1000 monkeys…

as the saying goes, “…with a 1,000 typewriters can produce Shakespeare if given enough time.”

It’s possible that’s true. In fact, I believe that most of the famous people we call “creative” are people with high standards and dedication who continuously create work, throw at the bad stuff, and polish the good ones.

With that in mind, it’s possible 1000 monkeys can produce incredible work eventually, the problem is “Whose going to read all the garbage on the way to finding the good stuff?”

Once you realize the answer to that question you can start to do the real work. If you want to be “creative” you’re going to read the garbage. You’re going to figure out what is wrong with it. You’re going to improve it. Over time there is less garbage and more polish.

In this way, the way we write stories, the way we produce art, they way we invent new products, it’s not likely that we can replace this with technology. Technology can only produce in the same manner as the monkeys, but it takes someone to decide which is good and which is bad.

Who owns the “best”…

and why is it so crowded with articles online? Of course I’m referring to if you search “The best <insert any noun here>”.

Most people want to serve the mass audience. So owning the idea of the “best” anything is appealing.

Think about the best pizza. What does that really mean?

Is it the right selection of toppings?

Is it the right ingredients in the sauce?

Is it the right cheese blend?

What about the dough?

What about the cook time?

How crispy is it?

How charred is it?

Is it oily or floured?

Is it thick or thin?

It’s pretty laughable to think that there is an idea of a general “best” when it comes to pizza. There could be the crispiest. The sweetest possibly.

In reality, even pizza is so complex, with so many variables, that the idea of the “best” doesn’t really apply. The “best” to each person is a complex series of tradeoffs that most people couldn’t properly communicate anyway. It’s just “what they like”.

That’s why owning the “best” isn’t a great goal. Much better is to figure out how you are going to be different and own that instead.

Pizza, Possibility and Probability.

Pizza is full of possibility. If you really look, there are endless varietes. There is different crust recipes, thickness, doneness and ways of cooking. Different cheese blends. Different sauce recipes. Different topping types. This is all possibility.

Yet, under all of this is probability. Once a desired pizza is on the menu and ordered, there is a probability of how it will turn out. There is always variables in the rise time of the dough, the heat of the oven, the water content of the vegetables and the skill of the cook.

Pizza is so common that most people can probably relate to this. You have your favorite pizza order, the possibility that most resonates with you, then you have the probability that it comes out the way you like it. We’ve likely all had that one pizza that wasn’t it’s normal crisp, or the one that was overcooked.

It’s often that we find people working in one area of this. Some people focus primarily on possibility. Where can we show up? Where can we find new opportunity? Where can we create something entirely new? Generally, society calls this creativity.

Others focus on probability. How can I be more efficient? How can I increase the odds? How can I hack the system in order to get the best results every time?

Of course, there is no chicken or the egg here. Possibility comes first, then probability follows it. Eventually, when the probability of a great product being produced every time comes around, usually someone comes in with a new possibility that shatters expectations and the cycle begins again.

There is a tension between the possibilities that can be created and the probabilities they can be executed successfully. For those that see this tension, it’s always worth investigating where your focus should lie on the spectrum for your current efforts at the current time.

Where the brain stops having immediate ideas…

That’s the hard work.

It’s likely the important work too.

What I’m talking about is that it’s often assumed that “If you make it they will come” but if it ever was true, it’s not today. There is too much noise. So figuring out how to cut through that noise is a skill.

We make our product or provide our service. And yet the people do not come because they don’t know what we do.

So we make our marketing. And yet the people do not read our website or read our flyers because they don’t know they are there.

So we make an attention-getter so that they know we are there. And yet, that only works on a few people.

So we make a different attention-getter to get a few more different kinds of people.

And this attention-getting work never stops.

Unfortunately, this is hard work. Ask most people to write a social media post, and they could put something down. Ask people how to get attention to it, and half of them will have no answer at all. Their brain stops having immediate ideas.

This is a sign that you are working on both something difficult, and likely something worth doing. You are working on the next level of complexity. The reason we see so many people making noise, being pushy, and not being kind with their attention-getting is because it is so hard. It’s already taxing on the mind to figure out ways to do it, adding more constraints on being polite, being generous makes it even harder.

Difficulty doesn’t mean it’s not worth doing, in fact it is usually precisely the opposite. Take the challenge and run with it.

Plan in the physical world, produce in the digital world

The world is filled with people doing work on computers. That’s just the day and age we live in. However, often I find myself searching from something more in the digital world, thinking I’ll find whatever inspiration it is I’m looking for.

However, it’s just not there. Sitting at the computer all day when you don’t have a specific task in front of you is a bad idea in my eyes. Better to leave the computer and do some deep thinking. Here are some thoughts you could think about away from the keyboard:

  • Who or what kind of person could add something to this project?
  • Where are the people that I serve showing up in the physical world?
  • What is the value I’m trying to provide on this project?
  • Who can I have a conversation with to clarify my thoughts?
  • How can I get the results I’m looking for in a more efficient manner?

These are broad questions that need time and thought. It’s worth stepping away from the computer to answer them or think about them.

The Next Level of Complexity

What happens when a creative industry gets packed with skilled people?

It becomes impossible to stand out by just being the best on the normal axes.

That’s because there are so many people available to do that work at a high level as things become more scientific. Learning the science is much more scalable than when it was art, which was only mastered by a handful.

The result of the crowding is that standing out for those participating must do so by reaching the next level of complexity and skill.

Story was once an oral tradition. Then with the invention of writing people were able to craft, tweak and share amazing works of literature with a wider audience. Today, there are more books than we can read. Go to a library, try to find any one book that stands out to you. While you may find one, if you were a writer, what is the chance that would have been your book selected?

There is now the opportunity to embed videos in a digital writing. There is now opportunity to put in music over a digital writing. There is the ability to add depth of emotion and timing by narrating it in the form of an audiobook that is downloadable from just about anywhere. These are newer developments in the world of literature and they are the next level of complexity adding so many new possibilities to add to the experience. Possibly requiring a team of people to achieve the full, desired effect.

There are other industries reaching this stage:

  • Automotive
  • Space Exploration
  • Music
  • E-mail marketing

And those are just a few off the top of my head.

The internet made just about every industry more crowded by raising awareness for the existence of smaller brands. The next level of complexity being needed to differentiate is a direct result of that.

Architects were historians

Once upon a time, the science of determining the strength of a building didn’t exist. Architects didn’t push boundaries much unless they were asked to by a king or some other wealthy merchant. As a result, Architects of the past all study the great works like the Pantheon, the Parthenon, and the Coliseum. There are others too, those are just what we are familiar with.

Flash forward to 1889 and the completion of the Eiffel tower, the first wide scale use of highly scientific structural engineering principles, and from that day forward, architecture was changed forever. Architecture was no longer about know what came previously because that didn’t matter. Predicting the behavior of an entirely new design was possible. History didn’t hold us down, and the pace of change accelerated far beyond the rate it changed at in the millenia before.

Taller buildings.

Bigger domes.

More open spans.

Curved shapes.

All of this enabled through understanding.

The Architect was released from his shackles and transformed deeper into artistry and further from historian.

This is how many industries function. Complex. Full of applications, but lacking in a depth of understanding. Then, little by little, discoveries are made. Until one day there is an analytical science in the field. After that, we’re no longer bound by the empiricisms of the past. The future is unbounded from the past.

This is happening all around us today in so many fields. Keep vigilant because if you are a historian when the world is looking for artists, you’re not going to like what happens next.

Everywhere I look I see fear.

Of course, most of the places I’m looking are online.

This is intentional of course. Fear is what our brains are wired for. Someone without fear likely doesn’t live very long. Fear keeps us safe.

What about when safety isn’t the goal?

Does fear keep us healthy?

Does fear keep us excited?

Does fear keep us happy?

Does fear keep us free?

Does fear keep us connected?

The answer to those are highly dependent on the situation, but in general, for all of them, I would say, “No. Not as a general rule.”

Fear keeps us distracted, focused on items someone else wants us to worry about, but not our own opportunities, our own happiness, our own lives.

The ironic part is that having this conversation with certain individuals, it becomes clear that when they think they are living without fear, they are simply living with a different fear.

Here’s a recent example:

Vaccines. A group I know is telling people to stop living in fear of the coronavirus. We don’t need the vaccine. These same people have their attention captured by the fear of the vaccine and big government. It’s a different fear than those who are worried about the health aspect, but a fear nonetheless. Breaking this wheel of fear is a major part of leadership. History has had trying times before, but we also had leaders. People who weren’t in feedback loops listening to polls and social media comments. People who were trying to steer instead of surfing on the popular sentiment. I won’t pretend to act as if I know the solution to the predicament mentioned, merely that both sides are presenting opposing fears that fight each other.

The Great Depression was a trying time. I recently read FDR’s first inaugural address and am in awe of how much of this needs to be repeated today, just as we are reaching the point in time that just about everyone who was alive when he said it is gone.

“…the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” is true more now than ever. If we could cast aside the fears, then perhaps we could talk. When both sides think that giving in means the literal end, no real conversation can be had. Fear stops the solutions. I’m not sure what to do about it, but one thing is for certain, we need inspiration now more than ever. The difference between FDR’s era and today, is that you don’t need to be president to call for unity. Everyone can do it in their own micro-communities.

P.S. I highly recommend reading the 1st inaugural address of FDR yourself: https://www.americanrhetoric.com/speeches/fdrfirstinaugural.html

Where is the chaos?

If you’re looking to provide a service that is valuable, one question that is great to ask is “Where is the chaos?”

Chaotic things are by their nature not things that people like to handle.

Judging a group of people against each other is chaotic. Ranking their skills via testing is an opportunity for a service.

Designing and building a kitchen is chaotic. Kitchen remodeling is a big industry.

Figuring out where to find customers online for a business is chaotic. Social media management is one of the fastest growing industries.

Where there is chaos, there is opportunity. If you’re know that you’re looking for opportunities, one of the things you need to ask is “Where is the chaos?”

Fast or Heavy

Last night I was watching a video on musical theory. One thing that came to mind while watching two different riffs being created was that music can be “fast” or “heavy”, but it can’t be both.

This is a good analogy for life. We can do things fast, take every shortcut, skip anything that doesn’t matter immediately in the here and now, or we can do things that are heavy, strong, that make an impact and last. That requires moving slower, thinking ahead, prepping for tomorrow today. It also involves taking on a bit of faith that the seeds you are planting will match the visions you have of them when they finally blossom and mature to full-size and that all the extra effort is more than worth it in the future.

It’s possible to be either fast or heavy, but not both. You could switch at some point, but that requires attention and the realization that you have to decide which one is worth it.

Fast or heavy, it’s your decision.

The tension of urgency and patience.

In commenting on Twitter to a reader of my blog, I wrote what is the essence of this post, which is this:

“Urgency and patience are in a constant tension for anyone seeking to do something meaningful.”

Tasks require urgency. I can’t imagine a diner waiting 4 hours for their food. I can’t imagine someone waiting 15 minutes for a price check at the supermarket. I can’t imagine someone waiting a week for a call back after looking for legal services. All of these are tasks, and they require a quick reaction.

Goals and achievements require patience. Starting a business. Gaining a following. Writing and promoting a book. These all require thousands of tasks to be completed. A huge amount of steps. The individual tasks while urgent, take time to complete. Patience is a must to get through it all.

I’ve found that most young people, including myself in the past, don’t have the right balance of this. They either have the patience and fail to take action on the tasks necessary to achieve their goals, or they have the urgency on the tasks, but not the patience to wait for the big payoff. In fact, on the extreme end of urgency you’ll find neuroticism, and on the extreme end of patience you’ll find associations with laziness. It’s natural to be that way when younger, the world hasn’t yet moved us to the middle. These aren’t ingrained in us entirely and can be changed even if we naturally gravitate towards one end of the spectrum, but it requires effort and experience to do so.

Think about your natural tendencies and calibrate as needed.

Thank you to Clare for the inspiration based on her comments: https://twitter.com/ClareMingins

Difference is the engine of the world.

Take the Stirling Engine. The engine is able to stay in motion due to a temperature difference. As the piston heats up it expands, the air inside it cools it down as a result, lowering the pressure. Then, the wheel brings the piston back down compressing the air in the piston, which heats it up along with the added heat the pressure increases and pushes the piston back up again. These heat and pressure differences make the engine work away until the temperature difference weakens or disappears and frictional losses build up to stop the wheel.

In the same way:

  • The differences between peoples’ skills create the economy.
  • The difference of peoples’ perception of value create markets.
  • The difference of peoples’ tastes, create culture.
  • The difference of peoples’ culture creates politics.
  • The difference in politics creates conflicts.
  • Conflict creates the opportunity to learn new skills, change perceptions of value, update tastes, shift culture and change politics, making tomorrow different and starting the cycle over again.

P.S. In this regard, conflict doesn’t have to mean violence. It can simply mean a tension between ideas that grows until the equilibrium breaks. Sometimes that results in violence and that’s not what we want. Most times, the world shifts and we just don’t recognize it as being newsworthy, but it happens consistently and continuously.

The ability pyramid

  • Disabled – Not in reference to the medical status, simply that they are incapable of working yet. A toddler may fall in this category.
  • Able-bodied – Able to perform labor as directed
  • Learning-abled – Able to learn new things and skills
  • Skilled – Able to work without direction to accomplish a valuable task
  • Expert – Able to train others to do skilled work
  • Strategy/Visionary – Able to coordinate teams of people to accomplish lofty goals in your area of expertise
  • Organizer – The ability to rally people to a cause and get everyone aligned on goals, outcomes, expectations and responsibilities

I put this list together based on my own life experience. Starting from the bottom, I worked in a pizza kitchen, then as an intern/Architectural Draftsman in high school. Then I went to college to become skilled in engineering. I worked in that realm and gained some expertise, starting to train others. In two different ways, I’ve moved into the last groups, but I’ll talk more about that a different day.

In my opinion, going through all of these levels is a valuable set of life experience. In fact, most people are outraged by or envious of the kids born to wealthy families, who are well-connected who seem to skip all the rungs except maybe the last two. However, that’s a trap. As easy as it is to see the privilege, it’s equally hard to see the liability. If someone has expertise and fails at the strategy level, they can always fall back to the expert level and likely still have a viable career. In some cases, when the privileged fail, squander, or risk something they shouldn’t have, they don’t have the previous rungs to fall to. There is a much bigger fall coming.

If you think it’s unfair that other opportunities are handed to people, there is a shortcut in life for anyone to follow. Skip straight to being an organizer. No one has to ask. No one has to tell you what to do. See something that needs to be done, that’s valuable, and organize the people to create it, provide the service, market it, sell it, whatever else. Then no one is your boss. You created the value from nothing by organizing people. Learning to skilled to expert to strategy is almost always the same progression. The only one that offers a different path is that any time you can choose to become an organizer and find all the people you need at the other levels to do what needs to be done. Even organizing financing if you don’t have the money to do this project or business is a skill.

The world always needs more organizers. If you’re tired of putting in job applications, perhaps it’s time to start writing job descriptions.

P.S. You can be an internal organizer at a company, or an entrepreneur, or a non-profit organizer. There is a huge demand for people to organize the actions of others to achieve something meaningful.

Are we behind?

It’s easy to be behind schedule. To not meet the ship date. To not complete the kitchen remodel on a certain date.

In life, or in a bigger vision of things, it’s not particularly possible to be behind.

Escaping that feeling was the most freeing mental constraint I ever had on myself.

There is no timeline for our lives. It’s all arbitrary. Smelling the roses is great. If it sets you back a day, but makes you happy, then it’s an easy tradeoff.

Patience favors those who are willing to train it as a skill. You always arrive where you need to be in life at exactly the time you’re supposed to.

The thing about art…

is that most people don’t know where to begin with it.

I’m not even talking about the techniques. I’m talking about the subject matter.

“What should I paint?” Is a more common struggle than, “How should I paint it?”

The reason that most people struggle is because the world is infinite in scope. As a result, there isn’t any criteria to be applied, and the decision becomes enormous.

Of course, CREATIVES (emphasis because this implies it takes someone special, rather than committed) understand that I can paint this subject today, and tomorrow I’ll have the opportunity to do a different one. Over time, they’ll find a subject matter they like, that matches with their skill and resonates with their audience.

If you are in the business of creativity, this is an opportunity. My wife as an example is an interior designer. Her clients often say “I don’t know where to start.” That’s because they can start with furniture, flooring, lighting, décor, paint, it can be this room, that room, the kitchen. It feels overwhelming. Having someone come in and say “This is where to begin.” is soothing even if that person is making an arbitrary decision. They are sharing what is needed to get the client to start “painting” or whatever the art they are waiting to start is.

Creating art is about putting down the lines in the sand and setting the stage to build on. It’s valuable to be someone who shows up and says “This is what’s possible, and start showing others.”

NASA vs. Industry

There is a belief that free-enterprise is ALWAYS more efficient than government.

In my opinion, NASA shows that to not necessarily be true.

Free enterprise is better at short-term productivity. Sacrificing the long-term for getting things done in the here and now. Which is fine as long as we can recognize that to be the case.

If you go to NASA’s website, you can wade through and find piles of research and even lessons learned. They are all searchable and neatly organized. Having built such a thorough library, knowledge can be shared efficiently from one project to the next. When you are working on large enough projects, it’s incredibly important economically and for productivity to not produce the same errors you did previously.

I’ve been into hundreds, possibly thousands of companies, and nearly none of them had great documentation for best practices, standards, or lessons learned. The worst of them said, “It’s all in our senior people’s head.” For the best it was, “We have them scattered in disparate places. A collection of different improvement projects from different leaders over time.”

The long-term knowledge sharing never became a priority. There was too much to be done now.

After a conversation like this it always makes me wonder, “Why can NASA be so good at this, while free enterprise falls flat?”

I come up with a few answers:

  • Not having to be focused on the bottom line every minute, hour, day, week or month allows NASA to invest in the long-term. These items would only be expenses on the balance sheet of a private company weighing it down from getting loans, paying people more, showing larger profits, getting outside investment or even going public.
  • It’s much more likely NASA is going to be around for decades or centuries since it is backed by the government. No one knows the lifetime of a private company. It can be smashed by competition. It can be ran incompetently. It can be purchased. The founder can die and leave no one to run it. There is just so much that makes the life of it shorter than a government agency that it’s possible taking the time to do all that work won’t pay off if you don’t stay in business long enough to benefit.

There is a definite lesson to be learned here about being committed to something even in private industry. When you are committed, you can invest in the long-term more than a competitor who isn’t. If you pick an industry and build a business that you know you will stay in for 40+ years, you shouldn’t run that business the same as someone looking to start, grow and then sell a business in a 5 year time span. What you can do if your committed is pay people more to find better talent who help grow things more, document more, build better practices. You can invest in training people, developing them, and give them room to grow as people. You can provide whitespace in people’s schedules in order for them to improve the company.

There is value in long-term thinking, but it’s not often seen because rarely do we find people who are in it for the long-term. Most are in it for the short-term, some renew their lease over and over again, and a tiny few start with the vision to stay for decades.

Can you exercise empathy?

Certainly, you can.

Donating your time to listen to others dealt a bad hand in life? Exercising empathy.

Helping those others turn their situations around? Exercising empathy.

Understanding why someone is upset at you even when you haven’t done anything wrong? Exercising empathy.

Here’s the flip side: if you can exercise it, it also means that it can atrophy and get weaker. That means that coasting on good deeds from a decade ago, doesn’t mean that you are still the same person. The muscle can weaken.

Perhaps the internet is the worst place to see this, but it seems apparent that exercising empathy isn’t a practice in most people’s routine, as a result there is a deficit of it in the world.

If someone is in a bad place career-wise not seeing a way to provide for themselves or their family and no path out of their situation, what does a politician do? Call them a communist for wanting more social programs. That’s easy. No energy. No empathy require. It ignores where the current system failed them, or why they can’t see the opportunities that exist. It ignores having a conversation and giving them a different view to think about.

If someone disagrees with you, it’s easy to say “You don’t know what you’re talking about.” Of course, it’s possible that you don’t know what that person has studied, been involved in, or whose experience has shown them something that disagrees with your experience.

The amazing thing about being empathetic in all your engagements is that if you do it long enough, with enough energy and consistency, the world around you starts to shift into the kind of place you want it to be. Not the whole world, but your world. This is measured in years, not days. The opposite is to think that having no empathy is “efficient”. That it takes much less energy to insult someone for their beliefs and to think that doing so achieves what you want. That’s an entirely false worldview. We can see this in areas where there are riots. We can see this in polarized elections. We can see this in communities where group brawls are taking place in the streets. This isn’t “efficient”. This doesn’t get what anyone wants. It’s merely a momentary release of dissatisfaction in the most damaging way possible.

In certain areas online you’ll find people arguing about socialism vs. capitalism. Insulting each other in terrible ways. I won’t link to it because I don’t want to promote it. At the core of the debate of both of these systems is empathy and who is in charge. Whichever has the most empathy wins. If the majority of business owners in a capitalist system use empathy to share profits fairly with employees who can then buy homes, have healthcare, and save for retirement or invest in their own business down the line, then there is a feeling of faith in that system. If not, then an alternative becomes more desirable.

You can take this methodology to nearly any socioeconomic issue and the same will be true. Where there is empathy there is faith. Where there is a lack of it, there is distrust. As a society, when looking at our empathy muscle, we are at our weakest. It’s time to start working out. That takes each person exercising our muscle to understand each other. To withhold initial judgment. To have a conversation in uncomfortable areas. To take a slow path to changing your world.

It’s inside of everyone to have empathy and make the world better, but like working out, it’s best to start small.

What’s something you can do today to make a person’s day just a little better?

Working amongst a group of strangers.

This is a modern phenomenon.

I don’t mean total strangers. I mean you didn’t grow up around these people your entire life. You have no idea what they were like as children. You have no idea all the people they dated. You don’t know what awards they won in school, or their grades necessarily.

You only know the work they do.

If you contrast this with the agriculture economy of a couple hundred years ago, this is a significant shift. Those people lived, worked, and knew each other their entire lives. Then factories developed, and organizations started to develop around skillsets. Rather than a group of people who was in a certain area geographically, people started to rearrange around skillsets. The right set of skills, in the right building, and the production of an amazing amount of quality goods became possible. Today, we’re continuing the trend of nimbleness, which is the ability to reorganize “on-demand”. That may not mean instantly, but with remote technologies and automation, if you need to change an organization to produce new goods, you can rebuild with new skillsets at low costs since relocation isn’t necessary as often as it was in the past.

This is an inflection point. We’ve lifted several constraints off of what companies were capable of even a couple years ago. People can now quit a job in Atlanta, and start a job in California. In a day or so after they are released. Think about the logistics of that previously:

  • Get your house in order (Painted, fix issues, etc.)
  • List house for sale
  • Find place to store your stuff
  • Find new house
  • Drive/have stuff delivered across country
  • Move-in/Unpack

That’s a lot of things to do. Things that take a lot of time. I didn’t even include possible flights back and forth to find the place to live. This was likely a months long endeavor and you really couldn’t be effective for the company until you were done with the place you were currently living and in the location they needed to be in. Now, you can start working remotely, even if long-term they need you in the office.

This is going to up the pace that people switch organizations as geography becomes a smaller reason to stick with where you’re at. Working amongst a group of strangers will feel even more true.

If that scares you, here’s the opportunity:

Strangers don’t have a prejudice of your skills based on your history. Think about your parents, it’s likely they don’t see you as smart, as capable, or as successful as you actually are. Mostly because they were around every time you did dumb things in your life. Those memories of moments of stupidity hold them back from seeing you as you are in the current moment. Same with your current company, you’ve been there for some years, and done some great work and developed in your skills, but you definitely made some mistakes, misspoke a few times and possibly angered people on occasion. While you may be respected, those past issues still hold them back from seeing the current you who is better than the past one.

Working with strangers brings a struggle of communication. No one knows how to talk as well when they haven’t worked together for a period of time, but it also brings the amazing opportunity of no past prejudices, just the skills you have today and the work to be done. I’m interested in what the future holds and how products and services will change based on this phenomenon. One thing is certain, the opportunities we all have are different today. It’s worth recognizing and thinking about.

New, Hot and Controversial.

Those are how certain sites like Reddit sort things on the internet.

Of course, which you prefer starts to create a viewpoint on the world.

Someone who sorts by “new” can see many different pieces of content, each allowing them to develop a different and unique view on the world.

Someone who sort by “hot” can see what is popular. They can become in tune with pop culture.

Someone who sorts by “controversial” can see what gets people going. They can learn how to push people’s buttons. They also will likely see the most extreme arguments at the fringes.

These three seemingly innocuous choices can change your worldview significantly. It’s worth choosing wisely, even if it seems like a decision you don’t need to make.

Telling to find what resonates

I’ve mentioned “Show, don’t tell” many times on this blog including yesterday’s post. Despite this, the blog is full of “telling.” Isn’t that hypocritical?

Not really.

I’ve put together a handful of articles where I “show” more than tell. And all the “telling” isn’t a waste. If something resonates in the telling, then it will blow minds in the showing.

Since there is such a huge gap in the effort needed to show vs. tell, telling creates leverage in the lesser effort needed to find the proper topics that people need to understand and resonate with. This is really no different than the physical advantage that comes from a lever to move a heavy object. Less force required to move the object. The object in this case just happens to be someone’s worldview. Using this methodology, once you find the proper topics, you can then put in the proper effort to show people what they need to understand it expanding the range of the audience who can be influenced by it.

If you spent all the time producing high-quality content that really illustrates your points, you will invest a significant amount of time and will become highly demoralized if those topics weren’t popular after that much energy put into them. Telling fills that gap. Not to mention, by doing the writing or speaking, you are building the future outline for what needs to be illustrated. If you can’t clearly write or speak about a topic, your changes of clearly illustrating are near zero.

“Show don’t tell” is still a great axiom, but it works best after figuring out what is really important and needs to be shown. Telling is a path to getting there.

Dash Cams

I’ve written about Dash Cams before, and how envious of an industry they are in.

Everything that the dash cams themselves do is “Show, don’t tell.” For generations, in court following an accident both parties had to tell what happened. Now, a dash cam can show what happened. As a result, in the marketing for dash cams you can also show others what happened and it’s powerful.

Showing will always be more powerful than telling, however, the struggle is that showing nearly always takes more effort and preparation than telling. Most times it’s at least an order of magnitude, but it can be several more orders of magnitude. After all, a Pixar movie is a significant effort. They could tell you the story in after crafting it for a short period of time, but producing the imagery, looks of characters, sounds, and everything else is an enormous undertaking. Yet, all of that effort has produced amazing results for Pixar.

Long story short, showing is a significant investment, but it pays off because of the power it contains. If you can create a system that constantly shows its value with little human action needed, you’ll have a powerful source of marketing for the future. Those dash cam companies don’t know how good they have it!

Art vs. Science

It seems like everyone in the world constantly tries to define the difference and the overlap between these two.

I myself have written various definitions, distinguished between the two, and tried to get people to understand that what they often think of as science, like chemistry can have an artistic component to it and how things are discovered and how breakthroughs are made.

While things they think of as art, perhaps something like baking, can have a significant science component to it.

For me, I’ve finally nailed down the simplest definition I can think of. If it can be done perfect, it’s a science. If there is no such thing as perfect for what you are doing, it’s art.

Is there such a thing as managing your finances, perfectly? No. What would that even mean, spending no money? Therefore, it’s the art of finance.

Can you bake a cake to the perfect doneness? Not too dry, not under cooked? Yes. Then that part is the science of baking.

Art = perfection isn’t possible.

Science = perfection is the goal

I’m in a dip.

Seriously.

Like a mental dip.

I don’t know what to write about at the moment AND it feels like I never even had anything to write about up until now.

Reading my stuff in August, the physical analogy would be being on a treadmill and getting tired but still managing to fall to the next step even if barely able to keep going. AND THAT’S OKAY!

The reason I’m writing this is because eventually it’ll be easy to look back years from now and say, “Oh yea, I just did the work,” forgetting that there were periods of struggle, while just a couple weeks into a dip and it already feels like I can’t write much more, and that I never had anything to say at all. How quick we give in to our self-pity!

Something that reminded me this is just a dip is that I’m a couple weeks behind on putting up my Best of Blogs for June and July. While going back to read July’s writings, I realize how much I had to convey that month. Quite an amount of blogs to choose a top 3 from. Not every month is that way.

So what happened between the end of July and August?

Life happened.

I started redoing my bedroom with my wife, tearing it apart to fix some holes, repaint, put up new window treatments, etc. In the middle of that, our dishwasher took a dump. As soon as I get the dishwasher removed, but not yet replaced, our only car needed repairs and was unusable. So, while having the normal responsibilities of life still, I couldn’t get anywhere easily for a week, had to wash all of our considerable amount of dishes by hand for two weeks since there was complications in the replacement, have a room that still isn’t done and by extension a house that has quite a bit out of place. All of that took a toll. One that will eventually fade, and the dip will eventually be forgotten, but nonetheless, in any work these kinds of things are inevitable.

During the dip, I didn’t have time to read my normal materials, the kinds that fill me up with questions and ideas, nor did I have time to ponder about improvements, or work on something that gave me insight. It was about getting the tasks done so we could get back to normal.

Enough with the whining, here’s the conclusions:

  • Life happens, and sometimes it sets us back momentarily. The decision to be setback permanently, however is yours alone.
  • When you lose faith, circle back to your past. That’s the minimum amount of skill you are capable of because your best work lies in front of you.
  • Everyone has dips because there is a rhythm to life and the world. Could you imagine music if it was always the same note instead of a mix of lows and highs? Uninteresting.
  • Keep doing the work and your rhythm will naturally get back on track.

Keep these in mind in case you ever enter a dip like this.

Getting good until the differences are imperceptible.

  • The new craft.
  • The improving skillset
  • The indistinguishable differences between each iteration
  • The next revolution.

That’s the order of how a craft evolves.

First, it’s new. We’re low skill. It’s sloppy, or lacking.

Then, it’s getting better. We’re polishing it more. It’s starting to be something marketable.

Next, we’ve mastered it. The differences each time we make the same thing, it comes out exactly as the last.

Finally, it’s time for revolution. Time to expand our abilities and do something different while keeping what we’ve gained in the mix.

People doing important work follow this cycle and it may happen dozens of times in the journey of their lives.

What if you hired a programmer as an administrator?

When I think of administrators at a company, I think of an overworked, often underpaid and under-appreciated person who keeps everything organized and running. In fact, I work with someone who is amazing at this type of work and appreciate everything that they do for me.

However, I’ve often thought about what it would be like if you put different people with different skillsets in these kinds of roles. A programmer is a marketable skill, as a result, you usually don’t find them as administrators, but what if you did?

My initial thoughts is much of the position would quickly disappear. Anything routine would be automated quickly, and with nothing left to be programmed, this person likely wouldn’t like the job any longer, and it would be time to bring in a more typical administrator.

Often a certain role gets filled with archetypes, whether that role is administration, sales, programming, or any other craft. These archetypes then perpetuate the same type of operation that always exist everywhere because they think similarly, which is why they are attracted to similar types of roles. It may be useful to fill a role with someone non-typical to see if they can transform the way the role is seen or operates in a positive way.

A recipe video whose title doesn’t mention the dish.

What good is that?

nYou’re searching for recipes, but can’t find the video because it never references the name of the dish being cooked at all. Instead it references “The best dinner ever” or “A unbelievably simple dinner that tastes amazing”

These videos are significantly different than “The Best Beef Wellington”. They serve a different audience. The Beef Wellington video serves someone who knows a bit about food. Someone who has a direct interest in food. The unnamed recipe videos serve someone who is just looking for something tasty to eat, but likely isn’t interested in food beyond its role as sustenance.

This is an example of marketing and serving the audience you’ve selected. There can be more room in a space then you imagined if you are alert, aware of trends and recognize who is underserved. Of course the product should also match the audience. If the audience isn’t interested in food beyond tonight, you don’t need to teach them all the intricacies of cooking and techniques, just list the steps quickly and efficiently.

It’s always worth reviewing whether you keep to the promises of the group you’re seeking to serve. In the case of a “An unbelievably simple dinner that tastes amazing” It should be efficient, easy to follow the video and should taste good without too much possibility of going wrong.

AI, The Human brain, and Real Trade Offs in Life.

It’s ironically interesting that if you’re not doing work that has tradeoffs, it’s probably not all that interesting.

I have a soft spot for following, but not particularly researching, artificial intelligence (AI) and neuroscience. Something I’ve spent significant time thinking about is whether the human brain could ever be replicated by a purely electrical device. One of the goals of AI research is to try to create a general intelligence, which seems out of reach to researchers currently. They can make software that classifies pictures by who painted them, or recognizes animals and such, but something that does true and generalized “thinking” is elusive.

When I connect this idea to the human brain, it doesn’t function purely in an electrical fashion. There is also chemical reactions that trigger it. What if this architecture of how the brain functions is critical to the operation of general intelligence. Some AI researchers seem to think if they can create generalized intelligence the era of scarcity would end. We would have robots that serve us that don’t need sleep, but if the idea of chemical reactions are needed in the architecture to create generalized intelligence this would defeat the purpose. The chemical reactions that take place in the brain are why we need rest, and what needs time to reverse after too much usage under certain tasks. If this was required for generalized artificial intelligence then those would have all the same issues as humans in this regard. Mental illness possibilities. Fatigue possibilities. Needing breaks. Needing vacations and more.

Both of these are perhaps the most complex research undertakings happening in the world. There is no clue on what the needed architecture for a generalized intelligence is, nor do we understand exactly how the human brain works. However, I do find it a good probability to bet on that if we did understand how the brain works, we would likely understand that a computer made of purely electrical signals can’t replicate it entirely. You would have to make some sort of tradeoff between fatigable and smarter, or less fatigable and less intelligent.

Now that that is out of the way. Here’s another point, when you are stuck, much as both sides of this research is, it may be because you don’t see the tradeoffs that need to be made. Your career may be stalled because you are deciding between money and calmness. Your move may be stalled because you can’t decide between rural, relaxed and lacking attractions, or urban, hectic and never-ending attractions. Your product may be stalled because you can figure out if you want to market it as cheap to the masses, or a premium option to the deep pockets.

Everything interesting, complex, and worth doing has unique trade offs. It’s better if we see them. If we don’t it’s time to look deeper.

First comes the work…

then the mental model to evaluate it.

This is followed by then refinement of the skills and models iteratively.

When I mention models, an example would be the image an artist sees in their mind before they paint. It might be clearer than the image that is actually painted because they don’t have the motor skills or the techniques that match the model in their head.

If you think about kids, they create at random. If their model evolves more rapidly than skill, they are likely to quit in frustration. If their skill evolves more rapidly than their model, then they are either not doing more complex work as time goes on, or they are becoming a highly talented artist.

Whatever we do, there is the mental model and the skill to implement it. In more cases than not, the skill lags the mental model. That’s where the frustration comes from. That’s where the ego despairs. That’s why we quit. All because we can’t produce the work that we know is possible.

This is exacerbated as an adult because you’ve seen more than a child. In nearly every category, your mental models of the world are more complex, but due to the limited time you can spend with nearly any skill, you have a bigger gap between your mental models and your skill. Bigger gap = Bigger frustration.

The only way to overcome this is to accept the reality that skill lags mental models in nearly every case. The only way to allow the skill to catch up is to commit to the work first and stick with it until the skill develops.

Why don’t they just pivot?

I’m referring to oil companies, car companies making internal combustion engines, and other industries facing paradigm shifts.

Oil companies can pivot to clean energy companies.

Internal combustion engines can start making electric motors.

Except, here’s the thing, they can’t.

They are too big. They would need to let nearly everyone go and hire entirely new skillsets. Along with that, these aren’t small companies led by pioneers. They are large, well-established companies led by glorified accountants. They have no idea who would need to be put in place, what systems would need to be rebuilt from scratch, and how an entire workforce could be retrained. These industries are entrenched. That’s why rather than pivoting, they would rather destroy technologies that may be successful to society.

At the end of the day, the CEO has a fiduciary duty to protect shareholder value. If they can’t produce new technologies, and they can’t pivot, the last ammunition is to destroy the others.

As a kid, I always wondered why can’t these companies see the opportunities?

After getting a peak behind the curtain at hundreds of different companies, I finally understand why.

So what’s that mean for you?

It means that if you have that big idea, it’s imperative to act on it. The big companies aren’t going to. Only you can do it, no matter how beyond your comfort zone the size of the idea is.

“Make no little plans…

They have no magic to stir men’s blood and probably will not themselves be realized.”

Daniel Burnham said that. He was the Architect of the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago, a huge undertaking and largely regarded as being a wonder to see.

It’s a reminder that aiming too low can also have negative effects on your plans.

If you don’t think big enough, no one will take notice, even if the goal seems easily achievable.

Infinite Distraction

Once upon a time, there was a set amount of programming. It felt like there was time for diversion, then a pretty clear line of when to get back to our core focus.

Today, that line is no longer clearly drawn.

It’s not always easy to recognize when distractions are piling up, and even after knowing they are it can be hard to resist the inertia of feeding into them.

At some point though, the work is still there regardless of the distractions.

Drawing the lines. Setting the habits. Getting down to the core of the work is a skill, and it’s only growing in value.

With digital technologies we’re still in the 20…

of course I’m referring to the 80/20. The management rule where 80% of the efforts get 20% of the results and 20% of the efforts get 80% of the results.

Elon Musk says self-driving cars are more difficult that he imagined, yet blockchain technology for money or transactions isn’t that hard, though it does have other hurdles like electricity usage.

It seems like the world has endless opportunity and that digital technologies will never slow down until we hit the singularity.

While that may be one outcome, another could be that we hit a wall. That we solve nearly every problem that gets 80% of the results with 20% of the effort. Then comes the remaining problems, that are the last 20% of the results, but 80% of the effort. The slow, heavy problems that are hard won.

We thought we’d have flying cars by now because we extrapolated the growth of technology endlessly. We’re likely doing the same thing, now, in this moment with computers and microchips.

I’m not saying this is a certainty, just that it’s one possible outcome.

The Speed Wobbles

Often times life feels like it accelerates around us without us doing much, like a bike going down a hill. This can be a business expanding quick, or a dishwasher breaking, followed by car problems, followed by a job loss.

As the acceleration happens, it feels like one small thing can set you into a cataclysmic event, but the secret is in most cases you can stay upright by not freaking out and remaining steady until your problems correct and you get back to normalcy.

There are a few exceptions to this. In some extraordinary circumstances, if the bike as a metaphor for your problems accelerates to a certain degree, you get a phenomenon known as “The Speed Wobbles”. In aerodynamics, this is due to what is called vortex shedding. The vortices of the air created by you passing through extremely quickly start alternating side to side creating alternating pressure differences that make you wobble, which if they get strong enough lead to an inevitable crash. Like this situation, if your circumstances reach extraordinary levels, they need extraordinary planning to get out of them.

To alleviate the vortex shedding at certain velocities you would need a custom engineered bike, requiring planning, insight, and money. You’re not going to wing your way out of the speed wobbles.

Enzo Ferrari once said, “Aerodynamics is for people who can’t build engines.” He must have not built an engine fast enough to give a car the speed wobbles.

Aerodynamics is the solution to this issue for the bike, designing a shape that prevents vortex shedding. Accounting may be the solution to your financial woes. Therapy may be the key to resolving mental blocks. A nutritionist or personal training may be the ticket for health and fitness. These things are all specialties. When we find ourselves in extraordinary circumstances, it’s possible we need specialist knowledge to get ourselves through it.

This is a reminder that you don’t have to do things alone. There are people that can help, and we live in a world that is totally connected, making it the easiest it’s ever been to find those skills even if they aren’t in your immediate network. Maybe Enzo Ferrari wouldn’t have thought aerodynamics were so unnecessary if he could easily find specialists in that field, but during his time it was orders of magnitude harder. You don’t have to feel that way. There are untold amounts of resources at your fingertips.

Internal Values and External Values Mismatch

If you read much of the leadership mottos that float around you’ll find things like:

“1% better everyday”

If you search that, see how many results come up. You can use this link below to do that and come back:

As you can see it’s a huge number of posts on it.

The interesting thing about this, is no one I know disagrees with the concept in theory. In everyone’s mind they are accepting of this, but there is often a mismatch and it can be situational.

I’ll apply my own experience. I’m a competitive bowler. Over the years, I’ve learned about rosin making my grip more consistent. I’ve learned about rubber grips that make the fingers more comfortable. Wiping the ball with a towel between shots. Putting in a hard urethane thumb insert so every ball feels more consistent. Using tape to change the fit of the thumbhole as the thumb constantly swells and shrinks. I’ve also learned about changing slide soles depending on humidity.

Yet, a few things I don’t do:

  • Clean the equipment as regularly as I should
  • Refresh the surfaces consistently
  • Use switchable thumbs to make every ball feel exactly the same when changing them during competition
  • Use new grip spray that prevents the hand from sweating
  • Using tape on my thumb and fingers that make the friction at release more consistent

All of these things are tiny changes, that will make only incremental improvements. In the past, they seem like more effort than I want to put in for the results I expect they will produce. Yet, nearly everyone I’m losing to in competition is doing all of these things. If all five of these things only add up to one 9 count a game turning into a strike, it’s a 20 pin difference in average for players at my skill level. All this for knocking down one more pin a game and yet it makes a huge difference in scores.

My internal values and external values haven’t matched. I’ve been bowling for 20+ years. My physical game won’t get much better, it’s these little things that minimize inconsistencies that will make the difference, yet I ignored them, devalued them and ignore the results they are producing for others.

The world is filled with this. People that say they believe a certain way, but then don’t actually take actions that fit those beliefs. They may just be blind to it.

This next upcoming bowling season, I’m going to work on rectifying some of this and see how much improvement I see. I think it will be more drastic then I expect as my internal and external values come into alignment.

Is there anywhere in your life where you can correct an internal and external values mismatch?

Low frequency events are the things we struggle with.

That seems obvious because we don’t get to do them over and over and get good at them. What are some things that are low frequency?

  • Choosing a career or business to start
  • Choosing a life partner (for most people at least)
  • Deciding which house to buy
  • How to react to a sudden world event (9/11, war, pandemics, etc)

Most people have a hard time deciding on all of these things. Yet, learning to get comfortable in these one off scenarios is a valuable skill. In fact, when you think about the traditional hierarchy of a company, at the top executives are dealing with low frequency events all the time. Changes in offerings, new buildings, technological disruptions, and the like are the purview of the C-Suite. The further down the rungs you go, the greater the frequency of the tasks for the role. A ticketer at an airline repeats printing tickets and baggage claim receipts over and over all day.

The world rewards people that find ways to make good decisions during low frequency events. Get used to operating in ambiguity and you’ll find yourself with more opportunity than ever before.

It may never sink in

I’ve been watching the Olympics and one thing I’ve noticed is that so many of the winners when asked how they feel reply, “It hasn’t sunk in yet.”

That’s an interesting line to me. Why is it so common amongst the winners?

My thought is that the drive that is required to become the best in the world comes from having a lack of ever feeling accomplished enough. Personally, I’m someone who struggles to recognize my personal accomplishments, I’m always on to the next one. Olympians take this even to the further extreme. There is only the next event, the next record, the next goal.

With that in mind, it’s possible that it may never sink in. That for some percentage of the population, no level of accomplishment will produce that feeling of elation for a prolonged period of time.

I’m not sure whether this is a blessing or a curse, but I am sure that it pushes us forward as a society.

I’m also sure that it burns us out as a society.

I don’t have a particularly strong conclusion here, just something to reflect about for yourself and figure out where you fit on the spectrum of recognizing your accomplishments.

Branch and Merge

Software.

Writing.

Engineering.

Anywhere that technology and skill meets, branch and merge is going to be something that happens. If you’re not familiar, “Branch and Merge” is used in software, it means to pull a piece of code and make a copy that creates a new version, and then making changes and merging back into the main base if needed. This is becoming possible with all sorts of data like writing or engineering designs too.

The future will be full of more “flavors” then ever. After all, once ice cream was invented, then came vanilla, and chocolate and strawberry, then over time came Baskin Robbins 32 flavors, now, you can get Goat Cheese Beet Swirl, or Roasted Turmeric and Candied Ginger or even Cardamom and Black Pepper. As technology improves, the options in other goods improves as well. Digital layout software gave more choices for fonts. 3D Printers are making mass customization of physical goods readily available. With Artificial Intelligence software now being able to do face replacements in video, this could even include a movie where each person picks the faces of the characters, so each watcher can see different people in the movies.

All this customization is both a blessing and a curse. We all will have more of the specific life of our choosing, yet, it means endless choice and a lack of shared experience. People like menus because it limits the options and makes a decision manageable. Too much choice makes us indecisive and miserable. Add to that, how do you rate a pillow that was custom made for you that you don’t like when you made the design choices? We will no longer have a way to determine quality relative to each other.

The world moves in waves. A wave like this branch and merge phenomenon is likely decades long. While initially we’ll see the push towards choice, eventually too much and we’ll see a rebound of menus, fixed offerings and curation.

Depending on your industry, it’s worth taking a look at where you are in the “Branch and Merge” spectrum and whether it’s worth investing in customizable options, or whether it’s time to curate things down and simplify for the customer.

What happens when you release a constraint on the economy?

The economy is a giant optimization problem with multiple objectives, many variables and tons of constraints.

Thinking about the constraint of just one item such as location of people vs. location of jobs can have a massive impact on the way the economy behaves.

As a result of the pandemic, we are seeing a massive shifting of one of the constraints, location. Jobs that had all the technology to be remote previously, still hadn’t adopted the idea of remote work. The pandemic made this happen, and now that people have seen it there is no going back. What repercussions do you think this constraint change will have on the economy?

Here’s my guesses:

  1. Remote workers working in high cost of living areas will relocate to low cost of living areas
  2. The effect of item #1 above will raise the cost of living in areas that are currently cheap which will put upward pressure on wages in those areas
  3. As people redistribute, the country will undergo a change of offerings, such as more high-end dining accommodations will become available in smaller towns that they traditionally couldn’t serve.
  4. Cities will not disappear, but they will rearrange fairly significantly over the next 10 years. Rents may stagnate as less people need to be there.
  5. There is and will continue to be an undersupply of home builders as some percentage of the country (5%-10%) redistributes more rurally and due to the nature of rural areas being spread out serving those with many home builders in a region is tough.
  6. Though not necessarily a good thing, we’ll see a rise in people scamming companies and collecting multiple salaries at the same time.

I’m sure there’s more, but the thing about changing a single constraint on an optimization problem is that the outcome can be radically different. We’ll see that here in the coming years.

This place is crap.

There is a certain person in my life who says that whenever we go into any number of stores. It comes off as highly snobbish to me. The problem that I see with that saying is that most of these places huge and been around decades and tons of people shop there.

That means there is a difference between it being “crap” and “not for me.”

If something is as wildly successful as these places are, and you don’t like them, it’s at least worth understanding who does like them, why they like them, and also understand what it is you don’t.

Going back to this person in my life, they are almost never satisfied at any store. Nothing is good enough, the right price, the right style, etc. To the point that they have almost nothing they like at all.

This is a story of expectations. This person is looking for something made out of quality materials, by a craftsman or artist, but at a budget that certainly can’t justify the price of those. Since there is nothing that fits the constraints of their worldview, everything else is garbage to them.

To tie this into a mathematical sense of things, optimization is an easy problem to solve…when it’s one variable. Want a the most aerodynamic wing? Make it long and thin as possible. Want the cheapest wrench? Sort by price, select the cheapest?

In the real world, most problems are multi-objective. That means the best solution is a “space” rather than a “point.” What if you want a structurally sound, aerodynamic wing? Now, you are balancing the short, stubbiness of structural strength against the long, slenderness of aerodynamics. What if you want a cheap, but ergonomical wrench? Now, you are balancing the fact that your hand is a certain size and shape that not everybody has so they can’t mass produce them making them more expensive? So how do you balance which one fits you best vs. the cost? The better it fits you, the closer you get to custom which is expensive and the further from mass produced you become.

Finding the right amount of objectives and constraints is a significant challenge in life, but one worth thinking about at our jobs, in our relationships and in the rest of our lives.

The Miracle of Churches.

“Give and you’ll receive everything you do ten times over.”

That’s a common phrase that was uttered at churches in the past.

It felt like a miracle from god, and depending on your perspective it still can be, but I’d like to clarify something here:

The world runs on belief.

Imagine a small, rural town of 100 villagers in a small town, and a small church with 2-3 clergy people. The people sustain themselves. They are farmers. They are blacksmiths. There might be a saloon owner. They aren’t rich, they trade for goods and services they need, and occasionally they sell some things for money that they save for a rainy day. They attend the church to get their weekly dose of inspiration, to meet with the others in the community and to have a crutch during the hard times. As thanks, they tithe 10% of their earnings to the church.

In turn, the church needs pews, they buy those with the donations from the local carpenter, who with his new earnings, buys something nice from the local jeweler for his wife, and the cycle in the town continues. Each time these transactions continue, the people donate 10% back to the church which spends it on food, improving the church, helping the sick and more.

It’s quite possible that everything the church said is true, “Donate to us and you’ll get 10 times that in return,” however it’s the mechanism that most people don’t see. The spending of the church along with the inspiration of the bible to do more, help the community more, and be more, basically inspired people to spend their money more and create more than the minimum making the local carpenter build more furniture, the farmer plant and harvest more food, the jeweler make more jewelry and the whole town do more than just survive.

The world runs on belief, which is a powerful opportunity. We all have the opportunity to do more, be more, help more, inspire more, daily and if we do, everyone can live a higher standard of life. What an incredible opportunity. It’s worth pursuing regardless of the inspiration that motivates you.

Why we’re bored.

In the 1800s for example, there was too little to do, it was scarce and hard to find entertainment.

Now there is too much to do. It’s overabundant and hard to decide.

In both eras, it’s easy to end up doing nothing. However, in the accelerating change of status quo over the last 100 years, there is a new opportunity. The opportunity to be a curator of experiences.

You don’t have to create the next hot restaurant. You don’t have to design the next cool escape room.

There is an opportunity to choose a group of people like singles, retired, networkers, engineers, those looking for friends, and create an experience for those groups. Treating the restaurants, attractions, and sights as components of a larger experience is now as viable an opportunity as chefs using ingredients and decor to create a restaurant. The best part is that it can be done with far less capital than those restaurants, movie theaters, or attractions.

If you’re looking for something “creative” as career, perhaps thinking about this is a new option for you.

Sleeping on an old mattress…

while my room is currently undergoing repainting and some other alterations. We’re all sharing my daughter’s room at the moment. It’s tight, and it gets warm at night with us all in there and it’s a reminder that if our life turned for the worst economically, this is about the worst that could happen, we’d be living in a tiny, cramped space like that for a period of time.

I have quite a few conversations with people who “want to make an impact” or “do something creative” who mention not having the finances to do what they want. Of course, this situation is just a reminder that is the most common way of letting ourselves off the hook. The reality is most people aren’t committed, and they haven’t developed their patience, nor their daily effort muscle. Part of this stems from not really knowing what they want to do. Part of it stems from fear.

Now, it’s not to say that there aren’t stories that end in homelessness, but often that goes along with other issues. For people that don’t have those additional issues, that cramped space, that old mattress, that’s the thing you’re actually scared of, along with the bruise to your ego. These things aren’t the boogeyman, just a temporary discomfort.

Ben and Jerry’s and thinking about how to expand your business.

When thinking of expanding an Ice Cream business what do you think of?

More flavors?

Different Cones?

How about Ice Cream Bars?

Different Ice Cream Sandwiches?

All of those things are the most likely. Thinking about who it’s for is less likely. Even less likely if who it’s for isn’t a human.

Pontch's Mix Doggie Desserts Multipack Minicups

Frozen Dog Treats?

Now that’s thinking in a different direction. The best thing about it? If you had just created a different bar of ice cream or flavor, you’d likely just be scraping from the same audience you already compete for. You might even up just trading people who like your old flavor for the new one, achieving no net growth. Here, you are reaching an entirely new audience.

There is always the direction you are thinking in PLUS the one that is 90 degrees from it. It’s always good to consider the pros and cons of both.

Every action has an equal and opposite reaction…

yet some people don’t seem to understand this physical law.

It applies to social and technological movements.

The people like Elon Musk who are admired and hated equally find themselves in that position due to this. The bigger the change we are trying to make in society, the bigger the resistance to it will be.

Why is this true?

Well consider that even though we may understand better technology will come in the future, most people hope it won’t impact them too much. If you’re the guy making internal combustion engines, then the guy making electric vehicles popular is impacting your job security. Sure, it may lead to a better thing for society in terms of getting further for cheaper, and long-term better for the environment, but today it’s affected where that person’s meal is coming from. Of course the argument is always “It will create new jobs,” which is true, but there is no guarantee those new jobs are in the same geography as the current one. That person may have to move away from their family, pull their child away from friends, and make some big life choices because of the changes the technology are making.

I’m not saying we shouldn’t do these things. However, we need to recognize that there are impacts to people’s lives too. Of course, those same impacts exists for not doing them when societal problems are going to worsen as the result of other influences. For example, gas is a scarce resource. We’re using it fast, which means on the supply vs. demand curve we’ll quickly see demand exceed supply and prices continue to rise drastically over time. Driving could become the realm of only the rich with the passing of enough decades.

Electric vehicles balance this better because we can build solar power to charge vehicles.

I’m not sure why I’ve even picked electric vehicles here because this post is about the action/reaction that exists everywhere. Frankly, this is a response to people that I see posting highly critical or controversial things on social media who are then quite shocked at the resistance that they get to their thoughts.

My theory is that this stems from the fact that in time before social media, we often shared ideas and thoughts in our tight personal circles. The thing is, doing that doesn’t create any action. You didn’t accelerate society forward, nor resist its changes. Those personal circles already agreed with us from our shared experiences. Since there was actually no “action” in those cases, there also wasn’t a reaction. That’s the behavior most people are used to.

Now, that’s changed.

We’re posting things to a wide group on social media, trying to have more influence then we had before. We have leverage which creates more force, and subsequent action, but that force comes with an equal and opposite reaction. The people who have been leaders for most of society have always understood this. They were leaders because they were willing to take the heat. To be grilled on TV. To speak in front of upset crowds. The average person never had to deal with this kind of scrutiny, nor is the average person up for the task of that level of scrutiny. Yet, there sit the tools to create a change, dangled in front of us, and as everyone who has ever been in any sort of group knows, everyone thinks they have the answers, and they are willing to share. Now that sharing reaches a huge amount of people who have different conclusions and that creates the tension.

I’m not sure there is anything to be done about it except recognize it and decide if what you have to say is worth the reaction. If it is, say it, if not, find something more worthy to spend your energy on.

People are complex.

A person should be…

responsible, but still have fun…

patient, but still motivated to take action…

rational, but still empathetic…

Humanity, and more likely any sort of intelligence implies that someone can hold multiple conflicting rules, nearly all of which are conditional on the others. Anything less is a robot carrying out routine tasks. As a result, it’s no wonder we have so much conflict about how the work should be done, who should be in charge, how much things should cost, what’s good and what’s bad. Everything is interpretive.

The rules are so complex and so conditional, it’s not like anyone even understands entirely why they make the decisions they do themselves. Perhaps it’s time to adopt gray thinking, and not the black-and-white stuff we’re so used to. Perhaps that person you disagree with is under the wrong conditions for them to think as you do. Perhaps you can’t change that, and it’s okay.

Deciphering what I’m asking.

That’s a skill.

Especially in industries where it’s hard to communicate. A good example is music. If you’re hiring someone to make custom intro music for a video or an event. You are trying to communicate a feeling which is no small task.

In medical examples, the patient and the doctor may have such a knowledge gap that the communication and understanding of the question is difficult.

In both cases, a skilled musician or doctor, the customer is likely looking for someone who can decipher what they are asking more than they are worried about nickels and dimes.

The value of a critic has been declining…

It used to be there wasn’t audio, video or any other way of thinking about the quality, talent, and acts in the world.

As the medium to share samples of a show grows, first through audio, then video, and now we are even on the verge of Augmented/Virtual Reality (Can you imagine feeling like the cast of Cirque De Soleis is in your living room?”), we can share samples of the work and let it speak for itself.

If we roll back to a time where this wasn’t possible, one critic may praise a show, while another critic demolishes another. In reality, more people may have actually enjoyed the show that got the bad review, but they had to rely on the critics’ taste.

This is a significant opportunity. There are no gatekeepers. There is nothing stopping you from putting something mind-blowing together and showing it to people, letting the audience decide what is great and what isn’t.

This is also scary. Quality of the work is everything, not favors, not nice words of encouragement from a positive critic with a big following. The work itself matters. Treat it that way, even if you’re not in show business.

Selling dashcams.

What a great business. Dashcams serve to protect you in cases where another party causes damages but denies they were at fault.

The ideal part of selling these is that when one saves somebody money, it’s generally a huge amount relative to the purchase price, and it’s because the camera caught a crazy physical anomaly, or a crazy human situation on camera. Both of which people are happy to share and tell their friends about. Plenty even love to put these crazy events online to share with huge numbers of strangers, and many of them go viral.

This business has a crazy powerful network effect built-in. It’s worth thinking about if you can build one of those into your work.

Please stop…

…making music…

…making these stupid things…

…creating all sorts of crazy ideas…

…shaking around like that…

…try to tell me what to do…

…trying to console me…

…telling me what’s wrong and right…

…telling me how things work…

Actually, don’t stop.

Often times these things are irritating when we are low-skilled at them, but amazing when our skill develops, but often times we stop people before they can reach their potential. A wildly shaking child dancing around may be irritating, but that child at high school age with incredible dance skills can be the image of gracefulness. A child may be destroying things while trying to create something, but could possibly be the world’s greatest inventor in the future.

The secret is this doesn’t stop with children. In fact, it gets worse with adults because they are treated as if they had the potential, it would already be developed. In fact, that isn’t the case at all. Many adults are still discovering what they are good at, yet the pressures of society keep them from pursuing it more deeply.

Don’t stop.

In fact, accelerate, that way we can get through this low skill dip faster and reach the level where we can do some serious work. Any person, parent, teacher, business owner should recognize this truth and help others succeed where they can. That can come from coaching, minimizing the pressures to stop, or offering resources to continue on the journey.

When skills are developed to high levels, we all win.

Humans consume more oxygen in a day than food.

It doesn’t seem that way because we are surrounded by oxygen. It’s a major component of the atmosphere around us. Food often is also always around us, stocked in our pantry, a bowl of candies at the office, or your favorite food place down the street. Along with that, air is consumed constantly, breath by breath. We don’t even grab for it. So those thousands of light breaths a day add up. The average person consumes 0.8 kilograms of oxygen a day and only 0.6 kilograms of food.

This is something worth reflecting on because it’s such an accurate reflection of how we think about our lives. Often times we think, our job is our life. That without it, we can’t get where we want to go, be who we want to be, have the friends we want to have, and even just survive. However, the job is only the food. We need far more friendships, conversations, family time, tinker/play time, study, than anything job related. In fact, all of those things create the job opportunities, no different than the air helps people and plants grow.

When you focus on just one goal, just one thing you need, it’s highly likely you’re picking the wrong one, and that the one you are currently selecting is just the easiest/most obvious choice, not the best. It’s at least worth an effort to think about it.