Last Year’s Black Swan Event Felt Like a Flock of Black Swans 

Supply chain professionals are wrestling with many questions as we emerge from the year of the pandemic. Among them: What can we do to prepare for such extreme demand variability? How can we engage executives and drive home — once and for all perhaps — the importance of bold action, process improvement and enabling technologies? 

Fortunately, a pair of industry experts recently weighed in on these topics and more, and you can watch the webcast on demand here. In part one of our two-part series, Logility’s executive vice president Mac McGary and Supply Chain Insights founder Lora Cecere discuss what it means to ‘deliver better business outcomes’ in 2021. Supply chain gurus Mac and Lora share insights into the main drivers of demand variability in today’s markets and offer ways to address this variability. 

Of primary importance is “learning to unlearn,” discarding or at least reframing tired, didactic arguments. We need to “build better,” which includes sensing market signals instead of gazing in the rearview mirror at order and shipment data. It is possible to drive accuracy at the speed of the market, but it takes courage.  

In addition, Lora and Mac emphasize the importance of the following: 

  • Driving market value through S&OP. Start with assessment. How balanced are you across the S and the OP? And don’t forget the ampersand — remember to focus on markets, not just products. 
  • Don’t settle for simple and vague. Example: despite plentiful data and modern tools, everyone says they want more supply chain visibility. Visibility of what? There are many things to see and understand in a global supply chain. Make a list. But be ready to USE that new-found visibility to make data-driven decisions. 
  • Achieving organizational alignment. Many organizations still exhibit some form of tribalism. Create KPIs focused on company strength rather than traditional departmental/functional goals. Respect the tension between commercial teams and operational teams and create feasible plans. 

It took a Black Swan event and the resulting unprecedented demand roller coaster to provide the urgency needed for an invitation to the top floor. Never waste a crisis. It’s time to show the value of clear guidance codified in playbooks, modeling, constraint-based analyses, clear metrics, inventory strategy, and designing the supply chain. The very best practitioners know they are on a journey, and they’re continually learning. 

I want to get us out of buzzword bingo and really focus on capabilities and help people to understand that the supply chain is a complex non-linear system, which means that if I move something like asset utilization, it is not a simple trade-off. There are many cause and effect relationships in play, and you can’t see that in an Excel spreadsheet.”
Lora Cecere, Founder and CEO, Supply Chain Insights 

Be sure to tune in on March 24th at 11:00am for part 2 of our series Deliver Better Business Outcomes: Managing Supply Variability. Register here to secure your seat. 

Traceability will be key in meeting consumer demands for sustainability.

The short version: if you can’t track the complete history of a product, including material and labor inputs, you can’t make an ironclad claim about its sustainability. There is no credible sustainability without comprehensive traceability. The latest twist: what’s always been an ethical issue is now a legal issue, too. 

Happily, this means that greenwashing will soon be circling the drain. Based on the term “whitewashing,” greenwashing means “to make stakeholders believe that your company is doing more to protect the environment than it really is.” Greenwashing came about as unscrupulous businesses grappled with the advent of “conscious consumerism” or “consumers with a conscience.”  In other words, greenwashing exists because green sells. A large body of research bears this out. For example, a Nielson poll found that 66% of adult consumers are willing to pay more for eco-friendly products and 50% of purchasing decisions are influenced by sustainability claims.  

Faced with this rising demand for eco-friendly products and environmentally ethical business practices, some bad actors decided to greenwash because it’s less expensive than implementing the real thing. Sometimes greenwashing is subtle, sometimes it’s brazen, as we’ll see below.  

According to Mark Burstein, executive vice president and industry principal at Logility, decades of conversation on sustainability has been 99 percent greenwashing. Burstein is wary of any claim that isn’t backed by data including visibility of the full chain of custody. 

Greenwashing dates back to the ‘60s, when the nuclear power industry was trying to counter the claims made by the anti-nuclear movement. Greenwashing usually takes the form of one of the Seven Sins of Greenwashing, reproduced here: 

  • Hidden trade-off: Defining something as “green” by a narrow definition that ignores other environmental impacts. For example, a packaging innovation that reduces the use of black plastic at the expense of an increase in the rate of deforestation. 
  • No proof: Claims are not easily confirmed or are not verified by third-party certifications. 
  • Vagueness: Broad, insubstantial, or convoluted claims. These include statements like ‘new and improved’, ‘made with recycled materials’, ‘eco-friendly’, and ‘non-toxic’, with no further specificity. 
  • Irrelevance: Claims may be truthful but unrelated to the product or company.

How have they gotten away with it? Well, in a few of the more egregious cases, they haven’t. But let’s look at Ben & Jerry’s — by the way, a company that has done much admirable work in the areas of fair trade, sustainability and non-GMO standards — to illustrate a couple of points: 

  1. This stuff is complicated; and 
  1. Most consumers care up to the point where — you guessed it — the stuff gets complicated. 

On the Ben & Jerry’s public website, we see the company acknowledging that the details surrounding non-GMO supply chain compliance are intricate, replete with arcane language, bewildering regulations, and exceptions that appear to be at cross purposes. Therefore, not everyone will want to forge ahead and truly understand the complexities.  

For Ben & Jerry’s, claims related to non-GMO compliance require tracing animal feed sources and ingredients obtained from fermentation and processing aids or enzymes, potential comingling of GMO and non-GMO ingredients at any point in the supply chain, and any variances issued. And that’s a very abridged version of the company’s traceability requirements. Sustainability tracking is equally complex.  

In the past, trust — even misplaced trust — was enough, but now we’re entering an era of “don’t trust and do verify.” Which brings us to the reckoning. To explore this, let’s shift our industry focus from dairy to denim. 

 Changing the Way Materials Are Sourced

On January 13, 2021 the United States Customs and Border Protection expanded the blanket Withhold Release Order (WRO) initially issued on December 2, 2020 and will detain all shipments containing cotton and cotton products originating from the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR) and now includes tomato products. This potentially affects cotton products from countries other than China that use Chinese cotton inputs such as cotton fabric. Britain also announced they will tighten laws on imports linked to XUAR human rights abuses. 

These announcements from both sides of the Atlantic highlight the urgency with which companies must act to ensure their products are not stopped at the border. According to the US Customs and Border Protection, the importer of record is responsible for proving its products do not contain any material, in whole or part, sourced from XUAR.  

“My interpretation of it is any cotton product coming from any country has the potential to be detained unless you can show proof of admissibility that it wasn’t using Chinese cotton or inputs from that region,” Burstein said. As we’ve said before, this is a guilty until proven innocent stance with huge financial implications, a case where one bad apple does indeed spoil the whole bunch. 

If suspected and unable to show verifiable proof, the importer has three options: 

  1. Take the products out of the US market and export them somewhere else. 
  1. Destroy the merchandise. 
  1. Abandon the merchandise. 
Meeting Consumer Expectations

The latest developments from the United Kingdom and United States show there is strong action being taken to change the way materials are sourced. Now, it is up to supply chain leaders to ensure they can prove through a digital thread they are in compliance across every link in their complex, global supply chain. 

In the wake of these growing concerns, Logility launched a digital supplychain traceability solution giving brand owners and retailers the tools to document the chain of custody from component origin to importer of record. With this solution, users can trace the chain of custody through all tiers in the supply chain in one digital thread while storing and managing all supporting documents related to every transaction between supply chain trading partners. 

The digital thread compiles and organizes a chronological and verifiable account of importer of record back through every tier of the supply chain to the original raw material source. Transactions are validated at every tier using POs, invoices and packing lists. All these documents are rolled up to a certificate of compliance with complete chain of custody. This comprehensive genealogy is sent electronically for all shipments arriving in the US. This is what United States Customs and Border Protection will examine to determine compliance with relevant rules and regulations. 

Outside of the potential legal issues, traceability will be key in meeting consumer demands for sustainability across all industries. Coming full circle, brands now have compliance tools that also help them prove to jaded customers that environmental and social responsibility programs are in place and supported by tangible evidence.  

Furthermore, consumers will come to understand that these tools exist. While we’ll always have lazy consumers, and while the Ben & Jerry’s example proves that modern, global supply chains are inherently complex, we won’t always have companies hiding behind the lament that “full supply chain traceability is too hard…there are no technology solutions for it.” 

Finally, it’s refreshing to note that some global brands are joining the call for comprehensive traceability solutions to validate their sustainability claims. Rather than bemoan the loss of greenwashing as a tactic (as some surely will), these companies are proactively assessing the market for advanced supply chain traceability solutions that support overarching CSR strategies. They have essentially aligned themselves with consumers and put technology providers on notice.  

These solutions must measure and manage the full environmental impact of internal and external facilities, rate material producers and garment manufacturers’ environmental performance, extend the lifespan of products and even provide insights into how to improve recyclability of textile waste and unsold products. 

Burstein sums it up nicely: “We’re going to have something good come out of this situation in Xinjiang. The runway where we get to true traceability. Because without traceability at each one of these nodes, no one can accurately tell you the environmental footprint of their supply chain.” 

Read more about how traceability helps to support supply chain resilience, compliance and sustainability in the fashion industry here

Logility is closely monitoring the Coronavirus (COVID-19) situation around the world with a priority on doing what we can to protect the health and safety of our employees and support the business planning capabilities of our customers.

Dealing with disruption is the nature of supply chain planning. For more than 20 years, Logility has helped companies thrive in dynamic global supply chain environments, quickly assess the current situation, evaluate multiple response scenarios and make better-informed decisions faster. We are here to help.

Bounce back faster by making better decisions now

One of the best decisions to make now is investing in supply chain planning solutions and services to enable your business leaders to take control of complex supply chain challenges when disruptions like the Coronavirus occur.

The Logility Digital Supply Chain Platform:

  • Leverages a Digital Twin to model the volumetric and financial impact on business goals, customer service levels, and available production and distribution capacity
  • Quickly anticipates spikes or drops in demand using machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence (AI) including robust demand sensing
  • Resets customer priorities and service level needs or capabilities
  • Reprioritizes products to be produced, sourced and moved throughout your global network
  • Prioritizes scarce inventory to optimize network performance
  • Rapidly identifies supply constraints and alternate sourcing opportunities across multiple time horizons with AI and ML driven insights
  • Optimizes available manufacturing, and assesses business options such as additional hours/shifts or working with contract manufacturing partners satisfy market demand
  • Evaluates the tradeoffs of multiple business scenarios and recovery periods as operations return to normal to ensure the right products are flowing to the right locations

The Logility AI-based digital planning platform can help you bounce back faster and automate your supply chain planning to allow your team to focus on the return to normal business operations.

Learn more: Covid-19 (Coronavirus): Where do we go from here?

Short-term staffing needs

Need to augment your team now? Logility can help. Our Planning as a Service offerings and Global Services team can supplement your staff and accelerate your ability to model, validate and enact your business planning to help you bounce back faster.

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Omni-Channel Retailers Supply Chain Survival PlanIt’s an omni-channel world out there. Mobile and e-commerce customers expect to receive the same experience and service regardless of where or how they shop. Of course, customers do differ from store to store, and online desktop shoppers can be different from mobile app shoppers. Many customers regularly cross channels between in-store, online and catalogues. Omni-channel retailers must be able to leverage their inventory and supply chain visibility more intelligently, or risk being swamped by these “new world orders.” (see Retail TouchPoints white paper: Develop an Omni-Channel Competitive Advantage)

Given that many existing planning systems were developed and installed in the 1990s, optimizing planning decisions means evolving your people, processes and technology toward a new level of cooperation and flexibility. It’s time to overhaul your planning, allocation and replenishment activities. Time to balance product and store plans. Run “what-if” scenarios. Create demand-driven assortments. Use virtual warehousing to maximize stock availability. Invest in merchandise to cost-effectively serve all channels.

In the podcast, Retail Planning in an Omni-Channel World, we discuss in-depth each of the following “to dos” of omni-channel-driven changes that need to happen:

Omni Channel Implications from the NRF Holiday 2016 ReportThe National Retail Foundation’s (NRF) Holiday 2016 update predicts sales to increase 3.6% during November and December. At the same time, online sales are expected to increase by 7% to 10% over 2015. What does this mean to you?

The growth of online spending shines a bright light on how important it is for retailers to serve customers where and when they want to purchase. Many consumers prefer to research online first, then walk into a store for the immediate satisfaction of purchasing a product. Conversely, they may browse at the retail store, then go home to order products online. It has become extremely difficult or impossible to forecast exactly where a customer is going to purchase a product from. In spite of this uncertainty, many retailers’ inventories are siloed by channel, and fulfillment occurs without consideration of balancing cost and service.

The expectation is that 2016 will be a better holiday season than last year. Are you ready? Do your merchandise assortment, allocation and replenishment plans reflect this projected increase? How are you going to split demand between your various channels? There’s one approach we find to be highly profitable; creating a virtual warehouse from which to allocate inventory to each channel (see #7 in the white paper, Optimizing Retail Allocation: 10 Must-Have Capabilities). This approach blunts the cost of committing it to a single location and then dealing with transfers or, worse yet, markdowns. Are you enabled to do it?

After several hard years, the positive news from NRF portends an upward trend in sales. Are you prepared to take advantage of it?

Get out a piece of graph paper and plot your current achieved service level on the x-axis and your current inventory level on the y-axis. Mark that point with a dot.Now, estimate how much more inventory on hand would be required to raise your service level by 5%, 10%, 15%, and so on. Now, go in the opposite direction and plot how much less inventory would be required if you lowered your service level goal by those percentages? Congratulations, you now have a bunch of dots on graph paper. Connecting these dots draws a trade-off curve between your currently achievable service levels and the corresponding inventory necessary to achieve them. Spend more on inventory and you should be able to increase your service level. Drop your service level goal and you should be able to save some working capital by reducing inventory. That trade-off curve is called your Efficient Frontier. Organizations can slide along this efficient frontier curve by manipulating the service and inventory “levers.”

So, an efficient frontier is like reality: you can move along it, but you can’t alter it. Or can you?

Multi-echelon inventory optimization (MEIO) lets you step into new territory, a new efficient frontier, that establishes a previously unavailable relationship between inventory and service level. In fact, you could say that any MEIO initiative is an attempt to alter reality: in this case, inventory reality. You want to jump off your current curve onto a whole new curve that represents a truly better world. In this new world, less inventory is required to produce higher service levels than you’ve been able to achieve in the past.

By modeling the end-to-end supply chain, MEIO determines new ways in which inventory pools at each stage, or location, should be managed to best serve the needs of other stakeholders occupying other supply chain tiers. MEIO initiatives discover the optimum amount and placement of inventory across the entire interdependent network.

Planners can use “what-if” scenario analyses to adjust the tradeoff between customer service and inventory cost over time to perfectly match the risk profile your organization is comfortable with.

With its uniquely comprehensive approach to both strategic and tactical inventory held across the supply chain, MEIO creates better trade-off curves. These new realities mean the supply chain team delivers higher levels of service at lower inventory cost for any cost vs. service goal. This creates a positive feedback loop that drives continuous improvement for years.

By shifting the efficient frontier, I have seen companies reduce their working capital more than 30 percent, translating into tens of millions of dollars in savings annually.

How good is life on the frontier in your supply chain? Are you ready to boldly go where few supply chains have been before?

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Risk v Rewards - Making the Right Decisions in Global Supply Chain PlanningThe last twenty years have seen amazing expansions in global supply chains. On the supply side, companies began looking for lower-cost sources from different geographies. Whether it was the US going to Asia or the EU going to Africa or the Eastern European countries to procure lower cost components, this concerted effort created a coordination challenge across a vastly extended supply network.

For supply chain managers the challenge became one of maintaining flexibility and the ability to respond to a dynamic market. Given extended supply chains and supply networks, how could customer satisfaction be maintained? How could the supply chain become demand-driven?

Now, as the reshoring debate heats up, companies are reevaluating their supply chain footprint. A crucial question everyone faces is: Is there a cheaper source? Or alternatively, can we keep our current source but derive added value from collaborating more closely with our supplier? In addition to cost, customer service level expectations are sky-high; everybody wants their order now. Long supply chain lead times make it tough to meet demand without piling up inventory in various places around the world. What is right strategy to balance cost and service while driving profitable growth?

The Collaborative DNA in Jeans

One global fashion company is tackling this challenge head on with their jeans supply chain, for which denim is a key resource. They’ve been able to create a demand-driven supply chain by understanding the marketplace trends around styles of jeans (for example, a bleach wash versus a particular cut). The apparel manufacturer has fostered close collaborative relationships with key suppliers around the world that allows them to share this data and effect some late-stage differentiation and postponement on materials to meet the specific demand for a particular style, color, size in a unique geographic region. This avoids building too much inventory and enables quick response to the shifts in customer sentiment. Moving the demand signal quickly from the actual customer to the supplier requires visibility to the inventory across the extended supply network and the ability to share demand and supply information. In turn, this demand-driven, collaborative supply chain helps reduce markdowns and improves margin return on capital employed. The company is not a vertically integrated brand. It doesn’t own suppliers, rather the suppliers are partners in planning a coordinated demand-driven response across a third party or a partner network.

When close collaborative relationships combine with process and technology to coordinate activities across the supply chain, everybody wins. By reducing inventory across the supply chain while capturing more of the demand, not only do margins improve, there’s much less temptation to hedge inventory and much less expediting required, all of which lowers cost and disruption. When suppliers are more strategic, they operate with more certainty that they’re providing value to the business.

Tackling Risk

Extending the supply chain to take advantage of lower costs has brought an unwelcome increase in risk. Risk is a significant fact of life when moving to a global supply chain. Executives worry about the repercussions of unanticipated events (meteorological, political, economic). For many companies, handling risk means taking a more proactive management approach, working to predict issues related to single-sourcing, for instance, or plans that are set in unstable environments. It may be wise to find an alternate supplier, or buffer inventory over the next few months. Risks can be analyzed by creating scenarios that reveal potential impacts, then practical mitigation steps can be prepared in case the scenarios play out. It’s important to democratize risk information so the company can respond to it.

An integrated business planning process brings all those aspects together so stakeholders can map out what to do if these issues materialize. Teams that rely on spreadsheets quickly learn that spreadsheets won’t stand up to that kind of scrutiny, and it takes too long to bring all the data together for smart decision-making. Spreadsheet reliance adds, rather than subtracts, risk.

When faced with the challenges of global supply chain planning, remember a few key priorities. Understand the risk in your network and how to mitigate it. Sharpen your inventory strategies. Work collaboratively with your supply partners. Capture your demand signals accurately and let good demand planning drive integrated business planning across your global network.

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The Next Generation of Excellence: Agility, Culture, InnovationConsidering the current appetite for “supply chain excellence,” I wonder if it is possible we’re focusing on the wrong things? Like cost and asset utilization, trying to become more efficient (faster delivery, lower cost, time to new product introduction) and more effective (asset utilization, higher levels of service, market share, customer retention).

These are all necessary drivers of business success but are they the only attributes that define true excellence?

We try to measure “better-faster-cheaper” by developing indexes based on margin, asset efficiency, inventory turns, supply chain cost as a percentage of sales, or growth. We’ve created maturity curves to track ourselves against our peers. We use this relative positioning to derive high-value improvement initiatives that will lead us up the maturity curve. “Here are the next ten steps to getting better-faster-cheaper.”

Don’t get me wrong, getting better-faster-cheaper is necessary for survival, but not necessarily a recipe for success or excellence. Improvement work is the stuff of 80-hour work weeks, but is it strategic? Yes, in the sense that continuous improvement is table stakes for company survival, but, no, in the sense that these improvements are by definition within the box.

Creating indexes and maturity models builds boxes that can keep us from exploring alternatives. Consultants and analysts can make money by defining a box and having organizations compete within that box for ascendancy.  Own the framework and you own the initiative.

If better-faster-cheaper is not “excellence”, what is? What else is there to measure when it comes to excellence?

How do you know if meaningful inventory optimization is possible for your life sciences organization? Supply chains in all branches of the industry involve high-value, high-margin items that tend to trap large amounts of working capital in excess inventory, so the potential benefit is real. If you are a medical device maker, you face challenges around assembly, procurement and kitting, as well as deployment into healthcare offices or third parties who serve them. If you are a pharmaceutical producer with a big-batch chemical front-end or an organic biological process, you face a packaging phase and a final pack stage.

But in an industry characterized by extreme service level requirements, multi-tier distribution networks, strict regulatory requirements, and a mix of high- and low-volume SKUs, it’s no wonder the desire to right-size is sometimes trumped by fear of disruption in supply. Just keep in mind that an inventory optimization initiative can transform global supply chain performance by strategically buffering inventory and setting time-phased inventory targets that handle shifting demand trends. Note that leading life sciences companies have achieved lower inventory levels while executing new product introductions more cost-efficiently and exploiting market opportunities more aggressively.

To get an internal dialogue about inventory optimization started, try asking your team these four questions:

1) Can We Safely Reduce Inventory? More and more over the past five years, the answer to this question for many life sciences companies has been “yes.” Optimizing inventory policies across raw materials, component operations, packaging, and distribution can shrink inventory cost by 15% to 30%, while providing 99%+ confidence in meeting product availability and service level requirements. Is your team ready to believe in it, too?

2) How Much Excess Inventory Do We Have…and Where Is It? Analyzing the amounts, locations, and causes of inventory being held across the supply chain—along with the interdependencies that drive excess buffering—is the first step to discovering ways in which repositioning and right-sizing stock can lower costs and improve customer service. For that, you need an astute inventory optimization technology solution that can model your global supply chain end-to-end.

3) Can We Cut Inventory By Handling Demand Uncertainty Better? It is well documented that mathematical algorithms outperform human judgment in managing demand uncertainty over time without causing inventory ripples (a.k.a. “the Bullwhip Effect”) between buffer pools at different locations across the supply chain. How much of a factor is fluctuating demand in driving your company’s levels of inventory?

4) Is Our Team Ready to Embrace Best Practices? With its heavy R&D focus, strict regulatory environment and long time-to-market, the life sciences industry takes a very deliberate course in implementing inventory optimization initiatives. If your readiness answer is based on solid executive-level support across functions (including supply-side procurement, production, distribution, sales and marketing, finance, and even R&D), then you already possess the most important ingredient in a successful inventory optimization initiative.

How do you score across these four questions? Is your supply chain up to the challenge to meet the increasing needs of today’s market?

I saw a blog topic the other day titled “My Biggest Mistake.” The intent of this topic was obviously to teach, to explore a hard but useful lesson a broader audience could benefit from.

…But I’m not really wired to think that way, so let me flip it around. Here are 9 things that I got right, whether by design or accident, that others could learn from.

1. Always embrace new ideas and learning – be curious

One of the biggest errors anyone can make is to think learning stops when you leave school. Learning never stops. You can benefit from learning something new at any age.

From the start of my career I looked for ways to learn new things and took advantage of any opportunities for structured learning. I had the great fortune to start my career at Digital Equipment Corporation, where they financed employees to gain additional degrees. They also offered free APICS certification classes for anyone who wanted to take the tests. I got my CPIM, which qualified me for new roles in consulting to the company’s Asia Pacific supply chain. I was able to travel the world, meet new people and take in new experiences I would never have known had I not raised my hand when those courses were offered.

Today, almost all the knowledge you could ask for is available to you. I am an avid reader and take advantage of travel time to consume 2-3 books a month—not just business books, but histories, biographies and the classics. Occasional Liberal Arts booster shots contribute to a well-rounded and thoughtful person. Feed your mind every day.

2. Travel and learn

Traveling around the world has taught me that people are people. There is no Us vs. Them. Mark Twain said “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.”

Don’t make the mistake of vegetating in one little corner of the earth, take advantage of opportunities to travel. Learn new cultures and shake off preconceived notions.

3. Cultivate the mind of a student

But what if learning doesn’t translate into personal growth? One of the most unfortunate mistakes I see is the dogmatism of knowing too much. When you embrace opportunities for learning, when you travel to other places, don’t make the mistake of thinking you know everything. Don’t make the mistake of thinking you know anything. The Zen teachers would tell you to approach learning with the “mind of a child.”

So look at each trip as an adventure. Whether boarding a flight for Copenhagen or Cincinnati, view it as a portal to new learning. When you start to think you know everything you become dull to the world.

4. Work yourself out of a job

Wouldn’t working to eliminate your own job be a mistake? Not necessarily. Once upon a time I developed and delivered training on a new product. Problem was, I got trapped in an endless cycle of doing the same training over and over. So I locked myself in a conference room for a week and recorded the entire training. Now I wasn’t the bottleneck. Anyone who wanted to get the training could just do it.

Don’t make the mistake of assuming your job or your role is a fixed entity. Work to retain the value but eliminate the job. Be the person who sets up systems and automates or eliminates manual processes. Set your proprietary knowledge free. Lead the charge and you will not only add value to your organization but will position yourself as a leader.  

5. Don’t be afraid of hard work and don’t give up too early

Expect that there will be hard work. Expect some failures, and be ok with that. Embrace it. You will find that most worthy projects follow a U-shaped curve. When you first start the project you will be excited and the work will be fun. At some point it will start to get hard and you will have to trust in the results without being able to see the finish line. You will have to fall down, sometimes multiple times, get up and keep working. Eventually the work will turn a corner and you will see the finish line. The work will become fun and meaningful again as you approach your goal.

When you find a project that is the right thing to work on or that you have a passion about, be willing to put in long hours of focus. Worthy results will come. To quote Mark Z. Danielewski, “Passion has little to do with euphoria and everything to do with patience. It is not about feeling good. It is about endurance.”

Patience and passion come from the same Latin root, which means to suffer. That doesn’t mean working for hardship’s sake. Rather be willing to apply and focus your energies on things you care about and things that will make a difference.

6. Never use the word “Overwhelmed”

There are a few phrases I have eliminated from my vocabulary. One of them is, “I feel overwhelmed.”

I think when you say “I’m overwhelmed,” you are telling the world that you are out of control and have given up. Whenever I hear the words start to form in my head I see them as a trigger. A trigger to take a step back and look at the choices I have made and the choices I am making. Don’t think like a victim. There is no such thing as being overwhelmed. There are only poor choices.

Instead of declaring yourself overwhelmed, see it as an indicator that you need to look at your priorities and decisions.

7. Never use the phrase “I don’t have time”

Another of the phrases that I have cut from my vernacular is, “I don’t have time.” This is usually a verbal crutch people lean on when in fact they are struggling to prioritize.

“I don’t have time to exercise.”   “I don’t have time to read.”   “I don’t have time to work on that project.”

Whenever I find myself starting to say “I don’t have time to…” I change the statement to reflect the reality, which is, this isn’t a priority for me. That changes the whole context of the thought. Feeling that you lack time is living in the world of scarcity. That scarcity attitude may bubble over into the other parts of your life and career. Cultivate an attitude of abundance. You do have enough time to do the important things. Time is abundant. Try to talk in terms of what should be done and what can be done. When you find yourself thinking “not enough time,” ask yourself if you know what the important things are.

8. Understand that you are a leader

Whether you manage people or not—whether you want to be one or not—you are a leader. Everyone you interact with in your life and in your career is influenced by you. You will attract or repel people based on your actions and your attitude. Act like a leader.

What is a leader? It is that person out in front of the herd finding the way. A leader has an attitude of abundance, doesn’t complain, and looks for ways to help their co-workers and company succeed.

Don’t make the mistake of thinking that you aren’t a leader. Be a leader in action and attitude.

9. It’s not about you

Finally, it’s a humbling but liberating concept that you don’t know what is going on inside other peoples’ heads. I guarantee they aren’t thinking about your problems or your challenges. It’s not about you. Let me repeat that. It simply is not about you.

Whether you are working on a problem, selling a solution or creating a blog post, what you are doing, or writing, or saying must somehow impact your audience. That’s a liberating idea. Now that you know, you don’t have to worry so much: all those thoughts that may be rattling around in your head regarding not being good enough, or smart enough, or strong enough are not important to others. They each have their own cacophony of thought that they are dealing with. Organize your actions and attitude to truly address the needs and wants of others. That is where you will find true success.

Remember that errors are the table stakes for growth, self-awareness and maturity. We all make countless mistakes in our lives and careers, but if we learn as we grow, we have the ability to keep what proves true while casting aside things that are not. Great mistakes teach you humility and the importance of service.

What do you think? Would you add any to this list?