Build an Igloo (or do something else really hard)

Everyone should have the experience of building an igloo. 

That’s what I did this weekend.  And let me tell you, it’s not easy.

But I learned many lessons that I think could be applied in other situations.

1.  To get the great feeling of significant accomplishment, you have to do something really difficult.

     Spending 5 hours packing snow, shoveling snow and lifting heavy blocks is not a small task.  And it helps your motivation if you have nowhere else to sleep that night.  Commit to something big, and you’ll feel great when it’s over.

2.  Follow instructions.

     If someone has experience, or knows more than you, and has provided you instructions, it would be wise for you to follow them.  We had specific instructions for building an igloo, including layout size, block sizes, and techniques.  There were others who tried to  build igloos just based on what they thought was a good idea, but in the end, they didn’t turn out so well.

3.  Have faith in those with experience.

     This is similar to # 2 but there were times when the instructions just didn’t seem to make sense.  Only later in the process did we understand the wisdom of the specific instructions.  There were also times when we didn’t think the blocks were very stable and that the whole thing could come crashing down in an instant.  But we had faith, followed the instructions, and the structure turned out very sturdy.

4.  Persist.

     When you’re really tired, and nothing seems to be going right, and you want to quit… don’t.  Don’t give up.  The thrill of success will be so much sweeter when you’ve gone to the edge of defeat.  When one of our key large blocks broke, we thought we were done and had no way to finish, but we kept working it and figured out a way to make it work.  Only pure persistence got us through, because logically, we didn’t seem to have any options.

These probably sound like old fashioned lessons, but that’s why they’re so valuable, they have stood the test of time and apply to almost any situation. 

It took building an igloo for me to understand them at a deeper level.

Destroying our 7' high igloo
Destroying our 7' high igloo

Ideas, Money, and ???

What do you need for economic stimulus?

First you need business ideas that will generate income and make money for the owners and employees.


Seth Godin and some friends provided 999 ideas.  That should be enough to get started.

Next, you need some seed money to make them happen.


Billionaire Mark Cuban has plenty of money for funding new businesses and he wants to give it away, but he has laid out specific rules and stipulations for the type of business he is looking for.  That’s okay because it’s his money and beggars can’t be choosers.

What else is needed?

Oh yeah… hard work. 

That’s the missing link.  

So it looks like we have unlimited money and ideas available, we just need the tough sweat equity work to make things happen.  Then we don’t need an economic stimulus package, we need a hard work stimulus package.

Let’s go do it.


Crawl, Walk, Run

Here’s a concept for you.  Before you launch that revolutionary innovative idea, or tackle that BHAG (Big Harry Audacious Goal), it might be wise to start small.

Maybe you should practice that skill at a lower level until it is mastered before you move on to the next step. 

Maybe there’s something you just can’t understand at that higher level without knowing what it takes to exist at the lower level.

Maybe you’ll give up altogether if it is too difficult to reach that final state.

Sometimes when we learn about how awesome running is and how it can get you places so much faster, we want to just do that first, and don’t have time for that crawling and walking stuff.  But sometimes it’s just not possible to really run correctly without taking the time to master the crawling and walking stages.

Are there things you could be better at if you went back to crawling or walking?

Are there things you’ve been putting off because you haven’t felt ready to run yet?  What could be a crawling stage to get you started?

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?



So how do you do it?

The philosophy outlined in the previous post always sounds good in theory, but how do you actually do it?  How do you get someone to care about what you feel is important?

Here are 3 tips.

1.  Find out what is important to the other person.

When people feel understood and listened to, they are given a fresh breath of ‘psychological’ air.  They get the feeling that you are on their side, that you can relate to where they’re coming from, that you care.  But here’s the key point: you do have to really care.  You can’t just manipulate them with saying the right words, they’ll smell it, they’ll find out, it won’t work.  You have to show that you truly care about what is important to that other person. 

2.  Support others in acheiving their goals.

Do whatever you can to help people accomplish what they trying to do.  Go out of your way to do something that will be appreciated.  Add value to their efforts.  Spread the word about their efforts.  Give an encouraging word and sincere appreciation.  Again, it must be a sincere effort, something you do willingly because you want them to succeed, not because you expect something in return.

3.  Share what you care about.

Talk about what is important to you, in an honest and sincere way.  Don’t tell people why they should change, share how it has affected you personally.  Be truthful and honest.  Make sure your words and actions are congruent and that your integrity is clearly apparent. 

Then let people choose.

When people fundamentally share the same deep down beliefs and goals, they are willing to work together to accomplish great things.  When you follow these tips, you are connecting with people at a deeper level that allows real synergy for working together.  If people choose not to connect with you, or accept your help, or share the same fundamental beliefs, then maybe you don’t need them to.  You can’t force others to care about what you feel is important.  So don’t even try it, you’ll damage the relationship, making it even more impossible to have any influence in the future.

I’ve learned these concepts from various sources and experience, which I’m sure you can also relate to and validate, but these specific tips were articulated perfectly by Dick Axelrod in his ebook, so I just had to share them.


True Leadership

There are two ways to get someone to do what you want.

  1. Tell them to do it, and the reason is because you are the boss and they have to do what you say.
  2. Influence them in a way that they’ll want to do it on their own accord.


One way is easy and gets results.  The other way is difficult and results are not consistent.

One way makes things happen in the short term, but damages long term possibilities.  The other way creates a solid relationship with potential for even greater accomplishments in the future.

One way derives power from compulsion.  The other way derives power from true caring and respect.

Which type of leader would you rather work for?

Which way would you rather be known for?



This might seem like a simple topic, but it has tremendous potential depending on the system you are applying it to.

Focus means to put all your energy into doing one thing.  When you do that, you become more productive and produce better quality work.  Think about all the things you’re thinking about and working on.  You probably pride yourself in being able to cover so many bases.  And yes, we are pretty complex creatures with amazing brains and capabilities to do lots of stuff.

But the problem is that when we are trying to get a lot of things done at the same time, and we are switching back and forth between different projects, we lose our effectiveness on each task.  Plus, we may have made progress on many things, but we haven’t finished any of them.

On the other hand, if we focus on one task, and work on it until it is done, then we’ve actually finished one task, and we can move on to the next one.  With this method of linear, sequential completions, you are actually able to complete more projects in less amount of time than the multi-tasking method.  Of course it depends on the complexity of the project or tasks, but as a general rule, this is true.  And it especially holds true for corporations who have their knowledge workers running every which way trying to show progress on multiple projects for multiple bosses.

When an athlete is “in the zone” they are focused on one thing, and they perform it flawlessly.  When they get distracted, they lose concentration and don’t perform well.  The quality of our work will be much better also if we can focus our attention on the task at hand.

One of the reasons it is difficult to focus is because we have a hard time saying “no” to things that show up as needing to be done.  Many times there is a false sense of urgency, so we want to alleviate that discomfort by at least starting to work on that thing.  But in reality, if we are disciplined, and make wise judgements regarding the true priority of items, then we may be able to finish that item even quicker by having it wait its turn, but more importantly we will be accomplishing the things that are the highest priority or have the most value in our lives.

This doesn’t mean that our priorities can’t change in an instant.  While I was writing this post, my son woke up crying because he wet his bed.  I determined that taking care of his needs was more important than finishing this post, so I switched tasks, took care of him, and then switched back.  When emergent issues arise, we need to be cognizant of the true priority and make wise decisions.

The point is that when we focus, by being more judicial in deciding what to work on, we can actually get more things done – the things that are most important to us – and accomplish them with a higher quality output.

It just takes practice.

“Focus power, Danielson!”


Naysayers must go

Are you a naysayer?

Are you “one who denies, refuses, opposes, or is skeptical or cynical about something?”

I suppose there are times to be skeptical or cynical, but when someone presents an idea that they are passionate about and that they’ve put a lot of work into, does it really help to be skeptical in front of the whole group?  You may want more substantiating data.  You may want a more logical argument for their point.  Or you may want to see proof that their concept will work.  But being skeptical just means that you don’t believe it, which means that you don’t have proof to substantiate your position either. 

Naysayers usually don’t have any better ideas, they just want to tear down anything new or different.  They are defenders of the status quo. 

So the best way to minimize the effects of the naysayers is to call them on it.  Ask them why they are against progress or innovation or new ideas?  No one wants to be seen as a fuddy-duddy, unimaginative or old-fashioned.

Then, if they are not key decision makers, ignore them, go around them.  Make your ideas happen in spite of skeptisism. 

It can be lonely out on the cutting edge, but that’s why it’s cutting, no one wants to be out there.  It is difficult to break the status quo.

So don’t be a naysayer.  You’re holding up progress for everyone, and reducing the number of  people who might have had the next big idea, if it weren’t for you.

Consultants Thoughts

The Meeting Canoe (Part 2)

I thought I’d try a new tactic and keep you in suspense for a day (of course, it only works for my one daily reader.  There’s more? Please reveal yourself.)

Or it could be that I just ran out of time last night and didn’t want to finish the post.

Anyway, here’s the rest of the story.

The Meeting Canoe is about how to design a meeting, and it gets it’s name from the shape associated with the design concept, which looks like the top view of a canoe, when you’re looking down it – thin on one end, getting fatter in the middle, then getting thin again at the end.

1.  Welcome

The first thing you want to do in a meeting is welcome people.  Let them know that they are in a different space.  One of the most important aspects in architecture is how one enters the building – the entryway.  The same is true for a meeting, make it pleasant and welcoming.  Let people know you are glad they are there and make it a place they want to stay.

2.  Connect to each other and the task

Remind people what they have in common and why they are there.  When people are connected to the group, they are more likely to participate and be engaged in the conversation.

3.  Discover the way things are

Share information, have a discussion about the current state of whatever topic you are meeting about.  Allow all perspectives to be presented.

4.  Elicit people’s dreams

Get people into the future.  What would the situation look like if everything happened the way they’d like it to?  Get creative and invoke the arts, use skits, freewriting, stream of consciousness, headlines, or any method to get people thinking outside the norm.

5.  Decide who does what

This is where you create action plans, give assignments, and have a clear understanding of the next steps.

6.  Attend to the end

Review agreements.  Understand the path forward. End with a feeling of excitement, motivation, and possibility.  Appreciate everyone’s time and contribution.

Those are the 6 steps to the meeting canoe.  The canoe shape is derived from the size and depth of the conversation.  At the beginning, it is somewhat small talk with little emotion or feeling.  As the meeting progresses, discussion gets deeper, more involved, more passionate and detailed.  Then, in closing, we begin to converge on specifics, wrap up the loose ends, and feel complete or finished.  It’s a gradual curve, thus the canoe shape – a great memorable image for designing any meeting.



Be nice and personal, you’ll have more friends

I really liked what Seth said in his blog here.

Many business and marketers think the effeciency of communication through the web allows them exploit it by capitalizing on the quantity of messages they produce.  It is so prevelant that we have a word for it – spamming – and it is not a nice word.  Everyone hates spam, so why does it still exist?  Because the old marketing paradigm still exists, and when this (not so) new tool is applied to the old paradigm, it appears as something that can produce results for free.

But we know that the old paradigm is fading, not really working anymore, and being replaced by a new paradigm, which is actually a reprise of a really old paradigm – actual personal human connection.

What people are finding out is that the web communication efficiency is allowing them to have personal human interaction and connection with a lot more people than they could in person (which was the really old paradigm of small town personal service, where everybody knows everybody.)  This is actually way more effective for spreading ideas, getting things done, starting a movement, accumulating customers, or anything you want to do, than impersonal, cookie cutter broadcast messages to the world.  Those kind of messages don’t talk to directly to me, so I don’t really want to respond.  But if a real person who I have a relationship with is talking to me, I listen, I respond.

So how this relates to Seth’s post is that you can be you, and nice, and personal on the web, which helps you to have positive relationships with a lot more people.

And if you have that, well, you can do anything.


You Found Me

How did you find me?  Out of the zillions of blogs out there to read, why did you come here?

Probably by accident, or I told you about it.

But since you’re here, I hope you’ll find it worthwhile.  With all the other stuff out there to read and surf I know you’re paying a lot to be here.  You’re paying attention, which is worth more than gold these days.

So all I’m going to ask for is one minute.  If you could be informed, get connected, and learn something new in one minute would that be worth it?

It’s like my favorite McDonald’s billboard ad: “$1, the next number after free”  Will you pay me 1 minute to get whatever I give you in this blog?


Making things happen

I create movements. 

Maybe not any you’ve heard about, but probably like some that you are involved in.  They’re not huge viral ideas that get spread all over the web, or get talked about on the news or radio, they’re just local groups of people I know at work or in my community who I have connected with a purpose and direction.

That’s called a micromovement.