Tuition at The University of Life Experiences

When you’re about to spend some money on a service (hiring a new lawyer to help you form an entity, hiring a web designer to help with a new site, etc.) – it’s easy to get bogged down with thoughts of “Am I paying too much?” or “Is that the best rate I can get?”

Instead of spending a lot of time worrying about this kind of thing, I’ve decided to spend a reasonable amount of time making a good decision, but then to proceed and think of the money spent as tuition. There’s always going to be a cheaper lawyer (or cheaper web developer, etc.) but every time I proceed with one of the activities, I learn and get experience to help make a better decision the next time. I think that’s called education.

When I think of it like that, it seems like money well spent. I can live with that.

Here – I made this

We picked up our middle son from Auburn University yesterday. He had been there for a week-long creative writing summer program for high school students. The “graduation ceremony” was held at a Starbucks on campus where students who wanted to (most of them did) got up to read some of what they had written during the week.

A lot of the students were very hard to hear. The acoustics weren’t great. There was a small PA system, but most of the students either didn’t hold the mic close enough or still spoke so softly that most of the room couldn’t hear them.

One of the other dads was in front of me. I could see him motioning to the quiet speakers to “speak up” or “hold the microphone closer”. I know he was trying to be helpful, but it occurred to me that – the point of this isn’t for us to hear them. It’s for them to get up and speak – at whatever volume they are comfortable with at this point.

In that instant, I realized that this may have been the most important part of the course. Improving your craft is a good way to spend some time, but I think it’s even more important to get comfortable with getting up in front of people and saying “Here. I made this. I’m going to show you a little part of me with this.”

It takes courage to do this, and courage comes with practice – which is why it’s good to get up and speak, even if you’re speaking so softly that no one can hear you. The next time you do it, you’ll be a little louder.

Let’s look for (and create) safe opportunities for our kids (and ourselves) to get up and say “I made this”.


Random Notes from Sloss Tech 2017

TechBirmingham hosted Sloss Tech 2017 at the Lyric Theatre today. When I first saw the list of speakers, I must confess – I wasn’t overwhelmed. I mulled it over and decided to go anyway, mostly to support the Birmingham tech ecosystem. (“Got to support the team”.) I’m glad I did. I thought it was a great event and I got a lot out of it.

Random Notes:

  • Will Pearson (co-founder of Mental Floss) was as interesting as you’d expect him to be. (Did you know that you can rearrange the letters in EPISCOPAL and get PEPSI COLA? Or that the letters in PRESBYTERIANS can be rearranged to give you BRITNEY SPEARS?)
  • Kulture City┬áhas a great story. Impressive that they have already partnered with several NBA arenas and NFL stadiums. (I also didn’t know you could go to medical school without finishing college first. Apparently that’s a thing.)
  • I thought it was a little strange that Tiki Barber’s segment was done in interview format, as opposed to just letting him speak. He’s got an interesting business that I didn’t really understand until today. Apparently I can have a meal with former New York Yankee Bucky Dent (that’s Bucky “effing” Dent, if you’re from Boston) for about two grand.
  • I learned a lot about Shipt today. I’ve been hearing a lot about it but didn’t really understand how it worked until today. Interesting model. And good Birmingham success story.
  • Alabama native Cliff Sims worked on Donald Trump’s campaign and now works in the administration. Interesting stories regardless of your political leaning.
  • Liz Pharo of Momentum Telecom┬áhad a really interesting story. I didn’t realize that the same family started SuccessEHS and Momentum.
  • I had never heard of Casey Neistat before reading about him on the list of speakers. Apparently that means I’m old because he seemed to be a pretty big deal to the younger attendees. He’s a really good story teller – which isn’t surprising given his success as a filmmaker (videomaker?). He struck me as being very “comfortable in his own skin”. Authentic.

Nice job TechBirmingham for putting on the event. Nice job Birmingham for supporting the event.

Are you comfortable hiring plumbers?

If you’re thinking of going into business for yourself, you might ask yourself – am I comfortable hiring plumbers (or handymen, or mechanics)?

This may seem like a weird question, but an easy trap to fall into for new business owners is feeling like you have to do everything yourself. If you’ve never been the boss before, you probably haven’t had a lot of opportunities to hire people (at work).

But – if you have a house (or a car) – when something needs doing, you have the option of trying to figure out how to do it yourself, or – to “call the guy” and let him take care of it. You probably could figure out how to do it yourself, but you need to really stop and think if this is the best use of your time.

If you find yourself trying to do everything yourself, you may have a similar struggle when it comes to deciding to hire bookkeepers, website designers, etc.

There is no “them” – only “us”

I passed someone on the street the other day that I associate with a clique of people (that I’m not a member of). I realized that I had subconsciously pigeonholed her as a representative of “them” and that was how I thought of her – as a member of that group, not as an individual.

It occurred to me that I’m pretty sure that’s not how she sees herself at all. I mentally walked some steps in her shoes and realized that she probably spends most of her time helping her kids with homework, preparing meals, going to work, etc. In other words – her days are a lot like mine.

At that moment, I realized I had subconsciously perceived a barrier between us that didn’t actually exist. We concoct these groups and stick people into them. If we’re honest – we think we’re better than some of the groups, and we think some of the groups are better than we are.

How refreshing to realize that there is no “them”. There’s only “us”.