Steve Jobs is often quoted for stating, “The journey is the reward.”
Let’s unpack that a little:
- Journeys create bias. We journey with those we trust, and since they helped choose the path, we trust the journey must be good for us, too.
- Journeys create energy and excitement. Everyone longs to belong, so being present on a journey creates a sense of belonging with our travel companions. We never really want such journeys to end, do we?
- Journeys create the desire to contribute. No traveler expects his companions to do all of the work. Our mere presence motivates us to contribute, be it taking out the trash or live-tweeting the events.
Regardless of where it ends up, the journey itself is an opportunity to belong, to create, and to share achievement. It enables us to develop bonds with those we’ve come to trust, be it a journey toward a religious event, local tradition, or new smartphone release.
If you’re doing important work, journeying–rather than merely transacting–with your audience could compound the reward they receive.
Imagine you’re walking along on a street not far from your home.
A homeless person walks up to you and asks for spare change.
What do you do?
- “I don’t know who you are, but here’s a dollar.” Whether you tell him you don’t have any or you hand him a buck, you’re unlikely to overthink it, or continue to ponder it moments later. The encounter barely registers emotionally or financially.
- “You’re like me, here’s everything I have.” What if they told you they’re from your hometown, went to the same school as you, moved here and fell upon hard times? Are you going to merely give him change, or are you going to give him shelter, food, council, and support?
You and he are still the same people. All that changed was the knowledge of shared past experiences. You realize you’re just like him. Despite not sharing the same blood, shared heritage is enough to make you behave like you do.
As teams doing important work in the marketplace, we should think hard about what heritage we share with those we wish to serve. What could it do to the quality of our relationships with them?
Robert Cialdini documents in his book “Pre-suasion” how individuals with no specific genetic connection can employ the power of kinship once characterized by a shared heritage.
Here’s what having a shared heritage gives us:
- Shared heritage is the next best thing to blood. We show an increased willingness to sacrifice our own interests for the group due to these “fictive families”. That’s some bond.
- Shared heritage reinforces our decisions. It brings into focus all we’ve achieved so far, whether or not we had anything to do with it personally. We feel we understand why we are where we are, thanks to the group.
- Shared heritage is something we’re proud of. Seeing all that’s been achieved so far by the group gives us a sense of pride. There’s a sense of belonging in a community or tribe we can’t buy our way into.
Shared heritage lets us build strong bonds between strangers who associate with similar beginnings, be it by culture, race, our cause, or a preferred smartphone manufacturer.
Every year, Apple does a keynote. And every year, they tell us a story.
Apple manufactures the mystique and excitement around their products using that story. Without the story–the narrative–their keynotes are merely press releases about smartphones with better tech specs.
This is the story they tell us:
- Heritage: Here’s where we’ve been, together. We’re so proud of how far we’ve come, aren’t you?
- Desire: We’ve created the next step in the journey you’re taking. Amazing, isn’t it?
- Future: Look ahead, here’s what our shared future looks like together. It’s exciting, isn’t it?
It’s the story we buy; the heritage, the desire, and the future. And it’s the story we experience every time we use their products.
The story is the ‘i’ in iPhone.
In your field of work, what are you afraid to make?
- The important decision: An opportunity to take your current campaign far bigger than you feel comfortable with. Will you say yes?
- The promised outcome: To deliver a result or experience far beyond what you feel comfortable with. Will you commit to making it happen?
- The product or service: A disruptive new way to solve a problem that could shake your entire industry. Will you create it?
There’s always something in our field of work that we’re afraid to make, be it a decision, an outcome, or a service. Which is it for you?
People don’t normally set out to be ‘the difficult one’:
- They’re talented… Being ‘difficult’, stubborn, or indecisive is normally associated with areas of genius, experience, expertise, or passion. All good things.
- …But challenging. The ‘difficult’ side can remove one’s genius from the rest of the world, inhibiting them from doing their best work.
In one way or another, we are all ‘the difficult one’. We just need a good team around to support us enough to help us shine.
We’ve talked about drawing the map before.
What do we do with all these maps?
- Draw them where you shine: Your body of work is–or should be–the best in the world for your audience. There’s no map for that, you’re the pioneer. Following a map will only give you results equal to others.
- Follow them where you don’t: Outside of your body of work, others are seeking to be the best in the world for their audiences. Are you their audience? Following their map allows you to inherit the best path forward for people like you.
If you try to enter the market with no maps other than the ones you plan to draw, you’ll get lost. Outside your area of genius, remember: there’s an app for that.
You know the price of your service.
But do you know the service of your price?
- Lower the price to lower distraction: By innovating your way to a lower price, you can prevent your audience from considering lesser alternatives. Your price renders the service of overcoming inertia.
- Increase the price to increase focus: A larger financial investment often creates a larger energy investment. By increasing your price, you increase the focus your audience brings to your relationship.
It’s not about what others are doing, or what your hard costs are. It’s about what service you want to add to your work.
You don’t have to. But what you do about that matters:
- Your team’s skills come with responsibility: To serve your clients as fully and completely as you’re able. Your feelings on the matter don’t change that.
- Their attitude isn’t the same as their impact: If they’re good stewards of their own clients, then underserving your client underserves theirs, too.
- It’s always a decision: If they’re disrespectful to you or those they serve, you can choose to either help them see what greatness actually looks like, or walk away.
Serve them fully or not at all. Diluting your value with less effort or less respect only hurts you in the end.
Surprises you can’t see coming are the best kind.
The more unexpected, the better:
- A client gift at Christmas is lovely. But the fact its gift-giving season takes the shine off it a little.
- A client gift ‘just because’ is lovelier. It was uncalled for. They didn’t see it coming. How nice to be thought of.
- Changing your mind for the better is loveliest. After receiving great work, to then receive something over scope right after delivery is icing on the cake. This is an encore.
All that’s required for the best surprises–to plan an encore–is to manage expectations, then break your own rules.
What level do you (and those you work alongside) play at?
Solving bigger problems creates more change while offering a greater reward to those who do so.
How we arrive at those bigger problems determines our success:
- Start small and work your way up? That’s your choice. The problem, of course, is that once you’ve figured out the small stuff, you’ve solved the wrong problem.
- Start by tackling the big problems? That’s your choice. The challenge, of course, is understanding the big problems and then solving them. That’s the point.
With few exceptions, we solve bigger problems by giving ourselves permission to tackle them in the first place, instead of getting distracted by things we think will give us permission.
But only as much as you work it:
- 10 cold calls, or 1,000 cold calls. Is it the technique you use, or the consistency you bring, that makes the most difference?
- Doing an experiment, or doing yet more research. Is it the extra research you do, or the real-world experience you earn, that makes the most difference?
- The best talent, or the big mission. Is it the skills you have, or the drive to keep going that you bring, that makes the most difference?
Sometimes the difference between successful and unsuccessful teams is that one of them just got on with it.
What are you like?
- “He’s so disciplined”: So much that he expects everyone else to meet his level of performance? Protect yourself by letting them bring their gifts.
- “She’s so sensitive”: So much so that everyone’s tip-toeing around her and diluting themselves? Protect yourself by letting them bring their gifts.
- “He’s always changing his mind”: So much so that nobody around him can get anything done? Protect yourself by letting them bring their gifts.
Protecting yourself from yourself really means allowing others to bring their gifts. There’s strength in knowing when to get out of your own way.
5,600 weeks. 1,200 months. 100 years. 1 life.
- 1,680 gone: At 30, you’ve used 1,680 weeks. At 60, that’s 3,360. How much learning and experience have you gathered in almost two-thousand weeks?
- 3,920 left: At 30 if we’re lucky enough to see 100, we have 3,920 weeks left. At 60, that’s 1,960. How much impact can you make with almost two-thousand weeks?
We can change our teams and ourselves in just days. Next time you feel like saying, “I don’t have the time”, consider the math.
You have the time. What will you use it on?
Great teams–those on a mission–make their customers ‘we’ themselves:
- Share the story so far… How Rolls met Royce. How Ben met Jerry. How did your story begin? Where did you come from?
- …But don’t finish it. Stories that are finished give closure. Stories that don’t involve us; we want to know what happens next.
- Write them into the next chapter. When they’re in your story, it becomes their story. “They” become “we”. “We” are building a new car, or flavor of ice cream.
When we truly enroll our audience, there is no more ‘us and them’. There is only ‘we’.
Your team runs an advert.
Someone clicks your ad but doesn’t sign up.
Did the ad succeed or fail?
- Your timing isn’t their timing. Do you sign up to everything you like? Or do you sometimes figure later is fine?
- No stalking. An ad’s success isn’t down to statistics, but how useful it was as a genuine act of service for those you serve.
- Measure the right things. Measure it to see if it is, in fact, useful, not to see if you’re herding cattle effectively.
Advertisers get fussy about wanting people to “act now” on their “funnel”. And advertising gets a bad reputation because of it.
Advertising is either an act of service or an act of invasion.
Your team gets to choose.
Tomorrow won’t be any better than today:
- Stress now, stress forever. Or swap that stress for a disciplined, methodical process that you bring to your work.
- Improve later, never improve. Or make growth a daily requirement worth documenting before each day closes.
- There’s no time, there never will be. Unless we make it, be it for our rituals, our growth, or our team’s side-project.
For our teams, our work and ourselves, if we want a better tomorrow, we need to work on today.
How “spreadable” is your work?
If you build it like an engine, very:
- Advertising is the alternator: It gets things started. You don’t need many people to respond if each spreads your work to others they know.
- Your work is the engine: It keeps things moving. Work that’s designed to be spreadable spreads itself. If you have to peddle, you did it wrong.
How can you make your work more spreadable? The answer lies beyond “a bigger ad budget”.
“Hello, can I help you?”
Probably not. At least, not yet:
- You don’t yet trust yourself: Until you understand–and desire–your ideal outcome with clarity and specificity, you won’t trust yourself to truly be helped.
- You don’t yet trust me: Because you don’t know me. I can’t help you if you don’t trust me. You’ll question the council, the process, and the price.
Your audience is probably not ready for your help, yet.
But you can help your audience get to a place where they’re ready for help.
How do we know? What do they need?
- Skills: We can teach these. If we (and they) are prepared to do the work. It’s worth our time if they have the right…
- Attitude: We can’t teach this, no matter how hard we try. Those with the right attitude are worth training if they can tolerate…
- Pain: Don’t teach pain tolerance, that’s called torture. Some of us can simply endure hardships longer than others. For teams doing meaningful work for the long-haul, that’s a valuable trait.
You bring the mission and the training. They bring the attitude and thick-skin. That’s the deal.
It takes a lot more work to make less:
- A great new project idea: What’s the simpler version? 80% of what we think is “necessary” may actually be entirely surplus. What can we throw out?
- A genius approach to a problem: What’s the simpler version? Most solutions are over-engineered and over-complicated. How can yours be simplified?
- A new system for your work: What’s the simpler version? What if we were to take out this entire section over here, what happens then?
Complexity gives us permission to get stuck.
The simpler version is harder to make–it takes more confidence–but removes all the excuses.
What do you think about at 5am?
Is it something that moves you forward or something that holds you back?
- The wrong work: Founders worrying about client relationships instead of an Account Manager. Account Managers worrying about writers using the right tone instead of the Writers. Writers worrying about ad targeting instead of the Ad Manager.
- The right work: Founders pondering how to further realize the vision within the team. Account Managers pondering how to make their clients feel extra-special. Writers and Advertisers collaborating to go deeper for their readers.
Same people, vastly different focus. When we focus on doing the right work, value germinates, starting at 5am.
If it’s a mess, you won’t find anything:
- Focus or Forgetful: There’s no such thing as a good or bad memory, only an organized or disorganized mind. “Good memory” is merely a byproduct of an organized mind.
- Files you were sent: But aren’t yours to keep. Things that are better off with a team member, otherwise it’ll only distract you from doing your best work. Send it on, and move it to trash.
- You can’t see your desktop wallpaper anymore: The things you love to see and do become obscured by “stuff” you shouldn’t be holding on to.
What’s your desktop look like right now? If you’ve got stuff all over it, consider the state of your mind, too.
We all solve problems in the marketplace. But we may not always know how many:
- “I need X” is a problem. This is how most of us recognize the problem our teams solve.
- “I need X that can Y” is two problems. Often there’s a second problem buried within the first, such as a result it creates.
- “I need X that can Y by Z” is three problems. Deadline control is a renderable service, where new stakeholders may need managing.
There’s normally more than one problem we solve. More clarity over that enables us to better solve–and be compensated for–our team’s work.
“What Chance has made yours is not really yours” – Seneca
Does leaving things to Chance make you nervous?
Good; chance is a fickle mistress, and not to be trusted:
- Your competitor may have Chance on their side: And so they’re in the news more, or are more profitable, or have bigger offices. Good for them! But…
- She giveth and taketh away: The news may fade, the office may become a liability. The fickle nature of Chance’s gifts makes them unreliable.
- Lasting change doesn’t flirt with Chance: Systemize news. Systemize profits. Things that grow slowly in nature also live the longest.
Teams last when we don’t take venture capital from lady Chance.
Because we don’t always, do we?
Even when we know what we should be doing, and should just go do it.
- Write it down: If this daily blog taught me anything, it’s that documenting your ideas helps them grow.
- Let it haunt you: Now you’ve said it, you wouldn’t want to make yourself a hypocrite, would you?
From over-working and under-utilization to that extra slice of cake, consider taking your own advice.
When we have one project to do, we get on with it.
When we have many projects to do, we often lose time.
Where do these “lost minutes” go?
- Rapid, empty task switching: Check calendar, check email, check to-do list, check email, do a bit of work, back to the to-do list, back to the calendar…
- Shallow milestones: Shaving a little off every project may get a lot of things ‘done’, but nothing truly gets ‘done’.
Lost minutes can become lost hours, or even lost days.
We find them by confidently going deep, rather than timidly going wide.
Marketers like to talk about conversions.
Trust? Not so much:
- Trust comes first. “Converts” are also known as “believers”. Biblically, the converted are believers, aren’t they?
- We believe who we trust. Without trust, we can’t be truly believed. Instead, we’ll confuse miracles with party tricks.
- So go for trust. This is the ethical gateway to starting a relationship.
Before we concern ourselves with optimizing our work for conversions, we should ask ourselves, have we first optimized our work for trust?
Do we really decide to be stuck?
We have 3 tools to avoid being stuck. We must get to the third in 4 moves or less:
- Decision: Are we able to make a decision? If yes, we’re not stuck. If not, do Step 2.
- Question: What question, if asked and answered, will move us forward? If we have the answer, move to Step 1. If we don’t have the answer, move to Step 3.
- Conversation: Who do we need to talk to, and about what, to answer the question we’re faced with? If we know, do it and move to Step 1. If not, find out then do it, then move to Step 1.
4 moves or less. Otherwise, we’ve decided to be stuck.
These are seen as dirty words. They’re not if used well:
- “That’ll do, I can’t be bothered to do any more.” This is the path to disservice via apathy. Apathy breeds failure.
- “That’ll do, any more will just over complicate things.” This is the path to service via momentum. Momentum breeds success.
In your work, do you know the right time to say, “That’ll do”?