Today’s prompt encouraged me to come up with an Elevator Pitch. I have struggled with this, for a very long time. I have written and thrown out many over the years. So when presented with doing it again, I felt myself tensing up and going into avoidance mode. To get over it I went a little little stream of consciousness. Below is my attempt to come to terms with what I really want to do, in an honest and transparent way.
For those of you, who don’t want to be berated by my ramblings, here it is in a nutshell:
“I help individuals and companies find success through balance, reflection, hard work and commitment. Based on the simple phrase, “Do the right thing when no one is looking.”
Is that my final answer? I don’t know. For now it is. In his post, Creating Your Elevator Pitch, Scott Dinsmore has a section called “Refine, Repeat, Perfect.” I guess with the words above blasted out to the “inter-webs” that’s what’s up next for me . . . http://liveyourlegend.net/creating-your-elevator-pitch/
Let the Ramblin’ Begin . . .
So . . . What do you do?
Here I go . . . I do many varied things. I have been, or am, a CEO, CTO, VP, Day Care Teacher, Musician/Composer, Director, Receptionist, Graphic Designer, Resident Assistant, Retails Sales Agent, General Manager, Fitness Model (absolute hilarity around that one!), Presenter, Husband, a Dad to two little girls, Tour Guide, Adventure Motorcycle Photo Journalist, Video Editor, Librarian, Writer, etc.
I have never been comfortable with the questions, “What do you do?” I often, incorrectly, assume the inquisitors goal is to put me in a box. See? I even call the innocent stranger and inquisitor. I’ve got to get over that! I know, most people are simply looking for a toe hold to have a conversation, but because my interests are so varied, I am afraid I will miss the topic that they are most interested in talking about. I am even more afraid, if I tell one person something truthful about myself, and then someone else, something equally honest, but different; they may compare notes and summize that I am a fraud!
Why I stopped Sharing My Experiences
For that reason, several years ago, I stopped talking about all of my experiences. I shut down. I was more afraid of being called a fraud than I was excited about possibly making a real connection. When pushed, I would nervously laugh, stare off into the distance, like I was thinking really hard, and then try to come up with a quick summary of all my current projects and interests. Verbal vomit! I was so scattered that the listener was overwhelmed and confused. Not knowing where to jump into the conversation. I learned it was not that effective. There were times, when I ended up having interesting conversations. But, where I get hung up is turning to turn these interactions into viable paying work. The internet and blogging, has helped, because I now have a place to point people, where stories and photos backup my diverse experiences. But, I know I want to be better in the moment.
As a recovering corporate employee, I have seen few “leaders” that really know what their employees are doing. Even fewer, that are really invested in knowing. They pretend to know, because they read in a book that it is a good idea. But becoming invested in your people, takes more time and hard work, than many managers and most executives are capable or willing to give. They are often rewarded on financial results. While I believe the two go hand in had. The managing by spreadsheet culture of many environments would disagree. I believe, my self-imposed, “restarts” and sabbaticals of travel and adventure have given me the perspective to better understand what people are really looking for in a leader. This belief comes from the success of several of the people that I have mentored over the years, both implicitly and explicitly.
How to Feel Purposeful
To feel purposeful, I need to be doing and interacting, not filling in spreadsheets for board members. I need to be influencing these leaders, and not confusing their employees with my fanciful ideas. I am a bit of an anarchist, in that I try to inspire the line level employees to want more. In my twenties, I failed a desktop publishing “test” for a temporary agency. Even though I had a highly complimented portfolio, failing the test, landed me in the reception pool. I was embraced, but mad the most of it. I was assigned to a company where I literally went from a receptionist to a Director Level Position in 11 months. Less than two years later I was a VP. A a year after that I was promoted to CTO. All because I tested, poorly in something I had already proven myself in. It was a very confusing but inspiring time and yet I still often doubted myself.
When I started consulting, I often encouraged line level employees to “automate themselves out of a job.” This inspired some, but terrified most. They saw me as some high paid consultant with secret bank accounts split between Cayman Island and Swiss Banking institutions, making grandiose statements. What they didn’t know, was that I was a struggling husband and father of two, just trying to make it. But, that experience as a receptionist taught me to go above and beyond and to have the confidence that there would always be something for me to do. I didn’t want to end up a wind up clock in a digital clock world. I was not prompting becoming destitute and risking the care of anyones family. I was saying don’t be a dispensable. The status quo can always be replaced. Replace yourself first, to show how much more value you can bring. Be exceptional.There is always room in companies for exceptional people.
The End of a Good Thing
Recently, I ended a longterm, well-paying contract. It ended amicably. The client even asked me, again, to consider a full-time position with their company. I politely declined. I believe my best work is done when I give people the tools they need to succeed and then get out of the way. If I stick around, I will inevitably become a cog in the machine. I have witnessed many organization’s upper management team sitting in meetings, passing judgement and making uninformed decisions, while their employees toil away, lacking direction, feeling unsatisfied and desperately wanting to be heard.
I am not anti-full-time-job at all. Some of my best years were spent working and running a company I loved. What I sort of sucked at, until I understood how to do int a communal way, was “delegating.” Too often delegating is top down. I believe it should be bi-directyional. Some say, “bottom-up” but I discourage this concept, because it puts someone else above someone else. It creates an unnecessary and deafening hierarchy that caters to ego. Through hard work and dedication to my job, I often found myself, on paper, higher on the org chart. But I refused to see it as reaching the top and cheering for my own success. Yes, I was happy to get paid a lot more money. Yes, the perks were nice. But, what I was really excited about was being able to execute on something I learned from my days in the theater.
You can only soar when you are helping those around you to fly!
Often credited to Jimmy Durante, from his last film role, in the 1963 movie, “It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World” his character says the line, “Be awful nice to ’em goin’ up, because you’re gonna meet ’em all comin’ down.” The movies line was, in fact, a variation on a 1932 quote first written in a 1932 article, by Wilson Miznor, a globe-trotting, ex-Alaska mining chappie, scenario writer, playwright and sage of Hollywood. He gave the advice to a young, up and coming motion picture star, when he said, “Be nice to those you meet on the way up because you will meet them on the way down.” But I digress . . . Sorry. I tend to do that.
Whenever I ended up in management, I wanted to bring everyone with me. Whether they stayed at the same company or not. During reviews, I would always tell employees, I want to be the first person you come to for a recommendation when you seek a new position. I didn’t want to lose them. But I also didn’t want to selfishly hold them back. The modern work place is rife with turnover. Why not make it a positive thing. There is no need to cling to people unless we are afraid. This applies to personal as well as working relationships. Free, Free, Set them Free! (Thanks Sting!) You can only soar when you are helping those around you to fly!
At this point in my life, I am simply more interested in helping others. I want to share what I have learn from, building and working for a very special organization. I want to share my successes in failures, my fears and dreams, in a way that inspires others to claim some of their own well desreved magic for their own company cultures and personal lives.
Parting Item to Share
If you made it this far . . . thank you! My gift, to you, is an amazing video interview. It was a huge Inspiration to me and it helped me get over my struggle and finally write this piece. It is an interview from Scott Dinsmore, creator of Live Your Legend. Scott interviewed Simon Sinek – famous for his Ted Talks. They dove into, Starting With Why. Every time I watch it, I get reinvigorate and inspired. It is chock full of yummy goodness, but, two of my favorite takeaways are:
1) People didn’t show for Martin Luther King, they showed up for themselves! (a reference from Simon’s Huffington Post piece, When a Movement Moves)
Click here to watch the video: Scroll down to watch the video and appreciate the markers Scott put in, to jump to the juiciest sections!