Sensible Ideas

To engage you need sensible ideas.

It’s not enough to be the squeaky wheel. Barack Obama said that politicians and governments respond to people making noise and demands. But the biggest mistake made by activists “is once you’ve gotten the attention of people in power then you have to engage them and have sensible ideas.” Obama added that you have to do you homework, have your facts straight, and be willing to compromise. He is addressing this issue head on with the Obama Presidential Center, which is designed to help the next generation of activist leadership.

Via Fortune: Barack Obama: Lessons on Leadership, Power, and Effecting Change (May 2017).

Rare and Valuable Skills

The goal of my career philosophy is to craft a remarkable working life. The definition of “remarkable,” however, differs for different people.

On one extreme, it might capture a life of power and respect, where you’re at the center of important matters. While on another, it might capture a life of exotic travel with a minimum of work and a maximum of adventure.

Something most such visions have in common is that they contain traits that are rare and valuable. If you want them, therefore, you need rare and valuable skills to offer in return. This requires that you stop daydreaming about a perfect job that will make you instantly happy, and instead focus on becoming so good they can’t ignore you.

Cal Newport in 2012

What are your rare and valuable skills? (Emphasis mine.)

Extract Your Own Insights

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Don’t ask for advice. Ask for experiences. Then extract the insights yourself.

Via the “Top Performer” class notes from Cal Newport and Scott Young.

And Then Grace

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The work you do when you are graceful is what we need, now more than ever.
—Seth Godin, in Graceful

This path is before me, whether chosen by the universe or because I’ve listened and cared deeply. Craft first, then connection, and then grace.

A Decision Without Action Is Only a Hope

A decision is only a hope until carrying it out has become somebody’s work assignment and responsibility, with a deadline.

Who has to know of the decision? What action has to be taken? Who has to take the action? Make sure the people who have to take the action are able to do so.

Note—the people who have to take the action are rarely the people who have made the decision.

Source: The Daily Drucker, quoting The Effective Executive. I’m loving this daily dive into the management and leadership motherlode—highly recommended.

(Listen) Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella hits refresh

I highly enjoyed Kai Ryssdal’s conversation with Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella on NPR’s “Corner Office from Marketplace” podcast.

https://www.marketplace.org/2017/09/27/world/microsoft-ceo-satya-nadella-hits-refresh/popout

On Microsoft’s mission in the world (hint: it’s not “a computer in every home and on every desk,” which is a goal, not a purpose) [22:33]:

We want to democratize the use of technology to create more technology.

[Interviewer, Kai Ryssdal: Tech right now is cool, you guys, you’re not necessarily the “coolest kids on the tech block.” Do you have to be cool to do what is you want to do at this company?]

Our mission is to make others cool. All we want to be is the tech they use.

The wide-ranging interview jumps between many topics from the purpose of technology, his wife and family, to attracting women to tech jobs by promoting diversity and being an inclusive company, to the immediate feedback he gets from employees via Skype emoji reactions during Town Halls.

The main point, hitting refresh — also the name of his new book (Goodreads) — highlights Microsoft’s shifting branding perception. A reframing away from “big, bad company” and how they’ll know if they get that right.

Ultimately there is no escaping the one true measure of what any company does: what do people who deal with us think? …The multiple constituencies, and what they think about Microsoft and our progress and innovation, is the only score that matters.

A highlight for me in the interview is how to recognize mistakes we make in order to push, think, and change. An example given for a recent Nadella mistake [25:55]:

In many cases customers have already chosen to work with you, and yet you, consciously or unconsciously, abandon them to go work off a new and shiny object… It’s tempting in tech to sometimes move on to the next thing. Except, we all need to work to help others move with us.

The last part of the interview hit home with me because of my leadership path at Automattic, where I’m striving to create a space where we can do our best work. “Describe your job for me in 5 words or less?” [33:05] Nadella says, “Curating culture.” 💯 🖥

Hat tip: Mike Levin.

Book Review: Quiet

I’d like to share my thoughts on the book Quiet, The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking.

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I thoroughly enjoyed this treatise of introverts versus extroverts. Filled with personal anecdotes as well as pertinent research and scientific theory, the book tells the story of introverted people and their quiet power.

My main takeaway is the idea of sensitivities—both externally and internally  focused—and how they motivate, describe, and prescribe our interactions with the world and other people.

Reward-sensitivity, as described in the book as a sign of extroversion, is something I can relate to. Pleasure seeking and excitement overrules your better judgement; I am impulsive at times and do things for immediate satisfaction. I need to learn the lesson from quieter spirits who pause for important feedback in order to be able to learn from it. Sometimes worrying about consequences and long-term results can lead to a better decision.

Cain also tells of people who are rejection sensitive being warm and loving when they feel secure, yet hostile and controlling when they feel rejected. Food for thought, at what point does controlling our behavior become futile or exhausting?

Introverts like people they meet in friendly contexts, extroverts prefer those they compete with.

This was a poignant reminder for me—I tend to both sides of the spectrum depending on the context, and it’s a good practice to look closely at my motivations and see how I’m acting. Is it appropriate? Out of touch?

I can relate to both reward sensitivity and rejection sensitivity. I feel like sometimes I’m critical of other people because I’m nervous that they’ll be critical of me. As a better way, I should be careful not to point out their mistakes and instead find gentler ways to communicate it. Or, just let it go and no longer try to be right but try to be happy.

Sometimes it pays to be quiet and gracious, to listen more than talk and you have an instinct for harmony rather than conflict. With this style you can take aggressive positions without inflaming your counterpart’s ego.

…by listening you can learn what’s truly motivating the person you’re negotiating with and come up with creative solutions to satisfy both parties.

Another idea described in the book is that of “free traits”—if something’s important to you, such as a service of love or a professional calling—you can put on the extroversion when you need it, and it isn’t fake because you’re being true to something that you love.

I absolutely loved the conclusion, titled “Wonderland”—it is inspiring and sums up the book nicely. I printed it out… To see what I mean, you’ll have to read the book.

I borrowed Quiet for a first read; I’ll be buying my own copy to dive into it again.