The scale of your life.

Minimaterials.com is a unique site that I found a couple of years back. It’s a fun idea. Toys that you build with at small scales. When I originally found it they only had some cinder blocks and palettes. now they have many different pieces of furniture and building materials.

How fun is that table? As my daughter gets a bit older, I may buy some of these things for her, but I’ll probably buy the materials and build the pieces myself to teach her how to build things in a scale that’s built for her.

Scale is something most people underestimate. I’ve found when talking to people they tend to only think in one scale. That scale is unique to the individual, but still singular in vision. Some people only think in the biggest. I want to make big cookies. I want to build a big business. All of that. Some people think in the most common scale, a normal size table, a regular sized cookie. Some people think in tiny scales, a tiny table, and a bite size cookie.

Your life has scales to it. These tables are perfectly fun to play with at their small size. Equally fun might be a table made for giants, which is likely why my young daughter has so much fun crawling under a table made for adults.

If everything in your life isn’t going the way you expected to perhaps you’re thinking in the wrong scale adjusting that correctly may make all the differences.

Sunk cost is a way to trap you as a customer.

It’s likely that if you charge a lot of money, and make things expensive to maintain, years later when a cheaper, more efficient alternative comes along as a competitor, your customer is so entrenched and has spent so much, they won’t be able to overcome the idea of the sunk cost they’ve put into your solution.

This is a way to trap a customer. While many companies do it, it doesn’t particularly move society forward. It’s a single-minded thought process, good for bottom lines, but not actually good for customers.

Another way to think is how to build something that doesn’t trap customers through the idea they have sunk too much cost in, but instead how to build something that they want to use because it is the best solution. How do you stay on top of the industry to make sure your solution is the solution of choice based on capabilities not sunk costs?

Not every company is out there seeking to trap people purposefully in this way, but sometimes this just occurs naturally. That’s okay, there isn’t much to do about it. What there is to be done is the work to make sure if they were making the decision today against your competitors they would still go with your offerings because they are the best choice.

Not every cause needs you to take a side.

It seems that pre-internet/social media, there were activists and causes, however, many of them were only being engaged with by those who had direct experience and could see the reasons of why to fall on one side or the other. It was a debate between people on both sides of the spectrum with little interaction from people in the middle.

Today, these debates are piped directly to us via social media on our phones, via email, via round the clock news. The average person has too many causes, to the point it’s becoming harder to just enjoy life.

Obviously, there is a balance, fixing injustice is a good cause, however, that’s a job that will never be complete. We also need to see the side of the world where things are working. Where we can relax and just be.

Can we recognize that this is so difficult…

because we’re arguing in a gray area.

Nothing functions in a pure form. The reason the arguments look so complicated is because we are balancing on the top of a steep hill, down either side is a quick descent towards the “pure” form of the each argument that leads to a less optimal society. We’re all finding how much we can move the needle without damaging the total operation of things.

This is a balance and it requires being able to see both where we are at and the hill itself. I we aren’t standing on top of the hill, we can’t see both sides and that leads towards extremism. While extremism gets more attention, it’s not usually the best place to operate from.

The complexity of the model in your head.

We all have them, models in our head that tell us how an interaction is going to go, when it’s our turn at a stop light, and any other interaction we have in the world. It isn’t the same as the one in the other person’s head. That’s where the constant miscommunication of the world happens.

Your model may be complex, seeing the subtlety or the gray areas of the world. Someone else’s may be simple, black and white. Trying to communicate a gray area from a complex model to someone with a simple black and white is a complicated endeavor. While people can learn new facts, changing the structure of their model is something dramatic. If there isn’t a space in their mental model for what you are trying to convey, you may not be able to convince them no matter the persuasiveness used or the facts.

The World as a brain.

I’ve often thought of a country as a brain, and a government as the structure of that brain. Each person is a “neuron”, and the sum of the “neurons” coupled with the structure determine the choices that brain makes. Recently, I found out Nikola Tesla thought along similar lines:

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-Nikola Tesla

When scaling things down in physics, looking at just a few particles, things behave differently than at the macro level. Take a cloud of gas, the whole cloud volume may be drifting along at 10mph while the individual particles are moving at 10 times that. The macro behavior is significantly different than the micro behavior that makes it up.

This seems to be the case with society. The problem is we are looking a bit closer at the micro level than ever before due to social media. We are amplifying certain “neurons” importance and voice far more significantly than we should, as a result our macro behavior is starting to shift.

This is only an observation, and something to ponder. The total repercussions can’t be known entirely yet.

The power of memes…

is highly underrated. There are certain memes that have made people laugh. There are memes that have started a movement. There are memes that have sold products.

What makes memes so powerful when done well?

  • They are illustrative, showing the concept vs. explaining the concept.
  • They are quick to consume by comparison to reading.
  • They are easily shareable with others.

Those three items taken together make something that started as funny jokes, but is now shaping a significant portion of our culture.

Online attention.

If you want someone’s full attention it’s probably best to do something to connect with them through their phone. We’ve all been in the meeting where people are looking at their phones. So, if you do an online meeting, running it through the phones may keep everyone from losing focus.

Another example, people now watch streaming services and still browse the internet with their phone at the same time. Do you really think they are taking in that movie in it’s full glory? How about if your title was only available on the app on their phone? That way if they watch it, their phone is already tied up.

If you want someone’s full attention to your online meeting, video, etc., the best chance you have is making it consumable through their cellphone. It eliminates the browsing habit that many have developed.

Focusing on the difference vs. the overlap.

It’s often easy to look at the world and say here is how we are different. When judging a product, a service, a restaurant, all you need to make your decision is on how they are different. Some differences include, appearance, price, speed, durability, craftsmanship, taste, and quantity. However, when interacting with others it’s easy to see the differences and not the overlap.

I watched an interview with Ricky Gervais recently talking about atheism (Please ignore the religious undertone here, it’s just a good example) and to paraphrase he said, “There are around 3,000 gods across all religions in the world, the difference between an atheist and a Christian is that the atheist believes in 1 less god than the Christian does.” They both agree that the other 2,999 gods don’t exist, but on the last one the disagree.

While some people get heated over that kind of stuff, it’s actually a healthy way of looking at it, Mathematically, when it comes to deities they worship those two are actually in agreement on 99.9% of the worlds deities. However, that 0.1% can be a sticking point for a lot of people.

It takes significant thought, reflection, and perspective to see the overlap, and that’s precisely why it’s so valuable. Differences are easy to spot, it’s why we use them as a shortcut, seeing the similarities is much harder and likely, much more valuable when trying to make sense of the world.

One way to get attention…

is to show up the most, for the longest period of time.

I recently wrote about Sensationalism and Attention, and it’s how people get millions of YouTube followers over a matter of a few years. Outrageous stuff gets attention.

What about important messages that aren’t outrageous? What alternative do they have?

Show up. Again and again. For years or decades. Doing so, in itself is sensational, but not only that, you then get to write true, but sensational headlines such as “Man spends 30 years trying to change the world.” “Woman writes blog daily about climate change for 40 years.” Those are sensational headlines in their own right, but they are also true.

You don’t have to sacrifice everything you believe to get the right attention, but it’s likely that you will have to be patient. Are you okay with that?

Why do so many blockbuster movies come from America?

It’s the ecosystem:

  • Wealthy society for raising big money for production
  • Wealthy society for paying big ticket prices
  • Capitalist structure to incentivize making a better movie than the competition
  • A large population sharing the same language compared to Europe

All of these things come together in order to build a strong movie industry in America.

If you’re in a field where things just don’t seem to be going your way. The work you want to do just isn’t available. It’s perhaps you’re not a failure, you’re just not in the right ecosystem. Certain plants will fail to grow in certain climates and soils. It’s not that they are failures, but that the conditions aren’t right.

This can be commonly seen in restaurants. Putting a sushi restaurant in an area where everyone loves hamburgers isn’t a recipe for success. While there are certain fields and industries that can produce opportunities anywhere such as repairman, doctors, lawyers, etc, there is another class of industries that have their best chance when in the right place. If you haven’t thought much about that, it’s time to do so.

If you think negatively of a certain trait you have…

…and it’s been around for a while in society, ask why natural selection didn’t extinguish it.

It seems like selfishness maybe an entirely negative trait. I had a few friends who I used to consider selfish when I was younger, but later realized there is actually a social benefit at times to it.

Ever go out with a bunch of easy-going people? “Where should we go to eat?” is a common refrain.

“I don’t care.”

“I’m good with whatever.”

“Whatever anyone wants is fine by me.”

That’s great that everyone is in agreement, but who is actually going to decide?

One guy says, “We’ll go to my favorite pizza place.”

In this situation, if there is one and only one person with a recommendation, no one seems selfish. It’s when there are multiple of these types in the group, and neither wants to budge, then the selfishness seems more apparent.

The point is, these traits are situational. If you are thinking negatively about certain traits you have, it’s more likely that you’re not putting yourself in the right situations for them to be assets. Take some time to think through what those situations might be and use them to make yourself the best possible version.

We’re looking for something impressive.

  • An iPhone.
  • A few hot days.
  • A sidewalk.
  • A basketball and hoop.

Mix all of those together with a little creativity and some editing software, and you have something interesting like the video above. My wife said, “Oh my god.” when she first saw it.

There are plenty of new discoveries left out there. Plenty of new inventions. Plenty of new stories to be told in a way we aren’t expecting.

There is a wide open world for you to explore, though you have to be willing to enjoy the journey more than the pay day. Do you have the patience it takes to explore something new?

Prisons of the mind.

It’s possible you’re so tuned into a specific thing, that you miss something else. In fact, not only is it possible, people are almost entirely defined by what they ignore.

We’ve all seen the trope of the guy who can’t ever seem to be aware of the time. Someone like the Absent-Minded Professor. This guy missed his own wedding three times!

We’ve all met that person who is extremely blunt and ignores the feelings of others.

We’ve all seen the companies who live in the past, not adapting to the current wants and ignoring growing trends.

We’re all trapped in mental prisons of sorts. The key is to figure out what it is that you are ignoring the most and becoming aware of it. That way you know when you can accept criticism of the part of the world you are missing taking in.

We all have limited memory, limited bandwidth, limit sensory capability, as a result, any change of taking in the thing we are currently excluding, will only lead to leave out something we are currently including. We can never be perfect, but perhaps we can be aware of our imperfections.

Sensationalism and Attention

Sensationalism is what gets attention. The more people compete for attention, the more sensational the claims have to be in order to show up on anyone’s radar. In a world, with ever-growing competition for attention this leads down the path of picking how you want to get your attention.

Do you want to do the outlandish, over-the-top stuff, like celebrities with bad boy images who get arrested because it is good for their image? Do you want to make the most outrageous claims anyone has ever made? Or do you want to do the most amazing charitable work that anyone has ever seen? Or do you want to invent world-changing technologies that investors line up for?

All of these are choices in how we show up, and some are much better for society than others. Be sure that you show up in the way that you would like to in order to get the attention you deserve from those you are seeking an audience with.

What if intelligence doesn’t exist?

What if everyone is equally intelligent and that intelligence as a construct isn’t something that actually exists?

Consider the situation where everyone we consider intelligent is actually just lucky. Maybe Einstein just consumed the right information and experiences to discover the work that he did.

I often read posts about the future talking about what will happen when mankind builds and AI super intelligence and the ramifications of that. The premise is often that we can build something that there is no way we can out-think.

What if intelligence is simply 7 billion (or whatever the population is) guesses at what data and experiences are needed to make someone “smart”? What if it’s not something that is designed, but something lucked into every once in a while.

It’s not that I’m actually sure either way on this, whether or not intelligence is an actual thing, or whether it’s simply receiving the right data, and weighting it appropriately, or whether it’s luck.

With that being said, if we can never be sure of our actual intelligence, maybe consideration of it isn’t a useful construct in our work. Perhaps there is only doing the work, and not doing work, with the former being preferable.

Hiding behind the housing.

My wife and I were talking about espresso machines, and I was explaining the basic premise of how they work to her. She thought they were much more complex than they actually are.

At their core, they are a container that heats up water into steam, a valve the lets the steam flow and container that holds the coffee and filter. While there are additional settings complexities possible such as precise temperature control, pressure control, and all sorts of fail safes built in to make them safe for the home, the actual concept isn’t that difficult.

The reason most people don’t realize the simplicity is because all of the internal workings are put inside a nice, shiny metal box. That housing hides how things work.

Of course, there is often new ways to make things better, like being able to clean the water reservoir, but when it’s placed behind the housing, you can’t see it.

This is true in endeavors with people as well. We can hide behind the housing, obscure company processes, and make sure no one knows how everything works, or transparency can be sought so that others can see opportunities to make things better.

Where do you put your trust?

One of the defining characteristics of who we are is where we put our trust.

Do you put your trust in people?

Do you put your trust into business?

Do you put your trust into your family?

Do you put your trust into money?

All of these things shape who we are and who we want to be.

A business may drastically change depending on which employees it trusts the most.

Your relationships may change depending on how much you trust others.

At the end of the day, have you decided if you trust the right amount, and if you’re placing your trust in the right spots?

Seeking validation.

It’s easy to seek validation for the ideas we have and the work we do in our immediate vicinity. In our friends, our family, or our coworkers. The struggle is that proximity isn’t a great measure of who the work is for.

For example, if you built your wife a jewelry box for her birthday present. If she thought it was hideous, perhaps you don’t know how to craft something in the style she likes.

This is a huge hurdle in doing something new. Making your life’s work. Changing careers. Talking about ideas. Those people that are closest to us may not be the right audience, even though they are the ones available to run things by. This creates the doubt of success, the seed of the idea that we’ll fail.

The world is a big place, your audience is out there, but in addition to the work you want to do of writing, building, programming, educating, making art, you’ll also have to do the work of finding your audience. Guaranteed, finding the audience is the more terrifying part of your endeavor.

Power of Context

In Malcolm Gladwell’s The Tipping Point, he points to the power of context as being one of the key factors in whether things tip or not.

I often think about a failing restaurant. How does someone who realizes the error of their ways turn it around if they have already lost the trust of the people in town?

One way is to change the name, and change the look. This is essentially changing the context. By removing the previous look, you’re also removing the previous context which was a negative stigma.

Additional items to flip the context could be new menu, new staff, and new location.

The Power of Context is worth thinking about in your endeavors, or even your home in order to promote the right habits.