The best laid plans

As your plans get more detailed, it's also more and more likely that they won't work exactly as you described them.

Certainly, it's worth visualizing the thing you're working to build. When it works, what's it going to be like?

Even more important, though, is being able to describe what you're going to do when the plan doesn't work. Because it won't. Not the way you expect, certainly.

Things will break, be late, miss the spec. People will let you down, surprise you or change their minds. Sales won't get made, promises will be broken, formulas will change.

All part of the plan that includes the fact that plans almost never come true.

       
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Your mood vs. your reality

Who is happy?

Are rock stars, billionaires or recently-funded entrepreneurs happier? What about teenagers with clear skin?

Either what happens changes our mood... or our mood changes the way we narrate what happens.

This goes beyond happiness economics and the understanding that a certain baseline of health and success is needed for many people to be happy.

The question worth pondering is: are you seeking out the imperfect to justify your habit of being unhappy? Does something have to happen in the outside world for you to be happy inside?

Or, to put it differently, Is there a narrative of your reality that supports your mood?

Marketers spend billions of dollars trying to create a connection between what we see in the mirror and our happiness, implying that others are judging us in a way that ought to make us unhappy.

And industrialists have built an economic system in which compliance to a boss's instructions is seen as the only way to avoid the unhappiness that comes from being penalized at work. And so fear becomes a dominant paradigm of our profession.

Those things are unlikely to change any time soon, but the way we process them can change today. Our narrative, the laundry list we tick off, the things we highlight for ourselves and others... our narrative is completely up to us.

The simple shortcut: the way we respond to the things that we can't change can instantly transform our lives. "That's interesting," is a thousand times more productive than, "that's terrible." Even more powerful is our ability to stop experiencing failure before it even happens, because, of course, it usually doesn't.

Happiness, for most of us, is a choice. Reality is not. It seems, though, that choosing to be happy ends up changing the reality that we keep track of.

       
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Fear of public speaking

Very few people are afraid of speaking.

It's the public part that's the problem.

What makes it public? After all, speaking to a waiter or someone you bump into on the street is hardly private.

I think we define public speaking as any group large enough or important enough or fraught enough that we're afraid of it.

And that makes the solution straightforward (but not easy). Instead of plunging into these situations under duress, once a year or once a decade, gently stretch your way there.

Start with dogs. I'm not kidding. If you don't have one, go to the local animal shelter and take one for a walk. Give your speech to the dog. And then, if you can, to a few dogs.

Work your way up to a friend, maybe two friends. And then, once you feel pretty dumb practicing with people you know (this is easy!), hire someone on Craigslist to come to your office and listen to you give your speech.

Drip, drip, drip. At every step along the way, there's clearly nothing to fear, because you didn't plunge. It's just one step up from speaking to a schnauzer. And then another step.

Every single important thing we do is something we didn't use to be good at, and in fact, might be something we used to fear.

This is not easy. It's difficult. But that's okay, because it's possible.

       
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Advice or criticism?

It's quite natural to be defensive in the face of criticism. After all, the critic is often someone with an agenda that's different from yours.

But advice, solicited advice from a well-meaning and insightful expert? If you confuse that with criticism, you'll leave a lot of wisdom on the table.

Here's a simple way to process advice: Try it on.

Instead of explaining to yourself and to your advisor why an idea is wrong, impossible or merely difficult, consider acting out what it would mean. Act as if, talk it through, follow the trail. Turn the advice into a new business plan, or a presentation you might give to the board. Turn the advice into three scenarios, try to make the advice even bolder...

When a friend says, "you'd look good in a hat," it's counterproductive to imagine that she just told you that you look lousy without a hat, and that you then have to explain why you never wear hats and take offense at the fact that she thinks you always look terrible.

Nope. Try on the hat. Just try on the hat.

Put on a jacket that goes with the hat. Walk around with the hat on. Take a few pictures of yourself wearing a hat.

Then, if you want to, sure, stop wearing hats.

Advice is not criticism.

       
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Two kinds of hustle

There's the hustle of always asking, of putting yourself out there, of looking for discounts, shortcuts and a faster way. This is the hustle of it it doesn't hurt to ask, of what you don't know won't hurt you, of the ends justifying the means. This hustler propositions, pitches and works at all times to close a sale, right now.

This kind of hustler always wants more for less. This kind of hustler will cut corners if it helps in getting picked.

Then there's the hustle that's actually quite difficult and effective. This is the hustle of being more generous than you need to be, of speaking truthfully even if it delays the ultimate goal in the short run, and most of all, the hustle of being prepared and of doing the work.

It's a shame that one approach is more common (though appropriately disrespected), while the other sits largely unused.

       
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