This morning while exiting a plane, the speaker announced support for “our selected charity”. So close:
- Businesses are the change: It’s up to businesses to take ownership of problems, directly or directly. So far so good.
- Impersonal breeds inattention: The title’s phrasing suggests a disconnection – commoditizing the charity to just “a charity”.
- Business must get personal: If buyers are to care, the sellers need to care enough to integrate more intimately with the causes they exist to solve.
Having a selected charity is a good start. Now we need to go deeper.
It may be unpopular advice, but there comes a point where we should stop trying new things.
“Do the external things that fall upon you distract you?” – Marcus Aurelius
- Master your craft, and apply it to your cause. Don’t be like the wind, ever-changing, unable to truly contribute to any one vision.
- Passion for life beats passion for passion. Honoring your disciplined pursuit leaves you with less regret at the end than fleeting fancies will.
- You don’t have the time a child has to play and change course many times. But you have the time needed to make an impact with your skills.
Will you use it?
One post per day, one year later:
- Every day, you’re not sure: 8 pm is blog-o’clock. You’re never sure if the right idea will come to you.
- Every day, you notice: The ideas were there all along, you just hadn’t yet made the habit to notice them.
- Discipline breeds growth: And growth makes us better versions of ourselves. One year in, I never want it to end.
Alas, all things must come to an end eventually. But today’s not that day.
Following yesterday’s notes on over-achievers overdoing things, here are 3 things to stop over-doing:
- Practice: If practice makes perfect, and perfect doesn’t exist, why overdo practice? Maybe it’s time to stop practicing (or researching) and take action.
- Risk-assessment: Over-doing this makes a case for the safer, neutral, conservative option. What if it’s time to make a difference?
- Worry: This is mental-training for worst-case scenarios. Might it be better to replace it with experience, where that training is all for naught?
Over-achievers like to go fast. Try slowing down around the 3 corners above and see how it affects your lap time.
Over-achievers like to overdo things, for better or worse. Here are 3 things worth over-doing:
- Communication: If you think you’re communicating enough, you’re probably under-communicating. When you feel you’re being redundant, that’s often about right.
- Service: If you think you’re serving enough, you’re probably nothing special. When you feel you’re being overly-generous, that’s often when you’re recognized for your contribution.
- Honor: If you’re showing honor as much as is deserved, you’re probably not showing enough. Respect is about the recipient, honor is about the giver. Give more.
It’s often the over-achievers who forget to overdo these things. Take note and let your nature do the rest.
You think your work is the best. Best at what?
- Best at making you proud of having done it: This is an important factor. But remember not to confuse it with ‘best’ for the buyer.
- Best at making a certain outcome happen: This an important factor, too. But who decides the desired outcome, you or the buyer?
- Best for the buyer: This is an important factor. But remember to pursue it only if you’re able to combine it with #1.
While pursuing what you’re best at, remember to define ‘best’.
We think about logos, letterheads, and websites. What about ‘mood’?
- How we feel when we experience a brand is normally left to chance. We don’t tend to give it a moments thought.
- How we expect to feel when we experience a brand is something we can control. If there’s expectation, there’s likely intention.
- How we want to feel when we seek out a brand is, if conscious and predictable, something we’ve been taught to find there.
Gritty. Melancholic. Inspiring. Fun. Whatever you’re going for, if an audience turns to you when they want to feel it, you’ve achieved brand mood mastery.
Being an entrepreneur has been glamorized.
Why hasn’t belonging to a great team?
- Thriving: Some cultures install ceilings disguised as job titles. Others recruit people to let them thrive, together.
- Compensating: Some cultures dictate potential upside. Others encourage people to find new ways to be compensated, together.
- Opportunity: Some cultures ask you to sit and do as you’re told. Others ask that you stand up and rewrite the rules, together.
Entrepreneurs are known for getting things started and moving. Why aren’t great teams known for that, too? We need a new kind of culture that celebrates great teams, not the individuals that started them.
A day may come where this will be true. These words will still be here. What will you regret?
- Not trying: Too scary? Too big? Too challenging? Too risky? But is it, really? Is not trying worth the regret?
- Not being: Kinder? Nicer? More committed? More invested? Present? Is not being worth the regret?
- Not avoiding: Distractions? Bad habits? Bad decisions? Is avoiding it worth the regret?
There’s meaningful, important work to be done. You can choose to act now, or you can choose to regret not doing so, later. It’s your choice.
You should know the answer before your next strenuous team project.
- Maple: Pretty but brittle. They grow quickly, but that pace leads them to be fragile and easily breakable when asked to bend a little.
- Willow: Pretty but shapeless. Fine when things are calm but their weak, bendy branches have no form of their own–the winds determine the shape.
- Bamboo: Flexible but also strong. Always returns to its original form, yet higher tensile strength than cold-pressed steel. Happy to bend, but doesn’t break.
Many of us fall into the Maple or Willow categories. It takes real self-awareness to know how to be the Bamboo. Which are you?
Technology changed again. Are our teams changing with it?
- The giants are focused on mobile: Apple, Microsoft, and Google are focused primarily on two things: iPhone (with iPad by extension) and Android. Not Windows, or even macOS.
- The next generation is focused on mobile: What do Instagram, Snapchat, and WhatsApp all have in common? They only really work on mobile.
The world sees the world through pocket-sized glass rectangles. Is your team operating in light of that reality?
We often think of kids as anti-social screen-zombies who don’t know how to make eye contact with other humans anymore.
- Kids are more social than we are. They just don’t do it the way we did. At their age, our social circles were small and determined by whether or not we were allowed to have a friend over for dinner.
- We’re following their lead. They were on Facebook first. Instagram, too. And Snapchat. They broadcast and network with hundreds of people and brands, daily. At their age, we had 5-10 friends we’d speak to, weekly.
As teams, we should recognize this pattern. What’s next for our team and our marketing? Ask your kids.
We like email. We like Google. We like saturated platforms. Unsaturated platforms? Not so much:
- Underpriced and under-appreciated: We complain when Instagram changes its design or its advertising rules, despite being a platform we never had to pay for. Or about how much influencers “sell out”, despite having no idea how to price themselves. Opportunities snubbed.
- Overpriced and well-loved: Running Google Ads after the big money moved in. Sending email blasts at full inboxes. We like these things because they feel safe and proven. It’s harder to compete, and that makes us comfortable.
Things change when they’re figuring themselves out. That spells ‘opportunity’. We should like that, right?
The ability to focus for long periods of time is a rightfully-celebrated skill. But we should remember to celebrate time spent outside of focus too, where we can zoom out and see the bigger picture:
- Electric cars don’t save you money: But they’re trying to save the planet. Only when we see the bigger picture can we make sense of these expensive machines.
- This advert must get their attention: But not at the expense of who you are. Bring people in under false pretenses means you’ve got one long act to keep up. Only when we see the bigger picture can we remember to be authentic and vulnerable.
- We can’t choose our customers: But maybe we can. Only when we see the bigger picture can we clearly see how we will attract more of what we’ve come to accept within our teams.
While pausing for thought can feel like wasted time and opportunity, it may actually be the very thing that prevents us from wasting time and opportunity.
How many times have you said that to yourself, in your head?
If you’re like most, probably at least once a day:
- Outside of my reach: Or maybe steps simply need linking together to make that reach possible. A bit of dedicated thought should clear that up.
- Beyond our abilities: Or maybe it’s entirely doable, and we need to simply divide up the training among us to make it possible.
- A problem too big to fix: Or maybe we break it into many smaller sub-problems, and fix those. Perhaps it’s not too big after all.
“Can’t” is merely what we see when we don’t break it down into smaller “Can”s.
The human effect on our work is profound, particularly for those who consider themselves logical and pragmatic:
- Hours worked vs bonds forged: Hours are trackable, billable, valuable. But bonds are untrackable, invaluable, emotional.
- Problems solved vs problems shared: When we solve problems, we’re compensated in proportion to the problem solved. When we share problems, we’re bound relationally in proportion to the problem shared.
- What happened vs what we’re capable of: Ending an engagement because of something bad that happened can make good business sense. So can seeing how forgiveness can motivate a whole new level of contribution.
In all three instances, the latter is worth greatly more than the former. Such is the effect that humanity has on our work.
So do you. Though the words we choose are important:
- “I should do this”: Thinking about doing something never gets anything done. Otherwise, we could all meditate our way to project completion.
- “I must do this”: Raising your necessity gets you moving, but can feel like a grind after a while. Here, we toil without fulfillment.
- “I get to do this”: Adding gratitude to our musts allows us to toil with fulfillment. Same work, more fulfillment, better results.
What must you do that you get to do?
It’s cool to hate on Facebook at the moment.
They have work to do. Quite a lot, in fact.
But they’ve also built us one of the most accessible advertising platforms in the world. If and when used correctly, it can help good businesses help good people solve important problems.
Don’t judge it exclusively upon the spammers who use it, or the leaders that currently lead it (although the latter is a big issue at the moment). Let’s also remember to be thankful for the good work that has been achieved–and facilitated–along the way.
We should be supporting Facebook–and those like it–into becoming a better kind of company with a better kind of leadership, so that we can all benefit from the progress. Repaying unreasonable behavior in kind only moves us backwards.
“It’s not how we do things” can be an empowering or limiting statement, depending on its context:
- Because it’s not what our industry does. So do it. Un-learning industry rules and playing a different game frees us from commoditization and marginal service.
- Because it’s not our culture. So don’t do it. Standing up for your team’s culture is a rarity that attracts others with similar values, be they comrades or clients.
Sometimes rules are for breaking. Sometimes they’re worth defending when everyone else has forgotten them.
We quite like getting ready for things. But it’s a bad habit:
- Getting ready: An opportunity knocks, but you can’t yet answer. You’re under-resourced, ill-equipped, out of practice. Opportunity passes.
- Staying ready: An opportunity knocks, and you answer. The fire truck has gas in it. The script is memorized. You’re ready, already.
Getting ready is what we have to do when we don’t stay ready. Are you?
Yesterday we talked about quitting. Today we’re going the opposite route:
- But they didn’t respond: They were probably busy and missed it. The sale isn’t dead because they didn’t pick up.
- But the pitch was a flop: Your communication skills and your vision are two vastly different things.
- But I’m not fast enough: Is it a capability/quality problem or a training/quantity problem? It’s normally the latter.
There’s usually more we can do.
Not very often, but sometimes.
- The right time is when you know you’ve done all you can, but it won’t work. There may be another way to succeed, and now’s the time to go find it.
- The wrong time is when you haven’t done all you can, yet. Most things are much harder and slower than we expect, so the toil should be expected, not resented.
- The other wrong time is weeks, months, or years after the right time was. Now you’re missing opportunities of what could be, which is the biggest shame of all.
No shame in quitting at the right time. Indeed, it may just be the path to success.
Ever asked yourself this question? What do you think the answer is?
- Because you filled the gap with something else: Be it daily tasks, busy-work, or recreation, there was no room for critical thinking, the place breakthroughs are born. This is the better problem of the two.
- You did, you just didn’t act on it…then forgot: This is worse than the first. When faced with a breakthrough, your daily grind killed it. This makes you a negative environment for breakthroughs.
We all have equal access to great ideas. What will you do about that?
Grit is more than hustle, it’s perspective in practice:
- The market will crash again: Perhaps even at a really bad time. We sometimes forget this happens cyclically, making silly decisions in lieu of consequences. When it does happen, grit happens. Or we’re out of the market.
- Your campaign will flop: Perhaps even a really important one. We sometimes forget this is always a possibility, thus we forget to prepare for either outcome. When it flops, grit happens. Or we’re out of business.
- You’ll be let down again: Perhaps even by someone really important to us. We sometimes forget this is part of the human condition, thus we forget to be the bigger person when it happens. When it happens, grit happens. Or we’re down another relationship.
When grit happens, we get to prepare and grow, rather than hitching our happiness to someone else’s pony.
Teams: build a life business, not a lifestyle business.
- A lifestyle business means you have to spend your life maintaining the lifestyle. This means forgoing family for feature requests, or health for higher income.
- A life business means you have to spend your lifestyle to maintain your life. This means chasing contribution not cash, fulfillment not fancy offices.
The life business tends to gift you with the best of both worlds when your whole team is in it for Life, not for Lifestyle.
Small teams seem to look up at larger ones and think, “They must be smarter, better, and faster than we are.” Smarter systems. Better talent. Faster production.
It’s our choice:
- Smarter: They may have more practice, but that’s not to say they’re smarter. You’ve equal opportunity to out-smart the competition or disrupt your space.
- Better: They may have been at it longer, but that’s not to say they’re better. You’ve got the same potential to create the same results or to out-perform theirs if you choose.
- Faster: They may have created efficiencies, but that’s not to say they’re faster. They likely carry bloat you do not, allowing you to out-maneuver them if you decide to.
There’s more to the market than muscle: How will you out-smart, out-perform, or out-maneuver those who led your industry into status quo?
…are that there are no longer any rules.
- Deliberate focus on intrapreneurship? So be it. Nurture a team of irreplaceable individuals that stand shoulder-to-shoulder for the long haul.
- Deliberate focus on automation? So be it. Systemize operations so that it needs no single individual, and let it run all by itself.
- Deliberate focus on manualization? So be it. Make every touch-point with your business human, one-of-a-kind, intimate, unique.
The worst thing we can do is accept that there are ‘rules’ of business.
Some things in a company can’t be measured on a balance sheet:
- Extras for those you serve: An email is more efficient than a letter in the mail. But the mail lets you wrap and send gifts. It’s more work, but the value exceeds the effort.
- Extras for those you serve with: Following the script is more efficient than going the extra mile to make comrades feel special. It’s more work, but the value exceeds the effort.
- Extras for those who didn’t ask: Contributing to a cause that needs help but can’t return the favor has no economic value. It’s more work, but the value exceeds the effort.
Good companies are just groups of people who serve other people, not balance sheets alone.
How do we move the success of meaningful work from possible to inevitable?
- Matches: Something–or someone–needs to start the fire. To create fire where there is no fire. Even when others say you’re crazy. Leaders do this.
- Kindling: We don’t get things right the first time, but with enough kindling, we can keep the fire alive when it gets weak; with enthusiasm, vision and commitment. Leaders do this.
- Logs: When we find traction, we need to keep it crackling so the kindling and matches can explore new ground, methodically and systematically. Leaders do this.
So, how do we move the success of meaningful work from possible to inevitable? Leaders do this.