Champion, or Ways to Win (1)

There are a couple of types of champion:

Noun 1 A person who has surpassed all rivals in a sporting contest or other competition [as modifier‘a champion hurdler’ [OED]

This is the winner, the vanquisher of foes. We all enjoy being this kind of champion – as individuals (probably especially as individuals) and as part of a team (“We are the champions”).

There are good champions and bad ones – heroes and villains, magnanimous victors and churls – but champions are a good thing. It’s fun to strive for something, it’s motivating to compete, and more often than not we like it when someone wins.

It’s also fleeting (“This year’s champions”), and – if you think about it in the wrong way – sets you up for inevitable failure. Sooner or later, someone else will be the champion.

And the things that we can win definitively are rarely important, and rarely satisfying in the long run. They are small, clearly defined, rule-constrained, finite games*.

When we’re striving to win these games, it’s worth double checking what we’re burning up to get there – time, energy, materials, relationships, opportunities – and weighing carefully what we get in return, because ‘fun’ is really the main thing we get from being a champion.

In the morning, life goes on.

All the other rewards of being a champion – prizes, status, the stories we tell ourselves about who we are as winners, and what we say about everyone else – take their meaning from other games we play.

More on this tomorrow.

*See this post, or go straight to James Carse‘s Finite and Infinite Games

Cut it out, or the impossibility of completeness

Nothing is really complete. That story always needs more context to fully understand, that lesson is inevitably missing something important, that job could always be more polished.

With some things (like painting and decorating), we face the law of diminishing returns: more effort results in less and less improvement. There comes a point where going beyond ‘good enough’ is wasteful.

Other things – presentations and teaching in particular – go beyond diminishing returns to decreasing returns: more content undermines what’s gone before, and reduces the impact you hope to have.

By recognising and accepting the impossibility of completeness – you will never be able to say everything – you free yourself up to focus. Not “What is everything I want people to know?” but “What is enough for today?”

Cut. The. Rest. Out.

Get this right – get clarity, simplicity and focus – and those you’re serving are far more likely to listen, engage and understand. And to come back for the next chapter.

Peter Drucker on social responsibility

A business that does not show a profit at least equal to its cost of capital is irresponsible; it wastes society’s resources. Economic profit performance is the base without which business cannot discharge any other responsibilities, cannot be a good employer, a good citizen, a good neighbor.

But economic performance is not the only responsibility of a business any more than education is the only responsibility of a school or health care the only responsibility of a hospital.

Every organisation must assume responsibility for its impact on employees, the environment, customers, and whoever and whatever it touches.

That is social responsibility. But we also know that society will increasingly look to major organizations, for-profit and non-profit alike, to tackle major social ills. And there we had better be watchful, because good intentions are not always socially responsible. It is irresponsible for an organisation to accept – let alone to pursue – responsibilities that would impede its capacity to perform its main task and mission, or to act where it has no competence.

Peter Drucker – Managing in a time of Great Change

The problem vs your feelings about the problem

Are you dealing with a difficult maths problem or with difficult feelings about a maths problem?

Is the struggle with the work itself, or with your feelings – apathy, disillusionment, fury – about doing it?

It might help to shift your attention to those feelings instead of the problem in front of you. So your focus is no longer “write this article” or “make this thing” but “master my feelings about this work” or “inspire myself to finish this piece of the project.”

It might not help, of course, but working with our feelings often turns out to be the hardest part of doing good work. If you can work with them, there’s a double satisfaction in a job well done.

Mrs D: empty moments

I’m a sucker for filling up spare moments with reading, listening, messaging. I like being in touch with people, and I love learning, so empty moments can feel like moments wasted.

But – and it’s a big but – it’s often in empty moments that your thoughts settle and clear. You make a connection between two thoughts, or have a new idea, or remember what it is you were really supposed to be doing today, or who it is you should be in touch with. You see the things around you more clearly.

You empty moments add value to your full ones by helping you to clarify, simplify and focus. And even if they don’t, they’re worth it on their own terms:

In people’s eyes, in the swing, tramp, and trudge; in the bellow and the uproar; the carriages, motor cars, omnibuses, vans, sandwich men shuffling and swinging; brass bands; barrel organs; in the triumph and the jingle and the strange high singing of some aeroplane overhead was what she loved; life; London; this moment of June.

Virginia Woolf – Mrs Dalloway*

*Which I never thought I’d actually quote, and certainly not in an actual place.

Just in time (2): “I’ll just…”

There’s another kind of just in time. This is the kind when you lie to yourself: “I’ll just squeeze this extra thing in, and I’ll get there just in time.”

Pro tip: things that start with “I’ll just…” cost more than you think.

“I’ll just…” jobs usually end up taking longer, or they leave you dissatisfied because you didn’t do them well, or mean that you have to rush the next thing (like getting out the door), that you forget something, that you arrive late or flustered and on the back foot, that your thoughts and emotions are busy with something else. That you miss possibilities.

Next time you find yourself with ten minutes before you have to go and think “I’ll just write one more email” or “I’ll just check my messages”, count first what it’s actually going to cost in terms of time and emotional energy:

  • Is this a job that you can finish well and feel good about in two minutes (which probably means five to ten)?
  • Is it a job that you can leave – and feel happy about leaving – half done?
  • Is it worth the cost of energy and concentration and the likely rush later to squeeze it in?
  • Who is it going to cost? It will always cost you, and will usually also cost whoever you’re showing up for next.

Try this instead, for yourself and for them:

“I’ll just… leave ten minutes early, and enjoy the walk.”

Just in time (1)

There’s a good sort of just in time. We plan something, know what needs to happen and how, know what we need to do it well, when, where and with whom.

This kind of just in time feels great, with the right amount of tension for whatever it is we’re doing. Good training events feel tight like the skin of a drum – focused and snappy and free from clutter. There is time to share the material clearly, time to apply and discuss. There’s time and concentration to spare to tweak the way we present, double-check misunderstandings or discuss special cases. Time to focus and engage properly. The training starts and runs and finished – just in time.

Family events, trips to the market, airport departures, and collecting children from school all have their own ‘just in time’ feeling that comes from getting timings right, including time for traffic and coffee breaks along the way.

The thing about this kind of just in time is, you usually get it by allowing plenty of time – what feels like more than enough time – both to prepare and to deliver. You get it by allowing extra time for journeys and contingencies, and by allowing mental, emotional, social slack to compose yourself so that you arrive ready to participate, to perform or enjoy.

DriverlessCrocolutions 2019: Update 1

Disclaimer: I’m writing this as a note to self, and for anyone interested in the process. If that’s not you – then it’s not for you.

Lots happened in January and I didn’t manage to get down to specifics with my new year’s resolutions for DriverlessCroc.

For those who came in latehere’s an out-of-order review of my DC-related goals:

Resolution 7: Work on these goals in 12 week chunks

Achievable right now – by chunking the other goals, then executing on the plan. Using the ‘12 Week Year‘ approach, my twelve week years will run:

1: Tuesday 1st January – Monday 25th March
2: Tuesday 26th March – Monday 17th June
Two grace weeks Tuesday 18th June – Monday 1st July
3: Tuesday 2nd July – Monday 23rd September
4: Tuesday 17th September – Monday 16th December
Two grace weeks Tues 18th December – Tues December 31st

Resolution 1: Keep it up. 600 posts on DC by the end of 2019**, with enough of a frontlog to set it and forget it for a couple of holidays.

12 weeks is 84 days. DC has 220 posts live, with 330 days left until the end of the year. A post a day will leave me 50 posts short of 600… That’s about 15 extra posts per 12 weeks… so I’ll need to average eight and a bit posts a week.

Milestones: 

  • March 25th: 284 posts
  • June 17th: 380
  • September 23rd: 490
  • December 16th: 586

Resolution 2. Hit the reading list.

No worries here. I’m about two-and-a-half books in out of nine (The Inevitable, This is Marketing, half of Leveraged Learning and some of 4 Disciplines of Execution). This doesn’t need targets, just periodic checkups.

3. Podcast: an initial series of five episodes – starting with with a decent spec***.

Spec – check.

Other targets:

By March 25th:  1 episode – hitting this will need a big push in the first 12 weeks
By June 17th: 2 more episodes
By September 23rd:  2 more Episodes
Final Furlong: Review / rest on laurels.

Goal 4. A DC redesign.

This can wait until ‘Year’ 2 – 26th March onwards.

5. Pull key threads from posts into a more structured set of how-to articles.

By March 25th: Write an overview post
By June 17th: Write individual posts as part of the redesign.

6. Make connections with people who do similar work to me and/or find some of the ideas here helpful.

By March 25th:  Decide about running a workshop in the summer.

Summary: to do before 25th March:

  1. Hit 284 posts
  2. Have one full episode of the podcast up
  3. Write an overview post drawing together key threads from DC
  4. Decide about that workshop

Getting things done

Thought for the day:

There will always be more good ideas than capacity to execute.

Chris McChesney, Sean Covey & Jim HulingThe 4 Disciplines of Execution (amazon)

Conclusion: focus on one or two wildly important goals at a time, and get them done.

This is a lesson that I learn, apply, forget and re-learn in different areas of my life. It works.

Too many buckets

You can fill a bucket pretty quickly under a tap. But try and fill a lot of buckets at once – a drip here, a squirt there – and it can take a long time before you have enough to work with in any of your buckets. And you’re probably wasting time, energy and water moving constantly between them.