Possibility isn’t reality

It’s possible to make a million dollar a year.

Most people won’t.

That doesn’t mean you can’t, but seeing the possibility that the results could easily fall on either side is an important distinction. Just because the product took off, it could have failed just as easily as the guy one business over. The right factors have to collide at the right times for success. It’s not just smarts at work. It’s also the economy. The culture. And more variables than we can compute.

When you are turning those daydreams into reality, it’s important to it may fail, and that doesn’t make it useless. Here are some things that will still happen:

  • Skill increases from doing the work.
  • An increase in your portfolio of past work that you can show off.
  • Learning about what sorts of variables matter the most to improve your odds on the next attempt.
  • A few stories and a shift in worldview. These happen inevitably and are valuable.

Possibility isn’t reality, but that shouldn’t deter you. Reality itself comes from the overlap between what’s possible, what people attempt, and what sticks. Without people attempting, there is nothing. We need you to do it.

All the things I learned studying personality types.

I’ve spent a few years of my life interested in personality types like MBTI and enneagram, reading about and reflecting on interpersonal interactions with what I’ve determined in mind. I will say it’s been quite an eye opening experience. I also have had the good fortune to have a job where I cross many (hundreds of people a year) different personality types.

Here are all the things (I can remember) that I’ve learned:

  • Whether to appeal to the “world’s benefit” or to an individual’s “personal benefit”
  • How personality types generally split people into political groups
  • How personality types shape a person’s main “goal” in life.
  • Whether to focus on the big picture or the details when talking to someone
  • Why my wife and I end up in certain behavioral loops
  • How someone is most likely prefer follow up (email or phone call)
  • Whether someone is likely to want a number of options presented or a simple packaged solution
  • Why people are significantly different in their mid-30s onward compared to their early 20s. The other functions of your personality haven’t yet matured. Knowing their personality in their mid-20s will reveal some of the changes that you’ll likely see in them as they reach full maturity.
  • Whether an individual is focused on the past, present, or future by default
  • Whether someone is a binary thinker, or sees probabilities and possibilities
  • Whether someone is a conceptual learner, or a hands-on learner
  • Why people see “negative intent” when there is actually “positive intent”
  • How our brain traps itself in loops and how to break out of these to move forward in life.

While I present all that, it may appear that I’m presenting personalities as a magic bullet. That they are the solution to understanding everything and are totally deterministic. That you can apply them like an equation to anyone and get an exact answer, which it isn’t. However, they are a 50,000 foot map. There has been neurological mapping with brain scans confirming behavioral patterns of the brain relating to the different personality types and the order in which they process their information.

I saw a post online that said they don’t believe in MBTI because there are many personality types that defy what they articles say about their careers and such. I wholeheartedly agree, you can be anything you want to be. We all have the capacity to perform any type of work we desire. However, some work feels easier. Fits our natural rhythms better. Lowers our mental stamina less. That’s what the personality types tell us. On top of it, if I had just taken a simple test one time, it would provide almost no value. It was self-reflection, helping understand and clarify my own weaknesses and blindspots as well as continuous education at the brain, observations from thousands of interactions, and testing of different methods of presenting information to people whose personalities were discernible that led to the real insight. And that insight keeps coming.

Using this information is a practice. Something to be honed over decades. I’m only a few years in. Nowhere near an expert, but it has been useful to me in my career, my marriage, and my interactions with others when we don’t seem to be understanding each other. I would like to weave some of what I’ve learned into additional insights in the future along with the messages found in my normal blogs, but I haven’t figured out how to do that without devoting this whole blog to personalities, which there are already many sites that cover that.

For now, if you’re interested here is a primer I would say to start with:

  • 16personalities.com – Go there, read every type. Read what the letters mean. Try to type yourself and people you know and then read their strengths and weaknesses. See if it fits and if you learned anything new about them and can you relate it to interactions that you had that went differently that you expected.
  • Search out the “eight cognitive functions of the MBTI personalities”. There isn’t a great singular guide on this. Read the different functions our brains process and understand that the way our brain orders the operations of these functions is how our personalities manifest.
  • Look up socionics. This was the original more scientific model of the personality itself. It’s related, though not specific to MBTI personality types which became a more corporate philosophy and training.
  • Search for Dr. Dario Nardi. He’s done some of the neurological research on the issue. His work involves brain scans and the like.

After that, it’s a lot of coming up with your own questions as needed. Revisiting the information, and doing additional reading and research.

Difficulty doesn’t equal poor skill

I’ve been fascinated by the Dunning-Kruger effect for a while. Since it relates to people of low skill overestimating their abilities and people of high skill underestimating their abilities that leaves anyone wondering, “Where do I stand on the spectrum of skill?”

Some of the studies show that those on the low end still recognize they are less skilled than the highly skilled people in a given task, they just underestimate by how much. Alternatively, those on the high end recognize they are more skilled, they just underestimate how much more skilled they are.

An interesting study done shows that when the tasks are difficult for all the skill levels, the skilled end lowers how much better they perceive themselves to be even if they are still at the same relative level of skill difference in a task they find easy. The thought is “If it’s hard for me, I’m not that skilled.”

That’s not true at all.

There are plenty of things that are hard no matter who you are. Writing a screenplay like Hamilton will be hard for anyone. Running a Michelin-starred restaurant is demanding for anyone. Running a large public corporation would be hard for anyone. This goes hand-in-hand with perfection is the pursuit of only the simplest tasks.

When you apply yourself and things are hard, it’s best to not assume you’re unskilled or even untalented. Consider for a second, “Is this work this demanding?” If you’re making a podcast, doing high-end interior design, creating a new product, writing a book, and overall doing important work, the answer is probably “yes.” Don’t get down on yourself. Stick with it, it will get easier, but it will never be easy. That’s a good thing, it keeps competitors away.

The more you have yourself figured out, the less you need.

I haven’t always known EXACTLY what I want to do, but I’ve known it involved creativity, insight, and definitely wasn’t something common. In that regard, I’ve spent a significant amount of time in my life trying different things in order to get closer to what it is I’m both capable of and interested in.

This contrasts with someone like Jerry Seinfeld who says he always knew he wanted to be a comedian. That’s the only thing he ever wanted to do, and the only career he ever had. When you hear him talk about it in the documentary Comedian, in his book Is this Anything?, and on his show Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee, he always mentioned he just wanted to do it. He enjoyed the laughs, and it made him happy. He didn’t think of getting rich, he had no idea what he could earn with it, but he always figured as long as he could afford his rent and some peanut butter, jelly, bread and milk he would be fine. That’s truly an incredible and freeing thought.

When you know what will satisfy you, you need only the minimum. When I reflect on the people I know who dream of being rich, it’s mostly because they don’t know what they want. They want flexibility. They want to change their mind and be able to buy the item or life of their choosing.

I suffered this when I was young. Many do. Obviously, younger = less likely to know what you want so it makes sense. The closer I move in understanding myself, the more I realize I need less than I ever imagined as a kid. I see the path and it’s not hard to follow it because of money. It’s hard to follow it because it takes dedication, perseverance, creativity, insight, and connection. The overlap of all of that is small. Hitting it day in and day out is hard.

If you are in a situation where you feel you need more money. A LOT MORE MONEY. The kind where you can’t figure out a way to make it in the short-term by say getting a second job, or selling some stuff you own, then perhaps the alternative is to get specific about what you need to do what you want. This applies to careers, company projects, business launches, or any endeavor really.

The feeling you’re left with.

At the end of the of a movie, the song and feeling of the ending is the feeling and impression of the movie you are left with. It’s often why the end song plays a similar tune through the credits. If the movie ends with a feeling of wonder, the end song and credits will give that feeling too. That way those who stay back keep that feeling until they inevitably empty the theater.

If it’s a deep, complex message type movie, it may end with just silence. Leading you to contemplate what you just saw and reflect on.

When we are trying to make a point. When we are trying to encourage others. When we are trying to make a positive impact in the world, it’s important to think about the ending. This is something that I’ve struggled with in much of my work.

Presentations, blogs, articles, books, movies, documentaries, talks, or whatever form of communication you choose. The ending is the feeling you’re left with. Think about that when you choose how to end any form of communication.

Getting the closed form solutions out of the way.

When Isaac Newton was developing different formulas for orbits of planets and deriving calculus as a result, he ended up creating entirely new fields of study, and along with that created a huge number of solved problems. The scientific community during Newton’s time and immediately following for the next century or two had massive discoveries, deriving countless equations in physics. They found out how to solve problems in Electromagnetism. They solved classical beam theory. They solved fluid flow problems. The solved all kinds of differential equations like some of the problems arising from the Helmholtz equations.

Solving many different closed form problems, the ones where there is a clear answer, is the work that naturally happens as an industry starts to flourish, but it’s not the real work. The real work lies beyond the closed form solutions. The problems where the constraints impact the work more than the problem formulation itself. This is where marketing lives. This is where architecture lives. This is where product design lives. This is where customer service lives. This is where sales lives. This is where construction lives. This is where humanitarianism lives. This is where politics lives. This is where endless work and effort awaits in working towards a better future.

The closed form solutions always come early on. They may tell us how to make a simple beam with the smallest possible cross-section. It won’t tell us how to make the most economical possible building system when usefulness of the space or feeling often supersedes that anyway (to the delight of architects and the chagrin of structural engineers).

Your job isn’t to find the closed form solutions of the world, that’s a happy side effect. Instead, it’s to pick an area of the world where you can immerse yourself, learning the tradeoffs and to “see” the compromises. The work is to become someone who can lead others in this area of your expertise. There is a huge amount of work to be done on open-ended problems, everyone is looking for people who operate there.

Coffee is the world’s cheapest drug.

I saw someone mention this online. Maybe it’s not true but it’s certainly close. Coffee and caffeine change our behavior, maybe not as much as other illegal substances, but still enough on those days we’re feeling sluggish.

This is a thought about perspective. People aren’t paying for coffee as food. They were paying for it as a “mood”. After Starbucks became a cultural icon, their patrons were paying for it as a “status”. The service, offering or product is just part of the idea of what people are buying.

What you have offers something beyond the item itself. Make sure you know what that is.

Do I need credentials?

Recently I was discussing the future with someone who felt lost. They wanted to do a degree in Psychology, but were unsure about the commitment of time and money. They were already past the “normal” college age.

My recommendation was to start and run a support group. All it takes is some basic flyers, a rented room, or a virtual meeting, and human empathy. It doesn’t take years of schooling and tens of thousands of dollars for a credential you may not get use out of.

Most people are seeking credentials thinking they need it to do the work. In reality, it can be a fallacy for everyone except a few specific careers like Doctors, Lawyers, and some Engineers. The work of getting our credentials may make us better at what we do. Ensure that we’ve learned what’s come before us and don’t need to reinvent a wheel that’s been under inspection and development for centuries.

However, the credentials, if you let them, can be an excuse, on that holds you back from ever doing the work that you’re capable of. If let that excuse work, you’ll never get the experience needed to do your best. Don’t get trapped in that fallacy, it’s a terrible place to be.

Diluting “Prestige”

I’m not a member of Mensa, the high IQ society, but I must fit a profile of their members. I get messages encouraging me to take the test to join. I’m not into “Prestige” personally. I don’t particularly care about status other than I do enjoy when someone is willing to listen to advice I have, outside of that I’m not too worried about much else.

But that’s just me.

The sorts of people who join clubs like Mensa generally ARE CONCERNED about “Prestige” and “Status”. To me, that makes the message in the screenshot below a brand dilution. “Joining Mensa is now easier than ever…” Where is the “prestige” in that? Does that mean lowering the bar and the status associated with a high one?

This is how you end up with a club full of associators. I’m not part of Mensa, nor planning to be, but I don’t think this is the right move for them. Though growth is a struggle that many organizations face. Staying true to their goals means not serving the masses, but inevitably to grow beyond a certain point the masses have to be marketed to, which means the restrictions have to be loosened, which means the original purpose is diluted on and on, until even the masses don’t care because no one remembers the original purpose. At that point, your organization is dead.

One alternative would be to seek to not increase membership, but “Prestige”. To constantly tighten the restrictions, increase the annual dues disproportionately higher, and generate more money that way providing ever more value to those who want to contribute.

Probabilities-based decision making.

There are two kinds of thinking in the world: Binary and non-binary.

I’ve met many people who think in black and white, either something will happen, or it will never happen. Either something is unfalteringly true, or earth shatteringly false.

I don’t think this way at all.

Nearly every thought that I have is a probability of some sort. It’s not as if I directly calculate the probablities, but I weigh them out, look at the weight of the downsides of being wrong to each, then calculate what I should do next in a quick amount of time. I “feel” the probabilities of each as a result, my family can attest, I’m good at games like “Liar’s Dice.”

If you’re in the business of convincing people, it may be worth taking some time to uncover just how the person you are trying to convince thinks. If they are of the black and white variety, you won’t be able to change their minds over just about anything that they’ve already decided in the past. So you’ll need to make the conversation about something they have never decided about.

If the audience is of the probability variety, giving them the data and ideas that change the weightings of their probabilities around is what you’re looking for.

There is always room to better understand others. This is just one thought on that.

Linear systems vs. Non-linear systems

People understand linear systems well. If paid $12.50/hr for 20 hours of work yields $500, then 40 hours yields $1000. This is a linear system, it’s easy to understand.

What about non-linear systems?

Well, these are the things that we debate about every day. Pay, inequality, competition, the universe, etc. These things have so many interrelated variables, that it’s nearly impossible to understand the system at play. As a result, people pick sides, tell a story, and assume they are correct.

What can be done about this?

First, don’t assume other person has bad intent. Good intent must always be assumed, no one comes to an agreement with someone thinking bad of them. Beyond that, the life experiences and information that led to your conclusions, wasn’t necessarily the same as the ones leading to the other person’s conclusions.

Second, don’t make the other person have to swim for hours in information. If the sum of their life has led them to different conclusions than you, do you truly believe that it will take less than years of new information to change their opinion? Sending them article after article and video after video, and expecting them to spend all their free time trying to change their own opinion is folly. They have a life to go on with, you changing them isn’t on their agenda.

We’re swimming in non-linear systems in our world, so it’s best to realize it.

“Skill” and “Talent”

I like this piece of art. The poster said that it took them about 10 days to make it working a few hours a day. While I have no doubt the person making this has skill and talent, with a little extra time someone could make a template from a picture of an elephant and some filters in photoshop and then use that to cut this out.

At an estimated 30 hours of time, I don’t know many people who would have that kind of patience, dedication and perseverance to cutting this all out.

It’s easy to get caught up in “skill” and “talent” when it’s much more likely it’s perseverance and dedication that are missing.

P.S. Plenty of people who saw this at an art show would say, “You’re so talented. I really like this! How much?” And then balk if the artist tried to charge $750 for a reasonable hourly rate of $25/hr. It’s likely those are the same people who think this is a work of skill alone, rather than perseverance and you’re trying to take advantage. If you’re an artist, your job is to find those who don’t think that way. Don’t worry, just keep persevering to find the right customers too.

Disney stopped 2D animation based on a faulty assumption.

When Pixar was new and getting popular off of its early films like Toy Story, Disney was losing it’s audience. They were making a series of animated films with each on doing worse than the last. They had passed their prime.

What was their conclusion?

People want 3D animated movies using computers, rather than 2D animations. The technology was the problem according to Disney. They later brought in Ed Catmull, the President of Pixar, to consult on how to do that. It was quickly discovered that they had lost their ability to tell compelling stories. That corporate processes of producing a movie had triumphed over creative processes. In looking for a scapegoat for that, they turned to the medium.

In every industry, there is something fundamental. Something that must stay consistent while nearly everything around it can be allowed to change. In a restaurant for example, it might not even be the food itself. That along with the decor, the staff attire, all of it can change, what can’t change is the high standards, cleanliness, and excellent service.

Disney forgot that a great story is the fundamental assumption of their business. If you fix a problem, and don’t see a leap forward in your work, it’s likely you weren’t fixing a fundamental, you were simply working on something you perceived to be wrong.

Skill and possibility.

My family eats avocados all the time. My daughter eats a few per week, they are one of her favorites. That’s a lot of avocado pits, yet we never carved them into anything like these.

Why didn’t we? After all, these items then sell for $15 or so, when avocados fluctuate between $1-$2.

Well, first we never thought about it. We didn’t see the possibility that lied before us. Second, we don’t have the tools or the skill right now. We also have our time already filled up by quite a few endeavors.

The point is if we weren’t so distracted with our other opportunities that we wanted to work on, if we slowed down and took a look it’s possible we’d see a number of opportunities around us even as simple as this idea that probably just requires a little Dremel tool.

Your home, your job, your life, it’s all filled with opportunities if you just look for it. Those opportunities may even come from something as simple as an avocado pit.

P.S. Maybe in our case since we don’t have the time to do these carvings, we could gather our pits and sell them for cheap to an artist who does this work. Then we both win, and that’s another opportunity too.

Presenting a concept to someone who can’t see a concept.

There are plenty of people in the world who can’t conceptualize. They don’t see things in their “mind’s eye” as clearly as others. These people are going to struggle without stories and strong visual connections to them like photographs and videos. Abstract topics like macroeconomics will be a huge struggle that requires conceptualizing how the world’s transactions are into connected at a high-level. By nature, it’s hard to take a real-life picture of that.

When you’re trying to explain, it’s your job to figure out whether the person listening is capable of conceptualizing what you’re explaining, or not. If they aren’t, you may need to prep some materials to show them what you mean.

Judging the way other’s minds work by how yours does is a huge mistake. The voice, imagery, logic, and feeling of each individual is unique. Treat it that way.

When astronauts make it to mars, it will have a higher average IQ than Earth.

This was a thought I heard on social media. While I pondered it for a second, this fits with my thoughts on contribution vs. association. And this one. And that one.

The early people who show up somewhere tend to be smarter in that field. Mostly because they must be the ones most interested in the topic to tread where no one else has. Of course, for a little while other smart people may start taking notice, but eventually as the size grows, things will trend towards the average.

At times it’s worth reassessing where you are “working” in the world and if it’s time to move from an associator in one type of problem, to a contributor in the other. Both will feel entirely different and will change the way you think and behave.

Can you figure out whether you’re an associator or a contributor right now? If not, it’s a good exercise.

The soft skills of your job.

This doctor’s job is to make sure the baby gets the injection. It’s not to sing and dance and make him happy. He’s so small and weak they could just pin him down, poke him with the needle let him cry and move on to the next one. Nice and efficient.

Of course, efficient isn’t the point of everything. Neither is just doing your job. We’re here to help people. That’s what an economy is, people helping others. Why not make their day just a bit better than it was going to be. As a parent, I certainly appreciate him preventing the baby from screaming it’s head off in my ear for the next 10 minutes if this would have been done the forceful way.

We all have an opportunity to exceed expectations everyday.

P.S. If you’re someone who gets stuck on the idea of efficiency in everything you do (and there are people who do), don’t think of efficiency for the doctor here, think of efficiency for the parents. They no longer have to spend five minutes calming down a child who is overreacting.

A megaphone and authority.

To me, a megaphone sounds like authority. Most people may agree with that, when someone starts speaking through a megaphone, you tend to pay attention. I’ve thought about that for a while, why does the megaphone project that feel?

One thought was they are commonly used by police and large crowd situations to get messages across about where to go and what to do. So, as a result it became associated with authority. However, unruly mobs and protestors without authority use them too at times, and it still has an authoritative sound to it to me, even if I don’t believe in what I’m hearing.

So to me, I believe it’s the sound and the tempo that can be achieved with it that isn’t possible otherwise. We’ve all been yelled at some point in our life. We know loud noises sound more powerful than quiet ones, but there are some physical limits to the human body, namely lung capacity. To make a louder noise, you must expel more air, which with a fixed lung capacities means naturally the words have to be sped up before the lungs run out of air to say the final words. So it comes out loud and in a faster than normal tempo. It’s not possible to speak loudly and slowly without considerably gasping for breath.

A megaphone flips that. You can talk in a calm, meter tone which also projects authority, but then the technology amplifies the volume for you adding authority.

Like the megaphone, there are ways to get more people to listen to you more closely in order to make the case that you want to be heard. You need to keep a look out though, and pay attention to see them.

Demand side vs. supply side economics

Something I’ve spent much time thinking about is which types of businesses to run and make money. I did a taco business, and in my job I’m in software, I grew up in a family manufacturing business, and with my wife run an interior design business. I’ve had some other ventures along the way too.

One thing when people are starting a business is, “Will this work?” Most of the time, what that actually means is “Will I be able to get customers?” The level of difficulty in generating at least a single interacting is different depending on which industry you are in. Namely, whether demand is generated naturally, or whether you have to create the demand.

I chose those four specific business experiences to illustrate this point. In order from least effort to get customer interactions to most would be taco business, manufacturing, software, and then interior design. That’s because our bodies create the demand for food. Someone is hungry and you have good smelling tacos cooking, they are likely to stop and try them and as long as you’re good, they’ll be back. Manufacturing is necessary for anyone trying to get something made, they just need to find a supplier. Software starts to get into the “we could do without, but how much more efficient would it be” range of things, though varies a bit by software types. No one needs interior design generally, but they want it due to something aspirational. So they have to be shown things they like.

I would call the taco business and manufacturing demand-side businesses. The demand is generated from the customer themselves seeking to find the good or service they need at a price they find fair. As a result, while it’s easier to engage with customers who are seeking you out, many people like that certain and the industries here become more competitive, meaning profit margins shrink. Restaurants are notoriously low margin businesses.

Another example of demand-side business would be a grocery store. If the only grocery store in a town closed, there would be a new one open pretty quick to fill the demand. The town isn’t going to let itself starve after all.

Software and Interior design are examples of what I call supply-side businesses. Someone with an idea to improve things for others, but can be skipped if needed. These businesses have to sell. They have to make their case on why you need them. These are the businesses that many people are scared to start because it’s impossible to be sure if you’ll be able to get any clients at all. Most likely they aren’t going to just walk in like they do for restaurants. Many times if one of these supply-side businesses closes, unlike the grocery store example, it’s place won’t be filled immediately. It’s impact won’t be felt. However, these businesses are the ones where high profit margins can be charged. They aren’t as competitive since they fill wants not needs.

The reason I’m identifying this to you is because there is a tendency for people to not see this connection. To think their restaurant can charge incredibly high margins and make it. Or to think their service business can scrape by on low margins and make it. Neither is true because of competition for the restaurant and because when times get tight financially the supply side business is going to see a big pullback, meaning you need to have made good money on those jobs you did get to float through the lean times.

It’s worth reflecting on the business you’re in and whether you taking the right economic approach for your business type.

How to compete less often

I’ve haven’t seen many pool builders do something like this. If you had the ability to do one-of-a-kind unique pools like this you are significantly differentiated from someone who is just asking the dimensions, shape and decking style you want. There is no real way to compare your quote with the others who won’t or can’t do it.

Artistry is always a way to stand out. If it’s clear where to hire someone to do a task, your competitors will do it as soon as they figure out they are losing significant business because of it. With something like this, it’s not immediately clear who has skills for something like this.

Why is analysis so exciting?

When addressing a problem or starting a business, it’s easy to get excited about analyzing the situation thinking through what’s likely to happen and drawing some conclusions. It’s easy to believe that’s the answer. There is no debate about it.

The types that like analysis tend to be concerned with efficiency. When analyzing a situation to come up with a better method, design, or strategy, it’s usually measurable in the short-term. That’s efficient. It follows the motivation for doing it.

If you make something that is better in an intangible way it’s not quickly identifiable how the impact will happen. It’s not efficient. That’s not fun.

This is the difference between installing a second sink for workers to wash their hands at a coffee shop to save minutes of wait time for the same sink everyday vs. paying more for your workers so you get better help that make your customers happy. One is easy and quick to measure, the other isn’t. It’s also easier to get excited about one than the other, and it’s likely that one actually has much better return than the other. I’ll leave you to determine which is which for your case.

Why “C students” run the world.

“The ‘C’ students run the world.”

Harry Truman

It’s easy to understand why students that get bad grades don’t run the world. They often are at disadvantages in some way, or they lack commitment or they have other issues in their lives.

It’s not so easy to understand why the best students seem to run the world less often then the average students do. I’d like to take a stab at it though.

First, students that get perfect grades become used to NOT failing. It’s comfortable to do things perfectly, to be praised and to know exactly what you are doing. Ask any business owner, writer, or creative if they knew EXACTLY what they were doing along the way, the answer will almost always be a resounding, “No.” The ones that say they did are most likely forgetting the time period where they failed along the way learning how to do what needs to be done. In short, perfection is the pursuit of only the simplest tasks. After all, how do you manage your lifetime finances perfectly? How do you build the Tesla Automotive Company perfectly? How do you represent a constituency perfectly? There’s not a possible measurement to say it can be done at all. However, school teaches students that tasks should be measured. Which often means working on simpler problems where that’s possible. This is what jobs are. The best jobs end up with the best students, and they get paid well, so it’s not worth the risk to start something of their own as much.

Second, there are people with great aptitude that get average grades because they lack the patience for academia or even teach themselves. I’ve done significant studying on personality types and if you don’t fall into the sentinels group, which is about half the population, then school in its traditional format likely isn’t for you. That means that likely people that understand the subjects may not apply themselves to do their homework. Or they may not care to learn it at all if they don’t see how it relates to them, even though they have the potential to ace it if they tried. There are so many issues with the topics in standard curriculums, learning primarily through lectures, managing energy levels of students appropriately, and a whole host of other issues.

The explorer group are restless. They need to be in the moment, working things out for themselves. Building things. Auto shop. All that sort of stuff.

The diplomat group are in their heads. They are daydreamers, while they might be in class, likely they are imagining something else and tuning out what’s happening in the lecture.

The analyst group can get trapped by wanting to find the most efficient or the best. So they never get started.

These are all generalities of course, and individuals still have their own identities, aspirations and can break the common pitfalls of the groups they fall into.

If you’re smart and capable and feeling frustrated that others get to tell you what to do much of the time, it’s possible you need to start taking some risks, trying the things that just might fail because without that, you’re going to be in for a long slog. Failure isn’t something to be ashamed of.

P.S. There is also the statistics that the majority of students are average and thus a bigger population has more chances to breakout that the smaller population of great students. However, these anecdotes are still things that I have observed with people around myself.

Looking both ways at the train tracks.

I cautiously look both ways when crossing train tracks in case the arms are broken and the system is failing to warn me. I don’t think I’m alone in this.

Always trusting the systems to work isn’t in your best interest. They are there to protect you from yourself, on a day where you are tired or less alert than normal. If the system “thinks” something is happening or not, it doesn’t mean that it’s correct. It’s a real possibility the system has failed and no one has yet noticed anything out of place. For the train tracks, especially ones that carry passenger trains, it’s likely someone will notice this extremely quickly. Likely the same day.

For systems that predict fires, it may be years if no fires or smoke-filled events occur.

For economic systems where all data is “murky” it may be decades to notice systemic issues.

Everyone believing that the system is working, doesn’t mean that it is. It’s always good to check that they are. Here are some systems to think about:

  • Systems for organization
  • Systems for training yourself or others
  • Systems for making sure tasks are carried out
  • Systems for warning when problems arise
  • Systems for decision-making within a group
  • Systems for alerting people
  • Systems for creating new systems (yes, this can be overlooked too).

Think about these and how they affect your lives. It’s worth a review.

P.S. Based on our technological trajectory, our future is going to be filled with more systems and less people to man them. Taking responsibility for the successes (more like the lack of failure) of these systems is going to be a valued skillset. Think about the systems you like to manage and how you can bring a little of the future to that today.

What a messed up cinnamon roll teaches you.

It can teach many lessons especially if you didn’t start from a recipe.

What effects does the flour have? How much water to flour? Do I even want water, or should I use milk? How much fat should be added to the dough, and should it be butter, lard or something else? Do I want to use white sugar, brown sugar, maple syrup, molasses or a mixture? How much salt? Cream cheese frosting, or vanilla icing? Should I use a tiny bit of yeast and let rise for longer, or more yeast and less rise time? Can I shape them uniquely? Can I cook them uniquely? Can I serve them uniquely?

If you went through these questions and came up with some different possibilities such as:

  • Liquid to flour ratio – 3 options
  • Milk or water – 2 options
  • Butter or lard – 2 options
  • More fat, or less fat – 2 options
  • White Sugar, Brown Sugar, Maple Syrup – 3 options
  • More salt, or less salt – 2 options
  • Cream cheese frosting or vanilla icing – 2 options
  • More yeast, or less yeast – 2 options
  • More rise time, or less rise time – 2 options

Those choices are more binary than the actual amount of choices you can make and yet they still represent 1,152 different ways to make a cinnamon roll. There is a huge amount of room for judgment, experience and artistry. These are the tasks where there is opportunity for humans to come in and say “This is how I do it.” rather than a machine to do something that is simply a task to be carried out.

A messed up cinnamon roll teaches you that there is more ways to do things, and more experiments to try. You tried one and it simply didn’t work. I’m sure one of the other 1,151 offers something spectacular, but I don’t think you’ll have to bake them all to get to that point, after a handful, you’ll start to see trends that lead you towards your “ideal” cinnamon roll.

The next level of complexity

From what I’ve seen a photo can be taken and then software can crop them in the most appropriate manner to add the most visual interest. I see this in the photo collages on the “Photos” application on Macs. Most of the pictures are cropped to look the best. Since you can read books on composition theory for photography, there are obviously some rules and guidelines to follow, which means those can be done programmatically.

That means framing a picture is no longer the issue. Add in the capacity to hold more photographs than you can possibly take in a day with no need to carry physical film and the artistry of photography is no longer composition. The artistry of photography is still subject matter, timing (waiting for the right lighting for example), adjusting colors, and composing an album to be greater than the individual photos, where there is much less ability of software.

Software will continue to push us further into the areas where there are less rules. It’s the Wild West all over again, except instead of law breakers and violence, we have artistry and innovation. Your work needs to be the next level of complexity to matter.