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I believe things that aren’t true

Most of us do.

The interesting challenge is that our brain doesn’t often make beliefs and tested reality feel like different things. It’s almost as if ‘true’ and ‘belief’ only became separate categories in our recent past.

As our actions continue to bump against reality, and our culture has dramatically more interactions between and among people from different backgrounds, this bug can become a real problem.

Getting stuck on the title

The brand name, the first name, the label…

Is To Kill a Mockingbird a good title? By most measures of most committees, definitely not. And yet, it clearly and most definitely worked.

Starbucks has nothing to do with Moby Dick. Nike is easy to mispronounce.

The title is simply the thing you say when you talk about the thing to someone else.

It’s not the thing itself.

The likable brand (or person)

Likability is a weird quality. Plenty of people are fans of Aretha Franklin or Bob Dylan, but it’s not because either of them spent a lot of time mailing out Christmas cards or being particularly warm to their fans.

Google doesn’t do tech support and plenty of popular high-end restaurants got that way by being difficult to book and not particularly welcoming to new patrons.

One reason is that we’re drawn to status. To like something as a way of certifying our insight or rank.

But there’s a different path, one that’s far easier to maintain and travel. It’s simple: Like your customers and they’re more likely to like you back.

This is one reason that the Beatles switched their focus after their first US tour (and eventually stopped touring). They couldn’t figure out how to like the screaming young fans that didn’t have much in the way of discernment. Instead, they shifted to writing and producing music for fans and colleagues that they wanted to spend their time liking.

If you want to be more liked, begin by liking.

Detachment and commitment

Working professionals develop emotional detachment. It’s the only way to thrive in the work. Emotional detachment helps us remember that we are not our work, and that feedback is useful, not an attack.

Commitment permits us to keep going (especially when we’re asked to provide more effort than we planned).

It’s easy to confuse the two.

Being detached doesn’t mean you don’t care. It simply means you’re focusing on the work and those you serve, not on your own narrative.

And being committed comes from a professional decision, not from an existential crisis.

PS Thanks to Ari for two lovely essays (1 and 2) with his take on my work around marketing, dignity and leadership.

Are you an autodidact?

It’s far easier now than it’s ever been before.

(You can look it up.)

[Bonus PS: highlighting some climate-related art and artists who helped with the Almanac: Von Wong (launching a new piece this week), Justin Brice Guariglia and Shepard Fairey.]

[Bonus PS2: A major addendum to the Almanac just went live today. It’s free here.]

Where do jobs come from?

It must be more than a coincidence that there are almost enough jobs for everyone–a billion more jobs on Earth than there were a generation ago.

Unemployment is debilitating and a real problem, but even high unemployment in many countries still means that most people have a job. Many times, it’s a job that didn’t exist before they had it.

Jobs exist because people are productive. When their productivity produces more value than the money they are paid, someone keeps the difference. Actually, two someones: The customer gets some of the benefit and the organizer of the job gets the rest.

Viewed this way, it’s easy to see that jobs aren’t a bureaucratic niche to be filled. They’re the opportunity for value to be created.

Find the value and you will find the job.

Little billboards

On the West Side Highway in Manhattan, there’s currently a billboard for some sort of placebo supplement. In the corner is a QR code for more information.

Unless the person in the passenger seat has a telephoto lens on their phone, there’s no way in the world that this is going to work.

My late friend Jay Levinson said that the most effective billboard would say, “FREE COFFEE, NEXT EXIT.” A call to action, relevant to the viewer, easy to see and understand.

Actual billboards are a whole category of media, but now we’re surrounded by a new kind, a smaller, more evanescent and common one: Social media posts. You might see a thousand of these a day.

Social media began as text updates from one human to another, but thanks to photo sharing, some of the posts have become something else entirely. A chance to create consistent, actionable and clear reminders of what you are and what you stand for.

But keeping Jay’s edict in mind, they work best when they’re about the viewer as much as they are about you. They work better when they can be seen and understood from a distance. And they work better when they “sound like you.”

Here’s an example of a few dozen digital billboards that my fellow volunteers created for the Almanac. These blew me away. Free coffee indeed.

The crossroads

Which way to head?

We live in a world characterized by mistrust, ill health, economic uncertainty, inflicted racial trauma, generational shift and the existential crisis caused by carbon. Not to mention the stress and dissolution of traditional pillars like organized education, office space and live gatherings.

And we live in a world with breathtaking medical technology, artificial intelligence, widespread and rapid cultural coordination, efficient farming, a move away from greed and the beginning of green tech. As well as self-driven learning, diverse cultural projects and the long tail.

Now more than ever, there’s room for leaders. Go first.

The correlation

There might be a 100% correlation between what you do and what you get and what you want (if you’re trying to train for the hundred-meter dash.)

Anything that makes you go faster is correlated with the goal, which is winning the race.

On the other hand, being funny isn’t always correlated with being a rich and famous comedian. Being the funniest is not the same in comedy as being the fastest is in sprinting.

And most of what we spend our time on is closer to comedy than it is to sprinting. The things we believe are important, useful or moral are not always related to the metrics that the marketplace focuses on.

That’s partly because we’re not being compared using something as simple as a stopwatch. And it’s because what other people seek out might not match what we think is the point of the work.

It’s important to figure out whether the thing you want to accomplish is correlated with the performance that some imagine it might be.

For a lot of us, that’s more difficult than it sounds.

Who will you share it with?

Books used to be a solitary endeavor.

Ironically, it took the network effect and noise of the web to flip that idea upside down.

Now, a book is a totem, a chance to share, an item to be discussed, a physical instantiation of an idea that can be drawn on, exchanged or simply sit on your desk.

On Saturday, in dozens of countries around the world, the volunteers behind the Carbon Almanac will be holding book signings to celebrate the launch of this project. I’ll be doing three, and I hope you’ll stop by and say hello if you can. (Details and venues are here). It’s a world record signing because it’s the only world we’ve got–and we are all authors of our future.

Why a book and not a website?

Because the book is complete, coherent and represents a moment in time. Because a book can create a conversation and an event. Because we hope you’ll buy three.

Why three?

Because when you hand someone a book that they might not have thought to buy on their own, you can talk about it.

And that’s what’s missing in this urgent but largely ignored moment.

The conversation.

The peer-to-peer interactions that help us make up our minds and then take action.

You know someone who needs to understand what’s happening, because they care enough about our future that they’d actually like to know.

Get them a copy. Hold your own signing. Talk about it and then see the systems that are changing our world. We need to start now. We are all authors of our future. And doing nothing is a choice, but one that we’ll regret.

The book is already a #1 bestseller in Italy and the United States and available in the Netherlands as well. Thank you for supporting it.

PS here’s another try at inserting our team’s launch video. Sorry about the tech glitch.