Blackbird Media

Jeff Haden: Pursuing Excellence

Editor’s Note: Jeff Haden is a great business think tank, entrepreneur, speakers, ghostwriter and LinkedIn influencer.  He is a a true talent in the world of Ghostwriting. He is the founder of Blackbird Media. He has ghostwritten nearly forty non-fiction books (four Amazon Business & Investing #1s). He is a featured columnist for Inc.com and CBS MoneyWatch and a great speaker on subjects like: leadership, management, and small business for industry conferences, company meetings, civic groups, and the occasional workshop. In a nutshell, he is revolutionizing the Business Industry with his impressive ideas, thoughts, insights, experience and writings.

He didn’t have things the easy or the fast way, but he is certainly making some of the best written articles for self improvement and business. He’d tell you which ones, but then he’d have to kill you.

As he says:

‘Bottom line? I’m versatile, easy to work with, and I really like what I do. If we work together, you will too.’

You can read his full bio from here and get connected on Twitter and LinkedIn.

eTalk’s Niaz Uddin has interviewed Jeff Haden recently to gain insights about pursuing excellence in career and life which is given below.

Niaz: Dear Jeff, thank you so much for joining us in the midst of your busy schedule. We are thrilled and honored to have you at eTalks.

Jeff: I am happy to join.

Niaz: At the beginning of our interview, can you please tell us a bit about your background? How have you become a ghostwriter from being a forklift driver?

Jeff: I worked my way through college by working full-time at a manufacturing plant. I liked being on the shop floor, liked being a part of making things… just really liked the production environment. When I graduated from college I interviewed for several jobs, but they were all “40 year-old men working in cubicles” type jobs, and I couldn’t see myself enjoying that. So I took an entry-level job at another manufacturing facility in town.

When I say entry-level, I mean entry-level. I started as a material handler, which literally meant lifting and carrying heavy boxes and bundles at a fast pace. Fortunately I worked my way up into other jobs: Forklift driver, crew leader, machine operator, supervisor, manager, etc.

But I’m really glad that’s how I started. I literally learned the business from the ground up, and I think it helps you be a better leader when you truly understand what the people you do go through on a daily basis.

Niaz: What is your motivation to motivate others?

Jeff: I worked for other people for twenty years (more if you count jobs in high school and college.) I worked my way up from the absolute bottom of the totem pole to running manufacturing operations for a book plant… and along the way made every mistake possible (I even ate my lunch during one inter-departmental job interview… but I swear there was a good reason!)

I know a ton about what not to do. I’m like the ultimate career cautionary tale. All I have to do is think back on one of many career-limiting moves… and an article writes itself. And hopefully other people can learn from my mistakes instead of having to go through the pain of making the same mistakes themselves.

Niaz: Career is probably most important thing of an individual’s life.  I have seen that you tend to do a lot of article on Inc. concerning career advice. What do you think about career? How significant is career for a person’s life?

Jeff: I know it’s a cliché, but most of us spend more time working than we do on any other single pursuit. While I don’t think what you do define you, it does define much of what you do, if that makes sense. So why spend your life doing something you don’t enjoy or that doesn’t fulfill you? I know we don’t always have choices and we can’t all love our work… but we should either try to find work we love, or find ways to love certain aspects of the work we do.

Niaz: In this knowledge economy, what’s new about career? How is career path is changing and what should one keep in mind while setting career plans in this knowledge economy?

Jeff: At one time I think you could get by with simply having experience. If you checked all the boxes and had the right qualifications, you were fine. Now I think it’s much more about what you do and what you do with what you know. (That’s how I define the knowledge economy.) Accomplishments are everything – and accomplishments are based on having and applying knowledge that others do not have.

One way is to specialize. You may not be given the latitude to focus on one tiny aspect of a job or an industry, but you should pick one thing that you can know and do better than anyone around you – that way you’re always valuable and you’re as close to being indispensable as possible.

Of course the key is to pick one thing that truly adds value. Don’t just pick what you like – pick what truly makes a difference and creates real value.

Niaz: As you know, everything has been changing with the changes of time. Our past generations used to have only one career for their whole life. Now we have so many career paths as well as have so many opportunities. We are doing multiple things at a time. What do you think about the best ways of choosing multiple careers?

Jeff: I like to think in terms of layers: What am I doing today, how can I leverage that tomorrow, and how does that extend to other possibilities? For example, I write. Writing is based on knowledge and expertise about a subject, so that can easily extend to speaking. Or consulting, or meeting people you can partner with to take on new challenges.

Think about what you do today and then think about how you can leverage it. If you’re a technician, think about ways you can add leadership skills to your toolbox. Or think about how you can work with other departments on projects that are worthwhile for both functional areas. Or think about how you can learn new skills at a part-time job. As long as you’re constantly seeking opportunities and staying open to opportunities that are presented to you, your career path will almost discover itself.

Niaz: How to grab the best opportunities among so many good opportunities? And how can one integrate multiple careers to keep smooth sustainability and growth in career?

Jeff: The key is to always, always, always excel in your current job. Everything follows from that. Growth is based on accomplishment. If you’ve held three jobs in a relatively short period of time and have excelled at all of them, a hiring manager will see that as a great sign. Talent often gets to set its own rules. When you excel, the sky is the limit.

When you’re mediocre, limits are everywhere.

As for best opportunities: Sometimes the best opportunities only reveal themselves later. Make an informed choice and then decide that if the job doesn’t turn out like you hoped that you will do everything possible to make it work. Don’t expect the company or the boss to change – take responsibility for doing your best regardless of the circumstances. Your performance is the only thing you can truly control.

Niaz:  Where and how can one get continuous motivation to do things to reach to the mission of life?

Jeff: Success in business and in life means different things to different people. Success should mean different things. Whether or not you are successful depends on how you define success, and on the tradeoffs you are willing to not just accept but embrace as you pursue that definition of success.

The answer lies in answering one question: How happy am I? That’s it. How successful you are is based solely on the answer to that question.

Tradeoffs are unavoidable. If you’re making tons of money but are still unhappy, you haven’t embraced the fact that incredible business success often carries a heavy personal price. Other things are clearly more important than making money, and that’s okay. If on the other hand you leave every day at 4 o’clock and pursue a rich and varied personal life and you’re still unhappy, you haven’t embraced the fact–and it is a fact–that what you chose to do will not make you wealthy. Personal satisfaction is nice but it’s not enough for you… and that’s okay too.

What motivates you? What do you want to achieve for yourself and your family? What do you value most, spiritually, emotionally, and materially? That’s what will make you happy–and if you aren’t doing it, you won’t be happy.

Defining success is important, but taking a clear-eyed look at the impact of your definition matters even more. As in most things, your intention is important, but the results provide the real answer.

Ask yourself if you’re happy. If you are, you’re successful. The happier you are, the more successful you are.

And if you aren’t happy, it’s time to make some changes.

Niaz:  After interviewing thousands of people for a wide range of positions, what do you think are the most practical ways to pursue excellence in career?

Jeff: Experience is irrelevant. Accomplishments are everything.

You have “10 years in the Web design business.” Whoopee. I don’t care how long you’ve been doing what you do. Years of service indicate nothing; you could be the worst 10-year programmer in the world.

I care about what you’ve done: how many sites you’ve created, how many back-end systems you’ve installed, how many customer-specific applications you’ve developed (and what kind)… all that matters is what you’ve done.

Successful people don’t need to describe themselves using hyperbolic adjectives like passionate, innovative, driven, etc. They can just describe what they’ve done.

Niaz:  ‘Self-branding’ seems to be the buzzword with career coaches today. How do you define ‘Self-branding’?

Jeff: A great personal brand isn’t artificial. It’s authentic. A great personal brand is analogous to a great reputation, which is based on providing exceptional service or doing an exceptional job.

Obviously, that’s often not manifested in popular culture; if you hear “personal brand” and Paris Hilton is the first thing that comes to mind, you might see “personal brand” as a pejorative. But personal branding doesn’t mean duping someone. It doesn’t mean you’re manipulative or self-aggrandizing.

What it means is you are incredibly efficient at getting across to you people who you are and what you stand for.

Niaz:  LinkedIn continues to be a powerhouse in terms of networking professionally, yet many people are using it wrong way. What mistakes are you seeing professionals and job seekers are making?

Jeff: The worst thing you can do is put off making solid connections until the day you need something–customers, employees, a job, or just a better network. If you do, then you’ve waited too long.

Think about where you someday want to be and start now to build the connections, the network, and the following that will support those goals. Building great connections is a parallel, not a serial, task. Later is always too late.

Niaz:  With the evolution of social media and incredibly easy access to web, most of us have multiple social media account. Being present on social media means investing time. And we are investing significant amount of time over social media. What are your ideas to set our social media plans to get best out of it?

Jeff: Don’t just be on social media because you think you should. Social media is just a tool. First figure out what you want to accomplish, then pick the right tools to get you there. If you want to make professional connections, LinkedIn can be a great tool. If you want to find old girlfriends, Facebook is the place. Have a clear idea of what you want to do, then use the right tool… and constantly measure what you’re doing to make sure it’s working – or worth the investment in time.

Niaz:  What are your secrets of your success?

Jeff: I’m not that smart, not that talented, not that gifted… but I can do what other people are not willing to do.

Everyone says they go the extra mile. Almost no one actually does. Most people who go a little farther or longer think, “Wait… no one else is here… why am I doing this?”

That’s why the extra mile is such a lonely place. That’s also why the extra mile is a place filled with opportunities.

Be early. Stay late. Make the extra phone call. Send the extra email. Do the extra research. Help a customer unload or unpack a shipment. Don’t wait to be asked; offer. Don’t just tell employees what to do–show them what to do and work beside them.

Every time you do something, think of one extra thing you can do–especially if other people aren’t doing that one thing.

Sure, it’s hard.

But that’s what will make you different.

And over time, that’s what will make you incredibly successful.

Niaz:  Jeff thank you once again for sharing us your invaluable ideas, knowledge, insights and experiences. We are wishing you very good luck for all of your upcoming endeavors.

Jeff: You’re welcome Niaz.

_  _  _  _  ___  _  _  _  _

Further Reading:

01. Philip Kotler on Marketing for Better World

02. Hugh Mac­Leod on Creativity and Art

03. Daniel Pink on To Sell is Human

04. Naeem Zafar on Entrepreneurship for the Better World

05. Derek Sivers on  Entrepreneurship, CD Baby and Wood Egg

06. Gerd Leonhard on Big Data and the Future of Media, Marketing and Technology

07. Rita McGrath on Strategy in Volatile and Uncertain Environments

08. Gautam Mukunda on Leadership