I was having a long conversation with my mentor yesterday. As usual, the advice and sage wisdom made me smile at the time (as it’s amazing how he just sees right through the clutter to the heart of an issue) and made me think for hours after the meeting ended.
The conversation was essentially about my recent frustration by what I’m seeing online with what I call social media stars. These people look successful, wise, and like great teachers, but haven’t actually ever done anything. So that led us to what you might call the “Mac Lackey Highlight Reel.” You know we all have something similar. With increasing pressure via social media, we almost feel compelled to put a coat of shellac on top of it to really make it shine. It is basically where we take our body of work, pull out only the highlights, and promote them as if they ARE our normal everyday life.
But the worst thing we can do is entrepreneurs is to highlight only the wins, as the mistakes and failures are where the value is found… the areas we take risks, fumble, and get burned. It is the place we know there is value, but we find ourselves hiding and uncomfortable. As the famous quote says: “All progress takes place outside the comfort zone” – Michael John Bobak
The other thing that was going through my mind after the meeting was (and for my soccer friends, pardon the baseball analogy) that the best known hitters, the HOME RUN kings who break all the records, have another big statistic you don’t hear much about: strikeouts.
Babe Ruth (you’ve probably heard of him, right?) for years was actually called The Strikeout King… but is that how you remember him or think of him? There is a massive correlation between strikeouts and home runs. Or maybe a better way to think of it is you can’t hit home runs if you don’t step up to the plate a lot AND swing really hard at almost every pitch thrown at you. If you do those two things, you have a chance to hit home runs. You also have a really high chance of striking out. This is important stuff.
So what if you were to frame your career this way. Considering your full highlight reel as trying to get lots of chances at the plate, swing really hard at the ball, AND learn like crazy every time you strikeout?
For me (a person who has tried hard to get outside, stay outside, and basically live outside the comfort zone) or anyone who really wants to do big and amazing things, the strike-out percentage should actually be pretty high.
So, let me remove the shellac so you see what I mean.
My Personal Strikeouts
The notes in my highlight reel are true. I don’t rent sports cars to take pictures sitting in them (I’ve recently heard people are doing that). I’ve owned them, although I don’t think I ever posted pictures of them. I certainly don’t pay to take pictures in private planes although I’ve certainly been on them. I’ve traveled the world. I made millions… etc, etc, etc.
However there are a few things I would add to an even more important highlight reel. These are some of the truly high impact (but far from the exhaustive list) of dead-ends, hurdles, punches in the face, and failures that made me… well, ME:
- I was kicked out of college. Actually, I was kicked out of the same school twice (long but funny story for another day). I often say this experience was the best thing that ever happened to me. It served as the eye-opener I needed to change my life.
- A business partner sued me for something I didn’t do. I thought he and his family were true friends. It cost myself, my other partner, and my mentor a fortune to defend ourselves for something we all knew we didn’t do. I learned so much about partnerships, true friends, and a painful lesson about how our legal system works.
- I’ve raised a ton of money and sold many companies… but sometimes even when we’ve sold companies for millions, some of the investors, often the ones who were early (which means likely the closest and most important to me), lost their money. It sucks to lose anyone’s money, but it hurts A LOT when it is people you care about. This has been one of the hardest things for me to deal with as an entrepreneur.
- I have sold companies where my investors made a great return, but I made nothing because my stock was locked up (public companies tend to lock up founder stock in an acquisition). By the time I could sell, the returns were gone. So the press release might have been great, and I was thrilled my investors made money. It sucked for me personally, though. Risk doesn’t always equal reward, and reward isn’t always equally distributed.
- I became successful early in life. I made millions building and selling several companies before I was even 30 at a time when many of my friends were just getting started in a career. However, I also have had multiple times even in my 30s and 40s when a company didn’t work, we couldn’t drive revenue fast enough, I made a bad investment (or whatever the issue was), and my personal finances got dangerously low.
And more than anything else, I would say that I am still in the grind. It is the most human thing for an entrepreneur to be on an emotional rollercoaster where some days it feels amazing, but some nights we stare at the ceiling wondering if it will work, how it will work, thinking what will we do if it doesn’t work… Some nights I drift off to sleep reminding myself that this “grind” is where the magic is, and those of us who want to live an amazing life have to stay in the grind, get up to the plate, swing hard, but know that sometimes we will just strike out. To be the Babe Ruth of your industry, you might have to be The Strikeout King at points along the journey.
So, I don’t know about these new social media stars out there, but of the people I know and respect the most, and certainly for ME personally, there is nothing more powerful than the FULL highlight reel with the highs, the lows, and the day to day GRIND that defines us.
To be continued… This is post one of a two part post.
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