Screw That! Do The Opposite!!

Apple it seems, is a bit greedy.  They want you to ditch your old iPhone for a shinier, new version.  They do this by pushing updates that reduce the battery life of older iPhone’s and make them run slower.

The other day I saw a classic Rolls Royce drive past me.

rolls

It was a thing of beauty.  As it drove by everyone was staring at this majestic work of art.

This made me think:

There are very few things which get better with time*.

I find it sad that so few things are built to last.  

In fact nowadays, “planned obsolescence” – where products are designed to break after a period of time – is part of the plan so that people will upgrade or buy more of the same products.

This sort of impatience and nearsightedness doesn’t do anyone any favours and yet it seems to be affecting people’s thinking when it comes to all sorts of things.

People even talk about “flipping businesses”!  As soon as they start a business they’re looking for an “exit” to literally get out.

Screw that!

Do the opposite!

Instead of looking for a way to get out, plant deep roots.

Instead of “flipping a business”, serve your customers for the long-term.

Instead of making sure your product breaks, make something that gets better with time.

If you as a freelancer, an artist, a writer an entrepreneur can lean in when others bow out, then there will always be people out there who would like to be served by you.

*Off the top of my head I can only think of a few things which get better with time; old recipes, certain watches, certain cars, fine wines, art, nature….

Advertisements

I Can Guarantee Something That Will Never Ever Change And It’s Where To Find All The Opportunities.

There’s an old business story about a cookie factory owner.

Cookie

His company was making millions of cookies and was very profitable.  However, his board was always asking for more profits.

One day the cookie factory owner thought of a great idea!  “What if we got rid of 1 of the 13 spices we put in the cookie?  No one will probably realise and our expenses will go down!”.

He tried it out and got rid of one of the ingredients.  None of his customers realised and the boards profits and margins improved!

He went on to have another idea: “Well, no one realised that the cookie now only uses 12 spices.  Why don’t we get rid of another spice?”.

This went on for a while and at some point his cookie sales started to dwindle.  People just weren’t interested any more.  The cookie owner tried to recover, but his brand was permanently tarnished and due to the new way the cookies were being manufactured the business didn’t recover and he went out of business.

Here’s the thing.  Often things change, but really slowly.  Each small increment of change is not noticeable, but at some point when you stand back and observe, you’ll notice that the landscape has drastically changed.

The one thing I can guarantee will never change, is that everything will change.

When things change, new opportunities arise.  But the places where change occurs the most is at “the edges”, not the mainstream.

The mainstream ends up following “the edges”.

Donald Trump & Brexit

I have a confession to make.  I didn’t follow Donald Trump’s election campaign throughout 2016, which lead to his election in 2017.

I remember waking up in the morning when it was announced that he had won.  I didn’t think anything of it, but when I got to work there seemed to be some kind of mass hysteria which had overtaken everyone.  My disinterest has continued since his election and my life hasn’t changed in any way since before he was elected.

I have another confession to make.  I didn’t follow anything to do with Brexit, which resulted in the United Kingdom announcing that they would leave the European Union.  Once again, since Brexit has been announced, my life has not changed in any way.

Now, what I’m not saying is that these two events don’t matter, will never have an impact on me and on others.  But my observation is that both of these events were unpredictable and unexpected.

Election campaigns are like “The Edge” of a given field.

“The Edge”, as I define it is the place where change is rapid, where present data does not correlate with outcomes and where if you play your cards right you can gain massively from disorder by creating and innovating.

The reason why there was and is mass hysteria surrounding Trump’s election and around Brexit is because the mass population is not used to “The Edge”.  The mainstream lives in a world where change is slow, where change makes some kind of sense, where change happens to you.  

The Edge

When things hit the mainstream, the opportunities you get exposed to will be incremental in nature.

When you get to “The Edge”, opportunities aren’t incremental, they aren’t even exponential, they’re of a whole new category.

Think of a couple of the current buzzwords in the medical world at the moment: “automation” and “robotics”.

You’ll get visions of futuristic robots with lasers carrying out the work of surgeons.

ironman

I will use always every opportunity I have to stick in an Iron Man jpg into my blog posts.

To the mainstream surgeons – the typical surgeon working in small general hospitals – robotics and automation seems like several decades away, or it may be that they think robotics will never hit the mainstream.

And this is the point of this essay once again:

The one thing I can guarantee that will never change, is that everything will change.  And when change happens the people who were the main players at “The Edge” win.

Say for example that you were doing “mainstream” open heart surgery in the early 2000’s.  By the early 2000’s heart surgery was already kind of figured out.  Any further improvements since then have been incremental in nature.

“The Edge”, at this time was actually the move to minimally invasive surgery.  This is where you can operate on the heart by creating a tiny incision on a patients thigh and then introducing some instruments into the main blood vessels of the leg.  These instruments are then navigated towards the heart where you can carry out procedures such as angioplasties and valve replacement procedures.

The minimally invasive techniques have a faster recovery rate, are cheaper and increasingly have better outcomes in every respect in comparison to open heart surgery.

Being at “The Edge” at the time when minimally invasive surgery was being developed would have provided all the opportunities that people often look for – it would have allowed the innovators to have their say on how to perform procedures, to pioneer new techniques, to develop new instruments and tools which you could build a new business around etc.

Yes, “The Edge” may sound crazy, it may be exclusive, the odds of a lot of new technologies causing a dent in the world may be random or low, but nonetheless it is still where change occurs and where opportunities live.

If It Looks & Swims & Quacks Like A Duck, It Might Not Be A Duck

I was shocked at what the pyramids looked like up close when I went to Egypt.  I always thought that they’d be smooth* on the outside.  But when I got up close to them they were made of very large stones.

Pyramids of Giza

Pyramids of Giza

More recently I found out that many of the Greek and Roman architects tilted columns and spread them out unevenly to give the appearance that the columns were actually spread out evenly and absolutely straight.

parthenon-feature

The Parthenon in Greece uses a technique called “entasis” to make it appear that the columns are absolutely straight when in fact they are slightly curved

The point is that when we observe something superficially, we may be fooled into thinking a certain way.  And sometimes it takes someone to point it out and say; “Hey, look at it this way”, before we ever even notice the truth.

It strikes me that when people talk about “success” and “failure” they are often described as the opposite of one another.  People make it sound like there’s a spectrum like height, where there’s a tallest person and where there’s a shortest person.

The reality is very different.

The reality is that when you set out to accomplish something “failure” and “success” often require the same amount of effort, the same actions, the same thought processes, the same sacrifices, but one has an outcome which we call “failure” and the other has an outcome we call “success”.  Failure and success it seems are just two sides of the same coin.

“Mediocrity” is in fact the real opposite of both “success” and “failure”.  Coming somewhere in the middle, not standing out and fitting in is the path that people who are trying to accomplish something avoid at all costs.

*I am aware that the pyramids in Egypt were in fact smooth on the outside many years ago, but nonetheless they definitely aren’t smooth today.

Is Someone Getting The Best Of You?

True story.

I was once working in a hospital that was desperately short of doctors to cover the night shift.  The hospital somehow managed to find a senior doctor to cover one of the night shifts to oversee the work of the junior doctors, admit new patients and ensure patients were safe over night.

Usually the doctors that are hired in short notice get generous hourly pay because the hospital needs the doctor, but the doctor doesn’t need the hospital.

When this particular doctor arrived to start his night shift he was very angry because he was promised hot food and a place to eat.  Because the hospital didn’t organise this for him, he got up and said he was going to leave.  The nurses begged the doctor to stay, but he drove off while all the nurses looked at each other in horror, realising that there was no senior cover for the night.

What’s the lesson?

The person who has the most options always wins.

If you have no or few options in life, then by definition someone has power over you.

boss

A lot of decisions in life come disguised as logical and “safe”.  But they often bring with them hidden pitfalls and loss of optionality.

The person working in a “safe” job in an office making a steady income for example is counter intuitively a lot more vulnerable than an Uber driver.

The Uber driver can earn the same amount as most office workers.  Granted, he may have more variability in his take home pay month to month, thus making his job “unsafe”.  But when the office worker gets fired in his mid 40’s with no transferable skill set he is in a lot of trouble.

The Uber driver by contrast will be able to detect if his livelihood is at stake early and retrain / develop his skill set before getting laid off.  By working with the “safe” company the office worker gave up optionality later in life without realising.

Moral of the story:

In the majority of decisions, the decision which will provide most optionality is the correct one.

*Money is attractive to people as it represents pure optionality.  You can do anything you want with it.  But only if you own the money outright.  Money often has strings attached – either you owe it back, or someone gets a portion of your company or even worse you trade a portion of your life to get a paycheck.

In a startup this matters.  If you take a loan or you raise money, all of a sudden you’ve lost optionality as the people you took money from want it back and often with interest.  This limits your ability to innovate and explore different options.

 

How To Measure Your Life

It is unusual how when you insist on measuring something, you often end up measuring what actually doesn’t matter.  Often the thing you end up measuring is a distant relative of something meaningful.

Modern medicine is pretty incredible.  We can stick a tube down your air pipe and artificially ventilate you, we can keep your heart pumping artificially to keep the blood flowing, we can introduce an IV line and keep you hydrated by giving you fluids, we can feed you with a tube into your stomach (a PEG feed) and we can catheterise you to make sure you’re peeing properly.

By all measurable metrics we can keep you “alive”.  But by doing all of this are we really keeping the patient “alive” in any meaningful way?

 

Measure

I have a feeling that we often end up measuring things due to the mere fact that they are easy to measure.  The things which actually matter are usually difficult or impossible to measure:

  • “Likes”, “Follows” and “Shares” instead of measuring impact and engagement.
  • Money instead of measuring purpose and fulfillment.
  • Short-term growth instead of “durability”.

So the question becomes; “Are you measuring your life in a meaningful way?”, or are you measuring out of convenience.  Maybe it’s time to buckle down and figure out what actually matters.

Do You Have An Eggshell Skull?

Skull

 

In common law there is a well-known rule called the Eggshell Skull rule.

Say you are having an argument with your friend.  The argument starts to escalate and out of frustration you grab your mobile phone, throw it in your friends general direction and he gets hit on his head.

You didn’t know it, but your friend suffers from a rare bone condition called Osteogenesis Imperfecta, and therefore suffers from a skull fracture and dies.

The law says that it doesn’t matter that you didn’t intend to kill your friend, it doesn’t matter that you didn’t know about his condition.  You threw the phone, it was all your fault.

Physical injury, to which this law applies, is one thing but there are many other types of offence in real life.  And in real life, offence and defence can’t be as clearly divided as you might expect.

In a soccer game for example, when does merely playing defensively become playing offensively?  If the other team starts to behave more and more aggressively, then your team will have to play more defensively and at a certain point, you will become so defensive that you are actually playing offensively.

By putting your work out there into the world every day, by playing things with the right amount of caution, by surviving just another day…

by merely being defensive you are causing an impact.  

What does this mean for you as a writer, a blogger, an entrepreneur or freelancer?

It means you are not as weak as you might think. 

 

Fear, Tension, Resistance & Your Best Work

“We got taught for 12 or 16 years at school, that our job was to get an “A”, that if we are defective we fail – we were reprocessed, sent back a grade and had to do it again.  This idea that we better be right, that we better be perfect, that we better get it all correct, goes deep within us.

The industrialists wanted that to happen, because it makes us a better factory worker, it makes us better at following specific instructions.

When something comes along that might not work we feel “The Tension”.  “The Tension” of experiencing two things at the same time:

  • This might work.  That’d be great!
  • This might not work. I’m gonna be doomed!

“The Tension” exists when we feel both of those at the same time.  If you’re not feeling both at the same time then you’re probably not doing your best work, you’re probably not having your most honest relationships, you’re probably not inventing the future, you’re simply a victim of the future.

So, “The Tension” isn’t something to avoid, it’s something to seek out, because that’s what it is to be a professional today.  To go to that place where we feel – as Steve Pressfield calls it; “The Resistance”.  “The Resistance” [think about the tension in a rubber band] pulling us away from the place where we might be able to make a difference.

I think it’s possible to learn that when that tension shows up, we should lean toward it, not away from it.  It’s possible to learn that that’s actually our job, that as a professional or mere writing or speaking or typing or engaging or inventing – “The Tension” – that place where we feel it, that is what we’re getting paid to do.

Thats’ when our chance shows up for us to do our best work. ”

– An excerpt from Seth Godin’s podcast “Akimbo”: https://www.akimbo.me/