Inside My Brain

Thoughts about startups, tech, marketing, and life

CATEGORY: Careers

Your value is what the market will bear

A few days ago I penned a piece titled “What’s the right way to assess value?

After yesterday, I now know that value is determined by supply and demand, and how much the market will bear.

Yesterday was the first day of free agency for the NFL, and money was thrown around like there’s no tomorrow.

Brock Osweiler, the former backup quarterback of the Denver Broncos, signed a 4-year, $72 million dollar contract ($37 million guaranteed) with the Houston Texans.

Osweiler has started only 7 games in his career, all last season. 7 games! How can you assess a QB’s value after only 7 games?

He was able to land this contract because all of the QBs available in free agency aren’t very good, and the prospects coming out of college aren’t great, either. And every team needs a good QB.

The Texans determined that his value is that high, even though they had very little data to work with.

Low supply, high demand.

The same is happening with “normal” careers like yours and mine.

In the tech world, software developers are commanding huge salaries because good ones are hard to find and hold on to.

Low supply, high demand.

In my past career in the sports business industry, it’s quite the opposite.

Because so many people want to work for a sports team or league, these entities can pay much lower salaries. And there aren’t that many of these jobs available.

After graduating with my MBA, I landed a marketing job with a professional sports team and my salary was about half of what I made as a management consultant prior to business school.

High supply, low demand.

It may be tough to deal with the fact that your body of work, while somewhat important, is overshadowed by things out of your control, like market conditions.

All you can do is work hard, be nice, get things done, and control what you can control.

This is day 25 of my experiment to blog for 30 consecutive days.

Everything in balance

“Everything in moderation” is popular advice to throw around.

You can eat red meat, as long as it’s in moderation. Go ahead and have some drinks, as long as it’s in moderation.

While this makes sense, I think there is a corollary to it, and it’s “Everything in balance.”

If you eat red meat, make sure you’re getting your vegetables. If you’re having a few drinks, eat a good meal and chug some water too.

To me, balance is the key to productivity, happiness, satisfaction, and pretty much everything.

A few days ago, I wrote a blog post titled “Quality vs. Quantity: which should you focus on?” Many of the comments on that post alluded to finding a balance between quality and quantity.

I couldn’t agree more. It’s difficult, but if you can strike that balance between quality and quantity, you’ll find success. If you focus too much on quality, you may not be able to achieve many tasks. If you focus too much on quantity, your quality will suffer.

In the gym, you need to balance between your upper and lower body, strength and cardio, and mass building and slimming down.

Finding that perfect balance between work and life is tough as well.

In the past, there were times when there was so much on my plate at work that I skipped out on the gym and ate fast food like it’s going out of style.

I felt and looked like crap, and it hurt my productivity at work.

Now I’m much more focused on finding balance.

While there is still plenty to do for work, I have many other life responsibilities that can’t be ignored, which forces me to balance everything out.

I’m much more cognizant of how my body and brain reacts when I don’t get enough exercise or don’t eat well.

I use the Pomodoro Technique to include more breaks into my day.

And I’m more often intentionally disconnecting from work and technology in general. I’m incorporating time in my day to think, I’m writing more often with pen and paper, and I’m thinking about doing some kind of meditation to help me clear my mind and zone out.

How are you achieving balance?

This is day 22 of my experiment to blog for 30 consecutive days.

 

Keep on growing

Business, careers, and personal life are all about growth.

In business, it’s not about how big you are, but how you’re growing.

You can be a small startup with 10 customers today. But if you only had 5 customers last week, that’s huge growth, and you know you’re on your way.

And when you lose one or more of those customers (and you will), you need to learn and grow from it. Understand why you lost that customer and what you can do in the future to retain them. That’s growth, too.

In you career, the most obvious form of growth comes in the form of being promoted at your company, climbing that corporate ladder, and earning that larger salary.

Your career can grow in many other ways. You can grow by learning new skills, creating new relationships, and working on projects outside of your comfort zone. Career growth doesn’t always equate to salary or title growth.

And you can certainly grow in your personal life. Your family may grow, your commitments may increase, and your priorities may change. You can find new interesting hobbies, meet new people, and explore different regions of the earth. That’s all growth of your experiences.

Always think about how you can grow, whether it’s your business, career, or personal side. Because that’s what life is all about.

This is day 19 of my experiment to blog for 30 consecutive days.

Why satisfaction is more important to achieve than happiness

In yesterday’s post, I wrote about how I was happy about where I am in my career, but not at all satisfied.

I wrote about this a few years ago, and it keeps coming back to my mind, so I wanted to revisit it.

There is a huge difference between the two, and I think satisfaction is more important to achieve than happiness.

In most situations, satisfaction is easier to attain than happiness.

If you watched a decent movie, you might be satisfied with the way you spent your Friday evening. But if you watched a great flick, you would be really happy about the $10 you just spent.

If you had dinner at Burger King, you’d be satisfied with your full stomach. If you had a prix-fixe meal with the wine pairing at a top restaurant, you’d be really happy with your full stomach.

Most people strive for happiness in life. This is certainly a wonderful goal to reach for and attain.

But I think satisfaction is more difficult and more important to achieve. And a lot of it comes down to competitiveness and ambition.

If you’re a runner, you might be happy with the time it took you to finish that 10K. But if you’re competitive, you’re likely not satisfied and know that you can run faster.

If you’re a movie director, you might be happy with that last scene. But there might be a part of you that knows it could have gone better, so you’re not satisfied until you get it perfect.

Like I mentioned in yesterday’s post, I’m very happy with my career. I’m working with a great team and doing what I want in the industry of my choice.

But am I satisfied? Hell no.

I want to develop a product that impacts millions of lives in a positive way and build a lasting company that generates revenue and creates jobs.

 

I’m also very happy with my personal life. I have a wonderful family and live in a great condo in an awesome neighborhood of Washington DC.

But am I satisfied? Hell no.

I want to get better as a husband and dad and raise my daughter to be a beautiful, successful woman. I want to travel and see more of the world. I want to continue to grow and cultivate my personal relationships.

I’ve achieved happiness for a long time. But satisfaction has been eluded me so far.

I’ll get there someday.

This is day 17 of my experiment to blog for 30 consecutive days.

What’s the right way to assess value?

My wife and I are searching for a new home to better accommodate our growing family, and we recently visited one that we really liked.

The house is great. It has 3 bedrooms, 3.5 bathrooms, a finished basement and attic, and a covered garage. It’s really spacious and everything is brand new. The house is located in a hot neighborhood where a few of our friends live. It’s an excellent home for our family.

After leaving the tour, we talked about our thoughts of the house and how we would value it. We looked at the spaciousness, the newness, the covered garage (a rarity for single-family homes in DC) and how our family would fit in.

Basically, we looked at the value of the home in and of itself.

Then we asked our agent to run a comparative market analysis, and we saw a few comparable homes on the same block that sold for a much, much lower price.

Our valuation was immediately altered.

That got me thinking – what’s the right way to value the home, or anything, really?

Do you value the item independent of comps, or do you let comps influence your thinking? Or some combination of both?

I then started pondering about how this can be applied to careers.

For instance, I’m pretty happy with where I am at right now in my career (though not satisfied; more on that in another blog post). I work with people I really like and I’m doing interesting work in the industry of my choice.

But when I compare my career to other people’s, I sometimes feel like a failure.

I see that others make more money. They may have big titles at big companies or have raised a bunch of money for their startup. Or they are younger and have achieved more success than me at my older age.

There’s a danger in comparing, though.

The comparisons may not always be accurate. You’ll never have perfect information. There may be more than meets the eye.

So what’s the right way to value a career, a home, a company, or anything?

Food for thought.

This is day 16 of my experiment to blog for 30 consecutive days.

Setting high expectations

People have told me with confidence that they “under-promise and over-deliver.” Is that a good thing?

I get that managing expectations is important. And maybe in some situations, under-promising and over-delivering is the right approach.

If you’re working on client projects, you may want to be conservative when setting expectations on timeline and costs.

If you’re searching for a house or car and you have a limited budget, you probably shouldn’t expect to score a mansion or a Benz.

But in other situations, I think under-promising and over-delivering is a crock of shit.

Why not shoot for the moon?

To achieve big goals at work, you’ll have to work really, really hard. Even if you don’t achieve that big, hairy, audacious goal, you will have pushed yourself, worked your ass off, and learned a ton.

It takes a certain mindset to set big goals. You need to be be prepared to fail and accept that failure is part of the process.

But you’ll likely get a lot further than if you under-promise and over-deliver.

Next time you’re setting goals, think about throwing some audacious ones in the mix. I think higher expectations can lead to great things.

This is day 15 of my experiment to blog for 30 consecutive days.

What does it mean to be “creative”?

What image comes to mind when I ask you to think of someone who is creative?

You might picture some hipster web designer guy wearing a flannel shirt and skinny jeans and sporting a handlebar mustache.

Or a female artist with a funky haircut, black leather boots, and a bunch of tattoos.

Or some eccentric actor with long hair and a perpetual emo look on his or her face.

I’m totally typecasting here, but that’s my point.

I think people who don’t think they can be creative, can be. And those who are creative don’t always look the part.

“Creative” comes from the word “create,” and everyone can create.

You don’t have to be an artist, designer, actor, or musician to create.

Anyone can create a blog post.  Anyone can cook a meal. Anyone can devise a solution to a problem.

I’m being creative right now by writing this blog post. This article didn’t exist 30 minutes ago, and now it does. It might not be a painting by Picasso or a novel by Hemingway, but it’s something that I created.

A software developer creates software. Though computer science is, well, science, there is certainly art in code.

An accountant can be creative in how they do the books (but not too creative, as the IRS or SEC will be suspicious). Accounting is regarded as one of the most boring and uncreative professions, but accountants create solutions to financial problems.

The next time you think “I’m not creative,” think again. You can certainly create, and you don’t have to wear skinny jeans to do so.

This is day 11 of my experiment to blog for 30 consecutive days.

My rant about the Yelp employee’s rant on Medium

A few days ago, a now former Yelp employee penned an open letter to her CEO on Medium about how she doesn’t get paid enough to get by living in San Francisco.

The way she ended the article was ridiculous – she updated the article saying that she had been let go, and she would appreciate any help finding her next job. Then she provided info for her PayPal, Venmo, and Square Cash accounts. Wow.

I have some opinions on this matter.

First of all, I truly believe that everyone has a voice, no matter how low on the totem pole you are in a company or in society, for that matter. Medium and other social networks have allowed us to make our voices heard and build an audience that we may never have had access to in the past.

But there are right ways to use this voice. And this, in my mind, was the absolute wrong way.

Speak with your coworkers. Maybe they are having the same struggles, and it’s a company-wide issue that you can approach HR with.

Speak with your boss. Maybe you can create a plan where you can attain performance goals in order to get a raise.

I think this just wasn’t the way to go about using your voice.

My second point addresses the issue of work ethic.

Maybe it’s a generational difference, maybe it’s not.

I’m not going to say that it’s a “millennial thing” and that millennials believe they are all entitled. The only evidence I have of that is in the articles that I read online. I’ve worked with millennials in the past and have never felt that they were entitled.

If you’re not getting paid enough, work harder and talk to your manager to see if that hard work can get rewarded. If you need to make ends meet, get a side gig. Or just find another full-time job.

I can’t say that I’ve ever been in her position, but I’ve certainly worked hard for what I have and when things got tough, I put my head down and found a solution. Millions of other people are in tougher situations, with no college education and mouths to feed. They figure it out everyday.

The final thing I’d like to address is her decision making abilities. She had options. She could make a choice to move to another company. Or another state. She could have spoken to someone else about it, and not complain over the internet. She made a really bad decision that cost her a job. Maybe others will praise her courage and hire her, and that’s fine. Personally, I doubt her ability to make sound decisions.

Rant over.

This is day 9 of my experiment to blog for 30 consecutive days.

Remembering the ones that inspired you

Today, February 22, 2016, would have been my Dad’s 68th birthday. He passed away from nasopharyngeal cancer in 2005.

I owe a lot of my life and career to my Dad’s wisdom and the path that he took through life.

He was an entrepreneur by necessity, not really by choice. And I believe his words and actions led me to become an entrepreneur.

My parents had a great life in Malaysia but moved to the US to provide a better life for my sister and me. When they moved to America, my Dad worked in various restaurants and fast-food joints. He learned a lot about the business and eventually opened a few restaurants of his own.

But because being an entrepreneur was really tough, he didn’t always sing its praises, and actually sometimes gave me conflicting advice about where I should take my career.

“It’s tough working for other people” would sometimes be followed by “but a stable job with a big company that pays you a lot is good.”

“The only way to be happy is to work for yourself” would be accompanied by “but running your own business is really hard.”

I didn’t quite understand what he meant until now, because I’ve experienced those feelings the last 3.5 years I’ve been an entrepreneur.

I’ve found out about the ups and downs of being on your own. So I totally get where my Dad was coming from, even though it confused the hell out of me when I was younger.

And I actually pass on this conflicting advice to those who ask me about becoming an entrepreneur, because it’s totally spot on.

Today, I think my Dad would be proud of the path I chose, but he’d still ask why I don’t have a corporate job that pays a lot. 🙂

Miss you and love you everyday, Dad.

This is day 8 of my experiment to blog for 30 consecutive days.

Opportunity cost of your career decisions

Opportunity cost is such a powerful concept that can both hold you back or propel you in making decisions, depending on your situation.

According to Investopedia, opportunity cost is defined as the loss of potential gain from other alternatives when one alternative is chosen.

Put another way, what you missed out on if you selected another option.

For instance, let’s say you’re considering attending business school and you’re analyzing whether it will be a good investment. A core component of this return on investment calculation is how much getting your MBA will cost. You take into account tuition, rent, books, food, and other costs into your calculations.

But you also should include the salary that you’ll lose out on by not working for two years. That’s a very direct application of opportunity cost.

As an entrepreneur, I think a lot about opportunity cost.

I sometimes think about the six-figure salary I could be making if I had a corporate job. Or whether I should be spending time on another task instead of the one I’m doing right now. Or whether I should spend money on a Subway sandwich instead of that sushi dinner.

Those are kind of negative applications of opportunity cost.

I also believe that thinking about opportunity cost led me to be an entrepreneur, which to me is a very positive application of the concept.

When I was making the decision to leave my job at the Washington Capitals to head out on my own, I thought about the consequences if I failed. If entrepreneurship didn’t go as planned, could I ever find a job as good as the one I had now? Would my boss and team be as great at my next company? Would I be able to break back into the sports industry?

I contemplated long and hard about those questions. But the thought that kept coming back to me was what I would miss out on if I didn’t take a chance, and how I might regret, 40 or 50 years down the road, not taking the leap into entrepreneurship.

The potential opportunity cost of regret and disappointment of not taking a chance led me to be an entrepreneur, and I’ve happily sacrificed all of the other opportunity costs involved.

This is day 7 of my experiment to blog for 30 consecutive days.