Archives For Work

I’m an IT business manager. I know eCommerce and the online space. I’ve grown up in the consulting world and will always be a consultant. My wife and I have great careers and make good money. We live in a nice part of Dallas and don’t have to worry about unexpected bills or living paycheck to paycheck. We take fancy vacations and buy nice things for ourselves.

Now throw all of that away. Quit the jobs and jeopardize the future. Lose our main sources of income. Rent out the house and live in a small camper. Experience life among homeless people living in parks. Who are we now?

We spend the majority of our lives developing our profile. We start out of high school or college with choosing our profession and how we’ll make money. We work hard to become the best in the field, and we start to believe we are the person we’ve created.

My first career in consulting proved it paid off to build a strong profile. I never wanted to be a “SAP” guy (business software), but when I saw the bonuses and raises that were attached to the profile, I pursued it! It works out best for a consulting company to develop individuals with strong profiles because they can then bring them in to make the client happy and make more money. However, it’s not always best for the employee, because when that specialty is no longer popular, their value quickly declines.

Sometimes our profile is the creation of something we really wanted to become, but there are also big influencers from the outside. Your parents want you to be successful, your spouse wants you to be happy or rich (or both), companies want you to buy their fancy crap and society wants you to live up to its economic standards.

Whether we like or not, society and culture are two of the biggest influencers of our profiles. Why else do we all dress and act the same? I can’t decide if my next hairstyle will be the man bun or the one where you shave your head up to the sides and keep it long up top…. just like all the other hipsters! We may deviate slightly, but we’re pretty much all living the same. Our tour guide in Indonesia, named Putu, was astonished when we told him we moved away from our parents’ houses in the US and that we lived many hours away. In their culture, the families stay together, in the same compound, within feet of each other. That’s part of their profile.

But what happens when your profile changes? What happens when you decide you no longer want to look rich, but instead want to be rich? What happens when you purposely drive a car with over 200k miles on it, even though you could afford a shiny new one? Or on the other side of it, what happens when you get laid off and you can no longer find a job in your industry – instead having to go work part-time at Home Depot because that’s the only thing you can find?

We become so tangled up in our profiles that we can’t see a life beyond it. That’s why it’s so hard for lifetime “corporate employees” to become entrepreneurs. Corporate employees, myself included, are accustomed to earning paychecks by completing specific tasks and living within the bigger and seemingly safer ecosystem. It’s too scary to try to make money on our own without all of this support.

Profiles feel very empowering when we’re in the middle of them, but when we’re suddenly thrown out, we learn they can actually be quite debilitating. By saying we’re one thing, we’re admitting we’re not the other.

The one driving force of humanity that’s kept us around is our ability to adapt. When we’re thrown in new situations, we can survive and often thrive. We’re not the single profiles we’ve created, but instead a whole range of possible new profiles.

We’ve all probably had a boss or two in our lives who we’d swear were psychopaths… you know the one who had an ability to make people cry on demand, never noticed your heroic effort and sacrificed puppies every Friday at lunch. Good news, you’re not crazy if you thought that because a recent study of 261 senior professionals in the United States found that 21% had clinically significant levels of psychopathic traits – roughly the same percentage as the prison population. The normal rate among Americans is around 1%.

Psychopaths suffer from antisocial personality disorder which usually means they are unable to empathize, treat others with very little regard, have no conscience and show no guilt or remorse for their behavior. Psychologists believe they’re born this way, different than sociopaths who are are usually formed that way by nurture (parents / caregivers).

Another distinction is sociopaths are impulsively dangerous, rather than cold and calculated like a psychopath. If that’s not scary enough, psychologists say psychopaths are often able to fake feelings like empathy and remorse to gain trust and build relationships that are beneficial to them.

I think we can all agree from the onset that none of us would enjoy working for a person with these scary traits. You couldn’t trust them which would render your loyalty and commitment worthless… unless you’re scared of them because they’re psychopaths, then you might stick around!

Time for your annual performance review!!!

Time for your annual performance review!!!

But what if you’re a CEO who’s a psychopath only interested in results and you want to find some leaders who can drive the business the same way? Would you consider psychopaths better leaders? Let’s unpeel this onion a bit and pretend I’m talking to you as a psychopath CEO.

Psychopaths probably aren’t very valuable to your company unless they have some other traits you can harness and help mold. If I could pick any trait, I’d select narcissism which psychology defines as “extreme selfishness, with a grandiose view of one’s own talents and a craving for admiration“. Okay, this is something I can work with. Now all we need to do drive the business is help build this person’s dream of the position they can achieve at our company and the admiration and fame that will come with it.

It doesn’t matter if the person has any passion for what your company does, all that matters is they can clearly see a path to dominance. Of course, you’ll need to play some games of your own to make sure this person isn’t able to unseat you, but you’re a psychopath CEO, so that shouldn’t be a problem. Isn’t this coming along well??!

The last thing you need to ensure is your psycho-minion is smart enough to at least fake some emotional intelligence. They can’t make it obvious they have very little regard for others or they won’t be successful. The good news is if you find a narcissistic leader who’s smart, they’ll know an important element of their success is shepherding and building those under them – at least enough that it helps the leader be more successful.

Congratulations psychopath CEO, your company is now built to at least hit next quarter’s numbers! However, anything beyond that is foggy because everyone else will probably quit.

So far, it sounds pretty clear we wouldn’t want to work for a psychopath. But is there more to the story?

Psychopath or a good business operator?

There’s some very tough middle ground senior leaders have to play that could often be viewed as either a psychopathic trait or as being a good business operator. I had to play some of these roles at my last job when times got hard and budgets got cut. This makes the job of a leader very difficult because you have to worry about the long term health of the company sometimes more than the individuals who work for it.

If you’re not able to be a “tough” boss who can make the hard decisions, you may not be successful and your company may fail. I had a very hard time making staffing cuts because I was very concerned about the impact to the individuals… but does that make me a bad business operator and does that make the person who made the cuts a psychopath? It’s obviously not black or white, so many of the judgments can’t be made without a broader understanding of the situation… which is hard to entertain if you’re the one who is getting let go!

What about psychopath visionaries?

Visionaries are the people who ultimately change the world. Sometimes they do it through building consensus and slowly moving the group along, but most of the time they’re single-minded in their efforts. It could be built out of their own goals of admiration and power, or it could be propelled by something they believe in so strongly that no person will be able to stand in their way.

Either way, they might be viewed as psychopaths because they’re more concerned with their vision than with anyone or anything else. They’re not hesitant to insult or fire people aren’t valuable to their cause. One often disputed psychopath is Steve Jobs. According to biographer Walter Isaacson, there was “Good Steve” and a “Bad Steve” and if you’ve read any of his biographies or watched the movies, you know he had some psychopathic traits. But he also changed the world.

In the end…

Even if 21% of senior leaders are psychopaths, it means that 79% aren’t. However, there are probably times that every senior leader was accused of being a psychopath due to the decisions they were forced to make. If I’m unwilling to make those tough decisions because I’m too nice (this is all theoretical) then does that mean I wouldn’t make it at the top of the company? Maybe that’s why there is a higher concentration of “psychopathic traits” at the top… because the people unwilling to make these difficult decisions quit before then or make a decision to stay at a lower level or as an “individual contributor” so they wouldn’t be put in a position where they’d have to look like a psychopath!

If it seems like I’ve gone in circles with this post, it’s because I have. When I first started writing it, I definitely had it slanted that there’s a clear “psychopath leader” trait and many senior leaders have the same temperament at the prison population… but as I started thinking through my own experiences and examples, I’ve definitely backtracked. It’s not easy being a senior leader and if you want to be the one in those positions of power and influence where you can drive real change, you need to make tough decisions that might make you look like a psychopath sometimes.

Studies like the one linked, just like most statistics, can be slanted in any direction or be made to tell any story one prefers. I’m assuming the interviews of the senior leaders were completed with the goal of finding at least one of those “psychopathic traits” – which is probably pretty easy to do with someone who’s been in that position long enough and has been forced to make the painful decisions to increase company longevity.

I think that’s where you sort out the real psychopaths from the others. Recognize if they’re only out for their own personal gain and power – and avoid them. Find someone you trust and can learn from and who you know has your back, but then understand we’re in a very challenging and quickly changing environment where tough decisions are sometimes required. I’ve always tried to find those people I respect and can learn from, and then follow them in my career until the time is right to move on.

When he walks into a room, he greets you with a warm smile, handshake, and most importantly, your name. He makes you feel like the most important person on the planet and the person he’s been waiting to see all week. Does he have some sort of superpower that makes him extremely charismatic? No, he just practices.

Emotional intelligence is one of the most important traits that will contribute to your success in life. It’s the ability to assess the situation and personalities in your presence and drive interactions based on that. It’s not something you’re “born with” – it can be learned.

When we visited Detroit during our Great American Road trip, we met up with a friend who has very high emotional intelligence. In the course of conversations with him and his partner, we learned that he works very hard to make people feel special. In fact, after he meets someone, he’ll write down their name and something to remember them by (what they do, where they met, etc). He’s been known to search through his notes for 45 minutes before a meeting to find someone’s name and notes again!!

This isn’t new information, and I’m sure you’re familiar with it from books like Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People. In it, he gives many tips, but in this particular area, he has some dandies:

carnegie

Even with all of this information out there, it blows my mind to see how low some people’s emotional intelligence can be! There’s one particular example of someone who talks incessantly about crap nobody cares about. This person is not a friend, but someone who cohabits mutual gatherings, so don’t think I’m talking bad about somebody I like (or who would be reading this)! This person will trap somebody in a conversation and then drag them through the painful details nobody wanted to hear in the first place… and doesn’t seem to realize people are doing anything they can to escape.

People aren’t going to hire you, spend time with you, or even want to work for you if you have this low of emotional intelligence. I’ve thought about some of my friends and mentors who display high emotional intelligence and noted three main areas to improve my emotional intelligence, the “Three A’s: Awareness, Adjustment and Acceptance”.

Awareness

In my example of a really low emotionally intelligent individual, she had no idea people ran when she turned their direction. You have to be aware of how you’re viewed in situations. Are you coming off as arrogant and rude, or kind and friendly? Are people interested in what you’re saying, or are they just too nice to walk away?

To get more aware of yourself, start to take a more “outside in” approach and think about how other people see you. One of the biggest challenges with awareness is your particular situation is always changing. Even if you’re talking to two people in one conversation, each will have their own feelings of the situation. However, the first step is just to start thinking about it.

Adjustment

After you become of aware of how you are seen, make adjustments accordingly. If you’re the person who talks all of the time, take one of Mr. Carnegie’s tips and be a good listener and encourage others to talk about themselves. There’s no better way to drive a conversation than to get someone talking about something they’re interested in.

You can also try the name and notes approach, which always make a great start to a conversation because people are surprised you’ve actually remembered them and will quickly warm up to you.

Acceptance

If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it’s probably a duck. There’s some things we know about ourselves that we might not be able to change or don’t want to change. Conversely, there’s things about other people we’ll never be able to change. Some of my friends call me “Direct Dan” because I’ve been known to skip over the light talk to get straight to a point and it comes across a little harsh. I’m aware of this and many times I don’t control it fast enough as the directness escapes my lips, but it also helped define me in my career and allowed me to be a better leader and boss.

Working on your emotional intelligence can be a fun thing, but as mentioned earlier, it’s also vitally important to your career and life. We have another good friend (I know, surprising I have 2+ friends) who’s also highly emotionally intelligent. He’s one of those guys who can fit in any situation you throw him in, and he’ll adapt beautifully. A perfect example is a relationship he’s developed with the Marley’s (yes, as in Bob Marley’s family) through work. Whenever they come to town, they always give him a call because the trust they have in him that’s developed from his great work but also his high emotional intelligence. A call from the Marley’s will more than likely always result in fun.

What examples do you see that makes someone high or low emotionally intelligent?

p.s. I thought this picture would be fun to share because it’s from a work event, and I’m not a dirty hippie like I am now… and it maybe I’m either really emotionally intelligent in it, really cheesy, or just having fun 🙂

dan-and-pierre

Somewhere along the line, we’ve all been tricked. We’ve been tricked into thinking only certain types of people with well developed skills and a professionally vetted plan can become entrepreneurs. We think we need a license to entrepreneu (I made that word up) before we can become entrepreneurs.

Actually, it’s not even that we’re tricked, it’s that we’re trained to think like this. School doesn’t teach us how to become entrepreneurs, but instead how to be good employees. As I mentioned in the five things I never learned in school, we’re not taught how to assess ourselves, take action, question authority or even manage money. These are things most entrepreneurs do well. We’re taught to wait for the next assignment to be given to us, so we’re always dependent on being told what to do.

When we traveled the world in 2013, we realized most people in developing countries were entrepreneurs. This wasn’t because they attended Robert Kiyosaki’s “Rich Dad, Poor Dad” seminar, it’s because there weren’t other jobs! They couldn’t log on to Monster.com and apply to 50 different openings for a financial analyst. No, they just needed to be able to eat, so they found a way to make some money.

They’d set up little stalls in the market selling their goods, or save up enough money to buy a car and give tours of their city. They’d figure out how to get by, even if it was only by selling a few camel-skin purses a day. This has been going on for tens of thousands of years – ever since humans coexisted. In my mind, there are only a few basic requirements to become an entrepreneur:
1. Be a human
2. Ability to interact with people
3. Know the local language (optional)
Some people get by with only the first requirement! We all interact with people and know how to carry a conversation. This is the very basic requirement for entrepreneurism.

So why does entrepreneurism seem so hard to most of us in the US?

I think a lot of it has to do with what we see on television or the interwebs. We see news stories on guys like Zuckerberg or Larry Paige who invented freaking Facebook or Google! We try to compare ourselves with people like that, and of course our ideas aren’t going to look grand enough. We think we can’t start being an entrepreneur until we have a brilliant and original idea.

When I interviewed my entrepreneur friend Chris, he talked about how every app idea has about ten people working on it (yes, that even includes your awesome app idea). He said about 6 of those people have moved just beyond the idea phase to talk to some people about getting it started. Two have started the design and are building it out. The last two have already brought it to market and are working their butts off day and night to make it succeed.

A brilliant idea isn’t what makes an entrepreneur successful, so don’t let that hold you up. We’re seeing new companies pop up in old industries every day, and just when we think a market is tapped out, we see a new company come in and succeed. Look at the beer market. Ten years ago it was monopolized by about four companies and we were all forced to think Bud Light was a good beer. Now, there are new craft beer companies popping up everywhere, and it’s not like they’ve reinvented beer!

Entrepreneurism is possible, you just have to want it enough. And yes, this is coming from an unemployed guy who spends all day fixing up his Airstream!! However, I intend my next paid for venture to come from my own work, so let’s do this together, and I’ll keep you updated as I move down that path.

Also, feel free to print off the awesome certificate below so you can have your license to entrepreneur!!!

 

Entrepreneur License

Ever feel like your job locks you into a prison like environment with rows of cubicles and a boss always hovering around? If that’s the case, then good news, Whole Foods wouldn’t even sell you because you’d be considered a Step 0 in their Animal Welfare Rating! Whole Foods wouldn’t even consider you until you have no cages, no crates and less crowding!

As I was shopping the other day in their overstimulated world of brightly colored vegetables, GMO-free Cheerios and super cool employees, I thought about how relevant the rating scale is for our jobs. Sure, success and pay can’t be measured by their animal welfare rating, but if you’re like me, happiness as measured by freedom, might be. Continue Reading…

Are We All Programmable?

February 9, 2015 — 1 Comment

The average worker bee’s life is five to seven weeks long. Within this time, they spend around 8 days developing, 12 days working inside the hive, and the remaining 22 days foraging for food and gathering pollen and nectar. Bees are a nearly perfectly efficient system where all members do exactly what they need to ensure the survival of their own species.

If something went wrong with the bee’s programming, they could quickly go extinct because their dependency on the whole group is too great to live individually.

The turn “Programmable” has stuck in my head for over a year now when one of my friend’s co-workers described a suburb north of Dallas as being very programmable. All the kids go to a massive high school and get into a good university, and four years later they’re in the workforce. They do just as their parents did before them and they feed the corporate world with plenty of workers.

Continue Reading…

DICKSSPORTINGGOODS-Gift-Card-300x190Enter for your chance to win a $100 Dick’s Sporting Good’s Gift Card through one of my partner websites!  You can earn multiple entries by subscribing to their newsletter, liking on Facebook, and Retweeting.

Visit Pro Game Changer by Friday, April 18 for your chance to win.

Now the real question – why am I promoting someone else’s giveaway?!  Well, there’s much more to it than me being a nice guy, I’m actually starting to explore additional ways to make money.  That’s right, I’ve now taken on some weekend work by helping a friend rebuild their website and developing a retail strategy.

Continue Reading…

His tenure at his company was approaching 35 years, and a well funded retirement and pension were just around the corner.  He sacrificed for the company, and they paid him for it.  It wasn’t just him who enjoyed this relationship, his wife also worked for the same company for 25 years and was looking forward to her pension as retirement was just around the corner.

Outsourced

It’s all fun and games (or a tv show) until your job is outsourced!

However, this match made in heaven was about to end abruptly.  It all started when my former employer was brought in to the company to help implement some systematic improvements to make their warehouses better (consulting lingo).  As a consulting firm usually does, they continued finding work for the company while looking for areas to expand their presence and increase sales.

They soon found the answer:  outsource the IT department to my firm; who, in turn would decrease costs by outsourcing the jobs to India.  It’s a common model many companies have used the last decade.

Bob was a Director in the IT department.  Now that the entire department was outsourced to my firm, his employer changed and so did the benefits he would receive during retirement.  That’s right, he and his wife would no longer get the pensions they were ready to start collecting on because now they worked for a new company.

Continue Reading…

Hello, Master

January 20, 2014 — 12 Comments
Elephant Village, Laos

Driving my queen around in Laos – she’s not the “Master” I’m referring to though!

After ten months of unpaid leave from my company while we traveled the world, I knew it would be somewhat difficult to go back to my regular job.  We rode elephants in Laos, pet tigers in Thailand, feared for our life in Jordan, and watched the mesmerizing Northern Lights in Iceland.  We pushed ourselves beyond our previous limits when we hiked a mountain in Malaysia and visited 4 tiny villages in the remote mountains of Nepal as we trekked for 65 kilometers over four days.  We saw each other every day, and almost every minute – with the number of times we were apart for more than an hour easily countable on two hands.  We put every ounce of trust and faith in each other’s hands as we set out as a team to explore the world.

Our days were no longer defined by fighting through the week just to have two days to do what we wanted on the weekends – which are usually filled with doing chores we don’t want to do anyway!  Instead, we did whatever we wanted, whenever we wanted, and we were more active than we’d ever been before.  Our time wasn’t filled with lazy days on the beach, but instead of near constant motion of traveling to new cities, finding our home for the next few days, exploring the major sites, and at the same time planning our next destinations. Continue Reading…

It’s been a lot of work getting through SE Asia, so I’m taking the week off!  Instead, I’m excited to share a guest post from a great blogger, Jon Jefferson.  He left a really good comment on my post Clearing Rain Forests Makes Economic Sense, so I asked him to elaborate on his comment.  Be sure to check out his bio at the bottom of this post and his two blogs – 10th Day Brewing and Misadventures in Strange Places.

Guest Post:  Fight the Lie

Years ago, it didn’t take much to survive. I remember when I was in the Marines, as a married corporal I was making roughy 8.50 an hour (that is if we were paid hourly wages). That was enough to have an apartment and food even go to movies and such. It was livable.

After I was back in the real world, one of the jobs I worked at paid 6.75 an hour. This was a couple dollars over minimum wage. I was the only one working between my wife and I. We had our first child with me making less than 10 dollars an hour. In fact we even had our second child with me making less than 10 dollars an hour. I was the only one with a job. For the first few years of my children’s lives they had a stay at home mother.

Working jobs with no education, factory jobs that were some of the best you could get with no education outside of high school, I climbed as high as 13 dollars an hour. During this time it only took one of us working outside the home.

Continue Reading…