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Wasting second place

100 people apply for a job. 99 are sent home. What if the winner hadn’t applied? You might have been thrilled with the person who almost got the job.

17,000 people apply to a famous college. Only 10% get in. But at least a third were good enough to get in but didn’t get lucky. What happens to their narrative?

Selective organizations need to get better about communicating to the people who ‘almost’ make it. And it’s an incredible waste to discard all the knowledge that was gained in the sorting process… how to share it to help someone else?

 

PS coming soon: A new session of The Story Skills Workshop. You can join the list today to find out more and get updates.

Our top story

When you talk about your last job, your last vacation, the things that happened when you were 12…

What do you lead with?

Do you lead with, “I broke my ankle that summer and rarely got out” or is it, “I stuck with my reading regimen and read all of Shakespeare.”

Because both are true.

The top story is the one that informs our narrative, and our narrative changes our future.

Stolen ideas

Is there a difference between someone stealing a potato from your farm and someone stealing your idea?

Well, if everyone in town comes and takes a potato, your farm is bust.

But if everyone in town comes and takes your idea, you’re more known, trusted and effective than you used to be.

During Google’s beginnings, their business and tech plan was available to anyone who stopped by Stanford and bothered to read it. Every popular podcast based on an original idea gave away that original idea the moment the first episode of the podcast was available–long before the podcast itself became popular.

When I was a book packager, we ended up publishing about 120 books and pitching another 1,000 that were never published. In all of that time, I can only remember one of our ideas (it was a big one) being stolen from us and published without our participation. That code of ethics created a feeling of intellectual safety. But, at the same time, it was our successful books that were copied the most–and that copying was not just a symptom but often a cause of their success.

The internet is a copying machine. Ideas morph and change and spin as they move from one end to the other. Ripping ideas off wholesale and violating intellectual property rights is nothing to be proud of–each of us can do better than that. But holding ideas too tightly in fear of the ripples and echoes they’re going to cause is the real problem.

Being original is an opportunity to advance the conversation. Building something of utility with persistence and grace is truly generous, though, and it’s not related to whether or not anyone has ever heard your idea before.

The simple cure for writer’s block

Write.

People with writer’s block don’t have a problem typing. They have a problem living with bad writing, imperfect writing, writing that might expose something that they fear.

The best way to address this isn’t to wait to be perfect. Because if you wait, you’ll never get there.

The best way to deal with it is to write, and to realize that your bad writing isn’t fatal.

Like all skills, we improve with practice and with feedback.

 

[Mark your calendars: The Creative’s Workshop is coming back in August. Check out this page for details and to get updates.]

Choices

How will we use our gifts? What difficult choices will we make–when it might be easier to hide?

Will we waste our advantages and insulation?

Will inertia be our guide, or will we follow our passions?

Will we follow dogma, or will we leap forward and be original, generous and helpful?

Will we choose a life of ease, or a life of service and adventure?

Will we wilt under criticism, or will we follow our convictions?

Will we bluff it out when we’re wrong, or will we apologize?

Will we be clever at the expense of others, or will we choose to be kind?

A cynic, or a builder?

And we get to decide again every single day.

 

[PS please consider this session of The Podcasting Workshop. It’s open now for registration.]

How many moons?

How many moons in our solar system? With 8 or so planets, how many moons in total?

My guess, when challenged, was 22. I figured Earth had one, rounded up, etc.

It turns out that it’s more than 200. Saturn alone has more than 80 moons.

That’s a common mistake. We make it all the time. We assume that our neighborhood is like every neighborhood, that our situation and experience is universal.

That’s rarely true.

Embracing that on the path to empathy is a powerful step forward.

The stolen address book

I used to ask, “If you stole Steven Spielberg’s address book, would it help you get a movie made?”

The point was that even if you had the phone numbers and names, calling them up and saying you’d stolen them wasn’t worth very much. The data has no value without trust and connection.

Now, twenty years later, all the address books have been stolen. Everyone has all the data. Identifying the right people (or spamming everyone) is easy and cheap.

Which makes the point even more urgent than ever: Without trust and connection, access to data is worthless.

Useful explanations of reality

If we want to understand what’s going on around us, it’s helpful to be able to formulate a resilient story, one that holds up to scrutiny and allows us to make an impact.

That story shouldn’t change based on who’s in charge.

Which means that we don’t have to ask the head of the chemistry department why a reaction occurred. The theory works fine even if they’re not around.

Everybody else

It’s natural to believe that everyone else is as confident, assured, long-term thinking and generous as you are on your very best day.

But that’s unlikely. Because everyone else is probably not having their best day at the same time.

Once we realize that the world around us is filled with people who are each wrestling with what we’re wrestling with (and more), compassion is a lot easier to find.

Should schools reward skills or talent?

Talent is something you’re born with.

Skill is something you earn.

Skill comes from commitment and practice and self-discipline. The skill of earning skills is a lifelong advantage.

Without a doubt, encouraging kids to leverage their talents is a skill. And yet…

Who gets to be the center of the kids’ volleyball team–the tall kid or the one who practices the most diligently and brings the most teamwork to the game?

Who gets an ‘A’ in math–the one who can breeze through the tests or the student who asks intelligent questions and challenges the assumptions?

Who gets into a fancy college…

You get the idea.

Leaders talk about developing real skills and encouraging people to develop into their full potential, but too often, we take the short-term path of betting on raw talent instead. And of course, what looks like raw talent might not be. It could simply be our confusion about first impressions compared to the power of commitment, enrollment and persistence.

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