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Witch hunts make no sense

They are based on a fallacy: "I am irrationally afraid and persecuting this innocent person will make me feel better."

Which is expressed by those in power as: "There's a good reason I'm afraid and punishing this person will make that reason go away."

Hunting witches never makes things better. Partly because there are no witches.

But mostly because it's really unlikely that we're afraid for a good reason (our fear is just about always irrational). And of course, our irrational fear has nothing to do with the person or the group we're using a scapegoat.

So much more useful and productive to say, "I'm afraid," and leave it at that.

Symbolic logic

I was so transformed by the symbolic logic course I took in college that I took another one in grad school.

Can you learn to organize five true statements into a sixth one?

More important than just about any course that's based on facts, symbolic logic is an elegant way to build facts into arguments and arguments into change that lasts.

There are several good free courses online. Here's one.

Entitlement vs. worthiness

Entitlement is the joy killer.

Halloween is hardly what it could be. Any other day of the year, hand a kid a chocolate bar and he'll be thrilled. Do it on Halloween and it's worth almost nothing.

When you receive something you feel entitled to, something expected, that you believe you've earned, it's not worth much. And when you don't receive it, you're furious. After all, it's yours. Already yours. And you didn't get it. Whether you're wearing a hobo costume or showing up as a surgeon after years of medical school, entitlement guarantees that you won't get what you need.

Worthiness, on the other hand, is an essential part of receiving anything.

When you feel unworthy, any kind response, positive feedback or reward feels like a trick, a scam, the luck of the draw. It's hardly worth anything, because you decided in advance, before you got the feedback, that you weren't worthy.

It's possible to feel worthy without feeling entitled. Humility and worthiness have nothing at all to do with defending our territory. We don't have to feel like a fraud to also be gracious, open or humble.

Both entitlement and unworthiness are the work of the resistance. The twin narratives make us bitter, encourage us to be ungenerous, keep us stuck. Divas are divas because they've tricked themselves into believing both narratives–that they're not getting what they're entitled to, and, perversely, that they're not worth what they're getting.

The entitled yet frightened voice says, "What's the point of contributing if those people aren't going to appreciate it sufficiently?" And the defensive unworthy voice says, "What's the point of shipping the work if I don't think I'm worthy of being paid attention to…"

The universe, it turns out, owes each of us very little indeed. Hard work and the dangerous commitment to doing something that matters doesn't get us a guaranteed wheelbarrow of prizes… but what it does do is help us understand our worth. That worth, over time, can become an obligation, the chance to do our best work and to contribute to communities we care about.

When the work is worth it, make more of it, because you can, and because you're generous enough to share it.

"I'm not worthy," isn't a useful way to respond to success. And neither is, "that's it?"

It might be better if we were just a bit better at saying, "thank you."

The other element of guerilla marketing

The first element is the guts to do things without money or bureaucratic approval.

The guerrilla marketer doesn't wait for a policy, or a developed industry or a line to form. She steps up and speaks up.

But, as Jay Levinson said from the start, more than thirty years ago, the other half is at least as important, and easy to overlook:

The core element of guerilla marketing is generosity.

You don't market at people, or even to people. We market for them and with them.

Guerrillas have long understood that it's possible to attract someone's attention. What makes it a viable approach, though, is that people are delighted once they find out what you've got going on. Effective guerrilla marketing always begins with a product or service that's worth the marketing you're going to put into it.

Hence the two tensions:

  1. Big company industrial marketers don't believe enough in what they sell to become guerilla marketers. Guerrilla marketing flies in the face of bureaucratic indifference.
  2. Many would-be guerrilla marketers spend so much time seeking attention that sometimes they forget to re-focus on the promises being made. 

Next Monday is World Guerrilla Marketing Day, a holiday I just made up, guerrilla-style. What will you ship?

Bravery is for other people

Bravery is for the people who have no choice, people like Chesley Sullenberger and Audie Murphy.

Bravery is for the people who are gifted, people like Ralph Abernathy, Sarah Kay and Miles Davis.

Bravery is for the people who are called, people like Abraham Lincoln,  Rosa Parks and Mother Theresa.

Bravery is for other people.

When you see it that way, it's so clearly and patently absurd that it's pretty clear that bravery is merely a choice.

At least once in your life (maybe this week, maybe today) you did something that was brave and generous and important. The only question is one of degree… when will we care enough to be brave again?

70% re-orders is a sweet spot

My latest book, Your Turn, just went back for its third and fourth printings, bringing the total to more than 100,000 copies in print.

I did some math on the orders and discovered that more than 70% of them were going to people who had previously ordered a copy.

This never happens.

It never happens because the book industry is built on the idea of inventing desire and then destroying it by selling the reader a copy. You never need two copies of a book, after all, and so there's an insatiable need for new readers.

In the case of Your Turn, though, the book is intentionally built and sold as a way of spreading an idea… once people see the benefit in spreading the idea, many of them decide to spread it more. Most people buy the 5 pack.

It occurs to me that 70% is almost a magic number for re-orders in just about any business. It means that new people are hearing about your work and showing up to try it, and it also signifies that there's a base audience that's counting on you to do what you promised.

How would your project change if you re-organized what you do to get to a sweet spot of re-orders? I had to take a leap in the creation, distribution and pricing of my book to create that dynamic. What would you need to do?

PS To celebrate the new print run, I just added a long lost video of me launching Linchpin in NYC in 2010. It's on the Your Turn page, about a third of the way down. Read the copy near the top to get the password.

Thanks for the work you do and the impact you make.

First, interact

The best way to tell if your speech is going to go well is to give your speech. 

The best way to find out if your new product has market appeal is to try to sell it.

The best way to become a teacher is to teach.

There's a huge need for study, refinement and revision. No question about it.

None of it means anything, though, if you are hiding from the market.

There used to be a dangerous myth: the genius in an attic, who arrives one day, fully formed, with a grant, a Pulitzer and a string of accolades, out of nowhere.

Great work doesn't come out of nowhere. It comes out of interactions with the people you seek to change.

Are you interesting?

More interesting than you realize.

An interesting person is interesting to us because she combines two things: Truth and surprise.

The truth: Not necessarily a law of physics, not necessarily a measurable truth in nature, but merely the truth of experience. "I believe this," or "I see that."

And surprise. Note that surprise is always local. Surprising to me, the audience. That's one reason that it's said that interesting people are interested—they are empathetic enough to realize what might be surprising to the person in the room, and they care enough to deliver on that insight.

Everyone is capable of telling the truth. And everyone has been surprising at least once.

Which means that being an interesting person is a choice. We can choose to show up, to care enough to contribute our humanity to the next interaction.

It's a choice, but a difficult one, because being interesting feels risky. People are afraid to be interesting, not unable to be interesting.

You're not born uninteresting. But it's entirely possible you've persuaded yourself to be so frightened of the consequences that you no longer have the passion, the generosity or the guts to be interesting any longer.

Without a doubt, we need your interesting.

[HT Austin]

Selling like Steve

Have you thought about the fact that just about every time Steve Jobs appeared in public, he was selling us something?

And yet few rolled their eyes and said, "oh, here comes another sales pitch."

Jobs sold us expensive, high margin hardware that we knew would eventually become obsolete, and yet people lined up to hear the pitch. How come?

I think it's because he was saying:

"Here, I made this. It might be worth talking about."

Inherent in this statement is the flip side, "it might not work."

And in almost every case, he was right. That it might be worth talking about, and that it might not work.

In almost every case, skeptics pounced. People discussed his work. 

Sometimes he was early, but he was usually interesting. That's a slot that's available to more people than ever before, regardless of industry or audience.

Average stuff for average people is getting ever more difficult to sell. If that's all you've got, get something else.

Gravity and entropy, denied

The 747 is a very large plane. But that doesn't mean it's easier to get off the ground–in fact, it's more difficult.

As your project and your organization grows in size, it's tempting to hope that at some point it will take care of itself. That customer service will get better without a herculean effort to keep it un-industrialized. That quality will be consistent, without extraordinary efforts from truly committed people.

Alas, that's not what happens. Gravity sets in with scale, and almost all the forces push in one direction–away from amazing.

Danny Meyer runs more than a dozen well-known restaurants, and the reason that they're well known is that he and his staff act like they own one restaurant, a brand new one, one with something to prove. It's tonight or never.

Also! As your project and your organization develop over time, randomness and unpredictability occurs. Entropy is a force of nature… over time, stuff gets more scrambled, not more orderly. Things decay. Left alone, just about anything we create fades to mediocrity or instability.

Which is why we can't leave it alone.

If you want to dream, it's fun to talk about self-managed teams, crowd-built organizations, autonomous excellence. And if you can find it, by all means, congratulations. For the rest of us, though, the challenges of scale and time will always involve extraordinary effort from dedicated people, doing the heavy lifting to fight off the almost unstoppable forces of mediocrity.

Don't scale because you think there's a pot of gold over that rainbow. Scale because you're ready and eager to do heroic work, every day, forever.

Once you know what you're in for, like the engineers at Boeing, you can invest in bigger jets and make sure they're working.