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In a competition between someone who knows the most and someone who is willing to learn the most, the edge usually goes to the curious and empathic professional, not the one who is simply protecting what’s already known.

When we look in the mirror

When we look in the mirror, who do we see?

[A note I sent to a young friend.]

The person we see when we look in the mirror is the person we become, the person we fight to defend and persist with.

If you see someone who doesn’t have a lot of friends, then every time a potential friend comes along, you will find a way to distance yourself from the heartache of being rejected, and you’ll continue to not have a lot of friends.

If you see someone who isn’t happy with inputs you can’t control, then when new inputs come along, you’ll find something wrong with them and seek more control not less.

If you see someone who thrives on challenges, challenges will become a chance to thrive.

Each day gives us the best chance in the world to see a different person in the mirror.

A chance to change the stories we tell ourselves.

Airplanes rarely crash. It doesn’t matter. Turbulence isn’t fatal. It doesn’t matter. If you want to tell yourself a story about air travel, that’s your story and as far as you can take it, it’s true. It’s your story and no one can take it away from you.

Perhaps you’re homesick. Home is great. Home is wonderful. Missing home is a sign that you have a home worth missing. Being homesick is a story we tell ourselves about who we are.

But who will you become? Who can you become?

It turns out that when you’re surrounded by people who care about you, when you have freedom and a chance to lead, you can become a different, more generous, happier, more powerful, more friended version of yourself.

If you want to become the kind of person who can teach an 8-year-old how to play basketball, you can start doing that right now.

If you want to be the kind of person who leads, you can begin to lead.

If you want to.

Because you’re smart, you care, you have something to say. Because there are people who love you and care about you.

And the best way to honor those people, and honor yourself, is to become the person you were born to be.

If you want to.

Today is the best day to begin that journey. If you wait, it gets harder.

Who do you want to be when you look in the mirror?

Confidence doesn’t help win the lottery

It doesn’t matter how sure you are that this is a winning ticket, the ticket doesn’t care.

And there are lots of lotteries in our lives.

I was talking to a fifteen-year old the other day. He’s decided to devote the next decade of his life to getting drafted to play in the NBA.

Without a doubt, effort and skill make a huge impact on whether you’ll even make the final 5,000 people who have a shot at making the NBA. But after that, it looks a lot more like a lottery than a meritocracy.

The resilient approach is to bring discipline and effort to the work, but to know, deep down, that you better have a plan B. That’s not a lack of faith. That’s simply smart.

Accounting (and small business)

Every small business needs a bookkeeper, but few take appropriate advantage of accounting.

Accounting is a way to turn organized books into insight. Particularly:

  1. It can help us make decisions. Any data that isn’t going to help you make a decision is worth ignoring. More granularity isn’t better granularity.
  2. It can help us understand our cash flows. In any given moment, we know very little about a business. But over time, we can see how assets and expenses flow–and that flow is insight about what we own, what it’s worth and what could improve (see #1.)
  3. It can implement systems that build trust. When we know who is spending what and when and why, it’s easier stop micromanaging and focus on #1 instead.
  4. We can get better at predicting the future. Budgets based on past experiences are more likely to be accurate than those we simply make up in the moment.

The reasons search seems to be getting worse

Even with the powerful Ecosia engine, but especially with Google and Amazon, it’s getting rarer and rarer that a search feels as though it finds just the right site or product or information on the very first try. There are a few reasons for this:

  1. Our expectations are higher. Even a good search doesn’t feel the way it used to. Amaze us a few times and we get hooked on being amazed. It’s tough to top the extraordinary results that we became used to. In the last two years, I’ve done 10,000+ searches on Ecosia, so it’s easy to get jaded.
  2. The search engines are selling us out. They’ve discovered that selling ads to entities who lose at a given search is pretty profitable, so the non-organic results that are crowding out our searches are of course not as good as the ones we would have found for ‘free’.
  3. The manufacturers of products and the creators of sites are getting better and better at gaming the search engines. Not just fake books on Amazon that pretend to be what you were after, but entire product lines and industries built with winning at search as their core competency. You see it in any media ecosystem where search is profitable. Organizations built on more, want more.
  4. Lack of competition. Once a big organization wins at something, they shift their focus and work to profit from it, not improve it. Instead of fighting #3 and walking away from #2, the leaders at search are becoming complacent.

Books for your solstice

In the Northern Hemisphere, it gets dark in December.

And worldwide, people buy gifts for whatever holidays they celebrate, and a lot of them are around the corner.

For both reasons, books!

The Carbon Almanac was an Amazon Editor’s choice, a Do Lectures top 100 choice, a bestseller in every country it has been released in and ideal for anyone over the age of ten.

Several organizations are buying a copy of the Almanac for their annual gifts, and if enough of us share enough copies, the world will change. It already is.

Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow is a magical romp, a heartbreaking love story and a ton of fun.

The Flavor Equation is a terrific cookbook and also a useful inquiry into taste. The audiobook was free with my membership, but I confess that the hardcover is a lot more useful and a better gift too.

Kafka on the Shore is a mind-bending coming-of-age story, and the audiobook is simply perfect.

All the Birds in the Sky is poignant, fun and it will make you think. A lot.

The Very Nice Box is a lovely book with a message that will resonate.

Whether it’s by candlelight or on a beach, I hope you have a lovely end to the year.

All the marbles (and quick money)

The problem with winning all the marbles is that the game is then over. And owning all the marbles is not really worth the effort if it means no one else has a chance going forward.

And quick money? It pales in comparison with money earned over time for a job well done.

My pickup truck is faster than your Ferrari

Culture shifts. But it’s held in place by norms, and those are driven by status and affiliation.

No one actually needs a car that can accelerate one second faster than most other cars. But having one confers status in some circles. But what happens when a new generation of technology makes that previously fast car not the fastest anymore? Is it still a luxury good?

Mink coats used to confer some sort of prestige in some circles. What happens when a Patagonia jacket is warmer, more durable, cheaper, lighter, less cruel and easier to wear?

A big steak dinner was a way to express generosity and hospitality. What happens when you live in a community where steak isn’t seen as generous any longer?

Perhaps a master of the universe can point out that he can be at the meeting tomorrow simply by hopping on his private jet. Is there more status in being the one who can save time and overhead simply by dropping in via Zoom?

A big office may no longer be more prestigious than a resilient, productive workforce that works where it wants to. A loud factory crammed with workers might not be the sign of power and influence that it used to be. Smokestacks used to show that a city was on the move…

In many cases, luxury goods cease to have status when they make the owner look stupid.

Norms seem normal. Until they’re not.

Don’t rush

Hurry, sure. We need to hurry.

Hurry puts it up on our priority list. Hurry gives us urgency and focus.

But rushing is something that leads to errors and then apologies. “I’m sorry, I rushed it,” is not something we want to hear.

But hurry.

Vast vs specific

Try to fit in every general and conceptual detail when describing a very big concept and it’s likely that we’ll be confused. When you’re intent on explaining all of it, we glaze over.

Consider switching gears and sharing the most specific possible example with impact and humanity instead.

If we’re sold on where you’re going, we’ll probably spend the time to learn how to get there.