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On schedule

We get a huge benefit from making a simple commitment:

Don’t miss deadlines.

The benefit is that once we agree to the deadline, we don’t have to worry about it anymore. We don’t have to negotiate, come up with excuses or even stress about it.

It won’t ship when it’s perfect.

It will ship because we said it would.

Once this is clear, the quality of what we ship goes way up. Instead of spending time and energy looking for reasons, excuses or deniability, we simply do the work.

And over time, we get better at figuring out which deadlines to promise. Because if we promise, we ship.

Broken links

The blog post I did a few hours ago was filled with broken links, the result of some weird sort of rift in the time-space continuum. Sorry for the hassle. It’s fixed now.

If you get this blog via email or some other form of intermediated transposition, you can always click on the name of the post to get to the original blog–that way you’ll always see my latest version, with typos fixed, links repaired and any other sort of mistake that I know about remedied.

Sorry to trouble you on a Sunday. Have a great day. And thanks for reading.

PS you can subscribe by email by clicking here.

Books for the journey

My bookshelves are filled with books I’ve read once. But there are others that I come back to again and again. I hand them out like Halloween candy to colleagues, and often, they end up paying them forward as I did.

Authors and ideas for the long haul. Classics in our field, in fact. One is brand new, others I read decades ago. Tom and I have known each other for 39 years…

Every one of these authors is the real deal. They’ve done the work and they’ve shown up to make a difference. My life is better for knowing them as friends and colleagues.

I’m lucky to be able to share them with you.

The Art of Possibility by Roz Zander and Ben Zander

The Power of Regret by Dan Pink

The Tom Peters Seminar

Story Driven by Bernadette Jiwa

The Celebrity CEO by Ramon Ray

Body of Work by Pam Slim

Marketing Lessons From the Grateful Dead by David Meerman Scott and Brian Halligan

The War of Art by Steven Pressfield

Ignore Everybody by Hugh Macleod

The asking price

The asking price is true, but it’s also an illusion.

If you are offered a job and negotiate a raise of 10% over what was originally offered, that’s good, but it has nothing at all to do with what you’re actually worth.

If you buy a house for 15% over asking price, it doesn’t mean you overpaid.

The asking price is a signal, a way to message expectations and begin a negotiation. It’s simply a guess about the future, made by the person who goes first.

It can anchor our thinking, but if we’re not careful, it can be an anchor that also drags us down.

Crowded markets

At first glance, it makes sense to avoid a crowded market. Better to sell your services or your products in a place where you’re the only one.

But crowded markets also have lots of customers.

A mutual understanding of what’s expected.

People ready to pay to solve their problems.

Word of mouth.

And competitors to learn from.

If you can enter a crowded market with a remarkable entry (worth talking about) and the resources to persist over time, it might be just the place.

Innovation and domain knowledge

Has this ever been done before?

Why not?

Did it work?

Why not?

If it’s new and useful, what problem is it solving?

Why has the audience rejected similar innovations in the past?

One day, this market will change. What will cause that change to happen?

“Here we go again”

Do you have a script? Most of us do.

Here’s a new piece of software. Do you immediately read the manual front to back? Dive in and see how it works? Tense up in fear and distaste?

She’s going to give you some feedback. Is your first reaction to be defensive, or to lean into the goodwill that’s being offered?

We’re going to fly somewhere for a meeting. Do you get stressed about all the preparations of showing up at the airport with everything you need? Are you filled with curiosity about how to spend the evening in a new city before we head back?

These scripts are everywhere. If the ones you have are working for you, you’ve discovered a reliable way to succeed and find satisfaction as you do.

But if they’re not, it might pay to spend the energy to approach the next cycle, ‘as if’.

The script might not be your fault. It might have taken a really long time to become ingrained. And it might be getting in the way.

What if you could leave the script behind, just this one time? It might take a lot of focus and effort, it might be incredibly difficult, but just once might be do-able.

The thing that gets us stuck isn’t us. It’s the script that we’ve decided is our only option.

Call it out. Realize that it’s not the only option. A script doesn’t always feel like a choice, but until we realize we’re running one, it’s unlikely we can do the hard work it takes to change it.

Rewrite the script, rewrite the outcome.


The ostracod is extinct. Over millions of years, with good reasons at every step, it evolved to become the creature it was.

And when we add up all of those little steps, we end up with a creature that was no longer fit for its environment.

Organizations develop like this. So do work practices, cultural systems and “the way we do things around here.”

I’m sure there was a really good reason twenty years ago for all the steps that are now involved in the thing you do right now, but your competitor, the one who is starting from scratch, is skipping most of them.

Every day we get a new chance to begin again. And if you don’t, someone else will.

[Update! I apologize to all fans of the ostracodish. While some types are gone, it is very much not extinct. Which I’m glad about, even if the metaphor isn’t as good.]

Personal velocity

Why do bikes stay stable when you ride them (and fall down when you stop)?

A tiny reason is the gyroscopic stability of the wheels, but the real reason is the forward momentum of the rider. And we learn the first day we’re on the bike that forward motion is essential or we’re in trouble.

In our fast-moving world, it’s easy to get hooked on personal velocity. What’s in your inbox? Did someone follow you in the last ten seconds? Where’s the beep and the beep and the beep from your last post?

Perhaps we talk faster, interrupt, talk over, invent, dissect, criticize and then move on to the next thing. Boom, boom, boom.

Don’t want to fall off the bike.

But life isn’t a bike. It works fine if we take a moment and leave space for the person next to us to speak.

Are you going fast without getting anywhere?

We can get hooked on systems that want us to get hooked, on platforms that use our effort as their product, our emotions as fodder for their next milestone.

Doing something new simply because we’re worried that the old thing we were doing a minute ago isn’t fast enough is a waste. The crowd might enjoy it, but in the long run, it diminishes our contributions and our joy.

I could just as easily write about the person who is stuck, sitting in the back of the room, the corner of the Zoom, looking for deniability and a place to hide. That person with no velocity has ceased to contribute and might be in as much pain as the person who’s doing nothing but maintaining high personal velocity.

Somewhere in between the two, as in most things, is the place we’d like to be.

The control/responsibility matrix

Alert readers of my last two posts have probably guessed what this one is about.

The control/responsibility matrix (click to enlarge)

People make choices about their preferences for control and for taking responsibility. When we combine those choices, we end up with a simple matrix.

In the top right is an ideal combination. Someone with control and authority who also takes responsibility when things go wrong. This creates a useful feedback loop, because they can actually do something about the problems they caused.

In the bottom right is a disaster waiting to happen. This is brittle megalomaniac, Robert Moses, the builder, who spent nearly a century paving New York while neglecting housing and other social justice issues, but never took responsibility for any of the effects of his work. People who grab control and avoid responsibility are often easily identified because they spend a lot of time whining.

In the top left corner is someone who truly cares. They bring huge empathy to the situation, and they help people feel seen. Alas, because they don’t have power (either because it’s been denied to them or because they avoid it), their willingness to take responsibility is sort of hollow. This is one reason that frontline workers that are required to exert emotional labor and empathy on the job so often burn out.

And finally, in most situations, most people are in the bottom left. The system pushes us to be cogs, to accept what’s given in exchange for being let off the hook and not being held responsible for what happens next.

In many situations, we have the freedom to choose. We can choose a quadrant or we can choose not to participate. And if we’re lucky or care enough, we can choose who to vote for, who to work for and where we’re headed.