Three Strategic Lessons from Seattle

Three Strategic Lessons from Seattle

This week, I was in Erie, PA, then Chicago, now I’m in Seattle to present two talks. Stepping out of the arrivals area at the Seattle–Tacoma Airport activated a vivid memory of stopping at the seating area there, eight years ago, to conduct a phone interview with Time Magazine. A few weeks later, my photo filled half of a page inside the publication. Back then I visited Seattle so often for my client, Microsoft, that I contemplated getting a second apartment there. 

The airport is unchanged – same couches, signs, and lights. The hotel I later checked into was also seemingly untouched.

What’s HAS changed is me. And the nature of that change suggests three important insights to strategy:

  1. Clarity of purpose: Back then I was after an audience and today I am driven to have an impact, specifically to help people love what they do. When you know your purpose, you make smarter choices. I’ve stopped accepting many far-flung assignments. There are enough people not loving what they do closer to home.
  2. Think of your customer rather than yourself: Too many companies have visions like “be the number one” or “have $X in revenue.” The universe cares less about what you want and more about what you do for the world.
  3. Focus on today: Trevor Moawad, the mental fitness coach of the Seattle Seahawks, says that novice athletes in times of pressure spend 40% of their time thinking about what happened, 40% worrying about what will happen, and 20% on what is going on right now. Great athletes spend 80% thinking about what there is to do right now and only 20% on yesterday and tomorrow. This gives them calm focus. Resilience. I am spending more time focused on what my work is today, right now, and I’m getting better results in return.

So ask yourself: have you clarified your purpose? Is that purpose in service of others? Are you focused on what there is to do right now?

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