Civilization

Given how essential it is to every aspect of our life, we spend very little time talking about or celebrating the civilized society we live in.

If civilization is stability, kindness, safety, the arts and a culture that cherishes more than merely winning whatever game is being played, we live in a very special time. There are certainly more people living a civilized life today than ever before in history. (And we still have a long way to go).

Given the opportunity, people almost always move from a place that’s less civilized to one that’s more civilized. Given the resources, we invest them creating an environment where we can be around people and events that we admire and enjoy. We move to places and cultures where we are trusted and where we are expected to do our share in return.

And yet…

There are always shortcuts available. Sometimes it seems like we should spend less money taking care of others, less time producing beauty, less effort doing the right thing—so we can have more stuff. Sometimes we’re encouraged that every man should look out for himself, and that selfishness is at the heart of a productive culture. In the short run, it’s tempting indeed to trade in a part of civilized humanity to get a little more for ourselves at the end of the day. And it doesn’t work.

We don’t need more stuff. We need more civilization. More respect and more dignity. We give up a little and get a lot.

The people who create innovations, jobs, culture and art of all forms have a choice about where and how they do these things. And over and over, they choose to do it in a society that’s civilized, surrounded by people who provide them both safety and encouragement. I’m having trouble thinking of a nation (or even a city) that failed because it invested too much in taking care of its people and in creating a educated, civil society.

Your customers and your co-workers might be attracted to a Black Thursday rush for bargains and a dog-eat-dog approach to winning whatever game it is you’re offering. But they come back because you respect them and give them a platform to be their best selves.

-Seth Godin

First, connect

In the connection economy, there’s a dividing line between two kinds of projects: those that exist to create connections, and those that don’t.

The internet is a connection machine. Virtually every single popular web project (eBay, Facebook, chat, email, forums, etc.) exists to create connections between humans that were difficult or impossible to do before the web.

When you tell us about your business or non-profit or public works project, tell us first how it’s going to help us connect. The rest will take care of itself.

-Seth Godin

*I love this. And completely prescribe to it and make establishing meaningful connections part of my every day. That’s what life is about, after all, isn’t it?! 

It’s a long story

Isn’t it always?

Actually, the long stories are the good ones. About how you found that great job, or discovered this amazing partner or managed to get that innovation approved.

If long stories are so great, how come we spend all our lives working for the short ones? The very act of seeking out the shortcut and the quick win might very well be the reason you don’t have enough successful long stories to share.

-Seth Godin

*I myself tend to spend much of my life working on the long story. And I think that’s lovely.

What are you leaving behind?

I love watching contrails, those streams of white frozen exhaust that jets leave behind. It’s a temporary track in the sand, and then the sun melts them and they’re gone.

Go to Montana and you might see the tracks dinosaurs left a bazillion years ago. Same sort of travel, very different half-life of their passage.

All day long you’re emailing or tweeting or liking or meeting… and every once in a while, something tangible is produced. But is there a mark of your passage? Fifty years later, we might hear a demo tape or an outtake of something a musician scratched together while making an album. Often, though, there’s no trace.

I’m fascinated by blogs like this one, which are basically public notes and coffee breaks by a brilliant designer in between her ‘real’ work. Unlike tweets, which vanish, Tina’s posts are here for a long time and much easier to share and bookmark. Her trail becomes useful not just to her, but to everyone who is interested.

What would happen if you took ten minutes of coffeebreak downtime every day and produced an online artifact instead? What if your collected thoughts about your industry became an ebook or a series of useful instructions or pages or videos?

What if we all did that?

-Seth Godin

*What legacy are you leaving behind?

Dancing on the edge of finished

Facing a sea of infinity, it’s easy to despair, sure that you will never reach dry land, never have the sense of accomplishment of saying, “I’m done.” At the same time, to be finished, done, complete–this is a bit like being dead. The silence and the feeling that maybe that’s all.

Dancing on the edge of finished, by Seth Godin

A True Story

Of course, that’s impossible. There’s no such thing as a true story. As soon as you start telling a story, making it relevant and interesting to me, hooking it into my worldviews and generating emotions and memories, it ceases to be true, at least if we define true as the whole truth, every possible fact, non-localized and regardless of culture.

Since you’re going to tell a story, you might as well get good at it, focus on it and tell it in a way that you’re proud of.

Needs and wants are often confused

When people have their basic needs met, it’s not uncommon for wants to magically become needs. It’s our hardwired instinct to seek to fill unmet needs.

That pays off for any marketer that has persuaded his market that they need what he sells. It backfires when those ‘needs’ are seen for what they actually are—luxuries.

When you sell a want, you have to work harder, you must seduce the market, because wants are fickle, picky and not easily bullied.

-Seth Godin

All artists are self-taught

Techniques and skill and even a point of view are often handed down, formally or not. It’s easier to get started if you’re taught, of course.

But art, the new, the ability to connect the dots and to make an impact—sooner or later, that can only come from one who creates, not from a teacher and not from a book.

-Seth Godin

Yes indeed, it can only come from one who creates…it is innate. So go out there and create. So go out there and make it happen.

Organized bravery

The purpose of the modern organization is to make it easy and natural and expected for people to take risks. To lean out of the boat. To be human.

Alas, most organizations do the opposite. They institutionalize organized cowardice. They give their people cover, a place to hide, a chance to say, “that’s not my job.”

Our organizations are filled with people not only eager to dehumanize those that they serve, but apparently, instructed to do so. In the name of shareholder value or team play or not rocking the boat…

During times of change, the only organizations that thrive are those that are eager to interact and change as well. And that only happens when individuals take brave steps forward.

Giving your team cover for their cowardice is foolish. Give them a platform for bravery instead.

-Seth Godin

Leap year meditation

Once in four years, just once, perhaps we could:

Forgive, forget, relax, care, stand out, speak up, contribute, embrace, create, make a ruckus, give credit, skip, smile, speak truth and refuse to compromise—more than we usually do. Pick just one or two and start there.

Hey, it’s just one day.

Careful, though, it might become a habit.

-Seth Godin

*Thanks Seth. I will take your advice and skip today. Well, work from home, rather. The weather outside is frightening…for once this winter. It is nice to relax, slow down, and do a little work from home. Everyone should try it once in a while. As I always say, www.movingslowly.com. P.S. Love the word ‘ruckus’.