The Now and the Not Yet

One of the great mysteries in this drama called life is the tension between the Now and the Not Yet.

There are times when we need to act now, and delay means a loss of opportunity. It may even display cowardice. Yet there are other aspects of our life that are on long simmer – we’re made for this, but…not yet.

It’s tricky, on a given day, month, year, or decade, to know what is now, and what is not yet. When do we seize the day, and when do we need more seasoning in our own character and experience?

As parents, we yearn for our kids to get their act together and be gold-medal human beings by the time they reach 20. But people – especially young people – don’t often seem to follow our script. The long haul of the not yet is the constant (sometimes painful) companion of everyone who joins the adventure of shaping a new generation.

Several things are coalescing in my life right now that lead me to believe that it’s time. For instance, I’ve known since my late teens that I was destined to write books. Yet only now, in my 50′s, do I feel like I’ve developed the message and the “voice” and the direction and the platform to start long-form writing. That doesn’t mean I haven’t been thinking and writing and learning all along – I have – but there was a not-yet doorstop in my soul for decades as I slowly developed.

Some, however, end up successfully launching businesses or books or speaking careers or multimedia fame in their 20′s. The now came early. How can you program (or predict) all that?

You can’t. But sometimes we can help other people decide between the now and the not yet by providing an objective voice. Don’t underestimate the importance of a pointed encouragement forward, or a cautious word of wisdom to wait.

I’ve got no answers – just that we have to be ready for now each day, and be patient about the not yet even when it seems to make no sense to wait.

How do you live with this tension?

Your Internal Wiring: Strategic, or Tactical?

I’ve been theorizing here at Connection Agent about how our internal “wiring” shapes our workstyle. I do believe that we all have a level of malleability – that is, we can learn new skills outside of our comfort zone. But I’m thinking that also have baked-in orientations, or preferences, that shape how we best work.

So far, we’ve looked at the following ideas on the workstyle spectrum:

Introversion – - vs  - – Extroversion

Me-working – - vs – - Team-working

Now let’s take a look at another (proposed) scale: Strategic thinking vs Tactical thinking

StrategicTactical Scale

Someone with a more Tactical orientation really just wants to get it done – their mindset is less on the big picture, and more on the short-term execution. They prefer to implement, not plan.

On the other hand, those with a Strategic orientation always tend to see the bigger picture – how the pieces fit into a larger plan, and how to go about the work with a longer-term blueprint.

This isn’t a matter of intelligence or performance. It’s simply an orientation. And someone with a strategic mindset who is stuck in a tactical job will quickly become dissatisfied – do you agree?

However, I confess to being a little bit torn on this scale, because I wonder if it shouldn’t be three fold: Tactical—-Strategic—-Visionary. Is visionary a workstyle? Or is it a leadership style? Not sure about that. I know that my mentality is very much on the visionary/strategic level – I can do implementation, but I prefer not to be in the weeds of details. Where do you see yourself?

So – do you think this a valid distinction as proposed, or should the labels be something different? I know there’s truth here, but I’m not entirely sure I’ve got the labels of the spectrum nailed accurately.

>> And just what is the purpose of this whole exercise, anyway? Actually, it is part of a big-picture approach I’m working on – how to help people find their best professional “fit” as far as job/role. I believe that we have wired orientations, and that by becoming aware of our preferred workstyles, we can make much more intelligent career choices. My vision is seeing thousands of people and companies doing far more effective work because they start with a “you-based business” approach.

You Have the Goods

I spent a couple hours recently going in-depth with someone about an impending major career change – a BIG jump from one type of endeavor to another.

Without giving away too much about his/her background, I’d say that about the last thing you’d expect from this individual is the hesitancy and uncertainty that stems from fear.

But there it was.

“I don’t believe I have the goods.”

I think one of the best gifts we can give one another is an assessment of what we’re really good at, and a huge pat on the back to go forth and conquer.

If you believe someone has the goods, tell him or her. That little word of encouragement – that expression of faith – may well be the needed push to get someone over the barrier of fear.

Even the most seemingly-successful folks have the “you don’t have the goods, you big jerk!” minor-key soundtrack playing in the background sometimes.

Many times what we need is someone from the outside, someone both objective and encouraging, to say out loud, with a smile and little shove forward, “You have the goods!”

The Seven Shortcuts to Creating Trust

  1. There
  2. Are
  3. No
  4. Shortcuts
  5. To
  6. Creating
  7. Trust

We all want shortcuts. And for getting from A to B in some things, shortcuts are possible.

But not in that fragile, yet powerful, realm of human trust.

Trust is created by people of character, who live and act consistently.

You earn it. One action at a time. One person at a time. Over a long period of time.

No shortcuts.

(Image credit: John Hartsock via Flickr)

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Related posts on Connection Agent:

>> A Tale of Two Welcomes

>> Creating a Welcoming Climate

How I Manage My Introversion

I’m happy to be an introvert. Maybe I wasn’t always so sanguine about this aspect of my internal wiring – in fact, most of my life, I guess I felt somewhat inferior to my more extroverted earth-dwellers – but not any more!

(What is, and isn’t, introversion? Read this excellent summary post by Lisa Petrilli – also, Lisa’s e-book on the subject is extremely helpful: The Introvert’s Guide to Success in Business and Leadership).

A tendency toward introversion is quite common – anywhere from a third to a half of the population tends toward the “Quiet Side.” While extroverts tend to gain energy from being around other people, introverts recharge through being alone with their thoughts. The introvert is usually not the life of the party, but the person having an earnest one-on-one conversation in the corner (and secretly wishing to be away from the noise and chaos). Extroverts will tend to speak first, and organize their thoughts later; introverts often pause to carefully consider their words.

It’s not easy being an introvert in a world that tends to value extroversion (the theme of a superb book on introversion by Susan CainQuiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking).

So, how have I worked with and worked around this tendency over the years? A few thoughts:

  1. Above all else, the primary step is to embrace it. We can’t change our fundamental wiring, and why should we? A tendency to walk on the quiet side often leads to fountains of creativity, richness of perspective, and relational depth. In Lisa’s book referenced above, she tells the story of how our friendship and professional collaboration blossomed on the foundation of shared introversion. I can remember way back to my high school days feeling an aversion to loud groups and superficial chatter, and wondering what my problem was. Actually, there was no problem. My style is different – and goes deep instead of wide. AND THAT’S A GOOD THING!
  2. Also, I’ve learned to have realistic expectations. I can only take so much people-time before I have to back away, and I now give myself permission to retreat. I have learned to become outgoing and pro-active, but I’ll never feel at home in a loud, crowded schmooze-setting. I’ll always look for the quiet corner and try to find an individual or small group.
  3. I use social media extensively as my relationship-building bridge. I have “pre-met” so many wonderful people using on-line networking, which removes the awkward stage when we finally meet face-to-face. Nowadays, first-time in-real-life meetings are like reunions, because on-line networking has allowed me to get through the first layer of introduction. Lately, I’ve been doing more and more video Skype calls to move past introduction and start getting in-depth with people in ways that could never happen randomly at a party or a conference. I think digital social networking was created for introverts!
  4. I ask a lot of questions. Introverts tend to be better at this. By focusing on the other person and trying to understand, you often can bring a surprisingly amount of value and kindred-ness to a person who drowns in the sea of surrounding superficiality. Sometimes, by playing this very natural role, you can bring surprising levels of comfort and healing and wisdom, even in a brand-new relationship.
  5. I’ve disciplined myself to be outgoing. Not extroverted – outgoing. Introverts can seem (or be) anti-social at times, and I’ve made a lifelong commitment to be pro-active to the point that, now, it’s pretty natural. I still have a hard time making small talk with seatmates on airplane flights, however. My default setting there is to retreat into my own reading and my own thoughts. That’s a tough one!

As with any other tendency, there can be a dark side to introversion. Tendencies to insecurity, analysis-paralysis, or depression. All of these things need to be seen clearly and managed, sometimes with the help of both introverted and extroverted friends. But my main point in all this is to state unequivocally: Introversion is not a curse. It is not a problem. It is not a weakness. Introverts can lead, and can speak effectively in public. It’s actually pretty wonderful to be introvert-ish, noisy parties notwithstanding. And if you see me in a crowded social setting, looking around a bit awkwardly, then pull me off to a corner and let’s talk about it…!

For further reading (and aren’t these a couple of beautiful introvert-authors?):

(affiliate links to these books on Amazon: Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking | The Introvert’s Guide to Success in Business and Leadership).

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Is your professional direction and message CLEAR? Hire Steve Woodruff for Clarity Therapy!

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>> Following Your Passion: A Story

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Charmed

It seems like just a few years ago that I was making my mind up about college.

This New England boy visited Vanderbilt, and utterly charmed by Nashville and the warm culture of the South, decided that a transplant 1,000 miles away was in order.

After 7 years in this adopted city, it was back to the hurried and harried North. But through major career changes, bringing up 5 boys with my (also Connecticut-born) wife, and many travels, I never forgot Nashville.

This week, I have come back “home” to attend BlissDom (thanks for the invite, Alli!), this time introducing 2 of my older boys to their first taste of the South. Their reaction to the warm smiles, easy converse, friendly service, and open-hearted people?

Charmed. In fact, they’re already threatening to stay behind instead of returning to New Jersey!

Yes, I may feel a bit like a fish out of water as one of the few representatives of male-dom at BlissDom. But this Yankee feels very much at home walking around the Vandy campus, eating southern cooking at Loveless Cafe, and re-learning to relax and smile and say “hi” to strangers for absolutely no reason.

Already, catching up with some dear friends from the past and watching my boys fall in love with the South has made the trip well worth it. Nashville, it’s a delight to be back.

Looking forward to some charming days. Maybe even some bliss!!

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Out of my Comfort Zone: Haiti

As many of you know, I recently went on a mission trip to Haiti (small team from my local church). My role was to help one of my long-time friends with a building project – topping off the walls of a partially-constructed church building and putting up a roof on it.

The trip was an amazing privilege, and the whole adventure was WAY outside my comfort zone! Nonetheless, it was a fulfilling and eye-opening experience.

I thought I’d share some of the pictures I took of the country, its people, and the project. Here is the photo set on Flickr. If you scroll through, you’ll see the captions; you can also view it in slideshow mode.

Pictures, and words, can’t do justice to the experience. But maybe they’ll give you a glimpse of a nation and a people far more in need than we are here in the “first world”.

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Hire Steve Woodruff  if your identity and message need clarity (Brand Therapy)

Recent posts on Connection Agent:

>> Who Are Your Influencers?

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Social Media: Trees and Forest

Social media, as we now know it – blogs, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and the like – that’s all trees. There’s something much bigger in play all around us.

The forest is ubiquitous digital networks.

Social media “stuff” is actually a subset of this much larger technological and cultural movement.

If you want to clearly see what the future is – step away from the trees, and think about the forest. Or, to change the analogy, don’t just focus on the boats – look at where the river current is heading.

Every person, and increasingly, every thing will be a node. What that leads to as far as communication is fascinating to consider. We’re still in the training wheels stage, folks.

Things make a lot more sense when you see the inevitable, inexorable direction of trend currents (as opposed to current trends).

I’ll be painting more of this picture at the Social Media Masters event in NYC next month, if you care to joint me for some forest-gazing!

(Photo: Lake Placid NY from Whiteface Mountain)

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Hire Steve Woodruff  if your identity and message need clarity (personal or company Brand Therapy)

Recent posts on Connection Agent:

>> The Unglamorous Need for…Semantics!

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The Unglamorous Need for….Semantics!

Communication – whether on social media or not – is all about exchanging ideas. What we often don’t think about, however, is that there is a “currency” involved – the currency of agreed-upon meanings attached to words.

Let’s say you walk into a convenience store. You pick up a bottle of Diet Coke and a donut. You pull out a green piece of paper that has a number on it – you insist that the number means 10 dollars, while the clerk says it means 5 dollars. Now what do we have? A stymied transaction. Both parties lose when the currency is non-standardized.

Semantics. Without definitions, we’re just wasting time and words, talking past each other. And that means we’re not communicating at all.

This came to mind today as I read this thought-provoking post by the duct-tape marketing guy, John Jantsch (It’s Time to Purge the Word Entrepreneur). Reading through the posts and comments, it’s clear that there are so many perceptions of what the term means or doesn’t mean, that it’s impossible to arrive at any resolution.

My entrepreneur is your small business owner is her tech start-up is his solopreneur is their…you get the picture. I don’t agree about purging the term, but I understand the frustration – when meanings are diluted or changed, it becomes difficult to exchange any ideas.

On Twitter, where context has to be sacrificed for 140 characters, the problem is compounded further. One of the biggest challenges I have discovered in moderating a Twitter chat is how much time and energy is expended with issues of semantics. There’s an awful lot of tweeting past one another as we “chat” starting with different understandings of terms.

This is one reason why political discourse can be so frustrating. What does “progressive” or “liberal” actually mean? How does one define “Tea Party”? These terms have such wildly divergent meanings depending on the standpoint of the speaker, that it seems impossible to carry on an intelligent and reasoned conversation. We are left with tossing pejorative grenades that may inflame, but cannot enlighten, without a shared agreement on meaning. And, yes, I’ve been guilty of that as well. Because I just assume that people carry around the same definitions in their head as I do. You’d think I would have learned something by now about that…(how do YOU define dense? :>)

Perhaps the person on the other end of the conversation is not in need of a hearing aid. Maybe we just need a dictionary on the table between us.

In order to disagree, we first have to agree – on what our words mean. I don’t have a good answer to this widespread dilemma, but perhaps as bloggers, we can be more careful up front to define the terms we’re going to use. Otherwise, our posts may become like so many trees falling in the forest, with no-one around to hear them. Because we’re all on different frequencies.

(Can’t resist linking to this post from Kevin Dugan – because the graphic says it all!)

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Hire Steve Woodruff  if your identity and message need clarity (personal or company Brand Therapy)

Recent posts on Connection Agent:

>> When Your Branding Zings

>> Can You Stop Me from Being a Pimp?

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Twitter: @swoodruff | @ConnectionAgent

Do You Have a Mission Statement?

I think I finally figured out mine:

My mission is to be a Connection Agent.

I am connecting people and businesses with their true identity and message; with creative opportunities to grow and succeed; and with other people and resources to bring about increasing success.

I want to leave behind a network of people who are richer because of these connections, and who will follow that example by enriching others.

As I look over the entire landscape of my heart and my activities, I think that kinda sums it up.

What about you? Can you arrive at yours a whole lot earlier in life than I’ve been able to?

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Steal This Idea

Just went to Wal-Mart to buy some replacement ink for my printer.

I hate the prices, and I hate the thought that 90% of the price is the packaging. Thief-proofing, I know – but wasteful and environmentally unsound.

Here’s what I’d love to find – a really high-quality third-party ink replacement company that would let me “subscribe” to having ink sent at regular intervals (or on-demand). In simple packages without the retail garbage surrounding it. I just enter in the printer(s) I have, make my first order, specify auto-ship or auto-remind intervals, and never run out of ink again.

I’ve used third-party ink replacement companies before, but the interval between orders is so long, I often don’t even remember who I used. And, the quality can be spotty. I hate paying manufacturer’s ink pricing – give me reliability and cross the threshold of easy; you’d have all my business immediately. Game over. Plus, the simple principle could then be extended to other supplies.

Anybody you know have something like this in place??

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It’s All Going Away

These social media tools we’re all using right now?

They’re all going to go away. Or, they will morph so much in the next 3-5 years as to be unrecognizable.

Why? Because they do bits and pieces of what we want. They’re Legos. Blocks. We’re rapidly growing up and finding we need better toys and tools.

We want to Find. Connect. Filter. Stratify. Create. Publish. Consume. Purchase. Consolidate. Aggregate. Edit. Comment. Link. Interact. Organize. Get face-to-face. Control our information.

Smart designers see this and are evolving their tools to keep doing more, and doing it better.

But we’re nowhere close to having what we need – these functions are scattered all over the place. We like the bits and the pieces, but now we need them assembled together in smarter ways. There are undoubtedly brilliant developers already working on this in stealth mode.

I, for one, can’t wait for a lot of what we have now go away. Not because it’s not great stuff. But because it’s not really built around us, and how we want to interact.

What do you want to see in the next generation of networking platforms??

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Friends Matter

Totally overwhelmed.

That’s how I was feeling as last week went on. Big plans and dreams got even bigger after brainstorming at SOBCon. Moving current business forward while exploring new avenues of creating value. Upcoming conferences. Writing. Trying to get a house sold so we can move. Family logistics. And on, and on.

Then my friend Jane Chin stepped in. Not only did she respond to a private post with a very perceptive note, but she offered to be a sounding board on a phone call, taking a half hour out of her very busy life to focus on me and my needs. Jane is part of my “Inner Circle,” a group committed to helping each other out on every level.

She asked the right questions. Gave wise and practical advice. Set me straight. Helped return “overwhelming” to “manageable.”

We can use all kinds of fancy terms like “network graph” and “ecosystem” and “six degrees of separation,” etc., etc. There’s a certain small satisfaction to page views and followers and rankings.

But when the rubber meets the networking road, it’s friends that matter! (& thanks, Jane!)

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Get Some Help

I’m a happy man. I wake up with peace in my heart, and hope for the future. Most days, anyway!

It was not always so.

For many years – decades – I lived under a dark cloud. Depression was a constant companion, so woven into my experience that I did not even know how bad off I was. I was so used to coping and managing around it, that most others had no clue either.

Seven or so years ago, I hit the wall. I was drowning in darkness. And, after getting some help, those clouds lifted, through the miracle of modern medicine.

My doctor let me know that if I couldn’t think my way out of, say, kidney disease, what business did I have believing I could think my way out of an organic brain chemistry disorder?

If you think you may be suffering from this affliction, know this – you’re not alone. Please take a few moments and read this, penned by Amber Naslund this week (don’t miss the comments!). And this personal plea, by Ellen Nordahl. Read this book review (Moving Beyond Blue) I posted a few days back, which tells Terese Borchard‘s story.

Then, get some help. Talk to a doctor and/or a therapist. Gain the support of trusted friends and family members. There is no stigma in being treated for a medical problem, no shame in taking a pill to help fix a biochemical imbalance, no “Go Directly to Jail!” card for opening up about your inner demons. But there’s a REAL problem with robbing yourself and others of your gifts, your energy, and your time, all of which are stolen away by the thief that is depression.

When the Apollo 13 astronauts radioed “Houston, we have a problem!” they took the needed step to recover from potential disaster. They didn’t append the phrase – “but I’m sure we can handle it ourselves!”

You’re not alone. And there’s a whole bunch of folks ready and willing to help you get back to earth safely. Get on the radio. Please.

[Update: Thanks, @cloudspark, for pointing out the example of former star quarterback Terry Bradshaw)

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Willing to Be a Builder

You have lots of enthusiasm about your career. Maybe you want to launch your own business. You’re enthused by the success stories you’ve heard, and you see fame and riches on the horizon.

Good – that’s a start. But here’s the reality check. If you want to be a success, you have to be willing to be a builder.

Action by action, person by person, role by role, year by year, your reputation is built. There is no short cut here – consistent excellence, concern for others, and proven character are the ingredients. No get-rich-quick scheme buys you a good name.

Skills? You have them. Now you need to hone them and build them up. Which means doing, practicing, exploring, evolving. If you’re a writer, it may take you years to find your “voice” – don’t be discouraged by this. Just realize that you may end up with little competition over time, because few others will be willing to pay the price!

Your future will depend, in large part, on your network. Anyone can accumulate “followers” – what you want is high-value people who value you. And that takes investment over time – acts and words of kindness, personal interest, meetings, making connections. All of which takes consistent effort. You’re building, not acquiring, a network.

Here’s a hint – look for others who are long-distance runners. Short-term people jump in and out of fads. Builders visualize the end goal and get busy making it happen. Brick by brick. Day by day. While surrounded by a trend-accelerated world, these folks know what it takes to build.

Excellence. Love. Labor. Time. If you’re willing to be a builder, and wish to be a leader, you’ll settle for nothing less.

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What Are We Doing…Really?

Relationship marketing. E-mail marketing. Web promotion. eCommerce. Social Media. CRM. WOM/Viral marketing. Add your own set of blah-blahs and a few etc.’s, plus mix in a healthy dose of all the TRADITIONAL marketing terms.

What are we doing, really? When you boil all that stuff down to its essence, aren’t we, at core, building beneficial connections? Or perhaps more broadly – building beneficial relationships to serve customers and grow business. Isn’t every company worth its salt supposed to be doing just that?

Maybe that’s the business we’re all in. These terms are all the threads. Building connections and relationships is the tapestry.

And maybe businesses will be quicker to adopt all this stuff if we present it as essence first, and all the details as holistic means to the end.

Just a thought.

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Surround Yourself with Smart People

You’re probably quite smart in a number of ways.

That number, however, is limited. Which is why you want to surround yourself with people who are savvy in lots of other ways.

It’s not a bad thing to build a large network of people (on-line and off-line). Just be sure that, in the process, you’re also building a smart network.

There are tons of very bright people out in the social sphere, and it’s really not that hard to find them, connect with them, start getting to know them. But the real value isn’t having their name on a list. It’s having their ear and brain and experience and connections when you need them (and them having access to yours).

Behind the scenes, I’m often brainstorming, and refining ideas, with all sorts of people (many of whom I met via social networking). They have whole realms of experience and perspective that I can’t possibly draw up from my own limited well. They have riches of insight and depths of knowledge that I’ll never attain in this little noggin.

A smart network is not a whole lot different than applying the Golden Rule. Being a good neighbor. Sharing resources. If you offer me a glass of Cabernet when I need it, should I go out and plant a vineyard – especially when I was quite happy to give you some bacon when you ran out last week? What’s the alternative – you go out and buy a pig?

So how do you go about building a smart network? Here are 3 astoundingly simple steps – we’re talking duh-level – that you already know. Just do them.

    1. Reach out. Say hi on Twitter. Reply to something they’ve written. Believe it or not, other smart people will enjoy your initiative and interaction, just as you do.
    2. Share your own expertise. Generously. Consistently. Without any baked-in quid pro quo.
    3. Ask. The 4 words, “Can you help me?” are very hard to resist when you have gained even a baseline amount of familiarity and credibility.

When you provide value, well-mixed with kindness and sincerity, you will be well on your way to a smart network. No PhD required. Now, about that Cabernet…

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Lasik for the Soul

I’ve had glasses or contacts since the 6th grade. Genetically/physically, weak vision. Been tempted for a long time by the possibility of laser surgery to “fix” the problem – maybe someday I’ll take that plunge.

But lack of 20/20 vision in the eyes isn’t the worst of problems. It can be corrected. Lack of vision in the soul is a much deeper issue.

If you’re reading this, you’re alive. But where are you heading?

If we met in the lobby of a hotel someday for coffee and a chat, and I said, “What do you really, REALLY REALLY want to do with your life?” – would you have a clear answer? And if you had an answer, do you have the beginnings of a roadmap on how you might get there?

If not, take my advice. Set aside 2-3 hours, get in a quiet place (a walk in the woods can be very therapeutic), and ask that question. Utterly blue-sky it – no limitations, no “how would I leave my current job? how would I make money to provide? what would people think?” – none of that. If there were not pre-defined limits - what would you seek to become and do?

When you can articulate it, and “see” it in the depths of your soul – you now have a vision. And with that vision, you’ll find passion.

Passion is what gets you off your rear end and kicks out passivity. You want drive, not drift. And all of that stems for a vision that you have for you.

Now, once you have that vision (and don’t discount the value of brainstorming with other people who know you, and can help you get clarity) – it’s time to put the work gloves on. How can I get from here, to there? What would be the steps, the process, to start moving in that direction? It may take years, it may take help, it will certainly take risk. But why settle? You might be surprised how much support and help is out there once you map out where you’re heading and start taking steps.

People respond to passion. People follow passionate leaders. Some people try to squelch passion and vision because it reminds them of their own myopia, but those aren’t your traveling companions. You want other clear-sighted people around you.

I’m still wearing glasses on my face. But each day, I’m seeing the other chart more clearly. What for many years seemed like a misty, impossible dream is now drawing closer. Many walks in the woods have shaped the vision. If you’re kind of drifting in the fog right now, it’s Lasik time. Take a long walk. And maybe let’s talk about your dreams when you get back…

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The _____ and the Restless

I like restless people.

By that, I don’t mean people who can’t settle down, concentrate, and get things done. That may call for ADHD medication, or at the very least, some maturation in self-discipline!

What I mean is that I am attracted to folks who ask questions. Who don’t assume the status quo. Who not only think different, and see different, but want to make things different. And can’t abide waiting around for others.

You may be younger, older, male, female, black, white, liberal, conservative, rich, poor – the key thing is, are you restless? If so, you can’t sit still. You are purpose-full. You prefer to brainstorm new realities than whine about current limitations.

Add focus and drive and smarts to restless, and such people get things done.

Restless people succeed (well, usually!). Restless people start restless companies that succeed. Restless people look at a nine-inch diameter pie and say, “Why can’t this be twice as big a pie and a bunch more people share it, and then make their own pies?” Restless people build movements. And they do so with other restless folks.

I’m more restless than I’ve ever been. How about you?

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100 Proof

Almost every alcoholic beverage has its place. I say almost, because there is still lite beer, and wine coolers. But you get the point.

Sometimes a glass of wine is right. Sometimes a summer ale, or a hearty porter. A nice bourbon on ice with a friend out on the deck is delightful.

The analogy can only be carried so far, but various forms of social networks are of varying strengths, and for various purposes. As much as I enjoy and use the general platforms (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.), much of the frustration is that overall, they end up being somewhere between 3-8 proof. Weak and watered down by sheer numbers, and wildly varying quality.

Yes, there are 100 proof people scattered throughout, but what if you had a whole bunch of them together in a closer, more organic network? Pay-it-forward professionals. Proven performers. Ethical, authentic people who want to work together to do business in new and creative ways.

Distilled, 100 proof trust agents.

Think of the possibilities. It’s an intoxicating vision. And if we get together this year, let’s sit down over coffee (or wine, or….well, not lite beer) and blue-sky this together… (and if you’re going to be at SOBCon 2010 in a couple weeks, well, let’s brainstorm in Chicago!)

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Letting Go

We grow up and live surrounded by “stuff” that becomes familiar. People, things, methods, media – they enter into our comfort zone of default assumptions and, at times, we don’t really want to let them go.

They’re comfortable. They’re known. And, they’re potentially deadly to business growth.

It was certainly hard for some people to let go the notion of riding horses to get from Point A to Point B – but you couldn’t tweak horses into performance that matched the newfangled automobiles. It was time to let go.

It’s hard for marketers to give up the notion of one-way communication – but in an interconnected world where people can now selectively listen, and freely publish and interact, it’s time to let go.

Many of us work in structures called corporations. It’s familiar, and these structures evolved to fill a purpose. But does that structure allow us to optimize our abilities, maximize our time investment, and earn what we’re worth? Should we think of company structures as some kind of inescapable default – or can we let go of the familiar and create new business approaches?

The creative architects will win. Those who can look back and resurrect what worked better. Those who can look around and replace what doesn’t work well with something superior. And especially, those who can look forward and not only let go of the current defaults, but create whole new ways to unleash their talents, and those of their teams and tribes.

Restless, questioning energy will blaze new trails. If we’re prepared to let go of the old ones.

I want to spend the rest of my days letting go. And creating. And unleashing. How about you?

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Being Purpose-full

I was reading in the Old Testament book of Proverbs this morning: “Let your eyes look directly ahead and let your gaze be fixed straight in front of you” (Proverbs chapter 4 verse 25).

This is the picture of someone who is purpose-full.

A clear goal. Eyes fixed on it. Ability to recognize distractions on the left hand and on the right, and (by and large) put them aside.

I want to be purpose-full. I want my boys to be purpose-full. Even allowing for the serendipity of life, and its unpredictable evolution. The details of our purpose might change, but being purpose-full has to do with choice, and character, and courage.

When we meet, once we’ve gone through the comfortable social norms of small talk, what I really want to discover is this: What’s your purpose? And how can I help you get from here to there?

In 1 minute or less, can you tell me what you’re purpose-full about? Even more important – can you tell that person in the mirror?

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The More Things Change…

I’ll leave it to others to put up the inevitable Top 10 Predictions for Social Media in 2010…yadda yadda yadda.

Let’s just make 2 very safe predictions: a bunch of stuff is going to change. And the core that really counts will remain the same.

It’s fun – in a bewildering kind of way – to try to keep up with all the technology changes each year. The removal of barriers through all this networking technology is breathtaking and exciting. What can be more fun than taking a picture, or a video, or scribbling a thought, on a handheld device and instantly publishing it for an audience consisting of “any and all”? What’s more fulfilling than finding kindred spirits on-line? And it’s just going to keep getting easier, and more immediate.

But one thing will remain exactly the same. Great relationships, new business ventures, helpful new connections – all of it will be fueled, as it always has been, by trust. Proven character and competence. Wholehearted recommendations by solid friends and colleagues. Handshakes that mean something.

Yes, the technology platforms will continue to be polluted by quick-hit artists, scammers, and false impressionists. We hate seeing the trash and detritus tossed into our refreshing little stream. But seated by the riverbank, sharing a cup of joe, talking face-to-face and looking eye-to-eye – that’s the new kind of business environment we’re creating. Just like…well, the old ways. Turbocharged with great new tools.

The more things change in this fast-paced world, the more they remain the same. Read Trust Agents by Chris Brogan. Take the long view of developing character and competence so that people cannot help but trust you. And if our paths cross in 2010, please sit down with me for a cup of coffee. You’ve been a great avatar. Now let’s go deeper – the way it’s always been.

Happy New Year!

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Pick a Steve

I’ve been at this digital social networking thing for 3 1/2 years or so now, and it’s been a great (and educational) journey!

But there is one question that keeps pecking away at my forehead, and maybe you can help me with it. In fact, ONLY you can help me with it, because it has to do with you.

Which Steve Woodruff do you want to follow?

Let me explain. While I don’t consider myself to be schizophrenic (yet – but there are still kids in the nest here!), I do possess a few different “personas” on-line. There’s the pharma guy (with a dedicated pharma blog, Impactiviti); there’s the general marketing/branding/social media fellow (Stickyfigure blog), and then there’s the more personal stuff on Steve’s Leaves. Every one of those blogs is its own info-stream.

All of these personas and infostreams meet on Twitter – plus photos, banter, occasional spoofs, and whatever else comes to mind. Twitter is the 360-degree view, and that’s where I have the nagging question.

Do you prefer to subscribe to a person on Twitter (holistically), or a topical info-stream? Are you looking for information (primarily), developing personal/professionals connections (primarily) – or is it a solid mix of the two?

In my case, a number of my followers are from the pharma world – what is your reaction when I start tweeting on general brands or social media ROI? Or if you originally linked up with me due to an interest in branding, is the string of tweets when I’m at a pharma conference useful or just noisy? I’m sure I’m not the only “social networker” wondering about this – and I want to make sure that I’m providing value that YOU want, in a way that works best.

One idea: would there be value in setting up different Twitter accounts that would emphasize different facets/info-streams (one for pharma, one for photos, etc.) or do you just prefer to subscribe to @swoodruff and take the punishment of the full spectrum? I can see benefits and drawbacks to either approach. Is subscribing to a choice of info-streams for/from the same person a good idea or just a pain? What say you?

(full disclosure – I enjoy seeing people 360-degrees on Twitter. I can find info in a thousand places – I like the mixture of info, links, personality, creative ideas, pix, banter, shared parental angst, etc. But that’s me. I want your thoughts!)

See also: The Social Media Isolation Chamber

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The Social Media Isolation Chamber

One of the great things about being involved in social networking is the robust – even heated at times – discussions we get to have. There are very smart people wrestling with important issues, not in a top-down command-and-control fashion, but in a creative level-playing-field manner.

Two rather noisy issues of late have to do with social media certification (check this post by Jason Falls and follow the links if you want to get the entire backstory), and the ever-present discussion of ROI in social media (see Olivier Blanchard for this material).

These are very important issues. But along with the many other discussions about social media, I think we have too much of a tendency (still) to put Social Media in an isolation chamber.

Social Media tools and approaches are a means to an end – or, rightly understood, to multiple ends.

Think about it this way:

1. What am I/are we trying to accomplish? (what is our goal – in this case, let’s focus on business only)

- Let’s say that our goal is to increase sales of our software service by 35% in 2010.

2. How are we going to accomplish that goal?

- Let’s say that we are going to build relationships with key thought-leaders who will influence others; along with making use of inexpensive ways of PR/Marketing messaging to our potential target audience; plus we’re going to add 2 key new features that are being requested often.

3. What are the methods we are going to use to make this happen?

- Direct sales calls; articles/write-ups in industry magazines; cultivation of key thought leaders by regular communication and relationship-building; attendance at 3 trade shows and sponsorship of 1; monthly webinars; exploration of Facebook and Twitter to build an audience/fan base; free trial program; etc. etc.

OK, so we have a business goal and a holistic plan. Now, where’s “social media”? Answer – all over the place! If you look at the methods suggested above, social media can be/is woven into the whole thing, because it’s part of a broad communications and promotion strategy. And using these approaches will likely help you shape your strategies going forward.

Done rightly, social networking is baked into an entire approach, and you can no more separate out the ROI of SM than you can separate out the ROI of, say, “print” or “e-mail.” You might be able to isolate out specific SM tactics and approaches (what is happening with our Facebook fan page, and can we trace sales directly from it?), but you can’t treat networked communications as some carved-out, independent piece – it’s not designed to be. And, it should not be treated as a short-term bit, but part of a long-term holistic strategy.

Did we achieve the 35% increase in 2010? How much time/effort/resources did we expend on the whole plan? Now you can think intelligently about ROI. Holistically.

The same line of thought goes with social media “certification”. What IS this “social media” that we’re “certifying”? To provide training, and a certificate that acknowledges skill acquired on a specific type of social media application (for instance, Facebook for Community Marketing – where there is a clear curriculum, a focused goal, and a competent trainer) – that’s great! But to say someone is certified in social media? It’s simply too vaporous.

Now, backing away from any of the particulars of the ROI or certification debate – should we not begin to move our THINKING and SPEAKING and WRITING about social networking out of the isolation chamber, and embed it in real and tangible – even holistic – applications? I guess, to put it simply – social media is not stand-alone.

As Jay Baer put it recently on his blog Convince and Convert:

Sure, social media has made incredible progress in a short period of time. But to reach its full potential – especially from an ROI perspective – social media needs to be a component in a larger marketing program. Yes, I believe all companies will “be” social eventually. But that’s not a marketing strategy, that’s a cultural initiative. We need to treat social media as a marketing ingredient, not a marketing cure-all.

What do you think?

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