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Metaphors aren’t true

But they're useful.

That's why professionals use them to teach, to learn and to understand.

A metaphor takes what we know and uses it as a lever to understand something else. And the only way we can do that is by starting with the true thing and then twisting it into a new thing, a thing we'll be able to also understand.

(Of course, a metaphor isn't actually a lever, a physical plank of wood that has a fulcrum, which is precisely my point).

The difference between the successful professional and the struggling amateur can often be seen in their respective facility with metaphor. The amateur struggles to accept that metaphor is even acceptable ("are atoms actually building blocks?") or can't find the powerful analogy needed to bring home the concept. Because all metaphors aren't actually true, it takes confidence to use them well.

If you're having trouble understanding a disconnect, or are seeking to explain why something works or doesn't, begin with a metaphor. "Why is this new thing a lot like that understood thing…"

Metaphors aren't true, but they work.

PS more on this in my latest post on Medium.

The other kind of harm

Pop culture is enamored with the Bond villian, the psycho, the truly evil character intent on destruction.

It lets us off the hook, because it makes it easy to see that bad guys are other people.

But most of the stuff that goes wrong, much of the organizational breakdown, the unfixed problems and the help not given, ends up happening because the system lets it happen. It happens because a boss isn't focusing, or priorities are confused, or people in a meeting somewhere couldn't find the guts to challenge the status quo.

What we choose not to do matters.

Our bias for paid marketing

A few rhetorical questions:

Is a physical therapist with a professional logo better than one with a handmade sign?

Are you more likely to stay at a hotel that you've heard of as opposed to an unknown one, even if 'heard of' refers to the fact that they've run ads?

Do you believe that companies that rank higher in search results are better than the ones a few pages later? And if you don't, then what's the reason we so often stop clicking after one page?

There are more ways than ever to spread the word about your work, but we live in a culture where paid ads still have clout.

"As Seen on TV" was such a powerful phrase that companies brag about it, right on the box. And that connection between paying for attention and quality still remains.

Over time, we've been sufficiently seduced by marketers that spend on the surface stuff that cognitive dissonance has persuaded us that we must be making those choices for a reason.

Find the discipline to build your projects like you won't be able to run ads to make them succeed. A product that sells itself, that's remarkable, that spreads.

Then consider running ads as if you don't need them.

The short run and the long run

It’s about scale. Pick a long enough one (or a short enough one) and you can see the edges.

In the short run, there’s never enough time.

In the long run, constrained resources become available.

In the short run, you can fool anyone.

In the long run, trust wins.

In the short run, we’ve got a vacancy, hire the next person you find.

In the long run, we spend most of our time with the people we’ve chosen in the short run.

In the short run, decisions feel more urgent and less important at the same time.

In the long run, most decisions are obvious and easy to make.

In the short run, it’s better to panic and obsess on emergencies and urgencies.

In the long run, spending time with people you love, doing work that matters, is all that counts.

In the short run, trade it all for attention.

In the long run, it’s good to own it (the means of production, the copyrights, the process).

In the short run, burn it down, someone else will clean up the problem.

In the long run, the environment in which we live is what we need to live.

In the short run, better to cut class.

In the long run, education pays off.

In the short run, tearing people down is a great way to get ahead.

In the long run, building things of value makes sense.

Add up the short runs, though, and you’re left with the long run. It’s going to be the long run a lot longer than the short run will last.

Act accordingly.

Identity vs. logic

Before we start laying out the logical argument for a course of action, it's worth considering whether a logical argument is what's needed.

It may be that the person you're engaging with cares more about symbols, about tribal identity, about the status quo. They may be driven by fear or anger or jealousy. It might be that they just don't care that much.

Sometimes we find ourselves in a discussion where the most coherent, actionable, rational argument wins.

Sometimes, but not often.

People like us do things like this.

Using video well

The web was built on words.

And words, of course, are available to anyone who can type. They're cheap, easy to edit and incredibly powerful when used well.

Today's internet, though, is built on video. Much more difficult to create well, far more impactful when it works. 

My friends at Graydin, for example, needed only 140 seconds to make their case about their practice.

Because video costs more, is more difficult to edit and takes a different sort of talent to create, we often avoid it. Or worse, we cut corners and fail to do ourselves justice by posting something mediocre.

When copy exploded across the web, the professional copywriter felt threatened. Anyone could write, and anyone did.

When photography was added to the mix, the professional photographer felt threatened. Everyone had a camera, after all.

And now, the same thing is happening to video.

In each case, the professional has something to add, something significant, but she has to change her posture from scarce bottleneck to extraordinary contributor.

Great video doesn't change the rules. A great video on your site isn't enough. You still need permission, still need to seek remarkability, still need to create something that matters. What video represents is the chance—if you invest in it—to tell your story in a way that sticks. 

Actually, more data might not be what you’re hoping for

They got us hooked on data. Advertisers want more data. Direct marketers want more data. Who saw it? Who clicked? What percentage? What's trending? What's yielding?

But there's one group that doesn't need more data…

Anyone who's making a long-term commitment. Anyone who seeks to make art, to make a difference, to challenge the status quo.

Because when you're chasing that sort of change, data is the cudgel your enemies will use to push you to conform.

Data paves the road to the bottom. It is the lazy way to figure out what to do next. It's obsessed with the short-term.

Data gets us the Kardashians.

HT: Marco

Amplifying social proof

Trust is the biggest hurdle.

And trust largely comes from social proof.

Is everyone doing this?

Is it safe?

Will I be embarrassed/ridiculed/left out/left behind/feel stupid?

Social proof shares a word with social networks, but they're only loosely related.

Social proof is the story we end up believing.

Your job as a marketer, then, is to take the threads of social proof and weave them together into something powerful.

No, you can't fake this (and shouldn't try). But you can amplify it. You can focus the proof on a tiny cohort, so that it has more impact. You can invest in media that acts as a megaphone, multiplying the impact of the proof you already have.

One way to be trusted is to trust the people you seek to serve.

Mostly, you can work to build something that's worth trusting. 

The momentum myth

Roller coasters work because of momentum—the quantity of motion from the downhill allows the car to make it up the next rise. Without momentum, the car would merely stop. But few things in the world of ideas follow the same rules. 

Ideas have no mass, they don't coast.

Authors fall into this trap over and over again. They believe that a big launch, the huge push upfront, the bending of the media in their favor (at any cost) is the way to ensure that weeks two and three and eleven will continue to show solid growth.

A decade ago, I wrote two different posts for friends who were launching books. The ideas still stand.

I'm betting that an analysis of the Billboard charts over the last fifty years would confirm that the speed a song makes it to the top has no correlation with how long it stays at the top.

Here's a look at the cumulative sales for Your Turn, the book I published in November 2014. And you'd find a similar curve for most successful books.

The launch is the launch. What happens after the launch, though, isn't the result of momentum. It's the result of a different kind of showing up, of word of mouth, of the book (or whatever tool you're using to cause change) being part of something else, something bigger.

Fast starts are never as important as a cultural hook, consistently showing up and committing to a process.

The toddler strategy

Most people don't get too upset at anything a two-year-old kid says to them.

That's because we don't believe that toddlers have a particularly good grasp on the nuances of the world, nor do they possess much in the way of empathy. Mostly, though, it turns out that getting mad at a toddler doesn't do any good, because he's not going to change as a result (not for a few years, anyway).

Couldn't the same be said for your uninformed critics? For the people who bring you down without knowing any better, for those that sabotage your best work, or undermine your confidence for selfish reasons?

It's hardly productive to ruin your day and your work trying to teach these folks a lesson.

Better, I think, to treat them like a toddler. Buy them a lollipop, smile and walk away.

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