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Plasticity

It's possible that you're the way you are, that you do what you do, that you react as you react, and that it can never be changed.

Believing this is incredibly sad, though.

Each of us is capable of just a little more. A little more patience, a little more insight, a little more generosity.

And if you can do a little more, then, of course, you can repeat those changes until you've done a lot more.

The FLASH drives

Fear, loneliness, anger, shame & hunger.

They drive us. They divide us. They take us away from our work, our mission, our ability to make a difference. And yet, sometimes, they fuel our motion, leading to growth and connection.

When a variety of FLASH shows up, it almost never calls itself by name. Instead, it lashes out. It criticizes what we’ve made or done. And mostly, it hides behind words, argument and actions, instead of revealing itself.

As you’ve guessed, correcting the false argument is futile. Logic doesn’t work either. You can’t reason with FLASH because it is, by definition, unreasonable.

Worth repeating that: We’re rarely reasonable. Most of the time, we’re afraid, lonely, angry, shameful or hungry.

Sometimes, we can address those emotions by seeing that reason can help our problem, but mostly, we start and end with the emotion.

Recognize it.

Pause to allow it be seen and heard.

And then, if we’re willing, we can dance with it. We can put the arguments aside, the demands and the expectations and sit with the emotion. Not get defensive, because the emotion isn’t about us or our work at all.

Then, maybe, we can begin to bring civilization back into the conversation, the story of us, the opportunity for growth and connection, and ultimately, the power of thought and reason and forward motion.

Sort by price

Imagine a supermarket (or any store, for that matter), where the items are arranged by price. At one end is the salt and the chewing gum, and at the other end are mops and steaks.

We always think about the cost of an item before we buy it, but we don't buy it because of what it costs.

If you find yourself acting like you sell a commodity, saying, "this is category X and the price is Y" then you've ceased doing any sort of marketing. You're a commodity provider by choice, which is fine as long as you're okay with competing in a race to the bottom.

The alternative is to do the difficult and risky work of earning attention, earning a reputation and mostly telling a story that takes your product or service out of the commodity category and into a space defined by connection, meaning and possibility instead.

Low price is the refuge for the marketer who doesn't have anything more meaningful to offer.

Hobson’s choice, Occam’s razor, Wheeler’s which and the way we decide

Hobson's choice is no choice at all. Take what's offered, or walk away.

Occam's razor is a rule of thumb: the simplest explanation is often the best one.

Wheeler's which teaches us that the answer to "one egg or two?" is usually 'one', while the answer to, "do you want an egg?" is usually zero.

Occam, Hobson and Wheeler were all scholars of something humans are fabulously bad at: deciding among multiple options.

Getting good at this is a skill, something we can do better if we choose to. That might be the first decision.

[Some readers were curious about the "Wheeler which." Elmer Wheeler was a sales trainer nearly a century ago. He got hired by a chain of drugstores to increase sales at the soda fountain. In those days, a meal might consist of just an ice cream soda for a nickel. But for an extra penny or two, you could add a raw egg (protein!). Obviously, if more people added an egg, profits would go up. Wheeler taught the jerks (isn't that a great job title?) to ask anyone who ordered a soda, "One egg or two?" Sales of the egg add-on skyrocketed.]

On demand vs. in stock

"You can have any color car you want as long as it's black."

Henry Ford made cars in black because black paint dried four hours faster than any other color. That fast drying meant that the line worked faster, which made them cheaper. Just as important, he didn't have stockouts–with only one color, the color you wanted was the color he had.

Ever since then, there's been a move to on-demand, built to order and custom work. In everything we do. Freelance work, shoes, baked goods, kitchen cabinets, software, travel plans. And it seems like a cost-free progression. The thing is, it's not.

Most of the cost of everything we buy is in the risk, the starting, the stopping, the waste, the breakage, the planning.

A pair of mass produced shoes can be made for $3. A pair of custom shoes might cost $200 once you count all the associated costs.

McDonald's hit a peak moment of productivity by getting to a mythical scale, with a limited menu and little in the way of customization. They could deliver a burger for a fraction of what it might take a diner to do it on demand.

McDonald's now challenges the idea that custom has to cost more, because they've invested in mass customization.

Things that are made on demand by algorithmic systems and robots cost more to set up, but once they do, the magic is that the incremental cost of one more unit is really low. If you're organized to be in the mass customization business, then the wind of custom everything is at your back.

The future clearly belongs to these mass customization opportunities, situations where there is little cost associated with stop and start, little risk of not meeting expectations, where a robot and software are happily shifting gears all day long.

But if you're not set up for this, if you're hustling your coders or your production line or your painters or whomever to go faster and cheaper, you're fighting the wrong side of the productivity curve. It's like the diner that sought to be a friendly, custom-order place but also promised to be as cheap or as profitable as a fast food place.

These traditional businesses, the small ones, the non-automated ones, can sell custom, sure, but not at the price they used to sell the thing they make in bulk. And too often, organizations undercharge for the custom work and find themselves trapped between the productivity of doing things in batches and the challenge of delighting each customer, who carries his or her own dreams of what perfect looks like.

Finding the thread

Unraveling has precisely the same meaning as raveling… when we pull on a thread, pull and pull, as it unweaves what came before.

It's nice to have the next thing clearly laid out, planned and sure to work.

It would make our projects and our art and our plans a lot more secure.

More often, though, we have to ravel for quite a while before we have enough to work with.

Nothing is ready when we need it to be, but that merely means we have to begin earlier.

Choose better

More honest, more caring, more generous.

It's all a choice, isn't it?

We can choose to dream better, connect better and contribute better.

Sometimes, in the rush for more, we get confused about what better means, and how attainable it is.

If you are lucky enough to be with family today, I hope you'll get a chance to use our beloved Thanksgiving Reader around your table. It's a free PDF that you can print out and use for group readings.

All we have is each other

And that's enough. It has to be.

It's all we've ever had.

The challenge is in realizing this and working with it, even when we're secretly hoping for something more, some external force.

You and me, kid, you and me and a few billion other folks.

We can treat each other as if it matters, because it does.

The yeasayer

Opposite of the naysayer, of course.

This is the person who will find ten reasons why you should try something.

The one who will embrace the possibility of better.

The colleague to turn to when a reality check is necessary, because the reality is, it might work.

Are you up for it?

Limited, unique & educational

It snowed last night here, so it must be almost time for the holidays. Some thoughts as you think about holiday gifts for you and the people you care about:

There are fewer than 2,000 copies of my huge new collection left. The book weighs 18 pounds, it's 800 pages long and profusely illustrated. We will not be printing any more, that's all there are. All the copies are currently on container ships and on their way to our fulfillment house… orders taken now should arrive to most locations before the holidays.

My most recent original book, What To Do When It's Your Turn… is now in its fifth printing. It comes in a multi-pack, so you can have one and give one (or more) away.

I have three bestselling courses on Udemy. There is a master course on value creation, one for freelancers and a leadership course that's a fundraiser for Acumen. Learning is a great gift, of course, because it transforms people you care about. And it is sure to be the right size.

You can find a list of all my books here.

And we're getting close to my live event in New York on December 10. I hope you can come and even better, bring a colleague.

Thanks!

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