Things we can control

  1. Your thoughts.
  2. Your actions.
  3. Your beliefs.
  4. Your attitude.
  5. Your perspective.
  6. Your insights.
  7. Your effort.
  8. Your breath.
  9. Your posture.
  10. Who you are friends with.
  11. Who you respect.
  12. Who you help.
  13. Who you vote for.
  14. How you interpret situations.
  15. How often you exercise.
  16. How often you say, “I love you.”
  17. How often you say, “I’m sorry.”
  18. How often you say, “Thank you.”
  19. How kind you are to yourself.
  20. How you spend your money.
  21. How you invest your money.
  22. How you ask for help.
  23. How you handle setbacks.
  24. How often you judge other people.
  25. How much you appreciate the things you have.
  26. How much you appreciate the people around you.
  27. How much dignity you give.
  28. What you ship.
  29. What you worry about.
  30. What you wear.
  31. What promises you keep.
  32. What you are grateful for.
  33. What you worry about.
  34. What kind of mortgage you buy.
  35. What kind of car you drive.
  36. What kind of opportunities you entrust.
  37. The stories you tell.
  38. The books you read.
  39. The food you eat.
  40. The music you listen to.
  41. The gifts you share.
  42. The risks you embrace.
  43. The kindness you show to strangers.
  44. The messages you spread.
  45. The causes you help.
  46. The movements you start.
  47. The people you touch.
  48. The trust you give.
  49. The work you produce.
  50. The art you create.
  51. The love you have.
  52. The leaps you take.
  53. The ruckus you make.

About low risk / high frequency

The brain’s default setting is to conserve energy, to ignore data that isn’t pertinent to our survival. Hence the problem with receiving new information, the brain doesn’t want to expend energy to learn something new.

We are also wired to be afraid of everything. Twitter has magnified this. We check our feed incessantly because we need to be reassured that the world hasn’t ended while we were away on a conference call.

Because we are lazy and afraid, we naturally drift to activities of low risk / high frequency. We sit in front of a computer all day long, doing what feels safe, working as a cog in a machine.

The problem with low risk / high frequency is that the safest thing is actually the riskiest thing we can do now.

When you don’t stand out from the masses, why should management keep you when it’s time for layoffs? If they can find someone faster and cheaper, they will.

What we need then is to take more risks and often. Not the kind of risk of climbing Mt. Everest in the winter without oxygen or jumping out of an airplane without a parachute. No, we need more intellectual and emotional risks.

We need your best work, your best insights, your genius. It is only a perceived risk to share your gifts. No one actually dies making a presentation. A safe isn’t going to fall on your head by submitting that proposal you’ve tucked away in your desk. We are not going to spontaneously combust if we write something and post it for others to see.

When we can learn to dance with the fear, we are freed to do something interesting and remarkable. We are free to do our best work without the worry of shame. (It is expected.) We can do something that matters.

The internet has made the cost of failure virtually zero. All that is left is to decide. Deciding if you are going to make a difference. You can’t do it without risk. There is no art without risk.

This might work. This might not work. You won’t know until you try.

We are happy (until we are not)

We’re happy to let other people make decisions for us, but we’re unhappy with the decisions people makeBecause we are following people that are taking us to places we don’t want to go.

It’s easy to sit in the cheap seats and criticize the decisions people make, far more difficult to stand up and lead.

Why didn’t you speak up during that conference call? Why didn’t you give us your best insight? Why didn’t you challenge the status-quo?

Could you?

You bet.

Will you?

We know how things are, but what could be is up to you.

32 calls in 3 days

And counting.

That is certainly one way to market a product.

To clarify, this is how many phone calls my wife has received since filling out an inquiring about health insurance online.

Shouting from the rooftops doesn’t give you much attention. It certainly doesn’t build trust.

More phone calls doesn’t equal more sales anymore. It’s just noise. Our attention is a precious finite resource. Everyone is bidding at a chance to grab it. We can’t give it away to trolls, critics, or lousy telephone marketers.

When we take humanity out of the equation, we are left with non-human work. So why are we surprised when computers, robots, and soon, artificial intelligence are taking jobs away from humans?

Computers are more compliant, don’t need bathroom breaks, don’t get tired, are cheaper, don’t need overtime pay or holidays, don’t need healthcare or dental, are not unionized, don’t need minimum wage, and they won’t complain about unsafe working conditions.

The person calling on the other end of the line is just doing their job. They’re doing what they’re told. They’re getting paid by conversion. He might be providing for his family. It’s a steady job with a steady wage. I get that. But the system is working overtime to turn this person into a cog in the machine. Interchangeable parts and interchangeable people. He does what he is told until the system decides his services are no longer required because they found someone faster and cheaper.

This is a bad deal.

We don’t need you to emulate a robot. What we need is your insight, your creativity, your genius. We need your art. The kind of art that brings emotional labor to the table to make a connection. We need you to do what you do best, to be human.

The paradox of choice

History has shown that people are willing to fight for more choices.

Choices in where we sit, choices in what is humane, choices in what kind of planet we want to inhabit.

Lack of choices is insufficient for the advancement of the human race.

On the other hand, too many choices paralyzes us. Too many choices lead to fear and anxiety. We want to make that tension go away. We can’t escape the feeling that we missed out on something “better.” We don’t want to be wrong. So we end up settling. We often find that more choices lead to more regret.

Worse, is when we relinquish our ability to choose. We let someone else decide for us.

Take for instance voter turnout in the 2016 Election. 90 million eligible voters didn’t show up. There is a plethora of reasons of why. Pick whatever narrative you wish:

  • None of these candidates resonates with me.
  • I don’t like these candidates.
  • I can’t decide.
  • I wasn’t informed.
  • What if I’m wrong?
  • My vote doesn’t count anyway.
  • I’m not going to vote as a form of protest.

Eligible voters who had an opportunity to have their voices heard chose to stay silent. They ended up leaving it for someone else to decide.

Which leads to the paradox of choice: We are unhappy when we don’t have enough choices and we are unhappy when we have too many choices. We are happy to let people make decisions and we are unhappy with the decision people make.

Giving up our power to choose leads us down a slippery road of freedoms being stripped away.

The answer then is to act. To develop the mentality of making smart, well thought out decisions, to lead, to leap, to stand up, stand out and say follow me. Every decision we make leads to growth. When we learn to take responsibility, instead of asking for it, we improve. When we make a mistake, we learn to take better action next opportunity.

Choices often lead to more choices. Which means more freedom, more opportunity, and more possibility. Not the other way around.

Decide. Act. Initiate.


No soup for you

We asked the waitress if they could split our giant order of Pho.

To my surprise, the waitress said that they would have to charge for two meals if they were to split it in the kitchen but that she could bring a second bowl out.

One portion of Pho, two bowls. The same resources being used and distributed in the transaction either way you dissect it. The only difference is the amount of emotional labor that is being brought to the table.

It’s a small chain in the Valley. The place doesn’t shout corporate bureaucracy. Unfortunately, the food was average, slow, and the atmosphere isn’t much to speak of. In the end, there was an opportunity to delight.

What a waste.

I feel sad for the waitress. Maybe the boss was in the back and would have scolded her for breaking protocol. Maybe it wasn’t worth getting into trouble. Maybe she thought she lacked power and authority. In the end, she missed an opportunity to put a smile on someone’s face.

The message is clear that she needs to follow the instructions and do what she’s told. But if there is no room to put a smile on someone’s face, there is no room for generosity. Without generosity, there is no gift. If there is no gift, there is no art. Without art, there is no joy or connection to bring us closer together. You’re just a cog in the machine.

Busyness is another form of idleness

Emails, phone calls, text messages, workshops, seminars, board meetings, television, social media, sports…if not used with discipline keeps us busy from doing important, human work.

We need to spend less time doing busy work and more time doing hard work, the kind of work that brings joy and meaning to our lives.

If this is the umpteenth time you’ve checked your email today, find something more productive to do. Resist calling your colleague from down the hall. No need to hide in your cubicle, walk over there and ask for some help.

If all we take in is garbage, why are we surprised when the best we can do is average, mediocre work?

Don’t waste another chance to delight someone or do something interesting.

What kind of press?

Good press is good.

Great press is even better.

But bad press?

Any news is not good news.

It has taken you years, maybe decades, to build our trust (or maybe you are still working on it).

Your reputation is too important to trade in for 30 seconds of fame.

If you share your best insights, creativity, generosity, work what does it matter how many likes it gets?

If it changed one person and made them better, was it still worth it?

The thing is the internet has made failure cheap. We can try again tomorrow to share a message that resonates better and spreads.

Don’t pollute your work.

No news is fine while you’re perfecting your craft to build a better connection.

[It’s called starving for attention for a reason. There is never enough.]

Understanding micro decisions

It’s clear, that our environment has a deep impact in the daily decisions we make.

But we can’t underestimate the impact of tiny, micro decisions made every day in determining the type of person or organization we’re going to be.

The small things are no longer insignificant if we look at an entire body of work.

The reason that your non-profit isn’t making money is because at the beginning you decided to do something different. You decided you weren’t going in the business to make money first, you decided to be in the business of making change happen.

Every decision you’ve made since then has led you to be an agent of change first, profit second.

Which explains why it so hard to make ends meet.

Of course, you can change the environment: pricing structures, different customers, raise more money, etc.

The question is: What is the arc, the work you are doing, the change you are seeking to make? What are the micro decisions you are making each day to make this happen?

It’s hard to dance on the edge of uncertainty, even harder when you don’t know what it is you are trying to accomplish.