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“Because” vs. “and”

The way you’re feeling… is it because of something that’s going on around you? Or are you simply feeling something and there’s a situation?

One way to determine the difference:

Has this situation ever happened without you (or anyone, for that matter) feeling the way you’re feeling?

[to pick an outdated example, one that someday we might experience again]:

“I’m feeling stressed and overwhelmed because there are ten people waiting for a table at the restaurant and we’re falling behind.”

Except: plenty of people who run restaurants have experienced ten people waiting for a table without feeling stressed and overwhelmed.

It’s not the line that’s causing the stress. It’s your interpretation of the line.

You’re overwhelmed and there’s a line.

Who is good at discovery?

Apple has carefully guarded the podcast directory, persuading podcasters that ‘winning’ here is the shortcut to building a popular podcast. But they’re terrible at introducing podcasts to new listeners, terrible at developing a point of view that enables the industry to thrive or even grow.

Compare this to Netflix. They’re terrific at surfacing content and helping people find things that they end up liking. Netflix, for economic and marketing reasons, has limited the number of ‘shows’ they have to promote, but within their set, they continue to delight. Compare this to YouTube–if you follow the ‘recommended’ path for just a handful or two of clicks, you’ll end up with something banal or violent.

Google built its entire business on the mythology of discovery, persuading millions of entrepreneurs and creators that somehow, SEO would help them get found, at the very same time they’ve dramatically decreased organic search results to maximize revenue.

Bookstores were pretty good at helping people discover new books, and in some situations, Amazon’s even better. Often, though, particularly on the Kindle and with Audible, Amazon does little indeed to help people find serendipity as they think about what to engage with next. (And putting recommendations up for sale to the publishers is shortsighted and greedy, imho).

In music, Roon’s ‘radio’ feature does a startlingly good job of introducing me to songs I thought I already loved, even though I’m hearing them for the first time.

Given how much our culture depends on finding out what’s new, it’s surprising that few have figured out how to be smart about it. If you’re a creator, the truth remains what the truth has been ever since Yahoo tried to sort the web by hand: the best way to make a hit is to build something for the smallest viable audience and make it so good that people tell their peers.

Self-directed, project-based learning

Why do educated people too often fall for foolish scams and conspiracy theories?

The problem is that no one taught us to understand. Instead, we are pushed to simply to memorize. To be educated enough to do well on the test, and then to forget what we were taught, because we never actually learned it.

Understanding opens the door to insight and to comfort with the data. Understanding is the platform we need to go to the next level… memorizing is a fragile house of cards, with no foundation. And the compliance mindset of “will this be on the test?” simply sets us up to believe the next thing that we’re supposed to learn.

We now have a chance to turn this fall’s back-to-school (in the Northern Hemisphere) into self-directed, project-based learning instead of a rush toward compliance and butts in chairs and pencils on tests. Shipping the project, proving it works and then doing it again. Learning by doing. Self-direction unlocks our ability to contribute for a lifetime, whereas preparing for the test ensures that we will always be at the mercy of the person who is giving the test. People are not entitled to their own facts–and understanding helps us discover the ones that matter.

From the age of five, many kids are capable of self-directed, project-based learning if we’re willing to turn off the TV and accept that the process won’t immediately lead to sought-after standardized test results. We can create a pattern of teaching people to be curious because curiosity is an engine for learning… it is less predictable but far more powerful than the current alternative: Creating a desire to get it over with combined with the ability to believe whatever the person in power tells us to believe.

Learning opens the door to the future we’d like to live in.

Toward tired

If this was a blog post about running, Iā€™d definitely be teaching things that would make you tired.

And if you want to learn anything about making a difference, being creative or leading, you should ask the person teaching to cover things that will make you afraid.

Because just as you have to figure out where to put the tired when you run a marathon, you’ll need to figure out where to put the fear when you do work that matters.

Optimism as a choice

If your team is up by thirty points at halftime, it’s not optimistic to expect that you’re going to win–it’s a realistic assessment.

Optimism is an attitude and a choice. It involves context and focus. We’re not deluding ourselves with the reassurance that everything is going to be okay (because that’s not productive). Instead, we’re committed to finding things we can contribute to, work on and improve. We’re devoted to seeking out useful lessons and to discovering where the benefit of the doubt might be helpful.

Positive thinking doesn’t solve every problem. But it’s a much better tool than negative thinking.

Earned crankiness

When an adult chooses to be cranky, it’s much juicier when it’s accompanied by a feeling of entitlement.

If we know that we deserve the chance to be angry and disappointed, that we’ve earned it, then we can explore the feeling with vigor. No need to worry about whether we’re being self-indulgent, we can go full throttle because it’s our due.

Not only is this an effective way to alienate those around us, but it’s also based on the false assumption that it’s possible to have earned the right to be cranky.

Crankiness isn’t a feature. It’s a bug.

Filling a bottomless hole

For every journey, there are steps along the way.

Tasks that need to be done before you can successfully go on to the next one.

But if one of those tasks is one you can never finish, you’re stuck.

You can never read all the stuff on Twitter or catch up completely on the news or be sure that everything is alright.

Don’t make bottomless holes a checklist task. They’re a sideline, something to work on once you’ve actually done your work. Whatever work that you’ve chosen to do.

What’s your agenda?

If you write something, speak up or otherwise interact with someone, you probably have a reason. There’s a point to your statement, a goal to your instruction.

The change you seek to make.

What actions are you hoping to cause?

If you don’t have an agenda, you’re probably sitting by quietly, or you’re frustrated at your lack of progress toward an unstated goal.

An agenda helps build resilience, because it’s a compass, a chance to reset when we’re thrown for a loop.

Being clear to ourselves about the change we seek to make makes it more likely we’ll make it.


Head’s up: We’re less than two weeks away from the launch of The Marketing Seminar. This is our tenth session. It’s the most popular workshop we run–there are more 10,000 graduates doing important work around the world. Check it out and sign up for more details today so you can join us at launch.

Efficient or productive?

When time gets short (for new parents or startup founders, for example) we naturally focus on getting efficient. We can remove extraneous details and distractions and magically get much faster at getting tasks done.

But being efficient is not the same as being productive.

Productive is the skill of getting the right things done, so that we accomplish what we set out to do in the first place. The work that matters.

A new normal

Time travelers should prepare for tough sledding. If you went back to 1820 or even 1920, all the sudden changes would discombobulate you. And the same is true for someone who came forward to today.

We’ve got a deep-seated desire for things to go back to normal, the way we were used to.

But this, this moment of ours is now normal.

For now.

And then, there will be another normal.

There is no “the new normal”. Because that’s definitive.

There’s simply the normal of now.

A new normal. This too shall pass.