Infinity + 1

When someone brings a knife to a fist fight, then the temptation is to grab a gun. If you bring a gun though, your opponent will want one up you with a grenade. And so on.

Why is it that once someone is willing to cross the line, it’s easier for us to do the same?

That permission to do something out of character confirms what we have thought of this whole time. The difference now is that once someone has wronged us we feel justified to break the rules too.

Proliferation is a lousy tactic to solve one’s problems. Just because someone else is doing it doesn’t give us the right to add more friction.

Asking for the right kind of feedback

Our default question when asking for feedback is, “What do you think?”

The problem with asking in generalities is that you won’t get anything specific.

Maybe the feedback you really are asking for is “What do you think of the color?” Maybe the feedback you wanted was “What do you think of this font?” Or maybe you wanted someone to check for spelling errors.

When we are too general then someone will come in and make suggestions to change the content. By doing so, you are handing over the decision-making to someone who is potentially less informed.

Creating is all about making decisions. It won’t make sense for everyone. Depending on the goal depends on the decisions you make. Other people don’t have the same goal as you.

(Asking for the wrong type of feedback isn’t necessarily harmful, but we need to do a better job so that we can honor the giver without wasting their time.)

The expanding and shrinking of problems

We tend to expand our problems while shrink the problems of others.

Not having access to clean water is a huge problem. One that over 800 million people still are fighting through. But because we live in a different culture with different circumstances, we don’t act with the same urgency to solve someone else’s life threatening problem in someone else’s backyard.

Ten thousand miles away might as well be a million.

On the flip side, we have mortgages, credit card debt, car payments—all consumer debts that create stress. Stress that we walked into to obtain symbols and artifacts to raise our status.

A totally different problem with a totally different consequence.

We are always more urgent to solve our own problems. If we acted as if someone else’s problem was our own, think of what we can contribute? What would be the possibilities?

First we must begin to differentiate between what is an actual fire—a real emergency—and what is an inconvenience. What we deal with on a day-to-day basis is so different from those who live on the edge of safety.

Waiting for the next light at the next tunnel

We tend to look at our lives as a series of tunnels. And if we are not careful, we can grow attached to believe that just around the next corner, there is a light.

Let’s be clear, tunnels are an awful place to be in. Life’s challenges can sometimes feel like a tunnel (there is no way out but through mentality).

If we are always seeking the next light, we miss so much opportunity to turn these experiences into something good.

The person who can turn adversity into a learning experience is going to have a higher quality life.

You can be the light that others will follow.

You can’t be the hero in someone else’s story

Human beings are story telling creatures. We speak in metaphors and analogies to paint a picture (see I just did one).

Stories help us make sense of a clustered world.

Here’s the thing, each of us is the hero to our own story. No matter how hard we try, you can’t be the hero in someone else’s story.

What we need to be—if we care enough about the person—is a guide. A guide to help nudge someone close to edge of something great and daring.

We want to tell stories about lifting others, leading, falling on swords, taking one for the team…but we could do so much more if we tell stories of other people’s triumphs, to position those around you as hero’s in your story.

Who doesn’t want to be a hero?

Dependency and gasoline

Everyone has that friend that constantly obsesses about gas prices.

They drive out of their way (particularly far from freeway exits) to find a better deal. They know and follow prices like the stock market and are upset when they find that they are losing the game.

It should be no surprise to discover that 40% of consumers say that gas prices effect their mood.

Why? Why would gas prices affect someone’s mood?

It turns out that 86% of Americans depend on gasoline for everyday life and it is ranked above healthcare and an emergency fund in terms of importance.

If we depend on something, we want it to be safe and reliable. And when it isn’t safe or reliable, then we become concerned.

Other examples of things that we depend on that affect our mood:

  • Pay checks
  • Bonuses
  • Tax returns
  • Relationships
  • Sex
  • The internet
  • Plumbing

The less we can control the more anxious we feel.

It’s clear that deep down we don’t want to lose the comforts that we take for granted.

Really good feedback is hard to find

What’s the point of receiving feedback if all you seek to hear is what you want to hear?

And what’s the point of giving feedback if what you’re more concerned about is what people around you think?

Most feedback that is given and received is really awful.

Some important things to consider:

  • Don’t seek feedback from those who are not informed. No need to ask what people think if they haven’t done the reading.
  • People don’t know what you know. They don’t believe what you believe. Therefore, they will make different decisions than you.
  • When is the last time an email changed our mind? More effort and care must be put into effect.
  • Seek feedback from those you seek to serve. Because if it is not for them, it’s not for them.
  • If it isn’t actionable, it’s probably gossip.
  • Henry Ford was famous for saying that if he asked his customers what they wanted, they would have said faster horses. Most people don’t know what they actually want.
  • If feedback is hard hear, just say thank you.
  • Never ask anyone their opinion on your company name. Apple, Nike, Amazon…you don’t build your brand and then name your company, you name your company and then build your brand.
  • People might not get the joke. Which means one of two things: You delivered it wrong or it’s not a good joke.
  • When it isn’t working, make better art.

What’s your number?

The problem with always trying to attain more, you end up building a legacy of artifacts.

Expensive ones.

Big house. Fancy car. A boat or a set of jewelry.

That isn’t what life is for.

There is nothing wrong with trying to take care of yourself and your family and your friends. But if you don’t pick a number that says “I have enough,” then the default answer will always be more.

There are a number of ways to measure your life then with a set of digital bits on a screen.

Maybe the goal is to help someone raise their status. Maybe the goal is to help someone see the world as it is. Maybe your real vocation is to help move mountains.

If you are always focusing your energy to make another buck, then you are unable to put more energy into making a difference.

Bad karma

Karma, or the sum of one’s actions, is part of a story people tell themselves.

“Car won’t start, must be bad karma for not doing the dishes.”

The universe is not conspiring against you. It is not tracking your deeds with a balance sheet. The cosmic scales don’t tip with your actions.

Bad karma comes to people making both good and bad choices. Yet, the “bad” things that happen to us are for us. If handled correctly, can lead to growth. The same can be said for the “good” ones.

It’s not karma. It is part of being a person existing in a world where things happen.