A point of view

That's the difference between saying, "what would you like me to do," and "I think we should do this, not that." A point of view is the difference between a job and a career. It's the difference between being a cog and making an impact. Having a point of view is different from always being correct. No one is always correct. Hiding because you're not sure merely makes you … [Read more...]

Where would we be without failure?

Failure (and the fear of failure) gives you a chance to have a voice.... Because failure frightens people who care less than you do.         … [Read more...]

The minimum critical mass

For your idea to spread, your app to go viral, your restaurant to be the place, it's likely you'll need to hit critical mass. This is a term from physics, describing the amount of plutonium you need in a certain amount of space before a nuclear reaction becomes self-sustaining. Once enough people start driving your new brand of motorcycle around town, it's seen by enough people that it becomes … [Read more...]

Reading at work

Most organizations think nothing of having twenty valuable employees spend an hour in a meeting that's only tangentially related to their productive output. But if you're sitting at your desk reading a book that changes your perspective, your productivity or your contribution, it somehow feels like slacking off... What would happen if the next all hands meeting got cancelled and instead the … [Read more...]

Your soft skills inventory

The annual review is a waste. It's not particularly useful for employee or boss, it's stressful and it doesn't happen often enough to make much of an impact. If you choose to, though, you can do your own review. Weekly or monthly, you can sit down with yourself (or, more powerfully, with a small circle of peers) and review how you're shifting your posture to make more of an impact. Some of the … [Read more...]

The unfair advantage

Here's a sign I've never seen hanging in a corporate office, a mechanic's garage or a politician's headquarters: WE HAVE AN UNFAIR ADVANTAGE: We care more. It's easy to promise and difficult to do. But if you did it, it would work. More than any other skill or attitude, this is what keeps me (and people like me) coming back.         … [Read more...]

Do they celebrate on Saturn?

A hundred years ago, "everyone" wore a hat. If everyone meant men of a certain social stratum in certain cities. And people wore the hat because everyone else did. And everyone is taking the day off and everyone is watching the big game and everyone is busy checking their status on Facebook. Except... Except that in other time zones or other communities, everyone isn't doing anything of the … [Read more...]

The last Black Friday

Four years ago, I wrote about the media trap that retailers invented. With nothing much to write about the day after Thanksgiving, the media engage in a stampede to encourage everyone to go shopping on the busiest, least satisfying shopping day of the year. They spent millions to create a social dynamic that pushes people to engage in an orgy of spending, merely because everyone else is. I think … [Read more...]

Best practices

If you need an appendectomy, it's unlikely you'll die during the operation. That's because the surgeon has been trained in hundreds of years of best practices. From Semmelweis to the latest in antibiotics, she knows what's come before. Not only that, but the scalpel she uses is the result of 1,000 iterations over the centuries. Every device has been sanitized based on trial and error from the … [Read more...]

Persistent stability

Investment hates chaos. Before an organization invests in a new technology, a new machine or a new process, it needs to believe two things: That the problem being solved is going to be around for awhile if it's not addressed. That the world will be stable long enough to earn back the investment. That's why a consistent, civil and stable government matters so much. And why industries often … [Read more...]

Like Mary Shelley

When she wrote Frankenstein, it changed everything. A different style of writing. A different kind of writer. And the use of technology in ways that no one expected and that left a mark. Henry Ford did that. One car and one process after another, for decades. Companies wanted to be the Ford of _____. Progress makes more progress easier. Momentum builds. But Ford couldn't make the streak last. The … [Read more...]

The confusion about competence

A friend was describing a clerk he had recently dealt with. "She was competent, of course, but she couldn't engage very well with the customer who just came in." Then, of course, she wasn't competent, was she? It doesn't take a genius to see that competence is no longer about our ability to press certain buttons in a certain sequence. Far more often, competence involves the humanity … [Read more...]

Meaningful work

Of course, it came with chocolate. There's no doubt that we're doing more running around than ever before. More cutting of corners, counting of pennies, reading of reviews. More focus on making a profit, less on making a difference. But why? Once you have enough, isn't better the point? Better doesn't mean more. Better means generous, sustainable, worthy. Better means connection and quality … [Read more...]

Been done before

What percentage of the work you do each day is work where the process (the 'right answer') is known? Jobs where you replicate a process instead of inventing one... The place where we can create the most value is when we do a job where exploration and a new solution is what's needed. Not rote, but exploration. Which means we're doing something that's not been done before, something that might not … [Read more...]

Everyone else is irrational

Everyone else makes bad decisions, is shortsighted, prejudiced, subject to whims, temper tantrums, outbursts and short-term thinking. Once you see it that way, it's easier to remember... that we're everyone too.         … [Read more...]

Winning a yoga race

It makes no sense, of course.   The question this prompts is: Are there places you feel like you're falling behind where there's actually no race?         … [Read more...]

This is post 7,000

[actually, it's more than that, but the previous incarnations of this blog are lost to the fogs of time] Delivered free, daily, for decades. You can subscribe at no cost by email, by following this blog on Twitter or Facebook, and best of all, by RSS. There are no ads, never have been. No guest posts, of course. No one can buy a slot or a referral. All Amazon affiliate revenue is donated to … [Read more...]

The overflowing outbox

Deadlines are vitamins for creativity. If you've got too much in progress, too much of a buffer, too many items ready to go, it's easy to slip back to complacency. Without the feeling of imminent, it's easier to hide. If you're the kind of person that needs a crisis to move forward, feel free to invent one. Take the good ideas that aren't going anywhere and delete them, give them away, hand them … [Read more...]

Samizdat is in the writing

Under oppressive regimes, samizdat spreads. Forbidden dissident writing, informally published, hidden, spread from hand to hand. Reading it encourages and empowers other dissidents. But writing it--writing it is the true disruption. Because the act of saying it, saying it clearly, saying it aloud, this is what galvanizes people and leads to … [Read more...]

The thing about maps

Sometimes, when we're lost, we refuse a map, even when offered.  Because the map reminds us that we made a mistake. That we were wrong. But without a map, we're not just wrong, we're also still lost. A map doesn't automatically get you home, but it will probably make you less lost.  (When dealing with the unknown, it's difficult to admit that there might not be a map. In those cases, … [Read more...]

On being a good driver

The best drivers are unremarkable. Their actions are predictable. The drive is unexciting. They get from here to there with a minimum amount of fuss.  A good driver fits in, all the way. It's entirely possible to drive your career this way, your day at work, the interactions you have. The alternative is to understand that the opposite of good driving at work isn't crashing. The opposite is … [Read more...]

Important, popular or viral

Important work is easily dismissed by the audience. It involves change and risk and thought. Popular work resonates with the people who already like what you do. Viral work is what happens when the audience can't stop talking about what you did. Every once in awhile, all three things will co-exist, but odds are, you're going to need to choose.         … [Read more...]

Degrees of freedom

All you have to do is look around to realize just how many choices we still have. What to eat, who to speak to, what to do for a living, what to learn, what to say, who to contribute to, how we interact, what we stand for... The safe and comfortable path is to pretend that we're blocked at every turn. But most of the turns, we don't even see. We've trained ourselves to ignore … [Read more...]

Stuntvertising

The math has changed. It used to be, you paid money to run an ad. A little piece of media, bought and paid for. The audience came with the slot. Today, of course, the ad is free to run. Post your post, upload your video. Free. What to measure, then? Well, one thing to measure is attention. How many likes or shares or views did it get? But if you're going to optimize for attention, not trust … [Read more...]