When someone shares an idea with you, they’re hoping you’ll do more than correct the typos. If that’s all you can come up with, ask yourself whether you’re hiding from making a real contribution. Leave the typos to spellcheck.
Beavers used to be seen as hugely problematic, or at best, profitable. Over the years there has been occasion to kill them for their pelts or to exterminate them from an area to eliminate the side-effects of their handy-work. This nearly caused their extinction.
Lately in the US, beavers have been solving problems. Their dams create wetlands that have helped quench thirsty cattle and grow new prairie brush. This has been critical to farmers as temperatures have soared and water levels have dropped.
When we try to control and exploit our environment, it is hard to predict what effects our actions will have on the ecosystem. But if we choose to observe problems and flex to their idiosyncrasies, there’s an opportunity to create mutual benefits, and our problem might just be a great solution when we need it most.
If you’re lucky enough to wake up in a new day you have to decide what to do next. You keep on deciding until the day ends. As days add up, so do the actions we take and the decisions we’ve made.
Over time we spend significant amounts of our lives doing things – some we’re really proud of, some we’re probably less proud of. Sometimes we choose to do the easy thing or the fun thing, while other times we do something challenging, or new.
Making decisions and taking action can help you start to ‘look like’ something different. For example, if someone spent 3 years working at a Starbucks, you could probably observe them on any of those days and they’d ‘look like’ a barista. Not just in what they’re wearing, but in what they’re doing, talking about, who they’re spending time around, and so on.
If one day our barista wakes up and decides to spend one less hour at Starbucks that day, and one more hour calling a congressperson about why Los Angeles shouldn’t host the 2028 Olympics, they may start to ‘look like’ an activist. At first this would be an hour of their whole life. And then 2. And then 3. And then – well, you know how to count.
We can see how, slowly, a decision and some action can start to reshape a person. They may not like this activism and choose to spend an hour on something else the next day. Or they may decide to double their hours. Either way, the decisions add up, and momentum builds. One day they may not ‘look like’ a barista much at all.
Too often we think about change as binary – on or off. Today I am a barista, tomorrow I am an activist. But that’s not quite right, because most of the things we do need patience, and practice. Most things worth doing take time. We need to decide to see ourselves as something new, and for most people it’s hard to see how you’d jump from barista to activist, and much easier to spend the next hour doing something a little different.
The next time you are expecting a binary outcome, remember it is unlikely you will feel completely different just by doing something new once. Instead, simply change the answer to the question: what to do next?
It’s possible to dizzy people by stringing together acronyms like paper dolls. They are faster to use than an actual team name or tool (most of the time). You may even feel like you have more cache around the office because you’re always using acronyms that not everyone in the room knows. And of course there’s the typing – the countless key strokes saved by quickly hammering out a few letters instead of a few words.
It’s also possible to avoid acronyms, especially in situations when you can’t be entirely confident everyone will understand them.
In the first scenario you save a little time, and feel like an insider. In the second, you can be more clear and inclusive in your communications.
When visiting a foreign country with a language other than your mother tongue, it’s usually a good idea to spend some time learning key phrases. For example, when friends come to Italy most people know the word for “Thank you” (“grazie,” pronounced grat-zee-ay). I usually teach them 3 more words: vorrei questo/quello (pronounced vorr-ay-ee kway-stoe/kway-low). This simple phrase is a polite way to say “I would like this/that” and, in conjunction with pointing, is so handy when you want food, a souvenir, or the quickest way to a restroom.
These simple words go a long way to demonstrate that you care enough to be polite, and are trying to meet people where they are. In fact, you can totally butcher the phrases and people will appreciate you trying. This isn’t because you’re some genius, or because you’re doing something exceedingly well, it’s because you’re doing something that most people don’t even attempt. They’d rather not do the work and have people come to them.
When it comes to work, we have the same opportunity. Not only is there common language amongst our colleagues, but we also have tools, workflows and personalities to understand too. Each of these things requires more effort than the equivalent of showing up and speaking your native tongue in a foreign land.
In all of these situations, between the internet and tour guides (knowledgeable colleagues) it is possible to learn almost anything you need to know in order to meet people halfway.
Are you impressed by someone who’s great with pivot tables? There’s a YouTube video to help you collaborate better. Want to know what the acronym means? Speak up in the meeting (chances are everyone who doesn’t use it every day forgot too). Not sure the best way to integrate business units? Ask the team leads.
So the next time you’re attempting to do pretty much anything, ask yourself: what simple thing can I learn that will set me apart as a conscientious human?
Get lots of likes, clicks, and link-backs. And shares, shares are important for network effects.
Definitely don’t ask people what they think of the result – and if they tell you anyway, just ignore it. Feel free to ignore the tradeoffs too. Only apologize if you have to. Definitely avoid responsibility at all costs.
Forget about the person that needs it. Forget about what’s good for the team. Don’t do it because it will make the product better. And that vision you started with? Who cares.
Do it at the right time, with the right link, and the right keywords. Do it to be the top hit in search.
Make it faster. More swiping. Less thinking. Shorter. Catchier. Easier. Make sure notifications are enabled.
Do it for the algorithm.
So the algorithm can sell more ads.