The Best Piece of Advice I’ve Received in Years

I find the topic of advice to be pretty polarizing. And maybe polarizing is the first word that comes to mind for most people, but I think it fits because it can create the most opposite of reactions.

Sometimes people go and seek advice, and their either confirmed in their initial thoughts are told something they don’t want to hear. At other times advice is given when not asked for, and in all these cases the reaction from the person on the receiving end can range from being feeling positive and validated to negative and hostile.

How you feel about the advice you’ve just been given also stems from a number of things. Is the source trustworthy? Does the source understand the whole situation in context? What is the character of the source?

All of these things played into mind when I was recently given this bit of advice: “Don’t run away from a bad situation, run toward a great one.” Those were the words from a good friend of mine, David Griner, Director of Digital Initiatives and Innovation at Adweek. I trust Dave and his opinion because he’s not shy of telling the honest truth, saying things as they are, and he believes in paying it forward.

“Don’t run away from a bad situation, run toward a great one.”

~ David Griner

It’s a perspective that I had not considered before and it makes total sense. No one wants to stay in a bad situation or one that is less than ideal, and nobody would blame anyone for wanting to leave something like that as quickly as possible. But if you only consider running away from a bad situation, you will be willing to accept another situation that’s only ideal for the moment. Then it won’t be too long before you find yourself looking to leave another bad situation.

Instead, if you’re running to something good or great, you are advancing yourself and moving towards something that you’re truly passionate about. And a job, position, or situation that you’re passionate about has the chance to last and will make you happier overall.

In order to take advantage of Dave’s advice though, we have to set aside some time to think and remove the emotions that drive us to consider change to begin with. Perhaps the current situation isn’t as bad as originally thought, and the opportunity you were looking to go to isn’t as good as it looked.

Well that’s the lesson that I’ve learned, does it apply for you as well?

What is the Snapshot of You?

Photography gives us the ability to freeze time and memories. Sometimes those memories bring a smile to my face and other times they don’t. Regardless of the reaction, I cam remember where I was and what I was doing at the time the photo was taken. Then, it will either turn into a good memory, or a bad one.

While this is just a photo of an empty subway train in NYC, I remember taking this on the that I ran my first half marathon.

Photos are why I like Instagram so much. I love seeing places and things from other people’s perspectives. Sometimes the photos that people share make me want to add a place or an experience to my bucket list, and at other times they make me remove things from that same list.

We leave the same impression and generate the same memory, good or bad, each time we interact with someone. What would people remember if they saw a snapshot of you?

Who You Are Is How You Act

My favorite hobby nowadays is taking photos. I think you can tell a lot about a person by what they create, and in my case if you look at my photography you can get a good snapshot (pardon the pun) of who I am. 

It’s not just the case with photography though. Who you are is embodied in your work and your actions. What you output is a reflection your self. It’s why we want to be proud of what we’ve done and what projects we work on. It’s why we want to work on what we’re passionate about.

Symmetry and balance are two things that I like to find when taking photos.

In addition to work and what we create, who we really are also comes out in how we act. What we say no longer has meaning if how we act is much different from that. 

My favorite movie quote is from Batman Begins, “it’s not who I am underneath, but what I do that defines me”. I’ll admit, Batman is my favorite superhero, but had the Joker said it I still think it would be my favorite movie quote because it resonated with me. Actions do speak louder than words. 

“It’s not who I am underneath, but what I do that defines me.”

~ Batman Begins

Trust has always been very important, and it seems that nowadays who you can trust or what you can believe in is really hard to determine. People flippantly say things all the time without thinking, and words don’t seem to mean as much as they used to. So I’m going to let my actions, and what I do, do the talking for me. And your actions will also define you as well.

A Real Life Lego Dilemma

I’ve always been a fan of Lego. When I was kid, I wished that I had a room dedicated to Lego. Sadly I didn’t get my wish, and now that I’m older with two boys, I’m living vicariously through them and their Lego sets.

Very recently my wife and I watched The Lego Movie. I had seen it before but this was the first time for my wife. I still find the movie to be very entertaining. Animated movies nowadays seem to be made for the adults just as much as they are made for the kids.

As kids, we can be pretty creative. When I was growing up, Lego had some sets you could build, but nothing compared to what they have now. Back then, I was happy to just get a box of bricks so I could create something out of my own imagination. Spaceships, tanks, castles, you name it. Ok so maybe to the outside person they didn’t quite look like that, but to me they did. The point is I was able to let my imagination run wild and just build stuff.

Fast forward to the present day, and I’m the one with zero imagination and have to do things by following the instructions. I’m the guy that likes the finish product to look just like it does on the box cover, and I’m slightly bothered when it doesn’t. My wife compared me to President Business, but I haven’t gotten to the point where I’m ready to unleash the Kragle.

I like my Legos built according to how the instructions say they should be.

My boys on the other hand, like to build things according to the instructions, but they also make modifications as well. While I’m the purest when it comes to built sets, they like add things here and there to finished sets and they also love to free build. To be complete honest, when they add things to sets that don’t “belong”, it drives me nuts. But this quote started to change all of that.

“What I see are people inspired by each other and by you. People taking what you made, and making something new out of it.”

~ Finn, The Lego Movie

It’s funny how cartoon and animated movies intended for kids end up being more meaningful for adults. The quote above is the dialogue between Finn, a kid, and his father, who has all of these Lego sets built according to their instructions and set in their appropriate themes with zero crossover. And it spoke to me.

My kids are going to use the instructions and the built sets as a baseline, and then personalize and make things new from there. They’re proud of themselves if they complete sets as they were intended, but when they’re able to put their own spin on it they’re even more proud and happy about it. It doesn’t make the original set design bad or wrong, it’s just not the end or the final. The original set serves as the launch point for their creative minds. They’re inspiration for new ideas and new creations even those are built from scratch.

Kronkiwongi: Any Lego creation built out of imagination without instructions. This car with wings that my kids built is a Kronkiwongi.

Imagine if we were to consider the way we work in this kind of way. There would be a better understanding between all generations young and old. There would be respect for what has been previously established and a respect for new ideas and change. Just because something is old doesn’t mean it’s completely irrelevant and just because something is new doesn’t mean it’s a bad idea.

As someone who is “older”, it’s easy to write off and turn your back on this younger generation that considered to be too pampered, entitled, self-absorbed, who cannot live without their mobile devices. We even a TV show dedicated to this, “The Great Indoors”. Full disclosure, I do find the show to be pretty funny.

But to dismiss the younger generation in this way would be wrong. I work with a lot of younger people who work really hard and have great ideas and aren’t full of themselves. And to be fair, some older people are just as pampered, entitled, and self-absorbed too.

At the same time, it’s easy for the younger generation to write off and turn their backs on those of us that are older by thinking that we are out of touch with reality, don’t understand new things, cannot figure out technology, and are too stubborn and proud to admit when we don’t know something. That mindset would be wrong too. There are things that you learn from experience that you cannot learn instantly from reading a blog post or tweet. There are many of us who are open to new ideas, trying new things, aren’t afraid of technology, and are constantly trying to understand and know younger generations.

It’s a lesson in compromise and finding middle ground. Each side giving a little of something so that the end result is the best result. It’s about giving a younger generation a chance to do things, with freedom and leeway to make mistakes. But it’s also respecting the older generation’s experience, having an understanding that not all new ideas are good ones, and that success is something that it built over time.

In the end, I guess it just takes both sides to be open to each other. A little give and take. Are you open to it?

Why I Run

In 2016 I ran the New York City Marathon, something I never thought I would do. Immediately after it was completed I told myself I’d never do it again.

But now it’s 2017, barely, and I’ve already committed myself to run the 9 qualifying races in 2017 to gain entry into the 2018 NYC Marathon. It’s quite the radical change in direction.

The 2016 NYC Marathon was definitely hard, but I’m getting ready to try it again.

Just to set the stage a bit and context for why I’m compelled to write about this, I’ve always been fascinated by how people think, and I love trying to figure out what makes people tick. So since it’s a new year, I figured I’d start with me.

On the surface it’s easy to reason that I enjoy the competitive feeling of running, or that the experience of running one marathon will help me with a second. Both of those reasons are true. I enjoy competing with myself to get better and now that I know what it takes to run a marathon it will definitely help me with the second. But a recent blog post by Jay Acunzo prompted me to think deeper than that.

In all fairness to Jay, I’m sure he didn’t think someone would equate Executives Are in Love with the Wrong Kind of Data” with the reason for why someone runs, but it happened and here’s why. Jay talked about thinking critically and creatively, and getting beyond the surface of the initial data reported to make decisions and determine actions. The example he shared was excellent, and I won’t ruin it for you. But it does involve vegetarians and flying. Consider yourself intrigued.

The other big part about looking deeper into things, as Jay points out, is understanding the context or a situation. So if I look past the surface and take into account the context of my current situation, being a bit older now and having a family, it boils down to two things. Family and health.

Running has affected my diet and my decision on what to eat and when. Running is something that I can do with my boys and also will help keep me in shape to stay active with them as they grow older. It’s an activity that can be done all year round.

Sure it’s also about doing something that I know that I can get better at with time. I can make little gains more frequently and sometimes they’re not measurable in the number of miles run or how much time it took.

But the main reasons are family and health. So there you have it. That is why I run.

You’re probably sitting there thinking that what you just read wasn’t that enlightening, and I’d have to agree. Nothing earth shattering here. The whole point was to get you to entertain the idea of thinking differently and understanding the context. See the real value here in understanding me is understanding what my real motivations are and what’s important to me. And those things might not be too clear if you’re just scratching the surface.

Those important things are what will keep me motivated to keep my commitment to running, even after the excitement of completing races has worn off. These things are what will keep me committed to running without having to sign up for a race at all.

If you’re like me, and you want to have a better understanding about how people think and how to better connect with others, start considering the context of the situation that others are in, and try to look past the surface of things.