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“I’ll go with my principles tomorrow”

In the short run, it’s easy to abandon what we believe. Deep down, we assume that once things go back to normal, so will we.

Organizations end up with bullies, predators and bad actors for only one reason: In this moment, it’s easier to keep them. There’s some sort of urgency that makes asking them to leave too difficult right now, so we put it off for a little while. When we make a “just this once” exception, we’ve already made a decision about what’s truly important.

And the same goes for those moments when we’re inclined to be, just for a moment, a bully, a predator or a bad actor as well. Few people decide to be selfish for the long haul.

What makes it a principle is that we do it now, even though (especially though) it’s hard.

Communicating online (the big leaps)

It’s not just like the real world but with keyboards.

Leap 1: Attention is too easy to steal online, so don’t. Spam is a bad idea. Interrupting hundreds or millions of people doesn’t cost you much, but costs each person a lot. You wouldn’t stand up in the middle of a Broadway play and start selling insurance from the audience. Don’t do it with your keyboard. Permission is anticipated, personal and relevant.

Leap 2: There’s a difference between asynchronous and synchronous interaction. We know this intuitively in the real world (a letter is different from a phone call) but online, it’s profound. A discussion board isn’t the same as a Zoom call. It turns out that we can create rich and layered conversations with async communication, but we also have to be just a bit more patient.

Leap 3: More than one person can ‘talk’ at a time. In the real world, that’s impossible. At a table for six, we take turns talking. But in a chat room, we can all talk at the same time. Use it well and you can dramatically increase information exchange. But if you try to follow all the threads, or you miss what you need, then it’s actually less effective.

Leap 4: Sometimes we leave a trail. Most real-life conversations are inherently off the record because the words disappear right after we say them. But if you use a keyboard, or you’re attached to a server, assume you’re being recorded and act appropriately. And sometimes the people who are talking are anonymous (which never happens in the real world).

It’s possible, with effort, to transform business communications (and schooling) away from the top-down, synchronized, compliance-focused, off-the-record, hierarchical and slow status quo to something significantly more fluid and powerful. But we’ll need to do it on purpose.

 

PS the free co-working space we’re offering has become a successful community hub. Thanks to the Akimbo team for putting so much into creating it, and for the thousands of people who have found energy and solace by being part of it.

Generous isn’t always the same as free

People have been generous with you through the years. A doctor who took the time to understand your pain. A server who didn’t hesitate and brought you what you needed before you even knew you needed it. A boss who gave you a project at just the right time.

Gifts create connection and possibility, but not all gifts have monetary value. In fact, some of the most important gifts involve time, effort and care instead.

Money was invented long after humans arrived on the scene, and commerce can’t solve all problems.

In this moment when we’re so disconnected and afraid, the answer might not be a freebie. That might simply push us further apart. The answer might be showing up to do the difficult work of connection, of caring and of extending ourselves where it’s not expected.

Is everything going to be okay?

That depends.

If we mean, “Is everything going to be the way it was and the way I expected it to be?” then the answer is no. The answer to that question is always no, it always has been.

If we mean, “Is everything going to be the way it is going to be?” then the answer is yes. Of course. If we define whatever happens as okay, then everything will be.

Given that everything is going to be the way it’s going to be, we’re left with an actually useful and productive question instead: “What are you going to do about it?”

Let’s do it together

As we’ve seen through these challenging times, the real skills matter. The ability to hold it all together, to lead, to bring insight and care to interactions. Too often, we’re pushed to only focus on the easily measured, but each of us knows that the human elements are critical.

We’re relaunching the Real Skills Conference. We ran it a few months ago and it was the most effective and extraordinary online event we’ve ever experienced. More than 97% of the participants in this two-hour online conference were still actively engaged at the end of it.

It runs on April 24, but you need to sign up in advance, since it will be fully enrolled.

You can find out all the details at realskillsconference.com. If you click the purple circle on the site, you’ll save quite a bit on the fee if you register today.

We can move forward, together.

You are your clips

A divisive radio personality, asking for forgiveness, says to his critics, “don’t judge me by my clips.”

Why not?

The things we say and the projects we do are our clips. Taken together, they are our contribution. If you don’t want to be judged by a clip of something you said or did, the path is pretty clear.

The best resume says, “please judge me by my clips.”

Moods and actions

The way we feel can be triggered by outside events.

And that can change how we act.

And the way we act can reinforce how we feel.

Of course, the opposite is true as well, and far more in our active control.

How we act always changes how we feel.

This is a perfect moment for upskilling. For a sprint in learning something that’s difficult to learn. Not because a teacher or a boss made us do it, but because we chose to. Not only do we get to keep that skill forever, but the act of taking control and expending the effort will change our mood.

And this is the perfect moment for generous connection. Going way beyond the news of the day, we have the chance to create intimate digital interactions that last.

It’s a significant posture shift, one which might change who you see when you look in the mirror.

We might not be able to do anything about external events, but we have control over our actions. Sometimes, it’s hard to stare right into that opportunity, because it comes with a lot of responsibility.

What will you learn today? Who will you teach?

Fill in the blanks

Other than multiple-choice, this is one of the easiest ways to work through a test or a workday.

Find the blanks, fill them in.

Here’s the question: Who decided what the blanks were?

We get to write our own, any time we choose.

Life’s actually an essay, not a series of responses to someone else’s agenda.

Day trading emotions

When the stock market is on an upward tear, day trading becomes popular. You sit in your basement, surrounded by terminals and tickers, searching for the latest bits of information, hoping to make a profit buying and selling based on what’s happening in this very instant.

It’s pretty tempting to day trade your emotions.

We’ve piped the voices of a billion people directly into our brains. The loudest, angriest, most frightened people are the ones that are amplified the most.

Everyone sharing what’s breaking. The visceral angst of this very moment, over and over.

Just as it’s almost impossible to make a profit as a day trader, it’s difficult to be happy when you day trade emotions. But there’s an alternative:

Buy and hold.

Stand for something.

Stick with it.

Long-term contributions matter. Today ends tonight and tomorrow starts again, but we only get one long-term life.

Add up the sum of our days and that’s who we are. We get what we repeat.

Calm also has a coefficient

Panic loves company.

And yet calm is our practical, efficient, rational alternative.

If you’re on a crowded plane and one person is freaking out about turbulence, the panic will eventually peter out. If, on the other hand, six people are freaking out, it’s entirely possible that it will spread and overtake the rest of the plane. Panic needs multiple nodes to spread.

The same is true with a cabin of 10-year-olds at summer camp. One homesick kid usually comes around and ends up enjoying the summer, because being surrounded by others who are okay makes us okay. But three or four homesick kids can change the entire dynamic.

While calm is a damping agent, it’s not nearly as effective at spreading itself as panic is.

The library is usually a quiet place because the dominant cultural narrative in the library is to be quiet. Because it’s dominant, the coefficient of its spread is sufficient to keep it that way. We have to expend effort to create environments of calm, because calm has a coefficient that can’t compete with panic when it comes to spreading.

And Twitter? Twitter has been engineered to maximize panic. Calm is penalized, panic is amplified. And if you are hanging out in real life with people who spend a lot of time on social media and news sites, you’ve invited all of those people into your circle as well.

We can find lots of reasons why fifty years of watching just three dominant TV networks wasn’t ideal. But the combination of oligopoly and the FCC meant that none of them spread panic. They weren’t built for it. When cable “news” showed up, they discovered that panic was a great way to make a profit. Not to make things better, simply to spread anger and fear.

If panic is helpful, of course you should bring it on. But it rarely is.

Instead:

Curate your incoming.

Stay off Twitter.

Do the work instead. Whatever needs doing most is better than panic.

Being up-to-date on the news is a trap and a scam. Five minutes a day is all you need.

More on this from Margo.

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