Welcome back.

Have you thought about subscribing? It's free.

One sigh per yes

When a client, a boss or an employee makes a special request, it’s okay to get a little bent out of shape. It might cost you extra time or money, it might be a hassle, it might not be deserved.

And then you can say no.

But if you say yes, then it pays to be in it. 100%.

If you’re not, your yes was worthless. It ceases to be a favor if it comes with grumbling.

Holding a grudge means that our hands are too full to do our best work.

Chaos, connection and industrial systems

Industrial systems thrive on predictability. It smooths out the supply chain, improves efficiency and makes many of the participants more comfortable.

Tomorrow is like yesterday, but perhaps a little faster or cheaper.

But breakthroughs, creativity and human connection don’t come from predictability. They come from unpredictable interactions with unknown ideas and voices.

Just about all bestsellers are surprise bestsellers. All big ideas come out of left field. But if you spend your time looking at left field, they’ll come out of right field instead.

Chaos is uncomfortable, particularly if you’ve been indoctrinated in the industrial mindset. But if the right people and the right conditions are present, chaos creates possibility.

Do it with intent.

Difficult problems

The easy problems are often an illusion. If they were real and they were easy, they’d be solved already.

Difficult problems, on the other hand, stick around until someone with insight, dedication and commitment shows up and gets to work.

Seeking out difficult problems is far more effective than avoiding them.

Common pitfalls and myths of the new economy

It’s not high school.

But some of the advice that people are embracing reminds us of those days… Things that everyone tells you that aren’t true:

It’s possible to get rich quickly without taking risks (not really)

Just because someone bought some crazy dog currency or NFT and got lucky doesn’t mean that you will. It’s remarkable when someone beats the odds because, by definition, the odds are always hard to beat.

Every social media platform has stars and if you follow the path, you will become one (not most people)

There are more media stars now than ever before in history. But the nature of the power-law curve is clear: in order for a star to be valuable, most people can’t be one. Doing what the last star did is not likely to get you what the last star got.

The best way to build a following online is to be fully authentic (oof)

Keanu is not Neo. He’s an actor. Youssou N’Dour doesn’t go on stage when he feels like it, he goes on stage when it’s showtime. The world will never know you, but they will judge you. Or at least the you that is presented when you go online.

The hardest part of online commerce is building your website (well, no.)

Actually, it’s simply the part you do before you go live. It’s the clothes you wear, not the way you actually engage with the world. The hard part is finding an audience and earning the benefit of the doubt. The hard part is creating community, leading and building something people want.

Freelancing is like having a job without a boss (alas)

Well, you still have a boss. It’s you. And you might not be a good one. Freelancers spend part of their day doing the work, and the rest of the time earning better clients.

The hard part of the work is doing the work.

Be careful what you wish for

You might not get it.

But as you pursue this wish, you’ll change what you do, what you see, who you connect with and the sacrifices you make along the way.

Our wishes change us.

A little more or a little less

The producer of a successful product has a choice to make.

If you put a little less in the box, people will run out sooner and have to buy more.

If you give people a little more for their money, they’ll purchase less often, but become more loyal.

It turns out that in most markets where there are easy substitutions, the long-term value of loyalty is far greater than the short-term profit of less.

A second opinion

A friend is selling his house. Apparently, real estate brokers now have a way of reporting the comments (reviews) from potential buyers at open houses, and he was crazy enough to read them.

Of course, this is incredibly unhelpful. He can’t rebuild his house to sell it. Hearing that people don’t like his custom cabinets or the layout of the living room isn’t actionable–especially since the other half of the comments contradict the first half.

What’s actually happening is that someone who isn’t qualified or emotionally connected enough to make a purchase is looking for something to say. And humans are really bad at explaining our irrational feelings in the context of rational reasons. So we make stuff up.

And we’re equally bad at hearing comments about things we can’t change.

By all means, ask a second doctor before you get surgery. But in just about every public setting, the comments aren’t going to be particularly helpful.

Sales and the story of money

“Twenty-four ninety-five.”

I was on the phone hearing a pitch for a service I needed. I had reached out to a recommended vendor, and was now sitting through a pitch from a salesperson who had a script but no listening skills.

I had figured that the service was probably $300 if I shopped around, but I was willing to pay a bit more than that if it would save time.

Finally, the script-reader got to the price.

“It’s 24.95.”

I paused for a second. “You mean it’s twenty four dollars and ninety-five cents?”

“No,” he said.

“Oh… you meant to say two-thousand-four-hundred-and-ninety-five dollars…”

Why would you write the script to anchor the price at 1% of what it really costs?

Instead of a fruitless hustle, two other stories could have worked better.

A competent salesperson could have said, “Some of our competitors charge $300 and some charge $5,000. We’re right in the middle and I can tell you why.”

Or perhaps they could have said, “Some people charge as little as $300 for this. Let me tell you why we charge a lot more than that, and why it might be a smart choice for you.”

In both cases, the truth becomes a firm foundation for a story about value and position.

Money is a story we tell ourselves about value, status and position.


Social niceties are easy to do half-heartedly.

But they’re not for us, they’re for the other person.

When you show up begrudgingly, it’s not half-hearted, it’s cold hearted.

A handshake, a greeting, the way we sit in a meeting or wear a mask–it’s a chance to connect and to make a difference for the person we’re with.

All in, or not at all.

Who chooses?

When Google or Facebook or Spotify decide what you’ll see next, they’re making a choice.

That’s very different from an open platform like “podcasting” or “blogging” (in quotes with no capital letters, because no one is in charge.)

Being in charge implies that choices are being made. And people who are in charge–even if it’s just one person in charge of their own voice–are choosing.

Choosing is a form of selection, of amplification and of curation. Not official government censorship, but something more nuanced than that, the responsibility that comes from choice.

In many parts of our culture, particularly pockets of tech, it’s fashionable to talk about ‘free speech’ and ‘open platforms’ as if they’re unalloyed virtues. But the moment Apple puts a podcast on its home page, Google decides to put this blog in your promo folder, or Spotify decides to promote one song or podcast over another, the platform is no longer truly open. Often, individuals and organizations use terms like this when they’re defending something that isn’t helpful to the people who encountered it.

When money enters the picture, it’s even more complicated. There’s a difference between a truly open platform and an algorithm staffed by people who put one sort of website on their spam list and another highly ranked, simply because they make more of a profit on the second one. Or when YouTube or Spotify pay people a thousand (or two hundred million) dollars to host their content…

Ideas shared create value. Good ideas are the engine of our future. We’ve seen that when creators of ideas take responsibility for their work, it’s more likely that we all benefit.

Wide-open platforms almost always lead to chaos, negative side effects and anonymous spam. I’m in favor of choice, especially when it’s made by organizations and individuals willing to be held responsible for the choices they make.