How to not depend on authority

When making an argument, it is easy to defer to a known authority. Of course, the known authority itself is usually derived from social proof. This means a few things need to happen:

  1. An act of proof needs to be performed
  2. The act needs to have measurable results that can be confirmed in some manner and used to make a conclusion.
  3. The act needs to be repeatable.

This is the basis of science. As a result, science is the answer to thinking independently from the rest of society. While agreement is good, it should come from independent analysis.

Science is how we allow society to prosper without relying on centralizing a power.

House Rules

Often times, when there is multiple ways something can be done or played, you’ll find “house rules”.

If common sense was common, would we ever need house rules? Would the rules become “common rules”?

Obviously, “common rules” aren’t listed everywhere, and house rules need to be documented or shared for someone to know them. This leads to conundrum for the most important work to be done in that the way to do it is mostly uncommunicated.

A way to add value: document things, set standards, and communicate the rules to get things done correctly.

The bigger question then becomes, how do you find that documentation?

How often do you feel like this?

I’ve had a habit of always covering the downside when giving answers that I may be wrong on. Usually, I try not to convince myself I really know the answer to something, or the story of an event, unless I’ve done quite a bit of studying or have at least a handful of facts that are strong from multiple aspects. When an outcome starts to reveal itself that goes against what I believe and I’ve told others, well it doesn’t feel good, but I do come around.

Lately, in conversations with others as I’m being forced to take some positions despite knowing I’m ignorant about a few items, I’ve been feeling this way more often. It’s leading me to wonder, “How often do other people feel this way?”

How often are people attached to something they believe to be true and defend and tie their ego up in? In my life up until now, I would say it was rare for me to take a “belief” without high confidence and so my ego wasn’t tied up because it was riding on known work. Now, I’m giving answers that are more belief-based more often out of a certain situational necessity. I’m starting to wonder what the full spectrum is. Do people feel like this 100% of the time, where I was close to 0% before?

I’m not sure there is a great system that could be devised for ascertaining this, but it’s worth each person asking to themselves nonetheless.

Moving each piece vs. Moving one piece

While playing a game of Trouble, my wife was moving 4 pieces around the board, I was choosing to move one. It took her 4 times as many rolls to get each piece to move as far as my single piece. In that time, she had many more opportunities presented for me to land on one of her pieces and send them back to the beginning. In my case, my single piece moved much faster around the board, but when sent back to the beginning it was generally after being further along.

This seems to be a good analogy for life. We can have a lot of things with our attention, each getting a small piece, unable to move along much. By pairing that down, we can move much further, but setbacks set back everything and much further. Resilience vs. speed. It’s a tradeoff worth thinking about.

Connecting with 3rd degree connections first.

If you are searching for people to connect with on LinkedIn, it seems to make sense to connect with 2nd connections, those who you may know through someone already.

In reality, it makes more sense to connect to 3rd+ connections first if you are trying to maximize the speed at which your message spread.

This may not be entirely obvious off the bat, but if you think about it, it becomes clear.

2nd connections likely already receive some of your messages from the 1st connections you have. 3rd connections aren’t likely to. If you then connect with 3rd+ people, then you expand the ring of influence to a much larger group of people.

Expand this past LinkedIn and social media, in life it always feels more comfortable to meet new people that are close to ones you already know, but if you aren’t where you want to be, or surrounded by the types of people you want to talk to, you may need to go out on your own and meet some entirely new people. That’s a good thing and what happens in big life events such as moving for college, job changes, moving neighborhoods, and more.

Dylan Lemay loop hack

I recently saw a few videos by a gentleman named Dylan Lemay. Dylan has many videos on TikTok, YouTube, and Instagram with his topic usually revolving around ice cream or ice cream cakes.

One interesting thing about the few short videos I watched, Dylan starts and ends the videos in the same position and camera point even though overall his videos have a lot of movement. This leads to the video seemingly looping if you aren’t paying attention. For short TikTok style videos you may end up watching 2-3 times without realizing which allows his message to sear into your brain a bit more.

It’s an interesting and useful tactic. Nice job Dylan. Your work is worth taking notice of.

Heat on a scale of 1 to 2

I was recently watching a Cowboy Kent Rollins recipe video on YouTube. I don’t particularly need the recipe, I just like his persona. The Cowboy was advertising his new hot sauce when he mentioned, “On a scale of 1 to 2 it’s likely about 1.5 in heat.”

I thought that was an interesting way of putting it.

I also think Kent Rollins is easy to overlook on his marketing prowess due to the skill he has with the persona he has created.

“1.5 on a scale of 2” has a much different connotation than 7.5/10 even though they are equivalent.

Here is the difference:

  1. The context on a scale of two instead of ten changes what people are used to, so they make different decisions.
  2. 1.5 sounds low because people are used to scales of ten, this may allow some people who say “I don’t like spicy to try it.

The context can matter. If you want to get people to think about something, rather than knee-jerk, changing the context will make them think. Try it out and you may find you get quadruple of 50% of half of your typical results. Or maybe even more!

The Atmosphere of Innovation

I wrote this post years ago about The atmosphere of coffee shops and bars. In it, I pointed out that coffee shops and bars have the opposite mood of the effect of drinks they serve. Bars serve depressants and so the atmosphere is usually set by high-energy music. Coffee is a stimulant and the atmosphere in coffee shops is set by tranquil tones and soft singer/songwriters.

At the core, it would seem that a person tries to maximize the balance of their environment with what they feel internally.

This brings me to a question, “What would be the atmosphere of the most innovative places?”

My instantaneous thought is high brow design, modern and sophisticated. Companies like Apple, Google and other similar tech companies come to mind. Except, these companies aren’t as innovative as they were when they started. It’s hard to imagine what item Google could create that would rival the shift their search engine had on the world. Yet, that search engine was likely started in some plane Jane libraries, garages, or computer labs.

The “Atmosphere of Innovation” is more along the lines of the coffee/shop bar idea. When you are working in a low brow, low design space and the only thing you have is to create, then innovation brings balance to the plainness of the atmosphere. A high-design space makes one feel innovative just by being there and likely lowers the actual innovation.

However, the reality is that only companies with significant capital can afford the beautiful offices, and so rather than being an actual place of innovation, it is a signal to find those who are perceived to be the best talent.

The Atmosphere of Innovation is a culture of people, not a design of an office. Too often this is mistaken.

Stairmaster or Water Slide

A stairmaster is gym equipment that has a never ending set of stairs for the user to climb.

For the kind of water slide I mentioned in the title, it may be a story or two up with plenty of stairs to climb. If you had such a water slide, why would you ever choose a stair master? That thrill of going down the slide seems much more exciting than the never ending drudgery of the stair master. Yet, not everyone will see it that way. For some, they won’t like that the water goes up their nose at the end of the slide. They may not like the feeling of not being in control on the way down the slide, or they may not like the water all that much in general.

For those who do love water slides, I’m not sure they would even register as competing with the stairmaster as a form of exercise. Going down the slide is the reward, but it’s so enjoyable that the work of going up the stairs is ignored completely.

Crafting an experience, one that excites people so much that people forget about the effort, that’s what great businesses are built on. We need more stair masters disguised in the form of water slides and other experiences to make the world a happier, healthier place.

Without a purpose

A purpose is a majorly overlooked asset.

It can be wide or narrow in scope.

For example, at your job, if you are an engineer in the automotive industry, optimizing your designs to be incredibly safe is a great purpose. It doesn’t define your entire life in a broad stroke, but it defines how you operate in your job and provides meaningful satisfaction in your work besides compensation.

A purpose provides the following:

  1. Direction – Which leads a person to making better decisions.
  2. Satisfaction – Seeing that all your decisions and actions are leading somewhere
  3. Resiliency – meaning that helps you whether the ups and downs

Without a purpose, lost, dissatisfied and easily discouraged is the status quo. Perhaps it’s not a job, a house, a car, or money you want, it’s a purpose. It’s worth seeking. It’s even more worth sharing yours with others.

$5 for stick figure drawing, $150 for animation

If you are looking for some services to draw you a basic image, such as a stick figure drawing, you can find 100s of people who can provide that to you for $5 or less. It’s hard to imagine many of those people make enough of that to survive, but it’s easy work and to hang your sign out doesn’t take much effort, so it’s nice extra cash.

Stick figure animations, however, start at $150 dollars and go up from there.

Interestingly enough, animation is just a bunch of successive images. However, there are additional skills:

  1. Timing
  2. Sequencing
  3. Music/Sound

There are entirely new dimensions to be added in animation. In that space, you won’t find nearly as many people competing, and you will find people who are making a living.

“Easy money” usually isn’t about making a living, but possibly extra cash.

When you are looking for the way to create value, the more difficult road is the one where you’ll find it.

P.S. If you are stuck competing in too harsh of a landscape without a way to differentiate, the way out isn’t to quit, it’s to pursue the next level of complexity. You can also read more here.

Seeking higher value for sanity

It’s tempting to continue to believe, “If we just work a little more, everything will be better.”

Of course, this works fine the first time you stretch your efforts. Fine the second time. Perhaps even the third. Eventually, however, you will always reach a point where “a little more” will affect your sanity.

The solution to this is always the same: Seek higher value.

One example of this is a sales rep, selling a items that net him $1000 commission. Each year, he gets a bit better, and works a bit harder, but eventually a ceiling is reached. At that point, to make more money, selling something that sells just as often but that nets a $5,000 commission is the next career step.

This could also apply to your responsibilities. Delegating the smaller items so that you can focus on bigger picture items is a great example of this. If you’ve had big ambitions at work, but have been stuck in the monotony, then getting the small items off your plate is where the value is.

This is a tougher balance than the immediate thought suggests? Why? Because that monotony that I mentioned? Someone else is trying to put there’s on you, the same as you are trying to put yours on them. The trick is to find out when you’ve reached the right level of responsibility and value to be happy.

Genius of Dental Hygiene

I went for a teeth cleaning at the dentist last week. I had the best hygienist I’ve ever had. In fact, she made it seem like the dozen other hygienists that I’ve used have been clueless about the job.

Here’s a list of things that were excellent:

  1. Jaw comfort – Most have me crank my jaw open so far it’s difficult to hold. Not the case.
  2. No unexpected pain or pokes – Most other hygienists accidentally or strongly end up scraping my gums causing significant pain at certain points. That didn’t happen.
  3. Conversation – she was conversational without be intrusive or feeling like a captive audience.
  4. Health tips – she gave me a few tips I had never been given before that seemed useful.
  5. Speed – with all of the above she didn’t seem to rush, but the appointment still seemed faster than usual.

All-in-all it was the best trip to the dentist office I’ve had.

Of course, I didn’t write this post to share about my Dental Hygienist. The point is that no matter what line of work you are in, there is a combination of skills that if done to the highest level could be considered “genius”. That’s not typically how most people look at things. Most people consider genius to be correlated with:

  1. Mathematics
  2. Science
  3. Legal
  4. History
  5. Musical
  6. Other academic fields

However there are far more types of genius than that. If the world would spend more time seeing it, then we’d all be better off.

If you need more examples:

You can choose to be whatever type of genius you like. Just dedicate yourself to a craft and think about all the skills that go into it.

Absorbing the shocks

For engineers out there, you may be familiar with multi-body dynamics. This is a calculation of how vehicles or other systems design under loads. It also is a great analogy for how a company runs.

If you run a multi-body dynamics tool to see how a car responds to bumps in the road, you’ll see that tires absorb small bumps, the kind that are produced by the texture of the rock in the asphalt. Shocks absorb bigger bumps, the kind caused by something like a change in level between roadway sections, or a pothole. Bushings absorb relative movement in the car and dissipate energy from repeated vibrations. Despite all this, huge bumps make the entire car take flight.

If you take this analogy to a company, the front line workers are doing the work of the tires. They absorb constant small issues all day and are responsible for the traction of the company. Managers, at least the good ones, they provide cover for the discontinuities like the shocks. People taking vacations, a change from a customer, an abrupt problem that was unexpected. They shift things around to soften the blow. Directors and Executives, at least the best of them, act like the bushings. They dissipate the energy of problems between marketing, engineering, sales, etc. They don’t let too much of the problem from one group, spill into the other. And at the very top, someone needs to be watching out for the huge bump that will launch the whole thing in the air. This is the competitive environment, the finance industry, the technological disruptions, the personnel and more.

No matter what work we do, we are responsible for absorbing the shocks, all that changes is the size of the bumps we cater to.

Crossing Audiences

As someone gets good at writing, they realize the importance of writing for specific audiences. This blog itself mixes that up a lot, and that is fine if not trying to make a specific impact, which I never did hammer down.

However, great writing, often takes multiple audiences and shows them each a perspective of the other that they all hadn’t considered. This is what great movies do for us. This is the foundation of classic literature.

Telling truths that work in audiences of multiple, distinct groups is powerful writing and skillful mastery of the craft.

When did CYA become the culture?

Someone once asked me, “Has anyone ever yelled at you for making a mistake here?”

I replied truthfully, “Not really”.

Their reply was, “How and when did CYA become the culture here?”

“No idea.” was my reply.

There had been a shift in the culture where I was working from getting things done and trying new things to CYA. The only apparent thought I had was that it was imported. We had brought in more people with more experience where CYA was the culture.

It’s not easy, but culture can creep up on you. Create the culture actively, or it will happen in a way you don’t control gradually.

What would have helped the CYA culture not creep in?

Messaging. Repeatedly.

“Try new things.” “Take risks.” “Do your best and the rest doesn’t matter.” Any of those things repeated enough would have helped, but they were left unsaid.

Say the words. They are part of the culture.

Don’t be led around by statistics

I’ve mentioned quite a few times on this blog, that I’m a competitive bowler. Bowling has taught me much about life. If you want to understand what I’ve learned about life through the sport, you can read those posts here:

Now, I’ll add another one.

Don’t be led around by statistics.

When I was young and my skill in bowling was rapidly improving, I would lean on statistics to comfort me. If I had two under average games, I would lean on that fact, rather than confidence in myself to say, “I’m due for an above average third game.”

The problem here is that psychologically it would work the opposite way on me too. If I was leading a tournament, I always felt I was holding off a regression to the average.

Today, I don’t think this way. I see each event as the possibility to be an outlier. Something far beyond the normal range. This is what winning a tournament is.

By getting older, if I do revert to thinking purely statistically, I can think in terms of years, not a few games. I could be over average for two years, then have a down year instead. Being too young, thinking on those time scales isn’t even possible.

However, when at all possible, don’t see yourself as a statistic because that is an anchor to average.

Make a pizza. Cook a pizza.

After someone order a pizza, these are the two steps. They aren’t divisible really. You can’t have a pizza sit on the peel too long before putting in the oven, otherwise it will stick and become deformed.

Of course, since the customer is waiting and they want their pizza as soon as possible, you also can’t wait to start making it too long.

There are many jobs like this with tasks that can’t be separated. This is the work that it feels like we would do if we only didn’t have all of these other items going on.

Some items that come to mind:

  1. Capitalizing on a current event as it relates to goods and services you provide
  2. Launching something internally at a company that you’ve made to automates certain tasks before the tasks themselves change
  3. Creating a marketing campaign to capitalize on a new market opportunity before someone else does

However, just because it feels overwhelming to do all the tasks related to each other in sequence and have to get it out quick, doesn’t mean it can’t be done. It just means it will be challenging and challenging is the best differentiator I know to ensure your competitors won’t copy you soon.

Things you can’t reflect

If you’ve ever been in a bad situation with someone who has gotten on your nerves, like a relationship, you understand that there are somethings you can’t reflect.

It is very difficult to show someone their own bad behavior or habits and have them take it to heart. They either:

  1. Don’t see it as what they do, but something new you are doing
  2. Get extremely mad at pointing it out and don’t take it constructively
  3. Ignore it all together

In life, there are many methods of reflecting different stories and life lessons upon us. However, there are also certain topics that aren’t easily reflected. If you have on of those, exercise judiciousness before proceeding.

Avatar

I remember when Avatar came out. It was a huge production and became the highest grossing film of all-time. Today, I can’t remember a single line. I can’t remember any character names. I can barely remember the story. Do those items I can’t remember seem to make sense for the highest grossing film?

Compare it to Indiana Jones, Star Wars, Titanic, or even the Big Lebowski. Many people can quote these movies, even if they haven’t seen them. The character names and story are recognizable even years later.

So what happened to Avatar?

My thought is that Avatar was ground-breaking for the technology that was invented for it. It made Hollywood excited for new possibilities and in their excitement they promoted Avatar and that let to it becoming a box office success.

In spite of that, it had no impact on pop culture, nothing memorable.

There was no edge or fringe touched upon.

The story didn’t make people feel enough emotions, and so it was forgotten.

Don’t forget the core business you are in. Avatar did, and as a result it had a quick return-on-investment, but no long-term payback by comparison to other popular franchises.

Speak some Japanese

If you were learning a new language, such as Japanese, and somebody said, “Can you speak some?” It might be awkward because you don’t have much to say. Language without a purpose is simply noise.

In the same way it doesn’t make sense to have a conversation with no purpose, it is difficult to apply a new skill without a goal in mind. Many people seem to be unable to apply the full depth and breadth of their skills because they don’t have a big enough goal or purpose behind it.

What if I started translating blogs into that Japanese language. What if I wanted to give motivational speeches in Japan with an American perspective, so I start writing those. All of a sudden, when someone says “Speak some Japanese.” it is a draft of a presentation.

With a purpose, showing off your skill is possible.

Muscle not skill

My last post, Can we do the work?, relates to the fact that most people question whether something will work or not. That is the wrong postulation. In the same manner, thinking about talent or skill is a poor analogy to doing work you’re proud of.

Most of the things we admire in those at the top of society are “muscles” that their respective owners have chose to exercise routinely. Steve Jobs exemplified salesmanship. He was routinely selling things, products, stories for publicity, and even ideas for how Apple should run. Salesmanship was a “muscle” he built.

I recently wrote another piece about Three perfect games…, that would not have been possible without the muscles to balance, time a release correctly and create a good shots. When I take too much time off bowling, the muscles weaken. After a hiatus, the skill of bowling in my mind is still sharp, but the ability to deliver it has faded. Even in the previous example of Steve Jobs’ salesmanship, while that seems less physical, his mannerisms, tones, and more would dull if he didn’t perform them regularly.

When you want to let yourself off the hook for not being skilled enough, remember it’s muscle and not skill, and there is no way to build muscle except through repetition.

Can we do the work?

Often times, and in most cases that I can dream up, people know that their ideas are possible. They know that they will work. What they don’t know is if they are capable of doing the work.

So often, the work itself that needs to be done is contemplated more than it is worked on. This is a form of resistance. Just about any piece of information you can create and give to someone about your product or service is going to produce results.

The same goes for improving your product or service.

The challenge then becomes not will this venture succeed or fail, but can we do the work?

If we are committed, we’ll find the magic formula eventually, by shifting and pivoting and doing the work. The real question is whether our morale dies, our resistance builds and we quit before doing the work we set out to do.

Three perfect games…

Other bowlers who have serious credentials recognize me as a good bowler, but since I’ve bowled nearly exclusively on hard conditions designed to produce lower scores, it is difficult to communicate to the recreational bowler who may have a friend who averages 220 on a normal condition, which by today’s standards means easy.

For about 15 years, I’ve spent my time bowling on the difficult oil patterns without much time spent on the easy ones. As a result, my average, and honor score (300 game and 800 series) count seems low. Trying to explain this to someone who doesn’t bowl competitively is difficult.

While that explanation above doesn’t seem that difficult to grasp, the core concept of, “Well then, how good are you?” is a hard one to answer. In my example, if I haven’t bowled on the “easy” conditions in more than a decade, how can I accurately describe my skill relatively to those who do?

To answer that, I bowled a summer league on an easy condition this year. Last night I shot my third perfect game in the 5 weeks of league I’ve bowled. The reason I chose to bowl this “easy” league is for exactly this reason, after spending so much time bowling on hard conditions, I was starting to feel like I was never as good as I thought I was. 5 weeks of summer bowling, and three perfect games later, my confidence is restored.

I’m sharing this analogy because many times people take difficult routes in life. Routes that not only fill them up with skill, but also keep their egos in check. While it’s good to stay humble, too much can start to crush you. To make you forget how skilled, how valuable, and how phenomenal of a talent you truly have.

I bet somewhere inside of you, there is the equivalent of three perfect games in your field of choice. You just haven’t been back to the “easy” side of it in a long time. Don’t let that get you down. The real trouble isn’t other people not recognizing how good you are, the trouble is when you forget how good you are. When that happens, take the effort to remind yourself somehow. Find your equivalent of my summer league.

Insensitive.

If you go on a sugar binge, you quickly become insensitive to sugar. Apples no longer seem all that sweet. Only the sweetest, most sugar packed desserts seem to move your taste buds in the direction you desire. You become addicted to sugar.

If you buy and hoard all kinds of stuff, you become insensitive to which items actually bring you joy. This is the realm of Marie Kondo’s work on tidying up. People following her work tend to struggle with which items to get rid of at first. However, the more they get rid of, the more in tune with what makes them happy, the more their joy comes back.

In both of these cases, in the presence of too much, we become insensitive to different parts of the human experience.

Perhaps this is the explanation the deluge of where online vitriol comes from. In the presence of infinite human connection, we become insensitive to it. Engaging with someone else is no longer satisfying on its own regardless of conversational topics or differences in beliefs. When I was a kid we had pen pals in other countries. The feeling of receiving a letter back from someone in another was to be full of awe and wonder. The early days of email felt this way too. Today, I don’t even think about the fact the I’m getting emails at work from people all the way around the world.

Taking this altogether, “insensitive” isn’t an insult because it isn’t a fixed value. Instead, it describes the current state of someone’s human condition. Insensitivity is a sign that you are engaged in too much of something. What you are insensitive to lights the path to what you are engaging in too much. Illuminating our flaws is how we grow.

The easy thing and the hard thing

In bowling, there are different difficulties of oil patterns. Some give you little room for error, others give you big room for error.

All really great bowlers I know developed their skills bowling on patterns with little room for error. After that, when they go to the easy patterns, it feels like missing is impossible because of how much room they have on the lane to get a strike. The difference in average on an easy pattern vs a hard pattern is generally about 30-40 pins. So a 200 average on a hard pattern is 230-240 on an easy pattern. As a result, many high-end bowlers start to see the easy patterns as “not worth their time”.

I’m averaging 240 right now in my easy summer league. While that is many high scores together, I find there is a different difficulty in it. The difficulty of not overlooking anything. Not overlooking the feel in my thumbhole, or the feel of my slide. Not having a single mental slip up when you are supposed to strike close to every single time.

No matter how easy the pattern is, no one shoots 300 every time.

Every situation is an opportunity to get better, however, in each situation, the items we focus on are different. That’s actually a great chance to make sure we are paying attention to as many critical points as possible.

When things aren’t working.

How long do you go on when things aren’t working?

How many items do you change before you say, “This isn’t ever going to work?”

I’m a competitive bowler, when I go four frames without a strike, generally, I’m changing the ball I throw. When I leave back-to-back ten pins I’m moving where I stand. If I don’t hit the pocket, I’m making a major adjustment.

Here are the things that can be changed in broad terms in the game of bowling:

  • Alignment
  • Execution
  • Equipment

Those are all things that are in the bowlers control.

Here are things that are out of the bowlers control:

  • The playing surface/oil pattern
  • The other bowlers
  • The environment – temperature, humidity, sound

Learning to focus on the items in your control is a skill. If you truly believe you’ve exhausted every option for alignment, execution, and equipment, then that is a sign it is time to end things.

Why is it only a sign and not a definitive?

Well, the environment is always changing. It’s possible that something you tried early on didn’t work because the environment wasn’t ready, after trying other things that didn’t work and going back to the original idea, it now works again. This is an example of right solution, wrong time.

When we make the analogies from bowling to business, here is what comes to mind:

  • Alignment = Audience, Offerings, Messaging
  • Execution = How well were the messages and offerings perceived by the audience. Were they perceived at all?
  • Equipment = How is our skill and efforts being magnified by tools and assets available to us that we use to deliver our execution

The interesting fact here is that these items are all interrelated and can’t be judged separately. If you haven’t picked an alignment, you can’t judge execution. If you have an alignment, but haven’t picked the equipment how can you execute? A TV message is different than a written one.

You have to pick all of these, do the work and then review each. For any endeavor, that is a lot of variables to try before giving up.

Humans are endurance machines.

When you think about the animal kingdom in a broad way, including humans as just another animal, there are strong animals, fast animals, deadly animals, animals that can fly, agile animals, defensive animals, animals that can hide, animals that can camouflage, and more. While humans have broad intelligence, they also have endurance.

People are endurance machines. The guy in the video above hanging on is just one example. The ultra-marathoners running 100+ mile marathoners are another example.

When life seems like you’re just barely keeping up and your legs are heavy, know that you can do it, you were born to endure.

What’s the best memory or experience you have

People remember what is interesting.

Yet, when asked, “What’s interesting?” most people can’t recall anything.

Why is that?

It is because anything you remember was interesting to you at one time!

So everything you can recall at all is interesting.

If everything you remember is interesting, then nothing is interesting.

When you want to tell an interesting story, think of the most vivid memory you have, the more vivid, the more interesting. That’s why you remember it so vividly. Enough with racking your brain looking for “interesting” because nothing will stand out.

Inattentional Blindness

Have you ever been walking around your house and all of a sudden starting asking, “What happened here?”

Those dishes piled up, or the cloths filled the hamper, or the garage clutter gathered while you were busy paying attention to work, or school, or extracurricular stuff, or family drama, or any other tasks.

When you are paying attention to something specific that you miss something else, that is inattention blindness.

We all have limited sensory processing capacity. As much as we think we see all, hear all, and know all, we mostly miss just about everything in the world. I’m not sure how many decimals you would have to go to for accuracy sake, but gut feel, it’s so many decimal places that it’s easiest to say that each person misses 100% of all activities going on in the world at any given time.

This is at odds with the fact that all day we are being bombarded with information, news stories, tasks at work, conversations, etc. Yet, what is all that really doing?

Informing us of all those things we missed in the first place.

There is no way to overcome this. The only option is “intentional vision”. Choosing what you want to see, what is important to you, and making sure that you look out for and possibly share it with others.

P.S In my opinion, short-sightedness is a synonym of inattentional blindness. I’ve written about short-sightedness before:

The dip before the rip

That’s a saying from the stock market. In the short-term, or in the normal decade long business cycle and even in the 80-100 year long super cycle, there is a dip in price before the rip. Meaning the price pulls downs before it shoots up higher than ever before. An example is a recession. For businesses that don’t die, they come back strong when the recession turns around.

My family has quite a bit going on at the moment. A lot of it negative. There are many things to put faith in, stories, people, and ideas. One idea I like to put my faith in when feeling at my lowest is that this is the dip before the rip. Once that you look at it that way, you don’t have to feel bad things aren’t great, you just have to understand that getting through today will get to tomorrow and eventually you’ll be out of the dip (the negative/bad events) and into the rip (the positive events).

Avoiding the lows

It seems to me, many people in life don’t want to deal with the lows, doing anything they can to avoid having to deal with an angry customer, a precarious financial situation, or expended effort that doesn’t pay off.

Of course in the attempt to avoid the lows, we often miss out on the highs.

  • It’s easy to never make a customer angry if you never promise them anything at all.
  • It’s easy to avoid a precarious financial situation if you never make a big investment in yourself.
  • It’s easy to avoid expended effort that doesn’t pay off if you never try anything at all.

However, while taking those easy routes, you don’t have the opportunity to:

  • Delight a customer
  • Gain financial independence when your investment pays off
  • Build something amazing that delights people

Avoiding the lows means avoiding the highs. Knowing that, proceed at the level that is right for you.

Depending on your audience, a little inconsistency can be good.

If you think about getting someone to talk about the work you do, sometimes inconsistency can be a good thing. That’s not something you would normally think as a positive.

I recently watched a Marvel movie, and since I’m not the biggest comic big person around, I looked something up. Amazingly, in my search I found post after post of people debating endless streams of inconsistencies and trying to work them out.

I’ve had friends that were big comic book fans that would also debate things endlessly.

If you need another example, just look to politics, people bicker endlessly about they said this, then did that, etc. If you are measuring frustration, it’s politics is a bad example, but if you’re measuring attention it receives, the inconsistencies certainly do their job.

Depending on who you serve, some inconsistencies, or the discussion of them might be a way to get some attention.

The long jump.

Once upon a time, the specifications were set by an olympic committee that told them how long to make the sand for the long jump. At the time, they probably never dreamed anyone would clear the pit. However, this young man nearly did.

When an industry changes drastically, so must the specifications around it. In the world around us, this is currently happening all over. Take a look and you’ll see opportunity for yourself.

The key component of a crisis…

is time.

Without time, you have a challenge, an obstacle, or a problem, but you don’t have a crisis.

Ironically, people create their own crises as a result of this fact. The mid-life crisis is the fact that some haven’t reached artificial milestones created for themselves by a certain timeframe.

Often, we can’t get out of our own set of crises because our timelines are misconstrued one to the next.

There is so much that is possible to achieve, yet when you put a timeline to it, you create a crisis.

This is a conundrum because crises are what cause many to act. Procrastinators are really just people who love a good crisis. However, the alternative is to be accountable, take action and not worry about the clock. It takes effort, it takes skill, and it takes commitment. What it doesn’t take is a watch.

This works best for things that are measured on years or decades long timelines anyway.

He lied.

Recently someone said they were interested in something I sell. When I wrote to them, “We have an offering around that, would you like to have a conversation around it?” they responded, “Not interested. Thanks.”

It’s a bit perplexing. I told some coworkers the story, and one said, “He was lying from the start.”

That’s a quick, knee jerk reaction to something that isn’t seen as positive. It’s best not to assume something so negative about people you’ve never met.

If lying, why were they so easy to offer up information about what they were looking for? They could have ignored the message in the first place.

One hypothesis, and something I’ve written about before: Too big of an ask.

My ask was likely too big. They aren’t disinterested in the software, they are disinterested in the conversation. A conversation to most people as it relates to work is an hour of your time and a possible obligation on follow up information. Not everyone wants that without a level of certainty beforehand.

When you ask for a conversation here is what they are giving away:

  1. Their contact information if you reached out on LinkedIn
  2. Their time
  3. Their ability to feel unobligated to respond

Like most things, the knee jerk reaction is likely the incorrect one. A smaller ask is likely a better course. It may still not get you an opportunity, but it may get you a seed for something in the future and a better relationship in the long run.

Performance based on pace

It turns out, performance is often based on pace. Too slow and no one cares. Too demanding and no one can possibly keep up.

In sales, this is the quota.

In a kitchen, it’s the amount of orders.

In a retail store, it’s the amount of items to stock.

It turns out there is a delicate balance, and while great management may move the needle a bit, it will never overcome a chasm that is off by an order of magnitude. A sales rep expected to sell $10,000,000+ in an industry with an average deal size of $1,000 can’t do it, and is no different than a cook trying to make 1,000 meals by themselves.

There is a proper pacing to get the right performance.

This extends far beyond work.

It extends to your workout and weight loss routines.

It extends to building your network.

It extends to making new friends.

Choose your pace because otherwise they pace chooses you, and you don’t get to pick the performance.

Trust

I’m reminded of trust every time I drive under a train overpass in my neighborhood. It is one lane wide and you can’t see the other side. The light alternates letting each direction through, if someone ran a light they would cause a head on collision in a confined passage. Every time I go through it makes me edgy.

Life is filled with all sorts of situations fit this metaphor. Yet, we trust more and more as there is more specificity.

If I know who I am trusting on the other side, I’m more likely to trust. In the case of the light above, it can be anyone running through the other side. That makes it more uncertain.

If I know what I am trusting, I’m more likely to trust. In the example, I at least know that I’m trusting someone to obey the light, and I’m trusting the light to work properly.

The more specific, the more likely trust is to be built.

When you are saying “Trust me.” it’s likely the wrong approach, you should really be saying, “Let me clarify,” and the trust will come naturally.

The most valuable knowledge…

is the piece that is immediately applicable. At least, that is the perception. Of course, there are things that people learn like calculus, that at the time of learning don’t seem all that applicable, but by learning it unlocks all sorts of new fields of study for the wielder of that knowledge.

There is a chasm here.

On one hand, there is knowledge you need to be able to unlock the next level of ideas in the work you do. On the other hand, there is the urgency of the immediately applicable. That there is always an incremental step that can be taken, rather than investing in the knowledge the will produce entirely new possibilities.

This extends to you. This extends to a company. This extends to your customer.

That last one is the most difficult. Undoubtedly, no matter the customers you serve, you have knowledge they don’t. You have a background they don’t. Their need to understand what you know in order to do better in their industry is YOUR problem. Until you understand how to get them to understand this, then the most valuable knowledge they can benefit from will remain unheard.

Narrowly smart.

When I was young and in school, I used to think as being smart as something that could be measured as knowing more than anyone. That might be possible in elementary school, middle school, and part of high school. At the college age, and much later in life, it is impossible to know more than everyone. As you age, smart becomes more recognizable as the potential to be the best in a narrow field. A great writer is smart. A great businessperson is smart. A great athlete is smart. A great scientist is smart. A great therapist is smart. A great investor is smart. A great engineer is smart. A great mechanic is smart. All different versions of smart.

I’m in a new job, surrounded by incredibly smart people who have highly niche knowledge areas. It is easy to feel like an impostor, however, that is the wrong way to look at it. The right way to look at it is crafting the “smartest” team. The right group of smart expertise brought together to represent the strongest, broadest version of knowledge that is required for a given challenge.

It’s possible to be smart and clueless about most of the world. In fact, that’s everyone in a nutshell. However recognizing the gaps and whose knowledge is needed is a skill and it’s worth getting good at it.

The things that resonate.

Not everything resonates. In fact, anti-resonance is a real thing. The hyphen in it is debatable of course.

However, when things resonate, it’s easy to want to find more ways to increase that. To scale it. Taking a page from physics, the problem here of course lies with the fact that resonance is associated with specific frequencies.

A lunch out with a customer may resonate every month or two. It may not be appreciated if offered daily.

A check in with a teammate for help may resonate every day or two, but checking in hourly may be an irritation.

A visit from your five year old during work to show you something might resonate a minute or two of every hour to break up the day, but a check-in every five minutes may test your patience.

Finding the correct frequency is part of resonating, not just the act that produces the result.

When things get difficult…

…it’s easy to believe that someone else isn’t pulling their weight.

Of course, that’s a false dichotomy. Everyone can be giving their all and yet something is still difficult. Imagine 3-4 people pushing a broken down semi-truck out of the road for an example.

This becomes less obvious than the semi-truck example when:

  • The task(s) are undefined
  • The effort required is unknown
  • The desired result isn’t entirely clear

This is a multi-person method of anxiety, which I’ve touched on my theories about before here:

These are more personal anecdotes, but they often apply to work. Companies often assume people aren’t pulling their weight when performing very demanding tasks. That means that leadership, the act of making something positive happen requires:

  • Defining tasks
  • Maintaining faith in the effort
  • Defining the result

Leadership at the core is the act of reducing anxiety in a group.

Innovation is limited by confidence, not by ideas.

When reflecting on all the conversations I’ve had with smart people, something is apparent…ideas, really good ones, really complex one, really amazing ones, are everywhere.

What is far more scarce is the confidence that the idea will work. The confidence that pushing something new forward will pay off. I’m not even talking about the Elon Musk type of ideas. I’m talking about things much more pedestrian.

Let’s take an engineer, new to the industry, but with experience that is valued. They have experience with a better workflow and a different software than the new company uses, and they refuse to speak up because they are new. They don’t want to rock the boat. This is flawed logic because:

  1. Companies hire people to show them new things.
  2. The new company has no idea the extent of what the new hires experiences has shown them unless it is well-communicated.
  3. The company may have hired you out of another industry particularly for the different insight you can bring.
  4. It ignores the fact that what the person knows is possible might be much better than what they are doing today.

To not want to share because “You’re not sure if it’s your place to say.” is the opposite of generosity. It is in everyone’s best interest for you to share as much as you can so that someone can make the call, even if the final decision isn’t you.

The irony here of course is the fact that some of the most innovative people may be the ones with more confidence, rather than the ones with more intelligence because the confidence to stick with it and follow through is what brings it to fruition. Intelligence being just one tool on the path to making that happen. Often times, this is disconcerting for those who see themselves as original thinkers, but without the conviction to turn ideas into action. If you find yourself having innovative ideas, but never being seen that way by your colleagues, one place to self-reflect might be your confidence level.

Making vibrations

A dancer vibrates their limbs, head, and body in a wait that makes a spectator feel something.

A singer vibrates their notes in a way that makes a listener feel something.

An author vibrates the events, circumstances, and modes of their characters in a way that makes the reader feel something.

Without realizing it, most jobs are about making “vibrations”, however the instrument of choice (limbs, piano, pen, etc.) and the audience and what they care about may not be immediately obvious for everyone. Think about what tools and skills you have, who you are audience is, and what they care about. Once you have that, you can attempt to make the right vibrations that resonate with the people you hope they do.

The Carousel

The carousel is a time-honored ride. A big spinning platform filled with all sorts of animals that children and free-spirited adults can enjoy as it makes them feel a little bit of magic again.

The interesting things about the carousel to me is how it is made. The structural components that make up the bulk of the volume repeat in regular patterns, and are pretty standard components, possibly trimmed to length. However, I’ve seen carousel’s that have every animal be different, like the one at a big zoo near me. That means that someone had to skillfully craft hundreds of different animals for that particular carousel. Are there enough carousels produced each year to sell many of each of those designs? Not likely, but that’s what made this particular carousel special.

There is often a way to take something standard and make it special, however, it all comes down to time and care. For some, they’ll look at the cost, but for those who see things others miss, the value of care that wows us is always more than the cost.

Templates and unleashing creativity.

I saw an interesting post that captured beautiful work by skilled digital artists. They were given the same base template of having a window with passing by details outside and were asked to create something unique in it. The results are amazing.

This reminded me of a conversation I have with my wife often about creating blog templates for her business. Whenever I discuss this, I’m met with harsh pushback. “It will kill creativity.” or “It won’t be unique enough.” However, that’s dismissing the value of templates and mischaracterizing what I consider to be a template. A template is only a structure. It allows people to know the components that need to be present without constraining them on the details. Something that constrained the structure and the details would just be called a “copy”.

So, what is the value of a template? It allows for the focus to be on the details rather than on the “structure”. This unleashes creativity just as can be seen in the animations below. It also helps to make sure that the key components that are critical to producing results are included and can be easily checked for.

Good templates don’t limit creativity, they unleash it. How do you know you no longer have a template? When there are no longer infinite possibilities, at that point you are over-constraining things.

Boarding and de-boarding an airplane.

I’ve flown quite a few places. I’ve used quite a few different airlines. While some have assigned seating, they each have a version which is generally the same for boarding. There are preferred groups which board first, then everyone else. Sometimes it is roughly front to back, but it’s always a bit messy.

The best way to board a plane would actually be to board those with window seats first. Followed by those with middle seats, followed by those with aisle seats. This would prevent the massive amount of situations where people boarded first have aisle seats have to get up a bunch of times and everyone has to shimmy in a narrow aisle filled with other people already. This would make it more efficient, more comfortable and less stressful. You could also add ordering people back to front in this process, but that takes more coordination and can be hard if people at the gate aren’t paying attention or have arrived late.

For de-boarding, the most efficient way would be have the left aisle seats stand up at the same time, grab their bags, and all march forward at the same time. Followed by the right aisle seat doing the same. Then repeat for each middle seat and finally the window seats? Why? Because they all would have the ability to grab their bags while the others in front of them are also grabbing theirs. It would decrease the total time of de-boarding, but some exceptions may have to be made for those traveling with kids.

I’ve never seen either of these implemented likely because:

  1. It doesn’t confer status as well as the current situation.
  2. It requires an effort to coordinate this.
  3. No one is thinking about the impact it has on the bottom line.

For #3, imagine that you were able to cut time between flights down by 15 minutes for faster boarding and de-boarding. If the average plane is at a gate for 1 hour, then that could mean and extra 33% of flights in a day. At $200 average ticket price*180 people*3 extra flights per gate = $108,000 extra dollars per day/per gate. Imagine what the yearly value of this is to an airline when multiplied by gates all throughout the year, not to mention the possibility to gain market share by differentiating on the boarding process. Less time needed in the plane prior to take off and after arrival with less chaos during both as well.

Someone else thought of the fact that people will pay $20 for priority boarding instead and perhaps they get 30 people per flight to do that. $20/person*30 people/flight*16 flights/gate/day = $9600/gate/day. Less than 1/10th of the other opportunity mentioned. Why? This is because only a subset can be preferred or else no one is. Almost no one is going to pay more for boarding priority than for their ticket, and it does nothing to add more flights.

The status quo stays the status quo until someone speaks up. In this case, there is a nearly $40 million dollar yearly revenue opportunity (per gate!) based on the numbers I used based solely on boarding process. Of course, there could be other limiting factors, but that isn’t always known until someone starts asking the right questions?

“What could we be doing differently?” is a good place to start.

Bringing in outsiders, sales representatives and new perspectives builds on that start. Don’t shun people and ideas, embrace them.

The difference is heart.

Today is the Kentucky Derby. I started a tradition of betting on the 3 major horse races each year and putting any winnings into my daughter’s college fund. I’ve done better than skipping the bet and putting it straight in her account and it’s a small bit of fun. Last year a horse I picked to win came in second, while later the winning horse was disqualified for doping. Unfortunately, due to the betting payout rules, I was out $3700 in winnings on my $100 bet because the winner the day of the race is who is paid out even though I picked the horse that went on to be awarded the title.

My wife asks me how I’ve done so well. The fact is it could be blind luck, that’s why I don’t delude myself to thinking I can gamble my way to wealth and stay at the tracks all day. However, one model of a horse race I have is that horses are animals, and have personalities like people, and most people only put in about a 60% effort. This is an evolutionary defense mechanism for running out of energy/starving to death before finding food. In times of great peril or distress, we can tap into that 40% or so reserve. Thinking about this, I’ve never seen a horse race where a healthy horse had only finished half the race while the others were at the finish line. That means their speeds are on roughly equal grounds, like people the difference in similarly trained/skill people is who wants it the most. Which horse seems like he wouldn’t want another horse in front of him?

While I’m not a mind reader, I base my bet on which one seems to have that look in their eye, how they hold their head, and the impression of their stance. I guess like everyone else based on those things which one has the most heart because at the end of the day, that is the only thing that will separate all of these magnificent creatures in the race.

P.S. The takeaway from this post isn’t about horse racing at all. It’s about doing your best. Are you actually putting in your best? Or are you pacing with the rest of the field just because it feels comfortable there?

It’s easier to change that to be consistent.

I heard an old Japanese proverb, “It’s easier to change that to be consistent.” There is some truth to that. Perhaps, a bit is lost in translation. My version is “It’s easier to change than to be consistently good.”

It’s not hard to consistently be a jerk. It is hard to be consistently nice.

It’s not hard to never have any answers. It is hard to always have the right answer,

It’s not hard to put out a bad product, it is extremely hard to put out an amazing one.

So what can be done about this?

Systems and tools.

A daily system of attitude correction such as meditating when feeling agitated may be necessary to consistently be nice.

Someone asked a number of questions may not know the answer, but with a tool like Google they can find them out.

Putting out a bad product? Well, it’s possible that can be resolved with the right software to help designers.

It may be easier to change than to be consistent, but that doesn’t mean it is impossible. In fact, it is worth the effort because the world rewards those who are consistently good in big ways.

Writing it down

There are so many things that are oral traditions. One way to create value is to write it down.

When joining a new company, there is often people asking all kinds of the same questions, but rarely does anyone take the time to document things. At big company, there may be documents regarding overall company processes. Then there may be documentation for larger groups, but usually as you get closer to a more specific role that documentation fades.

It’s a shame because this is where the magic can happen. When someone is effective at something documenting how is a great way to make that effectiveness more scalable to new people. This doesn’t diminish ones value, in fact it creates more opportunity for the whole company to grow opening up entirely new opportunities.

Here are just a few things you can write down:

  • Standards
  • Expectations
  • Values
  • Process
  • Stories
  • Important document locations

Someone already has to tell you these things anyway, why not put some words to them?