Category: medium

watching my daughter grow up

From the first time I laid eyes on my first born as the doctor helped her out of the womb, I knew that I am one of those fathers who is completely ‘whipped’ by their kids.  As I watch my two year old slowly figure out the world around him, I know that these moments have to be cherished because they cannot be re-lived.

I’m slowly accepting the reality that I only have one little girl now (not two).

Earlier this year when my oldest turned eight I began feeling a sense of loss that I have not yet shaken off.  I know that she is no longer a ‘little girl’ – and the days are coming soon where there will be a whole litany of topics that she can only discuss with her mother.

And as much as I want to avoid it, the topic of ‘boys’ is right around the corner.  The comments about the Justin Beiber-obsessed friends at school pretty much assures me we are on that horizon.

So how am I helping myself deal with my emotions?

I think I have two coping mechanisms for dealing with my emotions around this.

One: Cherishing the ‘little girl’ moments I have left with my five year old.

The middle child is still very much a little girl who gets a kick out of being picked up or cuddling with her daddy. She still sees the world very simply and often cracks the whole family up with a very well timed and pithy comment about a situation.

Even the things that should annoy me more – like her inability to clean the sink properly after brushing her teeth. Or the way she completely shuts down and can’t function when she is hungry.

These things are all ‘joys’ for me to experience.

Two: Creating ‘male bonding’ moments with my son.

The second way in which I am subconsciously coping is the great satisfaction I get from hearing my son ask for the basketball game to be turned on for him to watch.

Or how much he relishes imitating Biz Markie’s beatbox with me from Biz’s Beat of the Day.

He even has the hip hop finger wagging down and I didn’t teach it to him.

While my five year old is helping me deal with my sense of losing the innocence of my older daughter, my son helps me deal with the sense of losing some portion of her experiences that her mother will relate to better with her.

There is comfort in know that there will be some exclusive experiences that I will share with him as he develops into a man.

This all leaves me with one question though:

“What will I do when the five year old turns eight?”

how passion works in guiding your path

“Follow your passion”
“Your gifts will make room for you”
“Do what you love and the resources will follow”

A few days ago I had an interesting conversation with a junior in college who called me because she was distraught about how many rejections she was receiving for her applications to internships. She was baffled by what was going on and was seeking advice on how she could generate more success in the process.

On the surface, she was doing all the right things. She submitted her resume to all the right companies. She had an internship the prior summer that told a good story about how she was a good fit. And her academic major was in the right lane for the jobs she was seeking in Financial Services.

Something wasn’t quite adding up.

So I decided to ask her a few questions, starting with the easy ones like ‘what is your GPA?’ and ‘what do you do for extracurriculars?’. This helped me to identify some reasons why she may have not been seeing the success she expected.

But the question which really helped me to diagnose the problem was when I asked her:

“What are you passionate about?… what do you really want to do?”

She started off by answering about how passionate she was about ‘Sales and Trading’ and how she felt her skills and background really made her a good fit for this… but I wasn’t buying it.

So I rephrased the question:

“What do you geek out about?… what is the area in which you get consumed to a point that is almost weird to other people?”

“Well, I would say development.” Because of prior conversations I’ve had with her I knew she was talking about economic development – specifically in Africa.

“Tell me a little more about that.”

“I don’t believe microfinance is the answer…”

“Really, why?”

For the next few minutes we had an engaging back and forth dialog that culminated in me commenting:

“I bet I could get you into a heated argument about microfinance and you would enthusiastically take me on.”

This was nothing like the discussion we had about Sales and Trading. With this topic it was clear that she truly cared

… and I was buying it.

So I asked her another (somewhat leading) question:

“Do you think you are on the path you are on because its what you see everybody else doing and not necessarily what you are here to do?”

“Probably…”

“And, do you fear that if you followed the Development path, you wouldn’t make any money?”

“Yes”

I could now fully relate to her dilemma because of my own journey.

‘Inspirational’ phrases like the three quotes at the beginning of this post have been a source of continuous anxiety and stress for me for years. I have never been able to fit my skills, experiences and interests into a neat box. This is especially stressful coming from a traditional African family where only certain academic pursuits are considered acceptable to pay attention to, while other things that are more artistic or unconventional are seen as impractical and a waste of time.

My situation was compounded by my strong interest and aptitude in Math and Science because I was just as strong in the ‘hard subjects’ as I was artistically. So it was not a simple choice where I should focus. I was not like my older brother who knew from his early teens that he wanted to be a doctor.

In fact for several years I wished that I was horrible at every subject but Art or Drama so that it was more obvious what I should spend my life doing.

But there were no such easy answers because when you have interests and passions that don’t naturally line up to an existing ‘career box’ you always feel like you are fumbling around in a dark room trying to find an ever elusive light switch.

For years I searched for this light switch using different approaches:

  • pursuing architecture because I thought it would be a natural blend of my art and science skills until an internship after my freshman year where I realized it was the wrong path
  • diving head first into Film Animation as a major in college because I had never experienced the validation of an artistic pursuit being my main focus
  • applying to (and landing) a job as a management consultant because I wanted to ‘keep my options open’ in terms of career paths and a career in animation was not viable for somebody who needed a work visa to stay in the country
  • operating a freelance writing business when my management consulting career ended abruptly until I realized that I did not enjoy the stress of ‘cranking out’ writing projects on spec
  • a failed career as a mortgage broker at the height of the real estate boom in which I realized I was no good at commissioned sales

I could list several more examples of my journey, but the main point is that somewhere along the way I realized that I was trying to find a light switch that did not exist – I was trying to solve the wrong equation. I thought that I needed to figure out what career path my passions translated into and then I would catch my stride.

One of my current favorite bloggers, Sacha Chua, calls this “the myths of a sudden calling.”. In a recent article, she articulates my ‘light switch’ odyssey very well:

“When people wish for passion, I think what they’re really wishing for is certainty: the knowledge that this, here, is exactly what you are meant to do, that intersection of what you love, what you’re good at, and what the world values. The certainty that this is the best way to spend this moment in time, and the ease of not having to make yourself do something or fight distractions.”

“Passion doesn’t strike out of the blue.”

Reading this article was a confirmation of a change in my approach over the last few years that I have found to be much more successful. Rather than trying to predetermine what ‘box’ my passions are indicating, I have surrendered to the understanding that passions are more like a flash light than a light switch. They illuminate just enough of the path ahead for you to move forward without giving you the full picture. But as you move that flashlight around, you discover more about your purpose and it becomes easier to determine whether you are veering off course, or whether you are operating closer to your ‘sweet spot’.

Passions on their own are useless though if you don’t do the work of focusing, creating and shipping.

You have to deliberate less than you act.

You have to experiment more than you plan.

And you have to see failure as a source of educational data, rather than an embarrassment to be avoided.

My final piece of advice for my college junior friend was that she has to pause whatever path she has followed to this point and take a detailed inventory of where her passions really lie. And then taking those passions as a starting point, she has to face her fears and take actions that will give her useful feedback about her path. Over time, these series of steps will start to form a clearer picture of her purpose and she will be able to use each experience to inform the next successfully.

I find writing is an excellent way to do this kind of inventory – so I suggested she do a “stream of consciousness” piece of writing and see where it takes her.

I am sure she will surprise herself with what she finds out.

doing teaches you a lot more than planning

I am a planner by nature. Give me a new project or venture and I get excited just by the prospect of thinking through the strategy and coming up with a robust plan to move it forward. Those early brainstorming sessions when ‘anything is possible’ are like a narcotic to me and if I am not careful, I can stay in that mode too long.

The problem with staying in the planning phase is that you are dealing with too much theory. Creating contingency plan after contingency plan is really just a smokescreen for giving in to The Resistance and until you take some sort of action to put you in front of your customers or the recipients of your ideas, you really have no feedback that is useful.

This weekend my wife and I experienced a perfect illustration of the power of doing. We have been talking about helping my sister expand her Ugandan fashion business in the US for close to two years but we have not really taken any steps to move things forward. About a month ago, my wife signed up for an event through our church that showcases different vendors in a ‘bazaar’ format and we decided to set up a table with my sister’s fashions to drum up some business.

The event was this weekend and we only made one sale.

But, man did we learn a lot about how we can be more successful next time. Not only did we interact with real life prospects and hear the kinds of things that interested or did not interest them, having the deadline of the event forced us to put together the beginning infrastructure for us to truly move this venture forward.

Instead of taking weeks to come up with a full-fledged e-commerce site for the business, I spent a few hours updating her existing website and the shopping cart I was able to create was quiet useful – a true MVP that I can now use as starting point to get to the right solution over time. Because I had a deadline, I had to ship.

Another outcome of the deadline is that it forced us to work through the issues of pricing, shipping costs, profitability and time-to-market with my sister and again, although we still have a lot of issues to resolve, there is forward momentum.

Finally, the one sale could be seen as a failure, but it is actually an excellent motivator to do a whole transaction from start to finish and ensure the client has as enchanting an experience as possible. The feedback we get from serving this one customer will be worth multiples over any spreadsheet we could have put together of projected sales and expected customer responses to marketing.

When it comes to launching a platform (in this case, my sister’s US presence for her business), I believe doing will always trump planning.

angst and The Resistance

Last night my daughter was reviewing her homework with my wife when my wife noticed that she had not done the writing assignment correctly. It was a very simple assignment that she had done several times before. She was given a list of words and she had to create three sentences that used all the words.

In her first version of the assignment she had used the wrong form of one of the words and ignored using some of the others.

So my wife asked her to do it again and the tears began to well up in her eyes:

“But its too hard”

“Why won’t you help me?”

The ensuing soap opera lasted almost an hour. She went into her room and sat staring at the paper but writing nothing and complaining about how it was too hard.

Her younger sister, trying to be helpful, suggested a strategy:

“Why don’t you think about something you like and then write about that.”

Her suggestion was met with indignant venom “I tried that already and it didn’t work!”

I doubt she had.

So I made another suggestion:

“Why don’t you take out a blank piece of paper and write out a few sentences to try out some different ideas.”

More resistance: “I already did that”

“When?”

“When I first wrote it.”

“So you haven’t done it this time around?”

“No.”

“So take out a piece of paper and try.”

So she took out a piece of paper and I left her at it. Several minutes later when I returned, she had written one sentence and couple of words but was back to pouting.

“This is too hard. Why won’t Mummy help me?”

In the end, my wife told her that it was up to her whether or not she did it, but she would have to face up to her teacher tomorrow if she didn’t do it. This morning it was unclear whether she ever did the assignment.

Besides the inherent melodrama of an 8 year old, what was going on here? My daughter has had an ease with words since she could speak. She reads at several grade levels above her own. And almost every day she writes a story and gives it to us as a present.

The issue was not that the task was unreasonable, or too difficult. The problem was not that my wife refused to help her.

I believe her problem was The Resistance (or as Seth Godin refers to it, the lizard brain).

The Resistance is that part of our brain that aggressively fights against you every time you want to create something or do a piece of work that really matters. The Resistance hates art because art comes with risk. Art comes with a possibility of painful rejection if somebody does not like what you made. If somebody does not like the work that you poured your heart and soul into.

The Resistance believes that its noble cause is to protect you from that pain so it puts at the forefront of your mind the possibilities for failure and minimizes any vision of success.

When my daughter was faced with the simple task of creating something new The Resistance made sure she forgot about all the times she had done this before and convinced her that it was too hard.

But this is not an ailment that only afflicts 8 year olds – it is something that I constantly struggle with and watch other highly talented and intelligent people fight.

It comes in the form of procrastinating on moving an important project forward by focusing on imagined future roadblocks instead of dealing with the work that needs to be done now.

It comes in the form of overloading your schedule with a long list of important things to do, when you know in the back of your mind that you are avoiding that one piece of writing you have to do or that one phone call you have make.

It comes in the form of never giving yourself time to pause and reflect because you will realize that you are putting up smokescreens.

Writers call it writers block.
Salespeople call it call reluctance.
Busy people say they are overwhelmed.
Perfectionists say they have to do some additional work on it before its ready.

What they are all saying without using the words is that they are scared.

Scared of their own potential to make an impact.
Scared of their own ability to change the status quo.
Scared that if they truly stepped out and did the work, they would become accountable for the results and people would expect them to keep producing. But because The Resistance has convinced them that they are inadequate, they fear that even if they are successful the first time, they will be unable to repeat the results.

My daughter was scared.

And I am often scared.

But I am learning that if I am truly going to live out an authentic life that reflects my true potential, I have to fight The Resistance and win.

The good news is that The Resistance is much more bark than bite. It can be countered by taking some simple steps and building habits around them.

Step One: acknowledge The Resistance and expose it for who it is. Make a point to start watching yourself and questioning why certain things that are important to you are not getting done. Ask yourself the question: “What am I resisting?”

I’ll give you a hint … your first answer to that question is probably wrong. Especially if it has nothing to do your emotions and what you fear. Once you start digging deeper and getting to the core of your resistance, you have a good starting place.

Step Two: find evidence that contradicts the fear and emphasizes the opportunities for impact and positive change that you could have if you did the creative work you are avoiding.

Step Three: do the work. Take action and keep taking action. Then ship. Hit the publish button. Press send on the email. Pick up the phone and have the conversation.

Step Three is the only way to truly counter The Resistance. Because by taking action you disprove The Resistance’s theory that you cannot or shouldn’t do it.

This blog post is just as much for me as it is for you. Publishing it is me countering The Resistance and determining within myself that I have things to write about that matter and need to be written.

I wrote this post on my phone during my commute to overcome my excuse that I don’t have time to write. And it worked.

Writing this post is also my notice to The Resistance that I can see what it was doing with my daughter but I will have none of it. I will teach her how to defeat it.

And she will win.

What are you resisting?

For more reading, see Seth Godin on the resistance.

when I write …

I wrote the following thoughts over two years ago and they still ring very true. Writing continues to have an impact on me in a myriad of ways.

When I write … I think more
When I write … I am forced to be clearer
When I write … I gain confidence
When I write … I create an ‘audit trail’ of my intellectual growth
When I write … I dream more
When I write … I bring things to life
When I write … I tear down misconceptions
When I write … I take my own destiny into my hands
When I write … I realize how much I don’t know
When I write … I appreciate good writers much more
When I write … I solve difficult problems
When I write … I create more problems
When I write … I hope somebody’s listening
When I write … I build with words
When I write … I plan better
When I write … I bring order to chaos
When I write … I realize how complex something I thought was simple actually is (and vice versa)
When I write … I am

What happens when you write? Write something and find out … you might be surprised by what happens.

[Originally posted on my internal blog at work in 2011]

my sister’s tribe

Yesterday, my sister who passed away last year would have turned 35. Ten days before her 34th birthday, she left us suddenly and for the first few days after after she was gone I kept thinking to myself how unfair it was for her to go so soon. How could somebody so young, who seemed to be finally hitting her stride in her life and career, get snatched away so suddenly. It felt like she had so much left to do.

That was how I felt until I encountered her tribe.

It started with a Facebook page created by one of her dear friends and then a WePay donation account I set up to simplify the process for anybody who wanted to help financially with the costs of repatriating her body to Uganda and other funeral related expenses.  Within a few hours both pages went viral and exploded with activity.  People shared story after story of how Phina had touched their lives and donation after donation came in from all over the world.  It was an overwhelming outpouring of love and concern for a grieving family – but it was also an amazing illustration of the impact one person can have on hundreds (possibly thousands) of people in a relatively short time.

In 33 years she had cultivated a tribe from her early days in elementary school in Botswana all the way to her graduate studies at Tufts University in Boston.   Whether it was a high school friend who remembered her from their soccer team, or a college friend who remembered how she took then under her wing, there was a remarkable consistency in the depth of emotional (oftentimes life-changing) effect her life had on others. 

And she did it all without having a Facebook or Twitter account. Without having a lot of money to her name. Without coming from a powerful family with connections. In our highly networked and connected world, she was one of the few people who still sent birthday cards and ‘just thinking of you’ notes to her friends and family.

Her wealth was her endless capacity to love others and she did it with a gentleness and humility that is very rare today.

Though I miss her dearly, I no longer feel like she was ‘snatched away’ too soon. I believe that she completed her mission here and her work will live on through all the people’s lives that she changed.

As I reflect on her tribe in the context of my focus on building platforms this year, it is very clear to me that it is not the tools or methods that you use to reach people that matter the most – its your heart and the generosity with which you share it.

my early adopter bias

During lunch today I was discussing web applications with a friend and started thinking about some of Google’s products that are used widely today.  I realized that before Google Docs there was writely.com – and I had an account with them.  Before Google Voice, there was GrandCentral – I had an account with them too.

This trend is not limited to Google products though … I remember using ZohoCRM for a freelancing writing business several years ago before the whole suite of Zoho products existed.

I tried out Freshbooks when they first launched …

And don’t get me started with to-do apps or other productivity products.

I watched the launch of Android and could not wait for my contract on Verizon to complete so I could get my first non-blackberry smartphone … in my haste, I purchased the Droid Eris which had so little staying power that the first major update release it received caused it to morph into the most annoying phone in the world – random crashes, freezing when a phone call comes in, applications taking so long to open that I would forget what I was opening them for – I loved to hate that phone.

With all its problems, most people still did not have smartphones and those who did had iPhones, so it was still special.

I have even extended this trend to my job where I enthusiastically volunteered my time to help with the launch of the collaboration platform, Jive, into our company. What drives this constant need in me to become a user of applications that are just starting out – or implementations of established applications into spaces they have not been before?

It usually starts with the following phrase in my mind:

“There has got to be a better way…”

When I come across a problem that theoretically could be solved with technology, I imagine the solution in my mind and rabidly search for a solution.  I sign up for the free trials of services.  I kick the tires of many potential solutions – usually getting more and more frustrated, until I settle on something that meets 60-80% of my needs with the hope that the solution will evolve and one day fill in the gaps.  Sometimes the thing I am looking for seems outright silly and feels like something only a handful of people will buy.  And then a few months (or sometimes years) later I see it as a product or service.

Until today, I thought this was a weird quirk in me, but then it occurred to me that it is actually a valuable thing to be somebody who so viscerally feels these gaps.  In the past, I have looked for a solution built by somebody else – but today, I asked myself, why can’t I be the one to build it?

I had a crystallizing moment for several threads of purpose that have been floating around in my head and settled on a unifying idea for them.

In no particular order, the threads are:

  • my desire to demysitify application development for myself by learning web development
  • my realization that I have reached the limit of self teaching regarding graphic design and need to become more serious with turning raw talent and interest into mastery
  • my total buy-in with the Lean Startup principles I read in this book
  • my fascination with web and mobile apps
  • my constant search for new revenue streams to make my family’s dreams reality
  • and my early adopter bias that I described in the earlier part of this post

I formulated the unifying idea when I read the following description of a business model by Clayton M. Christensen in the abstract of an article he wrote for Harvard Business Review.

A business model has these key compnents:

  • a customer value proposition that fulfills an important job for the customer in a better way than anything competitors offer;
  • profit formula that lays out how the company makes money delivering the value proposition;
  • and the key resources and key processes needed to deliver that proposition.

So my early adopter bias is driven by identifying ‘jobs‘ that I want to do, and what I need to start doing is doing is before I go on an extensive search for a solution, I should design my ultimate service or product that would meet the need and then move into ‘testing mode’, first by searching to see if a solution exists and if not, finding ways to identify if there are other ‘beta guys’ like me that are trying to do the same ‘job’.

In parallel with this, my desire to become an accomplished web developer now has a purpose – because even if I may not e able to build a whole solution myself … I most certainly can put together a minimum viable product if I can learn the basic skills and start using them.

Today I begin my journey and I will post on this blog to take you along on the ride with me.

starting with what I have

This weekend, following my resolution to ‘take action often‘, I decided to help my sister with a business she is building.  Earlier in the week, she posted photos of some of her products on Facebook and immediately when I saw how beautiful they were, I knew that I needed to help her create a website around the business.

So I asked her for what type of website she was looking for – and the sample she sent me was something that definitely exceeded my design skills at the moment.  My old approach would have been to begin backtracking on what I could actually do.  This time however, I spent several hours researching and eventually found a WordPress template that I can easily customize with the CSS I know and meet several of her needs all at once.

In addition, while at a children’s birthday party, I showed her Facebook photos to two of our friends and they are seriously interested in her products.  So I can help her move her business forward too.

The confidence I have about what I can do with CSS actually comes from the tinkering I have done recently with this blog – something that happened again because I decided to get more serious about posting frequently and forced myself to start customizing the design of the blog to what I want.

Taking action is definitely giving me a satisfying momentum.

Now to apply this to my simplification project.

a surprisingly effective message delivered in three minutes

I had an opportunity this weekend to practice the simple rules of creating a ‘sticky message’ (‘Made to Stick’ by Chip & Dan Heath) and the principle of ‘intrinsic motivation’ (‘Drive’ by Dan Pink).  The results were quite surprising.

I was asked to do a short three minute talk to a group of young people, ranging from ages 5 to 18, about any topic that I thought would be relevant to them.  This is a practice done at my church every week early in the service.  Because I volunteer on most Friday nights with a group that mentors young men, the expectation was that I had something of value to share to young people.

My original inclination was to give admonitions like the dangers of non-stop texting, or the perils of not listening to your parents, or maybe a little something about how your eyes will fall out if you watch too much TV! – the usual kind of thing young people are used to hearing about I guess.  But then I rethought my approach and realized that the majority of speeches they hear use a ‘carrot and stick’ approach which tries to teach them something by highlighting negative consequences.  My experience is that the best way to motivate a teenager to do something is to tell them it is not good for them!

So I took a different approach and tried to examine what type of message would focus on their internal motivations and play upon ideas that they already accepted as true.  Since most youth are pretty self-absorbed, I picked the topic of ‘unique purpose’ – the idea that everybody has a unique purpose which they alone are designed to fulfill.

My challenge with this message was it is somewhat abstract to talk to young people about ‘purpose’ so I needed a way to make the message more ‘sticky’.  In come the SUCCESS factors from ‘Made to Stick’ (I used five of the six):

  1. Simple
  2. Unexpected
  3. Concrete
  4. Credible
  5. Emotional

To make the message SIMPLE, I focused on the core idea of being ‘good’ at something.  I asked them to all raise their hands if they were good at something.

To make it CONCRETE and EMOTIONAL, I asked them to close their eyes and imagine themselves doing that thing that they were good at.  I let this sink in for a moment so that by seeing themselves doing the thing they were good at, they could physically feel that sense of mastery and satisfaction that comes from excelling at an ability.

Next, I asked them to turn to the person next to them and tell them what they were good at and listen to what that person was good at.  This made the experience CREDIBLE because they had now not only visualized, but they had also verbalized what they were good at.  They ‘owned’ the information since everybody is their own best ‘witness’.

Then came the UNEXPECTED.  I asked them all to raise their hands if they had told a person next to them that they were good at something and the person was good at the same thing.  Out of about 60 youth, only about one or two raised their hands.  The reason this was unexpected is that usually when a speaker asks them to raise their hands, the objective is to get as many people to raise their hands as possible.  In this instance, I wanted as few hands as possible.

I could see the wheels turning.

To help them put it all together, I verbalized what they were thinking, “Not that many huh?”

I told them that what the exercise meant was:

  1. We are all good at SOMETHING
  2. Different people are good at DIFFERENT things

Therefore, their focus should not be so much on what other people are doing (external motivation) but rather what they (internal motivation) are specifically good at and how they can be the very best at that thing (mastery).  This was a simple way of saying that everybody has a unique purpose which can only be fulfilled by them.

I left them with the thought that they should think of their lives as a puzzle that only they can solve … so their life should be a constant process of discovering the mysteries of that puzzle as they develop their gifts.

The reason I say the results were surprising is that after this very brief talk I had countless parents come up to me and tell me how inspiring the message had been to them.  Without really meaning to, by making the message so accessible, I had made the message stick with a larger audience than I had originally intended!

are you making your messages effective by making them ‘sticky’?

[Modified from a post I did on my internal blog at work on 5/4/2010.]

I recently read ‘Made to Stick‘ by Chip Heath and Dan Heath which examines the elements that make some ideas stick in our minds for ages, while others die off almost as soon as we are exposed to them.  The premise of the book is that making an idea ‘sticky’ requires the use of one or more of the following six factors:

  1. Simplicity
  2. Unexpectedness
  3. Concreteness
  4. Credibility
  5. Emotion
  6. Stories

Two of these factors resonated with me:

Simplicity
The authors talk about what they call ‘The Curse of Knowledge’, when a speaker knows infinitely more about his topic than his audience and therefore forgets that his audience doesn’t have the same level of understanding.  This causes a disconnect between his message and the audience because his assumptions are wrong.  As a business analyst, I often catch myself doing this when dealing with the business and I have to force myself to step back and get back into their shoes and simplify what I am saying.

Simplifying without ‘dumbing down’ though – that’s the trick.  And we do so by knowing and exploiting the ‘core’ of our idea.

Unexpectedness
Ideas exist in a large marketplace of other ideas competing for the attention of your audience and one of the ways in which you can make your idea stick is by going against the grain of people’s expectations.  The authors tell the story of a flight attendant who makes the following safety announcement at the beginning of a flight:

If I could get your attention for a few moments, we sure would love to point out these safety features. If you haven’t been in an automobile since 1965, the proper way to fasten your seat belt is to slide the flat end into the buckle. To unfasten, lift up on the buckle and it will release.

And as the song goes, there might be fifty ways to leave your lover, but there are only six ways to leave this aircraft: two forward exit doors, two over-wing removeable window exits, and two aft exit doors. The location of each exit is clearly marked with signs overhead, as well as red and white disco lights along the floor of the aisle.

Made ya look!

When was the last time you actually paid attention to what the flight attendant was saying at the beginning of the flight?  I bet you would have paid attention in this instance!  So the flight attendant was successful in capturing the passengers’ attention because she moved away from the normal script (while still keeping all the key safety information) and injecting humor.

There isn’t an obvious opportunity to be unexpected at the moment, but I will be looking out for it.

Applying to Work
For my day job, I work in Banking IT.  Banking is inherently an industry of ideas – we don’t make any widgets.  A stock is an idea, a derivative is an abstraction … and so on and so on.

Outside of the hardware component, IT is primarily a profession of ideas.

So at work I deal with ideas about ideas and abstractions.  So to be trully successful, I really need to be more sticky!

How about you?