What happens when you release a constraint on the economy?

The economy is a giant optimization problem with multiple objectives, many variables and tons of constraints.

Thinking about the constraint of just one item such as location of people vs. location of jobs can have a massive impact on the way the economy behaves.

As a result of the pandemic, we are seeing a massive shifting of one of the constraints, location. Jobs that had all the technology to be remote previously, still hadn’t adopted the idea of remote work. The pandemic made this happen, and now that people have seen it there is no going back. What repercussions do you think this constraint change will have on the economy?

Here’s my guesses:

  1. Remote workers working in high cost of living areas will relocate to low cost of living areas
  2. The effect of item #1 above will raise the cost of living in areas that are currently cheap which will put upward pressure on wages in those areas
  3. As people redistribute, the country will undergo a change of offerings, such as more high-end dining accommodations will become available in smaller towns that they traditionally couldn’t serve.
  4. Cities will not disappear, but they will rearrange fairly significantly over the next 10 years. Rents may stagnate as less people need to be there.
  5. There is and will continue to be an undersupply of home builders as some percentage of the country (5%-10%) redistributes more rurally and due to the nature of rural areas being spread out serving those with many home builders in a region is tough.
  6. Though not necessarily a good thing, we’ll see a rise in people scamming companies and collecting multiple salaries at the same time.

I’m sure there’s more, but the thing about changing a single constraint on an optimization problem is that the outcome can be radically different. We’ll see that here in the coming years.

This place is crap.

There is a certain person in my life who says that whenever we go into any number of stores. It comes off as highly snobbish to me. The problem that I see with that saying is that most of these places huge and been around decades and tons of people shop there.

That means there is a difference between it being “crap” and “not for me.”

If something is as wildly successful as these places are, and you don’t like them, it’s at least worth understanding who does like them, why they like them, and also understand what it is you don’t.

Going back to this person in my life, they are almost never satisfied at any store. Nothing is good enough, the right price, the right style, etc. To the point that they have almost nothing they like at all.

This is a story of expectations. This person is looking for something made out of quality materials, by a craftsman or artist, but at a budget that certainly can’t justify the price of those. Since there is nothing that fits the constraints of their worldview, everything else is garbage to them.

To tie this into a mathematical sense of things, optimization is an easy problem to solve…when it’s one variable. Want a the most aerodynamic wing? Make it long and thin as possible. Want the cheapest wrench? Sort by price, select the cheapest?

In the real world, most problems are multi-objective. That means the best solution is a “space” rather than a “point.” What if you want a structurally sound, aerodynamic wing? Now, you are balancing the short, stubbiness of structural strength against the long, slenderness of aerodynamics. What if you want a cheap, but ergonomical wrench? Now, you are balancing the fact that your hand is a certain size and shape that not everybody has so they can’t mass produce them making them more expensive? So how do you balance which one fits you best vs. the cost? The better it fits you, the closer you get to custom which is expensive and the further from mass produced you become.

Finding the right amount of objectives and constraints is a significant challenge in life, but one worth thinking about at our jobs, in our relationships and in the rest of our lives.

The Miracle of Churches.

“Give and you’ll receive everything you do ten times over.”

That’s a common phrase that was uttered at churches in the past.

It felt like a miracle from god, and depending on your perspective it still can be, but I’d like to clarify something here:

The world runs on belief.

Imagine a small, rural town of 100 villagers in a small town, and a small church with 2-3 clergy people. The people sustain themselves. They are farmers. They are blacksmiths. There might be a saloon owner. They aren’t rich, they trade for goods and services they need, and occasionally they sell some things for money that they save for a rainy day. They attend the church to get their weekly dose of inspiration, to meet with the others in the community and to have a crutch during the hard times. As thanks, they tithe 10% of their earnings to the church.

In turn, the church needs pews, they buy those with the donations from the local carpenter, who with his new earnings, buys something nice from the local jeweler for his wife, and the cycle in the town continues. Each time these transactions continue, the people donate 10% back to the church which spends it on food, improving the church, helping the sick and more.

It’s quite possible that everything the church said is true, “Donate to us and you’ll get 10 times that in return,” however it’s the mechanism that most people don’t see. The spending of the church along with the inspiration of the bible to do more, help the community more, and be more, basically inspired people to spend their money more and create more than the minimum making the local carpenter build more furniture, the farmer plant and harvest more food, the jeweler make more jewelry and the whole town do more than just survive.

The world runs on belief, which is a powerful opportunity. We all have the opportunity to do more, be more, help more, inspire more, daily and if we do, everyone can live a higher standard of life. What an incredible opportunity. It’s worth pursuing regardless of the inspiration that motivates you.

Why we’re bored.

In the 1800s for example, there was too little to do, it was scarce and hard to find entertainment.

Now there is too much to do. It’s overabundant and hard to decide.

In both eras, it’s easy to end up doing nothing. However, in the accelerating change of status quo over the last 100 years, there is a new opportunity. The opportunity to be a curator of experiences.

You don’t have to create the next hot restaurant. You don’t have to design the next cool escape room.

There is an opportunity to choose a group of people like singles, retired, networkers, engineers, those looking for friends, and create an experience for those groups. Treating the restaurants, attractions, and sights as components of a larger experience is now as viable an opportunity as chefs using ingredients and decor to create a restaurant. The best part is that it can be done with far less capital than those restaurants, movie theaters, or attractions.

If you’re looking for something “creative” as career, perhaps thinking about this is a new option for you.

Sleeping on an old mattress…

while my room is currently undergoing repainting and some other alterations. We’re all sharing my daughter’s room at the moment. It’s tight, and it gets warm at night with us all in there and it’s a reminder that if our life turned for the worst economically, this is about the worst that could happen, we’d be living in a tiny, cramped space like that for a period of time.

I have quite a few conversations with people who “want to make an impact” or “do something creative” who mention not having the finances to do what they want. Of course, this situation is just a reminder that is the most common way of letting ourselves off the hook. The reality is most people aren’t committed, and they haven’t developed their patience, nor their daily effort muscle. Part of this stems from not really knowing what they want to do. Part of it stems from fear.

Now, it’s not to say that there aren’t stories that end in homelessness, but often that goes along with other issues. For people that don’t have those additional issues, that cramped space, that old mattress, that’s the thing you’re actually scared of, along with the bruise to your ego. These things aren’t the boogeyman, just a temporary discomfort.

Ben and Jerry’s and thinking about how to expand your business.

When thinking of expanding an Ice Cream business what do you think of?

More flavors?

Different Cones?

How about Ice Cream Bars?

Different Ice Cream Sandwiches?

All of those things are the most likely. Thinking about who it’s for is less likely. Even less likely if who it’s for isn’t a human.

Pontch's Mix Doggie Desserts Multipack Minicups

Frozen Dog Treats?

Now that’s thinking in a different direction. The best thing about it? If you had just created a different bar of ice cream or flavor, you’d likely just be scraping from the same audience you already compete for. You might even up just trading people who like your old flavor for the new one, achieving no net growth. Here, you are reaching an entirely new audience.

There is always the direction you are thinking in PLUS the one that is 90 degrees from it. It’s always good to consider the pros and cons of both.

Every action has an equal and opposite reaction…

yet some people don’t seem to understand this physical law.

It applies to social and technological movements.

The people like Elon Musk who are admired and hated equally find themselves in that position due to this. The bigger the change we are trying to make in society, the bigger the resistance to it will be.

Why is this true?

Well consider that even though we may understand better technology will come in the future, most people hope it won’t impact them too much. If you’re the guy making internal combustion engines, then the guy making electric vehicles popular is impacting your job security. Sure, it may lead to a better thing for society in terms of getting further for cheaper, and long-term better for the environment, but today it’s affected where that person’s meal is coming from. Of course the argument is always “It will create new jobs,” which is true, but there is no guarantee those new jobs are in the same geography as the current one. That person may have to move away from their family, pull their child away from friends, and make some big life choices because of the changes the technology are making.

I’m not saying we shouldn’t do these things. However, we need to recognize that there are impacts to people’s lives too. Of course, those same impacts exists for not doing them when societal problems are going to worsen as the result of other influences. For example, gas is a scarce resource. We’re using it fast, which means on the supply vs. demand curve we’ll quickly see demand exceed supply and prices continue to rise drastically over time. Driving could become the realm of only the rich with the passing of enough decades.

Electric vehicles balance this better because we can build solar power to charge vehicles.

I’m not sure why I’ve even picked electric vehicles here because this post is about the action/reaction that exists everywhere. Frankly, this is a response to people that I see posting highly critical or controversial things on social media who are then quite shocked at the resistance that they get to their thoughts.

My theory is that this stems from the fact that in time before social media, we often shared ideas and thoughts in our tight personal circles. The thing is, doing that doesn’t create any action. You didn’t accelerate society forward, nor resist its changes. Those personal circles already agreed with us from our shared experiences. Since there was actually no “action” in those cases, there also wasn’t a reaction. That’s the behavior most people are used to.

Now, that’s changed.

We’re posting things to a wide group on social media, trying to have more influence then we had before. We have leverage which creates more force, and subsequent action, but that force comes with an equal and opposite reaction. The people who have been leaders for most of society have always understood this. They were leaders because they were willing to take the heat. To be grilled on TV. To speak in front of upset crowds. The average person never had to deal with this kind of scrutiny, nor is the average person up for the task of that level of scrutiny. Yet, there sit the tools to create a change, dangled in front of us, and as everyone who has ever been in any sort of group knows, everyone thinks they have the answers, and they are willing to share. Now that sharing reaches a huge amount of people who have different conclusions and that creates the tension.

I’m not sure there is anything to be done about it except recognize it and decide if what you have to say is worth the reaction. If it is, say it, if not, find something more worthy to spend your energy on.

People are complex.

A person should be…

responsible, but still have fun…

patient, but still motivated to take action…

rational, but still empathetic…

Humanity, and more likely any sort of intelligence implies that someone can hold multiple conflicting rules, nearly all of which are conditional on the others. Anything less is a robot carrying out routine tasks. As a result, it’s no wonder we have so much conflict about how the work should be done, who should be in charge, how much things should cost, what’s good and what’s bad. Everything is interpretive.

The rules are so complex and so conditional, it’s not like anyone even understands entirely why they make the decisions they do themselves. Perhaps it’s time to adopt gray thinking, and not the black-and-white stuff we’re so used to. Perhaps that person you disagree with is under the wrong conditions for them to think as you do. Perhaps you can’t change that, and it’s okay.

Deciphering what I’m asking.

That’s a skill.

Especially in industries where it’s hard to communicate. A good example is music. If you’re hiring someone to make custom intro music for a video or an event. You are trying to communicate a feeling which is no small task.

In medical examples, the patient and the doctor may have such a knowledge gap that the communication and understanding of the question is difficult.

In both cases, a skilled musician or doctor, the customer is likely looking for someone who can decipher what they are asking more than they are worried about nickels and dimes.

The value of a critic has been declining…

It used to be there wasn’t audio, video or any other way of thinking about the quality, talent, and acts in the world.

As the medium to share samples of a show grows, first through audio, then video, and now we are even on the verge of Augmented/Virtual Reality (Can you imagine feeling like the cast of Cirque De Soleis is in your living room?”), we can share samples of the work and let it speak for itself.

If we roll back to a time where this wasn’t possible, one critic may praise a show, while another critic demolishes another. In reality, more people may have actually enjoyed the show that got the bad review, but they had to rely on the critics’ taste.

This is a significant opportunity. There are no gatekeepers. There is nothing stopping you from putting something mind-blowing together and showing it to people, letting the audience decide what is great and what isn’t.

This is also scary. Quality of the work is everything, not favors, not nice words of encouragement from a positive critic with a big following. The work itself matters. Treat it that way, even if you’re not in show business.

Selling dashcams.

What a great business. Dashcams serve to protect you in cases where another party causes damages but denies they were at fault.

The ideal part of selling these is that when one saves somebody money, it’s generally a huge amount relative to the purchase price, and it’s because the camera caught a crazy physical anomaly, or a crazy human situation on camera. Both of which people are happy to share and tell their friends about. Plenty even love to put these crazy events online to share with huge numbers of strangers, and many of them go viral.

This business has a crazy powerful network effect built-in. It’s worth thinking about if you can build one of those into your work.

Please stop…

…making music…

…making these stupid things…

…creating all sorts of crazy ideas…

…shaking around like that…

…try to tell me what to do…

…trying to console me…

…telling me what’s wrong and right…

…telling me how things work…

Actually, don’t stop.

Often times these things are irritating when we are low-skilled at them, but amazing when our skill develops, but often times we stop people before they can reach their potential. A wildly shaking child dancing around may be irritating, but that child at high school age with incredible dance skills can be the image of gracefulness. A child may be destroying things while trying to create something, but could possibly be the world’s greatest inventor in the future.

The secret is this doesn’t stop with children. In fact, it gets worse with adults because they are treated as if they had the potential, it would already be developed. In fact, that isn’t the case at all. Many adults are still discovering what they are good at, yet the pressures of society keep them from pursuing it more deeply.

Don’t stop.

In fact, accelerate, that way we can get through this low skill dip faster and reach the level where we can do some serious work. Any person, parent, teacher, business owner should recognize this truth and help others succeed where they can. That can come from coaching, minimizing the pressures to stop, or offering resources to continue on the journey.

When skills are developed to high levels, we all win.

Humans consume more oxygen in a day than food.

It doesn’t seem that way because we are surrounded by oxygen. It’s a major component of the atmosphere around us. Food often is also always around us, stocked in our pantry, a bowl of candies at the office, or your favorite food place down the street. Along with that, air is consumed constantly, breath by breath. We don’t even grab for it. So those thousands of light breaths a day add up. The average person consumes 0.8 kilograms of oxygen a day and only 0.6 kilograms of food.

This is something worth reflecting on because it’s such an accurate reflection of how we think about our lives. Often times we think, our job is our life. That without it, we can’t get where we want to go, be who we want to be, have the friends we want to have, and even just survive. However, the job is only the food. We need far more friendships, conversations, family time, tinker/play time, study, than anything job related. In fact, all of those things create the job opportunities, no different than the air helps people and plants grow.

When you focus on just one goal, just one thing you need, it’s highly likely you’re picking the wrong one, and that the one you are currently selecting is just the easiest/most obvious choice, not the best. It’s at least worth an effort to think about it.

Closing time.

Work used to be done when the building closed.

Study time used to end when the library shut.

For most, TV watching ended when nothing but infomercials were on.

Pre-internet and even pre-smartphone, the world closed at certain hours. The institutions ALLOWED us to shut off. It’s weird to use the word “allowed” in that context, but for many it’s true. The feeling that overwhelming amounts of knowledge is out there. The people we follow, the information we desire, our future opportunities, our family, our country, it’s all out there generating new data constantly and if we don’t keep up with it, we won’t know how to operate in our world.

Of course, thousands of years of history show that humans operated just fine even when news was delayed by weeks for delivery, and family members living 50 miles apart could only communicate by letters. The problem here is the human capacity for curiosity which is both a blessing allowing us to invent technologies and make everyday easier in civilized life, but also a curse in which it must be satisfied. Undoubtedly, there is a new tension created between our endless curiosity and the always on availability of new things.

I’ve mentioned a few times that technology is going to displace the new normal, here are my most recent posts about that:

Well, along with those thoughts, it’s easy to think we’ll break this tension, that we’ll start with our screenplay as soon as we digest all available information on screenwriting, or we’ll launch or business soon as we read everything available on marketing, finance, and sales. The reality is compared to the past, the volumes of those are seemingly infinite in measure compared to the human lifespan, especially if you consider that Artificial Intelligence is starting to write its own volumes. In the short-term of a day, it’s time to pick a clocking off time, a time to rest, to know you’ve done enough, been entertained, and are satisfied. In the long-term, it’s time to pick a jumping off point. The point that you know you are learned enough, skilled enough and have enough wind behind you that doing that thing that scares you has great odds of success.

Semisonic had a great point, “Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.”

Put down the phone, stop the information overload, allow yourself to relax because there is another chance tomorrow.

Go for a walk

One piece of marital advice I was given prior to my wedding, “When you get in a fight with your spouse, go for a walk. It gives you time to clear your head.”

While this is good advice, I’ve also been learning about another interesting tidbit, indoor CO2 levels cause massive issues with cognitive functioning. Getting out and going for a walk may very well work because CO2 levels inside were too high and both people’s brains weren’t functioning properly as a result. This can be the result of heavy stove usage, a bunch of people in the house without proper ventilation, or just being home too much. I’ve recently bought an air quality monitor and it’s amazing how often when if stress in the house feels like it’s higher, often something about the air quality is much worse than usual.

Two things to think about from this story:

  1. Many times age old advice is true, but not for the reason we often think it is. History is filled with people figure out “how” first, then understanding “why” much later.
  2. Environmental variables may impact you more than you know. It seems crazy to think a poorly ventilated home could end a marriage, but it’s a possible culprit if it makes both parties unhealthy and not their usual accomodating selves. This may explain a phenomenon I heard about during COVID where many couples struggled much more than usual. Of course, we’ll never get the data we need to study that, so it’s just a hunch.

Adults and the diving board at the community pool.

I’ve been spending more time at the community pool. They have different diving hours when the diving boards are open. Despite the pool guests being about 50/50 kids to adults, during the diving sessions it’s about a 5/95 split of adults to kids off the diving board. The adults that do go tend to already be skilled at it, much better than the average kid jumping off.

There is a minuscule amount of adults the will try something past a certain age where their ego kicks in, or when they start to perceive issues like it will hurt, my hair will get wet, or I’ll hurt myself. While some of that is true, the likelihood of being hurt is pretty small. Different height boards mean you can take a much smaller impact if you choose. Most people don’t do anything fancy except enjoy the feeling of flying through the air before making a splash anyways.

Yet, there is a resistance. A sense that by adulthood one should know their “place.”

If you extrapolate this to society today, you can see the problem here. Technology keeps changing people’s “place.” Once upon a time, you could work in data entry your whole career, now Artificial Intelligence is taking those jobs by being able to decipher handwriting.

Once upon a time, you could have made a career as a calculator, literally computing formulas for engineers, today software does that.

It’s likely soon we’ll be saying, “Once upon a time, you could make money delivering things or driving people places,” but eventually self-driving cars will disrupt that.

We’ll soon have a bunch of people who need to dive in to something new whose natural instincts hold them back from taking the leap. I’m not sure how I would get those to dive into the pool who aren’t already doing it, but it’s definitely something we’ll need to think about in the future. The idea of having a “place” in the world is going to become more and more scarce. The idea of “trying new things constantly” will continue to grow in value.

The next time you have the opportunity to try something new as an adult, think about those adults ignoring the diving boards.

A Bank that accepts cheese as collateral.

Credito Emiliano is a name of a bank in Italy that accepts giant wheels of Parmigiano-Reggiano as collateral for loans.

Who thought the banking industry was that creative?

This isn’t something that can be done on a whim. It’s something that has to be intentional to serve a certain group of customers. You need a climate controlled storage. It’s an investment, but it unlocks entirely new dimensions that otherwise wouldn’t work.

The bank is located in the region of the world where only this type of cheese can be produced. It understands the aging process which is typically 18-36 months. It also understands that the types of people who run businesses like the cheese business are the ones who often need loans to hold them over until their cheese matures and it can be sold for an influx of cash.

This bank is actually serving a dual purpose. If I had a cheese business with a warehouse for aging that held 1,000 cheese wheels, and now this bank comes along and says we’ll take your cheese as collateral while it ages, and they are willing to give me a loan against another 1,000 wheels, I can double my production for the next few years until I’ve double the amount stored, using the bank as an extension of my warehouse. In the meantime, I’ve put some loaned money in my pocket that I’ll have to pay interest on, but that can be thought of as a warehouse fee.

I won’t pretend to know the numbers involved here, but assuming they work out, this particular banks gives its customers a new dimension to work in. That’s pretty great.

I’ve said it on this blog many times, there are many ways to stand out and differentiate. If a bank can figure out how to take giant wheels of cheese as collateral, you can figure out how to be a bit different too.

Nine Nines of Reliability

An airplane typically has nine nines of reliability. 99.9999999% reliable. If it was ONLY 99.99% I believe the statistic is there would be 4-5 plane crashes PER DAY! After all, that’s a 1 in 10,000 failure rate. At that reliability, no one would take air travel. It would feel too risky.

Each nine adds another factor of ten to the acceptable failure rate:

  • 99.999% reliability is a failure of 1 in 100,000 – One crash every other day
  • 99.9999% reliability is a failure of 1 in 1,000,000 – One crash every 3 weeks
  • 99.99999% reliability is a failure of 1 in 10,000,000 – One crash every 30 weeks
  • 99.999999% reliability is a failure of 1 in 100,000,000 – One crash every 300 weeks
  • 99.9999999% reliability is a failure of 1 in 1,000,000,000 – One crash every 3,000 weeks

100% reliability is a dream world where nothing ever goes wrong. The best thing we can do is check that we are using the right number of nines for the work we do. What are the consequences when something goes wrong? The higher the consequences, the more nines you need. Of course, these are just targets. 3,000 weeks is over 57 years. In the history of air travel, there has been more than 2 accidents, so that rate isn’t holding up, but these standards also didn’t exist for the entire history of air travel, they were developed over time. Earlier on, there were less sophisticated models of reliability and we had to learn.

Standards like this can be applied to more than safety. You could apply this to a restaurant and the taste of the dishes being made. You could apply this to a call center and the time it takes them to answer the phone. You could apply this to a website and the amount of uptime it has.

Have you thought about the number of nines you need in your industry in order to stand out?

He’s just a waiter.

A pet peeve of mine is anyone denigrating somebody for working a certain job. Jobs don’t tell a story about people, even though others love to fill that story in for themselves. When you couple this fancying of fictions with what is happening in the world, it just seems ignorant to judge people in this way.

What am I referring to?

Everywhere you look there are people that have access to information that they’ve never had before.

In the past, prior to the internet, if you expected to take financial advice you may prefer to get it from someone who had an Ivy League education in Finance, and who worked for a large institution who had access to all sorts of financial records that weren’t easy to come by.

The Ivy League education was because that was the best source for books and information regarding how evaluating the price of companies was done. The professors had presentations they taught. The libraries there were filled with works on the past history of the subject, and the halls were filled with fellow students on the same journey, learning the same topics.

The big institution was desirable because they had more people, more memberships, and more storage space to store the physical files. When compiling information, you needed a team of people to pull, aggregate, format and fit the data to something usable.

Well, guess what? That veil has fallen, and not enough people seem to care. The moat is dried and people can now walk over, it’s not keeping anyone out. Those presentations, books, and even professors? All accessible online, even though a few courses and books may cost a few bucks. I would guess for $100-$500 dollars you can have access to the equivalent of a $100,000 education from 30 years ago.

Those students all on the same journey of learning? They are connected in online forums. While they may not be in the same physical space, they are aggregating in far bigger numbers than in the past in spaces that share the same interest online.

That institution? Unnecessary. Financial statements for companies are posted on their websites. You can pull their yearly statements, amendments, and future business plans and stated risks all from the comfort of your home.

That team to compile the data? Unnecessary. Some good Excel skills and basic programming knowledge and you can manipulate things into usable formats and extract models to help you predict the future of what is to come.

All of this is available at super low cost compared the past.

If that gentlemen today is a waiter because he wasn’t born to a family that had significant capital, he can still use his knowledge, curiosity, newly gained skills to create predictions about the world that are every bit as accurate as the walled off “expertise” of the past.

Of course, it’s easier to put our faith in someone with the correct “pedigree”, but like anything in the market, finding the diamond in the rough, the underdog, the one no one else seems to be paying attention to but has all the chance of winning the race is always valuable.

As our long-time held beliefs about institutions, their perceived expertise and value, continues to crumble, a new world is forming around us. Slowly. Subtly. If you’re paying attention you may even see it in the waiter the next time you are out around town. Those that look down on someone for their job in the future may just find themselves at the mercy of others saying, “You see him. He paid $100,000 for an education. and I make just as much money doing this and investing on the side.”

The democratization of information has cast off the traditional hierarchy of society, but we’ve yet to see the full ramifications that are going to play out over decades. Some are still learning to see the opportunities they have that wouldn’t have existed twenty years ago, while others are learning how “undifferentiated” they actually are when the walls of information came tumbling down. During this era of change, the absolutely worst thing you could do is think you know what opportunities, abilities, or knowledge someone has just because of their current work.

P.S. I paid for an education and that’s okay, the world hadn’t shifted nearly as much back then, and even today I’m not denigrating people that do. However, if you think it makes you special in this day and age that is certainly not the case, there are plenty of people who are smart, ambitious and are making their way through life with non-traditional methods. Long-term, new traditions will be made about the path through life out of what is taking place today.

Looking beyond the numbers

Engineers don’t change the world with formulas alone.

A business doesn’t match the spreadsheet for profit and loss just because they were written down.

The costs don’t add up to the price paid.

There are so many places where we use numbers to determine that we are on the right track and heading in the right direction, but it doesn’t mean that reality will match what we extrapolate it should. An engineer can create a clean energy generator that lowers emissions and achieves climate change targets to avert catastrophe, it doesn’t mean that it will be adopted at the correct pace. A business owner can make a spreadsheet projecting 50 sales call a day, with a 2% success rate, and a $1,000 average sale price, and an average sales staff salary of $60,000 and every single one of those numbers could be wrong. It doesn’t magically happen because he says it should be that way. On the other end of the spectrum, just because the materials cost $10, doesn’t mean a product is only worth that especially where skill, specialized equipment, and scarcity are involved.

The numbers are only a tool. Something to give our intuition a reason to latch onto. It’s a tool to make sure that if everything goes right we won’t still fail, such as charging too little money and making each transaction a loss. However, the magic is in the action. The understanding of the customer, the understanding of the value, the training of the employee, or the magic and value crafted through a sharply honed skill.

Looking beyond the numbers is always a key aspect of any endeavor.

Who is your lifetime customer?

As an online pet food business, you expect animal owners to order from you over and over. Your lifetime customer is the pet owner. They may have multiple animals over their life and you may make them happy again and again with each transaction. It’s easy to understand your lifetime customer. Taking the time to provide great service and special touches for the customer is a high value prospect. While customer service should always be good regardless, some special touches only work financially if you know your lifetime customer and their value. Like sending a cake or gift to them every birthday.

Imagine you run a kitchen remodeling business. The average person remodeling their kitchen does so once every 20-30 years. Most people remodeling their kitchens professionally are over 40 years old. That means that each customer is likely to be a customer only one time. This presents a different lifetime customer scenario than the pet food. Additional touches likely don’t gain repeat business as the same level of the pet food distributor because business happens so far apart, however, there is still a lifetime customer here:

The Community.

Kitchen remodeling businesses tend to be local. At some point, too much distance and the drive time and gas add so many costs that someone closer is much cheaper. That means the business is tied into the community. The community itself is the lifetime customer and as people move in and out your contribution to the community should be known. That is where the special touches should come from:

  • A beautiful planter built with maintenance sponsored in the park.
  • An afternoon school program contributed to in a positive way.
  • Fun activities at festivals for families

There are many different ways to add value to the community that you belong to and this has been used as a marketing tactic before.

The digital world added another layer to this. Businesses who have expected one time buyers online, but are spread out geographically. An example could be a high-end telescope in prices ranges that most fans can only buy one in their lifetime. To address this area your lifetime customer is the astronomy community. Contributing to forums, setting up online events, and being a positive contributor in anyway you can online will make sense for you.

Everyone needs to recognize that special touches are what everyone is looking for, but where those touches are done is dependent on the industry you are in. It’s worth thinking deeper about especially for anyone who is an industry where repeat business is low.

An entire internet of fiction.

With rapidly increasing technology, we are seeing Artificial Intelligence (AI) softwares that can write articles and responses that are nearly indistinguishable from human written pieces. While this has some positives, such as a small company being able to create as much content as a much larger one it also has many possible drawbacks:

  • Increased noise as the cost to produce content is driven to zero. So much content will be created it will become impossible to sort through. This is already partly the case, but it will get much worse.
  • No accountability of accuracy for much of what is written. There is no person’s reputation on the line. There is no home, no food, no security for their family at risk. It’s just a piece of software doing the writing.

These points taken together with the scale to produce non-stop content at the speed of computers, as well as the lack of accountability for creating something accurate and truthful, it’s possible we can see an entire internet crammed almost entirely with fiction. Nothing believable at all.

Some of this is already happening, and has been happening since the beginning of the internet. Some of this will get much worse. My optimistic look at it is that it will drive humans to live in the physical world again where it is much easier to determine software from people than the digital world.

I’m not someone who thinks about this stuff to set off alarm bells and become a political activist. I think about it in order to stay ahead of society in what will be valued in the future. You wouldn’t want to open a horse whip manufacturer right before automobiles were invented would you?

With that in mind, while the future and the rapidly increasing capabilities of technology make it hard to predict the exact right thing to do, two things will always be valuable:

  • The ability to be clear, thoughtful, and purposeful about what you know, the services you offer, and the positive change you can make for people.
  • The accountability that if those changes you make don’t actually work, you’re a real person, who will suffer real consequences and as a result you are here to do your best for others. That’s a far cry from an indifferent robot.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is going to force humans to do more work than ever based on trust, connection, and understanding then we have before. It’s going to be tough because those things have always been difficult, but they are also what makes us human. I don’t think that’s something to be feared, but embraced. Best to start working on your trust, connection and understanding today.

The open and the enclosed slide.

I spent the day at the community pool today with my daughter. They have two large slides for big kids and adults. The slides are nearly identical except for one thing, one is open and the other is enclosed, likely due to the claustrophobia some people may experience.

There is an interesting dynamic here, the enclosed one is dark, not much to see and that changes the entire way the experience feels. It feels like you are being taken for a ride with nothing you can do to react to any upcoming twist or turn in advance, that everything is external to you.

The open slide counters that. You can see the upcoming turns and twists illuminated by the sun outside. It seems like you can react, that you can anticipate a turn and making going into a bit smoother.

The reality is that for both, there is water being forced down a fixed path. The only thing that could be chosen was whether to go down either of those particular slides at all. Once moving there isn’t much else you can do until you reach the bottom.

This is an excellent analogy for life. There are certain segments of our life where we are choosing whether to go down the open slide, or the enclosed one or none at all. Each of those choices then introduces a number of twists and turns into our life which we may not have any power over for a period of time, until that ride ends, and it’s time to pick our next one.

Often times we are so caught up in trying to predict what’s next, or to push back against forces that we can’t enjoy the ride itself for what it is. A fixed amount of time, providing an experience that will give us valuable feedback in whether or not we want to choose to ride it again, or whether we want to find a new ride, something that better fits our needs.

When you look at it this way, life is a series of “rides” and we have the opportunity to choose which ones we go on however we need to keep a few things in mind (warning: metaphorical rules coming, interpret them at your own peril):

  • Let’s not go back up and go down a “ride” we determined we already didn’t like unless something has significantly changed.
  • We have a limited amount of “rides” that we can choose during our lifetime
  • Standing in line too long is a waste, find something else.
  • Let’s make sure the height requirement is met.
  • Be safe.
  • Recognize all your control is in picking the “ride”, after that the experience is out of your control.

The point of a “ride” is to enjoy yourself. Let’s not forget that.

The Ferris Wheel vs. The Eiffel Tower

The invention of the Ferris Wheel was America’s answer to the Eiffel Tower. The Eiffel Tower designed and built for the 1889 World’s Fair in Paris and it represented the great strides in engineering and technology that was becoming present in world affairs due to industrialization.

Initially, when the committee for the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago was looking for a centerpiece attraction as amazing as the Eiffel Tower, most of the initial concepts submitted were just towers that exceeded the Eiffel Tower in grandness and size. While that seems to show technological superiority, it also shows derivative thinking.

Instead, the Ferris Wheel was invented. The original Ferris Wheel was much grander than most of the subsequent Ferris Wheels people have been on at carnivals. It had huge cars that hung from it, 36 in total. Each car could carry 60 people. Over 2000 people could ride the Ferris Wheel at a time, taking them 264 feet into the sky. It was a grandiose display of engineering and while the tower put people high up in the atmosphere, the Ferris Wheel built on the same sort of emotional experience, adding a more pronounced movement aspect to the experience.

Chicago-ferris-wheel.jpg
Original Ferris Wheel in Chicago 1893

Eiffel Tower in Paris 1889

Both of these were the most magnificent achievements of their times. Both captured and exuded the spirit of the era. The spirit of possibility. Both captured the idea that technology and science could create emotion and be every bit as expressive as more traditional fine arts. Both required people who saw where the world is going, and leaned into it, inspiring others to do the same and leading to an era that saw increased educational attainment, lower disease, increasing lifespans, more comfortable living, more mobility, and more opportunity then ever dreamed of before.

The spirit of the era captured here over 100 years ago was one of optimism. One of a promising future. We need to find something to capture a shared spirit again. Something that grabs the imagination. Something that fills us with excitement. It seems somewhere along the line we’ve moved towards pessimism. That everything is getting worse. That nothing is worth the effort. The Tower could have collapsed or failed due to many different circumstances. The Ferris Wheel could have failed to go around. They didn’t, they worked. We need big thinking again, and it’s worth taking a long think about what the next century’s spirit and positivity should be centered around.

Why we call the noise level on a television “volume.”

One possible reason is because volume is typically the measure of 3 dimensional space. The picture in on your TV is two dimensional, sound adds the 3rd dimension. How much of that 3rd dimension is added changes the volume.

There are so many opportunities in the world to add depth to the work that we do. Here’s a few examples:

  • Go to a great coffee shop. You see the amazing latte art. You taste the great quality beans. You smell the coffee in the air. 3 dimensions.
  • Go to a great store. It looks the way that makes you feel the way it’s inventory should. The inventory itself feels the way you would expect for the way you are looking for. The music, mood and attitude match.
  • Go to a great festival. The sound of the people, the weather (with luck), and the smell of the vendors food all matches the feeling you were expecting.

It’s often that if we can’t put our finger on what’s missing from an experience, it’s probably an entirely different dimension than the terms we are thinking in. The first two dimensions are often more obvious than 3rd, but the 3rd is what completes the magic. Watch your favorite movie on mute if you don’t believe that.

More dimensions add more opportunity to differentiate, to create magic, and to amaze the people we seek to serve. Today, this blog is one dimensional due to my time constraints. In the future, I hope to change that. You should be seeking out your extra dimensions too.

You can always see or hear what you’re looking for.

Below is a sound that changes based on the words you’re reading, it’s an example of your braining finding evidence of what it wants to believe. This is a good thing if you’re a positive person, and a terrible thing if you’re a negative one.

It’s a reminder that good or bad, you’ll find the proof of your beliefs wherever you look.

Even table tennis has room for something different.

It’s easy to get trapped into thinking “Everything has already been done.” or, “I’m nothing special.” But consider the table tennis match below. How did they use the space differently than what you expect? How did they delight the crowd? How many different ways did they break the norm? You have that opportunity daily.

P.S. Click it and go to the source, the embedded version cuts off the video a bit.

Getting to ride the rollercoaster

I had the privilege of bowling in a big, national tournament last week alongside a team that has a shot at winning it every year. Thousands of teams enter and these guys are good enough to have a legitimate chance at winning every year.

A couple of the guys are aging. They feel they are past their prime. When they had six frames left, they still had a shot at winning this year’s event, but the spares were starting to roll out more than the strikes. I walked over to one of the aging gentlemen whose been in the situation many times and said, “You guys need to get the energy up over here! You still have a shot at this.” He just sort of shrugged it off.

Eventually, they wouldn’t finish quite as strong as they started and wouldn’t take the lead at the tournament. Later on, the same person said to me, “That’s why I can’t get excited. It’s the same story every year.” What he meant is “We always come close, then fall short.”

This event contains the best bowlers in the country. Thousands of them all competing for the same prize. I would estimate there are about 25-50 teams that have a strong shot at winning every year because their players are much better than the rest. With those kinds of odds, even being a strong team, it’s not likely to win more than 1-2 times in a lifetime, though coming close every year is possible.

It’s a privilege to get to ride that rollercoaster. To have a skill level, and teammates to match that put you in a position to win even if the probabilities are that you won’t take the top prize every time. It should still be exciting. It should still fill you with joy. It should still make you feel like, “We’ll get ’em next year.” when you just barely miss.

Riding the rollercoaster is an opportunity, a privilege, and a great time. It should be seen that way.

Learning to swim and the narrative void of what scares you.

I took my daughter to the pool to learn to swim the other day. After being in the water for a while and getting her comfortable, I asked her to jump to me off the side of the pool and I would catch her.

“I’m scared.” She repeated multiple times while refusing to take the leap.

Now, for contrast, this child leaps onto my back from the top of our couch sometimes when I’m not looking or paying enough attention to her, or if we’re playing. She’s not scared of falling a few feet and landing on the hard ground, yet when faced with a 6″ leap to the water, while wearing flotation devices and a father who is a strong swimmer, trained in the water for safety and is willing to catch her, she won’t do it. Why would that be?

There is a narrative void in her head.

Human nature is to fill in the narrative and if you can’t, walk away from it.

She has no clue what to expect, and she is shying away from it. No explanation of how minimal the consequences will be will let her step into that void in a positive way.

This story isn’t unique to my daughter. We are all constantly “learning to swim” metaphorically with different topics in our life whether it’s entrepreneurship, marketing, managing relationships, taking care of ourselves or just about anything else. Just like my daughter, we’re often scared to do what we know can be done. To take that leap.

The way I see it, there are two ways out for my daughter: one of these times at the pool she’s running around and accidentally falls in the side. She then realizes the consequences aren’t that bad and jumping is no big deal. The other option is she sees others doing it and decides it’s possible that she can do it too.

Regardless of whatever endeavor you are taking on those are the only two options, but in some cases, like writing the great American novel, you’re not going to do it by accident. You’ll have to be deliberate. The only option to fill the narrative void is to choose to fill it by doing the work. As a quick reminder, “work” is just the word for it, we don’t have to fill that normal association we do with that word.

Touch vs. Consistency

It seems to me there are a couple different ways to make sure you achieve high quality outcomes, using touch, or by being consistent.

“Touch” as used here is the ability to react to change dynamics and to be able to get the desired result you’re looking for. If you’re cooking strawberry shortcake and your strawberries are less ripe than usual, adding more sugar is “touch”. If you are driving an Uber and a customer seems particularly agitated with conversation, so you dial it back you are using “touch”.

The alternative is to use consistency. To measure all the ingredients in the baked goods exactly the same by weight. To re-calibrate the scale and the oven routinely and cook to the same times so everything comes out exactly the same. If you’re the Uber driver to always make conversation with people so that anyone using you can know exactly what to expect and that you only start to get people who enjoy the conversations you make.

We all may be using a combination of touch and consistency in our lives depending on the tasks we choose to work on, however, most people probably have a preference towards one over the other. It’s worth thinking about which you use, in which tasks, and how you can best utilize your skills to maximize your “touch” or your “consistency”.

Playing and editing until you have something.

The Sherman Brothers are legendary songwriters for Disney. They came up with a massive number of songs that many people can recognize even if they don’t know who the Sherman brothers are. Music from Mary Poppins and the Jungle Book are prime examples of their skill.

The interesting thing is watching them work, it doesn’t seem that much like work as most people think of it. There doesn’t seem to be much drudgery, just non-stop play and experimentation until they land on something.

If I had to pick out an MO for the Millenial generation and their thoughts on work it would likely be “Make an impact.” The struggle with that is that if anyone could tell people what to do to “make an impact” the job would already be done. In fact, “Make an impact” should be replaced by “Play with things that might not work until you find something useful or entertaining.”

“Making an impact” as I see it can’t be separated from taking a risk, or playing around. That’s why most of the Millenial generation can’t find the job they are looking to satisfy them. Do you think companies like taking risks? Do you think companies like hiring people to play around? It may surprise you, but the answer to those two questions is almost always “No.” That means the only way to “Make an impact” is to play around on your own, take the risks yourself and when you land on something that works, show it to people.

The Sherman brothers chose music, but what can you start playing with today?

A good mood room.

I just returned from vacation. That’s why I haven’t been posting much the last week and a half. I had planned to post even on vacation, but I was just too busy with travel and family to do so, but habits return quickly after vacation, so here I am!

When coming back from vacation, it becomes apparent how much associations of mood with locations affect us. We had a great time, yet as soon as we were home, the typical stresses of everyday life seemed to be back for all of us. Nothing was seemingly different, in fact we still wouldn’t be working the next day, yet there it was, this feeling of no longer being carefree. I can’t help but feel it’s just our minds associate home with a certain amount of responsibility which didn’t happen in an unfamiliar place because that association didn’t exist for our hotel.

This leads me to a thought about the day-to-day at home, or even for a business. What about a “good mood” room? A room that you only enter when you are in a good mood, and if that changes, you leave it immediately. As a result, you build only positive associations with the room until suddenly when you are in a bad mood you can walk in and your mind automatically flips positive. Could you imagine how that could change your life at home? Could you imagine how that could transform a business when employees can flip their attitudes in minutes due to positive associations?

I don’t have room for this in my current house, but this is definitely an experiment that I would like to try some day in the future. If you have the ability to do it, give it a try.

Taking over the world with fried chicken.

There is something paradoxical about focus and success. It creates opportunity to expand into other areas of the world. It’s paradoxical, but the ability to be successful in a wide range of industries generally stems from the ability to succeed in one specific area first.

Taking over the world in a dictatorial, raise a robot army, supervillian type way was the funniest idea I could think of in a few minutes, but it’s true. There are companies like Amazon, Wal-Mart, and Nestle along with other major brands that massive influence global politics due to their success selling many small, cheap items.

Your ambitions don’t need to be so lofty, but the point stands, if you can find success in one small niche that provides you a base level of providing for you, it allows for more ability to expand into other tangential industries as a way to grow what you do and provide for the world.

A more realistic example for an individual would be a theater actor who makes a living getting parts. Then after saving their money, they decide to direct and act in a play they write. Then after being successful with that, they buy the theater and control more of the plays that go through there. Acting was springboard to all of the other successes without which those others wouldn’t have been possible.

Anyone who has found their passion, or their “fried chicken” should consider themselves privileged because most people haven’t. The only thing you have to do is keep making progress and moving forward to take over “the world” whatever that means to you.

Silent Velcro

If someone generically asked you to improve Velcro, it’s likely your mind would wander to something like strength, or cost to produce it. Fewer people would think about minimizing the sound Velcro makes.

Perhaps someone who invented silent Velcro has a special kind of empathy for noisy environments. However, if someone showed you the old, noisy Velcro next to the new silent Velcro, if they were the same price, it’s highly unlikely anyone would purchase the noisy version, unless it’s to secure something that for security sake the sound acts as an alarm.

There are infinite numbers of these opportunities in the world if we just care enough to look with a fresh set of eyes, or ears in this case. Yet, there seems to be a deficit of people who believe this to be true.

Not everything has to be innovated in a complex way, there is plenty of opportunity for ordinary revelations to occur.

Dealing with volatility.

Volatility: liability to change rapidly and unpredictably, especially for the worse.

I pulled this definition from a dictionary. Those last 4 words are shocking to me. They also show the human bias towards negativity.

A business owner may make a killing one year, buy a bigger house and a new car, then the next year the business suffers, and he has to mortgage or downsize his new house, sell his car, and open a line of credit to weather the bad times waiting for the good times to come back. That may seem to fit that “especially for the worse” part, but that’s a matter of opinion. What if that home and car were much nicer than most people can ever afford? Is using them for a year and enjoying them not a privilege? Is it only possible to see the loss of them, rather then the 1 year and enjoyment of them?

This shows up other places as well. Cryptocurrency or stocks may soar up, crash down, then reach even more unimaginable heights. In many cases, large players are creating this emotional rollercoaster to get people to sell when things are low and buy when things are high. Again, they are able to get people to sell when things drop only because of the natural bias of negativity and thinking it won’t come back to level they bought at.

Even daily, your morale may rise or fall on the daily based on world events, your relationships, the amount of clicks on your blog, or the weather. Are we so fragile that we think everything is sad because it’s raining today?

Most people aren’t naturally good at dealing with volatility and it’s totally natural. We like consistent assumptions in our universe. As an employee, you get a consistent paycheck every week and know how to spend it. Living in Southern California rewards you with consistently beautiful weather where you can make daily plans outside. Investing in a diversified index fund yields more consistent returns able to better predict that retirement date.

There is nothing wrong with consistency or volatility as long as you know the consequences of them. The biggest positives can come from the most volatile events, but if your negativity bias kicks in, you’ll only ever see the big drop that can happen. That is even coded that right into the dictionary. Dealing with volatility and expectations is a skill, and it needs practice to be managed. Have you put your reps in on this?

Assets and Liabilities

One person’s asset is another person’s liability. Cash is an asset for a person, but a liability for a bank who owes interest payments on their clients deposits.

Your mortgage is a liability for you and an asset for the bank who collects the interest you pay back to them.

Your amazing art skills are an asset for you and a liability for your competitor.

We often hear, “Our employees are our greatest assets.” This is meant to be a compliment to employees. It’s also common in places like law firms where it is likely that they don’t own machinery to manufacture things, or have inventory like retail, as a result, the employees and their knowledge is THE asset.

Do you ever hear those same employees announce, “My company is a liability to me!”

Not likely, but it is common for most assets to be a liability on an opposing balance sheet. A company could certainly be a liability to you if they underpay.

Assets and liabilities are everywhere, if you look deep they can be skills, people, health, goods, services, time, attitudes and more. Most people can’t see anything but the standard cash, stock, cars and homes. Perhaps it’s time to take time and make a deeper list of your assets and liabilities. That way, you can ensure your assets outweigh your liabilities.

Marketing is filling a narrative void.

There is many different times in life where we reflect on who we are. Perhaps because no one has told us. Perhaps because we’ve been shown that we’re not who we thought we were based on our actions and their contradiction to our beliefs.

In a business, filling this identity is marketing.

Marketing fills in a narrative void. If you’re a computer programmer who automates tasks for businesses, you may have to do cold calling to find business. You’ll have to reach out to different companies and ask, “Do you need anything automated?” However, if you identify yourself as “Automating e-mail responses to sales inquiries.” You may find that people come to you. The narrative void has been filled, and people who were looking for someone like you can identify someone like you.

It’s scary to put yourself out there, or to feel like that’s too specific of a label. It’s natural, but it’s also what marketing is. However, to maintain that identity you have to act as your identity, which is much harder as an organization than as a single person.

Silhouette

Artists drawing animated characters often look at their silhouettes and decide if they convey the emotion or feeling they are looking to. After that they add in details, clothing, and color.

This can extend far beyond character design. Stripping away other details and isolating specifics can make it easier to make sense of a more complex system. Use it with rigor to find places where you can make improvements in your life.

Show Don’t Tell.

Anyone who has ever been given advice about presenting knows that this is a good way to operate. Why does it work though?

It works because it sidesteps those who don’t have empathy for the situation you would be talking about. In the Civil Rights Movement, if someone told you police brutality against people of color was out of control, you may not have seen anything and thought the picture they were painting was an exaggeration. If they showed you videos or photographs, you may recognize that their experience was far worse than your expectations ever imagined.

In order to do the work that we want to do, we need to serve a market where we have empathy that others don’t, and we may need to grow that market by creating more people that understand what we provide and why it’s important. Show don’t tell is a big part of that.

P.S. It also takes much more work to show someone than to tell them. That’s why it’s a generous act.

What happens when you don’t know someone’s identity?

Tension.

Think of a party with mostly strangers. Each person knows the host, but that’s about it. The people stand around and most start by talking to the host since they understand their identity, their interests, their career, etc. Eventually, the others hear the conversations and start forming ideas about the identities of the others at the party. People loosen up, and the topics of conversation start to flow as people form connections between their different identities.

This is the reason it’s so important to make sure people inside a company, or at a party, know a bit about each other. You create a few strands that connect people with different identities together, and eventually, organically, more connections start to be formed from the foundation that you laid.

Tension is the natural state of things when there is a void in identity. When you come face-to-face with a wild animal, a tension might occur. You both might stare each other down. Neither of you knows whether the other is peaceful, hungry, scared, territorial, and anything else you can name as an identity. Over time, if you don’t attack each other, and don’t seem threatening, you may both identify the other as non-threatening, from there, something else can bloom possibly into friendship.

Identity is one of the most powerful forces in the world. It can divide a nation. It can elevate a mere human to legendary status. It can create tension.

If you’re going to do something with a group, it might be worth thinking about how you’ll identify people to the others in the group. It’s also important to think about how you identify yourself as well.

Purpose and Means

Purpose is what we find through our meaning in life. Means is the way we choose to work, most likely resting on our brains natural architecture for its rules. Together these two form part of our identity. The work we choose and the way we choose to do it comes from this combination and is selected out of the options that have been shown to us throughout our lives and fit the closest to these two items.

Often times, if people haven’t been exposed to enough of the world, they make bad choices about what they should be doing. It doesn’t fit their purpose and it’s not suited to the means that they were born with. Here are two examples:

Someone has the purpose, but doesn’t have the means. This is the person who wants to help climate change, but doesn’t have any invention ideas, doesn’t have the presence to be a political activist, and is lost in how to go about accomplishing their purpose.

Other times, people are highly capable. They have diverse skillsets. They have been developing means, but they aren’t sure where to apply them because they don’t have a purpose. Ambitious people without a particular purpose often find themselves in this “trap.” Not knowing what they are trying to achieve, they seek out more and more abilities until they can hone in on their purpose.

If you are standing outside, recognizing either one of these people, you can create value by giving one the means, or the other their purpose. Seeing people and what they are lacking is an undervalued part of creating a better world. Almost no one can build a computer mouse alone, yet we can do it together.

Re-evaluating your purpose and means from time to time would do yourself good as well.

800

This is my eight hundredth post on this blog. I’m certain that if I started something out saying, “Let me do 800…” I wouldn’t get that far before I quit.

Here are some other things that I can think of that I’ve done 800 of in my life…

  • Days of bowling
  • Weeks of working
  • Running
  • Dinners cooked
  • Articles read

There’s more I’m sure, but that list is adequate to make the point. None of these things did I start by setting out to do 800 times or more. I set out to do them because they were fun, made me feel good, or interesting. A body of work isn’t built up by force, it’s built up by finding something in the work that makes it worth it and then wanting to find that value again tomorrow, and the next day after that. Eventually, time takes over and there is something substantial constructed.

Memorial Day seems fitting for this to land on. Many of our service members here in the U.S. found something worth it for them in serving the country. Finding value in their work day after day. The ones honored today sacrificed everything to uphold ideals they believed in. Their body of work isn’t a portfolio. It’s not likely something that can be illustrated. Their body of work 3000 miles across. Their body of work is a large group of people who are safe. Their body of work is our country.

Today, we honor them.

I deeply thank you all for your service.

Ambiguity is a natural outcome of size.

Imagine an Interior Design company with 3 people, a marketer, a designer, and an executive who handles the business side of things. When tasks are split up, it’s pretty easy to understand which tasks should be assigned to which person.

Who would you give a brochure design task to? The marketer.

Who would you give a kitchen design revision to? The designer.

Who would you task with pay the bills? The executive.

Grow this business to 75 people in size and it’s much less likely that who the tasks should flow are this clear any more. There may be multiple people in the marketing group now, each with their own specialty skillset. Design concepts might be handled by a senior designer while revisions are handled by a junior designer. The executive may have a bookkeeper or accountant underneath them to handle the day-to-day bills.

As growth occurs in personnel, it also grows the ambiguity of each employee knowing how to operate and interact with others in the business. This can be a source of frustration if you let it. It can also be a weakness if you let it.

Here are a few thoughts about dealing with this:

  • Create systems where possible.
  • Document as much as possible.
  • Hire at least a handful of people who are good at thriving in ambiguity (they are out there).
  • Make small incremental pieces of progress towards improvement.
  • Find your right balance of size and ambiguity.

An experience I had yesterday reminded me of this fact, as someone I work with felt “trapped” between other internal forces at the company while trying to accomplish their objectives an didn’t know where to turn. Sometimes it feels like no one wants to work with us, but often times, it’s that EVERYONE is stuck in ambiguity of what to do with an idea or problem. When in that trap, don’t think you have to overhaul it, think that you need to make it a bit more clear than it is currently. Then the next time it comes up, a bit more clear again. Eventually, over time the ambiguity fades to nothing at all.

Hypocrisy as a form of attention-seeking

In the modern era, society is filled with people seeking attention. Hypocrisy has become a tool of getting attention. It’s not one I’d like to use, but many people use it with intent.

It’s been a while, but I remember a politician that tweeted negative things about public education and misspelled “education”. It created a tweet storm from people pointing it out. There are many reasons that someone could misspell things on Twitter such as:

  • Hard to use phone keyboard
  • Workaround character limits by trying to use a word that you can tell what it is with less letters, but incorrect spelling
  • Intentional to make people mad which creates shares and awareness.

In this case, with the context I remember, I’m about 95% certain it was the last point. They knew an intentional misspelling while railing about education would get their message out there. While this is a politician, Hollywood has known for a long time, “There is no such thing as bad publicity.”

I’m not pointing this out to put another tool in your toolbox. I’m pointing it out to inoculate against it. Don’t engage people who do this, it lowers the bar of our society.

Experience as a liability

Below is a link to an article comparing the modern pet food provider, Chewy.com, with the defunct Pets.com from the Dotcom boom twenty years ago. The article itself isn’t that important, you actually don’t need to read it, but the gist is many investors remembered Pets.com went bankrupt and wouldn’t invest in Chewy.com because it’s in the same space. Of course, today, the revenues Chewy.com has are incomparable to those of Pets.com twenty years ago because the conditions have changed significantly.

Twenty years ago the following was true:

  • Internet speeds were terrible and it impacted customer experience on a website
  • Social media wasn’t mainstream to connect people sharing great experiences
  • Most people didn’t have the internet in their pocket at all times
  • Many people were still scared to put a credit card number in online

Those are just a few differences that came into my mind in a couple seconds. The people who wouldn’t invest in Chewy.com were perhaps led astray by their knowledge of the past. Sometimes experience is a liability. It’s always worth check in on what you are missing through your previous experiences.

Hidden Gambles

I know many people who aren’t “gamblers”. They would never plop down their money on a blackjack table, a speculative real estate deal, or starting a company. Often these people are unaware that nearly everything in life is a gamble, many of which are hidden, and each person is determining what has the best odds. Probably the most common example is working for someone else. What assumptions and gambles are present there:

  • They’ll value you
  • They won’t let you go
  • They are good at their business
  • They won’t sell the business

Contrast this to working for yourself:

  • You will value yourself.
  • You won’t let yourself go.
  • You’ll focus on continuing to improve things
  • You won’t sell the business unless it makes sense for you.

Now, I don’t think that means everyone needs to pack up today and work for themselves, especially if you haven’t developed the skills to run a company yet. It’s just important to see the gambles being taken. Keep in mind, on the other side of the table the company has a similar gamble on the employee that they will:

  • Value working there
  • Won’t quit after a short time period where they weren’t net productive
  • They are skilled in the role

It’s worth checking in with yourself from time to time to make sure these things are still true and that the assumptions and gambles haven’t changed unexpectedly.

Thoughts on Rhythm.

Can you imagine how important rhythm is to the group below? They are accomplishing their work much faster than each one individually driving a stake in the ground as they keep some momentum. Also, the feeling of having a stake driven so quickly creates the feeling of success rather than 4 stakes being driven in individually.

Rhythm is something that is taken for granted. Often ignored by those at the top who may not have jobs that are capable of much rhythm. Workers, the ones putting in the labors, need it because it sets the pace, creates a feeling of momentum and achievement and makes things fun. It’s a powerful force indeed.

“Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”

Arthur C. Clarke said that.

In reality, whether we create customer service experiences, or craft technology, the goal should be the same:

Create magic.

That’s easier said than done. It’s not something that’s pondered on and then executed after a little training. It’s something that is reflected, experimented with, agonized over, and then weighed against how things were before. Creating magic is a process. I’m sure a magician doesn’t think up, build, rehearse and show off a new illusion in a single day. And I’m sure they also don’t create all the illusions that make up an act in a single month or even year.

This is why habits are important. This is why systems are important, even when they are often viewed as the opposite side of creativity. The work is never done. The ratchet keeps going. On and on.

How to get attention without being outrageous.

Being outrageous or controversial has been a shortcut for getting attention for some time. Show me a person doing that, and I’ll show you a person who needs to think harder. In the social media age that we live in, it seems like if you don’t behave that way, you won’t even be noticed.

I disagree. Patience is a virtue.

Anyway, Tim Urban, the writer at “Wait, but why?” created this simple image and it caught my attention. There isn’t anything controversial politically here at all. I’m just serving up this as an example. We need more people like Tim. The outrage is getting old, but we could all use something a bit more interesting.

Thanks for setting the example Tim.

https://waitbutwhy.com/2016/06/the-triangle-puzzle.html