Earlier, I gave what follows as the opening for my new Internet radio show. Each week, I'll cover a topic on Monday, 2 PM to 3 PM CST. This week's topic was "productivity." (Others are part of this Internet Radio co-op... you'll see them at different times on different days.)
This next hour is the Growth Accelerator, a pro-growth, pro-capitalism, pro-business discussion about moving forward in life, personally and professionally. You can find out more about me, Brett Rogers, at growthradio.com.
Each week, I'll choose a principled topic, and break it down in fresh ways and this week's topic is productivity.
Think for a moment about productivity. Your success in life is only as solid as your productivity, and your productivity is only as strong as its value to others. Unless you have a pile of money sitting around with which to pay the bills and afford the niceties in life, your productivity is determined by the value that other people place on it. If you are productive, you are, in some way, adding value to the lives of others in a way that they recognize and appreciate.
When I was growing up, I used to hear the importance of being a "productive member of society." I don't recall the last time that I heard someone say that phrase. How about you? When was the last time you heard someone say that?
My productivity means that I can stand on my own two feet. It means that I am strong enough to be self-sustaining. And so, the more productive I am, the stronger I am. If you think about my place in society, if I'm not productive, then I'm not strong, and I can't stand on my own, and then rather than being an additive force in this world, I require others to take care of me. I become subtractive and I take from others.
My first responsibility to the world and the highest secular moral I can achieve is this: to be as productive as I can be. To be a productive member of society. To be a value add, rather than a drain. The reason is that my life requires me to consume. I need a place to live, I need food, I need clothes and other items. If I live, I am going to consume. Every living creature on the planet consumes. There's nothing wrong with consumption, although some people will tell you it's bad. But it is immoral for me to consume and expect others to provide for my consumption, unless they have agreed to do so willingly. Again, I say, it is immoral.
But if I am productive, then I have the strength to stand on my own. I contribute. I produce something of value to others for which they willingly give me money. And because I am productive, I can consume as I need because I have earned the right to do so. That's moral. I'm a plus, and not a minus in this great big world. And every person in this great big world has the moral obligation to be a productive member of society. And we have the right to expect that of others. That's how society grows and prospers.
I begin with productivity as this first topic because it is the building block upon which everything we do is built. There are two types of productivity: individual and group. Let's take some time to look at individual productivity.
Management guru Tom Peters has a cool little concept he calls Brand You. Brand You. Just like Target has a brand, just like the Olympics has a brand, you have a brand. The opening sentence in Tom's book on Brand You is, "The fundamental unit of the new economy is not the corporation but the individual." Think about that...
Individuals circulate through the economy and look for an assignment - something they can do where they can add value and be paid for it so that they can consume. Their consumption, by the way, seeks value in what others do and pays them for it. The economy works just like that - millions of individuals being productive and consuming the productivity of others. It's an ecosystem of its own, based completely on the freewill choice of each independent individual.
How do you attract the attention of all of those millions of individuals so that they will willingly give you money for your productivity? You can do it on your own. You can partner with others. You can join a company. Somehow, you have to convince others that Brand You is worth the investment of their hard-earned money. You have to convince them that your productivity has value.
Michael Goldhaber of Wired magazine said, "The attention economy is a star system. If there is nothing special about your work, no matter how hard you apply yourself, you won't get noticed. And that increasingly means you won't get paid much either."
You are the star of Brand You. You are the CEO of Brand You. You are the chief marketing officer of Brand You. You are the front office and the back office of Brand You. Today, productivity starts with that realization.
What does Brand You do? What does Brand You do best?
You might recall from the various kids' shows you've seen throughout your life that they sometimes have segments telling children how special and unique they are. While that's a true statement, just being is not distinctive enough to generate a market demand. No animal in the animal kingdom gets away with just being. They have to either go get their food or do something productive that encourages others to bring food to them.
What does Brand You produce that is distinctive and attractive? The quality of your life is largely determined by what you do and how you showcase your productivity.
I want to tell you your job description. You think I don't know you, but I do, and I can tell you your exact job description. My exact job description was told to me long ago, and I've never forgotten it. It was told to me in the middle of a busy evening, in Towson, Maryland. The cold outside the TGI Friday's where I worked was fierce, and people would come through the door into the foyer shaking that deep chill off them, fluffing their coats to invite some heat into their clothing. I was a waiter, and it was two weeks before Christmas, and the TGI Friday's where I worked was on the outside corner of a mall. Shoppers, eager for a break and a bite to eat, were coming in steadily all through the day.
Danny was my manager that shift. He was an affable guy, with some Latino in him somewhere. His easy smile and personal warmth put an instant comfort into those around him. My particular section was swamped - and had been for some time - and I had worked the lunch shift earlier, and now was swinging into a double for the night. I was tired, and he could see it. He came up to me and put his arm around me as I strode into the kitchen and handed an order to the window.
"You know what your job description is?" he asked, his voice rising just enough to be heard above the clamor of dishes and the cooks. "It's the same as mine," he said.
That stopped me mentally and I give him my full attention. "You're a manager. Our job descriptions are nothing alike."
He smiled wider. "They're exactly the same."
He removed his arm and turned to stand in front of me with both hands on my shoulders, looking me squarely in the eyes. "Your job is to instill in our customers not just the desire, but the burning desire, to return to us again and again." He watched my face as what he said sunk in. "And that's my job description too."
Then he patted me on the shoulder with a big ol' grin and spun off to the service bar.
Obviously, I've never forgotten that moment. I'm here to tell you that Brand You has a mission, and that mission is just like he said it then:
"To instill in those around you not just the desire, but the burning desire, to return to you again and again."
Answer the following questions:
It's impossible to always be hired back, always have someone you meet to want to see you again, always be chosen for a team. That's not what this is about...
- When you work a job and leave, would they hire you back?
- When you meet someone, do you give them a compelling reason to want to see you again?
- When someone creates a team to achieve an objective, how quickly are you chosen to help in the cause?
But if you work to instill in them that desire, and you work from that perspective, what a difference that can make. If you work to instill in others - everyone around you - the burning desire to crave your participation again and again, it can dramatically change your quality of life. Danny spoke of it in terms of customers - but really, isn't everyone your customer?
I began today by saying that your productivity is only as strong as its value to others. That puts them in control of what you offer. They can choose to like it, or not like it. They can choose to accept its price - or not. They can choose to part with their hard-earned money and buy it, or walk away from it. Only if they choose to buy what you offer are you productive.
It is all about them. Brand You is only as strong as your ability to sell what you offer, plain and simple. Your continued success is only as vibrant as their burning desire to return to you again and again. Everyone around you gains a perception of what you offer. Their word-of-mouth might be what sells you to your next buyer.
Remember: the quality of your life is largely determined by what you do and how you showcase your productivity.
Next up: team productivity.