The habits you want to form

Come second to the habits you have formed.

We all spend our 24 hours a day using our habits. To make a new one also requires breaking an old one. Even wasting time is a habit.

So when you want to start exercising. Or writing. Or any other habit, it starts with replacing the old one.

When we’re young the habits are what formed by external factors around us, as we mature, there is opportunity to see what you want your habits to be, and adopt them.

Bohemian Rhapsody…

was ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder) on display. In 1975, that sort of sound was unheard of.

The changing melodies and rhythms. The combination of so many different sounds in one track. Queen certainly didn’t know it would work. Or become a multi-generational well-known hit, used again and again.

Doing things that are different and might not work is about the only option left in the age of automation, everything else is a race to cheapest. You only need one hit, after all most people probably can’t name any other Queen songs.

What out there idea can you turn into a hit?

You’re going to let someone down.

Scrutiny of others is a hard thing to deal with. Really hard.

Even the best restaurants in the world let people down at times. Even the best IT people create issues they didn’t predict.

We all let our customers down at some point. How seriously you take that problem is what matters. How can you make it right? Can you make it right? Can you change the expectation in the future? That’s what matters.

You’re going to let someone down, just do your best to minimize it and in the meantime make as many people happy as you can.

Who this isn’t for…

is anywhere from four to ninety-nine times more important, than who it is for.

Where are those numbers coming from?

Consider the smartphone market, Samsung, the leader, owns roughly 20% of the market. That means there are four times the number of smartphone owners who don’t have Samsung smartphones than those that do.

Also consider, a hugely popular blog or video getting 60,000,000-70,000,000 viewers. An overwhelming success! It also reached less than 1% of people. There are more than 99X as many people who didn’t see it as did.

This matters because who your product isn’t for should come before who it is for in your sales funnel. If you can bump everyone away who isn’t for what you do, then you can spend less time dealing with people who weren’t going to buy. And care more about those who it is for. You can increase generosity to those interested.

Here’s an opportunity. If you’re selling something today, think about what your product or service does, then carefully consider what it doesn’t do. Who it isn’t going to help. And write it out as clearly as possible.

Here are a few things to think about:

  • Is there economic restrictions? If you sell a million dollar product, it isn’t for a guy that has a half million dollars in revenue.
  • Is personality of the user a factor?
  • Does the aesthetic not fit in some places?
  • Do they need a certain education background?
  • Do they need to be in a certain stage of life?

That’s not an exclusive list certainly, but it’s a starting point. Be generous, don’t waste people’s time. As a nice side effect, you’ll waste less of yours.

Rollercoasters are about controlling emotions

The length and steepness of the climb builds anticipation.

The length and steepness of the drop creates fear.

Long gaps between ups and downs create curiosity.

A rollercoaster is simply a device that controls our emotions. It doesn’t talk to us. It doesn’t convince us. It highjacks our feelings through physical sensations.

Somehow, through something that compresses, extends, and cycles all sorts of feelings through us, we come out feeling happy and cleansed. If you want to make a pitch, think about the emotions you want to bring out in someone, you can take them on your rollercoaster.

Professionals rarely have time to practice

A friend of mine is a professional bowler. He has so many tournaments on his schedule, the only time between them are travel days to get to them.

He doesn’t have the luxury of practice. However, he really doesn’t need it, the practice is showing up to every tournament, day after day. It’s a grind. Some days he makes money, some days he loses it. In the end, it’s about the sum, not any particular day.

Picasso didn’t decide, “Today is the day I paint a masterpiece.” He painted every day. Eventually, he made something people thought was magnificent.

One of the choices you have to make in your career is what do I want to show up to do every day. Not to be an amateur at. Not to practice at, but to do. That’s what a professional is, someone who shows up and does what they are paid for.

Choosing the direction.

People are forces that move the world.

There are a few ways of looking at this, you could make the right choices, and people change the world, making your choices worse in hindsight, or you can find something that is wrong with the world and change it. Or you can find a change that is happening and push with everyone else in the movement.

Which direction and how hard to push is up to you.

Company culture by innovation cycle

Yesterday, I posted a topic about the innovation cycle. I’ve been to over 500 companies and I’ve seen some patterns of behavior depending on where companies are at in that cycle. That’s important because people generally are happy at companies within the same stages.

Invention/Innovation – Loosely structured, relaxed, flat management structure, get it done, don’t worry about the clock attitudes. Lower pay, lesser benefits, more ping pong tables, and less offices. Everything is on a tight budget. Creativity and versatility are usually valued.

Propagation – This is where usually you see more structure built. Fast growth, ability to move up in the company quickly. Forming of a hierarchy within company. Growing perks like budgets for new equipment. Ambition and aggressiveness are usually valued. 

Competition – When a space starts to get crowded, it’s time to try to stand out. This is where the industry starts to differentiate things. In a more industrial setting, this may mean older buildings, cost cutting, etc. In technology, it may mean fancier offices, more attempts to impress clientele. Organization and process building are usually valued.

Maturity – This is the widest range. Some times this means huge coffers of cash like Apple. Other times it means keeping the lights on by remaining the cheapest. This is where companies are more about process, people know what tasks are theirs, what they need to do, and how things should flow. These are machines. Doing your tasks is valued above most. 

These are all broad strokes, and they aren’t fixed. innovations and company leadership can shift companies from one to the other depending on new services they offer.

Innovation Cycle

Invention/Innovation -> Propagation -> Competition -> Maturity

Invention is the actual act of creation. It’s the initiation of a smart idea. Not every idea makes it out of this stage. Plenty of good ideas stop here for many different reasons.

  • Bad Marketing.
  • Or another innovation coming along immediately that’s better.
  • Political Shifts. 

Propagation is the part where an idea starts to take off. It could be a single company that grows. Or many companies making similar products or adopting the same tactics. The industry affected doesn’t yet know its bounds, the limits of money to be made and benefits to customers. 

Competition is where people are seeing the opportunity pop up and trying to cash in. As the industry sees it’s walls, and more companies enter, the value of the service starts to decline.

Maturity is your when you’re competing on price with other established companies. It’s hard to differentiate from other companies, and it’s also hard for a new competitor to enter without a new innovation that starts the cycle over again. 

Connection is powerful

I recently was asked if I new anyone looking for a senior engineer. I didn’t but I put out the message to my LinkedIn connections. In 2 hours, the gentlemen looking had an interview setup with a company that could benefit from his skills. No resume into a black hole. Just people finding people who can help each other.

Connection is powerful.

Here comes the sun.

The song George Harrison wrote for the Beatles’ Abbey Road album has very few words. It’s mostly a catchy arrangement of instruments.

Harrison is more of an instrument guy, than a lyricist. He’s not Lennon. Our backgrounds always influence our work. Some times we need to embrace what makes us different to do our best work.

When intuition is off slightly.

For most people, gaining weight is caused by eating a bit more calories than they need, repeated day after day. Intuition of how many calories are needed can be close, off by only 50 calories a day, but over time that equates to 5 lbs of weight gained per year. That’s caused by a 2.5% error, the equivalent to a 97.5% score on the test!

There are plenty of problems like this in life. One where intuition gets us close, but data can get us exactly and eliminate the problems that build over time. Know when it’s time to use intuition and when it’s time to use data. One key is if something is going to happen daily, it’s possible data should be used daily to measure it. Think diets, budgets, etc.

The loop of writing and talking

My process for crafting a presentation:

  1. Outline
  2. Images
  3. Writing
  4. Talking
  5. Editing

I can’t fully form a complex idea without doing both writing and talking. Writing helps me unravel ideas into more coherent groups or buckets, while talking helps me simplify each idea to be the easiest possible way for a person to understand.

Editing then usually involves looking at the presentation as a whole and thinking about order and flow that makes things better, and removing too much repetitiveness. That creates the need for more cycles of writing and then talking.

The downside of connection, and some positivity.

When the internet start connecting people, it was a positive thing overall, but there are certain trends that made life more difficult. One trend is online job boards. They made being good enough and being in the right geography not good enough. Applications went through the roof, making everything more competitive.

However, there are ways that the connection that makes it harder to get that entry-level job, also makes it easier to stand out. It’s easier than ever for a student who has a good idea to find out who the executive they should talk to at a company is. It’s easier than ever to build a community that could benefit from a future product or service that your student could provide. It’s easier than ever to spread a message to a large group of people. All it takes is responsibility, a plan, and persistence.

The habits…

you want to form are a good place to start. If you want to be good at sales, try buying stuff and selling for more than you bought it daily.

For writing, write a blog daily.

For videos, create a video every week.

For food, cook your own meals every day.

For fitness, go to the gym daily.

For painting, paint everyday.

Life is about the habits. Start by forming them early. Not necessarily from childhood, but from the time you acknowledge what it is you want to do.

How to know you’re pushing your boundaries…

When things become probabilistic instead of deterministic, you’re probably there.

That means that when every outcome isn’t exactly reproducible, you’re pushing the boundaries. Watch Jerry Seinfeld’s Comedian and you’ll see even for a rehearsed performance, he’s not always happy the way it happens. And that’s a guy that’s at the level of legend!

If you can go in and knock it out of the park every time, you’re not pushing boundaries. It’s time to grow into something more challenging.

The trapped feeling

At times, I feel trapped.

Trapped by our family’s budget, which if was left solely to my discretion would save much more for the future.

Trapped by the amount of time I have.

Trapped by the feeling of not being good enough.

However, it’s a feeling. It’s a decision that I need to make that is actually the trap. What do I need to drop? Do I need to drop expenses? Do I need to drop activities? Do I need to drop certain ambitions?

Really, the trapped feeling is not understanding what the question is, and the decision that needs to be made.

If you’re feeling trapped, figure out what is actually trapping you, and make some choices. You’ll feel better.

Demand for persistence is always high.

Most projects can be made successful with just persistence. Tweaking. Editing. Solving problems. That is how the world is built. Persistence is what keeps you going through the hard times.

The world is shifting it’s demand curves from labor to knowledge. And the knowledge required is rapidly changing. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly what knowledge will be in demand, but one thing we can focus on, persistence is always in demand.

A plan for the future.

Taking stock of passions and skills is one part of a plan, and the item most touted. The problem is usually one of matching demand. That’s what hangs people up from doing what they want in life.

One reason is that people don’t know the world outside of their bubble, so it’s hard to see what’s in demand. A second reason is they don’t see where the world is heading, only where it’s been. The final reason is that there is plenty of “hidden” demand in the world, the world doesn’t know what it wants until someone shows them.

Their is plenty of opportunity in the world, but sometimes it takes someone to show you where the opportunity is and how to plan it with the life you want to build.

In addition to passion and skill, some other things you may want to think about are:

  • Lifestyle
  • Location
  • Mobility
  • Perception

A small company is probably in your future.

The internet is a connection machine. A series of micro media tied together. As a result, there are two trends happening:

  1. Small companies are finding new channels to market in that used to be owned by big companies.
  2. Big companies are finding more small companies to provide goods and services that have become increasingly difficult to manage in-house.

As a result of both, more small companies are thriving than ever. This means that while traditionally a career has been about specialized knowledge, the future is likely to be more generalized. Smaller companies thrive off nimbleness after all. That means you need to think about your future as more of a generalist.

When asking the question is enough

“How do I structure a story?”

I’ve heard people ask that when giving presentations. Unfortunately, this is a place where these is no singular answer. There are frameworks, like
“The Hero’s Journey,” but that is the basics.

The good news is this, if you’re willing to keep asking, then the question is enough! Keep asking yourself. Keep asking others. You’ll develop your own style with time and practice.

Cross generational mentoring

If you’re seeking proof that the world is in a transition, look no further than cross-generational mentoring. It used to be there was a significantly lop-sided relationship, with the older generation having a lot more to teach the younger one. However, what I see when I look hard enough, is closer to 50-50. Sure, the older generation knows more about dealing with people, the laws, the finances, the hard stuff. However, they know a lot less about technology, twitter, instagram, LinkedIn, and other tools that are quickly becoming the basis of modern marketing and sales.

I’m sure similar cross-generational mentoring happened when the world transitioned from feudalism to capitalism. There was probably some peasant father somewhere, saying “Son, I’m going to teach you how to mill the best grain, and get respect from the nobles.” And the son replying, “Dad, I’m going to teach you how to harness water power to make us rich!”

Let’s embrace the transition and make a plan for it.

Innovation must continue

Milling with water power produced surplus flour. That gave the mill more to trade for other things, however, eventually other mills sought the same benefits, and with society only needing so much flour milled, eventually there was a surplus, and it drove the competition through the roof. The early benefit went to the innovator, the late benefit went to society having cheap access to flour and milling services.

This is the trend of everything. When an industry becomes a commodity, it’s time to find another innovation.