The difference between awareness and distraction

There’s a difference between being aware and being distracted.

It’s important that you know and recognize the gap between the two.

When I was in high school, I was a mid-distance runner. I didn’t excel at the sprints, like 100m or 200m. Sure, I was fast, but not fast enough for those short distances. My race was the 400m or 800m.

The ones where you had a full length of a track to run the race of your life. But not too much that you’d peter out after 3 minutes.

When you were lining up at the start line, if it was the start of the season, or you were at a meet where you didn’t know the other schools, you might not know the level of talent around you.

You didn’t know their plan of attack.

Did they start fast and maintain a lead?
Did the drop back and then surge ahead at the end?
Did they bait the other runners and then blow by them with a grin?

The first few races of the season you spent running, but also taking in information.

Analyzing your competition.
Learning to maximize your talents.
Perfecting your craft.

But as the season went on, you got a good sense of who was out there, and what your strength as a runner was.

That’s when you started to learn the difference between being aware and being distracted.

Once you understood who the top runners were, and who you might run against, you were aware of your competition. You were intimately aware of their strategy as well.

When you lined up at the start line, you knew they were in lane 4, but you didn’t let that deter you from your plan to run in lane 2. How you were going to attack the curve and make up the distance on the final bend?

You were AWARE of their presence near you – keeping them in your peripheral vision during the race. But you were not DISTRACTED, running in response to their performance, trying to “beat” them. You didn’t try to mimic their approach. If you did, you were toast.

To run the best race of your life, you were aware of your competition, but once you started running, you did not allow those around you to distract you. They could motivate you, but it was a matter of choice.

Focus ahead, not side to side.

Turn your head to look, and suddenly you’re distracted – you lose precious milliseconds and you lose your focus.

Why is this fresh in my mind?

Because today I turned my head to look at a competitor. And I quickly realized I had moved from awareness to distraction.

It started with catching a glimpse of a social media post. It was a post by a competitor.

I shouldn’t have even let it bother me, but it did.

I found myself dwelling on it for a good part of the day.
Making me question some of the direction of my business.
Causing me to doubt my skills as a marketer.

And leaving me breathless, like I was trying run behind them rather than run my own race. You could classify this as one giant DISTRACTION.

Distraction has many relatives, and they’re not any better.

Confusion.
Disturbance.
Complication.
Interruption.
Interference.

I felt all of those things as I let my focus move from what’s in my control, to the things my competitors were doing.

All of a sudden, the world started falling and I felt like I was going down with it.

Now the truth is, this only lasted for a short time. Luckily, I caught it early.

But it’s a common mistake, and I see companies making this mistake all the time.

To avoid being distracted, they don’t even pay attention to their competitors.

That’s not good either. Because then suddenly they are caught off guard when something “comes out of nowhere.”

To grow our company, position our business effectively, and market to our target audience, we have to be aware of our competition.

The strategies they use.
The position they hold
The way they run their race.

However, use that information to plan your strategy – and then remain focused.

Aware of their presence. But free of distraction.

What should you do with your life, girls?

What should you do with your life, girls?

Reflecting on my own experience, junior high and high school can be one of the most fun and challenging times in life. While young people search to discover their strengths, natural talents and interests, they’re presented with a variety of careers that offer “upward potential” and “growth opportunities.”  But, how many of them get the opportunity to try out a career in advance?

I struggled with the answer to “What do you want to be when you grow up?” While I toyed with the idea of being a meteorologist or a physician, I wasn’t sure how to match my skills and interests to a potential career path. However, what I did know is that I was smart, creative and driven. To be honest, I was nerd and saw things from a different perspective than many of my friends.  However, as you’ll discover in life – with difference, comes opportunity.

Which is why I am SUPER excited about a new program that’s being launched in 2014 through the University of Nebraska-Omaha called CodeCrush. With more than 1.4 million jobs predicted to be added to the IT industry by the year 2020, this could be a stepping stone to a fantastic future.

What is CodeCrush?

CodeCrush is this really amazing program that offers a FREE immersion experience for 8th and 9th grade girls designed to show them the world of information technology (IT).

As part of the UNO College of Information Science and Technology Women in IT Initiative, this program was created to help show girls all the cool and crush-worthy things you can do with IT. While the IT sector grows every day, there are too few skilled professionals to fill open positions and even fewer women (Boo! Come on girls, let’s do this!). We want to help more people find their love for IT and close the gender gap.

Going Behind the Scenes

From February 26 – March 1, CodeCrush will introduce these young girls to the world of IT with hands on, half–day workshops with bioinformatics, IT innovation, music technology and cybersecurity. The afternoons will be filled with checking out the IT departments of global corporations, meeting professional women in the field, mentoring sessions with current IS&T female students, behind-the-scenes tour of the Henry Doorly Zoo and even a Maverick hockey game.

Parents and Teachers, We Need Your Help

Students must be in 8th or 9th grade at the beginning of the 2013 school year, have parent permission and be nominated by a teacher who will also accompany them to the immersion experience.

Details

  • Free to participate
  • Mentor teachers receive a $500 stipend for their time.
  • Only 20 spots available
  • Applications are DUE Dec 22, 2013

Learn more or apply at codecrush.unomaha.edu 

UNO Code Crush

Images courtesy of University of Nebraska-Omaha.

 

 

3 Things I Learned About Marketing from Startup Weekend

3 Things I Learned About Marketing from Startup Weekend

Have you ever had someone tell you that “you suck” multiple times in one day?

I have.  And I have grown to like the feedback.  Here’s why.

Over the last three days, I had the opportunity to participate in startup weekend.  Startup weekend is an intense 54-hour event, designed to take an idea from infancy to startup business stage in a little over two days.  Many people pitch their idea, whether they thought of it ahead of time, or on the spot, cross their fingers, and pray that others will vote their idea as one of the best.

If your idea is picked, you build a team and generated intense amounts of effort all weekend to create a working prototype, which you then present with your entire business pitch/model and more on Sunday evening.  Sounds fun right?

Yes.  It is awesome.

But, I can confidently say that I have never heard the words “that sucks” and “horrible….do it again” so many times in 48 hours.  You don’t win a startup weekend because you have charisma, build really good code, or a background in money or fame.  You win because you’ve done work on all three fronts:  product development, market validation, and business model.

At first, I was caught off guard by the sharp comments.  Should I be hurt? After all, if they voted my idea as one of the best, it didn’t need much work right?

Wrong.

Just like athletes with boatloads of potential, good criticism digs deep into the very essence of your being and calls you be to greater, work harder, clarify further, and complete more research.

As the world changes, it’s time to take this approach to companies outside of startup weekend.  Even those that have been in business for 50 years.  From mom and pop shops to online marketplaces and service-based businesses, we all need a good dose of good, blunt feedback.

Because you just might be fooling yourself in one of these areas:

1. Your product or service sucks.

You’ve been in business for so long that you don’t really even know what makes you different than your competitors.  In surveys, you ask leading questions that validate your assumptions, while leaving out the questions that might garner a negative comment or two. Finding out your product or service sucks isn’t easy, and chances are it’s not horrible. However, the information that you’re missing might be keeping you from expansion, growth and more.

During startup weekend, the coaches and organizers continually listened to my pitch and viewed our product and tore it apart.  Really ripped it up.  We could have been crushed. Or gave up. But instead, we pivoted, rewrote, regrouped, and kept moving.

2. You rely on friends for feedback.

Too many people are afraid to hear that their idea or business opportunity might be stupid.  So, to keep the warm fuzzies on their side, they resort to gathering feedback from their family and friends.  The danger here is the same that comes with a husband asking his wife if the dress she’s wearing makes her look fat — we are tempted to lie to our friends, not full-fledged lying, but white lying enough to avoid hurting their feelings.

A psychological study cited in Charles Duhigg’s book, The Power of Habit, even confirms that we often bend the truth when we’re trying to please the recipient. If you want feedback for product improvement, ask people who will tell you the truth.  And brace yourself for some tough critiques.

3. You see competitors as enemies.

If companies stopped seeing their competitors as enemies and more as sources of inspirations, or excuses to rise to a higher level, I believe the progress could be monumental.  Also, when your competitor is your inspiration, you will spend less time gossiping about them, and more time working on your business.

Startup weekend has a strange competitive, collaborative environment.  Those are probably two of the most polar opposite words you could use to describe it, but it’s true.  We’re all hoping that the best idea wins, but we’re secretly hoping that it’s ours. At the same time, we’re hoping that we stay connected with this outstanding group of people, leveraging the group’s talent and skills to change the world.

[Note: In case you are wondering, my team did win with a pitch for group exercise scheduling software – www.exercisemyschedule.com. We’re still working on development to move forward. There were many fabulous ideas shared this weekend from other teams as well]

Check out Startup Week

If you missed startup weekend, you still have a chance to absorb some of the energy from the startup community.  Check out the event going on during Startup Week in Lincoln – I hope to see you there!

Startup-Week-Lincoln-NE