The Learning Curve Of Acquiring A New Skill

We are all creatures of habit.

No matter how adventurous or a risk taker you are, it’s natural to hover around what’s comfortable.

But that doesn’t mean you can’t learn and change. In fact in today’s society, you either: adapt or die.

Growth isn’t handed to you, nor should you expect it to be. Instead you are solely responsible for your personal and professional advancement. That doesn’t mean with a new skill set comes a new job or promotion, but you’re either growing forward or going backwards in life.

Throughout my adolescent years I feared public speaking. The climax of my horror was a speech class I took at a community college where we had to video ourselves speaking in front of the class 3 times during the semester then watch and critique it together. That experience still haunts me and for years it made me want to quit.

But in the past several years something changed. My goal isn’t to be Tony Robbins or my good friend Joshua Fredenburg. Yet as an entrepreneur I know it’s crucial to my success to be an effective communicator orally and in written form.

The lightbulb moment for me was to shift my mindset.

If I think I’m a terrible public speaker then it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy. Therefore the self-talk in my head changed to: I want to be a better public speaker (note: I didn’t say great or best).

That was the first domino to fall…

Next, I needed to put in the practice. In fitness terms: more reps. One habit I started 10 years ago was blogging. At the time I didn’t have a desire to do it, but felt it was necessary for my business so I just started writing. Over time I really began to enjoy it and it’s had a huge influence on how I prepare, deliver and evaluate my public speaking today.

I hosted a monthly network event geared towards professionals for 2 years. I did workshops and training sessions at companies. I volunteered to speak at church every month. What happened over time is I got better. My style, structure and storytelling has improved immensely.

There are areas I can still improve upon, but like acquiring any new skill it takes time to master.

But let me emphasize the most important piece to learning any new skill is your attitude towards it.

With most skills there is a huge learning curve and there will be points where you hit a wall. It’s during those times that you have to step back and evaluate the big picture/purpose. The journey to get better is rough, but if you stick to why you’re doing it and see the value in your effort you’ll eventually get there.

New skills are great tools to accomplish your dreams, but the pre-requisite to starting is your mindset/attitude before you begin.

3 Ways To Generate New Ideas

Most people are drawn to entrepreneurship because of the potential of new ideas, but what happens when you run out of them?

It doesn’t matter how creative you are, your mind becomes a blank canvas at some point (yes, it even happens to the best of them).

So when you’re looking for new ideas, but can’t find them what should you do?

1. Read

Most ideas are not original, so don’t put added pressure on yourself to be an inventor. My ideas tend to be inspired by what I read on platforms like Medium. Whether it’s an article, book or video tutorial, “bettering” an idea is much more efficient than creating one. Certain authors will resonate with you and you will follow them more because of their similar mindset. If it makes you feel better the most successful companies rarely create their own industry, they just dominate it with a differentiating point. When all else fails read…

2. Network

To build off reading, people are where ideas come from. Some of my best networking experiences focused less around trying to sell myself and more about just listening. True networking is simply connecting. A friend of mine said it best: “the people you keep in contact with are the ones whose point of views you find stimulating.” Networking can be the best way to learn about an industry you don’t know about. Understanding someone’s process can be a game changer. Also, if you’re a sole proprietor one of the worst things you can do is stay in isolation. No matter how introverted you are, make it a point to connect with others in person, on the phone or through the internet. Nothing great is accomplished alone so don’t be a hermit.

3. Do

People have asked me, “how do you know what to write about weekly?” My honest answer: I don’t. I just write about what I’m learning currently. I mean isn’t that what a blog is? It’s a public journal of your thoughts. Sure, I like hearing success stories and formulas that have worked before, but it’s as inspiring to hear people’s journeys. I like the idea that you’re never ready; the choice is whether you’re going to start or not. I admit I’m not a ready-aim-fire guy. It takes too long. I’m learning to get better at aiming, but my natural instinct is to stop talking about it and just do it (potentially at the core of my obsession with Nike). If you wait for the perfect idea, you may never act. Failing is what the most successful companies have embraced better than others, not success.

So the next time you’re struggling to come up with new ideas try reading, networking and taking action. Chances are the idea will come to you during the process, not prior to it.

The Curse Of The Entrepreneur

People who dream about one day owning a business tend to latch on to the potential, nothing else.

There’s nothing wrong with chasing your dreams, but it’s a lot more glamorous than it looks.

Imagine if I told you entrepreneurship includes working longer hours and getting paid less. Sure you can control when you don’t work, but you can’t control when you get paid. Freedom has it’s price tag and for some until you experience it, it’s too much.

But for those who have dipped a toe into the entrepreneur’s pool, there’s one area that’s extremely hard to go back to: having a boss.

I can’t tell you how exhilarating having complete flexibility is. Recently someone told me working a 9 – 6 with benefits isn’t desirable anymore. To each their own, but the tradeoff between time and money is a crucial decision everyone is faced with.

Coming off a 9-month stint at a company makes me appreciate my workdays much more now. It didn’t help I had a micromanager of a boss on top, but I learned a lot about myself during the process.

Things like my optimal working hours are 9 AM – 3 PM, when deciding whether or not to pursue a business idea identifying the market matters most and running a company solo is plain stupid.

Being an entrepreneur is a blessing and a curse. It affords you more control and flexibility, yet loss of structure and a steady paycheck. All the books and articles published that highlight successful ventures represent less than 1% of reality.

There’s no formula to the madness, but valuing your lifestyle over income will push you over the edge.

The funny thing about entrepreneurship is the “what” will change frequently, but as long as your “why” and “how” stay the same you’re fine. If you’re bored at your current job you can do two things: stick it out or look elsewhere. Most choose the former because it’s comfortable, but you’ll know it’s time to move on when it lowers the quality of your life.

Call me crazy, but part of the intrigue of entrepreneurship is the chase. It’s going after something you’re not sure you’ll catch, but willing to take the risk because failure is more acceptable than regret.

The New Marketing Paradigm: Wants, Needs & Expectations

Marketing to customer’s needs is dead. Wants are the new needs.

Wherever lies a successful industry the perceived “need” is really a want.

Take for instance Uber. The average person does own and can afford a car (need), but some prefer not to pay for insurance, repairs, gas, etc. because ride sharing provides convenience (want).

I’ve applied this concept to my new venture, online tutoring. There is a huge market for this due to competitive parents/students. Colleges do take into account SAT/ACT scores and any advantage a parent can give their child is welcomed. Tutors aren’t necessary to get high school students into college, but they do have the inside track on test taking skills. Parents/students want to attend their dream school so hiring a tutor is a leg up on the competition.

Expectations, on the other hand, are determined by experience. Yelp is known as a food review site, but what it actually reveals is the customer experience (CX). Read any Yelp Elite member’s reviews and you’ll learn how the business made them feel. This is key to selling any product/service.

Nike, Apple and Disney all market experiences, a.k.a. how you feel interacting with their brand.

The hospitality industry lives and dies by customer reviews.

Marketing today depends on identifying what your target audience wants, then meeting or surpassing their expectations with a phenomenal experience. That means no matter how technologically savvy your company is, what matters is how “soft” your touch points are.

That doesn’t mean you need a customer service hotline for your mobile app you create, but it does mean when something goes wrong you’ll be judged on the response time and solution offered.

Artificial intelligence, robots and technology make our lives easier, but the need for human connection is at an all-time high.

For your current or future business idea make sure you are meeting a want and exceeding expectations from your customers. Do that and you’ll be converting your marketing investment into sales.

The Best Manager I Ever Had

The criteria for “best manager” is quite subjective, but hopefully everyone’s had (at least) one by now.

As I mentioned in a previous article, managing people is a completely different skill set than technical job skills. Just like food, what you think is “best” can differ tremendously from someone else’s perspective.

For this post I’d like to share who my best manager was and how he treated me. It wouldn’t work for everyone, but besides being my own boss, I haven’t ever felt more free under someone’s care.

Back in 2002 on my first official day as Youth Director, my supervisor at the time gave me a job description, yet instead of saying look it over and sign it he said “edit what you like and don’t like about it.”

A bit dumbfounded I started reading over the bullet points, highlighting areas I wanted to tackle and crossed out tasks I felt were outside my wheelhouse. I remember giving it back to Keith and he was, “ok looks good, let’s get to work!”

Most people dread meetings, but because I’ve experienced some great ones, it really comes down to how the meeting is run. Keith and I differ in terms of our leaderships styles, but weekly check-in meetings usually consisted over lunch. As a guy, let me tell you, there’s no better way to talk business than over food. The meeting actually has a clear ending time (unlike most) when the check is signed.

I was given tons of autonomy which I appreciated. There was an excel sheet that I tracked all my hours in different categories. Programming was up to me as long as I explained what I was doing to the staff, parents and students. Office hours were at my discrepancy also, which was great because I believed the more I was out on the field with the youth, the more effective my work was.

Now Keith and I did have a friendship years before when he was my Youth Director and when he moved back to Arizona for many years I did visit him a couple of times and stayed with his family. That may sound soft, but I can’t emphasize how much “liking” someone outside of work makes a difference in how hard you work for that person (see my last boss).

Most managers scoff at the idea of giving away trust freely in fear they will get taken advantage of, but that’s completely tainted by your personal worldview. For example as a remote manager, you actually don’t have a choice when it comes to trust. You either give it and expect it back or withhold it and it’s never gained.

This experience of having almost complete autonomy faired extremely well for me, even influenced me to start my own business years later. Others may have preferred more hands-on leadership from their manager, but not me.

Like most things in life, you never fully appreciate things until they’re gone. Less than 2 years later Keith moved on and I was placed under his boss. Things were definitely not the same (including the relationship) to the point where I would often skip team staff lunches because of the awkwardness around the table. (Note: if I pass up free food, there’s a problem)

A manager’s job is to bring out the best in his/her team which usually takes a style adjustment for each individual to some degree. Leadership is truly an art and if you’ve ever experienced a masterpiece environment treasure it because it won’t last forever.

Don’t Follow Your Passion, Follow The Market

Follow your passion. Follow your heart. Monetize your hobby.

Trust me, I’ve heard it all.

In an ideal world, you’d find your ideal clients and sell to them like crazy, but that’s not realistic.

I’ve learned over time that is has less to do with passion, but more about identifying what’s thriving in the market.

Now thriving isn’t a code word for trendy. It means industries that have staying power.

Just like there are very few new ideas, don’t be overly concerned with competition. The same reason why gas stations and fast food establishments purposely open locations near each other proves this point.

Each industry tends to have a giant or market leader which signifies a strong want (perceived need) in society. With so many options to choose from, positioning your idea boils down to uniqueness.

In most instances it’s your brand story, featured benefit or “patented” process.

Whatever your unique selling proposition (USP) is, it’s much wiser to bring to a visible market than an invisible one.

Take for instance coaching. I’ve been doing it for 10+ years, but it’s still not part of a thriving market. Coaching is more of a “how” than a “what” therefore I’m more focused on ideas that utilize coaching in the process, but it’s not the main offering.

Coaching is an example of being in an invisible market because every time you approach a prospective customer you’re faced with a “double sell” proposal. That means the initial sell is educating what you are selling, then you have to follow up with a secondary sell to get paid. It’s not an ideal situation to put yourself through.

Market research becomes invaluable since you want to enter an area that’s already hot. No matter how great your idea is, the uphill battle of trying to educate people about what your product/service does isn’t worth your time or investment.

We’re fortunate to live in a time where information is readily accessible at our fingertips, so take advantage of it! Don’t be discouraged about developing your idea, but before moving forward make sure there’s a clear market for it’s entrance.

There’s no need to reinvent the wheel, it’s already been created.

How to Diversify Your Career (Like Your Portfolio)

Financial advisors will tell you never put all your eggs into one basket.

Brilliant advice, but why does it need to stop there?

Having one source of income is risky.

If you’re working corporate and get laid off/fired you’re in trouble.

If you’re an entrepreneur/freelancer and lack predicable paychecks you’re screwed.

You and I have been told to choose something for your career then focus all your time and energy there, but what if that isn’t great advice?

What if I told you can have both? (have your cake and eat it too!)

There are pros and cons to choosing working for someone else vs. working for yourself, but if you manage your time right and stay organized there’s no reason you can’t sustain two or more options.

You may be hesitant to monetize your passion, which is fine, but is there another side project you can earn money from?

If working a salaried position within a company, “full-time” needs to be defined up front (ask in the interview process). The scary part is once you’re on salary you’re not being paid for the hours worked, but essentially based on the needs of the company (translation: overtime is not optional or compensated for).

Remember full-time is technically 30 hours and if you’re dealing with a startup you can negotiate this ahead of time. In fact it’s refreshing that most people working in startups actually encourage you to have side hustles.

Google made “side projects” cool by promoting 20% time. Employees get 20% of their work time to spend collaborating with others trying to create new products/services. Now everyone doesn’t work for Google or a company of that stature, but we all have the same amount of time in week to use accordingly.

For instance if you’re working a 9-6 job plus have a family, set aside a few hours a week after putting the kids down to draft out and test your ideas. If you’re single or dating, you really have no excuses.

Maybe you’re waiting for permission or inspiration, but like most things in life consistent practice brings results. Ask most successful entrepreneurs how many times they failed and the number is far greater than those who haven’t tried.

In the gig economy your “job” will change more frequently so if you’re not learning new skills or polishing your current ones, you’ll be left behind.

My point is don’t rely on one source of income to sustain you. In a fast-paced, changing world it’s better to have options in case something doesn’t pan out the way you anticipated it to. Life comes at you fast. Be ready.

Diversify your career. You have a better chance of succeeding that way.

The Best Job Site You’re Not On

In follow up to my previous post, finding jobs that are a good fit are easy. Getting in contact with a recruiter is hard.

LinkedIn is the preferred site for most recruiters and job seekers because professional profiles are easily accessible (plus more updated and better looking than resumes) and normally there’s a listed job poster you can send an invitation to connect with.

The challenge with LinkedIn is most people will accept your invitation to connect, but go silent. Back to the cat analogy, recruiters will contact you when they want something, but when you desire to reach them they’re nowhere to be found.

A month ago someone contacted me on AngelList about a role and I forgot I signed up on their site. It was a position I was interested in so I contacted them back. *Crickets* but this story has a happy ending…

Once I started browsing around I liked the company profiles, job listings, visible salaries/equity and most of all the application process. If you select the apply now button you can send an optional message to the person posting about why you are interested in the role.

After understanding the functionality, I updated my profile since that’s what companies see (not a resume or application questions). Once sent you wait until the poster contacts you to state there’s a “match” or mutual interest.

Now you’re in contact with the decision maker. The process is very similar to Instagram’s DM where you can contact a company without any prior connections made.

As someone without a technology background this site has been more helpful than any other job site I’ve used. So if you do have tech experience or making a career change into tech AngelList is where you want to be seen.

Most job sites have filters based on keywords so your application and resume may never make it to the intended destination. Let’s be honest, people don’t get hired for written applications/resumes. Interviews separate the men from the boys.

By lowering the barrier to entry AngelList minimizes the middleman and allows job seekers to contact employers directly. Removing gatekeepers makes it easier to connect the right people. AngelList may not be the most popular job site out there, but it’s the most efficient/effective.

Why Job Search Is A Vicious Cycle

Changing careers is not a trend, it’s the norm.

For skeptics or old timers, it doesn’t have much to do with loyalty, but more so with getting bored.

80% of college degrees don’t set you up for the job you want. Companies usually hire based on experience or skills that universities don’t provide.

Millennials are too inexperienced, Gen X are over qualified and Baby Boomers can’t compete.

Most likely the job you have currently is making you wonder if the grass is greener on the other side.

The problem is the most attractive candidates are passive, not active. Translation: similar to dating you’re more in demand when you’re with someone than not. Nothing screams “stay away” more than a desperate job seeker.

So once you’ve come to the conclusion you’re settling or realize paying bills has become more important than your happiness, here are your options:

Keep applying for jobs while you are working OR start your own (side) business.

Instead of choosing one, why not do both?

The gig economy is here to stay and with the majority of future work going to freelancers is reality.

The benefits of working for someone else is health insurance, perks and steady income. Entrepreneurship, on the other hand, provides autonomy, passion and the ability to network freely.

Until resumes completely disappear and job seekers have more power than recruiters, changing careers will continue to suck. The mental shift you need to make is looking at your career similar to success – as a journey, not a destination.

Regardless if you choose to go the corporate vs. freelance route, your network will always be your greatest resource.

It takes on average applying to 200 jobs to land one, yet only 10 connections to find new employment. If that stat doesn’t convince you, I don’t know what can.

The job search process will always be challenging so instead of waiting until you’re ready to move on, never stop looking for what’s next even if you’re in your perceived dream job.

5 Modern Networking Tools For Millennials to Get Ahead

As a millennial, take advantage of the fact that you love trying out new methods, apps, and technologies for just about everything, especially for your career and professional life. Let’s face it, we spend a majority of our lives working, so we might as well utilize new technologies that let us work in creative ways and make our professional lives simpler.

Networking is a great opportunity to use new technology that will help you connect with professionals easier and stand out against the stack of resumes they’re digging through. The goal of networking is to connect with others, offer value, and see if you can create a win-win situation with your potential business partner. This will always be the goal no matter what happens with technology.

What we care about is HOW to connect with colleagues in a modern, unique, fun, but still professional way. Here are 5 underutilized tools to make you stand out as a young professional and network effectively.

1. Instagram

I already know what you’re thinking… “Instagram? You mean just try to get followers or follow professionals?”… Not exactly.

As of right now, you can direct message any person on Instagram without having to follow or send a request ahead of time. Reaching out to someone you want to build a relationship with on Instagram direct messaging shows them that you are up to date with modern technologies and different. A nice little personalized message to get your foot in the door would more likely get noticed than another email in a sea of unopened emails.

Here are some more tips for how to network with Instagram from Gary Vaynerchuk, an industry leader in digital and social media marketing.

2. Linkedin

I’m sure you already know the importance of Linkedin. Build an amazing profile, show off your talents, experience, and credentials, and then build your network. Linkedin is essentially today’s version of a resume, and it’s much easier to point to your Linkedin page instead of having to tailor a bunch of different resumes for different people with different needs.

Start connecting with people in your industry on Linkedin to learn more about their work, interests, and educational history. That way, when you reach out to message them, you have plenty of talking points from their profile.

3. Shapr

Shapr is the Tinder of networking. Yes, you heard me right. Shapr connects you with professionals in your area based on location, common interests, and fields of work. Check out their profile and swipe right to “meet” the person or left to pass. If you both swipe right, you can start a conversation right in the app.

It’s really easy to sign up because you can link your account to your Linkedin profile. Once the account is linked, just add a short bio and choose a few interests, skills, and industry keywords to find relevant matches looking for you!

4. Email Hunter/GMass

Even if a lot of professional people’s inboxes get loaded with messages, networking through email can still be effective. Now that Gmail categorizes our mail with spam, promotions, and social, there’s a lot more room in the inbox for your message to at least be seen. And almost everyone checks their email daily.

Use GMass and Email Hunter chrome extensions to dominate and automate the email process. Email Hunter is a nifty little tool that scrubs someone’s website for an email address, and shows you the sources where they found the email address. The best strategy is to use the extension on your future partner’s Linkedin page.

Then once you have a nice list of email addresses to reach out to, use GMass to schedule and mail merge emails that will get their attention.

You can effortlessly integrate GMass with Gmail, Google sheets, docs and Google Drive. Set up emails as either a brand new email or as a reply to a previous thread, and draft up to 8 automatic follow-ups that you can set and forget. It is an incredible tool that can save you time, energy, and stress!

5. Vistaprint

No matter how advanced we get with networking technologies, nothing will ever beat the personal touch of strong eye contact and a firm handshake. You should always be planning to go to networking events, even if you are still new in your field.

Vistaprint is a great place to make clean, well-designed and professional-looking business cards. They have plenty of templates and designs to choose from, or you can start with your logo, upload a design for them to print, or let their designers take over for you. In addition to business cards, you can also get marketing materials like flyers, brochures, and door hangers, or larger signs like banners, yard signs, and posters. It’s definitely the one stop shop for putting your designs on paper.

Be Above the Herd

With so much competition for people’s attention in today’s world, it’s important that you are staying ahead of the pack to stand out and be noticed. These tools are a great for building your professional network, finding a new job, or getting your first client.

What are some of your favorite online tools that make your life easier in all areas?

Drew Klebine: Content Marketer, Tech Writer, Philosopher, Musician

Drew Klebine is a Content Marketer, Tech Writer, Philosopher, and Musician from Pittsburgh, PA. His writings focus on modern marketing practices, software reviews, upcoming technologies, brand and product promotion, health, self-actualization, religion, and existential philosophy.

Lead writer and co-owner of uxax.org, writer and marketer for Inspectlet, InMotion, and HER Realtors.