Tag Archives: Attitude

Loyalty can be rewarding

In a day an age where upward mobility and career growth are characterized by jumping ship and changing jobs every two years, its pretty amazing to read about the few exceptions, notably one Dolf van den Brink of Heineken.



Student Always

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A colleague recently pointed me to Sabrina Simmons‘ 2010 commencement address at Berkeley.  What she said about a principle called ‘Student Always’ really resonates with me, mostly because it’s advice I can’t help but ALWAYS give out myself! 🙂

If you love your job I truly believe it’s hard not to be successful. The hours will surely be long, but they’ll go by fast and they’ll be rewarding. It’s rewarding because you keep learning and growing both professionally and personally. And here’s another thing about doing what you love: your passion can’t help but come through. And the thing about passion is it’s contagious. Others will want to join and support you in the drive for results creating a virtuous cycle.

Check out the full transcript here, it’s a really good read.

Rebuilding relationships

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Sometimes work relationships get strained.  Sometimes they are beyond saving and it’s best to move on understanding that two parties will never be able to effectively work together.

But, you don’t get that luxury in small companies.  Everyone has to be an impact player, and two impact players who should work together, can’t, well that’s a problem.

So how do you go about rebuilding that relationship?  Here are a few things that I’ve found works.  Understand that both parties have to want to work together, even though they clash.  If one can’t, or won’t, make the effort to meet half way, well then, both parties have got bigger problems.

  1. Respect each other, despite your history and clashing in the past.
  2. Listen to each other, particularly when one has valid input on a given situation that can save everyone time and effort.
  3. Throw each other a bone.  Let’s face it, everyone wants to look good.  Scratch their back and maybe they’ll scratch yours.
These aren’t perfect suggestions, but then again, the situation isn’t perfect either.  What will end up working will seem obvious in hindsight.  But it definitely won’t be trivial.
I’d be curious if any of you have other thoughts on what works for you.  Feel free to leave a comment!


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“Get up, go for a walk”

It sounds simple in hind sight, but here’s the sitch:

You get frustrated at work and you get into mental quicksand.  Something happens that really bothers you, it weighs you down and you get less effective throughout your day as a result.

When that happens, stop what you’re doing, walk away, do something completely unrelated to work for 5 minutes and then come back with, hopefully, a new more calm perspective so you can re-engage and be productive again.

It sounds really simple.  And it is.  The hard part is recognizing when you need to walk away to break out of the quick sand.  Here’re some tips that have helped me recently and over the years:

  • If you’re getting emotional, that’s a pretty clear indicator that you need to take a step back.  It’s harder when you’re in meetings and if someone is physically in front of you talking about something that’s getting you all hot and bothered.  But if you’re reading an email, chatting with someone on a messenging service or something else just as asynchronous, emotional reactions should be easy to spot and react to.
  • If you’re literally stuck.  Sometimes I’ve got so much on my plate that it feels like I’m not getting anything done and it gets in my way such that I can’t identify what to do next (hey, what’s the point?  Whatever it is, it won’t help move the needle, right?).  Walking away and not thinking about work can help unblock you mentally.  If nothing else, walk away and for 5 minutes, just think about 1 of the things on your plate and how you can move the needle forward there.  Then come back to work and do those things you just thought about.  Hopefully that will alleviate some of the pressure with all that’s on your plate.
  • If your’e stressed about an important and rapidly approaching meeting for more than a few days.  Walking in all hot and bothered looking stressed out won’t really paint a good picture of you.  Chances are, it’s an important meeting because someone really senior is in the meeting, or someone really important from outside your company is present.  You should probably take a few minutes before the meeting to relax, collect yourself and then go the meeting.  Going for a walk or reading your favorite blogs for 5 minutes just before going to the meeting is a great way to relax your mind and ease some of the tension.

I’m sure there are other times when this approach can generate pretty good results.  If you have some other examples, please share in the comments!


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Anyone remember this from The Replacements?

Shane Falco: You’re playing and you think everything is going fine. Then one thing goes wrong. And then another. And another. You try to fight back, but the harder you fight, the deeper you sink. Until you can’t move… you can’t breathe… because you’re in over your head. Like quicksand.

That’s quicksand.  It happens all the time, everywhere.  It’s really noticeable in sports, like football, because you’re thinking a mile a minute about a whole bunch of things.  Missing one piece of the action can make the difference between a successful hail mary pass to a 25 yd sack.


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 “If you’re not failing, you’re not learning.”
 “If you’re not failing, you’re not trying.”

 I’ve heard both of those quotes a lot recently and after reading this from Om Malik, I started thinking…am I failing?  

The answer is a resounding yes.  Without going into too much detail for my self-confidence’s sake (not that it matters), I make decisions every day in and sometimes those decisions are based in hard fact (which may be based on errant data) or on subjective nature (most certainly based on emotion, external pressures, lack of thought, etc).

As an aside, I’m a firm believer that everything I’ve done could have been done better by someone else.  I characterize that someone as an individual with more experience than I who at one point was in my shoes and either did things right the first time 100% perfectly (scoff scoff) or made the same mistakes I did and has since learned from those mistakes.

Then I asked myself…am I trying to fail?

The answer is a solid no.  Who wants to fail?  I’m doing what I do with the full intention of being successful and thinking that the outcome is 100% worth it.  Why would I go down a path towards failure?

But, I still fail.  No doubt.

Is it worth it?  Am I learning?

This one’s hard.  If you’re failing and you’re stopping to think about why you did, how it resulted in failure and how you could’ve prevented it so that you don’t repeat the same behavior and mistakes in the future, then you’re really learning.  But often times, when I’m so focused on getting the job done or moving forward in the many directions I’m headed in at one time, I forget to take the time and ponder how things are going, where I am failing and where I can improve.

That’s the key.  I think I’m learning.  But I’m not sure.  The lesson for me in thinking about failures is that I need to spend more time learning from how I’m failing rather than focusing on the failures themselves.

Take this another way – don’t beat yourself up on the failures in your life.  Get up, learn from them and become stronger as a result.

Hmmm, I swear I heard that growing up a few decades ago…

So much work, so little time

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The last few weeks have flown by, literally.  I’ve spent time in 5 different cities while trying to balance time across my projects, both old and new, as well as collaborations on colleagues’ projects.  That may not sound like a lot in the abstract, but let’s just assume for a second that it’s an unbearable workload. 🙂

How do you avoid completely dropping the ball and not delivering on your work?  Here are some of the things I’m currently doing.

I. Work Harder

This is the easiest thing to do in the face of a mountain of work.  But it’s the hardest to sustain.  After a while, quality of life deteriorates and ultimately, so does your happiness.

However, working harder and longer does help alleviate the initial pain and unhappiness of not delivering all your work.  There’s something emotional about it.  Working 12-16 hour days and not finishing everything at least paints a picture of intent – “I want to do it, but there simply isn’t enough time in the day.”

Consider the impact that has on your superiors/colleagues/etc…positive.  “Hey, this guy is working hard and still producing a crap ton of stuff”.  Consider the impact on you…negative.  “Damn, still not finished and it’s 10pm.  Maybe I should get my 10th cup of coffee and plug away at this…oh crap, I forgot to eat dinner ’cause I got so caught up in this stuf”.  Let’s see what else we can do to make this more manageable.

II. Make lists of all the work I have to do and slowly chip away

Here, I’ve got multiple spreadsheets with tasks and projects that are ongoing.  I break them down by order of priority and make sure that week in and week out, I’m making progress or even completing the important stuff for the given week.

Marrying I. with this one helps achieve my objectives of delivering, but it certainly helps to make sure that what I’m working on is the right thing to be working on in a given instant.

Still, I’m not finishing everything and I can’t get rid of that.  Someone somewhere is saying “wow, that Shivan guy must be a slacker ’cause I’ve still waiting to hear back from him.”

III. Set expectations on what will not happen

Well the only thing left is to be upfront and honest about what it is you are not going to deliver in any reasonable amount of time.  Talk to your stakeholder or whomever you are supposed to deliver some work to and make it clear that it simply won’t happen anytime soon.  If there’s a reasonable objection, there’s probably a basis to move it up in priority to make sure it gets done.  You should then reset expectations around the stuff that got pushed down as a result.

I can’t say I’ve always been able to make this work all the time, but the combination of a little more work time, coupled with prioritization and expectation management has led me to a more focused work life and a better chance for success professionally.  It also helps me balance my work life with my personal life, which can always use more time.  🙂

So, how do you deal with vasts amount of work?