Pack Light, Love Heavy

"Pack Light, Love Heavy"... I just returned from speaking to the Pittsburgh Pirates coaching staff and that was the title of my speech. It's a line from Aaron Watson's song Blue Bonnets In The Spring. (The song is tribute to his daughter Julia. Sadly she passed away just four hours after her birth.) What I love about this song is that Watson originally didn't want to release it because it's personal and vulnerable. He decided that if it touched just one person who went through a similar struggle move forward it would be worth it. Then he didn't want to perform the song live for fear he couldn't get through the first verse without breaking down. For the same reason above, he does though. I've come to the realization that the world needs more personal and vulnerable. From me, from all of us.

I was asked to speak on ownership to the Pirates coaching staff, it's their team's theme for the year. My theme for 2017 is Pack Light, Love Heavy. I love my readers and need to show it to you more. I actually need to be that way more with everyone in my life. So my promise to you is that you're going to see the personal and vulnerable me in my column in 2017.

Pack Light

A year ago, we moved. We sold our house and bought a new one. My wife had to handle closing on our new home alone because I was headed down to speak to the Pirates. She said the best way I could help was to simply pack my stuff up and recommended I pack two weeks, worth of clothes. Not for my 2 days in Florida but because our stuff wouldn't be completely unpacked by the time I got back.

When I returned, two weeks turned into two months and I still hadn't unpacked my "stuff". At that point, I decided that if I hadn't used it in 2 months I really didn't need to own it. So I gave thirteen 33 gallon garbage bags full of clothing to the goodwill, that's 429 gallons of stuff that I obviously didn't need and was just weighing me down. I gave also donated 12 bankers boxes full of books, dvds and cds. To complete the purge, I scanned almost all my business files, uploaded them to the cloud and shredded the paper, clearing out some filing cabinets.

Fast forward a year, I still only wear the same two weeks of clothing. Somehow I've managed to survive, actually I've thrived because of it. I share this with you because it's a microcosm of society, especially for America's largest generation - millennials. The numbers don't lie:

  • Home ownership is at an all-time low
  • Car ownership is at a 50 year low with less than one car for every 2.5 Americans
  • CD and DVD ownership is virtually non-existent
  • 45% of all book sales are eBooks.

We live in a society of renters. Millennials are a generation of renters. Sounds like a liability right? Here's why it's actually an asset, 72% of millennials prioritize experiences over things. They view ownership of things as a major commitment, it weighs them down. I can testify to the fact that owning less is a liberating feeling. At the same time that society is owning less things, consumer spending on live experiences over things increased 70% in the last 30 years. It's a different kind of ownership, its emotional ownership. The statistics prove the fact that millennials are actually craving emotional ownership. You can have a skin in the game without financial ownership. The question is: Do they own their experience in your organization? If the answer is yes, you have a massive advantage over your competition at a time when advantages are disappearing.

There are 3 types of advantages in every industry and the first two are largely going away.

  • Informational: The internet has leveled the playing field and provided everyone with equal access at equal speed.
  • Analytical: Most organizations in every industry utilize analytics today, so that advantage is evaporating on early adopters. Only when you're on the cutting edge of analytics can you enjoy some competitive advantage. The reality of it is unless you can find value where others don't or before others do the analytic playing field will be pretty level as well.
  • Behavioral: Your ultimate advantage is behavioral, meaning the individual and collective behaviors of your team become your competitive edge. Technology simply can't eliminate this advantage. Ever.

Love Heavy

Ownership is really a set of behaviors. Love, vulnerability and commitment are ownership behaviors. In a world of renters, creating an environment where people want to be emotionally invested will elevate and separate you from the competition. Ownership's also a two-way street. The Pirates invest in their people and as a result their people are invested in their jobs. I could tell you about my experience with their coaches but I'd rather tell you about an unsung owner there. Because ownership needs to happen at all levels of an organization. The Pirates driver, Tom who shuttles me to and from the airport. Tom told me when his wife died, the Pirates front office attended her funeral. When he got sick this winter he practically had to kick Pirates employees out of his house, they kept coming over and checking on him to make sure he was okay. The organization shows him they love him and are committed to him. He proudly reciprocates that love.

Last year, when I had to leave at 3 am to catch a 5 am flight I told him I'd call a cab because I didn't want him to have to wake up in the middle of the night. He wouldn't let me and said "I insist on taking you, it's no trouble at all. The Pittsburgh Pirates are my family, they gave me a job when no one else would and have always been there for me. It's an honor for me to make that drive at 3 am. I'll be there, you can count on it."

Fast forward to this weekend, Tom remembered me, asked about my kids and if I wrote a new book this year. We talked about his kids and grand kids. You think Tom owns his job? You bet, he packs light and loves heavy. Tom is the most stadium status driver ever!

You need to foster an environment of ownership from top to bottom on your team for one simple but powerful reason: Owners want to be surrounded by other owners, they don't want to be around renters. Top performers are owners and NEED to be surrounded by other owners. Pack Light, love heavy and your people will too.

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