The power of cadence

In the last 11 months, I’ve had a ton of shifting routines. It’s been stressful. I felt like I was mentally coming apart at times. You don’t realize how much you rely on habits, especially when new things are introduced to your life slowly. However, when you have a series of abrupt changes, it feels like the difficulty has gone up. And it likely has. You can coast with less energy with good habits. You don’t have to think about what to do, just do them.

Whenever you are struggling to diagnose what is go wrong in your life, look at what you have a cadences for. There are a few tricky aspects here:

  1. You have to HONESTLY self-reflect on each day
  2. You have to recognize habits and routines even if you didn’t mentally feel like you decided on them
  3. You have to be willing to struggle with trade-offs

For #1, weight loss is a good example. If you are counting calories, you have to be honest and accurate in measuring calories. If you lie to yourself and believe that a 400 calorie cookie was only 200 and have one daily, you won’t lose the weight you should.

For #2, an example would be starting a new job, then get home at a specific time, and plopping down on the couch for hours in front of the TV. You just started doing it, but didn’t really ask yourself, “What habit should I do after work?” Then decide on becoming a couch potato. It just happened.

For #3, taking that couch potato example further, it may be very restorative mentally to take that break and watch TV, but if it doesn’t give you time to stay in good health, that can deteriorate too. Balancing what the right amount of TV to watch for relaxation vs. having a balanced and healthy life is important.

Once you look at yourself clearly, and have identified the cadences, you can then start to analyze if you are spending your time correctly to do the things, be the person, and achieve the goals you set for yourself.

When overwhelmed…

There is two ways to deal with the situation:

  1. Say “No more.” I literally can handle no more than this.
  2. Work on your process and innovate the way you work.

I recently have been hitting the overwhelmed stage, and I told myself I have to find more efficiency in my process, spend less time figuring out what the next most important thing is and lower my mental overhead.

I had the following:

  1. A system for managing customer interests in our products
  2. A task list broken down for each customer I serve as well as our general company tasks
  3. OneNote used for taking notes in company meetings and documenting action items
  4. A highlight/lowlights sheet for the week that needs to be filled out as the week goes on capturing important information
  5. A long-term document for items I couldn’t handle in the short term that would just be cluttering up my day-to-day list
  6. A quarterly business review document that outlines initiatives status of where things are in accounts, and plans for the future

That’s a lot of focii, not to mention the typical flood coming in via email, and actual customer meetings 8-10 per week. I figured I was spending a significant amount of mental overhead constantly shuffling information between them. So I did the following:

  1. I integrated everything in #2 into #3. Using tags in OneNote, allows me to generate lists pulled in all sorts of ways. Based on the company, based on the week it was generated, based on whether it is a meeting to be scheduled, with a few button clicks I can re-arrange the task list as desired.
  2. My highlights/lowlights I integrated into OneNote as well. While it didn’t reduce any workload, it did keep me from switching screens as often.
  3. I combined items #5 and #6 together. Since anything in the long-term should be considered “strategic planning” it should be in the quarterly business review presentation. No need to have another place for it. Anything that doesn’t fit in that document should either be dropped or reconsider if it is a priority at all.

This all doesn’t seem like that big of a deal, but it minimizes constant window switching, and more than that, it allows much more flexible re-arranging.

The final and most important piece, is I added a physical journal for document my top 15 priorities for the week, and then breaking them down 5/day (that gives a little wiggle room if some days all 5 aren’t achieved). This takes the mental overhead off of what to work on next during a hectic chopped up day. At the end of the week I review, and along with my newly organized lists, I update.

Systems are important, and I doubt this is the final form mine will take. While I don’t feel it’s made me a crazy amount more productive, it has made my brain feel far less scrambled and my day more enjoyable.

Delegating responsibility

Society seems to have specialized so much everyone wants to delegate responsibility.

Delegating financials to banks and brokers.

Delegating your survival to the company.

Delegating your entertainment to Netflix.

A more personal revelation is the movie theater. I took my daughter to see the Super Mario Bros. movie. The ticket purchase was automated. There were no attendants in the theaters. There was one guy working the concessions stand. He was more than a bit scattered from dealing with any and all problems. When a problem arose, it seemed like there should be someone else on hand to ask, but there wasn’t and one man can only do so much. If the movie didn’t start playing, but there was a long line at the concessions stand for a different movie starting in 20 minutes, do you stand in line and wait your turn? Or raise it as an emergency and jump the line? The lack of someone else responsible, like a projectionist, makes the customer uncomfortable in the situation regarding the etiquette.

This is the unforeseen side of automation. While the clear side being is what is on someone’s spreadsheet, dollars and cents being saved, the downside is customer experience and no resiliency. When the lone worker is stressed, the interactions with them aren’t as pleasant. When an automated system breaks down, and there is no slack, the entire system starts to come apart.

We are facing a dilemma as a society, ever increasing abilities to automate tasks we wouldn’t have thought possible 10 years ago, but also is full automation a worthwhile goal.

Inevitably a number of people will over automate and lose out.

The true thing that needs to be thought about is this, if automation can lower your base cost dramatically, it won’t be long until the prices you charge become a commodity since others will find the same opportunities to operate equally efficiently. On the other hand, differentiating is always an option. Being personal, creative, unique, and optimized in a way entirely other than cost is an option.

Delegating responsibility means delegating the value of what you do. It’s a race to the bottom.

A loss of focus

It is easy to lose focus. All that has to happen is have too many things to track enter the frame. After all, busyness can sneak up on us.

At work, it’s easy to have our task list grow until managing it efficiently is no longer possible. The important tasks getting buried in with the drudgery. Of course, it is possible to climb out, but at times it doesn’t feel like it. Sometimes without realizing it we are grasping on to things we don’t need to be. In writing, I’ve even written about Holding onto too many drafts.

The deeper I get in to my career, and my life, the more I realize focus is incredibly important. When I was young, I would lament not being able to get something going that I was interested in. The reality was I had too many interests. Now that I’m older, with a family, and a daughter with her own growing interests that I want to be a part of, I have to make decisions.

I’ve spent the last two months mostly not writing on this blog after 4 years of mostly not missing writing. The reason for that was because my career, and my family life were both struggling. I could not continue doing this and pull myself out of that. However, focus can be looked at a lot of different ways. Provided that something does leave so far out of your view that it never comes back, you can always bring it back in to focus.

That’s what I’ve done with this blog. It’s something that I will continue to do in all aspects of my life.

When you’re overwhelmed, be deliberate in what you dump from your focus, but try to remember the ones that truly are important and you need to come back to.

Money in the bank is an investment

For many people, they don’t realize all the assumptions they inherently make all around them.

When you put your money in a bank, you are actually making an investment in that bank. They take your money, hold onto 10% of it as their required reserve and then invest 90% of it in the form of mortgages, bond purchases, stock purchases, etc. The interest you are paid on your money represents a fraction of the profit they made from those investments.

There are many different alternative investments you could make:

  1. You could buy equipment to start setting up for a future business
  2. You could buy a house
  3. You could invest in stocks directly yourself
  4. You could invest in educating yourself
  5. You could buy items that you can sell when you need your cash bank

There are more items that could go on that list but you get the point. Some people forget, the best marketing you don’t even think of as marketing. “Put your money in the bank” is traditional wisdom, but that tradition was created through marketing before your were ever born.

We are about to go through a turbulent financial period. Educate yourself on how finance works because if you don’t do it, you’ll find out there are many assumptions, and more importantly risks, that you weren’t even aware existed.

P.S. Here are some things you should try to understand:

  1. What does a bank do with your deposit?
  2. What is the national debt?
  3. What is a bond?
  4. What is a mortgage-backed security?
  5. What is an asset
  6. What is a liability
  7. What are the factors that affect interest rates?
  8. How do interest influence bond prices?
  9. What is margin in the stock market?
  10. What is leverage?
  11. How much leverage is available on different asset classes?
  12. How does leverage change risk?


When I say the word, “gambler” it probably conjures up an image of a casino, a roulette table, a blackjack table, a poker shark, a horse track bettor, or some other common imagery.

It likely doesn’t conjure up a golfer, a bowler, etc.

No doubt, these are two distinct groups. One is seen as relying on chance, the other more on skill. However, those in the first group often believe they are working on skill as well.

In daily life, we are all gambling as well.

We gamble on:

  1. The job we take
  2. The spouse we choose
  3. The town we choose to live in
  4. The car we buy

All of these things may not work out the way we expect.

In some regards, everyone is a gambler, most just don’t see it. A few others do, but say they will only take gambles with the odds in their favor, others don’t even calculate the odds, they just love the thrill.

If you want to sell something to someone, they are taking a bit of a gamble the first time they work with you. The key here is to know which kind of gamble your audience is keen on taking, and frame your offer correctly so they identify it as being their type of gamble.

Bryan Cranston Hot Ones

I watched a Hot Ones episode with Bryan Cranston recently. Two bits of wisdom in acting caught my attention:

  • Audiences will cry if a character doesn’t cry easily
  • Audiences won’t laugh if a character laughs easy

The interesting thing about this is that he mentions sketch comedy and stage shows where people are in the room with you work differently. We’re engaged with them. On Saturday Night Live when an actor giggles the audience giggles.

There is a life lesson here, when you are pitching something, selling something and you are in the same room, the audience is on your side much more than a recorded webinar or video. They are along for the journey and you have their permission. They want you to succeed in whatever you are trying to sell.

On the other side of this, if you are afraid to be on the journey and live with someone, you better have prepared and create the right tension because you need more to pull people to the state you are looking to put them into.

The movies without anyone else

When we go to the movie theatre, it’s easy to believe it’s the snacks, big screen, better audio and the experience we came for.

I don’t believe this is the case at all. While the screen is big, the audio used to be much better than home theaters, today, I’m not so sure. The snacks are mostly ready made packaged goods you can pick up at the super market.

Yesterday, needing a break from my job, and the stress of the household, my gracious wife let me out for a couple hours while she watched our daughter. I went to see the Banshees of Inisherin when I purchased my ticket at the digital kiosk inside, it asked me to select my seat, and none of the seats were taken. I thought, “I wonder if I’ll be the only one?”

I proceeded to purchase my snacks and drinks and sit in the theater alone for about 10 minutes. During that period, I starting questioning myself, “Should I have come out here tonight?”

When others are in the theatre, it’s a signal and a reminder that this is the thing to do. It’s the place to be right now. Without them, the experience just doesn’t seem that different from Netflix.

At the movie theatre, we aren’t just watching the movie, we’re watching social commentary based on how others react to the movie.

Seeing a sad movie, who cried at the theatre?

Seeing a scary movie, who jumped or shrieked?

Seeing a funny movie, who laughed?

We’re watching the strangers, but often we’re learning about our friends or family who came along as well.

Going to the movies isn’t about the movie itself, it’s about society, shared experience and understanding others. The magic of movies is in the reaction of the crowd, but there has to be a crowd for that. Netflix or any other streamer service doesn’t produce the same experience at all.

Extrapolate this as needed to other industries as well. “Where can shared experience change everything?”

Why all social media devolves into the same thing.

The average person, doesn’t enjoy the “average” society.

Everyone’s interests being represented means no one’s interests are satisfied.

Social media always devolves into a mix of religion, motivation, hustle, controversy, entertainment, bragging, education and advertising at scale. Most people are only interested in a few of those, but the rest of those are forced on you in social media that serves everyone.

Consider LinkedIn. I’ve seen posts on there becoming religious, with other commenters questioning whether LinkedIn is the place for such posts. However, when you consider that there are plenty of jobs in churches or parishes, it becomes obvious that for those people, the religious nature of their posts is relevant to their careers. What the questioners are really wondering is, “Why am I seeing this? This doesn’t relate to MY career at all.” They feel it is so far outside of what they use LinkedIn for in their career that they question if it should be allowed.

Of course, as all social media naturally networks everyone, it’s easy to find things that are antithetical to our own beliefs or expectations of what we showed up expecting to find. It’s easy to lash out.

I’m not sure there is a solution to this problem. However, there is a clear thought here, audiences like things that fit their expectations.

P.S. I’ve written quite a bit about audiences before:

How do I create an adventure for my customers?

It’s not like they are just going to come along.

They need to find it:

  1. Interesting
  2. Fun
  3. Engaging

Sometimes that can be a story.

Sometimes it can be an event.

Sometimes it can be an object.

Sometimes it can be a group.

Consider the subject line: “You’re Invited: COMVEC 2023”

Now consider the subject line: “Exploring the opportunities of fuel cells”

Finally consider: “Come explore the opportunities of fuel cells”

Which one are you most likely to click or read?


I think you know the answer.

Beautiful music is played by thinking about where the fingers go next.

Thinking about the future is important.

Constantly thinking about only the present or the past doesn’t lead to the amazing sound of a beautifully executed song. We should always have our minds partly in the present, and partly in the future. The past is for reminders and learning from mistakes.

The equivalent of this is working on your business, but planning the next stage. Or doing your current job, but planning your next one. Or working on improving your life in one way, while also planning what your next improvement will be.

Of course, keeping the balance of being in the present is difficult. And having too many foci can be anxiety inducing in and of itself, but it is a skill.

If you want your life to be a beautiful symphony, working in the present, but always thinking about the next step is the way to be.

Adventures create friendships

I was reading an online post the other day about how most friends are made in the classroom.

Then there was other opinions chiming in about how work happens to offer that outlet as well.

Finally, someone mentioned that if you stick the same people in a room for long enough, they’ll eventually find they have similarities or shared interests.

I’ll take a more generalized theory, we make friends when we share adventures.

The classroom is an adventure teaching us things we never knew before. Learning the same things with other people obviously creates a shared experience that creates bonds.

Working in certain jobs at certain companies can be an adventure, that similarly leads somewhere.

Where you find adventure, you find friends.

Here are some adventures to start:

  1. A band
  2. A club
  3. A business
  4. A group trip
  5. An event

There are unlimited adventures out there, and you certainly have the option at any time to invite others on yours.

The effects of money on your dreams.

Most people dream of more money, but money itself isn’t a great dream, at least not beyond most people’s ordinary earning capacities in a country like the USA.

In fact, prior to adulthood, most people never even thought about money. Instead, there was childhood aspirations. Places to go, things to do, achievements not yet completed.

However, money has a way of changing that as an adult because money is our entire system. It’s our food, our shelter, our transportation, our warmth. It’s the medium of exchange for all of that. In a more philosophical manner, it’s our security. When all of that is on the line for your family, it always seems like more is better.

Somehow, money makes it seem like purchasing our dreams is possible. A big house. A nice car. However, money doesn’t really purchase anything significant at all. As you age and experience more of the world, you recognize how few truly amazing things are out there. Most things become humdrum if you experience enough of them, so being original is an opportunity. That originality only comes from people with dreams. The chef creating entirely new ideas of food, or playful and imaginative desserts, doesn’t need all that much money to get started. Yet, if that same person already had a $200,000 or $300,000 yearly salary, they would likely find it hard to go out and pursue their dreams because of what they would lose if it didn’t work out. Part of the salary is the price they are paying not to in fact.

There is much to be said however about living your dream first, then finding ways to monetize that. One example of that:

  • Brad and Kyle – These guys are professional bowlers. When they first went out on the professional tour, they weren’t making much money, but they were vlogging about it. Now they can sell t-shirts, online memberships and more that help fund their professional bowling lifestyle. While they are getting more seasoned and improving in the sport, it almost doesn’t matter because their viewership and fans are growing. In the future, if they wanted it they could have pro shops, coaching clinics, bowling alleys and more, which would provide far more income than professional bowling ever will. All built off their dream that they shared with others.

Often times, we think of money first, then dreams later. There are dreams that require a certain threshold of money to start, and perhaps that is okay to wait on, but we all need plans on when we have enough to pursue our dreams after that, we can figure most things out from there.

The right teacher, curriculum and pace.

Meet enough successful professionals and many will tell you, “School is a waste.”

What they really mean, is that the pacing, the classrooms and the teachers matter to the learning experience, though they don’t communicate it that way. Where this comes from is that the traditional schooling didn’t resonate with their desired methods of learning. Traditional schools have a set curriculum, set pace, and teacher’s who all generally have same background, university degrees in education.

We are seeing far more choice of this than ever before:

  1. YouTube Channels
  2. Khan Academy
  3. Podcasts
  4. Mastermind and Executive Groups
  5. Universities
  6. Community Colleges
  7. Online Courses

These all have different presentation types. They have different production qualities. They have different pacing. They come from those who have different work experiences.

As a result, the ability to learn and grow as a person is nearly unlimited, at least in relation to previous times in society. If you haven’t thought about what you need or would like to learn, how you want to learn it, and who should be doing it along side you, it’s time to do so.

ChatGPT is a better than average student

How is this possible if the average sample should produce average work?

Sample bias.

People who aren’t good at something don’t generally willingly engage in it. Or said alternatively, people who actively engage in topics or activities without being required to do so are the most likely to be highly skilled in those areas.

Taking that fact into consideration and that the internet is what fed ChatGPT it’s training data, it becomes clear that ChatGPT is likely to be better than a person chosen at random in a particular topic, however, at the moment it has several drawbacks:

1. Limited to mostly generalized topics.

2. Doesn’t know much about specific companies, people, etc.

3. Isn’t going to know much about topics that are highly technical niches mostly involving academic publications.

4. Not up-to-date. Data is from 2021 or earlier.

All that being said, ChatGPT can still be a useful ally.

Who tells the story?

When you are crafting a presentation involving many different people, a good question is who is the narrator? Who is the main character? What is the theme?

When the presentation is something more like a business presentation, these ideas that seem like they are out of a movie script are still applicable. Storytelling is storytelling nonetheless. Without a through line, themes, characters, and a guide to the story, it’s likely it won’t be super successful. Someone needs to take responsibility to tell the story, everyone else is just reacting to the plot.

The world is filled with people…

and many of those people are unaware of what others find most interesting about them, or what their own skills are really worth, or even what big things they are capable of.

The world also incentivizes and rewards people who show others what they are capable of and provides opportunities.

I’m at an event that is showcasing many different wins for a company in 2022. Dollar amounts that would make your headspin. Yet, many of the people that have won this business come from humble backgrounds.

Alternatively, last night I had a great conversation with two gentlemen, and they don’t do their work for the money alone. They have interests and passions that they pursue, much of which is enabled by the everyday jobs they have. You never know who you are talking to, but if you find the right topic, they will profess their life to you. Don’t be scared to ask.

The conference and the food

The food at a conference cannot change how good the content is. Good food, and bad presentations, is just a company dinner. However, good presentations with mediocre food at a conference misses the point.

We communicate things in a number of different ways. Some are communicated in words. Others are communicated by body language. Some are implied by society. Last but not least is the much is communicated by our actions.

The food at a conference, and the experience itself is an opportunity to say this is how we do things in this group of people. Here are items that can be communicated with no words:

  1. Punctuality.
  2. Quality standards
  3. Power and Hierarchy
  4. Transparency
  5. Planning and communicating the plan
  6. Coordination

I’m sure there are more that you can add to the list.

The important takeaway is that while a conference is about the ideas being presented, it is also about so much more. After all, how often do all these people get together, and how many opportunities do you have to convey items such as those above on such a large scale?

Make the opportunity count.

The beginner

You may feel like you’re a beginner at most things, the reality is you are likely intermediate.

If you shoot 120 a game, you are far short of pros bowling 250 a game. However, a beginner is the 5 year old who bowls a 22 with bumpers up.

If you are bad at crafting a story in your native language, you may never be a novelist, but you’re still a far cry from someone who doesn’t even know how to write.

Today was my first day in Monaco. I don’t speak French. I don’t know the customs. I didn’t know they drive on the right side of the road, I thought like most European countries they would drive on the left side.

Here is a list of some other things I’m clueless about in Monaco:

  1. How much do phone calls and data cost?
  2. How do I get up the hills here?
  3. What is the tip culture?
  4. Where can I get bottled water?
  5. Which side of a hallway should I walk along?

For a lot of communication and culture here, I’m a beginner again. Seeking a skill or experience where you are truly are a beginner is a great exercise from time to time, it keeps you humble, it grows your empathy, and it helps you grow in ways you would never expect.

All the money to the top

The PBA (Professional Bowlers Association) has a problem. Bowlers today make smaller payouts than the same tournaments 20-30 years ago. One result of this is only a handful of people make better money then run of the mill professional jobs (sales, engineers, etc.). As a direct consequence, many talented people don’t try to be professional bowlers.

I’ve pondered, “What could I do to start a competing tour to compete with the PBA?” One idea I had, run events where only 1st place pays. Concentrate all the money at the top. For example, the upcoming 2023 USBC Masters has a prize fund raising of $420,000. 1st place pays $100,000. The winner of this event every year becomes one of the top earners of the year. What if it all went to 1st place? Most bowlers have never earned $420,000 in a year. This would make it possible to have one good event and do so, but it would also remove the “grinders”, those who hang in there with smaller earnings until their skills develop and they scoop up big wins.

Is this a better way to function with all the money at the top? I’m not sure. It started out as a thought about marketing in a sport I love, but ended up as a philosophical social commentary. Think about it.

The Expected Value vs. Average Value Chasm

It’s likely that you are valuing the tasks on your plate incorrectly. In fact, even more likely you’re not even valuing something at all that is high value.

A good example is sales prospecting emails. Most get zero responses. However, it requires sales prospects to make sales. While the expected value of each individual email is zero, the average average email value is your yearly sales/emails sent out. I’d guess for most sales people that value is around $500-$1000 dollars. If you were paid that average value every time you sent one of those emails, it would be your whole day, but because you aren’t and you have to wait for one of them to turn into something, it’s easy to do less than you should.

If we all crossed this expected value to average value chasm in the right manner and to the best of our abilities while low value tasks get automated, we’d see a rising standard of living,

Battle of Relaxation

That’s one potential “Battle of Wills”.

In the sport of bowling, in competitive matches between highly skilled competitors, it often comes down to who can stay the most relaxed. That’s because when your muscles tense up, it is harder to be repetitive in your skill.

When thinking of competition, most people think of feelings like anxiety, pushing hard, and digging deep. The war analogies often pile up. However, not every competition calls for that.

Many competitions require deep thought, thinking ahead, and staying relaxed. However, it’s not often you hear a calls to stay more relaxed than the opponent, and on the rare chance you do, it’s usually in a tense, harsh tone, “C’mon guys! Relax!”.

Learning how to keep your cool when your nerves are filled with anxiety and fear, when your senses are loaded with stimulation, and when you have something on the line is a skill worth learning.

Waves, rhythm and accomplishment

Waves are cyclical, however, different waves have different amplitudes and different frequencies.

How waves combine is typically what we call “rhythm”.

Rhythm is what determines how long a particular accomplishment takes.

One example is in sales careers, there are multiple waves. Annual quotas, quarterly targets, monthly initiatives, weekly team meetings and daily conversations with customers. For most companies, for this particular career, you’ll find this rhythm. This is what produces certain accomplishment, or at least is perceived to be the right rhythm.

Everyone needs to find their own “waves” that lead them to the right pace in their life. Some different examples might be:

  1. An author – Spends 2 years writing a book, then a while touring around promoting it.
  2. A crab fisherman, out at sea during the season, then back home for a while.

The list could be endless, but I won’t go further.

Most times when people are looking for work, they are seeking jobs that match their skills, but another consideration is a job that matches your rhythm. After all, it’s likely that a job that doesn’t match your rhythm can break you faster than a job that doesn’t match your skills. Skills adapt better, rhythm is more ingrained.

Determining Audience and Offering

As the costs of individual tasks is pushed ever lower through technology and automation, one of the only things left to do is pick and audience and an offering and find combinations of tasks to be done that create value for the audience.

This seems easy, but the difficulty lies in its pure triviality. “What do I want to do?” is one of the toughest questions for just about anyone to answer for a reason.

While some think, “I’ll just do something, then I’ll figure out who will pay for it.” That mostly fails because when it comes time to figure out where you will place marketing ads, how to resonate with those people looking for what you offer, and the value they will receive from what you do, it all comes up as unanswerable.

Determining the audience and the offering is where fortunes (monetary and otherwise) are made. It’s not that doing this leads inevitably to success, but that the lack of this approach almost always leads to inevitable failure.

1 way or multi-way decisions

The world is filled with many little 1 way decisions. “What should I eat for dinner?” is a good example. However, decisions that are 1 way are simple to answer, and as such, they aren’t valued highly.

More highly valued are decisions where multiple parties are involved and each may react in a way that changes subsequent decisions down the line. If a trucking company decides to invest in lithium ion battery vehicle development, another company may decide to do so as well, then there is competition, and it’s possible that the other party entering the space changes the economics of it, possibly better, or possibly for worse.

These complex, multi-way, interparty interactions that are difficult to answer, and can never truly be “optimized” like many 1 way decisions can are where the value in the world lies.

Getting good at dealing with ambiguity, shifting environments, understanding direct and indirect assumptions and making important decisions is where leaders are made.

Can creativity make you organized, or can organization make you creative?

If you take time to craft a new style of desk that completely fits your digital stuff, your writing stuff, your notes and keeps you organized, that is an example of using creativity to make yourself organized.

If you take the time to line up your tools, your paintbrushes, your varnishes and other finishes in a woodshop, and get some new materials in, the only thing left is to think about what you want to do, with the awareness of where everything is at in order to produce the piece in your imagination, the only thing left to do is put in the creative efforts.

Creativity and organization are inextricably linked.

If you don’t think so, find a healthy person you know, one that is low on creativity, and you’ll find they are probably organized. One such person in my life that comes to mind hand recipe cards nicely written and alphabetically ordered by main dish. They would also copy a number of side dish recipes that go along with it and put it in there for multiple options. They were then sealed in pouches to prevent them from fading or getting beat up and to keep all of that particular meals variations together. While there was a lot of organization, there was a hint of creativity in there to produce such a system. I certainly wouldn’t have duplicated side recipes and put them with each main dish.

One way to go about achieving one or the other is to look at what you’re struggling with: organization or creativity, then take the one you aren’t struggling with and take it to the extreme, in the course of doing so, the other will likely activate.

The longest gap

I haven’t been in a good headspace as far as writing this blog goes. I just completed the longest gap I’ve ever had without putting up a new blog.

It was 11 days.

It felt like it was an eternity.

During that time period, I went through feeling bad about not putting up new blogs, to acceptance that I can’t do everything all the time and even wondered, “Am I done with the blog as the 4th year of writing it is coming to an end?”

Today, I didn’t expect to write something here at all, but after a single relaxing weekend without much going on, I reached the evening and there was nothing else happening, and I thought to myself, “I should write something.”

So here I am.

This story dovetails with another in my family. My parent’s current story.

They sold their business and retired in May. They were thinking about their next steps, then my mom was shortly after diagnosed with cancer, received treatment and went into remission, only for my father to get cancer and have surgery to remove a tumor.

One thing they noted, “We’re not sure how we ever had the time to work.” Since, they’ve been non-stop handling issues since retiring. They certainly are in a gap before starting their enjoyment as they work back to health.

My burnout was a combination of things crashing all around me, and writing feeling like it was the least important aspect of my life and getting dropped. However, that doesn’t mean it is unimportant to me, as at the first sign of relief, my mind decided, “It’s time to write.”

It seems to me in the world we live in, we have so much going on, that important things get crowded out. What matters is the duration that goes on for.

I missed 11 days of writing. In the grand scheme, that’s like a bad case of the flu knocking me out for a couple weeks so bad I can’t do anything.e

If I missed 11 years, that’s an entirely different problem.

Life is full of gaps and delays, but getting comfortable with that, and back to the work when possible is a skill to be learned. Finding happiness and your way back to things that comfort you is a necessity for surviving in turbulent times.

Inconsistent results

We beat ourselves up constantly, even if not realizing it.

If a professional bowler is starting to have inconsistent nights, it’s possible they think their skills are getting dull. Their physical abilities are diminishing and they are no longer at the skill level they need to be. It’s easy to think that more practice and effort is needed?

What happens if after increasing the practice and effort, the results are getting more inconsistent and worse? Do we lose all faith in ourselves?

That’s what is the most common?

What if the root of the cause was actually a worn out piece of grip tape? Causing an ever so slightly, early and inconsistent release of the ball? The increase practice wore the tape down even more exacerbating the problem.

What was the end result?

Personal blame. Self-doubt. Increased effort with decreased results.

Many times, it’s good to self-reflect on all the variables possible and where they can be changed, rather than take everything as a personal failure. If you don’t you may double, triple or quadruple your efforts without better results. If increased efforts don’t realize increased results, look at the your “tape”.

As we can do more with less…

thanks to technology, should we do less effort to product the same result?

Or should we do the same effort to produce more results?

This is the $100 Trillion Dollar sociological question of the coming century.

Here are some questions to start to frame it in your mind:

  1. Look at short from content on youtube that is essentially ads. Is 1,000 of those ads done by 1-2 people better than 1 commercial created with 1000X the production effort?
  2. As it is easier than ever to find people you need to connect with is more time spent connecting better or should that time be better spent building a relationship?
  3. What is happiness most tightly correlated with? Production? Relationships? Leisure? Health?
  4. If every system is automated, does that mean that accountability is harder to come across when something doesn’t work as intended? Doing more tasks with automated assistance lowers the accountability for each task a person has.
  5. How big of an undertaking should one person be able to orchestrate vs a government or societal decision. The billionaire space race seems like the sorts of things society should collectively decide on through government. Pioneers were valuable, but historically, you could be relatively poor and still be a pioneer. Space pioneers will have a limited pool due to the resources required

The difference in accountability

A salesperson is accountable for his quota. While this means he needs to put in a certain amount of efforts in the right place, at times success and failure may be out of control.

An engineer is responsible for delivering something that works. While he needs to stay up on new technologies and troubleshoot issues, at times success and failure may be out of control.

Both are accountable for different parts of a project. Both have items that can slip out of control. Both should seek to minimize that part which is out of their control.

Success only comes by finding who you are.

This post is going to use anecdotes from sales training, but I’m not talking just about sales success. I’m talking more generally about success in any field. Success is derived by finding who you are and leaning into it deeply.

I was in a sales training recently, and I’ve been a number of them in the past as well, and while some have a few nuggets, in general, they seem to be self-perpetuating. Each training tries to shoehorn people into a mold. Then they try to get salespeople who don’t fit that particular training’s mold to use their methodology, and often it makes many people in the class seem like far worse salespeople than they actually are. This is because success comes by finding who you are.

Sticking to the sales analogy before I change to a more broad perspective, different sales reps may have different styles:

  1. Someone may be conversational and good at asking questions and finding issues that a customer has.
  2. Another salesperson maybe good at finding an industry-wide problem and preparing a pitch for it.
  3. Another could be good at making friends in target accounts, building relationships and getting people comfortable with calling them when they need something.
  4. Another could be amazing at crafting deals financially that makes sense for everyone.
  5. Another could be highly technical in their knowledge of the product and wins by being a trusted advisor.
  6. Another could be good at crafting solutions that cross boundaries and use multiple tools which are often less competitive

A salesperson could be combination of those types.

However, each one of those on its own can be effective. While training someone to add more depth to their toolset never hurts, each person knowing which category they fall into and how to bring them together is an important step to success.

When it comes to more general success in life, the idea is the same. You need to know your style of working, and things that interest you as well as your skills to pick the work that makes sense, that you can be successful at. If you’re not a good communicator, you may need work that can be delivered alone. If you are a great manager, you need to find a way to get leadership positions.

The struggle is that sometimes we are skilled in things we don’t value. You may be a good manager, but don’t like having power over people. This is why self-discovery is so important.

The brain vs the body

A great writer is likely better at 50 than at 25. The opposite is likely true for a professional athlete.

The brain, if properly taken care of and exercised can exceed the longevity of the body.

This is true for a couple reasons:

  1. The body is subject to mechanical wear. Pushing it hard, damages it.
  2. The brain forms new connections and changes in response to its usage. This is called neuroplasticity. The body isn’t as adaptable.

If you’re worried you missed your shot when you were young, that was just the opportunities represented by your body (athlete, dancer, etc), there are still plenty of opportunities presented by your brain left waiting to be explored.

Watching someone miss again and again

I recently saw a video clip of someone trying to kick a soccer ball through a hole slightly bigger than the ball. It had dozens of kicks assembled together. all missing the mark by just a tiny amount.

It seemed obvious that the video would end with excitement of finally making it through the goal and solidifying the athletes kick accuracy.

However, the obvious doesn’t always happen.

As I watched the video, and then sat there realizing it was a clip of all misses, the human bias, or at least the healthy human bias, towards optimism seemed apparent. The athlete was optimistic he would reach a skill level to achieve this. I was optimistic I would see him do so in the clips.

Two things are clear takeaways:

  1. If you are doing the work and getting close, but missing just slightly everyone will believe your success is just around the corner.]
  2. Even repeated failure can capture someone’s attention. Even possibly in a positive manner.

For item #2 above, it didn’t seem to me that his constant misses signified poor skill. The goal was ambitious in being only a fraction bigger than the soccer ball itself. Getting so consistently close still made him seem skilled.

We don’t always have to succeed to show our skill, but we always have to make attempts to show it.

Splitting the audience or aggregating a new one.

When you are seeking to serve an audience, you are either splitting an existing one, or aggregating a new one.

This is in time with the political election that just happened. If two political candidates go after the same target audience, they split that audience, and make it easier for someone else to step and win by serving a different audience. This is the equivalent of starting a business in an existing market, you are seeking to split the market and gain a share for yourself.

In an alternative, you can aggregate a new market. If you came up with a new invention that served mining companies, manufacturing companies and chemical companies, you can aggregate those markets into a new one for your audience.

Each methodology takes a different approach and reaches a different amount of people.

As time goes by, if you pay attention carefully, you can see the cycles of this aggregating and splitting of markets happening time and time again.

The age of the unlikely

That is the age we are living in.

With the ability to capture an experience, photograph, video, sound recording, on-demand, the only things that stand out any more are the highly improbably.

On YouTube, you can see examples of this:

  1. Trick pool shots that likely required 100s of takes.
  2. Videos of animals in the wild doing extraordinary things and timed just perfectly.
  3. Unusual defects of items.

It’s likely that if you are looking for interesting, something that is highly improbable, but succeeds is a good place to start.

Knowing the language of the room

If you are in a room, and they are speaking a foreign language you haven’t studied, it’s much harder for you to distinguish key takeaways than someone who knows the language that you didn’t understand.

This extends far beyond literal languages. In almost every major business conversation, there is a pseudo-language. Acronyms, abbreviations, terminology and concepts that define specific industries are common. If you don’t understand the language of the room, it will be hard to have the right takeaways.

It’s likely that you will always be missing some part of the language, after all, even in your native tongue, it’s likely you’ll hear a new word from time to time. The trick is you need to have enough common ground with those you are talking to in order to be productive.

What happens when you don’t know the language, how should you proceed?

  1. Make it clear what you don’t understand, and don’t pretend you do have the knowledge that you don’t. Someone in a foreign country may still order breakfast if the restaurant understands their struggle and helps them, but it does no good to pretend to know the language and instead spit out gibberish.
  2. Study as much as you can. Learn some common lingo and pickup the more specific stuff along the way.
  3. Meet with people who speak the language often. You only learn it by speaking it more often.

Those 3 points can get you where you want to go.

Background + Conflict

Those two components are the basics of a story.

Background sets the tone, rules, environment, age, etc.

Conflict shows the forces at play and the means they use to play out.

Conflict without background = suspense

Background without conflict = exposition/introduction

Sometimes you want to tell the full story, other times you want to create suspense or introduce people to something that they can use for their own personal battles. Use appropriately.

Regular Scheduled Programming

It used to seem that nothing was on TV. That the regularly schedule programming SUCKED. When streaming services for shows and movies came along, it seemed like freedom. How wonderful to find something new and amazing and put it on at your schedule!

Now, I have no TV and only streaming services and moving into a busier stage of life with more work and family responsibility, I yearn for the regularly scheduled programming!

There are a few reasons for this phenomenon:

  1. When streaming was new, the list was full of good stuff I hadn’t seen, now, not so much, especially as new streaming services arrive looking for exclusive licensing for popular titles.
  2. I’m now making more decisions in my life than ever before. Decision-making fatigue is real. I would enjoy being surprised with something randomly good coming on, or even just something familiar that I didn’t have to actively search my mind for.
  3. The excitement of waiting for another episode has been lost. Anticipation isn’t a thing anymore. It’s short-lived when a new series drops, followed by a quick burst of watching, then disappointment that new episodes are 12 months away.

Thinking on this, there is more room for any marketer out there to understand that this phenomenon goes beyond movies. Selections in every category have risen dramatically. Curating, and creating regularly scheduled programming that someone can tune into, or that feels familiar is a way to win the attention of others out there.

Swinging between life and death…

or romance and boredom…

or rich and poor…

or fun and seriousness…

or creative and dull…

or success and failure…

are all things people use to make themselves feel something. Not all people swing through all of these, nor does everyone seek to swing back-and-forth in the same amplitudes, but rarely do you find someone who seeks stability in all these items. Instead we have romantics, gamblers, thrill seekers, artists, and achievement seekers.

You can understand someone better by the things they hold constant and the things the states they fluctuate between.

91 weeks

I just heard a new record was broken.

The record was “Most consecutive weeks charting” for a song.

91 weeks was the timeframe. The past record was 90 weeks. That’s 21 months.

Think about all of the songs out there. None of them have ever maintained mass popularity for even two years, still some were mass successes.

What are some reasons for this:

  1. Musical artists make many songs, they move on from marketing the same song over and over again in order to create the next hit
  2. Tastes change and people grow bored
  3. Music can have a mood that may be dependent on the time of year, or even location

Your success might be fleeting. There is always the next thing you can do. Everything needs someone to get attention to it, even if it is only for 91 weeks, or likely much less.

Sub-zero and Scorpion.

If you were into gaming in the early ’90s, you may know the names in the title. They are characters in the game Mortal Kombat. With a dozen or more versions of Mortal Kombat made over the last 30 years, they are now unique characters, but in the very first version, they were nearly identical with just a color swap and a differentiated move set. This made producing the game cheaper since it didn’t require an entirely new character to be made.

Today, these two characters are the most popular in Mortal Kombat history. Something that started as an idea to lower costs developed into the most popular characters in the game. Less can be more.

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.