“I’ve got good news and bad news.” “Oh yeah?” “Yeah, which do you want first?”
Always start with the bad news and save the best for last. It will always be more difficult for people to get over the sour news (most people dwell on bad stuff longer than good stuff), so the best thing you can do is end with the good news and hope for a softer blow overall. By ending with the good news, you stand a chance to inspire solutions, optimism or even an antidote to the bad news.
What’s the point? How could you possibly believe in what you’re doing? How could you understand what you are doing? Or why you’re doing it? Or who you are doing it for? If you don’t use the product you’re building, how can you really understand the value it provides? The way it works and the way it doesn’t? How and where it fits in the marketplace? If you do not use the product you are building, how can you truly inspire your team to believe? Inspiration, relevance, and quality comes from the top. If you don’t do it, how can you expect anyone else to? How can you genuinely market to customers and ask them to? How can you build a successful business you’re not invested in?
The public cares little about how long Olympians train or how many practices football teams suffer before playing a game; the public cares about gold medals and victories. Big wins define success. Many successful companies grew by the hand of all-nighters and sweat, others by beer and four-day work weeks. What matters at the end of the day is attitude, strategy and inspiration. With a team on the same page and in good mental health, the engine can plow forward full steam ahead. Through calculated innovation and disruption, an organization can leapfrog the competition overnight. If everyone believes in what they are doing and work hard to make a difference, anything is possible. Long work days are symptomatic of success and passion – hardly ever the source. Man hours do not scale an organization – that’s industrial era nonsense. Asking your people to work longer days will not shovel fresh coal into the fire. The message should be: care more. If your team does not inherently care a lot, then find different ways to get them charged. Set the vision. Plaster a mission statement to the wall. Whatever it takes to remind everyone why they wake up everyday and come together.
Inspiration comes from many different places. More often than not, it comes from your immediate surroundings or industry. You see or hear something cool that is not quite perfect and needs improvement. You think you can do better. You set off to tell a better story or build a better application. You compete for a variable solution to the same problem. Game changer? Maybe. Life changer? Probably not.
Through the omniscient connectivity of the internet, we all lead fairly informed lives. With all the information available, we tend to react more to what’s outside than what’s inside. Businesses react to the market. Individuals react to circumstances. Inspiration surfs on the wake of trends. What this creates is an iterative marketplace. People spend more time reacting to and interpolating other people’s ideas than reflecting on their own needs or experiences.
Big ideas come from small people facing big problems. We all qualify to tackle big problems if we close our ears and open our minds to draw inspiration from within. Solve large, important human problems – not just little day-to-day problems. Contest the market as-is; strive to create a market of your own. If you can identify immediate competition tackling the same problem, your idea isn’t big enough.
I took a class in college on motion picture distribution. I learned a lot and revered my teacher. Over the last 6 months, developments in the industry continue to undermine almost everything I learned.
Times change. Popular opinion changes. Our understanding of the world and universe changes. New replaces the old. Technology can flip everything upside down. The game changes all the time.
While education is instrumental in shaping your understanding of the world around you, be wary of taking everything taught as fact. By all means – take to heart advice from teachers who have lived through their industries and subjects. But I encourage you to heed their teachings as advice, not gospel. Fact can become fiction overnight. With the future so uncertain, it’s fair to take everything with a grain of salt.
To make a difference and truly change things, you must be prepared to do things differently than those before you – not listen to your teachers all the time. Let your education provide you with the tools and creative constraints to propel your vision forward. Follow your passion and embrace your rebellious instincts to break the rules and undo what has already been done.
Inspiration is rare and must be acted on as soon as it rears its beautiful head. For me, inspiration tends to come at night when my head is clear of the day. When that happens, I’ve developed a rather unhealthy habit of staying awake to see it through. While I have no intention of encouraging insomnia, I urge you not to waste one of life’s most precious resources. See your inspiration through. Never miss the opportunity – even at the cost of a night’s sleep and rough next day. More often than not, it’s worth it.
How many places can you sing aloud without fear or hesitation? The shower? Home alone? The car maybe? Where are you allowed to speak your mind, scream or share ideas? How many places can you truly be yourself?
Venues where you can let loose and be honest are rare and extremely important. Most environments are filled with people around whom you naturally curtail your speech and behavior to go with the flow. If nothing else, we keep quiet in consideration of others.
It is healthy – necessary, even – to control the podium on a regular basis. As much as we consume, we must create. And we must create honestly – from the heart and without censorship. To do that, nothing or no one can stand in our way. Some artists and public figures build the confidence to live honestly with little friction from the world around them. Most of us have no forum to build that confidence on our own. Nevertheless, we need that release. Audience or no audience, we must be honest with ourselves.
More than just a meditation space, we each need a cone of solitude where no one can stifle us, our voice or our ideas. Where we can express ourselves without constraint. I do my best thinking in the shower and best speaking in the car (in fact, I dictated most of my recent posts to my smartphone while driving to work).
Where can you be yourself? Where do you dream the loudest? How can you optimize that space to capture your voice – and sing louder?
Most dreamers are too caught up in the pursuit to appreciate the impact their dreaming has on other people. It’s one thing to chase your dreams; it’s a whole other animal to inspire others to chase theirs. Don’t keep your dreams locked in the basement. Share them with the world. By living and sharing your dreams openly, you offer followers a cognitive and spiritual boost of confidence. If you can do it, so can they. Help everyone who listens to you understand that.
Don’t just dream for yourself. Dream for people who respect you. Dream for the world.
Spurts of energy and productivity are rare – whatever you do, do not waste them. Don’t stop until you drop. This may be antithetical to my advice on health and rest, but sleep is far more accessible than inspiration. You can always sleep; you cannot always break the personal sound barrier.
Want to change things? Do not ask for permission; no one will give it to you. Few people like change. So all you can do is start without permission. Napster built traction and changed the music industry forever by ignoring the elephant in the room. Today’s positively connoted industry term “disrupt” came largely from the progressive impact Napster had on the entertainment business. If you truly want to change things, you need to break them first. Cause trouble. Challenge the odds. Take your chances. Stand up to the big guys. At the end of the day, it is easier to ask forgiveness than permission (perhaps riddled with expensive lawsuits, but worthwhile and noble nonetheless).