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“I know it’s bad – but everyone’s doing it”

The optimists who got excited about the ‘everyone has a microphone’ promise of the Net 20 years ago overlooked two flaws in human nature:

First, given sufficient reward (money, attention, fame, notoriety) some people will show up and say and do things that they know are wrong.

Second, if enough people are in the first group of bottom fishers, many other people may decide that those behaviors aren’t as wrong as they thought they were. The internet ends up normalizing bad behavior, because bad behavior captures our attention and gets noticed. We multiply the outliers in our imagination and come to the erroneous conclusion that their behavior is common, when it actually isn’t.

There are two ways forward, and both are up to us: First, we can start paying more attention (rewarding) good behavior. And second, we can start modeling precisely the sort of discourse and contributions we hope to see from others.

The best antidote to a culture shifting to bad behavior is to re-normalize good behavior.

Creative people

There’s just one way to become one:

Do something creative.

It’s a little bit like leaders. What they have in common is that they lead.

Simply begin.

Artists and freedom

It’s tempting to claim the role of artist. Once you’re an artist, you’re free.

Free to work your own hours, free to make what you want to make, free to express yourself.

Except not really.

Because it comes with a hook. The hook of, “here, I made this.”

Responsibility for the work.

It’s a privilege, and we trade our freedom for it. The responsibility to own what we make.

If you’re lost, go faster

Going faster increases the chances that you’ll find a landmark and become unlost.

This rule has a corollary though: If you’re going the wrong direction, turn around.

[And one clarification: sometimes going faster looks a lot like going slower in the short run. Because taking the time to read a map, get your bearings and understand the system you’re in ultimately gets you there more quickly.]


PS on the topic of turning around (or going faster), we’re now accepting applications for the next session of the altMBA. Today’s the last day for First Priority applications for our January session. 75 countries, thousands of alumni, people who care, making a difference and leveling up. Please consider joining us.

I’ll be answering your questions live today, Tuesday at 11 am ET on Facebook and Instagram.

The relationship with the customer

If you’ve ever bought a mattress online, or a private label product from Amazon, you’ve experienced the value created by the last step.

That mattress company didn’t make the mattress.

And Amazon doesn’t make light bulbs.

There are countless factories vying to sell generic products to the companies that own the customer relationship. Perhaps 90% (sometimes 100%) of the profit goes to companies that make the sale, not the ones who actually made the product.

That’s because while they make the thing, they don’t do the work. The hard part is earning attention and trust. The hard part is helping someone make the choice. (There’s a difference between the hard part and the important part. Without the factory, there’s nothing to sell. Making it is important. But increasingly, it’s not the hard part.)

The Broadway producer makes a profit, the chorus member ekes out a living. Fair pay is related to the scarce work of engaging with the customer.

Either you’re doing the hard part or you’re left out of the transaction.

Placebo blindness

You can go to work offended by the idea that you might traffic in placebos. You can be certain that your aromatherapy, jewelry store, engineering consulting, stereo gear or home improvement practice is 100% performance-based, completely driven by specs, immune to a double-blind study.

Or, you can embrace the fact that human beings are 94% irrational, making decisions based on feelings, expectations and culture. That none of us are double-blind in real life. That the placebo is the most highly leveraged and efficient way you’ve got to help people get to where they’re going.

Ignoring the placebo effect won’t make it go away. Embracing it will help you do much better work, work that quite possibly is based on those skills and practices you’ve worked so hard to be good at. If it’s worth doing your work, it’s worth doing it in a way where placebos will help you do it better.

More (or less)

The linchpin faces a fork in the road:

You can try to make your job have more. More impact, more responsibility, more leverage.

Or you can be industrial about it and try to have your job involve less. Less risk, less effort, less to fear.

Is your ideal job one where you get paid but no one even knows you work there… or is it to bring your hopes and dreams and talents to a position where you can change things for the better?


PS check out The Bootstrapper’s Workshop. Our first projects are about to start.

Also, check out our free, weekly newsletter about Linchpin Jobs.

A useful definition of art

Art is a human activity. It is the creation of something new, something that might not work, something that causes a viewer to be influenced.

Art uses context and culture to send a message. Instead of only a contribution of beauty or craft, art adds intent. The artist works to create something generous, something that will change us.

Art isn’t painting or canvas or prettiness. Art is work that matters.

It’s entirely possible that you’re an artist.

Everyone can be, if we choose.

Approaching the limits

Not the limit of our skills.

Not the limit of our knowledge.

Not the limit of our physical capacity…

It’s almost always the limits of our internal narrative. Our guts. Our willingness to be kind, to believe, to care enough to leap.

We can’t do anything about the limitations of physics, and we can never do enough to change the limitations of our culture. But we can begin today on changing the internal limits we place on ourselves.

Yes, it’s your turn.

Memories of memories

That’s most of what we’ve got.

We don’t actually remember much of what happens. Instead, we get what we’ve rehearsed.

If we fail to rehearse, the memory will fade.

And if the memory isn’t serving us, we can work to stop rehearsing it.

Choosing what we rehearse is a way of choosing who we will become.

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