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.

Creator Buddy System

Before you earn an audience, users, paying customers, investors, shareholders or employees holding you accountable to your work, you often find yourself alone and unmotivated. Unless you popped into this world as a self-starting anomaly, waking up and getting to work on something that doesn’t exist yet and that no one else cares about can feel like forcing children to eat broccoli. It helps to have business or creative partners on the project with equal or greater investment in the outcome – and sometimes that’s all you need. But even partnerships lose steam and it helps to have someone else on the outside to push you.

You may need a creator buddy: someone you never want to disappoint and who also has his or her own personal projects in infancy. Someone outside your field with whom you can learn from each other. Between the two of you, schedule regular check-ins to set goals and debrief accomplishments or failures on a regular basis. Weekly or bi-weekly works best, nothing too involved. Encourage each other to set goals you both can realistically achieve in that time and hold each other accountable. Send text messages to touch base in between. Whatever helps to keep you both on the tracks and moving forward. Before long, you’ll find yourself accomplishing more – if only in fear of disappointing your buddy if you fail.

Sounds too simple, but the work you need to do today is difficult enough. Avoid overcomplicating it with crazy motivational regimens. Find a buddy that can pull you out of isolation and give you the push that you need. He or she will appreciate it as well.

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.

Better Late Than Never

No more excuses. To hell with the procrastination. No one cares how old you are, no one.

Write that book. Tell the story. Start exercising. Visit that place. Hell, get up and move if you need to. Forget the competition. Solve the problem. Build your project. Blog. Splurge. Finish the bucket list. Realize your dreams.

Now. Or later, that’s fine. But do it. If it really matters, it doesn’t matter when. Truly meaningful things are not bound to a timeline. Don’t disappoint yourself. It’s never too late until the end.

Life Digitized

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Goodbye, college! Welcome to the cloud 🙂

A year ago I committed to going paperless and moving into the cloud. Now over twelve months later, I finished scanning and organizing everything that remained from high school and college:papers, tests, handouts, course readers and anything I might like to access again at some point. I also scanned all personal administrative, financial and legal documents that sat around collecting dust. I will recycle all of this paper and breathe a deep sigh of relief that I no longer have to cart  all that dead weight around.

The first thing you might be thinking is, “Craig, why would you go to all this trouble for documents you may never read again?” To anyone who knows me and my obsession with cataloging my life, this should not surprise you. To everyone else, my answer is not straightforward. The honest truth is, “just in case.” I might want to reference these documents again. Yes, clinical psychologists today have a term for that behavior: “hoarder.” Better and a totally different paradigm, I think, to hoard information that takes up zero physical space than piles of crap everywhere. Fancy me a “digital packrat.”

Some documents I refer to on a regular basis. Others I enjoyed rediscovering as I scanned them. The rest I will likely never see again. But at least now they’re organized, searchable (Google recognizes optical characters in PDFs and extracts information as searchable text) and accessible from anywhere. No more piles of paper to dig through or carry around. There are over 2,500 documents in my school folder alone, many of them tens or even hundreds of pages long. That’s a metric shit ton of dead trees!

Life in the cloud is certainly cleaner, lighter and easier. All of my files are mirrored across Google Drive, Dropbox and external hard drives (with the exception of over 14TB of video that I have not found room for in the cloud yet). I can access them all from my phone on the go and from any computer I can sign into. Google’s omni search bar finds not only web search results, but results from within email, contacts and all of these documents. Sometimes I search for a term and find the answer to my query in a class handout from years ago. Pretty wild. I suspect access to my personal information ecosystem will only get better from here.

So while it might not be as useful to me now, there’s no telling what fruits this project might yield in the future as the technology gods evolve.

Start Small

To build momentum on the path to accomplishing great things, first take baby steps. Small wins inspire and motivate you to chase after bigger wins. Even the smallest accomplishment will help validate your path and give you the boost you need to keep going. Small wins are much easier to chase than big wins, so why not start there? Do not bite off more than you can chew at first. Start small, win small. Grow big, win big.

Expertise and Focus

Expertise is directly proportional to the focus you pay a certain skill or talent in your life. Practice eighty hours a week and think about nothing else in between and you’re bound to be the best. Some people focus so intently on their work or passion that even menial skills cannot compute. If you want to master a skill or trade, are you willing to give it your all? And I don’t mean some vague notion of heart and care. All of your time. All of your focus. Oftentimes at the expense of other aspects of your life. Are you prepared to make those sacrifices? If not, do not lie to yourself or pretend to be something you’re not. You’ll sleep better at night if you accept and understand your priorities.