Duck!

Perhaps you can't see it, but we can. That 2 x 4, the board set right across that doorway, about 5 feet off the ground.

You're running it at it full speed, and in a moment, you're going to slam into it, which is going to hurt, a lot.

This happens to most of us, metaphorically anyway, at one time or another. But when it happens repeatedly, you probably have a hygiene problem.

Emotional hygiene, personal hygiene, moral hygiene, organizational hygiene--useful terms for the act of deliberately making hard decisions, early and often, to prevent a 2 x 4 to the face later.

Worth a pause to highlight that: hygiene never pays off in the short run. It is always the work of a mature person (or  an organization) who cares enough about the later to do something important in the now.

When the doctor scrubs with soap before a procedure, it's not because it's fun. It's because she's investing a few minutes now to prevent sepsis later.

Way better than getting hit in the face with a 2 x 4.

       

How to use a microphone

More than 10,000 people attended the Lincoln Douglas debates, and yet they debated without amplification.

It's only quite recently that we began to disassociate talking-to-many from talking loudly. Having a large and varied audience used to mean yelling, it used to be physically taxing, it would put our entire body on alert.

Now, of course, all of us have a microphone.

The instinct remains, though. When we know that hundreds or thousands of people will read our words online, we tense up. When we get on stage, we follow that pattern and tense our vocal cords.

We shout.

The problem with shouting is that it pushes people away. WHEN YOU SHOUT IN EMAIL, IT SEEMS ANGRY. Shouting creates a wall between us and the person at the other end (even though it seems like many people, sooner or later, there's one person at the other end). 

Shouting destroys intimacy, and it hurts our impact, the impact that comes from authenticity.

We feel speech and words long before we hear the words, and we hear the words long before we understand them.

The solution is simple: whisper.

Practice whispering.

Whisper when you type, whisper when you address a meeting.

Lower your voice, slow your pace, and talk more quietly.

The microphone will amplify your words. And we'll hear them. 

       

Errors in scale

A restaurant that's too small for its following creates pent-up demand and can thrive as it lays plans to expand.

A restaurant that's too big merely fails.

There are occasional counterexamples of ventures that fail because they were too small when they gained customer traction. But not many.

It pays to have big dreams but low overhead.

       

Your money and your future

Your money: Almost no one knows how to think about money and investing. Squadrons of people will try to confuse you and rip you off. Many will bore you. But Andrew Tobias has written a book that might just change your net worth.

His advice is simple: spending less is even more valuable than earning more. He is also a gifted writer, funny and dead on correct in his analysis. Highly recommended.

The brand new edition is right here.

Back story: 32 years ago this month, I had lunch with Andy Tobias. I was pitching him on a partnership, and the meeting had been difficult to get. I was intimidated and soaking wet from running fifty blocks through Manhattan (no Uber!). As I sat in the New York Athletic Club, my cheap suit dripping wet (you can't take off your jacket at the New York Athletic Club), I tried to break the ice by telling the moose joke.

I told it pretty well, but Andy didn't crack a smile. Even then, he was a canny negotiator. We never ended up working together, but his book probably did me more good than the project would have. And the story was priceless.

Your future: Kevin Kelly is the most erudite, original and prophetic futurist of our time. If you've ever picked up a copy of Wired, he's had an impact on your life.

If you hope to be working, producing value or merely alive in ten years, his new book (out in June) is essential. It might take you an hour or two to read certain pages—if you're smart enough to take notes and brainstorm as you go.

The people who read his previous book about the future (New Rules) in 1998 are truly grateful for the decade-long head start it gave them.

I've never had the nerve to tell Kevin a joke, but I did offer to do a magic trick for him.

It's rare that you can spend $33 on two books and have your life so profoundly altered.

PS new Creative Mornings podcast just up with my talk from a few years ago.

Backwards: Great designers don't get great clients, it's the other way around.

Patience is for the impatient.

Leading up is more powerful than the alternative.

...And a few more provocations. I only gave this talk once, I hope you enjoy it.

       

Closing the gate

Sooner or later, tribes begin to exclude interested but unaffiliated newcomers.

It happens to religious sects, to surfers and to online communities as well. Nascent groups with open arms become mature groups too set in their ways to evangelize and grow their membership, too stuck to engage, change and thrive.

So much easier to turn someone away than it is to patiently engage with them, the way you were welcomed when you were in their shoes.

There are two reasons for this:

  1. It's tiresome and boring to keep breaking in newbies. Eternal September, the never-ending stream of repetitive questions and mistakes can wear out even the most committed host. Your IT person wasn't born grouchy--it just happens.
  2. It's threatening to the existing power structure. New voices want new procedures and fresh leadership.

And so, Wikipedia has transformed itself into a club that's not particularly interested in welcoming new editors.

And the social club down the street has a membership with an average age of 77.

And companies that used to grow by absorbing talent via acquisitions, cease to do so.

This cycle isn't inevitable, but it takes ever more effort to overcome our inertia.

Even if it happens gradually, the choice to not fight this inertia is still a choice. And while closing the gate can ensure stability and the status quo (for now), it rarely leads to growth, and ultimately leads to decline.

[Some questions to ponder...]

Do outsiders get the benefit of the doubt?

Do we make it easy for outsiders to become insiders?

Is there a clear and well-lit path to do so?

When we tell someone new, "that not how we do things around here," do we also encourage them to learn the other way and to try again?

Are we even capable of explaining the status quo, or is the way we do things set merely because we forgot that we could do it better?

Is a day without emotional or organizational growth a good day?

       

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