All in Personal Codes

When Bono Went Walkabout...

“It was a great day, but I thought I had fucked it up.”

“We felt like we’d blown an opportunity to be great.”

“I really thought we were crap.”

On July 13th, 1985, U2 took to the stage at Wembley stadium for their designated slot at Live Aid, the global concert for African famine relief. This was pre-Joshua Tree, so while they were popular, they were nowhere near the household name that they are now.

Creativity Is About Being Fearless

As someone who grew up on Queen’s music, I remember how good they were in their prime. I especially remember their performance at Live Aid back in 1985, as I watched it on TV in my living room in Hong Kong. When Mercury and Queen came on, they electrified the crowd - both those sitting in the audience at Wembley, as well as the millions who watched from their living rooms around the world. In fact, there were two acts that really stole the show that day and Queen was one of them.

Fight - Even When You Want Flight

Sunday morning, I woke up to watch the Arsenal-Spurs game, famously known as the North London Derby. It’s a game where form goes out the window and these two arch-rivals go all out for bragging rights as to who is the best team in North London.

It’s a game that hasn’t gone our way in recent years and as I anticipated the stress and emotional rollercoaster I would go through over the next couple of hours, I briefly debated staying in bed and waking up when it was all over. To just not have to deal with it all.

Just Focus On What's Next

Sometimes, the goals we set for ourselves are overwhelming. The bigger the goal or the more challenging the objective, the harder it can be to fathom how we will get there.

We get caught up in the sheer scale of our idea, or we start setting all sorts of impossible timelines and expectations that we think we need to achieve on our path there.

Living On Your Own Terms

When I got into consulting in the mid-nineties, I did so with the expectation that I was going into a field that was focused on driving change. That we were there to make a difference, and to improve the lot of our clients. And that doing so required people who were committed to that process, both within the firm I worked for and at the client. Generally speaking, that expectation proved to be the reality.

"It’s Like A Pizza..."

Many years ago, I worked with a senior consulting partner who liked to talk in puzzles. Instead of giving us specific marching orders, he’d talk around the issues and then ask us to put together a deck for his review.

For example, as we’d talk through a proposal we were working on, he’d talk about the client situation, the range of issues they were facing as well…

The Thing About Politics...

…Is that there really isn’t any such thing.

In popularity contests of any significance (where a sizable population is asked for its endorsement of an individual or a subject or an action), the landslide win is not a common occurrence. More prevalent (in my admittedly unscientific assessment) is the close race, where the margin of victory is in single digit percentage points.

The Thing About Mandates...

…Is that there really isn’t any such thing.

In popularity contests of any significance (where a sizable population is asked for its endorsement of an individual or a subject or an action), the landslide win is not a common occurrence. More prevalent (in my admittedly unscientific assessment) is the close race, where the margin of victory is in single digit percentage points.

No One Likes Surprises

When it comes to the work we do, no one likes surprises.

It doesn’t matter which part of the organization you sit in - client management, operations, marketing or elsewhere - one of the fundamental tenets of corporate performance is predictability. We want to know what’s happening, why and, if necessary, what we need to do about it.

Using Your Anger

There’s a couple of stages we go through when we’re angered by a particular situation we’re faced with.

First, we lose our cool and debate and question our predicament. We turn the situation over and over in our heads, incredulous, bemused and upset that this is happening to us. We wallow in the ‘why me’s’.  This is sometimes inevitable but always unproductive.

The Problem With Getting An Education

We have this obsession, usually rightly so, with organized, accredited education. In an era when economic disparity and the income gap is at its widest, getting a “proper education” isn’t a nice-to-have, it’s a must-have.  

Which is something most of us agree on, plus the fact that a proper education is defined as not simply completing high school, but obtaining a college degree, at minimum. I think I’m on pretty safe ground when I say that.

To Inspire or To Intimidate?

Think of the most exciting job you’ve done, the best initiative you’ve been part of, the most rewarding experience you’ve had. What was the underlying basis of that experience, the focus of the leadership in that situation? Were you excited? Were you focused on moving towards something? Were you inspired?

"Turn Them Off and See Who Complains..."

How many newsletters do you get in your inbox every day? How many emails do you get with an update on some issue or department or project? How many notifications do you get on your phone with the latest piece of “must-have” information?

Now, how many of them do you actually read?

The Myth of The Top Ten List

There are at least 15 colleges that deserve a place in the top 10 best colleges in the country. There are 20 restaurants that can credibly argue that they are one of the 5 best restaurants in your city. And if you and I were so inclined, we could absolutely name 25 guitarists who could reasonably stake a claim to being among the 10 best guitarists ever.

The Point Is Productive Struggle

We crave clear cut answers. We love How-To’s. We keep looking for the ultimate 10 Step Process.

Why? Because we’re always on the hunt for clarity, predictability and, more to the point, security. It’s a natural human desire.

The problem, though, is that when we’re creating (a team, a piece of output, a business), that’s not often possible or realistic.