Welcome back.

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

A whole year? Yes, a whole year for leaping.

Every four years, the worldwide calendar reminds us of a secret.

Leaping.

Leaping powers innovation, it is the engine of not only our economy, but of a thrilling and generous life.

Of course, you can (and should) be leaping regularly. Like bathing, leaping is a practice, something that never gets old, and is best done repeatedly.

But we don't need a worldwide holiday (one that lasts an entire year) for you to leap. You're already doing it.

No, the benefit of the holiday is to give you an excuse to encourage others to leap. It's socially acceptable to say, "Happy leap year." And then explain. Every four years we get to spread this subversive idea.

The existing power structure wants to maintain the status quo, and is generally opposed to the concept of leaping. In fact, if you want to make change happen, if you want to give others a chance to truly make a difference and to feel alive, it's essential that you encourage, cajole and otherwise spread the word about what it means to leap.

Right now, tell ten people about how you're leaping. Ask ten people about how they hope to leap…

An opportunity to help the people around you level up. It's an obligation, an opportunity and a chance that I hope you'll accept. Tell the others.

Culture changes everything.

To celebrate this magical day, a few suggestions. First, two projects I've done as fundraisers for Acumen's educational work (all of my share goes to their essential work in building a new way to educate social entrepreneurs):

Leap First, a short audio program I recorded for Sounds True. There's a special price today in honor of leap year.

Also…

My much celebrated Leadership Workshop is now available in a more traditional online-course format. That link takes you to + Acumen and a significant discount if you sign up with them. You can find the course page here

Thanks to people like you, we've already raised more than $120,000 for Acumen.

Here are some quotes and reviews from the first two disruptions on offer:

"So eye opening! Thank you so much for sharing with us and for contributing your knowledge to benefit a larger cause"

"No more standing on the sidelines. If it’s change we are going to make, we are in good company"

"Seth does it again, in a calm and clear voice, sharing ideas that will empower you to think and leap towards working and shipping with intention."

"I consider myself a student of Seth's concepts, ideas and work, if you are like me you will find it refreshing and with sharpened insights, if you are new, prepare to live and work in a truly different way."

"Terrific three hours. Plenty to think about. Plenty to do…" 

And two more to consider, when you're ready to help people get serious about the opportunity:

You can buy 120 copies of Your Turn for $96 off today only using code LeapYear. What would you do with 120 books? How about starting a conversation across your entire organization about what it means to leap?

And, 

Today's a great day to forward this link about the altMBA. Applications have just opened for session 5, our last session before the summer.

Une dernière chose : Si vous parlez français, vous pouvez consulter cette édition … 

The irrational thing about trust

The obvious and rational equation is that being trustworthy plus being transparent will lead you to be trusted. Verification of trustworthiness should lead to trust.

This makes sense. Being trustworthy (acting in a way that's worthy of trust) plus being transparent so that people can see your trustworthiness—this should be sufficient.

How then, do we explain that brands like Coke and Google are trusted? The recipe is secret, the algorithm is secret, and competitors like DuckDuckGo certainly act in a more trustworthy way.

In fact, trust often comes from something very different. It's mostly about symbols, expectations and mystery.

Consider the relationship you might enter into if you need surgery. You trust this woman to cut you open, you're putting your life in her hands… without the transparency of seeing all of her surgical statistics, interviewing all previous patients, evaluating her board scores.

Instead, we leap into surgery on the basis of the recommendation from one doctor, on how the office feels, on a few minutes of bedside manner. We walk away from surgery because of a surly receptionist, or a cold demeanor. 

The same is true for just about all the food we eat. Not only don't we visit the slaughterhouse or the restaurant kitchen, we make an effort to avoid imagining that they even exist.

In most commercial and organizational engagements, trust is something we want and something we seek out, but we use the most basic semiotics and personal interactions to choose where to place our trust. And once the trust is broken, there's almost no amount of transparency that will help us change our mind.

This is trust from ten thousand years ago, a hangover from a far less complex age when statistical data hadn't been conceived of, when unearthing history was unheard of. But that's now hard-wired into how we judge and are judged.

Quick test: Consider how much you trust Trump, or Clinton, Cruz or Sanders, Scalia or RBG. Is that trust based on transparency? On a rational analysis of public statements and private acts? Or is it more hunch-filled than that? What are the signals and tropes you rely on? Tone of voice? Posture? Appearance? Would more transparency change your mind about someone you trust? What about someone you don't? (Here's a fascinating story on that topic, reconstructed and revealed).

It turns out that we grab trust when we need it, and that rebuilding trust after it's been torn is really quite difficult. Because our expectations (which weren't based on actual data) were shown to be false.

Real trust (even in our modern culture) doesn't always come from divulging, from providing more transparency, but from the actions that people take (or that we think they take) before our eyes. It comes from people who show up before they have to, who help us when they think no one is watching. It comes from people and organizations that play a role that we need them to play.

We trust people based on the hints they give us in their vocal tones, in the stands they take on irrelevant points of view and yes, on what others think.

Mostly, people like us trust people like us.

The mystery that exists in situations without full transparency actually amplifies those feelings.

I'm worried about two real problems, each worse than the other:

a. The trustworthy person or organization that fails to understand or take action on the symbols and mysteries that actually lead to trust, and as a result, fails to make the impact they are capable of. 

b. The immoral person or organization who realizes that it's possible to be trusted without actually doing the hard work of being trustworthy.

We may very well be moving toward a world where data is the dominant way we choose to make decisions about trust. In the meantime, the symbols and signals that mesh with our irrational worldviews continue to drive our thinking.

Instead

What would have happened if you and your organization, instead of working on today's crisis, built something worthwhile for tomorrow?

What would have been discussed instead?

What would have been designed instead?

The urgency of the day feels like an appropriate reason to step away from the important thing we might have been doing instead.

Weeks or months later, we don't even remember what that urgent thing was. All we have to show for it is the thing we didn't build.

Intuition

That's what people call successful decision making that happens without a narrative.

Intuition isn't guessing. It's sophisticated pattern matching, honed over time.

Don't dismiss intuition merely because it's difficult to understand. You can get better at it by practicing.

When creativity becomes a profession…

It often stops being creative.

Ad agencies are some of the most conservative organizations you'll encounter. They've been so trained by fearful clients, they censor themselves regularly.

Successful authors are pushed by concerned publishers to become more true to their genres.

And the movie industry… well, it's an industry first.

This is why so many bestsellers are surprise bestsellers. In the words of William Goldman, no one knows anything. But, even though they don't know, the industrial protocol demands that they act like they do. Shareholders hesitate to give bonuses to CEOs who say, "I don't know, let's try it."

If you want to be creative, truly creative, it might pay to avoid a job with the word 'creative' in it.

Worth thinking about

That's one of the most important lists you can have. The list of things worth thinking about.

We live in the age of information surplus, when there are answers and shortcuts and highlights and notes and summaries for everything. But not nearly enough time to even be aware of them.

The key question isn't, "what's the answer?"

The key question is, "what's the question?"

Is this area worth thinking about?

Should I maintain the status quo?

Is this good enough?

Your focus is the heart of your organization's future. Your attention is irreplaceable. 

The real question, then, is, "how much time are you spending deciding what to spend time on?"

The thing about “wolf!”

…The little boy cried wolf, and the villagers didn't come.

But the media often does.

When bad things don't happen, we often forget about who cried wolf. And so they do it again.

Managing the very small business

How do you find, lead and manage employees in a tiny business (two to nine people)?

This is an organization that's bigger than a solo operation, but it almost certainly involves everyone reporting to the boss.

Consider three options:

A team of equals: This is an organization staffed with people who have particular skills, skills that you don't have. This is the Beatles. Or a three-person design firm in which each person is more skilled than the others in a specialty.

These organizations will never get big, and that's fine. They are cooperatives of artisans, and two things have to happen for them to work. First, team members have to be truly gifted, as the entire enterprise depends on the unique qualities of each individual. That means that hiring and ongoing improvement are essential. Second, the 'boss' has to be a coordinator, not an iron-fisted dictator.

The pitfall: Sometimes talented equals forget that the key to their job is coordination, which often means letting someone else lead. And sometimes talented people come to believe that being a prima donna makes one more talented.

Fellow travelers: This is a group of people with similar goals, approaches and perceptions. As a result, the boss can say, "use your best judgment" and the right thing happens. This group is led more than managed. The good news is that it's possible to train people to see and to care.

The pitfall: this isn't fast, easy or cheap. Businesses often fail to spend the time and money to recruit, hire and train fellow travelers, instead, hiring what they can and then being disappointed when they try to lead.

Industrialized employees: These are cogs in the system, people who want to be told what to do, who are hired and trained to obey. These are jobs that get outsourced or people who work cheap. This team needs a manager, a manager patient enough to instruct, teach and measure.

The pitfall: Sometimes the boss is also busy getting new business, inventing new products and generally engaged outside the organization. As a result, he is hoping that he's the leader of fellow travelers, but of course he never built that organization, so he's disappointed, over and over.

Prep, spec, fit and finish

In some settings, more than 90% of the time and effort invested isn't in the actual 'work', but in getting setting up, debugging and then polishing the work. Heart surgery, for example, might take five hours to perform, but the actual procedure might only take thirty minutes. 

A piece of code might take a few hours to create, but days or weeks to be specced, reviewed, tested and then ready for the public.

Dinner at a fine restaurant is mostly cleaning, chopping, mise en place and service, not the part we see on the plate itself.

And yet…

We often get confused about which part is important, which is worth our time, which is the point of the exercise. Without a doubt, if the thing we built isn't of high quality, don't bother. But it turns out that all the other parts, the parts that we think might be beneath us, it's those that matter the most.

When in doubt, spend half as much time as you expect on the thing that most people do, and far more time on the spec, on the quality control, on the soft stuff, the stuff that actually matters.

The realest thing in our lives

Are the stories we invent.

We live with these stories, we remind ourselves of them, we perfect them.

And, happily, if you don't like the story you're telling yourself, you can change it.

This site uses cookies.

Learn more