“Rejection Proof” or “How I Learned To Stop Worrying and Love the Rejection”

A few months back, I was considering my career prospects and decided to check out a book called “Rejection Proof: How I Beat Fear and Became Invincible Through 100 Days of Rejection” by Jia Jiang.  The book follows the real-life journey of the author’s attempt to overcome rejection following a heart breaking denial of his initial entrepreneurial efforts.  He sets out to be rejected every day to thicken his skin, but is often surprised at the responses he gets from his sometimes outlandish requests.  He begins to analyze these efforts and distills them down into some fairly profound insights in the book.

There are some pretty good chuckles in the book, and even a few tear jerking moments, however I would thoroughly recommend this book to anyone looking for a job, auditioning, working in sales, fund raising, or starting their own entrepreneurial enterprises.  Jiang offers insights on taking a no, positioning for yes, finding upsides and meaning in rejection, and even tips on how to give rejection.

Although the entire book is full of useful perspective, here are a few of the nuggets of wisdom that stuck with me:

  1. Rejection is an opinion of the rejector.  It is heavily influenced by historical context, cultural differences, and psychological factors.  There is no universal rejection or acceptance.
  2. Ask why before good-bye.  Sustain the conversation after the initial rejection.  Asking “why” can often reveal the underlying reason for the rejection and present the rejectee with the opportunity to overcome the issue.
  3. Rejection can be character building.  By seeking rejection in touch environments, one can build up the mental toughness to take on greater goals.
  4. Find empathy in rejection.  All rejections are shared by many people all over the world.  One can use rejection and suffering to obtain empathy and understanding of other people.
  5. Detach yourself from results.  By focusing on controllable factors, such as our effort and actions, and by detaching ourselves from uncontrollable outcomes such as acceptance and rejection, we can achieve greater success in the long run.
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“Check Please”: The Art of Building Relationships Over A Meal

After completing “Start With Why” and “Leaders Eat Last”, I figured I’d take a break from leadership philosophy books and choose one for personal enrichment… more specifically, how to improve and maintain personal relationships. I’ve always thought the concepts behind the “5 Love Languages” was pretty interesting, so I downloaded Dr. Chapman’s book and started listening to it.

The idea that this wouldn’t be a book that impacted my leadership outlook was a facility.; the study of how relationships work and how people feel appreciated seems to be a pretty fundamental part of being a good leader.  After a few causal lunch outings recently, I started to formulate how a lunch could be used to build professional relationships.

“Check Please”: The Art of Building Relationships Over A Meal

Based upon the last two readings by Sinek, it seems that many companies lack communication, which creates a lack of relationships, leading to a lack of trust and security. To improve this, a potential solution might be for a supervisor make it a point to plan lunch with one or two employees a week that they oversee.

It isn’t a date, so don’t make the location anywhere too fancy, but something a little better than fast food. And just have a conversation. Listen to their ideas, learn about them, and don’t be too guarded about yourself.

Listen sympathetically, drawing them out by asking questions with a genuine desire to understand their thoughts, feelings, and hopes. The conversation doesn’t have to be about work, however if they skew that way, the objective is to understand, so resist the temptation to interrupt of defend yourself… perhaps they need to vent.

Pay attention to them, not looking around the room or checking your phone every 5 minutes. If you get an e-mail that you absolutely have to respond to immediately, let them know “My apologies, I want to give you my undivided attention, please give me 3 minutes to respond to this e-mail.”

At the end of the meal, thank them for their time, let them know that they have been heard and that, although you may not be able to do anything about their ideas immediately, you appreciate their input and will follow up with them if it develops into anything. Just before the end of the meal, let them know one thing you appreciate about them and their work. Be genuine, not a canned response, and something that shows you either listened to them or are familiar and appreciative with their efforts.

Why it (hypothetically) works:

This interaction hits on 4 of the 5 established love languages (excluding touch… let’s not make things weird). In a business scenario, substitute appreciation for love.

Quality Time – By spending time with them one-on-one and being actively engaged, they’ll feel appreciated.

Act of Service – The act of wanting to hear them voice their opinions and learn about them serves as an act of service. If it’s appropriate to offer them a ride to drive over together, it takes this concept one step further.

Gift – Although a minor investment, the gesture of buying their meal is a perceived as a gift. It seems slightly cheapened if it’s done so on the company card rather than out of pocket, however honestly, it’s unlikely anyone will really notice the difference.

Words of Affirmation – That little bit at the end will have them returning to work feeling on Cloud 9. Encouraging words is one of the cheapest investments for morale.

The book states that “Relationships are not a project to be completed or a problem to be solved”. By exercising this method, even just investing 1 hour a week in it, you might be surprised at the impact it could have on the culture of your company. Not only might you learn about new ideas, employee ambitions, or hidden talents, however you might inspire others to encourage their staff or find themselves collaborating more through similar tactics.

If you try it, let me know how it goes!

So the last will be first…

Immediately following the completion of Sinek’s “Start With Why”, I moved on to his follow up book “Leaders Eat Last”.  Based on the title, I had the assumption that it might have some religious affiliation, but it actually refers to a leadership practice common in the Marines.  It cites the idea that in the military, metals are given to those who are willing to sacrifice themselves so that others may gain, whereas in businesses, most often bonuses are given to people who are willing to sacrifice others so that we may gain.  This not only refers to earnings, but also to credit, social capital, etc.

 

“Leaders Eat Last” takes a biological look at the primal and anthropological elements that make leaders effective.  By examining the cause and effects of the body’s release of chemicals such as endorphins, dopamine, serotonin, oxytocin, and cortisal, the book offers neurological insights on how leaders can impact their followers (for better or for worse).

 

Summerized versions of the book are available in a number of online lectures, one of which I pulled this quote from:

 

“When we are surrounded by people who have our best interest in mind and we feel safe, we’ll organize ourselves and cooperate to face the dangers externally.  External dangers are a constant, but internal dangers are a variable.  They are a result of leadership; as to how safe they make us feel when we go to work.  When leaders don’t offer safety, we’re forced to protect ourselves from each other, exposing the group to larger dangers from the outside.  If you have to worry about politics, if you have to worry about someone stealing your credit, if you have to worry about your boss not having your back, think about the energy you invest not in your business, not in the products that you are trying to develop, not in your work, not in your creativity, but just in keeping yourself feeling safe.”

 

The teachings suggest that two of the largest responsibilities are to determine who is allowed to join the group/business (do they share the same values and beliefs, etc.) and how big the circle of safety is.  Many organizations are prone to create a circle of safety around the people at the top, actively creating an “us and them” feeling to protect their “inner circle”.  Great leaders make sure that protect extends to the outer most edges, creating a feeling of safety for everyone within the organization.

 

A few other key takeaways from “Leaders Eat Last”:

 

The author suggests that millineals don’t suffer from entitlement as much as they are distracted and impatient.  The idea of working 20+ years within an organization to reach a position where their opinion is impactful doesn’t necessarily mesh with the instant gratification era that we’ve been brought up in with so much access to technology and other resources.

 

Getting notifications, likes, and e-mails makes us feel good because the body produces tiny amounts of dopamine… the same chemical that is produced by gambling, alcohol, nicotine, and other drugs.  And it’s addicting.  Alcoholics often site that if you wake up in the morning and the first thing you need is a drink, you might be an addict.  If you wake up in the morning and the first thing you do is check your Facebook or e-mail?  Well… you get the idea.

 

The book also discusses the value of investing time and energy rather than money into personal relationships.  Whereas money comes and goes, time and energy are at a premium because they are an equal commodity among all people, and it’s one that can never be recovered.  The book provides the example that if you are moving and you have one friend who writes a check to pay for the moving truck and one who shows up to help pack and move boxes, should both need a favor on the same day, which are you more likely to prioritize?  More than likely, the one who invested their time and energy.  Unfortunately we can’t give our time and energy to everyone, so it’s important as a leader to make sure that you can create relationships and trust the people who you lead, encouraging them to create relationships and trust the people they lead, and so on and so forth.

Start With Why

Last Fall, I was introduced to Simon Sinek’s TED talk “Start With Why” during my Theories of Persuasion class at UTA.  I was fascinated by the concepts and watched the video several times over the following weeks.  When I learned it was the teaser for a book, I added it to the reading list.
All in all, the book is pretty brilliant and something that every leader, entrepreneur, and executive could likely find immense value in.  I preaches the idea that customers buy what we do not why we do it; a profit is a result of purpose, not a purpose in itself.
Sinek sites three levels of a message: what, how, and why.  Most companies advertise the “what” of their product, potentially even the “how” of their business model, but it’s rare that a company’s message will share the “why” they are doing business.  He introduces the idea that the biological makeup of the brain to explain how “why” messages appeal to the limbic brain that is responsible for behavior (like trust and loyalty) and decision making (like purchase behavior).
There are valuable insights on almost every page of this book, however I thought I’d share one take away and one (in my opinion) very powerful quote.
Something he discusses in the book is how successful ideas need visionary leaders to drive the “why” of their company, organization, movement, etc.  Leaders like Martin Luther King Jr., Steve Jobs, and Walt Disney can inspire people to follow them towards their dream.
However the “why” people always need good “how” people to succeed.  These are the people who can work behind the scenes to mechanize the vision and ideas and see them into action; without them, it simply remains a dream without becoming a reality.
I feel this is really where one of my strong suit is.  I have no problem standing in front of a room full of people and rallying them towards an idea, however I find myself enjoying and being the most successful at strategizing and planning by looking at an opportunity or challenge as a puzzle to figure out the most efficient ways to make it work.
The following was one of the biggest messages that stuck out to me in the book.  It’s not uncommon that businesses might think that they have it all figured out, but really they are just succeeding despite themselves.
“There is barely a product on the market today that customers can’t buy from someone else for about the same price, about the same quality, about the same level of service, and about the same features… but if you ask most businesses why their customers are their customers, most will tell you that it is because of their superior quality, features, price, or service.  In other words, most companies have no clue why their customers are their customers.  This is a fascinating realization; if companies don’t know why their customers are their customers, odds are good that they don’t know why their employees are their employees either.  If most companies don’t really know why their customers are their customers or why their employees are their employees, then how do they know what to do or how to attract more employees, and encourage loyalty among those that they already have?  The reality is, most businesses today are making assumptions based on a set of incomplete, or worse, completely flawed assumptions about what is driving their business.”

Get Rich Slow Scheme

A while back I reviewed several lists of “Billionaires’ Favorite Books” and added a few to my reading list. Among them, The Richest Man in Babylon.

The chapters are written in parable form and worked well as an audio book; the stories provide enough information to be engaging without so much that it is overwhelming to take in all at once. It gives a lot of things to think about when it comes to investing, although it does seem takes some things for granted at times.

One of the primary lessons from the book is to pay yourself first (also part of the Dave Ramsey financial teachings). You work hard for your money, so why give it all away before saving for your own security or investing to grow your wealth. The recommendation within this book suggests saving/investing 10%, using 20% to pay off debts, and living off 70%, which seems like pretty sound advice in general.

There are quite a few good quotes and tid-bits of insight when it comes to general money management, investing, and even work ethic:

“If you desire to help thy friend, do so in a way that will not bring thy friend’s burdens upon thyself… Humans in the throws of great emotion are not safe risks for the gold lender… Better a little caution than a great regret.”
When it comes to investing in the business or venture of someone you know and/or are related to, it recommends to not loan more than what you could personally save up over the course of one year, regardless of how much wealth you may have.  If they manage the money well and turn a profit, they are a proven investment.  If they loose it entirely, it’s disappointing but doesn’t have as huge of an impact on your finances.  It is also more likely an amount they could hope to pay that amount back rather than being such a vast sum that they just write it off as impossible.
“Hopeless debt is like a deep pit into one may descend quickly and struggle vainly for many days.  It is a pit of sorrow and regrets where the brightness of the sun is overcast and night is made unhappy by restless sleeping.”
#studentloans
“The soul of a freeman looks at life as a series of problems to be solved and solves them, while the soul of a slave whines ‘but what can I do, who am but a slave’… Work well done does good to the man who does it.  It makes him a better man.”
These two quotes were from different chapters, however I feel they dovetail well.  Often when things get overwhelming, it seems most logical to stop fighting and fall in line.  While there is less struggle going with the flow of things, there is also no innovation or progress in doing things the easy way.

Book Review: “The Richest Man in Babylon” by George S. Clason

 

Basically The Matrix… FOR YOUR BRAIN

What if I told you that Wayne Gretzky has a perfect birthday for hockey?  How does that make any sense?  How did being born on January 26 as a hockey player in Canada give Gretzky an advantage?

Simple, really.  The cutoff date for youth hockey leagues in Canada is December 31.  Therefore, young players who start when they are 5 or 6 who are born earlier in the year have nearly an entire year’s advantage of, not only practice, but also speed and size.  Although that doesn’t offer much of a competitive edge as an adult, when you’re very young, it’s a pretty huge difference.   From that team, the kids with birthdays in the first three months of the year are therefore more likely to be picked for select or advanced teams the following year, gaining better coaching and more practice hours than the more casual teams.  This advantage carries on throughout their career… and it all starts randomly, as children, for an arbitrary reason.

“Outliers” by Malcolm Gladwell examines how culture, situation, generation, and even birthday can greatly contribute to the potential for success of an individual. He dissects a number of different “rags to riches” type tales and finds that one of the biggest common dominators is the opportunity to do work circumstantially leading to success, sometimes in very odd ways.

Among the case studies presented in the book offer insight on why Asians are better at math, how New York Jews became leaders in the fashion world, and how entitlement in perpetuated in upper class families.

This is the kind of book that makes you think.  What are my opportunities?  How did I get to where I am?  And how can I best leverage what I have for future success.

I would definitely recommend this book.  It makes for a great road trip audio book since most of the sections are explained through the analysis of short stories and the ideas presented are broader concepts rather than great soundbites that you wish you could stop and write down.

 

Book Review: “Outliers” by Malcom Gladwell

Book Review: “Getting Things Done” by David Allen

There is no exaggeration in saying that Getting Things Done by David Allen has changed my life.  I cannot recommend this book enough for those who over commit themselves, juggle multiple projects at once, or just want to have a better grasp on their life.  Following the principles in this book, I’m markedly more productive, able to prioritize social/family time, I’m more creative, and I even sleep better.

The basic premise of the book is pretty simple: your brain is like a computer.  When you have too many applications open at once, it doesn’t function optimally and eventually it crashes.  Similarly, when you are trying to regularly process everything that you have to do in life, the same thing happens.  By getting everything out of your brain and into a trusted system of reminders, you become infinitely less stressed and better able to focus directly on the tasks at hand.

As a very simplified overview, you begin by writing down everything in your brain that you think you need to do.  It can be immediate things, such as take out the trash, to long term goals, such as pay off debt or learn Russian.  This process will likely take quite a while because you need to get literally everything you think about all in one place.  Then you start sorting it into either Next Action, Waiting For, Read/Review, Someday Maybe, and Reference material, immediately doing any tasks that take under 2 minutes so you no longer have these “open loops”.

From there, put everything into bite sized pieces.  For instance “Plan Vacation” is not a good to-do list item because it’s too broad and not something you can sit down and just do.  It would need to be broken down into pieces such as discuss destination ideas with spouse, review available budget, check visitation schedule, confirm that time off work is available during that time, research travel and hotel options, book travel and hotel options, etc.  Then consider dividing everything up by location rather than by general task.  For instance, at the office, at home, at a computer, on the phone, etc.  By doing this, when you have 10 minutes free at your computer before your next meeting, you can review your “At computer” list and start making progress on a variety of different projects simultaneously rather than wasting that 10 minutes trying to figure out how to spend it (and ultimately wasting it on Facebook).

This is really just the tip of the iceberg on creating an efficient workflow system as outlined in the book.  A lot of it is common sense, a lot of it may already be things you do, however getting a cohesive plan in place on how to tackle life is imperative.  I’ve used these principles to set up a system through Evernote that allows me to help keep track of projects from any device anywhere.  When I have an idea or remember something I need to do, I add it to my Evernote list to be sorted later and go back to focusing on the task at hand rather than letting my mind wander about how I will make progress on this other thought.  The moment you are trying to think about two things at once, you’ve failed to do one of them.  This system help the time and attention you spend feel more successful utilized (as well as making sure you do it in the right places at the right time).  I cannot over emphasis the importance of this read.

Change your life.  Get this book.

Sports Ball Leadership Insights Pt. Deux

Book Review (Pt.2): “The Score Will Take Care of Itself” by Bill Walsh

I’ve completed a third book (Getting Things Done by David Allen) since my intent to finish the follow up review of the second half of this book, so I’ll keep it brief.  Although there are many, many phenomenal quotes to site from this book (I recently purchased a paperback copy to re-read later), these are a few additional quotes that stuck out with me as I finished the book.

 

“The culture precedes positive results.  Champions behave like champions before they are champions.  They have a winning standard of performance before they are winners.”

I see too often in general, particularly in my generation and younger, the expectation to be successful just because they showed up.  I think some of it started when everyone started getting a participation ribbon to make them feel “encouraged”, however it seems to have made a pendulum swing in the other direction where few are really willing to try.  It’s created a vacuum of work ethic, which makes it easier to get noticed for those actually putting forth the work.  And they can’t be completely to blame because they were never taught otherwise, however it is a somewhat sad state of affairs looking forward at the future generations of leaders.   I think we would do well to find a happy medium of positive reinforcement and developing a culture of standards.

 

“Conventional wisdom often produces conventional results.”

This simplistic, Confucius style statement really stuck out to me when I heard it.  Too often we run into the convention of “that’s not how we do it, we’ve always done it this way”.  Which, on one hand, is comfortable and low-risk.  It’s also inhibiting of the potential of growth.  I tend to get a bit of a reputation as a rebel rouser because I have a tendency to break convention… and it seems to have worked relatively well for me so far!  Calculated risks, although still risks, can reap great rewards.

 

 

“Flying by the seat of your pants precedes crashing by the seat of your pants.”

All of that being said, the key phrase is “calculated risks”.  By establishing purpose, followed by goals, followed by strategies and tactics, followed by measurable metrics for success… risks really aren’t so risky.  And even when they don’t work out as plan, typically you still have enough structure to learn something from it.  “Winging it” doesn’t often grant the same benefit with an increased amount of risk.

 

“Don’t mistake activity for achievement.” – John Wooden, Wooden on Leadership

This quote was featured in the book and I thought it was pretty solid.  Being busy does not equate to being successful.

 

“Don’t let anyone tell you that a big ego is a bad thing. It is reflective of anyone willing to take their talent as far as it will go.  Ego is pride, self-confidence, self-esteem, and self-assurance.  Egotism, on the other hand, is an arrogance that comes from your own perceived skill, power, or position.  It makes you self-important, self-centered, and selfish… and slow, vulnerable, and easily destroyed.”

That says just about everything, doesn’t it?

Sports Ball Leadership Insights with That Guy From The 49ers

Book Review: “The Score Will Take Care of Itself” by Bill Walsh

Bill Walsh was the head coach and general manager of the 49ers in the early 80’s that took them from being in last place to winning the Super Bowl in 3 seasons.  I’m not the biggest sportsball fan, so I’m sure many of the anecdotes were lost on me, but it does a good job of bridging that by making sure the leadership principles discussed are fairly universal.

The books is pretty lengthy, so I decided to try the book-on-tape route to and from work as recommended by my cousin.  It took about a month of transit to get through, however there were a lot of really good insights.  A lot of it offers top down leadership advise on managing every aspect of an organization, so it’s a book I will likely re-read later in life when some of the ideas are more applicable to my level of responsibility and authority.

That being said, there is a through line of a micro-management style of leadership, which is not one that I personally am fond of, however I can appreciate how it was effecting in the context in which it was used.  It was interesting to get a very different perspective on leadership and it does offer great advice on setting goals, creating a plans and contingency plans, actively teaching, analyzing and evaluating strategies, having open communication, and adhering to a standard of excellence; some of which I will start incorporating in to my everyday life.  However, I could also see where someone could potentially read this book and justify a closed-minded approach to management without utilizing the aforementioned qualities, which is why I would might hesitate recommending it without a few caveats.

The title of the book comes from the idea that if you focus on continual improvement, attention to detail, and establishing high personal accountability, your team will eventually become so efficient that “the score will take care of itself”.  The book features a lot of different lists of ideas for surrounding different situations, however the predominant one is Walsh’s “Standard of Performance”.

  1. Ferocious and intelligently applied work ethic directed at continual improvement.
  2. Respect for everyone in the program and the work that he/she does.
  3. Be committed to learning.
  4. Demonstrate character and integrity.
  5. Honor the connection between details and improvement.
  6. Demonstrate loyalty.
  7. Be willing to go the extra mile for the organization.
  8. Put the team’s welfare ahead of my own.
  9. Maintain an abnormally high level of concentration and focus.
  10. Make sacrifice and commitment the organizations trademark.

 

It was more difficult to pull quotes from the audio book, but there were a few that really stood out (with a few more and additional commentary to be included in a follow up post).

“Few things offer greater return on less investment than praise.”

“Hearing someone described as being able to “Fly by the seat of his pants” always suggests to me a leader who hasn’t prepared properly and whose pants may soon fall down.”

“Others follow you based on the quality of your actions rather than the magnitude of your declarations.”

“Your enthusiasm becomes their enthusiasm; your lukewarm presentation becomes their lukewarm interest in what you’re offering… When the audience is bored, it’s not their fault.”

“Victory is not always under your control… However, a resolute and resourceful leader understands that there are a multitude of means to increase the probability of success. And that’s what it all comes down to, namely, intelligently and relentlessly seeking solutions that will increase your chance of prevailing in a competitive environment.”

 

 

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