A little over a year ago, I left Wells Fargo. It was a no-brainer decision - despite a lot of initiatives and ideas that I proposed, Wells wouldn't move forward on any of it. So I could have remained as an expert thumb-twiddler, or I could have moved on. I chose the latter.
Since that time, my life has gone in strange new directions. I became a spokesperson for LG and was flown out to LA to film a 3-minute spot promoting their cell phones. I've started a new company. I'm creating a very complex web site for a local firm. I became an outspoken advocate for freedom and helped organize the local tea parties. And I find that I'm being used more and more as a strategy consultant, which is the position I'd held at Wells.
I'm not being paid for my work as a strategy consultant. At least not yet. What I'm learning is that there are people out there, bold and daring and eager to figure out their place in life and business, who benefit from my view of their position and ambitions. I met for a long time with one of those people today. Had lunch together. He asked me, "What do you want from all of this?" I told him that if my advice and directive held merit and worked toward profit, I trusted that he would be fair with me. We'd figure that out later - let's focus now on executing the plan.
It was a couple of weeks ago that I was driving through rural Georgia. Tamara was resting quietly in the passenger seat next to me, and I had spent the previous 100 or so miles considering this man's business and his goals. He'd been looking for a better model for profitability, and he and his partner welcomed my help. We never discussed rate or money. I did it because I like these guys and because it was an interesting puzzle. These two men were trying something no one had ever really done before.
Somewhere near Griffin, Georgia, I figured it out. Over the next day, I wrestled with the various logistics of my solution, and then I called the man's partner and pitched it to him. I wrote a 4-page white paper, further clarifying the model, and got his buy-in. Today, I laid it out for the man himself. He loved it. The model is crazy and unobvious and brash, but promising - just like what they're trying to do.
Recently, I met another guy, and he too does something no one else really does. I had dinner with him a few days ago and pitched a different twist on what he does. He took it home to his wife and they are now excitedly working with me to hone the idea. If this works, it might change the direction of his life.
Neither idea I offered costs any money to implement.
I don't think innovation requires big risk and money, usually. Time? Yes, of course. But the best ideas are those that come from new ways of doing what's already being done. It's a re-flavoring, a re-mixing, a re-turning.
This Saturday, Tamara and I will go to dinner with a man and his wife and discuss their store that they own here in Des Moines. He approached me after reading my strategy / innovation web site and told me right there that just from reading that, he wanted to write me a check. I asked him to wait until we discuss it all from the perspective of his family's business, but he's brimming with enthusiasm for innovation and greater profitability.
I have no clue how this will all turn out, but it's fascinating. And it reminds me of something I learned long ago...
It's about helping others, believing in them to achieve their dreams. At the end of the day, being a part of that journey is worth every step. Being paid for my time and ideas right now is not important. Joining people in their life's adventure is. If my work with them helps them succeed in a greater way, then a reward for me will work itself out and I'll be compensated for the value I helped to bring.
In the meantime, what a privilege to be able to stand with these brave people while they pour their souls into a dream they have...
When I was seventeen, I drove to my drummer's house. I don't know why I went there or what I had wanted to do with him, but he complained that he had to rake the yard. The yard was big and messy with autumn leaves.
So I offered to help him.
"My parents aren't going to pay you. You know that, right?"
"Dude, it doesn't matter. Let's just get it done. We can hang out that way."
Bewildered, he accepted my help and we spent the next five hours raking his yard - and laughing our asses off.
It's important to roll up our sleeves and jump in with others. Life is a hell of a lot more interesting and fun that way.