Innovate Where You Are

Innovate where you are: How to get noticed, financed, and celebrated on your way to making a difference.

I was blessed to share this talk at the Speaker Crawl at Startup Wisconsin Week – Milwaukee. The audience was a great mix of entrepreneurs, leaders and future innovators, and was a great venue for learning and networking.

‘the man in the yellow jacket’
A participant shared this snapshot from my presentation at No Studios

Innovate where you are… In my experience we have this natural tendency to wait for our next promotion, our next position, or until we have a bit more experience before we step out and do the amazing work we were designed to do. There is nothing wrong with experience, titles or new opportunities, but we must be careful not to use these a crutch (or an excuse) to not innovate and do it immediately. In almost all cases, those that wait for the next (anything…) will end up further deferring when they get there, and will never achieve their potential. This is a sad reality, and one that many reflect on when they get to the end of their career.

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”

Mark Twain

So this talk will cover how to get noticed, financed, and celebrated on your way to making a meaningful difference.

I want to start by looking at the last part of that statement… What is our ultimate goal? How can we make a meaningful difference. We might think that getting rich, or winning something is the goal, but often this is just the outcome of doing that which really brings us long-term joy. As we mature we realize that our life is just a short period of time, and we almost always ponder what is my purpose. As we grow our relationships (and in many cases families) we further begin to think about our legacy and what we leave behind for those we know and love. We want our life to count for something, to make an impact, to make a meaningful difference.

I have the privilege of mentoring numerous emerging leaders and one of the first things many ask is how to get noticed. Even if they are introverts, they still want to get credit for their work, to get more opportunities for growth, and to receive praise for the things they have done well. My advise to them is something I learned from Austin Kleon in his book Steal Like and Artist, in which he states this not-so-secret formula: Do great work and share it with others. I should stop here, but I often share a few other ideas I learned over the years, such as.

  • Focus on getting ideas out, not on getting credit. This was a huge learning for me a few years ago. Sadly, for most of my career I treated good ideas like I was playing a competitive card game, and I would hold all of them until I could play them to get the most reward. The result was I often was holding too many ideas and didn’t have the bandwidth to generate more (self-limiting effect), and this selfish behavior meant many great ideas never got executed. Once I began sharing ideas, I quickly learned that others would build on them and become champions to help them get executed. And, amazingly at the end, they would even give me more credit than I likely deserved…
  • If you want to be noticed? Notice other people. Or I have heard it worded another way, If you want to be interesting, be interested in other people. Follow this simple advise and the quality of your friends and networks will multiply.
  • Be you, and work to become the best version of yourself. You might be tempted to emulate someone else, but being original (being you) is the best way for you to be noticed.
  • Surround yourself with great people. “You are the average of your five closest friends”, is a line often shared by Tim Ferriss. My grandma used to say it differently, “Birds of a feather flock together”. The reason she said this was because I was a trouble maker, and most of my friends were trouble makers. Regardless, we naturally tend to emulate our surroundings. Know this and actively try to surround yourself with great people that build you up.
  • And lastly, if you want to get noticed, take chances. It is easy to stay in the background and not be noticed, but real growth and success happens when you step out and do amazing things.

The second thing they ask (or complain about) is finances. How can I get paid more? How can my idea get financed? How can I get venture capital? My advice for this is the same: Do great work and share it with others.

  • Don’t wait – Do what you can and do it now. It is easy to push things off, but the truly successful among us take action.
  • Focus on getting efficient at what you have to do, so that you can focus more time and energy on what you want to do. Many great ideas and companies were started as side gigs. If you can get your normal work done faster you will have more time for other things. Be strategic with how you use this newly created time.
  • Start thinking about ROTI (Return on Time Invested). Most of us learn about ROI (Return on Investment), but we fail to think about it in terms of time. Eventually you will learn time is the most valuable resource. Use it wisely.
  • Think in terms of value – how are you helping them (the providers of money) win? Phrase your work as an investment that will return a high reward, and consider yourself not as a cost, but as the source of future wealth.

And then we get to idea of being celebrated. Almost all of us enjoy being celebrated (although maybe not in the same way). If you want to be celebrated on your way to making a meaningful difference I advise you Do great work and share it with others. And I have several other ideas I often share:

  • Celebrate others. This simple act will bring joy to you and to them.
  • Think of yourself as a brand, and promote your brand in everything you do.
  • Share your work broadly (various channels and audiences). Curate the content to make it purposeful / beneficial for them.
  • Put in the work and succeed. People love celebrating success.

This advise might be simple, but it is not easy to do. However, wouldn’t this world be amazing if everyone reached their full potential. I am rooting for you, because when you win, the world becomes a better place for all of us. Please reach out to me if there is anything I can do to help you succeed. And just Do great work and share it with others. I am sure you will be a great success, and I hope to have the chance to celebrate with you.

All the best

Douglas Diemel

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