"We gather knowledge faster than we gather wisdom." - William Bell

On Moving Up. And How To Do It Well.

Posted: May 24th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Random | Tags: , , , , , , , | No Comments »

I play a lot of ultimate frisbee. I’ve written about it before here and here. Recently, I was selected for a high level men’s team that represents Montreal. They’re good. The level of play is higher than any other team that I’ve been a part of. They’ve won national championships and they’ve gone to worlds. For my ultimate frisbee career, this was a move up for me. When this happened, I was REALLY excited. It would give me a chance to learn from a group with a high level of experience, strategy and skill.

And then something interesting happened – they changed my position. I normally play a cutter, because I’m quick on the field. They changed me to a handler. The football equivalent would be moving a wide receiver to play quarterback. When this happened, I almost shit my pants. I had no idea why they thought that I would be a good handler. I had basically no experience in that role. I didn’t know the positioning, strategy or throws required. I was in fear of seriously screwing up and getting benched.

The stark reality of promotions is that people usually get pushed into positions of greater responsibility by being really good at the tasks that they already do. The challenge is that the new position often involves a completely different skill set than what was required from the previous role. Basically, because you were good at one thing, you’re asked to do something completely different. Because you’re an awesome art director, all of a sudden you’re expected to manage creative teams and guide other people’s work. But being good at concepting and art direction doesn’t give you the skill set to manage people. It’s a totally different beast. You have to deal with egos, motivation, creative opinions and strategy.

When faced with a host of new responsibilities without the proper training, it’s easy to panic. Since you just got the new position, you sure as fuck don’t want to screw it up. It increases your stress levels and distracts from actually performing. To move up gracefully, and surviving the handicap of not having the full skill set for a new role, there are five key things to do:

1. Stick To What You’re Good At
The first thing to do is to stick to what you’re good at. The skills that got you to where you are. The experience that got your selected. When you first enter into a new role, a big mistake is to try and prove that you can do everything. The truth is that everyone expects you to be able to be able to those things that you haven’t learned yet. By trying to do them without guidance or experience, you’re just going to prove that you CAN’T do them to everyone. So, lay low on your weaker points for the first little while. For the first big game, you want to stick to your core skill set. If you’re fast on the field and can only throw with 95% accuracy within 30 meters, then stick to that.

2. Get A Mentor. Or Two.
The next step is to get a mentor. The goal is to find someone who is willing to teach you the ropes and fill out your skill set. You want someone who has been there before. The good thing about a team or a big organization is that there are a lot of people who can help you out. And don’t be afraid to approach a couple of people. Some people can help you with throwing. Some people with cutting. With positioning. With defense. Ask everyone what you need to do better in order to play better on the team. Get constant feedback, tips and improvement. The goal is to get enough tips so that when you practice, you are practicing the right things.

3. Practice. A Lot.
To fill in the skill gaps required in your new position, you need to practice. A lot. It’s all about repetition. Getting enough experience under your belt that the movements are easy and automatic. The goal is to have near-perfect execution in practice. When it comes to game time, you can focus on the important things, like reading the opposition and adjusting your strategy. This step is often the toughest, because there is no shortcut. You just need to put in the hours to gain the experience. Dirk Nowitzki’s recent NBA playoff record  of nailing 24 straight free throws was a product of practice. He credited it all to a couple of late night shooting sessions during their eight day game-less stretch in the playoffs. He just put in the reps.

4. Game Time – Introduce New Skills.
After a couple weeks of practice, you have a shiny new skill set that you want to incorporate into your game. But treat the introduction of those skills as a test. If they work, then keep using them. If not, then try to figure out what when wrong and fine tune. If worst comes to worst, go back to the practice stage. Keep on working on your skills until they’re game ready. There is no need to force new elements in before they’re ready. The key is to introduce them as a part of your game, and than carry on with the swagger that you had all along.

5. Fake It ‘Til You Make It
Until you have the full skill set required, keep on faking it until you make it. Don’t show the weaknesses in your game to your opponents on the field or to your clients in the boardroom. Just keep on practicing and working the extra hours until you get those skills locked in. People always assume that if you’re on the team or in the room, that you’ve earned your way there. Don’t prove them wrong by volunteering the information to show that you’re not.

Getting the call up is exciting and terrifying at the same time. Whether you’re moving into a new role at work or on the playing field, the emotions are the same. There is the enthusiasm at the opportunity to move up to the next level. There is the fear of failing now that the stakes are that much higher.

In order to be successful in a new position, you need to round out your skill set. But you don’t have to do it all at once. The reason you got the call up is because of what you’ve already proven that you can do. You can take your time and introduce the new elements as you get more comfortable with your role and yourself.

- Christian

Friday Inspiration

Posted: May 13th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Inspiration | Tags: , , , | No Comments »

Visions of Visionaries series with Talilb Kweli from MADE Blog on Vimeo.

- Christian

Friday Inspiration

Posted: May 6th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Inspiration | Tags: , , , , | No Comments »


1. Take into account that great love and great achievements involve great risks.

2. When you lose, don’t lose the lesson.

3. Follow the three “R’s”:
- Respect for self
- Respect for others, and
- Responsibility for all your actions.

4. Remember that not getting what you want is sometimes a wonderful stroke of luck.

5. Learn the rules so you know how to break them properly.

6. Don’t let a little dispute injure a great friendship.

7. When you realize you’ve made a mistake, take immediate steps to correct it.

8. Spend some time alone every day.

9. Open your arms to change, but don’t let go of your values.

10. Remember that silence is sometimes the best answer.

11. Live a good, honorable life. Then when you get older and think back, you’ll be able to enjoy it a second time.

12. A loving atmosphere in your home is the foundation for your life.

13. In disagreements with loved ones, deal only with the current situation. Don’t bring up the past.

14. Share your knowledge. It’s a way to achieve immortality.

15. Be gentle with the earth.

16. Once a year, go someplace you’ve never been before.

17. Remember that the best relationship is one in which your love for each other exceeds your need for each other.

18. Judge your success by what you had to give up in order to get it.

19. Approach love and cooking with reckless abandon.

Have a good Friday and a great weekend!

- Christian

The Cue Card Brainstorming Strategy

Posted: May 4th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Brainstorming Techniques | Tags: , , , , , , , | No Comments »

You start with a problem. A problem that you want to solve. So then you try to brainstorm solutions. Think of creative ideas. Come up with cool things to do. But too often people get brought right down to the execution.

How would we do this? What could it look like? Do you think it would work in Brazil? Does it translate to Portuguese? It’s like picking the colour of your drapes before you even have the blueprints for your house. It’s stupid. It’s distracting. It’s a waste of time.

The goal of brainstorming is to come up with as many solutions to the problem as possible. Details are distracting. So is feasibility. Ignore the small details to create big ideas.

One of my favourite methods for tackling is problem is to use cue cards and big felt marker. The small size of the cards and the inability to write small with a big marker force you to think in concepts, not details. Here’s how you do it:

Start with a well defined problem.
Take a stack of cue cards and a felt tip marker.
Set a time limit.
Write one idea per card.
If you can’t fit one idea per card, it’s too complicated.
Fire out as many ideas as possible.
Then stop.

Take a break.
Get a coffee.
Take a nap.
Whatever floats your boat.

The cards will be able to be grouped into idea buckets.
So group them.
Spread them across a table or the floor.
Throw out the ones that are horrible.
The ones that are stupid.
The ones that could never work.
Put them all into a pile.
Put that pile in the trash.

Now go back to the groupings of ideas.
Build on the ones that have potential.
Add in more details.
Throw in stuff that would be cool.
Dream up expansions to the ideas.

Now you have piles of different concepts.
Each of them has the potential to solve your problem.
Figure out which one you like the best.

Once you’ve decided on the solution, you can start to fill in the details. You can get distracted by the many ways of bringing it to life. You can tackle the hardest part – actually making it happen. But not before you’ve decided on the idea.

- Christian