Run your business like a nerd

Be the life of the corner of the room of the party. ✎ By Wayne K. Spear

Nerds
Photo courtesy of Nathan Rupert, Flickr

A business can attempt one of two things: to be all things to all people, or to find and serve a market niche.

The former requires scale. Big box stores, huge inventories, supply-chain management, constant growth and expansion, a franchise strategy.

To be all things to all people is necessarily to be aggressive. You must dominate multiple markets to survive, because your competition is legion.

Walmart is an example of this model. The stakes of an all-things-to-all-people strategy are extremely high, but so too are the potential rewards.

A niche strategy targets a small but focused market. The enthusiasm and loyalty of the customer, rather than a directive of constant growth and fierce competition, drives the business.

A niche business issues from an unusual or marginal interest. The box stores do not serve niches. The mantra of a mass-market business model is: Unless everyone wants it, we will not get it.

Often the niche business is started by a hobbyist, eccentric, specialist, or collector. He is driven by passion, and by a desire to serve and connect with the like-minded. Here, the mantra is: If you don’t fit in, don’t compete.

An all-things-to-all-people business strategy is capital intensive. It requires a marketing and advertising strategy, aggressive growth, and ruthless competition.

A niche strategy is passion intensive. It requires knowledge of the niche, and authenticity. You must love the niche, and you must care about the people who occupy it. You are not simply running a business, you are creating a community.

The big box store is the life of the party. She goes about the room, chatting up everyone in it. By the end of the night, she’s made a dozen new friends.

The niche business, meanwhile, spends the evening in the corner of the room, discussing Etruscan manuscripts.

In the niche, we form fewer bonds—but they are instant and powerful.

Your niche customers will find you. After all, it’s hard not to notice the one other person in the corner of the room

Let your passion, oddball and off-the-beaten-path as it is, guide you.

Find your people, and serve them.

Mining for your data gold

To give is to receive. ✎ By Wayne K. Spear

Data
CC image “Data storage—old and new” courtesy of Ian on Flickr

Do, Dare.

To the English-speaking reader, it looks like an inspirational slogan.

In Latin, it is a verb. Do, Dare, Dedi, Datus: I give, to give, I have given, I am given.

Data are things given.

We live in a world of data. As you navigate the Internet, you give. You are given.

Do, Dare, Dedi, Datus.

You give yourself away. Your Google searches, your browsing history, your conversations with friends.

User-generated content, marketing, and advertising are converging. You are the copy writer and the content marketing department and the customer.

The ads that you see on Facebook are echoes of your posts. This is called re-marketing.

Too much is given, and yet not enough. Your age, gender, location, and income. Your web history. Your click-throughs and conversions and bounces. Your likes and favorites.

Adaptive marketing seeks to tailor the browsing experience to the individual user. The problem is not lack of data, it is abundance.

The future belongs to the experts—to those who can interpret data. You are the expert on you.

That’s why you must become the snitch and the mole and the collaborator. We are all collaborators in this work of giving ourselves, and others, away.

Collaborative filtering is used by Amazon to recommend books. If you and I both enjoyed reading Y, the fact that I enjoyed reading X suggests you, too, will enjoy reading X.

Once upon a time, your personal details were gold. They were secrets surreptitiously mined. You had to be taken, without your awareness.

Then you learned to give. You became data. There was no more guessing at your inner life, drawing upon hit-and-miss clues like your age and zip code. You knew where your gold was, and you gave it away.

The future is convergence and integration and collaboration. You are the creator of the advertising script woven into your friends feed, the conductor of a private focus group, the expert. You are the giver of all that is gold.

Brother can you spare a two-dollar bill?

2-dollar-bill
Use value versus perceived value. ✎ By Wayne K. Spear

There are about 1.5 billion US $2 bills in the world. A $2 bill is worth $2.

Two-dollar bills are scarce, yet you can get one at any time from a bank.

When most of us get one in a transaction, we put it in a drawer, because we perceive it as valuable. Perception yields scarcity, and scarcity yields perception.

How did 2-dollar bills become scarce?

The answer is use value. When US notes were introduced, in the late 19th Century, you could buy most anything with a dollar. The two-dollar bill lost a use-value battle.

This is why there are no slots in an American cash register for a two-dollar bill.

Because people are creative, they manufacture use value for two-dollar bills. This is called a Spend Tom Campaign.

A two-dollar bill stands out. The person who uses it gets attention. Attention is value.

Tip: give a waitress a two-dollar bill, and she’ll remember you.

In the past, companies have chosen to give their employees $2 bills to draw attention to their economic contribution to the community. Two-dollar bills have been used as a marketing tool by the tourism industry, by sports teams, and by champions of the Second Amendment.

Scarcity and attention. The power of perception. Find something with perceived value that is scarce but readily available, and leverage it as a use value.

The power of Why?

Your clients are giving you valuable answers. ✎ By Wayne K. Spear

There are a lot of wonders, mysteries, and unanswered questions.

Are there multiple universes, is there intelligent life on other planets, is it possible to travel backwards in time, how do birds know where to fly in winter?

I met someone who studies migratory birds. Birds, I learned, use ultraviolet light, the sun, and even the positions of stars to find their way.

An answered question can be as mysterious and awe-inspiring as an unanswered one. Questions are portals to wonder.

Just about everything in the human and natural world is an answer to a question and/or the solution to a problem.

Numbers on houses, birdsong, pneumatic tires, leaves.

Every day the world is evolving to solve problems and to answer questions. Pay attention to this.

People are mysterious, especially in business. What do they really want? What do they really need?

Take note of the solutions people are willing to pay you for. These customers are bringing you your answers as well as their questions.

There are times people don’t really need what they tell you they need, or want what they tell you they want. We all come up with poor answers. And the solution to poor answers is better questions.

Listen carefully. Your clients will give you valuable information if you ask the best question of all.

Why?

– We need this quick solution.
– Why?
– To communicate better with our customers.
– Why?
– Because the benefits of our services are not understood.
– Why?
– Because we don’t have a clear sense of our brand.
– Why?
– Because we need help.

Use questions to migrate from something your client’s don’t need to something that they do.

Why? is the ultraviolet light, the sun, and the stars that will help you find the way.

Don’t go it alone

It takes a village to rock. ✎ By Wayne K. Spear

This is a story about Mick and Keith.

Steve Jobs wasn’t interested in computer circuitry, and Steve Wozniak didn’t believe there was a market for the machines he was making in his computer club.

Elton John can write a decent melody. Bernie Taupin has written some of pop music’s best-known lyrics. The two met in 1967 through an audition that both failed. When they joined forces, they succeeded.

In the 1980s, Mick Jagger tried (unsuccessfully) to become a solo superstar. Keith Richards once said that, together, he and Ron Wood were the best guitarists. He added that he and Ron were average individually.

A rock band is a division of labor, a team, a small corporation, and an alchemy.

Many of the most successful rock bands have had four members. Many personality assessments are four-factor. You can plot many rock bands on a DiSC graph.

DiSC Graph

I’ve created several rock bands, and I’ve worked with many corporations. Whatever you’re doing, think of it as a team effort, because it is. The alchemy of personality and talent is not arbitrary or mysterious. It can be assessed and measured. I know this.

Even if you are a novelist, you need a good team behind you.

Who is supporting your success? Do you have mentors, collaborators, colleagues, partners, and role models?

The lesson of Mick, Steve, Elton, and Paul is that you can’t do it on your own.

Don’t go it alone.

Pie versus Sunshine

Be open, bold, & generous. ✎ By Wayne K. Spear

Imagine a company that sells sunshine.

You can’t, because there is no plausible reason to buy it.

If I have a pie, a certain number of people are going to get pie. I can cut it two or twenty ways. No matter how I slice it, every portion eaten is a share someone else is not going to get, ever.

Absorbing the rays doesn’t mean someone else will now be unable to enjoy sunlight. It is impossible to take in the sun the way we eat a pie. No matter how many people step into the sun, there is surplus sunlight.

The difference between pie and sunshine is not only a matter of supply. Both can be scarce. In the northern hemisphere, there is less sunshine during winter, so people pay for tanning salons.

You can slice a pie but not sunlight. One is divisible, the other indivisible.

If I love one person today and ten tomorrow, I do not diminish the supply of love. If I am kind to ten people, it doesn’t follow that I must be less kind to the eleventh person I meet because kindness has been consumed.

Love and kindness, like sunlight, are indivisible.

I went to a store in my city and ordered something I’ve been looking forward to having for some time, but they didn’t have any of it in stock.

The moment I walked into the store, the staff smiled and welcomed me. It felt good to be there. It was obvious to me when I left that the store managers had paid careful attention to every moment and detail of my experience.

Even though I didn’t get the slice of a pie that I wanted, I am going to go back because I got sunlight.

In your life and in your business, some things are divisible and some are indivisible.

Take stock of the abundance and indivisibility within your personal inventory: creativity, imagination, and will. Be open, be bold, and be generous. Give, without regard to getting in return. Count your pies and cast your sunlight to the waters, because you can and because it is a good idea.

Cultivate abundance, and you will have abundance.

You can afford to do this, and you can’t afford not to.

How do you make people feel?

Beauty is good business. ✎ By Wayne K. Spear

Yesterday I had a business meeting with Apple. On my way to the meeting, I rode the subway next to a woman who was reading the Bible on her iPad.

There are bibles on iPads, but no iPads in the Bible.

If Jesus had known about iPads, he would have used them as metaphors, because they are integral to our lives. There would be at least one good apple story that didn’t involve a serpent.

An iPad is the size of a sheet of paper, a magazine, and a human face. It’s light and sleek and beautiful. It’s aesthetically pleasing, to the eye and to the touch.

Apple didn’t invent the tablet. Years earlier, when it was first introduced, people mocked and ridiculed the idea of a keyboard-less computer.

The tablet was not a laptop, or a Palm Pilot, or a Pocket PC, or a BlackBerry. So the experts scoffed.

When Apple introduced its tablet, they scoffed again.

And then they tried it, and the scoffing stopped.

Whatever your product, your service, your labor, or your mission, aesthetics matter. Bernadette Jiwa says that “marketing is, and always has been, a transfer of emotion. It’s about changing how people feel and, in turn, helping them to fall in love with something.”

How do you make someone fall in love with something?

By seducing them with beauty, poetry, thoughtful design, attention to detail, excellence.

What does your customer feel in the presence of your product? How thoroughly have you thought through the experience of your client, from the moment before they have even opened the door?

Remember: we judge books by covers. That’s why I hire pros to design them.

Apple has created an aesthetic and applied it to every detail of every interaction. The simple and sleek brushed-chrome-and-white surfaces of their boardroom look like an iPad.

Seduce your audience with beauty. Make them fall in love with something. Until you have, your work is unfinished.

Follow Your Passion, revisited

Create, test, refine, repeat. ✎ By Wayne K. Spear

We have all heard the phrase, many times now:

Follow your passion.

It usually means Quit Your Job. Stop doing what you hate. Do only what you love.

Love vs hate. Happiness vs misery.

I hate my job, what do I do? Follow your passion.

Accounting, engineering, finance, and dentistry are passions. Maybe they’re not your passion, but they’re someone’s. In these cases, follow your passion means Get Your Job.

Some passions have clear pathways. If your passion is helping sick people, you can study medicine and be a doctor.

Business consultant Jim Collins invented the Hedgehog Concept, which says: Find a passion that is economically viable and that you can do better than your competition.

Questions:

– How do I find my passion?
– Do I have, or even need, a passion?
– Could I have many different passions, at different stages of my life?
– If I can love my job, does it follow I am passionate?

Doing what you are passionate about = being passionate about what you do.

A lot of us do something all day we are not passionate about. But the problem is that the passion<—>doing connection can be murky.

If you are passionate about medieval poetry, then what?

The reading and writing of poetry requires skills like intelligence and creativity and the ability to perceive and to make sense of complex patterns. A poet is an entrepreneur of language. She builds something out of nothing, using will and mind.

This is creativity. Creatives ought to be the richest people on earth, given their ability to make something from nothing.

Making something from nothing is a passion.

– Make a list of ten skills that you have
– Create a list of businesses or products that use the skills on your list
– Identify the products or services that you can do best and that are the most economically viable
– Set targets of one, three, six, and twelve months to develop and sell your services
– Are you less, or more, happy?
– Test, Refine, Repeat

Is there a better way?

Seek not, and ye shalln’t find. ✎ By Wayne K. Spear

I have a Post-It Note fixed to my desk, next to my keyboard. On it are written the words “IS THERE A BETTER WAY?”

I realize how this must look—like I’m at my rope’s end.

But I’m not saying “there’s got to be a better way.” There doesn’t. Everything in my world might be as good as it could ever be, and if that’s so I’m fine with it.

My life is good, after all.

Asking “is there a better way?” is not about hating how things are, or wishing they were better. It’s about cultivating an inquisitive, active mind.

A mind that is alert to the better way to open doors, to take notes, to eat food, to keep up with friends, to learn, to do laundry, to write a book, to build relationships, to find joy, to make a home, to be idle.

I’ve become an enthusiast of simplicity. Often, the better way is a more simple way. If I can do something in three steps and five minutes that yesterday took me five steps and fifteen, I’d say that’s a better way.

What I’m describing is the cultivation of an active mental discipline. Everything in our world works against it: gravity, habit, human laziness, fear, vested political interests, tradition, experts.

We probably will never find something we haven’t decided to look for. Seek, and ye shall find; don’t seek, and ye shalln’t.

Is donating the bulk of your material possessions to charity a better way? Or dropping out of school? Maybe it’s making less money and having more joy, or stopping everything you’re doing right now, to instead relax and take stock of your blessings.

I don’t know, and maybe neither do you. And the reason is probably because we’ve never decided we want to know.

What we do know are the things we never even asked to know—the conventional ways of thinking and doing:

– Follow the rules
– Go to school
– Get a job
– Work
– Retire
– Die

Is there a better way? The question doesn’t seem quite so weird when you consider the alternatives.

80% stop what you’re doing right now

Today’s lesson is diminishing marginal futility ✎ By Wayne K. Spear

I’m going to stop 80% of what I’m doing, right now.

We’ve all heard of the 80/20 rule, known as the law of unequal distribution.

– Eighty percent of your business is driven by twenty percent of your customers.

– Eighty percent of your profits come from twenty percent of your products.

– Eighty percent of the problems are caused by twenty percent of the people.

The idea is that roughly 80% of effects come from 20% of causes. Known as the Pareto Principle, the concept is named after the economist Vilfredo Pareto.

Pareto noticed that 80% of the peas in his garden came from 20% of the pea pods. He started looking around for other examples of the 80/20 rule.

He found them everywhere.

I think it’s more like the 90/10 rule, but 80/20 is not meant to be absolute. In any individual example, it could be 70/30 or 60/40 or even 99/1.

It will never be 100/100. That’s like buying only winning lottery tickets, and writing only #1 hit songs or #1 New York Times best-sellers.

I have almost 600 posts on this website, and over 80% of my traffic is generated by a half-dozen of them. That’s 80+ percent of traffic from 1% of posts, each and every day!

So I’m focusing on the 10–20 percent of my ideas and actions that get the results. And then I’m focusing on the 80/20 subset of that 80/20.

For example, I’m only going to write the 10% of the words that you’ll read, and leave out the other 90.

If we all did this, we could waste a lot less time.

But first you have to find the 20% of your pods where all your joy, fulfillment, happiness, money, and success come from.

How the media failed at marketing and made us sick

The Internet did not kill Old Media ✎ By Wayne K. Spear

First, a Venn Diagram.

Venn-Diagram

Proximity is physical distance, Influence is the degree to which something directly affects you, and Control is your ability to do something about it.

At the centre, where the spheres intersect, are far-away events that have little effect on your life and that you have no power to control.

This intersection is the news.

News appears to break the rules of sticky marketing. Since the job of media is to sell eyeballs to advertisers, breaking these rules is a bad idea.

What exactly is it that the media sell?

Before we explore this question, here’s a quotation from Hoover Adams, of the Dunn Daily Record, reproduced in Chip and Dan Heath’s Made to Stick:

I’ll bet that if the Daily Record reprinted the entire Dunn telephone directory tonight, half the people would sit down and check it to be sure their name was included.

I don’t need to explain why the New York Times doesn’t print the Manhattan phone directory, or why the Wall Street Journal doesn’t run stories on happenings around my dining room table.

But if the Wall Street Journal did do this, I’d read with keen and active interest.

Local is a hook. Hooks are sticky—our eyeballs get snagged and we can’t turn away.

The most powerful hook is your name. You can’t not read something that has your name in it.

If tomorrow’s New York Times had the headline “Spear Considers Bold Business Move,” I would buy ten copies.

Come to think of it, reprinting the phone directory is likely a good strategy, in an era when news media struggle merely to survive.

Spending your time focused on things far away, well outside the sphere of your life, that you have no power to control, is the path to mental illness.

At the very least, it’s a recipe for gloom, negativity, cynicism, and resignation.

A healthy person’s Venn diagram intersects at nearness, influence, and control—focused on the people and events that they can influence for the better.

In fact, sticky marketing can be condensed into a kindred formula: you must demonstrate how your product, service, or message solves a painful problem of your audience.

No wonder we loathe a media that is forever bringing us bad news from across the world of things we have no power to change.

Worse yet, the bad news from across the world is emotionally charged.

Emotion is a powerful hook.

In fact, it’s one of the six “hooks” of Made to Stick:

1 – Simple
2 – Unexpected
3 – Concrete
4 – Credible
5 – Emotional
6 – Story

This is the answer to our question What exactly do the media sell?

Powerful, emotional hooks. Outrage, scandal, indignation, horror, pathos, fear.

Lacking the prospect of proximity, nearness, and control, these hooks produce mental fatigue and malaise.

Our logical mind recoils. We ask “why exactly are we reading the news?” We come to the realization that the news, in fact, is best ignored.

Perhaps, then, the Internet did not kill Old Media, or at least not in the way we had thought. Perhaps it was all a marketing failure.

What is a brand?

When a brand is owning the thoughts in someone’s head ✎ By Wayne K. Spear

It’s a big question, but the simplest (and, I hope, not simplistic) answer is that a brand is the experience of a customer in the presence of a product.

Have you noticed those smiling, laughing people in Coca-Cola ads? There’s nothing remarkable about water, CO2, and high-fructose corn syrup. Combined, they produce an unexceptional, sugary drink.

But love, belonging, and joy are remarkable. We crave them. So every Coke ad sells them to us. And it’s the same with everything. Every successful brand in history has sold basic human desires—the stuff we’re hard-wired to need and want.

Affection, approval, acceptance, love, security, hope, sex, beauty.

Then, in the 2000s, we began removing the products.

I’m sure you’ve seen that viral post which started at TechCrunch:

Uber, the world’s largest taxi company, owns no vehicles. Facebook, the world’s most popular media owner, creates no content. Alibaba, the most valuable retailer, has no inventory. And Airbnb, the world’s largest accommodation provider, owns no real estate. Something interesting is happening.

Maybe what’s happening is that brand is now entirely separable from product.

There has always been a degree of separation. The product was never the brand. The experience of the customer in the presence of the product was the brand.

Increasingly, however, the product is someone else’s business.

Here’s an interesting way of looking at it, in a Seth Godin post “Templates for organic and viral growth”:

Invent a connection venue or format, but give up some control

Show it can be done, but don’t insist that it be done precisely the same way you did it

Establish a cultural norm

Get out of the way …

Many of Seth’s examples are not businesses, but his description is nonetheless relevant to the TechCrunch post.

The idea is that every time someone wonders “What happened to that girl in high school?” they’ll think Facebook.

Every time someone thinks “I need a cab,” they’ll think Uber.

Every time someone thinks “I’m going to Australia and I need a place to stay,” they’ll think Airbnb.

None of these companies delivers the product or service. They have, as Seth puts it, got out of the way.

Their brand is ownership of a cultural norm—even of a thought itself, as the examples above suggest.

Imagine if every time someone thought about x [“I wonder what happened to my high-school girlfriend”], it evoked your brand [Facebook]. And then a stranger far away produced and delivered the product [your high-school girlfriend, in this example] under the umbrella of your brand.

Instant connection, all unbeknownst to you. And you get paid.

Invent a way for people to connect, show them it can be done, establish it as a cultural norm, and get out of the way.

Branding, 21st-Century style.

Long live the gatekeepers

Gatekeeping is a Unique Value Proposition ✎ By Wayne K. Spear

Content marketers have a big problem.

Over 95% of website visitors aren’t paying attention. They don’t “engage,” they don’t “convert.”

They land on a web page, and they move on.

Ask any marketing pro. You have, at best, five seconds.

1 … 2 … 3 … 4 …

… and they’re gone.

Forever.

It was a case of cosmic improbability that they were ever on your website in the first place. There are hundreds of millions of websites in the world. Every day there are many thousands more.

Every Google keyword search is the spinning of a giant roulette wheel. And keyword searches are what’s driving most traffic to most websites.

This is why we have Internet content marketing.

And it’s getting tougher every day for the marketers, as more online content generates more market fragmentation.

But not really. The Internet is, in fact, tiny.

Tiny?

Yes, tiny—because most of the Internet doesn’t matter. The marketing people have confirmed this, over and again.

We skim and then skip over 99% of it. How much of the Internet do you really use?

Maybe one one-hundredth of one percent?

In reality there are a few major “channels” on the Web, just as there were a few major players in the days of Old Media.

We’re not yet finished sorting out who the big players are going to be, but there will be big players.

And so, our topic today is: the common wisdom is all wrong.

There are still gatekeepers. There are going to be gatekeepers. And gatekeepers matter—maybe, in fact, more than ever. Because the gatekeepers simplify, and make sense out of, the tangled information jungle.

This is the textbook definition of marketing—having a unique value proposition.

Gatekeeping is a Unique Value Proposition.

Google is a gatekeeper. It’s not the only one, but it’s one of them. And we love it because it is a gatekeeper.

How do you cut through the noise? How do you identify and connect with an audience? How do establish your brand in a crowded marketplace?

These are marketing questions, and the answer is: become a gatekeeper.

Plus ça change, plus c’est la même.

What I’ve learned by looking at trees

Tree

HAVE YOU EVER WONDERED, as I did recently, what determines the seemingly random pattern of tree branches?

A case of “every which way,” it appears. One branch projects confidently toward the sky—another launches tentatively in one direction, suddenly adopting a new trajectory.

A life is the same.

I know this, because I can see my own life in these branches. That little ragged outgrowth that goes nowhere? That’s a girl I dated in high school. The long, straight branch which stops suddenly? An office job I once had. The fat branch with many small off-shoots? My writing career. The trunk? That represents my upbringing: the formative experiences which established my values, outlook, and dreams.

To this day, my trunk is nourishing the new branches which sprout in my life.

I noticed that there are a lot of dead-ends on a tree: but look at those branches, and you’ll see many outgrowths. Again, I think of the times I’ve come to the end of a path. Maybe it was a goal I didn’t reach, or a job I didn’t get.

When you’re standing at the end of a path you thought and hoped would go farther, you only see  losses and failures—the job you didn’t get, the money you won’t make, and the things you won’t be able to do and have because you won’t get that paycheque.

Looking back, you can see that those endings are in fact launching points, like new shoots from a branch. My first business, which I created in high school, was the result of having the doors to gainful employment shut in my face. Within a month, I had more business than I could manage. I made more money and was far happier than I would have been in a job, but I felt depressed and defeated all the same when my plan to be hired by someone else didn’t work out.

What I learned by looking at trees is that you can reverse engineer the process, applying it to your future. You can look forward as well as back. Today I see “dead-ends” and “failures” as intrinsic to the organic process of creating a path of your own.

A tree is the sum total of its experiments in reaching the light, and rarely (if ever) is this effort a straight line from vision to reality. We humans, however, seem to be addicted to the idea that life works (or at least should work) as follows:

Aspirations ———> A Well-Laid Plan ———> Goal Achieved!

I know this kind of thinking has often been applied by me. Many times, I’ve been disappointed and discouraged because I haven’t been able to draw, and then pursue, a straight line from Point A to Point B. Even when I’ve “known” life is more complicated than that, I’ve acted as if it weren’t.

The prime directive of a tree is to reach the life-giving light. All that apparently crazy, here-there-and-everywhere is in service of the tree’s need for sun. And that’s why I’ve changed my thinking, as well as my way of creating a path.

You see, the tree is on to something—and I think I know what it is.

I’m not talking about creating 10 new businesses or launching 50 new projects. I’m not suggesting you should run, willy-nilly, in every direction. That’s certainly not what I do. Instead, I focus on activating as many potential trajectories in my life as I can, by nourishing relationships in my life and business. Just as the prime directive of a tree is to reach the life-giving light, my prime directive is to nurture my community, every day.

The second thing I do is to introduce as much variety into my life as I can. I take long showers. I go for walks in the woods. I meet with, and talk to, as many interesting people as I can. When I really need to be productive, I get away from my desk.

Because here is the worst way I’ve found to be productive:

Sit at Computer ———> Work Eight Hours ———> Get Results

And yet that’s still how we see work, as a linear process.

The fact is that we are addicted to straight lines and old ways of doing things. I know how hard it is to let go. I’ve made painful adjustments. I used to believe in things like:

Go to School ———> Get An Education ———> Work Hard ———> Succeed

or

Get an Agent ———> Find a Publisher ———> Write Books ———> Make Money

or

Get Hired by a Newspaper ———> File Stories ———> Get Paid ———> Retire

None of these things have worked out as advertised. I’ve only been miserable and unfulfilled pursuing them. It took a painful adjustment, and months of study and effort, to let go of the old ways of thinking. And that was after years of emotional work, gradually getting to the place where I could admit that what I was doing wasn’t working—and would never work.

Going in a new direction is hard. You may have a decade invested in that branch of yours. It may be the favourite branch on your tree. Maybe it’s the only branch. You probably imagined it soaring one day above the canopy, into the full and glorious life-affirming sun of a new day. But what if it doesn’t?

If you build your life on the principle of abundance, each day nurturing a wide network of relationships, being open to many possibilities—sending out many branches—you’ll never have this problem. You’ll soon realize that your life is, like a tree, the sum total of its trajectories, explorations, and so-called “dead-ends.”

A tree, like a life, is nothing less than the sum of its experiments.