Picture rolls

Remember when we had to wait until the picture rolls were developed before we can see how our photos turned out?

It’s different now. It’s better. It’s instant. The cost of failure has never been cheaper.

Technology is freeing us from menial tasks that we don’t want to do. We have more time available than anyone who has ever come before us. 

We don’t have to worry about when our next meal is coming, we don’t have to till the earth, we don’t have to worry about how we are going to heat our home, we don’t need to worry about where we are going to get clean water, we don’t have to walk to the river to wash our clothes, we don’t need to feed our horses, we don’t have to go to the library to look something up, we don’t need to hand stitch our clothing, when we are sick we don’t have to worry about access to a hospital…So how are we using all of this free time?

The standard answer of, “How are you?” is “I’m really busy.”

Why? Why do we feel like we don’t have any time available? More importantly, why do we feel like we don’t have time to do the work that matters most?

I think it’s a bad habit. A trap. When we say we are too busy to do our art, we think this lets us off the hook. Now though, we are seeing stress because the work we busy ourselves with isn’t the kind of work that makes us happy. It doesn’t make us better. And then, we perpetuate the cycle by adding debt, so we work extra hours. Because we work extra hours, we’re tired. Instead of working on our art, we watch television. Around and around we go.

There are billions of people who need to do certain tasks each day to survive. Most of us reading this don’t live in that type of environment. Most of the things we do in our lives have little consequence on our survival: checking email, checking Facebook, tweeting our lunch.

Once our survival is taken care of, we have an opportunity to make things better.

We need to develop a new posture. We need to stop telling ourselves stories that we don’t have time. Yes, time is still a finite source. But we have more of it than ever before. We need to be more meticulous in how we spend it.

If it’s important, we have time to do it.

Instead of being busy, be productive.

Reassurance is never enough

The attention span of an adult is 8 seconds long. Which, by the way, is 1 second less than a goldfish.

The culture on social media demands to know, “What have you done for me lately?” We fall into the trap that the way to grab people’s attention is by being the loudest.

The thing is the microphones we have don’t go to 11. There are better ways to delay someone. It’s simple really, we whisper.

You make something so remarkable that people can’t help but tell someone else about it. Build your tribe. Drip by drip by drip. One by one. Patiently building something bigger than ourselves while the word spreads. We build trust.

But too often, we are sucked into the Twitter-sphere, to seek validation for the work we do. Because we are afraid. We are afraid we are not good enough. The question is: What is the platform dance for? Is it helping you get closer to where it is you want to go? Is it helping you get through the dip?

It’s clear that there is never going to be enough reassurance for you to do your art.

No one ever made anything worth making without receiving criticism because no product, no good and no service is for everyone.

So if you are going to say something or do something or make something—it might as well be work worth criticizing.

You can’t improve what you can’t measure

Actually, you can.

Peter Drucker is wrong.

We used to live in a world where measurables were really important.

Henry Ford was famous for saying, “You can have your car in any color you want, as long as it’s black.” Black dried faster than any other color. If we could improve speed, we could improve profits.

This mindset made us all very rich.

But now, that game we signed to play and the promise we were made is broken. Now, the gap between the rich and the poor is growing out of hand. Now, we have a whole generation of students graduating without a promise of a job and a mountain of debt. Now, we are realizing that all this stuff that freed us of poverty hasn’t actually fulfilled us.

There is an alternative: Each and every one of us has the capacity to do what only humans can do—human work. Human work is our ability to care. To show up. To say here I made this and I hope that it changes you. Its emotional labor. Its generosity and respect. It’s seeking equality and opportunity for those who don’t have it.

How can you put a price on looking someone in the eye with total empathy and telling them you are here for them? You can’t. Nor should you.

Let me be clear, measuring is important. Measuring and testing is part of the foundation of science. The thing about profit is that it is easy to measure. If it went up, it must mean we had a good year. I have a hard time with this.

How do you define a good year? Well, if you helped someone make a quantum leap, I think that was a good day. If you helped someone do something they could never do, also a good day. Put enough good days like that together, maybe you had a good year. You can’t measure the impact, not it the short-term at least. It’s easier to point to magical digits and bits than face the fact that we’re on the hook for helping each other.

Each of us has infinite worth and infinite potential. You can’t put a number on that. The world wants to continue to strip our humanity. The sooner we quit putting a numeric value on people and the human work we do, the sooner we can bring it back.

I want to do what you do…

“But I have excuses.”

We all do.

If you wait for all of the excuses to go away or wait for market conditions to be perfect, you are going to be waiting a long time before you ever start.

Yesterday would have been best time to get going. The next best is now. It would be a shame to wait any longer for you to bring us your work.

Go. Now.

The only thing you will never run out of is excuses. Like everyone, it’s a choice whether you use them or not.

You are what you spend your time doing.

Being first isn’t enough

It used to be important to be listed first in the Yellow Pages.

Having your business start with the letter “A” was a good thing. So starting with letters “AA” was even better. And “AAA” was the best.

Now…

We think that the race to the top (Google search) means having more clicks, more likes, more stars, more ads…search engine optimization.

But what if instead of spending our time artificially inflating our status/rank/approval, we used that time to do something that made us better? Something that makes us the best in the world.

Not the entire world, of course. We are talking about the world of the people you serve. Your customers. Their world.

It’s difficult to be the best if we are avoiding the human work that helps us stand out from a crowd.