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How big is your unfillable hole?

It doesn’t really matter, does it?

All of your bad habits (and some of your good ones) exist to fill that hole, or to protect it from being seen.

And as long as our mission is to fill the hole, and as long as the hole remains unfillable (and after all this time, if it’s not filled yet, good luck with that) it doesn’t really matter how small or trivial or unmentionable the hole is.

It still drives us.

The first step to living with it is to acknowledge it.

You can’t make it go away.

But you can learn to dance with it.

The minimum viable audience

The smallest group that could possibly sustain you in your work…

If you could pick the members of this audience, who would you choose? Their dreams, their worldviews, their energy, all up to you.

If you could pick them and needed to delight them because you had no one else available, would your product or service improve? If you had no choice but to ignore the naysayers (they’re not in the group) or the people who don’t think they need you or your work, would that force you to stop compromising and start excelling?

Two things happen when you delight your minimum viable audience:

  1. you discover it’s a lot larger group than you expected
  2. they tell the others

On the other hand, if you aim for mass (another word for average), you’ll probably create something average. Which gets you not very far.

Where are you headed?

Traffic at work isn’t just a metaphor. It’s real. We get stuck. Surrounded by people who are just as stuck. It can seem like progress is at a crawl.

And then, we see a different way. Someone finds a lane we didn’t even know existed. Quickly, they’re joined by a few others, a cohort that’s making a difference and moving precisely where they want to go.

All around us, there are people who want to protect their status quo, while others are on a path to level up. Some careers are about checking boxes while others set people up to draw the boxes.

This blog, of course, is for people who want to do work that matters. It might be a more difficult route, but it’s worth it.

The work of leveling up involves pushing past perceived limitations, understanding that they’re not real.

And it involves surrounding yourself with people on a similar journey.

“What’s required here?” is the question we were taught to ask. This is the loyal employee and the reliable cog, meeting spec.

“What is the opportunity here?” is a totally different question. It’s about contribution and forward motion, not simply compliance.

For people in a hurry to learn and contribute, the range of learning options online is a boon. You can learn more, and more quickly, than ever before. The options range from straight video courses (some of which are really quite expensive, some of which are nearly free) to intensive interpersonal community interactions. Some involve fun topics and well-known celebrities, while others are dry video monologues offered in exchange for a continuing education credit.

Nearly three years ago, we started the altMBA. Our goal was to find people who were already enrolled in the journey of leveling up and making a difference–and so we created an intensive thirty-day workshop that would help them do better work.

The altMBA is not like the other online courses you might see offered from various websites. We have a coach for every ten students, with group work, daily video calls and most of all, peer-to-peer projects. There are no gurus, no video lectures, nothing to memorize.

It’s easier to take (and make) a straight video course, but I’m not sure it can deliver the results worthy of your time.

One of the key choices we made is that we don’t have tests or a fancy accreditation. That’s because these enforcement tools separate the student from the process, turning it into something adversarial. The question, “will this be on the test?” is a question about how little can I do, and about compliance.

On the other hand, if you’re enrolled, then no enforcement is necessary. If you’re enrolled in the journey, no one has to hassle you. Instead of seeking to do less, you seek to do more.

The altMBA was created to help people see more clearly, make better decisions and engage with their soft skills, the ones that truly matter. This is a cohort of people who have decided to leave their imagined limitations behind.

With the altMBA continuing to thrive, we’ve taken some of what we’ve learned from the process and expanded it into a new learning paradigm, online seminars we’re calling workshops.

Unlike the altMBA, these new workshops don’t have a high coach ratio, organized learning groups or peer-to-peer projects. Instead, we’re building online communities with dozens of video lessons, lessons that each participant can turn into a chance to improve their own projects. In a typical workshop, there are hundreds of thousands of page views every few weeks, and a post is made every few minutes, 24 hours a day.

Real people, interacting with each other because the journey is worth it. Seeing in others what they know they have in themselves.

These workshops are far more tactical than the altMBA, but they still end up challenging people to ask themselves (and each other) the really hard questions.

We’re calling these the Akimbo workshops. They include The Marketing Seminar, The Podcasting Fellowship and several others. And we only offer them to people who are already headed in that direction. It’s voluntary education, it’s for people who have decided to get on the bus and get to where they’re going.

I hope you’ll check out both the altMBA and the Akimbo workshops. Because if you’re ready to level up, we’re ready for you.


PS If you’ve been on the fence about the altMBA, I hope you’ll click over to see some of our latest news, testimonials and updates–the final decision deadline for our next session is this week, on March 22.

The invisible limits

Words like חמץ and kx’āhã don’t appear in English. These words, like thousands of others, include sounds that aren’t part of the normal spoken range of the language. We don’t have difficulty saying or hearing these sounds, they’re simply sounds we have rules against.

The question is: Is the alphabet we use missing those sounds because we don’t use them, or is it that we don’t use those sounds because we don’t have letters for them?

If you can’t see it, you can’t say it. And that goes for more than words.

Resilience and tolerances

Resilience is what happens when we’re able to move forward even when things don’t fit together the way we expect.

And tolerances are an engineer’s measurement of how well the parts meet spec. (The word ‘precision’ comes to mind). A 2018 Lexus is better than 1968 Camaro because every single part in the car fits together dramatically better. The tolerances are more narrow now.

One way to ensure that things work out the way you hope is to spend the time and money to ensure that every part, every form, every worker meets spec. Tighten your spec, increase precision and you’ll discover that systems become more reliable.

The other alternative is to embrace the fact that nothing is ever exactly on spec, and to build resilient systems.

You’ll probably find that while precision feels like the way forward, resilience, the ability to thrive when things go wrong, is a much safer bet.

The trap? Hoping for one, the other or both but not doing the work to make it likely. What will you do when it doesn’t work?

Neither resilience nor tolerances get better on their own.

Faucets and drains

Some people, every time they engage with others, are an energy drain. They take persuading, cajoling and enthusiasm to get going, and require ever more of it to keep going.

And some people are a faucet, an endless pipeline of possibility, potential and forward motion.

Who do you work with? Who are you hiring?

It’s possible to turn a drain into a faucet. It’s mostly a choice, a decision to dance with the fear of contribution.

Unexpected yet totally plausible

That is where breakthroughs lie.

If you keep poking around the expected, it’s unlikely you’ll be surprised by what you find.

‘Move fast and break things’ isn’t a worthy slogan

…because ‘breaking things’ isn’t the point of your work.

How about, “Move fast and make things better,”

or

“Move fast and create possibility”?

The reason we hesitate to move fast is that we’re worried about what that implies.

Move fast and learn something.

Move fast and take responsibility.

Move fast and then do it again because now you’re smarter.

The alternative is to move slow. To move slow and to hide.

Which means that those you sought to connect, to help and to offer something to will suffer as they wait.

Don’t hoard your work. Own it and share it.

“You made my day”

When your day gets made, how long does it last? A made day–is that different from a normal day?

Perhaps it would be more accurate to call it a made hour or, if we’re going to be quite truthful, a made minute.

When something bad happens, we can revisit the humiliation and anxiety for months. But the good stuff, if we don’t work at it, can pass right by.

We get what we remember, and we remember what we focus on.

The surprising secret of web headlines

It’s not that difficult to write a headline that people click on.

But a headline that people click on is rarely one that earns trust, sustained attention or action.

Which means that if you’re looking for more than a click, you’ll need to walk away from the bait and switch that’s now so common.

Just because you can trick people and swindle a click doesn’t mean you should. Because, as we know, measuring the wrong thing is worse than measuring nothing at all.

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