Writing a Mission Statement

For 2015 I want to clarify my personal mission statement so it can be an anchor for my decisions moving forward. 

 

To Explore the World & Explain what matters

 

It is good for your mission statement to be short, easy to remember. But most importantly, your mission statement should clearly summarize what you are all about. Anytime you are doing something that doesn't align with your mission statement you should seriously consider why you are doing it.

Exploration - I am insatiably curious. I love to learn about new things and I always want to know why they matter.

Explanation - I love to make complicated things simple. I love to translate big ideas in easy to understand ways.

This mission statement stays broad and flexible while also creating guard rails to keep me from getting off course. A mission statement is different than a vision statement, which is an idealistic goal that your mission could accomplish.

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Jonathan Collins resides in Portland, OR with his wife and two sons. He is a co-founder of EpipheoSincerely Truman and The Bible Project. He enjoys turning ideas into realities, writing, speaking and breakfast burritos.

The Cost of Losing Focus

The cost of losing focus is massive. It is bigger than the potential upside of any open door.

The problem is I hate saying no to things. I think of everything I’m invited into as an opportunity, something that could one day have a great payoff. I hate closing doors. I’d rather keep them open. I have convinced myself that this strategy is smart. After all, it is good to be diversified, to have a large portfolio of opportunities.

But there is a cost in leaving a door open. Every open door requires that part of my attention gets pulled in that direction, to watch it, to think about it, to oil it when it squeaks, to make sure unwanted critters don’t come in.

It is easy to think it doesn’t cost anything to keep doors open, but the truth is it costs something very serious, it costs focus.

Focus is one of the most valuable things I have. When I have focus I’m productive and effective. When I have focus I sleep well. When I’m focused on projects during the day I can switch my focus to my family at night. These things are invaluable.

The opposite of having focus is being divided in attention. When my attention is divided I’m trying to pay attention to too many things. I am less productive. I wake up in the middle of the night processing something I’ve neglected to pay attention to during the day. I try to solve problems in the evenings when I should be present with my family or friends.


Closing doors is the best way to regain focus.

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Jonathan Collins resides in Portland, OR with his wife and two sons. He is a co-founder of EpipheoSincerely Truman and The Bible Project. He enjoys turning ideas into realities, writing, speaking and breakfast burritos.

What are you Orbiting?

An orbit happens when an object has such a strong gravitational pull that a smaller, nearby object can’t help but to get sucked towards its mass. They are then held in a pattern around that mass in a perpetual free fall.

This is true for physical matter in space but it is also a metaphor for how we make decisions in our lives. Humans by nature like to orbit around something.

Sometimes we as humans orbit a grand idea, think of this like a planet orbiting a sun. Sometimes ideas are so powerful that we are pulled into them and our lives continually spin around them.

Sometimes we orbit around other people, think of this like a moon orbiting a planet. Some people are so charismatic and visionary that you are pulled towards them in perpetual free fall continually spinning around their personality.

If you are orbiting a visionary person remember that they are also orbiting something, usually and idea.  So the best thing to do is to find out what idea they are orbiting and then you won't ever wonder where you are going by orbiting that person.

Getting pushed out of the orbit of a person or an idea is a scary moment, a moment of flying blindly into the darkness of space. It is natural to want to quickly find another person or idea to orbit. Choose wisely.

 

 

Employees are a Dying Breed

Both of my Grandfathers on either side were career Boeing men. My Dad was a career Police Officer. It wasn't uncommon just a generation ago for a worker to choose an industry and an employer and stick with it their entire life. 

Things are changing fast.

ChangingWorkplace

Less and less do workers want a normal 9-5 job. 

According to a study by Intuit, by 2020 40% of Americans will be Freelancers. Freelancers made up only 7% of the workforce in 2005 and is around 15% today. The Beurau of Labor Statistics is less bullish and is expecting Freelancers to make up 20% of the workforce by 2020

According to a study by the University of Phoenix 63% of people in their twenties have started a business or want to start a business.

What does this mean for businesses? The idea of traditional employment as a norm is going to change. Businesses need to embrace that every worker is their own brand and are as important the company's brand. The most successful businesses will embrace and encourage the new paradigm.


Jonathan Collins resides in Portland, OR with his wife and two sons. He is a co-founder of EpipheoSincerely Truman and The Bible Project. He enjoys turning ideas into realities, writing, speaking and breakfast burritos.

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The Art of Procrastination

Right now there are a number of tasks that I’m avoiding. If I were to examine all of these tasks I would notice they have in common one thing, which is a sense of dread around them. I can schedule time in my calendar for any of these tasks and I’ll still find ways to avoid the most overwhelming ones. For me procrastination is inevitable. So, I’ve learned to stop fighting it and to instead embrace it.

I’ve given myself permission to avoid my most overwhelming task with one caveat, I can only avoid that task if I do another task that I typically avoid but at the moment doesn’t feel as overwhelming.

So, for example, I’ve been wanting to write a blogpost for a while but writing in general is something I procrastinate from. But today, as I write this, I have a much more overwhelming task to do, which makes writing this blogpost much easier to do.

The art of procrastination is using the dread around a particularly overwhelming task to fuel productivity towards less overwhelming tasks and ultimately become more productive than I usually am.

And here is where the magic happens, when I complete a task that I was once procrastinating from, now matter how small, a chemical reward explodes in my brain saying, “well done.” And now that I've rope toed into that chemical wave I'll keep riding it all the way to shore until I have nothing left to do but that first thing I've been procrastinating from.

Sure, I still have that thing, but otherwise I was a productivity wizard.


 

Jonathan Collins resides in Portland, OR with his wife and two sons. He is a co-founder of EpipheoSincerely Truman and The Bible Project. He enjoys turning ideas into realities, writing, speaking and breakfast burritos.

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Data is Noise Until it is Part of a Story

Every day I receive an absurd amount of data to absorb, from what I was dreaming about when I woke up, to what is on the radio when I drive into work, to what is in my twitter feed when I check my phone. I have multiple conversations, hundreds of emails, and a calendar full of tasks. My body is sending signals about how it feels, people are sending signals about how they feel, and I am constantly plagued with new ideas, doubts and questions. There is so much data flooding into my five senses every second of the day it is a wonder I can make any sense of it. It is a wonder I don't crawl up into the fetal position and hope it all settles down.

Fortunately I don’t - at least not most days. This is not because I am incredibly smart. It is because I don’t have to sort through all this data myself. My brain does a lot of filtering for me unconsciously by asking one question: is this new piece of data important to my story. If the answer is “maybe” then it prods me to pay attention to it while allowing me to ignore everything else. If the answer becomes “yes, this is important” then it lodges that piece of information deep in me in the form of an emotion so I won’t forget about it.

This isn’t unique to me. Everyone filters unconsciously based on their own story. This means we all observe things differently. This also means we remember and attach value to different things depending on our preconceived idea of what our story is.


Jonathan Collins resides in Portland, OR with his wife and two sons. He is a co-founder of EpipheoSincerely Truman and The Bible Project. He enjoys turning ideas into realities, writing, speaking and breakfast burritos.

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Tell a Better Story

We only abandon our stories for better stories.

In the 1980's, Apple tried to convince IT Execs from big companies that there product was easier to use and cheaper to support. No one cared. It wasn't until Apple captured society's imaginations with a new type of story did consumers flock over to their products.

Apple's story was best encapsulated in their famous Superbowl commercial 1984. In the commercial they suggest that the story you are living is the story of Tyranny and Big Brother. Apple is a a tool to help you live a better story, a story if Individualism. 

Does Apple's products lead to individualism? Maybe. Can you prove it? No. But Apple didn't win with reason. They won by embracing a better story. 

You will never get someone to abandon their story with reason. The only way to get people to really change is to tell them a better story.

Capture, Cluster, Rank

If you lead a team of any kind you've experienced this before: you am working on something complicated together, there are many opinions, there is plenty of ambiguity, and it is hard to know what is important and what isn't. When this happens there is a simple exercise to get everyone out of the weeds. I call it Capture, Cluster, Rank. It works best in groups and it only takes 30 minutes.

Capture. Ask a question that gets the heart of what you are trying to do. For example, “Why does this business exist?” Have everyone write down anything that comes to mind. Use one sticky note per thought. Then fill a whiteboard wall full of as many stickies as possible.

Cluster. Use the people you are working with to rearrange the stickies into clusters of related ideas. Draw a circle around each cluster and collectively label it. If a cluster gets really big make sure it shouldn’t be broken down into a second cluster.

Rank. Allow everyone in the group to draw a dot next to their three top clusters.

By the end of this exercise you will have the collective thoughts of your team out of their heads, clustered in front of you into categories and ranked for priority. You’ve taken something fuzzy and turned it into significant visual information that helps everyone move forward.


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Jonathan Collins resides in Portland, OR with his wife and two sons. He is a co-founder of EpipheoSincerely Truman and The Bible Project. He enjoys turning ideas into realities, writing, speaking and breakfast burritos.

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Can I Explain it?

It is incredible how many things there are that I think I understand but as soon as I have to explain that thing to someone else I realize my thoughts are still fuzzy, I’ve made assumptions I can’t defend, and I can’t separate what information is important from what information is unnecessary.

When do I truly understand something?

The surest way to know if I understand something is to explain it to someone else. If I can get another person to understand it then I know I understand it too. This doesn’t mean that other person has to agree with me. In this exercise I am merely interested if I can get the person to understanding.

Why should I understand something this well? Isn't it enough if I understand it, even if I can't verbalize why? No. It isn't good enough. An idea has no power if it only lives in my head. An idea only becomes powerful when more than one person shares it with me.

By practicing your explanation you will refine your thoughts. You will learn what is important and what is not important. You will begin to understand that thing better yourself.

Two Permissions for Asking Questions

When you notice that something seems off, even slightly, then ask 'why' and keep asking until you get to the right answers. Sounds simple but it is incredibly hard to do, and most people just let things slide instead of asking questions. Here is why:

Sometimes we are afraid of sounding stupid. What if my question isn’t well informed?

While I am in discovery sessions with clients I like to start the day saying, “I need to ask for permission to ask you stupid questions, because I won't know if my question is stupid until after I've asked it and we've explored it." Maybe the question is stupid. No problem, lets move on. Maybe it is the question that uncovers the biggest piece of gold in the entire session. I have no idea. And trust me, I ask plenty of stupid questions to get to a good one.

Sometimes we are afraid of people getting defensive. Will you get tired of my incessant questioning?

I also start discovery sessions asking the client for permission to ask a lot of tough questions. Here is how I phrase it, “I’m on your side but I’m going to be asking hard questions. It doesn’t mean I don’t like you, in fact, in means the opposite. Sorry in advance if I come across as a dick." Usually the client is glad they have someone aggressively questioning them and at the end of the day the feedback is usually that they wished I had questioned more. 

The Gateway Drug of Questions

“What happens next?” is a simple question.

Any story makes you ask it. It is a powerful hook. What is going to happen to that guy who just lost his temper in front of his colleagues at work. What is going to happen to the girl whose mother just died?

“What happens next?”  Well, keep on with the story and you'll find out. 

“What happens next?” is the gateway drug of questions because now we are warmed up and ready to start asking  deeper questions like, "how do I find happiness?" or "what does it mean to love someone?". If you hang with the story those questions will get answered too. 

The Virtue of the Long Perspective

A lost virtue in today’s world is the ability to have a long perspective. We wildly overestimate what we can get done in a week or a month and we drastically underestimate what we can get done in five or ten years. So, make five year plans. Make ten year plans. Don’t let things that aren’t connected to your long perspective demand too much attention.

Why is the long perspective hard? We intuitively know that there are thousands of unexpected things that happen in a year or two, let alone five years. That gets overwhelming so we keep our focus on a shorter horizon.

But that is exactly the point: a lot happens in 5 years. Just because you can't predict it doesn't mean you should waddle half-hazardly through it. Having a long perspective doesn't mean you have planned for everything, it just means you have long goals. When the unexpected happens adjust or capitalize.

You likely have 25, 30, 40, 50 more productive years in you. Take it five or ten years at a time, adjust as needed, and remember, you don’t have to get it right the first time, or even the second. Be flexible, stay humble, think big.


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Jonathan Collins resides in Portland, OR with his wife and two sons. He is a co-founder of EpipheoSincerely Truman and The Bible Project. He enjoys turning ideas into realities, writing, speaking and breakfast burritos.

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