[transcribed by: TTE Transcripts Worldwide, Ltd. www.ttetranscripts.com]
Sven was nice enough to transcribe this talk. The audio and other details are here.
I was driving through a developing country in the Caribbean near the water, and I passed a device I’d never seen before, which is a gas-powered sugar cane juice extractor. And it looks like one of those things they put trees in after a storm. And they put sugar cane in and out the bottom comes sugar juice.
So the question is, if you‘re the only guy on the island who has one of these machines, who has the power? Obviously, you do. The sugar cane growers have only two choices: grow sugar cane, or don’t grow sugar cane. But if they grow sugar cane, they have to sell it to you because there’s nobody else who has the machine, which means that you will pay them as little as you can as long as they keep growing it. And you will extract all the profit from selling that to the people who need it.
Now, what happens when three new machines come to the island? And now there are four people who have the sugar cane processing machine. Who has the power? The power has shifted, hasn’t it? You have very little power. You are a commodity processor. The sugar cane growers still don’t have that much power because their choices are only grow it or don’t grow it, but the price they’re going to get is going to go up a bit, because other people can bid for it.
But basically, the power mostly shifts to that consumer who doesn’t care which kind of sugar cane juice they buy, and so you’re going to have to sell it cheap if you want to get market share.
Then one of the guys who has the machine stops making ordinary sugar cane juice. He starts treating the growers better and encouraging them to not use pesticides. Now his – he’s organic. He starts treating the customers better, delivering more reliably in packaging that’s more suitable to what they need. He invests all sorts of way to use sugar cane and process sugar cane and come up with clever sugar cane products. He connects to people who buy sugar cane and the restaurateurs and the chefs and things so they can work with each other to do better stuff with his organic sugar cane and they pay more for it.
Who wins now? And the answer obviously is the customers, the organic growers, and the guy who’s an artist when it comes to using his machine. As opposed to people who just say, “I just follow the manual.” And the lesson, of course, is that now everybody has a sugar cane machine, that now, anybody who wants to make something over and over again, is going to be competing against other people who want to make something over and over again. There is no competence shortage. And if all you have is competence to offer, why on earth will we pay you extra?
So if you’re a machinist, making a widget that goes in a 747, congratulations for having a good union. Both over time, intelligent people – capitalists – will buy that widget from someone who will sell it to them for one tenth of the price.
Because if all it is is a widget, just like every other widget, just buy the cheap one. They’re all the same. If all you are is a replaceable cog in the system that makes the widgets, and there are a hundred people as competent as you around the world, you might get away from it for a little while, but you’re not going to get away with it in the long run.
And that is the challenge. So before we go into the six elements that I think we need to focus on when we’re teaching people about this, I want to talk about something that I saw – I visualized – just yesterday, that I help really help you see what a Potemkin village, what a façade we’ve been living in.
Seven hundred years ago, no one was unemployed. The idea of being unemployed was totally alien. The idea of a job is pretty brand new. And there are countries today where people don’t have jobs and don’t consider themselves unemployed. That was put on us.
How did that happen? Here’s what happened. Two hundred years ago, people invented machines – three hundred years ago, hundred and fifty years ago – the industrial age really kicked into power. What he machine does is it allows the person who owns the machine – like the sugar cane processing machine – allows the person who owns the machine to get an enormous upside because it helps their productivity.
But if you own the machine, you know what you need? You need people to run it. And that means you need to sell the world on having a job. And it turns out that wasn’t that easy.
Clay Shirky has talked about an author who’s pointed that gin was one of the key elements of the industrial revolution. That two generations, thirty years, people were drunk all day long. That if you went to Manchester, England, you’d see all the guys working in the mills and you’d see a guy pushing a cart.
I have a picture of one – a guy pushing a cart that dispensed gin all day long. Because this act of saying you have to go, move to a new place, walk into a dark building, spend 12 hours there doing what you’re told and then go home was alien.
So you needed to have people to do jobs. Why? Why would you do a job? I know, so you could have money. What do you need money for? So you can buy stuff. That was new, too. Therefore, most people the act of buying stuff was not a thing you spent a lot of time thinking about or doing. You had the things that you needed and every once in a while you’d have to fix them or replace them, but you didn’t go to the mall on Saturday. That was all brand new. That was invented by the people who had factors that made stuff that they wanted to sell you.
Why buy stuff? Peer pressure. Keeping up with the Joneses. That once people around you have stuff, you want more stuff. And if you look at charts of happiness by culture, we see that there’s no correlation between stuff and happiness. In fact, there’s a reverse correlation because if lots of people in your culture have stuff, you might be unhappy because you don’t have as much stuff as they do. Apologies to George Carlin.
It gets even worse because sometimes someone who might be working would say, “I have enough stuff.” And they’d stop working. So you know what we invented? Debt. Debt has two really good uses when you’re talking about consumers. Use number one is that you can sell people more stuff when they don’t even have money.
Use number two is once they buy the stuff, they have to go to work because otherwise, debt will take all the stuff away. So that amplifies it even further, which leads to more compliance, more people doing the job, so that the factory the machines works better, and then to cap it all off, we have school.
And school is 12 years of publically-financed brainwashing to teach people to be compliant to get them really good at taking notes, really good at following instructions, and in fact, when you get to work – and this is important – when you get to work, pretty much the only skill you use that you learned at school is compliance. You don’t use geometry, you don’t use conjugating verbs in Latin – go down the list of all the things you spent all those hours working on in school – you don’t use any of them.
What you use is you got really good at being compliant and doing a job – at doing your work because - that doing your job – because they told you you have to do it.
Okay. So this system got put into place. And now people are showing up, people like me, and we’re saying, “Wait a minute, Jerry Weintraub is the future, not that person on American Airlines.” We don’t have a compliance shortage.
The United States isn’t struggling economically lately because we’re not obedient enough. The reason for the struggle is there aren’t enough people acting like Jerry Weintraub. There aren’t enough people who are looking at a situation where there is no map, where there is no way to know for sure what to do next and doing things that matter. Why is that?
Aside from the brainwashing, aside from the debt, aside from the system, I think a big reason is the following: you’re not as good as you think you are. When I say that to you – you’re not as good as you think you are – my guess is that if you’re a breathing human being, I struck a nerve. No one wants to be told that. And in fact, I didn’t say it to you, I said it in quotes. Someone else was saying that to you.
We live in fear – petrified - that someone’s going to say to us, “You know what, Bob/Jack/Jill/Sue? You’re not as good as you think you are. Who do you think you are, acting like this? Who gave you the authority? Who gave you the permission to go do that thing that’s not written down? Where’s your deniability? Where’s you excuse? How can you possibly justify what you did? You’re not nearly as good as you think you are.”
But no one ever says that to us. We just worry that they’re going to say that. And the worry gets amplified by school, by spouses, by in-laws, by debt, by the system, by the media – that’s what we’re worried about because it’s brought out large. Someone does some small misbehavior during a speech during the Academy Awards and we go, “Oh my God, that could’ve been me, everyone would’ve made fun of me.”
Okay, so let me talk about the six reasons why I think this is hard for people and what we need to do to train them to think about it. The first one – the one I’ve sort of warmed up with so far today – is they don’t necessarily understand what’s at stake. That I needed to spend half the book – the first of Linchpin – explaining the change.
I couldn’t just say “that’s a given” in one page and spend the rest of the book on the other stuff. Because if we don’t make it clear to people what’s at stake, if it’s not more scary to ignore that than to ignore the current fear, we’ll just live with the current fear, thanks very much, the current fear’s just fine with me. That change often gets made when we see that what was on the table matters.
The second thing is the entire capitalist system I described to you does not include the word generosity. The mindset of generosity is “I need to give something to someone and get nothing in return.” We don’t teach very much of that. We don’t have very many examples of people who are good at that. We are not trained to do that, but you can’t do the work that I’m talking about unless you’re prepared to be generous. Generous is spirit, generous in substance, generous in behavior, generous in the way you’re sharing your heart.
The third thing is recognizing that anyone can do this. Because the lizard brain – the voice in the back of our head – might say that some people can do it, but you can’t. It’s really good at saying that and there’s a good reason for it because if you believe you can’t do it, you’re not on the hook to do it, and if you’re not on the hook to do it, you’re safe.
Smart people have a really hard time with this. Some of the email I’ve been getting is stunning to me. “Are you saying” they say, “that anyone is capable of having a ____ idea?” – whatever one they’re talking about – “are you saying that it doesn’t matter what country you’re from or what race you are or what your parents did for a living, that it’s possible to do original, interesting, generous work?” Yes, I am.
No, there’s no chance I will ever be a professional ping pong player. Or golfer or cricket player or even be good at spreadsheets because it’s too late. But I’m also saying that when you were four, you did something amazing that was an act of genius that no one had ever done before. And when you were six or even eight you did it.
But then somewhere along the way, you decided that people might say you don’t have the right to do that. Or they might laugh at your or they might say that you did it wrong and bad things happen. And it’s easier to just not undo it because all the other parts of the system – the debt and the school and the compliance and the factor and the job and the business school and the resume and the HR people – have reinforced this model that says your job is to do your job and we have no problem at all rewarding people for doing their job.
We try to reward them with money because it’s safer and less personal. But we don’t have any real problem with it. And when we start talking about rewarding people for getting in touch with the fact that they’re actually a genius, it starts feeling really touchy feely. That didn’t use to be that way. But we invented this whole construct on top of it.
The next one is acknowledging the fact that you have a lizard brain. A physical part of your brain whose job it is to make you scared. Whose job it is to have you back off. A Steve Pressfield calls it, “the resistance.” The voice of the lizard is the resistance. It is real; we can see it on a functional MRI scan of the brain.
It is not difficult at all to trigger. There’s a lot of thinking about what we do when it gets triggered, but one thing I will tell you is it always tastes the same. It always feels the same. There may be a thousand reasons the resistance doesn’t want to do something – there may be a hundred things the lizard brain doesn’t want you to do – but it doesn’t have a large vocabulary, so when any of them show up, it always feels the same.
It doesn’t matter if you’re a shy person, whether you’re about to meet a really important executive or just someone at a cocktail party – the same feeling is in the back of your head about what could go wrong. That’s proof that this cycle is there – it’s organic, it’s real.
We have to acknowledge it and figure out what we’re going to do about it as opposed to just pretending that there’s this little man in our head who makes all the decisions because if we’re going to be in charge of what we do next, we’re going to have to understand the geometry of that.
Two more. Steve also gave me this great expression called “turning pro.” What that means is that there’s a difference between amateurs who are muddling their way through, doing what they feel like, looking for inspiration, and maybe doing good work. And professionals who show up and do the work.
pro golfer practices even if it’s cold and rainy. A pro psychologist is able to empathize with a patient even when they don’t feel like it. That a pro trainer or coach is able to do the work and have the difficult conversation because it’s their job. When we start taking it seriously – when we treat that job the way we treat our current job – we discover we’re capable of doing a lot of things that we tended to avoid because we made it easy for the resistance.
We made it easy for the lizard to not let us do those things because it’s just a hobby -well, it’s just a bonus – it’s an extra, it’s a thing on top. I have deniability, I don’t have to redesign the packaging, it was the ad agency’s fault, I’ve only been here 12 weeks, spare, part-time, don’t worry about it. But if you’re a pro, then we get to the sixth thing which is your ship.
And we can talk about shipping the entire day if you want to. But the act of shipping it out the door, of hitting publish, of sending in the proposal, of actually closing the funding for your company, of having that meeting with your boss, of doing the difficult conversation – the act of making a product or service that people choose to talk about – shipping it out the door is what we have a scarcity of. That’s what we have a shortage of, not compliance, but of people who will do the difficult work of shipping.
And it’s easy if you’ve done 11 editions of that Sunday school reader. To do the 12th edition, that doesn’t count as shipping. That’s just a revision. That’s just doing your job. What I’m talking about is putting something out the door that people might not like. And there are three reasons you might not choose to ship. And the order is important.
Reason number one is fear, and we’ve talked about that. Reason number two is using the Buddhist term “prajna” you might not be able to have an understanding of the world as it is. You might not be able to see the situation in front of you clearly, and so you’ll do the wrong things to get it out the door.
And the third reason is maybe you don’t have enough skill to do it well, but the order is important. Because all we focus on is the skill. We don’t focus on the first two. Let’s pick copyrighting for an example. All of us are fairly verbal. We can speak clearly for 20, 30, 40 minutes in a row without notes if we’re having a conversation with a friend.
And yet, when the boss says, “Write two paragraphs that explain what we do for a living”, panic sets in, right? And we start reading all these blogs and books and ... conversations, “Well, I’m bad at copyrighting, I’m just not a good writer.” Yes, but you’re a good talker, what happened in between the talking and the writing? Is it that you don’t know how to hold a pencil? That you don’t know how to type? I don’t think so.
The two reasons you might not actually be able to ship that paragraph back to your boss is one, you’re afraid that the boss might look you in the eye and say, “How dare you, this is terrible.” Or two, you might not be able to see the world accurately and accurately express what it is you need to say. But if you did see the world accurately, and you weren’t afraid, this is a two-minute assignment. But you learned in second grade not to treat it like that. In second grade you learned that when you have to hand in that homework assignment it might come back with red marks all over it and it’s not going to lead to much upside but it could lead to a lot of downside.
So I guess what happens is there are some people if you give them a mile, they’re going to take an inch. If you give people this opportunity to do that art, to make that change happen, to have an impact, they’ll figure out how to minimize it. They’ll figure out how to make it a smaller opportunity. They’ll figure out how to look for less.
Why on each would we choose to do that? The answer seems pretty simple. The answer is because it’s safer. The answer is because in the short run, making, as Zig Ziglar would say, the frying pan smaller lowers the bar on the size of the fish you need to catch. And this is why so many people who call themselves entrepreneurs really aren’t.
This is why it’s so difficult for somebody to start a business that really grows. It’s why every time you look at a 6-year-old or an 8-year-old or a 12-year-old, what we’re seeing is someone whose been trained over and over and over again to push for smaller assignments, to figure out how to hand stuff in at the very last minute. To whenever possible, go for the inch instead of the mile. Because the mile is the scary part.
Let me shift gears here for just a minute. And I want to talk instead of economics and I want to talk a little bit about joy. And I want to talk about what is it that you do that you love? I think we can agree that what we like is to go to work, do our job, get a pat on the back and go home. We’ve been trained to like that and a lot of people like it.
But what do we love? What are the things that we do during the day that we actually love to do? That we’re going to remember a week or a month or a year later? Is there anything wrong with getting money for doing the things that you love? Does it corrupt it if you’re getting paid to do it? And is there enough money so that you could be bought off to do not things that you love?
And when we have this thing of art connecting with this thing of commerce, we get really confused. We get really confused because money isn’t just this paper. Money stands for an enormous amount in our lives. And when we can sacrifice our art for what we think is a safe opportunity to have money, so often that’s exactly what we do.
Whereas if you find somebody like Spike Lee who lived on macaroni and cheese and credit cards for years instead of doing what he was supposed to after film school, by lowering his need for money, he raised his ability to do art. And ever since then, he’s been able to do what he wanted to do instead of doing what he had to do. So he paid this price in terms of security, in terms of fitting in. And in exchange, he got to do the work that he wanted to.
You’re going to have to make a choice. Your clients are going to have to make a choice. Your team is going to have to make a choice. What your company does for a living has to make a choice. And the choice is this: either you break rules or you follow rules. Those are the choices. There doesn’t seem to be a lot of middle ground.
You can say well mostly we follow the rules, but every once in a while we break them. But if you say that, really what you’re saying is we follow the rules unless we have no choice. There are people in this room who I have enormous amounts of respect for who have decided to break rules. And we’ll talk about some of that later in the day. But once you decide to break rules, then you can make intelligent choices about which rules to break. But if you’ve made the decision that your job is to follow rules, you don’t get to have the choice. And the only reason I wrote the book is to get people to make that choice. I just want you to pick. Break rules or follow the rules. Fit in or stand out. Race to the top or race to the bottom.
And the problem with racing to the bottom is you might win. And if you win the race to the bottom, that’s where you’re stuck. Whereas if you race to the top, you might now win but it’s okay because you’re getting closer all the time.
We talked a little bit about this idea of emotional labor. I’m not sure people really get the impact of both words, so let me start with the second one. Labor means hard. I never had a baby, but my guess is it’s called labor for a reason. And labor is worth paying for because very few people do it for fun. Emotional is even harder than physical.
There are people who voluntarily go for a long run to do the physical labor on their muscles because they actually like the way it feels. But emotional labor – labor that makes you want to cry, labor that makes you feel tiny, labor that makes you feel like a failure, labor that brings up all sorts of fear – really horrible fear, that same feeling you have about things that you don’t even want to talk about – it’s difficult to imagine doing that for fun. But what has happened to our economy is that’s all we’re going to get paid for going forward.
All we’re going to get paid for at American standards. There are plenty of ways to get paid $2 an hour, plenty of ways to get paid $4 an hour. Mechanical ... will keep you busy all day long for $4 an hour for the rest of your life. But if you want to make $50 an hour, which is $100,000 a year, why would we pay your for that?
We don’t need to pay you to type. We don’t need to pay you to move widget A to pile B. We don’t need to pay you to sit in a meeting and come up with objections. All we need to pay you for is doing this really difficult work.
I have a couple of the bonus items that I want to touch on. This idea of honest signals – Sandy Pentland wrote a book about it, he does research at MIT – is so important and again, it’s not a theory, it’s real science, the people have tested and it works. Human beings, like most wild animals, are extraordinarily good at sensing tiny changes in the environment. And the changes that we’re the best at sensing are the way other people are feeling. That you can look somebody in the eye and know if they’re afraid. You could look someone in the eye and have a sense as to whether they’re lying. There are some people who can trick you but generally they can’t.
And so when you meet someone who is truly generous, you can just tell. When you meet someone who is truly on the team and moving stuff forward, you can just tell. When you meet someone who is clearly trying to slow things down, you can just tell. So you can’t fake the things that go into this emotional labor thing. You have to have chosen before you got there. You’ve have to have committed before you got there because people are going to be able to smell it on you, literally.
That means that the more interactions we have, particularly non-digital ones, the more likely it is that people will follow you when they sense that you’re on the path, that you’re actually making something happen. The path though, is the problem because you want a map. You want someone to say what do I do next? You want someone to say, “Now do this and now do this and then you win.”
If you go to a writer’s conference there’s all these people paying money to be told step by step how to write a book that hasn’t been written yet. If you go to art school, there are all these days – days and days and days for money – step by step on how to paint something that’s never been painted yet.
There’s no difference between that and coming up with a new strategy for a textbook. There’s no difference between that and launching an iPad app that changes everything. No one can tell you how.
After Twitter hit the curve and became the fastest-growing communications medium in history, dozens of companies just like Twitter came along. It only takes a week to program something like Twitter. You don’t win any prizes for having the seventh version of Twitter. We don’t need that. We needed you to do it before when there was no map.
Many management consultants know about the knowing-doing gap. This is a different kind of knowing-doing gap. The knowing-doing gap is that someone can read a book, it tells them what the map is and then they don’t do anything. The knowing-doing gap is a manager can say to somebody “I need you to do these things” and they shake their head and they know it, but they don’t do them. We now have better understanding about why that is. It’s not because the person’s stupid. It’s because the person has chosen not to do it. They have chosen not to do it for only one reason – they’re afraid.
We don’t like saying because we think fear is a different sort of fear. It’s the nah-nah-nah-you’re-a-chicken fear. And that’s not the kind of fear I’m talking about. I’m talking about the fear deep down that the lizard brain has for survival.
I went to a business school that used to be called chaos pilots in Amsterdam a couple weeks ago. They stand in a circle before every day and they do something called “check in.” And the way check-in works is there are 12 people in a circle and it’s silent.
And when you feel like you have something to say about your day today, your day yesterday, you say it. And when you’re done, you say “check out.” So you say “Check in. I’m really glad to be here today. Check out.”
And everyone goes around the circle not in order, just when it occurs to you. And we went through that and it was my turn and I was about ninth and I’m not shy, so I said, “You know? I don’t think you should call this ‘Check in,’ I think you should call it ‘Chicken’ because what you’re doing is your’ giving everyone cover to say nothing, and what we really need to say is ‘this is what I’m afraid of today, this is what I was afraid of yesterday.’”
If we could honesty say out loud what we’re afraid of, it turns out that what we’re afraid of isn’t that scary. But because we pushed it over there into the closet, it seems really scary. But if we open the door of the closet, look it in the eye, call it by name, what are we afraid of?
I’m giving a speech to 12 people. I’m petrified. Why are you petrified? They might not like it. Then what would happen? I wouldn’t have to do it again. Okay. So can we move on? Is it worth staying up all night worrying about this?
You could be afraid of saber tooth tigers – that’s a good thing to be afraid of. It’s even okay to be afraid of pit bulls. It is not okay to be afraid of giving a speech to 12 people. What’s going to happen? What’s the worse that could happen? And if you say it out loud, what you see is this: it’s very easy to describe what will happen if you stick with the status quo. If you don’t give a speech, ever. If you don’t have a blog, ever. If you don’t put your ideas in front of people, ever.
If you don’t ship ever, then I guarantee what’s going to happen – you’ll stay here until you get laid off and then you’re going to get old and then you’re going to die.
The other choice is to build an organization where you have a platform for people to do art. And the price of being in that organization is that you demand change. And this is where leadership comes in.
True story. I used to have a company. It was 70 people; we were in one big room. The New York office had 50 people in one giant room. And the rules were every 30 to 90 days; everyone had to move their desk to sit in a different place. And I told people the reason was because no one should have to sit next to me for too long.
But the real reason is because if you can get over the fear of moving your desk, then it’s easy to get over the fear of a new business model, the fear of a new role in the company because you have to go through all that act of moving stuff.
About two years into it, I sat down with one of my three best employees and I said to him, “Look, I’ve been going through what we’ve been up to, and in the last nine months, you haven’t failed once. You haven’t done one thing that didn’t work.” And so I said, “If you don’t fail soon, you’re fired.” And I meant it.
You can’t have it both ways. You can’t say this is an organization that embraces change. This is an organization that embraces this kind of risk-taking and then rewards and embraces people who don’t take risks. You can’t. You have to say the way you get fired at this company is by doing what you’re told. The way you lose your job – the thing I want you to be the most afraid of is being the least failing person in the organization.
If we can shift the fear to the fear of not doing art, to the fear of not standing up to the fear of not running to the top, then guess what – the lizard becomes your friend. It becomes your ally to help you ship. If you don’t ship you haven’t done a thing.
There’s no point in starting if you don’t finish. Finish can include quitting halfway because you’ve done the right analysis. But there is no point in starting doing your best and then washing your hands of it. That’s just wasting time. Which leads to this thought of thrashing. And we’re going to spend a bit of time today talking about thrashing as a result as it relates to shipping.
Every project that ships late ships late for exactly the same reason. So let me tell you the story of the sequel to Duke Nukem, one of the most successful video games of all times. It made fifty, hundred, million dollars – something like that.
A tiny group of people owned all the rights. They said we’re going to make the sequel that’s going to be the best video game ever. Six months, ninth months, a year goes by, they’re 80% of the way there.
Now the team has 30 people on it and the meetings about what could be done in the last 20% get longer. The contributions of what needs to happen before it ships become more common. People say we’re really close to shipping, so let’s add this feature because it would be a shame to not have it.
We’re really close to shipping – wait a minute, there’s this new platform out, let’s make sure that we’ll be supporting that one. And it went on and it went on. And it was a perfect storm of an example because they didn’t have a money shortage and there was no person yelling at them from the other side because it was up to them.
Nine years later, they cancelled the project. It got to 80% three times and they cancelled the project. The reason is simple: because of thrashing. That the closer we get to shipping the louder the lizard brain gets. The more the reasons there are to worry. Think about how often the CEO comes to the meeting.
Does the CEO – does she come at the beginning or she does come at the end of the process? She comes at the end. Why bother wasting her time, right? Think about when do the lawyers come? Do the lawyers come at the beginning or do they come at the end? They come at the end and they say, “Wait, you can’t do ‘x’. Well, that was something we needed to know six months ago.” So the thrashing goes like this and then you don’t ship because there are too many people and too many connections and too many objections.
So how do you ship? Well, first you decide it’s important to ship. If you decide it’s important to ship, you do things in the right order, you do them with rigor. And what you say is the first week of this project is when we’re going to thrash.
Lawyers, CEO come during the first week or don’t come at all. We can thrash all we want at the beginning because we haven’t done, we haven’t laid the foundation, we haven’t ordered the parts, we haven’t built everything. Come at the beginning and then you’re not allowed back in the room. You will not see it again until it’s in the store. You will not see it again until it’s online. You will not see it again until it’s shipped out the door, so you better come at the beginning and thrash a lot.
People say this is unrealistic. Well, shipping is unrealistic. It is unrealistic to imagine that three or five or fifty motivated people can make a dent in the universe, but they can. And so the way they do it is by taking the unrealistic act of thrashing at the beginning. Who runs your project? This is a critical semantic question. Are you going to have someone manage the project or run the project? What’s the difference between managing it and running it?
Here’s my definition. Someone who manages a project is a reporter. The manager of the project reports to you how things are going. They report that this person was late. They report that that piece didn’t’ work. They report that certain environmental satiations made it so it wouldn’t happen. Someone running the project ships.
A lot of people in your organization don’t want to run anything because if you run something, you can fail. If you manage it, you just report – sorry, it’s out of my control; I’ve reported everything as it’s happened, nothing I can do about it. But if you run it, then you’re doing the work because what you are doing is saying to people, “You cannot come to this meeting because I’m responsible for shipping and if you come, we won’t ship.”
And it’s much easier for the person running to say no to you, don’t come, than it is to apologize three months later for being late. And that mindset distinguishes projects that ship from those that don’t.
Okay, so the last thing I want to do is read to you a note I got. The punchline here is this: everything I’ve talked to you about for the last hour isn’t easy. In fact, it’s really hard. If you are a musician or a programmer or an accountant and you want to do art, and your heard everything I just said and you combine it with how difficult it is to get people in the real world to hear your ideas, how difficult it is to make a living doing this – it’s very easy to look – and everything ... that’s really hard.
And my answer is, “So? Why shouldn’t it be hard?” We’re talking about winning one of the biggest games ever. We’re talking about having you impact on whatever universe you live in. We’re talking about turning pages that have never been turned before. We’re talking about leaving a legacy behind that you can point to 10 or 20 or 30 or 40 years later that your kids can point and say, “My mom shipped that.”
Why shouldn’t that be hard? So here’s the note I got: It’s a pretty sobering picture for the future of art. Over the last couple of months, as I’ve neared completion and have had to think more about where I’m going to take this manuscript, and how I’m going to start establishing myself, the more and more I’m realizing what a daunting, long-term proposition this is going to be.
If I want to be a person whose main thing is writing, that is, the difficult part for me is that I’m not sure how to begin building a fan base, begin cultivating that reputation and necessary connections with people, which makes me realize that if I personally don’t know where to begin or continue, I need to find people who can help me. But again, a difficult thing to begin.
We live in a strange world when the process of trying to get your message or product to people is more time consuming and exhausting than the actual creation of art itself – the pouring your passion onto canvas or page. I’m interested to know in what ways the model for the music industry is similar to that of publishing books.
Still, all this isn’t to turn me from going ahead. It’s just making it clear how much hard work and creativity I’m going to have to put into finding out where my next buck is going to come from. But I’m glad I’m realizing and beginning to work on this now since I think that this is the economic future for America – less security, money on the margins, needing a close network for support, having hands in many different schemes – that’s not just for artists, that’s the future as a whole. Not sure to what extent my generation understands that though.
So my mission going forward and the reason I said I have no plans to write another book is that this is the turning point of our time. That the hard work of building the Ford Motor Company is really hard work. That the hard work of building Prudential Insurance is really hard work. Those were important things that our parents and our grandparents did.
The hard work that we have to do is to not use Twitter and Facebook to entertain ourselves and hide from the art. And the hard work that we have to do is not go to yet another meeting with yet another boring boss who’s going to have yet another boring project for us to do.
But the hard work – and we’re seeing it over and over again in every field I can imagine, not including bringing vaccines to the developing world – the hard work is to look at the status quo and say, “Well, they built all these tools for me. They built all this leverage for me, and it’s not here to entertain me, it’s here to permit me to put myself at risk, to maybe have someone look me in the eye and say, ‘You’re not good enough to do that.’” That’s really hard.
And then what we have to do as trainers or as managers or as people who can spread ideas is somehow put in front of people that what we need them to do is to solve interesting problems. And what we need them to do is lead. And then if all they’re prepared to do is make widgets, we have a long slog ahead of us. But if we’re wiling to race to the top and do work that matters, my bet is that a few of us will do it often enough to actually make change. Thank you for listening to that part, I appreciate it. Thank you.