Managing Partner at Blue Book Ventures. Inspirational Business Leader, Workplace Pundit, Best-Selling Author & Venture Capitalist
A Little About Me
Richard A. Moran is a San Francisco based business leader, workplace pundit, bestselling author, and venture capitalist. He is best known for his series of humorous business books beginning with bestselling, Never Confuse a Memo with Reality and is credited with starting the genre of "Business Bullet Books."
The parable of the frog that is slowly murdered by hanging around in ever increasing hot water is a lie. Don’t believe it.
You know the fable: If a frog is put suddenly into boiling water, it will jump out to live a long productive life. But if the frog is put in cool water that is then brought to a boil slowly, it will not perceive the danger and will be cooked to death.
The test has been performed in labs at great universities as well as by college students in Biology labs to see if the frog will jump when the water frothy. The frog will always jump out of the water as soon as it gets uncomfortable. Turns out frogs may be smarter than some of us who tolerate unbearable situations for too long.
The lesson for us non-amphibians is that we shouldn’t get used to a bad situation. Instead of adjusting to the bad situation we should change it or, like the frog, we will slowly die. We don’t need frogs to tell us we are in a bad situation at work. The lesson that many self-proclaimed gurus talk about is to avoid being like a frog and slowly dying in boiling water. The real lesson is to be exactly like a frog and get the hell out of there. Who wants to suffer?
Another way to think of it is to compare your situation with the frog’s as the water heats up. If you look around your workplace and say to yourself any of these statements, it’s time to jump out of the pot.
I am not comfortable with the people I work with; they don’t support me (when the water gets hot.)
I don’t believe management when they discuss the state of the company, (or the pot.)
I think the financial situation here is precarious and not going to get any better. (It’s getting hotter.)
I don’t like my job and it probably won’t change. (the frog knows.)
I am not rewarded appropriately and I don’t believe in the comp plan. (the hotter the water, the more I need.)
The frog metaphor is all about change and embracing it. The frog knows not to settle for mediocrity; to listen to your intuition and pay attention to warning lights and, to make decisions to change. The frog knows life outside of the boiling pot is unknown but life in the pot is miserable.
The warning lights might be blinking right from the start. Even in the interview there are telltale messages that the job may not be right for you. Maybe you look around and say to yourself, “These are not the people I want to hang around with”. Maybe the entire recruiting process is sloppy and disorganized and you wonder, “If they are putting their best foot forward, I would hate to see the other foot”.
Then, there is the job itself. The position should make your heart go pitter-patter with excitement about the possibilities. Those possibilities should want you to jump up and yell, “When can I start?!” Forget the actual job description. The real job usually doesn’t have much resemblance to what is written on a form. If you feel nauseous at the thought of showing up in the place every morning, you should follow your gut. Chances are, the organization is not going to change before your start date.
In spite of all the warning signs, you take the job anyway and there are good reasons to do that especially if you really need the job/money/benefits or need to just get out of the house. But unless you have to take the job for a good reason, DON’T DO IT. Once in, it can be difficult to get out.
Before you take any job you should have good answers to the following questions:
Who is my boss? Make sure you meet the person who will be your direct supervisor. Will he or she care that you are showing up? Will there be a honeymoon period? Will he or she help me and be a cheerleader? If not, don’t take the job.
Who will I be working with? Meet your colleagues and have “special” time with them. In private they may say, “We need you, we want you, we will help you do something great.” Or, they may say, “Unless you are desperate, run away as fast as you can.” If that is what you hear, take the advice and run.
What will I be doing? When you show up you should be doing something that is challenging, fulfilling and brings you joy. Well, that might be a stretch but you should be doing something for which you are trained and enjoy doing. If you enter a job feeling like you will be a prisoner of war, don’t get captured.
Lots of other questions need to be answered before you start including but not limited to: Is there good coffee? Can I bring my dog? What about pay? How long is the commute? Can I wear shorts?
If you struggle with answers to your many questions, it’s probably a good idea to take a pass on the job. If you call in sick on your first day of work because you dread it so much, you should probably just not show up – ever.
Most of us have taken on positions that, despite all of our gut instincts, we take any way. My advice is: don’t do it. Something better will come along.
A new word has entered the business nomenclature. Trendy words and phrases come and go and some stick around longer than others. See: Think outside the box. The new word snuck into the business world jargon while we were still getting synergized and checking our bandwidth. It shows itself so often now that we don’t even hear it anymore. The word is PERFECT.
Here is how it is used: Me: I’d like to make a withdrawal from my account please.
I am thinking, it’s not perfect. Perfect would be if I was making a big deposit. Or, here is another recent interaction at the auto dealership.
Me: Is my car ready?
Car dealer cashier: Yes, it’s ready, the bill is $1,770.
Me: Ugh. Here is my credit card.
I am thinking, no, perfect would be if the bill was zero or better, if you paid me. Like caught in a trap, I found myself recently using the word:
The IT guy: OK, your laptop is ready and you lost no data.
Me: Ahhhh, perfect!
I like things that are perfect but very few things are, in fact, perfect. In fact, in business practically nothing is perfect and most of us don’t even try for that state. Good enough might be the goal. Hey, “Good enough” used to be in the jargon and served as a response to things too as in, “I’ll be late so start the meeting without me”. And the response might be, “Good enough”.
No matter what we say, “good enough” shouldn’t be the goal but “perfect” shouldn’t be the goal either. Perfect as a goal can prevent us from moving forward. How often have you heard statements like, “The website isn’t perfect so let’s wait” and two years later the crappy old website is still up waiting for perfection. But good enough can’t be a goal either because it can indicate that only the bare minimum required has been met. Give the choice between the “good enough” or “perfect”, “perfect” might be better.
The word “perfect” in business may have replaced the word “awesome” and that could be an improvement. Just recognize when it comes to providing a service; “perfect” is hardly ever achieved so set your expectations and that of the customer. Although if I ever go in for brain surgery, I hope that perfection is realized.