Your Pursuit

When I worked for Marquis Jet, I had the privilege of interacting with some incredibly wealthy people. (And when I say interacting with, I mean cold calling them until their secretaries finally put me on their calendar and I could woo them with the charm of my pocket square) But in that close proximity to the 1%, my definition of wealth changed. Previously it had been something to the effect of "someone with a lot of money" but this new understand of wealth was most clearly articulated by my boss, John Daut, "Wealth is defined by having more options." Growing up in middle class America, my life wasn't too hard. I didn't live on the wrong side of the tracks or have to get a job when I was 12 to support my family. But I also had to learn the value of a dollar saved in order to buy something that I wanted down the road. I started saving to buy a truck when I was 14 years old. Two months after my 16th birthday I finally found the truck of my dreams and handed all the money I had in the world over to get it. That 1985 Chevy Silverado was and still is my favorite vehicle I've ever owned.

But, looking back on it, the process of hunting for that truck that I first learned about the freedom that comes from wealth. The scope of my search, or the options that I had in making that purchase, were limited by the money that I'd managed to save for those two years prior. In the same way, when thinking about life after high school, the number of colleges that I got into was another variation of wealth. The more options I had, the better the choice that I could make. Again in job offers after college and career moves since then. The more options you have, the more wealth, not just money, you have accumulated.

I was asked recently if I could define "hustle." (And no I didn't just tell them to Google "Andy Ellwood") And while there are a lot of variations of how I've heard hustle thought about for various situations, the short answer I went with was this:

Consistently taking action toward an ultimate goal or objective. 

For me, I hustle for options. The more I hustle now, the more options I will have in the future. The more options I have in the future, the more freedom I will have to spend time with people I respect creating things that I'm passionate about. It isn't about hustling for hustling's sake. It is about knowing why you hustle and taking advantage of the options you create along the way.

So, on this 4th of July, here's to your life, your liberty, and your pursuit of happiness.

Whole Soul

This quote was shared with me this weekend by a very good friend, Randy Brandoff. We then discussed the things that we are respectively are interested in and that we do very well. Now it is on us to live out the rest of the truth in this quote and put soul into it. "The road to happiness lies in two simple principles: find what it is that interests you and that you can do well, and when you find it, put your whole soul into it - every bit of energy and ambition and natural ability you have."

- John D. Rockefeller

Rules

Most people learn how to play a new game by having someone who has played before teach them. That is the fastest way to get the game going and then "learn as you go." But, the fastest way to win, and then likely be called a cheater, is to read the rules. Growing up, my family played a lot of games. Card game, board games, and guess which word I want you to say games. Each time that a new game was introduced, via birthday present or unsuspecting friend, there was a scramble to understand more of the rules faster than everyone else. Whether it was taking turns reading the side of the box, huddling around the small print pamphlet like it was the Dead Sea Scrolls, or reading all the rules before telling anyone else that there was a new game in the house, the rules were a big part of the indoctrination to the Ellwood family game night.

The reason for the clamor around the rules was quite simple: they tell you how to win. And, when it comes to games, that is the only reason to play. (The "let's not keep score and just have fun" thing just doesn't work for me.) The rules lay out what exactly you would do to win faster than others and says that these things are illegal. But, in telling you the things that are against the rules, it also paints the picture of what kinds of things should be paid attention to and the areas of the game that advantages might be acquired.

This weekend, the Sunday New York Times front page above the fold story featured a detailed look into the complex tax planning strategies of the hier to the Estée Lauder fortune.  The headline and the sentiment of the article do little to hide the author's distain for the ways that Ronald Lauder and his family have structured their finances. Several times throughout the article there are references to his "shrewd use of the US Tax Code." This is followed by general statements about the complexity of "labyrinth of trusts, limited liability corporations and holding companies" that may or may not have been developed to with their likely favorable tax implications in mind.

Looks like someone read the rules.

Looks like someone else doesn't like the rules.

And while this article may serve as further proof in the case against the Haves being made by the Have Nots, I took it from a different perspective. What are the rules that I haven't mastered? What are the advantages that exist in my world that I am not maximizing? What are the angles that I can take in the games I am currently playing that will frustrate others not clever enough to find them?

"If no one is accusing you of cheating, you probably aren't trying hard enough." - Winner

Mastering Twitter

They say it takes doing something 10,000 times before you can gain true mastery of it. If that logic is true, 922 days after joining Twitter, I can begin to say I am mastering Twitter. This blog post will be sent out as my 10,000th tweet.

To mark this milestone, I decided to take account for what has been shared and sent out over the past couple years and 10,000 tweets. As I looked over all the details I uncovered, here are some stats that I found interesting (to run these stats yourself, check out TweetStats.com and CrowdBooster.com)

Here is what the break down of how far each and every one of my tweets went. Some were retweeted by people with a lot of followers and there for reach a ton of folks. Others were retweeted a bunch of times.

Even through I joined Twitter in May of 2009, I really didn't get into it until moving to New York in 2010. Here you can see how many times I tweeted each month over the past couple years. (Average 219/month)

Another interesting stat that I thought was really interesting was what time of day I tend to tweet. As you can see here, unless I am sleeping, there is a chance that I am sharing something about what is going on in my world. And, this may or may not reveal how little sleep I actually need.  (average tweets/day = 11.6)

Then of course the question of, what the heck am I actually tweeting that much about? Here is a word cloud of some of the top words and hashtags that I've sent out over the past 10,000 tweets.

There is a very true saying that "what you measure is what you manage." And, as I look back over this set if data and some of these other points that TweetStats.com and CrowdBooster.com revealed, it begs the question: "What, if anything, should I be doing differently in next 10,000 tweets?"

The Path of Good Intentions

I had the itch to play kickball in the park. I suggested to a friend of mine that we should organize a game. He thought it was a great idea and then said, "And we should do it to raise money for a charity!" And, while I am always up for doing a little good, I just wanted to play kickball. In a recent article on the Harvard Business Review, Dan Pallotta makes the claim that Steve Jobs was the World Greatest Philanthropist even though very little is known of his actual charitable contributions. Mr. Jobs did not have a huge foundation like fellow technology titans like Bill Gates. He didn't have a foundation at all. He did in 1985 but then shut it down because he didn't have the time and effort to devote to being the best at giving away money.

"In order to learn how to do something well, you have to fail sometimes...the problem with most philanthropy-there's no measurement system.. you can really never measure whether you failed or succeeded...So...it's really hard to get better." 

In this same article, Mr. Pallotta makes an observation about the crop of recent college grads that are obsessed with "social good."

"Our youth are growing up with the strange notion that the only way to make a big difference in this world, or to be of service, is to work for a nonprofit organization, or become the next Bill Gates and establish a private foundation, or to start some kind of "social enterprise," often without any understanding of what that means."

I remember when I graduated in 2004, just about everyone I knew in the business school had an idea for the next best coffee shop. Each and every business plan bore the personality of its author and all but one (check out WellCoffee) never made it off the powerpoint deck. In the same way, I am seeing socially conscious business plans flying left and right these days. Every idea has a social good hook. Every conversation about building something new has some intention of giving back being built into the core mission and P&L statements.  And any time people are thinking about how to make a bigger impact, that is a good thing.

What is not a good thing is when that added layer of good intentions gets in the way of the underlying value that the organization or business was built to create. The point of building a business is to provide a product or service that is of value to the world. If there is good that can be done on top of that, terrific. Think about TOMS Shoes. While it is absolutely awesome that for each pair of shoes that you buy a pair of shoes is given to kids in need around the world, the reason it works is because TOMS Shoes are awesome shoes. If the shoes sucked, I would have bough one pair, gotten my social good credit for the semester, and never bought the next 5 pairs I own.

The energy, excitement, and brainpower that is flowing around "social good" right now is terrific. But, the movement is approaching a tipping point and there is a level of saturation that I believe the marketplace is approaching. In the same way that 5 years ago, there was a significant push to "green wash" the business world and people became immune to noticing, the "good washing" may share a similar fate. Or worse yet, the job and value creating companies that intended to also do good will never get launched in the first place.

Kinda like that game of kickball I wanted to play.