Embracing Failure

basketball

The hoop of life looks a bit like this after you’ve been shooting for so long. This is a good hoop.

I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.
                                                                                                   –Michael Jordan

Failure has followed me around. And as I wallowed around in it again the last few days, I came across this quote from Michael Jordan and realized it was so true. Really true. When you take the risk to shoot the ball 9000 times, you are sure to miss quite a few. The more games you play the more chances you have of failing…but, on the flip side, the more practice you get, the more you learn, and the more you grow.  Growth is success. Not necessarily a job well done. Not always a swish. Instead, a backstop bouncing miss with five rebounds before you get it in the net.

I’m playing so many games right now that some shots are just going to be air balls. And I have learned this week that I need to give myself a little grace in the missed shot because I can’t stop playing. The stakes are too high and people are too important.

Busy People, Thank You

Be careful! Watching this video may give you an ear worm you may never ever forgive me for. I’ve had it stuck in my head for 23 years — ever since my kids were toddlers and watched Richard Scarry’s Best Busiest People Video over and over. Every now and then the theme song resurfaces and I can’t stop singing it.  Today was one of those days.

When people normally say they are “busy” it has a negative connotation. It is often another word for stressed or unavailable. But not to author Richard Scarry.  No. Busy Town is filled with lots of busy people. And they are all soooooo happy to be working. They all play their part in making life work for each other….and they do it with a smile. Today, I was in Busy Town, thanks a lot to my scooter (a.k.a. the Blackberry Blast).  There is something special about riding a scooter…something different from riding a bicycle. You notice different things. Busy things.  You really sit up and take notice of the rest of the working world.

Normally, commuting in the Cranberry Crush I am in my own zone, listening to my self-constructed playlist for my self-constructed life.  But on my scooter I become part of the working landscape. I talked to the construction workers and thanked them for paving the road. It was so smooth to ride on. Thanks, busy people.  I chatted with the gas station lady, who gave me a free cup of ice. Thanks, busy people. I talked to the security guard at the gate for my office as he stuck his head out to say hello. Thanks, busy people. I conversed with another motorcyclist at a stoplight on his way to work. And a person in a car smiled and gave me a big wave to let me go first at an intersection. I felt like I was in Busy Town. Suddenly, people weren’t just shadows of themselves behind a piece of glass, they were Richard Scarry’s busy people.

When I arrived at the camp I’m volunteering at this week, there were hoards of more smiling busy people. Busy snack people. Busy game people. Busy music people. Busy, busy people. And not in the Stepford Wives kind of way….in the Richard Scarry way. Sweet. Kind. Patient. Real.

Today, I’m glad to work in Busy Town. Not a bad place to be.

Solomon’s Moon

moon

Solomon: Forevermore this is your moon. Thank you for your story.

As I hailed a taxi at the Indianapolis airport on my way to a conference, I had the pleasure of meeting Solomon, my taxi driver. Though he moved to the United States from war torn Eritrea in 1991, his English was still rather broken.

Looking out of my window I spied a gorgeous orange full moon setting just below the horizon. I squealed with excitement, trying to remember the name of this month’s full moon. I finally remembered it was the Worm Moon and I told Solomon about the Algonquin Indians and why they named it so. He told me that in Tigrinya, the name of this kind of full moon was something that sounded like fortuna…which I translated as fortune (in Greek).

My short, mustached driver spent the better part of fifteen minutes explaining how the moon phases worked, using hand movements where his words failed him. He told me that a full moon, like this one, meant rain is coming. I imagined him growing up in Eritrea with his family and the stories of the moon and its weather patterns passed from generation to generation. (Of course, I looked it up when I got to my hotel and found out that scientists have studied the stories and found that there is actually a shred of truth to this lunar weather predictor.)

After the weather report, I told Solomon about our friends the Bahta family who were refugees from Eritrea back when I was in high school and college. Eritrea, a postage stamp of a country in East Africa, endured a horrible civil war.  I told him about Tigisti Bahta, their daughter whom I tutored in English. Tigisti means patience. And she needed a lot of it having me as an English teacher.Solomon said he had also fled to the United States for the same reason. He told me he started out in Washington D.C. and it was difficult because of the crime there. He said to me, “Black, white…it doesn’t matter. Color doesn’t matter. Crime is crime. Wrong is wrong. And I didn’t like it.” He was extremely grateful to meet his sister in Indianapolis and for the peace he has found here. Solomon means peace.

I’ve learned that Eritreans have a different system of naming from most Western countries. Among Christian Eritreans, children are given two names: a secular name at birth and a Christian name when the child is baptized.

I never learned Solomon’s Eritrean name, but I have decided to give him an honorable one —Werḧi, meaning moon. So together his name would mean peace of the moon.

I woke up the next morning to a precipitating sky. Solomon’s moon was right. And I am better for knowing him…. even if it was only for a 30-minute taxi ride.

Pareto Principle and Pea Pod Pondering

peapod

What kind of pea pod are you?

I ate peas last night. I haven’t had peas in a long time. They were great and they made me think about Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto who made an amazing discovery in 1896 — the famous 80/20 rule. And it applies to more than just economics.

Yes, it started in Italy when Pareto discovered that 80% of the land was owned by 20% of the people. But he didn’t really shout ‘Eureka!’ until he also discovered that in his garden 20% of the pea pods produced 80% of the peas.

Since that time the principle has been verified in all manner of cases.

  • 80% of sales typically come from 20% of the customers.
  • 20% of workers do 80% of the work.
  • 20% of criminals commit 80% of the crimes.
  • 20% of pub-goers consume 80% of the alcohol.
  • We wear 20% of the clothes in our closet and spend 80% of our time with 20% of our friends.
  • 20% of car drivers cause 80% of the accidents.
  • 20% of our time spent on a task leads to 80% of the results.
  • 80% of decisions are made in 20% of the time.

We can’t help it. We are just pea pods.

Should I just give up and start only going to 20% of my meetings and spending 20% of my week at the office? (This is assuming I’m one of the 20% of people that gets 80% of the work done. And I guess that would mean I would only get 80% of the 80% of work that gets done.) Drat. That last 20% of the work is necessary to get 100% of my salary. What a shame the last 20% takes 80% of my life.

What am I to do with this? Can I choose the pea pod I will be? Can I change my percentage and defy the odds?

I won’t speak for you…but this pea pod is going to try to become more efficient.

Open Up Those Golden Gates

bridge

The Golden Gate Bridge from Baker Beach with Battery Crosby (1900) on the rocks.

When I was a kid we took our share of road trips…and we sang as we drove. We sang John Denver songs and we sang Buddy Holly songs and we sang Disney songs…and of course we sang Al Jolson’s California Here I Come. However, we  weren’t going to California. We often changed the words, because we were going to South Dakota…a lot. So we sang:

South Dakota here we come

Right back where we started from

Open up those Black Hill gates

South Dakota here we come.

Sometimes we would sing the California version. And I always imagined what it would be like to actually drive over the Golden Gate Bridge and sing that song.

Today, that dream became a reality. (I also looked up the actual words to the song and I’ve never sung it correctly). But no matter. I sung it my way today. Four times, actually, thanks to Google Maps. I didn’t mean to cross the Golden Gate Bridge four times, but that’s what I get for following Siri instead of my own common sense. And it wasn’t the only bridge I drove over. I also went over the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge and the Bay Bridge. And though Google told me my dreamy  little “detour” would only take 2 hours and 26 minutes, it was sorely mistaken. Let me just say that rush hour in San Fransisco is not fun. But this is the kind of thing that tends to happen to me when I take spare moments to try to see something when I’m on business trips.  I take risks and am greeted with the unexpected. (See Journey to the Pinball Hall of Fame and Are You Thirsty Yet?, if you don’t believe me.)

sf-route

My route was NOT 2 hours and 26 minutes as indicated.

Was it worth it?  I must admit I was debating it as my stomach was growling somewhere along highway 580 crawling along at 5 miles per hour. But, after I made it to my hotel, finished all my work, and took a look at my pictures…the answer is yes.  It is always worth it.

Along my way I was gifted with these beautiful discoveries–the sounds of waves, the smell of pine, and bright green, Spring grass.

beach

Waves crashing on Baker Beach. Meditating hippies and crazy nude homeless people behind me (not pictured).

beach-night

Baker Beach from the Battery Crosby.

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Stairs I ran up and down from Immigrant Point Overlook.This is fondly known as the 1000 Step Trail (808 steps to be exact).

immigrant-view

View from Immigrant Point Overlook.

pinecone

Very large pine cone on a fallen tree. Smells so good.

sand-fran-architecture

Classic San Fran architecture on my way to the Bay Bridge.

grass

Spring! This is not what my yard looks like in Colorado.

stairs

Sandy stairs back to my car from Baker Beach. Still shaking sand out of my running shoes.

bay-bridge

Headed to Livermore over the Bay Bridge. Bye San Francisco!

hills

Wine country, cow country…either way…Livermore is B-E-A-utiful.

Project Managing Myself

sock

Sometimes big changes start small. This sock drawer will look different tomorrow.

I manage projects every day—my family’s projects, my volunteer projects, and most of the time, work projects. I am a project manager—it’s what I do.

My Keys to Successful Project Management

  1. Prepare well. Understand the needs of the clients and what problem you are solving. Then prepare the requirements and strategy up front so your team can begin well and join you in the quest to solve the problem.
  2. Set deadlines and keep them. Even if your clients don’t give you specific deadlines, make them. And hold people to them. When you relax deadlines, you end up with wasted time, wasted money, and frivolous features on products that don’t need them.
  3. Be nice, but be honest. Deliver praise and feedback to your team with care, but don’t hold back on the truth. Quality and awesome customer service are the measures. Nothing else is acceptable.
  4. Give away the praise. Managing a project is important, but it takes a team to make something great. The skills and talents of your team need to be encouraged and applauded.

What I’ve come to realize this week is that I manage everything and everyone, but myself. And I need to. I need to be one of my projects and give myself the same level of detail, perfectionism, and care I give to every other project in my life. If I can’t do that, I won’t ever be able to achieve my personal goals. Instead I’ll continue to suck what life I can vicariously through the projects I manage for others.

So, I’m going to swipe a chapter from my own rule book and begin by preparing. I have some really big changes in mind and I’ve got some significant preparing to do. It all starts with cleaning out my refrigerator and sock drawer. No, my plans are not to become the Barefoot Contessa…but if those who know me don’t see a pretty big change by June 30, I will not have managed the Trish project well.

Journey of Trust to the Pinball Hall of Fame

hof

Now that is a seriously large gumball machine!

Nobody trusts anyone, or why did they put TILT on a pinball machine…

–Steve McQueen

I like a destination. And when I’m traveling for work, I like to get my exercise not in the fitness room, if at all possible, but by walking around my new environment and getting a feeling for where I am. Staying in a cheap government per diem hotel in Las Vegas, doesn’t always put you in the optimal location for fantastic hikes, but it does often put you smack in the middle of an adventure. Knowing this was my only opportunity in the next four days to walk outside (during the day before mugging hours), my quest was to get to the closest attraction on Google maps from my location.  That meant just shy of a 3.5 mile walk (one way) to the Pinball Hall of Fame. With dusk on the horizon, I knew I needed to make this walk snappy.  I walked on sidewalks along busy six lane streets bordered by chain linked fences topped with barbed wire curls. Planes dipped so close to my head I fought the urge to duck. I thought it quite convenient there was a mortuary and graveyard across the street.

pinball-map

My route to the Pinball Hall of Fame.

When I finally got off the main thoroughfare and around the airport, I turned in the direction of my target. I can’t say I felt particularly better here, but at least the airplanes weren’t after me. As I walked past Siegfried and Roy Park, which consisted of gravel and a giant silver mushroom-like statue, I passed row after row of apartments. Tucked beneath several of the gates were homeless people. And between them, rows of stores that included at least one or more of the following: liquor stores, tattoo parlors, and smoke shops.

luckys

How lucky! Open 24 hours!

I said “hi” to those I passed, looking less out of place than you would think. The temperature was a cool 45 degrees so I was sporting my black stocking cap, black running gloves, sunglasses, and a black leather jacket (the only coat I had brought). I looked like a hood in the hood. That probably was a good thing. After an hour of walking, I made it! The Pinball Hall of Fame.

I was not too impressed by the sign. Where were the neon and flashing lights? Where were the free food and fountains? I clearly had not walked far enough.

pinball-hof

Not the most impressive building I’ve ever seen, but I’d made it this far!

I went in and was shocked by the number of people inside (despite the missing cars in the lot). For $0.75 a game, you could play pinball on machines from the 1960s to modern day. I walked among the pinging and ringing, snapped a few photos and then quickly left.

elvira

Elvira! Now that is a pretty high score!

Now I had a dilemma. It was getting dark. And though I looked like I could rob a bank, I didn’t feel like it. Luckily, I had a twenty dollar bill and had scanned the bus routes earlier that day. I stopped at a nearby 7-11 to get change and purchase water. Two men wearing construction uniforms sat at the video slots and finished off their day with a bit of hope. I stood in line behind five people (all unrelated), each with multiple 24 oz. Bud Ice beers in their hands.  Apparently they knew something I didn’t. My Aquafina was clearly not the best bargain in town.

budice711

At this point I started jogging toward Eastern Avenue. As I reached the corner of Tropicana and Eastern, I saw the bus parked at a stop about 100 meters in front of me. I started sprinting. There was a man waiting to board and by the time I reached the bus the same man was still standing patiently waiting his turn. The fellow in front of him was feeding the bus fare machine slowly with pennies and nickels (possibly not realizing it was not a slot machine), but I was grateful. I caught my breath as the gentleman ahead of me and  I assisted by picking up rogue pennies as they rolled off the machine and onto the bus floor.

I hopped on the double decker bus and watched as a colorful cast of characters got on and off  (fully aware I was one of them). I was even asked where my motorcycle was! That’s how “bad to the bone” I looked!

As I stepped off the bus (forgetting my bottle of purchased water on public transit for the second time that day), I was happy I trusted Vegas enough to go for a walk, and happy Vegas trusted a hood like me.

Total Exhaustion

nap

One minion riding a fluffy unicorn, two minions riding a fluffy unicorn, three minions riding a fluffy unicorn……..

If you haven’t noticed, my blogs have been few and far between the past few months. But not because my head isn’t reeling with topics. I now realize my bloglessness has been due to total exhaustion. Complete and utter total exhaustion.

Total exhaustion has never been a negative phrase for me. Total exhaustion, rather, has been a battle cry. It is something I aspire to when climbing peaks or riding my bike. In fact, it’s become a game. How much harder can I make it? For example, is there an alternative way to get to the trailhead? Anyone can drive there. How about riding my bike there…and then back after finishing a grueling climb? Yes! Total exhaustion! Bring it on.

This summer I discovered a new form of total exhaustion. And I did something I can’t remember ever doing before. I took a nap—a real nap. Not just nodding off for 15 minutes on the lawn furniture on a sunny Saturday. No. I got up at 8:00 a.m. on a work day (really late for me), stood up, checked my phone, wrote my boss a “not happening today” note, and didn’t get out of bed again until 12:30…possibly 1:00.

What drove me to total exhaustion? It wasn’t a mountain I had climbed or a pass I had peddled. No.It was mental and physical exhaustion from work and simply finally letting myself fully recover from the cold I had fought with for the last four weeks. Although there were no lingering signs of the infection in my sinuses, it had apparently sucked the life from me and my body was still crying…I just refused to listen…until what I will now and forevermore refer to as THE NAP.

But, no more! My mind is doing cartwheels and my body thanking me all because of THE NAP. And because it was so amazing, I followed it up with a shorter sequel today …THE NAP 2.

In fact, I have not thought of work once today. Not obsessing over our startup business struggles. Not counting my long list of “to dos.” Nope. Just counting minions riding fluffy unicorns as they bounce over my head…1…2…3… Zzzzzz!

Now I believe I am ready to blog again, ride again, hike again…maybe, just maybe, even work again.

Naps. Who knew? Maybe I’m getting older and this is what crossing the midline is all about. Or maybe I’m just getting wiser and maybe that is what crossing the midline is all about. Either way I’ve found a new friend called sleep.

Happiness at Work? It’s In My Toes.

gold toes

Happiness is gold toes.

My toes are gold. Why? Yes..it’s true…I was inspired by the Olympics. But why gold? Why not red, white and blue? Or silver or bronze?

Gold because it reminds me of where to go. True, only one person can win the gold medal. But everyone..EVERYONE..can run for their gold. Giving it all you’ve got every day.

Today I watched a French hurdler false start in his qualifying heat. His Olympic dream was finished in two seconds. He fell to the side of the track and wept.

He was understandably crushed. But did he run for the gold? I think the answer is “yes.” Because although we only see a few seconds of failure on TV, what we don’t see is his years of daily training pushing himself—the injuries and ups and downs that got him to that race. Did he fail when it really counted? Maybe. But just maybe the years of work was actually the biggest part of his gold medal effort.

This week at work I’m being asked to report in a meeting: What makes me happy at work? What is it that makes work a place I want to come to every day?

With transition and change at the office, there are often feelings of uncertainty, unrest, even failure. Some days we find ourselves wondering “Why?”, or worse, crumpled at the side of our desks weeping after a false start.

When I thought about this question I realized that I usually try never to focus on the word “happiness.” It is illusive. Joy is easier. But as I thought more about it, I think happiness for me IS the gold. Not always obtaining it, but the continual challenge of striving for it.

So what makes work a happy place for me? The answer can be found on my toes.

  1. Gold is the treasure I share. Happiness comes if I can answer “yes” to this question: Do I have an opportunity every day to serve others? This comes first and foremost through earning money. I work so that I can provide for others and be charitable with the fruits of my labors. It also comes from serving people at work in every way I can. Often this looks like helping get a project done right, but just as often it looks like being a mentor or friend.
  2. Gold is the mission, goals, and strategy. Do projects have a mission, goals, and strategy that I can help create solutions for AND can I measure, see, and celebrate the value of those solutions? I am happy when I can say “YES!” Strategies and goals can and should change from time to time. Sometimes from year to year…sometimes even from day to day.  My happiness at work comes from understanding the path forward and architecting how to get there.

I look forward to hearing my coworkers’ answers to this question. As for me, and my toes, it’s all about going for gold. Not judged by someone else’s race, but for the only race I can control…my own. Running hard. Running happy. Running like it matters. Because it does.

10 Pieces of Wisdom for Startups: Lessons from the Trenches

tulum

Our first business was an amazing idea and we produced a great product, but great ideas can be crushed.

Starting a business is not for the faint of heart. Entrepreneurship is not about trying and succeeding, but more often than not, trying and failing, and then trying again. My experiences from working for startups, having my own contracting business, and starting two companies with my husband have thickened my skin and provided me with some wisdom I’d like to share with you.

If you are thinking of starting a company or know someone who is, heed this warning: Everything on this list is true. If you don’t think so, feel free to learn the hard way. Then, let’s go have coffee.

  1. Your Idea Isn’t That Great. I’m sorry to burst your bubble. It isn’t that your idea is bad, it is probably really cool. But ideas do not earn investment capital or customers. A good business plan and access to the market does. The only place you might be able to sell an “idea” is in Silicon Valley and that rarely turns out well. Thomas Edison was right when he said “genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration.” That’s also why when Walt Disney was asked why he was so willing to give his ideas away he would say, “there is always another one.” It isn’t the idea, but the ability to execute the idea into a successful business that is the trick.
  2. Your Motive Better Be More than Money. Most people start off with a dream—a dream that stems from a passion. Money is not a passion. Our first passion was using new technology to educate the world and help create sustainable jobs in countries with struggling economies. We failed. Our next motive was survival. We wanted to create jobs here in the United States, especially one for us. And this time it’s working! We now have 23 people on the payroll. Yay! A passionate motive drives you harder than just a desire to make a stack of cash. And don’t expect a giant stack of cash to ever come, or come quickly. Your goal should be first and foremost to have a profitable company. And that is really hard to do—often a lot harder than just finding a job.
  3.  Inventory Your Sacrifices. Ask yourself what you are willing to sacrifice for the sake or your new company. Your house? Your car? All your savings? Your washing machine? Relationships with your family? Your free time? Make a list of how far you are willing to go and discuss this with your business partners and family. You all need to be in agreement of where the line will be drawn. And, you will likely need to come back to this conversation (see lesson #6). Play out each scenario as if you are going to lose it all. Dig deep and ask yourself if you are all willing to take that risk. One for all and all for one.
  4. Don’t Quit Your Day Job. Don’t think your great idea will allow you to sit back and only work part-time as the money rolls in. What you are signing up for is two full-time jobs, or more. In our case, at least one of us had to work and earn a paycheck during the day and then come home and help with the business at night, while the other worked the equivalent of two full-time jobs (without pay, for several years sometimes).
  5. Patience Is a Virtue for a Reason. Desperation is a repellent. When you are desperate — for example, when you can’t afford groceries or make payroll—the desperation oozes from your every pore. You will want to push people to sign contracts and move faster than they can or are willing to move. This ultimately irritates your customers and clients and drives your chances of success far away. Remember lesson #3 (sacrifice), take a deep breath, eat that two-year-old mystery meat in the back of your freezer, and stay the course.
  6. Cut Your Losses Sooner Than Later. After you have sunk hundreds of thousands of dollars into a business, it is very hard to say goodbye to your great idea, your product, and your passion….it is like a piece of you dying. But you need to let go and do it sooner than later. Listen to wise stakeholders and the market. If it isn’t going to work, cut your losses right away. Trying to hang on because you can’t let go of your dream will just hurt you more in the long run. Sunk costs are sunk. LET IT GO. Remember lesson #1 and don’t worry. You’ll have another idea and you’ll do better next time.
  7. Give It Away. Don’t be afraid to give large percentages of your company away. If you are going to succeed, you will probably need to scale and grow. This means you will need wise, influential, and lucrative business partners — larger companies or investors. Don’t be cocky or greedy and think your idea is so valuable, you can do it all yourself, and you can’t possibly share your “future pot of gold.” You’ll ultimately get more gold by growing and giving away large chunks of your company than you will trying to hoard your “big idea.”
  8. Investment Money Is Not Yours. I know a lot of people who need to hear this. And not just people who are starting out. If you just received investment capital or want some, please, listen. That money is not yours! You are a steward of that money. Investment money is not there to buy you a new leather desk chair or even pay your salary. Revenues should pay your salary. Investment capital goes to help build the business. Period. Investors are counting on you to not lose their money. They don’t want to bear the burden of all the risk. Your idea isn’t worth as much as you think (see lesson #1).
  9. Confidence Breeds Confidence. You will be surprised at what you can do and who you can get on board. Don’t be afraid to really show how much you believe in your product and what you are doing. Reach for the stars. You will likely find out that big corporations or seemingly “big players” in the industry are people just like you trying to solve a problem. They need your help and are eager to partner with you. Be confident.
  10. You Are What Makes America Work. For every successful new business, there are many more failed ones. Just because you failed once, doesn’t mean you will again. You will be wiser because of it. Remember, every giant company started out in a basement or garage. Innovation and dreams drive our economy and create jobs. Someone has to do it. Don’t give up. Dream big. America thanks you.