How to Turn the Lights On

In one of my last posts, I did a Dr. Seuss style metaphor about turning the lights on in your business called Zaggerbaggers & Night Lights. This post is more down to earth.

I have found that as a young entrepreneur I had no idea how easy it is to NOT understand what is going on inside of the company, that means everything from metrics, to people, to culture. I think that everyone goes through something similar.

No matter if you have been in business for a few months or for several years, everyone experiences pain at some point and time. Most of the time we have our own thoughts about what has caused it.

We think it was an employee, customer, the economy, or that’s just how the job turned out. But what a lot of us including myself fail to realize is that I am so caught up looking at my to-dos, my pile, and what is on my plate, that I forget to look up and see the world around me aka my company.

There is a deep truth though to how things really are. Most of our pain is caused by decisions that we make way in advance of the problem or pain that we just faced.

It’s just like gaining or losing weight. No one ever gets overweight in one night. They also don’t lose weight overnight either. So how do you turn the lights on?

First, it’s important to know that you don’t know what you don’t know. So the process of turning on the lights is uncovering what you don’t know.

That means tracking what you aren’t tracking. The books, time, projects, leads, whatever it is that is vital to your company you need to track it to understand where the company is.

There are three ways that we measure things in life.

The first is our gut. Everyone has a gut feeling they get when they make decisions, sometimes your gut says go for it, other times it’s like hold up, I need some more info.

The second is what we call scientific. That means we count everything. Our time, money, processes, steps. Whatever is necessary for us to move forward we track it.

The third is what we call breathing. You don’t count breathing, it just happens. There are things in the company that we don’t count because it just happens naturally. Like how many times we stop and take lunch, we don’t count it, it just happens.

However, most people don’t do the scientific, they use their gut, or they don’t think about it like breathing. I know, because we did it the same way when we started.

We used to give estimates for projects and use our gut to figure out how much it would cost. Later we got smarter and started tracking time per-project, well guess what, the gut was really wrong. But that’s the things about feelings, they can really be misleading.

However, you can’t be cold and heartless by solely relying on logic and reasoning. That’s no way to run a company much less live life.

You have to have a balance. It is so important to have a balance.

You must use both. You use the tracking and counting to keep your gut in check, and you use your gut to keep the cold logic in check. A company without a heart is soulless, but a company without rationality is mindless.

So you need things like tracking, counting, and other processes to turn the lights on inside the company to really see what’s going on. Then you got to do something that most people don’t like to do.

You have to talk about The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly.

Once the lights come on and you start to understand what is happening, you’re going to have to reflect and address how you got to where you are. That means talking about things that might make you feel uncomfortable.

We as people love to be seen as the best, brightest, and whatever else is praised. We use this as a defense mechanism to keep people from seeing our weaknesses, which ironically keeps people from seeing our strengths.

You are you, and you can’t just hide part of yourself. It’s an all or nothing. So talk, reflect, and change the way you practice.

I grew up as a concert pianist and one of my teachers looked at me and told me, “Michael I am not here to make you play better, I am here to teach you how to practice because practice doesn’t make perfect. Perfect practice makes perfect.” And it hit, the only way I get better at piano, no, at life, is to learn how to practice better.

That’s why you talk, so you can look back and see the failures, mistakes, and successes, to learn how to practice better. So when the time comes to play the game, you’re ready to run the play, ready to pivot, slide, and tackle when it becomes unexpectedly necessary.