More and more, we create our work to be read by a machine.
SEO specialists tell you how to write a blog post that Google will like. Your resumé needs to have the right keywords to get tagged. Everything has an ISBN, an ASIN or a catalog number. Ideas become data become databases…
We did the same thing when assembly lines started up. Every part had to be the same size, the cogs in the system were less important than the system itself.
Being machine readable might feel like a shortcut to getting where you're going. After all, fitting in as a machine-readable cog into the database of ideas gets you a faster start. But it's also the best way to be ignored, because you've chosen to be one of the many, an idea that's easy to pigeonhole and then ignored.
What happens if your work becomes machine unreadable?
So new we don't have a slot for it.
So unpredictable that we can't ignore it.
So important that we have to stop feeding the database and start paying attention instead…
Sometimes, when we're lost, we refuse a map, even when offered.
Because the map reminds us that we made a mistake. That we were wrong.
But without a map, we're not just wrong, we're also still lost.
A map doesn't automatically get you home, but it will probably make you less lost.
(When dealing with the unknown, it's difficult to admit that there might not be a map. In those cases, a compass is essential, a way to remind yourself of your true north…)
The big reason is that we're all impostors. You're not imagining that you're an impostor, it's likely that you are one.
Everyone who is doing important work is working on something that might not work. And it's extremely likely that they're also not the very best qualified person on the planet to be doing that work.
How could it be any other way? The odds that a pure meritocracy chose you and you alone to inhabit your spot on the ladder is worthy of Dunning-Kruger status. You've been getting lucky breaks for a long time. We all have.
Yes, you're an impostor. So am I and so is everyone else. Superman still lives on Krypton and the rest of us are just doing our best.
Isn't doing your best all you can do? Dropping the narrative of the impostor isn't arrogant, it's merely a useful way to get your work done without giving into Resistance.
Time spent fretting about our status as impostors is time away from dancing with our fear, from leading and from doing work that matters.
The best drivers are unremarkable. Their actions are predictable. The drive is unexciting. They get from here to there with a minimum amount of fuss.
A good driver fits in, all the way.
It's entirely possible to drive your career this way, your day at work, the interactions you have.
The alternative is to understand that the opposite of good driving at work isn't crashing. The opposite is leaping. Connecting, changing things.
Don't do it in your car, but consider trying it at your keyboard.
A friend asked me for some ways to make money. (All direct quotes).
“Can I do okay taking those surveys where they pay me?”
“What about buying or trading shirts from Supreme and then selling them?”
“Do you think I can get paid $50 an hour to be a dog walker?”
“Is listening to some famous person and investing in an ICO a shortcut to riches?”
The thing is, almost all the easy shortcuts are taken. And the problem is that the ones that aren’t taken are hiding really well among a forest of scams and ripoffs. [Please read this before you invest in any ICO or Bitcoin-related offering. Run away!]
Or how about,
“How can I get an agent for my screenplay,” or
“Where do I find a publisher who will pay me a big advance for my first novel?”
Your best work isn’t nothing, it’s the heart of what you have to offer. Finding the long, difficult way is worth the journey, because it’s the best way to get what you deserve.
Important work is easily dismissed by the audience. It involves change and risk and thought.
Popular work resonates with the people who already like what you do.
Viral work is what happens when the audience can't stop talking about what you did.
Every once in awhile, all three things will co-exist, but odds are, you're going to need to choose.
This is my favorite game.
It doesn’t involve a board, there are no cards and it’s free to play. It works for two to six players. You can do it in a car or a plane, it works great for two, and if you’re kind, you can play it with someone less skilled than you. The more you play, the deeper and more fun the strategies go.
I thought I’d share the rules here, because more g-h-o-s-t is good g-h-o-s-t.
Summary: Go around the circle of players and each person adds a letter to a spoken string, striving to not be the person who actually makes the string of letters into a word.
Players go one at a time, in order. Of course, you can sit anywhere you like. When each player has taken his or her turn, begin again with the first player.
To play a round, someone says a letter. The next person in the order has to add a letter to the first, beginning a word. For example, the first person might begin by saying, “y” and then, the next person could say, “o”. The third could say “u” because three letters don’t count as a word.
Beginning with the fourth letter, the goal is to not complete the word. So, if the letters are y-o-u from the first three players, the fourth player shouldn’t say “r” because that would make a word. But it’s fine to say “t”.
If, on your turn, you are stuck and there’s no choice but to say a letter that completes a word (in this case, “h”), you lose the round. Every time you lose a round, you get stuck with another letter in the word ‘ghost’, hence the name of the game. If you lose five rounds, you’re out of the game. The last person left, wins.
If you lose a round, it’s your turn to start the next round by picking a new letter.
Okay, three simple complications:
- The letter you say has to create a possible word. So if the string is, “y-o-u”, you can’t say, “x”. (Unless you’re bluffing, see rule 2).
- If the person before you says a letter that you believe is impossible, you can challenge their play. If they can respond with a legal word, you lose the round. If they can’t, because they were bluffing or in error, they lose the round.
- No proper nouns, no contractions, no hyphens, no acronyms, no abbreviations. These words don’t exist in the game.
And the big complication, the one that changes everything and makes this a game for the ages:
Once you get the hang of it, the group can play reverso. This means that when it’s your turn, you’re allowed to add a letter before the string, if you choose, instead of after. So now, words can be built in either direction, and game becomes magical.
‘y-o-u’ can now become ‘a-y-o-u’ and then ‘b-a-y-o-u’.
‘r-d-s-c-r’ for example, isn’t worth challenging, because ‘hardscrabble’ is a word.
If you want to play reverso g-h-o-s-t as a finite game, with thrown elbows and strategy, it makes a terrific two-player game.
If you want to play it as an infinite game, setting up friends and family to do ever better, a game that never ends and has wordcraft and humor to it, you can do that as well. PS Olivia has a new version that uses cards.
[A suggestion from Jim F.: “I would offer an amendment to the game of Ghost as we play it in my family. When a player receives their fifth letter, they are no longer part of the spelling, but they remain in the game by becoming a “ghost”. Any active player who speaks to a Ghost receives an additional letter each time they speak to a Ghost. Ghosts are motivated to get active players to speak to them, and thus are not eliminated but adopt a new role.”]
All you have to do is look around to realize just how many choices we still have. What to eat, who to speak to, what to do for a living, what to learn, what to say, who to contribute to, how we interact, what we stand for…
The safe and comfortable path is to pretend that we're blocked at every turn.
But most of the turns, we don't even see. We've trained ourselves to ignore them.
A habit is not the same as no choice. And a choice isn't often easy. In fact, the best ones rarely are.
But we can still choose to make one.
Some work is best shipped when it's done.
Most of the time, though, we produce useful, important work on time. When it's due.
If you're having trouble shipping, it might because you've hesitated to put a date on it. "Soon" is a very different concept than, "11:00 am".
If it's important enough to spend your day on, to pin your dreams on, to promise to yourself and others, it's probably important enough to guarantee a ship date.
The math has changed.
It used to be, you paid money to run an ad. A little piece of media, bought and paid for. The audience came with the slot.
Today, of course, the ad is free to run. Post your post, upload your video. Free.
What to measure, then?
Well, one thing to measure is attention. How many likes or shares or views did it get?
But if you're going to optimize for attention, not trust or results or contribution, then you're on a very dangerous road.
It's pretty easy to get attention by running down the street naked (until everyone else does it). But that's not going to accomplish your goals.
When Oreo gets attention for a tweet or Halotop for a horrible ad, they're pulling a stunt, not contributing to their mission.
Yes, the alternative is more difficult. It doesn't come with a quick hit or big numbers. But it understands what it's for. An effective ad is far more valuable than a much-noticed one.