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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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What if You Already Know Everything?

“The author or speaker from whom you learn the most is not the one who teaches you something you didn’t know before, but the one who helps you take a truth with which you have quietly struggled, give it expression, and speak it clearly and boldly.” — Oswald Chambers

I have always found the above to be true.

Moments of epiphany, breakthrough, enlightenment, penetrating insight, profound understanding, and deep joy come when a puzzle piece that’s been wandering around inside me finds a place to fit. The piece always seems to be there already.

Which makes me wonder, how much knowledge is contained within us waiting to be unlocked and properly placed? All of it?

I don’t mean factual information. New facts can certainly be learned that weren’t lurking ill-defined inside me already. Trivia is fun and sometimes useful, but it is not Truth.

Truth about ourselves, our fellow man, and reality always seems to be revealed through a process of finding, refining, and fitting pieces already in us into a better position. I cannot think of a time when this wasn’t true.

In the end, there is no other way for an individual to form a belief than by what feels true. You may take issue with that, but I don’t mean it as a rejection of logic or objective truth. Beliefs can be laid out logically, but a person could choose to deny that logic is a valid measurement. Objective measurements can be made, but a person can choose to deny that objectivity exists. There is no getting around the fact that all beliefs are ultimately internally decided. They are decided on feeling or gut or instinct or something else inside us.

Humans seem to have inside them some thing against which everything is measured. When you’re miserable or confused, you’re living out of alignment with this thing. When you’re harmonious, or when you have those wonderful a-ha moments, you’re in line with it.

We seem to contain far more insight and understanding than we possibly realize, but it takes tremendous work to find it, tease it out, and fit it into its proper place.

Behold, thou desirest truth in the inward parts: and in the hidden part thou shalt make me to know wisdom.” — Psalm 51:6

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See I Told You So

I can’t decide if ‘see I told you’ so is acceptable, and if so, how much.

There are plenty of people who love to show receipts for accurate predictions made by others, but is it ok to show your own receipts, or is that just tacky?

Proving someone was right about something isn’t only about bragging rights. It can be entertaining, but it can also be useful.

When someone is correct about something most people missed, it causes you to ask why and seek to understand the worldview that led them to the prediction. Sometimes they just got lucky, or made so many predictions one was bound to happen. Other times, there is a useful new lens you can apply to more accurately understand the world.

Yes, most people use it as a way to own their enemies more than a way to enlighten and start interesting conversations about frameworks for understanding the world. But usefulness is possible. Sometimes ‘see I told you so’ is productive.

Back to the question. Is it in bad form to show your own receipts? Should you just let others discover it on their own (or not)? I don’t know. Something about it seems a bit too attention-seeking and needy. On the other hand, I’ve learned some interesting things from people who are very eager to let others know when they were right.

Maybe it’s slightly annoying and damaging to their reputation but also useful at the same time.

I suppose it would help if people who did this often also showed receipts for when their predictions were wrong.

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Perpetual Novice

I’ve written over 2,500 articles. I’ve done daily blogging on and off for years. I’ve published ten books.

Yet I show up every morning and face this blank screen with no idea what I’m going to write, how I’m going to write it, or whether it will be good.

When I’m done I don’t really know if it’s good either. There’s no metric or grade or expert to decide. Some posts make me happier than others. That’s about all I’ve got to go on.

I have no method or rules for writing either. Every time, I’m making it up from scratch. Tendencies and styles have emerged, but I’d be lying if I said those were deliberate decisions or disciplines. I just start typing and don’t stop until it feels like I’ve said enough.

I rarely edit and am bad at editing my own stuff. If I do, it takes the form of hitting publish, then reading the published piece over once and noticing mistakes or parts that make me cringe and quickly changing them.

The point is, I have no idea if I’m a good writer or a bad writer or a mediocre writer and I don’t even know how I’d measure it. Which is perfect because I don’t care. I write for me. Not to achieve any kind of status as a “good” writer.

So I’m not a good one to ask about methods and processes and rules for writing. I can sometimes tease out things that I notice, and I’m good at editing and workshopping other people’s writing, but I’m basically making everything up as I do. It’s just my gut reaction to ways things could be more enjoyable to read.

I am not bragging or claiming that perpetual amateur hour is a good thing, but it’s my reality and it doesn’t bother me. I’ve been writing for 20+ years and I’m still a novice.

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Decorum is Overrated; Dignity Isn’t

Dignity. Some (most) things should be beneath yours.

I don’t mean decorum, which I consider to be a refuge of scoundrels. Decorum is all about going out of your way to employ visible trappings that signal you are a Very Serious Person.

Dignity is more about restraint. Some (most) things don’t need to be shared with the world.

We’re in a voyeuristic age, pushing to their limits the new toys of social media and ubiquitous recording devices.

I’m a big fan of openness, learning out loud, removing pretense, and dispensing with decorum. These also tend to “perform” well on social media, which has led people to do more than just be themselves and tell the truth in a mad rush to get “engagement”. It has led them to share every single thought and detail of their life.

Being truthful and open is not the same as having no dignity and sharing everything with everyone. One is about not hiding from people, the other is about begging people to look. One is honest, the other is embarrassing.

Weaponized authenticity is has become a favorite for the passive-aggressive and humblebraggarts.

Add the fact that victim is the most highly prized social status right now, and you see what happens. People start falling all over themselves to share all of their shame, pain, and indignity. The more others can see how pathetic you are, the more cheap digital praise will come.

You’ve gotta kill that impulse. You’re clowning yourself. You’re willingly playing the fool for the thinnest reward imaginable.

Respect – starting with self-respect – is better than “engagement”.

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The Cost of Doing Business is Bloated by Leeches and Looters

It’s costs a lot to do business. Especially as a business grows. A big chunk of the costs are utterly unneeded and serve no purpose but to feed parasitic systems.

In a free market, monopolies are either everywhere or impossible, depending on what part of the definition you focus on. It’s when a business is good enough or early enough for a window of time to have very few alternate providers. They aren’t really harmful and tend not to last long. But monopoly created and sustained by government is awful. It’s when your money is stolen from you, or you’re thrown in a cage or murdered if you compete with or don’t use the services of government favored firm or industry. That’s where all these absurd business costs come from.

Lawyers, tax accountants, and occasionally even HR people or bureaucrats can be decent humans. Some are even good people. But the roles themselves are mostly crappy and unnecessary. They are maintained by threats of violence from the state, and every business is forced to deal with endless headache, time, and money costs no matter how useless and absurd.

Imagine building a company is like pushing a boulder up a hill, putting every ounce of muscle, heart, and lungs into the effort. Now imagine as you push that boulder you have 50 pounds of leeches all over your body sucking the life from you. That’s what all these government enforced regulations do.

Can you imagine how many more companies would be started and built, how many more deals would get done, how many more products made, how much more wealth and value created without this giant pile of leeches?

I can.

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Everyone is an Idiot

Okay, a little hyperbole. Obviously not everyone is an idiot.

But seriously, everyone is an idiot.

My friend Steve Patterson likes to say, “Everyone is wrong about everything all the time.” It’s a great quote because it puts us in the right frame of mind for engaging in a world of idiots. It’s not personal, it’s just reality.

When you find someone that is definitely not an idiot, follow them long enough and you will be shocked to discover what an idiot they are about as least one thing. This is the blessing and curse of independent thinking. You can’t find someone who isn’t an idiot at least sometimes, because 100% of us are.

People often say things like, “This person has [built a billion dollar company, patented a scientific breakthrough, created transcendent art, etc.] so clearly they’re not an idiot.”

No, they are definitely an idiot.

They have at least a handful of things about which they are not just wrong, but wrong in a stupid, elementary sort of way.

I’m sure some of you think I’m an idiot sometimes. Loathe as I am to admit it, there’s no way you’re not right at least some of the time. In fact, if I’m honest, there are a few ways in which even I know I’m an idiot.

While it’s self-destructive to always be a critic and a cynic, it’s useful to realize how dumb everyone is. It takes the pressure off. You won’t be so shocked when you encounter apparently smart people acting like idiots. You won’t feel anger or disillusionment. You won’t blindly follow them assuming they know better than you.

Just because someone’s an idiot doesn’t mean they are a bad person, or not incredibly smart about certain things. You don’t need to get mad at them for being an idiot. Because you are too.

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Stress Level 50

I operate optimally at around stress level 50. New ideas and pursuits will spike it to 60 or 70 until I grind and get it back down to 50. Lack of novelty or challenge will drop it to 30 or 40, then I start coming up with all kinds of new ideas that drive it back up.

I’ve realized one of the biggest challenges in working with other people is when they have a default stress level that diverges widely from my own. Anyone in the 40-60 range is easy to work with. Our rhythms sync pretty easily. Below or above that range gets more challenging.

It doesn’t mean it’s not possible to work with people who have a radically different optimal stress range. Far from it. I’ve had some really productive working relationships with people as low as 20 (lower than that seems reserved for chronic pot heads) and as high as 100 (yes, they really exist, and no, I don’t know if Adderall is involved.)

With people who thrive at lower stress levels, I’ve had to learn to remind myself how much my levels cause discomfort for them and how unsustainable that is. They can handle it for short sprints, but can’t have it as a constant. I’ve learned to shield those people from anything except actionable, clearly laid out goals. I have to refrain from sharing all the half-formed thoughts and ideas and changes in direction that I entertain regularly. They have a hard time with hypotheticals and rapid pivots and contingencies. The plus side is, these people tend to be steady, reliable, and low drama.

Those who thrive at higher stress levels require me to create a buffer between us, or I’ll get sucked into a higher stress zone than I can sustain. Tracking with a 100 elevates my ambient stress to about 80, which, again, is great for sprints. Not every day. I’ve learned to put their ideas into a waiting room for a period before letting them affect my own thought patterns and work habits. This allows me to maintain more control over the rhythms of business and keep a governor on the stress range.

Higher stress people need a lot of latitude to roam, explore, share, and get hyped. But all of these things do not demand action, certainly not right away. I am heavily action biased, which is what makes my stress elevate quickly around those with a higher optimum range. It helps to remind myself how I feel with lower stress range people – I’m always wondering why they turn every idea into some kind of burden and can’t just entertain it and play with it before letting become serious enough to disrupt their day.

My optimal range has changed over the years. Very early in my career, it was a bit lower. Probably 40 or so. As I gained confidence, experience, and a realization of my entrepreneurial bent, it rose quickly to around 60 or even higher. For about half a decade or more, I operated constantly at around 70-80 with frequent sprints of 90-100, which didn’t seem too bad until my body started to fall apart on me and I realized I was overclocking it for too long. I pulled it back down as best I could, and discovered when the dust cleared and the bodily equilibrium (mostly) returned, that my previous optimal of around 60 was now about 10 degrees lower.

I don’t know why it dropped. I’m nearly 40, so maybe it’s an age thing. Or maybe I just used up too much too fast and needed a long recovery period. Interestingly, the drop in my tolerance for above-optimal stress came with a drop in my tolerance for below-optimal stress too. I get restless and bored even easier and quicker.

It definitely put a dent in my pride at first to realize I needed a lower range and didn’t have as much room for deviation or as many sprints in me as I once did. It’s easy to construct belief systems around your optimal stress levels and decide that yours is the best for everyone. This is tempting but dumb.

Best is to figure out your optimal range, be honest about what it is, don’t wish it was otherwise, and learn to work within it. You can be an absolute beast at nearly any range (though I suspect those below 20 are suppressing some potential, and those above 80 are compensating for something and might have to pay the piper later).

I don’t know what all this means, whether there are lessons for anyone else, or any kind of broadly applicable insights or patterns. But using this framework for myself (which I just teased out of my subconscious and put into words this morning) seems pretty darn useful.

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Play in Work is as Important as Play in Education

Peter Gray’s book Free to Learn is probably the best primer out there on the need for unstructured play in the learning process for kids. I highly recommend it.

Humans are wired for emulation and experimentation. Games are the most natural way to learn, because they are adjustable to the perfect balance of challenge and accessibility needed to grow and improve.

Make something too hard or too competitive for a novice and they’ll get depressed and quit. Make it too easy and they’ll get bored and quit. Easy to enter, low-pressure games, especially where new players can watch existing players (who aren’t miles ahead of them in skill) and mimic them are the ideal starting point. But then the games need to escalate in difficulty and competitiveness.

One of the studies in Gray’s book showed novice billiard (or is it pool?) players did worse when being graded and observed than when just playing freely. But expert players did better. They loved the challenge.

Play is perfect because it can flex and ratchet up to accommodate all of these competing pressures. Play is NOT easy, stress free, or without pain an anguish. Watch kids trying to beat a hard level on a video game, or athletes trying to win back-to-back titles. Play isn’t easy, but it is fun.

There is lots of amazing literature on play and learning, but most of it gets associated with children. “Learning” gets (sadly) synonymized with “school”, and school implies kids. But every job is mostly about learning. And the more upside, the more this is true.

That’s why play at work is so important!

Work can be hard, frustrating, repetitive, and taxing (just like a challenging game). But it should also be fun and playful!

If you can tap into the power of infinite games, and craft some finite games within them, you will grow and excel in work just like kids do in education.

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