Hello, 2016

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When this posts at 12:00am, in the first seconds of the New Year, many will bravely attempt to fulfill their resolutions. Whether that's exercise, saving money or reading more, they believe a turn of the calendar and sheer willpower will help them finally achieve their lofty goals.

Some may follow through, others will forget come January 2nd, but if we want any hope of success there needs to be a plan. I did not have a set time or place to write this blog every day, but I did set a daily recurring reminder that went off at 11:00pm. If I had not written my post by then, it was time to block everything out and get it done.

Consistency requires intentionality. Your wants and desires will not magically appear without effort and strategy. So whatever you want to change this year, don't make a resolution, make a plan. Be as detailed as possible and set aside time for your task. Invest in changing yourself, and you will prevail.

Happy New Year.

Before this blog is retired, I would like to thank you for reading it. Some of you have read it for months if not the entire year, and I appreciate your faithfulness. Hopefully you have found valuable insights and ideas to help you in your workplace, relationships, and family.

My goal this next year is to write even more, perhaps less often but deeper content on events happening in our country and in our world. If you would like to continue reading my work, I'd suggest following me on Twitter and subscribe to my permanent blog: stephenrobles.com

The End Part III

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Of the various platitudes I received while writing this blog, one was heard the most: I enjoy reading your posts, they're short. On one hand it's high praise, implying that I pack good material in a concise package. On the other, it's proof that my original mission still stands.

When I launched PeopleThink I implored that we need to stop living headline to headline, lift our eyes from the pixels in our hand, and think deeply about the world around us for ourselves. The length of my posts allowed readers a brief reprieve from the fire hose of social media, hopefully to inspire deeper thought. But that's not enough.

Increasingly we are informed by the extreme sides of any news story by the slanted links shared on Facebook. Rarely do we study, research, and speak to others of differing opinions in a civil manner before forming an opinion of our own. No, we can't all be scholars of every subject, but the ones we choose to defend require more of us.

So what's next? Perhaps one more.

The End Part II

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Do anything for long enough and you will learn something about yourself in the process. One of the more haunting questions I sought to answer this year was: Am I a writer? Perhaps not a professional writer, but at least an aspiring one? I believe so.

I have heard it said that you can know you're a writer if you are nagged by an idea until it gets on paper (or screen). That was not the case each of the past 363 days, but some days it was particularly strong. We all achieve catharsis through different means, some by thrill seeking, others by fishing. Whatever your thing may be, writing is certainly one of mine.

Knowing this about myself, I can feel justified in writing even if no one is reading. If a great piece of art is seen by no one, can it still be great? I think so.

I have also found it is difficult to predict what people will enjoy or value reading. Some days when I've felt a post was sub-par, it will get the most views and shares. Other times the subject matter seemed particularly enticing, yet a fraction of subscribers share it. But, write for long enough and something will appeal to a majority of your readers.

One more to go.

The End Part I

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I began 2015 with the audacious goal to blog every single day of the year. As of this writing, only two more posts stand in the way of completing this task. Why did I do it and what has it benefitted? After 362 days of writing, a few answers have come to the surface.

Two traits of any successful undertaking (in my opinion) are excellence and consistency. I have written in the past with some confirmation of excellence, but never was it consistent. I cannot say every single post this past year has been my best writing, but I have at least been faithful to the project. And that is satisfying enough.

The benefits? I would be lying to say this blog became a wild success with thousands of readers every day. It has not been profitable nor has it brought new opportunities (yet), but several people have told me a post has made them think, or inspired them. If that is true, then at least this blog's name and effort is justified.

But what of personal benefit? For that, see tomorrow's penultimate blog.

Iconic

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The Nike logo, Hershey's Chocolate, the opening score to Star Wars; as you read each of those you probably recalled each within seconds. There are few things that multiple generations and cultures can instantly recognize and relate to, but those things are worthy of the adjective: iconic.

Perhaps it's the level of quality, immense marketing behind a brand, or the creativity was truly impressive, but something made those items rise above the rest. As creators, we aspire to make something that stands the test of time, but rarely does that motivation alone cause a breakthrough.

Perseverance, obsessive search for quality, determination, innovativation; these are the things we should seek. Aim to make something great that will improve or help the lives of those around you, do it well enough, and perhaps it will last for generations.

Due Diligence

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Before shifting blame on an unsuspecting party, it's wise to make sure you haven't missed anything. Yelling about how no one told you about X while there is an unread email in your inbox will quickly wear down your credibility.

Work from the assumption that you missed something first. Give each party involved leeway while you investigate. If it is found that you are at fault, take ownership and publicly state your efforts to prevent those mistakes in the future. If someone else dropped the ball, approach them individually. There is no glory in knowingly throwing someone under the bus. 

Could've Done More

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Among the numerous connections we have to people throughout our lives, some are fleeting while others last forever. Hopefully those connections that last are close friends; people that we seek out over the years. But inevitably there will be some that carry a pang of regret.

The relationships that end in fiery arguments can be smoothed over eventually. Forgiveness is always possible (whether it's one sided or not). Then there are the people you couldn't help, despite your best efforts. Those are the hardest forever-connections.

Maybe you believe that person was capable of so much more, or you have seen them falling uncontrollably for years. There have been offers to help, love shown, and acts of generosity; all to no avail. You may always wonder if you could've done more, but you can't allow that to haunt you forever.

Hashtag Blessed

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During the holiday season, there are many family photos and party selfies to be found on social media. People genuinely enjoying each other's company and being reunited with distant family; amidst the stress there are times of joy.

The cliché is to post photos of these events with the caption: #blessed. And that's fine, but make sure the people in that photo know you truly appreciate them. Seeing the hashtag on Instagram is one thing, hearing you express that emotion in person is eternally valuable.

The Easy Route

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The easy route is attractive at the start. Less work and a seemingly similar outcome, but the inevitable conclusion is deceptively vague from the starting line. The path of diligence and the path of laziness do not bring you to the same destination.

It may seem like the easy route is working just fine. Even late in the project things may be coming together, but opening night will reveal the truth. The truth that mediocre effort produces mediocre results.

Once the end is reached, no amount of regret can go back and insert more effort into the process. It's the equation of effort + passion + creativity that will yield a product you can be proud of. And that equation can't live on the easy route.

Boundaries vs Opportunities

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The two finite resources we all must protect are time and money. Each can vary in amount from person to person, and season of life to the next, but they will surely be exhausted eventually.

Boundaries on your time and money are necessary, without them you will end up exhausted, in debt, or worse. But when an opportunity comes that makes no money, nor has any immediate benefits, it may still be a good idea to grab it.

If you judge every opportunity based on its financial gains, your boundaries may keep you from a breakthrough. What if that pro bono job is seen by the CEO of a billion dollar business? You may not get paid for your work now, but that effort may open significant doors in the future.

The Time Left

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Let's do some math: Say your grandparents are 75 years old and you know they will live another 10 years. Ten years may seem like a long time, but if you only see them at Thanksgiving and Christmas, that equals 20. Twenty more chances to spend quality time with them.

Thinking in years gives a false sense of plenty of time, considering how many days of each year will actually be spent together gives a new perspective. We cannot know and do not have control over how many years we have left with loved ones, but we do have the ability to set priorities.

You can choose to be intentional about quality time with friends and family. You have the power to move certain things in your schedule and make room for what's important. This is not to develop fear or sadness, but to use wisely the time we all have left.

Read this too.

Consistency Threshold

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They say it takes 21 days to solidify a new habit. Apparently that's nonsense. Studies show it can take two to eight months to form a new habit, and even that isn't guaranteed.

I have written random articles and blogs for about seven years, and my unspoken goal was to do some kind of writing consistently. I attempted once a month, once a week, even three to five times a week, but each attempt failed. Forgetting to write one week, I would throw the entire project to the curb.

For me, I had to commit to writing every single day. It wasn't required, I made little to nothing off it, but I chose to do it. Whether it's a new habit you're trying to form, consistently go to the gym, practice an instrument, or something else, find the pace that helps you stick with it. That could mean doing it less often with more regularity, or perhaps you need to do it more often.

Look At Every Angle

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A visionary leader is usually described as the big picture person. Someone who has the 30,000 foot view and is constantly looking ahead to what's next. But from my experience, that leader is also capable of seeing even the most minute detail missed by everyone else.

Many times, your life experiences aren't enough to predict every need or spot every blemish. A waiting area designed by someone without kids may look significantly different than one made by a mother of young children. A different perspective can bring new details to light that will improve your chances of success.

Show Appreciation

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Words are cheap. They are quickly blurted out before we even get the chance to analyze how much they comport with our true feelings. We may genuinely mean it when we say Thank You, but it can sound exactly the same to the receiver whether we mean it or not.

Showing significant appreciation should cost something. That could mean monetarily, but it may also mean time or effort. Telling your superior how appreciative you are of the job is one thing, truly hustling and going the extra mile in every task communicates a different level of thankfulness.

On The Edge

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When planning a large event, it can sometimes feel like keeping a ship afloat that's full of holes. You plan as much as possible, but as the day approaches more and more tiny holes begin to form. And if you ignore a hole for too long, it can grow and sink the ship.

Those holes are the nagging details that require your attention. The holes do not go away and must be addressed, but sometimes you must prioritize which hole is repaired first.

A single person cannot repair every hole themselves either. It takes delegation, trusting your teammates, and even teaching someone else how to plug the holes. Don't let your next event fall off the edge, push to fix every hole before you take on too much water.

Believe And Trust

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The larger an organization gets, it becomes impossible for the leader, the CEO, to have working knowledge of everything going on in the company. A time comes when more and more responsibility must be passed on to trusted, high-level employees; otherwise growth will be stifled.

But no matter how long the winning streak, eventually that trust will be tested. In that moment, the CEO will either continue to lead from above, trusting her team, or she will begin to lose faith.

Apple had a long-standing, popular video editing application called Final Cut that they radically changed in 2011. It was such a drastic change, there was upheaval even from the Apple loyalists.

Once the pushback started, CEO Steve Jobs asked its creator, Randy Ubillos: "What the heck is going on with this Final Cut X thing?" After a brief explanation of what needed to be done, Jobs asked Ubillos: "Do you believe in this?” to which he responded, “Yes.” Jobs said, “...then I do too.” (Read the story here.)

That was the end of the conversation. Jobs trusted Ubillos, and Ubillos trusted the integrity of his work. While some may disagree on whether the new Final Cut is "better," it has certainly regained and grown it's user base.

Sometimes the right decision isn't popular, it may even seem like failure at the outset, but a team that has done the work, believes in their product, and trusts each other will succeed.

How To Avoid Failure

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When you realize you've missed something, or dropped the ball, there is a distinct moment that will result in complete failure, or partial recovery. If you freeze in that moment, when all eyes are waiting for your response, you are accepting defeat.

The other option is to partially stick the landing. Admit you missed the bullseye, but still hit the target. In the heat of the moment, use all your creative might to find alternative solutions. Quickly test every avenue, create a flood of suggestions, and find another way. Creativity is the answer to avoiding failure.

Showing Your Hand

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In a game of poker, the unknown is your most valuable asset. The opponents do not know your hand, whether good or bad. You can bluff, feign uncertainty, and mislead your onlookers; as long as you can sell it.

When things feel unsure in the workplace, there being more questions than clarity, the natural posture is to hold your cards close. Whether you have a play or not, the appearance of an ace in the hole is comforting enough.

The problem: An organization full of poker players breeds deceit and gossip. Only open hands with every card laid bare can produce clarity and honest direction. Yes, revealing your cards will put you at risk, but without risk there is no trust.

Artificial Deadlines

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If you are a driven worker, the faster things get done, the better. It's not enough for a job to be completed, it needs to be finished yesterday.

That kind of mentality will surely earn praise from your superiors, especially if they were not expecting it to be done that fast, but at what cost? Are you sacrificing your team's sanity? Your own?

Pushing to accomplish things quickly can be a good thing, but it's not everything. Was the project done with excellence? Did your team have to work fourteen hour days? Do not create artificial deadlines just to get things done quickly, count the cost and take every factor into account. 

Finite Excuses

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Mistakes happen; not one of us is perfect. In some seasons, we may even make more mistakes than usual, but if you are a diligent and hard worker, the trend line bends towards less and less mistakes.

What if the trend line is going the wrong direction? What must be done if errors continue to increase in number rather than decrease? There should certainly be grace, especially for the novice, but eventually there must be improvement.

If you see only negative trends in a team member's performance, there should be warnings. Help offered if you're able. The line speaks for itself though, and it can only decrease so much before it affects the entire organization.