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Weekly 3: Seeing your work with new eyes

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Summary: Aim higher. Multiply your effectiveness. Mind your blind side. (~6 min read) Note: Idea #3 i
 

Idea Journal Weekly 3

September 1 · Issue #102 · View online
We combine 3 ideas to help you think differently and be more creative.

Summary: Aim higher. Multiply your effectiveness. Mind your blind side. (~6 min read)
Note: Idea #3 is taken from a previous issue, and we’ve included it here because it fits well with the core theme: seeing your work with new eyes.

#1. Increase your expectations, and your results
Author and business coach Pamela Slim writes in her book Body of Work that the enemies of a new entrepreneur are the pursuit of perfection, and a failure to think in larger terms.
Smith explains that a lot of her time as a coach is spent pushing her clients to finish their websites, pitch more clients, and try new products in the market. 
After her clients finally take the first serious step, many of them will show up to the next coaching session feeling dejected:
  • I sent that email to two potential clients, but neither of them has gotten back to me.
  • I designed and launched the class we talked about, but only one person signed up. And it was my sister.
Slim’s response is to use the “20X Rule.” As she points out, “In business, as well as in other areas of life, you have to sow twenty times more seeds than you think is realistic or necessary to make things happen.”
In Slim’s view, to be successful doing creative work, you have to raise your expectations for the amount of outreach and connections it will take. If you don’t make this adjustment, you’re setting yourself up for heartbreak and mediocrity.
For some examples of the 20X Rule in practice, Slim suggests asking yourself what would happen over the course of a year if: 
  • Instead of contacting two prospective clients a month, you reached out to forty?
  • Instead of testing three products a year, you tested sixty?
  • Instead of writing to one journalist each month, you reached out twenty?
As Slim puts it: “Chances are you would see some radically different results.”
#2. Effective > busy
In their book It Doesn’t Have to Be Crazy at Work, entrepreneurs Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson write that there are many ways to break up 60 minutes. For example:
1 x 60 = 60
2 x 30 = 60
4 x 15 = 60
25 + 10 + 5 + 15 + 5 = 60 
As they point out, although each of the above configurations adds up to 60 minutes, they are different kinds of hours: “The number might be the same, but the quality isn’t.”
For Fried and Heinemeier Hansson, a high-quality hour is 1 x 60, not 4 x 15. And an example of a high-quality day is 4 x 60, not 4 x 15 x 4.
That’s because it’s hard to be effective with fractured hours: “25 minutes on a phone call, then 10 minutes with a colleague who taps you on the shoulder, then 5 minutes on this thing you’re supposed to be working on, before another 15 are burned on a conversation you got pulled into that really didn’t require your attention.”
If you spend your day constantly switching contexts and attempting to multitask, when it’s over, you may end up thinking: What did I actually do today?
You know you were working, but as Fried and Heinemeier Hansson put it, “the hours had no weight, so they slipped away with nothing to show.”
They recommend looking closely at how you spend your time. If your hours are consistently fractured, ask yourself the following questions: 
  • Who is responsible for the divisions? 
  • Are others distracting you, or are you distracting yourself? 
  • How many things are you working on in a given hour? 
  • What can you change?
From Fried and Heinemeier Hansson’s perspective, working on one thing at a time doesn’t mean one thing, then another, and then something else in quick succession. 
It means working on one important thing for hours at a time, or even an entire day.
#3. What would you see if you were wrong?
Business executive and entrepreneur Margaret Heffernan writes in her book Beyond Measure that information wants to be different: “If everyone brings the same knowledge, then why have five people in the room when you could just have one?”
As Heffernan points out, unanimity is a sign that participation isn’t wholehearted.
You can have more effective discussions and reach better decisions by seeking out disconfirming information and perspectives.
One way to do this is to ask: What would you see if you were wrong?
Heffernan tells the story of Herb Meyer, who worked for the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and used this approach to become one of the first people in the world to accurately predict the fall of the Soviet Union.
Meyer was responsible for producing the US National Intelligence Estimate, but he grew increasingly uncomfortable with the information he received because it only confirmed the prevailing wisdom: that the Cold War was still going strong, and that the Soviet Union was as powerful as ever.
Meyer then made a list of all the things that might happen if the prevailing wisdom were wrong and the Soviet Union was actually collapsing, and sent it to the spy networks.
It was a low-cost experiment: if they saw nothing, then the prevailing wisdom was accurate.
But one of the first data points that came back was news of a weekly meat train that had been hijacked, with all of the meat stolen. The Soviet army had been contacted, but the country’s ruling party told the army to fall back and not tell anyone.
This is how Meyer himself recounted the events: “Well, that’s not what happens when everything in the economy’s just fine, is it? … So that started to tell us something. And then there was more like that.”
Quote of the Week
“The only true voyage of discovery, the only fountain of Eternal Youth, would be not to visit strange lands but to possess other eyes, to behold the universe through the eyes of another, of a hundred others, to behold the hundred universes that each of them beholds, that each of them is.”
- Writer Marcel Proust in his book Remembrance of Things Past
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