Books Thoughts

Fear of Failure?

Fear of failure is overrated.

You’re likely not going to get fired over trying something new and radical.  So it’s not really failure that people are afraid of, it’s blame, criticism.

This is another great topic that Seth Godin elaborates on in his book Tribes.

He says that we’re afraid to launch that new idea or product or presentation because we’re worried, deep down, that someone will hate it and call us on it.  “That’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard!” “What a waste of money.” “Who’s responsible for this?”

Sometimes the criticism doesn’t have to be that obvious.  The fear of hearing “I’m surprised you launched this without doing more research” is enough to get many people to do a lot more research, to study something to death, and then kill it.  Hey, at least you didn’t get criticized.

Seth admits, getting a bad book review hurts his feelings, and it is about enough to ruin his day.  But it’s not enough.  It’s not enough to ruin his day because his book got noticed.   He realizes that a bad review is a badge of honor because it means that he confounded expectations – he did something worth remarking on.

So the challenge, as you contemplate your next opportunity to be boring or remarkable, is to answer these two questions:

1.  If I get criticized for this, will I suffer any measurable impact other than feeling bad about the criticism?  If so, how does that feeling compare with the benefits from actually doing something worth doing?  Being remarkable is exciting, fun, profitable, and great for your career.  Feeling bad wears off.  If you’ve decided to take the remarkable path, answer this one:

2.  How can I create something that critics will criticize?

Books Consultants

The Meeting Canoe (Part 1)

One of my favorite consultants I had the opportunity of working very closely with is Dick Axelrod.  He was basically the father of the Engagement movement with his books, Terms of Engagement and You Don’t Have to Do It Alone.  He taught me a lot about consulting, putting on workshops, and working with groups.  His books contain simple, yet powerful concepts, with his latest free e-book  as a perfect example, a short read with timeless lessons.  In fact, his whole Everyday Engagement effort was developed when working with our team, so I’ll take a little credit here (but no where else.)

One of my favorite concepts I learned from Dick was the meeting canoe.  He really keyed in on meetings and said to me, “If you want to find out about the culture of a company, just attend one of their meetings.”  How people interact with each other is truly surfaced in meetings, so his take was that if you wanted to change the culture of a company or organization, just start by changing their meetings.  Meetings are what people seem to hate the most, therefore, they are the greatest source and have the greatest potential for changing the organization’s culture.


Getting Things Done

It’s a phrase that makes people feel good, one that generates confidence, accomplishment.  It’s something we all want to do.  However we define ‘things’, we want them finished, complete, closed, accomplished.

David Allen was a management consultant that began to see the DNA of how things got done and then developed a method, a step by step process, even an entire philosophy around personal productivity and the business of ‘getting things done’.  His books continue to grow in popularity and he is now (and has been for a while) one of the most recognized names in the personal productivity arena.  He basically owns the phrase due to his first book, “Getting Things Done“, and his methodology is now referred as GTD. 

His second book focused more on the philosophy and principles behind the method and is a collection of short essays called “Ready for Anything“.  I actually read that one first and thoroughly enjoyed it.  I’ve also come back to that one quite a few times for re-reading and study, to help me get back on track.

His latest book, just recently released, “Making it All Work” is supposed to provide new perspectives and help you reach new levels of productivity.  I haven’t read it yet, but probably will at some point.

His core premise is that one’s ability to be productive is directly proportional to one’s ability to relax.  He uses the “mind like water” analogy where water responds with total appropriateness to a pebble being thrown in it.  It doesn’t overreact or underreact, it simply interacts with whatever comes to it and returns to its natural state. 

He defines 4 main areas of productive behavior:

  1. Capturing and corralling all our internal and external “open loops” to regain clarity and energy.
  2. Consciously managing our focus within the multiple levels of outcomes and responsibilities to which we are committed.
  3. Creating trusted structures and consistent usage of them to trigger the appropriate focus and reminders as necessary.
  4. Grounding it all with flexible, forward motion at the physical-action level.


People don’t need more discipline as such – they need a more discipined approach.  It’s not about working harder or getting your priorites straight, it’s about defining your work better at multiple levels of detail and staying focused on all of them simultaneously.

I highly recommend investgating David Allen’s work.  I have not mastered his method perfectly yet, but his concepts help me to understand all the things I have to do in a different way, and therefore helps reduce my stress.


The Posture of a Leader

I like this section of Seth Godin’s book, Tribes.

“If you hear my idea but don’t believe it, that’s not your fault; it’s mine.

If you see my new product but don’t buy it, that’s my failure, not yours.

If you attend my presentation and you’re bored, that’s my fault too.

If I fail to persuade you to implement a policy that supports my tribe, that’s due to my lack of passion or skill, not your shortsightedness.

If you are a student in my class and you don’t learn what I’m teaching, I’ve let you down.

It’s really easy to insist that people read the manual.  It’s really easy to blame the user/student/prospect/customer for not trying hard, for being too stupid to get it, or for not caring enough to pay attention.  It might even be tempting to blame those in your tribe who aren’t working as hard at following as you are at leading.  But none of this is helpful.

What’s helpful is to realize that you have  a choice when you communicate.  You can design your products to be easy to use.  You can write so your audience hears you.  You can present in a place and in a way that guarantees that the people you want to listen will hear you.  Most of all, you get to choose who will understand (and who won’t).”

That piece of advice would go a long way to improving attitudes by encouraging people to take responsibility for what happens and not immediately blame others.  That’s true leadership, which is why it is still scarce.


The Career Renegade

When you’re connected with well connected people, then you’re well, connected.

Another one of my friends who I’ve met through Seth Godin’s tribe is Johnathon Fields.  He was gracious enough to send me an advanced copy of his new book called Career Renegade

And let me tell you, it is fantastic. 

There are a lot of career books out there that say, “Just do what you love and the money will follow.” But most of the time that just ends up being an empty promise.  Jonathan’s book actually shows you the strategies and details on how you can find new marketing angles related to the topic of what you love to do that you might have not considered, and which can generate some serious money.  He talks about the latest online tools and markets that just didn’t exist a couple of years ago. 

He also teaches you how to do it without abandoning your current method of earning an income.  But it’s not one of those quick money making schemes, it is more principle based, along with “how to’s” that can be applied to any type of entreprenurial endeavor.

So check it out.  He’s another smart guy with something to say.

Man, there are so many of those out there.