leadership tips

The Obstacles & The Jump

I’m not athletic. I have never been athletic. I do not like to run. I’ve tried the working out thing a few times but I got bored. I like swimming because that doesn’t feel like working out. Wait, does that count?

The reason I bring this up is because two months ago I did run, four miles, in the mud. It was for an obstacle racing event called Hard Charge taking place in Wichita, Kansas. I’d say obstacle racing is comparable to an adult version of a McDonald’s PlayPlace, except replace the ball pit with a mud pit, the tunnels with walls to climb over, and the slide with a fireman’s pole. Also, take those elements that are usually confined within the small Ronald approved emporium, and spread them out over long distances.

Once again, I’m not doing this justice, so here’s a video I did through I Got You A Song showcasing my run.

So how did this come to be? I have one person to thank, Matt B. Davis (*).

(*) Seek out his Twitter & Vine account. I’m going to go out on a limb and state there will be only a small majority of people who read this that know what a Vine is.

Matt and I first spoke years ago after I appeared on This American Life. Matt is a persistent dude, and when he heard my story, he tracked me down, found my email, reached out to me, and called me up. Like I said, persistent, and ballsy. At that time, Matt was running his own company that would provide staff for conventions and promotions. We talked for a bit, a little about his job, a little about amusement parks, a little about This American Life, and that was it.

Fast forward, it’s a little over a year and a half later, and Matt has now entered a new world, the world of obstacle racing. Along with his podcast (*), he now heads up Obstacle Racing Media, the source for all news regarding the world of mud running. By chance, he stumbled across my LinkedIn profile, reached back out to me, invited me to meet him in Wichita, and run the course.

(*) For Matt’s podcast, I did about an hour-long interview which you can listen to here. There’s lot of post Worlds of Fun talk, This American Life talk, and more fun stories. I start at about 9:30 in.

At first, I was hesitant, but then I remembered something I had been told years earlier. It was a small piece of advice, and I’m paraphrasing now, but in my mind, it goes like this, “Don’t ever look back, and regret not taking the jump.” (Pun intended if the jump is into a pool of mud.)

The real takeaway is this, Matt is embarking into a new world, he found something he loves, and he’s following it. He’s taking the jump. He’s traveling to these events, interviewing people, taking pictures, writing blogs, live-tweeting the results of races. He’s a one man show. He’s found something that he is passionate about and he is sharing that passion with the world.

To take that jump, and find your passion, is something I pushed for my former employees at the park. “Find something you love, and do it,” I would say. “Take that step, and follow through.”

There’s something both exciting and scary about taking that step. I thought about the ramifications of me not following up on Matt’s offer. What if I wouldn’t have gone to Wichita? What if I hadn’t of strapped on my GoPro and ran that race? Would I regret it?

Taking the jump can be a lot of things, whether it be building a business like Matt, or simply stepping out of your comfort zone and running a race.

Have you looked past the obstacles and taken the jump?

Innovation, Leadership, & TPS

Before you read on, watch the video posted below, only 6 minutes of you time.

There’s obviously a lot to take away from this video, but let’s focus on one thing in particular, the innovation of the Toyota Production System, or TPS. I first heard about TPS years ago from an hour long story on This American Life (listen to the story here). The segment on This American Life tells the tale of an automotive plant in California named NUMMI, where Toyota joined forces with General Motors to help them implement the TPS in their daily production of automobiles (*).

I love innovation. I love when new ideas are brought to the table. I love when someone examines a daily process, and offers helpful suggestions to make it better. The sad truth though, is that there are leaders out there who don’t feel the same way. There is a strange divide between a leader headstrong in their want to do things their way, and a leader who is open to new ideas.

The reason I love this video is that it shows not only the small steps that can be taken to improve a process, but it doesn’t gloss over the “people factor.” George, the warehouse manager, is excited to hear new ideas, and that excitement carries over into the work he does. If a new idea can be introduced to George, even if it’s as simple as changing box size, he is dedicated, willing, and ready to try this new idea.

The plus side of this entire process is that by having a leader who is open to new ideas and innovation, it can create an enthusiasm amongst employees where they can be excited about bringing new ideas to the forefront.

What if one small idea could change one little thing about your job?
What if that one little idea could make your job easier?
What if that one little idea could make you enjoy your job even more?
Are there still bosses out there who love to hear new ideas?

Truth is, it’s a tough job being a boss, but being a boss is just one thing.
It takes a whole lot more to be a great leader.

*I’m honestly not doing the story much justice with that short description. It is a truly fascinating story well worth a listen. Link