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« September 2015 | Main | November 2015 »

Witch hunts make no sense

They are based on a fallacy: "I am irrationally afraid and persecuting this innocent person will make me feel better."

Which is expressed by those in power as: "There's a good reason I'm afraid and punishing this person will make that reason go away."

Hunting witches never makes things better. Partly because there are no witches.

But mostly because it's really unlikely that we're afraid for a good reason (our fear is just about always irrational). And of course, our irrational fear has nothing to do with the person or the group we're using a scapegoat.

So much more useful and productive to say, "I'm afraid," and leave it at that.

Symbolic logic

I was so transformed by the symbolic logic course I took in college that I took another one in grad school.

Can you learn to organize five true statements into a sixth one?

More important than just about any course that's based on facts, symbolic logic is an elegant way to build facts into arguments and arguments into change that lasts.

There are several good free courses online. Here's one.

Entitlement vs. worthiness

Entitlement is the joy killer.

Halloween is hardly what it could be. Any other day of the year, hand a kid a chocolate bar and he'll be thrilled. Do it on Halloween and it's worth almost nothing.

When you receive something you feel entitled to, something expected, that you believe you've earned, it's not worth much. And when you don't receive it, you're furious. After all, it's yours. Already yours. And you didn't get it. Whether you're wearing a hobo costume or showing up as a surgeon after years of medical school, entitlement guarantees that you won't get what you need.

Worthiness, on the other hand, is an essential part of receiving anything.

When you feel unworthy, any kind response, positive feedback or reward feels like a trick, a scam, the luck of the draw. It's hardly worth anything, because you decided in advance, before you got the feedback, that you weren't worthy.

It's possible to feel worthy without feeling entitled. Humility and worthiness have nothing at all to do with defending our territory. We don't have to feel like a fraud to also be gracious, open or humble.

Both entitlement and unworthiness are the work of the resistance. The twin narratives make us bitter, encourage us to be ungenerous, keep us stuck. Divas are divas because they've tricked themselves into believing both narratives--that they're not getting what they're entitled to, and, perversely, that they're not worth what they're getting.

The entitled yet frightened voice says, "What's the point of contributing if those people aren't going to appreciate it sufficiently?" And the defensive unworthy voice says, "What's the point of shipping the work if I don't think I'm worthy of being paid attention to..."

The universe, it turns out, owes each of us very little indeed. Hard work and the dangerous commitment to doing something that matters doesn't get us a guaranteed wheelbarrow of prizes... but what it does do is help us understand our worth. That worth, over time, can become an obligation, the chance to do our best work and to contribute to communities we care about.

When the work is worth it, make more of it, because you can, and because you're generous enough to share it.

"I'm not worthy," isn't a useful way to respond to success. And neither is, "that's it?"

It might be better if we were just a bit better at saying, "thank you."

The other element of guerilla marketing

The first element is the guts to do things without money or bureaucratic approval.

The guerrilla marketer doesn't wait for a policy, or a developed industry or a line to form. She steps up and speaks up.

But, as Jay Levinson said from the start, more than thirty years ago, the other half is at least as important, and easy to overlook:

The core element of guerilla marketing is generosity.

You don't market at people, or even to people. We market for them and with them.

Guerrillas have long understood that it's possible to attract someone's attention. What makes it a viable approach, though, is that people are delighted once they find out what you've got going on. Effective guerrilla marketing always begins with a product or service that's worth the marketing you're going to put into it.

Hence the two tensions:

  1. Big company industrial marketers don't believe enough in what they sell to become guerilla marketers. Guerrilla marketing flies in the face of bureaucratic indifference.
  2. Many would-be guerrilla marketers spend so much time seeking attention that sometimes they forget to re-focus on the promises being made. 

Next Monday is World Guerrilla Marketing Day, a holiday I just made up, guerrilla-style. What will you ship?

Bravery is for other people

Bravery is for the people who have no choice, people like Chesley Sullenberger and Audie Murphy.

Bravery is for the people who are gifted, people like Ralph Abernathy, Sarah Kay and Miles Davis.

Bravery is for the people who are called, people like Abraham Lincoln,  Rosa Parks and Mother Theresa.

Bravery is for other people.

When you see it that way, it's so clearly and patently absurd that it's pretty clear that bravery is merely a choice.

At least once in your life (maybe this week, maybe today) you did something that was brave and generous and important. The only question is one of degree... when will we care enough to be brave again?

70% re-orders is a sweet spot

My latest book, Your Turn, just went back for its third and fourth printings, bringing the total to more than 100,000 copies in print.

I did some math on the orders and discovered that more than 70% of them were going to people who had previously ordered a copy.

This never happens.

It never happens because the book industry is built on the idea of inventing desire and then destroying it by selling the reader a copy. You never need two copies of a book, after all, and so there's an insatiable need for new readers.

In the case of Your Turn, though, the book is intentionally built and sold as a way of spreading an idea... once people see the benefit in spreading the idea, many of them decide to spread it more. Most people buy the 5 pack.

It occurs to me that 70% is almost a magic number for re-orders in just about any business. It means that new people are hearing about your work and showing up to try it, and it also signifies that there's a base audience that's counting on you to do what you promised.

How would your project change if you re-organized what you do to get to a sweet spot of re-orders? I had to take a leap in the creation, distribution and pricing of my book to create that dynamic. What would you need to do?

PS To celebrate the new print run, I just added a long lost video of me launching Linchpin in NYC in 2010. It's on the Your Turn page, about a third of the way down. Read the copy near the top to get the password.

Thanks for the work you do and the impact you make.

First, interact

The best way to tell if your speech is going to go well is to give your speech. 

The best way to find out if your new product has market appeal is to try to sell it.

The best way to become a teacher is to teach.

There's a huge need for study, refinement and revision. No question about it.

None of it means anything, though, if you are hiding from the market.

There used to be a dangerous myth: the genius in an attic, who arrives one day, fully formed, with a grant, a Pulitzer and a string of accolades, out of nowhere.

Great work doesn't come out of nowhere. It comes out of interactions with the people you seek to change.

Are you interesting?

More interesting than you realize.

An interesting person is interesting to us because she combines two things: Truth and surprise.

The truth: Not necessarily a law of physics, not necessarily a measurable truth in nature, but merely the truth of experience. "I believe this," or "I see that."

And surprise. Note that surprise is always local. Surprising to me, the audience. That's one reason that it's said that interesting people are interested—they are empathetic enough to realize what might be surprising to the person in the room, and they care enough to deliver on that insight.

Everyone is capable of telling the truth. And everyone has been surprising at least once.

Which means that being an interesting person is a choice. We can choose to show up, to care enough to contribute our humanity to the next interaction.

It's a choice, but a difficult one, because being interesting feels risky. People are afraid to be interesting, not unable to be interesting.

You're not born uninteresting. But it's entirely possible you've persuaded yourself to be so frightened of the consequences that you no longer have the passion, the generosity or the guts to be interesting any longer.

Without a doubt, we need your interesting.

[HT Austin]

Selling like Steve

Have you thought about the fact that just about every time Steve Jobs appeared in public, he was selling us something?

And yet few rolled their eyes and said, "oh, here comes another sales pitch."

Jobs sold us expensive, high margin hardware that we knew would eventually become obsolete, and yet people lined up to hear the pitch. How come?

I think it's because he was saying:

"Here, I made this. It might be worth talking about."

Inherent in this statement is the flip side, "it might not work."

And in almost every case, he was right. That it might be worth talking about, and that it might not work.

In almost every case, skeptics pounced. People discussed his work. 

Sometimes he was early, but he was usually interesting. That's a slot that's available to more people than ever before, regardless of industry or audience.

Average stuff for average people is getting ever more difficult to sell. If that's all you've got, get something else.

Gravity and entropy, denied

The 747 is a very large plane. But that doesn't mean it's easier to get off the ground--in fact, it's more difficult.

As your project and your organization grows in size, it's tempting to hope that at some point it will take care of itself. That customer service will get better without a herculean effort to keep it un-industrialized. That quality will be consistent, without extraordinary efforts from truly committed people.

Alas, that's not what happens. Gravity sets in with scale, and almost all the forces push in one direction--away from amazing.

Danny Meyer runs more than a dozen well-known restaurants, and the reason that they're well known is that he and his staff act like they own one restaurant, a brand new one, one with something to prove. It's tonight or never.

Also! As your project and your organization develop over time, randomness and unpredictability occurs. Entropy is a force of nature... over time, stuff gets more scrambled, not more orderly. Things decay. Left alone, just about anything we create fades to mediocrity or instability.

Which is why we can't leave it alone.

If you want to dream, it's fun to talk about self-managed teams, crowd-built organizations, autonomous excellence. And if you can find it, by all means, congratulations. For the rest of us, though, the challenges of scale and time will always involve extraordinary effort from dedicated people, doing the heavy lifting to fight off the almost unstoppable forces of mediocrity.

Don't scale because you think there's a pot of gold over that rainbow. Scale because you're ready and eager to do heroic work, every day, forever.

Once you know what you're in for, like the engineers at Boeing, you can invest in bigger jets and make sure they're working.

The two-review technique

As you work on your project (your presentation, your plan, your speech, your recipe, your...) imagine that it's the sort of thing that could be reviewed on Amazon.

Now, write (actually write down) two different reviews:

First, a 5 star review, a review by someone who gets it, who is moved, who is eager to applaud your guts and vision.

And then, a 1 star review, an angry screed, not from the usual flyby troll, but from someone who actually experienced your work and hated it.

Okay, you've got two reviews, here's the question:

Are you working to make it more likely that the 5 star reviews are more intense, more numerous and more truthful than ever, or...

Are you working to minimize the number of 1 star reviews?

Very hard to obsess about both, since they tend to happen together.

The thing is, if you work to minimize criticism, you have surrendered the beauty and greatness of what you've set out to build.

The coming podcast surplus

As of now, there are more minutes produced by the podcasts I listen to each day than there is time to listen to them.

I can't listen to something new without not listening to something else. Which makes it challenging to find the energy to seek out new ones. Rebroadcasts of radio shows rarely keep my attention any more, because the podcast-focused audio is so much more focused (but they are still popular on most lists, because they're initially more well known).

Blogging has worked for so long for two reasons: A. it's really easy to subscribe and to scan for the posts you like, and B. The good posts get shared. 

Both of these are a challenge for podcasters now.

The New York Times says it prints "All the News That's Fit to Print" but it actually prints what fits, and what fits is what advertisers will support and readers have time to consume. Stories have to fight to get a spot.

Podcasts have the opposite problem--there's room for an infinity of stories, from an infinity of podcasters. But we're crossing a line and from now on, the game is less infinite than it was, because our time is finite.

Now, it's difficult to get on someone's list, and hard to stay there. The game is becoming zero sum.

[Here's a list of some of my favorites, by the way:]

99% Invisible, On Being, The Moment with Brian Koppelman, Mystery Show (particularly episode 3), The Gist, Dan Carlin's Hardcore History, Bullseye, Radiolab (of course), SDCF Masters of the Stage, and Cool Tools. There's also a fun Gastropod episode about my aversion to cilantro. And I just found out Christopher Lydon is doing a podcast, so that's now on the list.

The magic of Overcast is that they magically appear, one after another. 

And the curse is that I'll never again be caught up. I'm okay with that, but it changes everything.

Offense and defense, a b2b insight

Selling change to organizations is difficult. One reason is that change represents a threat, a chance for things to go wrong. It's no wonder that many people avoid anything that smells of change.

Another reason is that different people in the organization have different worldviews, different narratives.

Consider the difference between "offense" and "defense" when confronting a new idea.

The person who is playing offense wants to get ahead. Grow market share. Get promoted. She wants to bring in new ideas, help more customers, teach the people around her. Change is an opportunity to further the agenda, change is a chance to reshuffle the deck.

The person who is playing defense, though, wants to be sure not to disappoint the boss. Not to drop a ball, break what's working or be on the spot for something that didn't happen.

Either posture, surprisingly, can lead to significant purchases and change.

Defensive purchases are things like a better insurance policy, or a more reliable auditor. Offensive purchases include sophisticated new data mining tools and a course in public speaking.

The defensive purchaser switches to a supplier that offers the same thing for less money. The offensive posture demands a better thing, even if it costs more.

Not only are people divided in their posture related to change, they're also in different camps when it comes to going first. For some, buying something first is a thrill and an opportunity, for others, it's merely a threat.

While we often associate defense with late adoption, that's not always true. The military, for example, frequently pushes to buy things before 'the bad guys' do. For example, the internet was pioneered and supported by the defense establishment.

And while you can imagine that some people seeking to make change happen are eager geeks of whatever is new, it's very common for a proven success (a titan) to wait until an idea is proven, then overinvest in putting it to use in order to continue to steamroll the competition. Trader Joe's did this with laser scanners... They like change, as long as that change is proven to help them win even more than they already are.

Play with the graph a little bit and consider who you are contacting and what story you're telling...

XY_grid_for_offense

Too much salt

Why do most restaurants use an unhealthy amount of salt in the food they serve? I'm talking three to five times as much salt as the typical home chef might use.

For the same reason that lazy marketers spam people and unsophisticated comic book writers use exclamation points.

1. Because it works (for a while). 

Salt is a cheap and reliable way to persuade people that the food is tasty. Over time, it merely makes us ill, but in the moment, it amplifies the flavors. It's way cheaper than using herbs or technique.

And that's why marketers under pressure push the limits in terms of spamming people or offering urgent discounts. And why Batman is so easily caricatured with the word: POW! 

Cheap thrills. Shortcuts. Lazy.

2. Because they've been desensitized.

Cook with enough salt long enough, and nothing tastes salty after a while. And so the lazy shortcut becomes more than a habit, because it's not even noticed.

And so the marketer figures that everyone is used to being treated this way, so he ups the ante. And the other marketers around him are used to it too, so no one says anything.

The solution to all of these problems is to zero out. Play for the long haul. Take the more difficult route. Surround yourself with people who insist you avoid the shortcut. 

Back to the basic principles, so you can learn to cook again.

What are corporations for?

The purpose of a company is to serve its customers.

Its obligation is to not harm everyone else.

And its opportunity is to enrich the lives of its employees.

Somewhere along the way, people got the idea that maximizing investor return was the point. It shouldn't be. That's not what democracies ought to seek in chartering corporations to participate in our society.

The great corporations of a generation ago, the ones that built key elements of our culture, were run by individuals who had more on their mind than driving the value of their options up.

The problem with short-term stock price maximization is that it's not particularly difficult. If you have market power, if the cost of switching is high or consumer knowledge is low, there are all sorts of ways that a well-motivated management team can hurt its customers, its community and its employees on the way to boosting what the investors say they want.

It's not difficult for Dell to squeeze a little more junkware into a laptop, or Fedex to lower its customer service standards, or Verizon to deliver less bandwidth than they promised. But just because it works doesn't mean that they're doing their jobs, or keeping their promise, or doing work that they can be proud of. 

Profits and stock price aren't the point (with customers as a side project). It's the other way around.

The power of fear

Fear will push you to avert your eyes.

Fear will make you think you have nothing to say.

It will create a buzz that makes it impossible to meditate...

or it will create a fog that makes it so you can do nothing but meditate.

Fear seduces us into losing our temper.

and fear belittles us into accepting unfairness.

Fear doesn't like strangers, people who don't look or act like us, and most of all, the unknown.

It causes us to carelessly make typos, or obsessively look for them.

Fear pushes us to fit in, so we won't be noticed, but it also pushes us to rebel and to not be trustworthy, so we won't be on the hook to produce.

It is subtle enough to trick us into thinking it isn't pulling the strings, that it doesn't exist, that it's not the cause of, "I don't feel like it."

When in doubt, look for the fear.

Does vocabulary matter?

Here's Randall Munroe's brilliant explanation of how the Saturn V rocket works. The brilliant part is that he illustrated it using only the 1,000 most common words (which, ironically, doesn't include the word 'thousand').

If you are only able to use 1,000 words, nuance goes out the window.

The typical native speaker knows 20,000 words, and there's your opportunity:

If you know 40,000 words, if you learn five words a day for a decade, the world changes. Your ability to see, to explain and to influence flies off the charts.

It's not about knowing needlessly fancy words (but it's often hard to know if the fancy word is needless until after you learn it). Your vocabulary reflects the way you think (and vice versa). It's tempting to read and write at the eighth-grade level, but there's a lot more leverage when you are able to use the right word in the right moment.

A fork in the road for most careers is what we choose to do when we confront a vocabulary (from finance, technology, psychology, literature...) that we don't understand. We can either demand that people dumb down their discourse (and fall behind) or we can learn the words. 

It's hard to be a doctor or an engineer or key grip if you don't know what the words mean, because learning the words is the same thing as learning the concepts.

PS Here's a bonus to get you started, a book I wrote 23 years ago with the effervescent Margery Mandell:  Download Million-Dollar Words. It's the not quite final galley, the only one I could find on my hard drive. (Free to share and print, but not to sell or alter). 

Infrastructure

The ignored secret behind successful organizations (and nations) is infrastructure. Not the content of what's happening, but the things that allow that content to turn into something productive.

Here are some elements worth considering:

Transportation: Ideas and stuff have to move around. The more quickly, efficiently and safely, the better. This is not just roads, but wifi, community centers and even trade shows. Getting things, people and ideas from one place to another, safely and on time is essential to what we seek to build.

Expectation: When people wake up in the morning expecting good things to happen, believing that things are possible, open to new ideas--those beliefs become self-fulfilling. We expect that it's possible to travel somewhere safely, and we expect that speaking up about a new idea won't lead us to get fired. People in trauma can't learn or leap or produce very much.

Education: When we are surrounded by people who are skilled, smart and confident, far more gets done. When we learn something new, our productivity goes up.

Civility: Not just table manners, but an environment without bullying, without bribery, without coercion. Clean air, not just to breathe, but to speak in.

Infrastructure and culture overlap in a thousand ways.

At the organizational level, then, it's possible to invest in a workplace where things work, where the tools are at hand, where meetings don't paralyze progress, where decisions get made when they need to get made (and where they don't get undone).

It's possible to build a workplace where people expect good things, from their leaders and their peers and the market. Where we expect to be heard when we have something to say, and expect that with hard work, we can make a difference.

It's possible to invest in hiring people who are educated (not merely good grades, but good intent) and to keep those people trained and up to speed.

And it's essential for that workplace to be one where the rule of law prevails, where people are treated with dignity and respect and where short term urgency is never used as a chance to declare martial law and abandon the principles that built the organization in the first place.

Yes, I believe the same is true for nation states. It's not sexy to talk about building or maintaining an infrastructure, but just try to change the world without one.

Here's something that's unavoidably true: Investing in infrastructure always pays off. Always. Not just most of the time, but every single time. Sometimes the payoff takes longer than we'd like, sometimes there may be more efficient ways to get the same result, but every time we spend time and money on the four things, we're surprised at how much of a difference it makes.

It's also worth noting that for organizations and countries, infrastructure investments are most effective when they are centralized and consistent. Bootstrapping is a great concept, but it works best when we're in an environment that encourages it.

The biggest difference between 2015 and 1915 aren't the ideas we have or the humans around us. It's the technology, the civilization and the expectations in our infrastructure. Where you're born has more to do with your future than just about anything else, and that's because of infrastructure.

When we invest (and it's expensive) in all four of these elements, things get better. It's easy to take them for granted, which is why visiting an organization or nation that doesn't have them is such a powerful wake up call.

{Ready}

When in doubt, draw a bell curve

"All men are created equal." But after that, culture starts to change things.

Almost nothing is evenly distributed.

Some people seek out new technology in an area they are focused on... others fear new technology.

Some people can dunk a basketball, others will never be athletic enough to do so.

Some people are willing to put in the effort to be great at something, most people, by definition, are mediocre.

We're puzzled when we see uneven acceptance or uneven performance, because it's easy to imagine that any group of people is homogeneous. But they're not. 

And the distribution of behaviors and traits is usually predictable. Most people are in the middle, but there are plenty of outliers.

Here's one for technology.

And for stories.

And for medicine.

Treat different people differently. Not because they're born this way, but because they choose (or were pushed) to be this way.

Simple questions for writers

1. What is it for?

If this piece of writing works, what will change? What action will be taken? 

The more specific you are in your intent, the more frightening it is to do the writing (because you might fail). And, magically, the more specific you are in your intent, the more likely it is to succeed.

2. Who are you?

Writing comes from someone. Are you writing as scientist, reporting the facts? Are you an angry op-ed writer, seeking political action? Or are you perhaps the voice of an institution, putting up an official warning sign in an official place?

3. Who is it for?

It's almost impossible for a piece of writing to change someone. It's definitely impossible for it to change everyone. So... who is this designed to reach? What do they believe? Do they trust you? Are they inclined to take action?

4. Will it spread?

After the person you seek to reach reads this, will she share it? Shared action is amplified action.

Your resume is written. So is your Facebook update, your garage sale ad and the memo to your employees.

Writing can make a difference. Write to make a difference.

{3}

Discovery day

Bernadette Jiwa's brilliant new book is out this week. 

Doug Rushkoff's book isn't out until March, but I was lucky enough to read a galley. Worth pre-ordering.

Here's the (free) audio of a recent talk I did at Hubspot Inbound. (Video is here, but I think the audio works nicely).

If you want to understand how to design cool stuff with your Mac, this huge collection from pioneer DTPer John McWade is worth every penny. A master class.

Six years ago I did a free seminar for non-profits. Spreading ideas, Oprah, fundraising, marketing, doing this vital work... You can watch it here.

Discovering something new is thrilling and quite an opportunity. Share the good stuff.

Peak Mac

The Grateful Dead hit their peak in 1977. Miles Davis in 1959, Warhol perhaps ten years later. It's not surprising that artists hit a peak—their lives have an arc, and so does the work. It can't possibly keep amazing us forever.

Fans say that the Porsche arguably hit a peak in 1995 or so, and the Corvette before that. Sears hit a peak more than a decade ago. It's more surprising to us when a brand, an organization or a business hits a peak, because the purpose of the institution is to improve over time. They gain more resources, more experience, more market acceptance... they're not supposed to get bored, or old or lose their touch. If Disney hadn't peaked, there would never have been a Pixar. If Nokia and Motorola hadn't peaked, there never would have been a smart phone.

One reason for peaking turns out to be success.

Success means more employees, more meetings and more compromise. Success means more pressure to expand the market base and to broaden the appeal to get there. Success means that stubborn visionaries are pushed aside by profit-maximizing managers.

An organization that seeks to continue its success, that wants to keep its promises to customers, employees and investors needs to be on alert for where the peak lies, and be ready to do something about it. And the answer isn't more meetings or more layers of spec.

I got my first Mac in 1984. I was a beta tester for the first desktop publishing program (ReadySetGo) and I've used a Mac just about every day for the last thirty years. It occurred to me recently that the Mac hit its peak as a productivity tool about three years ago.

Three years or so ago, the software did what I needed it to. The operating system was stable. Things didn't crash, things fit together properly, when something broke, I could fix it.

Since then, we've seen:

Operating systems that aren't faster or more reliable at running key apps, merely more like the iPhone. The latest update broke my RSS reader (which hasn't been updated) and did nothing at all to make my experience doing actual work get better.

Geniuses at the Genius Bar who are trained to use a manual and to triage, not to actually make things work better. With all the traffic they have to face, they have little choice.

Software like Keynote, iMovie and iTunes that doesn't get consistently better, but instead, serves other corporate goals. We don't know the names of the people behind these products, because there isn't a public, connected leader behind each of them, they're anonymous bits of a corporate whole.

Compare this approach to the one taken by Nisus, the makers of my favorite word processor. An organization with a single-minded focus on making something that works, keeping a promise to users, not investors.

Mostly, a brand's products begin to peak when no one seems to care. Sure, the organization ostensibly cares, but great tools and products and work require a person to care in an apparently unreasonable way.

It's always tricky to call a peak. More likely than not, you'll be like the economist who predicted twelve of the last three recessions. 

The best strategy for a growing organization is to have insiders be the ones calling it. Insiders speaking up and speaking out on behalf of the users that are already customers, not merely the ones you're hoping to acquire.

Most Apple parables aren't worth much to others, because it's a special case. But in this case, if it can happen to their organization, it can happen to yours.

[/rant]

Narcissistic altruism (altruistic narcissism)

An oxymoron that's true.

Everyone who does good things does them because it makes them feel good, because the effort and the donation is worth more than it costs. (And it might be a donation to a charity or merely helping out a neighbor or contributing to a community project).

Some people contribute because of the story they are able to tell themselves about the work they're doing.

Many people do good things because they like the attention that it brings. Because it feels good to have others see you did good.

The Chronicle of Philanthropy annually ranks the top 50 gifts of the year. And every year, virtually all of them are gifts to hospitals and colleges.

One reason: you get your name on a building.

Many people who work to gain support for good causes don't like this, it feels like a tax on their work, but a building rarely gets worse if it has someone's name on it.

It's totally valid to offer a product or service that only appeals to the minority who aren't slightly narcissistic, who seek a different story. But it's a mistake to believe that just because you're 'right' (quotes deliberately used) that your story will match their worldview.

If you want to make it more likely that someone contributes (to anything), it might be worth investing a few cycles figuring out how to give them credit, public, karmic or somewhere in between.

"No one clicked on it, no one liked it..."

These two ideas are often uttered in the same sentence, but they're actually not related.

People don't click on things because they like them, or because they resonate with them, or because they change them.

They click on things because they think it will look good to their friends if they share them.

Or they click on things because it feels safe.

Or because they're bored.

Or mystified.

Or because other people are telling them to.

Think about the things you chat about over the water cooler. It might be last night's inane TV show, or last weekend's forgettable sporting event. But the things that really matter to you, resonate with you, touch you deeply--often those things are far too precious and real to be turned into an easy share or like or click.

Yes, you can architect content and sites and commerce to get a click. But you might also choose to merely make a difference.

Going to the edges

The best restaurant in Omaha doesn't serve steak. And it's not a chain.

The Kitchen Table is run by two people who care. Colin and Jessica aren't trying to copy what's come before and they're not trying to please everyone.

When they first opened, people wanted to know why everything wasn't $5. (You can get a large dinner for two for $30 here). Instead of dumbing down the menu and averaging down on quality, they went the other way. There might be other restaurants in Nebraska that serve homemade dukkah on their salads and homemade sourdough bread with their sandwiches, but I don't know of any. And I think homemade watermelon rind pickles are scarce even in New York.

It helps that the rent is (really) cheap on the big city rent scale. It helps that the two people behind the restaurant live upstairs and are willing to put their hearts into it.

Now, the place is jammed most days for lunch, and dinner is almost as busy. Now, it's an 'of course', not a crazy scheme. It's a restaurant for people like us.

The reason that this is possible now, though, is that the 'us' in "people like us do things like this," can now more easily communicate with each other. A few clicks on the magical phone in your pocket and you can find this place... if you're looking for it.

And that's the secret to thriving on the edges: Build something that people will look for, something that people will talk about, something we would miss if it were gone.

Not for everyone.

For us.

Sloppy ties

It's easy to visualize the efficiency of precise ties.

Every phone call goes through.

The marching band executes every turn, on cue. The entire band, each and every one of them.

The fabric in that sari is flawless.

Today, we're seeing more and more sloppy ties, more things created by apparently random waves than in predictable outcomes.

Maybe that email doesn't get through or that text isn't answered. Maybe the individuals you thought would spread your idea, don't. Maybe turnover increases in your organization or the provider you count on changes his policies...

But the number of connections is so great, it all works out. The haystack doesn't fall down, the nubby wool sweater doesn't ravel, the idea still spreads.

Precision ties are still magical. But we shouldn't avoid sloppy ties if they're going to get the job done. Substituting sloppy ties without sufficient mass, though, gets us nothing but disappointment. {9}

Alphagrams

It turns out that competitive Scrabble players always arrange the letters on their rack in alphabetical order.

The reason makes sense: By ensuring consistency, the patterns appear. You've seen this before...

That same discipline works in most kinds of problem solving. Develop a method where you organize all the inputs, the assumptions and the variables in the same order. Consistently grouping what you see will make it ever more clear that you've seen something like this before.

History doesn't repeat itself, but it rhymes.

Promotion, demotion and opportunity

You can learn a new skill, today, for free.

You can take on a new task at work, right now, without asking anyone.

You can make a connection, find a flaw, contribute an insight, now.

Or not.

In a fluid system, when people are moving forward, others are falling behind.

The question, then, isn't, "when am I going to get promoted?"

No, I think the question is, "will I grab these openings to become someone who's already doing work at a higher level?"

Act 'as if'. If the people around you don't figure out what an asset you've become, someone else will.

Sometimes, you have to believe it in order to see it

In a hyper-rational world, this sounds like voodoo. Persuading ourselves in advance is no way to see the world as it is.

But what if your goal is to see the world as it could be?

It's impossible to do important innovation in any field with your arms crossed and a scowl on your face.

Missouri might be the show-me state, but I'd rather be from the follow-me state.  {12}

Bikes and cars

Bikes should give way to cars:

  • Cars are bigger
  • Cars are faster
  • Cars are powerful
  • A car can hurt a biker
  • Cities are built for commerce, and powered vehicles are the engine of commerce
  • It's inefficient for a car to slow down
  • I'm in a car, get out of my way
  • I'm on a bike, I'm afraid

Cars should give way to bikes:

  • Bikers need a break
  • Bikers are more fragile
  • Bikes aren't nearly as powerful
  • A car can hurt a biker
  • Cities are built by people, and while commerce is a side effect, the presumption that cars are the reason for a city is a bit... presumptuous
  • It's a lot of work for a bike to stop and start again
  • I'm on a bike, get out of my way
  • I'm in a car, I see you

This dichotomy is, of course, a metaphor, a Rorschach that tells each of us a lot about how we see the world. 

On feeling like a failure

Feeling like a failure has little correlation with actually failing.

There are people who have failed more times than you and I can count, who are happily continuing in their work.

There are others who have achieved more than most of us can imagine, who go to work each day feeling inadequate, behind, and yes, like failures and frauds.

These are not cases of extraordinary outliers. In fact, external data is almost useless in figuring out whether or not someone is going to adopt the narrative of being a failure.

Failure (as seen from the outside) is an event. It's a moment when the spec isn't met, when a project isn't completed as planned.

Feelings, on the other hand, are often persistent, and they are based on stories. Stories we tell ourselves as much as stories the world tells us. 

As a result, if you want to have a feeling, you'll have it. If you want to seek a thread to ravel, you will, you'll pull at it and focus on it until, in fact, you're proven right, you are a failure.

Here's the essential first step: Stop engaging with the false theory that the best way to stop feeling like a failure is to succeed.

Thinking of one's self as a failure is not the same as failing. And thus, succeeding (on this particular task) is not the antidote. In fact, if you act on this misconception, you are setting yourself up for a lifetime of new evidence that you are, in fact, correct in your feelings, because you will ignore the wins and remind yourself daily of the losses.

Instead, begin with the idea that the best way to deal with a feeling is to realize that it's yours. 

Choose your impact

Is it that simple? Can you choose to make an impact?

Of course it is. You can choose to merely do your job, to meet spec and to follow someone else's path.

Or, you can dig in and transform your contribution. You can level up, taking advantage of the world-changing array of tools and connections our new economy is making available.

Access to tools is a small part of it. Mostly, it’s about taking control over where you go and what you do with your gifts.

The dislocations of our time are significant, the sinecures are disappearing, there is real stress and pain as the world changes. We can't control that, but we can control how we respond to it.

Those changes open the door for those that choose to stand up and learn to contribute. A chance to be put on the hook instead of let off of it.

The altMBA is a workshop designed to push you to see more clearly, speak more effectively and create change that lasts. It’s an intensive online group experience that works. You don’t have to travel, but you do have to be prepared to work hard.

When I set out to create this process, I decided to push it uphill. Not to make it easier or faster, but to make it more difficult, to have it take longer. Not to make it more digital and scalable, but to make it more handmade and require a smaller scale. Mostly, not to let people off the hook, but to create a process that would help a few people transform themselves.

This $3,000 workshop is for people who want to move up to leadership in their current organization, accelerate their indie projects and take control over their agenda. It’s designed to be the most significant lever for change we could create. This is our third session, and I can say with confidence that it's working.

You have far more potential than people realize. You have something to say, a mission to go on, a contribution that matters. I’d like to help you unlock that potential.

If you know someone who needs this sort of opportunity, I hope you'll share it with them.

There are {15} days left to apply. I’ll post {reminders} now and then over the next two weeks. I hope you’ll get a chance to check it out, but even if you don’t apply, go ahead and use this moment, right now, to make a choice.

Level up.

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