End of Year Message: Here Comes 2022

This is the last email of the year, but I'll annoy your inboxes again on Jan 2. In effect, right after you've managed to love your life again and see work as an ancient thing from a long, long time ago, I'll remind you to get off your ass and change the world again. I'm in your corner!

This last email doesn't have a theme, either. It's just a collection of things that I want to say.

Three Things

Speaking of "important," I'll start by reminding you that you're not quite as important to the world as you think you are, and you've been keeping a stiff upper lip and holding things together at the expense of your deepest insides. You need some time off, whether that's in a big chunk or a regular, permanent shorter work week. The clients and employees pulling on you think they need you, but some of that is just instinctive reaching for comfort: "Hey, come enjoy the quicksand with me. This stuff is warm and soft. And why are we all getting shorter?" Whatever you do to cure this should probably require a plane, a bus, a train, a motorhome, or a boat. You need a complete change of scenario or all the rage building up inside is going to start sneaking out more regularly, foisted on the next person who slides into that tight space in front of your car or the new employee who asks a very reasonable, simple question, only to see you tighten up.

Second, you pretty much know by now whether you want to be in this field or not. The last two years have not been for the faint of heart. The shallow waters drained away and the wreckages just under the surface were easier to see and harder to avoid. So if you really love what you are doing—about the field itself and about your role as a leader—then get your sh1t together and start being more intentional and disciplined. There is really no ceiling in this industry, and there's no other collection of humans who are this lovingly weird. This is an amazing place and you'll be welcome in it. But if you've seen some things that give you pause, especially when you're being totally honest with yourself, then you'll be fine somewhere else. In many ways, the access you and I have had to a better understanding of behavior and incentives and patterns and communication and persuasion just flat makes you a better human, and it's not a big deal to go be a better human somewhere else. With a little bit of luck, each of you probably has three impactful and lucrative careers inside you, and now is maybe the time. But if you're just "here", please stop that. Running a barely profitable business with somewhat happy employees and clients who keep writing you checks is just a little bit beneath you. But I hope you stay, because there's a fantastic group of people in this industry. The water is not only fine; it's actually great.

Next, and since I'm pretty much in the business of convincing you that there's always a big problem to solve, let me throw this one at you. A year from now many of you are going to be whining about how you're spending too much money on people, and it'll be true. You're already spending too much money on people, and the insane salaries people are requesting...and getting...aren't just going to move you from the frying pan into the fire, you're going to have one of Elon's rockets launching right over your head. Some of you should seriously consider nearshoring more labor, but most of you just need to figure out how to charge a lot more for the same thing. The biggest obstacle for that—at least at the moment—is you, and nothing else. You could buttress that effort with better positioning, more valuable service offering design, or even a steadier stream of opportunity to experiment on, but the real antidote to this is charging more and not paying less. I'd be very reticent to rely on a strategy that required very skilled people who didn't care as much about money, but I also think throwing money at people willy nilly (at least without charging enough to make up for it) is a recipe for disaster. Maybe you don't need to grow as fast? Maybe you should clean out your client base so that you aren't hiring expensive people to service cheap clients? I don't have all those answers, but I do know that every time you pay dearly for a new person to join the firm, your expectations are also going to go through the roof. The higher paid people are going to be the officers on horses who are leading the invading army, and they're also the quickest ones to get shot because they are right out there for the taking and easy to see from a distance. If you want to think more about the single metric that will be the most crucial in 2022, here's more compensation strategy.

Thank You

As we end this year, it doesn't feel like we're wrapping up 12 months but rather 24 months, all crammed into the emotional space of 12 months while we've been trapped at home, so to speak.

  • I am grateful that I can work in a field that's relatively meaningful. Getting through five years of grad school had me surviving the "hot-line" at a foundry, operating a trimming machine at printing plant, reading the meters in challenging neighborhoods, and mowing a dozen lawns every week. Those were all noble jobs because that's what it took to keep our young family in food, but I kind of prefer what I do now.
  • I am grateful that the biggest mistakes I've made left an indelible impression on me...without taking me and others down from my inexperience. One mistake was around personnel, another was around money, and the other was around a client. Even after many self-administered dope slaps, I still wonder what I was thinking. Still, I'm not sure I would have learned those lessons otherwise. I've learned so much more from my mistakes than from my victories. "People say there are two kinds of learning: experience, which is gained from your own mistakes, and wisdom, which is learned from the mistakes of others." (John C. Maxwell)
  • I'm grateful to be advising an industry filled with really smart, hard-working people who are remarkable entrepreneurs. You are just the kind of people I enjoy being around regularly.
  • I'm grateful for a podcast partner and friend who is as crazy as I am to be willing to think things through publicly. Doing the podcast with Blair keeps stretching me and forcing me to think.
  • I'm grateful to have seen the world. Not so much lately, of course, and most of the world that I've seen has just been the ordinary sort of world, but the mental vistas are mine for life. Can't wait to head out again soon.
  • I'm grateful for a partner I still love being around, kids, daughters-in-law, grandkids, neighbors, and friends. The social fabric serves as a leash that tethers me to reality.
  • I'm grateful for the conversations with each of you as clients. Every conversation is about something that matters quite a bit to you, and it's important that we at least attempt to solve it.
  • I'm grateful for you, the reader, whether you were here for that first email in 1994 or just joined last month.

Let's knock 2022 out of the park. My deepest hope is that you'll wrestle with the right things, that most of your decisions will be solid, that you'll see an impact in your work for clients, that your team will grow and prosper, that you'll make enough money to facilitate even more generosity, and that you'll have long periods of time when you'll think nothing about the business at all.

So do that over the next few weeks, and remember that sometimes leaders need to put their own oxygen masks on first, even when it looks selfish. Rest up, deeply.


  • Secret Tradecraft of Elite Advisors

    Secret Tradecraft of Elite Advisors

    Covert Techniques For A Remarkable Practice

    Buy Now