The Comfort Of Possibility

When I walked into the office on a Monday morning and looked at my funnel of future deals, I felt really good. Like "get another cup of coffee and chat about the weekend with the receptionist" good. I had over 50 open deals. 50! Far more open deals than anyone else in the office and I walked with corresponding swagger. Now, fast forward three weeks. I'd only closed two of those deals.   All of that possibility had only materialized into results twice.

That comfort and glut of potential had robbed me of the urgency of converting possibilities into results.

Turned out I'd believed my own hype and that blankie of possibility was robbing me blind.

So I got rid of 30 deals in three days. I asked the honest question: "Is this actually a deal, or does it just look like it could be at some point down the road?" I called and turned the screws on the prospects I thought were open deals and directly asked for the business. I applied enough pressure to learn if they were just being nice or actually seriously considering my proposal.

You know all of the possibilities that the world has presented to you? All of the things that lie ahead of you and all the amazing things that you believe you'll do with your life? Rubbish. You probably won't do them. You probably won't put in the work to close the deal. You probably won't lean into the pain long enough to break through. You might, but, let's be honest, you probably won't.  You're used to getting participation trophies for trying and that is how we've been trained to look at results. "We gave it our best shot."

There is a very real chance that this amazing feeling of having all that potential, all those possibilities ahead of you is the reward that will be enough for you.  That feeling is intoxicating and is so much easier than actually realizing your potential.

But a feeling is all it is.  And for some, that will be enough.

But, for others, that feeling will be demon they wrestle for years, for decades to come.

The demon that says, "you don't have what it takes to actually do those things, do you?"

The demon that says, "think about how much you'd have to give up to even try, just to TRY, when you know you'll probably fail!"

The demon that says, "your possibilities are your reward, those results are for people with more talent than you."

But those demons don't know how to deal with the soul willing to risk comfort for the chance at capturing potential.   While they may grow louder as you take that first step, they're quieted by the second. And silenced by the third.

It is only in action that our possibilities are worth acknowledging. It is only in daring that our potential has any worth.  And it is a choice that we must learn to make every single day.

So here's to you and to the possibilities that lie before you.

But most of all, here's those brave enough to see those possibilities become your reality.

You Are Not Your LinkedIn Profile

It has been a challenging start to the year.   A lot of left over loose ends from the mad rush that 2013 turned out to make themselves known to start 2014.  A lot of which, on their own, are just part of life. But condensed into the sprint that took place felt a little like running through a row of paddles as part of some initiation. Life kicked the life out of me, I felt like I was the all singing, all dancing crap of the world. Annie asked me, "How can I help you avoid the tailspin?" A very fair question from someone who my peaks and valleys directly and viscerally affects.  A question that I have asked myself on more than one occasion recently. At the pace I am going right now, I will finish my current moleskin notebook in half the time of my last one, ideas were captured and the long looks into the mirror exposed. It was a little like insomnia, you're need really asleep and you're never really awake.

I realized over the past few years, that I have defined myself by my work. "Who is Andy?" was a question answer using the names of companies. "Who is Andy?" was answered with "not sure, think he's different now" if someone hadn't seen my latest update. "Who is Andy?" didn't have an answer that I was comfortable with outside of the version of Andy that I could fit into 140 characters.  If you posted something different for each social network, were you a different person?

And as I continued to allow myself to define myself by what I was doing, I allowed my mental status to be defined by something external to me. If what I was doing wasn't doing well, then I wasn't doing well.  If a project I was involved with was floundering, so was I. If a big pitched ended up as a failure, I claimed that status for myself.  That stuff was my life.

But as the question of "Who is Andy?" began being asked less and less as more and more of what I was doing began to change.  Projects I'd been involved with wrapped up or moved on.  Pitches I'd been really proud of didn't pan out and the void left wasn't immediately filled with something else.  And I just let that space exist and leaned into its awkwardness. When friends asked if I had time to catch up, I did and we did and nothing about the laughs we shared was not contingent on what I was doing.  I wasn't my LinkedIn  profile.

And so now, clearly in the midst of more change, I am finding clarity in the question of "Who is Andy?" Not in what I am doing, but in who I am in the eyes of the people around me that matter the most and in the slow moments where I am not a human doing, but a human being.  But as those previous edifices fall and a new kind of freedom is uncovered, it is fair to say I couldn't have powered through this with out my friends and family, even if recently they met me at a very strange time in my life.

Your Reaction To Richard Sherman Says A Lot About You

Last night, after an incredible football game between two conference rivals, a winner was crowned.  The most important play of the game happened within the final minute. Emotions were running incredibly high.  The player responsible for causing 70,000 fans to erupt into euphoria and send his team to the Super Bowl was given a microphone less than three minutes after he made the biggest play of his career. He went on to explain that he was the best and that his rival shouldn't have tested him with it all on the line. And, while it was a little closer to center ring WWE than a Tom Brady post game interview, this excited athlete didn't curse or slur anyone, just threw down some good ol' fashion trash talking. And then the internet blew up.

And, a solid 12 hours later is still blowing up.

In 2007 I participated in an amateur boxing match sponsored by the local sports radio station and went three rounds against my roommate. It came down to the final 10 seconds of the third round and I landed one final blow just as the bell rang. It was enough to tip the scales in my favor and be awarded the victory.  Before I could even catch my breath, I was live on the airwaves and gave the worst interview in the history of sports radio. I was amped up from the win but also completely out of breath. I have the audio and sometimes listen to it before I give speeches to remind myself no matter what happens, it won't be that bad.

I am in no way comparing my amateur fight night interview to the pinnacle of a professional athlete's career post game interview, but, there is something about the endorphins that are coursing through a competitors body that just might take their enthusiasm to a level that makes others uncomfortable. Mine to the point of uncomfortable for lack of breath and mumbling. Richard Sherman to the point of uncomfortable that his intensity in that interview was so much more raw than any level of competitiveness you've ever dreamed operating at.

When you say "Richard Sherman's interview makes me cheer for the Broncos in the Super Bowl" I see you saying "I don't like my team being that competitive."

When you say "Richard Sherman just said he is the best, what a douche bag." I see you saying "I've never thought about believing in myself that much."

When you say "Richard Sherman shouldn't claim being a Stanford Communications grad, that's embarrassing." I see you saying, "Has he ever even raised a seed round?"

When you say "Richard Sherman is a thug." I see you saying "I thought I was watching Tennis."

All In

Maybe it was the scotch, maybe it was that I had the chip lead, or maybe there's just something in the air, but, last week during poker night, I realized something about the way I approach each hand that is dealt. And then next morning over coffee realized it is the same way I approach life. I'm always looking to go All-In.

Now, I don't mean on every hand, but I do mean, that my "tell" (sign that I've got something exciting) is that I bet. I have no problem sluffing cards that aren't quite good enough. There is definitely an opportunity cost to not staying in hands longer, like knowing you'd have had the winning hand after all the cards are dealt, but there is something to be said for knowing how you play and what you're willing to risk.

The same is true when evaluating options and making choices in life. I'm constantly finding that once I go "in" on a hand, I am quickly confident enough to go All-In. If something is worth doing, it's worth doing All-In.

Or said another way:

 

My Same Sex Relationship

A lot of people don't know this, but I have been in a relationship with another man since 2007. Both of us being adults, made this legally binding decision freely and with confidence because it was right for us. There have been ups and downs, but, like all relationships, we have found ways to work through it and move on. Our ability to do what is in each other's best interest and build something awesome together was in no way impeded by the fact that we are both men.

Before we entered into this relationship, we talked through what would happen if one of us were to pass away, become disabled, or want to leave the relationship at some point in the future. We knew what we were getting ourselves into and the government said it was okay by them.

Amazingly, our contract to enter into this relationship wasn't protested because we were both men. When we finished filing our documents, no one else felt like we were encroaching on their relationship or keeping them from having a fulfilling lifelong relationship as a result. Our all male relationship didn't keep anyone who was in a man and woman relationship from living out that choice for them.  When it was all said and done, the LLC that me my business partner formed didn't affect ANYONE but us.

And, while forming an LLC is a much less emotionally charged issue than that of legally recognized marriage, there are some stark and clear parallels that I can't help but think about today.  When two adults decide that they want to enter into a lifelong relationship, who should be able to stop them? The government sees no reason to not let me and my male business partner be committed to each other for life because our gender, age, and race make no difference in our ability to make that decision for ourselves.

On an even more personal note, Annie and I are in love. And have been for almost ten years. We've chosen to build our lives together, are committed to each other, and don't need anyone to tell us that our love isn't as real as theirs because we don't have a marriage certificate. But, when the day comes and we decide that we want to sign that legal document, I can't even imagine what I would do if people who don't know us told us we couldn't because they didn't like that we were in love. Our love doesn't affect them and has nothing to do with theirs.

Love is a choice between two people. Not the church. Not the government. Love is not something to be regulated or allowed. Love is far bigger than any definition we can put on it.

"Love is only a word until we decide to let it possess us with all its force. Love is only a word until someone arrives to give it meaning." - Paulo Coelho

More Time? For What?

This week on Forbes I only shared part of the story about increasing time in 2013. I made the bold claim that, if you found one hour each day to be more productive than you were the year before, you could add 365 hours of time to your year. Or said another way, 15.2 days of better living in 2013. (Read it HERE) Awesome thought right? Who wouldn't love an extra two weeks to get things done in the new year?

The idea hit me while recovering from jet lag after our Thanksgiving trip to Europe. I was going to be at my usual time (midnight) but waking up an hour earlier than normal (4:45ish) and functioning just fine each day on less sleep than I usually run on. So one morning around 5:15 as I started my 2nd cup of coffee, the thought struck me, what if I slept one hour less everyday for a year? That question led to the math that lead to the Forbes post this week. If I slept one hour less every day in the new year, I would be AWAKE for an additional 15.2 days worth of the year.

So, like I frequently do when I have an epiphany over my early morning coffee before anyone else is awake, I sent myself an email reminder to run the idea past some friends later in the day. When I did, I was met with two reactions:

1) You are freak who doesn't need sleep, stop judging me. In fact, you are unhealthy for sleeping as little as you do now.

2) That's cool, but what on earth would I do with all that extra time?

The first reaction was some what in jest, but it was definitely interesting to see how long people sleep being such a hot button issue that my suggestion of GAINING TWO WEEKS OF AWAKE TIME IN THE NEW YEAR set off their defenses.

But the second reaction was actually more concerning to me. Some of the very same people who I've heard complain recently of not being as far along on projects or goals as they'd hoped were viewing the sacrifice of sleep as a price too high to pay. Or that whatever they might be able to accomplish in that extra hour wouldn't be as valuable as an extra hour between the sheets.

This is not a post recommending you sleep 5-6 hours like I do, I know that isn't for everyone. But I am of the mind to say that it is amazing what you body can do when it is trained to. It is even more amazing to see what your mind can do when it is trained to consider every waking or sleeping hour as part of a much bigger plan.  My goals and ambitions stress me out everyday. The "what" and "why" are bigger than what I can see as far as the "how" are concerned. Most nights when I go to bed I am already thinking about what I am going to be working on when I get up the next morning.

Again, this rant isn't to say that my sleep patterns are to be modeled or are right for anyone other than me. But it is to say that, I hope in the new year, every hour of your day, waking or sleeping, will be considered as far game towards getting you to your goals and the ambitions that you have for the new year and that those goals and ambitions will be big enough that all habits and patterns are open for discussion and modification to optimize your life in the new year.

The WHY

When Bruce Wayne decides to get back out on the streets of Gotham as the Batman, he does so because others need him to. He does so because it seems like the right thing to do and that he is the right person to do it. All of those things are true. There isn't another super hero waiting in the wings on. But, (spoiler alert) when he comes up against the pure evil of Bane, he stands no chance the first time around. The reason was simply the "WHY" In one of the best TEDTalks out there, Simon Sinek talks about the difference between how good companies and great companies talk about what they do. Good companies explain what they do and then share how they do it. Great companies explain WHY they do what they do and the beliefs that back their motivation and then may also mention how and what they do to help round out the story. It is an 18 minutes well worth the time.

In thinking about Bane's WHY vs. Batman's WHY, it was crystal clear that Bane would win out in their first encounter (that and there was almost two hours left in the movie...)

His belief was forged in something bigger than himself and a quest that had nothing to do with personal gain. Bane's belief was the playing out of a vision that would last much longer after he was gone. The belief behind Batman's WHY was conjured at best.

When advising start-ups or taking a look at any new projects myself, the first thing that I am learning to ask is WHY. WHY does this project, opportunity, or company care more about the problem they're solving and the solution their providing than everyone else? WHY am I willing to turn down other initiatives and potentially also successful endeavors to see this one through? WHY does this campaign towards something that others are also considering get their first and with more gusto?

If I can't answer that question, I too will end up missing a vertebrae and exiled to a professional living hell until I find the strength to act first on belief and then out of confidence in that belief.