You’re So Lucky

Recently someone said to me, “How cool that you get to do what you love. You’re really lucky.” Yeah, it is cool and I do feel quite blessed.

But, here’s the deal: If you only do what you love, you’ll go broke.

You’ve likely seen the Life Is Good company’s motto, “Do what you love. Love what you do.” To me, the most important aspect of that motto is the second part.

If you truly want to do what you love, it is far more important to love what you do.

Perhaps you’ve heard the quote:

“If you do what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life.”  – Marc Anthony

Here’s a better version:

“Love what you do and you’ll be doing what you love.”  – David Crone

The reality is that there will always be aspects of doing what you love that feel like work.

At every phase of my career, from software engineering, to systems and network operations, to management, to what I’m doing now, I have always done what I love. But, it was only when I truly loved what I was doing that I saw success.

What would you love to do if you could? Are you willing to love doing what it takes to make that a reality?


Imagine you are the leader of a team of 15 people. You are told the company needs to make cuts and that you only get to take 5 people forward with you. Your team will still be responsible for doing everything they do now. There will just be less of them to do it. Who would you select from your team?


Oh, wait. You get to take 7.  No, make that 10.

This is called the Lifeboat exercise. And I’ve done it. Numerous times. Sometimes it was theoretical; a way to rank the people on the team. Other times, sadly, it was not and I had to let people go.

The value of the lifeboat exercise is that it forces you to think about what individuals bring to the team in a different way. So many times when hiring people we get caught up in looking for individuals who have done specific tasks in specific environments, both of which closely match what they would be doing in the position we are seeking to fill. The lifeboat exercise points out how flawed this approach is.

When you have fewer people to do a job, you need people who are adaptable and who can learn new skills quickly. You need people who demonstrate the appropriate attitude and aptitude.

Specific skills can be taught. People with the right attitude and aptitude can learn specific skills quickly.

On the other hand, I’ve always found attitude and aptitude to be much more difficult to teach.

Sure, raw skills are helpful for the task that currently needs to be done. But, what about next week, six months from now, or next year?

Prepare for growth and change. Focus on attitude and aptitude. Train for everything else.


Dating Game

If you’ve ever compared job fairs to speed-dating, that comparison just got more interesting.


eHarmony, the company known for using personality profiling to create the perfect match for those looking for a personal relationship, recently announced they are getting into the job search and recruiting business. And I’m all for it.

Those of you who have paid attention to this blog at all know that I am a huge proponent of finding a good fit between employer and employee. The search and interview process must be a two-way street. The prospective employee should be asking just as many deep, probing questions as the hiring company.

Matching an employee’s personal style to the culture of an organization is a critical component of long term satisfaction and success for both the employee and the company.

I am hopeful for what the eHarmony approach can bring to this field. I am equally excited about other job-matching services paying attention to this and possibly adding more personality and culture-matching algorithms to their search engines.

In the end, we all benefit. Because Work Should Be Fun!



PS – If you are an employer who can’t wait for the eHarmony product launch, consider the services of someone such as my friend, Michael Spremulli. His company provides pre-employment assessments that will help you match the right person to the right job.


Make It Personal

Fund raising campaigns at work come and go. The annual United Way campaign at CompuServe will always stick out in my mind as one of the best run activities I have ever witnessed.

Here’s what I learned from the United Way campaigns at CompuServe:

  • Make it fun. The annual campaign had several facets that made it fun. From the indoor paper airplane toss to the executive raffle, it always included a wide range of activities. A couple stand-out activities:
    • Challenge the president to a game of horse (a shot-matching basketball game).
    • Challenge the VP to a game of Table Tennis. He was quite good.
    • Executive breakfast – The executives donned aprons and chef hats as they cooked and served a pancake breakfast in the company cafeteria.
  • Make it personal. One of the best aspects of the campaign was the executive raffle. In this, you could buy raffle tickets to win a one-on-one experience with a company executive. These experiences allowed the executives to share their personal side. A couple examples:
    • A flight around Columbus in the CTO’s private airplane – with him as the pilot.
    • A gourmet dinner for two at the home of the VP of marketing – prepared and served by him.
  • Make it optional, but difficult to ignore.  During United Way Week at CompuServe, it was virtually impossible to not be aware of the campaign. But, it was always respectful of each individual’s interest, willingness and ability to participate.
  • Offer incentives. One of the most appreciated incentives was an extra paid day off for donations above a certain threshold.

Later in my career, I brought this sense of personal commitment and fun to a campaign at another company where I was an executive. As part of a competition among directors to raise the most money, I challenged my staff with a dollar-for-dollar match to incite their competition. The email challenge to my staff was titled, “Make your boss go broke”. Here’s a photo showing the evidence that they took me up on it. I was happy to write that check and proud of my staff for their participation.

Food Bank Door

What can you do to make your next campaign fun?


Boss Jerky

How was your last company gathering?

I am always interested in what makes company gatherings winners and losers in the minds of the employees. Since I frequently entertain at these types of events, I am always seeking new ways that I can help make them winners.

During a conversation with a friend about his company’s recent summer picnic, my friend said something that I’ve witnessed, but had never quite put into words. “If the boss is a jerk, there’s not a whole lot anyone can do to turn the event around.”


Over the years, I’ve developed a radar for quickly determining jerk bosses at company events. There are signs.  Here are some of them. (Note: I’ll use “he”, although it could just as easily be “she”.)

Jerk Boss Indicators:
1. The jerk boss ignores everyone but his inner circle during the event.
2. The jerk boss doesn’t even bother attending. It amazes me that a company would hold a once-a-year event with high expectations for attendance by the employees, yet the boss arrives late, leaves early, or is not there at all. This is even more baffling to me when it is a privately owned company. I’ve seen it more times than you’d think.
3. The jerk boss goes first in the food line, or, his table is served first.
4. The jerk boss refuses to participate in the entertainment because he might look bad.
5. The jerk boss wins the 50-50 drawing – and keeps it.  (I wish I could say I’ve never seen this happen.)

Just as there are jerk indicators, there are also indicators of a boss who is respected and loved by his staff.

Non-Jerk Boss Indicators:
1. He mingles easily among the employees and they accept him eagerly into their conversations.
2. He arrives before the first guest and stays until the last guest has gone. More often than not, he is standing at the entrance greeting people with a hearty smile as they arrive. If he’s late or not there, everyone knows where he is and why he couldn’t be there. Sometimes personal issues do come up. The beloved boss demonstrates by example his own work/life balance.
3. He is just one of the guests when it comes to food serving order.
4. He eagerly participates in the entertainment, always first to laugh at himself. Occasionally he will defer this role to someone else because he knows that person would thoroughly enjoy the experience. It has nothing to do with protecting his image.
5. He laughs about his number being drawn for any type of prize and quickly calls for a new one to be selected.

Here’s another observation. Across the board, when I’m with a group that has a jerk boss, much of the talk is about how the business is struggling. The overall tone is very down. When it’s a non-jerk boss, the business is growing and thriving, or at least optimistically pushing through their current challenges. Which is cause and which is effect? You decide. I certainly have my opinion.

What are your top indicators of jerk and non-jerk boss? Drop me a line. I’d love to hear them.

Success metrics

How do you measure success?

Last week I entertained at the Huron County Fair in Norwalk, OH, doing 3 shows each day from Monday through Saturday. It was a lot of fun, especially with the fantastic crowds and super weather.

David at the Huron County Fair - Photo courtesy of the Norwalk Reflector
David at the Huron County Fair – Photo courtesy of the Norwalk Reflector

Sharing the grassy area stage with me was Bobby Maverick, a magician and escape artist. For years, Bobby made his living as a street performer, or Busker. We got to talking about how we measure our success as entertainers. Bobby told me how much he loves performing on a street corner, with the only payment being what shows up in your upturned hat when you’re done. He explained that it doesn’t matter how many laughs you get or how loud the applause, the only thing that matters to a street performer is how much money is in that hat.

Many comedians measure their success by laughs per minute during their set. Jeff Dunham, for example, strives for a sustained 6-7 laughs per minute during his 90-minute shows. Do the math. That’s a lot of laughs. It also explains why people are sore for days after going to one of his shows.

My goal is to entertain the audience. Sure, I want the audience to laugh – a lot. But, I’m not going for the level of sustained laughter that Jeff seeks. My act is specifically designed to generate waves of strong laughter with some pleasant rest periods in between. So, a sustained rate of 5-7 laughs per minute over the entire show is not the right metric for me.

Don’t get me wrong. I am always looking for ways to make the peaks stronger and the valleys narrower. But, much like a band that mixes in some slow songs to give the audience a break between the hard driving numbers, I intentionally mix in some segments that are designed to let the audience catch their breath.

During the fair, I realized two metrics that I can use instead. First is repeat audience attendance. I’ve been doing fairs for years and it has always amazed me that with all of the things going on at these events, people would make the choice to come back and see my show numerous times.

It is flattering. It also makes me work harder to do different shows each time.

Second is how many people pull out their cell phones to capture my act on video. I know many entertainers who get all bent out of shape when people record their shows. I find it amazingly flattering. If someone is enjoying what I am doing so much that they have the desire to record it, I’ll take that compliment every time. The reality is that people rarely try to record the whole thing. Something clicks with them and they pull out their phone to capture some small portion of the act. The more this happens, the more I know I am providing a show that they are enjoying.

The repeat attendee metric only works for extended runs like fairs. The cell phone metric, however, is appropriate for pretty much all of my work, including the audiences I serve the most – company and association events. Now my task is to set some targets for these metrics and figure out ways to actually track them.

What are your metrics? What is the best way to gauge the success of your performance?


Big Deal

Nice view

During the summer months at my house, we often have heated debates over open windows vs running the air conditioner. All of us prefer having the windows open as long as the temperature of the day supports that. It is making the transition between the two that has often caused us to keep the A/C running, even though it was colder outside than inside. Until recently.

My wife and I were having one of our silly debates over whether we should make the transition from running the A/C to having the windows open. My daughter asked why this required so much discussion. I said, “It’s such a big deal to run around and open all the windows.”  Her reply was so simple, “Or, you could just not make it a big deal.”  Ouch!

Isn’t that how we all live? We turn the simplest of tasks into a big deal, much bigger than they need to be. So we remain stuck in a situation, unwilling to make a change. And when we finally get around to making that change, we think, “Hey, that wasn’t such a big deal after all.”

And don’t we do the same thing at work? How many of us have stayed in a job or work situation we found to be unpleasant because we viewed making the transition to be “A Big Deal?” Or, perhaps the work situation isn’t really all that bad. We’re simply making it to be a bigger deal than it deserves.

As you go about your day today and hit those moments of frustration, ask yourself, does this need to be a big deal?

Open the windows.


Put Down the Duckie

Are you as big a fan of classic Sesame Street as I am? So much wisdom. One of my favorites is from a holiday special that was done many years ago. The segment is called, “Put Down the Duckie”.

Click the photo to play the video

In this sketch, Ernie learns the importance of focusing on the task at hand – in this case, learning to play the saxophone.

This song jumped to mind recently while talking with a friend about my own lack of focus on any given task. As I have been analyzing my increasing sense of never getting anything done, I realized just how many distractions have crept into my life.

When I was a software engineer, banging out code, I would sit myself down at the computer, heads down, for hours at a time. If there were too many distractions around me, either from noise in the hallway or the noise in my own head, I would put on headphones with specific types of music to allow me to regain that intense focus on the job at hand.

It is a sign of my age that I remember when checking email required a deliberate action. I remember the first time I encountered a computer workstation that had email running constantly. Even then I realized the folly of having a window pop up to announce you had new mail. My first thought was, “I don’t care. I’ll get to that later. Stop interrupting me. How do you turn that off?”

Now, we all have cell phones, tablets, and myriad devices that bleep, bonk, and vibrate their way into our days with their constant interruptions.

Enough! Do yourself a favor. Turn off every alert on your mobile device that is not absolutely mission critical. Close that Facebook browser window. Turn off the tweets. Do it now.

It’s amazing how much productivity and serenity can be gained by blocking out chunks of time to devote to specific tasks. While you’re at it, block out a specific time to check your email and other means of communication. When the time is up, get on to the next task.

Put down the duckie / cell phone.


Focus Forward

Do you focus on the outcome that you desire? Or do you focus on avoiding the outcome that you wish to avoid?


I was riding my bike along the path in the park yesterday. This is a mixed use trail, shared by those who are walking, running and biking. As I was riding along, there was a gentleman walking toward me. The path is plenty wide enough for both of us. And yet, my mind became focused on NOT running into this person. With this focus, I noticed that I felt I was being drawn toward his side of the path. The result was that I ended up over-compensating and running off the path on the right. No big deal. No crash. But, it got me thinking.

When I encountered the next person, I specifically focused my attention on the line I wished to ride. As much as I was able, I pushed thoughts of this person aside, thinking solely on my intended path. The result? A perfect glide-by.

At our local swimming pool, I noticed that they do things differently than the pool I went to as a kid. At my childhood pool, the words after the whistle were, “Don’t run!”  At the pool here, the words are, “Slowly walk back.” Which of these do you think is better at achieving the desired result?

I remember being one of those smart-Alec kids who, upon hearing, “Don’t run”, would substitute some other form of movement such as skipping, or hopping on one foot, etc. Hey, it wasn’t running!

The point is, if we want a specific behavior, from others or ourselves, we need to be specific about what that desired behavior is. We need to fill our heads with thoughts of the desired outcome.

What is your intended path? What is your desired goal? Focus forward.


Ready, Fire, Aim!

Have you ever heard the expression, “Ready, Fire, Aim!”?


Usually when this expression is used, it is said in a way that implies going about things in the wrong order. Perhaps suggesting a failure to plan. “A failure to plan is planning to fail.” Yeah, yeah. Whatever.

I have always been more of a Ready, Fire, Aim! kind of guy.  Sure, I plan. I rehearse. I prepare.  But, there comes a time when you have to pull the trigger and find out whether you’re even close to the intended target.

Think about it. When you are sighting in a rifle, the only way to know if you are on target is to pull the trigger and see where the bullet hits.

Then you can adjust the sight, take aim, and fire again.

The next time you find yourself endlessly spinning on something, trying to be perfect, refusing to accept anything other than a bullseye on the first shot, remember that you can’t know for sure whether the guide you are using, the assumptions you have made, are accurate – until you take a shot.

Be willing to make some mistakes. Be willing to miss the bullseye a few times as you adjust your sights and fine tune your approach. Just be sure your rifle is pointed down range.