One of the things a creator can do as a service to the audience is let them know when it's safe to whoop, holler or applaud.
Often, we hesitate to spread the word and recommend something because it doesn't feel safe to do so. It's better to say nothing than it is to feel stupid.
Joining in on the standing ovation at the end of a Broadway play isn't some sort of callow sellout. It's actually a tradition that offers solace for the timid or uninitiated. Same as flicking your lighter and shouting for the band to play Free Bird… no one ever felt stupid for cheering for a hit when everyone else was doing it as well.
Deniability–“They decided, created, commanded or blocked. Not my fault.”
Helplessness–“My boss won’t let me.”
Contempt–“They don’t pay me enough to put up with the likes of these customers.”
Fear–“It’s good enough, it’s not worth the risk, people will talk, this might not work…”
The industrial age brought compliance and compliance brought fear and fear brought us mediocrity.
The good news about fear is that once you see it, feel it and dance with it, you have a huge opportunity, the chance to make it better.
Who is waiting at the finish line, and who will be cheering for you at the final banquet, even when you don't win? Especially when you don't win…
I'm not talking about the sometime fan who rewards the winner, or the logo-wearing baseball fan who shows up when the team is in contention… I'm wondering about the person that is in it for your effort and your passion and your tears.
Almost nothing is more important to the artist who dares to leap. [HT to Mara]
When was the last time you surprised or delighted a customer, colleague or boss?
If you did, would it help?
Apple developed a tradition of secrecy largely because Steve saw the extraordinary value in surprising the audience. It creates a rare wave of excitement–remarkable is a byproduct of surprise. Today, they continue to work at the secrecy, as if that's the only element necessary to create surprise.
But of course, it's not.
Surprise comes from defying expectations. Sometimes, we have the negative surprises that come from missing those expectations, but in fact, those negative surprises are part of the process of exceeding them… if you're not prepared to live with a disappointment, you can't be in the business of seeking delight.
Effort matters, sure, but mostly surprise comes from caring enough about your audience that you're willing to fail in your effort to redefine what they expect from you. The vulnerability and intimacy that come from that leap are at the heart of what people talk about.
Don't teach your students as if they are a monolithic population of learners. They learn differently, they have different goals, different skills, different backgrounds.
Don't sell to your customers as if they are a fungible commodity, a walking ATM waiting for you to punch. Six of one are not like half a dozen of the other. They tell themselves different stories, have different needs and demand something different from you.
Different voters, different donors, different employees–we have the choice to treat them as individuals. Not only do they need different things, but they offer differing amounts of value to you and to your project. The moment your policy interferes with their uniqueness, the policy has cost you something.
We used to have no choice. There was only one set of data for the student body, one way to put things on the shelf of the local market, one opportunity to talk to the entire audience…
One of the biggest unfilled promises of the digital age is the opportunity to go beyond demographics and census data. Personalization wasn't supposed to be a cleverly veiled way to chase prospects around the web, showing them the same spammy ad for the same lame stuff as everyone else sees. No, it is a chance to differentiate at a human scale, to use behavior as the most important clue about what people want and more important, what they need.
It's a no-brainer to treat the quarterback of the football team differently from the head of the chess club. We treat our bank's biggest investor with more care than someone who merely wants to trade in a bag of pennies. Instead of reserving this special treatment for a few outliers, though, we ought to consider what happens if we offer it to all of those we value.
The long tail of everything means that there's something for everyone–a blog to read, a charity to donate to, a skill to learn. When you send everyone the same email, demand everyone learn from the same lesson plan or try to sell everyone the same service, you've missed it.
A very long time ago, shoe salespeople realized that shoes that don't fit are difficult to sell, regardless of what you've got in stock. Today, the people you serve are coming to realize that like their shoe size, their needs are different, regardless of what your urgent agenda might be.
On behalf of the many who have suffered through pointless and painful conference calls, some general principles:
- When in doubt, don't have one.
- Everyone now knows precisely what time it is. Show up ten seconds early; one minute late is too late.
- If you can't live with rule 1, can we live with this one? 10 minutes is the maximum length of a conference call. In, out, over.
- If the meeting is only ten minutes long, good news, you have time to pull over, time to let the dog out, and time to give us your undivided attention.
- If you're not planning on speaking, no need to attend. You can listen to the recording later if you need to, or we can send you 8 bullet points and save us all time.
- While we're on the topic, audio is a truly powerful means of communication, and if you want to record your message and send it to all of us, I'm totally in favor of this. But don't confuse the one-way broadcast power of audio with a pretend meeting where you're talking and we're supposed to quietly listen in real time. That's not a meeting and all the trappings of a conference call detract from the thing you were trying to do.
- Before you waste a thousand dollars of company time on another conference call, listen to Al's book for $4. Almost all conference calls that involve more than five people are either a lazy choice or a show of power, and should be eliminated. If you want to talk, for sure, please pick up the phone and call me.
If we work in the plant, we make widgets. And we expect that the making of widgets will be consistent, rational and done with forethought and a lack of waste. Many of us now work in a system that makes decisions, has meetings and markets ideas. The same kind of clarity and craftsmanship ought to exist here too.
This video is funny, because it's true.
The weight of a television set has nothing at all to do with the clarity of its picture. Even if you measure to a tenth of a gram, this precise data is useless.
Some people measure stereo equipment using fancy charts and graphs, even though the charts and graphs say little or nothing about how it actually sounds.
A person's Klout score or the number of Twitter followers she has probably doesn't have a lot to do with how much influence she actually has, even if you measure it quite carefully.
You can't tell if a book is any good by the number of words it contains, even though it's quite easy and direct to measure this.
We keep coming up with new things to measure (like processor speed, heat output, column inches) but it's pretty rare that those measurements are actually a proxy for the impact or quality we care about. It takes a lot of guts to stop measuring things that are measurable, and even more guts to create things that don't measure well by conventional means.
I'll be blunt: There's virtually no chance I will ever learn to play the bass, or even the harmonica.
It's not because there isn't a huge range of useful instruction available. There is. No, it's because even though I love glancing at this stuff, I'm just not persistent and driven enough to practice, to dig in, to get through the dip and yes, to do the work.
We used to live in an industrial age, a Smithian-Marxist world where the worker sought to do as little as possible and the boss tried to get the worker to do as much as possible. In our self-serve economy, though, that's just not true. All sorts of roads, but you have to supply your own locomotion.
Almost eight thousand people have taken my Skillshare course so far, and the ones that got the most out of it all had two things in common: They did the project worksheets and they actively contributed to the online discussions. Learning is not watching a video, learning is taking action and seeing what happens.
"I'll just watch and take notes," is inconsistent with, "I'm here to learn."
My philosophy is that it doesn't pay to go to a conference unless you're prepared to be vulnerable and meet people, and it doesn't pay to go to a Q&A session unless you're willing to sit in the front row. Reading blogs is great, writing one is even better.
There are more chances than ever to attend, but all of them require participation if you expect them to work.
The magic of this new economy is that instead of your work benefitting a fat cat boss with a mansion and a yacht, your work and your learning benefits you and the people you care about.
PS a great place to start is with this modern classic from Steve Pressfield.
The copyeditor will fix a misstated fact, spot a typo and get your prose clean.
The line editor will rearrange a paragraph and help you organize a thought more clearly.
And the editor who is your partner will tell you that the chapters are in the wrong order, that you must delete a third of what you wrote, or perhaps consider writing for TV instead. This kind of editor is the one who will tell you your time is better spent doing something else entirely.
It's easier (but not easy) to find a good copyeditor than it is to find someone generous and brave enough to help you figure out your strategy, whether you're working on a book, a career or the structure of your next project.
The copyeditor can tell you that you mangled a few facts early in your presentation. The line editor will help you untangle a complicated story near the middle. And your strategic editor will help you see that a one-on-one meeting would have been better than a presentation in the first place.
Sure, fix my typos, thanks a lot, but what's truly precious is someone able to fix your plan.
Worth noting that most critics and journalists are comfortable being metaphorical copy editors, but it's rare you find someone who speaks up with sensible thoughts about your strategy.
Treasure the folks willing and able to develop a point of view about the big picture.
is always no.
A better question is, "what resource would enable you to do even better?"
When the cost of the resource (time, people, money, freedom, boundary easing) is worth the benefit, then sure, go for it. If you can't make it better, hire someone who can.