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The pinging

A friend left her phone near me. Over the next half hour, it pinged and chirped.

I felt myself getting anxious and a little antsy…

These were not pings for me, not on my phone. They weren’t sounds that my phone even makes.

It doesn’t matter.

The training has been going on for years. We’re caught in a Pavlovian game in which we’re the product, not the organizers.

Someone else is ringing the bell, and it’s been happening for so long we don’t even realize how deeply the hooks have been set.

Your big idea

It’s probably not completely original.

It’s probably not breathtaking in scope.

It’s probably not immediately popular.

But… it’s definitely worth pursuing, consistently and persistently for years and years.

If you care. If it’s generous and helpful and worth the journey.

All the big ideas that made a difference follow this pattern.

Each one leads to more

We can choose to commit to a recursive and infinite path that elegantly creates more of the same.

We can choose possibility.

We can choose connection.

We can choose optimism.

We can choose justice.

We can choose kindness.

We can choose resilience.

And we can decide to take responsibility.

Each leads to more of the same.

The trap of busy

Everyone who wants to be busy is busy.

But not everyone is productive.

Busy is simply a series of choices about how to spend the next minute.

Productive requires skill, persistence and good judgment. Productive means that you have created something of value.

Perhaps your self-created busy-ness is causing you to be less productive.

Tolerance

It means two things:

In high-quality manufacturing, producing to tolerance means that all the parts are as identical as possible. Getting the tolerances precise permits cars to be made more reliably, and for production to run more effectively.

In human beings, tolerance creates resilience. Tolerance of different abilities and preferences makes it easy to work with diversity of thought and approach and expertise, enabling better outcomes.

Tolerance doesn’t mean permitting behavior that undermines the community. In fact, it requires that we put the community first. Instead, it’s a willingness to focus on contribution instead of compliance.

We need to choose wisely. Are we working with machined parts or with people?

Arguments and outcomes

The purpose of marketing is to cause change. If we’re trying to build a movement, raise money for a non-profit, sell a product, change lifestyles, build community–these are all marketing activities that exist to change the way people act.

The project usually begins with clarity. The cause is just, the harm is real, the product is better. The work is worth doing, there’s an urgent need for change, it’s real.

But sometimes, the original arguments, as valid as they are, don’t work. In fact, they rarely do. People don’t all line up to donate or work out or sign up from the very start. You can put in the energy to have your pitch get heard, but the early ones often fall flat. It’s only as the arguments become more clear, or change, that they begin to resonate.

And yet we can get stuck with a certain orthodoxy. An early argument can become the only argument. The story that the group tells from the start is the right one, and anything else is a disappointing compromise, even if it leads to the action you sought in the first place.

In general, there are three things that cause people to change their actions:

  • Status roles
  • Affiliation
  • Convenience

Status roles involve whether this action will move someone up or down in the estimation of their peers or competitors.

Affiliation is related to status, but more specific. It’s “people like us do things like this.” In the words of the Rolling Stones: He can’t be a man because he doesn’t smoke, the same cigarettes as me.

And convenience is the hallmark of a semi-lazy decision–it’s just easier.

Using these three drivers, you can look at the spread of helmets in the NHL, or electric cars in California or Nike sneakers everywhere. We can see it in the decline in smoking in some communities, or the rise of a popular style of music as well.

The originators of these and other ideas didn’t begin with status, affiliation or convenience, but that’s what ended up working.

Three types of kindness

There is the kindness of ‘please’ and ‘thank you.’ And the kindness of “I was wrong, I’m sorry.” The small kindnesses that smooth our interactions and help other people feel as though you’re aware of them. These don’t cost us much, in fact, in most settings, engaging with kindness is an essential part of connection, engagement and forward motion.

And then there is the kindness of dignity. Of giving someone the benefit of the doubt. The kindness of seeing someone for the person that they are and can become, and the realization that everyone, including me and you, has a noise in our heads, a story to be told, fear to be danced with and dreams to be realized.

And there’s another: The kindness of not seeking to maximize short-term personal gain. The kindness of building something for the community, of doing work that matters, of finding a resilient, anti-selfish path forward.

Kindness isn’t always easy or obvious, because the urgent race to the bottom, to easily measured metrics and to scarcity, can distract us. But bending the arc toward justice, toward dignity and toward connection is our best way forward.

Kindness multiplies and it enables possiblity. When we’re of service to people, we have the chance to make things better.

Happy Birthday, Reverend King.

Pleasing the unpleasable

There are bosses, customers and partners who will never be happy.

And sometimes, despite the futility, we work to please them anyway.

Because that can be a compass. It can help us do the work that will satisfy others (or ourselves).

It can also be a trap, an endless treadmill of disappointment that leads nowhere in particular.

We should be clear about which one we’re on. Because working to please the pleasable is a lot more likely to pay off.

Is mood a gift or a skill?

Some days, we wake up with optimism and possibility… we’re able to find more reserves, connect better and do more generous work.

That might be because the outside world has handed us good news and opportunities, or it might be because the chemicals in our brain are particularly aligned…

I think it’s fair to assert that sometimes, our moods are handed to us.

But it’s also clearly true that we can do things to improve our mood. Morning pages, meditation, exercise, positive thinking, the right audio inputs, who we hang out with, the media we consume–it’s all a choice.

And if it’s a choice, that means it’s a skill, because we can get better at it.

The difficult choice of disappointment

All forward motion disappoints someone.

If you serve one audience, you’ve let another down. One focus means that something else got ignored. If you create something scarce, someone won’t get their hands on it.

The very act of creation means that it won’t be the ideal solution for everyone.

On the other hand, with certainty, we know that doing nothing disappoints an even larger group of people.

The opportunity is to find someone to delight and to embrace the fact that someone is not everyone.

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