A ridiculous question to help us ship

Will you die?

Because we (read: I) love to create stories about why we (I) shouldn’t ship something into the world.

“It’s a dumb idea.”

“My boss won’t like it.”

“No-one cares what you have to say.”

“I’ve run out of ideas”

All of these stories are rooted in fear of the unknown and an overblown reality of what we think the stakes are. The reality is that the stakes are often very low. Speaking up in a meeting, starting that new project or posting another blog aren’t matters of life and death.

So what if we started treating them as such?

It’s a big reason this weekly blog still exists. Each Sunday I like to remind myself that I can share an idea (even a half baked one like this) and not die. Phew.

Unreasonable hospitality

As a leader, one of your goals is to empower your team to also be leaders and create the conditions for them to thrive. We do this by providing them with space and permission to think independently and creatively.

So what does it actually look like in practice?

Will Guidara has the answer, and it involves being totally unreasonable.

When you’re done, consider: where might I experiment with some unreasonable hospitality?

Permission to change your mind [repost]

You have it.

We’ve been conditioned to believe that changing our minds is a sign of weakness or surrender. We spend time, energy and resources on justifying why we’re right, telling others why they’re wrong and continuing to do things the same way we always have.

In fact the opposite is true. Changing your mind is a sign of strength.

To raise your hand based on new information and say “I see things differently now, the best way for us to move forward is to try this instead.” That takes guts and a willingness to lead people towards something bigger than your own ego or opinion.

The life of a changemaker is littered with opportunities to test assumptions and change our mind. The question worth asking in these moments (which I’ve written about before) is: 

Do I want to be right, or do I want to make change?

This post was originally shared in April 2019.

In a rare stroke of genius, Homer was right

Recent reads and listens – October edition

Hey legend,

Do you like resources? Or at least an email containing links to resources? I got you.

Here’s your small collection of resources that I enjoyed in October and recommend.

If you’re a workplace culture nerd like me:

Check out these two episodes (one and two) of Dare to Lead with Brené Brown, Adam Grant and Simon Sinek.

If you’re a workplace culture nerd looking for even more:

Checkout this amazing report from O.C. Tanner.

For a fascinating take on cancel culture

This podcast interview with Meg Smaker might make you rethink a lot of things.

If you just feel like a laugh

This interview with Steve Carrell is very likely to give it to you.

That’s it for this month.

What was the best thing you read or listened to last month? Let me know by replying to this email and in the meantime, keep being awesome.

Blackberries and experiments

In 2009, Blackberry phones were all the rage. Remember those days? You’d be sitting on the train minding your own business while a fully grown man in a suit was seated next to you, hunched over and furiously typing away on an impossibly small, toddler-sized keyboard. At the time the company controlled almost 50 per cent of the smartphone market and everyone from Bill Gates, to Oprah, was adamant that they couldn’t live without their Blackberries. 

Cut to five years later and the company’s market share had gone from 50% to 1% and the fully grown man next to you was instead playing Angry Birds or Paper Toss on his iPhone (seriously, remember these games?). 

In his best-selling book Think Again, the brilliant Adam Grant uses this example as a cautionary tale to make the case for business leaders to think more like scientists. Scientists, he argues, are always curious about what they don’t know and what they can learn. They’re constantly coming up with experiments and hypotheses to test the norms and beliefs they’ve always had.

So now it’s over to you: what might you experiment with this week?

If you’re feeling stuck, try picking one of these 10:

1. Experiment with having no meetings for one day.

2. Experiment with only asking questions in your next meeting.

3. Experiment with leaving your phone turned off for a full day.

4. Experiment with a new morning routine.

5. Experiment with a new nighttime routine.

6. Experiment with doing the opposite of what you would normally do (and make George Constanza proud).

7. Experiment with only checking your emails twice a day (10am and 3pm).

8. Experiment with a standing desk.

9. Experiment with a walking meeting.

10. Experiment with a 200-word count limit in your emails

Recent reads and listens – September edition

Hey legend,

Here’s your small collection of resources that I enjoyed in September and recommend them to you, too.

If you’re ready to rethink your relationship with your phone:

Stolen Focus by Johann Hari.

If you want to go further down the Johann Hari/I want to stop scrolling my face off all the time rabbit hole:

Check out this interview and on the Imperfect’s Podcast.

If you’re wanting to feel good and be generous:

This list of 50 ways to be ridiculously generous and feel ridiculously good by Alexandra Franzen are all you need.

That’s it for this month, just the three things to checkout.

What was the best thing you read or listened to last month? Let me know by replying to this email and in the meantime, keep being awesome.

5 steps to getting unstuck

If you’re noodling on a decision and feeling stuck, consider these 5 steps:

  1. Find a colleague, family member or friend
  2. Set a timer for 20min
  3. Share with them where you’re stuck
  4. Have them ask you questions for 20min (no statements, assertions or ideas, just questions)
  5. When the timer goes off, consider: what’s my next step?

Do the floss dance because you just unstuck yourself.

See also: Out loud and 16 reasons making an arbitrary numbered list is the best way to get unstuck and spark possibility.

I can’t touch my toes…

Not even close. I’m lucky to get past my knees before my hamstrings feel like they might rip off the bone. It’s a product of having not practised the skill enough and the out-of-my-control reality of being 6″7′.

On the other hand, and not to brag too much, I can reach the top shelf in any supermarket. A product of having practised the skill and being 6″7′. Therefore you might conclude my height is both a weakness and a superpower.

It’s a terrible weakness on a plane and an awesome superpower at concerts.

The same is true of all other skills and traits.

Being a super organised human is awesome until you miss out on serendipity. Being a hands-off leader is great until someone in your team needs instruction and guidance. Being a great question asker is empowering until someone is seeking your opinion.

We all have superpowers and we all have weaknesses. It’s worth keeping this in mind for yourself and those around you. Some questions for cultivating awareness are:

What can you do that others can’t (see this post)? How is it a superpower? How is it a weakness?

Now if you’ll excuse me I’m off to the supermarket to show off my skills.

Some questions on opinions

When creating or sharing something we’re likely to encounter many opinions. As such, it’s worth having a handy rubric (great word) in order to help us process and filter out the helpful from the irrelevant.

Try asking these questions:

  • Is the opinion coming from someone who I created this thing for?
    • If so, what can I do about it?
    • If not, what can I learn from it before letting it go?

People often treat their opinions as indisputable and universal facts rather than specific stories they tell themselves based on how they uniquely see the world.

It’s worth remembering this when someone shares any sort of response to your work.

See also: this podcast.

Recent reads and listens – August edition

Hey legend,

Here’s your small collection of books and podcasts that caught my eye in August and I recommend them to you, too.

To help explain our fascinating and complicated relationship with money:

The Psychology of Money by Morgan Housel.

To help understand how (and why) we should care about the future:

Check out this interview and learn about Effective Altruism.

If you’re feeling lost and/or confused about all things climate:

The Carbon Almanac will help.

For tips on the do’s and don’ts of returning to an office:

This episode of Work Life is a good place to start.

What was the best thing you read or listened to last month? Let me know by replying to this email and in the meantime, keep being awesome.

Leading with humility

In 2019 I was sitting in the office of a very accomplished entrepreneur. Someone who had built and sold multiple successful businesses, written best-sellers and long been considered a leading thinker in their field.

On the whiteboard he had written up an idea that he was noodling on and turned to me, and two others, and asked:

“What do you think?”

Here was a brilliant and accomplished leader asking the three of us for our opinion. For our thoughts, ideas and input. Together, the four of us had a conversation, threw more ideas around and co-created a new and improved solution

He did this not because he thought it was the right thing to do, but because he was genuinely curious what we thought. He had the humility to realise that he doesn’t know everything and so deliberately created space for us to contribute and add our ideas.

It’s moments like this that remind me humility is a superpower. One that some consider a weakness and others appear to lack in almost shocking quantities. So what if we all practiced it a little bit more?

A story most leaders tell themselves

“I have no idea what I’m doing.”

It doesn’t matter how senior they are, whether they’re at a Fortune 500 company or Founded a successful Not-For-Profit. All leaders are making it up as they go and will experience moments of doubt, insecurity and, yes, feeling like an imposter.

Knowing this, what would it look like for you to remove that backpack full of perfectionism bricks and impossible expectation textbooks?

A question on rules

What rules have you created for yourself that are no longer serving you?

Because having a rule to always wake up at 5am can be great, until you start going to bed later and it’s the reason you’re so exhausted and moody at work.

We’re all operating in accordance with rules we’ve set for ourselves, but how often do we stop to question them?

Two hundred

The brilliant Jen Waldman and I just released Episode 200 of our podcast.

It marks 200 consecutive weeks of showing up, sharing stories and asking questions about creativity, leadership and entrepreneurship.

It’s 200 weeks of laughter, learning and height jokes (she’s 5’1″ and I’m 6’7″ for those who don’t know… you’re welcome).

It’s also 200 weeks of delightful self doubt and swirling stories like:

“I have no ideas”

“Why would anyone listen to a word we say?”

“Was that even an episode?”

200 is a great round number and a milestone we’re proud of. It’s also a reminder that the milestones and achievements we see in others often sit atop a pile of self doubt, bad ideas and then the occasional moment of clarity.

Thanks to anyone who has tuned in over the journey and here’s to 200 more weeks of learning, laughter and, well, mini-existential crisis.

Recent reads and listens – July edition

Hey legend,

Here’s a small collection of books and podcasts I ate up in July and recommend you do too.

If you’re fascinated by humans and our quirky, irrational behaviours:

The Laws of Human Nature by Robert Green.

If you love learning languages (or, let’s be honest, the idea of learning languages):

Checkout this interview with founder of Duolingo, Luis von Ahn.

If you’re interested in nerding out on emotional intelligence:

This episode of The Imperfects podcast with Lael Stone should do the trick.

In case you missed it:

We released Episode 200 of The Long and The Short Of It this week.

What was your favourite thing you read/listened to last month? Let me know by replying to this email and in the meantime, keep being awesome.

Mistakes vs failures

Why do mistakes feel light, funny, and recoverable while failures feel heavy, serious, and permanent? Are these two sides of the same coin or something different altogether? Can a creative process, which often encourages mistakes, also make room for failure?

Last week I wanted to find out so I asked my most creative friend, Jen Waldman, in this week’s episode of The Long and The Short Of It. You can tune in wherever you get your pods or, you know, by clicking the link above.