Furniture assembly and brute force

One of the things you learn assembling furniture that comes disassembled is that you rarely, if ever, need to use brute force.

Instead, all you need to do is be patient, pay attention to the details, and keep at it for as long as it takes. If you have good tools, you may shave off some time. But, there are few shortcuts available otherwise.

And, if you do find yourself resorting to brute force, it is a sign that you’ve made a mistake somewhere. Hammers are rarely useful in ensuring the right pieces fall in place.

When pieces fall into place, they do so because of accuracy and finesse.

There’s a life lesson in there somewhere.

The marketing email checkbox copy

I was on the California Parks website the other day and noticed different copy in the checkbox near the submit button.

Instead of some version of “I’d like to receive xx newsletter and yy marketing emails,” it said “It’s okay to contact me in the future.”

Your Information 
Email * 
Your receipt will be emailed here. 
It's okay to contact me in the future. 

It made me smile.

It also changed my behavior – I left it checked for a change.

Good copy is powerful.

Sleepy kids and complex systems

When kids get sleepy, a number of things tend to happen at once.

For example, they might get more cranky, emotional, and impatient. And, if they’re engaging in physical activity, they also lose their balance easily. So, an ensuing fall further elevates level of crankiness creating a snowball effect of sorts.

Whenever I witness this, I am reminded of the power of interwoven complexity. It is hard to predict the behavior of complex systems because of the many interactions between the various components. If our human bodies alone are so complex, just imagine the futility of attempting to forecast short term stock market movements.

It is also a good reminder of the importance of getting sleep. It helps.

Arise solutions – missing ethics and misplaced incentives

Propublica was the first ever publication to win a Pulitzer prize for a piece that was never printed. Its reputation for investigative journalism has grown since – with five Pulitzer prizes in the past decade. I came across a recent article on Arise solutions that illustrates why they have such an outstanding track record.

The entire article is worth a read. So, I hope you take the 7-10 mins to read it. It describes the pain the customer service agents we speak to go through on a daily basis.

Power, privilege, misplaced incentives, a legal system that favors the powerful, missing ethics – the article has plenty for us to reflect on.

Thank you, ProPublica team, for your outstanding work.

Coming through when it counts

There’s been a resurgence of the “Is the greatest basketball player LeBron or Michael Jordan” debate after Lebron James picked up his fourth championship ring.

I don’t care much for such debates.

But, it did make me reflect on “The Last Dance” documentary about Michael Jordan again. One of the ideas that inspired me was the level at which Michael Jordan performed throughout the season. But, then, somehow, he raised his game in the knockout stages. And, then further in the NBA finals.

Every time the Bulls landed in the final, he came out as the Most Valuable Player. 6 times out of 6.

I’ve had many sporting heroes over the years. Every one of them has had occasions when they didn’t come through. So, I was admittedly awestruck at MJ’s record.

He was far from a perfect human being. “Winning has a price. Leadership has a price” – in his words.

But, there’s something to be said for coming through when it counted.

Every time.

Find the energizers

I came across a post from Erika James – the new Dean at the Wharton School – about lessons learnt in her first 90 days. Her third lesson was “Find the energizers”

Even under the best of circumstances, assuming a new leadership role can be draining in the first few months. The need to be introduced throughout the organization, sift through myriad issues while simultaneously trying to prioritize people and projects, and respond to an endless amount of stimuli from electronic media (not to mention the actual work of thinking, planning and strategizing) can be relentless. I would say that identifying the people who energize you rather than drain your energy (inside and outside your new organization) is not just important; it’s necessary.

A well-timed conversation with the right “energizer” can both invigorate me and contribute to my overall sense of purpose – two things leaders need as they establish themselves in a new role. Seek out time with these people. Intentionally find time to interact with them rather than leave it up to serendipity. These exchanges may be the exact fuel you need to overcome the hurdles you will most certainly face. Conversely, I’ve learned that limiting my time with people unable or unwilling to provide me that mental “boost” is equally important for keeping me motivated to achieve my biggest goals.

It resonated.

Community and habits

Yesterday’s post was about the power of community to change culture. A related question I’ve been interested in exploring for a while is – how might we better use the power of community to build better habits?

Three years ago, a couple of friends and I discussed the possibility of building out an app that would help people reflect more and share gratitude. We talked about the possibility of infusing community – but, we were hazy on the specifics.

Even as time passed, the idea lived on. We talked about it in passing. But, for one reason or another, we didn’t get to it.

That changed three months back when we excitedly exchanged notes and realized we’d all appreciate some positivity right now. And, thus, the idea for an experiment in enabling folks to share gratitude was born.

Ergo “The Daily Seed App” alpha test.

As of yesterday, we have ~100 folks testing the web app. And, over the next 30 days, we’re excited to see if infusing community into a daily gratitude habit makes it stick.

If it works well, the next phase will be building out a mobile app.

More to follow on what we learn…

Sharing activity

We’ve seen growing adoption of the Apple Watch amongst our group of friends lately. A big part of the reason to adopt has been sharing fitness activity with each other.

So, we see each other’s daily activity summary and get small haptic nudges when someone in the group finishes a workout. It is a lovely way for us to feel connected and motivated.

So much so that it has transformed the new adopter’s experience. A good friend recently joined the group and, inspired by the rest of the group, he’s hit his activity targets every day since getting the watch.

“People like us do things like this.”

It has changed our behavior by changing our culture. The combination of community and culture are among the most powerful levers we have to effect change.