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Live each day like it’s your first

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I have officially hit the jump.  I am now in the single biggest in-between period of my life.  I have left my job, to prepare for my move to Kentucky.  I am in the process of leaving my house and my state behind, to start a new and better life in Kentucky.  I have not had such a period of unlimited potential since I have been an adult.  Even when I first moved to Tucson, and I was unemployed for 3 months, there was a tremendous and immediate pressure to get a job.  In a very short period of time, I will be doing that again in Kentucky.  For now, I am in the between phase, and that has given me some time to think.

I have a period of time that I may never have again in my life.  I can literally do anything that I want to.  I want to make use of that time to set the groundwork for our future, rather than just sitting around and watching TV.  Plus if I sit around watching TV for a month I would have to shoot myself out of boredom.  I can learn, I can read, I can build, and I can write.  So I will use it.

When we are caught up in the normal rat race of life, we feel so much pressure to not rock the boat.  We don’t want to upset the delicate balance of whatever it is that we are doing.  We might not like what we do, but dang it, it keeps the roof over our heads.  Why rock the boat?

This leads to a certain sense of fatalism in what we do.  Well, I feel that changing course will disrupt my life forever no matter what I do.  So I am going to “Live today as if it was my last”.  Then we go crazy, go get hammered, spend too much money on a credit card jetting off to the Bahamas, do something stupid, and really do wreck our lives.  So we have naturally concluded that we have to be stuck in the rat race, because if we deviate at all, it will end badly.

That’s stupid.  If we really lived a day like it was our last we would be huddled up in a panicky ball crying in terror with our family.  Because that’s the only rational way to stare death in the face, no matter what crap you believe from TV.  We think that the only way for new growth to occur is for everything else to be burned down around us.  New life can only spring from the remains of everything else.  I don’t want to work in this cubicle anymore, so I am quitting to go be a fishing guide, even though I have never fished before.

Everything is gone, so stuff can grow now.

Everything is gone, so stuff can grow now.

There is a better way, and also, a better catch phrase.  Live each day, as if it was your first.

Everything doesn’t have to burn down around us for us to change something in our lives.  We simply must decide to change.  Rather than igniting the mess that we have created around us and hoping something grows, we can start something new.  Like a seed, we can start an idea.  We can shelter it and nurture it when it is very small.  We can slowly test it and make it stronger as it grows.  When it gets big enough, we can move aside the old, and plant the new idea instead.

New Idea

Living each day like it’s your last, implies that there are no consequences to what we do, when in fact ignoring them can be horrible for us.  Instead we must live each day like it is our first, so we can always take care to leave somewhere better than we found it.  That is the key to freedom, as well as the key to a legacy.

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Leadership Lifecycle

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I learned a valuable leadership lesson today, or more specifically, I was able to finally articulate a leadership lesson today, and I really felt I had to share.  I believe the entire premise of leadership in our typical corporate structure is flawed, and although I have always had this bubbling around the edges of my mind, for some reason today it snapped into focus for me.  I think this is the very reason that so many of us that are actually good at being leaders feel such a deep dissatisfaction with it.

This may be different in different organizations, but in every organization I have ever worked for, our goal is to make our selves redundant.  Your goal is to create a machine that runs so flawlessly that it can run even without your presence or attention.  On the surface this makes sense.

Our primary mission as leaders is to train new leaders under us in order to grow the machine.  The most common first step for this is to train someone to replace ourselves.  That way we can move on to bigger and better things.  After all, one of the first questions in an internal promotion interview is “Who did you train to replace you?”  From the perspective of the machine, this even makes a certain amount of sense.  Yet it doesn’t address the needs of the leader.

We often see what happens when this process fails.  No new leader is ever trained behind.  The unit stays mired in a spiral of failure.  The leader fails to address the problems of the unit to allow to growth.  The same issues arise over and over again until either the leader resigns out of frustration, disgust or shame, or the corporate machine acts out of self preservation and removes the faulty piece.  This outcome is bad for the leader, and they must start over in a new machine.

What we rarely discuss is what happens when that system succeeds, yet the life-cycle can’t move on.

Let’s say the leader succeeds.  A new leader is trained behind him.  All of the performance issues of the unit have been corrected, and the machine is able to move along with equal performance whether the leader is present or not.  No further training, coaching, or input is really required from the original.  Yet for one reason or another, that leader has no where to go.  What becomes of that person?

The more cynical or lazy among us would look at that setup and say “That person has it made.  He can show up forever, do virtually nothing, and continue to get paid for it.”  Many people would love to have that position.  A good leader isn’t one of them.

For me and so many others like me, we are only able to define ourselves professionally by the struggles we overcome.  We are put in the positions we are in because of how we react towards our team.  We want to meet the budget.  Grow our market.  Launch the new product.  We want to see our new hires sell their first item, their first 1000 items, get their first promotion.  When all of those milestones are gone, what is left?

We become the parents whose children have grow and succeeded beyond ourselves.  The linebacker whose team won the Superbowl while we were injured.  The commander whose troops have all been released.  Without people that need us, and depend on us, our entire careers have become hollow.  We have succeeded, and thus have given ourselves no meaning.  We are the pages leftover after the book has been completed.

A wise leader of mine once told me, the time to leave is after you have everything running perfectly.  That’s when you go off to find a new mess to fix.  At the time I dismissed him as crazy.  At the time, I wasn’t a leader yet.  I wish I had followed that advice.  The greatest death a man can have, is to live long enough to realize he has gotten too old.  It took me all this time to realize, that’s what happened to my career.

Today I looked on my assistant, my protege, and my best friend.  I realized that he doesn’t need me anymore.  All of my crew have learned everything I have to teach.  I saw the future without me in it.  There will be new stories written, and new victories to be had.  Yet never again will they include me.  I have passed from it being us against the world, to them against the world without me, and unfortunately, it happen while I was still there.

If you know someone that leads, and is unhappy, reach out to them.  They just want to feel needed, because they can’t know any greater professional pain than to see themselves succeed into oblivion.

Best use of a free prize EVER

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I seem to have gotten a lot of the actual anger out of my system last night for the firing of my friend, which is good.  Long term it doesn’t affect me at all, so there was no reason to walk around with bad vibes from it, especially if the person actually affected doesn’t.  Yet I still keep mulling it over in my mind, so I decided to focus instead on one of the lessons I learned from Chris over the course of working with him.

When I started this job, I thought I knew how to sell.  I had worked at the Big Blue Blinky Box for almost five years.  I knew how to sell theatre equipment and TVs.  I was a bad ass in my own mind.  Yeah.  Not so much.  Chris showed me that I was a rank amateur splashing around in the kiddie pool of sales.  This was a guy that had made a living hawking perfume in grocery store parking lots, which yeah, is exactly as shady as that sounds.  This is a guy that went down to Mexico working for Verizon to sell phones, and didn’t speak any Spanish.  I was a retail sales guy.  Chris was a Salesman (C).

To this day, I am not quite able to figure out if Chris actually believed half of the crazy crap he would spout, or if he was just trying to get a rise out of me.  I guess I will never know now.  He would give us instructions on how to handle customers that would only be forgivable if they worked, but they always did.  He was the master of being able to read someone and know what button to push to get them to jump a certain way.  A lot of what I know about business and sales is the cleaned and sanitized version of a Chris lesson.  One of the best lessons I ever saw in action was the gratuitous use of the Free Prize.

It was a Saturday, and for some reason Chris and I were working with no scrubs.  So we had to handle everyone ourselves.  A guy came in with the typical just looking strut.  Hands in pockets, big wide steps, leaned back a little.  He was signalling to the world that he wanted to waste our time.  This strut always raises my blood pressure, but not Chris.  Chris saw him as a stool pigeon just looking for a roost.

So Chris goes into the engagement.  This guy isn’t looking for anything at all.  Chris shows him one of our theatre systems.  They spend about 10 minutes standing there talking about how great it sounds and how awesome it is.  Chris isn’t even trying to close this thing.  He is just getting the customer to point out how awesome it would be in his living room.  The customer is falling into the trap of selling it to himself, and doesn’t even realize it.  So finally, the guy says something along the lines of “Yeah, that would sound awesome in there” and Chris pounces “Great, I’ll grab it and meet you up front.”

The customer realizes what just happened “Whoa, whoa, whoa.  This is the deal you give everyone, what are you gonna throw in for me?”  Chris just looks at him “So if I have some stuff to throw in, you will take it?”  Customer, “Yeah, I just need to get a deal”.  Chris says “Ok, I’ll go get some extras and bring them out with your system”.

Now we aren’t allowed to throw stuff in.  Our company prides itself on having the same prices everywhere.  No wheeling and dealing.  So I have no idea where Chris is going with this one.

A few minutes later Chris comes out with a theatre system on the dolly and a little object in his hand.  “OK, I got you a coffee mug, some dum-dums, and about 5 packets of salsa.  All yours.” Then he hands it all over to the customer, who is laughing his ass off.  They walk up front, ring out, and the guy spends about 3 grand in our store.  3 grand.  A $3,000 sale was closed on stale Halloween candy, condiment packets and a mug.  Who the heck even has the stones to try that, let alone have it work?

I learned two very important lessons that day.  First, have no fear when you are selling.  Customers are like dogs, they can sense fear.  Two, it’s much more important to make the customer feel like they beat you, than it is to actually give them a prize.  That guy didn’t actually get squat, but he felt like he negotiated hard and got it.  Maybe some lessons we can use in the homestead businesses?

Fired for doing the right thing

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Sorry that I have been absent for a few days, but I would rather not put out a product at all, than insult all of your intelligence by recycling the same ideas over and over.  With Easter weekend and a busy time at work, I haven’t had much time to put together my usual ideas.  Today though something came down the pike, that to me is simply an affront to everything I consider right about how a leader.  So I simply have to share, and try to find some way that this makes sense.

If you happen to follow my personal Facebook page in addition to The Tribal Future, you already saw me mention this, but I didn’t expound on it.  I needed some time to let this simmer and percolate.  Unfortunately, now that the time has passed.  I still can’t make hide nor hair of it.  I know this isn’t really a homesteading topic, but it’s something that affects all of us on some level.  We always say we want people to do the right thing, so why does it so often end badly for the person that does?

So today, one of my good friends and early mentor at my company way fired.  This is the guy that gave a break to a scared kid in a new city, and gave me the confidence to run a store.  I thought I knew how to sell before I met this guy, but man, I didn’t know crap.

So what horrible thing did he do to get himself fired?  Was it sexual harassment?  Was it theft?  Did he call a customer an idiot?  Did he cheat the system to get a bonus?

No.  He did the right thing for an employee, because by doing that, he made that person’s life better.  His words to me on the phone were, “If I had it to do over again, even knowing I would get fired, I would do it again”.  So is this all hyperbole spouted by an angry friend?  You tell me.

My friend Chris leads a store in Las Vegas.  One of his guys owns his own landscaping business on the side.  Times got tough for him, and the guy fell behind on his truck payments.  Obviously for a landscaper, your truck is your business.  If you lose it, you are toast.  So Chris, being a stand up guy, decided to help him out.  Did he give him a hand out?  Did he loan him money?  NO.  God forbid, Chris did the right and American thing, and hired the kid to do his front yard.

Chris helped him by giving him a job.  Isn’t that what we always say we want to happen in this country? We don’t want handouts, people should work for it.

There was no conflict here.  They weren’t competing with the company.  They weren’t effecting other employees.  They were doing nothing wrong.  Yet another employee was able to call up the Ethics people and say it was a conflict of interest.  Since landscaping and what I do on a daily basis overlap SO far.  Chris’ boss agreed that it was bullshit, and fired him anyway.  So Chris did the right thing, and lost his job.

I know this is something personal to me, so I am making more out of it than most people will, but to me that is a powerful message.  My company that I am leaving is saying that it’s not OK for us to be concerned with the welfare of our people beyond the 4 walls in which we operate.  That we need to be cold and distant, lest we be punished.  I work in an industry where the average turn over is about 3 months.  You know what Chris had created?  A lifer.  That man would have worked for us forever, because we were GOOD.

This is happening everywhere though.  The Autozone employee that got fired for saving his bosses life with a gun he had stashed in his truck, because Autozone says no guns in a personal vehicle.  People afraid to do CPR because of liability.  Telling a woman dieing of cancer that she is having excessive yard sales as she parts with her worldly possessions.  We are punishing those people for standing up for what is right.

So think about this as you go through your day.  Are you rewarding or punishing those who do good in the world?  This can be as simple or as complicated as you want to make it.  You can boycott Autozone for being stupid, or you can say Thank you when you see someone do a kindness.  The saying goes, “All it takes for evil to triumph, is for Good men to do nothing”.  Well, we seem to be encouraging that right now, so lets push the other way.

My goal for a new job

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 First off, I just have to say, technology is an amazing thing sometimes.  I couldn’t get the old writing juices flowing this morning, so instead, I can write on my “lunch break” on my phone.  How cool is that?  You never know where you will have the time and quiet to write, so why not be ready?  Ok, yes, I am easily amazed, but I couldn’t resist sharing that.

 Now that I am down to my home stretch at work, I have started to think a great deal about what I want from a new job.  Since goals that don’t get recorded, don’t get accomplished, I am writing a wish list for myself of things that I want from a new job or career path.  That way I can take a look at what it is I really want to do.

 I do find it amazing to see even as I scratch this list out, how much I have changed over the last five years.  When I was job hunting before, I was so concerned with staying inside of my comfort box.  I looked only at pay and benefits.  That was it.  Bonus points for being able to sell technology products.  Now, while I still care about being able to support my family, I don’t care about any of that crap now.  So I am writing myself a shopping list of what I want, that way I remember.

 When you come up to a career transition, you should do the same thing.  If we continue to only accept the status quo, we will never change our outcomes.

 1) I want to be self employed fully within 3 years.

 I have changed so drastically in the last few years, I see this being doable, even if I don’t exactly know in what form yet.  At this point I have so many ideas, I just need to throw them at the wall and see what sticks.  I will certainly be starting out doing these things PT on the side.  I will have to go get a mainstream job at least at first.  

 So here is how I will measure success with that.  I want to make 10% of my income in the first year, 30% in the second, and 60% in the third.  If I can make 60% replacement income with something that’s only PT, there is no reason you couldn’t exceed your income by doing it full time.  If I don’t hit that number, I stay in the mainstream world.

 2) I want to work with my wife

 Working a job by myself would be boring, and take time away from my family.  I like spending time with her, and if you do what you like, you never work a day in your life.  Our chicken book was good because she co-wrote it with me.  Tribal succeeds when she helps me with posting and reaching out to people.  So whatever job venture we embark on has to be done together.  God has forced me to be humble by making me desire to write, but only write well when I have the help of my soulmate.  At least my ego won’t inflate. 

 3) I want to work with my hands

 We always say work smart, not hard, and that’s good advice.  Unfortunately, so many of us are taught that if we work with our hands, we are a failure.  Working with my hands is very freeing for me.  It allows my mind to wander, create and dream, while I am doing something else.  It keeps me from getting burned out.  So I want to build or create something with my own hands.

 4) I want to work outside

 It took living in the desert to teach me that I like to be outdoors.  I also realized that I don’t like being in the desert outdoors anymore.  So I want to be able to work where I can feel the wind on my face.  I want to work where I can feel the sun on my back some days, and the fog in my face on other days.  I want to see trees, grass and blue sky.  This office wall crap is for the birds.

 5) I want to listen to music while I work

 I never thought this would be a big deal for me, and it might be a product of my home theater sales background, but I loved having a stereo in my office at the store here.  I could plug in my tunes and get my work done while listening to music.  I want to have that with my new gig.  Whether it’s music or podcasts, my brain works better when it has something to absorb while I do other things.

 That is my dream list.  We will see how many of those I am able to achieve in the short term.  In the long term, these are a requirement.  I am glad that I thought this out.  I think too often we are afraid to seek what it is we really want, because we are told it can’t happen.  Well heck with it, I am going to MAKE it happen.

Lead from the front, not from the mud

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 Despite how much I am desperately looking forward to leaving at least this particular part of my career behind, feel like I have taken many good lessons away from it.  I had the good fortune to work for two of the best mentors I have ever had.  One who taught me how to sell, and one who taught me how to lead.  As I look back on all that has taken place, I am thankful that I have learned these things, and they will make me more able to succeed in my own dreams.

 One of the best lessons I took away was actually unlearning a bad leadership habit from the past.  I think it is one that many people suffer from, and it almost feels un-American to question it.  Yet by following what we feel is the most noble or egalitarian route, we are actually damaging the unit as a whole.

 That is the principle of leading from the front.  In every interview you are asked how you would lead or inspire the people you are put in charge of.  For some reason, the vast majority of us feels compelled to talk about how you would lead from the front and never ask people to do something you wouldn’t do yourself.  

 This isn’t a bad sentiment, and no doubt the vast majority of people that make this statement mean it with all possible sincerity.  We don’t want our bosses to think of us as sitting back in an easy chair while the crew does all the work.  So then we hop in there with them and dust the shelves, or fix the price signs, or clean the fridge, or whatever.  No doubt this makes the team love you.  You are one of the boys, proud torch carrier of the noble traditions, but are you really doing what you should?  Is that really the best use of your time?

 As a leader, you are paid more, and given more responsibility.  It is your job to ensure the success of the entire team.  That is why you are paid more.  Your job is to be looking at the big picture, and making decisions based on what you see.  For as good as it feels to be part of the team, if your unit fails, talking about the number of shelves you dusted isn’t going to go over well at your next performance review.

 This was something I learned here.  I used to clean the items.  I used to fix the price signs.  I used to do all of those tasks.  What I wasn’t doing was watching and listening to my crew.  I found out how much more valuable it is to stand back and evaluate and train than it is to task.  When done right, you can operate a team of six people as an extension of yourself, and that can’t be done when you are down in the mud with them.

 It is a noble ideal that we are all equal in what we do, but we aren’t.  Someone has to make the choices, and that person is you.  Don’t get so lost in the trenches that you can’t see over the next rise.

Why ELSE permaculture hasn’t caught on

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As I mentioned yesterday, in the course of writing my post, I was able to think of three more reasons why permaculture hasn’t caught on yet.  So rather than creating one long mega post, I split it up into the two days to make it a little more readable.  The other thing I noticed about how these fell, is that these three can apply to more than just permaculture.  These three are all excellent reasons why many initiatives fail.  So while I am writing this about permaculture, I bet you could apply these to just about every environmental initiative you know.

#1 Hippies aren’t good spokespeople

hippies

Ok, now this one may come off as touchy if you don’t look at it objectively, since many of my readers either were legitimate hippies or at least identify with the movement.  So don’t get defensive.  This is strictly a discussion on the use of hippies as spokespeople, not a commentary on hippies in general.

There are two main problems with identifying as a hippie when trying to promote something.  First, they look different.  When you are selling an idea, you want people to be able to identify with the person selling it.  Either they could be that person, or they could be with that person.  Often people can’t feel either when it comes to hippies.  So while hippies might be a great draw to college children, they aren’t going to make any in roads with the actual movers and shakers in life.

Benfalk

Go for less of the Jerry Garcia look, and more of the Ben Falk.  Ben runs Whole Systems Design in Vermont and is a certified PDC Instructor.  Also looks like a professional.

Second, hippies aren’t very good at actually executing ideas.  Lets take a look at the occupy movement shall we.  A bunch of hippies had the idea that they would block traffic in major cities and change the world.  They got the first part done, but couldn’t even agree on goals.  So in the end, they just ended up hanging out in a park until they got cold and dirty.  So when we have a great system that is PROVEN TO WORK, we lump ourselves in with that when we present it wrong.

Again, this is about presenting an idea, not how you live.  Live however you want.

#2 Free Giveaway = garbage

free

Sign up for this credit card, get a free T-shirt.  That little toy inside the crackerjack box.  Free ski weekend if you sit through this Timeshare presentation.  People automatically associate free with bad.  Free can’t be quality.  It’s going to break.  Worst of all, by accepting this free thing, I am somehow going to get snookered down the road.

So why do we keep trying to give permaculture away for free?

Charity is a wonderful thing, and many people feel called to do better for their neighbours, and those are noble ideals, but people automatically distrust free.  We need less veggie co-ops and more “Eddie’s edible landscapings”.  We need less Permaculture blitzes and more “Bluegrass Food Forestry”.  We are standing on a gold mine of food information that is PROVEN TO WORK.  Stop trying to give it away for free to prove it.  We are living in an era when people are paying $10 a pound for organic Kale.  Get out there and make some money.  People are much more likely to sit up and take notice of a successful business that is creating good in a community than yet another group of idealists looking for donation.  Plus, once a business is successful, others will try to replicate it.  If it is really about making the world better, rather than stoking your ego, the best way to do it is to create a business.

#3 – We can’t afford green initiatives

save

Permaculture is an excellent way to save the planet.  The upsides of this system are nearly endless.  It uses no chemicals, less water and improves the land.  Animals are happier.  People are healthier.  It is the deliverance of all of the green initiatives ideas into one form.  Best of all, it actually makes people freer, unlike many green initiatives relying on government strong arming.

Boy, that sounds really expensive.

It isn’t.  We all know that it isn’t, but we continue to pitch it in a way that sounds expensive.  People are automatically associating us with the $10 kale movement mentioned above.  When you talk about what something can do for the earth, you set off the cash register sound in someone’s head.  Bad for marketing.

What we need to do, is emphasize how much it can save people money.  How much money would you save if you provided 25% of your own food?  Or 50%? What if you didn’t have to pay for medicine anymore because you weren’t sick?  What if you only had to drive to the store once a month?  What if you made some extra money selling veggies or eggs to your neighbours?

Again, these are all concrete benefits that are PROVEN to work.  So lets talk about what they can do for someone.  Marjorie Wildcraft has sold 250,000 of her DVDs because she called it “Growing your groceries” not “Saving the planet in my backyard”.  You need to hit people where it counts.  In their wallets.

So the next time you feel sad that permaculture isn’t the way of the land.  Stop thinking like a zealous true believer, and think about what you can do to correct the situation.  This will spread or fail based on what we do.  So let’s spread the right message.

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