About face

The thing about bad behavior is that we know it’s wrong. But some of us are spending an enormous amount of time thinking of ways to justify it.

So when we see someone jaywalking, we think that it gives us permission.

It doesn’t make it okay though. Its still wrong, even though “everyone is doing it”.

The future holds more possibilities to do work that matters—to make a difference.

With more opportunities and more time on our hands comes more distractions. Making it easier to justify bad behavior.

If there’s one thing that is keeping you from being your best version of yourself, stop it.

Today.

Right now.

This is as good as time as ever to quit the one thing that’s holding you back.

For those who think they’ve strayed too far: It’s not possible for you to sink lower than the infinite light coming from above.

Too big to care

Yahoo’s time line:

  • 1998: Yahoo refused to acquire Google for $1 million.
  • 2000: Yahoo’s value peaked at $100 billion.
  • 2002: Yahoo realized they made a huge mistake not acquiring Google and offered $3 billion. Google wanted $5 billion. They weren’t able to make a deal.
  • 2008: Microsoft offered $50 billion to acquire Yahoo. Yahoo rejected their offer.
  • 2016: Verizon is looking to acquiring Yahoo for less than $5 billion. Meanwhile, Google has been valued at $550 billion.

What happened?

You can point to a lot of different things:

  • Mismanagement: There are plenty of people to blame.
  • The economy: The 2000 tech bubble didn’t help.
  • Their identity: Were they a search engine? Did they sell ad space?
  • No innovation: We haven’t seen any new hardware or software for quite some time.

In the end, Yahoo spent too much time thinking about how to fix their company instead of focusing on solving interesting problems for its customers.

It became clear when 500 million accounts were reportedly stolen this year; and there is evidence to suggest that Yahoo knew about this in 2014.

That’s what happens when you lead from behind. Eventually, the world catches up.

But there is a lesson to learn: No organization is too big to stop caring for the people they are serving.

[Bonus lesson: Nothing lasts forever. The Beatles, arguably the biggest rock band of all time, are becoming less relevant each day. If you’re a teenager, can you name one band member?]

Bad call

You’ve done your research, analyzed the data and your ready to present. The facts are undeniable. You’ve built a strong case. It’s some of your finest work.

But the board makes a bad call and goes a different direction.

Sometimes, we don’t get picked.

It’s not the results we were hoping for. But you can learn from this experience.

Work on telling a better story. One that resonates with people.

It took twenty years for Ignaz Semmelweis to convince the medical community to wash their hands.

What a shame that your best work has been put on hold.

But it’s hard to beat the person who never quits.

Doesn’t hurt enough yet

The other day, I saw my neighbor sitting on his porch. As I approached him to say hi, I could hear this awful moaning sound coming from within the house.

Concerned, I asked him what was going on.

He said that his dog was lying on a nail.

So I asked the obvious, “Why doesn’t he just move?”

My neighbor thought about it for a moment. He then replied: “Doesn’t hurt enough yet.”

(Of course, this story didn’t really happen to me.)

Sometimes, we get stuck. We don’t want to move because we’re afraid. And we’re afraid because we think there’s something out there that’s going to be the end of us.

But we’re wrong.

We second guess ourselves because, hey, we’re the ones that got us in this mess in the first place. So we figure as long as we can tolerate this pain, why bother rocking the boat.

That’s the cycle of bad decision-making: You don’t want to make things worse, so you do nothing. By doing nothing, you make things worse.

The obvious decisions seem like the easiest ones to make. Yet, we all know someone who is unwilling to move from a painful situation.

It doesn’t hurt enough yet.

The problem with perfect

You’ll never have the perfect product for the perfect person at the perfect place for the perfect price with the perfect promotion.

So why do we insist on everything having to be perfect?

Without defects perfect becomes boring, predictable and unremarkable.

You’ll never make a difference if you insist on everything having to be perfect.

So instead of making something perfect, find the perfect problem.

The perfect problem that only you (or your company or your brand) can solve. Then when it’s good enough to ship, ship it.

Perfection doesn’t exist in a world full of imperfect people.

But you can make the world a little better with your contribution.

Don’t wait for the tide to be just right.

We need you.

One by one

It’s hard to change the world all at once.

Making a difference to the masses is painstakingly slow, ineffective and ultimately a waste.

(Projects become so big and audacious, of course, you could never ship. How could you? You’re trying to change the world. Remember?)

A simpler, and more effective way, is not to make a difference to everyone but to someone.

One by one.

Drip by drip by drip.

One act of generosity for one person.

Over and over. Again and again.

People are made up of a set of individuals. Average products for average people doesn’t work anymore. Because there is no connection.

And you need a connection.

Maybe that’s what makes all of the difference.

What is it for?

People in organizations change: the CEO, management, even the mailman. And so do laws and markets and politicians.

When your environment changes, you are left with policies and procedures from the previous regime.

So the question you need to ask is: What is it for?

If you don’t know the answer, then (like most people) it’s probably because someone was trying to please their boss not their customers.

Just because this is the way it’s always been, doesn’t mean this is the way it always has to be.

[I’ve kept this story about Five Monkeys hung on my wall for ten years. It has served as a great reminder to question the status quo. I hope it can do the same for you.]

There is no such thing as luck

Luck is a tool used by Resistance to diminish what God has done to bless our lives.

I don’t think the universe just magically picks us.

I will grant you there are things we can’t control when we are born: talent, family, neighborhood, country, time period.

That’s fate.

Luck, on the other hand, is a figment of our imagination. It’s made up. A cop-out. A thing we say to get us off the hook.

By saying someone was lucky, we fail to acknowledge the hard work and choices and sacrifice people made.

In most cases luck has nothing to do with success.

It’s about twenty year commitments and grit. It’s about leaping, leaning in and leading. Most of all, it’s about generosity and love.

When the bottom falls out

People are in search for clarity.

So if you’re upset about the results of the election and you feel pressed to write a Facebook post about your thoughts, write with clarity. Don’t use 100 words for what can be said in 10.

In 2004, Facebook was invented. It wasn’t very long ago, we didn’t have platforms to raise our voice, our opinions and observations that could reach a million people. Not everyone is going to agree with what you have to say. It’s okay to disagree but not to be disagreeable.

The goal is not to have your message heard by everyone, it’s to be heard by someone. If it’s not for them, it’s not for them. That’s okay.

But just because you took the time to write something down doesn’t mean I have to even read it. You need to earn trust to get attention.

We now live in a world where 3 billion people are connected. So what should you do with this connection?

Try solving interesting problems.

Here’s one: It’s a hard pill to swallow if your candidate had more votes and still lost. What an opportunity to fight the system that allows that to happen. But changing the system from an electoral vote to a popular one seems impossible. Yeah, that’s my point.

Doing the impossible takes guts.

It takes guts to ignore the trolls. It takes guts to put aside hurt feelings. It takes guts to stand up and say follow me. Or you can choose to hide. (Social media is a great place for that.)

Placebos work

That button you press to close the door on an elevator doesn’t actually work.

It’s fake.

So are the buttons on cross walks and office thermostats.

They’re all placebos.

That’s okay because it makes us feel better to exercise control in a world that is seemingly out-of-control.

The question is: Is it ethical?

I think so.

Most people don’t get upset when a magician reveals his secrets. Maybe a little let down because we want to believe that magic is real.

(It’s manipulation when your customers become angry.)

But if a placebos makes you feel better, gives you more confidence and helps you perform then why not use it?

It’s story telling.

So if we want people to change—the kind of change you are seeking to make in the world—you need a better story.

Because the story controls how we feel about things.

Logic and math and science isn’t enough to change people’s minds.

[The better the package, the better the taste. (And vise-versa.) So what would happen if we called the Affordable Care Act, the Expensive Care Act? What would change if we called Global Warming, Atmosphere Cancer? Would things be different?]