Checkpoints

It’s always fun to watch our choices from the past, and get an idea of why we end up at the checkpoint we are at today. What’s even more interesting is that, at the time we made each choice, we firmly believed that it was the best choice we were gonna make, and it would solve most (if not all) of our problems.

Of course, the outcome of those choices never met our highest expectations limited by the information and the knowledge we had then. We are even embarrassed by some of the choices we’ve made. But that’s who we were, and the momentum created by each choice was strong enough to push us a little further down the road.

When we reach a checkpoint, it’s always tempting to look back at the path we came from, and judge ourselves hard on why it took us so long to get here. Even worse, to mock on others who are on the same path and still struggling to get to where we are today. We easily forget the pains we’ve endured and only want to show the positives, without realizing that the pain is what was needed for us to grow.

We got here, and there are more checkpoints waiting for us down the road. We hope there will be people supporting us, and we hope there will be people challenging us.

What does work mean

Being industrial about our work is one way to lessen our worries. Less pressure, less work hour, less responsibility, less fear, less attention. We are professionals, and we work around the clock. And if we got familiar with our tasks after a few years, we can be even more professional by deflecting everything to others, doing the bare minimum, and enjoy our “work-life balance”.

The issue is that our limited time is wasted on the work that don’t matter to us (and probably to the company either), and no one even notices we work there. Blend everything in, including ourselves. Keep lowering our standards. Stop bringing hopes to everyone we know.

The alternative is to intentionally look for more in our work. More challenges, more perspectives, more responsibilities, more connections. It will be hard. People will see us as outliers. But at least we know why we work the way we do – to find hope in the work that we do, and to bring that hope to others.

Planning

It is often times necessary to plan effectively to keep the ball rolling. Although Mike Tyson once said “everyone got a plan until they got punch in the face”, which is true a lot of the times, we still need to plan, and here’s why.

Planning is one of the most effective communications among team members. Every team member is involved in the planning phase, which means that everyone will be on the same page coming out of the planning session: who is doing what, who is the go-to person when issues come up, who is making sure that things are going smoothly as planned. It lays down a strong foundation before starting a project.

Planning is one way to share knowledge across organization. People from different branches of the organization will likely to participate in a group planning session. This is a great chance to learn the perspectives from the other side of the organization and understand where they are coming from. For some who are mindful, it will also be a humbling experience to see how much more knowledge exists outside of one’s narrow field of expertise.

Planning is like sketching with pencil. At this phase of the drawing, we are not fully committed to what we want on the paper yet, instead, we have an outline of the things we want to see happen. We draw lightly to convey ideas, put basic shapes together and see how they could potentially work well with each other, and we can change parts of it without interrupting too much of the overall message. Being flexible in details but firm in the general direction we try to go is the key.

Of course, overdoing anything is counterproductive, and over planning is no exception. People can sit in the room together for the whole day try to come up with the perfect strategy and potentially changing it 180 degrees later, or they can just reach consensus quickly based on the information available, and move on with their day. It’s tempting to drag the planning, especially when everyone has something to say, but someone has to call it a day when there’s no valuable comments being made anymore.

Enjoy planning, but more importantly, enjoy making your plan into reality.

They are on their way

While others enjoy the achievements that they’ve made in the past, it’s interesting for us to think that the greatest days of our lives are still on their way.

Whatever is done becomes sunk cost. Although some of those things create significant momentum for us to enjoy their benefits till this day, it should still be considered as not relevant to how we define our success today.

It’s a depressing feeling to wake up in the morning and think that we will have a difficult time recreating our past glory. We should not keep looking at the peak of the mountain that we’ve already climbed, but look forward to the new path we want to create.

The challenges we are going to face, the people we are going to meet, the places we are going to experience, these are way more exciting things than our past. Look forward to the random surprises that we will encounter today is one of the biggest joy in life. If there’s not so much random surprises, we can create some ourselves.

The greatest days of our lives are on their way, and we need to pay close attention in case they pass without us noticing.

Everyone’s doing it

And we don’t have to be one of them.

When given enough incentives, people tend to lower their standards and do things that are clearly not up to the bar. The motive in this case is not to do the things right, but to hope the things to be over soon to collect rewards.

When put in an environment with other players with low standards, over time people will see those behaviors not as bad as they initially thought, and start to play along. And that is when culture is formed. For example, if in an organization, people are constantly praising each other whether they mean it or not, the internal culture would become “be nice in here”. Whether this culture is transferable to the external or not is still up to the debate, but internally, “people like us behave like this”. Doesn’t matter how they behave outside, because they don’t get judged and labeled when they are outside. It’s ironic that such encouragement of playing nice could add a layer of inconsistency and cause confusion to others who are watching from the outside. But hey, culture works, and people follow culture, that’s what they do.

Finding a perfect niche for ourselves is not an easy task, and it takes time. But whenever we see a group of people rushing in one direction, it’s a good idea to pause and think through their motives first, and decide whether we want to join in or go a different way.

Not another entrepreneur

Entrepreneurs work anywhere, anytime, anything they want, and make a living doing it. And as the world enters the age of internet and AI, the word entrepreneur also implies that they are working on things that are directly or tangentially related to one of those “cutting edge technologies”. Every entrepreneur is seen as the coolest kid in the crowd, dare to think and do things differently.

Except that’s not the reality. Except those “cool kids” are struggling everyday to deliver the promise they’ve made to others and to simply survive.

Making $100 online everyday with these simple steps? How about you post your daily numbers first. Learn how to invest in real estate with me? Let’s talk about your recent failure in crypto and how that qualifies you to be a real estate educator first.

Also, ever get tired of all the humble brags on social media yet?

“I was dropped out of high school, got rejected by hundreds of job interviews, quit several jobs without giving notice, failed running businesses and my family left me. And yet here I am 10 years later winning the world like a champion. I’m so grateful for those who had looked down on me, blah blah blah…”

How could words like this provide and meaningful context and inspiration to people who are reading it? It reads more like the story of a heroic revenge, and it also implies that this is the best way to proof our worth. To me, it reads more like a desperate move from someone who is failing at generating proper attention with kindness. Someone who is eating chips and playing video games all day and complaining about why no one has noticed their talents.

Forget about fancy words like entrepreneur, it doesn’t add any value to what we are trying to do except burdens and the sense of entitlement. Focusing on making the actual thing, and that is good enough of a statement.

Slow start

When everyone else is looking for a head start in the game, we should look for a slow start instead. The track that ultimately lead us to our destination faster is likely to have a slow start.

Checking supplies, gathering gears, reading maps, everyone knows how important these things are when we are out there trying to survive, but when it is about time to start, everyone sprints out the door without a long-term plan. Yes we still need to be efficient in the short-term, but short-term efficiency not backed by a long-term strategy will not get us there more quickly.

Slow start also means we are doing thins on our own pace. Think about how many people who sprint out the door because of peer pressure. The pace that could have make them staying in the game longer and stronger is ruined by that initial sprint. It’s like running with a professional runner and trying to catch up, they will run out of gas after the first lap.

Start our game slow and steady, keep our head down, don’t care about anything else but do our preparation for the best and worst cases to come. Have confidence in the stamina and clarity we’ve gathered at the starting line, and run as long as we can.

A bargain

Behavioral economics researcher Dan Ariely performed an experiment like this:

100 people were asked by Ariely to choose between two news paper subscription models: digital-only for $59 or $125 for the prints-and-digital bundle. 68% of them chose the digital-only version, and 32% chose the bundle. Ariely then threw in another subscription model into the mix: a print-only version for $125, same pricing as the print-and-digital bundle. This time, 84% chose the bundle, 16% chose digital-only, and 0% chose the print-only option.

This experiment shows us how our perception of the value of an item changed when we are given different comparison options. We kinda see the print-and-digital bundle in the first experiment as a waste, when there was only a cheaper digital-only option to compare it to, and our perceptions warn us about a potential lost. In the second experiment, the print-only option with a much higher price became a waste to us, but the bundle with the same price and also comes with a digital version “for free” became a gain.

This tactic has been helping merchants to significantly increase their sells all the time. But understand the human behavior behind the purchasing act is a particular interesting one. We can apply this pattern in many cases other than just selling stuff. Offering better options on the negotiation table, making better decision by filtering out false reference points, and many more.