James Greaves

Reflections on a Failure

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In my last post I urged all three of my readers to be more honest in how they talk about their failures in entrepreneurship. I have been quite frank in the past on this, but here's another for the record:

In 2011 I went to consult a great little company with a huge vision, www.alltegra.com, where I was privileged to later serve as CEO. Alltegra was a gutsy upstart with a huge vision. Its founding team were passionately driven to roll up an underserved market where both consumers and vendors were (and still are) horrendously disconnected: home maintenance. Except, they had so many ideas, they were struggling to execute.

Alltegra aimed to provide 1. all home trades in one place, 2. a new model for home maintenance, and 3. innovative technology. It was a big vision.

Alltegra aimed to provide 1. all home trades in one place, 2. a new model for home maintenance, and 3. innovative technology. It was a big vision.

The first priority was to clarify what we were trying to achieve. What type of company were we, and what was the pain we were really addressing? It was clear all of us hated the lack of relationship between homeowners and home maintenance professionals. It's a gap that doesn't need to be there and makes both sides suffer financially and emotionally. In my opinion, it's one of the most broken relationships of any industry. Could we remove it with a new approach: with new technology and a new business model?

The next step was to simplify the product to something that could be tested, and use lean methodologies to isolate and validate our assumptions. The product was an convoluted mess. We used all the feedback we had to date and some gut assumptions to create a much more simple product, which we then took to market in the most cost-effective way possible to test.

As we started to gain traction we needed to build the team. As CEO, once the strategy was taking root, talent and fundraising consumed me. In this stage I learned valuable lessons about hiring the right person for the job in terms of culture and approach. Stuff I was taught in business school took on tangible meaning in the real world: Hard skills, basic competence, are the first filter for any new hire, but the real test was whether the individual could self-motivate and maintain a flexible, passionate drive for execution according to our vision. I found that most people love the idea of working for a startup, but few understand the reality and have the fortitude to push the boundaries without a safety net. We burned through more people than we should have.

Next step was to grow exponentially by using the lessons we had learned to date to scale what we had nailed....except this is where the wheels came off the bus.

I closed the business after 18 months. Consumer tests, although broadly positive, also showed that our cost of acquisition was too high for our available funding. In other words, it was too expensive to sign people up and we didn't have enough runway to get to the next level.

This could have been for many reasons, but I believe this was caused by the kind of team that we hired—basically we ended up with too many operations and product people and not enough customer people. What this meant was that as we grew work went into swelling the product features rather than pushing it out and refining. Complexity magnified as more and more great ideas were added that the client would probably want, while fewer and fewer were cut or refined through direct interaction and field testing. The sale became more and more complicated, required more time, and cost more money.

It was clear we were heading in the wrong direction and we didn’t have the runway with the current team to turn it around, so I pulled the plug. That was the hardest call of all. But it was the right call.

A Call to Measure Startup Failure

James GreavesComment

Now with added Jordan

I have failed.

When I started my first real company in 2004 I was terrified I'd ever have to say those words. At the time the financial risk of venturing out on my own wasn't so hard to swallow; my net worth, after all, wasn't much higher than three suitcases of worn clothes. But the reputational risk felt off the charts. What would people think if I tried and failed, I thought. This terrified me. (Although, seeing how I dressed in those days, it seems absurd that I would so concerned about my image.)

Nine out of ten articles you will read about startups will be about success. Yes, there is a growing body of literature of failure and a growing understanding of the value of failure in startups (as long as you iterate properly!), buh failure is still generally misunderstood. Maybe because there is just so much failure out there —it's all around us—while success is much rarer. Maybe it's because it hurts so much it's hard to remove the stigma.

(As an aside, the fact that we spend more than 90% of our time talking about the 10% —or 0.1% — of cases has mislead many a would-be entrepreneur and broken many hearts. After all, what nascent entrepreneur doesn't think they have started the next Facebook or SnapChat?)

It's a well known fact that America likes winners. It backs winners. It doesn't want to look at losers, despite quotes from Michael Jordan that make failure appear acceptable, even sexy.

It's a well known fact that America likes winners. It backs winners. It doesn't want to look at losers, despite quotes from Michael Jordan that make failure appear acceptable, even sexy.

I'm also dubious of failure reflection pieces, or postmortems, that succinctly present the lesson learned. I wonder if the losers really can comprehend exactly why they failed, because not all failures are created equal. If I played Novak Djokovic in tennis, for example, we would certainly be able to point to two or three things in my game that could be improved. But how close was I to really winning? If I improved those three things, another three hundred would present themselves.

Not only that, but my understanding of the mechanics for tennis are limited, so I have poor tools to deconstruct what happened. I also have the handicap of being in the middle of the game, where it's hard to see exactly what I am doing (or what I'm not).

You can practice shooting eight hours a day, but if your technique is wrong then all you become is very good at shooting the wrong way. Get the fundamentals down and the level of everything you do will rise.
— Michael Jordan

What's the solution? I'm not sure. Destigmatizing failure is a good first step. Being able to honestly and maturely reflect and change is one of the most powerful tools in an entrepreneur's arsenal. (Because at the end of the day. The only excuse you have for failure is yourself.) Yes, quotes from Michael Jordan are inspiring. Overcoming insurmountable odds is tremendously exciting, but only if you win in the end. MJ showed us how deeply he believed in this vision by how he acted, and honestly, I am in awe of him, but who really wants to talk about his time playing baseball?

Coaching and mentoring are huge. We're all well aware that every successful sports personality has a coach. So do most executives. Unfortunately, entrepreneurs by their nature can't afford such an extravagance. I guess boards, VCs and angels are the best we can hope for, and many of these are excellent.

Over the last decade tremendous work has been done in the science of entrepreneurship. Let's keep the debate going with honesty and respect.

I can accept failure. Everyone fails at something. But I can’t accept not trying.
— Michael Jordan

What Should You Focus on in 2015 (or any other year)?

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So it's time to set some new years resolutions, or at the very least, sit back down at your desk, try to remember where you left off, and plan something coherent. Where do you start? What should you focus on?

There is a simple formula to follow that will get you where you want to go that will make sure you have the results you need, the brand to go with it, and all the opportunity you could ever wish for in your life. I have seen this recipe work hundreds of times:

1. Deliver. Deliver your numbers. Deliver you day job. Get the right results. Whatever people need from you, make sure they get it, because if they don't you don't have a platform to do anything else. If you're not doing this yet, this should be your number one focus for the next 3-6 months. Nail EVERYTHING that is expected of you, (and make sure you can exit gracefully from anything that shouldn't be expected from you well before it comes due.) When good noise starts to percolate around you, then you are ready for the next step.

2. Build the Machine. Automate as much as possible in step 1 to make sure you are ready to take advantage of the good opportunities that have started to come your way with increasing regularity. This will also enable you to deliver more, further expanding your impact and brand, and will give you headspace to move on to step three. Your exposure will grow exponentially as people everywhere start to talk about you and hold you up as the model employee, and your ability to control resources will increase because you will be more trusted. Use your increased leverage to greatly benefit the organization and you become one of the chosen few.

3. Innovate. When the first two steps are complete, you now have the platform to do whatever you want. This is where you get to use your experience, relational capital, and position to really make a difference. Now you get to change everything that you have seen is broken and move the company and your career into a completely new trajectory. If you can get to this step, the world is your oyster. Just make sure the first two steps remain in full swing.

This simple recipe DBI, Deliver-Build-Innovate, is so powerful, but often people get things backwards, hoping that if they can just innovate now, then they will gain a voice, a seat at the table, and will be seen as a superstar, regardless of anything else that is (or isn't) going on around them.

I bet that anyone who has rapidly risen through the ranks at your company cracked this code. Who have you seen do this? When have you been able to do it?

Start each day with delivery, then build, and if you have time, you can innovate. What's on your DBI plan today?

The Call to be a Hero

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Just a quick thought. How are you being a hero?

There is something very compelling about a good hero. In the "literature" (ok, who am I kidding, in the comic books), there are two things that make a hero: 1. a life event, the gifting of power (this is what makes you "super") and 2. a call to action (a reason to use your superness, often a proportionate villain).

So, what are you doing to be super?

1. Where does your power come from? I would argue that it comes from passion, from vision, from ability learned over time (because of passion and vision), and, importantly, from your ethics: Honesty creates power, so do lies. (The only issue I have here with the comics is that too often becoming super is passive, fatalist. The freak accident. The accident of birth. Most superheroes do not develop their abilities, but are gifted them. You on the other hand, must grow yours.)

2. What is your call to action? Have you seen something around you that has to change, be it a relationship, a cause, a startup venture. Did you shy away from the challenge or did you stand up tall? It takes courage to be a hero because you have to step out of your comfort zone. Perhaps in this we have a good definition of heroism: anyone willing to step out of their comfort zone to address a worthy cause.

I dare you to be a hero.

 

What it Feels Like to Fall 12 Stories onto Boulders

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On August 30th 2014, while canyoneering with friends in Zion's National Park, I fell approximately 120 feet onto a pocket of boulders and lived. Not only that, but I hiked out of that remote spot and was back at work within 24 hours with not even a fracture to show for it.

OK, 127 Hours it was not, but I am profoundly grateful for the experienceand the outcome. Here's why I fell and how I lived.

Me, five minutes before embarking on the last rappel of the Behunin slot canyon in Zion's National Park. Two stages totalling 270ft.

Me, five minutes before embarking on the last rappel of the Behunin slot canyon in Zion's National Park. Two stages totalling 270ft.

We were rappelling the final stages of Behunin Canyon, a 12 hour technical slot canyon that descends approximately 2,000 feet through 6.8 miles of the park. It was my ninth major rappel of the journey and certainly the most memorable.

The last rappel is the longest of the day, 170 feet in the final stage, most of it from an overhang so you find yourself dangling free 10 feet from the red rock wall. About 30 to 40 feet down, as I reached the overhang and my feet came clear of the wall, my hands were too hot to hold the rope, which picks up a lot of heat from friction. I used my right hand to lock me off and waited for something to cool, but in the direct afternoon sun, nothing was cooling. I knew my strength wouldn't hold me there forever, and I had to release some rope and try a very slow descent. But I knew the rope was too hot for me to hold it if I started to move.

Since that day I have learned several ways to deal with such a situation. You can double the rope up before you leave so you have more friction. You can grab the rope with your other hand and pull it under you and  back up onto your lap so you are sitting on it, and use both hands to lower yourself gradually. You can have someone belay you and arrest your descent from the bottom. (Which we did, but I was first on this leg.) There's also a number of clips and gadgets that can help. But on this day I was completely alone, hanging 120 feet from safety, exhausted, and completely out of ideas.

The fact that I had to try something that I knew would probably kill me (move), was the second-to-worst moment of the descent. It's at times like these that you suddenly feel utterly vulnerable. As I saw it I had two options: 1. Hang there until my hand weakened and I lost grip and fell. 2. Try to release some rope and inch closer to the ground. So, I released a tiny amount rope and it immediately burned my hands through my thinning gloves, which caused my hands to release without my consent and sent me into free fall.

As I fell I tried with all my might to grab the rope to slow me, but I hit the ground very hard—so fast in fact that I was sure I was a dead man. I was 100% sure I was going to die. Time slows in any accident, and for the first 10 milliseconds of impact with the rocks below I realized I was going to live (having thought on the way down that death would be pretty instantaneous and now finding it was not). With this new clarity I spent the next 10 milliseconds of the impact believing I was about to break every bone downward of my collar.

All in all, the trip down felt a lot like a car accident, like driving into a brick wall at full speed. It both lasted a very long time but was extremely quick. I also cannot report having any moments of clarity or visions or flashbacks of any kind. To be true, half my attention was on grabbing the rope, and the other half was watching the ground rush up to meet me.

Fast forward the next bit, where I lay on the ground and screamed in pain for quite some time. Although I did not break anything I had massive bruises all across my glutes, back, and legs as well as severe friction burns on both my hands. It took us an hour to hike out of there, and I was massively supported by the great guys I was with, Jesse, Matt, Chris, and Annie, who offered to carry me but ended up letting me lean on them most of the way. They report that the first thing I said (after all that screaming), is "I'm alive!" I may have laughed maniacally too.

So, how did I survive. What was my trick?

No idea. I should probably be dead.

On the other hand, I have a huge list things I did wrong, including wearing the wrong gloves, going first when I was already exhausted, not being prepared for the technical challenge ahead, shutting down my mind in fear when I felt vulnerable, and using the wrong gear, to name a few.

People asked me what it was like to nearly die. I'm not really sure. I've had a few near-death experiences, but the point is they are "near" death and death is kind of binary. Either you are dead or you are not, like a light is on or it's not. (There's no in-between almost on that is a fundamentally different experience.) I know what it feels to fall 120 feet and to have your body slow down time so you can experience a relative couple of minutes worth of time. Short answer, not nice.

Also, I would say that near death experiences have to be much better than near life experiences.

Choose Where to Have Impact

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You want to grow your brand, you want more opportunities, you want to be in the inner circle where the action is, and you want to call the shots. Fine. But first you must learn where to have impact, and to do that you must produce results.

Are You Getting The Right Stuff Done?

In the early 60s Mr Herzberg posited Motivation-Hygiene theory, or Two-Factor theory, to explain how you can motivate staff, and despite not being perfect, it's a useful way to look at where you should focus your impact. Herzberg suggested there wasn't just one lever to make employees happy (i.e. pay), but two: the hygiene lever and the motivator lever. It looked a bit like this:

Hygeine Factors Motivation Factors
If you don't do these things your employees will not be happy. But doing more doesn't really inspire them further. This stuff is just expected. This is how you get your employees excited. If you don't do these things your employees won't be disheartened, but if you do they will be stoked.
i.e. A clean working environment free of distractions i.e. Yearly team offsites in Cancun

Because these are separate scales, Herzberg said it's possible for employees to be both disgruntled and happy at the same time. But note that it's really hard to focus on being super motivated when the hygiene factors aren't even in place. As in, I love the trips to Cancun, but I'm really worried about the spreading mould in the corner of my office and I don't really want to come into work anymore. (Herzberg used different examples, probably.)

We can use this same model to review your impact in your current role. Because there's not just one lever to have impact, but two and they should be treated very differently.

Hygeine Factors Motivation Factors
If you don't do these things your boss and peers will not be happy. But doing more doesn't really inspire them. This stuff is just expected. This is how you get your boss and peers excited. If you don't do these things no one will notice, but if you do they will be stoked.
i.e. deliver 100% of the project on time and on budget i.e. deliver 100% of the project ahead of time and under budget

Before you focus on anything else, you have to take care of the list of things in your job description, the hygiene factors. No one is going to be excited that your project came in early and under budget if you only delivered 50% and annoyed everyone in the process. But importantly, no one will celebrate with you when you do what you were hired to do, so don't draw any attention to the fact you are doing your job, or people will question how high a bar you have really set yourself. But start here and don't move on until you have achieved 100%, because NOT doing anything here will get you fired.

Once you have the hygeine factors covered, you can start to work on the motivator factors. This is what you want your network raving about, so feel free to draw attention to this. This is where you go above and beyond the call of duty. It's also where you get to play, where you get to build a brand over and above the safe pair of hands that you are. Don't take on extra projects unless you have the basics down cold, or you will be overextended and overexposed.

Putting It Into Practice:

So, with this in mind, when was the last time you evaluated what you are working on? When did you last ask your stakeholders what is expected (either formally or informally)? Being clear on this can teach you where you need to focus your time this week, and where you should be building your brand.

Focus on the core, take on everything that is expected of you and don't drop anything, ever. When you have that solid chose carefully where you want to have additional impact. Because you get to chose the extra credit, so chose wisely.

The Best Leaders Have Moral Character

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Think about the leaders you have followed. Who were the best, and what made you follow them?

There is a LOT of literature out there about what makes a great leader. I would like to suggest the most important ingredient, the thing that must come before all else, is moral character. (When I say this, I am speaking as someone being led, not a shareholder: that's a scary thought).

What's my reasoning? It hurts to follow an incompetent leader, but it hurts more to follow an amoral one. If someone is making the wrong decisions for the right reasons, I can help them with their decision-making and execution. If someone is making the wrong decisions for the wrong reasons, there's not so much I can do.

The Costa Concordia. When the captain is the first to leave the sinking ship, something is afoot. Where's the stewardship?

The Costa Concordia. When the captain is the first to leave the sinking ship, something is afoot. Where's the stewardship?

The best companies tell you why they do what they do, and often link it to a higher cause (Apple, break the status quo, make beautiful things). So do the best leaders. Moral leaders have a cause and make a stand. They are a pleasure to follow: inspirational, transparent, passionate. Amoral leaders are confusing, changeable, and make you question why you are there and what you are achieving. It's difficult for them to make a stand. (But not impossible, think Hitler.)

Unfortunately, in the current climate we don't always reward moral character in our leaders. Organizations are full of people willing to go the furthest to get rank and position, and the upper echelons of power are sprinkled with moral chameleons.

I'm almost tempted to write a 2x2 grid here with competence and moral character as the two axis. You'd get competent and incompetent villains, and competent and incompetent heroes, and everything in between. But I won't. So, let's end this in traditional blog style... What do you think is more important, moral character or competence?

 

Nine Ways Work-Life Balance Will Ruin Your Soul

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The very first time I heard someone use the term "work-life balance" I felt an immediate revulsion. That reaction has not lessened over the years. Work-life balance is a subtle and insidious trap designed to leach the energy out of your soul and stamp on your deflated corpse.

Here's nine reasons why such pathetic thinking will destroy your life, and what you should do about it:

  1. Life in not an equation. Life is not one big tradeoff. More of A means less of B. If you're thinking that way then you have sold your soul to the man: you are compartmentalizing your being, showing up differently on each side of the equation, hating mostly everything, and going crazy in the process. It's likely people don't like you because you are a disjointed, miserable soul who doesn't make much sense and rarely has joy.
  2. Life IS work. So you have your "work" where you do hard things. What about when you're not there. Do you also do hard things outside of your "job," where exertion and emotional investment really matter: are you raising a family, maintaining your property, keeping fit, expanding your mind, serving, creating social change, innovating? Or have you compartmentalized so thoroughly that when you're done with work you just want to have "fun," because you are so washed out you don't have energy to focus on the things that are really important.
  3. Work IS life. You spend half your waking life, if not more, at work. So if you don't enjoy what you do, then half your waking life sucks. Just think about that for a second. How's that work-life balance working out for you? Could it be possible that you might find something you love to do and actually enjoy your life? Could it also be possible that you could get by on less? Could it be possible that you WOULD get by on less if you stopped spending all your money on crap to mitigate for your currently miserable existence? 
  4. There's more than two things in the universe. Are you really thinking about the world in black and white: you have work  where you make money, and life where you get to spend it. Instead of asking about work-life balance, why don't you ask questions that have meaning, like, if I work here can I contribute to positive social change, will I grow as a person, will I be able to go home every night with a sense of self respect, will I be able to nurture meaningful relationships with people I respect?
  5. It's a rare beast. The only place you can even ask the question is the lower levels of Western corporates. Farmer's don't talk about work-life, they just do it. Entrepreneurs don't talk about work-life, they have too much to do and too much passion. Good doctors, teachers, firefighters, policemen etc. don't have the luxury. Bankers and consultants defer it. There is no work-life balance in the C-Suite, it doesn't exist. So stop talking crap that most of the world can't relate to.
  6. It's disjointed. Think back for a moment about why you work. We used to work to provide food and shelter for ourselves and our families, to exist. In today's world we can be so removed from the real value of work, doing jobs in tertiary or quatemary sectors that have no meaning to us, and our work has become soulless. Wouldn't it be better to have work as an integral part of your life, a part of you, rather than a chore?
  7. It cedes control. How much of your life do you really want to put in the hands of the corporate monster? Instead of asking how you can shoehorn your job around your real existence (i.e. asking your future boss how he or she will let you live), you should be telling your new employer how you want to live and how they can fit around you. Sound scary? Well it is if you haven't become the kind of person they MUST employ. Take back your life by being meaningful and dictating your own terms.
  8. It's an illusion. Life comes in peaks and troughs. Financial peons lose any semblance of "balance" (if it ever existed) at month end or year end. Marketers lose it at product launch. HR lose it during appraisal or bonus season. IT lose it anytime something goes wrong. Execs never had it. So, you're talking about something so transitory it's not really worth the energy to consider. Better to ask if you ever like your job, than if it has balance.
  9. Nobody worth knowing ever asked this question. What more can say? I'll say it again. Nobody worth knowing ever asked this question. Let that sink in. If it annoys you, you have a chance. If not, good luck at your 9-5.

 

Using Positive Thinking in the Real World

James Greaves3 Comments

Do you believe that you can become anything you want to?

I don't.

Don't get me wrong, there's levels of awesomeness I can achieve, but I'm not going to become the next president of China, an Elite catwalk supermodel, or a NASA astronaut anytime soon. Not this week at least.

But, I hear you say, if you don't dream, then you won't achieve anything. Yes, I agree. Undoubtedly there is a natural principle at work in the universe that your vision of yourself will cause you to act in certain ways, in turn transforming the world around you until your vision IS reality. But, as a rational individual, how do I tread the fine line between delusion and pessimism?

The key to the riddle is hidden in the middle of the previous paragraph: positive action. The stronger you believe, the more you will act. Belief is vital, but only belief that prompts tangible, feasible action. And anyway, belief without action is not belief at all.

The best place to demonstrate this is, of course, the X-Factor (why not). But first a 2x2 diagram:

If we were to graph actual ability versus self belief we get four broad types of people: Average Joes, Delusionals, Self-Saboteurs, and Superstars. The blue band dictates congruence—where perception = ability. Quadrants 2 and 3, the Self-Saboteurs and the Delusional are off reality and will be forced back on (by fulfilment or a reality check) or will stay out of touch for ever and be branded as crazy or lazy by people who see the mismatch.

Let's look at each of these in the context of the X Factor. Look for these four types next time you watch.

1. Average Joes

These individuals are not particularly good at the task at hand and know it. In a singing competition this is, really, most of us. Generally this group do not try out for the X Factor. Still, some say "what the heck, I've got nothing to lose" and go for it anyway. Those that don't really try, or are not interested, will not improve. Perhaps this is an area of their life they have decided to be mediocre in, or it's just not possible (see the intro for more details). Those that just go for it misunderstand completely. They are hoping for a miracle: that someone with power or talent (or both) will see intrinsic worth in them, take pity, and make them into something. Like a nerdy girl with glasses in a teen makeover movie, they are hoping someone else will do the emotional heavy lifting for them by believing in their potential on their behalf, presenting them at the end as the bombshell no one knew existed, and all with no real effort.

2. Delusional

Those that are bad, but are convinced they are good. Reality shows get a lot of traction from these, especially as generally only quadrants 4 and 2 self-select and audition (both sets believe they are good). This is where the issue of positive thinking becomes dangerous. The real difference between this group and the Superstars (other than genetic predisposition) is the length of that belief; People who truly believe they are great singers sing everywhere all the time. People who are momentarily delusional convince themselves and hype themselves up for the moment. They haven't had the practice or the internal or external reaffirmation from friends, family, and strangers. They haven't tested it out, but think, "I could be wonderful at that" and convince themselves that positive thinking alone will carry them. They are lying to themselves and deep down they know it. They bypass all the action, all the hard work, and rely solely on thinking really hard for a small period of time.

3. Self Saboteurs

Good, but don't believe it. They have real talent, developed genetically or over time, but for whatever reason now lack the mentality to capitalize. Whatever the reason they got here, there is a strong psychological urge to validate oneself, or make people see you how you see yourself to prove yourself right. This is a self-fulfilling prophecy. People in this mindset break your heart. They feel like hard work because you know what they can achieve but they don't believe. They suck energy out of you because you're always telling them, but they never hear. In the X Factor they pop up in the early rounds from time to time. Sometimes they are hidden gems, but for every hidden gem that goes on to be a Superstar, there are three that blow themselves up along the way through poor action and mentality. They seem to implode for some unknown reason.

4. Superstars

These people are good and know it. They haven't just arrived at this state, but have followed a long path of improvement based on reaffirmation (from themselves and others) and lots of practice. They are already performing at the level they need to perform for success, but may need a break—in this case a record deal or big stage. This group show up to auditions knowing they deserve to be there and just getting the job done. They have mastered the skill and the mentality and they are always a pleasure to watch. They understand that you have to dream to achieve anything, but you have to back that dream up with relentless, daily work that moves you in the right direction. They listen to themselves and those around them in the right proportion.

Correcting Back to Reality

There trick is to believe, but to not get too far ahead of yourself. There are two ways to correct back to reality: 1. Reality Check, where you align your vision of yourself with your present skills, (you admit your true ability) and 2. Fulfilment, where your present skills catch up with your vision of yourself, (you get better). Notice that Saboteurs need to reality check, while the Delusional need to fulfill. (Which one are you?) The hard part is that in reality the opposite tends to happen. People don't like it when others believe they are better than they are and as a group we force people back to our reality, often thinking we are doing them some kind of favor. On the other hand, as a collective we're not so kind to the Saboteurs because they are hard work emotionally: it's easier for us to recognize they haven't made the grade, than to build them up.

In the real world, 99% of forces pull people back to the black hole of Quadrant 1: Average, with everyone else. Which is why positive thinking is so important.

Have Courage: Think, Act, Be

This is why positive thinking becomes a real tool that will elevate you to where you want to be, but only when treated as a verb, not a noun. To improve you have to believe then act, then believe some more and act again; You can only truly believe in something that is real, then you have to have the courage to step out into the darkness; you have to inch out along an invisible bridge one step at a time. In a chicken-and-egg scenario of what comes first, believing almost always precedes achieving.

You don't have unlimited potential in every area, but all of us have more potential than we are able to fully realize in one lifetime, so in that sense, it may as well be limitless. The key is finding where your strengths are and courageously going after them. We can all be a Superstar, but not all of us can sing.

From the archives. Based on an article written by me in 2009

Does Change have a Terminal Velocity?

James Greaves1 Comment

This week I have a question. Is the world developing at a pace faster than we are able to bear? If so, where will the break points be? In other words, just as a skydiver can't accelerate forever but is halted at terminal velocity by air resistance, is there a terminal velocity for change, capped by human ability to adapt?

This comes after some observations of stress in our society caused by the rapid change in practically every field of human thought and ability. For example, when my father gave me advice about what to do with my life, he had very little conception of the world I would be living in; I am sure that my children have more than a 50% chance of doing jobs that haven't been invented yet. This is not completely new to the human experience, but the disconnect between generations can only widen as we accelerate faster into the distance, and we are seeing the problem on a magnitude and scale we have never seen before.

Family structures, ethics, human interaction, and other such trappings of humanity, passed down over millennia, do not quickly change. The difficult part is that experimentation with such things takes a generation or two to bear fruit. We are only now beginning to understand the effects of the Free Love revolution brought to us by the hippes, for example, and we are decades way from understanding the true consequences of today's social change, be it positive or negative. In the meantime whole generations are lost or won.

Some of the issues that are straining our generation include:

  • We are living longer and longer, but have no idea what to expect and limited ability to plan. Should I assume I will live until I'm 60? 80? 150? In this issue alone lie enormous consequences for retirement, wealth distribution, healthcare, and population control.
  • Marriage meant something very different in 1964 compared to today. Speaking broadly, a generation ago individuals married for security as much as love. Is it any surprise that a majority of the boomer generation changed their minds when the rules of marriage changed? What will marriage mean in another 50 years? What will that mean for my children? Are family norms improving along with technology, or are they devolving?
  • Generations continue to experience completely different worlds. Grandparents have a hard time today understanding their progeny. As we continue to accelerate change, will I be able to relate to my grandchildren, or my great-great-grandchildren I could well live to see?
  • Countries are balkanizing, splitting into smaller and smaller fragments. States have less and less power and individuals have more. As technology empowers us individually it breaks us of the bonds we have for each other, increases the consequences of rogue crazies, and changes how we relate and collaborate.
  • Technology is becoming more and more a part of our daily experience. We had phones, then cell phones, now smart phones. With increased AI, wearables, and other advances, technology will be much more tightly integrated into our lives. This is already changing how we communicate with each other, increasing the rate at which we share information, but decreasing it's immediacy, leaving many isolated amidst a sea of friends. With full bellies, are we starting to starve from undernourishment; are we full of relational junk food but devoid of inter-personal sustinance?

With all this change and more, how can we cope?

I believe the answer lies in an oft-overlooked place: in morality. As we increase in personal power and responsibility, it's our characters that become the deciding factor. As we tend to infinity, everything else tends to zero, to insignificance, save for our characters.

It is morality that enables change and it's morality that determines our ability to adequately absorb change. We gain freedom in honesty, love, care, truth, connection, understanding, gratitude and compassion. On the other hand it's immorality that bogs us down in self interest, war, corruption, abuse, persecution, and hatred, all of which limit our ability to change and in fact drag us the other way, backwards in time.

Some may say that our newfound freedom enables us to ignore many of our inherited, outdated inter-human conceptions. That they are nothing more than sentimentality, vestigial byproducts of evolution, like an appendix that few understand the need for. I say they are wrong.

If you want to cope with the challenges of the next 100 years, which you may well see all of, you need to focus on your ethics, your religion, your moral code.

What do you see as the biggest challenges for us in the next 50 or 100 years, and how do you think we can cope?