Spreadsheet to reality

Increasing the cost of a product by 10% may lose 5% of customers it makes business sense to do it.

The reality is those 5% are angry conversations someone, likely a salesperson or account manager, has to deal with in real life. This is the difference between working in a spreadsheet and working in reality.

All across the business landscape, there is “strategy” and there is “reality”. Strategy can sound good to the guy running the spreadsheet, when all the numbers line up. It doesn’t sound as good to the salesman on the street who is already trying to close a big deal with a customer, but has to deliver the news that in addition to this new purchase, their existing subscription costs will increase.

Spreadsheets and reality are many times not bridged together. Spreadsheets don’t capture emotions, good will, morale of employees and a million other factors that can’t be adequately computed.

I’m not sure there is a solution to this other than if you’re someone working the spreadsheet, try to run your ideas by someone with their feet on the street. Or better yet, try to put your feet on the street and attempt your changes on a small scale first.

To be valued, you must add value.

If you know how to take a block of metal and make it into a component, then you are adding value to raw material.

If you know how to frame an idea in a way that others can learn it and share it themselves, you are adding value to the conversation.

If you know how to take money, make investments and get more money in return you are adding value to someone’s portfolio.

No matter the job or task, to be valued, adding value is critical.

The Ouji Board

Something interesting about the Ouji board is that no one knows who is moving it. It’s many forces controlling the movement all pulling in different directions and it eventually lands on certain letters.

I once watches a documentary about the financial system where the interviewed a farmer, a commodities broker, and a distributor, and each and everyone pointed to the another person saying they are the ones that determine the price. The reality is no one truly knows who is moving the needle, where the bottom is and what is fair.

This is an opportunity. The ability to clearly choose what you want to offer and at what price. Of course, you’re going to have to justify the price. To convince the buyer that they are receiving value for what they are paying, but that sounds like a challenge that you are up for.

Segmenting your marketing…

I pay attention to marketing a lot. Though more than marketing, I think about how others think. How ideas form in their head. How different groups see the world. Using that information I try to determine how to best talk to those groups. Still much learning to go to master this skillset, but I do my best.

Since different people respond differently to advertising, different marketing for different groups make sense. Elon Musk is brilliant at this. Today he tweeted a philosophical quote. He received a number of responses from people about their own views on philosophy. What did Tesla gain from it? Well, they learned how much of their audience resonates with philosophy.

Other times, Elon tweets about stock markets. He gets information about how many responders resonate with those posts.

Occassionally he tweets memes, again another way to measure the segments.

If you’re aware, everything is a chance to test, tweak, and learn. You need to see the opportunity first though, and I try to share what I see with others so that we all get better. You should too.

Learning the music.

I had music classes in school, and I also took guitar lessons as a teenager. One thing that bothers me to this day is how much the focus was on learning the music.

When thinking about the creation of musical theory, someone started by creating music first. Then people started to notice trends between notes, create notation for writing the music, create the methodology for building and describing chords, composing scales, and then working on composition. All this put together presents a “science” to be learned, and that was the focus.

This is the part that made it hard for me to continue. I have a “creative” personality. I don’t like to tread as much in places where the work is already done, I like to tread in places where I can create something a bit new.

Music class in school didn’t have single composition component to it. There was a practice component, a ranking component of skill, a test component, but never a composition component.

What a waste!

Studying the arts is a chance to learn how to work where the scaffolding hasn’t been built. Sure, we want to build on the work of others, that’s how we propel society forward, but starting by working on a composition then learning how scales, chords, and notation makes your life easier show you their value much better than simply saying, “Here’s what you need to learn.”

This goes far beyond the music class. In nearly every industry there is someone waiting to tell you what you need to know. While I don’t recommend “trial by fire” as the only way to gain knowledge, I certainly recommend a quick failure or a slow, difficult success to let the student see what they are missing.

There is no chicken or the egg here, in the early days of music, the music was composed first, then later the musical theory happened. It’s often beneficial to start by learning in the same manner the pioneers did, then work to use the knowledge built to figure out what others have already painstakingly developed.

Radioactive Toothpaste

After discovering radium, Marie and Pierre Curie were approached with a number of offers for using radium in a number of products like chocolate bars, toothpaste, water, bread, and the list goes on and on. In many cases, these products came to fruition, even though eventually we would come to understand that they were dangerous as it related to health.

As a rule, understanding follows discovery. It can’t happen any other way. First we must explore, then uncover something new, then work to discover it’s secrets, uses, drawbacks and problems. Starting with the assumptions of problems is useful in protecting oneself from potential liabilities, such as if working with radioactive materials, wearing protective gear is appropriate. However, there will always be some element of the unknown in discovery.

The unknown doesn’t have to be related to health. It could be related to your reputation if you discover a political scandal and you’re a journalist. What will happen if you publish it? What will the powerful do to you? That’s just one example, the world is filled with others.

One reason we seek to elevate pioneers and risk-taking in society is because without them nothing would ever progress. Chuck Yeager was willing to be the first to fly prototype airplanes at the highest speeds ever recorded to make sure they were safe for flight. He became a role model.

Astronauts are willing to go to places others haven’t ever been before, where events that are unaccounted for can cause problems that the spaceships don’t have the proper resources available to deal with.

It’s easy to look at radioactive toothpaste with disdain. To wonder, “How could they have been so dumb?” However, that is the price of discovery. Today, we have put in place institutions like the Food and Drug Administration to become a holder of information about all the possible side effects and problems we should be thinking through based on past experiences, but even then, these are only limited to what we have seen, new discoveries and new problems lurk around every corner.

What to do then?

  • Don’t let fear paralyze you from an important discovery.
  • Seek to protect yourself in every way your mind can think up, but don’t give into the fear to stop exploring.
  • Explore those areas where the stakes are something you are comfortable with.
  • Be honest with the side effects if you know them, don’t sell snake oil to anybody.

“Every resident…

…should consider these money moves.”

That was the title of a post I read, though there was an actual state name listed rather than “<Insert State Name Here>”. The thing is, the post itself wasn’t specific advice to people from that state, it applied to nearly everyone. What worked though was by being specific about the audience it was for, it increased the clicks.

I’m sure they had some software that changed the state based on the IP address of the user of the computer, however the result still stands.

If you can be specific with the audience you are trying to do work for, then you can generate more interest than being broad. I know this to be true. I’ve seen it from both sides, however, I also find it hard myself. When I write, much of my work can be valuable to different audiences, yet I want to serve as many people as possible.

What can be done? Here’s a thought:

  1. Write for one specific audience.
  2. Nail the content
  3. As you seek to grow your audience, adapt existing content for a new audience. It should take much less time than writing from scratch, it’s mostly a title change and perhaps some changes to any anecdotes that fit the other industry a bit better.

The hardest part is picking the audience that you desire to serve as your priority and separating from the others you want to serve in the future. No one can truly help you decide the right answer to that. It’s something you’ll have to decide for yourself.

A pride of lions…

is a good case study in society vs. the individual.

Generally, a pride is made up of 2-3 males and 5-10 females. To keep that ratio, young lions are often run off by the older males that make up the pride. This is a study in status. The males of the pride are in charge of protection. That means if the goal is to keep the pride safe, they should want more males, but yet they run them off before they grow strong enough to challenge them.

This is seen in human society too.

For some, status is important. It’s the first thing they think about, and after it’s secure, those individuals can be gracious and protect the rest of society in the way they see it.

We also have others who don’t care about status. That care about society first then their status second.

It’s easy to fall in to the trap of believing that either is correct, instead of seeing the incredibly complex set of needs that each individual has. When you can see those needs, you stand a better chance at making the change in the world you are seeking.

What is a genius?

A genius is someone who puts significant thought and energy into something most people don’t even consider and generally society rewards the title when the skill or understanding leads to a revolution in a particular subject.

Someone can be:

  • An artistic genius – Jackson Pollock
  • A scientific genius – Marie Curie, Albert Einstein
  • A fighting genius – Joan of Arc
  • A marketing genius – Seth Godin
  • A movie genius – Steven Spielberg

Or any other genius that can possibly be thought up.

One thing for certain though, without doing the work, you’re not a genius, just someone with potential. Work realizes potential. Do the work.

Who gets to lead?

That’s what the world is constantly trying to figure out. We know how to build the power structures below the top of the pyramid, but we’re never sure who should be on top.

Sometimes the position throughout history has been taken by force.

Sometimes the position has been taken by someone who amassed a bunch of followers.

Sometimes it’s taken by someone who has a great idea.

There are no set rules on who gets to lead. Anyone can pickup the mantle for a cause and start today. There can only be one President of the United States at a time, or one CEO of Microsoft, however everyday is a choice to start something internally where you work. Or to start your own business. Or to build a following for a message you have. Or to make some art. Or to organize a group to raise awareness for something you want to change.

While you can look to specific sources of leadership and tell yourself, “I’ll never be them.” You can also look at the infinite options of leadership and say, “I’ll be this one.”

“Is this anything?” by Jerry Seinfeld

I haven’t read it, possibly because it’s still in pre-order, but the title of this post is a book being published by Jerry Seinfeld. This is not a review, it is a thought. The book contains all of the material that Jerry Seinfeld has written in his 45 years of stand up comedy.

Can you imagine that? Stand up comedy in written form? Is that how it’s supposed to be consumed?

I’m asking for a reason. Maybe you realize it already.

There are many different forms our work can take on. For 90+% of stand up comedians, their work is consumed in-person, or on video. How many of them think about taking the time to convert their work to books and then sell it to an audience that prefers to read?

In a world full of content creators, we often don’t think to switch our medium. For now, you’ll find that I only write. That’s because with my day job and other commitments it’s all I have the time for, but in the future I would like to podcast as well.

If you study the cognitive functions of the brain as well as the personality types associated with them, you’ll find there are different groups of people who prefer to take information in by different methods. What Jerry is doing with this book is saying, “Sure, most people know me in the stand up world, but what about in the reading world? Don’t those people enjoy and need laughter as much as anyone?”

While it’s not likely that this book will make him huge amounts of money (relative to his own stand up shows and sitcom), it does spread his work to others that aren’t as familiar with it. We all have the opportunity to do this if we want to.

Here’s a quick list of things you could do:

  • If you have a blog, you or a voice actor could read them and make them into an audio version.
  • A video could be converted to pure audio.
  • If you have a podcast you could transcript it.

That’s not exhaustive at all, but it should also be noted, as you convert between mediums, it’s worth asking, “What else can I add in this medium, that wasn’t supported by the previous?” That way your work spreads to a new audience while also gaining some new value.

Buy Low, Sell High

What do you think that applies to?

Stocks?

Houses?

Cars?

How about people?

How about your logo?

How about materials for the things you build?

Nearly everywhere we look there is an opportunity to buy low and sell high. The question is how much work is needed to be done to fetch that premium price.

A baker buys flour, yeast, water, salt and gas or electricity low, puts them together along with their technique and sells bread at a premium.

A software company may be started by paying a developer to build some software then selling it to customer after customer until more than the original investment was made back.

A energy company takes resources like natural gas, runs it through their energy generation equipment and sells it at a markup.

A pawn shop buys something from someone looking to turn goods into cash, then they may clean it up, display it and sell it for more money.

All of these are an act of buying low and selling high. Everyone is in the business of selling high even if they don’t realize it, it’s just varying amounts. In a time like the present, if you find yourself facing financial uncertainty think about things you know, and where you can go to buy low, and sell high. Even in bad economies, these opportunities still exist.

How do you “waste” time?

Supermarket Sweep Reruns? Social media?

Make no doubt, they are both ways we choose to occupy our minds, particularly when we don’t feel productive.

One thing I’ve noticed is that social media often feels like productivity. On Facebook, it feels as if you’re connecting to people you’ve lost touch with. On a site like Reddit, it can feel like you are learning something new. On Twitter, you’re keeping abreast of the news of the day.

These are all mostly illusions.

The best way to keep in touch is to call someone directly.

The best way to learn something new is to read a book, or work on a project.

The best way to keep abreast of the news…well, in this day and age, it might be good to skip it!

Yesterday, I wrote a post about seeing a rerun of Supermarket Sweep. This show was on when I was a teenager. It took me back to days before I had a cell phone, let alone a smart phone. It made the connection in my mind of how much simpler the times were back then, even though old people in those eras still thought of “simpler times” from their era. It wasn’t just simpler, it was that we weren’t being bombarded with messages from multiple directions at all times. Sure there were commercials, and Supermarket Sweep itself was an vehicle for advertising products, but today during the day, you may be in front of a computer, and on the web as you search you’re receiving ads. In your email, there are ads. On your phone there are is push notifications. Everywhere you go, messaging that doesn’t stop.

On social media, you’ll find everyone with a cause. Though, most of the time, it isn’t really a cause, it’s a gripe. And that gripe builds up outrage and anger. Eventually, that anger has to go somewhere. You can see where it’s heading each day in the news.

So what can be done about this?

Turn off the phone for a week, and watch Supermarket Sweep or whatever other boring, old show you like. Or go to the library and get a book to read. Realize all the things you should be doing based on people on social media, aren’t nearly as important as they seem. Realize every second of the day doesn’t have to have a cause or a purpose. You can simply choose to be, though compared to the rest of the animal kingdom, humans aren’t particularly good at this.

Once you realize that for some period during the day you can “simply be”, the focus during the day time on the work you have to do can increase as you realize everything else is a distraction that doesn’t add much value to your life, but certainly makes it feel stressful.

Organizing something creative.

Recently I saw an old episode of the show Supermarket Sweep. It’s a good example of creativity and organization being brought together. The show itself is a way to advertise brands and goods without making it feel like an ad, but rather something entertaining to watch or put on in the background.

When you think about a show like Supermarket Sweep, what is actually needed to make something like that?

Here’s a list of a few items:

  • A Host
  • Contestants
  • Someone to make the games/contests/questions
  • A location
  • Cameras (Though phones could do this in a pinch)
  • A store to film in
  • An outlet to share it on
  • Brands/Sponsors to cover the costs of production/prizes

If you break those items down to people, it’s likely you need something like:

  • A salesperson to get sponsors
  • A host
  • A production team of a few people to set things up and work cameras.
  • An editor
  • A marketer to get constestants and to promote the show

It seems like in the past the hardest part would have been getting past the TV gatekeepers, but today, with YouTube availability, there is nothing stopping you from organizing a group like this and making something happen.

I’m not advocating for you to make the next Supermarket Sweep here. The point is that the barriers in nearly all industries are falling due to technology. You can continue to feel trapped, or you can start thinking about what is involved and get started on making something significant by involving others.

What to do when you stumble.

I’ve been writing this blog daily for about a year now, though in total I’ve been writing it since January 1st, 2019. In that time, I first stumbled in about April of 2019 and wasn’t able to continue writing daily. I hit my second snag this last week.

It’s been the perfect storm colliding over the last couple of months. Been busy at work, the pandemic has my daughter not going to different activities that she used to, extracurricular activities I’ve been apart of recently took time that dwindled my blog queue down to nothing, and then the plan I had to get caught up while on vacation, ended when I didn’t feel well for a few days on vacation. All this came together, and what resulted was me missing several days of blog posts, when new posts have been going up daily.

I’m terribly disappointed. I dropped the ball. I stumbled.

I also plan to get right back to it, but even then at the moment I’m struggling with nothing seeming as interesting. I hit streaks where I’m writing things that are constantly intriguing me, and I’m excited, then I get into lulls where I feel like I’m just going through the motions, which is also fine, but I’m looking to find that something interesting again, and it’s making the stumble all the harder.

No matter though, I will start writing, start thinking, and things will start flowing again.

When you stumble there is always a choice to start back up again. It is a choice after all.

The drive is the vacation

My wife and I went on vacation recently. While driving, she said, “I’m not sure how we used to do it as a kid. My parents and I would drive up here every weekend on Friday after they got off work. Then we’d be leaving and heading back on Sunday.”

Well after a week long trip, that didn’t feel much like a vacation at all. I realized something that gave her a chuckle, “The drive is the vacation.”

While driving there is:

  • Time to chat leisurely
  • Music of your choice
  • A calm passing by of new scenery

While driving there isn’t:

  • Dishes to be done
  • A house to be tidied
  • TVs and screens begging for your attention

This perspective may not be for everyone and the idea isn’t the central point of this post. The true point is that a mindset shift could transform your perspective about any single task that you need to do. In my wife’s mind, the drive is the wasted part of our vacation. The thing that has to be done out of necessity, but doesn’t add value. Shifting her mindset helps to see, there is value, even in the drive to start and end the vacation.

Assets and the awareness of pricing.

The stock market is composed of people buying and selling financial assets, in this case, stocks. These assets aren’t fundamentally different than a home, or a classic car in value, yet they are traded far more frequently.

Why do you think that is?

Well, one reason is because there are “Market Makers” people who provide liquidity to the market by being both a buyer and seller. They make a little money on each trade regardless of what side they take, they’ll buy a bit below the going price, and they’ll sell a bit above. It may only be a penny on a hundred dollar share of stock, but over millions of trades a day it adds up.

When a business makes money on any transaction, it’s in their business interest to compel their customers to do more transactions. So we have stock charts. Second-by-second analysis of the current market value, meant to get you to sell if you think it’s peaked, or to sell if it’s falling to quickly and you think your money isn’t safe.

Other assets don’t have this level of awareness. No one knows the precise value of their house every second, nor the value of a classic car they fixed up. No one is going to easily give these items up either. I don’t mean in the willingness sense, but in the actual taking possession of the assets.

Once you understand that pricing awareness is a way to manipulate you into making more trades, you can actively decide whether or not those are trades you actually want to make, or simply an effect of the influence the data is having on you.

We’re in the information age, and that information is being used to manipulate us in all sorts of ways. Combating that even just a little bit requires some awareness of where it is happening.

Auto Parts stores don’t like to dicker.

As I mentioned yesterday, I recently found a show called “Down East Dickering”. One thing they mention a couple times in the show, “auto parts stores don’t like to dicker.”

Why?

Likely because all these guys that like to dicker do a lot of mechanic work. The auto parts store can’t dicker with their suppliers for the parts, eventually they need cash to buy more supply. Too many people looking to dicker and there isn’t enough money left to run the business.

This is what knowing your audience is all about.

If you’re trying to dicker, then the audience isn’t an automotive supplier, they are inundated with too many other dickerers. Pick the right segment, and if you pick wrong, figure out why and start over again.

Down East Dickering

I recently stumbled across a show called “Down East Dickering”. Dickering is essentially bartering and doing whatever you need to get the necessities for survival while using little to no cash. It’s trading labor, or things you already own for things that you want, and possibly getting some cash in your own pocket.

While some people may watch the show and think the characters in it are a little “strange”, I watch it and think that in many ways these people represent good business principles, they are just doing it on smaller scales. Sometimes all the flashy offices, business casual attire, and procedures blind us to the reality that we can simply go out and make something happen for ourselves or others. While often looking for “a calling” it can be a distraction from earning “a living.”

While finding your calling is great, it’s a search that can take a lifetime (or longer!). Starting with making a living for yourself is more approachable. There are a multitude of ways to do that.

I’m writing this because 2020 has been a year filled with more uncertainty than any other time I can remember in my lifetime. If you are concerned about your future, or someone else you know is facing a possible job loss during this time, finding your way to “dicker” may just be how to get through it. When the challenges facing the world lighten up a bit, finding a calling can become a priority again.

Process vs. Creativity

These two seem like opposites, yet there is always an intermingling. It takes creativity at times to figure out what the process should be, while at the same time when talking about creativity, people often use the term “creative process.”

There is some intermingling to be sure. In my context, a process is a series of defined activities that produce a result. Creativity is the ability to create.

If a process creates something, then it is by definition creative. Using that thought process, they shouldn’t be seen as opposites as they are. What most people are discussing if they place these two apart is a task-based approach vs. an outcome-based approach.

When Pixar makes a new movie, they may have a mix of both, but on the macro-level they are taking an outcome based approach. They are going to adjust constantly until they make a great movie. Conversely, there are companies so large that they take a task-based approach. Follow the script for the sale, and if they don’t go with us, that’s fine, we did it the way we are supposed to.

Task-based approaches are much easier to manage. They require people who don’t want to make decision-making part of their job, nor accountability. The one place where task-based approaches are a god-send are the factory floor. Since this was a significant amount of the jobs, society took this and tried to slap it on every job. Sales. Marketing. Engineering.

Task-based approaches work well when defining a process with a clear, well-defined input, and getting a clear, well-defined output. I have a 4’x8′ piece of sheet metal, that I need to turn into 24 stamped parts for an automobile. They need to be laser cut, then stamped with 3 different dies, the edges knocked off so they don’t cut people, then packaged and shipped. The output is 24 stamped parts according to the customer specifications and the input is a piece of sheet metal.

Pixar works differently, they basically start with “we need a popular family movie.” That’s not well-defined. What is the plot? What are the characters? What is the tension in the story that pulls us in? These are all decisions that are made as the movie develops. There is no well-defined input. The output isn’t well-defined either because no one knew what the story of Wall-E was going to be until it was significantly deep into development. As a result, this is an outcome based approach.

Knowing which game you play in is important as a business. Knowing which game you play in as an employee is even more important. If you’re in the outcome-based positions, don’t sell your value short.

If you want to break plastic…

It’s easier to melt the middle of it with a lighter than to cut it with scissors. This is the result of the hyperelasticity of polymers. They stretch significantly making them hard to cut. Melting it doesn’t have that issue, though you also won’t get a clean cut.

An important part of the work is having the right tool for the right situation, making sure that the tool needed is in the hands of the people who need it. If you took my story about plastic above and you had a 1000′ of plastic in 100′ lengths that needed to be broken down into 1′ strips, giving someone a lighter will be less efficient than finding other means that are more efficient due to the how many times it needs to be repeated. If one 2′ strip needed to be split into 1′ strips, the method efficiency is mostly a non-issue. After scaling up, the efficiency matters.

Moving from a scale where efficiency doesn’t matter much to a scale where it does is a common experience for businesses. Unfortunately, often times in their success, they get caught up in doing more of their current methodology rather than thinking those old methods don’t work at the new scale.

Work from home tips.

Add a transition time.

When I used to drive home, traffic sucked, but it was actually a useful mental transition time. Being at home all day, then turning off immediately at 5 and transitioning into husband and dad is hard. A little time for transitioning is good.

It’s easier said than done. My wife may have had a hectic day with my daughter, and she sees me home and wants to transition as well. Just recognizing it and talking it out may help.

If that doesn’t work, try building a fort out of blankets and hiding in there for a few minutes before anyone can find you. It’s amazing how a change of space can make you feel. 🙂

What does accountability mean?

Accountability means the people reporting to you have some level of control or judgement over what happens after delivering/failing to deliver the results you were tasked with.

To be accountable means to be subordinate. For example, a company owner may still be accountable to his customers. A mayor is still accountable to his citizens, as is a governor, and as is a President.

I’m seeing so much unaccountability in the world right now. We have a sever shortage of accountability, and the demand for it is possibly at an all-time high.

Who are you accountable to, and are you living up to it?

Facebook vs a regular book

They are both reading material, but this is the story of breadth vs. depth. It’s the difference between speaking to one person for a few hours vs speaking to dozens of people in an hour.

It’s likely after having spent 6 hours on Facebook, the value of what you know or what you are capable of is unchanged.

It’s unlikely that after reading a book for 6 hours you feel as though you aren’t somehow better for it in some way.

I’m diminishing the connection to others. My parents use Facebook to see their grandchild. It’s a wonderful medium. The problem is when people start to default to it. To feel as if they are going somewhere to feed their brain information.

A book can be a wonderful thing, and a wonderful break from a screen filled world. Perhaps it’s time to up your book quota, and decrease your social media time. You may come out more clear headed, with better thought out ideas, and happier for it.

Supply and Demand of Role Models

Contributing online in many different places, I come across all types of people. One thing I have noticed, the world is severely lacking in role models. Not the far off kind. Not the popular twitter personality. Not the superstar business person on the news. I’m talking about the down to earth, in-person role model.

The one who may have a successful career, and shares their knowledge not only with their children, but also with their children’s friends who may have been born into lesser luck.

The supply and demand of this is unusual compared to other goods. While there is an obvious lack of supply, that is only getting worse, as online distractions eat up the attention of possible role models, but there is also a demand problem. Those who need it the most, aren’t even aware they need it. It’s as if the supply has to go out and sell their time for free. That means the entire supply is made up of the most generous people there are, which by definition is a scarce amount of people.

If you have something to offer someone, share it. Don’t wait for them to ask. The worst that can happen is they ignore your thoughts, the best case is that their life is changed. While you can’t help everybody, you can definitely help a few people throughout your life. If everyone who was successful did that, we’d have quite the positive society on our hands.

Work harder.

The world is losing the setup for hard work to get ahead anymore.

When I make that claim, I’m talking about hard work being synonymous with labor. While that’s not the only work that is hard, it’s the work that is traditionally referred to as hard work.

From the mythology I was told, the word “Spinster” people used to describe a woman past typical marrying age came from the fact that many of these woman were able to support themselves from their skill at spinning yarn or other textiles. They didn’t have to depend on a man. In a time of piecework pay, they were efficient workers.

The world as it fills up with computers, machinery, and other automation and tools is rewarding this kind of effort less and less. For many labor based tasks, if a person can do it, a machine can do it faster, with less variation, and around the clock. Working harder is the race to the bottom. One that will chew you up and spit you out if you’re not careful.

That means that instead of work hard, it’s time do the difficult work. Connecting with other people. Planting a flag in the ground with what you are offering. Messaging and promoting your own work in a way that resonates with people, figuring out how to finance the work you want to do, doing something that is uniquely you. All of that is difficult work. It’s also the way to build something for yourself, something for your family, and something that the world needs.

Financial Analysis vs. Physics Analysis

In both cases, mathematics is being used to solve a problem. The difference is the financial analysis is done to convince people to act in a way that makes it true. In physics, there is no convincing the atoms and particles to simply behave how you want them to.

To illustrate this, let’s say that a stock price has a pattern to it, that has been fit well with an equation. The equation with good confidence says Microsoft is going to be worth at 10% more in 2 months. A brokerage who owns millions of dollars of Microsoft stock takes this information, types it up, and tells it to as many of their customers who will listen. Then those customers who are convinced buy a bunch of Microsoft driving the price up and fulfilling the “prediction”. Was it the analysis? Was it the behavior induced by the analysis?

In physics, when we are calculating how electrons flow, or how steel bends, or any other physical phenomenon, the particles aren’t told about how they should behave based on the analysis.

Differentiating between these two ways of using analysis is where many people fall on their head. When we have a lack of trust in science, it’s possible it comes from someone who has been burned by trusting in something similar to the financial analysis, where the result doesn’t actually come from a fixed behavior of the universe. It then leads a person to believe that they can’t trust people who run numbers and analysis and perform “science”. However, it’s a false dichotomy, not all analyses is the same, and distinguishing which type you are engaging with is important.

Data creating leaders who follow.

Look at any growing organization today, and you’ll find a high likelihood that they are tracking data that wasn’t possible to track 10-20 years ago. They are looking at how much people like the words on their website, how long they stayed, what they clicked on, and figuring out where their customers are leaving the sales funnel instead of making their purchase.

This is good in some regards, and a failure in many others. It’s good for the economy. It allows companies to edit, adjust, and reap financial benefits.

It’s a failure in ways because it is creating leaders who follow, measuring popular vs. unpopular opinions. We see politicians not holding their own beliefs strongly about what is right and where the country should go, instead looking to the data of what’s popular.

When America launched the idea of putting a man on the moon, we never could have measured that from social media if that was around at the time. People weren’t thinking about it.

I encourage you to watch the speech about it if it’s been a while:

We don’t seem to have leaders like this anymore. Perhaps society is different. Perhaps our politics has changed, however, one thing that has changed is the way campaigns are done. The goal is to win rather than measure. At one time, most of our leaders gave speeches and professed their beliefs against each other, then the population voted on which most aligned with them.

Now, campaigns measure. Measure the existing sentiment, and adjust our campaign to reflect that to make us popular. This is a societal feedback loop. If the country is leaning one way, the politician gets up there and tells society how he agrees, instead of saying his true feeling and why he feels that way, which may possibly sway society back towards the middle. By having leaders who follow, we’re radicalizing ourselves and social media amplifies this radicalization.

The goal of a political campaign should not be to win, it should be to make the campaigners beliefs clear against challengers, and educate the voters as to why they may benefit to believing or voting a certain way. A loss means your country didn’t fully align with those beliefs, but putting those out there may change the country for the better, even in the event of a defeat.

Data doesn’t create leaders, convictions do. Data creates followers, and that’s never who we want leading a nation.

A little wrong vs. a lot wrong.

People correct those who make slightly incorrect statements.

People don’t bother correcting statements that aren’t even in the ballpark.

This leads to a strange dichotomy. Those who are off by just a bit, can correct course, those who are off the mark by a lot continue to be off the mark for years, decades or even their whole life. After all that time, convincing them otherwise becomes impossible, as all those conversations that they were incorrect about and no one corrected them makes them think that was agreement, even though no one actually agreed.

Figuring out yourself whether you are right or wrong is the process of education. It’s important to attempt to correct yourself through knowledge as much as possible, that way when you are just a little wrong, people will tend to fill in the last gaps you are missing as you have conversations. This allows your perspective to grow.