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Doing calculus with Roman numerals

Quick, what's XIV squared?

You can't do advanced math without the zero. And you can't write precise prose without a well-developed vocabulary.

The magic of the alphabet is that twenty-six letters are all you need to spell every word. The beauty of Lego blocks is that you don't need very many to build something extraordinary.

Imagine how hard it would be to get anything done, though, if you only knew 17 letters.

In most fields your work is hindered if you only have a few of the most basic tools. Understanding more of the building blocks of finance, or marketing or technology are essential if you want to get something important done. 

Here's my advice: Every time you hear an expert use a word or concept you don't understand, stop her and ask to be taught.  Every time. After just a few interactions, you'll have a huge advantage over those who didn't ask.

When to decide

Important decisions carry risk and can unnerve and distract us.

One instinct is to delay, merely because doing something risky and distracting later is better than doing it now. That's the wrong strategy.

You should decide the moment that new information relevant to the decision is more expensive to obtain than the cost, the inaction and the anxiety of waiting.

So, don't apply to 30 colleges and see which ones you get into before you decide. That'll cost you thousands of dollars and take up months of your life.

Don't delay hiring a great CMO merely because it's entirely possible that other resumes might appear one day. Your hesitation might cost you the person you've found, and going three more months without a great person on board is way more expensive than waiting for Ms. Perfect.

Make high leverage decisions early, and profit from your ability to take advantage of commitments when others are still in limbo.

Unprepared

Is there anything worse we can say about you and your work? "You are unprepared."

But the word "unprepared" means two things, not just one. There is the unprepared of the quiz at school, of forgetting your lines, of showing up to a gunfight with a knife… this is the unprepared of the industrial world, the unprepared of being an industrial cog in an industrial system, a cog that is out-of-whack, disconnected and poorly maintained.

What about the other kind, though?

We are unprepared to do something for the first time, always.

We are unprepared to create a new kind of beauty, to connect with another human in a way that we’ve never connected before.

We are unprepared for our first bestseller, or for a massive failure unlike any we’ve ever seen before. We are unprepared to fall in love, and to be loved.

We are unprepared for the reaction when we surprise and delight someone, and unprepared, we must be unprepared, for the next breakthrough. 

We've been so terrified into the importance of preparation, it's spilled over into that other realm, the realm of life where we have no choice but to be unprepared.

If you demand that everything that happens be something you are adequately prepared for, I wonder if you’ve chosen never to leap in ways that we need you to leap. Once we embrace this chasm, then for the things for which we can never be prepared, we are of course, always prepared.

Used to be

This hotel used to be a bank.

That conference organizer used to be a travel agent.

This company used to make playing cards.

Perhaps you used to be hooked on keeping score, or used to be totally focused on avoiding the feeling of risk, or used to be the kind of person who needed to be picked…

"Used to be," is not necessarily a mark of failure or even obsolescence. It's more often a sign of bravery and progress.

If you were brave enough to leap, who would you choose to 'used to be'?

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