Category Archives: My $.02

My $.02 | IMHO | Moms

I’m a Dad. Which is fantastic. But as amazing as that is, I’m not and never will be a Mom. Which is humbling. Mom’s are cut from a different cloth. Which is why the best thing we can do is surround ourselves with them. As our own. As grandmothers. As aunts. As siblings. As friends. As … my wife. I’m blessed and amazed to have been raised by someone so amazing and now, to find myself standing next to someone equally brilliant.

Happy Mother’s Day, Mumma. I am and would be nothing without you. My compassionate and loving sister and I are and would be nothing without you.

Happy Mother’s Day too, Mom. You make a word I never thought I could associate to someone else, roll off the tongue.

Happy Mother’s Day to my Ba’s (gone too soon), my Masi, my Fai, my Mamis, my Kakis. And Happy Mother’s Day to my friends’ moms who represent the village that raised me. Happy Mother’s Day to my sisters, through blood and (or) through my own sheer luck. Happy Mother’s Day to all of my amazing friends who have served as role models leading up to 1/12/2014 and now, beyond.

And Happy First Mother’s Day to the love of my life, my wife. I’ve always been awed by you. And the past few months have only proven that I’ve had every reason to be. Happy Mother’s Day. Happy, Happy, Happy Mother’s Day.

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My $.02 | Work | Revisiting the Past

Resumes are interesting things. I guess LinkedIn profiles even moreso. They highlight accomplishments. We’re all taught to write our bullet points and summaries in standard formats (like STAR – Situation, Tasks, Actions, Results.) I am not crying against convention here as there is substantive, material value in highlighting what you’ve done well and achieved.

But where is the standard for self-reflection? Where is the format for all of us to reflect upon our mistakes? To look at where we made mistakes? Where we could have done better? How can we get better at seeking disconfirming evidence and critical feedback, as opposed to succumbing to our narratives and stories of success?

Before taking on a new role I do my best to reach back out to individuals I’ve worked with in the past to ask for their feedback and guidance. I share my request broadly, and I ask for feedback candidly. And I’m always amazed at the responses and interest individuals take in responding and sharing their thoughts. Often I learn as much from the time they take as the words they actually share. In advance of starting my new job at LiveIntent, I was able to connect with a few individuals for this reason:

  • Former peer and head of corporate development
  • Former boss and CMO
  • Former boss and CEO
  • Former peer and President
  • Former boss turned client
  • Former COO
  • Former mentor

That makes for seven conversations with people who have worked with me at an executive capacity and were willing to take the time to sit down with me or hop on the phone and share their advice generally, and then directed specifically at the areas and opportunities I have for improvement. I can’t thank them enough. Here’s what I heard, loudly and clearly.

  • Listen more than you talk. I heard this several times and by digging deeper into it I discovered that the problem is very obviously twofold: 1) I need to get better at active listening, and 2) I need to do a better job of making it clear that I have heard what’s been shared with me. I have a host of excuses and perspectives that I feel compelled to share here, but it doesn’t change the fact that one of the most universal pieces of advice I heard was that I could improve “how” I listened.
  • Enough with the albatrosses. I take my work very seriously, and because of that, I carry my mistakes and the company’s mistakes with me, heavily. Though I do a good job of masking these (mostly) with my team I have been told that I can do a better job of handling these with respect to my peers and my bosses (notably the CEO.) I can’t thank a former CEO enough for this advice. It resonated loudly and actually set me free from some things that have stayed with me from past roles.
  • Think a level down AND a level up. A very strong pattern in my feedback sessions focused on how often I sided with my team. It was perhaps the most challenging piece of feedback to hear. I view a core tenet of my job to be supporting for, advocating for, and developing my team. But I need to continue to do a better job of finding balance between my team and the expectations of my role. One of the best pieces of advice I was given here was to think of my role as much from a level up as I practice doing from a level down. In the case of my role at LiveIntent, it’s as much about thinking about my job from the POV of our President and our CEO as it is about thinking of my role from the POV of my team.
  • Overcommunicate, and overcommunicate about overcommunicating. I tend to communicate to the level I believe I’m being heard. I’ve tried overcompensating on either side, by either assuming everything is being read or assuming nothing is (culture has dictated both.) But what I have to make sure I do is highlight the reason I’m communicating as much as I am and then validate that the audience finds it to be appropriate. And when in doubt. err on the side of more information and context while providing the recipient an easy out in the form of “here’s why I’m sharing, tell me if it’s too much or too little, and until you do, I’ll keep doing what I’m doing.”
  • Don’t stop having fun. When you feel it happening, find a way to reverse it. Walk around the block. Step back and take a day off. Tell your boss the way you’re feeling and why. But find a way to transparently share what’s happening and invite people in to help you get out of your rut. Because when you stop having fun, everyone around you knows it. And when everyone around you knows it, the slippery slope to negative momentum steepens and gets that much more slick.
  • Remember why you were hired. And if you’re not sure, ask the question up front. With every new role comes a new layer of accountability and ownership. Don’t outsource your brain, don’t compromise on your values, don’t confuse collaboration and input with democracy, don’t stop moving forward and don’t stop doing these kinds of things — asking questions to find out where you can improve. It’s all of these things that made you the ideal candidate for the role you’re stepping into (assuming you were honest throughout the interview process.) So when the chips are down, reflect back on why you were hired. And put all of those reasons back on display.

I can’t thank the folks who took some time to mold me, in the past, over time, and just these past few weeks. I am whatever and whoever I am today because of your influence. Hopefully, it’s something you take a little pride in.

LiveIntent, here I come. Better for the wear. Better for all the care.

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My $.02 | Work | Guiding Principles

Tomorrow, 5/7, I take another step forward in my career when I join LiveIntent as CMO. It’s humbling. It’s an honor. Like any big move I’m motivated and excited about the challenge. And like any normal human being, I’m acutely aware that I have as much power to make things go well as I do to muck things up.

As I enter my new role, excited to work with this amazing group of people who found some value in my experiences and my person enough to invite me to join them, I took some time to reflect on some of my guiding principles. An exercise that served me well in my decision to leave my last role in search of a new one, and a decision that made it right to choose LiveIntent among my several competitive (and equally humbling) offers.

  • Progress to perfection must be a permanent exercise and should be a fruitless one. The world changes too much, and these days, also too quickly. If you’ve set yourself on the correct path, the final goal post should move farther out every time you look up to see how close you’ve gotten. When I look at what makes me happy, it’s clear that I find the permanence and pursuit of greater goals to be more motivating than I find the fruitless nature of them to be demotivating. Per James Thurber, I prefer to be the moth in pursuit of the star as opposed to the siblings in pursuit of a street lamp.
  • Maintain perspective and context by balancing confidence with humility. There are no stupid clients and there are no arrogant teams. There is merely a commitment to a lack of context and introspection. In any situation it is important that you understand the role you play in the lives of the people you serve — whether it be your employees, your clients, your investors professionally, your family and friends personally, or the world and the environment around you as a citizen. Maintain context. Because inflating your own value in your own eyes will make you miss the bigger picture and the opportunities around you, while also making you come across as foolish when all is said and done.
  • Be just as willing to act as you are to espouse. People are increasingly given platforms to share their thoughts. I believe this opportunity (from social media to document sharing to ill-timed meetings) has created a culture of conversation but not of action. As I look back at the people who have helped me and the people who I have enjoyed working with the most, it is not those who tell the greatest stories (stories can always change, stories can always extend — Hollywood has proven that with the sequel.) I find myself gravitating most toward those who work and deliver, and have committed myself to always being the one to bell-the-cat.
  • If you’re given the option, choose being clear over being clever. There’s no fable here. These are the words of my Jivan Mama, one of the strongest mentors in my life. When I was young and we were at dinner together, I used to just listen to him talk about how he approached his life and his work. One of the best pieces of advice I received from him was his desire to always be perceived as clear. I don’t think I do this nearly well enough, but boy do I want to. The moral of the story here is about where you focus. If you focus on being clever, you’re playing a game. Your energy, and the energy of everyone around you, is then focused on the playing the game as well. But by being clear, and by eliminating noise, you shift your focus from day-to-day gamesmanship and instead, focus on the outcomes. When you’re clear, nobody has to worry about what you’re thinking, what your priorities are, or how things will be received — everyone can instead focus on the task itself and the desired outcome.

There is no shortage of morals or lessons learned to pull from as I start my new role at LiveIntent. I’ll be posting one more on lessons learned from the past. But on this Tuesday morning, less than 24 hours before I start, these four bullets are the ones I find myself settling on with the greatest conviction. Looking forward to starting my new job, and to continuing to get better.

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My $.02| How to not Completely Suck (as a Dad) During Pregnancy

So I’m at day 1 of month 2 of being a dad. Obviously, I’m an expert. And obviously, I’m lying.

You may have read some of my posts to my daughter. I’m attempting to chronicle my feelings and experiences in the context of a conversation with my daughter and what sentiments I believe best express my love for her on that day. This post however, is something different. I am the beneficiary of a truckload of amazing advice. And I wanted to take a few minutes to document some of the things I learned and wish I had known at various stages leading up to and through raising the most amazing being the world has ever known — aka, my daughter.

I don’t want this blog post to turn unwieldy. So I’m going to focus on a few key things that I think helped me not completely and utterly suck (as much) during the pregnancy.

A Little Behind, A Little Ahead

It starts by understanding one very true reality; I think I came to terms with it instantly. Hell, i was happy about it. On one hand, your wife is always going to be months ahead of you when it comes to having a connection with your baby. She is the center of attention and the doll and darling of the universe at this point in time. My friends and family have heard me say that the world loves no single thing so universally as it loves a pregnant woman. Embrace that. But juxtaposed, you’ve got a head start in one area. You are months ahead of her in realizing you are now behind the scenes. Your wife is doing for the baby by doing for herself. It’s a beautiful harmony. But you are already two steps removed from your focus and attention for what will be the rest of your life. It simply ain’t about you anymore. Embrace that like John Elway and you’ll move from Super Bowl MVP to all-star GM in no time.

Let me tell you, there’s no greater blessing than being a father. It’s the most humbling. It’s the most centering. And it will pour over into every other part of your life (I see it happening for me at work.) Everything I have done, and in an accelerating capacity, is more and more about the work that needs to be done. Pure and simple. It’s Gita-esque. Like Arjuna seeing nothing but the eye of the bird.

What Works for You

After you recognize your new place in this world, you need to figure out how you learn most effectively. Do you prefer to talk to people and synthesize advice that way? Do you defer to credentialed experts? Do you learn at your wife’s pace or on your own? What makes you comfortable and what inspires  you to learn and empathize.

For me as I’d assume for most, there is no single answer or methodology. Life is hectic. And I learn best when I find those things that fold most easily and effectively into my workflow. So I leaned on the things that I used and referenced every day.

Reading for You

The Expectant Father – My research started with reading. I need a foundational layer, some background, before entering into most discussions. It’s why I’m always on the web on my phone before any meeting, impromptu or otherwise. I hate being uninformed and I hate having no context. This book was referred to me by many. I also loved that it was “chunky.”

The book is broken up month-by-month, which is great. And each chapter (month) also starts with a breakdown of what you are feeling and what your wife is feeling. I chose to read TEF month-by-month, and I chose to be a month ahead of what my wife was experiencing. It allowed me to experience her pregnancy in synch, not losing any of the magic and keeping me present in the experience, while also allowing me to anticipate some of what she was going to go through. Whether physical, emotional, or otherwise. The number of times I was able to anticipate certain things by having the right equipment on hand was pretty great (food, candles, clothing.) And the number of times I was actually able to put my wife’s mind at ease by telling her that certain things she was experiencing were fully normal given what month she was at, was also amazing. It made me feel like I was a part of the pregnancy, and like I was helping my wife. Nothing else mattered.

Reading with Her

Whether I grabbed a book off of her nightstand or proactively registered for the same sites she was registered for (think BabyCenter), I made it a point to read as much of what she was reading as I could. The reason? To understand what the hell people were telling her. TEF was great at giving me advice about her. But there’s no substitute for being plugged into whatever she chooses to read. Not fully. Not  thoroughly. That would be impossible. But at least for context and a point of reference. I found that by actually registering for BabyCenter and being a week or so ahead of my wife on emails, I was able to get a feel for some of what she was experiencing and going through in advance.

There’s a pattern here. My wife wanted to be present during her pregnancy. I wanted her to be present during her pregnancy. There is no time like it, as I mentioned above. She should squeeze the love out of every second of her pregnancy, and the only way to do that is to live truly in the moment. It’s easier for her to live in the moment if you commit to looking a few steps ahead while also empathizing. Reading and being in synch with the knowledge she’s acquiring is a great start.

Standing on Other’s Shoulders

I was lucky. Mostly because I’m a massive f*cking slacker. Everything I’ve done in my life I’ve done on a delay. Graduating. Marrying. Saving financially. Higher ed. And now, having a baby. I’m pretty much behind most of my friends my age when it comes to daddyhood. The benefit to not being first is you can learn by watching what everyone else has done, and by asking them to reflect on what mattered most to them along the way.

This isn’t about building a parenting style based on the best of what everyone else has done. This is about making yourself fully aware of what matters and what people value; and then having the confidence and conviction to understand what aligns with your own values and vice versa. In the abstract this may be fine, but I actually found it most helpful around a few very tactical and important things, examples include:

  • Doctors and Hospitals – In all honesty, I generally did not like the practice we went with on the Ob/Gyn side of things. But what was hammered into me early and often is that we needed to pick a practice based on the things my wife valued in them. One important thing for her was convenience and accessibility. She needed something close to work. The stress of picking a better practice 45 minutes away would have put an emotional burden on her that simply wasn’t worth it on the day-to-day. I didn’t always hide my dissatisfaction well (I broke once), but generally, I think I was able to keep this hidden enough so it never got in the way. And in the end, given that my wife was hit by gestational diabetes, having a practice nearby and convenient was simply the best decision we could have made.
  • Handling Labor – I got some fantastic advice on how to help my wife handle labor pains — but I got it from my friend’s wives who were in labor. I simply asked them what their husbands did well for them and what they wish they had more of. I ended up with a library of things to do, and I think that helped me be a better husband during her labor. I’ll post a separate list of these things for reference — the advice I got here was simply amazing.
  • Embracing the Pregnancy – From going out of my way to ensure she felt pampered and loved throughout, through pushing her to make sure she embraced every moment (like wearing flattering maternity gear out so people would see her and smile, comment, or even give up their seat to her.) My wife was on a daily basis, more and more focused on what was going on inside of her. I could help by trying to be more focused on what was going on around her. Where we were. Who was around. What we did. That onus fell on me. Meal planning. I think we handled that well together, and as a team. She had enough to deal with. I don’t think I would have realized how much I needed to step up had I not had some amazing people preaching and knocking sense into me so early.

Being Present and Aware

At some point, there’s only so much you can practice. Every pregnancy is different. Every woman’s needs are different. The best thing you can do is prepare yourself and be educated, and then commit to being present and aware. I viewed it as the ultimate sport. Trying to anticipate what my wife would want and trying to be there with what she would want when she did.

It’s not always easy. You aren’t carrying a baby around with you (though I looked like I was.) There’s a lot of pressure that falls on your shoulders as well, and you won’t often get noticed for it. It’s not that people forget about the father. It’s simply that people are so appropriately focused on the mother and the child. Which is why it’s important to ground yourself in the reality of parenthood early, so you can find your way through the initial stages confidently and empathetically.

Sometimes I failed miserably. Sometimes I was just an idiot. Sometimes I came home with too many beers in me. Sometimes I was tired. Sometimes I couldn’t relate to what she was going through. Sometimes I just plain sucked.

The beauty of it all is that she was always gracious and forgiving of my mistakes. Inspiration enough for me to make sure I got back on the horse and tried to do for my wife what she was doing for our baby. Loving the ever living life out of her. The above things helped me be a part of the pregnancy, or at least feel more involved. The connection between parent and child is so much biological but so much more about involvement and participation.

And you know, in the end, sometimes, I wasn’t so bad.

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My $.02 | Timeless Lessons | 49’ers, Kyle Williams, and Teamwork

The Backdrop: At this point, I’m not certain of the exact direction I’ll be taking this site. I do believe that no matter the course, I’ll always have an interest in sharing my thoughts when I’ve been moved to a realization that in turn, should make me a better person (husband, son, brother, friend, employee, boss, leader, citizen).

The following article, about how the San Francisco 49’ers rallied around Kyle Williams after he played a high-profile (though certainly not singular) role in their NFC Championship game loss to the NY Giants, led me to one of those realizations.

>> Here is the article for your reference, written by Gregg Doyel of CBSSports.com: http://bit.ly/z5gZUv

I say high-profile because Williams fumbled at two key points, once in the 4th Quarter and once in OT, the latter of which led directly to the NY Giants game-winning field goal. This football game was played by men, together, not any single man. And that is easy for me to say since I had no suffering or pleasure to gain from the outcome of the game. (Tim Tebow took care of my highs and my lows this year, and frankly, I’m a better fan for it!)

Members of the 49’ers team assumed their most comfortable and natural demeanors as they came to his defense.

  • HumblyWhatever he was thinking, it ended when he saw the crowd of media gathering around Williams’ locker. Ted Ginn made a face and disappeared. A minute later he came back and asked the media to move along.“Go on now,” Ginn said softly, politely, seriously. “It’s too much for him right now.”
  • RationallyDefensive tackle Ray McDonald didn’t want to talk to me, but when I told him the topic was Kyle Williams, he changed his mind. “He’s our teammate,” McDonald said. “Mistakes happen, and he made one that came at the wrong time, but we’re behind him 100 percent. Don’t doubt that.”
  • Defiantly: “We all lost this game,” tight end Delanie Walker said. “We play as a team — it’s 45 of us out there. It’s not Kyle’s fault, so don’t go over there and act like it is. Cause it’s not.”
  • Boisterously: Injured Josh Morgan — walked over to Williams’ locker and made an announcement. “I’m talking for Kyle,” Morgan said. “You have any questions, ask me. He’s not talking today. I got it.”

My Realization: And all of this made me wonder: how would I have acted? I’d like to think that I have, in such situations, been like Ginn, McDonald, Walker, or Morgan. Haven’t I?

Wouldn’t we all like to believe that about ourselves? And haven’t we all fallen short at some point, yet found a way to forgive ourselves for doing so? Excusing our own behavior for not excusing someone else’s? In this regard, I know that I for one have work to do.

As a Player: What I learned the most from this article is the balance between the four players featured here (and I’m certain there were countless other coaches and players taking similar stances). The different styles each employed to make their point and show their support. There are many ways to put your arm around someone’s shoulder. There is an almost infinite pool of words one can string together to say “I got it.” And every tone is acceptable when showing your sincerest support. The most important thing is that you do not shy away from showing your support as it is your responsibility.

As a Leader: What I learned the most from this article is the importance of a team filled with integrity, not only with its people, but with its inherent structure. If you are going to put a team member in a position to make a mistake on the grandest of stages, then you damned well better have a structure in place to absorb the grandest of failures. Your job as a leader is on one hand, defined by your ability to put your players in a position to succeed. But your greatest work as a leader is when those players have failed. Your greatest work is defined by how you receive them after the fact, and whether you give them the strength to go back out there and take that chance again. And whether your entire team stands behind that individual and your decision when the results are in.

Epilogue: “Everyone in here told me to keep my head up and it’s not on me,” Kyle Williams said. “You hate to be the last guy that had the ball, to give it up that way in that fashion and to lose a game of this magnitude … but I couldn’t be happier with my teammates.”

I’m not sure if they are happy with you, Kyle, but it sounds like your teammates love and support you. And that is a dramatically more powerful sentiment.

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