Triggers and cycles

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A trigger prompts a cycle. And a cycle might go on longer than it should.

The first spoonful of ice cream can trigger a cycle of binge eating that you regret later.

The silence of walking into an empty house might trigger you to turn on the TV, and that cycle of wasting time watching nothing that matters goes on all night.

The rush to get out the door leads to a cycle of rushing, which makes your commute a daredevil exercise, one that takes hours to recover from.

It’s really useful to see your cycles and to work to dampen them (it’s almost impossible to go cold turkey).

Even better is to find and eliminate the triggers. That’s surprisingly easy if you care enough. Quit Twitter. Empty your freezer. Wake up ten minutes earlier…

Make these decisions when you’re not in the middle of a cycle.

With the trigger gone, you might discover the cycles are gone too.

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Speaking up about what could be better….

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Solving interesting problems is the best work we can do.

It’s a practice that has built the very best parts of our culture.

Solving interesting problems begins with posing them–which means being willing to speak up about what could be better before we know how to make it better.

We see these problems, all of us do. But they’re easy to ignore if we’re hoping for a quick win. Instead, patience and empathy define us as the humans we seek to be.

Too often we get trapped believing we need:

Certainty

Quick answers

A guarantee

If you want those three things, you’re missing the path. The search for quick, guaranteed and certain results will almost always undermine the creativity you’re after.

Creativity is a step on the way to making things better.

The web is littered with easy promises and simple call & response patterns. It’s antithetical to creativity. Instead, our social networks have turned us into unpaid factory workers, toiling in a giant system, one that pushes us to feel shame, to be in a hurry, to worry about nothing but the surface.

That’s not where creativity comes from and that’s not what creativity is for.

Possibility and responsibility are available to anyone who wants them. That could be us, any of us.

Seeing the world as it is, offering people dignity, choosing to make a difference… none of these are fast and easy paths, but we do them anyway.

Will you?

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The trap of listening to feedback…

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“If I listened to feedback, I would have quit on the first day.”

You’re devoting your life to making something important. Something helpful. Something that matters. Mostly, something that hasn’t been done before, that’s going to bend the curve and make an impact.

If you begin and end with surveys and focus groups, all you’re going to do is what’s been done before.

We’re counting on you to trust yourself enough to speak your own version of our future. Yes, you’ll need the empathy to put yourself in our shoes, and the generosity to care enough to make it worth our time and trust. But no, don’t outsource the hard work of insight and creation to the rest of us.

That’s on you.

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The two simple secrets to good ideas…

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Secret #1 is the biggest one: More bad ideas. The more bad ideas the better. If you work really hard on coming up with bad ideas, sooner or later, some good ideas are going to slip through. This is much easier than the opposite approach.

Secret #2 is more important: Generosity. It’s much easier and more effective to come up with good ideas for someone else. Much easier to bring a posture of insight and care on behalf of someone else. It lets you off the hook, too.

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What gets maximized?

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When an organization succeeds, the owners decide what to maximize. Some of the choices:

Salaries for the bosses
Distributions to the shareholders
Stock price
Salaries for everyone else
Positive impact on customers
Positive impact on the culture

So, if you’re the local cable company, you can decide to invest extra profits in customer service or lower rates, even if those choices don’t maximize long or short profitability. If you’re a public company, you might try to hype the stock price with a buyback. Or, if you’re a company with a mission, you might re-invest in that mission.

The myth is that the only purpose of a company is to maximize profits. That’s a fiction, and a dangerous one. Organizations exist to make things better for people, not the other way around.

One reason that social entrepreneurship is a useful concept is that it announces the priorities from the start. Be profitable enough to grow, but put most of that profit to work serving your customers and their neighbors.

You don’t have to have a fancy label to build an organization that you’re proud of. You simply need to decide what you’re trying to accomplish, and then go do that.

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Rules for working in a studio….

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Don’t hide your work

Offer help

Ask for help

Tell the truth

Upgrade your tools

Don’t hide your mistakes

Add energy, don’t subtract it

Share

If you’re not proud of it, don’t ship it

Know the rules of your craft

Break the rules of your craft with intention

Make big promises

Keep them

Add positivity

Let others run, ever faster

Take responsibility

Learn something new

Offer credit

Criticize the work, not the artist

Power isn’t as important as productivity

Honor the schedule

You are not your work, embrace criticism

Go faster

Sign your work

Walk lightly

Change something

Obsess about appropriate quality, ignore perfection

A studio isn’t a factory. It’s when peers come together to do creative work, to amplify each other and to make change happen. That can happen in any organization, but it takes commitment.

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Are You Part of Modern laziness…

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The original kind of lazy avoids hard physical work. Too lazy to dig a ditch, organize a warehouse or clean the garage.

Modern lazy avoids emotional labor. This is the laziness of not raising your hand to ask the key question, not caring about those in need or not digging in to ship something that might not work. Lazy is having an argument instead of a thoughtful conversation. Lazy is waiting until the last minute. And lazy is avoiding what we fear.

Lazy feels okay in the short run, but eats at us over time.

Laziness is often an option, and it’s worth labeling it for what it is.

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Waves are free….

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When someone lets you into the flow of traffic, or holds a door, or takes a second to acknowledge you, it’s possible to smile and offer a wave in response.

This, of course, costs you nothing.

It creates a feeling of connection, which is valuable.

It makes it more likely that people will treat someone else well in the future.

And it might just brighten your day.

The simplest antidote to a tough day is generosity. Waves are free, and smiles are an irresistible bonus.

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The best time to study for the test…

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… is before it’s given.

The best time to campaign is before the election.

And the best time to keep a customer is before he leaves.

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Like riding a bike…

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People talk about bike riding when they want to remind us that some things, once learned, are not forgotten.

What they don’t mention is how we learned. No one learns to ride a bike from a book, or even a video.

You learn by doing it.

Actually, by not doing it. You learn by doing it wrong, by falling off, by getting back on, by doing it again.

PS this approach works for lots of things, not just bikes. Most things, in fact.

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