Great Work is the work you do that has meaning and that you care about and that has an impact—in short, the work that matters. Their shared goal is not just to do good work—but also to do good.
WHAT YOU DON’T HAVE TO DO
As you educate yourself about your own talent and ambitions, you graduate from doing a task right to doing the right task. Work at its smartest means doing that work that no one else can do. When others are doing something similar to what you are, let that activity go because that means you don’t have to do it!
The secret to making sure your work is as great as possible is to spend up-front time designing your work to involve the thinnest slice of you possible. In order to free up the time necessary to do those uniquely value-added things, I have had to design my job carefully to have other people do significant pieces of the thick slice doled out to me.
THE VOICE IN YOUR HEAD
You can’t quiet the voice in your head that says “Who am I to do this work?” When you come to that moment of doubt—and you will—here are four ways to reclaim your authority. Find your root Your power does not come from a finite well of self-worth. It comes from a deeper place, from the part of your soul that understands that the work you do is not about you; it is about the people you affect with your work. To find your root, answer the questions: How do I want to affect the world? Why is this important? Clarify your definition of success A lot of people will tell you exactly what you need to do to be successful. The problem is that there is no guarantee that their definition of success will make you happy. To create your own definition of success, answer the questions: What are the conditions that allow me to bring out my strengths, do my best work, and enjoy what I am doing while I do it? How would my life look if I designed it to fit me perfectly? Assemble your crew To select your crew, answer the question: Whom do I need around me to strengthen my resolve, better my game, and get my back? Gather your reminders To find the right reminders for why you want to do great work, even when it is hard, answer the question: Which images, songs, and words fire up my passion?
PERSONAL BRANDING IS NOT OPTIONAL
just remember the immortal words of Oscar Wilde: “Be yourself, everyone else is already taken.”
THE KEYS TO KIVA
what’s the secret to sustaining rapid growth? It boils down to three key elements: growth, creativity, and feedback.
DREAM BACKWARD TO MOVE FORWARD
But what if dreaming were an act not of discovery but of recovery? Instead of asking forward-facing questions like “What do I want to do with my life?” we dream backwards and ask, “What have I done in my life that I’ve loved?” And finding those life experiences—dreaming backwards—gives you everything you really need to move forward.
FIND YOUR ELEMENT
being in your element involves at least three processes. The first is that when you’re in your element, you’re doing something for which you have a natural aptitude; the second is that you love it, too. Being in your element is more than being good at something. It is being at the place where talent meets passion. There is a third factor. Being in your element is also about connecting with others who share your passion: it’s about finding your tribe.
But it is possible to offer some navigational tools for those who are committed to the quest. The first journey is inward. It begins with spending time with yourself: reflecting on the times in your life when you’ve felt most engaged, absorbed, or lost in the moment. The second journey is outward: to try new experiences that stretch your sense of capability, that may take you to new places, to new people, or at least to new ways of thinking and feeling. Carl Jung had in mind when he said, “I am not what has happened to me. I am what I choose to become.”
A scar is a story waiting to be told In fact, two stories. One story of love. And its flip side, one of fear. One of nourishment. One of diminishment. Which story you choose to tell matters a great deal. There’s a wound or a scar you have—physical or emotional—that you’re currently using as a way of limiting who you are in this world and what you might be doing. What is it? And what will it take for you to change perspectives?
IN A PERFECT WORLD…
On the business side, it’s the root of all great business ventures. The point of making a business is not to make money—it’s to make your little corner of the world perfect.
THE CHOICES THAT MATTER
Americans, and citizens of the developed West more generally, tend to take it for granted that more freedom is always better than less, and that more choice always means more freedom. Logically true—perhaps. Psychologically true—not so much! Having too many options leaves many of us paralyzed with indecision. All human interactions demand judgment and wisdom, and the development of judgment and wisdom demands the freedom to choose, to make mistakes, and to learn from those mistakes. Employees who have the discretion to make choices will be better employees. And beyond that, they will also find more meaning and satisfaction in the work they do. They will be happier, more fulfilled people. Thus, if we want more satisfied customers, we should limit the choices we offer to them. And if we want more effective and happier employees, we should increase the choices we offer to them. Less choice and discretion for our customers, and more choice and discretion for our employees. At the moment, we’ve got things exactly backwards.
DON’T PAY ATTENTION
We live in a time that worships attention. In recent years, however, scientists have begun to outline the surprising benefits of not paying attention. According to the scientists, the inability to focus helps ensure a richer mixture of thoughts in consciousness. Because these people struggled to filter out the world, they ended up letting everything in. They couldn’t help but be open-minded. And this is why distraction is helpful: people unable to focus are more likely to consider information that might seem irrelevant but will later inspire the breakthrough. When we don’t know where to look, we need to look everywhere. This doesn’t mean, of course, that paying attention isn’t an important mental skill, or that attention-deficit disorders aren’t a serious problem.
WHAT CREATIVE TYPES ALREADY KNOW ABOUT PRODUCTIVITY
We tend to be driven by inspiration. 1. Approach everything as a creative opportunity 2. Obsession is essential 2.1. Read a LOT of magazines. 2.2. Create a style file or inspiration box of stuff that you love 2.3. Watch dox. 2.4. Engage with people that you don’t hang out with. Ask them big questions. 3. Give up quickly 4. Courageously express your feelings 5. Stick with it 6. Backwards is forwards 7. Celebrate other people’s creativity and prosperity
GENIUS IS IN THE MARGINS OF YOUR ATTENTION
A decade or two ago, the complexity scientist Stuart Kauffman coined the phrase “adjacent possible” as a way of describing the way both human and biological systems are capable of changing. And so one key technique for opening your own mind up to new possibilities is to diversify your interests, and work on multiple projects in parallel. New ideas are more likely to come out of those serendipitous discoveries that happen at the margins of your attention, in your hobbies and background pursuits. Focus is overrated.
PERMISSION TO BE FUNNY
1. Keep it tasteful 2. Go big or go home 3. Be resourceful 4. Go buck-wild 5. Keep the faith
WHAT’S YOUR IDEA SCHEDULE?
Instead of spending forty hours each week being “heads down,” try taking 5 percent of your time (two hours each week) to be “heads up.” Schedule time to explore the possibilities instead of cranking through assignments. This will have an immediate and incredibly powerful impact on your company, and on you as an individual.
The best is the enemy of the good. The best is also the enemy of the better. Striving for perfection complicates and delays getting things done. Worse, the myth of perfection can shut off the process of improvement and the possibility of collaboration. But perfection is delusion. Nothing and no one is perfect. The modern cure to Voltaire’s paradox—and a gift of the digital age—is the beta: the unfinished and imperfect product or process that is opened up so customers can offer advice and improvements. Beta is Google’s way of never having to say they’re sorry. Here’s the wonderful irony of beta-think: It says that we can make what we do ever better because we are never done, never satisfied, always seeking ways to improve by working in public.
LOVE & BE KIND
The philosopher Martin Buber frames it like this: our existence breaks down into just two types of relationships. The first is an I/It relationship, in which you stop seeing people for who they are and you objectify them, losing sight of their humanity. The second type of relationship is an I/Thou relationship, in which you see people for who they truly are, without labels and without boundaries.
THE STRENGTH OF VULNERABILITY
In our culture, vulnerability has become synonymous with weakness. We associate vulnerability with emotions like fear, uncertainty, and scarcity. The invulnerability shield takes on many shapes and forms. Some of us protect ourselves with perfecting, pretending, and pleasing. Invulnerability can also take the form of low-grade disconnection. We protect ourselves by never quite being “all in.” Cruelty is both a type of invulnerability shield and the outcome of a culture that is collectively losing its tolerance for vulnerability. Vulnerability is not weakness; it is our strongest connection to humanity and to each other. Choosing vulnerability means leaning into the full spectrum of emotions—the dark as well as the light—and examining how our feelings affect the way we think and behave. Vulnerability is equal parts courage, mindfulness, and understanding—it’s being “all in.”
THE BEST MARKETING STRATEGY EVER
You need to care about your customers. Here’s the catch: caring about the customer is a mindset, not a tactic. And it’s got to come from the top. Caring about the customer, caring about the story of your brand, and (of course) having a strong product are becoming more important than having the lowest price.
WORK IS A FOUR-LETTER WORD
“A job is what you do for a paycheck. Work is what you do for a life.” 1. Control the controllable 2. Make it a game 3. Think contribution 4. Practice intelligent optimism
JUST MAKE IT UP
So when people ask me what my secret is in sales, my not-so-impressive response is, “There is no secret. I’m myself, I believe in what I do, and I make up the rest as I go along.”
HERE’S TO THE HATERS
Most companies want to be loved. Yet in reality, pathetically few companies are loved. The Lovers Crazy-excited fans may be a small slice of your overall base, but they’re the single most powerful force in your marketing mix. The Haters Haters add negative energy to your brand. Dealing with rabble-rousers and critics is the price of entry for being extraordinary. You can deal with them directly, or even coax them to change, but do not let them stop you. The Middlers So in addition to being unreliable, Middlers are also expensive. Employees in the middle don’t care about doing much other than killing time at the office. In a competitive environment, the middle position is death. Not caring is not buying. Stop focusing on the Middlers. Stop letting the Haters slow you down. Start rewarding, and keeping, the Lovers.
THREE WORDS FROM ANN LANDERS
Good.True.Helpful. If what you’re about to say or email to someone doesn’t meet two out of those three criteria, reword it or don’t say it at all.
Here are five connected ways you can pursue excellence and ensure that you create impact and meaning in the work you do. 1. Know that your calendar never lies 2. Step away from the computer 3. Daydream Daydreaming is an effective way of coping with complexity. Every child knows how to daydream, but we lose the capacity for it as adults. 4. Consider the hang-out factor 5. Remember K = R = P, Kindness = Repeat Business = Profit.
Normal is expected. Normal is comfortable. Normal is safe. Normal is OK. Normal is predictable. Normal is the status quo. Normal is playing it safe. Normal is overrated.
DON’T BE THE BLAND LEADING THE BLAND
The enemy of persuasion is obscurity. If you have an important message to get out, it must stand out, not blend in. So don’t blend in; instead, clash with your environment. Stand out. Be different. The power lies in how much something stands out from its context. 1. Establish a clear gap 2. Take a strong and clear position on a topic 3. Have passion for your idea. Your job as a communicator is to create and resolve tension through contrast.
THINKING WAS RUINING MY LIFE
Stop thinking, Act now!
THE BIGGEST DISTANCE IN THE WORLD
My son and I have an ongoing tease between us: “Ian, what’s the biggest distance in the world?” “I know, I know, Dad. It’s the distance between ‘I know’ and ‘I do.’” Few do what they know they should, what they know they could, what they know truly matters. Instead, most insist on getting caught up in the crap, the clutter, and the tyranny of the urgent instead of reveling in the joy of their own passions. Want to make more of a difference, doing more of what matters? Hack some stupid work today.
AVOIDING SUCK-NESS AND SILENCE
What kills us is not that we’ve got it wrong, or not quite right. What kills us is that we can’t talk about its being wrong. Here’s the cost of our silence. When issues stay unaddressed, stagnant, broken, we all fail. The cost of silence is suck-ness. “Could it be” is a conversation starter, rather than an assertion. It is the way you put an idea out there without having to defend it. “Could it be” allows the issue to be a question for everyone. “Could it be” allows for a dialogue rather than a yes/no argument. Could it be…that you are ready to speak up?
YOU THE OPERATING SYSTEM
We also have an opportunity to optimize ourselves, to rebalance and calibrate our “personal operating systems”—the ways that we are choosing to live and work—for the benefit of ourselves and others. 1. Positive disruption First, it is necessary to “positively disrupt” the rhythms and routines that prevent us from living and working optimally—because requests and demands on our time and attention often arrive in an indiscriminate way. 2. Cultivating well-being and engagement through deliberate practice We know that the only way to effect positive changes at the personal, familial, and organizational levels is to help people feel connected to needed changes and develop a sustained, deliberate practice over time. 3. Developing a community of practice A group of people who can provide ongoing support for needed changes is critical—because it is not possible to install new operating practices, rhythms, and routines without the guidance, feedback, and support of others.
Bridge-building is a powerful strategy for a simple reason: new technologies tend to take hold slowly, advancing through a long series of technical and market barriers.
HEADS OR TAILS?
The confusion I see online is caused by people who want both. They want the apparent safety of following the herd (doing the safe thing), while they also gain the head start (and the joy) of carving their own niche. Wanting to do two non-compatible things has a name. It’s called stress.
TAKE SMALL STEPS
show courage by being willing to change yourself. Conduct an honest self-assessment. Ask for help. Take immediate steps
DANCING WITH UNCERTAINTY
When you learn to dance with uncertainty, the doors to genius swing open.
STOP COMPLAINING AND MUSTER THE COURAGE TO LEAD
stop complaining and start leading. Courage is simply acting in a way that puts you at risk in a fearful or uncomfortable situation in which the outcome is uncertain. How can you be more courageous? First, understand that your approach to work overload and other tough situations is a matter of attitude. Next, appreciate the fact that work stress is real and legitimate. Third, seek social support: we humans are at our best when we work in coordinated and supportive groups, and this is certainly true of organizations. Finally, you can pump up your courage quotient by using any trick that will help you face an uncertain future. In the end, those teams and projects and deadlines are just begging for you to rise to the occasion.
CHANGE YOUR CAREER WHILE AT WORK TODAY
take ten minutes to consider what you like and what you don’t like in a work environment. Instead of surfing Facebook, check out the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Outlook Handbook. Jot down the transferable skills required. Search for organizations on LinkedIn.com that do the kind of work you’re interested in. When you’re finished with your daily duties, stay after-hours and check out an online course designed to help you facilitate a career change. Start creating a nest egg for your transition now by creating a spreadsheet on your smartphone to keep track of where your money is going on a daily basis.
COUNTDOWN TO ESCAPE VELOCITY
In scientific terms, escape velocity is the speed one needs to attain to leave the gravitational pull of a planet. Essentially, the idea of escape velocity is realizing that you want to move to something better for yourself or your family and knowing that you need to make some changes.
“INDECISIVE LEADER” IS AN OXYMORON
The Bible says, “A double-minded man is unstable in all his ways.” Your business, your family, your team, and your future are all paralyzed when you are. The bottom line is that leadership is hard; it’s not for wimps. If you want to lead, you’ve got to fight. You’ve got to dig in your heels, put your back into the work, and push your business or family or personal goals forward. Squirrels freeze. Leaders lead. Be a leader.
CREATE A PERSONAL MASTER PLAN
Step #1: The mind dump. Step #2: Sorting 1. Goals—statements of achievement. 2. States of being—the qualities of your present experience. 3. Habits—daily supporting behaviors that keep you healthy, calm, and sane. Step #3: Prioritizing. Using your master plan. Creating a master plan takes at least an hour, but it’ll be one of the most productive hours you spend this year. At the beginning of each day, review your master plan. Figure out the very next thing you can do to achieve each of your goals.
THE STRATEGIC VALUE OF CLEAR SPACE
Maximum freedom to generate and play around in creative chaos is the optimal condition for constructive thinking and work. You are most productive when all of your available resources are present and accounted for, with an ability to apply relaxed but concentrated focus, and unencumbered by irrelevant pressures and dross. Decide the outcomes you’re committed to. Decide the next physical, visible actions required to move toward them. Place reminders of all of that where you know you’ll look at the right time. Keep everything in your life and work that way—clear, current, and complete. Discover the strategic value of clear space. Get ready to make a mess.
WHAT’S THE MATTER WITH MILLENNIALS?
So the problem isn’t that the Millennials are wrong. The problem is that they’re right. The workplace is one of the most feedback-deprived places in modern life. 1. Do it yourself Formal performance appraisals have their place. But we should supplement them with evaluations we do ourselves. 2. Do it through peers. Kimley-Horn, a large American engineering firm, takes a peer-to-peer approach. At this sprawling sixty-office company, anybody at any time can award a colleague a $50 bonus. A person’s supervisor must sign off on each award. But ultimately the decision rests with peers, not bosses, and that can make the feedback and recognition more meaningful. 3. Do it with software. At the end of the project, you could use Rypple software to ask your colleagues to suggest areas where you might improve your work. Your fourteen teammates could use the software to respond—anonymously—and to offer real-time advice and guidance.
FLOURISHING INSIDE THE LION’S DEN
People often ask me if Google is the most insanely awesome place to work or if it’s like being inside the lion’s den. It’s both. 1. Optimizing myself 2. Remembering that you are what you eat 3. Prioritizing email 4. Reviewing the week 5. Making meetings more efficient… 6…. But still keeping them personal
LEARNING IN THE NEW WORLD OF WORK
Technology: On-demand learning. We are using our virtual classroom environment technology to share information and encourage discussion, and to provide another method of communication through global team meetings and virtual meetings. Relationships: Social learning. Similar to the concept of “pay it forward,” part of our learning strategy is that program participants are expected to contribute to other programs. Teaching has become an opportunity to “learn twice,” and Adobe cultivates development in a continuous cycle in order to grow leaders at all levels. Self: Everyday learning. We learn and practice our purpose through everyday lessons. Adobe encourages employees to “learn and grow in place” in the context of their work environment, rather than waiting for a retreat or an off-site program to help them find their bigger purpose. Work gives us the opportunity to grow, find, and share ourselves as well as to define the work we want to do and the person we want to become.
RECONSIDER YOUR APPROACH TO ORGANIZATION
Avoid reactionary workflows. But the bottom line is that a reactionary workflow is a threat to ingenuity. To combat it, we must focus less on ideas themselves and more on how we manage our energy and ultimately push ideas to completion. Use design-centric systems to stay organized. Every project in life can ultimately be reduced to just three primary elements: action steps, backburner items, and references. Action steps are succinct tasks that start with verbs. Backburner items are ideas that come up during a brainstorm or on the run that are not actionable now but might be someday. The third element of every project is references—the articles, notes, and other stuff that collects around you. Measure meetings with action steps. Reduce Insecurity Work. Before you change the way you work, be introspective. Consider why you do what you do. Start to make small changes. Measure your progress. Then do it again.
What we consume, consumes us. 1. Think about your Information Consumption Posture 2. Eliminate one thing from your workflow 3. Add something positive to your workflow. With or without the Internet, our bodies need movement and tenderness. We can’t think our way to that tender place; we have to move ourselves into it.
CREDIBILITY IS THE FOUNDATION OF LEADERSHIP
Leadership begins with you and your belief in yourself. Leadership continues only if other people also believe in you. “Actions speak louder than words” The one question you must ask yourself every day. In the morning, ask: What am I going to do today to make sure that other people see my commitment to the values and beliefs, vision and mission, projects and initiatives of this organization? How will my calendar show it? How will the people I meet with show it? How will my agendas show it? How will the stories I tell show it? How will my rewards and recognitions show it? How will my hires and promotions show it? At the end of the day, ask yourself: What did I do today to demonstrate my commitment to the values and beliefs, mission and vision, projects and initiatives of this organization? What’s the evidence that I did what I said I would do?
HOW CAN WE “DO MORE, FEEL BETTER, LIVE LONGER”?
GSK lives by these principles.
REWARDS, THREATS, AND WHAT TRULY MOTIVATES PEOPLE
Neuroscience has helped us discover what really motivates people. The SCARF acronym is a simple way of remembering what these factors are: Status, Certainty, Autonomy, Relatedness, Fairness. When you get any of the SCARF drivers, the reward circuitry in your brain is activated. But if any of them are reduced, the threat circuitry in your brain is triggered. Now, the important thing to understand is that negative input is much more influential than positive input. Your brain puts more emphasis on minimizing danger than it does on maximizing reward. First, it’s important to realize that money isn’t intrinsically motivating in many situations. What we’ve learned about status is that people are much more comfortable when the hierarchy is clear. The best way to mitigate the strength of negative inputs is to create opportunities for reward. Instead of telling a team member what she did wrong, ask her what she would do differently next time. This gives the person a chance to shine.
LIVING THE BRAND
Remember, the easiest thing to sell is the truth. The big idea here is that you can’t just be about it; you need to live it.
THE 90-MINUTE PLAN
For nearly a decade now, I’ve begun my workdays by focusing for 90 minutes, uninterrupted, on the task I decide the night before is the most important one I’ll face the following day. After 90 minutes, I take a break. Choose. Start. Stop. I don’t get it right every day, but this single 90-minute practice has been life changing for me.
RIDING WITH THE POSSE
Assemble a relatively small group of people who have some of the same expertise in common. Build relationships of trust, generosity, and mutual support. Hone your cooperative skills.
Great work is doing stuff that gives back to the world, as well as serving your own purposes. Wisdom is knowing what you don’t know.
THE IMPORTANCE OF FAILURE
All too often, leaders do everything they can to avoid failure. That makes sense in a world where success is defined by operational excellence. But today, business has its roots in innovation and risk taking, where failure is a natural outcome. Celebrate risk taking and failure. Reward people who bring forward failures. Define the limits
MAKING VIRTUAL TEAMS WORK
1. Don’t underestimate the challenges of being dispersed 2. Do use well the precious time you spend together 3. Do master the conference call
MAKE A DIFFERENCE WITH DESIGN THINKING
Think human. Connect with people. Turn ripples into waves
WHAT DOES IT TAKE TO DO GREAT WORK?
For me, great work starts with being part of a great team. Second, purpose. And third, personal growth and development.