Most markets, industries, and cultures have ‘common sense’:
- “Common sense” is within our market. It’s common because everyone has it…in common. Lawn care does retainers. Agencies take a percentage of ad spend. Common.
- “Uncommon sense” is everywhere else. Your market rules likely seem alien to other markets, going against what they would deem to be “common sense”.
- Change exists outside of your idea of “common”. Market disruption often means taking another market’s “common sense” as your own. Markets don’t like when you break the rules. That’s why it’s called “disruptive”.
Common sense keeps us safe in the wilderness but marginalizes us in the marketplace. What happens if you consider taking leave of your (common) senses?
If your team’s work were a car…what gear is it in?
An odd question that conceals a lesson about not paying attention to your competitors:
- The right gear at the right time creates economical gains. You’re growing as a team, but not at a pace that works for where you are right now.
- Holding a gear too long loses economy and gains. By not continuously improving your team’s performance, you’ll outgrow your systems and lose ground.
- Shifting up too early risks gains or even stalling. A competitor may be there, but rushing up to their level will only slow you down, or stall you out.
If your work is important, what others are doing doesn’t matter – copying them won’t create you results like picking the right gear for you will.
What’s the biggest difference between prestige and heritage?
How much it means to you:
- What it ‘says’: This is a prestige parameter. Buyers choose to express it (such as with a display of wealth) or not (such as a commodity purchase). There are many options in this category.
- What it ‘means’: This is a heritage parameter. An item either means something special, or it doesn’t. Be it a family heirloom or a monogrammed gift, it’s not prestige that gives it value, but heritage (where it came from, why it was made, what it represents).
The un-fired clay pot on my desk which I formed alongside my family is unique–one of a kind. It ‘means’ quality time spent with my family.
There’s no prestige there. Only heritage. And that makes it priceless.
When you don’t know how to do something, remember, you do:
- 20 years makes a big difference: There’s more information available to you in your pocket than The White House could access 20 years ago. It’s hard to not know things these days.
- 300 hours a minute: That’s how much video content is being uploaded to YouTube. If we want to learn how to do something, there’s likely to be a few videos covering it somewhere.
- Trial and error: Unless we’re doing open heart surgery, there’s likely to be a forum for practicing our work safely, privately, and inexpensively.
From now on, we only don’t know when we choose not to know.
Don’t wish for it to arrive, just yet:
- Longing for the goal misses the trip: If you don’t like the journey, why take the trip? It’s the journey there that you’re giving your life to.
- The prize at the end of life is death: It’s not arriving at death that makes life worth living, but how we lived along the way.
For teams doing important work, it can be easy to fixate on the difference we want to make. Don’t forget to enjoy the ride.
Most teams competing in the marketplace have a lot of worries, be they spoken or unspoken.
Many have simpler answers than we’d care to admit:
- If you’re premium, don’t worry about those who can’t afford it.
- If you’re niche, don’t worry about the outsiders that don’t understand it.
- If you’re viral, don’t worry about those who haven’t yet heard about it.
This all goes both ways. We can trace our worries back to what we ought to become in order to quell those worries.
It’s not what we say, but the energy and conviction with which we say it, that makes the difference:
- The nervous sales representative doesn’t make the sale. If he doesn’t truly believe what he’s saying, why should we?
- The broken web page citing product reliability gets no opt-ins. If the owners don’t live out their priorities, why should we think they’ll be any different with us?
- The teammate that promises camaraderie but ‘disappears’ when everyone needs to pull together, isn’t someone worth keeping around.
A brand (just like a person) is only as strong as the promises it keeps, not the promises it makes.
“I should prefer to lack success than to lack faith” – Seneca
While doing work that matters in the marketplace, what is success without faith? What is faith without success?
- Without faith that our work creates a better future, we’re punching the clock. Given that time is finite, and given that there are causes out there worthy of our time, why pursue this work without faith?
- Without success as a result of our faith, be it in learning, awareness, or disruption, we simply dreamed. ‘Meditation’ without subsequent ‘action’ is merely ‘sitting quietly’.
What we believe about our work is as important as the work itself. Otherwise, the work doesn’t get done.
We don’t like to think about it when things are going great.
But one day, it’ll be dead. Either due to a market correction, being too slow to market, becoming obsolete, bad changes in leadership, or something else. All things come to an end, eventually.
- How can our work live a long life? If it’s worthy of a long life, it’s worth remembering what that reason is every day we’re fortunate enough to do this work. Otherwise, we risk drifting and squandering this opportunity.
- How can we make the time it has as valuable as possible? It’s short–finite–make the most of it. Make decisions in light of the fact it’s short, from what products to build and markets to serve, to what clients you’ll accept.
- What will it leave behind? What happens when it’s all over? What impression will your work leave behind? It’s worth asking ourselves the question in every project, “Is this moving us closer to making that happen?”
How many times a month do you rush at work?
The greatest works of nature weren’t rushed. Yet we believe we should:
- The best-growing businesses to work with don’t force deals and sales, nor do they force growth beyond that which is healthy for long-term success. They simply focus on being the best option to work with. They toil without force.
- The best teams to belong to don’t go on hiring sprees and rush to fill slots. They simply let their culture grow naturally, each addition thoughtfully considered, resulting in a team worth belonging to. They toil together, without force.
- The tallest tree in the rainforest got that way not by forcing it, but by maximizing on its opportunity to reach the most light. It just grew, without force.
Most things in life and business don’t benefit from adding force or strain in the long run. We should take a leaf out of nature’s book and toil without force.
You, and those you serve. It goes something like this:
- The bit that went great: We don’t talk about it much. At least, not without us bringing it up. That’s okay. We both know what the other means.
- The bit that didn’t: We talk about that a lot. You come worried, but then we remind you that we’re in this together. We’ll work it out, just as we always have before.
The more we’re “in this together” with those we serve, the more there’s no path that’ll lead you (or them) wrong.
We see a lot of teams and individuals in the marketplace that are inconsistent with themselves:
- Perception: A poser with a fancy car and a $30 website template sends a conflicted message. How clear is yours?
- Value: Do you advertise your value but close on price? What does that communicate to your prospects?
- Care: Are you more (or less) attentive to your clients as you are with prospects? What does that say about how much you care?
If your team were to be completely consistent with yourselves end-to-end, from attitude to attire, who is your company?
“If you stop supporting that crowd, it will support itself.” – Seneca the Younger
‘Sort-of-delegating’ is the worst kind of delegating. It’s when we show others how to do something, then don’t give them the space to try, fail, then succeed.
- Making room to fail: When we only “sort-of-delegate”, we deny team talent from owning their work–a full delegation. Why even bother, then?
- What you’re missing: Could our team’s cause, chosen charity, or community be underserved due to our “sort-of-delegating”? How much more of a difference could we make if we made room for others to succeed?
Sharing the load isn’t just for the efficiency of what we see today, but for what’s possible tomorrow.
What gets written down and shared, grows:
- Documentation: A well-crafted soft-system creates happy customers in ways talent never could when talent remains the secret gift of only a few.
- Blog posts: A well-crafted blog post outperforms a front-page advert when the post is so good you can’t not share it with others.What gets written down and shared, grows:
- Briefs: A well-written brief sets great teams into motion in ways an articulate-yet-unclear leader never could.
If the talent writes the documentation, the post makes the front-page, and the leader receives the brief, “the world” is theirs.
It all starts by remembering to write what works.
If you’re a team who reaps the rewards of strategic partnerships in the marketplace, you may notice that everyone falls into one of two categories.
Advocates: In the ‘spirit of shared success’ they will seek out ways to grow with you on the assumption that growth begets growth.
NothingPersonals: In the ‘spirit of the game’ they will feign advocation until it no longer suits them. “It’s nothing personal.”
All partnerships are one of these. Both have their place. Invest lavishly into the former. Keep your eye on the latter.
Do you know who each of your partnerships is
You’ve probably heard of growth mindsets and fixed mindsets.
It seems to me that growth mindsets need fixed goals–to become who we need to be in that reality, and fixed mindsets need growth goals–to become the same person, but a little better:
- If your goal is set–big and fixed–you’ll live life with that goal as your new reality. You’ll become the person you need to be in order to reach it.
- If your goal isn’t set, but a moving target (growing), you’ll remain behind the curve of your own ambition. You’re never the person you need to be to reach that carrot.
Epicurus says it well, “If you live according to nature, you will never be poor; if you live according to opinion, you will never be rich.”
Take away the ever-changing opinion and replace it with your (or your team’s) big goal – how does that change your behavior?
Many important things that distract us from our meaningful work aren’t all that important.
For example, I love my inbox, but only when it’s in a box:
- Put inbox in box: If you spend a while in email every day–an hour or more–what boundaries and rituals could reduce the non-essential time? Could you automate, delegate, batch, or systemize away the things that prevent you from your important work?
- Make to-do today: It’s not just the inbox this applies to. Many areas of our days benefit from being put into boxes (they just don’t sound as good as a post title!) We simply need to make it happen. Today.
The more we tame our distractions (and put them in controllable boxes) the more time we get to do the deeper work that leverages our genius.
Life just keeps on happening, regardless of whether we perceive it as noise or focus.
We have choices.
- Your noisy world is the same noisy world that everyone else deals with. They just don’t advertise it to you on social media. They may be selectively reveal themselves just as you do, or they may be using ‘hoot selection’.
- Perpetuating the lie: if we pretend we don’t live in that world, something terrible happens: others may believe you. They may think they’re doing life wrong, and you may never find the help you need to grow.
- Selectively giving a hoot: if you can’t–or aren’t–going to change something, consider removing it from view. Otherwise you’ll miss the things you could–and will.
Without ‘hoot selection’, we must live with the noise at full-volume. If you (and your team) is pursuing meaningful work, turn down the noise and focus on your signal.
There are parts of your work that others don’t understand. Sometimes, those ‘others’ are your buyers, and that’s an issue.
When “they don’t get it”, you have three options:
- Nix it: Sometimes they don’t get it because it doesn’t matter. Take the opportunity to let go of something you’ve been holding onto for too long.
- Teach it: Sometimes it does matter, you’re just not communicating well enough. Pour out valuable and insightful education onto those you serve.
- Build it: Sometimes they “get it” but they can’t “do it”. Consider this your next product or service: an ode to those who needed more help and support than your current body of work provides.
Knowledge-gaps are full of potential. We get to choose if frustration or fascination is our response.
It’s the same with business and bicycles: if you increase the resistance, you increase the value…
- Low-Resistance work is commoditized. Having an article published 30 years ago meant you were ‘somebody’. Now a new blog can be set up with its first post published within a half hour. The resistance decreased, and so did the value. We don’t get much of a workout while tootling along in first gear.
- High-Resistance work is valuable. Podcasts are still hard to set up. Cameras are still scary to talk to. With increased resistance comes increased perceived value. The resistance, much like a high-gear hill-climb, prevents most people from having the legs of a God.
Try increasing the resistance and see how the toil pays off.
“Don’t behave as if you are destined to live forever.” – Marcus Aurelius
If it matters enough, ’later’ is an excuse we can’t afford. Better to invest our time in FLOW:
- F: Fail. At any activity or skill. The sooner we fail, the sooner we…
- L: Learn. We don’t truly learn without first failing. When we learn, we can…
- O: Optimize. Our learning dictates how to improve. Do it enough times and…
- W: Win. As an eventuality from failing, learning and optimizing enough.
The time we have is enough to succeed in our pursuits if we don’t delay.
What’s your job title? Is that all you do?
- Everyone’s a customer service rep. “Why isn’t it working?” If there’s a code glitch, dignifying the customer with a proper reason and a plan to resolve it is customer service.
- Everyone’s a spokesperson. “So what does your team do?” We’re all on social media, we all line up for coffee, we all interact with others. We represent our team everywhere we go.
- Everyone’s a benefactor. “What on Earth are we going to do?” When things hit the fan, we’re all able to pull together to fix what’s broken, if it’s important enough to us. Will we?
Customer service, sales, spokesperson, benefactor, administrator, volunteer, coach, janitor. When we’re fully engaged in our team, we have more job titles than we thought.
How did that last digital training course work out for you?
- “I tried all the advertising channels and none work.” It’s not the channel, but your ability to communicate that determines its success.
- “I tried all the investment vehicles and none work.” Some are better than others, but putting up only $1,000 at 6% or 12% is still only $60-120.
- “I tried all the NLP tricks and none work.” It’s not your techniques, but how much you empathize that determines your rapport.
There are plenty of courses teaching you “the tactic that works”. But the tactic doesn’t matter. If you get the heart of the matter right, you can choose almost any tactic you like and get your results.
Year 2000, flying cars. Year 2020, all-green energy.
These goals are delusional. And there’s a formula as to why:
- Dream = Dream. That’s all it is.
- Dream + Deadline = Delusion. This is our “new millennium flying cars” thing. The deadline didn’t make it so, the work never happened, as much as I wanted to have been during the 90s.
- Dream + Milestones = Goal. What has to happen next year? What about next month? What about next week? What about tomorrow? The milestones make or break the dream, making the goal measurable.
The adage, “A goal is a dream with a deadline”, is mistaken. Instead, toil through an arduous series of milestones and see if that dream really can come true.
“Amor Fati” is Latin for loving one’s fate, to make the best out of what comes our way. For teams doing meaningful work, this premise compliments our toil:
– Loving the vision is one thing. An inspiring end-goal or virtuous mission is easy to get excited over. But how do we stay the course?
– Loving the pursuit is another. If it’s to ever happen, there’s likely to be an unsexy daily grind to master. Beyond mastering it…
– We must learn to love both. And in order to do that, we need to learn to love the toil regardless of what comes out way: Armor Fati.
The more we learn to love relentlessly toiling toward a collective vision, regardless of the outcome, the more unstoppable we all become.
Complication is the enemy of execution. See if this sounds familiar:
- Read 50 articles on the subject: The Internet is full of tricks, best practices, strategies, and blueprints. So you read all of them, perhaps taking notes along the way.
- Whiteboard out the intricate complexity: Next, you muster the mental energy to map out a method of applying every piece of information you’ve gathered into one “master plan”.
- Do nothing with it: Because it’s really complicated. Where to begin? Which parts compete with other parts? Who’s going to do which piece? Better read an article about that, too.
The simpler path suggests you either take off in the right direction and draw the map as you go, or take an existing map with you.
The important thing is to start walking.
Would you do business with you, based on how you treat yourself?
- Your attention: Does your team give itself as much attention on internal projects as it does to customer-facing work, or do you instead resemble a slow, unpredictable service provider?
- Your process: While working on your own projects, do you use the process and discipline you’d show your customers, or do you freestyle it with vastly different responsibilities and standards?
- Your referral: If judged only by your experience of your last internal project, would you refer yourself to others?
For many, the internal experience is vastly different to that which others experience. What if the mechanic didn’t drive a bad car? What if the cobbler’s son did have shoes?
Tweakaholic. Noun. One who is obsessed with tweaking things past the point of return.
- You have this. It’s why you do the things you do each day that make no difference; because it’s comfortable work rather than useful work.
- Your clients have this. It’s why they want to take control of things they may not fully understand, and get frustrated when it doesn’t go their way.
- Your team has this. It might be why that one project everyone thought was really important still isn’t done.
The cure: while doing work that matters, ask yourself, are you really?
You have twelve great options. Which do you choose first?
Whether it’s choosing a content strategy, code framework, A/B test, or market segment, we have choices on how to choose:
- “I’m not sure, let’s discuss it some more.” Most teams choose this one, even for tiny concerns. It’s laziness disguised as collaboration.
- “I’ll just pick…that one.” This is the second most popular choice. Decisions are made without record or method, until we get lucky.
- “I’ll sort them and start at the top.” Sorting by any means (expert input, risk, investment) enables us to learn quickly what makes a winner and what doesn’t. Every selection teaches us and guides the next.
Laziness, luck, or learning… Which is it to be?
It may be unfair, but it is predictable:
- Memento mori: Latin for “You too are mortal; you too shall die.” What you’re experiencing now won’t last forever, for better or for worse, so we should be sure to…
- Prepare for the ups and downs: Because they’re both coming. The marketplace rewards those who are ready. That lets us be on…
- The right side of unfair: i.e. “The winning side.” We don’t get there by wanting or toiling… unless those wants become action, and our toil remembers Memento mori.
Nature gave us an unfair marketplace that–in its irony–gives us all an equal opportunity to produce meaningful work that makes an impact.