Friday, September 26th, 2008

Random observations – Part 3

Random observations – Part 3
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It’s a September Friday and it looks as though the sun may make an appearance. I’m in one of those “places” where everything seems to be moving along pretty nicely. As such, I thought I’d share another set of random observations (there are others here and here).

I’ll be honest, as I read through these notes, they seem like they could be taken as being “know-it-all-ish” (not a word—I know). Please don’t see them as that; they’re simply the thoughts that have crossed my mind over the past few months. You decide if they’re worth anything.

21. Design your future and you’ll grow into it

Treating possibility as fact helps make it so. For example, if you tell your friends that you’re going to run a marathon, you’ll feel awfully silly if you don’t. I update my bio with things that I want to accomplish in the months ahead. Somehow this seems to help these things seem “real” and actually happen.

22. Six washroom meetings

The UK building at Hastings and Granville street is largely occupied by engineers, accountants and the like. When we rented a space there I felt that people seemed unfriendly. With time that changed.

I started to note a trend. If I met someone in the washroom they seemed uncomfortable; but with each subsequent meeting things slowly became less so. By the sixth passing, we’d be asking one another how our days were going.

It takes frequency to break through barriers.

23. Less isn’t more, it’s just better

Last weekend I sorted through all of the things in our house. There are many, even though we are neither wealthy, nor do we horde. I must say that given the small space we live in, the things we don’t need seem to get in the way an awful lot.

This leads me to ask: Why do we need to be so successful? Why do we feel that we need more?

I keep coming back to the idea that “less” may be the answer. Just think: less to fix, less to worry about, less to get carried-away by.

24. “Less of good” instead of “more of bad”

Advertising tells us we deserve a great deal and we often act accordingly. We race to buy things we don’t need and scramble to experience everything we can.

The people I know who are successful do the opposite. They focus on one thing they love and they make their whole life about just that.

25. Playing at a higher level is mostly about details

At Deb’s Cafe they carefully select their beans and lovingly roast them on the premises. This results in a wonderful and awakening aroma. They use only the finest ingredients in their beverages as they deeply believe in crafting an impeccable experience.

They view their service with equal reverence. The barista, Mike, remembers customers’ names and how they like their coffee. He warms each cup and garnishes every saucer with a sliver of fine dark chocolate. (He believes this enhances the flavor.)

The shop features comfortable furnishings that are kept in a clean and orderly fashion, while imported newspapers give customers a window to the world. On occasion the shopkeepers give their loyal patrons a slice of homemade apple pie at no cost, to thank them for their patronage.

Many shops serve coffee but Deb’s Cafe is about more than this. By making every detail matter, they give their customers a heavenly experience. Tell the truth… If you found a place like this would you ever go back to a franchise?

Incidentally, Deb’s Cafe is fictional. Perhaps you should start a coffee shop like this; I’d certainly like to visit.

26. Make your logo smaller

People love their logos and like to show them everywhere. Similarly, new parents love their babies, and often bombard friends and colleagues with photos.

Seeing one is great; beyond that, however, any interest exhibited by the viewer is likely just politeness.* Use your logo to identify your organization, and then keep it out of the way. This allows you to keep the focus on your audience, and how you can make their lives better.

* Please exclude grandparents from this generalization.

27. Love something

I last worked in February 2001. I left a perfectly respectable job in order to pursue my own dreams. This choice did come with stress; however, I’ve always felt that my days are well spent. I do what I love and this has resulted in interesting days.

I’m at the office as much (or more) than anyone, but it never feels like work. In comparison, many who work a scant 40 hours a week feel as though they are stuck in prison.

28. What it takes to win

I’ve learned something from design awards. They’re easy to win; you just have to play the game.

People often confuse winning with being “the best”. In my experience, this is largely inaccurate. The best candidate often is lost in the shuffle for extolling irrelevant characteristics, or entering the wrong contest.

Winning means looking at the test, understanding what’s required, and clearly deciding to win it. (Sometimes this means changing the rules.)

29. Start-ups are the new indie-bands

I always loved the notion of the “indie-band”. It seems as though they craft music they love in obscurity and on some occasions get picked up by a label. This model allows them to build something really good before they have earned too much money.

The other day it struck me that start-ups are much the same. You toil about in your garage, eating noodles, scraping-by to make something you love. If you’re lucky, you get funded or acquired when someone understands what you’re working towards.

30. Persistence isn’t sexy but it works

When things don’t work out exactly as planned, a change of course is awfully seductive. Unfortunately, this results in starting many things while completing few.

There are obstacles everywhere. The smart play might involve staying the course and maintaining a level of determination that others can’t match. (A bulldozer might help too.)

And that does it…

This is the last of my random observations for a while. If you’re interested in the little things that I’m grappling with though, you might find them on my (new) personal blog.

Follow @karj to hear about these posts first.

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