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Just the good parts

"I want to be an actress, but I don't want to go on auditions."

"I want to play varsity sports, but I need to be sure I'm going to make the team."

"It's important to sell this great new service, but I'm not willing to deal with rejection."

You don't get to just do the good parts. Of course. In fact, you probably wouldn't have chosen this path if it was guaranteed to work every time.

The implication of this might surprise you, though: when the tough parts come along, the rejection and the slog and the unfair bad breaks, it makes sense to welcome them. Instead of cursing or fearing the down moments, understand that they mean you've chosen reality, not some unsustainable fantasy. It means that you're doing worthwhile, difficult work, not merely amusing yourself.

The very thing you're seeking only exists because of the whole. We can't deny the difficult parts, we have no choice but to embrace them.

Urgent, please read asap

That's what gets done, of course. The urgent.

Not the article you haven't gotten around to writing, the trip to the gym that will pay off in the long run, the planning for your upcoming birthday party, dinner with your parents (who would love to see you), ten minutes to sit quietly, saying thank you to a friend for no real reason… no, we do the urgent first.

The problem, of course, is that the queue of urgent never ends, it merely changes its volume as it gets longer. 

Yes, we've heard it said that it's the important, not the urgent, that deserves attention. But it understates just how much we've been manipulated by those that would make their important into our urgent.

“But what do people really think?”

You know, behind your back…

What do they think of your product or your sales pitch or your speech? What do they think of your new sweater or your new friend?

Hint: You won't find out by searching for yourself on Twitter or Facebook. You won't find out by eavesdropping in the lounge, either. Or by reading the reviews.

Sure, you'll hear what people say when they have an audience, you'll hear condensed, pointed, witty takedowns, but no, you won't hear what they really think. All you'll do is bring yourself down and strengthen the resistance.

No, the only way to know what people think is to watch what they do, not what they say. Do they come back for more? Do you cause them to change their behavior? Can you make them smile?

Howard Cosell was loud, but he was more entertaining than right. The same is true for the armchair critics (amateur and professional) that have a megaphone they're using to criticize you. 

Create a vacuum, don’t fill it

On the path from awareness to a sale, the marketer has to create a vacuum.

The goal of that short film or that sales letter or that invitation to a seminar shouldn't be to answer every question and completely describe what's on offer. No, effective marketing amplifies awareness of a problem or an opportunity, a problem the product or service solves or an opportunity it creates.

I know it's tempting to sell with bullet points and an overwhelming amount of data. It gets you off the hook and requires little in the way of creativity or guts. Storytelling requires both.

Toward zero unemployment

A dozen generations ago, there was no unemployment, largely
because there were no real jobs to speak of. Before the industrial revolution,
the thought that you’d leave your home and go to an office or a factory was, of
course, bizarre.

What happens now that the industrial age is ending? As the
final days of the industrial age roll around, we are seeing the core assets of
the economy replaced by something new. Actually, it’s something old, something
handmade, but this time, on a huge scale.

The industrial age was about scarcity. Everything that
built our culture, improved our productivity, and defined our lives involved
the chasing of scarce items.

On the other hand, the connection economy, our economy, the
economy of the foreseeable future, embraces abundance. No, we don’t have an
endless supply of the resources we used to trade and covet. No, we certainly
don’t have a surplus of time, either. But we do have an abundance of choice, an
abundance of connection, and an abundance of access to knowledge.

We know more people, have access to more resources, and can
leverage our skills more quickly and at a higher level than ever before.

This abundance leads to two races. The race to the bottom
is the Internet-fueled challenge to lower prices, find cheaper labor, and
deliver more for less.

The other race is the race to the top: the opportunity to
be the one they can’t live without, to be the linchpin we would miss if he
didn’t show up. The race to the top focuses on delivering
more for more.
It embraces the weird passions of those with the resources to make choices, and
it rewards originality, remarkability, and art.

The connection economy continues to gain traction because
connections scale, information begets more information, and influence accrues
to those who create this abundance. As connections scale, these connections
paradoxically make it easier for others to connect as well, because anyone with
talent or passion can leverage the networks created by connection to increase
her impact. The connection economy doesn’t create jobs where we get picked and
then get paid; the connection economy builds opportunities for us to connect,
and then demands that we pick ourselves.

Just as the phone network becomes more valuable when more
phones are connected (scarcity is the enemy of value in a network), the
connection economy becomes more valuable as we scale it.

Friends bring us more friends. A reputation brings us a
chance to build a better reputation. Access to information encourages us to
seek ever more information. The connections in our life multiply and increase
in value. Our stuff, on the other hand, 
becomes less valuable over time.

… [this riff is inspired by my new book…]

Successful organizations have realized that they are no
longer in the business of coining slogans, running catchy ads, and optimizing
their supply chains to cut costs.

And freelancers and soloists have discovered that doing a
good job for a fair price is no longer sufficient to guarantee success. Good
work is easier to find than ever before.

What matters now:

  • Trust
  • Permission
  • Remarkability
  • Leadership
  • Stories that spread
  • Humanity: connection, compassion, and humility

All six of these are the result of successful work by
humans who refuse to follow industrial-age 
rules. These assets aren’t generated by external strategies and MBAs and
positioning memos. These are the results of internal struggle, of brave
decisions without a map and the willingness to allow others to live with

They are about standing out, not fitting in, about
inventing, not duplicating.

PERMISSION: In a marketplace that’s open to just about anyone, the only people
we hear are the people we choose to hear. Media is cheap, sure, but attention
is filtered, and it’s virtually impossible to be heard unless the consumer
gives us the ability to be heard. The more valuable someone’s attention is, the
harder it is to earn.

And who gets

Why would
someone listen to the prankster or the shyster or the huckster? No, we choose
to listen to those we trust. We do business with and donate to those who have
earned our attention. We seek out people who tell us stories that resonate, we
listen to those stories, and we engage with those people or businesses that
delight or reassure or surprise in a positive way.

And all of
those behaviors are the acts of people, not machines. We embrace the humanity
in those around us, particularly as the rest of the world appears to become
less human and more cold. Who will you miss? That is who you are listening to .

The same bias toward humanity and connection exists in the way we choose which
ideas we’ll share with our friends and colleagues. No one talks about the
boring, the predictable, or the safe. We don’t risk interactions in order to
spread the word about something obvious or trite.

The remarkable
is almost always new and untested, fresh and risky.

Management is almost diametrically opposed to leadership. Management is about
generating yesterday’s results, but a little faster or a little more cheaply.
We know how to manage the world—we relentlessly seek to cut costs and to limit
variation, while we exalt obedience.

though, is a whole other game. Leadership puts the leader on the line. No
manual, no rule book, no überleader to point the finger at when things go
wrong. If you ask someone for the rule 
book on how to lead, you’re secretly wishing to be a manager.

Leaders are
vulnerable, not controlling, and they are racing to the top, taking us to a new
place, not to the place of cheap, fast, compliant safety.

The next asset that makes the new economy work is the story that spreads.
Before the revolution, in a world of limited choice, shelf space mattered a
great deal. You could buy your way onto the store shelf, or you could be the
only one on the ballot, or you could use a connection to get your résumé in
front of the hiring guy. In a world of abundant choice, though, none of these
tactics is effective. The chooser has too many alternatives, there’s too much
clutter, and the scarce resources are attention and trust, not shelf space.
This situation is tough for many, because attention and trust must be earned,
not acquired.

difficult still is the magic of the story that resonates. After trust is earned
and your work is seen, only a fraction of it is magical enough to be worth
spreading. Again, this magic is the work of the human artist, not the corporate
machine. We’re no longer interested in average stuff for average people.

don’t worship industrial the way we used to. We seek out human originality and
caring instead. When price and availability are no longer sufficient advantages
(because everything is available and the price is no longer news), then what we
are drawn to is the vulnerability and transparency that bring us together, that
turn the “other” into one of us.

For a long time to come the
masses will still clamor for cheap and obvious and reliable. But the people you
seek to lead, the people who are helping to define the next thing and the
interesting frontier, these people want your humanity, not your discounts.

All of these assets, rolled into one, provide the
foundation for the change maker of the future. And that individual (or the team
that person leads) has no choice but to build these assets with novelty, with a
fresh approach to an old problem, with a human touch that is worth talking

I can’t wait until we return to zero percent unemployment,
to a time when people with something to contribute (everyone)  pick themselves instead of waiting for a
bureaucrat’s permission to do important work.

Studying entrepreneurship without doing it

…is like studying the appreciation of music without listening to it.

The cost of setting up a lemonade stand (or whatever metaphorical equivalent you dream up) is almost 100% internal. Until you confront the fear and discomfort of being in the world and saying, "here, I made this," it's impossible to understand anything at all about what it means to be a entrepreneur. Or an artist. 

Most people, most of the time (the perfect crowd fallacy)

Most people, most of the time, aren't creative, generous or willing to stand up and contribute worthwhile work to the community. At least not the contributions you're hoping for.

The myth of wikipedia is that, when given the chance, hordes of people stepped up and built it. In fact, 5,000 people contribute most of the value on the site.

The myth of ebooks is that now that anyone can publish, enormous numbers of people will use this new platform to create countless numbers of new classics. In fact, most self-published ebooks just aren't very good.

And the same is true for just about everything that's open. A few people do an enormous amount (non-profit volunteers, community organizations, online sites), a few people are vandals or merely taking what they can take, and the masses participate, but aren't at the heart of the project.

To dismiss the crowd is a huge mistake, though.

Here's the fascinating part, call it the golden shoulder: We have no idea in advance who the great contributors are going to be. We know that there's a huge cohort of people struggling outside the boundaries of the curated, selected few, but we don't know who they are.

That means that the old systems, the ones where just a few people were anointed to be the chosen authors, chosen contributors, chosen musicians–that system left a lot of people out in the cold. The new open systems embrace waste. They understand that most people won't contribute and most contributions won't be any good. But that's fine, because this openness means that the previously unfound star now gets found.

The curated business, then, will ultimately fail because it keeps missing this shoulder, this untapped group of talented, eager, hard-working people shut out by their deliberately closed ecosystem. Over time, the open systems use their embrace of waste to winnow out the masses and end up with a new elite, a self-selected group who demonstrate their talent and hard work and genius over time, not in an audition.

Go ahead and minimize these open systems at your own peril. Point to their negative outliers, inconsistency and errors, sure, but you can only do that if you willfully ignore the real power: some people, some of the time, are going to do amazing and generous work… If we'll just give them access to tools and get out of their way.


(The curated block isn't reality, it's merely what the curator claims–that his magical powers will find all of the great talent, without error or waste. Of course, a quick look at Hollywood or even an expensive mutual fund shows that this is a fable. The 'open' block includes the low-quality stuff as well, but since that work is created without a lot of expense, pruning it is no tragedy. The secret is embracing the talented and dedicated people who choose themselves.)

Fomo, joy, jealousy and the lizard

Somewhere, right this very moment, someone is having more fun than you.

Making more money than you.

Doing something more important, with better friends, and a happier ending, than you. Or possibly just better at Words with Friends than you are.

You're missing out.

And somewhere, right now, something in your universe isn't right. There's something happening that will affect you, annoy you, make things not "all right."

A crisis is looming.

Of course joy is hard to find, even with all the leverage, assets and privileges we've got. We've set ourselves up to avoid it at every turn. Electronic media profits from connecting us, sure, but mostly it profits from amplifying emotions we don't want in the long run.

FOMO is the fear of missing out. It always existed of course, ever since we were in high school. As freshmen, we knew that some cool kid was at some party that we could have gone to, but didn't.

We've taken this far beyond a story told the next day over lunch, though. The supercomputer in our pocket, amplified by your choice of social media, brings FOMO right to you, wherever you are, with a mere vibration.

At the same time…

The lizard brain is on high alert to make sure that everything is okay. The lizard brain can't rest until it knows that everyone likes us, that no one is offended, that all graphs are ticking up and to the right and the future is assured. But of course, the future (and the present) isn't perfect. It can't be.

The combination of the two, the reverse schadenfreude of FOMO (the pain we may feel from others having good fortune) and the insatiable yet unreachable need for everything to be fine, conspire to make us distracted, unhappy and most of all, somewhere else.

I'm not talking about the dissatisfaction of the artist who wants to challenge herself and to reach new heights. That's an internal discussion, not one that's measured against the instant updates of the world's population.

The only place joy can be found is right here and right now. Everyone who is selling you dissatisfaction is working for their own selfish ends.

(More clicks, saved for the bottom so you could read the above without worrying about what you were missing on other sites: FOMO, XCKD, schadenfreude and the lizard.)


One way that marketers (of any stripe) make an impact is by displaying confidence. Consumers figure that if a marketer is confident in their offering, they ought to be confident in the marketer as return. We often assume that confidence means that something big is on offer.

The problem with swagger is that if you're the swaggering marketer, you might run into a competitor with even more swagger than you. When that happens, it's time to show your cards, the justification for your confidence. And if you don't deliver, you've done nothing but disappoint the person who believed in you.

Substance without swagger slows you down. But swagger without substance can be fatal. Right now, we're seeing more swagger than ever—but it's rarely accompanied by an increase in substance…

The rule is simple: it's essential to act the part. And it's even more important for it to be real.

Sometimes, more is not what you want

"Fitting in more than anyone else" doesn't work, even in high school. Seeking to be the most average, the most non-descript and the most inoffensive doesn't lead to growth.

"More informed" wears out too. If you get more news, faster, via Twitter, say, you're not going to have a significant advantage over someone who has just enough news. Understanding what every single person is saying about everything, all the time, leaves you little opportunity to actually make something.

Having more on your to-do list probably isn't the best idea either.