Tag Archives: excellence

Support your local excellence

Does supporting local business really make sense

Does supporting local business really make sense

I’m not a big fan of requests to support your local business/band/artist/whatever. That’s not to say I DON’T support these entities. I just don’t care for marketing strategies that employ “support your local” pleas. There should be a reason besides proximity that compels my support. What do you have to offer that is excellent? If you can’t compete on price, is there something else you provide that will earn my loyalty? Better service? A stream of new and exciting material to engage your fan base?

Are you striving for excellence in your craft?

The mom and pop tire shop down the street gets my business even though their prices are a few dollars higher than Wal-Mart. The owner treats customers fairly, pumps up my kids’ bike tires with a smile, and doesn’t make me feel stupid when I forget to have my tires rotated. I get my coffee beans from the local coffee shop because their beans are more freshly roasted than the Starbuck’s from the grocery store and they don’t cost any more. I listen to a friend’s local radio show because he just runs an excellent show. He introduces fans to new music and provides interesting backstories many of the artists and songs.

Similarly, if you have aspirations to do something bigger and better than your current gig, start being excellent now. Don’t wait until you’ve “arrived” to bring your best to the table. Even if you’re bagging groceries or flipping burgers, there is room to go beyond what is required and do excellent work. Give people a reason to appreciate your work beyond sentimentality.

Brian and Stormtrooper

Setting goals and living beyond the compliment

“Nice job!”  “I like what you said.”  “That was really entertaining.”  “You’re really good at that.”  Compliments are great.  They can help motivate us as we move toward our goals, but they can also be stumbling blocks if we let them.

Picture a runner who has a goal of running a 4 minute mile.  He trains every day, pushing himself a little bit further every time he goes for a run.  He consistently wins every race, but that’s not his goal.  His goal is the 4 minute mile.  After one particularly great race, in which he sets a personal best of 4:10, and the fans go crazy:  “That was amazing!”  His coach adds “Best running I’ve ever seen.”  Even his parents chime in: “We’re so proud of you!  Way to go!”  At this point, the runner can react in two ways:

I did it.
OR
I’m doing it.

It’s especially easy for people engaged in creative pursuits to settle for the “I did it” when we receive compliments.  Even in writing this little blog, I’m tempted to relax and take my eyes of the goal when people tell me “I like your blog,” or “That post described exactly how I feel, too,” or “You’re a great writer.”  Picture me with hands behind my head, elbows out, leaning back in a leather executive chair with a stupid-wide grin plastered on my face.  (Deep sigh) . . .  “Yep, I’ve arrived.  My complimenters speak the truth.”

But we must press on, or the little milestones mean nothing.  The Sirens’ complimentary song is beautiful and tempting, providing temporary comfort, but it is death to our goals.  Instead, we must take the compliments in stride, and keep at it until we’ve reached our destination.  And once we’ve done so, then we must set new goals or risk stagnation.

How about you?  What do you do with compliments?  Are you able to use them to motivate you toward your goals, or have they become a stumbling block to you?

Brian and Stormtrooper

Overwhelmed? Take small steps and stay focused.

I’m choosing to push through my tendency to be overwhelmed by big things. I’m choosing to take baby steps. Today, I read an article on making SEO improvements on my WordPress blog. I collected 10 more jokes to add to my list of 50 for an exercise from a comedy writing book. It’s taken me over a week to make that list, but I didn’t let that discourage me. I just proceeded with the task in small bites until it was done. And right now, I’m keeping a promise to myself to post at least one blog entry a day this week, and I’m doing it with only 40 minutes left in the day. These daily little tasks are keeping me focused. I’m less and less overwhelmed every time I take just five minutes to work toward my goal of transitioning into a new career.

So what steps have you taken today? What little things have you done to work toward whatever big goal that looms overhead? Do something. Anything. Is your house a disaster and you can’t see a way out of it? Go put 10 things away. Is there a project at work that terrifies you? Dive in, take a break, then dive in again. Need to talk to your teenager, but you’re scared about how they’ll react? Talk with them about something they love first, then slowly work your way into the deeper stuff. You don’t have to have everything figured out before you take action. Stop making excuses to yourself and act.

Brian and Stormtrooper

To resume, or not to resume? Sell your talent

I stumbled across a couple of really good blog posts about selling your talent recently.  The first post comes from People and Chairs, a great improv comedy blog.  In their post How To Write a Kickass Performer Bio, they talk about how to make a resume/bio stand out from the crowd by including humor and personality in well written sentences, rather than just listing a bunch of stuff you’ve done.  While this post was written specifically for performers, the concept applies to just about any resume or piece of writing that sums up your life’s work and career goals.

The second post was a link at the bottom of the first post, and is even more radical than the first post.  In his post Why Bother Having a Resume, Seth Godin talks about being awesome enough in your work to eschew the resume altogether.  In other words, if you’re really all that, you should be able to prove it your work RIGHT NOW, not just list what you’ve done in the past.  Without a resume, you can show your worth with extraordinary letters of recommendation, well written blogs, or actual physical finished projects. I read this post, and I was like “Yeah!  That’s who I want to be!”  With my own professional resume, I’ve often worried that the employer might think I’m bluffing with my impressive list of expertise.  Worse yet, what if I actually AM bluffing?

I think I’ll combine both of these approaches and start with a more personal prose-based bio, with the goal of becoming resume-free down the road.

Brian and Stormtrooper

Flossing, valleys, and beheading snakes – making the transition to a creative career

One night last week, I flossed my teeth.  And that’s when I knew that things were about to change.  Stick with me, it’ll make sense in a bit.

We all understand about valleys and mountains in life.  Some of us are better at managing our time in the valleys, while others might need reminders that the valley isn’t permanent, and that there are roads that lead to higher ground.  For the last year or two, I’ve been in a bit of a valley.  I’ve known all my life that I’m capable of greatness, but I’ve struggled with the execution, the discipline, the hard work needed to rise up and do something truly great.  I’m most comfortable in the valley, where there’s less chance for failure, and where falling down doesn’t hurt as much, as I’m already pretty close to the ground.  That’s not to say I haven’t had some success, and achieved some level of greatness in many areas in my life.  It’s just that many (maybe most?) of these successes have come fairly easily to me.  I don’t know when it happened, but at some point, I stopped working hard, stopped pursuing excellence, and settled for the mediocre.  It’s a comfortable, yet miserable existence.  I was made for better than this, and I know it.

So, I’m in this valley.  I feel stuck.  I’m 40 as of October 2012, and my résumé seems to indicate that I’m a fairly competent Information Technology professional, though I have no real passion for it.  I’m thankful to be working and providing for my family, but there are many other things I’d rather being doing as a career.  I sort of fell into this track back in the late 90’s, and really enjoyed it for the first several years.  I learned what made computers tick, solved difficult technical problems, and impressed others with my knowledge.  Then, at some point, the honeymoon was over, and I realized that I wanted out.  I wanted a career that made more use of the creative side of my brain before it atrophied.  BUT, I was the sole bread-winner in a family of six, and I didn’t want my wife or kids to worry about food or shelter while I “found myself,” so I stuck it out, tried to make the best of it.  I stayed in the same position at a small liberal arts college in rural Southern Illinois for over 10 years.  I really liked the people there, but grew less and less fond of the work I was doing.

Finally, I decided to take a risk and started looking for a new position in St. Louis (an hour commute each way).  Although I’d resigned myself to continuing on in a technical role, I thought that perhaps a change of scenery would help me.  Of course, it didn’t.  I mean, there were certainly bright spots, like getting to work in the marketing office for an upstart toy company, sharing offices and other resources with Build-A-Bear.  There, I had some great opportunities to exercise the creative side of my brain from time to time:  regular brainstorming sessions, occasional creative writing projects, sitting in on design walk-throughs for virtual world game development, but I was still in a largely technical role.  I worked in two other roles in St. Louis before returning to work for a local company in town as an IT Manager.

This valley is made up of more than just career woes.  I start things and don’t finish them.  I had an amazing opportunity to do some writing for a travel website this summer.  I wrote a couple of articles, and had 2-3 more assignments to go before I just stopped.  I got scared of failure or something, and just stopped responding to the editor.  I leave projects untouched all over our house.  Simple stuff, like changing out a light fixture in the bathroom to slightly bigger projects like leaving a hallway half painted for two years.  I get overwhelmed, and rather than do just a little something to attack a problem, I give in to fear or apathy, and find the path of least resistance.

Back to flossing.  I was standing in front of the mirror, evaluating myself.  What had I become?  Would I always be like this?  Was escape from the mundane even possible for me?  Did I deserve to ask such questions?  Shouldn’t I just be content with what I have and stop complaining?  I mean, there are plenty of people around me who are struggling to find ANY kind gainful employment, and I’m whining about some perceived lack of pleasure for eight hours of my blessed life.  I concluded that I could at least try to change direction.  I could chose to work hard.  I could take baby steps.  I could stop giving up and conceding.  I could begin to crawl out of this valley of OH MY GOSH IT’S PROBABLY BEEN A YEAR SINCE I FLOSSED MY TEETH WHAT’S WRONG WITH YOU BRIAN!!!

So, I flossed.  It was something.  It was a small step, yes, but I felt like Neville Longbottom flying through the air and slashing the head off Voldemort’s snake.  Plaque and apathy be damned, I’m climbing back up out of this stupid valley.