Placebos and permission

At the end of Wizard of Oz the Lion, Scarecrow and Tin Man all receive tokens for their valor.

But does a medal actually give us more courage?

Does a diploma make us smarter?

Does a clock shaped heart give us a greater capacity to love?

It actually can if you believe it.

Yet too often, we are in search for placebo to get started. That permission is a placebo.

Sure, it can useful way to get off the bench. But what many soon discover about permission is that you didn’t need the placebo all along. You had permission the whole time.

All you needed was to decide. 

Yes, placebos are a great tool but you don’t need them to make a difference.

What used to be

It’s incredible to think that until 1988, you were allowed to smoke on a plane.

That same year, the very first Fair Trade certification label was introduced.

And Syringe Tide scared the public enough to act.

Now, thirty years later, we don’t worry about breathing in second-hand smoke on the plane, you can now know where your food comes from and it’s highly unlikely you’ll step on a syringe while walking the beach.

One generation is all it takes to turn it all around. 

Because things change, you can too. 

Two reasons why you can’t ship on time

First, you probably don’t understand the goal of what it is you are trying to do.

Is the goal to make money, or perhaps, to make a difference?

Because everything you do must be a means to achieve the goal. Everything.

And when you don’t know what it is you are trying to accomplish, then you end up putting up with a lot of cruft instead doing things that serve the goal.

This in-turn creates bottlenecks. Bottlenecks, or choke points, significantly slow your progress. 

Second, it is highly likely you are thrashing your project at the end instead of the beginning.

As Steve McConnell has pointed out, Microsoft was notorious for this.

So a simple example would be a new update for Windows. A year out, you would meet with the development team including project managers, coders, etc.

And over the next year, Microsoft would be working to launch the new update. The problem is as they got closer to ship date the sales team and Market VP would look at it and make changes, throwing the coders behind.

And then, the Accounting person has another great suggestion to help boost profit.

And then, finally Steve Balmer gets a look at it and wants to change the color or a specific design.

Meanwhile, the coders are scrambling getting more and more behind until finally they miss their deadline. 

So instead of thrashing at the end when it’s expensive, thrash at the beginning when it is cheap.

Get all the approval you need at the beginning for what it is you’re going to build and then take people off the project.

Thrash when you’re six months out, not with only six days left.

Cloud coverage

Sometimes, the important people in your life don’t want a relationship with you.

The good news: People change.

And so do circumstances, conditions, environment…they all change.

Our natural tendencies is to believe that what is today will be the same tomorrow.

The truth is, people are absolutely terrible at predicting the future. We don’t really understand the consequences of our choices today and how they will affect tomorrow.

What we feel in this moment is usually not lasting. 

Feelings pass over us like clouds, some pleasant and some not so pleasant.

The world isn’t as fixed as we are.

The suffering, the pain we fill is when we attach ourselves to certain outcomes. When we want things to be a certain way. 

And that’s the problem with the recipient, they want it a certain way too.

It takes a warrior to hang onto this tension of the unpleasant. And maybe, that is who you have to be while you wait for things to change.

Who eats first?

In the animal kingdom, the alpha eats her share first while everyone else gets to pick the leftovers. 

This question of status is also important for people.

What kind of status does this job or paycheck bring? Or the car I drive? Or this relationship?

What does the number of likes on my Facebook post or my Twitter followers say about my status in the cyber community?

Every move we make is about raising or lowering our status.

You’ll have an easier time getting people enrolled in the work you do if you can lift their status.

I like writing

But I hate editing.

Yet, the key to good writing is editing.

It’s the tax you pay to become a better writer. 

You have to spend time thrashing, mulling, re-arranging words in order to inspire the reader.

“Less is more” was probably invented by a writer.

Because something that could be read in ten words is far more pleasing to read than something that takes 100.

Feelings and objectivity

Feelings help us judge the external world around us.

Yet, our feelings are often wrong. We misinterpret, misjudge, interject biases and prejudices that cloud our ability to infer.

The good news is once we can identify these habit, we can just as easily develop a second type of framework.

We can drop the narrative and pick a new one.

It took 15 months after Watergate for the majority of the public to change its narrative on impeaching President Richard Nixon.

Climate change may follow a similar (but longer) trajectory. Once viewed as a pseudoscience (when oil companies were left in charge to investigate how detrimental their business was to the environment) is now backed by undeniable mountain of data.

Being objective requires us to be free of personal feelings. Yet, personal feelings are also a window into a particular individual or groups worldview.

We need these feelings to reflect an objective view but objective views are clouded when we let our feelings take the drivers seat.

50-50 relationships are practical on paper but lousy in practice

50-50 relationships usually don’t last. The thing is, relationships are not built on reciprocity, this for that. No, they are built on generosity. You have to be willing to reach further than the middle to makeup for the short-comings of others.

Even Steven just doesn’t work when we are talking about fallibility of people.

100% relationships, however, the kind where someone is willing to reach all away across, the kind where both parties are willing to forgive when none is required, those are rare.

Instead of choosing to reach half way, go the extra mile and close the gaps.

What can one person do?

For ten years during the Aids Epidemic, Ruth Coker Burks would go on to take care of hundreds of patients who were dying of Aids. 

She didn’t have permission or the authority, she didn’t have the education or training, or even the resources to do this work. 

She showed up when no one else would. 

That act was sufficient.

The medical community didn’t even know how to treat people with Aids, and to make matters worse, families were abandoning these patients. 

Against all odds, Ruth Coker Burks’ patients were living two years longer than the national average.

How is that possible?

Because Burks treated these patients as human beings. She gave them hope, dignity and respect. 

What more do you need to start your movement?

All you need is to care. Care enough to serve a few people. And then, your message spreads and inspires.

“In 1984, it started. They just kept coming and coming. And they knew they would be remembered, loved, and taken care of, and that someone would say a kind word over them when they died.” – Ruth Coker Burks

[You can read the incredible story of the Cemetery Angel here.] 

Finish lines

When starting a project, it’s helpful to work backwards from the finish line.

Finish lines indicate how hard to push.

Finish lines give us an indication what we should prepare for. (Is this a sprint or a marathon?) 

The problem is we struggle with following through with consist effort until the end.

Being tired at mile 23 of 24 is totally different from a 5K.

The question then becomes How will you finish?

Finish lines are useful until they get in the way. 

Because the goal is to never finish. The goal is to keep playing as long as you can and as best you can.

Finishing a goal is different than arriving to a destination.