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The soapbox and the city

Cities work because they create collisions between and among diverse individuals. Ideas go to cities to be born and to be spread, and the chaos that bubbles just under the surface feeds those ideas. The web, at its most effective, is a digital city, a place where access is equal and ideas race and connect and morph.

If you want to find creative work, go to a city. If you want to find inspiration, expose yourself to diversity, not a bubble. The city is chaotic, without much of a filter.

The soapbox, on the other hand, is the amplified voice of a single speaker. The soapbox is the newspaper with subscribers, the Twitter account with followers, the blog with readers. A soapbox cannot ever scale to be like the city, because given the chance, the mob, attracted by the attention that comes with the soapbox, will grab the microphone and create nothing but noise. Open mic night is an interesting concept, but it never sells out Madison Square Garden.

Everyone deserves their own soapbox. The web has handed everyone a microphone and said, "here, speak up." But everyone doesn't deserve their own audience. That's something that's earned. Once you're on your soapbox, by all means take inspiration from the city. Learn from the diverse voices you hear. But your soapbox is yours, and the people who listen to you came to hear you, not everyone.

Access isn't really the issue when it comes to soapboxes. The issue is whether cultural and social forces will further push those with something to say (which is every resident of the city, which is all of us) to patiently and clearly say it, to build the audience that they are able to.

Your soapbox might be the reputation you have in the comments section of a favorite blog, or your page on a social networking site. It might be those that listen to you in the conference room of your organization. But it's yours.

For the first time in the history of media, those that are able to consume the media are also able to create it. That's a powerful (and thus frightening) choice.

One day soon, it's possible that corporate interests will impose barriers on soapbox access, all in an effort to reclaim power for themselves. Until then, the race is on to build your tribe, to tirelessly connect and to earn an audience that wants to hear from you.

The best way to learn marketing

…is to do marketing.

Do it on the weekends. Volunteer and do it for a non-profit. Fundraise. Run a business online. Market a kid's lemonade stand.

When you put your ideas in the world, then, and only then, do you know if they're real.

Not expensive, merely frightening.

Yield

The rules of right of way make sense.

A maneuverable motor boat yields to a sailboat because it can more easily recover from the turn.

A bicyclist going downhill yields to one struggling uphill, because he can get back up to speed more quickly.

The senior partner invests a little bit of time helping the junior one, because no one else has the skills to do so, not because reciprocation is the goal.

Asymmetrical trades are what makes a society work.

Yield has two meanings, and one leads to the other.

Slightly rewarded (slightly punished)

For most of us, it's not the big traps that mess us up, it's the little ones.

Every time I break stride and distract myself by checking my email (a hundred times in a bad day), I get a small reward. I get the satisfaction of starting and finishing a project, on time and for free.

For a lot of people, every time they drink a Coke instead of a glass of water, they get a small punishment in exchange for their treat. One Coke never hurt anyone, but a hundred of them make you fat.

One way to change behavior is to keep track of how often these little events occur, because seeing them lined up on the windowsill might be enough to change your mind. The other way is to make those events louder. I'm pretty sure that if I got an electric shock every time I stopped to check my email, I'd only do it daily…

Different genes

One thing you'll notice about the naturally athletic is that they all seem to be born with a certain grace, the ability to walk with lithe steps and catch a foul ball in the stands.

One thing you'll notice about leaders is that they're not naturally born. They don't have much in common on the surface, other than the fact that they are leaders.

This is bad news is you've got the wrong genes but want to throw the shotput, but great news if you'd like to be a leader. It's a choice, not the way you were born.

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