Think Better: The Best Stuff I Read This Week – November 18, 2011

You Don’t Have to Tweet to Twitter – Bill Gurley –

The metaphorical understanding of Twitter is that it is like Facebook. Facebook is of course the leading “social network.” But there are drastic distinctions that must be clear, especially for Twitter to have continued success. Twitter is not just a “variant of Facebook.”

Primarily, Facebook is a “symmetrical” few-to-a-few social network. Facebook connects “friends” who mutually acknowledge each other’s friendship. You can easily share with the people in your life. On the other hand, Twitter is distinctively “asymmetrical” and functions more as a broadcasting tool.

Importantly, one does not have to “tweet” to be actively engaged on Twitter. Twitter is changing how they on-board new users so that the new user doesn’t feel like their own tweeting is not so central to the experience.

Twitter’s value is more closely aligned to a discovery engine and information utility than it is to that of a “social network.”

Personal Finance is More PERSONAL than it is FINANCE – Tim Maurer –

Tim reveals some of the drive, manipulation, and perhaps greed that is a part of the financial services sales industry and the way he was trained. However, Tim had the humility and foresight to get out of that game, and now offers a different breed of personal financial planning.

In fact, because money is so tied to every aspect of each of our lives, Tim (a financial planner) has his own financial advisor – someone who is not as close to Tim’s money as Tim is.

The article goes on to explain why personal finance is more personal than it is finance. This affects the financial advice you should receive. But he also makes the interesting point, “the most challenging and important aspects of the discipline of personal finance are not the financial, but the personal.”

How a Financial Pro Lost His House – Carl Richards – New York Times

This story takes a look at the insanity that preceded the financial collapse. The author tells his own devastating story of the things he did to get in a bad place, how he lost his house, and what he learned along the way. Importantly, he notes that we really can’t judge the spending habits or risks taken by others because we don’t know what they’re doing to keep their families together or otherwise stay alive. An example he gives is someone borrowing against their house to be able to afford therapy. Who knows… maybe that’s the best decision that you can make given all the circumstances. Good read.

Basic lesson: don’t be greedy. Not with our money nor our judgments. Also, have the humility to be able to envision a future that may not be what you think the script would have it be. Learn to see unintended consequences.

A Brief Rant On The Future Of Interaction Design – Bret Victor

When we envision the future, it’s a lot of touch-screen interfaces all over the place. Everything we interact with is “picture under glass.”

It’s ironic that all of our proposed future touch-screen tools are controlled by our hands when our hands are designed for much more utility that touching surfaces. Therefore, our visions of the future and future technology ought to incorporate more of our inherent capability. Creating a future “vision” involving lots of touch devices isn’t that “visionary” at all… it’s all derived from what we currently have.

Notably, our hands are able to give us tremendous feedback on things: we feel the weight of piano keys, we can feel how full a glass of water is, etc. Those experiences – the things that give us real-time feedback about our experience – are completely impossible on touch devices. The best example is that playing the piano ultimately feels like anything else if it’s experienced on a touch device.

We must be careful with our visions of the future, and often this means relying on more basic metaphors… like what our hands are able to do… not just modern metaphors of multi-functional touch screen interfaces.

Clip from ‘Objectified’

A feature-length documentary about our complex relationship with manufactured objects and, by extension, the people who design them.

This clip of sets a standard for design theory. The best design is “inevitable;” it’s invisible. The best design gets out of the way. I write a column for Blue Ocean Ideas called “The Weekly Idea” and next week’s will be on this very topic. Click here to subscribe to “The Weekly Idea.”


Hands, Laughing, and Peace

My wife Lisa and I tried this out recently when we got in a fight, and it worked like a charm.

At the advice of Zig Ziglar, we held hands while we were fighting.

The fight didn’t last long. We started laughing pretty quickly.

Other benefits:

  • we were forced to look at each other
  • we were forced to not ignore each other
  • we were forced to listen before speaking
  • we were forced to be have to be seen

Oh, and our issue got resolved.

It’s foolish to say, “yeah, just hold hands and everything will always work out.” But, I can tell you that the discipline has helped us.

When were able to touch those who hurt us… when we’re able to touch those we are hurting, the “ok-ness” of hurting decreases. Of course, you first have to love the “other” and be committed to their well-being.

But here’s my question: is it possible to hold hands more often with those with whom we’re fighting? Can we align our interests more often? Can we let someone else’s pain also cause us pain?

When we do, behavior and decisions change. Relationships grow deeper. And, the feuding parties are like Lisa and me, you might start giggling. And then laughing.

You’re not just laughing it off. You’re laughing. Together.

P.S. I should also note that the very act of getting married involves facing each other, holding hands. Seems like a precursor to what should be a familiar posture in any relationship of mutual-commitment. It’s hard to do though, isn’t it?


Think Better: The Best Stuff I Read This Week – November 11, 2011

Excessive CEO Pay and Job Losses: Are They Linked? – Carl M. Cannon – Real Clear Politics

This article is an analysis of the trend that top executives as major corporations are rewarded for profitability, not growth, innovation, nor other valuable metric. As such, there is a strong correlation between high executive salaries and high numbers of layoffs. The “winners” are the guys who cut the most jobs. It’s a very interesting read.

Mike Metzger of the Clapham Institute has noted, “What you measure is your mission.” (If a blog measures comments, its mission will be to write in such a way to solicit comments. If it measures time-on-page, its mission will be to publish content that keeps readers around for as long as possible.) If follows that if corporations are simply using profit as their measure of success, they will do whatever is needed to produce profit. I think Simon Sinek is exactly right when he says that “profit has to always be a by-product” of following your mission. “Profit isn’t why you exist.”

From the article: Peter F. Drucker predicted it might come to this. In his 1973 book, “Management: Tasks, Responsibilities, Practices,” he wrote: “The fact is that in modern society there is no other leadership group but managers. If the managers of our major institutions, and especially of business, do not take responsibility for the common good, no one else can or will.”

What’s the common good? It can be summarized in the ancient Hebrew word shalom – a word that means human flourishing, interdependence (with others and the world itself), and the idea that “nothing’s missing, nothing’s broken.”

Tweet by Jeremy Talman (@Talmaniac):

This kind of thing makes it much easier for me to believe in a Creator:

Stunning video of a sea of birds flying in complex 3-D patterns

[Video] Presentation Scott Harrison, founder and CEO of charity:water – Inc. Magazine

An inspiring talk on the history, vision, work, and future of charity: water. If you want to know about the worldwide water crisis and what it takes to solve it, watch this. And the presentation slides are beautiful too.

The Extraordinary Revolution of Media Choice – Seth Godin

The past was defined by limits of spectrum. You could only consume one type of media at a time. You could only “broadcast” one type of media at a time as well: radio, tv, newspaper, or even trade show booth or retail shelf space. There was inherent scarcity. Scarcity creates value. Creating value then comes in dominating your scare “supply” opportunities.

Now, however, “everything is a click away… the only thing that’s scarce is attention.” You can no longer “program consumption” and whatever is on the front page of the newspaper is also now obsolete. Everything is now just a click away from any link a friend gives you.

“In a world of surfers, all you can do is work to make the best wave you can. The real revolution is that you get to make waves, not just ride them.”


Think Better: The Best Stuff I Read This Week – November 4, 2011

How To Get a Job With a Small Company – Seth Godin

Seth describes how getting hired at a Fortune 500 company is very different than getting hired at a small company. Yet, all of the popular wisdom about getting a job is oriented toward navigating the process in a large company. Ironically, large companies are getting smaller over the last 20 years, while small companies are growing. If you want to work at a small company, the hiring game is very different. In fact, it’s simply not a game. You have to demonstrate value. Seth mentions selling and content creation (writing skills and technical/creative) as components.

Spooky – Mike Metzger – Doggie Head Tilt

The number four show up in a number of patterns that characterize life, like infancy, childhood,adulthood, elder years. Another example is winter, spring, summer, fall. There’s a pattern to all of life. This is particularly helpful since people are “severely limited” in their ability for truly rational thought. We can only process a very little amount of information at a given time. Patterns, and a limiting of options, help us along. The four-chapter pattern makes sense since it is found in the biblical narrative of the core of our reality. This narrative also describes four chapters: creation, fall, redemption, restoration.

Our modern society is rather skeptical of anything transcendent. Our preoccupation with intellectualization has lead us to be come dis-enchanted. What we need, according to C.S. Lewis is more fairy tales – things that are enchanting. “Spells are used for for breaking enchantments as well as for inducing them.” Will we weave spells for good or for evil?



Think Better: The Best Stuff I Read This Week – October 28, 2011

Ain’t Exactly Clear – Mike Metzger – Doggie Head Tilt

A critique of last week’s New York Times article “Something’s Happening Here” by Thomas Friedman. Friedman posited that there were two approaches to looking at the Occupy Wall Street movement and other things that indicate “something’s happening here” – “The Great Disruption” and “The Big Shift.” Metzger has three main points:

  1. Our common definition of capitalism is sourced by Karl Marx, so any critique of “capitalism” doesn’t really address the way the economic system is intended to work. (I will pause to note that the best way to solve a debate is to define terms)
  2. “The Great Disruption” takes an incorrect assumption about the role of capitalism in its fundamental argument, and “The Big Shift” takes an incorrect assumption of the role, power, and opportunity that individuals have
  3. Friedman incorrectly posits that the only two ways of looking at this issue are those of disruption and shift. There are more possibilities at hand than Friedman’s dichotomy.

Selling Is Not About Relationships – Matthew Dixon and Brent Adamson – Harvard Business Review

New research shows there are 5 distinct types of sales people: Relationship Builders, Hard Workers, Lone Wolves, Reactive Problem Solvers, and Challengers. Surprisingly, the least effective type is the Relationship Builder. The research notes that this is because, while professional and enjoyable, this type doesn’t really help their clients achieve their goals.

On the other hand, the Challengers are the most successful sales type. They challenge their customers to think differently, they push them forward, and they take relational risks. They sell solutions. These findings, while they make sense, were very surprising to me. This article (and the upcoming series from HBR) will be very instructive and insightful.

Anomaly – Roy H. Williams – The Monday Morning Memo

  • “Your brain is hardwired to notice the exception…”
  • “Islands are made larger, paradoxically, by the scale of the sea that surrounds them. The element which might reduce them, which might be thought to besiege them, has the opposite effect.… The sea makes islands signficant.” – Adam Nicholson, Sea Room
  • Discoveries are often made by accident. Discoveries are the signature of adventure. Take more adventure.

Seeing Red: To Write is to Edit – Josh Ritter – Wall Street Journal

A personal look at how acclaimed singer-songwriter Josh Ritter learned to write. It was all because of the red pen marks and edits of his father, and his father’s insistence on asking questions that forced Josh to get it just right.

Does Hollywood Need Its Own Brand of Moneyball? – Patrick Hruby – Washington Times

Major movie studios are reducing the number of films they release every year and seem to have their entire financial model wrapped up in releasing home-run blockbusters. That, however, is incredibly risky due to the budget requirements of creating these types of films. By contrast, there are plenty of movies made with much smaller budgets that become very profitable. Paradoxically, the risk makes studios less likely to want to “hit singles” because they don’t know how to operate in this way. It’s basically a mess in Hollywood right now. Funtamentally, it’s even harder to create a computer model that predicts the success of movies than baseball teams.

Arguing With Success – Seth Godin

Failure has already failed. Question success if you want to keep getting better.

When Is It Ok to Start Worrying? – Seth Godin

Worry is a useless, unproductive response.

The Full Walter Isaacson/Steve Jobs Interview from 60 Minutes


The Arrogance of Our Abilities

We can see, hear, touch, smell, and taste. That’s it. Those are the only physical ways we can experience the physical world.

Imagine if we could never taste… if no one in all of human existence could ever taste anything. If this was true, we wouldn’t have the word “taste”… we wouldn’t be able to know the experience. We would be ignorant of the ability to taste.

This is important: we wouldn’t even know to ask about “taste.” It would be fundamentally foreign to us, not within any realm of possibility because we couldn’t imagine it.

Proof: imagine another sense. We can see, hear, touch, smell, and taste. Come up with another one. We can _____.

It’s tough, right? When I think of everything I have the ability to do, it’s still shrouded in the metaphors that we already have. It would be cool to have x-ray vision… but that’s still sight. Being able to fly would be rad, but that’s not a sense – it’s an ability. Other animals can sense things we can’t; they can hear other frequencies of sound and see other wavelengths of light… but they are still hearing and seeing. We are bound by these metaphors.

We simply cannot even think of other ways to experience reality.

Which brings us back to the point that if we could never ever taste, for instance, we would never ever know the difference. We would not – we could not – even long for the ability to taste.

Yet the ability to taste exists. It’s possible. Even if we never knew about it, it is metaphysically possible.

So, what else might be real and possible that we simply cannot experience and cannot give language to?

It could be nothing. It could be infinite. We simply don’t know. And to rely on our five senses to tell us everything about reality is something that scares me.

Think of radio waves, the things that make radios and cell phones work. They are completely invisible and indiscernible by humans unless we have the right tools to measure and create them. Radio waves don’t exist… that is, until we discover them.

Which only makes me wonder what else might be out there that is equally as real, but simply not known by my experience.


Think Better: The Best Stuff I Read This Week

“Breathing Life Into Business” – John Seel – Doggie Head Tilt

Once again, even the most basic things in life, like breathing, serve as metaphors for how to view and experience the whole of life. People and businesses alike cannot succeed merely by hoarding (i.e. “preparing for a raining day). You can’t just inhale. Likewise you can’t just exhale, and give all your money away. Sustainable societies and business are built on wealth creation. Wealth creation comes by trade. Trade requires everyone be inhaling and exhaling. Jesus himself commends us to make a profit out of our talents.

“There’s Something Happening Here” – Thomas L. Friedman – New York Times

Are we in the middle of “The Great Disruption” or “The Big Shift”? Disruption: We’ve reached out limits, growth-obsessed capitalism is failing, and inequality is growing. Shift: Technology, access to everything, and massive opportunity can solve whatever ills us. Fundamentally, both can be optimistic as it forces societies to have to figure it out. Stress/tension in this is a good thing. Can birth renewal. The question is, though, why are the two options Friedman presents the only two options in analyzing the situation. In the song by Buffalo Springfield, he has a little more humility: “There’s something happening here // What it is ain’t exactly clear.”

“How Starbucks Transformed Coffee From A Commodity Into A $4 Splurge” – Debbie Millman – Fast Company

This interview summarizes most of my theory and approach to brand development (without noting “people don’t by what you do, they buy why you do it.”). Brands are about: customer experience, customer emotion, and customers seeing themselves in the brand’s story. What to build a brand? Focus on experience, emotion, and story. I know I was just completely redundant, but even huge international brands like Microsoft just don’t seem to get this at all.

“Dropbox: The Inside Story Of Tech’s Hottest Startup” – Victoria Barrett – Forbes

My life and business run on a Mac… that runs my Dropbox. This article is just a in-depth look at how the company started, grew, andeven turned down a purchase offer from Steve Jobs himself. Sure, I’m a bit jealous, but I think what these tech startups have to do to win (have no life for years), and what they are responsible for (millions of people’s wedding photos) might not be things I’m willing to have as a part of my life.

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