The volatility of this tug-of-war is hard to stomach. You must pay less attention to the day-to-day incremental advances and more on achieving an overall positive slope. And that’s entirely determined by how you navigate the messy middle. The middle of the journey is all about enduring the valleys and optimizing the peaks.
One of the greatest motivators is a sign of progress. Hardship is easier to tolerate when your work is being recognized (either through external validation or financial rewards), but long journeys don’t show progress in the traditional sense. When you have no customers, no audience, and nobody knows or cares to know about what you’re making, the greatest motivators have to be manufactured. Rather than fight the need for short-term rewards, you must hack your reward system to provide them. As you craft your team’s culture, lower the bar for how you define a “win.” Celebrate anything you can, from gaining a new customer to solving a particularly vexing problem. What should you celebrate? Progress and impact. As your team takes action and works their way down the list of things to do, it is often hard for them to feel the granularity of their progress and you need to compensate. Celebrate the moments when aggressive deadlines are met or beaten. Pop champagne when the work you’ve done makes a real impact.
Give your team the gratification of seeing their progress rather than just moving on. At Behance, we had “Done Walls” that were decorated with a collage of completed project plans, checklists, and sketches that literally surrounded us with the sensation of progress. And whenever I’m presenting a forward vision presentation to my team, I try to start with a few slides recapping what the team has already accomplished. Progress is the best motivator of future progress, but it must be merchandised sufficiently so that people feel it. While
It’s dangerous to celebrate accolades or circumstances that are not linked with productivity, like getting “press” that you paid for or winning awards that are not representative of your impact.
For strong companies, financing is a tactic. For weak companies, financing is a goal.
Society has a grand immune system designed to suppress new ideas. To keep the water running and sustain life’s other necessities, society’s natural resistance to ingenuity surfaces in the form of doubt, cynicism, and pressure to conform. It takes tremendous endurance to survive such resistance.
As a leader, you can’t always provide answers. And you shouldn’t, as the correct solution may still be premature. But what you can do is always add energy. This ability to turn negative conversations into positive ones is a trait I’ve always admired.
A friend who worked for Google cofounder and CEO Larry Page told me that when teams presented product and business goals to Larry, he would often reply, “What would it take to achieve 100x of what you’re proposing?”
When you feel lost in ambiguity, ask a different question. The perfect question is a key to clarity. It unlocks truth and opens minds.
Playing the long game requires moves that don’t map to traditional measures of productivity.
To foster patience for yourself and those you lead, pick a speed that will get you there, and then pace yourself. Celebrate persistence over time as much as the occasional short-term wins you have along the way.
The easy path will only take you to a crowded place. Be wary of the path of least resistance. It may look compelling in the short term but often proves less differentiating and defensible in the long term. Shortcuts tend to be less gratifying over time. The long game is the most difficult one to play and the most bountiful one to win.
The best way for a start-up to “disrupt” an industry is to be a thesis-driven outsider—someone who hasn’t been jaded by the industry but has a strong opinion for what should change. You then just have to stay alive long enough to become an expert so you can compete with the different skills and practices you bring.
Across so many teams I’ve worked with, I’ve marveled at just how quickly an idea takes hold when someone proactively does the underlying work no one else clearly owned. There is rarely a scarcity of process or ideas but there is often a scarcity of people willing to work outside the lines. Those who take initiative to contribute when it wasn’t their job become the leadership team of the newest stuff.
The future is drafted by people doing work they don’t have to do. You need to be one of those people—and hire them, too. There is too much wondering and talking, and too little doing. So don’t talk: do. Care indiscriminately. If you’re willing to actually do the work, you’ll have more influence than those who simply do their jobs.
James Murphy, the founder and front man of LCD Soundsystem, said it well: “The best way to complain is to make things.”
Pinterest’s Ben Silberman describes this process as “always reflecting backward and incorporating forward.” As he explains it, “I actually think you learn a lot more from your successes [than your mistakes]. There are a million reasons why something can fail, but usually very few reasons why something can work. When you want to learn to be a great runner—do you study slow people or fast people? I think taking time to understand why things succeed—whether they are your successes or others—is time well spent . . . you learn the most from things that go really well by asking why. Those are the things you want to understand and do more of.”
Great teams are more than the assembly of great people. On the contrary, great teams are ultimately grown, not gathered.
You can always get more resources, but resourcefulness is a competitive advantage. Resources become depleted. Resourcefulness does not.
Past initiative is the best indicator of future initiative. Look beyond the formal résumé and ask candidates about their interests and what they have done to pursue them. It doesn’t matter what the interests are—bonsai cultivation, writing poetry, whatever! Instead, gauge whether the candidate has a history of being proactive in advancing their interests.
Hire people who have endured adversity.
Your second conversation with a potential hire should feel a lot more interesting than your first. First impressions count for a lot, but if you can’t continually build on that energy, the relationship isn’t likely to have legs beyond the initial spark. I call this kind of fire-starting ability aligned dynamism, which is when ideas vary but energy levels and a value for the mission align; this is the source of the embers that will keep burning long after the initial flint.
Be frugal with everything except your bed, your chair, your space, and your team.
Not only does a strong culture tolerate some necessary ruckus, it gains its edge from it. People disagree and fight for their beliefs only when they are engaged enough to care.
Perhaps one of the most important unspoken roles of a leader through the messy middle of a project is that of internal marketer. For all the emphasis around obsessing over your customers and your public brand and message, there is surprisingly little focus on the internal brand and message.
Present your ideas, don’t promote them.
When it comes to speed and efficiency, the greatest risk is taking a shortcut in the one area that distinguishes you the most.
Simplicity / Design
Simple is sticky. It is very hard to make a product—or any customer experience—simple. It is even harder to keep it simple. The more obvious and intuitive a product is, the harder it is to optimize it without adding complication.
Great products don’t stay simple by not evolving; they stay simple by continually improving their core value while removing features and paring back aspects that aren’t central to the core.
Forcing yourself to have a “one feature in, one feature out” guideline will help you develop your product with a bias toward simplicity. While simplicity benefits your newest customers and the majority of your current customers, it also benefits your own process to grow your product and solve problems as they arise.
Beware of creativity that compromises familiarity.
The only time you should force new behaviors or terminology is when they enable something better
Effective design is invisible.
Never stop crafting the “first mile” of your product’s experience.
I’d argue that more than 30 percent of your energy should be allocated to the first mile of your product—even when you’re well into your journey. It’s the very top of your funnel for new users, and it therefore needs to be one of the most thought-out parts of your product, not an afterthought.
Optimize the first 30 seconds for laziness, vanity, and selfishness.
Your challenge is to create product experiences for two different mind-sets, one for your potential customers and one for your engaged customers. Initially, if you want your prospective customers to engage, think of them as lazy, vain, and selfish. Then for the customers who survive the first 30 seconds and actually come through the door, build a meaningful experience and relationship that lasts a lifetime.
If you feel the need to explain how to use your product rather than empowering new customers to jump in and feel successful on their own, you’ve either failed to design a sufficient first-mile experience or your product is too complicated.
The absolute best hook in the first mile of a user experience is doing things proactively for your customers. Once you help them feel successful and proud, your customers will engage more deeply and take the time to learn and unlock the greater potential of what you’ve created.
As you’re building new products and experiences for customers, consider how they will be novel—even gamelike—before they prove useful.
You need to prime your audience to the point where they know three things:
Why they’re there
What they can accomplish
What to do next
Empathy for those suffering the problem must come before your passion for the solution.
But be sure to define the purpose of every feature in your product before determining its fate. Is it to strengthen engagement, appease a very small set of important customers, or get new customers in the door? Features with a different purpose require a different measure.
Build your narrative before your product. – The narrative is not a description of what your product is or does, it is the story of how and why it must exist.
Our narrative was that technology needed to empower creative people to make ideas happen. By uploading their portfolios, creatives could get more exposure and attribution for their work, resulting in more job opportunities. We called it “creative meritocracy,” the idea of creative people getting opportunity based on the quality of their work rather than what agency they worked with, where they went to school, or whom they happened to know.
Ollie Johnstone and Frank Thomas, two of Walt Disney’s chief animators, once said of Walt Disney himself that “there were actually three different Walts: the dreamer, the realist, and the spoiler. You never knew which one was coming into your meeting.”
Contrary to logic, you don’t want to attract all of your customers right away. You want your first cohort of willing customers to be quite small so that you can communicate directly and provide an incredibly high level of touch. At the start of your business, you want to iron out the kinks. As you expand, you want to do so slowly.
Networks are served, not led
The best advice doesn’t instruct—it provokes. The benefits of soliciting wisdom from others is indisputable, but the real value of advice comes from reconciling its contradictions.
As someone who believes wholeheartedly that self-awareness is the greatest competitive advantage for a leader, I love the idea of developing tools and norms that promote it.
The science of business is scaling; the art of business is the things that don’t.
In the early days of Behance, I used to write personal emails to a handful of customers every day introducing myself, giving some suggestions for the portfolio they posted on Behance, and offering to answer any questions directly. Many of these exchanges became relationships that lasted years and yielded customer insights that we would have never garnered from a dashboard.
Genuine relationships with and between our members was our competitive advantage against other technology companies like Squarespace and Wix that sought to commoditize websites and online portfolios.
Our in-person events for five thousand people around the world would generate tens of thousands of social media posts, and the images would ultimately reach hundreds of thousands of people. But more important, these events prompted conversations and relationships that went far beyond our brand as a service and instead made it a lifestyle.
In your work, try to find the things you love that nobody else cares about.
There are two ways to build a network and source signal: growing surface area or going deep. In the beginning of your career, optimize for surface area. As you become more focused and a source of signal in your own right, you’ll want to shift from seeking surface area to going deep with a smaller group of people whom you respect. Rather than meeting as many people as possible, you’ll want to focus on the people you deem the most competent. You also need a margin to mine circumstantial opportunities and explore the unexpected.
The busier and more ambitious we get, the more protective and intentional we become of our time—but sometimes it’s too much. Ambition shouldn’t override opportunity.
Ego is rust. So much value and potential are destroyed in its slow decay. Achievement rarely ages well, unless you keep sanding it down.
I was struck by the man’s sense of peace and happiness. His smile and mannerisms carried no weight to them—the man seemed so incredibly content with his world. So, that’s what it looks like to end on your own terms, I thought to myself. It’s not just about moving on when you’re performing at the level you always wanted to be remembered for—the desire to “end on a high.” It’s about moving on when you feel fully satiated and can therefore allow yourself to pursue something different.
One of my favorite sayings from ancient times is “Wealth is ultimately feeling like you got your full portion.” When I finish a project, I aspire to feel full. And when I lay dying, I hope to look back on what I would consider a full life.
What I got out of it
Some valuable and deep insights on the building process and how to navigate through the “messy middle.” Topics around leadership, design, simplicity, and doing things that don’t scale will stick with me
Here’s the “big idea” in 76 words: There is a fundamental disconnect between the way we pitch anything and the way it is received by our audience. As a result, at the crucial moment, when it is most important to be convincing, nine out of ten times we are not. Our most important messages have a surprisingly low chance of getting through.
What is a frame?
A frame is the instrument you use to package your power, authority, strength, information, and status. In the most basic sense, what are the frames I have been talking about here? Frames are psychological referencing systems that all people use to gain a perspective and relevance on issues. Frames influence judgment. Frames change the meaning of human behavior. And when you set the frame correctly, you control the agenda, which, of course, is important to do because every situation can be seen from many different angles. Frame control is about controlling which angle your deal is seen from. A frame helps to package a deal in a way that encourages certain interpretations and discourages others.
The person who owns the frame owns the conversation. Necessary skills: setting the frame, telling the story, revealing the intrigue, offering the prize, nailing the hookpoint, and getting the decision. Collectively, I call these the STRONG method
When you are responding ineffectively to things the other person is saying and doing, that person owns the frame, and you are being frame-controlled.
If you have to explain your authority, power, position, leverage, and advantage, you do not hold the stronger frame. Rational appeals to higher order, logical thinking never win frame collisions or gain frame control. Notice, the officer does not need to pitch you on why he is going to issue you a citation.
Strong frames are impervious to rational arguments. Weak arguments, made up of logical discussions and facts, just bounce off strong frames.
Whenever you are entering a business situation, the first question you must ask is, “What kind of frame am I up against?”
Frames mainly involve basic desires. These are the domain of the croc brain. It would be fair to say that strong frames activate basic desires.
Communicate to the croc brain
Must recognize and be able to communicate to other’s reptile brains. The fact that you are pitching your idea from the neocortex but it is being received by the other person’s croc brain is a serious problem. If your pitch is complicated—if it contains abstract language and lacks visual cues—then it is perceived as a threat. Not a threat in the sense that the person listening to your pitch fears he is going to be attacked, but a threat because without cues and context, the croc brain concludes that your pitch has the potential to absorb massive amounts of brain power to comprehend.
You are jacking into the wetware that controls their brains, their primordial programming. You are simultaneously communicating with them on the surface and below the surface of their consciousness.
Make the croc brain feel safe – feed it short vignettes of clear, visual, and novel information and don’t make it do much work.
As you will see, it begins by setting the frame for your pitch, putting your big idea into an easily understood context. And then, once the frame is established, you must seize high social status so that you have a solid platform from which to pitch. Then you must create messages that are full of intrigue and novelty.
The moment your frame makes contact with the frame of the person you are calling on, they clash, battle, and grapple for dominance. If your frame wins, you will enjoy frame control, where your ideas are accepted (and followed) by the others. But if your frame loses, though, you will be at the mercy of your customer, and your success will depend on that customer’s charity.
There are the two questions we always ask ourselves after we have made a presentation or pitch: 1. Did I get through? 2. Was my message well received?
As soon as the pitch or presentation begins, one critical thing must happen: The target must feel at ease. In the vast majority of cases, they don’t because they don’t know how long they’re going to be stuck listening to you, and you’re a stranger. Most people just don’t want to sit through an hour-long pitch. To put them at ease, I have a simple solution: It’s called the time-constraint pattern. This is what you say, exactly, to let the target know he isn’t trapped in the typical hour-long-meeting: “Guys, let’s get started. I’ve only got about 20 minutes to give you the big idea, which will leave us some time to talk it over before I have to get out of here.” Doing it this way puts the target at ease. It shows that you know what you’re doing and that you’re a pro. Anything can be pitched in 20 minutes by a pro. It also shows that you’re busy because you have a strong idea and you can’t hang out too long in a single meeting. What’s important here is not your mastery over the details but your mastery over attention and time.
Different types of frames
Going into most business situations, there are three major types of opposing frames that you will encounter:
Power frame – The power frame comes from the individual who has a massive ego. His power is rooted in his status—a status derived from the fact that others give this person honor and respect. You will know that you are facing a power frame when you encounter arrogance, lack of interest (a vibe that conveys “I’m more important than you”), rudeness, and similar imperial behaviors.
Power-busting frame – When you approach an opposing power frame, your first and most important objective is to avoid falling into the other person’s frame by reacting to it. And make absolutely certain that you do nothing that strengthens the other person’s frame before your frames collide. Observing power rituals in business situations—such as acting deferential, engaging in meaningless small talk, or letting yourself be told what to do—reinforces the alpha status of your target and confirms your subordinate position. Do not do this! To instigate a power frame collision, use a mildly shocking but not unfriendly act to cause it. Use defiance and light humor. This captures attention and elevates your status by creating something called “local star power.”
Time frame – Frames involving time tend to occur later in the social exchange, after someone has already established frame control. Again, if you want to know who has the frame, it’s easy to observe. When you are reacting to the other person, that person owns the frame. When the other person is reacting to what you do and say, you own the frame. If you wait for someone in the audience to say (or give body language to the effect), “We only have a few minutes left, so let’s wrap this up,” you will lose the frame because you now have to react to that person. Instead, when you see attention begin to bottom out and expire, that’s it. You’re done. Stay in control of time, and start wrapping up. Running long or beyond the point of attention shows weakness, neediness, and desperation.
Time constraining frame – When you encounter a time frame like this, quickly break it with a stronger prize frame of your own. Qualify your target on the spot. YOU: “No. I don’t work like that. There’s no sense in rescheduling unless we like each other and trust each other. I need to know, are you good to work with, can you keep appointments, and stick to a schedule?” YOUR TARGET: “Okay, you’re right about that. Yeah, sure I can. Let’s do this now. I have 30 minutes. That’s no problem. Come on in.” You have just broken your target’s time frame, established that your time is important, and he is now giving you focused attention instead of treating your visit like an annoyance.
Analyst frame – How many times have you been giving a presentation when suddenly one or more people in the room take a deep dive into technical details? That’s the analyst frame coming at you. This is especially common in industries that involve engineers and financial analysts. This frame will kill your pitch.
Intrigue frame – It is important to realize that human beings are unable to have hot cognitions and cold cognitions simultaneously. The brain is not wired that way. Hot cognitions are feelings like wanting or desire or excitement, and cold cognitions come from “cold” processes like analysis and problem solving. To maintain frame control and momentum, you must force your audience to be analytical on its own time. You do this by separating the technical and detailed material from your presentation. Keep the target focused on the business relationship at all times. Analysis comes later. This is the best and most reliable way to deal with a target who suddenly becomes bored and tries to entertain himself with the details of your deal. Your intrigue story needs the following elements:
It must be brief, and the subject must be relevant to your pitch.
You need to be at the center of the story
There should be risk, danger, and uncertainty.
There should be time pressure—a clock is ticking somewhere, and there are ominous consequences if action is not taken quickly.
There should be tension—you are trying to do something but are being blocked by some force.
There should be serious consequences—failure will not be pretty.
There is a fourth frame you can deploy. It’s useful against all three of the opposing frames and many others you will encounter:
Prize frame – What you do is reframe everything your audience does and says as if they are trying to win you over. To solidify the prize frame, you make the buyer qualify himself to you. “Can you tell me more about yourself? I’m picky about who I work with.” At a primal, croc brain level, you have just issued a challenge: Why do I want to do business with you? Prizing is a way to deal with threatening and fast-approaching frames that are likely to push you into a low-status position. When you prize, you frame yourself as high value in the eyes of your target. Prize correctly, and your target will be chasing you.
If you want to get started with this, in a simple, low-risk way, here is a phrase I often use to set the prize frame firmly in place: “I’m glad I could find the time to meet with you today. And I do have another meeting right after this. Let’s get started.” This is always a good start because it tells the audience that there are many like them but only one of you.
How to Pitch
You’re going to make the pitch in four sections or phases:
Introduce yourself and the big idea: 5 minutes.
The key to success here is making it about your track record. Things you built. Projects that actually worked out. Successes. Spend less than two minutes on it and definitely not more
Here’s the basic formula: 1. Want nothing. 2. Focus only on things you do well. 3. Announce your intention to leave the social encounter.
Explain the budget and secret sauce: 10 minutes.
You’re almost ready to pitch the “big idea.” But first, a reminder of the obvious: Nobody wants to invest time or money into an old deal that has been sitting around. This is why you need to introduce a “Why now?” frame. It’s vitally important that the target knows that your idea is new, emerging from current market opportunities and that it’s not some relic left over from bygone days.
When you describe your idea, project, or product, first give it context by framing it against these three market forces or trending patterns that you believe are important: Economic forces, Social forces, Technology forces.
Describe the genesis of your idea, how it evolved, and the opportunity you saw as it was emerging. The backstory of the idea is always interesting to the target.
This idea introduction pattern goes like this: “For [target customers] Who are dissatisfied with [the current offerings in the market]. My idea/product is a [new idea or product category] That provides [key problem/solution features]. Unlike [the competing product]. My idea/product is [describe key features].
Offer the deal: 2 minutes.
Humor, fun, and light-heartedness are crucial components of every pitch. Importantly, the humor is not there to relieve tension. Instead, it’s there to signal that although the tension is real, you are so confident that you can play around a little. Perhaps it’s best to think about it this way: People who have lots of options are not uptight, and they don’t take themselves too seriously. If you talk to frame masters, they’ll tell you that the secret of success is to create tension in a fun way that invites people to join in the frame game.
Stack frames for a hot cognition: 3 minutes.
To avoid cold, reasoned analysis, unemotional judgment of ourselves and our idea, we are going to create hot cognition by stacking frames. The Wall Street trader ran this stack on me perfectly: I was intrigued, I was trying to impress him so I could have a chance to buy the deal, he boxed me into a very tight time frame and yet I felt no pressure, and I was trying hard to prove that I had a good moral values. I was a puppet.
The effect of time on decision making has been researched for 100 years, and nothing has changed about human nature in that time: In nearly all instances, the addition of time pressure to a decision-making event reduces decision quality.
You can trigger a hot cognition instantly, but cold cognition can take hours or days. Most presentations are set up to take the target down the path of a cold cognition. They try to justify the big idea with facts and information. Hot cognitions encode value. It’s the anticipation of a large financial gain that is emotionally compelling to the target.
As we have been discussing, reality isn’t waiting to be discovered—it’s waiting to be framed. By stacking four frames quickly one after the other, you can achieve the hot cognition in the target—helping the target to discover a wanting.
What I got out of it
The frame is what you use to package your power and status. You need to control the frame or else other’s frames will control you. Understand that you should be communicating with the most basic part of people’s base nature: their croc brain. Make them feel safe. Keep things simple. Let them understand how they will directly benefit. Being aware of the 3 main frames and how to bust them – power, time, analyst – is also incredibly valuable
We’re in a connection economy in which those who connect others will succeed.
To create something that others want to join and support, we have to remember a core tenet: communities function best and are most durable when they’re helping members to be more successful in some way in a connected and dynamic world.
A community is a group of individuals who share mutual concern for each other’s welfare. When we form a community that grows friendship, we create what we seek, friends who care about the welfare of one another. Strong communities teach members how to succeed in ways they cannot achieve on their own. The education comes from a body of knowledge and wisdom that members cannot access or manage on their own. So, in a strong community, members must know how to access the knowledge held by others. This can be informal (by hanging out with other members) or formal (with personal lessons, classes, or apprenticeships).
Your success in growing a community will depend on how well you can understand and articulate the following features:
Who am I? How should I act? What do I believe? I call this membership identity.
Ideally, all insiders’ names are known.
Boundary: The line between members and outsiders
This boundary should be more about making the inside space safe for insiders than about keeping outsiders out.
Many leaders confuse self-selection (no invitation necessary) with “everyone belongs.”
Gatekeepers are important for helping visitors across the boundary. They’re the people who can give newcomers access to the community.
Initiation: The activities that mark a new member
An initiation is a kind of ritual, and the best rituals come with symbols and tokens.
We all want to know that we’re truly accepted into the communities we join. An initiation is any activity that’s understood as official recognition and welcome into the community. The initiation helps members understand clearly who’s part of the community. It marks the completed journey over the boundary and into the inner ring.
A personal letter or telephone call that welcomes a new member can be powerful.
They’ll look for something to interpret as an initiation if one isn’t offered. This may be an extemporaneous compliment from a leader, an invitation to teach other insiders, or more intimate invitations away from outer ring activities, such as a private party, an intimate conversation, or an unadvertised gathering.
Rituals: The things we do that have meaning
Invitations resolve the crisis of belonging and as a solution they are so simple as to be almost unbelievable. The invitations can be to social gatherings, insider events, or one-on-one time. When we as leaders extend invitations, two things happen that break down a crisis of belonging. First, when we extend invitations, we establish ourselves as having the power to invite, no matter what formal role or title, if any, we might have.
Strong communities create both formal and informal rituals. There are as many types of ritual as your imagination can conjure up. They often rely on special symbols and are important emotionally. Remember: feeling connected, trusted, appreciated, and welcome is all in the realm of emotion.
Temple: A place set aside to find our community
Stories: What we share that allows others and ourselves to know our values
Among the most important stories are origin stories. By definition, these stories explain how something started, i.e., its origin. There can be different origin stories for different parts of a community. But there must be a single origin story about how the founders were inspired to form the community. The story must include how they learned something new, did something new, and then invited others to join them.
Symbols: The things that represent ideas that are important to us
You’ll have to choose when and what you can offer as tokens to help others remember their belonging, accomplishments, and commitments. Anything can be a token. Pins, scarves, medals, flags, and certificates are commonly used. Even a small rock can make a perfectly good token if presented in a sacred way. The tokens for your community should represent your values.
To use the power of tokens we can use a few simple principles. Intention: Tell the receiver why you’re giving it to her. Symbolism: Tell her what it represents to you.
Inner Rings: A path to growth as we participate.
An exploration zone is important for visitors. This is how we protect insiders while giving outsiders a chance to participate, to learn more about our community, and to decide whether it’s right for them. We can encourage explorers by sharing some specified activities and areas, but not all. These are outer ring activities. Areas reserved for insiders (whether formal or informal) are inner ring.
If you prefer welcoming visitors to all community activities, an inner ring can be designated by privileges (at these same events). This means that members are allowed to do things that visitors are not. These privileges might include the following: Providing opening remarks Inviting guests Scheduling events Reserving space Teaching skills
On our journey, we want to be taught, and we also want to teach. This is why creating opportunities to both mentor and be mentored are powerful.
Features of a sustainable community:
First, there’s a clear group identity with understood boundaries and purpose. Members know who is in or out and why they’re together.
Second, benefits and costs are proportional. Members have a system that rewards contribution. Getting more benefits than others must be earned, or the group will collapse.
Third, decisions are made together. Members make decisions in a way they recognize is fair. This doesn’t necessarily mean by consensus or simply by voting. It does mean that there’s group participation.
Fourth, there’s effective monitoring of violators or free riders. If members don’t trust others to obey the rules, then they’ll lose faith in the community.
Fifth, there are graduated sanctions for those who disrespect community rules. Small violations get small sanctions. Large violations get serious punishment.
Sixth, conflict-resolution mechanisms are inexpensive and easy to access. Conflicts can be handled quickly and in ways that members think is fair.
Seventh, there’s recognition of some sort of rights to organize (for example, by the government). People must be allowed to organize for their own reasons. If they’re forbidden to do so, that limits the third principle (making decisions together).
Eighth, for groups that are parts of bigger groups and networks, there must be coordination for relevant groups. Some activities are best handled in small groups, and some may require the involvement of many people. It’s important that the right-size group—neither too big nor too small—handle whatever is at hand.
His research indicates that “meaningfulness” involves understanding our own lives beyond the present time and place.
Ostrom is a Nobel Prize–winning economist who has identified eight features necessary to maintain a stable community property resource.1 This wisdom applies to many of the communities you’ll grow. While Ostrom’s work overlaps with ideas I have already shared, it focuses more on long-term community management than on creating belonging and is worth exploring further for additional applications.
I have a birthday tradition where I clear my calendar to make sure I do at least two things that day. The first is to write a letter to myself about what’s happened in the past year, how I feel, and what I aspire to do in the future. This causes me to reflect on how I’ve spent my time and who’s been involved. Then I make a list of the people who made a difference to me, and I call them one at a time, right down the list.
What I got out of it
The “structure” and “process” of a healthy community is really helpful to understand. The process from initial contact to inner rings is a valuable insight in terms of helping the members feel increasingly attached and excited about the community
Shut your mouth, breathe only through your nose, exhale longer than you inhale, chew a lot to build up the muscles in your mouth and face which then opens up your airways, breathe a lot on occasion, hold your breath on occasion, breathe in and out every 11 seconds
Your breath is a key pillar in your health and wellness
Nose breathing helps you stay in aerobic rather than anaerobic, which is 16x more effective
The body craves more carbon dioxide, not oxygen. It is the chief hormone if the entire body
Slow breathing, particularly exhalation, has tremendous positive benefits. People breathe too much, breathe less and as lightly as possible
Buteyko breathing and other practices that help you slow down your breathing and breathe less have shown remarkably effective in helping all sorts of diseases. Counterintuitively, You want to increase the carbon dioxide in your blood. Increase the time for exhalation, rest, inhalation – it is no wonder or surprise that slowing down your breathing and heart rate can help you live longer. The ideal is 5.5 inhales and exhales per minute
The modern diet has shrunken our mouths, faces, and airways, making us terrible breathers. However, it isn’t just the vitamins, but the softness of our foods. Our ancestors chewed for hours per day which gave us a wide and strong mouth and jaw
Proper posture, a lot of chewing of hard foods, and some mewing will help improve your breathing
Those with the worst anxiety tend to have the worst breathing – fast and shallow. Simply by learning how to breathe properly, panic attacks and general anxiety were greatly reduced
Prana (life force, chi, rua, etc…) is a very little understood force. It isn’t hormones or oxygen, but something more. Master yogis have shown that they can focus their prana on different parts of the body to have it heat up, sweat, slow down / speed up their hearts, etc.
What I got out of it
Loved learning about the lengths Nestor went to learn about breathing. This is such a ubiquitous and automatic process, yet in today’s world it has been hijacked and is something we need to bring into our consciousness. Simply breathe slower, through your nose
The soul of leisure, it can be said, lies in “celebration”. Celebration is the point at which the three elements of leisure come to a focus: relaxation, effortlessness, and superiority of “active leisure” to all functions.
When a culture is in the process of denying its own roots, it becomes most important to know what these roots are. We had best know what we reject before we reject it. If we are going to build a chair, the first thing we need to know, above all else, is what a chair is. Otherwise, we can do nothing.
This little book by the German philosopher Josef Pieper is simply a gem. No book its size will teach us so many true things about everything we need to know to understand what and why we are or about how to live a life worth living. This book is one of the first I recommend for waking us up to what life is all about, to what is essential to and glorious about our lives.
Culture depends for its very existence on leisure, and leisure, in its turn, is not possible unless it has a durable and consequently living link with the cultus, with divine worship.
The original conception of leisure, as it arose in the civilized world of Greece, has, however, become unrecognizable in the world of planned diligence and “total labor”; and in order to gain a clear notion of leisure we must begin by setting aside the prejudice—our prejudice—that comes from overvaluing the sphere of work. In his well-known study of capitalism Max Weber1 quotes the saying, that “one does not work to live; one lives to work”, which nowadays no one has much difficulty in understanding: it expresses the current opinion. We even find some difficulty in grasping that it reverses the order of things and stands them on their head.
And in the same way, the essence of knowledge does not consist in the effort for which it calls, but in grasping existing things and in unveiling reality. Moreover, just as the highest form of virtue knows nothing of “difficulty”, so too the highest form of knowledge comes to man like a gift—the sudden illumination, a stroke of genius, true contemplation; it comes effortlessly and without trouble.
The inmost significance of the exaggerated value which is set upon hard work appears to be this: man seems to mistrust everything that is effortless; he can only enjoy, with a good conscience, what he has acquired with toil and trouble; he refuses to have anything as a gift.
Education concerns the whole man; an educated man is a man with a point of view from which he takes in the whole world. Education concerns the whole man, man capax universi, capable of grasping the totality of existing things.
I have never bothered or asked”, Goethe said to Friedrich Soret in 1830, “in what way I was useful to society as a whole; I contented myself with expressing what I recognized as good and true. That has certainly been useful in a wide circle; but that was not the aim; it was the necessary result.”35 In the Middle Ages the same view prevailed. “It is necessary for the perfection of human society”, Aquinas writes, “that there should be men who devote their lives to contemplation”—nota bene, necessary not only for the good of the individual who so devotes himself, but for the good of human society.
Leisure, it must be clearly understood, is a mental and spiritual attitude—it is not simply the result of external factors, it is not the inevitable result of spare time, a holiday, a weekend or a vacation. It is, in the first place, an attitude of mind, a condition of the soul, and as such utterly contrary to the ideal of “worker” in each and every one of the three aspects under which it was analyzed: work as activity, as toil, as a social function. Compared with the exclusive ideal of work as activity, leisure implies (in the first place) an attitude of non-activity, of inward calm, of silence; it means not being “busy”, but letting things happen. Leisure is a form of silence, of that silence which is the prerequisite of the apprehension of reality: only the silent hear and those who do not remain silent do not hear. Silence, as it is used in this context, does not mean “dumbness” or “noiselessness”; it means more nearly that the soul’s power to “answer” to the reality of the world is left undisturbed. For leisure is a receptive attitude of mind, a contemplative attitude, and it is not only the occasion but also the capacity for steeping oneself in the whole of creation.
leisure does not exist for the sake of work—however much strength it may give a man to work; the point of leisure is not to be a restorative, a pick-me-up, whether mental or physical; and though it gives new strength, mentally and physically, and spiritually too, that is not the point. Leisure, like contemplation, is of a higher order than the vita activa (although the active life is the proper human life in a more special sense). And order, in this sense, cannot be overturned or reversed. Thus, however true it may be that the man who says his nightly prayers sleeps the better for it, nevertheless no one could say his nightly prayers with that in mind. In the same way, no one who looks to leisure simply to restore his working powers will ever discover the fruit of leisure; he will never know the quickening that follows, almost as though from some deep sleep. The point and the justification of leisure are not that the functionary should function faultlessly and without a breakdown, but that the functionary should continue to be a man—and that means that he should not be wholly absorbed in the clear-cut milieu of his strictly limited function; the point is also that he should retain the faculty of grasping the world as a whole and realizing his full potentialities as an entity meant to reach Wholeness.14 Because Wholeness is what man strives for, the power to achieve leisure is one of the fundamental powers of the human soul.
What I got out of it
Leisure implies n attitude of non-activity, of inward calm, of silence; it means not being “busy”, but letting things happen.
Liz Marvin describes what we can learn from a variety of different trees to improve our thinking and life.
Mangrove – Life can often feel like a struggle, and it’s easy to get caught up in dealing with the day-to-day. Although thoughts of the future can be overwhelming, it really does pay to plan ahead. Mangroves have developed some amazing adaptations so they can live in salty water, even finding a clever way to use the water to spread future generations of trees. Instead of seeds, mangroves produce little seedlings called propagules that grow from the parent plant until they are big enough to float away on the current and take root in their own spot
Giant Sequoia – We all push ourselves too hard sometimes and don’t always appreciate the things within our reach. If this is you, think about the giant sequoia. This amazing tree can grow as tall as a skyscraper, but it still knows when to stop and take stock. Trees use a clever process of evaporation to pump water up to the canopies, were photosynthesis takes place. But the laws of physics dictate that this only works up to about 390 feet. The tallest tree on earth is a giant sequoia called Hyperion that stands at 379 feet. See?
Sugar Maple – we’ve all felt like a small sapling in a big forest at some point. So when you start to get a bit more established, with a little patch of sunlight to call your own, don’t forget the little guys coming up behind. Woodland trees like the sugar maple use their underground networks to pump sugars to the younger generation who might be struggling in the shade. So look around. Does anyone in your forest need a bit of help to get them growing?
What I got out of it
Beautiful book that should be paired with Hidden Life of Trees. So much to learn from the book of nature
The 80/20 Principle applied to business has one key theme—to generate the most money with the least expenditure of assets and effort. But, what is the 80/20 Principle? The 80/20 Principle tells us that in any population, some things are likely to be much more important than others. A good benchmark or hypothesis is that 80 percent of results or outputs flow from 20 percent of causes, and sometimes from a much smaller proportion of powerful forces…The 80/20 pattern that we have come to recognize for over a century—and which has been remarkably consistent, varying mainly between, say, 70/30 and 90/10—is rapidly increasing to 90/10 and 99/1. Understanding this trend and how to be on the right side of it can change your life
It is very rarely true that 50 percent of causes lead to 50 percent of results. The universe is predictably unbalanced. Few things really matter. Truly effective people and organizations batten on to the few powerful forces at work in their worlds and turn them to their advantage.
In 1949 Zipf discovered the “Principle of Least Effort,” which was actually a rediscovery and elaboration of Pareto’s principle. Zipf’s principle said that resources (people, goods, time, skills, or anything else that is productive) tended to arrange themselves so as to minimize work, so that approximately 20–30 percent of any resource accounted for 70–80 percent of the activity related to that resource.
In 1963, IBM discovered that about 80 percent of a computer’s time is spent executing about 20 percent of the operating code. The company immediately rewrote its operating software to make the most-used 20 percent very accessible and user friendly, thus making IBM computers more efficient and faster than competitors’ machines for the majority of applications.
The reason that the 80/20 Principle is so valuable is that it is counterintuitive. We tend to expect that all causes will have roughly the same significance. That all customers are equally valuable. That every bit of business, every product, and every dollar of sales revenue is as good as any other. this “50/50 fallacy” is one of the most inaccurate and harmful, as well as the most deeply rooted, of our mental maps. The 80/20 Principle asserts that when two sets of data, relating to causes and results, can be examined and analyzed, the most likely result is that there will be a pattern of imbalance. The imbalance may be 65/35, 70/30, 75/25, 80/20, 95/5, or 99.9/0.1, or any set of numbers in between. However, the two numbers in the comparison don’t have to add up to 100. The 80/20 Principle also asserts that when we know the true relationship, we are likely to be surprised at how unbalanced it is.
Related to the idea of feedback loops is the concept of the tipping point. Up to a certain point, a new force—whether it is a new product, a disease, a new rock group, or a new social habit such as jogging or roller blading—finds it difficult to make headway. A great deal of effort generates little by way of results. At this point many pioneers give up. But if the new force persists and can cross a certain invisible line, a small amount of additional effort can reap huge returns. This invisible line is the tipping point. The concept comes from the principles of epidemic theory. The tipping point is “the point at which an ordinary and stable phenomenon—a low-level flu outbreak—can turn into a public-health crisis,”10 because of the number of people who are infected and can therefore infect others. And since the behavior of epidemics is nonlinear and they don’t behave in the way we expect, “small changes—like bringing new infections down to thirty thousand from forty thousand—can have huge effects…It all depends when and how the changes are made.”
A few things are important; most are not.
The common view is that we are short of time. My application of the 80/20 Principle suggests the reverse: that we are actually awash with time and profligate in its abuse.
Conventional wisdom is not to put all your eggs in one basket. 80/20 wisdom is to choose a basket carefully, load all your eggs into it, and then watch it like a hawk.
A new and complementary way to use the 80/20 Principle is what I call 80/20 Thinking. This requires deep thought about any issue that is important to you and asks you to make a judgment on whether the 80/20 Principle is working in that area.
Application of the 80/20 Principle implies that we should do the following:
Celebrate exceptional productivity, rather than raise average efforts
Look for the short cut, rather than run the full course
Exercise control over our lives with the least possible effort
Be selective, not exhaustive
Strive for excellence in few things, rather than good performance in many
Delegate or outsource as much as possible in our daily lives and be encouraged rather than penalized by tax systems to do this (use gardeners, car mechanics, decorators, and other specialists to the maximum, instead of doing the work ourselves)
Choose our careers and employers with extraordinary care, and if possible employ others rather than being employed ourselves
Only do the thing we are best at doing and enjoy most
Look beneath the normal texture of life to uncover ironies and oddities
In every important sphere, work out where 20 percent of effort can lead to 80 percent of returns
Calm down, work less and target a limited number of very valuable goals where the 80/20 Principle will work for us, rather than pursuing every available opportunity.
Make the most of those few “lucky streaks” in our life where we are at our creative peak and the stars line up to guarantee success.
Consider the Interface Corporation of Georgia, now an $800 million carpet supplier. It used to sell carpets; now it leases them, installing carpet tiles rather than whole carpets. Interface realized that 20 percent of any carpet receives 80 percent of the wear. Normally a carpet is replaced when most of it is still perfectly good. Under Interface’s leasing scheme, carpets are regularly inspected and any worn or damaged carpet tile is replaced. This lowers costs for both Interface and the customer. A trivial 80/20 observation has transformed one company and could lead to widespread future changes in the industry.
Understanding the cost of complexity allows us to take a major leap forward in the debate about corporate size. It is not that small is beautiful. All other things being equal, big is beautiful. But all other things are not equal. Big is only ugly and expensive because it is complex. Big can be beautiful. But it is simple that is always beautiful.
All effective techniques to reduce costs use three 80/20 insights: simplification, through elimination of unprofitable activity; focus, on a few key drivers of improvements; and comparison of performance.
Because business is wasteful, and because complexity and waste feed on each other, a simple business will always be better than a complex business. Because scale is normally valuable, for any given level of complexity, it is better to have a larger business. The large and simple business is the best. The way to create something great is to create something simple. Anyone who is serious about delivering better value to customers can easily do so, by reducing complexity. Any large business is stuffed full of passengers—unprofitable products, processes, suppliers, customers, and, heaviest of all, managers. The passengers obstruct the evolution of commerce. Progress requires simplicity, and simplicity requires ruthlessness. This helps to explain why simple is as rare as it is beautiful.
But profitability is only a scorecard providing an after-the-fact measure of a business’s health. The real measure of a healthy business lies in the strength, depth, and length of its relationship with its core customers. Customer loyalty is the basic fact that drives profitability in any case.
When something is working well, double and redouble your bets.
Impose an impossible time scale This will ensure that the project team does only the really high-value tasks:
When I was a partner at management consultants Bain & Company, we proved conclusively that the best-managed projects we undertook—those that had the highest client and consultant satisfaction, the least wasted time, and the highest margins—were those where there was the greatest ratio of planning time to execution time.
Build up a long list of spurious concerns and requirements early in a negotiation, making them seem as important to you as possible. These points must, however, be inherently unreasonable, or at least incapable of concession by the other party without real hurt (otherwise they will gain credit for being flexible and conceding the points). Then, in the closing stages of the negotiation, you can concede the points that are unimportant to you in exchange for more than a fair share of the really important points.
If your insights are not unconventional, you are not thinking 80/20.
We have been conditioned to think that high ambition must go with thrusting hyperactivity, long hours, ruthlessness, the sacrifice both of self and others to the cause, and extreme busyness. In short, the rat race. We pay dearly for this association of ideas. The combination is neither desirable nor necessary. A much more attractive, and at least equally attainable, combination is that of extreme ambition with confidence, relaxation, and a civilized manner. This is the 80/20 ideal, but it rests on solid empirical foundations. Most great achievements are made through a combination of steady application and sudden insight. The key is not effort, but finding the right thing to achieve.
The Top 10 highest-value uses of time
Things that advance your overall purpose in life
Things you have always wanted to do
Things already in the 20/80 relationship of time to results
Innovative ways of doing things that promise to slash the time required and/or multiply the quality of results
Things other people tell you can’t be done
Things other people have done successfully in a different arena
Things that use your own creativity
Things that you can get other people to do for you with relatively little effort on your part
Anything with high-quality collaborators who have already transcended the 80/20 rule of time, who use time eccentrically and effectively
Things for which it is now or never
When thinking about any potential use of time, ask two questions: • Is it unconventional? • Does it promise to multiply effectiveness? It is unlikely to be a good use of time unless the answer to both questions is yes.
It is important to focus on what you find easy. This is where most motivational writers go wrong. They assume you should try things that are difficult for you;
The 80/20 Principle is clear. Pursue those few things where you are amazingly better than others and that you enjoy most.
10 golden rules for career success
Specialize in a very small niche; develop a core skill
Choose a niche that you enjoy, where you can excel and stand a chance of becoming an acknowledged leader
Realize that knowledge is power
Identify your market and your core customers and serve them best
Identify where 20 percent of effort gives 80 percent of returns
Learn from the best
Become self-employed early in your career
Employ as many net value creators as possible
Use outside contractors for everything but your core skill
Exploit capital leverage
Obtain the four forms of labor leverage. First, leverage your own time. Second, capture 100 percent of its value by becoming self-employed. Third, employ as many net value creators as possible. Fourth, contract out everything that you and your colleagues are not several times better at doing.
Koch’s 10 commandments of investment
Make your investment philosophy reflect your personality
Be proactive and unbalanced
Invest mainly in the stock market
Invest for the long term
Invest most when the market is low
If you can’t beat the market, track it
Build your investments on your expertise
Consider the merits of emerging markets
Cull your loss makers
Run your gains
No doubt you have your own pressure points. Write them down: now! Consciously engineer your life to avoid them; write down how: now! Check each month how far you are succeeding. Congratulate yourself on each small avoidance victory.
I think I know the explanation, and it also explains why 80/20 is becoming even more prevalent, affecting our lives in mysterious and perplexing ways. The answer is in the burgeoning power of networks. The number and influence of networks has been growing for a long time, at first a slow increase over the past few centuries, but since about 1970 the increase has become faster and more dramatic. Networks also behave in an 80/20 way—in the way characteristic of 80/20 distributions. And often in an extremely lopsided way. So the principle is becoming more pervasive because the same is true of networks. More networks, more 80/20 phenomena.
In keeping with the selective nature of the principle, this short chapter gives you the five most potent hints that I have discovered in four decades of searching.
Only work in networks
Small size, very high growth
ONly work for an 80/20 boss – someone who consciously or unconsciously follows the principle
Find your 80/20 idea
Become joyfully, usefully unique
Those who have embraced the principle find that the line between work and non-work becomes increasingly blurred. In this sense, the yin and yang of life are re-established. Although there are two apparently opposite dimensions to the 80/20 Principle—efficiency and life enhancement—the dimensions are entirely complementary and interwoven. The efficiency dimension allows us room for the life-enhancing dimension. The common thread is knowing what gives us the results we want, and knowing what matters.
What I got out of it
Nothing “new”, but incredible reminders and thoughtful ways to implement 80/20 thinking into your life. Be ruthless about finding what these things are and double down on them
Diving into the rise of the epic tech companies of the 21st century – Uber and AirBnb
Travis’ Law – politicians who are accountable to their people can be influenced if the product or service being delivered is markedly better than the status quo
The best but hardest solution is to meet the people who hate you – Brian Chesky
Amazing how often a company has to recreate itself as it scales. The right approach, leadership, philosophy, strategy, mindset that gets you from 0 to 1, often isn’t the mindset that lets you create a large and enduring company
What I got out of it
An inspiring overview of the founding and growth of two epic companies. Makes you want to go out and build something world changing. Didn’t take a lot of notes, but the stories behind these two companies is so amazing to learn about
The economy is currently seen as a machine we can optimize, but is more accurately seen as a complex adaptive system. In this view, it changes how we should approach, understanding any action will have an impact and will require constant adjustment. It also forces optimization of a second feature beyond efficiency, resiliency. If the machine metaphor is kept in place it will simply allow those who are in control to profit for longer then if we treated the economy as a complex adaptive system
In a CAS, there is no perfection or end in sight. The players adapt reflexively and this must always be taken into account. Relentless tweaking is the best route to steer towards a perfection that will never be achieved
Metaphors are so powerful, which is why changing the “economy is a machine” to the economy is a complex adaptive system is so important
Surrogation – when you surrogate the terrain for the map, when proxies become goals. The followers of great thinkers often take their ideas too far, mistaking more for better. More trade agreements, more efficiency, more division of labor is not always better
Economic effects are not independent. One action could cause more of that action as scale and efficiencies increase. Interdependence moves us from a Gaussian to a Pareto distribution
Pressure can help drive efficiencies and progress but it can also be taken too far if the incentives are not aligned. You just also introduce some limits and fridtion in order to ensure resiliency. These can be thought of as productive frictions in the long term. For example, pitchers are more likely to blow out their arms in the end of a game than the beginning. Pitch count restrictions help limit how much a pitcher can do and therefore prolongs the pitchers life in the long term
Must balance connectedness with separation, efficiency and resilience, pressure and friction, perfection and improvement
Anomalies are a treasure trove. Answers to really difficult problems tend to be found in Data points that don’t fit the current framework. Don’t ignore them, dive into them
Joe’s Stone Crab is the most profitable standalone restaurant in the US. It has been around for over 100 years (resiliency) and is profitable (efficiency). They treat their company like a CAS and don’t fall prey to linear and reductionist thinking. They understand how some frictions actually make the overall system healthier. Similarly, The Four Seasons takes a win/win mentality with every stakeholder and enjoys the longest employee tenure in the industry and massive profits. They take a holistic view and don’t have a “head of guest experiences” because they feel that is every employees’ responsibility. Slack is not the enemy – seek optimal slack rather than zero slack
To avoid proxies becoming a goal, use multiple internal proxies that tend to be contradictory to measure progress of the model against the goal. This forces a systems thinking rather than a reductionist one. Southwest Airlines uses 4 proxies – cost, customer satisfaction, employee satisfaction and profitability
Argues against monopolies as it leads to complacency, bloat and fragility. Great companies need great competitors to keep them great
What I got out of it
Fascinating deep dive into complex adaptive systems and how organizations can learn from complexity science how to build a robust firm that is also efficient. Efficiency is not the be all end all, some slack is necessary. Infinite tweaking and adjusting is necessary in an interconnected and dynamic world