Like the pilot says, "sit back, relax, and enjoy the flight."
When you're on one of those Disneyland boats, it takes you where Disney wants you to go. That's why you got on. And so you are lulled, a spectator, merely a tourist.
So different, isn't it, from driving yourself, choosing your own route and owning what comes of it?
How long have you been along for the ride? When is your turn to actually drive?
This is a much more stable response than pushing coming to shoving, because shoving often leads to something unsustainable.
Hugging is a surprising and difficult response to pushing, but it changes the trajectory, doesn't it?
Every committee or organization has at least one well-meaning person who is pushing to make things more average.
"On behalf of the masses, the uncommitted, the ones who don't care, we need to dumb this down, smooth out the edges and make it more average. We need to oversimplify it, make it a bit banal, stupid even. If we don't, then some people won't get the joke, won't be satisfied, or worse, complain."
And, by amplifying the voice of the lizard brain, he gets under our skin and we back off, at least a little. We make the work a little more average and a little worse.
This is the studio executive who demands a trite plot, with the usual stereotypes and tropes, played by the usual reliable actor types.
This is the record producer who wants the new song to sound a whole lot like the last song.
This is the NGO executive who fears that the new campaign will offend some minor donors...
Yes, it's true that the remarkable, edgy stuff we wanted to make wasn't going to be embraced by everyone. But everyone is rarely the point any more.
In the service of honest communication, perhaps the one who makes things worse should acknowledge that this is what he does for a living. That way, if we want things to be a little more average, we'll know who to ask.
Successful freelancers need to charge at least double the hourly rate that they'd be happy earning doing full time work. (In many fields, it's more like 4 or 5x).
And they need to spend at least half their time getting better at their craft (and helping the market understand and appreciate what they do).
Your mileage may vary, but one sure route to becoming an unhappy freelancer is charging just enough and hoping that the low price will keep you busy all the time.
[If you're a freelancer with a career or marketing question, I'm recording a course on this topic and will be including reader questions as part of it. The form is open until tomorrow, Monday, at midnight. Thanks.]
Today is Pi day, the 14th day of the 3rd month of the fifteenth year... 3.1415
Pi is our most famous irrational number. Not irrational in the sense that it's a foolish argument, a form of wishing for one thing while doing another. No, pi is irrational in a magical, beautiful sense. It can't be cropped off and fit into a box. The closer you look at pi, the more you see, forever.
And that sort of irrational magic is at the heart of our best work. Meeting spec works fine as long as you're the only person who has to meet spec. But in any competitive environment, fitting into a box does us little good.
To be transcendent and irrational is to always have a few more digits to spare, to demand that you not be rounded off and filed away. To be human.
Money owed accrues interest. Banks and credit card companies thrive on this. The borrower gets to keep using the money, and the lender ends up with more in the end.
Apologies owed, on the other hand, accrue nothing whatsoever of value, to either side.
Forgiving a financial debt costs your balance sheet. Forgiving an owed apology frees you to be generous again.
We really don't understand privilege until we've lost it.
It's pretty easy to criticize or misunderstand those that complain about privilege (of any kind), but in fact, we have no idea what it is to be in those shoes, not right this minute.
You can do two things with pumpkin seeds. Eat them, an excellent source of protein, or plant them, and watch a successful seed bring back 100 more.
The farmer who plants the seeds aggressively, without regard for, "hey, be careful, I could have eaten that seed," often ends up with many more pumpkins and many more seeds. On the other hand, the person who guards all the seeds and then eats them ends up with not much.
And of course, money works the same way. Time, too.
When there’s a wreck on the side of the road, we can’t help it. Despite our best efforts, we look at the accident, sometimes even slow down to get a really good look.
To remind ourselves it’s not us. To reassure ourselves it’s not someone we know. Phew.
Rubbernecking is our way of reassuring ourselves.
Often, though, we do precisely the opposite when it comes to the apparently unfixable, to the enormity of horrible events, to tragedies.
(Enormity doesn't mean "extra enormous." It refers to the emptiness of something so horrible and large we have trouble comprehending it).
Time magazine produces a cover that we can't bear, so we don't buy that issue. We don't see the billboard. A disease appears uncurable, so we don't talk about it. It's easier to talk about the little stuff, or events with hope.
We also do it with science, to facts about the world around us.
There’s a long history of denialism, defending the status quo and ignoring what others discover. That two balls of different weights fall at the same speed. That the Earth rotates around the Sun. That the world is millions of years old. That we walked on the Moon.
The denials all sound the same. They don’t come from stupidity, from people who aren’t smart enough to understand what’s going on. They come from people who won’t look.
Why deny? It's a way to avert our eyes.
Two related reasons, internal and external.
The external reason is affiliation. What happens to one's standing when you dare to question the accepted status quo? What are the risks to doing your own research, to putting forth a falsifiable theory and being prepared to find it proven wrong? What will you tell your neighbors?
When adherence to the status quo of our faith or organization or social standing looms large, it’s often far easier to just look the other way, to feign ignorance or call yourself a skeptic (n.b. all good scientists are actually skeptics, that’s how they build careers… the difference is that the skeptical scientist does the work to prove to her peers that she’s right, and acknowledges when she’s not).
There’s more data available to more people than ever before. And the prize for using statistics and insight to contradict the scientific status quo is huge. If a thesis doesn’t sit right with you, look closer, not away. Do the science, including acknowledging when your theory isn’t right.
The internal reason is fear. The fear of having to re-sort what we believe. Of feeling far too small in a universe that’s just too big. Most of all, of engaging in a never-ending cycle of theories and testing, with the world a little shaky under our feet as we live with a cycle that gets us closer to what’s real.
Part of being our best selves is having the guts to not avert our eyes, to look closely at what scares us, what disappoints us, what threatens us. By looking closely we have a chance to make change happen.
In five words, that's one secret to delight. When you do the work that others can't possibly imagine doing, you set yourself apart.
Seeking out the things that are more trouble than most people think they're worth is a powerful place to be.
The hard part, of course, is actually doing something that appears to be far more trouble than it's worth.
For years before 1992, experts warned that the fisheries in Eastern Canada were in peril. Industrialized fishing processes (sonar, trawlers, etc.) were pulling dramatically more cod out of the Atlantic, and the fishery was severely threatened.
Insiders ignored the warnings, shouting about job preservation instead. 35,000 workers were directly involved, with more than 100,000 people supported as a result of the fishing trade. Jobs needed to be defended.
In 1992, the catch dropped 99%. Every single job was lost, because the entire system collapsed.
It's easy to defend the status quo, except when the very foundation you've built everything on disappears. Incrementalism ceases to be a good strategy when there's a cliff on the route.
You're arguing about that trivial difference between us?
Substantive disagreement is rarely the issue that splits tribes, destroys thriving groups or wastes time at meetings. Instead, it's our desire to carve out a little space for ourselves in a group that seems to agree on almost everything.
The work is too important to sidetrack about the things we disagree on.
Point out this narcissism when you see it and move on to the important stuff, to amplifying the things we agree on.
"Because if it was, someone would already be parking there."
If you're sufficiently pessimistic about new opportunities, it probably pays to stop driving around. Opportunity is often where you decide it is.
And, in response to many requests from people who love the fast (and sometimes free) shipping that Amazon offers, we've decided to now offer the two-pack of Your Turn on their site as well. (Click on "see all buying options" to get the 2 pack offer).
To get us off to a good start, it's discounted for the next week, two copies for less than $28. You can always buy the multi-packs on the original site as well. (And here's a ChangeThis sample of the book).
When things get a little better every day, we take the good news for granted. It takes almost no time at all for the improvement to turn into an expectation and for the expectation to be taken for granted.
But when things decay, we can't stop thinking about the loss, extrapolating the pattern all the way to doom, and then living with that doom, long before it arrives.
This is a bug in the system of our culture, but that doesn't mean we can't work to hack it. When we curate our media intake (and create our own) and when we decide what story to tell ourselves (instead of accepting the story of someone with different objectives than ours), we can rewire our inputs and the way we process them.
Same facts, different experience. On purpose.
The us/them mindset of the successful industrialist led to the inevitable and essential creation of labor unions. If, as Smith and Marx wrote, owning the means of production transfers maximum value to the factory owner, the labor union provided a necessary correction to an inherently one-sided relationship.
Industrialism is based on doing a difficult thing (making something) ever cheaper and more reliably. The union movement is the result of a group of workers insisting that they be treated fairly, despite the fact that they don't own the means of production. Before globalism, unions had the ability to limit the downward spiral of wages.
But what happens when the best jobs aren't on the assembly line, but involve connection, creation and art? What happens when making average stuff isn't sufficient to be successful? When interactions and product design and unintended (or intended) side effects are at least as important as Frederick Taylor measuring every motion and pushing to get it done as cheaply as possible?
Consider what would happen if a union used its power (collective bargaining, slowdowns, education, strikes) to push management to take risks, embrace change and most of all, do what's right for customers in a competitive age...
What if the unionized service workers demanded the freedom to actually connect with those that they are serving, and to do it without onerous scripts and a focus on reliable mediocrity?
What would have happened to Chrysler or GM if the UAW had threatened to strike in 1985 because the design of cars was so mediocre? Or if the unions had pushed hard for more and better robots, together with extensive education to be sure that their workers were the ones designing and operating them?
Or, what if the corrections union, instead of standing up for the few bad apples, pushed the system to bring daylight and humanity to their work, so that more dollars would be available for their best people?
There's a massive cultural and economic shift going on. Senior management is slowly waking up to it, as are some unions. This sort of shift feels risky, almost ridiculous, but it's a possible next step as the workers realize that their connection to the market and the internet gives them more of the means of production than ever before.
Without a doubt, there's a huge challenge in ensuring that the people who do the work are treated with appropriate respect, dignity and compensation. It's not happening nearly enough. But in an economy that rewards the race to the top so much more heavily than cutting costs a few dollars, unions have a vested interest in pushing each of their members to reject the industrial sameness that seems so efficient but ultimately leads to a race to the bottom, and jobs (their jobs), lost.
Too often, we wait. We wait to get the gig, or to make the complex sale, or to find the approval we seek. Then we decide it's time to get to work and put on our show.
The circus doesn't work that way. They don't wait to be called. They show up. They show up and sell tickets.
When you transform the order of things, the power shifts. "The circus is going to be here tomorrow, are you going?" That's a very different question than, "are you willing to go out on a limb and book the circus? If you are, we'll come to town..."
People respond to forward motion. Auctions are always more exciting than "price available on request."
When you make your customer feel stupid, you've given him no choice. He needs to blame you.
Some ways to make people feel stupid:
- Charge different prices at different outlets and shrug your shoulders when you get found out.
- Insist that the warranty ends precisely the day you said it would.
- Give new customers a great discount for signing up, but tell long-term customers that they're out of luck.
- Make your expensive items less networked, less powerful and less reliable than your cheaper ones.
- Give your customers a product, idea or service that causes them to be ridiculed or shamed by people they hope to impress.
- Sell the private data you get from customers to other marketers without asking first.
- Put the important information in your terms and conditions, in little tiny type.
- Collect money as though you're in the long-term relationship business, but in every other way, act like you don't expect the relationship to last.
- Talk about your customers (students/clients/members) behind their back in a way you'd never talk to their face (hint: it'll get back to them).
- Lower your pricing but don't honor it for people who just bought from you. That shrug again.
- Scold someone because the last three people already heard you just answer that question (but we didn't...)
- Assume the worst about a customer's intent, intelligence and background.
Most people (particularly the customers you seek) don't mind paying a little extra if it comes with dignity, confidence and a smile.
There are two kinds of, "I'm sorry."
The first kind is the apology of responsibility, of blame and of litigation. It is the four-year old saying to his brother, "I'm sorry I hit you in the face." And it is the apology of the surgeon who forgot to insert sterile dressings and almost killed you.
The other kind of sorry is an expression of humanity. It says, "I see you and I see your pain." This is the sorry we utter at a funeral, or when we hear that someone has stumbled.
You don't have to be in charge to say you're sorry. You don't even have to be responsible. All you need to do is care.
In this case, "I'm sorry," is precisely the opposite of, "I'm sorry you feel that way," which of course pushes the other person away, often forever.
As we've been busy commercializing, industrializing and lawyering the world, countless bureaucrats have forgotten what it means to be human, and have forgotten how much it means to us to hear someone say it, and mean it. "I'm sorry you missed your flight, and I can only imagine how screwed up the rest of your trip is going to be because of it."
"I see you," is what we crave.
If you want employees to go job hunting in order to leverage you into giving them a raise to keep them, then by all means, only give them a raise when they go job hunting.
If you want vendors to nickel and dime you for the last penny, then by all means, stretch out their payments and use them as a free source of cash.
If you want the home seller or the art dealer or the agent to put their goods up for auction to maximize the price you'll have to pay, then definitely punish those that don't have auctions by seeking to pay them as little as possible.
If you want internet companies to auction off your attention to the highest bidder, the best strategy is to only use services that don't charge you a fee.
If you want to be spammed, buy something from a telemarketer or an email pitch.
If you want gotchas, fine print and the hard sell, buy your car from someone who promises you the lowest price and then figures out how to make a profit some other way.
If you want customers to throw tantrums in order to get better service, my best advice is to only give a focused, urgent response to customers who throw tantrums.
Most of all, if you want customers to hear about you, make something worth talking about. And if you want customers who are loyal, act in a way that deserves loyalty.