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.

 

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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/

The Right Size

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Why is it that no one ever says that Cambridge University should “scale” to serve more people or “disrupt” the education system*?  Does anyone really think that Cambridge University should start a “franchise” and open up shop all across England or America?

Why is it then that when people look at their own businesses “growth” and “disruption” seem to be the main goal?

I have noticed that most things have a natural size.  Whether it be the ideal size of a pizza, a smart phone or a business.  It’s not always about getting bigger, about growth, about franchising.  Most of the time it’s about doing what’s right for you and your business.

Ironically, staying the right size is also the best way to maximise and maintain long-term profits.

You Are Not A Red Zebra

red zebra

Isn’t it strange how zebra’s stand out so much?

Shouldn’t they have evolved to be a sort of brown colour?  Like the lion, so that they would blend in with their environment and not get eaten?

Interestingly enough when scientists were studying zebra’s, they found it awfully hard to keep track of which zebra was which, so they came up with a solution:

“Why don’t we paint a red spot on the zebra we want to track?!”

Every time the scientists did this, the zebra in question got eaten.

Why?

Because the Zebra with the red-painted spot stood out from the rest of the herd.  It turns out that the herd provide the camouflage for the individual.

But here’s the thing:

You are not a zebra, you don’t move in herds and you don’t need to worry about getting eaten

Can you think of a single person you admire that didn’t stand for something that set them apart from the crowd?

Whether it be Steve Jobs, Mahatma Gandhi or a soldier who fought for their country.  All these people stood for something and most likely would put their life on the line for what they believe in.

At some point it seems, we have to put our foot down, draw the line in the sand and say:

“This is what I believe is right.  This is what I believe in.  This is who I am and what I stand for.”

I don’t fear laying on my death-bed and feeling sad that I didn’t accomplish X,Y or Z.  I am afraid that I will be on my death-bed and look back at my life and realise that I didn’t stand up for what I truly believe in.  That is a life not lived.

Avoid The Tourist Trap

A great meal in Paris…

One of the best things about spending a week in Paris is getting to experience some really great food.

A simple way of knowing if a place is worth visiting is by simply walking inside and listening carefully to the customers. Are they speaking French? If they are, then you’ll likely have a good meal.

The reason places which cater only to tourists suck is because they usually just want to make a quick buck. They’re not interested in starting a new relationship with a long term customer. They want to maximise profits and spend as little as possible while doing so.

However, this kind of plan won’t work with locals. With locals you have to play an “infinite game”. Developing and nurturing longstanding relationships where you actually care about the people you have the privilege of serving.

The question is, are you treating your customers like tourists? Do you want to take them for a ride?

Or are you playing the infinite game? Are you in this for the long haul because you actually care and want to build longstanding relationships?