Christmas is when we give others gifts. New Years is when we give ourselves a gift.
- Permission to fail is a good gift. It’ll allow us to have a noteworthy year where our work can thrive.
- The commitment to a discipline is a good gift. No New Years resolution will work without discipline.
- The key to our own happiness is a great gift. The gifts above don’t work so well at all without this one.
Symbolically wrap it up, or simply give it in the quiet of your mind. But don’t forget to get yourself something today.
Happy New Year.
“New Year” means new possibilities. We feel ready to make the most of every day.
- What about February? Still in dreaming-mode, maybe we’ll really get started next week?
- What about July? Where we’re in the second half of the year, maybe the first half was for planning?
- What about November? Where the year’s almost over. Maybe next year will be the year we make it happen?
Remember the energy you have for the new year now, so you can operate from it year-long, and avoid the above scenario from being your reality. You and your team deserve better.
You got this.
“Going backwards” is a metaphor for doing things wrong. Why is that?
- It costs us more on our projects when we have to waste money and energy discarding where we’ve been, only to cover the same–or similar–ground again.
- It takes longer to create shippable work when we’re busy reworking what we’ve already made.
- We’re no good at it, are we? We don’t tend to plan for–or practice–reversing as much as we do going forward.
Reversing means going back and doing it again. Rerouting means changing course for the better with the path of learning still intact.
The path to progress is as important as the progress itself.
Our work is too important to throw that away with Reverse gear.
People find success in various different ways. For teams doing meaningful work, it seems the secret of big success… is small success, repeated.
- Big things don’t get done. Little things get done.
- When little things fail, we find another way and win that way instead. Then we move onto the next little thing and repeat the exercise.
- That’s how big things are made. The trick is to never stop doing little things. To just keep doing them. When we feel like it, and when we don’t.
This little space between Christmas and 2019 is an opportunity to create a new habit of little trials before the new year begins.
No breaks, no excuses, just something that’ll lead to something wonderful.
Between Christmas and New Year lies a few strange days where nobody really knows what day it is. We feel ready for change in the new year. But are we really?
- The character we play in life can change whenever we choose, yet we’re hooked on playing the role rather than breaking the mold.
- Changing characters is weird to start with, whether it’s modifying a behavior we’re known for, or Jim Halpert starring in a Tom Clancy movie.
- Our work benefits when we remember the new character might better serve our work, our team, and our collective goals.
It’s only weird to see Jim–err, John, in a serious role for a couple of episodes. Then the new identity suits the role much better than Jim ever could.
How could 2019 benefit from a modification of the character you play?
It’s the day after Christmas. Feeling guilty yet?
- Feeling guilty before an event is a sign we might be missing out on something great. This is “good guilt” and can motivate us to say “yes” to great new opportunities.
- Feeling guilty after an event is a sign we might have made a mistake. This “bad guilt” means we either made a bad decision or that the person (or company) we trusted took us for granted.
Companies should leverage “good guilt” and avoid “bad guilt” at all costs. Most get this the wrong way around. Does yours?
Today is all about gifts. What makes a good gift? Care:
- A signed golfball that costs only a few dollars is worth far more than an expensive gift… to a golf enthusiast.
- A gift card is only a nice gift for the brand fanatic. For everyone else, it just says, “I don’t know you at all.”
- The time of someone who has no time is worth more than their dollars to those who really wish to see them.
Gifts shouldn’t answer the question, “how much did you spend on me?” but rather, “how much do you care about me and my goals?”
They say we overestimate what we can do in a year, and underestimate what we can do in a decade.
This is the tension on the horizon.
- Distance: We‘re no good at predicting the future. We can’t clearly imagine what life in another country would be like (but another state is easy enough). Or what it’d be like if our teams grew tenfold (but 2X isn’t so hard).
- Balance: Tension lives in the balance of looking far enough ahead to build our desired future, but not for so long as to leave tomorrow unattended. Planning for what we see clearly, for what we can’t, and hoping we’ve lined them up properly.
It’s Christmas 2018. What will you achieve by Christmas 2019? How about 2029?
Relish the tension. Merry Christmas.
…is that we are then held to a higher standard, including in our spending and investing:
- Quality claims are a lie if we don’t invest enough in our work. The dissonance between what we claim and what we do will only confuse our audience. E.g. having a cheap website with bad copy, when you sell “high quality” products or services.
- Mission claims are a lie if we invest too much in the wrong areas, or too little in the right ones. E.g. claiming to support a cause while only donating 1% of profits from some expensive office.
Doing great work is a privilege but also a responsibility. The two must go together.
Our relationship with discomfort says a lot about our growth potential:
- Following discomfort: Identifying the thing your team or company would really benefit from that you feel scared or embarrassed to do. Then doing it anyway because the discomfort is an indicator of growth.
- Resisting discomfort: Identifying that very same thing. Then making excuses to delay or postpone that activity indefinitely. Or worse, creating ‘strategies’ to avoid doing that thing altogether.
When it comes to our relationship with discomfort, how we do anything is how we do everything. Including that scary task at work, or getting up in the morning with your alarm when it’s cold.
Entrepreneurs, team members, clients, partners. You might be insecure:
- Insecure means needing to prove yourself to others, rather than to just yourself. Does it matter what the world thinks, or could you just do you?
- Insecure means needing to be better than others, rather than being the one with most to learn. Which helps you grow more vs feeding the problem?
- Insecure means critiquing those who are insecure, rather than helping them find their identity in things they can control.
We do our best work when we love our causes and those we pursue them with, not when we feed our egos or our need for security.
…is that nobody dies.
- We often agonize over arbitrary dates rather than using them as attainable goals designed to make progress.
- Yet we don’t stress over our goals, despite being things we equally want to manifest in the world.
- Perhaps we’ve looked at deadlines wrong. Perhaps they’re merely what separate goals from dreams.
Remember why we set deadlines. We can befriend them if we choose.
Vegas may be Sin City, but it still has some lessons for teams doing meaningful work:
- Over the top experience: It doesn’t do things half-way. Neither should we.
- Anything feels possible: For a price, boundaries are broken. Similarly, market boundaries shouldn’t hold us back.
- Addictive: It’s designed to keep you coming back. Similarly, we should keep those we serve eager to stay in our care.
We all get to have our own Bellagio fountains by doing business–in part–like Vegas.
Automation. Delegation. Abstraction. Don’t overdo it:
- Delegate what should no longer be yours. It may be perfect for someone else on your team.
- Automate what won’t benefit from a human touch. It may free you up to invest in more emotional labor.
- Master your toil for twice the results in half the time. Love your work and keep that fire burning.
In the pursuit of streamlining your team’s contribution to the marketplace, don’t forget what a difference mastery over your toil can create.
Muscle memory requires regular ‘muscle workouts’. Is there an alternative?
- Muscle memory: This is what you earn when you practice something much that you can’t not know it.
- Energy memory: This is what you earn when you care about something so much that you soak up every bit of it.
Raising our energy raises our memory. How can you care more?
What threatens the success of your team?
Most threats are entirely self-inflicted. Consider these two mindsets:
- Protecting your job from John, “because he’s better at it than you are. If he gets it, the team will have better work, but you’re out of a job. Time to defend yourself and put John back in his place.”
- Handing your job to John, “if he’s better at it than you are, or collaborate if he wants to learn. The team grows, and your culture indicates you’ll have new work that focuses on your strengths.”
The quality and body of our work are determined by the quality and culture of our team. Which of the two mindsets sounds more like yours?
Strategies have temperatures. There are two kinds:
- Cold strategies: Abstracting humans to reach more people in a slightly less personal way. Sometimes very effective, but often overdone and premature.
- Warm strategies: Adding humans to reach fewer people but in a more personal way. Often very effective, providing it’s sustainable for the team.
Perhaps teams should think less about how to abstract themselves, and more about how to leverage what makes them so valuable?
Most of us take vacations. Why?
- Vacation to get away: This is why most people go on vacation. To escape their job, their environment, and the people they see every day.
- Vacation to get closer: This is rare. The team getaway. The family reunion. The co-working “just because”. Few live in an environment they love and don’t want to escape from.
We call that ‘success’.
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.