A few years back, I led a change to the way MBNA America — at the time the world’s largest affinity credit-card lender — negotiated with its partners (and ultimately with each other inside the bank). At the heart of it, we learned to prepare more effectively and taught people that the best way to get what they wanted was to help the other side get what it wanted (for both internal and external stakeholders). It’s my primary accomplishment…and a key component of my professional narrative.
Since being laid off 15 months ago, I’ve focused on consulting while still looking for a challenging full-time position. The reality is the job market is awful and there’s a growing trend toward building a portfolio career of 1099/consulting projects. I’ve been helping companies sharpen their brand and strategic messages, primarily through the creation and/or refining of value propositions, RFP responses, and annual reports. But I keep running into executive-level job seekers — many of them terrific, talented former peers — who are worried that their biggest success is behind them…and feeling their self-esteem slipping away in the absence of traction in their own job searches.
I invite you to watch this video in its entirety — it’s about 20 minutes and talks about dealing with these kinds of concerns, about wondering whether your best is behind you and about channeling your creativity in a positive way.
I’ve long believed that one thing that distinguishes successful people is their ability to consistently “show up.” I also generally believe in the “daemons” that Elizabeth Gilbert describes. I do believe you need to put distance between yourself and your creativity — partly because believing in daemons makes it difficult to give yourself too much credit) and partly because I don’t want to run the risk of alienating them.
Over at ChrisBrogan.com, Chris is talking about the importance of story in people’s lives, urging readers to read Donald Miller’s new book, A Million Miles in a Thousand Years. For me, I harken back to A Chorus Line: “I’m a dancer…And a dancer dances.” The foundation of my story is my ability to communicate quickly and clearly (my ongoing challenges to simplify my own personal brand notwithstanding). Blogging — something I never had the time to do before leaving the bank — enables me to do what I love…and the research and effort to generate ideas helps me work through my angst. On my professional side, it can be challenging (but gratifying) to create for someone else, to capture their true voice and deliver something that the client can “hear” and feel as if they could have written or said it. And yet the thing that led me away from business journalism in the first place was my sense that I could be just as effective in business as the people whose lives I was chronicling.
But how do you keep delivering? How do you surpass your past successes? If I didn’t appreciate one thing before the past 15 months, I certainly do now: Creativity takes order and process. You need to eliminate distractions to give the “daemon” room to enter your consciousness.
There are times when I miss the hermetically sealed corporate offices where I used to work. As I sit at home today, it’s 80 degrees, sunny, with a nice breeze flowing through my home office. I’m resisting the urge to stop typing to go shoot some baskets or kick a soccer ball with my kids because I have deliverables.
The truth is, I probably will not resist those urges. But that break will enable me to create something better this afternoon because I freed my mind and let the daemon in. I now keep a little notebook to write down ideas when they hit. In my current situation, I don’t sit through long, pointless meetings and I can try to turn neat ideas into business opportunities (although that poses its own sort of distraction away from the dual goals of feeding my family and doing something meaningful).
I have always worked in a world of real-life deadlines, budgets, and conflicting goals. I’ve always been successful at balancing multiple priorities and executing on great ideas. But life is different today than it was 15 months ago and I have a much greater respect for the process. I thank Elizabeth Gilbert for reminding me that my greatest successes are not behind me…that the path to even greater ones requires me to keep showing up, respecting my daemon, and seeing them when I see them.
How about you? How do you maintain your confidence that your next great success is just around the corner?
Hi. I just wanted to take this opportunity to point you toward some new pages on this site. Look up. They’re right above the masthead on the blog. These pages are designed to help you understand a bit more about me and how I might be able to be of assistance (beyond postings in this blog that may resonate with you from time to time).
I recently added an Consulting Business Overview that outlines some of the services that Bulldog Management Solutions provides (OK, I’m a one-man shop but know a lot of strong people to bring on board to help if your needs dictate it). As my mission statement says, I help businesses (and individuals) sharpen their brand and strategic messages to increase sales and partner retention, improve RFP and negotiation “close” ratios, and drive higher employee engagement. The Overview provides some specific ways I do that. And I can also help you if you’re looking for a job but struggling to differentiate yourself from everyone else out there who’s also searching.
I’ve added a What I Believe page that is a work in progress. Over the past 14 months, I’ve done a lot of reading and struggled a bit with my brand message and this encapsulates a philosophy that will give a potential employer or client a better idea of what drives me. Beyond that, however, I hope it will lead readers to spend some time thinking about what’s important to them and perhaps take on a similar exercise. Some great minds contributed to this page by providing me with some “ah ha” moments, putting things in a way that was much clearer than I might have.
There’s also a relatively new Reading List over there. I’m adding to that every day. Just this week someone asked me what books have meant something to me. I should have pointed them toward the page but did suggest a few of the books on this list. The newest member of the list? The Little BIG Things, by Tom Peters, which I’ll be blogging on soon.
Come back every now and then and take a look at these pages. I suspect I’ll be updating all of them as I learn more, read more, and develop new skills. Thanks.