Two quick tips on Trend Spotting

This quote from Beth Comstock is a nice heuristic for spotting emerging trends.

Another way of looking at this is through writing.

If you notice something and find yourself writing it down three times in a short space of time, you may have just spotted a trend.

Go back to those notebooks and look for the patterns.

Who knows what you may find.

PS. I’m putting together a recorded version of a class I did on Trend Spotting (including the above Beth Comstock quote plus a bunch of other tactics and exercises)  – that’ll be going live next week.

Being Typecast

There’s an episode of Entourage where Ari takes Vince and the crew to an LA Lakers basketball game. Courtside of course.

Ostensibly they’re there to see the game (or perhaps be seen), but the underlying reason is for Ari to persuade Vince to take the lead role in Aquaman, a big budget tentpole studio movie.

Vince’s dilemma is clear: take the gig and get rich, but risk being typecast and losing out on more creatively rewarding work.

Being LA, and being the Lakers, there are plenty of superhero celebrities in the house.

Batman behind the basket, Spiderman next to the home team bench, The Joker on halfway.

They’re all typecast. Or as Ari says ‘they’re all typecast… as rich guys’.

Here’s the other thing about being typecast. 

You’re trusted. Especially for that particular Job to be Done.

People know where to go, and if you’re particularly remarkable they’re going to go to you and you alone.

Few of us like to think we’re being typecast. It feels like a strait jacket.

But maybe being typecast isn’t so bad. 

The bigger question is how we balance being recognised for a specific role with our desire to spread our wings into other areas.

Perhaps the very best of the cinematic superheroes hold the answer.

[1] I’d had this post in a draft for a while but given the release of the real Aquaman movie it felt like time to publish this post and let it sink or swim

Demo Night

Taking my career building project Fondo out of the studio for the first time.

New York City’s Canal Street is one of the main arteries in Downtown Manhattan (and until the 18th century was an actual canal). Cutting west to east, in its centre it splits the main parts of Little Italy and Chinatown.

As you may expect, the street itself is a bustle of activity: street-side sellers shotting semi-shady selections of sunglasses; bashed up old storefronts being turned into gentrified art & design pop-ups; multiple subway entrances causing ongoing tourist confusion; and wafts of Sichuan hotpot aromas flowing out of kitchen vents.

Near the entrance to the 6 train is a open-front gift shop measuring no more than 50 sq ft. At the back (i.e. 2 steps from the front) is a door heading up to the floors above. Floor number 3 marks the home of THAT, a creative agency who host a weekly gathering fuelled by creativity, collaboration, design thinking, and Dim Sum.

Canal & Baxter. (image: Wikipedia)

Last Friday night I shimmied through the throngs of punters looking for LV handbags and Tsingtao happy hours and made my way up to THAT HQ.

I was there for the 2nd edition of an extension to their ongoing Dim Sum Club.

Demo Sumthing (get it?) is a salon-style event of around 25 people and features a few guest makers sharing their projects for feedback, inspiration and new ideas.

Despite not necessarily identifying as a Creative or Maker, I was demoing the second iteration of my Fondo project.

Note: I’m looking for beta testers! Check out the intro deck here, if you like the look of it then I’ll send you the secret demo link.

The prospect of presenting what I had to a bunch of smart people, alongside 3 far more polished projects added some pressure. And pressure can bring performance (or at least meeting a deadline).

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The Quick No

I once had a meeting at a prestigious London address. 

You probably know the kind of place – an immaculate 4 storey Georgian townhouse where even the flowers outside are imposing.

After waiting 10 minutes or so in the reception area, I went in for my meeting.

It was one of those meetings that come about from time to time. A slightly tenuous 2nd or 3rd degree referral, possible scope for interesting collaboration, often doubtful but usually worth a look. [1]

On my way home, I got a message flash up on my phone. 

“How did it go?”. 

I replied, “In and out in 12 minutes”.

10 seconds later; “Oh well”

They must have been right – 12 minutes can’t be good, surely?

Everyone says rejection sucks. Being told “No” is the worst. We also read about people who found enormous success after they were told No 1476 times in a row.

But the worst thing isn’t rejection. 

The worst is silence. Indifference, ambivalence, tumbleweed.

I’d rather have the Quick No.

And I knew it was exactly 12 minutes as on arrival I took my watch off and put it on the table in front of me. 

There wasn’t any point in wasting anyone’s time.

[1] Derek Sivers’ ‘Hell Yes or No’ post hadn’t entered my life at this point, but I do still believe that there are interesting things that can happen just outside Hell Yes…at the Adjacent Possible of meetings if you will.

If Jobs were Houses

Last week a bunch of us were chatting about how searching and applying for jobs operates right now.

For me it helped to think about houses.

Some houses leave the front door wide open. 

Others keep it on the latch.

A few of the houses at the end of the street have fortified the door and installed some security systems.

And there are a couple of houses buried underground; bunker-mansions invisible to the eye.

The open front door presents a problem. There’s usually a hole in the floor as soon as you walk in. These holes go so deep it’s now becoming less worthwhile for humans to go down there and haul people out, so homeowners get computers to do it instead. 

If you’re lucky enough to be pulled from the hole, you may enter into slow and laborious back and forth in the hallway, after which you’ll be either be invited into the kitchen for an aperitif before being shown to your room, or tossed to the kerb.

If the door is on the latch you’ve got an extra half-second to notice the hole. Sometimes you notice, sometimes you don’t.

If the doors are fortified, alarmed, tagged – you either need the codes or some serious hacking or sales skills to get them to open.

And if the front door is hidden underground – you’re best off looking it up on a map first.

These days the front door is generally pretty pointless.

So what else?

Continue reading “If Jobs were Houses”

Lowercase skills

You may be familiar with concepts like T-shaped or I-shaped people to help simplify the way we think about skillsets in people.

Here’s another that’s even simpler, and based on concepts most of us learnt when we were 4 or 5 years old.

Capital and lowercase. [1]

It used to be that the Capital was all that mattered. 

You were a Creative, an Engineer, a Secretary [2]. 

The lowercase wasn’t worth much. Perhaps it was the ‘interests’ line on your resume, or a couple of bullet points listing out roles & responsibilities in a previous job.

And if you didn’t have the Capital, it probably felt overwhelming, off-putting or intimidating –  especially if you couldn’t access the paths to building it.

Now it’s different.

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The fissures on your path

Fissure: a long, narrow opening or line of breakage made by cracking or splitting

When we think about making changes, pivots or transitions it’s usually a fairly big undertaking. A bridge or maybe a chasm to be crossed.

Whilst we don’t know the whole terrain and the length of the journey, we  usually tend to have a picture in our minds of what we’re getting into and where we’re going.

What we don’t recognise so much are the fissures.

The fissures can appear just before the edge of the cliff.

They can show up at various points over the bridges we’re crossing.

More surprisingly they can also be present on seemingly secure and well-treaded paths.

Some fissures are easy to spot, but others can be so small they’re invisible to the eye.

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How to create your own personal investment thesis

The term ‘investment thesis’ is a now a fairly common sight on the internet, particularly in the world of venture capital.

These investment theses tend to update every few years, often at a similar cadence to companies undertaking a rebrand (after all, a new investment thesis is itself a rebrand of sorts). [1]

Previously, a firm’s investment thesis tended to be held more privately.

But as the internet continues to open up all kinds of industries, and differentiation for all sorts of companies (including investors) is both harder and more important than ever, the open source investment thesis is far more common.

Besides, as many investors themselves will tell you: ideas are worth nothing; execution is everything.

VCs deploy financial capital  into their investment (and increasingly human capital too – this article on a16z is a good example), and the investments are largely in keeping with the thesis they’ve set out.

That’s the point of a thesis; it’s a premise to be proved [2].

What’s less common though is a personal investment thesis – a summary of where an individual is looking to investment their time, energy and resources over a period of time (perhaps 2-3 years)

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Pressing pause on Tetris scheduling

Many of us run our calendars like a game of Tetris: find open slots and fill them.

We’ve had digital calendars to help schedule our time for a few years now, and by this point we’re generally pretty good at allowing for things like travel time, delays and overrunning meetings.

However, we’re still surprisingly bad at allowing for, let alone even recognising, recovery time.

One of Paul Graham’s much-cited essays ‘Maker Schedule, Manager Schedule’ is a good way of thinking about how to better run our schedules and the cognitive overhead of context switching, but there’s still more we can do when it comes to allowing for recovery time.

A good start point is to recognise the different levels of rest we need.

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Life Advice from Underground Resistance & Marcus Aurelius

The DJ Lee Burridge posted this epic 5+ hour mix on his Soundcloud page a little while ago.

Like many good DJ sets, there are a few purple patches where a sequence of tracks come together that make the listener feel they were created exactly that way.

Part of the joy and skill of putting tracks in the mix is that it’s possible to make the weird wonderful, the wonderful weird, average good, the good great, the great… even better.

One of these sweet spots is around the 1hr 40 mark, where a re-edit of a Nils Frahm track is overlaid with the acapella of Underground Resistance’s classic track ‘Transitions’.

Listening to this in my office one afternoon (as opposed to the Tibet mountain that Lee suggests), the ‘Transitions’ lyrics struck a chord, especially as I’m currently reading Marcus Aurelius’ incredible book ‘Meditations’.

One of the magical things about music is you can listen to a track 10,20 or 100 times, and then in a particular place, space, time or mood it’ll suddenly take on a completely different form. That happened this time.

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