In the past few months I've taken up CrossFit. In any new endeavor I try to understand the philosophy behind a company, brand, effort, etc. In trying to do this with CrossFit I came across what I believe to be an exceptional definition of fitness.
He was oppressed, and he was afflicted,
yet he opened not his mouth;
like a lamb that is led to the slaughter,
and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent,
so he opened not his mouth.
By oppression and judgment he was taken away;
and as for his generation, who considered
that he was cut off out of the land of the living,
stricken for the transgression of my people?
And they made his grave with the wicked
and with a rich man in his death,
although he had done no violence,
and there was no deceit in his mouth.
Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush him;
he has put him to grief;
when his soul makes an offering for guilt,
he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days;
the will of the LORD shall prosper in his hand.
Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied;
by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant,
make many to be accounted righteous,
and he shall bear their iniquities.
Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many,
and he shall divide the spoil with the strong,
because he poured out his soul to death
and was numbered with the transgressors;
yet he bore the sin of many,
and makes intercession for the transgressors.
(Isaiah 53:7-12 ESV)
This summer Arielle and I are moving to Washington, DC so I can pursue my MBA at Georgetown University.
When I joined Yodle nearly four years ago, I saw for the first time the impact of great business leadership. Jobs were being created, careers were being built, and a great product was being developed. I realized then that I wanted to spend my life building businesses.
Taking on that kind of leadership is a moral obligation and when it is done well it helps people thrive and support their families. In an MBA I am pursuing the growth I need to fully uphold that responsibility.
I've been working on my applications for some time and was thrilled to be admitted to Georgetown. The school is a perfect fit for me, and for my beloved Arielle, Washington holds every opportunity imaginable.
Let me add a word about Daddy Read a Book, which many of you supported from the beginning. Our work will continue with the many military families in the DC area and we are already developing connections with the bases there.
I'm grateful for everything these many years in Arizona have held. The next two years are planned but the future beyond that is wide open and I can barely wait.
"It's a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don't keep your feet, there's no knowing where you might be swept off to." - J.R.R. Tolkien, Lord of the Rings
Sometimes you get really lucky.
It’s uncommon to work at a company that has incredible growth and extremely competent colleagues and executives. I’ve been luckiest to have great managers.
At the time, I took it for granted. That’s quickly changed in the past few months since I myself became a manager. Everything that goes into being a great manager has become abundantly clear. Here are three things I’ve learned so far (subject to change):
Really, Really Give a Damn
Managers have more direct impact on their employees and their daily lives than the federal government. If you’re going to take that kind of responsibility on, you have to care deeply and passionately. You should feel a spiritual, moral drive to be a great manager.
Great managers have to understand what their employees want in their careers, finances and their lives and help get them there. You benefit because your employees will follow you for this care.
It’s important to work well in the organization and keep a strong relationship with my manager. My ability to build a network and work within the politics of an office will have a direct impact on how my team is treated and if we get what we need. The real issue here is trust. If your people view you as powerless, they won’t trust you.
Have, Follow, and Change a Plan
When I came into the role, I wrote out a 90 day plan of action. Many of the items I completed, but many were changed within weeks of the transition as circumstances dictated. It was really important for me to have an agenda of what I would focus on and it allowed me to track it with my manager and show the progress I was making in each area.
One of my favorite quotes about management is from former Brigadier General, now professor Tom Kolditz.
"Leadership, in many respects, is exercising a moral obligation. When you put yourself at the head of an organization, or you put yourself in a group of individuals and work to influence them in a certain direction, there are consequences that affect people’s lives.
If you do it right, you help people make their mortgages. You help them send their kids to college. And the organization is stronger because of it. For those willing to take that on, I think there is a reward and satisfaction that comes with the responsibility."
As a participant in SVP Fast Pitch, I was able to meet some great people and ended up with a section cover story in the Arizona Republic.
TEMPE NON-PROFIT IN FAST PITCH FUNDING COMPETITION
Tempe resident Chris Cottrell believes he can get his non-profit to the next level in 180 seconds.
Cottrell, 25, is hoping to take part in the third annual SVP Arizona Fast Pitch, in which eight non-profits get 3 minutes each to make a pitch for more than $35,000 in grants and prizes from Social Venture Partners Arizona. The competition is 6-9 p.m. Wednesday, March 26, at Tempe Center for the Arts.
SVP Arizona Executive Director Terri Wogan said the non-profits also will compete for funds from audience members. Last year’s audience contributed about $142,000, Wogan said.
“We’re at a good stage for resources and money to be invested,” Cottrell said about his non-profit, Daddy Read a Book. “What we could do with $10,000 is very, very different than what a non-profit with a $100,000-a-year budget can do with $10,000. $10,000 is huge to us, whereas with them it might be, ‘Oh, that’s a good gift.’ That would totally change what we are doing. I think there is a lot of potential for us to win.”
Cottrell is in the semifinal stage with 20 others, taking part in a two-month mentoring program to develop their pitches. Each pitch is limited to 3 minutes. Eight finalists will be announced Friday, March 14.
One Arizona State University student non-profit among three competing will be awarded $2,000 and will join presenters at Fast Pitch.
“Messaging is a core element, and that’s what is missing for a lot of non-profits,” said Wogan, noting that the mentoring program and Fast Pitch train non-profits to relay their missions effectively and to improve their storytelling.
Daddy Read a Book is hoping to give storytelling skills to others, particularly families going through separation, by filming parents reading stories to their children.
Cottrell said when he was young, his father, who now teaches missionaries how to raise funds, went to prison for a year. Before leaving, Cottrell’s father filmed himself reading his son’s favorite books, allowing his son to have a connection to him when he was gone. Cottrell believes he can do the same for families broken up by military duties or other obstacles that create parental absence.
“When he got home, I felt like I knew who he was,” Cottrell said of his father. “That’s a big thing, especially for military guys. It’s usually young guys that are gone with young wives and kids. … It breaks my heart seeing those videos on YouTube when the dad comes home, and one kid is like, ‘Dad, it’s so good to see you,’ and the other is, ‘I don’t know who you are. You’ve been gone for three-quarters of my life. Who are you?’ If we can bridge that, that’d be awesome.”
Cottrell graduated from ASU in 2010 with a degree in political science. He began working in 2010 as a consultant for Yodle, which provides businesses with ways to promote their services via Internet marketing, and the company helped him kick start Daddy Read a Book in March. Before working at Yodle, Cottrell worked on former State Treasurer Dean Martin’s 2010 governor’s campaign.
Cottrell had an interest in politics after writing Proposition 103, or “Chris’ Law – Victim’s Protection Act,” when he was 12, he says. The law was passed by Arizona voters in 2002, helping to keep sexual predators from posting bail, keeping them off the streets until they went to trial, while also establishing the first boundary around Arizona schools so convicted offenders could not live in proximity of any school.
Cottrell was not as successful with Martin’s campaign.
“To put in hundreds of thousands of dollars, this huge effort, and to not get anything out of it, if you don’t win … I just felt, ‘What else could be done with that time and resources?’ ” he said.
So, he started the non-profit with which he believes he can make a difference.
Cottrell began by pitching his idea to Scottsdale’s the James Agency, which provided him with $50,000 of pro bono work, including developing his website and logo. The James Agency does pro bono work for one non-profit a year, according to Angie Miller, the agency’s director of public relations. .
“Chris really captured our team with his personal story and his idea was forward thinking,” Miller said.
So far, Cottrell has partnered with Luke Air Force Base in the West Valley and says his group has filmed five families.
Daddy Read a Book sets up about two hours in which a parent will read the child’s favorite books in a mobile studio equipped with professional lighting and sound and a high-definition camera. The film is then edited, put on a DVD and shipped to the family along with a surprise letter from the parent. It costs $100 for the whole process, according to the Daddy Read a Book website, daddyreadabook.com.
It’s been almost ten months since my first post on what I’m learning by starting Daddy Read a Book. Since then I’ve learned a lot from successes and failure. Here we go…
As we’re growing, I’m learning how to build processes and workflows out of nothing. Start at A, end up at B. Since I’m naturally inclined to focus on the big picture and see the end goal, this area takes intentional thought for me. I can see the end product as if I’m holding it my hand. Reverse engineering and thinking of all the steps required to realize the vision just takes more effort.
The biggest takeaway is realizing how much the process matters. To grow, you have to build a good process and continuously improve it.
Sustainability: Moving on from the Chief Everything Officer
In part one, I talked about being responsible for everything. In the beginning stages, if you don’t do it, it doesn’t happen. You are the organization/business/start-up.
While that phase is necessary, it won’t last. I found that out firsthand as I reached pretty near 150% of my personal bandwidth.
To do anything well for a long period of time takes support. That’s the key to personal sustainability and, when you’re leading anything (organization, life, business, marriage), your personal sustainability is foundational to your leadership.
The most crucial partnership Daddy Read a Book has is with Luke Air Force Base. The dads we’re working with now are all service members affiliated with LAFB and we rely on them to connect and work with these dads.
When we started, we depended on The James Agency for all of our website, branding and PR. We depended on Yodle to sponsor our kickoff fundraiser, on our board members for our first connections, and donors for our budget.
I’m profoundly grateful to these organizations. With an entrepreneurial spirit, it’s too easy to take on challenges alone. I learned more deeply the importance of your partners.
This was in a great blog post by John Maxwell on leadership titled A Leader’s Greatest Things. Some of these things surprised me, but, as I thought about them, I realized how very true they all were. More thoughts after the excerpt.
1. The Leader’s Greatest Victory — Victory over Self.
2. The Leader’s Greatest Asset — Confidence.
3. The Leader’s Greatest Weight — Final Responsibility.
4. The Leader’s Greatest Discipline —Taking Time to Think.
5. The Leader’s Greatest Handicap — Pride.
6. The Leader’s Greatest Opportunity — Today.
7. The Leader’s Greatest Loss — Hope.
8. The Leader’s Greatest Mistake — Putting Self before Others.
9. The Leader’s Greatest Prayer — Wisdom.
10. The Leader’s Greatest Joy — Adding Value to Others.
These are all iterations of three main pillars: selflessness, discipline and work.
The greatest things that fall under selflessness are final responsibility, putting self before others, and adding value to others.
Taking the final responsibility for a project or a product means that you take the blame when something or everything goes wrong. This is the constant belief of a leader that, “It’s my fault.”
Putting self before others is the constant err of humans, not just leaders. For leaders, this is a particularly serious mistake because other people’s time, resources, and sometimes lives are placed in your trust.
Adding value to others is similar to putting self after others. It is simply making sure that you are bettering other’s lives instead of just your own. It is making sure you show up for someone before expecting them to show up for you. This is being a servant rather than a tyrant.
A man without self-control is like a city broken into and left without walls.
The victories in the pillar of discipline include victory over self, taking time to think, and wisdom. Discipline is often under-appreciated, though every great leader practiced it. To have self-mastery, you must take time to reflect and understand who you are and what you believe. A leader who has mastered himself will also be far better equipped to grow a team. It takes time and mental energy to know each person on your team and to learn what they need to grow.
Wisdom is gained both in experience and through reflection. There are young men who are much wiser than some old men. This isn’t because of experience, it’s because the young man has taken the time to think and reflect on situations and the courage the think about them honestly.
One of the things I say to myself constantly is, “Work hard. Stay humble.” Hard work leads to confidence and today. Work is what stands between you and any dream you have. With work, you can be confident in high-stakes situations, prepared for emerging opportunities and able to make the most of opportunities.
The great opportunity in our lives is what we can do with today. We can relax, sit on the sofa, watch television, and enjoy a day of rest. Of course, rest is vital to a healthy life and I am an absolute believer in the value of true rest.
However, time is so often lost in partial rest, e.g. checking Facebook at work, watching television all weekend, putting off the things that matter for the things that satisfy in the moment. Bottom line: work harder than anyone else you know for your dreams and you will hit them or hit close.
The belief behind every mission statement, motivation and vision of a leader is that there is hope. Without hope, where would we go?
* * *
By Rudyard Kipling
If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too:
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or, being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise;
If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;
If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim,
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same:.
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build’em up with worn-out tools;
If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings,
And never breathe a word about your loss:
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: “Hold on!”
If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much:
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!