Daring Greatly!

In my opinion, one of the greatest presidential speeches (and motivational speeches as well) in history, is Theodore Roosevelt’s The Man in the Arena. I cannot remember where I was first introduced to it, but I credit Brene Brown with reintroducing it to me in Dare to Lead.

The link below will take you to a YouTube recording of the most famous part of the speech. I am pretty sure it is Paul Giamatti that is the narrator, but I have not been able to confirm it 100% (although there are some folks in the video’s comments that agree with me). If you are not familiar with it, I suggest you watch and listen to the video before you read the rest of the post. The Man in the Arena.

One of the most frustrating things for me personally is to watch people with potential not doing everything they can to achieve it. Unfortunately, achievement of anything worthwhile will be hard. Talent will always lose out to hard work. However, talent plus hard work is almost unstoppable!

Social media today has created a highlight reel for everyone’s life and career. So much so that you can start to feel like everyone else is doing great, always happy, successful, achieving and never failing or falling down. The reality is that the only people that are not making mistakes are the ones that are doing nothing.

I fear that too many people are falling into a trap of inaction either due to a fear of failure or a fear of hard work. How can we quiet the critics, both internal and external to avoid the fate of the “cold and timid souls”.

Whether it is in your personal or professional life, become the “doer of deeds” and “strive valiantly” to achieve whatever goals you set for yourself. No change has every occurred without someone, or in most cases a group of people taking action and building momentum.

As you continue on your journey in life, if you ever feel your energy waning or the naysaying voices (internal or external) getting louder, pick up a copy or have a listen to The Man in the Arena. It has helped me find the will to push through many times. Go forth and “DARE GREATLY!”

Don’t (Just) Follow Your Passion 

Over the past number of years, you have heard a lot of “experts” say “Follow Your Passion” when it comes to deciding what to do with your life. However, I (and many others) feel that there is a significant danger in taking this advice. This may sound strange coming from someone that works for a company where Passionate is one of our Core Values (along with Collaborative and Consistently Curious).

The danger is not in the idea itself. It is in the over-simplification of the idea.

What if you are not very good at what you are passionate about? What if nobody is willing to pay you (an employer, or the market in general for an entrepreneur) to do what you are passionate about? There are just two nuances that highlight the danger of simply following your passion.

I think the better approach is to look for the intersection of your passion and your skills/strengths, and then try to find someone to pay you to do it. Although there are some exceptions to the rule, I generally find that people generally like what they are good at. Even if you are not passionate about something in the beginning, if you get really good at something, naturally a passion will develop in most cases. Otherwise, it is unlikely that you would be willing to put in the effort and sacrifice to develop the skills.

If you are having trouble finding your passion, I would suggest investing in a couple of assessment products. First try a personality profile like Predictive Index, DISC, Myer-Briggs, etc. This will provide you with some knowledge of ways to better understand yourself and how to manage yourself.

Secondly, I would recommend that you do the Working Genius, which provides you with a sense of the types of work that bring you energy (Working Geniuses) and those that drain you of energy (Working Frustrations). Working genius is less abut who you are as a person and more about how you best fit into a Team and the type of work that you are best suited for.

The combination of the two tools should give you a helpful foundation on finding your passion. However, there is still some experimentation that you need to do. It is highly unlikely that you will get it right the first time. This doesn’t mean you have to leave your company though. Over my career I took on many different roles within the organizations that I have worked in, each one was a stepping stone on my journey to entrepreneurship. Don’t get frustrated and each thing you find that isn’t your passion brings you one step closer to finding it.

Finally, I also want to point out that nobody gets to do what they are passionate about 100% of the time. This is just an unrealistic expectation. There will always be responsibilities or parts of your job that you are not passionate about (expense reports anyone?!). However, you can only delegate so many of those tasks (and earlier in your career its hard to delegate much as you are generally the delegatee not the delegator).

If you are able to find a role where you are doing what brings you energy (your Working Genius) and you are passionate about the work 30% to 40% of your time, you are better off than most. I am not saying we shouldn’t try to maximize the time we spend in our Genius or Passion, just that expecting 100% is unrealistic for almost anyone.

Whether you are just starting your career or you are looking for a change mid-career, don’t make the mistake of just trying to “find your passion”. Life, like most things cannot be oversimplified in such a way.

Epilogue

Interestingly, I wrote this post over a month ago.  Recently, there have been several articles quoting Mark Cuban, the “Shark” and owner of the NBA’s Dallas Mavericks talking about not following your passion as well.  I would never claim to have the insight that he has.  However, it is nice that some prominent voices are joining the conversation.  

Stretching Your Renewal Dollars

In my previous post, I focused on some of the significant challenges that face organizations when they get an increase (especially a one-time increase) in funding for capital renewal, and specifically some of the challenges faced in today’s volatile market. In this post, I want to provide some strategies that have helped other clients achieve enhanced value for their limited renewal dollars.

The strategies that I am going to present are only really possible if you have control over what renewals you are able to do and when you are able to do them. If your funding is tied tightly to specific projects within specific time frames it becomes more difficult, but not impossible to start to use these strategies.

The easiest way to get more value for money when you are competing with other groups for limited resources (contractors, materials, etc.) is to go where others aren’t. There are a few key building elements that people tend to focus on right away when they get an influx of renewal money: roofing, HVAC, and asphalt. These are critical elements within a building for sure. However, we have seen significant price increases when every school, college, university and/or hospital is trying to replace the same elements. If you can, through proper maintenance and longer-term planning, delay the work on these highly sought after elements so you can find savings opportunities (or at least avoid overpaying) by focusing first on replacing or repairing other building elements such as surface or subsurface infrastructure, windows, electrical, plumbing, etc. 

Once the rush for roofing, HVAC and asphalt has passed, you can come back to the market seeking work in these areas and hopefully find some willing contractors who are coming off the peek from your peers. If the contractors staffed up to meet the market demand, you may even be able to save some money if you get to the market early in the year as they may have more resources than normal to keep busy. Getting out early, after a rush can get you great value.

The second strategy that we have seen work but is generally more difficult, is to collaborate with those in your market to strategize your renewal plans. Many organizations that we work with are hesitant to share their plans with those that they see themselves “in competition with” when it comes to limited market resources. This approach only works when you have two or more partners who are fully transparent and not playing (political) games.

If you are willing to share your plans and adjust your timing so that each organization is focusing on different types of projects in different years, you can avoid competing for the same contractors and materials. A simple example would be for one group to focus on roofing and lighting this year, while the other does HVAC and electrical. The next year you can switch. 

The process is very simple, however, overcoming the resistance to sharing information is the harder part. Where institutions are willing to be open with each other and approach a market in this strategic way, we have seen the demand shocks be blunted through collaboration as opposed to competition.

In all cases, there will be critical elements in critical condition that need attention no matter what. We are not suggesting that you defer these replacements and risk facility or campus shutdown. That is poor risk management. However, if you have the ability to extend the life of an element in a building to avoid buying at the peak of a market, you can find extra value and stretch your limited renewal dollars further.

Spending Money Is Easy. Spending It Wisely Is Hard.

I spend a lot of time speaking with Higher Education clients and potential clients in Florida, since that is where our US head office is located. Through the hard work and dedication of the Florida State University System Board of Governors (BoG), Florida Colleges and Universities are scheduled to receive over $880 M in one-time funding to address Deferred Capital Renewal and Replacement across the State. The money was split fairly evenly between the State-funded Colleges and Universities. It is a huge win for the BoG and the higher education institutions across Florida.

 

However, there are some challenges that Florida Colleges and Universities are going to face over the next couple of years as the money rolls out and the projects are being completed. Many institutions have faced similar problems in the past and many others will in the future when “new” money is injected into a market.

 

As we all know from our personal financial situations, it is very easy to spend money. However, spending money wisely, is another matter altogether. Given the current macroeconomic situation, with inflation not seen in 40 years, supply chain issues left over from the pandemic and unprecedented labor shortages around the world, getting value for money from the government funding is going to pose significant challenges for Florida’s colleges and universities, as well as all other institutions trying to get capital renewal work done in the Southeastern U.S.

 

For example, since the time the institutions submitted the list of projects to the BoG there has been significant inflation, over 20% for some types of projects. As such, the $880 M may only cover $660 M in planned projects just due to the increase in project costs (and that is before the additional funding has had a chance to impact the market). Now this is still a huge win for the sector. However, expectations of the work that can be done with the funding need to be based on the real-world situation at this time.

 

Any market, even one as large and robust as Florida will struggle to consume nearly $1 B in additional funding over a two to three year period. Given that in the Florida case it is also a one-time injection of funding, it represents more of a market shock from the demand side, as opposed to a long-term growth trend. Companies that ramp up hiring or production to meet the demand will likely face the need to downsize once the funding has worked its way through the system. This reduces the incentive for companies to invest to meet the market demand, since it is only likely to be temporary.

 

One other challenge that we have seen, based on previous major increases of funding in specific markets, is that smaller institutions, or those located in smaller centres may also struggle to attract contractors to bid on work. If the market can service larger clients, or those closer to the major centres (often where the contractors are located) then they don’t “have to” venture as far afield to find work as they would in a “normal” market.

 

Despite all of these challenges, this specific funding in Florida, and any increase in funding to address Deferred Capital Renewal and Maintenance backlog is a win. There are always challenges to get value for money when new funding is made available. For now, until inflation and the supply chain and labor issues subside the challenges are just that much greater.

 

In my next post, I will discuss some strategies that we have seen work for our clients to get the most value from a strained market when it comes to capital renewal projects.