Why I March(ed) Today

At brunch over the holidays, a friend and I were reflecting on the year. It was a big one: #MeToo and all that came with it, the legacy of the Women's Movement--"I don't march," she said. "What good does that really do?""Showing up really matters. In 2016, it was electric. People--across the world--had had a breaking point, and they knew they were not alone. Seeing and being amongst a virtual sea of pink hats in planes, buses, trains, on the street--it was incredible. For the first time, I was seeing women in the world not as a minority. I can't really put into words the emotion of that day. You could physically feel kindness and empathy, everywhere you went. You can never go back to a "before" after experiencing something like that. Change, real change, happens from that kind of event.""Okay," she conceded. "You have a point. But what does it mean now?"I have given serious consideration to that question. This year, I reached out to a few march-y galpals to see if they were available this weekend to show up for the cause. Personally, I'm burnt out on marches, but I remembered how important it was to show up the first time, and even the second time. I was curious what this year might look like.Responses? Several were out of town or skiing. Others were busy, demo'ing the bathroom, and another was helping her mother transition into an assisted living facility. All promised to wear their hats and #Represent. I had to get cat food and clean the windows myself, so I had put myself in rather a dilemma.On my way to run errands, I joined the march as it was just starting to move.  The energy was low. The crowds were low. I didn't see as much pluck and cleverness in the signage this year. The tone was different. The sentiments, predictable.There were the costumes, now professionally made (probably specifically for protest marches). No matter, the red cloak has become an important symbol now, representative of just how much we can lose. Seeing them there was comforting.I spoke with a cop about crowd expectations."We're expecting 5-7,000," he said. "Way down from last year, or the first year when it was 30,000. That was fun. I don't know what it is this year. Maybe it's the weather.""Maybe people are tired," I replied. "I'm tired.""Yeah, well, stay strong. Have fun! It's good you came out."He meant it too. He was in full support of the march. That was cute to see.My personal favorite aspects of marches are:

  • clever signage. It illustrates the nuance of the protest. Marches are about one theme (in this case the idea that women's rights are human rights), but people live in their particulars and it's always interesting to me to understand those particulars better and see how much they matter.

  • children. I didn't grow up in a family or attend schools that were politically active. I didn't attend rallies, marches, or show up for groups that were generally upset. As a result, I didn't ever really feel that political issues impacted me much, and they didn't because I grew up in a very protected bubble. So I appreciate parents bringing their kids to events like this. I believe it is important to show up and have your voice heard and feel like they are part of something larger. People need to learn that as young as possible.

  • engineers. There is nothing like an engineer with time to creatively express his/her voice. I was late with the photo because by then I was holding my double decaf mocha, but there was one couple with remote-controlled turkeys labeled Pence and one labeled Trump, each holding a sign saying "I'm with -->." You have to tip your hat to that one.


Do low numbers and an organization suffering from bad management mean this movement was a failure? Not by a long shot. The energy from 2016 will never be forgotten, especially to those that showed up.The thing to remember about energy is that it never stays in one place. It turns into:the inspiration for new initiativesthe drive to run for officethe courage to speak up against bad behavior, this year, so many to name but this picture, to me, was the most powerful representation of the #MeToo movementthe anger to fight for what is right and the courage to find your voicethe belief that you can change what is possible for yourself and othersthe insight to become a better ally -- will this by YOU?So even if the women's march dwindles, that powerful, powerful, worldwide outcry for human rights was heard and it continues to inspire. I think it will become a memory like the Civil Rights marches of the 60s. But it's important to remember that a lot of movement came from that first march. 

"Women's rights are human rights, and human rights are women's rights." --Hillary Clinton


Marches are great, but sustaining change is better. Check out these orgs for ways to involve yourself in your community:

  • Make America Dinner Again (M.A.D.A.) In a divisive time, a nationwide organization is bringing people of divergent views together over dinner — with intense, cathartic results.
  • Living Room Conversations  Living Room Conversations are a conversational bridge across issues that divide and separate us. They provide an easy structure for engaging in friendly yet meaningful conversation with those with whom we may not agree. These conversations increase understanding, reveal common ground, and sometimes even allow us to discuss possible solutions. No fancy event or skilled facilitator is needed.
  • Attend Citizen University Citizen University is building a culture of powerful, responsible citizenship across the country.
  • Look for Local Events via Seattle Times
  • Become a student at the Community Police Academy Community participants will become familiar with various facets of the SPD and gain insight into law enforcement's role in the criminal justice system and the daily work of police employees. With increased understanding, Seattle's community and police can work together and achieve realistic solutions to neighborhood problems relating to crime, fear of crime, and neighborhood decay. This class is both fun and educational and often challenges the myths and images of law enforcement by providing a realistic view of police procedures.
  • Volunteer Your Time.  ACLU
  • Donate Your Resources. ...
  • Shop Locally.
  • Join a Class or Group.
  • Seek local experiences, support people doing creative projects.
  • Organize Your Own Event.

Genuine fascination gives us an edge on problem solving

Example of creative problem-solving and also how someone's fascination with a particular creative medium, in this case: mushrooms. Genuine fascination with something particular gives us a unique advantage: the ability to see what most people don't. We see opportunities, experiments, and solutions that no one thought possible.
To most people, mushrooms are a food source. To mycologist (mushroom scientist) Philip Ross, fungi are much, much more. In fact, Ross is most passionate about mushrooms’ ability to be used for building materials and it is this is what he primarily focuses his attention on. Recently, the mycologists figured out how to make bricks from growing fungi that are super-strong and water-, mold- and fire resistant.
Inhabitat reports that the 100% organic and compostable material is made from dried mycelium and then is grown and formed into just about any shape. It has a remarkable consistency that makes it stronger – pound for pound – than concrete. He recently patented his own version of the mycotecture procedure.
During an interview with Glasstire, Ross explained:“It has the potential to be a substitute for many petroleum-based plastics. It’s left the art world and seems to have entered a Science Fiction novel or something like that. With this stuff it’s possible to go into regional production of biomaterials. For instance, here in San Francisco, we could start producing lots of local materials using this fungus and could create a pilot project of sorts.”

Constitutional Experiment #45...the largest A/B test in the world

Regardless of your political persuasion, you've likely become a more engaged citizen now than ever before, because the grand experiment has not turned out the way you thought it would.  You’re either completely depressed and dejected or surprised and elated. With the Republicans on one side and the Democrats on the other, the U.S. government is really the largest A/B experiment in the world. But that's exactly what we forget: it's an experiment.We think we are watching politics, but what we are really watching is an A/B test. In A/B testing, one solution wins out over another. Tests always start with a set of assumptions. Assumptions are informed by values, such as: Liberty, Equality & Self-Government. A winning result means both sides to develop and refine their processes, prompting new questions, but one solution dominates.The shock (and surprise) being expressed right now are reminders that we got complacent with our own values, and with the grandness of the experiment. We forgot the magnitude of the opportunity and the impacts of losing liberties.Experiments require ongoing participation. Results are never taken for granted. Living in one of the greatest experiments of our time, we have the privilege of directly participating in through voting, activism, volunteering, or dedicating our careers to a regional problem or public service.

How many of us do two or more of those things on an ongoing basis? 

When we don't have to earn our rights by fighting a war, surviving a depression, or managing a natural disaster--all of which rely on government systems--we forget our core values and take our liberties for granted. We get complacent. We begin to feel entitled to a particular outcome from the great experiment. If this occurs, it means the refinements happening are no longer. Over time, the results of the test are less and less inclusive of the whole. The test has become, in fact, rigged to one side or the other.We are consuming reason and facts and evidence and science and feedback—en masse—more than we ever have before. Synthesizing information is a messy process. So is governing.  Meaningful shifts do not come from one test. They come from thousands of tests.Government is less efficient than business, by design. It is a giant barge, not a nimble aircraft. Systemic change that lasts gets fully integrated by society, like minimum wage, social security, civil rights, or voting rights takes time. It requires everyone participating in the experiment, not just the leader, to commit to playing a long game. For example, the judicial appointment to the Supreme Court was not 45’s victory, but a predictable outcome of 30 years of painstaking work by an organization most people are just now hearing of: the Federalist Society

The longest game we’ve had in the oval office in a very long time is being replaced by the shortest game in that office, maybe ever. And the feelings experienced across the country (and around the world) is the "quick hit" once an A/B test returned "an answer" as if it were the last answer.We need to remember that experiments are never over. There is only more refining.  Another A/B test is coming.

How will you choose to engage?

It's safest inside a ring of fire

Some truths are counter-intuitive.

My focus has been to study master craftsmen. Craftsmen are innovators, working on the fridge or trade, and focused on raising standards. I look at what they do and how they think can be applied in other areas.

Craftsmen tend to work alone. They are in community with other craftsmen, but they work day in and day out by themselves. They are in the business of playing with standards and elevating them. They do this through innovation and creativity.

There is great power in groups. We all know the kinds of things we can accomplish with strong teams. But this article focuses on the trouble we can get into when craftsmen encounter groups. And I want to point to a parallel that happens with people embracing creative problem-solving, trying to push through norms, and how organizations respond.

When groups grow, they become more coherent and pull together. They start to share an identity and see things similarly. They become powerful. These qualities can build cohesiveness on the one hand, and group-think on the other.

A challenge to both the craftsmen and the groups they interact with is that individuals outside the group are trying to work with existing standards, something the group is familiar with, and create something new.  This difference gets aggravated by the fact that innovations are experienced as happening out of sync.

The cliche "they were ahead of their time" comes to mind, but no one is ahead of their time. People invent in reaction to something (an event, a set of ideas, etc.). This is why we experience innovations as unpredictable.

We rarely recognize them as solutions or potential answers to a problem. We don't know what to do with them when we see them. They make us think differently. They change the way we understand and engage the world around us. They force us to learn something new.

The virtue of any particular innovation is hard to judge until you've tried it.

As a result, communities often fear what they can't understand. More often than we would like, we circle the wagons believe around our beliefs, shunning the new idea. We don't even want to give it a try.

History shows us that bad things can happen at least temporarily and good things are lost. They are lost often at a time when they're needed most.

It's fire season here in Seattle, so it seems like a good time to reflect on firefighting, in general, and in particular, a 1949 fire that fundamentally changed the way we approach fighting fires.


This particular fire is a cautionary story and it's an important illustration of how the issue of learning well, how we can meet challenge head-on, and predict that it's going to happen because it happens over and over and over again throughout history.

The fire-fighting crew this group was a very heroic bunch of young men between the ages of 17 to 22. They called themselves "smoke jumpers." The last of them recently passed in 2014. They were the first firemen to parachute from a plane into remote areas to fight forest fires. The smoke jumpers were a courageous, elite group held together by their group values, their mission, and the courage to do accomplish a difficult job. They dropped into a chaotic environment with the few resources they could carry.

It's most important to remember for this story is that these men knew if the fire came toward them, they could find safety on the top of a ridge. A ridge provides a natural break in the line of fire.

The innovator of the story, Dodge, was older and more experienced than the group. He could do everything the smoke jumpers could, but better. He had a great reputation and a lot of experience. He was also a reticent, quiet man. He took care of everything in the base camps. But he wasn't one of them.

The day of the fire, he was their Foreman. They didn't know him personally and it was the first time he had actually led them as a group. Left in the afternoon to meet the fire and they were on the ground fighting by five o'clock. We know because they found a watch that was melted indicating the fire confronted them 59 minutes later at 5:59. The incident happened in a very short period of time.

This is a familiar dynamic between communities and innovator.

In a crisis or pressure-filled experience, it's never time that matters,

it's the certainty with which we hold our views that seems to make a difference.

When they saw this fire the innovator saw one thing, and the group saw another. The kids saw something they could conquer they could tame. They referred to such fires as "ten o'clock fires" and laughed about them.  But Dodge saw the fire and saw something different. He saw a fire that was about to explode and get out of control. He tried to move the group down toward a river that ran through the center of the fire, where they could safely fight the fire within relative safety. They would be able to exit through the river.

But the wind was so strong grass just burst into flame between them and the river and they were trapped. He told them to run. At this point, their only option was uphill, against a fire traveling 100 yards a minute. This was a race they would not win.

At that moment, he did something that at the time that no one had ever done before. He took a pack of matches out of his pocket, turned toward the fire, and lit a ring around himself. He had invented what is now called an escape fire. It is something that every forest firefighter has been educated in today and has saved many many lives since.

The term now means....

escape fire noun, \is-’kāp\’fī(-ə)r\

  1. a swath of grassland or forest intentionally ignited in order to provide shelter from an oncoming blaze.

  2. an improvised, effective solution to a crisis that cannot be solved using traditional approaches.

The fire was approaching fast. He called to his men and said to them, "Step with me into this fire."


The team was running as their training had instructed them to do. Fifteen smoke jumpers ran for the ridge because that was the knowledge that they could rely on.  But Dodge took his canteen out, watered a cloth for this face, knelt in the ashes, and laid down in the ashes of the fire he had burned. The fire burned over him. Other firefighters found a lucky pile of stone. But the fire caught the rest of the men.

Dodge, the foreman, survived the fire by staying in the circle he had burned in the grass. Two more made it to the top of the ridge, only to watch ten members of their team fall to the fire. Two more died the next day in a hospital. All but one died of smoke inhalation.

This is a sad story and I don't tell it to make you feel sad. However, this urgency of communication and influencing between innovator and group is one that breaks down all the time. You only have to look back through history:

  • the first time we were told the earth is flat;

  • the first time someone said microscopic things are responsible for disease

  • the first time someone said vehicles can go underwater, through the sky, and into space

  • the first time someone said a computer could fit in our pocket

  • first time Lady Gaga said I'm going to be a rock and star Idol

Whenever groups come together, they have common beliefs and their identity is preserved by them holding on to those beliefs. Innovators need to understand that when they are calling people to come with them to a new idea
they're inviting them into an unproven fire.

No one knows if someone says "I have the greatest idea in the world" if it's going to work or if it's going to be a disaster until effort happens. I think in every group we have to ask questions and assign mechanisms that allow us to be open to ideas we haven't anticipated.

As innovators, we have to find better ways to communicate and accept new ideas while maintaining our relationships. There have to be better ways to pool ideas and share resources in times of stress.

I know that was an intense story, but I want you to think about how you go through your day and interact with others when you are a member of a community that is holding to beliefs, or an innovator approaching a problem from the outside-in.

You are both. You are going to be in communities that you're working hard to build and you're a creative innovator that has ideas that people around you will not understand. So the question that we all need to answer for ourselves, and it's a different answer for everyone, is:

what is the one thing you can do if you're a member of a community

to see what's possible when what is presented

is something you don't understand?


when you take the role of innovator 

and you are telling someone what is possible, 

and sharing how you see differently or more effectively?

In the end, learning new ideas, and really being able to try them on when it counts, is the way we move forward. It's about getting over our own anxiety. Change is not the problem. I'm not entirely convinced that we even mind failure so much.

The problem for most of us is fear of deviating from a leading strategy.

Just look what it's doing to the business of healthcare, education, and poverty.

Your Circles Define You. Choose Wisely.

The people in our circles of influence set our standards, what we vision for ourselves, and how we approach change.Given the impact our peers have on us, it's surprising to me that we select our them based on proximity.Relationships are not necessarily formed people who have similar personalities and interests. It’s the people you literally sit next to, work with, or live near. Whom we find ourselves mingling with can have enormous implications. As Jim Rohn has wisely said, “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” Similarly, international public speaker Portor Gale believes your social capital, or your ability to build a network of authentic personal and professional relationships, not your financial capital, is the most important asset in your portfolio. She wrote a book about it: “Your network is your net worth.”Like the frog in a pot of slowly boiling water, we adapt to whatever environment we find ourselves. We have what psychologists call an “external locus of control,” where we believe factors outside of us dictate the direction of our lives. Thus, we live reactively to whatever life throws at us.Who is in your smallest circle? How did they get there? Was it intentional or because they were close by? Do these people raise your game? Or, do they hold you back?If you want to move forward in your life or career, you need to surround yourself with people who have higher standards than you do. Life is a reflection of what you deem permissible. You embrace what you are willing to tolerate. Personal experience shows us that most people will stay in unhealthy relationships for too long, nurse poor finances, and endure jobs they hate. If those things were tolerated, they wouldn't be in our lives.Recently, I’ve been working on a book. I had gotten it to a level I was comfortable sharing it out. I shared it with friends asking for feedback and got a few comments here and there. I took a writing class and in every draft, my teacher shows me why and how it could be 10x better, and she holds me to that standard.Versions I was previously satisfied with now make me cringe. Were my standards that much lower than my writing teacher's standards? At the time, yes. As she helped me raise my game, my standards increased too. Feedback is a wonderful gift.The same thing happened during my doctorate research. I sent my advisor a paper I thought was good and he found it unreadable. He challenged me to rethink my outline, always centering me with the question, "what is the story I'm trying to tell?" His questioning forced me to continue to think deeper and deeper on my topic. It was challenging and even frustrating, but it made me better.This kind of dynamic isn’t just for working relationships. What about your romantic partner? Do they help you rethink your standard for what is possible? Do they help you become a better person? Do they challenge you to think differently? Do you help them?Generally speaking, at any given time, a small part of your group is moving forward, the rest mimic whoever they are around at the time (we want to fit in), and the rest are moving backward. I didn't make that up, it's the old 80/20 rule from economics.Here’s what the Wikipedia has to say about it:

The principle was suggested by management thinker Joseph M. Juran. It was named after the Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto, who observed that 80% of income in Italy was received by 20% of the Italian population. The assumption is that most of the results in any situation are determined by a small number of causes.

Because we reflect on those around us, it's important to take stock of who is in our circle and what standards they have. If they drop, we drop. If they raise, we raise. That is why phrases like "rising tides raise all boats" or "better together" are used to describe efforts of raising everyone in a corporate culture, or society at large.There are people in your life that just by being around them have increased your thinking, creativity, and energy. Those are the kinds of people you need to reach out and collect. Those are the kinds of people you need to be more like yourself so that you are an example to others just by being around you.The standards you embrace for your life and work are set by what kind of life you want for yourself. You determine what is permissible. You define a quality life and the quality of your work. If you’re fine coasting than those around you coast as well.If you want to raise your game, you have to find the better players and learn from them. Change your circles, change what and how you learn.The talent and “potential” you were born with are irrelevant, especially if they don’t help you realize it. We all know people in our lives with unfulfilled potential. Don’t let that be you.The people in our circles of influence set our standards, what we vision for ourselves, and how we approach change. This fact is undeniable.

The question is: what are you going to do about it?


About being strong, good-looking, and above average

How do I love me? Let me count the ways:

  • Ethics: Most business people tend to rate themselves as “more ethical” than others in business.  In fact, in a 1997 national survey asking people how they would rate their own morals and values on a scale from 1 to 100 (100 = perfect), 50% of those people rated themselves 90 or above.  A scant 11% rated themselves as 74 or less.

  • Professional Competence: The vast majority of business managers (90%) rate their performance as superior to their peers and most surgeons believe the mortality rate of their patients is lower than average.

  • Virtues: Most high school students in the Netherlands rate themselves as more friendly, honest, and reliable than the average high school student.

  • Driving: The majority of drivers (including those who have been hospitalized for car accidents) perceive themselves to be safer drivers than the average driver.

  • Intelligence: Most people consider themselves to be more intelligent, more attractive, and less prejudiced than most people.  Almost comically, when outperformed, most people consider the other person to be a “genius.”

  • Tolerance: According to a 1997 Gallup poll, 14% of white Americans rated their prejudice against Blacks as a 5 (on a scale of 1 – 10), although they rated 44% of other Whites as being more prejudiced (5 or above).

  • Parental Support: The majority of adults perceive themselves as giving more support to their aging parents than their siblings.

  • Health: Most college students believe that they will outlive their predicted age of death by 10 years.

  • Insight: Most of us tend to believe that we understand others better than they understand us. We also tend to believe than we understand ourselves better than other people understand themselves.

  • Freedom from Bias: People tend to see themselves as freer from the effects of bias than most other people.

The psychology term for this is illusory superiority.  Examples came from Self In A Social World.

It’s hard to hear that you are average or even below average, isn’t it? Kind of stings a little to hear we aren’t perfect.

At first, like almost everybody, I thought, “Yes, but I really am above average!” Then I realized I was doing it again.

So I decided to gamble on the opposite: I now just assume I’m below average.

It serves me well.

I listen more. I ask a lot of questions. I let myself get curious about things.

I don’t think I’m surrounded by idiots. I assume most people are smarter than me. It is a true statement: everyone else has a different lived experience. 

To assume you’re below average is to admit you’re a beginner. It confirms you are learning. It gives you the gift of a student’s mind. It keeps your focus on present practice and future possibilities, and away from any past accomplishments.

There isn’t a young pianist out there, if they are honest, that when they started out playing Chopsticks, ever thought they had what it took to make it to Carnegie Hall.

Most people are so worried about posturing, faking it until they make it, that they never do anything really great.

They self-edit. They opt to remain polished and share the correct answer, versus getting messy, stuck, and vulnerable by learning something new.

They only move one brick back and forth.

They cut themselves off from interesting opportunities.

Most people are so worried about doing something great that they never do anything at all.

You destroy that sense of stuckness when you think of yourself as such a beginner that just doing anything is an accomplishment.

Or even better, it’s just a small experiment.

The art of complaining

Complaining means that we know what's wrong, but we:

  1. don’t realize we can change it. (We believe we're powerless.)

  2. are too lazy to change it. (We'd rather just complain.)

As a friend, I hate this. Because it’s a lot of work to make complainers realize they can change things. They always push back with all the reasons they can’t, which just reinforces the two points above.

As a colleague, I love this. Because I know I’m powerful and can change anything. Because every complaint is an opportunity. It’s fun to invent solutions to problems, turn ideas to reality, and watch my creations make the world a little better.Then afterward, on a personal note, I can say, “See? Told you it could change.”

Managing Tension

Managing tension

You have something you want to change: a thought process or habit you want to adjust, fix or pivot toward.Consider a bunch of bricks on a seesaw. Right now all the bricks are stacked on one side. This is the way you have been.To make a change, most people don’t do enough. They do one small thing.And nothing happens.You've started a shift. Maybe you moved that brick back to where it was, and then out again.Making a shift does not account for:

  • a lifetime of doing it the other way
  • the environment that made you that way
  • the pressure from friends to stay that way
  • and a whole repertoire of old habits

Some say, to make a change, you have to be extreme. Go all the way the other way. Stop smoking, sold turkey. Start going to the gym every day. Just jump in the deep end. Doing that means that you are trying one form of being "all in" - by stacking a huge pile of bricks on the other side. This is what most people envision as success. You will have "arrived" if life looks like the opposite. If you were depressed, this is what happy looks like. If you were in a slump, this is what energy and vitality look like. This new you sounds extreme and exciting. You will think you’re going to be completely changed.But, your history of doing things the other way is still there. So really this is what you needed to do: move one brick at a time, until you have a full spectrum of behaviors and visions of success to draw from.  This is not the same as balance. This is about establishing small habits that lead to managing the teetering that happens when you go too far toward either end of the seesaw.By managing the middle (meaning you avoid extremes) new skills will sink in, and become your new normal. 


You have a tendency to blame others for your situation. We all do this. You realize this is hurting your life. You think, “I should stop doing that. What got me here won't get me there. I should take some responsibility.”So you try something new:But that doesn't quite do enough. You are still not quite there yet. You need to try more, in a way that will feel like you are going too far.So you think, “Absolutely everything is my fault. All of it. It’s my fault the world is the way it is. It’s my responsibility to fix everything I don’t love. It’s my fault that others act the way they do towards me.”Sounds extreme, right? It will feel like this:You try to think this new way. Sometimes you can actually get there and embody that new voice.  You are trying on something new, hearing a new inner voice.But you still can’t help feeling that some things are not your fault. Your old voice still wants to be heard. That’s OK. Now you’re working the middle a little more. This back and forth conversation with "both-and" starts to sink in and becomes your new normal way of thinking. 

More examples:

The best and most effective changes I’ve made in my life seemed crazy at first because they seemed to so extreme.  I’m going to be writing about more of them in the future, and I’ll keep them listed here:

Calculating Value

Do you provide value to others, or only yourself?

This is the kind of coming-to-Jesus question I had to face when I embarked on the dissertation and subsequent research. But it's a question I faced to a lesser degree throughout my career. When you're paid a salary, you can argue your value. But when you submit a thesis, they don't call it a defense for nothing.You are, in every sense of the word, defending your idea as something that will add to the world. You are putting your career on hold. You are putting your good credit on the line (most of us are in sickening debt because of the choice to complete a dissertation). In the end, you are proving your optimism through the most depressing, rigorous, and gut-wrenching processes you can put yourself through.Yet, there are so many dissertations that don't really make the cut for interesting cocktail conversation. And it brings about a really odd kind of humor that can be pretty insular.When your writing about something you really care about, it’s hard to imagine that others wouldn't be interested. It's sort of like when I think it's hot and like the fan on, and my partner gives me, huddled with the dog and several blankets, with a look that can only say, "turn on the damn heat." I think it really is hot, not that it’s hot only for me. It feels like a fact to me, not an opinion.So when I do something that’s really valuable to me, it’s hard for me to imagine that it’s not valuable to others. I think it really is valuable, not that it’s valuable only for me. It feels like a fact, not an opinion.This is understandable. Our feelings feel like facts. It’s hard to imagine that they’re not.This is the problem of the "lonely writer," the “starving artist,” or the "nonprofit missionary."When someone creates something that feels important, powerful, and valuable to them, it’s hard to imagine that it’s not important, powerful, and valuable to others.But money only comes from doing something valuable to others.The starving artist pours his heart into a project that’s incredibly valuable to him, but not (yet) valuable to others. That’s why no money comes.The good news is there are two ways out of this problem, and either one can be fun, in the way that a 1,000-piece puzzle can be fun. :-)

#1: Productize your learning. Focus on making your "thing" more valuable to others.

Art doesn’t end at the edge of the canvas. Keep your creativity going. Constantly ask, “How can I be more valuable to an audience?” You may come up with ideas like this:

  • Convert what you do to a personal service. Customize your work for hire.
  • Spread a fascinating version of your history, so fans can get emotionally interested in you.
  • Simplify. Simplify. Simplify, so that people don’t need sophisticated tastes to appreciate what you do.
  • Find ways to be invitation-only. Think about membership versus likes, sales, and customers.
  • Go where money is already flowing. Adapt what you do to match the needs of the communities most relevant to your product or servicece.

Then force yourself to try all the best ideas, even if it seems unnatural at first. Read books about business and psychology to get more ideas, since many brilliant minds are asking the same question from a different perspective.  Do this repeatedly, paying attention to feedback from others, and you will become more valuable.Amanda Palmer is an American singer-songwriter who is the lead vocalist, pianist, and lyricist of the duo The Dresden Dolls. On April 20, 2012, Palmer announced on her blog that she launched a new album pre-order on Kickstarter. The Kickstarter project was ultimately supported by 24,883 backers for a grand total of $1,192,793 — at the time, the most funds ever raised for a musical project on Kickstarter. A widely reported and commented upon controversy emerged from the related tour when she asked for local musicians to volunteer to play with her for exposure, fun, beer, and hugs instead of money. She responded in the press and changed her policy to one of paying local musicians who volunteered to play with her on this tour. Read her book. Watch her TED talk.Though if you find that this makes you more miserable than excited, try the other way:

#2: Stop expecting it to be valuable to others.

Accept your "thing" as personal and precious to only you. Make your thing your side-hustle and find your money elsewhere.If you stop expecting your "thing" to be valuable to anyone but you, your conflicted mind can finally be at peace. Do it only because you love it, and it honestly doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks. You might even keep it private like a diary, just to be clear who it’s really for.You’ll probably be happier with your music because of this change in mindset. Ironically, others may appreciate it more, too, though you honestly won’t care.He has no book. He has no TED talk. But, if he's finding joy in what he's doing, maybe he doesn't need express himself that way.


I don't normally tout Facebook videos, but this one came up in my feed the other day because it was liked by a friend in my feed. Thank god for those friends that like interesting things!Yes, it's about a resolution to women turning on each other, which is unfortunately very common. But this behavior is not relegated to women. I work with male clients who also suffer from "thinking small."A relationship never heals past its last mishap. Since all of business comes down to relationships, it behooves us to think about our impact and to clean up our messes, even if a lot of time has passed.

Jada Pinkett Smith’s Facebook Watch talkshow Red Table Talk has been getting rave reviews for its upfront and honest approach to tackling everyday topics. Monday’s episode (May 28) saw the actress and Gabrielle Union squashing their 17-year beef like grown-a** women. According to Smith, her relationship (or lack of) with Union “was some petty a** sh*t.”“Gabrielle and I were never really girlfriends, we were great associates that at some point, that dissolved and for 17 years we have not really spoken,” said Pinkett Smith. “We don’t even know [what we’re mad at]. Today I really want to talk to Gabrielle to find out how we as women, specifically, get here. And this particular episode is about healing.”