The Might of Mo.

“Slump? I ain’t in no slump. I just ain’t hitting.” — Yogi Berra

Over the years, I’ve developed a sixth sense for certain things during sporting events. Like many sports fans, I know exactly when to flick back to the game after a commercial break. Like other sports nuts, I can usually tell you the cliché the announcer is about to spout just before he spouts it.

And of course: I can tell you when one team has the Mo.

You know Mo, or maybe you know it by one of its pseudonyms: Uncle Mo. Mighty Mo.

Big Mo.

Mo is momentum. Mo is how teams make comebacks that don’t seem possible. Mo is how the hot goalie gets hot, and why the power hitter suddenly can’t swing the bat. Mo is that mighty force that can upend even Murphy’s Law.

You can have skill, strength, strategy and coaching, but if you don’t have Mo, you’re not going anywhere.

I’ve seen it with my own eyes: Some nights, Big Mo just gets rolling, and crazy things start happening.

And no, Mo isn’t just a force limited to the playing field. I’ve seen businesses turn one big deal into another. I’ve seen musicians spin one big break into a second, and a third.

But Mo isn’t merely luck. That’s a misconception. It’s a strange combination of forces: Of good breaks, of confidence, of practice, of skill.

Mo doesn’t just happen. Mo is earned.

Mo happens to all of us. It comes — it really does. Some of us just have to be willing to fight a little longer to earn it.

Keep fighting. Keep working.

Your hour of Mo will come. I promise.

That photo of Mizzou’s Big Mo drum comes via @racerx617.

Why Does It Take So Long For United Airlines To Come Up With New Menu Ideas? (And Should It?)

Yes, you read that right: It takes a full year for United Airlines to get a new meal option onto a flight. It takes a full year — 12 months, 365 days, 525,600 minutes —
to create a new food option and get it ready to be served on a United flight.

And to think: Many of us who’ve eaten these meals would hardly classify them as “food.”

One year. I’m hung up on that number. That’s an awfully long time to institute a tiny change to an airline menu, isn’t it?

I’ll ask you now: What if they could do it in a day? What if they could do it better?

United Airlines flies to 186 destinations. Their big issue is that some ingredients — like Wisconsin cheddar cheese —are easy to get domestically, but impossible to get in places like Dubai. And the meals are made at the departure airport. That means that United needs lots of different menu options that can best take advantage of ingredients available near the departure airport.

But what if United just simplified their list of ingredients to include things that can be found at any airport kitchen in the world? What if United only cooked from that list?

And what if United changed its menu every day, with United’s head chefs emailing out that day’s menu options?

And what if — because yes, local flavor is important — United empowered local chefs to add an ingredient or two from the departure airport to personalize the flight? (Sushi from Japan, hummus from Tel Aviv, cheddar cheese from Milwaukee.)

What if United focused on going fresh every day, and creating a beautiful meal presentation for all of its passengers?

What if United decided to spend a little more on airplane food? As of 2010, United spent about $6.35 per meal per passenger — is that enough for passengers who’ve paid hundreds or thousands of dollars for a seat?

What if United decided that while every other airline cuts back on meals, they’d make it a priority? What if passengers actually looked forward to their meals on the flight – because they knew it was made that day, and made specifically for them that day, not dreamed up in a kitchen a full year earlier?

What if — instead of getting the menu absolutely perfect months in advance — United focused on delighting its customers every single day?

I know what you’re thinking: Yeah, but… they’d never go for it. It’s too complicated. Too costly. Too hard.

And I say: Every day, United moves thousands of people around the world. You’re telling me they can’t think of a better way to serve us salad and sandwiches in the sky?

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Work is a differentiator in this world. Hustle is a differentiator in this world.

Everything else is just excuses.

In whatever you do: Do great work. Surprise us. Delight us.

Even you, United Airlines.

That photo of airplane food at top comes via @tiffkathlee.

I Am 25 Years Old. This Is What I Believe.

I am 25 years old, and I’m going through a period of transition in my life. I know, I know: I wrote the same thing last year. And when I sit down to write this post next year, there’s a good chance I’ll say the same thing.

Yes, I know: The mid-20s are an unstable time — there isn’t anything yet to anchor me down (a family, a home, a city, a career). Things are changing, and that’s been a good thing. Change has brought me some really amazing opportunities.

At age 25, there are certain things I’ve come to believe hold true. I know that my beliefs will change. I know that I will change.

But here, at 25, is what I believe.

I believe that…

• People who hustle are the best kinds of people.
• There is nothing quite like the feeling of “done.”
• Respect must be earned. Passion must be shared. Rules must be ignored.
• People who refuse to talk things out are people who don’t belong in your life.
• Nothing good has ever come from a “reply all” email.
• The same goes for reading YouTube comments.
• Next year really is our year, Nats fans.
• When you’re “close,” that just shows you have far you still have to go.
• There really shouldn’t be people in the workforce who are younger than me, but there are. And that’s because you’re getting old, Dan. Just deal with it.
• We need more people who are willing to be kind.
• We need more people who are willing to struggle.
• We need more people who are willing to serve.

And most of all: Today is a work day. Today, we must do great work. It’s our time.

When You Don’t Know The Score Of The Football Game.

“The things we create tower over us.” — Matt Dopkiss

I was watching an old college football game on ESPN Classic the other day. It was from the 80s.

My mom walked into the room.

“What’s the score?” she asked.

Not sure, I told her.

“How much time is left?” she asked.

No idea, I confessed.

“How many yards do they need for a first down?” she asked.

Uhhhhhh, I said.

There was no on-screen scoreboard. There was no clock. There was no yellow first-and-10 line.

I’d been watching this game for 15 minutes, and I hadn’t the slightest idea what I was looking at. I had a football game in front of me, that much I knew, but I didn’t have any context to understand it.

Early football games — and when I say early, I mean “as recently as 20 years ago” — didn’t give viewers even the most basic information on screen. And as a result, viewers like me often got left in the dark.

If you’re trying to tell a great story, the same holds true. Ask yourself: Am I giving my listeners/readers/viewers/customers the necessary context to understand my story? Do they know what’s happening? And where? And why?

Drama is great, but if your audience doesn’t know the score, they’ll be left wondering what the hell they just saw.

Give them context, and then give them a story to match.

What Are You Looking At?

Wally Wood's 22 Panels That Always Work

“The really important kind of freedom involves attention, and awareness.” — David Foster Wallace

That cartoon at the top of this post is by a cartoonist named Wally Wood, and — the title is kind of a giveaway on this — it’s a list of 22 ways to illustrate a panel in a cartoon.

Consider this: There’s only so much you can do with a cartoon. There’s only so many ways to keep a story going. There’s only so much that’s possible in a tiny rectangle.

Before looking at the Wally Wood graphic, I might have been able to name five or six ways to illustrate a panel.

But 22? I had no idea.

Point is: Whatever you’re thinking about, there’s probably another way of thinking about it. Whatever you’re looking at, there’s probably another way of looking at it.

Don’t get locked into your own perspective. Get out and listen — to friends, to critics.

Let them help you figure out what you’re really dealing with. Let them show you a new side of the problem.

Sometimes, We Need Other People To Help Us Make the Leap.

“There are three diseases in Panama. They are yellow fever, malaria, and cold feet; and the greatest of these is cold feet.” — John Stevens

Last year, I wrote about the time I went skydiving. I surrendered to the fear, I said, and jumped.

But that’s only part of the story.

I didn’t do a solo dive. I jumped with a guy. His name was Dave. He was an experienced diver. He was the one who packed the chute, who opened the door to the plane, who yelled, “You ready?”

He was the one who threw me out of the plane, with me attached to his stomach.

I was thankful that he was there. Without him, I can’t imagine finding the courage to jump.

I’m wondering now: How many steps are there in our lives that we couldn’t do alone? How many journeys are there that demand a partner or a mentor?

We all like to think that we’re strong enough to go it alone. But with the right team behind us, we’re capable of so much more.

Together, we can reach for the skies – or, with the proper equipment on our backs, jump from them.

Let The Experts Make Their Predictions. They Don’t Know What You Can Do.

Dewey Defeats Truman

“Everything around you that you call life was made up by people that were no smarter than you, and you can change it, you can influence it, you can build your own things that other people can use. Once you learn that, you’ll never be the same again.” — Steve Jobs

This is the Feb. 24, 1986, cover of Sports Illustrated, in which the magazine predicted that sports on TV just wouldn’t work.

A quarter-century later, ESPN is projected to make $8.2 billion in revenue.

This week, America held another Presidential election. For weeks, we’ve had TV talking heads telling us the race was a virtual toss up.

The President won, and handily.

Here’s more from the world of predictions gone wrong:

-The head of the British post office once predicted that the telephone would never catch on in the UK.

-A big Hollywood movie producer predicted that Americans would soon tire of TV.

-The New York Times — in 2006 — predicted that Apple would never make an phone.

Point is: The experts don’t know what’s next. They’re out there trying to predict the future.

You’re out there trying to build it.

See the difference?

Ignore them. They don’t know what you’re capable of.

Just go out and do great work. That’s all that matters for now.

Why Ellen DeGeneres Embraced the Struggle.

“I’m so grateful that I struggled.” — Ellen DeGeneres

Those are the words of someone who’s really, truly learned what it’s like to see bottom. Look at her resume, and you’ll find that Ellen DeGeneres has been low places:

• She got into comedy by accident.
• She worked crappy nightclubs and bars. (Once, she worked a restaurant that had the words, “Soup of the Day: Broccoli, and Ellen DeGeneres” on the chalkboard outside. Her name was below the soup.)
She made it to “The Tonight Show,” where she was the first woman ever to get called over to sit on Johnny Carson’s couch after performing stand-up.
She made some movies that flopped.
• She got her own TV show.
• On that TV show, she confessed that she was gay.
• The ratings tanked, and her show was cancelled one season later.
• She couldn’t get a job in TV or movies for three years afterward.

And then somewhere in the 2000s, things just started to click. She was in “Finding Nemo.” She got her own talk show. And all that work just started to spin itself into success.

Ellen said those six words at top — “I’m so grateful that I struggled.” — at an award ceremony being held in her honor at the Kennedy Center last month. Sometimes, award ceremony acceptance speeches ring hollow, but this one hit home. And it got me thinking:

What would it be like to be on stage accepting that big award without the lifetime of struggle?

What would it be like to reach success without the bumps and the roadblocks and the failures? Would it mean as much?

What would it be like if Ellen hadn’t been willing to suck for a very long time?

When Ellen said she was thankful for the bad times, she meant this: The struggle is when you find out whether or not you’re willing to put in the work. Over the years, after all the criticism and the pain, Ellen found that it was worth it to keep putting in the work — and I think our world is better for it.

Nothing great comes in this world without a lot of work and a lot of struggle.

Embrace the struggle. Embrace the pain.

It’s the stuff that’s molding you and guiding you toward something really amazing.

The November Edition of The Awesome File.

Every month, I put together a list of 10 things to inspire you to do better work. This is The Awesome File.

Inside this month’s Awesome File: Advice! Struggle! Hurricane photo porn! That dude from ‘Inception’ covering Lady Gaga!

1. LEARN: From Jack Donaghy.

If you’re a ’30 Rock’ fan, you already know that Jack Donaghy’s one of the best characters on TV. But it turns out that he’s also offered up some pretty good business advice over the years. These lessons in business management are pretty excellent.

2. REMEMBER: ‘Note to My 25-Year-Old Self.’

And here’s some advice from the real world. It’s from Evonne Benedict, a journalist out in Seattle. She’s got 15 pieces of advice for herself at age 25. I think no. 14 — “Listen. Ordinary people have extraordinary stories if you take the time to listen to them.” — is especially fantastic.

3. READ: ‘The Struggle.

But even if you’ve got that advice in mind, you’ll need to remember something else: It won’t be easy to do great work. Ben Horowitz, an entrepreneur and VC, explains why in this really excellent post, “The Struggle.”

4. WATCH: Derrick Rose Returns.

If you do fight through the struggle, remember that you’re going to get something in return: Your very own comeback story. Here’s Derrick Rose’s, for his return to the Chicago Bulls. It’s pretty epic.

5. CONSIDER: The Sabbatical.

People who do the work — you, included — work damn hard. You hustle. You push. You create.

But oftentimes, you don’t spend enough time stepping back from the work to consider the present — and the future.

Here’s a post that got me thinking: “The Career Value Of A ‘Pointless’ Sabbatical.” It’s a really good example of how time off can be the restart button you need.

6. USE: This Awesome New Conference Call System.

And speaking of bad segues: Once you start working on that awesome new thing, you might have some other team members to work with. Consider using Speek for your conference calls. It’s awesome, it’s free and it’s ridiculously easy to use. It’s changed the way I think about conference calls.

7. STARE: These ‘Star Wars’ Posters.

I’m blown away by how gorgeous these “Star Wars” posters are. They’re by Olly Moss, and they’re just amazing. Why can’t the movies companies themselves make posters this amazing?

8. SCROLL: Through These Hurricane Sandy Photos.

I love a good Internet hack, and this one was really good: Instacane, a website for Instagram photos of Hurricane Sandy. Definitely worth a few minutes to scroll back through the storm that was.

9. WAIT, WHAT?: Dan Rather Brought Us The First Radar Image of a Hurricane.

This is pretty cool: Turns out that it’s Dan Rather who brought the first ever radar image of a hurricane to TV viewers, way back in 1961. It was one of his big breaks as a TV reporter.

10. !!!: Joseph Gordon-Levitt Sings ‘Bad Romance’

Nothing more to say about this. Rock out, and make some awesome happen this month.

That photo at top comes via here.