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The unaware snoop

Here’s a breakthrough that’s about to happen somewhere: A GPT that reads every email that anyone in your organization has ever sent and makes it easy to ask it questions about what the entire organization knows.

A person could probably not find the time, bandwidth or privacy constraints to do this.

But this accessible but unembarrassed database tool could quickly become a huge asset for any organization that installed it–even a soloist. Tell me who I know or what I know about XYZ…

Or consider the power of a network. If my colleagues opt in, I can simply ask the AI, “tell me who in my network is the person who knows someone at this organization, or is really interested in that topic.”

Of course, there are huge privacy implications. But your work email has never been private anyway.

Avert your eyes

There are things we avoid looking at too closely.

If we looked, really saw what was happening, we’d have to change our minds, admit we were mistaken, refactor our priorities or take action.

It’s so frightening that we even hesitate to make a list of the things we don’t want to look at. Because the list itself is frightening.

If we don’t see it, it feels safer.

The reality of chasing pop

It’s tempting for a creator. To make a pop hit, a song or a book or a meme that becomes a popular idea and part of the culture.

In our lifetimes, it’s become possible to imagine that you could even make a living creating pop.

But pop is a harsh mistress, because pop means popular, which is, by definition rare and unfairly distributed. As long as it’s easy to create and rare to have a hit, there will be a huge majority of people who don’t win this lottery.

And it is a lottery.

It’s tempting to believe that passion, skill and perhaps talent are sufficient to make a living in pop, but the math says otherwise.

It’s available to all of us, but there’s no guarantee that you can make a living at it.

The obligation of “none of the above”

As we continue to face difficult choices and work to make things better, it’s quite likely that the alternatives being presented aren’t ideal or even appealing.

Many organizations and communities are stuck because “none of the above” is the majority’s opinion, or perhaps the desire of those in power, or those with loud voices.

But unless you’re willing to acknowledge that you’re simply being difficult, “none of the above” comes with the responsibility to describe a path that’s better.

Because forward is the best option. Let’s go with one that makes the most sense–and if you don’t have a better plan, you should be responsible enough to back the one that’s most likely to work, even, especially, if you don’t like it.

Promo creep

Hustle harder.

Run more ads.

Spam people.


Make the logo bigger.

Post again.

Post again.

Add more blurbs.

Push the press release to irrelevant people.

Do one more ad.

Use AI to create faux intimacy.

Get the word out.

Burn trust.

Get more attention.

In the last forty years, the amount of promotion has gone up exponentially. At the same time, the success of promoted content, products and services hasn’t increased at all.

That’s because the secret isn’t to focus on your promo.

The secret is to create something that those you serve want to tell others about.

When other people do your promo, it’s not promo. It’s passion and sharing and generosity in community.

Better is better than louder.

Checking the date

After 2022, it’s hard to tell for sure.

And going forward, public life is going to be even more rumor-driven than it is now.

Any video, any voiceover, any photograph–we can’t be sure. If YouTube or the Wayback Machine shows us that it happened after 2022, bring some doubt. AI and digital tools can produce a perfect voiceover, edit a video, forge a document…

There have always been forces at work that prize disrupting our civic systems. But thanks to AI and digital deepfakes, it’s significantly easier to create and spread a story that simply didn’t happen. A speech that was never given, an interview that never occurred.

Before mass media, every citizen only had the experiences they saw firsthand–and the rumors. Sometimes they were true, often, not so much.

The ease with which someone can invent and spread lies is going to take most of us by surprise. It’s going to require an entirely new posture for understanding the world around us.

Every day is April Fools from now on, let’s not get fooled.

If it were really important…

Could we change our minds?

When was the last time new information caused you to walk away from an idea you were confident in?

It gets harder and harder to do, and more and more important.

But it’s included…

Perhaps your wedding package includes a cake. It’s paid for, better eat it.

Even if you’re allergic to wheat.

Perhaps the amusement park includes as many rides as you like, even if you’re feeling sick or have had quite enough for today.

The thing about included is that it’s free. But the other thing is that you can say no.

No might be better than free.


We often use words like “beautiful” or “stunning” or “perfect” when we actually mean “popular” or “pleasant.”

Every day is beautiful in its own way. But the weather yesterday was pleasant.

Hit songs are hits. But they’re rarely perfect.

I’m a big fan of pleasant. And I often like things that are popular. Pleasant and popular are convenient, easy and riskless.

The extraordinary, on the other hand, is often difficult. It can create change, challenge our perceptions and feel risky, all at once. Creating things that are beautiful is a choice and a quest, and most of the time, we’re simply seeking pleasant on our way to being popular.

If we care enough to make it beautiful, we shouldn’t be willing to settle for pleasant.

Effect vs affect

In a culture fascinated by attitude, gloss and performance, it’s easy to believe that adopting an affect is precisely what you need to make a difference.

In fact, the persistent, generous work that happens when no one is looking is what actually makes a difference.

Looking the part (or simply acting like it) isn’t nearly as important as the change we actually make.