Not to Lose

I’ve been around soccer the majority of my life.

Whether it was traveling with the college team my dad coached as a kid, playing club soccer at an early age, focusing on the sport in high school, playing all through college, or being the product of my first entrepreneurial venture, soccer was a part of my identity for over 20 years. This team sport helped me push to be my best, but the sense of belonging is what made it special.

As I’ve enjoyed the World Cup in Qatar, I’m reminded how easy it can be to get ahead in a match, before slipping into a dangerous trap. Instead of staying sharp by maintaining the offensive pressure that earned an early lead, it’s tempting to start playing not to lose.

In soccer, this often means a team sinks back into an overly defensive formation. Less variety invites frantic desperation and the added pressure often leads to an equalizing goal being scored by the opposing squad. Even if the need for another goal shifts your team back into a more balanced attack, the momentum has shifted.

When applied to business, getting ahead and then playing not to lose can be seen all over the map. For instance, snagging a few early adopters, then assuming customer discovery is over. Hiring new talent, then hoping everyone can work together without initiative. Launching a new product with existing customers, then not supporting them through the chasm of change. Securing product-market fit, then avoiding innovation due to a misguided sense of risk. Finding generous mentors, then forgetting to nurture relationships. Those are just a few, but many leaders are lulled into this trap that’s defined by a sense of scarcity.

Tactics to stay ahead differ based on situational factors, but when in doubt, trust that uncertainty is certain. Be strategic to avoid recklessness, then stay on the offensive by leaning into the pain. As you find fresh ways to serve customers, continue celebrating milestones and stay ahead with initiative to keep building beyond the fear of losing.

Tenured

Recognize, connect, and support those who consistently delight those they serve over a prolonged period of time. Rewarding such an initiative makes sense, but at what point does the comfort of a rewarded role devolve into a willingness to sail into the sunset?

When starters run into the aloof, misaligned energy can lead to a standoff. Time is the ultimate release, but what if progress is needed now? Every situation is different because of the complexity of an environment and the people/organizations involved, but here are tactics that seem to work no matter the circumstance.

The first uses social currency. It requires a change maker to set their ego aside, and instead, celebrate all that’s been achieved by the accomplished, yet tired gatekeeper. Use respect, kindness, and appreciation to form a bond. Relationships that feel less transactional often create leniency toward new ideas. When a crack in the wall of inactivity is created, be glue that maintains the integrity of the existing system. For example, “I’m too busy” is a common qualm, so lean into that pain by offering to execute on the idea that has sparked mutual interest. It’s important to be realistic in these moments, because when promises are made, credibility is on the line. As you not only light a path toward progress, but also champion change by evolving ideas into reality, trust is gained and your ability to continue making a ruckus increases. Want to extend your leash further? Take responsibility for failures, but give all the credit away when success is achieved.

If a larger organization is involved, another interesting tactic invites the tenured leader to level up the team by activating a colleague. This provides a new hire the chance to get involved within the entrepreneurial ecosystem, while the organization is seen as engaged within their community. It’s hard for some to understand that time spent in the wild is often more valuable than clocking time in the office, but if the organization allows this person to show up without limitation, everyone wins. The new community member feels the innovative energy and brings more intrapreneurial vibes into the organization, while the community benefits by having another trusted organization in the mix.

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“The way we make things better is by caring enough about those we serve to imagine the story that they need to hear.” -Seth Godin

If you’re reading this, you may be tenured, but it’s unlikely you’re tired. That said, we’ve all found ourselves in a motivational rut or lacking a clear sense of purpose. Along with a few solid sleeps, when I feel the urge to settle, it helps to have fun, build into other areas of your career portfolio, take a few days to rest if necessary, and then get back into the startup community. This creates opportunities to #GiveFirst, ask for help, or get extra curious about the creative work of others. Soon you’ll find new opportunities to collaborate.

New connections that emerge can bring you out of the motivational rut. They can boost your care meter and will add fresh personality to your work. Along with sparking fresh direction(s), you’ll be motivated by others and soon find new ways to be generous with your art. If you’re still thirsty for motivation after tapping into the entrepreneurial ecosystem, I’m here for you as well. Together, we can refuel the idea machine to avoid wasting any more time with being tenured, but tired. Sleep when you’re dead, my friends. Let’s keep building.

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“There will come a time when you believe everything is finished. That will be the beginning.” -Louis L’Amour

Bloop

Imagine yourself as a circle.

It’s tempting to suggest a sphere, but the added dimension is not necessary for this metaphor. Alright, with your circular self, take a tiny portion of the arc and “bloop”… push it beyond the circle’s circumference. Even the smallest nudge gives the entire circle space to expand.

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I had fun making all sorts of sounds as I considered the title for this reflection, but I’d love to hear how you’d describe the sound of such an expansion. Also, since I had to look up the terms to ensure this metaphor was translated correctly, here are the parts of a circle.

There’s plenty of research behind the idea of small improvements adding up. As we hear from inspired speakers and read about in Atomic Habits by James Clear, if you get one percent better each day, you’ll end up thirty-seven times better by the end of a year. It’s hard to define “better” and such steady progress would surely require sacrifice, but most will agree that small choices don’t make much of a difference, until they add up.

While establishing systems that support good habits and compiled improvements are great, this reflection is more about welcoming singular moments of exploration and growth, even when it seems unrelated, weird, or insignificant.

Perhaps it’s trying something new without preconceptions, saying yes when no is status quo, or being the initiator when movement is seen as risk? As we poke the box and invite a bit more bloop in our life, we give ourselves an opportunity to grow as our own circles expand.

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To thank those who have enjoyed brewing on these Roasted Reflections every week for almost two years AND to say hello to some new friends, here’s a free gift just for fun!

Ideaworks

As color pops in the night sky, let’s brew on how sparking innovative business ideas might be similar to how we experience a breathtaking fireworks show.

Alright, so you’ve got the chaos of life all around you, but this moment’s focus is first directed toward finding a place to park. This frenzy has me reflecting on how our daily lives gobble up so much mental bandwidth. If you’re interested in building a new business, interesting ideas may strike within the madness all around you, but innovation takes intention. Such intention can lead to momentary movement, but it’s unlikely that lighting strikes just because we decide to brainstorm in single servings. Instead, making creative day dreaming a habit will invite serendipity in the mind. As ideas emerge and connect over time, different combinations will help map out more valuable opportunities.

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You get what you repeat. I’ve enjoyed hearing readers share how the ideation exercise featured in YDNTB provided the practice they needed to become an idea machine.

Alright, so you’ve found a spot to enjoy the fireworks? The anticipation has the crowd excited and then… a bright light flashes, right before the unmistakable sound of the first explosion arrives. The show is underway!

Shifting this spectacle back into our metaphor for innovative ideation, I think about the fuse that starts it all. There must be a way to catch fire, eh. Perhaps a willingness to slow down while maintaining urgency, actively listening, being open-minded, allowing new experiences to shift your perspective, leaning into community, and always staying curious gives the idea machine more ways to continuously flip the switch?

As each fuse is lit, we hear that thump of a firework being shot into the sky. This sound of propulsion is like ideas darting into the limitless atmosphere of our mind.

With each idea sparked, there’s a thrilling hope that what’s about to pop is exactly what we’ve always wanted. Even if it’s not the show-stopper we wanted, each “ideawork” releases different colors, shapes, and sounds that inspire the sky and connect into the broader experience. Each blast is also seen in different ways based on the vantage point. This awakens the fact that every idea has value. Bad ideas lead to better ideas. This can spark great ideas that reverberate and when given the space to merge, different ideas combine into what can be evolved into a fantastic reality.

As individual ideas pop to create a tune over time, it’s like the grand finale everyone waits for. The audience may scurry in different directions after the show, but they’ll keep talking about the impact long after the floating smoke clears. When we consistently invite different ideas to form a melody, it nourishes a system geared to be remarkable when the fuel of habitual action is applied. Keep sparkling my friends.

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Don’t wait for next year.

Celebrate

Celebrate small wins, mini moments, and game-changing achievements. This reminds everyone how fun it is to be successful. Celebrating also recharges the intoxication that comes with building things that matter. This makes people more eager to tackle new challenges, so do it often. With a connected collection of diversified milestones to keep everyone united, accountable, and motivated, here are a few easy things to celebrate.

– New Hires
– Work Anniversaries
– Product Releases
– Fresh Features
– Customer Testimonials
– Record-Breaking Activities
– Community Gatherings
– Media Spotlights
– Industry Awards
– Event Highlights
– Holidays
– Failures

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Working to establish a few cool milestones and creative ways to celebrate them? Here’s an NFT to unlock some time together!

Most companies love to celebrate together, but too much of a good thing can lead to unnecessary drama. In contrast, when there aren’t enough good times, the team forgets how to have fun as a team. To stay equitable, listen and learn how different people respond to business breakthroughs. As you consider what and ways to celebrate, invite everyone into the activity planning process. Milestones may not change, but the way you celebrate them sure can. Connecting achievements with inclusive celebrations will motivate everyone, while also infusing a freshness into the mix.

As we celebrate in style, the entire team is supported by a performance-based culture where everyone feels included and has fun building as one.