Some can only win when others lose.
Others seek to win by helping others succeed.
One of these approaches scales far better than the other.
The latest book, Poke The Box is a call to action about the initiative you're taking - in your job or in your life, and Seth once again breaks the traditional publishing model by releasing it through The Domino Project.
Some can only win when others lose.
Others seek to win by helping others succeed.
One of these approaches scales far better than the other.
Here's an interesting choice that most people leave unmade:
How comfortable are you engaging in projects where there's a likelihood that you'll lose by just a hair?
What makes a project worthwhile and interesting is that it might not work. All the this-is-sure-to-work projects are taken.
Given that you're taking a risk, what kind are you up for?
Are you seeking out areas where there's no competition, true longshots where few people see you fail?
Or are you okay with the daring near misses?
Joi Ito and Jeff Howe have a new book called Whiplash. Joi's the head of MIT's Media Lab and an extraordinary thinker. Jeff brings the ideas and the lessons of the Lab to life. This is a big think, well worth a deep dive.
The Knowledge, Steve Pressfield's new book, is put together like a Swiss watch. Every single word, every scene... it's a master class in what it means to get out of your own way and write a book that works. I am walking around the house, unable to put it down.
In the last week, I discovered that at least two of my smart friends hadn't read Godel, Escher, Bach. They have now. You should too.
As we head toward the end of the year, I think you'll find inspiration in the work of people who show up and do the work. Daily. For decades. Jacqueline Novogratz and her classic book, The Blue Sweater continue to change lives. As does Jim Ziolkowski's amazing true story. This is what happens when people step up, keep their promises and make things happen.
"What's it like around here?"
It's a fair question to ask about an office, a home, a town...
"Why do people act like that, talk like that, treat others that way?"
The only reason they do is because we let them. People can't violate community standards for long without being asked to leave the community. Either that, or the standards change.
Always right about feelings.
About the day he just experienced.
About the fears (appropriate and ill-founded) in his life.
About the narrative going on, unspoken, in his head.
About what he likes and what he dislikes.
You'll need to travel to this place of 'right' before you have any chance at all of actual communication.
In his day job, The Wizard of Oz sold hokum. Patent medicines guaranteed to cure what ailed you. And none of them worked.
Deep within each of us is the yearning for the pill, the neck crack, the organizational re-do that will fix everything.
Sometimes, it even happens. Sometimes, once in a very rare while, there actually is a stone in our shoe, easy to remove. And this rare occurrence serves to encourage our dreams that all of our problems have such a simple diagnosis and an even simpler remedy.
Alas, it's not true.
Culture takes years to create and years to change.
Illnesses rarely respond in days to a treatment.
Organizations that are drowning need to learn to swim.
Habits beat interventions every time.
Consider these boundaries...
Avoid the crash diet.
Fear the stock that's a sure thing to double overnight.
Be skeptical of a new technology that's surely revolutionary.
Walk away from a consultant who can transform your organization in one fell swoop.
Your project (and your health) is too valuable to depend on lottery tickets.
There are innovations and moments that lead to change. But that change happens over time, with new rules causing new outputs that compound. The instant win is largely a myth.
The essential elements of a miracle are that it is rare and unpredictable. Not quite the reliable path you were seeking.
Deliberate, focused, generous, confident, thoughtful, these are all good things. Being pushy isn't.
Imagine you had a check for $100,000 made out to someone else. Someone you don't know but can reach out to. How hard would it be for you to cajole this person to take the check from you and cash it?
We call someone pushy when they are trying harder for forward motion than we are. We call them pushy when they have more at stake, or more to gain, than we think we do.
It's easy to rationalize your pushiness, imagining that the other person really wants to do this project. And it's just as easy to minimize the value you add, hiding in a corner instead of bringing your value forward.
Pushiness is in the eye of the beholder. Generosity requires that we be aware of how the other person is feeling about the forward motion we're trying to make.
It really ought to be called the core list, because it's fundamentally misunderstood as something in the background, an afterthought.
The backlist is the stuff you sell long after you've forgotten all the drama that went into making it.
Book publishers make more than 90% of their profit from books they published more than six months ago. And yet they put 2% of their effort into promoting and selling those books. Editors, agents, salespeople all focus on what's new, instead of what works.
It's more exciting, more fun and more hopeful to seek out and launch new books. It's the culture of many industries, particularly ones that are seen as creative.
Nike and General Mills and the local freelancer all generate a bigger contribution with their classic stuff.
It turns out that time spent on packaging, promoting and spreading the ideas in the core list is almost always a solid investment.
There's a simple explanation:
Successful backlist products have crossed the chasm and are selling to the mass market, the largest chunk of any market. These are people who don't buy a lot of books (or sneakers, or cereals) a year, but when they do buy one, they buy a popular one. And so, every year, year after year, millions of copies of Dr. Seuss books are sold. Not because they're new, but because that's what people buy.
On the other hand, frontlist products, the new stuff, are bought by a smaller group, the early adopters, the people who like buying new books. These people are easier to reach, probably more fun to work with, but because they seek variety, they rarely all align and buy the same product.
[FWIW, the readers of this blog and followers of my work are almost all in this category--focusing on early adopters is a fine way to build a platform for work you care about—it's something that I do on purpose. But it doesn't always make economic sense.]
The way for an enterprise to build a core list, then, is to latch onto those frontlist titles that have proven themselves, to persistently and consistently work with the retail channel and the existing customer base to make them into classics—useful, reliable products or services that the masses can rely on.
This takes discipline and effort—product creators like me find this difficult. But publishers of all stripes, the organizations that exist to bring new ideas and useful technologies to the world, need to dig in and do this work.
[Expiring today, Saturday: For the first time ever, Linchpin, one of my backlist books, is on promo on the Kindle. It's less than $2.]
The best way to build a brand that matters, a story that spreads, an impact that we remember, is to understand a simple but painful trade-off:
If you want to stand for something,
You can't stand for everything.
"Anyone can be our customer and we will get you what you want..." is almost impossible to pull off. So is, "we are the cheapest and the most convenient and the best."
It didn't work for Sears, or for Chevrolet or for Radio Shack. It definitely doesn't work for the local freelancer, eager to do whatever is asked.
Relentlessly trimming what's on offer, combined with a resolute willingness to say, "no," are two characteristics of great brands. And linchpins, too.
Organic chemistry doesn't care if you believe in it. Neither does the War of 1812.
Truth is real, it's measurable and it happened. Truth is not in the eye of the beholder.
There are facts that don't change if the observer doesn't believe: The age of the Eiffel Tower. The temperature in Death Valley. The number of people in the elevator.
On the other hand, there are outcomes that vary quite a bit if we believe: The results of the next sales call. Our response to medical treatment. The enjoyment of music...
If you believe that this wine tastes better than that one, it probably will. If you believe you're going to have a great day at work, it will surely help. Placebos work.
We make two mistakes, all the time. First, we believe that some things are facts (as in true), when in fact, belief has a huge effect on what's going to happen. In the contest between nature and nurture, nurture has far more power than we give it credit for. In countless ways, our friends and parents matter more than our genes do.
At the same time, sometimes we get carried away. We work to amplify our beliefs by willfully confusing ourselves about whether the truth is flexible. It makes belief a lot more compelling (but a lot less useful) if we start to confuse it with truth.
But belief is too important and too powerful to be a suspect compatriot of the scientific/historical sort of truth.
We can believe because it gives us joy and strength and the ability to do amazing things. That's enough.
It's possible that you're the way you are, that you do what you do, that you react as you react, and that it can never be changed.
Believing this is incredibly sad, though.
Each of us is capable of just a little more. A little more patience, a little more insight, a little more generosity.
And if you can do a little more, then, of course, you can repeat those changes until you've done a lot more.
Fear, loneliness, anger, shame & hunger.
They drive us. They divide us. They take us away from our work, our mission, our ability to make a difference. And yet, sometimes, they fuel our motion, leading to growth and connection.
When a variety of FLASH shows up, it almost never calls itself by name. Instead, it lashes out. It criticizes what we’ve made or done. And mostly, it hides behind words, argument and actions, instead of revealing itself.
As you’ve guessed, correcting the false argument is futile. Logic doesn’t work either. You can’t reason with FLASH because it is, by definition, unreasonable.
Worth repeating that: We’re rarely reasonable. Most of the time, we’re afraid, lonely, angry, shameful or hungry.
Sometimes, we can address those emotions by seeing that reason can help our problem, but mostly, we start and end with the emotion.
Pause to allow it be seen and heard.
And then, if we’re willing, we can dance with it. We can put the arguments aside, the demands and the expectations and sit with the emotion. Not get defensive, because the emotion isn’t about us or our work at all.
Then, maybe, we can begin to bring civilization back into the conversation, the story of us, the opportunity for growth and connection, and ultimately, the power of thought and reason and forward motion.
Imagine a supermarket (or any store, for that matter), where the items are arranged by price. At one end is the salt and the chewing gum, and at the other end are mops and steaks.
We always think about the cost of an item before we buy it, but we don't buy it because of what it costs.
If you find yourself acting like you sell a commodity, saying, "this is category X and the price is Y" then you've ceased doing any sort of marketing. You're a commodity provider by choice, which is fine as long as you're okay with competing in a race to the bottom.
The alternative is to do the difficult and risky work of earning attention, earning a reputation and mostly telling a story that takes your product or service out of the commodity category and into a space defined by connection, meaning and possibility instead.
Low price is the refuge for the marketer who doesn't have anything more meaningful to offer.
Hobson's choice is no choice at all. Take what's offered, or walk away.
Occam's razor is a rule of thumb: the simplest explanation is often the best one.
Wheeler's which teaches us that the answer to "one egg or two?" is usually 'one', while the answer to, "do you want an egg?" is usually zero.
Occam, Hobson and Wheeler were all scholars of something humans are fabulously bad at: deciding among multiple options.
Getting good at this is a skill, something we can do better if we choose to. That might be the first decision.
[Some readers were curious about the "Wheeler which." Elmer Wheeler was a sales trainer nearly a century ago. He got hired by a chain of drugstores to increase sales at the soda fountain. In those days, a meal might consist of just an ice cream soda for a nickel. But for an extra penny or two, you could add a raw egg (protein!). Obviously, if more people added an egg, profits would go up. Wheeler taught the jerks (isn't that a great job title?) to ask anyone who ordered a soda, "One egg or two?" Sales of the egg add-on skyrocketed.]
"You can have any color car you want as long as it's black."
Henry Ford made cars in black because black paint dried four hours faster than any other color. That fast drying meant that the line worked faster, which made them cheaper. Just as important, he didn't have stockouts--with only one color, the color you wanted was the color he had.
Ever since then, there's been a move to on-demand, built to order and custom work. In everything we do. Freelance work, shoes, baked goods, kitchen cabinets, software, travel plans. And it seems like a cost-free progression. The thing is, it's not.
Most of the cost of everything we buy is in the risk, the starting, the stopping, the waste, the breakage, the planning.
A pair of mass produced shoes can be made for $3. A pair of custom shoes might cost $200 once you count all the associated costs.
McDonald's hit a peak moment of productivity by getting to a mythical scale, with a limited menu and little in the way of customization. They could deliver a burger for a fraction of what it might take a diner to do it on demand.
McDonald's now challenges the idea that custom has to cost more, because they've invested in mass customization.
Things that are made on demand by algorithmic systems and robots cost more to set up, but once they do, the magic is that the incremental cost of one more unit is really low. If you're organized to be in the mass customization business, then the wind of custom everything is at your back.
The future clearly belongs to these mass customization opportunities, situations where there is little cost associated with stop and start, little risk of not meeting expectations, where a robot and software are happily shifting gears all day long.
But if you're not set up for this, if you're hustling your coders or your production line or your painters or whomever to go faster and cheaper, you're fighting the wrong side of the productivity curve. It's like the diner that sought to be a friendly, custom-order place but also promised to be as cheap or as profitable as a fast food place.
These traditional businesses, the small ones, the non-automated ones, can sell custom, sure, but not at the price they used to sell the thing they make in bulk. And too often, organizations undercharge for the custom work and find themselves trapped between the productivity of doing things in batches and the challenge of delighting each customer, who carries his or her own dreams of what perfect looks like.
Unraveling has precisely the same meaning as raveling... when we pull on a thread, pull and pull, as it unweaves what came before.
It's nice to have the next thing clearly laid out, planned and sure to work.
It would make our projects and our art and our plans a lot more secure.
More often, though, we have to ravel for quite a while before we have enough to work with.
Nothing is ready when we need it to be, but that merely means we have to begin earlier.
More honest, more caring, more generous.
It's all a choice, isn't it?
We can choose to dream better, connect better and contribute better.
Sometimes, in the rush for more, we get confused about what better means, and how attainable it is.
If you are lucky enough to be with family today, I hope you'll get a chance to use our beloved Thanksgiving Reader around your table. It's a free PDF that you can print out and use for group readings.
And that's enough. It has to be.
It's all we've ever had.
The challenge is in realizing this and working with it, even when we're secretly hoping for something more, some external force.
You and me, kid, you and me and a few billion other folks.
We can treat each other as if it matters, because it does.
Opposite of the naysayer, of course.
This is the person who will find ten reasons why you should try something.
The one who will embrace the possibility of better.
The colleague to turn to when a reality check is necessary, because the reality is, it might work.
Are you up for it?
It snowed last night here, so it must be almost time for the holidays. Some thoughts as you think about holiday gifts for you and the people you care about:
There are fewer than 2,000 copies of my huge new collection left. The book weighs 18 pounds, it's 800 pages long and profusely illustrated. We will not be printing any more, that's all there are. All the copies are currently on container ships and on their way to our fulfillment house... orders taken now should arrive to most locations before the holidays.
My most recent original book, What To Do When It's Your Turn... is now in its fifth printing. It comes in a multi-pack, so you can have one and give one (or more) away.
I have three bestselling courses on Udemy. There is a master course on value creation, one for freelancers and a leadership course that's a fundraiser for Acumen. Learning is a great gift, of course, because it transforms people you care about. And it is sure to be the right size.
You can find a list of all my books here.
And we're getting close to my live event in New York on December 10. I hope you can come and even better, bring a colleague.
Where do conspiracy theories come from?
More than 10% of the population still believes that the moon landings were faked. (Even though we can see the landing modules with a telescope).
People make up inane theories about various cabals that are secretly controlling this or that.
In fact, the more information and leverage we each have, the more inclined the culture seems to embrace stories of puppetry, conspiracy and control.
Because it lets us off the hook.
How can you possibly be responsible if there are powerful shady forces working behind the scenes? If you're powerless, it also means you're not at fault if things don't get better.
[Of course, the world isn't fair, and there are people, powerful people, working against you. The best systems open doors, not close them. The best systems work for us, not against us. But that doesn't mean we're powerless, it only means that we have to work ever harder. Harder on the system and harder around it.]
She's been quoted a million times, but people don't really listen to the essence of Marianne Williamson's quote: "Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure."
If we're actually powerful, if our voice, our effort and our contribution matter, it's time to get to work.
This is enervating. It would be so much more comforting if it were up to someone else. Whatever system we are living in or with, it would be nice if it were responsible for what happens next.
On the other hand, knowing that we can connect, publish, inspire, lead, build, describe, invent, encourage and (especially) teach, means that there's no one better than us and no time like right now.
And if it helps, go find, organize and connect with others who feel as committed as you do.
Of course it's frightening. But it's important and it's our turn.
Is it possible that you misunderstood them, or they misunderstood you?
With your client, employee, vendor, partner, or that random passerby?
The thing that just happened, it sounds terrible, and if they did it on purpose, the way it sure seems to you and to me, that would be horrible.
But before we burn down bridges and ruin everyone's day, just a quick moment to wonder, "what if there was something misunderstood?"
It's a lot easier to ask than it is to go to all the trouble of breaking things.
It's fun to imagine what we'd do if we had a magic wand, something that with a wave, could produce us the introduction, the funding, the open door, the technology, the breakthrough, the insight, the inspiration, the shortcut...
They stopped making magic wands several millennia ago.
Now that you know that there are no magic wands, a better question is probably:
What do you care enough about that you're prepared to expose yourself to fear, risk and hard work to get?
It's easy to dream of a strategy or a set of tactics that will make your forward motion feel less like an uphill slog. A perpetual motion machine of progress.
These are few and far between.
The single most important part of any project is the battery, the source of energy, the optimism and effort that turns the long shot into the sure thing, one day at a time.
Better to hire and train and seek out batteries. They're priceless.
A million things happened to you today. The second bite of your lunch. The red light on the third block of your commute...
Tomorrow, you'll remember almost none of them.
And the concept that you'd remember something that happened to you when you were twelve is ludicrous.
What actually happened was this: After it (whatever that thing you remember) happened, you started telling yourself a story about that event. You began to develop a narrative about this turning point, about the relationship with your dad or with school or with cars.
Lots of people have had similar experiences, but none of them are telling themselves quite the same story about it as you are.
Over time, the story is rehearsed. Over time, the story becomes completely different from what a videotape would show us, but it doesn't matter, because the rehearsed story is far more vivid than the video ever could be.
And so the story becomes our memory, the story gets rehearsed ever more, and the story becomes the thing we tell ourselves the next time we need to make a choice.
If your story isn't helping you, work to rehearse a new story instead.
Because it's our narrative that determines who we will become.
To watch people at work, it seems like we never have enough:
And to see them at rest, it seems as though we never have enough:
Which is why people talk about how they're always falling behind and feel like they don't have enough time.
Lots of us walk around thinking we do have enough:
I'm wondering what happens if we flip them?
Organizations are built on the work of people who don’t get paid very much, don’t receive sufficient respect and are understandably wary of the promises they’ve been hearing for years.
Calling these folks the bottom of the org chart doesn’t help.
Imagine that throughout your career you were paid as little as legally possible, the last to be hired and the first to be laid off. Imagine that the boss gets more vacation days, doesn’t have to clock in and out, and is actually given control over how he spends his time.
Why is it surprising to bosses, then, that some workers respond to this arrangement by doing as little work as possible?
Here’s the thing: people actually want to do a good job. They want to be proud of their work, they appreciate being engaged, they thrive when they have some measure of control over their day.
Too often, though, the optimistic leader meets the pessimistic front line and distrust undermines all the good intent. The boss loses patience and reverts to the test-and-measure, trust-no-one, scientific-management tradition of dehumanizing the very humans who make the whole project work.
And so, back to being mediocre. Back to high turnover, low trust, no care. Back to workers who don’t believe and bosses who are now cynics.
Mostly, back to an ordinary organization that’s like so many others.
There’s an alternative. But it’s a process, not an event.
Step 1: A commitment, from the top, that this place is going to be different. The commitment is open-ended. It involves leading and showing up and keeping promises, for months and years into the future. It’s non-cynical, and it views leadership as an opportunity, the possibility of serving customers at the very same time you inspire and enable employees.
This is going to take a long time, and it’s not going to be the cheapest path. It turns out, though, in industries where people matter (which is more and more of the work we do) that this path pays for itself eventually.
Step 2: Hire for attitude, not for learned skills. You can teach someone to do just about anything. It’s far more difficult to build an instinct to care. When you hire trustworthy people who are willing to trust you, you have an opportunity to build trust, which enables communication, which allows you to teach, which upgrades everything.
If you are in a hurry to assemble a group of people who can ‘do the work’, you will end up with folks who merely needed a job. On the other hand, if you are willing to invest in people who are enrolled in the journey you’re on, you will end up with a team.
[Corollary: Fire for attitude, fix for skills. The attitudes you put up with will become the attitudes of your entire organization. Over time, every organization becomes what is tolerated]
Step 3: Be clear in actions and words about what’s important. It doesn’t do any good to hire for attitude but only reward for short-term results. If you reward a cynic merely because he got something done, you’ve made it clear to everyone else that cynicism is okay. If you overlook the person who is hiding mistakes because his productivity is high, then you are rewarding obfuscation and stealth.
Who gets the employee of the month parking space? Who gets laid off?
People are watching you. They’re not listening to your words as much as they’re seeking to understand where the boundaries and the guard rails lie, because they’ve learned from experience that people who do what gets rewarded, get rewarded.
Hint: if you tell people something is important but fail to give them the tools and the support and the training that they need to do that important thing, you’ve just told them that it’s not actually important.
Step 4: Be clear and consistent about how we do things around here. It’s going to be a long time before people act like they own the place. After all, you own the place and you don’t even act like you do most of the time.
This job is important. It feeds my family. It pays the rent. It’s connected to my self-esteem. I will act in the interest of my family, not your invisible shareholders.
Step 5: Your problem is not their problem. The people who build the foundation of your business have plenty of things to worry about. Your narrative about your day is not one of them.
Over time, it’s reasonable to expect that an engaged and respectful working environment will lead to ever more big-picture thinking. But it’s naïve and self-defeating to expect a 20-year-old who’s been on the job for a week to make a connection between the customer who just walked in, your big wholesale account, the loan that’s due soon and the espresso he just pulled.
Every day, you’re going to be tested on these five principles. Every day, there’s going to be a moment of urgency, a shortcut presented, a confusion. And in that moment, the first principle is going to come into question.
But this is the foundation, it’s not the bottom. This is the source for all your possibility, for the change you seek to make.
Isn’t it worth it?
I've just created an intensive video course designed to help you think differently about what you make and why.
It's for marketers, founders, freelancers, fundraisers, teachers and change agents that understand that nothing works unless it works for your audience.
Intensive? Yes because unlike most video courses, you're supposed to do more than watch it. It contains just over 40 minutes of video broken into short chapters. It also comes with a workbook that's 30 pages long. Print out the workbook, watch the video, fill in the workbook, go over it with others in the Udemy community, print the workbook out again, watch the video again, go over the workbook with your team. Like most things, more input gets you more output.
From a recent review: "... approaches the problem of value creation in such a new way that I've already had many 'aha'-moments. And I'm only partway through the course!"
If you do the work, you'll start to see things differently.
The course is $95, but blog readers doing important work can get it for half price by using this link.
It comes with a money-back guarantee and I hope you will check out a few of the lessons before you enroll.
And if you're a freelancer, I hope you'll check out this course as well. It's one of the most popular courses on Udemy, because it works.
"Sorry" doesn't mean you caused the pain. It merely means that you see it, that you've felt pain before in your life as well, that you are open to a connection.
Our ability to bring people along is critical because we're playing a long game, even an infinite one. Back and forth, day by day, with many of the same people. One day, it will be reversed, and a classmate or co-worker or competitor will be the one that can listen and care about the pain. A pain that might feel very similar.
Gloating or silence closes the door. Empathy, on the other hand, and the action of speech, of moderation, of connection, can change everything. And if it hasn't been present before, it can start right now.
"I see you. I'm sorry for what you're feeling. How can I help?"
It almost doesn't matter what the question is, really.
Everyone is an independent actor, now more than ever, with access to information, to tools, to the leverage to make a difference.
Instead of being a cog merely waiting for instructions, we get to make decisions and take action based on what we know and what we believe.
Change what you know, change what you believe, and you change the actions. Learn to see, to understand, to have patience, and you learn to be the kind of person who can make a difference.
Formal education is a foundation, but lifelong, informal education can transform our lives.
And informal education scales. It spreads more easily than ever before. Educated people create other educated people. The standards go up when education is present, because the cost of being the least educated person in your tribe is high.
Ignorance, on the other hand, can spread as well. When the cultural dynamic in your circle is that ignorance is prized, it will pull others down and lead to more ignorance.
We can learn techniques, sure, but also empathy, curiosity and patience.
Arguing is futile, because arguing presumes that we can use force of will to change minds. And force begets force. Education, on the other hand, involves enrollment, and volunteers in search of answers can learn quickly.
The path forward, it seems, is to connect. To earn enrollment in having others join you in a journey of education. If you can teach something, find someone who will benefit and teach them. And if you can connect and make education accessible, it creates a new standard for the people you care about.
[Heads up: The last day for early-bird discount tickets to my only-time-this-year live seminar in NY is tomorrow. I hope you can join us... we're gathering the tribe for a much needed chance to connect in person. It will be eye-opening, affirming and perhaps game-changing for those who can join us.]
Is there anything more difficult?
Showing up day after day, week after week, sometimes for years, as your movement slowly gains steam, as your organization hits speed bumps, as the news goes from bad to worse...
Showing up, it turns out, is the hardest part of making a difference.
Make a list of the organizations and voices and movements that have made a difference. How old are they? How long have they been at it?
Creating impact, building something of substance, changing the culture... this is the work of a lifetime, not merely a fun project.
It's not easy, but I have a feeling you're up for it. Because it matters.
Fill in the missing number:
π, 1, __, 3, 11, 15, 13, 17
Some people, when confronted with an artificial problem like this, simply throw up their hands. It's a trick, it's a waste of time, there's really no value in it.
Some people look for the quick insight, the fact that there's an irrational number, that the string doesn't go on forever, etc. But they usually get stuck.
Some people are only interested in the answer, and are eager to argue that it should be zero, not four, while others would point out that zero isn't necessarily a natural number, and on and on, merely as a way from hiding from the entire point of the lesson.
The real lesson happens once we realize the metaphor that's available to each of us: Things don't need to be artificial to be puzzles. In fact, if you're willing to be disappointed in your search for the right answer, just about every situation is a puzzle, a place where an insight might be found.
Artificial puzzles like this one generally guarantee a right answer exists. The challenge of the natural puzzle is that you eagerly accept that maybe, there's no good solution.
If you don't like the puzzle you've got, pick a different one. We're never going to run out of puzzles.
Our human interactions, the scarcity around us, the opportunities we all have—they're puzzles. They are invitations to find a new way to do something, a beneficial shortcut, a connection in an economy based on connections.
But first, you have to see.
[PS time to start planning for Thanksgiving.]
Sometimes, the wind is at our back, the resources are easily acquired and good karma increases our ability to do great work.
Other times, it feels like we're up against it, that the wind has shifted, that there's not a lot of opportunity or momentum.
It's in those times that, "what are you working on?" becomes a vital question, a lifeline to get us from here to there.
Trainwrecks, tantrums, massive shifts in the way things are and are supposed to be--they make it difficult to concentrate, to plan, to leap...
We each have a platform, access to tools, a change we'd like to make in the world around us. We each have a chance to connect, to see, to lead.
And it's not, at least right now, fun or easy. It might not even seem like you've got a shot, or that the wind is too harsh.
Persist. It matters.
When we're sure it's not going to work, when we can't figure out where to turn, when we don't know what to do next...
Sometimes, our ability to do the best we can in small ways is enough to start moving forward. And when it doesn't work, we try something else.
Enough small things by enough people coalesce into the next big thing.