Stemming from my motivational chat with a friend and a few other conversations I purchased StrengthsFinder 2.0 by Tom Rath and completed the Clifton test to see what my strengths are. Similar to knowing what motivates you, it is important to understand what your strengths are. After taking the test, the book provides great description of how you operate day to day due to your strengths, and how to leverage them in your favor.
I enjoyed how in the beginning of the book Rath talks about Rudy Ruettiger’s story, which you may be familiar with from the movie “Rudy.” He points out that although Rudy succeeded in playing football for Notre Dame (and he did so due to his focus and persistence), there is only so far you can go without talent. It is like a multiplier:
Talent (a natural way of thinking, feeling, or behaving)
Investment (time spent practicing, developing your skills, and building a knowledge base)
Strength (the ability to consistently provide near-perfect performance)
So if Rudy only had on a scale of 5 a talent of 2, even with his investment of 5 he only gets a strength of 10. Athletic greats we admire such as Micheal Jordan and Joe Montana have a talent of 5 and investment of 5 resulting in a strength of 25. What Rath is getting across is that these people leveraged their strengths in their favor. I will also note, this is one of the few math problems I truly grasped right away the first time. I therefore, will not be seeking a job including much mathematics (my score would probably be a 10 like Rudy).
So What I Learned About My Top 5 Strengths:
(The book goes into much further detail, but I do not want to spoil the fun so you will have to pick up the book yourself.)
I take charge which leads me to having presence. I take a stance on things. Once my opinion is formed about something, I feel the need to share it with others and similarly, once I set a goal I am restless until I have aligned with others around me. I am not frightened by confrontation, because I know that confrontation is the first step towards resolution.
I am in constant need of achievement – it is what explains my drive. I feel as if each day I start off at zero and I must achieve something tangible at the end of the day to feel good about myself (and each day truly means “everyday”). Similarly, my high school lacrosse coach once told me that each day you only get either better or worse, that appealed to my achiever mentality.
I am constantly thinking about where I am headed. I need a clear destination or I get frustrated. This is a good thing because I am constantly making goals and instinctively evaluating events as positive or negative towards these goals. I am very impatient with delays, obstacles, or even tangents which is good to stay on task.
I am intrigued by the unique qualities of individuals. I instinctively observe other’s style and motivations as well as how they think and build relationships. I love the unique stories each person has about their life. This trait helps me build productive teams by looking at what makes each person special for whatever cause. In short, I am a people person.
My world needs to have order and planning; I need to be in control. I break long-term projects into smaller series and work through them diligently. I feel best when in a routine, there is a timeline, and structure. I am not necessarily neat and clean, but demand precision. I am very detail-oriented. I stay productive in the name of progress. Like my Dad once joked about in regards to his father, “he enjoys spontaneity when it is planned ahead of time.”
I was asked today what motivates me. Not what motivates me necessarily at my workplace, but in general what motivates me in life, intrinsically.
My inquirer said that his two main motivators were competition and doing the right thing. Now, everybody has levels of competition and doing the right thing but he said these were his top two. If you wanted him to do something, your best bet was to make it into a competition or ask him to think about what is the right thing to do. To go back on my thoughts on effort, motivation is what makes you put forth the effort you do.
He then went on to say that one person may not have much of a desire for competition, but is motivated by improving a team. So you wouldn’t motivate this person by making sales percentages a competition, but you would be able to motivate this person by saying if we got such and such sales percentages it would help the team to do this, this person would be right on it.
So it made sense to me to think about what motivates me most. In some way I think it will help my productivity and usefulness in the world at some point, right? What I came down to was this:
I am motivated by the pursuit of perfection. I know that perfection is not attainable and that the greatest things are not necessarily perfect. So perhaps I am motivated by not necessarily the perfect outcome but perfect execution. I am not sure I can go into this idea any further in my own words, but I will say that I admire and wish to emulate things that for me seem like perfect execution. I see different outlooks in the people around me, I see it in stories, and in movies. It is the pursuit for greatness; the pursuit for something beyond what we see everyday. I think this is where some aspects of my personality and outlook on life make sense – I am an optimist, a romantic, and an idealist at the core. These qualities each strive for something greater than we are used to. So therefore, I am certain my motivation is the journey towards perfection.
Lying under this pursuit for perfect I believe is the desire for success, but I think that is behind everyone’s motivation however they define success. I would also add in succession of success, people’s admiration, but again I think that is across our human make up. I would suggest you take the time to think about this too. It will certainly be an interesting conversation you have with yourself. I am not sure what good knowing your motivator will do, be sure to let me know what you come across. What does your motivation mean about who you are, what you are doing, and what you are meant to do?
The National Hockey League (NHL) has seen 18 teams fold or relocate since the league began in 1917. Of course the majority of those teams were put under those circumstances from country-wide events such as the Great Depression and World War II. Similarly to many sports in the U.S. that have grown to be part of the American culture, the league saw great expansion and popularity increase with improvements in broadcasting and communication in and around the 1970′s. Several teams have moved in and out of Canada: two of these were the Quebec Nordiques who became the Colorado Avalanche in 1995 and the Winnepeg Jets who became the Phoenix Coyotes in 1996.
Essentially, the general trend in the NHL expansion was movement to large, commercially prosperous cities in the U.S. in hopes grow the sport. Franchises were founded in large southern cities like Phoenix (AZ), Raleigh (NC), Dallas (TX), Tampa Bay (FL), Sunrise (FL), Nashville (TN), and Atlanta (GA). Not to say that no hockey franchise should exist in these cities – the Tampa Bay Lightening have been very successful as a franchise – but, for a time being the NHL was trying to grow in an unnatural direction. Owners of the league pushed for making hockey similar to the the National Football League (NFL), America’s most prosperous sports league, by aiming for large markets; this can also be illustrated by the NHL implementing flashy jerseys throughout the past decade.
Thankfully I commend the NHL for what looks like several moves in the right direction. Since the lockout (cancelled 2004-2005 season) it seems that the NHL has made effort to bring the league back to its roots. Hockey is a gritty culture, it is not flashy like the NFL or as widespread as the MLB (Major League Baseball). The league has reverted back to historic-looking jerseys and some of the older logos – best example of this is the Buffalo Sabres – and has a marketing team that has implemented a great tradition like The Winter Classic (an annual outdoor regular season game on New Year’s Day). In addition the NHL seems to be out of the dark ages by finally putting out great commercials to showcase the sport (“NHL: Where Legends Happen” Ad) and getting a solid contract for national television coverage on Versus.
Most importantly in the changing NHL is the buzz that hockey is moving back into some of the old Canadian cities, such as Winnipeg. Finally the executives of the NHL have realized that it is not the size of the market, but the passion within the market that truly matters. Successful franchises, and similarly successful businesses beyond sports, grow in markets that passionate and not necessarily large. Hockey is Canada’s national winter sport and if you talk to people who watched games in cities like Winnipeg or Quebec they will tell you there is no similar crowd. So bring back hockey to Winnipeg. There is no need to have a winter sports team in a large southern city that does not fully welcome the sport as it is. This is an important lesson that the NHL has showed us: stay true to your culture and your original market before looking to change or expand, because the passionate followers will take care of you.
So live on the NHL. Keep up the good work. Keep true at least for the fathers and sons, because there is few other events that I enjoy watching more than hockey with my dad. And as always, go Boston Bruins!
What 2 all nighters in 3 days has taught me:
I was in a class the other day where we were discussing the aspects of paying a CEO to leave a company. Essentially, it is an event when it is better for the corporation to rid itself of one of its leaders, so it pays a compensation to end the contract between the two parties. The same instance happens in sports, when a team wants to get out of a contract with a player. These compensations generally become very large, which presents the question “how much is someone really worth?”. A student quickly responded that she would accept any amount someone would give her, no matter how high.
She said if someone perceives you to be of a certain worth and is willing to pay, you have every right to accept that payment. In reaction, I interrupted and exclaimed how if that is the case than the acceptor has no modesty. It is not only a question about your perceived worth, but how much you really need. It is not the right to accept any payment, but the responsibility to only accept what is reasonable. I would like to think that I have sense to cap what is given to me, because there is a point where you do not need the money and someone else does. I look honorably towards the CEO’s who gave themselves dramatic pay cuts in times of financial crisis to allow more money to go to employees who really need and deserve it. I hope one day to be in the position to be able to make such a sound decision, where I am afraid others won’t.
I am taking a fantastic class right now about identity – how identies are formed, how they are fought for, how they are given up. In the class occasionally the conversation comes up about wealth at Babson.
A student in my class said that perspective students are told about the great networking possibilities at Babson and thinks that what Babson is really inferring is that there is great possibilities to befriend wealthy people at Babson.
No, that is not what Babson means by networking my friend. I think the networking at Babson is different from other colleges (because you can network anywhere obviously) because the student body is made up of mostly driven people.
Now looking at the influence wealth has in our lives, but simplifying it down to Babson, we see that wealth certainly creates an identity, or in other words a grouping. We don’t treat each other (the more affluent and less) differently in the course of the day and our work. No one really cares or pays attention to it. Although when it comes to the end of the day, or rather what we do with our free time, there is a difference. This difference is simply because we grew up differently, thus our lifestyles have been different. So to make a generalization for the sake of discussion, those who had more money growing up tend to leave Babson on the weekends to spend money in Boston. Those who had a slightly different financial situation tend to stay around and find things to do. Some people grew up constantly going into the city to shop or go to clubs, others grew up playing around in the woods or catching the latest movie at the movie theater. These lifestyles are simply different and lead to one of the few divides on the Babson campus, although this division has no effect on how we interact in class or throughout the day.
Networking should not be about wealth. It should be about personalities and determination. It should be about finding people you enjoy working with, not who you can borrow money from. I certainly don’t remember people by how I could call upon them later for a monetary favor, but rather if their character is someone that I would enjoy working with and think together we could make some sort of difference.
To continue with this class discussion, the same student later said “Babson teaches you that money brings happiness. For example look at FME [a freshman entrepreneurship course where you run a real business], the class is only happy when the company is making money.” No, this is not what Babson teaches. I do believe though, that the mindset the money brings happiness is something that some students at Babson do have, but this idea was not bred at Babson, but rather earlier in their life who knows how. Certainly some people at Babson are looking for that six figure job right out of school, but I think there are plenty of student’s who just care about providing something that would help others and make themselves feel good as well.
Recently I went and saw a screening of the new documentary “Race to Nowhere – The Dark Side of America’s Achievement Culture,” a film directed by mom-turned-director, Vicki Abeles. The documentary was pretty good; it was nowhere close to the best film I have scene, but I think it successfully served it’s purpose. What I found amazing was how stressed the youth of today is with school (one 3rd grader in the film had been medically diagnosed with serious side affects of stress including things like constant migraines). School should be full of good stress. It should be enjoyable. Why do we lose the enjoyment in school?
With some retrospect after completing my precollege education, I would say just be a good kid. Be a good person. Don’t be a performer, a test taker. What is the real purpose of tests? The purpose is to see what you understand. It is an evaluation. Does it makes sense to be studying to do well on the test or to study to do well and have the test evaluate you. Those are two very different ways to look at studying. I would say that the latter is the better way to learn and grow. I came to this realization early in the first semester of my freshman year of college. Work on learning and understanding and you will do well. If you are aiming for a certain grade on an assignment, you will struggle because your goal, consumes your thought process. The end result distracts from what is important, the process of getting there. Don’t worry about making the grade. Work on doing your best and you will make the grade and more. The stress in our current education comes from the emphasis on the final goal of attending a great college or university. We should not be searching for what surveys call the best college, but the college that is the best fit for ourselves.
The film critiques the educational system we have today and how it is based purely on making the grade. This is not a bad thing except what we are being graded on is flawed. This is not to say we need to get rid of grades – not at all. We need a standard for our accreditations to make sure that professionals are qualified for their work. But in our pre-professional school systems, especially in high school, there needs to be a larger emphasis on another “test”. How about a test that simply asks, “how well are you doing what you love?”. I feel like we hear “do what you love” growing up, but it has an undertone that you will probably fail. It’s like saying give it a try, but you probably won’t get there. Instead, how about daring you to do what you love. Don’t compromise on anything. I heard from a friend that was told in a business lecture that you have a responsibility to excel in what you are good at, but you only have to be average at everything else. I think that makes sense. How about evaluations that include whether you are on-track with your learning and if you are pursuing improvement in what you have a talent for.
In the film there is a small section about the Blue School, an education program that was founded by the founders of Blue Man Group. It’s goal is to keep kids loving school through until 12th grade. The school may not look like what schools used to, but our world doesn’t look the same anymore either. I think that is a very cool idea and what is fascinating is how much the school is based on the original principles of Blue Man Group. Both is about recombining influences to create something new in our world, while at the same time having a good time doing it. In a way it’s about maintaining the enjoyment of being a kid. I want to always be a kid and personally I will be fighting for it all the way. I encourage you to read the letter from the founders to see how brilliant of a system they have designed. Happiness should be the only metric.
The ideology of education needs to be changed. Our educational system should be looking at how to get a motivated, creative being who is happy. That should be the real goal.
Sandwich Creamery in Sandwich, New Hampshire leaves a portion of their creamery open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week with 2 coolers full of ice cream and a refrigerator filled with various cheeses. There is a sign that tells the prices of each of the various signs and there is a mail-slot where you donate the money. The whole operation is based completely on the honor system. Believing in such integrity adds to the culture that surrounds the creamery and what chiefly brings people back time after time.
I have countless stories of trips to the creamery at all hours of the day. The most common scenario was probably my friends and I in a packed car at 10:30pm making our way through the dark woods to get some delicious ice cream, while of course telling some sort of scary story along the way. After many trips we would even purposefully take another route to get lost and increase the adventure (which sometimes may have been at the expense of more concerned passengers in the car).
The creamery made simply buying ice cream more about the experience – with damn good ice cream as the commonality. The creamery promoted bonding with friends and family. Whenever you buy something, it should be about the experience as well as the product. Or rather, the experience should be the product. Basing the creamery on customer integrity is the core of the Sandwich experience. For high school kids growing up in New Hampshire it is an example of how things should be, with honesty and friendship held to the highest standard. That is the kind of place I grew up. Wouldn’t it be nice if more businesses were able to find a similar practice?
Boston is a unique city. What I love about it is how welcoming Boston is to unique little business treasures. The city is full of hidden gems that bring a great culture to the area. It is a fun city to be in because there is the possibility of a great find around every corner and a chance in every little niche.
Now I cannot give away all my Boston secrets (nor could I recall all of them in one sitting anyway), but I would like to point out two I think are reasonably well known in the community.
The first is Johnny Cupcakes. In essence, Johnny Cupcakes is a unique t-shirt company that has the quintessential start-up story (see Nutrition Facts in the store on the wall) and provides not only well-designed t shirts, but a culture. I annually go into the store to get a t shirt or two from Johnny Cupcakes because I like the style, but also love the idea and the feeling behind the t shirts. The store brings people together as well – you see someone with a J-Cups t shirt it is an instant conversation starter. The two of you are quickly on the same page, because you know that you both value this certain kind of product that has an attention to detail, it’s consumers, and expression. Fantastic branding!
The second hidden gem of Boston I will tell you about is Bodega. A store that from the outside looks like a third-world convenience store, but on the inside is furnished with elaborate hard wood floors and high end clothing ranging from unique Nike’s to Polo’s. Now where to find it or how to bridge the gap between run-down convenience store and luxurious retailer I cannot say. Although the description is vague, what I am saying is what I great unique idea! There should be more creativity in business these days. There needs to be a greater attention to detail regarding how you will sell your products. I think this is an important aspect that is far too often overlooked.
If you are looking for more amazing Boston locations, you’ll just have to find me in person to ask. But in the meantime, think about what businesses like Johnny Cupcakes and Bodega are doing right. Boston businesses thrive on creativity and that is something that everyone enjoys.
One of the places I spend a considerable amount of free time is Rock Spot Climbing Gym in Dedham. I think climbing is an excellent sport that allows you to relax as well as get exercise. When I need to clear my head I go to the climbing gym. It’s different than running where your mind can wander – when you climb you are focused; when I walk into the gym I leave the world behind. It is a place for friends, encouragement, and relaxation.
Rock Spot Climbing does several things right in terms of the business that they provide. First is culture, which I eluded to above. It is place filled with good vibes. They play awesome music and host fun events like glow climbing (in picture above). But one of the attributes of the gym I think makes Rock Spot unique is their availability. The gym is open from 10am to midnight every day of the week. I would say that the gym’s availability facilitates much of their success because it broadens their market by including those who only have free time during late hours. Availability of a business is vital to their overall customer service, especially when you are providing a place to do something like a gym.
This leads into my theory that customer service is the heart of business. I will certainly go into this more in the future, perhaps after piecing together more examples in future blogs, but in short I think that it is necessary to have excellent customer service to have people fall in love with it and be promoters. Everything comes down to the culture around a product or service. It comes down to how reliable a business is to its customers in providing them with things they care about. Yes people care about the sole product when choosing where to buy, but people also care about how the company is making that product, how they are treating their employees, how they are influencing their local neighborhoods, how they respond to mistakes – essentially they care about the business as a whole. They care about the certainty they can have with a company – the trust they have in that company.