February 4, 2020
Community is About Going Somewhere Together
When communities form online, it has little to do with their physical location, race, background or education.
Instead communities gather based on a shared vision for who they want to be.
The creator: artist, group or brand are leading and unifying this shared vision through content.
It happens in politics and it happens in punk rock.
So a community is about going somewhere, together.
And to build community means to stand up first with a new vision. You’re raising the bar for what’s possible, and you’re giving people the space to grow.
By putting up a flag you attract people to your beacon.
By creating a space you’re connecting the disconnected.
Martin Luther, Martin Luther King, The Dalio Lama, Nelson Mandela all raised the bar for what we can expect of ourselves.
They set a new standard, shared a new vision, sparked change in others by first sparking change in themselves.
Next time you think about your project, product, album... ask yourself what the vision is for who we will all be in the end.
Followings occur when you’re taking us somewhere we aspire to go.
February 3, 2020
When in Doubt, Tell a Useful Story
I get it, it feels complex.
There is so much nuance to human nature, that it can't help but be the case that every interaction and campaign you create to market to your audience can feel like there are a thousand things to consider...
So, let's keep things really simple, and create a heuristic to return to when things feel complex or when we don't know what to do next.
This idea gets to the essence of marketing.
Use it like a grounding matt from which to stand on any time you feel you've lost balance.
Here it is:
When in doubt, tell a useful story.
A customer is calling to complain... ? Tell a useful story.
Looking to close a deal? Tell a useful story.
Launching a new product? Tell a useful story.
Speaking at a conference... on a podcast... in a job interview... ?
Tell a useful story.
Useful to whom?
To the person you're interacting with.
This means meeting them where they are, not where you are.
This means imaging how they see the world, and telling them a story which fits within that worldview but leads them to see something new.
Useful in helping them with a problem or a desire they currently have.
Each day we walk around with problems and desires in our heads. These are the things we're paying attention to.
If you're desiring to go to Hawaii, you're more likely to notice the new deal on Southwest from LA to Hawaii.
If your problem is that you need a new type of workout because you're burned out on your current one, you're more likely to be open to hearing from the local run club.
These problems and desires are the fuel behind what we focus on.
So speak to people based on these problems and desires, not based on YOURS.
If someone's desire is to go to Hawaii, they're imaging jungle, beach and sun. Don't try and sell them on your 5 day excursion across the glacier in Alaska.
A story, why?
Because humans aren't rational, we're mimetic. We're visual. We function on emotion. A story helps create context around the stories we have in our heads related to our problems and desires.
A story is a way for the person you're speaking with and trying to change to put themselves in an imaginary new place where you simultaneously get the outcome your'e looking for and the outcome you're looking for.
A useful story has the purpose of helping the person you're telling it to.
And if you do that enough... Just maybe you might both get what you want.
January 23, 2020
Intensions are Invisible
Many people who are trying to grow are stuck in the “how.”
It’s possible that this is because it is the easiest question to ask. When you see something you want to replicate, or you see something you want to achieve, your impulse is to ask them “how” they did it.
We want to understand the simple steps that we can get so that we can get to that same place or be praised or accomplished in the same way as somebody else. It's only natural.
But I believe this deep assumption leaves us with two grave errors.
The first is that we merely seek to copy.
When asking how, our fantasies and visions are limited by what has already been done.
And if we know anything about innovation, not only is that less valuable, but it’s also impossible. Things can't be replicated twice exactly. And, you want to do something new, and by that it means you want to discover a new how, not just adhere to the old one.
It’s also limiting yourself to their success.
Why not go beyond it? Or rather, why not find your own version of success?
If there’s one thing it’s hard for us to internalize… It’s that success is not fixed.
The second reason is because we’re missing a massive amount of context.
The context of the entire history and set of skills a person brings to a craft. The context of their intentions, and their approach in how they are, not what they do.
The context of how they see the world.
This aspect is really hard to describe, so we instead default to the how. We're looking for a pattern when in reality most everything in art is a sample size of exactly one.
In business and in art, things are much more complex and context-dependent.
As they say, it is timing that is the hard part of investing, not making the investment. Because timing means you’re considering the most amount of variables, the full context.
When you see someone succeed, it’s much more important to understand the context of their vision.
Don’t ask for the how. Understand their why. Go a step deeper. Ask why again. Understand their intention, and question their understanding.
Your life is a rich landscape, and the decisions you make happen in the broader context of who you are, not just what you do.
If you could understand this aspect of yourself and others deeper, trust in it, and develop your own vision, I think you would be asking how from others less, and creating your own "how" more.
This post was inspired by Frank Chimero
January 8, 2020
Questions not Answers
What's more valuable, the question or an answer?
The internet is filled with answers, and people supplying them.
This on net is a good thing, and the literal fabric of the web was based on this dynamic (with Google being a question box, to find answers).
But it feels like today there is more value in good questions, and there are many answers which are cheap, ineffective, or not quite a fit for any of your specific situations.
This has us seeking short cuts, and, often we find ourselves seeking answers from everywhere and everyone.
But what if everything great came from a really great question?
A question that can lead to months or even years of development and learning.
What if inside of a really great question contains the seeds of a great answer?
The seeds of a journey? And the seeds of a new way of seeing the world?
So now I have to ask.
What question have you been asking, lately?
December 30, 2019
I've been writing a bit less due to other commitments, and I've noticed my writing start to atrophy a bit.
It's like the wire that goes from somewhere in my mind to my fingers has started to fray. It's a bit clumsy.
I have a notion in my head but the words that translate to just... don't have that same feeling of what I was looking for.
How we put ideas together in our heads, from nothing to something, is beyond me.
But it made me think about my process.
I realize now that a key part of my writing is that of having space.
It is space that creates my best ideas and writing. Or rather, ideas and writing need space to exist below the surface of the mind.
And so here is the practice: It's just like meditation.
You sit down, on your computer or with paper, and you simply wait. You sit and you wait.
Then, after some time (short, if you've been writing a lot lately, or long, if not) you will have something bubble up to the surface.
You write that thing down, or you recognize that it's not THE thing, and you let it pass.
You wait, something arrives, you write it down or you let it pass.
At some point, if you've given yourself enough space, enough time away from distraction, enough silence...
A "good" idea comes along. But it's not that it's a "good" idea, rather it's just "right." You just know that's what you're supposed to add, so you add it. And then things may flood in, in which case you just let them all out onto the page, doing your best to keep open a space for the writing to be there.
Sometimes it will stop again, in which case you repeat the process.
Great writing needs space. You can't force it, and most times I don't know what I'm thinking until I let it show up on the page.
Like a great conversation, it's unplanned but only happens if you don't crowd it out.
I don't know how else to describe it.
Or maybe I do.
December 29, 2019
This holiday I went through my Kindle and added all of the books I'd bought over the past few years to an Airtable spreadsheet. I tried to rank them, list out which I'd finished, and more importantly; write a line or two about what I'd learned from each one.
Not unsurprisingly, there were many books I've read (at least part of) but couldn't quite remember what I'd learned from them. I remembered a feeling, and I'd remembered a general sense of the book, but I couldn't list out anything specific.
Doing this review helped me look a bit deeper into my world view. And it also taught me about books themselves.
It taught me that a book is a life's work of thinking.
It's distilled into a neat package or present to gift to the world.
A book is a gift of life experience and wisdom passed on to someone else.
A book is question.
It's asking "Will you see the world that I see it?"
"What would your life be like if you saw the world through this perspective ?"
Most of the lines of "learning" I had from each book was the new question I was able to pose (despite if I agreed with the answer).
A book is a bias.
And I'm really happy to read all of these biases.
Because it helps me check my own, or question my own, or adopt another bias, happily.
A book is a feeling.
A character is portrayed in such a way that you feel a certain way.
Maybe a part you haven't dared show to others.
A book is an idea that gets oversold.
After all, the work of the author is to transfer an idea. And so they look to add more credibility, more ways of saying it, more stories, more ways of approaching this idea than are likely necessary. But this also helps you "get it" deep the way the author "gets it."
In this way, a book always oversells the idea they have. It's built in. It forces the author to write more on an idea than they ever had before.
But that's OK.
Ideas have no limits.
It's our minds that we keep limited.
A book is a vehicle to expand the limits of your mind beyond where they are now.
One thing I loved looking through this list was that I would see certain books and they would once again spark that first, fresh idea that they dropped into my mind all over again!
Reading the ideas of someone else is like trying a new food.
Sometimes you think "How could I never have tasted this before!?"
And sometimes it just tastes bad and you spit it out.
But even still...
I'm still glad I tried it.
December 23, 2019
Your Algo vs. The Social Algo
This past week I went live with Khe from Radreads via Makerpad (we hosted a workshop) to learn about building your “Digital Brain” and managing your productivity using Notion.
You can rewatch it here: https://app.livestorm.co/p/dea0350d-a35d-4688-b7ee-8691bf9de6c5
I’ve spoken about the “PARA” method before, as well as this balance between consumption and production.
While this workshop focused on staying productive using Notion made me have a broader realization about something all knowledge workers must focus on.
That idea is that unless you have a strong personal algorithm (a process for how you set priorities, consume and filter information), you will get swept away by the broader social algorithm – that of email, slack, twitter, etc.
A personal algorithm, if done right, surfaces the most important priorities and information on a regular basis.
It’s a method for having what matters bubble up to the top of your mind as frequently as possible.
A personal algorithm could be setting your 3 most important tasks of the day.
Or it could be setting New Years Resolutions.
But, as we know, so often we fail at this.
The reason we have the “5 Regrets of the Dying” is because it’s the list of things that people succumbed to allowing to fall to the bottom of the stack of priorities instead of the top.
The problem is that we have competing algorithms which are seeking to divert our attention.
After all, advertising is about the companies priorities, not your priorities. It’s about taking your precious attention and nudging you to focus it elsewhere.
On occasion, this is helpful – but that occasion is only when your priorities and problems are in line with the solution you’re being sold. Otherwise it’s diversion.
Unless you have a strong method for continually seeing your priorities, you will get lost in someone elses.
And it seems like today we need an almost hourly reminder. Because looking at our priorities and keeping them is hard.
And in some ways, giving up control to the algorithm is an easier way to live. It is a path of least resistance. And our dopamine plays a role in hooking us into diversion as frequently as every 5 or 15 minutes (the times we pick up our phone to check x social network).
What I learned from Khe today was that you can build your own algorithm with intention.
You can use it to filter and rank information.
And more importantly, you can set Cues for yourself.
Cues Remind You About Your Priorities.
A Cue is a reminder.
It’s like a mantra.
It brings you back to what you are wanting to focus on. A Cue could be a sticky note on your computer. But, being that our minds live in the digital realm, we similarly need these Cues in our digital domains.
But if you care about your attention. If you care about your time. If you believe you can set your own priorities, instead of going with the flow and following the priorities of others, you need to have a system, an algorithm that can hold your priorities. Like a boulder in the stream, to make sure you’re holding on to what matters.
This Holiday, and new year, I’m thinking about how to continually hold onto what matters.
It’s your Algo vs. the Social Algo.
December 9, 2019
Art is a Feeling pt. 1
You want to glow.
You want to be as excited about the idea as anyone else. Even mores o.
You share but you don’t need to.
You don’t need a response.
You want to overflow.
It comes to you naturally, sometimes during a discussion or a conversation. Sometimes that conversation is with a book or a notebook.
The best ideas for art don’t need to be justified or argued for, they stand on their own.
The best books don’t need a detailed interpretation.
The best movies make each person feel exactly what the feel.
Even the ones who didn’t like it or are frustrated by it.
The best art exists on its own.
It doesn’t echo.
The best art has depth. Sequels exist within it.
When something has true staying power, it can’t be explained.
The best art is silent, even when it’s adorned.
It’s a vacuum. Its flaws don’t need correction.
It's like it has always existed.