A Lesson in Handling Adversity

This past week, the Valero Texas Open was played at the TPC San Antonio (AT&T Oaks Course) in San Antonio, Texas. During the first round,  professional golfer Kevin Na carded a 16 on the par 4 ninth hole of the course.

A little about Kevin Na. At age 8, Na’s family moved from South Korea to the United States. Took up the game a year later and by the time he left the junior golf program had become the top junior player in the U.S. Na has played professional golf for five years and earned over $2 million dollars in 2009 and 2010 making him a top 50 golfer in earnings during that time. In other words, Kevin is not like me, he is not  a duffer but a real pro golfer.

It is amazing the world wide interest this one hole failure and has created and the media coverage of the event. It seems we marvel in the failure of others. Maybe we can relate to the struggles on the golf course (who has not carded the double digit hole?). Maybe we empathize with the moment of failure we have all experienced. In any case, it seems allot of attention has been given to one hole of golf.

I am not surprised by the interest nor the reasons the interest exists. What amazes me is the character that Na shows while going through this adversity. Think about it. Nary a display of emotion and just a light hearted approach to the moment.  How many times do we see athletes use foul language, mouth slurs (caught on camera), throw towels, swing a bat at the water coolers, get in the face of an official and generally just have a temper tantrum each time things do not go there way? It happens all the time. It is the norm. What is not the norm is someone showing some character in the face of adversity and keeping a smile on his face even though he just carded one of the worst par 4 scores in PGA history. Now, that is a lesson for all of us on handling adversity.

It just wouldn’t be a picnic without the ants.  ~Author Unknown


Guy’s New Book – Enchantment

A couple of weeks ago, a friend of mine and former Chief evangelist of Apple, Guy Kawasaki sent me a copy of his new book “Enchantment” to read. I have to say, the book was tough to put down and right on when it comes to creating products and organizations that are not only “enchanting” but successful. In the book, Guy walks us through a step by step process on how to create an environment that will help create the next product or brand that people simply fall in love with.

Of the entire book, the portion about creating enchanted employees was my favorite. We all depend on people to assist us and this book cut right to the heart of motivation and creating an environment where everyone can grow and succeed. The book goes on sale to today, to this point in time I have never endorsed a book but I gladly endorse Guy’s new book “Enchantment.” *Nope, I am not being paid a cent and doing this only because I love the book!

The book is a can’t miss pick and you will simply be enchanted by it. :-)

Below is a video that summarized the book and a link where to pick up your copy.

Click here to pick up a copy >>> Guy Kawasaki’s “Enchantment”

A Year for Resolutions…

There is something about a New Year. Something fresh, a starting point. Something that makes us want to get rid of the old and bring on the new.  Something magical that happens the second the bell tolls midnight and the fall of the crystal ball brings on the New Year.

So what are your plans for the New Year?  What are your resolutions? What do you plan to leave behind?

Read more? Lose weight? Watch less TV? Eat the right foods? Get organized? The list goes on…

Every year I struggle a little with resolutions. Not because I can’t figure out some good ones that will apply but because within a few weeks or months it seems I have forgotten all of them. So this year is going to be different. Nope, no resolutions. Just a few things I need to resolve and here is my list;

  • be better at following the “Golden Rule”
  • embrace changes in my life (like kids getting married)
  • work hard at being a better person
  • help others succeed
  • re-invent myself once again with my new businesses
  • get a better haircut (LOL…but true)
  • be a better Leader
  • do the right things not just doing things right

Yup, nothing about food, weight, TV, exercise or organization. This year is about resolving things and when 2011 comes around, I want to honestly say, “I left the world a better place in some way last year.”

That will do.

I Read it in a Fortune Cookie

I ate Chinese food yesterday and at the end, I had a fortune cookie.  Inside the fortune cookie, I found this.

Failure is the Mother of Success

Failure is the mother of success.  What is this cookie trying to tell me?  Is it telling me to never stop trying?  Is it telling me to get up after getting knocked down?  Is it telling me that persistence yields reward?

Seth Godin says:   Persistence isn’t using the same tactics over and over. That’s just annoying.  Persistence is having the same goal over and over.

It seems everyone has an idea as to what determination, persistence, stick-to-it-ness,  insistence or perseverance is:

Dale Carnegie: Most of the important things in the world have been accomplished by people who have kept on trying when there seemed to be no hope at all.

Frank Lloyd Wright: know the price of success: dedication, hard work, and an unremitting devotion to the things you want to see happen.

Franklin D. Roosevelt: When you come to the end of your rope, tie a knot and hang on.

Harriet Beecher Stowe: When you get into a tight place and everything goes against you, till it seems as though you could not hang on a minute longer, never give up then, for that is just the place and time that the tide will turn.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (from The Ladder of Saint Augustine): The heights by great men reached and kept / Were not attained by sudden flight, / But they, while their companions slept, / Were toiling upward in the night.

John Quincy Adams: Patience and perseverance have a magical effect before which difficulties disappear and obstacles vanish.

Louis Pasteur: Let me tell you the secret that has led me to my goal: my strength lies solely in my tenacity.

Mary Kay Ash: erodynamically the bumblebee shouldn’t be able to fly, but the bumblebee doesn’t know that so it goes on flying anyway.

Robert Frost: The best way out is always through.

Stephen Covey: Effective leadership is putting first things first. Effective management is discipline, carrying it out.

Thomas Alva Edison: Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration.

Winston Churchill: If you’re going through hell, keep going.

It seems allot of successful and famous people have it figured out.  The way to success is to never give up. Maybe as we head towards a New Year, a good resolution we all should have is to “do our best, and when our best is not enough, keep doing our best.”  In the end, we will probably get farther than most, do more than most, have more fun than most and learn more than most.  All from our attempts.

I guess my fortune cookie was right.  Failure is the mother of success.

The Answer is the Stick

Many of you probably read the title of this post and thought this would be some diatribe about discipline or punishment.  Nope.  A few days ago, something amazing happened.  Joining the ranks of Mr. Potato Head, Monopoly, Silly Putty, Barbie, and the Atari 2600 in the National Toy Hall of Fame was the unassuming stick.  That’s right, the stick.

The stick might be the perfect toy come to think of it.  It is cheap.  Always available.  Easy to use.  Does not need instructions not assembly.  The stick, can be anything we want it to be.

So the answer is the stick.

Before you swear off this site and vow to never return, let me explain some lessons we can learn from the lowly stick.

  1. The stick is simple.  We all want to complicate things.  We want more features, more data, more input, more analysis, more…more…more.  The stick is simple.  It is just a stick.  One of the first lessons I learned from an early mentor was K.I.S.S. (Keep It Simple Stupid).  And lucky for me, he believed it.  “Simple processes are easy to do, complicated processes are not”…he would preach.  “Make it easy to do a good job.”  “People quickly understand what is simple, so keep it simple.”  “Only make it as hard as it has to be, then look for ways to simplify.”  I can almost hear his voice ringing in my head years later.  The stick teaches us that simple is good.
  2. The stick is inclusive.  In a world of all shapes and sizes, colors, races and ages, diversity is critical to the success of an organization.  The stick is inclusive.  No one is left out.  No one is left behind.  We have all played with a stick at some point and if you wanted to go play with one right now, you probably could.  Even animals play with sticks.  Dogs love sticks.  In a world filled with differences, the stick teaches us to be inclusive.
  3. The stick can be anything we want it to be.  A sword, a cane, a bat…anything.  The stick teaches us to think, to be creative.  To make something out of nothing.  To use our mind to create matter.  The stick shows us all that with a little imagination, we can take great journeys with just…a stick.
  4. The stick shows us that design matters.  In order for something to be simple, you have to design it to be simple.  For something to be functional, it has to be designed that way.  So from now on, every time I experience a door handle in an inconvenient place, or telephone hard to hear, or shoes that hurt to walk in, I will think of the stick.  Simple, elegant, functional and flexible in its design.
  5. The stick has been around for awhile and yet after a long, long time of being the toy of generation after generation it finally received its due recognition.  And thus, the stick teaches us about persistence, sticking to it and never giving up.  Allot of people create success simply by being determined.  The stick teaches us to “stick it out.”
  6. The stick teaches us to have fun.  Pick one up, make it your fishing pole or your scepter or the bat that hits the winning home run.  The stick teaches us to imagine and play, to dream, to go on journeys far away.  The stick shows us that what we do can be fun, whether it is life, work or play.
  7. There is a good chance if you are walking through the park with someone and you pick up a stick and begin to play with it, they will do it also.  How many sword fights did you have as a kids with sticks?  How many rounds of “hit the rock?”  The stick teaches us to be interactive, to be social, to use the tools we have to connect and begin to have conversation, dialog, fun.  The stick may have been the first ever “high touch, low tech” social networking tool.

The lowly stick deserves their entry into the National Toy Hall of Fame, as it teaches us more about life than most of the other toys it now resides with in Rochester, NY.  I guess I still hear the words of my early mentor ringing in my ears.  His desire to keep things simple, design things to work with ease and his persistence to achieve that outcome.  In addition my own head rings with the thoughts of inclusion, creativity, imagination, fun and play (the ultimate social event) the stick has brought to my life.

So when things do not seem right…simplify, work on design, include others in the challenge, get creative and have fun overcoming the obstacle.  Isn’t that what the stick would do?

Is Enthusiasm Enough?

I am often asked about ways to approach projects, opportunities or just business in general.  Something I hear over and over is, “I am really excited about this _______ (fill in the blank).”  As time goes on, just like most things in life, this effort is sometimes a grand success, sometimes a moderate success and sometimes a dismal failure.

Which raises the question, is enthusiasm enough?  Is being excited, passionate, jacked up…enough?

Many argue that process is always king over enthusiasm.  A logically thought through, systematic method, executed at a high level will in almost every case produce positive results.  Where “raw enthusiasm” sometimes provides a road of emotional twists and turns where the end game is a product of sheer will and determination.  One is the path of thought and logic, the other a journey of emotions.

Just yesterday I talked to a old friend and colleague of mine.  Like many in these tough times, he was looking for opportunity (aren’t we all) and after a few minutes the conversation headed towards this unique and needed idea he has.  An idea that not only will save the client money and time but also help them sell more product.  His calm demeanor began to morph into this incredibly enthusiastic persona and he soon was bubbling over with excitement as he talked  about his idea.  I could tell by just listening, he totally believed in this idea and in the end, he will make it work.  The voice in my head said, “this is real enthusiasm you can count on.”

Now, of course I will always argue that a highly executed systematic process that is planned out and measurable combined with the highest levels of enthusiasm is the best course of action.  But if I had to chose process or enthusiasm, I will always pick enthusiasm.

I am not a scientist but I believe humans have a gene built into their matter that gives us all incredible powers to discover, explore, achieve, dream and conquer.  We are built from birth to take on challenges and this desire to achieve creates a huge well of enthusiasm.

Throughout history, poor plans have succeded because of raw determination and will.  And I am sure, most of you know someone who has risen to the top based just on thier own personal enthusiasm.  You can not replace passion with process, nor can you create passion through process.  You either are incredibly excited about something, or you are not (lukewarm is not enthusiasm.)  My friend is not wishy washy in his passion towards his idea, he is “all in.”  And his excitement will no doubt, create incredible results.

When I look across the room at the leaders in business, groups and organizations.  I see allot of enthusiasm.

I’ll take the passion every time.