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Inadequacy on parade

A never-ending stream of pictures. People who are prettier than you, happier than you, more confident than you. Weddings that are fancier than yours was, with sun-dappled trees, luscious desserts and delighted relatives. Or perhaps it’s the status updates from everyone who is where you aren’t, but wish you were.

And the billboards and the magazine ads always show us the people we’d like to be instead of the people we are.

In the short run, gazing at all this perfection gives us a short hit of dopamine, a chance to imagine what it might be like.

Over time, though, the grinding inadequacy caused by the marketing machine wears us down.

It’s okay to turn it off.


PS Consider The Bootstrapper’s Workshop. Today, Sunday, is the last day to sign up for it, and we’re not sure when it will run again. If it’s for you, please don’t miss it.

Since it began just a few weeks ago, there have been 500,000 pageviews, more than 15,000 user visits and 31,000 posts. All from people on a journey similar to yours, one in search of a sustainable model for creating significant value and earning a living while doing it.

The workshop is open for more than two more months. Hope you can join in.

“Zeige Deine Wunde” (show me your wound)

Joseph Beuys didn't make pretty art.

When I was 12, I saw an exhibit he had at the Guggenheim in NY. As its centerpiece was a 3,000 pound block of lard, wrapped in felt. It was bizarre, it smelled a bit and forty or more years later, I haven't forgotten it.

Beuys was transformed by near-death experiences he had as a youth. And that wound informed the art that he made. He shared his pain and more than that, the route to his salvation.

This isn't what we want from everything in our lives. We often choose convenience, solace or reassurance. But more often than we realize, the dance with fear and mortality and risk that others engage in becomes part of our cultural landscape.

The daily

Is there something you do every day that builds an asset for you?

Every single day?

Something that creates another bit of intellectual property that belongs to you?

Something that makes an asset you own more valuable?

Something that you learn?

Every single day is a lot of days. It’s easy to look at the long run and lull yourself into skipping a day now and then.

But the long run is made up of short runs.


[And a first reminder that the February (!) session of the altMBA is now accepting applications. I hope you’ll consider it.]

In search of your chord

There are 88 keys on a piano.

64 colors in the big box of Crayola.

You can’t own a key and you can’t own a color.

But once you start combining elements, the possibilities go way up.

The opening chord of a Hard Day’s Night is a unique signature. So are the colors in a Lilly Pulitzer dress.

Your work can struggle to fit in. Or you can do the hard work of having it stand out.

As you can see from the notes on the single chord the Beatles developed, it’s not obvious or simple. And most of the time, it doesn’t even work. But if you find a chord and stick with it, again and again, for years, then, over time, it might become yours.


High value

… is not the same as low price.

The price is obvious. It can be seen from a mile away. But value is more subtle. It often needs to be experienced to be understood.

The price is the same for every person who buys that item at retail. The value is different for everyone.

Low price is the last refuge for marketers who don’t have the patience or guts to demonstrate value for those that need it.

We learn as we go

If we stop going, we stop learning…


If we're not willing to keep learning, we should probably stop going.

Today is the best day

And now is the best time.

If you're doing something generous, if you're building something worthwhile, if you're making an important ruckus…

Do it today.

You don't need more time, you simply need to decide.

Kettle logic

Originally the work of lawyers, it’s a concept that’s spreading, aided by the immediacy and unfiltered nature of social media.

In short: When you use contradictory excuses/statements to make an argument. Freud used this example:

A man who was accused by his neighbour of having returned a kettle in a damaged condition. He offered three arguments in rebuttal.

“I returned the kettle undamaged”
“It was already damaged when I borrowed it”
“I never borrowed it in the first place”

This is a dumb way to win a logical argument, because without a doubt, you’re lying in at least some of these statements.

Kettle logic is actually a glimpse into how the emotional side of our brain works. And of course, the emotional side is 95% of our brain. It’s squirming and the words simply get spun out.

When a customer or colleague begins to use kettle logic, the useful response is to seek out the emotions behind it. Because dismantling the logic part of kettle logic does nothing to get you closer to what the person really needs to talk about.

Like burning a hammer for heat

Yes, it's true that your hammer has a wooden handle.

But throwing it in the fireplace to get a few BTUs out of it is a huge waste.

The same thing is true of your reputation, of the relationships you have, of your hard-won trust.

Don't burn it just because you're a little chilled.

Mistakes, failures and problems

A mistake is something you learn from… you did it wrong, you’ll do it better next time.

A marketing failure is a mismatch between what you built and the market.

And a problem is an invention waiting to be built, an invitation to find a solution.