Welcome back.

Have you thought about subscribing? It's free.
seths.blog/subscribe

Training and the infinite return on investment

Training pays.

Sometimes, it's easy to underestimate just how much it pays.

Consider an employee who is going to work 2000 hours for you this year. It's not unusual for an organization to spend only 10 or 20 hours training this person–which means about 1% of their annual workload. 

How much training would it take for this person to be 10% better at her job? If you invest 100 hours (!) it'll pay for itself in just six months. There aren't many investments an organization can make that double in value in a year.

But let's take it one step further:

Imagine a customer service rep. Fully costed out, it might cost $5 for this person to service a single customer by phone. An untrained rep doesn't understand the product, or how to engage, or hasn't been brought up to speed on your systems. As a result, the value delivered in the call is precisely zero (in fact it's negative, because you've disappointed your customer). 

On the other hand, the trained rep easily delivers $30 of brand value to the customer, at a cost, as stated, of $5. So, instead of zero value, there's a profit to the brand of $25. A comparative ROI of infinity.

And of course, the untrained person doesn't fall into this trap once. Instead, it happens over and over, many times a day.

The short-sighted organization decides it's 'saving money' by cutting back training. After all, the short-term thinking goes, what's the point of training people if they're only going to leave. (I'd point out the converse of this–what's the danger of not training the people who stay?)

It's tempting to nod in agreement at these obvious cases (or the similar case of getting, or not getting, a great new job based on how skilled you've trained yourself to be–again, a huge cliff and difference in return). What's not so easy is to take responsibility for our own training.

We've long passed the point where society and our organization are taking responsibility for what we know and how we approach problems. We need to own it for ourselves.

{Can we drip? Next week, starting on the 28th of December, we'll be sending a series of emails to people interested in the next session of the altMBA—how it works, why it works, who's involved. The most recent session is completely oversubscribed, and we'll be doing the next one in March, on a space available basis.

Please sign up for these quick emails before the holidays if you're interested in learning more.}

Living in a high-stakes universe

One path to self-motivation is to catastrophize.

After all, if this is the big moment, if everything depends on what's going to happen next, of course you'll need to gear up, focus and drop everything. The stakes are so high…

This is ultimately corrosive. You're crying wolf with yourself.

Over time, the only way to keep up this motivation is to demonize the other, to treat the outside world as an enemy, lying in wait, eager for you to fail. 

And that makes it harder for you to enlist colleagues, because, of course, they can't possibly see the same drama you're seeing, because you're inventing it.

The drama stops helping and starts to undermine your best work.

They call it the emergency room for a reason. The rest of us work in the regular room, where emergencies are rare, not the norm, where goodwill is the default, where few things are actually a matter of life or death.

We're capable of doing great work without the drama. In fact, over time, the lack of drama can enable us to do great work.

The edges

Is the universe infinite?

If it's not, the first question a smart person will ask is, "so what happens at the edge?"

That's how we define things… by the moments where they begin and end, by their edges.

This clearly applies not just to the universe, but to every project and concept and institution in our lives.

What does your organization not do?

When does this promotion/product/service end?

What's it like to start? To end it?

Defining the edges of performance and the promises you make defines who you are and what you do.

We live in the middle but we understand at the edges.

The next

Two hundred years ago, we had great-great-greats who lived in the dark, without much in the way of healthcare, commerce or opportunity.

Today, we complain that the MRI was chilly, or that the wifi on the transatlantic plane wasn't fast enough or that there's nothing new going on at the mall.

It's human nature to recalibrate. But maybe it's worth fighting that off, for an hour or even a day.

The world around us is uneven, unfair and yes, absolutely, over-the-top amazing. 

Boring is an attitude, not the truth.

Possibility is where you decide it is.

Decoding “who is it for?”

When you tell a story to someone who wants and needs to hear that story, eyes light up, pulses quicken, trust is built and action is taken.

Two examples:

Satya makes and sells hats. Beautiful, bespoke, handmade hats.

But we're a hundred years past the time someone can say, "I make hats," and be done with it.

Some of the questions the marketer needs to ask, questions that amplify the, "who's it for?" mindset:

Are these hats for people who are already shopping for hats?

Are they a gift item for someone who is looking  to please someone who is looking for something new? Proven? Cheaper than it looks? Rare? 

Are they a shopping experience, a bespoke process that is exciting and filled with possibility, just for the person who values both the process and the hat?

Or, are these hats for women who appreciate beauty in any form, and who have already bought all the scarves they can handle? Or perhaps for people who want to buy what the people they admire are buying?

The marketer can change her story, but she can't easily change the worldview of the person she seeks to sell to. It's almost impossible to turn someone who doesn't care about hats (in particular) into someone who cares a lot about hats.

This person the product is for: What do they believe? Who do they trust? What do they seek? What are they afraid of?

Satya is well on her way to decoding this puzzle. 

Second example: Paul makes and sells amplifiers. To an outsider, these amps are ridiculously overbuilt, oversized and overpriced. To some hobbyists, though, they are magical, brilliantly engineered and priced at 90% less than what similar products cost. (!)

The questions, then, are about the story the potential customer tells himself:

Do I seek something corporate, mass produced, powerful, handmade, unique, rare, new, proven, high-value, high-priced, top-of-the-line, mysterious, invisible… Do I want to be able to tell myself a story about these every time I turn them on? Or tell a story to my friends? Ultimately, that story is about me, about my role in society and my vision of myself.

This goes way beyond specs and prices and the measurable. It's about role models and feelings and emotions first, with the words added later, and the machinery (or the felt) added last.

In Paul's case, he and his team have been direct and consistent in celebrating the nature of the design and the designer. They haven't said to the world, "here it is, it's for everyone," instead, they've said, "this is our story, this is who built it and who it's for, it might be for you if you're the person that resonates with this sort of story."

Most inventors and marketers start with what they have (the stuff) and try to work backward to the 'who is it for' question. It makes a lot more sense to go the other direction. Identify a set of fears, dreams and attitudes and then figure out what sort of story fits that lock in a way that delights the consumer. Then go build that.

Not just hats and amps. This thinking is also where Lululemon, Nike and AeroPress came from. Maybe your next project, too.

Paying the smart phone tax

It might be costing you more than you think.

Urgent or important?: Your phone has been optimized to highlight the urgent. It buzzes and beeps. It sorts things. It brings everyone else's urgent things right under your nose, reminding you about them until they become your urgent things. A full day on your phone is almost certainly a day where you buried the important in favor of the urgent.

The moment: The smart phone brings the world to us, in our pocket. But if the entire world is there, presenting its urgencies, it's harder than ever to be here, right now, in this moment.

Brevity over density: Just about everything produced on a smart phone is done in a hurry, because there's something urgent happening just a click away. As a result, we favor brevity. Brevity in what we consume (LOL) and brevity in what we produce (GTG). It's not clear that brevity ought to be our goal in all things, or in how we spend hours of each day.

The filter bubble: Even more than on the web, the closed gardens of the smart phone world mean that we're most likely to consume ideas that we already understand, from people we already agree with. Not a path to growth, certainly.

Off the hook: Because it's so easy to hit 'send' and because there's so much noise, we can easily relieve the tension of creation with a simple click. Easy in, easy out, easy delete.

Like most things that are taxed, smart phones are often worth it, creating connections and giving us information when we need it. Perhaps, though, turning our phones off for six hours a day would be a useful way to cornering us into creating work we can't live without. 

Regrets as fuel

If regrets about yesterday's decisions and actions help you do better work today, then they've served a useful purpose.

"I wish I'd taken that job."

"I should have been more careful before I shipped that out the door."

"I could have been more kind."

    "I'll do better next time."

Most of the time, though, we use regrets to keep us from moving forward. They paralyze us in the face of possibility. We don't want to do something if it reminds us of that black hole we have in our past.

It's useful if you can forgive yourself, because the regrets you're carrying around are keeping you from holding onto the possibility that you can contribute even more tomorrow.

Shopping

We've been doing it all our lives, and it's easy to misunderstand. Shopping feels like the method we use to get the things we need.

Except…

Except more than a billion people on earth have never once gone shopping. Never once set out with money in their pockets to see what's new, to experience the feeling of, "maybe I'll buy that," or, "I wonder how that will look on me…"

Shopping is an entertaining act, distinct from buying.

Shopping is looking around, spending time in search of choosing how to spend money. Shopping is buying something you've never purchased before.

For many people, shopping is nothing but a risk. The risk that one might buy the wrong thing, waste money, waste time, become indebted. For many, replenishment, buying what your parents bought, getting enough to live on… that's all there is, that's enough.

If we're going to shop, then, there's an imperative to make it engaging, thrilling and worth the resources we put into it. The shopping mall (what a concept) is less than a hundred years old, and in the States anyway, they're not building many more of them. 

Shopping on the internet is pushing this dichotomy. The idea of subscribing to household goods (like razors and soap) eliminates the chore of shopping and makes buying automatic. On the other hand, Kickstarter wants nothing to do with needs and with replenishment–the entire site is about the thrill of shopping, with meaning and stuff intermingled.

In a culture dominated by consumerism, it's our shopping choices that consistently alter our world.

Three elements to go beyond hourly freelancing

Hourly freelancing generally involves finding a task that many people can do, and doing it slighly better or slightly cheaper (or slightly more conveniently) than others can. It's not a bad gig, but with some planning, you can do better.

Start by focusing on three things (and a bonus):

1. An audience (organizations or individuals) that has money to invest in having you solve their problem

2. An audience that realizes it has a problem that needs to be solved

3. A skill, a service, a story, a resource or a technology that only you can provide

4. (A bonus): An outcome that your customers will choose to tell other people about

When any of these elements are missing, you're likely to be seen as a replaceable cog, without the leverage you seek. The challenge is in finding an area where you can grow and the committing to earning that asset.

If you find yourself saying, "you can hire anyone, and I'm anyone," then you're selling yourself short. And if you find yourself arguing with potential clients about what this sort of work is worth, it may be that you've chosen the wrong clients.

You are not a task rabbit. You're a professional doing unique work that matters.

[More on this in my freelancer course.]

Centered and complete

These are not the conditions for creativity.

Creative people ship remarkable work because they seek to complete something, to heal something, to change something for the better. To move from where they are now to a more centered, more complete place.

You don't get creative once everything is okay. In fact, we are creative because everything isn't okay (yet).

This site uses cookies.

Learn more