Louis C.K. and the Cortez Problem

There is a story (probably apocryphal) that the comedian Louis C.K., burns his jokes, his stand-up material, and his writing after successfully delivering it at the end of each year.

This story reads like a corollary to the idea (popularized through the constant repeating of the alleged actions of the explorer Hernando Cortez upon arriving in the New World) of burning the boats on the beach.

This idea of creative (or not-so-creative) destruction, as a motivator to either exploring further (because there is nowhere else to go) or rebuilding (because everything you built before is destroyed), can be scary for some.

Even for those who believe that they’ve already burned the boats…and the jokes.

What’s never talked about is developing the will and the courage to look at what you have accomplished in the past (i.e. a successful negotiation, a big project, a positive relationship) and ask the two following questions:

What about this could be better than it is now?

Who here will have the courage to change in order to make this thing better?

Having the will to destroy what’s already been created in the pursuit of a better future is the first step toward realizing that better future.

Rejection Without Shame

Rejection comes in a litany of flavors:

“We don’t have any conflicts here.”

“We deal with conflicts really well here.”

“We don’t really need your services right now, but if we do, we’ll give you a call.”

“[silence]. Who are you again?”

“How do you say your name?”

“I don’t understand how anybody can make money from doing what you do.”

“How do you monetize that?”

“Yeah, your rates are too high.”

“Yeah, your rates are too low.”

“I don’t understand what you are selling.”

“Why can’t you help me NOW?”

“Where did you get your degree again?”

“How do you make it here in this town?”

“Where are you from again?”

“Hmmmm. Ok. That sounds kind of interesting.” [Then wander off to get bread at the networking event ‘nosh’ table.]

“Have you tried working for a human resource company?”

“Have you tried working with [insert name of big company here]?”

“I don’t understand what you just said that you do.”

“There aren’t any people around here doing that are there?”

“Could you not charge me as much?”

“We’re strapped for cash right now and not really focused on retaining outside help right now.”

“Your rates are too high; you’ll never make a profit around here.”

“We are a family company. There aren’t any conflicts among family.”

“I handle conflict really well; I don’t see how I would use your services.”

“Have you tried working with lawyers around here?”

“We can’t pay you.”

“We’ll get back to you.”

“We can’t pay you.”

“Can you do this for free for us?”

“We can’t pay you.”

“Send us your information and we’ll look at it.” >click<

“I just don’t have time to talk to you, call back next week.” [Call back again next week]

“I just don’t have time to talk to you, call back next week.” >click<

“That sounds interesting, but I don’t want you to drive all the way to [name location 25 miles in any direction from locally] to meet me. It would just be a waste of your time.”

“You’ll never make a living doing that. You should get a ‘real’ job.”

“You went to college for CONFLICT!?”

“Why don’t you just volunteer?”

Very rarely have we ever heard “No,” “No thank you,” or “No this isn’t for us.”

Although ultimately, the fact is that all the forms of rejection really come down to such a consideration. All the forms of rejection can be given without personally attacking, trolling, tearing down individuals’ talent, and questioning people’s motives. But when rejection crosses the line from “No this isn’t for us” to “You don’t deserve to have a voice,” or “You need to be denied the ability to speak because I disagree with you,” then we’ve crossed over the line into another area.

And we must be careful with what lines we cross because sometimes, there is no going back.

Three Places to Thrash

When faced with a project there are three places to thrash:

Early—before the project begins.

Middle—as the project is proceeding.

Late—as the project ends.

When you (or your team) thrashes early, brainstorming becomes a way to develop new ideas. Speed and immediacy become the primary goals of early thrashing: Speed to actionable ideas and immediacy to the implementation of action, moving toward accomplishing end-of-project goals.

When you (or your team) thrashes in the middle of a project, brainstorming becomes a place to hide. Hiding emotionally, “getting to know your team,” or struggling to decide about the efficacy or practicality of an idea, become the unstated, primary goals. Speed becomes less important than looking good to peers, and groupthink really kicks in at this point, bogging down the implementation process.

When you (or your team) thrashes at the end of a project, brainstorming becomes a place of panic, anxiety, and on some teams (or with you) a place of abject fear. The combination of pressure to ship something out the door encourages a mindset and attitude focused around speed (but for negative reasons) and impatience with people and processes. The implementation process recedes in the face of the attitude of “just get it done.”

Thrashing—that is brainstorming a direction, deciding on an approach, planning a process, managing opinions and conflicts, and implementing a plan for action—should be done early, rather than late if you’re really interested (or your team is really interested) in shipping a product, idea, or service out the door and direct to the market.

[Advice] There Are No Shortcuts…

The quality, or trait, of getting up and doing what needs to be done, particularly when you don’t want to do it, is sometimes called “will” or “grit” or “courage.”

But these are fancy labels for something a lot deeper that people can’t really, collectively describe.

And anybody who wants to make a dent in the universe, no matter how big or small, must possess this trait in great quantities if they are to make the dent they want to make.

Unfortunately, the audience on the outside of the dent making process, overrate the effect of the trait (the “dent”), and underrate the ability to engage with the getting toward the goal (the “will” or “grit” or “courage”).

Which is why there is so much coveting of the outcomes of exercising the “will” or “grit” or “courage.”

Which results in jealousy and envy on the part of members of the audience.

Which winds up with members of the audience expending valuable energy engaging with manipulation and deceit, rather than hard work, diligence, and patience.

There are no shortcuts to making a dent in the universe, no matter how much we might like there to be.

[Advice] Building an Arbitrage Machine for Entrepreneurship

In financial markets, in gambling, and even in entrepreneurship, there are two skills that are critical for success: making small bets consistently through developing a model (buying) and breaking an old model (selling), and building an anti-fragile machine that can withstand the shock of either of those small bets failing.

Arbitrage is the process of hedging bets (through the purchase and the sale of an asset) so that, no matter how much is spent, the buyer/seller can always either come out ahead, slightly behind (not enough to be far back, but enough to catch up), or slightly ahead (building a continuous lead). Hedge fund managers and stock traders with fancy algorithms understand arbitrage. So do insurance agents, financial advisors, professional gamblers, and even entrepreneurs.

Many people though, make bad large bets (thus financial collapses and the development of ‘flash’ trading via fancy computer programs) and take massive losses with little to no gains. This is due primarily to ego driven betting that has nothing to do with market conditions, and everything to do with personal psychological and emotional tics. The most successful people bet small, bet consistently—or they don’t bet at all.

Day by day, step by step, entrepreneurs should be building a machine in their unique niche that will arbitrage against their unique market. One that will allow them to see opportunities, take advantage of them, and not lose their livelihoods, their families, or their peace of mind. This does not have to be a stressful process, but it does have to be done.

When the entrepreneur makes those small bets they don’t become business people (business is about maintaining a consistent place in one spot with gradual upticks in growth, rather than about advancing a model) instead, they become evangelists for a new way of doing things. In whatever field they’re in, they begin to make bets that will fundamentally breakdown the model they saw as problematic (which lead them to entrepreneurship in the first place) and will replace it with a new model.

Customers, clients, and others don’t have to know what model the entrepreneur is building. As a matter of fact, they don’t really care. But the entrepreneur should care. Otherwise, freelance work is always an option.

-Peace Be With You All-

Jesan Sorrells, MA
Principal Conflict Engagement Consultant
Human Services Consulting and Training (HSCT)
Email HSCT: jsorrells@hsconsultingandtraining.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/HSConsultingandTraining
Twitter: https://www.twitter.com/Sorrells79
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/jesansorrells/

[Strategy] Bad Ideas

The equation is simple: Talents + Knowledge + Skills + Effort = Strengths

Talents are non-teachable. They are naturally recurring patterns of thoughts, feelings, or behaviors that can be productively applied in a person’s life. Effort is also non-teachable. Effort is based on intrinsic motivation, as well as extrinsic influencers.

Knowledge is teachable. In the context of understanding what you’re good at, knowledge is simply “what you are aware of.” Knowledge is a combination of life experiences, plus academic knowledge, plus gut intuition. Skills are teachable. Skills are the capacity (not necessarily competency) to perform the fundamental steps of an activity—whether at work, at school, or at home.

That’s the academic part. Here’s the lived piece.

My strengths are in being contextual and looking backwards to the past in order to look forward to the future, gathering disparate information together from various resources, walking through life deliberately and carefully, analyze and solve problems, and think about how to find the shortest, best route to success for people.

In a list, they look like this

  • Context
  • Input
  • Deliberative
  • Restorative
  • Strategic

What this really means in practice is that I have a lot of bad ideas. A lot. With these five strengths, a combination of talents, knowledge, skills, and effort, I have been rewarded (not necessarily financially rewarded) in the space of many places. Without knowing where, and what, your strengths are—what you’re good at—you will have no idea what to do with all of your bad ideas.

The things is, in developing conflict engagement processes, services, and products, knowing your strengths and where your bad ideas come from, is critical for the market success of the savvy peace builder.

-Peace Be With You All-

Jesan Sorrells, MA
Principal Conflict Engagement Consultant
Human Services Consulting and Training (HSCT)
Email HSCT: jsorrells@hsconsultingandtraining.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/HSConsultingandTraining
Twitter: https://www.twitter.com/Sorrells79
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/jesansorrells/

[Opinion] Marketing for the Peace Builder V

Focus group feedback is useful to the peace builder.

Here’s how you run one:

The peace builder, working with another party (typically the focus group moderator), puts together some questions in regards to a future product, a current problem, and the solution to both that is offered by the peace builder.

Then, the peace builder gets a room somewhere and invites some people—maybe five to ten—who are in the demographic that the peace builder wants to offer their services to.

Then, the peace builder orders some pizza, the moderator sits down with the focus group participants and asks them the series of questions that have been cobbled together. In addition, the moderator may coax information from focus group attendees through the use of open-ended questions.

The peace builder sits in the room, saying nothing, but taking notes and watching the attendees’ non-verbal reactions, listening to the moderator, and recording responses to the questions.

At the end of an hour, the attendees are thanked for their time, offered the opportunity to take advantage of the product, service, or process that they have been questioned about, and are sent home.

Wash. Rinse. Repeat.

The purpose of a focus group is three-fold:

  • To determine the reactions and responses of members of your target audience in a low-risk environment where they are rewarded for their participation.
  • To get feedback about the product, service, or process that the peace builder is developing through a process similar to an interview.
  • To collect the opinions from the focus group about the motivations of people who might actually use the peace builder’s product and to better understand how they perceive the utility of the product offering.

The savvy peace builder should be using focus groups before they launch workshops, seminars, training opportunities, books, curriculum, or any other product or process designed to appeal to a niche group of people. The savvy peace builder should avoid focus groups entirely when they are developing workshops, seminars, training opportunities, books, curriculum, or any other products or processes that have never been developed before, or which have been developed so long ago, that they have been forgotten almost entirely.

A warning though: Sometimes attendees fall into groupthink, peace builders and moderators, may fall prey to experimenter bias, issues of confidentiality around sensitive information in a group setting, and the fact that peace builders may cherry pick feedback to support a foregone conclusion.

-Peace Be With You All-

Jesan Sorrells, MA
Principal Conflict Engagement Consultant
Human Services Consulting and Training (HSCT)
Email HSCT: jsorrells@hsconsultingandtraining.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/HSConsultingandTraining
Twitter: https://www.twitter.com/Sorrells79
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/jesansorrells/

[Advice] How To “Make A Ruckus”

There are two ways to “make a ruckus,” if you want to:

The first way is to be generous, give away your knowledge and spiritual wealth (and maybe even your material wealth if you are led to) and to collaborate with others to use the power you have gained to help others less powerful.

The second way is to race to the bottom on price and cost, worry about the corners and the fractions of an inch, to create/lobby for regulatory environments that favor incumbents, to use power as a weapon and to deny the human individual, and only look at the masses.

One way leads to abundance and an ownership mindset, no matter what environment or context you happen to be in.

One way leads to scarcity of resources and a perpetual employee mindset, no matter what environment or context you happen to be in.

Envy arises in individuals and groups of one mindset when they observe the physical, external manifestations of an internal set of choices.  This feeling of envy, based in fear, clouds judgement, and leads to the false premise behind some conflicts. These conflicts—that are really about mindsets and values rather than about material resources—can almost never be resolved, they can only be engaged with—or moved on from.

If you want to “make a ruckus,” you have to make three decisions first:

  1. What kind of mindset do you want to have?
  2. What kind of environment or context will create the circumstances for acting on that mindset?
  3. What kind of outcomes are you willing to advocate to advance, to protect and to reject?

It’s easy to say “I make a ruckus.” It’s not that easy to do.

-Peace Be With You All-

Jesan Sorrells, MA
Principal Conflict Engagement Consultant
Human Services Consulting and Training (HSCT)
Email HSCT: jsorrells@hsconsultingandtraining.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/HSConsultingandTraining
Twitter: https://www.twitter.com/Sorrells79
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/jesansorrells/

[Opinion] The Other 95%

The people who start a project and eventually have the ability to finish a project—whether it’s a project to build peace in their lives, their neighborhoods, their families or their organizations—are in the low numbers.

This is because starting is easy (we celebrate starting school, starting a new job, starting a marriage) and comes with great fanfare, but finishing is hard and comes with…somewhat less fanfare.

The numbers of people who start and then finish are staggeringly low:

95% of people never start anything. They are your traditional organizational followers, employees, managers and supervisors. They are useful for scaling the project, managing the tasks, keeping the project in a static place, and creating just enough friction to keep everything interesting.

5% of people are starters. They are the traditional entrepreneurs, founders, visionaries and they exist in all realms, from academia all the way to religion. They are the “ruckus makers,” the risk takers, the adventurers, the explorers and they are the ones that the 95% laud, but are also secretly envious of.

However, of the 5% who start a project, 99% of that 5% fail, and their definition of failure will vary along a continuum, extending from “The idea was too early” to “The idea was too late” and every gray area in between.

1% of the people who start a project, succeed to the end. Again, definitions of success will vary greatly along a wide continuum, but the people who built, explored, started and finished, have created the opportunities and spaces for the other 95% to succeed to their own level.

There’s a lot of talk about the gap between the “wealthiest 1%” and “the 99%” in America (and worldwide) these days. There’s a lot of concern that the gap will grow and millions of bytes of data are being created to cobble together arguments, theses, and proposals about what to do to “fix” this gap.

But the fact of the matter is, the gap that no one wants to address is the motivation gap—the gap that exists between the 95% who never start and the 5% who do. A gap in motivation, discipline, courage, acknowledgement, support, belief, discipline and drive.

And addressing the presence of that gap requires 100% of us to answer the question: “What motivates me to start, or not to start, the project I’ve been dreaming about?”

Only individuals can answer that question, person by person, quietly, deep in their own hearts.

-Peace Be With You All-

Jesan Sorrells, MA
Principal Conflict Engagement Consultant
Human Services Consulting and Training (HSCT)
Email HSCT: jsorrells@hsconsultingandtraining.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/HSConsultingandTraining
Twitter: https://www.twitter.com/Sorrells79
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/jesansorrells/

[Podcast] Web 3.0 – The Earbud_U Minute

We need to figure out what kind of Internet we want to have.

The business model currently funding and pushing the growth of the Internet is based upon monetizing a base of users who come to a project and use it for free, or for a nominal price.

The user takes advantage of the content/service/process for free. And, as a result, the user is so enamored with the content/service/process that they keep coming back over and over again, building a trust based relationship with the creator/creators of the project. Subsequently, in order to fund the project, there are hopefully so many users that an advertiser has no choice but to put advertisements in front of a group of eyeballs with whom the project owner has built a relationship.

This is the model underlying Facebook. The nominal fee model (a subscription-based model) underlies LinkedIn, journalism models, ecommerce platforms and other content/service/process platforms.

Web 2.0 is what everyone is talking about now, but Web 3.0 is really, where the Internet has to move to.

Web 3.0 is beyond just the Internet of Things. Web 3.0 is the Internet as Everything. Web 3.0 is the Internet waging active battle with the last, sticky remnants of the world built through the assumptions of the Industrial Revolution.  This is a world created around the rules, laws and policies, created by politicians and people to keep the common democratization of the Internet out of the hands of the common people before the Internet.

Here’s a question: Why is it that there aren’t any internet connected roads?

It has nothing to do with technological innovations such as creating concrete that can communicate with strips on the road. Or with computer chips that can talk to your car. Or signs and traffic signals that talk to the road, the car and each other.

The reason there aren’t roads that are intelligent is not a smart car issues, no matter what Google Cars would have you think.

The issue is really laws and regulations.

Laws are the last bastion of the Industrial revolution world that have yet to fall to the unending sweep of the Internet. We see the beginnings of this with our current thrashing around privacy, data, and “who owns the future” (either you or a corporation) but once we settle all of this we will have new business models that will allows the Internet to be truly “baked in”.

Then, once that happens, the sky truly will be the limit.

-Peace Be With You All-

Jesan Sorrells, MA
Principal Conflict Engagement Consultant
Human Services Consulting and Training (HSCT)
Email HSCT: jsorrells@hsconsultingandtraining.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/HSConsultingandTraining
Twitter: https://www.twitter.com/Sorrells79
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/jesansorrells/