The very first entry I wrote was for my son Brandon. (A message to my 5 year old son Brandon). As he’s rounding the corner to 7, I think it’s time to drop some more knowledge.
1. Be as foolish, silly and authentic as you can possibly be. Understand that all adults put on a show. At least I hope they are because if people were as serious in real life as they are in business, you don’t want to know them. You can’t bro an android so don’t be one yourself. Life has contour, and truly, the only time when you have everything under control is when you’re dead. You do not need to be a corporate cutout to make a lot of money, not that that should ever be your goal. Never, ever grow up to be a dude who tosses around corporate buzz-words, war-stories and ‘networking-isms’ around me. I’ll send you to your room, even if you’re 35, for being a nerd. Brandon, there isn’t a dance floor I won’t dive onto. I could give a ____ how I look to others. I only care about how I feel. That’s also how I met your mother. In a club. In her face. With an awful line. She turned out to be a super hot surgeon and we’re hitting our 10 year anniversary. So there’s that.
Never, ever conform and be like the dude beside you. Learn to punch embarrassment in the face and you can do anything.
2. Before you think about finding a job, think about creating one. For as long as you’ve known me, I’ve been an entrepreneur. When I take on corporate roles, it’s for a strictly defined time to accomplish a strictly defined task. The workplace is a bell-curve and for as many people who are looking for a job, there are about a quarter the number who are creating jobs. When you hear an adult talking about how much he pays someone, you need to know if it is his own money and he’s a business owner or if it’s company money and he’s an employee. Once you know, you can decide if what he says next has any real weight. Anybody can talk huge if he’s not risking his own money and time. So how do you start to think about creating a business? Understand the role of margin and scale. If someone is willing to work for X dollars, what is the multiple you can make off his labour? Owning a business is not for everyone so you need to identify who doesn’t want to own a business and up-sell his abilities/production for margin and multiple to a buyer. The key is not to produce the product/service yourself. The highest value is the ability to sell it. Everything needs to be sold, be it a product, process or service. And as I said in my first blog to you, if you can consistently sell, you will never, ever depend on an employer.
3. Good health is not an option. Sorry if this sounds shallow but I’m not ever letting you become a bum who sits in front of a video game for hours and flabs out. And if I catch you playing a sports game on the Playstation instead of actually playing the sport outside, I am going to embarrass you right in front of your friends. There’s a reason I am constantly active and that’s because time is unrelenting. I’ll stop being active when I die. Your body is an incredible, self-healing machine. But only to a point. A healthy person has infinite wishes. A sick one only wants to get well. It is about six-packs and wind sprints but not for vanity. The human body evolved in an environment of constant starvation and high metabolic demands. A third of calories consumed goes to the brain with the rest being stored as the next meal was usually unreliable. Now you no longer have to actively stalk a lasagna before you ravage it but your body, the product of millions of years of evolution doesn’t know that and stores everything anyways unless it’s burnt for fuel. That’s going to make you sick and make you look gross to boot.
Brandon, what you grow up to be will be awesome no matter what I say unless you grow up to be a hipster. The key to everything is active observation and never give people more deference than is deserved. I teach my sales guys the same thing – everybody is just some guy, neither better or worse than you. Never be fooled by a title. Everybody’s hiding something and everybody is generally winging it. But here’s the great news – most people, and I mean an overwhelmingly high number of people, are good people and people you can trust. Murderers, rapists and con-men do not roam the streets in high numbers despite what the news on TV tells you – at least not in Toronto.
So here’s #4. Turn off the TV. Go build Lego instead.