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Broken English

All the nuance disappears. When talking to someone in a languge that's not easy for them, you discover that idioms and other forms of communication disappear. You need to be extremely direct and specific in order to make yourself understood.

The thing is, just about everyone speaks some form of broken English. It's "broken" because it doesn't match our version. Their language and our language isn't the same one—the other person may think your English is broken too.

Our ability to communicate with one another isn't nearly as sophisticated or error free as we think it is.

You will be misunderstood. If it's critical that we understand you, say it more clearly. Say it twice. Better yet, act it out, live it, make it an action, not merely a concept.

The geek chorus

Every sub-topic has its geeks. There are geeks who are into pencils, Bob Dylan, futures pricing. There are geeks who obsess about Wikipedia edits, journalism and even geek culture.

When you do something that matters, it will probably matter to the geeks most of all, and the geeks will speak up, dissect, analyze and perhaps extol or criticize. It's a symptom of doing good work.

The question is this: will you spend a lot of time listening to them?

The more you listen to this audience, the more likely it is you will delight them.

On the other hand, if you want to reach a much larger audience, you have no choice but to figure out when to ignore them.

Coming from “no”

The difficult task is to turn around a no.

Not, "no, I've thought about it, but I'm not interested," but, "no, I feel like saying 'no', whatever you're offering, the answer is no."

If the fractious child or the skeptical prospect or the frightened boss is coming from a place of no, your proposal just isn't going to work.

Shaking that rattle or waving that spreadsheet isn't going to work, because it's not going to be judged on the merits. The facts are irrelevant… if your partner (and yes, the person you're with right now is your partner, engaged in a dance that will end with yes or no) is in search of a no, nothing is going to go right.

The best path, then, is to first work on the 'no'. Not the pitch or the facts or the urgent thing you need approved right now. First, talk about the dance, and the goals, and how it feels to get to a yes.

Then tell me your story.

A choice is not an ultimatum

Most of us, quite rightly, react poorly to an ultimatum. That's because an ultimatum is an emotional affront, a deliberate break in a relationship. Do this or else!

Often, our instinct is to respond to confrontation with confrontation. Ultimatums rarely work because we react to the emotion instead of responding intelligently.

On the other hand, giving your partner in a negotiation or a sale a choice between two outcomes is a generous act, a form of truthtelling that helps both of you. We all make choices, and choices have consequences. Helping people understand them in advance leads to better decisions.

No one reads a comic strip because it’s drawn well

It has to be drawn well enough, not perfectly.

No one goes to a rock concert because the band is in tune. They have to be close enough to not be distracting, but being in tune isn't the point.

No one buys a house because every floorboard is hammered in at the six sigma level of perfection. They have to be good enough, and better than good enough is just fine, but perfect isn't something that's going to overwhelm location, beauty, peace of mind and price.

As creators, our pursuit of perfection might be misguided, particularly if it comes at the expense of the things that matter.

My most popular blog posts this year

…weren't my best ones.

As usual, the most popular music wasn't the best recorded this year either. Same for the highest-grossing movies, restaurants and politicians doing fundraising.

"Best" is rarely the same as "popular."

Which means that if you want to keep track of doing your best work, you're going to have to avoid the distraction of letting the market decide if you've done a good job or not.

Thank you

In 2013, more than four million people read this blog. I'd say "unique people," but that's redundant. Each of you is as unique as they come.

Every day, I'm grateful for a chance to share an idea, strategy or challenge with you. I appreciate the attention and trust of my readers, it would be impossible to do this without you.

Your generosity continues to pay off. To date, The Big Moo has raised more than $250,000 for three charities, including building several schools with Room to Read.

End Malaria has raised more than $300,000 to eradicate malaria in Africa.

Squidoo users have donated more than a million dollars to Acumen and other causes.

Your generous participation in other projects has raised even more.

Thank you for everything you do. Most important, thanks for living your dreams out loud, bringing generosity, insight and wonder to the work you do.

When you’re offered precisely what you were hoping for…

say, "yes."

If you're a musician, that means that when the internet says you can play what you want, record the way you want to, release it when you like, at the length you prefer, to the fans you'd like to share it with…

If you're an actor, that means that when the internet says you can perform what you'd like, film it with the team you've chosen and distribute it far and wide…

If you're a writer, that means that when the internet says you can write what you want, when you want to, at any length and subject matter and intensity you prefer, and then send it to five or ten or a million friends and followers…

You get the idea. Now, for the first time, you can choose yourself. You can be responsible for what you do and how you do it. You have to do the hard work of finding and pleasing an audience.

But you do have to say, "yes."

“In an abundance of caution”

Do we have a caution shortage?

Is it necessary to have caution in abundance?

When a lawyer or a doctor tells you to do something in an abundance of caution, what they're actually doing is playing on your fear. Perhaps we could instead opt for an abundance of joy or an abundance of artistic risk or an abundance of connection. Those are far more productive (and fun).

Also: The things we have the most abundance of caution about are rarely the things that are actual risks. They merely feel like risks.

“Am I supposed to like this?”

If we think we are, we probably will.

We're more likely to laugh at the comedy club. More likely to like the food at a fancy restaurant. More likely to feel like it's a bargain if we're at the outlet store.

Am I supposed to applaud now? Be happy? Hate that guy? Use a fork?

Judgments happen long before we think they do.

And successful marketers (and teachers and leaders) invest far more into "supposed to" than it appears.