Do your homework. Show up with contributions and connections long before you bring your opinion. Save the snark for later. Pay your dues. Speak up about shared truths, shared principles and shared goals. Don't blame the ref only when the...

How to be heard

Do your homework.

Show up with contributions and connections long before you bring your opinion.

Save the snark for later.

Pay your dues.

Speak up about shared truths, shared principles and shared goals.

Don't blame the ref only when the call is against you.

Reflect back what you believe the other person is trying to say before you disagree with it.

If you want to persuade on the merits, avoid joining the threatening mob.

Convert six people before you try to convert sixty.

Tell true stories.

       

How long is now?

Yes, that dog is moving, but not that tree. Plants don't move.

Well, yes, they actually do. Trees grow and then they decay. It's just that we can't see it happening now. It happens over a longer span. Which means it is happening now, just not in a way that matches our frame.

Getting our time scale right is essential. It affects how we perceive the growth of our organization, or the changes in our planet. It changes the way we invest in education and how we react or respond to the news media.

Do we need a sweep second hand on our wrist watch or merely a page-a-day calendar to mark the passage of time?

Alan Burdick's new book goes into the history of how we think about now (as compared to before and after) and one particular example stuck with me: What would happen if we were creatures that lived for only 28 days? Or for 300,000 days? And if our attention span compressed or expanded along with that outcome?

Often, people who are happier or more effective than we are are merely seeing things in a different (and more appropriate) time window.

And one last example, I'll call it Dash's Twitch: It turns out that the insanely stressful ticker that the New York Times had on their home page on election night, the one that kept flicking back and forth, taunting everyone who saw it, was actually using "real-time" data that only updated a few times a minute. 

Which means that the twitch was faked. Yes, the data was moving over time, but it wasn't moving now.

If our now gets short enough, everything is a twitch.

And twitches, while engaging, aren't particularly useful or productive.

       

Economics is messy

We still teach a lot of myths in the intro to economics course, myths that spill over to conventional wisdom. 

Human beings make rational decisions in our considered long-term best interest.

Actually, behavioral economics shows us that people almost never do this. Our decision-making systems are unpredictable, buggy and often wrong. We are easily distracted, and even more easily conned.

Every time we assume that people are profit-seeking, independent, rational actors, we've made a mistake.

The free market is free.

The free market only works because it has boundaries, rules and methods of enforcement. Value is created by increasing information flow and working to have as many contributing citizens as possible. 

Profit is a good way to demonstrate the creation of value.

In fact, it's a pretty lousy method. The local water company clearly creates more value (in the sense that we can't live without it) than the handbag store down the street, and yet the handbag store has a much higher profit margin. That's not because of value, but because of mismatches in supply and demand, or less relevant inputs like brand, market power and corporate structure.

Profit is often a measure of short-term imbalances or pricing power, not value.

I hope we can agree that a caring nurse in the pediatric oncology ward adds more value than a well-paid cosmetic plastic surgeon doing augmentations. People with more money might pay more, but that doesn't equate to value.

The best way to measure value created is to measure value, not profit.

The purpose of society is to maximize profit

Well, since profit isn't a good measure of value created, this isn't at all consistent. More important, things like a living wage, sustainability, fairness and the creation of meaning matter even more. When we consider how to advance our culture, "will it hurt profits?" ought not to be the first (or even the fifth) question we ask.

The price of a stock represents the value of the company.

It turns out that the price of a stock merely reflects what a few people decided to trade it for today. Tomorrow, it will certainly be different, even if nothing about the company itself changes.

There's very little correlation with how the traders come to value a company in the market and how much value a company actually creates.

The only purpose of a company is to maximize long-term shareholder value.

Says who? Is the only purpose of your career to maximize lifetime income? If a company is the collective work of humans, we ought to measure the value that those humans seek to create.

Just because there's a number (a number that's easy to read, easy to game, easy to keep track of) doesn't mean it's relevant.

       

... and it bends toward justice

The arc of the moral universe is long, and it bends toward access.

Twelve years ago, Acumen made a modest investment in Water Health International, a start-up that builds water purification hubs in small villages in India. Today, and every single day, 7,000,000 people have clean water as a result.

... and it bends toward dignity.

Sixty years ago, it was still against the law for blacks and whites to get married in parts of the USA. And just five years ago, the same was true for gay couples

... and it bends toward healing.

Catherine Hoke's team at Defy brings hope and high expectations to the incarcerated and those recently released. As a result, the rate of recidivism falls more dramatically than anyone expects.

... and it bends toward community.

Jim Ziolkowski could have stayed in his secure job at General Electric. But instead, he went to Malawi and then Chicago and then to high schools in towns like yours. His work at BuildOn has transformed tens of thousands of students, executives and communities.

... and it bends toward helping the dispossessed.

Lexi Shereshewsky saw the Syrian refugee crisis firsthand. And so she started the Syria Fund, which, while still small in scale, is mighty in impact.

... and it bends toward diversity.

Willie Jackson couldn't find a magazine that spoke to him and to his generation. So he started one.

... and it bends toward responsibility.

We're not pawns if we choose not to be. This is not the work for someone else. No one else is doing it for us. With us, perhaps, and as an example for what we can do, but we're not off the hook.

History doesn't bend itself. But we can bend it.

It's taken us 100,000 years to figure out that we are only as well off as the weakest ones in our tribe, and that connection and community and respect lead to a world that benefits everyone.

The irony of Dr. King's holiday is that he surely believed that anyone could take on this calling, that anyone could organize, speak up and stand for justice.

We can connect, we can publish, we can lead. Anyone reading this has the ability to care, and to do something about it. We have more power than we dare imagine.

And so it bends.

       

Pavlov's in your pocket

Why do people buy lottery tickets?

It's certainly not based on any rational analysis of financial risk or reward.

So, why do something that almost never seems to work?

Because it actually works every single time.

What it does is release a hit of dopamine, first when you think about buying one, then again when you decide to buy one, and then a third time when you actually transact. For regular players, these three moments of hope and joy demolish the sadness that comes from actually losing.

It's a hope rush, for cheap.

Well, the same thing is true for the billion people carrying around a Pavlovian box in their pocket. The smart phone (so called in honor of the profit-seeking companies who were smart enough to make them) is an optimized, tested and polished call-and-response machine. So far, Apple's made a trillion dollars by ringing our bell.

Every time it pulses, we get a hit.

Every time we realize we haven't checked it in two minutes, we get a hit.

Hit, hit, hit.

And again and again.

The box vibrates, we feel hope and fear and our loneliness subsides, then we check, and we lose (again).

But we are hooked, so we put the phone in our pocket and wait for it to happen again.

Ring a bell?

       

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