Stats: Tail. Dog.

Stats can help a lot – the right metrics are a sixth sense, helping you see through the fog and often giving substance to what your spider-sense is telling you about your organisation (or yourself).

Financial management is a good example – get your chart of accounts right and take the time to understand it and you’ll start to see things that might otherwise be invisible: surprising sources of profit, or things that cost way more than you thought they did and turn out to be liabilities, not assets.

Stats help you see the consequences of your practices now and where they’re likely to take you, allowing you to double down / change course in time to hit the jackpot / avoid the iceberg.

Stats are great. Unless…

Unless the thing you’re measuring becomes your primary concern – you become about the money, rather than who it allows you to serve.

It’s true of money. It’s true of views and visits. Your work isn’t for the money or the numbers. It’s for the people you seek to serve, for your colleagues and your customers.

So here’s an extra driverlesscrocolution: no jetpack (no stats) for a month, and hopefully better thinking, and better writing.

Motto (3): Work hard

Have fun, learn lots, work hard, be kind.

Of course you should work smart. Automate what you can. Delegate and outsource to people who can do things better than you. Shamelessly avoid, or ruthlessly eliminate, the unnecessary.

Then identify your real work – the things that only you can do, probably things for which there are no instructions or maps. Throw in a few inefficient things that you’ve discovered you need to do to keep you honest – and do the hard work of consistently showing up and getting it done.

Work hard to…

In my experience the hardest work to do well is the important, non-urgent, values-laden, emotional-labour intensive stuff. For me, this includes

  • Focusing on doing the work, and on the people it’s for, and not on how I look doing it – no-one else actually cares
  • Managing people well – not just to get the job done, but to look after them and help them grow
  • The necessary ‘wrapper’ of thorough preparation and follow-up so that meetings, events, regular training are really worth the time
  • Being present, staying focused and committed and pushing forward when the next step isn’t clear or it feels like nothing’s working, or nothing’s working
  • Having time for people at the right time – and being able to say ‘no’, or ‘I have to go’
  • Following up on things I’ve delegated and doing what it takes to get them done
  • Finishing things when they’re good enough.

Motto (1): Be Kind

“Have fun, learn lots, work hard, be kind.”

If you’re not…

  • kind to others
  • spending time with people who are kind to you
  • doing work, reading stuff, making choices that will make you more kind, not less

… then really, what’s the point?

Kind doesn’t mean…

… weak, or passive, or bland. It doesn’t mean lazy, or soppy, or aimless.

Being kind is a choice, is often hard to do**, and will probably cost you. It might get you into a fight, but one you’ll be glad you showed up for.

We’re born…

…and we’ll die, and stuff of all kinds happens in the middle.

The stuff of kindness is what counts most at either end – and in fact, all the way through.

This post is for Peter – thanks for the reminder

** It’s usually hardest when it’s most important

Giants – all sizes

Whose shoulders are you standing on?

Greats and GOATs

There are giants who loom large for us all: the Greats who laid the foundations and those who shook them – men and women who broke through and shaped the world.

In a sense, who made us.

There’s no need to name them – we know who many of them are, and we learn more about them as we go. And besides, there are too many to name and most are far away.

Small Giants

And there are the smaller giants: smaller people who stand tall in our eyes because they stood close. They gave us a boost, helped us see, carried us before we could walk or when we couldn’t walk any further. I won’t name these because I can’t – or rather, I can only name some of my own.

Grow in Stature

Whose shoulders are you standing on?

What will you do to help others stand on yours?**

Happy New Year – have a giant 2019.


** You could start by asking:

  • Where am I standing?
  • Who’s standing with me?
  • Which way is up for them?
  • How can I give them a leg-up?

The Gift

Everything changes if you can see the thing you’re doing as a gift.

Doing it as a gift transforms

  • the thing you don’t want to do, or don’t want to do right now;
  • the thing you don’t want to do in the way you know you should do it;
  • the thing you said yes to that seemed like a good idea at the time;
  • the thing that makes you nervous, that will make you feel stupid if it goes wrong;
  • the work you put in early, building momentum when it isn’t urgent;
  • the work you do late, putting in extra hours to get it done on time;
  • the thing that you might really be doing for yourself, but that could be for them;
  • the chances that what you do might bring about the change that you seek.

Suddenly you’re not

  • doing your duty, but being generous to another person;
  • grinding out an obligation, but choosing to do something well;
  • a fool who should have known better, but someone who offered to show up;
  • at the same risk of embarrassment – if you look foolish, you’ll be a likeable, generous fool;
  • spending time on something because you have to, but preparing an act of kindness;
  • pulling a ridiculous all-nighter, but staying up to wrap a present;
  • thinking about what will make it go well for you, but focusing on what will make it useful/fun/a good gift for the gift’s recipients;
  • trying to change anyone per se, but to make them richer by sharing something you’ve made.

Gifts

  • are free (gratis) to the recipient because they’re paid for by the giver;
  • are free (libre) to be received or left;
  • are best if specific (“it’s for you“) rather than generic (“who wants this?”);
  • aren’t designed to create obligation, but to create new possibilities, generate multiplying gifts.

Happy Christmas 2018.

Test Scores vs A Body of Work

When you show up and say “here’s my resume,” basically you’ve just shared your SAT score … with the HR people. And the HR people are charged with filling the slots with the cheapest competent people they can find.

On the other hand, if you build a body of work, if your body of work is irresistible, if it’s generous, if it’s remarkable, if your body of work actually changes things – they will call you.

Seth GodinAkimbo How to get into a famous college

Ways in: ravelling the network

Interface

A discipline, culture or scene is a network: a mesh of people, things, ideas and ways of doing things.

It might be tightly defined, with a clear centre, tightly woven middle, and a strong sense of a margin.

It might be clustered, with areas where the web is thicker and deeper, but with threadbare valleys inbetween,  fading out to the hinterland.

It might be looser – candyfloss or mist – a ball of tenuous connections at a distance.***

Whatever the form – and if you zoom in or out far enough, they all look much the same – a key feature is that there are no edges. The margins are always porous, threadbare, and frayed, and everything is intertwingled.

Ways in

We find our way into a network by joining it – by making points of connection, by crawling the web, ravelling the edges of the network.

For a field of study, we ravel the references, following the threads of footnotes and references to position ourselves in the network.** 

In a culture or scene, we hop from person to artifact to text to place to practice, each one leading us on to another – and back and round again – as we get familiar with the landscape.

Some things to bear in mind

  1. Thick cloth is hard to pierce, and it’s hard to break into the middle of a network. Change (including accommodating you) is slower and harder: the web is thick and tight, the connections harder to break and re-weave, and space is limited.
  2. Networks overlap. A strong connection with a person (relationship, status) or an idea (expertise, reputation) in one field might help you cross over to the middle of another, different field.
  3. The web is sticky. Once you’re in, you’re usually a bridge (in and out) for others. Be generous.
  4. You add value to the network by bringing something new: new and valuable ideas, new tools or ways of doing things, new attitudes that make it more enjoyable to be part of the network, new connections (by connecting the dots within the network to thicken it, and by bringing connections to an entirely different network).

Start somewhere: Show up. Make connections. Be generous.

**Citations formed a web of knowledge long before the internet.

*** Word on the street is that candyfloss is tougher, denser and less tenuous than you’d think (hat tip: RudderlessSalamander)

In their hands

Make something people can use.

Put it in their hands.

See what happens.

If they’re eager to pay – attention, time, money – you’re onto something.

Watch them. Listen to them. Tweak it. Make more of it. See what they think.

If they tell their friends – and if their friends tell their friends – then you’ve got it.

What change do you seek in the world? Who are the people you seek to serve?

You’ve got it when they’ve got it.

You’ll know you’ve got it when you meet someone for the first time, and the thing you made is already in their hands.

Stan Lee (1922-2018) – What If?

The exact cover of the Marvel What If that Dave’s brother kept in a plastic folder


Stan Lee was brilliant and prolific.

We know him for Spiderman, the X-men, the Avengers, the Fantastic Four, Black Panther… for being the driving force behind Marvel Comics, now a multi-billion dollar, multi-media juggernaut.

It’s less well known that he started in the comics industry in 1939, aged seventeen, as a general dogsbody, lunch-fetcher and inkwell filler at Timely Comics (which would eventually become Marvel).

Lee must have had something about him – he became editor at 19 – but here’s the thing: he slogged it out writing comics – westerns, crime stories, horror and superhero work – for twenty two years without really hitting the big time. They say he chose Stan Lee as a pen name because he was worried he’d be embarrassed by his work in comics if he ever wrote the Great American Novel.

By the early 60s Lee was fed up, and ready to quit. The Fantastic Four was a last throw of the dice on his wife’s suggestion that he try writing the comics he wanted to write. There was nothing to lose.

He was forty-one years old.

The rest is history.

What if Stan Lee had never written the fantastic four?

Some takeaways:

Value loop

Most businesses that prosper create value for their communities and their customers as well as themselves, and the most successful businesses do so in part by creating a self-reinforcing value loop with and for others. They build a platform on which people who don’t work directly for them can build their own dreams.

Tim O’Reilly, WTF?

This is a key to building a fruitful and sustainable business or charity – be part of your partners’ success story.

Make yourself so useful that they can’t imagine doing it without you, and are eager to pay for what you do.

Align your interests so that their success is your success.

Be such a source of good in your community that they cheer you on.

Be indispensable.