Faking it

Have you ever noticed that in order to fall asleep, you have to start by pretending to fall asleep?

Creativity follows the same practice.

In order to be creative, at first you have to fake it. We fake it while we practice, while finding our voice, while we develop good taste.

It’s okay to feel like a fake. That’s the starting line.

Freedom of choices

It’s easy to be seduced to believe that you need to have more freedom in your choices.

And it is certainly true, particularly people of color and women and those without enough means, are limited in their choices because of racism, sexism, income inequality and other factors out of their control.

For everyone else, however, we can be convinced that a boss or a teacher or a parent won’t let us do the thing we want to do in the moment, then we must not have enough freedom.

Having an infinite amount of choices and the time on our hand is nothing without discipline. The paradox of choice is very real. The more choices we have, the more unhappy we feel about the choices we make. Because we imagine the other alternatives, we think the grass is greener on the other side.

What we are actually looking for is the ability to choose which constraints to make. Ironically, constraints are nothing but a human invention. They are made up. There is no rule that says you have to use Facebook in order to promote your idea. You can simply choose ignore it or not. You can choose to be vegetarian and now you have invented a constraint about what it is you eat.

We can choose where we are going to set the boundaries and play the game we see fit. Whoever you answer to may not let you choose which project to work on during work hours but last I checked, after 5 o’clock you are free to do what you please.

Get good at the autonomy you do have. Otherwise, what is the point of having more time if you already are wasting the time you’ve got.

What’s a better name for France?

I played a game with some friends over Zoom the other day called Quiplash. The game is really simple. Players answer a wide away of funny prompts (like the title of this post). It’s all made up and you sorta just say whatever comes to your mind.

Most players, however, trip up trying to think of something funny to say. What usually happens is people don’t think the answer that they first come up with isn’t funny enough.

The irony can’t escape me. We have no problem having an opinion, using our voice in settings where we are comfortable. But when we step on stage, we hesitate.

Take a look at Google and obviously you will see it’s a simple search engine. We can fill that box with anything we want. All the collective information for the entire world is right at our finger tips. Except we don’t know what questions to ask.

It’s apparent when you go to a conference and the speaker asks, “Are there any questions?” Of course, we think of questions to ask after the conference is over because we are in a safe space where no one can judge us.

The same thing happens when we load students up in the van for work and I ask someone to pick one of their favorite songs to play. “I don’t have any favorite songs.” Really? You can’t name one song that you like? Of course, you can. But what happens when we pick a song that people don’t like? What does that say about us?

There is a real need for each of us to feel accepted. To fit in. To be like everyone else. I don’t want people to think I’m not funny. I don’t want people to think the question I asked was stupid. I don’t want people to judge my taste in music.

Not everyone is going to like everything about us. We like to complain that people won’t listen to what we have to say but when we have the opportunity to speak up we are quick to let someone else take our turn. If you have something to say, believe that it is important enough that it needs to be heard.

Discard pile

No one is sad about discarding cards in a game of Poker.

We don’t fret about chucking junk mail into the trash can.

Then why are we saddened when our work didn’t resonate with someone and we have to put it in the discard pile?

Because of our effort, we think we deserve specific outcomes. Which causes us to lose focus on the work.

Be proud of your discard pile. Be happy for the fact that something hasn’t worked yet.

That’s the key. Keeping working until it does resonate with the people you seek to change.

Your discard pile should be a mile long. Chock full of mistakes and lessons learned that have been used to make the work better.

Another rejection means you are one step closer to breaking through.

Authentic

It’s a tricky word. We often fool ourselves into believing that in order to be creative it must be authentic. Something totally new, real, a stroke of genius.

Yet, most ideas don’t follow this pattern. Just walk down the milk isle and you will see whole milk, skim milk, 2% milk, chocolate milk, oak milk, soy milk, almond milk, milk in a jar. Endless variations of the idea of milk.

Every good idea is borrowed and then changed. Rarely, if ever, do we see something that has never been done before.

It’s worth noting, the Greeks have two words for authentic. They have Authentikos which means original and genuine. The definition we are most familiar with. They also have Authentes which simply means, “one acting on one’s own authority.”

Bingo.

All you need to be authentic is to pick yourself. Do creative work. Aren’t you tired of pretending you don’t have greatness in you?

The haves and have nots

We are living in a time of chaos and unrest.

Politics, the pandemic, climate change, racial inequality, minimum wage, healthcare, taxes, education…every single area of our lives needs radical reform.

It’s easy to say, “I don’t want anything to do with this.”

Convenient if you are in a position of power. I mean, why would you want to change a world that suits you?

Those without are thirsty for reform. The Haves, on the other hand, want to maintain the status quo and keep things as they.

Opting out is a sign of privilege.

How conspiracy theories work

It’s easy to say, “This is a conspiracy” when we don’t understand how things work.

For instance, during the ten year run of Apollo space missions, 400,000 people worked on the projects including engineers, scientists, technicians and laborers. In that group, you also had 12 people who walked on the moon, six pilots and six more who orbited.

The truth is, it would have been easier to land on the moon than it is to create a conspiracy of this magnitude.

The problem is our brains have a difficult time suspending disbelief and sitting with the tension it creates. That tension demands resolution. Instead of changing our minds we cherry pick the information to fit the narrative.

This is the problem with intellectual debt. We trust the system that has been built once we have seen how it works and ignore why it works. Over time, however, that debt accumulates. There are consequences of not learning about our rapidly evolving world.

Ellsberg Paradox

The Ellsberg Paradox goes like this. You have a bucket of balls. There are 90 balls. 30 of them are red and the rest are either black or yellow.

So here is the choice you get to make:

Option 1) You get a $100 if you choose a red one or

Option 2) Receive $100 if you choose a black one.

Which one do you choose?

It turns out that if you do the math, the chances are identical. Yet, most people still go with Option 1 for the red balls. Because we prefer to take on the known risks rather the unknown. We say to ourselves, “With my luck, there are probably not any black balls in the bucket.

I can’t escape the lesson here: All alternatives lead to uncertainty. There are no paths that we can choose that will lead to a guarantee. We desperately want to the control the outcomes of our lives. So much so that we are willing to trade almost anything for an illusion of control.

Mistakes are part of the process

LeBron James, arguably the best basketball player of all time, has a record that many don’t know about. And that is the fact that he also has 4,500 plus turnovers. The most in NBA history.

What does that mean?

It means that if you are going to play basketball, you are going to have turnovers.

And if you are going publish a new blog post every day, you are going to have some that are below average.

And if you are going to ask someone out on a date or speak up at a meeting or give a speech, you are going to make mistakes.

It also means that just because you made a mistake it doesn’t mean you don’t belong. On the contrary, if you are not making mistakes you are not trying hard enough.

Buckling

A while back, a student was struggling to figure out the basic movements on cross-country skis. Eventually, we figured out that the boot they were using was simply too big and it caused them to have their ankles continuously buckle.

We tried tightening the boots and it helped for a while. As we were wrapping up, this student was really struggling to finish. It had been a difficult guiding day with the weather (below freezing temps, fierce wind, rain and snow) and we all wanted to get back to the van.

The voice in my head began to complain, “Why can’t she just do it.” In that moment, I had lost my empathy. This student wasn’t complaining, was trying their best, was thrown into the deep end of the pool on a difficult day to learn how to ski.

Me complaining in my head wasn’t going to speed this student up. So how was it helping?

It wasn’t.

The voice in our head is selfish. It doesn’t care what others want. Bargaining with it doesn’t do anything to make the situation better.

Fortunately, I was able to check myself and we helped this student finish in their own way. Little did that student know on that day, they were the ones that changed me.