Own It

My second installment expanding on D7's Somewhat Cryptic Advice for Better Living is really a statement about personal accountability and commitment. The advice is two words:

Own It

My day job is in product management. Product managers are responsible for strategy, delivery, and planning around products that companies sell in the market. Figuring out what the products are, what features they should have, who to sell them to, what they should cost, etc. - those are all responsibilities of a product manager.

As a product manager it's easy to develop a mental and emotional detachment from your product. Somebody else may have invented it, somebody else is fronting the money to take it to market, and company politics may mean that somebody else has a bigger role in determining its future You might not have much on the line, so it's easy to think of yourself as just another employee. But in my experience, product managers are most successful when they act like the product is their baby and their own money is on the line - even if it's not. These are the product managers that genuinely stake a claim in the success of their products. These product managers have a sense of passion and urgency that tends to inspire and influence others, gets things done, and bring about success in the market for their products. They're compelling evangelists for their products. They sweet-talk, fight, and cajole others to ensure the right things get done. They take it personally when a competitor beats them.

If you have children and you're a decent parent, then you probably get this. When it comes to your kids, you take a very active and passionate role in their success. You defend them, you think deeply about what's best for them, you make plans, and you execute for their future. There's very little you wouldn't do for them because you have a genuine mental and emotional investment in their success.

That's owning it. and it's an attitude that should be taken with anything you claim to really care about.

There's another aspect to owning it: Commitment.

Have you ever seen Justin Timberlake on SNL? I'm not a Timberlake fan and kind of considered him one of these disposable pop stars with a pretty face and very little talent. So I was blown away when I saw how genuinely funny he was on SNL. (Which actually got me to listen seriously to his music and you know what - I was kind of wrong about that too.)

He's funny because he's all-in. He holds nothing back. He leaves it all on the field, as they say in football. You have to be that way in comedy. Heck you have to be that way in all artistic endeavors. Not being completely committed to the moment and becoming detached, analytical, or self-conscious kills authenticity and utterly destroys art. Timberlake know this and when he does a skit he's all-in and he's hysterically funny.

But it's not just art, commitment applies across the board. That same all-in attitude applied to Michael Jordan, Martin Luther King, Steve Jobs, and the engineers and physicists who put men on the moon. They were intense, totally committed, all-in.

To own it is to hold yourself personally accountable for, and to be all-in in the pursuit of, its success. Whatever "it" is doesn't matter so much. It's the commitment that matters.