Programming, Loops and How People think.

If you’re familiar with programming, you’re familiar with loops. Where you loop through an index of items an perform a task or set of tasks in each loop.

Our brains work like this too.

We have a loop for the daily chores.

We have a loop for tasks at the office.

Sometimes, if we’ve focused on improving ourselves and being more balanced we have a loop for exercise, cooking and nutrition, family time, and other interests.

We can also have a loop for our purpose in life.

If you think about a conversation, we even have loops in conversation. We started out debating a single point, as other points are made, we debate those and so on. If you go off on too many of these tangent loops you eventually forget the original point you were debating at all. This is common in unstructured conversations.

Every time we add a new loop we add a significant amount of mental brain power and possible exhaustion to our life. It’s why focusing is so important. For just a little example, let’s say every loop of yours has even 3 items in it. A loop of 3 items each having 3 items in it is 9 items. Adding a higher level loop of 3 makes it 27 items. Another loop makes it 81. This is how people get quickly overwhelmed with too much going on in their lives.

A quick thought on this:

If you can remove an entire loop from someone’s lives, their brain becomes much less exhausted because of the math above. This is where you are seeing food delivery, fresh produce delivery and other nutrition based programs growing in popularity. It’s why apps with exercise routines built-in are becoming hot-sellers. It’s why hiring someone who needs little input and direction has always been in-demand.

If you’re stressed, break some of your loops. If you want to be valued, break the loops of others.

The difference between me and a comedian.

I say funny things some times that may people laugh in the moment. They are almost always something I noticed about a funny situation we were discussing. I don’t particularly ever think of jokes. I’m not a comedian.

In some presentations I have thrown in some funny slides to break up the monotony, but in the future it’s possible the writing on this site, and in longer articles I write could be improved through some good humor.

So I checked out a book. For me, reading the comedy written by a stand up is incredibly refreshing, though we all can recognize stand up comedian, see it written down for me, ables me to see patterns and structure.

The thing that I noticed the most is that the comedy writing is bit of the inverse of my normal writing, which I would summarize as “stating what we all see, but codifying it in a way that’s easier to communicate.” Comedy is more, “stating what we all see, but drawing an entirely unusual conclusion from it.”

Here’s a few ideas to take away from this:

  • Learning a new skill may add to your current work.
  • Consuming a different form of a medium may allow learning in a different way.
  • A dash of the inverse of your work may add depth to it, much like adding vinegar to something salty, or sugar to something spicy.

P.S. Don’t expect joke after joke here, that’s not really what I do. This is just something I’ve been thinking about.

A reminder about world-views.

Thousands of years ago, if you were in a hunter-gatherer society, you may want to share. It’s valuable because when hunting, there is always a bit of luck involved in landing your next meal. Each and every time you hunted required luck to come across the animal you were looking for, make sure that they didn’t sniff you out, and then make sure you are able to get the right shot in. If you can share when you bag a big animal while others came back with nothing, then perhaps they would do the same for you in the future. This would eliminate much of the ups-and-downs of each individual’s success.

At the same time, if you were a farmer, provided you put in the effort to plant the seeds and reap the harvest, barring a bit of bad luck, you had food. Sharing with others who weren’t willing to put in the effort may have been frowned upon because they could have worked too and had a steady harvest. It wasn’t bad luck. It was their effort that was the issue.

In this same vein, there are people with many friends and family to lean on, and people with few.

There are people in modern industries that are cyclical, and people in industries that are rock steady.

There are people in positions where failing leads to no further chances, and there are people in positions where there is always another chance.

The sum of these types of situations form our worldview. Just because someone believes a bit different than us, doesn’t always make them a bad person. They just have a different situations forming their world-views.

Prime Numbers and New Work

We have no idea how many prime numbers there are, or if they are infinite.

We have no idea how many new fields there are to be invented or worked on.

In many ways there is a relation between the two. Something like making a comedy show and distributing it have “prime” functions involved. You need to bring together comedy, broadcasting/networking skills, video editing/production, set design, makeup, clothing design/wardrobe, and possibly a whole list of other “prime” skillsets to make the show something special.

It seems like the world is running out of “prime” skillsets. That machines are taking those over. What the world isn’t running out of things made by combining those skillsets together to make something new. The world is full of infinite possibility in that regard, just as we can keep counting for nearly ever, even if we need to eventually create new terms for numbers of astronomical size.

If you ever feel trapped, or out of possibilities, realize it’s only a phase. If you’re vigilant, put in some effort, even as simple as learning a new “prime” skillset, your world may open up with an imagination full of new possibilities.

Two years to write 5 minutes of comedy material.

That seems ridiculous doesn’t it?

If someone said, “I need you to write an amazing set of jokes that fill up 5 minutes, you have 2 years.”

Many people as long as they had any amount of humor in them, would likely think, “Two years is a long time. 5 minutes is like three or 4 jokes. I can do this easy. Heck, I could probably do it in much less time.”

Yet, 5 minutes of killer comedy on YouTube could send your brand soaring. How many people skip doing this?

And it doesn’t stop with comedy. It could be writing. It could be a show. It could be making a product to sell. It could be programming software or a game.

The time we have is immense. The tools we have to create, share, and educate ourselves with are a 1000X more powerful than any other time in history. Yet, we shirk our opportunity.

Perhaps it’s motivation. Many people find it much harder to be motivated for themselves than for others. They like being an employee because they get to help someone live out their dream. And that’s fine. Yet, still we don’t take these tools and the opportunities to help on that end very often either.

It’s not the tools. It’s not the time. It’s the fear. Maybe, we’re not that funny. Or not that smart. Or not that interesting. Maybe, we have nothing useful to add.

At best, we have no idea. We don’t know you’re not funny until you show us that 5 minutes. At worst, you’re denying how truly funny you are. The same is true with the other endeavors I mentioned.

We have plenty of time. We have a lack of courage.

Be brave. Do the work. Especially the work that might not work.

ROI on LED stoplights

My wife was just telling me a story about how the municipalities around us replaced the incandescent stoplight bulbs on the streets with LEDs, citing how much electricity use they would save. However, they didn’t realize the heat that incandescent bulbs put off melts snow in the winter, so the bulb is always visible. In their first year, the LEDs are covered up by snow storms and seeing the lights is hard, or impossible in some intersections. Now, each brand new light needs a heater added to it to melt snow.

When they calculated the return-on-investment for LED replacement, they calculated all the saved electricity. However, some of that saved electricity now needs to be diverted to heaters to melt excess snow. If they add intelligence to make them only turn on as needed, that will still produce savings, but again will cost more. Missing this in the original calculation makes the whole Return-on-Investment incorrect. The cost/benefit analysis may not even be in the right ballpark now to the point where if they hadn’t already done the project, they wouldn’t move forward with it under the new calculation.

This is common in the world. It’s far more common than we think. Most people value nearly everything incorrectly. That’s what a market is. How often do you think someone sells a car and one person walks away paying too much, while the other person received more money than they should have? Every time if you ask enough people. That’s what a market is.

If you want to be someone who makes good decisions, it’s imperative to learn to use as much creativity and empathy as possible to see all of the “intangibles” that others don’t. Forgetting heaters is easy when the previous stoplights didn’t need them. Thinking through all the assumptions being made is imperative, and it’s hard work. That’s what makes it valuable.

P.S. It also might be that when you are dealing with people, this is true as well. The last person maybe didn’t need praise. The last person maybe didn’t need training. The last person didn’t need any resources. The current person isn’t the last person, don’t treat them that way.

The relic of the paperweight

At one point in time, there wasn’t modern air conditioning, however, there was fans.

People who wanted relief from terribly hot weather may have had many fans moving air in a cramped building or house to remove the excess heat, and create airflow that along with a little sweat cooled people. This created air movement indoors that may blow papers around, so we create the paperweight. A small decoration to keep things grounded.

Then comes air conditioning. Much less air movement, but actual cold air mixed into the existing hot air. Now, fans aren’t needed, yet the relic of the paperweight persists for a long time to come.

Businesses, culture, ideas, and inventions often persist long past their expiration. The world shifts and we forget all the related items that cascaded from the previous systems. Many items take decades for the average person to notice it no longer matters anymore. Paying attention and actively reflecting on the past can make sure you don’t make decisions that are based on past assumptions that are no longer true. We’re in an era full of those.

Who picks out the cars for Jerry Seinfeld?

On the show Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee Jerry Seinfeld picks up other comedians in a different car. Every episode the car represents the guest on the show in a way that Jerry loves to tell them about.

This job can’t actually be delegated. You need a car guy who knows all of these famous comedians. Jerry must do this job himself.

In life, it’s easy to think, “I’m waiting to get to a point where I can pay/delegate all the work to everyone else.” The reality is, the most important work, the work we would like to do is the work that no one else can do for us. Finding others that can add to the work we do is rare and should be valued.

Possibility isn’t reality

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

Most people won’t.

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

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

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

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

All the things I learned studying personality types.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Difficulty doesn’t equal poor skill

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

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

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

That’s not true at all.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The feeling you’re left with.

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

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

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

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

Getting the closed form solutions out of the way.

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

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

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

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

Coffee is the world’s cheapest drug.

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

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

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

Do I need credentials?

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

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

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

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

Diluting “Prestige”

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

But that’s just me.

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

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

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

Probabilities-based decision making.

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

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

I don’t think this way at all.

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

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

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

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

Linear systems vs. Non-linear systems

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

What about non-linear systems?

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

What can be done about this?

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

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

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

“Skill” and “Talent”

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

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

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

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

Disney stopped 2D animation based on a faulty assumption.

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

What was their conclusion?

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

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

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

Skill and possibility.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The soft skills of your job.

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

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

We all have an opportunity to exceed expectations everyday.

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

A megaphone and authority.

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

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

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

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

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

Demand side vs. supply side economics

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How to compete less often

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

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

Why is analysis so exciting?

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

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

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

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

Why “C students” run the world.

“The ‘C’ students run the world.”

Harry Truman

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Looking both ways at the train tracks.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What a messed up cinnamon roll teaches you.

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

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

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

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

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

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

The next level of complexity

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

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

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

The shift of knowing to knowing the best.

Just twenty years ago, there was pride in being able to direct people to what they are looking for. Knowing where they could get Chinese food, or the nearest hardware store, or what the hottest Christmas toy was. The internet along with the portable devices that connect to it changed all that. Now, no one needs that information from anyone. It’s searchable in a few seconds.

While knowing where to get Chinese food is no longer valuable, knowing where to get the BEST Chinese food is. If you can be more specific, it’s even better. Who has the best Kung Pao Chicken and why? Who has the spiciest? Who has the crunchiest? Who has one that is unique?

Insight is at a premium now, when in the past awareness was enough to be valuable.

It seems like people arguing over the best video game of the year is trivial, but for those people perhaps figuring it out is how they add value to their social circle.

If you’re a job seeker, a business owner, a creative, or just someone who likes having answers, insight is at a premium. It’s time to do an audit of what insight you have. To be clear, the insight should be something you can’t easily look up an answer to online, if it can, it’s a commodity.

Breaking the loops.

We all have a number of loops in our lives, some are avoidable, some aren’t.

Waking up, eating breakfast and drinking coffee is a loop. Happens everyday.

Getting bored and defaulting to social media is a loop.

Loops in essence are the things we do without thinking. Where the mind and habits inevitably drift.

I’m not a religious scholar, and I only know the basics about Buddhism, but someone recently told me that one interpretation of Buddhism and it’s main goal of enlightenment is “to break loops so that one is only walking forward on their journey.”

That seems like an amazing concept. If that’s enlightenment, it certainly makes sense to me. How many times are there interesting things we’d like to do, but we FEEL too busy, when it reality our life is simply full of loops. Social media scrolling, Netflix binging, shopping, news reading, and all sorts of things that actually don’t end up with us where we want to be.

The journey from where we are to where we want to be, isn’t a mindless one, it’s a thoughtful one. I don’t think enlightenment has to be free of all mistakes and backtracks, instead it is consistently choosing the tasks of the day, and certainly not many people would choose to walk in a circle all day long, yet we find ourselves in them metaphorically all day long.

Think about the loops that you get yourself into. How can they be prevented. Can you add additional steps that make you think about what you’re doing prior? Can you change your attention during times where your mind wanders and focus it on something more important?

At the least, it’s worth thinking about.

Moving too fast.

Even if it weren’t dangerous to people in the area, you wouldn’t drive 100 mph in a neighborhood you weren’t familiar with. You wouldn’t be able to read the signs and figure out where to turn on the streets that you need.

Often times people are moving too fast. Trying to do too much in a day on tasks they aren’t all that familiar with. At the end, they find themselves not actually where they wanted to be. Exactly like the guy doing 100 mph who blew past his turn, he doesn’t actually make it to his destination on time.

When I’m under stress I routinely remind myself that progress at the right pace will dig me out of the pile faster that working at a pace of 150% and making extra mistakes. Instead, I try to work at about 85% of my normal pace, which provides extra care to not make mistakes. It makes sense, just like that car looking for the right street to turn on, going slower affords more time to see the issues. It lowers the stress and everything still gets done.

Human nature under stress seems to be “hurry up”, which may be true if you are a soldier in a war and running from cover, but in a world of modern work, slow down is most likely what you need.

A red pen for markup.

When you’re stuck in deliberation for what tools you need for the task at hand, it’s always good to consider that the world’s most complicated computer, the world’s fastest car, and the world’s tallest building likely all had engineering blueprints and schematics that were reviewed and checked with a red pen for markup.

The red pen isn’t a complex tool. It doesn’t cost a lot of money. It isn’t smart on it’s own. The person wielding the red pen is the one with the insight and the skill to make things better.

You are the intelligence. You are the skills. You are the leader, not the tool. The tool may make it easier to get the results you desire, but in most circumstances, your skill will lead to the results more than the tool.

Analysis, Decision-Making, and Commitment

Analyzing a situation, say your finances, and choosing where to invest your money is a smart move. However, decision-making itself can also be different from the analysis itself. The analysis tells you what makes sense by the numbers, but then you still have to “feel” it. Without that feel, often we fail to commit.

When the analysis and the feeling don’t jive, you end up with no commitment.

Moneyball is an excellent movie because it showcases the gap that exists between analysis and commitment to the decisions we make from it. Billy Beane is facing criticism from everyone for the choices made from Peter Brand’s analysis. He could easily cave, go back to the old ways, and try to recover, but every chance when he finds an opportunity to break the commitment, he finds a way to take away his own ability to do so, even trading his best players away.

Analysis is a powerful tool, but often it requires commitment and rigor to actually follow it. In cases such as applying analysis to engineering, it’s easy to stick to the commitment because physics doesn’t change much. The optimal design for the conditions is going to stay so.

However, what about an economic analysis to determine the right stock pick. Economics aren’t physics, they shift, morph and change. When that stock you pick initially goes in the wrong direction, it’s going to quickly call into question all the faith you put into your analysis. The data is threatening your commitment.

Analyzing the situation is a powerful tool for figuring out the choices to make in the world, but it’s just that a tool. The decisions still have to be executed and committed to, that part is typically much harder than the analysis itself.

Closed form solutions.

It’s easy to wait for someone to present a “closed form solution.”

In mathematics, a closed form solution is the answer to a problem in the form of a single equation. Something that we can take specific known inputs and get known outputs.

When lost seeking out the closed form solution is the first step. In the ages before the internet, this wasn’t easy and we couldn’t be as sure that something was missing due to our own inability to find the right people, businesses, or information.

A few examples of closed form solutions for different problems are:

  • SOLIDWORKS as a solution to being able to model engineering designs and check for issues before building.
  • Zoom as a way to connect with people via video on the other side of the world.
  • An iPhone as a way to browse the internet on the go.

Here are a few examples where there may not be any closed form solutions available:

  • Keeping employees motivated
  • How to communicate a concept to someone
  • The best way to survive an animal attack

When you see something that currently is lacking a closed form solution, and you find one, it’s likely you’ve created a new market. It’s best to keep your eyes open for these.

Iterative Design

Modern vehicles didn’t come about in one go, they came about over a 100 years of iterations. Any endeavor of significant complexity requires iterations. Government, businesses, writing a book, designing a car, building a house, etc. They all require making choices, that affect the choices down the line, that may affect the original choices we made, and on the iterations go.

Many people are scared to work in systems of this level of complexity. Part of the fear comes from the fact that the systems are complex enough that all of the ramifications can’t be completely known or foreseen. Part of the fear comes from the fact that it may not work. Part of the fear is that the next iteration will be worst than the last. And the last part of the fear is fear itself.

Tasks that require iteration are the hardest things to automate. While thinking as an engineer or mathematics, these would be the physics problems that have no closed form solution. When that’s true, judgment and design decisions themselves influence the behavior of the system. There is a feedback loop, and there is also a whole lot of room for experimentation and improving on the existing ideas of what is best.

Projects that are so large and so complex that they don’t have a single solution are the ones that should be celebrated. They are the ones where there is an opportunity to make things better. Seek them out.

Truth vs. Reality

100 events, 50 positive, 50 negative. Show one person the 50 positive. Show another person the 50 negative. You’ve shown both true events, but shown neither reality.

Yet it seems that the way the we consume information is happening this way more and more often.

The amount of events happening in the world every single day is far beyond what any one person can fathom by reading, watching the news, being out in the world, or trying to stay informed. In the United States alone, there is 330,000,000 people with 24 hours in a day, that’s nearly 8 billion hours (~12,500 human lifetimes of experience) of “human experience” every single day in the United States alone.

Is it actually possible for any news story, any source of information, to capture all of that, distill it down and tell everyone else about it in the hour or two they have free to watch the news?

No. It’s not.

It can’t possibly be.

Doing so would would be the act of being omniscient.

No one knows all.

What can we do about it?

I’m not sure, but I do know it starts with awareness of what I’ve posted here.

Normal, large, and larger.

Words can manipulate people and its unavoidable in many ways.

Consider the sizes “small, medium and large”. What if these were meant to tell someone their size based on society. What if someone thinks they are medium, but in reality they are in the smallest 15% of society based on measurement? Small is actually for them, but measurement didn’t show up to correct them.

Now consider “Normal, large and larger”. If we’re talking about soft drinks, it’s possible this will change the sizes ordered compared to “small, medium and large.” If normal is now the small, most people will be ordering that. Most people want to get the normal size.

This is the smallest example I can think of that words have power. That words manipulate situations. There is no opt out for this phenomenon. We’re all involved in it, so it’s best to be aware it’s happening purposefully, or indirectly.

Why does our form change for running?

Turns out it’s more efficient than simply using our normal walk at a faster speed. You don’t need to calculate the biomechanics, your body just knows. If only processes at companies changed as easily and as naturally when the pace starts picking up.

Companies don’t have much instinct and don’t rearrange themselves to better match changes or growth without putting heavy thought into it and significant effort to get people to follow the new methods.

A good owner or a valued employee generally starts by staying vigilant, paying attention, and realizing when the company needs to switch “strides” in order to fit its new products, order quantity, number of employees, or other shifting customer factors.

Is someone in charge of this at every level? Do you have the people that are paying attention in the correct positions? Do the people who want to improve things know that doing so is valued? Is there any headwinds to someone wanting to make a change and not knowing how to go about it?

On a normal day, I stroll, walk briskly, and jog. It’s not likely your company needs to change it’s “stride” that often, but it’s certainly more often than you would expect. If significant changes aren’t taking place annually, it may be time to bring in a fresh pair of eyes.

Off-Brand

There is a weird story in the picture below. It’s doesn’t match their business, it’s off-brand. Of course, it’s possible they are renters and they can’t replace these doors. Or there is emergency exit criteria for this particular set of doors. However, there are many instances where we are off=brand ourselves. Where we hold ourselves up as a professional and then fail to deliver. It’s good to minimize those as much as possible, but the reality is some will always slip through.

Being established and staying accountable to customers.

My wife was looking for a roofing company for a homeowner’s association to redo about 60 roofs all at once. The job is likely in the $500,000+ range. She was given a recommendation by her dad who has been in construction for decades. The roofing company owner is an older guy with a lot of money and a few different businesses. My wife called several times to get budgets over a month or two timespan. She never received a return call.

Eventually, a secretary for the roofing company called my wife, and told her, “He didn’t want to return your call because your dad hasn’t been talking to him lately.”

Could you imagine this being a professional reason? Is he not in the business of making money? Is $500,000 such a small amount that you can ignore it for that reason?

This guy has been in the roofing business for decades. I have a hunch that if he was just getting started in the business and he was younger, he was less financial stable, he was looking for a big gig to make a name for himself on and a reference, my wife would have had that budget in hand pretty quick.

This isn’t to say that if you’re more established, you care less automatically. It’s a reminder that accountability to customers should be refreshed routinely. If not, you’ll find your reputation shifting in a bad way.

Tempering yourself.

My wife is in the interior design business. In that industry, there is a tendency towards white, and if not white, using light colors more often than bolder dark ones. Light colors are made by tempering bolder colors with white.

Why is the desire for white so strong in that industry? White is universal. White is timeless. White is symbolic of cleanliness. There are reasons that white will never go out of style, which is true. However, do you need to hire someone to tell you, “Paint it white?”

Tastes change over time, so while you want to make sure your kitchen layout is going to work for you for a long time to come, the color of your living room isn’t that hard to change. A little bit of paint and a day of work and you’ve got a whole new feel and color. That’s in stark contrast to the kitchen which would take tens of thousands of dollars and likely months to change any significant portion of the design.

People generally like to dilute their abilities. To temper them in front of others, scared that if they show off what they can do, what difference they can make, and how they excel beyond the others they will somehow be seen as an outcast. It’s not often that this is true, but it is true that there is a tension of showing what you can do.

It seems silly to say this, but don’t be scared to be different, it might be the only way to be successful. After all, while flipping through my wife’s competitor’s works I can only see so many white walls, white molding, light wood with matte finish and bold colored accessories before I start to wonder what designer was the originator of the style and why they all want to do the same thing as each other.

P.S. My wife is working through some issues in confidence right now as far as being an originator and offering something different. I actually wrote this for her, but I thought it might be useful for you and the work you do to.

How do you plan on improving yourself?

I recently wrote this post on the Power of Expectations. In that post, I listed three items needed for expectations to become a powerful force. One of those was people committed to improving themselves.

Thinking about that, in all my life, in all the job interviews I’ve ever had, not one interviewer ever asked that. Beyond that, I asked a few friends and coworkers, none of them had ever been asked that in an interview either.

It seems like a question that might provide some insight into whether or not a person fits the criteria to be able to rise to high expectations or not.

It’s at least something to think about.

The Power of Expectations

I recently rewatched a movie that required viewing when I was in school. It was called Stand and Deliver. It was from the ’80s and it follows a group at a school in a poor area with low academic achievement. It was based on a true story.

The movie follows a passionate teacher who wants to raise the kids’ self-esteem and skills by teaching them math at a high level. He wants them to start to see college as an option for themselves, rather than just something rich kids do.

A repeated theme throughout the movie is “these kids will rise to the expectations,” and at the time it seemed the other teachers merely accepted low standards, which let the kids off the hook.

Mr. Escalante, the teacher inspiring the kids, was right to lead with his high expectations and oversaw the first group ever at the school through passing the calculus advanced placement exam, where many of them received college credit. The number of kids doing so increased in years following.

Expectations are powerful. However, they do have to be backed up by a few things:

  1. A leader who can guide his students/workers/proteges that the expectations being sought.
  2. Clear goals.
  3. A group committed to improving themselves.

To review how these played out in the movie vs. other realities in life:

  1. Mr. Escalante knew calculus. He knew all the math leading up to calculus. He was capable of teaching them all the gaps in their knowledge. This wouldn’t work with a boss who had huge expectations of a worker to achieve results that the boss had no idea how to achieve himself.
  2. In the movie, the goal was to pass the calculus advanced placement exam and achieve college credit. That’s clear. If it was, “Raise your knowledge of mathematics to a high level.” That’s not clear. No one knows where that finish line is.
  3. There were some students that didn’t participate or dropped out of Mr. Escalante’s challenge. There were also some that were fighting other’s expectations of them to be “more ordinary” or more like the culture of the rest of the school. The way the movie portrayed it, there wasn’t a history of academic achievement at the school, so these kids had no one to look to, other than wanting to better themselves. Those who had that desire, proceeded and succeeded.

The important thing is with all three of these, incredibly high expectations can be met and when they are, the culture is changed. A new bar is set, others see the standards, and a new round of raising the expectations can begin.

Expectations are powerful.

P.S. It’s a feel good movie with a great message. Watch Stand and Deliver if you haven’t seen it and are searching for something.

Who is an album of all the number one hits for?

A number one hit doesn’t mean it’s the most creative song. It doesn’t mean it’s the song with the deepest meaning. It doesn’t mean that it’s the best use of the musician’s talent. It simply means it’s the most popular.

An album filled with all of the songs that made it to the number 1 spot on the Billboard charts is an album that is meant to be the most appealing to the most people. Broad appeal.

For artists who have made a dozen albums, there are many more ways you could create new albums from their past works. You could make an album with positive vibe songs only, or flip that for negative vibes. You could create an album for only their songs involving themes of love. You could create an album of all the songs under a certain length.

You don’t see many anthology albums outside of “Greatest Hits” or “Number 1’s” because no one is sure if they will appeal to many people. Mashing together all the best hits seems like it would do the best, but it’s not actually a certainty that is true. What if those downbeat songs weren’t popular on the other albums because they were “moodkillers” in the middle of an otherwise upbeat album. Yet, mashing them all together means the whole album is for someone in that mood. Many people might be looking for exactly that.

There are plenty of ways to package things. To rework the past and put together in a way that is palatable to a new audience. Often it takes someone willing to do something that might not work to see it.

Everyone is looking for someone who can bring data.

I’m about to talk briefly about book publishing but this applies across many different industries.

Book publishers are looking for someone who can say, I’ve written 10 articles about this topic. The highest viewed article pulled in 10,000 readers, the lowest viewed pulled in 8,500, the average viewers is 9,550. I’d like to turn these articles into a book, and I also have 15,000 people in an email list ready to advertise to the book to, 75% of them read my email list every week.

Those numbers provide the book publisher with data. Hard data. The kind that can be used to start to build models on whether they will get a return on their money from publishing your book. They know their costs. They can use your data to predict a number of purchases from your list alone. How many of those people are likely to tell their friends. Whether that will be enough to reach the best sellers lists which then have additional data about how many books those titles usually sell.

If all you’ve done is written a book, good luck getting it published. Without a following they are taking a guess, and it’s much safer to go with someone who isn’t making them guess.

Moving away from the book publishing example, when you are selling to a company or applying to a job. People are looking for someone who can give them the data they need to move forward in an area they were stalled out before. When you’re not getting responses, you haven’t done enough up front. You haven’t put in the effort. This is effort may take years in order to get the data being sought. That’s good. That makes it valuable and not something a competitor will be able to produce on a whim.

Focus on data that a customer can use to remove uncertainty and you may get them to move from where they are today in grid-lock, to paying attention.