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Decision making, after the fact

Critics are eager to pick apart complex decisions made by others.

Prime Ministers, CEOs, even football coaches are apparently serially incompetent. If they had only listened to folks who knew precisely what they should have done, they would have been far better off.

Of course, these critics have a great deal of trouble making less-complex decisions in their own lives. They carry the wrong credit cards, buy the wrong stocks, invest in the wrong piece of real estate.

Some of them even have trouble deciding what to eat for dinner.

Complex decision making is a skill—it can be learned, and some people are significantly better at it than others. It involves instinct, without a doubt, but also the ability to gather information that seems irrelevant, to ignore information that seems urgent, to patiently consider not just the short term but the long term implications.

The loudest critics have poor track records in every one of these areas.

Mostly, making good decisions involves beginning with a commitment to make a decision. That's the hard part. Choosing the best possible path is only possible after you've established that you've got the guts and the commitment to make a decision.

What will you do with your surplus?

If you have a safe place to sleep, reasonable health and food in the fridge, you’re probably living with surplus. You have enough breathing room to devote an hour to watching TV, or having an argument you don’t need to have, or simply messing around online. You have time and leverage and technology and trust.

For many people, this surplus is bigger than any human on Earth could have imagined just a hundred years ago.

What will you spend it on?

If you’re not drowning, you’re a lifeguard.

A publishing master class

Announcing a two-day workshop in my office for 8 people.

I define publishing as the work of investing in intellectual property and monetizing it by bringing it to people who want to pay for it. The world of publishing is changing fast, and I'd like to help a few publishers make a difference.

Publishing can include music, books, conferences and other experiences and content. The ideas may change, but the work of publishing at scale has much in common across all fields.

[Update: We've had more than 1,000 applications, so I'm going to close the form, thanks.]

Here's a quick FAQ:

Who's it for? Thoughtful leaders who are committed to publishing in a new way, making a difference and contributing to our culture by bringing out work that matters (and supporting those who make it). We're particularly looking for a mix of people with experiences and dreams that fall outside the mainstream in terms of background, posture or credentials. I think publishing is a profession, and I'd like to help others that do as well.

How much does it cost? I'm not charging a fee. Running a workshop is a powerful exercise, and I'll probably learn as much as you will. You'll need to pay your way here and find a place to stay, so I figure you'll have some skin in the game. Not everything is about making a profit. Maybe we'll even change a few lives.

Can you do it remotely, or turn it into something bigger? Not right now, sorry.

What do you know about publishing? Well, I've been publishing books, software, music, courses and even action figures for more than thirty years. Here are some highlights. This seminar follows on from the SAMBA, the FeMBA, the Agenda session and other intensives I've hosted over the years.

If you're interested, please apply right away. The deadline is really soon, and we never admit the last four people who apply to anything we do.

Processing negative reviews

Assumption: Some people love what you do. They love your product, your service, the way you do your work (if that's not true, this post isn't for you. You have a more significant problem to work on first).

So, how to understand it when someone hates what you do? When they post a one-star review, or cross the street to avoid your shop, or generally are unhappy with the very same thing that other people love?

It's not for them.

They want something you don't offer. Or they want to buy it from someone who isn't you. Or they don't understand what it's for or how or why you do it.

Some of these things you can address by telling a story more clearly, some you can't.

Either way, right now, they're telling you one thing: It's not for them.

Okay, thanks for letting us know.

On leveling up

I got a note yesterday from a recent grad of the altMBA. He said, "I have to say that the value I have gained from this group far exceeds anything I could give back, and please know that it is rippling out and will affect many more than just the people that went through the program. Thank you…"

We put together this short video about the impact that this 30-day workshop is having on the thousands of people who have gone through it. I'll be talking a little bit about how and why we made it via Facebook Live today at 10 am NY time.

The next available session is in January. Tomorrow is the last day for First Priority applications. The application takes about fifteen minutes.

There are no tests.

If you're ready for us, we're ready for you.

What makes your sirens go off…

Somewhere, someone is doing something that got your attention, inciting you into action. Somewhere, someone is:

  • Taking your share
  • Wasting an opportunity
  • Cutting ahead in line
  • Suffering at the hands of bully
  • Invading your territory
  • Announcing a deadline
  • Sharing breaking news
  • Disrespecting your tribe
  • Going hungry
  • Whispering juicy gossip
  • Misinterpreting your words
  • Not being offered an opportunity
  • Libeling a cause you believe in
  • Living with loneliness
  • Promising a shortcut
  • The victim of cruelty
  • Being cruel
  • Giving something away
  • Picking winners
  • Asking for help

Which of these is your kind of urgent, a chance to take umbrage or perhaps, a call to action?

Which one turns our heads, gets our attention and breaks our rhythm?

We notice what we care about and work hard to ignore the rest. You can change what you care about by changing what you notice.

Price vs. cost

Price is a simple number. How much money do I need to hand you to get this thing?

Cost is more relevant, more real and more complicated.

Cost is what I had to give up to get this. Cost is how much to feed it, take care of it, maintain it and troubleshoot it. Cost is my lack of focus and my cost of storage. Cost is the externalities, the effluent, the side effects.

Just about every time, cost matters more than price, and shopping for price is a trap.

Look around

Proximity matters a great deal.

Detroit car executives in the 1970s and 1980s consistently failed to respond to the threat from Japanese imports. They weren't merely arrogant—they were blinded by proximity. Everyone in their neighborhood, everyone on their commute, everyone in their parking lot was driving an American car. How could there be a problem?

We define the universe around us as normal. It's one of the only ways to stay sane—we assume that the noise in our head is in the head of other people, that what we yearn for or buy is what others do as well. And we look to the world around us for confirmation.

This truth can take us to two insights:

  1. if you want to understand what part of the world is really like, you should make special efforts to surround yourself with that world. If you market to bodegas, consider taking an apartment upstairs from a bodega.
  2. there's a huge bonus to being famous to the family. If you can be locally dominant, the locals will instinctively decide that you are globally dominant. Have 100 customers in one neighborhood (virtual or real) is worth much much more than having one customer in each of 100 neighborhoods.

On speaking up

The status quo is not kind. It works overtime to stay the status quo, and that means that new ideas, urgent pleas and cries for justice are rarely easily voiced.

We're pleased that Annie Kenney stood up for a woman's right to vote all those years ago, even if she got arrested for doing so. And we're proud of Elijah Harper, who brought a debate to a standstill when he stood up for the rights of indigenous people. We're glad that Lois Gibbs stood up to fight for the families near Love Canal, and that Rachel Carson was able to save countless lives by blowing the whistle on how we were poisoning ourselves.

The historical examples are pretty much beyond dispute. When we think about the past, our heroes are those that were willing to persist even when their critics tried to silence them.

Where it becomes challenging is when someone around us chooses to speak up. Today. Now. 

It might be someone in HR who risks his job to report the boss to the board. Or it might be an unlikely activist, standing up for a cause that wasn't on our radar. It might be someone in accounting who has found a better way to do things, or an unknown with no power or authority who stands up and says, "follow me."

We can't judge those that challenge the status quo merely on their rule breaking. Because the rules only exist to maintain the status quo. 

Instead, we have to work ever harder on seeing, listening and supporting the quiet voices who have something important to say. Perhaps, if we listen a bit harder, we'll be able to do the right thing that much sooner.

Seeking sonder

Sonder is defined as that moment when you realize that everyone around you has an internal life as rich and as conflicted as yours.

That everyone has a noise in their head.

That everyone thinks that they are right, and that they have suffered affronts and disrespect at the hands of others.

That everyone is afraid. And that everyone realizes that they are also lucky.

That everyone has an impulse to make things better, to connect and to contribute.

That everyone wants something that they can't possibly have. And if they could have it, they'd discover that they didn't really want it all along.

That everyone is lonely, insecure and a bit of a fraud. And that everyone cares about something.

Sonder might happen to you. When it does, it will help you see the world in a whole new way. Because, if you let it, the feeling can persist. A feeling that can allow you to see others the way you'd like to be seen.