Tattoo Thinking

No Ragrets tattoo


Seth-urday post today is about difference between a blemish and a tattoo. In “Tattoo Thinking”, he urges people to realise that most things you do in life do not have the permanence of tattoos…

  • “A tattoo is basically forever. You should think pretty hard before you get one, because it’s largely an irreversible decision. Just about every choice you make with your project and your career, though, doesn’t last forever. And the benefit of taking a risk is significantly higher than it is with a tattoo. A landing page, a pricing move, a bit of copy–they don’t last much more than a day, never mind a lifetime. Higher benefits, lower risk, what are you waiting for? So go ahead and act as if your decisions are temporary. Because they are. Be bold, make mistakes, learn a lesson and fix what doesn’t work. No sweat, no need to hyperventilate.”

And frankly, even tattoos can be removed (with a bit of expense and discomfort).

Embracing Blemishes

Blemish Effect


Some extensive travel in recent weeks has put a blemish on the regularity of my posts. But according to my friend and digital marketing maven Allister Frost, that’s not such a bad thing. His recent post “The Blemish Effect” explained how a blemish is better than perfection…

  • “In this situation, many people will opt for Book B with its 4.6 star rating, rather than Book A with its perfect 5 star score. Under logical scrutiny this may seem counterintuitive, but researchers refer to this phenomenon as the blemish effect, a nature human bias towards the most credible, authentic information sources. Book A loses out because its reviews are marginally less plausible than those given to Book B. We all know that nothing is perfect in this world, so the reviews for Book A may unwittingly raise alarm bells in our heads. “Surely not everyone can think that book is perfect,” we ask ourselves. Our thoughts may even turn to wondering whether the reviews have been placed there by friends of the author, or indeed by the author themselves.”

Embracing Bad Beats


“You have to go with your reads. There’s no sense second-guessing yourself afterwards.” – Worst AKo Ever

In today’s World Series of Poker Final Table, 9 highly successful players are going to head home having failed to nab the big prize. I’ve selected a few choice words from the oracle of all-in, Aidan Lloyd on persevering through this final hurdle…

“Playing poker can be likened to being on a long bus ride. You want to stay on the bus, and go as far as you can. Sometimes, though, you’re forced off the bus, dropped off essentially in the middle of nowhere. How you deal with that situation has a lot to do with how successful a player you’re going to be. What do you need to do when you’re dropped off in the middle of nowhere? Hard as it might seem, you just need to walk. Use your own two legs and get moving. You won’t get there as fast as if you were still on the bus, but with persistence and luck, you’ll get there.” – The Middle of Nowhere

Traits of a Successful Failure

Failure poster - we your best isnt good enough


Pivoting” is an example of the “failing properly.” Failure is not the problem. Doing it properly is. A failure that drives a pivot to a new opportunity is one good way. Leadership guru John C. Maxwell offers a prescription and a proscription in his piece “Traits of Successful Failure”…

  1. Optimism. Find the benefit in every bad experience.
  2. Responsibility. Change your response to failure by accepting responsibility.
  3. Resilience. Say goodbye to yesterday.
  4. Initiative. Take action and face your fear.

And by contrast, the 5 traits of poor failing…

  1. Comparison. Either measuring your failures against those of others, or convincing yourself that your circumstances were harder than theirs.
  2. Rationalization. Telling yourself and others that you have good reasons for not getting over past hurts and mistakes. Believing that those who encourage you “just don’t understand.”
  3. Isolation. Pulling back and keeping yourself separate from others, either to avoid dealing with the issues, or to continue to feel sorry for yourself.
  4. Regret. Getting stuck lamenting or trying to fix things that cannot be changed.
  5. Bitterness. Feeling like a victim and blaming others for negative outcomes.

Embracing Serendipity

Gapingvoid - pivot


Seth-urday sequel to my Seth birthday post on a concept near and dear to my heart – “The Pivot”. The “Pivot” is not just the most powerful feature of Excel. It is an agility to respond to failure with an adaptation which “pivots” to a new direction. In so doing in business, it exploits one of the most critical concepts in product marketing – “adjacency”. It is the spirit of Scott Adams’ goal-less system focus (“Fail At Almost Everything…”). Or as Seth describes it…

  • “A pivot is when a start-up quickly changes from one product to another or from one business model to another. The valley is full of stories about companies that started with a lame idea and hit it big after a pivot. Most start-ups in the valley are software-based, so pivots are both practical and economical. The pivot used to be the exception. For example, a company starts out selling PEZ dispensers online and later pivots to become eBay…[S]uccess in the start-up realm is mostly luck. They discover this by trying great ideas coupled with great execution and failing. And they further discover it by observing unexpected successes at other start-ups. Success simply can’t be predicted to any level of statistical comfort.”

I witnessed this dynamic in my experience at Kenan Systems. The company had focused on decision support systems (DSS) which the founder Kenan Sahin thought would be a big market. But after doing a successful system for a financial company, the customer asked if we could do some systems work on the transactions processing itself. That led to a basic billing system which was eventually sold to phone companies. As it happens, the telephone deregulation and the rise of cellular network created a surging demand for relatively inexpensive billing systems using new computing platforms. It became a huge success (the company sold for $1.5 billion). No business plan ever indicated that the company would grow to massive heights selling billing systems.

The Pivot is needs to take place upon the death of dreams. One must not be devastated by such fatality of fantasies, but be on the alert for those nearby serendipities which generate new dreams. Portfolio workers live and breathe the pivot turning certain skills into a broader range of services and pursuits. My father was my earliest role model in this career pivoting. He went into architecture inspired by the creativity it offered, but when that disappointed, he pivoted into a field more explicitly focused on the creative by teaching literature with the Great Books Foundation. His growing interest in reading, interpreting and sharing insights from great texts led him to the seminary to become a Unitarian Universalist minister. Then, the whole career came full circle when he linked his original interest in architecture with his occupation in the clergy to become an author and authority on church architecture.

The concept reminds me of the devout man trapped on the roof of his house by rising flood waters. A man in a row boat came by and told him to get in to be rescued. The man on the stoop said, “no” because he had faith in God and would wait for God to save him. While the waters kept rising, a man in a motor boat came by and told the man on the house to get in because he had come to rescue him. The man in the house said no thank you. He had perfect faith in God and would wait for God to save him. The flood waters kept rising and there was just a small patch of roof left. A helicopter then came by with a rope and told him to grab hold and they would save him. The man told the pilot that he had faith in God and would wait for God to rescue him. The flood waters kept rising and the man on the house eventually drowned. When he got to heaven, he asked God where he went wrong. He told God that he had perfect faith in God, but God had let him drown. God responded, "What more do you want from me? I sent you two boats and a helicopter."

Pivoting is letting go of initial plan of how you will be ‘saved’ and recognizing serendipity when it reveals itself to you.

It’s Not For You

Seth Godin no


Seth Godin, this post IS for you. It’s been a while since, I’ve had a “Seth-urday”, so I thought I would mark Seth’s birthday with a post on a topic he returns to regularly – embracing the failure of unanimity. The adage says “you can please all of the people some of the time,” but Seth would dispute that. And even if you could, you probably wouldn’t want to. Here are some choice post excerpts on this subject…

  • For the one person who didn’t get the joke”: Unanimity is impossible unless you are willing to be invisible. We can be unanimous in our lack of feedback for the invisible one. For everyone else, though, the ability to say, ‘It’s not for you,’ is the foundation for creating something brave and important. You can’t do your best work if you’re always trying to touch the untouchable, or entertain those that refuse to be entertained. ‘It’s not for you.’ This is easy to say and incredibly difficult to do. You don’t have much choice, though, not if you want your work to matter.”
  • Customers who break things”: “2% of your customers don’t get it. They won’t read the instructions, they’ll use the wrong handle, they’ll ignore the warning about using IE6. They will blame you for giving them a virus or will change the recipe even though you ask them not to… If you’re going to be in a mass market business, you have no choice to but to accept that this group exists. And to embrace them. Not to blame them, but to love them. Successful businesses have the resilience to make it easy for them to recover. To make it easy for these people to find you and to blame you and to get the help they need.”
  • The humility of the artist”: “It seems arrogant to say, ‘perhaps this isn’t for you.’ When the critic pans your work, or the prospect hears your offer but doesn’t buy, the artist responds, ‘that’s okay, it’s not for you.’ She doesn’t wheedle or flip-flop or go into high pressure mode. She treats different people differently, understands that she is working to delight the weird, not please the masses, and walks away. Isn’t that arrogant? No. It’s arrogant to assume that you’ve made something so extraordinary that everyone everywhere should embrace it. Our best work can’t possibly appeal to the average masses, only our average work can. Finding the humility to happily walk away from those that don’t get it unlocks our ability to do great work.”
  • Kracos”: “A few hours into the first show, I noticed that some of the people walking by had little creatures on their shoulders. Kraco, the low-cost stereo company, had a huge booth, and they were giving visitors these little stick-on humanoids, made of some sort of wool, to ride along on their shoulder. They were about two-inches high and they looked precisely as ridiculous as you are imagining. I loved this. These people, these lookers, not buyers, were identifying themselves to us from a distance. The little Kraco man on the shoulder meant, ‘I am here to waste your time, I am not a professional, what will you give me that’s free?’ We quickly began identifying anyone with one of these on their shoulder as a Kraco, someone not worth an investment of focus and energy or free stuff. Alas, the Kracos in your world today don’t wear a little man on their shoulder, but that doesn’t mean they’re not out there. All your prospects are not the same, and if you insist on treating them that way, you will waste your time and your enthusiasm on people who aren’t bringing any to your interaction.”

Death Race of Dreams


One of the ways and reasons to embrace the death of dreams is to dream new dreams. The Sunday Times Magazine article by Matt Rudd “Why Didn’t I Just Buy a Porsche” (paywalled) examines an increasingly popular mid-life catharsis – extreme racing.

  • That’s the problem with middle age: you stop getting new boxes to tick. Day in, day out, it’s the same boxes. You can’t just change to a different box, not unless you are one of those cavalier types who enjoys reading leadership books and still wears jeans at your age. For normal people, middle age is a time of growing inelasticity. Age five, you could be anything like astronaut, fireman, town planning advisor, absolutely anything. Age 18, you’re going to be whatever the career planning advisors didn’t advise. Age 28, you have a job, a specific job, but you could still change. You could change whenever you like. And then, quicker than you were expecting, you’re middle aged, you have love for richer, for pooer, of your entire life. You have dependants. You have responsibilities, you have insurmountable debts, you have no new boxes.”

He talks about how crises appear at all times in one’s life. The “quarter-life crisis” (“must jump back out of adulthood temporarily and go back into an adolescent exploratory period”), or the “later life crisis” – (“sixtysomethings”). But they all seem to less acute that the classic afternoon of “midlife” which echoes the observations of India Knight….

  • There is no particular point where you are more likely to have one, although midlife crisis has an archetypal resonance because it has that sense of passing over the brow of the hill…Not the morning, when anything is possible. Not the evening, when you can relax and coast towards Horlicks and bedtime. The afternoon is when it’s too late for fresh ideas and too early to put your feet up.”

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 131 other followers