Daily Endeavor Blog

This blog is about leading a work life worth living.

This blog is about leading a work life worth living.

Posts tagged “prototyping”

You are what you learn

Scott Adams has a great post up, consistent with what we teach every day at Endeavor Prep and baked into the tools at Daily Endeavor:

You are what you learn. If all you know is how to be a gang member, that’s what you’ll be, at least until you learn something else. If you go to law school, you’ll see the world as a competition. If you study engineering, you’ll start to see the world as a complicated machine that needs tweaking. A person changes at a fundamental level as he or she merges with a particular field of knowledge. If you don’t like who you are, you have the option of learning until you become someone else. There’s almost nothing you can’t learn your way out of. Life is like a jail with an unlocked, heavy door. You’re free the minute you realize the door will open if you simply lean into it.

If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking

‎Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do…If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on.


Good News: People Want to Leave Their Jobs

In FORTUNE (print) this week Jena McGregor, based on a survey by the Corporate Executive Board, reports that 27% of “high-potential” employees plan to leave their current job in the next 12 months. It’s 1 in 5 for the general employee population. Some may think that’s bad news. It’s not. In fact it’s good news for employees and companies.

Corporate Executive Board study

McGregor continues to explain that perks hold some sway in keeping people around, but the potential for growth is the powerful motivator: “They want a mix of recognition and challenges that stretch them without completely stressing them out.” I had a conversation with Fast Company about this very topic 10 years ago.

Many people take jobs for money, but when they leave, most go when they quit learning.

One way to read the finding is that about half of us want to change our job every 2 years. Why is that?

People leave jobs when the no asshole rule is triggered, or when someone makes them an economic offer they can’t refuse, or most often, when they’ve learned 80% of what they can in a role and it’s time to take on the next challenge.

People stay in jobs when something about their current role affords more growth and learning, or when their personal expenses require them to stay.

There’s an assumption, really a mindset at this point, that changing roles is a bad thing. The refrain: It shows a lack of commitment. It signals low achievement. It’s disloyal to the company. It shows a lack of focus, the kind that comes from someone who doesn’t know what they want.

In my experience, not true.

In fact the opposite is more often the case: people who have an idea of what they want, even if not crystal clear, work their way toward it through trying on different responsibilities, creating results, then importantly moving on to do what’s next.

These people are the ones I want in my company. They see the work we can do together in part as a means to their own personal learning end. I can provide income and perks and a healthy culture, but there’s no motivation that I can provide that will ever be greater than the individual’s motivation to pursue and learn about something that fires them up.

The fact that people want to leave their job is a strong signal they’re taking their professional growth seriously. That’s as commitment- and achievement-oriented as I could wish for. Yes, there are exceptions. Some people perform poorly, some approach the relationship solely for maximum personal value extraction, and some aren’t ready to complete the work we need (which means I made a bad hiring decision).

Nevertheless, I look for someone who walks in and says “over the next two years, I want to see for myself whether I can X.” My job as a manager is to pair our needs with theirs — it’s to help them get the kind of experience they’re looking for while they’re creating the results we need.

Remember, changing jobs does not need to mean changing companies. At the end of two years, the best next step may be to do more work together but in a different capacity, or it may be for them to go get different experience elsewhere. The road is long, if the relationship is good, there’s always a chance we’ll meet up again.

I’m glad to see people want to leave their jobs. I can’t wait for the number to be higher.

Prototype Your Work Life (TEDxAshokaU)

In the fun chat with Lindsey Pollak last week I mentioned the freedom that comes with asking different questions — in particular, making the first step in the job search more manageable by asking two specific, time-bound questions: Over the next two years, what do you want to be better known for? Over the next two years, what do you want to go see for yourself?

If you’re interested in some of the why behind these questions, and why taking a prototyping point of view is helpful, here’s a short talk (13 min) I gave on the topic at AshokaU’s TEDx event at Google DC earlier this year. This talk is a partial introduction to the larger prototyping framework at Endeavor Prep.

If you haven’t met Ashoka yet, founder Bill Drayton gave rise to the term “social entrepreneur” a few decades ago, and since then Ashoka has been at the center of catalyzing change in nearly every corner of the world. AshokaU is their initiative bringing change-making to university campuses.

Video doesn’t always tell the full story of the participants in the room, but as a guest I can tell you they were great. AshokaU and their partners organized a very impressive two-day event. They’re doing some great stuff over there.

Fast Company: Prune for Growth

Robert Safian, the editor over at Fast Company, led off his March issue with a message that’s timely and worth repeating. Amidst the gloom and the real pain, there are many reasons to celebrate. In profiling the 50 Most Innovative Companies (and 159 overall), he provides evidence to support his case.

While hope is the over-arching theme, his message is more than that. He outlines how we’ll build our way out of the cratering economy

Only creativity and aggressive innovation — in the face of hardship and layoffs and seriously tough choices — will fuel a turnaround…In the midst of our troubles, remarkable things have happened, and they will continue to happen — if we prune the unproductive and broken, and nurture those enterprises that point to a more positive future.

On a macro basis, the market (and increasingly the government) guide our choices about what’s not working and where to prune. What about on a personal basis? When you are thinking about what career move to make next, are you looking to where growth is? Have you assessed what’s been working for you and what hasn’t in the contributions you’ve made over the last 2 years? What will you prune? Where will you invest?

These questions are not only relevant to industries and companies, they’re important for each us as individuals. It reminds me of Reid Hoffman’s message that everyone is an entrepreneur and everyone is managing risk, even if you’re working in a job for a company.

With incomes stalling, and some even removed for now, the opportunity cost has never been lower to explore what you need and what you want to do next. So, what do you want to do?

Jonathan Harris: Once you have learned how to speak, what will you say?

From a danah boyd tweet I ran across the work of Jonathan Harris and Sep Kamvar. It’s smart and visually mesmerizing. The bread crumb trail led me to a talk (“Beyond Flash“, slides) that Harris gave in October where he poses a powerful question:

Once you have learned how to speak, what will you say? This is really the central question. If I can leave you with one idea from my talk, this would be it.

It’s this question I have to believe Mary Oliver had in mind when she was writing a Summer Day. It’s also the central question we’re pursuing with Endeavor Prep. Jonathan’s is a potent question because it has two assumptions embedded in it that are significant for every person alive.

Good to Know

The first is a recognition that we’re all learning how to speak — that is, becoming individuals who can participate in the world, do things, partner, contribute, and, sure also in a literal sense, say things so as to engage and involve others. When people realize this about themselves, if I’m lucky enough to be around, it’s a great moment to be a part of. Their face (or voice) says, “I’ve actually learned all this stuff, and when I go out into the world, you know what, people respond to me.” It’s an a-ha moment that sometimes happens in college, sometimes after. The world at once gets much smaller because now each other person is accessible and just a few hops away, and also much bigger because of the staggering variation of interests and action happening out there.

Don’t be Daunted

Second, once people realize they have a voice and can cut their own path, the real question becomes What do you want to do with it? On one hand, the pure freedom and potential is exhilarating. On the other, it’s also a big hairy weighty question.

For some people it feels monolithic, as if it needs be answered all at once. So choosing, no wait, supposedly optimizing among every option is overwhelming. It’s like there’s one shot to pick from the menu and that’s what I’ll be eating, and known for eating, for the rest of my life.

Fortunately, picking “one time” is a false choice. Discovering what you will say is an iterative process. Even when you make a choice to try something out, you can still make another choice at another time to try something else.

If you want to be an gold medalist in gymnastics and you’re just starting 25, then yes, you may have missed the window. But for 99.9999% of the options out there, you can prototype your way towards it.

Learn by Doing

I’m glad I ran across the Jonathan Harris talk (there’s more here at TED). His projects and tips are really worth looking into. Here are few more:

You will become known for doing what you do. This may sound obvious, but it is a useful thing to realize. Many people seem to think they must endure a “rite of passage” which, once passed, will allow them to do the kind of work they want to do. Then they end up disappointed that this day never comes. Find a way to do the work you want to do, even if it means working nights and weekends. Once you’ve done a handful of excellent things in a given way, you will become known as the person who does excellent things in that given way. And that’s the person you want to be, because then people will hire you to be that person.
The personal is powerful. Trust your own experience. It’s the only thing that’s really yours, and that’s really unique. Putting yourself in your work can be powerful.
Do your own thing. If you imitate, you’ll only ever be a bad example of the thing you’re trying to imitate. An artist I like very much, Donald Judd, said that what you have to do is to find the same level of inventiveness as the person you’re trying to imitate. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t incorporate elements of other people’s work. As Picasso said: “Bad artists copy; great artists steal.” What he meant is that it can be OK to steal an idea from somewhere else, as long as you steal the idea and do something new with it, make it your own, and move on. If you copy it outright you’ll only get stuck in the past.
Experience is the only way to learn. Pain, joy, fear, risk, love, firsthand experience. You can learn so much from these things, and the experience will end up affecting your work in ways you don’t even realize. But it’ll be based on a real thing.

Right on.

It Takes a (Global) Village

Though a lot of cultural angst is spent on individuals “doing it on their own,” nothing great ever comes together in a vacuum or without a raft of other people. It’s much the case with Endeavor Prep.

We’ve built up the service, the sites, all the operations and infrastructure with deep wells of expertise from all over. We’re super fortunate to have such a great team and extended team supporting our work. Thank God we’ve been using wikis (thank you Socialtext) as our shared workspaces to pull of it together. It’s allowed us to find the best experts and work with them where they live. A quick look at even the first dozen people displayed in one of our workspaces includes New York, Barcelona, Bloomington, Santa Cruz, Palo Alto, San Francisco, London, DC, Santa Monica, Toronto, Corona Del Mar and Boston.

Building this company has been a triumph of the collective. The iterative prototyping approach — build, use, learn, repeat — is the straightest line to discovering how to serve our customers, and it is 100% powered by people and their tremendous contributions. We’ve been advised, informed and helped along by well over 200 people over the last year. This is in addition to the learning that’s been provided by a similar number of undergrads and recent grads, as well as the folks who work with them, over the last three years. I’m deeply grateful to all of you.

Customers, investors, advisors, friends — all of you — thank you.

Don't settle. Do what you love.

Lead a work life worth living