun free zones are safe because there’s no guns allowed.” Sounds simple. Except for the crazy guy who could care less about an ordinance outlawing guns in the local shopping mall. Laws that force small businesses to incur certain costs beyond 50 employees tend to hover around an employee base of 49; not helping the unemployment situation. In many of these cases, the intention was well meaning. Making malls safer and asking employers to provide health insurance are noble goals.
Success is typically not measured by intention, rather than by result. Even more challenging, the result may be two-fold. The expected positive outcome (ie, more people with jobs who have health care) and the unintented consequence (less people with jobs, thus less people overall with healthcare). We must live in reality to achieve real and sustainable success in what we do. You are working hard to build your dream. You work extra hours for that promotion. Missing a few soccer practices, maybe a wedding or a ballet recital? In the end, you may get that promotion. What has it cost you? Time with your kids? Divorce?
Big issues like gun control and trash can theory teach us to think through the course of our actions. You will be measured on the totality of your results. No one will care what your intentions were if there is trash all over the kitchen. What have you done that resulted in a ridiculous unintended consequence?

Rocco De Leo