Jon Mertz | Founder of Thin Difference

Jon Mertz is one of the Top 100 Thought Leaders in Trustworthy Business and is a leadership populist, writing to empower Millennial leaders. When we share experiences rather than focus on differences, we realize a thin difference between two generations and a vast opportunity exists to create a big.

Jon-Mertz_P1My Definition Of Success | My definition of success has changed over the years. When I was 20-something, my definition of success was more self-centered yet forward-looking. I was motivated to be recognized for my work and wanted to lead in broader, more impactful ways.
I believed I was capable of doing anything and looked ahead with what was possible. However, I never really defined what “possible” was. I wanted to lead a movement forward but I did not define what the purpose of the movement was. I needed to look beyond just what I thought I was capable of and focus more on the change I wanted to make.
As I aged, I look back more and hope what I have done has left an impact and, if not, more clearly define what can I do now to give someone a meaningful start or have a purposeful impact on a larger community. It is a lot less about me and more about what I can do for others. What I mean is that my focus is on the change I want to create and the purpose I want to pursue.
In either case, I believe a common thread through my life has been to leave a legacy. I want to be remembered for doing something that made a difference and could be pulled forward by others. If I had an opportunity to start over, I would focus more on what my larger purpose is and take steps to more actively live and lead centered on achieving this.
Defining success based on what we achieve on purpose will be much more rewarding.

I Am Driven By | The future drives me. I always see incredible opportunity ahead and want others to embrace it with all their gifts and talents. We make small and large choices each day and, if we make them being fully self-aware, we will make better choices to create better solutions, products, relationships, and outcomes. I love the future and all the potential it holds, and I am driven by making the most out of it for me and others!

The Difference Between Good And Great | People who are great at what they do are focused and collaborative. People who are great at what they do know where they want to focus and know what their talents are. To achieve what they want, they realize empowering the talents of others will get them further than what they can do alone.
Additionally, people who are great at what they do know when to say “no” to distractions. There is a limited number of hours in each day, and this fact does not change. The people who do great work know to not get buried in what others want them to do or what others want them to get involved in. Instead, doing great work requires a disciplined, purpose-centered focus and a collaborative mindset to move initiatives forward and achieve meaningful outcomes.

A Key Talent | A strength that has helped me through my career has been the ability to convert. By convert, I mean the ability to absorb information and situations, assess, and then convert it to the next step. Convert means solving problems, getting things done, and moving initiatives forward. Although a strong dose of focus is required, equally important is strong collaborative skills.
Here are key steps to take to lead by converting:

  • Absorb information you read, hear, and view. As you take it in, your mind picks the data up and begins a thought process.
  • Converting information into actions is a critical step. While some information may be just for your consideration, some will require a plan. To add meaning to the absorbed information, you need to begin to make it actionable. This moves you forward in your thoughts and actions as you take in new information.
  • After you have converted the information into actionable steps, you then need to act! You do things with the information learned and the points outlined. In many cases, you may be problem-solving or creating, and acting on the information is what solves and creates. It is about movement of ideas into a world of changing, solving, and doing.
  • Through the process, you learn. You learn what works and what doesn’t. From this, you begin the cycle again. You absorb in the lessons learned and new information, and you begin to adapt as needed.

This is the power of converting. Converting is moving information to actionable action, thoughts to actions, plans to actions, and actions to results.
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Principles I Live By | I believe in always learning. Life is not static, and we need to change and adapt. Always learning keeps me always growing.
I also always try to do my best in whatever I do. Being fully present and bringing the best I have is what will deliver the best outcomes. Always doing my best keeps me achieving the best I can.
Activating empathy is a key value I strive for. Empathy is not being weak. Quite the opposite. Empathy strengthens listening skills. Empathy strengthens collaborative work. Empathy strengthens purpose by understanding what will bring people together to do more and make a positive difference.
Through each of these, I have come to learn more than ever that relationships make the difference. Diverse relationships broaden our perspective and strengthen our abilities. Compassionate relationships stir the best in each of us. Collaborative relationships empower and position us to achieve actions and milestones of purpose.

 

Critical Skills I Develop | Developing a strategy on what to do and how to take certain actions is a critical skill I continue to use and develop. A strategy helps identify how to get from Point A to Point B in an effective manner. To be successful, one needs to understand what the competitive landscape looks like and then determine the best way to apply all available talents to achieve what needs to be done.
A strategy gives you and others a sense of what needs to be done each quarter and year to get you closer to achieving your vision and enabling a greater purpose to be realized.
Collaboration is another critical skill I am working on. Working with others is vital. We can achieve much more together than individually. Collaboration is hard. We need to listen to really understand another’s perspective. We need to determine who needs to do what. We need to set up how to hold each other accountable for our actions or inactions. Collaboration means working with other personalities while not letting anyone personality dominate the collaborative work.
A final skill is to determine how to instil a sense of purpose in the work to be done by the people who need to come together and do the work. Creating a sense of purpose behind an organization’s work will spark something within each individual. This is a mix between inspiration and aspiration. I believe we all crave an inspiring direction along with an aspirational mission. Getting this right takes skill and effort.
For me, a mix of these have helped me in my career and in the work I do as a vice president of marketing at a healthcare software company and as the lead thought-provoker at Thin Difference. However, I know I have so much more work to do each of these skills well. My goal is to continue to focus on these skills and get better at each.

How I Use My Mind | I grew up on a farm and our view was expansive. We could see across the prairies for miles and miles. In many ways, seeing expansively every day translated into knowing I can do anything I put mind and effort to. Each season brought a mix of challenges and opportunities. There are things we can control and those things we cannot. In farming as in life, we need to deal with what is uncontrollable while always doing all that we can in the things we can control and in the things that matter most.
Some may call this faith, and I do. It is a faith in that tomorrow can be a better day. It is faith that I have certain talents and abilities. I need to keep using what I have to build a better path forward. I need to put my faith into action, every day.

Lessons I Have Learnt | I learned that purpose and patience go hand-in-hand. Understanding what my purpose is in life and what I want to do with my purpose is vital. Equally important is to develop myself and my path forward to achieve my purpose. Purpose doesn’t happen overnight. We need to keep our desire fresh for what we want to do while doing our work and always learning so we can keep moving toward making our purpose happen in the most complete way possible.

Jon-Mertz_P3Dealing With Doubt | To overcome self-doubt, I unplug. I go for a walk, run, or hike. By unplugging, it is getting back to nature and refreshing our soul on what is possible. We all go through seasons in our life, just as nature does. There is a sense of survival and growth within this. Through this process, we re-align to our soulful purpose and a sense of refreshment takes over us again. We are ready to re-engage.
Another way is to read biographies. There are so many people who have overcome great odds to achieve important things. We can learn from them. We can be inspired by them. Within each of us, there is a similar story. We just need to grab a hold of it and live it.
I am fortunate. Because of the place I live, I don’t live in fear. I know that is not the case for others. I do live in uncertainty, as do most people. Uncertainty is life. Uncertainty can create self-doubt, if we let it. Uncertainty needs to be embraced and worked through. Don’t run from uncertainty. Run toward it and resolve.

The Meaning Of Life | For me, the meaning of life is to do something of value that another person will pull forward and improve upon it. There is a connection between lives, and we need to give and act in a way that what we do inspires another person to do the same. Another way to think of the meaning of life is think about what will I be remembered for? If I cannot come up with a good answer at this point in time, then I should make an adjustment to the way I am living and leading.
The meaning of life is to add value to others, doing something that will be pulled forward and built upon. I am still a work-in-progress in this effort.

The Best Advice I’ve Received | The best advice I have been given was through example. My dad is a farmer. In good and bad times, he did the work, tried to be the best person possible, and stood up for what was right no matter the opinion. Farmers plant seeds and have great faith in growth. With all the elements beyond a farmer’s control, they still plant the seeds. So, the best advice given me was to plant the seeds, have faith. And do the work, do what is right.

Advice On Building Wealth | To build wealth, do four things:

  1. Always live within your means.
  2. Keep debt to a minimum and pay it off as soon as feasible.
  3. Save as much as you can as early as you can.
  4. Give to others. Giving returns much.

Do these things and you will have a rich life.

The Legacy I Would Like To Leave | I think most want to leave a strong sense of character for always doing what is right for others. This is the legacy I want to leave for my sons. This is the legacy I want to leave in my community, too. Character is more than just living and leading by a set of values. Character is in the actions taken aligned with those values. Character is tangible through our actions.
It isn’t a mistake that “act” is embedded in character. Character is making our values come alive in what we do. In what I do, I hope I leave the people I have interacted and worked with a little better than before. Through my character and actions, something is inspired within another. This is the legacy I would like to leave.