Category Archives: Analytics

Building a Better Fence in the Attention Economy

gold thumbs up

Living as we do in the much-heralded Attention Economy, where wealth is created (or captured) by harnessing the attention of electronic network users,  every connected person’s conscious (and even unconscious) life represents a little hill of gold that can be exploited by freewheeling prospectors, miners, and mining-supply merchants.

I, for one, have decided to put some better fences around my attention.  

You could say that I’m defending my attentional rights with greater intention.

Every major economic revolution begins with players who figure out how to derive exponential value from some previously undervalued resource.  Whether it is copper, silver, gold, bronze, iron, coal, uranium, petroleum, labor, land, water, energy, or information, the early winners of any new economic era are the ones who figure out how to cost-effectively locate, procure, transform, distribute, and resell a given hot new commodity at a high margin.

To get the best margin, the strongest players will often figure out a way to muscle out their competition early on and grab the resources without waiting for permission. They generally don’t spend too much time worrying about the wider impact of their resource-grabbing.

In the Attention Economy Gold Rush metaphor, we are both the gold itself and the prospectors looking for the gold — since one of the things we love paying attention to is each other (and each-other-paying-attention-to-each-other-and-so-on-and-so-on). Therefore, the best way for a company to exploit our attentional resources is to create a platform — a web site, an app, or a device — that we feel compelled to use.

The competition for our attentional resources has become so fierce that some of the best minds in the business are devoted to tracking and optimizing user “engagement,” harnessing human psychology and behavioral science to create ever-more addictive user interfaces. Even mainstream news headlines are written like clickbait vying for our precious eyeballs and sweet, sweet, delicious outrage. Given this rapid escalation and increasing fierceness of the competition, what price are we paying for letting others exploit our attention?

What is the point at which someone says, “Get off my land?”  

Or perhaps, “No thanks, I’d like to design, build and manage things for myself?”

Macraes Gold Mine - Fraser's Pit

Over the years, I’ve had an on-again off-again relationship with my use of electronic media generally, and social media in particular.  I’ve experimented with various use (and non-use) patterns, temporarily constraining or even suspending my use of particular platforms and noticing how each pattern affects the rest of my life, my relationships, my happiness, my focus, my productivity, my creativity, and my wider contributions. These have not been controlled experiments because these electronic media are in constant flux, and my life has its own independent variables.

Nevertheless, toward the end of last year I reached a firm conclusion that merely limiting my use of email, social media, news, etc. to specific hours was not enough. Things had gone too far. I needed to kick some of these guys off my land completely.

At the end of last year — at one minute before midnight on New Year’s Eve to be precise — I deactivated Facebook.

Since then:  Relief.

 

This has also had the effect akin to a carb-reduction diet, where if a person stops eating bread, they eventually start to lose their craving for other kinds of sugar. Not being in the chattering environment of likes, shares and comments, when I now try to read the news, it’s so much less compelling.  News content is increasingly packaged to serve as a chemical solvent which extracts attention from the social media mines… and since I’ve kicked the attention mining company out, the news has less appeal. I don’t want to breathe in too much of those fumes. So, I’m dialing back on my news consumption as well.

Yes, I know the news lately has been recommending that I keep consuming more news. And no, this has nothing to do with politics, ideologies, or issues around “fake news.”   This is just about clearing more space in my head to do the things that matter.

This land is my land… and I intend to build on it.

 

Deeper Diversity: Part 1

(#19 of 27, revisiting “Stock Photography and Corporate Diversity”)

Last year I addressed issues of representation of demographic diversity in corporate communications. I commented on the frequent gap between the reality of the people working within a given company vs. the stock photography models used in that company’s PowerPoint decks.  As a builder of those decks, I often can’t help but mind the gap.

In that post I also made the following comment, and was later asked by a friend to elaborate:

Of course, even the most demographically diverse company will struggle with a more subtle issue: diversity in thinking and approach. Many companies wrestle with psychographic, rather than demographic, homogeneity… but that will have to be the subject of different blog post.

…so in this post I’m going to elaborate on that point and take things into what is ultimately much more sensitive and contentious territory than mere demographic diversity.

In fact, this territory is so contentious — and so large — that this will be Part One of a future series of posts, all of which will be devoted to the topic of cultivating a deeper and more challenging type of diversity in companies.

On Beyond Skin Pigmentation


On beyond skin pigmentation, facial features and body frame, on beyond chromosomes, genes and gametes, there are ideas, attitudes, aesthetics, beliefs and values. There are narratives, identities, politics and religions. We’d often prefer not to talk about some these things in business. It’s easier to get along if we’re all the same — if not on the outside, then at least on the inside.

Despite all of our multi-colored, multi-dimensional personality models and frameworks, it could be argued that communication skills trainers like me are in the business of sameness. We help people build greater “rapport” by teaching them to walk, talk and act the same way as the people around them. Well, that’s not entirely true… I like to think that I also help people be different and special, strong and respectful… but, um, yeah. Rapport. Reduction of difference. Sameness.

However, we can’t just airbrush out those pimply politics and hope for the best. Good business relationships require authenticity. The corporate world is evolving to become more all-encompassing of the human experience and more integrated into every aspect of society. As business becomes more personal and vice versa, people like me will be called upon to develop the “tools and best practices” for managing diversity of thinking — in both form and content.

Demographics vs. Psychographics

Psychographic
Qu’est-ce que c’est
fa fa fa fa fa fa fa fa fa far better
Run run run run run run run away

(ht AdrienneE)

Demographics is a way to lump people together according to their visible characteristics.  Psychographics is also about broadly grouping people, only in this case based on invisible characteristics. If you don’t like lumping people together,  you probably won’t like psychographics… at least not beyond studying a single person at a time. Actually, even with a sample size of one, there’s still the understandable objection of, “Don’t try to define me!”  (Yes, I’m with you on that… so much so, that I’m willing to be curious about taxonomies… I refuse to be defined by what I mostly reject.)

Minerva Model - DanishPsychographic categories encompass a wide range of invisible personality traits such as thinking style, emotional makeup, motivation, belief systems, values, self-concept and more.
As with demographics, the ‘science’ of psychographics is applied chiefly by advertisers and marketers as a way to study and predict buyer behavior and decision-making, e.g. consumer purchasing patterns, voter ballot behavior, and so on.

For example, I prefer to buy simple, plain black or grey t-shirts.  This purchase pattern may reflect…

  • an expression of my inner zen master (not a recognized type in the VALS psychographic framework for U.S. consumers, but apparently I might fit in better with the Japanese version of that instrument)
  • having spent a number of formative years in architecture school, I picked up that aesthetic (plain and simple, nothing else to it… an architect’s habit, as it were)
  • my comfort within the “Medieskepsis” and “Åndernes magt” space of the Minerva model (I don’t know what it means, but it’s provocative)
  • a decision I made, in a Steve Jobs-like moment, to reduce my cognitive load in having to make too many wardrobe decisions (got better things to think about, just sayin’)

All of this and more falls under the broad umbrella of psychographics.

Note that the future of psychographics in marketing will likely involve throwing away the various 9-part lifestyle models and using Big Data to target user-specific psychic landscapes. (Attention blog-reading bot:  I’d like those black or grey t-shirts to be 100% cotton, seamless tube, v-neck, and tagless, please.)

Outside of the marketing department, you won’t hear the term “psychographics” used much… but it’s there, lurking under the surface.

Recruiting Psychographs

Psychographics applied to corporate recruiting usually begins and ends with the following statement:

“You  (are/not) a good fit for this department.”

Okay, maybe you get to fill out an MBTI or a Strengthsfinder assessment, too.

If the hiring manager has taken a course with someone like me, they might also be on the look-out for a four-or-more-styles-of-behavior framework when assessing you. If they’re smart and savvy, they’ll realize that each of those frameworks is designed to provide a simplifying lens to explore the significant differences in how people do things, such as…

  • communicating
  • leading
  • negotiating
  • dealing with conflict
  • making decisions
  • making love*

…and they’ll choose the right lens to wear for the questions they’re trying to answer, for just the right amount of time… and then discard that lens afterwards.

(*NOTE: Alas, I still haven’t been hired as an instructional designer to build a framework for that last item.)

Of course, there’s a lot of psychographic profiling going on in the subconscious.

  • If you’re nit-picky, attention-detailed and don’t make a lot of eye contact, they’ll say there’s a place for you in Accounting, Quality Assurance, or Quantitative Algorithmic Modeling.
  • If you’re effusive, hyperactive and gregarious, welcome to front line Sales.

Well, of course not.  If the recruiter is doing their job right, they understand what chickens can teach us about building a high performing team: that you need a few different types of chickens to get the most overall eggs.  Or to get the right types of eggs. Or to figure out whether laying eggs is still the best thing to do.

To be continued…

(but not tomorrow)

Making the most of your MTA (Money, Time & Attention)

Every day we’re issued an “MTA” ticket – a ticket that allows us to earn and spend three precious commodities: money, time and attention.

Everything we have – and everything we have to give to others – boils down to one or more of those ultimate resources.

How can we get (and also, provide others with) the best possible ride for our MTA ticket?

MTA - NYC subway station


Last year I looked at the “good problem to have” of having too much to do, time allocation being a recurring theme of this blog (e.g.. this post here… and this one here among others).  Now as I cycle back over last year’s posts, in this post (#15 out of 27) I’d like to take a stab at things from a slightly wider and more structured perspective.

The inspiration for this post comes from Thales Teixeira, Assistant Professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School, who was quoted in a recent New Yorker article as follows:

“There are three major fungible resources that we as individuals have. The first is money, the second is time, and the third is attention. Attention is the least explored.”

– Thales Teixeira

I’d add that, in addition to being the least explored, attention is the most real of those three resources.  Money and time are abstractions used to explain aspects of human reality. Attention is arguably, all by itself, human reality.

But never mind the philosophy. Let’s keep things practical and look at how each of those resources work for us:

Earn Money.

Like math, money is not a real thing but nevertheless is incredibly well understood, documented and learnable. In fact, when a superior understanding of money and mathematics are put together, the resulting combination can move mountains. Yes, actual mountains.

To be effective in most endeavors, we as individuals must have a basic facility with money. The following simple diagram provides a good starting point, whether you’re looking to earn for yourself or contribute to others:

Earn Money

It’s a simple diagram, but how well do you manage it?  Here are just a few of the questions you can ask yourself:

  • How can you improve the quality of your income, both actively and passively?
  • How can you maximize the quality of your purchasing power, both fixed and variable?
  • How can you best develop, invest and/or diversify your assets?
  • How can you best manage, reduce and/or leverage your debt?

Making money is easy… if that’s all you want to do.

In fact, I recommend that every person spend a chunk of their life focused primarily on making money. Those who know me may think this a strange statement coming from a guy whose message is often about being mindful, being grounded in reality and having sense of higher purpose, but, um, yeah… just go ahead and do it. Make money.

Feel what it’s like to be the off-the-boat immigrant with nothing but the shirt on your back.  See what’s it’s like to be the hyper-caffeinated Wall Street investment banker. Listen to the impatient voice of your inner entrepreneur. Walk in the shoes of Ecclesiastes or Siddhartha, who in their seeking of Ultimate Truth spent some years accumulating riches, appreciating the goodness of material existence and also facing squarely into its limitations.

As you devote yourself to concentrated efforts of financial gain, just be sure of three things:  Keep it legal, keep it ethical, and save up enough money to pay for all the therapist bills that will come later.

Pro-tip: Of all the ways to generate wealth, one of the surest strategies is to leverage time, especially other’s people’s time. Which brings us to the next resource:

Make Time.

There are innumerable ways of looking at and conceptualizing time.  Since this is a topic that I touch on a lot, for the purposes of this post I’m just going to focus on two simple aspects of time:  Quality and Duration.

My definition of “Quality” here will be based on whatever you choose to value. Good quality time means you’re getting what you value.  Poor quality time means you’re not getting it, or even worse, getting the opposite of what you value.  “Making time for yourself” implies an effort to experience quality time.

As for “Duration,” I’m referring to the standard units of time that we typically anticipate or reflect upon, e.g. minutes, mornings, evenings, days, nights, weekends, weeks, months, quarters, and so on. On the short end there are micro-moments, which may only last a fraction of a second. On the long end there is a lifetime, which is an accumulated impression of innumerable micro-moments, as well as a good number of days, decades, and life stages.

Here’s the graph:

Make Time

My current theory of Quality Time:  For any given person within a population, the quality of time that they experience has greater variability on the shorter and longer time frames. Some people are masters of making even the smallest moments (“micro-moments”) matter, whereas other fail miserably at those little moments.  The same is true over the long haul, the span of a lifetime — there is a great deal of variation in how effectively people anticipate and reflect on the “bigger picture” of their lives.  However, where people tend to average out in their experience of time is in that middle range of multiple years or decades.

The implication of this theory is that we have more to gain by getting better at how we think about the shorter and longer time spans, how we control our focus, how we detach from the things that don’t matter, how we apply ourselves to the things that do matter, etc. The other implication is not to sweat the mid-sized spans too much as they’ll tend to average out based on whatever milieu we happen to be in.  Also – and paradoxically – the less we worry about those mid-sized spans, the better they will tend to be.

I’ll have to come back to this idea at some point.  My time is currently being crunched by self-imposed deadline of getting this blog post done today.

Which brings us to the most real and yet most fleeting resource of them all…

Pay Attention.

If life is wave, then our material experience (aka, inputs/outputs of money) is the tip of that wave… and we surf that wave with varying degrees of success at different times. However the force driving that wave – the animal spirit driving all of our micro-moments and fleeting fortunes – is our attention.

This is how our attention is configured:

Pay Attention

Thales Teixeira and others are spending a tremendous amount of money, time and attention trying to figure out how to capture our attention in order to get us to spend our time and money on advertiser’s products.   They are working on elaborate theories to modify the environment that fills our ambient awareness, in order to direct our conscious focus and unconscious anchors.

In his HBS working paper, “The Rising Cost of Consumer Attention: Why You Should
Care, and What You Can Do about It,”  Teixeira advises marketers to modify their advertising approach based on the level of focus vs. distraction in a given audience.

He calls it the Attention‐contingent Advertising Strategy (ACAS) and provides the following diagram in his paper:

Teixeira-Attention‐contingent Advertising Strategy-ACAS

Seeing this makes me want to reverse-engineer it to provide us “consumers” a strategy for becoming something more than just “consumers,” i.e. to become individuals capable of enjoying meaningful experiences and becoming better “producers,” aka, life contributors.

What I’d like to do is turn Teixeira’s ACAS into a BCAS (Being Carefully Attentive Strategy), factoring in my earlier diagram and outlining strategies for its three areas of concern:  Where we put our conscious focus, what we allow into our ambient awareness (e.g. the environment and people we surround ourselves with), and how we direct our unconscious mind.

As an example, having now explored the Money-Time-Attention triad and having looked at a few simple sub-structures of those concepts, I’m going to park these musing into my unconscious mind so it can go to work on it at its own pace.  My conscious mind is closing all the open browser tabs I’ve got around these topics, making a mental note to re-read this post at some later date, and is moving on to my next task.

In other words, “to be continued.”

2014 Blog Self-assessment: Steering the Elephant

WordPress has released its annual report for all of us WP bloggers. The report now includes this neat little infographic,which is part calendar and part cardiogram:

2014-posting-patterns-wordpress-cardiogram

My calendar-cardiogram of blog posts over the past 365 days indicates that, after a strong start in January and February, things quickly got dicey for me. As the month of May drew to a close I had to hunker down and go on life support, barely staying alive with a some brief blips of end-of-week postings. In fact, it looks like I may have temporarily flat-lined.

Thanks to the encouragement of others, and not a little bit of effort, I’m getting the heart rate going again.

My wish for the upcoming year is improved focus and prioritization of mental and emotional resources. For me and for everyone else in the world.

For example, try to read this piece by Clay Shirky in a single sitting, without getting distracted by anything else:

https://medium.com/@cshirky/why-i-just-asked-my-students-to-put-their-laptops-away-7f5f7c50f368

Could you do it?

Zhenyuan Silk Road ElephantDid you also catch the part about the elephant in the room?

That would be the metaphor of the elephant and the rider, as described in The Happiness Hypothesis by Jonathan Haidt.

According to Haidt, our conscious mind is akin to a “rider” attempting to steer a much more powerful subconscious “elephant.”

Steering an elephant requires great skill and strategy.  Many a careless rider has been taken down the wrong path by an elephant. Or trampled.

2015 is a year where I will give more respect to the elephant within.

…and I hope we do a better job improving the situation of real world elephants, as well:

May we all do a better job protecting our resources in 2015, and choose wisely where to put our time, care and attention.

Situational self-leadership: Raising the ceiling and floor of performance

How high of a standard do we hold for ourselves? …and how does that standard help or hamper our ability to succeed at whatever aspect of our life we’re looking to improve?

The following graph depicts a unified theory of Situational Motivation… or better yet, let’s call it Situational Self-leadership. This graph is about how successful people drive themselves to exceptional results, and how struggling people lift themselves from the worst of circumstances:

Situational Self-Leadership and Motivation Model

Situational Motivation – high level (technical, geeky) description

The curved line of the graph describes how improving our efforts and/or circumstances (x axis) can improve the quality of results that we experience (y-axis). The values on each axis are subject to the person’s own values – in other words “100%” means different things to different people, both qualitatively and quantitatively.

There are five tangible areas labelled within the frame of the graph, ranging from Personal Best to Personal Worst.  There are also two theoretical areas labelled outside of the frame: Ideal Vision and Rock Bottom. These latter two areas are labelled outside the frame because the curve within the frame is asymptotic – a person never quite reaches the absolute top or bottom. Within the frame, a person can decide to stay in place (“There is no relevant ideal, other than being satisfied with where I am”) or to keep striving for better (“I want to be the best possible version of me.”). They might even decide to wallow somewhere on the lower end of the curve.

The art of successful living is to know where you are on your own personal curve and to know what motivational strategy to use for yourself, given what you value most.

Situational Self-Leadership – detailed (narrative, fun) description

Let’s dive into this graph and see what it can do for us, top to bottom…

Ideal Vision, aka, “You are 99%? Why not 100%??”

The very top of this graph – the 99% to 100% range – represents an area of the Ideal Vision. People can motivate themselves by setting their mind towards achieving an ideal, inspiring vision, whether that vision is possible or even (seemingly) impossible. It’s the thing that allows the “ceiling” of performance to be continuously raised.

As a person gets close this zone of 99% it seems to slip away, becoming ever-higher… many people perceive the asymptotic nature of this zone and decide to avoid it, or decide to remain satisfied just below it. Others strive too hard for the Ideal Vision and become overwhelmed with frustration by the lack of perfection in the reality they see. The archetype of this is the nervous breakdown of a Type A personality, or the all-consuming wrath of a zealot. In those two cases, the Ideal Vision has been misused, and its motivational power has been misdirected.

An Ideal Vision can be eminently useful, as seen in the following boxer’s poem:

“The most beautiful fighter in the world today.

He talks a great deal, and brags indeed-y,

of a muscular punch that’s incredibly speed-y.

The fistic world was dull and weary,

But with a champ like Liston, things had to be dreary.

Then someone with color and someone with dash,

Brought fight fans are runnin’ with cash.

This brash young boxer is something to see

And the heavyweight championship is his des-tin-y.

(,,,)

When I say two, there’s never a third,

Standin against me is completely absurd.

When Cassius says a mouse can outrun a horse,

Don’t ask how; put your money where your mouse is!

I AM THE GREATEST!”

– Cassius Marcellus Clay Jr., 1964 (later known as Muhammad Ali)

The drive towards being the greatest – whether in strength, wisdom, enlightenment, glory, whatever the value – is powerful indeed-y… especially when it (1) involves a higher purpose or service, and (2) is communicated in a motivating manner (such as this motivational speech), coupled with authentic self-talk on the part of the listener.

The key word there is “authentic,” especially when the person delivering the speech and the person listening to the speech are the same person.

Self-talk is the narrative in the head that says, “I believe what I’m hearing is totally true / mostly true / sort of true / may or may to be true or untrue / sort of untrue / mostly untrue / totally untrue.” (You may ask yourself whether self-talk truly operates using a seven-point Likert scale… but you may prove the point in doing so.)  Self-talk is self-predictive. Self-talk creates a self-fulfilling prophesy.

Except, of course, when it’s not.

Sometimes pesky reality gets in the way of even the most authentic self-talk.

So, what happens when we are not the greatest?

What happens when we are defeated?  …especially when we are defeated by our most debilitating enemy, aka, ourselves?

Going for the Personal Best

The path towards 100% exists within the 90% – 99% range, the range of something called Personal Best.

At the very peak of Personal Best there can be an overlap with the Ideal Vision (hence, the range of Personal Best is not written 90-to-98.999 repeated… besides, that would be annoying). Yet, the idea of Personal Best is different than Ideal Vision because a Personal Best doesn’t require any external reference points. There is no vision of perfection and no perfect role models. There are only the visions of continuous growth and role models who exemplify continuous self-improvement.  This is the zone where I say, “I love the process, and I love the product.”

Some people (perhaps wisely) eschew the Ideal Vision and strive only for Personal Best. Others use Personal Best as a strategy for approaching the elusive Ideal Vision, because with just a little bit of patience and flexibility, the Ideal Vision can provide a guiding star, a point on the distant horizon which attracts and pulls us forward, helping us incrementally raise the ceiling of our performance as we make progress.

If we are afflicted with perfectionist or Type A tendencies, we can find comfort and safety in the zone of Personal Best. Perfectionists who get too hung up on an Ideal Vision will inevitably get knocked down to the ground by reality. If they focus their effort toward Personal Best, they can stay motivated and driven with reduced risk of melting down.

With the concept of Personal Best, we use an internal reference point – we provide the measure for our own greatness.

Even still, it is a reference point that establishes a high water mark, which suggests that there is something below that mark.

Which brings us to the next area of the graph…

Less than our best, but Strong Performance nonetheless

Below the area of Personal Best there is the area of Strong Performance. In the zone of Strong Performance most other people may be fooled, but we’re not. We know we can do better. Here too, some of us may decide to be satisfied, while others would be dissatisfied.

Do you consider a Strong Performance a highly desirable outcome, or a minimum requirement?

If you are in an achievement-focused environment (e.g. working at the desk in a Fortune 500 company), a Strong Performance is likely considered as table stakes for holding onto the job.

If you are in a learning-focused environment (e.g. in a training room of a Fortune 500 company) a Strong Performance is hopefully considered as evidence of progress towards the next level of the job.

Of course, sometimes we don’t get a Strong Performance. By definition, the idea of “above average” means that there is an “average,” i.e. an area of mediocrity.

Mediocre Moments

For a person who sets their sights towards an Ideal Vision or even a Personal Best, the zone of Mediocre Moments is infuriating. Yet mediocrity is a statistical inevitability.

My advice: Don’t pay too much attention to mediocrity… don’t settle for it, but don’t get upset by it.

Keep practicing, focus on your strengths, find what will make you stand out as exceptional.

Also, keep in mind that this entire graph is a self-imposed illusion… especially so when it comes to the definition of a Mediocre Moment. This is because the perception of an average performance is simply the sum of perceptions of all previous attempts, divided by the perceived number of said attempts.

Or to put it more simply:  You cannot have a Personal Best without having a Personal Worst.

You will, by definition, achieve your worst personal performance during any period of time that you happen to consider.

So let’s now consider what happens when we dive more deeply, down into colder waters…

Weak Performance

So you had a cold, weak performance… warm it up, but please don’t sweat it.

Change something and try again.

Note that this is the area of traditional performance management – fixing deficiencies and addressing weaknesses. While traditional performance management can be helpful, I don’t recommend giving too much focus on Weak Performance. If we focus on avoiding something to much, we tend to get more of it.  Set your sights higher. Imagine a better result.

That said, we know that every once in a while we are worse than weak.  Every once in a while we sink into the danger zone…

Personal Worst

Down near the bottom of the graph there lives the worst kind of disappointment: personal disappointment.

When we find ourselves in this place, it’s a good idea for us to self-examine and work on the basics, in order to raise the “floor” on our performance.

Without some degree of discipline we may lose the basics. The basics include the core of whatever our task entails. The basics include how we treat and take care of ourselves and others. The basics are things like dinner and a movie, please and thank you, compassion and integrity. Keep those basics and the floor will raise itself.  Keep those basics and what you consider to be average others will consider to be exceptional.

But is there anything worse than a Personal Worst?  Oh yes, there is…

Finally, we reach Rock Bottom

Just as there was a 99-100% Ideal Vision zone above the Personal Best, so too is there a zone below the Personal Worst. This is the dark place of less than one percentage point… the abject failure zone of Rock Bottom.

Here at Rock Bottom we have the opposite of inspiring idealism and hope – it is the place of crushing pessimism and despair.

Sometimes we feel like we’re getting pushed into this area by the situation we’re in, or by the people we’re with. Sometimes we just find ourselves going there by ourselves. Indeed, the more we dwell in a place that we think is Rock Bottom, the more likely it becomes our “new normal” and we discover caverns of depression even lower still.

The lesson of Rock Bottom is —  at the very least — an understanding that things could always be worse.

There is also a lesson here of patience, humility and dignity.  As one former prisoner wrote,

“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”

– Viktor Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning (1946)

This is the bedrock on top of which all other stable motivation can be built: If nothing else, take responsibility for your response-ability. If nothing else, be patient, wait for the storm to pass and find the opportunity to climb out… and never ever forget the guiding star of the Ideal Vision, because that’s the light that helps you get out of there.

In Summary: Own the Curve, Choose the Swerve

When it comes to personal motivation and inspiration, there are multiple and seemingly contradictory messages. “Go big, or go home!” “Be all that you can be!” “Focus on your strengths!” “Get back to basics!” “Practice makes perfect!”  “Failure is not an option!” “Pick yourself up and try again!” “Focus on others!” “Focus only on what you can control!”   …and so on.  There is truth in all of these messages, but if you try to follow all of them you will twist, turn and swerve in too many directions. Crash. Bam. Thud.

The art of living is the art of choosing which message to tell yourself, given where you are on the curve of this graph.

It’s also about knowing that the only person who defines the curve is you.

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