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I didn’t know it was possible to start a business

July 20th, 2015 | No Comments | Posted in Inspirational

Work Hard, Have Fun, Dream Big

If I could share any advice with my 22-year-old self, it would be very simple: Dream Bigger

Before you roll your eyes and decide that this is over-simplified advice, I want you to really think about it.

How many of you can honestly say you believed in yourself and your abilities so much that you foresaw your success at 22? Were you laser-focused on achieving greatness and motivated to be your best self every single day?

Some people are like this at 22, but I wasn’t.

When I was younger, I didn’t understand that people could start their own business. I didn’t understand how to channel creativity into something tangible. I didn’t know how to translate my people skills into a career I would be passionate about. At 22, I just didn’t get it. Since I did not know how these things were done, I could not understand how to make them happen. If I’d known I could do these things, I would have done them sooner. I had to experience several different fields – from TV to technology and a few odd jobs in between – before I finally hit my stride and developed the confidence to demand more responsibility and autonomy in my role. I did not set out knowing I wanted to start a business; I just knew I wanted more.

I invest in young people who dream big. Evan and Nick from Tipsy Elves left successful, high-paying careers to jump head first into the crazy world of Christmas sweaters. Ashley from Natural Grip pursued her vision wholeheartedly, making the first 150 pairs of grips from scraps in the trash at her husband’s office. They all dreamt big and made it happen with whatever they had. They taught themselves along the way and made a ton of mistakes, but they never would have tried without those initial dreams.

Work hard, have fun, dream big.

Robert Herjavec

My parents gave me the opportunity for a better life; the rest was up to me.

Leadership: the strength to say good-bye

March 26th, 2014 | No Comments | Posted in Inspirational

To everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven: a time to be born, a time to die; a time to plant, a time to reap; a time to kill, a time to heal; a time to laugh, a time to weep.

Ecclesiastes, from which that quote is taken, wasn’t conceived as a guide to doing business – but maybe it should have been.

Leadership coach Henry Cloud starts there, says The Globe and Mail writer Harvey Schachter, to claim that we need to become as good at ending things – products, services, projects, relationships, or even organizations – as we are at starting or innovating. That’s a sobering thought as the New Year begins. But it’s also a path to greater effectiveness.

In many ways it’s harder to end things than to begin them. It’s even harder to end them fully, professionally and well. We’re afraid of the unknown: what will our organization be like without this staff member, that working group, those partners? We may not want to let go of a process or commitment that has served us well in the past. Life brings us enough painful endings without going out of our way to create more.

Wisdom from the garden

Leaders often overlook or underestimate the impact of ending the right things, Cloud believes. But in the garden, correct pruning helps a bush or plant reach its full potential. The same is true of organizations.

He notes that branches or stems should be pruned for three reasons:

  1. They’re not the strongest ones. They’re taking up just as much light and nutrition as the healthiest branches, but they’re not producing the same amount of fruit or flowers in return. What parts of your organization aren’t doing as well as the others?
  2. They’re too sick to recover. They’re so badly damaged or diseased that more water, more fertilizer and more hope won’t help. They must be removed to protect the rest of the plant. Where are the “unfixable” projects or processes in your organization?
  3. They’re already dead. They’re taking up space needed for healthy branches, and blocking the sunlight from strong twigs and new shoots.What aspects of your organization interfere with communication, productivity and new ideas?

To sum up, we can’t have great new beginnings without necessary, natural and beneficial endings. But there are good reasons why endings are so hard. Acknowledging the emotions behind our reluctance to end anything will help bring us to the point where we can finally take pruning shears in hand for the benefit of our own well-being and that of the organizations we serve.

Read the full article in The Globe and Mail.

publication date: Jan 6, 2014
author/source: Janet Gadeski

From Seinfeld to Sushi: How to Master Your Domain

March 4th, 2013 | No Comments | Posted in Inspirational

I recently read a great profile in the New York Times about Jerry Seinfeld written by Jonah Weiner (no relation). In addition to providing a view into the life of one of the most successful stand-up comedians of the modern era, the article focuses on the method behind Seinfeld’s observational comic genius, and specifically, the painstaking process he applies to developing a joke.

I always find it valuable when people at the top of their profession provide insight into how they do what they do, but as a long time fan of the comedian and the show (in my opinion, Seinfeld stands alone as the best sitcom of all time), I found this to be a particularly engrossing read.

I was also struck by the number of similarities between Seinfeld’s approach to his craft and that of Jiro Ono, the 86-year old master sushi chef and subject of the highly acclaimed documentary “Jiro Dreams of Sushi.” I strongly recommend the film to anyone interested in watching the pursuit of excellence personified.

Here are my observations regarding five shared practices from two wholly unrelated masters of their domains:

1. Never stop practicing (there is no perfect)

Jiro has been preparing sushi for over 70 years; Seinfeld has been a stand-up comic for over 35 years. Both are widely considered to be among the best in the world at what they do, and yet listening to them, one comes away with the impression they will never be satisfied. They are constantly practicing, honing their work, and seeking to improve.

As Jiro describes it: “All I want to do is make better sushi. I do the same thing over and over, improving bit by bit. There is always a yearning to achieve more. I’ll continue to climb to reach the top but no one knows where the top is.”

Seinfeld explains:

“If I don’t do a set in two weeks, I feel it,” he said. “I read an article a few years ago that said when you practice a sport a lot, you literally become a broadband: the nerve pathway in your brain contains a lot more information. As soon as you stop practicing, the pathway begins shrinking back down. Reading that changed my life. I used to wonder, Why am I doing these sets, getting on a stage? Don’t I know how to do this already? The answer is no. You must keep doing it. The broadband starts to narrow the moment you stop.”

2. Sweat the details

There is no detail too small. Jiro serves sushi differently to left-handed and right-handed patrons, and once required an apprentice to make egg sushi 200 times before it was deemed acceptable. Seinfeld relentlessly iterates how to word a punchline. As the profile on Seinfeld describes it:

“Seinfeld will nurse a single joke for years, amending, abridging and reworking it incrementally, to get the thing just so. “It’s similar to calligraphy or samurai,” he says. “I want to make cricket cages. You know those Japanese cricket cages? Tiny, with the doors? That’s it for me: solitude and precision, refining a tiny thing for the sake of it.”

In this regard, their approaches are highly reminiscent of Steve Jobs and Jonathan Ive at Apple, where obsessing over the smallest detail is not just part of their design ethos, it’s core to the company’s DNA.

3. Keep chipping away

Michaelanglo once famously described the act of sculpting this way:

“In every block of marble I see a statue as plain as though it stood before me, shaped and perfect in attitude and action. I have only to hew away the rough walls that imprison the lovely apparition to reveal it to the other eyes as mine see it.”

Jiro and Seinfeld appear to be applying a similar sensibility to their work, i.e. constantly removing the superfluous to reduce the object of their attention down to it’s quintissential qualities.

Watch Jiro prepare a piece of sushi, and you aren’t just watching him adding a piece of fish to a mound of rice, but rather the culmination of decades of trial and error, identifying what improves the taste, look, and feel of the dish, and leaving all else behind.

The same holds for Seinfeld’s approach to mastering a joke as illustrated in the following anecdote:

I had a joke: ‘Marriage is a bit of a chess game, except the board is made of flowing water and the pieces are made of smoke,’ ” he said. “This is a good joke, I love it, I’ve spent years on it. There’s a little hitch: ‘The board is made of flowing water.’ I’d always lose the audience there. Flowing water? What does he mean? And repeating ‘made of’ was hurting things. So how can I say ‘the board is made of flowing water’ without saying ‘made of…’

So,” he continued, “I was obsessed with figuring that out. The way I figure it out is I try different things, night after night, and I’ll stumble into it at some point, or not. If I love the joke, I’ll wait. If it takes me three years, I’ll wait…The breakthrough was doing this”— Seinfeld traced a square in the air with his fingers, drawing the board…”Here, I’m doing some of the work for you…They don’t think about it. They just laugh.”

4. Work clean

Both the article and film capture the somewhat non-descript, though Zen-like, environments where the two do their work. Jiro’s restaurant is underground, near a subway stop, and seats only ten; sushi is served on a simple black serving dish. Seinfeld works in an Upper West Side apartment described as “Clean, modern and cozy, it resembled some hip therapist’s office: a high-ceilinged, poured-concrete box with a long plushy couch, a little balcony and a kitchenette.”

In their spaces, both masters operate free from distraction and with complete focus on the job at hand. Jiro prepares each dish and then cleans his workspace the instant it’s completed. In the film, a classical score accompanies his motions — it’s hard to draw a clear distinction between where the food preparation ends and the cleaning begins.

Similarly, Seinfeld has his own specific approach to writing a joke: “Seinfeld…grabs a legal pad and a Bic pen and sits at his desk. No street noise penetrates. The pages of the pad are destined for either a wastebasket or a master file containing Seinfeld’s entire act, handwritten.”

5. Be passionate

It’s hard to imagine a person dedicating their life to a single vocation without having a deep love and passion for what they do. That would certainly appear to the case for both Seinfeld and Jiro. From the Times article:

For Seinfeld, whose worth Forbes estimated in 2010 to be $800 million, his touring regimen is a function not of financial necessity but rather of borderline monomania — a creative itch he can’t scratch. “I like money,” he says, “but it’s never been about the money.”

He told me: “That’s the wiring of a stand-up. This is my best way of functioning…” He compares himself to baseball players — putting spin on the ball as it leaves his fingers, trying to keep his batting average high — and to surfers: “What are they doing that for? It’s just pure.”

Similarly, here’s Jiro responding to a question on retirement: “I’ve never hated this job. I fell in love with my work and gave my life to it. Even though I’m 85, I don’t feel like retiring. That’s just the way I feel.”

One final observation: I’ve found the more I pay attention to the habits of individuals who have reached the pinnacle of their profession, the more I recognize clear patterns between them.

Apparently, I’m not the only one who sees the similarities.

Several weeks before the Times piece was published, I shared the story of Jiro with a few people at a dinner event. A few weeks later, while in the midst of reading the Seinfeld article, I stopped to open an email that had just been sent by one of the dinner’s attendees. The email simply said, “Refreshing last paragraph…your sushi analog in baseball!”

There, in the last paragraph of an article announcing the Yankees had re-signed baseball great Ichiro Suzuki, was a quote from Ichiro that read, “I believe the Yankees organization appreciates that there is a difference between a 39-year-old who has played relying only on talent, and a 39-year-old who has prepared, practiced, and thought thoroughly through many experiences for their craft.”

I smiled to myself at the timing of the email and responded to my friend with a link to the Seinfeld article I was still reading. It wasn’t until a few minutes later that I reached the conclusion of the profile:

The game resumed, and Ichiro Suzuki, the lean Yankees outfielder, approached the plate. “This is the guy I relate to more than any athlete,” Seinfeld said. “His precision, incredible precision. Look at his body type — he’s made the most of what he has. He’s the hardest guy to get out. He’s fast. And he’s old.”

by Jeff Weiner CEO at Linkedin

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Patrick Henry Hughes – Inspirational Story

October 27th, 2009 | No Comments | Posted in Inspirational