Wednesday, October 2, 2013

The Handout from My Upcoming Berkeley Adult School Class

Here is the handout for my upcoming class at Berkeley Adult School.  

If you would like to attend, it's this Saturday Oct 5 from 10 AM to 1 PM. 

It's free, with donations accepted, 100% of which will go to the Berkeley Adult School scholarship fund.  

For information and registration, click HERE, although I think you can just show up.

How to Do Life: What They Didn’t Teach You in School
Marty Nemko, Berkeley Adult School, Oct 5, 2013

Career Success
Realize that all ethical work—from laborer to leader-- is sacred and makes the world better.

Few people burn out from long work weeks. They burn out from doing work they're not good at or from working with the wrong people.

Where are you on the continuum from
Work the least you can get away with
Do the most you can accomplish?

Where do you want to be?

Replace dabbling with laser focus.

Procrastination is a career killer: 15% of the highly successful call themselves procratinators. 90% of unemployed people do.  Procrastination may have worked in school but there’s much less grade inflation in the workplace.

To reduce procrastination:
1: Remind yourself of the key benefit and liability of getting a task done: for example, how good it will feel to get it done, how much your procrastination has hurt you.
2. Get comfortable being uncomfortable. That too shall pass.
3. Be aware of the moment of truth when you decide, usually unconsciously, whether to do an uncomfortable task.
4. When tempted to procrastinate, break down the task into baby steps.  Write them on a “thermometer.” Then stay in the moment and put one foot in front of the other. Don’t know how to break the task down? Get help.
5. Struggle for only one minute. If you haven't made progress by then, get help or decide you can do the project without conquering that roadblock.
6. Stay vigilant to avoid procrastination all the way to the task’s end.

Find out the truth. Most people think they're above average. Getting the truth might help you before it's too late. And if you are above average, feedback helps you be even better. Ongoing, get feedback from your boss and respected co-workers, perhaps using Checkster's Talent Checkup:

Be low-maintenance. You pay a big price for being high-maintenance. Even asking too many questions or offering too many ideas may be unwelcome.

Think time-effectiveness. Ongoing, ask of yourself, "Is this worth doing?" And if so, how perfectionistically?" Just as we drive faster or slower depending on the situation, we should choose the right speed for tackling a task.

I do my best thinking while hiking or pacing in my office.

Try to work solo if you're brighter and more motivated than most of your co-workers. If you're not, get on teams.

Tell quest stories. Everyone knows that most people are persuaded at least as much by story as by statistics but less well-known is that a most powerful form of story is the quest story: Describe a serious problem and the travails of trying to solve it, ideally a problem you tackled.

Hire slow; fire fast. Hiring may be a manager's most important task. Rather than rely on responses to job ads, tap your extended network – they're more likely to refer good candidates. Then evaluate applicants mainly by having them do simulations of tough tasks they'll encounter on the job. If an employee is doing poorly, after a brief attempt at remediation, it's usually wiser to cut your losses and try someone else. Spending extra time trying to improve a bad employee is usually a poor and stressful use of your time, increases the employee's enmity and, in turn, the likelihood of a harassment or wrongful termination claim.

Negotiate gently. Rule of thumb: Reject the first offer, accept the second. Think cosmically: In the largest scheme of things, how important, for example, is that extra money, after taxes. Will it change your life significantly? Enough to risk losing the job or your boss's good will?

Don't innovate; replicate. The leading edge too often turns out to be the bleeding edge. Guinea pigs usually die. You lower your risk in starting a business by taking a proven business idea and cloning it in a new location or giving it a minor tweak. For example, you're more likely to succeed by incorporating the best features of five busy laundromats into yours than by trying to invent some new product or service.

Keep it simple. The more complicated the business, the bigger the risk. Do one simple thing well. For example, sell amazing grilled cheese sandwiches.

Be very careful in spending. Money is a business's lifeblood. So if you spend too much, your business will die. So, for example, work from home or see if you can get space free from a friend, a room in a church, whatever. Hire on a just-in-time basis. Use a template website, not a custom-created one. Figure out how much to pay for products based not on the retail price but on what it likely costs to manufacture. Example: Eyeglass frames may cost $100 retail but pennies to make – they're just cheap metal or plastic. So if you, Mr. Optician, think you're getting a good deal in buying frames "wholesale" for $20, you're wrong. $1 is closer to right.

It's easy to be liked: listen more than talk, praise often, and disagree rarely. The question is, is it worth the loss of integrity?

There's cost and benefit each time you criticize or suggest. Only sometimes is it worth the price. Make the choice consciously.

Don’t overestimate the power of a rational argument. Before making it, pause to think, “How will that make the person feel?”

Don't try to show how smart or good you are. Usually, it's wise to prioritize making others feel good about themselves.

Long-winded? Constantly ask yourself, "Does the person really need and want to know this?" Remember The Traffic Light Rule:: 30 seconds=green, 30-60 seconds=yellow, 60+ seconds=red.

Are You Assertive Enough?
Not that long ago, to stay reasonably employed, you had only to do what you're told. But today, alas, mainly the assertive thrive. Are you sufficiently assertive? Rate yourself 0 to 10 on each of these:
1.   10 = To better suit your strengths and/or meet the employer's needs, you'd make the case for changing your job description.
0 = You'd take or leave the job description as-is.
Your score: ____
2.  10 = You negotiate fairly but firmly.
0 = You accept the first offer.
Your score: ____
3.  10 = You regularly solicit feedback on yourself and take action to improve.
0 = You never solicit feedback on yourself and if you get it, don't do much to improve.
Your score: ____
4.  10 = You regularly offer positive and negative feedback, for example, if you believe you were treated unfairly or that a co-worker's poor work is affecting you or the organization.
0 = You never give feedback.
Your score: ____
5.  10 = You're likely to take-on or ask your boss if you can take-on a project: streamline a system, identify a new profit center, start an online discussion group, whatever.
0 = You never propose doing a project.
Your score: ____
6.  10 = You often make suggestions in meetings or to your boss.
0 = You never make suggestions. You only agree or disagree with others' ideas.
Your score: ____
7.  10 = If appropriate, you express disagreement with your co-workers or boss.
0 = You never express disagreement with your co-workers or boss.
Your score: ____
8.  10 = You’re comfortable making cold calls or emails, whether to get a sale, information, or a reasonable favor.
0 = You're scared to and never make cold calls or emails.
Your score: ____
9.  10 = You don't need the structure of school to learn. You do most learning on your own or with a tutor rather than taking a course, which may be expensive and/or inconvenient with much instruction that’s insufficiently relevant or too fast-and-slow-paced for your needs.
0 = You need the structure of school.
Your score: ____
10.  10 = If your job is boring, unethical, dead-end, insufficiently remunerative, or otherwise unsatisfactory, you look assertively for better work.
0 = You stay put unless terminated or a better job drops in your lap.
Your score: ____

Utterly Unvalidated Scoring Key
> 90:  Fully assertive. You'll likely move up in responsibility, perhaps way up, and no matter what, you'll feel control over your worklife.
70 - 89:  Assertive
45-70:  Average
25-45:  Fairly passive. You’ll likely hold only individual contributor roles.
< 25:  Passive. You may be at risk of losing even an individual-contributor role.

Whatever your score, is there an item or two you'd like to work on?

Parenting. Invoking guilt is a surprisingly effective technique and one that helps encourage your child to be intrinsically motivated.

Romantic relationship. Consider having a relationship summit on one or more of these: sex, communication, career, money, chores, children.

Emotional health
If your self-esteem is low, perhaps focus on finding work you can succeed at. Real self-esteem comes from accomplishment.

Antidote to depression and anxiety: Replace self-absorption with "How can I serve another person or society?"

Look for and  exaggerate aggrievement and you'll likely have a worse life than if you look at your glass as half full.

Preventive efforts are much more potent than treatment. NY Times: 40% of procedures are useless or worse:

Fast eaters: To slow down, put your fork down after every bite. You'll not only consume fewer calories, you'll enjoy them more.

How can you live decently on $20,000 a year? Key: Make the effort to find an inexpensive place to live—e.g, iffy neighborhood or a room, basement or attic apartment, or backyard cottage in a nice neighborhood. Also, drive an old Toyota, buy clothes at thrift and consignment stores, Wal-Mart, etc.

Maximize your contribution to your workplace's retirement plan: 401(k), 403(b), or, if you're self-employed, to a SEP-IRA.

Don't overdiversify, putting your money in lots of places. That adds to your paperwork and makes it difficult to follow how you're doing. An all-in-one fund provides considerable diversification at low cost, and puts all that diversification on one statement. Widely recommended: Vanguard all-in-one funds:

Locking in new behaviors

Vigilance regarding communication and procrastination is key although difficult.

If you want to lock in a new attitude or behavior, say and/or write that and why. Then keep paraphrasing, NOT reading it, three times a day for at least one week.

A comforting thought: Seven billion people are, in their own way, trying to make things better. How can one not be an optimist about the world's future?

A crucial lesson: Remember my dad’s story’s lesson: Don't look back; always take the next step forward.


Anonymous said...

Are you implying that only "less bright" people should work on teams? This video might argue against that.

Marty Nemko said...

In a homogeneous environment with all top people such as Ideo or Google, of course, a bright person will often be happy on a team. But in a more typical workplace, there is a wide range of people, with teams containing--by design or not--some people who are much more capable than others. In such situations, bright people are wise to opt for more individual- than team-based projects. In contrast, if you're not that bright, left alone, you may be stuck with only menial tasks. So such people would be wise to opt for team-based projects.

Michael Smolens said...

Very well thought out article. One aspect I was missing though: Work/Life balance and enrichment. Hobbies like playing a musical instrument or singing can go a long way toward achieving balance and satisfaction in one's life.

Marty Nemko said...

I believe work-life balance is overrated. For example, see this:

Annie said...

I found this very useful Marty, mostly as a reminder (long time reader). Agreed - w/l balance is overrated although that's a very unpopular position to take.