Methodologies

Know Thyself II

Myers-Briggs Personality Test

The first step was understanding where we stand today.  The next step is starting some classification.  This still lives in the realm of know thyself but it’s time to gather some data outside of my own head.  I was never a big believer in these tests, especially the constant barrage you receive on Facebook or Pinterest.  No, I actually don’t want to know which Harry Potter character I would be.  However, the first time I took a Meyers Briggs test, I was surprised.  Sure, I knew I was an introvert but a lot of the other stuff didn’t actually seem to describe me that well.  Then I took the results to my wife and a couple of friends and their response was shocking.  “That is sooo you,” they said to a person.  After some intense introspection I realized that they, and the test, were right.  We lie to ourselves quite a bit when it comes to who we think we are.  The Myers Briggs Personality test is a tool that allows us to strip away some of our personal misconceptions and embrace who we actually are.

The test’s roots grew from Jungian theory.  Carl Jung was a fascinating character whose work spanned the late 1800s into the mid-1900s.  He was best known for founding analytical psychology but he was a true polymath.  Like most great minds of the time, he didn’t narrow his focus.  This embrace of many disciplines allowed him to come up with some amazing breakthroughs.  What I loved about the great polymaths: Einstein, Picasso, Da Vinci, Jung is that they were curious about everything.  That curiosity gave them a unique perspective in their own fields that facilitated these crazy ideas that changed the world.  There is a solid lesson there.  If you want to affect true change, don’t look in just one place.

Jung speculated that humans experience the world through four principal psychological functions – sensation, intuition, feeling and thinking.  This was the basis of his study on personality types, known as typological theory.  He expanded this in great detail in his book Psychological Types.  He was also one of the first, if not the first, to define extraversion and introversion in a psychological context where they were labeled as attitudes.  He blended attitude with psychological function to create the eight psychological types: extraverted sensation, introverted sensation, extraverted intuition, introverted intuition, etc.  He then posited that one of the four functions is used more dominantly and proficiently than the other three.  He theorized that the dominant function characterizes consciousness.  The opposite function is unconscious behavior and is typically repressed.  The other two are seen as auxiliary functions supporting the dominant functions.

MBTI

This is where the Meyers Briggs Type Indicator comes in.  The MBTI was built by the mother daughter team of Katharine Cook Briggs and Isabel Briggs Meyer.  Their goal was to expand Jung’s typological theory to the general population and celebrate the value of our natural differences.  They made some tweaks to Jung’s theories but overall they stuck pretty close to the book.  The cross section of these ideas gives us our 16 personalities.  The Myers-Briggs test is a questionnaire with a bunch of forced choice questions that bring you to a determination of your personality.  The MBTI then gives you a four letter value of this determination.

Cognitive_Functions.svg

After a fair amount of research, here is my understanding of each letter type.  The first letter is attitude.  Are you an introvert or an extrovert?  The best description I have heard of the distinction between the two is where you get your energy.  Extroverts recharge by spending time with people and introverts recharge by being alone.  The second letter is the perceiving or information gathering functions – sensing and intuition.  Those brains that prefer sensing trust information in the present that is tangible and concrete.  These aren’t the people that will trust a hunch.  Those that prefer intuiting information trust info that is less dependent on the senses but can be pulled together from all sorts of previous knowledge and patterns.

The third letter comes from the decision making functions.  Those who prefer thinking tend to come to decisions in a detached manner.  They measure and reason based off of logic and causality.  The brains who prefer feeling go with their guts.  Feelers empathize with a situation and try to make a decision from the inside, weighing the needs of all the people involved.  The final letter deals with lifestyle preference between judging and perception.  This lifestyle preference is what we show the world.  Those with a lifestyle preference of judging show the world their preferred judging perception (thinking or feeling).  As an INTJ, I show the world my logic side.  An ISFJ would like to show the world that they are empathetic.  Those types that prefer a lifestyle of perception show the world their sensing or intuition side.  So an ISTP would come across as very concrete where an ENTP might come across as abstract.

I love what the folks at 16 Personalities are doing with the test.  They took each of the 16 personalities and threw in an add-on fifth letter that covers identity.  The identity element gives us a sense of how confident we are in our abilities and decisions.  They also give you a percentage of your preferences on each quality.  Finally, they added a modern archetype to each of the four letter types which personalizes and brings home the result.

Here is my result from the 16 personalities test:

Myers Briggs Personality Test Result

 

Myers Briggs Types

It turns out that I share my personality type with Elon Musk.  Yay!  And Vladimir Putin.  Boo!  The question becomes, what now?  What do we do with this knowledge now that we have it?  It’s important to understand that each of these characteristics are what our minds prefer, not our ability.  I prefer judgement over perception but that does not necessarily make me more judgmental or less perceptive than anyone else, just that I gravitate towards judgment over perception.

Since this test gives us an understanding of our preferences it also starts to illuminate how we approach things like problems and goals.  We can use this understanding to customize a personal development plan that works best for us.

Satisfaction with Life Scale (SWLS)

This is a bit of a long post but I wanted to share the results of my Satisfaction with Life Scale.  This is a very simple test with only 5 questions.  From a sheer brevity standpoint, it is valuable.  The five questions are good ones and their goal is to “measure global cognitive judgements of satisfaction with one’s life.”  This was built by Ed Diener, Robert A. Emmons, Randy J. Larsen and Sharon Griffin as noted in the 1985 article in the Journal of Personality Assessment.

Here is my SWLS:

Satisfaction with Life Scale (SWLS)

It’s kind of boring, I know.  That doesn’t make it any less true.  This test gives us a great sense of our level of satisfaction with life.  Being satisfied doesn’t mean that we aren’t willing to improve.  Some of us aren’t satisfied unless life is changing on a regular basis.  Being unsatisfied doesn’t necessarily mean that we are ready for a change.  However, dissatisfaction can definitely be a driver for change.  Most technological advancements came about by somebody being dissatisfied with how the status quo was (or wasn’t) working for them.  In general though, satisfaction is one factor in a benchmark value of readiness for change.

We will have at least one more version of the Know Thyself series.  Stay tuned!

 

Methodologies

Know Thyself I

The Importance of Self Awareness

The most important step to start us on this life odyssey is the first one.  That first step is knowing where we are right now.  It’s important to get our bearings before we can affect any real change or we may end up taking off in the wrong direction.  This always reminds me of the old joke:

The captain’s voice comes over the intercom, “I’ve got good news and I’ve got bad news.  The good news is, we’re making great time!  The bad news is, we’re lost”

It is critical to be able to answer the question: how are you doing?  I’m not talking about when an acquaintance politely asks secretly hoping for a one word answer.  I’m talking about when a close friend looks you in the eyes and really wants to know, how are you doing?  I love how Bill Burnett and Dave Evans handle this question in their book, Designing your Life: How to Build a Well-Lived, Joyful Life.  They believe that we should start by defining where your existential You are Here pin would go.  Their recommendation is to sketch out a dashboard that details where you are today on four defining factors: Work, Play, Love and Health.

who am i

So let’s build a You are Here pin.  In a trend that will continue throughout this blog, I will be my own Guinea pig to test out these different personal development theories and methodologies.  I promise to be as honest and truthful in this blog as I am with myself, however honest that may be.  We all experience gradients of self-delusion but these exercises help narrow the gap and bring us closer to the truth.  That truth is the foundation for our personal development plan.

When building your dashboard, it is important to spend some real time being introspective.  Analyze yourself as if you were giving a 360 review on an employee or wanted to give truthful feedback on a friend.  The value of this exercise, like all exercises, increases with the amount of inwardly looking effort you put into it.  After grading yourself on each of these levels, it’s important to write a quick blurb on each to give a real sense of where you are.  This only needs to be a couple of sentences but writing it down is important because writing engages the brain differently than just thinking.  It forces you to articulate the ideas which allows you to build complete thoughts.

who am i

Here is my dashboard:

HealthWorkPlayLoveDash

Health:  I’m physically fit, working out 5 to 6 days a week at least with cardio.  A big part of this discipline came from fear of cancer returning.  I have high blood pressure which is being treated with medication.  I could still lose 10 pounds with an ideal weight of 217 (not 215 or 220 but 217).  I meditate daily and this helps keep my mind in a good place.  I don’t feel like I do enough to give back to the community.  Recently, I have cut my reliance upon drugs like ibuprofen which has cut down on heartburn.

Work: After my previous company got acquired, it was demoralizing.  I like to work but struggled while in transition.  With this new idea, the enthusiasm is through the roof but the risk of it being an actual money maker is high.  Starting another company as well with my father which is its own can of worms but is so far very rewarding.  I do my best with helping the kids stay on track with homework, getting to school, etc.  I also sit on an advisory board for a friend’s company which is a great way to strategize and look at business differently.   A lot of my business reading has taken on a new tone with the entrepreneurial spirit cranked to 11 these days.

Play:  I try to get the most out of play as possible but in regimented intervals.  We try to go to parties as well as host them.  I am religious about Thursday night date night.  Most of my play is dictated by others at this point, mostly the kids.  This can be hard if it is not interesting to me.

Love:  I do my best to support, listen and enjoy the children.  I also try my best to communicate and stay close with friends but struggle with this due to being busy with work and family.  My wife and I have a good, candid relationship that is filled with interesting conversation and sex.  I love excellent writing but I rarely give myself the chance to do it.  I burn to enjoy nature and try to make sure we are doing something outside almost every weekend.  We recently got a new puppy who is a lot of fun but a lot of work.

This is just Step 1 in the Know Thyself journey.  We’ll start diving into personality types in the next post.

About the Biz

The Every Day Elevator Pitch

Anytime we choose to start something new we almost never struggle with the excitement or the passion.  This holds true with business ideas, jobs, relationship, hobbies, sports, you name it.  Anytime we talk about the new thing, we get other people excited because of our excitement.  As time passes, and we hit the inevitable speed bumps, that passion either disappears and we drop the new thing, or it evolves into something else.
Once that evolution takes place, we talk about it a whole lot less.  One of the reasons for this is that we have now built a lot of context around that idea, person or job.  After the honeymoon phase, when people ask about that particular idea or calling, we know that they are asking without the context we have built.  We know that for them to understand why we still find it interesting, we will have to build some of that context.  That’s not easy to do.  It’s an absolute necessity though if we want to have a meaningful conversation about it.

Some people have a natural affinity for presenting a topic very clearly and succinctly.  Most of us suck at it.  There’s the motor mouths, who immediately dive in and start telling you everything about the topic and quickly lose you in the minutia.  There are the clams, who typically respond to the question – ‘how’s work going?’ – with single word answers.  The clams either don’t know how or don’t have the energy to provide the context in normal dialog.  Then, there are the confusers.  Confusers jump from topic to topic without finishing a thought.  When you complete your conversation with a confuser, typically by making some excuse to escape, you walk away wondering what the hell they were talking about.

This behavior is very common.  Explaining ideas and succinctly putting them in context is very hard to do.  That’s why it’s so difficult to find good conversationalists.  It is a skill.  Like any skill, it can be improved.  One of the best ways to improve this skill is by writing these big topics or ideas on paper.  This is why journaling is such an effective tool.  When you write in a journal you are having a conversation with yourself.  It forces you to articulate the thoughts and the context that surround the idea, topic or concept.  When you speak about them later, it’s not the first time that you articulated these ideas so you come across much more clearly and you make a far stronger impression.

The elevator pitch is the business extension of this approach.  The term came from the early days of Hollywood when a screenwriter would ‘coincidentally’ run into an unsuspecting executive on an elevator then try to pitch them on their idea for a script.  On that roughly 30 second ride, they had a completely captive audience.  The goal of the pitch is to present the idea quickly and completely enough to generate interest.   Once that interest is generated, you can dive into the details at your leisure.

To create a strong elevator pitch, you have to think about your audience.  An investor is going to think about the idea in an entirely different way than an end user.  Be prepared to articulate the idea in the context of your audience.  Once you have written the pitch, practice and test the hell out of it.  Say it out loud to yourself 20 times.  Time it.  Test it on your inner circle.  Once you have smoothed it a little, start testing it on random strangers that you meet at a party or a trade show.  Use it so many times that when you speak about the idea it comes as naturally as breathing.  You’re not concerned about the tangential elements of the idea because you have already debated them 100 times with other people.  When you finally do end up giving the pitch to someone that might have an impact back on you, it just flows.

With those thoughts in mind, let’s use the elevator pitch for this venture as an example.  This will start with the slightly rawer forms make its way to something more polished.  This is still a work in progress.  I’ve given it now about 10 times to my inner circle.  Some things are working, some aren’t.  Each time I give the pitch, I refine it a bit.

This is the first elevator pitch that is tailored to the user:

We all want to be the best version of ourselves.  As kids, we aimed for the stars, we wanted to be astronauts, Olympic athletes, Rock Gods and Goddesses.  Somewhere along the way, most of us ran into the rock wall of reality where we discovered a lot of those dreams were not what we thought.  This brought disappointment that caused many to stop dreaming big, to start feeling like we settled.  We still want to dream though, there’s a reason the self-help industry is worth $11 billion.  We all want to be better versions of ourselves.

The problem is, we don’t know how.  We buy books, and even read some of them.  We watch inspirational videos.  We go to seminars.  This makes us feel better, fills us with resolution.  Temporarily.  Several weeks later we’ve fallen back into our old habits.  Why?  Part of it is that we lost the ability to keep score, to know if we are winning or not.  As a kid, it was easy, you always knew where you stood: grades, sports, relationships.  It was pretty cut and dry.  As an adult, it’s a muddy mess.

We aim to change that.  Our framework will let you keep score again.  The score we keep will not be against others , it will be against your personal dreams and aspirations, against the best version of you.  We’re not playing soccer, we’re playing golf.  The only person you are really playing against is yourself.  To do that, we will need to go on a journey of self-awareness.  This begins with knowing thyself, building a baseline of where you are now then plotting a path of where you want to be.  What does the best version of you look like and how do we get there?  This is going to be hard work and it won’t be done overnight, but all good things in life are earned.  We will do our best to make it fun along the way.  With the framework of tools and advice we provide, we will prove to you that it is possible to become one with your better nature.

This is way too long but it has all the important elements in there.

Here is another one that is tailored to potential investors:

The self-help industry is worth over $11 billion dollars in 2017 and growing. Why?  People are wildly unhappy.  Two thirds of Americans don’t like their jobs, 15% loathe their work.  We have an obesity epidemic on top of an opioid epidemic.  The gap between rich and poor is widening while opportunity is shrinking.  Not a pretty picture.  However, a lot of the actual unhappiness stems from a feeling of a total lack of control over life.

We offer a framework of advice and personal management coupled with technology that helps people take back that control.  We will guide our users through a journey of self-awareness setting realistic goals then hold them accountable for sticking to those goals.  The technology harnesses the best practices of the disciplines of science, psychology, self-management and business management to give our users a sense of whether or not they are winning at life.  We marry the science to fun by gamifying the experience which diminishes the pain of the hard work required to actually affect change in one’s life.

Once enough data is gathered, we will utilize artificial intelligence to optimize the advice given such that it is custom tailored to each personal profile.  We are building a community of doers that thrive on actionable results, not an ethereal promise of results.  Our aim is happiness through self-awareness.

This one is also too long.  I practiced both of these out loud probably 5 times.  I then took them with me on a camping trip with friends and continued to try them out.  Some things worked, some didn’t.  The biggest issue is that they are too much of a mouthful.  Remember, the point of the pitch is just to generate interest.  You are not going into every detail.  Once interest is there, you will have plenty of time for detail later.

After a few rounds of iteration, I settled on this.

As a culture, we pride ourselves on life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.  As a people, we are miserable.  Look at the obesity epidemic sitting on top of the opioid epidemic.  2/3 of Americans don’t like their jobs.  15% hate em.  No wonder the self-help industry is worth $11 billion and growing.

There’s a ton of factors that play into this unhappiness but one of the big ones is this feeling that we have no control over our lives.  Our framework changes that.  We provide our users with the tools and the technology to take that control back.  We do this by helping them define what winning at life looks like and by having a lot of fun along the way.

I’m not crazy about it yet but the iteration continues!

This method of writing out an elevator pitch doesn’t need to exist solely in the business world.  If there is a concept that you love talking about but aren’t an expert yet or if you just want to discuss a couple of ideas with friends, taking this approach can help you communicate the tougher stuff a lot better.  At the very least, it will generate a lot more interest.

About the Biz

The Kickoff

This particular odyssey started with an ‘oh shit’ moment.  The healthcare technology company that I just spent the last six and a half years helping to build was being acquired.  It wasn’t the type of acquisition where you buy a shark tank and fill it with champagne either.  This was more along the lines of a hostile takeover by one of the big players in the industry.  It was a shame.  We were making a great product that was benefiting society.  In an era where all clinicians hate the technology they are forced into using, we made their workflows usable.

On that early sprint morning, there I was, having that same painful conversation over and over again with my teams.  “Yeah, we are getting acquired and they are letting pretty much everybody go.  No, you’re not going to get anything out of it.  Please be ready to clean your stuff out of the office.”  I felt like some sadistic dream clown, slowly popping the hope balloons of every person walking into my office.  Even though it stung like hell, the people were great and the day turned into an Irish wake.  We celebrated the life of the company rather than mourning its death.  In retrospect, this wasn’t too surprising.  We all shared the same dream and our CEO and the rest of our leadership team(myself included) were very transparent about the risks.  That transparency has always served me well and I plan on taking that to the extreme with this odyssey. As I look back on the lessons learned and the people I got to work with, I’d do it again in a second, even knowing there wasn’t a pile of money waiting at the end.

It did throw me back into the job market, or as one friend called it, ‘fun-employment’.  After working your ass off for close to seven years, it’s nice to take a little break.  I got bored with golf after about three weeks though and started seriously looking for opportunities.  There are plenty out there for someone with my skill set, highly technical with deep business knowledge.

So I set some parameters for my job search: it would have to utilize cool technology, it would have to attempt to solve an interesting yet difficult problem and it would have to benefit society.  This was somewhat limiting but didn’t make the search impossible.  I was able to set up a lot of interviews pretty quickly.  Some of these only filled two of my three criteria but I took them if the salary was high enough to be tempting.

During the interviews I started to notice a disturbing trend.  Well before the halfway point of the interview, the roles would switch where I would take over the role of interviewer and the person I was interviewing with would become the interviewee.  Part of this is that I have hired a ton of people over the course of my career and I’m proud of my ability to hire good people.  Another part is that most people have worse communication skills than a McDonald’s drive through operator when it comes to interviewing.  It was deeper than a missing skill set though.  In some cases, the passion was missing.  In others, I wouldn’t be learning enough or I wouldn’t have enough autonomy.  It was always something.  I would leave almost every interview disappointed, not in my performance, but in them.  All except for one role.  More on that in a second.

I was discussing these opportunities with my inner circle whenever they had time for me.  My wife patiently listened, in the way only a doctor can, and gave great counsel on each opportunity.  The big breakthrough came when talking with one of my close friends who is getting close to selling one of his businesses.  He had this dream scenario in mind where he would sell the business, pay off all his debts, college funds, etc., then go work for some other company.  He started to analyze that dream and came to the realization that he couldn’t work for someone ever again.  There was real pain there when he said it , as if he had lost an era of his life that he could never go back to.  He then asked, ‘I wonder if you might be in the same situation?’  I assured him I wasn’t, but the question had sunk its teeth into the meat of my brain.

This isn’t the first company I started, it is actually the third, or fourth if you count the other company I’m starting with my dad at the same time as this one.  So the possibility has always been in the back of my consciousness.  During the job hunt, I forced myself to come up with five business ideas a day.  Some of the ideas were good, a couple were great, but most were terrible.  The most interesting ideas were at the cross section of skills I felt I had mastery over, groups I’m involved with and my passions/hobbies.

One thing I always loved at work was getting people excited about an idea then building the team strategies and personal strategies necessary to execute the idea.  The techniques I use require a lot of teamwork but generate a ton of buy-in.  You can see people light up as they contribute to each idea that builds the overall strategy.  It’s fun to watch normally taciturn programmers start acting like kids as they jump to contribute and clamor to be accountable for parts of the strategy.  It’s like watching little groundhogs experience sun after a long winter.  These folks get excited because they know where they’re going; they know how they’re getting there; they know if they are winning or not and they know they were integral in building it.  It’s an incredible experience.  I wanted to take this experience, personalize it, then enhance it with my business experience starting companies, working for companies, consulting for companies as well as my knowledge from the hundreds of business and self-management books I’ve read and make a company out of it.

With all of my other good and even great ideas, I was always able to find the fatal flaw with each after a couple of days of cogitation.  Not so with this one.  This one doesn’t let me sleep, not from stress but from excitement.  When I really knew it was the right path was when I got a call from that one job that I was excited about and I found myself hoping they weren’t going to make me an offer and make my choice difficult.  They didn’t make the offer.  After the fact, I had to admit to myself that it hurt as all rejections do but it made my choice a lot easier.  It was time to turn the odyssey into a company.

I hope you find this journey entertaining, educational and even a little inspirational.