Going Beyond the Box

Think outside the boxBoxes are great for containing things. Whether moving or just trying to clear the clutter, a box comes in very handy.  You might even choose a box with some character, scratched out handwritten labels, shipping stickers and ancient yellow packing tape.  Yes, the box is a great thing.

But a box can also describe the perspective we live in.  Along the lines of “stuck in a rut,” living inside the box is a familiar place.   The box is the universe we live in, not only the physical space of home, work, the grocery store and the coffee shop, but also the mental world, the thoughts, the emotions, and the perspectives on the world.  By this definition, the box can start to take on a different feeling.

The life you live is the sum of the decisions and actions you make.  These decisions have many different types of influences, be it from your friends or networking group or from the thoughts which pass through your mind.  While many of us are quite content with the box we’ve built for ourselves, others may not be.

Change is how your box changes shape, color, and even location.  “Think outside the box” is a phrase we often use to set loftier goals for ourselves.  In fact, personal growth happens most when we step outside the box we’ve come to love.  A life of learning, new places, and new people is a great way to keep your box changing forever.

Here are some ideas to go beyond your box:

  • Take an online course – many are free and cover a wide variety of topics.
  • Join a book club – Sure, Oprah comes to mind, but reading is a great way to expand your box, as is engaging in discussion.
  • Invite a peer out to lunch – Not only do you get to experience a new atmosphere, but you share the experience with someone and bond with them.
  • Learning a new language or instrument – Learning to speak German or how to play Pachelbel’s Canon on the piano, the process of learning something new stimulates brain activity and makes you feel good.
  • Meditate – breathe, let your thoughts go, and relax.  Reflect on the thoughts which come up naturally and be prepared to write them down afterward so you can take action.
  • Take a vacation – it does not have to be an exotic place like Thailand, but a change of scenery is enough to get you thinking differently and open your horizons
  • Take a different route home from work – this is one tip I love and practice daily. You never drive home the same route day after day.  This opened me up to new routes and I found some places to visit at the same time.

While the box is a really cool thing, it is okay to think about life outside the box.

A Decade of Learning

For a bit more than the last decade, my career has focused on data and data visualization within sales, marketing and finance.   From understanding data architecture and database design to deploying insightful and effective reports to teams across the organization, I have come to appreciate the profound role data plays in today’s highly competitive marketplace.

Understanding how to use data and integrating it into one’s daily routine is a challenge for many.  As I reflect back on my career and the challenges for sales reps and analysts ahead, I chose to shift gears and focus on sharing my experiences with a greater audience.

Saalun - Sales Analytics University for Reps and AnalystsWith the purpose of sharing my skills, I created Saalun.  Saalun is short for Sales Analytics University.  The subscription based service is geared toward sales reps and analysts.  While sales leadership can also benefit, the product is to help reps get the training they need without relying upon corporate leadership to provide it.

While we are just launching an early preview, we will open the doors in Q4’17 with content, newsletters, webinars and podcasts.  Head over to our site and signup for notifications, early previews, and the latest news on this exciting project.

Need a Sales Team Dashboard?

Monitoring your sales team is a major part of success.  Sales managers and executives need a simplified media to review key performance indicators KPIs to understand how their sales team is performing.

Such a simplified media is a dashboard style report which includes both charts and data tables which report KPIs pertinent to the business.   In a for profit business, typically revenue generation is at the top of the KPI list, followed by product performance, rep performance, and then rep productivity metrics.

Example Sales Team Management Dashboard

Spiral Analytics’ Example Sales Team Management Dashboard – Available for $5 through Fiverr

Since simple is good, Spiral Analytics, the name of my analytics solution company, is offering a gig through Fiverr.  The $5 Gig provides a basic template and setup for a sales team dashboard which follow the metrics above.  Additional charts and the ability to maintain the dashboard for you are available at additional charge.  For more information, send us an email below.

Send us an email inquiry

Jumping Into Die-cast Model Collecting

As you get older, collecting things is a great way of expressing yourself.  With collections fitting into the life category of hobbies, just about anything can be considered a collection as long as you have more than a few of the same type of object.

As a car guy, I am an avid automotive follower, having collected just about every issue of Car and Driver magazine from 1992 to 1998. That is a lot of car magazines.  I even started writing my own automotive news and review journal when I started college called MotoCrazy.  Although I never actually published it publicly, it was a great for me to explore my automotive interest.

Fast forward to 2014 and my love for automobiles has not changed.  I still follow automotive news, review new models with skepticism and joy, and even yearn to take a new model for a spin.  While my current day job does not allow me to collect real cars, the world DieCast Models does.

It started with a search on eBay for a 2008 Mazda3 model by AutoArt.  I wanted to have a model of the very car I drive today.  However, I didn’t bid high enough and lost the first auction only to discover paying well over $100 for such a model would have been justified since I have not seen one come for auction since!  Urgh!

As I dove deeper into the world of diecast models, I found a fascinating world of scales, brands, and qualities that were as diverse as the planet we lived on.  My first purchase was a 1967 Pontiac GTO by Danbury Mint in gorgeous Purple Plum paint.  The 1/24 model was intricately detailed and set me back well over $100, but it is worth every penny.

After getting my first purchase behind me, I grabbed a 1995 Ford Explorer by Maisto and quickly learned what sort of quality I expected in a model.  While it was dirt cheap, the quality of this Explorer left me wanting more, almost feeling as though I had been cheated.  The door gaps were large and obvious, the headlights looked fake and the interior was more form than detail.  Clearly, future models were going to have to be a little higher quality.

Diving into DieCast Model Collecting is a lot like real world car shopping.  First, you get what you pay for.  Buy the cheap model and you will get a cheap car.  Buy a high end model and jump for joy, put it on the shelf and relish in its detail.   Second, shop around for the car that best fits your needs.  Numerous manufacturers make a 1966 Pontiac GTO and offer various levels of detail.  Even the higher end manufacturers offer different touches of details. Find the right mix that works for you.  Finally, size does not matter in the respect that 1/18 models are HUGE and 1/64 models are tiny and lack details.   Decide what you are comfortable with and how big of a shelf you have, then buy the scale that fits best.

I am quite happy with my collection so far.  In fact, I have concentrated on buying mid-1960’s GTO’s from a variety of manufacturers, but mainly in 1/18 scale.  My favorite is a 1/18 ERTL-American Muscle 1966 GTO in gold.   I am also collecting each and every model of Saturn I can find. Currently I have a 2002 Vue and SC2.

My 1/43 collection is taking shape, mainly in the form of European cars from the mid-1990’s.  From numerous Saab 900’s and 9-5’s to a Mercedes C180 and Mercedes C36, the 1/43 scale is nicely detailed and offers a nice compact size.  They are also a bit less expensive than the larger 1/18 scale.

DieCast model collecting offers an environment parallel to real world car shopping.   The best part is not having to have a 50 car garage to park them in.  Decide what makes your enthusiasm kick and buy it.  And if you come across an AutoArt 2008 Mazda3 5-door along the way, please let me know.

A Personal History of Task Management

For years I have been looking for a task management tool.  Ever since I tried “Getting Things Done” in college to no avail, I struggled to find the right combination of indexing, ease of use, and accessibility.  With both electronic and paper based options, it seemed everyone had their own idea of what the ultimate the task manager was.  Then you read about successful entrepreneurs who insist they only focus on three things per day (really? oh, you have a secretary, the article didn’t mention that!) compared to my wild mind constantly churning out ideas.

Below are some of the task management solutions from various phases of my life:

  • Mom, Dad and Adults – As a kid, you didn’t have to worry about task management.  Teachers gave you printed agendas, reminded you daily of homework due and you never went anywhere besides school so scheduling was synch.  When you weren’t at school, you had mom to ask, “have you done your homework?” or tell you it is bed time.  Those were the days…
  • Day Runner – I had one of those medium sized ones with a zipper all the way around.  My grandmother gave it to me for my high school graduation present and I used it for years, all the way through to my first real corporate, career job.  I loved the idea of having modules; calendar sheets for week, year and day; daily task sheets; contact list; and even the plastic “pencil” pouch.  The problems here were the bulk (front and back were padded and zippered), the cost and availability of refills, and the limited customization in design.  Eventually, I just started adding blank paper cut to the proper size.
  • Franklin Covey – Very similar to the Day Runner, but rather focused on use of Outlook.  They had printable sheets for us to print our “Day – Memo” sheets from Outlook once we decided what our three main accomplishments were.  What was fabulous was the printed calendar, the limited task list and the notes area.  I used this for a number of years until I switched companies and the new company didn’t believe in Outlook, just Google Apps.
  • Getting Things Done – a great concept and management solution.  However, it seemed too complicated to keep the inbox fresh and the many different components up to date.  Overall, way too complicated.  What I took away, however, was the concept of an inbox and anything that takes two minutes or less, just do it.
  • Smartphone, Palm Pilot, or other electronic organizer – After living without power for two weeks after the Tea Fire, I gave up on electronic to-do apps.  While some are great, they don’t allow for customization and you are stuck with their UI and process. You also have the NSA spying on your to-do list as pretty much all “tech” solutions run in the cloud.  Also, Evernote is unusable when the cat takes over the keyboard.  Also, just about every app makes the completed item disappear after you mark it complete, making past to-do and reference items difficult to find, some apps deleted them permanently upon completion.
  • Printable CEO – A great offline solution which allows for appointments, task prioritization, and notes.  Printing them daily was fine, but some days I didn’t need to print one as the previous day carried over.  The issue here is that each day is a sheet of paper and carrying previous months’ of notes around just isn’t doable in today’s smartphone obsessed world.  Also, I found the layouts to lack customization as sometimes I wish the notes section was twice as large and the appointments section a fraction the size.
  • My Own “Printable” Design – Using the printable CEO as inspiration, I created my own daily sheets which gave priority to notes, had a section for three daily accomplishments and five sub-goals.  I even added a line to write in a memorable, inspirational quote. It worked quite well for a few months, but I discovered on days where I wanted to do a brain dump (write down everything on my mind), I didn’t have enough task space (although the backside of the paper was perfect) and I had to carry that sheet around with me for a few days while I worked through action on the list.  Overall, I found myself re-writing ideas from my head onto the new “today” sheet to make sure I had access to them.  Like Printable CEO, carrying around the archives was hideous, an old school 3-hole punch notebook.
  • The Bullet Journal – My current system is the Bullet Journal.  Think of it as a morph between a Moleskin journal, a Day Runner, and a Printable CEO, utilizing low-tech paper and pen to beautifully archive entries as you go.  I am preparing a follow-up blog post just to discuss the power of the Bullet Journal, but the concept of writing everything down and then using symbols to categorize them is huge for me.  Having a calendar and daily appointment entries works well.  The icing on the cake… drum roll please… the Index.  Finally, a way of archiving entries on paper in a way they are accessible for reference!  Woohoo!  Where, o where have you been all of my life?

Looking over this list and realizing, not only am I getting older, but how diverse task management is.  I believe David Allen said in his first book that he didn’t expect everyone to use his system as he outlined, but rather suggested the reader use the parts that work. For me, the electronic solutions didn’t work, giving credence to “the pen is mightier than the iPhone!” What is your task management history like? What worked for you, what didn’t and where did you end up?

The Best Hobbies

An interesting quote from Dr. Vogel on Dexter caught my mind recently.  They were referring to murder as a hobby when Dr Vogel said:

“The best hobbies take us furthest from our primary occupation.” – Dr Vogel, Dexter

If hobbies are at the opposite of our 9-5 jobs, then what does this mean?  As an Analyst with Marketing and Sales expertise, I spend my day job working with data, creating visualizations, and helping stakeholders understand the health of their business.   I bring to life the power of KPIs and creating conversation about the business through data.  Fascinating patterns and changes in trends spark the best conversations.

It is the more computer based hobbies I spend time on.  From flight simulator (FSX and X-Plane) to triathlon analysis, I do spend more time on the computer than sleeping.  Lately, I have split my time between BootStrap, a web authoring platform from Twitter, and analyzing the 2013 Santa Barbara Triathlon race results.

As a hobby, though, the last thing I want to do is sit in front of a computer at home.  In fact, if Dr. Vogel is right, the best hobbies for me would not involve a computer at all and would focus on the physical as opposed to the virtual.   Interests of mine include art (sketching and watercolor), photography, gardening, triathlon, writing and music.   Interestingly, none of these hobbies are very frequent in my life other than triathlon training.

So, what’s the point of all of this?  Balance.  Dr. Vogel’s comment illustrates the need for moderation and balance in our lives.  Spending too much time behind the computer is not healthy.  So is spending too much time at work.   The balance involves leaving the computer behind after hours, heading outside and experiencing a wider variety of activities in life.   Hobbies are a way of expressing ourselves while relieving stress and spending time with like minded people.   Get as far away from your day job when not in the office as possible!

The Road Not Taken

I was thinking about how connected technology has become and how much resources it takes to get a startup off the ground these days.  Then I remembered a poem by Robert Frost, The Road Not Taken:

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler,long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I –
I took the one less traveled by
And that has made all the difference.

– Robert Frost (source internal.org)

Doesn’t innovation come when one takes the road less traveled?