Writing Good* (A Crash Course)

I pulled together this video based on some writing efficiency books I enjoyed. If you have the time go ahead and grab those books. Rachel Aaron’s 2K to 10K Monica Leonelle’s Productivity Pack The one thing I don’t say in the video (because most writers hear it repeatedly) is that writing is a skill. Like all skills (coding, care repair, cooking etc.) you get better with … Read More Writing Good* (A Crash Course)

The BS of Entitlement

For a long time, I’ve struggled with the word “entitled.” If you’ve read Malcolm Gladwell’s “Outliers” you understand how middle-class families instill a positive sense of entitlement into their kids. In this context “entitlement” seems like a good thing.

On a gut level, however, this has never sat well with me. While I went to two elite private institutions (Yale and Haverford), my dad worked construction and my mom is a secretary – or as Gladwell would put it, I grew up “working class.” I was told do the work and prove yourself and you will get the right opportunities. Basically, they instilled in me the necessity of doing work, and that no one is entitled to anything.

I’m here to report, my parents were wrong. At least in part, and actually I think Gladwell is a bit wrong too. The meaning of the word “entitled” has shifted- instead I think a more fitting term is probably “worthy”.

The world is not a meritocracy and the perception of your abilities matters just as much as your actual abilities. Unfortunately, I have found that people aren’t very good at distinguishing between an inflated ego and actual confidence.

You succeed by doing the work, but you can only get the work if you get the opportunity. To get opportunities, you have two choices someone needs to give you a chance or you need to make your own chances. The guy with the inflated ego is going to get the opportunity before the self-effacing woman every time. The good news for him, he’ll have to hustle, but he’ll probably figure it and he’ll learn and grow. He’s also created the perception that you have to “hustle” – and likely work harder than you had to, so that when the more competent, but less cocky person does a similar task without all the drama, it’s assumed that the work wasn’t as difficult.

I’ve watched with anthropological like curiosity the same biases play out, across gender, race, socio-economic backgrounds. While it’s clear the system has to change, and leaders need to be aware of these biases (see Laszlo Bock’s Work Rules), coaching students and those new to the workforce in positive ways to establish their own confidence and worthiness is essential.

 

7 Signs You’re Slipping into Mediocrity

A review of Todd Henry’s “Die Empty – unleash your best work every day”

“Die Empty” has a lot of really great material for entrepreneurs.  Today’s post focuses on Chapter 3 and the 7 Signs of Mediocrity from A-G.

  • Aimlessness. The basic point here is that it is impossible to achieve your goal if you don’t have clarity on what that goal is.  He also points that “Aimlessness” is particularly painful because there is no gratification to be had from victories based on luck. Aimless work feels futile.
  • Boredom. “The cure for boredom is intentional and applied curiosity.” I left my corporate job because we had transitioned from a team that valued innovation, to one that had converged tightly into a highly specialized, technical team, focused on efficient delivery.  Telling your boss that you are “bored” is hard and even risky. It requires what Laszlo Bock in Work Rules!, refers to as “psychological safety” and trust. Organizations that support honest conversation will stay  aligned with both their teams and their organizational purpose and interest.
  • Comfort. It’s easy to understand the temptation to rest on your laurels. I’d argue that it is appropriate and healthy to bask in success. However, as someone who has recently taken a huge leap of faith, I am reminded that often the biggest risk is not taking any risk.
  • Delusion. Henry suggests that you need to cultivate self-awareness. I would add to this both from my perspective as a data researcher, entrepreneur and also as a yoga teacher. As a data geek, I’ve learned that data is a powerful tool for providing a broader perspective.  As a yogi, I’m increasingly aware that reality is how you define it. I’ve been reminded recently that, sometimes the problem isn’t you, but the people you surround yourself with. If you have a vision that no one can see, you need to either manifest it so that others can see it, or find people who see it and will help you bring your vision to life. If you can’t manage any of that you may need to accept that you are nuts. As an entrepreneur and design thinking consultant, my advice to you is prototype, test and get feedback.
  • Ego. Creativity is about connection and trying something new.  Ego is about the individual and does not allow for the brilliant connections that occur outside of the self.  Ego-driven folks often have a fear of failure and avoid being open or  vulnerable to criticism. Henry suggests adopting ego focused folks to adopt an attitude of “adaptability”.
  • Fear. It’s not just fear of failure that holds people back. By definition, creativity pushes the frontier and goes into the UNKNOWN.  One of my biggest fears as a kid was swimming in the deep end of the pool, it represented a fathomless depth where anything out of my imagination could grab my leg and pull me down.  The thing is, once you explore unknowns, once you turn on the light, fear goes away. Of course, then it’s on to the next scary thing.
  • Guardedness. I might even reframe this as a (Lack of) Generosity.  Henry writes, “Great work happens in the context of community.” HALLELUJAH!  The old economy was built on “stuff” and therefore was defined by scarcity. The digital economy, or what I like to call the exponential economy is limitless and is defined by the energy, engagement, and value.  Companies that make the digital / data shift understand this shift in mindset.

So Full disclosure

I picked this up right as I was contemplating leaving my 6-figure gig at a Big 4 consulting firm and I was bored out my mind. Henry’s book confirmed what I didn’t want to admit,specifically that I was in the land of the mediocre. 

Resources worth checking out. 

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The 5-Minute Takeaway: Adam Grant’s “Give and Take” (Audiobook)

Adam Grant’s “Give and Take” was recommended to me by the Executive Director of Branding. I had heard Adam Grant on NPR talking about his new book “Originals” and enjoyed it. So I picked up “Give And Take” to listen during a cross-country flight.

“Give and Take” is a good affirmation for those who in game theory terms are considered “cooperators.” It is ahead of the curve and fits with the ongoing shift to a digital economy one which is not defined by limits but rather is exponential in nature.

Grant’s central thesis is that “givers” produce better results and he provides numerous detailed case studies on why this is the case. The book is a bit long, however, given that his thesis is counter-intuitive for so many – I can understand why he felt the need to err on the side of example overkill.

There is a lot of good information but right now what really resonates with me are tricks for cultivating talent, including setting high expectations, assuming the best in others, and guiding people to paths that interest them.

In the early days of the data & analytics center of excellence I helped start-up, I found the best determinant of success was whether the project was interesting. Selfishly I didn’t want to work on boring projects and I was always thinking forward to the next client pitch. I also I didn’t want to pitch projects to super talented data scientists who could be working at Google. It seemed obvious to me that this would be an important criterion, and I was proud to see that the business cases I submitted not only received funding but were used as best in class case studies.

I read recently that nearly any problem can be overcome with hustle and grit. After I left that role, I saw too many projects, selected only on financial metrics. Inevitably those projects lose focus, precisely because the team did not have a clear vision, interest, and determination to succeed. Generous leaders INSPIRE, they coach, they tell the stories to their team to help them connect, find purpose, and meaning in their work.

Useful links:

 

Strategy

The “exponential” economy is the confluence of multiple on-going shifts in our economy. It includes a shift in focus from manufacturing to service through to digital & information economies.

Successful companies and entrepreneurs understand Digital transformation is not simply a way to replicate old business models – it is an opportunity to completely redesign them.

The internet makes it possible to share your services at zero marginal cost. The open-source ethos of computer programming makes a powerful and compelling case for cooperation, sharing, and generosity. It is the driving force behind disruptive trends that break down limits and overcome scarcity through information and connection.

To take advantage of exponential tools requires 4 fundamental components:

  • Story-telling. Know your audience, what they want, and help them get it.
  • Community. Help people connect in authentic meaningful ways.
  • Generosity. Invest in your community for the long term.
  • Smart execution. Tell your story through the channels that work for you and figure out how polished you need to be. Remember done can be better than perfect.

Excited? You should be. This is cool stuff.

Matagi is here to help you be brave and do amazing work, by offering you strategic guidance, templates, and tutorials. It is also here to provide you with inspiration to help you grow your business based on the latest thinking, case studies of folks who are doing it, and mind and energy tools to help you focus, maintain your courage, and be awesome.

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Tutorials

Just do it – Nike Slogan

All the good ideas in the world don’t mean a hill of beans if they only live in your head. “Tutorials” includes tips and templates for pulling together and executing your strategy.

Every week I’ll add templates and instructions to help you with:

  • Getting your Story down
  • Finding and developing your Community
  • Ideas to help you deliver value and practice Generosity.
  • Tips to align your Tactics,  increase your efficiency, and have more fun.
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Inspiration

If you’re not growing you’re dying

Check out “Inspiration” for an update on what I’m reading and thinking. I’ll provide you with case studies on the folks who are exponential (and those who want to be). I’ll also summarize and share with you interesting takeaways from the books, podcasts, and articles on my book shelf. Finally, I’ll also include my point-of-viewwhich is basically the Wild West and includes my thoughts about management, data, digital, design, and creativity.

I’m a writer, yoga, design, creativity, data junkie who reads a lot… I have no idea how much trouble I can get into. Let’s find out.