Inside My Brain

Thoughts about startups, tech, marketing, and life

CATEGORY: Careers

Reflecting on my life and career paths on my 38th birthday

the thinker

It’s my 38th birthday today. Happy birthday to me.

38 isn’t a nice round age like 30 or 40, where most people reflect on and ponder about their lives. But I’ll do it anyway because I have a lot to reflect on.

15 years ago, I was a consultant in San Francisco. I traveled a lot for work, made some decent coin out of grad school, and lived a single guy’s life. I had a great group of friends, got drunk at least 3 times a week, and pretty much did whatever the hell I wanted to do at any time I wanted to do it.

10 years ago, I was in business school in NYC pursuing a career in sports marketing. I was learning a lot and making some great connections. I was also having a lot of fun with my b-school friends as well as my childhood buddies, whom I hadn’t lived close to in a long time.

My head was kind of fucked up though. I lost my Dad to cancer a few months prior, and wasn’t sure how to deal with that loss (I drank a lot). And I was pursuing a non-traditional, low-paying career while many of my friends expected to make loot pursuing their banking and consulting jobs. This was difficult to deal with and I many times doubted my choices.

5 years ago, I had my dream job in sports marketing, working for the Washington Capitals. It was right where I wanted to be and I was doing really well. I was fully settled in to DC (it took a while after living in San Francisco and NYC) and started to really dig the city and what it had to offer. I wasn’t quite married yet, but was well on my way.

Now, I’m married to my soulmate, have a wonderful daughter, and own a beautiful home. It’s a lot of fun seeing my daughter grow up, but it’s still odd to me that I’m responsible for this little person’s life. It’s really awesome and rewarding, though.

Career-wise, I’m kind of this hybrid employee / entrepreneur. I work for a software development firm, but the CEO is my co-founder in our startup ribl, which we’re barely working on nowadays. I host my own podcast. I volunteer my time organizing Startup Weekend DC events. I’m not exactly where I want to be, which is working on our startup (whatever the product may be) full-time, but we’ll get there. I think.

Except for my Dad’s passing, my life arc is going pretty much as planned, and I am exactly where I want to and should be.

What does my career arc tell me? It either tells me that 1) I like change, or 2) I have no idea what the fuck I am doing with my career, or 3) both.

I’ve been open to taking the road less traveled with my career; it keeps things fresh and exciting.

But there are still so many things that I want to do.

And there’s a lot of doubt about whether I’m making the right choices and going down the right path. One day I’m confident, other days less so.

I’ve had 38 years to figure it out, but I guess I need more time.

If making history was easy, why bother?

After the Golden State Warriors’ game 4 loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder, Kobe Bryant sent a text to Warriors power forward Draymond Green that said, “If making history was easy, why bother?”

I love that.

Why bother with doing anything that’s difficult? Why bother with pushing yourself to be better? Why bother with getting out of your comfort zone?

Because accomplishing something difficult feels good. Doing something that’s hard helps you improve. And learning a new skill or craft keeps things interesting.

If something comes really easy, it’s probably not worth doing.

There are instances where it’s OK to take the easy way out, as there may be better ways to spend your time.

Pay for that mechanic instead of learning how to change your oil. Buy that sprinkler system instead of watering your lawn by hand. Automate some processes and workflows to achieve scale and efficiency.

But for the things that matter, like making customers happy, forging strong relationships, and constantly improving, you have to bother with putting forth more effort. Because doing those things may be what you need to make history.

What are your thoughts about doing hard things? I’d love to hear from you. Write your thoughts in the comments, tweet at me @mikewchan, or email me at mike@mikewchan.com.

I hope you found this interesting! If so, please share this article with the share buttons on the left. Then sign up for my email list below and connect with me on Twitter for future updates. And check out my podcast at GoandGrowPodcast.com!

I wrote an e-book! Is a full-length book next?

Books

Yay! I wrote and launched my first e-book!

It’s called “10 Apps You Can Use to Maximize Your Productivity.” Click here to learn more and download it, I’d appreciate it! I hope it helps you become more productive.

While the e-book is pretty simple, it took a long time for me to write it and have it designed, so I’m pretty proud of it.

Writing that e-book got me thinking about whether I should write a full-length book.

I’ve blogged a lot and think often about my career, and careers in general. I actually have a few long essays about careers that I haven’t yet published, which might be the foundation of the book.

This wouldn’t be a “how to become a millionaire” book –  I don’t know sh*t about that.

Nor will this be a “find your dream job” book – I haven’t found mine, so I’m no expert there.

It might be something along the lines of “how not to f*ck up your career.”

I don’t really think I’ve (totally) f*cked up my career. But I’ve already had three or four careers in my life, so I’ve learned a lot about what to do and what not to do. And I think I could write both an entertaining and educational story based on my experiences.

What do you think? Should I write a book? And would you read it? I’d love to hear your feedback!

Write your thoughts in the comments, tweet at me @mikewchan, or email me at mike@mikewchan.com.

I hope you found this interesting! If so, please share this article with the share buttons on the left. Then sign up for my email list below and connect with me onTwitter for future updates. And check out my podcast at GoandGrowPodcast.com!

Why you should always work to build equity

equity

Equity is a word that has many meanings in different contexts.

In its truest form, equity means fairness and impartiality.

In startups, equity is how much of a company you own.

In finance and accounting, equity is the difference between the value of your assets and the cost of your liabilities.

In marketing, brand equity is the value of having a well-known brand name, which allows you to beat your lesser-known competitors.

In real estate, owning a home gives you equity, as opposed to renting.

Equity is an extremely important and beneficial thing to acquire, which is why you should always look to build equity regardless of the context.

Equity requires a longer-term mindset, rather than seeking short-term wins.

In your career, your salary isn’t likely going to make you rich. Ownership in a successful business will.

In marketing and business, companies who seek to maximize short-term profit instead of building long-term customer loyalty will always lose. If you take care of your customers, you will build brand equity with them, and they’ll become repeat buyers as well as advocates. Zappos is a great example of this.

On the personal side, being fair with family, friends, and other people in your life will help you have lasting, more fruitful relationships.

No matter what the situation, whether it’s your career or personal life, building equity will always leave you better off in the long run.

What do you think about building equity? In what ways have you sacrificed short-term wins for long-term gain?

I’d love to hear from you. Write your thoughts in the comments, tweet at me @mikewchan, or email me at mike@mikewchan.com.

I hope you found this interesting! If so, please share this article with the share buttons on the left. Then sign up for my email list below and connect with me on Twitter for future updates. And check out my podcast at GoandGrowPodcast.com!

Photo courtesy of The Blue Diamond Gallery

 

Listening vs. hearing – what’s the difference and which is more important?

LIstening vs. hearing - White Men Can't Jump

While listening and hearing may seem similar, they are very different. And maybe in a way you may not expect.

You might hear in the background a song on the radio, a show on TV, or a friend speaking, and may not be actively listening. You should always listen to your friends, BTW.

By this definition, listening requires more attention and cognizance.

That’s true, but let’s take it a step further.

In the classic movie White Men Can’t Jump, Wesley Snipes says to Woody Harrelson, “There’s a difference between hearing and listening. White people, you can’t hear Jimi (Hendrix)!”

You can listen to someone, but it takes that much more attention, thought, and empathy to really hear someone.

That’s what Wesley Snipes was saying – that white people couldn’t understand where Jimi was coming from.

So while hearing does come before listening, it also comes after.

Hearing equals understanding and empathizing with what or whom you’re listening to.

In careers where you work with clients or sell to potential customers, you have to be a really good listener.

And when you hit the point where when you actually hear someone and understand them, it’s a beautiful thing. There’s this moment of clarity where you realize that you’re just on the same page with someone, and at that point you can deliver the most value.

Next time you’re listening to someone speak, or sing, or act, really try to hear them. I think the interaction will be much more valuable.

What do you think about the difference between listening and hearing?

I’d love to hear from you. Write your thoughts in the comments, tweet at me @mikewchan, or email me at mike@mikewchan.com.

I hope you found this interesting! If so, please share this article with the share buttons on the left. Then sign up for my email list below and connect with me on Twitter for future updates. And check out my podcast at GoandGrowPodcast.com!

Photo courtesy of YouTube

Finite vs. infinite resources

infinite resources

Finite resources are found in limited amounts and can’t be renewed at a rate that keeps up with consumption.

The more you use finite resources, the less you have. Fossil fuels and water are prime examples.

These are such important resources, and one day we’re going to run out of them.

But I think infinite resources are more important.

Knowledge and creativity are infinite resources.

The more knowledge you apply, the more knowledge you’ll gain.

Creativity is a muscle that when used over and over again will make you more creative.

These infinite resources can help solve many problems, include those that we face with finite resources.

How are you using the infinite resources at your disposal?

I’d love to hear from you. Write your thoughts in the comments, tweet at me @mikewchan, or email me at mike@mikewchan.com.

I hope you found this interesting! If so, please share this article with the share buttons on the left. Then sign up for my email list below and connect with me on Twitter for future updates. And check out my podcast at GoandGrowPodcast.com!

Photo courtesy of Sliderbase on YouTube

How do you make your stars align?

Stars align

I was just thinking about how lucky my family and I are to have found our new home.

During our home search, we had viewed many homes online and in person, but we weren’t really looking in the area where we now live. The list price was a bit out of our budget. And when we performed our comparative analysis, we were totally unsure about whether we were getting duped by the price, and we were very unsure about our offer.

Things worked out really well and we now live in this amazing home.

A similar thing happened when I got my job at the Washington Capitals.

While I was at business school, I met my future boss at a marketing conference. I kept in touch with him via email and phone calls, even though he wasn’t recruiting at all (and he wasn’t at the Capitals yet) and I was still over a year away from graduating. When he moved to the Caps and started building his marketing team, he had lost my email but found me on LinkedIn. I interviewed with him and his boss and got the job.

When good things happen, sometimes it seems like the stars align. And that’s a great thing.

But most of the time, you have control over the stars aligning.

You can take the time to look at one more home and do more research on your house hunt. You can take the time to keep in touch with industry contacts, instead of only reaching out when you need a job.

You can take initiative, work harder, and create your own luck.

You can make the stars align, instead of waiting for them to align for you.

When was the last time the “stars aligned” for you, and what did you do to make them align?

I’d love to hear from you. Write your thoughts in the comments, tweet at me @mikewchan, or email me at mike@mikewchan.com.

I hope you found this interesting! If so, please share this article with the share buttons on the left. Then sign up for my email list below and connect with me on Twitter for future updates. And check out my podcast at GoandGrowPodcast.com!

It’s all about the people

In any situation, it’s the people that matter.

At work, if you surround yourself with the best and brightest, you’ll learn from them and continue to get better. The best team always find the way to win.

If you surround yourself with high-caliber friends and family (though you can’t choose your family), you’ll grow as a person and have a great personal and social life.

Motivational speaker Jim Rohn said that “you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.”

I am amazed at the people I work with. I’ve been lucky to be surrounded by really smart, driven, and well-rounded co-workers.

And I love my friends and family, and all of them are just as smart, driven, and well-rounded as my co-workers.

I’m very appreciative of everyone I interact with and owe a lot to all of them.

If you feel that you’re not getting enough out of your career or personal life, look around at the people you spend the most time with to see if a change is needed.

Because it really is all about the people.

What do you think about the people that surround you, and how do they affect you?

I’d love to hear from you. Write your thoughts in the comments, tweet at me@mikewchan, or email me at mike@mikewchan.com.

I hope you found this interesting! If so, please share this article with the share buttons on the left. Then sign up for my email list below and connect with me on Twitter for future updates. And check out my podcast at GoandGrowPodcast.com!

 

 

Where do you find inspiration?

inspiration forest

I believe that inspiration can come from anywhere, you just have to be open to it and notice it.

I got the inspiration to write my prior blog post from a Google Chrome extension.

Many entrepreneurs have found inspiration to start their companies by recognizing problems they experience. For instance, Kevin Plank started Under Armour because he sweated a lot during football practice.

The issue is that many people try to find inspiration while at work, and the office is probably the worst place to do so.

Sometimes you need to just get out in the world and take time to think.

In addition to deliberately taking time to think, meetings and chats with people in different industries and various backgrounds are very helpful. Learning more about how others live their lives and what issues they face will expand your worldview and inspire more ideas.

There are a million places where you can find inspiration, which can be the basis of your next project, career, or company.

So where do you go to find inspiration?

I’d love to hear from you. Write your thoughts in the comments, tweet at me @mikewchan, or email me at mike@mikewchan.com.

I hope you found this interesting! If so, please share this article with the share buttons on the left. Then sign up for my email list below and connect with me on Twitter for future updates. And check out my podcast at GoandGrowPodcast.com!

If it ain’t fun, don’t do it

I use a Google Chrome browser extension called Momentum. Whenever I open a new Chrome tab, Momentum greets me with a “Good morning, Mike,” and displays an image of a beautiful part of the world, the time, a question that asks “What is your main focus for today?”, and a quote.

Today’s quote was “If it ain’t fun, don’t do it.”

I think we all should seek to live our lives this way.

There will always be things that are not fun that we need to do. Taxes, chores, and TPS reports come to mind.

But as an overarching life and career philosophy, it doesn’t get much better and simpler than “If it ain’t fun, don’t do it.”

There should be multiple elements of fun in your career. Do you enjoy your industry? Is your job function something that gives you pleasure? Are your teammates fun to be around?

Is there enough fun in your personal life? Do you see your friends often enough? Do you play sports or get enough exercise? Do you do things that you enjoy?

Life it too short to do too many boring things, hang out with people who bring you down, and pursue a career that doesn’t give you some element of enjoyment.

You’ll always have to do menial and boring tasks, but if you find that your entire life is full of them, maybe it’s time to make a change.

Because if it ain’t fun, you shouldn’t do it.

What are your thoughts on this? I’d love to hear from you. Write your thoughts in the comments, tweet at me @mikewchan, or email me at mike@mikewchan.com.

I hope you found this interesting! If so, please share this article with the share buttons on the left. Then sign up for my email list below and connect with me on Twitter for future updates. And check out my podcast at GoandGrowPodcast.com!