Lessons learned

You learn so many things from other people, and the situations you are in.

I had a bit of a weird situation last week where I had asked a question on Whatsapp then didn’t actually read the answer until I left another meeting, in which the same subject had come up. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
I thought I was busy before but the level of intensity got turned up a notch in the last week. Busy is the wrong word, actually. I am not always working smart, if I don’t take the time to step back and evaluate what is going on.
There’s some magical ‘they’ who say it’s always darkest before the dawn. I’ve been waking up very early recently and I disagree. Before the dawn is no different than earlier in the night. There is something very VERY dark about the witching hour time of around 2-4am. No one should be awake, then.
I find that there is a certain time of the day when the world around you starts to wake up and reply to emails. It’s around 7am. That time of 6-7am when I’m essentially alone in the new room of the gym, just me, my barbell, my demons, and the rising sun.
It sounds so dramatic that way. But I do. In some ways I cannot imagine life to be different than it is. In other ways, it’s crazy that I’m here now, in this place, in this job, doing this sport. Perhaps in my own way I am fighting demons in each of these areas. And what I’m avoiding?
Well, with my feet firmly towards the future, before I recount the events of the last week at Skyrove which were, in a word, amazing (things are finally, FINALLY, starting to come together as I’ve been working towards), I was reflecting a lot on what I have learned that has enabled me to do what I am now doing. Because, what I am now doing requires an understanding of lots of different things. What triggered this is that my dear friend Kerry Murray, who has recently been doing some PR/content marketing work for Skyrove, is moving back to the States and I am bummed. I think I learned most of what she has to say that’s valuable to me in the here and now. But it is hard to lose a friend. Especially this one.
I have been so lucky in my past to work with some people who are expects in their field and who managed to teach me a lot not explicitly but just by their desire to do the best thing possible for the company. So, with no further ado I bring you:
PR & Content Marketing: Kerry Murray. The key insight? What place is to the four Ps of marketing, applies also to PR. Get in front of your people where they consume, whether that is online, print, conferences, and make sure that your web site structure allows you to capture this. The whole notion of writing opinion pieces as a method of lead generation is new to me in the last year, and I get the basics now, thanks to Kerry.
Enterprise Sales: Rick Lamy. There was a time when I resented, a bit, Rick’s customer focus. Since I was in charge of product management sometimes there would be a tendency for the tail to wag the dog and sales to push for features to be added that were not core critical in my opinion, but at the end of the day he knew his sh*t backwards and forwards. I learned from this man what channel sales needs to look like, how to support the channel, and what an enterprise sales cycle looks like. I may never have had a day of formal sales training in my life, but I know how to sell largely because of Rick.
Product Marketing: Kate Mosteller. I also used to get a bit frustrated with this lovely woman because she wouldn’t immediately understand what the product did and why it was important. ‘It has feature X, can’t you see why that’s so critical?????’ Yeah. No. She taught me the difference between function and benefit, and that you need to sell the ‘what’s in it for me’ element. If you can’t explain what your product or service or feature does for a customer, may as well go home.
Strategy: Harry Graff. Actually a marketing professor. Right up there with Michael Cummings in my book, but what stood out to me about Harry Graff was that he finally made me understand that product management (my career) WAS marketing, and marketing WAS strategy. At least if you do it right. Strategy is an over-arching umbrella that starts with the customer and ends with consistency of execution to the brand promise and the specific product or service being sold.
Line Management: Craig Larson. He used to run a McDonalds. Then he ran the Exit41 call centre. I am not going to claim that I have his managerial skills, or even close … but he taught me a thing or two about no-nonsense thinking and not taking crap. You must manage people differently but in the last week, as I suppose, in all weeks, I’ve had to lay people down and say that what they wanted to do was not going to work, and we had to find another way. I’ve always been blunt. I try to be kind. But I’ve also been always a bit of a softie, and I can feel that part of me falling away, because it has to. This is neither here nor there, but a part of Craig I always respected, and I am now emulating.
The Right Approach: Robin Keller. I recently was thinking of Robin and emailed him, and in his reply he mentioned something about Wise Speech, a concept from Theravada Buddhism. He taught me not to rush into things, and a lot of tactical things about software development that mainly boil down to this: figure out what you’re going to do, do it right, and for heaven’s sake, don’t be sloppy when it counts.
There have been many, many others over the years for whom I have a deep respect. Z Holly, Ed Boudrot, Clay Johnson, Steve Pennypacker, Chris Hanaoka, Matthew Temple, Sakiko Kimura, Steve McDonnell, Steve Lilley, Laura Snow, Eric Stromberg, Bernhard Kohlmeier. I am sure I am missing a bunch. Kevin Ho, who taught me that smart people can think very differently from me, and that if you have access to a machine you 0wn the machine. A lesson I’ve never forgotten.
I have a tendency, for better or worse, to say what I feel. I don’t like to lie because then I must remember what I lied about. That’s one thing. Worse is that there is some part in me that does not like to leave something on the table. You ask me something and I’ll tell you what I think, pretty much all of it.
Sometimes too much. But I do reserve the right to change my mind when presented with new information. Anything less would be pretty foolish. Way worse to lead off a cliff than to admit your path was not a good one.
Here’s to not being foolish, and seeing what is there and not just what you want to see, although I do believe we create or influence our own futures to a certain degree. The degree can vary but deny it at your peril. Believe you will succeed and you may. Believe you will fail? Then you must definitely will.
But why think like that? Life is far too bright & precious to worry about fear & failure.
Back to the type I and type II errors. If we all regret more the things we didn’t do or the path we didn’t take, why is it that the fears hold us back every day are the little ones?
What, at the end of the day, is the biggest fear we all have? Rejection, probably. Not sure if it’s a real study or urban legend that people are more afraid of death than of public speaking. I think the fear is of making a fool and being embarrassed by that. Yeah so if you approach a company for a deal and they say no or you go for the close and are turned away … move on.
I suppose it may also be good to think of both the long term and the immediate future but not everything in between. Just like a CrossFit chipper. Know how to pace yourself but don’t think about those 20 front squats at the end. Speaking of which I want to do that one again. And 13.5 now that my chest-to-bar pullups are improving.
The great joy of following a training programme is that you don’t have to think for yourself (ok, I do, freedom with responsibility). But I can’t just go and do workouts that I think would be fun. Doesn’t mean I’m not going to mix in some trail races though!
Life is short. If you’re not having fun… why bother? More on this in the next post. 

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