A game of searching

Hide something in the house.

Hide something in the park.

Hide something somewhere on the globe.

How big of a game of search are you willing to play?

Do you want to do the hiding, or the searching?

Does the desired object in question have to be tangible? Or can it be something like a goal.

We are all searching for things, and during that search, we may also create something of value that can be sold, traded, or used in our search for what we really seek.

How big of a game of search is your life?

A thought about audiences

Amaury Guichon is a chocolate artisan, but he makes different things. While his entire audience may all be interested in his chocolate craft, his creations may stir interest from others based on their other interests including:

  • Robots
  • People about to propose
  • Wildlife enthusiasts
  • Race car types
  • Sculptors
  • Game enthusiasts
  • Fun(guys) – Fungus
  • Music
  • Campers

When seeking out an audience for your work, you don’t always have to go about it so straight-forward. A company that makes camping gear, could make products for (or just market to) people who love music. A jam company could make jam for married couples. A weight-loss company could target people who work on Wall Street.

You don’t have to see your audience as a monolith, there can be sub-audiences. Figuring out how your business can serve them in their alternate interests can make your connection with them even stronger.

How to build your faith.

One purpose most religions seem to serve is how to have faith. Most assume that means belief in the religion being followed, but I actually mean “faith that everything will be fine, especially during turbulent times in life.”

Having faith means knowing you’ll get through any trial in life fine and that you don’t need to feel beat down, distraught, fearful or any other negative feel because you will make it.

Knowing the people in my life I lived beside, worked with, and engaged with in daily life, for some, this concept of faith is ingrained. It doesn’t need to be stoked by an outside force, it just is something inside of them. Inherent to their personality. For others, they need stories, inspirations, sermons, movies, to continue to ignite the idea that everything will be fine.

Here’s a few ideas to build your faith:

  1. Ask something uncomfortable, but reasonable from a stranger and see how they respond. Can you give me a ride back to my house? To a complete stranger would be a good example. Do they blow up at you? Ask for more information? Politely decline? Is that reaction less severe than you expect? You’ve built some faith in people.
  2. Call someone directly about a job. See a job posting? Call and ask about it before even putting a resume together. Talk about what you can do? Did it go better than expected? Or even better, did it go bad, but you still survived. You’ve built faith in yourself.
  3. Try raising money for a worthy cause in your community. Is there someone you know who is is sick or needs assistance? Is there something that can be done to improve your community? Are you able to raise awareness and see what others are willing to contribute? Congratulations, you’ve built faith in your community.

Faith is important because it’s what is needed to do any project with unknowns. It’s needed for a successful career. It’s needed for a successful marriage. It’s needed to be a parent. There is no aspect of life that isn’t made better by always having the feeling that everything will work out for you. While there is plenty of things in life that seek to batter it, there are far more ways to build it than the three items I listed above. Exercise it just as you do your muscles.

Three levels of skill

Beginner – I have no idea what I’m aiming at, how to improve my consistency, or the key points to my success.

Intermediate – I know how to hit a target and judge my success by it. I understands a few key points of my success though may incorrectly attribute many of them to the wrong cause.

Expert – I have a feel for what I need to do. While targets exist, I’m less stringent in my attempts to hit them directly seeing them only as a means to an end of a result.

This boils down to: First we understand the “rules”, then we break them.

That’s the process of skill development in a nutshell.

Agonizing over the triviality

If you want to write a book, you may agonize that you have an overabundance of topics which you could write a book about. It’s possible you can do some analysis and whittle it down, and make sure it is going to be profitable. If that’s your goal, it’s worthwhile to do that. Even with profitability in mind, you can come to more options than you can possibly create, in the end, the decision is big, influencing everything about the work you are hoping to create, but also trivial in a way. Talk about a problem in duality.

In various aspects of life, with the things I’ve desired to do, but left undone, it’s due to this phenomenon. There is no singular factor to decide on, no problem to be optimized, nowhere to go, but to pick at random and do some work.

Great artists thrive by getting through this. They struggle with it, but then seek to tell a story about it, but despite their best marketing efforts, those allegories usually come after the fact, and you won’t convince me otherwise.

There is a huge opportunity here because once you recognize that often trivial decisions are necessary, you can do the work. When you do the work you can get feedback. When you get feedback you can make a less trivial decision about what work to do next, and that ratchet can continue allowing you to do bigger, better and more important work as time goes on.

Do not sit idle in triviality unless trivial is what you want life to be.

P.S. This could be taken as a “work to death” post. It’s not. Building relationships takes work. Helping others can be seen as a form of exerting yourself. All of that is valuable in the world and definitely not trivial.

Invisible forces

Gravity is an invisible force. If you take a picture laying down, it will look slightly different than if you stood against the wall. Gravity isn’t acting on your face at all.

If you somehow took the picture while hanging upside down with your hair firmly held in place by a strong gel or similar hair product, you would again look different than standing up. Without certain clues, like your hair hanging down, the person looking at each of these three pictures may notice something different about them, but are unable to see that in each picture the direction of gravity has changed. Gravity is the invisible force.

This doesn’t stop with gravity. Most people in your life won’t see your ambition, your drive, your intuitiveness, your resourcefulness, and any other positive aspect of your personality.

Most people also won’t see the bad role models, unfortunate circumstances, bad luck, or other obstacles you had to overcome in your life.

Invisible forces are all around us, acting in different directions. The only chance you have is to strengthen the positive ones, weaken the negative ones and orient yourself in the direction that makes it easiest to move forward.

Control Theorist

I was at an engineering conference and a panelist talking about control theory used the term “control theorist”.

I had never heard that term before, usually hearing “Control Systems Engineer” but my mind started spinning immediately. What a great thing to be.

A “Control Systems Engineer” or now as I’ll refer to them, a “Control Theorist”, takes signals from sensors and equipment and attempts to keep it functioning correctly and productive especially in the case of feedback loops or random, unexpected signals or events.

Extending this beyond engineering to the entire depth of the world, the analogy only gets better. We can choose to filter out all of the horrible, inaudible, inconceivable amounts of chaos and noise all around us and control it in a way that produces a positive result.

The opposite of a “control theorist” is a “conspiracy theorist” in which the goal is to take seemingly simple functions of a system or society and promote all sorts of chaotic, unordered noise and feedback around it that it is hard to filter and make sense of.

Happiness is much easier to come by as a control theorist. Find other control theorists and join them.

The follow to follower ratio

Social media advice says , “You want much higher followers than people you follow.”

Think about the opposite, what if you had no followers and followed a million people? What would that mean?

It would mean you would never come to understand the thoughts or works of any particular person you follow because with that many people being followed seeing more than a couple of posts from the same person is unlikely.

People follow you on social media because the work you do is interesting. They want to see a pattern, be inspired, learn something, or work together with you. The reason the follow to follower ratio naturally skews towards more followers than people being followed is because there aren’t an overabundance of people putting in effort AND documenting it in the world for others to see and learn from.

Everyone has aspirational identities that they would like to build on, following others doing the work you aspire to is the first step. Doing so allows you to see the patterns in the work, to understand where you would like to head. Most stop at this step, however, the goal is to get to where you have people who follow you, and to do that you have to eventually get to doing your own work. The more you do, the more your ratio starts to shift as you become one of the “few” worth following.

Reactive bowling ball = Urethane + shammy

You may not be a bowler, but if you stick with my analogy here, it’s possible you’ll learn something about synthesizing your own reality into existence.

Once upon a time, bowling balls were made out of pure urethane. They skidded a little bit on the lane oil and then rolled slow and hooked smooth on the driest 1/3 of the lane in the backend. Then, an innovation happened…reactive urethane.

Reactive urethane is the marketing, but at it’s core it was urethane that had additives that made the urethane cure differently and giving it different structure. Reactive urethane was porous, it skidded on the oil more and then picked up more on the dry. The end result was bowling balls that changed direction much quicker and generally created more pin action, ultimately resulting in more strikes!

That’s not where the story ends however. Reactive bowling balls took over because in addition to the increased power, they also picked oil up off the lane due to porosity. This meant that as bowling went on, scores typically went up as more friction and more hook would lead to more strikes. Prior to this, the non-porous urethane balls would carry oil down, and the reverse was true. It would become harder and harder to strike most of the time.

Today, the original urethane type balls have a made a comeback for a certain reason…the invention of the bowling shammy!

The shammies remove all the oil from urethane balls by wiping them in between shots. Towels have been a thing for decades in bowling, but they didn’t remove all the oil. The modern shammies do. As a result, the original urethanes + shammies, now produce the same effect as reactive bowling balls, lanes get easier as bowling goes on.

When one avenue isn’t open to you, there are alternatives. The invention of the shammy allowed another way to produce the effect on the lane reactive urethane had using the original urethane, you can find a similar effect in technology, real estate, jobs, family and more. Synthesize your own reality by finding the right components that produce the same desired effect.

Exposing the variables.

Math and science are important because they teach people how to think about a problem and expose it’s variables. The formulas themselves may not always be clear, or possibly too complex for total understanding, but identifying contributing factors is beneficial.

Often times, when stuck on a problem, pondering the variables involved is enough to get you unstuck.

When you are unable to see the variables, or the “levers” that move or define a problem, then you are lacking knowledge or insight and likely need to do research on the state of the problem, most times it is already there, if not, congratulations, it’s you’re turn to pioneer something.

The world is full of variables, the ones you see define the work you do and who you are.

Skills that are more valuable than the market

Whenever you look at averages, there must be something in the collection of items being averaged that is above the average and also something that is below the average. That comes simply from definition.

Take an ice cream sundae, something in that has to be the worst component for you health-wise. Sugar…cream…vanilla…cocoa powder…condensed milk…cocoa butter…heavy cream…nuts…cherry. One of those is the least healthy item, so the sundae itself is better than eating an equivalent pile of pure sugar perhaps.

In that same vein, the stock market is made of companies who have an average return amongst them, some better and some worse than average, and those companies are made up of people who produce for those companies. Some produce more and some produce less. For those seeking freedom, your goal should be to get in that high producing section.

When your skills are capable of taking your existing money and returning more than 9.8% a year on it, you are on your way to riches, even if it doesn’t seem like it, or you haven’t yet had the opportunity to take advantage. It also means you can take bigger risks and have confidence.

Focus on developing valuable skills.

They’ll wait for the details

The stories, without the pictures, for a comic book could be cranked out much quicker than all the nicely drawn scenes. However, comic fans wait for the stories in comics to develop over years of weekly or monthly releases. The story of One Piece has been happening since 1997 and the main character Luffy still hasn’t reached his dream of becoming the King of the Pirates yet! One Piece has sold over 100 million volumes despite (or because of the) long attention to all the details of the story that have stretched it on for 25 years.

When you are rushing something because you think it should be done faster. When you are skimping on a detail because you think it will take too much time. Whether it’s a job, a project, or your life, the fine details are so worth it, they’re worth waiting for.

Energy vs strength

You may have the strength for a task, the ability to perform it. However, you can be out of energy for the task.

An interesting thought is that the world may continue to build our stamina naturally in the areas we already bring energy. If you bring a load of physical energy, it’s likely you’ll find more tasks and activities that require physical energy. The more those physical exertions are put on you, the more stamina you build and in a cycle you find even more stamina as the activities become the norm for you.

Alternatively, if you bring an abundance of empathetic energy, you may find yourself playing counselor often. The more your do that, the stronger your empathy and energy to handle situations requiring empathy becomes.

This can be true for energy for all sorts of tasks:

  1. Mathematics
  2. Science
  3. Writing
  4. Marketing
  5. Sales

If you bring energy for something, the world will often find a way to allow you to do more of it. Doing more of it, will grow your energy for it.

The dollar slice.

That’s a reference to New York pizza. It’s a slice that sold at a place that cranks out pizza all day. It’s not the greatest pizza anywhere, but it’s readily available and cheap.

This contrasts with more gourmet style of pizza that may have special care taken in the dough recipe, ingredient sourcing, or method of cooking. You may also have to wait for it to be prepared.

Both of these are methods of working:

  1. The dollar slice. This is low margin, high speed, crank out the product kind of work. You don’t have to put too much thought into the work because it’s the same thing all the time. You make more money by being faster.
  2. This is high margin, thoughtful work. Faster doesn’t necessarily make your more money because people are paying a premium for your care. If that drops, then the premium is no longer worth it.

In my experience, different kinds of people like working in each of these categories. If you are upset with the type of work you do, think about which category your work falls into, and ask yourself if you might like the methodology of the other category instead.

Power and Finesse

I write with my left hand, but I bowl with my right hand. That’s because throwing a 16lb down a 60 foot lane at 18+ mph takes power. That power isn’t in my left hand as much.

Switch to billiards, I’m back to left-handed because finesse is required.

From the definition of finesse itself: Refinement and delicacy of performance, execution, or artisanship.

“Delicacy of performance” means that it is light and soft, which is interesting because in order to have enough finesse, you have to have a significant amount of strength beyond the minimum required for the task. I can’t throw a bowling ball with finesse to hit the target I’m looking at if I can barely lift the ball.

Finesse requires strength in the right proportion. Similarly, if you have overly strong finger muscles, you may not be able to do delicate or intricate artistry like calligraphy, jewelry making, etc, but you may do good with placing a heavy countertop in just the right position.

To have finesse, you must have the right amount of power, which leads to two cases:

  1. If you have too much power for the work you do, you may need to choose a different scale of the work that fits your strength.
  2. If you don’t have enough power, choose a smaller scale of work, or get stronger.

Waking up from seeing a spectrum shift.

It’s possible you thought you were at one place on a spectrum (patient vs urgent, thoughtful vs shallow, shy vs outgoing), and in reality, you were in a totally different spot on the spectrum.

Take patience, perhaps you always saw yourself as the most patient person around. Then one day, you are struggling to teach someone something and another person around you teaches people who take twice as long to learn sd your students. All of a sudden, your patience seems average.

What does that mental shift do?

It may change your identity. Most of us define ourselves by the areas that we think we are on the far sides of different spectrums on.

If you are highly athletic, average at math, average at science, never read literature. Your identity is most likely athlete.

If you read more literature than anyone, average at math, average at science, never play sports. You might identify as a literary scholar.

As everything moved online and people put their entire selves online (and even fake curations of themselves), many people found themselves in far different parts of the spectrum as their world opened up to everyone instead of a tiny subset they were previously surrounded with. In some cases, identities were even changed based on false, curated personalities that never existed in the first place.

There are two ways this happens:

  1. Your identity shifts, and you seek out a new identity to understand your new spot in the world along various spectra.
  2. Your identity holds and you find yourself becoming even more patient (or any other trait that lies on a spectrum) as you realize you can be even more of that trait once you’ve seen someone else be.

At times, you may take path 1, and others path 2. If you understand this, try to use it to better yourself. A new identity can be a great thing if it isn’t a form of hiding, but at the same time improving our strengths is also a great thing.

Measure what is measurable…

and make measurable what isn’t measurable.

That’s what MBA’s do. From there, costs and profits can be derived and optimized mathematically.

This doesn’t make an interesting business or service alone.

Tell a story where there is a story, and make a story where there is none. The Graduate Hotel, a successful and unique brand of hotels, creates an imaginary person with a back story for each of their hotels built. They then design and build a hotel that fits that story. The stories make sense in the context of the town currently being built in. There isn’t a way to account for this kind of effort on a spreadsheet that an MBA makes until after the work is done and the results start rolling in. That’s why it isn’t common.

The common is common because it is measurable and has a positive return-on-investment as a result it makes sense for everyone to do it, so everyone does.

The uncommon is uncommon because it is unquantifiable, and feels like a gamble.

The obvious takeaway is the everyone is looking for uncommon amounts of success by doing the common work. That doesn’t happen often, which means, pre-dominantly the unquantifiable work is where the amazing success happens. It is risky, but so is drowning in a sea of commons.

P.S. There is plenty of room in the world for MBA’s to apply their knowledge, but if they want to have uncommon success, sprinkling in as much creativity and story as possible is where the magic takes hold.

Yin and Yang as an alternative to hypocrisy.

I learned about Yin and Yang when I was in school. Basically stated as “Without the dark, there cannot be light.” Vice versa was often stated as well.

Today, I’ve discovered a more nuanced approach, Yin and Yang as an alternative to hypocrisy. This can be seen in politics today. Each side showing how the other is hypocritical in someway. Yet, without diving into specifics that make this post actually political, Yin and Yang basically say without that small bit of hypocrisy, beliefs wouldn’t exist at all. You can’t be kind to everyone if no one is ever stingy.

If you start to understand this, you can move beyond who is a hypocrite and who isn’t and start to discuss, “Obviously there is going to be a tiny amount of abuse/misunderstanding/opposition of whatever system or belief is being shared, but what is the bigger spirit of this that can be seen through that?”

Once you move away from who is a hypocrite, which is everyone at some point, you can have an actual conversation about what is best.

Mr. Beast Wonka Bars

I’m not a Mr. Beast fan, but the guy gets an amazing amount of views on YouTube.

One thing he did was make a brand of chocolate bars in the fashion on Willy Wonka. He then built a Willy Wonka-style warehouse and crafted fun and games to sell his bars. That took a tremendous amount of effort and money to pull off.

Most people will look at the latter of “effort and money” and say “See that’s why I can’t do it, I have no money.” In reality, all money buys is effort and previous effort by others. So it’s all effort, all the way down.

That project that you think isn’t going to work, definitely has a shot. What you are actually concerned about whether you will get burned out from your efforts before success happens. Of course, there are many factors and pivots can be required at times, but those too are efforts.

What a baking soda rocket can teach you

I went out and bought a baking soda rocket to experiment with for my daughter. It was cheap, and when she saw it, she was excited.

I was excited because I saw possibilities far beyond the box.

If you aren’t familiar, a baking soda rocket has a cavity that you fill up with vinegar and a base that you place baking soda in. When the pressure builds up enough, the rocket pops off and travel some height before coming back down.

The box itself bills it as an experiment to test different amounts and ratios of baking soda and vinegar to get maximum height, but I knew of so many more variables.

Here’s some variables I saw right off that bat:

  1. Friction at the interface of the base and the rocket
  2. Packing shape of the propellant (Baking soda in this case)
  3. Tightness of the seal at the interface
  4. Temperature of the vinegar

I could probably list more.

When we started, the rocket was lackluster. Even its normal connections leaked and so much pressure was lost. It popped off about 5 to 6 feet. My daughter and the neighborhood kids who had never seen much before were excited, but I knew more was possible.

I went to get some pipe thread tape. I taped the base to seal better and where the fins screwed on to ensure there was nothing that could leak in that direction either. Once pressure was staying in the body, the results were 5-10X larger! Flying above the tall trees in the backyard!

All of those other items then became experiments to toy around with and create even more excitement.

For even something so basic, there were ways to get dramatic results differences. If you wanted to go even deeper than what we did and start building your own baking soda rockets you could also work on shape, weight, designing extra stages of propulsion and more. The options are limitless.

This extends far beyond a baking soda rocket to nearly any aspect of life. There are more options than you can dream of if you pick what you want to look at, and continue to improve upon it.

Keeping the suspense alive with dates!

One way to keep the interest in a project going is with dates.

I don’t necessarily mean only deadlines.

Some dates can be celebrations. Some can be mysterious placeholders. Some are deadlines.

No matter what, the dates have a way of keeping people focused, getting them to look forward to something, and keeping them talking about the project.

Dates are exciting! That’s why we go on them. That’s why we grow them. That’s why we mark them on our calendar.

Look for something else I’ll be posting next Friday, September 2nd.

Adding details to impress

Above is an impressive looking trick. However, imagining the table emptied of all the scattered balls would significantly reduce the impact of the perceived skill involved in the trick.

At it’s core there are only two components involved in this that need to be nailed, a target trajectory and a target speed. Practice those two enough and I would think many people could start nailing this trick routinely in an hour or less.

All the scattered balls make it seem more involved than that. Much like magic acts, the preparation adds the perception of skill. If you take time to prepare some extra fine details, you too can be perceived as skillful.

Double-edge swords don’t get used much

When there is an opportunity for a person who owns a system created by components from two different vendors to be more streamlined, those vendors don’t often propose that value because while it represents possibly doubling the business, it could also mean losing what business you have if they standardize to the other vendors components.

This is a double-edge sword and it should only be wielded when there is an elevated chance of a favorable outcome. However, it’s also an opportunity. The other vendor feels the same way, so when something comes along such as a feature that breaks the possible stalemate, it may be time to test the waters. If you can focus on the feature that would be the tipping point, then you can wield that double-edged sword with more safety.

Working on the difficult and unusual problems

I spent a number of years working on the support lines and supporting highly technical engineering software. In that time, I didn’t do too much routine work, instead, I solved all the challenging work that customers couldn’t figure out. Now, years later, after being out of support for a long-time, I find I often have better understanding of a number of topics than people who have worked 2-3X as long on the same tool, but do so in a routine way.

That’s curious on the surface.

However, upon reflection, it’s self-explanatory.

Day-to-day, we all do a significant amount of routine work. Sure, it might be slight variations, but if it goes off without a blip, then nothing was learned at all. Instead, sitting by a phone daily waiting for people to present difficult challenges meant improving constantly. This how the tech support experienced sped up the knowledge level so much. A person using these tools daily may have a new problem they can’t solve once per month, but I was solving the new problems of dozens of users every month!

Working on the difficult and the unusual problems is how you grow at the fastest possible rate. Working on the same problems is how you stagnate. Obviously, the routine work needs to get done too, but it’s up to each individual to choose how much of that work they want to do.

That feeling of emptiness is one of consumption.

I’m hesitant to consider something universal, when it is based entirely on my experience with my own personality, so I’m going to share something about how I feel.

I haven’t been creating as much. Not writing as much. Not cooking as much. I was in a block for a bit of what to put up for LinkedIn content for my day job, so I wasn’t doing that as much either.

Today, I made a great breakfast, crafted a school bus out of paper with my daughter, then wrote a blog. It was a good day. It didn’t feel empty. It felt fulfilling.

For me, the feeling of emptiness comes when I’m not creating. Each item I create fuels an idea and gives energy to something else I’d like to do. There are plenty of causes for this cycle to break like illness, or conflicting life constraints, etc. However, the cure is always the same. Create more. Connect more. Be more fulfilled.

The work most aren’t willing to do.

Below, I recently came across this video that stitches together movies to the tune of Paper Planes by MIA.

MIA did the creative legwork on writing and producing the song. This movie stitching work is more along the lines of administrative and detail matching. Yet, this work is enough to catch your attention, make you laugh at some parts and be interesting.

When I watch this, my first thought is, “I’m not sure I’d have the patience to do something like that!”

Me not being sure if I could muster the patience is why it is interesting. It’s the work most people aren’t willing to do. Get comfortable in that area, change your first instinct and start getting noticed.

Arbitrage, Entrepreneurship and the Ticket Arcade.

When you go to an arcade that exchanges tickets for prizes, you are engaging in arbitrage. For any of the prizes on offer, if you really wanted them, you could go out and buy them at the store for a specified amount and for lower cost than the equivalent tickets probably cost you. So why engage in the market for those same goods at the ticket arcade?

The arbitrage that is happening is an interesting one, that in exchange for stimulation, interaction and fun, you are willing to spend more money for risk and uncertainty of what you will be able to get back from it. This is interesting because it seems highly similar to entrepreneurs I’ve met, yet far more people seem to spend money in these arcades than there are chasing entrepreneurship.

Some conclusions that can be drawn from this:

  1. When someone makes a decision to pursue entrepreneurship, instead of being forced to pursue it, they are probably caught up in the fun of it.
  2. When you add valuable experience, stimulation and interaction, the price always becomes less of a factor.
  3. Like many of the things at the ticket arcade, when taking the route of first selling an experience of fun, plenty of people will then buy things they didn’t actually think they needed.
  4. The reason you probably see more ticket arcade participants than those chasing entrepreneurship is that the level of risk is perceived much differently.

Knowing the only places you need to look.

When scientists and engineers create mathematical models for physical phenomenon, they may start with an enormous equation made up of numerous terms. However, many of the terms may show contributions that impact the results on an absolutely infinitesimal scale, so small the it basically rounds to zero. In nearly all cases where this is true, the model is then simplified by removing those algebraic terms. It makes everything easier to handle and easier to change the numbers and check new options.

In that same manner, knowing where to look is an important factor in life. There might be a million possible parameters to investigate, while only two of those parameters have any significant factor at all. In a scenario like that, the person who can see those two important factors will never have trouble understanding the system because they only have two things to take data in about, while others who are focused on the million other parameters can’t possibly keep up with them all. Their brain, their eyes, their ears, do not possess the possible bandwidth to continuously measure all of those parameters and process each of their contributions to the system.

More education and more science doesn’t make you smarter from the standpoint of being creative, it makes you more efficient in processing information because you know where to look and what to ignore and where the edge cases are where some of the factors that you wrote off might become contributors again.

The way forward.

The smallest agreeable step.

That is the only way forward in a group with different goals, knowledge and desires.

Too often, we are looking for enormous wins. We are asking for too much. We are seeking glory, rather than improvement.

When you have an idea, and you aren’t sure where to go with it, the best thing may to be not to shoot for the moon with. It may be to meet with someone who can add value to the project and agree on a single step that can move things forward, even in the slightest manner.

Here’s an example, you want to start a newsletter, but you’re not sure if you have the skills to deliver. Can you meet with someone who has the computer skills to do so, and agree on some requirements and a price? Not even making the purchase, but just the act of hashing our requirements to get to pricing is moving you forward.

One step at a time.

Enormous wins don’t usually happen, and when they do, they are usually fated with all kinds of people claiming to own their success.

The longest trails are far longer than the biggest leaps, and trails are cut one step at a time.

The right space

Your best work is probably seeking the correct space to do it in.

  • A great artist is going to struggle create masterpieces without the proper studio.
  • A great surgeon is going to struggle to keep a patient healthy without the right operating room.
  • A great mechanic is going to do much better having a garage with a lift in it.

So continuing to search for the right space is an important part of doing great work, however, the greats never use space as THE EXCUSE. Sure, the wrong space makes things harder, but the reward of pushing through is skills and rewards that allow is to continue to improve our space and do the best work possible.

The slicing is important to bacon

I’ve bought bacon from a farm that raises organic meats. They have it in two forms, normal, sliced that you recognize as bacon and what they call “bacon uglies” which are chunks and the end bits sliced up.

Then bacon uglies are cheaper, but they aren’t nearly as good. They don’t cook evenly, they are inconsistently fatty/meaty and more. The normal slicing procedure of bacon makes all of this more consistent, more palatable and more delicious.

It’s easy to look at bacon and understand that the quality of meat, smokiness, sweetness and more are the key factors that influence quality. It’s harder to see that the slicing matters.

How to not depend on authority

When making an argument, it is easy to defer to a known authority. Of course, the known authority itself is usually derived from social proof. This means a few things need to happen:

  1. An act of proof needs to be performed
  2. The act needs to have measurable results that can be confirmed in some manner and used to make a conclusion.
  3. The act needs to be repeatable.

This is the basis of science. As a result, science is the answer to thinking independently from the rest of society. While agreement is good, it should come from independent analysis.

Science is how we allow society to prosper without relying on centralizing a power.

House Rules

Often times, when there is multiple ways something can be done or played, you’ll find “house rules”.

If common sense was common, would we ever need house rules? Would the rules become “common rules”?

Obviously, “common rules” aren’t listed everywhere, and house rules need to be documented or shared for someone to know them. This leads to conundrum for the most important work to be done in that the way to do it is mostly uncommunicated.

A way to add value: document things, set standards, and communicate the rules to get things done correctly.

The bigger question then becomes, how do you find that documentation?

How often do you feel like this?

I’ve had a habit of always covering the downside when giving answers that I may be wrong on. Usually, I try not to convince myself I really know the answer to something, or the story of an event, unless I’ve done quite a bit of studying or have at least a handful of facts that are strong from multiple aspects. When an outcome starts to reveal itself that goes against what I believe and I’ve told others, well it doesn’t feel good, but I do come around.

Lately, in conversations with others as I’m being forced to take some positions despite knowing I’m ignorant about a few items, I’ve been feeling this way more often. It’s leading me to wonder, “How often do other people feel this way?”

How often are people attached to something they believe to be true and defend and tie their ego up in? In my life up until now, I would say it was rare for me to take a “belief” without high confidence and so my ego wasn’t tied up because it was riding on known work. Now, I’m giving answers that are more belief-based more often out of a certain situational necessity. I’m starting to wonder what the full spectrum is. Do people feel like this 100% of the time, where I was close to 0% before?

I’m not sure there is a great system that could be devised for ascertaining this, but it’s worth each person asking to themselves nonetheless.

Moving each piece vs. Moving one piece

While playing a game of Trouble, my wife was moving 4 pieces around the board, I was choosing to move one. It took her 4 times as many rolls to get each piece to move as far as my single piece. In that time, she had many more opportunities presented for me to land on one of her pieces and send them back to the beginning. In my case, my single piece moved much faster around the board, but when sent back to the beginning it was generally after being further along.

This seems to be a good analogy for life. We can have a lot of things with our attention, each getting a small piece, unable to move along much. By pairing that down, we can move much further, but setbacks set back everything and much further. Resilience vs. speed. It’s a tradeoff worth thinking about.

Connecting with 3rd degree connections first.

If you are searching for people to connect with on LinkedIn, it seems to make sense to connect with 2nd connections, those who you may know through someone already.

In reality, it makes more sense to connect to 3rd+ connections first if you are trying to maximize the speed at which your message spread.

This may not be entirely obvious off the bat, but if you think about it, it becomes clear.

2nd connections likely already receive some of your messages from the 1st connections you have. 3rd connections aren’t likely to. If you then connect with 3rd+ people, then you expand the ring of influence to a much larger group of people.

Expand this past LinkedIn and social media, in life it always feels more comfortable to meet new people that are close to ones you already know, but if you aren’t where you want to be, or surrounded by the types of people you want to talk to, you may need to go out on your own and meet some entirely new people. That’s a good thing and what happens in big life events such as moving for college, job changes, moving neighborhoods, and more.

Dylan Lemay loop hack

I recently saw a few videos by a gentleman named Dylan Lemay. Dylan has many videos on TikTok, YouTube, and Instagram with his topic usually revolving around ice cream or ice cream cakes.

One interesting thing about the few short videos I watched, Dylan starts and ends the videos in the same position and camera point even though overall his videos have a lot of movement. This leads to the video seemingly looping if you aren’t paying attention. For short TikTok style videos you may end up watching 2-3 times without realizing which allows his message to sear into your brain a bit more.

It’s an interesting and useful tactic. Nice job Dylan. Your work is worth taking notice of.

Heat on a scale of 1 to 2

I was recently watching a Cowboy Kent Rollins recipe video on YouTube. I don’t particularly need the recipe, I just like his persona. The Cowboy was advertising his new hot sauce when he mentioned, “On a scale of 1 to 2 it’s likely about 1.5 in heat.”

I thought that was an interesting way of putting it.

I also think Kent Rollins is easy to overlook on his marketing prowess due to the skill he has with the persona he has created.

“1.5 on a scale of 2” has a much different connotation than 7.5/10 even though they are equivalent.

Here is the difference:

  1. The context on a scale of two instead of ten changes what people are used to, so they make different decisions.
  2. 1.5 sounds low because people are used to scales of ten, this may allow some people who say “I don’t like spicy to try it.

The context can matter. If you want to get people to think about something, rather than knee-jerk, changing the context will make them think. Try it out and you may find you get quadruple of 50% of half of your typical results. Or maybe even more!

The Atmosphere of Innovation

I wrote this post years ago about The atmosphere of coffee shops and bars. In it, I pointed out that coffee shops and bars have the opposite mood of the effect of drinks they serve. Bars serve depressants and so the atmosphere is usually set by high-energy music. Coffee is a stimulant and the atmosphere in coffee shops is set by tranquil tones and soft singer/songwriters.

At the core, it would seem that a person tries to maximize the balance of their environment with what they feel internally.

This brings me to a question, “What would be the atmosphere of the most innovative places?”

My instantaneous thought is high brow design, modern and sophisticated. Companies like Apple, Google and other similar tech companies come to mind. Except, these companies aren’t as innovative as they were when they started. It’s hard to imagine what item Google could create that would rival the shift their search engine had on the world. Yet, that search engine was likely started in some plane Jane libraries, garages, or computer labs.

The “Atmosphere of Innovation” is more along the lines of the coffee/shop bar idea. When you are working in a low brow, low design space and the only thing you have is to create, then innovation brings balance to the plainness of the atmosphere. A high-design space makes one feel innovative just by being there and likely lowers the actual innovation.

However, the reality is that only companies with significant capital can afford the beautiful offices, and so rather than being an actual place of innovation, it is a signal to find those who are perceived to be the best talent.

The Atmosphere of Innovation is a culture of people, not a design of an office. Too often this is mistaken.

Stairmaster or Water Slide

A stairmaster is gym equipment that has a never ending set of stairs for the user to climb.

For the kind of water slide I mentioned in the title, it may be a story or two up with plenty of stairs to climb. If you had such a water slide, why would you ever choose a stair master? That thrill of going down the slide seems much more exciting than the never ending drudgery of the stair master. Yet, not everyone will see it that way. For some, they won’t like that the water goes up their nose at the end of the slide. They may not like the feeling of not being in control on the way down the slide, or they may not like the water all that much in general.

For those who do love water slides, I’m not sure they would even register as competing with the stairmaster as a form of exercise. Going down the slide is the reward, but it’s so enjoyable that the work of going up the stairs is ignored completely.

Crafting an experience, one that excites people so much that people forget about the effort, that’s what great businesses are built on. We need more stair masters disguised in the form of water slides and other experiences to make the world a happier, healthier place.

Without a purpose

A purpose is a majorly overlooked asset.

It can be wide or narrow in scope.

For example, at your job, if you are an engineer in the automotive industry, optimizing your designs to be incredibly safe is a great purpose. It doesn’t define your entire life in a broad stroke, but it defines how you operate in your job and provides meaningful satisfaction in your work besides compensation.

A purpose provides the following:

  1. Direction – Which leads a person to making better decisions.
  2. Satisfaction – Seeing that all your decisions and actions are leading somewhere
  3. Resiliency – meaning that helps you whether the ups and downs

Without a purpose, lost, dissatisfied and easily discouraged is the status quo. Perhaps it’s not a job, a house, a car, or money you want, it’s a purpose. It’s worth seeking. It’s even more worth sharing yours with others.

$5 for stick figure drawing, $150 for animation

If you are looking for some services to draw you a basic image, such as a stick figure drawing, you can find 100s of people who can provide that to you for $5 or less. It’s hard to imagine many of those people make enough of that to survive, but it’s easy work and to hang your sign out doesn’t take much effort, so it’s nice extra cash.

Stick figure animations, however, start at $150 dollars and go up from there.

Interestingly enough, animation is just a bunch of successive images. However, there are additional skills:

  1. Timing
  2. Sequencing
  3. Music/Sound

There are entirely new dimensions to be added in animation. In that space, you won’t find nearly as many people competing, and you will find people who are making a living.

“Easy money” usually isn’t about making a living, but possibly extra cash.

When you are looking for the way to create value, the more difficult road is the one where you’ll find it.

P.S. If you are stuck competing in too harsh of a landscape without a way to differentiate, the way out isn’t to quit, it’s to pursue the next level of complexity. You can also read more here.

Seeking higher value for sanity

It’s tempting to continue to believe, “If we just work a little more, everything will be better.”

Of course, this works fine the first time you stretch your efforts. Fine the second time. Perhaps even the third. Eventually, however, you will always reach a point where “a little more” will affect your sanity.

The solution to this is always the same: Seek higher value.

One example of this is a sales rep, selling a items that net him $1000 commission. Each year, he gets a bit better, and works a bit harder, but eventually a ceiling is reached. At that point, to make more money, selling something that sells just as often but that nets a $5,000 commission is the next career step.

This could also apply to your responsibilities. Delegating the smaller items so that you can focus on bigger picture items is a great example of this. If you’ve had big ambitions at work, but have been stuck in the monotony, then getting the small items off your plate is where the value is.

This is a tougher balance than the immediate thought suggests? Why? Because that monotony that I mentioned? Someone else is trying to put there’s on you, the same as you are trying to put yours on them. The trick is to find out when you’ve reached the right level of responsibility and value to be happy.

Genius of Dental Hygiene

I went for a teeth cleaning at the dentist last week. I had the best hygienist I’ve ever had. In fact, she made it seem like the dozen other hygienists that I’ve used have been clueless about the job.

Here’s a list of things that were excellent:

  1. Jaw comfort – Most have me crank my jaw open so far it’s difficult to hold. Not the case.
  2. No unexpected pain or pokes – Most other hygienists accidentally or strongly end up scraping my gums causing significant pain at certain points. That didn’t happen.
  3. Conversation – she was conversational without be intrusive or feeling like a captive audience.
  4. Health tips – she gave me a few tips I had never been given before that seemed useful.
  5. Speed – with all of the above she didn’t seem to rush, but the appointment still seemed faster than usual.

All-in-all it was the best trip to the dentist office I’ve had.

Of course, I didn’t write this post to share about my Dental Hygienist. The point is that no matter what line of work you are in, there is a combination of skills that if done to the highest level could be considered “genius”. That’s not typically how most people look at things. Most people consider genius to be correlated with:

  1. Mathematics
  2. Science
  3. Legal
  4. History
  5. Musical
  6. Other academic fields

However there are far more types of genius than that. If the world would spend more time seeing it, then we’d all be better off.

If you need more examples:

You can choose to be whatever type of genius you like. Just dedicate yourself to a craft and think about all the skills that go into it.

Absorbing the shocks

For engineers out there, you may be familiar with multi-body dynamics. This is a calculation of how vehicles or other systems design under loads. It also is a great analogy for how a company runs.

If you run a multi-body dynamics tool to see how a car responds to bumps in the road, you’ll see that tires absorb small bumps, the kind that are produced by the texture of the rock in the asphalt. Shocks absorb bigger bumps, the kind caused by something like a change in level between roadway sections, or a pothole. Bushings absorb relative movement in the car and dissipate energy from repeated vibrations. Despite all this, huge bumps make the entire car take flight.

If you take this analogy to a company, the front line workers are doing the work of the tires. They absorb constant small issues all day and are responsible for the traction of the company. Managers, at least the good ones, they provide cover for the discontinuities like the shocks. People taking vacations, a change from a customer, an abrupt problem that was unexpected. They shift things around to soften the blow. Directors and Executives, at least the best of them, act like the bushings. They dissipate the energy of problems between marketing, engineering, sales, etc. They don’t let too much of the problem from one group, spill into the other. And at the very top, someone needs to be watching out for the huge bump that will launch the whole thing in the air. This is the competitive environment, the finance industry, the technological disruptions, the personnel and more.

No matter what work we do, we are responsible for absorbing the shocks, all that changes is the size of the bumps we cater to.

Crossing Audiences

As someone gets good at writing, they realize the importance of writing for specific audiences. This blog itself mixes that up a lot, and that is fine if not trying to make a specific impact, which I never did hammer down.

However, great writing, often takes multiple audiences and shows them each a perspective of the other that they all hadn’t considered. This is what great movies do for us. This is the foundation of classic literature.

Telling truths that work in audiences of multiple, distinct groups is powerful writing and skillful mastery of the craft.

When did CYA become the culture?

Someone once asked me, “Has anyone ever yelled at you for making a mistake here?”

I replied truthfully, “Not really”.

Their reply was, “How and when did CYA become the culture here?”

“No idea.” was my reply.

There had been a shift in the culture where I was working from getting things done and trying new things to CYA. The only apparent thought I had was that it was imported. We had brought in more people with more experience where CYA was the culture.

It’s not easy, but culture can creep up on you. Create the culture actively, or it will happen in a way you don’t control gradually.

What would have helped the CYA culture not creep in?

Messaging. Repeatedly.

“Try new things.” “Take risks.” “Do your best and the rest doesn’t matter.” Any of those things repeated enough would have helped, but they were left unsaid.

Say the words. They are part of the culture.

Don’t be led around by statistics

I’ve mentioned quite a few times on this blog, that I’m a competitive bowler. Bowling has taught me much about life. If you want to understand what I’ve learned about life through the sport, you can read those posts here:

Now, I’ll add another one.

Don’t be led around by statistics.

When I was young and my skill in bowling was rapidly improving, I would lean on statistics to comfort me. If I had two under average games, I would lean on that fact, rather than confidence in myself to say, “I’m due for an above average third game.”

The problem here is that psychologically it would work the opposite way on me too. If I was leading a tournament, I always felt I was holding off a regression to the average.

Today, I don’t think this way. I see each event as the possibility to be an outlier. Something far beyond the normal range. This is what winning a tournament is.

By getting older, if I do revert to thinking purely statistically, I can think in terms of years, not a few games. I could be over average for two years, then have a down year instead. Being too young, thinking on those time scales isn’t even possible.

However, when at all possible, don’t see yourself as a statistic because that is an anchor to average.

Make a pizza. Cook a pizza.

After someone order a pizza, these are the two steps. They aren’t divisible really. You can’t have a pizza sit on the peel too long before putting in the oven, otherwise it will stick and become deformed.

Of course, since the customer is waiting and they want their pizza as soon as possible, you also can’t wait to start making it too long.

There are many jobs like this with tasks that can’t be separated. This is the work that it feels like we would do if we only didn’t have all of these other items going on.

Some items that come to mind:

  1. Capitalizing on a current event as it relates to goods and services you provide
  2. Launching something internally at a company that you’ve made to automates certain tasks before the tasks themselves change
  3. Creating a marketing campaign to capitalize on a new market opportunity before someone else does

However, just because it feels overwhelming to do all the tasks related to each other in sequence and have to get it out quick, doesn’t mean it can’t be done. It just means it will be challenging and challenging is the best differentiator I know to ensure your competitors won’t copy you soon.

Things you can’t reflect

If you’ve ever been in a bad situation with someone who has gotten on your nerves, like a relationship, you understand that there are somethings you can’t reflect.

It is very difficult to show someone their own bad behavior or habits and have them take it to heart. They either:

  1. Don’t see it as what they do, but something new you are doing
  2. Get extremely mad at pointing it out and don’t take it constructively
  3. Ignore it all together

In life, there are many methods of reflecting different stories and life lessons upon us. However, there are also certain topics that aren’t easily reflected. If you have on of those, exercise judiciousness before proceeding.