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Invent a new holiday

It doesn’t have to last all day–it could be for an hour or even a month.

How would you celebrate it? Who else needs to be part of it?

It’s a symbol, a marker, a chance for conversation. It can amplify culture, give you a chance to have a conversation and allow you and the people around you to focus on something for a short while.

And it might catch on. This is the way just about every widespread holiday came to be.

The thing about a gold rush

It’s not the “gold.”

It’s the “rush” that changes the way people behave.

When consumed by a gold rush, people make decisions that they would never make on ordinary days. They trust entities, make assumptions and suspend disbelief. Not because there’s gold on the line, but because everyone else is rushing, and the fear of missing out is significant.

Rushing can help us overcome the status quo and our fear of the unknown. It can also lead to choices that hurt us in the long run.

We should rush on purpose. It’s a choice.

“We don’t care” (you won’t let us)

The customer service from the freight shipping company that came to my home a few months ago was truly terrible. Not simply a lack of care, but an aggressive embrace of uncaring. Every interaction was offputting and inefficient.

This is the result of sort by price.

It turns out that a lot of freight shipping is done through an intermediary. Software automatically scans all available options and picks the cheapest one.

Which means that brands don’t matter, customer feedback doesn’t matter and reviews don’t matter. Neither does corporate responsibility or employee satisfaction.

All that matters is the price the shipper pays and ultimately the price of the stock.

Sort by price insulates the producer from the customer. When we resort to a single metric, we get what we measure, and the side effects pile up.

More and more, the choices are, “You’ll get a discount and you will get less than you paid for” and /or “you’ll pay a bit more and you’ll get more than you paid for.”

“We were wrong”

Groups rarely say this.

They often (and loudly) state “we are right,” but when the future arrives, and it always does, it’s not surprising that it turns out that many projections and predictions turned out to be wrong.

When smoking was banned in New York restaurants and bars, the trade associations vehemently protested, insisting that it would doom their businesses. It turned out to be a benefit instead.

All we can hope for is for an individual to say, “based on new information, I’ve made a new decision.”

While it might be satisfying for a group to publicly acknowledge what they’ve learned, waiting for this is a waste of time and energy. The alternative is to help a person make a new decision instead.

Marked cards

It’s almost impossible to tell if a playing card is marked.

But if you take ten cards and riffle them, you can tell instantly. The changes from the back of one card to another jump out at you.

It’s difficult to tell where we are if we only have a few data points–sooner or later, anywhere feels normal.

The key question is, “compared to what?”

On the other hand, if all you’ve got is all you’ve got, comparing it to something else might only create regret.

It’s easy to do (if you know how to do it)

This is the dilemma that every game designer, form creator and teacher faces.

Writing an instruction manual, doing a survey, creating a map–they’re all difficult tasks because of the translation that’s required: the person doing the work already knows what they’re trying to teach. But the person interacting with the manual doesn’t.

The empathy required here overwhelms many people, regardless of how well-meaning they might be.

After all, the person you’re instructing doesn’t know what you know (yet). They might not learn the way you learn. And you might have come to your knowledge via a different path.

The three elements of successful instructional design might be:

Acknowledge that communicating what you know is difficult.

Find empathy for people who don’t know what you know yet.

Test the work, often.

Humility in design dances with the arrogance of believing we can help other people move forward.


Infinity is a great idea, but unless you’re doing math, it’s mostly an idea.

Everything else in our world has limits. It’s the limits that make it interesting, the limits that give us an edge to the box, something to leverage against.

Instead of denying the existence of limits and the trade-offs that they bring with them, it might be helpful to begin with an understanding of what they are, or at least what other people think they are.

The stale green light

Coming down the empty road, you can see the light from a ways off. It’s been green for awhile, which means it’s due to turn red soon.

Should you speed up, so you can make it through before the yellow appears and is gone…

Or should you slow down, so you can safely and gracefully come to a complete stop?

It depends.

If it’s an actual green light, you should certainly slow down. It’s safer. It won’t take that much time. You have the engine of the car to do the work.

But if it’s a metaphorical green light, a window of opportunity, a shift in the culture you can feel disappearing, it might very well pay to speed up. Because that extra effort, done with safety on behalf of those you seek to serve, will compound.

It never pays to wait until a deadline, but when you see the world changing, it might be a good excuse to redouble your efforts.

In defense of non-interactive media

It doesn’t talk back. It doesn’t beep or update or invite a click. It doesn’t change based on who’s consuming it. It doesn’t interrupt you, and it begs to not be interrupted.

It’s rarer than ever before, and sometimes, we need it.

In or out

Often overlooked is how uncomfortable it is to sit on a fence.

Get in, or get out. Wasting time sitting on the fence wastes far more time and emotion than you’d expend committing to something.