Speaker. Entrepreneur. Author.

Weekend Assignments - December 20, 2014

Added on by Sam Davidson.

Hey folks: three interesting things to read this weekend (and a bonus thing to listen to). Happy travels.

You're not as smart as you think
Blame it on evolution. Actually, don't. Because you're just a "confident idiot" and you don't know all that much. Maybe ask for help more?

World's strongest man
I used to watch these competitions on ESPN a lot. Here's a fascinating glimpse on what it's like to be an athlete like this.

Bonus: An interview with me on Writer's Rough Drafts
This was a fun chat I did with Elisa Doucette. Stick with it until the end when my rapid fire answers send me into an existential crisis a time or two.

Let young people lead
Like, really lead. Add them to your boards of directors, nonprofits. Like, yesterday, even.

If you've got something worth reading, share below (or hit reply via email). I'd love to take a look. And if you go shopping this weekend, be kind. 

Programming Note: (because I know you care)
No blog posts this coming week. Enjoy Christmas or Festivus or whatever you feel like celebrating.

How Do You Think?

Added on by Sam Davidson.

We often start conversations or try to get to the heart of a matter by asking, "What do you think?"

That's a great question for sure. 

And here's another one: How do you think?

When I worked for a hotel, they wanted us to "think like owners." Meaning, ownership is intimately concerned with the bottom line. Owners often get paid only when there is a profit, so encouraging employees to focus on said profit means that owners get their investment back. Not a bad strategy. 

So how do you think? Do you think like an owner

Or a mechanic, concerned with how it all works?

What about an artist, creating something out of blank space?

Or a doctor, looking for the root problem and then a remedy?

Maybe a scientist, searching for an explanation and a theory to move forward with?

A lover, looking for romance and relationship?

An author, bringing out the story in each situation? 

A parent, concerned with growth and care of others?

A pioneer, blazing trails and leaving paths?

Yes - tell me what you think. But then reveal to me how you think so we can start thinking together.

(That's the best way to think, really. Together.)

The Work of Strategy

Added on by Sam Davidson.

I've begun a new discipline and I didn't wait until January 1 to implement it. Remember: you can begin something new at any time.

Earlier this week, I set aside two dedicated hours to work on strategy. Meaning, my phone was off, I ignored text messages, I closed my email window. I had work to do. The work of strategy.

I now dedicate two hours each week to work on strategy. I'll define this as long-range planning. Thinking and setting goals and then working up a plan as to how those goals will be accomplished.

Why two hours? 

Two hours a week will add up to eight hours a month. That's one full workday. Isn't strategy important enough to spend one day a month on? Isn't the future of my company worth a day of my month?

And what about you? Isn't the long-range impact of your work worth such time? Shouldn't you spend the equivalent of a day a month focused on the future? 

Each week, the time spent will vary. It'll change based on the day of the week and the time of day. Some days I'll do this at the office and others may be at a coffee shop. Sometimes I'll strategize alone and other times I'll bring together my co-founders or our board. But here's how I'll make sure this time is worth it:

  • I'll protect this time. I'll schedule it in advance and nothing else will take precedence or interrupt it.
  • I'll work on longterm plans, not short-term problems. This is not a time to do paperwork or fix something. It's a time to invest in the future.
  • I'll have a single focus. Each week, I'll look to home in on a key area or make sure I end my two hours having accomplished something specific.
  • I'll reflect on this time. I'll share the outcome with others and review what was decided later in the week to make sure the decision stacks up.

The work of strategy doesn't have to be boring or routine. In fact, it can be invigorating and meaningful. But if you're not deliberately carving out time, it won't get done. And this is work that must get done. 

How much time are you giving to the planning of your life and work? 

Judges judge. What do you do?

Added on by Sam Davidson.

"What do you do?" 

Ugh. What an uninspired question that I'm sure you're hearing a lot this when meeting new people at holiday parties. (Or not, if your idea of a holiday party is drinking all the eggnog while wearing footy pajamas at home watching Love Actually and Elf on repeat.)

Some jobs (like, very few) do one thing. Judges (like Guinness World Records judges) judge. They have to adhere to rules. It's a record or it's not. Judge and move on.

But other jobs aren't so clear. 

What does the founder of a company do (what does she not do)? Or an artist? A leader? A principal? A storyteller? A designer or writer? 

Job titles are one thing; work is another. More and more, your title won't define your work. And truthfully, I hope it never does. Because when you find the work worth doing - and the work you were born to do - the title fades into the background of your passionate vocation. 

So when someone asks what it is you do, surprise them with the truth. Don't share a job title. Share your life's passion.

And as a reminder:
I'm offering a special weekly email every Sunday next year for those curious about focusing on a single word for work and life in 2015. Details and sign up are here.

The Game Behind the Game

Added on by Sam Davidson.

There is the business you think you're running and then there's the business you're actually running.

Case in point: Katz's Delicatessen. You think they're in the sandwich game. But they're not. They're in the margin game:

The fundamental problem facing every remaining deli, Katz’s included, is that the gargantuan sandwiches for which they are known aren’t very profitable. Rather, they’re a legacy of the early 20th century, when brisket (used in corned beef) and navel plate (the fattier, bovine belly meat Katz’s uses for pastrami) were considered cheap trash cuts and hundreds of Jewish restaurants could compete for immigrant clientele with rock-bottom prices. But the days of inexpensive navel and brisket are long gone—thanks in part to the national love affair with Texas-style barbecue—and delis can only raise their prices so high before turning off customers. As a result, the margins on a pastrami or corned beef on rye are perilously thin. In his 2009 book Save the Deli (an indispensible read for lovers of Jewish comfort food), David Sax writes that “most New York delis are breaking even or losing money on their namesake item.” Profitable sandwiches, he reports, make margins somewhere between 5 and 15 percent.

The full article details that most of the deli's profits come on other orders (like soda). Same thing goes for a lot of restaurants.

At Batch, we're not in the subscription box game. We're in the generosity game, wanting to be top-of-mind for anyone looking to give someone a gift for any reason. The NFL is in the entertainment business. Teachers are in the inspiration business. Newspapers are in the fear or advertising business and on it goes. 

Go ahead. Pick a category that makes sense so people understand what you do. But be very aware that you're also playing another game.

And, in case you're not sure, we're all in the people business. Delighting others is something you'll need to do, no matter what game you're playing.