The Nearbound Summit 2023

The Nearbound Summit is a four day virtual event. Monday through Thursday, November 6-9.

It’s 100% free. Check out the agenda and register to join some of the sessions (or watch them streaming on demand).

But what is it?

This is the culmination of the last year and a half of efforts to redefine what it means to attract and retain customers in the ‘Who’ economy.

We are in the infocalypse.

The digital age meant information was cheap or free, which is great for speed, reach, and scale. But now we’re overwhelmed. Ads, SEO-gaming, 4.7 star review syndrome, cold emails and calls.

Nobody wants more aggregate data or information. If data was the new oil, now trust is the new data.

When you’re trying to solve a problem you can no longer ask the internet “How” to do it. You’ll get too much stuff and you can’t sort the signal from the noise.

Instead, people are reverting to nodes of trust – people – and asking “Who can help me solve this?” and “Who has been there before?”

As a business, the best way to reach buyers in this new world is through the people they already trust. You have to find them and partner with them to surround buyers with value and solutions at the right time, from the right voices.

This is called ‘Nearbound’.

It means tapping into the people that surround buyers. People they trust.

We’re diving deep all week to explore how it affects Startups, Success teams, Product teams, Marketing teams, and Sales teams.

Even if you’re just a tiny bit curious, I hope you’ll find at least one session worth attending and join – in the very least, my intro to Nearbound Marketing on day 3, or Harry Mack’s live freestyle performance!

Register here.

See you at the Summit!

Categorized as Commentary

The Dangerous Unity of Twitter

When people band together in response to challenges, something greater than the sum of the parts emerges. I’ve been a part of a variety of post-disaster efforts, and the dividing lines between people are obliterated in an incredible way, yet individuality remains as strong as ever.

A beautiful picture of unity and multiplicity in their proper places.

Unity is not inherently good. Nor is multiplicity. When closest to God, they take on His divine nature. When furthest from Him, they bring us to a lower, almost animal state.

The unity of Twitter is an interesting example. Despite its wildly divergent niches who hate each other, Twitter (or “X”, as it’s now somewhat creepily called) has a kind of pervading, overarching unity.

What unites the denizens of X is primarily dislike, distaste, dissatisfaction. It is reaction, response, rebuttal. It is negativity.

This is a seductive lure.

Criticism is a valid and sometimes needed exercise. But rarely do its benefits to society outweigh its dangers to those who wield it. An entire online culture built around ever more layered and sophisticated ways of mocking and critiquing is not without uses, but something to be approached knowingly and cautiously, like a cornered viper whose venom can occasionally cure rare diseases.

The unity of Twitter is a unity that chains its members together, and can drag them all under the water at once if they are not careful.

Categorized as Commentary

Every Thought Captive

The reality of the unseen realm changes everything.

Thoughts are not purely private. They exist in a dimension at least as powerful as our sensory dimension. Likely much more powerful.

Whether or not we can generate original thoughts from this plane, our thoughts are certainly more than just that. They go out into their own dimension, doing and begetting what’s in their nature to do and beget.

But they also often come from that dimension into our heads. They do not all originate in us. That is why they must be examined, ‘taken captive’, blocked, rejected, discarded, immediately implemented, or carefully dealt with as appropriate.

Things outside of us can send thoughts into us. We can do the same. We are swimming in a sea of thoughts, of mostly unknown origin.

All serious battles begin in the mind. We win or lose based on how we master or are mastered by thoughts.

Categorized as Commentary

When Laying Bricks Beats Building a Cathedral

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve used the parable of the bricklayers for myself and others.

You’ve probably heard it before. One worker feels frustrated and annoyed and is doing a half-assed job. When asked what he’s doing, he replies, “Laying bricks.”

Another looks focused, joyous, and in the proverbial flow state. When asked what he’s doing he replies, “Building a cathedral.”

Man’s Search for Meaning is real. It’s a good idea to Start With Why. (See what I did there with the book titles? I know. I’m clever.)

I would be the last person on earth to tell you that connecting your daily activity to a bigger vision and purpose is a bad idea. It’s not only a good idea, it’s a necessary idea for growth and to stave off spiritual decay.

Of course, when you follow the chain upward, you eventually find the Highest Thing. The truth North Star of North stars. The holiest aim above which there is no other. That is the ultimate giver of purpose, and purpose in itself. Always fix your gaze upon it.

But there’s a vast chasm between brushing your teeth and the Most High.

Now if you are rigorous, and patient, and persistent, you can discover the causal chain between any good action (or even merely not bad action) and the ultimate good. Dental hygiene connects to overall physical health and social graces, which enhance your ability to achieve professional goals and maintain relationships, which help you better grow your company or mentor someone, which are ways to put your unique gifts to work, which allows you to be a better imager of the Divine, which brings you closer to Him, etc.

But these causal chains aren’t always obvious. And they always have some gaps, some leaps of faith. You know in your gut that there is a connection between brushing your teeth and achieving your goals, but you just woke up and there’s no way you’ll be able to work it out on the spot. So what do you do? Do you wait until you find your ‘Why?’ to start brushing?

It’s important to note that you can be deceived. Maybe it’s not your gut telling you “This is a good thing that will lead your towards the Light”. Maybe it’s cultural conditioning, status quo bias, unthinking Pavlovian reflex, manipulation, or mind control.

The practice of questioning why you are tooth brushing or bricklaying and whether it is such a good idea after all is crucial. Especially during your intellectual and spiritual coming-of-age phase. You must reject the premises, flip the burden of proof, and see if you don’t uncover some lies and bad ideas.

But most of the time it’s not that lofty or that dangerous. And if you stay stuck in the, “I refuse to do anything I don’t perfectly understand as a necessary step to something higher” phase, you won’t get very far and will likely be no fun to be around.

Everything should be causally connected to something higher. But it’s not necessary to remember how in every moment.

Doing the thing even when you can’t remember exactly how the thing connects to The Thing is called faith. At least that’s the way C.S. Lewis uses the concept of faith. It’s not about believing against the evidence or in spite of lack of evidence, it’s about acting based on beliefs you knew to be true in a moment of clarity, but are tempted to forget in a moment of chaos. Have faith in your former self, your gut, your higher reason, in moments when you’re hangry morning self is unable to muster the connective tissue between the small deed and the great.

I help a company inform people at other companies about problems in their sales process that my company has a tool to solve. Solving other companies sales process problems is, believe it or not, connected to something higher for me. But don’t ask me to spell out how nine days out of ten.

So how to handle those nine days?

Just brush the teeth and do it well.

Just lay the bricks with the most integrity you possibly can.

Just be a good worker, a good colleague, and a good person.

Do the task well because doing a task well is a good thing. Even if I can’t perfectly articulate why it is that I’m doing the task in that moment.

There’s a kind of freedom that comes from this.

Maybe the architect has gone insane. Maybe I’m not building a Cathedral at all. Maybe an earthquake is about to destroy the structure. I can’t know these things and usually can’t control them if I did.

But I know that I embarked on this work for a reason, and I know that today, I’m going to be the best damn bricklayer you’ve ever seen.

Categorized as Commentary

Death and the Devil

When voices of doubt, fear, worry, and condemnation start speaking to you, sometimes the best way to silence them is with death.

I have had the experience of feeling low and being unable to get out of a frustrated state of mind. This is where the devil is at his best. Speaking a stream of half-truths designed to bring your focus on to the things that get you down – especially those out of your control.

At times I have in that moment remembered that I will die. Indeed, I could die that very night. What would matter then? How many of these worries would remain? Would it make sense to spend my last hours fretting over my shortcomings and challenges?

At that the spell is broken. “Beating death by death” is real on multiple levels.

Categorized as Commentary

The Company of Theseus

I’m always trying to build the ship of Theseus.

The ancient thought experiment asks whether a ship that had every single plank and board replaced one by one over the course of a journey would still be the same ship when it arrived.

To me the answer is an obvious yes.

A ship is more than an inventory of lumber at a snapshot in time. Just like you’re you even though the cells in your body replace themselves all the time.

But this isn’t automatically true.

A lot of companies, communities, movements, teams, and projects fall apart or lose all semblance of the structure that embarked when key individuals get swapped out.

Back in 2009, I left a nonprofit where I had created a program I was really passionate about. I saw it fall apart a few years after I left. It killed me. I resolved to learn all I could about why it happened and how to prevent it in the future.

The last few companies I built continued on through tons of staff changes. Included my exit. I can’t express how proud I am of this.

I ask myself now with everything I’m a part of, “Does this have an identity and a future without me and the current team?”

If the answer is no, I try to remedy it.

I want to be a part of building ships that maintain their identity even after every part is replaced.

I can’t say this is some sort of universal virtue, but it feels right to me.


Moving is a sad business.

My wife and I have been married almost 20 years, and we are in the middle of our 10th move. 5 states, 6 cities, 10 dwellings.

I don’t remember all of them being emotional, then again I don’t remember much about several of them. In fact, that’s what makes this kind of thing sad.

We’re leaving a place we had memories, kids hit milestones, hard times, good times, and every mundane in-between were experienced. We saw seasons come and go, visitors come and go, and life phases come and go.

The sad part about leaving is that I’m old enough and have been through it enough to know, no matter how permanent the memories now seem, I will forget most of this phase of life in this house.

That’s hard.

When I look forward to where we’re going, I’m excited. When I look back on what we experienced here, I’m pleased, proud, and happy. But there is a deep sadness too, knowing every turn of the road, shadow on the landscape, sound in the night, and child in the grass will fade into inaccessible recesses of my mind quicker than I’d like. They will doubtless resurface at random times, but I will lose the bulk of them.

Time is a series of deaths. Each moment births a new person and kills the old. But when place remains constant, each moment has access to the accoutrements of the previous, and a deeper sense of continuity is maintained.

Changing place severs the connection, and each forward moment increases the distance between those of past time and place, until they are lost.

I am pre-emptively sad for the loss of memory about this place and phase in life I know is looming. I don’t mind moving ahead, but I don’t want to leave all of this feeling and memory behind.

In near death experiences, you often hear of some kind of life review. I’m not sure about the pressure of accounting for my deeds, but I would love the ability to review and remember all the things I’ve lived but forgotten.

We’re moving on. Which means some compartment in my brain will now be home to all the things we experienced here. I only hope I don’t lose the key.

Now the AI is Getting Interesting

AI stuff has been pretty boring to me.

Granted, I haven’t made the time to dive deep or spend a lot of time contemplating the full implications and use cases. But the early generated images seemed kinda cool but not “Oh shit!”, and the generated text seemed like more of the same internet-molded crap humans already produce too much of (old man shakes fist at cloud).

AI search has thus far seemed like an even worse version of what Google is becoming – highly constrained and censored, with an express mission of obscuring points of view that don’t fit the comfort zone of the programmers. Boring and kinda creepy.

But then HubSpot launched ChatSpot.

I haven’t used it yet, and have heard mixed results on its performance. But that will come. What got me excited is the replacement of complicated processes of generating reports from a CRM with plain english requests.

If you’ve never worked in a company that uses SalesForce or HubSpot, or god forbid something like Razers Edge or Aptify, you have no idea how hard it can be to surface seemingly simple info that already lives in your database.

“OK everyone, welcome to employee training number 11, where we’re covering how to create multi-conditional lists and then link them to an event type and generate a report”, says the weirdly excited ops person when all you wanted to do is see how many lapsed customers registered for your webinar.

The process involves about seventeen hundred clicks, infinite scrolls through drop-downs, and many conflicting, redundant, and counter-intuitive names for things (tags, categories, labels, fields, entities, etc.) If you flub up on one of the many conditions, the whole report is bogus.

The ability to tell the software the same type of thing you’d ask your ops person is incredible. “Get me a list of every former customer who registered for this event.”

So that’s one use case I love. Truly wealth-creating, in that it allows humans to accomplish more with less.

But there are more.

Ever had to get on the phone to figure out why the cell phone company charged you incorrectly and fix it?

Ever had to navigate a government bureaucracy online or over the phone?

These are basically the same as getting info out of your database, except the people on the other end are grumpier than SalesForce.

Imagine an AI assistant to do all that for you.

“Remove my oldest kid from our cell phone plan and shop around and send him the best individual plan you can find along with the price.”

“Update my home insurance policy now that we put in a pool.”

Another potential version of AI that excites me is one that is not constrained or controlled by its creators (who are rightly fearful of social and political pressure). If you could hone and adjust your AI yourself (without needing to be a programmer) then things like search could actually be useful, instead of Orwellian as they seem so far.

I’m not worried about AI or scared of it. I’m always worried about humans and our potential to do great evil with anything from a rock to a rocket. New tech opens new risk areas for sure. But it opens new opportunities as well.

I’d like to see AI help solve the mundane stuff on a scale that creates serious standard of living improvements. The creative side with AI art and literature doesn’t do it for me so far.

Categorized as Commentary

A Quick Update

I’ve been daily blogging most of the time since 2012. I occasionally take deliberate breaks to direct my writing elsewhere and mix things up.

This is one such hiatus!

I’m mostly writing on partner ecosystems in the B2B SaaS world right now on other platforms.

I will be back on the blog again at some point. Many new ideas and experiences brewing, and above all, I’ll always be a writer. And a writer just can’t stop writing.

Categorized as Commentary

When Satire is Mistaken for Reality

Recently, I mistook a satirical article for a real one. This seems to be more common in the last few years.

There are three reasons satire gets mistaken for reality.

Reason #1: Too eager to confirm unrealistic biases.

You can be taken in by satire if you have an inaccurate or exaggerated worldview and you are emotionally dependent on finding confirmation for your worst assumptions.

We’ve all seen it. None of us wants to admit when we fall prey to it.

Some group you think is horrible or ridiculous is satirized in a completely over the top way and you want it to be true so bad you accept it and start sharing it as justification for your opinion of them. Oops.

Reason #2: Bad writing.

Not all satire is good. In fact, a lot of it is ham-fisted and fails to identify what’s funny about reality and how to properly push it to the obviously over-the-top point that reveals the absurdity underneath.

Satire that is too realistic, too subtle, doesn’t overplay reality in a big enough way is just not good satire. Sometimes it’s mistaken for reality for no other reason.

Reason #3: Reality has gotten too absurd.

After all the Official Authorities spent months boldly proclaiming no one could get sick with Covid if they received government injections, people who got injected started getting sick with Covid. Some died.

More than once, I saw stories reporting on the Covid death of a vaccinated person that said it “could have been worse” if they hadn’t received the shot.

I assumed these were satire. I verified. They were not.

The problem with a reality like this is you can’t satirize it. There is no more extreme, absurd, over-the-top evil/hilarious/utterly incredible thing you could possibly do than to say of someone whose fate for following your advice was death that it “could’ve been worse”.

The Black Knight in Monty Python at least still had legs when he insisted he’d “had worse” than losing both arms.

Categorized as Commentary

Maybe We Need More Boredom

“Do tank.” I’m not kidding. People were unironically naming things that.

About a decade and a half ago, it was popular to criticize think tanks and mission based organizations for too much thinking and not enough acting.

I get the sentiment. Most nonprofits and academic institutions waste a bunch of other people’s money on disconnected ideas and status games. That is what drove me to entrepreneurship in the world of profit and loss signals.

In business, action bias is awesome. Try stuff. Build stuff. Experiment. Get your ideas into the world. It’s the fastest way to get feedback from the market so you can create the most value.

But in many other aspects of life, it’s better to slow down with your ideas and opinions. Especially when they involve the lives of others. Especially especially when they are grand schemes or harsh judgements.

My friend TK Coleman has talked for years about the idea of noble boredom. A mind devoid of temporary titillations. A mind in search of interestingness. What happens when you become comfortable with that?

Well here’s what doesn’t happen: Rage. Reactionary movements. Hot-headed ill-tempered shallow arguments. Mindless dopamine benders. Arrogant attempts to control the world.

It seems all everyone does now is act. Everything seems to be screaming, begging, demanding from us action and reaction. Opinions must be stated and stated now! And loudly! And cleverly! And you must work to ensure they elicit action and reaction from as many other people as possible. All day every day.

You may call this talk rather than action. But expressing oneself is an act. And the act of instant expression creates a lot of problems.

Instant expression spurs sub-optimal action and takes the steam out of more productive action.

It spurs escalatory, reactionary, instant, “emergency” action. The kind with little thought, little depth, and little long-term impact. It stokes fires and triggers all the darker instincts looking for an excuse.

It kills productive action. When something troubles you and you do nothing and say nothing, it builds. It rolls over in your mind. It gets worked with, refined, and clarified. Given enough time and silence, you might be compelled to some productive action. But the instant release valve of shouting your discontent steals all the impetus before it’s had time to mature into something worthwhile.

This isn’t always the case. Sometimes instant expression is a good thing. Sometimes its instinctive, reactive nature moves quickly to save lives or prevent disaster. But this seems rare.

If you’ve ever studied learning patterns, you’ll be familiar with research on boredom, classrooms, and attention “disorders”. The TLDR is this: kids conditioned to constant external stimulation lose the ability (innate in humans) to be alone with themselves. To think. To stay in the moment with nothing but their thoughts. To generate a robust internal life.

What would happen if you let yourself sit in one place until all your thoughts slowed to a crawl and then you sat some more?

There are parts of the human mind only unlocked slowly. Parts only accessed after long silences. Parts only those who can handle boredom ever access.

Categorized as Commentary

How Good Marketing Happens

What marketing team wouldn’t want 15,000 people in their target demographic to see a post praising their company for being customer-centric?

Of course you can pay for ads that do it. But they’re ads. People don’t like them. And ads that brag about your company don’t hit people the right way.

You know what’s a lot better? When real people praise your company with no campaign or ad spend.

Like this:

This didn’t just happen out of the blue.

There are some pretty amazing lessons in everything that led to this little post.

It started with a partnership

Airmeet and PartnerHacker partnered up to deliver the PL[X] Summit, a five-day remote experience about partner-led growth.

Airmeet employed two of the most important principles of partnerships.

Build trust.

They were easy and enjoyable to work with. Reasonable. Timely in communication and action. And offered great service. They built total trust with our team at PartnerHacker.

Make them famous.

After the event, Airmeet invited us on to a year-end celebration they were hosting where they recognized PartnerHacker as one of their “Airmeet All Stars” for the year due to the success of the PL[X] Summit.

Who doesn’t like receiving a Major Award?

I joined their event to accept and say thanks. It was during this event that, in a casual convo between the CMO and CEO, this little nugget came out that the CEO spends three hours a day on customer calls.

I was blown away by it and shared it on LinkedIn.

I shared it because it was interesting.

But I also shared it because I was at an event where I had a chance to hear it.

I was at that event because Airmeet was making us famous with an award.

They were doing so because they had built trust with us as a partner.

See the causal chain?

You can’t plan this like a campaign.

A LinkedIn post with15k impressions from a partner, customer, and fan isn’t earth-shattering. But it is damn good marketing. A lot better than an ad or a cold email.

Since it can’t really be planned and plotted and executed and measured like a science project, this kind of thing rarely gets focus from marketing departments.

The point isn’t to craft a formula to repeat this or generate more similar posts. That kind of kills the very authenticity that makes it valuable.

The point is, when you come across stuff like this, to ask yourself a few questions about what led to it. A confluence of events and behaviors preceded it. A series of principles like partnering, building trust with those partners, and making them famous.

Uncover those. Re-enforce them in your culture. You’ll start to see more of the best kind of marketing imaginable.

Categorized as Commentary
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