What Are You Trying To Do For A Client Or Employer?

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Sunday, 9.46pm

Sheffield, U.K.

When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change. – Wayne Dyer

If you’re trying to build a business or just get ahead in your career how should you think about your job?

Should you turn up and expect to be given work to do and told what sort of training you need?

Or can you take the initiative and figure out what you can do to add value?

But that’s not easy, especially if you’re early in your career or trying to change roles. It can be hard even if you’ve been in a job for a while and get given more responsibility.

Change usually starts, however, with a change in mindset and it might help to start with a model of how a consultant might operate.

Let’s say you go into an organisation as a consultant: it doesn’t matter what kind – marketing, IT, sales – what is it you’re trying to do?

Clients don’t always know what they want or need

It probably doesn’t come as a surprise that most people don’t really have a clear idea of what they want or need.

Only the simplest problems can be reduced in that way – most real problems are more complex and there is no right answer.

So one skill you have to develop is to listen to what clients say they want and try to figure out if that’s what they need.

That’s where your experience comes in – and your skill at educating them on the difference between the two.

Look at the big picture

Your value really comes from your ability to look at the big picture – to see how the various elements in the business operate and spot the cracks and flaws and missing pieces.

It’s very easy to get draw into the detail and miss what’s really going on.

And you can only do that by keeping your eyes open and trying to look at the situation from multiple perspectives.

You need to understand the people involved

Perspectives live in people’s minds – and you have to talk to them to see what’s going on.

Whenever there are people working together there is politics – the tensions and fears and desires are always there, simmering below the surface and occasionally bubbling over.

You’ve got to understand the people and figure out which ones matter in which way and how to keep them engaged and informed.

Communication is oxygen

The way you keep people informed and engaged is by communicating – not just for the sake of communicating but because you want them to understand what is going on and tell you early whether they think you’re on the right track or see problems.

Many people won’t speak up until it’s too late – and they won’t speak up unless they feel it’s safe to do so.

All too often you think you’re doing a great job only to find later that other people had a completely different idea of what you were doing.

Suggest a way forward

As a consultant you’re there for your advice – for your thoughts on which direction to go in.

And that means you need to have an idea – based on research and analysis – for what needs to be done next at each stage of the process.

You have to look up from the work, look around and point where you need to go to next.

Be a professional

What does it mean to be a professional?

One way to look at it is that you’re being paid.

But a more important way to look at it is that you’ve committed to deliver – to get the job done.

You’re taking responsibility – a personal one – to see the job through and not just abandon it because the going is tough or things aren’t working out.

Being a professional is about showing up even on the days when you don’t feel like it.

Everyone is a consultant in knowledge work

Work is increasingly about applying knowledge – and that is what consultants do.

If you see yourself – even if you’re employed full time – as a consultant to your employer then you’ll see yourself differently.

You’ll look for ways to add value – even if that means persuading people and changing the system.

And that skill is not a bad one to have.

Cheers,

Karthik Suresh

The concepts in this post are based on the paper “Consultant or entrepreneur? Demystifying the war for talent” by Stephen Stumph and Walter Tymon Jr.

How Do You Make A Big Change In Your Life?

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Saturday, 9.26pm

Sheffield, U.K.

Between the acting of a dreadful thing and the first motion, all the interim is like a phantasma, or a hideous dream. – William Shakespeare, Julius Caesar

Many of us have been in a position where we are stuck in one place and want to get out of there.

It happens at an individual level and to corporations.

The fact is that change is hard, and the bit in the middle, between when we are one thing and when are finally another is the hardest bit of all.

Herminia Ibarra, in her book Working Identity calls this being Between Identities. It can take a long time but it’s important that you don’t rush it – that you take the time to work through the process because it is going to change your life.

So, let’s say you’re unhappy at work and want a change – what does that look like and how do you feel?

I’ve tried to draw Ibarra’s model in the picture above so we can work through that.

For starters. you’re in a little boat setting off in stormy seas – this is rarely an easy journey.

And it starts with the links between you and everyone else weakening.

You experience a disconnect – both socially and psychologically.

For example, if you’ve spent all your time in academia and want a change – you might start hanging out with business people instead.

That leaves you less time with your old crowd.

It’s the same if you want to leave a gang and try living a normal life.

What this starts to mean is that you withdraw from the group and they in turn from you.

If you’re less available socially and psychologically they ask less of you and expect less.

They also trust you less – and you them.

This often happens when people first start working remotely.

Their managers wonder whether they’re really working – because they can’t see them all the time.

These thoughts might start being expressed in words – with whispers ricocheting around organisations.

And that’s not a nice feeling for the person being talked about – and they in turn start to distrust their managers and co-workers.

This can lead eventually to a confrontation – perhaps a rupture with someone who was once important to you.

Once that’s happened, that increasing space between you and everyone else widens and becomes a chasm – the gap looks impossible to bridge.

And all this time the pressure and the changes mean you’ve been looking at other options and trying different things.

All this time you’ve been a square peg – perhaps happy and content for a long time – but not now.

Now you’re thinking maybe I’m a triangular peg or a round one?

And as you try these other options – perhaps you moonlight as a volunteer social worker or have a side hustle you listen to feedback.

Feedback can be internal – how you feel and what your gut says and external – what people say to you and the kind of reaction you get to this new you that you’re putting out there.

Eventually, by trying lots of possible new yous, one starts to emerge – one that has a stronger story that you can identify with and others can relate to and this becomes your new role.

You’ve created a substitute – something to take the place of that person you once were and replace the career you once had.

And now you’ve created a new identity.

Quite often people tell you that you shouldn’t quit your job to start a new business – first make sure that new thing makes you money before leaving a role that pays you.

What this model says is that it’s going to take you time to go from the role you have to your new role – in your head.

And you should take the time to work through this.

Trying to jump from feeling disconnected to a different career – like a chap who one day quits law school and decides to become a touring musician despite never having played an instrument in his life – probably means that you’ll go from one disappointment to another.

For real, sustainable change you have to change inside.

And that means taking the time to go through the change process.

But it’s easier to do that when you know what’s involved so you can prepare yourself for the long road ahead.

That way, you’ve got a good chance of making it.

Cheers,

Karthik Suresh

Why You Can’t Prove Your Methodology Will Work

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Saturday, 9.12pm

Sheffield, U.K.

If I knew for a certainty that a man was coming to my house with the conscious design of doing me good, I should run for my life. – Henry David Thoreau

Imagine you run a marketing agency.

What do you do when you have to go and see a client?

You create a Powerpoint presentation.

Perhaps a really nice, flashy one – or perhaps a simple one with diagrams.

Which probably look something like the images on the left.

That’s just what people do in business – mainly because other people do that and we need to keep up.

But, as Robert Pirsig writes in Zen and the art of motorcycle maintenance, something happens when you stop looking at the image as a way of saying something and more as a thing in itself.

What you see are perfect shapes – ellipses drawn by a machine, arrows straight and true, text generated by computer.

It’s perfect isn’t it?

And I suppose we hope that the people listening will see all that perfection and realise what we say is true.

And this is important to us because we can’t prove it’s true – not for any activity that involves human activity anyway.

For example, let’s say you have enough money to do a seminar by someone like Tony Robbins – a world-famous coach.

You’ll see words like a proven method in the literature.

Now, to be fair to them, what they mean by proven is tried and tested.

They don’t mean proven in the sense of it has a proof – or evidence of truth.

It’s a technical argument, but bear with me.

If someone says “I’ve tried Tony Robbin’s method and it works” – it’s fair for you to ask “How do you know it wouldn’t have worked if you tried any other way?”

If they say “I’ve tried it and it doesn’t work” it’s equally fair to say “How do you know that you failed because you didn’t do it right?”

There is no answer to either of these questions – and so no way of proving them one way or the other.

In other words the words we use – like proven – and the pictures we use – of perfection – are really a way to convince people to believe what we say is true.

So then look at the picture on the right.

That’s hand-drawn – clearly not symmetrical and clearly not perfect.

It looks like something that is a work in progress – something that you could mark on yourself with a pencil.

And that’s important when trying to actually work on a complex real world problem.

For example, every time I present a perfect presentation like the one on the left to a client I’m painfully aware that this makes me look much more certain than I am.

The reality is that there’s no approach that can just be applied to a company picked at random and be expected to work.

Take content marketing, for example.

Ten years ago some smart people and companies created blogs and content.

Like Seth Godin.

Now there are probably half a billion.

Given that level of competition will that approach still work for companies as a marketing tool?

The only honest answer is that we don’t know – we’ll have to try it and see, with the will to stick it out for ten years.

Why is any of this useful or relevant?

My bet is that we’ll get better and better at doing the perfect stuff with machines.

Just look at how Wix and Canva are killing things like logo design and brand identity.

What humans need to do is work together – and collaborating means being open about we don’t know and sharing work in progress so we can all contribute.

What the left hand picture says is This is what you should do.

The right, I think, says This is what we could try – what do you think?

If I were a marketing consultant selling to you, which approach would you rather I take?

Cheers,

Karthik Suresh

How Would You Feel If Everything You Did Was Completely Forgotten?

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Thursday, 9.25pm

Sheffield, U.K.

If you would not be forgotten, as soon as you are dead and rotten, either write things worth reading, or do things worth writing. – Benjamin Franklin, Poor Richard’s Almanack

I feel like reflecting a little today.

They tell you to do that at University – look back at what’s happened to help you learn.

And the reason for this is that this is my five hundredth post – and that seems a good point at which to reflect.

I didn’t really have a plan when I started writing – arguably I still don’t.

The idea was to write – spend time stringing words together trying to make sense of interesting ideas.

I knew that the advice to every writer was you’ll throw the first million away anyway – so you might as well get started.

To date, I’m nearly half way there – if you count the 280,000 words on this blog and stuff that really is just for throwing away.

The fact is that committing to doing something every day inevitably builds something.

It might not be something you had in mind at the start but whatever it is simply builds up over time and, if you’re lucky, compounds.

That means it gets easier – easier to put words together, work through ideas and create something useful – if only for you.

But that thing you create can also be startlingly short lived.

I was following links and came across one that linked to Dennis M. Ritchie’s page at Bell Labs.

Dennis was one of the creators of Unix and his page and links are, to me, a historical artefact – something that should be preserved.

But it wasn’t there.

I looked at the wayback machine and found some of the pages – but there was a sense of disbelief that the material had disappeared.

It turned out, fortunately, that it hadn’t – it had moved a little, but that was all.

Many other pages are not so lucky.

For example, there’s a short piece written by Victor Noagbodji based on an exchange he had with Brian Kernighan – another doyen in the Unix field – on the craft of writing books.

I couldn’t find the original but the wayback machine had a copy.

Still – can that now only be found in an archive?

The ideas in that post are the ones in the picture above – ideas that I find useful and really should be preserved.

For example, if you want to write, then write about something you care about.

If you don’t – you’ll stop. It’s just too hard to keep grinding away at something that you don’t really like.

If you do write – talk about real things and real situations. Made up stuff is ok for fiction but what most people want is something useful.

And that means giving real working examples.

When it comes to programming this is essential – if the example is wrong you’re going to spend hours figuring it out.

The point of writing is not to show how clever you are.

It’s to take someone, even if that someone is you, step by step so that they understand the thing you’re trying to explain.

So having reached this number of posts what have I learned?

Nothing we didn’t know at the start.

  • If you want to write – write.
  • Write every day.
  • Use short words.

These are things you can read in any book about writing.

What matters is the practice – the act of doing.

And I suppose that’s the thing about a practice, especially something you plan to do for the rest of your life.

All you have to do… is do.

Whether that’s remembered is up to other people.

Cheers,

Karthik Suresh

How Do We Know Which Metrics To Use For Lasting Change?

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Tuesday, 5.41pm

Sheffield, U.K.

Tell me how you measure me, and I will tell you how I will behave. – Eliyahu M. Goldratt

I’ve got to be up front with you here – I’m not a big fan of metrics.

They stand in the way like prickly, thorny bushes, reminding you to be careful or you’ll end up getting hurt.

For example, the other day I saw a chart – a simple table with a clear ranking of performance and it left an impression on me.

I didn’t want to be last.

At the same time, things have often worked only when I’ve counted as I went along.

Take losing weight, for example.

It doesn’t matter what you count – kilos on the scale, carbs, sugar.

It’s the act of counting that reminds you to watch what you eat.

It’s the same with money. When you don’t count where it goes, it somehow vanishes. When you do, it seems to stick around.

The trick is getting it to work for you.

Early in my career, for example, I kept timesheets in the style set out by Watts S. Humphrey in The Personal Software Process.

The idea was to keep track of start times, end times and interruption times.

That’s because you can often spend three hours working on something and find that half your time is taken up by interruptions.

When you have that kind of data you can either try and protect your time to get more done in each block or make more accurate forecasts about how much longer it’s going to take.

So if you’re collecting metrics because you’re trying to improve something for yourself – that’s easy enough to do and sustain.

If you’re trying to create metrics for a group – that’s a little harder.

It really depends on what happens if you don’t meet those targets.

If there are no sanctions then you’ll find that things will eventually just grind to a halt.

It’s hard collecting figures regularly – hard work extracting them from people who have other, “more important” work to do.

So it’s almost more important to design how you’ll collect metrics than the metrics you collect.

If you can get them automatically – then that’s the best way.

Anyone who blogs knows this – you keep an eye on your stats.

If you had to do it yourself you probably wouldn’t bother but because it’s built in it’s so much easier to do.

But it’s harder in business.

Take proposals, for example.

You create one, send it off and breathe a sigh of relief.

Can you always be bothered to update the trackers or logs?

Maybe you can be – and good on you for the willpower.

But in many cases, it’ll just be another thing to update at the last minute just before the report is run.

Perhaps what we need to realise is that metrics are good when you know you need to pay attention to something important – maybe something you want to change.

So perhaps selecting which metrics to use needn’t be a fixed thing.

You might have a few that you collect all the time – a little like taking the pulse of your organisation.

But then, to change things you might want to focus on one metric for a short time.

Like a high intensity session – where you try and go as hard as possible in a set amount of time.

The fact is it’s very easy to collect data for the sake of collecting data.

If you need to hit a target then you’ll do everything you can to do it – and if you can’t the temptation to fix the result is very strong.

Measuring something then is perhaps more than getting a result.

It’s the voice of the process – it tells you what is happening and how the system is performing.

If you want to create lasting change – you don’t target the metrics.

You change the system.

And if you do that right, your metrics should start to turn green.

Cheers,

Karthik Suresh

What Can Software Development Tell Us About Business Development?

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Tuesday, 9.04pm

Sheffield, U.K.

The more they overthink the plumbing, the easier it is to stop up the drain. – Scotty, Star Trek III: The Search for Spock.

Why do you think we create new things – products, services, software, businesses?

Is it because we know something others don’t about what is needed in the world?

Or are we trying to find our way, like explorers hacking through dense undergrowth hoping to discover a new world?

The fact is that most of us are uncertain – should be uncertain.

Certainty is for show, an act put on to convince an audience.

Inside, we should listen and watch because that’s how we learn.

So what does any of this have to do with software and business?

The point is that we face many problems in business and our ways of dealing with them seem woefully inadequate.

Take training, for example.

If you’re a large organisation you might have a person in charge of training. Someone who organises everything and makes sure people attend.

In a small company, however, your training might consist of sitting next to someone who learned their job a few weeks ago.

That’s not a good strategy if you want a trained workforce that works well together.

Or let’s say you’re a small business that needs to increase sales. You’ve got a website, do lots of digital marketing, run events and do all the things you should be doing.

Is that enough? Should you be doing something else?

The thing with most business problems is they are wicked – they don’t have a simple solution. If they did, you would have sorted the problem already.

It’s like trying to box a beanbag – you can hammer away at one end and all that happens is it bulges out somewhere else.

And this is the problem we come across if we try and apply any kind of theory to a practical situation.

For example, Gary Vaynerchuck talks a lot about creating media and dominating your space on different platforms.

He’s a good role model because he dominates his platform. By definition, however, you can only have a few dominant entities – the rest have to scrabble in the shadows.

So what we really need to do is try to get an understanding of what could happen for us.

And that’s something that software developers call a story.

There is a person at the centre of a story – it could be you, a customer or someone you want to work with.

This person – the protagonist – is going to have experiences and you’ve got to try and put them down in words.

For example: This prospect I’m talking to doesn’t believe that it’s possible to do what I say can be done.

You might have lots of such story fragments.

As you collect related fragments you might end up with quite a large pile – which developers call an epic.

But an epic is too large to hold in your head and so you need to select a few stories and link them together.

Stories in a sequence make up a storyboard – just like in the films.

For example, it might include:

  • I’ve got a case study that describes what we did.
  • We’ve got customers who can vouch for us.
  • We can put you in touch with the authorities who work with us on this.

As you link stories together you get a coherent narrative – a story that makes sense.

And that’s when you finally build a feature.

In business – that’s when you create a new process or initiative and allocate resources.

Now, this approach something developers call agile – and I’ve probably missed lots of nuances.

The thing that appeals to me is that the idea of writing stories replaces the idea of writing business plans and specifications.

Those kinds of document focus on what needs to be done rather than what the person at the centre of it all is experiencing.

We can get much closer to how a person thinks and feels by writing a story than we can writing a list of requirements.

It’s a more empathetic way of approaching a problem.

And the one thing we don’t do enough in the modern world of business is start with people.

Cheers,

Karthik Suresh

How To Add Meaning To Events And Things

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Monday, 9.07pm

Sheffield, U.K.

When I read a good story, I often start thinking, ‘Should I live my life according to what this character chooses and values?’ – Jenova Chen

Imagine you were in a networking group that met one morning every week and, as part of your agenda, you had to describe what you do to everyone else.

How would you approach this?

Would you wing it? Come out with the first few words that came to mind?

Would you work off some notes and try to get through it as quickly as you could?

Would you have a script – one that you have honed and repeat that every time?

Or would you mix things up – and say something new new?

What a lot of us probably do is try and put together some facts and string together a few sentences.

For example, something like I’m a widget attorney and I help companies like Small Corp make sure that their widget contracts are properly done.

How much of this message do you think gets across to the others in the room – the others waiting nervously for their turn to speak?

My experience of such situations is that I’m only half listening – worrying about what I’m going to say next.

Is there something we can do to help people like us listen and understand better?

The answer may lie in reaching for one of the oldest methods out there.

Telling a story.

You may have heard of the Significant Objects Project. Journalist Rob Walker and writer Joshua Glenn came up with the idea of putting objects on ebay, adding a story and seeing what happened.

The objects were cheap trinkets from thrift stores and the stories fictional ones – with the authors able to write anything they wanted – with no restrictions on genre, style or voice. And the buyers knew that the ebay description was just a fictional story.

And yet they bought – spending over $3,500 on objects “worth” $130.

Which tells you something very interesting.

It tells you that value is linked to meaning.

Our brains are suckers for stories – ever since people huddled around a fire and told each other tales of what happened that day.

You can see this in the wide eyes of children who have to have a story before going to bed – who refuse to sleep without having had their favourite story read to them.

Today I followed a link from someone who posted something that caught my eye.

I’m not especially fond of the person who shared the post in the first place – he seems a bit of a bully online – but I don’t know him enough to judge.

Anyway, I followed this post to a biography page which, unlike the ones that simply list name, rank and serial number, had a long narrative about this person’s struggle against an institution and injustice.

Now, none of this was a particularly good use of time – but the fact is that it was a story and once I started I had to keep going.

That’s what stories do to you – they draw you in and keep you hooked.

So, I wonder, what would it be like if we told a story at that networking event?

Or instead of a bland about me page had a story instead?

It doesn’t need to follow any rules – just be more than the facts.

Would you be more likely to listen, or read that?

Cheers,

Karthik Suresh

When Do You Know That Enough Is Enough?

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Sunday, 8.13pm

Sheffield, U.K.

The middle path is the way to wisdom. – Mevlana Rumi

Every once in a while something comes along that makes you realise you really didn’t understand something you thought you did.

Like Jordan Ellenberg’s book How not to be wrong: The hidden maths of everyday life – which makes you look again at things that happen every day.

On LinkedIn, for example, you’ve probably had at least one message from someone talking about “crushing it”.

Get up earlier, work harder, stay longer and you’ll get ahead.

That’s an example of linear thinking – if you do more of something you’ll get a bigger return.

We see this everywhere – mostly among novices, it must be said.

It’s good to post regularly on social media, says someone who got famous by posting regularly.

That must mean it’s good to post every day, better to post a few times a day, even better to post every hour or maybe even every few minutes.

But what actually happens if you have the misfortune to be connected to someone filling up your media stream with their programmed patter?

If you’re like me, after a while you turn off the tap.

There’s a middle way between extremes for most things.

Too little posting and as far as the world is concerned, you don’t exist.

Too much and it tunes you out.

What happens is that there is a sweet spot – a level of activity from which if you change and do less, or do more, the outcome is worse either way.

And once you get this, you’ll see it everywhere.

The answer to productivity is not working harder but working better for the optimum amount of time.

The answer to crowded roads is not to ban transport – because all you’ll then get is crowded housing and crowded walkways.

Solutions that tend to extremes don’t work.

Take being frugal, for example.

If everyone saves everything they make then you end up with no economy and no vitality.

If everyone spends everything they make you get goods being produced and consumed but a population with nothing in the bank to pay for old age or a tough time.

A diet that is too restrictive isn’t going to work in the long term – but neither is giving up and having chocolate every day.

The thing is we know balance is important but the imagined link between activity and result is very seductive.

So we have companies rushing for growth at any cost, governments racing to weaponise or industrialise, and people pushing themselves and their families harder and harder.

And that’s ok – if you’re on the left side of the curve.

The challenge is being able to recognise where you are.

And one approach to that is to, as pilots do, read from the ground to the map.

Don’t live according to someone else’s expectations of where you should be right now.

If you follow a map of expectations, you could easily get lost.

Instead, look at your life and how it’s working and make your own decision about whether you need to do more or, as importantly, do less.

Cheers,

Karthik Suresh

When Shortcuts And Hacks Don’t Work In Business And Real Life

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Thursday, 8.12pm

Sheffield, U.K.

To me, consensus seems to be the process of abandoning all beliefs, principles, values and policies. So it is something in which no one believes and to which no one objects. – Margaret Thatcher

There’s an interesting pattern repeating in the world these days.

We’re seeing a shift to two very clear ways of operating – one where we make quick decisions on things we understand and another where we hope to find someone that we can trust to help us make the right choices.

The first is a transactional approach and the second a relational one.

And this is important because so much of what we do ends in a contract.

Perhaps not always a legal one, where you sign and pore over small print – but an equivalent one in your mind.

Which is why that quote from Thatcher sounds very strange to non-Western ears.

There, consensus building would probably be seen as the most important thing to do.

Because you’d hear the exact opposite from a Japanese company, for instance.

And the reason this difference matters is because of the way business and life works now.

If you have something simple to buy – an AA battery, for example, the chances are that you go on Ebay and buy whatever looks cheapest.

It might not be the cheapest – there might be one a few pence cheaper hidden on another page with a different description – but it’s not worth bothering about.

When you know what you want you make a decision based on price – when that price is satisfactory.

This is called satisficing – you’re not trying to get the best deal, just one where you think you’re now done with searching for something better.

And the larger the price the more time you’ll spend getting the best deal.

Ten years ago in Kenya we had a safari holiday which includes regular rest stops at shops selling handicrafts where you get a fairly hard sell.

At one of these shops I made the mistake of looking at a small carved giraffe.

The salesman pounced.

In Kenya the way of negotiating prices is to write them on a small pad.

He started with the number 8,000 shillings – around 80 pounds in UK money, I think.

I crossed out the last zero.

He looked rather put out – and we moved on.

Then another salesman started, telling me a story of how he had carved the giraffe himself.

So we took the pad out again and settled at 1,400 shillings.

This impressed everyone else on the trip no end, and one chap even insisted on taking a picture of the giraffe, the salesperson and me in front of an enormous one.

At the end of our trip, I found the same giraffe at the airport – for 500 shillings.

In the end, it all came down to price – and he was better than me but the extra money wasn’t much and it made for a story.

So the difference between buying a trinket on Ebay and buying it from that chap at the store was that he took a commodity and turned it into something bigger and more interesting.

But, did that make it any less transactional?

And the answer is no because a relational contract is not just about adding people to a product.

It’s about adding trust.

Robert Bruner says that you need three things for trust: sincerity, reliability and competence.

It’s trust that underpins a relational contract.

And Bruner says there is a simple rule – don’t work with someone you don’t trust.

What does this have to do with shortcuts and hacks?

Well, you can’t take a shortcut or hack your way to trust.

You have to earn it – by showing sincerity, reliability and competence over time.

And that’s something Thatcher appears to have forgotten.

The process of building consensus is a process of building trust.

If you have a belief and do things your way you might get your way but lose trust along the way.

Which is what happened to her.

And, many years later, the current political class appeared not to have learned that lesson either.

Why else would this country be in the state it is in – where politicians have so utterly failed to come to a consensus on the right way to proceed with what is perhaps the most important and divisive act in generations?

The fact is that transactional business has its place – and the computers will sort all that out.

As a human your job is to be trustworthy.

Cheers,

Karthik Suresh

Why Planning Ahead Seems Essential To Get A Natural Result

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Wednesday, 9.02pm

Sheffield, U.K.

It takes a lot of effort to make something look effortless – Ben Mitchell

I’m not entirely sure why, but I’ve been binge-watching The Grand Tour on Prime for the last couple of weeks.

And the presenters decided to do something interesting in the last show I watched.

They were getting angry letters about how the show was too scripted and why couldn’t they just do things off the cuff and keep it natural.

So they did.

And it was rubbish – which was the point they were making.

Without the planning and preparation the big scenes that we’re used to just didn’t happen.

And without the scripting, the presenters couldn’t think of good lines to say and fumbled on camera.

Now, this is obvious, you say.

But it’s a difficult lesson to learn for those of us who dislike planning and order.

Those of us who prefer a more fluid and organic way of doing things.

But when you dig into it the chances are that what you consider fluid and organic has an underlying structure so much a part of you that you’ve forgotten it exists.

Like bones and muscle.

Take writing, for example.

Almost every writer will tell you that the process of getting better is never-ending.

You never feel like what you’ve created is finished or complete or done.

It’s done when you’ve given up trying to do any more.

It’s done when you abandon it.

So what most writers focus on is not on results but on process.

I have a process, for instance, when I write these posts.

I write everything using the terminal – the command line.

I first do three paragraphs of freewriting, using the ed text editor to get my fingers moving.

Then I do some research, look for an idea that grabs me.

Then I sketch the idea – trying to find a way of approaching it as a concept.

And then I open emacs and org-mode with org2blog and let the words fall out.

I try and write every day so all this needs to happen in an hour or so – so it can’t be hard and painful and unpleasant.

This process helps me get 300-800 words on the screen that help me work through a problem I have or understand something new.

Then it’s time for a quick spell-check and then publish.

And the beauty of the Internet is that if there’s a mistake you can just correct it and republish.

If you had more time, what would you do?

Would your words be twice as good, twice as clear, if you spent twice as long?

Or would it be better if you spent half as much time – getting the process tuned as well as you could?

In a world with infinite possibilities, a plan is a route for you to follow.

The thing we need to get clear is that it’s just one route.

If it doesn’t work you can try another.

It’s the trying and learning and trying again that gets you to the point where what you do looks effortless and natural.

You don’t run out of time to have another go.

Until you finally do.

Cheers,

Karthik Suresh