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Three types of kindness

There is the kindness of ‘please’ and ‘thank you.’ And the kindness of “I was wrong, I’m sorry.” The small kindnesses that smooth our interactions and help other people feel as though you’re aware of them. These don’t cost us much, in fact, in most settings, engaging with kindness is an essential part of connection, engagement and forward motion.

And then there is the kindness of dignity. Of giving someone the benefit of the doubt. The kindness of seeing someone for the person that they are and can become, and the realization that everyone, including me and you, has a noise in our heads, a story to be told, fear to be danced with and dreams to be realized.

And there’s another: The kindness of not seeking to maximize short-term personal gain. The kindness of building something for the community, of doing work that matters, of finding a resilient, anti-selfish path forward.

Kindness isn’t always easy or obvious, because the urgent race to the bottom, to easily measured metrics and to scarcity, can distract us. But bending the arc toward justice, toward dignity and toward connection is our best way forward.

Kindness multiplies and it enables possiblity. When we’re of service to people, we have the chance to make things better.

Happy Birthday, Reverend King.

Pleasing the unpleasable

There are bosses, customers and partners who will never be happy.

And sometimes, despite the futility, we work to please them anyway.

Because that can be a compass. It can help us do the work that will satisfy others (or ourselves).

It can also be a trap, an endless treadmill of disappointment that leads nowhere in particular.

We should be clear about which one we’re on. Because working to please the pleasable is a lot more likely to pay off.

Is mood a gift or a skill?

Some days, we wake up with optimism and possibility… we’re able to find more reserves, connect better and do more generous work.

That might be because the outside world has handed us good news and opportunities, or it might be because the chemicals in our brain are particularly aligned…

I think it’s fair to assert that sometimes, our moods are handed to us.

But it’s also clearly true that we can do things to improve our mood. Morning pages, meditation, exercise, positive thinking, the right audio inputs, who we hang out with, the media we consume–it’s all a choice.

And if it’s a choice, that means it’s a skill, because we can get better at it.

The difficult choice of disappointment

All forward motion disappoints someone.

If you serve one audience, you’ve let another down. One focus means that something else got ignored. If you create something scarce, someone won’t get their hands on it.

The very act of creation means that it won’t be the ideal solution for everyone.

On the other hand, with certainty, we know that doing nothing disappoints an even larger group of people.

The opportunity is to find someone to delight and to embrace the fact that someone is not everyone.

Born to run (things)

The first half of Bruce Springsteen’s autobiography makes some things abundantly clear:

He had no natural ability to play the guitar. In fact, after his first lessons, he quit, unable to play a note.

He had no singing talent. Every group he was part of needed a lead singer, and it wasn’t him.

And just about everyone dismissed him. Audiences walked out, his first agent simply stopped returning his calls and bandmates gave up and moved on.

He didn’t even know how to drive a car. Not only wasn’t he dating in high school, he wasn’t even cruising around town, being a charismatic rock star.

Talent is overrated. Skill is acquirable.

Showing up is something almost every creative leader has in common. In business, in the arts, in society. Consistently shipping the work, despite the world’s reaction, despite the nascent nature of our skill, despite the doubts.

And community is essential. The people you surround yourself with can reinforce your story, raise the bar and egg you on.

After the fact, the community becomes an integral part of your story of success. But first, you have to commit to the journey.

[That’s what happens in the Creative’s Workshop.]

For more on the creative commitment, check out this extraordinary conversation between Brian Koppelman and director Ron Howard.

Burned out/burned in

Burned in is what we look for in an electronic device. It’s working perfectly, in the groove.

Burned out is what happens if we abuse it.

Burn-in comes from a practice, a generous, persistent approach that’s within our control.

Burn out, on the other hand, is often caused by trying to control things that we can’t possibly control. As a result, we waste cycles and create a pattern of stress.

Even though it seems as though the world is trying to steal our focus and our energy, ultimately, in each moment, it’s our choice to make. We can decide to create possibility and contribute. Toward better.

Shipping creative work

Of course you can.

If you care enough.

It’s not easy, it might not work and it takes effort, but the opportunity is there.

It helps to do it on purpose and it helps to do it in community. I’m excited about the possibilities for 2021… Here are some things you can do that will make your work more effective:

The Creative’s Workshop is back.

It inspired my bestselling book The Practice, but it adds an entire dimension to the commitment of making and shipping work that matters.

In the Creative’s Workshop you’ll be part of a mutually supportive cohort of people who are ready to do the work. Creative work is thrilling and it makes a change happen. This workshop leads to an extraordinary shift in our expectations and productivity.

The thousands of people who have been part of it report that it’s truly a game-changer in their career and the way they approach their work.

And next week is the Early Decision Deadline for the altMBA’s May 2021 session. More than 5,000 alumni in 70 countries have discovered the difference it can make.

And a sneak preview: The Podcasting Workshop is back for its seventh session, with enrollment beginning January 26th.

These workshops work because the people in them are enrolled in a journey, ready to do the work together. They’re all run by my friends at Akimbo, an independent, mission-driven B corp.

Go make a ruckus.

[I’ll try to do these workshop updates once a month here on the blog. Please share with someone who is ready to make a difference.]

Choose your Jones wisely

We’ve been brainwashed into keeping up with the Joneses. Paying attention to our peers and staying ahead, just a little bit.

But if you’re in that trap, it’s probably worth considering who your Jones’s are.

A hard worker might feel lazy at a sweatshop on Wall Street. A shopper in love with luxury goods might feel inadequate on Fifth Avenue. “Compared to who?”

If comparing yourself to a different set of peers is going to motivate you or give you peace of mind, by all means, switch. It’s up to each of us, isn’t it?

Understanding “popular”

Popular doesn’t mean better by any absolute scale.

Popular simply means that more people like this thing than that thing.

Popular isn’t an act of genius. Popular is either an intentional act (to serve a particularly large, homogenous audience) or a lucky break.

The most direct way to become popular is to serve the audience that made the last thing popular. By that definition, popular almost always means ‘not better.’ It simply means that you found a large group and gave them what they wanted.

The world likes popular, but it doesn’t have to be your goal.

Natural technique doesn’t exist

It’s amazing how much we can get done simply by trying.

Whether it’s writing or golf or sales, when we show up and do our best, we can make things happen.

But then, our internal horsepower becomes insufficient. As we seek to make a bigger impact, we discover that powering our way through obstacles is simply too difficult.

And so we need to learn technique.

Technique is the unnatural approach to a problem that, with practice, becomes second-nature. Technique is the non-obvious solution that amateurs and hard-working beginners rarely stumble upon on their own.

The commitment to a practice opens the door to finding a more useful technique.

You got this far because your natural approach was helpful. But to get to the next level, you’ll need technique, which, by definition, isn’t something you come by on your own.

If there are people who are playing at a different level than you who are embracing an approach that feels unnatural to you, you may have found the technique that you’ve been missing.

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