406: Caring for your industry ​

I drove for one hour today. In that one hour I saw:

  • Three near-miss encounters, one of which I was involved in. When someone’s attitude is, “I’ll get mine, to heck with everyone else”, accidents occur.
  • Two mattresses on the sidewalk, presumably thrown off the back of a truck. When someone’s attitude is, “This suits me just fine, others can get over it”, our environment becomes a mess.
  • Our industries are no different; whether it’s online marketers building a collective reputation for being slimy, or lawn care vendors for being flakey, our actions dictate the state of our industry.

Our competitors are also our comrades: it’s our responsibility to care for our industry since the customer experience begins as soon as they start their search. Are you making your industry a nice place to visit?

405: Except it’s not native ​

Being a native means “you’re like us”. How native are you to those you serve?

  • Native social platform visuals > fancy TV-style visuals. If we can make the latter, we’re tempted to do it the fancy way. Except it’s not native. We earn attention when things are authentically fit-for-purpose. Asking me to rotate my device to see your landscape IGTV video says you’re just repurposing old stuff.
  • Native email > fancy email. If we can create emails with fancy multi-column layouts, we’re tempted to do it the fancy way. Except it’s not native. We earn more trust when our tools are familiar to the recipient. A one-column, plain email says ‘love letter’ instead of ‘spam’.
  • Iterative > significant claims. If we can create significant gains for those we speak to, you’d think it’s better to tout those gains. Except it’s not native, it’s too far removed from the beliefs of the listener. Don’t promise they’ll do 400 sit-ups. Promise 40 to start with.

Native means relatable. Genuine. Attainable ‘by people like us’. Even if it’s only a fraction of what’s possible for them, start where they are. Start native.

404: Rule not found ​

Ever wonder why we treat rules like laws in our work? They’re not the same thing:

  • A country can have multiple governments. Hong Kong operates as a democratic region within a communist nation. It was weird once established but became a normal, celebrated piece of Hong Kong identity.
  • A country can leave a union. England leaving the European Union is like New York leaving the US. It’s weird now–unfavorable even–yet it’ll become normal, in time.

    A team can change the rules. Our work is bound to industry best-practices and market requests only because it’s all the industry and the market knows. That’s not to say it’s the only way.

Rules aren’t laws. You can break rules. Usually, our work is better when we do.

403: What will you make today? ​

Ever wake up feeling “ugh” about something you need to do that day?

It might be time to change the question:

  • “I have to do X” is a lousy statement. It doesn’t encourage exploration, divergent thinking, or opportunities to do a great job. A better question could be, “What will I make today?”
  • “I’ve got to write an email to that guy” is a lousy statement. It focuses us on checking a box, not making someone’s day. A better statement could be, “I’ll make that guy an email that’s gonna change his life for the better.”
  • “I’ve got to get through this list” is a lousy mindset. It turns important work into a menial chore. A better mindset could be, “I’ll make a new way for myself to become faster, better, and more disciplined so that I can make better work.”

The questions we ask ourselves, statements we affirm to ourselves, and mindset we operate with, dictate our reality.


402: Class comes free ​

We all know Instagram is full of people trying to appear as though life is different from reality. It’s because we have things the wrong way around:

  • The wrong way around: In days gone by, only aristocrats could afford the ‘really nice things’, such as luxury vehicles. Now anyone can get them on credit. It costs a lot and says nothing.
  • The right way around: Those same aristocrats would also invest their time and energy into good causes. Things like helping the homeless. Now anyone can do this, too. It costs nothing and says a lot.

Real respect is born out of what we give to the world, not what we keep for ourselves. Class comes free.

401: Stoic selling ​

What do ancient stoic philosophy and ethical sales have in common?

  • Stoics are emotional creatures. They just know how to harness their emotions, rather than allow them to run their lives. Philosophy allows us to respond to emotions, rather than react to them.
  • Buyers are emotional creatures. It’s the seller’s responsibility to harness the buyer’s emotions, rather than having them lead to purchasing the wrong things, from the wrong people, in the wrong volumes, at the wrong frequency.

Teams doing important work owe it to those they serve to ethically harness that which drives us all to action: emotion.

400: The path to progress ​

…is paved with all sorts of things we wish it weren’t:

  • “This isn’t how I thought things would happen”: It’s very rare for something important to go exactly as planned. Being okay with that is part of the path to progress.
  • “This isn’t the outcome I wanted”: But this is the outcome we’ll get, over and over, until eventually, we don’t. Being okay with that is part of the path to progress.
  • “I expected things to be different”: We all did. We can only do the best we can with what we have (it’s more than we think). Being okay with that is part of the path to progress.

The path to progress is paved with all sorts of things we wish it weren’t:



399: Legacy Hour ​

What happens when we start the day with legacy work?

  • It moves us forward. The day is accomplished, rather than merely completed when we make space for the things that move our missions forward.
  • Even if it’s just one hour. The first hour of the day, for instance. The world can manage one hour without you, can’t it?
  • Hours add up. What could one hour a day, seven days a week, do for your collective cause?

You won’t forget to get back to the world when it comes calling. But you might forget to get back to your mission without a legacy hour.

398: Making discomfort comfortable ​

Well, maybe not comfortable, but less uncomfortable:

  • There is comfort in familiarity. Whether that’s binge-Netflix’ing or pursuing our projects, either can be comfortable or uncomfortable based on how often we embrace them.
  • Familiarity with discomfort creates leverage for our important work because the yardstick moves. What was once uncomfortable is now familiar, enabling us to go to the next level.

Discomfort is unfamiliarity and/or growth. We leave more room for growth if we make it more familiar.

397: The danger of goals ​

…is that we risk missing lessons taught by pursuit:

  • Goals take us where we want to go, if we focus on making them happen, of course. Disciplined pursuit puts our attention on the horizon.
  • But goals take us away from today if we’re not careful to combine them with an appreciation of all that lies between us and that horizon.
  • Pursuit has its own rewards–grit, camaraderie, culture, character–that we’ll miss if we don’t savor it (or if we skip it by buying on credit).

Without those rewards, your goals are unlikely to be achieved anyway. They lie between you and the horizon for a reason.

396: When the jobs are all done ​

One day, all the ‘jobs’ will be done, and material safety will be assured. What then?

  • The power to create will become more important. Not for profit, but for change: humans will find new ways to create problems, leaving room for others to use their humanity to create new solutions.
  • The need to make tribes will become more important: when nobody needs to meet in an office, we need to want to meet around things that matter.
  • The need for the purpose will be just as important. To experience a job well done, growth, grit, and the self-respect they create. The alternative would be to watch AI-generated TV shows all day.

Life on Earth pursues growth. That’s what alive things do. We shouldn’t become an exception.

Are you creating something that matters?

395: Crazytalk ​

What’s your relationship with crazytalk?

  • “It’s what friends say when I need to wake up.” If this is the case, it might be that new friends are in order. Things may not sound so crazy to those who have already traveled that same path.
  • “It’s a synonym on our team for “annual planning’.” If this is the case, and you’re surrounded by people who recognize “this might not work, let’s try it anyway”, it just might work.

As the late Jobs said, “Here’s to the crazy ones.”

394: What comes first ​

You’re sitting on a goldmine of opportunity. We often find it through testing. Remember what comes first:

  • Testing new products is a great way to test ways to create more advantage to your audience. But until there’s traction, the products we’ve committed to come first.
  • Testing new audiences is a great way to discover more opportunities to serve people we can help. But the clients we’ve already committed to our care come first.
  • Team expansion is an opportunity to support more business and grow our companies. But the team we serve alongside today–and the culture, and the quality of those relationships–all come first.
There is opportunity all around us, more than we could ever handle. As we pursue our goals together, let’s not forget what comes first.


393: On writing the date wrong ​

How many weeks does it take you to write the date right after the new year?

I struggle with it for far longer than I’d care to admit:

  • It’s not 2018 anymore. Our hands don’t seem to catch up to that fact until we’ve started writing 2019 often enough for it to sink in.
  • So start writing 2019. Write the story of January 2019; make so many contributions to your work that 2018 becomes a distant memory.
  • 2018’s successes are so last year. It’s time to do 2019’s work, build 2019’s products, and face 2019’s challenges.

Make 2019 so great that you struggle to write 2020 when the time comes.

392: Pseudo-progress ​

Not all progress is made equal:

  • Big bookshelves full of things you’ve not read, but speed-read or skimmed. Reading that doesn’t make you better, makes you distracted. Nobody’s impressed by how many books you’ve “read”.
  • Big research where you’ve covered your next project from every angle… but have yet to take any action. More is achieved through thoughtful action than by thought alone.
  • Busy days where much was done, yet no momentum was created. Busy-work is seductive, it makes us feel like we’ve done something important when we haven’t.

How much more could we achieve if we were to avoid the allure of busy-work and vanity-metrics this year?

391: Not surviving the year ​

“The wise man will live as long as he ought, not as long as he can” – Seneca

This quote also applies to the work we do in the marketplace:

  • A project or product that lived longer than it ought may be in need of retirement so you can focus on what’s next. Is it still valuable?
  • A side project or responsibility that holds no future for you or your team may need shedding so you can commit to what could.

Some things we hold dear won’t make it through 2019.

Accepting this allows us to focus on what will, rather than merely holding on to the past.

Leave that to your competitors.

390: Things have changed ​

From emerging market verticals to better customer service, the old ways keep fading away:

  • What we were doing 2 years ago doesn’t matter anymore. Things have changed, the market wants more from us now than it did back then.
  • What we almost did last year is now make-or-break. We can take the opportunity, or let it become the previous point. Is it worth trying, at last?
  • What we thought we might do next year needs our attention today. Next year will arrive as fast as this one did, and others may have gotten a head start by then.

If we care about those we serve, it’s our responsibility to be the change for their benefit. Our competition can follow if they choose.

Things have changed. What are you going to do about it?

389: Some goals aren’t for achieving ​

Some goals are all about the climb:

  • Gary Vaynerchuk works hard at his businesses with the goal of being able to afford buying the NY Jets. He doesn’t need the Jets. But it’s a goal so big it keeps him moving.
  • My teams work hard helping difference makers make a difference with the goal of being able to end human trafficking. We don’t need to do that. But it’s a goal so big it keeps us moving.

Some goals aren’t for achieving. Some exist simply to propel us forward to do more of what matters.

Gary may never own the Jets. We may never end human trafficking.

But isn’t it worth a try?

Indeed, trying in the first place sets our sights higher and even increases our chances of achieving it, compared to not trying at all.

388: Post-holiday habits ​

It’s hard to get back into good habits after the holidays.

Or is it?

  • The road leading to the decision is hard. We tend to agonize over whether we can commit to it, or if we’ll be able to do it, don’t we?
  • But the decision itself isn’t hard. Providing we have a formula to cover the bases. The decision happens in a moment, after which we are released from the uncertainty.
  • The formula is, “I will A, every B, until C.” For instance, I will do my exercise routine, every morning at 7 am, until I find a better routine or my health prevents it.

Maybe it’s not hard to get into good habits at all. Maybe we just need to decide.

387: Do you love your work properly? ​

How do we love our work properly?

  • When we enjoy it and want to keep doing it over and over again, that’s indulging, not loving. It satisfies us, but we give it nothing in return.
  • Beyond enjoyment is investment. Here we give as much as (or more than) we get. We care for it, ensuring it grows, thrives.

It’s the difference between the designer who likes to make every website look the same vs the one who says, “This may not work, I’m going to find out and respond accordingly.”

Or the amateur runner who keeps running the same block vs the one who enrolled for the London Marathon while it still scared them.

If you love it, you’ll let it grow.

386: Still too complicated ​

The thing about doing business with your team is, it’s still too complicated.

  • “Everyone does it that way” is no excuse. It’s the same for you, but it remains a wall of complexity to those who need you. What’s a “consultation call” mean anyway?
  • “It’s using the latest techniques” is no excuse. That doesn’t mean people will know how to follow them. New TVs are a far cry from the “plug it in and turn it on” days of yore.
  • Opportunity is everywhere because most are fearful of doing things differently. One small change could be huge for you.

The year is new. Perhaps it’s time to see your work through new eyes.

385: A gift to yourself ​

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.

384: The year doesn’t stay new for long ​

“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.

383: Reversing is expensive ​

“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.

382: Little trials ​

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.

381: Changing characters ​

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?

380: Guilty before or after ​

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?

379: Gifts vs care ​

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?”

378: The tension on the horizon ​

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.



377: The cost of doing good work ​

…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.