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Following the Rules

Too Much Of The Same Thing

Recently I wrote about how awesome it is to walk around the city playing video games and listening to audiobooks, and I still think it’s a great thing to do, if you want to get a lot of reading done quickly, but there’s still a lot to be said for walking around in silence.

There’s so much you can miss in a city like New York if you walk around with headphones in, and the last few weeks I’ve found myself slowly losing awareness of the world around me.

The high point was when I was walking down a sidewalk in Harlem, playing games and listening to a book… when I smacked right into a tree.

1x1.trans Too Much Of The Same Thing

My worst enemy

Back when I was in school, I used to take walks most mornings — I’d walk around the lake and just think about things: life, love, whether all my friends secretly hated me, and it was great.

To experience that again, for the last three weeks I made a rule: no audiobooks or video games during the week.

It’s had some surprising results: I’m becoming more aware of the people around me, especially my coworkers, and their reactions to my behavior both good and bad.

That increased awareness is allowing me to see more opportunities to do favors and learn more about the people I work with; something I wanted to do when I started working, but I was too distracted by the audiobooks to make it a priority.

I figure balance is key, even though I’m terrible at it. For now I’m leaving my binge audiobook listening and gaming for the weekends, just to see what happens.

Which works better for you?

-Alex

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Copying Vs Replicating?

When I talk to business owners about why they make certain choices, their go-to response many times is “because it’s what our competitors are doing.”

That’s not a bad way to approach things, but often when business owners try to do industry best practices, they end up COPYING competitors instead of REPLICATING them.

Let’s take two fast food restaurants as an example: Restaurant A is the industry heavy hitter while Restaurant B is the competitor trying to catch up.

Restaurant A goes through a year of research and introduces salads onto a menu that original only served burgers.

Now, if Restaurant B wants to compete, they have two options: COPY or REPLICATE.

COPYING would be adding salad to their menu as well.

Obviously Restaurant A did their research, and added salad for a reason, so why shouldn’t Restaurant B add salad, too?

The other, more tactical, way to go about it is to REPLICATE.

Restaurant A saw an opportunity, and they added salads to their menu, but WHY?

That’s what Restaurant B should be asking.

Did Restaurant A add salads because they found that customers wanted healthier options?

If so, maybe Restaurant B adding salads isn’t the best way to capitalize on the opportunity: they might be better off adding diet sodas, fruit cups, or even lower calorie burgers.

Replication is going after the reason BEHIND your competitor’s actions, rather than copying them flat out.

How can you apply this to your business or projects?

-Alex

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Is It Worth The Struggle?

I loved the movie Jersey Boys — it’s a biography style film about this group of kids from the Jersey streets who go on to become the band The Four Seasons, and all the crap they had to get through for that to happen.

And it was A LOT of crap:

This is a group of people who had to struggle for YEARS before anyone would even listen to a song of theirs, and the members of the band had to go through several members before finding a line-up that actually got market traction.

I love movies like these because they let you see how much work it takes to make it

In the film, the writers try to speed up the learning process and get to the fun stuff, so on screen you see Frankie Valli learning to sing for a bit, breaking into cars and getting in trouble before making it big, and that part of the film lasts MAYBE 20 minutes.

To the guys actually living it, that part of their lives went on for years and years

It took sixteen years for all of them to grow up, and five more years working in a hair salon during the day while hustling and performing at night, all before any radio station would even look at the cover of a demo record.

It’s the same in real-life: lots of people work their asses off for years at a time and get nothing… NOTHING to show for the hours and years they put into a project.

Then, some give up and become average

Devoting their time to their kids 100%, losing themselves in the lives of their children while they watch their dreams and abilities slowly fade away because they aren’t using them.

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Victory in life

Others keep trying… they don’t let a couple years of debt stand in their way. They ignore almost EVERY SINGLE PERSON in their lives that tells them to be realistic, and they keep working, because it’s the only thing they can do.

Some people can adapt to being a worker — they have the skills to get very specialized in a job, work as part of a giant machine, and are content with being a tiny piece of a cog inside of it, not even a full cog, for their entire careers.

Other people aren’t like that….

They know there’s going to be down time, time where they don’t feel like getting out of bed, and worse — time when it feels like they’re so close to finally achieving their goals only to have that short term success destroyed in seconds by an email or phone call from a person with more power than them.

And when that happens, they know they need to push through — to learn from the people who’ve done it before, because they see the humanity in the success.

All the great entrepreneurs I know have fucked their lives up multiple times — they’ve gone down career paths unrelated to what they finally ended up doing, most dropped out or nearly dropped out of college, and they ALL kept going no matter what happened.

The future successful people among us know that we NEED to go through similar things if we want to do anything great.

Keep it up, man — you’re on the right track.

-Alex

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Finding Passion In Your Work

I was at a coffee meeting with a kid who went to my college a couple days ago. He was new to the city and wanted some advice on how to move forward when it came to work. First of all, it’s amazing that other people are reaching out to FGCU alumni in New York, and that he thinks I’m one of the people worth reaching out to.

He asked how I found a job in a new city, moving here with no connections, and I told him the main thing I did: pick one specific job title, then meet people with that job title to make sure it’s one you like — if it isn’t, pick a new job title and start over.

Following your gut

Two years ago, when I was about to finish Junior year in college, if you asked me what I wanted to be when I started working, I would have said “an account manager at an advertising firm in NYC.” I knew that’s what I wanted to be, but I got a lot of push back from the market when first moving here, and ended up taking a business development job at a startup.

While there, the team and I grew the company considerably — the thing is still growing like mad, spreading across the country — but I had to leave. Some aspects of the job were fun, the marketing and user acquisition parts, but I was on the phone all day cold-calling dance classes and karate instructors trying to convince them of the value of what my company did.

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I thought coffee was only for closers

Don’t get me wrong, some people LOVE doing that sort of thing — my parents’ entire business was built on it — but it’s not something I can do consistently and get enjoyment out of, so I left.

Me and the company are still on good terms and they hired an amazing sales guy, someone who LIVES to develop new business, and I went on to sell flavored marshmallows, then swingsets. Now I’m back in the city and I’ve come full circle: I’m a Digital Account Manager at an interactive agency in the city, and it’s fantastic so far, but I had to go through a lot of shit to get this job, and it’s only the beginning of a career.

“I’ve come full circle”

I don’t have a solid memory before high school — just bits and pieces of events. So I’m happy where I am right now career wise, and probably will be for another 3-4 years, but everyone understands it’s just a stepping stone, jobs end but lives continue, and people have different paths.

Am I passionate about marketing? Who knows. Do I find it fun when people use a product that I had a part in creating, or when I go to Google Analytics and see a few hundred or thousand people using a site I helped pitch, design or ideate? Hell yes.

Explore a little bit, and you could be in a similar place.

-Alex

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How To Get Over Regret

I was messed up for years over my biggest regret: not letting a girl who I had a huge crush on in high school know I liked her.

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I KNEW she liked me back, I just didn’t pursue the relationship, probably out of fear, and it ate me up for a long time. I invented this image of her in my head, and the image of this person grew until the girl in my head looked nothing like the one who I met in person a few years ago when I lost the regret.

Moving on

I was in my hometown, bored out of my mind, and I texted her, the one I thought about randomly. We met up, we had a great time, hung out, kissed or whatever we did, and it was cool, but the girl I saw that night wasn’t the same as the one in my head. And somehow, the regret was gone.

It barely hurt when she stopped texting me after that night, or when she sent me a Facebook message months later apologizing for going silent… it still hurt, but I learned about the difference between the people in our heads and the people that exist in real life. Now, years later, her name doesn’t pop up as often, but when it does I know the name represents an idea, not a person, and so the regret isn’t nearly as strong.

Dating a grenade

Watching the movie Fault In Our Stars destroyed me… it reminded me of a girl I dated for months, and ended up living with.

She didn’t tell me she had brain cancer until after we were already dating. I cried the night she told me. I still remember the look on her face as she laid in bed curled up in a ball after it happened.

Then the tumor was gone.

To this day I have no idea if she even had it, but watching the characters on screen during Fault In Our Stars, and even reading their stories in the book brought me to tears, got me thinking about a girl I tried to forget.

She moved out in the middle of the night: I was asleep until right before she closed the bedroom door. I never saw her again, and can’t find her on Facebook.

The patriarchy

My father died of the same disease: a brain tumor that turned him blind. I was 10 and some of my only memories of him are after the cancer hit, and the cruise we were on right before he got sick.

I still remember his stories and the way he talked, but today, looking at a picture of him online, I find I don’t recognize him, that I can’t even remember what his voice sounds like, and it kind of hurts, as much as anything.

Happy birthday

My brother Robert gave the eulogy at my dad’s funeral.

The eldest brother, he stepped up to fill my father’s shoes. I don’t remember what he said exactly, but it was well put together. We had the funeral on my little brother’s birthday.

Two years later, Robert died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

This guy had it all: a hot girlfriend, a booming business, two great kids, and it all slipped away from him pretty much overnight.

In his final days, his business was under investigation, his ex-wife was about to get full custody of his kids, and his girlfriend was days away from leaving him — so he left us. One shot to head, and the guy who stood up to lead us after the death of our dad was gone.

And at 12 years old, I spoke at my brother’s funeral.

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