Category: Work

Change Junkies

change-the-world.jpgI’ve joked about entrepreneurialism being a disease, a curse, and possibly even an addiction.  It’s no joke.  It is involuntary, and wreaks havoc on your body and mind.  At times, being an entrepreneur makes it difficult to be in the moment, or maintain a healthy work-life balance.  It requires that you take risks, which often times include those closest to you taking the same risks, whether they agreed to or not.  Entrepreneurs are innovators, problem solvers, have a high need for achievement, but most of all…are change junkies.  I absolutely love challenging the status quo, and exposing complacency.  I love to disrupt rhythms to find a rhyme or riddle for that matter.  Change is the catalyst to solving any problem, no matter the size, scope, or genre.  But change has a price, and it’s too high for most to consider.  For me, fear remains a constant reminder of my past and potential failures, but my disease is what drives me to change, grow, and repeat.  Life is collection of experiences, not things.  Without change, your collection will remain small.

Recently, I’ve been quite discouraged.  My income is hemorrhaging, I’m lacking in creativity, I’ve got writers block (fun to say that,) and many of my most recent deals have gone South.  But…I feel alive, and as crazy as it sounds, it’s times like these that require a tremendous amount of focus, determination, and work.  And I don’t mean mental masturbation…I mean get on the phone, get in front of the right people, ask for the order kind of work.  With cash reserves diminishing, that time is here for me and my house.

As I prepare to change my situation, I challenge you to do the same.  Let’s be change junkies together!  I promise, we’ll live to tell about it.

Also, if you want to help change the way the world looks at you and others, visitacceptance.org or facebook.com/acceptanceisbeautiful.

It’s Nothing Personal, It’s Just Business…Right!

From the time we are young, most of us are taught to be kind, considerate, respectful of others, and above all honest. In school, we learn to be punctual, responsible, and that there is a direct link between application and results.  Sport teaches us the value of working together as a team. College attempts to prepare us for adulthood by introducing accounting, ethics, psychology, sociology, and politics.  For a lot of us, our first job teaches us something much different.

My first “real” job was with a shipping company; I was 18.  For two weeks I received on the job training.  I learned how to operate the computer systems, drive a forklift, dock safety, and the company history.  My first day on the dock however, I learned about unions.  Over the next two months, I quickly became one of the most efficient workers on my shift.  The union workers hated me, and gave me hell.  I was cursed, threatened, forced to pay dues, and bullied.  I quit not long after a friend of mine was forced to defend himself in a fist fight.  He was unharmed.  I wasn’t sure if I’d be as lucky.

Since that first “real world” experience, I’ve had many more, and have learned that business is mostly a dog eat dog world, driven by the fear of many, and the greed of few.  Where secrecy, silos, and perception reign; and the arrogance and ego of men is celebrated and glamorized.  Where nothing is personal, just business.

Imagine this year’s best selling books with the following titles:

  • The Top Rung: How to Deceive your Way to the Top Through Bribery and Manipulation
  • Bankruptcy as a Business Plan: How to Make and Keep Millions you Don’t Deserve
  • Lawsuits for Hire: Let’s Hope they Settle
Do you think people would buy these books?  Maybe, maybe not, but I can tell you that this is exactly what happens every day in business all over the world.  I wish I was exaggerating, but this is the world we live in.  Thankfully, there are those who still believe in doing the right thing, and that Winners Never Cheat.  I am one of those people, and also one who believes that everything is personal.  We have a personal responsibility to be kind, considerate, and respectful of others.  To do the right thing, even when no one is looking.  To speak up when something isn’t right, and above all be honest.  I’m not sure when and where all of what we are taught as children and young adults gets scrapped for an entirely different set of ideals, but I’m confident if more people refused to compromise their core values, we’d have a lot less corruption, bankruptcies, and bailouts.
I lost quite a bit of sleep last night due to a recent lawsuit that was filed against me and a company I own.  It certainly comes as no surprise, but serves as a reminder of some of the things I’ve pointed out above.  I’ve already experienced a roller coaster of emotions, but must remain calm, and remember that “it’s not personal, it’s just business.” Right.

Nigerian Nightmare

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Last night, I watched a documentary on Enron.  It reminded me how hypnotizing greed can be.  It can make even the most scenical of skeptics surrender to it’s charm, and I am no exception.  Ten years ago, I got caught up in a Nigerian scam.  It involved a bogus multi-million dollar contract from a major oil company, $10,000 in cash concealed in two first class dopp kits, a Nigerian chief, and a Montblanc pen.  The story is quite incredible, and ends with me escaping in the middle of the night from my hotel in Warri to avoid being kidnapped.  Perhaps I’ll spend a couple of hours one day inventorying the events of my Nigerian nightmare, but I mainly wanted to make it known that I’m no stranger to greed.  The deal reeked like a dead fish, and I sank my teeth in.

On more than one occassion, I’ve described greed as the gremlin that crawls up your back, looks you in the eye and tells you that you deserve more.  Like the line in the movie Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps, when the young actor asks his nemisis what his number is, and he says “more.”  More is never enough.

I’m no politician, nor am I the next Robin Hood, but I think there may be something magical about repressing greed.  I’ve never experienced or heard of anyone on their death bed wishing they had time to earn more, get more, or spend more.  Sure, I want nice things for my family, and myself, but not at any cost.

So to all the other conservative liberals, and capitalistic democrats out there…give generously, do the right thing, and hang on to your soul; you may need your ticket punched some day.

Broke-down, Busted, and Adjusted

At 21, I was the president of a company that I helped take public. We had a couple of hundred employees, several offices, and not unlike most Internet companies, no earnings. A year later, I decided to buy my first home. The purchase price was much more than I could afford, and it took three mortgages to get the deal done. I had five cars that all had notes, and a lifestyle I could not afford. There are probably posters still floating around with my face on them, and the caption, “Live the American Dream; Spend More Than You Make.” Needless to say, less than three years later, I was broke. All of my cars were repossessed, and I narrowly avoided foreclosure. Over the next several years, I painfully managed to pay off all my creditors and become debt free. Thank you Dave Ramsey.

More than a decade later, I found myself in a similar situation for a much different reason. I bet it all on a company that I knew would be successful. However, my lack of experience, and market conditions, put me in a very compromising situation. I owed millions, and the economic vacuum that existed within our company would not allow us to pay down debt, and make money simultaneously. I had two options; sell the business, or file bankruptcy. Each had it’s advantages, and although there were two options, I had only one choice.

Being an entrepreneur, and being a good money manager are two very different things. The former requires vision, dreaming big, and action. The latter requires discipline, determination, and a plan. However, both require math, as does just about every aspect of our lives. I have to work very hard to stay disciplined in my spending, however, in order for us to rebuild America together, we must develop and maintain healthy personal and professional budgets. It doesn’t mean we can’t have what we want, but it may mean we have to wait. Waiting isn’t so bad.

Serially Unemployable

Today was the last day of the last job I will ever have.  I remain serially unemployable.  For the past four months, I’ve wrestled with whether or not I should attempt to stick it out for the entirety of my three-year employment agreement, or surrender to the freedom that comes with being, once again, an entrepreneur.  My decision to leave was illogical, unwise, risky, and perfectly liberating.

I’m thankful for the time I had the privilege to lead an incredible team of people who bled yellow and black.  You know who you are, and I sincerely thank you.  Keep doing the right thing!

Although I don’t have a definitive plan going forward, it should not surprise anyone that it will involve a big dream, a team of talented people, and a purpose and goal of doing something that can only be done together.  It’s not what you do, but who you are that matters most.

I’m a Shaft Inspector

The first thing most people will ask you after exchanging names is “what do you do?”  In most cases, it’s a way of sizing you up, which is especially true with men, including me at times.  Furthermore, when we talk about others, we typically are quick to point out what they do professionally, or what they’ve accomplished.  As for me, my identity is much more than what I do or have done as an entrepreneur.

Early in my entrepreneurial career, it was common for me to work 12-16 hours per day.  I thought that working long hours to the point of exhaustion demonstrated that I was a “man.”  I was wrong.  Last year, Mike Van Hoozer shared with me a simple way of deciphering between one’s identity and roles (see pic.)  This simple exercise was very helpful, because it allowed me to visually see that who I am, isn’t defined by what I do.

I circled twice what’s most important to me, and where failure isn’t an option.  It helps to have a partner to share the results of this exercise with, because everyone needs support, encouragement, and accountability.

My first challenge to you is to do this simple exercise, circle what’s most important to you, and then start taking the steps towards positive change.

The second challenge is the next time someone asks you what you do, make something up.  If you can’t think of anything, tell them you work for A&B Elevator, and you’re a shaft inspector.

Morale of the story…don’t be defined by your job, be defined by your character.