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The perfect argument

Every political structure, every organization, every relationship has at least one.

The topic, that once you bring it up, must be addressed. An argument so existential that it cannot be left alone. An argument that gets to the crux of the matter, one that’s so fraught everything else pales in comparison.

I can’t even type an example from today’s world here, because if I do, the entire point of the post will be taken over by waves of urgent outrage.

Which is my point.

The purpose of the perfect argument is to make sure we don’t actually get anything done. The perfect argument is perfect because it never ends, because it is a trap for our focus and our energy. And the best reason to bring it up is that it permits someone to veto the forward motion that was about to happen somewhere else.

Perhaps the response is, “you’re right, that’s urgent, let’s discuss it after we fix the problem we’re currently working on.” Or maybe, “we need a forum to make real headway on the topic you want to discuss, but this isn’t it.”


[PS Today, we’re launching sign-ups for The Real Skills Conference. It’s a worldwide video conference that you can do from your desktop. In less than three hours, you’ll have a chance to connect with others on a similar journey. You’ll discover new co-conspirators, learn new approaches and find the confidence to do the work that’s in front of you. It happens on January 17th, hope to see you there.]


People talk about compromising like it’s a bad thing.

But we’re always doing it.

Even the most ardent vegan is killing tiny creatures in a glass of water.

There’s no economy on earth that is completely unregulated, nor is there one that’s completely state-controlled.

We’re never completely at an edge. We can’t be.

So now, the question isn’t whether or not to compromise. The question is where we’re going to be on the spectrum.

That’s a more useful place to start the conversation.


PS today’s the first lesson in The Marketing Seminar. We’ve assembled an extraordinary cohort of people seeking to do better work. I hope you’ll check it out.

The dominant media narrative of the day

The thing the media is talking about, in heavy rotation.

The breaking news, the one you’re required to give an opinion on.

The thing is, if it’s not for you, about you, or something you need to engage in, then who put it on your agenda?

The media benefits from turning you into their product, once you give them your attention.

Feel free, but do it because you’ve chosen to.

Here’s something to consider: the world doesn’t get better when you spend more time engaging with mass media. That’s pretty clear.

But it does get better when you spend more time doing things that matter. Actions matter.

Look in the obvious places first

That makes sense, because the obvious solution is obvious because we’ve learned how to solve problems like these. Your car keys are probably on your dresser, not in Santa Fe.

Here’s the thing: if the problem is a longstanding one, if it hasn’t been solved in a while, then the places you think are obvious aren’t. Because they’ve already been tried.

As time goes on, the most likely site of the solution is further and further away from what you would have guessed. So begin there instead. That’s the new obvious place.

Hint: it’s probably a place that feels uncomfortable, risky or difficult.

Falling behind vs. streaks

The culture punishes people by reminding us that we’re falling behind. The camera focuses on the person who is winning the race instead of the one who is trying harder than ever before. The bank sends the dunning notice to the person behind on their rent and the lousy grades go to the student who hands in a paper a day late.

Fear of falling behind is a good way to enforce compliance.

But it turns out that real progress comes not from measuring ourselves against everyone else’s pace, but in building habits. And habits come from streaks.

You’re almost certainly never going to win a 26-mile marathon, but if you train every day, you’ll finish one.

In building the Akimbo workshops (like The Marketing Seminar, which is open for enrollment right now), we’re committed to creating a learning system where you don’t have to feel like you’re falling behind–at the very same time we’re making it likely that you’ll embrace the posture of seeking a streak. Show up every day. Do the work, return tomorrow.

Drip by drip, day by day. Habits lead to commitments and commitments create learning.

A culture of streaks can’t help but be mutually supportive. If there’s no behind, then there’s no ahead. But if we’re supporting each other in building new habits, we discover that opening the door for someone else also benefits us as well.

Patient Capital: How long is the long run?

If you invest in an education, you expect it to pay off in a decade.

Invest in a buy and hold investment, and you probably expect a return within a year.

Day trade bitcoin and you might be measuring your return over the course of an hour.

if you wanted to make a long-term impact on a growing country like India, what would you do?

One choice is to invest in the endless emergency of poverty, and help people who need help right this second. This is important and lifesaving work.

Another choice is to put some money into a fast-growing company that’s about to go public.

And a third option is to invest in an organization that’s bringing off-grid solar to isolated villages.

In the third case, it’s possible that your investment won’t pay off for twenty years. But during those two decades, you’ll notice that a little energy leads to enough productivity to create demand and income that can pay for a little more energy. Home by home, village by village, your small investment begins to compound, because it changes the culture and the tools and the expectations that people have about what’s next.

A day trader would never take this bet. But a day trader rarely makes an impact.

“What is this sentence supposed to do?”

A simple editing trick:

Every sentence has a purpose. It doesn’t exist to take up space, it exists to change the reader, to move her from here to there.

This sentence, then, what’s it for?

If it doesn’t move us closer to where we seek to go, delete it.

Yes, marketing does matter

Because marketers make change happen.

That’s the work. Not to run ads, not to sell crap, not to invent hoopla.

Marketing makes change. If you’re not proud of the change you’re making, do something else.

It turns out that smart marketing is significantly more effective than the other kind. It turns out that showing up with the right work for the right people in the right way is a powerful tool in making change happen.

The other kind of marketing gets a bad rap, and that’s well deserved.

But real marketing, the marketing that makes things better by making better things–that’s what we need more of.

As you might have guessed, it’s time for The Marketing Seminar. We’ve run this live digital workshop eight times already. More than 8,000 people in fifty countries have been transformed by this proven group workshop. We only run it a few times a year. Your boss will pay for it. You’ll work hard and you’ll get back far more than you put into it. The typical student gives and gets more than 500 pieces of feedback in just the first month. (Click the purple circle to save on tuition).

The seminar also has a #1 bestselling book, if that’s more your speed. And a video-only course. Do what works for you.

We keep doing it because it works. This time it’s your turn. I hope you’ll take a leap and join us.

The end of ‘someone’

The following idea is endorsed by all of these people:

None of them exist.

They’re constructs, built by an algorithm. Rights released, happy and smiling, but no one in particular.

Fifty years ago, you couldn’t trust the endorsements in direct marketing ads for lousy products:

“A miracle!” …Bob

Because you knew there wasn’t really a Bob.

Twenty-three years ago, when I created a book with the Weekly World News (yes, this is true), I visited their tiny office in Florida. It consisted of three people and a filing cabinet. Inside the cabinet were pictures of 400 people (mostly friends and former friends of the three editors) that would be cut and pasted in the WWN any time they needed a picture of an expert, a citizen or both. They weren’t news and they weren’t the world, but they were weekly.

I knew that the Weekly World News was low-brow chicanery, but I have a hunch that not everyone did.

In 2019, and perhaps forever, we’re now at a new level, one where the polish of photography or video is no longer any clue at all about the provenance of what we’re encountering.

I don’t think we have any clue about how disruptive this shift is going to be.

Even the real celebrities we purport to trust (“influencers” deliberately in quotes) are easily bought. It used to be only Rula Lenska who we doubted.

There are people and organizations that are racing to break the fabric of community that we all depend on. Either to make a short-term profit or to atomize/vaporize widespread trust to hide from accountability and to slow change.

Like all shifts, there will be a counter-shift. But keep your eyes open, because the rules are clearly changing. Remaining trusted and consistent will become ever more valuable as it becomes more scarce. A resolution to be in higher-resolution for those you seek to serve.

In the meantime, it’s worth confirming the source before you believe what you see.

Toward resilience

Apart <—> Connected
Hierarchy <—> Lattice
Them <—> Us
Winning <—> Interacting
Brittle <—> Flexible
Just in time <—> Slack
Excluded <—> Included
Willful <—> Perceptive
Fearful <—> Honest
Static <—> Bandwidth
Facts <—> Stories
Barriers <—> Bridges
Final <—> First
Shadows <—> Light
Consumption <—> Sustainability
Retribution <—> Justice
Once <—> Again

Resilient systems are far more effective and efficient. It’s easier to paddle a canoe on a calm lake, and the interactions and stability that come from predictable systems more than pay for the extraordinary effort needed to build and maintain them.