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Articles filed in: Success

The Myth Of Significance

Lately, we have come to believe in the myth of significance. Put our faith in being chosen, becoming ‘the one’. Striving to be bigger, noticed or more than, while simultaneously recounting a narrative of never enough.

In our minds, significance boasts a title, resides in a corner office, speaks from the centre stage, gaining recognition far and wide.

Significance, though, hides in plain sight. Carrying out seemingly small, unimportant acts, with intention and conviction. Without permission, to rewrite the future

Image by Anders Hellberg, Courtesy of TEIA

More Vs. Enough

We’re surprised when a business that seemed to be thriving closes its doors.

The juice bar that succeeded in one location but scaled too quickly.
The online education platform with a big production budget but not enough students.
The great cause that couldn’t attract the support required to create an impact.

Our culture has taught us that we should multiply our effort to maximise our reward. But a sustainable business—one that is viable because it delights customer and creator, alike, doesn’t always depend on exponential growth.

Success isn’t only about doing all we could do.
Often, it’s about doing the best we can do, and being able to do it again tomorrow.

For many of us, that is more than enough.

Image by Amir Appel.

Always, Sometimes, Never

Doing our best work requires us to pay attention to the things and people that energise us.

One way to do this is to consider categorising potential opportunities, projects or clients into three buckets. Always, sometimes and never.

The goal is to do more of the ‘always’ work, on the projects that both energise us and serve our mission. The ‘sometimes’ work may be taking us closer to our goals even if it isn’t in our zone of genius. And the ‘never’ work is that work that sucks our time and energy—the projects or tasks we should either avoid or delegate if they are essential.

It’s true that how we spend our days is how we end up spending our lives. We can deliberately choose to spend them wisely.

Image by Clark Young

What Can You Learn From Your Competitors?

Karl’s been a successful financial advisor for many years. He’s at the point where he doesn’t need to advertise his services. Karl chooses the clients he wants to work with and generally only takes on new clients by referral. He’s intentionally built the kind of business he wants.

Karl will tell you that the secret of his success is down to one thing—learning from his competitors.

“I spent a lot of time paying attention to my competitors. But instead of  worrying about what they excelled at, I wanted to know where they fell short. I found out what they wouldn’t do for their clients. And then I did the things they weren’t prepared to do for mine. Now, sometimes those things didn’t scale. They weren’t systems and processes I could easily automate. To an outsider that might have looked like a short-term disadvantage, but over time things that weren’t easy to replicate turned into my competitive advantage.”

It turns out that differentiation happens in the heads, but mostly in the hearts, of your customers.

What’s the story your competitor doesn’t want to tell?

Image by Abdullah Öğük

Thank You For Your Work

Every day, we are served and nourished by others. We are supported and guided or empowered and inspired by people who have no idea how much they helped us.

What kind of companies would we build if happy, grateful customers were our goal?
What would it take to empower more customers to say thank you and mean it?
What if we created a culture that meant more people heard that their work mattered?
What difference would connecting our effort to its impact have on each and every one of us?

We can be more grateful customers and build the kind of organisations that create them on purpose.

Image by Garry Knight

Your Company Needs A Strong Strategic Narrative

A strategic narrative is the story that drives the choices a company makes. That narrative is the thread from which the company’s fabric—its culture and strategy are woven. Sometimes the story accidentally informs the strategy with unintended positive or sometimes, negative consequences.

It stands to reason then that we can and should intentionally leverage our narrative to achieve greater alignment and success.

The elements of a strong strategic narrative

1. Mission
Having a strong sense of purpose.
2. Values & Vision
Knowing who you are, what you stand for, who your best work is for and where you’re headed.
3. Value Creation
Understanding who your customers want to become in the presence of your product.
4. Capability
The ability to align and deliver on 1, 2 and 3.

A strong strategic narrative enables us to prioritise the opportunities, plans and behaviours that align our vision and values with our customer’s unmet needs.
Yes, we tell our story, but the story also tells us.

*Want to explore your company’s strategic narrative in more depth?
My book Story Driven will show you where to begin.

Image by Joris Louwes

Build Your Darlings

It’s often said that you should kill your darlings. This sentiment was first expressed by British writer Arthur Quiller-Couch in 1914 when he cautioned writers not to fall in love with their prose at the expense of the reader. Here’s what he said.

‘Whenever you feel an impulse to perpetrate a piece of exceptionally fine writing, obey it—whole-heartedly—and delete it before sending your manuscript to press. Murder your darlings.’

Quiller-Couch’s words are sometimes taken to mean that you should never fall in love with your ideas. But if you want to do work you’re proud of what alternative do you have? You must believe your work can change things for the better. I think what these words wisely caution us against is simply falling in love with the work itself, instead of being passionate about the change we hope to make.

So go ahead, build your darlings for the people you care about serving. Those people who will fall in love with how your work enables them to live the lives they want.

Image by Darwin Vegher

Better Work Happens By Design

My parents both left school in their early teens. They and most of their peers were manual labourers, who didn’t get to choose the kind of work they did. They worked in factories or on building sites for most of their lives. Work for them was a means to an end—a way to contribute to providing for their families.

Today, most of us are luckier than we realise. Even if we’re not in our ideal job, we often have the flexibility to be creative, choose our customers or design our day. And yet we rarely do it with intention. We don’t take the time to question what we want. Answering the following questions might help you to change that.

Better Work Questions

1. What brings you joy?
2. What does a good day look like?
3. Who is your best work for?
4. Who is your best work not for?
5. What opportunities are you grateful for?
6. What kind of projects will you always say yes to?
7. What kind of projects will you always say no to?

We do more of the work we’re proud of by understanding why it matters, both to us and the people we serve.

*For stories of people doing their best work, and some compelling storytelling check out the Netflix Street Food series.

Image by Krista

Try Anyway

Texas head teacher, Belinda George, doesn’t have access to more resources than her colleagues. So how does she change her students’ lives for the better? Instead of focusing on the things she and her team can’t control, like educational policy and budgets, she concentrates on the things she can influence.

Ms George is then free to show up as herself, own her story and ask; what can I do to make things better? Her goal is to bridge the gap between school and home, deepening the school’s relationships with the children and their families.

The result is ‘Tucked-in Tuesdays’—a weekly bedtime story reading broadcast to her ‘scholars’ via Facebook live. Belinda George didn’t wait for the data to tell her what she already knew in her heart was the right thing to do.

Too often we get caught up looking for certainty about a likely outcome before being willing to try. Many breakthrough innovations and life-changing initiatives were brought about by people who didn’t know for sure, but who tried anyway.

Go ahead, try anyway. What have you got to lose? Or even better, what does the world stand to gain because you did?

Image by Austin Public Library

Efficiency Vs. Meaning

Mike’s been driving for Uber for three years. In that time he’s done 20,000 trips while maintaining a consistent 4.94-star rating. Mike works when he wants to. He’s earning more than enough money to pay the bills, and yet he can’t help feeling there’s something missing.

Mike is a phenomenally successful Uber driver by any measure, and yet he doesn’t feel successful. Despite his best efforts and his stellar record Uber doesn’t differentiate him from any other driver. And he knows most of his passengers don’t either.

In the industrial age, factory owners prioritised efficiency above meaning. In our technological age, some still do. But as workers, we do the reverse. We don’t want to be anonymous robots.

When we’re no longer part of the assembly line, we are responsible for our effort, and how much to care, or not to care. The fruit of our labour becomes about more than the exchange of time for money. Work is no longer transactional. For people like you, me and Mike, that means choosing to do the work that gives us that meaning, for the people who find it meaningful.

Image by Roger W

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