I quote Seth Godin a lot and highly recommend his blog for daily reading!
In search of dolphin leather
There’s a story in the bible with very specific instructions for building an ark. Included in the instructions is a call for using tanned dolphin leather. Regardless of your feelings about the historical accuracy of the story, it’s an interesting question: why create an impossible mission like that? Why encourage people who might travel 100 miles over their entire lifetime to undertake a quest to find, capture, kill, skin and eventually tan a dolphin?
My friend Adam had an interesting take on this. He told me that the acquisition of the leather is irrelevant. It was the quest that mattered. Having a community-based quest means that there’s less room for whining, for infighting and for dissolution. Having a mission not only points everyone in the same direction, it also creates motion. And motion in any direction is often better than no motion at all.
All around you, people are telling you two things:
1. whatever you want, forget it, it’s impossible, and
2. sit still, preserve resources, lay low.
And yet, the people who are succeeding, creating change and (not coincidentally) are happier aren’t listening to either of these pieces of advice. Instead, they’re on the search for dolphin leather.
Frank Sinatra had it wrong. Your dream shouldn’t be impossible, but it sure helps if it’s improbable. Don’t choose your dreams based on what is certain to happen, choose them based on what’s likely to cause the change you want to occur around you.
One of the best reads I do each morning is marketing guru Seth Godin.
As I continually learn how to write copy for my different blogs, sales letters, and clients, more and more I am turned off by the conventional idea to sell with hyperbole.
Seth’s post this morning sums up my feelings very well…
Here it is…
People really want to believe effort is a myth, at least if we consider what we consume in the media:
- politicians and beauty queens who get by on a smile and a wink
- lottery winners who turn a lifetime of lousy jobs into one big payday
- sports stars who are born with skills we could never hope to acquire
- hollywood celebrities with the talent of being in the right place at the right time
- failed CEOs with $40 million buyouts
It really seems (at least if you read popular media) that who you know and whether you get ‘picked’ are the two keys to success. Luck.
The thing about luck is this: we’re already lucky. We’re insanely lucky that we weren’t born during the black plague or in a country with no freedom. We’re lucky that we’ve got access to highly-leveraged tools and terrific opportunities. If we set that luck aside, though, something interesting shows up.
Delete the outliers–the people who are hit by a bus or win the lottery, the people who luck out in a big way, and we’re left with everyone else. And for everyone else, effort is directly related to success. Not all the time, but as much as you would expect. Smarter, harder working, better informed and better liked people do better than other people, most of the time.
Effort takes many forms. Showing up, certainly. Knowing stuff (being smart might be luck of the draw, but knowing stuff is the result of effort). Being kind when it’s more fun not to. Paying forward when there’s no hope of tangible reward. Doing the right thing. You’ve heard these things a hundred times before, of course, but I guess it’s easier to bet on luck.
If people aren’t betting on luck, then why do we make so many dumb choices? Why aren’t useful books selling at fifty times the rate they sell now? Why does anyone, ever, watch reality TV shows? Why do people do such dumb stuff with their money?
I think we’ve been tricked by the veneer of lucky people on the top of the heap. We see the folks who manage to skate by, or who get so much more than we think they deserve, and it’s easy to forget that:
a. these guys are the exceptions
b. there’s nothing you can do about it anyway.
And that’s the key to the paradox of effort: While luck may be more appealing than effort, you don’t get to choose luck. Effort, on the other hand, is totally available, all the time.
This is a hard sell. Diet books that say, “eat less, exercise more,” may work, but they don’t sell many copies.
With that forewarning, here’s a bootstrapper’s/marketer’s/entrepreneur’s/fast-rising executive’s effort diet. Go through the list and decide whether or not it’s worth it. Or make up your own diet. Effort is a choice, at least make it on purpose:
1. Delete 120 minutes a day of ‘spare time’ from your life. This can include TV, reading the newspaper, commuting, wasting time in social networks and meetings. Up to you.
2. Spend the 120 minutes doing this instead:
- Exercise for thirty minutes.
- Read relevant non-fiction (trade magazines, journals, business books, blogs, etc.)
- Send three thank you notes.
- Learn new digital techniques (spreadsheet macros, Firefox shortcuts, productivity tools, graphic design, html coding)
- Blog for five minutes about something you learned.
- Give a speech once a month about something you don’t currently know a lot about.
3. Spend at least one weekend day doing absolutely nothing but being with people you love.
4. Only spend money, for one year, on things you absolutely need to get by. Save the rest, relentlessly.
If you somehow pulled this off, then six months from now, you would be the fittest, best rested, most intelligent, best funded and motivated person in your office or your field. You would know how to do things other people don’t, you’d have a wider network and you’d be more focused.
It’s entirely possible that this won’t be sufficient, and you will continue to need better luck. But it’s a lot more likely you’ll get lucky, I bet.
If you are thinking about changing careers – or partners for that matter – this post from Seth Godin is well worth reading…
In the last few days, I’ve heard from top students at Cornell and other universities about my internship.
It must have been posted in some office or on a site, because each of the applications is just a resume. No real cover letter, no attempt at self marketing. Sort of, “here are the facts about me, please put me in the pile.”
This is controversial, but here goes: I think if you’re remarkable, amazing or just plain spectacular, you probably shouldn’t have a resume at all.
Not just for my little internship, but in general. Great people shouldn’t have a resume.
Here’s why: A resume is an excuse to reject you. Once you send me your resume, I can say, “oh, they’re missing this or they’re missing that,” and boom, you’re out.
Having a resume begs for you to go into that big machine that looks for relevant keywords, and begs for you to get a job as a cog in a giant machine. Just more fodder for the corporate behemoth. That might be fine for average folks looking for an average job, but is that what you deserve?
If you don’t have a resume, what do you have?
How about three extraordinary letters of recommendation from people the employer knows or respects?
Or a sophisticated project they can see or touch?
Or a reputation that precedes you?
Or a blog that is so compelling and insightful that they have no choice but to follow up?
Some say, “well, that’s fine, but I don’t have those.”
Yeah, that’s my point. If you don’t have those, why do you think you are remarkable, amazing or just plain spectacular? It sounds to me like if you don’t have those, you’ve been brainwashed into acting like you’re sort of ordinary.
Great jobs, world class jobs, jobs people kill for… those jobs don’t get filled by people emailing in resumes. Ever.