Default to Truth and Debates

“Default to Truth” is something that was crystallized in my mind by Malcolm Gladwell in his book Talking to Strangers.

Something interesting about why debates, especially presidential ones, hold some much anticipation is because of the drama that is present when “Default to Truth” breaks down. If defaulting to think that everyone is telling the truth is most people’s natural state, then someone has to be wrong or lying when debate contests argue opposites on a specific point. This is what creates the tension. People are looking to see that the person they “Default to Truth” with is the one that is actually trustworthy.

A good presentation, or at least a good way to create excitement, is to create tension (which I’ve written about before here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.)to Breaking the “Default to Truth” is another way of creating that tension. It doesn’t have to be you calling someone else out. It can be showing two clips of others with opposite thoughts. It could be showing a counter example after showing someone make a claim opposite to your example.

“Default to truth” is a powerful function that almost all humans have. Sometimes to make our case, what someone previously held as the truth has to be broken, and to do that requires at least a bit of tension.

Habits and standards.

The link above will take you to a page written by James Clear. James has written an entire book on habits. I haven’t read the whole thing but know many people who have, and they have nothing but great things to say. This blog is an example of a good habit. I write it daily, and I would like to do more, but with my current commitments, this is the most I’m capable of at the moment, the future may change that. Habits are often like that, building a muscle for when you reach a new level that requires a new amount of commitment.

If habits build the strength we need, then adding onto that, standards are also important. Standards are about what is acceptable. Can we do 100 pushups? Do we count them if they are sloppy with bad form?

How will we measure our habits without standards? Is the standard of writing daily good? What about the quality? What about the word count? What about picking titles? I’m a bit ashamed to admit this, but I don’t have too many standards for this blog. Not that I don’t want to produce quality, but that I don’t often spellcheck for the daily posts because I see them as drafts for bigger future pieces. However, keeping the spelling and grammar standard a bit lower, enables me to put this work out daily even with a hectic life.

In the future, a guide outlining my personal standards for each piece will be put together. I encourage you to do the same. Setting the standards of your life to paper may just help you think out how things should operate in your world. What’s the most weight you can gain before dieting? What’s the most you’ll let your house get out of control before a cleaning spree? What’s the level of the work you want to do? How much will you put up with at work?

The lists are really endless as to what standards to write down, but I can promise you this, just by doing it, what comes into your head will show you where your priorities are. Give it a shot.

Who should lead?

Yesterday, I wrote this post about The Standards of Your Life. I mentioned that a leader is someone who sets the standards as a basic definition. If you’re trying to decide who should be in charge, the typical way is to look at backgrounds, experience, education and a variety of other work in attempt to figure out who can do the work most appropriately. A different idea would be to look at each person’s standards.

Is punctuality important in the position? Perhaps the person who has never been late is better suited for the position than the person with the Ivy league degree.

Is presentation important in the position such as a restaurant? Perhaps the person who has a home that looks like it should be in Architectural Digest is a fit?

We all have varying standards for different items in our life, but almost no one judges people based on those because they are mostly invisible and no one is asking. It seems like a shame because the typical metrics of hiring leave much to be desired in terms of getting people who actually fit the position.

Think about this, if you were hiring a marketing person, would you rather hire a fresh graduate marketer with a marketing degree and little experience and a tiny portfolio he did for school, or a person who went for an engineering degree, but blogged every day during his 4 years of college and built a following of 10,000 people?

One built a standard of marketing for himself, the other followed the standard set by the industry on how to get a job in marketing. Which one is more likely to set the standard for your organization?

The Standards for Your Life

Leaders are simply people who set the standards. Attending leadership conferences, you’ll find all sorts of conversation about what a leader is or does, but to me this seems like a simple and straight-forward answer.

Think about the following examples:

  • The executive chef is the head of the kitchen. What does he do? Does he do inventory? Does he invent every dish? Does he wash the dishes? Each of those answers depends on the chef and isn’t necessarily specific to the job description. What every executive chef should do is set the standards for the foods and the cleanliness of the kitchen.
  • What does a hotel manager do? Do they answer phones? Clean rooms? Worry about decor? Possibly all of those, and possibly none of those. They set the standards of the experience. How does it feel? How does it smell? How quick is the check-in process? How likely are people to return?

A leader is a person who sets the standards. That means you are the leader of your own life. What standards will you accept for cleanliness in your house? What standards will you accept for fitness? What standards will you accept for pay? What standards will you accept for your finances? The list goes on and on and no one is going to set them for you. Figure out your standards and live to them, if you don’t actively set them, you are passively accepting them.

Making bad decisions anonymously.

There is a certain forum of “investors” that will not be named, but this forum introduces and praises ludicrous betting on the stock market. I’ve seen many on that forum claim if the technology didn’t exist to do these ridiculous bets through their phone, and they had to call up their brokers like decades ago, they would never place these risky bets at all. They would feel too stupid for having to tell someone.

Does this really mean that people will use anonymity to make bad decisions for themselves?

Doesn’t this mean that making people accountable leads to better outcomes?

I’m not sure what parts of society we can flip this phenomenon on, but I’d like to find some. For example, where are people using anonymity to make terrible (but legal) choices? How can we build systems to make their choices better?

The trick is, while many of these people are losing money, some of them enjoy the thrill enough that the monetary loss is worth it. Seems crazy, but that’s their own life choice. Instead, I’m talking about the one that loses their life savings and needs therapy. How could that be prevented?

Extrapolating this to your job or your company, are you making bad decisions because you aren’t accountable in your work? Are others doing it? How can you change the systems so that’s not the case?

Systems can have powerful effects on culture. Don’t look at either in isolation.

“Mistakes” of information in the digital age…

go around the world in an instant. We are now at a stage of history where as things become more and more automated and quicker and quicker to spread, making sure things are accurate and correct needs to be at the forefront of people’s mind.

Never have the details matter so much.

Never has wrong information gone around the world so quickly.

Never have we had so many operations that fall in a row like dominos.

If you’re going to interact in this world, do it with intention, hold yourself to a high standard, and double check everything is truthful. We don’t have room for many informational mistakes when those mistakes travel at lightning speed.

The percentage of things you understand in the world…

is incredibly close to 0%.

You are 1 in 7.5 billion people. That’s 0.00000013% of the world’s life experience belong to you.

Out of all the topics there are to study you know only a small fraction. Engineering, Finance, Medicine, Chemistry, Biology, etc.

Out of all the possibly interactions you can have amongst those several billion people, you’ll only have for all intents and purposes 0% of them. Much smaller than the percentage listed above since there are so many more combinations of people to interact than there are people.

Of all the places in the world it’s likely you’ll see less than 1% of the earth’s surface. Even then it’s likely much less than that as that is almost 2 million square miles since the earth’s surface area is roughly 196 million square miles.

I could go on with more points, but that seems unnecessary. When you realize how little you can know and experience it may help you open your mind and listen to others, they may have experience, knowledge or insight that can help you understand your situation and the world better.

Making a lasting impact.

Perhaps that’s not the right dream. It gives undue weight to your contribution to a future that might not need it, nor want it. A current impact that improves things is definitely a delight.

If you stop an asteroid from destroying the world then obviously you are improving the future and the present and those are the only types of lasting impacts we need.

The only thing improvable is the present because the future isn’t here yet. People in the future will likely know more about their problems than you guessing about them from today. Let them make their impact in their present and you make yours today. Forget about that lasting impact, you’re not smarter than the smart people from the future, and they know more about their realities than you do.

The impression vs. the reality.

There is a reason you don’t see white bowling balls. The oil on the lane makes them dirty looking. This gives the impression that they are much more worn out much quicker than other colored bowling balls. It’s not true at all, it just looks that way, but the way a customer feels is what matters, not necessarily the reality.

I’m reading Talking to Strangers by Malcolm Gladwell and something that he mentions (with anecdotes and proof) is how bad people are at reading others when their expressions don’t match their actual feelings or beliefs. The white bowling ball makes you believe it’s dirtier than a red one. You yourself may be giving off vibes that don’t represent you correctly. It may not be fair for others to judge you by them, but they likely are in some way. It’s not an active decision to make, it just happens. If you are conscious of it, you can do your best to convey how you feel by your expressions rather than defaulting to a misrepresentation. Some people are naturally gifted with this, and others aren’t. It might be a skill worth developing, or at least thinking about.

The Earth is always sloping downhill…

yet we’ve all have walked up hill. That’s because while the earth is round, but it’s surface isn’t perfect. We have local depressions that happen at a much smaller scale than the circumference of the earth. While the circumference of earth maybe 24,901 miles, there are peaks and troughs every few miles, no matter which way you go around.

This is similar to any endeavor you choose to take on. While your success is likely to continue a trend of going up, you may start in a depression. Then when you get out of that it may be smooth sailing until you hit another local depression. The global trend is up and up, but over short distances it may not be and most people are wired to pay attention to the local conditions we’re in.

Fight that urge to think in terms of your current conditions being the case forever when things are tough. It’s likely not reality at all. It just requires some grit to get through in the moment.

Low Frequency Events

Stock trading is a high frequency event. How frequent, well an eye blink takes about 300 milliseconds, in that time 10 trades have been made due to programmed algorithms. Imagine how many trades are happening per day. It’s enormous!

Pandemics are low frequency events. The last major pandemic was 102 years ago.

For people who are in the world of stock trading, they have a good understanding of the mechanics of the system because they are able to observe the trades so often, everyday.

For low frequency events, our brains aren’t equipped with a strong model for dealing with them. They come along so infrequently, we don’t have experience. While there was probably a handful of people alive today that lived through the 1918 Spanish Flu, it’s such a small percentage, and they were likely so young at that time that they don’t have much insight.

Our minds build mental models by interacting with certain experiences. Low frequency events don’t lend themselves to have a useful model, as a result, predicting a reaction to one is nearly impossible. Contrast that with a rising stock price, which based on plenty of past data can predict how the fluctuation in price will affect future purchases and for low frequency events it can be seen that we are shooting in the dark.

Applying this to people and their jobs, there is a preference in each individual for low vs. high frequency events. Personally, I like dealing with low frequency events. The challenge of how to solve something I’m not experienced in gets me into the flow. However, based on study of personality types and conversations with others, this is an exception. Many people prefer working in tasks that are high frequency. Tasks that they can practice and practice and become extremely skilled in.

It’s worth understanding where you stand on this spectrum and what you enjoy dealing in.

Collecting Early, Paying Late…

is the second rule of capitalism. The first is buy low, sell high.

  • Your mortgage. You collect the house first, and pay the bill later.
  • Payment terms in a company for services. You get the service, then pay the bill later.
  • Your paycheck. Your employer is the one collecting early on your labor and paying late.
  • A dinner out. You eat the meal, then pay the check.

The world is filled with people collecting early and paying later. This can be a powerful tool. It can build a business that you don’t have all the capital for up front. It can help you survive in a world where your cashflow isn’t always steady.

However, for many important things, the kind that generally don’t involve cash, we don’t get this sort of benefit. If you’re trying to become a well-known writer, you have to write first, and get the followers second. If you’re trying to get fit, you have to put in the effort and pain first and get the fitness later.

While there are many things, like a house, that can benefit from you collecting early and paying late, don’t get trapped in a cycle of it. Some things are too good to be true, and the best things don’t happen this way at all.

The scale of your life.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Not every cause needs you to take a side.

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

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

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

Can we recognize that this is so difficult…

because we’re arguing in a gray area.

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

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

The complexity of the model in your head.

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

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

The World as a brain.

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

Image
-Nikola Tesla

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

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

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

The power of memes…

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

What makes memes so powerful when done well?

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

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

Online attention.

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

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

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

Focusing on the difference vs. the overlap.

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

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

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

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

One way to get attention…

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

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

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

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

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

Why do so many blockbuster movies come from America?

It’s the ecosystem:

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

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

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

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

If you think negatively of a certain trait you have…

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

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

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

“I don’t care.”

“I’m good with whatever.”

“Whatever anyone wants is fine by me.”

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

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

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

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

We’re looking for something impressive.

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

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

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

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

Prisons of the mind.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sensationalism and Attention

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

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

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

What if intelligence doesn’t exist?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hiding behind the housing.

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

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

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

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

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

Where do you put your trust?

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

Do you put your trust in people?

Do you put your trust into business?

Do you put your trust into your family?

Do you put your trust into money?

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

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

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

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

Seeking validation.

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

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

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

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

Power of Context

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

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

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

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

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

Spreadsheet to reality

Increasing the cost of a product by 10% may lose 5% of customers it makes business sense to do it.

The reality is those 5% are angry conversations someone, likely a salesperson or account manager, has to deal with in real life. This is the difference between working in a spreadsheet and working in reality.

All across the business landscape, there is “strategy” and there is “reality”. Strategy can sound good to the guy running the spreadsheet, when all the numbers line up. It doesn’t sound as good to the salesman on the street who is already trying to close a big deal with a customer, but has to deliver the news that in addition to this new purchase, their existing subscription costs will increase.

Spreadsheets and reality are many times not bridged together. Spreadsheets don’t capture emotions, good will, morale of employees and a million other factors that can’t be adequately computed.

I’m not sure there is a solution to this other than if you’re someone working the spreadsheet, try to run your ideas by someone with their feet on the street. Or better yet, try to put your feet on the street and attempt your changes on a small scale first.

To be valued, you must add value.

If you know how to take a block of metal and make it into a component, then you are adding value to raw material.

If you know how to frame an idea in a way that others can learn it and share it themselves, you are adding value to the conversation.

If you know how to take money, make investments and get more money in return you are adding value to someone’s portfolio.

No matter the job or task, to be valued, adding value is critical.

The Ouji Board

Something interesting about the Ouji board is that no one knows who is moving it. It’s many forces controlling the movement all pulling in different directions and it eventually lands on certain letters.

I once watches a documentary about the financial system where the interviewed a farmer, a commodities broker, and a distributor, and each and everyone pointed to the another person saying they are the ones that determine the price. The reality is no one truly knows who is moving the needle, where the bottom is and what is fair.

This is an opportunity. The ability to clearly choose what you want to offer and at what price. Of course, you’re going to have to justify the price. To convince the buyer that they are receiving value for what they are paying, but that sounds like a challenge that you are up for.

Segmenting your marketing…

I pay attention to marketing a lot. Though more than marketing, I think about how others think. How ideas form in their head. How different groups see the world. Using that information I try to determine how to best talk to those groups. Still much learning to go to master this skillset, but I do my best.

Since different people respond differently to advertising, different marketing for different groups make sense. Elon Musk is brilliant at this. Today he tweeted a philosophical quote. He received a number of responses from people about their own views on philosophy. What did Tesla gain from it? Well, they learned how much of their audience resonates with philosophy.

Other times, Elon tweets about stock markets. He gets information about how many responders resonate with those posts.

Occassionally he tweets memes, again another way to measure the segments.

If you’re aware, everything is a chance to test, tweak, and learn. You need to see the opportunity first though, and I try to share what I see with others so that we all get better. You should too.

Learning the music.

I had music classes in school, and I also took guitar lessons as a teenager. One thing that bothers me to this day is how much the focus was on learning the music.

When thinking about the creation of musical theory, someone started by creating music first. Then people started to notice trends between notes, create notation for writing the music, create the methodology for building and describing chords, composing scales, and then working on composition. All this put together presents a “science” to be learned, and that was the focus.

This is the part that made it hard for me to continue. I have a “creative” personality. I don’t like to tread as much in places where the work is already done, I like to tread in places where I can create something a bit new.

Music class in school didn’t have single composition component to it. There was a practice component, a ranking component of skill, a test component, but never a composition component.

What a waste!

Studying the arts is a chance to learn how to work where the scaffolding hasn’t been built. Sure, we want to build on the work of others, that’s how we propel society forward, but starting by working on a composition then learning how scales, chords, and notation makes your life easier show you their value much better than simply saying, “Here’s what you need to learn.”

This goes far beyond the music class. In nearly every industry there is someone waiting to tell you what you need to know. While I don’t recommend “trial by fire” as the only way to gain knowledge, I certainly recommend a quick failure or a slow, difficult success to let the student see what they are missing.

There is no chicken or the egg here, in the early days of music, the music was composed first, then later the musical theory happened. It’s often beneficial to start by learning in the same manner the pioneers did, then work to use the knowledge built to figure out what others have already painstakingly developed.

Radioactive Toothpaste

After discovering radium, Marie and Pierre Curie were approached with a number of offers for using radium in a number of products like chocolate bars, toothpaste, water, bread, and the list goes on and on. In many cases, these products came to fruition, even though eventually we would come to understand that they were dangerous as it related to health.

As a rule, understanding follows discovery. It can’t happen any other way. First we must explore, then uncover something new, then work to discover it’s secrets, uses, drawbacks and problems. Starting with the assumptions of problems is useful in protecting oneself from potential liabilities, such as if working with radioactive materials, wearing protective gear is appropriate. However, there will always be some element of the unknown in discovery.

The unknown doesn’t have to be related to health. It could be related to your reputation if you discover a political scandal and you’re a journalist. What will happen if you publish it? What will the powerful do to you? That’s just one example, the world is filled with others.

One reason we seek to elevate pioneers and risk-taking in society is because without them nothing would ever progress. Chuck Yeager was willing to be the first to fly prototype airplanes at the highest speeds ever recorded to make sure they were safe for flight. He became a role model.

Astronauts are willing to go to places others haven’t ever been before, where events that are unaccounted for can cause problems that the spaceships don’t have the proper resources available to deal with.

It’s easy to look at radioactive toothpaste with disdain. To wonder, “How could they have been so dumb?” However, that is the price of discovery. Today, we have put in place institutions like the Food and Drug Administration to become a holder of information about all the possible side effects and problems we should be thinking through based on past experiences, but even then, these are only limited to what we have seen, new discoveries and new problems lurk around every corner.

What to do then?

  • Don’t let fear paralyze you from an important discovery.
  • Seek to protect yourself in every way your mind can think up, but don’t give into the fear to stop exploring.
  • Explore those areas where the stakes are something you are comfortable with.
  • Be honest with the side effects if you know them, don’t sell snake oil to anybody.

“Every resident…

…should consider these money moves.”

That was the title of a post I read, though there was an actual state name listed rather than “<Insert State Name Here>”. The thing is, the post itself wasn’t specific advice to people from that state, it applied to nearly everyone. What worked though was by being specific about the audience it was for, it increased the clicks.

I’m sure they had some software that changed the state based on the IP address of the user of the computer, however the result still stands.

If you can be specific with the audience you are trying to do work for, then you can generate more interest than being broad. I know this to be true. I’ve seen it from both sides, however, I also find it hard myself. When I write, much of my work can be valuable to different audiences, yet I want to serve as many people as possible.

What can be done? Here’s a thought:

  1. Write for one specific audience.
  2. Nail the content
  3. As you seek to grow your audience, adapt existing content for a new audience. It should take much less time than writing from scratch, it’s mostly a title change and perhaps some changes to any anecdotes that fit the other industry a bit better.

The hardest part is picking the audience that you desire to serve as your priority and separating from the others you want to serve in the future. No one can truly help you decide the right answer to that. It’s something you’ll have to decide for yourself.

A pride of lions…

is a good case study in society vs. the individual.

Generally, a pride is made up of 2-3 males and 5-10 females. To keep that ratio, young lions are often run off by the older males that make up the pride. This is a study in status. The males of the pride are in charge of protection. That means if the goal is to keep the pride safe, they should want more males, but yet they run them off before they grow strong enough to challenge them.

This is seen in human society too.

For some, status is important. It’s the first thing they think about, and after it’s secure, those individuals can be gracious and protect the rest of society in the way they see it.

We also have others who don’t care about status. That care about society first then their status second.

It’s easy to fall in to the trap of believing that either is correct, instead of seeing the incredibly complex set of needs that each individual has. When you can see those needs, you stand a better chance at making the change in the world you are seeking.

What is a genius?

A genius is someone who puts significant thought and energy into something most people don’t even consider and generally society rewards the title when the skill or understanding leads to a revolution in a particular subject.

Someone can be:

  • An artistic genius – Jackson Pollock
  • A scientific genius – Marie Curie, Albert Einstein
  • A fighting genius – Joan of Arc
  • A marketing genius – Seth Godin
  • A movie genius – Steven Spielberg

Or any other genius that can possibly be thought up.

One thing for certain though, without doing the work, you’re not a genius, just someone with potential. Work realizes potential. Do the work.

Who gets to lead?

That’s what the world is constantly trying to figure out. We know how to build the power structures below the top of the pyramid, but we’re never sure who should be on top.

Sometimes the position throughout history has been taken by force.

Sometimes the position has been taken by someone who amassed a bunch of followers.

Sometimes it’s taken by someone who has a great idea.

There are no set rules on who gets to lead. Anyone can pickup the mantle for a cause and start today. There can only be one President of the United States at a time, or one CEO of Microsoft, however everyday is a choice to start something internally where you work. Or to start your own business. Or to build a following for a message you have. Or to make some art. Or to organize a group to raise awareness for something you want to change.

While you can look to specific sources of leadership and tell yourself, “I’ll never be them.” You can also look at the infinite options of leadership and say, “I’ll be this one.”

“Is this anything?” by Jerry Seinfeld

I haven’t read it, possibly because it’s still in pre-order, but the title of this post is a book being published by Jerry Seinfeld. This is not a review, it is a thought. The book contains all of the material that Jerry Seinfeld has written in his 45 years of stand up comedy.

Can you imagine that? Stand up comedy in written form? Is that how it’s supposed to be consumed?

I’m asking for a reason. Maybe you realize it already.

There are many different forms our work can take on. For 90+% of stand up comedians, their work is consumed in-person, or on video. How many of them think about taking the time to convert their work to books and then sell it to an audience that prefers to read?

In a world full of content creators, we often don’t think to switch our medium. For now, you’ll find that I only write. That’s because with my day job and other commitments it’s all I have the time for, but in the future I would like to podcast as well.

If you study the cognitive functions of the brain as well as the personality types associated with them, you’ll find there are different groups of people who prefer to take information in by different methods. What Jerry is doing with this book is saying, “Sure, most people know me in the stand up world, but what about in the reading world? Don’t those people enjoy and need laughter as much as anyone?”

While it’s not likely that this book will make him huge amounts of money (relative to his own stand up shows and sitcom), it does spread his work to others that aren’t as familiar with it. We all have the opportunity to do this if we want to.

Here’s a quick list of things you could do:

  • If you have a blog, you or a voice actor could read them and make them into an audio version.
  • A video could be converted to pure audio.
  • If you have a podcast you could transcript it.

That’s not exhaustive at all, but it should also be noted, as you convert between mediums, it’s worth asking, “What else can I add in this medium, that wasn’t supported by the previous?” That way your work spreads to a new audience while also gaining some new value.

Buy Low, Sell High

What do you think that applies to?

Stocks?

Houses?

Cars?

How about people?

How about your logo?

How about materials for the things you build?

Nearly everywhere we look there is an opportunity to buy low and sell high. The question is how much work is needed to be done to fetch that premium price.

A baker buys flour, yeast, water, salt and gas or electricity low, puts them together along with their technique and sells bread at a premium.

A software company may be started by paying a developer to build some software then selling it to customer after customer until more than the original investment was made back.

A energy company takes resources like natural gas, runs it through their energy generation equipment and sells it at a markup.

A pawn shop buys something from someone looking to turn goods into cash, then they may clean it up, display it and sell it for more money.

All of these are an act of buying low and selling high. Everyone is in the business of selling high even if they don’t realize it, it’s just varying amounts. In a time like the present, if you find yourself facing financial uncertainty think about things you know, and where you can go to buy low, and sell high. Even in bad economies, these opportunities still exist.

How do you “waste” time?

Supermarket Sweep Reruns? Social media?

Make no doubt, they are both ways we choose to occupy our minds, particularly when we don’t feel productive.

One thing I’ve noticed is that social media often feels like productivity. On Facebook, it feels as if you’re connecting to people you’ve lost touch with. On a site like Reddit, it can feel like you are learning something new. On Twitter, you’re keeping abreast of the news of the day.

These are all mostly illusions.

The best way to keep in touch is to call someone directly.

The best way to learn something new is to read a book, or work on a project.

The best way to keep abreast of the news…well, in this day and age, it might be good to skip it!

Yesterday, I wrote a post about seeing a rerun of Supermarket Sweep. This show was on when I was a teenager. It took me back to days before I had a cell phone, let alone a smart phone. It made the connection in my mind of how much simpler the times were back then, even though old people in those eras still thought of “simpler times” from their era. It wasn’t just simpler, it was that we weren’t being bombarded with messages from multiple directions at all times. Sure there were commercials, and Supermarket Sweep itself was an vehicle for advertising products, but today during the day, you may be in front of a computer, and on the web as you search you’re receiving ads. In your email, there are ads. On your phone there are is push notifications. Everywhere you go, messaging that doesn’t stop.

On social media, you’ll find everyone with a cause. Though, most of the time, it isn’t really a cause, it’s a gripe. And that gripe builds up outrage and anger. Eventually, that anger has to go somewhere. You can see where it’s heading each day in the news.

So what can be done about this?

Turn off the phone for a week, and watch Supermarket Sweep or whatever other boring, old show you like. Or go to the library and get a book to read. Realize all the things you should be doing based on people on social media, aren’t nearly as important as they seem. Realize every second of the day doesn’t have to have a cause or a purpose. You can simply choose to be, though compared to the rest of the animal kingdom, humans aren’t particularly good at this.

Once you realize that for some period during the day you can “simply be”, the focus during the day time on the work you have to do can increase as you realize everything else is a distraction that doesn’t add much value to your life, but certainly makes it feel stressful.

Organizing something creative.

Recently I saw an old episode of the show Supermarket Sweep. It’s a good example of creativity and organization being brought together. The show itself is a way to advertise brands and goods without making it feel like an ad, but rather something entertaining to watch or put on in the background.

When you think about a show like Supermarket Sweep, what is actually needed to make something like that?

Here’s a list of a few items:

  • A Host
  • Contestants
  • Someone to make the games/contests/questions
  • A location
  • Cameras (Though phones could do this in a pinch)
  • A store to film in
  • An outlet to share it on
  • Brands/Sponsors to cover the costs of production/prizes

If you break those items down to people, it’s likely you need something like:

  • A salesperson to get sponsors
  • A host
  • A production team of a few people to set things up and work cameras.
  • An editor
  • A marketer to get constestants and to promote the show

It seems like in the past the hardest part would have been getting past the TV gatekeepers, but today, with YouTube availability, there is nothing stopping you from organizing a group like this and making something happen.

I’m not advocating for you to make the next Supermarket Sweep here. The point is that the barriers in nearly all industries are falling due to technology. You can continue to feel trapped, or you can start thinking about what is involved and get started on making something significant by involving others.

What to do when you stumble.

I’ve been writing this blog daily for about a year now, though in total I’ve been writing it since January 1st, 2019. In that time, I first stumbled in about April of 2019 and wasn’t able to continue writing daily. I hit my second snag this last week.

It’s been the perfect storm colliding over the last couple of months. Been busy at work, the pandemic has my daughter not going to different activities that she used to, extracurricular activities I’ve been apart of recently took time that dwindled my blog queue down to nothing, and then the plan I had to get caught up while on vacation, ended when I didn’t feel well for a few days on vacation. All this came together, and what resulted was me missing several days of blog posts, when new posts have been going up daily.

I’m terribly disappointed. I dropped the ball. I stumbled.

I also plan to get right back to it, but even then at the moment I’m struggling with nothing seeming as interesting. I hit streaks where I’m writing things that are constantly intriguing me, and I’m excited, then I get into lulls where I feel like I’m just going through the motions, which is also fine, but I’m looking to find that something interesting again, and it’s making the stumble all the harder.

No matter though, I will start writing, start thinking, and things will start flowing again.

When you stumble there is always a choice to start back up again. It is a choice after all.

The drive is the vacation

My wife and I went on vacation recently. While driving, she said, “I’m not sure how we used to do it as a kid. My parents and I would drive up here every weekend on Friday after they got off work. Then we’d be leaving and heading back on Sunday.”

Well after a week long trip, that didn’t feel much like a vacation at all. I realized something that gave her a chuckle, “The drive is the vacation.”

While driving there is:

  • Time to chat leisurely
  • Music of your choice
  • A calm passing by of new scenery

While driving there isn’t:

  • Dishes to be done
  • A house to be tidied
  • TVs and screens begging for your attention

This perspective may not be for everyone and the idea isn’t the central point of this post. The true point is that a mindset shift could transform your perspective about any single task that you need to do. In my wife’s mind, the drive is the wasted part of our vacation. The thing that has to be done out of necessity, but doesn’t add value. Shifting her mindset helps to see, there is value, even in the drive to start and end the vacation.

Assets and the awareness of pricing.

The stock market is composed of people buying and selling financial assets, in this case, stocks. These assets aren’t fundamentally different than a home, or a classic car in value, yet they are traded far more frequently.

Why do you think that is?

Well, one reason is because there are “Market Makers” people who provide liquidity to the market by being both a buyer and seller. They make a little money on each trade regardless of what side they take, they’ll buy a bit below the going price, and they’ll sell a bit above. It may only be a penny on a hundred dollar share of stock, but over millions of trades a day it adds up.

When a business makes money on any transaction, it’s in their business interest to compel their customers to do more transactions. So we have stock charts. Second-by-second analysis of the current market value, meant to get you to sell if you think it’s peaked, or to sell if it’s falling to quickly and you think your money isn’t safe.

Other assets don’t have this level of awareness. No one knows the precise value of their house every second, nor the value of a classic car they fixed up. No one is going to easily give these items up either. I don’t mean in the willingness sense, but in the actual taking possession of the assets.

Once you understand that pricing awareness is a way to manipulate you into making more trades, you can actively decide whether or not those are trades you actually want to make, or simply an effect of the influence the data is having on you.

We’re in the information age, and that information is being used to manipulate us in all sorts of ways. Combating that even just a little bit requires some awareness of where it is happening.