Ask me what my favorite college basketball team of all time was, and I’ll tell you: The 2011-12 Missouri Tigers. I loved that team. They could pass. They could shoot. They were insanely entertaining.
With a few weeks left in the season, I remember a conversation I had with a buddy of mine, a fellow Mizzou fan. Our Tigers had only lost 1 or 2 games all year. They were ranked as one of the four or five best teams in America.
We were watching a truly great team playing in a special season. The only question left was:
When it was all over, what would they have to show for it?
Success in a sport like college basketball is a pretty strange thing. Only one team gets to win the championship, but even winning three or four games in the NCAA Tournament is considered a pretty big accomplishment. Our Tigers didn’t have to win it all — to be considered one of the great teams, just making it to the Elite 8 or Final 4 would do.
Then Mizzou lost its first game, a monumental upset at the hands of Norfolk State. And that’s what fans remember about that team. Not the huge highs. Not the Big 12 Championship.
Two years later, fans remember what Mizzou had to show for it: A big “L” when it mattered.
Because this is how it goes. You have to find the right people. You have to put in the work. You have to put in a lot of it.
But at some point, you need to go out there and show the world what you’ve got. The end product matters — it’s what they remember about you.
So when you’ve put in the work, you have to ask yourself: What do you have to show for it?
Better make it count.
As this Thanksgiving comes around, I’ll say this:
I’m thankful for the chance to do the work. To have the chance to work with these people. To have the chance to build something awesome.
I’m thankful for all that. And for the year ahead. I’m thankful for the chance to make it something great.
That photo at top comes via.
A week ago, I was looking through my calendar when I realized that I hadn’t been to the gym in a month. Hadn’t run. Hadn’t gotten out for 20 minutes on the elliptical.
And this was after a breakthrough year for me in 2012 where I’d gotten out and really gotten excited about getting in shape. What happened to me this year?
So I got out of bed first thing on Monday and went to the gym. It felt good.
I got out of bed on Tuesday and went again. Back-to-back days. Really good.
And then Wednesday night, after work, I went again. And then the next morning.
Back-to-back-to-back-to-back. Suddenly, I felt like I had momentum. I went out of town for the weekend, and I brought my running shoes. Of course I was going to go running — I’d gotten going again, and I didn’t want to quit.
But it was more than just momentum. By Tuesday, just by going to the gym two days in a row, I was pumped. I’d gotten a little victory, and I was really happy about it.
And every subsequent trip felt like a little win. Running on the treadmill for the first time in a few weeks, making some time to actually stretch…. it all felt really good.
It’s not easy to keep going. But when you’re starting the work, a little win here or there gets you excited. It gives you a reason to believe that you’re on the right path.
Ultimately, you’re working toward bigger wins and bigger goals, but at the start, just feeling like you’re taking a positive first step is huge.
Photo at top comes via.
I’ve had a lot of trouble with Time Warner this year. They service internet at my apartment, and — somehow — they’re the only provider who offers internet on my block.
Which is a problem, because, 1) I work on the internet, and 2) Time Warner’s internet is wildly unreliable. I’ve had seven visits from Time Warner this year to fix my internet. SEVEN! And it still goes out every two weeks.
But what I find interesting is what the repair staff for Time Warner has told me about why the service is so unreliable. The fault, they say, lies almost entirely with a bad infrastructure of cables that was first laid out in New York. The repair team can make little fixes, but ultimately, the infrastructure needs to be redone, and until it’s fixed, Time Warner is going to remain unreliable.
So here’s where I bring this back around to the work we all do.
There are times when you discover that small fixes are enough to get the job done. When a few changes can make a difference.
But there are other times when the infrastructure of a project or a team is fundamentally broken. You can’t just duct tape things together in those cases. You have to tear it down and build it all over again.
The difference between those who get the work done and those who don’t is often understanding where you stand. Does this require a little fix? Or is this a total do-over?
It’s hard to the work if the thing you’re working from is broken. Time Warner is proof of that.
That photo of a router comes via.
I love routine. When it comes to getting work done, I’m fanatical about sticking to a good routine.
Of course, there’s also something to be said for switching things up every once in a while.
It’s why I’ll sometimes come to the office really early, just to get a change of scenery. It’s the reason why I love writing on planes and trains — different spaces and sounds tend to crack open new doors in my work. Sometimes, just a little change is enough to spark something.
So here’s a challenge for the week: What change in time or place can you make to mix things up?
A thought about power and money and jealousy, and what it all means for your work:
Here in New York, there are two types of power I see: Power from money, and power from crowds. The first is obvious: You see a friend or big name making it big, and it’s easy to wonder, Why them? Why not me?
The second is all about influence, especially when it comes to the social web. How many followers do I have? How many likes did this get? Why does so and so have so much more power than I do?
This kind of mentality — looking around and wondering what other people have and why you don’t have it, too — it’s pretty destructive. It doesn’t move you forward; it only defines limits that you think are good enough, and keeps you inside them.
What gets you and your work moving? By paying attention to others, sure — but even more by listening to them and asking lots of questions. Information is a powerful thing. So are relationships with people who want to help lift you up.
Pay attention to what the successful are doing, sure — but don’t let what they do define you. Go out, listen, learn, and do your thing.
That is a truly powerful thing.
Every Sunday night, I try to take a few minutes to think about the week ahead. I think about what I want to accomplish, and the people I need to talk to in order to make those things happens.
And then I take a minute to think about the first step. Where do I start to get all of that done?
Because once I know the first step – and as long as I’m starting my work in the right place — I can usually figure out where to go from there.
The big picture matters. But knowing where to start helps get me in place to get the work done during the week ahead.
That photo of a first step comes via.
There is a zone where I do my best work, and it usually involves one thing: A lack of time.
If I’ve got deadlines that can’t be broken, that’s when I usually do great work. Take Wednesday, for instance. I had a flight home at 3pm. I had a few work assignments, and I needed to go on location to do some reporting for a story.
Just having those constraints made me insanely productive. Usually, my days are filled with a fair amount of time wasting on Twitter or YouTube. And there’s a time for that, a time to find awesome things to read or cool things to watch, and to get inspired.
But then there’s the place where I do my best work: When I’m focused, when I’ve got to get things done or else. I do amazing work in that space.
Everyone has that place where the great work gets done. Where’s yours?
That’s a photo of me in 7th grade. I’m in the center, wearing the fireman’s hat. I was shorter then. When I went for a checkup in 8th grade, the doctor said I’d probably top out at 6′.
Then I grew 6 inches in a year. And kept growing.
But a funny thing about that: No one really noticed. Not my family. Or my friends.
Growing 6 inches in a year is a lot, but it happens incrementally. A quarter of an inch here, a half an inch there. The change happens so gradually that you don’t notice what it’s all adding up to.
So we didn’t notice anything — until some cousins from out of town visited, and noticed that I had obviously grown a lot. The news came as a shock to everyone I knew. (Even me, kind of — I had spent the winter complaining about how my entire body hurt all the time, but I wasn’t quite sure why.)
We go through these changes all the time. Little things and alterations that add up, tiny changes in the way we work and the types of work we do. Eventually, they add up to something big.
But when we wake up in the morning, we don’t feel like we’re making big changes. We don’t notice what’s happening all around us. We look at the little picture, and never the big.
Often, it takes an outside force for us to take stock of what’s been going on.
But if you’ve been doing great work, and you’ve been putting in a lot of work, you start to notice what you’ve been building all along. It could be something really great.
I am writing this on a plane, about 30 minutes from landing in London. I’m headed there for a conference. I’m speaking. While I’m there, I’m also going to write a few things for the site, and I’m really excited about that, too.
And I’m realizing now: This is the first time I’ve been really, REALLY excited about a work-related thing a little while.
Here’s the thing: I love my job. I love the people I work with, and I’m fascinated by the little world that I work in.
But this week, I’m stepping outside my normal routine. I’m giving this talk, which should be a blast. I’m going to learn a lot at this conference that I can bring back to work. I’m going to do some writing, which always makes me happy.
But above everything else: I’m going to be spending time talking to new people — new people also happen to be a lot smarter than me. That’s hugely exciting. I’m stepping into a room this week that is a few notches above my head, and I’m going to have to be on my game. It’s going to be a good place for me to be.
And it reminds me, again, how important it is for me — for all of us — to surround ourselves with amazing people. They challenge us, they push us forward, and that’s how we learn to do better work ourselves.
Thanks for the reminder, London.