The Echo Chamber Election

Most terrifying to me is that I cannot find a single satisfied pro-Trump comment in my Facebook feed this morning. That means half of everyone else woke up this morning to feeds loaded with genuine celebration and triumph (and very little contest). I obviously have friends who voted for Trump and post regularly, so what gives? Seriously, Facebook, what have you done? Zuck, you’ve contributed to building a very dangerous world.

We now live in echo chambers designed for our individual convenience and engagement, “safe” from opposing opinions. Frankly, the press failed in this election (indisputable, no matter what side of the aisle you’re on) in large part because they cannot reasonably compete in profiteering contexts with social media feeds that serve our deepest sentiments and surround us only in reflections of our own uncontested opinions. Friends, your world now literally feels like “your world” in total ignorance of the actual world around you. And that’s fucked up. Consider protesting these platforms for that reason. I could not have been more wrong when predicting the outcome of this election…and have the press, an antiquated system of polling, and social media algorithms to blame. Tech elites, developers, product designers, and advertisers…you all fucked up, too, and we have a lot of work to do to make the world a better, safer, smarter, and more connected place.

Press, it’s your job to inform the people and put everything into perspective, not pander to our sentiments. Don’t try to compete with social media; go back to building brands around trust and truth. We have the first amendment and a free press to hold us all accountable from tyranny and its tells. But we now have a President who has not been transparent with us (where are your effing tax records, Donald?), never once taken responsibility for mistakes (of which there are a great many in his businesses and campaign), and has no functional plan or reputable team assembled to actually make America “great again.” America just put in for a four-year order of another reality show. Unlike “The Apprentice” or “Miss Universe” that were of trivial consequence to our day to day lives, we’ll all be contestants on this reality show and required to play whether we wanted to or not.

To be clear. I do not contest the outcome of this election or issue any ill will against our President Elect, for I still hold a great deal of faith in our representative democracy. Contrary to his remarkable accusations, the system isn’t rigged and we got what we asked for. That said, we have a responsibility now more than ever to better-inform and educate the people, to better involve them in our government and policymaking, and to hold our leaders accountable.

How to Inspire Your Team to Put In More Hours (Though I Don’t Think You Should)

In startup culture, it’s an unspoken sin to leave the office before 6PM. When a few people start doing it, the trend spreads. Before you know it, you can hear a pin drop beyond the nine-to-five. Where did everyone go? Do they not care anymore?

Every boss I’ve ever had addressed clocking out early in only one way: complaining. Sometimes passive aggressively (ugh), sometimes by email (cowardly), sometimes at full company meetings (awkward). When these announcements spread, everyone takes the punishment, returns to their work with heads down and obliges like spiteful children – at least for a while.

Every time, individuals punished most by this approach are almost never the guilty ones. The goody two-shoes who always work hard hear the message and work harder. Those at fault for bailing early in the first place continue to rebel against Mom and Dad, never taking the message to heart. Complaining about early clock-out culture always results in the opposite desired effect: infractors keep infracting and you burn out your best.

As a leader, how can you keep people invested enough to stick around?

Lead by example. If, as a manager, you’re not the hardest worker pulling longer hours than anyone else, no one will hear you.

Reward visible hard work. Develop relationships with those who stick around late, engage yourself in their contributions, talk them up to their supervisor, privilege their projects over everyone else’s and move their career forward. Play favorites. When others ask why he or she deserves special treatment, make it clear. Time is scarce as a leader and the goody two-shoes stuck around after hours when you had the most available time. Everyone will start getting the idea.

Inspire with grand vision. No human will genuinely give their life away for quotas. When it comes to a greater sense of self purpose, who truly cares about percentage market share, impressions or sales? You think our soldiers risk their lives for America’s GDP? No, they fight to make America the greatest country in the world. If you lean on numbers for your company mission, you suffer from vision deficiency. Colonize other planets. Teach everyone to grow food. Cure cancer. Make everyone laugh. Raise the bar so high that you can’t possibly measure it. Keep your people looking up at the sky and they might stop looking down at their watches.

Set an example, reward good behavior and reach for the moon. Don’t punish the children.

The Most Dangerous People Care The Most

By dangerous, I do not always mean “destructive” – I prefer “disruptive.” MLK disrupted the national perspective on civil rights because he cared a lot about his brothers and sisters. Dangerous can certainly mean destructive, though. Suicide bombers must care a lot about their beliefs if they’re willing to throw their lives away. Destructive or disruptive, caring is the common denominator. No one impacts the future of mankind by accident or through apathy. Your ability to change the world is directly proportional to how much you care – about your mission, beliefs or other people in your life. The more you care, the more dangerous you are. And caring should be your priority. You do not change the world by trying to change the world; you change the world by caring about others and believing in something greater than yourself.

Apologizing For Other People’s Mistakes

Great leaders publicly take responsibility for failures within their organization. They should, after all – a mistake slipped through the cracks of a structure that they were responsible for building, sealing and fortifying. While an architect or carpenter actually built the castle, it came from an idea or plan the king or queen envisioned. Many failures in construction stem from failures in design. Brick and mortar analogy aside, leaders may not directly cause mistakes – but they are accountable. Even with a perfect plan or structure in place, failure within remains a failure within. Something could have been done by someone to prevent it. Most people cannot handle or admit to their own mistakes. But someone needs to. Someone needs to flag a mistake and help everyone learn from it. Not by blame or pointing fingers, but by throwing themselves under a bus to show everyone that humility can solve problems and teach lessons. Those of us who know we actually made the mistake will walk out the door with a shred of guilt and a valuable learning experience.

Dehumanize Stressful Situations

It is extremely difficult to see straight when the world is crumbling around you. Emotions overwhelm, logistics tangle and solutions feel farther away than ever. Sometimes it is necessary to strip the humanity out of situations. Disregard feelings and look at the numbers. Treat prospective casualties and gains as data on a page. Sounds very cold, but every once in a while you need to find your footing to get through. To make hard decisions, it helps to break them down in front of you and see them clearly. Emotions do not translate well onto a page – but statistics, dollar amounts, time and body counts do. Get the situation out of your heart and out of your head. Only then will you be able to think straight and act diligently.

Solve Problems & Save Money

It is a lot more fun, fulfilling and cost-effective to think your way out of a problem than throw money at it. Try to solve problems first before buying solutions. Take a really thorough, genuine crack at it before giving up and tossing cash away. Moreover, the effort behind solving a problem educates you around the situation and helps you appreciate a purchased solution more when you fail.

People First, Work Second

Your job will not take care of you when you get sick. Work will not bail you out of jail. Friends and family will. Put them first in your life. When embarking on your career, building companies or engaging in a hobby, make people a priority as a general rule. Culture and the success of your work stem entirely from the health, attitude and relationships of people surrounding the job. Treat them very well, take care of them – and perhaps they will do the same for you. The risk of taking care of others without the guarantee of a returned favor far outshines the risk of working eighty hour weeks alone.

Setting Your Own Expectations

The industrial era taught us as employees to wait around for someone to tell us what to do. Hell, the contemporary education model taught us that. We spent the better part of our lives under the pressure of other people’s deadlines, rubrics and expectations. As we get older and “treated like adults,” people tell us what to do less and less. In life, at home and in the workplace, very few people will babysit you or outline a clear path for your success. It’s up to you to do both of those things.

If no one is setting expectations for you, outline your own and hold yourself accountable. If you’re unemployed and single, you have no choice but to do this (until of course the feds knock at your door). If you’re employed and getting no love from your supervisor, take a chance on that lack of structure to build your own world. If you’re not yet buried in a bureaucratic mess of paperwork and process, build your own. Strategize your own roadmap for success.

How do you think people build huge businesses from scratch? They unlearned to wait for other people to set expectations for them and did their own thing when and how they wanted to. They found a way to give a damn on their own terms.

Writing As A Form Of Clarity

While writing will always be open to interpretation, it’s far less open to interpretation than body language, reactions, passing comments, whispers on the wind, moral values, historical precedent or anything else equally abstract under the communication umbrella. Laws are not common unspoken understandings between citizens and the courts; laws live on paper in writing. Life at home, operations at your organization or cooperation in your community often improve when words grace the page.

If you hope to bring clarity to a situation, put it on paper. Outline it on paper. Announce it on paper. Rules, feedback, expectations, values and goals all work better when written and preserved. They become real. Sure, words can be misunderstood or interpreted in many ways. The best writers learn to use this to their advantage. When it comes to clarity in writing, less is more – with fewer words (specifically adjectives), there’s less room for wandering interpretations. Memos are good. Assumptions are bad. Dialogue without recording serves no concrete or lasting purpose. It disappears and distorts. The written word by itself does not distort.

The Feedback Boomarang

People criticize or applaud others regularly and seem to forget that human beings are defensive creatures. They will criticize or applaud you back. If they cannot return the favor directly, they’ll find another way – often behind backs. It’s only human.

If you feel entitled to give feedback, you should be willing to receive it. Take that notion a step further: dish out feedback expecting to get some back. Managers do themselves a disservice by sitting high and mighty over direct reports that have no forum to return the feedback favor. I mean to call it a “favor” because employees have great insight into their boss’s management style that could seriously help the manager grow and improve. When feedback is a one way street that only cascades downhill, the genuine reciprocation of ideas and flow of information that helps a machine accelerate forward collapses. Honesty, inspiration and purpose all suffer when the feedback loop breaks (or never existed in the first place).