Adonis Diaries

Posts Tagged ‘Seth Godin

The care and feeding (and shunning) of vampires

Seth Godin posted this Dec. 16, 2013

You have metaphorical vampires in your life.

Vampires, of course, feed on something that we desperately need but also can’t imagine being a source of food.

These are people that feed on negativity, on shooting down ideas and most of all, on extinguishing your desire to make things better.

Why would someone do that? Why would they rush to respond to a heartfelt and generous blog post with a snide comment about a typo in the third line?

Why would they go out of their way to fold their arms, make a grimace and destroy any hope you had for changing the status quo?

Vampires cannot be cured.

They cannot be taught, they cannot learn the error of their ways. Most of all, vampires will never understand how much damage they’re doing to you and your work. Pity the vampires, they are doomed to this life.

Your garlic is simple: shun them.

Delete their email, turn off comments, don’t read your one-star reviews. Don’t attend meetings where they show up. Don’t buy into the false expectation that in an organizational democracy, every voice matters.

Every voice doesn’t matter–only the voices that move your idea forward, that make it better, that make you better, that make it more likely you will ship work that benefits your tribe.

It’s so tempting to evangelize to the vampires, to prove them wrong, to help them see how destructive they are. This is food for them, merely encouragement.

Shun the ones who feed on your failures.

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Change is a word…

For a journey with stress.

You get the journey and you get the stress.

At the end, you’re a different person. But both elements are part of the deal.

There are plenty of journeys that are stress-free. They take you where you expect, with little in the way of surprise or disappointment. You can call that a commute or even a familiar TV show in reruns.

And there’s plenty of stress that’s journey-free. What a waste.

We can grow beyond that, achieve more than that and contribute along the way. But to do so, we might need to welcome the stress and the journey too.

Modern laziness

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 labelling it for what it is.

If you can’t see it, how can you make it better?

It doesn’t pay to say to the CFO: These numbers on the P&L aren’t true.

And arguing with Walmart or Target about your market share stats doesn’t work either.

You can’t make things better if you can’t agree on the data.

Real breakthroughs are sometimes accompanied by new data, by new metrics, by new ways of measurement.

But unless we agree in advance on what’s happening, it’s difficult to accomplish much.

If you don’t like what’s happening, an easy way out appears to be to blame the messenger. After all, if the data (whether it’s an event, a result or a law of physics) isn’t true, you’re off the hook.

The argument is pretty easy to make: if the data has ever been wrong before, if there’s ever been bias, or a mistake, or a theory that’s been improved, well, then, who’s to say that it’s right this time?

“Throw it all out.” That’s the cowardly and selfish thing to do. Don’t believe anything that makes you look bad. All video is suspect, as is anything that is reported, journaled or computed.

The problem is becoming more and more clear: once we begin to doubt the messenger, we stop having a clear way to see reality.

The conspiracy theories begin to multiply. If everyone is entitled to their own facts and their own narrative, then what exists other than direct emotional experience?

And if all we’ve got is direct emotional experience, our particular statement of reality, how can we possibly make things better?

If we don’t know what’s happened, and worst of all, if we can’t figure out what’s likely to happen next, how do take action?

No successful organization works this way.

It’s impossible to imagine a well-functioning team of people where there’s a fundamental disagreement about the data.

Demand that those you trust and those you work with accept the ref’s calls, the validity of the x-ray and the reality of what’s actually happening. Anything less than that is a shortcut to chaos.

Technical skills, power and influence

When a new technology arrives, it’s often the nerds and the neophiliacs who embrace it.

People who see themselves as busy and important often dismiss the new medium or tool as a bit of a gimmick and then “go back to work.”

It’s only a few years later when the people who understand those tools are the ones calling the shots.

Because “the work” is now centered on that thing that folks hesitated to learn when they had the chance.

And so, it’s the web programmers who hold the keys to the future of the business, or the folks who live in mobile.

Or it’s the design strategists who thrive in Photoshop and UI thinking who determine what gets built or invested in…

There’s never a guarantee that the next technology is going to be the one that moves to the center of the conversation. But it’s certain that a new technology will. It always has.

Constructive dissatisfaction

It’s never been easier to find ways to be disappointed in our performance. You can compare your output, your income, your success rate to a billion people around the globe… many of whom are happy to exaggerate to make you even more disappointed.

It’s hardly worth your trouble.

The exception is the dissatisfaction that is based on a legitimate comparison, one that gives you insight on how to improve and motivates you to get better.

Get clear about the change you’re trying to make and, if it’s useful, compare yourself to others that are on the same path as you are.

If the response rate to your website is lower than your competitor’s, take a look at what they’re doing and learn from it.

If your time in the hundred-yard dash is behind that of the person to your left, analyze the video of their run, step by step, and figure out what you’re missing.

You can always find someone who is cuter, happier or richer than you. (Or appears to be). That’s pointless.

But if you can find some fuel to help you reach your goals, not their goals, have at it.

The Peter Possibility

Dr. Laurence Peter understood the promise and peril of bureaucracy better than most.

Fifty years ago, he wrote, “managers rise to the level of their incompetence.

The Peter Principle states that if you do a good job, you get promoted, until you reach a job where you’re incompetent, and there you stay.

Meaning that sooner or later, the entire organization is filled with incompetent people stuck in their slot.

Bureaucracy promises us a safe spot, and it also offers the upside that if you do a good job, you’ll get chosen, picked, promoted and will move up. So, keep your head down, do what you’re told and you win.

We don’t live in that world any more. (But the public sector is expanding wildly everywhere)

And the upside is definitely more positive and a lot more scary:

You (and you alone) get to decide if you want to move “up”. If you want to be promoted, have more influence, more leverage and more responsibility.

Fearful that we’ll expose our incompetence, we hide. Remembering the lessons of childhood, we wait to get picked.

But the Peter Possibility points out that we’re far more competent than we imagine.

That once we pick ourselves, we have precisely what we need to do generous work.

Meaningful work

Of course, it came with chocolate.

There’s no doubt that we’re doing more running around than ever before. More cutting of corners, counting of pennies, reading of reviews. More focus on making a profit, less on making a difference.

But why?

Once you have enough, isn’t better the point?

Better doesn’t mean more.

Better means generous, sustainable, worthy. Better means connection and quality and opportunity, too.

This lesson is easily learned from chocolate.

Not merely because there’s a limited amount you can eat at a time (so why not eat something better), but because the creation of chocolate gives us a startling insight into justice, fairness and what it means to do work that matters.

The numbers associated with chocolate are huge. Tons of cacao, millions of bars, billions in revenue.

But one number is astonishingly small: the amount the typical farmer makes in income.

For many, it’s only $3 a day. The people who are creating the raw material for the magic we consume daily are among some of the poorest and least respected workers in the world.

My friend Shawn has written a groundbreaking book that might just change everything for you. Not merely the way you eat chocolate, but the way you do your work.

It publishes today at Amazon and 800CEORead as well.

Shawn has used his life (from defense attorney to creator of some of the most amazing chocolate in the world) as a way to think about the work we do all day. How do we do it, why do we do it, what do we measure…

A must read. It will help you see the world differently.

PS Emily and Maya and their team at Uncommon Cacao are putting some of these insights to work in a brave and powerful new way. As soon as someone says, “there’s no other way,” count on someone who cares to find another way.

Also, mostly unrelated, two fun novels for the fall: The Punch Escrow and After On.

Rollicking tech pop-culture thrill rides.


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