As a business owner, I have learned the importance of sharing both company (GameTruck core value) and personal values. Dr. Sabrina Starling’s advice resonated with me, prompting me to reflect on the values that guide my business and personal life. Among them, the value of “Applying what you learn” stands out. In this blog post, I will explore how this value drives innovation and positive impact in my business and beyond.
Dr. Sabrina Starling encouraged me as a business owner not just to share values from our company culture but also my personal values. It made a lot of sense to me. It’s intuitive that a business owner would strongly impact the culture of the company they founded. So I sat down and created a list of 8 values that are important to me personally. Once I started looking at them I could see that, yes, I do see those values playing out in my business virtually every day.
The Value of Applied Knowledge
One of the values I wrote down reads “Apply what you learn.”Coming from an engineering background and a family that values education, I have always prioritized learning. However, knowledge without practical application holds limited value for me. While interesting facts and trivia entertain me, I find true value in using knowledge to make a difference. This mindset stems from my responsibility as a business owner to deliver value and positively impact the lives of others. By going beyond mere entertainment and actively seeking ways to apply new knowledge, I can drive innovation and create meaningful change.
Applying Knowledge to Make a Difference
Whenever I learn something new, I immediately ask myself how I can apply it to improve my world or the lives of those I care about. This broad category includes my family, colleagues, and clients. As I consume information, I constantly question its usefulness and potential applications.
Adopting Time Feriss’ Process
Inspired by Tim Ferriss, I have incorporated a useful process when reading physical books. I draw a box in the front of the book, listing page numbers next to it to serve as an index for ideas and highlights. By the end of the book, I ask myself how the acquired knowledge should impact my practices and habits. This reflection helps me create an action plan rather than simply gaining new information.
Promoting Knowledge in Others
As the learning chair for a non-profit organization, I always consider the takeaway value for the audience when inviting speakers. My aim is to generate movement and change in their lives and the causes they care about. This approach aligns with my core values, emphasizing the importance of applying knowledge rather than letting it go to waste.
Bringing together all my knowledge and experiences has led to remarkable innovations. One such achievement was the design and construction of the first mobile video game trailer, which fostered a shared gaming experience. Unlike previous endeavors that isolated players, I envisioned a setting where everyone could see and participate in each other’s games. This vision gave birth to GameTruck, a successful franchise that has entertained millions of kids and adults over the past fifteen years.
Applied knowledge is a core value that fuels innovation and impact. As business owners and individuals, we have the power to leverage the knowledge we acquire and translate it into meaningful actions. By embracing this value, we can drive positive change, create innovative solutions, and make a difference in our lives and the lives of others.
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A Day at Pixar: Unleashing Creativity and Collaboration
One cool but sunny day in Northern California, inside the cavernous old pineapple processing plant that Steve Jobs had turned into Pixar’s Emeryville headquarters, my team and I sat down to discuss making the Cars video game with the people making the movie. The conference rooms at Pixar are amazing because they are covered with giant “bulletin” boards and every room has white note cards, pencils, pens, and push pins.
You see, everyone can draw, and at the drop of a hat, practically any team member from Pixar would produce a drawing while they were discussing ideas. “Oh, you need a trophy?” one artist asked. “You mean something like this?” and within seconds the man had crafted a quick sketch that matched Radiator Springs in style and tone but looked like a race trophy. I asked him if he would autograph that so we could frame it at our offices. He smiled and apologized. We could not take his original drawing. They would have it scanned and sent to us.
This was classic Pixar. Brilliant talent coupled with humility and grace.
You know what they didn’t do at Pixar?
Passion without Lecture
No one ever lectured us about the movie. If anyone had earned the right to explain to outsiders in excruciating detail what they were trying to do, it was the amazing people at Pixar. Yet no one, not one single artist, producer, engineer, or director ever talked down to us. They were never pedantic or arrogant and seemed to want us to be as excited about their work as they were. They authentically shared from enthusiasm. I heard someone describe this as “geeking out.” Whether it was how they animated the eyes in the windshields, or the incredible depth and complexity of the rendered paint on the close-up of the cars, everyone working on the project seemed to be consumed by a passion for it that made the air crackle.
It also helped that anything Pixar did share with us was so amazingly awesome that whenever we saw it, we were in awe.
Discovering the Big Secrets: Lessons from Favorite Professors
Pixar was such an outlier in sharing from enthusiasm that it helped me see it in other domains. I thought about the professors I’d had in college or high school. My favorites did not make me feel like they were teaching me. I felt like they were letting me in on some big secret. It was as if every lesson started with them saying, “Look at what I found out! Isn’t this cool?!” One of my favorite teachers of all time, Mr. Lubke, taught Calculus, if you can believe it, as if he’d discovered real treasure. His favorite calculous book started with the introduction, “What one idiot can do, so can another.” He was calling himself an idiot and he wanted to let us other “idiots” know we could do what he did.
Later in college I ran into another professor who matched Lubke’s spirit. He taught thermodynamics. I am embarrassed to say I cannot remember his name. But when we sat down to take the tests he said simply, “I’m not here to prove I know more about the subject than you do. That would be pointless.” In contrast, my coding professor was obsessed with proving he was smarter than the students. Every assignment had a “size limit”. How efficient could you be with your code. If anyone wrote a piece of code that was more efficient than the professor, he would rewrite the exercise until his code was the smallest.
The Expanding Shoreline: Embracing the Unknown
Mr. “Small code” was definitely not sharing from enthusiasm. In fact, he exhibited a behavior that most of my least favorite authors and teachers demonstrated. That was the need to prove they knew something. Instead of working to share knowledge, it was almost like they needed to defend it. Over the course of my career, I have learned that there are many kinds of smart people, but the ones I am most compatible with are the ones that find joy in excellence, not insecurity.
Reality seems to be structured in a way that the more you know about something, the less confident you might feel about it. I once heard it described this way. “Knowledge is like an island in the sea of ignorance. The more you know, the more you realize how much you don’t know.” The act of learning expands how much ignorance you become aware of. Some people obsess over that, and they let the expanding shoreline of the unknown make them feel insecure. Others, my kind of learners, feel excited that the island of knowledge has gotten so big, and they are happy to invite others to join them.
Unleashing Enthusiasm: GameTruck Core Value
When it comes to developing expertise, there is no doubt that my favorite kind of expert has a musician’s mindset. They view expertise as something not only for their own enjoyment, but something they enjoy sharing with others. That is why, “sharing from enthusiasm” is one of GameTruck core value. Because knowledge should connect us, not separate us.
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Introduction: The Power of Caring in GameTruck Ownership
Recently Brandon Wiele, GameTruck’s Chief operating officer, asked me what I would say to someone considering joining the GameTruck franchise system. The timing of his question is interesting because I had just gone through my own exercise in discovering my [[My Immutable Laws]], the set of values that I tend to work from every day. At the top of that list is one word. I realize that is the word that describes someone who can be successful in GameTruck. What is the magic word? Cares.
Caring as the Foundation of GameTruck’s Success
I have made many mistakes in my life, but at every juncture I cared about getting it right. Did I? No. But I got it right often enough to still be in business 15 years after I started this crazy enterprise. I believe it is that deep sense of caring that permeates the entire GameTruck system. I know this is why top owner Erik Maxwell says, “We are GameTruck.”. It’s not some piece of equipment or a thing we own. It is who we are.
Probably what separates long term success from an expensive life lesson is that simple word. People who think they are purchasing their way into the game industry rarely succeed, or achieve the kind of self-satisfaction they hope for when they start a business.
Dependability: The Key to Long-Term Success
The people who strive to be dependable, who want to be the person you should call first because they are dependable and committed – those are the people who succeed. They are calm in a crisis – and while a birthday party may not sound like a crises, I assure you there are many small fires along the way that will spring up to try and prevent you from showing up in this industry. And the owners who care, who take it as a personal commitment to be dependable, the ones who are energized by being trustworthy and steadfast, those are the owners who succeed.
They derive the satisfaction of delivering on their commitments and making people happy. The joy that springs from a child’s face when they are surrounded by friends. The laughter that comes naturally from workmates playing together. Most importantly, the smiles and sense of wonder that crosses the face of children stepping from a school yard into a game trailer. Those are the payoffs that gives meaning to the hard work and the commitment to show up.
If you were to ask me, the one attributes that sets GameTruck owners apart, is that they care. They care about showing up on time, about delivering a great event and about making the hosts life easier. And they have to. Mothers and fathers trust us with their children. Principals and teachers trust us with their students. Managers and team leaders trust us to engage and entertain their employees. If you don’t care, you cannot consistently, year in and year out earn that kind of trust and keep it safe.
What makes someone a great GameTruck owner? In a word, They care.
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