Right vs. “Rightish”

right vs rightish

It’s Ugly. It’s OK.


The problem with that exclamation is the demand for perfection. 

That works in a school environment.

However, in life and leadership, binary thinking (right and wrong) stops us from growth.

Instead of the “right” answer, go for the “rightish” answer. Sometimes the “rightish” solution is ugly. In fact, often it is. And the beauty of “rightish” is the ability to iterate and make it better. 

As a result, pushing through the ugly with iteration makes something far better than the “perfect” first answer.

Most of the things you used started off on the “rightish” direction and grew from there.

System 1 and System 2 Thinking

Our brain doesn’t think in just one way.

According to Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky, we have two modes of thought.

  • System 1 – Intuitive (i.e. breathing): This is where you do things you don’t think about. It’s how one walks and chews bubblegum. It’s why you don’t remember the details of your commute home. It is relying on the brain’s automatic (read: dumb) systems to get things done. You don’t spend a lot of energy here.
  • System 2 – Calculating (i.e. writing a blog): This is where you are “thinking.” The stuff you make an effort to do. Remember how you felt when you answered a question on an exam you weren’t sure about, or a presentation that affected your salary?  It is where the brain exerts energy to get things done. If you remember back to those times, you remember how tired you were after.

We can do a ton of things with “System 1” thinking, but it comes with a bunch of caveats. For example, you miss out on any critical thinking. A lot of people mistake the ability to walk and chew gum as the ability to “multitask.” It isn’t multitasking, it’s auto-pilot.

However, the “multitasking” one thinks about has to do with being able to do so with “System 2” thinking. Each time you change tasks with “System 2” thinking you end up with switching costs and the work suffers.

Pay attention to the work. If you find yourself thinking, realize it is “System 2” don’t do anything else after you define a start and end point. Allow the rest of the world to come back after the work.

Trust me, it’s not going anywhere.  


Lucky or Good?

Don’t confuse the two.

There is a difference between lucky and good. Usually, the difference between the two is consistency, meaning that once you do something, you can repeat it, given the same environment. 

Another point, which is often missed, is the ability to understand* why something worked while accounting for the other side.

Let’s take football:

  • If you are playing wide receiver , the ball is coming at you, and someone is covering you, simply catching the ball once can skew towards luck in the future.
  • o Working on routes with the QB and understanding where the cornerback is going due to how he comes off the ball lead you to catch more often, which is good.

The latter accounts for the work done on the practice field; the former has no strategy. If you were looking for a coach on how to catch the ball, which person would you feel more comfortable going to?

Unfortunately, a lot of people who are lucky confuse it for being good, and the results are frightening.

*I first wrote explain at this asterisk, and I recognized that you didn’t need to explain to understand. Keeping it on a sports level, Moses Malone couldn’t “explain” rebounding to you, but he was amazing at it because he understood it.

I Trust That You Don’t Know

I used to think I knew a lot

I based my personality in “the know.”  I was proud. I built opinions on “knowing” things. I judged people on how “much they knew.” My religion was my perception of knowledge and I made sure you knew it. If you didn’t know anything then why were we talking. I needed to talk to people who were confident, and if you didn’t know you are scared since you didn’t pick a side.

I don’t think that way anymore. In fact, I go in the opposite direction. I am more impressed in what you don’t know. Anyone who tells me they don’t know something gains that much more credibility in my book, I am more apt to trust them, and get curious about who they are and what they do “know.”

What caused this change

Studying human psychology, philosophy  and management shifted my thinking. Spending time digging into Jiddu Kristamurti, Peter Drucker, and David McRaney, along with the ancients like Confucius, Socrates, and Seneca, got me to understand that the minute you think you know, you stop thinking.

One of my biggest influence in this line of thought is Robert Anton Wilson

In fact, the two thoughts (thinking and knowing)  are diametrically opposed. When you know you don’t question, and if you don’t question you don’t think. You can’t know a subject and think about it. Your brain has already created the model and the brain hates moving on from what it “knows.” Thinking takes a ton of energy, knowing doesn’t.

So why trust people who don’t know?

Saying you don’t know is a direct assault on the ego, and the starting point to think about every subject you don’t know about.  When I hear that, I get comfortable because I know that we can start to talk, and maybe an opinion can change. Talking to someone who knows is like talking to a brick wall. It may feel better to scream at that wall, but you aren’t going to change the form.

“It’s Easier Said Than Done”

I hate empty phrases

An empty phrase is a phrase that someone uses to dress up emotion. There is no substance behind it, just a place where something like an excuse can kick back, relax, and spare someone’s ego the hassle of doing something that it doesn’t want to do. It’s a way to make an excuse sound plausible.

They usually come out charged and passionate. When you take a look at them, their emptiness appears, and you realize that you just heard a hot pile of nothing.

One of the empty phrases I hear most often is “It’s easier said than done.” I heard it because I often said it. 

I turn it on myself first

I used to say it a lot. It rolls off the tongue. It felt accepted because it’s the first rationalization I can think of.  It changes the conversation in a subtle way. What started off as a creative conversation begins to move into the world of “why not” instead of “why.”

I recognized the phrase as an out. Subconsciously, it felt safe. What I later came to realize is that the reason it felt safe is because I used it to shield myself from the mental and emotional labor that comes from something that might not work. If I sensed failure, I would turn try to turn it away with word tricks from my subconscious trying to shield itself from the fear.

That mental and emotional labor is usually the hardest part because you put your ego on the line. Victory is hard to quantify.

Words matter so don’t let them change you

It’s on my hated phrase/word list because what we say and how we say things matter. There is no communication path faster from thought to speech (sometimes we can’t even stop ourselves). The phrase “easier said than done” is a way to deflect from the work that needs doing. If you find yourself thinking that, or even saying it, take a minute when you can, and get to the real reason. It will make you more effective.


Dedicating Some Time To Think

Dedicating time to think is critical

We live in a world where we are constantly connected.

There is no time where we don’t hear  the sound of a click, ding , or whistle. It feeds us a nice measure of dopamine. We keep it around.  It sounds good to always be there, to be connected. It keeps us “busy”.

But the thing that allows us to grow is a dedicated time to think, a time to sit back, unpack,  and understand. We can’t just keep making, it is necessary to sit and think.

Take some time when you can and get away. To capture this effectively, its imperative you sit down away from the action to reflect. Don’t be afraid to turn everything off.

So, just try it.

Turn off your phone, leave it in your dresser, and drive or walk to a local coffee shop or park.

Just bring a pen and a pad. Sit there, and just start writing down everything.

No, dedicate the time


Take the time to put this in your calendar, and make the effort to follow it. Everything in your being won’t like it. For people who make stuff happen, or just trying to mellow out, it won’t feel natural.

But take the time, and I know that all sorts of interesting experiments will come out the other end. We live in a world that is far to concerned with the idea of connecting and being in the know, when we have a great resource sitting between our heads.

The next great ideas are in you. Trust that they are and take the time to find them out. It isn’t going to turn over into a paycheck, and there is no ROI that is apparent, but getting closer to yourself by dedicating time to think is something that separates us from the drones.

I wrote about something like this over at LinkedIn, take a look

Three Quick Thoughts

Three quick week-end thoughts to close the week on the weekend :-).

  1. Learn how to do a simple task well – Learning how to do something very simple very well is a boost of confidence. Great example – making your bed well. If you make your bed well every morning, not only do you get something done, the bed becomes a place of calm. I have taken this up recently and nothing is better than knowing when I get home if nothing else, my bed looks great.
  2. Silent Walks – Cut out the music when walking. It’s easy to get distracted by beauty outside – but our best ideas are inside. Giving your brain some latitude by not listening to anything when you walk or drive gives your brain some time to tackle some harder problems. Awkward at first, combining silence with movement has generated some great ideas.
  3. Writing It Down – Take a moment – write it down. Always have a tiny notebook and a pen. The brain is fickle.