The Caring Conundrum

I’ve heard many times that in negotiation, the person who cares the least wins. And it’s tempting to focus on negotiation, the mindset, the language, the craft. Negotiation looks like the place where you win or lose.

But winning and losing doesn’t happen in an afternoon or over a conference table. Winning has a much longer timeframe.

In the long game, the person who cares the most wins.

What’s the Big Idea?

In a recent interview, Ramit Sethi suggested differentiating your business based on, “How you see the world.” I had never articulated the world view on which my business is predicated, so I took a few minutes before sales calls this week to figure it out.

The results were magical.

Being able to tell a prospect, “This is fundamentally what the business is about,” was tremendously freeing. It wasn’t sales anymore; it was storytelling and philosophy. It was fun and enjoyable for me.

I hope it was enjoyable for my listeners. I believe that it made the call more interesting. I believe it made people think. I also believe that sharing my world view makes it easier for the prospect to accept or reject the offer—people who agree with my world view are more likely to buy and people who don’t agree are more likely to say no. This is what I believe, but I really don’t know…yet.

Since you asked: The view that informs my business is that the Internet’s ability to dramatically scale our reach is widely understood and used. But we also have the ability—through the marriage of domain knowledge and automation (and eventually AI)—to dramatically scale the depth of the relationships we have with the people we are now reaching.

This world view isn’t novel, or course, neither is figuring out your why. But sharing (and even leading with) the underlying big idea behind the business is new to me.

Team Peterson

Shanna was indignant. After a long, dirty winter, the carpet was clean. But the guy who cleaned it had been really insulting, casting aspersions on her housekeeping with comments like:

“Ugh, this carpet is really dirty.”
“Whoa, it’s even worse when you turn the light on.”
“You know, if you had people take their shoes off, your carpet wouldn’t get so bad.”

Of course, this is strange coming from a person whose livelihood is based on people having dirty carpets, but more interesting was Shanna’s remark right before announcing that she would not be using this company again.

“I paid him $150. You would think for 45 minutes he could be on Team Peterson.”

When people hire us to do a job, the task or service or expertise is only part of what they are buying. They also want (and deserve) our support, empathy, enthusiasm and loyalty. They are not buying servants, they are paying for teammates.

Some of the characteristics of effective teammates:

  • They win or lose together
  • They share
  • They sacrifice
  • They sometimes disagree
  • They challenge each other to better performance
  • They support but don’t flatter
  • They take responsibility

We can be teammates on a three-month project, but we can also be teammates in a 30-minute task and even a 30-second transaction.

And don’t forget—some people are buying servants. But you don’t want to work for those people, and consistently acting like a teammate is the best way to be hired onto a team.

The Ends Part 2

Yesterday I asserted that the ends cannot just the means because the ends are inherently unknowable.

But what if they weren’t?

What if the consequences of every action could be known with 100% certainty? What if the entire network of cause and effect were understood? Could the ends then justify the means?

In short, what if you were God, who “knows the end from the beginning?”

The question is not abstract or irrelevant. On the contrary, it goes to the heart of the human condition and has been in a subject of conversation all the way from St. Augustine’s City of God to Tom Shadyac’s Bruce Almighty.

If you know the end from the beginning, can torture (and let’s be honest—what God sometimes puts us through can only be described as torture) be justified? The question produces a visceral response that says, “no, it can’t.”

Something else is missing. It isn’t enough to be all knowing—seeing the ends. Justifying the means also requires being all-wise—seeing how the ends produce a justifiably better whole. And it requires being all-loving—performing the means out of pure, unadulterated love. This is the trifecta—all-knowing, all-wise, all-loving—that allows the ends to justify the means.

How is any of this relevant:

  • When we attempt to justify the means, we should recognize that we are walking where angels fear to tread, and where even gods walk lightly.
  • When we view ourselves as victims of the means, we can take comfort in the knowledge that God (omniscient, all-wise, and all-loving) will—indeed has—justified the means and that all things can work together for our good.


The Ends

In a world that where the lines seem to be getting more and more blurry, I hear this question being asked more and more often: Can the ends justify the means? Can preventing terrorist attacks justify torture and the targeting of civilians? Can the danger of obesity justify prohibiting the sale of large sodas? Can the need for office small talk justify keeping up with the Kardashians?

The question—of necessity—requires an analysis based on morality and ethics. This is a fascinating, informative, and valuable exercise, but it is highly subjective.

Allow me to propose an additional, alternative framework for evaluating the question: How certain are we about the ends?

We are famously bad at predicting the future, so how can we expect to know something is going to end? (And really, do things ever really end, or do they just lead to other things?) If the end is uncertain (and it is always uncertain to us mere mortals), how can it justify anything? Yes, there are actuarial tables, and chaos theory, and lots of complex modeling that is highly accurate…until it isn’t.

It’s probably best just to know what you are and are not comfortable with and to stick to that.

h/t Dan Carlin – episode 303

Why Am I Doing This Part 2

In the grand division of all of God’s creations, there are things to act and things to be acted upon. — David A Bednar

Sometimes the answer to the question, “Why am I doing this?” is straightforward, but sometimes it can be answered in layers that are far more meta.

  1. The layer where we tell ourselves and others the logical answer
  2. The layer where we don’t tell ourselves or others, but secretly know a different answer
  3. The layer where we suspect there may be other forces at work, but we don’t see them unless they are pointed out to us
  4. The layer we don’t even question unless circumstances strip away all the other layers

Each layer is governed by scripts but the scripts governing the bottom two are the most powerful because we aren’t aware of them. They are written in childhood or inculcated by our culture:

  1. I bought this house because it is in a good neighborhood where home values will never go down.
  2. I bought this house because it has a big garage that I can someday turn into a studio where I can make industrial sculpture.
  3. I bought this house because my parents lost their home when I was a child and it traumatized our family.
  4. I bought this house because in America, we own our homes and renters are losers.

We are better able to live intentionally—to act and not to be acted upon—when we understand all of the scripts that are driving our actions.

h/t Ramit Sethi and Chase Jarvis

Why Am I Doing This?

At the end of another week of language study I was repeating my review of past tense verbs (again!!). By objective and subjective measures I made no progress during the week and miserably asked myself, “Why am I doing this?”

In the constant battle to live more intentionally—to act and not to be acted upon—it’s a great question. Three questions, really:

  1. WHY am I doing this? (What is this really helping me accomplish?)
  2. Why am I doing this? (Is this the best use of my time, should someone else be doing this instead of me?)
  3. Why am I doing THIS? (Is this thing the best way to get to my goal and does it even need to be done?)

The question works on the strategic, tactical and task level.

  • Strategic: Why am I doing this? I believe learning a language will make me a better person and give me a better brain.
  • Tactical: Why am I doing this? I believe completing my daily goal in Duolingo is an effective tactic for language learning.
  • Task: Why am I doing this? Duolingo says I’m having trouble with past tense verbs.

Asking in the moment and from the task horizon produced an unsatisfactory answer (Why am I doing this? How many times am I going to have to go over these damn verbs?). Asking on the tactical level (What else can I try to get these verbs learned?) produced a new tactic: Set up a lesson through The problem didn’t escalate to the strategic level, but it might later.

h/t Derek Sivers

What is the Purpose of the Internet?

The Internet has a purpose. It is a machine—a tool for making things.

You can use the Internet:

  • to make art
  • to make fun
  • to make money
  • to make change
  • to make hurt and pain.

You can be used by the Internet. You can let it:

  • make you distracted (wasting your time and focus)
  • make you incriminated (incognito windows notwithstanding, there is a browser history)
  • make you dissatisfied and unhappy (others’ lives always look better on Instagram).

The Internet has a purpose, and you get to decide what that purpose is.

The Stakes Could Not Be Lower

Utah Republican Leaders Lining Up—Reluctantly—Behind Trump

This was the headline last week. The article underneath it included quotes from the governor and members or representatives of the Utah congressional delegation calling for the party to get behind Donald Trump. Each of these people is on record as being anti-trump. One recently referred to him as, “our Mussolini.”

The rationale, of course, is political expediency. The reasoning goes, “We hate Trump, we think he is fundamentally wrong for the country and personally offensive, but we have to support him because our version of fundamentally wrong is better than their version of fundamentally wrong.” This line of thought may play well between the ears of those who voice it, but outside of their heads, it just sounds like a lack of character.

And really—for Utah at least—the stakes of our leaders standing on character couldn’t be lower.

If we’re honest, we have to acknowledge that Utah doesn’t count. The Republican party doesn’t pay attention to the state because we will always go Republican. The Democrats ignore us for the same reason. Unpack the argument that if we don’t unite behind Trump, Hillary will win and find that:

  1. There is zero chance that any of Utah’s six measly electoral votes will go to a democrat.
  2. There is an insignificant chance that Utah’s refusal to fall in line will have any impact on the larger race—mostly because of #1.
  3. There is no guarantee that even with Utah’s acquiescence, Trump will win.

Given these three reasons, why should the republican leadership of Utah not stand up for what they really believe? Waking up to look at a Hillary presidency for four years may not be worse than waking to look at yourself in the mirror everyday knowing that you traded your character for a mess (pun intended) of political pottage.

A Degree is a Degree

I find that my TV “watching” lately occurs when I’m in a different room than the TV. Having only the sound and not the pictures has the interesting effect of making me pay attention (or perhaps just imagine) the subtext of the programming and commercials.

Case in point: The University of Phoenix has an ad in heavy rotation in which a young woman sings new lyrics to the tune, “If I only had a brain.” It’s a real attention grabber, but what had me musing for a good fifteen minutes afterward was the line:

a degree is a degree,
you’re gonna want someone like me

Much as been written and said (by Seth Godin and James Altucher to name just a couple) about the value of university degree. But I’ve never heard a university question it. And frankly, that’s what I heard drifting in from the other room: an institute of higher learning turning a degree—something that has, since the 12th century, been a premium product—into a commodity.

Now, perhaps the University of Phoenix’s intent was to communicate that a degree from their school is as valuable as a degree from Stanford. And maybe it is; I don’t know.

The cynic in me thinks that employers just use possession of a degree as a filter for the computer that sorts through piles of resumes.

The skeptic in me thinks that since everyone now has a college degree, it isn’t a distinguishing feature.

The curmudgeon in me visits the campus and looks at the coursework and mutters, <oldmanvoice>”These kids today aren’t learning anything anyway.”</oldmanvoice>

Maybe a degree is a degree. But in the long run selling the idea isn’t going to help either University of Phoenix or Stanford because people are rarely changed by commodities.

I may be reading too much into this commercial, of course. Perhaps an agency copywriter just needed a rhyme.