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One by one, the urgent goes away

Those emergencies from a year ago (and a month ago), they’re gone.

Either they were solved, or they became things to live with. But emergencies don’t last. They fade.

Knowing that, knowing that you will outlast them, every single one of them, does it make it easier to see the problem, not the panic?

The magic of a book launch

Today is launch day for my new book. Thanks to fast-clicking readers and alumni, it’s already a bestseller. You can check out some of the advance reviews. And the Financial Times picked it one of November’s books of the month. And 800CEOREAD just long listed it as one of the best marketing books of the year…

Lots of cool surprises in this post, just for you and my other favorite blog readers…

For the first time, we’re hosting an online launch party. If you grab a copy in the next two weeks, we’d love to have you join us.

The launch party will feature exclusive videos from me expanding on ideas in the book, an ongoing Q&A session and most of all, a chance to connect with thousands of other alumni of our online seminar and the purchasers of the book as well. You’ll find a cohort of fascinating and generous people there, and my hope is that if you’re an eager contributor to the party, you’ll find that it’s even worth more than the cost of the book itself.

If you’re an early adopter, the kind of person who goes first, you’re our kind of person. Join the launch party to meet more people like us. If you get a copy in the next week or so, you can join in. Sign up here.

The launch party is free to join for readers. Once you buy a copy of the book, you’ll find a code on the bottom of page 260 (or in the Kindle edition, at the end of the acknowledgments) that will get you into the Party. If you’re listening on audio, use the link at the bottom of the page.

One more thing…

Along the way, we’ve created:

An action figure, a milk carton, a cereal box, not one but two books that each weighed 17 pounds, a wooden boxed set, a letterpress poster and many more–and each sold out. All created at breakeven, all for fun, all for the true fans. Your chance to have something that almost no one else does.

And the new one is fun indeed:

Find out more about the collectible here.

There are only 2,000 of them in the warehouse, and we’re not going to make any more. I hope you’ll check it out before they’re all gone. There are 19 different covers packed in four different sets of 8… see if you can collect them all.

And what will you do with those 7 extra books, the ones that come with a limited-edition custom cover?

I’m hoping you’ll share them.

You might share them with co-workers because you know that if you can all get on the same page, your marketing will work better and you’ll be more likely to be able to do work you’re proud of.

You could share them with non-profit leaders or political leaders, because you want their work to spread.

And perhaps you’ll share them with your students, your friends or those you admire, because now’s the best time to make a ruckus.

Person to person, horizontally.

Making the covers and the custom box and the rest of it was thrilling, and I can’t thank you enough for letting us do this work. Highlights from the book in tomorrow’s post…

The magnetic generosity of the network effect

If you share a pizza with a large crowd, no one will be very satisfied.

But if you share an idea with a group, it creates cultural impact and becomes more valuable as it spreads, not less.

Most of the time, we adopt the scarcity model of pizza. “I don’t have that much, and if I share it with you, I won’t have any left…”

But in fact, the useful parts of our life are better characterized as, “If I share it with you, we’ll both have it.”

An idea shared is more powerful than one that’s hidden. A technology standard outperforms a proprietary one. A community is stronger than divided individuals ever could be.

When you give away your work by building the network, you’re not giving it away at all.

You’re building trust, authority and a positive cycle of better.

Simply awake

Not groggy, not zoned out, not hyper, merely awake.

Aware of what’s around us. Present. Seeing things clearly, hearing them as if for the first time.

How often are we lucky enough to be awake?

Mass media, social networks, marketers—they rarely help us become awake. They seek clicking, buying, fearful zombies instead.

The people we seek to serve, those that we’re trying to reach–in the rare moments when they’re awake, are we wasting that tiny slice of magic? Do we create fear or boredom or ennui in the short run merely because it’s easier for us?

Seeking a state of awake seems like a worthy quest. And when we find it, it’s worth cherishing.

Get your memo read

The unanticipated but important memo has a difficult road. It will likely be ignored.

The difficult parts:

a. no one is waiting to hear from you

b. you need to have the clarity to know who it’s for, what’s it for and precisely what you want them to do

c. you have to have the guts to leave out everything that isn’t part of (b)

Consider a memo that was left outside my door at a hotel recently. The management distributed 1000 of them and perhaps ten people read it and took action.

Here’s what to keep in mind:

  1. Pattern interrupt. When was the last time you listened to the seat belt announcement on an airplane? We ignore it because we’ve been trained to ignore it. When you show up in a place, at a time, with a format that we’ve been trained to ignore, we’ll ignore you.
  2. Write a story. You seek engagement. Talk about me. About you, about yesterday, today and tomorrow. If you earn the first sentence, you’ll need to sell me on reading the second sentence.
  3. Frame the story. Help me compare it to something. Create urgency. Make it about me, my status, my needs.
  4. Chunk the message. How many things are you trying to say? (Hint: two might be too many). Let me scan instead of study.
  5. Include a call to action. Right here, right now.

Here’s a before and after of what inspired me.

It’s not a bucket

Filling up a bucket might not be fast or easy, but you can easily measure your progress. Patience isn’t difficult, because you can see it getting filled.

Most of what’s important to us, though, doesn’t show itself this way.

Drip by drip is how we build things, but we can’t see it. One more “no,” one more failure, one more lesson learned.

It’s not a bucket, but it is a journey.

If what you’re doing isn’t working

Perhaps it’s time to do something else.

Not a new job, or a new city, but perhaps a different story.

A story about possibility and sufficiency. A story about connection and trust. A story about for and with, instead of at or to.

Bootstrapping your way to a new story about the world around you is one of the most difficult things you’ll ever do. Our current story was built piecemeal, over time, the result of vivid interactions and hard-fought lessons.

But if that story isn’t getting you where you need to go, then what’s it for?

It’s entirely possible that the story we tell ourselves all day every day is true and accurate and useful, the very best representation of the world as it actually is.

It’s possible, but vanishingly unlikely.

What if we search for a useful story instead? A story that helps us cause the change we seek to make in the world, and to feel good doing it.

If you can’t solo bootstrap it, get some help to install a new story. It’s worth it.

Understanding random testing

There are two good reasons to do random testing.

The first is that you’re working with a homogenous or expected distribution, and the cost of letting something defective slip through is pretty low. For example, the chef doesn’t have to taste every single serving before it leaves the kitchen. Quality manufacturing is based on the efficient use of random testing to be sure that each batch is expected to be within tolerance. It works as long as the thing being tested isn’t itself widely variable. If it is, you’ll need to test every single unit.

The second is that you’re trying to send a message to alter people’s behavior. Drug testing or tax audits are examples of this. You can’t test everyone, but you make it clear that there’s a non-zero chance that someone who is outside the rules will get caught.

We do random testing all the time without realizing it. That’s probably a mistake–we should either test every unit (when the stakes are high or when outcomes are unpredictable) or we should trust our people and our systems enough to test very rarely.

It doesn’t make sense to set up a random speed trap. Either measure the speed of every car or measure the speed of none of them.

Sending a message through testing and draconian punishment might make good security theatre, but it’s a waste of time and trust.

Who cares?

On almost every issue that divides the electorate (in the US and abroad), the group that gets out the vote will win.

In most elections, the more some candidates spend, the more disillusioned the electorate becomes. The goal is to keep the opponent’s supporters from caring enough to vote.

These are not unrelated facts.

We’re being played, manipulated and pushed around. It’s important to not fall for it.

Here’s the simple math:

If you’re tempted to not vote because of the vitriol or the imperfect nature of the choices, then you’re supporting a downward cycle, in which the candidate who best suppresses voter turnout of the opponent’s backers wins.

On the other hand, if you always vote for the least-bad option, then a forward cycle will kick in, in which candidates (and their consultants and backers, who are also causing this problem) will realize that always being a little less bad than the other guy is a winning strategy. Which leads to a virtuous cycle in the right direction.

Don’t get tricked. Show up.

The steering wheel and the guardrails

Your car may have a powerful engine, but if the steering wheel is out of whack, it’s probably a mistake to simply drive faster. And putting in premium gas and removing the muffler doesn’t help much either.

And if you’re driving on a crowded road, it makes no sense to hit the gas and tell anyone who gets hit to be more careful.

We don’t have to wait for a wreck, a smashed engine, to put our tools to better use.

Capitalism is an extraordinary engine. It has remade every corner of the Earth, and done it in the course of two or three lifetimes. Together with its cousins, technology and industrialism, capitalism is an evolving system that changes whatever it touches.

But the purpose of our society isn’t to optimize capitalism. The purpose of capitalism is to allow our society to become better. A culture that opens doors for and nurtures the people we care about.

The issues of our time are education, corruption, access, infrastructure, civility and the downstream effects of the work we do.

Investing in guardrails and fixing the steering doesn’t deny the power of capitalism. It puts it to better use.


[An aside: Kevin Kelly points us to GeoGuessr, which is a superfun Google Maps game, one that I spent two hours on yesterday–it would be great if every sixth grader got good at it. One thing I noticed is how much most of the world looks alike now–one of the plus/minus side effects of the paving/cultural spread/commercial shift of the last fifty years.]

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