Learning how to make

Everyone should learn to make things.

Not because there is tremendous shortage of people who can produce things but because once you know how to make something, it changes how you see things.

Once you know how to assemble an electronic device, every computer seems a bit less mysterious. Once you know how to give a speech, you see things in the speeches others give.

Learning how to make things turns you from a spectator into a participant, from someone at the mercy of the system to someone who is helping to run the system.

Learning how to make give you the guts to make more, to fail more often, to get better at making.

A legacy of Maya Angelou

Others can better write about Maya Angelou’s impact on the world stage, on how she stood up for the dignity of all people, of women and on how she touched and changed our world.

For those that seek to make a change in the world, whether global or local, one lesson of her life is this:

You can.

You can make a difference.

You can stand up to insurmountable forces.

You can put up with far more than you think you can.

Your lever is far longer than you imagine it is, if you choose to use it.

If you don’t require the journey to be easy or comfortable or safe, you can change the world.

Stop wanting to fit in, instead seek to stand out. Maya Angelou didn’t fit in, she stood out.

She was an artist in more ways than one, she connected with the world, she touched the world.

She will be missed. The world is running out of legends.

The You Show

You Spec (1)
A friend was telling me about some job interviews she went on. She enjoyed them.

Of course she did, I thought. She was starring in a show, a show about her.

One approach is to be reactive, to sit where you’re supposed to sit, have your CV appear just so, wear what you’re supposed to wear and answer each and every question in the safe and secure way.

The other approach is to put on a show. To be in charge, to lead.

When you go to Market Theatre in Johannesburg or State Theatre in Pretoria, the producers don’t ask you what sort of lights you want, what kind of story line you want to see and how long the show should be. They put on their show. If you don’t like it, that’s fine. Plenty of other people do. As a result, they win.

They get to do their work, their way. And they profit from their confidence.

Some bosses don’t want to hire people who have a vision, a personality and a shtick. That’s okay. You don’t want to work for them anyway.

Your brand is not your logo

Smart marketers understand that a new logo can’t possibly increase your market share, and they know that an expensive logo doesn’t defeat a cheap logo.

They realise that the logo is like a first name, it’s an identifier.

Apple Inc Logo

So, when entrepreneurs start ‘testing’ logos, and proclaiming that a new logo might change their market share, I get nervous. You can’t test a logo any more than you can test a first name.

I guess the punchline is: take the time and money and effort you would put into an expensive logo and put them into creating a product and experience and story that people remember instead.

Take the ball and go home

Bullies are everywhere. At school, in traffic, in party conversations, at the stadium, in relationships, at work, in business, committee meetings, political parties and even on social media platforms.

The thing with bullies is that they can’t be bullies when they are alone.

If you work with a bully, this is all you need to know. They need you.

A bully is someone who uses physical or psychological force to demean and demoralise someone else.

A bully is not challenging your ideas, or working with you to find a better outcome.

A bully is playing a game, one that he or she enjoys and needs.

You are welcome to play this game if it makes you happy, but for most people, it will make you miserable. So don’t.

The way to work with a bully is not to try to please her or to question the quality of your work or to appease her or to hide from her.

The way to work with a bully is to take the ball and go home. First time, every time.

Take Your Ball

When there is no ball, there is no game. Bullies hate that. So they will either behave so they can play with you or they will go bully someone else.

Call her on her behavior [not who she is, but what she does]:

“I’m sorry, but when you talk to me like that, I’m unable to do good work. I will be in my office if you need me.”

Then walk out, not in a huff, but with a measure of respect for the person [not the behavior].

This is a shocking piece of advice. It might even get you fired. But it will probably save your job and your sanity.

Most bullies are deeply unhappy and you might just save their skin.

If you are good at what you do, you deserve better than a bully.

So It’s Your Birthday Today

– If I was going to make you a cake for R20, using Joe Soap’s special recipe, I would go to the supermarket and get the ingredients and bake one slice of cake for you.

– I like you a little but I am in a hurry, so I’m going to buy cake mix and pay R30 for the mix that will give me a slice, plus I get to save time (of having not to measure and mix the ingredients)

– But if I am really in a hurry, I might as well just pay R40 of cake slice, no problem because it’s worth it to me. The experience not the cake.

– But you are my buddy and it’s your 45 birthday so I’m going to my faviourite bakery where I am liked and I’m going to pay R60 per slice and I am happy to pay it.

– Oh it’s your 50th birthday, let’s go to the Sheraton hotel for dinner where the cake costs R100 per slice. And it’s exactly the same piece of cake, but I’m happy to pay it because we are not really buying cake but we are buying and paying for the experience of being at the Sheraton.

We live in the connection economy. Human beings crave connections and experiences.

You can buy the ingredients at R20 and mix the slice of cake or you can go to the Sheraton Hotel have dinner and pay R100 for the same slice of cake.

The reason we pay more is because we love the experience that comes with the connection.

If you can offer us connections, we will take them thank you very much.

Don’t just give your customers your products, give them the experiences. People are willing to pay more of the same products just because they get the great experiences as well.

Happy birthday and may your day be filled with the best experiences.

Ps: Even if it’s not your birthday today, please do me a favour: Have yourself a super wonderful day with the best experiences so far by far.

What are you afraid of?

The old rules: Play it safe. Stay in your comfort zone. Find an institution, a job, a set of rules to stick to. Keep your head down. Don’t fly too close to the sun.

The new truth: It’s better to be sorry than safe. You need to fly higher than ever.

True innovators focus on trust, remarkability, leadership and stories that resonates and spread. The path to be an entrepreneur is not for the faint of heart.

Do what you want – Those are the most frightening four words brought to us by the connection revolution.

If you want to sing, sing. If you want to lead, lead. If you want to touch, connect, describe, disrupt, give, support, build, question… do it. You will not be picked. But if you want to pick yourself, go for it.

The cost is that you own the results.

The time to seize new ground and work without a map is now. So what are you going to do?


Pushing you to stand out

There are countless people waiting to tell you how to fit in, waiting to correct you, advice you, show you what you are doing wrong.

And no one pushing you to stand out.

If you add up all the books, scolds, back-benchers, bosses, teachers, parents, police, co-workers, employees, religious zealots, politicians, and friends who can show you how to fit in just so, it’s sort of overwhelming.

We have an abundance of people fitting in and scarcity of people who stand out and then we are surprised when we lack innovation and competitive edge.

It’s clear to me that we’re really good at establishing and reinforcing the status quo.

Fit in too much, though, and nothing much happens. Fitting in is a short term strategy, standing out is a long term sustainable solution. Fit in too much you become invisible. It is easy to teach and enforce compliance than it is easy to teach initiative. “Colour within the lines” we have been told since pre-school. Colour outside the lines is wrong.

People are born innovative. People don’t grow to be innovative, they are taught out of innovative by school, parents, companies and society. People and organisations that makes change that matters are those that take initiative and stand out.

Where are the self-appointed agitators and firebrands, the people who will push you to stand for something?

They seem to be missing.

Ps: Don’t stand out for the sake of standing out, stand out because it is better.

The privilege of being wrong

When you are truly living on the edge, walking on the moon, perhaps, or caught in the grip of extreme poverty –there’s no room at all for error. It’s a luxury you can’t afford.

For most people doing well, though, there’s a cushion. Being wrong isn’t fatal, it’s merely something they’d prefer to avoid. They have the privilege of being wrong. Not being wrong on purpose, of course, but wrong as a cost on the way to being right.

As you gain resources, the act of being wrong goes from being fatal to annoying to a precious opportunity, something that you’ve earned.

You won’t advance your cause or discover new truths if you’re obsessed with being right all the time and so the best way to compound your advantage and accomplish even more than you already have is to set out (with guts) to be as open to wrong as often as you can afford to be.

“May I help you?”

… is almost a useless thing to say.

If you want to end a conversation with a teenager, just ask, “How was school today?”

If you want to end a conversation with a customer, just ask if you can help.

Instead, ask, “can I get you a hot drink?” or “what’s the worst thing about your insurance company?” or “one slice or two?”