My business failures include…

… the following list.  I urge you to develop a similar list for yourself.

Since 1997 I have been trying, and regularly failing on occasion.

1.  Just in Time Coaching,  JIT Coach, JIT Peer.  For individuals and organizations to quantify the ROI of coaching, and provide enterprise solutions.  Tagline:  “Now that you can hire a plumber or lawyer online, why not hire a coach or consultant just in time?”  In 2009-2010.  Worked with a brilliant software business partner, who developed the software and managed a team of offshore developers.  We created a solution that assessed coaching needs, defined strengths, matched with a qualified coach, scheduled services, delivered in 4 modes (direct, phone, Skype, email), and evaluated services.  Presented to three F500 companies.  No sales.   Now (in 2013) there are at least 2 companies that provide similar services. I learned the importance of defining market needs before investing years of energy into what I may think is “a great idea.”

2.  A digital scavenger hunt app to promote any event or organization.  In 2012-2013.  After creating and delivering 3-5 adventure races and running races each year, for 6 years, I knew something about event management.  Then in April 2012, my 16-year old daughter and I were watching a local mud run, the Spartan Race.  She continually uploaded photos onto Facebook and Snapchat.  And she said, “Daddy you could create a better event than this one.”  So we formed a great team and delivered 4 events in the fall of 2012.  We proved the concept and applied lean technology (build measure learn.)  Armed with a provisional patent, we developed customized scoring software.  These 4 events promoted local businesses and people travelled by foot, or car, or bicycle.  In 2013 I tried to sell this concept to amusement parks, pub crawls, music festivals.  But no sales.  Yet.

3.  4A Coaching.  A subscription based online library for best practices of coaching and consulting.  In 2009 or so.  With a brilliant software business partner, who created the framework.  Populated with hundreds of best practices and ROI data.  No subscribers.  I learned that all the content in the world can be organized into a searchable format.  However, people need to hire me/ coaches like me to help them through the messy process of learning.  Communities drive sales, not just great content.  Coaching can never be commoditized into a library.  Thank God.

4.  Action Learning Apps.  May prove to be a market driven reality some day, but after 18 months of sales and development I could not find a buyer.  One prospect meeting, with two senior partners in the largest law firm in the SE, was promising.  They stated, “We need to cross-sell.  This app and your business development sessions can force us to use our contact management systems and talk with our colleagues in the other silos, such as real estate, finance, or intellectual property.  Then we can be compensated for cross selling.”  Good concept, but not the economic buyers, therefore another failure.

5.  And there are other smaller failures…

The main point:  learning is  a messy process, combined with failures.

I embraced the above examples because I wanted:

  • to leverage digital knowledge
  • to integrate the virtual and physical
  • to expand value to thousands of people
  • to partner with smart people

How about you?

Call me to discuss any of the above, at 704.895.6479.
And write to describe some of your failures, and lessons…

From Total Immersion Swimming to …. your challenges

My undergraduate roommate was a NCAA swim champion.  All of his friends shaved their heads and legs to prepare for important swim meets.  And they coerced me (and everyone who lived in that hallway) to take swimming lessons.  So, I became a Water Safety Instructor (WSI).  Years later I taught advanced lifesaving skills at a summer camp.

I swam for only two reasons:  1) to cool off when it was hot outside, or 2) to survive.   Later, I taught whitewater kayaking and canoeing.  When the rapids tossed my boat upside down or sideways I had to swim hard.  My helmet had a sticker saying “Don’t Drown- It will Spoil Your Day.”   So I flailed in order to survive.

I never learned to swim a proper freestyle.  I learned to flail.  To survive.

When I turned 51, one of my triathlon buddies cornered me.  “So, when are you going to get past this head trash?  When are you going to learn to swim properly?”

He pointed me toward Total Immersion Swimming instruction.  I checked out videos on YouTube.  Their instructors looked smoother than Michal Phelps.  I was ready to face my fears.  So I hired a local coach and stumbled toward the local pool.

Coach Dinah siad, “Show up at 0800 with goggles.  You don’t need to prepare anything.”  She was wrong.

I bought goggles, but did not know how to fit them.  They leaked.  She taught me to mush them into my face until they created suction and kept the water out.  Lesson #1= do what you can to at least look like a swimmer.

From the bottom dresser drawer, I grabbed the 20+ year old purple triathlon swim shorts.  My wife said, “Those are too short to wear.”  She was right.  When I got to the locker room I learned that the elastic was gone.  Unfazed, I stapled the waist band 1″ shorter.  McGyver-style.  Then I stuck a jumbo-sized paper clip into the waistband.  As if that could keep those old shorts from falling down.  When I leaned forward they revealed more than anyone needed to see…

Coach Dinah pulled out her video camera and simply said, “Show me your best stroke.  Off you go.”

When I shared the video clips with my wife and daughters, later that night, they laughed until one rolled onto the floor.  My shorts nearly slid off my backside.  My arms flailed. I made thousands of bubbles…. and made it 2/3 of the way across the pool.

Just one more example of a time when the phrase “conscious incompetence” applies.  I stood a long distance from “unconscious competence” or mastery.  This process had started ugly…

I certainly had a lot of room to develop.

Coaching others is similar…

I know that we can each face challenges and develop new behaviors.  I know that we can change.  I know that we can overcome bad habits, we can improve patterns that formerly caused us to flail.

Coach Dinah is helping me embrace new challenges.  Here are some takeaways.  They may apply to your world too:

  • Regular practice helps develop new skills  In the last 14 days, I skipped 10 days, then practiced 4 days in a row.  That is more than ever, but not enough.
  • Video trumps imagination.  I had never imagined how poor my form was.  The video provided objective data, undeniable evidence, of the current state.  The YouTube and instructional videos provided different evidence, of an improved state.
  • Breathing is not necessary.  I loved this idea.  Coach Dinah explained that for the first few sessions my focus needed to be on proper body position to reduce resistance.  She said, “Just put your head down and go.” Perhaps someday I will get to the lesson that includes proper breathing technique…
  • When scared, just stand up.  The pool water depth varies from 3.5 to 5 feet.  No problem.  I can stand up, and breathe with confidence, at any time.

Call me foolish, but every so many years I need to learn a new skill.   Life is filled with challenges.  I no longer want to be scared by the idea of a long freestyle swim.  So it is time to learn some new behaviors.

How about you?

What challenges are you confronting?

And how is your “Coach Dinah” helping you progress?