Resurrecting An Idea

Leaders do not live forever. Therefore, every follower has the opportunity to lead. By the hands of those who follow, the messages and teachings of a leader can live on. Apprentices, disciples and true believers are responsible for standing up for and keeping an idea alive. Traditions, trades, crafts and stories all pass away if not nurtured.

Fable or history, the story of Christ survives. No matter what you believe, you can admire the staying power of the brand and message. If the Disciples of Christ broke into the tomb to exhume Jesus’s body, give him a proper burial and cover their trail by haunting the authorities with his resurrection, the story bears no less weight. These followers loved a man and his teachings so much that they risked everything against one of the harshest regimes in history to help the memory and message never die. The power of that rebellion lasted two millennia and continues to live on. Even if the man never existed, cultural outcasts stood for, developed and passed on the message until it flourished throughout the world. Followers became leaders to resurrect an idea and keep the light alive. That’s worth celebrating, no matter what you believe.

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Phones Can Call People, Too

I think people forget that phones can still be used for voice conversations. I get so many back and forth text messages or email chains on a day to day basis. In the hours that pass trading notes, the discussion could have passed and resolved in a handful of minutes. Texts make sense for updates. Emails make sense for a bigger pile of information. For making big decisions or catching up? Not even close.

Call someone. It’s quicker, more personal and less ambiguous.

Email Is Not Urgent

Every email I receive presumes to be imminently earth-shattering. Very annoying. Ninety-five percent of emails that hit my inbox are not urgent. I receive around 250 emails per business day – that’s one email every two minutes. It takes me forever to craft thoughtful replies, so I regularly fall behind in trying to keep up. To prevent this constant influx of faux peril from stressing me out, I am paying less and less attention to email these days. In the process, I’ve let a few important notes slip through the cracks. Oh well.

If it’s important or time sensitive, don’t just email me – call or approach me in person. I ignore my phone during meetings for everything except calls (it vibrates a dozen consecutive times when you ring me, so it’s difficult to ignore). Knock if you need to. If the issue at hand is complicated, follow up with details in writing so I have all necessary and accurate info in front of me to address the situation. If you can’t get ahold of me in person or by phone, put ‘URGENT’ in the subject line. Obviously, don’t do that if it’s not urgent.

To get real work done without distraction, I need to ignore my email for a sizable fraction of the day. You should, too. Constantly replying to emails means you’re working reactively instead of proactively. Unless you work in a call center, reactive work only contributes to the status quo of your organization. In a competitive industry, status quo work can be regressive and therefore deadly for a company. Don’t do it.

If I don’t write you back within a few hours (or days), why would you follow up with a second email? That’s silly. Your method failed the first time – why on earth would it succeed any better a second time?

If an email exchange we’re participating in turns critical, please cover all bases and follow up in person with everyone involved. Get our collective heads out of email and into real problem-solving mode. Hear the voices of others repeat back to you their understanding of the situation. Make sure everyone is on the same page – on paper and in dialogue. Then get real work done.

You Have A Voice. Use It.

Two or three decades ago, it was not easy to speak your mind – and nearly impossible to be heard. That’s not the case anymore. With the internet, we have an opportunity to share our thoughts, opinions and work on a global scale. We can express ourselves publicly, anonymously or under a pseudonym. While it’s not always easy to be heard online, it’s easier than ever to express yourself. I will never encourage you to add to the noise just for the sake of adding to the noise. But I do encourage you to use the web as a platform to let your mind and heart run free.

I know far too many closet writers, actors, film directors and artists who have great voices that need to be heard. Many of them are too lazy, shy or proud to share directly with the world. I know ten times more people who want to hone their voices and fear an audience. Keeping your mouth shut will not help you advertise. If you don’t put yourself out there, no one will know that you exist. Ever.

If you are concerned about operating online under your real name, simply make up another. Nine times out of ten, quality content online takes precedence over name or brand power anyway. If you can engage audiences with your voice through genuine content, you will win.

Say what you need to say. Don’t be afraid. What’s the worst that could happen?

Invent More, Edit Less

We are so afraid to put ourselves out into the world that we erect barriers of revision, drafts, filters, editing, testing and censorship to prevent us from making mistakes in the public eye. If we spent less time chopping our own balls off and more time giving back to the world without reservation, we could all live rich and accomplished lives.

We are afraid. Afraid to reveal our flaws. Afraid to show our true colors. Afraid to give ourselves to the public for fear that the world might reject us. Fear mutates to the point that we are afraid to invent at all. We do nothing. Live dispassionate, passive and apathetic lives. All because we do not want to be caught with a misspelled word or bad picture edit.

I do not mean to discredit editing or the role of editors. Of all the creative and technical mediums, I cannot think of a single one that accurately channels the human soul. Mistakes happen and products come to life in ways we do not intend. We need to edit and revise to connect the dots so that things make sense. If we ignore editing completely, our message will misinform or fall on deaf ears.

But we alone cannot judge whether our creations connect with others. We cannot separate ourselves from the material. The faster we create things, the more necessary it is to get a second opinion. Put yourself out there to user groups, testers and editors to give you feedback. Some of my most beloved and respected friends are editors. Editors keep people like me from making perilous or silly mistakes. They make sure my thoughts track across the medium and translate clearly. Editors volunteer to help others focus on inventing and offer the confidence to do so. Editors are noble people with a selfless and patient purpose.

Whether you share with an editor, friends, random testers or publish immediately, you need to put your creation out there as quickly as possible. The longer it stays on your table, the harder it will be for you to let go. You will despair in all the flaws, possible misrepresentations and disconnects you come to know. You will revise and remodel your work into oblivion.

Stop it. Stop editing. Get it off the table and into someone else’s hands. Let go. Let your child have a life of its own. Only time will tell how the world reacts to your work. You are not an authority on that subject and should give up trying. Focus more on inventing and less on how people see you. Be yourself. Create from within. Fear nothing.

If You Have Something To Say…

…then say it. You will stress yourself out more by keeping it in. You will stress others out more by being passive aggressive and cryptic. You will waste time prolonging the inevitable, enduring unnecessary hardships or twisting the knot too tight. Before you open your mouth, you should always think about what you’re going to say and how you’re going to say it. But there’s never really a good reason to keep your mouth shut entirely. It’s important and therapeutic to speak your mind. It’s equally important to let others speak their minds as well.

Repetition Can Turn Insanity to Truth

Public speaking and education theory underscore the value of repetition. If repeated, the odds of audience retention increase dramatically for a given piece of information. Repeated more, listeners may start to engage with the material. Debates, testing, execution or indoctrination may ensue.

Take repetition to the next level: get people to live and breathe the information. If repeated enough, opponents may even give up opposing and join the team. The information may not be true. How do you think we came to associate the Trojan War with a lust battle? Enough people recited the Iliad as historical literature, over and over again. Call it “truth conditioning.” Tell a lie so many times that people start to believe it. You may even start to believe it yourself.

When you surround yourself by theories, people and literature that never leave you alone, you start to accept their fiction as fact. Watch Star Wars enough times and you will believe in the Force. Read a book enough times and you will believe the world started six thousand years ago. Spend enough time in your environment and you will believe it’s the only way to live life. We live and breathe conditioning every day and fall prey. You accept “truths” within the world you live and move on accordingly.

Repetition and persistence may be the most powerful tools in mass communication. Say something loud – and then say it again. And again. And again.