Have we traded helping for hustle?

Has everything as an economic transaction instead of a community helping each other?

“Not making enough money? Start a side hustle!” That’s a chorus on many areas of the internet. While I think bootstrapping a business is certainly a thing for some, it feels like we’re losing community.

Is the side hustle so we can hire a painter instead of help our brother, sister, cousin, or friend paint?

Is the side hustle so we can pay an Uber to take us to the airport instead of have a close friend drop us off?

Is the side hustle so that we can go out to eat with someone else cooking for us, instead of heading to a neighbor’s house for dinner who you exchange meals with frequently?

Is the “side hustle” culture a breakdown of community?

I’m not sure, but I’m going to think about it deeper and you should too.

A very messy house and improving your life.

When things are a little disorganized, it takes a bit of effort to straighten things out. Nothing crazy, just some time. When things are very disorganized, it’s easy for a mind to go blank and not know where to start. Life, and the world around us is always messy. Since most people have seen a messy home before, it’s a reasonable analogy even if it isn’t always messy…for some of us.

You may not know the next step in your life or have a perfect plan, however just like a house that has become overwhelming cluttered for any set of circumstances, the only thing you can do is start with what is closest to you, until it reaches the manageable stage of disorganized. Once there start to decide which tasks make sense and prioritize. It starts with just an effort until things become clearer.

This seems easy, but it is a significant challenge because when we can’t see the plan, and calculate the effort, our brains go haywire. I’ve written about that here: A theory on the feeling of anxiety.

Coming from the house analogy to life, most of us feel stuck. It may happen at different levels of careers, different ages, different amounts of responsibility, but that feeling of being stuck is happening to everyone at some point. The tactic for getting out of it is always the same. Start with something that feels close and easy. Then the next thing. Gain some momentum, and eventually a moment of clarity will come, but you need to maintain faith until then.

An example might be a young person without much career direction. They are working in a restaurant as a bus boy and don’t know what to do next. They aren’t making enough money for a house, and can’t support a family. They may talk to the waiters and the chefs and decide what to do next. Perhaps the steady stability of cooking is appealing to them and comes with a pay bump. Or perhaps, waiters that hustle kill it with tips and make plenty of money, and they want to do that next. Keep following the progression, and perhaps owning a restaurant is in their future, or that experience may uncover what they hate doing and point them in the right direction. That’s the beauty of experience, there are few wrong answers, only things that get you closer to your goal and things that recalibrate your direction. One thing is certain, it never happens on the timelines we’d like it to.

Focus and short-sightedness.

For any positive trait you can think of, there is a downside. Vice versa as well.

Focus is nearly always associated as a positive trait to have. However, if someone is focused entirely on one aspect of their life, they can end up incredibly short-sighted in other aspects of their lives. The person who restlessly builds their business may be neglecting the attention their child needs as one example.

Even without a glaringly-obvious, skewed focus, this natural occurrence can be seen in kids vs. adults. As a responsible adult, you have tasks that must be done. Food that must be made. A job that must be attended to. A home that must be cleaned and more. Naturally, these responsibilities become foci that a 4 year old child for example doesn’t have.

What is the natural result?

Going out to get some exercise, like a walk, you may chastise your child who keeps stopping to smell the flowers, look at the leaves on the ground, stare at some insects, or any other display of wonder. It’s not that you don’t find those things nice, but the dishes are still waiting for you at home, followed by the bedtime routine of your daughter and then the preparations for tomorrow. How will you achieve all that with your nose in the flowers?

As adults, our focus has made us short-sighted in a way that a child isn’t.

This can be extrapolated to many more important topics in the world:

  • Taking care of our community
  • Thinking about what the future will be like for generations behind us
  • Making things better

A singular goal is the same as a deep focus, which is the same as being short-sighted in everything but one item. Of course the mortgage must be paid, the dishes must be done and food needs to be on the table, that doesn’t mean a conscious effort to keep our focus wide outside of those things can’t be attempted.

Braveheart

The title is referencing the 1995 movie.

In the beginning of the movie is William Wallace’s education. He leaves his home after his father is killed, gets educated with his uncle, then comes back as a man. He’s likely the most educated man in his town. He becomes the rebellion leader after his love is murdered.

Most people having watched the movie think of him for his actions, his fighting, and his bravery, yet the movie shows many times over its his planning and smarts that make him great.

No army has ever survived a charge of the English heavy cavalry. How about crafting spears twice as long as a man to stop them before they can charge through the ranks? Wallace thought of that.

Thinking, not fighting, was Wallace’s skill that made him a leader. Not to forget his skill with oration to inspire his men that no doubt was improved through his study of language and reading.

Despite this fact that education, knowledge and brainpower are critical for improving a situation in life, we seem to be in an era where most who watch this movie only recognize him “kicking ass.” Action is the only take away.

Action is amplified by knowledge. It’s important not to forget that.

Social media and the (un)level playing field.

The demand for attention has shot way up with all the content being created. The supply is limited by the population. We’ve skewed the supply-demand curve significantly.

What has always shown up when there is skewed supply and demand curve? The market!

There is now a market for the attention. Not only is crafting great content not enough, but you have to pay to be put in prime spaces for attention. Not paying means no amount of hardwork can overcome that. That may be hyperbole to an extent, but the amount of organic effort certainly isn’t what it was twenty years ago when a basic blog could attract millions of people.

What can be done about this?

Have a high value item that is targeted at a specific group of people. Create a great piece of content whose goal isn’t to go viral, but to be shared with specific people and groups you know it could benefit. If social media is a billboard, you need to think of a direct mailer, and not one scattered over a zip code, but targeted to specific names, and backgrounds that you know can get use out of the offering.

Social media is still a great tool for building social proof and showing up daily. Some industries still have room to adopt it, but for many, the field is too unlevel. That’s okay, you just have to go about things a bit differently. Instead of a mic drop piece of content posted once. Sending it out to 100 interested parties manually may be the way to go. Nothing wrong with being specific and high value, rather than mass.

Learning a new language and what it means to learn a new skill

Many times in a new year, people want to learn a new skill. However, often times what they are doing is looking for something that is expanding on a skillset they may already have.

One example is learning a new language. If you know English, and perhaps you learned some Spanish or French in high school, choosing to learn Italian may not be all that hard. You are building on the same latin roots the other two languages you already know are built on. That makes it easier, but it will still deepen your skill in the latin languages.

If you choose to learn Arabic, Chinese, Korean or Japanese, you may find it much harder. You aren’t building from the same base you already know. They have completely different characters that your brain has to become wired for. However, once you learn one of these new languages, your mental model of what a language is will be broadened.

Recognizing this fact, not just for language, but all skills is an opportunity to understand everyday we have an opportunity for improvement, but not just any improvement, a choice between broadening and deepening. Choosing which comes down to whether you want to be an expert called on for your specific skill, or whether you want to be a connector for people who aren’t capable of understanding each other because you have a broad mental model to do so.

Choose accordingly.

Cymatics

The study of particles moving to reveal the resonant structures of a plate at different frequencies. It’s an interesting field, and searching for it in youtube, I can watch many of the videos over and over because they are mesmerizing.

Nigel Stanford apparently took notice of this and he created a music video that is mesmerizing involving a number of different physical phenomenon. I highly recommend you watch the video. It’s a study of what you can do by taking something that is mesmerizing (Cymatics in the field of science) and applying it to another field, in this case music.

Picky Eater or Parent with bad cooking skills.

I saw a post online today that said, “After moving out of your parent’s house, try every food you never liked again.” The premise was that not every parent is a tremendous cook.

It’s a true statement.

Often times, we believe we don’t like something, when what we have actually experienced is a bad version of something. Just like we don’t expect children to have good judgment because of limited life experience, that can be true in “niche” experiences for adults as well.

This concept extends far past food.

It could be the work you do.

It could be the art you make.

It could be the books you choose to read after school.

It could be the shows you watch.

It could be the people you choose to be friends with.

So many things in our worldview are based on limited experience, we often make incorrect conclusions from it. It’s always worth testing things out again after a significant period of time, you never know when your “tastes” have changed.

The Giver

What an incredible book. Also, an incredible movie.

A group of people, a society, an organization, or even a nation, doesn’t have a collective memory. The memories are the sum of the individual’s experiences that make it up. As a result, society doesn’t always make the decisions it should because if the majority could recall experiences that happened to a minority of people, perhaps they would decide differently about things.

The Giver is about a society that places all of its memories in one person, the Receiver of Memories. The old, retiring Receiver of Memories becomes the Giver of Memories. Together, they read old literature, history, and share experiences. They are the only person in their society who understands emotions, war, death and more.

Extrapolating this to something more useful in your current life, recognize that the sum of your experiences are valuable. If you have specialized knowledge, experience, or even customer relationships, those things aren’t contained by your company, they are owned by you, on loan to the company. This isn’t because you are greedy, but because there is no other scalable mechanism to make this paradigm not true. It’s possible to make videos, write blogs, create standard operating procedures, and make introductions to people, but that all takes effort away from the tasks that produce for the company.

No matter where you are at in life, you are like the Receiver of Memory, gaining knowledge and experience that benefits you and can benefit others. The only question is what you’ll do with it.

P.S. If you haven’t read the book or seen the movie, The Giver, I highly recommend it. Pick the medium you like best.

Why waking up from short-sightedness is hard

I’m not referring to individually, but culturally.

The people around you have likely been short-sighted too. Society is notoriously short-sighted. Most companies are too.

The struggle is when you wake up from short-sightedness, after you have your epiphany, others aren’t in the same mindset, and jostling them startles them and makes them feel bad. Protection of their ego comes into place and it’s hard to get them to align with the vision.

A simple example that many people have probably been through is when life gets rocky for a period. Maybe work is demanding, a car breaks down, someone is sick, or all of those at the same time. We fall into shortcuts to deal with it all. Perhaps we skip cleaning the bathroom. The laundry doesn’t get done. The dishes are piling up. One day, even after everything is over, one of the family members looks around, and thinks, “When did we start living in a dump?” Seeing the Herculean task to get “back to normal” they try to rally the family, who feel attacked rather than enlivened, even if it was never meant to be that way.

As a society, nearly all our issues boil down to this type of situation. Things have extended far past where they should be in all sorts of ways, anyone who points it out, is attacked.

What is the alternative?

The only one I can think of is to start cleaning the house. Literally, in the scenario I described, and metaphorically in the societal example. Then make sure other people see what you are doing, and hopefully see the value in joining in. Eventually, the behavior becomes the new normal, or “back to normal” if that is the way things were before.

What you can learn from the fractal vice

The pictures below are fractal vice.

A Morphing Fractal Vise Pivots to Grasp Irregular Shapes ...

They are made up of two small, pivoting half circles inside a larger half circle. Layer this three times as fractals do in nature and you have a vice that can grip anything.

Nearly any creative work you can think of works the same way. Small components that build into a bigger work.

Take a play like Hamilton:

  • Lin Manuel Miranda wrote songs
  • Those songs arranged into acts
  • Those acts arranged into Hamilton

Take a furniture maker:

  • They make some chairs and sell them
  • The most popular chair styles get copied
  • Then a table is made and you have a dining set

Take this blog:

  • I write daily posts
  • Those daily posts are aggregated into longer articles with more flair
  • Eventually, those articles will be aggregated into a book

Our smaller works, lead to our bigger works, which lead to the biggest works.

When you want to do something creative, it’s not often you can start with the biggest works, and if you do, likely it won’t work out. However, you can start with the smallest pieces, those are the ones that touch the audience directly, just like the small pieces in the vices touching the object.

Creativity is decision-making

Creativity is the process of making a huge number of seemingly trivial decisions, all of which add up to something non-trivial in nature.

A painting for example starts as a blank canvas, then decisions are made about:

  • The color palette
  • The background color(s)
  • The subjects of the painting and where to put them
  • The brushstrokes to use to get the proper texture effects
  • The blending techniques
  • When to stop

All in all, if someone is making a painting from scratch, they are making thousands of small decisions, each one itself likely having a minor impact, but all taken together, they are responsible for the significance of the entire project.

I’ve written about decision-making before, it’s a critical concept for anyone to understand in their life. You can read some of them here:

Ashamed

I haven’t posted in a week because I’ve been ill. While I posted about Unity vs. Civility as my last post, I haven’t necessarily behaved civilly towards a certain person in my life. Part of it is they have always been antagonistic in their own behaviors, and but mostly it is I’ve lost my patience with them in particular.

Perhaps it’s not a bad thing to start a New Year feeling like you are at your lowest point. That’s how I’m feeling right now. It means I can only do better for the remainder of the year. For tons of people out there, the feeling could be the same. This can be a year for change and growth. The question is “How do we make it happen?”

Here’s the steps regardless of the issue:

  1. Awareness of the issue.
  2. Keeping it at the forefront of your mind.
  3. Doing your best to avoid the triggers.

This could be for weight loss and eating. It could be for anger. It could be for procrastination.

The hard part is #2. Keeping your awareness at the forefront of your mind. A human brain is fickle with its attention. Do your best.

Unity vs. Civility

Unity

  1. The state or quality of being one or united into a whole.
  2. The state or quality of being in accord; harmony.

Civility

  1. Courteous behavior; politeness.
  2. A courteous act or utterance.

If you follow politics in the last year or so, there have been calls for unity. Of course, unity in politics isn’t actually possible. If it was politics would disappear as there would be no debate at all about how things should be, we’d all be in agreement and simply behave appropriately.

Civility on the other hand is how we deal with others and engage with ideas that don’t fit our worldview.

Nearly everywhere you find people passionate about how things should be, such as at work, in your town, how to run a charity, how to organize an event, there will never be perfect unity, however, there can always be civility. Without civility, things breakdown. It’s the lubrication that keeps a complex machine of interpersonal interactions running.

Civility is something you should always strive for in your interactions.

The world tends to be a mirror

The world tends to reflect back to you what you put out into it.

If you put out kind words, helpfulness, and generosity, you get back the respect you gave others when you said the nice words of advice.

If you put out brash, harsh criticisms of everyone, then usually there is strong, harsh criticism lobbied back at you.

If you believe that higher pay makes people happier, enjoy their work more, and do better at their job and approach business in that manner, you end up with productive employees who are happy with what they do.

Alternatively, if you believe that no one does great work, and that an employee should be negotiated down on salary as much as possible, then you’ll end up with employees who believe in doing the bare minimum.

The problem is that this reflection often shows us that are belief is justified. It can show us that the world is a better place than it actually is when we approach with generosity, kindness, and gratitude. It can also show us the world is a worse place than it actually is when we approach it with contempt, selfishness and greed. Reality is always in the middle.

Whenever there is a perceived shift in the world, perhaps it is always best to first question should be, “Have I changed?” After all, the world is a mirror and may just be reflecting back what you are putting into it. The road to understanding always starts with ourselves.

Best-selling fiction authors.

Here is a link to the best selling fiction authors: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_best-selling_fiction_authors

Here are some unique stats from this:

  • The top one is Shakespeare, who while a prolific writer, also has 400+ years of people marketing his works post-mortem.
  • The average number of books written by each writer on the list is 170.
  • The top 8 are all dead already, their entire careers have passed.

What do these facts taken together lead us to?

A body of work is important. Waiting to create a single masterpiece isn’t the answer. The average writer on that list created 170 books. That’s 3-5 books a year depending on the length of their career. Most people think it would take a year or two of their lives to write a book. While you could argue that everyone on this list is talented, I’m sure we could find plenty of talented writers who stopped after a book or two, and as a result aren’t on this list. Each successive work we do builds on the previous. Alongside that, time is a critical piece of success. When doing the work, time becomes an ally.

The final take is this, “If you really commit to something, the rewards and impact increase even after you are gone, so the best thing you can be in this world is committed.”

The Start and The Finish

Many people love the idea of races of various types. NASCAR, various events in the Olympics, boats, motorcycles, and more.

The concept that there is a starting line and finish line and that everyone knows the rules and the best wins is a great way to test the mettle of competitors.

However, life isn’t so cut and clean. There is no start. There is no finish. If you’re a twenty year old pastry chef who is skilled, but has much to learn, that’s far from being a 60 year old pastry chef who was just as talented, started just as young, but has been at it for four decades, working in all kinds of kitchens, saving their money, meeting investors, opening up their own bakeries and sitting at the top of the pastry world.

While it seems obvious that the sixty year old and the twenty year old didn’t start at the same time and won’t finish at the same time, we often apply a different criteria to those who we see as privileged.

The privileged would be those starting with more connections, more money, better education, or any other item we could put a metric to, but at the same point in time. There is more obsession with the difference between those starting at the same time with different advantages than there is for those starting at different times. However, 40 years of experience is a far bigger advantage than some additional resources. And that’s the entire problem.

There is a lack of faith in results that happen slowly over time. At a young age, we’re afraid the decisions we are making, the skills we are developing, the options we have aren’t going to come to fruition into something significant. As a result, there is resentment for those who can make something more “visible” in compressed time scales because they were handed some extra starting resources.

There is no start and no end. Life isn’t even a race, so treating it as one only ends in misery. Someday you will be the person with a 40 year head start, what will you think about your advantage then?

A good euphemism for short-sightedness.

“I’ve been busy.” That’s a good euphemism to explain short-sighted.

We leave ourselves off the hook often with that line when we don’t think ahead, or drop care in some other aspect of our life like health or family.

It happens to me fairly often, but never in the places I’m thinking of, which is why it happens in the first place. A mind moving quickly must know its course or else it will fly by the turns it needs to make. While busy, a swift but relaxed pace is appropriate to alleviate the short-sightedness and enable us to work efficiently towards goals, while not being short-sighted in other endeavors.

While it is hard to give an example of this for family, it has some easy analogies for tasks. Imagine you are working feverishly to close the biggest deal of your life. You realize you are tremendously parched from not even stopping for some water for hours on end. That is your first short-sightedness, ignoring your physiological needs. On the way downstairs, from the office to the kitchen, there is an office trash bin you see overflowing that you ignore. On your way back, there is a pile of laundry on the ground that you walk by instead of dropping in the hamper on the way by your room and back to your office. Missing both are short-sighted, and start to create all that “business” we so often tout. Each one could have been done already, but short-sightedness and tunnel vision set in and we began to see only one task as worth completing.

Short-sightedness, not busyness should be what we stay on the lookout for. Vigilant to keep it away. However, a partner is needed for this more often than not, and even that is a tricky endeavor to not come off insulting.

Stop that banging…

Actually don’t, just make it more rhythmic. Brighter. Prettier.

Make it music instead of banging.

Most people stop too early at a stage when they have minimal skill. It’s possible from another person’s vantage point, they have zero skill at all. Like a child banging away on a pot with a wooden spoon. It seems like their goal is random noise, but perhaps they are so unskilled at making music that no one can see their musical interests yet. This stage is the most fragile and usually deters people before they even know consciously there is an interest there.

Here’s a reminder, this doesn’t stop in childhood. Adults are talked out of trying new things or even talk themselves out of trying new things. Consider my post about adults at the community pool. Here’s another one about developing skills and the timeline. Finally, one about how a craft evolves.

Banging to rhythm to tone to volume to music. Most people will try to stop you at the banging. Bang on anyways, though try to keep their annoyance with you to a minimum, and try to turn it into increasingly share it to gain acceptance over time as your skill increases.

A system so complex no one understands it.

It is possible to create a system so complex no one understands it. The world economy is one such system. That’s why there is so much debate about it.

Another system is a modern car. Likely no one understands everything about each part of the car. Some understand the engine. Some understand the software. Some understand the structural design. Some understand the interior choices. No one individual understands it entirely.

In your company, there are likely systems that evolved over time that are so complex that no one understands them either. Perhaps a database with different fields and options that were added over a decade by different people and no one knows what they mean any longer.

What is important is to understand when the system is so complex that no one can function with it. The car, for example, is complex, but it is easy enough to use it and extract value from it. That’s not necessarily true for certain systems and functions in our work.

If they are both complex, and not providing enough value, then simplify them.

Good Days and Bad Days

It seems like on the surface a good day would be a relaxing one.

It seems like on the surface a bad day would be a stressful one.

Yet, I’ve had days that didn’t have many urgent deadlines or pressing issues that I seem to find myself not satisfied after.

I’ve also had days where I was working only on highly stressful tasks and I was in a good mood at the end of the day.

Perhaps, the measure of a good and bad day that many people think of is wrong.

Perhaps a good day is measured by reducing stressful items on your list. While a bad day is measured by increasing the stressful items. It’s an interesting shift when you think more deeply about it.

It means that good days are made possible more often by people who add stressful items to their list, then get them done.

It means people that avoid the stressful items on their list and focus on the easy stuff have the most stress in their lives.

It’s possible this is just how stress affects me and not the population as a whole, but give it some time in your brain. Think about it for yourself and adjust your behavior accordingly to maximize the good days.

String Pinsetters

We often don’t notice the differences and changes until something very different comes along.

I’ve been competing in bowling leagues since I was a kid. I’ve bowled in different centers, with different approaches, different lane styles, different ball returns, different scoring systems and different pins. It all still felt like bowling.

Now, there is talk of allowing pinsetters that have strings attached to the top of the pins for faster and more efficient setting of the pins. All the string pinsetter has to do is pull the pin back to position. No dead pins in the gutter that have to be cleared manually. No pins getting stuck in the spinning mechanisms that put them back in place.

All of a sudden this feels like a BIG SHIFT.

It feels like a change that would make bowling, no longer bowling.

It feels like it would change the dynamics of the game too much with the way pins move around after a ball hits them.

Of course, all those other variables over time like ball technology, lane surfaces, and oil application techniques to the lane also changed the game, but the feeling was different somehow. There were always balls in the game. There was always oil or some other sort of lubricant for the lane surface in the game (since I started at least), and there was always a lane surface even if the material changed. Now, they are adding something that wasn’t there before. Something visible and it really does affect the psychology of recognizing a change.

The world is filled with changes happening all around, yet it often doesn’t feel like it because most are invisible to us in our daily life. Then the visible changes start to happen and human nature is to freak out a bit. To think this visible change is only going to be negative, that there is no positive that can come out of it. Of course, that is a possibility, but more often than not, things get better, but first they feel different before being accepted as better. Different isn’t easy to handle for the human brain, but with proper courage and leadership, people can be persuaded.

Perhaps the future of bowling is string pinsetters. That doesn’t feel right to me, but I could be persuaded. There are bigger issues than this all around the world, perhaps we should all take this same stance more often.

Everyone has the ability to change the world

The difference comes from the scale, scope and the tools available to each person.

Writing a popular movie can change the world and the way that people think about a particular subject. This is the toolset of those well-versed and skilled in the literary and theatrical arts.

An invention, like zero-emissions energy generation can change the world. When energy cost very little, and has no impact on the environment, then standard of living can rise drastically. This is the toolset of the mathematical and engineering-minded.

You can change the world by selling an idea or invention that someone came up with. This is the toolset of the people person’s. The influencers. The marketers.

You can change the world by complimenting others, supporting other and being a pleasant attitude in a harsh environment. This is the toolset of the caretakers of the world. Not necessarily in the medical context, but that certainly applies too.

There are all types that make the world go around. Each one supports the others in a vast circle that can be hard to see. Some will do so at huge scales, some will do so at minor scales, but nonetheless opportunity exists for everyone.

When an asset becomes a liability

A home is something that you can borrow money against as the equity in it grows. People use this money to invest in their own small business, to pay for their kids’ education, to ride out unemployment and more. This is the benefit of owning an asset.

However, if the equity was underwater, meaning they owed more money than it’s worth, it becomes a liability. Even selling it doesn’t recoup the value owed on the loan, so payments would still be necessary after the sale.

I’ve been seeing a significant amount of people complaining about being called back into the office after working successfully from home for over a year now due to the pandemic. There are articles being written about how CEOs are struggling to get people back into the office. The workers themselves are wondering why the CEOs even care when things have been going great.

I’ll tell you why they care.

They care because the banks, investors, and hedge funds that own the public companies and have representatives on the company board that hire and fire CEOs care. These people are invested in all sorts of commercial real estate, if that office space isn’t rented, the value of the commercial buildings fall. If the value of commercial buildings fall, then the stock values of the companies that have them on their asset sheets fall. When they borrowed money against their assets in commercial real estate and stocks of these public companies for leverage they thought these things would always go up in value. If they go down, they will be on the hook for money they don’t have, so if they can keep employees in the office, then rent can be justified and if rent can be justified the assets can maintain their value.

At large scales this is what economists are looking at. Bankers and investors run much of the world, they aren’t looking at the insanity of doing something that is inefficient compared to the new paradigm, they are worried about losing money.

People are incorrectly attributing it to the CEO’s sunk cost fallacy. That’s not what this is. Big money stands to lose huge money when multi-year commercial leases expire and aren’t renewed and commercial real estate prices plummet.

The CEOs aren’t always as ridiculous as they seem, but sometimes we do ridiculous things to avert a major loss we see coming from a mile away.

Rolls-Royce

Rolls-Royce is the quietest car brand in the world.

Other cars compete for the fastest. Others can compete for the the most economical, but quiet is an axis all its own.

I love that.

I also love the quiet, but I can’t afford a Rolls-Royce.

This digs into a number of things I’ve written about:

Rolls-Royce is likely working on challenges their competitors aren’t thinking about in an attempt to create something unique and different. Keeping every possible source of noise as quiet as possible is a unique way of standing out, and as an engineer myself, it would certainly present an entirely new set of design criteria for me. However, on top of all that, it takes bravery. Rolls-Royce aren’t cheap, and so the market is already limited by incomes. Add on to that an audience that must really enjoy silence enough to pay for it, and it’s a narrow audience. Yet, it’s the reason it intrigues me. I don’t know what other criteria to judge the other luxury brands by, but I now know one criteria I would compare them on. Noise. And Rolls-Royce is going to win on that because they are focusing on it.

It’s art. It’s brave. It’s specific. That makes it interesting.

Wintergatan

Wintergatan is a great channel on YouTube. I love watching the work that this guy does. It combines engineering, and musical creativity. It applies brainpower. It’s really interesting work and you should watch the videos on YouTube if you have an interest in engineering, music or building unique things. I highly recommend you check out his YouTube channel where the video below came from.

One of the things that always strikes me as interesting is that most people wouldn’t attempt this. I mean, real stuff like this, costs real money to build. It requires software to design, suppliers to fabricate a garage or workspace to build in. This guy is putting a lot into building this stuff, but at the end of the day that’s why it’s scarce. It’s why there isn’t an overabundance of people making this kind of content. It’s expensive, time consuming and difficult work. It feels safer and easier to just drop extra cash in a retirement account and call it a day. However, if we’re truthful with ourselves, it’s probably not the retirement we want. It’s the ability to choose what to do with a day. The ability to work on something unique that is interesting to you. This guy is doing that, so in a way, he’s already at retirement, no need to stress about. I think it’s important that you also see this is a choice, though everyone has different financial opinions obviously.

On top of that, his work is illustrative of a few concepts that I’ve written about:

I’d love to turn this into a future longer form piece, but I’ll leave that for later. For now, you can read those links and think about how they apply to the work Wintergatan is doing.

Forums filled with questions and forums filled with statements.

I’ve often noticed that some online forums are entirely filled with questions, while others are entirely filled with statements. Here are couple of different thoughts about audiences about contribution vs. association.

A forum’s purpose is determined by the makeup of members, which constitutes the audience, and the mission it has to provide. The first forum that comes to mind are some of the LinkedIn Groups that I’m part of for “Finite Element Analysis” and “Computational Fluid Dynamics”. You may not be familiar with those, but they are specific approaches to solving physics problems using mathematics and software. In these particular groups, there is no real discussion. It’s people posting their work whenever possible, and hoping to be seen. Part of this is because LinkedIn has more active professionals than new grads, part of this is because these people have jobs whose whole point is to figure out the answers themselves, and part of this is because these topics are only well-understood by people with specific expertise. All those colliding factors lead to statement only forums.

The contrast to that is something like reddit.com/r/findapath. That is a forum where people go because they are lost. As a result, they are constantly seeking advice. They even describe it as “For those who have a hobby, passion, or passing whim that they want to make a living out of, but don’t know how they can get there. Wanderers and contributors alike are welcome.” They invite wanderers specifically. For a forum to have many questions, it needs those who have the questions as well as contributors. If it was all questions and no answers to them, it would fall apart.

The interesting thing to me is that forums with all questions fall apart less often than the ones with statements only. My thought on this is because if no one has any questions, why is a forum needed in the first place?

This comes to a point about marketing a community. “What questions or kinds of questions does it seek answer?” is a good starting point to developing it. Beyond that, “How do people find it if they didn’t know they needed it in the first place?” is a great second question to ask. Before diving in, answer those.

Specificity for marketing vs. replaceable by AI.

Imagine a gel that is sold in the market that says, “It will shine your shoes, make a great sunscreen and also works as a great flame retardant!”

Would you buy that?

I don’t think you would. It’s too weird of a mix of things. Even if they are all true and you were the creator of that product, you would do much better creating three different containers with three different labels for shoe polish, sunscreen and flame retardant even though they would all be filled up with the same substance. Marketing seeks specificity, and not only does it seek it, but by finding the perfect niche people have made fortunes.

However, the world has a new force approaching, which is artificial intelligence (AI). In Artificial Intelligence (AI) training data is used in order to develop an unstructured model, one where the programmer doesn’t have to provide an equation in order to classify or predict something. This can range from recognizing images, to predicting stock movements, and more. In the future, it’s likely that if you build the appropriate AI model and provide it with the proper training data, it could even create art of a certain style after being trained by a data set. I wrote about that previously here.

There is going to be tension here between these two concepts. Good marketing demands specificity. AI seeks to replace people doing specific work. How can someone find the gaps that will remain between them?

Here are some thoughts at the current moment, but changes in technology could negate this:

  • If you work in a narrow field but combine a broad range of skills, you are probably safe. Interior design for example combines knowing product availability, spatial cognition, color choices, client preferences and more. It’s a narrow field, but diverse in skills.
  • If you work in a broad field, it’s possible that AI will empower you to split it into niche markets each with their own marketing by allowing your marketing efforts to scale by using article and image generators for example, which previously would have required you to manually figure out.

There is so much going on in my mind about this at the moment, it’s hard to communicate it all. I’ll write more about it in the future.

Unique and Great doesn’t scale.

People grow tired of the ordinary. In fact, Seth Godin wrote Purple Cow about exactly this concept. The challenge to this is that unique and great don’t scale easily, if at all. If it was easy to create something unique and great, it would be common and average. The definition necessitates that it doesn’t scale and that it takes a significant amount of time and effort to bring to fruition.

That’s why in a world where everything is a market, we don’t find all that many unique and great things. More people, more skills, more marketing and seeking better things are all required in order to produce more unique and great products and services. However, if you invest more time honing your skills, tweaking your offering, and building the messaging, it’s likely you’ll create something unique and great, which is synonymous with valuable.

P.S. While the craft of creating something unique and great doesn’t scale, that doesn’t mean the methods of production can’t. As technology continues to grow, the ability to scale a new baking creation, or even an artist’s style will continue to be more scalable. Unique and Great for the time being is something that only comes about by applying significant brain power to craft something no one else envisioned and that we all can agree is useful, entertaining, or generally better than the previous options.

A few book recommendations.

Below is a list of books I recommend to anyone. I won’t write my own reviews because there are generally many strong reviews out there. I also don’t like to read too many reviews myself because those people aren’t me. It’s either a subject I like, a person I admire,

This is Marketing.

Creativity Inc.

Ritz and Escoffier.

Managing Oneself.

The Tipping Point.

Talking to Other People.

Is this anything?

Devil in the White City.

Operation Manual for Spaceship Earth.

Sapiens

Seeing your skill correctly.

Imagine you’ve had this ability to clearly see imagery in your head, but no matter how much you practice, you’re unable to manipulate the fine motor skills of your fingers to precisely craft the imagery you so clearly see in your mind. People don’t think you’re a good artist because your canvas doesn’t match the image in your head.

You may not see it, but there is a choice to be made here. You have the important skillset of visualization that every artist needs, but you don’t have fine motor skills. Your choices are:

  1. Quit.
  2. Struggle with the current fine motor skills.
  3. Work at a scale that doesn’t require fine motor skills.

Think about what #3 is saying. What is the difference between painting on an 18″x24″ canvas and painting on a 18’x24′ wall? One requires fine motor skills for minute details, the other is at such a scale that the motor skills aren’t fine in nature at all. They require big sweeping motions often requiring the whole arm. Working at this scale may change everything about the struggle the artist was having.

The scale of our life is a choice.

It’s possible that anything that is frustrating you could be entirely due to scale, too big or too small. A few things that come to mind:

  • House size – Some want to live in tiny homes and some in mansions
  • Business Size – Freelancers up to Multi-nationals
  • Size of responsibility – Carefree to Huge Weights
  • Family Size – Single to 12+ kids

There are plenty more that could go on this list, but you get the point. The right scale is important for everything in your life.

The Artist and Artificial Intelligence (AI)

Artificial Intelligence is about creating a computer model that thinks in a certain way by feeding it training data.

Imagine that you were an artist who had painted a 1000 paintings of a style that is all your own. You take pictures of those 1000 paintings and training an artificial intelligence model and all of a sudden, that AI is now able to generate limitless “paintings” that look like you created them. The artist has now made an infinitely scalable version of his skillset which could be used to unlock a significantly larger amount of money by selling unique paintings for much lower costs than originals used to sell for.

The artist’s next goal should then be to create another unique style in which he could do the same with.

This will be the ratchet of AI. That someone needs to be the “original” trainer of these tools, and then from there, it becomes scalable, and we will seek the next “original” invention or style.

In some ways, this can seem like something that isn’t going to be good. However, most technologies feel this way. The reality is that the level of quality of art and goods will be raised from this. That spending less time producing and more time creating original works will create more opportunity than ever before. There is room for people to own their own data sets and models that they maintain to offer as a service for others, painting is just a start.

Science and Capitalism and Leadership

Which is responsible for lifting people out of poverty?

The roots of capitalism have existed for nearly 500 years, and yet during those early centuries, capitalism alone didn’t lift the masses out of poverty. Industrialization due to the application of science which enabled the creation of engines and machinery raised the standards of living for most by allowing goods to be created cheaply and wages to rise for those who made them due to the high quantities they could produce. Capitalism then provided the structure for those things to scale which created the modern world.

Capitalism alone is equivalent to “buy low, sell high” and “collect early, pay late.” Nearly every business attempts to run this way. You may buy the services of an employee and mark them up for a customer. The business ideally collects the money for those services from the customer upfront and then pays the employee after they have rendered the services. The difference is kept as profit.

Capitalism is one of the best ways we know of picking who gets to lead without violence. However, science is what enables capitalism to raise the standard of living for society. Increased throughput leading to cheaper goods, and medicine that increase age expectancies, and luxuries that increase comfort like air conditioning are all enabled by capitalism. Without science involved however, capitalism is just swapping leadership rather than enabling a rising standard of living. This creates a strong case for leadership that understands science because without that there is societal stagnation. Without science-based leadership, power structures are built not for making things better, but to maintain the status quo of who is currently leading the world, which takes all of those possible world-changing, increasing standards of living and flushes them in most cases.

What the world needs is understanding of science and capitalism and leadership that understands how to bring all of this together to help the greatest number of people, rather than the fewest. A rejection of science as way to make things better is a rejection of raising the standard of living around the world.

The People in Your Area

Getting people to move to an area is a marketing problem.

Think about a town on the water, filled with wooded areas and good hunting, but not many restaurants or stores. That town is going to have to appeal to outdoorsy types. It’s going to filter out the urbanites.

Consider the opposite of that. A city, without many geographical features left, but filled with restaurants and stores. It’s going to filter out the outdoorsy types.

Both of these places can benefit from developing things that are interesting to the audience that would be served by moving to the appropriate area.

When thinking about the kinds of things that attract people to towns here is an example:

r/mildlyinteresting - Carpet Patterned Street
This came from: https://www.reddit.com/r/mildlyinteresting/comments/i09d52/carpet_patterned_street/ All credits to the original photographer.

That imagery captures my imagination right away. I wonder what else a town like this does to stand out. It may inspire me to take a vacation there, which may further inspire me to move there.

I wrote this to make a point, not about towns, but about the people that surround us. Often, it seems as if there is no choice about the people who are around us and what they believe, yet that’s not the case. I’ve often looked at marketing through the lens of filtering: here and here and here for example.

A direct result of this is thinking about the people in your life. If you are surrounded by loving, supportive people helping you, that is great, and some self-reflection about the filters around you that created a large number of positive types can be beneficial. Just like the interesting road above, it’s likely there is something about you that interests these types of people. Understanding this can do wonders in case that ever changes.

If you are in a bad situation, surrounded by negative influences, it’s an opportunity to think about what filters are in your life that keep the good people away and the negative influences around. Figuring this out may be the same thing as turning your fortune around.

This applies to so many other things, so it’s worth giving some thought about how it applies to your life. As Jerry Seinfeld once pointed out, “When you go to a restaurant, all the people there look like you. They are dressed like you.” That’s because the ambiance of the restaurant is a filter and another example of the power of this phenomenon at work.

Pettiness

If you assign that term to someone, most people will take it as a negative.

However, someone who is irritated by small things is exactly the kind of person who will solve minor irritation type problems that most of us live with. Creating tools and methods to open stuck jars was likely by someone more petty than the people that just accepted it.

Taking trivial matters personally can lead to all sorts of inventions and products.

What people don’t like is when you bring this pettiness to personal issues. When the boss took your coworker to lunch for the 5th time, but you’ve only been out three times and make that known as unacceptable. No one wants that kind of bickering.

The moral of the story is this: “No matter what the trait, nor the negativity typically assigned to it, every trait has some sort of value in this world, or else it would be working the way to extinction.”

What is misunderstood about this is that the trait can be brought to the wrong situations at which point it is rightly treated with disdain. A great opportunity exists in finding traits that are often brought to the wrong situation, and identifying where those traits can be put to better use.

One offer vs. Two

Yesterday, I wrote a similarly titled post (click here to read it) for those who may be unhappy with their current job situation. The idea was to point out that there are always options and seeing them gives you negotiating power. Today, I’m flipping it around to help you understand the national, economic, political and media landscape.

At huge scale, companies like Wal-Mart, Amazon, and Target employ enormous workforces. With so many bodies to be hired, there is always someone who will do work for rock bottom prices. Inversely to the worker seeking better pay in yesterday’s post, if these companies have multiple people who will take an offer, they can keep pay low, or even lower it. These companies are seeking the same thing people are, multiple offers, but their goal is the opposite in keeping costs low.

In order to achieve these ends, they must keep peoples’ interests separated. They must keep people competing against each other for the jobs, rather than uniting together as general labor. If the labor force becomes united, then the offer for these large companies become singular and the labor has all the negotiating power. Like the job seeker with no prospects and one offer, there isn’t much choice.

In order to keep this going there must be messaging of individualism. In order to keep this going there must be division amongst nations. In order to keep this going there must be division amongst any number of political lines. With the power of the internet and modern media, it’s relatively easy to keep all of these divisions in place, especially with the amount of money on the line. With the power of the internet, it became more necessary to stoke these divisions as national borders stopped acting as a barrier to communication. People from all countries starting talking to each other online and could easily understand that “humans over there” were just like “humans over here.”

We can look back to history at this. It’s where all the talk of “States’ Rights” and the Civil War came from. If some states could maintain the right to own slaves, then no big deal, all operations involving slavery could be moved to those states, that kept multiple offers on the table. If the entire country outlawed slavery, there was nothing left for those people who owned them in this country to do. They had one offer and no leverage any longer. This backed a considerable amount of them into a corner. We fought an atrocious war as a result.

Yesterday, I mused “Two offers isn’t just twice as many as one, it’s something entirely different.” That’s true for these companies as well. Everything about the operations of these types of companies hinges on the ability to negotiate with many people for a single job. Once that goes away their costs go up. Once their costs go up, they are competing with the local store on even footing again. Once their employees salaries go up they gain breathing room and savings, which gives them more leverage for even further future increases because they have more options again when missing a few paychecks doesn’t mean missing meals or rent.

If you want to understand why there seems to be a “dark other side” to the world, and attribute significant malice to groups of people, understand that there is a return-on-investment to multi-national executives and politicians in making you and others believe this way. The divide keeps multiple offers on the table for all sorts of conversations: employee pay, corporate tax rates, regulations, and more.

When the division stops, so does the power dynamic. The next time you see outrageous headlines. The next time you see an angry message. The next time you see someone stoking division, understand not only should it be ignored, but by doing so you are literally taking power back for both yourself and others, rather than giving ever more of it to large multi-national conglomerates and politicians.

Once you see this, and you combine it with yesterday’s post. There is an opportunity for everyone. Increase the competition. If you don’t like the pay people receive at Amazon, start a small local or niche competitor with a group of others who Amazon also would have hired. Then you create multiple offers for the people they would be hiring and bring your own alternate option into the world. The world needs organizers (Click here to read more) now more than ever.

Two offers vs one.

Having two offers instead of one isn’t just twice as many, there is something entirely different about it. This is true for selling a house, selling a business, or picking a job. I’ll give you an example on that last one:

If you are in the job market, there is a drastic shift that happens if two job offers are received at the same time.

You have options.

You have negotiating power.

You have leverage to get concessions that you wouldn’t if there was only one offer on the table.

Some of those concessions could be:

  • A more flexible schedule
  • Salary
  • More vacation days
  • A better job title
  • An expense budget

Those are just for starters, there are certainly more that could be job specific that I’m not listing.

This is critical to understand if you feel undervalued. Having another option on the table changes everything and give you control. It gives you the ability to know you picked. You made a decision.

Many people don’t realize that everyday this decision is possible. If you are currently employed, there are at least two choices on the table everyday:

  1. Continue to go to your job and get paid the current negotiated rate
  2. Pick yourself and do whatever it is you want to do and make what you can make

If option one is a better deal right now, and makes your plans better in the long-term, then there is no point in being disappointed about choosing it daily, though if it is wearing on you perhaps a third option would be nice.

If the second one is a better deal with much more room for long-term growth, then what is stopping you from picking that deal?

Probably more fear than anything else.

If you aren’t yet brave enough to do it, then keep choosing the first option, until your courage grows and then re-evaluate.

A big motivator for writing this is the large number of people online unhappy about their work. Unhappiness often stems from thinking there are no choices. Happiness and satisfaction often comes from seeing there were choices and being deliberate in making them.

Brad and Kyle

That’s a YouTube channel. It’s a vlog that was created by a couple of young, professional bowlers. It’s the first I can remember of its kind.

Bowling is a hard sport to understand for anyone not in deep already. There is bowling ball technology, the art of drilling bowling balls, bowling ball reaction types, oil patterns and oil migration, and more. Most of it is invisible to the human eye, the bowling ball technology being the cores inside the ball, and the oil patterns being inconceivably thin and just looking like a glossy application to the lane. On top of that, you need to be skilled enough to repeat shots to attribute these differences to the balls and the oil, not something a beginner can do.

What the PBA (Professional Bowlers Association) tried to do for years was give a deeper insight into the game. They spent more time trying to get people to understand the world of the professional bowlers, but never did a truly great job.

Enter Brad and Kyle.

They are creating videos. They are teaching bowling. They are sharing what the emotional roller coaster of being a pro bowler is like as they travel to events, shoot big games, shoot bad games, lead, then lose, or even make TV finals. They even share what it’s like staying in their accommodations and more.

Not only that, but they built a model. Now, there are competitive channels and vlogs by other pros doing the same.

The outcome is that people can now see the game of bowling the closest they have ever been able to. It’s not limited to a network making a decision to do a short segment about what it’s like to be a pro. It’s multiple episodes, from multiple perspectives capturing every event.

Brad and Kyle may or may not have said, “Let’s change everything about the perspective of the bowling world,” but that is exactly what they did.

Every day you have a chance to do similar.

P.S. If you want a little perspective on the professional level of bowling check out Brad and Kyle on YouTube.

Design it. Make it. Market it. Deliver it.

It seems to me that is where the world is heading.

You are a designer of some type of product.

You make the product.

You market it.

You deliver it.

With technology, it’s possible to do all of those things with no assistance. The little pockets of administrative tasks are shrinking. With technology, the designers are making more things themselves via industry 4.0 and ordering online with instant quoting or 3D Printing.

The people making things are marketing them on marketplaces like Etsy.

Then we have a whole bunch of people delivering things like those that work for Amazon, UPS, or FedEx.

If you’re someone who naturally leans towards assisting others with their business ideas, while noble, I’m not sure it is a great strategy for the future. While some people will always need others help, if you want your future to be resilient, it is a worthwhile exercise to think about what you would design, make, market or deliver if given the choice. After all, you are given the choice every day.

Ratings and Feedback Loops

Once upon a time, you encountered something new like a restaurant, a product, or a service and if you liked it, you told people about it. If you didn’t it didn’t spread. That all changed with the internet.

The internet is filled with two things: data and algorithms. It isn’t much more than that at the core. The data is text, video, sound and that covers things like ratings. The algorithms choose up what to serve us. Yet, in the quest for finding what is best, we turned to ratings, commonly done out of five stars. We can compute average ratings with a direct number, comparable against other products. Compared to that previous era where you heard about something through a friend, you can now search all types of that same product and draw a numeric comparison. This seems like a great thing…

… on the surface.

As a single product, or at least a narrow subset, becomes the dominant winners a feedback loop is created, and the other competition soon dies away. That doesn’t seem particularly bad either, after all, if the best products are winning, things are getting better, right?

Take Netflix though, their algorithm needs you to rate content so that it can serve similar content to other people that they know they will like it. The problem is as those top winners emerge, and everyone starts to be shown the same content, it seems like there is nothing new on the platform at all. That leads to cancellations. So does someone seeing ratings that are too low and choosing not to watch even after finding something new. They may have enjoyed the movie they skipped just fine, but since others didn’t, and rated as such, they lost the opportunity. Netflix may lose them as a customer as a result.

As algorithms take over, we are growing in feedback loops. Winners win because they are winners. Losers lose because they are losers. Sometimes those make sense, sometimes they don’t at all. Finding a way to break these loops is going to be a key to being able to make something happen for yourself in the future.

Imagine you’re a job seeker and data is available about you prior to hire, your sales numbers, your promotions, your credentials and more. Starting with a great resume, you get a great opportunity, and that snowballs to the next one and so on. If you didn’t start that way, you will perhaps snowball the other way, get a lesser opportunity which doesn’t bare fruit, making the next opportunity worse and so on. It happens today, but with AI starting to do recruiting, it will get exacerbated. I’m not telling you this to make you despair, but to face the reality that the world is changed because of the availability of data.

Differentiation and creating new categories to be judged by are going to be the only tool you have to break into areas where there is an established brand and winners. I don’t have a foolproof plan for all scenarios that I can share yet, but I have thought quite a bit about feedback loops and reading them may give you some ideas. You can read about them on the following posts:

  1. An interesting thing about feedback
  2. Binging with Babish and Feedback loops
  3. Is it worth doing if it doesn’t get likes?
  4. Tomorrowland
  5. Everywhere I look I see fear
  6. Standup Comedy
  7. Iterative Design
  8. Data creating leaders that follow

Hopefully, there is perspective found in these. The following conclusions can at least be drawn:

  1. Have some convictions at a philosophical level about the work you do. Don’t be a leader that follows.
  2. Continue to hone your craft and iterate the work you do.
  3. Ask the audience you serve how you can make it better.

If you do these things, you can create a product or service that fits an audience, becomes the top rated item and becomes a winner that wins, even in a space where there was a previous winner.

Someone invented the book sleeve.

A way to differentiate the appeal of a book on the shelf. Make it pop. Make it stand out amongst the others. Then they figured out what to add to it.

As there are so many of them, and it’s a standard for any book these days, it doesn’t actually differentiate all that much. In a sea of books, at Barnes and Noble or the library, it’s hard to stand out on the sleeve alone, though attempts are still made.

When the work you do becomes commonplace, it’s no longer an innovation, it’s a commodity. It becomes part of the default requirements needed to ship. While that’s not a bad thing by default, it means you should be looking at the next level of complexity. Surely, you can make the book sleeve the best it can be for a project if you’re an author, but that’s likely not enough. Something that serves the audience better in the journey you are trying to take them on is a great thing to thing about when trying to achieve this.

This analogy extends far beyond authors into almost every field imaginable, you just have to know an industry enough to draw the metaphors.

36 in a row.

That’s a perfect 3 game set when talking about strikes in bowling. It’s called a “900 series”,throwing three, 300 games in a row. It’s been done about 50 times or so out of billions of attempts.

It’s a great analogy for skill. Plenty of good bowlers can throw 8-10 strikes a game for 24-30 strikes in a 3 game set, but almost never can they throw all 36.

With any shot we take, there is a probability. Higher skill equals better probability, but nothing is 100% unless it is truly simple, and then there is no value in it.

Growing frustration on a failed piece of art, a business that didn’t pan out, or building something that didn’t work isn’t giving yourself the right mindset.

When great bowlers don’t strike, they adjust and usually get right back to success. Same is true for life. Don’t quit. Adjust and try again. Some adjustments may be bigger than others, but figuring that out is part of the journey.

To provide a little more perspective on this, here are some of my past posts that relate:

When taken together, these articles can give you a small perspective on the fact that we all have choices to make about the rewards we want, the skills we need, the amount of persuasion involved and the chance that we have in being successful. If any bowler walks in and says, “I want to shoot a 900 series tonight” they are going to be disappointed close to, if not, 100% of the time. However, if they walk in and say, “I’m going to beat my average” then they can do that more than 50% of the time (if they are improving). There is also other goals with a wide range of probabilities like:

  • Highest Average for the Year
  • Highest Game of the Year
  • Highest Series of the Year
  • Most points won in a league
  • Most improved

Enough about bowling. This is about you. 36 in a row isn’t in the cards, but what about something that’s still phenomenal? There is plenty of that going around everywhere and it’s a great place to be.

Jerry Seinfeld and Tim Ferriss.

This was an incredibly useful episode. It hits on many topics and aligns with much of my worldview. It’s amazing to see how anyone who has been at a creative craft for decades views it. Almost impossible not to glean wisdom or renew your resolve after hearing a piece like this.

Changing the mood.

Companies talk about culture often these days. It has become an entire subject. Your home, your family, your friends, and nearly every aspect of your life has a culture too. That can work for or against you. If it is working for you, that is great. If it is working against you, then it is time for a change.

Taking a line from the corporate playbook, “Culture is really hard to change.” That is true. It’s a set of habits and beliefs, some of which are self-reinforcing, so tackling a cultural change is hard. What is easier is “changing the mood”.

Intuitively, you know this to be true. At the movies, we dim the lights making the mood calmer and the focus on the movie alone. At your favorite restaurant, there is likely an atmosphere, a feeling, a MOOD.

Often times, we don’t take this far enough. Have you ever thought about how your home lighting affects your mood? Low lighting in your house, and a long, dark winter comes along and you find yourself not doing much of the things that make you happy. Your mood shifts negative until the spring comes back. Same with the paint. Same with the organization and cleaning. It doesn’t take a big intellectual leap to understand why pulling someone out of a bout of depression often starts with having them clean and tidy where they live. Depression is their current culture of their life, but cleaning and tidying is changing the mood to a more positive one. Positivity that they’ll see every second of the day.

Some bigger questions to ask:

  • If in a group that is generally a negativity cycle, how can we reposition, change the mood and turn it into positive conversations?
  • If negative behavior is being rewarded in a way that is out of our control for change, how can the mood be changed to minimize the negative behavior?

Here are some places to start:

  • Lighting – this sends signals to our brain all day, every day. You may not think that matters much, but it can. Squinting all day and focusing harder to see decrease mental energy making it harder to have tough conversations or to keep the tough conversations casual
  • Sound – music and background mood matters. If you are having a sensitive conversation with someone a quiet room is better. It’s hard to have a soft and calming tone when you have to speak over ambient noise.
  • Imagery – If you’re in a room full of antique weapons, it’s going to be harder to put someone at ease. However, if you’re walking along an empty beach with nothing but calm wave noises, you are likely to be seen in the right light.

These are just starting points, but the important thing to keep in mind is our brains are receiving signals all day long. Those signals being too much in certain ways changes our mood, which changes our decisions and behaviors, which are what creates the culture.

Changing the culture is hard. Changing some light bulbs for a better mood is easy. Focus on the small thing like that are in your control, and the bigger change will happen eventually. You can apply that last line to any change you seek to make.

P.S. As we move to more and more remote work, many companies who can and have thought about these sorts of mood details are having it taken out of their hands. They aren’t in control of people’s homes. That puts the onus on the work to create their own positive mood now more than ever for themselves and their interactions.

The right-sized opportunity

A coworker of mine puts daily thoughts on LinkedIn. Recently, he asked “Would you rather have modest success that comes from your effort or massive success that comes from chance?”

For this question, I think about golf. You can aim perfectly, swing perfectly and if the wind is fluctuating wildly, no amount of perfect execution will tell you exactly where the ball is going to wind up. There is a probability of chance in every shot, and much more chance in bigger shots like driving vs. putting. 

So an improved version of the question is, “Do you want to work on something huge where success is nearly out of your control but the rewards are high if chance works out? Or, do you want to work on something more modest but that your skills and abilities play a much bigger role than chance?” 

My thought is when most people are young they think of the bigger more chance filled opportunities because they don’t have much skill anyway. As we age, our skills develop and we see opportunity to be valued and do something in our control that excites us and we move towards the correctly sized opportunities. However, this is just a generalization. 

Finding the right sized opportunity is an important part of life and has many relations to the following:

Jacques Pepin.

Jacques Pepin is a great role model.

You know the name just from him being around so long, after all he is approaching 86 years old as I’m writing this.

He cooked with Julia Child.

He has his own cooking shows. He’s on YouTube. He has cookbooks.

After being in a car accident that gave him a less mobile left arm, he had to reinvent himself as a teaching educator because he felt he couldn’t stay in the kitchen all day as a chef/restaurateur with that handicap.

After 40 years of educating people on how to cook, inspiring a significant amount of today’s world-famous chefs, you likely know his name. Today, a big part of Jacques’ day is making food for himself, his family and his friends and he seems to authentically enjoy it. Often times, that involves turning a camera on while he does it.

Why mention Jacques Pepin?

Because he seems to enjoy what he does. Because he reinvented himself after a nasty setback. Because he’s been at it for decades. Because Jacques Pepin is being himself, but with the camera on. Because we don’t need more Mark Zuckerberg role models. Those spaces are highly limited, but there is plenty of room for many like Jacques Pepin.

P.S. If you are setback like something from Moneyball and Negating Experience, thinking about Jacques is a good way to change that.

Moneyball and negating experiencing

There is a scene in the movie Moneyball where the head scout is confronting Billy Beane about how his new system won’t work. This is the last conflict between the two about this topic as things have boiled over between them. One thing that stands out to me, paraphrasing, the head scout says “You have a scout with 29 years of experience and a 25 year old college grad and you’re listening to the wrong one.”

The internal conflict with the head scout is leading to the external conflict between the two. His value, that 29 years of experience, suddenly has been brought to zero. If there is a formula for determining who should be scouted and who shouldn’t, there isn’t much room left for experience. The value now rests in improving formulas, tracking new stats and data to be used, programming computers, etc. All that is a skillset he doesn’t possess.

One of the reasons something new causes so much backlash is because people have to pick what they want to do with their life. They want it to add up to something. When something comes along after putting in decades of work and that something negates your value, it feels like everything was a waste. Lashing out is a natural effect of this. There is no way around this because what will happen 30 years from now is unpredictable.

The other issue is that this can happen in any industry. I’ve pointed it out in architecture before. When the right science shows up, becoming proven and well-understood, experience soon counts for much less. The science allows someone to predict what is likely to happen.

What can be learned from this:

  1. If you are making a big change, understand whose value is being diminished, you’ll likely identify the person or people who will be most resistant to the shift. You could also be on the receiving end of the big change.
  2. Put in at least a minimal effort to understand where advances in science can shift the value in what you do. That way you can position yourself appropriately for maximum resilience.
  3. If you find science that can change everything, it will eventually anyway. The people most upset are those who least saw the changes coming. Don’t be that person.

The Age of the Beatles.

One of the most remarkable things about all the hits The Beatles were able to produce is how short of a timespan it all occurred in. The Beatles form in 1960, built up significant popularity in the UK in 1963, hit the Ed Sullivan Show in 1964 propelling their popularity in the United States. They then went on a crazy touring spree and crafted multiple albums and were dissolved in 1970. One decade. That’s it.

Not a single member was over 30 when they broke up and they had already rewritten music history by then.

There are so many thoughts to unpack here about:

I reference those three because the Beatles made a significant amount of music in that time and toured significantly. They were doing daily effort. They were also the right people working together for a common goal, and finally, they were learning as they went. You can’t tell me some early twenty-somethings new everything about what it took to become a global phenomenon. They were learning as they went, what they had was the base skills, the music and even that improved with time.

A point that needs clear distinction, I’m not pointing out their age to say that if you aren’t successful by 30, you never will be. In fact, quite the opposite. In the decade their popularity exploded, they all gained more influence and resources than most will ever achieve in their lifetime, as a result they were free to do more of what they wanted with their lives. In the same way, if you take much longer to find your calling and to achieve a strong skillset in it, all it takes is the right flash of inspiration with the right people at the right time and you too can achieve success.

Frank Gehry is a great example of later life success. If it’s for him, it can be for anyone. Success is slow and then all at once. It takes urgency in the daily grind but patience in the long run. Understanding this, finding the right role models, and then keeping your resolve strong is a necessary step in the process.

Stay strong.

In charge of getting better.

In many organizations, it is possible many people have similar responsibilities. Perhaps it is making marketing videos. However, without someone coordinating, it is also possible individuals are learning how to be better on their own, but the organization itself isn’t getting better at producing videos.

That means there is an opportunity to be someone who coordinates tips, tricks, libraries, and graphics by pooling the collective knowledge and then documenting it so that new people joining can get up to speed quickly too.

Most people are waiting to be put in charge, but no one has to give you this responsibility. Anyone who is creating such marketing videos likely wants to get better at it, after all no one wants to be the main character in a terrible video. Their ego and their personal brand is on the line, so help with that is usually appreciated.

In situations like this, we often hesitate, but there is no reason to. If something isn’t working well, and you were never asked to do it in the first place, what is the downside? Nothing, no one will even know that you tried something. On the flip side, when something you weren’t asked to do starts working incredibly well, people are likely to take notice.

We often don’t get to choose our job titles, our promotions, our raises, and possibly even our tasks. However, nearly anyone can put themselves in charge of getting better and organizations need it. There is so much room for improving things that your opportunities are unbounded.