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Asking for the second favor

The first favor is when you ask a friend or colleague to do something for you.

The second favor is when you ask them to do it precisely the way you would do it.

They’re not related. And the second one costs more.

Useful redundancy

There’s a section in the greeting card store for “New Baby” cards. I’m not sure what other kinds of babies are available. But the ‘new’ reminds us of why we are sending the card.

And “Happy Birthday” goes without saying as well. The person knows it’s their birthday, and of course you want it to be a happy one, that’s why you sent a card. While a blank on the front of the card would probably have just as much information value, saying it more often than is necessary is precisely the point of the card.

Sometimes, we assume that the person we’re engaging with knows exactly what we mean and want to express. But that assumption is often wrong, and a little redundancy can go a long way.


PS it’s launch day for The Podcasting Workshop. A perfect chance to build a practice of speaking up, consistently and generously. And it’s also the last day to join The Creative’s Workshop.

Famous conductors

Here’s a useful metaphor:

Famous conductors are often judged for an hour or two on stage. They wear expensive clothes, make dramatic gestures and receive ovations. They also get paid a lot to carry a very little stick and they’re the only one on stage who doesn’t make noise.

But it turns out that none of these things are what makes a great conductor.

What we’re not seeing:

  • Conductors set the agenda.
  • They have done the reading and understand what has come before.
  • They work to establish the culture of the organization.
  • They amplify the hard work and esprit de corps of some, while working to damp down the skeptics within the organization.
  • They figure out which voices to focus on, when.
  • They have less power than it appears, and use their position to lead, not manage.
  • They show up to rehearsal with an agenda and a path forward.
  • They raise money.
  • They transform a lot of ‘me’s’ into one ‘us’.
  • They develop a point of view. And they balance it with what the listener, the patron and the musicians all need.
  • They stick with it for decades.

It’s a form of leadership that happens in private, but once in a while, we see it on stage.

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.


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.

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