Everything’s amazing, nobody’s happy
Thanks to my FB friend Carol Previte for sharing this one. Louis CK, we need much much more of you!
Am knee deep in the new business hooplah. This is a good problem to have. Nevertheless, it is all consuming so am on a little blog break till next week. Back atcha soon, hopefully with happy tales of triumph to share.
If my admiration for Capt. Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger was intense before, it rages now with the fire of a thousand suns, now that I’ve seen his sit-down with Katie Couric.
There are so many ways I’m inspired by Sully. The leadership. The sense of calm. The apparent lack of ego. The clarity, intelligence and plain-speak of his communication. And at the risk of trivializing the feat he pulled off in the Hudson, I couldn’t help but think there are lessons in project management we can take from Sully.
Fans of David Allen’s “Getting Things Done” know the power of breaking down complex projects into manageable “next actions” — literally, physical stuff you need to do to keep the engine of your project revving. (Read more here.) Great trick to keep you out of the worry zone and in action (see “How Not to Worry” post).
I thought of this during the Sully-Couric interview. If you want to know how to break down “execute emergency water landing without destroying plane/killing people” into next actions, here’s how. Per Sully:
I needed to touch down with the wings exactly level.
I needed to touch down with the nose slightly up.
I needed to touch down with a descent rate that was survivable.
I needed to touch down at our minimum flying speed but not below it.
Sully broke down his overwhelming task into discrete physical actions — in less than 60 seconds. Oh, and then this last bit:
I needed to make all these things happen simultaneously.
OK, not your usual project management challenge. But what Sully’s handling of that plane reinforced for me is the need to stay in action. Figure out what needs to get done…and do it.
And stay in the moment. When Couric asked Sully if upon landing he reflected on the fact that he had just saved all those lives he said no, because he hadn’t quite yet. They were still in the water. There was more work to be done. More critical next actions to take.
What critical next actions do you need to take?
[must-haves while creating new business presentations]:
Chocolate (courtesy of kind-hearted boss)
OK, I am officially never going to worry again — ever — that the presentations I write are too high-concept or academic. Thanks to my esteemed colleague Lee, I had a chance to behold the joy that is the Peter Arnell “Breathtaking” Design Brief for the Pepsi rebranding. (Check it out here.) This feels ever so slightly…high-concept and academic.
I’m inspired to try a new torture test — would any presentation I write hold up to ridicule if exposed online? It’s fine to be smart and provocative (and yes, sometimes strategic explication requires sophisticated diagramming and fancy-pants words), but a person can go too far.
All that said, I am a big admirer of much of Peter Arnell’s work. He is among many other things the man who gave us the iconic DKNY billboard that graced the Soho landscape for nearly two decades (see below). I was an assistant in Donna Karan’s office at that time (now there’s fodder for blog posts) and truly loved my work. I was 24 with my first Big City Job, working in the epicenter of this crazy company just beginning to explode with growth, serving a woman who can credibly be called one of the design geniuses of our time — and this billboard made me burst with pride every time I saw it.
It never felt like advertising. It was like Donna and Peter’s love letter to the city. For that alone I’d forgive Arnell the Pepsi/Golden Ratio/Mona Lisa silliness.
So word around the office was that we had a new caterer coming in to do a tasting and would I mind stopping by to check it out. While a tasting might sound lavish and fun, when you’re knee-deep in new business hooplah it feels a bit more like a distraction than a treat. Also, it’s been many a moon since I personally vetted any caterers for the events we do for clients, so I thought it best to leave this one in the capable hands of the DeVries troops.
But so many people nagged me that I put down my hummus and Scandinavian flatbread (yet another glamorous lunch in front of my HP L19050) and schlepped down the hall to the conference room to see what all the fuss was about.
And was greeted with this:
Trust me when I say, these pictures don’t do the food justice. I’ve never attended a tasting this impeccably presented, nor this insanely delicious (organic veggie sushi you would die, repeat, die over.) Oh, with a Buddha statue worked into the display.
I almost hesitate to reveal who the caterer is because I’d much rather it stay our agency’s little secret — but these guys are too great not to promote.
So behold the genius of Smart Catering. And they are quite literally smart. They’ve invented a new catering model that outsources all the culinary work to chefs and restaurants that are best at what they do. No more catering menus that do sushi or dessert quasi-well…Smart Catering gives you sushi from Megu, cupcakes from Magnolia and pastries from Payard. And pull it all together with an exquisite taste level and — refreshing — flexibility on price. I see many happy event partnerships in the future with this company.
As my latest Facebook status updates indicates, I am officially freaking out about the economy. I also realize it’s not my personal rainstorm and there are people in this country who are really and truly hurting so frankly, I should shut my piehole.
But. Fear is relative and has a way of poisoning everything. I was cuddling with my son on the sofa this morning before taking off for work and instead of just enjoying the moment, my mind was racing ahead to some dystopian future in which our economy has completely collapsed and we’re all wandering through a blighted landscape fighting off zombies and eating twigs to survive (am not sure what the connection is between economic collapse and zombies, but the image kind of felt right.)
So at the risk of sounding like some “check-out enlightenment” Oprah follower, let me offer this piece of wisdom from the Tao (as relayed by wealth manager and author Paul H. Sutherland in this month’s Spirituality and Health magazine):
Stop thinking and end your problems.
I really, really, really need to stop thinking. It leads to no good. Thinking means I’m not doing. I need to stay focused on doing good work and get into action to resolve the stuff that’s keeping me up nights (whether personal or professional).
More good stuff from Sutherland (though if painful introspection isn’t your thing, you might want to skip ahead):
Our institutions have lost their connection to sustainability, ethics, virtue and common sense. Our institutions are ‘us’ and so the issues that are epidemic in our economy — excess debts, doing less than paid for, indifference and a feeling of entitlement or gain without effort — trickle up to be the way our institutions work…or don’t work.
“Our institutions are us,” ouch. OK, I may not be guilty of expecting gain without effort (I bust my hump at the office) but I’d be lying to imply I haven’t exhibited a sense of entitlement at times or frankly, been less than mindful about finances.
SO. Stop thinking. Start doing. Get into action. Be grateful.
(And quit worrying about the zombies.)