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Not all who are lost, wander

Going faster doesn't make you less lost. It's okay to ask for directions. 

(Knowing you're lost is half the battle.)

Pain and money and b2b selling

When you sell to someone at a business, it's worth remembering that the pain their problem is causing belongs to them, while the money they have to spend, doesn't.

Any time you can cure their pain in exchange for their boss's (or the shareholder's) money, that's a compelling offer.

The challenge is actually being able to cure the pain, because too often, when an organization moves forward, the fear of failure and the pain of change is worse than the problem they started with. Asserting it can be done is insufficient.

Do-able

Lean entrepreneurs can talk about the minimum viable product, but far more important is the maximum do-able project.

Given the resources you have (your assets, your time, your patience), what's the biggest thing it's quite likely you can pull off?

Our culture is organized around the people who get on base, who reliably keep their promises, who deliver. "Quite likely," is a comforting story indeed. [HT to Bernadette.]

Domino's could have offered five-minute pizza delivery, and sometimes, without a doubt, they could have pulled that off. But promising something they could do virtually every time earned them a spot on the speed dial of millions of phones.

Aiming too high is just as fearful a tactic as aiming too low. Before you promise to change the world, it makes sense to do the hard work of changing your neighborhood.

Do what you say, then do it again, even better.

We need your dreams, but we also need your deeds.

Taking names

Should you keep track of the people who say you're going to fail, who actively work against you, who troll your best work? Should you try to win over the haters and those that so cruelly root against you?

I wonder if it makes more sense to spend as much (or even more) time with the fans and supporters and sneezers who work so hard to help you succeed.

It seems to me that this is more productive, more fun and likely to make more change happen…

Yes, take names. Of the good guys.

What is a sale for? (48 hours)

When things go on sale, (while supplies last, our annual savings event, end-of-season markdowns) it is a combination of scarcity and abundance.

Abundance because there's more here for the person who takes action. More variety, more for your money.

And scarcity, because sales never last forever.

We can get a lot of mileage out of telling ourselves and our friends that we bought it on sale.

Sales are effective for two kinds of mindsets:

The person who is wired to enjoy the sport of the sale. You'll find people clipping grocery coupons who charge an hourly rate far higher than the money they're saving on coupons. They're not doing it for the money, necessarily, they're doing it because of how it makes them feel (like an active participant, like someone ahead of the pack). This person is attracted to the potential abundance of buying on sale.

And the person who was interested but had no real reason to take action. If what's on offer today is going to be on offer tomorrow, better to just wait. The scarcity that a sale creates means that the feeling of missing it, of being left out, is compelling enough that it's better to take action now than it is to wait.

It doesn't matter what the sale is ostensibly for. The sale is a signal, a chance to sit up and take notice and possibly take action.

[And today, in honor of the last day of the production of the Model T, as well as Harlan Ellison's birthday, two sales, each for just 48 hours, each limited to just 1,000 orders…]

40% off my freelance course via Udemy. Use code HarlanEllison.

40% off the party pack of my latest book, What To Do When It's  Your Turn, also use code HarlanEllison. The three-pack actually includes 5 books, meaning they are less than $9 a copy.

Degrees of freedom

Does a college degree confer the ability to choose, to open the door to find a way to matter?

Three years ago I gave this TEDx talk about the future of education.

And the students who graduated from college this month each have an average of $35,000 in debt. For many people, this debt is debilitating. Instead of opening doors, it slams them shut.

Talented teachers and passionate students are the victims of an industrialized educational system, one that cares a great deal about standardized tests and famous brand-name institutions.

It's time to ask why. And to keep asking why until we figure out what school is actually for.

The education system continues to head in one direction, but each day, more of those it proclaims it seeks to serve (students, parents, taxpayers) are realizing that the system ought to be doing something quite different. And differently.

The do over

Our culture places a huge premium on choosing the right answer, as if we're all on some sort of game show.

Much less credit is given to people brave enough to realize that they've made a mistake who go ahead and choose a new direction, a new strategy or a new set of tactics.

When we find ourselves in a deep hole, it's rarely because we encountered a single terrible glitch. Usually, it's the result of compounding, of doubling down on a worldview or a stand or a habit that just doesn't pay.

Given a choice between changing tactics based on data and staying on the road in the wrong direction, I think the best path is pretty clear. The hard part is figuring out what to tell the others. Do overs are possible, but they take guts.

We are all social entrepreneurs

It's tempting to reserve the new term 'social entrepreneurs' for that rare breed that builds a significant company organized around the idea of changing the culture for the better.

The problem with this term is that it lets everyone else off the hook. The prefix social implies that regular entrepreneurs have nothing to worry about, and that the goal of every un-prefixed organization and project (the 'regular kind') is to only make as much money as possible, as fast as possible.

But that's not how the world works.

Every project causes change to happen, and the change we make is social. The jobs we take on, the things we make, the side effects we cause—they're not side effects, they're merely effects. When we make change, we're responsible for the change we choose to make.

All of us, whichever job or project we choose to take on, do something to change the culture. That social impact, positive or negative is our choice.

It turns out that all of us are social entrepreneurs. It's just that some people are choosing to make a bigger (and better) impact than others.

It's a spectrum, not a label.

When you do work that matters, the crowd will call you a fool

If you do something remarkable, something new and something important, not everyone will understand it (at first). Your work is for someone, not everyone.

Unless you're surrounded only by someones, you will almost certainly encounter everyone. And when you do, they will jeer.

That's how you'll know you might be onto something.

But do you want to get better?

It seems like a stupid question. Of course we want our organization, our work and our health to improve.

But often, we don't.

Better means change and change means risk and risk means fear.

So the organization is filled with people who have been punished when they try to make things better, because the boss is afraid.

And so the patient gets the prescription but doesn't actually take all the meds.

And the bureaucrat feigns helplessness because it's easier to shrug than it is to care.

There are countless ways to listen, to engage with users, to learn and to improve, but before you or your organization waste time on any of them, first the question must be answered, "do we want to get better?"

Really? We can tell.

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