Inside My Brain

Thoughts about startups, tech, marketing, and life

CATEGORY: Careers

Saying no is just as important as saying yes

I’m not a yes man, but I like saying yes.

When people ask me for help or advice, I like to say yes and help whenever I can.

When someone asks whether I can accomplish something, I like to believe that I can, and respond with yes.

Yes reflects positivity and a willingness to help.

But sometimes you just have to say no.

If you have a lot to do, you just have to say no to those coffee meetings sometimes.

If you can’t accomplish that task or add that feature, you just have to say no.

If a customer asks for too much, you have to say no and deal with the consequences.

You have to set your priorities to determine when to say yes or no. It may be difficult to say no, but sometimes it’s the right thing to do.

What do you think about the importance of saying yes and no? I’d love to hear from you. Write your thoughts in the comments, tweet at me @mikewchan, or email me at mike@mikewchan.com.

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Blogging stresses me out – why that’s a good thing

I traveled most of today so I couldn’t blog until now. And all day it stressed me out.

I think that’s a good thing. It shows that I care about blogging and living up to my expectations of blogging every weekday.

I think there’s a direct correlation between how much you stress about something and how much you care about it.

If you’re working on a project and you’re not stressed out about the outcome, my guess is that you don’t care much about it.

If you don’t stress out about what your boss thinks about your performance, you’re probably in the wrong job and don’t care.

Stress, to a certain extent, is a very good thing to experience. It shows that you give a damn.

What are your thoughts about the correlation between stress and how much you care about something?

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!

How to become great at anything

achieve greatness

I just listened to the Freakonomics podcast episode called “How to Become Great at Just About Anything.” You should go listen to it, but only after you read this post. 🙂

There really wasn’t anything groundbreaking in there. There’s no magic bullet, no “limitless” pill you can take, nothing like that.

It basically comes down to hard work performed consistently over time.

That’s kind of obvious, but there was a little more nuance to it.

The hard work you put in has to be intentional, meaning that you have to set specific goals and objectives. And you have to be able to stretch yourself and get out of your comfort zone in order to grow.

This is what is called “deliberate practice.”

In the episode, there was a study that compared bus and taxi drivers in London. Both would drive many hours every day. But bus drivers would drive the exact same route daily, while taxi drivers would drive all over the city and be forced to memorize every street (before smartphone maps, of course).

Even though both bus and taxi drivers drove the same amount of time, the study found more growth in taxi drivers’ brains, primarily because they kept learning new routes and explored new areas of town.

The shining example of the episode was a woman, Susanne Bargmann, who loved singing but was pretty bad at it. So she decided to work with a singing coach and practice one hour everyday.

Her goal was to achieve the “big” sound that Christina Aguilera expresses when she sings.

After singing everyday for a year and a half, she achieved her goal.

Her next goal was to perform in front of people. She crushed that one as well.

Now she’s a recording artist in Denmark. Amazing.

When I blogged for 30 consecutive days and continue to write every weekday, I’m deliberately practicing my writing. I believe that I’m a better and more consistent writer because of it.

Hard work and consistency are certainly important to getting good at anything. But being deliberate about what you’re trying to achieve and getting out of your comfort zone are just as crucial.

So what do you want to become great at, and how will you work toward it?

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 Koka Sexton on Flickr

What do you do when you start to lose steam?

Steam from geyser

The day you launch that new product, your first day on the job, and the day you move to a new house are all very exciting.

You’re starting something new, there’s a lot of activity and momentum, and the change is invigorating.

But then days, weeks, months, and years go by, and things can get dull.

That initial luster wears off, growth decelerates, momentum slows, and things just aren’t as exciting as they once were.

What happens then? What happens when you start to lose steam?

Do you power through, continue to work, and find new ways to make things exciting again?

Or are you on to the next one?

One option isn’t necessarily better than the other, but the way you respond says a lot about the person you are.

There is certainly strength in persistence, but it’s not always the right option. You might be spending a lot of time and energy on something that has no hope for the future.

On the other hand, you can lose a lot of opportunities if you move on to something new too soon. If you persist and keep chugging along, you might be able to catch that break.

Being able to recognize when to keep working or move on is difficult, but such a valuable skill.

What do you do when your projects start to lose steam? How do you recognize when to keep plugging away, and when to move on?

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!

 

Taking a long-term view

Sometimes you have to do things now that won’t pay off for a long time.

It’s so much easier and immediately satisfying to do the things that will pay off in the short term.

Doing that smaller, easier task just to cross it off your list.

Chasing that hotter but lower-value lead in your sales pipeline.

Checking email instead of writing a few pages of your book.

But if you take the time each day to work on the longer term projects, they’ll eventually be way more valuable when you complete them in the future.

Develop that relationship that may lead to the big sales deal in the future.

Work on writing that book, even if you only get a page done.

Start that moonshot project you’ve been thinking about.

I admire Amazon for not caring about what Wall Street says and continually reinvesting their profits back into the company to keep growing. And I admire Google for attacking huge, difficult problems like self-driving cars and diseases like cancer and Parkinson’s.

It’s much harder to do work that won’t pay off until far in the future. But when it does pay off, it’ll be that much more rewarding.

What long-term projects are you working on, and what short-term sacrifices are you making to get those projects done? 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!

Doing what you have to do vs. doing what you want to do

Venn diagram

The other day, I said to my wife, “Oh crap, I haven’t blogged yet today, I have to blog.”

She responded with, “Why don’t you do what you want to do, instead of what you have to do?”

I’ve thought about that for the last few days.

Yeah, there are days where I don’t want to blog, and it’s something that I feel like I have to do.

But I want to keep up my streak of blogging every weekday.

There will always be things that you have to do but don’t really want to.

Run that boring report. Clean your toilet bowl. Unpack.

And of course, there are things that you want to do.

Plan that fun work event. Drink a beer. Watch Netflix and chill.

The best situation is when what you have to do is what you want to do.

Work out.  Write that interesting article. Close that deal you’ve been working on for months.

Try to find that intersection of the venn diagram of things that you want to do and things that you have to do, and you’ll be good.

How many things that you have to do are what you want to do? 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!

Change is exciting when you’re in control of it

It’s moving day today! Vicky and I are moving to our new home today and we’ll start the process of settling in.

I think change is exciting. I’ve always welcomed it in my life.

That’s why I think I was initially attracted to the consulting world, since I was put on different projects every few months and exposed to various clients and problems.

I also think my penchant for change has been the cause of me already having three different careers already.

And it’s why I love being an entrepreneur.

All of those changes were the result of my choices. Many times change occurs that’s out of our control.

When my Dad passed away, that was a big change for me that I couldn’t control.

If your organization isn’t doing well, layoffs might occur that may change your career.

Maybe a new competitor comes in and changes the course of your company.

I can be tough when change changes you.

I think it’s valuable to look ahead sometimes to see where you can control change, whether it’s in your career or personal life. Then you can identify where you might have the highest impact and create change instead of having it change you.

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!

 

Who do you work for?

Work team meeting

Who do you work for?

I’m not talking about the company you work for, or the guy or gal to whom you report.

I’m talking about who the people are that inspire you to work harder and get better.

Everyone works for themselves to a certain extent. Maybe you work to live, and have that job simply to allow you to eat good food, go on vacation, and enjoy your life outside of the office. That’s a good thing.

Or maybe you live to work, and work for yourself in the sense that you want to enjoy the 8-12 hours a day you spend at your job, so you pursue a career in an industry that you love, or run your own business. Pretty good, too.

But when you truly work for someone else besides yourself, that can lead to real inspiration.

Maybe it’s your family who you work for. You work to put food on the table, buy a home, save for your kids’ education, and more. That’s plenty of motivation to work hard and make more money.

Maybe it’s your employees who you work for. If you’re an entrepreneur, your employees need to be the best they can be in order for your company to be successful, so you’re really working for them. If you’re in the corporate world, many times your success hinges on the success of your teammates, so you’re all in it together.

Or maybe it’s your customers who you work for. Customers are the lifeblood of a company, so if you work for them, you’ll super-serve them to the best of your ability, and everyone wins.

Who you work for can certainly be and many times is a combination of the above, as well as others I haven’t mentioned.

Think about who you work for. Are these the right people to work for and do you enjoy working for them? Are you serving them to the best of your abilities?

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 Link Humans on Flickr

Scrappiness

A chip on the shoulder. Hard working. High motor.

All of these words describe a trait that I’m really fond of – scrappiness.

Someone who earns that last dollar.  Someone who doesn’t feel entitled to anything. Someone who appreciates what they have and works hard for it.

I think of some professional athletes that are scrappy.

Old school basketball players like Jeff Hornacek and John Stockton, or even more recent stars like Stephen Curry. Small NFL wide receivers like Wes Welker or Julian Edelman. They don’t have the size and strength of some of their peers. Maybe they were overlooked. But they put in the work to get better and better everyday and fight each and every play.

I know many people who are scrappier than I am. But I like to think that I have some elements of scrappiness. Most entrepreneurs do.

I attended some pretty good schools, but nothing elite like an Ivy League school, a Stanford, or a Duke. Maybe it’s because I wasn’t good enough to get into those schools, and that puts a little chip on my shoulder.

Or maybe it was the way I was raised, by parents who had to work really hard to put food on the table. Don’t get me wrong, I was by no means poor growing up. I got everything that I needed as a kid. But my parents were immigrants who moved to the US for a better life for our family, and they had to start over and work extremely hard to provide for us. Maybe that’s where it comes from.

Regardless, I think scrappiness is a result of both nature and nurture.

You may or may not have had experiences that have hardened you, that made you scrappy. But you can learn how to work harder. You can teach yourself how to fight and claw. You can learn how to be more appreciative of what you have.

You can teach yourself to be scrappier. I try to do it everyday.

In what ways are you scrappy?  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!

The Power of Communities

Communities are powerful things.

In his book titled The Business of Happiness, Ted Leonsis identified being part of “Communities of Interest” as one of the six key tenets to happiness, and I completely agree.

Communities are everywhere, and it might just be second nature that you’re part of many of them.

Your workplace is a community. The neighborhood where you live is a community. Your alma mater is a community.

I’ve benefited greatly from being part of a bunch of communities.

I’ve gained a lot from being part of the DC tech and startup community, as the network I’ve built has helped me transition into my startup career and will certainly continue to help me as I mature as an entrepreneur.

My b-school alma mater, NYU Stern, has been so influential to my career as well, and the Stern DC Alumni group is an amazing gang of smart, helpful people.

The same goes with Georgia Tech alumni in the DC area.

I’m also a member of many online communities, primarily in the areas of business and podcasting. These definitely acted as support groups as I’ve navigated the startup and podcasting waters.

What’s more important than benefiting from communities is contributing to them. Venture capitalist Brad Feld says to “Give before you get.” I agree, and I believe that the more you put into a community, the more you get out of it, now and in the future.

I help organize Startup Weekend DC events, and I love helping budding entrepreneurs launch their startup idea. Not only do I get to interact with other entrepreneurs, which I love, but I also get to make many connections with people who I might work with down the road. Win win.

I also help put together NYU Stern DC events, and being able to bring together and connect with with smart, interesting people is a huge plus.

I play softball with my Georgia Tech friends, though I’m not sure if they would consider that “contributing.” 🙂

And I try as often as possible to contribute my ideas and opinions to help other entrepreneurs and podcasters in my online communities.

Think about the communities that you’re part of. How much are you contributing to them, and what are you getting out of them?

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!