The people we listen, the professionals that we choose, the folks we talk about are often at the extremes. After all, if you need a lawyer, accountant, or even a Pizzaman to make you dinner, why wouldn’t you pick the best one?

If you are a Jack or Jane of all trades, you are somebody, by definition, who is pretty good at a lot of things. How then to show up in the market place of ideas? How to show up in the gig economy?

There are a few choices. The first one is to realise being pretty good at a lot of things is in itself an edge of a skill that is worth talking about. The Swiss Army knife is worth talking about because most knives don’t come with a can opener. The Swiss Army knife should not go head-to-head with a chef knife in a fancy restaurant kitchen. But if you can only carry one thing in your pocket, carrying a chef’s knife is probably not the right answer.

So what that means is that you have to get very good at being pretty good at a lot of things. You have to get very good at context switching. That what it means to be a handy person is that the answer to almost any question is “no problem.” It means that you carry with you the tools of your trade. It means that you have figured out what you need to to do pretty good work on a moment’s notice. Because an expert is more brittle than you. You, by being an expert at a lot of things, are flexible.

The second alternative is to seek out gigs where it’s not necessary to be an expert. It’s necessary to be steady, to be resilient, to be a flexible, enthusiastic, positive, easy-to-work-with person, cause you can become the best in the world at that.

The third alternative is to start your own thing. By being a connoisseur at many fields, you can weave ideas together from separate places and connect them to interesting problems. You see possibilities of making things better, put together a directory of experts and weave together a system that works.

What’s not available is to say “I’m 3.5 stars at 40 things, I come in fourth place at every ranking, please pick me because I really need a gig.” Cause no one is going to pick you up that reason.

What we can do is to lean in to the fact that we are good at a lot of things.

[HT Akimbo Podcast]

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During the pandemic, schools are forced to move online. The top students who were entering their school of choice, many decided to postpone their enrolment. Understandably so. With the rise of good online resources, the value of school has shifted from learning to connection.

Moving school online took out the fun, the water cooler conversation and most importantly, the lifelong connection of a cohort that is travelling to the same destination.

Some ideas of creating collision space as learning moved online:
– Public profile page of students (with interesting prompts)
– Breakout room during class for discussion
– 24/7 study together (quiet) zoom room
– 24/7 water-cooler zoom room
– Each room are staffed to make sure people don’t enter a lonely room

It might not replace the magic of getting ice-cream together, the hope is that the connection would be enough to make things happen in real life.

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Putting together a plan is scary. It’s a negotiation with our future-self to do something uncomfortable. A promise we’re making now.

Sometimes when we’re stuck in a seemingly unachievable dream, a plan is exactly what we need. It is to own the uncomfortable work that needs to be done. Alternatively, give it up.

What’s not a good idea is dreaming it, not making it happen, then beating yourself up when it’s not happening.

Don’t let your dream be a goal without a plan.

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People don’t want what you make. People want what they want.
People don’t really like you. People like how you make them feel.
People don’t do charity because they are altruistic. People enjoy the pleasure of pleasing others.

In case you’re wondering, we are all selfish. But what if it’s okay to be selfish? What if we can all be selfish while making others happy? Of course we can, that’s the best kind of selfishness.

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It’s something we choose and we rarely benefit from it.

The flip side is gratitude.

Whenever we feel confused or wronged, stop the heartache with gratitude. For our breath, for the ability to contribute, for awe of life.

A simple way to think about it: We’re not grateful because we’re happy. We’re happy because we’re grateful.

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One of the insurmountable challenges is to convince any parent to go for family therapy. And this is how I did it. 

It has been 6 months since we’ve embarked on our monthly “family dinners”. I put time away to discuss our challenges, triggers and wants, hopefully, to improve our relationship. Yet, my only reliable strategy for a delightful dinner was to shut my mouth. 

I’ve read books (Non-Violent Communication, Why You Won’t Apologize), listened to interviews with renowned therapists (Esther Perel, Brene Brown), and implemented learnings into these dinners. Everything sort of works until one of us would get triggered and that’s the end of dinner. 

On this day, I had a new perspective. Perhaps it is not the message, it’s the messenger. Time to bring in the professional, the family therapist, the person with years of experience resolving deep-rooted issues. A person with a wall of certificates and success stories to share.

Now, the plan is to convince my parents for therapy.
1) Align common goals: A better family relationship.
2) Agree that the current approach is not achieving results: Monthly dinners
3) Seek advice for possible reasons
4) Actively listen to them
5) Suggest my solution: family therapy
6) Conclude and execute on the new approach

“Mom, what do you think could be possible reasons why we are not progressing in our relationship after months of dinners?” I asked. 

Mom got silent and replied, “Bryan, I think you have depression.”

My jaw dropped. “Oh… okay. Well, what about you? Maybe you’re the one who has depression? We should go to the doctor together!” I’m surprised by my reply. 

And there we go, sitting outside the polyclinic waiting for our number to be called. 

After a round of questions with the doctor, he concluded, “Bryan, you don’t have depression. You’re too productive to be depressed.” 

“Well, I know that already. Now you just need to convince my mum,” I smiled. 

My parents got invited back into the room and were debunked of their concern that I have depression. Out of possible reasons, that’s how my mum got roped into the family therapy.  

Often times, we have a certain way of seeing the world. Instead of a verbal argument to change someone’s mind, or worse, using power to instruct or name -call which is not at all effective, the next best thing might be to let reality do its job.  There is no need for power, logic or debate. It’s simply an embrace of the opinion of others, treat it as an experiment and let reality do its teaching. Perhaps, this is the best way to change someone’s mind and even better, be beside them like the kind teacher we all hope for. 

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Putting your worst foot forward turns out to be a great negotiation tactic, but more importantly, an excellent thinking process to get what you want.

That is how Rufus Griscom raised $3.3 million dollars from investors, and eventually sold his company to Disney for $40 million dollars.

Instead of flaunting his strengths and minimising his weaknesses, he leads meetings with “top five reasons not to invest in my business” and “Here’s Why You Should Not Buy Babble.”

This way of selling doesn’t only make him seem sincere and empathic, but also smart and realistic.

Unbridled optimism can come across as slimy salesmanship, making us seem dishonest and as a consequence, met with skepticism. It is a form of delusion, the inability to look at reality without bias. Too much of it can be catastrophic.

Ironically, by acknowledging and thinking about the most serious problems, Rufus disarms the investors, opens the possibility to plan for business risk, and get people on his side to solve these problems together.

Of course, being optimistic makes us happier. But every once in a while, it’s time put away those rose-tinted glasses and look at reality for what it really is.

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The environment influence us more than we think.

Two weeks ago, I was out with some friends and pointed out a ramen shop.

“Have you tried it before?” I asked.

“No, not yet but I want to!” my friend replied eagerly.

“Why didn’t you?”

“Jake (her fiancé) doesn’t want to eat anything. He’s fasting”.

“But he is okay to hang out while you eat, right? He does that most of the time,” I said.

Upon probing, it turned out that she did not indulge in the ramen. She felt guilty because her fiance did not want to eat with her. Even though her fiance explicitly says that he doesn’t judge her, it turns out, she judges herself.

Just by being around others, we subconsciously take on people’s values and use that to judge ourselves.

The good news is that everyone has a choice. Turn it off. Walk away. Clear the decks. Then, from an empty place, we can build our mise en place, piece by piece.

Today is just as good a day to get started. Choose your circle. Choose your outcomes.

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If money is a motivator, then why are the hardest working people employed in nonprofit organisations. Some work in some of the most difficult conditions imaginable — disaster recovery zones, countries gripped by famine and flood and earn a fraction of what they would if they were in the private sector. Yet its rare for these managers of nonprofits to complain about getting their staff motivated. 

It turns out that the theory of incentive is not really accurate. Frederick Herzberg has published an updated theory – hygiene factor and motivation factors. 

Hygiene factors are status, compensation, job security, work conditions, company policies and supervisory practices. 

Motivation factors includes challenging work, recognition, responsibility, and personal growth. Feelings that we are making a meaningful contribution to work. 

It is frightfully easy for us to lose our sense of the difference between what brings money and what causes happiness. Beyond a certain point, hygiene factors such as money, status, compensation, and job security are much more a by-product of being happy with a job rather than the cause of it. 

As for leaders, here’s a better set of questions worth pondering about. Is this work meaningful? Is this job going to develop the person? Are they going to learn new things? How can we create opportunities for recognition and achievement? How can I give more responsibility?

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Answer works. It’s the shortest route to our problems. The cookie recipes, math formulas and sometimes even travel guides. That’s because someone has come up with using theories or their first-hand experiences.

Today, we don’t think twice when we’re flying. Looking back at history, it wasn’t the case. Many men have attempted flying by strapping on wings, replicating what they believed allowed birds to soar: wings and feathers. It is not until Dutch-Swiss mathematician Daniel Bernooulli outlined the theory of fluid dynamics, that explained the concept of lift. We had gone from correlation (wings) to causation (lift).

Of course, that wasn’t enough to make flight perfectly reliable. Researchers still needed to understand the weather, angle of the aircraft, the landing sequence and much more. Then, define the playbook for pilots to follow in order to succeed in each circumstances.

Answers are quick to solve problems in exact circumstances. Theories, on the other hand, are slow but it provides the understanding to derived answers when circumstances change.

You could probably tell who you’ll hire when we are in a fast-changing landscape.

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